Early Life and Childhood

Enlistment and Training

Camp Van Dorn

Race Riot and Scotland Arrival

Slapton Sands and D-Day Landing

St. Lo Fighting

Sgt. Umburger and Pistols

Hill 192 Sniping/BAR

Last Day in Normandy

Red Cross/Arrival in Brest

Secret French Support

Brest Fighting and Departure

Sniping in Brest

Battle of the Bulge

Closing Stages of Battle of Bulge

Concentration Camps and Culture Shock

Russians/End of War

Life Stateside

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[Annotators Note: The interview begins mid conversation but gets on track shortly after the initial conversation.] Tom Quigley was born in Paris, Michigan, in the mid 1920s. Shortly after his birth, he and his two brothers moved to Detroit with their parents although he returned regularly to his hometown to visit his grandparents in the summer months. His father had served during World War 1 and worked as a barber throughout the depression. This gave Quigley and his brothers a standard of living that was relatively high given the times. His mother began to bake bread with the money his father made. Soon they opened a commercial bakery in the basement of their home, selling to not only the neighborhood, but the diners and shops throughout Detroit. When news of the attack on Pearl Harbor reached them Quigley's older brother enlisted in the Coast Guard. His brother ended up guarding the coast of Iwo Jima and serving as a transport for the Marines as they made their way towards the islands. Roughly 18 to 20 boys from Quigley's neighborhood joined various branches of the military. One of his friends, Harold Bush, lived across the street from him and decided to join the Marine Corps. That prompted Quigley to also try to enlist in the Marines. However, due to health issues Quigley was rejected by both the Marines and the air force and ended up enlisting in the army.

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Tom Quigley grew up playing polo and riding horses and initially volunteered to serve with the cavalry in the army. Horse mounted cavalry was discontinued soon after so he joined the army infantry and was sent to train at Fort McClellan, Alabama. His drill sergeant was on Oahu when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and was known as a strict and harsh disciplinarian. As punishment he would often have the men run up a nearby mountain with full field packs. On one occasion Quigley went into town with some friends and purchased some cheap whiskey. The whiskey was too strong for Quigley to stomach. He gave it to his drill sergeant hoping he would dispose of it and the drill sergeant reciprocated by never having Quigley run up the mountain again. His potential was noticed and he was soon transferred to the Officer Candidate Preparatory School at Fort McClellan. He became a corporal and graduated on 1 April 1943. He then trained at Fort Benning where he practiced the use of light machine guns and hand to hand combat, proving his proficiency in the use of both. After his graduation, Quigley had to pass out dollar bills to whoever saluted him as part of tradition, but soon ran out of cash and had to tell people no. After a wild party in Atlanta celebrating their graduation, Quigley returned to Detroit the next day for a 10 day leave before reporting to Mississippi for further preparations. He arrived at Camp Van Dorn and was introduced to his platoon, the majority of which was from the coal mining towns of Pennsylvania.

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Tom Quigley recounts how he was in church when the attack on Pearl Harbor took place and did not even know about the attack until later that evening when some neighbors came by to discuss the news. After arriving at Camp Van Dorn, Mississippi, he was assigned to his platoon and got to know the men he would be serving with later. The majority of them were coal miners, and were highly skilled in the use of dynamite and explosives. Quigley learned a great deal about the creation and use of improvised explosives and the practical applications of this knowledge benefited him, both on the battlefield and on the home front. One weekend Quigley brought some whiskey back to his room. After a few days of his whiskey slowly disappearing he discovered that the orderly was taking sips from his liquor. Conveniently the orderly in question was terrified of dynamite so Quigley decided to strap a pack of dynamite to his bottle and hide in under his cot. The orderly never touched the whiskey again. On another occasion Quigley accidentally started a serious grass fire when he tried to give smoke cover for his company during a faux assault training session. He had wired a series of phosphorous grenades to electric fuses and when they were detonated a huge fire caught throughout the field cancelling the war games as they tried to control the flames. On another occasion they caught a wild hog and decided to cook and eat it. Unfortunately, all the hog had been living off of was pinecones and no matter how long and hot they cooked it, it still tasted like pure turpentine. Quigley decided to switch to the Army Air Force and while reporting to the base in Shreveport, Louisiana, he and his friends encountered a group of young women working at the base who invited them to a party. After going to the party, Quigley and his friends reported the next morning for their physical exam and failed. Soon after that, Quigley volunteered for overseas duty and began to prepare for his departure for Europe.

