Ray Parker, US Army (Transcript)

Interview with Ray Parker, US Army

Name: Ray Parker

Military Branch & Rank: US Army, Private First Class

Dates of Service: 1943 – 1945

Date of Interview: June 3, 2019

Interviewer: Michael D. Brown

Audio Producer: Laura Bang

Length of Interview: 59 Minutes

Transcribed by: Keith M. Mathews

Edited and annotated by: Laura Bang

URL for Audio: https://veteransvoices.library.villanova.edu/ray-parker-us-army/



INTRO (MICHAEL BROWN): [Music playing in background.] Thank you for joining us today. My name is Michael Brown, and we are here today at Villanova University recording another installment of the Voices of Villanova’s Veterans. [Music stops playing.]

MICHAEL BROWN: Good morning! Today is June 3rd, 2019, and we are here at Villanova University in the Rare Book Room within Falvey Library. Today I am honored to be with Ray Parker who is a World War II veteran, uh, local to the area, and we are going to be discussing his time in service, uh, and a little bit about his time before and after the service as well. And, uh, so, thanks for joining us today Ray and, uh, to start things off I want you to tell me about when you were born and where you were born.

RAY PARKER: I was born in Philadelphia in a home. I wasn’t born in a hospital. I was born in a home by a wet-, what do you call it? A wet- a “wet wife”? Or “wet mother” or something?


RAY PARKER: A midwife! That’s who.


RAY PARKER: And it was 19- February 20th, 1925. And, uh, my mother was there- as I said, I don’t remember it, but I was born. [Chuckles.] And, uh, do you want to know from there where I went?

MICHAEL BROWN: Yeah! So, tell me a little about- where, where was this? This was in Philadelphia?

RAY PARKER: Oh, it’s in Philadelphia. It was, uh, Third and Indiana, to be exactly where it was in Philadelphia. It is now…not a nice neighborhood, but it was a beautiful neighborhood then.

MICHAEL BROWN: And, uh, any brothers and sisters?

RAY PARKER: I had one brother who was two years older than me: Wells Arthur. He was in the service. He was a forward field artil- he was a forward observer in the Field Artillery. And I’m sorry he’s not here because he could tell you really good stories. But he died of cancer. He was a mechanical engineer and he died when he was 59 years old, so. But a nice guy; he was well-liked.

MICHAEL BROWN: Well, I’m sorry to hear that, Ray. Um, talk to me about growing up in Philadelphia? What was school like? What school did you attend?

RAY PARKER: Well, let’s see. I was three-and-a-half when my dad died, and my brother was five. So, I went to live with one uncle and another uncle and another, because back in those days they didn’t have- what was it, social security or anything. So, my mother used to go from door to door with a little suitcase selling, uh, threads and, uh, buttons and things like that for a nickel or a dime and she couldn’t afford to keep me so she had heard- talked to her three brothers and they said sure, they’ll take care of me. So, I went to one brother, Uncle Al for a week or a year, went to another uncle for another year, and I finally wound up with Uncle Elmer. Now, Uncle Elmer was a very, very strict guy. And many a time my mother would come up to take me for the weekend but couldn’t- I must have done something. “He’s being punished. He’s up in the bed. You can’t come take him for the weekend!” I don’t remember these things. Some I fairly– I remember and so forth. So, when I left there, my mother thought “ooh!” So, she heard about Girard College.[1] So, she said, “I am going to try to get you in Girard College.” And my brother, who lived with my grandmother and grandfather, well they spoiled the hell out of him. So, he didn’t want to go- he was happy to stay with his grandmother. I was happy to get away from Uncle Elmer. So, I got in Girard College – it was October of 1931 is when I went there, and I graduated in January of 1943. It was a great school, believe me, Girard College. It’s still there, and so forth. And, uh, went into soccer and- we didn’t play football because we were too young, but I played baseball. I played track. I played swimming. And just all kind of sports, I love ‘em. Schoolwork? Hmm, I just got by on it. Not smart, but an average- a D or a C or something. Then when I got out of the Girard- I graduated on January- I forget the date. January 1943. I was 17 – that was in January, in February I turned 18. And, of course, back in those days you had to sign up for the draft. So, right away at 18 I was signed up. Then I tried to get a job, but I was draft bait because everybody knew that you were 18 and you were going to get drafted right away. But fortunately I knew somebody who was in Ken Rivet[2] – they used to make circuit breakers for submarines – and I got in there and I worked there until June. Well, the nice part about that there was eight of us. We had a little machine shop and we did- and they had a great big tour with two hundred people – I’m not lying! These are young girls in high school- kids. Young women. They had a great big assembly line, and they would take a piece of slate here, and each one would add something to it ‘til it came out to the other and it was completely ready for the summer. But what we had to do was- if something was wrong with it, we would take it to the machine shop and fix it. Some of the stuff- Well, I cried when I left when I got drafted, because I did not want to leave that place. It was just- We got the Navy E or C or whatever it was. I think this fellow from the Marines- the card I was in, uh, Barney Ross, I think it was Barney Ross, the fellow who was- was it Barney Ross? Was that his name? Ross, who, uh, was light machine- and they brought him back to take him. Well, he came, and I looked at him and I go, “Wooow.” So anyway, I went- I saw a movie. I guess I was about 17 years old, and I saw this Marine Paratrooper- I didn’t know he was a Paratrooper. He’d come strutting down the street. Man, he looked like God almighty- he looked like a god walking down with the uniform and boots and so forth and straight. I saw a movie called Parachute Battalion at that time.[3] Well, I was 18 and I thought, “Well, I’m going to be drafted. I’m going to join the Paratroops.” So, I went to- I think it was New Cumberland[4] or something down there, and luckily in 1943, uh, the service wanted everybody. ‘Cause you didn’t have to volunteer, you know, “You’re in the Navy, you’re in the Army, you’re in something else.” So you could pick, whatever you wanted to be, it was fantastic. So, I went down there, and I said, “I want [to be] a Marine Paratrooper. That’s what I want to be.” But unfortunately, they had stopped the Marine Paratroopers there and they said, “Do you want to be it in the Army?” So I went and that’s how I got in the Army via Paratrooper.

MICHAEL BROWN: So, you joined the Army, this is in June of 1943?

RAY PARKER: Yep. June of ’43 is when I got drafted. Excuse me. So, let’s see, in June. And we went down to New Cumberland I think it was, and that’s where everybody assembled and they gave you all kinds of tests and there if you wanted to be in artillery you would write, so I said I wanted to be in the Airborne, a Paratrooper. So, I must have been there at least a month because you had to volunteer on paper, I will jump out of an airplane like an idiot or something. [Laughter.] So, there was a bunch of guys, you know, it took a while for us to get there and there must have been about 40 of us. We got in a plane- a train and they took us to Fort Benning, Georgia,[5] and that’s where I went through jump school.

MICHAEL BROWN: How long of a train ride was that?

RAY PARKER: Oh god, what w- 30th Street Station, so- I don’t know. And that’s where I met all my buddies and so forth because they were coming from New York and so forth. Then there were other ones that came- like Joe Cauley[6], my best friend. He’s dead, but he was- he came from Oregon and so forth. We all met there, and we went to a “fryin’ pan area” in what was called. And it was all just sand and something, tents to live with.

MICHAEL BROWN: And this was at Fort Benning?

