GO: “We weren’t allowed to go up close to the border and things like that, but the Bavarian people were very friendly with us.”

What is your birth year?

’38. 

How old does that make you today?

[81]. 

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

Army.

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

I was an only child. My folks, when I was young, were separated, so I lived with my grandma. My grandma raised me most of the time; they used to take me down to the shore- I lived in New Jersey. North Jersey. My dad and my mother’s father ran a gasoline service station in Midland Park, New Jersey. When I got into high school, I’d go down and help a little bit. We didn’t have any high school, so we went kindergarten through ninth grade- for high school, they had an arrangement with a town called Pompton Lakes. Every morning, we’d have to get on a train for twenty minutes and take the train up to high school. I liked sports, and fishing and hunting. 

How did WWII affect your family? 

My grandfather was German, [but] I’m not aware of any impact. 

How did you get involved in the military?

Well, I was interested in outdoor sports, and hunting and fishing, so I ended up wanting to go to forestry school. The one I selected was in Colorado- Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado. I started there as a sophomore, and I liked baseball a lot, so I played on the baseball team. I played one year in basketball, but I didn’t like that too much. My last year there, my senior year, we were state champs. That was kind of exciting. Colorado State has an ROTC program, which I signed up for. I got started in ’56, so in the spring of ’57 I met my future wife, and in ’58 we got married. I was going through the ROTC program, and they also had a program- if you wanted to be a pilot, you could sign up for it. Before I finished college, they paid for private pilot lessons. I went to Fort Riley, Kansas, before I graduated and finished the ROTC program. [I] got assigned to Signal Corps School for the beginning- I was going in there as a reserve officer. I went to Augusta, Georgia, for Signal Corps training, and when I finished there they sent me to Mineral Wells, Texas, which was Camp Wolters for primary helicopter training. After a couple months, they sent me to Alabama for advanced helicopter training. I finished that sometime in ’63. 

You mention that a lot of your training took place in the American South. During the ’60s, the civil rights movement was also taking place in the South. Did you ever notice the movement while there?

Well, it was interesting, because in Alabama, I was in this barbershop getting my haircut. The barber happened to be using the razor under my [chin]. At that time, an African American happened to walk by, and the barber went ballistic. I never said a word to him, because he had the razor! When I got into the military there, I ended up piloting and copiloting with an African American. He was married, and a nice fella. I was totally aware of it, but other than all these problems that came up with Martin Luther King- up North, it really wasn’t much of a problem. I think there was only one black person in town that I knew of, and he would get gas from my dad. There were parts of the country where it was different. 

On his service:

I finished my training after three years, and got out. I was a first lieutenant when I finished. img_4137.jpgThis is the helicopter I flew in Germany; I flew that along the Czechoslovakian border. [In] Straubing, I was assigned to the 11th Armored Calvary- the aviation company, so I didn’t have to drive a tank- but we supported them. Daily, I would fly the border. Almost every day, I would get in the plane, and we’d go down to [where] Austria, Czech, and Germany all come together. We’d fly down there, and then we’d fly on the left side of the border for 50 miles. We had to get trained so we could fly along the border because there wasn’t always the wall. It was a division, so they had three companies; one would be positioned on the border, another would be at camp, and the other would be training, and we rotated. 

[One] helicopter would be intelligence; I’d open the door, and they’d have this great big camera that they were shooting into the Czech Republic. With this helicopter, we could go ahead and fly medical support- it could handle 18 troops, but we never did any troops. We either did medical support, or we’d do some transfer of equipment and surveillance- that was the primary focus from that. It was quite an interesting experience. 

I was fortunate that when I went to all the trainings and [overseas], my family was with me. We rented a place in downtown, right across from the Danube river. It was quite an interesting area there. We were over there ’63 and ’64; ’63, in November, on base, we were in the theatre watching a movie. They stopped the movie, and came out and told us all to go back to our rooms and to be on standby. That’s when Kennedy got killed. What was your reaction when you found out that the president had been assassinated? I had no idea what it was. You have to realize, this was all Cold War time period. At the same time, Vietnam was heating up, so I graduated in a class of 19 pilots. Two of us went to Germany and the others went to Vietnam. They all made it back the first year. The Army life was really good- I got good pay and everything, but I was a reserve officer, and I knew that if you stayed in- I had signed up for three years, so I had to make a decision if I wanted to stay in or not. I had two kids, and a family, so I thought I’d better not do that. That was ’63- ’64, they decided to rotate the unit back to the United States ahead of time, because we were supposed to be there three years. It was a relatively short time, but we enjoyed it- the people were friendly- this was a Bavarian area of Germany. It was quite interesting. 

What was it like to be in Germany when it was still East and West? Could you tell that WWII had had an impact on the country?

