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Who I Am: Sgt. Johnnie I. Tyson, 84

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Did I meet [Patton]? I was right with him! I was his right-hand man. Wonderful man. Wonderful man. He was with me when I got that. [Points to the jagged scar on his forearm.] I got that on the Rhine River, the last invasion. ... That's when the Germans surrendered. … They had a prisoner camp full of Jewish people. We got them loose. Free. See, Hitler was killing them. The gas and everything. But when we got there we changed his story. We changed it. They were glad to see American soldiers.

One day, right off of Berlin up there, they captured 25 of our American soldiers. Well see, I was a first sergeant at that time, and I had a Tommy machine gun and an Army .45 and all. Tommy machine gun and my Army pistol. And that Tommy machine gun would shoot 500 rounds as fast as you could pull the trigger.

So they captured 25 of our American soldiers and General Patton said, right there on the hill by Berlin, "Sergeant, what we gonna do now?" And I said, "We're gonna get 'em." He said, "What?" I said, "We're gonna get 'em. Don't worry."

And I went walking down the hill. He said, "Where you going, sergeant?" I said, "I'm just going down, I'll be right straight back." I went over down the hill where the Germans had our American soldiers. Had 'em lined up. I got every one of them Germans in a line. I killed every damn one of them. It was 32 of the Germans I killed.

It was 25 of our American soldiers, and I went walking back up the hill with our American soldiers. Patton says, "I see where you been now! Thank you, sergeant." I said, "That's all right. It's my job."

We had good men back in them days. I'm gonna tell you something. I was a tough first sergeant. I was a tough one. I ain't gonna lie to you, sometimes I would get — when a shell would fall, 'cause I was in the foxhole, a shell would fall … and I'd get kinda upset a little bit. That made me [want to] go that much more. I wanted to go get them bastards: "You gonna pay for this."

I got out 1959. February 16. … I have six, eight stitches in my stomach, too. Shell bullet.

You got to have a memory. … Sometimes I slip back a little bit. But my boy, he makes me young. I tell you the truth, he's too young right now [to tell war stories]. But I gave him pictures of me in my military uniform and General Patton and everything. And I've got all that stuff for him. I've got one special room down in Carolina, where all my medals and stuff are hanging up. And I've already made arrangements to get 'em all. I won't give 'em to him right now. I'll wait till he gets a little older. — Interviewed by Melissa Scott Sinclair, Photographed by Scott Elmquist.

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