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Interview with my Grandfather, Joseph Applegate. Written in 1995

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posted on 2024-06-05, 18:59 authored by Their Finest Hour Project Team

Interview with Joseph Applegate
World War II in Europe
By Kelly Hoge
May 17, 1995
World War II

As many World War II Veterans celebrated the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II a couple weeks ago, I'm glad I got the chance to take part in the celebration in my own special way. I've always been interested in World War II for a couple of reasons:

1. because my grandparents were involved in it
2. and because I am interested in Europe, mostly Germany. I speak German and know a lot about the German culture. This research gave me the opportunity to talk to my grandfather about his involvement in World War II (which I never got the nerve up to do, mainly because I'm a shy person). Anyway, I was very excited to begin the interview.

Before I begin the interview with my grandfather I will give you a brief background about him and the time and location in which my grandfather was involved in the war. My grandfather's name is Joseph Applegate and he was drafted in 1943. He lived in Bordentown, New Jersey and was 19 years old and married. During the time he got drafted a devastating war was going on in Europe. The American troops were already fighting in Europe but needed some relief. They were fighting in places such as Germany, France, Belgium, Norway, and Luxembourg. They were fighting a man named Adolph Hitler, who was trying to lead the German armies in conquering other European countries. Adolph Hitler was a man who took control of Germany and wanted power, at the cost of anything. The time period in which my grandfather was involved in the war was 1943 until the war was over in May of 1945.

Q: What service in the military were you involved in and explain what your purpose for entering was?

A: I was in the United States Army in the Eighty Third Infantry Division. We were called the Thunderbolt Division. Our purpose was to relieve the American troops fighting in Europe already.

Q: What was the process (after you were drafted) in preparing for the war and actually leaving for Europe?

A: Well, I left from Fort Dix, New Jersey to go to Fort Jackson, South Carolina. There the 83rd Infantry underwent advanced training before going overseas. Then we headed up to Boston, where we were scheduled to leave for Europe. There hundreds of men boarded "Victory Ships" and sailed the seas for 26-28 days. We then landed in Scotland.

Q: What did you do immediately after arriving in Scotland?

A:We took a cattle boat to Liverpool, England and underwent intensive training until we were told to invade. We then were called on to relieve 101st Airborne on June 26, and sailed to Normandy, France.

Q: What countries did you travel through and what was your involvement in each?

A: First we were in France, our infantry smashed enemy resistance and destroyed the St. Periers Highway. We moved on to another city called Brittany for two weeks and captured 13,000 prisoners from Dinard, St. Malo, and St. Lunaire. Then we moved to the Loire Valley to protect the entire right flank of the Third Army in its journey across France. During this time our infantry captured 20,000 Germans, including their General. This was the largest mass surrender of the war.

Q: During this time what were some of the weapons you were using?

A: The M1 rifle was our main weapon and we also used Thompson 45. We used tanks also.

Q: Where did you store these weapons and where did you get the fuel to operate these machines?

A: The guns and artillery were kept in depots. The gas was also stored in depots, but some of the time we stole the gas from cities we were fighting through.

Q: Back to fighting, what was the next country you went to?

A: Luxembourg, we relived other troops and knocked out enemy troops and supply trains. We took over the capital city and we got to celebrate with USO shows and parties. Then we went through Holland to Belgium. We were in the Ardennes, The Battle of the Bulge. The ground was covered in waist high snow and weapons were froze. Despite the weather we drove the Germans out. We then headed toward the Rhine in Germany. We took Dusseldorf and Neuss, the largest city in Germany (we were commended for being the first American division to reach the lower Rhine). We then crossed the Rhine River towards the Russians and Nazis around the Elbe River. There we used German tanks, buses and trailers to free over 75,000 Allied prisoners and capture some 24,000 Germans in a 2 week assault. There we also defended and rebuilt a bridge.

Q: Did you see any concentration camps while going through Germany?

A: Yes, I saw concentration camps. I often saw tons of Jewish people in German towns waving white flags meaning"Don't shoot" and begging for help.

Q: On the lighter side of the war, do you have any interesting or funny stories?

A: In France we bombed a perfume factory and took tons of perfume. We weren't supposed to take any home, but sneaked it by and brought it home. Another thing we would do is blow up banks. Money was worthless, so one time my friend, Harry, blew up a safe in a bank and money was flying everywhere. It was funny because it looked like it was raining money. We broke in to many stores and would go through everything for fun.

Q: Did you meet any high officials during your time in Word War II?

A: Yes, I met Dwight Eisenhower, who was supreme commander of Western Front invasion armies, General Patton, and MacNamera. Our Major General was Robert C. Macon.

Q: Did you ever see Hitler and who was the President?

A: No, I never saw Hitler and Roosevelt was the President of the U.S.

Q; How did the war end and when?

A: Germany surrendered in May 1945, and that was the end of war in Europe.

Q: Why did Germany surrender?

A: Because the U.S. troops on the East and West joined at the Elbe River and overpowered the German troops, thus forcing them to surrender.

Q: So now the was is over, how long did it take you to get home to America?

A: We left from France in December 1945 and arrived in New York.

Q: What did you do in the meantime while waiting to return home?

A: We had many different activities and celebrations. For example, I was involved in the boxing program. We boxed other men in our infantry. We also had special dinners and dances in memory of those who died (one was called Activation Day).

With the 50th anniversary of World War II just a couple weeks ago, I'm excited that I got to be a part of that remembrance by interviewing my grandfather. I found out that my grandfather and the 83rd Infantry that he was in played a significant role in the victory over Europe. The many celebrations that we watched on the news on the anniversary of the end of the war, show that we are grateful and never forgetting of those who fought in this war to protect our lives and country. A member from the Thunderbolt Division stated," Nor will we forget in years to come the record we made across Europe. We went a long way- from the unnerving days of Normandy to the sure days east of the Elbe. We have grown a little older"¦learned to understand a bit more about men"¦grown a little wiser. It is conceivable that history will not forget us."

History

Item list and details

Interview from 1995, I was a junior in high school.

Person the story/items relate to

Joseph Applegate

Person who shared the story/items

Kelly Rasmussen

Relationship between the subject of the story and its contributor

My Grandfather

Type of submission

Shared online via the Their Finest Hour project website.

Record ID

115226