RHP: “The bomb blast was…spectacular.”

What is your birth year?

1930. 

How old are you today?

87. 

What branch of the United States armed forces did you serve in?

United States Navy. 

What was your rank?

Lieutenant Junior Grade. 

Where did you serve? 

I served on a destroyer in the Pacific Ocean. 

Where were you born?

Hollywood, California. 

What were your parent’s names?

Donald and Ruth.

Do you have any siblings?

No. I was born during the Depression, and so people weren’t having a lot of children those days because they couldn’t afford to keep them. 

Where did you grow up?

Portland. [How old were you when you moved to Portland?] 2. 

What schools did you attend?

Ainsworth, Sabin, Alameda, Irvington, and Grant. [Did you move a lot? I know Ainsworth is in Southwest but Grant is on the East side.] Sabin and Alameda and Irvington are all in the same general neighborhood, but I only went to Alameda for three days. They said, “You live on the wrong side of 18th street, so you have to go to Irvington.” [So you went to the wrong school for only three days?] Uh-huh. Well, they closed Sabin in the 5th grade- they changed it from a grade school to a high school during the war, and so I along with everybody else at Sabin had to find a different grade school. I went to Alameda just by mistake for three days, and then ended up graduating from Irvington, then Grant. 

Can you tell me about any specific memories from school or summers that you have from your childhood?

I was happy in school- I enjoyed school- and summers, it was working in the fields. They didn’t have help during the war, so all the kids were out picking strawberries and raspberries and beans and so forth- and I had a paper route for a short while, so summers were fine. I went up to Camp Meehan at Spirit Lake one summer and spent a couple weeks up there, and so it was. . . idyllic. [That sounds perfect. Did you ride your bike on your paper route?] Oh, yes, I rode my bike to school- grade school, and then high school at Grant, because I lived about a mile and a half away. Then I found that riding bikes to school at that time was not all that cool, so I ended up walking most of the years- so I walked from 18th to 37th and from north of Fremont down to Knott and Grant High School- it was a pretty good hike- winter, summer. [You must’ve been in shape!] I was! {Laughs} [Do you remember what time you’d have to get up in the morning to do paper routes?] I think we all probably got up around 6:30 or 7. 

Did you play any sports growing up?

Oh, yeah, all the normal grade school sports. In high school I played football for four years, and I was not good at basketball, so I was also skiing- I took up in high school, so I was on the high school ski team. [What was that like?] Well, we had a very small number of schools that were in competition, not like it is today, but we did win the State Championship, but it was Bend- Lincoln had a high school team- and Eugene, Central Catholic. . . but it was small. Now there are leagues that are all over the state, and so high school competition is a lot more difficult than it was when I was there. 

I was just thinking about how you were born in 1930. . . You must’ve been a teenager during WWII, then. Can you tell me about that- you would’ve been high school age then, right? 

We followed the war every day in the papers- we watched news reels at the theaters, because there was no television, so we followed the war through the radio, and the newspapers, primarily the newspapers, and occasionally on the weekends we’d go to the movies and see the news reel, which usually went on before the movie started. It was covering the Pacific and the war in Europe, so I think everybody was- at least, it seemed to me- my folks and myself were quite knowledgeable about what was happening all over the world, to the extent that we could, before internet and TV and all that, which would’ve been much more informative. The war ended when I was in high school, in Europe and then subsequently in the Pacific, and most of the people that had been ahead of me in high school had been called into the service, but I was too young to go, and a few in my class were drafted into the service, and the occupation forces that went to Germany and Europe, and also Japan and Korea, for the occupation after the war was over. We all saved cans, and we had rationing for clothes and food and gasoline and tires and cars- nobody was building any cars, so cars were always trying to keep in good repair, because there weren’t any new ones- they were all building tanks and aircraft and so forth, so there were no new cars on the market.  It was an interesting time, and everybody was very patriotic- we worried a little bit about invasion early on. My dad was a fire warden for his block, and he had a little simple-defense WWI-type flat helmet, and we all kept a bucket of sand in our attics in case anybody dropped an incendiary bomb on our house. We had blackout preparations- people who lived at the coast had their headlights blacked out, and blackout curtains- and soldiers and volunteers were patrolling the beaches, because after Pearl Harbor, we were all terrified that the Japanese might invade the United States mainland. It was an interesting time, but it was exciting, and it was challenging, to keep up with what was going on in the war zones and so forth, but high school was delightful. I had very good years at Grant. The war ended in ’45, and everyone, as I said, was very patriotic- family members and children in the service always had a flag in their window- a little flag with yellow tassels and blue background- and if they were killed in action, they had a gold star If you had somebody living in the service, you had the flag, and if you had somebody killed in action or missing in action, you had the same flag with a gold star. Those people were very revered by their neighbors, and anybody else they had to deal with that came into their homes, so it was an interesting situation, growing up in that. Two years of high school were war time, and two were peace time. 

