War on Their Minds
1943   Douglas Bernard
Age in 1941: 21

Caroline Bernard
Age in 1941: 17

Interview Team: Erin Dopfel, Johanna Reed

Q: Well to start off the introductions, what is your name?

Mr. Bernard: Mr. Douglas Bernard... do you want me to say a little more about myself? We lived in Wayland for almost thirty years. We now live down in Cape Cod, but one of my sons who put us up to this; he lives in our house now, that we used to have, in Cochichuate. That's my wife...

Q: Would you like to say your name?

Mrs. Bernard: Pardon me?

Q: What's your name?

Mrs. Bernard: I'm Caroline. I'm the wife of the... he was the [buck bride]

Mr. Bernard: PFC.

Mrs. Bernard: Oh, PFC.

Mr. Bernard: You automatically get a PFC when you go overseas.

Q: What exactly is a PFC?

Mr. Bernard: That's a private first class... that's as far as I got... I think a lot of the — I should say that when I left the European Theatre after the war I was in [Lemondes], France for nine months and of course they wanted to keep as many people as they could overseas.

Q: When exactly did you leave? March...

Mr. Bernard: We left... I would say early March of 1946 and I was gonna get Sergeant's Stripes — it was the only chance I had to get Sargent Stripes — and they said, "you stay two more months, instead of going home, and we'll give you Sergeant's Stripes," and I said, "You could make me the General, I'm going home." As it so happened Caroline had had a little boy, so I really wanted to get home.

Q: So what was your age in 1941?

Mr. Bernard: Well, when I went in I was 23, wasn't I?

Mrs. Bernard: Yup, 23 — 1943

Mr. Bernard: Yeah, 23 in 1943.

Q: Did you go straight into Europe or did you go to some base camps?

Mr. Bernard: No, I went to Spartenberg, SC, basic training, from there we went to Camp Croft which is in Wisconsin, I can't think of the name of the town —

Mrs. Bernard: Lacrosse

Mr. — Oh, Lacrosse WI, and from there we came back, low and behold we came back to Boston, to Camp Myles Standish which is down near Taunton. That was a staging area where people would stay until they were shipped out. Then we got on a ship called the [Manne Rarch], Thanksgiving morning, 1944.

Q: So did you have Thanksgiving Day dinner early?

Mr. Bernard: Nah — we probably had turkey at Myles Standish before we left. So we got on the ship, there was a convoy, 13 ships that went overseas, and it took us 13 days. I was sick everyday — I was never much of a sailor. We landed in a place called Plymouth, England. And from there we went to [Bournmouth], where we stayed a little while. And along this time came the Battle of the Bulge, maybe you've heard of that. That Battle that was kind of the last fling that the Germans had. And so that immediately sent us to [Southampton] over the English Channel. [Went up and we really didn't get into the Battle of the Bulge in a time way,] but we did get to become a defensive position, so they had no way of getting beyond us.

Q: Where were you stationed?

Mr. Bernard: So as the Battle of the Bulge, I forget the names of the towns, it might be in some of these papers I brought with me, but I can't... you know I really haven't looked at much of this stuff until my boy got into it. I had a chance to get a purple heart, because I was injured in a place called Chemnitz, only about a week or two before the war ended, and they sent me back, and I got on a plane, a VC3 — a little two engine job, and they put us in a stretcher, maybe 10 or 12 of us, and we went back to [Hawley] field in Paris, the same field I think where Lindbergh landed, 1927. Anyway, I was in the hospital there for six weeks.

Q: What happened?

Mr. Bernard: Yeah, well what happened, we took the town of [ ]. There we took a lot of towns in Germany after we went over the Siegfried line, and we started chasing the Germans. And we walked all the way across Germany, full field packed. We probably had 100 pounds or more on our backs, and we walked at least 23 miles everyday for 8 days in a row, it was a lot of walking. So what happened was I got a blister on the back of my foot, and it became really badly infected, and so when they sent me back finally to the airport — well it wasn't an airport, exactly. It was a grassy field - where the plane was, the doctor came out at night, before we were put in the plane, and he lanced my leg, which if he hadn't have done, I probably would have died before I got to the hospital. The poison was just [moving] right through my bloodstream. But that was that part of it.

Q: Why don't we go back a little bit. Late 1930's and war awareness. When you were still in America, before you... were you drafted or did you volunteer?

Mr. Bernard: It was kind of an in between. My brother was in the Airforce, and he had an illness, so we both got out, and we both worked at Raytheon — you're probably familiar with it — and when he got off, I was on deferment. I was on a defense plan. My job was making a lot of magnetrons, which we used, for the radar systems, which the British had; in fact the British invented that radar. So we — where am I?

Q: You're making magnetrons and being drafted.

