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Collection James Thompson
WVM ID Number OH 1634
Object Name Oral History
Title Oral History Interview with James Thompson, Stephen E. Ambrose WWII Oral History Class Project, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Date 1996
Event World War II
Narrator's Name James Thompson
Interviewer's Name Richard Branch
Description In this oral history interview, James Thompson discusses his US Army experience with General Omar Bradley’s First Army in the European theatre from September 1944 to February 1945.

Thompson was drafted in the spring of his senior year in high school. He shares his thinking upon his mother’s handing him the mail from the US government. He relates that his first taste of war was the sight of the beach at Normandy, France, D-Day plus three months, and being jolted to attention by a screaming but caring officer. He talks of being intimidated by older and grimy battle-hardened GIs his second day on the continent; and of being paired with an older soldier who was to tutor him but whose initial taciturnity he learned was borne of a desire to avoid emotional attachment and loss. Thompson declares that the words "after the war" were the most common ones spoken amidst the endless routine of hours spent digging foxholes only to abandon them next morning and begin anew. To talk of the future was necessary to one’s maintaining a sense of values and stability. He asserts that while talk was essential to survival, talking about, and eagerness for, combat often meant being unhinged and jeopardizing oneself and others. Recounting an incident of being witness to the murder of surrendering German soldiers, Thompson relays the shock upon hearing en route to the Ardennes of the German slaughter of surrendering GIs there.
He imparts a sense of being in a foxhole at night, the total silence of the battlefield playing its mental trickery on the occupants. He attests at all times, but most especially then, to the importance of the soldier’s foxhole mate. Frostbite suffered in-trench just inside the German border, and an amputated toe, resulted in Thompson’s return to the US.
Extent and Medium of Description Transcript: 16 pgs.
(Transcript only)
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Biographical Record Thompson, James