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Interview with James Oxendine

Oxendine, James
Yurko, Vicki
Date of Interview: 
Native Americans; American Indians;Lumbee Indians; World War II: Battle of the Bulge: Allied invasion of Normandy; Operation Overlord; Native Americans in US Army; history of Pembroke, NC; education; American Indian history
In this life history interview, James Oxendine describes his childhood growing up in Pembroke North Carolina, where his grandparents and subsequently parents owned and ran a general store, sawmill and cotton gin. Through many anecdotes he describes his school experiences, friendships, family members and family dynamics. Of particular note is Oxendine's description of his experiences serving in the US Army during World War II, when he was deployed as part of the allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944. He subsequently fought and earned a Bronze Star in the Battle of the Bulge.
Pembroke, Robeson County, NC, USA; New York; France; Germany; 1917 - 1995
Interview Setting: 
Oxendine's home in Mint Hill, NC
Native Carolinians and Indian Elders

Transcriber's Notes: The "630th Tank Patrol Battalion" referred to towards the end of the transcript is most likely the 630th Tank Destroyer Battalion, also based at Fort Jackson, South Carolina and recorded as having arrived in Europe on the dates Oxendine mentions. Also, the original transcript referred to Bastogne as "Baston" and Bayeux as "Bayex." The locations Remsweiler, Clariveau and Magenon are referred to in the transcript but their proper spellings are not known. Recodne may be Recogne, Belgium.

VY: Where did your family start out? Where were you born?

JO: Where was he born?
VY: Where were you born?
JO: Me?
VY: Uh huh.
JO: In Pembroke, North Carolina.
VY: Okay. What brought you here? What made you settle in Mint Hill?
JO: My son had come over here in employment.
VY: And so you said something about settling here thirteen years ago?
JO: Well, that's when I retired, but prior to that we came down here knowing that I was going to retire within two years. We started looking for a place that would be suitable, and one of the things that my wife had in mind most was a larger kitchen than she -- we had had in Oak Ridge. So we passed this particular area or location and she said, "Let's stop here. Here's a house for sale." So all we could see at the time was the kitchen. They had the curtains pushed to the side and there was no one at the home at this time. So I went on up to the sales place up at the crossroads at 51 and 218 and I contacted the man who had the contract and he said, "I'd be glad to show you the home." But at that time this feller who had the house in charge, he had been transferred to Winston-Salem and he told me a price that he would take for the house, but I thought, and I knew at the time, that he was at a high figure. So I said, "I'll wait him out." So I went back home knowing that he had committed himself here and also in Winston-Salem. I got a call nine months later on a Friday afternoon from the sales manager. Said, "Mr. Oxendine, would you be interested in that home or house that you showed some interest in back nine months prior to that date?" I said, "It depends." I said, "If the figure in which I stated, I would take it." He said, "Is that the best you'll do?" I said, "That's my figure now and was at that time." He said, "Could -- how soon could you be down here?" This was on Friday evening. I had worked at the lab. I said, "Well, I can be down there in the morning." "What time in the morning?" I says, "I'll be down there and we'll meet you by eight o'clock the following day." He said, "Well --" He gave me an address on Old Monroe Road and the next morning I went down there and the -- the lawyer was late getting there and the man came forward and contacted me. He told me -- he says, "Now my wife is very confused or --" In other words she felt like that they wasn't getting a fair price, but he said, "We'll going to sell you the house." And by the time the lawyer came in the location which we were waiting, he said, "Mr. Oxendine, did you bring a certified check?" I said, "No." I said, "You called me and I told you it was -- it was Friday afternoon and I was at work." I said, "After all, I'll give you the check or I'll let you call the bank president in Oak Ridge or the credit union in Oak Ridge and verify this check is good." And I said, "It'll take two weeks for it to clear anyway and I'm not going to move in the house until it's vacated, and if you want to go ahead with the execution you can go ahead or drop it where it is. " So that's how I became owner of the house. From the time we saw it, my wife said, "This is just what I want," so we decided upon it.
VY: Could you tell me about your parents and grandparents?
JO: My grandparents? My daddy's father, which he was my grandfather, his name was Elias Oxendine. He died at an early age of thirty-two with a fever that was going around at that time. And my daddy had the misfortune of never seeing a picture of his father in his life. I have heard him state many times that he would give a hundred dollars to anybody that would prove that they had a picture of him. And after he passed away, they were living out in the country about five miles from Pembroke. My dad was the baby of a family of four. He had two sisters and one brother. But times were hard with them, because he said once while a snow was on the ground that someone that she was interested in -- I don't mean immediately, but he was visiting -- came by and asked if they wanted anything from Pembroke, and he said that they would -- made mention they could count the chickens under the house through the cracks. And he grew up. He was very knowledgeable and was above the average in school. So he was sent off with three others to Carlisle, Pennsylvania for further study than locally was accepted or offered at that- time. And his -- he never -- I never seen a high school diploma. In fact, I don't even know whether he finished high school, but he would take the average man and in his head or on even a little fertilizer pamphlet book about two-and- a-half inches wide and about six inches long you've probably seen some with calendar dates on them. He could figure a bale of cotton, say five hundred and forty pounds at six and a half cents, right in his head. He was very good at math and he was very reliable and had a lot of pride and dignity about his all of his life. He said when he got married that he had I believe it was six suits of clothes, but he didn't have but ninety dollars in his pocket at the time, but he said he furnished a four-room house with what he had at that time. And Mother, Mother was fortunate. Of course she came from a family of twelve children and they all were well-known in the county because most of them was preachers or school teachers. But Mother got acquainted with an uncle and an aunt. The aunt was Mother's sister, and they were the cause of her, you might say, progressing a little above the average, because at that time they owned the grocery store, general merchandise. It was W.M. Lowery's General Merchandise, was the name of the store. And my mother and dad started dating and finally married, and my aunt and uncle saw a need for somebody to help them. And my dad very soon afterwards was taking care of the general business. At that time they had a sawmill with a group of men and a cotton gin in Pembroke. Where the present-day park is next to the Methodist Church was the location of the gin. The sawmill was down on the river next to the junior high school location at the present time. And he started out -- my sister and I were born in about a half a mile -- no, it wasn't a half a mile. It was within a hundred yards of where the Texaco location is today, in a southeasterly direction. I myself was born on Sunday morning about the hour of 3 am, Dad told me, and May the 13th, 1917. And my sister who was older, she was born July 18th, 1915. My sister's name is Mabel and well-known within the area today. She has her own quartet and her own choir and has acquired the same for many years and is well known from that standpoint alone. And I -- I teased her no later than this week. I said, "Mabel, you look forward to people dying." I says, "You -- you don't want them to die but you get a thrill out of meeting new people and you're so well known throughout the county that your quartet is asked to function quite a bit at not only funerals but every song or where they're going to have a singing meeting."
