Interview with Howard W. Halcomb, November 18, 2016

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:01 - Personal background

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Partial Transcript: Hello. It's November 18th, 2016 and we're recording in the studio of Scott County Public Library in Georgetown, Kentucky.

Segment Synopsis: Howard Halcomb talks about his childhood in Cumberland, Kentucky in Harlan County. He talks about his father's work as a minister, and his own work as a caddy at a local golf course. He talks about his education and says that coal mining was one of the only jobs available in Harlan County.

Keywords: 1919; Family; Fathers; Golf caddies; Golf caddy; Golf courses; High schools; Ministers; Parents; Schools; Siblings

Subjects: Coal mines and mining--Kentucky--Harlan County; Cumberland (Ky.); Families.; Harlan County (Ky.)

GPS: Cumberland (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 36.976944, -82.9875
00:03:20 - Jobs before the war

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Partial Transcript: Um, so what did you do after high school?

Segment Synopsis: Halcomb talks about the jobs he had before the war, including his job in a garage, as a golf caddy, and in the coal mines.

Keywords: Dating; Evarts (Ky.); Garages; Golf caddies; Golf caddy; Jobs; Military draft; Mining school; Sleepy Hollow Country Club; Working

Subjects: Coal miners--Kentucky--Harlan County; Coal mines and mining--Kentucky--Harlan County; Cumberland (Ky.); Employment--Kentucky; Harlan County (Ky.)

GPS: Cumberland (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 36.976944, -82.9875
00:05:41 - Being drafted / training and maneuvers

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Partial Transcript: Well let's, let's talk about that then.

Segment Synopsis: Halcomb talks about how he felt when he received his draft notice. He talks about his basic training at Fort Thomas, Kentucky, and mechanical school at Fort Knox. He talks about the soldiers' reactions to the attack on Pearl Harbor. His division was sent first to Tennessee to practice maneuvers, then to the Mojave Desert.

Keywords: 4th Armored Division; Camp Bowie (Tex.); Concussion; Following orders; Fort Knox (Ky.); Girlfriends; Hitchhiking; Maneuvering; Married; Mechanical school; Military draft; Mojave Desert; North Carolina; Pine Camp (N.Y.); Radio; Reactions; Scary; Tanks; Tennessee; Tests; Texas; West

Subjects: Basic training (Military education); Fort Thomas (Ky.); Marriage; Military training camps; Pearl Harbor (Hawaii), Attack on, 1941; United States. Army--Military life.; World War, 1939-1945--America; World War, 1939-1945--Recruiting, enlistment, etc.

GPS: Fort Thomas (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 39.076111, -84.451389
00:11:56 - Journey to England

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Partial Transcript: But on December the 25th we went down to Boston Harbor and loaded up--

Segment Synopsis: Halcomb talks about shipping out of Boston Harbor and their encounter with an enemy submarine.

Keywords: 4th Armored Division; Attacks; Boston Harbor (Mass.); Conditions; Depth charges; Guards; Kitchen patrol (KP); Seasick; Shipping out; Ships; Submarines; USAT Thomas H. Barry

Subjects: England; Travel.; United States. Army--Military life.; World War, 1939-1945--Campaigns--England

GPS: Boston Harbor (Mass.)
Map Coordinates: 42.341667, -70.966111
00:14:10 - Under attack in Europe

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Partial Transcript: But after we got to England though, we went in to, uh, Wales at Bristol Channel.

Segment Synopsis: Halcomb talks about arriving in England and witnessing the aftermath of the bombing there. He talks about their maneuvers there until an attack on June 4. He talks about his fear when moving up to the front lines. He talks about the bombing of Saint-Lo and the casualties they suffered.

