This interview for the Columbus Jewish Historical Society is being recorded on June 17, 2015, as a part of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society Oral History Project. Dick Golden interviewing, Mike Segal.
INTERVIEWER: You ready?
SEGAL: I’m ready if you are, Dick.
INTERVIEWER: Okay, my name is Dick Golden and I am in the home of Mike and Sue Segal. This is Columbus, Ohio, and it is June 17th, a rainy day, June 17, 2015 and Mike has a story to tell. We’re just gonna’ let it roll and Mike has his thoughts together and he’s going to talk to us about World War II, about December of 1944 and some times before that, whatever. Mike will fill the dates in for us. Hi Mike.
SEGAL: Hi, Dick. Good to see you. Dick’s got me all grounded here to talk about World War II and part of my part in it. I was rather active. I was a T-Five Technician Fifth Grade with the 101st Airborne Division but I was actually Signal Corps attached to the 101st Airborne Division. I was with the Ten Seventy Fifth Airborne Signal Company. I was a Signal Corps member and I was trained at the Lexington Signal Depot in Lexington, Kentucky, as a radar technician and I was trained at the Signal Depot on the early kinds of radar equipment that the army had for World War II, mostly anti-aircraft equipment and later on early detection of enemy planes coming in for bombing runs or whatever and I was there down in Lexington when I was called on active duty. I was sent to Cape Murphy, Florida, where I learned shore to ship to protect our whole coast lines on radar equipment and that was quite a learning experience. What really worked with me was once I got to England I was sent to one of the universities in England to learn Airborne rules on that equipment used in the Airborne, to attack and drop parachutists and gliders for combat in Europe.
INTERVIEWER: Excuse me, Mike. We’re going to be continuing that but you’re in England now and you’re doing some high tech training by this time.
SEGAL: Okay, the main thing Dick wanted me to talk about was the Battle of the Bulge. That was a battle that really turned the whole tide of the scene in Europe, and Bastogne, the Battle of the Bulge was not picked by the American Army as to be the showground. It was picked by the German Army and we had already gone through the Argonne and we had taken Bastogne and it was ours to hold and have but what it was being used for by the Americans, basically, was unplanned for battle because of the three hospitals there which belonged to the Belgian people and we had a lot of casualties coming out of the Argonne and we borrowed their hospitals and put our own medics in there to treat our own soldiers and we put ‘em back in the field again as soon as possible, so, the whole idea was a treatment center. Under normal circumstances there shouldn’t have been that many combat troops in that area because the rules of the convention said you don’t mix the army and the navy and the marines with injured troops because that’s against their theory. It’s like everything else in the War, their theories, they don’t necessarily work and the Germans plotting, what they were doing was to come out of Germany in their final push to spread their last goal effort to break up the Allies and the story there in battles in Europe.
INTERVIEWER: Including some other history, you might repeat it, the German high command referred to this as the Reich on the Rhine attack, as a major Reichstag attack coming against the American lines, breaking through.
SEGAL: Correct, Dick, and the whole idea of the battle and the forces that they were sending into this area was to reach Amsterdam. That was their goal and the whole goal was available only because the Germans were short of gasoline and oil and those kind of items in the war equipment and so forth. They were having a hard time keeping their people mobile and they were trying to get to Amsterdam to, number one, get gasoline and oil to continue fighting and, above all, to split the American and British forces that were recuperating from the battles of the Argonne and they were trying to eliminate communications and coordination between the American and British troops in that area. Their goal was to destroy everything between where they came out of Germany and Amsterdam, and to reach the port because believe it or not, their ships could still get to Amsterdam and bring in more materials.
INTERVIEWER: We’re now asking Mike one more question. Mike, I heard you refer to the fact that there was a big gasoline fuel storage area in the Bastogne area, a lot of fuel storage.
SEGAL: There was about four or five major ducts of gasoline. Now they’d been brought in there by trucks and so forth and they were there for whatever the Americans had planned that they were going to need for some more fighting in that area and they were stored in five gallon Gerry cans. There were no big huge tanks there, no underground tanks. It was just five gallon Gerry cans stacked one on top of the other so that they could bring tanks and trucks in there and refuel our old equipment and that’s what it was for. Now actually what it was for, I had no idea what the future plans of the American Army because remember I only had two stripes in those days and it was, it was, they had a purpose for it but they didn’t discuss it with me, so, that’s what we were doing there and it was basically to get our soldiers back in the battlefields and treat these injured American soldiers and Canadians and Brits and everything else that happened to be fighting in that area.
INTERVIEWER: Okay, Mike, we’ve got this information from you and we thank you because we, I never realized that Bastogne was such a big center for supplies and hospital. It was a safety zone for the American troops. Okay, pick it up from there.
