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Segment stub for 71463

Returned to the Army

Training and Deployment

England to the Front

Service in Belgium

Photographing Koblenz

War's End in Europe

Recollections of Germany

Troopship to Okinawa

Occupation of Korea and Returning Home

Postwar Career and Life

Annotation

Relocated to Santa Anna, California, Alfred "Al" Danegger, waited for assignment. The Air Corps had to make personnel adjustments, and Danegger was returned to the Army combat engineers. He went through "so called" officer training and was sent to Mississippi to teach an all Black [Annotator's Note: African-American] group of pipeline engineers. The students were poor learners, and the instructors had no training in educational methods. It went badly and Danegger was transferred to a camp of combat engineers at Camp Claiborne [Annotator's Note: in Rapides Parish, Louisiana], or Camp Livingston [Annotator's Note: in Rapides Parish and Grant Parish, Louisiana]. He was so bored, he volunteered for KP [Annotator's Note: kitchen patrol or kitchen police] duty. He asked to be transferred again but was pushed out the door. He learned there was a photographic unit about 50 miles away, hitchhiked to the camp, found the photographic company, and interviewed with them. About 80 percent of the people there were part of the last pigeon company in America. He took and passed five exams, and in due course he was moved to the 198th Signal Photographic Company.

Annotation

Six weeks after he was reassigned to the 198th Signal Photographic Company, Alfred "Al" Danegger was in Europe. He already knew a lot about photography and processing film, and he shared his knowledge with people in his company. He did not know how to change the tires on a jeep. He had to take more exams to prove he knew how to take pictures in the field. As best as he remembers, there were 26 photographers in the company who went overseas. They took a lot of photographic equipment with them. He was a PFC [Annotator's Note: Private First Class], and says that nobody got promoted. During that time in the military, the photographic group was the only unit he knew of that moved at an unpredictable speed. They would go out and shoot an assignment, but also take photographs of other things of importance. Danegger once photographed a new method of hanging cables across a river. He had to learn to climb a pole and was doing that sort of thing all the time. Eventually, the photographers were working as independents, although they stayed close to one another and would meet up to exchange information. He deployed from New York [Annotator's Note: New York, New York] in a ship run by the English, and landed in Plymouth, England.

Annotation

When Alfred "Al" Danegger arrived in England, he was immediately ordered to drive an ammunition truck to Liverpool [Annotator's Note: Liverpool, England]. He had no idea how to drive such a vehicle, especially on the wrong side of the road, but it was the only available transportation. In Liverpool, he lived first in a racetrack, then in a confiscated home among nice people. He remembers hearing buzz bombs [Annotator's Note: V-1 pulse jet flying bomb, German name: Vengeance Weapon 1; Allied names: buzz bomb, doodlebug] and being invited to dinner with local families. He was there maybe six weeks, and did absolutely nothing, except work with the firemen, and learn to bowl. He had opportunity to visit London [Annotator's Note: London, England] where fog was common. Their equipment, which had traveled by train, never arrived, and was thought stolen. Their commanding officer sent the men of the unit [Annotator's Note: 198th Signal Photographic Company] out to search railroad yards, and the gear was found. It had been sidetracked, not stolen. When they were told that they were leaving for mainland Europe, they packed on trucks in the night, in an attempt to keep their departure plan secret, but the whole town knew and turned out to see them off. They boarded an LST [Annotator's Note: Landing Ship, Tank], loaded with their equipment packed in portable dark rooms, and set off across the Channel [Annotator's Note: English Channel]. They sailed up the Seine [Annotator's Note: Seine River in France], then drove, with a few stops along the way, to the area where the Battle of the Bulge [Annotator's Note: Battle of the Bulge or German Ardennes Counter Offensive, 16 December 1944 to 25 January 1945] was taking place. They literally did not know where things were, or whether there were Germans or Americans there. Early on, an English fellow came along and told them how to survive the whole thing. Danegger would like to know who he was so he could thank him. The guy told them do not stand still. The cameras used during those days were Eyemos [Annotator's Note: 35mm motion picture film camera by Bell & Howell], that shot 35mm film. They would find a subject, set the camera up, and let it run while they lay on the ground. One of his cameras had a hole shot right through the lens. They wasted a lot of film that way but were never criticized. Still pictures could be shot quickly and were mostly made when there was no shooting going on.

