Tuesday, June 3. 2008
Welcome to the
Drawing inspiration from the Ken Burns’ recent documentary, “The War,” students interviewed veterans from
In addition to the stories presented the interviews have been recorded and will be sent to the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress in
Below you will find many stories from our veterans and actual transcripts from the interviews.
Giles Ron Munsey Transcript
G: Giles Munsey
S: Um, This is Giles Munsey, he serves as a captain in the army in WWII. He was born on May 3rd, 1929. Today’s date is April 17th, 2008 in Arcadia, California and my name is Sara Chang and um, I guess I am a (unintelligible) of Arcadia. This is…this interview is being conducted for the Arcadia Veterans History Project and the Library of Congress. So can you tell us um… where you were born?
G: I was born in Alhambra, California.
S: Um…Parent’s Occupations?
G: Well, my father was a travel man, he traveled a lot and when we moved to Alhambra, he had a gasoline station and then a battery manufacture business.
S: Umm…the number of siblings and gender you had?
G: 1 brother.
S: What were you doing before you were drafted into the service?
G: I attended Pasadena Junior College.
S: Did you have any relatives that served
G: In what?
S: Um, uh…okay
G: Oh, my father served in WWI, My wife who served in the navy in WWII.
S: What about your brother?
G: My brother is 12…was 12 years younger than I was and served in the navy but not during the war.
S: How did you enter the service?
G: I was drafted.
S: And, um, where did you go train?
G: My basic training as enlisted man was at Camp Roberts in California.
S: Um, how was…how was it like in the area?
G: Uh, well, it was 13 weeks of training, intensive training. My training was in heavy weapons, I was enlisted man and then I applied for officers training and was accepted.
S: Um…Did you have any specialized training?
G: I was…well, went to infantry officer school which is in Fort (unintelligible) in Georgia.
S: How was it like adapting to military life?
G: I didn’t have any problems, I spent a lot of years at boy scouts and camp and I had some regimentation there and uhh it was no problem there.
S: How were the physical conditions?
G: It was not difficult for me.
S: What about the barracks?
G: I was in many different kinds of barracks; they were all reasonably comfortable to me.
S: Dating and social life?
G: Well, we didn’t have any time for much social life because we were busy training for the war.
S: Okay, so, um, did you only serve in the U.S.?
G: I served not only in the U.S., but I served two in half years in Europe, Italy, France, and Germany.
S: Uh…What are the details of your training?
G: I don’t exactly know what you mean.
S: Oh, how did you, uh, journey on a ship to Europe?
G: OH, I went to Europe from Newport(unintelligible connecting word), Virginia then landed in Missouri then we went uh to Africa and from Africa we went to the Naples area and joined the 3rd division and then we went North of Naples in Italy.
S: Mm…okay… that’s how you got there? Did you witness any action, you in action once you go to Italy?
G: (Nods) Yes, I was in action from then on; we were all in action in 3Rd division was in. I was in a total of 7 campaigns and I think the division was in uh… 9 campaigns the division I was in and there were about 2 campaigns before I was…came in.
S: What were the campaigns like?
G: They were combat. There were in Italy south of the (unintelligible) river it was tough fighting, the division was on the (unintelligible) beach head after we captured Rome, we were pulled out of the line we trained with other troops then lined in southern France.
G: We, uh, once we reached the Rhine River, we were assigned for several months to the first French army to clear out an area what was call the Cold Water Pocket and then we were back.
S: What were your emotions related to combat?
G: I didn’t like it.
S: What was it like witnessing everything?
G: It was shocking, but uh, it’s just part of army life and combat.
S: What about the destruction?
G: Well, we saw major destruction and once we got into Germany, some of the buildings and towns were bombed out completely. French campaign was pretty much fast moving from where we were, Italy was uh…tough fighting and from then on it was fairly easy except for certain pitch battles that would last for a few days.
S: Um, did you find any friendships?
G: uh, well of course I was with the same group with officers and men for a 2 and a half years, so yes I had some friends but none of them continued after I left the service.
S: Um, how did you stay in touch with your family and friends back home?
S: Was it uh, did it take a long time?
G: It took a long time; we would go for weeks without receiving mail because we were moving in a combat situation and took a while for mail to catch up with us.
S: How did you send letter back home?
S: Did you wait for the postal?
G: Well we would send it up to the infantry and I don’t’ know what happened there they finally got back to the U.S., I didn’t write that often.
S: What about recreation off duty?
G: Well, we had…once we got to France and the situation became more fluid and more rapid movement, the officers and men were allowed to take uh brief leave like one week leaves, I visited Paris on leave and I visited the French Riviera on leave and some people were able to go to London.
S: Have you been back yet?
G: No I haven’t been back.
S: What it different from
G: Paris was uh, fine, functionally the metro was functioning, I was able to get all over town using the subway the military personnel would not charge any fees or riding the metro, if you had a map you could go anywhere you wanted to.
S: So where were you when the war ended in Europe and when?
G: When the war ended in Europe we were in Slosberg, Austria we already go there, we were heading down farther than where it was declared and we were heading down in…and we pulled out and spent a month in Slosberg.
S: what were you going to do before you left?
G: well we were going to clean up any German troops that were still down there. Then the war ended Uhh…So that was it.
S: How did you …
G: Well I stayed on occupation for a while in western Germany, and when I left to finally come home…I went to…Laharve in France and my shift, from the Laharve to New York, then I crossed the country back to California.
S: Um…How was your reception by your family?
G: Oh, they were happy to see me; it had been three years since I had been with them.
S: Were there a lot of friends from high school or junior high school that were also drafted?
G: I…took up with my all of my friends I had prior to the war, we got together regularly went back to school on the G.I. Bill then I got back, I went to USC, I got into USC, several of my old friends that been in service were…at that time.
S: How was being adjusted back to civilian life?
G: I didn’t have any particular problems.
S: So do you still contact with your fellow veterans?
G: No uh, not with the group I was with in the service, I still have contacts a few other friends and some other veterans that I have met through the years of service but none of those that were in the 30th infantry or the 3rd division.
S: Do you have membership in the Veterans…?
G; No, I don’t
S: So…How did wartime experience affect your life?
G: Well, it changed my career plans; I was uhh…music major in school before the war, and when I went back I took a business course instead I didn’t go back to music.
S: What did you play?
G: I play the clarinet and the saxophone.
S: Oh, really? Me too. I play the clarinet.
G: Is that right?
G: I played the…I played in high school and junior college and dance bands uhh…professionally.
S: So, you were going to be a music player or…music major?
G: Yeah, I was a music major at PJC.
S: So because of the war drafted you…you changed your major?
G: Yeah I decided I wouldn’t go back into music.
S: Do you still play?
G: I still play the piano…I had taken courses… (Interrupted by ringing of phone)
G: Now, where was I?
S: Uhh…music major.
G: I had taken enough music courses I…used to write orchestrations for the dance band and I had studied harmony and theory and so forth so I was able to teach myself piano.
S: Really? Haha…that’s amazing. So what life lessons have you learn from the military service?
G: I don’t…I really don’t have any major lessons I learn from the military god, I just felt like it was necessary, as a matter of fact, I tried to enlist in the navy as soon as the war began at the time but because of my vision I couldn’t pass the physical test so I waited to be drafted. And that’s why I was drafted. But uh…the whole experience…and still the patriotism, I still very patriotic to the United States.
S: You said you were enlisted again or…did you?
G: I, well, I …Pearl Harbor been bombed and it was obvious we’d began war in fact they already declared way and I wanted to get into action as soon as possible. Some of my friends used there music experience to join army bands and I didn’t because I didn’t want to take that path.
S: So you did you first get drafted and then you enlisted back into the army or?
G: well, I attempted to enlist and couldn’t get into the navy because they wouldn’t trust eyes that soon with glasses on them, so later I could’ve got into the navy because they had to relax their physical requirements. But I then I waited and I was drafted and then went in the infantry and like I said before I went to the officer’s training.
S: What was one thing that you remembered…what was your most memorable moment?
G: Nothing stands out as uh…the greatest experience it’s all kind of a montage now.
S: Haha, Okay, so, uh, I think yeah that about wraps up our interview.
S: Thank you so much.
Honors US History
Win Ballance Transcript
Ping: So let’s start off with your name, birthday, war served and branch and highest rank achieved…I’ll go through that again, so name
Win: My name is Win Ballance, Charles W. Ballance legally.
P: Ok, and birthday?
W: 7 July 3 ‘23
P: War served and branch of service?
W: United states marine corps, 5 years
P: Highest rank achieved is?
W: Staff sergeant.
P: Ok, wonderful and so let’s start off with a few biographical details. So where and when were you born?
W: I was born in East Milton, Massachusetts
P: Massachusetts, wonderful and can you tell us about your parents what did they do and number of siblings?
W: Well my parents moved to California when I was 14 months old we lived in San Marino then we were in Altadina and we ended up in Pasadena
P: And did you have any siblings or…?
W: I had 2 bros and 2 sis
P: Big family, that’s good. What did your parents do?
W: My dad retired from the wool business in Boston and moved here and then the depression wiped him out and he ended up being the owner of a meat market in Pasadena
P: And your mother was…?
W: My mother was a housewife however she did work in a grocery store that my father owned out in Anandale for a while so…
P: So what were you doing before you entered the service and when was that actually?
W: I was going to school.
P: Oh, you were going to school? Ok and when did you enter the service.
W: Beg your pardon?
P: When did you enter the military service
W: In September 1945
P: And you were around 17, 18?
W: I was 17, just a punk kid
P: Haha, ok, did you have any other family member that served or were you the first?
W: I had a brother that served in the Navy for I don’t know how long 3, 4 years?
Vivian: Was he in same time as you?
W: No he’s younger than I so he didn’t get in the thick of battle
P: Haha, so can you tell us what made you want to join, what urged you on?
W: I was just a drifting kid and a friend of mine joined and talked me into it so we joined the marine reserve and they called them into active duty in about…1945... no, 42… when was Pearl Harbor? That was 42 wasn’t it?
P: Yeah, 41, 42, end of 41.
W: Yeah it was the end of 41, I had a 15 days referral starting the next day but I didn’t get it
P: Hahaha I see, understood, ok so let’s go on to the early days of service. How was like the, uhh, whole training process all of that? What happened? How was that like for you?
W: What? In the service?
P: Yeah, the training ,you know, boot camp.
W: Well I joined the reserve and they called the reserve into active duty, we were mobilized and went down to Camp Elliot in San Diego and uhh from there I went to a radio school down at the Marine corps base in San Diego. We studied Morse code in those days they don’t use it anymore and uhh we learned to send and receive Morse code and all the uhh radio procedures and when we graduated from there I went to the headquarters and service company in the 8th Marine located in San Diego at the marine base. I was with them for almost 5 years or 4 years and other times.
V: So like the radio communications your specialty
V: So was like deciphering Morse and all that your specialty
W: Yeah, I was a radio operator
P: Of course
W: Yes, in the early days most everything was done by Morse code not too much reliable voice communications sets we had one but half the time it didn’t work so in the early part we were uhh…in Morse code
P: And you were basically communicating between the fronts, the European front and Pacific
W: Yeah, I was in the HQ company and they were talking to the battalions
W: And we were sending messages from there
P: And how does that work did you send any dire messages? You know, in need of help?
W: Messages are 5 letter code groups and uhh they sent by code we copy them pass them on they would decode them pass them on, go on from there…
P: And what kind of messages were these, in general?
W: Operational messages
P: I see
W: We’re out in the field training, out in the boondocks at San Diego and the uhhh the company commanders sending each other messages.
P: Ha, and how was it like adapting to life in the military the uhh…
W: You shut your mouth and do as you’re told
P: I see, and homesickness? Any of that?
W: Beg your par…
W: No, no
P: Not so much?
W: No, no, they keep your pretty busy
P: Ok, I see, and you wrote home yes?
W: We came home I was… we went in… in the 45 or 46… when was Pearl Harbor? 40?
W: Well we were I was in there earlier then so I would be able to have…we’d come home on liberty uhh during that time Pearl Harbor was Januar…December 7th and we left the states January 6th we were the first troops out of the states after war was declared and uhh we went by troops transport accompanied by the SS Saratoga, aircraft carrier, and we went to American Samoa at mortar. Fortified there and we were there for about 8 months then we went to reinforce the 1st marine division at Guadalcanal
W: So we started there
V: You said you went in after Pearl Harbor, what was your reaction toward Pearl Harbor?
W: Anger like everybody else…and shock
P: Another driving force?
W: Yeah, I had come home to borrow a car cause I had a 15 day referral starting on Monday and I had to go back to get the papers of course it didn’t happen we went to camp and we just got ready to ship overseas and so I was in American Samoa for what 6 to 8 months and then we reinforced the first marine division at Guadalcanal and uhh when that battle was over we went to New Zealand to rest and most of us had malaria by that time from the mosquitoes at Guadalcanal. It used to be fun sleeping, we used to put helmet on and then the net around here and socks on our hand and tuck in beds and they would just bite through everything.
P: Ohh ahh
W: And then finally we’d get back to the cots they had mosquito nets and this would be full of mosquito bites and every place you touched the nets full of bites, so yeah we had some fun
P: Even bite through the nets I guess?
W: Oh yeah they bite you right through it
P: All in Guadalcanal?
W: So in New Zealand we fight through the malaria, several patches. A lot of fun. First of all you get a chill and you pile every blanket you can find on ya and then all of a sudden they all come off and you sweat for umpteen hours. Yeah, I had several bouts of that. Anyway from New Zealand, we boarded ships and we ended up in the uhh the Perianas in a little place called Tarawa we lost about what 3000 people taking this little island of 600 yards wide and a mile long that was uhh that was uhh the second battle I would say then from Tarawa we went to the uhh big island of Hawaii to rest and get shaped up again and from Hawaii we boarded ship and we did practice maneuvers on some of the islands in the Pacific and then we invaded Saipan and Tinian. So I took place in 4 major campaigns radio operator radio chief
P: And then… did you see the front line action
W: No, I was in the regimental HQ so I was not right on the front line but you really are exposed wherever you are… and the uhh… we were, let’s see, I was the radio chief at Saipan and I had 11 different radio operators running different sets so we had a lot of communications going
P: And can you paint a picture of how it’s like to be in a battle like this?
W: Well, you get busy doing your job you can’t worry about too much cuz I’ve been shot at and missed. I did end up with a shrapnel in my back from a shell that landed on me in Saipan but nothing serious. Didn’t get my purple heart for it…
W: Ha, but uhh you just don’t have time to worry about it you got a job to do you gotta do it.
P: I mean, what have you seen of the action, what have you seen yourself, how is that like in your mind?
W: Well being in the regimental HQ we’re not right on the frontline shooting we dig our foxholes and sleep in them at night and we do our radio work as required. On Saipan, I was recording, not recording, hearing what was happening on the frontline. Our colonel was there and I would have to tell him what was happening and where they were. We had quite a fight there on Saipan with the army. They had this one sniper holding up their whole advance. The marines left the sucker there and kept going and go back to get him. So, we had quite a fight with the army and they relieved an army general because he didn’t fight like the marines wanted. It’s interesting
P: Interesting to say the least
Charissa: You said that you fought with the army, were the marines and the army really divided?
W: Yes, marines…once a marine always a marine
W: Haha, marines operate different than the army we do the landings we go in and then, let’s see, and uhh we didn’t have a forced landing on Guadalcanal cuz they were already ashore but we’d have these vehicle boats and the front ramp drops and off you go. On Saipan, they had coral reefs and we’d have am-tracks, ones that go over the corals in the water, and uhhhhh that’s how we get ashore anyway. We then set up our HQs and communicate.
P: For the army though what… what do they do?
W: Army do their own thing and marines do their own battles. We go ashore first
P: I see and after that you make way for the army
W: Yeah, they basically take over yeah
P: And uhh the…what about the sorta emotions you have associated with combat, as a radio operator? What you do as a radio operator, what do you associate with that?
W: Uhh…let me think…we didn’t really get to that we just sorta do our duty we’d climb over that transport ship and we’d climb over the cargo nets to get to boats down below and we’d have over 100 pounds on our back with part of the radio, personal gears, rifle, the whole bit and hooks so in case you get into the water so you can get out of it. But uhh that’s how we’d get ashore climbing down the side of the ship.
V: Was this physically challenging for you…?
V: Like when you were transporting, getting in and getting out was it hard for you to do it?
P: Was it challenging?
W: well the transport ships housed a lot of people you slept in beds about this far apart you couldn’t roll over w/o hitting someone’s fanny up above ya. And they were 6’ long and I was 6’1” at the time so you didn’t quite fit at the time. So it’s an experience all on its own.
What about some other aspects the living conditions what did you eat what did you…you know
There was a mess hall and we had certain times that we’d go eat and they fed us as best they could
P: And for recreational activities?
W: We used to play a little black jack, bridge and just sit on deck and watch the fly fish go by
P: Waiting, for the most part?
W: It’s very monotonous, you got nothing to do; however, being a radio operator, we used to go up at the top of the radio shack and they’d let us copy codes on some of the ships, coming back we used to stand watch for the sailors so they can wake their reliefs and we’d test our skills. Something to do. Kept us going.
P: Looking back on all this now how do you feel about all this?
W: I’m glad I did my duty. This is my country and I’m glad I stood up for it
P: As for the war itself how do you how do you…I know war is a terrible thing you know but how did you feel when it was over?
W: How did I feel when the war was over? Relived. I was in Oahu about to go to Guam, my second trip out. Spent almost 3 years over seas. Received more training the year I was back and now I was going to Guam. I’d have been on the landing at Iwo. I got out of Iwo because after Saipan and Tinian we’d been there for 32 months so they let us go home otherwise I’d have been at Iwo and Iwo is one of the bloodiest battles
P: And umm
V: When you’ve been overseas for as you’ve said 5 years
W: I spent 3 years overseas
V: That’s a long time
P: And over this course of the three years, did you make any friendships, you know, did you make any friends, sort of lifelong…
W: Yeah I had some friends in the service haven’t seen them in years, moved and never left me an address other than that never made any contact with anyone I was in the service with.
P: While a part of it though, the whole camaraderie the whole everything everyone having each other’s backs….But while in the service the whole feeling of camaraderie, yeah? Having everyone…
W: Oh yeah, you had your friends and you stuck up for them. They get hurt you stuck for them
P: But how has the war changed you?
W: How has it changed me? I guess it made me grow up in a hurry. It’s something you don’t wanna do again. I hate to see it going on. Why just yesterday we haven’t had peace ever since we quit WWII. We have a fight somewhere. It’s sad. It hurts pretty bad.
C: You said you always had to be alert and sharp, how do you discipline your mind?
W: Well, you have to keep alert about ya. You don’t go to sleep and forget it all. It doesn’t just go away.
C: Was it difficult like when you got distracted? Thinking about home?
W: No…you’re too busy doing your thing, can’t worry about what shoulda been.
P: What about when you got back from being abroad. You know, how was it like adjusting to normal life again.?
W: Normal life? Well. You had to find a job. Of course, I got out and some woman caught hold of me and I had to marry her. That was sixty-two years ago. She’s in the other room
W: Umm…yeah I went to work my dad had a meat market so I became a meat cutter for about 8 years. Worked for him then he sold out then I worked for the chain that used to be Market Basket, some of you might remember that from far back. I worked for them for about 8 years. Then I quit them and worked as a salesman for Oscar Meyer for about 5 years. At the end of that time, I went into business with my younger brother who was an architect and we went into construction. Built 3 to 4 apartments locally, we built a conference center up in Twin Peaks, teacher’s association, 48 houses and uhh…and he and I split up and I went into re-modeling and I did that for quite a few years. I got uhh tied up with Edison Company as an independent contractor and I did everything from hanging TP holders to remodeling offices. So I did that for awhile and then I guess after that I just retired. I’ve been retired since 1988.
P: Living the sweet life, huh?
W: I keep busy.
P: But as far as the mindset all that goes, you’re sort of on your toes all through the war and having to come home to just…
W: I didn’t have any trouble adapting.
P: Oh, you didn’t have any trouble adapting?
W: No, I was too busy chasing my wife.
P: Do you still think back to the war even now? Think back on it?
W: On occasion.
W: Yeah, I got a plaque in here that’s got all my battle ribbons
P: Get a shot of that later.
W: I can bring it in
P: Just kinda record that. That’s wonderful. You can see us filming. That looks good. That looks good.
P: So how has the war affected your life? If at all? Changed your outlook on life? How you see yourself?
W: I’d hate to see anybody having to go out and you know…no way to settle anything
V: What is your view on the Iraq War…right now?
W: I want us to the hell outta there…if you’ll pardon my French.
P: We actually interviewed an Iraq War veteran just yesterday.
W: He said the same thing?
P: He did but he also said that in terms of the news we need to show the good that’s happening over there
W: Yeah, all they show is the bad stuff, we’ve done good but those people have been fighting for thousands of year and we can’t change anything
P: We can’t expect to
W: They’ve been fighting since before the days of Christ
P: McCain expecting us to go there and fight for a hundred years more. I don’t know
W: Yeah, forever…
P: Ok, and life lessons? Leadership skills, any of that?
W: Repeat the questions?
P: What about life lessons? Any leadership skills you’ve garnered from the experience?
W: They make you take care of yourself, you don’t depend on others. You take care of yourself.
V: What kind of message do you want I guess to send to the younger generation who want to join the army or the marines
W: Advice if they join? Stay…stay a civilian.
Mrs. Ballance: How are you doing here?
W: Good morning sit down. This is my wife.
MB: I was just gonna take a shower.
W: I’m getting grilled
P: Ha, yeah, he’s sharing some of his experiences.
W: Now, what was the question I was supposed to answer?
P: What advice would you give to young people who are joining the military themselves?
W: Don’t be a smart-ass. You can change the wording. I think uhh I think most everybody oughta do a stint in the service I don’t know if I wouldn’t encourage every young man to do a stint. It would stop a lot of the garbage.
P: Umm in terms of…overall though you would say that it was a rewarding experience for you?
W: Oh yes it was quite an experience.
P: Quite an experience! You learned a lot ?
W: You learn a lot, you learn to be self-sufficient and do as you’re told.
Linda: Any regrets?
P: Wow, that’s how you should live life.
C: What would you say is your most emotional memory from the whole war experience?
W: The most what?
C: Emotional memory?
MB: Don’t look at me.
P: Is there like a story?
W: I don’t think there’s anything special, it all runs together.
P: Is there one story that you want to share with us. Doesn’t have to be in battle, it could be anything. Just a story that stands out…stands out.
MB: You had that interesting buddy…Donald…hahaha
W: No, I don’t think anything especially stands out. It all runs.
C: Did you meet your wife before the war or after?
W: Afterwards. When I came home I was on leave for having been to seas for 3 years, 32 months. My sister…sister-in-law gave me a couple of girls’ names and she points happened to be one of them.
P: Started the courting right?
W: That was my downfall.
V: Do we want to ask if she has anything to share?
P: Yes, would directed at MB you like to share with us some of your experiences? War experiences for you?
MB: I’d be going from the stories he tells. Hahaha.
P: Haha, ok, so any last questions? Any more questions?
MB: You know I don’t think this is…this is a little beyond it but when his mother signed the agreement…when she signed for him to join at 17 she said to promise to go back and get his diploma. Oh yeah, he got his diploma…a year before his kids graduated.
W: But I did it!
P: Hahaa, that’s what it’s about…very good.
V: Is there anything you’d like to add?
P: Anything you want to add to the Win Balance story?
W: No, I don’t think…
P: No? Ok. Well, thank you so much for the interview.
V: A copy will be presented to the museum and another for you if you’d like a copy.
M: ok um where and when were you born?
W: I was born in Campton, New Jersey, April 29 1925
M: ok and what did your parents work as?
W: my parents worked as leather workers in Philadelphia.
M: can you explain to us what a leather worker might do if you know?
W: well like conveyer belts and things like that
M: oh ok and did you have any siblings?
W: I had a brother
M: and was her older or younger?
W: well he was older but he’s past away.
M: oh ok what were you doing before you entered into the service?
W: going to school!
M: ha and uh where did you go to school?
W: I went to school in Campton New Jersey
M: did you have any other family members that served?
M: (repeat) did you have any other family members that served in a war?
W: no just my brother
M: ok and uh which uh force was he in
W: what was that?
M: Which force was he in?
W: oh he was in the navy.
M: um pause how were you entered into the service were you enlisted or was it the draft or….
W: no I was uh I was at sea working on a tugboat during spring break and uh I was only sixteen and I thought Id get some knowledge about navigation and stuff like that and uh of course the war had been on for a while and this is 1941 and I was only sixteen so uh as soon as I turned seventeen I went down and joined the navy ha
M: ok pause um so since you enlisted uh can you tell us why I know you already told us about your interest in navigation but uh was there another reason why you wanted to join
W: you wanted to know why I wanted to join
M: yea other then a learning experience was there another reason why you wanted to join
W: oh no it was wartime and we were we were being challenged and I was over in Virginia and I saw a bunch of navy ships being brought back all damaged and stuff and I just got mad and I just wanted to join the navy so as soon as I got back to Philadelphia I joined up.
M: ok um tell…can you tell us a little about your departure for training camp.
W: about what?
M: your leave for training camp.
W: you have to speak up I’m (points to his ear)
M: your leave for training camp when you left to go train for the navy can you tell us about that
W: awkward pause
M: um when you left to go train for the navy can you tell us around the time period when you left and what it was like to go into camp
W: you mean I went after I signed up for the navy
M: well yea that too. Tell us about when you were leaving and things like that
W: I don’t understand your question
M: your boot camp
M: where did you go to boot camp?
W: oh ok I joined up in Philadelphia and then I went to boot camp in Newport Rhode Island
M: and uh can you tell us about an experience from camp on experience
W: oh boot camp was great I really was uh I was having a great time learning how to march and shoot guns and uh all got row boats and sail boats it was like a vacation and uh from there uh I was assigned to receiving station and in Boston Massachusetts and I was assigned to a destroyer
M: ok while in boot camp did you receive any special training of any sort?
W: well signaling
M: ok and um what was it like adapting to life in the navy like uh your physical conditions or mental conditions or the food or the social life what was it like adapting to the navy the change from civilian life to life in the war
W: I don’t know I thought it was great ha really because I didn’t have much of a life at home and you know how that is and so uh anything different was great
M: ok um where did you serve?
W: I served in the south pacific
M: ok um can you tell us details of you trip to the south pacific when you were sent to the south pacific
W: oh yea you gotta realize I was only seventeen years old and man this was a great adventure I got to go to sea on a brand new destroyer. And next thing I knew I found myself in new Caledonia beautiful tropical island and uh all these native girls and that stuff and next thing you know I’m in “gaudel” canal and then in the Selman islands and then I realize I'm in the Selman island campaign fighting Japanese they’re tryna kill us
M: can you tell us about some of the action that you…
W: yea I was in the battle of cape saint George which was the biggest one where we engaged the Japanese force of destroyers and cruisers on November 25, 1943 thanksgiving day and for thanksgiving dinner I didn’t have anything but we were we engaged the enemy at night time it was very rainy and squall and the Japanese force was very stronger but we were a little bit luckier I guess and we sank three or four of there ships they turned and ran home and we tried to catch them but we never did catch them and then we came back because it was starting to get day light and we figured that we were very close to an island that the Japanese had a big air base and so we figured we better get back to our base and prepare for stay down by “gualdel” canal before day break or these things are going to jump us we didn’t get down there we got about half way we got jumped by a whole bunch of guiros and betty bombers and uh they tried to damage us and they mostly went after the cruisers and uh they came after us later.