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Tom Quigley remembers how every Friday the officers would go to Baton Rouge for the weekend. Quigley struggled finding a room on Saturday at one or two in the morning. He went to his friend’s room in order to stay somewhere for the night and the next morning the MPs arrived banging on all the doors ordering all the officers back to camp for an emergency of some sort. When they arrived they discovered that in their absence a group of African American soldiers that were transferred from an unruly division out west had taken over the camp and had stolen weapons. After surveying the camp from a plane and deciding against dropping tear gas, Quigley and his men decided instead to tell them to drop their weapons and come out peacefully or they would blow the entire place apart with mortars. Quigley also remembers how a group of African American soldiers were assaulting a soldier and a Jeep was brought up with a .30 caliber mounted machine gun to fire over their heads and disperse them. After that, Quigley did not see any more African American soldiers until he arrived in Europe and even then they were only drivers of trucks full of ammunition. After this incident Quigley left for Fort Meade, Maryland where he encountered his brother by chance. He went to a dance in Washington D.C. while he was stationed there. He also made a trip to New York City for the first time in his life. While there, he got drunk at a cabaret and ended up in a taxi with two women, one of which turned out to be the wife of Charlie Barnett. The two women had seen him drinking heavily alone and grew concerned. They took him back to their apartment and put him to bed on their couch. The next morning when Quigley woke up, they had breakfast and he hopped on the train back to Fort Meade. He then boarded a ship with around 8000 enlisted men and 4000 officers and made his way to Scotland via the North Sea. They ate cold fried eggs and cold wet bread, although the coffee was great. Quigley was not prone to seasickness and was therefore able to eat well since no one else wanted their food. They arrived in the Firth of Clyde on Scotland’s western coast where they were served sandwiches and tea by groups of Scottish female volunteers.

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Tom Quigley jumped on a train and made his way with the other soldiers down to central England to a military base at which he attended a basketball game for lack of anything better to do. From there he joined the 28th Pennsylvania Infantry [Annotators Note: US 28th Infantry Division]. There was a Coast Guard base nearby and on one particular occasion a plane that had its underside shot out made a landing on the water after signaling with flares and managed to stay afloat using its wings. Quigley recalls how the pilots of the Coast Guard planes would stop and pick up Valencia oranges from Europe and how they would deliver them to the officers at times. There was an officer’s club where they used to go and drink and sing. Quigley then spent a lot of time training at Slapton Sands to prepare for the D Day landing. The 28th threw a party at Pembroke in a hotel ballroom where a bunch of British guys showed up and a classic saloon style fight broke out. Quigley leapt up on the bandstand and grabbed a guitar, flinging it around him like a club until all he had left was the neck. The 28th Infantry was then pulled out of the D Day invasion plan. Quigley stayed and when the 2nd Infantry [Annotators Note: US 2nd Infantry Division] arrived he joined up with them. They made their way down to Bournemouth to await departure for Normandy. While waiting to leave Quigley and some guys went to a Turkish bathhouse and fell asleep and they missed their role call. After explaining to the colonel where they had been, he restricted them to quarters, which in fact was great because they brought everything to them. They then boarded a ship and approached the shore of Normandy, where they were dumped out onto the beach with bodies laying around and destroyed equipment everywhere. Quigley went to report to Captain Smith in Company E. He was told to take over command of the 2nd Platoon for Lt. Allen who had been killed by accidental friendly fire.

