This is a complete and accurate transcript of the tape of the oral history interview of Rev. William A. Drury (CN 492, T2) in the Archives of the Billy Graham Center. No spoken words have been omitted, except for any non-English phrases which could not be understood by the transcribers. Foreign terms are not commonly understood appear in italics. In very few cases words were too unclear to be distinguished. If the transcriber was not completely sure of having gotten what the speaker said, "[?]" was inserted. Grunts and verbal hesitations such as "ah" or "um" were usually omitted. The transcribers have not attempted to phonetically replicate English dialects but have instead entered the standard English word the speaker was expressing. Readers should remember that this is a transcript of spoken English, which follows a different rhythm and rule than written English.
. . . Three dots indicate an interruption or break in the train of though within the sentence on the part of the speaker.
. . . . Four dots indicate what the transcriber believes to be the end of a incomplete sentence.
( ) Words in parentheses are asides made by the speaker.
[ ] Words in brackets are comments by the transcriber.
This transcription was made by Robert Shuster and Matthew Drobnick and was completed in December 1997.
Collection 492, T2. Interview of William A. Drury by Robert Shuster, September 15, 1993.
DRURY: [The first few lines on this page are a continuation and overlap from tape T1. Because the tape reel with the interview in the Archives was made from the cassette original, it contains this overjap with T1. ] But I stuttered incessantly, to answer your question. And yet, and yet I look back and I think, "How in the world did I have girlfriends?" I had girlfriends, you know.
SHUSTER: Did you impersonate somebody else when you were with your girlfriend?
DRURY: No, no. I would...when I would get drunk...I was at a bar and sittin' at a bar with a female, whatever, you know. I would start these impersonations, you know, and the bar tender would, "Hey! Come on over here and listen to Jimmy Stewart. The Duke is here," you know, "Jimmy Cagney. Come on over here." But then you were play-acting, you know, you were taking on somebody else.
SHUSTER: You talked about, of course, when you were in the army, you were drafted in New York and had basic training in New York?
DRURY: No, no, no, no, no. I...I...I went through one of the shortest basic training.... You're supposed to be seventeen weeks of basic training.
SHUSTER: Now you were drafted in 1944? Is that right?
DRURY: Forty-four, forty-four. I no sooner turned eighteen, June 3, 1944. You had to register immediately and sometime, within a week's time, you went for your exam, physical exam. They knew I stuttered...the...that guy, I remember. And that was in New York. That was in Queens, somewhere, I can't tell you exactly where I went. But he told me to write down the answers of the questions he was asking me [laughs] because he was disgusted with me. And I was drafted in Fort Dix and then I went to Fort Hancock which was a...which was an artillery camp. I wrote home immediately the night I got there and I said, "Thank God for me Mama, you know, that [I am in the artillery]," 'cause my brother got out on the medical discharge and he was in the infantry and he never served. Served a very short time, Frank, and told me that, "The infantry is a...a hell-hole, it's as low as you can get in the army."
SHUSTER: So you were happy you were going to...
SHUSTER: the artillery.
DRURY: ...and Fort Hancock was in the Carolinas. And then as soon as...that ink was just sooner dry, I think, I was only there a couple of days, when we shipped out to camp Joseph T. Robinson in Arkansas, Little Rock, Arkansas. And that...they said what Parris Island was to the Marines, Joseph T. Robinson was to infantry training. [Parris Island, South Carolina, was the main Marine recruit training center in the eastern United States.] And we no sooner go there and they screamed...these guys always screamed at you, you know. They didn't know how to talk to you, you know.
SHUSTER: You mean the top sergeant?
DRURY: Oh, the top sergeant...
SHUSTER: Or the training sergeant, yeah.