Mr. Bernard: Oh yeah... so I went up to Percy Spencer, who was the vice president at the time, the manager of the company [Raytheon]. We were working at that plant, and I told Perce, I says, "You know, my brother's back now, I really should go in." So the next time that my deferment would've come up (they came in 6-month intervals), next time it came up of course I didn't get it, because I didn't want it. So I went in. That's how I got into the service.

Q: How did you choose the armed forces over all the other...how did you choose to join the army?

Mr. Bernard: Well, I think that if you didn't make any special choice yourself, you normally went into the army. I actually was in the communications part of the service because I had been in, of course, radio. I had spent 2 years at night school at MIT on radio-electronic stuff. They gave us a test up at Fort Devins on short wave-Morse code, and of course I knew that quite well, amongst other things. So that's how I got into communications, but as it turned out, toward the end of our basic training they said that they were gonna put everyone in infantry. So I never got a chance to get down to Georgia where I'd have got my Sergeant Stripes (laughing). I didn't get them, so that was the end of that. And because, as I told you, we went to Camp Croft up in Wisconsin.

Q: What was boot camp like?

Mr. Bernard: Tough. You can imagine what South Carolina is like in July and August, and then you march 15 or 20 miles out to the firing range, and then you march all the way back. And things are, you know. I think we came out of a generation that... we'd been in a depression. I think we'd been pretty well toughened up to things not being like they are. I hate to say this, but today it's pretty nice times. We didn't have those good times in that regard. So I think we were toughened up so when we did go to basic training we were able to handle it OK.

Q: Were you aware during the late 1930's, during the depression, what was going on in either Europe or in Asia regarding Hitler and Tojo...?

Mr. Bernard: Oh yeah. We had history teachers like you and of course they were telling us all that stuff about the news. In 1936, I think it was, when Spain had a... well, you know more about it than I do, but they had a revolution (I forget the people who were in it), but then out of that is what started the war. Well, what actually started that was when Germany invaded Poland. The British said, "If you invade Poland, you have a war with us," and on September 3, 1939, England says, "Well, you've gone as far as you're going to go." And they started the war. Of course we got into it, eventually.

Q: Did you think at that point that the Americans should back the British?

Mr. Bernard: Well I did in a way. You gotta remember, I was born in Cardiff, Wales [Mr. Bernard immigrated to America when he was 10], which is part of the British Isles. And being born there, (you, you know I'm really an American), but being born there- wherever you're born, you have a special attachment to that particular place. I think that I was more aware, being from the British Isles. We should come on and help them, which Roosevelt himself would have liked to see us into the war a whole lot earlier, but there was a lot of people who didn't want us in the war. Pretty much isolationists at that time. Anyway, that's when Pearl Harbor came along, no question.

Q: What do you remember about the attack on Pearl Harbor?

Mr. Bernard: Oh, I remember that quite well. That was December 7, 1941, and that really woke up us. One good thing we can say about World War Two that you could never say about the Vietnam War was we were-the country was 100% behind what we did. Of course being attacked the way we were [chuckles] we didn't need much incentive to go over there and, you know, do what we did.

Q: Yeah. There was a very strong sense of nationalism.

Mr. Bernard: Oh yeah, and that's a big help. I always felt sorry for the Vietnam people because they really didn't have the backing of the country and that's really tough.

Q: Do you think your feelings of nationalism were as strong as other people?

Mr. Bernard: I think mine is stronger because I think, coming from Wales, coming to this country, you know. I like Wales. There's nothing wrong with the Welsh (both chuckle), but I have to say that we live in the greatest country in the world. It was well worth fighting for and I feel that I've given something back by spending those years that I did, especially under combat, that I was able to give something back to the country and not everyone has the opportunity to do that, and so I was fortunate.

Q: So when America declared war were you happy? Were you kind of scared? How did you feel?

Mr. Bernard: (Mr.)- Well I don't think that when you get to be ages like you kids are, I don't think you know what the word scared means, and I don't think we did either. You're not scared when you're that age. That's why I think 20-year-olds fight wars. If they took 50 year olds or 60 year olds they'd lose all the time. Yeah, so I think that we just wanted to give the Japs back a little bit of what they'd give to us.

Mrs. Bernard: Tell them about the rivers you had to go through.

Mr. Bernard: Well I'll let them get to that.

Q: Now how about you Mrs. Bernard. When you heard about the war and the declaration of war, were you afraid that you-were you guys married by the time the war was declared? When were you guys married?

Mrs. Bernard: We were married in October, and when did you go?

Mr. Bernard: '43. She had a little boy when I went in the service.

Q: So how did you guys communicate when he was over seas?

Mr. Bernard: Well, we sent a ton of letters.

Mrs. Bernard: And that's what my son found, all the letters.

