(c) 2014, Aaron Elson
Wally Ansardi (joining the conversation): Is he telling you the story of what happened?
Don Foye: Yeah, a little of it.
Aaron Elson: Are you the medic who treated him?
Wally Ansardi: Yes sir.
Aaron Elson: Well, sit down, Wally, do you mind?
Wally Ansardi: Thats all right.
Don Foye: Where were we? I lost the continuity.
Wally Ansardi: I dont want to mess up your
Don Foye: No, youre doing all right. Stay right here.
Aaron Elson: The lawyer had just
Don Foye: Oh, yeah. And the lawyer, he, right between the eyes and this big ugly Germans looking at me and he swung the smoking gun over and put it to my head.
I looked up and that damn barrel of that rifle must have been six inches across, so help me. It was about as big as your little finger, really, but geez, that looked big. Do you know how big they look when theyre in your face? But he didnt pull the trigger. Thats when I got captured the first time. But let me get [to the time I was executed], while Wallys here, if you dont mind.
Aaron Elson: Okay.
Don Foye: After many other episodes, I got shot up a little down near Seves Island somewhere they tell me. I dont know.
Wally Ansardi: I dont remember the places myself.
Don Foye: I didnt know him (Wally) when I was there. So I just told him where I was. But I got sort of executed a little bit. Everyone else did, too, in the whole place and I guess I was the only one alive. Wally comes along, after Id been there about three hours as I remember it. I looked at my watch and one time it said 8 oclock, the next time it said 11. So he came out and he found out I was alive. They were still plinking away at us, and Wally wrapped my head up in a great big bandage, he wrapped something all around my face.
Wally Ansardi: I tied it up.
Don Foye: The whole mess was hanging off. The jaw was, oh, what a mess. And Wally said, "I guess you can make it back," or something. He told me [choking up], he told me who he was and we agreed that it was him when he told me which way to go back to see [Dr. William] McConnahy, and when I met him in Omaha four years ago, the first time I ever went to a reunion, Wally came up to me and he said, "Well, I tried to bandage you up."
I said, "Wally, I didnt get anywhere down the road," because everybodys shooting, "I got just out in the middle of the road, all your work, and that thing fell off. It didnt even stay on."
And he said to me, "I didnt charge you much, did I?"
Then I took off my towel and I wrapped my big towel around it and held it together until I got back to see Bill McConahey. They gave me 15 pints of blood, and old whats his name, the minister there, Ralph Glenn, remember Ralph? Ralph told me hes the one that administered the blood to me because I was so low.
Wally Ansardi: They gave you plasma.
Don Foye: Plasma. But I mean he said they took so much.
Wally Ansardi: I dont think they had blood up there, they had plasma.
Don Foye: Yeah, it was tannish colored.
Wally Ansardi: They had to mix it with water.
Don Foye: But I took so much blood, and he said, "I dont know how you ever walked back." I remember somebody saying to him, "No way he could have walked back that low on blood."
Wally Ansardi: Well, you werent bleeding that bad, its just that it was all gone.
Don Foye: But I had been.
Aaron Elson: What did you see, Wally, when you first saw Don?
Wally Ansardi: He looked like, do you remember the old funny paper, Andy Gump, without the bottom jaw? Thats the way he was.
Don Foye: That was a bad day.
Wally Ansardi: Then I told him, "Go that way to the aid station."
Don Foye: Go that way. Yeah.
Wally Ansardi: And thats how you knew it was me.
Don Foye: Thats right. But other than that I wouldnt have known it.
Wally Ansardi: If I wouldnt have said those words, youd have never known who it was.
Don Foye: Nope. That was 52 years after the fact, when I met him. Fifty-two years. He came up to me and I wouldnt have known who he was.
Aaron Elson: Was he the only one you found alive?
Wally Ansardi: I worked on a lot of them. See, I was with E Company all the time. I was very seldom at the aid station. I was always at the front.
Don Foye: It wasnt only me. He went from person to person to person, but he escaped through that bunch.
Wally Ansardi: I was with Smitty.
Don Foye: Well, I was the one, you know, who got Smitty out of that minefield.
Wally Ansardi: I call him every once in a while.
Don Foye: I talked to him a week ago.
Wally Ansardi: He said he cant make it [to the reunion].
Don Foye: He said he cant hear and his wife cant see. Ive got the pictures, Wally. I went up to Maine in my Model T, my wife and I on a tour.
