Life before the war

Enlistment and training in the USAAF

Transfer to Wendover Field

Being Court Martialed

Camp Kilmer

Overseas Deployment

Restless and ready for combat

Bad decision at Stuttgart

Three times through the flak

From a pub to the Yankee Raider

Shot down and severely wounded

Time to bail out

In the hospital in Paris

Going to Dulag Luft

Arrival at Stalag XVIIB

A visit from the FBI

Stalag XVIIB

Repatriation test

Witnessing an execution

Four prisoners, two nuns, and Karl

Plastic surgery and an air raid

Repatriation

Dealing with the government

Reinstate the draft

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Olen Grant was born in Benton, Arkansas on 5 April 1923. After his father returned from World War I, he moved to Benton and began surface mining bauxite ore. During the Depression years they were not able to pay their taxes, so they lost their property. At some point, the Grant family lost the farm and other property. During the Depression, Grant’s father moved to El Dorado where he worked in the oil fields digging ditches to lay six inch pipeline. The work was not permanent. He only worked when he was needed. Because of that, the Grant family moved around a lot. When Grant was in grade school, oil was discovered around Longview and Kilgore in Texas. Grant’s father moved the family there, but when he was unable to secure employment he moved the family back to El Dorado. Finally Grant’s father broke down mentally. He was shell shocked [Annotator’s Note: now referred to as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD] from the fighting in the Meuse Argonne. He went to the VA Hospital near Little Rock. After that his uncle took the family back to Arkansas. Back in Arkansas, the two older boys in Grant’s family got jobs. Grant went to high school, and his two sisters went to grade school. Grant was a senior in high school when he joined the National Guard. He did so in order to have spending money, which he had never had before. Grant’s two older brothers had joined the National Guard before he did. They all drilled together once a week on a Thursday night, so drill did not interfere with their jobs. None of them dreamed that they would ever have to go to war. It was just income. In the summer of 1941 their battery got orders to go to New Falls, Minnesota for maneuvers. They drove up in GI trucks and carried out war games. Grant had the duty of guarding a bridge over the Mississippi River. After being relieved from his post he went below the bridge where they kept their gear. As soon as he lay down he heard a very loud aircraft engine. The aircraft flew over and dropped flour sack on the bridge simulating bomb hits. It was at that point that Grant decided that he did not want to go to war on the ground. He wanted to go in the air. So he decided to get out of the National Guard. Grant does not exactly recall what he was doing when he learned of the attack on Pearl Harbor. He had graduated [Annotator’s Note: from high school] at mid term because he was short on credits. Instead of graduating with the class of 1941 he graduated with the class of 1942. After graduating in December he took his cousin’s job delivering and selling products after his cousin enlisted in the Coast Guard. By now Grant had already been discharged from the National Guard. Grant worked this job for three months then decided to go into the service in April [Annotator’s Note: April 1942]. By this time Grant was already out of the National Guard. His mother had gone to see Captain Bryant [Annotator’s Note: unsure of spelling] and told him that she was not going to give him her third son. They were all friends. Captain Bryant was the Grant family dentist. The captain agreed. He wrote Grant an Honorable Discharge and handed it to his mother.

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When Grant enlisted he volunteered for the Army Air Corps. He knew that he would end up going eventually and he wanted to have a choice of where he went. After signing up he went to Camp Robinson to draw equipment to travel then was taken to Jefferson Barracks, Missouri. Grant learned that prior to the Mexican War most of the graduates of West Point were being posted to Jefferson Barracks as their first assignment. Jefferson Barracks was an Old West fort. The buildings that were originally built were still there when Grant arrived and are still there today. When Grant was sent to Jefferson Barracks he was assigned to cut the grass in the base cemetery while the rest of the guys he went there with were learning to drill. Grant was also taking tests and being processed. After processing Grant was sent to Lowry Field in Denver, Colorado to attend armament school. There he learned gunnery, dismantling and assembling machine guns, bombs, and bomb racks. He learned everything about , except for the Norden bombsight. At armament school he also had to synchronize a machine gun allowing it to fire through a propeller. Grant passed it, but he did not think he would. After armament school, Grant was ready to see some airplanes but instead he was sent back to St. Louis, Missouri to Emerson Electric to learn the electric top and ball turrets that went in bombers. In St. Louis, they lived downtown at the YMCA. They marched to and from the factory every day and every day Grant was ready to see some airplanes. After armament school, Grant was sent to the Salt Lake City Air Base for one night before continuing on to Gowen Field in Boise, Idaho. Every combat crew went through this same route although Grant did not know that at the time. When Grant got there he was put on the line which was where he wanted to be. He was finally working in bombers. Sometimes they would fly over Oregon where targets were set up on canyon walls. They bombers would fly into the canyons and Grant would fire at the targets. Grant got a stripe every month during this time. Grant was happy. He really liked where he was and would have liked to stay for the duration of the war. One morning a runner woke him up and told him that the first sergeant wanted to see him. He told Grant that he had been selected to go to Officer Training School. All Grant had to do was sign the papers. Grant did not want to be an officer. He told the first sergeant that all he wanted was to make master sergeant. He only had two stripes to go.

