Interview With Lee W. Metcalf

 

From the interview with Lee W. Metcalf of Richland, WA conducted by Henry West July 7, 2002 at the Fort Worden History Center. Mr. Metcalf served in the 248th Coast Artillery at Fort Worden in 1939 and 1940, when he was 18 years old. During World War II he served in the 104th Infantry Division, and saw action in Europe. He died on February 4, 2003. Here he described guard duty at Fort Worden:

“I suppose the most interesting or exciting part (of service at Fort Worden) I played was walking guard post. We spent our off-duty time in the guard house. We called it the guard shack. Across the street from the guard shack was the dirigible hangar, which was empty. That was one of the posts we had to walk. On the changing of the guard, those who had .45 calibers would stand on the front porch of the guard house, point them toward the dirigible hangar and unload. Apparently a lot of them didn’t know how to unload properly and they would squeeze one off, and it would bang off of the hangar. It was just a big laugh and there were a lot of dings in that building.”

{Note: The Guard House now serves as a gift shop and visitor information center and the dirigible hangar has been converted into McCurdy Pavilion, a large performance space.}

Here he described some of his experiences during the final days of World War II in Germany:

“We were in Bitterfeld on the Mulde River, a tributary of the Elbe. I hung around with the guys of the G Company. They had the ferry going across the river, which was a current driven ferry, strung on a cable. They’d turn it one way and the current would wash it that way, and they’d turn it the other way and it would wash it back. They brought a lot of Russians over on that. We’d shake hands and try to understand each other. What shocked me was the women in uniform. Our division had liberated quite a few Russian prisoners and we got to know them in that dimension of the war. One night I was in the Jeep with my lieutenant, about three o’clock in the morning we heard a bunch of noise. We looked off and there was a big blaze going. You could just see the reflection in the sky. I asked the lieutenant, ‘What do you suppose is going on over there? Didn’t hear any firing or anything.’ He told me, ‘That’s the way the Russians celebrate,’ he said. ‘They go into a town, they do their dancing and drinking, and then they set iton fire.’ It was pretty lively with those guys.”

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