Keywords: Armor; Attacks; Beachheads; Bombers; Bombing; Bristol Channel; Chippingham; Fears; Headquarters; Killed in action (KIA); Losses; Maneuvering; Maneuvers; Normandy (France); Planes; Reactions; Scared; Wales

Subjects: England; Saint-Lô (France); Travel.; United States. Army--Military life.; World War, 1939-1945--Campaigns--England; World War, 1939-1945--Casualties

GPS: Saint-Lô (France)
Map Coordinates: 49.12, -1.09
00:18:25 - Job in the military

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Partial Transcript: So the first city we took was Cou--Coutances.

Segment Synopsis: Halcomb talks about his role in the division as part of the squad in charge of the supply trucks. He talks about the conditions the division was in, including sleeping outdoors for over 5 months. He talks about his contact with the local French civilians.

Keywords: Bombing; Capture; Contact; Enemies; French locals; German border; German planes; Guns; Interaction; Jobs; Mechanics; Outdoors; Outside; Responsibilities; Roles; Safety; Service batteries; Sleeping; Supplies; Supply trucks; Surrender

Subjects: Normandy (France); United States. Army--Military life.; World War, 1939-1945--Campaigns--France--Normandy

GPS: Normandy (France)
Map Coordinates: 49.12, -1.09
00:23:15 - Shooting down a German fighter plane

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Partial Transcript: Um, now there's a story, uh, that I'd like you to talk about here...

Segment Synopsis: Halcomb tells a story about shooting down a German fighter plane and capturing the pilot for interrogation.

Keywords: 50 caliber machine guns; Bailing out; Binoculars; Bombers; Captured; Flying low; German fighter planes; Interrogations; Medals; Messerschmitt Bf 109; Messerschmitt Me-109; Revolvers; Ring mounts

Subjects: United States. Army--Military life.; World War, 1939-1945--Campaigns--France--Normandy; World War, 1939-1945--Military intelligence

00:25:45 - General John Wood

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Partial Transcript: Well let's talk a little bit about, uh, you--your division commander, um, one of the more popular commanders from my understanding...

Segment Synopsis: Halcomb talks about his division commander General John Wood.

Keywords: Division commanders; General George S. Patton; General Patton; Mental breakdowns; Outperforming; Pine Camp (N.Y.)

Subjects: Military training camps; United States. Army--Military life; World War, 1939-1945--Regimental histories--United States

GPS: Pine Camp (N.Y.) [now called Fort Drum]
Map Coordinates: 44.038056, -75.758056
00:27:12 - Battle of the Bulge

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Partial Transcript: Um, and, and you mentioned Bastogne.

Segment Synopsis: Halcomb talks about his division's role in the rescue of the 101st Airborne during the Battle of the Bulge. He talks about their lack of supplies, the freezing conditions, and the casualties they suffered.

Keywords: 101st Airborne; 37th Tank Battalion; 4th Armored Division; Bastogne (Belgium); Battle of the Bulge; Belgium; Cold; Death; Frozen; General George S. Patton; General Patton; German border; Killed in action (KIA); Parachutes; Supplies; Weather

Subjects: United States. Army--Military life.; World War, 1939-1945--Campaigns--Ardennes; World War, 1939-1945--Casualties; World War, 1939-1945--Regimental histories--United States

GPS: Battle of the Bulge, Ardennes
Map Coordinates: 50.25, 5.666667
00:31:00 - Close calls and casualties suffered in Germany

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Partial Transcript: Well, so where, where do we go from here then?

Segment Synopsis: Halcomb talks about his division's movement into Germany. He talks about his admiration for his mechanic crew. He tells a story about suffering casualties in Germany and how he survived. He tells a story about almost being killed by a bomb.