SEGAL: Okay, well, the Germans had this all planned out and when they struck they struck with the typical German battle plan, throw forward the tanks and run like heck, but they knew they could only go so far but then they could not get to Amsterdam unless they had additional gasoline. Now, that’s what really started the whole problem for the Germans but they knew they had the problem and they knew they had to win and if they win, they could really have really smothered the Allied effort in that whole part of Europe. As far as we was concerned we had to keep the place supplied with all the goodies it takes to fight a war and as it turned out, since we’d had so many battles on the way to that area, all through Belgium and the Netherlands and so forth, after Nijmegen and those battles and I’d smoked at those places also, but anyhow the Germans knew they had to get this gasoline or they knew they couldn’t make it to Amsterdam which was their final goal in this whole push. So, anyhow, the Americans were short on supplies. They were short on ammunition, hand grenades, tanks, medicine, food, water, all the things it takes to keep the army moving and healthy. So, that’s where it stood and when they broke loose and they were running and, by the way, this was in December and it was snowing and it was miserable and it was rotten in that area weather-wise, and by the time we realized this was a major push of the Germans, they were already all around Bastogne. They had the area completely surrounded and so forth and they had to be resupplied, so our army intelligence says, “We can’t truck it in. We can’t take it in. We can’t fly it in. The weather is so rotten and stinko’ that it’s impossible to get anything in. The only way to get those supplies in there is by para packs.” Therefore, we could use the airlines, the old airlines, which, basically speaking, were the 101st Airborne Division, the 82nd Division all the planes that could ferry them to drop para packs in that area, but, here again we had weather trouble.
INTERVIEWER: Now what’s a para pack, Mike?
SEGAL: Para pack is like a huge casket for like ten people, but it’s all, can be dropped out of a DC 3 or a DC4 with double parachutes and it can be hauled down or set down from planes, these huge para packs full of ammunition and full of medicine and full of can rations and sea rations and water and whatever they need on the ground and that every time they go over there, which was just before Christmas, it was still in the middle of December, and every time we’d go over there and push these para packs out of the DC 3’s, the winds and the weather conditions they’d blow ‘em out and beyond the city of Bastogne and the Germans ended up capturing all of the ones that came down there and it was a failure. So, we couldn’t get anything to our troops by air. So, then some of the big wheels decided, and rightfully so, they had to get radar units in there to guide these planes, so we could fly at lower altitudes so if they could get to guide them in there so they could actually reach the troops and get the para packs where they belonged with the American troops.
INTERVIEWER: So, the Germans were benefitting out of bad drop zones because it was not an accurate drop so they had, what you’re saying is they had to get a radar unit in there, radar units to direct the planes so that they would be more accurate in their drop zone. Is that correct?
SEGAL: That’s correct. Because of the weather they had to get some way to get them on the ground and radar was the way to do it and they had to get these things on the ground with a technician and to be able to defend them so, they had to send what they call a [?], a typical drop, what we were there for in the first place, so that’s how I got in to it. I was not in Bastogne at that time. I was in England getting people ready for whatever came up next in the need be. Well, this was the need so, I was to be, take four gliders, four glider pilots, the best, and four radar technicians, one for each glider, and in each glider there were two, two TPM 3’s for the radar technician to set up to guide the planes in and twenty five Whetstone batteries to power these units…
INTERVIEWER: Now, let’s explain what that is.
SEGAL: That’s a turn beacon. That’s for the radar unit that activates the whole thing is on the DC 3 and that’s called an APM 2 and that’s the key. Now when the plane comes, is loaded with all these para packs, our jumpers later on, ‘cause as soon as they would drop their para packs, they went home to get parachuters and came back and dropped them, so the main things is, get the radar units on the ground first, and then bring in the parachutists. You have to get all the guys properly equipped with ammunition and hand grenades and medicine and food and water. Give them the tools to fight with and then send the paratroopers in.
INTERVIEWER: So, this was a coordinated two-shot thing. They had to start with one with the supplies and then the men so, you were in there early on. Is that what I’m hearing?
SEGAL: I went in with the radar, with two radar units and there were only four gliders so that meant eight radar units in the whole area all over Bastogne, centered on Bastogne, and as it turned out, my area was southeast of Bastogne, on that edge and the Germans approached it and it made no difference but there were four gliders and two of us actually made it.
INTERVIEWER: The two gliders made it?
SEGAL: Two gliders made it out of four.
INTERVIEWER: How many men in each glider?
SEGAL: Well, there was a glider pilot, a radar technician whose responsibility was getting us on the ground and turn ‘em on and keep ‘em moving, and see, we were technicians, we could repair ‘em on the ground.
INTERVIEWER: Did you have to bring batteries in with you?
SEGAL: Batteries came down with us in the glider.
INTERVIEWER: And they were pretty heavy?
SEGAL: Oh, God, yes. Picture your car battery.
INTERVIEWER: So, about 35 pounds of battery.