RAY PARKER: This is Fort Benning, Georgia. We didn’t stay in the barracks or anything. So anyway, in Fort Benning we went through one month of jump school. And that’s when it was- oh I guess it was 40 of us. These fellows that I went through jump school- you got to remember, we went through jump school, we went through combat, we went- uh, maneuvers, and went on leave. We had a hell of a- a good- a great bunch of guys. So, there they are- here they are.[7] God bless ‘em. But, um, anyway we went through jump school, and going through jump school, what you do- very strict. Oh, they were strict. And, uh, you learned the first- you go for four weeks. The first three weeks you go, you go through- every place you went you had to jump or not jump- run run run run. And I guess I was a 130, about 139 [pounds] when I went in the service. By the time I’m through jump school and everything else and feedings, I was up to about 160 [pounds]. I hate to say it was all those really muscles. [Laughter.] But it- it really builds you up and so forth. But, [coughing] the first week you go through, they- they have these open rings and it puts you in a harness and push you out over the platform and it’d teach you how to pull these four risers- you pull front to go front or back to go back or twist it so you can turn around in the suit. They always taught you to come forward when you jump with your feet together and roll, that’s it, when you land in the sheet. So you learn all of this, and in the afternoon, you go to these- excuse me, you go to these great big hot, um, barracks, or whatever you call it, they looked like a, uh, air- airplane pilot something- but they had these real, real long tables and that’s how you learned to pack a chu- a parachute. So, you buddy up- you and I would buddy up and we’d pack that chute. Well, it took us maybe two hours to pack one chute. And they would pack- so every afternoon you would come and practice packing a chute. The second week you would go out, they would go off this 36-foot tower, put you in and go along a long zip. Well, at 18, I felt like I was in an amusement park! That was fun. A long zip-ride along with the harness. Then they would take you up a 10-foot platform- you’d jump off that landing and learn how to turn. And the third week, they took you up -and then they all had these, uh, dummy, uh, planes- just mock-up planes on the ground where you would sit and learn to hook up when you go sit full-up, turn, and jump out of the plane and land it. And that’s what you were practicing doing. Now, the last week, or the third week you’d go up- you go up these 250-foot towers. They hook you up in a parachute, with all clips around it, and you’re hanging up and they take you way up in the air and you go about another 10 feet and they release you and you come floatin’ down. Ah man! I got tossed out- oh that was fun. They pay you money to do that[8]. [Chuckles.] So, you come down in a- you learn to do that. Everybody had a chance and they had- It was kind of like this- four wings: one here, one here, and one here, so three of us came down together and so forth. So, I got two jumps out of that. And then the fourth jump- ah! the fourth week you’re there you have to jump four days in a row every day and one night-jump. But the fun part about it was, the last day- the last night that you’re there, the third week at night- you buddy up with a buddy and they say, “You’re gonna pack your chute ‘cause you’re gonna jump that chute.” Well, instead of taking an hour, it took about three hours to pack that bloody chute for me and […][9] because for every- So, anyway, but you see the- what they call the, uh, riggers, I think they were riggers, they go *pow-pow* and they’d pack the chute within about 15 minutes, but it took us a good three hours ‘cause we knew we were going to jump. So, after you jump you come back and you pack that chute again, so you’d make it for- after that, you’d never pack your own chute again. And then on the fifth jump at nighttime then you’d come out and they- that day I think they have a big parade, and they’d do all this but we just lined up outside the barracks or the tent and they pretty much handed your jump wings and you had your jump boots and you were a Paratrooper. So, you’d thought you were king form- So, anyway…

MICHAEL BROWN: Did you feel like you were that guy walking down the street in the…?

RAY PARKER: Oh, I thought I was King [Poop][10]! Well, they indoctrinated you so- you get in a fight, don’t fight this one guy, that’s no good. Two, three, four guys! You got to take ‘em on. And they indoctrinate this shit! And they, oh, and the worst part is about, uh, jumping out of a plane- anybody, you’re a coward if you don’t decide, ‘cause there are some people that they just froze, they won’t go out. But they indoctrinate, just like Hitler used to do. Man, you were the king[11]– you didn’t want to join any other outfit. They were- You could beat anybody in the world! And at 18 and 19, I thought I could. [Chuckles.] Many a time I got in a fight, and many a time I got my ass beat! [Laughter.] But that’s indoctrinated. But it was fun. And during- while you’re in there, we’d go on maneuvers. Maneuvers were great. You had the red army, you had the blue army. And I remember one time was being paratroopers, it rained all the time. It was supposed to make a practice jump behind the enemy lines and so forth. But some guy had a brilliant idea: make it a simulated jump. You’re gonna go down this dusty road and jump off the back of a truck, and that’s what got so many guys got sprained ankles. So, they culminated that right away. But that was just- that was all maneuvers that I understood. I was in the “red army” one week, or two weeks, and the next time- And all I remember is doing this: dig a hole and move, and dig and- I don’t know what was going on or so. But I understand that they did it two weeks, the red army, which I was in, we won. Whatever we won, I don’t know but we won there. Then the next week you were in the blue army, but- and we had- I remember one time we’re there, it was all sand, and we come out and they said, “All right, we want you to dig- dig a foxhole and dig it deep!” We were all tired of digging foxholes, I said, because we’re going to have a tank come and run all over this. I said, you gotta be outta [your cotton-lickin’ mind].[12] So, we dig a hole and sure enough, here comes a tank. Man, you never saw us dig a hole, we got a […][13] and this tank actually came over and run all over it and some of the tanks filled the sands and we were pulling guys up out of that- it only stayed there for a few, you know, run here, run there. But boy I remember going down that- you’re never so scared in your life as you hear this noise coming over and all of a sudden [Makes a noise imitating the sound of the tank.] right over your head and the sand’s coming down on you. So, anyway, nobody got hurt but it was one of those wild experiences.


RAY PARKER: It was fun.

MICHAEL BROWN: They call Fort Benning “Sand Hill” for a reason. That’s-

RAY PARKER: Yeah. Ohh. So anyway, so many things- we did all different things and, uh, we had to practice jumps every three months you were supposed to make a jump to get that extra pay. The base pay, I think, was- oh it was the camp that I was in, that’s Stalag IV-B.[14] I walked through that gate many a time, but I’ll talk on that later. But, uh, let’s see, where was I?

MICHAEL BROWN: Your base pay? How much did you get paid to do these jumps?

RAY PARKER: Oh, base pay. Base pay I think for- was $51. But for a jump-pay you got an extra $50, but you had to make a jump every three months to collect that. [Clears throat.] So that’s what we used to do. So, I was getting $101 a week- or a month. That was nice money in those days. 19 years old, what, 18 or 19. So anyway, after all this, they finally went out to Camp Myles Standish,[15] and that’s where we came around- we were in the house and they were coming around at nighttime shootin’ guns full of firecrackers, you used- to get used to the fire- guns, er, going off, guns. Oh! I’ll tell you one experience. A light machine gun here – you might see it in the movies. They’ll take a guy, run up a hill [Imitates the sound of gunfire]. That’s a bunch of crap. This thing we had it, we had the tallest, strongest guy there, he took the light machine gun, and then he put guns in there- they had a slight hill, he was going backwards more than he going front-wards, so believe me any time you see a guy take a gun, now if it was blanks or something- but a real gun. He can’t go up that hill shooting that gun, it doesn’t work. A tommy gun or something but not a- not a light machine gun. So anyway, at Camp Myles Standish that’s what we did, and there we had to take off these patches here and […][16] and we had jump boots. Well we never had leggings before. We had to put leggings on. We looked like a bunch of dopes. We had to have a short haircut- all of the singers were off, we had leggings, and we come marching down in New York, because from Boston we went to New York and that’s where we got on the ships. Well, we got down there, and we looked like- ‘cause they didn’t want to know what outfit we were, but here’s the regimental band playing the trumpet- they had all the uniforms. They had the jump wings; they had this and- and I thought, “What the hell’s the difference?” But once we got on the ship and so forth- it was called the U.S.S. Wakefield.[17] It was one of these celebrity ships that they built during the war. Well, our regiment got on that and it took us twelve days to go over there.

