Tuesday, June 3. 2008
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.
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.
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 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.
Mrs. Finke: I am now 88 years old, I was born in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Interviewer: And can we get a name.
Mrs. Finke: Oh my name is Helen Finke I was when I was in the service, it was Helen Cornelius.
Interviewer: Why the change?
Mrs. Finke: My husband died so remarriage
Interviewer: So before the war started what were you doing?
Mrs. Finke: I was doing nursing.
Interviewer: So you always wanted to be a nurse?
Mrs. Finke: Um, Pretty much so.
Interviewer: When you were growing up what was your life like before you started to learn to become a nurse.
Mrs. Finke: You know, when the depression hit in 1930 at least that was when it hit us, we moved from Minnesota to Oklahoma because my father owns some property down there and we lived there for 6 years and pretty much lived off the land had a couple of cows, chickens, and lots of garden and fruit trees and then in 1936 we took a little trip and a he found a job in Durango, Colorado as a superintendent of a flour mill and worked there until about a year and he came back and got the family and I graduated from high school in Durango, Colorado and then I went to Fort Lewis College which was out of town about 13, 14, 15 miles south, something way out, but it was 2 years that were really important in my life
Interviewer: How were they important?
Mrs. Finke: Well, I learned I think how to study and it gave me the desire to go on and complete my education but right then I couldn’t afford to go to college, I had a brother that was going to start, the nursing school was pretty cheap compared to going college so I applied and went with a girlfriend and start in nursing school and that took 3 years of it not too much in the way of money
Interviewer: So in high school did you have any friends that you know now, that you went to the war effort with?
Mrs. Finke: High school, no, some of my college friends, one of the, you know, my roommate didn’t. Pretty much, I went into service by myself and got acquainted with new people
Interviewer: Um, so did you decide to enlist or were you drafted?
Mrs. Finke: There was no draft there never was, I got word that my husband was missing in action so I thought well there is nothing I can do for him he was supposed to be coming home and didn’t so I maybe I could help somebody else’s son, brother, husband, father, whatever if I could be in the service so that’s why I went in, and a, what else that you wanted to know
Interviewer: Yeah, you answered it. So how old were you when it started
Mrs. Finke: It started in um ‘40, let’s see, ‘41 wasn’t it so at that time I was 21 and I was starting my second year of nursing school and by the time I got through nursing school and went in, by that time I was 24
Interviewer: Um, so a, when you joined the military, where were you stationed?
Mrs. Finke: I went to Camp White, Oregon for basic training, lots of marching, lots of shots, um, gas mask training, a, we would whack out in the tents, it rained but we learned well, our tents didn’t leak, it was really strenuous but we made it and then I was sent to Letterman General hospital up in San Francisco which no longer is an Army base at all, it was a really pretty location there I can look out the window and see the Golden Gate Bridge and watch the ships coming and going when I wasn’t working of course, got to see San Francisco, ride the cable car, it was, we were busy, you know, but then you always have some free time when you can go in town and see a few things, so we went in and a, I think it was April of ‘44, and before Christmas I was in England.
Interviewer: So when you were working at San Francisco did you work on military personnel that were sent back from overseas?
Mrs. Finke: Yes.
Interviewer: So what were you…
Mrs. Finke: Or if they were from around there and they in need of care.
Interviewer: So what was your specific task at the hospital?
Mrs. Finke: It all depended on what was wrong with the patient I took care of one patient who had polio, I took care of a female patient who had a mental breakdown I guess you can call it, a, you had broken bones, you had all sorts of injuries, you never knew what was gonna come in or where you were gonna be assigned
Interviewer: So there was no like special thing that you had to know or like you just knew everything
Mrs. Finke: No we were just general duty.
Interviewer: So you just helped out the surgeons and…
Mrs. Finke: Well if you were assigned to work in surgery, but I wasn’t, so I just took care of them before they went into surgery and after they got out of surgery and likewise there were casts for broken bones or something um, surgery was not my strong point I still don’t care to work in surgery, I’ve done it but it’s not one of the things I like.
Interviewer: So how was England, like what were your memories of it?
Mrs. Finke: Well we were there from about 6 weeks or something like that, um, cold, very cold, um, we had K rations, C rations, the only fresh something we got was brussel sprouts and they had in an abundant crop I think, maybe they always do but they always start cooking brussel sprouts in the morning and we wake up smelling them and we get them by the evening meal anyway, um, we didn’t have any work at that time so we had to go for hikes everyday with our backpacks and our boots and combat gear and, um, Christmas came, we got, that was about the time we got our first letters from home and we made decorations out of the, some of the envelopes had gold or silver or red paper, green paper, and we’d make rings like little kids make and decorate the Christmas tree and somebody got a metal cutter to make some ornaments out of the tin cans that food came in so and we sang carols and tried to keep from being homesick and lonesome and I’m not particularly fond of what I saw in England I’m sure it was not like what we saw it
Interviewer: What was England like during that time?
Mrs. Finke: What was it like?
Interviewer: Yeah, like…
Mrs. Finke: Well they had all that bombing you know, but to us in the area where we were and I never got to London which is the capital of course, so we did go across the cow pasture sometimes and there was a little country club out there where they sold ale I think that is what the British liked to drink and we went to the pub and had a drink and we sat and sang and we interrupted the people who were throwing darts that seems to be a national sport. They didn’t like the noise we were making, but we had a good time.
Interviewer: That’s good, so what did you do after you were stationed at England?
Mrs. Finke: Then we went to France, and France again was cold and muddy, it was wintertime. And it was very, very cold but that’s, we landed in La Ha then went to Renan and then waited to do something and they sent us to New Chattel and again it was cold, we had a barracks and a couple of pot-belly stoves, and the shower, well if you were lucky enough to be the first few in line, you could have warm water, I didn’t like cold water, not many of us did so we got snow in our helmets and melted them on the tops of the pot-belly stove and took sponge baths, spit baths whatever out of our helmet, and, that was a few weeks, I don’t know I’ve lost track of just how long things were from there we went down to Pin Rue except we weren’t in the town we were about 3 miles out of town and it had been a French hospital that we sisters had operated and there were a few of them in a building on the property but the hospital itself and our nurses quarters and the officers quarters and the enlisted men, it was a big place and we were all quartered there and that is where we operated our hospital until after V-E day patients either went back to duty or were sent home and they sent us down to Marseille and we got on a troop ship and went to the Philippines.
Interviewer: So how were the Philippines like, much warmer I would expect?
Mrs. Finke: Well yes, it was warm but again we got there monsoon season and we got there August, September, October lots of rain lots of mud, but I still kind of liked it
Interviewer: What did you like about it?
Mrs. Finke: Well, for one thing, the English people I’m sure spoke English they’re kind of English but we never really got to meet them but we did get to meet some of the Philippines people and they spoke English which was after France it was nice too and they were really friendly to us the end of the war in France, they would say yankee go home, they didn’t seem to want us there anymore and so I don’t know I just, kind of like the Philippines.
Interviewer: So the entire time you were moving you had to work the hospitals right, so do you remember any of the patients that you had to help?
Mrs. Finke: Not really, you had a big ward like 60 patients on one ward and the nurse was in charge, and then they had the corpsman and they were enlisted men but they were well trained and they were always so helpful. They did a lot of the work so we did a lot of the paper pushing and um, I really don’t remember too many of the um, patients I remember the lady in San Francisco who thought she was gonna clobber me and I remember a young man in France that was almost 9 o’ clock and was supposed to be lights out and I warned him that at 9 the lights were gonna go out and then he a, was rather angry but I have no idea what his name was but um, it was hard, you had lots of people with frap, um, shrapnel, you know people with pieces of their skin blown away or muscles or whatever that had to be repaired we had psychiatric patients you had people in camps, and whatever it was it was on the ward they assigned you to that’s what you took care of.
Interviewer: So after the Philippines, were you shipped somewhere else?
Mrs. Finke: No, that’s when I came home, I came home as a patient myself.
Interviewer: So how did that happen?
Mrs. Finke: Well they said I had arthritis so they had me in the hospital as a patient then they sent me home on a plane loaded with um, patients.
Interviewer: So is this before the war ended?
Mrs. Finke: No, we got there just about the time the war ended with Japan and in fact VJ-day came when we were in Cason City I think so there was really no fighting in the war but we heard shots at night sometimes and we’d sit there at the desk and the light was on your desk and you’d hear this shot and you’d think, well it didn’t get me. So we never did know who or what was shooting at somebody I never had a patient brought in after I heard the shot so I have no idea.
Interviewer: Do you have any memories that you specifically remember about the war?
Mrs. Finke: Well I remember how happy some of the soldiers were when they got to the hospital because they had been hit and survived when a lot of their buddies haven’t and so they were happy to be there you’d think they had been kept in a 4-star hotel or something after being in the trenches and out in the cold but there was a lot of sadness because they’ve seen their buddies right beside them hit and no longer alive so it was heartbreaking to see them suffering and know what they’ve gone through sort of, you never know when you’ve never faced that but it was sad and I was glad that I was able to help them in a little way
Interviewer: Do you have any friends that you still have from the war?
Mrs. Finke: Well I did, I had about 5 different nurses I corresponded with and some of them I got to see but um, but there maybe 2 of them still alive that I no longer hear from and the others are gone.
Interviewer: Um, so what did you do after the war was over?
Mrs. Finke: I went to visit my family and then I came out to national city down by San Diego to um, see my husband’s family and I got a job in the health department down there and worked for a year and then I came up to UCLA to get a degree in public health nursing because that was one of the condition of my employment that I do that so um, I did and worked down there for a while, then I remarried and went to um, where did I go, Colorado and then to Oklahoma and eventually I ended back out here to go to UCLA again so I move around a lot it seems I’ve been here for about 30, 31 years that’s the longest I’ve ever stayed in one place
Interviewer: So how was coming back from the war like?