VY: Were you named after anybody?
JO: I was named after my dad. My dad's name is James Clarence Oxendine, and my name is James Howard Oxendine, and my son is named after me and both of the kids' grandparents. My daddy's name, James -- Woody's name is James Wood, after Doris -- Doris -- I married --
VY: A Wood?
JO: --a girl, Doris Wood, so he's got both daddy and grandfather on both sides inclusive in his name.
VY: Did any of your relatives speak an American Indian language?
JO: No. No. None of my parents or any of the family. Over the past seventy years I have never heard a local Indian from Robeson County who knew a word of Indian language. That is -- when you hear of that today, that is something that has come up in recent years. But none of the older generation spoke -- even tried to speak or learn of any Indian language at all. They were satisfied with what American -- were trying to learn the American or English language.
VY: Were any of your relatives enrolled members of tribes, official members?
JO: Nothing but what they started out with locally in Robeson County.
VY: What are some stories where you were a little boy that your relatives told to you or that your relatives liked to tell? Do you remember any stories that stuck out in your mind?
JO: Well, I can -- I don't remember the stories completely, but it was a practice among the older generation -- you didn't have nothing to entertain ourselves with but maybe marbles or they called it a hoop or a ring. What it actually was, it was a part of the axle of a one-horse wagon. It was the wheel around it, probably eight or nine inches in diameter, and when you could find an old one, you would take an iron bar or a piece of stiff wire and make a curve, a half circle, in the end of it and you could push that around over the yard, or else marbles. And it was the general practice, say sixty-five or seventy years ago, when you went visiting people -- now this was in Pembroke. I've never farmed any in my life. I've never had to -- so I never plowed one row of -- with a mule or nothing like that. I tried it one time in my life, and it was my uncle, the one in which my mother lived with prior to her marriage, at -- we were what they called the wheat farm. That was about eight miles from Pembroke. And a fellow by the name of Lonnie Lowery was plowing the new ground. That -- they referred to it -- they had sawed the timber up and they called it new ground. And I said, "Lonnie, let me try that." Well, not having any experience before, my uncle came up, and I could not keep the plow -- it was -- two mules were pulling it, and I was riding it and it wasn't going down in the ground. And my uncle spoke rather harsh to Lonnie and said, "Lonnie, you take that damn plow. He can't plow," And that's the only time in my life, and I'm glad of it, that I've tried to plow.
VY: Do you have any relatives that you particularly thought were outstanding in some way or were special to you? Which relatives in particular and why?
JO: Well, I've had many a relative who was outstanding, even in the -- but I can't -- at this time I -- I won't -- well, look, I'll pick out one. Now, Herbert, he was well known down at the college. He was dean, I think. He -- he had a hard life. I remember when he left. We had a general merchandise store. We sold everything except caskets. And he came through the store and says, "Uncle Sonny" -- that was my dad's nickname -- he said, "I'm going to leave home." He said, "Herbert, what you going to do?" He says, "Daddy wants me to pick cotton and I'm not going to, I'm going to leave and go off and get me an education." So he left, and the first time we heard of him, he was up in Massachusetts, I think it was, and he wanted my daddy to send him a few dollars, and that few dollars amounted to seven hundred dollars, but that's all he said he owed when he got his masters degree. And he told me on his first trip back home that some days he went to school and only had one bar of candy to eat, but he -- he really had the initiative about him to go after what he wanted to do and I had a highly respect for him. Although he lived a short life, the life that he lived was one in which all was proud of.
VY: Was he your favorite relative then?
JO: He was one of my favorite, yes. I had many others, but I don't want to go down the line and list Uncle Dolly, he was a preacher, and Uncle Theodore, he was this and that, but they were well known in the county.
VY: What were some of your earliest memories as a child growing up?
JO: Growing up, memories. Well, the first day I went to school, I'll tell you about that. We went out and the teacher told us to come back in at a certain time, and I did not come back in. And believe it or not, at that time we did not have regular drinking fountains. We had a one-inch pipe, and that one-inch pipe was -- 'the water was forced in it and had eight holes and eight students could drink at one time from this one hole. And I was lingering out there a little longer, so the lady asked me when I come back in, she says -- my name is James Howard and back home, I'll say Pembroke, my early life everyone -- everybody called me Howard. But when I went in the service, I had to drop Howard and for the past 55 years everybody just about calls me Jimmy. If anybody calls here today and says, "I want to speak to Howard," my wife automatically knows it's somebody from Pembroke and it's another young -- young person. And she says, "Howard, where have you been?" I said, "Out in the schoolyard." So she wanted me to come to the front. So she had a short whip in her hand and I -- I did not go to the front. I went out the window. I jumped out the window and my home was -- probably a half a mile from home, so I went home. And of course Mother and Dad seen that I returned and they talked to me about it and said why you are out there she has the authority to whip you about anything that -- and when you get home we may add a little extra to it, and it didn't take me long to learn that there was cooperation within the parents, which is a bad factor that's missing today.
VY: Right. What were you known as as a child, like a quiet boy or a troublemaker or --?
JO: Oh.
VY: -- were you like a class clown?
JO: You shouldn't ask me that, because they said if there was a devil on the street, I was a walking one. I did -- I didn't do, you know, things that was awful, but anything that I could pull on the average person, I did it. And even till today I like to do it, if I can get by with it.
VY: Tell me a prank that you --
JO: Yeah.
VY: -- pulled. Do you have --
JO: And I always -- I don't know why, but girls was always a weakness of mine. [laughs]
VY: What particular pranks did you play? Do you remember?
JO: Pranks?
VY: Like a trick?
JO: Oh, I -- I -- right offhand I can't think of one that I'd be willing to repeat. [laughs] Well, one prank that I did wasn't exactly a prank, but I -- something that came to mind. My dad bought me a nice aviator's cap when I was in the grammar school and most of the boys there, they'd take it off my head. But I had a button underneath it, a snap. And one boy was flying a kite one day and I -- it was twirling. Well, lots of people don't know what to do or what causes a kite to do that, you know, have a tendency to swirl and eventually come to the ground. So I had flown a kite quite a bit, having spare time, and I told him, I says, "Wait just a minute. I'll take my cap off my head and I'll tie it to the kite." And that's the last time I had that cap. And Dad let me that it was the wrong thing when I did go home without it. But I remember it well. It did take care of it and went to great height.
VY: Oh, What schools did you attend? What were the names of the schools that you attended?
JO: I started at Pembroke Graded School.
VY: Tell me about your teachers.