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One day Olen Grant was working on an airplane when a private notified him that someone was waiting to see him in the shop. Grant met the man who informed him that he had been transferred to that officers section. Grant was told to go back to his barracks and change into his Class A uniform then report to group headquarters. When Grant reported in, he was told that they were forming a new unit and he would be part of the cadre. As soon as they had the full cadre they needed they would move to their first phase training in Wendover, Utah. Grant would be the group armament inspector. Grant was ushered into another room that was wall to wall tech orders. He was told that he was to spend the next two to three weeks reading and learning the regulations. When it was time to leave for Wendover, Grant left with only one other guy. At Wendover, Grant met the group commander, Colonel Peaslee [Annotator’s Note: Colonel Budd J. Peaslee] and the rest of the group. Colonel Peaslee did not have a chauffeur so he always picked Grant to drive him and Grant was always getting in trouble with the Colonel because he would always forget his hat. The group filled out and got everybody it needed. Grant was busy supplying all of the ammunition for the skeet ranges where the air crews shot. He was also responsible for ordering the blue practice bombs which were full of sand and dropped in the desert as well as the hand gun ammunition needed for the aircrews to qualify with every month. To do all of this Grant would send a teletype to the headquarters airbase at Walla Walla, Washington and they would fill the orders and send what he needed. Another of Grant’s responsibilities was to carry out inspections on the aircraft. There was a 50 hour inspection which was pulled off twice a month. There was an engineering inspector who looked at the plane and Grant inspected the armament. After the plane passed inspection, Grant and the other inspector would sign the Form One and the plane would be put back on flying status. There was also a 100 hour inspection during which Grant would take all of the guns out of the plane and bring them to the armament shack where the armament crew would get them in Class A shape. They also did some work on the turrets. Grant would sign off if they passed inspection.

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At Wendover, there was a base regulation stating that there was never to be any ammunition present in an aircraft until the final inspection had been signed off on. One day Grant was inspecting a ball turret. Even though it was a sunny day it was dark in the turret. Grant stuck his head in it. When Grant jumped off the firing mechanism the gun started firing. Grant got it stopped and within seconds there was a large crowd gathered around the plane. Grant asked Colonel Peaslee if they could talk somewhere else and the Colonel agreed. Peaslee immediately busted Grant down to private then asked him what had happened. Grant explained that it was not his fault. Grant was placed under arrest and had to have an escort to go anywhere. The following day he called back to the group commander’s office and informed that the base commander was demanding that Grant be given a special court martial. Grant welcomed the court martial because the base regulation absolved him of responsibility for what had happened. The group had to complete its training to go overseas so the group commander so they would not have to step down and let another combat group go ahead of them. Two days later Grant was called back to headquarters. He was told that the only way for the group to ship out on time would be for Grant to plead guilty. Grant was told that if he pled guilty they would be allowed to move to second phase training. He was told that if he pled guilty he would remain in the outfit and go overseas, but he would only advance in rank if had to replace a dead person, because rank was not given overseas. Grant said “no” until they told him that they would advance him up a rank once a month until he got back. Grant was put on guard duty on the train from Wendover, Utah to Sioux City, Iowa. When they got to Sioux City, Grant was given the first leave he had had in ages and his last leave before going overseas. On his way back from leave, the train to Sioux City made a stop in Nebraska for a four or five or six hour layover. While waiting, Grant took a walk to find a bar. While he was out walking he got wet and ended up getting very sick. When he returned to Sioux City, he spent a while in the base infirmary.

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At Sioux City, the ground crew was completing their training and going on last leaves. One day, the first sergeant arrived with Grant’s barracks bags. Grant asked what he was doing and he told Grant that they were leaving that night. Grant did not want to be left behind. He knew the first sergeant and asked him get him out of the infirmary. The first sergeant convinced the doctors to let Grant go. They made their way to the train in the first sergeant’s staff car. On the train, Grant had to have a compartment to himself or he would not have been able to go. They took the train to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey [Annotator’s Note: for overseas deployment]. During World War I, troops deployed from Camp Mills [Annotator’s Note: Camp Mills, New York]. Grant’s father had left through Camp Mills. His outfit was the 153rd Infantry from Arkansas. They joined with the 4th Alabama and the Fighting 69th of New York and some other outfits and became the Rainbow Division [Annotator’s Note: the 42nd Infantry Division].When Grant got to Camp Kilmer he was doing KP [Annotator’s Note: Kitchen Police] in the consolidated mess hall. He also made sure to get all of his booster shots. One day Grant saw a general order posted announcing promotions. He checked the list and saw that he had been promoted to PFC [Annotator’s Note: Private First Class]. Grant had met some Jewish boys in the armament section he was in. They told him that when they went to New York they would take him out. Grant told them that he was restricted and would not get a pass. They offered to try to sneak him out but Grant declined. They went on pass and when they returned they told him they found a way to get him out. Grant slipped out through a hole in the fence and spent the weekend in New York City. They went out dancing and visiting one of the men’s families. They also got tickets to a boxing match, provided by the father of one of the men. When Grant returned to base he slipped back in with no trouble. When they returned to base they got orders to ship out. They drew weapons and Grant drew an M1 Carbine. He did not like the Carbine and wanted a Tommy gun [Annotator’s Note: Thompson submachine gun] like some of the others had been issued. He asked a guy with a Tommy gun if he wanted to trade and the man said, “Yes,” so Grant got a Tommy gun.