Mrs. Finke: How was…
Interviewer: What was your initial reaction?
Mrs. Finke: I had mixed emotions, in some ways I didn’t want to come back in other ways I said how just let me get back to the states and I will never complain again about the taxes or anything like that because I would just be so happy to be back so I think overall I was glad to get back but there were some I don’t know what to say but things have gotten, coming back and not knowing what I was gonna do.
Interviewer: Was it something you guys in general looked forward to or was it not so much?
Mrs. Finke: Look forward to coming home?
Mrs. Finke: Oh, I think so this is our country and after you’ve seen the places we’ve been, and I’m sure that they were not what they would be in peacetime you know, we saw them out of the rear end of a truck or a train with no windows in it or something and it was cold and it was wet it was not like being a tourist so, I just thought o boy there is no place like the USA and there still isn’t it has it’s faults but I’m still really happy to be here.
Interviewer: How do you think the war changed you?
Mrs. Finke: Ooo, um, I don’t know I suppose I matured a lot after seeing it, certainly I’ve developed my own ideas about the futility of war I feel that nothing is proven by it, and don’t know any way we could have stayed out of that one, but still it is not something that anyone would wish upon anybody I just pray that there could be peace in this world but I fear that there won’t there hasn’t been down through history it’s been war and war and war here and there and someplace else but I would love to see the day when people could wake up and learn that there are better ways to settle things than violently.
Interviewer: Do you ever regret enlisting for the war?
Mrs. Finke: Oh no, I was so glad that I was able to go, I never would want to do it again but I was glad that I did it was the thing I wanted to do it at the time and I’m still glad I did.
Interviewer: So when you were helping these soldiers, were you ever awarded medals or given honors for your work?
Mrs. Finke: I got medals but it was just a, you got an ETO medal and you got a Philippine medal and you got something else for just being in the area, I didn’t get any special awards.
Interviewer: So what is the ETO medal?
Mrs. Finke: O, European Theater of Operation for when we were in France.
Interviewer: You said you wanted to be a nurse to help other people, was that your main driving forces, was that your motivation when you were helping them?
Mrs. Finke: Yeah, of course you go into nursing because you want to help other people and at that time there were not too many of your classmates who were still home, you know the large majority of the people you knew were gone army, navy, marines, whacks, waves, nursing, something, they were all in and um, you wanted to be a part of it, you wanted to do your share.
Interviewer: So when you wanted to become a nurse, was that before the war started?
Mrs. Finke: Yes.
Interviewer: So you planned on helping people in the states?
Mrs. Finke: Yes, I just you know thought that I would be working in a hospital I didn’t know about other things that were available to nurses and I just thought okay that I could work in a hospital and help people and that was what I wanted to be. And then after I got out of the service and found out about public health nursing instead of taking care of the people who were sick and in the hospital, you do preventive things and you teaching them about immunizations, about their diet, about their weight, communicable disease control, that sort of thing. And then because I had two children um, it seems a better way to go was to school nursing because I had the time to be with my children in the summer and during their vacations and weekends which didn’t somewhere else so I ended up working for 25 years for LA city schools as a school nurse and you’re still helping people.
Interviewer: When you were stationed in Europe or in the Philippines, were you ever stationed near the frontlines?
Mrs. Finke: No, frontlines were quite a way away from where we were, now there were nurses up in those field hospitals and evacuation hospitals that were close to the frontlines. I was assigned to a general hospital so they had already been one through one of those other hospitals and had emergency first aid, bandages, stop the bleeding, I don’t know what had already been done for them before they put them on a train and sent them to us but we were not the first line of defense.
Interviewer: On average, how many people would you help?
Mrs. Finke: Would I help, well one time I remember that I had 60 patients, but I wasn’t doing all the as I said the corpsmen were doing all the work, but you were in charge of the ward and seeing that they got their medications and treatments and so on and I did go around and rub a few backs and talk to them and they always seemed to be really happy when they can even have somebody to talk with and they liked to be able to see not just me but the American women because they had been at the frontline with all of these men and here there were some real American gals and they kind of liked that.
Interviewer: So how were, like when you were off duty, what were those times like?
Mrs. Finke: Well, when we were off duty it was out in the country, there wasn’t any way to go into town some of the guys walked in but I never did and um, there was a movie theater in there but I don’t know what movies they had there, I never bothered to go but um, we always had to go on marches with our backpacks and so on when we had day off or time off, and I wrote letters, I read, there was a chaplain well we had a Catholic chaplain, a Protestant chaplain and I think a Jewish chaplain with the unit so there was church services and my roommate and I sang in this little choir when we could be off duty on the Sunday the morning we can go, you had to wash our hair, take care of your uniform, polish your brass. So I don’t know, we didn’t do anything real exciting mostly, we did get passes to places after the war was over. My roommate and I got to go into Paris, was it 2 days and then we also got to go, Nice, France on a pass for, I don’t know 3 days maybe or 4?
Interviewer: Did you stay with this roommate throughout your entire service?
Mrs. Finke: Well there was a time in the Philippines when she was in another group, I think she worked in um, some other duty or something so I was with a different tent group but we were still friends and then after we were home I got to go up to San Francisco once and see her and by that time she was married and had a baby and we corresponded all down through the years, talked on the phone until she was gone.
Interviewer: So during your stay in the Philippines, did you get another roommate that you were really close with?
Mrs. Finke: One of them, and she’s dead too.
Interviewer: I’m sorry.
Mrs. Finke: It’s um, that’s what counts as living so long I guess. They drop off one by one.
Interviewer: So you said you got to go to Paris and Nice, how was it there, was it more like vacation this time?
Mrs. Finke: Well, sort of, we got to go to the follies and it wasn’t as exciting as I thought it was gonna be, and I think we took a bus, or was it a bus, or was it, um, I don’t know how we got around but we did get, o and we got onto the Palace at Versailles and got to tour that but I had expected it to be furnished I guess and mostly they were empty rooms, when you’re expecting maybe to have bombs land you protect what you can so a lot of the things, the artwork and so on had been put into storage, preserved, so I’m sure it would be much more spectacular now if I had seen it again but I was there, and in Nice, I remember only one thing that was different, they had what they called pedaloes and I don’t know if you know what a pedaloes is but they are some kind of a boat-type of thing and you ran the things with the feet and they make them go around on the water so we got to ride on a pedalo in the Mediterranean. I just haven’t forgotten that and then I got to go through the Panama Canal on the way from Marseille to Manila and I had studied about the Panama Canal as a child and some how that always fascinated me so when we got to go through the Panama Canal they had a guide get on the ship on the east side and go all the way across and explain things, the scenery and the, and I still remember the huge chain they had across in front of the gates that lower and you know let the water in or out and I think the man said that each link in that chain weighed, I thought he said a ton but I could be wrong, they were just huge, great big pieces you know but you had to be pretty strong to keep those ships from ramming the gate you know, and to watch the water going up or down, I can’t remember which side was high but they fill up and they let it out then the ship would go on down to the, well it was the same level and then they let it down, I think there were 3 gates if I’m not mistaken.
Interviewer: So your trips to Paris and Nice were all government funded?
Mrs. Finke: Uh-huh.
Interviewer: Because you were helping out…
Mrs. Finke: It was something they gave us while we waited for something else and then they sent us down to Marseille and we were in barracks and waiting again until they assigned us to a ship to go over to Manila.
Interviewer: So when were you decommissioned?
Mrs. Finke: It was I think, April of ‘46. I in just a little over 2 years.
Interviewer: So you were in it for, in the front I guess for 2 years.
Mrs. Finke: Well I was in the service anyway, wherever they sent me.
Interviewer: Okay, um, I was just reading through your memories that you typed up during the war, and it said that you received some certificates and some medals, do you want to explain what…?
Mrs. Finke: Do you want to see them, my medals, some of you saw them but I have. I can get those medals out again, they’re nothing special everybody got them, um, I didn’t get any, anything special. And commission in the Army of the United States officers who served in World War II and that was signed by Major General Edward Whitsell, Dispatched General. And here is the General Gordon that was the ship we went from Marseille to Manila and they gave us a certificate and it says, “May you hold pleasant memories of this sea journey which began in Marseille, France July 24, 1945 ended in Manila, Philippines on August 31, 1945 after traversing some 15,000 miles of the Mediterranean Sea, the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean.” And it says, “To you go the thanks of the Commanding Officer for your good sportsmanship and your fine supportive cooperation, in true Navy tradition, we of the Gordon salute you and say glad to have you aboard.” And then here was an International Date Line certificate that we got. And there was a letter from the President of the United States. Now let’s see, Second Lieutenant Cornelius, to you who answered the call of you country, Harry Truman. So that was husband. That’s all I have in here. Oh, the book, let’s see I have another book that had a few pictures in it, just a minute……….Those are the medals, and then these stripes you wore on your sleeves, each one was 6 months or something of, overseas. And that’s one of my dog tags, and that’s a cadusas that we wore on our uniform. And let’s see, this little speck was me, they had a grand parade and our whole unit was there and they presented me with Hue’s Distinguished Flying Cross; that was after he was already declared dead so it was, let’s see and that was our unit, you can’t see any individuals, but they were there. And these were some pictures taken in the Philippines, they’re not very clear. I didn’t have a camera so any pictures I have are some that somebody took and gave me. And this was, when I was Brun’s General Hospital in Santa Fe, New Mexico and that was myself and these were two other nurses I have no idea what there names were. And these were up at Camp White in Oregon that was our instructors and this is was when we had our gas mask drill. Anyway, the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. And that’s one of the ladies in our nurses quarters in France and this is and there is another one and there you see a view of it. And we had about 85 nurses in our unit, and then 3 Red Cross physical therapist, and an Occupational Therapist. So as I said I didn’t have a camera, oh, this is the castle we lived in when we were in England, it’s quite an establishment but it was cold, very cold and again this is our whole unit and this was some us playing in snow when we were in France. That’s at New Chattel before we went down to set up our hospital. I don’t have much in the way, I don’t have uniforms like this but one of my friends, and that’s what we wore when we were off duty in France.