M: ok can you tell us a little about your role as a signal man
W: the life of a signal man?
M: yea tell us a little about the everyday perspective of a signal man if you can sum it up
W: well uh I was about eighteen years of age now I was a striker in other words trying to learn to be a signalmen now the in the second year I become a third class petty officer as a signalmen and all of a sudden the responsibilities of a signalman begin to sink in because I'm up on the bridge of a fighting navy ship and the commanding officer expects a lot out of a signalmen the communication the visual communication because you cant use radio cuz they could hear so we used centerfold flashing light and Morse code and flag hoist and it was very important for instance we had to tell our squad and our task force what the maneuvers would be during night time and you’d look up through binoculars trying to read flags then look in the code book and try to think what does that code mean and these are number that change course at 1200 hours and of course 125, 3 hours after that you’d change course to so and so and if you get those number wrong you screw up the whole task force so it was a lot of responsibility for an eighteen year old kid and thank goodness I had a very intelligent and smart first class petty officer that I was standing my watches with otherwise I would have probably screwed up.
M: um can you tell us about some of the emotions you felt while in combat:
W: well of course I felt scared and uh I felt scared but at the same time I was excited and boy I wanted to ..and I got really excited one night in the battle of new Georgia uh we were attacked by a group of ships and we were torpedoed and I looking out here and I sere this torpedo coming phosphorus in the water and it came right ….I’m on the bridge looking down and it hit right down below me but didn’t go off it hit the bottom of the ship but glanced down and that was a scary moment, another time during the wartime aircrafts don’t go with running lights on so this one time it was kinda getting dark and I see this airplane coming and I told my buddy I said look at this crazy guy he’s flying here with running lights on well the next thing I know I here bullets hitting all around the bridge and it wasn’t running lights they were machine guns shooting at my bridge and so I fell down below and covered up. And that was a scary moment
M: um can you tell us about some of the friendships you formed
M: tell us about some of the friendships you formed and if you’re still in contact with those people. Your buddies.
W: well we had two hundred and two hundred and some men on board my destroyer the name of my ship was u.s.s. converse and it was in the squad it was in the beaver squad (points to his hat) and it was the commanding officer of that squad was admin Arley Burke he was known as 31 Knott Burke and alls I can say is it was a great adventure and we had a great bunch of men and officers and crew on all the ships and we were a lucky bunch of ships we still have reunions every year somewhere In the united states and there’s not too many of us left but we still manage to get there and drink some beer.
M: ha that’s always good hahaha not that I would know or anything um while you were wartime how did you stay in touch with family and friends.
W: we had a thing called v mail and it was ah you wrote your letter on this v mail thing and then it was photographed and it was sent after they marked everything out in black that censored what they didn’t want you to know but what I did…I'm an artist so I drew a lot of pictures of different things and I don’t know how much of those got blacked out but I had so pretty good artwork on those things and that’s when I decided I wanted to be an artists.
M: um can you tell me about some of the recreation that you…so of the fun times you experienced while being in the war
W: yea we had I think every two weeks we would get together to get two beers or two cokes whatever and that was it and while we were getting our two beers or two cokes the other crew were loading in new ammunition, torpedoes, food for our next patrol of the Selman islands and that went on for probably a year.
M: where were you when the war ended?
W: I was in Japan on our way to Japan we were preparing for the invasion of Japan and at that time I was on a mine sweep and the idea was on a mine sweep we were supposed to go and sweep the mines along the coast of Japan do the occupation forced could go to shore
M: and by sweeping mines you mean…..
M: and by sweeping mines that was ….checking for mines basically….tell us about sweeping mines.
W: sweeping mines was uh…we had a squadron of mine sweeper and each mine sweeper
has a gear that they tow behind on cables and on the cables they have cutters and they have a power man that goes out and keep the cables under water at angles like this as a ship goes up and each ship overlaps each others cables as they’re sweeping down the coast and when they run into a mine it goes along and it cuts the cable of the mine and the mine pops up and the other ships behind come along with 20mm deck guns and blows those mines up. Its dangerous because (telephone rings) the Japanese preparing for the invasion hat they thought was gonna come and dropped mines all along the Japanese coasts and some of those mines had been there for a couple years well you know what happens when you’re under water for a couple of years they grow mussels and seaweed and so when we cut the mines it would take along time for that mine to come up and sometimes it would come up underneath the ship behind you. So we had to be very careful and the spotters would have to spot those mines and steer the ships away from them uh it was dangerous. But fortunately they war came to an end before we had to go in and invade Japan and so that was a big relief but I still went to Japan at the end of the war and sweep mine along the coast in the area of “rockiall” “Nagoya” and several other areas “Osaka” and I got to know the people in jap….in that area and I found that they were not much different then we were. They were just as scared as we were and uh ionno I was glad the war was over.
M: um how did you return home? Was it by ship or….
W: I came home on the mine sweep and I came into San Francisco went to pearl harbor first and then to san Francisco and I was discharged we put the ship in mothballs then I was shipped back to San Pedro and then I was discharged at San Pedro and at that time I had been accepted at the art school in Pasadena in Los Angeles the art center college of design so I spent four years at the art school for my degree in art.
M: and uh when you came home how were you perceived by your family and society? What kind of reaction did you get?
W: I had ….one my father didn’t know where I had been for four years and I didn’t have anybody else I had no mother she’s gone my grandmother is gone my brother was gone and I had an uncle out here and they were all glad to see me but I don’t think they really realized you know what the soldiers and sailors had gone through they were more concerned that had to go without and that they had to have rationing and things like that but they didn’t realize that when I was over seas because of the lack of food because of the strikes in this country the only food we got was from Australia and I got so sick of eating mutton that I was so glad when we were able to eat good American food again.
M: um what steps did you take to readjust to civilian life
W: well I don’t know I just… number one I got a five hundred and some dollars when I was discharged and you know like all twenty one year old kid you want a car right? So I bought myself a 1936 ford faken and I had that thing lowered stoked and lowered prime all re chromed beautiful car and I think getting involved with a car and wanting to get it painted and re chromed and all that I think that took my mind off a lot of things and I related with my cousins up in San Francisco and uh which we were all building cars at that time and motorcycles and stuff like that and you know all that kind of stuff was good for us, drag racing where we weren’t supposed to but uh we had a good time and I learned to drive in san Francisco and that’s a hard place to learn to drive its all up hill
M: and that driving a manual
W: yea a manual on a 36 ford
M: um so you’re saying having a hobby made it a lot easier for you to…..
W: oh yea art was my hobby and fixing up cars as you notice my truck
M: do you still keep in contact with fellow veterans at all
W: yea like I say we have reunions every year and uh then there’s a lot of veteran in our neighborhoods and you know we all like in church every veterans days or memorial day or something the minister always asks that we be recognized so that’s kinda nice.
M: um how did the wartime experience affect your life?
W: well I think it made me be a better American citizen it made me appreciate our freedoms and made me proud of our young kids that are growing up and are gonna take my place I think they’re great I look at these kids that were in Vietnam and Korea and some of the kids that uh the battle of cape saint George was a big battle for me and several years ago they put they commissioned and built a new age destroyer or uh cruiser and they named it the u.s.s. cap saint George. And they invited me back their for its christening and uh so in Norfolk Virginia I went back there all these young kids that were manning that ship it made me think of me you know fifty years earlier you know doing the same thing but you know these kids are much smarter then we were they’re well educated well dedicated to this country and there’s no I have no fear in the future of America because of our young kids today.
M: what life lessons did you learn?
W: just enjoy life and have a good wife and have a great and just do the best you can be honest make an honest living that’s it?
M: ok um one question going back o the sparks of the war where were you when Pearl Harbor occurred?
W: I was on a tugboat working between Philadelphia and Norfolk Virginia and north Carolina hauling paper pulp up to Philadelphia.
M: paper pulp is….?
W: paper pulp we would get from Carolinas and then they would come in big bails and they put them in there barges and we would tow those barges from north Carolina up the inland water way to Norfolk Virginia and then from Norfolk Virginia up to Cheswick bay to Philadelphia where the mills are he paper mills and uh that went on all that summer of 1940 that was a great adventure. I could take my tug all the down the inland waterway from Norfolk Virginia at night wed pull against the bay wed jump over board and tie up around a couple of trees grab our shotguns and go off and shoot our dinner it was great and I was sixteen.
M: did you have any nicknames?
W: just mac
M: they just called you mac
W: they just called me mac yea
W: (shows scrapbook)
M: um did you receive any mnetals or awards for your services?
W: yea I have a few here (pulls out hat) I have a presidential citation from President Roosevelt and that mainly for the battle of cape saint George. I have a eleven battle stars that I was in I have pacific theater campaign ribbon and metal and the American victory metals occupation metal good conduct metal and I don’t know just like most guys that served over seas got the same thing. But my ship got eleven battle stars and they really did a great job. And this is my scrapbook (opens) um I’ll show it to you. You won’t believe this next picture this is a picture of me in the navy haha. That’s me. You get a picture of that. And then this …that’s me and this is my ship when it was being built. And this is the new ship the “Arley Burke” named after Admiral Arley Burke. The difference what took us years to do during world war two this ship took hours that’s the technology of today. And this is….what is this? Oh this is the history of my ship. This is a commendation letters from my commanding officer for gallantry during battle. This is an order for my presidential citation from Franklin Roosevelt by James Farstle. These are notes from a log from the battle of cape saint George. This is my military record. Now when you’re in the navy sometimes you get to go across the equator. Well I went across the equator and this is a summonsed that they give me for the high court of king Neptune’s rights and they claimed that I ran up the wrong kind of flags. Trying to foul up king Neptune so they held me a court marshal and of course you know what they do with navy court marshals when you cross the equator, they shave me they rub my belly with grease hahaha they did all kind of things. This is more history of my ship some of my buddies, that’s me. These are the battle stars of my ship that they won. That’s a painting of the battle of cape saint George.
M: did you paint that?
W: this was done by another artist I painted one that is very similar to this and I think I have a picture of it somewhere I don’t think that’s my painting I think that is Jones’s painting. Yea this is mine this is my ship yea I told you about the day after the battle of cape saint george and we got attacked by bombers and this shows the… my destroyer being bombed by betty bombers and we got three near misses and they were five hundred pound bombs and they lift the ship out of the water and just shuck it and it so hard to bust a bunch of the cables and stuff like that and it came down and hit me on the head on the helmet and I thought I was hit, shot and I grabbed my shipmate and said we’re hit! Hahah and then we look at each other and start laughing we were wrapped up in cable and this is at nighttime but this is just mementos and stuff but this is copy of a song we used to sing. And this is our leader admiral Arley Burke. He was a great guy I cant say enough about him he brought all of us home, just about all of us at least he brought most of the ships home. We started out with eight ships in my squadron and we ended up with five and that’s the price of freedom and I’d do it all over again.
An Interview With: Ryan Kareliusson
Ping: Hello. So if you could start by telling us your name, birth date, war served, and branch of service.
Ryan: My name is Ryan James Kareliusson. I was in the marines. My birthday is May 17, 1984. My unit was MWSS 373, which was Marine Wing Support Squadron 373, and I served two terms in Iraq: ’04-’05 and ’06-’07.
Ping: Ok. So I guess umm.. we will start with a few biographical details. So where and when were you born?
Ryan: I was born on May 17, 1984 in Altadena, California.
Ping: And, um, can you tell us something about your parents, siblings, you know. How many siblings, if any?
Ryan: I have two brothers. My dad is from Sweden, my mom is from Australia, and two older brothers.
Ping: Um, so what were you doing before entering the service?
Ryan: I went to Arcadia High.
Ping: Oh you went to Arcadia High? Ok. What year did you graduate?
Vivian: So were you drafted or did you enlist in the army?
Ryan: I enlisted. I enlisted my junior year of high school.
Vivian: And like, what made you make this decision?
Ryan: It’s just something I’ve always wanted to do as a little kid and I just knew I was going to do it.
Ping: Did you have any other family members who served in the army?
Ryan: No, I was the first one.
Ping: How did your parents feel about that?
Ryan: I would say scared but proud.
Ping: That sounds all right. So, um, why did you choose that branch—the marines?
Ryan: From what I knew at the time and what I still know is they have the most pride in themselves, they have the most honesty, they’re the first ones in there, they have the courage to do what’s right all the time, so, that’s the organization I wanted to be a part of.
Charissa: Did any of your friends from school enlist with you?
Ryan: There were two other seniors from Arcadia High that enlisted the marines, yes.
Ping: Um, can you tell us about your early days—sort of your early days in the training camp?
Ryan: Well, it was a lot of—then, it wasn’t so much fun. But looking back on it, it was a lot of fun. It was a good experience. Uh, you don’t see the values that they’re teaching you while you’re in boot camp. But later on, maybe down the road a year and a half you’re looking back and I realize that it was really nice. It’s just really good training that they offer.
Ping: What did you actually do, uh, like as a part of your training?
Ryan: You learn to do everything. You learn to overcome your fears, you learn how to adapt and overcome the different situations. They’ll make you not fall, and still think on your feet so you…you learn to overcome certain obstacles and all these barriers that normally make someone just give up.
Ping: I once heard of training with a toothbrush. Hehe. Did you ever do that?
Ryan: No. Not that one.
Ping: Not that one? All right. Hehe.
Ryan: Just cleaning.
Ping: Cleaning? All right then, um. Do you have any specialized training in anything?
Ryan: My specialized training was to be a welder. They taught me all the different versions of welding.
Ping. Um, ok so um. How was it like adapting to the lifestyle? Was it hard for you?
Ryan: It wasn’t hard for me to adapt to the lifestyle. It definitely is different, and some guys, yeah, it’s definitely hard to adapt to that lifestyle but I don’t know. I have kind of like this “I can do anything” sort of mentality, so I adapted pretty well.
Vivian: What was the hardest, like was there anything really difficult for you to adapt to?
Ryan: I don’t really like the “wake up at 4 a.m. and go run,” but other then that, you get used to it and it becomes like second nature.
Ping: What about homesickness? Any of that?
Ryan: Oh yeah, there’s a lot of that, especially when you’re in Iraq. You just want to be home and want to be around friends again but you get used to it and you deal with it. But yes, there is a little bit of homesickness.
Ping: Ok so can you tell us about your actual wartime service? Where exactly did you serve, and sort of the details of how it was like over there?
Ryan: Both tours I did I went to a base called Alteqada in Iraq. And it’s in the Alabambar providence. Between the triangle of Ramati, Flusia, and Habania, it’s right in the middle. So we did a lot of convoys through the cities, we improved roads, we built electrical lines, we started improving the whole area there, we did security convoys, two escorts, we ran QRF missions for armed forces missions, anything like that. My last tour, the helicopters got shut down. We had to respond and clean up and assist basically. Just repair heliopads, stuff like that.
Ping: Did you actually engage in combat?
Ryan: I did not.
Vivian: So was your main purpose there mainly like improving conditions and stuff?
Ryan: Yeah improving like conditions, special air bases, like a big flat line. Our unit is meant to support that line so they just have out unit there to support the flat line. And yeah just run convoys and support their role out there.
Ping: What about the people there? I mean, did they want you guys there? What was the reaction from them?
Ryan: I didn’t meet too many. The close courier people go out in the city and everything but we are hanging around the base. But I know the people think we are really nice, they’re happy we’re there.
Ping: Um, did you witness anything that’s actual um—so you didn’t engage in combat, but did you witness any of that? Or got even close to it?
Ryan: There was some action by our base a lot. Like we see missiles and rockets all around us.
Ping: As for actually being in there yourself you weren’t?
Ping: What about um, did you make any friends there?
Ryan: The camaraderie is great. It was a lot of fun to be a part of. It’s just, I don’t know—you just don’t get that anywhere else.
Ping: It’s kind of like, everyone has each other’s backs kind of?
Ryan: Yes. Pretty much so.
Ping: Are you still friends with them now? Do you still keep in contact?
Ryan: Yes, I still keep in contact with a couple guys from my unit down in San Diego.
Ping: How did you keep in contact with your family back when you were part of the service?
Ryan: In boot camp, all you really could do was write letters. So, that’s all you do. You get like only a few phone calls the whole time you’re there. We just basically wrote letters back and forth and it’s pretty quick. It’s pretty decent. And in Iraq, the first time I was just writing letters. But now if you go there, they have the internet so you can just email, you can call, you can use mail, whichever one. Pretty easy now.
Vivian: Were you ever sort of homesick?
Ping: We already asked that one hehe. And he was—a little. Did you get any videos from home? Like people in your town, or I guess our town, Arcadia. Because I know for the Red Cross Youth Corp we sent out a video for the Marines saying we support you guys.
Ryan: I don’t think we got a video, but we got care packages every once in a while. From different groups.
Ping: What about recreation? Like what did you do when you were off duty?
Ryan: Basically, you tried to sleep the time you had. So it’s usually sleep, work or eat.
Ping: I see. What did you eat?
Ryan: There’s a cafeteria there. So we had like, standard food. Just regular food.
Ping: What about like, on Thanksgiving or holidays? Did you get like anything fancy then or no?
Ryan: They tried to—but it was basically just regular food.
Ping: In the documentaries and films we see on Thanksgiving they would get you know, the turkey, the gravy, and all that.
Ryan: Well, we had turkey and gravy, but also, if you’re not there on time then it’s all gone.
Ping: Did you fall into a routine? Like was there a daily thing for you?
Ryan: There was sort of a schedule, but they try to not make it so much like a schedule because they don’t want you to get complacent. That way you will always be on your toes. But, there was usually a work schedule. We had a schedule that we kept up with in the maintenance unit. Like we had to get a certain amount of vehicles out. But we always ended up working extended hours, anyway.
Ping: And you usually woke up around 4, you said?
Ryan: Oh. Well that was during training. But we usually wake up 5, 6 in the morning, go exercise, and then get ready for the day.
Ping: And when did you—when did the day end for you?
Ryan: Some days we could work late, so it could be 9, 10 o’clock when we’re off work, at night. And then uh, go eat and go to bed. So usually our day was about 5 to midnight.
Ping: That’s pretty harsh. So when your term ended for you, and when you came back, how was it sort of like assimilating back to normal life?
Ryan: It’s different but it’s—if you know how to take it, it’s not that hard. Like I knew changes, like what it felt like, because it was like you went to sleep for a really long time and then you just wake up and kind of like, everything’s changed. Because that’s what it feels like. Like, you’re in a time warp when you’re there you know? Once you get back, everything’s changed: there’s different buildings, there’s new laws, everything changes while you’re gone. So you just get back and you just have to take it in slowly. If you try to overwhelm yourself, you’ll freak out.
Ping: The adjusting you know—it’s like all that action over there. And nothing much going on here right?
Ryan: Yeah. The adrenaline rushes don’t happen as much.
Ping: So what do you do now?
Ryan: Right now I work at a hospital as a security guard.
Ping: Are you thinking about re-enlisting or going back into that again?
Ryan: Um, if they need me to go back, I want to do college and then come back as an officer. But right now, I just want to do law enforcement.
Ping: You served two terms right? Was that by your own will? Or were there certain laws calling you back?
Ryan: No, that was just the schedule of deployment for my unit. I volunteered and tried to get on the other units that were basically considered sister units of my unit. I tried to volunteer to go to Iraq with them at other times but they didn’t need me.
Charissa: So do you have a favorite memory from your whole experience?
Ryan: Uh, not really.
Charissa: As in you like everything, or you don’t like everything?
Ryan: I liked most of it.
Ping: It’s like an experience to cherish forever kind of a thing right?
Ryan: Yes. I don’t regret any of it and I think everyone should serve at least one term in the military. But that’s just a personal belief of mine.
Ping: What can you tell us about the war now—how is it going, how do you feel about it?
Ryan: I just think the news only portrays everything that’s bad about that happens over there and they should try broadcasting all the good that all the other military units are doing out there. Like improving the roads, improving things over there that they didn’t have before.
Ping: I think they should show us what’s going on with the actual troops over there.
Charissa: Do you have any experiences with any of the Iraqi civilians?
Ryan: Not too much. It was pretty limited.
Ping: How has this affected your life? What did you learn from your time as a marine?
Ryan: Well, when I first joined I was really shy, really shy, really quiet. I was just—I basically kept to myself. Now I’m more eager, now I’m more confident in myself. Now I have the “I can do anything” mentality because I have leadership who gave that to me. I respect them for that and I think overall it has made me a better person.
Ping: Did you have any leadership skills? Like were you ever in charge?
Ryan: I was a squad leader. I was a corporal in the marines so I had a couple guys under me. And yeah I had all the security convoy training; that was one of my special duties. For my unit I had all the security training, all the weapon training, all the tactics. I learned tactical M-16 tactics and I was also instructor for that. So I trained my guys and lead them if we did have to go do something, if the job did call for it.
Vivian: So do you have to call for the promotion or do you just have to work your way up?
Ryan: You do things to rate the promotion. Like there’s MCI’s, which are books, and you basically take tests on them. And you turn them in, and you get so many points for doing them. And also how well you do on the PFT physical fitness test, it gives you a score. And that also determines if you get promoted. And then, if you do any special duties it gives you points.
Ping: What kind of physical training did you actually do? Like was there rope climbing?
Ryan: You do rope climbing in the beginning, but we didn’t really do it after we joined our unit or anything but the goal is to do twenty pull-ups, one hundred sit-ups in two minutes, and an eighteen minute three mile. That’s the goal. Not too many can do the eighteen minute three mile. Most people get the twenty pull-ups and the hundred-sit ups because it’s pretty easy.
Ping: Is it like a continual thing? Like you have to keep maintaining it?
Ryan: You have to score every six months. Twice a year you have to go for a score on it.
Vivian: So like what happens if you’re not able to reach the score?
Ryan: You go on a physical program—well actually a more intense program that you actually get watched. Well, it depends on what unit but you have to PT more (which is physical test).
Charissa: Were there any women in your unit?
Ryan: There was like two or three. I don’t know, there’s a handful of them I guess.
Charissa: And do they have to fulfill the same requirements?
Ryan: Theirs are a little different. Probably the same hundred sit-ups. I don’t know on the run, maybe not the eighteen minute three mile. But they don’t have to do the twenty pull-ups; they have to hold themselves up there for a certain amount of time. I forget what it is. Ninety-five seventy-five seconds or something.
Vivian: Do they have the same responsibilities as you?
Ping: You know I think, that’s really all we wanted to know right?
Vivian: If you were to recommend people who might join the army, what would you say to them?
Ryan: Well if they’re thinking about it, just go for it because it’s only four years. What are you going to do for four years? Maybe go to PCC, get a AA? Go to the marines. Get money for it. They’ll pay for you to go. And I’ll train you a lot better.
Charissa: What is the most valuable thing you think you got out of the whole experience?
Ryan: All the training, the leadership that I took from the good leaders we had. Well there’s good leaders and bad leaders but hopefully I didn’t take anything from the bad leaders. And, just yeah. All the camaraderie, all the—our creed is honesty, courage, and commitment so…yeah.
Charissa: As far as schooling, did they drill you mentally also?
Charissa: What types of things did you have to learn?
Ryan: They teach you everything: the history, code and conduct; they teach you everything you need to know to live in the marines. And they also emphasize that you should do schooling on the side after you finish training. And you should try if you can.
Vivian: This is sort of different, but say like, you don’t fulfill your responsibilities, what kinds of punishments did you guys have?
Ryan: It all depends. If you look it up there’s the UCMJ uniform code in military justice. Everybody follows under it. It doesn’t matter if you’re army, navy, marine, or whatever. It doesn’t matter. You fall under it so—kind of how bad it was, what it is, and a lot of it is up to the unit’s discretion, how far they want to take it.
Vivian: So can you sort of give us an example maybe?
Ryan: I don’t know what you want, like say if you’re late to work a lot there’s something called office hours where you basically have to show up for work after work hours and clean—do whatever needs to be done. And everyone else tells you what to do.
Charissa: Did you hear of any interesting stories of what happened to your squad while you were in Iraq?
Ryan: Uh, not really.
Ping: I guess that’s it for us. Right? Well, thank you so much.
S Where and when where were you born?
S Do you have any siblings?
R I had ah a sister died in infancy and had a brother that a ah that was just 13 months older than myself.
What were you doing before you entered the service?
Before I went into the service I of course I went to college. And I went to Kansas state university. Graduated there in 1938. And after I graduated college I went to work as a civil engineering person I got a degree in civil engineering. And I went to work for the Kansas highway department.
S Did you have any other family members that served in the military?
S How were you drafted and umm…?
R When I was in college I went to a land grant college we were required to take two years of military training. First two years of college. Then we had the option to continue for another two years and getting a commission as a second lieutenant. Well that was that started in 1934 and we were still coming out of the depression. No body had money. My folks could not send me to college. So I to figure out a way to finance my education in college. So one of the things I did was to take advantage of the extra two years of military training and got paid a little bit every month. That I worked for my meals and when I graduated I got my commission sent to me as second lieutenant.
S What was it like going…
(interruption) R As I said I after I graduated I went to work for the Kansas highway department. And I worked for the highway department until late 19 actually 1942. And after the war started then I left the highway department and I went to work for a contractor that was building Smokey Hill Airbase. In Salina ,Kansas. And I worked for that company at that job for about eight months. And in august in 1942 I was ordered to active duty. My commission was in the army reserve corp. And um I was subject to call of military duty and that happened in 1942. August of 1942. I was ordered for military service as a second lieutenant.
S How did your life change from physical training, to food, and life?
R Fortunately , I had gotten my commission through the rotc program. I did not have to go through basic training or any of that rigorous training. I went directly to a placement center and spent my first thirty days at the placement center. For a specific assignment and I was called up to make a Calvary for an anti-aircraft battalion. I was sent to camp Davis North Carolina for a six weeks for what they call Calvary training course. and uhh my commission was at seacoast. Seacoast was no longer vital or valid. so I was transferred into the anti-aircraft division. That was my first assignment. Camp Davis North Carolina after six weeks I was sent to a unit as part of the officers Calvary to form a new battalion.
S Where did you serve during the war?
R During the war? Mostly stateside. I was a after is was forming this new battalion I was relived of that battalion and they were sent overseas. I stayed in the states and was sent back to Camp Davis North Carolina. And I taught in the rotc program at Camp Davis. I was there for a year and umm then I was transferred to three or four different assignments in the states and finally in august of 1945 I was on my way to the invasion of Japan when they dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Our company was on or way when we were diverted to the Philippine islands. And there I was assigned to a military base. Then in November of that year I came back home and returned in to the reserve corp. I stayed in the reserves and I did not go back to my old job and came to California. My wife and I had packed up all of our earthly belongings and came to California.
S And what were any of your duties away from the front line?
S What were any of your duties away from the frontline? What were some of your jobs?