MICHAEL BROWN: And where were you headed?

RAY PARKER: Uh, England. We landed in, um, ah let’s see- Liverpool. I think [it] was Liverpool. In the meantime, we sewed our patches on all of our gear- on our leggings, on our boots, the back. And we come marching out of there and we walked a lot of these places. We either rode in buses up to this “Windmill Hill”[18] it was called. And up there, it had been a British camp that, uh, just like, you know, Fort Bragg or something like that then- where the Americans would practice. This was a camp that the- a British camp. Well, we went up there and took over their barracks and so forth. We got up there in August.

MICHAEL BROWN: Of what year?



RAY PARKER: You remember, D-Day was June, but we were still- we heard about it of course, we were sorry we didn’t make it. Well, now I look back and I’m glad I didn’t make it. [Chuckles.] But anyway, we got over there in England and we went up a place called Windmill Hill and that’s where the British had stayed. We stayed there from August, and we were doing practice jumps and we were going field artillery, and all this and then while we’re still over there […][19], they were getting us together to go. So, finally, when the Battle of the Bulge[20] hit in December, bingo! That’s when we go. Now, that’s where I’m lost. I knew that we didn’t fly over because the weather wasn’t permitting. If you remember, during the Battle of the Bulge they couldn’t come in and relieve the fellas […][21]. So, we must have come- flew down and got on a boat? I don’t know how I got from England to the Battle of the Bulge. That’s- I could be- I see- Oh anyway, I got to the Battle of the Bulge and we were in there in December. Excuse me, it was fighting, but I don’t want to go into combat. It’s- That’s too much. So anyway, the day we got captured, […][22] and I, that was January 4th, 1945. We had been in battle in ’44, December, and it was cold. Oh, it snowed! And if you ever look at the pictures of the Battle of the Bulge, you can see how the state of that was- that’s not […][23]. That was cold. That was bitter cold. So, when I got captured January the fourth- the day I got captured, that was funny. We were down and on this road. It was about five feet this way and five feet this way. There was a couple of houses down here and we were in this road. And they sent- and we stayed there- got there in the morning and were waitin’, and they sent Major Rosen up to find out why we weren’t advancing. Well, what the reasons were, because all back here were tanks. We ran into a tank outfit. So, oh about an hour before that happened, they were lobbing 88s[24]. An 88 would hit here and they’d go forward. But then they started to lob it re- mortars. And mortars, they go all three directions. Well, that’s when the guys were getting it left and right. That lasted for about a half hour. I thought- I remember clear as a- diking[25] myself under a dead guy because the shrapnel was just going all over. So, after a little while, we heard this big noise. We looked down the road. I was way down at this end and this road was way up here. This big tank, a Tiger tank,[26] and it took the whole road. He’s coming down here with a German with his rifle with a white flag on there. And I- so hoping to God the truth, I remember turning to Joe, I says, “Christ! They’re coming to surrender to us!” I don’t know why I said that because we were just getting bombed but it just- something poured out. And he says, “I don’t think so.” So anyway, I didn’t hear what was going on, but I heard later on after that the German guard- he said, “We have you completely surrounded,” which we did, we looked up and we were completely surrounded. And this tank was down there, and they had another tank pointed in our aid station we had at one of the houses down. They had the rifle- or the gun on the aid station and they said, “we’re going to blow your station apart” (and these were SS men too and tank men). “We’re going to blow the aid station apart. We’re going to zero-in on your lot and blow everybody apart or you lay down your arms and surrender.” This is what I heard. I did not hear it. Of course, I was down there, but after we marched out of the thing I said, “What the hell happened?” and they told me this. Well, I guess that was it. So, that’s the day we got captured.

MICHAEL BROWN: And what day was that? Do you remember?

RAY PARKER: This was January 4th, 1945. God, I remember that. So, from where I got here, that’s when- that’s the one time when the German was here. We were in one of these big houses or something and got interrogated and so forth. So, from there, we went to cam- uh, 12A, Stagal[27] 12A.[28] How I got from this to here…I guess we walked. So, anyway, we stayed there for about a week, and there were all Americans there and so forth that got captured from different outfits.

MICHAEL BROWN: How- About how many, do you remember?

RAY PARKER: Oh, I would say at least hundreds of us. Maybe close to a thousand at least.

MICHAEL BROWN: And what’s going through your mind at this point when you- you realize you’ve been captured?

RAY PARKER: Oh, well, going through I thought there was- this I remember very clear. Burke, Waldo[29] – Bruce Waldo – myself, and somebody else, we decided- we were […][30] were still close when we got captured- we thought, “We’re not too far away. Maybe we can get away from here and get back to our lines.” So, I said, “Yeah I’m willing to do it.” You don’t volunteer in the service, but I did volunteer to- “Yeah, I want to go, I want to get out of here.” But the Major, came out and gave us this, he says, “There’s only about a hundred of us here- or a hundred and fifty in this one big house. He says, “So if anybody’s planning on escaping, you’re supposed to.” He says, “I think that’s going to make it rough for the guys who stay behind.” Well, we thought, “Okay,” so we decided not to. That’s the only time I ever decided to escape. I never thought about escaping before. [Clears throat.] So anyway, so we’re at Camp, uh, XII-A, Stalag XII-A. And we stayed there for a while. And then it was about 80 or 90 of us was called out. A couple of my buddies- ‘cause we got all separated, the ones that were still living. Uh, 80 or 90 of us got called down on this road and we started- here was Lucky Strike- or…not Lucky Strike, that’s later. Stalag XII-A. Here was Stalag IV-B[31] all the way across here. Here was Berlin, and here was the Elbe River. Well from here to here, about 80 of us or 90 of us with guards on either- we started to walk [Taps fingers to mimic walking.] to Stalag IV-B.

MICHAEL BROWN: How far of a walk was it?