Interviewer: So um, both times when you were in France and England it was winter?
Mrs. Finke: Uh-huh, well we were, it was England and France the same winter and the next winter I was in the Philippines. And that’s the clothes that we wore everywhere except when we were on duty and on duty, these were our uniforms, they were pin-striped sear suckers. I don’t know if she has some more in here. She had a camera so she took more pictures. That’s getting ready to go somewhere on a ship, I don’t know which one. This is boarding the General Gordon; that was the one we went to the Philippines on. So it was quite an experience. That’s about all I have to show you.
Mr. Donald Johnson
Birthday: January 19, 1924
84 years old
Highest Rank: Captain of the US Air Force
Interviewer: Vicky Choi
Assistants: Andy Hsiao, Mandy Cheng
This interview is being conducted for the Veterans History Project for the Library of Congress
Vicky Choi: Can you tell us briefly about your childhood?
Donald Johnson: I was born in Richmond California. My mother and dad are from Michigan. They come out and I have a brother at six years older than I am. He is, well all my family has passed away except for me. I have two sisters. They are four and two years older than I am. And I was my father was a worked at the wholeman company in Richmond, California. And he is a veteran of WWI. He was in the uh infan well not infanty, artilitary over in France. But uh he settled in Richmond and we grew up there and uh went to Lincoln Grammer School. Long fellow uhh I guess it was Roosevelt High School, Roosevelt Junior High School and then Richmond Union High School and afterwards I uh started work ah I worked at Marra Navy Ship yard for about a year and then I enlisted in the army air force. Argh err army air cord at that time. And um. I was sent back to Colorado where I met my life Betty fit simmons and Uh I was in the county working on air planes for the advanced training base. I then uh saw these young fellows flying these planes and I thought that “well I could do that”. So I signed up for it, passed a written test and a physical test. And they put us through a college training detachment at the University of North Dakota. And we were out there for a couple of months and then they shipped us to Santa Ana where I uh went through few flight and took a lot of tests and physical and coordination tests and I passed that. And then they sent us to Rhinefield at two sound Arizona for primary flight training and then to Calaro in Ontario for basic flight training. And then to Williamsfield Chander, Arizona for advanced training and I was interested in becoming a fighter pilot single engine and but they sent me to instructor school to land all fields texas and I became an instructor for basic flight training. And I was sent to mirranda air base in Arizona taking out of two sound Arizona felt that time felt that war in Europe was coming to a close. And they have a lot of pilots and they sent us to uh uh now we went to Roswell in New Mexico and I started flying B-17s and then they sent a group of us to Albertcurky at Curtainfield and I was flying B-24s up there. And I finished flying those for transition while I was sent back to Roswell. And they had B-29s there, and they had a whole base full of pilots and I asked if anyone wanted to be a co-pilot and so I signed up with as a co-pilot and took training in B-29s in transition, then went to Golfport Mississippi for uh phase training and we did a lot of flying there but then I when we finished phase training we were shipped over seas but when we got to Hamilton Field near San Fransisco, they drop the a-bombs over in Japan and so they stopped all shipments at that time and and so we stopped going over and we then were shipped down here to uh march field out of riverside and we were going to tour Europe in B-29s but uh I was recalled to uh Roswell for a bikini bomb project. I was the second lieutenant and got there and I was in a bomb squad as a co-pilot but a lot of the air force personals was trying to get into the bikini bomb project and so I got bumped out of the co-piolet seat by a major. I went to photographic squander and got bumped by lieutenant kernel. I went into the instumentous squander and got bumped by another lieutenant kernel but I met major Charles W. Sweanu who dropped the second a-bomb on Japan and became friendly with him and he asked me if I wanted to be his adjutant and so I said sure, so I was his adjutant but for the bomb group I, well while they were over there dropping the bomb on bikini I then uh when they dropped the bomb I got out of the service and I started to in school at santa rosa junior college up over in Rosa and I had to make up some of the high school deficiencies and then I went up to Oregon state college at Covalas Oregon. I was in civil engineering up there and I was recalled back to the Korean War and I was transporting group in Oregon and got checked out in C-46s which was a two engine transport and then I was shipped over to Japan and I was in the 86 troop carrier squander staging at Tachikawa in Japan then I flew over there for about 11 months and I was flying transports and actually through all through Japan and Korea through a lot of moving equipment and after the forward bases there and food and supplies and dropping paratroopers and uh then after 11 months while I was sent back to states and I was stationed back to Mitchel field in NY and I instructed in C 26s there and we’d get a lot of dropping of paratroopers training then on outta uh dropped from air planes and so then I got a discharge and went back and I had one more year of schooling to go through at Oregon state college and so I went back and finished up my schooling and went to work up at Portland for a steel company. I became a structural engineer and I lived up there for o about 6 years. 2 years with the steel company, 2 years with J.H.Baxter in Portland and 2 years with J.H.Baxter and Eugene and then they transferred me down here and I was with Baxter for o about 7 years down here and then I left them and went to work for a contractor pile driving contractor and I worked for them for o about 6 years and then the company was purchased by foundation pile in the bay area and then I worked until I retired when I was 68 and so since then I have just been enjoying life; traveling, and traveled all over the country, world. We have an RV and traveled into Canada and up to Alaska and all over so, is there anything else that you’d like?
Vicky Choi: Where were you when the war ended?
Donald Johnson: Uh, the war in Europe, I was at Roswell um and uh I was when they stopped the WWII I was at San Francisco on my way over and there was a pilot on the B-29. Do you still keep in touch with your close friends during the war? Did they die? I have had some friends that we still write to uh the pilot on B-29 Dick Mathews, we still fly back and fourth and he lives in Michigan and we stop one time when we took the RV back there and got a chance to see them. Some other pilots that I’ve knew, we’ve stopped to see them uh. A navigator or radar man that was on our B-29 group, he moved to Seattle and so we talked to them when we lived in Seattle. We keep in touch with a lot of our friends. We have a lot of friends here that are in the service I have uh a lot of fellows who are in the marines and we have the group over at the church uh that meet and go out for dinner and we have uh uh a lieutenant general who uh is in our church group and we gather with them quite often. But we keep in touch a lot.
Vicky Choi: Was it hard to adjust to the life back home.
Donald Johnson: O, no. It wasn’t? Uh, I had a lot of studies, and I had to go to college and I had to do a lot of studying and it was it was a little tough, but, because when you’re gone from schooling for 4 years why it takes you a little longer to get back in to groove and do studying. I did become a registered structional engineer, but I never did do any practicing on them when I worked for contractor, but the steel and wood industry.
Donald Johnson: As, an elder, well I um, I teach a lot of young kids uh I was a manager of uh little league baseball and my son was in the team. I did a lot of managing in it and he has taken up the a hobby up with his son. He has been managing uh a little league for a while. His son is in junior no high school now and he’s playing baseball, hardball and uh so he’s managing, helping the coach at the school, uh teach the kids how to play baseball, so we’ve had a good time with the little league. Our daughter, she went to school here in arcadia and she went to long beach state and also Perkins School of Theology. She became a Methodist minister, got her doctorate in ministry and uh but unfortunately uh in 1999 she got cancer and breast cancer and she had mast detchomy and both of her breasts were removed and the cancer came back and she died in 2000. And she has a husband and one daughter who in fact who just got through her back in Arlington Texas. She is graduating from high school this year and she is gonna go to the University of Texas and she’s on the honor roll there so she’s.
Vicky Choi: That’s great!
Donald Johnson: and she’s doing real good so is my grandson up in Sacramento.
Vicky Choi: Would you say the war was memorable for you?
Donald Johnson: It educated me, it convinced me that war is a..it’s not pleasant.. um when I was over in Japan, I did a lot of flying, bring men who didn’t survive the war back to graves registration and it was very sobering thing for us. Uh but that was our job and my job and flying the material up there and dropping paratroopers. War was horrible. I had a brother who went in and he was a bombardier on B-24s. He was in the service before where I was and he sunk two Japanese traitors, dropped bombs on them and psyche them, and he was a gunner also. Uh, on B-24s nose gunner and he’d been my wings on me when I got no wings there’s 6 years of difference between he and I. My sister married a coast guard, uh not a coast guard, a national guard man and he was a major. He was over in Europe. He had his driver killed. Uh. His jeep was attacked and he was in the Battle of the Bulge. Wars are not very pretty. Its but at the time, that’s what the young men had to do, just what the young men are doing right now. We lost a lot of men. I lost a lot of kids that I went to high school with. Um. They ran the marines and went to the navy. One of them was killed in the Arizona. Every time I go to Hawaii, I go see The Arizona and make sure that I give a prayer for Charles Springer and uh, we have a lot of friends, high school mates that were in the war, but wars are not pretty, but you have to do what your country wants you to do.