Yeah, it had a significant impact on the country, because in the Cold War, they were all trying to do intelligence on each other. We weren’t allowed to go up close to the border and things like that, but the Bavarian people were very friendly with us. Other than that, it was just that we had to be sensitive to who we were talking to. Not that I would’ve had anything to reveal. {Laughs} It was amazing when I remember how all of it broke down, and broke through the wall- it just boggles the mind, how it happened. Beyond comprehension. 

Why, or when, did your service end?

I graduated from college in ’60- I stayed on and got my masters in forestry. I went on active duty in ’62, and when they transferred us back in ’64 to Fort Merrill- the 11th Armored Cav was doing training, so we’d go to different training places. As we got towards the end, I had to decide what to do; since I had a forestry degree and I got an ‘okay’ from the Signal Corps- I was nervous about that, because Vietnam was heating up and they spent [tons] of money to train people- I figured, “Well, they use helicopters in forestry.” I sent about what seems like 1,000 resumes out to helicopter companies, and to forestry [companies]. The reason I sent to helicopter companies was because in early ’65 I went ahead and got my commercial helicopter licenses- I didn’t have to take any flying tests, just the written. 

What was your job or career after the war?

I found a perfect job with Crown Zellerbach here in Portland in forest research- I mean, it was ideal, because it was just growth and yield of trees. They wanted me to start work the 1st of June when I got out of service- well, one of the helicopter companies located in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and they called, and I said, “Well, I’ve accepted this job, is there any way I could do this for temporary?” So I called the company, and I ended up flying helicopters for them for a month. On the weekend, I did tours of the Gettysburg battlefield. Don’t ask me what I ever said- I cannot remember! {Laughs} This battlefield here, that battlefield there- it probably didn’t matter, because the people would’ve never known! So I left that, and moved my family back. It was in Seaside, so we lived there for nine years and I worked for them for nine years. The company transferred me up to Portland, so I worked in the Portland office for five years. During that time period, a rich person from Great Britain bought the company- sold the company, sold the mills- and I was out of a job. That was a little tough there for a while, so I did things- I finally got a job that my wife found for me. She was in POE, and one of the ladies there husband owned and managed electrical scientific industries. She said, “Why don’t you go talk to my husband?” I did, but he didn’t have a job, but he said, “Why don’t you go talk to so-and-so?” So I did that, and I got a job at Central, and they manufactured security alarm equipment and also fire alarm equipment. I was with them for 22 years; finally, GE purchased them. I retired in 2005; I started to play golf a bit, and soon enough my wife says, “You really need to get another job!” I said, “Oh, okay.” {Laughs} She said, “I got just the job for you. If you get hired, they give you $500.” I drove a school bus for 6 and a half year. That worked out okay- got out of her hair, and she could do her own thing. She was concertmaster at [the] Chehalem Symphony out of George Fox University for 14, 15 years. She was awesome. img_9939.jpgDid you have a family after the war? How did the war affect this?

I married my wife in ’58, [and] we had two kids in college. My wife majored in music education with a major in violin. She was a great violinist- when we were in Seaside, she was an associate producer for the Miss America contest. For exercise, we go dancing 5 days a week to a live dance band at a senior center. We’ve been married 60 years. The downside is that she has significant Alzheimer’s. That’s been pretty tough.  

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

Well, I felt we were highly trained. When we were at Fort Merrill, and I had to go on some TDY- I probably had to transfer some bombs to Germany for potential use. I do remember when the war was over in ’45, because we were at a lodge that my grandmother and mother had taken me to. I’m six. I still remember it, because all these people were coming down the road, hitting and banging on pans, because the war was over. I have felt very well trained, even with helicopters; even if the engine quit, I had no fear of getting back down. The plane might not survive, but they had us trained so well. If there was any conflict, I felt we were as prepared as anybody could be to defend ourselves. It’s sad, about the H-bomb in Japan; I have mixed emotion- I hate to see all the people that were killed, but a lot of other people would’ve been killed in an invasion. I was hoping that we’d never have to do anything like that again. 

How did your service affect your life?

It clearly helped to focus on discipline- you had to do a certain thing and get it done by a certain time. That’s one thing. It impacted my seeing on how good training pays off, and to be careful with equipment that you have and make sure it’s in good shape. Don’t let your car go- I had to check the helicopters every time for preflight. We had to make sure there weren’t any nuts that were loose, because if it was- I guess the impact there was that it brought more focus to the importance of good maintenance on anything you have. imageAuthor’s Note: This project was recently featured in Portland’s Street Roots Newspaper. Read the article here: http://news.streetroots.org/2017/11/10/these-veterans-have-lived-something-extraordinary-portland-student-listens-shares

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. <www.loc.gov/vets/guidelines.html>.

 

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