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They went aboard the HMS Queen Elizabeth in New York. The ship was full. Some of the men had been waiting aboard for a long time. Those guys had inside compartments. Grant and the other latecomers were forced to make the voyage up on deck even though they took the northern route. The mess hall only served one meal a day but there were so many people aboard ship that it never closed. Grant only stood in the chow line one time, then ate C rations the rest of the trip. They had a small escort going over. One of the guys aboard had a room with a bath tub in it. He let Grant come down to take a bath. Grant took a bath and his soap turned to grease. He did not know that he was bathing in salt water which broke the soap down. It took him a long time to get the remnants of the soap off of himself and he did not take another bath for the rest of the trip. Grant went overseas in May 1943. It took them a week or two to get there. At the time he was already assigned to the 384th Bomb Group, 545th Bomb Squadron. The first land Grant saw from the deck was Ireland. Then they saw the east coast of Scotland. They turned up the Firth of Clyde and steamed into a large port city. After going ashore they were sent by train to Kettering, England. Kettering was a nice town and Grant liked it. They could get on the train in Kettering and go into Southampton or London when they got passes. Grant worked on the line as a ground crewman for a plane he thinks was named “Deuces Wild.” The plane did a few missions and returned from them without damage. Grant thought he could do that. At the time they were still flying in France using the old D and E model planes [Annotator’s Note: B-17 D or B-17 E heavy bombers]. The older model planes had open windows where the guns were mounted, so if the gun was let go the receiver would drop down and the barrel would shoot up in the air. On later models a window was installed and the gun mount was put in the center of the window. That not only kept the cold air from coming in and hitting the gunners but it also improved accuracy since the gunners did not have to stoop so low to aim the guns. On the older model planes the tail gunner had two fifties [Annotator’s Note: 50-caliber machine guns], there was no turret under the nose, and the bombardier only had a small 30-caliber machine gun. The later planes had new turrets that required less maintenance and advanced accuracy and comfort. In 1942 and 1943, they had the older planes. Olen Grant was assigned to the airbase at Grafton Underwood which was the first base occupied by American forces and was where the first American missions were flown out of. The mission to Dresden was led by Grant’s outfit, the 384th. Grant is not proud of that. Grant believes that the Dresden mission was even condemned by the Russians.

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Olen Grant got restless and tired of going to town to get drunk all the time, so he asked a few of his buddies how they felt about getting assigned to a combat crew. Three other sergeants agreed to do it. Grant went down to see the major who sat in on his court martial. The major knew that Grant was there for something. Grant asked the major to help him and his three buddies get on a combat crew. Grant and the other three men were all ground crew who knew about guns. The major told Grant about sending them to the Wash [Annotator’s Note: estuaries in East Anglia, England] for gunnery training. He told Grant and the others that he would be in touch. Grant and his buddies got their orders and went by train to the Wash. There they went through all the phases of gunnery training. They lived in tents and there was a small house that served as a mess hall. They did not get any passes while they were there. On occasions while they were at the Wash they could see German bombers flying overhead, but they never bothered them. In his down time Grant liked to walk the beach at the Wash which was not too smart because when bombers were returning to their bases with bombs on board that they could not find the pins for they would drop them in the Wash. The one time Grant flew as a bombardier he was afraid that he would lose a pin and they would have to drop their bombs in the Wash. Grant would walk out with the locals to collect shellfish and other items but stopped going when they told him that there were bombs out there. After being at the Wash for a while the men were getting bored. They did not get passes and were getting on each other’s nerves and nearly getting into fights. At some point Grant heard that he could get high off of pure vanilla so he bribed the guy at the mess hall and got some. He took it back to his tent where everybody was asleep. He woke one of them up who yelled at him and woke everyone else up. They cut the vanilla and drank it and all got high. When Grant and his tent mate Bishop got lit up they went to fighting. Fortunately the air raid siren went off and they had to get to the shelter. By the time they got back they had forgotten that they had been fighting. When they got back they were immediately put on flying duty. They were not assigned to a crew but instead were a pool of gunners. If a crew needed a gunner they would get one from the pool. In addition to being a qualified gunner Grant was also a bombardier. The first mission Grant flew he was the tail gunner. The mission was to France. Grant was afraid because he knew that the “Jerries” [Annotator’s Note: nickname used by the Allies to describe Germans] would sometimes wait for the bombers to approach the Channel [Annotator’s Note: the English Channel] and would then come up and pick them off one at a time. For his next mission he flew as a bombardier. The guy he replaced had gone to Schweinfurt and could not take it anymore. The same thing happened to some of Armstrong’s crew which is why Grant was flying with them for the Stuttgart mission. Grant sat in the bombardier’s chair and waited. When they neared the target the pilot let him know they were close and Grant went into the bomb bay and removed the pins out of the bombs. He held onto the pins in case he had to put them back in. Right before they dropped the bombs the mission was called off so Grant had to replace the pins. It was cold in the bomb bay and Grant was afraid that he did not have all the pins, but he did. If he did not have all the pins they would have had to fly all the way to the Wash to drop the bombs instead of going straight back to their base.