R As I said I was teaching the rotc school for a full year then I went to umm to winter park Florida and assigned to joint training with the air force. I spent about two umm three months there in Florida. I was transferred to Fort Bliss Texas for another teaching assignment. We were teaching officers how to best setup anti-aircraft provisions in then installations that were critical to the military. That was the whole purpose of anti-aircraft artillery was to defend other military installations like aircraft manufacturing plants and we provided cover for military installations both state side and overseas. During that time I left Fort Bliss as I told you I was assigned to a military base operation and since I was a graduate of civil engineering I was put in the engineer corp. I was supervision construction of housings of supplies that were going to be left in the Philippines by the Us Army. We were building warehouses for food storage and clothing storage and other non-perishable items. I spent almost my total time supervising indigenous personnel meaning Philippinos in constructing these shelters for supplies. And I finished that job.
S Did you have any long-term friendships?
R Yes. I did. That is one of the reasons I came to California in the first place. When I was serving on this Calvary of officers in camp Stewart Georgia I formed a new battalion and became aquatinted with a officer who was born and raised in Los Angeles. We became very close friends. Both of us had our wives with us when we were there and we both got acquainted and our whole families got acquainted. And so we maintained friendship with them and after I got out of the service he had already been let out of active duty. He prevailed on me expanding my horizons and come to California and see what was available. And it turned out I got a job with Kaiser Permanente. We were working out of an office in Los Angeles and we did the entire surveying and mapping of the city of Panorama. I was involved in the development of that landmass for the whole city of Panorama. That was really the only long-term relationship.
S What did you do for recreation while you served?
R That’s a good one we didn’t have much time for recreation. We were actually on duty twenty-four hours a day. We had little time for recreation. We attended occasional movies on base and that was about it.
S How was it to adjust back to civilian life?
R Well, my transition back to civilian life was really quite easy. Because like I said I went work for Kaiser Permanente and was one of the people who was in a management job was Kaiser in their LA office was someone I worked with the Kansas highway department before the war and so we have a entry for making an application for a job and was hired right off following the interview. I was doing pretty much the same thing I was doing in the military. So did not have to go through any retraining or any thing like that
S What did it feel like when you returned home?
R We were very well received there was no animosity towards military personnel and as I said I remained in the reserve corp. and stayed as a reservist. I was assigned to the us army reserve school down in Fort McArthur California. and so through that medium I maintained my military ties. Then having a friend already living here by that time my parents had already moved from Kansas to Glendale California. My return was really very easy.
S How has the wartime affected your life?
R Well of course there was an interruption and my wife and I did not have any children yet. So as long as I was in the military I was subject to frequent moving and once said between my civilian job with the survey party doing new surveys for highways and we would move almost every month to a new location in the state of course. Then I counted up that the first five years my wife and I were together we had moved thirty-five times. There was of course part of that from august of 45’ to November of 46’ I was overseas. My wife went back to Kansas and she got her job there while I was overseas that was certainly a disruption in out life. We waited it out and got back together and have been together ever since.
S What life lessons have you learned from your military service?
R Patience. You had to be patient. You have to be flexible because you never knew when you would get an order to do something else.
M What was a memorable experience from the war and why?
R One of the most memorable experiences was a bombing attack on our headquarters installation in Seoul Korea we had North Koreans, Seoul is about 11 miles south of the demilitarization zone. Military forces had invaded South Korea the Americans and North Korea had passed through Seoul about four times. There was still ruminates of North Korean air force in South Korea. Our base was located just out side Seoul. On late afternoon a bomber flew over and dropped a couple bombs but they didn’t hit anything. It sacred the devil out of us. That was one of the most memorable moments while I was in the service.
M Would you like to share an experience where you almost looked death in the eyes.
R Well I had to drive a jeep to get me places alone with a sidearm as my only protection. Traveling forty or fifty miles across the South Korean peninsula and that was a little bit scary but not life threatening it could have been but I was not attacked. I was awarded a bronze star for my service there.
M Did you receive any other awards in the service?
R No, not beside my service ribbons. For both WW2 and Korea. The bronze star was the only medal.
M Were you every severely wounded during the war?
R No. The worst thing that happened to me was I was on active duty with the Korean war before I left the United States was at camp Hanford Washington with the anti-aircraft unit was defending the Hanford nuclear plant. I was umpiring field exercises for our unit. I had a jeep with a driver and about a case of caliber .45 ammunition in the back and we were going out cross-country and we went through a patch of grease grass. And it caught fire from the hot muffler of the jeep.
M Can you tell us what grease grass is?
R Grease Grass is vegetation that grows about 18 inches to 2 feet high. Camp Hanford is an arid region and this grease grass gets very dry and very volatile you could almost blow on it and set it a fire. So going through the grass with the hot muffler just set it a fire. We took our jackets off and tried to beat the flames down and the ammunition went off so got out of there. To heck with the jeep we left it and it burned. Fortunately Camp Hanford has its own fire department and they came out and we got it put out. I got a small burn on my arm. I never suffered any wounds that was just a burn on my arm that lasted a couple of weeks.
M What unit did you serve with?
R When I was at camp Hanford I was the umpire for the field exercises. I went to go serve with a battalion and when I arrived for duty the commander said what are you doing here? Well I have direct order to report to your battalion. He did not know what to do with me so he stuck me an assignment as the umpire of this field exercise that lasted about a month. Then I move to fort Lewis I was assigned to an anti-aircraft brigade. Which is the top level in the anti-aircraft organization below division. There I was assigned as a G2, which is intelligence. My job was to find locations for Nike missile sites. They were setting up missile defense sites around Boeing aircraft plant. When I was assigned to my first line officer assignment. By that time I had been promoted as first lieutenant. I was battery commander the rest of the time I was on staff.
US History Honors
Mr. O. Beckwith
16 May 2008
Veteran’s History Project Documentary Transcript: Officer Peralta
J: Jason Hsin
P: Officer Larry Peralta
*Note: “…” indicates slight Pauses
*Note: (No Audio) indicates foggy audio from the tape that cannot be heard.
*Note: “Continued” indicates when audio returns
J: We’re sitting here with Officer Peralta, so let’s begin with the…..some background information. What is your full name?
P: Larry Peralta
J: And how old are you?
P: I’m 32 years old.
J: And currently you work as a police officer for the Arcadia Police Office. So let’s begin with some background information, where did you grow up and how was life like?
P: I grew up in uhhhh Covina, California….about 25 minutes out of East L.A….. you know typical childhood. I grew up with a heavy interest in sports, you know, little league baseball, football, soccer..ummm went to a catholic high school and continued sports and became a wrestler there. I wrestled and was on the football team and uh just had a, you know, typical childhood…hanging out and being really active and uhhh play some computer games that are a lot different from now uhhhhh but uhhh mostly playing lots of sports and being active than staying inside
J: When did you decide to join the military and what branch were you in and what rank did you obtain?
P: I grew up always, you know, patriotic and always had a, you know, duty to serve and ummm once I got into college I was a bit bored. Not saying school’s bad but ummmmm I was a little bored and ummmm I was always I ummmm I grew up into team playing sports so I felt the need to be in part of a team or something like that so I found that through the marine corp. So I ended up in the marine corp reserve so I decided that I can continue in the marine corp reserve so I can continue my education as well. And ummmm went to school at the same time and I ended up serving 11 years in the reserves and became a staff sergeant
J: Uhhh just thought of just a side note uhhhh which college did you attend?
P: I went to Mt. Sac. at the time and met my associates from there and just recently I went back to get my bachelor’s degree.
J: And what was your degree in?
P: In Criminal Justice
J: Okay. Ummm while you were overseas in Iraq, how did you communicate with your friends and families back home and how often were you allowed to uhhh send letters or emails home?
P: Ummmm the first time in 2003 I uhhh…very difficult to get a hold of….uhhhh I had one phone call in the beginning and that’s because I got lucky and I knew somebody that had access to a phone so uhhhh 2003 all…most of our communication were through you know….good old fashioned mail…you know, had to write letters ummmm it’s been a while but ummmm in the beginning it took a few months to turn around time to send a letter and then getting a response back in 2-3 months ummm so that was different ummmmm the second time in 2005 I…ummm the bases had been established and everything so we had access to ummm… I’d call frequently and I had communicated by email and talked on a daily basis towards the end. About half way through ummmm I had access to uhhh the building. I had access to ummm wireless server and I actually had my laptop with me so I actually communicated back home uhhh through instant messaging. And umm I purchased a webcam so uhhhh, so I was able to communicate instantly and see uhhh my family members on a webcam, which is great because my uhhh me and my fiancé were expecting at the time so I was able to see the progress of her belly growing up with my son. That’s pretty neat.
J: So umm I’m curious here…how did you get the webcam uhhh because we know that it is hard to get anything unless it’s imported from ummm?
P: The bases were established ahead and there were stores opened there. Pretty much uhhh they had a lot of things that you can buy like…..you can buy TVs and DVD players you know uhhhh they had a lot of things that you can buy out there in stores. Actually, the webcam I bought online, though, it had it shipped to me out there.
J: So was that shipping price at a…like really, really ridiculous rate?
P: No, it was an average like umm original rate cause ummm it’s in the U.S. armed force.
J: Oh, okay, so you guys get a discount, sort of?
P: I’m not sure, I think it’s just regular price though to get it over…thought we were paying too much already. I also ummm bought one for my fiancé and sent it to her back to the States.
J: So ummm, how did you keep up with current events at home….did you watch TV or did you get it through just word of mouth?
P: The first time it was…ummm…very difficult I think ummm we were uhhh we were still in Kuwait on the way to Iraq and I had access to TV….. uh television there ummm we were umm able to see the TV a couple of times and we saw the uhhh uhhh British channel news you know because we were assigned to the British army so we watched British news and-and then once we went to Iraq, and we didn’t have any communication so it was pretty much word of mouth and that wasn’t, you know, very often and clear and rumors could spread easily out there. Uhhh second time we had the internet there and television too I got my news mostly through emails and looking at the internet
J: From what you saw, do you think the news broadcast accurately represents the situation that you experience? Is it over inflated or uh over exaggerated or understated in any sort of way?
P: I recall the first time in 2003, we didn’t get any access to news on there in Iraq and so we didn’t know what the media was like and when I came home ummm….I came home talking to family members they gave us an idea of what it was like and they told us you know that the news and media was overwhelming considering over there everyone were heroes and that nature. So that was good to know you know uhhh good feeling…the country support…I didn’t get that until I got back. And then uhhh but also what I got was watching the media myself and I started to, you know, paying attention to a lot of the negative things that was going on that may have went on out there. Negative images and things like that ….and that was a bit disheartening that how negative contact with the Iraqis and Iraqi population and it was awful. Uhh it was positive out there. To see that the media focused a lot on the negative and that’s about it.
J: When you were coming home, what was the process?
P: Umm coming home, we went through…we uh….in 2003, we drove about to Kuwait for processing and um just pretty much got carried away and things like that. And going through kinda…a medical check up and evaluation…general things like that, you know, throughout, we were lucky enough to find a commercial airline. We had a lay over. I don’t recall in 2003 that we had a lay over. We had an one stop in a foreign country, I don’t recall which one. Ummm it was Italy on the way there, but on the way back, I wasn’t sure. And then we landed and um in the States and we also landed in umm you know Riversides at the air force base and it was uhhh, it was pretty nice. They had the ummm base department with their vehicles and had sirens on it. ‘Cause it was a military base, so the public wasn’t allowed to trespass there, but ummm, I mean they also had the ummm Red Cross following. They kinda had their…they had their whole welcome committee and they were out there waving their flags. That was very nice….it was small, not a lot, but it was nice to have those people. And then uh, and then we had our bus back to the reserve depot which is in Long Beach and that was ummm kinda neat because we had a reserve officer that was a ummm Long Beach police officer and and our reserve was in Long Beach so we had umm a couple police cars waiting for us to get off the freeway and give us police escort to home and when we got home we ummm it was pretty wild and it was at night and we remember seeing a ton of people out there.
J: just on a random note here, have you ever been in a sandstorm?
P: I did encounter some. We had a lot even before we hit Kuwait where the sandstorms was umm is pretty thick. And you weren’t able to see like 20 feet in front of you and you weren’t able to see that much in front of you.
J: So how did you deal with that? By hiding in your Humvee or are there standard procedures for waiting out sandstorms?
P: Well…I don’t know if it’s standard procedure, but I recall one time we’re going and (no audio) Continued: someone had to walk out in front of our vehicle to make sure that we don’t drive off the road way because we couldn’t quite see it and it was right in front of us. Ummm so at that point we, we weren’t really operational functional. In combat we wouldn’t be able to see in front of us, so we turned back around and head back to work. We wouldn’t go because we wouldn’t be able to see anything.
J: How was the food?
P: The food….see, I was attached to the British army the first time so the rations or however you wanna call them and we liked them because the MRA’s are completely different meals. (No Audio) Continued: So when we traded them with the MRA’s because they were sick with their meals. They were happy and we were happy. That and ummm were pretty sigh it got pretty old after eating the same food…I mean it tasted all alike after awhile after ummm however our second time we were there it was established-the bases were established we were in our “chow halls,” as we would call them and the food was you know…typical cafeteria food and it was yea, I was impressed when I first got there but again after you’re there for a few months you get sick of the same food also, so yes, we had families send food over so we would have different food also. And they also had ummm by then they had ummm little snacks to buy there too.
J: Can you describe what sort of food is in a typical MRA or British ration and the amount they would give you per meal?
P: It was okay…I can’t remember, chicken breasts? Turkey dinner or urrrrh uhhh there was spaghetti and things like that and again. It was about tasting the same food over and over again. The MRA has plenty enough to eat. They’re packed with calories; they are a couple thousand calories per MRA. I think if you eat one you’d have enough calories to-to have enough energy for the day. So it was enough…we had enough. We didn’t get pushed forward so that’s why we didn’t run out of food I’ve heard a story where the guys were pushed forward and kinda ran out of supply for a little bit. We were fortunate enough to always have enough food…it didn’t taste great.
J: Do you get special meals on holidays?
P: Yeah, 2005 we did. Ummm Yeah, we had…for Thanksgiving dinner we had a turkey dinner and they would decorate the halls to whatever holiday it was We get a special dinner for the holidays for you know Thanksgiving and for Christmas, we get like a ham or turkey. I remember they even uhhh gave us steak and lobster tails a few times. Tasty and you know, I was cool with that. The first time, no, we just….actually I wasn’t there at all the first time. We wouldn’t have had any anyway.
J: Can you describe some of the activities that you can do during your free time on days because I’ve seen soldiers on Youtube with soldiers making music videos or playing guitars or having pool parties and what was that like for you and was that about right?
P: It depends on what base you’re on. Of course if you’re fortunate enough to be on an air base, they have the best luxuries because that’s where everything is flown into. And they have lots of fun stuff there. They have the best chow halls and ummm the best food there. They….they had the biggest stores. You can go buy a video camera if you want to…a laptop and things like that if you want. They have lots of supplies. Umm and then if you’re in a not so lucky….if you’re, you know, in a different base that’s not as established ummm not much of anything, you know? Just depends on what base you’re at. Things like that…I don’t remember seeing any pools there. I think they had maybe palaces, but I’ve never been into a palace before. My buddies in there did. They umm there were a lot of pools in the palaces and uhhh when we were in Kuwait.
J: How was your base like (No Audio)?
P: (No Audio) Continued: We were pretty much across from the base sooooooo when we needed the supplies, we basically just got it. We were criss-cross across a bridge to get into the air base. We’d go, you know, once a month or so. We’d go and get a good meal and ummm get what we needed and come back, but our base was pretty decent.
J: Where was your base uhhh located? Where was the nearest city?
J: Was that in Southern Iraq?
P: No, it was more of central Iraq. It’s between ummm it’s between Fallujaha and Ramadi…off the main road there so in between the two cities. Those are two major cities.
J: SO, while you were in Iraq, did the Marines assemble some sort of cultural assimilation for you to better understand people and get to know their language?
P: They did uhh they did uhhh not the first time because we just get up and go, but after that it was pretty much standard training uhhh and we learned some before we were deployed, including the most tactical training. Some of it was ummm it was like ummm (No Audio) Continued: One of them was put on by umm someone of the Muslim background umm and they kinda give you a cultural awareness…what to do and what not to do…like not to shake with your left hand or show your left hand. It’s disrespect to show the bottom of your foot. Just a few things like that off the top of my hands….off the top of my head. And they gave us a pamphlet with key words and phrases and greetings to say and also how to order “Put your hands up” or “Don’t Move” and things like that. Ummm I…and I don’t think of it too much as so I kind of lost touch with the words that I learned. (Other Language) I don’t know if I’m pronouncing it right, but ummm but I remember saying that.
J: Do you feel that if it was necessary for our country to bring back the draft? Would that be ethical?
P: Ummm, I don’t see that at this point that it is necessary at all. If at some point there are I think ummm they are dealing with the security and safety of our nation, then we need to ummm use force and use drafts. I don’t believe it’s unethical. No, I don’t. It would be an ethical thing if it were for the security of the country.
J: If you were to pick a different occupation other than to be a police officer, what would it be?
P: Ummm if I were to pick…uhhh before this job I was an EMT and I thought that was interesting, but you don’t make a lot being a paramedic. Probably a firefighter, that would be a good profession. Now my current career as a police officer…I’ve been closer with this school and ummm I think teaching would be a great profession. If something were to happen to me, I would be able to be ready physically, plus, I wouldn’t be able to be a paramedic…so I think teaching would be a great profession for me.
J: So in conclusion, what is your overall opinion on the experience in Iraq?
P: My overall opinion, ummmm, there were good days and bad days. Overall, I was very proud of my services and I’m glad I did it and I don’t regret anything I did there and I think it’s an experience of a life time. You can always look back to it and appreciate it. And that’s about it.
J: Okay, thank you for your time and we appreciate that you helped us in this project.
P: No problem, it’s my pleasure.
Mr. Rollie Maxson.
Rachel: first of all, we want to start off with biographical details. Where were you born, what year, were you drafted or did you enlist?
Rollie Maxson: Born in Wisconsin, 1944, was drafted 1969 out of California
RS: Out of California? So you were in California before?
RM: I was in California when I turned 18
RS: In what branch of military did you serve in?
RM: In the army.
RS: After the departure for training camp, can you tell us about the early days of training?
RM: About what?
RS: Early days of training
RM:I went to four door basic training, its 8 weeks of learning different things you have to know the be in military, basic discipline and stuff, most of the kids, most of the guys in my group were older, most of us were going into college, or they were out of the reserves, so in my particular area most of us were twenty old or older
RS: How was it like, adapting to the military life
RM:I didn’t have a problem with it.
RM: No, I was older and reasonably disciplined and and uh it wasn’t particularly different, the hardest part for me was sleeping in the barracks. Because people snore, and I cant sleep when theres snoring going on. I also opened the windows a lot and they wanted it nice and warm so I would have to get up at night and open all the windows in the barracks which made people angry but that’s the most difficult part , sleeping in the barracks
RS: So, what about the physical regiments, food or social life?
First of all, I was younger and I was in shape, your doing a lot of physical work there, a lot of crawling and running and a lot of physical exercise but thats just part of it
RS: Were you fed well?
RS: Uh huh
RM:Army mess is not particularly good. A lot and a lot of chip beef on toast and water down eggs, and uh , and uh I don’t know in basic training you don’t think about it that much, you don’t eat lunch, so you get up and eat up as much as breakfast and you can,and then your in training all day long and you come back for dinner, and usually your so tired so you don’t care what they serve you just eat it, it was alright.
RS:Did you have any social life? did you make new friends?
RM:Social life?. there is no social life
RS:No social life at all?
RM:No, in basic training you cant leave the base at all, you have to stay there, and when you get back from training your tired cause you wake up at 4 o colock in the morning. So theres no social life at all. The only person, theres only one person that I remember that I was in basic training with and tahts Mike Norris who is Chuck Norris’s brother
RM :Yes, he was in my unit, also got killed in Vietnam. But he was in my unit in basic training, but the other guys if you ask me for names, I wouldn’t remember
RS :So we are going to go into the actual war time service, where did you serve
RM:I was in Vietnam, I went to Vietnam in December 1st of 1969. going to south. They ship you off in various unit I ended up going into a hundred first air born division which it the toughest unit of the army. Also was in the most critical area was in Ashaw valley at the time, they ship you into your division, and whatever company that needs the man, there was 13 of us that went into the company that I went because they had about 12 guys that got killed the night before they needed immediate replacement so 13 of us went right away. ,
RS :Can you tell us details on what actually happened?
RM :In hundred air born division Well first of all, we never saw any villages any person we saw we shot we never went on the trail, we were in the jungle all the time, we never rode in the jeep or truck or anything everything we did they pick us up by helicopter flew us out to the jungle in to a landing zone just big enough for the helicopter to land you would get off and your unit is ythe whole unit which is about 90 guys or intune about 30 guys you would just take off to certain directon you would walk all they long stop make camp get up in the morning, walk some more, stop and make camp get up in the morning like that for 6days you either got to another landing zone or you got into the hill where they wanted to make the landing zone,you make the landing zone or after 6 days they bring in more food for you , you always carried food for six days worth of food they load up your food you either keep walking, or they pick you up by the helicopter again and they take you to a different landing. And you just do the same thing all over again., so you never stay in one place and your always walking alright now, where we were the average temperature was about 101 degrees and 100 percent humidity and rained all the time so we were always wet, always tired. And then along the way you got into a several fire fights, you are walking down the trail you find the enemy, they shoot you, you shoot them. Go on , maybe it will go 3 days and nothing will happen but some place, they attack you at night so its just the matter of your walking through the jungle, hacking your way through the jungles somedays you go only about 100 yards, cause its that thick to go through and some days its not that bad so you go a little bit, that was the hundred first work, your always travel a little bit, camp , travel some more and you never stay in one spot
RS :Im assuming during action, you witness some casualties if not many. What was that like?
RM :Our unit had more casualities then any, in the war, we also had more kills then any other war, we had 300 in our company we had more then 475 causalities in 2 months, now they aren’t all killed, but its killed or wounded. So guys were getting there going up there and getting shot one day and a replacement comes in and we just go through the whole thing again. We were in a lot of heavy battles. My unit was on emery hill before I was there my unit was on battle of firebase rip core which is the only pure defeat that the army ever had. Fire fire base to ever evacuated under fire, my unit was on that. we were on the base we were the rescue mission. My unit was involve in tect, which was the holiday fighting around my unit was also involve in evacuation of federation archery. So my unit was in particularly heavy, you know. I was there three hundred fifty two days. And my unit was in involve in over 200 fire fights. That means over two hundred times were were in a situation where are got fired at or we are firing at someone else or both. Some people were there whole year and never fired a bolt, and some people do it a lot. We did it a lot . Now a lot of them were short battles they are like 8 shots and someones dead . some of them lasted couple of days. Some of them lasted a week. So various outcome
RS:I remember you told us one time you got shot
RM:I got shot three times
RS: You got shot three times, can you tell us about that?
RM: Got hit with the… all of them were minor. I got shot in my head. They just went in there scalped it and cut it open and sowed it up and it was “ oh your fine” , and sometime after that I was involve with big battle and we got a lot of guys killed and a lot of guys wounded. I actually got hit by mortar round. Now when a motor run when it hits it it kills within 15 feet of it. They also shoot motor runs with pure gas. Just to annoy you. One of the gas landed on my arm. So if it was expositive I would be descend right now. But I think it was gas so it went in there. It actually didn’t even break my arm but it made my arm swell up that big and damage all the nerves in my arm. That’s why I cant break my fingers right now. And the night before I had taken couple of shells in my leg. Which was minor. Just two little piece of shaffle, but the arm was , I was out for about 3 weeks it just swelled up so bad. Like a broken arm but mostly nerve damage. It was minor compare to people with lost arm, lost legs and lost lives. It was minor
RS: How did you keep in contact with your family. Im sure they were worried
RM:I mean you get letters and that. And I wrote few times. I was older I was 25 when I went to Vietnam. I turned 26 in Vietnam. So I was older so I wasn’t home sick as much as that. I wrote to my parents and I usually tell them exactly what happened. Because when your wounded they send notices and it gets them later, and you want to tell your parents that it was minor and im okay. And you know. You write to them there and I got some letters from home. I don’t know. I wasn’t writing every day. I probably wrote maybe once every month.
RS: So about recreation or off duty pursuit
RM: There is no off duty
RS: At all?
RM: No. after after about three months in the valley we were allowed to come and change clothes you wear your uniform until it just rotted off, you come in and you get to have a chance to shower
RS: After three months?
RM: We didn’t get real shower You got back you got a chance to shower and actually eat a meal you know get some REAL food. And they give you new uniforms and you get back out again. After three months you do that again. Now when I was wounded, I was off the field for three months and most of the times you just sit around and play cards and gamble, nothing much to do. Theres no gymnasium or indoor pluming. Now after you go about 8 or 9 months you can go into RNR which is rest and relaxation. And you can go to Singapore, some married guys went back to Hawaii and met up with their wives, you can go to Tokyo or Bangkok I went to Sydney your down there about 4 days, you have fun you drink you meet people etc and buying clothes cause they were cheap to buy there. You’re there for four days; you get back on the plane, go back to Vietnam. Take off the nice clothes, put some uniform and your back out on the field. So there was no recreation . at all. Not in Vietnam. Nothing at all.
RS: when the war ended, where were you
RM: I was.. I was teaching. I was in arcadia. I was at Foothills teaching cause I started teaching at 73 and the war ended at 75
RS: how was it that you were send back home?
RS: how was it that you were send back home?
RM: well I just served a year and I just came back
RS: oh you just serve for a year and you all come back?
You can, theres are different rules. After you serve for a year you have 7 more months to serve. And I was at Georgia for 7 months after that, but you can extend. You can extend to be in the field of Vietnam and then you get to go directly home, because then you can go home and don’t need to serve anymore. And some guys chose to do that but I serve enough time there and I didn’t want to be there anymore. So I got out I went back to Georgia spent 7 months there, biding my time they are actually training some people there and then your out. I got out on 4th of July of 1971
RS: How was it readjusting to normal things?
RM:I had I had to no problems I observe no anti war sentiments among my friends they didn’t call me murders or anything, my friends didn’t do that people at my church were very supportive, and I was just older. It makes a difference when you are 2 5 and 26 or when you are 18 or 19. I had no problem; I had never ever taken drugs. Military. Never ever. Never had in my life. Never ever. So when I got out it wasn’t like I had nightmares or had problems adjusting .i just got out I finished up my student teaching type thing. I finished my substitute teaching and started teacher. It wasn’t difficult for me at all.
RS: Why is that. Cause normally you hear veterans taking like a year off after they come back.
RM: If you are in a situation and you don’t believe what you are fighting for. you are miserable and your taking drugs those are e the ones that come back home and get messed up. First of all I believed in what I was fighting for. Strongly. I wasn’t there in misery. I don’t enjoy killing people but I believed in the cause so when I came home I didn’t come home thinking that a waste. I didn’t have that feeling. A lot of it its just age. When you are older you just know how to handle things. I traveled all over united states before I went to the war . a lot of guys haven’t even left their home before they went to war. I was living on my own. I wasn’t living at home I was living at home. I was living at home even when I got drafted. Its just age. I graduated form college already maybe its just my dimitor, I just didn’t have problem adjusting, I don’t have trouble talking about the war either. A lot of people do, but I don’t. so njo I didn’t have any trouble adjusting back home.
