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1-Introductions and Overview
Transcribed by: Jonah W (2009)
I'm Jackie, I'm Jonah, I'm Erin, I'm Glynis, and I'm Alison and we are here on May 20th, 2007, interviewing Warren Dunn in Monterey, California.
My name is Warren Dunn. I was born at Fort Lewis, Washington, July 14th, 1924. My father was a military man, so that’s why I was born at the station hospital in Fort Lewis. He was transferred to Washington State College—it was a college then, it’s a university now—as a ROTC instructor when he was a sergeant. So, that where I lived for three or four years, three and a half, four years, in Pullman Washington. And my favorite occupation was to go down to a farm that was about three blocks down the hill from where we lived. Isome Williams was the farmer and I used to ride on his plow horses. And I really enjoyed; my most other favorite thing was to go to the sorority house, to "see dos girls." I was their pet, when I was three years old or two and a half and three years old. So, every time I wanted to "see dos girls," I would go to the sorority house because it was only a couple of blocks away because we lived very close to the campus.
My father was then transferred to Santa Barbara, California as an ROTC instructor at Santa Barbara High school. We moved, came down by train--moved to Santa Barbara and that’s where really where I was raised. I went to Roosevelt grammar school. I went to junior high at Lecuimba junior high, across town. We kept moving; our house on Sole street in Santa Barbara was fairly close to the high school. Then we moved to Anapamu Street, which was right across the street from the high school, but I was going to junior high then, way across town. Fortunately I had a bicycle and I could get over there. Then when I started high school we moved clear over by La Cumbre Junior High School. I had a car then, so I was able to drive from Bass street in Santa Barbra to the high school. I spent my freshman, sophomore, and junior years at Santa Barbra, and then the war was on by then. My dad was transferred to Southern California. This was a tremendously traumatic situation for me because I left all my friends, but I was able to make new friends a Van Ice high school, when I lived in Sherman Oaks. Then graduated from Van Ice high school in 1942 and entered UCLA. I was able to spend almost a year at UCLA before I was inducted into the military. I went into the military in May of 1943; spent basic training at camp Roberts California, which is South of San Francisco---two hundred miles. Went back to UCLA because they did not have an opening at Fort Benning, Georgia, officer candidate school. So, I went back to UCLA for a little while, September of 1943 to January of 1944, then joined a class at Fort Benning Geogia, at officer candidate school. I got sick though, I had the measles, so I had to leave that class and I went to the hospital. I got over that and I joined another class and I got the flu, had to leave that class ect... Finally graduated in August of 1944, and joined the forty second Rainbow Division.
We were there training until November of 1944 and we boarded ship to go across to Europe. I was detailed to go to this ship and find out where our quarters were. The ship was tied up to a pier and I got seasick. That was a blessing in disguise because I got over it in a day and we shipped out and we were in a storm and nobody could enjoy Thanksgiving day dinner, except a few of us who got sick, while the boat was in New York harbor. They kept asking me don't you want so more, "no I'm up to here with food already," but that was as I said was a blessing in disguise because I got sick and got over it. We were on our way over to Europe in a convoy with destroyers looking for U-boats. We didn't see any and I guess they did not either, and fortunately we were not torpedoed.
We went in through the Straights of Gibraltar and landed in Marce. And spent two weeks, miserable weeks on the side of a hill where it rained and mud was everywhere. I think that was done on purpose, so that we would enjoy getting into combat. In early December, we got on a train and we got into box cars called "Forty and Eights." They were from WW1, forty men and eight horses. Or eight horses I think was the reason for "Forty and Eights." And we spent the most miserable trip up to Leon France and that’s where we stayed, through Christmas of 1944. Then were trucked to a place near Nazi France. And then went a little bit East---a little bit west to Strausberg. And that’s where we entered so-called combat. We were on one side of the river, of the Ryan River and the Germans were on the other side and we were shooting at them, and they were shooting at us. Nobody got hit because we couldn't see them and they couldn't see us. Then we were trucked again to further North to a defensive position and that’s where we saw our real combat. We took over from the seventy first division and my company was on an outpost line about five miles ahead of the main line; outside of a little town in Alsace-Lorraine, called Engleshin. And that’s where, that night, we were attacked, which was part of battle of the Bulde, the "Our Dance campaign. They didn't know where we were, but they were shooting their big gun off, two tanks that were up on our position. They were trying to sneak up on us and I was in the foxhole with my platoon sergeant. He saw in the morning this German sneaking up and he was about to throw a palate masher, hand grenade at us. He shot him before he could.
