Bloomington resident Adolph Linke recalls his experiences as part of 'the greatest generation'
Nov. 10, 2010 at 5:10 a.m.
Updated Nov. 11, 2010 at 5:11 a.m.
BLOOMINGTON - The green Army jacket, yellowed war-time envelope and other items inside Adolph E. Linke's shadow box tell some of the 94-year-old man's tale. For the rest of the story, talk to the man himself.
"Sixty-five years ago, I knew more about it than I do now," he said, leaning back in his recliner.
Linke was a rifleman and interpreter with the 314th Infantry Regiment during World War II.
The Frelsburg native left a job with Barnsdall Oil to enter the service and underwent basic training at Camp Wolters in Mineral Wells. He moved on to Chaffee, Ark., before shipping out to Marseilles, France in December 1944.
He traveled to Belgium, where he landed shortly before the Battle of the Bulge. Linke remembered the battle in detail.
Winter in Europe was quite a change for the Texan, he said, and the snow meant aircraft couldn't even fly for about two weeks.
When the storm lifted, hundreds of planes took flight at once.
"That was Hitler's last stand ... the Battle of the Bulge," Linke said. "We had 8,500 casualties. The Germans had 17,000."
He later moved on to the Netherlands and, eventually, Germany.
Linke, who grew up speaking, reading and writing German, spent much of his time as an interpreter. He helped interrogate German prisoners, civilians and more.
He recalled a conversation with a former Nazi he was helping to round up just after the war's end.
"An old fella came out, crying like the dickens, saying, 'I know they're going to take us back there and shoot us,'" Linke said. "In German, I told him, 'We are Americans. We are not as dirty as you dag-blamed Nazis are.'"
After the war, Linke manned prisoner of war camps.
Troops treated the prisoners fairly and work was voluntary, he said. The camps had barber shops, where soldiers got hair cuts and shaves.
"I'll tell you, the first time I went in for a shave, I didn't feel too good when the old German fella came at me with a straight razor," Linke said. "But I got along good with them. We paid them with a half pack of cigarettes and things like that."
The troops lightened the mood when they could.
From stories of stolen chickens to a company commander who settled up debts he owed on a game hall by selling off confiscated vehicles, Linke said they kept themselves entertained in a "no harm done" way.
"Oh, we had a lot of fun," Linke said, chuckling and dabbing at his eyes.
His return home was bittersweet. Although he was glad to get back to the United States - and his family - the men ran into a seven-day storm that resulted in a ship full of seasick troops.
"And that ship was a mess," Linke said, shaking his head.
Linke said he fared better than many others who returned from the war, mainly because he had an oil industry job waiting for him. He held that position, with the company then known as Sun Oil, until his retirement in 1981.
Today, the father of five remains a life member of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4146.
And Joys Baird, one of Linke's daughters, said she's proud not only of the man who raised her, but of all those who served in the war.
"It is truly the greatest generation," Baird said.