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Tom Quigley and his men began moving inland through the woods and were taking fire from German snipers posted in the trees. They then continued on a southwesterly route towards the town of Marigny, just outside of St. Lô, where they stayed for several weeks. On one occasion, they had eaten almost nothing but K rations for quite some time and when a cow walked into a field behind them, they took it and cooked a massive numbers of steaks. Quigley also kept an entire hindquarter of the cow hanging over his foxhole to cure. The Germans shelled them that night with a fierce barrage and when Quigley looked up the next morning, only a charred chunk of a bone was left of the hindquarter. The shrapnel had been that intense. Quigley recalls how for a long time the closest he ever got to the Germans was 1000 yards or more. Finally, Quigley and his division were assigned three tanks and were told to advance on a German position near the River Vir in the St. Lô area. The first tank was sunk in the mud on the river banks and the second tank tried to avoid the same fate and swung into a nearby hedgerow where an anti-tank mine was planted. When Quigley tried to communicate to the tank driver that he needed to move, the telephone on the back of the tank didn’t work at all. The third tank came up behind them, saw what was happening, and retreated back without another order. Quigley remarks that after that day he didn’t really have much confidence when it came to dealing with tanks and tank movements. Soon the mortars started and a piece of shrapnel hit Quigley in the left knee, for which he received a purple heart. Another mortar round hit one of Quigley’s sergeants. It obliterated half of his face, shredded his left arm, and pulverized and tore his sides and rib cage. Somehow he survived. Another soldier of Quigley’s who was shot up had crawled through the hedgerow that the tank had nosed into and was in such bad shape that they just had to pump him with morphine and let him die as painlessly as possible. Those were Quigley’s first casualties. He lost eight men and they had been all charred black by the mortar rounds. Quigley recalls how later that day during the fighting he was looking through a pair of binoculars at Hill 192 where the Germans were dug in, when suddenly he started taking sniper fire. After taking cover, one of his men reached over and cut his binoculars off of his belt and hid it in his bag. German snipers identified officers by looking for who had binoculars on them. After that, Quigley did not experience much more sniper fire.

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Tom Quigley and his men watched their comrades try and make their way up Hill 192 under heavy German fire, and saw a German machine gun crew run around the hillside in an attempt to surprise the men making their way up the hill. Quigley ordered his BAR carrying sergeant to empty roughly six clips of ammunition into the crew from afar and they were cut down. Sgt. Clarence Umburger, an accomplished boxer in the army, was given a .30 06 sniper rifle by Quigley, who himself went to the right side of the platoon and would watch one side of the hedgerow where he could see Germans about 1000 yards away preparing to run across the narrow road on the left side of the platoon. Sgt. Umburger, who was positioned on the left, would wait for word from Quigley before he would fire at where he expected the Germans to appear. He ended up hitting nine Germans this way. Quigley recalls how one time later in the war he acquired two dueling pistols in Brest from a blown out house, and after Umburger had loaded and prepped one of the pistols, he went out and shot through a brick wall with it. Quigley also acquired a P 35 [Annotator’s Note: he most likely means a P38] and became highly proficient with it. On the way to the hospital, Quigley left the dueling pistols and his P 35 with a friend of his and never got them back. The next day, while waiting for orders to move out, Quigley and his men waited as the time to move out passed. No artillery started and no aerial bombardments commenced so at around 7 Quigley made his way back towards the company HQ to find out what was going on. On his way there a German shell flew over his head and into a nearby ditch, where it detonated and shredded several men, one of which was split in half vertically according to Quigley. He carried on as fast as he could and was told they would be leaving soon, so he returned to his platoon and awaited orders.

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Tom Quigley remembers watching as the two platoons before his made their way down the hillside, through some fields, and out onto an open plain and were slaughtered. He remembers watching an officer die and seeing his striped helmet flop back as the bullet struck his head. He was given orders to follow the 3rd Platoon. Instead of going the way they had gone just moments before, Quigley spotted a long but shallow gulley that ran along the length of the field they needed to move through, so he took his men through it and did not lose a single soldier. Soon the fighting got heavy and one of Quigley’s men lost grip of his sanity and began chasing after German soldiers on the enemy’s side of combat, and while Quigley was running after him, he noticed through a gap in the tall grass a group of German soldiers running along the ridge of a hill to his right. He then ordered his BAR man [Annotator’s Note: nicknamed Mule] to wait for the Germans to come into sight and to then gun them down. He did so and killed every single German that came into sight from that group. Finally the fighting subsided that afternoon and Quigley was told that he was taking over as executive officer, and that he needed to take role and figure out who was still alive. Of the 239 men who had started out that morning, Quigley counted only 32 men along with himself and his friend Dan. They began getting replacements that would quickly fade and be replaced as they were killed. That ended the fighting around Normandy and made their way further inland. Eventually, Quigley and his men made it to Tinchebray, France, where they were given NAAFI rations [Annotators Note: NAAFI is the acronym for the British organization Navy, Army, and Air Forces Institutes] for the first time. They had been stationed there for three months and instead of receiving them once per month, as was the usual, they were given them all at once. They poured all of their liquor into a washtub and drank it all. Quigley left at one point to go outside the barn they were in and use the latrine, and accidentally fell in until someone heard him, picked him up, and dropped him in the horse trough.

