Chan Rogers oral history interview

Chan Rogers oral history interview

Material Information

Chan Rogers oral history interview
Series Title:
Concentration camp liberators oral history project
Uniform Title:
Holocaust & genocide studies oral history projects
Rogers, Cranston R., 1925-
Hirsh, Michael, 1943-
University of South Florida Libraries -- Holocaust & Genocide Studies Center
University of South Florida -- Library. -- Special & Digital Collections. -- Oral History Program
Place of Publication:
Tampa, Fla
University of South Florida Tampa Library
Publication Date:
Physical Description:
1 sound file (48 min.) : digital, MPEG4 file + ;


Subjects / Keywords:
Concentration camps -- History -- Germany ( lcsh )
World War, 1939-1945 -- Concentration camps -- Germany ( lcsh )
World War, 1939-1945 -- Concentration camps -- Liberation ( lcsh )
World War, 1939-1945 -- Atrocities ( lcsh )
World War, 1939-1945 -- Personal narratives, American ( lcsh )
World War, 1939-1945 -- Veterans -- United States ( lcsh )
Veterans -- Interviews -- United States ( lcsh )
Genocide ( lcsh )
Crimes against humanity ( lcsh )
Oral history. ( local )
Online audio. ( local )
interview ( marcgt )
Oral history ( local )
Online audio ( local )


Oral history interview with Holocaust concentration camp liberator Cranston "Chan" Rogers. Rogers was a sergeant in the 45th Infantry Division, which liberated Dachau on April 29, 1945. The day Dachau was liberated, his platoon's assignment was to clean out the civilian houses along the camp's wall and to look for escapees. After that, they went into the camp itself. At that point, the camp was under control and the media correspondents had arrived, but Rogers did see the death train. Before Dachau, he also helped liberate some small slave labor camps. Rogers frequently lectures about the Holocaust, often in conjunction with writer Susie Davidson.
Interview conducted March 18, 2008.
Preferred Citation:
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.
General Note:
This interview was conducted as research for The Liberators: America's Witnesses to the Holocaust / Michael Hirsh (New York: Bantam Books, 2010).
Statement of Responsibility:
interviewed by Michael Hirsh.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of South Florida Library
Holding Location:
University of South Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
025746567 ( ALEPH )
692682452 ( OCLC )
C65-00115 ( USFLDC DOI )
c65.115 ( USFLDC Handle )

Postcard Information



This item has the following downloads:

Full Text
xml version 1.0 encoding UTF-8 standalone no
record xmlns http:www.loc.govMARC21slim xmlns:xsi http:www.w3.org2001XMLSchema-instance xsi:schemaLocation http:www.loc.govstandardsmarcxmlschemaMARC21slim.xsd
leader cim 2200601Ia 4500
controlfield tag 001 025746567
005 20120518132534.0
006 m u
m d
007 sz zunnnnnzned
cr nna||||||||
008 101215s2008 flunnnn od t n eng d
datafield ind1 8 ind2 024
subfield code a C65-00115
0 033
b 3934
1 100
Rogers, Cranston R.,
Chan Rogers oral history interview
h [electronic resource] /
interviewed by Michael Hirsh.
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida Tampa Library,
1 sound file (48 min.) :
digital, MPEG4 file +
e 1 transcript (15 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 March 18, 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.
Oral history interview with Holocaust concentration camp liberator Cranston "Chan" Rogers. Rogers was a sergeant in the 45th Infantry Division, which liberated Dachau on April 29, 1945. The day Dachau was liberated, his platoon's assignment was to clean out the civilian houses along the camp's wall and to look for escapees. After that, they went into the camp itself. At that point, the camp was under control and the media correspondents had arrived, but Rogers did see the death train. Before Dachau, he also helped liberate some small slave labor camps. Rogers frequently lectures about the Holocaust, often in conjunction with writer Susie Davidson.
Rogers, Cranston R.,
United States.
Infantry Division, 45th.
United States.
Infantry Division, 45th
v Personal narratives.
Dachau (Concentration camp)
Concentration camps
z Germany
x History.
World War, 1939-1945
Concentration camps
World War, 1939-1945
Concentration camps
World War, 1939-1945
World War, 1939-1945
Personal narratives, American.
World War, 1939-1945
United States.
United States
Crimes against humanity.
7 655
Oral history.
Online audio.
Hirsh, Michael,
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.
4 856

