Q: This is Alia Greenbaum. I am interviewing Mr. Ted Holt in the law office of Greenbaum, Nagel, Fisher and Hamelburg. The date is May 17, 2002.
Q: What is your name?
Mr. Holt: Francis Stethem Holt, JR., called Ted Holt.
Q: What was your age in 1941?
Mr. Holt: Well, lets see.
Q: What is your place of birth and where were you raised?
Mr. Holt: I was born and raised in Massachusetts.
Q: To what extent were you aware of the happenings in Japan, Italy and Germany during the 1930s?
Mr. Holt: Well, I was well aware of it, especially in the European theatre, of Hitler in Munich and all those places. I really wasn't too tuned in on the Orient, Japan. I guess they were at war... I don't know, I think with China. I didn't pay too much attention.
Q: Would you please explain how you first became aware of the dangers in Europe and Asia?
Mr. Holt: Well, I became aware of the dangers especially in Europe with Hitler, and the invasions of various countries; you know, France, and some lowland countries, Belgium, and that area all around, and also they were in Poland and all the Baltic states there. As far as Japan was concerned, I was very, very unaware of too much; it didn't interest me. I was only in my late teens, so I didn't really pay that much attention.
Q: What was your reaction to the war in Europe, like the invasion of Poland, or the Battle of Britain in late 1940?
Mr. Holt: What was my reaction? Well, I was involved!
Mr. Holt: Well, we were very, especially in Boston, we were very... tuned in to those things. And then when Winston Churchill came to this country and he gave a big talk in Boston Garden, and well, I was there. You know, because Boston is very, very English, very England-oriented. So... and once Pearl Harbor was hit, we really were into it. But before we got into the Second World War, we were shipping a great deal of things... war supplies to Russia, through the North Sea, to France and also to England. But I was in college then, as you remember.
Q: What was your reaction to the attack on Pearl Harbor, and what do you remember of it?
Mr. Holt: Well,
Q: How did you feel when the Americans declared war?
Mr. Holt: I don't remember... I just was like you. What were your feelings about 9/11? You know? We're in. And there wasn't much more to say about it. You know, I don't really... it was just my teenage years.
Q: Under what circumstances did you enter the armed forces - were you drafted, or did you volunteer?
Mr. Holt: Well, I was in college MIT, and you know, everyone 18 and over had to register for the draft only men had to, so you as a young lady would have been safe. And I was just drafted to join.
Q: Which branch of the armed forces did you join?
Mr. Holt: The Army.
Q: Was this your choice?
Mr. Holt: Well see, I... well, yes it was. I was in ROTC, I was at MIT, and when they took our upper class into the service, it was to go into the army antiaircraft. So then they sent us back to college. Then, they closed that program down, at the University of Maine, and we went from living in frat houses to foxholes, I don't know, for three days, and then we went down to Tennessee, in the middle of winter! And after that... we ended up being sent to officer candidates school, OCS, and then Roosevelt came out and said he had enough officers, and they only had, in our group they only had 85 openings and 162 men. So they drew lots. And I was... very happy, now in retrospect, never being selected. All those men were with anti-aircraft in this group of the Army, and the infantry, and they all went off at once to the Asiatic theatre, and I don't know of any that ever came back. And we ended up going to Europe.
Q: So you were pretty lucky.
Mr. Holt: Yeah, that's what I think.
Q: What was it like saying goodbye to your friends and family when you left for the front?
Mr. Holt: Well, it wasn't any big deal, because it was all out. Once you're 18, you have to register for the draft, as I said, so the only way you didn't go on the draft when you were 18 was if you were in school, in college, or you were working in an industry where they needed your talents, and they gave you an exemption. They didn't just take everyone who was 18; they took those in business courses and such, which weren't necessary for the war effort. And all the engineers and things, they just didn't touch. You know, if you were working in a war industry somewhere, they gave you an exemption. But if you lost your job, you'd get picked up.
Q: What special skills were you taught in the service?
Mr. Holt: Nothing.
Mr. Holt: Right, nothing. We took a test to see our fitness to be officers, and the whole lot of us scored higher than any of the officers.
Q: Did your faith impact your thoughts of the war?
Mr. Holt: No, it didn't. It didn't bother me. I was brought up in an environment to have no prejudices - you know, everybody bleeds red when you stick a pin in 'em, no matter what faith they are, or their background. It's America; we're the melting pot.
Q: What was your role in the armed service?
Mr. Holt: I had quite a number.
Q: You mentioned that you had had other roles during the war. Could you explain what the others were?