RAY PARKER: [Sigh.] Well, every time we got up, we said, “How many more miles?” “Ten, fifteen kilometers!” I didn’t know what a kilometer was. That’s all I know. We walked through that from January until… had to be in March sometime, ‘cause that’s when they got the Red Cross and that notice saying that I was a Prisoner of War. But what we did- I remember two days, they put us in boxcars. And in these boxcars- the American boxcars are like this; the Germans’ were like this. And they jammed us in there. You couldn’t sit or stand, you were just jammed in there, and they had, excuse me, a scheiße[32]-bucket and everybody- you filled it because we all had dysentery. But you couldn’t stand, you couldn’t sit down, so you just stood together. [Pounds table.] That boxcar went for at least a day or two days. And I remember getting to one town. I forget- I forget the town, but anyway we were being- the Air Force was coming in bombing there, so they got us out of that and they marched us up a hill to another little small camp, and there were some Americans in there and they said, “Whatever you do, don’t- do whatever they tell you. They tell you to crap, take a crap,” he says. “Salute or do whatever just don’t do anything wrong,” because when we got there was a burial[33] detail going on with three American guys. What they would do, this group of people that were up in this small camp- the bombs would come over and bomb the very road and they would take these Americans here and they would fill up the holes [Clears throat.] during the daytime or nighttime [Taps table.] when they had it cleared, and these guys had been there for months and months and a couple of them just refused. They hung ‘em up in the rafters and they just came and shot ‘em, and when we got there they were burying them. And so this is what the story they told us. But fortunately, we were up there just the one day, and that one day- two day- no, two days. The one day we got in there, they stuck us in, I guess- it was like- a little bigger than this table and about this room, and a couple of benches over here, bunches of benches, and they told us to get our clothes off and put them on the thing, and we sat there. It was cold, it was all white. And they shut this big iron door. Well, of course, we understood, we thought we were gonna be gassed. Honest to God, we thought of everything. But no. What they did, they marched us out of that and put us- and took us to shower. Why, I don’t know. We got a cold shower, and they gave us a tetanus shot right above your belt- not in the arm, they put it in here and bingo! And then they took this white ointment, and they took it around your privates and under your arms and then you went back to this little house again and you got your clothes on and they marched us back down to the- Why this all happened to us, I’ll never know because they were so strict there. So, then we got back to the boxcars, we went again, and we rode another day. Then we got out, then we started the walk – walk, walk, walk. We would get up early in the morning, excuse me, we walked and some of the towns that you would go through, they would rush you through. Rush, rush, rush, because the airplanes would come over and maybe bomb that little town. So they would come out with sticks. We were just walking, and the cars were- they would come out with sticks or something and beat us because they thought we were Air Force and everything- that was the cause of that. Other times you would go through and they would let you stay in their barn. We would stay in their barn. [Chuckles.] I remember the pig-stalls. They had old turnips we used to- by this time, we had nothing to eat. So, you take the turnips, and you take the outside and eat that. We all had dysentery and so forth. I walked a lot, I think…

MICHAEL BROWN: So, you lost a lot of that weight that you gained in basic training?

RAY PARKER: Oh God yeah! [28:05] When I went in, I was about 160 [pounds] and by the time I got liberated I was about 110. But I’ll tell you that in the PW Camp. But I do remember, you walk along and all of a sudden you had to- you had to go to the bathroom. So- and- you- you had these butt- your- your- uh, what the hell you call this? Uh, your belt- your belt! That’s what it- And it didn’t have buttons on it, but they had like, uh, Velcro or something, and I remember going ‘cross Germany with my fly wide open because I couldn’t button them and the belt- it was like a- you had to pull the belt so- and of course I lost weight so, that was that. So that’s the way I walked across Germany, and it was cold. It was so damn cold. You would get in there and they would walk, and you were walkin’ down the road and all of a sudden, this truck or thing would come by and they had- they didn’t have gas, they had these- this smelly thing. They put water in, or, uh, wood in that burned that kept the car going and so forth. Oh, going back one step further, while we were in there being interrogated, they didn’t have flashlights. They had these little things that would go zip-zip-zip and they would give you a light. They didn’t have a flashlight you push a button like we did. They had the zip-zip-zip and I remember there were little kids who used to run these things. That’s what the- and I remember that this zip-zip-zip-zip that’s all you’d keep hearing walking down these halls you’d be taken with.

MICHAEL BROWN: How often were they interrogating you?

RAY PARKER: [Sigh.] I must have been interrogated at least- God it seemed like an eternity, maybe only 10 or 15 minutes. They got disgusted with me because I kept saying “I don’t know.”

MICHAEL BROWN: So it was just once or was it all the time?

RAY PARKER: Just the one time.


RAY PARKER: One time there. So anyway, when we finally got to camp Stalag IV-B, it was not an American camp. It was a British noncom[34] camp. Inside were all British noncom officers, crew, I guess, corporal, or what, sergeants on up. [Clears throat.] Excuse me, but no officers. And I wound up in a- in this camp Stalag IV-B – was a British noncom camp. And in there, the British were in charge of, you know, making sure, but the guards were out there. There’s a- I think there’s something here, on the poster, some “shot after dark” I think that used to be on the thing. Out after dark, the guards would shoot you. But, in there, no, the camp- I was assigned to 49-A and they had, in the camp, there must have been 40 of us in this one little barracks. No heat, absolutely no heat. But in the barracks, the middle of the barracks, they had a stone about, oh, an inch-and-a-half, about this thick, and it was about four-foot by four-foot [Clears throat.] and they had a side in here and a side in there, and I’ll tell you what that was for. But no heat. The barracks that you had bunks this high, no blankets, no- so you would buddy up with another fella and you would take his clothes and lay them on the wood and then you’d take my clothes, and we’d buddy together to keep warm. That’s what you had. No blankets, no- no- no mattresses or anything like that and it was cold. So, we’d buddy up. You never talked about food or anything like that. Food was forbidden, you weren’t allowed to. So anyway, when we got up in the morning, [Clears throat.] excuse me, they were line you up in a great big field and our box, 49-A, we had this British guy who was one of the charges inside our- and he would count off how many of us were there, 40 or 45, and he would report it to the German who was there. They would take that number and when they- they had a big cookhouse way down at the end down there- that’s where they would cook, and they would get you potatoes- What you got a day, you got: one slice of “bread” – it was made out of sawdust, believe me it was and that’s no lie. It was made out of sawdust. You got a slice of bread, black bread. You got two or three little potatoes and a little cup of soup. And that’s what you got in the morning, about 8 o’clock or 7 o’clock or whatever it is. It was just enough for when you got counted off, they would count “46 of soup” or something like that. And that’s what you got in the morning. Well, you didn’t eat it in the morning. You would wait until the afternoon around 5 o’clock at night. Now, as I said, the one thing, stealing, you would not steal. That was forbidden. Because at the end of these barracks, there was another really long barracks and that was where you went to the bathroom. And it had just a seat and they had a cutout here, a cutout here, cutout and that’s where you went. We all had dysentery then, and you had no paper so, excuse me, so you would wipe your hands, you know, and you’d wipe it off in the snow to get it clean because you had no paper to wipe your backside and you all had dysentery. So anyway, if you got caught stealing, they would put you down in there. So, you didn’t want to get caught stealing. I never saw anybody get thrown down there, so you just did not steal. Now, we were- British were in, they had Russians in that camp, and they were all over at this barracks. They had friends, they had- but majority of all British is what it was, ‘cause the were controlled inside. [Clears throat.] So anyway, that’s what you would get in the morning at 7 and you’d heat it. Now, this big stove you had in the center of the thing, you were selected in our barracks, two or three people, would be- not volunteer, they would say you, you, and you, will go out and get the wood for today and that’s when they would walk out. We walked them back. When you walked outside that gate, and they march you on- this would be 2 or 3 from every barracks that were around, not the Russians just these other ones, and we would walk out in the woods and they would break off branches and trees and any wood, and you wrap them up the best they can, and carry as much as you could back to the barracks, the 3 of us. So around 4 o’clock, 4, they would take that wood, stick it in these two sides and heat it, that would heat the top of this thing, not “hot” but it would heat it warm. So, you would take your soup and the bread and potatoes, and you’d stick that on top of that and it would warm it and that’s what you would eat at night and have something to eat. And that’s all you got every day; every day you’d do the same thing. When you got up in the morning, in order- after you got eating and so forth, you got shooed out of the barracks. You weren’t allowed to- so you just walked. But it was, it was cold. I mean the snow was standing- you’d just try to get- and the wind. But they wouldn’t let you back in the barracks. Why, I don’t know. But later on in the afternoon, late in the afternoon you were allowed back in the barracks and that’s where you stayed. This was day-in day-out. Day-in, day-out.

