Eight World War II veterans retrace their steps on the battlefields of their youth, from Normandy to the Battle of the Bulge, and finally the Rhine, in this 75-minute documentary.
TRANSCRIPT BILL MOYERS: In June of 1944, Americans and their allies launched the invasion of Normandy. They had come to liberate Europe from the Nazis. That was almost half a century ago. These men were soldiers then. For some, it's taken a lifetime of struggle to make peace with their wartime memories. Others are struggling still. They have returned now to trace their roots from D-Day to the Rhine. This is the story of their memories. D-Day, June 6th, 1944. It was the greatest sea invasion ever. "Under the command of General Eisenhower," the official radio message read, "Allied naval forces, supported by strong air forces, began landing Allied armies this morning on the northern coast of France." At dawn, as the Allied Forces hit the beaches, the Germans were waiting. On one strip of sand, 2,500 Americans fell that first day. We remember it as the Battle for Omaha Beach. [war sounds]
JOSE LOPEZ: I was really very, very afraid. I want to scream. I want to cry and we see other people was laying wounded and screaming and everything and it's nothing you could do. We could see them groaning in the water and we just keep walking.
BILL MOYERS: How old were you?
JOSE LOPEZ: I was 30-30 years old.
BILL MOYERS: Weren't you too old to be here?
JOSE LOPEZ: Almost. I didn't feel too old in those days, because I knew we had to do something.
BILL MOYERS: Did you have to lie about your age to get in?
JOSE LOPEZ: Yeah, I did.
BILL MOYERS: You lied about your age?
JOSE LOPEZ: Yeah.
BILL MOYERS: You told them you were younger than you were?
JOSE LOPEZ: Two years younger.
BILL MOYERS: Why did you do that?
JOSE LOPEZ: Because I wanted to join the paratroopers.
BILL MOYERS: Why?
JOSE LOPEZ: So we can hit the enemy — so we could meet the enemy as soon as possible and get this thing over.
BILL MOYERS: Get this thing over?
JOSE LOPEZ: Yeah.
BILL MOYERS: You had two children at home. You had a two-year-old and a —
JOSE LOPEZ: It's the reason that they didn't take me in the airborne. They found out I was married and had two kids, so they said, "Don't worry." They put me right in the infantry.
BILL MOYERS: Uh huh. They wouldn't put you in the airborne because it was too dangerous. So they put you on Omaha Beach!
JOSE LOPEZ: Right.
BILL MOYERS: It was here on Omaha Beach that Jose Lopez, now 79 years old, r from San Antonio, Texas. saw his first action. He fought his way across Europe with a water-cooled machine gun, rising to the rank of sergeant. It was on a field in Belgium where he received his nation's highest honor for gallantry in action, the Congressional Medal of Honor.
[interviewing] Why do these men keep coming back, these veterans?
CHARLES MacDONALD: I think basically it's that we went through a crucible here. This was a really critical moment in their lives. Nothing they'd done before or since, I think, stands out in their memory the way what happened to them here does. You know, you read your strategy and you read your tactics and you study them, but it comes right down to it it's guys dying.
BILL MOYERS: Charles MacDonald was a young captain and a company commander. He later became one of the Army's official historians. Today he returns often to these old battlefields and to places like the American cemetery at Omaha Beach.
[interviewing] Are combat men aware of that at the time? You led a company in war-
CHARLES MacDONALD: Well Bill we were aware of it as I think I said it became a crucible to us but we didn't spend every waking moment thinking, "My God, today I may die." We knew we were facing the possibility of this, but we certainly weren't expecting it. Remember, we were young. I was 21-22 years old-you don't die at 21 and 22! And we just didn't feel we were going to be killed.
BILL MOYERS: What do you think when you look around at all these crosses?
CHARLES MacDONALD: Bill, it's-it's so touching till I try not to think really. I know my first time here I, you know, really became filled with tears. And now I just, ah, try not to think too deeply, or else I really get so sad.
BILL MOYERS: Sad.
CHARLES MacDONALD: Sad, absolutely sad. Admiring of them, of course, and what they gave for their country, but basically sadness.
BILL MOYERS: Charles, do you still think of the particular men who died, men who died under you, fought with you?
CHARLES MacDONALD: Yes. Yes, I do, Bill, and I Was shocked not too long ago. I have a friend who lives in Belgium who sent me a picture of the cross of one of my lieutenants. And it-I don't mean to get weepy on this, but it-it really was an emotional shock when I saw that.
BILL MOYERS: Because the name was there?
CHARLES MacDONALD: It was my soldier and he had died under my command.
BILL MOYERS: Never forget that, do you?
CHARLES MacDONALD: Never forget it.
CLARENCE CHOUINARD: One thing I didn't like too well, but they had a purpose for it, is when I got back the command came down to put a white thing across your back, each man. A white cloth like that and as the others kept coming in, that was the signal that "Here's you're the American." But, to me, it was kind of the signal that I was a target, too, you know.
BILL MOYERS: Clarence Chouinard from Winona, Minnesota hasn't been back to Utah Beach since D-Day. Now he returns to relive it with his daughter, Judy.
CLARENCE CHOUINARD: Will she hit me over the head when we get home?
BILL MOYERS: Did you ever talk to her about what happened here?
CLARENCE CHOUINARD: No. But she didn't want to come here. No-war-war
JUDY CHOUINARD: He never discussed it-hasn't said a thing in 35 years.
CLARENCE CHOUINARD: No I didn't. There was no-
BILL MOYERS: You never discuss it?
CLARENCE CHOUINARD: Never discuss it.
BILL MOYERS: All that firing and all those guns going off, those bullets in the air, why does a man fight? What keeps you from running away?
CLARENCE CHOUINARD: How can you run away from a cyclone? Does that make any sense? Well, where're you going to run? Is it going to be any better where you run? Maybe it's going to be worse. Of course, if you did run, that wouldn't tell much of you, would it? Wouldn't say much about you. What if everybody ran?
BILL MOYERS: Do you remember the first day somebody shot at you? PAUL
PAUL MARABLE: Yes, day one. [laughs] Oh, sure. It was day one and I thought they was shooting particularly at me. [laughter]
BILL MOYERS: With your name on it.
[voice-over] Paul Marable lives in Waco, Texas. He landed at Utah Beach as a second lieutenant with the 90th Infantry Division.