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Tom Quigley remembers the inefficiencies of the Red Cross and its volunteers and the impractical attitude they took during the war. This has given him a poor view of the organization. During the lead up to the Battle of the Bulge, they made a big deal out of how they were going to pass out coffee and doughnuts to the men, but all they did was take the men’s coffee rations and their flour rations and had the military cooks prepare everything. Only then did the Red Cross members pass out the coffee and doughnuts. They then arrived in Brest and found the German command post which was dug into the side of a hill facing the Germans. Outside was a sunken road with a field telephone nearby. While they were napping on the road outside the command post, a German shell came flying overhead and landed amongst them. After calling the engineers to come and dispose of it, they blasted the top off of the shell and discovered that it was just full of sand. As Quigley later found out, there was a nearby factory where the Germans were forcing the French locals to work and build shells, and whenever they could, they would fill the shells with sand instead of explosives. Quigley also recalls how he watched a plane lose its tail to enemy fire. Eight crewmen bailed out and the two pilots had somehow managed to land the plane on top of a pill box that the Allies had been unable to take thus far. They also survived and were taken to a German field hospital.

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Tom Quigley recalls how when they were approaching Brest, he saw a soldier who was directing traffic get hit by an 88 millimeter antitank gun shell and lose the left half of his body. Once he and his men arrived in the city, they began moving from house to house rooting out the Germans as best they could. Quigley and his men climbed to the ninth floor of a building and shot down the stairs and out into the streets of the city, killing the Germans they came across. Quigley recalls shooting an enemy soldier in the head as he came up the stairs. A couple of officers, foreign observers, joined them and said they too wanted to shoot some Germans. Despite Quigley’s warnings, they leaned out the windows and gave away their position in doing so. A return shot came in through the window and hit a porcelain vase in front of Quigley, lodging a piece of it in his arm. While out in the hallway, Quigley heard a German sniper coming up the stairs, and in his rage he kicked him down ten flights of stairs and began to pick him up and beat him to a pulp. He then dragged the German prisoner back to camp and turned him over to the officers there and went to go have his arm looked at. On another occasion during the urban fighting, they were in the basement of a building and were trying to get through a doorway at the end of a long hallway. Someone flipped open a little speak easy hole in the door and dropped a grenade through, but thanks to the quick thinking of one of Quigley’s men, they grabbed the grenade and shoved it back through and killed whoever was on the other side. After they took the city, it was dead silent and calm. They left Brest and made their way toward the Siegfried Line. They took a few of the pill boxes they encountered. They would use composition B to destroy the pillboxes and foxholes that the Germans had left behind.

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Tom Quigley remembers how one night before they blew the pillboxes, he and some other men were watching what they thought were red flares as they flew upwards into the sky and kept going higher and higher. It turns out that it was a series of launches of V1 and a V2 rockets. On another occasion, when passing through Andelvei, a buzz bomb came flying in behind Quigley and his friend Dan, landing behind them and shaking the house they were in. The fighting itself was fairly minimal during the time Quigley and his men spent in the Battle of the Bulge. Quigley and his men were well dug in though, with machine gun positions and sand bags set up everywhere. Then the replacements arrived with shoddy discipline, banjos, guitars, and baseball bats. They built bonfires, drove around in jeeps with their lights on, and, according to Quigley, they endangered themselves and everyone around them. Quigley and his men left their positions and headed north to Wahlerscheid only to find out that the Germans had made a push with tanks behind them at Elsenborne. This forced Quigley and his men to fall back to their original positions and engage the Germans. Quigley recalls how one night the men were at such close quarters that while sitting on one side of a hedgerow, some men of his heard some talking just on the other side of the hedge. After a few minutes they realized that it was German and not English. They quickly and quietly popped some grenades over the top and onto the other side, killing the men who had only been a few feet away from them. According to Quigley, this was a fairly regular occurrence during this period of fighting. He also remembers seeing a man with a jerry can jump out of his foxhole and threw the can on top of a nearby German tank. He ignited the can with a grenade and burned the vehicle to stop its advance.

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Tom Quigley recalls how after having sufficiently halted the German advance, he and his men slogged their way back to Elsenborne. Before that, he and his men had held their position against a fierce German advance. They used three stolen antitank guns to shoot apart the vehicles passing by on a nearby highway as part of a German convoy. This managed to stop the convoy from the front, but in order to completely halt the German convoy Quigley called in an artillery strike to decimate the German vehicles. The Germans fled their transports under a heavy barrage of shells, making their way up the hill Quigley and his men were occupying in an attempt to remove not only the guns he was using, but also to stop him and his men from calling in any more artillery barrages. Quigley remembers how one of his men stood up and told the Germans to surrender in German. When they refused to yield, Quigley and his men opened fire on the mass of Germans in front of them with light machine guns and mortars, killing all of them. Quigley estimates it to have been over 200 men they killed. Quigley recalls how cold it was, and how they lacked proper winter gear and many men suffered from the bitter cold. He remembers having to buy and scavenge for paratrooper boots and galoshes. He tried to get a pair of sheep skin lined boots off of a wounded air force pilot, but the pilot would not allow him to keep them. Quigley suffered from frostbite at various points in the war.