DRURY: ...even the corporal. Even the corporal, buck sergeant, whichever the case may be. Scream and scream and scream. And...and back in those days (they can't do it today)...but back in those days, see, they could use any kind of language that they wanted. We...we had a colonel, we had a full colonel who was insane. I...I was scared spitless; I had no desire to be anywhere near that man who was the commandant of the...of the...that battalion. But we no sooner go there and they said, "You were promised seventeen weeks. You are not going to get seventeen weeks. You are going to get thirteen weeks." We wound up with seven weeks of basic training. Less than two months, and we were taught to be killers. This colonel would come by and he was like something you would see in a movie, you know? The man was deranged, there was no question about it, you know. And you would be out doing bayonet practice and when you were practicing you would use it with the sheath on or whatever, the thing on top of the blade. And he would scream up in a Jeep because it had a chauffeur, you know. He would come barreling up and knowing full well that he was kicking dirt and dust in the G.I.s' face. And jump out and walk up and down with their hands behind their back, you know, little god, little deity. And he would grab a bayonet from one of the instructors, take the sheath off, and say to the other guy, the rookie, you know, "Take the sheath off your blade and now stick that blade in me. I want you to stick the blade in me." Well, the guy's standing there wetting his pants, you know. "I'm a private, this is a colonel, he's got a full bird [referring to the eagle insignia that indicated a colonel's rank]," you know. And he said "Stick it in me." Well, he was extremely well trained, you know, and you had to parry left, parry left, lunge and so forth and so on. And in front of these guys, poking, he would say [imitates the colonel's harsh voice], "Stick it in me! Stick in me! I'm a...I'm a...I'm a German Kraut [Shuster laughs] and you hate my guts and I just killed your buddy and now stick it in." And I got sick of him. Especially New Yorkers. After a while they would get riled, you know? And when you did, you really lost your guard, you know...
DRURY: ...as to how to do it right, and you would lunge and that guy would put out a foot knowing full well that if that blade come up wrong, that kid is dead, you know. And he was on top of you with that blade against your throat and you're laying there, you know.
SHUSTER: You say, "He put out a foot." You mean he tripped you?
DRURY: Yeah, yeah. When you would lunge that was the last thing that you expected, you know, that he would trip you. And he would have that blade at your throat, you know, and you were a dead man in combat. But seven weeks and I kept writing home.... There was somebody.... [Pauses] In Richmond Hill...in Richmond Hill there was a store underneath us and they had a telephone and sometimes I...I could go call. And I would say, "It's not going to be seventeen weeks, Mom, it's going to be thirteen weeks." Seven weeks and somehow I got to a phone in the P.X. [the army post store and post office] and I called home and I said, "You...you...you...you..." and.... Bless me, in the name of God, my mother and father were patient. And they knew enough not to help the stutterer. Which people do. They try to help stutterers. And they always come up with the wrong words, you know. [laughs]
SHUSTER: Makes it worse.
DRURY: Oh, you're about to kill somebody you get so uptight. And...but I would get on it and putting nickels in (it was a nickel then, you know)...and putting money in or whatever it cost from wherever I was and I said, "I'm coming home on furlough." And I went home on furlough and then the next thing I knew I had.... And the southern boys...the southern boys had never seen water in their lives, you know, so we had to take a ferry from New Jersey over to Pier A in lower Manhattan, and they thought that was the ship they were going [to Europe on].... Well, the ferry was just...was just shoulder to shoulder, you were standing up, you couldn't sit down, you just.... And why I had to wear this pack, I don't know, but you had this pack. You didn't have any equipment, you didn't have a...a rifle or hand-grenades or any of that stuff yet. But we shipped out, we shipped out.
SHUSTER: And you landed in France?
DRURY: Yeah, we landed at the...we were told...again we were lied to or whatever, you know. Or maybe just to confuse the enemy, I don't know. We were told we were going into England and "Wow!" because we had heard all of the stories about England and the good times and blah blah. We got outside of the English Channel, somewhere out there. "Now hear this," you know. "Plans have been changed," (they had other jargon then) but we would not be going into England." I forget the port of call, "but we would be going into Le Havre, France." And we were...we were...we were one of the few troop ships that landed in Le Havre. They had secured a good part of France.
