Elsey, George

Kane, Jim


Lunghi, Hugh

Roberts, Frank


Interview with Jim Kane, 24.8.1996

INTERVIEWER: It's Saturday, twenty fourth of August, we're in Washington and this an interview with Jim Kane, who's kindly come to Washington from Philadelphia, so thank you very much for coming, for contributing the interview. First question, can you give us an idea of the speed of the American army as it was progressing across Europe in April of 1945, the sort of resistance?

JIM KANE: We were...


INT: Can you give us an idea of the speed of the advance and the resistance, if any, that you were meeting.

JK: The advance was very rapid and we were moving in trucks and the only resistance we really ran into was in Leipzig, and that was a rather heavy battle, but after we secured that, then it went just more rapidly than before.

INT: What about the actual meeting up? How come that you were the first patrol to meet up with the Russians?

JK: We had been given instructions from our officer to go to ten miles past the Mulde River, but we actually went further, because he decided he wanted to try it. And we kept going and we kept running into no resistance and everybody was retiring and surrendering and I guess we were lucky. We got to the Elbe River and we saw the Russians on the other side and through waving and whistling and hollering, we got to meet one another. They came across on our side and then we in turn, as our patrol of five Jeeps, we went back with them and spent the evening with them.

INT: Well, can you give us a picture of that evening, the celebrations?

JK: Well, that evening when we went back and we crossed the Elbe River and we went there, we went to a farm house and I think there were probably twenty of us, give or take, and we were sat down with the Russians in between us and we were fed some kind of food, which we will say is questionable at this point, but they had vodka and being an eighteen year old kid and a couple of glasses of vodka, we had a grand time. We were also instructed by the Russian officers and the American officers not to leave the building, because we were being guarded by Russian women, Russian WACS, who were crack-shots and they asked no questions. So we all decided we would stay where we were, and we did.

INT: Only about one of you spoke Russian, so how did the rest of you communicate?

JK: By pig Latin and waving our hands and saying, 'Nostrovia', which we knew was a word that everybody seemed to like and so everybody raised their glasses and as I said, the vodka did wonders. Now, it wasn't too much vodka, but it was enough to make everybody have a good time.

INT: What about the standard of the food?

JK: Well, the standard of the food was terrible, it was awful. They gave us raw bacon. Now I'd never had raw bacon in my life until then, I've never had it since then and a couple of the fellows that were with us, one man was of Indian extraction, an American Indian, he was sitting next to me and we used to call him Chief, and he said, 'Lord be, this is awful' and I said, 'Well, we'll have some more vodka', which we did and we raised our glasses and I received a letter from one of the lieutenants that were there and he wrote how great a day this was and everybody was in good shape, so we had a good time. But the food was awful.

INT: How much did you think there's not much to go till the end of the War in Europe?

JK: At that point? Well, we knew we had met the Russians and we had hoped that maybe we could get to Berlin, our division, but then we got the message, you're not going any further, so we couldn't get to Berlin. And we kind of figured that the War was getting very close to the end, because there was really no resistance whatsoever. The German people, the German soldiers were all surrendering en masse and no restrictions and they were coming our way, hell bent for election.

INT: Why?

JK: Because I think they were afraid of the Russian people, the Russian soldiers, but they of course had treated the Russians so poorly that the Russians...this was 'get-even' time and the Russians were really going through the land and this scorched earth policy was really a thing that I thought that the Russians were doing, from what we could see and they had no restrictions. The town was theirs and they pillaged it.

INT: But quite apart from carrying a scorched earth policy, did they, to a certain extent, have to live off the land?

JK: Oh, they did, yes, they did. Their vehicles were wagons and horses. I mean, you know, we were coming up in six by trucks, Fords and Dodges and Jeeps and whatever, and quite frankly, I can't remember seeing any motorised vehicles on their part. Now there had to be some tanks there that I don't remember, but the people were moving, the soldiers were moving, the vehicles were moving, horse-drawn carriages and the soldiers were on horseback. So it was like the, what should I say, the medieval times meeting the American times. They were medieval and we were American.

INT: You mentioned that they had gun-toting women soldiers...

JK: (Interrupts) Oh, they had lots of women soldiers, yes, and they were very strong looking ladies and they smiled and a few of the boys danced with 'em, but there was not fraternisation, but they were rather broad ladies, to say the least, and they all had medals all over them and we were told they were crack shots, we didn't test it, we didn't test it.

INT: So the film you see, although it is slightly stage-managed, is an accurate picture when you see women in uniform as if right in the front line?

JK: Oh they were there, there was no question, they were in the front line, they were there. They were shooting, they were leading the charge. Some of them were commanders. I mean, they were sergeants, they were lieutenants, they were not just the camp followers that you and I would think of as women or the WACS that we had. They there all the time and they did the job. Yes, they were soldiers.