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After that mission [Annotator’s Note: an aborted mission to an airfield just outside of Paris during which Grant had flown as bombardier] came Hamburg. By then Grant’s group was only able to muster four planes to a squadron out of a supposed strength of 20 per squadron. They [Annotator’s Note: the Germans] would concentrate on one squadron. It was easy to knock out a squadron when it could only put four planes in the air. One or two squadrons of fighters would attack an entire bombardment group but that group may only have 12 planes in the air. Grant did not fly to Hamburg. He did not go to Schweinfurt either. Schweinfurt is where Armstrong’s [Annotator’s Note: Lieutenant Colonel James Armstrong] crew got messed up. They were flying in “Sad Sack” on that mission. The first plane Armstrong was assigned he turned down. He was then assigned the “Yankee Raider.” The Yankee Raider had also been damaged during the Schweinfurt raid and ordinarily would have been grounded. That is the plane Grant flew with them on to Stuttgart. General Travis [Annotator’s Note: USAAF Brigadier General Robert F. Travis] led the raid. He took them over the target three times. Grant believes that if they had passed over the target then gone on to their secondary target on the way home they would have been fine. The Germans would not have torn the hell out of them. The ack-ack [Annotator’s Note: anti-aircraft fire] coming up from the ground was like a volcano and they had to pass through it three times. By the time they came out of the third pass they were last in the formation. That was one of the reasons they got shot down. They would not have made it back to the Channel anyway because of the fuel they had left. They dropped out of the formation and that made them sitting ducks for the fighters. Grant learned that a fire had been started up front from the top turret gunner, Sergeant Edman [Annotator’s Note: Bruno Edman] when they were in Stalag 17. Sergeant Daudelin [Annotator’s Note: Eldore Daudelin], the waist gunner, was in Stalag 17 too. The others went to other camps. The officers went to an officer’s camp and some made it back to base. They thought about making a run for Switzerland. One of the planes did make it and the crew was interned there. When Grant was later repatriated he passed through Lake Constance. The German prisoners and American prisoners could see each other. Grant does not think the German prisoners were too happy about being repatriated to Germany. While waiting to be swapped a bomber formation flew over. The prisoners were in a marshalling yard which was a prime target.

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Grant was in town the night before the Stuttgart mission. He had waited around until about 8:00 o'clock before taking the train from Kettering to Leicester where he did a little pub crawling. It did not get dark there so it was hard to tell that it was getting late. It was 10:00 or 10:30 before the MPs started looking for Grant. Later on, he started making his way back to the base, pub by pub, when the MPs found him at some point early the next morning. They told Grant that they were taking him to the base because he was scheduled to fly. When he went out that night he did not know that he would be flying the next morning. By the time they got back to the base, Grant had missed breakfast. The MPs drove him directly to the parachute department where he put on his flying suit and got his parachute. He was then driven to the hard stand where the Yankee Raider was parked. There he met the crew of the Yankee Raider. He already knew the waist gunner, Daudelin. They were friends and it made Grant feel better knowing someone on the plane. Grant and Daudelin were both in a group level gunnery pool. They were assigned to planes as needed. On this mission, Grant was assigned to a plane in the 546th Bombardment Squadron. He actually never flew a mission with his own squadron. Grant met Armstrong [Annotator’s Note: James Armstrong] when he was dropped off on the plane. Armstrong had a lot of spares on the plane. Grant, Daudelin, Yee, and Edman [Annotator’s Note: Eldore Daudelin, Wilbert Yee, and Bruno Edman] were all stand bys. Only about four of the guys were actually part of Armstrong’s crew. The regular crewmen were Hammock, Redwing, House, Stoner [Annotator’s Note: Cliff Hammock, Jim Redwing, Walter House, Bob Stoner], and Armstrong. The Schweinfurt raid had taken its toll on Jim [Annotator’s Note: James Armstrong]. He should have been given some rest. The bombardier refused to fly. The guy Grant replaced as a bombardier had quit as well. Grant had all of his gear on. It gets very cold in the waist. Grant had on his blue heat suit and the heated boots they plugged into. Over that he had on fur lined boots. He also wore the heated gloves with sheep skin lined gloves over them. Jim told Grant to go put Yee’s gun in. It was in a closed in space and Grant started sweating. When he was done with that he told Daudelin to put two extra boxes of ammunition in the plane. Jim demanded the extra ammunition because his gunners had run out of ammo on the Schweinfurt mission. Unfortunately, they never got to use it. By the time Grant was done he was really sweating. He sat down to have a chew of tobacco and talked to Daudelin. Grant never had much time to talk to Armstrong. It was not until well after the war that Grant met Armstrong.

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Olen Grant was living in a hotel in Austin, Texas when he got a call from Jim Armstrong. It was the first time Grant had heard from him since the mission. In the early 1980s, Armstrong decided to write a book about the mission [Annotator’s Note: the 6 September 1943 mission to Stuttgart, Germany] and wanted to get Grant’s input. Grant told him his story. [Annotator’s Note: James Armstrong did publish his book about their final mission. It is titled “Escape.”] There is some question as to what happened when the plane hit the ground. Edman landed close to where the plane hit and claims that as soon as the plane hit several people immediately ran toward it and one person went inside and brought Grant out. Grant believes that this is accurate as he was unconscious at the time. The first time Grant regained consciousness, he was in a basement. He suspects that he was being hidden by civilians. Whoever he was with had taken all of his clothes. It was very cold and Grant was naked and he suspects that the cold was what woke him up. Another story about the incident was related to Armstrong by a boy who was present when the plane went down. He claims that the plane made a circle and crash landed. He thought that Grant was the pilot when he walked out of the plane and got into the ambulance. With all of the injuries Grant had sustained in the attack and crash he does not believe he could have walked out of the plane under his own power. The boy went on to state that he drove Grant to a hospital. Grant is unsure of where the boy took him and is equally unsure of how he ended up in a hospital on the west side of Paris. The next time Grant came to he was in a German ambulance. When he opened his eyes, he saw a German soldier sitting next to him with his feet hanging out of the back of the ambulance. The soldier was eating grapes and went to hand one to Grant but Grant passed out again. When he woke up the next time, he was in a hospital on an operating table. He was naked with a sheet covering him. He tried to get up but a woman standing next to him gave him a shot and he went out again. The guys he was in a room with thought he would never wake up. The last thing Grant remembers before passing out on the plane was seeing Redwing being hit and watching his body fall out of the airplane. After that he does not remember anything. When he was hit he did not feel a thing. When he had been hit in the hand and arm he felt that, because it happened before. When Daudelin went to get the parachutes a 20-millimeter round exploded right behind Grant’s head. Part of the round went through his right temple and exited through his right eye. Daudelin was the first one to see Grant after he was hit. Daudelin was trying to clip Grant’s chest parachute to him, but was having trouble. Grant told Daudelin to get out of the plane and save himself which he did. Then Redwing cranked himself up into the fuselage. When he got out of the ball turret he was shocked to see Grant. He tried to pull Grant to the door of the plane but when he rose up he was hit. Redwing’s body fell right next to the door of the plane. When the ship lurched, Redwings body fell out. Grant does not remember anything else after that. Daudelin had gone to get the parachutes so they could bail out. Before Daudelin got back a 20-millimeter shell went off right behind Grant’s head. Daudelin came back with the chutes and tried to hook Grant’s on. Grant did not realize how bad he was hurt. He told Daudelin to get out of the plane which he did. After Daudelin bailed out, Redwing came up out of the ball turret. He was startled by Grant’s appearance. He dragged Grant to the door and bent down to pull Grant out, but as soon as he rose up, he was hit and killed.

