Alfred P. Wehner Oral History

Dublin Core

Title

Alfred P. Wehner Oral History

Subject

Hanford Atomic Products Operation

Description

Part of the CREHST 2003 Oral History public programming. Interviews filmed in front of a live audience.

Creator

CREHST Museum

Publisher

Hanford History Project at Washington State University Tri-Cities

Date

2003

Rights

Those interested in reproducing part or all of this oral history should contact the Hanford History Project at ourhanfordhistory@tricity.wsu.edu.

Language

English

Identifier

RG2D_4A / T.2010.052.06

Oral History Item Type Metadata

Interviewee

Alfred P. Wehner

Transcription

ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
TITLE: CREHST ORAL HISTORY 2003
INTERVIEW DATE: JULY 10, 2003
INTERVIEW LOCATION: UNKNOWN
INTERVIEWER: UNKNOWN
INTERVIEWED: ALFRED WEHNER
TRANSCRIBER: JUDY SIMPSON
LENGTH: 24:00 MINUTES

INTERVIEWER: Today we are interviewing, Alfred Wehner. Al was born in October 1926, in Guesbox, Germany. At age 14 he joined the (Figgler Hitler Juggen) or the “Hitler Youth Flying Core“, to become a fighter pilot. Fuel and manpower shortage led to his ground assignment on the Russian front. He was part of a small force defending Luecow. They held Luecow for two days and fled to the Alp River. His group was then ordered to head toward Czechoslovakia to fight the Russians. When the war ended he was 500 kilometers east of his home town, and 200 kilometers behind Russian lines. He found his way home thirteen days later. Following the war he attented Glazing Medicene and Industry. He immigrated to the United States in 1953. He and his wife moved to the Tri-Cities in 1967, and he went to work for Battelle. Over the years, Dr. Wehner has authored more than 120 scientific publications and has received three U. S. Patton. His research has been in the area of electro-aerosol and intoxiocology he continues to work as a consultant. Today could you tell us a little bit about your story? Growing-up in Germany and how you became involved in the “Hitler Youth Flying Core”?