xml version 1.0 encoding UTF-8 transcript
idx 0
time 00:00:0.0
text Michael Hirsh: Before we start, though, I needyoure Chan, C-h-a-n?
Chan Rogers: Yes.
MH: And spell the last name?
CR: Rogers, R-o-g-e-r-s.
MH: And whats your address?
CR: You have my telephone number?
MH: Yes, your phone number is.
CR: Correct.
MH: And how old are you; when were you born?
CR: February 10, 1925.  I had a birthday Sunday.
MH: Congratulations.  That makes you?
CR: Eighty-three.
MH: Eighty-three years old. So, why dont you tell me a little but about yourself, and well go back to
CR: I went right out of high school into the Army, and no college in between.  I did qualify for ASTP because I graduated high school before I was eighteen, I mean after I was eighteen.  I chose to be drafted and qualified for the ASTP program.
MH: What is ASTP?
CR: Army Specialized Training Program, where they sent you to college to become a civil engineera preponderance were civil engineers, but the program included doctors, veterinarians, and language specialists.  I dont know what the hell theyre going to do with 140,000 civil engineers, but thats what the program consisted of.  And about that time, I went right into the Army in June of forty-three [1943], basic training and then to Texas A&M for freshman civil engineering as part of the ASTP program.
MH: Whered you go to basic?
CR: Fort McClellan, Alabama.  I spent thirteen weeks in basic training, although itd get extended for seventeen weeks if you had not qualified for ASTP.
MH: What year was this?
CR: Nineteen forty-three.
MH: Forty-three [1943], okay.
CR: The program only lasted about six to eight months.  It was scrubbed, and the notification that it was scrubbed came in February of forty-four [1944], but the actual transfer from A&M to an infantry division, and they were literallywell, 140,000 people in that program, men, all young college students in that program, and they were all sent to infantry units, the preponderance.  I tracked down my basic training people in 1991, just to getI had nothing to do at that period of time.  And I found that 90 percent of them were in combat infantry-type units; very few went to specialized units, even though some of them had had two or three years of college.
Anyway, we made great candidates.  I call it, and this is a sincere statement, I called it cannon fodder, because we were young, good health, good physical condition and fearless in the context that we didnt know enough to be scared.  And we all went into infantry divisions.  I went to the 103rd, 7th Army.  We landed in Marseille around the twentieth of October, of forty-four [1944], went up on line in the Vosges Mountains.  I grew up in Florida, had never seen snow.  But it snowed thirty inches that first night on line, as we went up on line, and by the next morning, there was thirty inches of snow on the ground.
CR: Were you dressed for it?
MH: Oh, yes.  We hadI use the statement that the Germans had the best weapons, but we had the best clothing.  The only weapon that we had better than theirs was a Garand rifle [M1], and it was a semi-automatic rifle; the Germans were still firing a single-shot bolt-action weapon.  But they had quite a few what we called grease guns, the sub-machine guns, and theyre rapid-firing and when you hear it, its kind of scary, but they were not all that accurate.  Anyway, I lecture a lot, so these are some of the statements that I make at times.  Because the Germans did have good weapons; that 88 cannon was much better than ours.  They had good tanks; we had second-rate tanks.  In forty-five [1945], when we finally got to the Siegfried Line, we did have a few 90mm naval guns on a tank chassis that really were superior to the 88, German 88.
But anyways, we got to the Bulge.  The 7th Army went on hold in the middle of the winter, from mid-January into latewell, into March
CR: long range, Id be available because I do a lot of lectures and I was involved with a gal who wrote a book. She didnt write a book; she compiled thirty survivors stories of the Holocaust and ten liberators stories of liberating the various concentration camps.  They were in a book, and that was in aught-five [2005].
MH: Which book was this?
CR: I Refused to Die.
I Refused to Die, edited by Susie Davidson, published by Ibbetson Street Press 2005.
And General [Felix] Sparks, the same thing youre doing.  Susie interviewed him for over three hours, and he was a prime liberator at Dachau.  He was the guy from the 45th [Infantry Division] that had been sent in to Dachau to secure the camp.  He passed away last September [2007], and we buried himgreat funeralon October 2 last fall.  The 157th [Infantry Regiment] reunion had been scheduled for October 3, so there were a lot of people there from the 157th.  The 157th was the actual liberating unit, although the 42nd Division did have a contingent of senior officers escorting three war correspondents come in the front gate, and the 45th, the 157th, and I Company came in the back gate.  Well, Im jumping ahead.
MH: Right, so lets go backokay, youre on the mountain with the snow.