PAUL MARABLE: Mortar in around you coming all the time, so they were shooting at us right from the start. The first absurdity of the whole war for me occurred right here on this beach. While I was out here counting our people in from our battalion, our touring battalion, a fella came up behind me and while I was busy making my notes, he said, "You know how I could get back to England?" And I thought, "Well, a lot of people would like to do that!" And I turned around and this was an air corps, an Army Air Corps pilot, as we called it-Army Air Corps-in those days, and he was in his dress uniform.
BILL MOYERS: Out here?
PAUL MARABLE: Green blouse, as we called it, the tunic and ice cream, or pink, pants and low quarter highly polished shoes. And so I just had to ask him, "What in the world are you doing out here like that?" He had known that he would have only one mission to fly that day, because he had been flying missions apparently fairly continually and this-he was told this would be it. And so he had a heavy date in England and he thought he'd just outfit himself for the day, put on some coveralls, fly his mission, get back, rip off his coveralls and go on his date. There he was in Class A uniform. His plane had been hit and he had to bail out. He'd come down in a parachute and there he was, all ready for his date. [laughter]
BILL MOYERS: Wonder if he got back?
PAUL MARABLE: Oh, I directed him to one of the landing craft that was then being used to evacuate wounded. They were just loaded up with stretchers of wounded. So I suppose he did, yeah.
CHARLES MacDONALD: The Fourth Army Division had driven all the way across the so-ah, France after the breakout from Normandy, with the Army driving up this road, Combat Command B, and off on side roads to the left, Combat Command A, and on the right the 26th Infantry Division in very rough terrain.
CLARENCE CHOUINARD: This is the center of Luxembourg, where we stayed, and the fella on your left there, I used to get a bang outta him. Did you notice that moustache he has?
1ST MAN: Yeah.
CLARENCE CHOUINARD: Well, we didn't have glass mirrors. And I suppose due. to a reflection. We had a piece of tin. And oftentimes I seen that guy in the woods with that little piece of tin on that tree spend a half hour on that one damned little moustache.
[laughter] Felt like you had to go up and help 'im.
DAN MORGAN: You once said you had a hospital set up in a schoolhouse?
Dr. LORAN MORGAN: Yeah, right on the field where there were wounded. There were eight men put back in the schoolhouse I was the first doctor, which is called a battalion surgeon-
DAN MORGAN: And that was you?
LORAN MORGAN: Yeah, and that was me.
DAN MORGAN: Were there other doctors, or just you?
LORAN MORGAN: Just me.
HOWARD RANDALL: The trouble with Patton was he didn't really want us in foxholes much; he wanted us to just keep going and going until you either captured it, got wounded, or you were killed. And, of course, Patton, he said, "When you're wounded, you don't just give up. You keep shooting!" And he meant it! If you were conscious, you shot until somebody came and put you out of your misery. And. of course, he-he was brutal in some respects. He was about the only general that said, "We're here to kill these guys and kill 'em as fast as we can and don't mess around!" [war sounds]
NEWSREEL ANNOUNCER: The Battle of the Hedgerows is on again! This is the beginning of the drive that chased the enemy out of the entire Cotentin Peninsula and placed the Yanks on the Brittany border.
BILL MOYERS: The Norman hedgerows, ancient walls of vegetation and dirt. Concealed behind them, the enemy put up fierce resistance at close range. Many a soldier lost his life on a field surrounded by hedgerows. [war sounds]
PAUL MARABLE: This is it. This is the hill. I wound up at the crest of the hill overlooking the roadway helping a sergeant with a machine gun, and that's where I was when we had our big trouble.
BILL MOYERS: Big trouble?
PAUL MARABLE: Yes.
BILL MOYERS: What was the big trouble?
PAUL MARABLE: Well, a tank came around from that side of the hill right on the roadway, blasted at the Jeep of our artillery liaison officer and the —
BILL MOYERS: Where was the tank?
PAUL MARABLE: It came around from that side and parked right there under our position to where I can still hear the gears in that turret turning and-and they elevated that gun and shot right into the face of this cliff. The front of the L trench jumped at us, but the sergeant, he got to his feet, with his rifle and starting shooting down on the tank. I don't know whether he was trying to shoot into the muzzle. I have never known, but we took a second round, which killed him, and I scrambled back out of that place and dropped into a little hole, oh, 10 or 15 yards on back on the hill.
BILL MOYERS: And?
PAUL MARABLE: Well, that's where I was when I don't know how much later I was not hearing.
BILL MOYERS: Were you unconscious or just stunned?
PAUL MARABLE: I think I drifted in and out, because more time passed when I finally looked at my watch than I had realized, and-but I was stunned, yes. And then I felt this poking on the back side of my left shoulder. And I thought it was one of our people, of course. I turned around and, instead, it was a German soldier with what we called a "burp gun," a Schmeiser, I believe, is the correct name for a machine pistol. And he let me know that I'm supposed to come out.
BILL MOYERS: What'd he say?
PAUL MARABLE: Well, the best I could hear him-he was speaking English at that point-he said, "For you, the war is over." Yes, he said that directly to me.
BILL MOYERS: "For you, the war is over"?
PAUL MARABLE: Yeah. Bad feeling.
BILL MOYERS: He could have killed you, couldn't he? Could have shot you?
PAUL MARABLE: Oh, very easily. And I've often told myself that probably had I been in his spot and he in mine, I probably would have done away with him.
BILL MOYERS: Today's your birthday. How old are you today?
PAUL MARABLE: Sixty-eight.
BILL MOYERS: Do you sometimes realize you're lucky to be-
PAUL MARABLE: Oh-ho! Oh, yes! I-every day since that German didn't just take care of me where I was, I've thought I've lived on borrowed time. Absolutely. Yeah. And that's been a blessing in many, many ways. I have thought that, because of that, I've been able, a little bit better than most maybe who haven't gone through that, to decide what's really important. I don't get disturbed easily at little frets. And then I feel that I owe some things, too.
BILL MOYERS: To who?
PAUL MARABLE: Well, the good Lord and the people around me.
BILL MOYERS: Family? Is there a part of your experience that you just couldn't share with your family?
PAUL MARABLE: Yes.
BILL MOYERS: Do you just not talk about it?
PAUL MARABLE: No. [pause] [Bayeux Tapestry]
2ND MAN: Harold [crosstalk]
3RD MAN: Had the long bowmen, but they were all on foot. The French had cavalry which would be quite an advantage.
BILL MOYERS: In 1066, William the Conqueror crossed the Channel from France to England, where he fought and won a bloody battle with the Anglo-Saxons. To commemorate his conquest, the story was set down in the Bayeux Tapestries, a record of war as it was fought nearly 1,000 years ago.
HOWARD RANDALL: Is that a guy's head?
