Those Who Survived Anzio Will Go to Heaven

Conrad Newgren describes crossing the Atlantic Ocean during World War II: “There were 100 ships in our convoy near the Rock of Gibraltar. We got hit on Easter Sunday at two o’clock in the morning by German planes. All the planes got shot down, and they fished the pilots out of the water. None of the ships got hit, but that was our first taste of combat. After that, I walked, ran, or crawled all across France, all across Germany. I had malaria seven times.”

During the war, Conrad served with the actor from the television series Gunsmoke, James Arness, on the beachhead at Anzio, Italy in early 1944. Conrad quotes Army Chaplain Johnson, a veteran of the invasion, “Surely all who have survived the assault on Anzio will go to heaven, since they have served their time in hell.”

Conrad says, “I was wounded Thanksgiving Day 1944. There was five or six of us sittin’ there, gonna have our dinner—a can o’ cold beans. When a shell came in, hit all six of us. One guy lost his whole arm; one guy got killed. I just got shrapnel in my left hip.”

Conrad also said he served with Audie Murphy, the most highly decorated soldier during World War II, who went on to become an actor. Conrad says, “I met him on the Anzio beach head when I first got to Italy. We were a couple o’ kids.” Conrad reports he was with Lt. Murphy during their engagement with the enemy in France on January 26, 1945, for which Murphy received the Medal of Honor. “Germans were counter-attacking heavy, and this one tank of ours was already knocked out, but Audie jumped up on it. It had a 50-caliber machine gun on it, and [he] just opened up on ’em; he killed or wounded at least 50 of ’em. I was about 50 feet behind ’em and behind a tree. Finally he took a bullet in the hip, and I seen him fall off.”

For his valorous service during the war, Conrad is a recipient of the Purple Heart and was awarded the distinction of Knight of the French Legion of Honor.

Interview: January 3, 2018