SMZ: “I was sixteen when Pearl Harbor happened.”

What is your birth year?


How old does that make you today?


What branch of the United States Armed Forces did you serve in?

The Navy.

What was your rank?

Well, finally, it was Lieutenant Junior Grade, but that was long after the war. I was still in the reserve, and at the end of my active duty, I was an Ensign. By just living, I got promoted to Lieutenant Junior Grade in a few years. 

Where were you during the war?

Most of my time in the Navy was spent in Ames, Iowa, at Iowa State College- now, it’s Iowa State University. That’s where I was being trained, and when I finally became commissioned as an ensign in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1945, the war had just ended. I was sent to my first non-training station, which believe or not, was on the Willamette River. The ship that I was order to join the crew of was moored on the west bank of the Willamette River having its boilers replaced. The ship soon sailed out to the Philippines, so we were in Manila Bay for probably a month while the Army got organized as to what soldiers they wanted us to carry back to San Francisco. Finally, we sailed back to San Fransisco, debarked our passengers- we probably had a thousand troops on the ship- as soon as we debarked them, we got orders to take the ship around to the east coast to decommission. We sailed down the west coast, stopped at a few ports south of Los Angeles, went through the Panama Canal, [and] up the east coast to Norfolk into the Navy base there, whereupon most of the crew was sent ashore. Most of them, I think, got mustered out of the Navy at that point. That would’ve been about April or May of 1946. Since I was one of the more recent members of the crew, I was left to help get the ship ready. Incidentally, on the way out of Portland and out to Manila, I had really mostly engine room duties. I’d been trained as an engineer for the Navy, and so I learned a lot of engineering. That was my first exposure to real-life engines; up until that point, it was mostly theoretical. I participated, I worked, to get the ship ready to go into mothball; in mothballs, they anchor the boat out in a base someplace in some water along with other ships like it. It’d been stripped of armament and delicate things had been put into preservatives; the ships are just waiting in case that the country needs them again. I imagine some of them were recalled during the Korean War- I’m not sure of that. The last I knew of the ship was June 1946, when I took leave. I was sent into inactive duty in the Naval Reserves. Before that, I got my promotion to Lieutenant Junior Grade, which is  equivalent to First Lieutenant in the Army. Ultimately- I’d guess it was 1952 or 1953- I received a letter from the Navy that I was no longer qualified to remain in the inactive status that I’d been on. If I wanted to sign up for more active duty, they would be happy to hear from me, but by that time I was a father to a couple of kids. At the beginning of the Korean War, I was living in St. Louis; there was some possibility of being recalled, but it never did happen. 

Where were you born?

St. Louis, Missouri. 

What were your parent’s names?

My mother’s first name was Natalie, and my father’s first name was Sam. 

What city did you grow up in?

St. Louis!

Can you tell me any specific memories you have from your childhood?

Wow. [IZ, SMZ’s wife: Boy scouts was such a part of your life.] Boy scouts were a very important part of my life. I attribute much of my nature, my personality, things I’ve done, to that exposure. I was very fortunate to have an excellent scout troop to belong to. I remember school from kindergarten; I remember the names of all of my elementary school teachers! We lived in an apartment. This was during the Depression, and our family, all in St. Louis, had to coalesce into a compact living arrangement. In this apartment- [in which] I spent age 3 to age 10 with my brother- we had my mother and father, my father’s brother and sister, my mother’s father and my father’s father. I don’t know what that adds up to- seven or eight people! I remember my grandfathers. I never went hungry; I never missed a meal in my life, so I’m really lucky in that sense. School was relatively easy for me; I had excellent teachers, especially in elementary school. Math came easily, and I was intrigued by mechanical things. I eventually became a mechanical engineer for that reason.