Do you remember what it was like when the war was over? Did people have a sense of relief?

Oh yes, and of course downtown Portland, for VE (Victory in Europe) day [and] then VJ (Victory of Japan) day six months later, [there was] a huge celebration. People were just going crazy celebrating- people were excited and happy and tearful and crying and hugging- downtown was jammed with people celebrating. [Did you go? Where you there?] Uh-huh. [People must’ve been out of control with emotion.] It was a joyful celebration, and it was more or less spontaneous- it wasn’t organized into parades- people just came downtown and said, “Glad it’s over.”

Do you remember what it was like to learn about what had been happening in Germany and Japan during the war? 

Everybody, I think, was aware that there had been lots of atrocities in the course of war, and of course after the Japanese Rape of Nanking, back in ’38, [everyone] had visions of Japanese being very difficult foes, and cruel, and then we found out about the Germans, and their treatment of the Jewish population and minorities in Europe, and it was even worse. We knew about the Japanese to some degree, but they were cruel to their captives, and the Germans were equally, or worse, with their concentration camps, but we didn’t find out about a lot of that until after the war. [Do you remember how it felt when you found out?] Of course, we were all angry about the Japanese atrocities, but the German concentration camps- the Dachau’s, the Buchenwald’s, and so forth- everyone was just shocked, and, I guess, angry. 

Do you remember the Japanese internment near Portland? 

It was well known, but it’s interesting because I thought, “It’s for the good of the country that we’re worried about Japanese loyalties,” and the way it was handled was bad, but under the circumstances, it didn’t seem to be inappropriate- we were in shock when the Japanese attacked us at Pearl Harbor, and we thought that was uncivilized, to have a sneak attack and destroy a part of our Pacific fleet, and affect Honolulu, and Pearl Harbor, and all the other military installations. But, in retrospect, everyone says that [the Japanese internment] was unconstitutional kind of an activity to jail citizens just because of their nationality, and the unfortunate byproduct was a lot of Japanese lost their property; their homes, their farms, and there was no provision for them to regain those, so it was very unfair to those Japanese, and you have to credit those that bounced back. The Japanese citizens were very patriotic- Japanese enlistees in the army were among the most courageous fighters we had in Europe, and the 442 division was probably the most decorated- it was [made up of soldiers with almost] entirely Japanese heritage in Italy. It was a wonderful combat outfit, and people are very proud to have had that represent the Japanese segment of our society so wonderfully in WWII.

In the war that you served in, did you enlist or were you drafted?

I enlisted. 

How old were you when you enlisted? 

21. 

Why did you enlist?

I had graduated from the University of Oregon, and my fellow students, and the public in general were getting drafted, so I knew I was going to be in the service, eventually, one way or the other, so I thought, “I might as well enlist and have an opportunity to maybe take on leadership roles.” I qualified for officers’ school, and chose the Navy. I had a choice of [being an] officer in the Marine Corps or the Navy, and for whatever reason I chose the Navy, and it was the right decision. So there I went, off to the Navy. So you enlisted because you felt it was better to just do it sooner than later so you had some choice in the matter? Well, it was patriotic, but I knew it was inevitable. 

Did you have any expectations about what was going to happen?

I had no idea. Wow. You must’ve been very brave to just go without knowing. You never know, when you enlist in the service, where you are going to go, what you are going to do, who you’re going to be with, or what it’s like. It’s different, [a] totally different world in the military. 

What was your family and friend’s reactions to your enlistment?

Well, I think of course my family, my folks, were very proud of me, and friends were supportive, but many of them were going into service, or had been in the service. It was just a supportive environment. 

Where were you living at the time you enlisted?

