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Interview with Joseph Ralph Fox (b.1920)

Place:  New Paltz, NY                                                                                                                                               

November 15,1997                                                                                                4th Infantry Division brief history



1.       J. Gary Fox   (G.) 

2.       Colleen (Fox) Wiedenkeller  (C)

3.      Joseph R. Fox (J (1945 Picture)

This portion focuses  solely on his service in World War II 

World War II


J.          My serial number was 32524657.

C.         (Showing photo) This is training camp photo.  (Group photo a Battery A with a graduating class of 220 soldiers and   7 officers)

J.          Basic Training

G.         So you were trained in the Battery A, 2nd Antiaircraft Training Battalion, Fort Eustis, Virginia – December 1942.

            You wrote some wonderful letters to my father in World War II.  My children read them recently.  You were a very good writer – your descriptions were very gripping.

.J.         I took my basic training at Fort Eustis, Virginia.  We used to line up.  (Showing his arm)  We used to call it the ‘hook’. (Inoculations)  And the guy in front of me, I knew he was going to pass out, so I was going to get in front of him.

G.         How was it going over in a troopship?

J.          Rough.  There were hurricanes.  I never saw waves so  … they were eighty … ninety feet high.

G.         Did you get seasick?

J.          All the guys were sick … upchucking … and guess who was there?  The chow hound…me.  “You can’t eat that?”  (Simulates eating) 

            I was on the S.S. Carabella.  We used to zigzag … and all of a sudden the whole convoy would stop.  There were destroyers outside… depth charges…. barroom, barroom, barroom.

G.         How long did it take you to get there?

J.          Four or five days.  We’d get off the banana boat in London and they put us on troopships and took us to different camps … staging areas.

G.         What unit were you in?

J.          I was in the First Infantry Army.   Eisenhower was my supreme commander.

G.         Who were the Generals you were under?

J.          Patton.  My division commander was General Buckley – Fourth Infantry Division.

G.         Was that part of the Third Army?

J.          No, the First Army

J.          I was in London when Hitler was blitzing with incendiary bombs.

G.         What was your rank when you got out of the service?

J.          I was a Corporal …. terminated with an Honorable Discharge.  I was in the Fourth Infantry Division, which made the invasion in Normandy.

G.         When did you know you were going to France?

J.          Aah.  They kept it a secret.  Eisenhower came down and said,

            “This is it.”

            And we didn’t believe him. 


            We couldn’t get off the beaches.  We were standing on the beaches.  We had 12 P47’s (airplanes) in my outfit.  The next day I saw 50 Mustangs come over and behind that came the whole fleet … B17’s.

G.         You were on deck?

J.          Yes.

G.         What wave were you in?

J.          I was in Omaha – Utah.  All I remember when I hit the beach was the bodies – lying all over the place. 

G.         How did you feel getting out of that boat?

J.          Well, you know, I couldn’t wait.  (Shows how “pumped” up with adrenaline he was)  I figured boy this is it. 

J.          All I remember is when I hit the beach, there were bodies lined up all over the place.

G.         How long were you on the beach?

J.          Well we got pinned down.  We couldn’t get off the beach.  That had us … oh, it was unbelievable …all I heard was guys screaming “Medic, medic”.  Then the General came up…He said,

 “Were going to get you guys off the beaches.”

And we bombed the front lines and away we went.

            The paratroopers went in first, then Eisenhower said, “We got to go.”

G.         How many people in your unit were killed?

J.          (Deep sigh) My Sergeant    lost his leg.  The Germans had the eighty-eight’s and they were beating the hell out of us one night.  I stayed in that foxhole, he got out.  He started running … stepped on a land mine … blew his leg off.

G.         Were you involved with anti-aircraft guns?

J.          Yes, I had enough ammunition on that ‘track’  (half-track anti-aircraft armored vehicle) that I could have wiped out the town of New Paltz. 

            Fifty calibers (machine guns) …hand grenades.  I used to go fishing with a hand grenade.  I had an M-1 and hand grenades.

