Birthday: August 08, 1921
Birthplace: Buffalo County, Wisconsin
Family: Albert and Velma Hagen
Occupation: 53rd Transportation Corps
Branch: 497th Quarter Master Battalion
Discharge Date: January 10, 1946
Calvin Hagen was born on a farm in Buffalo County on August 8, 1921. He had three brothers and two sisters and he was the third child in his family. Calvin was teaching when he first heard that United States was entering the war. "I taught in a one room rural school and that from December 1941 and part of 1942."
He enlisted on September 1, 1942 at the age of twenty-one. "If I didn't enlist, I would have been drafted anyway. So I enlisted." At the time Calvin enlisted, they put him on reserve and sent him back to Eau Claire to the teachers' college. They told him to take math and physics. "There was quite a group. There must have been thirty or forty of us all in the same enlistment. I would have liked the Army Air Corps, but I'm not really a flyer. I feel better on the ground." His brother was in the Army Air Corps. At that time, "He was stationed in the China, Burma, India sector, or whatever they called it."
"Upon entering the army I first went to Fort Hood, Texas. This was a camp for tank destroyers, which were being used in the North Africa campaign. By the time my training had ended the need for tank destroyers had dissipated. I was transferred to the
Quartermaster Corps and took my training in Cheyenne, Wyoming." The Quartermaster Corps handled the processing of supplies and equipment for troops.
"As the Boston skyline disappeared under the horizon we knew that danger was lurking somewhere out there, in that never ending, expanse of water. The German Wolf Pack was a continuous concern for us. Because we were traveling alone, the USS West Point zigzagged. In other words, the ship would go straight for five minutes, and then it would zig for five minutes and then zag for another five minutes. From what we were told, the reason for this was that it took six or seven minutes for a submarine to get set to fire a torpedo so by the time they got set and fired we were someplace else. That's the story we heard.
On the third day out we were suddenly surrounded by a small flotilla of sub chasers. These were swift English Corvettes and they escorted us into Liverpool. I don't know where they came from. We never saw any subs for those first three or four days, but all at once those English Corvettes were there and the rumor we had heard was that subs were in the area."
Within the 497th Quarter Master Battalion, there were two kinds of troops. "We were in a small outfit of thirty-two soldiers. I think we were in Head Quarters. Under our Colonel, we had trucking companies, medical, administrative, etc. Well, that would be primarily it. The Quarter Master was the one who would see that the supplies were at the right place, at the right time, and in the right amount. In the Army they called that logistics."
"It was our job to do clerical work, morning reports, supply reports, and military memos from the colonel, captain, and the major. Military memos were the biggest job and at the supply depots it was getting the material out as fast as they could. "Our unit gave support to Patton's Third Army. The biggest excitement to get material moved was in the Battle of the Bulge." As our General Little John said, `Get this material out to the Third Army just as damn fast as possible twenty-four hours a day.' And that is what we did." In the fall and winter of 1944, the 497th Quarter Master Battalion also operated the Headquarters for three German Prisoner of War Camps. Then we were transferred supply depot at Rouen, France.
"We were in France throughout the last half of 1944, and 1945. Then we were transferred from Rouen, France, to Marseilles. The French appreciated what the Americans did, at least the French civilians did. When the American tanks were hit by German artillery and were put out of commission just along the road or a field, fresh flowers were on those tanks every morning. I never forgot that because sometime early in morning, the French people went out there and let the other people know how much they appreciated what happened.
"I was stationed at this time at Head Quarters in St. Denis. The Austrian prisoners we had at St. Denis were mostly from Vienna and had been drafted. They were glad the war was over and they knew what was going to happen. We never had any trouble. Over at La Fertemece was a little different. It had more Nazis and our guys were supposed to interview them. We had two guys in the outfit that could speak German. Our guys told them that if there were any troublemakers they would send them back to the central camp. All the prisoners were given C-rations, which was a can of soup and some dry processed bread. They also got chocolate bars.