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Grant had been on the fourth floor of the hospital, but it was not long before he was going down to the first floor to get his bandages changed on a regular basis. There was a good looking blonde nurse down there. Unfortunately, she was a Nazi and did not like Grant. To annoy him she would call him an Englishman. This hospital was right on the bank of the Seine River. Grant would stand in the window of the hospital and watch the German soldiers playing soccer for exercise on the banks of the river. Those soldiers were the crews of the ack-ack guns emplaced on the other side of the river. They would form up and march to the playing field singing the whole way. Then they would fall out and play soccer. After they were finished playing they would form up, start singing, and march back to their positions. They got raids there because of the hospitals location. When the raids began the ack-ack guns went into action. The falling shrapnel was very dangerous. The shrapnel hitting the steel roof sounded like hail. From the hall bathroom, Grant could see the Eifel Tower. He remembered his dad being there during World War I. One day when Grant looked out of the window he saw something burning. The next day they learned that a B-17 had crashed on a downtown Paris street. Grant was treated well. The only difference between him and the German wounded was that they were segregated. The hospital he was in had elevators so big they could accommodate six stretchers side by side [Annotator’s Note: at approximately 1.58.20 Tape Two ends and Tape Three begins with Grant talking about where he lived when he was young and seeing a chicken for the first time.]Grant does not know exactly how long he was in the hospital in Paris. He guesses he got there about a week after he was shot down. His family was notified about a week after he was shot down that he was in a hospital and safe from danger. He left there about the third week in October [Annotator’s Note: October 1943] just before the second Schweinfurt raid. He was taken to Frankfurt, Germany. Everyone who was in the air force was sent to Frankfurt to Dulag Luft [Annotator’s Note: Dulag Luft was Durchgangslager der Luftwaffe or Transit Camp Air Force.]. Dulag Luft was about 15 or 20 miles outside of Frankfurt.

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Olen Grant left Paris on a train which took him to a station in Frankfurt. Between the station and Dulag Luft they passed through a number of small towns that were burning after the RAF [Annotator’s Note: British Royal Air Force] bombings from the night before. Grant was one of four prisoners in his group from Paris. When they arrived at Dulag Luft they met a few British airmen then they all walked to the camp. It was a long walk. The camp was hidden in the woods. Inside the tree line the camp was made up of numerous buildings, barbed wire, and alley ways. Grant was getting very weak and tired and started to think he would not make it. The ground was frozen and covered with ice and snow. It had been snowing hard since they left Paris. When they finally made it to the camp Grant was put in a cell of his own where he remained until he was interrogated. By the time Grant was interrogated he was not worth anything for information purposes, but there was a question as to his identity because he was not wearing his dog tags. This put Grant in a bad situation. One of the first things the interrogator brought up was the issue of Grant not having dog tags. Grant later found out that the interrogator already knew about Grant not having tags because he had already interrogated Grant’s friend Daudelin [Annotator’s Note: Eldore Daudelin] and Daudelin had told him. After interrogation, Daudelin was sent to Stalag XVII in Munich. When Stalag XVII B opened to handle the overflow, he was sent there. That is where Grant met up with him. Daudelin thought that Grant had been killed and told everyone that. He was somewhat embarrassed when he saw Grant in the camp. After interrogation, Grant was sent back to Frankfurt to a transit camp. The camp was set up right next to an I.G. Farben chemical plant. The camp had been put there to keep the Allies from bombing the chemical plant. The camp was run by English POWs who were in contact with their families back in England. Their families sent them care packages including canned butter. Grant ate good while he was there. They also took care of Grant’s wounds. One day the camp doctor told Grant that a man would be visiting him. He told Grant not to go with the man because it was rumored that the man was from a hospital in northern Germany where medical experiments were being conducted on prisoners. Grant declined and was sent to the stalag.

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They did not want to get caught on the railroad tracks when hit was dark because that is when the RAF would come calling. The Germans waited until the moon was gone before they started the train for Austria. The train went all the way down to the Pyrenees Mountains and all the way through Italy. That rail line was busy and every place along the line was bombed and strafed. Grant feels lucky that they made it through the gauntlet to Krems. They went from Krems to Linz. In Linz, they left the railroad and headed for Vienna. Then they were taken by road through several towns. Grant was impressed by the way the farms were set up. Most of the farms grew rutabagas which were fed to the German troops and the POWs. To Grant the rutabagas were like tasteless turnips. They were occasionally fed to the POWs as a soup or stew. They arrived at the camp. They were processed in and photographed. Back at Dulag Luft, they had been issued all of the clothes they were going to get. Grant was wearing some old Italian pants and a pair of German infantryman shoes. The bottom was almost all metal and it hurt to walk in them. He was also wearing a turtleneck sweater that had been given to him by an English kid back at the hospital. That was taken from him at the stalag. After they were processed and photographed, they were taken to the northern end of the camp where the delousing station was located. Their clothes were taken and burned as a precaution against typhus, fleas, ticks, and other potential dangers. They were given a real hot shower then covered with powder. After that they were issued one set of GI clothes. Grant did not get an overcoat, so he was forced to wear the old Italian cape he had been given back at Dulag. Grant finally got rid of the cape when he went to the hospital. He just left it there.

