Interview by Robert C. Daniels
Marshall and AnnaMarie (Kretzer) McLean were interviewed at the Union-Congregational Church in Waupun starting at 8:30 A.M. on 28 November 2005. The interview lasted 37.32 minutes. AnnaMarie and Marshall sat, each at one end of a couch so only one was in the camera view at a time, listening and at times assisting each other during their separate interviews. At the time AnnaMarie was seventy-four years old and Marshall was seventy-two. Both were very articulate. Marshall was interviewed first.
What is your full name? Marshall Kenton McLean.
I know a lot of people in the early twentieth century were not born in a hospital, my mother wasn’t, but born in a home. Where were you born? I was born in Granton, Wisconsin, in, I think, in a home—I am not sure.
Who were your parents? Fern and Evan McLean. Now deceased.
Do you have any brothers or sisters? Yes, I had one brother and one sister. My brother, Douglas McLean, is deceased, and my sister lives in Florida. Her name is Jill Rosily Fern McLean, now it is Vandenberg.
Were they born in the same place you were? No, my brother Douglas, I am not sure where he was born. My sister was born at home in South Byron (Wisconsin).
Where did you go to school? I went to school at South Byron Grade School and Oakfield High School.
Did you graduate high school? Yes.
Did you graduate from college? No
What was it like for you growing up? Well, we were pretty hard up in my earlier, younger years. And then when we moved to South Byron my dad worked on the railroad—we were a little better off. He ran a filing station up at Turtle Lake, Wisconsin, and a diner. And then we moved back to South Byron where his home was. That’s when I first started remembering anything, much of the stuff during the war which was…, there wasn’t very much to remember. Stickers on windshields that allotted you so much gas for whatever purpose you used your car for. I remember the little blue and red, kinda like nickel like things you used for grocery stores and groceries. And I think my mother had a book, kinda like food stamps like. That is about all.
What were you doing in the 1939, 1941 timeframe? Basically, the time just before the war started. I was probably in the process of moving from Turtle Lake to South Byron. I was moving at about six years old. I went to three different schools in the first grade…no the fourth grade.
So you were about six years old then? Yeah.
Do you remember what you were doing when you first heard of Pearl Harbor being attacked? No.
What were your thoughts and feelings about the United States being attacked? Do you remember? No, I don’t. I probably didn’t even know we were being attacked at that time.
The next question is probably the same way. What were the general feelings of those around you about the attack? I am sure they were concern, but I don’t recall.
What were you doing during the war? Went to school.
You went to grade school. Junior high maybe? I graduated in 1951, so....
Can you tell us anything about the rationing cards? I know you mentioned them. Do you remember? I just remember that there was rationing, that sugar was very scarce and other things; and I know that you had to have the little red and blue like coin like things. I know that gas was rationed. I remember every car had a windshield sticker with an A and B, C, D, or F, whatever. If you just used your car for pleasure you didn’t get as much as if it was a business purposes. That’s all I can remember.
Do you remember anything changing in the Waupun area or the area changing during the war? I have no idea.
What was it like for you during the war? I didn’t know it was anything at that time.
I do remember, now that you mentioned it, we did practice blackouts. Occasionally we had such and certain time we couldn’t have any lights on, and had to have your shades pulled.
What was it like when you heard the war was over? Oh…, probably happy like everyone else.
Did you notice any change to the area when the war was over, especially when the military people came back? Yeah, I know there were a lot of families that were reunited. I remember talking to my cousin who was in the Navy, I wanted him to show me how to tie knots. I don’t know if the war was over at that time, but at least he came home.
Do you know if things went back to the way they were before the war, when the war was over? I would say pretty much. Except for the changes…, upgrading…, everything was more modern, there were more cars. I do remember horses and sleighs going down the road one time, and buggies, but not very many.
So more before the war than after the war? I do remember some of the first cars that came out after the war, they did not have chrome bumpers. They were back ordered. They had to get the cars out and they didn’t have chroming facilities, or something, up to date, some such thing as to that. Anyway, they had wooden bumpers. Later they were replaced.