I was sixteen when Pearl Harbor happened. I remember clearly being out playing touch football with some friends; we got in the car to go home and turned on the radio and learned that Pearl Harbor had just been bombed. I remember the incident; I remember the moment. It was fixating. I had unrealistic confidence in this country’s ability to quickly defeat the Japanese, and the Germans and Italians as well. It was unrealistic, because we, the public, just didn’t know what the relative strength was. I learned later that at the time that Germany invaded Poland, the size of the American army was as small as the Polish army. It was really unprepared. I do remember the intense activity to get our military up to speed; people I knew were drafted into the army, guys four or five years older than me. I’m in high school, and we had just gotten into the war. Suddenly, I’m finding my best, favorite teacher was drafted into the Navy! High school lost a lot of its appeal to me; the teaching just wasn’t as good. In the middle of my senior year- I completed the first semester of a two semester year- the Washington University, in St. Louis, announced that it would accept students without a high school diploma. I was attracted to that, and I wanted to be an engineer, and I knew that one way or another that I would be going into the service within six months, because that’s when I would turn 18, so I figured, well, let me know what I can learn about engineering. I’d learn more than I would if I’d have stayed in high school. I went to Washington U, and rolled into their engineering school, and I loved it! I was working like dickens, just as hard as I could, and learning immensely! One day, the Navy comes along- just a couple of officers came to campus- recruiting for what became known as the B-12 program. It was a college education, a couple of years to produce officers for the Navy. To be an officer in those days, you had to have a college education. Annapolis did it for the Navy, and West Point for the Army, but they couldn’t crowd that many people through Annapolis and West Point, so they started it. I went and signed up; I had to pass a rather intimidating written exam. Then there came the physical exam, which was sort of funny in a sense. At that time, I already had a hearing deficit- it wasn’t noticeable in conversation, but it was a high frequency loss. It was a genetic thing; my mother had it, my grandfather had it, and my mother was rather hard of hearing. I didn’t know if I’d pass the hearing test. The hearing test in those days was [that] a hospital quarryman would stand behind you, five feet or so, and whisper numbers. I didn’t know that, I didn’t know that was the test, I didn’t know he was whispering! I heard some sounds, but I was prattling on- he thought I was just a wise guy just messing around, and he got a bit annoyed at me and sent me down to the next examination. He didn’t question! He didn’t know I wasn’t hearing. I didn’t realize this until years later. I passed the physical, and then they sent a whole bunch of us up on a train to Iowa. This was just after my 18th birthday; I was 18 in June, and July 1st I was on my way to Iowa. I started straight away; I show up to the desk where there’s a petty officer, and he says, “Stow your gear on the deck, by that ball pen over there!” All Navy jargon. Then there was the intense classroom stuff. At least the way I did it, there was no time for anything- no dates, no social life. I guess some of the guys were smart enough to do it, but okay. I remember reading about the Normandy invasion; in fact, friends of mine were not necessarily at Normandy, but soon were in Europe. Some of them died; one of my good friends died. I had sort of guilt feelings about not being with them, and still have some. Eventually we get sent home and are waiting for our orders; in the meantime, we got our uniforms at home- I put on the fancy duds. Then I get on the train. They sent me to San Fransisco; my orders were to report to the Navy offices in downtown San Fransisco. I go there with my orders, and my orders say what the name of the ship is- Marvin H. McIntyre, APA-129, for artillery personnel attack. They said, “Well, your ship isn’t in our Naval district. I think it’s in Seattle.” So I go to Seattle with my orders- it was a beautiful train trip from San Fransisco to Seattle, I arrive in Seattle on a rainy afternoon- they look at my orders, and “Oh! Your ship is down in Portland!” So I take a train down to Portland. Now, today, there wouldn’t’ve been any question of where the ship was, and they wouldn’t have messed around like that. Then, a long distance telephone call was something a little special; they weren’t going to do that for this ensign. I finally report on board this ship one night; I remember arriving at Union Station here in Portland. That must’ve been so different than it is now. Oh gosh, yes! In fact, even the waterfront on the river was altogether different! I mean, it was industrial. At least, there were railway tracks. I remember going aboard the ship, saluting the flag, saluting the officer of the deck- I get shown a bunk. The ship was cold; the boilers were down, getting repaired. It was November, and it was a cold and nasty November here in Portland. I was cold the whole time; some of the regular crew, whose homes were in Portland, went home. {Laughs} I suffered through the time until the boilers came up, until one day we were warm again. We cast off, sailed down the Willamette into the Columbia- I remember, as we exited the Columbia, looking up at the light from Astoria. That was the last thing I saw of the stage. 