SEGAL: That’s about right and the radar units weighed about 34/35 pounds, each one.
INTERVIEWER: Now, how many could you handle at one time?
SEGAL: Well, enough batteries, you had to have two batteries every time you turned it on and then you ran ‘em until they ran dry and then you changed batteries and kept going as long as you possibly could.
INTERVIEWER: So you were right there on top of the ground with the batteries bringing the other guys in.
SEGAL: Right. So, anyhow, two of us made it and the other guy was just as well-equipped as I was. He was thoroughly trained at Camp Murphy, Florida, and all of them trained in England. That’s where they trained us there at Oxford University. So, once we got on the ground, that’s two gliders and all the radar units which was each were running one unit at the same time, then…
INTERVIEWER: Now Mike, were the other two gliders lost?
SEGAL: MIA’s – Missing in Action. Never heard whatever happened to the men. They could have been saved. They could have been captured, probably captured or killed, so, it was bad time, a frightening time to be a radar man. It was always a bad time ‘cause any time there was any kind of action, radar men was fifty percent makes it and 50 percent don’t. That’s kind of the yard stick that we had. So,…
INTERVIEWER: Okay, Mike, now when you’re on the ground with another man, two of your gliders made it and two of you didn’t is that correct?
SEGAL: That’s correct.
INTERVIEWER: So, the other part of your party is missing in action as far as you know. Now you’re with the other man that is your teammate and you guys are hauling these batteries and setting everything up. Tell me how that worked.
SEGAL: Well, basically, when he got on the ground, he was in the Northwest part of Bastogne. I was in the Southeast part of Bastogne so, we were about, oh, I’d say, two miles apart and he’s busy getting set up for his, establish his relationship with the farm land that he’s in and I’m setting up where my men are and luckily my men were well, it was where the 506th Regiment was. Now these were [?elements] in the 506th. Now I’d been with these men before in other drops so they knew what I needed but they didn’t know I was going to be the radar man. They didn’t know. They weren’t consulted any more than I was. So, when I got on the ground, they figured, “well, this is what Segal likes so we’ll set it up like Segal likes it,” and so they did it and when I got there they knew where they were going to put the two radar units and they knew where the foxholes had to be to protect them and they knew what to put in the foxhole – water and ammunition. They knew we had to defend ourselves and they knew I had eight infantry men with me. I should have and I did and we were ready to fight.
INTERVIEWER: So, you were in a zone, in a hole area. You had to fill these holes up, let me put it this way, you had to locate your equipment where these people set it up.
SEGAL: Right, and that was fine with me. They did exactly what I wanted and so they had it where the foxholes are so you could get to the radar units and if one of them got hit by a piece of shrapnel or God knows what that I could get it to fix it and make it work again ‘cause that’s why we had technicians in the field. That’s why I was at Camp Murphy, Florida to learn all this.
INTERVIEWER: Were you armed at this time?
SEGAL: God, yes., I wouldn’t…that’s critical and luckily I knew how to fight because I went to an ROTC high School in Louisville, Kentucky so, I was prepared for weapon fire. I was an expert marksman and I knew how to fire heavy-duty weapons. I knew how to use a knife. I knew how to use a bayonet. In fact, I taught knife and bayonet when I was in California.
INTERVIEWER: Okay so you’re equipped, mentally, you’re equipped with the right equipment to defend yourself and yet, you had to pull these heavy batteries out of that glider and set it up where your guys wanted you to set them up, is that it?
SEGAL: That’s the radar units and that’s where you had to hook them up to the radar units. That’s why you brought them along. That was our power supply.
INTERVIEWER: And that’s why you had to set them up to direct the planes so the drops could be accurate.
SEGAL: And just remember this, that the radar units that we brought down are dead instruments until the radar unit of a DC 3 approaches and when they get 27.727 miles, that’s when the radar unit on the ground picks them up and when they receive that unit’s call from on the plane, then the one on the ground sends it back to the plane, and the strength of that signal tells the operator on the airplane which is either the navigator or the bombardier and there’s no bombardier on a DC 3…
INTERVIEWER: …then the co-pilot, probably.
SEGAL: mainly the co-pilot or the navigator – he’s the one who turns it around. He knows exactly where that plane’s coming from, how fast it’s going. I mean, this is teamwork, teamwork supreme and so, when those guys get it right at the right vantage point, they jump and when they jump, we always say, if the pilot and the navigators do it right, if he pilots on a [ranch ?] with it, it’d hit the radar unit. Nobody ever tested that out, ‘cause it would have been embarrassing, I’m sure, but it’d be damn close.
INTERVIEWER: The fact that, the radar as we know it today is pretty exclusive and very sophisticated. Now this was not as sophisticated as it is today. It was kind of crude but it worked?