Were the people in the town different after the war? I don’t know that I noticed anything.
What did you do after the war? Finished school and joined the service.
What service did you join? Air Force.
And it was the Air Force then, not the Army Air Corp anymore? I think they changed it in 1947 or 1948, something like that. It was the Air Force. We had the blue uniforms.
What did you do in the Air Force? Well, I went to Fort Lee…, first I went to basic training in San Antonio, Texas, then I was shipped to Fort Lee, Virginia, where I was learned to repair office machines. Then I was sent to Germany where I worked on airplanes and automobiles and different things, which is not what I was trained for. And I complained about it and finally got sent to Germany. First I went to France, then was sent to Germany where I did participate in office machinery repair in the German area. The Wiesbaden area.
When did you actually join the Air Force? What year? 1951.
How long were you in the Air Force? Not quite four years. They released me. (AnnaMarie states: “ ‘51, you were out in ‘56, you must have joined in ‘52.”) I must have joined in ‘52, I think. They cut me loose a little bit early because of the convenience of the government, they called it. So I was released about three months early in that four years. About seventeen or eighteen years later I joined the Army Guard here in Fond du Lac for five years, then I transferred to the Air Guard in Madison where I finished my twenty-year tenure; actually I had twenty-one years.
So are you retired from the Reserves or the National Guard? National Guard. I have a normal retirement like anyone else would have, except I don’t have the amount of points that a full time, active person would have had.
When did you retire? What year? I retired sometime around 1990, ‘91, somewheres in there, because I retired from the prison in ‘88 and I still had to go a few years longer.
So you worked for the prison also then? Twenty-nine years.
What did you do in the prison? Started out as a guard, and for eighteen years I was a foreman in a metal furniture factory. And then I wanted to retire at fifty-five, so I went back into guard force and I was back on guard force for six more years. So I had eleven years as a guard, and that applied to the early retirement. And the time I spent in industries was lost. I didn’t get much because I was geared for sixty-five-year retirement. But, pretty much reduced—almost nothing.
And when did you retire then from the prison? 1988, August.
I know you got married, when did that happen? That happened in 19…(he looks at his wife and smiles), I better get this right, 1955, in Germany. April 14th and the 17th.
Okay, there’s a story about that. Yeah. In Germany, you have to get married by someone like a mayor, or a person who is hired to do just that, marry you. And then you can arrange your church ceremony, which we couldn’t do on the same day, so we said, “Well, let’s get married on the 14th and go get married in the church on the 17th.” We actually got two of ‘em, but 14th is official.
Do you have any children? Yes. I have two, a daughter and a son.
Did any of them serve in the military? No.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about your experience? I guess not. I don’t…, I don’t have much memory of the war except there was a war going on. But I do know that an awful lot of soldiers were killed at a time, like even in one day, like [the] D-Day invasion. They worry about the many that are getting killed now, which is bad, but it’s nothing when you kill that many in one day. I know a lot of people are getting killed.
Did you join the VFW or any Legion or anything like that? No I did not.
Okay, I think that’s it. Thank you. You’re welcome.
What is your full name? AnnaMarie. I should probably make it the way they have it on the passport. AnnaMaria. A N N A, then capital M A R I A. Anna Maria, that’s the way it is on the passport.
What was your maiden name? Kretzer, K R E T Z E R.
And you are now AnnaMarie McLean? Yes. Now, this Anna Maria on my passport, and that’s how it was on my birth certificate, officially in the records, and then later—they always did that in Germany—[they] made the name into one, and it was AnnaMarie, all one name.
I know a lot of people in the early twentieth century were not born in a hospital, but at home. Were you born in a hospital? No, at home.
And where was that? In Geisenheim, G E I S E N H E I N, in Germany.
Who were your parents? Johann, J O H A N N, was my father, and my mother was named Philippine. If you know how to say Philip, then add another P I N E to it.
With two L’s? No, one L and two P’s then. (We discuss the spelling for about a minute to ensure I have it right.)