Mr. Bernard: What's good about those letters is she was able to put down the hospitals, the name of the hospitals that I was in in Paris, which I had no idea what they were. I'd forgotten all about it. But she had them on the letters so that helped.

Q: Were any of the letters ever censored?

Mr. Bernard: Oh yeah, they were all censored. What did they call it in those days? E-mail?

Mrs. Bernard: Yeah.

Q: Did that upset you that they had looked at them?

Mr. Bernard: No, we kind of expected that cause we couldn't diverge troop movement and things of that nature. It was all something you did for your country. There was no freedom like that.

Q: How were you employed during the war? Did you work or stay home?

Mrs. Bernard: No, I stayed home with the baby and he sent me money every month.

Mr. Bernard: $60 or $70

Mrs. Bernard: Yeah, something like that. But I lived with my folks so I was lucky.

Q: Did you have friends who were employed?

Mrs. Bernard: Yes.

Q: Were you living in Wayland at the time?

Mrs. Bernard: No, Brighton, Boston.

Q: So were there factories and whatnot around the town that your friends would be employed in?

Mr. Bernard: Well, course she had worked in town there in Bainbridge. She went to be a secretary in schools for 2 years.

Mrs. Bernard: And I did help out during the time he was there. And my mother took care of the little fellow for me.

Mr. Bernard: They used to make all the sails. You know, for all the sailing vessels out of Marblehead. Well her company, that's what they did.

Q: What were your memories of the rationing. Did you have victory gardens?

Mrs. Bernard: Oh yes. We had the stamps and all that.

Q: Was that hard or did you adjust pretty easily?

Mrs. Bernard: You just adjusted to it. You know it wasn't as bad as I thought, really.

Q: Was there anything that you just couldn't get that you would have liked to have had? Or that you grew accustomed to having during the non-war years?

Mrs. Bernard: You know I can't remember. We were very lucky and a whole group of us, we might switch. You know, and help each other out. If they wanted something and we didn't, and they did, you know.

Q: Trading ration cards?

Mrs. Bernard: mmmhmmm

Q: One of the reflections that home-front people regularly tell me about is the butter that they had. It sounded especially bad.

Mrs. Bernard: Oh yeah.

Mr. Bernard: And you had to mix the color and the lard. Oh yeah, and the white and you had to mix in that color.

Mrs. Bernard: I can see it now [chuckling].

Q: Did your social life change in any notable way during the war?

Mrs. Bernard: Not really, I don't think.

Mr. Bernard: Well it depends on how you want to interpret the word I guess.

Mrs. Bernard: We've been married almost 58 years. He never ever told me of things that happened to him when he first came home until, you know, something like this came up and he had a friend named.... Ummm... John Murphy, was it?

Mr. Bernard: Murphy, yup.

Mrs. Bernard: And he was his best friend and he and you really went through the war together.

Mr. Bernard: Well, our biggest operation really was when we got through the Battle of the Bulge. They moved us up to Luxembourg, the Sauer River separates Luxembourg from Germany, and there's a little town called Luxembourg-uh, [Echtenach]. And at [Echtenach] we went over, two o'clock in the morning, on boats, across this raging river and up this steep hillside, and that's where the Siegfried line was. The big difference between the Siegfried line and the Maginot line was...

Q: What was the Maginot line?

Mr. Bernard: Maginot line was what the French had. The world 'maginot' is typically French. Anyway, that was a straight trench going across all of France, but once you got over that trench, there was nothing, nothing there. You were where you wanted to get to. There was no defense. The Siegfried Line, they had bunkers, they call them bunkers, and they were every 40 or 50 yards, and they were spread out and scattered, and went way back 3 or 4 miles. So you captured one bunker, and then there's another on to get, and another one to get. Also they could fall back and protect themselves. So that was really tough cause we got shut off from our group and encircled by the Germans for about 3 or 4 days. And I went down to get water one time, when I was in the fox hole, and went down to get some water, and the German's must have had their binoculars on me, so they set off one of their 88 mm Mortars. You don't hear Mortars like you do most shells.

Q: That's a big shell.

Mr. Bernard: It's a big shell, 88 mm.

Q: So did it hit around?

Mr. Bernard: So what they did, they dropped it off in front of me, but fortunately it went into the mud in this pond that I was trying to get some water from. So when it did explode it covered me with mud and not shrapnel [chuckles]. So that was a pretty close time. Another close time was... we were chasing the Germans and we saw these sparkles on the ground, looked like sparklers, you know, what a kid would have, and I said to this guy, "What is this burning around here?" And finally one of them said, "I think those are fuses." Well, all of a sudden, before we could stamp them all out, this big ammunition dump the Germans had left there went up, and of course we all got thrown, I don't know how many feet. There were a lot of people with broken arms, legs. I was lucky. I didn't get hurt.