SEGAL: It worked. It worked well enough that it was very, very effective. Now it wasn’t so effective on D-Day. That’s the only time that it really failed us because nobody was properly trained to really use it and [?] so a lot of guys got dumped before they should have been dumped after they flew past the target so they got pretty well scattered out on D-Day, but we also found that the worst mistake was made, the pilots were not trained well enough make sure that the guys were where they were supposed to be. They didn’t read the equipment as well as they should, so, [?] at that point, but it wasn’t that way when we got to Bastogne. It had already been corrected, so they were experienced ‘cause that was about my, I made ten drops all along so, that was probably around six or seven something in there, so, I learned a lot and so did everybody else learned a lot, so we were pretty danged efficient at that particular time. That was December. It was June when we first started out. So that’s what made us better. We were better…better…better trained soldiers.
INTERVIEWER: Okay, hang on. You’ve got some high tech training here that you went through over the months. You mentioned that the D-Day drop was not accurate because things were not set up quite right but they improved after that from June to December and there was improvement in the training and in the equipment you had and to know you were doing.
SEGAL: I think it was the experience was the answer. Everybody got wiser in a hurry and by the time the second event came up, we were prepared. We weren’t near as bad as we were on D-Day.
INTERVIEWER: These para packs then were coming down at you. Did you witness them coming down?
SEGAL: Oh, yeah because they were coming down, right down our back and just remember they don’t drop ‘em from a thousand feet or twelve hundred feet. They drop ‘em from about four hundred feet they get down in a hurry and since we were more accurate we didn’t have to drop ‘em from as far up. We could drop ‘em closer to the ground.
INTERVIEWER: Now who went around to pick them up? Did you have teams ready?
SEGAL: Oh, there were already men on the ground because just remember those hospitals were full of doctors and technicians and nurses and God knows what else and they were American soldiers on the ground but now they had stuff to fight with and they ripped those para packs open and they were distributing right away.
INTERVIEWER: Now were the Germans close by or did they [?]
SEGAL: They were right there trying to intercept or roll ‘em up or shoot ‘em down or whatever they could and, above all, they were trying to put the radar units out of business.
INTERVIEWER: So, you were rather vulnerable over there.
SEGAL: Oh, my God, we were under attack the whole darn time, from the time they knew where we are. As soon as we turned them on, they knew exactly where we were and that’s why I was having a lull. I wouldn’t have to operate a damn thing unless something goes wrong and then I got to fix it, but I’m telling you, I was busy killing Krauts.
INTERVIEWER: So, you were in a Kraut zone and you were armed and you were protecting your equipment and [?] anything with saving your lives and also with firing at the German lines.
SEGAL: God, yes, and, firing…I was afraid I’d get shot and I never put any weapon on automatic. That’s the kind that goes “bbrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.” That’s too much lead. I didn’t believe in using that much lead. Every time I’d pull a trigger I was out to kill one German and every time I shot I got a German and so I killed a lot of Germans.
INTERVIEWER: Now, Mike, you’re in combat here and you’re also protecting equipment. You’re also directing battle. You’re also directing air flights and drops and was there a lot of confusion? Tell us about this situation.
SEGAL: You weren’t allowed to get confused. You knew what the problems were, what your commitment was to do is to get those para packs on the ground and then as soon as they were on the ground you had to get the infantry out there including our own eight men but they were always busy protecting their tushes and protecting the other troops that were on the ground that were running out to get those packs and unloading them. There’s ammunition there.
INTERVIEWER: And did they have trucks ready to put the stuff in, were they all carrying by hand or what was going on?
SEGAL: They had [ ? ] of weapons carriers and a few six by sixes but not much what you call heavy-duty trucks, but I’m telling you those guys wanted that food, they wanted that water and they wanted that ammo and they weren’t taking, “No.” I mean they went out to get what they needed and they left the food for the following people to get it ‘cause who’s going to worry about eating when you got killing on the line and the whole idea was get to fighting. There was plenty of time to eat if you’re lucky enough to be sucking air, so, the whole idea was get the battle goods out there and use it to take those Krauts out and then you could relax and eat and even get a cup of coffee if you were lucky.
INTERVIEWER: Mike, this is…now give me a twenty-four hour period here.
SEGAL: We got on the ground at daybreak so, figure an hour or so from daybreak. That’s when the para packs hit and then as soon as the para packs got on the ground which is thirty/forty minutes and the recovery groups is out there harvesting the crop – that means bringing in the contents – and then paratroopers would come in after that so, we had a lot to do and a lot to do in a hurry, a lot to accomplish in a hurry, so, the whole idea was to do it all at once and do it right and get it done and then kill Germans and that’s what it was.
INTERVIEWER: Okay, Mike, moving on here, you’re leaving England. What time did you leave England? Give me a time frame from the time this started until you get in to combat.
SEGAL: Oh, we left England in full dark, and it was probably around midnight or shortly thereafter, midnight between that and one o’clock and then time to get across from England and across the English Channel and get in to France and then you gotta’ go over to Belgium so, when you get to there it’s like four or five o’clock in the morning.