JO: Teachers? Well, at that time all teachers had the privilege, and they took the privilege, to see that you were mannerly. And I respected them all. I was fortunate. My dad was on the school board over half the time that I was in school -- I mean the graded school. Of course, now I didn't -- I don't think I got an favoritism by that, by him being on the board, but nevertheless I did know all of my teachers well. They were all local teachers and some of them attended church with, my parents, and that's another feature in which Dad and Mother imposed on us: You were going to church. And another factor I remember well, my dad at a young stage in life, he trained us boys, which were five of us eventually -- he trained us boys, if you're going to the table, you dress for it. You don't go to the table without a shirt on. And I mean after we grew up, if you started to the table, he would correct you, even -- and that's one thing that I missed a lot. Even when I was 50 years old and working at Oak Ridge, go home, Dad would say, "All right, Howard." He says, "I don't care where you go, but let's eat dinner today, or lunch, together-" And that -- it wasn't at noontime. That was eleven-thirty. He was very punctual in anything of his life and I respected him like that. If I say I was fifty years old and was one block up the street at my brother's, he had his way and his way of life was right and his way of thinking. He would call -- he would call at ten o'clock. "Howard, it's ten o'clock. We're going to close or lock the doors at ten-thirty." And that's what he meant. If you were coming, you had better be there by ten-thirty, or else you would be locked out. He wouldn't get up, but Mother would always get up and let you in..
VY: What were some of the values that he taught you? You've mentioned a couple right then, but --
JO: Well, my daddy, me being the oldest boy, he relied on me quite a bit. One of the first things he taught me, say from the time I was twelve or thirteen years old, was to write a check. You see, he operated, as I stated, a dry good and merchant store, and it just so happens that I've got the book in 1927, ledger, and up to '21 -- or back to 1921, back there in my closet today. It's the prices that groceries and dry goods sold at. But Dad taught me to write a penmanship whereas I could sign a check for -- at the beginning he would sign a check and expect me to fill it in for the correct amount, because in those days we had what they called drummers. Now most of them was from Wilmington, North Carolina. Let's say you have a candyman would come in. I remember one; his name was Solomon. He would come in and he had a colored chauffeur. That chauffeur would come in. He had had an interlocking briefcase that stood about two feet high and was maybe three feet long and about a foot wide. But he would open -- he would sit this down, then Mr. Solomon would walk over and he would -- it would fall into layers just like that, and I -- like that. And in each one of those sections there would be different kinds of candy and cookies and you would say I want a box of -- box of, well, say Johnny cakes or coconut cakes or Baby Ruths or whatever. And in two weeks' time you would get maybe a barrel of it. I've seen my dad order a hundred-pound barrel and it would come in a staved barrel, but would be in sections, I mean divided out in angles. But -- and overalls, cloth, everybody had a little some else. Now I know there's a Hammond man from Laurinburg, A. P. Hammond. That's who he bought most of his groceries from. But he would get it, and when he visited, came around again on his next circuit, you might say, he would pay for what he had already got the month before. And that was the way they transacted their business. Now most of the farmers back in those days, you -- I'll tell you a procedure Dad had. He -- you would buy your fertilizer from him and he didn't expect you to pay for that fertilizer, and this was -- I'd say eighty-five percent of the people did not pay for it until the fall of the year. But what he did, during each month, if you traded thirty dollars in -- in trade or debtness, he would add three dollars interest on that thirty dollars, and that would float until the fall of the year. He just had a procedure like that. If it was a hundred dollars, it was ten dollars, and no more interest was charged during this entire time until the fall of the year. And they would start -- they'd bring their cotton in and Dad would accredit them to the seed. If they wanted to leave the seed or if they wanted cotton seed meal -- now today I don't think anything like that is offered. But at that time we had stalls, they called it. If a farmer was in need of his truck and there's a long line, I have known them to gin cotton all night long. And if he was in need of his truck, he had storage places. He had twenty stalls in which you could store cotton in and had a way of weighing the cotton and getting a weight prior to it being baled.
VY: Tell me about your best friend and what you did together when you were growing up.
JO: About who?
VY: Your best friend.
JO: My best friend?
VY: Uh-huh.
JO: One of my best friends was Millard Smith and he knew what all I knew almost, and this goes back to the seventh grade. But I don't know hardly how to start this because I'm going to have to watch what I tell. [laughs]
VY: Well --
JO: But any -- if -- if I wanted to pass a note and I -- I didn't want anybody else to know about it, all I had to do was, "Millard, give this to Sarah," or whatnot. Or if I wanted to give -- sometimes I've even gone so far as to give two sisters in the same family a box of candy at Easter time. I'd have Millard to take one and I'd take the other one. [laughs] But by Dad having a store I have given Millard shirts out of that store. We'd probably sometimes double-date, most of them being teachers. I don't know why, but that was a weakness of mine. I always went with girls older than I. I don't know whether I expected them to teach me something or ( ), but throughout my life I never went with over I'd say five girls that was my age, I mean local girls, but any new teacher coming to the college -- you knew Reba Milsaps, didn't you? ( ) wife? Well, the first day she came to school I said, "Well, I'm going to ask her for a date." So sure enough,, she was registering me upstairs, I remember well, in college. I said, "Miss Milsaps," I says, "You're new here in our area here." I said, "What about going out this afternoon" -- or I think it was that afternoon or that night -- "and we'll have dinner." Of course she probably looked at my card and said, "Well, Howard," she says, "I can't do anything like that. Some areas they frown on students and teachers dating." So I don't think I ever asked her for another date because I already had somebody waiting. [laughs]
VY: If you could name one person that influenced you the most in your life, who would that be?
JO: One person that influenced me the most. My mother. My mother. I never asked her -- I never asked her anything in life but what she didn't come back with an answer. And if I followed through, it would be a correct answer. And thank the Good Master, I never asked for a dollar in my life that I didn't get, so I didn't ask for too many. I got every dollar that I ever asked for. But I always realized that there's others in the family besides me. Now when I was fifteen and sixteen years old -- you see, back then teachers probably made about sixty dollars. I know the first regular girlfriend that I went with, we went together ten years. She was five years older than I. Her salary was 72 dollars a month. And Mother -- she and two others ate with us because, well, we -- all my life I have eaten as well as anybody that ever lived, and I continue to do that today. I don't care whoever reads or hear of this. They cannot say it's not true. That's one of my priorities, and my dad was one that he believed the same way. He did not want nothing warmed over for his second meal, not the same day. It had to be something new.
VY: Tell me about a meal your mom would cook.
JO: Beg your pardon?
VY: A meal that she would cook for you. What was your favorite?
JO: Oh, a meal that my mother would cook. Well, honey, you asked me a question that -- I can't exactly pick out one, but --
VY: What was your favorite?
JO: I'll tell you at Christmastime -- I'll tell you her secret. She made a cake for every child's desire. She didn't expect that child to eat that cake, but if she knew you liked a chocolate cake, somebody liked a banana cake, and different -- somebody wanted a fruitcake or somebody wanted a -- what is that -- a red -- red -- what is it? Red velvet cake --
VY: Wonderful.