Annotation

Alfred "Al" Danegger and other photographers would often take pictures that included themselves. They recorded many other things. He wonders what the authorities ever did with. During the Battle of the Bulge [Annotator's Note: Battle of the Bulge or German Ardennes Counter Offensive, 16 December 1944 to 25 January 1945], there wasn’t a lot to do, except survive. People were cold and wet, and he could hear cannon fire in the background. It was not a nice story. Once in a while, they would capture a bunch of Germans, and do to them what they were doing to the Americans: just eliminate them. He did not do it, but he photographed it. It did not really bother him and he got used to it. He was interested in how they buried dead Americans, and it turned out that others were, too. He photographed the quartermaster crew going through a routine that is used only in battle situations. They dug a long slit with a bulldozer, and the bodies were carefully placed and marked with precision. The bodies were wrapped in mattress covers, and there was a chaplain praying over the bodies. The trench was covered over, to be uncovered later when circumstances allowed. Danegger spent a whole day filming the procedure. Once the Battle of the Bulge was over, Danegger filmed Patton [Annotator's Note: US Army Lieutenant General George S. Patton, Jr.]. From there, they went to another part of Belgium, and lived in a fabric factory that had a distinct odor. They stayed, because it was warm. The scouts found a chateau that had room enough for the unit [Annotator's Note: 198th Signal Photographic Company] to set up a darkroom. Danegger went with the company commander to speak with the owner in German. Danegger only lived there for a day, and it was the day that Roosevelt [Annotator's Note: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States] died [Annotator's Note: on 12 April 1945]. That affected everybody and was a sobering day. In total, Danegger was in the area for four or five days, but all his film went back there. The Belgians were different, according to Danegger. They never contributed much, and many fled to Canada. Those that stayed did not like the Americans very much. They were conspicuously unfriendly. The photographers made a substantial contribution at a church service and then people started talking to them.

Annotation

Immediately after the war, Alfred "Al" Danegger started taking college students to Europe on bicycle trips. On one of the trips he revisited the chateau where he had stayed in Belgium, and also found the only foxhole he ever dug during the war. Photographers did not carry weapons on their person, though Danegger did have a pistol in his camera case, and there was a grease gun [Annotator's Note: .45 caliber M3 submachine gun, also referred to as a grease gun], a weird looking machine gun, clipped under the seat of his jeep. Danegger never aimed a gun at anybody, but he sometimes shot over enemy heads to chase them away. Returning to his story of the bike trip, he says that the woman who owned the chateau greeted his group at the gate, and was angry and rude, which he found unsettling, given that the Americans made it possible for her to return to her home and country after the war. On a second trip, the woman's son treated him and his wife like old friends and allowed them a tour through the house. When taking photographs during the war, the assignments took priority. The work was taken to division headquarters, where there was an efficient system of processing film, making contact sheets, and getting them back to the photographers and to the United States. He took many photographs of awards ceremonies, and when he did so, he was responsible for the captions. Photography was a "do it yourself" job. He spent time with the divisions and saw an awful lot of what was going on. Patton [Annotator's Note: US Army Lieutenant General George S. Patton, Jr.] had "lens lust", and Danegger made a large number of pictures of him. The photographers wore no indication of their unit [Annotator's Note: 198th Signal Photographic Company] or rank, which made them very mobile. On a number of occasions, he had special clearance papers signed by Eisenhower [Annotator's Note: General of the Army Dwight David "Ike"Eisenhower, Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force; 34th President of the United States]. He was among a group that got the job of photographing the capture and the first 30 days occupation of Koblenz, Germany [Annotator's Note: in March 1945]. The city was destroyed. He was not aware of one untouched building. It took them days to find a place where they could get out of the rain. Eventually they settled in a building that was missing its top floors, but had enough structure left to cover their heads. They got acquainted with a gracious man who was put in charge of getting the city back up and running. Military people had made a sport of shooting out electrical connections, and it became a court martial offense to do so. City officials' first job was to get power turned on again. They saw very few townspeople while they were there.

Annotation

When the war in Europe ended, Alfred "Al" Danegger believes he was in Koblenz [Annotator’s Note: Koblenz, Germany]. When his unit [Annotator's Note: 198th Signal Photographic Company] moved to Marseilles [Annotator's Note: Marseilles, France], it was very sudden. One of the things he photographed while in Koblenz was the Rhine [Annotator's Note: Rhine River in Germany]. It had started to warm up, and there were hundreds of dead bodies deteriorating. Danegger never got used to the smell. The military came through with bulldozers to clear the roads. There was no security, and a group of Americans staying in another location were all killed as they slept. On several occasions, there were German airplanes flying overhead. On one night a fighter plane landed on a private airstrip near the city, and the photographers went out to get pictures. The unhurt, congenial pilot surrendered, and told the photographers that he lived in a village about 50 miles away. The photo unit took their pictures as though they had shot him down before turning him over to the MPs [Annotator's Note: military police]. The war was almost over, and the MPs agreed with the photographers that there was no sense in sending him to a detention camp. They outfitted him as a civilian and allowed him to go home. Danegger considers the biggest mistake he made in World War 2 was that he did not get the man's name and home address. Danegger was already on his way to Okinawa [Annotator's Note: Okinawa, Japan] when the war in Europe ended. Somebody said for them to pack up to go to Japan. When the officer in charge of his company [Annotator's Note: 198th Signal Photographic Company] found out, it was too much for him, and he shot himself.