CR: Right, and the winter was kind of stalemated afterwell, after the Bulge, because the 7th Army had to hold (inaudible) into Germany, when after that, the Germans hit the 7th Army with Northwind, because they knew the 7th Army had spread thin and we had Patton pull troops out to attack the focal point at the Bulge, to contain the Bulge.  And they cranked up Northwind and hit down in the Lorraine section of France in a town called Reipertswiller.  And they pretty well decimated one of the regiments of the 45th Division, the 157th Infantry that was involved in the liberation of Dachau.
I was transferred from the 103rd, as well as two men from every line company in the Corps, and had to gowere sent to the 157th to reconstitute the five companies that had been totally wiped out.  So, I, along withoh, I dont know, maybe 100 NCOs from other divisions, two from each line company, and I ended up over at a line company, G Company 157, as a staff sergeant and platoon guide.  And we hit the Siegfried Line in March of 1945.  After we breached the Siegfried Line, we drove to the Rhine [River], and then after we werewe had a few days rest there, so to speak, across the Rhine, and then we attached into central Germany, south of Frankfurt, and hit Aschaffenburg, a place where a German major had promised Hitler they wouldnt surrender.  It took us seven days to take that town and quite a bit of useless killing with literally thousands of German civilians being killed by artillery and the air bombardment.  Im not feeling sorry for anybody here; Im just telling you what happened.
MH: Right, I understand.
CR: And anyway, we finally captured the town, and as a result of that, I wasactually, I was nominated for a battlefield commission but didnt get it because they turned them off because they had a lot of lieutenants in the pipeline anyway, but I did become platoon sergeant.  Finished out the war as a platoon sergeant, and we went on and took Nuremberg.  Nuremberg was easygoing, not a lot of fighting, and then drove south and hit Dachau on the twenty-ninth of December.
MH: Twenty-ninth of April.
CR:  Im sorry, what did I say?  December?
MH: Yeah.
CR: Yeah, the twenty-ninth of April.  And actually, I Company had been ordered to go inthat was Sparks battalion, and he had two of three companies already south of the city of Dachau on the way to the main mission of the 157th, which was to take Munich.  So, he deferred his reserve company, I Company, and he went with them into Dachau, and they went in the back gate across the railroad track siding because the Germans had blown bridges on the roads and kept access from the main road; although the 42nd Division came in with a convoy with five Jeeps with two brigadier generals and a major and a couple lieutenants and three war correspondents.  They did get through the front gate about the same time as Sparks people got to the back gate.  The thing that set everything off was that when the GIs entered the back gate, they found about forty boxcars and other train cars full of dead bodies.
MH: Tell me what you saw.
CR: Well, I have researched this, and I know a lot of the key people.  I did not come into the camp at the point of entry.  My mission was to clean out all the houses, my platoon, to clean out all the houses on the east side of the concentration camp wall, the normal civilian houses in the town of Dachau.  And G Company and the 2nd Battalions mission was to clean out the city of Dachauthats our term for taking the town, to be sure theres no German soldiers holed up as you go through.  And then later that afternoon, wed finished that mission and were now waiting at a canal that ran east-west, and there was no way of crossing the canal, and we were holed up.  And my platoon was sent back to the camp to help Sparks people control the camp.  So, we did not come in the camp itself until later that afternoon.
MH: Thats fine.  What I would really like to hear is what you personally saw.
CR: Okay.  Well, in the process of liberating, we were not prepared for anything in any kind of a context.  My company commander, Pete Daugherty, who graduated from high school along with another company commander of the 157th, Bill Walsh of I Company, the company that liberated Dachau, they were both childhood friends in Newton, Massachusetts, and both graduated from high school as friends in 1938.  By coincidence they were now company commanders, but Bill Walshs company was the one that went into the camp, and I talked to Bill personally, so I have some concept of some of the details.
But also, my mission that day was to clean out the houses, and we would find three or four, or sometimes half a dozen, escaped inmates of the camp.  Now, the reason we knew they were escaped inmates is because they wore the prison garb of the black and dark gray prison uniforms, and they were hiding in the houses.  And the first group I encountered, anyway, was quite dramatic in the context: we didnt know who or what they were, and they spoke Dutch.  While some of us spoke German, it took us some time towell, it didnt take any rocket scientist to figure out they were inmates of the camp right next door.  But who they were and whatand these were fairly healthy, vigorous prisoners.