INTERVIEWER: Now you’re being towed all this time, is that right?
SEGAL: We’re being towed behind a DC 3 or 4 and I was always being towed by a DC 3 ‘cause – course when you’re in a glider it doesn’t make any difference – but I refused to fly in a DC 4, 3, 4, because DC 4 had no fire walls between the engines and so, you were always losing an engine in a fire and then you gotta’ crash, but with a DC 3 if you had fire walls you didn’t have to zero out so, I refused to fly in a DC 4. The DC 3’s I’d fly to the moon in one of those.
INTERVIEWER: Okay, so you leave England at roughly midnight, it’s dark and you cross the Channel. You’re now over France and Belgium and now you’re approaching your drop zone. What time would it have been then?
SEGAL: Well, between the getting on the coast of France getting to where you cut loose and you got an hour or so but the worst of it is while you’re flying, pulling a glider and the glider is nothing but a shell of what, some aluminum strips covered by a piece of canvas and then where your little seats, you’re sitting on piece of three quarter inch plywood and anybody on the ground, as you’re going over tree top level, anybody with an army rifle, any German soldier down there is picking for you and he’s going to be firing at that glider and so, you’re vulnerable, very vulnerable, and no way to defend yourself, so, after D-Day, when they went over there and then got killed in those damn gliders, and wounded in those gliders, now remember you’re just sitting on three quarter inch plywood, the most vulnerable part of your body is your manhood so between the first drop and the second drop, if it rains, you steal a part of a flag suit from some air force man and you wrap it around your organs, and praise to God if you’re gonna’ get hit that they hit the flag suit not down your leg where there ain’t no flag suit so, you’re protecting your manhood and your future when you’re going over there and that’s the part we worried about.
INTERVIEWER: Well, this is young manhood. This is good to hear.
SEGAL: You see, I was about nineteen/twenty years old when I was doing this stuff.
INTERVIEWER: You’re coming down there. You’re almost at ground level. What kind of a landing did these do for you?
SEGAL: Well, there’s no way you can describe it except by the grace of God I walked away from it and that’s what it is because when you land, just remember you don’t get a second shot because you don’t have a motor on that thing to pick you up and corrects your error as you’re coming in. You’re going to take whatever you get to land on those skids and that’s how you land and as long as…it’s farm land – there’s no airstrip out there, there’s no landing area, there’s no flight pattern – if you get on the ground and praise God you’re going to be able to walk away from it and that’s what it is on every drop and out of maybe ten drops, twelve crack-ups because you’d hit the fence, you’d hit the trees, you’d hit the shrubs, you’d hit the barn, you’d hit the stable, you’d hit the hog-pen, you’d hit everything that’s out there including the tractor, the horses, the cows, whatever’s out there, you’re gonna’ hit that sucker and it’s gonna’ crack you up so, if you walk away from it, you’ve done well.
INTERVIEWER: Did you have any kind of an assisting baggage grip, when you’d grip these batteries, these thirty five/forty pound babies, these Whetstone batteries, right?
INTERVIEWER: Now they’re heavy. How did you transport them?
SEGAL: Well, basically, there was like a strap across the thing from the terminals and you just pick that strap up, you pick one battery up in one hand and one in the other and even though you’ve got a rifle you can’t fire that sucker ‘til you get rid of those batteries, so, you don’t take those batteries very far, you basically get as close as you can on the radar units and once they’re there they sit there until you use them. You can’t handle ‘em and until you do what else you gotta’ do.
INTERVIEWER: So, your response is to get them out of that glider, take ‘em any way you can. You’re carrying seventy extra pounds, I’m saying at a minimum, plus your normal equipment that you’re brought down with and you gotta’ take these to the, to a protected area, usually a foxhole or whatever they got for you, okay…
SEGAL: Mainly a foxhole or a shell hole, or a radar or artillery shell [? hit] or whatever kind of hole they dug for you exclusively, that’s fine and dandy. I love those, because number one, they’re generally dry.
INTERVIEWER: Okay, Mike, you’re in some pretty heavy action here.
SEGAL: Yeah, that’s right and I didn’t try to duck it. There’s no way you can duck it. It’s kill or be killed. It’s as simple as that and since I didn’t go over there to die for my country, I went over there to make sure the German soldiers had an opportunity to die for theirs and I took advantage of it every time I was up to combat and I killed Germans, never regretted it from the first one to the last one.
INTERVIEWER: Alright you’re in some action here. Did you get any rest period? Did you have a chance to eat a little tea ration? How did you, how did you manipulate your time? How’d you get the hell out of there?