Donald Johnson: For long range bombing, for bombing Japan, uh from uh the bases over in the Pacific at 4 engine it’s a high pressurized cabins. It had a crew of 11 back I think it was more like 13. Excuse me, we had six officers and 7 crew men and it was a good airplane. Um. It was used for dropping the A-bomb on Japan and uh I wanted to tour Europe but I got out when after they dropped the A-bomb on bikini to test over there I also uh my brother flew B-24 as a bombardier and he has since been deceased. He died about 4 years ago. So uh I think wars are not pretty but sometimes you have to do what’s best for your country.
Mandy Cheng: Do you have anything else you want to share with us during the war?
Donald Johnson: I met my wife, when I was in Colorado and we’d been married 64 years and it will be 64 years this July; and July 6th.
Andy Hsiao: That’s my birthday!
Donald Johnson: That’s your birthday, well good, and she and I have been together quite a while and she followed me around when I was flying and in fact she had a job at the air base at Miranda and she followed me around in Mitchelfield, New York and we uh had a great life together. She knows what it is to be a soldier’s wife. Uh I donno anything else I guess.
Donald Johnson: you come out and sometimes you save yourself sometimes. It was good and I had a lot of fun with the students. You want to give them the confidence that they can do the job that they are in trained to do. But anyhow, met a lot of good people; lost some friends; a lot of friends…high school, but wars are not pretty. Wars are bad and um, in fact we had a power breakfast this morning and the minister uh had a diary of his great great grandfather who is in the Civil War. And he had his log and diving that went on and it was very interesting. He said they had a lot of trouble with people being shot and infections and back then, they didn’t have the medicine to heal and uh there is uh an article in the magazine today that two legs were amputated on one of the marines in Vietnam and he was a football player, and now they are telling them that “you’ve gotta strive, you’ve got to work hard to make sure that everything is done to uh do the best job that you can do” he was a football player on the Giants team and he has won the championships last year, but um I got out of the air force, and I’m not sorry that I did, uh. I’ve had a good life and I don’t know how much longer I’m gonna be around but, uh, it was a good life. Good experience.
S: uh…I am sitting here today with Dean Johnson and he was born January 11, 1925. And he served in WWII in the Navy Air Corp. Umm…the highest rank he achieved is aviation machine mate third class.
D: Machinist mate, third class
S: Machinist mate, third class. And today is May 1, 2008. We are in Arcadia, California. My name is Sarah Cheng and present is my classmate Louis Lin…I mean… Louis Yin. laugh Um…this interview is being conducted for the Veteran’s History Project at the Library of Congress.
Ok…so….uh…can you tell me where and when you were born?
D: I was born in uh…Compton, California
S: And umm…what about a few family details? Like your parent’s occupations?
D: My father was um…worked for Edison company. pause And my mother was a housekeeper.
S: And…um…your… um… the number and gender of your siblings?
S: The number … umm…how many siblings did you have?
D: Uh…let me see…my mother had.. uh…total she had five sons and one daughter…didn’t she? yeah
D: I was the second one in line
S: oh...uh did any other family member serve in the military?
D: yes…my older brother served in the army
*murmur from Mrs. Johnson*
Oh yes…but not in World War II
S: Korean war?
D: yes right…I stand corrected
S: um…so...how did you enter the service?
D:how did I join?
D:uh…well…of course pearl harbor you know…pearl harbor happened, December 7th, ’41…uh…it was coincidental I turned 17 one month after pearl harbor you had to be 17 to join…
D:um…me being a patriotic young man, I thought well…what the heck…i’ll just go ahead and join and uh be a hero as a young man
So quite by coincidence, war started, I immediately went down to the recruiting station…raised my right hand…and I was officially in the navy and away I went
S: laugh umm…so…why did you choose the navy?
D: I don’t’ why…it just sounded more exciting
and more venturesome…just didn’t’ sound fun to me to be marching around with a rifle over my shoulder
D: and uh…its sounded like a greater life
D: and uh…a much better chance to see the world
S:uh..so…did they put you …did they place you as a pilot or did you sign up?
D:uh…I never was a pilot…
D: I was a crewman on a plane
D: uh with a pilot assigned to me…but before this all took place…there’s another…another part of my navy career where I didn’t go to the navy and started flying
S: ok…so what happened when you first started
D: uh…when I first started…they sent me to aviation machinist school…for six months in San Diego ...and ..then they assigned me to umm…an aircraft carrier in the Atlantic …uh…but I still wasn’t flying…at that time…let’s see…(I’m going to go get comfortable) umm…there was quite ..umm…a scare with the German submarines…umm
S: the u-boats?
D: the u-boats! You heard of the u-boats? O! good for you!...well...I was very instrumental in fighting the u-boats…and it was quite interesting because it was uh…at that time…with the war coming on so rapidly…they needed some defense against the u-boats so…uh…the united states took the umm…ships that were intended to be other ships and aircraft carriers and just put a flat top on them and there were officially aircraft carriers but much smaller…in fact… I have pictures I have here to tell how much smaller they are…half the size of an ordinary aircraft carrier…ordinary aircraft carriers are about 800 and some feet…these little guys were 400 and something feet…what a job they did…and ..in destroyed those German u-boats and it was just an incredible battle going on…there was one ..one aircraft carrier and three old beat-up destroyers assigned to enormous convoys and ships taking supplies between Northford, Virginia and Casablanca, Africa. And umm…honest to god…should I go up at night upon the flight deck…and just watch those u-boats picking off our ships…seeing explosions…explosions…explosions. But during the day…the u-boats would all go below water and go very fast to get up ahead of the convoy …this convoy…’cause the convoy had to go real slow…6 or 7 knots…it was about 10 miles an hour
S: wow…that’s really slow
D: and…uh…so the u-boats would get way up ahead of them during…during the day…and at night…they would come up and start sinking our ships so our aircraft carriers and the planes assigned to them was assigned to sink these u-boats
S: so…how did you sink the u-boats?
S:how did you sink the u-boats?
D:uh…with what they called, depth charges. Primarily, depth charges...it was just like a bomb . it’d see the submarine under the water and they dropped these depth charges and just shoot concussion …it was just blow these submarines apart…they either did that...or they would use bombs…but primarily...it was depth charges and these planes that…uh…sink…they can carry as many as four depth charges and uh...they…it was just a miracle how well they could …how these strategic situation of the united states was so well done…that they ..they had the ability to fight these u-boats…’cause bear in mind…Hitler was no dummy…he knew was he was doing...and he knew that he had to curtail these supplies in order to win the war. And he was well on his way to...to…winning the war by curtailing these supplies. But one thing that happened that I though I would tell you about…that was rather exciting…these old world war destroyers…they were…bear in mind…that these men manning these ships were just heroic men. And uh..and this destroyer injured a submarines…where he had surfaced…he couldn’t no longer stay under the water…uh…and so this mumble leader of the destroyer…tried to train his guns where he could sink the submarine where it was surfaced…he never could maneuver his ship well enough to …to sink the submarine…so…in desperation…he said ‘well I’ll just ram him”
D: so…here’s the submarine’s floating up on this surface and so the destroyer captain says, ‘full speed ahead’ …and he slammed right in to the submarine but he didn’t sink him…he went right over the top of the submarine and they were stuck together…*sarah laughs* yeah…and uh…so there the submarine crewman came up from there submarine and they were shooting up and the destroyer guys are shooting back down on them...and finally…the submarine Germans surrendered and they took them aboard the destroyer and eventually moved them over to our aircraft carrier and we had accommodations for the German sailors
D:okay..i didn’t mean to make it a long dissertation
S: no…that’s good!
D:but anyway...i’ve got quite a citation for that…uh…it tells a little bit about how I got a presidential unit citation for my involvement …and…it talks a little bit about a vigorous offense was largely responsible for the complete withdrawal…withdrawal…withdrawal of hostile u-boats from this valley supplier…uh...and later when submarines returned with deadlier weapons and armed men with anti-aircraft defenses, heroic task unit by striking, damaging blows on the onset of the renewed campaigns. That’s only initiative enemy before actual perception of preventing large-scale attacks. It’s in…it’s distinction performance on a difficult and hazardous missions and turned it materially to victorious achievements by our land forces. clear throat here is a…here is a picture of the old U.S.S. Card.
S: Oh wow…
S: Oh is this the first aircraft carrier you were on?
D:but bear in mind, I wasn’t flying at that time…I was a crewman and just keeping the plane in good shape, loading the bombs and that sort of thing
S:oh yeah…so…what year was this, when you were on this first aircraft carrier?
D:that…that was the first one I was on, yeah
Mrs. Wilma Johnson: what year?
D:oh, uh…let me see…I would have been on there in…in fact I think the date is on this thing…*clears throat* I think I was on there before…I was on there 1942
S: oh, 1942?
D: uh huh
S:um, so uh, right after pearl harbor, you signed up?
D:um…well…bear in mind…you see…I went to a…I went to San Diego for Aviation Machinist School for six months. So that put the date into July of ’42. So I was probably on here…probably around August of ’42.
S:ok, so back to your umm...so did you have to go to boot camp or training camp?
D:uh, yes. All I did there…I did all this before this took place.
D:the very first thing I did when I went into the navy, I went to….I went to boot camp in San Diego
S: So it’s at San Diego too?
S:okay, uh, what did you do at boot camp?
D: uh…it was very strenuous.
D: they taught me how to be a man
There was no fooling around. They taught me to…that I better learn how to fight in combat, and I wasn’t there to play games, I was there to fight a war
S: so it was a special train…or boot camp for those in the navy? Or was it a general one?
