The 60-minute audio cassette which constitutes this collection contains an interview with Conrad Gagnon of Fort Kent, Maine regarding his experiences in World War II. The tape was created by John Boothby as a class assignment for a University of Maine at Fort Kent history course which he completed in Fall 1987 entitle History 353: History of Maine.
: 30-minute interview with Conrad Gagnon of Fort Kent, Maine regarding his experiences in World War II during his military service from January 1942 through December 1946. Mr. Gagnon discusses his service in the United States Army’s 60th Tank Destroyer Division and 334th Regiment of the 84th Infantry Division, in which he served as a bazooka anti-tank infantry man. He relates his participation on the battlefront in France, Germany, and Belgium. He discusses his capture during the Battle of the Bulge by the Germans in December 1944 and his subsequent transfer to Stalag 2-A, a prisoner-of-war camp near the “hospital town” of Brandenburg, Germany.Mr. Gagnon relates in detail his experiences as a POW between December 1944 and May 1945. He describes his transfer with 79 other POWs from Stalag 2-A to another camp where, due to his ability to speak both English and French, he headed a 16-man POW work detail which labored seven days a week unloading wounded German Soldiers, burying dead German civilians and military personnel, and repairing damaged railroad lines. He describes the hunger, exhaustion, exposure to the cold, and fear of execution for stealing food which he and other POWs experienced during their imprisonment. He reminisces about the kindness of one of the Stalag guards who shared his own food with the work detail and who informed Mr. Gagnon and his companions that he would not keep the camp gates locked if invasion by the advancing Russian army appeared imminent. He talks about the Russian army’s advance into Germany and of meeting with a Beltian SS soldier who had enlisted to fight against the Russians.Mr. Gagnon describes how the American POWs split into small groups and fled from their camp as the Russian army overran the area. He relates how his group searched, before leaving the camp, for Red Cross provisions which had been withheld from the POWs. He describes his seven-day trek toward the Allied lines, during which time he and his group had several encounters with German civilians and soldiers who were also fleeing the advancing Russian army.
Mr. Gagnon continues to relate his 7-day trek in early May 1945 from his POW camp to the advancing Allied forces. He relates meeting some wounded German soldiers who bargained for the protection of his group of POWs in exchange for getting them through a German defense line. He describes the experience of being caught between retreating German and advancing British and Russian forces. He describes the destruction of a munitions factory by fleeing German forces and how his group of POWs drew straws to determine who would ventury down through an open field to see if they had reached the Allied front. He relates how his group made contact with a group of British military personnel, who directed them to take over a lakeside resort spa which was occupied by German officers. He describes their successful takeover and their one-night occupation of the spa. He describes how their group was ordered to take the man road toward France on the following morning, and how they managed to commandeer a variety of vehicles along the way.