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Interview with Durwood Baggett, December 8, 2006 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Durwood Baggett, December 8, 2006
December 8, 2006
Retired Major Durwood Baggett joined the U.S. Army in June of 1943. He was assigned to the 94th division and went to England with the H Company 376th Infantry, whereupon his division was stationed in Saint-Nazaire, France. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge, and assisted in setting up controls for Displaced Persons in Wuppertal-Dusseldorf, Germany. Afterwards, he participated in the occupation of Pilsen, Czechoslovakia. After the war, Baggett took a complete discharge and worked as the Assistant County Agent for Burnsville, Yancy County, North Carolina. In 1949, he applied for and received a Reserves commission and participated in the Army reserves, from which he retired as a major.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Baggett, Durwood Interviewer: Zarbock, Paul Date of Interview: 12/8/2006 Series: Veterans' Heritage Length 55 minutes

Zarbock: My name is Paul Zarbock, staff person with the University of North Carolina at Wilmington's Randall Library...Randall Library. Today is the eighth of December in the year 2006 and we're located in the apartment of Mr. Baggett in Wilmington, North Carolina. Good morning sir, how are you?

Durwood Baggett: Thank you. Very fine, thank you.

Zarbock: Sketch in a little bit for me and for the...for the tape here. You know, I call 'em tapes, actually you're gonna end up with a DVD, but I still use the old-fashion language. Well, tell me a little bit about your background, when you were a youngster and how did you get in the military.

Durwood Baggett: Well, Paul, I was...of course I was reared in Sampson County, up here near Spivey's Corner which is...some people call it the hollerin' capital of the world, and went to school there at Mingo High School. We all had eleven grades at that time...way back then...finished there in 1939. And it was my desire to go to NC State University. I had been offered a scholarship at two or three smaller colleges, but anyway I went to State and graduated from there in 1943. But I got involved in the military by being selected to go to advanced ROTC.

Zarbock: Let me...let me pull you back for a minute. Why were you offered scholarships? On what basis?

Durwood Baggett: Well I had a fair record, it was a small country school. I was president of the senior class and that type of thing. That helped of course. And then it wasn't too hard to make good grades and...well there was only twenty six in my graduating class in high school.

Zarbock: But you were the bright kid on the...on the block.

Durwood Baggett: Oh...well there were some in there brighter too. (laugh) Yea...we had a good class. We...we held reunions for a long time, till we...we were only about five of us left now.

Zarbock: And how old were you when you went to NC State?

Durwood Baggett: I was sixteen when I started State. Sixteen years old.

Zarbock: And the year was?

Durwood Baggett: 1939. I went from 39 to 43 at that time. And that's when I into ROTC and that's of course one reason that I could finish...I finished and got my degree before I went in the service.

Zarbock: Well, today's date is December the eighth. Do you remember where you were on December the seventh when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor?

Durwood Baggett: Very well.

Zarbock: Tell me about that.

Durwood Baggett: I was sitting my desk in the basement of South Dormitory. They called it South, I think it was later renamed, but it was right near the stadium there at NC State. And I was studying, I guess for finals. We that time we had terms instead of semesters, and I'm sure I must have been studying for...I remember I...very definitely that I was studying at my desk on that Sunday morning. And all at once I heard the news on a little Silvertone radio about so big...a little old wooden radio, but I had taken one to NC State. It was of course exciting, very exciting, because I...I think I had been notified at that time that I would be attending ROTC. But of course it was the news all over our dormitory and everywhere else. It was know, it was big news to us. And even then it got to be bigger after it really began to soak in. Yea. That's...that was about it so far as...studying there...but, um...

Zarbock: When you say you were studying, what was your major?

Durwood Baggett: Ah, agriculture economics. Ag-E. I was working in that department. I worked, well, at least half my way through school. And I to working over there and helping 'em run adding machines and got interested in economics. And of course knowing some of the professors and so forth, that encouraged me to major in that. I was generally...the subheading of Ag-economics was farm business what my diploma reads.

Zarbock: Hum. Take me back to that...those early years when...just when the war started. What was the general attitude? What...what did you remember what people were talking about, what the felt like, what...?

Durwood Baggett: Well, when that started and December the seventh came, there was a lot of people already, as I remember Paul, was very agitated about Germany. And we were keeping up with it but of course we were school, and very young. We didn't take it as serious as we would have today as an adult. But at that time, yes we...we were quite concerned about what was going on over there. And then later on I had an ROTC professor, uh I believe his name was Captain Vestal, who taught ROTC at NC State and he had a company. He was getting too old and they wouldn't select him to go to North Africa, and he actually cried one day in camp because so many of his men in his company had gotten killed. He...he was very upset about it. Yep. But it was...that was the general around here, we were kinda upset but...and there were different ones who didn't get into ROTC that were being called out. You know...the draft coming...they got 'em, no matter if they were a student or not. It didn't...