ALFRED: I was born, as was mentioned in, October 1926. ……………… When (inaudible) came into power I was six years old when World War II started, for Germany I was 12 years old, and when Hitler came into power a few years later there was (inaudible). Every youth at the age of 10 had to join what you would call here the Cub Scouts and at the age of 14 you were automatically transferred to the Hitler Youth, had become a leader (spoke in German) which were Cub Scouts. I was interested in flying and the war was still going on. What I did not want to become was a member of the infantry. I love flying, it gave me a chance to put my fate in my own hands and hoping I wasn’t to be killed. I wanted to be able to do my own mistakes and not due to a Sergeants order, who said……CHARGE! The first year of the flying core we had to build our own glider planes. (Inaudible, possibly German) At the age of fifteen I got my first wing, and by the age of 17 I had three wings and was an accomplished glider pilot. At that time because of my age, 17. I was drafted, again I did not want to serve in the infantry, so I volunteered for the (spoken in German) German Air Force. I was drafted, that was in August 1944, at the age of 17. After a brief boot camp I went to the Air Born Academy with three (inaudible). It is a separate intuition like the Air Force Academy here. Like Colorado, of course it was not that fancy. Our flight training began. My aim, my hope was to become a fighter pilot. In February, of March “45” we run out of aviation fuel curtsy of the Air Forces. A general shortage of fuel; so we were given rifles and sent to the east of Frankengo to stop the Russians; which by that time had drove into Czechoslovakia over running the (inaudible). Our troop trade we were 200, the next 20 miles, and we had picked up a 1000 recruits somewhere. We were loaded into cattle wagons and sometimes driven to the settlements to form a new division in the infantry. They drove us right to the Russian tanks. At that time the Russians had started their last assault on Berlin. In two bits of movements. The north Wahshoogah, in the south Bahchoconth in a slow movement to capture the land, and we were driven right to those tanks in Bahchoconth. They shot us up; we were out armed, so we ran for our lives. The Russian tanks between us (shows Alfred moving arms back and forth). About 200 of us managed to escape and we came to a small town called Gluehow, this was Azeeway these days, this was Jewish, Germany. The Nazi official was overall capsule authority in those towns. He ordered us to the trenches, the folks had already dug trenches around Gluehow, and so we were ordered to the trenches. He gave every 10th of us a rifle. The trenches were full of bazookas, and the Russians made the mistake of attacting with the tanks, and we knocked them off as they came. If they would have attacted us with broomsticks that would have killed us all. We held look out for two days. We broke out one night it was pretty and we could see a movie, a piece of junk that came to happen. We reversed our caps and blackened our faces. At the top of our column, I think there were some of the stragglers, top column was a motorcyclist who spoke Russian there were some other armed forces stragglers with vechiles with an 88 gun and two with 22 milimeter guns. We drove these fields….like grapes. We drove right threw the Russian lines. I could see the Russian’s in line. I could see the puffs of their cigarettes. We just drove threw…but that roués lasted only as long as there was night. Daylight broke there were some ammunation fights…battles. Most of us managed to get out. Our general thrive was to go West, West, West, away from the Russians, because we knew the areas where Russians guarded. What they did to prisonors and civilian population. So, we reached the Elva River. The Elva River flows southeast to northwest. We had hoped to cross the Elva River to go to the cross over the Elva to go to the Americans, but somehow we got orders to go up the Elva River which lead us to which is now Czechoslovakia, and that was the last German bastion that was still fighting. The other army groups; Italy, Scandinavia; West, and the German (inaudible). The commander of this Czechoslovakia group was General Sharnay (inaudible) Nazi he gave us orders to fight to the last man. Then he shed his uniform, wore some civies took a plane and flew over to the Americans. In any event, my 9th, early morning was the day wakeup the (inaudible). In the meantime, the Russians had taken Berlin, I think around May 1st , and the combined army groups of Surecoff and Doneff then made a right angle turn south driving toward Braug, only 200 kilometer wide front and everything that was east of that sweep was cut-off from Germany, that was Germany. I had the misfortune of being at that group (inaudible) and we were not allowed off. (Loud laughing from another group-inaudible). Something about being 18. My hometown was 500 kilometers, about 350 miles, west of were I was, but we were 200 kilometers inside Russia. The (something) kilometers and the rest was American occupied the territory. The Allied Armed Forces had already captured all German soliders after capulation. They had to go through a prisoner of war camp. I presume it was to screen out Nazi’s; war criminals or whatever. I had no intentions of imposing on their hospitality. It was an adventurous trip home, sometimes my life hanged in the balance….again, and again. I made it after 13 days to my home town, but of course, I came home to a free country. All the cities were rubble. I thought at the time being used to the German, I thought in my lifetime they could not pick-up that rubble. Survices to say at first, the first three years out of the war were rough. We starved and there were signs the Americans had made up signs on the trees, “Don’t fratenize”. So, we were the enemy, on the account of the trustee’s that had become public at the Concentration Camps and all that. We were tyrants among the nations. The only offered currency offered before 1948 began what was subsequently called (inaudible). From 1948 on you could start buying things again; before that you could not buy anything. Not even a nail, if you needed coupons for suits, for clothing, for shoes, which were hard to get. I got a coupon for a suit because I had grown out of my suit that I had left at home when I went to the war. After a long wait I got a coupon and I went to the store and they didn’t have any suits. The experiation date on my coupon, well the coupon expired, so I had to apply for another one. So that is some of what life was after the war. The American policy at that time was “The German’s Shall Starve”, “Starve to Death” this actually in the only, when the East Germans fought their government under Soviet occupation (inaudible) and then the Western allies wanted a counter balance and slowly the West Germans started more and more power itself, the samething we wanted to do in Iran, except in Iran amounted to weeks and months, where Germany took quite a number of years. So things got better by 1950 except there were still ruins. I had the good fortune to come here, and to find a sponsor. I was always infatuated by the United States as a kid I had models of …about the Wild West. (Loud laughing….inaudible). During the war I would admire the B-17’s, beautiful planes, although they were a curse in the end. Incidently, after the war the number of sports were prohibited, like shooting of course, we taught shooting, judo even foil fencing was some of the (inaudible). Cause you can’t do much with a foiling fence against an Atomic Bomb. In 1949 these laws were loosened and these sports came up again. Right after the war there was no schools, no Universities, no member of the Nazi Party was allowed to continue in his profession other than manual labor. They all had to go through denazivication or there was a (inaudible) board had to go to court. The court consisted of “anti-Nazi” of course there was an initial bias to begin with. There were a lot of people that joined the party and paid their $2 a month and attempt their careers. All the Nazi members, Party members could not practice their profession that was dangerous. My Dad was a dentist (laughing inaudible) in all these times he was arrested away from his patient and disappeared for 5 months. We did not know if he was alive. A lot of these people were sent to France to work in the mines; under very stressful conditions, many died there. In that time he disappeared from the face of this earth and I was alone, but my mother left us when I was 8 years old. I was 18 years old by that time. After five months I got a form letter from an American concentration camp. (Inaudible) camp. They kept him; there was no arrest warrant, no charge. After fifteen (or could be 50) months they told him go home now. He could not resume his practice until he went through the denazifacation process, which took a year or two. The ironary of it all, the people who had to go through this process were classified in five groups. Number 1 was the main criminal types that were (inaudible). Number 4 were the ones that just paid their dues, and had done nothing bad. Number 5 were the one’s who had to prove that they even suffered under the Nazi’s or had helped people who were persecuted by the Nazis. My Dad was classified as Number 5. (Sentence inaudible……lots of loud laughing). I was fortunate to (inaudible) American occupiation; my hometown was in the American occupied zone. I found a sponsor because it was my desire to come to the United States, and she sponsored me then on April 6th in 1953 it is just like a couple of months ago. That is it in a nutshell my experience over there. I was there at the wrong time and the wrong place.

UNKNOWN: Were you moved to the United States when you arrived here in 1953 and where were you living?

ALFRED: Well, I arrived in Obant, NJ which was the harbor for New York. I lived in New York City for two years, and was then a member of the 7100 Hospital United States Air Force, in my hometown that was where I was allowed to practice on Americans; I was there from “1954” to “1956”, and then I had to look for a new job because I couldn‘t practice here. I could not find a job in New York for an accountant. I met my wife and we married in Germany. I met her (inaudible). We had a 6 month old baby; we loaded everything we had in the car and drove down the east coast line, she had some friends from the Air Force Hospital, so I thought I could find a job. We then drove down to Flordia…..nothing. I figured let’s go to California, I always loved California. I might as well have stayed in Berlin, although I have never been there. Our last big stop was Texas. A collegue of mine said, “Al, if you ever come to Texas you have got to visit us”. So on our way to California we stoped in Texas.



Duration

00:23:41

Bit Rate/Frequency

317kpbs

Files

Citation

CREHST Museum, “Alfred P. Wehner Oral History,” Hanford History Project, accessed July 7, 2022, http://www.hanfordhistory.com/items/show/4632.