Kristi Mizner: How did your father feel about the war?
Wayne Christensen: He didn’t really talk much about the war but when he did he said it
was a serious time. He was right out of high school around the age of 18 to 20 so he
didn’t know what to expect and the war really opened his eyes.
K: What did he do in the military?
W: He was a paratroop infantry and at the end of the war he transported troops.
K: What unit and rank did he hold?
W: By the end of the war he was a Sergeant. He was in the 513th regiment and in the
17th airborne. He jumped about 4 or 5 times in Baston, Belgium and France.
K: Where was he stationed overseas and for how long?
W: He was stationed in England from 1943 to 1945.
K: What did he do from fun on his free time or when he was on leave?
W: R and R (rest and relaxation). Whenever they got the chance to have a break from
the war they would take it. One story my father told me was when he was on R & R in
England. Him and a couple of guys were resting inside a tent with a potbelly stove and
there was a guy outside the tent cleaning his gun. They were all young between the ages
of 16 and 20. This one soldier took a hand grenade and emptied out the gunpowder and
put the top back on. As a joke he was going to throw the grenade into the tent where the
guys were hanging out. The kid walks by the tent, pulled the pin and threw it inside the
tent. (Even though there was no gunpowder in the grenade there is a blasting cap, which
causes a little explosion.) The kid didn’t know an explosion would happen he just
thought if you took the powder out it would be harmless. Everyone ran out of the tent,
scattered, and then ducked. The grenade went off near the stove and cause the stove to
explode. The guy cleaning his gun outside the tent was his by pieces of the stove but no
one got hurt. The kid started to run realizing what he just caused to happen and everyone
in the tent chases after him. Before any of the guys could get their hand on the kid he hid
behind a Major. They guys wanted to do something to the kid but the Major said not to
worry about the incident because no one got hurt. After the guys got back to a new tent
they told the kid that the next they jump, he better be heading towards Germany or else
he’s not going to make it. After that jump none of the guys knew if the Germans killed
the kid or if one of them killed him.
K: How did he travel through Europe?
W: He would travel mostly by plane. He would make jumps and would stay out for 4 to
6 months at a time. When he jumped in France he was awarded a metal from France
because he helped liberate them from the Germans. After he would make a jump he
would then be in combat. Sometimes he would go on recons, which is similar to the
Special Forces today. Whenever my father went on recons he wouldn’t go unless one of
his friends who spoke fluent German went with him. He did this so if the Germans ever
captured them he would be able to understand what the Germans were saying.
K: What was one of the scariest things that happened to him during the war?
W: When he was at the Battle of the Bulge and the paratroopers were on a hill and
Germans surrounded them and there was no way of escaping. It was about 20 below zero
and they were hiding in foxholes. He was in a foxhole with 4 other guys and he told me
that was his first time he had prayed in his life because he was so afraid.
K: Did he talk about Buchenwald (Nazi camp for Jews)?
W: When he talked about the camp he said he couldn’t believe what he saw. He was
surprised about the number of dead bodies, there were not only 5 or 6 there were over
50,000 dead bodies burned and incinerated.
K: Was he a POW or wounded during the war?
W: He was not a POW but he did receive two purple hearts. I don’t know how he was
injured to receive the purple hearts.
K: Did he use the GI bill?
K: Did he agree with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
W: Yes, because he wanted the war to end the fastest way possible.
K: Was there anything funny that happened to him during combat/war?
W: One night he was on a recon with about 6 other guys and they were on their
stomachs crawling. And every couple of minutes they would tap each other on the foot
to tell the other that they were still with the group. One of the guys tapped the foot in
front of him but there was no response. He tapped again and still there was no response.
They were crawling through bushes and over rocks so they thought they lost a guy. They
quietly whispered to each other to double check if they lost anyone. Everyone was there
and the thing the guy was tapping on was a dead horse. At the time he said it wasn’t
funny but when they got back they all had a good laugh about the incident.
K: How long was he in Europe after the war?
W: He was there for about 2 to 3 months and helped Europe recover from the war, which
included helping the civilians, POW’s, and people who were in camps.