RS:You said earlier that you haven’t contacted your fellow..
RM:You know couple of guys I do. I do. I belong to this airbone association which is all guys in my unit. By the way my unit the first of 506 is the company that saving private ryan was in. its also the company that the brothers was in. the brothers. The documentary. That was also my unit. But anyways. There’s a large association and when I went through. I looked up for names that I would recognize first of all when your in war you don’t know names because everybody goes by their nickname. But you know some of their names. And couple of guys I emailed them and some of the guys would see my name and email me. But I haven’t met up with them and talked about it. They do have unions of several of these association I may go on this year because its in lake tahoe. Cause its always been in Indianapolis or something, but I may go this year just for fun of it
RS: So how has war affected you, has it affected you ?
RM: Well. Like I told you before, we always have this saying. Those who has fight for it, freedom have a taste that the protected would never know. I believe that strongly. And when you are in a war and you believe in what you are fighting for the rights and freedom that you have and your family and friends have. It made me appreciate what we have in this country , I am very patriotic in that sense and I am very respectful for any service organization or flag or national anthem or any song that has to do with patriotisms. I strongly believe in that. Now I probably had that before, but serving on the war , putting your life on that for what you believe in. just makes you appreciate things a lot more. And I am a little more intolerant of people that don’t have the same believe and conviction
RS: Do you have any life lessons learned from service
RM: Yeah, keep your head down when you are getting shout. I don’t know I don’t know. You got to follow rules you gotta pay attention. I don’t care where you are in life. whether its war or working in your jobs. If you don’t pay attention on how to do things right and function property and keep yourself a live your ganna be in trouble. That’s what you learn you learn to discipline to get you through life. I think military is good place to go if some guys are lacking in discipline and I have former students that were like I have nothing to do I don’t know what to do in life and they go to military and I met them when they come home and they are different people. Military life does something to you, if you believe in what you are doing. Military life does something to you to make you a better person
RS: To wrap it up, do you have any interesting or funny stories?
RN: Yes, for the vast majority of time
RS:Ahaha okay, appropriate kinds.
They are humorous kinds or you think about them later, my mom taught school and all of her kids wrapped up I don’t even know what it was 50 dozen cookies or something and wrapped them individually and shipped them to my company. They arrived the day after we came back form field and we had 13 guys killed and 75 wounded including me. And these cookies were there and we never appreciated it because any other time and you would’ve gotten gift like that from junior high kids, it would be a sensational things. But it meant nothing to us until later when all the survivors all got together and we all composed a plack and got them a letter, its not funny but its circumstances that happens here you are someone dedicated their year book to our company and right after it came out, 13 of your guys was killed. You know? Something funny happen. Well. Nothing funny happen the last four months of army most of the way I acted people didn’t know me didn’t know that I was a little sarcastic. And I didn’t show respect to authority when knew that the authority was dummer then I was. And I was pretty good at showing that and I would get in trouble. Now in the military if you say something to an officer that they don’t like, they could request that you get a article 15 which means you can get busted in rank, or pay a fine and you get a paper that said you were a bad boy, this is in Georgia now the lieutenants would come and tell me to do something and I wouldn’t do it. I was the captain’s clark and I only did what the captain asked me to do. So the lieutenants would get angry with me and go to captain and say I would like to give article 15 to some one. And I was the guy that would type up all the things, and then the captain would go and say, alright who would you like to give the article to, and the lieutenant would say, sergeant Maxson for false behavior or something like that. Then captain would say, okay, sergeant Maxson , type it up. And then I would say. No sir I don’t want to type it up sir. The captain would say, well if he cant type it up, then I guess he cant type it up I am sorry that’s the way it goes. Having that way. Those are the things that captain and I used to laugh about. I also got chance to talk to jimmy carter for a long time. It’s a long story but yeah. Those are interesting stories. I am not humorous. Duh.
RS: Just to recapture things, what would be your overall things to say about military.
RM: Well I believed in the military, if I wasn’t drafted I would enlist, If I couldn’t enlist I would go to air force, but I was drafted and that was fine and I believed it in. My grandfather was in the war, my father was in the war, my uncles were in the war so that’s where I belong. So I believe in fighting for what you believe in.
RS: Thank you for your time.
RM: You are very welcome.
RS: Thank you Mr. Maxson.
Iraq War 2004-2005
Born: April 3rd, 1973
Highest Rank: Sergeant
We are doing this project at the Veterans of Foreign War
Interviewer: Andy Hsiao
Assistants: Vicky Choi, Mandy Cheng
Interview Date: 4/17/08
We are doing this for Arcadia Veterans History Project
Hsiao: Would you like to tell us about your childhood and your early life?
Martinez: I am the oldest of one, oldest of three. I have one brother and one sister. Uh. My father was in the army from 66-71. Went to Vietnam, retired from the post office. My mother, she uh works as a processor. Right now uh I’m married. I have four kids, and I work for UPS, and I’m in the National Guard.
Hsiao: How did you get involved in the war?
Martinez: Well, I was called up, in uh 2004, with my else part of National Guard. We were called up in 2004 and I worked for the one sixteenth beginning combat team from Utah. And I was attached to the travel, the first of the all 140.
Hsiao: How were your experiences with the combat team?
Martinez: Uh, my experiences were good, Uh, when I got there I was a little bit nervous because I, I got attached to uh the other state. But the unit treated me good they brought me in.
Hsiao: So you were able to adapt really fast?
Martinez: Yeah, I was. The uh they brought me in, told me what I needed to do, told me what was going on and what needed to be done out there, and what my job was gonna be doing out there.
Hsiao: Can you tell us about your duty there with your combat team?
Martinez: When I first got into Iraq, my duty was uh mostly tower guard. We uh just went into the front gate and then uh (phone rings) and uh until the elections are over. Once the elections were over in 2005, beginning of 2005 we moved from Samara, we moved to Cookrook. At to Cookrook and we operated at a Sepals from there. And we conducted our controls and our operations..
Hsiao: Was there a lot of action going on?
Martinez: In Cookrook, most of it was them just rocketing the oil refineries so we have to sit up in the water two volts and watch the activities that were going on to make sure they did rocket the oil refineries.
Cheng: Did you make friends with any local people?
Martinez: Yeah, I have a lot of friends.. a lot of friends, uh that would come to the gate. The kids would always try to give us food. They would ask for stuff. They would sell us like blankets or because we weren’t allowed to..to walk through the markets or go to the cities so we would come to the gates and they would try to sell us stuff. So if we needed anything, just ask the person at the gate.
Hsiao: So, would you like to tell us about your meeting with the police chief?
Martinez: Yeah, we used to take the go take the commander to his living or we well see what is going on in the city. As far as what they needed. They built schools; they built, uh like water tower. So.. we would go to those meetings where the local people would see them with their issues so that they could see them. And we would on on a.. try to mediate the stuff between the villages because I was on a (phone rings) I was in a…this village.. their the arabs and the .. the part of the I was in .. part of Iraq I guess during the during the uhh personal war.. well they didn’t get along with the Parisians. Arabs didn’t get along with the Parisians. So a lot of Arabs moved up to Cookrook.
Hsiao: So did you guys end up having a combat with them?
Martinez: Well, they had a fighting between the first Arabs so we would have to mediate and send patrols up.
Hsiao: So did you guys end up resolving it or anything?
Martinez: Yeah. Well our job was there was to make sure Iraqi police and Iraqi army that they did all that themselves plus… we were just there to assist them.
Hsiao: Would you like to tell us about an insignificant battle before you came back from the war?
Martinez: A lot of the battles we had were mostly IDs. We had one soldier that was killed in my unit and one person who lost his foot and the other one is had some strap metal from an ID. We had an ID during an escort… from Kuwait to Cookrook.
Cheng: Did you witness their death or wound?
Martinez: Uh… I wasn’t there when they got injured.
Cheng: What was your first reaction when you heard about it?
Martinez: we were upset because they bought the body back to the base and we all had to see the body and give our last respects to the body. So it was pretty uh hard. Uh.
Hsiao: So. Uh. about the bomb you told us earlier, like before you came back from the war? Like can you tell us your feelings about that?
Martinez: It was pretty upsetting because uh we were driving on a route. It was supposed to be clear. The bomb came off. Nothing happened. We had a window that messed up but we had some stranded along with the door. We drove about 200 meters down. There was an Iraqi checkpoint. They said they knew nothing about uh the roadside bomb. They said they had cleared the route before us too. So I was pretty upset because I feel like uh they should have clear it better and should’ve monitored the roads better. That’s just the way it goes.
Hsiao: What do you first do when you came back from the war?
Martinez: When we came back we do a lot of debriefing school. We go do a little bit… they give you like classes, they ask you questions. They send you to.. you talk to counselors. They ask you how you feel. They give you psychiatry not the psychiatry but the uh counseling. And then you come back for 90 days and then report back to well for me I reported back to my National Guard in 90 days.
Hsiao: So was it hard for you to adjust?
Martinez: In the beginning it was. You are used to driving fast over there and then you come back home, you have to uh learn to drive at speed limit (phone rings) your family… you’re not use to talking to your family because uh. You really don’t want to talk to them about what really went on in the beginning.
Hsiao: So it must have been hard for you.
Martinez: Cause no one really understand… Sleeping is harder only some night.
Hsiao: Do you have like any sort of weird dreams?
Martinez: You know the beginning I did. But not as part, but as far as, if I want to go back. What if I wanted to go back or this is it. Cause I reenlisted… soon as I got back reenlisted I was wondering if I wanted to go back because this is it.
Hsiao: Are you still worried about that today?
Martinez: A little bit because I have 4 more years left in National Guard.
Cheng: Did you keep in touch with your family during the war?
Martinez: Yeah, they have computers, they have phones, they could write letters. When I went back to patrols, I made sure I called my family. Make sure I call my wife so she’d know I was back.
Hsiao: Did you tell them anything about the war? Like when you communicate with them.
Martinez: Oh, no…no. Cause you can’t really talk about that now cause there is like security issues.
Choi: Did your military experiences influence your thinking about the war or the military in general?
Martinez: No, not really because I knew when I signed up… that I just been.
Choi: Was it what you expected?
Martinez: In the beginning I thought it was, but towards the end the war it drains you, so and then you see, in the beginning you want to go there and kill the bad people, but then you find out there some good people. So it’s really like really mixed feelings.
Choi: Did those experiences affect your life?
Martinez: Yeah, because I think about the people and I think about the people that are still back there. I think about the people I met, as far as the Iraqi there are some good people.
Hsiao: So now after you came back from the war, what do you do for a living?
Martinez: …I still work at UPS. I still do National Guard.
Hsiao: That’s it oh thank you for..your interviewing with you and thank you for accepting our interview and this has been a great experience for us and a valuable gift to the country and later generations. Thank you very much.
Interviewer: First off can you just start off saying your name
Mr. Shim: My name is Louis, L-o-u-i-s. Last name Shim, S-h-i-m
Interviewer: And your age and your place of birth?
Mr. Shim: I’m 73 years old and I was born in Seoul, S-e-o-u-l. Seoul, Korea
Interviewer: So what made you decide that you wanted to move from Korea to America.
Mr. Shim: It’s a long story…It’s a long story. During the Korean War, I was drafted by the South Korean army, and I spoke the English language very well. I was transferred to Mesh. You know the Mesh hospital unit, mobile army surgical hospital? I was transferred to the army hospital as an interpreter and I met the U.S. army officer. His name is Captain Eric R. Fietz, F-i-e-t-z. He was a hospital chaplain and he and I worked together helping the orphan and orphanage and also the native people from Dongduchon to capital city Seoul. After the Sunday morning services, we had the jeep load all the supplies like army surplus, clothing, and the U.S. people, the generals sent us all their clothing for the winter. It was a cold season so they were trying to save the Korean orphans and civilians and I met him in 1952. When he left, he asked me one question. They called me Louie, would you like to come to the U.S. for a higher education; I said yes sir. And he sent me all the papers, so I came here in 1956
Interviewer: Where were you educated in America?
Mr. Shim: I went to school in Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota. I majored in Chemistry and Mathematics, then on I went to greater school in Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa. I wanted to serve as a minister, serve in the Korea or American whatever. I wanted to serve the needy people. I was following Captain Fietz’s footsteps, he was a minister of the Lutheran Church, so I went to the Lutheran Seminary and I served with the congregation in Logan, Kansas, and Oketo, Kansas and three years later I went to Hebron, Nebraska and Auburn, Nebraska as a pastor of congregation. Then they sent me a letter to come in for a physical and I asked, what’s going on? And they said: you just got drafted.
Interviewer: So you were drafted?
Mr. Shim: Yeah because of the shortage of chaplains in the army so that’s why I joined the U.S. Army
Interviewer: What war was this?
Mr. Shim: Vietnam
Interviewer: So basically, was there any training in…
Mr. Shim: Yeah, anyone going to service, they have six months of training. I went through the Infantry training, then I was training for Airborne, and I was training for armor, you know tanks. So basically I trained for Infantry, Armor, and Airborne and also then later they sent me to school to be a marriage counselor. Because a lot of Korean wives came over here and had many problems so they asked me to solve the maternal problems. I went to so many different army posts such as Fort Roll, Fort Lois, Fort Beding, the United States had me as a marriage counselor.
Interviewer: So what was your main role in Vietnam?
Mr. Shim: They sent me to Vietnam because my background was Buddhist, so they told me the Vietnam people were Catholic and Buddhist and they thought I could help them, that was the main reason, whether I could help Vietnamese people , but I went there and it was already too late, so I was told to be brought back to the U.S. and serve as another position and mainly they told me to teach the GIs the Korean language to those heading to serve in South Korea. I spent a lot of time teaching them: number one, the language, number two, the custom and manner and the do and don’ts, and another thing, when the young GIs came over to Korea, and within a month, they were falling in love with the Korean ladies and they wanted to get married. You know what I told them? Well when you go back to the United States, something very wrong with your marriage, very hard to find a part to repair it so I discouraged them getting married so soon. Within a month they want to get married.
Interviewer: Well basically how did you help other people as a chaplain?
Mr. Shim: Well for one, I served as a marriage counselor mainly for the Korean brides, who, when they came to America, they could not adjust to the new life, language barriers, and the GI husbands they came to talk to me and said: why when we were in Korea she did all the laundry, clean the house, did everything for me, shine my boots, and when we came to the United States, and I stopped the car and said that we were home so let’s get in, and she just sat there so I asked why, and she said aren’t you going to open the door for me? You see a lot of things changed and when she came over they learned very quickly the American way of life and when they are invited to some parties, she waited in front of the door for the husband to open the door for her. And when she got in the house or hotel and stood still, so he asked why, and she told him he had to get her coat off for her. So the GI’s asked me can she be same as when she was in Korea as she is now over here to try and help me a lot and shine boots, she used to give haircuts to save money, but now she never does that.
Interviewer: Do you have any special, specific day that you remember because it was particularly different from anything before?
Mr. Shim: My life in the United States? Or in the Army?
Interviewer: Yeah, in the army, any special moment you particularly remember?
Mr. Shim: You know, when I was in Mesh hospital, I saw a lot of GIs, they ate so much better food and they got paid much more money than I did that I said to myself, if I could come to the United States by any chance, I want to be an officer in the U.S. Army. Then I did it, so I think when I came to the United States I wanted to get all my education, so I got my bachelor of arts in math and chemistry and the bachelor of divinity in the seminary and the seminary gave me the doctor of divinity degree. So that’s what I asked for then when I came here I saw a lot of good cars and within a month I got my license to drive and someday I wanted to buy a brand new Cadillac, and I did it. You saw the car over there parked in the driveway? That was a Cadillac; it already has 27,000 miles on it.
Interviewer: So it was like a dream come true for you right?
Mr. Shim: Yes…and one more thing, when I went to college, on my very first Valentine’s Day, do you know how many Valentine’s Day card from the ladies, girls from that college? I got thirty seven valentines cards! And one of them said, on the bottom of the card, “from your secret admirer.” I never found who that was.
Interviewer: So did you make any friends in the army?
Mr. Shim: Oh yes a lot of friends and I made friends in the army, the officers, and enlisted ranks like private to common sergeants and there’s lady soldiers and lady officers and there are a lot from the Hispanic background, Latino soldiers came over and also the African American soldiers there. *Edit: And sometimes you know, when you have a toothache the doctor can either treat the decay of the tooth or teeth, but when the tooth or teeth gets so bad, what do they do? They have to pull it out, marriage is the same way. In the beginning, when they have any problems they can…through the counseling, they can get a better marriage life, and if it’s so bad, what do they do? Either pull the tooth out by gangling of the foot or amputate it, meaning they have to get a divorce to live a better life.
Interviewer: So the friends you made in the army, do you still contact them?
Mr. Shim: Mm…hmm
Interviewer: So basically after the war what did you decide to do?
Mr. Shim: There are a lot of people, psychologically and physically, they’re not the same. They went into war, and when they come home, there is a lot of suicide among the GIs. You hear the same thing now, they go to Iraq, they come home, and some happen to shoot their wives and kids and commit suicide, kill themselves. And I was counseling drinking problems, drug problems, and my job was to try to help Vietnam veterans when they came back from the war. And that was really a full time job too.
Interviewer: Is that what you did after you came back?
Mr. Shim: Yeah, and also the…not only the marriage problems, they cannot get along with their peers or friends because when you’re in the front line on the battlefield, you never know what’s going to happen to you. So they drink so much and smoke marijuana or some other things and when they come home, the body cannot take it. The doctors can take care of it, but at the veterans’ hospital, too many GIs they need help; they have to wait in line for two or three hours to see a doctor. And so they can’t give them any help.
Interviewer: So what do you think that, helping other people in the war, how did it affect you?
Mr. Shim: Well I’m really thankful that I’m able to help them. They don’t tell me that they appreciate it, but when they get discharged from the hospital, I really thank God for that GI that they get to go home and to their family. And some, they never make it, but I feel really sorry for not only the ex-GI, but also their family too.
Interviewer: Did you experience any of the problems they had or were you fine coming back to the U.S.?
Mr. Shim: I didn’t have any problems, I was very glad that I was back home to my family and that I have the good experience that I can help whenever the GIs who spent a year in Vietnam or other parts of the world.
Interviewer: How long were you stationed there?
Mr. Shim: I was there only less than a month because they told me that they don’t need me…they are the Buddhist people but because I cannot communicate very well, I don’t speak their language, that was my really shortcoming for counseling their people. They can’t speak the English language; they can speak French, but I don’t speak French, I don’t speak the Vietnamese language. That was my handicap so they sent me back right away, so that I could go around to the other posts in the United States to help GIs from Vietnam or help his family. And I did a good job I guess or never would’ve made this kind of rank.
Interviewer: What is your rank?
Mr. Shim: Lieutenant Colonel.
Interviewer: Oh wow. So how long did you serve in the U.S. for helping other people?
Mr. Shim: In total twenty years.
Interviewer: Twenty years?
Mr. Shim: Mmhmm.
Interviewer: In Vietnam, in particular, where were you stationed?
Mr. Shim: In Vietnam airport, there’s a hospital unit there and I was sent there for about two weeks. Evaluating my service, I told you before I don’t speak French, I don’t speak the Vietnamese language, they don’t understand the English language, it’s very hard to communicate, so they thought I could do better in the mainland United States, so I came back.
Interviewer: So what were the kinds of problems that they had, you said a lot of them had marriage problems, but besides that what other problems did the GIs coming back seem to have recurring?
Mr. Shim: Drug problems
Interviewer: Drug problems?
Mr. Shim: Uh-huh…they were really bad, drinking problems, drug problems.
Interviewer: How did you help them with this?
Mr. Shim: We showed them the movies. And see that drugs bring you down and eventually you’re going to die from this drug problem. Not only that, the family is going to suffer. And somehow they understand right away, but it’s like smoking. They want to quit smoking, they cannot do it, they stop for about a week or ten days, they went back to smoke again. Same way, the drugs, same way, they want to stop for about two weeks or three weeks and they came back to do drugs again.
Interviewer: So you were they for moral support?
Mr. Shim: I was there to try and help counsel them I think. What else would you like to ask?
Interviewer: So on a monthly basis or on a daily basis, how many people would you say you would have to help?
Mr. Shim: I usually had about two or three a day from Monday through Friday, and if they wanted to ask anything, they can call me at anytime. You know at night or on weekends, so I go there and I try to help, especially the Korean ladies. I know Korean so well so they are really thankful, and I try to explain to them that this is the United States, you’ve got to learn the language, number one, that’s number one. Number two is that you have to learn how to drive, you have to have a driver’s license. And also over here, the they only have a six year schooling so if I were you I would go to junior high and senior high to improve your life. Now your husband, you married when he was a private and he’s going up to the Gulf War and he’s sergeant, and staff sergeant, he’s going, he’s improving all the time, going through higher education. But you are same as before, you never went back to school again, so that’s why the problem start at your husband is getting a higher education and you are the same as before, so they cannot communicate. Communication problem, so I advocate, you got a free tuition to study in junior high and senior high, don’t worry about your age, go back to school, and learn the language. Some do, some don’t.
Interviewer: For the GIs you helped with drug problems, if their problem was too severe then would you suggest them to get some medical attention?
Mr. Shim: Yeah. Rehab programming via the hospital, or the post hospital, they have a big hospital in every post and I told them to go back and see a doctor for help. And then I check with them every week, once a week, or maybe sometimes even longer, maybe twice a week to see how they are getting along. However, whenever I see them they always say, “Chaplain, I’m fine, I’m fine.” They’re not fine, I know that they aren’t, they lie to me.
Interviewer: By any chance do you have any family members who are in the army?
Mr. Shim: Yeah, my son is in Kosovo right now, in the Kosovo, the old Yugoslavia, you know where Yugoslavia is? Kosovo is the Muslim country and Serbia is the Christian country and so there’s a lot of war between the two countries. And my son, he didn’t want to go in the army, when he was reaching eighteen, I dragged him to the post office to sign the draft card, and he signed under protest. And then when he got into college, there was no job for him, and he told me that he sent an application to McDonalds to help serve the people coming to eat. So I told him, “You got a college education and you want to work at McDonalds?!?!” So I forced him to join the army, so yeah now he got sixteen years in the service, actually eighteen years now, so he’s got two more years to go. And he started as a private, so then he may be a force sergeant, so he went to school to be a warren officer. And his rank is now a CW2, you know a CW2 means what?
Interviewer: I have no idea.
Mr. Shim: Chief Warren Officer 2. His rank is about GS 10 or 11.
Interviewer: So does your son enjoy it now?
Mr. Shim: Yeah, he just went to Kosovo, he just left a month ago.
Interviewer: Because it just became a country
Mr. Shim: Yeah, that’s right
Interviewer: So he enjoys it, but do you ever regret forcing him?
Mr. Shim: No I’m glad that he did like it. When I bought his uniform and insignia, rank, everything, and when he left his room, he didn’t even take anything, he took us to Fort Jackson in South Carolina. And he never called me or wrote me a letter, except whenever he needed paperwork, my signature, he sent me a letter for that.
Interviewer: Did you ever have to help him adjust to the war also, did you have to counsel him as well. In other words did he ever need your help in counseling?
Mr. Shim: My son you mean?
Mr. Shim: No, he’s a different person now, he knew he was wrong when I told him to join the service. He signed up for four years, then he quit, then later on he rejoined again. Then he became a sergeant right away, first sergeant, then he went to warren officer school to get a Chief Warren Officer title and so on, and when he comes back next year he will be a CW3; he’s a really high rank.
Interviewer: How do you think the war experience changed you?
Mr. Shim: You know, I got a good recommendation from the army, so whenever I go to work for anything, such as during the riot, there was a 1992 riot.
Interviewer: You mean the L.A. Riot?
Mr. Shim: Yeah I was there, and my wife was operating the medical supplies. That night they looted everything then they threw a bunch of cocktail and burned it down. Then the government, they loaned me $100,000, without any interest for three years. That’s why we were able to reopen the store. That was really good to me.
Interviewer: Do you think you have any advice to give?
Mr. Shim: To young people?
Mr. Shim: I would like to see them joining the junior ROTC, you don’t have any junior ROTC program at your school?
Interviewer: Oh…we have a Regional Occupational program.
Mr. Shim: I would like to see more people join the junior ROTC, do you understand what I’m talking about when I mean junior ROTC?
Interviewer: It’s for universities and colleges, they have them.
Mr. Shim: At high schools, they have officers and sergeants, and they train at senior high, juniors and seniors, they wear uniform and they have weekly drills, and they in doctorate why the United States needs an army or navy. And some who go back to college want to join the junior ROTC and become an officer for full branches of service, and I would like to see, well even though you don’t like it, it’s good for you, for your future. *Edit: Service, maybe serve for two years or join the National Guard, join the Reserve. You get extra money for school, and when you apply for a job, that helps. My son’s fulltime job is Inland Security, he’s a National Guard now, he’s not in active duty. When he applied for a job, he got it right away, because he served in active duty for four years and in the Reserve for ten years, for that time, and so he’s a high ranking now. Do you know GS 12?
Mr. Shim: That’s the Federal Government pay level grade, Lieutenant Colonel is around GS 10. Now he is GS 12, for a civilian job, he’s making a lot of money, he’s making about $5000 or $6000 a month. It’s not bad.
Interviewer: *Edit: By any chance do you want to just explain all the achievements that you got?
Mr. Shim: Oh yeah, I want to show to you one here.
Interviewer: Do you want to explain it?
Mr. Shim: When I retired they gave me this, citation for my job well done during the service, you can make a copy of that or you can take a picture.
Interviewer: So are these all the people you worked with?
Mr. Shim: I went to the school, chaplain school. I’m the only Asian in the group.
Interviewer: So this is before the Vietnam War?
Mr. Shim: After
Interviewer: Oh after.
Mr. Shim: Yeah that over there was my helmet when I was in Vietnam, that was my dog tag too when I was in Vietnam.
Interviewer: So I have one more question. So you have a high opinion of the army
Mr. Shim: Yes
Interviewer: So what made you have such a high opinion of the army or when you first saw the army did you always have a high opinion of them?
Mr. Shim: You know the U.S. army, they are the fighting force, but they are also peacemakers. They got there to help the people, they have passion, so they are actually missionaries for the entire world, that’s why I really like the U.S. army. We went there, whenever we went to Korea or Japan, even Japan is a rich nation, but there are a lot of needy people, and I help them out and they appreciate it. Korea too, I go there often; I went there as a Captain, I went back as a Major, I went back again as a Lieutenant Colonel and I went to lots of orphanages. So the U.S. army is a peacekeeping force and gives a lot of helping hands to the needy people, that’s the U.S. army. They help orphanages, they do a lot of good things, I don’t know why most nations don’t like us.
Interviewer: So you see a different side of the army, a side that most of us don’t see, right?
Mr. Shim: Uh-huh
Interviewer: Most of the media doesn’t talk about this.
Mr. Shim: No they don’t talk. And I thank you for coming to my house and I know Kevin’s grandfather, we were high school classmates.
Mr. Shim: That’s why he called me one night and said, “Hey, my grandson would like to talk to you.” So I told him sure send him over. *Explaining hat. This says the Veterans of Foreign War. You got that one? And I belong there and I have a life membership, and the cross is chaplain.
Interviewer: And what’s the one on the other side?