Q: So it was buried? The ammunition was buried?

Mr. Bernard: No, there was a dump they had piled up. They'd just thrown everything in there. They were getting out of our way. We were moving, and that's one reason when we traveled 8 days, 23 miles a day. You can imagine we didn't have too much opposition. Or we never could have... That's when we'd gone through most of the other... The action after we got captured-not captured, but encircled, we broke out of that. The next action our 2nd Lieutenant, we used to call them, "90 day wonders," because they'd pull them in for 90 days out of college. They'd come out 2nd 'Louies'. Well, we didn't think too much of those guys. Especially if you were a private. So anyway, he had us go over this bare ground when we should've probably gone through the woods. And 2 machine guns opened fire up on us, one from each corner, and just killed a lot of our guys. But, a week later the Lt. Says, "does anyone remember such and such a guy that got hit," and I said, "Yeah, I was laying next door to him," He said, "You should go back and see if you can find him." Because he didn't want to leave anybody laying around too long. You know we tried to do a good job protecting them, even if they were dead. So I went back with this fellow in a jeep and we found him, and put him in the jeep, took him down to grave's registration, (that's where you bring all the dead people) and that's one place I never want to go back to, grave registration is a really... you see these trucks coming in just piled up with bodies, you begin to wonder what the war is all about you know...if it's all worth it. So that was kinda tough but uh, I can't think of any other special times that I...

Q: — Did they bury those guys in France? Or did they send them home?

Mr. Bernard: — I think some were, some were sent home, but most of them were buried over there. I don't know how they arranged that. I had to stay there three days before they got me a jeep to take me back to my outfit. And boy those are three of the worst days I ever had. (Chuckles) Because seeing dead people, you know, they're all gray and they don't smell too good you know, (chuckles). And so, those are rough times.

Q: — How would you take one of those bunkers on the Siegfreid line, did you guys have armor, did you have tanks or anything?

Mr. Bernard: — Well we had in back of us, usually there were 105's or 155 Howitzer's and they were a cannon that could fire maybe 10, 12, 15 miles so they would explode and give us some protection, you know as we advanced. And thinking about that, when we took, myself I took probably about 60 German prisoners out of these bunkers and the only time I really got pretty mad was when I'm searching these fellows, one of them, I'm taking all of the stuff out of his clothes, I pulled out a pair of brass knuckles, I don't know if you've ever heard of brass knuckles? Well I tell you that fellow, he made a big mistake, I didn't kill him, but uh, I wasn't too kind to him because you know you see a fellow doing a thing like that you say well he's going, if he had the chance he'd be using those brass knuckles on me or one of my fellow soldiers, so that brings that to mind. The bunkers you know that's the way we took them and I think for the most part I'd have to say that a lot of these younger guys were probably on the Russian front too. We tended to have, well when I say older people, see even at 23, going in I was old. Most of the kids were 18, 19, 20. So for me at 23, especially being married, weren't too many of us.

Q: — When you first encountered, you encountered death obviously on the war front, when you first encountered anything directly involved with war and the deaths, how did you feel?

Mr. Bernard: — Well I tell ya I was a little concerned of course because when your climbing up these hills all mud and ice and snow and you wonder if your gonna make it to the top and of course they're throwing over these shells that all light up the whole area, phosphorus was it, phosphorus they used, but when they send down these parachutes and they all light up so when you're out there you feel kind of naked, you feel just as though you were out with no clothes on., So, yea, anyways, especially when we got cut off and we had no chance to get back over the river and we couldn't get in front of us there was three or four tanks, German tanks came in, and a friend of mine in fact, one of my fellow buddies, he said, "those look like ambulances coming down through the forest there," they were all painted white, I said, "I don't know Murph." I says, "Gee they don't look like ambulances to me." He says, "By god you know those damn things are tanks." They were painted white because we had a lot of snow see this was in January.

Q: — Where was this?

Mr. Bernard: — That was just over the Luxumbourg line into Germany, between the Sauer River and [Triere] which was a city that was a little bit to the northeast of, and we took that city too. That's the oldest city in Germany by the way, [Triere] yeah. There's old Roman ruins there, quite an interesting place. So anyway that's about the way it went.

Q: — What was your impression of Germany, the people and stuff as you went through, the Japanese as well... how did you feel towards the people of Japanese descent, and German decent?

Mr. Bernard: — Well I always felt bad you know, I always felt pretty bad about the Japs. The German's I had a little bit more respect for, as bad as they were. 'Course I think it's because the Japs attacked us and you know we were just sitting there like cold turkey and I didn't go for that stuff. But I guess that's the reason I would have to say the Japs to me were...

Q: — How did you feel against them when you fought against them?