MICHAEL BROWN: Did they have you doing any work, or were you just walking around?

RAY PARKER: No. Just walking around. No work. The only time I [Laughs.] got caught doing work, I got 10 days punishment. The reason I got the 10 days punishment, it was getting warmer and they had some other roles and some other people over there and I was taking one of my OD[35] shirts and I was trying to switch the hem to get some flour to make a little bread […][36] for some. And this big British guy come up, grab me- I was a skinny little thing – and took me up into the barracks where the Sergeant Major was and he said, “You know you’re not allowed to do stuff like that.” I said “I know.” He says, “So you’re going to go in hard labor,” and I said “What’s hard labor?” He says, “You’re going to take the scheiße-bucket or the scheiße-wagon, and take it.” So what that duty was- we were the horses and they had- if you remember, years ago they used to have these great big round things with water in to sweep the streets, well that’s what it was. And on top of that, they had this [slurp-slurp] and they would take this big hose and go around to these, uh, toilet places and stick the hose in, suck the water out, and pour it into this great big round barrel. And we were the horses, so we’d have to drag that out through this gate again and they’d dump it- well it took us all day, by the time we did that, by the time we’d get back then [Coughs.] – ‘scuse me – the day was gone. So, I did- I only had three days of that. For the rest of the time, I got off, but I don’t know why, but that was the job. It was cold, but it was something you weren’t allowed- This is why the British controlled inside the camp. And, as I said before, we had- they had- once a week they came in with the radio, this little short-wave radio, so we knew exactly what was going on. So, as the war came on, at this camp we heard what was happening and so forth, and the Americans were stopped here. And I got friends with [Clears throat.] two of these British- you know, you couldn’t find much in good buddies[37], so I had two good buddies of mine. We got in after the- we got- this one morning, came in and it was quiet, and the Russians came in to liberate us. Well, I remember all the other Russians that were there- oh! Let me go back a bit. We had this great big- down at the bottom, it was called “the market” and cigarettes was your, what you had. Cigarettes were worth a million dollars. In that market they had all kinds of- where it came from, mainly Red Cross parcels. They had all kinds of powder, uh, bread, but with cigarettes you could buy stuff like that. And they said whatever you do, don’t buy anything from the Russians, ‘cause they had found they would mix crap with it. So, you don’t buy anything. Well, I didn’t have any cigarettes, so I couldn’t buy anything, but it was- you walk around, you see this and man. So, you didn’t go down there too often because it was too harding[38]. But cigarettes- we did get a Red Cross partial[39] one time, the whole time I was there. You’ll read other parts where the officers got- they got us partial once a week. We got a Red Cross partial once the whole time I was there. And my share was two cigarettes, and they had these M&M cans like this, and I had one-fifth of a can of stew or whatever it was in there, and two cigarettes, that was my share of the thing. And ten of us had to divide this one package. Course the Germans [Clears throat.] kept most of it, they only gave so many of- and in the barracks of 40, maybe they gave us 10 of these Red Cross partials. So, that’s what we had. But I remember, in the wintertime, the Russians- they would bring this great big wagon in and take it to the- they had out- out in the field beyond the camp, they had big mounds and that’s where potatoes were. They would take these potatoes and put them in this cart. The cart looked like- you remember seeing the French Revolution, the things were like this and they had- well these were like carts like this, and they pulled- the prisoners would pull it and they loaded this cart up with all these potatoes, and they would take this down to the cookhouse where it was.  [Chuckles.] Going back, when we got interrogated, I got my picture taken and that’s how I got a Krieges[40] number. Kriegsgefangenen was “Prisoner of War” and there it shows a number- that’s with my number in the PW camp. And when you went in there, they ask you, “What was your preferred…” I was a cook! I was a cook! Everybody was a “cook.” [Laughter.] ‘Cause you want to get cook. They didn’t believe us anyway. Going back, they would have this great big cookhouse and that’s where they would cook the potatoes. Well, when they brought the cart out, they had portions over there. They- I don’t care where they came from, but they dove in! Grabbed anything they could because they were being fed. And the guards would come up and beat them and jump on them oh! So anyway, you used to line up in the fields to get your rations. You would look over there and there were Russians. And you would see- you’d know it. They would carry 30 or 40 of that, they would carry it, one big guy on the side, each side, and when they got counted off, they would count him and then over there, they would take that food and they had a little scale, it looked like a British scale, put a little weight here and this scale was just like it- and they would put the food there. Ours, you know, you just step it in and just get as much as you could in the British form. But the Russians, right to the- right to the ounce, and the dead ones, they would split that up because they were counted. And it was only- right to the crumb! Oh, God. They got beat up so much. So anyway, when the war ended, and the Russians came in. They took these Russians that were still in there- lot of ‘em didn’t have legs, didn’t have- and they all go marching out of the main gate singing. Oh! That was a happy sight. And it was two British fellas and myself. So anyway, when we did get liberated- [Coughs.] excuse me- it was the Russians that liberated us and so forth. So we knocked down all of the- some of the guards, they shot ‘em right on the dead. I wasn’t up there, I was back here. Here’s the big camp, here was our barracks back here, so what happened up here, I don’t know, but I understood that they just shot some of the guards. Most of the guards took off, but the Russians just shot them, which I could understand how that worked. And I was sleeping with the two Russians- with a bunch of Russians and the two British fellas, and myself. We stayed there for a while and these Russians would come to a house and a little old German woman- they would just take them and throw them out in the street, or out of the house, and they would crap in there, pee in there, break all the furniture whatever’s left in there, because, I guess, whatever the Germans did to them when they were in Moscow and so forth, they were just retaliating. And I just stood there and looked and I thought, “Oh man,” but I never saw anything like that in my life and I’ll never forget it. They were just barbarians. We- we had kerosene to light a candle in the little room that the two British guys and I stayed in. We stayed there for about three days when we left the camp. It was nice, we fixed it up. They’d come in and they would take the kerosene and drink it. They were all drunk. Oh, God! Then they would take their rifles and shoot ‘em up in the- so, we- So anyway, we wanted to get rid of them. They were all heading for Berlin. And we said no. So, we got in line with the Russian, the foreign- with the, uh, refugees, and we just walked in the back and headed for the American lines. And when I got- After we got there, the two British fellas and myself, and then we- I guess we were on the road for about 4, 5, 6 days, just walking on heading for the American lines. And we got to this one place, it was thousands of people hanging around and it was a bridge. And there was guards on top of the bridge, and they were only letting the British and the Americans across this bridge. All the rest of the foreigners and so forth- I got up and I crossed the- and, uh, gave him a salute and he says, “Okay, you go this way,” and the British went there. And I wound up in a, what they called, um, Camp Lucky Strike[41]. Lucky Strike. And Lucky Strike was where all the American POWs, or it was just POWs and so forth. And then they fed you there, and I was in there for about three weeks at least, and gettin’ all the information, they were interrogating what you did, where you were, where you were captured, and so forth. [Sneezes.] ‘scuse me. And then, from there, after Camp Lucky Strike, I had enough uniform[42] so forth, they took us to Le Havre, France, in Le Havre. That’s when I got on the ship and I come home. And I got let for, uh, I think it was a 30-day leave, and I remember being home, and that’s when I was home, and I got these letters from home that I had written in the POW camp. So, after that, you got 30 days, and from there, after that you were assigned- you got your papers and so forth, and a certain date you were supposed to go back to Camp- to, uh, Atlantic City and there they had these big hotels, one of them was Hotel Dennis[43], and they were all taken over by the- for the, uh, the Army. And in there, that’s where they gave you your information, what’s this, what’s that, and so forth. And, from there, you were told- they gave you money to go back to your original camp that you were, and that’s when I went back to Fort Benning, Georgia. And I went back to Fort Benning, Georgia and there, that was around September. I guess it was about September or October or something. And we were down there, and you had to make a free jump to get- collect all your backpay. Like an idiot needed[44]– So, I made my jump. And that’s- and again I was scared, but that was the last time. I jumped and I got my fat pay, and I stayed ‘til December and you were let out on points: so many times for combat, so many times for POW, so many times you were in the service- I got out on so many points I had, but also being a POW. And I went- and we were sent to, here again how I got there, I guess by train from Fort Benning, Georgia, to Fort Dix, New Jersey, and over there is where I got my discharge and got the rub-sheet doc and so forth. And there they were asking if you wanted to stay in the service again. I said no. I didn’t want to join another- the Paratroopers were great; they were the greatest. I didn’t want to jump out of a plane again, I had that. And I didn’t want to join another one. And it was peacetime. It was so different from wartime to peacetime; it wasn’t the same as it is now. So, that’s when I got out. So, I was in for just about two-and-a-half years. And in December of 1945, I was a free man.