Keywords: Ambush; Ammunition dumps; Belgium; Bombing; Bombs; Breakthrough; Command posts; Crew; Deaths; Delayed action; Duds; Engineers; General George S. Patton; General Patton; German air force; German planes; Germans; Killed in action (KIA); Losses; Luxembourg; Machine guns; Mechanics; Movements; Moving; Near-death experiences; Pontoons; Prisoners; Retreat; Rhine (River); Sacrifice; Surrender; Tanks; Ted Huebel; Trucks; Woods; Worms (Germany:

Subjects: United States. Army--Military life.; World War, 1939-1945--Campaigns--Germany; World War, 1939-1945--Casualties; World War, 1939-1945--Regimental histories--United States

GPS: Rhine (River)
Map Coordinates: 51.981667, 4.080556
00:44:58 - Liberating the Ohrdruf concentration camp

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Partial Transcript: Well, um, do you want to talk about, um--'cause I'm gonna bring it up...

Segment Synopsis: Halcomb describes the devastating scene when his division arrived to liberate the Ohrdruf concentration camp in 1945.

Keywords: Blood; Bodies; Conditions; Gas chambers; Medical corps; Prisoners; Schutzstaffel (SS); Shooting; Shot; Treatment

Subjects: United States. Army--Military life; World War, 1939-1945--Concentration camps--Germany; World War, 1939-1945--Regimental histories--United States

GPS: Ohrdruf concentration camp
Map Coordinates: 50.833611, 10.754722
00:50:20 - President Roosevelt's death / end of the war

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Partial Transcript: Well that was--let's see, when you guys came to the camp, I think that was April the 4th of 1945.

Segment Synopsis: Halcomb discusses the soldiers' reactions to the news of President Roosevelt's death. He talks about their reactions to the end of the war. He tells a story about their meal after the announcement of the end of the war.

Keywords: Alps; Autobahn; Berlin (Germany); Czechoslovakia; Deaths; End of war; Europe; Fish; Five minutes of silence; Grenades; Japan; Meals; Mess truck; Munich (Germany); Pacific; Prague; President Franklin D. Roosevelt; Reactions; Russians; Solemn

Subjects: Roosevelt, Franklin D. (Franklin Delano), 1882-1945; United States. Army--Military life.; World War, 1939-1945--Campaigns--Czech Republic; World War, 1939-1945--Campaigns--Czechoslovakia; World War, 1939-1945--Campaigns--Germany; World War, 1939-1945--Food supply

GPS: Prague (Czech Republic)
Map Coordinates: 50.083333, 14.416667
00:55:25 - Medals and awards

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Partial Transcript: Now I have to ask you, because we do have it in the library...

Segment Synopsis: Halcomb talks about why he received a Bronze Star. Interviewer James Bartek reads Halcomb's Presidential Citation.

Keywords: Articles; Awards; Bronze Star; Daughters; Fighting; Home; Honors; Memorials; Presidential Citation; Presidential Unit Citation; Pride; Proud; Shooting; Shot at; Wife

Subjects: United States. Army--Military life.; World War, 1939-1945--Campaigns--Czech Republic; World War, 1939-1945--Campaigns--Czechoslovakia; World War, 1939-1945--Campaigns--Germany; World War, 1939-1945--Medals; World War, 1939-1945--Regimental histories--United States

00:58:36 - Life after the war

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Partial Transcript: Well let's, uh, um, we can--why don't we talk a little bit about your career post-war.

Segment Synopsis: Halcomb talks about his life after the war including his jobs, overcoming a hand injury, and his family. He talks about he and his brother participating in the Honor Flights to the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. He talks about whether he kept in contact with any of his fellow soldiers. The interview is concluded.

Keywords: Arnold Halcomb; Brothers; Chicago (Ill.); Chrysler Corporation; Close calls; Contact; Doctors; Effects; Father-in-law; Germans; Hands; Honor Flights; Influence; Injuries; Jimmy Reeves; Jobs; Mechanics; Near death experiences; Office clerks; Retirement; Reunions; Talking; Wife; Working; World War II Memorial

Subjects: Coal miners--Kentucky--Harlan County; Coal mines and mining--Kentucky--Harlan County; Cumberland (Ky.); Employment; Harlan County (Ky.); World War, 1939-1945--Veterans.

GPS: Cumberland (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 36.976944, -82.9875