 J.         When I was in the Army, all the best soldiers came from the cities because they had the ‘street smarts’.  They were tough.

            Ralph Finia, Paul Patano… they were knocking the shit out of us one night.  These guys got out of the foxhole   … (simulates machine gun fire) ratta, dat, dat…. Street smarts.

G.         Did you have close calls fighting the Krauts?

J.          Oh, yeah, yeah. 

            I took my Basic Training in Fort Eustis, Virginia.  Then I was in England, then in Normandy – Omaha Beach.  The paratroopers went in first and they were all hanging in the trees where the Germans had shot them down.

G.         Where did you wind up – you went through Normandy, France and Germany.

J.          I went to London and I was in the Fourth Infantry Division and they were going to pull my Division out and send me to Japan … when they dropped that atomic bomb on Nagasaki.

G.         How did you feel about that?

J.          When you’re young you don’t give a damn, I wasn’t married … you live day to day.

G.         Where you ever wounded?

J.          Oh, yes.  Over here (points to left side of temple), and then here (left finger).  I landed on my hand with my bayonet.  I got this scar over here and this scar over here.

G.         How close were you when you fought the Germans?

J.          Ha, close!  Whenever we saw a dead German soldier, the first thing we did … we used to take their lapels off.

Note: Joe had a box of war souvenirs – belt buckles, epaulets, some picture diaries, post cards which we looked through

This is all the stuff I stole off them.

G.         You didn’t steal it, because they didn’t need it.  These are trophies of war.

J.          You know what my friend used to do?  He’d see a German there, lying dead.  He’d see a ring on his finger….

C.         We don’t want to hear those stories.

G.        What about the Battle of the Bulge?

J.          Oh, that was unbelievable.  They pulled us off the front line, and the Germans knew … and they hit!  When I went back, all I saw was GI’s, young kids…eighteen.   They still had chalk marks on their helmet. 

J.          They were all green troops and the Germans knew it… they had Intelligence and knew what was going on.      

G.         What does that mean?

J.          As soon as you got off the boat, they put a number on you.  (To keep track of replacements – they were killed so quickly that the chalk marks didn’t have time to wash or wear off.)

            Then my helmet… I used to wash in it, shave in it…it was your best friend. 

G.         How did you find the food when you were fighting?

J.          K – Rations  (Shelf stable not very edible packaged foods)

G.         Did you get a chance to stay in any villages?

J.          In England we ate fish and chips.

J.          I wrote Marion a letter and I said,

            “When I get out of this Army, we’re going to get married and I’ll buy you a house.”

            (Looking at a 1945 picture of himself).  Those chevrons mean I’m a Corporal; there are my service stripes.  (four)

G.         They were for every six months of service.

J.          I can speak German too.

            Kann Sie Deutsche sprechen? 

G.         Can you speak German?

            Haben Sie viel …………????

G          I’ve got to sleep?

J.          Yes.

G.         What were the prisoner’s you captured like?

J.          (Talks about prisoners of  the Germans)   I see them come out of Dachau and they all had yellow jaundice, they wore these striped things. 

G.         Did you help liberate Dachau

J.          Yes.

J.          I was in a convoy and all of a sudden the convoy stopped and I saw all these prisoners. 

G.         Did any of your close friends get killed?

J.          Yes.  Sergeant Paloni (?) was killed;  my Sergeant stepped on a landmine and blew his leg off.

G.         How much time were you in the “half-track” and how much time a foot soldier?

J.          We ran out of gas and there I was with an M-1 and the hand grenades.

G.         Did you see Patton?

J.          Yes, five o-clock in the morning.  I was an E-4 [ Corporal] in the Fourth Infantry Division and we were in a convoy.  All of a sudden, the MP’s were yelling…

”Get off the road, get off the road!”

Then I heard a roar … it was Patton in his tank.


End Transcript


             Letters from Joseph Fox to Al Fox and Marguerite Morgan Fox on what it was like "over there".


             May 23, 1945


             V --- Mail letter May 16, 1945