SHUSTER: Now when was this that you landed?
DRURY: Timewise, you mean? I don't know, I don't know.
SHUSTER: Was it still '44?
DRURY: Yeah, yeah, yes, oh yeah. [Thinks to himself] June.... I was over there August...August, September. I have tried to find out chronologically when I got there and where I went in Europe. I have written to the Pentagon, I have tried to write to somebody. The Eighth Infantry Division, they were in Texas. I found out they were in Europe, in Germany. This was like five years ago they went over there. But I wanted to find out exactly when I would have landed, if we could still trace it back. I still...but from the time I was drafted until the time that I was.... I didn't keep any dates. And there are other guys that I know, served with in Europe.... I met a guy last night. I was at a prostate cancer support group last night and the guy had the Big Red One [on his jacket?]. Well, I knew what the Big Red One is.
SHUSTER: First Division?
DRURY: Yeah, they served in Africa. He's crystal clear [on his service record], you know. I mean, you know, I was an eighteen year old kid. So we had a meal, we had a meal, and I don't know if it was a train station...I guess it was a train station because got right on forty and eights. Freight cars, boxcars. And you laid on the floor; you got your burlap bag.... I don't know if you know a burlap bag. You got a burlap bag to lay on. And I almost got myself killed before I even saw combat. I don't think that's in that little Bill Drury story or not [referring to a tract called The Bill Drury Story]. But as I said, I was Irish, I had a short-fuse, I had an awful lot of animosity, hate, explosiveness. And I think a lot of that was because I had a speech imp...a speech defect, a speech impediment. And I guess this guy had gotten his hands on some schnapps or cognac or something and smuggled it into the freight car. And they didn't care, they didn't, the sergeants and the brass [the officers], I think the even second lieutenants rode somewhere else and the sergeants were in charge of the peons, the cattle, the peasants, the forty...
DRURY: ...G.I.s laying on the floor. And this guy was...we were starting to rumble through, and the doors were open and he was sitting on the edge. Well, anyway, he got half loaded and he was gonna.... And I knew the guy, and I knew him and I knew that he carried in his a pocket a twenty-five automatic. He had a twenty-five, which was not G.I. issue [was not issued to him by the Army]. Where he got the twenty-five automatic, I don't know. But he told me to move over and I said, "I...I...I...I...." "Move over, you stinkin' stutterin' blankety blank," you know. So I got up and hit him in his face as hard as I could. I really belted the guy. And by moonlight I knew what was happening. He was going for that twenty-five automatic. And I'm stuttering, "Don't...don't...don't...don't...!" [chuckles] Somebody jumps up and grabbed him and got the gun out of his hand. But I almost never made it to repebble depebble. We called it the "repebble depebble." It was the Replacement....
SHUSTER: Replacement depot.
DRURY: I don't know that I was a replacement. I was not with the Eighth Infantry Division when I went over. So you go to a repo depot and there you get assigned. "You go here, you go there, you go in the Eighth Division, Sixth Division, Fourth Division, Third Armament," whatever the case may be. And you get your ammunition. And that...all of a sudden you realize it was war. Of course, one of the bandoliers [gunbelts] that I got.... I got enough thirty caliber bullets for this belt that you wore, this canvas belt, plus you took two bandoliers, cloth bandoliers one this way and one that way [indicating how one was worn diagonally over the right shoulder, the other over the left shoulder] and it was drilled [into you], "Get all the ammunition you possibly can. You could run out of food. You're gonna live, okay. You run out of ammo and you're a dead man," you know? So this...this colonel, this same guy back in Robinson, so...
SHUSTER: So even if he was crazy he taught you some useful stuff?
SHUSTER: Even if he was crazy he taught you some useful stuff?