4TH MAN: Yes, it is.
HOWARD RANDALL: Well, anyway he-pieces
PAUL MARABLE: Are those vultures?
LORAN MORGAN: Yeah, that's got to be what that is. Sure is.
5TH MAN: Yeah, must be.
PAUL MARABLE: They killed a bunch of folks in 1066. [traffic sounds]
BILL MOYERS: I thought of you back at the Bayeux Tapestry because that tapestry is one of the most authentic depictions of war that has ever been drawn. Most of the news that goes home about war is not that detailed, with heads rolling and arms falling off, and whoever did the tapestry really was trying to give a graphic depiction of war. And I thought, "The only men who really know that about war are men like Morgan and Bennett, the doctors and the medics who saw all that."
LORAN MORGAN: That tapestry is 900 years old. I mean, it depicts 1066, doesn't it?
BILL MOYERS: Uh hum.
LORAN MORGAN: We've been doing it ever since, haven't we?
BILL MOYERS: What did you think when you saw it?
LORAN MORGAN: The tapestry? Just how endless it is-how it's apparently a part of everybody's life or death and men fighting men.
BILL MOYERS: The German cemetery near Pointe du Hoc. Here, in rows of five, lie the bodies of German soldiers killed in the Battle for Normandy.
BILL MOYERS: Rene, these are Germans buried here.
RENE MARCIL: Well, I feel the same about them as I feel about our boys
BILL MOYERS:How's that? They were trying to kill you.
RENE MARCIL: Yeah, but they were being-they were doing what they were told to do, just like we were. I never got angry, not really angry.
CHARLES MacDONALD: I never had any great hate for the German soldier even when I confronted him face to face during the course of the war. I wanted to get him out of the way. I didn't want him to be shooting at me, but actual hate? I don't think I felt that.
BILL MOYERS: Did you hate the Germans, the German soldiers?
AL BUSSELL: Well, when you're a soldier you have to come to hate the enemy or kill 'em before you can eliminate your enemy.
BILL MOYERS: Did you think of him as another man over there, or did you think of the cause they were fighting for?
AL BUSSELL: Well, Americans were opposed to Nazism and we were there to defeat the Nazis.
BILL MOYERS: And these were Nazis?
AL BUSSELL: As far as we were concerned, they were all Nazis when you're in the war and they're trying, you know, when it's me or you.
MAX LALE: I came to look upon the Germans really not as men, but as machines. They were as intent on killing me as I was them, and we had a mission. You do it. Or do the best you can to do it.
BILL MOYERS: Did firing those shells at-at soldiers like these bother you then, or now?
MAX LALE: Not then, not now.
BILL MOYERS: Have any curiosity about that 18-year-old?
MAX LALE: No. He was a faceless machine as far as I was concerned.
BILL MOYERS: There was no time in 1944 for the men to mourn the dead of either side. For weeks the armies fought across the Normandy Peninsula. These now green fields were soaked with blood. But once the allies broke out of the Normandy Peninsula, the Germans fell back. Now the road ran across the heart of France to the occupied city of Paris. Hitler had told his generals that "Paris must not fall into the hands of the enemy except as a field of ruins." But the German army retreated, the city was spared, and the Allies entered Paris without a real fight. Soldiers like Robert Bennett of New York City, serving as a medic, marched into the liberated city to be greeted by thousands of frenzied Parisians.
NEWSREEL ANNOUNCER: In late summer of 1944 in Europe, the exhilaration of impending victory was in the air.
BILL MOYERS: Do you remember how you were greeted the day you arrived in Paris?
ROBERT BENNETT: Oh, they were excited. They were running up with the champagne, with the flowers. The women, if they climbed aboard and tried to kiss you, and we weren't exactly pushing them away! No. We were caught up in the excitement of the whole thing.
BILL MOYERS: Did you actually come under the Arc?
ROBERT BENNETT: Yes.
BILL MOYERS: Where did you and your fellas stay when you got to Paris?
ROBERT BENNETT: We bivouacked there in the park. .
BILL MOYERS: The park? Oh, you were in a park?
ROBERT BENNETT: Right, and about the only funny incident was that you know the culture shock, so to speak. We were there and the people, of course, were coming to visit us, and we felt more like people in the zoo, animals in the zoo, because, you know, even in our, shall we say in the latrines, et cetera, they would enter and just sit and stand there watching us and that was a little too much for Americans.
BILL MOYERS: They were really curious about you and grateful.
ROBERT BENNETT: Yes, and grateful, right. The women-a great number of the women, when they saw men doing K.P., volunteered they said, they made it known and they helped. However, the colonel finally had to order up a barbed wire barricade around Our-not just for the Germans, but to keep the people out of it.
BILL MOYERS: The French people?
ROBERT BENNETT: Yeah. We couldn't do any of our normal working. However, I don't think it kept all the girls out because I heard an awful lot of giggling in the pup tent, because the men must have been enjoying themselves. I says, "Oh, they're happy to be here."
CHARLES MacDONALD: We have two birthday boys on board, Paul Marable and Max Lale. I believe your birthdays are today. Or they are very shortly. Let's sing 'em "Happy Birthday." Hey, let's go. All together- [singing “Happy Birthday”]
MAX LALE: Is today your birthday?
PAUL MARABLE: No last Sunday.
MAX LALE: So today's the end of ‘73. I didn't know how many more of 'em I could stand.
PAUL MARABLE: Well that may be the rationale for all this.
MAX LALE: I discovered the older you get, the more you look into the past and the more it comes to mean to you.
BILL MOYERS: The Allied armies raced through Paris and across the French countryside toward Germany, pushing the enemy back toward the Rhine with extraordinary speed.
NEWSREEL ANNOUNCER: In all the liberated towns and villages. Yanks and Franks join in the celebration. Here's a French Betsy Ross. [music] In many a village, town and city in France, Belgium, and Luxembourg, people cheered their liberators and then paused to say a prayer of gratitude.
[music and people singing "America, the Beautiful"] [voices speaking in French. Mr. MacDonald speaking to "town" vets in France]
1st SPEAKER: Thank you. Thank you for what you did.
2nd SPEAKER: Welcome home.
3rd SPEAKER: Thank you.
4th SPEAKER: Thank you.
5th SPEAKER: Thank you.
6th SPEAKER: Welcome home.
7th SPEAKER: Thank you for coming back.