Zarbock: So because you were a member of the ROTC you were...

Durwood Baggett: Yes, sir...

Zarbock: You were deferred until graduation.

Durwood Baggett: Yes. Yea, I was deferred. Well, I was never...I...I don't remember...I guess I did register for the draft, but it went in through the were automatically delayed because I was in military training.

Zarbock: So were you graduated from State in...was it June?

Durwood Baggett: Yes, in June, 1943. I went in the service August the ninth of 1943.

Zarbock: And where was your first station?

Durwood Baggett: Well I went in to Fort Bragg of course. And then I was sent to, um, well I joined the 94th Division in Tennessee when they just came back from maneuvers. But my first, ah, inkling of...I say my first concern of being in the Army was I went in and was stationed down...I was in an ROTC class at Fort Benning Georgia. And at that time there was a surplus of...we had built a bunch of surplus of officers at that time and we got the word that there were gone be quite a few of us cut out. Well I kinda saw the handwriting on the wall because I'd had a little disagreement with my tactical officer. They called 'em TO's back then. This fellows name was Parblocky. And we didn't see eye-to-eye on some things and of course he was a captain and I was a corporal. And that made a big difference of course. He wound up winning and I went from there to join the 94th Division at Tullahoma Tennessee and then I went from Tullahoma Tennessee...they...they had just come back off of maneuvers. We went to Camp McCain Mississippi to the major division...was getting what they called advanced training. And of course I fitted in on that. And then I was assigned to H Company 376th Infantry at...when I went down to Camp McCain. And I finished up training there.

Zarbock: And your rank was what?

Durwood Baggett: Sergeant. I was a corporal then...I was a corporal at that time, excuse me. I later became a squad leader in Germany but I was...all the ranks really had always been filled, because the company had settled down and then training...all the staff sergeants and all that...they had no room to promote anyone. Of course while we were there, we received a lot of ASTP students. That was students that had been selected a long time ago on the basis of their IQ, that attended an Army specialized training course. And then because of this need for students...I mean not students, but soldiers...all there was, they took...they disbanded that and they were scattered out and assigned to units. So we got a lot of people coming in while were there down there at Camp McCain that were really smart boys. Many of 'em had been CEOs and I know a lot of my friends that have become outstanding lawyers and owners of law firms up of 'em up in New York. Ed Kerry. I visited him later, he was dating the son, I mean the daughter rather of Sherman Billingsley who owned the Stork Club. (laugh) I have pictures of that. But...but to go on...we went on to...from Camp McCain these...these boys come in there, I say, they added a whole lot to our...our company and our general revel and friendship.

Zarbock: But the division was...was it a Tennessee National Guard division?

Durwood Baggett: No, no, no this was an F Division that started up in Fort Custer. And then it went to Camp Phillips Kansas for their major training. I wasn't with them at that time because that's when I was down with all the...well, even before that, before I went into RO...I was in...down in ROTC, I mean at the officer candidate school about, oh about six weeks, something like that. And before they had a...they moved a whole lot of us. It was about a third of our class that did make it. So I didn't feel to bad, I wasn't the only one. But it wasn't...I had made very good on my test and all that, but it was the fact that this tac officer and I didn't...he said I did something that I didn't do. But anyway that's...

Zarbock: How did you...did you have any difficulty blending in with're the new kid entering this...this division?

Durwood Baggett: It was a little bit, but no I didn't really have too much, because I'm a people person Paul. And I found...I'm still visiting 'em...I'm still visiting 'em. Yea, I...I had some...I made some good friends there. And it was a good experience. It was good experience. It allowed me to grow up. Another reason for this ROT...I mean this officer candidate conflict there was the fact that I was only twenty years old. I was just a kid right on. And I should have known better than to say something back to a tactical officer. (laugh) But I made that...but I've often thought about probably saved my life. I've got a long...well it's not a long list, but a good percentage of our officers got killed or wounded and so forth. And later on in the course of battle as we'd gone on over there, I became a squad leader because the squad leader hit and he got sent back in, so I got to take his place. So that's about the reason. But we...I don't know, I guess you wanted chronological order or something like that?

Zarbock: Please.

Durwood Baggett: Okay. We ...when we left, we went over...were shipped over on the Queen Elizabeth by the way, which was kind of outstanding, our whole division. A bunch of mercys, of course I never got to see those, but our whole division and a bunch of Airforce people were all on that one ship. We went over by itself. It didn't need any accompaniment because of it's speed.