JO: We had an old-timey -- what was it they called it? But they had four -- four long drawers in it, say four inches -- four feet long and about a foot deep. And that's where you would go and you'd pull this out and there'd be a cake in every area of it. And then at the top there were two smaller drawers in depth, probably four inches, and that -- in both of them she'd have different kinds of pies, for Christmas, Thanksgiving. And all the time my dad, he liked something sweet, and he passed it on to me, and believe it or not they told me about six months ago I had to quit it. I'm on the borderline of being a darned diabetic. It really hurts me because I was a sweet-eater, but I'm handling it the best I know how and thus far the medication is doing its share. Yesterday it was a hundred and four, and which is not bad at all. I take my own reading here at the home each day- Take it prior to breakfast time.
VY: When you were growing up, who was your hero, or did you have a person that you -- maybe outside of the family that you thought was influential?
JO: Well, I had an uncle -- Theodore Maynor was his name. He was good in all athletics and I was a fool about it myself. I played football, basketball and all at the college and in high school down there. One of our greatest games, we beat Wingate 7 to 6, and the chancellor of the school at that time said the game was played so fair that he was going to allow us a privilege that he had not any other schools. He said, "Immediately after dinner if some of you boys and some of you girls can get together for one hour and stay on the campus, I'm going to give you the privilege of associating together." And that was one of the games of my life right there. Carl Lowery, he's missing, but he was well known. Carl Lowery, he was a hard tackle, and they said that I was, and I think I was. But Theodore influenced me. You could hear him yell. He didn't care who was watching, nor when. If he saw a flaw or thought that you should do something, he'd let it be known. And until he passed -- probably passed four years ago, and he was a retired school teacher, he did plumbing work. He did a lot of church work in the latter part of life. But he was well known in the County of Robeson, and I admired him. Of course, sometime if I came home -- I never was one that would partake of too much alcohol, but if I wanted a drink -- and it's true today, I still take it, but he would say, "Come on, Howard. Let's go get us -- let's go get us a little bottle and celebrate a little." Not too much at the time, but just enough to energize you. [laughs]
VY: What goals did you have as a teenager that led you to your --
JO: Well, as a teenage I always wanted to be a railroad photographer -- what is it -- send a telegram. What were they called? But you see, they lost their priorities. During the war they started a process, whereas if a man had a little more time, he could come knock you for your job, so that caused me to change my ambition altogether. That's what I really wanted to do in my early life. I'd go down to the railway station and see him sitting there and sending messages. And believe it or not, I did pass a grade in the Army whereas I had to send and receive twenty words a minute. I ended up in the Army as an operator, radio operator, and sometime we would send code, and most of it was clear message. We forgot all about code the day we got across the Atlantic Ocean. We had phonetics, Abel, Baker, Charlie, Dog and Easy, Fox and Hypo and things like that, to identify different things by.
VY: What led you to the type of work that you had before you retired as an analytical chemist? What led you to that?
JO: Well, one of the greatest jobs I ever had or enjoyed in life was I taught school one and a half years, but I didn't see -- I did not see much advancement in it at that time because there's not -- you made the same thing every month regardless of what you put into it. So I was at home during a Christmas holiday and a fellow by the name of H.C. Greene, who was a home demonstrator and over a lot of farming area at that time, passed me. He said, "Howard," he said, "I was a little surprised at you." I said, "About what, Mr. Greene?" He said, "I was so in hopes that you would go to Raleigh during the holidays and take the exam to be an NYA supervisor." "Well, it so happened that you didn't -- you didn't mention it to me before Christmas and I was in High Point with my girlfriend most of that time." And he said, "Would you be interested in it?" I said, "I certainly would." He said, "How soon could you go to Raleigh?" So -- I shouldn't tell this because it might be -- [laughs] But there had been five boys in Raleigh that took the exam. I went up there and I met the supervisor with the NYA for the state and went in and introduced myself, and I was dressed above the average. He said, "Mr. Oxendine," he says, "I can tell you right now you've got that job." He says, "I can see more in you than all those other five boys together." He says, "You sign that damn exam paper and you go back home and tell the school board that you're no longer interested in school and you take the NYA over immediately." So I was very glad of the opportunity because it started me at eighteen hundred dollars a year. They give me a blue Oldsmobile, practically new, that -- they had found it locally full of -- hauling whiskey, and they, you know, took it -- confiscated it, and they assigned it to me, and was a big seal on it, probably fifteen inches in diameter, "Public vehicle for use by U.S. Government only," and gave me a Texaco courtesy card, plus that eighteen hundred dollars. And that was a good job back when -- but Uncle Sam came along, Pearl Harbor, and they got me. Three-three-five was my registered number. And I didn't get to work at it but about a year and seven months before I drafted into service for one year, and I ended up with 64 months' service due to that Pearl Harbor attack.
VY: I want to hear more about the military.
JO: About what?
VY: The military, your service overseas.
JO: Service overseas? Well, as I told you, I started in training in the Army at Fort Bragg. For three months I took communications and passed twenty words a minute, sending and receiving the alphabet and so forth. From there I went to Fort Jackson. Upon arriving at Fort Jackson, I was supposed to be assigned to a group. Well, I got to Fort Jackson, and at that time the Carolina Maneuvers was going on, and I didn't know all about the Army, but I said this is a chance for me to go back home. So I reported to the headquarters, but they were out in the field on maneuvers. So I went back home for the weekend, then back to Fort Jackson, and upon arriving back there there's no one there, so I said, "I know what I'll do. I ought to go find my brother." He was in the Air Force, but he was with a group from Virginia, and they had the red and the white troops. Well, it so happened that the troops from Fort Jackson, they were in the white army, so to speak, and the group from Virginia was in the red. So I went over to where I thought my brother was near and told them that I wanted to contact my brother. They said, "Where are you in the Army at?" I said, "Fort Jackson." They said, "Well, we're going to take you as prisoner." [laughs] So I didn't know what was going to happen, but they did take me but they didn't put me in the stockade. But they took me to where my brother was and they -- he identified me and let him take the Red Cross vehicle and take me back to Fort Jackson and I waited around there about a week before they came back from the maneuvers and we organized. And very soon after we organized, they originated what they call a tank destroyer. And at that time it was a half track with a -- a seventy-five gun mounted on it, which was no good and found out very soon after being committed to service that it was no good. But when we left -- and you want me to tell more or less overseas?
VY: If you want to go to into that direction, you can.