D: It is a special boot camp, for navy
S: um is there anything specific that they did in there that was…say like….the marines
D: yeah…it was considerably different than what it would have been in the army. ‘cause they were, they trained us to be…to be able to man ships in various types of…see…there different kinds of ships. There were destroyers, there’s cruises, battleships, aircraft carriers. That’s was interested me. And because I wanted to be involved with flying. So uh, yes, they did train me in specifics…to be a sailor…uh…but not only a sailor…to be a um… sailor involved in flying
S: um…so…how were your early days of training at the boot camp?
D: uh…how were they?
S: um…were they…do you remember anything special like events that happened?
D: nnn….yes! other than…one thing that I thought of was ‘what have I gotten myself into?’
‘Why didn’t I give this some serious thought before I did it?’
S: What made you think that?
D: uh… well! You know I had an easy, care-free life before then. Of course I was…I was your…I was just a few months older than you! Uh…are you sixteen now?
D: yeah, well I was…I had just barely turned seventeen! Can you imagine you doing…you doing something like that?
Of course not! Well, uh…but you know…I guess I threw caution to the wind and you know…I’m a man and I could handle this. But they taught me that uh….that I’ve maybe got in something over my head …and…I did! I got in over my head by far. But they taught me…it didn’t take me long to…to learn how to be a good sailor…be a good man…be a good…um…what I went in there to do. And um…so I figured I did an adequate job for the job that I was called to do.
S: So how long did training camp last?
D: Uh…let me see…I think training camp lasted about two months
S: two months?
D: And then they immediately put in this aviation machinist mate school for six months…so that took about eight months of first…uh….part of my navy career.
S: So what happened after the eight months?
D: Then, then I went to this…um… U.S.S. Card.
S: So you went immediately there?
D: Uh yeah…I went directly there. I can’t remember how I got…how I ended up from San Diego to the East Coast where I got…I guess they flew me to…uh…Northford, Virginia…uh… where the Card was sailing from Northford to Casablanca, to Northford to Casablanca…back and forth. ‘Cause they were taking these convoys.
S: Uh… what was your duty on the aircraft carrier?
D: Uh… I was…I was…uh…assigned to one particular airplane and was…uh… and in fact, I have some literature here that…they nicknamed it the ‘Pregnant Goose’ because it was so ugly that…uh…I have a picture of it… uh…*shuffle*…somewhere...
It was sort of an ugly looking airplane whether it was in the air or not!
S: Well, what do you mean by ugly?
D: uh…I’ll show you in just a minute…
S: laughs okay!
D: uh…if I could find it…a picture of it…one of the designs of…here’s a picture of me in my youth…*shuffles through papers*…well let me see…oh here! Here’s a pretty good picture of what one looked like.
S: Oh! This was the ugly…plane? *laughs*
D: yeah. Uh…there…there’s a better picture of…uh…
S: okay…so you were assigned to…uh…
D: Just to maintain it; load, unload the bombs; and keep it clean, keep it serviced, and help the pilot…help the…help with anything and everything that I could possibly do to keep that thing flying and keep it assigned to what it was meant to do! And that was to: sink ships, and…and sink submarines, but uh…I only did that for a short bit of time before…I didn’t particularly like that part of the service…so I wanted to fly.
So, so I…uh…through my…pulled strings and all…I finally got them to assign me to uh…to fly as a crewman. And so I flew…I flew in this little bubble right here…
S: laughs uh so…you flew as a crewman?
D: uh huh…
There were…there were three men in a crew: the pilot in the front…here’s the pilot…I flew here…and we had a radioman down here. I had a 50 caliber machine gun here…and there was…uh…operated hydrolytically.
This radioman had um…a 30 caliber machine gun here.
And the pilot had four guns in the wings…50 caliber machine guns in the wings. And we could use strafing and that sort of thing.
And the plane was capable of carrying two thousand pounds payload …uh…he had uh…he had bomb bays down here at are those opened, closed hydraulic thing. We could either carry one torpedo which weighed uh two thousand pounds or the equivalent thereof: four five hundred pound bombs…or we could have one hundred pound bombs. ahem Sometimes we even carry…uh… propaganda material.
And we would fly over enemy territory and throw…uh…propaganda material
S: oh really?
D: uh huh! In fact, I have some of the old propaganda stuff here! I wish I could…uh…I wish I could interpret that!
S: oh, are they in German? Or…
D: That’s in Japanese. shuffle I got them here somewhere…here’s my discharge papers…
*brings out recruiting poster* there was one of the…one of the posters back then…
S: wow…oh! As in recruitment?
S: oh okay!
D: um…the one we…the one I flew…um…bear in mind that I was stationed on um…this fleet…VT-81 which stood for …um…torpedo squadron eighty-one…and we have this memorial book. We named it ‘Prep Charlie.’ ‘Prep Charlie’ meant…um…’prepare to land.’ So just chose to name, to name the book ‘Prep Charlie.’ And um…here are some pretty interesting memorable things in here.
Here’s um…here’s a picture of me…
D: want me to read what it says about me?
D: Well my nickname was ‘Red’ right? I had red hair back then before I lost it all. ahem now bear in mind that I haven’t moved very far from where I joined the navy…I lived in Monrovia, then…I just moved across city lands.
So this says:
“Red, who hails from Monrovia, California, who is one of the very few who had some previous sea duty before entering the squadron.”
The previous sea duty was from the when I was on the U.S.S. Card, fighting the submarines right?
S: uh hmm…
D: um…”…before entering the squadron…he has the Presidential citation for service aboard the U.S.S. Card. He had to wise up our many land-lubbers...”
That was the nickname of the recruits!
D: “…land-lubber!... to solid the life aboard ship. As a turn gunner, he is definitely tops. With his good nature and pleasing personality…”
D: “…it is easy to understand why he is so well liked by all hands.” And then here’s a picture of my radioman, and here’s a picture of my pilot. Uh, one thing I want to make sure I mention to you is the different battles that I…that I was in. I was involved in um…the Battle of Iwo Jima. You’ve heard of the big battle of Iwo Jima.
S: uh huh
D: and uh, and George…oh! Oh here’s the propaganda stuff that I had.
S: oh, actually…can you read Japanese??
L: If it’s like mainly in kanji…
D: Oh! I wish you could! I wish you could read that
L: I’ll try…
D: Okay…if you could read any of that…
L: see? Kanji!
S: Is that bad? *laughs*
D: I’ve got to get that interpreted by somebody
L: oh…it just says like its…Japan is doing bad things except like during the war…and that they are going to fail eventually…and stuff like that
S: so…um…you threw these out over enemy territory?
D: yeah! Yup! I ended…the last mission I made was over Tokyo…we take a lot of pride, in fact, that we were the first navy planes that bombed Tokyo. The army had already bombed it. But we…the navy went in…and so I was quite honored to be one of the first navy groups to go in.
But going back to Iwo Jima…um…I was up at the same time as George Bush Sr. George Bush Sr. flew in the same type of plane that I flew in and *mumble*. And he was shot down. And he…his…bear in mind that it was plane that handled three people…him and the pilot and the gunner and the radioman.
S: oh was he the pilot?
D: He was the pilot. But he was the only one saved out of the three. The other two were killed. So…I take some pride in the fact that…uh…I was up at the same time as George Bush was and I survived and so did he. I was involved a lot in…uh…kamikaze…
Well, you’ve heard of the kamikaze. Umm…I’ve seen a lot of that…I’ve seen…uh…the aftermath and the destruction. I was up on the flight deck one day, and I just couldn’t believe my eyes. I just thought of the blue, I heard an airplane off in the distance and it got louder and louder…
We were actually at anchor. We thought we were safe in this anchorage. And it turned out that we weren’t safe at all. At least these Japanese planes found us and this kamikaze just came in and crashed right into the flight deck of the ship…right next to where I was! You know, I was just sitting there in a total shock and stunned. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. And um, and then Tokyo Rose! Have you ever heard of Tokyo Rose?
You’ve heard of her? Yes?
Well, she is what you would call a propaganda for the Japanese. And she would…uh… she would get on our radio bands and talk to us sailors, “oh yeah…I know…we know you’re coming! We know. We’ve got a little welcoming committee for you! And she would try to break down our morale. And she would do a pretty good job in doing that. And you know, you would listen to all that stuff and you’d think…’oh, who do you believe around here?’ You know, and she did…it’s amazing how much intelligence she did know in regards to our actions as a fleet and as a navy. And she was an American citizen that had defected to Japan and turned into their propaganda machine.
S: oh, we are going to switch tapes, uh…switch CDs right now, so we will continue this on the other CD. Okay.
Interview of Dean Johnson II
Sarah Cheng: Oh well you were talking about “Tokyo Rose?”
Dean Johnson: I’m sorry?
S: “Tokyo Rose?”
D: Ah, let me see. I guess I probably told you everything about “Tokyo Rose”. Ah, she was to break down our morale. I think she accomplished part of that by constant bugging. Anytime you turn the radio on, you hear this woman doing what she is intending to do. Eh to break down our morale. It had an effect on us.
S: Eh the radio did it have only 1 station? Is that why?
D: Yes! Yes!
S: Eh so she was broadcasting from japan?
D: Uh huh. And we were extremely close to Japan.
S: SO you had to listen to…
S: Hmm, was there any action that you witnessed on the front line that’s like very special?