RAY PARKER: …And I went from one- right after I got out of the service, I went on the 52-20 Club.[45] I don’t know if you remember what the 52-20 Club- it was 52 weeks, you got 20 bucks, for a month. So, I didn’t know what else to do, so [Clears throat.] I went from one thing- I tried radio. I was a disk jockey for oh- about a year. I tried, uh, insurance[46] for about two years. I tried a machine shop for another thing. I tried- oh, then I wanted to be a metallurgist, and I studied that for about two years [Clears throat.] under the GI Bill and so forth, and I couldn’t take that. I was just […][47] So finally, my uncle Elmer who I- he was a builder. He built these big private homes. He says, “Ray, what are you doing?” And I says, “I don’t know. I’m doin’ this. Doin’ that. Doin’-” “Why don’t you work for me?” I said, “Okay.” So, he’s the one who taught me all the carpentry and plumbing and so forth and so on. And then after [Clears throat.] he stopped building, I went back into printing ‘cause at Girard College, he did- I took up the printing trade. So, I went into printing in- I stayed there and, uh, I wound up with two partners. Well, not knowing that one partner, he was a thief- I didn’t know that. We had our own company, we had about 30-some employees working for us at the time and the place was going nice. One day, Uncle Sam comes in, puts a big note- oh, prior to that, Uncle Sam had called in- well, he happened to- this one fella, he happened to be sick, and he said, “Ray, you got to go in place of me.” And I said, “Why do I got to do it?” He said, “Well, they’re takin’ us to court.” So, the lawyer we had, he said, “Ray, don’t you open your mouth. You don’t know what-” And I said, “No, I don’t know what’s going on. What is going on?” What had happened, this one fella, one of my partners, had kept two sets of books. One was a legitimate, one was just a lot going on. And even my secretary who knew him says, “Ray, you’d better go see what’s going on in the front office here.” ‘Cause I was here busy selling and doing this and stuff and I didn’t care what was going on. All I knew was […][48] So anyway, they shut us down. That night, we went on the elevator, and, you know, they put the big sign on that we’re closed. So, we snuck in one night and we took all our equipment, went down in the back elevator and we started up again up in Warminster. Well, I’m living out here in Ridley Park and going out to Warchester and so forth. So, after about two years of that I said this is it, I gave up. I said I’m leaving, so I went back to one of the companies that still had some customers, and some of the companies that had taken some of our equipment, I went with them. I became a salesman for them and that’s where I stayed for the next 10 or 11 years. I had nice- nice customers but it was time to stop. So anyway, when I quit there, a friend of my wife, they were good friends, her mother- she was an old lady, she was about 80, she was old. Maybe she was 90. But anyway, they wanted somebody to take care of her and, you know, take her to the doctors, take her here and so forth, and they would pay you and I said, “Oh okay, I’ll do that.” So, it was something to do. I took care of here for, oh I forget, couple of years. I would take her to a place called, ah, uh, a senior center, uh, what is the place in- that senior center, Radnor?

[Discussion among the people in the room]

RAY PARKER: Yeah, Radnor senior center. So anyway, I would take her there and this was for older people and so forth. They were- they had cos- cos- er, exercise […][49]– and they had computers there, and they had exercise equipment there, they had- you could play Bridge, but it was strictly for old people. And I had taken her there, we liked it very much. And the superint- or the, uh, the executive officer, Susan Sapiro who ran the thing, she’d come up to me one day and said, “Ray, would you like to work here?” I said, “Doing what?” She said, “Well, I would like you to come in here around 7:30 in the morning til 10:30 in the morning and answer the phones, set up the chairs for her thing[50] and make a list for the people who have to be picked up by bus to come and take them home and then go home.” I said, “Fine.” She said, “We’ll pay you.” I said, “You’ll pay me to do that?! Okay!” I got $10 an hour. So it wasn’t bad. But it’s something that I did for 11 years. And then finally after that I said, because I had been going there for- it was a beautiful job and the only disappointed bit- some of these guys were really old. I mean they were in their late 80s and so forth and I would say, the time- for the 11 years I was there, there must have been 20 of them that died. And that was that because, they were old guys and I’d listen to some of their stories and so forth. It was really interesting. And they thought, so, after 11 years I thought this is it, I’ve had it- so I retired from that. And I’ve been retired ever since. Then my partner, my partner in life, my wonderful wife- well, that’s another story. We met in a theater, got married six years- I won’t go back into that. But she was wonderful! She was just beautiful. Young girl. She keeps me young. But after that, we had our own craft business and we had the dog business and now here it is today, whatever age I am, anyway.

MICHAEL BROWN: So, I want you to just take a step back to that camp, uh…

RAY PARKER: A campfire?

MICHAEL BROWN: How long were you…?

RAY PARKER: From January, December, actually in Stalag IV—


RAY PARKER: —Well, I was a prisoner for six months.


RAY PARKER: But it was at Stalag IV-B, which was the British camp, I was there from January- late January- it must have been early March until May when I got liberated by the Russians. About four months, something like that.


RAY PARKER: That was- it was boring but inside the camp now, you got to understand, they were British. The British had soccer games in there and that’s what you would go out to the soccer and they would play against the Russians and so forth. So that was, you know, the only time I got on that work detail[51] was something that I did wrong. But otherwise no, you just hung around and did- they had a theater and you had to pay a cigarette to get in to see the show, and they would put on shows! The prisoners themselves and so forth. And they had the music instruments, and they would break[52] batons but that’s all- the cold was just. It was cold, God it was- my feet were just, no feeling, even today there, this one is numb. But, Uncle Sam- God bless ya, Uncle Sam! They give me a pension, Uncle Sam every month so much, so I get that. Social Security, so…

MICHAEL BROWN: And, when you got out, you, uh, you came back, and you said you’ve been now in the Radnor- have you lived in Radnor ever since you got out? What brought you to Radnor?

