Interview With Wilfred E. Allen

From the interview with Wilfred E. Allen of Sagle, ID conducted by phone by Wendy Los from the Fort Worden History Center on February 22, 2005. Mr. Allen was assigned to Fort Worden from June to September 1952 as Sergeant of the guard, after he returned from four years in Germany with the 507th Engineers. Here he recounts some of his experiences in Germany:

“I was running a welding shop and a rebuild shop, rebuilding heavy equipment in Hanau. I was told to meet an officer at the flagpole. When you came in the main engineer depot there was a big flagpole that you drove around. I was to go up there and report to him and not tell anybody where I was going. I got up there and he showed me a lid that had broken hinges and asked if I could weld it. I said yes, so he said, ‘You go back and get your stuff and come by yourself and weld that. I’ll tell you now that all the explosives to blow up this depot are underneath that lid. Can you still weld it?’

I said yes, so I welded it and that was the end. Nobody knew about it but me and the officer.

Later on the company moved on to Kaiserslautern and ten of us stayed behind. Our job was to blow up the depot in case the Russians should happen to attack. They were only 30 miles away. We’d go down at night and practice. The practice explosives were wooden blocks, we’d put them on the equipment in the same spot on each equipment, like under the starter on each dozer. Then we’d wire it up with string. It was just imitation, supposed to be explosives. Then we’d call the officer to blow the depot. If they told us to, I was to go back to my shop and open up all the oxygen-acetylene bottles and roll them down the middle of the floor. If I survived the explosion, and if I could find anything that would start, I could start it and run. But it never came to that. The Russians never did come.

…There were five of us who went to Amsterdam and rented a 1950 Chevrolet and headed for Rotterdam. The deal was that you paid by the mile. A couple of the boys were mechanics, one of them went under the dash and unhooked the speedometer. We drove it most of the day, and on the way back to Amsterdam the mechanic hooked it back up. We drove into the shop, and I just knew we were going to be put in jail. They never noticed and just charged us for the mileage on the speedometer.

…I was in Germany. I went up to the Swiss border but they wouldn’t let me across because I didn’t have permission to take my uniform in. So I walked up to the chain and I put my foot over on the other side. The guard kind of grinned at me. I can say I was in Switzerland.”

When he returned to the United States:

“When my orders came out I went to Fort Worden with the port construction engineers. They didn’t have a welding shop there, so they sent me out on a rifle range and every day the sergeant would ask me what I was going to do. I said I didn’t know. He said,’Why don’t you ride on that grader or ride on the dozer and get some experience. When you reenlist it will do you some good.’

I didn’t tell him I was not going to reenlist, he’d probably have had me peeling potatoes.”

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