I went from Portland to officer school in Newport, Rhode Island. I was there until I got my commission, and I took the same military courses that I would’ve been taking at the Naval Academy, but they were Naval science classes, so I didn’t have to take English composition, math, politics, history, or any of that. We were all college graduates at the officer’s school, so we had all the qualifications, to say, but we didn’t have any military backgrounds, so as quickly as possible, they taught us everything they could in the short time of about navigation, seamanship, gunnery, ship handling, all that kind of stuff. 

Do you remember your first days of service? If so, what they were like?

I got to Newport, Rhode Island in the winter, and we were all issued pea jackets and heavy winter clothing, and then in the summer, it got hotter and humid, so we went from pea jackets to whites, and I can remember sitting in class in the morning and it was so humid, there was no air conditioning or anything, [and] I could see my trousers, my white pants- I was sweating through my pants, sitting in class! It was a complete 180 degree change from freezing cold and miserable- windy and snowy- into hot and humid. New England weather, I guess. Were you surprised at how different it was from Portland? Oh, yeah. I’d probably not been east of Pendleton in my life. I rode the train from Portland to Chicago, Chicago to New York, New York to New England, and of course that was all new to me- I’d never been on a train before. It was a revelation for a youngster from Portland, Oregon to find himself in the New York, Boston environment.

Did you have any physical training before you left?

 At officer’s school, we lived alphabetically in barracks, so I was in Love company, which was  L-M-N-O-P-Q-R-S-T. I lived with three other candidates- one had been the captain of the Yale football team, another had been a basketball player from the University of Georgia, and the other was from Kansas, and he taught me about the ‘Rock Chalk Jayhawk KU’ battle cry. There wasn’t any physical exercises- we didn’t have a boot-camp type atmosphere where you’re crawling under barbed wire and all that stuff. We did march a little bit: we marched to class, we marched to meals, we marched on Saturday in the mornings on the grounds. Just military drill- [we] carried rifles, we did the rifle drill- it was just for protocol. We were free on the weekends most of the time. It was a very collegial environment, met a bunch of nice guys, nice bunch of people- no women, of course, at that age worked in military. I still have the yearbook from our class- people were graduating every four months- and in the early classes, everyone signed their picture. We all had our assignment, to where we were going, and some of the people were in the supply core and went to Georgia to go to supply core school- kind of a graduate school. The rest of us were spread all over the Pacific and Atlantic- administrative jobs, seagoing jobs- destroyers, cruisers, battleships, auxiliaries, oil tankers- all kinds. You could kind of apply for what you liked, but the real personnel was somehow like being in administrative cryptography or something- [then] they might send you to the Naval headquarters in Pearl Harbor in the communications environment. I put in for the Rhine River patrol- there was a little Naval presence in the Rhine River in Europe- it was just far-fetched, I didn’t know anything about it. I put in the for the Embassy Ligation in Switzerland- I thought’d that be fun to go to Switzerland. Then I put down destroyers in the Pacific, and that’s where I ended up. 

Do you remember any of your teachers or instructors from the officer’s school?

I remember our barrack’s division’s Lieutenant Curry, who was a service officer from WWII, quite vividly, but I don’t remember any of the instructors. Seems like you really had a school-like environment. Well, it was like living in a fraternity house or dorm- nice guys. It was lights out at ten o’clock- I was struggling a little bit with my celestial navigation at one point, and I remember we’d go in the head where there were lights in the restrooms and sometimes try to study there because it was lights out in our rooms, and quiet. It was an interesting school environment, but we had about- even though they were all college graduates- about fifteen percent attrition rate. People flunked out, and then they could choose pretty much choose where they wanted to go as an enlisted man. 

Did you feel like you had a lot of expectations on you as an enlisted man?

Well, I thought if I flunked out and ended up an enlisted man, I was thinking about applying to be a corpsman- medic. That would’ve been a kind of dumb choice because the medics in the Navy were usually assigned to not only the hospitals and the ships but the Marine Corps, and during the Korean war, medics attached to the Marine Corps were higher causality rate.  So you’re glad you didn’t flunk out. Yes, I’m glad I didn’t flunk out. 

Where exactly were you assigned to go? 

