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Harold Hammerbeck Oral History


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Biographical Information:

Harold Hammerbeck was born August 3, 1917 in Little Falls, Minnesota to George and Clara (Jensen) Hammerbeck. Hammerbeck enlisted in the Minnesota Army National Guard on October 4, 1938, and was assigned to the 109th Quartermaster Company. He was mobilized to active duty on February 10, 1941, and was on one of the first ships to head to Europe on January 12, 1942. Hammerbeck was shipped to North Africa in January 1943, where he participated in the campaigns in Tunisia and Kasserine. He received a battlefield commission on August 30, 1943. After the North Africa campaign, he participated in the invasion of Italy. On May 7, 1946, Hammerbeck married his wife, Leone Stein. He remained a member of the Minnesota National Guard until his retirement on September 27, 1977. Hammerbeck passed away on September 30, 1998 and buried in the Minnesota State Veterans Cemetery in Little Falls, Minnesota.

Transcript Summary:

Colonel Harold Hammerbeck described his experiences during World War II as a member of the 109th Quartermaster Regiment in the European Theatre. He explained his decision to join the Minnesota National Guard with many friends from his hometown of Little Falls, Minnesota. His unit was mobilized for active duty on February 10, 1941. He was part of one of the first set of troops to be deployed to Europe in January 1942 following the attack on Pearl Harbor. He spent a year training in Ireland before being deployed to North Africa around Christmas time in late 1942. Hammerbeck described Africa as being extremely hot, with little to no air defense, and explained that there were German troops were everywhere. Hammerbeck described his experience in Africa as “dehumanizing.” He recounted his participation in the Tunisian campaign including seeing at least a dozen German Gotha gliders along the beaches. Hammerbeck recalled how he received a battlefield commission following the Tunisian campaign. He remembered the native peoples that he encountered in North Africa. He described his experiences during the Battle of Kasserine Pass. After North Africa, Hammerbeck was sent to Italy. He was one of the first troops to arrive at Salerno, where he recalled firing directly on the Germans. Afterwards, he moved towards Naples and participated in the Battle of Anzio. Hammerbeck described being called to Lake Como to help with the disarming of the German 14th Core. He also participated in the siege at Cassino. After leave in the United States in late 1944, he returned to Italy. He gained an appreciation for what he had at home from his time during World War II. He described being angry with Patton for his distaste of National Guard Troops, who called them “Boy Scout Troops.” Hammerbeck ended his interview about his worst experiences (deaths), funny experiences (drunk officers), regrets that he had in serving during WWII (had no regrets and felt privileged to serve), and his thoughts of the Korean and Vietnam wars.

Interview by David Overy


Image ID: 14257

See additional files below for the full transcript.

14257_transcript.pdf (347 kB)
Harold Hammerbeck oral history interview transcript

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