NEWSREEL ANNOUNCER: In late summer of 1944, many American soldiers dreamed of spending Christmas at home. Yet that was not to be, for, as it turned out, victory was a long way off. [war sounds]
BILL MOYERS: As the Allies approached the German border, Hitler's armies stiffened their resistance. The Huertgen Forest became a bloody, fruitless battle. When it was over, more than 24,000 Americans were missing, captured, wounded, or killed.
CHARLES MacDONALD: In the' forest, artillery fire is doubly effective. The shells burst in the treetops and sprayed the shell fragments downward. A lot of the men in the forest learned not to fall flat as protection against artillery fire, but to stand themselves up against the tree trunk. It doubled the- the casualty rate from artillery fire because it was forest. Now AI's division incurred more than 4,000 casualties.
BILL MOYERS: Al Bussell lives in southern California. He was in the Huertgen Forest as the trees exploded.
[interviewing] Do you remember those tree bursts?
AL BUSSELL: Oh, yeah. And once you experience those, I don't think-you know, it's very vivid in your mind for-even yet. After those tree bursts, some of them were, you know, right overhead, even though you were in a foxhole and covered over with logs, you would wiggle your feet and be sure you were still all in one piece.
BILL MOYERS: That's where you got captured.
AL BUSSELL: Yeah. Just after-just after dark on December the 2nd, the Germans moved in what we thought was a patrol, a small patrol, in an open field like this right next to where we were. We'd reached the edge of the forest and we's looking down on a little town called Gey, G-E-Y, Gey. Ah, they were close enough and they stayed out there all night. We could hear 'em talking all night long. There were only five of us in our position. We realized we were in a bad situation. We decided we would attack them just before dawn. We thought it was a small patrol. We attacked them. They immediately counterattacked us back; They held us down with-with those machine pistol fire to where we couldn't get up and they destroyed our water-cooled machine gun. Evidently they were laying right alongside of us on the other side of some concrete and they were pitching hand grenades over on us. And our sergeant said we should surrender.
BILL MOYERS: What do you do?
AL BUSSELL: Well, he called out to the Germans. They ordered us, "Come out with the hands up." We had to leave our weapons. We had to walk out in these Germans-there was about 15, or more, of 'em, immediately — in our immediate area. That's a most humiliating experience.
BILL MOYERS: How?
AL BUSSELL: Well, to have to lay down your arms and walk out to the mercy of your enemy.
BILL MOYERS: With hands up.
AL BUSSELL: Hands up.
BILL MOYERS: Do you think if you hadn't surrendered you'd have been killed?
AL BUSSELL: Oh, yeah. There was no way out.
CHARLES MacDONALD: There's A. Rupp, B. Murray, A. Stabulis, A. Lucas, W. Moore. There were about 75, as I remember.
AL BUSSELL: Even 45 years later it's hard to believe.
NEWSREEL ANNOUNCER: At a road junction near the town of Malmedy the S.S. Troopers herded unarmed American prisoners into a field and mowed them down with machine gun fire. In the American lines, word of the massacre soon spread to a vengeful G.I.
CHARLES MacDONALD: It was a massacre. And it wasn't only that they were machine gunned down; it was the Germans that came later with pistols and kicked them and in the crotch or in the head to see if they were alive and, if they showed the slightest signs of life, put a bullet through their heads. I mean, this is clear unadulterated murder.
MAX LALE: It's reasonable to expect that if you surrender you're not subject to being killed. But these men had no choice in the matter. We were captives and the Germans used rifles and handguns and just killed them in cold blood. It just wasn't fair.
PAUL MARABLE: My case was a little different. I-Mine was a one-on-one thing. As you say, you're not in a very dignified situation, but I know one thing I've wondered since. I work in a financial institution and I've always thought if somebody came in to rob it and should point a pistol at me, I wonder if I wouldn't fly apart and do something really foolish because I never again want anybody to point a gun at me, which-which happened frequently when you're a prisoner of war. You've got somebody pointing a gun at you, and that is and that is a bad feeling. You just don't want that to happen.
AL BUSSELL: Pretty humiliating experience.
PAUL MARABLE: Yeah. It is. Absolutely. Yeah.
CHARLES MacDONALD: [over P.A. in bus] We will soon be turning off —
PAUL MARABLE: What was your standard daily ration? I mean. what could you think you could count on in your situation?
AL BUSSELL: Well, you know, about all I ever saw was ever day we got a — we got a dip out of the grass soup.
PAUL MARABLE: We thought it was cabbage. Maybe it was some kind of grass.
AL BUSSELL: Well sometimes there was there was something moving around in our soup, but-I
PAUL MARABLE: Ah, buddy. Well, I did a survey once when we were at our hungriest, and I think I was hated for it at the time, but I — said, "If you could, if you could have one dish, one type of food to eat, what would you choose?" You know, "What"-and you what came out ahead of anything?
AL BUSSELL: I would guess bread.
PAUL MARABLE: Well, it was-it was pancakes, pancakes with a lot of butter. This was wintertime. Pancakes with a lot of butter and syrup. I thought I would make use of that commercially after I got home and I wrote the Aunt Jemima people, you know, and I said, "Hey, I've got a thing you can use in advertising," you know. They wrote back and said, "Thanks."
NEWSREEL ANNOUNCER: In one day the enemy smashed through the defenses of the American First Army on a 45-mile front. There was fighting deep into Luxembourg and Belgium. In 24 hours the initiative changed hands and the German army, which had put the word "blitzkrieg" into all languages, unleashed its desperate offensive.
BILL MOYERS: With his armies in retreat, Hitler made one last desperate gamble to split the Allies on the Western Front. The Battle of the Bulge would become the largest pitched battle ever fought by an American army.
[interviewing] And when did you see your first action?
LORAN MORGAN: In the Battle of the Bulge, just after Christmas of '44.
BILL MOYERS: What do you remember about it?
LORAN MORGAN: Well, the biggest thing I remember is walking in through the snow and slush and seeing the 11th Army going the other way. I wondered why we were walking in and the tanks were going the other way. We very soon found out why they were going the other way.
BILL MOYERS: And the answer was?
LORAN MORGAN: Tiger tanks were on their tail. In the Battle of the Bulge for three days we lost a thousand men a day. We lost half of the men who were in combat.
BILL MOYERS: Those were dark hours, weren't they?
LORAN MORGAN: Very dark, yeah.
BILL MOYERS: Dr. Loran Morgan of Wyoming went straight from medical school into the Army.
BILL MOYERS: What was your job?
LORAN MORGAN: I was a battalion surgeon. That is the first doctor that any wounded man sees. So you're involved in taking care of people that are severely wounded and you have-you're all there is. You're the only one there and you're the only one that can take care of 'em. That, of course, it's terrifying and the responsibility is unbelievable.