I was assigned to a ship, the USS Philip, which I am very proud of. I was thinking about that while I was sitting in the car- I have a great deal of affection for the ship, but it wasn’t the ship, it was the crew- my fellow officers and the crew. We were fortunate to have a very happy ship; the crew got along with the officers, and the chief petty officers got along with the officers, and everybody was very. . . nice. We were a happy ship- not every ship was that way, I found out later- but I thought they were all like the Philip, but they weren’t. We were home-based in Pearl Harbor,  which was exotic for a kid from Portland- Diamond Head, Waiakeakua, Pearl Harbor, all that-  [it] was homeport. I reported and didn’t know anything- I didn’t know anybody on the ship, of course. You go through kind of a tribal training, even though I had that background training at OCS in Newport. It helped me; I knew about things, but going on a ship is a totally different world. I’d hit my head on the doorways going through- some were narrower and shorter- and trip over the coaming- we had watertight doors all over the place and dogged [them] down- but it didn’t take me long. The people that mentored me- I was put in the gunnery department but I could’ve been engineering or operations. There was a spot in the gunnery department, and that’s where I ended up. I was a gunnery officer, and my mentors- I had people that had been recalled from WWII, I had Academy graduates, I had fellow OCS people, and I had NROTC graduates from colleges who had gotten their commission. It was a nice mix of people from mostly the West Coast- in the officer’s group. In the officer’s group we’d talk about the ward room- the ward room is kind of like the living center where you’d eat, and if there’s any social life, people could read magazines. It wasn’t very fancy- a big long metal table, and chairs- we had white linen napkins and sterling silver and so forth, and steward’s maids that helped us with coffee and all that sort of thing, so it was very comfortable. I got aboard the ship, and we were always constantly training, every day, and we would go out and chase submarines and [do] gunnery exercises, or whatever was on the schedule, so we basically worked every day practicing to go to war. That same summer we left for Korea. 

Do you have any specific memories of arriving at the ship and seeing it- to realize that that was where you were going to be?

{Laughs} Well, I arrived in Pearl Harbor and found my way to the Philip, which was docked at one of the peers there, and fortunately it wasn’t swinging from an anchor, so I walk[ed] right from the deck onboard, saluted the officer on the deck in colors, and said, “Reporting for duty.” I knew that was the protocol, so there we went, and they said, “Well, you’ve got a couple choices of where to sleep,” and they introduced me to the executive officer, who was kind of in charge of all of the officers, and of course, the captain. The captain was a Honolulu-grown Greek boy who had gone to the Naval Academy in WWII briefly on destroyers; he was a real gentleman and a wonderful officer, so I guess he set the tone for the entire ship. It was like walking to a house and wondering, first of all, “Where’s the bathroom?” and “Where do I eat?” The ward room wasn’t big enough to seat all the officers at once, so they had two seatings- people going on watch would get preference, and of course the captain sat at the head of the table. There was a degree of tradition and formality that you have to kinda stumble into, and try not to embarrass yourself. But it didn’t take long, as I said, and I had very nice guys that were mentoring me, and went out of their way to help me become good as an officer, and proficient at my Naval skills, and learn about gunnery, ship handling, and all that sort of stuff. After a couple months of tactical training at Pearl Harbor, we left Pearl for what they call ‘West Pac’, which is Western Pacific, for the Korean war, and went from Honolulu to Midway Island, where we refueled, and from Midway to Yokosuka, and then to Sasebo, and then out in the Sea of Japan and joined the seventh fleet there, primarily Task Force 77, which was a fast carrier fleet. We provided support for them- a couple carriers needed to have a screen of destroyers around all going in the same direction to protect against aircraft and submarines, primarily.

How did you get to Honolulu? Did you take a boat or a plane?

I had some leave after school in Newport, and then I went to San Francisco and I caught a military transfer ship- took four days to get from San Francisco. That was my first sea duty, and I had no idea; everything was shiny gold, crisp, and brand new. They had me standing watches- it had some surveyance, and military wives and families, and then a whole bunch of troops, mostly Air Force troops, who were going to the Philippines. I was supposed to patrol through the area once every four hours- I guess I was supposed to go down through the berthing spaces and meal spaces and do something, maybe walk through them- but I had to find them, and it was all mysterious to me. I don’t think I accomplished much. {Laughs} The troops were sleeping in bunks that were maybe four or five high- they were jammed in there- by the time we got to Pearl Harbor, it was getting warmer and warmer, and more tropical. That must’ve been so hot! Oh, yeah. When you’ve got hundreds of men together in a crowded space, they love coming up on deck just to get out of the heat and humidity. I was sorry for them, because I knew that they were really hot and humid as they went towards the Philippines. I got off in Honolulu, and found my way to the Naval base. It was not a luxury liner by any means. {Laughs} 

Did you have a specific job on the ship?