Theyd only been there two or three months, but this whole group had come from Holland, and we never did find out how or what circumstances were.  Once we found out that they were enemies of the Germans, we let them go.  We just let them stay in the houses, and we continued on our mission to clean out the houses.  And we knew that we, you know, had liberated these people that were in the camp.  And it was later that afternoon that we went into the camp and found what was in there, there was nothing left except this train that had been parked on the siding that was full of dead bodies, and of course by then it was swarming with correspondents and other people thatd come in.
And it wasnt until almost forty, forty-five years later that I was able to research on all the details of that train and published the story of what happened with the eight trains that had been loaded up at Buchenwald, and one of the inmates of Buchenwald put this together.  Hes still alive and living in Tucson, Arizona.  And this chronology of that action was published in the I Refuse to Die book.  I think its the only time it was published. So, we were notsome of the real exciting things that happened that afternoon.
MH: I dont need excitement; I really want an eye-witness account of what you saw.  You said the train that was parked with the bodies had come from Buchenwald?
CR: Yes, but nobody knew where itd come from, and we and the others that witnessed it, of course, a great amount ofI dont know, rage, upset over what the Germans had done.  Couldnt imagine how this had happened and why; but by then, because Ive been asked the question before, and my response is that by this time, we had seen so much that even this was not that much of a exacerbation of what wed seen before.  After we got into Germany, we liberated a large so-called slave laborers who lived not under any guard but living under horrible, crowded conditions, like 200 people living in the basement of a school, probably literally room for only about thirty or forty people.
MH: Where was this?
CR: It was a place like that right outside of Munich.  I dont knowit was in the southwest part of Munich.  Up in the Aschaffenburg area in little towns along the way, we would find hundreds of slave laborers, mainly in schoolhouses, that the Germans had forced them to live there.  I dont remember the towns.  Id have to look at the map, but we walked about, in a three or four-day period, and then up in the area between Aschaffenburg and the Rhine River. Aschaffenburgs about forty miles east of the Rhine.
MH: Aschaffenburg is what, S-c-h
CR: A-s-c-h-a-f-f-e-n-b-u-r-g, its southeast of Frankfurt.  And thats wherea railroad bridge outside of Aschaffenburg is where the task force crossed the Main River that attached the Hammelburg prisoner of war camp, where Patton tried to liberate his son-in-law. The Hammelburg raid, they call it, and they had crossed that bridge two or three days before we got there.
General Patton set up a secret task force, Task Force Baum, to help free POWs at Oflag XIII B near the city of Hammelburg, Germany.  This POW camp held the generals son-in-law Lieutenant Colonel John K. Waters.
The town had not been secured, and we were the first to enter the town of Aschaffenburg, and all hell broke loose, because there were literally thousands of German soldiers and theyd been ordered to fight or die.  And one of my men cut down a German captain who had been hung because he recommended surrender about the third day, and the German major had him hung for insubordination.  And Time magazine carried the picture of the man laying on the ground because one of my guys had cut him down.
MH: Do you remember one or two of the slave labor camps you came into?
CR: Well, I call them slave labor, but they werent camps, they were just in indiscriminate buildings where these people were housed.  The Eastern Europeans had been pressed into what I call slave labor conditions, kind of a universal situation in Germany as the war wound down, that this is how the Germans got the production toand these people were not under any guard conditions, but simply because they were confined, they had no alternative to live under these conditions and work for the Germans.  And they were joyous at being liberated, and we were naturally felt good about being able to liberate them; but just all the things that go along with fighting and dying and people getting hurt, your own people, were of more concern to us than what we liberated.
MH: Were these people in uniforms as well?
CR: No, these were just civilian clothes.  They, of course, the living conditions, they were not clean, theysome of my contemporaries were, quite frankly, interested in some of the women, but I couldnt get by the fact that they were in pretty dirty, messy shape.  It didnt turn me on, anyway.  But the point was, they were living under just absolutely deplorable conditions, and of course they were happy to be liberated and set free, even though they were not physically constrained by guards.
But the German civilians themselves were not hostile.  They werent friendly, and they were not as well fed as people mightve thought.  We did find places in Nuremberg where the civilian population had been very poorly fed and were happy for us to let them have any kind of food we had.  Of course, we only had rations, so it wasnt a matter of being able to feed them anything, and particularly, the Germans in the cities were not well fed.  And one of the episodes in Nuremberg is we captured an entire coal storage warehouse.  It was unbelievable in what it contained that was available but certainly wasnt being given out to Germans, the civilians.  Because wed been on rations ever since we jumped off around March 15not that rations are bad, but its certainly not a productive meal.