Wally Ansardi: Them junk cars.
Don Foye: Yeah, them junks. I went up and I called Smitty and told him I was coming, and I picked him up, he and Alice, and we went to a restaurant up there when she could still see pretty good and he could still hear, we went out in my Model T and I've got a picture up in the room with the four of us standing in front of my car.
Aaron Elson: How did Smitty get stuck in a minefield?
Don Foye: He ran in the middle of it. He lost his cool. He didnt know where he was. Smitty told me he didnt remember anything.
Wally Ansardi: He doesnt.
Don Foye: But one thing.
Wally Ansardi: He does remember the wooden bullets, though.
Don Foye: Hey, thats something else. I brought home a wooden bullet. It was painted sort of an [olive drab] color, the wooden part.
Wally Ansardi: The Germans were on maneuvers there, thats what it was.
Don Foye: I didnt know what it was. I got it off a sniper, I think. The projectile was wood. Ernie Pyle wrote about that in his book, too. Hes one of the only other persons to ever mention it. But Smitty was running around.
Wally Ansardi: Smitty and Colby, they were driving me nuts.
Aaron Elson: Who was Smitty?
Don Foye: Smitty was the company commander. And Colby was I guess second in command.
Wally Ansardi: He never did last too long, he was always getting hit.
Don Foye: July 4th, I put him on the front of a stretcher. He got hit in the rear end. You remember? Shrapnel hit him in the back. I picked him up and put him on a stretcher.
Wally Ansardi: Most of the wounds werent bullet wounds. Most of the wounds were shrapnel. From mortar shells, artillery shells.
Don Foye: This was shrapnel. I put Smitty on the stretcher, he couldnt walk. I said to him, "Dont worry, Smitty, look where it hit you. If it hit you in the head it wouldnt hurt you at all." He had a jeep driver, what the heck was his name? He was with him all the time. He'd get hurt and hed come back. He had a big funny name, a Polish name. He was driving the jeep and they laid Colby on it, they took him back and thats the last I ever saw of him. But hes the one who told me to go get Smitty out of the minefield. So I ran out in the minefield, you know, [it had signs,] "Achtung! Meinen!" I went out and I grabbed him. Smitty was a little guy. He wasnt any bigger than you [Wally] I dont think. Not much.
Wally Ansardi: Smitty was taller than I.
Don Foye: But he was skinny.
Wally Ansardi: He was skinny, yeah.
Don Foye: And I grabbed Smitty by the nap of the neck, and hes screaming and kicking. Now Smitty doesnt remember this, but I was sitting in the restaurant with him, and I said the same thing you did. Smitty said, "The only thing I can remember is whoever grabbed me" and he didnt know until I got to the Omaha reunion that it was me he said, "whoever grabbed me, I remember one thing. I dont know who he was, but I know just what he said."
And I said, "Okay."
He said, "I know what he said. What did you say?"
I said, "I said something to the effect, Smitty, if you dont stop your screaming and kicking, Im gonna shut you up and I can do it. "
Smitty said, "Those are the exact words." He remembered. I said, "Youre gonna get us both killed."
Wally Ansardi: But I cant remember, how did I bandage you up? Were you laying down or standing up? Because I was short as hell.
Don Foye: I was laying down, mostly.
Wally Ansardi: I kept trying to figure it out. I dont think I bandaged that man standing up. Hes taller than me.
Don Foye: No, you didnt. The Kraut kicked see, when he shot us all, I went into a ditch, and he kicked me in the side and rolled me over, and I thought hed probably shoot me again, but he didnt. But he checked my watch. I remember him checking my watch. Because Ive still got the watch, it still runs and I still use it. I went to look at the time and I couldnt see it because it was so covered in blood, and I finally looked at it and it said 11 oclock, about the time you came along.
Aaron Elson: How did the execution take place?
Don Foye: He shot me in the back of the head with something, I guess it was a pistol, I donít know. I guess they didnt know what to do with the prisoners.
Aaron Elson: What went through your mind as you heard this coming toward you?
Don Foye: I didnt really hear it coming toward me so much because youve got to realize, there were shells going over, there were bombs going off. It wasnt just like in this room if somebody opens up with a machine gun. There was just shooting everywhere. It was something that went on day and night. We landed on the beach and there was shooting. We were going across the channel, there was something blowing up. It never stopped. Day or night there was always something blowing up.