Do you have any brothers or sisters? I had a brother, he died three years ago.
I’m sorry to hear that. What was his name? Josef, J O S E F, not a P H.
Where did you go to school? Oh, in grade school in my home town. And then to middle school in the next smaller town, and high school back to my home town. By then, the war was over, and we could go to…, the Catholic nuns had a school in my home town and it was not a parochial school, anybody could go there. But it was a girl’s high school, and Hitler sent the nuns away—he kept some I think, they had to help with the nursing and the cooking. And he (Hitler) made the school into a hospital for the soldiers. And then when the war was over they (the nuns) could open again, and I went to school there and graduated from there.
Did you go to college? No.
What was it like for you growing up in Germany during the war? Well, the last few years were the most scary; that’s what I remember most—the first years, not so much.
Okay, the war started in 1939 with Hitler invading Poland and then making war with everybody else. But then I was only eight, nine years old, I didn’t pay too much attention. Then I remembered when Hitler attacked Russia my grandmother saying, “Oh no, that’s the end, he’s crazy.” Then my parent’s saying “Shhhhh,” because you couldn’t say much.
People were scared, they couldn’t talk, you know. Children would say to their peers, “Yeah, my mom said this, my dad said that,” and then they would have taken our parents. So I grew up…, my parents were mostly in fear, and I kind of took it as it was. And, of course, we had to become Hitler Youth. Age ten it was a must. And, you know, when you are ten years old, gee, it was fun at first. But then it got boring. It was always…, everything centered around Hitler and the big parades we had, and not only during the week, but on Sundays. But you had to join.
Oh, my father, he tried to get me out of it as much as he could. [He] always wrote an excuse that I had to work out in the vegetable garden or pick bugs from the potatoes. Then one time the leader said, “Another excuse? Well, you better be working out there, we may come and check.” So you were always under fear. And my father made sure I was out there because he had written the excuse.
So it was…, and then, of course, there was more and more of the bombing that went on. First it was the big cities. We could watch the fires from a hill. When Frankfurt and Wiesbaden and all the other towns were bombed. And then finally they hit the small towns.
(Marshall reminds her: “Don’t forget to mention the flags.”) Oh, yeah, he mentions the flag. You see, that’s why I honor this flag here (the American flag), it stands for freedom, and we had no freedom there, it was always fear. And then the German flag, the red one with the swastika, had to be flown for special occasions. Every house had to have a flag or flags, and we were in a two story home. My grandmother bought some little flags and stuck them in holders in the old bay window, and the brown shirted guys, the SR, (actually the SA, Sturm Abteilung) came by to check, and they said, “They were not big enough. For a two story house, no way, and you better see to it that it gets changed. We’ll be back.” And my uncle bought the biggest one he could find and hung it from the upper balcony; so they were satisfied. So you see, we were always in fear.
Of course, we were way more rationed than a little bit of sugar and gas here (comparing Germany’s rationing to that in the United States at the time). Very little meat, and we had little ration cards. Butter—hardly any. But I remember, though, we were not starving as much as those in the city because we did grow our own vegetables. We had a big cherry orchard, and my mother would say we should be grateful for what we have. And we grew our own potatoes, so we didn’t have to count one potato per person, we had a little more. But everything was used, even the cherries that fell from the trees. We picked them off of the ground, they were just bruised. You could cook them up.
(Marshall says: “Tell him about the meat, the horse meat.”) Oh, the meat, yes. We were rationed so much, but every so often we heard on the radio or saw in the paper the horse butcher in the next town had meat available. That was government checked, I mean, government approved—and it wasn’t ground up into dog food (she laughs). But the store opened at 8:00 (A.M.). And we were there by 6 o’clock in the morning. My cousin and I would ride the bike (bicycle)—it was the only transportation—ride the bike and we were maybe fifth, sixth in line. If you got there by 8 o’clock, forget it; the line was so long. And if we were there early we got double the meat. Instead of two pounds, you could get four pounds. Mostly roasts. My mother would make sauerbraten with it. It’s good, it tastes good.