MH: Right, youre talking about C rations?
CR: Yeah, C rations, 10 in 1 rationsjust all those boxed, and K rations.  So, in that warehouse, I got two frozen turkeys, as an example, and that night, in an apartment house, a woman with two kidsthere were no men living in the building
MH: Could I ask you to hold on?  Somebodys at my door.
CR: Oh, sure.
MH: Be right there. Im sorry, go ahead.
CR: Anyway, I found seven families living in this apartment house that just happened that the center of Nuremberg was badly damaged with the bombing, and there wasnt much artillery, because there wasnt any kind of a serious fight, although there was opposition.  But that night we found an area that had not been hit hard by the bombing to sleep in for the night, but I found this German hausfrau with two young children that was willing to cook the turkey and provide some kind of meager vegetables with it, and I gave her the other turkey; she could have it.  And she had a turkey dinner for us the next morning at seven oclock.  Thats an unusual story.
MH: Whatever works.
CR: Yeah, but just its an indication of how we were in a way hungry for real food, but notwe were not seriously deprived.  We were in good shape and physical condition, but the things we witnessed were just kind of average feeling about things at that timealthough I realize that the GIs that came on that freight train carloads of bodies, theres knowledge that those men went berserk and attempted to take and did take some retribution on the German guards, and Sparks stopped it and got control.  And then there were some guards killed in retribution, but that was all part of thewell, the general disturbance and excitement.
MH: How do you feel about that sort of thing happening?  When youve seen the way the Nazis treated people?
CR: Well, I quite frankly lecture now, and I say the reason Im doing is because the story has to be told.  I call the eight trains they loaded up at Buchenwald and sent 30,000 inmates out on eight trains, and 25,000 were known to have died as a result of it, was outright murder and the most egregious act of the Holocaust.  And the story should be perpetuated and told today.  What you see on the Internet, deniers that the Holocaust happened, and the President of Iran [Mahmoud Ahmadinejad] denying the Holocaust happened, because he wants an excuse to attack Israel.  And so, the reason I do this with Susie, we dontoccasionally I get an honorarium and frequently she gets a small stipend for expenses, but were not making any money.  I say that in the context of why I do this.
MH: Susie is?
CR: Pardon?
MH: You said you do this with Susie?
CR: Yeah, Susie Davidson.  Shes the one that compiled the I Refuse to Die book.  Shes a youngwell, no, no; she has the physical appearance of being a young woman, yet shes fifty-one years old.  And I tell you this personally: her personality is a little immature, but shes a very dedicated and has done a lot of writing, mainly on the Holocaust and Jewish living problems and these kinds of things.  But previous work before this did not involve any humanitarian activities at all.  She was just a freelance writer for the Jewish Advocate and a couple other newspapers.  She gets invitations to speak to Jewish synagogues, senior centers, and a few school classes.  And I do this with her and was able to get General Sparks to be interviewed for his story, which iswell, he wrote it himself in his own book, and hes appeared before a number of Holocaust events; but he passed away in late September, ninety years old.
MH: How long after Dachau was liberated did you come home?
CR: Well, the war ended, well, our taking Munich the next day ended the war in terms of fighting, but the official surrender was the seventh of May, one week later.  We stayed in that general area for six weeks before we were moved out.  We had been designated to go to Japan to make the invasion in April.  The first invasion was to be in November, November 1 of 1945, and the main invasion would come the next spring in Tokyo Bay in April, and we were slated to make that invasion.  We were low-point menwell, I was just barely under the limit that I had to stay and go to Japan.
But nonetheless, I was reconfigured, and the 45th Division was one of the divisions going to be in the attack.  And all the high-point men were cleaned out and sent home.  The high-point men were just taken out ad hoc, as individuals, and sent home to discharge.  Middle-range men were sent to other divisions that were going to be in the Army of Occupation, and the so-called low-point menand, in my case, I was just two points under the limit, but we reconfigured to go to Japan, and we were to go home and we actually arrived on schedule in early September; but we knew the war was over in August, and then they brought us home anyway and discharged us.  I was home in mid-September, and then had forty-five days furlough and was discharged the end of November of forty-five [1945].