When Wally came to patch me up, there were snipers in the trees. They were picking away at him. I thought theyre gonna hit him. I told him to get his head down. I couldnt talk, but I tried to pull him down. I couldnt talk at all. [A piece of ] my tongue got cut off when the bullet went through. And I had no chin. Did you get hit at all, Wally?
Wally Ansardi: Three times.
Don Foye: Three times? Oh, that wasnt bad.
Wally Ansardi: But I never did evacuate. Id go to the aid station.
Don Foye: Thats what I did [before this happened]. I kept going back to the aid station. I went back to the aid station so many times, I dont know how many.
Wally Ansardi: Id go patch myself up. One was a concussion. A damn shell hit a tree.
Don Foye: I got a treeburst.
Wally Ansardi: My ears were bleeding. My nose was bleeding. I went to the aid station for about three days and then I went back [to the front].
Don Foye: When Smitty got hit, I did get hit but when Smitty and I were on the edge of a road, some shell landed somewhere, I dont know where, maybe in the road, and Smitty and I both went up in the air and came slamming down, and all I got was an ungodly stomachache and a nosebleed, the blood was running out of my nose and my ears, they told me. It kept running and it wouldnt stop.
Wally Ansardi: I think thats what affected my ears now.
Don Foye: Well, this ear of mine never was any good.
Wally Ansardi: Its probably just age catching up.
Don Foye: Well, its age, too. Youre a lot older than I am but youre still going. Hey, howd your eyes make out?
Wally Ansardi: I just had a cataract operation.
Don Foye: Last year you were having trouble.
Wally Ansardi: A detached retina. Im getting my sight back in it now. I can see pretty good out of it.
Don Foye: I had cataracts done three years ago.
Wally Ansardi: Oh, man, that was a tough one, Ill tell you.
Don Foye: Cataracts was nothing.
Wally Ansardi: Detached retina.
Don Foye: Oh, I didnt have that.
Wally Ansardi: It was tough. Thats what knocked me on my fanny.
Don Foye: Yeah, you cant fly, can you?
Wally Ansardi: I quit.
Don Foye: I didnt know if you'd quit or not.
Wally Ansardi: I quit.
Don Foye: You quit anyhow?
Wally Ansardi: I know Id kill myself. I was too crazy. I said, Id better quit this business.
Don Foye: My German friend came over and he stayed with me for a couple of weeks, hes half-German, half-French and I speak to him a little of each, and he asked me what you had been up to.
Wally Ansardi: The guy I really would like to see again is Schroeder.
Don Foye: I think hes dead. I dont know, I cant find him. He was a nut.
Wally Ansardi: This guy, he was born in the States, his family was German. He could speak fluent German.
Don Foye: He came from Wisconsin.
Wally Ansardi: Wed catch a Kraut, if the uniform would fit him hed go infiltrate the lines.
Don Foye: Oh, geez, I was with him when he went in a chow line.
Wally Ansardi: He would never go on a patrol unless I went with him. I said, "Why do you want me all the time?"
He said, "You can see in the dark, and you walk light."
Don Foye: I went on patrols with him.
Wally Ansardi: If he went on a patrol, I had to be with him. I wasnt supposed to be there.
Don Foye: Do you remember when he came back with a hundred and some odd prisoners?
Wally Ansardi: Yeah, I was with him.
Don Foye: I was too. Where the hell were you?
Wally Ansardi: I was with him. Have you got the newspaper writing on it?
Don Foye: No, I never got the writing in the newspaper.
Wally Ansardi: Ive got it. Somebody else sent it to me. It wasnt in my local paper.
Don Foye: I would like to see it. Because I had a luger that I pinched from [one of those we captured]. A hundred and eleven prisoners and I had three shots in the luger and Shorter had about five.
Wally Ansardi: Im so glad battalion never did read that newspaper, because medics werent supposed to go on patrols.
Don Foye: I didnt know anybody knew about that.
Wally Ansardi: Yeah, Ill send you a copy of it. I think its the same group youre talking about it.
Don Foye: It could be.
Wally Ansardi: But Schroeder was nuts. We went on a patrol one night, went into town, and the Krauts were sleeping on both sides. And I told him, "shhh, shhh, shhh." Straight ahead. One guy woke up, he touched him on the head, in German he told him to go back to sleep.
Don Foye: Were you with him the night he went in a chow line? He wanted to see what kind of food they had. And Im with him. Theyre all lined up, going through the line. I didnt speak German well, I knew a few words. He said, "You keep your mouth shut, or get out of the way entirely."