Most of the time, when we were underway, we had watches- you had mid-watch from twelve to four, morning watch from four to eight, pre-noon from eight to twelve, and then twelve to four, evening from four to eight, and then mid-watch from eight to twelve- so underway every four hours, you’re at a duty station of some kind. If you’re an engineer, you’d be down in the engineering spaces, where the boilers and engines were. But, for me, it was mostly up on the bridge, learning how to run the ship and being the officer of the deck, which is like the guy that’s steering. Yeah! Did you ever steer? I didn’t steer because we had important stern and bow lookouts up on the bridge, and we had an engine enunciator who controlled both motors, and there was an enlisted man that stood at that, and was ready to change the speed or reverse- you only had forward and back- and then the helmsman, who was steering the course that the officer of the deck had given him. There was plenty of people there; officer of the deck [who] was in charge of the ship, and there were junior officers of the deck, who I was until I got qualified. It was like being a pilot; there’s a pilot, and a co-pilot. You went through these watches, and in-between watches, you slept as you best could, and then you had administrative duties when you weren’t on watch. I had inspections to make and paperwork to fill out and personnel issues- there were about a hundred men in the gunnery department and so I had responsibility for some of those and, eventually, all of them. Your days were full, and your nights were short, and it was always challenging. It sounds like you were really happy. I was. I loved being at sea. It’s fascinating- good weather, bad weather- ocean is a funny enmity to be surrounded by. {Laughs} 

Did you see any combat at any of the places you went?

{Nodded}

What was that like?

One of the nicest experiences in life is to be shot at and missed. If we were with Task Force 77- the fast carriers Kearsarge, Oriskany, Valley Forge- they were flying airstrikes against the North Koreans, and so planes were coming and going. We were constantly patrolling, with sonar, to prevent any interference from submarines. We were prepared for any aircraft attacks, but there never was any- it was a remote possibility. When we were detached from that Task Force 77, we’d go to Task Force 95, which was primarily engaged in shore bombardment and helping to support the troops with gunfire off the coast. We were all the way around up to North Korea and South Korea, back and forth, in Wonsan Harbor- Kunsan [air base], Inchon [harbor], Wonsan [harbor]- they were all defended by the North Koreans, and so there was a lot of counter-battery fire, and you always had a concern about mines. The North Koreans had mined a lot of the coast and harbors, so we were always a little uncertain if where the mine sweepers had swept, they had gotten all of them. The mine sweepers were courageous people, because they’d go in and not only have to sweep the mines, but they also scouted our shore. We accompanied cruiser Los Angeles one time on a fire mission; I remember neither ship got hit by counter fire, but our spotter plane was shot down- they were spotting the gunfire [from above]. I thought that was really remiss, and I don’t know if the pilot survived or not, but it’s always sad when you see something like that. But, we survived two cruisers to Korea- combat cruisers- and we came back to Pearl after a year, and went back before the war was over. [We] got off the ship in Japan and came back to what was supposed to be shore duty- it didn’t turn out to be shore duty. {Laughs}  

Do you have any specific memories that stand out to you? 