Zarbock: How long did it take to cross the ocean?

Durwood Baggett: We left on Sunday morning and got there Friday Liverpool England. And unloaded off there and then went down to south England and I don't remember just when we got over there, but I do know that...anyway we...we hit D...I mean we hit Utah Beach on D+94. Easy to remember because it's the same number of my division, the 94th Division. We still had to wade ashore. I waded ashore in water about waist deep. But the actual battle though was about, oh, I say ten or fifteen miles. They pushed 'em ten or fifteen, something like that, further in. But the first night we got off of it, or the day we got off, we had to march about ten miles in the mud with full field pack, all that sort of stuff. It was...we used to say, "You'd take one step forward and slide back two."

Zarbock: And you were sopping wet.

Durwood Baggett: Oh yes, oh yes, oh yea...yea.

Zarbock: This was probably September?

Durwood Baggett: Yes...ah, no, no, because we went...our first action was in August. This was probably in July.

Zarbock: Huh.

Durwood Baggett: In July there...cause we were...I know we were in England along in June or July.

Zarbock: Uh huh.

Durwood Baggett: Along in there. I don't remember the exact dates. But we were in England about oh, three weeks or a month. We did some...we did a little bit of marching to stay in half shape and exercise and stuff like that...before we were shipped across but we shipped across on those little old, ah, ships, you know, landing craft infantry and gosh I'm telling you, I got fleas and everything else off of that thing. It was terrible. And very crowded and of course all of us didn't know what we were getting into. We knew we were going into the war. We put in...we stole a lot of stuff. You know any time we'd get a can of something to eat or something we put it in our pack and made it that much heavier. But we were kinda looking out for ourselves. But we went on in then and we were first, our unit, 94th Division was stationed down at Saint Nazaire France, which was an area down there where the Germans, I mean the Americans had cut off about fifty thousand Germans, and it was a submarine base. The Germans had used it as a submarine base, well that's what it was to begin with, before they took it from France. And...but we were supposed to hold those fifty thousand Germans. They didn't feel that it was worthwhile to go in and try to take it, it would take too many casualties. So we just cut 'em off and isolated 'em. That's what we did there until the Battle of the Bulge came along. And then when those Germans came in on the Battle of the Bulge, ah, was the 66th Division that was supposed to have gone up there immediately, just as soon as they hit. Well a German U-boat got hold of one of the ships and sunk it and they lost two battalions...complete battalions...all of 'em gone. And...and it weakened the Division to the point that there was a quick decision made that the 94th had had a little bit of combat experience down there guarding those people. Of course we were sending patrols out and the Germans sent patrols out and...and we lost a few people and there was a few wounded. And I saw one while I was down there at that time...I saw...we had a German, I mean, an American artillery liaison plane that flew right over our lines just to...just to look at things you see. I mean, just to see how things were going and direct artillery. Well it would fly back and forth. And one day we heard some shooting going on. The Germans had been tracking that thing because it was slow and so forth, and they shot it down. It came down in the next little hedgerow across from where my squad was and so we went...went running over there, and of course that was the first casualty that I actually saw...was that, that plane had made a big hole in the ground when it hit. But then we heard those Germans over there laughing and celebrating about it. We come and we were close enough to 'em we could hear 'em. But then they...I'm sure they went back in where they were well protected. Well we opened up with a lot of our artillery after that. And it was quite exciting for the time. But to go on with the story about the Battle of the Bulge...the 66th Division relieved us because of their weakened situation and they shipped us right on up. And that was just before Christmas. I remember I spent Christmas in a tent and...down there in Chateau O'Brien...Chateau O'Brien France. We went up on what they call the forty-and-eights. And very crowded, nothing but a bunch of straw and the only time you could go to relieve yourselves was when the plane, I mean, when the train would stop or something like that. Boy you took every advantage you could at that time. But we were eating C rations and K rations which were anything that you could ship dry. But we got up there...we...we found out what war was all about then. January the tenth, ah, I can remember also...the...on that particular day I wrote a letter to my sister, it was her birthday. And on that particular day also, Smitty who was one of our cooks was telling me, says, he says, "Fellows...", says...says, "We gonna have some good beef tonight...," says, "We gonna kill one of these cows." We were in German housing, there were cattle in the barns down there and I went down there and saw the cow and I asked him if I could milk her before he killed her, cause wanted to get some fresh milk. And I did. I milked the cow and Smitty shot her and we...we...of course all the cooks helped him gut her of course, in the mess.

Zarbock: As I remember my history, it was a very bitter cold winter.