Soon after I came aboard the ship, I was up on deck, and I noticed that the ship just upstream from up in the Willamette River was flying the flag of the Soviet Union, now Russia. At that time, the war had just ended, and the Soviet Union had been an ally of ours from about 1939. They were in the war against Germany and Italy beginning in 1939 or 1940, whereas they had previously been allies of the Germans. The reason was that they wanted part of Poland. Germany and the Soviet Union spilt Poland, and then Hitler decided, for his own reasons, to invade Russia. The Soviet Union became allies with Britain, and eventually with us. I felt a camaraderie with the Russians, in my ignorance, and welcomed the sight of seeing these locomotives being towed up these railroad tracks alongside these Soviet ships, and being hoisted aboard. We were helping the Soviet Union recover from their enormous losses in WWII, and they did. They did sacrifice tremendously; they don’t give us credit for helping us. I suspect that they wouldn’t have won the battle of Stalingrad had our air force [not] been bombing Germany, and keeping the German air force, the Lufewaffe, at home, rather than helping the troops in Stalingard. I didn’t appreciate all of this at the time; I was just barely 20 years old. This voyage was the first time I had ever seen an ocean. What did you think of it? Well, I had seen lakes! {Laughs} It was… how to put it? Putting out of the mouth of the Columbia river at night, feeling the motion of the ship- it was a profound experience. Just look out ahead into infinity. I do remember that. 

Did any family members fight in WWI? Or, based on the age of your grandparents, participate in the Civil War?

No, we were not here in the Civil War. My paternal grandfather arrived as a 17 year old boy in this country in 1869, after the Civil War. He was sent here by his father in Germany to avoid, I believe, the Franco-Prussian war that was about to begin. This grandfather, his home was a tiny town in southwestern Germany- it was very much involved in the Franco-Prussian war. It was where the Franco-Prussian war started, basically. It was a duchy at that time, it wasn’t Germany. It was a dukedom, and that duke was a principal factor in the start of the Franco-Prussian war. The chancellor of Germany was Bismarck, and the king of France was Louis Napoleon. The king of Spain had just died, and Spain was looking for a king; the requirements [were] he had to be of noble birth, had to be Catholic, he had to be single. The one person who they could find who fit that was this Duke of Hollandzollern, who lived just up the hill from my grandfather. Louis Napoleon of France already had a Hollandzollern on his east border; he didn’t want a Hollandzollern on his southern border, so he was very agitated about this. The chancellor of Germany saw this, and was pulling his chain, deliberately worrying him, to the point that Louis Napoleon of France declared war on Prussia, which was a stupid thing to do. The Prussians, the Germans, just swept on through and occupied Paris. That’s what I mean when I say that this little town my grandfather came from was involved in the start of WWI. 

My uncle, my father’s brother, was in the Army [during WWI]. I don’t think he got overseas. I do faintly remember him- he was born around 1895, so he must’ve been at least 18 in 1914, so he was in the Army. My father was too old for WWI, not old enough for the Spanish-American war. What year were your parents born? My mother was almost exactly 33 years old than me; she was born in 1892. My father was [born] about 1887. I’m surprised there was no involvement in the Civil War. That was a dreadful war. I remember, when I was a Boy Scout, we’d light a campfire at night and somebody would tell a story. One of the leaders told a Civil War ghost story near a battlefield. I didn’t know what to make of it at the time, but now I realize it was just a story. Did you learn about the Civil War in school? Not a lot. My family’s sympathies were always with the North, just because of the slavery. I’ve pondered this quite a bit, because St. Louis is right on the border. Missouri was a border state. We, in St. Louis, had segregated schools. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that was the only thing that was actually segregated. The only blacks that I encountered in my childhood were janitors, gardeners. In fact, aboard the ship, the whole crew was white except for the stewards of the officer’s mess. They were black- the cooks. That was an example of how this government, our government, had to deal with the fact that there was still a North and a South. Here’s an interesting example- the Manhattan Project caused the creation of a few cities. Oak Ridge, Tennessee, didn’t exist as a town until the Manhattan Project. Just outside of Knoxville, Tennessee. It was located there because there was a lot of electrical power available from the Tennessee valley. They’re going to build this town, and they’re going to have a bunch of high-brow scientists, and electricians, and mechanics, and cooks- there’s going to be some need for low-level workers. They were building housing for everyone, so they built a segregated neighborhood in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. In a federally built and federally run city! 

IZ: [My great-grandmother] was 99 when we got married. She was born in 1853, in New Orleans. [SMZ: In fact, your great grandmother was a girl during the Civil War!] That’s right. My great-grandfather went into business in processing the metals of the melted-down cannons of the Civil War. 

When did you first hear of Hitler and the Third Reich? What did you know of them?