SEGAL: Well, how did I get out of there? Well, basically it was, when we got all the para packs boarded up and went where they were and we turned the fighting over to the paratroopers, who came over later. Now, they were kind to us radar men because the Germans were out for our hides. They knew just where to look for us and so forth. There was a soldier carrying a tool kit, there was a soldier carrying batteries, there was a soldier carrying a radar unit while moving it and that kind of stuff…
INTERVIEWER: So you were targets.
SEGAL: Oh, yes, we were targets, live targets, live targets. It was kill ‘em or wipe ‘em out or capture a radar unit and in the radar unit were explosives and there was a…I always say the rein on a merry-go-round and there was a [?] there and you always, when you moved it or got near it you made sure your finger was lower in that rein in case you had to pull it and blow up.
INTERVIEWER: Could that have injured you when you blew it up?
SEGAL: No, it’s all encased in the unit.
INTERVIEWER: But it would destroy the unit?
SEGAL: It’s destroying the unit, number one, and I’ll tell you I mean it destroyed it because I picked up many when it’s been blown up and sometimes they’re blown up by the enemy and some shrapnel went through them or something and so it’s set it off so you recover them. The main thing is whenever you recover one you make damn sure before you toss it in the garbage that it’s been destroyed so, that’s it. Now if it can be rebuilt, ‘cause we rebuilt ‘em, but that’s back in England or back somewhere in France in a shop where you got the tools and everything to do it right, and, but in the field you’re doing it with liquid solder, and liquid whatever it is that you have to do with it and, believe it or not this is back in the days when they used radio tubes to do it. They didn’t have the common stuff that they have today, the [?] stuff. We had to work with base roots and it was always a problem to have the right kind of parts. We landed with a parts supply and, but you never, I would say rarely have a perfect fit or a perfect size so, guess what happened then? Mathematics, basically mathematics and you had to reengineer the damn thing and that’s why you had to be fast with mathematics so you could take a [?] ?
SEGAL: …and change it from a three hundred [? ] to a six hundred [? ] ‘cause you didn’t have the tool. It was awful. You had to make do and reengineer the damn thing.
INTERVIEWER: You had to have a little bit of knowledge, more than a little bit of knowledge. We want to get you out of this zone now. How did you get out of there?
SEGAL: Okay, well, the battle was pretty much over about ten days later. They got us out of there. They finally got an airstrip open and then one of those DC 3’s that we jumped out of or pulled the gliders made land and they’d haul the radar men out, take ‘em back to England and then we had to repair and readjust all those units that we used and all those planes and every kind of radar units and all the APM 2’s and the 2 PM3’s and the PPM1’s and all those kinds of things had to be re-cleaned up and make sure they were ready for the next drop and that’s what you did for the next month or so or until the next drop when we were needed.
INTERVIEWER: Mike, you have had one heck of an experience as a young guy. You were nineteen or twenty years old. Today is the 17th of June of Two Thousand Fifteen. How old are you now, Mike?
SEGAL: I’m ninety two years young, Thank God.
INTERVIEWER: And you’re in good health and you look pretty good for a ninety two year old young man and you still can drink a little bit of that Maker’s Mark, not too much. We don’t want to let Sue know about that, right?
INTERVIEWER: But, we’re kidding about that but the thing, we kid in good humor, but we’re very serious about, Thank God, here we are, you and I are able to talk about this and this is going to be developed into a conversation where young people can hear this tape and older people can hear this tape. This is a part of United States and World History. I’m going to leave it here for the time being and then pick up in a minute or two.
INTERVIEWER: I found out that you are the recipient of two Silver Stars…
INTERVIEWER: …and I don’t want to embarrass you but we are telling you we’re proud of you. Would you mind telling me how did this come about? You want to talk about one of those Stars?
SEGAL: Bastogne was the second one. The first one’s the Nijmegen and since we’ve been talking about the Bastogne I might as well put the polish on it here and let everybody know how the Bastogne turned out and so part of it was this battle a few days before the Krauts turned around and ran because they were going to do what with little gasoline they had and they were trying to get back in to Germany, which a small percentage of them did get back but a very small percentage and most of those tanks were left there to burn and we set fire to them and [?] we knocked them out, our tanks knocked them out, but I’d be glad to tell you about the Silver Star deal and here again, it was, what it really boiled down to a catastrophe for the Germans and us when both sides ran out of ammo at the same time and the Germans were still on the offensive so that’s what happened but, anyhow, turn me loose, man, I’ll tell you the whole story.
SEGAL: Okay, Mike, we’re in the thick of it now. The drop was made. The recovery for the most part was successful.
INTERVIEWER: The Germans were out of their ammo and we were out of ours and we had to replenish and go in [ ? ] we were in a hell of a fight. Okay, I’ll let you handle this one, Mike.
