War on Their Minds
1945   John F. Ricci
Age in 1941: 16

Thelma Ricci
Age in 1941: 13

Interview Team: Jason Xenakis, and Chang Zhang

Q: What was your age in 1941?

Mr. Ricci: In 1941, I was 16.

Q: Where were you raised?

Mr. Ricci: I was born in Cambridge. I moved to Somerville and went to school in Somerville. In 1943, I went to the army. I went to Fort Devens.

Q: When you signed up for the army, was it because they drafted you?

Mr. Ricci: No. I volunteered at the time.

Q: You knew what was going on overseas in the 1930’s?

Mr. Ricci: In 1930, there were Depression years.

Q: When was the first time you became aware of the dangers of Hitler?

Mr. Ricci: In 1935.

Q: How old were you when you went into the service?

Mr. Ricci: I was eighteen- just turned eighteen.

Q: And when you signed up in the army-what were you?

Mr. Ricci: I was a private.

Q: And then you slowly moved up through the years? Were you stationed in America at first?

Mr. Ricci: Oh yeah.

Q: When did you get sent over to Europe?

Mr. Ricci: We trained in U.S. at Camp Willard (spelling?), Georgia, and we were there for seventeen weeks in basic training in heavy weapons.

Q: Did you feel that it was enough when you were training there?
Seventeen weeks?

Mr. Ricci: More than enough.

Q: Did you have any memories of boot camp? What did you think of boot camp?

Mr. Ricci: It wasn’t that needed. It was needed at the time because we were all going to get involved with it and that’s the way it went.

Q: I see you’re a machine gunner.

Mr. Ricci: I was a machine gunner. I was an admiral man, but the ones that were up in front, the machine gunners, they got killed. So I was next in line. That’s how it was. So I became a machine gunner from the beginning of the line all the way up to Kestle (spelling?)

Q: How did you feel when you were up there?

Mr. Ricci: How did I feel?

Q: Really scared?

Mr. Ricci: Scared as hell, but it was needed to be done. You just did what you had to do.

Q: When did you first land in Europe?

Mr. Ricci: We left Camp Kimba (?), New Jersey. We went on a troop ship called George Washington Squire, and we landed in Plymouth, England for about ten days. We left South Hampton, went into to France, Belgium, and Germany. And that’s when we started combat training. We went in further and got hit near the Shwomelle(?). Damn. We had to take over a few if the divisions; couldn’t get it. The 26th couldn’t do it and the 105th couldn’t do it so we were lucky enough to take it over at that time.

Q: What was your division’s main objective in the war?

Mr. Ricci: To get up to Berlin. We were moving pretty fast. In fact we had to move all night to get to the bridge. It was dawn when we got to the bridge. It was a railroad bridge, with planks, not a regular travel bridge, and you could see down in the water.

Q: You had to get the tanks over?

Mr. Ricci: They got the tanks over because they were going (unclear) trucks, tanks. In fact, the red ball was pretty good. They called it the Red Ball Express.

Q: Were you ever involved in direct combat when you were in the service?

Mr. Ricci: We had 127 days combat time.


Q: How did you feel when you were out there?

Mr. Ricci: An old hand. Oh yeah.

Q: Did they rotate you? In the video, I saw that when the infantry was out there, they said it was hard for them to mentally take the …
For a lot of them. A lot of them couldn’t cope with it. A lot of them was kind of … either you’re going to or you’re not.

Q: Did you make any close friends in the war?

Mr. Ricci: Oh yeah.

Mrs. Ricci: We go to Fishkill every year. A reunion.

Q: Your division?

Mr. Ricci: No. Not the division because a lot of them can’t make it to the east coast.

Mrs. Ricci: They call it the northeast reunion. Some of them are in Georgia. Some of them are in Florida. Some in Chicago. Louisville was the last one I was down there with and they had quite a few down there- a whole division.

Q: Did you lose any of your friends during the war?

Mr. Ricci: Quite a few.

(Response): It must have been a really bad experience
A two gunner. I’m next up. You know?

Q: How did you feel when that happened?

Mr. Ricci: How did I feel about what? What can you do? You just keep going. In fact, we were going after the line, there were two men about fifty to seventy-five yards in front of me. All of a sudden they’re gone. There were quite a few getting killed off.

Q: What were some of your greatest challenges while you were out there?

Mr. Ricci: Looking back, the greatest challenge-not too many things in mind-you’re just afraid of getting knocked off-getting home.

Q: How did you feel about the Japanese and the Germans personally?

Mr. Ricci: The Germans had two fronts. They both tried to overcome the U.S. at the time, both of them. But the Germans had two fronts. We had two fronts. We had the PTO and the Pacific. So we were lucky to get out of there because the Germans were pretty good. And the Japanese, I don’t know. I wasn’t too familiar on that end of it from the Japanese part. But I was hoping we’d get it over. In fact we were supposed to go there after we finished in Europe. We were scheduled to go to Japan or make that attack there, but we were lucky enough to not get involved there.

Mrs. Ricci: We were lucky to not get involved there.