Durwood Baggett: Very, very bitter, very bitter. There was no doubt about that. It was...yea. We had some...couldn't build a fire or wasn't supposed to. We found some coal nuggets which were shaped like egg shells. And it's the first time we had seen 'em...about the size of an egg. They had com....compacted their coal. And we found some in this house but we were afraid to use it because we'd been warned that the Germans were leaving some of 'em that was loaded. And if you threw it in the fire, by golly, you were was gonna kill two or three of you. So we...we didn't use that. We were a little afraid to. But we went...our first action and meeting the Germans was about a mile from there. We walked...walked on in there and relieved another company that was actually in contact with the Germans. And it was only...well, I believe about the second day.

Zarbock: Let me interrupt long enough to ask you, tell me step-by-step, when you say that you relieved another company...

Durwood Baggett: Yes.

Zarbock: You know, years from now, people are gonna be listening to this tape and you...give me...give me the detail. How do you relieve a company?

Durwood Baggett: Well.

Zarbock: How many people were going up and how many people were coming down?

Durwood Baggett: Well it was a total company and a company well, is about two hundred men all together. And I...we had gone in there...of course we went in as a battalion which is composed of four companies. And we...we had three what they call rifle companies and it was like A, B, C, and D. But D is your heavy weapons. Always your fourth company is your heavy weapons. So I belonged to the heavy weapons. I belonged to H company. We had three companies, three rifle companies. So our heavy weapons company had gone in there to behind the rifle companies. But our whole battalion was relieving...relieving and I don't remember the unit we were relieving. They'd been in contact...continuous combat for a good little bit. And we were probably augmenting them too because see the Battle of the Bulge...we...we were supposed...when we joined Patton's Third Army at that time, we were supposed to squeeze 'em off...a pincer...what they call a pincer movement and cut 'em off down round behind 'em. And that's what we were actually doing up there. But about the second morning we came out of there. I mean we came out of the house...we...we were in a house right on...going down to the barn where the mess was, where we were having breakfast. And just as we came out, one of those shells, it was a mortar shell we think, fell right close to us. And, well I'd say it was about ten or twenty feet from me, something like that. But it wounded our medic, he was with us. And his name was Eddie. And it hit him in the arm and his arm was bleeding and I had platoon sergeant, which was Sergeant Butchkosky, he at that time grabbed his leg and started rolling over and over and thought he was hit. And I...I had had a little first, ah, first aid training, so I went running over to try to help him and I got his leggings off, at that time we were wearing leggings. Got his leggings off and I couldn't find any...any at all. I couldn't find any place where he'd been hit. But he was still screaming and said that he was hit. And obviously, as I think back on it, a piece of shrapnel must have hit his leg. And he thought he was hit, but it...but it didn't penetrate if it did. And...but he was shipped out and we didn't...we never saw him again. That was...that was my first instance of being right close to it. We knew we had it then. But then later on we really got into some action up Nennig and Wochern and Berg. I can remember some of those towns and being pinned down...that's when our feet, my feet got frost bitten. I went about three or four days without feeling my feet. And um, I got shipped out because I went back to...we were being relieved too because we'd been in combat...I don't remember how long, probably a week or so, but day and night stuff gets to you. And so we went back to a schoolhouse and we were relieved by another unit to hold 'em or fight on. And I went back and a medical officer came by, and he...he saw my feet and they were purple and he sent me back to the hospital.

Zarbock: Now where are we in time and history. Is this January, February?

Durwood Baggett: This is the latter part of January, about January the 25th of 19, well it would have been 1944.

Zarbock: Yea. And the fighting was still fierce?

Durwood Baggett: Oh yea, yea, we...we were just really beginning to cut 'em off then. This was right on, fairly on, well on the beginning. Ah, we were, we were being successful but it was, ah, we were up there in that ________ woods and that was terrible fighting. Some of the German tanks came up there and actually fired almost directly in the foxholes. It was pretty rough. And our...that was one time I was pinned down out in an apple orchard...near Nennig, Nennig, N E N N I G, I believe. Anyway I was pinned down there at...well my whole squad was. And we couldn't move. Every time you moved just a little bit, it was just a crest of a hill, ah, they...they'd start firing on you and the snow would kick up all out there and finally I had one guy, Sergeant Donnagen, he wasn't, well he wasn't a sergeant, PRC. Donnagen, he got so nervous and had been pinned down...we pinned down two or three hours out there and he just got up and yelled. And about that time he...limbs in that tree he was under started falling out from that machine gun fire and he got down pretty quick again. But that was pretty rough time. But as I go back to this...getting my feet, Lieutenant Perry says, "You're going back to the hospital." And I did. I was in there about, oh about a week or something like that. And they didn't know how to treat frozen feet to much. They were taking us back and forth to the latrine on piggy back. They wouldn't let you walk on your feet. Of course at that time one of the nicer things about it, they were giving you a drink of whiskey of a morning and one at night. I guess that was to accelerate your circulation. But anyway Patton came back at one time and went through that hospital and he saw some of 'em that wasn't so sick and all that and he just about cleared the hospital. He says, "Anybody can walk." And cleared right back out. So I got right back into it after being about...about a week back there, something like that. And...