JO: All right. But I did leave Fort Jackson. From Fort Jackson I went to Camp Blanding; from Camp Blanding to Fort Hood, Texas; to Camp Boyd, Texas; back to Alabama, and that's where I ran into a girl by the name of Doris Wood and who later, being so fortunate as she was, she ended up being my wife. [laughs] And as of that date, April the 29th, we'll be together 51 years. But I -- we were supposed to get married June the 1st of '44, but the 1st of April they sent me from Fort Rooker, Alabama to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, to immediately go overseas. But one of the boys caught the chicken pox, which meant a delay for all troops within this area and which I was a member of. So I called my wife up. I loved her and really wanted to get married regardless of whether I was going across or not. So I called her up, and she was more anxious than I was. She said she would be in New York and within three days. So she came by my home. She was living at that time in Dothan, Alabama, and she came to Pembroke, which was about halfway the trip, and got my older sister to go with her to New York. Well, I had told them when they got to New York City and give them -- give me the location of the hotel where they were at. But at Camp Kilmer they would not give you the location of something like that. I don't know why, because they -- they did announce money arriving 24 hours around the clock. Every day and every minute almost somebody would get money. But I went into New York Station there and I called my mother. I said, "Mother, where is Doris?" And she said, "Buddy" -- that's another name I have with the family. She said, "They left yesterday afternoon, son." I said, "Well, what hotel were they going to get?" She says, "I don't know." I said, "When will you know?" She says, "I don't know. You'll just have to look for them." I said, "Mother." I said, "There's five thousand hotels in New York." I said, "I'll call you back at lunchtime and see if you've found anything." So I had three other boys with me there in the Union Station, and I said, "Fellows, that's a hell of a mess to be in." I said, "She's up here and I doubt whether I can even find her." I said, "Let's go get a drink." I'm telling it like it was, because I was so disgusted. So we went right across the street to the hotel. Now this is unbelievable.
VY: Yeah.
JO: But the nearest hotel to Penn Station and it was the Pennsylvania Hotel -- so there's a line there of boys lined up to the bar. I said, "Go ahead, Buddy." This is Buddy Riley from Evansville, Alabama, from my wife's hometown. Next-door neighbors, in fact. I said, "Buddy, go ahead and get in line. I'm going back there to the information desk and see if by chance they registered here." I went back to the back and asked the lady. I said, "Ma'am, would you have Doris Wood or Mabel Oxendine registered here, one being from North Carolina and the other from Alabama?" She said, "That name sounds familiar." And she said -- looked through the book and she says, "Yes. They're on thirteenth floor." And then she gave me the room number and I called up there and both of them was crying. I said, "Why are you crying?" They said, "Well, we thought you were shipped out. We sent you a message yesterday -- or this morning when we got here and we have not heard one word from you." And by the way, I have never till this day received that telegram. But that was one of the most -- you can't imagine the feeling that I had. Go to one hotel in New York and there's all I wanted.
VY: That's wild.
JO: So I told the boys, I said, "Let's all go upstairs." I said, "My sister and my -- and my girlfriend's here." So I called this friend of mine, because in New York they had a three-day waiting period. Well, I didn't know but what in three days I'd be shipped out. So I called this cousin of mine that had a business, named Lacy Oxendine in Wilmington, Delaware. I says, "Lacy," I says, "I'm up against it." I said, "Doris, my girlfriend, and I are here and we want to get married, but in Pennsylvania and New York you've got to have a three-day waiting period, run all kind of tests." He says, "No, don't -- you just come on down here to my cafe." He was in Wilmington, Delaware. And I got down there. He says, "I've called Judge so-and-so out at Elkton, Maryland," and that was probably fifteen miles away or something like that. He says, "Now, there's my car. It's full of gas. Go on out there and get married and come back and I'm going to give you your wedding dinner. Have it right here with me." So we went out there and I stopped, and not knowing the town or anything at all about it, I hailed a taxi in just a minute. It was one block to the judge's office. So he says, "Yes, sir. I know where it is." He took me one block. "How much do I owe you, sir?" "Ten dollars." I said, "Ten dollars for what?" I says, "We only rode --" He says, "Yes, but that's a flat price for all folks going to get married." Well, at that time I wasn't making but probably twenty-two dollars a month because my first four -- no, I was making better than that. I was making sixty-eight dollars, because when I first went in the service as a private, I drew twenty-one dollars once a month, but my first month's check, because I took out five thousand dollars insurance and my laundry -- I had my laundry, clothes laundry -- I got seventeen dollars and thirty-five cents. But I paid him and we got married in Elkton. Then went -- came back to Wilmington, Delaware, and behold, my brother Simeon, who is well known and whom I had not seen for at least two years, he had finished his missions over Germany and had gone down home. He and I was in Jack Dempsey's bar at the same time two nights prior to this, but we didn't see each other. So he had gone down home and heard -- they told him that I was going to contact Lacy. He knew where Lacy's place was in Wilmington, Delaware, so Sim caught the next train. He didn't spend any time at home. He caught the next train back to Wilmington, Delaware, and by the time we got from the courthouse in Wilmington -- in Elkton to Wilmington, Delaware, he was there. So Lacy said, "Come on, boy." In other words, he told me to leave his wife there with his wife and we went in this nice place. "All right, fellows. He's two of my cousins. One of them just came from overseas and the other one's going that way." Well, the drinks was on the house. So a half a dozen times like that, I got looped, and believe it or not I ended up the following morning -- I should not tell -- I'm not going to tell that story. [laughs] But it was the next day before I saw my wife and I won't tell what happened, but -- there's no other woman involved in it, but I don't want to go into details about that experience. But I got looped because everywhere we went was free drinks, and my brother and I both that night -- [gap in tape recording]
VY: If you had to say what was a major accomplishment of your life, what would it be? What's the thing -- what are you most proud of having done?
JO: Having done? I don't know. One of the -- two -- I mean my -- two of my greatest accomplishments of life was God giving me two children that neither has ever sassed me and they both have done well in life and is well thought of. They's two of my -- two of my greatest things of life is having two children that respect me and their mother and have done well in competition and life today.
VY: If you had to live your life over again, would you -- what would you change, or would you not change anything? Would you do anything differently?
JO: Well, yes, I would do -- I'd do things differently. Realizing that the more education you get the greater advantage it is in life, I would acquire more education. I was out -- I was out just for a good time mostly. I knew I could make the grades passable, and I wasn't like my son. My son was on the dean's list for five years, and I wanted him to be a doctor but I didn't stress that, but he said he burned himself out being a pharmacist and staying on the dean's list for five years. But he regrets to a certain extent today that he did not follow through on a doctor, but I -- it was never stressed too much. I wanted him to do and be what he wanted to be, not what I wanted him to accomplish.
VY: If -- what values should we be teaching kids today? I know you mentioned that you felt like values had gone down, so to speak. What should we be doing today?
JO: What?
VY: How should we be raising kids today? What kind of values should we be teaching?
JO: Well, the general life of folks has changed, or people. Not folk, but people. Today living conditions almost -- it takes two to make a successful living mostly today, and that is something that is -- the children is missing. The mother has obligations at work in order to stay with the Joneses. That's an expression used quite a bit. In other words you want to live as free and as accommodating and as high, respected as your neighbor and in doing so it has took the mother out of the -- out of the home, and that's a missing -- that's a missing slot. It is going to take its toll until something else changes.
