It was not Arthur Wolde’s first choice to go into the medical corps. In fact, he had not even put it down as an option when he was drafted in 1941. He had asked for the air force or arsenal. But with his deployment on November 26, 1941, it would be the role of an ambulance driver that would lead him on an incredible journey.
Having had German immigrants as grandparents, the war with the Axis Powers drove close to home. After being drafted, he was sent to a base in Tennessee, and it was on a weekend jaunt in Nashville that his interesting journey began. He visited a fortune teller and was told that he would fight under two flags, which was not all that surprising considering the times. However, when he was told that he would marry three months later, it came as quite a shock. As it turned out, both would come true in the following few years.
On November 26th, 1941, during the first year of U.S. involvement with the war, Mr. Wolde left for Europe on the Queen Elizabeth. During that voyage, a German Wolf Pack intercepted the vessel, but they escaped due to its speed. From there he landed in Scotland and waited until Operation Neptune, D-Day. During this time, he worked to waterproof his ambulance, which shortened his driving time to fifteen minutes before overheating.
Just after D-day, Mr. Wolde drove out to pick up troops while the rest of the army had pushed seven miles inward. Upon driving into the sea, his car stalled because the air filter had stuck to a window; but with some luck, Mr. Wolde started his vehicle in four and a half feet of seawater.
After the fighting, when the Germans had agreed to allow for aid to come into their lines, Mr. Wolde and Captain Quinton Roosevelt, the nephew of Theodore Roosevelt, dropped nurses off to attend to the wounded. Upon arriving back, a war correspondent asked what had happened–the next day Ernest Hemmingway had published Mr. Wolde all over the world!
Mr. Wolde was later relieved from the 3rd Armored and sent to Paris with the 28th Infantry. They would then take him to Belgium and the opening of the Battle of the Bulge, where Germany put forth an immense offensive campaign in hopes of separating the U.S. and English forces.
Mr. Wolde went on to help capture Remagden and assist the Nordhausen concentration camp. He helped capture many stories through developing pictures for fellow soldiers who could not send rolls of film back to their loved ones. Mr. Wolde eventually wrote the book Ambulance #11, Memories of a WWII Veteran. His unexpected adventures provide an interesting backdrop to the major events in the European Theatre. He was sent home after the atomic bombings in Japan. He is ninety-two years old.
To purchase Mr. Wolde’s book Ambulance #11, Memories of a WWII Veteran click here.
Watch Part 1 below. Part 2 can be seen here.
Interviewed by Kim Copeland on August 23, 2010.