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After the Battle of the Bulge Tom Quigley was taken out of combat and sent to a hospital due to an injury to his back he had suffered in combat. He was given a shot of penicillin, oil, and bee’s wax at the hospital where he was sent. After being told he could not return to his men, Quigley hitchhiked and bus hopped his way back to the front line and met up with the 2nd and his friend Dan. He ended his part of the war in the Service Company. Before the war ended, Quigley remembers smelling something like dead bodies coming from somewhere just outside a town in Germany and upon investigating it the next morning, he discovered a small, barbed wired enclosed camp with what appeared to be barracks inside was situated just outside the town. All the doors were closed except for one and he could see dead bodies in the doorway wearing striped uniforms. He never found out if they were Jews or just Eastern Europeans. On another occasion Quigley and his men pulled into Leipzig and he collected a Nazi swastika maritime flag. Quigley remembers how the Sudetenland German inhabitants hated the Americans who they saw as occupiers, while the Czech citizens thought the Americans were great. Many of them had close ties to family in America. Quigley remembers how the Czechs would lay out on the beach naked and how that shocked him. Another culture shock he experienced was when he was in Paris. He went to the Moulin Rouge and watched a Frenchman drunkenly jump down on all the tables, hopping around the room. He was also shocked by the unisex latrine in the back.

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Tom Quigley remembers how after the war ended, they were able to drive with the lights on their cars turned on. On his way back into town, Quigley was almost shot by a guard on duty while driving a German military vehicle back into a town he was stationed in. He also recalled how he and another soldier went to a nearby town that the Russians had just occupied and taken control of, and had to drink Russian village vodka with the soldiers. They just could not take it. On another occasion, Quigley was taken by a Russian officer and shown a tour of a prison that the Russians had taken and were using to keep German citizens and soldiers under watch. When they arrived in the basement where they kept the prisoners, all of them were crammed into one cell, with empty cells on either side. When Quigley asked why they did not move them, the prison warden told him that the Germans had done that to the Russians, so that’s what they were going to do to the Germans. In another part of the prison, the Russians had chained a German officer naked to the wall and left him there to rot. That was the last thing Quigley experienced from the war before returning home.

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Tom Quigley made his way home where he had to check in to a base camp back stateside. On the way home he stopped and got some perfume for his mother in France. He traveled back to the United States on an Italian ship with relatively few other soldiers. As they approached, Quigley could hear American radio broadcasts and could not believe it. When he got back, no one in the bars would let him pay for a drink. He took a train home and arrived at a military camp in Rockford, Illinois, looking like a bum covered in soot and ragged from the war. When they stepped off the train, Quigley and the men with him noticed roughly twenty German POWs standing near the train depot. Quigley told them in German to come and carry their bags for them to the nearest barracks. When the MP guarding them told Quigley that he could not do that, Quigley told him in no uncertain terms that he could in fact do that and that the MP would be carrying their bags if the Germans did not. After a 30 day leave, Quigley returned to Camp Swift in Austin to attend a dance being thrown for the men and there he met his wife. Quigley was ranked as a 1st Lieutenant when he left the service and even though he was offered a captaincy, he did not want to stay in anymore. Quigley says that the war made him grow up quickly. He has since taught his granddaughters how to shoot. He remembers how he used to go and shoot in his basement during the depression as a kid, and that practice was part of what made him so proficient a shot. Quigley also expressed his belief that through a continued study of World War 2, and through museums like The National WWII Museum, we can both prevent something of such magnitude from happening again while also honoring the sacrifices made during the conflict. Quigley used to run cross country and at one point during the war, he was running along a hedgerow trying to find a mortar position that had been plaguing him and his men. On his way back to his men’s position, a Flak .88 fired at him and missed. He sprinted back toward his position, and every time he heard the gun fire, he would jump to the right or left and just kept running. He outran the German shells and eventually made it safely back to his men.
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