James Erb

World War II veteran James Erb discusses nations fighting for world power, and how lucky we are to be Americans.


James Erb


INTERVIEWER: How long have you lived in Carroll County?

SUBJECT: Uh, since 1941.

INTERVIEWER: So, where were you born then?

SUBJECT: Uh, Pennsylvania. Milton, Pennsylvania.

INTERVIEWER: Is that far from here?

SUBJECT: Oh about 135 miles.

INTERVIEWER: OK. So, that you did all your schooling up in Pennsylvania?

SUBJECT: Uh New York.


SUBJECT: Yes. All of it was up in New York state in Ontario County, Canandaigua. New York, which is a fairly uh– uh– uh– New York.

INTERVIEWER: OK. So that’s quite some travel.

SUBJECT: What’s that?

INTERVIEWER: That’s quite a bit of travel.

SUBJECT: Not bad. Not bad.

INTERVIEWER: Now what brought you to Carroll County?

SUBJECT: Huh– what?

INTERVIEWER: What brought you to Carroll County?


INTERVIEWER: What brought you to Carroll County?

SUBJECT: Uh– I met a lady here. Back in ’41 and uh– got married then and uh– here I am.

INTERVIEWER: Did you raise your family here in Carroll County?


INTERVIEWER: How– how big was your family?

SUBJECT: Daughter and son. My daughter’s here with me today

INTERVIEWER: OK. Did you– have you enjoyed your life here?

SUBJECT: Very much very much. I couldn’t– I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

INTERVIEWER: Have a lot of things changed within the county?

SUBJECT: Uh– yes– yes– it’s got, you know, larger and larger and more restrictions and more benefits for everybody that lives here.

INTERVIEWER: OK. Did you ever work around here?

SUBJECT: Did I ever–

INTERVIEWER: Work around here?

SUBJECT: Work around here? Is that–


SUBJECT: I was a real estate broker mostly.

INTERVIEWER: All right. Now what was your favorite– when we first moved here– did you have a favorite restaurant, favorite–

SUBJECT: Uh– uh– yes I had– how about that– it was down in Ellsberg on the corner of 26 and 32. I can’t figure the name of it now– if uh–Lina’s yes–Lina’s Tea Room. Yes– yes which is no longer in existence.

INTERVIEWER: Hmm. Where in Carroll County do you live now?

SUBJECT: Uh– Hampstead.

INTERVIEWER: OK. So do your children still live around here?

SUBJECT: Yes they do. Is there uh– my son and daughter both live uh within a– a about a mile of this uh– operation here today.

INTERVIEWER: OK. So very close,

SUBJECT: Yes. Yes.

INTERVIEWER: And close to you as well.

SUBJECT: Yes– — that’s the most important.

INTERVIEWER: So do you mind if I ask a little bit about your service?


INTERVIEWER: Your service in the military?


INTERVIEWER: What branch were you?

SUBJECT: Uh– Army.

INTERVIEWER: And how did you wind up joining the Army?

SUBJECT: Well uh– of course, you know, back in ’41– that’s when they started the draft. And if you was 21 and up to 45, you had to sign up for the draft or they drafted you in. Well I think 21 there when that was all going on. I was uh–uh– uh– um– um– 19 years old then. So I thought well why don’t I go ahead and get signed up? You only had to sign up for a year.


SUBJECT: So I signed up for a year in March the 12th of ’41 and that year– it turned out to be quite a bit.

INTERVIEWER: Did you enjoy your time in service?

SUBJECT: Wouldn’t trade it for anything. [LAUGHS]

INTERVIEWER: Now what branch of– did you say Army?


INTERVIEWER: OK. And what rank did you reach?

SUBJECT: Sargent.

INTERVIEWER: All right. How was the– climbing the ladder?

SUBJECT: It was bad. I– I got my cable Sergeant– I was a heavy equipment operator– so uh– uh– I was at Ft. Belvoir and– which is an engineer outfit– and I was teaching there– induct– uh– uh– there was being drafted in there– how to operate different equipment if they were interested.

INTERVIEWER: Were you an engineer the whole time?


INTERVIEWER: What– what was the coolest things that you worked on?

SUBJECT: What’s that?

INTERVIEWER: What were your favorite things to work on?

SUBJECT: Uh– heavy equipment. Yes. Yes.

INTERVIEWER: Now did that– did the jobs that you had in the military transfer to your civilian jobs afterwards?