D: Yes! Iwo Jima! I was extremely involved in Iwo Jima! I was involved in the invasion of it and I saw a lot of it. It was really a massacre on both sides. Both sides were taking enormous casualties. Of course I was flowing upstairs and overlooking it and I was relatively safe. They weren’t necessarily doing any shooting at me. It was more like soldier shooting. So I was in a pretty good positive comparing to our marines. Our marines were just…I was telling her (his wife) at lunch today how some of the amphibian ships couldn’t even get our marines to the shores. And the marines tried to get to the shores with rifles and everything and had the Japanese shooting at them on the shores. Many marines didn’t, eh didn’t even make it to the shore. It’s just incredible! That made me more glad that I was in the navy but not a marine or a soldier. Especially the marines, they really…you just can’t say enough about these great, great men. Hmm and same in Okinawa. I was very involved in Okinawa. Okinawa and Iwo Jima were too main battles that I was very involved. I got what you call “air borne medals.” Look at this (pointing to the medal on the wall), I have these medals displayed. Of course (point to a picture of an air plane on the wall) that’s the kind of plane I flew.
S: Oh was the same plane…wait did you change air craft carrier when you went to the pacific?
D: I’m sorry?
S: En when you went to the pacific, did you change air craft carriers?
D: No. I was only on the USS Carbs in the Atlantic and USS Wasps in the pacific. There are all the medals that I got. This is the main one I got. This is the air medal for mediatory action. I got 2 of these. But instead of giving you two medals, they just you a medal and put a star in the little ribbon to signify that you got the second medal. You see some of these generals that have awards ribbons from here down there. So that looks sort of tiny. But I’m pretty proud of the medals.
S: So were there any dangers being, eh…, on the plane? In Iwo Jima and Okinawa?
D: Oh yes! Take my words Sarah. When you are on a plane off the air craft carrier is always dangerous. Even when you are flying alone is dangerous. When you are about to take off, if you are not catabolic, you just barely have enough air power to take off. I can remember, when I reach the end of the air craft carrier, I saw everything backwards. We got so close to the water and our propeller would leave a wake. That’s dangerous. That’s very dangerous.
D: So there’s no easy way to fly on and off an air craft. Coming in, you know. You have those air signals that you have seen them standing there with the flags, waving. When you come, they put both their arms down, it’s called a “cut”. Then you have a hood that coming in from the back of your air craft. This hood connects to a cable that it’s across the fly deck. The air craft carrier then grabbed the air craft and brought it to a stop. It’s dangerous. I’ve seen accident after accident. Some planes coming in, catches the hood and immediately go the side of the ship and still hooded with the cable.
S: So the crews were safe?
D: Jometimes sage sometimes not. So you know a lot of fatalities.
S: Just on the air craft carriers?
D: Oh yes! So I say we probably lost more men in so we call “operational accidents” than we did in actions.
S: Oh!!!! So I heard of anti-air craft guns or cannons?
D: We have anti-air craft guns.
S: Ohh, so it’s not the opposition.
D: Uh huh.
D: Yes we were pretty well-armed. Compared to enemy air crafts. Is that what you asked?
D: But of course the enemies they also had plenty of air crafts.
S: Oh so there were air battles between air plans?
S: Uh, can you describe one or is there one u can remember?
D: Ah, I remember a lot of. I remember anti air crafts. They used to tell me that every 7 bullet is a what you called a “tracer bullet”. The tracer bullets would show the gunner where the bullets were going. And I would be up there and they would be shooting at us and I saw these tracer bullets coming at me and I think, they were gonna hit me. As a matter of fact, our plane was the only plane in our squadron that came back without 1 bullet hole on our plane.
S: Ohhh wow!!!
S: Ever? Like during all the operations or all the actions?
D: Uh huh! We were the only ones! And you know that had to do a lot with my safety. And I feel very fortunate to be alive.
S: So is your entire crew safe from World War I?
D: I still…
S: Oh World War II, sorry!!!
D: I didn’t hear you. I’m sorry!
S: Hmm, is your entire crew, did they come back safely?
D: But we lost track of our pilot. And I’ve tried and tired for 60 years finding this man. He was from Ohio but I’ve not been able to find him. He’s just a great man, wonderful man. But I have contact with my radian man. Remember it was a 3-man crew. And I still have good contact with my radian man. I talked to him a few months ago, his wife just died. So he’s sort of depressed. And we had reunions. Now we are planning another one but don’t know if we can get together or not. We sponsored one reunion here (trying to find the paper), here in Arcadia.
D: Yea! So you know we are not the young men we were used to be.
S: Haha. So do you have other friendships that were formed and still kept with people other than your crew?
D: Hmm, not close friendships. Through the years our friendships just sort of died. You know we are spread all over United States. Actually, I was the one of the fewest men from the west coast. All these men were from the east coast. Although my radian man was from Phoenix, Arizona. Here is a picture of our reunion. (trying to find the radian man from the picture) ok here is me and here is my radian man. But the men I had the closet friendships were the leaders. My squadron leader, capital Cunia, he’s passed away. Most of these men were passed away. And above him the ranking, ehh, we had another commander. He’s the airgroup commander. I just cant say enough about these men. Not only put themselves into the harm way and put their lives into jeopardy with others. They are heroes in my eyes and they always will be.
S: how did you stay in touch with your family?
D: Well, letter! I have a letter here somewhere. All my postages were free. I just wrote on the right hand corner, free! Some of the different places I was stationed in were ehh, Bokechike, Florida. Have you ever heard of Bokechike?
D: Hmm Bokechike is in the southern part of Florida. That was where I got training before I went off with my squadron. It’s the furthest town in the United States. Further south. And the other place I stationed at was Massachusetts. Little short period of time I was in those small places. See that’s the fun part to be in the navy. I got to see these places. And the letter I wrote to my mother from Bokechike, I was complaining about the mosquitoes, about how bad the mosquitoes were. And it irritated Mrs. Johnson(pointed to his wife), she wanted me to get out of this Bokechike and went back to Massachusetts. To see my girlfriend.
D: I stationed in Massachusetts but just went to Bokechike for additional training.
S: So what did u do during your recreational time?
D: Good question. Back in time, those ports weren’t recreational ports. They were war-time ports. You know, north Virginia. Back when I was in north Virginia. It was town filled with sailors, sailors and navy, navy, navy. Everything was war-oriented. There were not that many recreations. These ports were ports for war. In other ports, ah it was in Africa and you just had nothing to do there.
D: So eh, recreation was practically new. However when I was in United States, training in various places like San Diego, in Monrovia that I could see my family. When I was on the east coast, the recreation was to go to nice beaches, and go to beach parties. Same thing you do when you grow up I guess.
S: Haha. Oh so after Kinawa, did you do other missions?
D: Hmm, my last mission was Tokyo. Kinawa was very very close to Japan. It’s just several hundred miles. Then the war was rapidly coming to an end. So I was glad that I got that opportunity to bomb Tokyo. I can now go tell people that I have something to do with the bombing in Tokyo.
S: This was after the victory in Europe, right?
D: Hmm, let me see. I get a little bit confused. Did Europe surrender before Japan?
S: Yes. So it’s at the very end of the war?
S: So how many missions did you fly?
D: Hmm, I flew 28.
S: So where were you when the War of Pacific ended?
D: I was in my way back to the United States.
S: So you air craft carrier stated coming back already?
S: Yea yea you know what I think I was in another air craft carrier that transported me to the western pacific. I was sort of a passenger that they transported me from the war zone to be discharged.
S: So were you close the area where the atomic bomb was dropped?
D: No. In fact I can’t remember where I was when the atomic bomb was dropped. I think you asked me a question about the atomic bomb (pointed to his wife). What did you ask me today?
You asked me if they would have dropped the atomic bomb or something.
Mrs. Johnson: if that’s the end of the war.
D: Or maybe that’s what you asked. Yea that’s what she asked (turned to Sarah). Would we drop the atomic bomb if we knew that we were that close to victory. Instead of killing all those people.
S: So how was you reception by your family?
D: Well of course there were so many of them coming home at that time. Of course my dear family was just overwhelmed. You know there were many many times that they thought they would never see this guy again. Especially my dear mother. She was such a…..I didn’t have a father at that time. My father had passed away. So my mother was very fatherous. Me being the second older boy behind my older brother. And he got home before me or not, I can’t remember.
S: hmm how was your readjustment to civilian life?
D: (long pause…..) I think it’s normal. I went back to school for a period of time. It wasn’t too long after that and I married my lovely wife. And we had a family. I got discharged in January 1946. I went in January 1946, oh no, January 1942 and got out in January 1946. 4 full years. Our first child was born in 1950. So it wasn’t a big span there between the time I got discharged and the time I got married and started our family.
S: Do you have membership in any veteran organization?
S: You have contacted your crew members over the years.
D: Just the radian man. Oh and some other crewmen that I have contacted with.
S: Ok. So how do u think your war time experience affect your life?
D: I think they have an enormous impact on my life. I think ehh, it taught me discipline. I think it taught me how to be a better citizen. I think it gave me more respect for the greatness of our country. And I’m very very proud of my service in the navy. I might a little too boastful, I don’t know.
D: But I don’t care because I’m that proud.
S: What are some life lessons you learned from the military service?
D: (long pause) There again, discipline. Learn to pay your own way, don’t depend on other people to do things for you. I’m totally against the well fair system. I think we need to support ourselves. Am I on the right track? Did I answer your question?
S: (chuckles) Hehe. I think you have but…..
D: I think I sort of got off track, right? What was your question?
S: What life lessons you learned?
D: I think I would like to think that I’m a good father and a good husband. I think I would like to think that I’m a good citizen. I think I did a good job in supporting myself my family. I haven’t depended on governmental programs to support me. That’s about it.
S: Eh do you have anything else to add?
D: To what?
S: Do you have anything else that you want to add? Like as a memory or special memory from the war?
D: I don’t think so.
S: Ok that includes our interview.
Interviewer: Can you state your name age and place of birth?
Mr. Elby: Place of birth?