VY: Do you have any dreams for American Indians? What do you feel like they should --
JO: Well, when I was a-coming along it was very different than it is today. I -- I'm proud to be able to say I was never refused admittance even in a drugstore or a movie in my life. And I won't say it altogether, but girls back say years ago, they referred to as white girls, you know, Indians and white. Well, I don't know why, but most -- I'd say seventy-five percent of my life I've dated white girls, and as I stated, they were no better than the Indians, but I don't know why I did it, but I was a girly one.
VY: Are there -- if you are looking ahead, what would you like to do in your life ahead?
JO: In my life ahead. Well, most of my accomplishments has -- had been fulfilled, but let me back up a little. I didn't express myself a while ago as fully as I should have. Now when I was going to school, we wasn't allowed to go to N.C. State or to outside schools. We were confined more or less to one school and that -- that was awful. Conditions today, if you have the initiative and the ability about you, you can enter any school. But the Indians at one time were just like the Negroes were. They were not allowed the opportunities that was out there in the field awaiting them. And the Indians today, they have the same chance of promotion if they will acquire the knowledge to do what any other race can accomplish, and they -- they've got so many opportunities that we didn't have. Your television and your means of -- of learning has changed entirely.
VY: I want to backtrack just a minute. There was question I forgot to ask you. When you were growing up, were there any home remedies that you -- that your mother used if you were sick or --
JO: Oh, yes. My mother -- my mother was one that did not fear to go in any home, I mean that she knew well, the. family. And I heard Dr. Roscoe McMillan, who was a local doctor in Red Springs, but he was widely known within -- over Robeson County, says he'd just as soon have my mother along with him on a case of somebody having pneumonia as anybody. But her -- her ideas was -- she would use a poultice, she would use Vicks salves and different kinds of ointment, and even occasionally they would use collard leaf to apply to a body. They had home remedies and some of them might have been harmful, but lots of them were good that they came up with. But they would grease you -- I know my daughter once, we came in from Alabama. We were down there eleven years, my wife and I. We had our own theater for eleven years down there. Did all right until television came along and knocked us out, but we got out on our own accord because we owned the building and what was in it, and we fished for nine months every day just -- just where we wanted to and the way we wanted to before I ever went to Oak Ridge to seek employment.
VY: Let's see. I'm going to ask one more and then I want you to just talk about whatever you would like to. Let's see. Did you have any chores as a child when you were growing up?
JO: Chores?
VY: Yeah. Like jobs or --
JO: Oh, yes. I had a chore. My dad, as I told you, was a merchant, and from the time I was thirteen he would give me lots of -- say this time of the year prior to planting, he would -- he would always, that is, all of us seven children -- we were about a quarter of a mile from the schoolhouse, but every day at lunch he would come get us and take us home for a hot lunch, and when school was over he would meet me with a little old book and give me a listing of people. He maybe had three boxcar loads of fertilizer and he would let me take that book and pass it out or pass out the fertilizer. In other words, I didn't have to load it on there, but he would show me what boxcars it was in. And I knew the general people. They would come up with their pickup trucks and one-horse and two-horse wagons and haul their fertilizer and needs for the farm right from the railway car. They don't do anything like that today. And then on Saturdays I had to help in the store, and at that time sugar was five cents a pound. And, see, nothing came bagged up. We got hundred-pound bags of sugar, and my duty was -- on a Friday afternoon I had to bag up maybe twenty-five or thirty five-pound bags of sugar and tie it up. I'd wrap it up with a string, tie a bow in it and break it and get down in the barrel. We -- we could put two hundred pounds of sugar in this barrel. And another thing was coffee. Coffee was fifteen cents a pound and I had to maybe get fifty pounds -- one-pound bags of coffee and do it likewise. And rice was five cents a pound, just like the cost of sugar was back then. Running a general merchandise store, you -- you did things like that. You'd always wrap it up. And when they'd want sugar or coffee or rice or some items like that, you didn't have to go into the barrel and get it out. You would have it prepared or weighed out on a Friday or Thursday afternoon- A lot of times I couldn't play baseball, which I didn't like. And back then he was -- he was good to me. He'd give me five dollars a week and that's more money than some people made in a week, but I could -- when I was old enough to go out with a girl, I could go get the best steaks you could get for a dollar and seventy-five cents each and go to the movie for twenty-five cents. I saw /Gone With the Wind/ for a dollar and a half the first time it was shown.
VY: Is there anything that you'd like to add? Anything you'd like to talk about? You did mention that you were going to be awarded the Bronze Star this next month.
JO: This month.
VY: This month, excuse me. Would you talk about what led up to that? How did you earn that?
JO: Well, I was told on December the 6th in Remsweiler, Germany, my captain, Robert C. Hutchison, told me. Said, "Jimmy, I'm going to see that you get the Bronze Star for what happened in Clariveau." And I said, "Well, Captain, I -- I appreciate it." And what happened was this. The ( ) started on Saturday morning. I was communications sergeant for my outfit, and we were near Clariveau. We were about four kilometers from Clariveau. And the town in which we were located, the terrain was hilly, and it was a small place, but we were in a holding position, down kind of in a basin like. And we had heard that the Germans was moving heavy equipment across the river. We could see movement but we didn't pay any attention to it because the Army had been informed that there was some movement across the river. But on this particular Saturday morning, I was on the radio or in the room and this feller called and he said, "If you have any automatic arms, I wish you would send some. We need some immediately because German foot troops are infiltrating our artillery." I said, "I'll get this message to the captain immediately." So the captain knew what outfit it was. It was -- they had 105's or 155 guns, which was heavy, and they had the velocity or distance to shoot twenty-five miles. So the captain came to where I was. He said, "Could you get him back?" I said, "Yes, sir." So he told him to send any automatic. So we had automatic that time a half-track with four fifty machine guns mounted like this, and we had a lieutenant that had not seen any action. He said, "Captain, if you'll let me, I'd certainly like to go and operate those fifty calibers." So the captain picked out two other fellows to ride with him and they left and got back about two o'clock in the afternoon. And this lieutenant says, "Well, there's two hundred and fifty of the S.B.'s that you won't have to be accounting for." He says, "I know I got that many." Well, things was a little quiet. But the next morning, which was Sunday morning, all broke loose. I won't say hell, but -- I will say it, too. All hell broke loose. And I'd called Abel, which is the first platoon of our company, and Baker was the second, and Charlie was the third, and Dog was the maintenance group. By the time I called one, the Germans had it. Well, I knew they were in two-and-half miles of me, because that was as far as we could get out. And before the morning was half over, they were firing directly down into this town. We could see them passing along the hills. Not the movement of armor, but continuous men. So I called the captain up and told him. He said, "Well, we're going to have to make some move if the battalion headquarters would let us. " But they would not give us any -- any right or privilege to move until they had a chance from the