Annotation

Alfred "Al" Danegger's trip to Okinawa [Annotator's Note: Okinawa, Japan] was very bad. The captain of the ship should have been court martialed. Back in Germany, the 88s [Annotator's Note: German 88mm multi-purpose artillery] were far superior to anything the Americans had. The photographers saw such a gun in a valley below them, with four or five German artillery people standing around. Danegger's company [Annotator's Note: 198th Signal Photographic Company] went down and talked to them. They asked the Germans to shoot the gun and filmed the demonstration. One of Danegger's photos was repeated in many places. There was a POW [Annotator's Note: prisoner of war] tent camp, under the authority of one guard, near where the photographers were living. The Germans were held under the threat that if they misbehaved, they would be sent to a Russian POW camp. There was never a problem. Danegger considered how to photograph the situation and decided to do aerial shots. He also took photos of people walking across the bridge over the Moselle River. Working alone, he took pictures of a cave where historical documents were being protected. The photographers took pictures over a 50 mile span up and down the Allied side of the Rhine [Annotator's Note: river in Germany]. In the little town of Remagen [Annotator's Note: Remagen, Germany], the railroad bridge had been blown up, but had come back down right into place. Danegger witnessed the Allied troops rushing across with supplies before the bridge collapsed. He took photos that appear in lots of books. He also made a photographic story in a port in Belgium of a truck driver who drove I-beams to building sites. The driver carried dynamite with him, and if he couldn't turn a corner, he blew up the buildings that were in the way.

Annotation

When his company [Annotator's Note: 198th Signal Photographic Company] went to Okinawa [Annotator's Note: Okinawa, Japan], Alfred "Al" Danegger said the ship was packed with specialist troops who had been shot up. The journey included only a couple of short stops along the way, and dozens of soldiers committed suicide by jumping overboard. The troop commander posted signs all over the ship that he could no longer be responsible for the health and sanity of the people on board. Nobody was allowed out at night, and it was like being on a prisoner ship. The food was bad, and most people ate only one meal a day. It was hot. When the ship arrived in Okinawa, people disembarking were fainting. Danegger lost 40 pounds on that miserable trip. Among the things the photographic company packed to take on the trip was champagne. They filled a portable darkroom with the wine, and although they did not eat well on the trip, they did drink well. The people on the ship were in such bad shape that when the end of the war with Japan was announced, there was silence. Nobody cheered. It was the worst thing Danegger saw in the whole war.

Annotation

In the occupation of Korea [Annotator's Note: Korean War, 1950 to 1953], Alfred "Al" Danegger and his men found a general who knew nothing at all and put him in charge. Danegger was among the first off of the ship. He took pictures of that general and got acquainted with him. Korea was an absolute disaster, because the country's infrastructure started to break down. The returning Japanese took with them everything they could carry, and the photographic company [Annotator's Note: 198th Signal Photographic Company] documented everything they could. There was not one person in the military who could speak Korean. A single translator from Columbia University [Annotator's Note: Columbia University in New York, New York] was eventually sent over. Danegger found a newspaperman who could speak Japanese who rode around with him while he worked. Nobody was very proud of the whole thing in Korea, and very little was written about it. He spent six months there. He was in the hospital for a urinary infection, and was told that when he felt better, he could go home. He left at Christmas [Annotator's Note: 1945], and the trip back was painless with good food and good company.

Annotation

[Annotator's Note: The interviewer asks Alfred "Al" Danegger how the war changed his life.] The war changed Danegger's life quite a lot. During the time he was in England, he learned lawn bowling. After the war was over, his blood pressure was high, and he was advised to find a quiet occupation. He got a job in a resort on the strength of his experience with the sport. He also learned enough about motion pictures during the war to get a job at the University of California. He was taking courses for a year there and joined the ROTC [Annotator's Note: Reserve Officer Training Corps]. He got out as soon as possible, was discharged as a corporal, and did not have to serve when the United States went to war in Korea [Annotator's Note: Korean War, 1950 to 1953]. He feels it important that there be a National World War 2 Museum [Annotator's Note: The National World War II Museum, New Orleans, Louisiana] in America.

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