I said, "Yeah, Im gonna see what the Kraut food is like."
He got in the line. He had an American uniform on but it was dark. He came back and he had some meat, he had a can of this, he gave me a can. It wasnt bad. It was a hell of a lot better than K rations. They were eating pretty good. But when I got captured they didnt feed me anything but boiled water and cabbage soup with no cabbages and black bread. The black bread, theyd cut it in half, then theyd cut it in four slices, throw you one, and it had blue mold on the outside and things crawling on the inside. I always said if you were a vegetarian you wouldnt eat it.
Aaron Elson: What happened the first time you were captured?
Don Foye: That was the time when they fed me the black bread that was moving. I mean, that was long before this deal with Wally.
Aaron Elson: Right. But how did you get captured again?
Don Foye: Thats when that guy was with me, the lawyer fellow that they blew his head off, and then it was my turn, and he didnt shoot me.
Aaron Elson: Did the German say anything?
Don Foye: Yeah. "Achtung!" Something to that effect. I didnt call him a Schweinhund either.
Aaron Elson: And how did you escape?
Don Foye: Oh, well, late one night we were being guarded by a nice kid, he was about 17 and he spoke fairly good high school English, and I spoke half-assed German, and between the two we got along pretty good. He hated the German army. They had taken his sister and his mother, and he hated them.
I never said I hated the American Army, but I certainly didnt want to be there any more than you did. I wasnt there from choice. I had to go. I didnt say that, but I could sympathize with the guy. I said I didnt want to go either. I was right out of high school. I wanted to go to college. But we got talking.
Wally Ansardi: You mean the guy that has his finger out like that and says.
Don Foye: Yeah, "I want you." With the stovepipe hat on. Ive got one of those posters at home.
Wally Ansardi: That one got me.
Don Foye: So, I dont know, he got lax, and I think he did it on purpose. About 2 oclock in the morning, I rolled down a bank. The other time I tried I got caught again and they kind of pounded me a little. That was the night we got strafed by a P-47. And last year I met the guy who was in that same line that got strafed with a P-47, he was with us here. He told me all about it. He rolled into the ditch and stayed there, and they missed him on the count. I rolled into the ditch and they came and fished me out.
Well, this P-47, you know what they were? They were a flying engine. They had eight .50s. They were a vicious machine. He told me, "You didnt get hit, did you?"
And I said, "No. They started shooting." But youve got eight .50s coming at you, and the guys hitting about 300 miles an hour, and they all go into a point. He was telling me this last year in Indianapolis. He said, "Do you remember what happened?"
I said, "Yeah. I rolled into a ditch, but I didnt see anybody get hit."
He said, "Ill tell you why. I was at the very end, and I watched it. That plane came down, he stopped shooting. He pulled up. There were Germans out in the road. We had no helmets on, we were on the side of the Germans, about four of them. He came down, and he stopped shooting and he went off. And when he went off he wig-wagged his wings. He saw who it was." And Id forgotten that.
Wally Ansardi: They told us before we landed on the beach that our airplanes would have white stripes on them. Guess what. The Krauts had the same damn thing.
Don Foye: I had a German come over with an ME-109, a Messerschmitt, and he circled two or three times, and a guy jumped up on the cooks truck with a ring-mounted .50 on the roof, and I hollered at him, "Wait a minute! Dont shoot."
He said, "Ill get the guy."
"Dont do it!"
The guy was just circling. Well, you know the hedgerows, the fields in the hedgerows, some were bigger than others. This guy flew around, I stopped a whole bunch of shooting at him. He came down with the Messerschmitt. He pancaked it in there, slid it sideways, and stopped. I went over to him, and another fellow. Colby was gone. Do you remember a guy named Joe Boyd? They made him a first lieutenant after Colby got hit. Joe Boyd, it could have been him, we went over there, and the German pilot got out of the plane. He stepped off the plane, came down, took his helmet off, and saluted me, and then took out his luger and handed it to either Joe Boyd or myself, backwards, and that was the end of the war for him. I dont know what he had in mind but he didnt want any more.
Joe Boyd told me the day I got captured, around Hill 122, you were there no doubt.
Wally Ansardi: I didnt miss any of it. From Normandy all the way to Czechoslovakia.