Zarbock: Had your feet improved?

Durwood Baggett: Yes. I could walk on 'em but even then it felt like pins and needles in 'em. Yes, it was...they were prickly I reckon is the way to say it. Yea. I could feel it of course, but I could walk on 'em. I...I mean, so that I did. And of course there were several other too that was in the same thing, but. But we got right back into the fighting then and finished it up you might say. We went on. We crossed the Rhine and went into...our last action...of course from the Rhine, I mean along our way from the Saar-Moselle triangle...from there to the Rhine was a race. It was really a race. We...our company would take one city and they'd leap frog...they called it leap frogging. And one of our other company would go right on through us and take the next town. We had the Germans on the run. Well that's...that's when we...were beginning to curse didn't let us sleep, we were going day and night and we...fortunately I was in a jeep. And it was, well it was supposed to been my jeep. I had a driver and two men behind me...riflemen. And we were following, as I say, we were going day and night, we followed, had to follow a jeep, and the little jeep had...on the tail lights, had just little slivers across the back that you were supposed to follow. And we got into some fog, and it didn't make any difference what happened there. My driver took the wrong turn and he went up a hill there and I could just see silhouettes coming towards me all at once and I was about half asleep and here they come running up to me like that with their hands out...a bunch of Germans giving up. It was a German captain, I found out later, I didn't know his rank at the time. But he...he scared the devil out of me because I was sitting up there, had a fifty caliber machine gun mounted on the jeep, but then I saw his hands out because he was in the fog. And they had already stacked their weapons. But they had the rifles stacked and...we called 'em stacked, you know, when they go up like that. And then they had their small arms piled down under there. The...the fact is that's where I got my _____ that I brought home. But I have since given it to my son. But that's...that's where I got the ______. But all...we couldn't afford to use any of our men because we were moving too, we just motioned 'em to go go back...that way. And they...they went back on their own. But they were glad to give up at that time.

Zarbock: So their lines were beginning to crumble?

Durwood Baggett: Oh, it was crumbling bad, yea. We were taking...we were capturing 'em. And every city we would go it they'd have white flags all out, you know, make shift sheets and everything else hanging out the windows. But once in a while you would have a...a Nazi diehard that would shoot at us. And we'd have to stop and clear him out before that could go on. And at Ludwigshafen, which was a chemical city right down on the Rhine, and that was our last action, but we lost...we lost a few people down there. And that's about where I came the closest to getting it. I had a machine gun set up on a corner of the house, in the corner and we were covering some of the infantrymen because there had been some little resistance in Ludwigshafen. And they were going across there and as I say, we opened up with the machine gun and they found out that we had a machine gun in there. They started dropping mortar shells. And it came in through the top of the house and it was what they called a delayed action. It didn't burst until it hit the second story. And it happened to be right above my head. And I was, I was knocked out temporarily. And I was walking around, but, that's where I really lost my hearing...or begin to lose it, cause I...I didn't...I couldn't hear anything very well for two or three days. But I didn't get hit. Ah, I had wounds from it.

Zarbock: But just the concussion of the...

Durwood Baggett: Well it was not only concussion, it also hit the chimney right at the time, it hit the...come in there and hit the chimney. There were bricks, mortar, and all that everywhere and there was dust. I can remember crawling around on the floor and I couldn't seen anything. And I thought I'd been hit too, till I...I couldn't find any blood when I got through. But I thought I'd been hit because it was such an explosion. say the concussion. But I was very fortunate. None of our...none of my men got hit by it...and...or got hurt.

Zarbock: Now again, purpose of locating me in time, about when was...was it spring of the year by the time you got...

