World War II Oral History Interview
Date: January 6, 2003
Veteran: Stephen M. Andel
US Army: Sergeant, Tenth Armored Division
Interviewer: Michele Carrara
Summarizer: Irving Bauman
Stephen Andel was born in Coaldale, Pennsylvania in December, 1917. He was drafted in July 1941, when he was working as a chemical laboratory assistant at Merck & Company in Rahway, New Jersey. After induction, he was sent to Camp Croft, South Carolina for basic and advanced infantry training. His most vivid memories of the sixteen week course were the high heat and humidity. Andel remembered soldiers suffering from dehydration, passing out and drinking saltwater. Following his training, Andel and his unit moved to Fort Jackson, South Carolina for unit training and maneuvers as a member of the Eighth Division’s Thirty-fourth Infantry Regiment in what he referred to as a “mock war.” At the end of that training he was granted a five day leave to see his family in Pennsylvania and New York and then returned to Fort Jackson. He later went absent without formal leave to New York to visit his ailing father, but returned to his unit.
Following the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, Andel was shipped to the west coast by train and then sailed to Hawaii on a cruise ship converted to a troop transport vessel. Arriving in Hawaii, he was assigned to the Twenty-fourth Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks. While at Schofield he became a cook in the officers’ mess hall, a job he retained during his service in Hawaii.
While in Hawaii, Andel saw the damage caused by the Japanese attack and had free time to spend at the YMCA, local taverns and Waikiki Beach. On a more solemn note, he learned that one of his hometown friends had died aboard the USS Arizona when it was sunk on December 7. Transferred back to the continental United States in March, 1943, Andel returned by ship to California and was assigned to the Seventy-first Division at Camp Carson, Colorado. While at Camp Carson he continued to cook and was promoted to the rank of technical sergeant. When his unit went on maneuvers in Colorado, the kitchen was moved by pack mules, and he would get up at 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. to make sure breakfast would be ready on time. It was cold in Colorado, and the soldiers were issued special sleeping bags and clothing to mitigate the effects of the weather. He recalled that Camp Carson was also the site of a POW camp for Germans, and that his division was reinforced by the members of an air cadet training unit converted to infantrymen for the war in Europe.
Andel moved on once more, to Fort Benning, Georgia to supervise a company kitchen, where he worked as a company cook and was promoted to staff sergeant. In late 1944 he found himself back on the rifle range for an infantry refresher course and then, after recovering from a hernia, he was shipped out to Europe in March, 1945. In the closing days of the war Staff Sergeant Andel found himself back in the infantry, commanding “half-track” vehicles armed with .50 caliber machine guns, although he had no experience or training in that role. His own half-track was damaged in a barrage of German mortar shells, but Andel fortunately escaped injury. He recalled that the Germans were so short of fuel by that time, however, that he saw tanks in retreat that had been pulled along by teams of oxen. Fortunately the war in Europe ended shortly afterward.
With the close of the war Andel took the opportunity to sightsee in Germany and Austria while on occupation duty. He was assigned to guard German SS Troops near the Dachau concentration camp, where he saw the results of Nazi horrors. He recalled that contacts with German civilians in the early postwar period were friendly, and that the Red Cross supplied donuts and coffee to the troops, but charged a nominal fee for them.
Staff Sergeant Andel returned to the United States in October 1945 and was discharged from the army at Camp Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, on October 25. He returned home and found work, moving back to New Jersey, where he became a life member of the Hopelawn VFW post. He said that he rarely spoke of his wartime experiences and felt himself fortunate to have returned home with no injuries, considering that many of his friends were killed and wounded in the war. He married shortly after the war and, twenty-five years later, he visited the scenes of his Hawaii service with his wife. Andel attempted to get copies of his military records, but discovered that they had been lost in a fire in Saint Louis. He showed the interviewer his photo album, with pictures of Hawaii and his friends. He attended two reunions in the postwar period, but has lost touch with his old comrades.
Stephen M. Andel was awarded the Combat Infantry Badge, the Good Conduct, American Defense Service, American Theater Service, Asiatic Pacific Service, and European African Middle Eastern Service Medals, with one bronze campaign star for the European African and Middle Eastern medal.