division to move. And it was awful to be down in there and knowing that they were going to surround you. But that's what happened until about four o'clock on Sunday afternoon. But during this time we were staying with a man. Paul and Mary was the man and -- Paul was the man and Mary was the wife. We were sleeping on the floors, and they had two children. And Paul came to me. He says, "What do you think?" "I think if you can get out of here you'd better get out, because I don't know -- nobody knows what's happening." He says, "Well, I'll get -- I'll go get my cow." And he left on what we called a hoover cart. The cow was pulling a two- wheel cart with -- with some blankets. It was in the wintertime, December the 16th. This was the 17th. And he left a back road with his wife and two kids with artillery and small arms all around. I don't know till this day whether he got out. But prior to sundown, the colonel called from battalion and said "If you can get out, get out, but you come directly to our location," which was on top of a hill. And we got there about dark, but we never have understood -- because that morning we could see just a continuous group of men going over the road in which we had to go out of, back road, but while we vacated that spot and went to the -- where the battalion headquarters was, not a shot was fired directly at us. There was shooting going on, but none directly at us. And we got up on that hillside and as nightfall fell upon us, everywhere back you could see all the homes that they were taking or the territory that they were taking away from us, they were burning it. And nobody -- nobody attempted to sleep at headquarters or at B Company. There was a hundred and forty men in each one. There were 300 of us or -- yeah, there were 300 of us on this hill that night. And some of my old buddies, I said, "I don't believe anybody knows what's happening here." I said, "The only thing I know, if we get on that railroad and go back to the right, we'd be going away from where the trouble started." But we stayed on there that night, nobody attempting to sleep. It was just awful, the firing and the shooting around us. So this Colonel Burton said, "Captain Hutchison, you take just your vehicle and go down in Clariveau and pick out some withdrawing position. We don't want to all move en masse, but we want to move to a certain location and fire a few rounds back at them and then go back into Clariveau." But we got down into Clariveau right before daylight and the captain said, "I'm going to find regimental headquarters." Well, at that time day was just breaking and a message came over. "Oxendine, I want Captain Hutchison to roger for this message. Hold that crossroad between your location and mine regardless of cost." Well, regardless of cost meant that we only had a thirty- caliber machine gun and a fifty-caliber machine gun on this vehicle to protect the crossroad, and there were tanks and other vehicles coming. I -- immediately without contacting the captain, I says, "Major, in reference to that crossroad between your location and mine, it is out of our hands and at this time I'm on the railway crossing in this town and I can count seven enemy tanks firing directly at us at this time." Well, he hung up. That was the last communication from that location, and those from that location that followed the colonel, all of them was captured. But those that followed the major out, they got with us on foot, traveled by foot, within three days. But from Clariveau we backed back into Wilkes and held our ground as long as we could, and from Wilkes we back -- started back into Bastogne. Well, between Wilkes and Bastogne we met a lot of armor which was the 12th Armored Division. And it was -- it was a beautiful sight, because we knew it was going to take many tanks to stop what we had already encountered. And to my surprise, before anybody went to bed, or midnight, they had knocked out what was left of the whole 12th Armored Division and from that day on it was just "H" . But Christmas Day we were three kilometers from Bastogne at a little town called Recodne, R-e-c-o-d-n-e, Recodne, and I had not had one mouthful to eat for three days, but I wasn't hungry because the conditions were such that all you were trying to do was to save yourself. And this colonel came down the line, right down the road where we were all at. We'd lost all of our tanks and stuff to fight with and more or less just dodging and trying to stay organized as well as we could. He came the line -- down the line and give us one tablespoonful of fruit cocktade -- cocktail out of a gallon, bucket and that's all we had for that first Christmas Day. But it was -- it was just awful, the men. And the captain told me, he said, "From that -- from your actions, Jimmy, from the 16th, there where you stayed by our vehicle and kept it -- kept it from being captured." You see, I moved it from that railway station up side of a building where I had a full brick wall and where I'd be protected to some extent, and he said that I probably saved the whole command or the communications between each platoon and company by me moving this vehicle and me staying with it, rather than out there with him and the others in the basement in the homes trying to warn off the bullets and so forth. And that's why he told me at that time, as I said, that I would get it. Well, time passed on and four boys in headquarters company got theirs and he -- he called me and he said, "Ox, I don't understand it, but," he says, "I don't see why yours didn't come through." But he says, "With so much hell being destroyed, you know, caused up there at that time, so much being lost, and the mail" -- the Germans captured the mail and all of our Christmas present -- he says, "Maybe we can get it straightened out at a later date. Well, I've thought of it thousands of time before, but I think it was about four months ago I had this colonel from Saluda, South Carolina to call me. He said, "Jimmy," -- Charles O.B. Laffite was his name. He says, "I want to ask you something. Did you ever get that damn Bronze Star that you were supposed to get, and you deserved it just as much as anybody in the outfit if not more?" I says, "No." Well, he was -- he was -- had a drink or two on him. He said, "Well I'm going to see tonight that Hutch" -- he called him Hutch -- "re-issues that." So he wrote out another one and got it in the mail and I heard about two months ago that it had been passed and I was called about a month ago and told that -- and I decided where I wanted to receive it. They said, "We'll come to Mint Hill. We'll come to American Legion Hut or we'll give you a ceremonial acceptance at Fort Bragg." I says, "That's what I'll take." So the 25th of this month, on a Tuesday at eleven-thirty, they're going to issue it to me. It's 51 years late. I'm not as proud of it now as I would have been then because Mother and Dad and so many of my friends has passed on, that I would have like to have shared it with them. I'm all right.
VY: Do you have any photos of the war, your pictures with your buddies or --
JO: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. [gap in recording] -- at the time, this is my individual ( ) record right here.
VY: Look at that.
JO: And --
VY: [unintelligible]
JO: Yeah. And this is the letter -- you see, I was working with the National Youth Administration and this is the letter that my supervisor wrote to the -- to the board.
VY: Uh-huh.
JO: "Enclosed is a copy of the letter of the Selective Service Draft Board requesting that you be deferred at the present time. If the Draft Board does not grant the request and you are drafted, will you please recommend two good men you feel are capable of running the center and are qualified for the position and especially capable of carrying on friendly relations with your people in Pembroke and Mr. Greer --"
VY: Mr. Greer or Green?
JO: "-- administrator of the Farm Security Administration. This request, you understand, is only made in the case that you are drafted. If you are deferred, I would expect you to remain in your present position for the next year."
VY: Uh-huh.
JO: There's order for report for induction. See, that there was at 9 AM the 26th of June, but since I was working for the government they gave me a three-month extension. And this is passes. This is something from the local board telling me I was drafted and what I was classified. That's passes.
VY: That's your number.