Don Foye: No, but you might not have been up that hill. I went up in 96. I rented a Mercedes, and I took the back road up, the one I went up [during the war]. My wife is yelling her head off. I found out it was a rear wheel drive because the rocks were coming off the back. It was a 600-kilometer car, 600k is nothing for mileage, it had about 1,000 miles when I rented it. And I went up that thing all the way to the top. I said, "Look. I got the biggest Kraut car I could get out of Paris, and last time I never got up this hill all the way because I got shot. I got stabbed. I got captured. Now Im going up this stinking thing. With this Mercedes." And I did. It was kicking dirt and rocks all the way up the hill. Not on the main road, on the inside road.
Aaron Elson: You had said that you saw Jim Flowers tank burning?
Don Foye: But I didnt know who they were. If I remember correctly, that was before we went up the hill. It appeared to me like he went through this, again the hedgerow was killing you because you couldnt go anywhere but through these stupid openings. They had you. You couldnt go over them. So I think at the end of the field, and I could be wrong. Im wrong on a lot of things. My memory is 56 years old, I mean from that event, and everything happened so fast and so much that I could be wrong on that. But it seemed to me that he ran into some 88s that were a vicious, vicious gun. I wish wed had them. With an armor piercing shell that would go through a tank. I dont mean into it. I mean through it. But we had a bazooka that would bounce off the tank, and they had a panzerfaust which was a little hand held thing that would go right into our tanks, and the 88 would go through it.
Flowers' tank came through this field, and probably he had 75s on the tank which would bounce off theirs, and they had these 88s, and they were in a corner. And as he came into this field with four tanks I think it was, boom-boom-boom, they picked them like shooting fish in a barrel, in my estimation. But remember now, everything was happening. Everything was firing. Everything was blowing up. And it wasnt that easy to pinpoint, but then the tank was burning.
When I went over, they had a monument mounted [near where the tanks were hit]. Somebody put it at that spot, theres a carved rock, and its got the names of Abie Taylor, I remember, and a few others. Some lady owned the land, and she gave it to some organization that made the, its like a large gravestone if you will, and she keeps it with flowers all around it with the flags on it, when I saw it. It stays that way. This was the ladys request, and she was just a local native. But Jim, we were there and we tried to get near the tanks, but they were red-hot, and Im not too sure about any of it, but I was told later that Jim was one of them that came out of it. Then everybody was shooting everyone. And then, I think the worst thing of it was, I hate to say this and I could be wrong, but it seemed like the American shells were landing a little short, too. I think so, but its hard to tell which way they came. I cant condemn anyone, but it was just utter chaos.
I got burned a little on it. After that, I went off and got myself stabbed and captured.
Aaron Elson: How did you get stabbed?
Don Foye: I was going up the hill somewhere in the woods. It was solid pine trees. I dont know what kind, they were evergreens. And it was so thick you couldnt hardly walk through them and they were busting them down, blowing them up. It looked like a hurricane had gone through it. And people were dead everywhere, I dont know how many people, they told me I was with the 358th at that time, I didnt even know that. But we got all mixed up anyhow.
I never got all the way up the hill. It was stupid. Hey, if you want to kill a tree, you cut the bottom off and surround it, you dont go up and cut the top off. You surround the place and let it sit there, but someone had the bright idea, I dont know who, that we had to go up to the top. There was a castle on the top or some type of a building, a big, medieval looking building. Then there was a radar station I was told many years later, and it was the highest point on the Normandy peninsula I was told later. You dont know anything when youre there.
And up the hill we went, and down the hill we went, and up again. Finally I ended up with two of us standing. There was a machine gun blasting away. Everton and myself, Donald Everton and I were going up the hill and I didnt see anyone else, theyre all dead I guess, I dont know, theyre gone, and Im walking on busted trees and everything you could think of including bodies. Everton finally screamed at me over the din of everybody shooting that one of the guys was not dead, it looked like an SS guy, and he came up and he made one lunge at me and out of the corner of my eye, I just leaned over. I had my foot caught into somebodys body or something, and I guess there was a bunch of bodies there, or trees, and I tripped over something, but the only thing that was sticking me, where he went down, he went down my leg with a dagger. You can still see the scar. It went all the way to the bottom. Fifty-something years later you can still see it. But I had those canvas leggings on, and they helped a lot. It went right down to just next to where the eyelets were. It was just a mean, long cut but it wasnt that deep. And then I dont know, we, Everton or somebody told the SS guy or whoever he was politely we didnt want him to be there and asked him to leave and he did, I put it that way. He left. And then the next thing you know we went further up and there were only two of us left and we both got captured.