BILL MOYERS: So everybody would — who could, would be brought to you first.
LORAN MORGAN: Right. Right.
BILL MOYERS: You saw the worst.
LORAN MORGAN: We saw the very-we were the first ones to see 'em.
BILL MOYERS: We had to look, for it, but Dr. Morgan wanted his son Dan and me to see his old aide station in a small town close to the German border.
LORAN MORGAN: -Okay my aide station was someplace in here very close...
LORAN MORGAN: There's the building right there. We had the aide station on this side, back in here. The fire direction center was behind it, back in that little tiny building back there. And we entered through this door. I don't remember this door, but you can see where it's been built on? The top was all gone when we were there.
DAN MORGAN: This was all blown off?
LORAN MORGAN: Yeah, and this was our first time we were under fire right here. The top was blown off and-and the shells were coming in, the A 8's were coming in all over the place, and the tanks were just a mile up the road.
BILL MOYERS: So was this the first place you treated wounded?
LORAN MORGAN: Significantly wounded, yeah. And-
BILL MOYERS: What happened to a man who was hit with one of those shells or who was near one of those shells?
LORAN MORGAN: He completely disintegrated if he was hit within a few yards of him. He was-this is what "missing in action" means, means there's not enough to find to bury really.
BILL MOYERS: What do you remember most vividly from the few days you were here?
LORAN MORGAN: We were here three days, and one day when it was quiet, we were walking around out there. We found a house with the whole front of the house was gone and a dining table set. The whole family was sitting around the dining table, the little kids and mom and dad. Food was still on the table. Of course, the temperature was about 10 degrees, so everything was frozen. There was a lady in a corner with a broom, holding a broom. And they were all dead. They were all in position and it looked like a wax museum. And a German shell had landed in front and the concussion had just asphyxiated them, so to speak, sucked the air out of their lungs and they were-they were frozen in position. The whole family was there.
BILL MOYERS: You 've remembered that all these years, haven't you?
LORAN MORGAN: I kinda kept it a secret until-I told my wife only-until a month ago we had our division reunion in Valley Forge. And my sergeant came up, without any prompting at all, said, "Do you remember that house with those people that were blown up in it?" So I'm not afraid to tell the story now.
BILL MOYERS: Why-why were you reluctant to tell it all those years?
LORAN MORGAN: I didn't know whether I had really remembered it or not. You know, you can create quite a bit of fiction if you aren't careful. And it was so unreal. I mean, it actually looked like a wax museum.
BILL MOYERS: You might have thought you were daydreaming. Q.~MORGAN: It was a horrible sight, yeah. [war sounds]
BILL MOYERS: The German counterattack had caught the Allies completely off guard. For weeks, the fighting was confused and desperate. The Americans dug foxholes into the frozen ground and tried to hang on.
7th MAN: How far away would they be spaced apart?
CLARENCE CHOUINARD: What, the foxhole?
7th MAN: Right.
CLARENCE CHOUINARD: Depending on that kid in the next hole. He sort of had his own where he was going to dig in, you know. A lot of this was individual stuff.
ROBERT BENNETT It makes for nice sleeping. Nice sleeping.
CHARLES MacDONALD: When we first came down, the order was to "Attack at dawn." During the night the orders changed to "Hold in place and defend till the last man," which is kind of a bromide. I wish the Army would forget they ever heard it. But with our small arms fire, we held off what I estimate to be about six or seven German assaults up that hill. This went on for quite some time and I was standing there and I saw a bunch of men come walking up the draw. It was weapons platoon leader with the machine guns. And I ran out and said, "Scotty, what the hell are you all doing? We're still at the hold." He said, "We don't have any more ammunition. What's the point?" Well I agreed with him. So then soon I gave the order to the other platoons to "Fall back."
BILL MOYERS: How old were you when you led men into that battle?
CHARLES MacDONALD: Bill, I had turned 22 three weeks earlier.
BILL MOYERS: Were you scared?
CHARLES MacDONALD: Up until Pillbox, this was my first action. I was trembling, I was so scared. Here, I was too out in the pack to become scared. And then at the end I was in a sense desperate. I felt I had failed that my company had failed. I said to myself at one time, "Well, court martial me. I don't give a rip" I didn't know-simply, we didn't know what was against us, what had happened.
BILL MOYERS: Why did you think you had failed?
CHARLES MacDONALD: Because we had been told to hold till the last man and we didn't. We collapsed.
BILL MOYERS: But as it turned out?
CHARLES MacDONALD: Thank goodness we did collapse. Probably no man in that company would have survived if we had not collapsed.
BILL MOYERS: When you left the woods down there and came here, you must have been feeling pretty miserable.
CHARLES MacDONALD: I felt, as I said, that my company had failed, that I had failed, and then I bumped into my battalion commander in the farmhouse just off behind us here and he said to me, "Nice work, Mack." And I couldn't believe it. And he said, "You held far longer than I thought you could hold after I found out what was hitting you." And I must confess I broke down and cried a little bit.
BILL MOYERS: With relief?
CHARLES MacDONALD: With relief, yes.
BILL MOYERS: Where did you receive the Silver Star?
CHARLES MacDONALD: It was for that action in the forest, right back down-right back down there.
BILL MOYERS: And what happened?
CHARLES MacDONALD: Ah, well, I was given it for my running the company there and handling the company the way I did, under the circumstances, under attack by very superior forces, without tank support, without-without only a minimum artillery support. And I was running around making sure that the platoons were right and this, that thing, and the other. So somebody decided I was deserving of it. I don't know that I was.
BILL MOYERS: There was a moment when the fortunes of war led you together with another man who's on this trip, Jose Lopez. You met right down there.
CHARLES MacDONALD: Jose was attached to the company on my right. He was a heavy machine gunner, always attached to some other company. And we all fell back into a smaller wood and there was some foxholes there. And I jumped in the first foxhole and the first thing I knew this man, Lopez, had set up his machine gun on the rim of the foxhole behind me, five feet away, and was firing over my head. And then were all giving somebody yelled were all falling back further. So I had to say, "Lopez, for god sakes, stop firing that machine gun so I can get out of this hole." And Lopez did and I got out of the hole.
BILL MOYERS: Now this, the woods came right out to here. Those woods in those days came right out to here.
JOSE LOPEZ: Yeah. Yeah, it was trees in here.
BILL MOYERS: Trees.
JOSE LOPEZ: Yeah. But right-right-right there, where the cow is, I don't have nothing ahead of me.