JO: That's my serial number, 34118158. I entered Fort Bragg 9/16/41; shipped to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, 11/18/41; shipped to Fort Hood, 9/12/42; Camp Boyd, Texas, the 11/18 of '42; Fort Blanding, 9/12/43; Camp Forest, Tennessee, the 3/14/43 at -- Camp Forrest was on the Tennessee maneuvers. Camp Hooker, Alabama, 6/28/43; Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, 4/29 of '44; sailed for Europe 6/2 of '44; landed at Gorch Stopman the 6/11 of '44; sailed for France on Sunday morning, landed on or de-embarked on Monday. The first village we entered from the beachhead was Bayeux near Saint-Lo, France.
VY: Staff sergeant?
JO: Huh?
VY: Staff sergeant?
JO: Staff sergeant. Yes. Now there's one of my beloved. She was Fred Lowery's sister, Loraine. But there I am at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, different places.
VY: Oh, that's a wonderful picture.
JO: I wish you could see this one. You'll have to come back one day when you can take a couple hours. Now that's Julian Hendrix, that's me, that's Williams. Everyone dead but me.
VY: Wow.
JO: Let me see what -- now here's three -- you can read it.
VY: "Clifton Williams, Julian --"
JO: Wait, wait. "Killed --"
VY: "Killed July 27th, 1944 by artillery. Julius P. Hendrix died of malnutrition."
JO: Malnutrition -- he starved to death as a prisoner of war.
VY: "Hubert A. Waters died of artillery barrage December 25th, 1944 at Bastogne, Belgium. James Oxendine, while trying to cover for me and buddies, by machine gun fire at Magenon, January 17th, 1945, was wounded. Norwood --"
JO: Hoffard.
VY: "-- Hoffard died of cancer ( ) in 1930."
JO: But these were girls we met from New Hampshire at Greenwich Village, New York. And this is -- this is a cousin of mine. This is the chancellor of the school at Pembroke's cousin and I. He was the first Indian to ever fly a fighter plane in the United States, and we were in the Roosevelt Hotel in Jacksonville, Florida, and you talk about two that had their choices. We were ( ). [laughs] And there I am at the -- in my college days. We went to see this girl, my wife and I did, about eight years ago. She was a nurse out at -- oh, what was it? I just can't even think now. Mickey Dreich in Temple -- Temple, Texas. She weighed a hundred and eighteen pounds back then. And I -- we looked her up. I went out there for the first meeting of the Tank Destroyer Association and I went to the door -- I went to the courthouse first and asked if I could see the oldest employee there. I said, "I want to find out something. What happened to the Dreich family?" I said, "I used to go with a girl and her daddy owned a photography shop and a business on main drag." So they took me up to the second story and said that let's call so and so, he can tell us. So they called and he said, "Well, I passed the Dreich residence a few -- few days last week and you can probably find out from them, if you'll go there, what's happened." And I went there and knocked on the door, I said, "I'm looking for somebody that might know Mickey Dreich." She says, "Now what's your name?" I said, "Jimmy Oxendine." She grabbed me and hugged me. She said, "Who is that out there in the car?" I said, "It's my wife." She said, "You go get her and bring her in here." She says, "We've got a lot of covering to do." [laughs] But that's the first morning together after coming from overseas. Now this is -- pictures like this and this, that was all overseas there, Swiss borders. And ( ) -- now this was the first vapor trails that -- when the weather broke in Bastogne and the planes could drop us supplies, I was hidden behind something similar to a smokehouse and this is the first vapor trails when they dropped us supplies at Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge.
VY: And you said seventy percent died there?
JO: Uh-huh. And I wouldn't take a mint for this book.
VY: Huh-uh. How's your time there? Are you okay with that? Okay.
JO: Now this was my brother there. He's --
VY: Yeah.
JO: He was in the Far East and Pacific. This is my brother Simeon that came to New York. He had finished his mission, and was back. And this was my brother Jesse. He was in lighter infantry for a short time. What is that? Swiss border. I took that coat off of a kapoot German. It was so cold there, teardrops would almost --
VY: Wow.
JO: -- freeze in your eyes.
VY: Did you go to the reunion recently?
JO: Yes. I -- I told you I held a reunion this past September.
VY: So that was the same one?
JO: Huh?
VY: Well, it might have been --
JO: I held it one time.
VY: There was a big one --
JO: I've held it three different times.
VY: Oh, okay.
JO: I held it in 1978 in the Glenstone in Gatlinburg, I held it in '84 at the Downtown Marriott here in Charlotte, and I held it in last year at the Grand in Pigeon Forge.
VY: Oh, okay.
JO: That was Nuremberg right there. That's the boat we went across on. It was seventy-nine hundred of us. And this was the card -- look behind for your answer. See, that's, the way I had of telling my wife my location.
VY: Look at that beautiful handwriting.
JO: Dad taught me that.
VY: Yeah. That's what you were saying. Wow.
JO: Now this was -- we -- we were in on the liberation of Paris, the reason I was able to attend that, and I've got it -- I can show you that on -- proof of that, also. I got proof of anything I -- I show you. Rough times, you're heavy losers. That was an awful place there, Bosnak. There was only one road in and you had to go up a hill to get -- go on through the place, and I counted as high as forty-eight tanks knocked out. They had all the mountainside well-defended and we finally had to give it up and go another way. Now this is in the ( ) forest. That was an awful battle there. It was next to the Battle of the Bulge. That was a nice gesture right there, when we got something to keep us warm.
VY: Yeah, really.
JO: Now that's -- this is the boy that I located his grave that died of malnutrition. But he and his wife, the first location that my wife and I had after we got married, we had adjoining rooms with a bath between us, and I let his wife know that he was dead or had been captured two weeks before the Army ever told her. This was our guns here.
VY: Uh huh. It looks like you did save everything that was in the paper.
JO: I've had some people to say ( ) it together and write a book, but --
VY: Hey.
JO: -- I wouldn't -- I wouldn't trust this book with nobody, because I'd never get another one. That's that letter from the American Legion. Right here it is. And there's one ( ) where we ate, ( ), Germany. That was the first boys that was shipped back home after the war was over. That's me right there. That's the order of the day. "Officers and men in the 630th Tank Patrol Battalion, the fightingest tank destroyer in the ETO." That was from ( ). That's my rations card.
VY: Look at that. Meal card.
JO: Yeah.
VY: Courtney Hodges.
JO: No one knew there was them Nazis around until -- even hell wouldn't take it. That was rough days there. We had snow every day for twenty-eight days. That was a double exposure there. That's me in the center.
VY: It's amazing you didn't get frostbite. That was a problem, wasn't it?
JO: Yep.
VY: ( )
JO: ( ) officers.
VY: Nazis.
JO: ( ) that was shot down one night. I just cut it off. What was that, six-thirty? [end of tape]