TW: My name is Taylor Wynne and today, February 26, 2003, I’m doing my interview over the phone with Donald Morrison. What is your full name?
DM: Donald A. Morrison, Jr.
TW: What is your date of birth?
DM: July 10, 1916.
TW: What is your current address?
DM: 7638 Apartment B Somerset Bay, Indianapolis, IN 46240-3339.
TW: What war or wars did you serve in and what branch of service?
DM: I was in World War II. I was in the Army. I was in the 835th Infantry Division, the 338th Infantry Combat Team. I was a member of the 329th Field Artillery Battalion. A combat team was composed of the 338th Infantry Regiment and the 329th Field Artillery Battalion and other attached troops.
TW: What was your rank?
TW: Where did you serve?
DM: We served primarily in Italy.
TW: Were you drafted or did you enlist?
DM: When I graduated from Purdue in 1938, on the day of graduation I had been in the ROTC for four years at Purdue- the Reserve Officer’s Training Corps- and at the time of graduation when we graduated they gave us our diplomas from Purdue and along with that they gave us our commissions as second lieutenants in the United States Army Reserve.
TW: Where were you living at the time?
DM: I was at West Lafayette, Indiana at Purdue.
TW: Do you recall your first days in service?
DM: Well, I had been in the ROTC program for four years and, so I graduated from Purdue in 1938 and war was declared on December 7th, 1941, so there was about a two and a half year interval. During that time I’d married your Aunt Mary and she was pregnant at the time with a child who later turned out to be Don, III. So the first day when I got in the service, I knew pretty much what it was all about.
TW: Did you have to go through any boot camp training?
DM: We were already trained but I had to go to Communications School in Fort Sill, Oklahoma. I was there about three months. Then the division was formed at Camp Shelby, Mississippi and they brought men from all over the United States into Camp Shelby, Mississippi, to make up the 85th Infantry Division. It was the first selective service, by that I mean drafted, first drafted unit to see actual action in World War II. We saw that in Italy.
TW: Was Italy primarily the only place you were?
DM: Yes. We were in the line, in the front line, for over a year in Italy.
DM: Yes, we left Newport News, Virginia on January 1st, 1943 as a full combat team on a Navy troop ship. It was called the USS General Mann, and it zigzagging across the Atlantic Ocean, and landed in Casablanca, Morocco. That’s on the coast of Africa. We got on a train there and went across the Atlas Mountains and we disembarked in Algiers. Then about a month later we left that camp and went to Naples, Italy. We went into the line about just ten miles north of Naples, Italy. We had a number of different kinds of troops in that group. We had soldiers from Morocco, we had Sihks from India, we had Canadians, we had Brazilians, we had Italians, and, of course, we had the United States Army all in that group, all assembled in the fifth Army. There were all different kinds of men- you know, of different nationalities, different habits. For example, the Moroccans brought their ladies- their women with them who cooked for them and all like that. It was a funny thing. Sikhs were big, handsome men from India. They bathed naked in the winter in the cold streams coming down from the mountains. It was just completely different.
TW: What exactly was your job assignment?
DM: I was the Headquarters Battery Commander of the 329th Field Artillery Battalion. I was responsible for the communications from the headquarters to the firing batteries. We had forward observers out with the infantry- they’d communicate back to the headquarters and then we’d send information to the firing batteries and then they’d fire on the enemy.
TW: Did you get to see any combat?
DM: That’s what we were doing all the time.
TW: Do you have any memorable experiences?
DM: Well, I think my most memorable experience was when we broke through the line in front of Viturno and we moved up and we saw you know where we’d killed these troops and the dead soldiers were on the ground and dead horses, the Germans used a lot of horses; We had dead horses all around and it was seeing all that…carnage of the war. But got used to that. That was about a month after we first went into the line. And then we sailed on through and we went all the way up north through Italy and we blocked the Germans’ retreat from Italy upright at the entrance between Italy and Switzerland and we blocked the pass and the Germans all gave up in Italy and that was in June of the next year.
TW: Were you ever awarded any medals or citations?
DM: Yes, I won or received the Bronze Star twice.
TW: How did you get them?
DM: Well, just by doing my job. That’s the main thing.
TW: While you were there how did you stay in touch with your family, or did you?
DM: Well we wrote letters. We wrote, I guess they were “V-mail” letters, back home and Mary would write to me. She’d write “V-mail” letters to me. I think she wrote “V-mail” letters to me. I think I saved them for a long time and then I finally threw them away, I guess.
TW: What was the food like?
DM: We had excellent food. I can’t complain a bit. We had our own kitchen. Each battery had a kitchen and a mess sergeant and three or four cooks. We were well supplied by the Quartermaster. Sometimes we had to have the meals packed by mules up into the mountains by Italians who were muleskinners and brought up to us and then they went back down the mountains. That was done at night. But we cooked the meals. We had excellent food.
TW: Did you normally have plenty of supplies?
DM: Plenty. Always. Never short of supplies.