Mr. Bernard: — Well when I fight against the German's, I don't know you, I think you just get the feeling, hey, they're someone just like you. But you've been told by your country to do something and you do it. And I think that's the way you feel about it.

Q: — How did you faith impact your thoughts on the war, like your religion, did you feel like you were doing the right thing?

Mr. Bernard: — Well, I'm glad you brought that question up because my dad was a minister so I did get to know the Lord thoroughly. At that time and I just think we had a good Chaplain who spoke to us and he says well, I think what your saying is probably true so ya faith, to me is a wonderful thing to have\. I don't care what religion you are, but uh, to have faith is gonna take you a long way. You know whether its war or whether its sickness, whether you got people dying around you from illness, faith is something to carry us through, well carry me through.

Q: — So while you were on the front did you believe very strongly that you would get through? Were you very positive or were you sometimes... did it depend?

Mr. Bernard: — Well yes, good questions, I think ya feel a little bit lucky, I think ya think back to people that are back home who are praying for you. I think that had a lot to do with maybe with my safety, maybe yes, maybe no. But I think it gives you that stability that you need when your in times like that but you know. Like I was saying when there're machine gun fires coming in from the corners they were covering the whole field, I had seen many people get wounded and I used to go up to them and I'd say you lucky son of a bee, you're going home, or at least you're going back out of the front lines. And so what I did, I'm facing this machine gun fire, I turned lengthwise hoping I'd probably get hit in the leg. And course that didn't happen but what I did was I rolled from there into a little indentation, a little ditch there, and once I rolled into there I was okay. Because those bullets naturally uh, can't go down but right across. But there were a lot of fellows killed at that time but, uh yea, you kind of hope that, you'll get wounded because you know if you go out on, you know they have a thing called the point. If you're the point, you're the pointman, you're the one, you're between them and the whole German army. Nobody else. You're right there all alone and that can be scary, especially at night. Because you're out there maybe and you're listening for Germans coming at you and in back of you is a row of guys with 50 caliber machine guns. Well, if they hear these guys coming they may not wait [chuckles] until you call back to be with them. So it's a pretty scary time.

Q: Did you ever see when pointmen were hit by friendly fire?

Mr. Bernard: There's a lot of that. I had a friend of mine from Wellesley and he used to keep telling me, "Doug, I'll take the point," not only to me but a lot of other people. And I kept telling him, I says, "Well, you're never going to see Wellesley again if you keep doing this," I says, "Let everybody take their turn." "Nah," he says, "I'm gonna do it." There were some crazy kids. So uh, yeah, he finally got killed. And uh, that's what happens if you're gonna be in the point long enough you're gonna get killed. There's no almost. You're sure of getting killed.

Q: Do you think he did that for the nation, or for his friends, or do you think he did it to make himself look good?

Mr. Bernard: Well I don't. It's hard to say, you know. How do you put yourself in somebody else's mind? I'd have to say he was just one of those gung-ho guys. You know, we've had a lot of people that won congressional medals of honor. I think one big thing they had going for them that maybe I wouldn't have is they would go out and they know they're gonna get killed, but they're gonna do it anyway because they're of that nature, and I was never really quite that brave [chuckles].

Q: Would you compare that with the kamikaze of the Japanese?

Mr. Bernard: I had nothing to do with the Japs you see.

Q: I know, but what was your impression when you heard about that?

Mr. Bernard: Well my feeling was that it was getting towards the end of the war because they weren't gonna do that regularly, only in desperation. And very dangerous because if you could know they could go into a ship with 1500 guys to 1, in a war, you're probably gonna win that war [chuckles].

Q: How far into Germany did you advance?

Mr. Bernard: Well I went all the way across to Chemnitz, which at that time was about 7 miles from the Czechoslovakian border. Actually, we were beyond Berlin, but down south. Later, after I got sent back, it was 'cause I would have liked to, I wanted to meet the Russians. And our group did meet the Russians, about a few days later. But I just missed that.

Q: Mrs. Bernard, how about your faith when he was overseas? How did you respond to that with religion or faith or hope?

Mrs. Bernard: Well, we had a lot of prayer meetings in the church and there were a lot of other boys in the church too, that were over there, so we all kinda stuck together, you know? And we kept in with, so we were all in the same boat waiting for letter from them to come and so forth, you know. And I'm just an optimistic person, and I just prayed that he would come, and then I had a brother in an ammunition ship for 4 years and every time one of those blew up my poor mother, you know. So between him in the infantry and my brother in that, we really worried. I'll be honest, yeah. So we were lucky.

Q: Did you ever let Mr. Bernard know that you were worried when he was overseas, or were you afraid that might bother him? In letters would you tell him that?

Mrs. Bernard: I didn't tell you I was worried, did I?