SUBJECT: Uh– it did within a year. Yes I went into uh– uh– uh– that a man that has more money than he knew what to do with I guess and him and I went in the bulldozer business.

INTERVIEWER: That’s cool. So where did you live and work during– I’m sorry– where were you stationed during the war?

SUBJECT: Ft. Belvoir. And I went from Ft. Belvoir to England and then uh– after six- seven weeks after the invasions, we went into France.

INTERVIEWER: Did you– did you enjoy that your time over– how do you feel about your time overseas.?

SUBJECT: Well uh– a great experience. And uh– I think uh– uh– whenever you think you’ve got a rough, think about what you did whiles you was over there, and you’re in good hands now.

INTERVIEWER: Hmm. Hmm. Is there that anything you did for fun while you were over there?

SUBJECT: Well [LAUGHING] yes drink vodka and [LAUGHING] I’m just kidding. You know uh– yeah it was– it was– during the war there was no fun at all. Uh–uh– About uh– about first time we ever got a chance is after Cherbourg was liberated. We about it– we got a hold of a jeep and went to Cherbourg and had a couple drinks. Now that was probably the most fun we had for the first three months over there. Um– not more. If you want to call it fun it was better staying up near in front lines.

INTERVIEWER: So were you married at the time of your service?


INTERVIEWER: And how did– how did your serving affect your home life?

SUBJECT: Not at all. It– It– was OK.

INTERVIEWER: They were very supportive of you?

SUBJECT: Yes. Yes. Oh yes. Yes they did.

INTERVIEWER: That’s great. Did you make a lot of friends while serving?

SUBJECT: A few, yes, a few. Most doubt now is uh– I don’t know whether at most of them is dead really when you think about it– cause I was kind of– see most of them was 21 or larger– uh– older– and I signed up for the draft at 19 and they were signing up for the draft from 21 to 45. So uh– I was kind of their baby.

INTERVIEWER: Hmm– Hmm– They watch out foryou?

SUBJECT: Oh year.

INTERVIEWER: Did you have any other family members or friends serve?

SUBJECT: I had a brother in The Navy.



INTERVIEWER: Now did you choose what branch you went to?

SUBJECT: Uh– had no choice.

INTERVIEWER: OK. Now how did– overall how did you feel about the war?

SUBJECT: Well– when you think about the war and what we went through with– and what we’re doing now– we wondered what we conquered by having a World War II.


SUBJECT: I think that’s a good– never saw that until you just mentioned it. Uh– We was trying to make freedom for people in– and or– getting almost as bad now as we was before the war. And some of these other countries I’m talking about–


SUBJECT: And uh– I just uh– I feel sorry for the young folks that– uh– that’s–that’s– uh– what– what’s in the future for ’em. What’s in the future for ’em. I– I– it’s nothing to brag about from what I could see.

INTERVIEWER: Were– what were your feelings about it at the time?

SUBJECT: Uh– what was my feelings?

INTERVIEWER: About the war at the time?

SUBJECT: Oh well I thought uh– uh– it’s a good thing we had it. Because Hitler was taking over the– the– Europe.


SUBJECT: Period. And we did– we stopped that. And thank God we did because he was ready for– to go into England if we hadn’t got there. And if he’d have got that he– he– had a nice jumping point uh– to come over here and see what we was doing.

INTERVIEWER: Was– were your family and friends back home supportive of the war also?

SUBJECT: Uh– I say yes.

INTERVIEWER: Now since– you spent some time on when you– before you joined the service on the home front of the war. Were there any changes in your lifestyle because of the war? Any shortages or rationing?

SUBJECT: Uh– no. I think uh– uh– um– being 19 years old and uh– I– and– and– only happened to a sign up for a year– what’s a year– and uh– maybe things are brightened up a little bit. But that year was something. It turned out to be four years, six months 29 days so– [LAUGHING]. You don’t like it– no but they– [STUTTER] we had to like it because after all [STUTTER] we conquered.

INTERVIEWER: Did you choose to extend your time or was that not by choice that you went longer than a year?

SUBJECT: Oh no. What– no at that– what really– reason for going longer than a year, war was declared. Pearl. Harbor, December 7th,


SUBJECT: that changed the whole world. Yeah.

INTERVIEWER: OK. Where did you say you were stationed before you went overseas?

SUBJECT: Ft. Belvoir.