Everton was not daring. He was the nicest guy, hes dead now, but he was not daring like I was, and we got separated. They took us in a truck and I told you, my leg was split, the American medic fixed it first I think, and that didnt last it wasnt Wally I couldnt walk very good, it hurt so bad and it was bleeding, so I was walking down this road when I said the airplane strafed us or started to. But then the cut opened up again and some German medic came along and bandaged it again, and it helped a lot. But I told Donald Everton, "Im getting out of here if I get a chance." Like Ezra Erb, a guy that I met last year, he escaped. But Everton was afraid theyd kill him. He stayed the whole war. He ended up in Berlin working in a bunker. And he got out after the war was over.
This was the same time with the lawyer. We went up the hill further and we got into a foxhole. Thats when the Kraut stuck the gun in my face, that was the same time.
Aaron Elson: So Everton was with you then also?
Don Foye: Yes. Not in the hole with me, but he was always around. He was just a nice guy that was always there. I couldnt ask for a nicer guy. Im still very friendly with his wife, his widow, I talk to her, shes been to the house.
Everton and I were in basic training together, and Ed Gankarski, who is with me here today, Ed said one day after we got back from the 1996 or 97 reunion, "You know, I wonder if Everton is still alive. He got captured and he stayed the whole war in Germany."
I said, "I dont know." But I worked for the phone company. I said, "Ill call around."
Ed said, "He lives in Schenectady, New York, I think."
So I called information one evening, and the operator said, "There are no Evertons in Schenectady, but I think there are some in Troy."
I asked her for the Troy numbers, and she said, "I cant find it. I thought there were, but there are none listed in the book."
"Can I speak to your chief operator?" I said I worked for the phone company, and they treated me well.
She said, "Yes. Theres no evidence in the book." But she said, "Wait a minute. I think I can help you."
Pretty soon another operator came on and said, "Can I help you?"
I said, "Im looking for an Everton, Donald Everton, but they tell me theres none in the book."
Now theres a dead silence. And she said, "Donald Everton was my father. But he died five years ago," of a heart attack or something. He was 65 or 70 then. But she said, "My mother is still around. Would you like to talk to her?"
She said, "The reason that you dont find it in the phone book is because I work for the phone company and I live with my mother and I put the phone in my name when my father died and I get the phone for a discount." She had been married, and her name was something else.
So she called her mother, and I said, "Beverly Everton?" This is 9 oclock at night.
And she said, "Yes?"
I told her my name. She couldnt remember it particularly because I hadnt talked to her since 1943. Everton was going with her, he hadnt married her yet but he mentioned her a lot. So I explained who I was, and the first thing I said was, "I was with your husband, Donald Everton, when he was captured in France."
There was a dead silence, and she said, "Oh."
Well, she said, "Im sitting here, its 9 oclock at night, and its Flag Day. Im watching the Flag Day parade on television," or a tape of it. June 14 is Flag Day, and she said, "Im sitting here all alone. My daughters working. Im sitting here crying my eyes out because my husband is gone and Im thinking of the flag and patriotism, and Im reading the paper. Its in my lap right now, and the horoscope said, Today you are going to get a call from a stranger which is going to be a very nice call." I dont remember the exact words. It was something to that effect. And she said, "I just was reading that and the phone rang and it was you."
We talked quite a bit. Ultimately, she came down with her family, she brought her three kids down to visit me, they drove in the yard one day and we were several hundred miles from her in Massachusetts, in Middleboro, and she was over in New York State.
Aaron Elson: How long were you in the hospital?
Don Foye: I was in many hospitals. Roughly a year, give or take.
Aaron Elson: Did you have plastic surgery?
Don Foye: Oh god, yes. One after the other. I got a jaw put in, then I got a piece put in it. Now I can eat. I can chew. I had a bagel today, the first time I ever had one in my life. It was kind of rubbery, and I had it on the plane coming down here. I got through it but it took a little effort. But I can eat okay. It isnt bad, except if I touch my face, the sensation of wherever I touch it is elsewhere, because they transferred skin from other parts of my body. Now if Im eating and Im one of a group of people they understand it. The left side of my face theyve got skin enough, this is fine. But when I eat, if I should get something on my face, mayonnaise or butter that sticks on your face, I wont know its there. I wont feel it. They tell me. My wife or my friends. Youve got it on your face. Ill ask which side. This side. Okay.