Interviewer: Name and age.
Mr. Elby: my name and age?
Interviewer: if you want to share that.
Mr. Elby: well yeah, at this age it doesn't make any difference.
Mr. Elby: I'll be 84 next month and uh, my birthday did you say?
Mr. Elby: my birth date did you say?
Interviewer: uh place of birth.
Mr. Elby: uh
Interviewer: just the name, your name
Mr. Elby: Albert Elby
Interviewer: Okay, so I guess we'll start off now. So what were you doing before the war?
Mr. Elby: What was I doing before? I was going to college. And Uh we're talking 1942 it's just after pearl harbor, and uh what they did was--I was at Steven's Institute of Technology, it was an engineering school and I uh Up until that time they were only drafting 21 years or older and I was 18. SO uh in 1942 they lowered the draft age to 18-so I was drafted. They took a whole bunch of 18 year olds and they drafted us and we got out of school. Now I'm little in a lost as of how much detail you want. I'm open to whatever. I'm open to tell you whatever. It's what you want that I'm trying to get an idea.
Mr. Elby: I was drafted and maybe I'll just start going and you just just-if you just and any place it interests you anymore, why don't you just say “why don't you expand on that.”
Mr. Elby: Okay. I was drafted and uh a bunch of my friends at 18 we all went into the service together and I was put into a medium tank battalion, at this point tanks and amour were kind of a new thing. They had them in the first world war-but they were junk heaps and uh so we went down to, they shipped us down to
Mr. Elby: well it's so long ago, it's like yesterday as far as I'm concerned, but I'm talking to guys who weren't born until 10 20 years after that. Now we had continued our basic training, and the invasion had hit northern
Mr. Elby: have you heard of the Maginot Line? Now the Maginot line was the French they had built this heavily fortified lien and the Germans build one right opposite of them. And the German's named their the Siegfried line. IT was tough, there were a lot of pillboxes, and we got stopped in our tracks right there, and we were in the
Mr. Elby: so this was in 1944 just before the battle of the bulge. We're up on line and on the front line, and the
Interviewer: No it's fine. The pace is fine.
Mr. Elby: Same pace? OK, for the next 3 days or so, they had us carrying German wounded. Do you know what dragon's teeth are? Well they're tank defenses, they're concrete blocks that are all different heights and its' just- they're staggered all over so tanks can't drive over. If tanks drive over, they flip over and get all bellied up, well the Germans had to be able to get out of there, so they had a road to get in. They had a road and the road zigzagged- they had the road zeroed in with mortars and artillery, so they could drop a mortar on a gnats eye. The didn't even guard us. The German guards- would- we'd get a poncho- they had these camouflage rain poncho and we'd lay it down and place the wounded guy onto it. Then each guy would grab a corner. We'd walk him through. They had set up a base hospital on the German side of those dragon's teeth and we'd relieved the the guy, some of the soldiers would take us back to the dragon's teeth and leave us there. We would walk through. Oh, by the way, in between these dragon's teeth were very heavily mined, so you don't' walk off road, they know that if you get down the road, you're going to have to walk out the other way. So we did that for 3days, and what they were doing was that they collected all these prisoners, they captured- let me say this, I don't' say this pridefully, but it was the worst defeat the American army suffered in the world war, they finally gathered us, I don't know how many, but there were maybe 8 or 9 across rows and you couldn't see the end of the line of American prisoners. And what they did was that they marched us from where we were on the Belgium-German border to Han Germany on the Rhine River. I don't know how many miles, but it's like 60 70 miles. And they marched us through every German down. It was a propaganda march, cause you know, it was near the end of the war. The war ended May 8th and this was December of the previous year. So they wanted it. All the German civilians would come down the road and watched us march through. And you'd hear “(German curse words).” They would be cursing at you and some of them would jump out and punch some of the Americans because some of them would have lost their fathers, brother or some, or whatever. But they marched us through and believe me, when you saw this group of guys, we're talking thousands and thousands, they must of thought the war was over. Anyway the finally got us to our destination and brought us into a prison camp. It wasn't big enough. They took us-and I won't go through all of it. They put us into boxcars and they locked the boxcars and they didn't feed us or anything. And uh it took us 3 days to finally get us to the next prison camp, Stalgh 13C in Hamelburg in Bavaria German, it's southern Germany near the foothill of the swiss-German Alps. So we were up in the mountains. And we got caught, just uh one night we were in a big city call Kolbeg we were in the rail yards, we were locked in and the British came over. The British used to bomb at night and the Americans during the day. And they laid out that town and they bombed it and our train got hit, and I'll thank the Lord, literally thank the Lord that our box car wasn't hit but there were casualties and such and we were fortunate to get out of that one, We finally got to the prison camp and we were there for a couple of months, and then they took us out of that. Is there anything you would like to know about a prison camp?
Interviewer: As much as you would like to tell us.
Mr. Elby: well it's a prison, nothing to do, I mean it was terrible, first of all, the pbiggest problem we had was food, they hardly fed us. I was 122 pounds when i got back to the American troop,s I lost some 60 70 pounds. Everybody was the same. Let me tell you what we used to have everyday. They gave you a porcelain bowl and uh about this big of round you got that tea in the morning for breakfast. For lunch you had the same bowl with soup, now the soup they gave you was sugar beet soup. No meat nothing. It was broth and they had some potatoes in there and sugar beats. And that was it. At night, they divided you into groups of seven, now i won't go into why. They gave each group of seven a group of seven a loaf of bread-you'll forgive me I'm reliving a lot of stuff here. Seventh of a loaf of bread, a piece of lard,they called it margin but we'd call it lard. A little square lard like that, ant seven-the bread they'd give you was their pumpernickel bread the dark bread about so big. So it wasn't a big piece of bread. That was it, three meals, seven days a week. And so finally they took us out to the prision camp and they sent us, various groups to difdrent cities, and the group i was in, about 250 of us, they sent us to the city of warstburg on the Rhine river, city of about 2 3 hundred thousand peop[le, they put us into a prison there. And everyday they'd send us out, cleaning the streets, whatever they had us do. So we did that now warstburg was an interesting city in the sense that it was a semi open city, it was a valley of a bunch of hills and what the German's did was that they build hostipals on the top of the hill with big red crosses on them so that the american's would not bomb them. Now that was a semi open city, on this basis, we the allies, the British and the American's wouldn't bomb the city, as long as the Americans-Germans didn't run any any German troops and traffic through it. So that was the agreement, well obviously we saw, we were there working, we saw that they were running armored cars, troop trains, everything through there. On about march about the 7th of march, they came by and they dropped leaflets for 3 days and to these-to the Germans, to the people. And we got a hold of some. What they were saying was that if the Germans didn't stop running troops through wartsburg, we're going to bomb the city. Well the Germans never stopped, it was march 16, oh by the way, where we were located, england was here. We were here and Swinfirt, which was the ball bearing capital of German was in line. And every night the British used to go to and bomb Schwinfirt and it was a pain in the neck because the air raid sirens would hit and we would have to go into the shelters. They wouldn't' bomb us cause we were a semi open city. Well on the 6th day, the sirens went off and we were like “they're probably going to go bomb Schwinfirt again, same old story.' nope, they were after us, we could tell from the German newspaper the next day that they had over 80,000 casualties that night. They just laid us out. And if it wasn't for the German sargent, they call him the commando furor, he was the one who saved our lives because in between, i don't know how many British raids went over, between every wave, tehre was lull, because the3 next wave hadn't come in yet. He just told us to get out of there and him and the guards just ran us out of there. Literally we ran through- the city was on fire. When we got out of the city, you couldn't' see anything, everything was ablaze. Thank the Lord he knew where he was going, cause we didn't. He just took us out into the country side we ended up on one of the hills where the hospitals were. We just sat there until the end of the air raid. Finally, until about 3 months before the war was over, and I'll skip over a lot of thing,s but a lot of things happened, Finally the seven of us escaped. It was no real big deal; now it was near the end of the war, and they knew the war was over, we're way down in Bavaria and we could hear gun fire and at night we could see the sky light up. That's how close the American troops were. And uh it was uh- say the Russians invaded the United States and they landed in New York and we lived in say, salt lake city, and all of the sudden you hear gunfire- small arms fire, and the Russians had come from new York to St—Salt Lake City, you know that San Fransico is right behind you, you didn't have to be a genius to know that the war was over. IN fact we were stopping- they were marching us away now, the front lines were so close was that they didn't want us going back to American lines. All we wanted to do was stay in the same area so that the American's would run right over us. It was lunch time, and there were only 5 guards on 250 guys and we were just sitting in the woods there. The 5 of them were up in front having lunch and we just decided to crawl-t hey couldn't' see us, over the hills,and meet on the other side and then go deeper into the woods. Some interesting things happened here, and if you want me to go on, I”ll go. It was about how we got away and how we got back to the American lines. You want to stop here?
Interviewer: go on.
