CENTER FOR U.S. WAR
VETERANS' ORAL HISTORIES
World War II
Stephen M. Andel
For the first time in its history, the United States had initiated a peacetime military draft in September 1940. Stephen M. Andel, born in Pennsylvania, was a New York resident when he was drafted into the U.S. Army six months prior to the Pearl Harbor bombing. He would serve in the army from 1941-1945, during World War II. In this interview, his lively, lighthearted spirit accompanies a sense of pride in his shared war stories.
Prior to his service, Andel worked at a chemical plant in Rahway, New Jersey, and had limited knowledge of what was going on overseas. His knowledge of military matters changed dramatically, however, following his induction into the army. He spoke to the interviewer about the rough adjustment basic training brought to his lifestyle. After sixteen weeks training in Fort Jackson, South Carolina, to develop infantry skills, Andel was sent to San Francisco, where he and other soldiers were sent to the still recovering territory of Hawaii.
In his interview, Andel shared his memories of the attack on Pearl Harbor. He described the horrid day and his return from church to horrible news on that Sunday morning. On his arrival in Hawaii, Andel was able to observe the horrific aftermath of the Japanese attack, as he moved from post to post on the islands, including Fort Shafter and Schofield Barracks.
Andel and his fellow soldiers drove past Pearl harbor and were dumbfounded by the damage they observed. When staying in barracks, they were able to see additional damage from bullet holes. Before the end of his time in Hawaii, he secured a position as a cook at the officer’s club, which he described as an escape from his captain. Typical days consisted of preparing food for officer’s meals, then hitchhiking to Honolulu after curfew to enjoy life a bit. Andel described this experience as “very nice – in fact excellent – couldn’t ask for a better place for service”.
Returning to the continental United States after fifteen months of duty in Hawaii, Andel was assigned for six months to Camp Carson, Colorado. From Colorado, he was “bouncing around from one state to another” including Georgia and Louisiana, before eventually being sent to Europe in late 1944. Andel was stationed in Germany as part of the postwar occupation force at Dachau Concentration Camp, where he witnessed the aftermath of abuse and murder of innocent civilians targeted by the Nazis. Commenting on this experience he stated, “if anyone asks you if there is any truth to the concentration camps, you can tell them yes definitely”. Andel shares the tale of these trying times in such a positive tone and lighthearted manner, allowing for a gentle delivery of aggressive but important information. This interview, like many, offered an original insight to history through the eyes of one remarkable veteran, Mr. Stephen M. Andel.