WWII Oral History Interview
Date: August 26, 2002
Veteran: Charles Shenloogian
US Army 11th Cavalry Regiment & 11th Tank Battalion, Co. C
Interviewer: Michelle Carrera
Summarizer: Irving Bauman
Charles Shenloogian was born, of Armenian ancestry in 1916 in Union City, New Jersey. Following graduation from high school he worked at several occupations, including as a weaver, where he was first taught to be a “warper” and then a “bleacher.” Shenloogian joined the United States army in March 1941. Following basic training at Fort Dix, New Jersey, he was transferred to Fort Riley, Kansas, where he was assigned to F Troop of the 11th Cavalry Regiment, a horse-mounted unit. The 11th was subsequently assigned to Campbell, California, from where Shenloogian and his fellow troopers patrolled on horseback along the Mexican Border in both Arizona and California . Following the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, the regiment was assigned to guarding, patrolling and listening post duty along the California coast through July, 1942. Shenloogian recalled that he enjoyed cavalry duty. With the passing of the mounted service he was transferred into the 10th Armored Division’s 11th Tank Battalion at Ft. Benning, GA, where he was promoted to sergeant and assigned as a tank commander.
Shenloogian subsequently spent eight weeks at Fort Knox, Kentucky, where he was trained in tank maintenance. He then participated in the Tennessee maneuvers held in the summer of 1943. Following that training he was transferred to Camp Gordon, Georgia and then Camp Shanks, New York. From there he left on a troop transport ship for the European Theater of War. Shenloogian landed in Cherbourg, France in September, 1944, a part of the first American unit to debark directly in France without stopping in England first. Shortly afterward the 10th Armored Division advanced to capture Metz, France. They drove north to Thionville, France and then breached the Siegfried Line, where a vicious fight ensued. In his interview Shenloogian detailed the harrowing experience, which resulted in the death of his platoon sergeant, destruction of an enemy tank, and the capture of many German prisoners. After a week of battle his battalion ran out of gas and ammunition. They returned to a re-supply depot, remaining there for several days before rejoining the division in Luxembourg City. The 10th Armored Division was ordered by General Patton to move quickly to counterattack German forces in the "Battle of the Bulge," one of the fiercest actions of the war in Europe. The division attacked north towards Berdorf, Luxembourg, several miles from Bastogne, where the 101st Airborne Division was holding out against the Germans. His battalion eventually broke through but were then cut off themselves for three days, and lost one tank to enemy fire.
Shenloogian’s unit held the southern flank at Berdorf, where he recalled that a German plane flew overhead, the first enemy aircraft the men of his unit had seen. They fired .50 caliber machine guns at the plane, but were barraged in turn by German artillery, which wounded many Americans, including Shenloogian. He suffered a broken eardrum, concussion and shrapnel wounds. Shenloogian received first aid from medics and was sent to a Paris hospital. It was Christmas Day, 1944. He was a patient there for three days.
Sheloogian rejoined his unit in the field in January 1945, as the 11th Battalion was advancing into Germany. His tank was hit entering the city of Trier, and his driver was killed and assistant driver wounded. Under enemy fire Shenloogian pulled the wounded man out of the damaged tank and brought him for medical treatment, saving the soldier’s life. For this act he was awarded the Silver Star. Several other tanks were hit and more soldiers were killed, wounded, or missing in this action. During the battle Shenloogian entered a building which housed slave laborers wearing striped clothing, who were emaciated to the point that their eyes appeared to be popping out. His tank was hit again before it was over, and he dove into a ditch where a shell exploded and injured his legs. He was treated by a medic, who removed some shrapnel from his legs, and was then evacuated to a hospital in Nancy, France, where he remained until the end of the war.
In late June 1945 Shenloogian returned to his outfit, which by then was on occupation duty in Garmisch, Germany. He observed that the civilians had suffered terribly as a result of the war. One of his final assignments was to escort a group of discharged German prisoners from a POW camp to Bremerhaven in a forty-four truck convoy. He later took a plane from Munich to Paris for a week’s leave, where he was able to meet his three brothers who were also serving in Europe. He returned to the United States by plane, first landing in Newfoundland and then LaGuardia airport in New York City. Upon his return, Shenloogian was sent to a military hospital in Atlantic City for observation before being discharged in November 1945. The surgeons at the hospital recommended an operation to remove remaining shrapnel in his shoulder, which he declined. He was discharged with a 20% disability rating, due to a chipped bone in his finger and a back injury.
Charles Shenloogian participated in the Rhineland, Ardennes & Central Europe Campaigns. He received a number of decorations and award, including the Silver Star, Purple Heart with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters, Good Conduct Medal, American Defense Service Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal & Presidential Unit Citation.
When he left the service, Shenloogian was twenty-nine years old. In retrospect, he felt his war experience hadn’t changed him in any significant way, that the training he received was good, and that his experience built up his endurance, especially for survival in extremely cold environments. Following the war he worked for Schiffli Embroidery Co. where he became a “watcher,” making certain that needles were stitching properly. After several years, he became foreman of an eight machine shop, and retired at the age 62. He married Eleanor Boyajy on April 16, 1950, and had two children and five grandchildren at the date of his interview
In conclusion, Shenloogian remarked that war was indeed “hell,” and that tank commanders had a 100% casualty rate. He also noted that a detailed written account of his World War II experiences was available in Richard N. Demirjean’s “Armenian World War II Heroes.” A copy of this account is in his NGMMNJ oral history file.