We’re Jewish, and I had read all of these things that were happening to the Jews in Germany. I was pretty much informed. There had been the Spanish Civil War, and that was in about 1936, so I was 12 or 13 years old, very much interested in military things. LIFE magazine would have pictures of our airplanes, and I thought that the B-17 was just impregnable. In the Spanish Civil War, we got a glimpse of the German air force in the news. It was frightening, very imposing, very intimidating; I felt it was. The newsreel- we’d go to the movie, and watch them. We’d go to a movie on a Friday or Saturday night- that was the extent of our real entertainment. We’d listen to the radio, but- every time we went to the movie, there was about ten or fifteen minutes of things that were in the news. I do remember once, when I must’ve been 11, a film of Russian paratroopers climbing out of an airplane. That was the first time I’d heard of a paratrooper; what a scary thing that would’ve been! Then, I knew about German paratroopers, and eventually my own paratroopers- in fact, I knew one. There was that- I knew what could be known, I guess, about Germany and Italy. Not anything about Japan- Japan was off of my radar. They weren’t involved in the war until Pearl Harbor! Our image of Japan, my image of Japan, was that it made dinky little toys that we imported. We would go to a Chinese restaurant in St. Louis, and there would be a donation jar there for the victims in China of the Japanese occupation. I knew the Japanese, at that time, were not so nice. I have to admit, it was some time after the end of WWII where I would go into a Japanese restaurant. 

On his service:

It was a trouble-free cruise across the Pacific- I think it took a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, I’m learning about how the ship works, and enjoying that. We sail into the Philippine islands and pull into Manila bay, and that was an impressive sight. The bay, the surface of the water, is calm- it was almost like a lake. It was a bright day, and we pull into this almost-lagoon, and poking up above the water in a number of places are ship parts- ships that had been sunken there. In most cases, it was the stern poking up, and in some I guess it was the bow, but it was a spooky experience. I think they were Japanese ships, just knowing what the history of that part of the world was, but none the less- when we were somewhere on the way to the Philippines, maybe it was Saigon, someplace, our ship was getting refueled. An oil tanker had pulled up alongside, and they come aboard and were pumping oil into our tanks. A Japanese destroyer- after the war there was no more fighting- pulls up alongside to get refueled. This was my first view of the Japanese Navy- to be honest about it, probably my first view of a Japanese person. I grew up in the Midwest- all I knew about Japan was what I read in the newspaper. It was a pitiful scene; these guys were eating out of their little bowls scattered around on a deck. They were forlorn.

Later we pull into Manila Bay, and maybe a week after we arrive, [I] go ashore with my boss, the chief engineer, and a few other subordinates, and we’re going to visit an old friend of his who had spent the war in a Japanese prison camp along with his wife. Santo Thomas was a university that had been converted into a prison- a prison for civilians by the Japanese army. We spent the afternoon with them, hearing their stories and their lives, and they came back to our ship. Soon, we met our army passengers, and headed back to the States. It was a glorious day when we entered San Fransisco Bay. Our troops, our passengers- this was their first view of home, and for many of them, they hadn’t been able to spend much time out in the air, out in the open. It was a great day for them. This was the first time I ever saw Coit Tower, when we sailed in there. That was a great day. 

One night, I had the duty- I was standing officer of the deck watches in the middle of San Francisco Bay, and it was reported to me that one of the boats we used to get ashore had somehow broken loose from its tie to the side of the ship. It was drifting out there somewhere in the bay, and it was my first big decision as officer of the deck- what to do. I did the wrong thing. I woke the captain up! {Laughs} Of course, he had just given us a lecture the day before to keep him informed of things, but it was the middle of the night, and it wasn’t that important a thing. I was still a 20 year old kid! {Laughs}

What were the most trying and difficult moments of service?

The training was not, for me, easy. It worked out okay, but it didn’t look that way. The worst incident I had- it’s embarrassing. I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed on this ship, and we were out at sea, and part of my responsibilities were the engines in the boats, the landing craft. One day, I went over the side into one of these boats. I’ve forgotten whether I climbed down a latter or what, but somehow I got down into a boat alongside the ship and were running the engines. We get back to the ship, and the way of getting back onto the boat was climbing a rope. {Laughs} That was very difficult for me- I’ve forgotten how I eventually got back on the boat! I don’t remember how it ended, but I do remember how it began, and I wasn’t too happy with it. That was one bad moment. Oh, I made mistakes. I realize now that the training I had was not very good on the military aspects of things- engineering was good. 