MH: When you came home, did you talk about the things youd seen?
CR: No, hardly ever.  I dont think I talked about them.  I didnt even think about them, and it didntI just happen to remember a hell of a lot of instances forty years later, and I cant even remember who I had lunch with or where I ate yesterday.
MH: But you felt no need to talk about it, or were unable to.
CR: Yeah, there was no pointI didnt talk about any of my wartime experiences except maybe to fellow veterans who we met.  I would call people up andwell, when I came up to Massachusetts to go to MIT in forty-nine [1949], I called a couple guys in New England that I knew.  I had their addresses, and I went to Milwaukee, I remember one time, on a business trip, I called up a guy who lived in Three Rivers, Two Rivers, whatever it is in Wisconsin up near Green Bay, and went all the way up there to spend all evening with him, and then drive all the way back to the hotel in Milwaukee for a meeting the next morning.  And exchanged stories, but mainly talked about what youre doing, whats going on after the war.  And never really talked or wrote about it until the last ten years.
MH: What changed?  Why did you change and start talking and writing?
CR: Well, I dont know.  I did a lot of things in my personal situation.  Your familys mature; you dont have the family issues.  Well, in most cases, youre not retired, although I didnt retire until I was seventy-seven.  But I did the research on my basic training unit, just to find out where all those guys went, for about three or four months as a side issue to my getting prepared for a major project and had the time available, and tracked these guys down, found out where they went, what school they went to, what combat they had, and what they did after the war.  And I was able to track 100 out of 200 total, simply because I was interested in it, and it was an interesting experiment.
And thatall of this encouraged me to write and put together things.  I have a presentation on the liberation of Dachau in a PowerPoint format that I put together from pictures and other data that I had, and otherwell, all the key people I was in some way in contact with in the 1990s.  All the key people now, that had important roles that day, are deceased.  Dont know of any that were first-hand witnesses of the activities of the day of Dachau that are still around.  But their stories are available at the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald have had major stories on the liberation of Dachau over a period of fifteen years.  And they mainly feature on the fact of GIs killed unarmed German guards.  Now, thats bullshit.  That did happen, but that was not the focus of what happened.  And if you want to take that, and you should also consider the fact of what the Germans did at Malmdy and in the Bulge, where they literally shot 120 men, unarmed and standing all together in a pasture, and killed them all.
Now, when we went through the Siegfried Line, after arethese ten and they mounted on these 90 mm naval guns were mounted on a chassis that were better than the German 88s, we blasted those pillboxes with those guns, and the Germans would come running out of the pillboxes, came up to where we were on the ridge. I was a platoon sergeant at this point, and they ran up and they dropped to their knees about twenty, thirty feet out in front of where we were, waiting for them, and I told the guys not to shoot.  They literally dropped on their knees and put their hands in a prayerful posture, and I couldnt understand what caused that; but later that afternoon, I found out that they were in the same unit that had killed those GIs at Malmdy, and they expected to be shot.  On the other hand, I was always eager to take prisoners and not bother about what they may or may not have done.  I wanted to get the war over and not be judge or jury on what the enemy may have done.  There were a lot of times I ran into GIs that had intent or felt some malice.  I felt it was best to get rid of their weapons and get them back to a prison camp.
MH: Would you feel the same way about SS?
CR: Well, no, I wouldnt.  The SS we knew about, but on the other hand, you werent sure every time you encountered a German whether or not he was SS.  But, yes, I understand, and we did encounterwell, I know when we jumped off on March 15, we hit a small group of SS who didnt want to surrender because they felt they could go back and fight, and I told the lieutenanthe was talking to him in German.  I wasnt that conversant with German, and I told the lieutenant, Tell him were gonna shoot him if he doesnt put his rifle down.  I personally didnt take any revenge.  I know a lot of the stories, but as far as what we encountered, for the most part, they were the average German soldiers and not SS.
MH: Did what you saw, the slave laborers and what you saw in Dachau, and even what you saw in the war, changecan you tell how it may have changed your whole outlook on life, if it did at all?