Mr. Shim: Oh that’s the unit I belonged to. The Post Sr. Vice Commander of California from 1995 to 1996, I bought only one because it’s costly. One is enough, and the helmet is mine from Vietnam, and the dog tag. You know the dog tag, they have your name, social security number, and your blood type. Mine was A positive, so you can see an A plus there, my name and my social security number, that’s all. In case you need blood, you can right away, give blood to the needy. Gentlemen I thank you and if you have any questions in the future, you can call me, or you can contact Kevin and we can just meet again.
Lorraine Munsey Transcript
S: Sarah Cheng
L: Lorraine Munsey
S: AH, This is Lorraine Munsey and she was born in Los Angeles, California. Her birthday is on April 11Th 1923, she served as a Navy Nurse is WWII as an officer in the Nurse Corps. Today’s date is April 17th 2008 and um my name is Sarah Cheng and I am a fellow member of Arcadia. And um, this interview is being conducted for the Veterans History Project and the Library of Congress. Um, so…uh…so can you tell me a few features of your parent’s occupations?
L: My what?
S: Uh, um…parent’s occupations.
L: Uh…um…my dad worked in the oil fields, drive a truck…there weren’t many jobs available, he wasn’t a professional person.
S: And uh…number of siblings?
L: My mother?
S: Uh, number of siblings.
L: Oh, none.
S: Uh, Where were you before you entered the Nurse Corps?
L: I was working at the Pasadena (unintelligible) and the Huntington Memorial Hospital., it was like a clinic.
S: Um, so you worked there before you…?
L: I worked there before I graduated nurses training with the Navy.
S: Um, Okay, did you work there after the war was over?
L: No cause I was done with nurses training.
S: Um…Uh…did you have any other family members who served in the war?
L: Uh…I have cousins.
S: How did you enter the service?
L: I joined-I joined, I saw a request for recruiting and I had a friend who told me I should do this, I said “Okay.”
S: Uh, So…why did you choose this branch of service?
L: Um…because I had worked in the Naval Hospital for the last 3 months of my training and they had somebody called a cadet Nurse Corp and uh…it was for the government and I was (unintelligible).
S: Ha…Okay. Uh did you have any training for the Nurse Corps or did you just…?
L: When I went to the Nurse Corps they did teach us about…we wore gas masks, we had to swim, we had to go across the pool without making any noise. And we had to march in formation and things like that. So we did that. It was all kind of silly because we didn’t do any combat, but there were very few navy nurses on a ship in those days, there are more now.
S: So um…in California as a Navy Nurse?
L: In what?
S: IN California as a Navy Nurse?
S: How did you adapt to military life?
L: Well, it was easy because-it was different but I did fine.
S: uh, how was it different?
L: Well, it was all men then, there weren’t many women in the service except there were in (unintelligible). It was just like nursing.
S: How was your social life?
L: How was it? It was very good! There were a lot of sailors in San Diego.
S + L: (laughter)
S: Um…Uh, so you served in San Diego?
S: San Diego Naval Hospital?
S: The Hospital?
S: Uh, what were the dates of your service?
S: Uh, what were the dates you served…?
L: Uh, ’45 of February till ’45 I think it was October.
S: Uh…uh What were your regular duties?
L: Well, I didn’t do actual nursing.
S: what were you emotions do to the casualties of the war?
L: Well, um…we were in San Diego building noses and other parts for people who had been shot and needed body parts, I was in the plastic surgery…(unintelligible). I was so sad it was a terrible war.
S: Um, did you find any friendships?
L: Yes, I roomed with a girl from New Jersey and after the service I went back to visit her for 6 weeks and explored the East Coast.
S: Uh…Um, how did you keep in touch with your family?
L: I came home, well, it was in San Diego and I came home a lot, it was only a train ride.
S: What did you do off duty?
L: We ate. We went to San Francisco. Usually shopped and we went to the movies.
S: Where were you when the war ended?
L: When it ended?
S: Yeah, when it ended, where were you?
L: Well, in ’45 (unintelligible)
S: So you went back to the Naval Hospital?
L: They would go back to the Naval Hospital. There were naval hospitals everywhere, Ohio and South Carolina.
S: And uh, what was the reception by your family?
L: Uh, they were happy to see me. I was thinking about what I was going to do next.
S: Uh, how was your adjustment to civilian life?
L: It was…it was easy, it was fine.
S: Um, do you have any contact with fellow-?
L: Uh, well, (unintelligible)
S: Are you a member of any Veterans-?
L: Uh, no.
S: And uh, how did war time experience affect your life?
L: Uh, well, I sure don’t wanna do it again, I wasn’t a good idea When the Korean war came along in 1952 I had two children and I was married had two children and uh when I was uh, the service was a discharge it was a separation with the service so it (unintelligible) and got my discharge, being caught up with two kids…
S: Oh Okay…so if you were separated you’d be called up?
L: Yupp, Yeah.
S: So what are some life lessons that you learned?
L: Life lessons, well, war is not a good idea and you have to be adaptable, other than that life didn’t change much.
S: What was the most memorable moment you had during the war?
L: h, well I did have a chance to go on an airplane carrier it was amazing. Also on a submarine, nothing really drastic.
S: Okay, that’s about it. Thank you.
2008 Arcadia Veterans History Project- Transcript- Kenneth Mallory
[Today is April 21st, 2008. We are interviewing Mr. Kenneth Mallory, a World War II veteran born on December 3rd, 1924, who was also a sergeant in the army during the war. My name is Mandy Cheng and I am doing this interview at Arcadia High School with the help of Vicky Choi and Andy Hsiao. This interview is being conducted for the Veterans History Project of the Library of Congress]
Mandy: Mr. Mallory, can you please tell us briefly about your childhood? Like, your origin, your parents—
Mr. Mallory: Sure. Well, I was born Pasadena, so I wasn’t… wasn’t too far away from here. And uh, went through the Pasadena school system and was in, uh, in the junior college, uh, when World War II came along.
Mandy: Umm, what was your reaction when World War II first started? Did you—
Mr. Mallory: Well, this would be like December 7th you’re speaking of? As all, everyone was sort of shocked and didn’t quite understand. You weren’t… sure what was happening or where was going to go. It was just a time of, uh, where people, were just confused as to what directions this meant, and what it also meant as far as uh… uh… people going in service what was going to be required that sort of thing.
Mandy: Did you expect that you would be involved in it?
Mr. Mallory: Yes, because uh… somewhere along the line they had…uh… draft numbers. And I don’t know if you are familiar, but the numbers… uh you were given a number… and then they had a large bawl of uh container of uh… numbers and little balls and they pull them out and that’s the sequence that you would be drafted. So wasn’t necessarily one to… whatever. It was which ball was pulled out first, that number was going to be the first person to be drafted.
Mandy: So you were drafted instead of enlisted?
Mr. Mallory: That is correct. Mm-hmm.
Mandy: Umm, how, umm, did you get to choose what branch of service you want to join?
Mr. Mallory: Yes and no, in a sense. Uh, when you have your physical, if your health was good, and if it was say, early in the month, sometimes you have opportunities to go to the navy, or the marine court, or the coast guard or something like that. If your health was not good, that’s say your eye sight was poor, then maybe that would restrict you going into the certain branches of the service. I sort of… uh happened to go in on the early part of the month, and so my health was good. And I think I made a big mistake because I thought of the navy, but somewhere along the line I thought I could always work far— walk farther than I could swim, so I chose the army. (*Nodding and laughing softly*) And I often think that… that was a [~~~] wise decision.
Mandy: Umm, how were the days like in training camp?
Mr. Mallory: How hard were the days in training camp? Yeah, let me go back to one other thing… uh about choosing which branch. Uh, my father, uh…had been killed in an accident when I was about eleven. So I didn’t have a dad around at the time… I was… uh… being drafted. Some of my other friends had dads that had been in World War I. And they told their sons: Look, you don’t wait to get drafted. You volunteer, and then you can choose the branch that you want but also, if you’re, most of us were young… college students and we could then go… pass tests I’m sure, but you could become…a… a pilot or you could become some other thing, maybe an officer in the navy. That was a much better bran— approach to go into the service, rather than being drafted. So uh… I didn’t make that choice, and therefore I got into the infantry. And your question again [~~]?
Mandy: Uh, what were the days like in training camp?
Mr. Mallory: Training! Uh, our particular training uh, a number of us went to Camp Roberts California, which is uh… midway between here and San Francisco. And, it’s an infantry basic training I could remember… they were calling out names of the following people were report to Camp Roberts California. You’re now—you’ve just been inducted, they’ve given you clothing and that sort of thing and they are starting to send you around. And I thought because I could pass the test well and that sort of thing that… I would do something that was… more interesting. And they called my name and I wasn’t even listening really, ‘cause it wasn’t where I was good, to the infantry. And they called my name I didn’t answer. They called it again, and I answered but that’s not a good idea. You’re supposed to pay attention ‘cause they get on your case if you don’t. So again, we did go to infantry basic training Camp Roberts California, and that’s for about 13 weeks. And it’s uh… excellent in sense of uh… physical activity; I mean you work hard and that sort of thing. Uh, you’re up early and you work late, you go on hikes, you go on marches, things of that sort. The thing that, uh… was… that you had to do though was just not goofed up because those that goofed up really got into trouble; meaning, they would uh, as an example uh, have you dig a hole, and when you got through it you could fill it up again. You know, so, just something if you were goofing up. So uh, it wasn’t—it was interesting and hard uh… physically, but I never got in trouble either. The thing I did find interesting though was uh, working with all the weapons, whether it’s a machine gun, rifles, or mortars, or throwing grenades, things like that. Uh… I think most kids sort of feel like it’s cups-and-robbers time. Later, obviously it’s much more serious, but as far as training is concerned, it was sort of an interesting thing to do.
Mandy: Um, do you think the training camp prepared you well?
Mr. Mallory: Yes, I would think so. Uh… psychologically is your problem, you never really prepared for that. But uh… later as you are put into a regular unit, that’s when you began to, sort of bond with your buddies. Uh, you’re… as a… uh training camp you’re spread out allover to many different places, and so there, you train again as a unit. And that’s where you began to sort of uh… put yourself together with your buddies.
Mandy: Was it hard for you to adjust to the new environment?
Mr. Mallory: Not particularly. Um, we have one young man though that was Amish. Are you familiar with the Amish people? They are people that you see riding, today even they… they don’t use any electricity, they still have uh, horses and carriages. And this young man was… just, oh! He was lost. He… he… because again, he never lived where there were automobiles, ever lived where there’s electricity, all of these things. They’re just hard-working, farm people. And, he would uh… normally you had—normally when I say it’s time to get up, in about… 10 minutes or less you have to be out… on the playground… uh, in your uh… unit, and they make sure everybody’s there. Well, in order to get up and get dressed and do all the things necessary, you really have to hustle and he just, couldn’t quite make it. So what he would do is actually sleep with part of his clothe on, so when he got up in the morning he was half-way dressed. And uh… he would fall in with a helmet… liner, uh… you’re supposed to fall out with a helmet liner. There’s a helmet liner in the helmet, he fall in with just the helmet and it comes down about here on his nose you know, he’s the only guy who did that. Well, he was in trouble all the time but was… he had a real tough time adjusting just because… it was so different. I think most of us feel uh, it was different, you didn’t goof around but uh, the adjustment wasn’t too bad.
Mandy: Um, what countries did you fight in?
Mr. Mallory: Uh, well, in an—I’ll say where I was also, uh… I certain was in Europe, and that would be France, Belgium, Germany, uh… Luxembourg, Czechoslovakia, those areas. But uh, just as uh… separate things, which I didn’t run into specific combats, but I was up to the English Islands, and islands off of Alaska. And so I was in the… in the Adriatic Pacific campaign area first, and that was because the Japanese were over the in the [~~~] where to the two-tail-end islands of the ocean chain. And so, uh… the… Japanese happened to leave, that’s really before we had any opportunity to uh… have any major combat there. Then pull back to United States, where then we were… broken up in the different groups and put together with units we were going to go to Europe.
Mandy: Umm, how did you feel the first time you were in a battle?
Mr. Mallory: Umm… well, sort of… interesting. Obviously y…you really aren’t too sure… what do I want to say… it, it isn’t that it isn’t real, but you can’t believe you’re there, sort of?! This isn’t… normally… what I’m accustom to you might say? On our first… day of combat with my particular unit, we were going from Luxembourg into Germany, and it so happened that this was the very first day of the Battle of the Bulge. We didn’t know that at the time; it was April 4th, really. And we were coming in the side of the Germany army that was going to be penetrating through Belgium in this belt of the bulge. And of course they knew what w—they were doing, but the Americans were not aware of this at all. We were just… moving uh, normal manner, uh tracking… uh, the German lines. And of course they resisted heavily, and our company is about… 200… people in our company… and… we got stuck out on sort of a point, and we had… flanking… Germans on the sides, we had Germans in the front of us. And… by the end of the day, we had to retreat from where we had gotten and we had about 40 percent casualties. So, umm… it was just one of those things you said how about the first day, it’s just sort of chaotic. A simple…uh, example, was uh… one of training. Uh, I had a 60-mm motor, these are the thing you fire… and they go… it’s a little [~~~ ~~~] by itself. (*demonstrating where the motor/rifle would be*)And this motor is carried with a shoulder stripe… weights about 60 pounds, sort of heavy. When we were in training, we would carry—have to carry this motor, but we pass it along to different members of the squad. Squad is five. And that way everybody would share the… carrying of the motor. When you carry a motor, you have to sort of cock your shoulder up to hold this… this swing on your shoulder… that means that your rifle on this side is going to fall off. So what you would do—what we did do, was normally hand the rifle to the guy in front of you or maybe the man that just gave you the thing, so he would have two, one on each shoulder… (*imitating a soldier with two rifles on shoulder and walking*) and that was easy. And then when you gave the motor up, you got your weapon back. So that was just sort of the thing we do, and that was not good. Because on this first day, we were retreating. We had all these casualties and we retreating, and the man carrying the motor was tired, he was hitting the ground, he was running, he was getting up, and he was falling… and he—and finally he said, “Mallory here, take the motor.” And I said, “okay, take my rifle.” So now we’re still doing the same thing. And all of a sudden I realize (*claps his hands together*), if I see any enemy, I don’t have any weapon! I can throw the thing [motor] out maybe, but that’s about it! So… shows in training, you should really do what you should do in combat, and not sort of... convenient to do. So, that particular… fellow that gave me the motor, uh… and took my rifle, uh… never saw him again. Uh, he got… hit, whether he was killed or wounded I have no idea, but I did find my weapon again, ‘cause you—I still needed one. And later the next day, they apparently had rounded people up, wounded and [~~], and they had a pile of weapons there. I went and found my same weapon, but the sling… on it, the thing you put on your shoulder, had a big notch out of it and that was bloody, so… obviously uh… he had… been hit. As far as what happened to him after I have no idea.
Mandy: Were you close friend with him?
Mr. Mallory: Not particularly. Umm, the thing is they’re from everywhere. In your—it could be allover the country as far as states. And they’re sort of your buddies but as—you don’t really know their personal lives too much, you don’t know too much about them. And they’re so different, some people from the other part of the country have different… even accents. And so uh, just different things in common. You become loyal, but you’re not necessarily uh… personal friend if that makes a difference.
Mandy: Umm, but do you have any other close friends you meet? Like, maybe from the same state or—?
Mr. Mallory: Uh, say that again please.
Mandy: Like, do you have a clo—close friend—
Mr. Mallory: Oh—
Mandy: —during the war?
Mr. Mallory: Uh, in after the war, uh, during the war, you see, as an example, in my unit, uh, when we were finished… at the end of VE-Day in Europe, out of two hundred… people in our group, there were only twenty of us that were left. And that includes the cooks, and then chief drivers, and those people which are not necessarily… on the front line all the time. So… you didn’t have that many people to… be buddies with. The replacements that came in, and also turned over were a lot of replacements, so those… would last… for a period of time and they’d be gone. And those… the replacements remembered the old guys, but the old guys didn’t really… pay attention too much with the replacements. And there were sort of the emotional thing there too, you don’t want to get too attached to them… ‘cause if they get shot or hurt or wounded, you know, it’s just… it’s just a… (*wave*) okay, that… he’s gone. You don’t… you can’t get personally, emotionally involved with all the people in your unit. You can be friends with them… but you try not to.
Mandy: Did you realize that in the beginning of the war? Or, like… you shouldn’t have like, too emotionally atta—
Mr. Mallory: No, it’s just something as you… as you go along, umm… psychologically you get really twisted around. You started to think about all that. Uh, sort of, as least I did it, you sort of put it aside. I can remember waking up uh… one… time, you’re sleeping out on the ground, and here are pieces of meat all over the place. Uh, this was somebody, whether it was American or German I don’t know. And you sort of, push it aside. Today, if you find pieces of meat around that were bodies, the police would be there, the… you know, it would be a big deal. Uh, there’re, just can’t worry about it. (*making gesture of pushing*) You know, just forget it. Go on to something else.
Mandy: Umm, did you witness of any of your friends’ death? Or injury?
Mr. Mallory: Uh, you… certainly… saw people… uh, wounded, umm… later they may have died. (*pause, thinking*) I had a uh, fellow in my squad that had lost an eye and part of his nose, but he was not with me immediately but the next thing you know the medics were taking him away and that sort of thing. Umm… I was fortunate that I had a motor squad, I was not one of the riflemen. I was in our company you have guys with rifles, you have motors and machine-guns. And motors and machine-guns are to support the guys with rifles. Uh, they were the guys… that would be… working in squads of 10 or 12, something like that. And they would have to go out and do their thing, and at that point then uh if we were in a group such as this, somebody get shot you see it there, I would be, hopefully, back… enough, that I didn’t have to be the guy that was uh, going first down row. Uh… didn’t mean that you couldn’t get hit by shells, or bullets, or things of that sort. But I was not the guy that had to (*“stretches” and pointes forward*) go down the row first. (*nods*)
Mandy: So you’ve never witness like, a [~~] in your—like happens right in front of your eyes?
Mr. Mallory: Well, you know, a shell would land and somebody is hurt; or you’re in a building and a shell hits something and somebody is wounded. So yes, you’re there but you’re not just, necessarily… next to the person—you could be, but not necessarily. And I wasn’t.
Mandy: Umm, what awards or medals did you receive?
Mr. Mallory: Well, uh… as you could see here (*touching the uniform he is wearing*), uh, they’re fairly simple. Umm (*looking down at his uniform*), you get… campaign ribbons, one and—with each major campaign or battle, you get a little star. The one is, is at Pacific area, which has one star and that was for the Moesha area. And then you have the European theater with three stars and they were different battles or segments starting, with maybe like the Battle of the Bulge, and then you have central Europe, and then we went into… toward Czechoslovakia, and so that would be one. And the one here is a bronze-star; the one that is probably most important to… infantry one is the top one (*touching it*), which is the infantry badge. And if you look at the generals today that are… on television, you will not find too many with the combat infantry badge. Uh, you will have uh… Colin Powell as an example has one, and uh, ‘member he… he was right in the minefield where… uh, he mentioned this one kid had been… stepped on a mine, and he told him not to move, don’t move, just… and everybody was in the same place, just know where the lines are. He said don’t move and the guy moved, and uh, get another mine. So, but the guy I called Powell, has been around and, certainly, uh, he probably wears the combat infantry badge.
Mandy: How were you qualified for the medals and the infantry badge?
Mr. Mallory: How did you get qualified for these? Uh, just being there, you know. Yeah, some people there are awarded major awards for some act of heroism or something of that sort. Umm, and even you’ve heard Medal of Honor winners, that’s the highest level of medal that can be given to a person, most of the time it’s because the person died. Uh, President Bush just gave one the other day, to someone… who threw himself on a hand grenade to save his buddies, and he died obviously. Uh, most of those things are… unusual, and uh, somebody has to witness it and then write it up, so then there’s a certain… uh… luck in the public—publishing of what that were did, ‘cause there are many people doing many heroic things, and not everyone of them is given some sort of a medal.
Mandy: Umm, did you make—did you meet any of the locals? Like, when you…
Mr. Mallory: Local people? Yes, and in Germany though, we were not supposed to... uh, fraternize… meaning don’t go out with girls (*laughing a little*)… that sort of thing. Uh… you… didn’t really meet too many people, uh remember, fellows would uh… especially in France, you would uh… look for… the guys are always looking for alcohols or something, and they would trade candy bars for uh… their local… alcohol, whatever type it was. So, there were some… trade that way. But generally, you did not—and of course you had language barriers a lot of times too, that… didn’t… make it work. The… interesting thing though, in Germany for instance, was—and this is so different than you see in the Iraqi war—once the war was over, the Germans sort of go by rules, and the rules are: if you lose, you lose! It’s like a baseball game. You win—you win it, or you lose it. And when you go home you don’t fight with people, you just barely say I lost or I won. And… once you—they… realized they had lost, then the people were—they would uh (*shrug*)… if they had food, they would sell you food, eggs, or things of that sort. It was just sort of uh… business as usual somewhat. Now that didn’t mean… business as usual always, because sometimes they were poor, houses were blown up, and things of that sort. So it wasn’t the same. But it was sort of different, uh… that… they… and the thing is different, so in the Iraqi war [it’s actually World War II he meant…] is, you didn’t fear for your life walking down the street after the war, whereas in Iraq you’re not even—when the war was on with all your soldiers around, you still are not comfortable walking down the street. Especially with all the bombings, the—where people blow up themselves and things of that sort. Even uh, German soldiers that you see after the war, they just turned their weapons in and they said they want to go home. And maybe we didn’t let them go home, we put them together some sort of camp or something to check them out. But… um, they were just ready to uh… war’s over, let’s go home! (*nodding*)
Mandy: What were your opinion toward um, A-bomb?
Mr. Mallory: Mmm. Well, I have a very selfish opinion of atomic bombs. Umm, our unit was being prepared after the World War—in after the war in Europe to go to Japan. And the Japanese were an entirely different kind of mentality far as soldiers. They don’t give up. Uh, Germans, and even the Americans, if uh… if there were 50 guys coming at tow—Americans, they probably—Americans probably would say: wait a minute (*putting his hands up*)! You know, (*chuckles*) this is not good, I… maybe it’s best if I give up. That’s how you got prisoners among other ways. Uh, Japanese wouldn’t do that. They would fight to the last man. And if you wish to fight to—until you’re killed, you probably can kill one or two people ahead of the time. And that means a very tough… opponent. It may be impractical for them to give up their life that way, but that was their psyche. As… did the Kamasagi—Kamikaze pilots for instance, they would give their life up just to fly the airplane into uh… a ship. So uh, personally, and… and my buddies were very happy to have the atomic bomb go off at Europe, and the war would be over. ‘Cause we would have had to go over and uh, fight in Japan. And I think fighting in their own country—they were very patriotic and all that sort of thing, and they would… women and children and everybody else I think would be after us.
Mandy: Umm, how did you keep in touch with family and friends back home?
Mr. Mallory: We would keep in touch uh, what, with V-mail. Have you ever heard of V-mail? V-mail was a system where you wrote the letter on a fix-sized piece of paper, and it was sort of photographed. And it came… back about that size (*using fingers to demonstrate the size*) and that would be mailed to your family. And then we still have some of those at home, where you write a letter and this would… (*cough*) pardon me… this would be the way that you would communicate. My… mother uh… had sort of an interesting idea, too. Uh, I happened to be the only son and uh, as I mentioned, my father had died. So to her, uh… it would’ve been a big blow had I been killed ‘cause her family would’ve been gone. So, she wanted to know how we were doing it. The… the reporters were not allowed to report where they were, as they are in the Iraqi war—they can’t tell you when they’re back at or where this is. Reporters—everything was secret. As a result, uh, they sort of… the American families here sort of knew where the soldiers were but they weren’t sure. They said the 87-division was in this area or something. So she wanted to know how I was doing, so what she sent—and what my friend was in the post office gave her the idea—she sent a register letter! I don’t know have you ever sent a register letter? Register letter means that… when that letter gets to whoever it belongs, they have to sign for it, and with a returned receipt requested it’s called, and with the receipt would come back with the date on it. And so eventually, she got this back that I had signed on this date, this letter! It was only a simple letter, but she let—let her know, I was still alive at that point. I didn’t mean in the future I’m not killed, but uh, was sort of… good for her to say: as of that time, he was okay.
Mandy: Umm, so when the letter sent with the whole army? So did they collect it and then send it?
Mr. Mallory: N—oh, yes. Uh, I think they uh, probably flew it over uh… somewhere. Also uh, my mother would send me things. As example, my grandmother knit for me a big, heavy, wool sweater with olive-gray color, and I wore that all through the winter. Uh, was a… just a really neat thing to receive. Uh, she also though would send me… food. Umm, the problem with—when you get the food package is how you divide it up with all your friends, can’t just eat all of them, that doesn’t work. So what we sort of worked out, she would send… (*hands gesturing*) in a big can of film reel, a film can, have you even seen these… they’re that big around, they’re used for movies, like a real movie theater used to be… about that thick. And she would bake uh… like fruit cake or something of that sort so it would stay fresh for a long period of time. And then what I would get, I—I cut a big piece out of it and was for me, and then the rest of the guys can fight over the rest of it. So, uh… that was one of the things that uh, we did communicate as well. Food, as well as letters.
Mandy: Can you please tell us about food supply and living conditions you had?
Mr. Mallory: Oh, foods supply? Yeah. Umm, most of the time the kitchen tried to keep up with us, and they would… just have regular… foods as best as they could. The one thing that the kitchen did do that was interesting: for major holidays, for those Christmas, New Years, they always had turkey. And in some cases, the turkey was just boiled in water and they didn’t have the facility to… really bake a turkey. But… for [brow] purposes, they want—they really wanted to try and always have turkey somehow. The kitchen though, couldn’t always keep up with you. Or if they’re fighting, they just, where they—and sometimes the kitchen would try to bring it up even though there was fighting. We really appreciated the risks they would take to try to give us the hot food. If not though, you have several different types of rations. Uh, the first rations were called k-rations, (*hands gesturing*) and they were in a thing like a cracker jelly box, do you know cracker-jelly-sized box? About that size, just a little… box. Uh, these boxes were all wax-coated so that rain and things like that wouldn’t uh… bother. And you opened it up, and inside would be a small can… and there was a breakfast, a lunch and a dinner menu, and breakfa—uh… well take… a meal normally had a can of meat of some sort, and it had uh, which I would make uh, a meal in my can tin cup. I would pour all these in the same cup; I put the meat in it and it would sort of crumble up—I had water in it—and then they had bouillon that you can put in, which was flavoring, and then they had uh, some crackers. I break the crackers up to put that in. And… heat that, either over the fire or little stoves that we had, and that was sort of… one meal. And you had, with it interestingly, you had cigarettes! They would give you a little package of four cigarettes, each uh… meal. And that would be one meal. Another would have candy bar in it, such as a Hershey bar. But was a kind of Hershey bar that would not melt in the sun. It wasn’t the same Hershey bar as todays exactly. I didn’t smoke, so I would trade… cigarettes for Hershey bars. I like candy bars better. Anyhow, those were k-rations; again you had breakfast, lunch and dinner. Then you had what was known as the c-rations. C-rations were in cans, sort of like a soup can, (*hands gesturing*) about this big around, and that could have a variation. Each can was a separate… food. Uh, could be stew, could be… in case, even crackers! Uh, it would be a can full of… crackers. And those were the kind of rations you had if you… were somewhere where you could prepare a meal. The k-rations you could stick them in your pockets, eat them when you… went along. And then you had one which was called ten-in-ones. And that was a large box and enough food for ten people in one meal. And we carried with us, I carried… personally uh, (*hands gesturing*) a little stove about so big around, it uh, sort of like a [coman] stove. I also had some pots that nested together, and so I could sort of cook the meal. Uh, having the… the pots and the stove with me always meant that wherever I was, there was food around because I was the guy that was… uh, cooking. So that was the type of food we had, the three different types, plus the kitchen that was always tried to keep up with it.