Mr. Bernard: No, I think you were too busy changing diapers. [Laughing]

Mrs. Bernard: I was glad I had the little fellow. He brought a lot of pleasure to my family. He's the first grandchild.

Mr. Bernard: Oh she had a wonderful father and mother.

Mrs. Bernard: Yeah, I was lucky.

Mr. Bernard: Of course she was living in the same house in another apartment, but same house. And they were wonderful to you, to me too.

Mrs. Bernard: And your mother and father were good to me, too. Everybody was.

Q: What was your attitude to anyone of draft age who wasn't serving in the armed forces?

Mrs. Bernard: I'll tell you the truth: every boy I knew went. Every boy that I knew of. Gee, they all wanted to go, and I wasn't surprised when he came up with the idea "I really think I should go," because everybody, unless they were sick or 4F's and then they couldn't go. But I didn't know anybody who didn't-everybody, really, everybody wanted to go. And they did go.

Q: How did you feel when he finally, when he told you that he was going to join? How did you react?

Mrs. Bernard: I wasn't too surprised, because everybody around us was going.

Mr. Bernard: And my brother, came back.

Mrs. Bernard: And then Wally had come back, yes, and he just felt that his brother did his part, my brother was doing his part, they all seemed to want to do it, you know. They were a great generation. It was amazing.

Mr. Bernard: As Tom Brokaw says, "The greatest generation."

Mr. Bernard: And it's the same. When I got to Europe in [Bourmouth] there, I had a couple days leave, I went up to London and I met him [his brother], and he was on a ship that was in the Thames, the Thames River, and he got a couple hours off.

Q: How did it feel when you finally saw him again? How long had you not seen him for?

Mr. Bernard: It was great. We hadn't seen him for four or five years.

[Pictures of Mr. Bernard and brother and Caroline and baby are passed around]

- That's a handsome pair of brother right there [chuckles].

Mr. Bernard: Good looking woman, isn't she?

- Beautiful!

Q: When you were marching through Germany did you see any of the war refugees, Holocaust victims, people in camps of any sort?

Mr. Bernard: No, no I never had the-thank goodness I didn’t see any of that. We saw a lot of displaced people, but people in these camps and all, didn’t get to see any of that.

Q: Did you ever hear about that when you were over there? Was it a common topic?

Mr. Bernard: Oh yeah, we knew what was going on. That’s another thing that kind of gives you incentive to keep fighting the war, you know, when you hear what they were doing, especially to the Jewish people. Hey, you don’t do that to animals, never mind people.

Q: So when you were fighting against the Germans did you have that in mind as well?

Mr. Bernard: Yeah, I think we knew, we were gonna win the war, regardless of what it costs. We had a feeling. We had a particular point we had to take. We’d have lost every man just to take that point. I mean, that’s the kind of determination we had. And you have to have that if you’re gonna win. You can’t win running the other way.

Q: When you were over in Germany did you ever wonder why you were doing it? You had mentioned before when you saw the people that you questioned the point of the war, did you ever question the fact that it was worth it?

Mr. Bernard: Well, we really didn’t have a choice when you’ve got a madman like Hitler, and Japanese that were mad. I mean, these kind of people present themselves to you in this world, you’re either gonna die a prisoner of theirs, or you’re gonna die fighting for freedom on the battlefield, and that’s the way we felt. We didn’t have a choice, no matter what it costs, we were gonna have freedom.

Q: What was your most memorable experience of the war, Whether in battle or not in battle, just in the war?

Mr. Bernard: I’d have to say probably getting back to camp Lucky Strike when the war was over and we were coming home. I’d think maybe beyond that even, when we sailed into New York Harbor, you could see those lights on the bridges. Something I’ll never forget.

Q: So when you came home were you just ecstatic at being back home?

Mr. Bernard: [chuckles] I was pretty happy. Yeah, great to be. I tell you, you never appreciate this country until you’ve been away from it and then you come back. You travel abroad you know what I’m talking about. Cause you go away to some of these poor countries- I’ve been to Africa, and I’ve been to Puerto Rico, a lot of poorer places, and when you see the way these people exist and the way we exist, and especially people in Wayland [laughing], we are really, truly blessed.

Q: Was there a celebration in NYC as your ship pulled in?

Mr. Bernard: Well, the war had been over as I think I had mentioned. I was in Le Mondes, France, with the military police for 9 months after the war, and then you came home in increments of how many points you had. If you had three children at home you got home pretty quick. If you had one you got home more quickly than some who had none, and that’s the way they worked it out. So of course by the time we got home the war was pretty much forgotten.

Q: So when you found out the war had ended and that Germany had suffered…

Mr. Bernard: Well, I was in the hospital when it ended, in Paris, so I had a pretty good time in Paris.

Q: Was there a big party in Paris?