I remember the excitement, and challenges, of meeting your duties- whatever it was- with Task Force 77 and 95. Another interesting thing that happened to us was after we got back from our second cruise back to Pearl Harbor; we were almost immediately sent down to the Marshall Islands, for a thing called ‘Operation Castle’. You know about Bikini, and all the atomic bomb tests? Yes. We were in Operation Castle, which was the 1954 first hydrogen bomb. The hydrogen bomb in ’54 was four or five times bigger than the engineering people, the scientists, had thought it would be. It was bigger. We were about twenty miles away from the bomb site- ‘Blast Bravo’. Blast Bravo was about a thousand times bigger than Hiroshima or Nagasaki, the atomic bombs during the war. What happened, unfortunately, was the weather- wind was blowing from one space which was safe on the lower stratosphere, and the upper stratosphere was going the opposite direction, and the atomic debris fell onto all of us, and the Marshall Islands, which caused the radiation. The islands had to be evacuated. Our ship was the most heavily radiated ship ever in history of the Navy- some of our crew were burned. I wasn’t affected, but I’ll tell you, the bomb blast was. . . spectacular. What was it like? Frightening; it turned night into day. Everything was illuminated- we weren’t supposed to look, to turn away and [use] goggles, but you had to look at some point. You would just think, “Anybody who would propose nuclear warfare would be totally demented.” It was awe someDid it make a sound? Yeah. Where were you? I’m assuming you were inside, because you didn’t get burned. I was on the bridge- I did not get burned, but some of my crew mates did, who were exposed. We had wash-down systems, kind of like sprinkler systems, to pump salt water on the ship exterior to wash away anything, and we used that. The Navy wasn’t very good about that, about [the] aspects of atomic radiation exposure, for a long time. People were suffering, and not just in [the] Marshall Islands and so forth, but military people down in the desert that were exposed to some of those atomic tests were also suffering. It took a long time for the Veteran’s Administration to recognize that illness that some had had- it was kind of like the handling of Agent Orange in Vietnam [when] they denied that Agent Orange was a problem, and then they finally admitted it was terrible problem. Lots of soldiers and airmen were dying from Agent Orange exposure. Do you remember what sound it made? What color it was? It wasn’t so much the sound- it was the magnitude of turning night into day for a long time. 

Do you remember what some of the most difficult parts of the war were? 

The environment was difficult at times, especially during the winter. Being off the coast of Korea in the winter was like being in Nome, Alaska or something. The wind came out of Siberia- we had saltwater freezing on the topside of our ship, and it was really miserable. I took my hat off to those carrier pilots that were flying during WWII in those carriers, which were not really designed for jets yet. Occasionally we’d have some experience where there would be a loss of life- not on our ship, but a pilot shot down, or maybe one of the mine sweepers had hit a mine- there were some difficult times. 

On the flip side, what were your best memories of service? 

As I said, we had a happy ship, and when we were in Pearl Harbor, we’d have ship’s picnics at some of the military recreation areas. We’d have ship’s basketball team- I played on that- and we’d play other ships or other military organizations. We’d have softball games, and the crew would do their best to play whatever position, and have a picnic, and serve hamburgers and hot dogs. I should say this about the officers- there were twenty officers, about that number all the time on the Philip, and of course some were being discharged because they’d been called up for the Korean War from WWII, so they were in the reserves, so they released. We had a little turnover, and some new guys would come on, like me, six months later, so I’d mentor them- kind of a tribal training. The officers were good friends, and about a third of them were bachelors, a third were young married couples, and then the other third were a little bit older- forty years old as opposed to twenty. The officers’ wives lived in a Naval housing in Pearl Harbor when we were gone, so they clung together, and a lot of them had children that were born at Tripler, which is a military hospital in Honalulu. I give the wives credit- they tolerated us bachelors- we’d have parties at the beach. {Laughs} We stayed together as friends after the war. 

Were you injured at any point during the war? 

No- well, I was injured, but it was an accident, not combat. I’m a combat veteran, but I wasn’t combat injured. It was just an accident. What happened? Well, it was a knee injury down in the Marshall Islands, but I had to be flown back to Tripler hospital, and I had my knee operated on. My medial meniscus was removed, so I was off the ship for a month or six weeks, but that was the only injury I had. 

How did you stay in touch with your family during the war?

I wrote letters to my mother and my family. At least once a week- not every day- but at least once a week. My mother saved them all. Did you receive letters back from her? Yeah, [my] mom sent back letters and packages. 

Do you remember what the food was like on the ship? 