Mandy: Umm, what were the living conditions like?
Mr. Mallory: Well, it could vary completely. Umm, you know, we didn’t… I don’t know if you’ve seen… been packing or hiking, recently there’s some really neat tents that are out there, little light-weight tents that sort. All we had was a shelter halve. A shelter halve is… just a rectangular piece of… sort of canvas, and we would wrap our things in it and put it in our pack in the back. But it take two of those to make a tent, it’s called the shelter halve. Two halves make a whole… tent. But all it is was just two sides going down, there’s no ends to it or anything, no bottom. So that was our tent if we had a tent. And if it was raining, it was muddy, uh, in some case if you’re lucky you might find a farm house that had straw or something of that sort, you bring the straw out and put that down so you don’t have to sleep on the straw—uh, sleep on the cold area. We had as… a sleeping bag; it was a sort of mummy-shaped bag that was equivalents of… sort of two blankets. Wasn’t real warm and uh, you zip it up, and hopefully you could stay warm in it. Uh… the weather in the winter, which we were in the snow for a long period of time during the… the time of the Battle of the Bulge is perhaps the worst winter they had, umm, I even tried with another fellow, uh, we put both bags together, we both tried to get into the same bag. We could sort of do it, but we was trying to keep warm. And uh, it was so uncomfortable ‘cause you can’t move, so we decided that didn’t work. It was a little warmer, but it was just wasn’t a practical way to do it. Umm, you are… never warmed in that environment, but you’re at least not freezing, if that makes a difference.
Mandy: Umm, what else things do you need to pack in your bag?
Mr. Mallory: We would uh, have rations of course you had a mass kit, and on your [can tin], which was on your… belt, uh, you had a cup that fit in—a metal cup with a little handle. And uh, that cup was sort of a dish-able too that you would—can put food in. But you had this mass kit, and the mass kit was used primarily when the kitchen was with you because it sort of like going through a child line, they would put food in it as you went along. Umm, you could… I was… well, we couldn’t because you’re carrying all those, uh, we couldn’t uh, you take the extra [eddies] out of a deck of cards, you sort of cut the handle of your toothbrush… you want to cut the weight down as much as possible ‘cause the heavier it is, the more you have to carry. I had a camera with me. And this was a camera from my home, and you probably never seen one like it. It was really old-fashioned, that was what I had. (*using hands to describe*) It was folded up in a little case, but you would bring—you would open it up by bring the front part down like this and have the bellows, you would move the bellows out and that would bring the camera into… so you could look over and took a picture. And then you would push the bellows back, fold the top up and put it… back in your pack. That was sort of a problem at times because if we were carry wounded out sometimes and things of that sort, we would leave our packs there. And had—I might not have my camera and I might not have gone back for it ‘cause I can grab another guy’s pack and it was almost the same. Uh, might have a different toothbrush but basically the rest of them were pretty much the same ‘cause that’s all we had with us. So… other things in there… umm, can’t think of it right now. Yeah, just, little personal things that you brought along but you didn’t carry anything you didn’t need to.
Mandy: So the bags are basically unified?
Mr. Mallory: The what?
Mandy: Like, everyone’s bag?
Mr. Mallory: Yes, pretty much because that’s just what they issued you. And uh, you might have a little personal something but almost everybody has the same thing. And of course you had uh, a little shovel or something you had on the bag—or a little pick or something—‘cause you needed it to dig a hole every time you stopped for the night. Uh, you dig a hole to make sure you… you uh… had as much protection as possible from shells and uh, things of that sort.
Mandy: Umm, what do you do when—during spare time? At war time? Like, do you have any spare time?
Mr. Mallory: Uh… yes! Uh… uh… it’s a good question, an interesting question. Umm, not everybody in every armor—army is fighting at the same time. You… you think of this pushes going through. The way the army works is in the units of three. Uh, in our company we had three platoons; those are about 40 guys each. You never would, normally, push all three of those guys on an attack at once. You put maybe two out but you always kept one in reserve because if something happened, you needed somebody to come and give you assistants. And even with a larger thing, which was called a battalion, you had three companies of people. And they would put two in operation and leave one… company in reserve. Now eventually maybe they all get committed because of… whatever the need is, but you never put everybody in action at the same time if you could’ve avoid it. ‘Cause you needed this strategic ability to change your plans or to protect your buddies or whatever it was.
Mandy: Umm, what do you do when you’re not the one—?
Mr. Mallory: Oh, oh, okay. When you’re not—and so sometimes, I’m sorry I lost the point there, uh, sometimes you also pull back a little bit while some guys are doing something else, you’re back. At that time uh, one of the things that I did… and many of us would do… we tried to stay warm, maybe—if it was safe we would have a fire. Just, have wood around, have a fire. At that time, you dry yourself up. You dry your shoes if you could; you dry your socks, and uh… other clothing. We did not have good footwear; we had regular leather boots. They were good boots but they were not meant for rain or snow, slush and mud, that sort of thing. And it would get wet, and then your socks would get wet. And I don’t know if you’re familiar with the term “trench foot”? Might have seen pictures of that. Uh, trench foot is the lack of circulation in your feet because of cold or wet weather. Again it was a term derived in World War I when they had trenches and was full of water, and these guys all the time were standing in the water. And eventually your toes will turn black and you could have them amputated if you uh, if really get severed. So you tried to keep your feet dry, and your socks dry. And one other things that in my army, which was General Patton’s, he tried to do was to bring you dry socks all the time. Uh, uh…somebody from the river come up with a big bag full of socks, lay them top down, lay all the socks down. You throw your dirty old smelled ones over there or throw them away, whatever you needed to do, and try to find socks that would be good for you. And then you tried to have three, four, five pairs if you could… so that you could rotate them. And if you didn’t have chance to rotate them, or if you didn’t have any dry socks, you could put some around you waist and that over a few days it would sort of dry up. And, might have uh… mentioned I don’t know uh, on helmets, you had a helmet liner—the metal helmet fits over, and the helmet liner has a webbing, sort of gives you air circulation. You could also put a pair of socks up there in here and keep those dry. And one of the fellows uh, as we would run the helmet would bounce up and down, and as the helmet was up a bullet went through his helmet, came down the hole was like here (*pointing at his forehead*)! Didn’t hurt him; he had a ring in the ears but didn’t hurt him. But uh, he was very upset because it ruined his only pair of dry socks! So uh, you would do things like that. And uh, later, we had one guy that had always seemed to be… a barber, and uh, he gave you haircuts. (*smiles*) Not very good ones maybe, but uh, you know, that was it. And you… see, you’re not shaving a lot at this… time normally, and so you get cleaned up and you used your helmet—just the empty helmet—as your pocket, you could… get hot water maybe, if you’re back far enough, and you could put water in there and… get hot water and wash your face and shave! So, those are things you sort of did when you had the time, and of course all the time you’re cleaning your weapon, that’s… if that doesn’t work you’re in trouble. So, we’re always making sure it was okay.
Mandy: Umm, what was your happiest memory during the war?
Mr. Mallory: (*laughs*) Ha ha ha…I supposed the end of it. Let’s see… well, uh… I, I just think of a couple of friends. Their happiest was they were able to surprise their parents by coming home and they didn’t tell them, and they walked in the front door you know, their mom, dad, brothers and sisters were there. I didn’t have that situation but uh, umm… I can’t really think of the happiest uh… again, other than the war was over—that was pretty good news by itself.
Mandy: What was the most impression—impressionable experience you had?
Mr. Mallory: Most impressionable uh, experience… well I think just the fact that uh, you’ve gotten through a period of uh… tough combat, and you sort of said: Woof! I made it! You know, that sort of thing. And the thing—that I think in the military, or in the infantry where I was, there was a tremendous amount of luck! Uh, you’ve heard the case where people are talking to each other, a shell comes in, one or two get killed the other guy doesn’t. You know, how do you explain that? You know, you, you can’t. It’s just, luck. So, from my stand point: one, I was a motormen, I wasn’t the riflemen that sort of thing; umm… shells didn’t land where I was. We had… we were in buildings where… I remember this one officers, we were in a hall way, a long hallway, and… and you know the buildings were relatively safe, and a shell landed outside and the shrapnel came in and killed him! You know, so, umm, he just happened to be standing at the doorway; not even in the doorway, but just in the hallway. So… who knows, it’s just the way it is you know.
Mandy: So, you would explain the war, like, survival, as luck?
Mr. Mallory: (*nods*) Mm-hmm, a lot of it, mm-hmm. You had to have skills, you had to know, you know, as you were walking down a road, and the shells were starting to come around, or even if they weren’t ‘cause it could start, you’d look at the side—you just… “Where can I… jump? Where can I hide? If shells are coming, where am I going?” You just sort of have that sixth-sense, and maybe that might save you if you were (*snaps his fingers*) just there that quick. If you had to figure out where you’re gonna go, maybe it would be too late. So you… there was a certain amount of… you had to pay attention to what was going on. But also it’s luck because uh, who knows where the bullet’s gonna go?!
Mandy: So is it really tense during war time? Do you have to like, keep—do you have to be aware of everything around you?
Mr. Mallory: Mm-hmm, a lot of it. And I would say… it is the ultimate cups-and-robbers, you know what that is? Cups-and-robbers games? Kids just used to play that. You’re the cup and I’m the robber that sort. It is the ultimate because uh… it’s for his life or your life. I mean, it… doesn’t get any… more… than that. Uh, doesn’t mean it’s good, but it is… your adrenalin is going, and it’s… it’s… now, you can’t stay in that pitch all the time, but if things are really going, you’re buzzed up. ‘Cause you have to be, you need to be alert, (*hands moving next to his ears*) your senses are going like this. So you just… and ‘course you’ve been trained, supposedly, to be aware of what goes on… but it’s uh, something it’s just… sort of built into you. Look out for yourself.
Mandy: Were you in any like, life-or-death situation?
Mr. Mallory: No, not personally. Other than you know, the option that you get shelled. Uh, a little something that might be interesting though that sort of relates to that uh… we… were crossing the Rhine River, and there was the last bastion of resistance that the Germans had, this whole big river. And the Americans had not got the cross yet. And our particular unit in this section of the Rhine where we were, there were a little town called Bamberg. We were the first—our company was… the first company to cross at this particular place. And you may or may not be familiar with the Rhine, (*shaping the Rhine and its geography*) but the Rhine was in—the river was in sort of a valley, steep walls on it, and they grow… grapes and things for wine, things of that sort. But the Germans were on the uh, top of the ridge… now they didn’t know we were coming, we hoped anyway. So they were sitting up there, and they’re not paying too much attention to here ‘cause they were just sort of… supposed to be looking but probably not paying too much attention. But we had to come across (*rowing*) in little boats, so we… had these little boats for about 8 people in it. And we were paddling instead of having motors on it, just a… little boat, wooden thing. And we were paddling across the river, we were doing this now before dawn, we were doing it in the dark; we’ve been trained how to do this so it’s quiet, and don’t bang and make noise and all that sort of stuff. And there’s about two hundreds of us… beginning to move across these little boats. And we don’t know where we’re going to land either ‘cause the current is moving us downstream as well. So we get to the other side, fortunately for us, we were early, we woke them up on the top of the hill. And of course they start shooting, except they can’t shoot right down at us! They can shoot across the river, they can shoot into the river, they can shoot people that tried to come after us… but fortunately for my unit, we were first and now, we still have a problem though, and thinking of a life or death situation… years ago—year later at a… reunion of our group, this fellow came up to myself and my wife—he and his wife came up to my wife and myself and he said: “Mallory, I want to say—I want to thank you for saving my life!” And I wasn’t sure what he was talking about. And what he was saying was that at this moment, after he had—after we had gotten across, his little… rifle squad the dozen guys were told to go up there and to get those guys on the top of the hill. And he felt that it was not… a healthy situation because one, they can defend themselves: they usually could roll hand grenades down or they could reach over and shoot; he could not… get up and shoot at them very well. And we took our little motor that time, set it down by the stream, by the river, and we fired up there and were able to… stop their fire. We don’t know what happened—I don’t know what happened—but to him, and I’m sure he went up later, but he said, he felt he was about to die if he had to do up there. So he said I had saved his life for our squad had saved his life. So anyhow that was just… other than that, no.
Mandy: Umm, what were the lessons you learned from the war?
Mr. Mallory: Well, umm… I think compare to the Iraqi war… I would wish that uh, all… political people had some… army and maybe combat experience, and I think they would be less likely to get into war… if they had some experiences, it is pretty easy sometimes, to say: “Oh, you can send those guys out there. We’d win the war. Oh, we had a few casualties there…” that sort of thing. But if you’ve done it yourself, you’re more reluctant to uh, send somebody else to do the same thing.
Mandy: Umm, where were you when the war ended?
Mr. Mallory: Uh, right near Czechoslovakia in Germany, right at the Czechoslovakia border.
Mandy: How did you get home? Did you returned home?
Mr. Mallory: Uh, they… we stayed there for a little while and then they had what they called camps in France, and they were named after cigarettes: they was Chesterfield, Lucky Strike, and [Waltnut]. We happened to be in Lucky Strike and that time they sort of put everybody together; they gave them good clothing, new shoes, sort of got them organized and tried to figure out what they’re gonna do with these troops as well. We had tents, it was… it was a pretty good camp. And they would have entertainment, trying to have you sold entertainment of the come. Uh, people from Hollywood, things of that sort. And at that point uh, they started to figure out where these units were going to go, what was going to happen, and still have Pacific to solve. Our unit were in Europe enough time that we were allowed to come back home. And I was home on leave when… the Japanese… surrendered. So when I was home here in the uh, Pasadena, war was actually over. But I had to returned back to give discharge eventually and that sort of thing.
Mandy: Umm, was it hard for you to readjust to the civilian life?
Mr. Mallory: Not really. Uh… no, I think some people had some psychological problems… and I think that people in Iraq, these soldiers are gonna have a lot of psychological problems. But, as long as you didn’t have that, uh… I start going back to school. And they had this GI program, I don’t know if you’re familiar with it? But uh, we got paid for going to school, we had 65 dollars a month. They would pay for our tuition, our books, and this is absolutely one of the best thing they ever did for this country because people went college that they were never gone to college—or I mean, their family had never gone to college. Everybody today, young people think everybody goes to college, uh, most of the time many—when I was there, many people just quit at high school. And so here was a whole group of people I was the first—I wasn’t the first, I had an uncle that goes to college, but other than that, my family no one else has gone to college. Not that they’re not successful in what they did, but they did not go to college. And today, almost every high school graduates says: “Well, I think I’m going to college.” Uh, that was not the case that—so this program called the GI prog. was a terrific thing that cost the government some money, but those people that went to college did so much better that over the years they had pro—they had gotten, the governments has got the money many times over.
Mandy: So you did not feel disconnected with people?
Mr. Mallory: No.
Mandy: Umm, what jobs did you do afterwards?
Mr. Mallory: Well, I went to school. And then you had summer jobs that type of thing. Umm, were you asking what my occupation was, sort of?
Mr. Mallory: Was that sort of the question? Umm… actually I started out in a, without going through all the details uh, working in direct sell. This was uh, products, could be vacuum cleaner, things of that sort. Had a—had a small business doing that. That eventually I ended up with chemicals, that many years without chemicals and retired with that.
Mandy: Umm, do you have any suggestions to the later generations?
Mr. Mallory: Well… one thing that I wished could be done, won’t happen but, I think every youngster and maybe even young ladies should have two years of some sort of required service. It doesn’t mean you have to be in the army, you could be something other than military things, but especially for guys. To get the discipline, to get the uh, physical [~~ ~~~~] to young people uh… to learn just more about getting along with people before getting into college, I think it’d just be an excellent idea for them to have a couple years.
Mandy: Umm, have you talked about your war experience with your family?
Mr. Mallory: Yes.
Mandy: What were their reactions?
Mr. Mallory: Umm, just sort of interes—I have a lot of little things that I keep: I have examples of food, I have stoves, and I have uh, pieces of shrapnel […] that sort of stuff is…German flags, uh [~~ ~~~~~]. So, they’re sort of fun—sort of fun.
Mandy: Thank you.
Mr. Mallory: Alright, thank you.
Mandy: Thank you, it’s a great experience.
Mr. Mallory: Thank you very much.
-- The End-- :]
Interview with Joseph Bateman
Haewon: Okay, so this interview is being conducted for the veteran history project at the Library of Congress and today, April 23rd, 2008, we’re interviewing Joseph Bateman. He was born on August 22nd, 1936. He served in the U.S. Army and in the Cold War, or post-Korean War, and his highest rank achieve was PFC. Okay, so where were you born and can you describe your childhood?
Bateman: Well, Los Angeles, California, it’s uh, downtown, Los Angeles…yeah
Haewon: Can you describe your, um, childhood?
Bateman: Uh, well, you know we live, we live in Los Angeles for only three years, well, after I was born, then we moved to San Gabriel, and I was born ,uh raised in San Gabriel so I lived most of my uh life, you know, young life in San Gabriel. I went into service when I was, uh nineteen, so ,uh, and when I came outta the service I lived back with my folks again, and then I got married and moved to Rosemead, and then later on moved to Arcadia.
Bateman: So, that’s basically the simple part of life.
Haewon: Could you describe your family in your own life before the war a little more?
Bateman: Uh, I’m one of seven children, my father, well, worked two, two to three jobs, at least during the Second World War. He worked in logging and on weekends we repair cars and my brothers and I helped do that and that’s all you make extra money so we can survive. And um, yep, you know, we all just crowd up in a small house but we all, survived through it and uh it was thee, about nineteen-fifty, nineteen-fifty one, my second oldest brother joined the Navy. And he served in Korea and Vietnam, he’s, he’s been in Hanoi, Haiphong. He’s been killed, and so he’s not, alive any longer. And my oldest brother, Eugene went, was drafted right after that. And he went to Korea. He was in active service. Then my brother Bob went, after that, and he served in Tokyo General Hospital, for two years. And then, as my two oldest brothers were coming home, I was drafted and went in. And then I was taken into the Mododay Building, Los Angeles, from there they ship me to Fort Or, California. Stayed there for a week and from there, they ship me to Fort Carson, Colorado. Did my basic training in Fort Carson, Colorado, which was about eight weeks. Eight weeks? Yeah, about eight weeks, and then, from there, I went to uh, Fort San Houston, Texas, where I took my medical training, become an aid man, uh, a ground, guys who work at the ground with troops. And uh, from there, I went to Fort Ditch, New Jersey and from there I was shipped to Longschdeu, Germany. And then they sent me back to school to become a hospital core man. So I became a hospital core man and worked almost every word in the hospital. And the hospital in Longschedeu, Germany was one thousand beds, so that was a big hospital. And after working all the words, I got a call from the uh, regiments and he asked me to come and he interview me and said, “Would you like to take over the mail room?” and I said, ”Sure” cause that was the best duty around, so I became the, hospital mail clerk. And I spent most of my time as a mail clerk, but I did get to travel all over Europe. So that was, that was good.
Haewon: Um, so, uh, you were drafted into the war?
Bateman: I was draft, drafted into the army yes.
Haewon: Could you describe how you thought about that?
Bateman: No because it was happening to everybody. All of my friends were going the same thing, in fact one of the guys that went with me, this, got drafted the same time, he and I went to kindergarten together, and all through grammar school, all through high school, and going to PCC together, ended up going into the army together. And uh, so, you know, and we still talk to each other, we still, still around, yeah.
Bateman: Most of us just spent peace time duty, although, you know, I don’t know how much you want to get into this. When I was in Germany, and guys I know you are still young, we had the Hungarian revolution, I don’t know if you knew about, much about the Hungarian revolution. So the Hungarian people in 1956 tried to throw the Russians outta their country, and it was kind of a bloody mass, and we thought we were going in. We were all prepared to get ready to go in. And at the same time, the French and English invaded Suez trying to take the Suez Canal back from Egypt, so it was quite a it of turmoil in 1956. So…, luckily we survived it all. We didn’t have to go to any of them. So…
Haewon: Oh…can you describe how you adapt to military life, how training was?
Bateman: *Chuckles* It was miserable. You, you learned to adapt, fortunately, as I said, I had three brothers go in before me. And they taught me one thing, “keep your mouth shut, and stay in the middle of all formations. Don’t be a wise guy. It’ll get you in trouble”, and that’s what I did. I managed just go through, unnoticed, and nobody cared I was there or not, and that’s what I wanted to do.
Haewon: Umm…can you describe your friendships that you formed?
Bateman: Um…most of the guys that I went in with, cause we were in Forcast, Colorado, Colorado, were from the East or from Texas, so. You know I met guys and we became friendly, but when we got out, the friendship just faded away. So…you know it’s…you go in and you live with somebody for a year, or three months, six months, you don’t, you don’t bond really strong. It just the friendship that’s convenient.
Haewon: Umm…so…umm…how long were you in the war for?
Bateman: I was in the army for two years.
Haewon: Oh okay.
Bateman: Two years. Don’t say war.
Catherine: So…for the two years, you were in Germany? You were in Germany for two years?
Bateman: Uh…I spent about nineteen months in Germany. Release that, I was in for about twenty-four months. I spent more than that. I say, twenty months in Germany. I went, just right through everything and right over. I was, I was, I arrived in Germany in January in ’56. So you can see, from September to January, not very long time.
Haewon: So could you describe your first combat experience and how your feeling…
Bateman: No combat
Haewon: Oh no…
Bateman: No, no combat experience. Now, just going through, going through a new, whenever you went to new bases, it’s kind of hard on your stomach. You know you have no friends, you don’t know what’s going on, you, you know, and so I wouldn’t eat for a couple days. It take me a while to get used to eating and, and things like that…cause you are nervous, you are, you know, just, apprehensive with what’s going on in the future, till you are finally settled in, then once you are settled in, it’s, it’s not bad, you can survive.
Haewon: Oh, how was it in Germany?
Bateman: Great! Laughs no, Germany was good duty. I have, I was so fortunate cause all my friends went to Korea, and I went to Germany. And I was just very very fortunate. And, I got really lucky cause I found out after I got there, that I had an uncle, an aunt, and two nephews for about, all about ten miles away. So I had relatives over there the whole time I was there. So.
Haewon: Umm…so you were a medic there?
Bateman: I was a medical coreman.
Haewon: So how was that?
Bateman: That was good. That was a pretty good duty, in the hospital, we, we eat well, we, it’s clean, you are not getting in a hole, you are not in a ditch, you are not out in the field of tanks, and stuff like that you know, you just, you stay clean, we wore, we wore white uniforms all the time, we didn’t have to wear feteeks, or, or, you know, brown uniforms, we just wore white uniforms all the time. That was good duty.
Haewon: So what did you do on your free time? When you were…
Bateman: My free time? I usually toured. I went to places, as I said I had an uncle close by, we’d get together and go all the small towns around Germany, and, since he had served over there before, he’d served in Berlin during the airlift, he knew all the ways around, so we get really, travel around pretty good. And then I go to other countries. I went to Denmark, and Sweden, England, Spain, Italy, uh Brussels, Belgium, uh…the Netherlands, Luxembourg, you know, all those countries, they were so close, France, it was close, it was easy to travel.
Haewon: Umm…so um can you describe any like memorable moments or, funny moments that you experienced?
Bateman: Yeah…trying to think what…well I’ll tell you the most memorable, was lah...arriving in Bremer Haven, Bremer Haven in Germany in January, and it was about five below zero, and it was cold as I’ve ever been in my life and I froze to death, and as the kid from desert of California, that was the most miserable time of my life. It was cold. In fact, it was so cold I hear the Rhine River froze, so, that was the second time in the last sixty or seventy years that froze.
Haewon: So how did you deal with that? Did you…
Bateman: Wore a lot of clothes, didn’t go out much in the winter time, but Western Germany, where Longschdeu is, it’s close to the old sig free line from the First World War, and, the weather wasn’t that cold there, it’s like, about Seattle, Washington…same longitude and latitude, so it wasn’t that bad.
Haewon: Umm…did you, were you there during Christmas or New Years time?
Bateman: Oh yeah, yeah.
Haewon: So what’d, how did you uh celebrate those days?
Bateman: Well, I fortunately became friendly with a German family, and uh they kind of took me in, I wasn’t like the typical GI, I didn’t go to bars drinking and get in fights. I found this German family, they have two daughters, Analisa and uh Hildegard, and they had a place behind the bakery and I, they invited me in back one day, and I met the family and we got along fine and I, went to church with them on Christmas day and came back and ate breakfast with them, and then on New Years, I just met with a local soccer team, and at the back of the bakery, so…I got along fine with them, they were great, to have somebody that friendly with us.
Haewon: So how did you stay in touch with your family back home?
Bateman: Wrote letters, most, mostly letters, at that time, phoning was not cheap, *chuckles*, and coming back and flying and all was just out of the question, it was too expensive, so I just spent the whole time there, but as I said I had my uncle and aunt there, and my two cousins, so that made it easier.
Haewon: Umm…do you have other…like scary moments or?
Bateman: Not really, I think maybe taking the plane from Fort, uh Ordoor, Florida to Fort Carson, Colorado was scary. I thought the thing was going to fall apart in flight. It managed to make it, but it was a pile of junk. *Chuckles*, and then I flew a couple airplanes down to Spain, and I think German air force was…condemned chuckles and gave to the Spanish.
Haewon: Um…so…how did you, uh, adjust when you came back home?
Bateman: That wasn’t too hard. You meet uh, one thing with the military you meet a lot of people who had very little education. And the first thing I think most of us that came out from the West Coast said that “I’m going back to school.” I’m, I’m smarter than those people, and I’m gonna get back to school and get an education, make something out of myself. I mean there are some pretty…dumb people in the military. Laughs
Haewon: Um…oh can you describe more of your training as a medical, a medic?
Bateman: Yeah, uh think it, think it was good training, um, especially Fort San, Houston. You know, we, we were taught everything emergency training. We do, we had to treakionomy. We had to treat people with poison gas. We, cough we were, you know, given medical kits, and we know how to use everything and then we were, taught how to give shots, syringe shots, and stuff like that. And when I was in the um…when I was in um…hospital as a core man, I usually had to go around, insisting, you know it depend on what ward you were on, if you are on uh minor surgical ward, you might have to insist a doctor and just do um something like that, might get blood all over you, and if you work on psychiatric ward, you had to learn how to deal with people who were a little off killed her. Since, stuff like that, and when I went over, and one thing, the best part when I went over on a ship, it was an USNS Geiger, they, they called me up to this, and whack, waved and called me up and said “you are a media aren’t you?” and I said “yeah” and they said “I need somebody to help me with uh, Department of Army Civilians”, DAC or whatever they called it, so I made baby formula, and I slept in a hospital, so I didn’t have to sleep in the hall of the ship with all those other guys, and then they got sick, cause it’s a rough, North Atlantic was rough, and those guys really got sick. But I was up top so I didn’t, she taught me how to, she said “just eat, always eat something when you are it, when you feel seasick”, so I did. I’d eat bananas and soda crackers. I never got seasick.