INTERVIEWER: Where is that?

SUBJECT: Uh– That’s about 10-15 miles south of Alexandria, Virginia.

INTERVIEWER: OK. Did you like your time there?

SUBJECT: In a what– what–

INTERVIEWER: Did like your time there?

SUBJECT: Yes. Yes, I did. I enjoyed it.

INTERVIEWER: How was the– how’s the weather– the lifestyle? Was it any different than around here?

SUBJECT: Not really. Not really. Neither was uh– over in Europe um– England and– and Ft. [INAUDIBLE]. It was similar to what we have in this area.

INTERVIEWER: So now coming back from the war, had– the– had lifestyle Carroll County changed?

SUBJECT: Uh– I’d– I’d uh– uh– I think there’s more people in it and uh– we got things here now that uh– -we– different manufacturers and things like that that’s good for our county.

INTERVIEWER: Hmm. Hmm. How do you think that the war affected you personally and changed you in your time in the service?

SUBJECT: [SIGH] I– I– don’t think it affected me uh– uh– I– I can’t see I– I– think it gave me it– I didn’t know that some– the way the foreigner– foreign countries– the people had to live until we got there because it was tough. You take France was being controlled by Germany and things like that and anything– anything besides that was great for them so uh– thank God that we was able to help them out.

INTERVIEWER: Was– could you see others around you being changed?

SUBJECT: Not really. I know sometimes you wonder if we appreciate what we got.

INTERVIEWER: Were there any sp– was there anything special about serving in World War II that has not been in wars before or since?

SUBJECT: You spend– no– not really. Not really. I think– I can’t think anything really special. Of course, maybe I was [STUTTER] going remember– uh– there I was 19, we had guys being drafted in Europe ’44 and ’45. And my father was only thirty– uh– 40, 41 and I– I had got– there were guys in the Army that was older than my father [LAUGHING] even my father was born in 1900.

INTERVIEWER: Did– did you wind up serving over people older than you?


INTERVIEWER: So as you got promoted to Sergeant were there privates coming in that were older than you were?

SUBJECT: Oh my golly– yes, yes. I was a baby as a [INAUDIBLE] there. Like I said I was 19 years old.

INTERVIEWER: Did that make it hard for you to lead them?

SUBJECT: No. No. All you had to do is you know– talk to ’em you know. It– uh– talk to ’em like you appreciate ’em being in there with you.



INTERVIEWER: Did you have to treat the older soldiers different than the younger ones?

SUBJECT: No, no, no. In fact, they’re better the younger folks. Really. Really.

INTERVIEWER: So did a lot of these soldiers wind up having to leave their families and their friends to come serve? Did– I’m sorry, did a lot of the soldiers have families back home so they were concerned about?

SUBJECT: Yes. They were– yes– yes. Almost all of ’em. You take when they got up that age most all of them were marrying and– and they still drafted them in. And


SUBJECT: After Pearl Harbor them guys that was– was discharged, they were called back immediately. Thousands and thousands upon thousands of ’em.

INTERVIEWER: Were any of the soldiers bitter to be fighting?

SUBJECT: Wasn’t these soldiers.

INTERVIEWER: Were they– did they not– were they unhappy to be there? Was everyone kind of on the same page?

SUBJECT: I guess I wouldn’t say uh– you had to be there so you might as well make the best of it, you know carry out the orders that your superiors give you and then uh– keep your nose clean and get it over with.

INTERVIEWER: OK. Was it a lot of– from what it sounds like, it– it– was just a lot of finding ways to get through.

SUBJECT: A lot of fight–fight

INTERVIEWER: Finding ways to get through it.

SUBJECT: Well you–uh– uh–uh– yes I didn’t see– remember I’m very fortunate the job I had– I was mostly on detached service. I didn’t know where– I– I wasn’t even working for the company that I in. I was working for somebody else with a bulldozer, big truck, and uh– half the time I didn’t even know where I was at, really. And– so I had to find out my company was at.

INTERVIEWER: Did your company ever see combat?

SUBJECT: Uh, no, no. We wasn’t in a combat, we didn’t have no combat. Uh– we was just– like they say– uh–uh– what’s say we’ll go clear up the Germany when the Germans got kicked back over the Rhine River. We was right in there as combat uh–uh– of engineers, putting in bridges up and down there so the soldiers can get in there.

INTERVIEWER: Do you think that your life overseas was different than someone who was in combat?