SEGAL: This is, believe it or not, this was about five or six days later and in almost the same area. So, I had actually moved to a safe place where we were holding and we were taking out Germans as they tried to come and get to the gasoline dumps and it was the same old story, but we, it was, now we had some lead to throw and it was really good. We had ammunition, basic ammunition and we had hand grenades and a reasonable amount of soldiers and so now we could be effective and we could hold our own around these gasoline dumps and I don’t think, I don’t think the Germans got a quart of gasoline. I really don’t because any time we… also, [?things would go] against the Germans because all the gasoline dumps were on high ground and so when the Germans would come to try to get it, they were coming uphill and we were fighting downhill so we would [ ? ] create a whole lot of [?] and we also used the gasoline as fire and so when they were coming up the hills we would just open the gasoline cans, lay them on their side, let them go dancing, go down the hill, put a cigarette down there and let ‘em go and tanks would be burning up and so we used gasoline as good weaponry against the tanks and so, we were really able to hold our own We were gradually beating the Germans at their own game.
INTERVIEWER: Now Mike, when this was all going on, the shortage when you were really running out of ammo…
INTERVIEWER: …before this situation when a drop came in, you were out of ammo and the Germans were out of ammo and you had some tough times. You went in to hand and hand combat? What was your, what happens there?
SEGAL: Okay, it was, there were times when were, had to watch it, did not want to run out again so we tried to hold ‘em but when you got a chance to kill, that’s when we had to use it so, as long as you could make an ammunition pay, my philosophy all along was don’t use the weapon on automatic. We were limited on ammo. We’d put it on single shot and we just shot one bullet at a time and then you make your ammunition last and if you just pull the trigger once you took out a German. The next bullet, kill another German and another German but you just don’t shoot and put it on automatic and spray ‘em with it.
INTERVIEWER: Now were you with the M 1 or did you have a carbine or were you with a machine gun unit?
SEGAL: Carbine is what I was supposed to have but unfortunately there were plenty of [riders?] out to pick em up so I’d get rid of a carbine and I’d look for an M 1 some other soldier had been using two hours before and it wasn’t hard to pick ‘em up.
INTERVIEWER: They use an eight round clip?
SEGAL: Eight round clip so you could one or you could go brrrrrt and be out of ammunition again so I pulled shot after shot and I killed a Kraut every time.
INTERVIEWER: Now when you were talking about the hand to hand the other day and how critical that is in the training, could you explain some of your training in hand to hand and what happened in the actual event?
SEGAL: I got a lot of training from, believe it or not, this one young soldier. His father was a missionary in Japan and he was a minister and he had his family with him and he lived in Japan and he learned a lot of that karate and all that stuff and this kid taught me a lot about that before I ever got that much involved myself, but I became an instructor because of what I learned from this guy who was raised in Japan.
INTERVIEWER: Now you were an instructor stateside?
SEGAL: That was back when I was on the [ ?base ] in California and that’s where I learned a lot of that and ‘cause I didn’t learn all that in Louisville, Kentucky. We didn’t’ have any missionaries in Louisville, Kentucky but anyhow this young man, he was a heck of a soldier and he knew how to maneuver and how to use his feet, his legs and that’s where I learned it from him.so when I got to this point when we ran out of ammunition and again, this is like, oh, five or six days later, maybe a week and right in the middle of a big shooting gallery, all of a sudden we ran out and the Germans ran out, it was man to man and all this kind of judo and Japanese “wrastling” if you want to call it that, really came in to being useful.
INTERVIEWER: Now was, was this a, during a daylight attack when you had to use all these, or nighttime? Daylight.
SEGAL: A daylight attack, and it was man to man and just remember, when you have a certain, originally when that hit, I had a carbine which I was supposed to have and I had that because it was lightweight and I had all this weight on me with these batteries to take advantage of. That was a lot of weight to strap around.
INTERVIEWER: So, what would it roughly be in pounds, Mike, what you carried?
SEGAL: Oh, I was still carrying what you call a battle pack which is sixty pounds and that’s, of course, your weaponry. The carbine only weighed four and a half pounds while the M 1 weighed about close to ten pounds.
INTERVIEWER: And sixty.
SEGAL: Right, so I was saving a lot of energy with a carbine, but when it came to slugging it out, I wanted a weapon that was more powerful, more accurate, and I’d grab an M1 anytime and use it and the guys that knew me knew I was a dead-eye with a good rifle and if they had any question about it, I’d even swap a weapons with a guy with bullet in the arm, and [? get] an automatic rifle.
INTERVIEWER: They were right up front like you were and that got hot. Those things would throw a lot of fire.
SEGAL: That’s exactly right and I need to take a…when I was at Nijmegen and I pulled the soldiers around me to head back over the bridge and I released twenty-five or thirty whatever it was, men and says, “When I blow the whistle you take off for that bridge and don’t stop running ‘til you get on the other side of it”
INTERVIEWER: Now, that was Nijmegen.
SEGAL: That was Nijmegen. That was about a month earlier and I turned the men loose and I stayed to cover if there were a retreat.