Haewon: Um…can you describe your mail, job as a mail clerk?
Bateman: As a mail clerk? Yeah, I was in charge of, as I said, a hospital of a thousand beds. We had probably, I think there were two hundreds doctors and nurses. There was a MP detachment about sixty guys. We had a wack detachment of about two hundreds wacks, and we had art hospital, art barricks was probably a couple thousands guys in that, and I had to know everybody’s name. Wow You know, and be able to sort mail. My third, know where, you know who’s in what division. This guy is in the kitchen. This guy is MD. This is a wack detachment. This is a doctor. This is, you know, so…stuff like that you know, you really had to learn, and that wasn’t hard for me. I had a pretty good memory I can do, and then of course people get shipped down, get shipped home, and then I had to learn how to forward mails to them…stuff like that. So.
Haewon: How long were you in that for?
Bateman: I did uh, yeah I was, lets see, chu chu chu, probably started about…January, February, March…probably April, so I had uh nine months and then a whole year after that so for almost whole year. That was good eighteen, nineteen months as a mail clerk. I had two guys working under me, who were out, who outranked me, but they, didn’t have the, mental capacity to do the job, so.
Haewon: Um…what are the, other than Germany, where was your favorite place to travel?
Bateman: In Germany? Uh...
Haewon: Other than Germany.
Bateman: I just like doing all the local towns, I like, I like going to small towns, uh, just and, and you know, mixing with the people, and in Germany, they live a pretty good life. They have festivals every weekend, might be a flower festival, might be a beer festival, might be something like that. And of course I can go down to the little town below me, and for about four dollars, like you get a tattoo right down, a complete dinner, and a taxi ride back up, so that was pretty good.
Catherine: Oh did you learn to speak German?
Bateman: Did me, uh I took a couple of courses, they were offered by the Red Cross, and can get by. I’ve since lost, I would…my daughter used to kid me, said I would just bluffing, but after they took German, they’d be like “yeah you speak it right”, so yeah, yeah I learned to speak a little German.
Catherine: So did you talk to people a lot?
Bateman: I can, I can ask directions. I can order food. You know, I didn’t talk, didn’t talk to, to the, most of the Germans spoke English, most of my relatives over here chuckles you know.
Catherine: What about, for um, in um, in the hospital?
Bateman: We barely have, we didn’t have civilians. We didn’t take care…we only took care of army civilians, the part with the army civilians, like uh…somebody’s wife, or their kids, we took those, they came into the hospital, but the Germans civilians no, we didn’t take care of them. That was not part of the contract, when we were over there.
Haewon: Um…what was the Cold War? Like what was it…
Bateman: Cold War was, the time between the Korean War really and probably the Vietnam War, which I don’t remember how much time that was. Korean was nineteen-fifty to fifty-three, and Vietnam was well, Vie, we were really involved in Vietnam until about the late fifties, early sixties, so the time in between was the standoff between Russians and us, they called it the Cold War. And the Berlin War and all that stuff.
Haewon: Um…so can you talk about when you came home and your, can you talk about it with your family your experience um in Germany and…
Bateman: Oh yeah, I mean I’ve sent my mom postcards from all around the world different places so you know that I was it, but uh, yeah it was as much as it was worth you know, it was, I didn’t live that exciting of a live, so that wasn’t um all bunch to relate to them.
Haewon: Uh so, how does this experience affect your life?
Bateman: How this experience…taught me to go back to school, that was probably the major thing, and it taught me to, you know, take care of yourself, cause nobody else takes care of you. So I’ve always learned to, you know like, put a little savings away all the time, and…so there you know today I, I can retire and I’m not wealthy but I’m not gonna starve.
Haewon: So did you fly back home, or…?
Bateman: No…took another ship back again. The same ship, USNS Geiger.
Haewon: Were you um on the bottom deck?
Bateman: Well, this time I was, yeah I wasn’t in a too good of place this time, but I got managed to get up and get on top a little bit, but…cause it stinks down at the bottom…it really does.
Haewon: Uh…how was um, can you describe your reception by your family and community?
Bateman: Well, when I came home my folks were in New York, and I came through Northern New York but they were upstate and I was downstate. So I had, and then of course I had to follow the route so I had to take a train across the country. And then they took us back up to Fort Or, and I was discharged in Fort Or and I flew down to uh, flew down to Los Angeles and my sister met me at uh Downtown, L.A. One of, one of the guys that I was with drove, his family drove me down to the, Bilt, Biltmore Hotel, and my sister picked me up there and I drove back in to San Gabriel.
Haewon: Okay, um…you, so you still keep contact with your veteran friends?
Bateman: Uh, I don’t have that many veteran friends. I mean, you know, as I said, they were all from the East and I was from the West Coast, so. And this, this one kid that I went to grammar school with, I just saw him two months ago, you know, we’ve been friends since kindergarten, and uh went into the service together, so I still see him. But as far as the rest of veterans no, I don’t see them. I don’t see anybody like that.
Haewon: Umm…what was the major event that impacted your life?
Bateman: I think the Hungarian Revolution was one of the biggest events that I can remember because it was pretty bad. It was really a bad situation. Um…the people trying to get out of Hungary and, most of them crossed into Austria, and from there they tried to get, you know, so at that time the U.S. took in a lot of Hungarians. This was uh, whatever you wanna call them, refugees.
Haewon: Umm…do you have any suggestions to tell the later generations?
Bateman: Yeah, uh, I don’t think military life was for anybody. I think it, I think there’s a section of our society that could, could use a couple years of discipline, and that’s what the army teaches you discipline. That wouldn’t hurt them at all. I saw some of the problems of this country. Yeah, cough
Haewon: Umm…could you talk about any other um other experiences you have, during the war?
Bateman: No I, I enjoyed traveling. I took traveling was fun because over in Germany you can travel cheap. You know, I went to Denmark, that’s, okay I went with uh this from Ohio and uh, we ate, for two dollars we can eat…dinner! You know, we get bread and cheese and salami and stuff like that and might be pick up a beer, on the train and uh the train took us on to Denmark. And um you know, travel all through, as much of Denmark and went across over to Sweden. That the part I enjoyed the most, was traveling and I did travel. I was gone all the time. I also went to Austria, forgot to tell you that, went down to Velvarian cross into Austria.
Haewon: Umm…how…so did you meet your wife?
Bateman: Did I what?
Haewon: Did you meet your wife after the war for marriage?
Catherine: Umm…before the war…
Bateman: Did I know my wife? No, no, no, I, robbed the cradle my wife, younger than I am. So I didn’t meet her until after, at that time I was going to college, I met her. She was going to college too. cough sorry.
Haewon: Umm…was the food during military life, uh training, was that okay food?
Bateman: During, during uh basic training, I went in and I weighed one hundred and nine pounds, after eight weeks, I gained my weight to a hundred and thirty pounds. So, what it did was it put weight on the skinny guys and took weight off the fat people, but the food was terrible, it basic training…it was bad.
Haewon: What was it? What kind of food…
Bateman: Oh it was, a lot of it was called sea rations leftover from the Second World War, it was these cans of beans, cans of sausages, ughh it was really some, and old cigarettes were so staled you could hardly smoke them, and stuff like that. But when I got to Germany, we had what they called rations and a hat, so we got milk everyday, we got eggs, no powdered eggs, we got regular eggs, we got…well we got steak once a week. I got, because I knew the cooks and I was the mail clerk, I got pretty well, fed pretty well. I have no…and the guys who was come in from the field who were…as, as, you know, going in the hospital for medical treatment, they couldn’t believe the way we ate. They just, “you guys got this good food and we are out there eating those can junk.” Yeah, we ate good food.
Haewon: So did you talk to the patients a lot and…?
Bateman: Oh yeah, I met had some interesting patients. Yeah I, in fact, I had had well, I think his name was Admiral Charlie Brown, he was head of the, the Atlantic fleet, he was uh in the hospital there. And who else was in there…I had a Canadian pilot who crashed his plane, he was in pretty bad shape, but I watched, I got to watch him walk out of the hospital. So that was interesting, but uh most of the time I was mail clerk so I didn’t get into medical after that, too much.
Haewon: So what, who was your most memorable patient?
Bateman: I saw…a young boy come in, weighed about two hundred and twenty-five pounds with meningitis, and died weighing about seventy-five. That was a hard thing to, to watch him just…and couldn’t do anything for him. Spinal meningitis was feared in all the military, cause it comes from dirt and filth. So if you ever go by a marine core a stage you’ll see mattresses hanging out of the window and pillows…they air out the barracks every week, and that’s to keep meningitis down.
Haewon: What is meni…
Bateman: Menispinal meningitis was this little…I don’t know how to call it…spiral kit that gets in the blood stream and gets in your spinal core and goes up to your brain. It’s really, REALLY contagious.
Haewon: Umm…do you have other um stories about the patients? Or…
Bateman: Not really, as I said, I didn’t, didn’t spend that much time uh, uh, I just…mostly mail clerk. I can tell you about stamps. Laughs
Haewon: How long were you, um how long did you stay during, like during the day for your hours?
Bateman: Well, I told you it was good duty. I had two guys working under me. I would go in in the morning, and I’m, probably within three hours, I had all the mails sorted, and ready to go, open the window and I distributed mails and by noon, I was through. So I would make a deal…one guy would stay in when the mail room till five, and the other, my and the other guy would leave, and then we just rotate down the week, and once, once a week I had to stay till five o’clock, and a lot of time I gave my day off in the middle of the week and I thought that was great. Becausethe work was easy, you know.
Haewon: And then other than that you just traveled?
Bateman: I traveled…anywhere and everywhere I could go.
Haewon: Uh were there medics in combat?
Bateman: Was I a medic in combat?
Catherine: No, were there medics in combat?
Bateman: Oh yeah you know there’s always medics travel with every, every group. You know, there’s, if there’s military unit, there’s always a medic as well. Uhh…they call him core man, well, we actually called them field medics. You know there’s always…it’s like, if I didn’t go into the hospital, I probably would been a, a medic assigned to an infantry unit, which meant I would go live on a tent on the field, which was not my…forte.
Haewon: Uh, you said you could tell us about stamps, so which one was your favorite?
Bateman: What’s that?
Haewon: Uh what was your favorite stamps?
Bateman: My favorite stamp? Laugh Oh I just…we actually, tell you the truth, we didn’t use stam…that stamps we could…we were in APO, or Army Post Office, so you can ship, you mail went free to New York, but from New York to, to California you had to put it, and they didn’t have to have a stamp on it, so stamps were cheap, back was five six cents for a stamp. That’s, I don’t remember any stamp in particular, I just remember they were cheap. Yeah, for us…you get, I get a mail package home, and I only paid freight from New York to Los Angeles. Otherwise, they were, from Germany to New York was free.
Haewon: Oh, what, was the situation in Germany stable and safe?
Bateman: Okay, yes and no…uh May Day…we, usually we didn’t go out on May Day. If you know what May Day is?
No? May Day was the communist…celebration of communist revolution. So, all nations, communist nations, celebrated May Day. And there were a lot of communist in Western Germany at the time. So they would, so they just told uh the military would say “just stay on the base, don’t go out and cause any problems.” So, that’s what we did. That was, that was the biggest event…was May Day. And a couple of while, couple of times somebody would get in trouble, there’d be a, ohhh I don’t know, some sort of beating or something and Cough they made us stay on base because they were afraid the local people might get mad, but most of the local people were pretty, yeah they, but I’ve never met a Germany who fought at Western Front, they all fought at Russian Front. chuckles Yeah.
Haewon: Do you have anything else to say?
Bateman: I don’t think there’s too much.
Catherine: Anymore stories?
Bateman: Huh, no more stories? I didn’t lead a very exciting life. I tried to keep as common as possible. But traveling, as I said, traveling was the best part. Going to Spain was beautiful down there. Went in to a little town, and they, and they didn’t have any place for us and we said “there were three of us” and we said “we’ll leave then, we gonna leave and go down the road,” so we started down the road for a little bit and we said “let’s go back and stay in the town,” and you can stay at a family home and we came back and they thought, you know, guest the grace, the whole town came out and greeted it. There was just a small town on the ocean front. And so then the grandmother upstairs found out I was from Los Angeles, so I had to go up and talk to her cause she thought I was Christopher Columbus Laughs returning…and just stuff like, that was kind of interesting, but they are nice people, real nice people. They were very friendly, very down to earth, poor as dirt, but they were clean. They were clean, I give them credit. Now, I don’t know Spain’s like that, but I know Spain is not that clean anymore. *Cough*.
Catherine: So you usually travel alone?
Bateman: Uhh no, usually I find a couple of other guys to go with. You know, that’s, that’s usually the way, two or three of us and get and go on a trip, and sometimes we took a car. Uhh…went to Austria…there were three of us and we, we had a Volkswagon, old 1953 Volkswagon, fifty-three? Yeah, and we drove down to Berchesgard in Germany, and then we got gasoline, from somebody down that we knew, got about three cans of gasoline and put them on the back of the car and drove to Austri—to viana, and so, cause you couldn’t get gas, so gee it was hard for us to get gas.
Haewon: Uh…okay, that’s all…
Bateman: Time out! Laughs
Bateman: Are we back on again? Yeah we are…
Haewon: Yeah…so could you repeat that? *Laughs*
Haewon: You like wearing uniform?
Bateman: No, I don’t like wearing uniform. I never was a uniform wearer, so when I come home, when I did, I never wore uniform. I’d take it off and out civilian clothes on. I just…and when I was in Germany, I never wore uniform. Cough When I travel, I always traveled in civilian clothes.
Haewon: You didn’t like it, like…
Bateman: I just don’t like uniform. I’m not a uniform person, but when we traveled in Germany, in Europe, all we needed was our ID, a military ID, and when you went in a country, that works like your passport…and they just, they took your military ID, look at that, and you are…free to go. It was really easy to travel that way.
Haewon: Do you take a lot of pictures?
Bateman: Yes, I did. Yes, to the point that nobody wants to watch it. They are all slides, I took slides, but I said I want to show my slides and everybody goes home. Laughs yeah.
Haewon: So did you keep in contact with your childhood, um childhood friends?
Bateman: Oh I still see, I still see, probably six to eight people I went to high school with, uh, uh, uh, every month. In fact, I go fishing, I go fishing with guys I went to high school with, and we went to high school in 1950, so that’s long time we’ve been friends, since 1950. And we still go, all of six of us, still go fishing every year together.
Haewon: Was he, um also a medic…?
Bateman: My friends? No, no. My brother was, my brother was a medic but then he ended up being a supply clerk. My brother Eugene was in the infantry but he’s fortunately never went forward, he stayed in the back. My brother Leo, was a little more exciting, he was in In Chan invasion, if you understand Korean War, that was when McArthur invaded North, came in north part, and in front the Chinese troops gone clear to the south of-. And then he also was in Hiano and Haiphong in Vietnam, uh, when the French revo-- uh the French were there to use there to follow the men in Dien Bien Phu, which was a big battle. Uh, yeah…he came out after and said “they are trying to kill me. I’m getting out.” So…*Cough*
Haewon: Umm…was there any prejudice when you went to Germany, against Americans?
Bateman: Um…not really, not in Western Germany there wasn’t. Most of the people were very nice. Um…Germany is such, such a way that in the north part of Germany is Luther, and southern part and Western part is all Roman Catholic, so they get two strong Christian religions so…they, they didn’t have much problems.
Catherine: So you said your uncle was in the war?
Bateman: My uncle was in the war. He was in the, uh, Second World War…he’s uh, he was trained as a fight, fighter pilot. He was in the Eagle Squadron, but he ended up having a sinus problem so he had to give up flying.
Haewon: Umm…can you explain the political situation in Hungary?
Bateman: In Hungary? Yeah, was the, the government of Hungary decided, and and and the people, decided they didn’t want the Russians in their country any no longer, so they, they rose up, and they uh, they attacked the Russian troops and the Hungarian army was just went straight out of Russians, reversed them, and and what became a Hungarian army and then quick, the Russians out. And, you know, it looked like, and they were fighting pretty bad, it looked like uh we were gonna go in there and help them, but gov-, uh, President Eisenhower at the time said “no, we are not” uh you know, “we are not going in there…we’re uh we’re…we can’t go in there, we will strike the Third World War and we don’t wanna do that”. So uh, and I can’t remember all the people’s names, but the Russians called this, the head of the military in the government in Hungary, to cross over a bridge, and they would, negotiate a peace settlement, when they cross this side of the bridge, they never came back, and they were never seen again. They executed them all. So…*Cough*
Haewon: Was the conflict resolved?
Bateman: Yeah, by Russian tanks. Chuckles yeah, they were, they subjugated the Hungarians again. That was, that was 1956, I don’t know what, it didn’t go off again until Poland, which was what? In the seventies? So…yeah that was uh, you know, there, there was some animosity says, especially in the communist, in the country, they, they, they wanted…relate…and they had France, which was pretty left leaning at the time. You know, the Germans were friendlier than the French. Yeah, the, the Germans were much friendlier. French didn’t like…they just didn’t like Americans that well, although we gave a lot of lives for them. If you want…if want something really…to, to go see, if you are ever there, and you want to know a little of history of the United States, you go to Luxemburg, and you go out to the cemetery, American cemetery, and as far as you can see, on rolling hills, all you see is crosses and star Davids. Any which way you look is a perfect arc, and I’m gonna tell you, it’s as far as you can see, and I went to the cemetery and these guys were seventeen, eighteen, nineteen years old, all gave their lives, in the Second World War, a lot of guys. It’s just unbelievable in the cemeteries.
Haewon: Umm…did you see a lot of propagandas?
Bateman: Did I?
Haewon: In the war? Or…
Bateman: Only what the American government gave us. Laughs Naw, naw I didn’t. I didn’t pay attention to that. I hung around a little bit, with soccer teams, so I was more in the younger guys, you know, I was only nineteen, twenty years old I wouldn’t a political them, so.
Catherine: So what did you like the most in Germany?
Bateman: Well, I didn’t mind the food. The countryside was beautiful when I was in Western Germany. It was green all the time, very, you didn’t get that much snow, a lot of blueberries everywhere and I love blueberry, so you can, you know, just go out and harvest, all blueberries you wanted.
Catherine: Was it hot?
Bateman: Was it hot in Germany? No, no. Germany is not a hot country. Uh…just before I left, in August, they got in the eighties, and they were passing out because they were not used to that type of heat. I was just start to fall out, and they were passing out. But the traveling was easy because the, the uh, auto bomb was well organized and well put together. So…*Cough*
Haewon: What specific patients did you receive?
Haewon: What specific patients did you receive?
Bateman: What specific?
Bateman: No, what’s specific what?
Haewon: Did you like…were you um…given patients? Or were you just went around…
Haewon: I worked almost every ward in the hospital, which was pediatrics, psycho-psychiatrics, post op, pre op, you know stuff like that. And uh, you just work, you just work…you have three, four days on this work, you have three or four days on that work, nothing…you know, I didn’t get into…I didn’t get into that much because I became a mail clerk and I was out of the medical department. Yeah…*cough*
Catherine: Umm…so do you want to talk about anything else? Any stories?
Bateman: I just don’t have, as I said, I didn’t lead that exciting a life over there, just traveling was…a big thing. Being a…being a miracle that every weekend off, so I could go, you know so I could go out to little towns and um, I could go to Luxemburg, I could go to… to Netherlands, you know I could go to Netherlands on Friday night and be home in Sunday evening…so, you know, made it nice and easy.
Haewon: Did you read some of the letters that you found? Or…
Bateman: Did I do what?
Haewon: Did you read some of the letters or postcards that you found?
Bateman: Oh, no, not necessarily, the only time I would, have any reason to read anything is if, if we didn’t have an address or we couldn’t find the person, but that really wasn’t my job to open and read it. That was not my job. That one I would send it back to the APO and Frankfurt, Germany and they would handle it, but it’s amazing you could, I could give you a letter and you look at it and you can’t read it, she look at it and she can’t read it, I pick it up and I said “oh I know who this is,” you know, something like that happened.
Bateman: And then, and the room I was in, we had a room, there were four of us. I was a mail clerk, there, the other kid was the company clerk, then we had a training clerk, and then the pay clerk. So we really kind of controlled quite a bit, and on pay days, I had to stand, I, cause of worked for the edge, and then I had to go help with the pay, so it was my job to stand. We decided to take roll when we passed out the money, the guys signed their pays, voutures, and get their money. And then, then we always had a couple of nice stand who were hard, just in case somebody decided…And then Germany at that time we did not use green bags, we used military currency…the dollar bill was brown, the five-dollar bill was blue, the ten-dollar bill was red, so you know, and, it was…scrip, it was called scrip money, and then the government gets the, the U.S. government could come in at any time, say midnight on Friday and cancel all that money out and pass out new money on Saturday morning, so anybody who was holding on that money would just threw out the window. You lose, you know, people would hoard that money and lost cause the government just, U.S. government changed. They couldn’t cash it in while the GI’s could cash it in. Cough*
Haewon: Uh…so…do you have any um…life lessons you learned from the military service?
Bateman: Any life what?
Haewon: Yeah, life lessons or…
Bateman: Umm…well, as I said, go back to school. You learned discipline. My father got awful smart the two years I was gone, not me…*Laughs you know, you learned to appreciate your elders, you learned to appreciate discipline, and…you know…so I know, I have uhhh that’s, that’s, that’s…just go back to school, and keep your mouth closed so situations don’t bother you.
Haewon: Was it a worthwhile experience after all?
Bateman: It’ll be what?
Haewon: Uhh…was it a worthwhile experience?
Bateman: Oh yeah, I think, as I said, I think everybody should spend a couple years in military. I don’t think it’ll hurt them, really won’t. It teaches them a lot. It’s basically discipline. You know…I, yeah, that’s all that’s.
Haewon: Okay, well that’s it.
Bateman: That’s it?
Catherine: ……in Germany?
Bateman: Do what?
Catherine: Do you take pictures…like, like, pictures?
Bateman: Oh I have pictures, you know they are all slides, although I have some printed pictures, but most of them are slides. Cause I took slides in every country I went into.
Bateman: ……most of them were very sedate about it. They didn’t say anything. They didn’t tell anybody. I, I met a guy up in Alta Dena, a Polish guy, and he can’t, and finally he said something to me and we start talking. He flew P38’s over Germany, and he said, and he said, his wife said, “he told you more than he ever told me in fifty years of marriage.” They just don’t talk about it. My uncle didn’t talk about it. And other people I know, just don’t talk about it. They just said, “it’s over, I did my duty and it’s gone.” But this, but the next best thing you guys ever do any history, the best thing that ever came out of the Second World War, was GI bill. Because the guys went back to schools, they became doctors, lawyers, CPL, and they paid higher taxes, because you are making big money and big, and the government made all that happened. Cheap education to a guy and, you know, you put more in the economy then…yeah, so…okay, that’s it.
Haewon: Thank you so much.
Bateman: You’re welcome…I, I took these off.
Interview with Troy Bond
Troy: My name, do I look at you or do I look at the camera, what do…
Troy: My name is Troy A. Bond…and…
Kristen: And…um, where were you born?
Troy: I was born in…ah…Hollywood. I wasn’t a movie star.
Troy: I was born in Hollywood and soon moved to Pasadena. And ... ah, I lived in Pasadena or Arcadia ever since then, like I mention a while ago I’ve been in this house whole for 50 years, 55.
Kristen: And when were you born?
Troy: Where was I born?
Troy: March 22nd 1925. I’m 83 years old.
Kristen: Um… what was your family like growing up?
Troy: I was an only child, so I got everything a guy would want. I had a very happy family with, a very happy mom and dad and myself. Ah … as I mention earlier …uh…uh…my name is Troy Bond, named after my father. My heritage from my father side is from the South and they’re very proud of that. Ah…ah… My mother was born (Island man?), England. And she came over here, oh and I guess nineteen twenty….five, twenty six, and … ah Cleveland, met my father and and they got married and moved out of there.
Troy: and I’m spoiled.
Kristen: What war were you in?
Troy: In World War Two.
Kristen: …uh… How old were you when you enter the war?
Troy: Seventeen years old.
Kristen: What did you do before entering the war?
Troy: Went to school.
Kristen: … Um, did anyone else in your family ever serve in the military?
Troy: Yes, my father. I have a picture of him right there. He was in the arm in World War Two…. In World War One.
Troy: I was in World War Two a long time ago.
Kristen: Wha-What was the U.S. like before entering the war?
Troy: You mean the United States? Well as well as I can remember – which I should remember very well – it was a fun time. It was a very fun time, and I went to school, until of course, World War Two developed. And … Pearl Harbor was hit, which made us all concerned. But prior to that time, I had a lot of fun in going to school and we used to chase over to Bob’s Drive-In in Glendale from here and steal all the girls in Glendale.
Troy: We thought we were better than the Glendale guys but I had a very happy…uh…a very happy…uh…uh…childhood. Then when I grew up, I…I enlisted in the Navy before I graduated from high school by…uh…established credits. Well, I was in the service to get my high school diploma. And then when I got out of the service, I went back…went to junior college in Pasadena. For two years.
Kristen: Um…Why did you decide to enlist?
Troy: I just thought it was a proper thing to do. Uh…T was very patriotic thinking after…after Pearl Harbor, and I had a real good friend who happens to still be alive. His name is Don Ball. He lives in…uh…the Ventura County area. And we just decided that we wanted to be sailors, so we joined the Navy.
Kristen: Um…How did you choose your branch of service?
Troy: It was just kind of a…I wanted to…I wanted to get into the Signal Corps. I…just for some reason, I thought I’d be better in the Navy. I didn’t end up there but…When I was a kid, I had a hobby of racing pigeons. So they used pigeons in the Signal Corps in world War Two, and I thought maybe I could tie those two things together but it didn’t work out that way. I…uh…ended up in the Aviation Ordinance and that’s something else but…
Kristen: OK…um…What unit were you with?
Troy: Well, I was aboard the U.S.S. Savo Island C.V.E. 78. It was an aircraft carrier…uh…They called it “Baby Flattops”. There were less that 100 of them made…uh…for World War Two. President Roosevelt at that time talked to…uh…the Navy…uh…the uh…oh gosh…up in Seattle…the very…uh…(casual?) shipyards and…uh…requested they build these ships to transfer troops back and forth but they ended up being quite (fighting?) aircraft carriers. I…What was your question again?
Kristen: What unit?
Troy: I was…OK, just to give you…I went to bootcamp. Is this OK?
Troy: I went to bootcamp in San Diego…uh…and graduated from bootcamp and was told that I was going to go to Ordinance Aviation school in (Norman?), Oklahoma. Went back there…went to the Ordinance School training, went from there to…uh…(Woodby?) Island, Washington to train to be a gunner on a…on a airplane. Flunked out because of my ears, but I continued on as an Aviation Ordinance man. Now, an ordinance man takes care of the ammunition and bombs on the planes and that’s…that’s what I did during World War Two.