Mr. Bernard: I remember the French had a three striped flag, I can’t remember the colors. I remember those planes going down the Champs Elysses, right down, they were maybe 100, 200 feet up, and that was something that was really something to see. There was a lot of celebration going on.

Q: What was the first thing you thought that came to mind when you heard the war had finally ended?

Mr. Bernard: Well I think probably stop the killing. You know enough lives have been lost. To lose anymore-I look at this picture here, and this was taken probably down in Spartenberg, but I bet you money that half those people got killed during the war, out of that group. It’s unfortunate. We paid a lot for what we get.

Q: Your boy was what then, 2 and a half, 3 years old by the time you got back? Mr. Bernard: Yeah, 2 years old. That was great.

Q: How was that?

Mr. Bernard: Oh, wonderful. We’ve been truly blessed. All the boys are still around. The oldest boy lives in Holliston, he works for Raytheon in Sudbury. My other boy, the youngest boy-well, they all graduated from Wayland High, and the youngest boy just got a job at the Army place up here in Natick.

Q: Natick Labs?

Mr. Bernard: Natick Army Labs. Yeah.

Mrs. Bernard: The middle boy’s the most patriotic, I think that. It’s in the genes.

Mr. Bernard: The middle boy was in the service for 27 years. He got to be a Sergeant Major. So I keep reminding him, "you did much better than I did."

Q: But he wasn’t in a war like WW2.

Mrs. Bernard: No, he was lucky.

Mr. Bernard: He was lucky. He’s been in Thailand; he’s been in Korea, always when there was no war going on at the time.

Q: When you were traveling throughout Europe did you ever actually look at the land and just appreciate how you were traveling, or were you always thinking about the war?

Mr. Bernard: No, I think you do appreciate Germany, it’s a pretty country. And, yeah, you see the landscape. You’re not going through there blind. So, one thing that impressed us was the Audubon’s, and that’s the concrete highways that they had, like even over here in an advanced country like we had, we had driveways for highways compared to what the Germans had. The Germans had of course had this all in mind before the war coming up, so they could drive their vehicles down there. They could drive their tanks. They had marvelous roads, and even today, they had no speed limit in Germany, even today. You kids would love that.

Q: Mrs. Bernard, how did you feel when you feel when you finally found out the war had ended?

Mrs. Bernard: Oh boy, it was a thrill, oh it was.

Q: Especially knowing that your husband was coming home. Did you know he was coming home before you found out the war was ending?

Mr. Bernard: No, my brother came home first because he had put in 4 years.

Q: And how did you feel when [your husband came home].

Mrs. Bernard: Oh, I was delighted just to see my brother, and then I guess it was a year or so later that you came home.

Mr. Bernard: Well her brother was four years on an ammunition ship in the Pacific, so he put in a lot more time than I did.

Q: How did you view President Roosevelt’s leadership during the war.

Mr. Bernard: Oh, I like Roosevelt. I guess that’s why I’m a democrat today. Yeah, Roosevelt to me was one of the greatest presidents.

Q: How did you react when he died?

Mr. Bernard: Oh, that was sad. Especially, I think he died just short of a victory in Europe, and that was really sad because he’d done so much. And not only that, we’d come out of a depression. You’ve gotta remember in the 20’s, I was born in 1920, so 1920 up through 1930, 30-39, those were tough years. We used to go down to Morgan’s creamery and get two ice-cream cones for a nickel. We’d go see a movie for a dime, and we’d get two movies, plus Tom’s mix and all these other guys, you know they had the cereals, and plus the [Pattley ] news. So, those were really tough times, the depression days.

Q: Do you remember president Roosevelt’s fireside chats during the war?

Mrs. Bernard: Yes, yes I do. Everybody listened.

Q: Did they help get you through, was that something you looked forward to?

Mrs. Bernard: He did a good job, he really did. And you just wanted to listen.

Q: Especially under such a difficult situation, leading a country like that would be, I couldn’t even imagine how difficult that would be.

Mrs. Bernard: He had a wonderful wife, too. She was a smart woman.

Q: Women had suffrage by the 40’s obviously. Did you feel that women’s place in the society, how did you feel towards that? A lot of women stayed at home, not necessarily during the war, but after the war and before the war as well. How did you feel towards that? There were some women who felt that women should be out in the workforce, activists, did you just take?

Mrs. Bernard: Well, everybody was different. He didn’t want me to go up to work with three children, you know. And so I didn’t until they got to high school, and those who wanted to, wanted to. But now all the women are going. My goodness.

Mr. Bernard: In those days most of us thought that women should be home taking care of the children, and now today of course it’s an entirely different world, different situation I guess, whether it’s right or wrong I don’t know. We felt pretty strongly. She didn’t go to work until the youngest boy was 16. And she wouldn’t have gone to work at that time only Raytheon had gone on a strike and I was out of work for 6 or 8 weeks. The day we went back to work she get a job at the Wellesley Recreation Department, and she worked there 18 years.