Mr. Elby: we waited-the seven of us, remember they divided us into groups of seven, gave us a seventh of a loaf of bread. Within the seven, we got very close, we did everything together. So we got past the hill and went deeper into the woods and then we saw a big thicket of bushes,
and we saw a little opening and so we crawled into there. The next morning, we'll never know, but a bunch of guys had the same idea we died and they took off took. At this point the 5 guards saw a whole bunch of guys gone. So the guards went back into town, Eschenfeld and they told the Burgonmeister that a bunch of American's had escaped ad they got a bunch of German soldiers and tehy rounded up a bunch of guys, tehy came in within 20 feet of us. A little further than that wall, it was very thick that bush. We laid down on the ground,d the seven of us. By that time it was April and all of the dead leaves were on teh ground and we jsut covered ourselves in that. They Germans came down in single file like this and were just scooping up whatever American's they found. They came that close to us, but they never got us. Thank the lord for that. We were there for a bout 3 4 days, we had a little bit of bread, but our problem was water. It was the beginning of spring, and in the mornings there was dew. We took one of the ponchos and opened it up and we'd get some moisture in there, just enough to wet your mouth. We took turns, literally lapping it up like dogs. And uh, and then finally we realized that, see, we were hoping that the Americans would already over run us by now, so we realized that we'd never make it. It may sound foolish but it was a common thing. Now Germany was run by slave labor and prisoners, all of the abled body Germans were on the front lines fighting. When they took us out of the prison camps and we were working in Wartsburg, every morning you'd see these groups of different prisoners- Belgium prisoners, Russian prisoners, American prisoners, and they'd be all walking to their different jobs. Nobody bothered anyone else. So we figured that the seven of us, that if we lined up in lines of 2 and looked like we knew what we were doing, we could go back into the little town of Estenfeld and get into the Kirk, the church and maybe we could get some water. So we're coming out of the woods, and it's farm country now. So up ahead there's a man, leaning up against the fence, watching us. Now this man had a chesterfield coat, that's a very dressy coat with a velvet collar, and a derby. He's out in the middle of nowhere. It would be like out in the Mojave desert and seeing a guy in a tuxedo. “what are you doing here?” You know-oh and one of the seven guys of our seven was a guy of Ozzy EiEisenburg. He spoke Yittish, which is very close to low German, so he could make himself understood and he could understand others. So we're walking down and we said, “Ozzy, give him the story.” We had conjured up a story of why we were doing what we were doing. As we were getting close, and Ozzy, in Yittish, speaks to the guy saying “during the bombing run, we've lost our commando Furor and we don't know where to go, we're looking for the road to Banburg,” well we know where it is and he tells us. He answers in English. And that got us, we found out later that he was doctor from Esen up int the rural norther part of Germany, where all of the industrialization was and they were getting pounded there and so he finally left and came down to southern Germany for him and his family, where no plane is going to waste a bomb on. So Ozzy says “we haven't had any water for three days, can you give us some?” And he thought for a while and he said, “come with me” and he took us into the barn and he said “wait here” and he went into the house. Now we're in the barn and we don't' know if he's going to tell German authorities about us, and we said, “well if he comes back, lets just ask him if we can stay here, we have nothing to lose anyway.” well he was gone for a long time, too long. Just to go in and get some water and come back out. Well we thought “maybe he went back into town.” And the guys, the best as we could remember, he was gone for about an hour, and then finally , the barn door opens, where we were. In he walks in with his wife, she was a typical German, she gray hair it was braided up here, and she had two buckets of warm milk, we hadn't had milk for five months. Before we said anything, he said: “if i let you stay here, and I'll give you this and give you food, then you give me a letter to the American authorities saying that I helped 7 American prisoners of war escape. Well what would yo say to that? So he kept us there for 4 or 5 days, and in the meantime, the front lines got closer and closer. And there was a lot of troop activity there and we were just saying, “lord just a few more days, just a few more days.” This came out a lot longer than we ever thought. And one night he comes in one day and says “i have to get you out of there right now.” we said, “well what happened?”
Are you familiar with the German SS?
Mr. Elby: A division of SS troops were brought right up into our area, well they're fanatical, if they find us here, they'll shoot you and they'll shoot me too. Well i'll take you back into the forest area where you came from, there's a little rock quarry up there, and I'm going to hide you up there, I'll bring food and water up to you and he says “it wont' be long until the americans come.” Well you know, we had no choice, and we were up there. I'll really cut this short, and the best we figured was that we were up there for another 2 or 3 days. And then one morning and we woke up and we were over run overnight. We had the doctor go into town and told him, “to the first Americans you see, tell them that you have 7 American prisoners of war in your house.” And he did. And it took a while, and all of a sudden a tank came rumbling down the road and there was an infantry squad deployed because they were worried that it was a trap. Well we saw them.
Oh, by the way, we don't' have American uniforms on, on of the first things that happened to us, was that they took our American overcoats away, because they were good. I had a French overcoat with brass buttons. We didn't even look like Americans. So we're not going to be walking out there saying “hey guys.” so when we saw them, all of us said “hey we're GI's.” We spoke to them and such, and they finally realized that we weren't lying and we finally got back. We were sick and they sent us through hospitals, and they had a boat that brought us back home, and that's it.
Interviewer: What about the doctor? Did you guys give them the letter?
Mr. Elby: Oh, yes, absolutely, absolutely, I don't' know whatever happened to him, absolutely, he saved our lives, there were so many things like that. Any more questions?
Interviewer: How did you get through your time at the prison camp? Did you have a motivation to get through the prison camp?
Mr. Elby: what did we do each day?
Interviewer: What got you through the camp?
Mr. Elby: what got us?
Interviewer: like-was it really hard to get through the camp? Were the conditions really hard?
Mr. Elby: well the conditions weren't that hard. It was barrack and you slept on straw, food was the main problem, it was problem, They didn't torture us or anything like that. They let you do nothing. I can tel you 24 hours of nothing gets to be a long time. Especially when you didn't know what would happen 2 minutes from now. If you kept your nose clean-you came out alright, if you stepped out of line, they belted you around. So it want like the political camps where they gas the people and burned the bodies. It was difficult, We're up in the mountains, and itwas cold. There was this little pot bellied stove and there were 200 of us and we're sleeping 2 to a bed, and these are little beds. And that one little thing was what heated the barrack, so that was hard. The best thing that happened to us was when they took us out to work, at least you had something for you to do.
Interviewer: you said they stuck you guys in the same groups of seven.
Mr. Elby: you know, I'm going to move over here. My ears keep can't hearing.-oh I'm sorry, I'm going to move over hear.
Interviewer: So did you become good friends with the group of seven?
Interviewer: Do you still keep contact with them?
Mr. Elby: The group of seven? Oh yeah we got very close. And one little thing, it's an aside, but it's very meaningful. It was about 30 40, 35 to 40 years ago, so the seven of us were spread out all over the country, from New York to California, from Wisconsin down to Louisiana, so we finally realized that we were getting older and older so we said: “lets have a reunion.” So we had a reunion in Annapolis was where we decided to go. IT was closer for the most of us. There were some of us in California, I was originally from New York, but by that time I had already moved to California. We gathered in Annapolis, it was very meaningful we handn't see each other for 30 to 40 years, the bond you make in service, particularly in prison camp are for forever. It was very interesting, it was Friday night when we flew in, we were just going to be there for the weekend. So on Saturday, when we woke up, the lobby was mobbed and we said “what's going on here?” And what it was, was that one of the seven had a friend who was a reporter who was with the Washington post and he told them about the reunion. They had photographers and they rolled out the red carpet for us to walk on. I'll just tell you a uh little incident that might mean anything to you, but means a lot to me. One of the guys, where we were at, remember I told you about the seven slices of bread, well I was the head of the table, the table furor, and it was by job, big job, to split the bread evenly. You try divide into seven ,it's not easy, now their pumpernickel bread had a hard crust, the first thing I used to do, was score the crust, now I'm telling you, this is serious, everyone one around me. “It this OK?” “No. a little more to the left.” And finally I had seven lines, then two of the guys would go to this, say the bread was here, they'd go to this side, and I'd start to slice, well you can slice at an angle and get a little more or less bread. Their job was to make sure that the bread was cut evenly throughout. They would say: “wait a minute, a little more to the right.” and then I'd have to adjust and cut it. That was every night. This guys house, we were having lunch and in a silver tray, he goes into the kitchen, and he comes out with a loaf of German bread and a knife. The seven of us got around like that and we cut the bread like we used to. It sounds dumb but there were a lot of tears, a lot of tears, any other questions?
Interviewer: Right when you got back from the war, what did you do?
Mr. Elby: Well, when I first got back I was in the hospital, but I went to college, I went to Clark university in New england, I graduated with a BA in history and international relations I worked in Boston for a number of years, and my wife and I got married and we moved to California. I was in the dry cleaning business, it was successful, but it took all my time, so one day i said, “hey do you want to gamble?” I had always done investments and I was pretty successful at them and so what I said was “we'll sell the business and I'll start investing.” And that was in 1965, 1965, so that's 35, 40 years ago. I've been in the investment business and it's been wonderful.
Interviewer: Are there any achievements or medals you got from the war?
Mr. Elby: well I got the uh, lets see the Good conduct, combat infantry badge, I didn't' get any silver stars or anything like that. Then they had medals for the theater of operation wherever you were and victory medals. As far as heroic medals, I didn't get congressional medal of honor.Interviewer: so you said you helped the German's retrieved the dead.
Mr. Elby: Huh?
Interviewer: you helped the Germans retrieve their wounded right? Did that change your outlook on the war?
Mr. Elby: helping the Germans, not particularly helping the Germans, well they didn't helping the Germans, but we had our guys shouting for help saying: “help, I'm hurt.” In terms, it was just another human being who was German, you'd hope that if you were them, they would be helping you. We just brought them back and forth, not back and forth, but to the Vac hospital, so we never knew what happened to them. But they would get medical and and such.
Interviewer: how do you think the war affected you as a person?
Mr. Elby: well it gave me a value system, that plus I'm a born a gain Christian, and I try to live that life, not just talk it. We came close to death so many times, it wasn't something like “oh it can happen out there.” but by God's grace, I'm here. I try to live that life and hopefully I do. Is that all?
Interviewer: Yeah, thank you so much for your time.
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