Did you feel you were discriminated against because of your religion?

No. I wasn’t discriminated against- I did overhear unkind things, not directed at me. Did your family face anti-Semitism during your childhood? Oh, yes. It was everywhere in this country; a little bit beneath the surface, but not far. There were some restaurants in St. Louis that explicitly said, “We don’t want you.” I don’t want to overstate it, it was very much in our mind, but we did not suffer from it. For example, there were areas where a Jew could not buy a house- that was not uncommon at all. 

What were your friends and family’s reaction to the war?

There was no hesitance, no negativism. We had been attacked. Even just my family, at least me, I, felt we should’ve gotten into it earlier- that’s just me, I didn’t have any skin in the game at 17. There was great sympathy for Britain, and the radio news we got from London- we were glued to the radio to hear this. Edward R. Murrow was the reporter. Things were always with the British- the French, too, but they were really out of it by then- and so I had no hesitance. I was really eager to help. I don’t know of anybody who was reluctant. 

Did you feel stress or pressure about the war and its effects?

There was always the question of whether or not we would win. There was that stress! Where there times you felt that you wouldn’t? Yeah, of course. I think we were never allowed to believe, or at least there was great effort, to keep us confident. It was just obvious- the Germans had rolled over everybody, the French had shown to be incompetent in a military way. We were grossly underprepared at the time of Pearl Harbor, although we were trying to get prepared. Pearl Harbor was a screwup for us, to not have detected this incoming attack. Right after Pearl Harbor, we lost the Philippines. That was a sobering thing. I would say that even before we got involved in Europe, our ability to defeat Japan was not- we did not assume anything. 

The Battle of Midway happened not long after Pearl Harbor, maybe six months. It was the summer following Pearl Harbor. Our intelligence people on Pearl Harbor, monitoring Japanese radio conversations, knew that there was a major Naval force heading west. They didn’t know where it was headed; we had a Naval intelligence officer in Pearl Harbor. He was studying these radio interceptions; we could translate the Japanese into English, but they used coded names for things. He saw the name of where they were headed- he didn’t know where it was, but this was the name that they were using. He thought, “I wonder if it’s Midway?” Midway would’ve been a strategic success. He sent word by airplane or boat to the American garrison on Midway to send an open message to Pearl Harbor, by radio, saying that their water distillation had just failed and that they needed water desperately. So they sent the message, and the Japanese picked up the message and reported back to Tokyo this name that they were using for Midway was in desperate need of water. The intelligence officer in Pearl Harbor picked up that message and saw, “Oh, that means Midway!” That’s how Admiral Nimitz was able to position his fleet to intercept the Japanese attackers. That was really a turning point in the war. 

Do you remember your reaction to hearing about the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

Good question. Up until that moment, none of us knew anything about the Manhattan Project. It was the most well-kept secret imaginable- even Harry Truman, the vice president, didn’t know about it. I remember [that] it was suppertime, we’re standing out in formation waiting to go into supper- at that point, I was a platoon leader or something like that. I was standing out in front of my cluster of guys, and the message came out on the loudspeaker that there had been this atomic bomb used on Japan- we didn’t have the name of the towns. That it was a tremendous explosion. We’re in the fight; we’ve been trained to battle against the Japanese. The war had not ended yet, so we were all ready to go over, mentally. Almost training wise, but not quite. That was a shock! We picked up the newspaper, [and] these big headlines that night! It was tremendous. None of us felt any sympathy for the Japanese. They had done terrible things, at least that we knew of. Within a couple of weeks, there was a second explosion. I think it was well after the war that much regret developed in this country, and even then, even amongst the more thinking. I do remember this; on this ship, I’m surrounded by seasoned officers, and I’m listening to their comments here and there, and I actually heard one officer say to another, “You know, we oughta go ahead and drop one of these on Moscow.” That tells you of the sensitivity that was shared among servicemen. I knew guys who had gone ashore on Japan right after their surrender, and incidentally, as I asked my friend- “You went ashore days after the surrender, what was the reaction of the people?” He said, “They were welcoming us, they were happy to see us, because we brought food.” 

Do you remember learning about the German concentration camps?

I remember one story- the way I know [now] how old I was was where we were living at the time. I was 10 and a half when we moved, so I was maybe 10. I heard a story that came out of Germany that a Jewish woman had received a package one day in the mail; her husband had been taken away sometime before then. It was the ashes of her husband. It was- I don’t know how to express it. I guess scary, terribly upsetting. 