SUBJECT: Oh yes. Yes. Them boys in combat to just, you know they– they were here today and gone today.


SUBJECT: God bless them. I uh– uh– like that– uh– when– when we got up there at the river, they said if we uh– get the– bridge across– get the railroad bridges across there in 22 days– if we get the bridge across there, the war would be over in 22 days. And uh– uh– you thought we had so many soldiers there working on that bridge– that was all the big bulldozers that do this and that– and I think about 19 days after the bridge– we, you know, they said the bridge– it’s ready to run it. When we said go, there was a train for days and nights, and days and nights, coming across there– that’s how far they were backed up, waiting to get across the Rhine River.

INTERVIEWER: Was that an accomplishing feeling?


INTERVIEWER: Was that– was that a feeling of accomplishment?

SUBJECT: Oh my God yeah. We knew that– that– it’s just a matter of time before the war would be over. I uh– know when I went across the uh– I so happy and I had to go to uh– I had to go up the the North Sea. There we– we– we– we went around clearing, cleaning docks out out for boats to come in, and coming back from that a–from that area I’ll never forget it. We got on the Autobahn. You heard of the Autobahn in Germany, and we’ve come down the Autobahn and– I don’t know where I was sent to– da-da-da, and anyways, a German plane flies over. We went what the hell’s going on here? And come to find out they start– is just get– the war was was [LAUGHING] Boy, that was a day.

INTERVIEWER: What were your reactions to the war ending?

SUBJECT: [LAUGH] Everybody went crazy you know. And, uh– we had [STUTTER] didn’t hold anything, we celebrated. Thank God.

INTERVIEWER: After the war ended, how long did it take you to get home to your family?

SUBJECT: Let me see, the was over uh– well if you had a 100 points or more, you were supposed to fly home. They got me all screwed up and I had 101 points over there– not too many people at that many– and uh– I ended getting on the slow boat to China. And that’s 14 days and 14 nights fro England, Liverpool to Boston. And–

INTERVIEWER: Sorry. Continue.

SUBJECT: Oh, that night– the first night on a boat– the uh– captain of the boat told us that– and then you’ve got nothing to worry about. He says there uh– right now he says we’re getting ready to get– by morning we’ll be gone. Head– head first into a hurricane out here and he said uh– we are all [WHISPER] on an LSD– we was on an LSD. There a little small you know.


SUBJECT: And uh– and my God before– we was all playing poker that night 2, 3 o’clock in the morning and this is a converted uh– cargo ship. They had bunks walled in there, five, six high, and we hit that storm that night and it tore bunks loose and, my God, it was terrible. And we had so many sick people on there but– and then finally after 14 days and nights, we finally go into Boston. I uh– uh– uh– [LAUGHS] That was something. And uh– huh– Yeah, yeah, yeah, the captain that night– when we hit storm city– we got nothing to worry about he says. We’re only about seven miles from land. And he said the only trouble is is straight down and that was uh– what come over the loudspeaker. That was enough to scare you to death. Cause it’s pretty hard, you know. [SIGHS]

you have family waiting for you as you got off the boat?

SUBJECT: No. She was– nobody really knew, you know, when you–when you was coming or where you was coming into and. Things like that. When I got uh– we got off in Boston, we ain’t– got in there that uh– afternoon between there was– like that it’d be safe like down here in Baltimore. And [INAUDIBLE] there they gave us what a wonderful wel– oh, and we was only 950 but guys, uh– uh– uh– I’m sorry, 750 of us on it– we were 750 high pointers and came home that had a hundred points or more–


SUBJECT: And, uh,– they were pretty rough and they were rough on me too, some of them– and because I climbed out on a big gun, I think it was a 205 howitzer or something– because every– everybody was [STUTTER] soldiers going crazy– we was so happy to be home. I couldn’t see nobody so I climbed down on the gun and– and– [INAUDIBLE] then we had a big meal that night, beautiful dinner and everything, and they wanted to know how many you soldiers out there would like to sign up again? And everybody let them know– none. [LAUGHING] Oh–

INTERVIEWER: Do you remember what the first thing you did when you got back together with your family was? Did you guys have a special meal or do anything–

SUBJECT: I, oh golly, gee. Well, you know, I was never was in Baltimore before so I got into Camp Dix. My wife from– her brother came up there to try to find me and she had no idea what Camp Dix is. That’s like trying to find a needle in a hay straw, you know, and, uh– because nobody knows where Jim Murb is up there. So I– I think a couple days and uh– so– so it was so good when I got my– almost didn’t make it– I got my discharge and I guess you [STUTTERS] 12 or 14 steps coming out this building, concrete, and I see this bus coming around and, my God, soldiers are bumper to bumper, so I jumped for the– almost didn’t make it and got really — and I jumped on the side of the bus and hung on in the wind and– and made that bus almost stop and the guys drug me in to [INAUDIBLE]. I wanted to get home, so they took this from there and uh, uh, uh, I think it’s Trenton. And I got a train into Baltimore, and I had never was in Baltimore before.

