War memoirs of Linus Bergman
© Copyright 2007 CatholicHistory.netThe following is an edited transcript of an oral interview with Linus Bergman conducted by David Kaiser, December 28, 2006. It is edited for readability and length.
Part I (Part II)
DK: Describe your life as a Catholic prior to World War II.
I was born in 1918, December 1918. My parents were both Catholic. I was bapized, I had instruction from our local priest, and my First Communion. I led a good Catholic life. Everybody in our area was Catholic, so Sunday was a holiday. Nobody worked on Sundays, other than in our case—we had a lot of dairy cows, we milked cows—other than that... I got a good Catholic learning, I come to believe in the faith.
DK: Who taught you religion?
We had the local priest. We had nuns, but since we went ot a one-room schoolhouse a couple miles away, we were instructed by the priest on Sundays.
DK: Afternoon or after church?
Afternoon. We had instruction and then we had vespers, every Sunday.
DK: When you went into the military, what branch of the military were you in, did you enlist or were you drafted, and describe some of the early training you got in the military?
I was drafted into the service, when world war was declared. I had some tests and after I came through with about 125 aptitude score, I went into the US Air Corps—now called the Air Force—was sent to school immediately, aircraft maintenance school within 10 days, for 8 or 9 months. I never had basic training, I never shot a gun at any time, nor did we have roll call, calisthenics, throughout my almost 4 years of service, 3 years of that as a combat flyer in Europe.
DK: Go through a list of the different places you were assigned while in the military.
I went from Columbus to Texas, to near Champaign Illinois. I went to school there and I had a high enough grade I was selected to go to post graduate school in New York City. A month or 6 weeks later I went overseas and was assigned to my unit.
DK: Where was your unit located?
We went on a ship to Ireland, then to Scotland, then to somehwere near London. Until they decided to go to North Africa, so we were in the invasion of North Africa. So I did most of my combat flying in Africa and Italy, Sicily, and my last mission was in southern France. When I was finished flying missions—you were only supposed to fly so many—I was assigned to headquarters flight section, which I had a great opportunity to see the world over in Europe. From London to Paris to Rome to Africa to the Middle East—all countries in Europe: Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Romania. It was a great opportunity for me to see many things.
DK: Describe how you experienced your religion, including Mass, confession, prayer life—including how you interacted with other soldiers who may not have been of the same faith.
From the beginning of my service, we had general absolution, because the one priest could not hear confession ahead of time—so we had general absolution. Usually, in the United States, we did have a chapel on the base which was a multidenominational chapel, and everyone would go to communion. That’s the way it was in the United States. But once I got overseas, we had very much a lack of chaplains. And while I was in England, I did have a chance to go to chuch a little bit more. And I was to the big churches in Engalnd: St. Paul’s Cathedral, which was a Catholic church—they had no benches only chairs in there. Many of the churches did not have kneeling pads or the kneeling benches—they didn't kneel. I went to church in Notre Dame, and the strange thing in the French churches was the way they took up collection. They would come around and if someone had a larger denomination they didn’t want to leave, he would take change out of the basket, put his bill in there, then the basket would go on [laugh]... I thought that was strange, but they did it anyway. Quite a few of their chuches were built the way some churches in the US are built now—they have a center aisle and people face each other on each side. They had no kneeling benches. But they did have church every week.
Us guys out on the field, which was aproximately 35 miles away form any other field—we needed room to practice, flying practice—a visiting chaplain would come around maybe once month, and he would come out for breakfast, and we would have general absolution and communion and he would bring a little altar. So, sometimes I wasn’t home, on a mission. Our Sundays were not observed, nothing. If we couldn't fly, go on a mission, [it would be] like any other day of the week. Sometimes you weren’t there. But we had general absolution throughout my entire four years of service.
DK: So when you were on your base in Africa—how many guys would be at one of your services?
Oh, maybe 25. Of course we didn’t know he was coming sometimes either.
DK: Did you ever have times that you had a couple hundred people at service at one time?
No, not on the base.