INTERVIEWER: Now what we’re talking now, with this hand to hand, was this wintertime, Mike?
SEGAL: Oh, God, yes.
INTERVIEWER: Because Nijmegen was September so now you’re in to December of ’44.
SEGAL: That’s exactly right and there was snow all over the place and it was horrible, horrible cold and this was right in that cold snap and full of snow and you’re fighting to stay warm and keeping your body moving so you don’t get frostbitten.
INTERVIEWER: Now were these, were these Nazi soldiers coming toward you or were you going toward them or was it a mutual…
SEGAL: No, they were coming up the hill and we were coming down, we were, down, we were face downhill and you had to time yourself where you had a piece of level ground to fight on and the Germans were trying to do the same thing and the advantage is to have, to get ready to meet man to man so all we had, I had three knives is all I had to fight with. That’s all so…
INTERVIEWER: And you’re out of ammunition now at this time, at this point.
SEGAL: Right and I had, one of them, I had an issue knife on my boot all the way down and then I had one on my hip which was normal and that was an eleven inch blade and those two were issue knives [ ? ], and I had a five and a half inch blade on my back in the belt loop of my pants.
INTERVIEWER: Now these were open. These weren’t fold down. These were open blades?
SEGAL: They were open blades. Yes and so, I picked up the one on my hip first, and I got ready with that one and I timed myself to, as I saw him coming up and he was a big guy, must have weighed close to two hundred pounds..
INTERVIEWER: Oh my goodness, now, this is the German coming at you now.
SEGAL: The German coming at me and he’s a big guy and he swung that rifle around like a toothbrush and I timed myself to meet him as he came up over the rise.
INTERVIEWER: Now, with his Bayonet 6 and his rifle?
SEGAL: Yes, he had a Bayonet 6 and I didn’t’ even have a, well, I was, at that time I just had a plain old M 1 and so, I was at a handicap and he knew that and so, he came at me like he was supposed to do it, he was a good man with it and, but I timed it because I wanted to be slightly uphill because I was going to go with the weight in his legs to get the below his weapon and so, I paced myself to get within hopping distance. Now this was the way I learned from that medical missionary, his son, anyhow [ ? ] and it was a technical. I was going to try to force my legs between his legs and then take one leg to take out his right leg, well, one of my feet to take out one leg and the other foot to take out the other one but, going in opposite directions. And sure, I had, I made that maneuver and went right between the lowest rifle and he never hit me. He had already knocked my weapon away. I didn’t have anything. I didn’t have a dang weapon. So I just went between his legs, and put my legs between his and pushed one knee back and one knee pulling forward and he went down on his back and that gave me the urge because…and I was fast. I was fast because I knew where I was going and what I was doing and as soon as I got him down on his back I stopped him. Fortunately, it got my legs in the clear and went at him and we were locked in a man to man deal and I got my hand loose with that knife and as soon as I could on the ground I took that knife and went back and put it in his gut right below the rib cage. I caught him right below his ribs, just where I wanted it to be and I buried that knife in that poor Kraut and he was in shock and he was bleeding like a stuffed pig and I just stayed with him. He was bleeding freely and I just stayed right…I was waiting for him to bleed out, to become unconscious because then I knew he was going to bleed and until he died.
INTERVIEWER: Now, what you’re talking about seemed like a hundred hours but it was probably a matter of minutes.
SEGAL: It was, very few minutes because when you have a knife wound like that, the blood’s squirting out. I mean it’s, it’s…you can’t stop it. It just keeps coming and coming and so, he was full of blood, it was just blood all over me. It is slippery. Blood is slippery and I just stood on.
INTERVIEWER: Listen, Mike, the doctors weren’t there now and he’s bleeding out.
SEGAL: Right. They’re still coming up the hill so I got myself clear of that and couldn’t get all the blood off of me so I just used the snow. It’s snowing and since white was snow. Snow was all over the ground, probably six to eight/ten inches deep depending how the wind was blowing so, I knew I had to get ready for another one and I did and I got the one on my boot and I got that issue knife with an eleven inch blade and I’m sort of hanging in there, turned my head and before you know it he’s there so, I just ran into him. I was standing as he came forward and I didn’t wait for him to even get a decent footing and I just ran him down or ran into him…
INTERVIEWER: You mean bodily…
SEGAL: …bodily ran in to him and took him down and…
INTERVIEWER: Was he a big man?
SEGAL: Well, he was another one of these two hundred pound people and I didn’t get a break until the third one but I got this guy down and we, when we were rolling around on the ground, I finally got my right arm in the clear and did the same maneuver on him. I never had to leave my knife in him.
INTERVIEWER: The first guy…
SEGAL: Yeah, well, the first guy, so I lost that knife and I gutted him almost the same as the first one right below the rib cage.
Transcribed by Linda Kalette Schottenstein August 18, 2016