At the POW camps, there were people of all ages. "We had one that was at St. Denis who was sixteen years old. We called him Little Joey. Everybody took care of Little Joey. He got the best foods and the best treatment." The Lagerfuere, the Master Sergeant Germen, was something else. "He was one tough cookie. He ran that German aspect of the camp like you would expect the Nazis to run a POW Camp, tough and mean. None of the troops liked him." Calvin and the troops didn't get many off-hours, but when they did, they had fun. "At one time, on Sundays, in the fall of 1944, we had the German POW's play soccer." Calvin told us these stories about when he was in France:
"I drove for Colonel Broadbent. The colonel's driver had a tendency to drink. So one day he said, `Hagen, come on.' I forgot where we went, someplace, and he wanted to go into head quarters, and I stopped and let him off and I parked along the street and I just sat and waited for him. A little French kid about ten, eleven, or twelve years old, came along and he said to me, `Have you a chocolate or a bonbon?' So I took out my bar of chocolate candy. Everybody had chocolate candy and it was hard. You had to break it and I gave him a piece. He said, `Merci' and he started talking fluently in French. I said I don't speak French, and he said, `Then I will speak English.' He sat in the jeep a long time. It must have been an hour finding out what kind of life he had with the Germans. It was primarily staying out of their way. His sister taught him how to speak English.
At Christmas time, probably on 10,11, 12 or 13th of December, 1944, Colonel Broadbent had discovered there was a small rural school of French kids off the road. I could go there today, but I couldn't tell you where it is, and he talked to the teacher and he talked to me. He said, `Hey Hagen, you were a teacher; if we go over there, take some food those kids would put on a Christmas program for us.' So we went to that little school. I don't know what they had, Spam sandwiches, some homemade cookies the mess sergeant made, and some fresh fruit. Some of these kids had never had an orange or a banana. We fed them real well and they put on a program all in French." After the war Colonel Broadbent had kept in contact with the teacher and some kids until 1980 when he passed away. He was transferred out of their outfit when they left for Okinawa, so he stayed in France to have a chance to visit with them. After Calvin returned home, he went back to school. Calvin also took advantage of the GI bill until he got his masters.
No matter how serious things are, there is always humor. "We had two guys and they were hard to handle. They went to St. Denis one Saturday, they got to drinking and an argument with some French troops and they started back to camp to get their guns, so we took them away from them. The Colonel and the captain happened to be there at the right time and that was the end of that. They got into an argument with the French, which wasn't hard to do. When you are in the Army, you find all kinds of people."
Their unit was aboard ship down in the Caroline Islands when they heard news of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima on August 6. They had passed through the Panama Canal and they were out to a little island. "It was a major supply and marshalling island and it was called Ulithi and then we moved over to the Marshall's and then on to Okinawa."
They heard about the dropping of the second atomic bomb immediately. Japan surrendered and they moved on to Okinawa. It took the 9th of August until the first day of September to sign the peace treaty. They landed at Okinawa the day McArthur and the Japanese signed the peace treaty aboard the Battleship U.S.S. Missouri. When they landed on Okinawa, Calvin had one for what he saw, "Devastation."
Many of the troops were being sent home and they had a lot of time to waste, so Calvin volunteered for a job to help get the troops home with the 53rd Medium Transportation Battalion on Maha, Okinawa. The Japanese held bases even after the war, when Calvin was in Okinawa. "Two troops from the 53rd Medium Corp were driving along one day, for what reason I don't know, a group of Japs had been waving a flag and they surrendered. There were a lot of caves and catacombs. The island of Okinawa was filled with caves. They lived in those caves and they came out for months, a little at a time when they decided to give up. I have one book at home, about a Japanese on the Philippine Islands, who must have stayed in the wild for thirty years."
Speaking of how he felt when he heard about the war being over in 1945, Calvin said, "Oh boy, I don't know how I felt. It was a joyous occasion. It was kind of a tense time when we got out orders to transfer from Europe to Okinawa by the Panama Canal." Approximately 10,000 troops were transferred from Europe to the South Pacific, expecting to invade Japan, which never happened. "We felt good about that." It seemed to be a tense time, "But you do what the Army tells you to do. We got a new colonel, which wasn't a good thing. We liked the old colonel, Everett E. Broadbent. We got a new major, a new captain and some new sergeants." It had some advantage for some of Calvin's troop because as soon as they got new sergeants then the rest moved up in rank. Calvin left Okinawa on the 16th of December and was discharged at camp McCoy on the 10th of January 1946.
under Learn and Serve American Grant #00LSFWI104