BILL MOYERS: You can see right back there?
JOSE LOPEZ Yeah, it was-that was the best spot I picked out.
BILL MOYERS: And the Germans came from?
JOSE LOPEZ They was coming that-that direction. That way, right there.
BILL MOYERS: This is the citation you got when you received the Congressional Medal of Honor. Let me read what it says and see if it brings back some of the memories. "On his own initiative, Lopez carried his heavy machine gun from Company K's right flank to its left in order to protect that flank, which was in danger of being overrun by advancing enemy infantry supported by tanks-"
JOSE LOPEZ: Right.
BILL MOYERS: "— Occupying a shallow hole, offering no protection above his waist, he cut down a group of 10 Germans. Ignoring enemy fire from the advancing tank, he held his position and cut down 25 more enemy infantry attempting to turn his flank. Glancing to his right, he saw a large number of infantry swarming in from the front. Blown over backward by the concussion of enemy fire-" Where did that happen?
JOSE LOPEZ: That was in the same area, right here.
BILL MOYERS: "— Lopez immediately reset his gun and continued his fire. Singlehanded, he held off the German hoard until he was satisfied his company had effected its retirement. Again he loaded his gun on his back and, in a hail of small arms fire, he ran to a point where a few of his comrades were attempting to set up another defense against the onrushing enemy. He fired from this position until his ammunition was exhausted. Still carrying his gun, he fell back with his small group Krinkelt," the village back there. "Sergeant Lopez' gallantry, on seemingly suicidal missions in which he killed at least 100 of the enemy, for almost solely responsible for allowing Company K to avoid being enveloped and to withdraw successfully and to give other forces coming up in support time to build a line which repelled the enemy drive."
JOSE LOPEZ: All I remember is "no more rounds" and just carried my gun and I just walked and I could whistle away from the bullets behind my back. Then I care less. I just want to get up there to meet my-the rest of my unit.
BILL MOYERS: Do you think of yourself as a brave man?
JOSE LOPEZ: Well, all I could say, that I believe any man would do the same thing, anybody.
WOMAN: Can we get a picture of you and Charles right here-
CHARLES MacDONALD: The two of us? These are the two defenders of Company I and Company K the 23rd Infantry. Jose's company was right to the right of my company.
NEWSREEL ANNOUNCER: Reinforcements were on the way to bolster the northern defense. [war sounds]
LORAN MORGAN: When we jumped in combat that the colonel went out the door first and I went next.
BILL MOYERS: The doctor goes second?
LORAN MORGAN: I did.
BILL MOYERS: You did it by choice?
LORAN MORGAN: Yeah, the colonel said, "You'll jump second!" [laughter] No choice. But, you know, that's as good a place as any.
BILL MOYERS: What was it like falling through all that space
LORAN MORGAN: In combat, it was we jumped at 300 feet. It was just open. Bang! You were on the floor. And I weighed 300 pounds coming out the door of the airplane.
BILL MOYERS: Three hundred pounds?
LORAN MORGAN: I weighed 180 and I had 120 pounds of equipment on me.
BILL MOYERS: Do you remember what was going through your mind?
LORAN MORGAN: I just wanted to get on the ground as quickly as possible.
BILL MOYERS: Most of the German counterattack was thrown back, the Allies seemed to have the enemy beaten, but still Hitler wouldn't quit. There was fighting all through the grim and icy winter.
HOWARD RANDALL: On January, in the snow in Luxembourg, we entered a holding position. I was the Third Army, Patton's army, and all we did was patrol for a while in the snow. And then the night before the big attack, my company commander said, "Randall, you are designated as liaison officer between Battalion and Regiment." This probably saved my life, since in the next four days six of my men were killed and the platoon sergeant, which would have been my same place, was wounded with white phosphorous.
BILL MOYERS: Howard Randall lives in central Texas near Austin. He served in Patton's Third Army.
HOWARD RANDALL: I was a second lieutenant. This means you have 40 men that are dependent upon you for their lives and they treat you as their father. And here, you're 22 years old and can't possibly be that smart. This was my first introduction to real fear. I was given a mission to take a few men and reconnoiter a small dirt road, only about a half mile long, and determine if it had on antipersonnel or anti-tank, mines or if it had trip wires. And this was under a foot of snow and it was down right next to the river, the Sauer River, and in open country. The tree stopped about a half a mile up slope. And when I got this news from the Battalion S2, the intelligence officer, I said, "But don't we have engineers to do this kind of thing?" And he said, "We have engineers, but they aren't doing this kind of thing. They're on some other mission." And then I said, "Don't you have mine detectors that I can take down there?" He said, "Yeah, have mine detectors. They're out on another patrol." He said, "Lieutenant, there are five snowsuits in the corner. You take those and go." So I had four men and myself, and I threw the snowsuits to them and I tried to orient at them on this, thinking, "This is the worst situation I can think of" and the panic mounted in me. It was below freezing. My teeth were chattering so badly I could not orient them properly.
BILL MOYERS: You couldn't talk, you mean?
HOWARD RANDALL: I couldn't talk. I finally resorted to the infantry motto, which is, "Follow me." I could say those two things. And then we walked through the woods, following a road for about a half a mile and came to the end of the tree line. And then you could look out and see this completely untrammeled snow, a small rural road. You could see a depression in the snow to show where the road was, not a mark on it and it led right down to the river. And you look up-this wasn't a moonlit night, but the snow gave enough light — you look up — 450 feet high was the escarpment which contained all the pillboxes in our zone on the Siegfried line.
BILL MOYERS: German pillboxes?
HOWARD RANDALL: Yeah. These were manned and ready to go. And I thought, "My God, when we step out on this snow we're going to be visible, we're going to be moving, and immediately a magnesium flare will go up, a parachute flare-and they stay up a long time and then, naturally, you get machine gunned." This is always the sequence. And I was so scared I really didn't know what to do and I really didn't know how to find these mines. I knew this was important information because of the battalion going down these roads in a few nights carrying assault boats to hit the river. So I really gulped hard in trying to conquer this fear, told all the men to get behind the trees and I just jumped down on the road. And I didn't blow up. And I was pretty pleased about that. And then I just said, "Well, I'll just keep going." So I walked another about 50 yards in the snow and motioned for the next guy. I'm thinking, "He probably won't come out," but he did and that gratified me immensely. And we all went down with this big interval between us in case of one of us fell off a mine. And, well, to make it shorter, we trampled the heck out of all that snow and got back to the tree line. And by that time we were so relieved and happy that we were throwing snowballs at each other. And when we went back to through our own outpost lines, we completely forgot to pass word and almost got shot doing that. And went back and reported this-that there were no mines to Battalion S2. And he said, "Good information, Randall." And I turned to leave. I'm brushing aside the blackout blankets that hung at every C.P., and he said, "Hey, Randall, how did you determine there weren't any mines on that road?" And I said, "We trampled the hell out of every square foot of snow on your goddamned road!" And that was the end.