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An incident occurred at the camp that cost Grant a tough interrogation when he returned to the United States. Workers in the camp [Annotator’s Note: Stalag XVIIB] would go through the gates and go to work. When one of the groups came in a man slipped away from it and into another group. The man made it down to Wiener Neustadt and hid in a clump of woods. In the woods, he accidentally stumbled upon a German fighter squadron or group and was captured. The Germans took him to Vienna to an insane asylum. Most of the men in the asylum were German pilots suffering from battle fatigue. The man ended up back at the stalag. At some point the man was terribly abused. He was in bad enough shape that he was put in the infirmary where Grant was. When he had recovered enough he told Grant about how he had been beaten up. He went on to say that he would soon be taken away which he was. Grant never saw him again. When Grant returned to the United States he was sent to a hospital in Springfield, Missouri to have a lot of shrapnel taken out of him. He was then sent to Massachusetts for plastic surgery and had his eye socket rebuilt at Framingham General Hospital. One day while at Framingham, Grant was visited by FBI agents. The FBI wanted all of the information Grant could give them on the guy. They were gathering information for the war crimes at Nuremberg. Two or three weeks later the FBI came back. Grant then told them about the little cell in Vienna where the man was held for a while. After that Grant did not hear from the FBI again. After the war the records were classified for 14 years. The POW organization that they formed after the war was given copies of the records from the FBI. Grant got a copy as well.

Annotation

While Olen Grant was at Stalag XVIIB he preferred to stay in the barracks [Annotator’s Note: as opposed to staying in the camp infirmary]. Before he was sent to Vienna for his operation in February [Annotator’s Note: February 1944] he was staying in a new barracks. The barracks were very long and had a washroom in the middle. There were no toilets in the washroom and there was no hot water. Grant did not shave there. He was late growing a beard. He had even been gigged for not having shaving equipment even though he did not need it. The barrack on the main drag was filling up quickly but Grant’s barrack in the back was fairly empty. At the back of the back barracks was a two stool outdoor toilet. They were not allowed to go out after dark or they would be shot. If 15 guys got the GIs [Annotator’s Note: diarrhea] they would have been in trouble because there were only two holes. The only time Grant ever got sick, aside from his wounds, was when he got the GIs in the camp. He spent the entire night outside on the toilet. It was the worst night of his captivity. Food in the camp was very basic but the men were allowed to get parcels from home. Grant’s mother sent him a number of packages but only one ever got to him. It contained six cartons of Lucky Strikes in two cigarette parcels. Right after that he had to go to Vienna for his operation. He took his cigarettes with him which turned out to be a mistake. Cigarettes were like gold. They could get anything for cigarettes. When he got to the guardhouse to have his bag checked the guard took his cigarettes. The guard gave Grant two packs of cigarettes and kept the rest. Many of the parcels that they were supposed to get from the Red Cross were taken by the Germans. They would claim that the parcels had been lost during air raids. They could not depend on the parcels. They were basically depending on what the Germans gave them. They started off getting a piece of black bread. That would be their ration for the day. In the morning they would also get some ersatz coffee. During the summer they would get some type of raw vegetable for lunch. Then for supper they would get a thin soup with some type of meat in it, possibly horse meat. That was it.

Annotation

When the two guys who wrote Stalag 17 wrote it, Grant thinks that they never dreamed of selling it in the United States [Annotator’s Note: Donald Bevan and Edmund Trzcinski wrote the play based on their own experiences in Stalag XVIIB]. They exaggerated the food situation and the amount of room in the barracks. Grant criticized the movie the first time he saw it. Some of the issues he had were the scene in which a prisoner is hidden in the camp water tower. According to Grant there was no water tower in the camp. Also, no officer was put in with the sergeants unless they were a doctor or a chaplain. There were two doctors in with Grant’s group. One of them had been with an infantry unit that was captured at Kasserine Pass in North Africa. The other was a dentist. There was also a strange guy in the camp named Harry. Harry never wore any type of uniform and spoke fluent German and several other languages. Harry did a lot of work to get Grant to Vienna to have his surgery. He also helped Grant get a second chance at taking the test for repatriation. He had missed out on the first test because his head was swollen up too bad. It was Grant’s own fault that he had failed the first test for repatriation. He was sent to a doctor to take an eye test. There were also several German soldiers there taking the test as well. The Germans all acted like they could not read the chart, but Grant did read it. He was shown to have 20/ 20 vision in his eye and told that it was possible that he could return to combat if repatriated, so he was turned down. The next time the commission came around this guy, Harry got Grant a second chance to take the test. He got his ticket to go and soaked it in butter so it would not be damaged if it got wet. They had to stand out in the rain and snow a lot. There was a guy who broke into the stalag. He was an OSS [Annotator's Note: Office of Strategic Services] guy who was trying to get down into Yugoslavia. He hid in the stalag until the heat was off after which he would get out. The Germans would bring them out and do inspections but never found him. In the movie, he is shown hiding in the cistern, but Grant thinks he was hiding in the latrine. After the Germans gave up looking for him he slipped out of the camp and that was that.