And my tongue is shorter. I didnt speak for about three months, and then I had to learn to speak over again, the words didnt come out right. But they do now, theyre pretty good. My wife says I never stop talking.
Aaron Elson: How did you and your wife meet?
Don Foye: We started school in the first grade together. We went to school from the first grade on. Same town, same school, same room. Same class. We graduated together. Our class reunion is tomorrow night. Todays Thursday. Saturday, the 9th of September, well have been married 55 years. I ordered a corsage, too, she doesnt know it, for this party.
And when we were married 50 years, our son we have two sons, both married, weve got great-grandchildren, but they wanted us to take a trip and so they sent us, we went over and spent a while in Paris for our 50th. Then I went up to Normandy naturally. Took my wife up there.
Aaron Elson: With you two having grown up together, how did she react to your injuries?
Don Foye: Nothing. Just ignored it, just like all my friends. I worked in the public. I did work for the state police. I worked for the phone company. I was always doing something. Always in the public eye. And nothing was ever said, nothing was ever mentioned about my face. I worked for 40 years for AT&T and none of my co-workers knew that I was even in the service. I never mentioned it. Forty years. They were dumbfounded when I gave a talk one time and it got in the newspapers, and they would call up this was long after I retired, Ive been retired 16 years, and they just couldnt believe it was me, the same guy, because they never knew I was in the service. I never told them.
Aaron Elson: When did you start coming to the reunions?
Don Foye: In 1996. Ed Gankarski found me. That is quite a story in itself.
Aaron Elson: How did he find you?
Don Foye: I didnt know where he lived. But Ed got shot up and he and Everton and me, we went through basic and another fellow named Urban Frost were together and we landed, we were in separate outfits when we landed and I dont know where they were, but the next thing you know, Im with them in Normandy. They got shot up, out of action temporarily, shipped back to England for hospital, and I never saw them again. Urban Frost and I were in the same foxhole and a shell came in and blew his shoulder apart, and I thought I was dead because I couldnt tell, he landed on me and I was completely covered in dirt, sticks, cordite powder, and blood. It was his blood, not mine, but I didnt know it. Hes on top of me. I thought I was dead. So I carried him back and I left him in a French farmhouse. I had no idea where we were, and I hoped I got a sympathetic French farmhouse because you never knew which way they were gonna go. Ed got shot up, he got hit by something in the shoulder, shrapnel, and I never saw him again, and then I went on to bigger and better things, stealing cars and swiping tanks and you name it, the German stuff, not ours. I did everything you can think of. You wouldnt believe some of the things I got into. I was with the French underground for a while. After I escaped I didnt know where I was going and I ended up with them, they took me in, they got me back finally. Im going to digress a little. I went back and I showed my wife some of the places where the FFI [Free French of the Interior] hid me, and one of them was an old church. They brought me into this church and they must have had a radio because the next morning there was an Army recon tank with rubber tires waiting for me. They hid me in the church and the Germans are on the outside of these big thick doors, this old Norman church, and the nun wouldnt let them in. She told me to get under the curved pew up front. I had an awful time finding that church again, because they took me there in the dark and I left early in the morning. I remembered the name Ste. Suzanne, well, my wife spotted it. I took her back and showed her the pew that I was under, 52 years after the fact, showed her where I was, the church and everything.
Well, Ed, I called up and I knew nothing about this reunion. I never mentioned [the war], I never talked to anybody, and along came the 50th anniversary of D-Day, and it got me thinking, gee, Id like to go back there, but Id never mentioned it, so I started talking about it and I said to my kids one day, after Id talked in church about it one time, the religious aspect of it Ive got two boys, one is 54 and the others 52 right now but I said, "You listened to my sermon a little bit" -- it went on for two hours -- "did you learn something about your father you didnt know?"
And my oldest son said, "No. Ive heard about it night after night for the last 50 years." In the middle of the night Id wake up in a cold sweat, and curse at myself and go in and put my head under the sink and try to go back to sleep, and they were listening to it.
Anyhow, I was sitting in church one day. This is true, but its weird. I was sitting in church one day, the same one I gave that sermon in, with my two cousins, and during a period of silent prayer where you recall some of the things you shouldnt have done all week, I could see Ed Gankarski in my mind, when he was wounded and sitting over in France. I could see him. Now, this was 52 or 53 years after the fact. So why in the world would I see him? I dont know. So I went home that day and I didnt say anything, and in the next day or two I had to go see a friend of mine in Mass General Hospital in Boston, and on the way back we got tangled up in a tunnel, the Sumner tunnel or one of the tunnels, in traffic. And Im sitting there waiting for the traffic to clear and I see Ed again. In my mind. The same place, waving to me. In France.