And then by 1944 there was hardly any school. We came to school later in the morning if there were air-raids during the night—and there were always air-raids. And by the time we got to school in the morning there was another air-raid and we had to go into shelter. And finally the schools closed by, oh, I think the end of ‘45 something, ‘44. And then, maybe…, yeah, by November ‘44 the schools…, we still had school, then they closed because then the small towns were bombed, like my home town, and the school that I went to, the middle school in that town. That town was completely bombed. And that was in November 1944.
And that’s what I remember the most, how scared we were with the bombing. And finally…, I think after that we practically lived in a bomb shelter. We had built it into a hill, it was like a mine supported with big beams. And there were only a few old men left and mostly women and children. And we went with picks and shovels and made some isles into the hill for shelter. And that’s where we practically lived until the war was over in 1945.
Easter, it was Good Friday when the Americans rolled into town.
And how old were you during this timeframe? I was eight when the war broke out, I was born in 1931. And from 1939 until 1945…, eight and six is fourteen; I was fourteen when the war was over.
Was there a big difference after the war? Well, first of all, we were glad to be free now. And there was still very little to eat.
And everybody knows Germany was divided into four sectors, the Russians got everybody off and then there were the French, and British, and the Americans. I lived in the American occupied zone. It was good; the Americans were good to us. The soldiers would give us some food and stuff, and my brother had the best experience.
The first American troops occupied the schools, and, of course, they had their big kitchens there. My mother wouldn’t let me go; I mean, you know, a fourteen-year old girl with all the soldiers. But my brother went. And first they dumped everything that they didn’t eat, and the kids were trying to catch some of the chocolate milk. And then the commander allowed the kids to come with a container to take some of the chocolate milk home and get some meat that the men didn’t eat. The commander said, “What you don’t bite into, leave it whole if you don’t want it, give it to the kids.” So we got a little extra there.
Then we knew…, my mother knew some farmers. They also had a flour mill across the Rhine River. And the Germans had blown up the bridge that you could go across—walk across—so that was gone. But there was a boat running back and forth. And then every so often I’d go. She’d send me over there to work. She says, “You work so we can buy”—you still had to pay for it—“you can buy some flour,” or whatever they gave me. Then across the river was the French occupied zone, and the French guards and soldiers were watching a little bit more. So if I had a suitcase on the back of the bike with some flour and a few other things in it I waited, hiding behind the building, until the whistle blew for the ship, for the little boat, and then I dashed out, and the soldiers tried to stop us. I spoke French, and I’d say, “No, no, I can’t miss the boat,” and they’d let us go.
It is just some good memories that at least we had a little bit more to eat. So it was still pretty bad after the war for a few years yet.
But now when I met him (referring to Marshall) in 1955, I worked on the base. That’s where we met. I was secretary to the maintenance officer. And then things were pretty good. I had it better at home than here at first. It was quite a change. But then things were getting pretty good.
So you spoke German, English, and French? Yes, and Latin.
And where did you learn all those? In school, in school. I went to an academic high school, which they still have, but they have more vocational schools now that young people can go [to]. You don’t have to go to high school; after grade school you can go into nursing, mechanics, or whatever. But at that time, the only high school was academic, and you had no choice in subjects. It was English, French, and Latin; that was a must. And I graduated in 1948 with a lower degree, but I have a diploma. But with that I could not go to college in Germany. It was not enough, I would have had to go for three more years. But I did not want to go to college; I planned on office work, which was my field, so. I took classes on the side after I graduated, learned English shorthand; and that’s how I got the job at the Air Force on the airbase.
Were you aware of the Jewish situation and the concentration camps? Not at all until after the war. I mean, we were all shocked. Now if, and that’s a big if, my parents had heard about it, they never said anything. They were scared. But the concentration camps were hundreds of miles away from us. So we didn’t live close enough to smell anything or see the smoke or see the trains coming. Nothing at all.