CR: Well, theres a lot of things I think about.  Its a good thing it happened when I was young.  I had been a high school athlete, and I continue to evenI expected, after that, when I went to college, to play football.  I did not, because the pool of potential football players in 1949Im sorry, in 1946 and seven [1947]was so great that I gave it up and decided Id be a student and take civil engineering.  And I played softball on teams until I was forty-five.  But the point Im making is that I was in good physical condition, and was able to stand the rigors of living outdoors for that winter.  And because I was healthy and in good shape and fairly understanding of what was going ononly the young can handle that, and Im glad it happened to me when I was young, was able to take it and understand it, but it didnt bother me.  As I said, I came back from the war and never looked back.  But now that Im finding out what has happened, I want to make sure the world knows what can be done.
I want to say something in context of that, but I dont want this to imply what it really says.  Obama has swept the country with his oratorical capability.  He has coalesced people, I do agree.  But do you know, Hitler started that way, and look what he turned into.  Im not saying that Obama is gonna be bad, but the fact that Hitler was able to sweet-talk everybody into become a tyrant and then took over the world and did some unbelievable things, and the Americans contributed mightily to his demise, and the Russians and the British also contributed.  And its a good thing we were able to contain it.
So, it is a thing that I realize that we have to be vigilant in this country, and this country has the weapons capabilities and the posture, and I feel that we should be saving our ammunition, so to speak, for world problems and not get involved in that charade over there in Iraq.  Its terrible that were straining our Reserve and National Guard components and our country is not able toI dont know right now what real threats there may be, except the Chinese are out there, lurking, and nobody knows what their intent is.  But Im just pleased that I was able to witness it and not suffer emotionally or in any way psychologically from it.  It was a good window to observe and see what can happen to the world.  And this is why this country must keep itself capable of the world situation, and its too bad we got wrapped upand while we may be militarily able to wipe Iraq out, we were not able to keep it in line or win the peace, and I think that was a shame.
MH: They didnt plan for it, either.
CR: I agree.  I dont understand.  They mustve had enough intelligence to know those two people didnt live together to begin with, but thats a gross failure of misunderstanding what was needed to keep the peace there.  And maybe Saddam Hussein wasnt that bad after all, if it took that kind of a tyrant to keep those two people at bay.  But that doesnt mean Id accuse him, and it is maybewell, you have to look at it objectively that it was good that we went in there, but God, it has really drained us.
MH: The military, I think, is broken.
CR: Yes.  Oh, theres no question.  I was in the Reserve after World War II, because I knew we were going to be fighting the Russians.  But we didnt fight the Russians directly, but we did fight them indirectly.  And I spent thirty-eight years in the Reserve, and Im glad I did.  Its my only retirement, by the way.  But I felt it was necessary towell, I felt I wouldve been involved in some kind of a war.  It just happened in Korea, they called up individuals, so if I hadnt stayed in the active Reserve, I wouldve been called up in Korea.  By then, I was a lieutenant.  And our countrys gonna need the Reserve and National Guard, and I wrote my war college thesis on what the Israelis were going to do: with 88 percent of them being in the reserve components, they were able to charge out of their reserve centers in 1968 and defeat the best armies the Arabs had.  And they were all reservists, 88 percent of them.
MH: The Israelis have a motivation that I dont know Americans have as directly.  The Israelis know that if they dont win, theyre gone.
CR: You are exactly right on that score, and thats what is alarming to me now, and particularly since our Reserve and National Guard are really in a sad state of affairs right now.  I feel thatabout a third of our country, the young people feel as strongly as many of our Reserve and National Guard people do today, and the other two-thirds dont want any part of it, dont want to get involved in the military.  And it would take some kind of a national draft to bring that back, which I dont think there will be such a thing in the near range.  But thereits not universal in this country as it is in Israel.  The Israelis, from what has happened to them, understand what could happen if you dont be sure youre strong and can defend yourself.  Its one thing what the Germans did to the Jews, and theyve got to understand they have to keep their defenses.
I just realized, Ive got to run down to Rhode Island and pick up one of my sons, whos coming in for a couple days.  Id be glad to be available at any other time. I just have to take off right now.
MH: Thank you very much.
CR: I have no other mission, except to make sure the story gets out.
MH: Thank you very much, Chan.  I appreciate it.
CR: Thank you.
MH: Right, bye-bye.
CR: Bye-bye