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The barracks were isolated from each other and separated by fences. Adjacent to Grant’s barracks were barracks from Russians and another for Italians. There were a number of Italian soldiers standing around by the fence. One day when Grant was preparing to go to Vienna for his surgery he saw one of the Italians try to throw a pack of cigarettes over the fence to another Italian POW. The pack of cigarettes landed in the forbidden zone. If a prisoner entered the forbidden zone they could be shot. Grant watched as the man crawled under the wire trying to get the cigarette pack before the guard saw and shot him. He did not make it. The guard saw him and shot him. It later turned out that when Grant was sent to Vienna for his operation this same guard was his escort. It turned out that if a guard had to shoot a prisoner he was given two weeks furlough. This guard got two weeks leave in Vienna so he escorted Grant to the hospital. When they got to the station in Vienna, Grant got a little ahead of the German guard. Grant was kind of out of it. He was looking at all of the civilians and smelling food. Then all of a sudden he was going down onto the pavement. A civilian had jumped on his back and forced him to the pavement. The guard quickly ran up and got the man off of Grant. Grant was glad that a different guard escorted him back to the stalag. Seeing the German soldier shoot the Italian prisoner was a bit of a shock. He had been sitting in trains outside of towns and saw the wreckage from bombing attacks but never saw it like that. Grant had his operation in February of 1944. After being shot down, he spent just under two months in a hospital in Paris.

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Olen Grant only had one surgery while he was in Austria. In the hospital room Grant was in there were three Americans including himself and an Englishman. There were also two Catholic Sisters who cared for them. Sister Salome was in charge and Sister Amarelles [Annotator’s Note: unsure of spelling] was her assistant. One of the men was Jack. Jack had been a pilot before going into the Air Force but was never given a commission. He was a Staff Sergeant and flew a B-25 out of North Africa. His plane was hit during a low level mission and had to bail out. He did, but hit the ground before his chute opened all the way. He had compound fractures of both legs which were treated but never healed and constantly got infected. There was also a lieutenant who had been in the British tank corps who was wounded during a tank war against Rommel [Annotator’s Note: German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel]. He was kind of snooty. The other American was Bill. Bill never got back on his feet. Grant saw Bill’s body once when they came to change his bandages. Grant saw a hole in the man’s back and asked what it was. He was informed that it was a bed sore. The next time Grant went down there Bill was dead and the others had been repatriated. Karl was the guard. He had been badly wounded on the Russian Front. When his wounds were partially healed, they put him on guard duty until he was ready to go back to duty. Karl was a lot like Grant. He was not a by- the-numbers soldier. Karl and Grant talked a lot which made the lieutenant and Jack very mad. Karl had the swing shift and would bring his dinner in a sack. It got to a point where he started bringing Grant a sandwich and a beer for dinner too. When Karl learned that Grant would have to go way across town to have his operation, Karl tried to get the job of taking him but was not able to.

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When Grant went out for his operation, he and the guard rode a streetcar into town then boarded another one that took them out of town. Grant was having his operation at a medical school complex. The operation was going to be performed by the doctor who had been caring for Grant at the other hospital. Grant and his guard got off the streetcar and started walking toward the building where his operation was to be performed. As soon as they stepped off the streetcar it started to snow. The operation took a while. The doctor did a skin graft and after returning to the original hospital he fixed Grant’s graft so his wounded eye could drain. It still drains to this day. Until a few years before the interview was recorded, the entire right side of Grant’s face was paralyzed. It was between 11 and 12 at night when they left the building. When they did it was snowing heavily. Grant could not see the snow because his head was completely bandaged, but could feel it as he walked all of the way back to the street car. The first two seats in the streetcar faced each other and that is where Grant and his guard sat. They travelled into the city then changed street cars for the ride back to the hospital. Again they sat in seats facing each other. When the car was about to leave someone sat in the seat next to Grant and spoke to the guard. The man asked the guard if he could give Grant a cigarette. The guard gave him permission and the man gave him one. Grant never saw the man but thinks he may have been an American who lived in Vienna. He also thought the man may have been a member of the underground or OSS. The guards they had were combat men who were convalescing. They treated other combat men and combat injured well. Grant had to keep his bandage on for a week. Even though Vienna was an open city the factories in Wiener Neustadt were bombed. When that occurred the sirens blew and Grant and the others had to go into a basement. Grant had been in the basement before when he could see and thought that if and plane crashed in the street outside of the building he would have no way to get out of it. Fortunately he only had to sweat that out once.