The only thing I was more aware of was…, of course, Hitler killed all the mentally disabled people. And I heard my mother say one time, “What did they do with him?” And my dad would said, “Shhh!” So disabled people in our town were gone, they disappeared.
Now a cousin of my father’s said something about what was going on and the party and so on and so forth and he was interrogated, you know, questioned and spoke up. He was always outspoken. He died in one of the camps. He disappeared, he was gone, and his family didn’t find out until after the war that he was in Dachau. And he was rescued, but he died, he was starved.
Ministers…, a Lutheran minister spoke up in his sermons against some of the things that were happening, and he was warned not to keep his sermons like that. Well, he didn’t stop, he wasn’t quiet. He was gone. So it was a lot—mostly Jewish people—but a lot of others—aything in politics, religion, whoever didn’t agree and go along.
You mentioned before, earlier today, that Hitler would give medals to mothers, certain types of metals for a certain number of children. Could you elaborate on that a little bit? All I remember is those crosses that were given out. But then, like I said, my grandmother just stuck it in a drawer, she didn’t care for it. And he (Hitler) also had one program for teenage girls. They were trained to do housework, cooking, and they would be like a helper or a maid. And they were placed in homes where there was a mother with a lot of children to give her (the mother) a break. She could go and have a vacation, all paid for, all taken care of for three weeks while a young person had to learn what it’s like. So that was one program he had going.
Could you explain to us again about the medals for the mothers? Any mother who had four children would get a bronze cross. And four to eight, which was my grandmother, she had six or seven children, although three died, they got the silver. And then any more, like ten, twelve or more, would get the gold cross. Supposedly it was an honor because he did want a lot of children and he wanted his race—if you were pure—to conquer, to spread out and take all of Europe. So he needed a lot of mothers and a lot of children. So that was his goal.
(Marshall states: “They did a background check on you.”) Oh, yes. One thing we had to do when I was in middle school, we had to make up a big family tree, like a big tree with all the branches. And we had to go back to the great grandparents if we possibly could. And there weren’t that many records kept but I got the tree all together, and on both sides of my parents. And this was to prove that there wasn’t a bit of Jewish in us. And I remember I had that big poster in my bedroom for a few years, and finally my mother said, “Get rid of this thing.” And I tore it up. If I had put it in one of my suitcases coming here I would have a little background now. I’m not into genealogy and I don’t have much resource, so. But that was one thing we had to do, prove that we weren’t a bit Jewish.
And when did you come to the United States? I came here in 1956. We were married in Germany in 1955 as Marshall mentioned. Then he had a year to go yet, but for the government’s convenience they sent us back earlier because I was pregnant and they didn’t want the baby born there. They would have had to keep him (Marshall) longer and pay for the birth and all of that, so they sent us home.
And you moved to Waupun? No. We were in Fond du Lac first for a couple of years. But then when he started working at the prison we moved over here. That’s where we’ve been all the time.
And when did you actually move to Waupun? I think it was in ‘62 maybe. You started working at the prison in ‘59 (directing her thoughts to Marshall), so probably ‘62.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about the war or your experience? I think I remembered everything, huh (looking at Marshall for support)? And that extra copy of the story I always told the students about the bombing that day, that…, if you can…(Marshall asks her if she gave me a copy). Yes, I gave him a copy. And I always passed it out to the students at school when I was guest speaker, and they could take it home.
Were those students in the area here, Waupun students? Yeah, always. I worked at the middle school for ten years as a teacher aide, just a few hours a day. Then I arranged with a social studies teacher that I would be a guest speaker for the sixth graders when they studied World War II. And we arranged it around my work schedule, and when I retired I still went back every year. He called me…, he’s retired now or is retiring, but he is the one teacher that called me back. And that’s my volunteer thing, I always go back. And the students were very attentive.
Thank you very much. You’re welcome. I probably can remember things later yet, but it’s all such little detail, such minor things. But maybe they aren’t minor to you.
That’s very interesting. Thank you. You’re welcome.
Last updated on 27 Jan 2013 .
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