It was good. What kinds of things did you guys eat? We had a mess officer who was appointed, kind of a junior officer responsibility that changed every- I can’t remember if whether you served three months or what. You would work with the chief steward on the menu. He would go out and they would buy steaks or pasta or fruit or pineapples or whatever and put together a menu. It was very good. The crew had good meals, too, but it was nice service in the wardroom. We got served, and we had white linens and napkin rings. It was formal, but good. We entertained a Canadian destoyer, and they had invited us over to their wardroom- a Canadian destroyer that was from Victoria, B.C.- they were on their way to Korea, and so they were doing some exercises with us. They invited the officers over to their ship; their wardroom had furniture and a fireplace and a bar set up. It was very comfortable, like a living room- nothing like ours, because our wardroom also became our operating room during combat- it was pretty spartan, but theirs was lovely. They invited us over and we had hors d’oeuvres and provided drinks. The U.S. Navy has never allowed alcohol since 1847 or something- and anyhow, we couldn’t buy them drinks, so we figured we’d give them the best food. We had- it was either prime rib or filets- wonderful meat of some kind, the best we could get, and wonderful salads of some, but we topped it off with baked Alaska, which they had never enjoyed, and we hadn’t seen either. Our stewards mates were very good at what they did, and they prepared baked Alaska. Everybody was like, ‘ho-hum’, like we do this all the time. {Laughs}

Did you do anything special for ‘good luck’ before an assignment?

No. 

Are there any of your crew mates that you specifically remember?

Oh, sure. We get together. The officers from about 1950 to 54 in that era remain friends 50 years later. We had reunions at Lake Tahoe, [the] Grand Canyon, we’ve been to Hawaii, we’ve gone on cruises, we’ve had three gatherings up at Black Butte Ranch, which we all loved, we sailed the San Juans, we sailed off of Vancouver Island of British Columba- we had lots of gatherings over the years. We’ve maintained that friendship. But the number of officers from my group is down to a handful- and we still stay in touch with some of the widows. It’s a bond that will last forever. 

When, or why, did your service end? 

Well, I met my time of commitment. My time was up, and I got discharged honorably, and I stayed in the reserves for a bit here in Portland, but then I found that having a family, and marriage and so forth- it was just not compatible. I stayed in the reserves for a while, but then I resigned, so I’m a ex-reservist and not retired. 

What was your job, or career, after the war? 

I went right to work out of the Navy for Mother Bell- Bell system provided telephone service for most of the United States. I worked thirty years for Pacific Northwest Bell, mostly here in Oregon, so I stayed with one corporation for all my working life. It helped put our kids through college, and I liked what I was doing. 

How old were you when you resigned?

25. 

How did military service affect the way you thought about your family?

No, I don’t think it affected family. It did affect my dealings with co-workers and subordinates in the telephone company. When I retired, I had five states that I was responsible for in customer service- Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Utah, and Montana- and I had about six hundred employees reporting to me. The service experience helped in dealing with people. 

How did your military experience affect the way you think about wars today? What do you think the general public should know about war?

Oh, boy. In today’s world of internet access and television, I don’t know that I know anything else that other people haven’t, except that I think that service to your country is a unique opportunity to do something that very few people ever experience. I know we don’t have the draft- I think often that maybe having the draft would be good for everybody, not necessarily everybody in the service, but some service to the country- Peace Corps or Job Corps, who knows what. Military is a unique experience, because you live and work with people you might not otherwise choose to live with. I mean, you’re thrown together with people who are not your choice, and hopefully it works out. It is a unique experience, and that I wish more people had the experience and the opportunity to serve their country, somehow. In the formative years- I think eighteen, nineteen, someplace in there- discipline is not a bad thing. Having a commitment and a discipline, and contributing to our American society, would be good for everybody. I think it would give young people maybe a little sense of direction. I was sitting in a battle station on my ship during general quarters- which means you’re ready to go to war- and I was in a gun director, and there were two enlisted men with me. They were good guys, and we were talking and chatting about this and that, and one of them said, “Mr. P, I’ve learned one thing in the Navy- I’ve learned that there is, in my vision, enlisted men and officers. In life there are enlisted men and there are officers, and distinction between them. What I’m going to do, when I get out and serve my time [and] go back in civilian life, I’m going to become an officer.” He was going to go to college, get a degree, and be successful in whatever the future would hold for him. I thought that was very thoughtful- he wanted to become somebody who was equivalent in civilian life to an officer- a successful business man, a successful parent. I just thought, “Military is good for some things. It helps people realize what life is all about.” 

“We talk about the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, but the Korean war is the forgotten war.” 

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This interview has been lightly edited for readability. However, to maintain integrity and respect the stories of the veteran, content has not been altered from the original transcription.This interview was originally recorded and later transcribed. Questions partially retrieved from: 

“Guidelines.” Veterans History Project. Library of Congress, n.d. Web. 23 June 2017. <www.loc.gov/vets/guidelines.html>.

 

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