Mr. Holt: Well when I got injured and went into the hospital in the United Kingdom... when I came out of the hospital I went to the 'Repo Depot,' where we came out, and they had lost all my papers in the Battle of the Bulge. And I was picked up by
Q: So you were really in the middle of everything, weren't you?
Mr. Holt: Yeah, right up in it. It is very difficult to explain. And this was the top people in Europe, and we, I think we had only... colonels. They were all West Pointers. Their authority was so big... they sent me down to get some information, I remember, and General Clay was on another floor, and he refused to give me the information because I was an enlisted man. So I said, 'Well, can I call Colonel Buchanan?' - Head of our office - and he says, 'Sure.' So I called him, and Colonel Buchanan said he wanted to talk to General Clay, so then General Clay took the phone, and he kept saying, 'Yessir, Yessir, Yessir, Yessir.' And he hung up and he said, 'What do you want?'
Q: You mentioned being in the Battle of the Bulge...?
Mr. Holt: I wasn't in the battle. I was there when they were bringing the troops up. The Fourth Armored was pulled off the line, the front line, and they disappeared overnight. Where are they? And about three weeks later, we were pulled off the line, and trucked up North to the First Armored area. It was during that coming up that I was injured. They had built us up to full strength, and there was the Fourth Armored. So the Bulge the Battle of the Bulge they had a lot of things happening. I personally think we set a trap for the Germans, but they could never come out and admit it because they were too... see we had all our supplies behind the lines in that area, and the Germans were kicking the lash - the supplies they needed they were making a big drive for. But we in the meantime had moved it all away. So when the Germans came in with their fresh troops, we put our... how would you say... 'green' people just came off the boat shoved them in... before it could break the blow. And after all that all the pros - Fourth Armored and the Yankee Division, and a number of others - came in and cut them off. And we took prisoners and killed the rest. Then at that time we got over the Remagen Bridge, they didn't have time to blow it up, and we just opened everything up. The Germans were pretty well at the end of it... but I wasn't involved in it, I was reporting back to England on the hospital train.
Q: So you mentioned that you were injured. How did that occur?
Mr. Holt: Well, when we were coming up... I had to get off the truck because the nets - you know, to disguise the big guns - part had fallen off, so I got up to put it back up, and the driver of the truck didn't know I was off, because we had men all over the truck. So I was caught between the truck and the gun, and it knocked me over and went over my leg. So, that was not by enemy action.
Q: What did you miss most about the US while you were in France?
Mr. Holt: Absolutely nothing. You see, I was young and irresponsible. The entire war was sort of a lark, and I loved France.
Q: What was your personal attitude towards the Germans, as people?
Mr. Holt: The Germans... they were... you know, we were all very ruthless. I mean, after the Armistice, they were just nice guys our age. They were pulled in, just like we were. They were nice guys. I mean, we had nothing to do, naturally, with the Gestapo, we weren't aware of all those things. We weren't even aware of the death camps until, towards the end of the war, we ran into them and liberated them. Then the horror stories started. But all that came after. It's a very interesting experience, something that you don't like to think too much about at times. I'm telling you things I have never told anyone. Like you, some of your best friends... dead bodies, and so what? Unless you're up there with us in the front lines, you don't know. Some of the men would get what we would call combat fatigue. Well that basically really was a nervous breakdown. Because they had their duty, and they had their responsibilities back home. I never knew anybody that was married or had a family back home dependant on them that didn't get killed or wounded, because their reaction was just a split-second too late. I had no responsibilities... but it happened.
Q What was your reaction to the atrocities the Germans committed toward the minorities in the death camps, once you found out about their existence?
Mr. Holt: Well, I thought that the whole thing was rather... certainly a horror story. But you have to remember... since then, we talk about the death camps, but Hitler felt that anybody that wasn't a full-blooded... white person should be destroyed. Gypsies, and Jewish people, and many, many other different races. But I think the Jewish people kept the thing alive, which I think is a wonderful thing. You know, the world will never forget it. But I don't really know the statistics, but maybe 23-5% of the people who died in the gas chambers were Jewish, but they were children, women. There were terrible atrocities. That's [Hitlers belief of a supreme Aryan race] why they [the Nazis] did that up in Poland, they did it to a lot of Russians when they could get them, and they would become like animals. But basically, it was kill or be killed. You get very callous about it... and you don't forget, you sort of put it in the back of your mind. When we were in France, winning the war, we never took prisoners. Unless we were going into a town... or they were going into a forest, or the woods, because we didn't know how many people enemy people were watching. Once, we did go into a town, and we took our orders to the French loyalists there, and they said 'Lets take these prisoners back to the rear'... And I remember one time, the people were back in about a half an hour, forty-five minutes. What are you doing here? We tried to escape...