Durwood Baggett: Yes. Yes. Yes. This was...I'm saying in April. Something March...latter part of March or April because we were through the fight that we had...with the major part of it, when Roosevelt died, and that was on April the 12th. And so I could pinpoint it. But other than that we weren't keeping up with dates. And I haven't thought about it too much since either. But it was bound to have been about the end of March or the first of April because I do remember it was prior...definitely prior to us hearing about President Roosevelt dying. And I can remember that day, April the 12th. But after that, they took our company then and...and sent us up to northern Germany at Wuppertal Dusseldorf. They were two large cities that might say ran together almost. And we had to set up a control for the DPs. DPs were displaced persons who had been shipped in there from Russia, and any place...any people that they had captured or could even run over, whether they were civilian...there were a lot of women in the crowd. They would put 'em in camps and made 'em work in those factories. And they was forced labor is another way to put it. It was forced labor. And what...I remember one morning we were running pat...running patrols there because we...we had more, almost as much danger there as we did in actually fighting the war, because those displaced persons were...were naturally afraid and yet we had to control 'em. And they just went wild once they did because they were wanting to retaliate. And they did. And they got hold of a few weapons. And they were...they were dangerous too even though whether it was us, they didn't try to hurt us, but...but through accidents and shooting and everything else, they, as I say, some of 'em were kinda wild, very wild. An, I remember one morning, I was running a patrol at that time and I had two men with me, it was just at the break of day you might say, ah, they come a woman running out in her nightgown and waving and a hollering and so forth and of course I stopped and she motioned me in. We went into her house and her husband was laying there on the floor, he was riddled with bullets. And it was, you could tell, the blood was all running out of him and he still had on his nightgown. He was sleeping in a nightgown. And...but I found out later he had been one of the people that was...a superintendent of something in one of those factories. And he had been one of the big guys that was pushing those people. And they had...and they had ransacked the house of course. They took all the...

Zarbock: So this was a revenge killing?

Durwood Baggett: Yes a revenge type...yea. But that was...I can remember that very vividly. The woman...cause naturally she was very upset, but there was nothing I could do about it particularly. Of course I reported it and made a report of the incident, and...but...and we...I think we tried to push up a little harder in trying to control those people. Trying to...we...we actually had to put a guard on them and keep 'em from running out at night. And some of the country people...we...we had to put people out there sleeping in their houses. I slept in some of their houses one night to...and...and once those displaced persons, those DPs we called 'em...once they found out that there were American soldiers in there with...with rifles and carbines and so on, they...they paid a little more attention then. But other incident there they had...I was running a patrol in the daytime one day and one of the persons come out there to motion to what had happened and pointed up there, they had of those antiaircraft cellars that they...when they shot down our planes and they had a built in dugout, you might say. I called it a dugout, it's a...very well constructed, they was all cement and had rooms in it. They...these displaced persons had killed a cow, this man's cow, and pulled her down there, and they were dressing it. When I went down there...and of course when they found out that I was coming at that point, they started running. And I...I couldn't see 'em but to satisfy the farmer, I fired two or three shots with my pistol like I was shooting at 'em but I...I couldn't do that.

Zarbock: Was it your assignment to feed these people too?

Durwood Baggett: No. Well...well, we allowed 'em to cook for themselves.

Zarbock: Where did they get the food?

Durwood Baggett: They...we shipped...we gave it to 'em out of our...yea, the Army furnished all that. Yea, once we took know, we were friends with 'em and we were trying to get 'em back to their homes. And shipping 'em out and processing 'em. But it was...there was a lot of confusion, a lot of confusion at that time.

Zarbock: I read that some of the Russian displaced persons did not want to go back to Russia.

Durwood Baggett: That's true, that's true, they didn't want to go back. Yea, yea...they were...fact is, a lot of 'em tried to join up with our groups, you know, and find a way to get back to America. They really wanted to get back to America. Yea, that was a goal if they could do it. You're right about that.

Zarbock: Well, what you're describing is just absolute minute-by-minute chaos and danger and...

Durwood Baggett: Yes, you're right.

Zarbock: And danger.

Durwood Baggett: It was dangerous and yet...and then too, Paul, we were young boys and so forth and...and my...ah, my patrol...I was on one day and off two. So we had...we had a big chance run around and fraternize and all that sort of stuff. They had the...there was put out a rule there that fraternization, you'd be fined for it, you know, when you first got in there. But that didn't take long to break down that rule. I mean that...the...there were a lot of...some pretty girls over there, you know, in Germany. And there was a lot of fraternization going on at that time. But...

Zarbock: Did you see any German soldiers, that....

Durwood Baggett: No German soldiers. Once in a while we'd see an old man German soldiers, you know, older.

Zarbock: Yea.

Durwood Baggett: And...but all the men had been conscripted and put back into the Army at this time.

Zarbock: Yea.

Durwood Baggett: And fact is, some of the prisoners we took were...were real old and we began...I can remember this too, it made you feel kinda badly to some of those older ones coming through and ah, we tried to, in the beginning, I know my squadron and people that I knew, we let 'em go on back with their wristwatches and everything else. But we soon found out that the medics and the people back in the rear, the rear echelon we called it, were stripping 'em after they got back there. So we started taking it to begin with. And I must admit, I had an arm full of wristwatches. Because we were the ones who were actually up there doing it and...naw we weren't gonna let 'em get back there. I had a...I had a watch that I took off a real old fella and I feel bad...badly about it now, but we were a little harder at that time, and I...I took it out of his...and he said, "It's my Großvater, Großvater." But I shipped it to my daddy. Yea, but...yea it wasn't all good, but you were a little harder then than we would see it now. And in particular when we saw that the, or heard, that they were stripping 'em back, you know, the other soldiers were getting the loot, so to speak.

