Interview with Son of World War II Veteran: Wayne Christensen son of Robert Christensen

June 10,2004

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?

W: No.

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.

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