RAY PARKER: No. When I came back, I was- let’s go back then. When I first came back- in 1945, I got liberated. In 1947, I married this girl, Sue. We had three children: uh, Craig, Len, and Leslie. I was married to her for about 13 years and then something happened in there. I went into the theater play and she kind of- she took off with another guy anyway. And anyway I caught them going- so anyway, I got a divorce from that and I joined the theater again – I’d been away – and I came in here one Saturday- this is a nice story, this is a good story. I went in there Saturday and the good buddies of mine, “Ray! Where ya been?” I said, “Well, I was living in town for- after I got the divorce – just prior before the divorce – I went and lived in town and that was when they were doing this, uh- what was that hey, “The Big Clown,” I don’t remember what it was.

MICHAEL BROWN: When you say you were living in town, you were living in Philadelphia?

RAY PARKER: Yeah, in Philadelphia, I lived in there on 19th and Spruce. And they’re all gays- well, that’s another whole story![53] I didn’t become gay or anything, but I was stood on the step and all these girls used to come and- some of the experiences that these poor girls are going through are unbelievable so, oh, Woodstock! They had that big Woodstock at that time. Well, I was 40 and I was trying to start a business, and all these young people were, “Come on Ray, you got to go to Woodstock!” I never went. And they told me all about the bunch of experiences they had at the first Woodstock and so forth. So living in there I did. So anyway, I lived there for two years and then I came back, and I said to my wife, “Get out of my house. I want my house back.” So, I came back, and I lived in my house. And I happened to be going by the theater, where I used to be in shows and so forth, this one day and I ran in two of my buddies, “Ray, we’re having auditions on Monday night. Why don’t you come out and try out for a part?” I said, “Ooh! I haven’t been around for a year or so.” They says, “Come on out anyway.” So anyway, I went that night and I’m sitting there, and they handed me a book to read. And of course, up on the stage, was my beautiful wife. [Laughter.] She was on, and there was about 4 or 5 of ‘em. And I’m up there, and in the meantime, I was 45 years old, you got to remember now. [Clears throat.] And they’re up there and they’re trying and I’m up there trying to read out for- so anyway, after the part they said, “Ray, you’re gonna play the part.” And I said, “Oh no, it’s the lead.” So, I thought, Oh gosh. “Look, you’ve been in shows and you know what you’re talking about.” “Well, who’s going to be my leading lady?” And they said, “Well, the brunette.” And I said, “Which one’s that?” “Gale Heaver.”[54] I said, “Which one’s Gale Heaver?” “The pretty one.”[55] “Oh, that one!” Oh my God! And I looked in the book, and there was a lot of kissing scenes in there. [Laughter.] Oh Jesus Christ! I’m 45. And I look at her, she’s 29. There was a big difference. And I thought, God, she could be my daughter and I’m supposed to kiss her. So, there’s a lot of stories there. So anyway, after that, six years later, we decided, not doing it anymore, we decided to get- we’ve been married for 42 years next month. […][56] Yeah, 7/27/77 we got married. So, that’s my life. It’s been great. And, no, I, uh, I’m- I’m healthy, the only thing I have is a little back- the, uh, arthritis in the back.

MICHAEL BROWN: Well, that’s ‘cause you jumped out of the airplanes.

RAY PARKER: Well… [Chuckles.] So that’s the only thing. But on the […][57] that I’ve had a great life, very luckily. And glad I didn’t go into the Marines! [Laughter.] Like my Colonel friend over there did, because I’m afraid of snakes. I thought, why would I ever want to go to the islands? An oversight- Believe me I am, I’m petrified of them. My wife will pick ‘em up, say, “Look at the little snake.” We went- [Clears throat.] We went on vacation one time and they went to snake and she’s got this snake in here and I saw it and I’m sitting down the way in the road and she’s up here holding the snake. Oh, she’s crazy! Wrapped it around her neck, but it’s been a great life and she’s a great woman and I got three children, one, uh, Craig, who’s 70, uh, he just turned- he’ll be 71 in December, and my other son will be 65 I think, and my daughter will be 60 and she has three children too. So, I’ve got a great life and I’ll often think- I often think if I’d been killed, like many a time I could have been, none of those kids would be here today. So, how lucky can I be? I met my beautiful wife, I have beautiful children, and they call me all the time and keep in touch. [Clears throat.] I had a little operation one time, um, I thought it was a little operation, for my back, and the kids kept calling, “Dad!” “What is it?” “We were so worried.” If you look on the television, you’ll see it’s just a little tiny scratch and they got a Band-aid, it’s going to be- well it didn’t turn out- it’s a stich like this, but that’s alright. But that’s the only thing, God willing, besides the frozen feet. I got my arms, I got my health, and when I go to my examination every six months I get a good clear bill of health and I go down, I see those poor buggers from Vietnam with their arms and […][58], I say, “What the hell am I doing in here?” You know? When I see those men. What they’ve gone through compared to what I’ve gone through, which is- I’ve gone through like this compared to Vietnam. You know what that was like. God! God bless ‘em. So…

MICHAEL BROWN: Well, Ray, it’s been an absolute pleasure to sit down with you and, and talk.

RAY PARKER: It’s been a pleasure for me thinking about it!

MICHAEL BROWN: I think, uh, hearing your story of being a prisoner-of-war and when I hear you say, “Well, I haven’t been through that much”- Well, I would say you have been through much more than many folks will ever dare to go through. You were a prisoner-of-war in World War II and, uh, have survived and experienced so many things.

RAY PARKER: Yeah, I have.

MICHAEL BROWN: So, it’s been a pleasure to hear those stories and to have you be a part of this project. Is there anything you’d like to add before we part ways for the day?

RAY PARKER: No, except for I thank you very much for interviewing me, because I haven’t done that before, so this is nice. I know there’s not many of us still around, but I hope to still be around for- as I said, my mother lived to be 103-and-a-half and I hope I outlive her, so! [Laughter.]


RAY PARKER: Thank you so much!

MICHAEL BROWN: Thanks so much, Ray. I appreciate it. It’s great talking to you and that wraps up our- our segment, and until we meet again.

RAY PARKER: Thank you very much.

MICHAEL BROWN: Thank you Ray.

OUTRO (MICHAEL BROWN): [Music playing in background.] That concludes this installment of The Voices of Villanova’s Veterans, a joint project of the Villanova University Office of Veterans and Military Service Members and Falvey Memorial Library’s Distinctive Collections and Digital Engagement Departments. Thank you for listening! For more information and for more interviews, please visit us online at veteransvoices.library.villanova.edu. [Music fades out.]


[1] “At the time of his death in 1831, Stephen Girard was the richest man in America and his endowment for Girard College was, up to that point, the largest private charitable donation in American history.

In his will, Girard directed the city of Philadelphia to use his money to build a boarding school for poor, orphaned or fatherless boys so that they might be prepared for the trades and professions of their era. Girard College opened its doors in 1848.” https://www.girardcollege.edu/about/history/ Accessed 27 Jan. 2022.

[2] Best guess.

[3] “Pre-Pearl Harbor propaganda film about young Americans, from various social backgrounds, who undergo parachute training at Fort Benning prior to becoming paratroopers.” https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0034000/ Accessed 2 Feb. 2022.

[4] Likely the New Cumberland Army Depot in Fairview , PA. “The Quartermaster Department of The Army originally built a depot at New Cumberland in 1918 because of its strategic location on the Susquehanna River.” https://militarybases.com/pennsylvania/new-cumberland/ Accessed 2 Feb. 2022.