TW: Did you ever feel pressure or stress?
DM: I think there was a lot of stress most all the time. When the incoming rounds would come in, you’d worry about you know, what happens if you get hit or not. We lived in foxholes in the ground most of the time.
TW: Was there something special you did for good luck?
DM: No, I don’t think so.
TW: How did most people entertain themselves, or did you really?
DM: Well, we did, we played cards, we played poker. When we would have a chance, we’d go to the rear for a shower and they’d truck us on occasions to a great big long tent. You take all your clothes off and you’d start at one end of this big tent and you’d go right on through and take a shower and walk on down. Then you’d get issued new clothing, or you know, clothing that had been washed. Somebody else had probably worn it at some time, but that’s how we kept clean. That was pretty nice to do, get a clean set of suits, and so on.
TW: Do you remember any humorous or unusual events?
DM: Nothing that humorous, no. I’ll tell you, it’s not what you think it is so much….you know you go to school and you have a classroom and you know everybody in your class and you know a lot of people in the school, well that’s the way it is. You don’t get a big picture. You don’t know what’s happening a mile away or two miles away. It’s just what’s right there in front of you and what you see. That’s the way it is. You don’t get all that stuff fifty miles away or anywhere, you just see it right there. You just stay right there with it all the time. Follow me?
TW: What did you think of the officers or fellow soldiers?
DM: Well, I thought they were all great. As I say, ours was the first selective service division that means draftees. Except the non-commissioned officers which we had, which is what they called a cadre, they came from the regular Army and I had maybe ten sergeants and corporals from Fort Sam Houston, Texas that had made the Army their whole life and they helped form the men as they went through the training and then they went with us when right into war, we went to fight. They were great people, they were all fine.
TW: Did you keep a diary or anything?
TW: Did you take any pictures?
DM: Well, the only pictures I’ve got- our supply officer, Captain Dikesell, happened upon a German who had been shot and he had a camera, so I have got just, well really… pictures of us. The German had a camera and Captain Dikesell got his camera and some film and he was able to take some pictures. I have a couple of pictures of us taken on leave and when we come off the line for a rest. We went to Venice, places like that and I’ve got pictures of us in the square in Venice, you know that one great big square where they have all those pigeons. We were all there and then in a boat. That’s about all I got.
TW: While you there were there any pranks that you or other people would pull?
DM: There wasn’t anything like that.
TW: Do you remember the day your service ended?
DM: Yes… I do. They had a point system. If you had been over there long enough and if you were married, and I, of course, by that time, I had had a child, so I had pretty high points and I was one of the first ones out. I pretty much came home early in the war but was discharged. By that time we thought we were going to go- after that war was over- to Japan to fight, but the war with Japan ended before anybody like myself was sent over to Japan. So we were just sent home.
TW: What did you do the first few weeks you came back?
DM: [Misunderstands question] You would be surprised. We had a lot of trouble with land mines- now those are things you step on and blow up. And, when we had to put the guns into the fields, the Germans would retreat and lay land mines in these fields that were ideal to put the artillery in and so, land mines- two of my men, you know –were killed particularly in advanced parties- they’d go in ahead of time and find land mines.
TW: What did you do the first few weeks you came back?
DM: Well, the first year almost, I sat in my front yard out in Wynnedale and Roland Road where we had our house and I took weeds out of the front yard. I bet I did that for maybe two or three weeks- just sat there taking weeds out of the front yard until my father got on my “fanny,” and said now you got to get yourself together. So then I got back to work. We had a store downtown- luggage and leather goods store- it was very nice and I went back to work down there. I had left the store when I got into the service. So I can remember sitting in that front yard digging those weeds and just thanking God that I was there.
TW: Did you lose any of your close friends?
DM: No. I lost some men in my battery who I was close friends.
TW: When you got back did you spend a lot of time with your wife and your child?
DM: Yes I did, all the time.
TW: Did your experiences influence your thinking about the war about the military in general?
DM: I think we’ve got a very excellent military… I don’t have any ideas about whether we should go to war against Iraq. They picture it as going to be quick and easy, but sometimes it isn’t. But I hate to see anybody get killed and that’s what’s going to happen. So I’m not 100% for it, but I lean more toward not to have it, because I don’t think we can have a world where you worry about what’s going to happen next time. I don’t think we could stand that kind of mental stress.
TW: Since the war have you attended any reunions?
DM: Oh yes, we had a reunion every two years of the combat team. Over the years, the number has dwindled. Out of about 3,000 men this last year, they had a reunion and I signed up to go. And finally they sent around a list and there were only about fifty people on that list. I didn’t know anybody, so I called up and said I wasn’t going to come. They just dwindled down- pretty much they’re all died off or aren’t able to come.
TW: How have your experiences affected your life overall?
DM: I think I’ve been pretty much thankful to be here. I don’t get upset about much. Really not much to get upset about.
TW: Are there any other things that you would like to add?
DM: I think we’ve covered a lot.
 End of Interview.
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