And, uh, I got in Baltimore and I got off there, and I said, my wife told me to ask for, uh, you know, you– you– you– can get a cab from there– out there, uh, [INAUDIBLE] and that’s what I did. I got a cab and I got out there, and– and I come home.


But sometimes you wonder all that war is, what everybody’s fightin’. Was it worth it? It’s a shame. And it can only get worse.

INTERVIEWER: Was it hard to find work when you got back?

SUBJECT: Mm, I’d like to say no. No, no. [INAUDIBLE]. [INAUDIBLE]. I, uh, [INAUDIBLE] Maryland, love my family. And I pray for all [INAUDIBLE]. Well, I love kids.


SUBJECT: I’m, uh– I’m a good Mason and a Shriner. I think they’re really– that’s our life is children.

INTERVIEWER: Did you have children when you were serving overseas?

SUBJECT: No, I didn’t. I’ve got– no.

INTERVIEWER: So you waited until you got back?


INTERVIEWER: Do you think that it would have been harder if you had kids at home while you were–

SUBJECT: Yeah, oh my god. I– to me it would. I would [INAUDIBLE]. You know, worry about– would you ever see ’em? Uh, you’d have to worry. My daughter here was the first who was born after I came back. And I’ve got a son, Junior. Junior.

People I– you know, that most people today, you’ve been in World War II, so what? Really, that– that’s a lot of their opinions, because you don’t know. It’s not, you know– it’s like you look at– you look at my daughter, and they– they don’t know what that war is all about. So you can’t blame them. You know, you can sit there and talk, and talk, and talk but some people never heard about [INAUDIBLE] or they could care less, but– you know. I know that I’ve been very fortunate. And, uh– I don’t know. I just, uh, hope that, uh, our–


— our government, it’s all up to them. We– we– we– whoever– whoever we put in there to lead us, we just hope they go right, and– and they’ll keep us from gettin’ involved in anymore conflict.

INTERVIEWER: Mmhm. Do you feel that– before you went overseas, was there training that you received from the army? Do you think that prepared you well for what you were going to do?

SUBJECT: Yes, they did. I thought it was wonderful. Wonderful, yes, yes. I had– had a wonderful opportunity. I can’t believe I did what I did.

INTERVIEWER: How long was your training?

SUBJECT: Well, I was there, uh, from– from about March of ’41 until September ’40– ’43. Septem– from March of 40– [INAUDIBLE] ’til September ’43, when I went over [INAUDIBLE]. They mustered up us the old guys and made them go overseas.

INTERVIEWER: Sounds pretty– like a pretty extensive training program.

SUBJECT: Yes. Yes, yes, yes, yes.

INTERVIEWER: Did you learn things specific to what you were going to be doing? Or did you–

INTERVIEWER: Oh, yeah. You take– I learned how to operate heavy equipment. And I– I– I was very happy with that. Yes, yes. In fact, I found, you know, running the heavy equipment, construction, [INAUDIBLE] when I got back. Thanks to somebody that seeing me and come to me and had money to do it. And, you know, that’s it. That’s, uh– I know, sometimes you wonder if– if Americans really know how fortunate we are when you look at them other countries, just being killed off and everything. It, uh– uh– it’s– it’s terrible. Terrible, terrible. And, uh, [INAUDIBLE] it is– it’s too many people in this world– not so bad, here, but fighting for power, you know. I’m going to be the King, and– you know. And they just don’t know when to stop. We’re lucky to be Americans, thank god.


INTERVIEWER: Well, thank you very much for your time, and also your service.

SUBJECT: Oh, thank you. I appreciate your time and everything.

INTERVIEWER: We all really appreciate what you’ve done.

SUBJECT: All right, thanks so kindly. Nice seeing you.