Thats weird. Twice. I said to my wife, "Do you remember Ed Gankarski?"
She said, "No, but Ive heard you talk about him."
Well, I said, "Twice now, in the last two days, hes come to my mind for the first time in fifty-something years."
Two days later Im working in the garage my own garage that I play around with antique cars and this camping van drove in the yard and this fellow got out, a little chunky guy, waddled into the garage and he looked at me and he said, "You must be Don Foye."
I said, "Yup."
He said, "Im Ed Gankarski."
Hed gained about 100 pounds of course, or maybe.
And I said, "Yeah." Well, I said, "Im not surprised."
He looked at me kind of funny, and he said, "What do you mean?"
I told him. I said, "Something told me you were around."
He said, "You know, after all these years, something told me you werent dead, because youre listed as dead. Everybody said, No, he didnt make it. Something told me you were not."
He said, "I started digging around, and I got into the archives and I found out you lived somewhere at one time," and he had the wrong town, but he went to that town, which is two towns off, and he said, "I went to the town hall and the woman says, Oh, I went to school with him. I know him. He lives in Middleboro."
He said, "Whatever happened to Urban Frost? Remember, he got blown up and you carried him back?"
And I said, "I dont know."
He said, "Well, I dont think hes dead."
And I said, "I dont know."
He said, "He ended up as a stone cutter somewhere up in the northern parts of Vermont or New Hampshire."
Well, I said, I work for the phone company, so I went in and I picked up the phone at 5 oclock that night in the garage, I have a speaker on it, and I said to the operator, "Somewhere in Vermont is there a stone quarry?"
And he said, "Yes, Barrie," was the biggest one.
Okay. "Get the Barrie operator." She came on.
I said, "Is there an Urban Frost that lives in Barrie?"
She said, "Yes, theres two of them. Urban Junior and Urban Senior."
Hmm. "Well," I said, "lets try the senior."
Now I had it on the speaker. It's getting dark. And the phone rings. Pretty soon he says, "Hello."
As soon as he said hello -- he had that twang of a northern Vermonter -- I said, "You sound like Urban Frost."
And I said, "Don Foye."
Dead silence. I mean, just like youd thrown a switch.
He said, "Youre not going to believe this, but I figured youd call."
He said, "Im sitting here and its dark out," and Eds listening to this. "My wife is gone. My five kids are all gone. Im sitting alone." He lost a leg; he got trenchfoot and I guess whatever, diabetes went into it. "Im sitting here alone in this apartment. And the phone rang. And I said, Its Don Foye."
Okay, you tell me how he knew I was going to call.
Ed and I got in his camper and we went up to see him. We spent the weekend with him. He died shortly after that. We went out to eat with him. I carried him. He lived on the second floor. He had one leg off. I carried him down the stairs. He didnt weigh much. And I put him in Eds camper van.
He said, "Id like to go out with you guys one more time." So hell, then we were probably 74 or 75 years old. And I said, "Well, I carried you across France."
And he said, "Yeah, and I weighed 220 then."
I said, "I can carry you out and put you in the truck." And I did.
We went out and ate. And his kids called me up, afterwards they called me to tell me he died, and I wanted certain things done at the funeral.
And his son said, "That made his day." Ed and I spent the weekend up there, freezing to death in Barrie, Vermont. Now thats the coincidence. How did that happen? I knew he was going to call. So, Im just saying how it happened, Ill let you be the judge.
Those are at least a couple of things that I have no comment to make other than just what happened. And Ed listened to that one. He was on the speaker.
Aaron Elson: Ive heard of similar things. I dont question.
Don Foye: I dont question it either, because, why wasnt I killed? Everybody around me was dead as a mackerel and Im standing there? Relatively so. I dont know. If youve studied theology in any religion, the ones that study it have told me theres no such thing as luck. Ive heard that more than once. That I dont know. Theres something else governing it other than luck. What is luck? I dont know. There doesnt seem to be any definition. But what Ive told you, on this tape, is what happened, but I cant comment on it. But Im still talking to you. And Im over 75. And this all happened. I was on my way home, on the boat, playing the piano for the guys on this hospital ship, on my 19th birthday. I was in the middle of the Atlantic coming home. All this happened before I was 19.