Kristen: Um…What was training like for you?
Troy: Uh…The bootcamp was…it was pretty tough for everybody, but it sure opened my eyes to a lot of things. I kind of felt that I grew up in bootcamp. I had a better understanding of things. I wasn’t so spoiled. I realized there was another thing other than play, and it was a good…good training. I always…always recommended my thinking after I got through that. Every young person should have a …whether it be a man or a woman…should have two years of service to…just to show them what’s going on in this country. So um…I joined the training from…to be an ordinance man in…uh…in…in…uh…Oklahoma and in the gunnery school, I wanted to be a gunner aboard one of these aircraft carrier ships called T.B.M. The gunner’s right in the back. But as I mentioned, my hearing’s screwing me up…messing me up. So I couldn’t do that but what I did was load ammunition in those two different planes. 50 caliber…uh…and bombs and rockets.
Kristen: OK…uh…was there special training for that?
Troy: Yes, there was. That was back in Oklahoma when they trained us for all that kind of stuff. How to strip down the gun, put it together, and sorta things like that.
Kristen: Um…Was it hard to adapt to military life?
Troy: sighs Not really. I…I got into the swing of it.
Kristen: Um…What was it like…What was military life like?
Troy: Uh…uh…I have to say that I…I liked it. Uh…I didn’t like it enough to…to ship over. They tried to get you to…they’d give you another rank if you…if you shipped over and stayed in for twenty years but I thought more about coming back…back home to see my family and then went back to school but…uh…I was very proud of the…uh…what I did. You know, the real heroes of…in…in that world war or any war in my opinion are the ground soldiers that are on the front lines fighting in the mud and the dust and what those guys are doing in…going through back there now. Or some of the pilots and gunners that were flying the airplanes and got shot at…uh…That to me is a front line…I had a pretty nice job. I was aboard a…a nice ship all the time and had a bed and three meals a day. I…I don’t mean to say we didn’t see some rough times but comparing what I did and being a sailor and aboard ship would be…uh…much superior to uh…being on…on the front lines. And…uh…those are the real heroes, those guys.
Kristen: Yeah. Um…What was the roughest thing that you went through?
Troy: Well…uh…the scare of the kamikaze aircraft. We were…we were damaged by one. Fortunately…uh…God must have been looking down because…it…it blew up alongside our ship…hit our ship on the side and blew up alongside. Nobody was…nobody was injured or killed from the…there were a few injuries, but nobody was killed from it. But seeing those kamikaze planes coming down…it’s just hard to believe in your mind that there’s some live person in there…uh…giving up their life. Of course, they’re trained to do that ’cause they’re gonna go bigger places in their mind. But that was…that was one of the scariest things that…uh…that I remember in World War Two. The other was…was an interesting thing. You’d asked…was…was Mother Nature. Okinawa in the seas…We got caught in some horrible hurricanes and that little ship we were on would bounce around like a cork. In fact, it would go forward sometimes so heavy that the water would hit the flight deck and come over and bounce around. And it was very scary to be aboard that ship. We would rockin’ and rollin’ all the time. Um…one of the scariest things on a personal note that happened to me was…uh…one time I was working…disarming the guns and after the planes came aboard ship and it was almost dark and I was leaning over this…the side of the wing to disarm the gun and…uh…and I started to slip and I didn’t have a safety belt on. I should’ve but I didn’t and looking down, there was nothing there because the wing was hanging over. If I had’ve slipped on that and gone in the ocean at that time of night, it probably would have but he said, “Troy Bonds, where is he?”—you know? And I’d have been sinking out there in the ocean. But the scariest of all would be…uh…the…uh…hurricanes by nature and the kamikazes by the enemy.
Kristen: Um…What do you remember the most about the war?
Troy: Uh…Well…uh…without going into a lot of detail, other than the things that we’ve just discussed about the kamikazes and the hurricanes, one of the memories I have that’s the fondest to me is, when the war was over, I was transferred off the ship in…in (Barbara’s?) Point in Pearl Harbor and…for a short time…and then I got back aboard another aircraft carrier. The U.S.S. Hornet. The war was over now. And we were coming back to the United States and we had the hanger deck and the flight…anywhere there’d be a spare place, we’d…we had…bringing back the soldiers and marines that were fighting in the South Pacific. Bringing them back to the United States. They had not been back in many years. And to go under the…under the…uh…Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and see the welcome that we were receiving. Mostly these guys, not me…I was ship’s company, but to see the welcome that all of the citizens…uh…was…were giving all of these fellows that were returning was very very sentimental and I’ll never forget that sight. Even Alcatraz, the prison, had a sign up: “Well done. Welcome home.” And…and people were hanging from the bridge and hanging off of ferry boats coming up alongside. It was something you’d have to be there to picture. You couldn’t even put it on a movie. It was just unbelievable. I remember that as one of the outstanding things.
Kristen: Um…Did you make any friends in the military?
Troy: I sure made a lot of friends. In fact, I have a package I was going to give you kids and I can review it either now or later whatever is…shows some of the reunions we’ve had. We get…got together…I’d say for the last twenty years and this is…this I the first year we’re not gonna be able to. Most of the fellows that are in some of the pictures I can show you are deceased or they’re physically unable to. We…every year we’d start out with a couple hundred, then it’d be down to a hundred, then less than a hundred, and last year, there was about fifteen of us that showed up, and this year, there’s only two of us that could. And…uh…either physical reasons or…died. You’d expect that at out age, but we’re survivors, the two that are left.
Kristen: Um…How did you keep in contact with your family and friends during the war?
Troy: Letters…back and forth with letters and…with my…with my…uh…mom and dad. I…I…at the time, I didn’t really…didn’t really have a girlfriend to write to. I was…I was…the girlfriends I had were overseas.
Kristen: About how often did you write to them?
Troy: I tried to write a couple times a month. There’s times when I couldn’t…we weren’t able to. We were too busy, you know? A lot of work about ship but I tried to…uh…a couple letters at least a month when I was overseas to my mom and dad.
Kristen: Was it lonely at times?
Troy: Not…not too much. I…we would always have enough guys aboard ship. We always had something to do. I never really…I…I got homesick but I never really got lonely.
Kristen: Um…For how long did you serve in the war?
Troy: Uh…well, actually it was…uh…just a little over three years. Uh…I’m trying to think now…40…’43, ’44, and ’45. And then…uh…uh…getting out the latter part of ’45. So about three years. Which was enough.
Kristen: Where were you when the war ended?
Troy: I was in…uh…(Adac?), Alaska. And I can tell you a story on that. Uh…the story is that there were three fleets, one at (Adac?), one in Guam—it’s an island out there—and one in Pearl Harbor. And we were to converge at Tokio Bay with the lasting big hurrah to end the war when President Harry Truman dropped the a-bomb. And…and the war was over. And then we went from (Adac?) to Japan. We never went ashore but, I…I…the northern section of Honshu just looking into the binoculars ashore and…and the Japanese were looking back at us and then we turned the ship, went back to Pearl, and that…that’s…that was it.
Kristen: So, how did you feel when the war ended?
Troy: Very elated. I felt sorry for the…had to be as many people as we lost and…in the whole both sides, and I’m getting to where I feel anti-war. I feel so bad for the boys and girls that are over there right now and I…I’m told by a lot of people that it’s a necessity and…but I don’t know. What…What can I say? I…I…just I feel very bad about everything in war…just…It looks like I’m a hero. I’m not that. I just…I wish there weren’t wars and I feel very bad about the…still having wars. No, I’m not a hero. You understand that.
Kristen: How did the war affect you?
Troy: God, it made me loony. laughs No, it…uh…it opened my eyes to a lot of things that…I…I…I can truthfully say my experience in the service that brought me around to appreciate more things in life. It…it helped me that way. I don’t…uh…I don’t have any injuries or anything like that.
Kristen: Uh…Was it easy to readjust to civilian lif?
Troy: Yeah, it was pretty cool. I got back and…I…I had missed as I had mentioned earlier about my education and went back to Pasadena. It was called Pasadena Junior College then and…uh…and joined a fraternity and got chased around with the chicks and had a lot of fun. And I…I (feathered?) right into civilian life again real easily.
Kristen: Um…Did you feel as if you accomplished something during the war?
Troy: Most certainly. I didn’t feel the strength of it…the full impact of it until much later. Uh…you know…first getting out. The excitement of that but as…as the years went by, I felt that…uh…with my shipmates that we contributed quite a bit. I might show you one thing here. Got a lot of papers to sign here, don’t I? I’ll…I’ll just read this little not to you and I’ll give you this as a copy. This is to the…where’d you girls put my reading glasses?
Troy: This is to the veterans of Naval squadron VC-27 and the personnel of USS Savo Island CVE-78:
Congratulations to The Flying Saints and the crew of the USS Savo Island on your 2006 Reunion!”
It was in Washington D.C. We had it…
“ It warms my heart to know that comrades are gathering to enjoy each other’s company and tell wildly exaggerated war stories.”
Which we do.
“ The bond that you all share is second to none. Membership in the brotherhood of arms is a rare thing and one to be cherished for a lifetime. I am honored to have been asked to welcome you to your annual reunion here in Washington, DC, and commend your sacrifices for our great nation.
Running for president. That’s for you.
Students: Thank you.
Steven: Well, I see you have a tattoo. What is…what is that? Is that from the…
Troy: Did you have to ask that, Steve? That’s an anchor, World War Two. And I was a kid, didn’t know any better. I…I…I can’t say that I’m sorry. The only influence that’s been bad for that is some of my grandsons got them and they said I…I...I set the sample for them…the…the example for them. They have a lot more than I have. That…that was in San Diego many years ago. I’m not really proud of it. That’s the only one.
Steven: Um…So, did you meet your wife before or after the war? Or during?
Troy: Uh…that’s uh…I met my wife after the war…eh…Margie was…uh…I had been unfortunately married once before. But after that fiasco…uh…Margie was the little girl next door. She’s about nine years younger than me, which is great for me right now. laughs Um…but…uh…uh…her parents and my parents were good friends. She’s an only child and…uh…I had…after I had divorced my first wife and moved back home, I got to know Margie and she was always the little girl next door. Of course, then she started growing up and she had a Marine boyfriend that…uh…big guy. And…uh…but then…uh…I won in that.
Troy: And I…I said that we have…uh…two children. A son that’s a school teacher and a daughter who lives up in Northern California with three grandsons. My son has one granddaughter…and…uh…that’s…uh…there’s a…a couple things here I’ll run past…I don’t know if…This is…this is…uh…what you gave me. This I think…if you…if you want this package, it’s for you. Here’s a picture of me in my youth. That was pretty nice…This is…this is…woops. I hope I’m not taking up too much of your time.
Troy: This is me at home and this is…Down in San Diego, they have a memorial for our ship. You can see, I’m pointing at it. You can take that. The ship is at the bottom but you can’t see it because it’s alphabetical order. This is a picture of the ship with myself. You can have…These are for you. Now I told you about the flight deck portion there. That’d be a portion of the flight deck. I took a picture of that for you. You mentioned a while ago about how you make friends aboard ship. Here’s an interesting picture. This is sixty years later. This is in the Navy sixty years ago and this is at one of our reunions. That’s troy, and that’s Bob. We’re still buddies. You can have tat. And this was my Aviator Ordinance crew aboard ship. There’s a plane in the background. This is on a flight deck of the ship. And I’m right about there. You can have that one. I’ll put this in the package for you. Now here’s a couple…one of these things here. This is another picture of the ship with a little recognition of some of the battles we were in. And then this…this is a kind of a description of the…uh…of the activities that we were in. A two page deal. I tried to get a picture of this up here. I don’t know whether it’s good to show that or not but I…I couldn’t get it very well but we had 62 enemy aircraft shot down and sunk a cruiser and a submarine and a destroyer. That’s our record when we were out in the South Pacific. That was taken from the section of the ship…You see that little insanity called the island. That thing sticking up in the air? That was taken from there. So I’ll put this in here. Now I…I wasn’t sure who was gonna be here but do you know what a limerick is?
Troy: OK. You want to take that folder and put that stuff back in? You want that stuff?
Students: Sure. Thanks.
Troy: A limerick is…is a five-line kind of a poem. This first two lines and the last line are supposed to rhyme. The middle two are…the whole thing’s supposed to tell a story. Now, I…I wrote this, I have to say to Megan: “A limerick for my very new friend Megan Lee.” Is it Lee?
Troy: “She wanted to talk about what I did at sea/ The info Megan wanted was about World War Two/ So I talked and talked until I turned blue/ When it was over I’m sure she was tired of listening to me.” I hope I covered what you guys wanted.
Interview with Ronald Bledsoe
Kristen: This is Ronald Bledsoe; he was born September 22nd, 1922. He served in World War 2 in the Air Corp and hi highest rank is T-4 & this is being recorded April 25th, 2008 by Kristen: Shields, Steven Luong and Megan Lee.
Kristen: So where were you born?
Ronald: I was born in San Bernardino, California
Kristen: What was your family like?
Ronald: You would have to get closer … I’m, I’m deaf.
Kristen: What was your family like?
Ronald: What was my what?
Kristen: What was your family like?
Ronald: Oh my family was quite the religious family and, um, and attended church or a colt in California. And … ah … I grew up in a religious family and attended bible school and just had a good time. The Santa Anita Canyon was my play ground and the old Ross airfield was where they made were extraordinaire during World War 2. Which is now a county park…And….ah…other than that, I used to ride my little red wood flyer down Santa Anita. And Santa Anita was lined with eucalyptus trees. And it was a horse trail, there was a horse stable on the corner of Huntington Drive and Santa Anita and you can go rent a horse and the trail was up and down the center of Santa Anita. Other than that my growing up was pretty more highlighting, had a kid that had a model T-Ford back in 1926 model T-Ford and then a model a ford and then a VA ford and my most fun was working in the back yard on old cars
Ronald: Go ahead...
Kristen: What was your occupation before entering the war?
Ronald: My occupation during the war?
Kristen: Oh before the war
Ronald: Before the war...I was the machinist apprentice for the Santa Fe railroad in San Bernardino, California.
Kristen: And how old were you when you went into the war?
Ronald: As near as I can figure out I was 19 or 20
Kristen: Why did you er… oh, did you enlist?
Ronald: No no I was drafted.
Ronald: I had 2 B classifications because I worked on the old Santa Fe railroad and that was supposed to be deferred for a while. He they finally asked me to go with them
Kristen: So what did you do during the war?
Ronald: What did I do during the war... well I started out as a buck private and I took my basic training at the county fair grounds in Fresno California. Then I was transferred out to Sioux Falls South Dakota where I...they determined what branch of the air force I was to be in be in. Air corp. I should say after that they decided I would be a radio radar technician. So they shipped me to Madison Wisconsin where I attended school at the air force base electronic school. I graduated from there and they shipped me down to Bolkeratone field Florida. That is near Fort Lauderdale... just north of Fort Lauderdale. My wife followed me she worked for (Series Robuk Company). And she followed me throughout the time from field base to base until I arrived at Bolkeratone. Well I went though the more electronics and radar training down there, and then they asked me to be an instructor or a teacher. So I readily accepted that because the other alternative was to go over seas. So I taught school down there for another year. And I was informed that that end of that year they had an electronic school down there that I didn’t have enough points to get out of service. The Japanese war had ended just that past September and so they shipped me up to to… uh fort mammoth New Jersey, a signal corp. school. Where I again went to school and learned a particular radar set; which was placed on troop transport ships at the end of the war. Now this troop transport, the reason they wanted this radar on troop transports because there were a lot of floating mines and unexploded mines and bombs floating around the ocean, so my job was to operate the radar set eight hours a day. We had three boys that I worked with and each of us took a shift and operates the radar ship continuously while the ship was in traveling. We left we left the lets see they flew me out from Fort Mammoth, New Jersey to um a base up in San Francisco. And on this on this troop transport ship they loaded a whole bunch of soldiers destined for Tokyo, Japan. So we traveled from San Francisco to a port called Yokohama. That’s where the port that we pulled into. In Yokohama soon as I put the radar set to bed I was permitted to leave the ship and do anything I wanted to until the ship was ready to leave again. So I had a good tour of Tokyo and Yokohama that area. I had friends that were stationed there and had a jeep and they drove me all around. So after about a week, a week and a half later they said that we were to go again. And they they what they called dead headed there was no passengers just crew. Down to San Fernando, Philippine Islands, San Fernando on the north end of of … uh… Philippine Islands right at the top. In San Fernando we picked up a boat load of soldiers who belonged to rainbow division of the 37th division of the army. We loaded them up and started back for the Pacific coast. About two days out from San Francisco they changed our port where we were to dock in to San Pedro, which made me very happy because I was close to home. I rode the old red car from San Pedro up to Arcadia, we stayed home then for a period of probably two weeks during Christmas and just a few days before new years. They loaded the ship up again with passengers who were prisoners of war, Japanese prisoners of war. And we loaded the ship up and they were the greatest bunch of people that I have ever met, they kept that ship in spick pass span condition. They wash it down everyday and uh so it was a delight to have them but we were only able to have them until we got to Honolulu, Hawaii. They disembarked in Honolulu, and they loaded our ship full of Italian prisoners of war. POWS that were destined for Naples, Italy. They were a different bunch of people …ha. But they they made all kinds of things they made beautiful wristbands and things out of the old what do you call them, kazmakaia? Or the old airplanes that used to crash into the ships off of Japan. And they made all kinds of artifacts and I still have the watchband …
Ronald: … they made for me. We went down to the Panama Canal, went through the Panama Canal, the ship broke down on the east end of the Panama Canal. And we were put ashore there at a town called Cristobal. We spent about a week at Cristobal while they repaired the ship and we all got back aboard again and we headed for Naples, Italy. Well we got up into the Caribbean, and we got into one of the worst hurricanes that they had. And that little ship that I was on was all over the ocean. They tied us in our bunks at night so we wouldn’t out …hahaha. Because there were no sides to the bunks and it was just flat types of bunks. Well the ship’s captain asked me if I wanted to steer the ship one day, just before we got into the straights of Gibraltar. He said “Why don’t you take a turn at it and see what you can do” so he asked me to ask the fella that...I forget what they call them, but there was this name for the master that steered the ship. And I took over the wheel of the ship, so he let me steer it for about an hour and he said “Alright son go back and look at your weight at the back of the ship”. So I walked back there and took a wake at my…took a look at my wake. I corrected every time the compass would move I would correct the ship. So the ship was going like this all the way. Anyway we went through the straits of Gibraltar and we landed in Naples Italy. Well, that was a sad story because they decommissioned, the U.S. government decommissioned the Dutch ship, who was captained by a captain named by the name of Captain Usti. They decommissioned the ship and told him he was to go back to Amsterdam from there. So they put us ashore in Naples. Well we had to take the radar set off and pack it up and get it ready to ship back to the USA. The time in Naples was well spent we spent a couple of days in the city of Pompeii and went out to look at mount Vesuvius and then back into Naples, and they told us we had priority to ship back to the US when the first ship had came in. Well the first ship didn’t come in for about a month so we were stuck in Naples for a good month. Then they put us back us aboard this ship and we had no duties except just to ride on the ship because somebody else was operating the radar set on that ship. And uh … so they call down and ask if there was any members that were not sea sick to please come up because they needed a crew to operate the officer’s mess. So I volunteered right away because I wanted to get out of the hole and get up on top of the ship again, because our quarters had always been right up next to the navigation room on top of the ship. I wasn’t used to being down in that hole so I offered my services to the officer’s mess, so I ate the best food. And when I got into New York from Naples the officers took up a nice collection and each of the soldiers that worked in the mess received a nice little gift; which we needed because we were going to have time to spend in New York City. So we were put ashore in New York City without any duties except to have fun and get ready to get home. Well from there they shipped me by air out to Camp Veil in California which is just north of Marysville. And I was discharged at Camp Veil in 1946 on April 12. I believe, I went in service on April the1st of 1943 and was discharged April 12th 1946 so I got about 12 days of longevity pay because when you’re in three years you get a little stripe to put on your sleeve and a little extra pay. And that was the end of my service. Then I was hitched hiked back down to Arcadia and then I was out. I uh…did receive a… I was injured during the hurricane over in the Caribbean, and so I did have a little problem with my back with my legs and my back and so I was discharged with a little disability pension at that time. That’s about the end of my service.
Kristen: So what exactly did you do with radar during the war?
Ronald: Mainly, I kept the radar set operating I operated the radars that, and if it broke down it was up to us to fix it and get it back on surface again, because we were technicians at that time. They call radar operator technicians for the Single Corp and I was in the Single Corp at that time because they transferred me out of the Air Corp into the Single Corp to perform this duty. I saw no active duty. The only time I did any guard duty was on the ship at Christmas time in the Harbor of Yokohama. They asked me to go down and just watch while they unloaded all the Christmas gifts for the troops that were located in the Yokohama and Tokyo area.
Kristen: Did you make friends when you were on the ship? Did you make friends?
Ronald: Did I miss friends?
Kristen: Did you make friends?
Ronald: Did I make friends? Yes I made a lot of friends but I can’t recall who and where they were now. My, my wife made friends in Shurr Zule back where she worked in Fort Lauderdale, and I lived off the base while I was a teacher at Bokeratone. I lived off the base and I was able to go home at night. The only thing that I didn’t like about the whole three years was the time I took basic training. It was about 8 hours of calisthenics at learning to use a gas mask, a gas mask and learning to use a rifle which end the bullets come out, and that sort of thing and they had us march march march and we had to stand ready every morning and stand retreat in full dress uniform every night at 6 o’clock.
Kristen: Did you have any specialized training?
Ronald: Did I have any specialized training? The only specialized training I had was in electronics. That’s it.
Kristen: What was that like?
Ronald: School; going to school learning learning learning. Being a machinist apprentice back before I went into the service I knew little about electronics. But that’s where they wanted me so that’s where I went. I wrote, I they shipped us out of Fresno California on a train and the food was very meager if any. Until we got to Sioux Falls, South Dakota and I being a native of California, they asked me one night to bank the fire because it was Christmas it was winter time and it was cold. And they had cold fires in every barracks they had the barracks were heated with cold fires and they asked me to take care of the cold fire and bank the fire so it wouldn’t heat up during the night time but would be ready to go in the morning. Me, being a Californian had no idea what it took to bank a cold fire. I did the best I knew how and about midnight, I woke up and the whole stove and chimney were aglow with red. It was very uh noticeable that I had no idea how to bank a cold fire. My mother …er… my wife moved to Sioux Falls but I was not able to get off base in Sioux Falls so she went on to Madison Wisconsin where she got a job at this seria nobak and then they transported her down to…lets see I, I, I left out one little thing. When I left Bolkeratone field they shipped me to Alexandria, Louisiana in a P51 squadron. I spent a bout a month at the P51 squadron just working on aircraft radios and radar. Before they shipped me out to camp uh Fort Mammoth in New Jersey. The P51 the reason that squadron was down there was that it’s where they train the soldiers out in the everglades and out in the Rush. The P51s would go over the boys that were taking training there and give them a little training of the real stuff coming over so that was the job of the pilots of the P51’s squadron.
Kristen: Umm uhh
Ronald: While I was stationed in Bolkeratone I had a phone call from the west coast here that a boy that I grew up with uh uh the girl that I grew up with at the Arcadia, First Avenue elementary school. He married her and I was the I was the best man at their wedding before he went over seas he was a little bit older than I was. He called me and asked if I can find him a place to live in Fort Lauderdale because he was going to be stationed at Bolkeratone Airfield also, he was a navigator in the air corp., and its been over in the uh Asian Pacific. So I tried to find a place for him to live but it was impossible. So I said frank come on down here and move in with me. I had an apartment in Fort Lauderdale and he had one son, a little baby. So the manager of the apartment that I lived in cleaned out her broom closet and put the baby carriage in there for the baby and brought some beds in along, we had a beds in that folded down out of the wall. And they brought in a couple of cots in for the captain and his wife. And he stayed with me until the commanding officer at Bolkeratone Airfield found out about it, and non commissioned officers were not allowed to be with commissioned officers, so they made him move out. I always heard he had lost his majority from captain to major because of that, but he says no I saw him later on years later and he told me no that wasn’t the case at all. So I was glad to hear that. But that was about my experience deserves I met people from New York uh I had an occasion that I was invited during the Christmas New Years holiday up to new York city to stay with his parents and they just went all out for big parties every night and they just treated us as if we were their own. He was the vice president of the new York life insurance company in new York, and so he was really we had treated his boy like he seemed to be a boy that needed a little friendly adjustment when he landed in Bolkeratone, so we took him under our wing and kept him and he in turn invited us to go home with us in Christmas time. Which was in New York City and was very nice, by the way we rode the Grey Hound bus from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to New York City. *laugh*
Kristen: Was it hard to adjust to military life?
Ronald: Are any of my children…?
Kristen: No, was it hard to adjust to military life?
Ronald: Not for, not really for me no it was not. I didn’t like the fact that I couldn’t go home at night. But other than that no. I’ll tell you the first night after the induction center where we were put in just out of San Bernardino there was a lot of crying going on and I could hear I could hear the boys crying in their bunks because they haven’t been away from home before. Well I have been away from home many many times so it didn’t bother me but some of the boys it did bother to be away from home for the first time.
Kristen: Was it hard to keep in touch with your family back home?
Ronald: Not really I, I used to call my mother probably once once a week or every two weeks who lived here on Alta street here in Arcadia. See I was born born in San Bernardino my dad brought me down to Arcadia in 1948 so I grew up amongst the orange groves and the smudge pots, and the chicken farms I forgot them haha. Though it was not hard for me to adjust to the service, no.
Kristen: Ok, do you want to stop? Ok. Um what do you remember most about the war?
Ronald: What impressed me most about the war?
Kristen: Ya what do you remember most?
Ronald: Well…I’ll, I guess it was D-Day when we landed in the shores of Europe. That they will always be a bunch of memory because of what we saw and what we heard. But I was never really impressed by anything about the war except that I couldn’t go home. Haha, I… uh … military training didn’t bother me much because I lost about ten pounds doing calisthenics in the air force and air corp. I lost uh I came out weighing just about what I way now. About 158-168 and uh so I no I had good experiences during the war time. Prior to the wartime I experienced air raids here in arcadia. My father my father was the block Gordon for Alta Street in Arcadia. And when the sirens would go off he would have to go around and make sure there was no light shining in any of the windows that the shades were all pulled and that it was pitch black. I was one particular experience that I had was when they shell the oil fields up off of Ventura and Oxnard I remember that night the search lights were going all over the sky and the blackout was extended to quite a long period of time. But no I I my wartime service was was very nice. I wouldn’t want to do it again but I wouldn’t take a million dollars for my experience in the service and I got to see Naples and a lot of country.
Kristen: So you had a pretty good experience.
Ronald: I had good experience in the army air corp. and signal corp.
Kristen: How did you feel when the war ended?
Ronald: Well how did I feel, we went downtown and course I my wife was with me downtown. And so I didn’t get to kiss all the girls but I did manage to kiss a few of them because they were all over the streets of Fort Lauderdale and … uh … let’s see. I can’t remember D-Day I don’t remember much about the uh I believe it was in June about June the 6th. That D-Day happened the European conflict was over…ok that’s about it.
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