BILL MOYERS: Before you went into combat, did you have any doubts about how you would behave under fire?
HOWARD RANDALL: Oh, yeah, I had grave doubts. A number of us came to the conclusion that we would do our damnedest to avoid any cowardly act because we felt we'd have to live with that the rest of our lives-if we lived. Of course, at that time, after we'd been through a few scrapes, we were fairly sure we had-that we were going to be wounded or killed. and maybe it didn't matter so much, but I sure thought of it a lot and I was able to conquer the fear, but it was almost overwhelming. It was a close call.
BILL MOYERS: That's that kind of anonymous heroism that we read about. What did you learn about courage? What did you learn about heroism at the ground level?
HOWARD RANDALL: To this extent, heroism seems to be a kind of an individual thing. I saw a men in artillery barrages that were crying, pounding the ground-see, they were flat on their stomach-and screaming and an artillery barrage like that didn't bother me at all. I didn't even think about it. I thought, "Why are these guys behaving like this?" Yet they were brave men and they could go out on night patrol. It would-it would affect me terribly. So a man can be brave - one man can be brave in a certain situation and another can't, and you just don't know till you're in it.
CHARLES MacDONALD: Okay. All aboard, please. Line up. Today's our busy day.
RENE MARCIL: Not till we went to the Bulge, but you know what the weather was like. This was in —
HOWARD RANDALL: Right.
RENE MARCIL: December of '44, right? —
HOWARD RANDALL: Yeah. December 16th when it started.
RENE MARCIL:And it was cold. Yeah, I remember it was cold. One thing I remember:-one Sunday we went to church. They even had — the chaplain even had mass while the artillery was falling.
HOWARD RANDALL: It was right near Christmas probably.
RENE MARCIL: Right. Christmas Day.
BILL MOYERS: How many months were you actually in the fighting?
RENE MARCIL: In combat, it started in October, November, December, January February, March till April.
BILL MOYERS: Rene Marcil lives in southern California. He's never been back to this small town on the German border since he saw his first action there.
[interviewing] Till the end of the war, what's the experience of fear?
RENE MARCIL: Oh, you tighten up, you tighten up. Sometimes you heave. You shake a lot. Oh, yes, you shake a lot. You get underground, you know, the ground was there to protect you. And that's about it. But it stays with you, especially when the fire of course. Once the fire ceases, you can relax.
BILL MOYERS: Rene, how did you get the Bronze Star?
RENE MARCIL: We went into combat and were getting mortar barrage. You get 'em all the time. When it's dark. Well, anyway, this morning it was very close, and I was in front of the hedge. And I knew it was close and I was about 20 feet away. And they got a direct hit on their front in that fox-front in that mortar place.
BILL MOYERS: Your men?
RENE MARCIL: That gun. So this I knew it was close, but I didn't dare come out of my hole and this fella kept calling to me.
BILL MOYERS: He was wounded?
RENE MARCIL: Yes, he was hurt. Said, "I'm hurt."
BILL MOYERS: What was he saying?
RENE MARCIL: Well, something like "Help me" or something. "Help me, help me," you know? So the only way I could get to him was to run down about 25 yards to where the opening to this hedgerow is, because you can't go through 'em. So I had to do that. I had to run down to the corner and run back with a gun, which was behind me at the time, and they got a direct hit with three men in the mortar pit. And the shell landed between the two that were sitting, and, of course, they were in pieces. And the one that happened to be laying-it was raining, all muddy. He was laying in the front of the mortar, which was about five feet deep, and he was covered with a tarpaulin of some kind. When I got there, this is what I saw. He was still alive. So I pulled him out of there and I guess I carried him to the hedgerow and handed him over to medics. And they took him away from that that was the last I've seen of that man. I guess he was cut up. His clothes Were kind of cut up, you know. With an explosion, the clothes seem to be kind of cut up, sorta frayed.
BILL MOYERS: The shrapnel holes goes in.
RENE MARCIL: I guess.
BILL MOYERS: And the other two were dead?
RENE MARCIL: Yes, they were dead. Their heads were even gone.
BILL MOYERS: Heads?
RENE MARCIL: Oh. yes.
BILL MOYERS: What goes through your mind when you see two buddies like that?
RENE MARCIL: I wish I could-I wish I could tell you, because it's nearly im possible. It's just impossible what you're thinking. You have to go and help 'em, you know. At least, when he was calling to me, I had to go help him. Didn't have to go, but I did.
BILL MOYERS: Can't forget him, though?
RENE MARCIL: Oh, no. I even remember his name. Matheson from Texas. Matheson.
BILL MOYERS: All these years later. Can you see him in your mind?
RENE MARCIL: Tall, skinny guy, thin. That was two days in battle.
BILL MOYERS: Just two days?
RENE MARCIL: Just two days. We lost about 4-5 men back there first few days. They were good buddies. I'd spent three years with 'em.
BILL MOYERS: In training, and then they got it the first two days. A lot of Mathesons.
RENE MARCIL: Yes. And Krups. Yes.
PAUL MARABLE: A day out there on the battlefield is not the Hollywood neat hole that makes'em fall and are quiet all of a sudden and go into a state of rest.
HOWARD RANDALL: Uh huh.
PAUL MARABLE: It's grabbing faces and it's screaming and it's-and it's rolling on the ground and, I'll tell you, you prop somebody with a throat wound up against a hedgerow and his last heartbeats will squirt blood four feet out in streams. When you see things like that and worse, you know you are being killed. You don't think a short second about whether you should be killing them or not.
HOWARD RANDALL: If you don't kill those guys when you can, the next day you're going to meet 'em and they may kill you and they may kill your best buddy. So, no matter how you feel about it, it's your duty to kill these men as fast and as many as you can.
PAUL MARABLE: I think it was Patton who said our duty is not to die for our country; it's to make them die for theirs. And that's what we were about. [war sounds]
BILL MOYERS: Standing guard on the German border were the dragon's teeth-the Siegfried line-a network of guns, pill boxes and underground bunkers. [interviewing] When General Patton ordered your unit to attack the Germans from behind the dragon's teeth, what happened? What did you do?