What kind of music did you sing or listen to?

Absolutely! I still have it. ‘Take the ‘A’ Train”, Duke Ellington. He made this song famous; it was about 1936, 1937. I wasn’t much of a jitterbugger. “In the Mood”, Glen Miller. 

What kind of clothing was popular?

Of course, girls were still wearing skirts and blouses and sweaters. Dresses would be if you’re really going out. Stockings were an issue during WWII- there was no silk, and it was before rayon. Rayon had been invented then, but rayon stockings weren’t so good. It was only when nylon had been developed [that it got better]. I very often had to wear a necktie; to school, I would wear good sweaters. We didn’t wear tennis shoes. I would wear a sweater; of course, winter in the Midwest was cold. In the summer, it was hot and humid; a light pant, short sleeved shirts. Girls would wear cotton dresses, I suppose. I had a Saturday job selling shoes. 

Did you keep in touch with any of your fellow officers? If so, for how long?

Yes, a few. When I went to Kansas City to be commissioned as an ensign, there was a whole cluster of guys. I get my orders, and they are mimeographed- that’s an old way of producing stuff. There were two people on the orders, myself and a guy named Stevenson. We did keep in touch for some years. We used to exchange Christmas cards for many years. We were living in St. Louis, he was living some 200 miles away in the middle of the state of Missouri. Once he brought his wife into St. Louis and we had dinner today. Most recently must’ve been 10 or 15 years ago. He was having problems walking then. I’m sure he eventually died. There were some that I tried [to keep in contact with], but they weren’t interested. 

How did you feel when the war was over?

I felt challenged; suddenly, I’m not in school anymore- this was the real world. I get out of the Navy, I’m home, and I feel inadequate, education-wise. The education I got in the Navy was so frantic, so intense, so hurried, I felt inadequate. I felt that I didn’t really know the subject well enough to make a career out of it. This was summer; I went to summer school, took a couple of courses at Washington U. By the end of the summer, I realized, “I am really in trouble! I really need a lot of work.” I entered Washington U’s graduate school; I applied for my master’s degree in mechanical engineering. They were happy to have me, I think. They accepted me. Universities were crowded, because the release of all of these veterans and the G.I. bill. I spent a couple years at Washington U, working a little on the side, but not much. I surmounted my insecurity by reinforcing my language of engineering. 

What was your job or career after the war?

There was a transition. At the beginning, I felt, “Well, I’ve got to make money!” I want to get married, buy a car, etc. I was oriented towards high-paying jobs; I had heard that sales engineering was the most rewarding. I got a job as a sales engineer for a company- at least it started out that way. Pretty soon I was out in the field, because there wasn’t all that much selling for this company. I lasted maybe six months before I realized that this was not my cup of tea, and I got another job with a different company in St. Louis, a manufacturer of air conditioning equipment, again in the sales department. Their idea of a sales department was a bunch of drudgery. The real sales work was done by the guys who were out working on commission in different places. I was saved when they hired a chief engineer, and they put me to work for him. That was early 1950. From that point on, I was doing work I enjoyed- doing the engineering, the design work, the calculations and analysis. I did rather well at that. Pretty soon, I was helped by this writing ability that I favored to. We moved to San Francisco, I got a job in the nuclear power business- we were out there for nine months, maybe a year. We’d had our third child, she’d not been feeling well during that pregnancy- she was unhappy. I was having some doubts about this company I was with- I came to doubt they were going to make it. One night, I got a call from this company in St. Louis, where the chief engineer came in and saved me from oblivion. He called me, and basically the company wanted to go into the cooling tower business. By that time, I had acquired a name in cooling tower business; I’d written an article in a magazine, and he being chief engineer, had read it. He wanted to know- would my co-author on that article be an appropriate person for them to try and hire? I said, “I have to tell you. He did not participate in the article. He’s a co-author because he worked for the company I did it for.” After that conversation, the guy asked me if I would take the job. Unhappy wife, shaky company- yes! We moved back to St. Louis from San Fransisco. I had a routine physical examination; they discovered that this hearing deficit that I had always been anxious about had gotten so severe that I couldn’t hear anything that they wanted. We get to St. Louis, and I’m troubled by that, and I’m told by a ENT doctor that it’s going to get worse and that hearing aids won’t help- this was 1957. Hearing aid technology really wasn’t good. They hired me to be the manager of this cooling tower enterprise with an impending severe hearing problem- that’s not a good thing for me to do. I decided that I needed to do real engineering, none of this fooling around. I left that company, and got into the kind of work that I was good at, and were writing was an advantage. 