Zarbock: Where were you assigned? The war is now over, is that correct?

Durwood Baggett: Yes, that's correct.

Zarbock: And where were you assigned...were you shifted out of North Ger...out of northern Germany to...?

Durwood Baggett: Yes. We...we were in Wuppertal Dusseldorf as I say, when we were hit into the DPs and had such an altercation with that. Now, then we went from there in the...can't remember but I do know it was hot, it must have been June or July, we went down to Pilsen Czechoslovakia. And the reason we had to go down there is to keep the Russians from taking all of Czechoslovakia. That...they had already taken Prague, you see. And the...this was a different ____ thing, we didn't know it at the time, but we later found out. That's why we were sent down there, to occupy part of that territory and to stop, and this was true, because we had a little creek there that divided us, and...and my men were on one side of the creek and the Russians were on the other side. And they...they thought about much of stopping people and had to show passes and all that. They had one of those gates that you let up and down. And we didn't have anything like a gate but we...we were there primarily to keep 'em from coming over to see us. But we didn't have anything to do with trying to control the Czechs. But they did. They believed in that right much. But even at that, I made friends with the Russian sergeant over there because the dance hall was on his side of the creek. And...and they made good music down there. Good polka music and all that. And about every night they tried to, you know, liven up the crowd. They'd have two or three people playing the accordion. They like to play the accordion. And yea, we had...we had some good parties there, even intermingled with the Russians. But they didn't come on our side, but we...we went over there.

Zarbock: Was there bartering going on? Did they want American cigarettes or anything like that?

Durwood Baggett: Oh yea, there was a lot of bartering going on, yes we sold...we sold a lot of stuff like that. Yea. I...I remember selling a field jacket once for three hundred dollars. (laugh). I sold a Mickey Mouse watch for three hundred dollars.

Zarbock: Whose currency?

Durwood Baggett: Oh, it was conscription currency. They had...that's another thing the Russians kinda beat us on that, you know. They had the same thing, this printed currency. It was little, brown, it was almost square box and you was in units and Russians were using the same thing we were. And there was a lot of...lot of good deals there that went on...where the Americans sold a lot of stuff to the Russians. Cause the Russians hadn't been paid on, they got paid off all at once. And they were loaded with money. They didn't know...a lot of 'em didn't know how to spend it. So...well worked out. It...there was a lot of confusion and things like that going on there too.

Zarbock: Now off camera you mentioned that you could enter what was it, Prague, during the day?

Durwood Baggett: Yes. Yes.

Zarbock: Tell me about that.

Durwood Baggett: There was a few of us that could, well I say a few, they were running about one or two truckloads a day into Prague, which is about thirty five...I think we were about thirty, thirty five miles, I don't know, ah, but to go into Prague for sightseeing. And I was one of 'em that got a chance to go but the rule was that we couldn't go into Prague until...only in daylight hours. So it was after sunrise and I had to be out of there before sundown. And the Russians had set up that rule. I knew, ah, I knew a girl that had been visited over on the other side, the American side, she and her mother. I met her mother when I was on guard post over there. Her name was Diva Mercustabaum. I remember her very well. Of course we...we were together a lot and...put it that way, and she was a movie...well she wasn't a starlet, I shouldn't say that, but anyway she had some little parts in the movie business in Prague. And she took me, when we went in there, ah, she met the truck...she knew I was coming in, met the truck and took me all over the studios. And one other thing I remember too, she wanted me to have dinner with her. And her mother, I don't know, I don't know her title, but she had something to do with the labor business in Prague, and they lived in a big nice apartment there, I remember that. They had servants, I remember that too, cause I remember that lady pulling a cord, you know, they would appear and so forth.

Zarbock: Not bad for a guy from Spivey's Corner?

Durwood Baggett: No, it sure wasn't, no I was in high cotton there, but...(laugh)

Zarbock: What were you a buck sergeant in those days?