Mrs. Bernard: I was just going to do it until he, you know...

Mr. Bernard: As it turned out, now she gets a pension from Wellesley.

Mrs. Bernard: And it was a fun job, too. You could love that.

Q: What was your reaction to Truman’s decision to drop the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

Mr. Bernard: Those are tough questions. Ask the professor that. Ask the history teacher. [Laughing]

Q: Did you feel it was justified? Or necessary to end the war?

Mr. Bernard: As much as you hate to say it, an awful lot of innocent people got killed, but I think he made the right decision. We would’ve lost an awful lot of guys if we’d had to invade Japan. I mean you can see what we lost just on Iwo Jima, I forget how many thousands, the number escapes me now, but it was many thousands...20,000

Mr. Bernard: You can imagine that was just one island, what would have happened if we’d gone into the home island of Japan? I might have had mixed feelings. I don’t think we had to drop the second bomb. That would’ve bothered me. I think the first one would’ve done the trick. Yeah, we like Truman. Another democrat, by the way. [Laughing]

Q: You were aware of the internment of almost 120,000 Japanese Americans, how did you feel toward that decision?

Mr. Bernard: I think at the time, you know you look back at things in retrospect and your mind thinks entirely different, but at the time you’re gonna go along with something like that because the Japs, we always felt we couldn’t trust them anyway.

Q: Do you think culturally you were taught not to trust people who were Japanese?

Mr. Bernard: Yeah, probably we were. Yeah.

Q: So it wasn’t something that occurred just because of the war, it was culture.

Mr. Bernard: No, I think we were pretty much taught-people thought that way. Just like they did before the 60’s about the blacks. I think most people, in fact there’s a little bit still around today, but before the 60’s and civil rights act, the blacks, we always thought of them as being inferior, and I think I was brought up under that feeling with the Japs also. So I didn’t feel too bad about them being interned.

Q: How about you Mrs. Bernard? Did you feel the same way? Did you feel almost threatened? Were you living near anyone who was Japanese at the time?

Mrs. Bernard: No, we didn’t have any Japanese.

Q: At the end of the war did you anticipate future wars or did you think that all the other countries would settle conflicts differently from now on? Did it seem like that would be the war to end all wars kinda thing?

Mr. Bernard: I don’t know if I thought that. If there’s one thing I probably thought that would end all major wars was the fact that we had the atomic bomb. The atomic bomb is so powerful, why would anybody attempt to run over another major country? Everybody would lose. There’s no winners when you have an atomic bomb. I think that’s, as bad as the atomic bomb is, I think it’s probably a blessing in disguise. It’ll stop at least major wars from happening.

Q: What do you believe the lessons of World War Two were?

Mr. Bernard: Well, I think before WWII started they had a lot of isolationists in the country, and I think we pretty much got over that way of thinking. If the world is too small you can not become an island and just shut everybody out, everybody else out of the world. I would say that would be the main thing. We stopped isolationism and we recognize that we have to be partners with all countries in the world.

Q: Do you feel that that lesson has been brought into culture itself, even in today’s generations of Americans, do you feel that we’re learning that lesson as well.

Mr. Bernard: Oh, definitely. This generation, they’re better educated anyway, they’re smarter people, and I think they’ve learned from past mistakes that our generation made, and therefore no question. I don’t think you’d find too many isolationists in the United States today.

Q: Do you see any similarities between today’s generation and the generation you grew up in?

Mr. Bernard: I’m sure there are. Tough question.

Mrs. Bernard: Each generation is different.

Mr. Bernard: I think we’ve all got to realize we’re all human beings, we’re gonna be here for a certain number of years and then we’re not gonna be here, and I think we have to live with that in mind so that we’re not gonna be forever, let’s do what we can, and I think every generation thinks that way.

Q: Do you have anything else you’d like to add to the interview? Any parting advice?

Mr. Bernard: I’d just like to thank you for inviting us to come.

Q: Thank you very much.

Mr. Bernard: I hope we’ve been some help.

Mrs. Bernard: It’s been alright?


Mr. Bernard recounts a rough day during the European campaign. (Quicktime)

Combat Infantryman's Badge

"Serviceman's wife's best friend..." -Mrs. Bernard


douglass jr
Mrs Bernard and Douglas Jr. 1944

Newspaper Map/Invasion of Germany

Mr. Bernard captured the SS officer who used to own this medal

"This is how I constantly think of Doug..." -Mrs. Bernard

Boston Globe Article

Boston Globe Picture

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Bronze Star Pamphlet 1

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Bronze Star Pamphlet 2

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Bronze Star Pamphlet 3