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Olen Grant spent Christmas 1943 in a prison camp. For Grant, the holidays were just like any other day. Some of the guys got sentimental but he did not. Grant only got one letter from his mother but she received every one he wrote to her. Sometimes his letters were published in the paper. The first repatriation took place in the spring [Annotator’s Note: spring of 1944]. In the fall the commission [Annotator’s Note: a repatriation commission from the Red Cross] was due to come back from Switzerland to get another load. Grant thinks it was around September. They were alerted that they [Annotator’s Note: the Red Cross] were coming and arranged to go to Krems to get the chart changed [Annotator’s Note: Grant had passed his first eye exam which disqualified him from repatriation so he went to Krems and took it again. He intentionally failed this second exam].Grant was not selected for the first batch of prisoners to be repatriated. This angered many of the people in the camp including the doctors. The second time around he was chosen to go. After retaking his eye exam he took the chart back to the camp with him and that was the chart they used to decide if he qualified for repatriation or not. The commission took the charts of the prisoners who were potentials for repatriation back to Switzerland with them. Within two or three weeks they notified the camp which in turn notified the individual prisoners who would be returning to their own country. On the boat going home all of the men were awarded the Purple Heart. Grant’s Purple Heart was not listed on his discharge papers. In 2010, he went to his local court house and had the medal added to his records. Once selected for repatriation the men were as good as free. They were treated differently and had better food. They went by train from Krems all the way up to Annaberg, Germany which is close to Berlin. They were supposed to meet the others who were being sent home there then continue on to Hamburg where the Gripsholm [Annotator’s Note: SS Gipsholm] would be waiting for them. They were in Berlin when the Battle of the Bulge came along and they got a cancellation order from Switzerland stating that they would not be going out through Hamburg. During the trip they saw the results of bombing raids. When they arrived in Leipzig the train station was just gone. It had been completely destroyed so the Germans were trying to do business out of a little stand. Leipzig is also where Grant saw American female prisoners for the first time. They were nurses who had apparently been captured during the invasion. Grant did not give any thought as to what he was going to do with his freedom. He just wanted to get home but knew that it was still possible that he might not make it. The place they were held in had been an officer’s training school before the war. They ate well at that facility and got some brand new clothes. They were told they the repatriation was back on but they would need to back track through Germany to Switzerland. They finally crossed the lake into Switzerland. From there they were sent to Marseilles. The harbor at Marseilles was littered with sunken ships so they were put on a boat that took them out to the Gripsholm. It really sunk in that Grant was a free man when he got to New York. However he was expecting crowds of people to waiting to greet them but that did not happen. After leaving the ship they were sent to Staten Island to Halloran General Hospital. Grant ran into a friend who had been sent to New York in the first group of repatriated prisoners. The friend and his wife set Grant up with a gal that he ended up marrying. The marriage made news in New York. Cameramen followed them around everywhere.

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Olen Grant left the service when his operations had been completed. The army tried to get him stay in the service after he returned to the United States but he said, “No.” He was discharged at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania after six months of terminal leave. One weekend Grant left Framingham [Annotator’s Note: Framingham General Hospital] and hitchhiked to Denver. He took the bus to Fort Collins where he enrolled in Colorado A and M College. They accepted his enrollment even though he was still in the service. After he was discharged he left Valley Forge and went back to Colorado. This was in the fall of 1945. Grant left the army as a Tech Sergeant [Annotator’s Note: Technical Sergeant is the equivalent of a Sergeant First Class or E7].The war made Grant grow old very fast. It also settled him down and made him understand that it was time for him to try to make something of his life. By the time Grant had recovered enough to go to work there were no jobs to be had. Grant feels that after the war no one wanted to hear the stories of the veterans’ experiences. All of Grant’s brothers and sisters are dead. He is the last of the family. Grant feels that the United States should stay out of every war. He is also mad because he feels that it is now every man for himself. He believes that when guys are overseas fighting wars, those who stay home and do not go are the ones who profit from it. Grant has had to fight the VA ever since he got out of the service. When Eisenhower got into office Grant’s disability was cut by 30 percent without an examination or anything. He was a student at the time. President Nixon saved his bacon. Grant had been working at Fort Bliss in El Paso during the Vietnam War. He was writing letters to the editor every day. He was against the war. He was working with guys who were rotating back to the United States from combat in Vietnam. To make extra money for their families, many of the men worked for a contractor that Grant was working for. They all knew what Grant was writing and they approved of it, but the government did not approve. The military told him that he should not be doing that and that he should be backing the troops. Grant needed a driver’s license to keep his job. To get rid of him, they [Annotator’s Note: the government] intentionally failed him on his eye exam. They jerked his license and assigned him another job that he did not like. He quit the job and took all of the retirement money he had paid in then went back home and paid off all of his debts. His wife was an RN and her salary was enough for them to get by on. Grant did not have much of a future ahead of him. One day he got a call from a guy asking if he was the one writing all of those letters. Grant agreed to meet with the man. The man told Grant that he worked for the President as some kind of investigator. He was there to find out why Grant had lost his job. The man told Grant that he could get him another job but Grant said no. Grant told the man that if his disability was returned to its original amount he would be in good shape. One day Grant got a letter from the VA ordering him to report to Lubbock, Texas. He though they were going to decrease his benefits even more. No exam had even been done. A couple weeks later he got a letter from the VA. He did not want to open it, so he got his wife to do it. She read the letter which informed Grant that he was now on full disability. In addition to all of the benefits, he had he was also able to send his three kids to college.

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Olen Grant believes that having institutions like The National WWII Museum and continuing to teach WWII to future generations are very important. He also believes that everyone should take their turn in the military. He feels that the United States should be like Switzerland where every male is a member of the armed forces. They are fixed up with their uniforms and weapons that they keep at home and occasionally go out on maneuvers to stay sharp. Grant also believes that the weapons and equipment used now costs too much. He also does not like how often military uniforms change. Grant feels that the American government should reinstate the draft. He feels that military service would instill discipline in the young men in this country. He also feels that females should not be integrated into the military. He acknowledges that females are quite capable of serving, but it is his opinion that females could better serve being at home caring for children. He also states that he would not like having to take orders from a female who outranked him. Grant feels that a soldier needs to be a soldier and a man needs to be a man. Another reason Grant thinks the draft should be reinstated is so that soldiers like his grandson should not have to go overseas multiple times. Grant also thinks that the military should be controlled by the military and not by a civilian. It is all politics.
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