Q: You said you had served under General Patton. What was he like, as both a person and a general?
Mr. Holt: He was terrific. Old Blood and Guts. I personally saw him out on the front lines, with the soldiers, three times. Right up in the front lines. Of course, you don't fight all the time, but I never heard of any of the others playing the real soldier. And we would do anything for him. I remember after the war, I was in Paris, and we had a parade down the Champs-Elysees, and there was Patton, there standing up with his pistols and his guns and his belt he always had these white ivory handles - he was a wonderful person. The most feared general in the Second World War by the Germans. They always had their best troops [up against us], and there was full respect, both the Germans for us and they had the toughest ones of their regiments and we were fighting, their armies against the Third Army. Patton's Third Army took more land, more prisoners, suffered fewer losses as far as men were concerned, lost more tanks and materials but he was taking care of his men. It was unbelievable. In fact, after the Armistice hit, he was so far ahead of all the other armies, that he was a hundred miles [ahead], and they had to pull them all back he was way east of Berlin once he broke through. He was a great, great, great general.
Q: Were you aware of the 110 thousand Japanese-Americans in various detention camps?
Mr. Holt: Yes.
Q: What did you feel about that? Did you think it was justified?
Mr. Holt: Well, you see, there was a big scare in America, about spies. We had never fought the Japanese before, and now they were right at our door, you see. So people were afraid that the Japanese who were citizens would feel more loyalty to their native country than to the United States. It was the only thing that Roosevelt could have done. Looking back, I can see how people could feel it was awful, but at the time, none of us felt any regret that it had been done. We knew about it, of course, when I was working in Paris, and we all thought it was the right thing - the only thing - to do. Some of the same sort of things were happening to Germans and Italians as well, but not on the scale. The Germans planted spies along the East Coast, in subs, but we caught them all. The Japs were just so much closer to our shores, and we were their main enemy - the Germans had the English and the Russians to worry about besides us - so we were that much more fearful of Japanese spies.
Q: What was your reaction to the decision to drop the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Was this decision justified, in your opinion?
Mr. Holt: The problem with the bombs was that they hadn't been used yet, so although they had been tested - but that had been a secret - no one really knew what they could do. And the closer we got our men in towards Japan, the fiercer the fighting became. We estimated, based on the D-Day Normandy invasion and some of the battles in the Island-Hopping campaign, about how many of our men it would take to invade Japan proper, and it came out to about a quarter of a million American men lost to invade. Truman had to weigh that against the deaths of the civilians that the bombs would cause, and he had to chose the bombs. It was the only thing we could do to get Japan to surrender. Even after the first bomb dropped, they still wouldn't surrender, so we had to drop the second one, you see.
Q: At the end of World War II, did you anticipate that there would be future wars?
Mr. Holt: Of course. It's in human nature to fight - that's how this race got to be where it is today - it's survival of the fittest. Just because we won this one didn't mean that there would never be another war. History fades away, and we can only hope to keep enough of it around to prevent people from making the same mistakes that happened in the past, or else history repeats itself. That's why I'm so glad to have talked to you. Before I spoke with you, I was forgetting names and things, but now it's as if I opened a book, and there everything was, right in front of me. And now there is a record, so when I am gone, some of the things I experienced will still be remembered by the people of your generation and later.
You know, you will probably think that this is an awful thing to say, but I think that 9/11 was one of the best things that could have happened to America. Because of it, we are now the United States again. I have never seen so many flags and symbols of our country in my life, but now when you look around you, you see all of these slogans and flags and everything... it's just wonderful. This is a different kind of war were in now; you can watch it in your living room. When I watch it, I'm just as amazed as you probably are; it's that different from the war I fought in. I was talking to an acquaintance of mine, a Vet from the Gulf War, and he was a bomber. He said that in the Second World War, we were dropping bombs down a chimney, and we had really good accuracy for the time. But in the Gulf War, he said, We could hit a dime from five miles up. I was reading an article just the other day that the government had paid a large amount of money to develop the newest warplanes that would be remote-controlled; no humans needed to fly them or bomb from them. It's amazing to think of how far weve come in such a short time.
Q: Do you have any last words of advice for those people of my generation you speak of?
Mr. Holt: Yes, I do. Always reach for the stars, reach as high as you can. Even if you cannot grab the stars, you can always reach the moon, but if you don't reach out and try to be the best you can be, you will never know what you can achieve.