Edgar L. McKay was born on 2 January 1925 in Gulfport [Annotator's Note: Gulfport, Mississippi]. He had four sisters and two brothers. His son served in Desert Storm [Annotator's Note: Gulf War, codenamed Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm against Iraq, 2 August 1990 to 28 February 1991] and has a grandson who is a recruiter for the Army. His family was poor growing up, needing money from the government to survive. McKay's father worked for the WPA [Annotator's Note: the Works Progress Administration was a federally sponsored program that put unemployed Americans to work during the Great Depression]. Many times his father took some of the children with him to work so they could have lunch. When the economy improved, his father delivered firewood, making a decent living for his family. McKay was 16 when Pearl Harbor was attacked [Annotator's Note: the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on 7 December 1941], he had not been paying much attention to World War 2 at all before the United States' involvement. McKay quit school in seventh grade, so he was drafted as soon as he turned 18 years old. He knew that he was going to be drafted by the Army. He did not have a birth certificate when he went to the draft board and had to give them a fake date of birth. The Army inducted him at Camp Shelby [Annotator's Note: in Hattiesburg, Mississippi]. He then underwent training at Camp Gordon, Georgia [Annotator's Note: now Fort Gordon in Augusta, Georgia]. And then Camp Wheeler [Annotator's Note: near Macon, Georgia] for additional training. He found military life challenging but enjoyable. After his training at Camp Wheeler he decided he wanted to join the paratroopers, so he went to Fort Benning, Georgia. McKay broke his ankle on his second jump from a plane. He was removed from the paratroopers and sent back to the Army for medical treatment until he was well enough to be put into an infantry unit. He traveled by train to New York [Annotator's Note: New York, New York], waiting to be sent to Europe.
Edgar L. McKay boarded the Queen Elizabeth [Annotator's Note: RMS Queen Elizabeth], which travelled alone. The ship was fast enough to outrun any potential submarine attacks. They landed in England and traveled by train to another destination. He was in England for about a month. The English soldiers were friendly towards the Americans, they were preoccupied with the war going on and fighting the Germans. McKay crossed the English Channel and landed in Le Havre, France. McKay had joined the 4th Armored Division [Annotator's Note: Company A, 10th Armored Infantry Battalion, 4th Armored Division] when he arrived in Europe, fighting under Patton [Annotator's Note: US Army Lieutenant General George S. Patton, Jr.]. His first combat experience was being bombed as he and his friend walked to receive their assignment, his friend getting injured in the process. McKay was a rifleman in his unit, he would ride on the tank until they began fighting where he and the other infantrymen would get off the tank and protect it. He counts himself very fortunate that he never got hurt in the battles he fought. They encountered a mountain, which they had to go around. The Germans had blockaded the other side, making the Allies stuck in position. The Germans were above the Allies. The Allies had six tanks, the first of which the Germans destroyed. McKay was on top of the second tank using a machine gun when he saw a bazooka [Annotator's Note: man-portable recoilless 2.36-inch anti-tank rocket launcher weapon] round coming straight toward him, but it narrowly went over his head. They got out of that tank trap, losing four tanks. The winter weather did not cause him much discomfort. They were given white capes when snow began falling. McKay and an ally were given the duty of protecting the Allied side of a river. He almost shot his own sergeant as he walked toward their position until the wind blew his cape away from his face and McKay recognized him. McKay saw Patton a couple of times while fighting in Europe. McKay found the Germans dedicated soldiers. The average German foot soldiers were ready to give up, but the SS [Annotator's Note: Schutzstaffel; German paramilitary organization] were fanatical and did not want to. Patton sent a couple of companies to Bastogne [Annotator's Note: Bastogne, Luxembourg] to rescue some paratroopers [Annotator's Note: some noise and talking is heard in the background of the interview]. They were sent to Luxembourg for a week of rest.
Edgar L. McKay and others received orders [Annotator's Note: from US Army Lieutenant General George S. Patton, Jr.] to travel behind enemy lines to liberate a camp [Annotator's Note: Task Force Baum, March 1945]. McKay and his unit [Annotator's Note: Company A, 10th Armored Infantry Battalion, 4th Armored Division] moved behind enemy lines, often having to detour because of German roadblocks. They moved through towns with civilians often leaving their houses to wave at them. McKay's group encountered German soldiers at Gemünden [Annotator's Note: Gemünden, Germany], and moved on after having caused damage there. From there they went to Hammelburg [Annotator's Note: Hammelburg, Germany] and liberated Camp Hammelburg [Annotator's Note: Oflag XIII-B]. Patton's son-in-law was pulled in a jeep and flown out. They had to siphon gas out of their halftracks [Annotator's Note: a vehicle with front wheels and rear tracks] to put into their tanks. By that time the Germans surrounded them, and the soldiers could either surrender or try to get back to Allied lines. McKay and a friend of his ran all night and slept during the day. They were awakened the next day by German soldiers and an interpreter. McKay planned to run away from them, but a German soldier stabbed him in the shoulder with a bayonet. The Germans gave him medical attention and then brought him back to the camp that they had just liberated. After 28 days as prisoner the 7th Army came and liberated the camp. He was then sent to the Third General Hospital in France and given a Purple Heart [Annotator's Note: the Purple Heart Medal is an award bestowed upon a United States service member who has been wounded as a result of combat actions against an armed enemy]. After his wounds healed, he was put on a Liberty ship [Annotator's Note: a class of quickly produced cargo ship] to the United States. The Army sent him to Bancroft Hotel in Miami Beach, Florida for R&R [Annotator's Note: rest and recuperation] when he returned home.
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