[5] “Fort Benning is a United States Army post straddling the Alabama–Georgia border next to Columbus, Georgia.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Benning Accessed 2 Feb. 2022.

[6] Best guess, personal name.

[7] Parker had brought a few personal artifacts to the interview with him and here pointed to a photograph.

[8] Best guess.

[9] Indistinguishable name.

[10] Best guess.

[11] Best guess.

[12] Best guess.

[13] Indistinguishable word.

[14] “Stalag IV-B was one of the largest prisoner-of-war camps in Germany during World War II.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stalag_IV-B Accessed 3 Feb. 2022.

Again, Parker had photographs with him, so he may have been referring to one here, accounting for the subject change.

[15] “Camp Myles Standish was a U.S. Army camp located in Taunton, Massachusetts during World War II. It was the main staging area for the Boston Port of Embarkation, with about a million U.S. and Allied soldiers passing through the camp on their way overseas or returning for demobilization after the war.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camp_Myles_Standish Accessed 3 Feb. 2022.

[16] Indistinguishable word.

[17] “USS Wakefield (AP-21) was a troop transport that served with the US Navy during World War II. Before her war service, she was the luxury ocean liner SS Manhattan.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Wakefield_(AP-21) Accessed 3 Feb. 2022.

[18] Possibly referring to the town of Mill Hill in the London suburbs and the Inglis Barracks that were there: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mill_Hill Accessed 3 Feb. 2022.

[19] Indistinguishable word.

[20] “The Battle of the Bulge, also known as the Ardennes Offensive, was a major German offensive campaign on the Western Front during World War II which took place from 16 December 1944 to 25 January 1945.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Bulge Accessed 9 Feb. 2022.

[21] Indistinguishable word.

[22] Indistinguishable name, possibly something like Lockwood.

[23] Indistinguishable word.

[24] “The 8.8 cm Flak 18/36/37/41 is a German 88 mm anti-aircraft and anti-tank artillery gun, developed in the 1930s. It was widely used by Germany throughout World War II and is one of the most recognized German weapons of that conflict. Development of the original model led to a wide variety of guns.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/8.8_cm_Flak_18/36/37/41 Accessed 9 Feb. 2022.

[25] Best guess.

[26] “The Tiger I was a German heavy tank of World War II that operated beginning in 1942 in Africa and in the Soviet Union, usually in independent heavy tank battalions. It gave the German Army its first armoured fighting vehicle that mounted the 8.8 cm KwK 36 gun (derived from the 8.8 cm Flak 36). 1,347 were built between August 1942 and August 1944. After August 1944, production of the Tiger I was phased out in favour of the Tiger II.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiger_I Accessed 9 Feb. 2022.

[27] i.e. “Stalag”

[28] “In Germany, stalag (/ˈstælæɡ/; German: [ˈʃtalak]) was a term used for prisoner-of-war camps. Stalag is a contraction of “Stammlager”, itself short for Kriegsgefangenen-Mannschaftsstammlager, a literal translation of which is “War-prisoner” (i.e. POW) “enlisted” “main camp”. Therefore, technically “stalag” simply means “main camp”.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stalag Accessed 23 Feb. 2022.

“STALAG XII-A […] was mainly operated as a POW transit camp; from there POWs were sent to other camps around the Reich.” https://www.ww2aerialreconstudies.com/stalag-xii-a.html Accessed 23 Feb. 2022.

[29] Best guess, personal name.

[30] Indistinguishable word.

[31] “Stalag IV-B was one of the largest prisoner-of-war camps in Germany during World War II. Stalag is an abbreviation of the German Stammlager (“Main Camp”). It was located 8 km (5.0 mi) north-east of the town of Mühlberg in the Prussian Province of Saxony, just east of the Elbe river and about 30 mi (48 km) north of Dresden.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stalag_IV-B Accessed 23 Feb. 2022.

[32] German for “shit.”

[33] Best guess.

[34] “Noncom” refers to a noncommissioned officer. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/noncom Accessed 24 Feb. 2022.

“A non-commissioned officer (NCO) is a military officer who has not pursued a commission. Non-commissioned officers usually earn their position of authority by promotion through the enlisted ranks. (Non-officers, which includes most or all enlisted personnel, are of lower rank than any officer.) In contrast, commissioned officers usually enter directly from a military academy, officer candidate school (OCS), or officer training school (OTS) after receiving a post-secondary degree.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-commissioned_officer Accessed 24 Feb. 2022.

[35] Likely short for “olive drab.” See, e.g.: https://olive-drab.com/od_whatisod.php Accessed 9 Mar. 2022.

[36] Indistinguishable word.

[37] Best guess.

[38] Best guess.

[39] i.e., “parcel”

[40] “Kriegie is what the POWs called themselves.  It is short for Kriegesgefangenen which is the German word for prisoner of war.” http://www.merkki.com/kriegies.htm Accessed 9 Mar. 2022.

[41] “In the summer of 1945, Camp Lucky Strike in St. Valery, France, 45 miles from the port of Le Havre, became a massive tent city for American troops preparing to embark on the voyage home.” https://www.nationalww2museum.org/war/articles/camp-lucky-strike Accessed 9 Mar. 2022.

[42] Best Guess. Possibly referring to the Adjusted Service Rating Score, “the system that the United States Army used at the end of World War II in Europe to determine which soldiers were eligible to be repatriated to the United States for discharge from military service.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adjusted_Service_Rating_Score Accessed 9 Mar. 2022.

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_Service_Rating_Score

[43] “Although now officially operating as Bally’s, the Dennis Hotel is one of the oldest names on the Boardwalk. In 1860, only six years after the founding of Atlantic City, schoolteacher William Dennis built a two-room summer cottage for himself on the beach at Michigan Avenue. After relatives caught wind of Dennis’s ideal vacation spot, more and more of them came down to visit, forcing Dennis to continually expand the cottage until it reached 22 rooms in 1864. After opening it to paying guests for three years, Dennis decided to get out of the boarding house business, and sold his property in 1867. The new owners, the Buzby family, would continue to operate the Dennis Hotel for over 100 years.” https://www.atlanticcityexperience.org/?view=article&id=149:dennis-hotel&catid=10012 Accessed 9 Mar. 2022.

[44] Best guess.

[45] “A benefit referred to unofficially as the 52-20 Club was signed into law in conjunction with the GI Bill of Rights in June 1944. This meant any discharged American military personnel who had no job could receive $20 a week from the federal government for up to 52 weeks.” https://www.tcpalm.com/story/specialty-publications/your-news/martin-county/reader-submitted/2017/06/22/look-back-have-you-ever-heard-52-20-cub/420583001/ Accessed 22 Mar. 2022.

[46] Best guess.

[47] Indistinguishable word.

[48] Indistinguishable words.

[49] Indistinguishable words.

[50] Best guess.

[51] Best guess.

[52] Best guess.

[53] “In the second half of the twentieth century, the Center City neighborhood that became known as the Gayborhood formed in the vicinity of Locust and Thirteenth Streets. The community and the geographical spaces it occupied played a vital role in the social and political struggles of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) people locally and in the nation. […] So many gay men moved into apartments south of the [Rittenhouse] square that even straight people commonly referred to gay men who lived in Center City by the coded term “Spruce Street boys.”” https://philadelphiaencyclopedia.org/essays/gayborhood/ Accessed 28 Mar. 2022.

[54] Best guess, personal name.

[55] Best guess.

[56] Someone in the audience says something.

[57] Indistinguishable word.

[58] Indistinguishable word.

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