Q: What did you think of the Japanese internments back in the U.S.?

Mr. Ricci: They weren’t fair. You know, it was the same thing with the Germans. They didn’t do anything with Germany. Same thing. It wasn’t fair at the time. But then again, Roosevelt had people talking to him to do this and this-he went along with it I guess.

Mrs. Ricci: I didn’t think it was fair either.

Q: Did you agree with Roosevelt as a president? Did you like him?

Mr. Ricci: He was a good president. As far as his goals because at the time he was in the right spot at the right time---for the Depression years. That was another combined into it.

Q: What was your most memorable experience in the war?

Mr. Ricci: Getting out of Poland and getting home. We left Camp Top Hat — we got on the Victory ship and got home. In fact coming home, we ran into a big hurricane, I think the waves were about one-hundred feet. And it was good to get home. (Mrs. Ricci reminds him that he got shot.) I got hit in the head outside of Smith. We were firing on the front because the men were going in front of us, so we were shooting over their head and 88’s got hit down, and I got just enough; it took my helmet about fifty feet. The whole thing was really a mess. I was lucky to get out of that. I didn’t want to go back because I figured that there were not many of us left. Only one or two left on that squad.

Q: You fought after that?

Mr. Ricci: Oh yeah, I kept going.

Q: Was it a very serious hit?

Mr. Ricci: It was serious enough to split my head. Otherwise, they’d send you to England and send you somewhere as a replacement. They could send you anywhere. Then it went pretty good there. We got into the town after we got over the line- I was on a high mountain with my machine gun _____the_____was trying to knock out the bridge coming in and strengthening us at the same time, and the two planes got hit. But eventually, the bridge did collapse. It was a few days after the bridge collapsed and quite a few got killed, during that time. We went on further and we liberated a town called Thackenhausen (?) and there were quite a few people that were liberated in black and white uniforms, all men.

Mrs. Ricci: that was where the concentration camp was.

Q: When you moved deeper into Germany, did you see children and older men being soldiers?

Mr. Ricci: That was pretty tough. There were some older people trying to scrap around and stuff…food and stuff like that. They’d pick up coal for heating. It was kind of tough.

Q: I heard that Hitler used older men and children as soldiers and they followed them. How did you feel when you met them?

Mr. Ricci: What can you say? They used them-they forced them, but they were glad enough to give up and get the hell out of there. It was over. 60,000 surrendered. They didn’t want to fight. It was useless after a while. But then they had the buzz bombs coming over the V-I and we would try to shoot at them and they were going to England. They did a lot of damage there-then after that-they had the B-2 and the Germans were pretty smart there-they were pretty good. I stopped them on the Audobon there, and I stopped two white ___?____ and they had supplies and stuff. They wanted to go down to Manchou (?) further down near Germany to get away from the Russians. We let them go. The war was over.

Q: How long did you stay in Germany after the war?

Mr. Ricci: Not too long. I got home on points. They had points. Every 4-5 points- If you got a medal, you got five points, and so on.

Q: How many points did you have?

Mr. Ricci: Seventy. Most of the older men, ages 36-37, they were sent home.

Q: Did you think about your home?

Mr. Ricci: No, you were thinking about yourself-whether you’ll make it or not.

Q: What kind of medals did you get during the war?

Mr. Ricci: Presidential Citation for crossing the line, Bronze Star for being in combat and helping others, Combat Infantry for major battles, and Good Conduct.

Q: Did you have family members fighting in the war?

Mr. Ricci: My two brothers were.

Mrs. Ricci stated that her brother was in the war and suffered temporary blindness and was given the Congressional Medal of Honor. She also talked about some friend of theirs who was a POW and wouldn’t talk about the war for thirty years. Both Mr. & Mrs. Ricci indicated that they realized that there were a lot of people like that.

Q: How did you feel when Mr. Roosevelt passed away?

Mr. Ricci: We didn’t know. We were in Germany.

Q: Did you feel that the commands that Truman gave were different from what Roosevelt gave?

Mr. Ricci: Yeah. I would think so. Different attitude.

Q: How did you feel about Truman?

Mr. Ricci: Truman. A good man. No fooling around with Japan. A lot of them would have backed off.

Q: So did you find that Truman dropping the Atomic bomb was the right decision?
It saved a hell of a lot of lives. You never would have gotten Japan. They would have never given up and there would have been a lot …that’s my opinion anyway.

Q: How do you feel about the younger generation?

Mr. Ricci: If they could stay without getting in any trouble-they would be okay. You hear about pot smoking-it will ruin the country. We only smoked cigarettes.

Q: Have you learned lessons about life?

Mr. Ricci: I matured, got a job, got married in 1950. We were pretty fortunate.


Mr. Ricci describes the sequence of his tour. (Quicktime)

78th Infantry Newspaper

Assorted Patches

Bridge over the Rhine Taken by the 78th

Bronze Star
Bronze Star Medal Certificate

Assorted Medals

More Medals

mr.r, etc
Mr. Ricci (back) and Pals