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Collection Mervyn Sigurdson
WVM ID Number OH 1068
Object Name Oral History
Title Oral History Interview with Mervyn Sigurdson
Date 2007
Event World War II
Narrator's Name Mervyn Sigurdson
Interviewer's Name John Driscoll
Description In this oral history interview, Mervyn R. Sigurdson, a Monroe, Wisconsin native, discusses his military training and World War II service in Germany as a member of Company B, 817th Tank Destroyer Battalion.

Born in Edmonton (Alberta, Canada), Sigurdson describes his childhood living at a North Dakota cattle ranch, a lumber camp in Winter (Wisconsin), and on his grandfather's farm in Ridgeway (Wisconsin). He recounts working for the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and his days planting trees with the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). He recalls returning home to a draft notice that ordered him to report for duty at Fort Sheridan. He tells of a young man who was happy to be rated a 4-F at his physical because he didn't have to go to war. Sigurdson then describes his own physical and trip to Fort Sheridan.

Sent to Fort Sill (Oklahoma) for eight weeks of basic training, he describes the rules set down by the staff sergeant. He explains the different weapons they were issued for target practice: .45 submachine gun, a 30-06 Enfield rifle, and a Garand M1. He relates a story of being an excellent shot and how he qualified for all three guns. Transferred to Camp Chaffee (Arkansas) outside of Fort Smith, he went through commando training and mentions training under live rifle fire. Moved to Camp Bowie, in the field artillery, Sigurdson describes loading 155 Howitzers ("like a musket of Davy Crocket"), firing them, and driving half-tracks. He talks about where he went with his weekend passes. Sent to Camp Hood outside Forth Worth (Texas), he tells of being transferred from field artillery to Company B, 817 Tank Destroyer Battalion. He recalls that he got a job driving a major and he was also given a .30 carbine and assigned to guard prisoners. He went on maneuvers in a small town outside of Nashville (Tennessee) and then on to Camp Phillips (Kansas). Sigurdson tells how he spent six months on a ranch in Langdon (South Dakota) in response to a request for experienced horsemen.

When Sigurdson returned to Camp Campbell in 1942, he received his orders to ship overseas. He briefly describes his journey to Scotland, England, and then Wales before landing in St. Lo (France) and heading to Valenciennes (France). He recalls trading a .38 German pistol for a soldier's .38 French six-shooter. He discusses going to Belgium, crossing the Siegfried Line, and being shelled when they entered Germany. He describes sleeping on a bunch of potatoes in the basement of a burned-out house in Schmidt (Germany). He recounts the constant shelling and seeing dog fights between American and German planes. He recalls a German plane strafing him while he walked along a road and having to dive into a ditch. He relates being in a weapons dump when a German shell struck the building, but it turned out to be a dud. He tells of a German company of horse-drawn artillery marching into town and surrendering. Sigurdson touches upon the battle of Hurtgen Forest and how it was just as bad as the Battle of the Bulge, but received much less publicity. He describes being shelled and "bottled up" in the Black Mountains, where a fierce battle ensued and his friend from Milwaukee was struck and killed by a wooden bullet. He tells how he shot a .50 caliber machine gun at a German soldier who then surrendered to him. He describes capturing another German soldier who was about to get the drop on them and would have "wiped us all out." He mentions being outside a house facing the Rhine River when a sniper shot a box right out from under his arm and later killed two other soldiers.

He comments that it was around this time the war ended and he was sent to Halle (Germany) for occupation duty. Sigurdson then backtracks and explains how he got a minor shrapnel wound on his back during guard duty in Schmidt (Germany), which earned him a Purple Heart he didn't think he deserved. He says that he returned to the States in 1945 and was discharged at Fort Sheridan.
Extent and Medium of Description Analog audio recording: 2 audio cassettes (approx. 1 hour, 30 minutes)
Transcript: 21 pgs.
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Biographical Record Sigurdson, Mervyn