How did your service affect your family and your relationships?

I don’t think the war affected my family; my brother was two years younger, and he went into the Navy soon after that- the Korean War. They really had no affect other than business. My aunt, who incidentally lived with us, was the vice president of a shoe manufacturing company in St. Louis. She was really extraordinary. I would say that I think their business was helped by the war. Here I am, back in school, and working very hard again. Learning a lot again. I’m dating, I’ve got girlfriends here and there. Nothing really serious- I was just too busy. I did have in mind a future of settling down. I get my master’s degree in the spring of 1948. In December of 1947, I crashed a party, IZ’s party. [IZ: Having open houses was how you’d entertain.] These friends of hers, who were also friends of mine- they were invited. Going to a party, feeling an attraction and calling her for a date afterward. We start dating in probably January of ’48. By the time I get my master’s degree in May of ’48, we’re dating rather seriously, and she’s about to go off to college. She went off to University of Wisconsin, in Madison. She went there in the autumn of 1948. I managed to visit a few times. By the spring of ’49, I had proposed to her, and she had accepted. We were married in September of ’49; I never did like weddings, before or after. We honeymooned in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. We settled down in St. Louis, in an apartment. I was bicycling to work every- I had taken up bicycling as my preferred means of transportation, winters and summers. Winters sometimes were a challenge. [IZ] went back to school in St. Louis. Meanwhile, I’m becoming rather unhappy with the fact that I can’t even read a magazine at night; we’ve got my parents we have to have dinner with, her parents, her grandmother, her uncle, her aunt! I decided we needed to go elsewhere, and I started looking for a job. 

How did your military service affect how you think about wars today?. 

That’s a tough one. In the Korean War, I wanted to go back in. My father-in-law would’ve killed me if I had. I still had WWII attitudes. My work brings me into the defense industry; in 1952, I find myself working on an anti-tank weapon to oppose the Russian tanks that were left over from WWII, that we are told could easily overcome all of Europe. There was a serious war-weapon technology business, and I was in it, and I was dedicated to it; it was anti-tank, anti-aircraft. From that I get into the nuclear power business, which is on the fringe of nuclear weapon. I learn about the physics of it. The Vietnam War begins; at this point, I’m still naive. I still believe what I read in the newspaper. I believe the Tonkin Gulf episode, I believe in that. I become very much concerned about communism, having been developing weapons to oppose the Soviet Union. Suddenly, to find other countries going communist- I really worry about that. That was a main concern. When the Vietnam War began, I wanted to win it- I thought we could win it, I thought we should’ve won it. I blamed people for us being unable to win it, which wasn’t true. My daughter married a Vietnam veteran, a guy who was in the Marines two tours of duty in Vietnam. I got to talk to him, and after that, I realized that we were not told the truth. 

How has living in Portland now shaped your veteran experience?

We lived here eight months. The first week we’re here, the fellow who was the chair of the veteran’s monthly luncheon came to my door, invited me to the luncheon. He was a WWII veteran; he had been a tail gunner in a B-17. I figured, “Gee, these guys are not going to be interested in anything I have to say, and rightfully so!” I start going, I meet a few of them- turns out, I meet many of them. I go to the monthly meetings, and my turn comes, so I wrote a speech. I didn’t put in a lot of the nitty-grittys of the engine room- I put in what I thought would make an interesting talk. I talked to another guy who was in WWII; we realized that the atomic bomb saved us from being in the wave of landing boats to invade Japan. I think it saved my life. 

How did your service affect your life?

I think it benefitted me enormously. I entered the Navy as an 18 year old ignoramus. I knew nothing of the world, nothing of other people. Being in the Navy for three years, I met all kinds of people, I saw some sights- walking through Manila in ruins was sobering, seeing those ships crashed in Manila Bay, dealing with officers who wanted to bomb Moscow, dealing with non-commissioned officers who are the salt of the world, dealing with delinquent sailors who wanted to get drunk on hair tonic- seeing a world I had never seen and probably would have never seen from that perspective if I hadn’t been in service. 


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Author’s Note: This project was recently featured in Portland’s Street Roots Newspaper. Read the article here:

This interview has been lightly edited for readability. However, to maintain integrity, and to 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. <>.

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