Durwood Baggett: Yea, I was a buck sergeant...buck sergeant, three stripes. Yea, fact is, I was discharged...I was...a lot of our guys got shipped in, there was only thirteen of us, a lot of 'em of course got wounded and all that sort of stuff, but there was only thirteen that was left in our company. And when we got relieved, um, we came back to Ober Garmisch and Partenkirchen and Oberammergau. We were actually stationed in Oberammergau. But Garmisch-Partenkirchen Germany was where they held the '36 Olympics. It was around there near Berchtesgaden. We weren't too far from Hitler's hideout, his home. Anyway, it was beautiful down there. It really was. You know, Oberammergau is where they hold the passion play every ten years. And we got to go through all that sort of stuff. The guy who plays the part of Christ was a barber. He cut my hair a time or two. That was where we...I remember trading a pack of...two or three packs of cigarettes and got me a nice field jacket made by a seamstress with the lining in it. And she made it out of one of our sleeping bags, and...but was a nice one. But that...that was good duty down there. And as I started to tell you, there was thirteen of us original, but there has been a bunch that had been shipped in, to come back home with us. Because at that time we were coming back home. And I was acting first sergeant then. And I...they...they had froze all ranks, but that's on my discharge, that I had charge of ________ and of course at that time I had command of jeeps and a lot of recreation facilities and things like that. I had my jeep customized and enclosed and had the exhaust running out from...the mufflers between the seats and had heat in there and...well I kept...there was four chains on my jeep at all times. Because we were in about that much packed snow.

Zarbock: So we''re getting ready to come back to the states?

Durwood Baggett: Yes. Yes. And we came back in the states at a unit by goodness. I came back on the...the Victory ship they called it, called Pontotoc, Pon-to-toc. And I understand that it was later stationed in the storage basin here in Wilmington. I never got back...back on it, but I heard that was...of course, I think Dillon Horton told me. He dismounted a lot of 'em, and said he dismounted it, because they tore up, you know, dismounted it and got scrap out of it.

Zarbock: Sure.

Durwood Baggett: But, um...

Zarbock: Where did you land when you came back to the states?

Durwood Baggett: We came Camp Kilman, New Jersey. Yes, Camp Kilman, New Jersey. That's the first time we got a big nice steak. Then we were shipped down to Fort Bragg. Later on though, I...I took a complete discharge when I...when I got out cause I wasn't interested in it. But as I worked on, was the Assistant County Agent up in Burnsville, Yancy County, North Carolina. There was a recruitment sergeant came over there, he had some sick chickens and was asking me about 'em. We had no veterinarians then, you know, and he thought I knew all about that. But anyway he explained the retirement program the Reserves. So I got back in the Reserve. I applied...he said I oughta apply for a commission and did, and got it. And that was in 1949. I got a Reserve commission and participated in the Army Reserve and retired out of that as a major. So it was a good, good situation because it allowed me to participate two weeks of duty every year, and I had command of crews, it was good leadership training. And the retirement's not bad.

Zarbock: You know, I asked you off camera with...with all of your combat experience and all of your military training and all of your military, well, conditions that existed, ah, my question was off camera, do we ever win a war?

Durwood Baggett: Well, in my opinion Paul, I...I think we definitely won what we call World War II. But also in my opinion, I don't think we've won one since then. Not clearly. We were definitely, ah, we were definitely the command situation, cause those people were completely whipped when we got through with 'em. And there's no doubt about that in my mind. And...and that Marshall plan was one of the greatest things that ever happened to Europe again. And then another thing that happened good out of ours was the GI Bill. I'd say that was one of the very best things. We had so many people that got their education because of that.

Zarbock: It really changed the whole social order, didn't it?

Durwood Baggett: It did. It did. It sure did. And...and the...well, wars bring on a lot of change, you know. And it was not good from the standpoint of, well, I hate to use the word like that, but mixing up the population and getting the different genes scattered all over the country. And we didn't inner breed. (laugh) I reckon, we use that term in agriculture of which I've been closely associated with and so we...we didn't inner breed. Yea, it was good for our country. We got a lot...a lot of good out of it.

Zarbock: But really our compassion...the compassion that was shown after World War II to the vanquished by the victors, ah, may not be historical first, but it sure is an oddity when...when the victors helped the vanquished as open-handedly as we did. And I agree with you on the GI Bill. It change the social order in the United States.

Durwood Baggett: All this is bringing us up today but I, I mean, I don't mind saying what I think about it. Right now we've got a mercenary army. We've got a mercenary army. We don't have the feeling that we had that existed then. These people are not to blame. I support 'em and will support 'em very strongly as all I can. But if we...this fella Charlie Randall didn't have a better idea of say in bringing the draft back, of course that's a fighting word for a lot of people, but if we had a cross-section of the people in the army right now, we wouldn't be where we are in Iraq. And I say that very strongly and don't mind standing behind it.

Zarbock: Sir, I've enjoyed every minute of it, and I thank you kindly.

Durwood Baggett: Well, you're quite welcome.

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