HOWARD RANDALL: We were supposed to take this little town of Welschbillig. It was way down there and they just jumped up and ran like hell toward this little town at least a thousand yards down a gentle long slope. And God the mortar started landing on us and I was running as fast as I could and I felt this hammer blow on my left ankle and I turned a violent cartwheel and really went up in the air and came down on my helmet and shoulder and I skidded a ways, because this ground was soft and we were going downhill. And then my runner plops down beside me and I said, "Look at that leg, because I don't want to, and tell me it’s there." And I was really scared, because I couldn't feel a thing. And he said, "Well, it's all right, but you got a big piece of metal sticking out of your ankle." And I said, "Pull it out." And he didn't want to. And I said, "Pull it out. We've gotta go!" The mortar fire was increasing. We were going to die if we stayed there. I really didn't know what to do. I heard the machine gun bullets and this mortar fire and, as I say, not a tree or a bush ahead of us for hundreds and hundreds of yards and that little town down there. And here's where I relied on the movies. I thought, "I've got to do something to get out of this and maybe inspire them a little bit." And I saw the corporal and I said, "Corporal, how is it over on the left?" And he came back into sight and said, "It's lousy over here. Bullets coming in and breaking the clouds." And I said, "Sergeant, how is it over to the right of this rise?" He came back in a little while and said, "We aren't going that way." And I said, "We're going straight over the top and you guys go first" and I meant it, because I didn't know they'd follow me if I went first. These guys weren't in my platoon. So they went, by God. They jumped up and ran like hell and I jumped up third man and pretty soon we got this whole mess going again.
BILL MOYERS: You were hit? You had fragments in your ankle?
HOWARD RANDALL: Yeah, the ankle was pretty badly hit. I couldn't feel a thing with my leg and I was kind of dog-trotting after a while. And I couldn't walk any more. I had to be helped down off the hill.
BILL MOYERS: What is it over in, that way?
[voice-over] Edward J. Myers, First Lieutenant, fought in 17th Infantry, 76th Division.
HOWARD RANDALL: He's from the State of Washington, Puyallup, Washington, March 1, 1945. That was the same day I was wounded. He was behind me probably a hundred yards, maybe 200 yards, and he caught a piece of mortar fragment in the stomach, lived until that night. I didn't know he'd died until a couple of days later.
BILL MOYERS: Were you close?
HOWARD RANDALL: We were, yeah, very good buddies. He-he was very brave and his men liked him because he took care of them probably better than any other officer and his men in the company.
BILL MOYERS: What do you mean "took care of them"?
HOWARD RANDALL: He played father better than the rest of us
BILL MOYERS:How old was he?
HOWARD RANDALL: He was younger than I. He was 21, but he made first lieutenant and I was still a second lieutenant. Hence, he was my company commander on this day. When we got through with the action on that day, in the middle of the night I learned I had a new company commander and I didn't know him well. I'd seen him once. And then I didn't get to think about Eddie very much, because my wound hurt, I was exhausted, we'd bedded down in a house and later that night we had to capture the high ground outside of Welschbillig. And the next day was full of combat and we killed a lot of Germans with artillery. And then I quit. I couldn't anymore very well and I had to be helped around off the hill. And I learned when I hit the battalion aide station, that gangrene had set in-I'd waited too long. And then my captain surgeon took a look at it as I was on the gurney and said, "Randall, we may have to amputate your foot." And that's when I sat up and pleaded very eloquently. And the lieutenants around me applauded, I pleaded so elegantly. In fact, I shouted and swore a little bit.
BILL MOYERS: Well, what did you say?
HOWARD RANDALL: And I said, "Goddamn it, don't cut that foot off. It's all right. I can walk on it still even though it hurts like hell." And he said, "Well, we'll let it go for a while and try massive doses of penicillin. And that-it worked to an extent. A week later it burst out its sutures and he sewed it up again. Another week later it burst again and he said "To hell with it," pulled all the sutures out and said, "You're going to have one bad, ugly scar." I says, "Who cares?" And so it came out. So that's what I
BILL MOYERS: When did you find out about Eddie?
HOWARD RANDALL: When I came off the hill with some-with the sergeant helping me off the hill, and back to battalion C.P. one private walked up and-and said Ed was dead. Well-but it helps when you're-when you're hurting yourself and are exhausted, you don't really-I didn't show as much emotion right then as I do right now. And I guess that's a-a lesson. The war changed my self-perception. When I got out of it. I realized that I didn't have to do any of this macho posturing that I had done as a teenager and a young man. You're always showing off-
PAUL MARABLE: A little flexing of muscles.
HOWARD RANDALL: Yeah, and, God, you can't be much more Rambo than running at the enemy and shooting your gun as fast as you can. And so I didn't feel the need to prove myself much after that. And if somebody said, "Hey, you're afraid to do this," and I'd say, "Yeah, you're right. I'm afraid to do this." I wouldn't mind admitting chicken at all. It's just that at least at one time, on one day I was fairly brave, and that helped a lot. In combat it seemed pretty obvious after the first major encounter and the men come back to a rest area, nothing petty arises. There are no arguments. The guys like each other much more than they ever did before. They have a common bond of existing together under terrible hardship and everything petty just kind of goes out the window.
PAUL MARABLE: You're stripped to the essentials and when you are, that gives you a pretty good sense of balance and living right.
HOWARD RANDALL: All decisions in later life are viewed in the perspective of your early experience in the war, and I wasn't afraid to just make a major decision involving money or stuff because I’d say to myself, "Hell, if I lose it. I'm still alive and nobody is shooting at me."
PAUL MARABLE: Life is pretty short, after all.
HOWARD RANDALL: Grab it and run.
PAUL MARABLE: Yeah. Go-go for it. And that's-and also I think I feel full well the biblical statement "This is the day that the Lord hath made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it." And that's very meaningful.
HOWARD RANDALL: Uh-hum. Frankly, I became a little more religious out on that battlefield than I ever was before also.
PAUL MARABLE: Not so self-sufficient as we all thought at that-at that age in the early '20s, yeah. [music]
BILL MOYERS: When these men crossed the Rhine River in 1945, there was more fighting to be done. Today, there is just the end of a tour and time to be alone, time to remember. When they came home from the war I was just a boy, and eager to know what it had been like over there, but even good friends like Max Lale, from my home town in Texas, rarely talked about the fighting, and bravery, and fear, or what the war had meant to them. They just seemed to want to go about their business. I used to wonder how they could put behind them the memories of war. Now I understand they never did and never can.
This transcript was entered on May 18, 2015.