COPYRIGHT NOTICE This Oral History is copyrighted by the University of South Florida Libraries Oral History Program on behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of South Florida. Copyright, 20 1 0 University of South Florida. All rights, reserved This oral history may be used for research, instruction, and private study under the provisions of the Fair Use. Fair Use is a provision of the United States Copyright Law (United States Code, Title 17, section 107), which allows limited use of copyrig hted materials under certain conditions. Fair Use limits the amount of material that may be used. For all other permissions and requests, contact the UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA LIBRARIES ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at the University of South Florida, 4202 E. Fo wler Avenue, LIB 122, Tampa, FL 33620.


Download Options

Choose Size
Choose file type
Cite this item close


Cras ut cursus ante, a fringilla nunc. Mauris lorem nunc, cursus sit amet enim ac, vehicula vestibulum mi. Mauris viverra nisl vel enim faucibus porta. Praesent sit amet ornare diam, non finibus nulla.


Cras efficitur magna et sapien varius, luctus ullamcorper dolor convallis. Orci varius natoque penatibus et magnis dis parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus. Fusce sit amet justo ut erat laoreet congue sed a ante.


Phasellus ornare in augue eu imperdiet. Donec malesuada sapien ante, at vehicula orci tempor molestie. Proin vitae urna elit. Pellentesque vitae nisi et diam euismod malesuada aliquet non erat.


Nunc fringilla dolor ut dictum placerat. Proin ac neque rutrum, consectetur ligula id, laoreet ligula. Nulla lorem massa, consectetur vitae consequat in, lobortis at dolor. Nunc sed leo odio.