DRURY: Oh yeah, yeah. And he taught you, really, some things.... You really hated his guts but when he told you about hitting the ground, you know.... You were a foot soldier, [chuckles] you were a foot soldier and when you hit the ground, you hit the ground. It's like what's his name...you know, Lenny Dykstra [professional baseball player] going into second base. Give it your all, ba-ba-ba-boom. You don't care about the bruises or lacerations or anything else. So I got...I got two bandoliers and a gunbelt and then the sergeant said, "Come here soldier. Let me see something." And he looked at the gas stud on my M1 rifle which I had just been assigned. And it was full of cosmoline so after you (which is a grease that they keep on)...you had to clean the thing up and it was spotless before you got out of the repo depo. But he looked at the gas stud that I had, and there were two different kinds of gas studs on the end of the rifle. It's a gas operated rifle, and he said, "I got news for you soldier. You're a grenadier." I said, "a gren...gren...gren...gren...." [Shuster chuckles] And he gave me a bag of rifle grenades. And I'm sure that the ammo that I walked away with that day, they probably weighed more than ninety- eight pound Bill Drury, you know? [Shuster chuckles] But I was grenadier.
SHUSTER: So that was just something they just appointed you...
SHUSTER: ...like carrying the Browning automatic rifle?
DRURY: Yeah, just because of the type of gas stud you had. And I knew back in those days the difference between gas studs, but I don't now. But I...he looked at the one on my rifle, looked at the gas stud and he said, "You're a grenadier." Evidently that would allow enough gas or whatever to...to....
SHUSTER: To propel the grenade?
DRURY: Yeah, the projectile.
SHUSTER: Well, Reverend Drury, I know you wanted to break at about 10:20 or so...
DRURY: Oh, right.
SHUSTER: ...because you had another appointment so, let me ask you, when were you discharged from the army? Was that in '46?
DRURY: '46, yeah. I...in '45, right after the war on my recuperation furlough was when I stopped at Moody Bible Institute. And I re-enlisted, I re-enlisted because I wanted to go back to Belgium to see these little two Belgiumiqe [sic] girls that I met. These two little ones who I just, I didn't know what love was but I was an eighteen year old G.I. and I like these two little kids.
SHUSTER: You mean these were children?
DRURY: Children, yeah children, and I just loved those kids. We were there.... Again, I don't remember time, you know? It seems so unfair now that I can't geographically know. But I know that was Dezon [?], Belgium, and I wanted to go back to Dezon [?], Belgium. And we had been billeted in a bombed out Roman Catholic Church. And you went out the courtyard and I got to talk to these kids and they taught me some French. I taught them, you know, some English. So it had to be '46 when I got out of the service and I went back to work for Pepsi Cola because I worked for Pepsi and you were guaranteed a job. So it was '46, three years, I...I...I....
SHUSTER: So you...so you didn't re-enlist then, ultimately?
DRURY: I did, I did and when I went back.... I reenlisted for one year. And they said, "You can enlist for one year, eighteen months, two years, three years...." I, for no other reason than to go back to Belgium. And when I went back to do my one year, I told them that I...still stuttering, that I wanted to go to Belgium. They said, "Not for a year. For three years. You want to change it?" So I said, "No." So they got rid of those guys almost immediately. The...the....
SHUSTER: The one-yearers.
DRURY: The...it was a bad deal and stupid. They realized it was stupid. So I don't know how much time I served. I didn't serve much time at any rate and I was out. I was...I...as far back as I can remember, I think, I was twenty one years of age. Eighteen...so '44...that's not even right. But that's what I think it was and I was going on my twenty-first birthday, something like that.
SHUSTER: Well then, let's stop there for the day and thank you much for this interview. Hope to pick...
DRURY: My pleasure.
SHUSTER: ...it up at a later time...
DRURY: I hope so.
SHUSTER: ...and we can carry on.
END OF TAPE