Then we were on that line for five days. The object of an outpost line was to confuse the enemy and make them think that we were the main line. But we were supposed to pull out right away, but we didn't because they weren’t ready back five miles behind us. Finally we were relieved from that position and we went back in the middle of the night, in the snow. And all of my men were in sleeping bags on the side of the hill and I couldn’t find any of them in the morning because they were all covered with snow. And that was too because it was an insulator to keep them from freezing to death.
Then we were stationed in a Maginot Line fort. And we did a lot of patrolling and then we moved back about twenty miles to straighten out the defensive line. Did a lot more patrolling. And one patrol I was on at night one of the guys in my patrol stepped on a shoe mine and blew his foot off. So, we were ordered to come back because we couldn’t go to our position that we were set to go to. And on our way back I had asked for permission to come back a different way then we went out, but I was denied because there were mines down inform of our positions. So we went back and the Germans heard us and dropped a big mortar shell on us and killed the guy that had his foot blown off and another guy. The rest of us were able to get back, but then we went to get the bodies from where we left them that night.
Then in March of 1945 we took off on the offensive. The morning that we took off we were pinned down, the whole battalion was. From the front and from the flanks. And I saw an opportunity to maybe relieve ourselves of this situation, in fact I. They say heroes are made not born and so I guess I became an instant hero because I got angry at with the idea that were being shot at and were doing nothing about it. So, I told my bazooka man, I could see where some of the Germans were down, maybe a half a mile in front of us oh, maybe less that that. I asked him to pull off a bazooka round down around where they were. And I saw a lot of them come out of a bunker and go to another bunker. So, I decided this was the time and I got up and started running; and I hollered for my guys to come one. We captured some twenty Germans, the company commander, and aids station. And from that I was awarded the Silver Star. So, you see heroes are made not born. And it’s only because of the situation. I wasn’t a hero at all; I just got angry about where we were and why these guys were putting us upon. And it freed up the who battalion and I guess that’s why they felt I earned a sliver star.
We pushed on then and attacked through Warburg. Before that we had to climb this huge steep hill. It was so steep that the mules we had couldn’t negotiate it. And we were all just worn out and just exhausted climbing this steep hill. Until we looked over to our left and there was the dog company, which is a heavy weapons company carrying machine guns and heavy mortars. And we suddenly got less tired watching those poor guys climbing that same hill. We fought then through Wurzburg, Wertheim, Wurzburg. Wurzburg was an interesting situation. We had a terrible battle there. And I was showing Allison the "fishtung", or castle, or forts that over looked Wurzburg that on the wall was hail Hitler. Before we left Wurzburg there was a rainbow denoting that the forty-second rainbow division had been there. And we went on from there to other campaigns.
First Nuremburg, we were heading towards Munich and our orders were changed to go to Dachau. We didn’t know what Dachau was all about. Nobody did, but we were ordered to go there. And I asked the battalion commander early morning of the twenty ninth of April of 1945, what’s there, and he said I have no idea, probably a prisoner of war camp. And we got to Dachau and found the concentration camp and it wasn’t a POW camp, it was a death camp. 35,000 internees with 15,000 dead bodies all over the camp. The crematorium had stacks of bodies; they ran out of fuel so they couldn’t cremate them. And there was one of the crematoriums there where they burn up the bodies, but they couldn’t do that so they just had to stack them in the crematorium handy rooms. We went from there to Munich and had a short battle there in our sector.
And then headed South towards Austria and the war ended the eighth of May and we were in Austria. And I stayed in the army of occupation and that was interesting. We were in a little town in Swatch in Southern Austria, which was about thirty miles from Innsbruck and I was detailed another, a captain took over my company and I was an executive officer of the company. I was detailed with a bunch of my troops to go to Salzburg and find quarters for my troops, our troops. And I was looking around just outside of Salzburg in a little town named Wals, W-a-l-s. And this girl on a bicycle, who relatives lived in Wals, came by and I asked her in the best German I could command, if she could help me find quarters for my troops. And she said of course lieutenant, in perfect English and she became my girlfriend. And she invited me to their house and I spent a lot of time in their home. Had dinner and her father was a shoe manufacturer in Sauberg and he made combat boots or a hiking boots and ski boots at his factory. And I really almost didn’t come home because of Annoy Dentine, but I did come home.