JCC: “Fortunately, I was always the lead jumper…”

What is your birth year?

1927.

How old are you does that make you today?

93.

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

Initially in the Army, and then I was transferred into the Air Force when they separated. When I recalled for Korea, I was recalled into the Army, in the Signal Corps. [JCC’s wife: He was a paratrooper the second time around.] Just during the Korean War. It wasn’t anything heroic, I just wanted the extra money. 

What was your rank?

I went in as a private, but then I went to OCS. I was commissioned as a second lieutenant, and then when I got recalled, I was a first lieutenant. 

Where were you born?

Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Tell me more about your childhood.

I got into things rather early; I started in sailing, working on men’s sailboats. Then, I got to be sort of the captain of the boat! {Laughs} 

What was the technology available during your upbringing- did you have cars, telephones, etc?

Yes. Both. I grew up in a relatively well-to-do family, and my maternal family was quite distinguished. My grandfather was principal of the high school, and a veteran of the Spanish American War. 

Do you recall hearing about Pearl Harbor? What was your reaction?

I was at home.

Were you aware of the growing tension in Europe?

Yes. My father was a prominent attorney in Grand Rapids, and was active in a lot of community affairs. He was on the conscientious objection board, deciding on whether people were truly conscientious objectors, or just trying to get out of the draft. 

Were you drafted, part of ROTC, or did you enlist?

I was draft age, and I wanted to enroll in school for the semester, because I graduated in June of ’45. The war was coming towards the close, and I asked, “What should I do?” They said they’d grant me a deferment, if [I] enrolled in college, to finish the semester I was in. That was what happened; I finished my first semester, and then my deferment ran out, so I went into service and to basic training.

How did you feel about your enlistment, and the war itself?

I think I was in favor of it, that we were fighting the Germans who were the bad guys. It was that sort of situation, and we were fighting the Japanese, when they bombed Pearl Harbor.

What was your boot camp or training experience like?

{Laughs} Just like most basic training experiences! Lots of physical training? Yes! It’s one of the things I am proud of; I was very much against the typical type of military assertion of authority; I thought it should be more leadership, and not, “Because I said so”. I would have trouble with some of the people. I came in charge of a platoon sergeant and he was the epitome of what I disliked. 

What happened after boot camp?

I went to Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, to Signal school. I had very high marks on my ACT, so they said that I could get into Signal school, so I decided to go. 

On occupying Germany after the war:

As I look back on it, I was -and most of the guys were- way too cocky. I came to dislike that attitude, and we weren’t accomplishing anything with that attitude. Did you ever have any notable interactions with German people? Yes. There was a lawyer that I hired- I became general counsel at the company I worked for- we hired this German lawyer who had gone to school in the United States. He had been a soldier in the Army, and as a matter of fact had lost his leg in a bombing raid. An American bombing raid. It was much different than you think. The main problem that we had was venereal disease control. Everybody was assigned a job, and I was a venereal disease control officer. 

Are there any people you met that you specifically remember?

Yes, that one German lawyer that I eventually hired. 

On the time between WWII and Korea:

I got realized too late to start college that semester, so I got a job working at the post office, delivering mail. As a young boy, I think through my father’s influence, I had gotten a job jumping mail and so I had that experience. They hired me, and I worked full-time there for a period of time until I could get into the next semester of school. Where did you attend college? The University of Michigan. I got all three of my degrees there, and one degree at Columbia. That was just a summer program in the speciality of what is known as ‘Conflicts of Law’. 

How did you find out you were being recalled to Korea?

They sent me a letter that said I said to report. {Laughs} I was in the reserve, having been commissioned. Once you graduate, you receive something like a 8 or 10 year commission. You’re required to spent a certain amount of it on active duty, and then you’re required to stay in the reserve. So, I was in school. 

What did you know of the Korean conflict before you were recalled?

I was in college at the time, and older by 5 years than most of the other people. I was pretty well aware of what was going on.

What was your reaction to the Korean conflict?

I think I was in favor of it. 

Did you attend boot camp again?

We went to an advanced training program, but other than that it wasn’t anything. I was so angry that I had been recalled [that] I tried to volunteer for flying to get extra pay. But, my eyesight was not good enough, so I volunteered to go into the Airborne and my eyesight was good enough! It wasn’t anything heroic- I went in for the $100 a month.

I didn’t get into jumping until I got recalled to Korea. As I say, I spent about a year and a half and went overseas to Germany and was on occupation duty in Germany. But, my main duties had been playing football, because I’d been out playing football at Michigan.

Did you go abroad during your service in the Korean War?

I stayed in the United States. We didn’t commit any airborne troops during Korea, because that was sort of the reserve, in case the Russians started getting antsy. We were sent up and jumped in Alaska. They wanted us to be trained, because they expected that if there was an invasion, if the Russians came in, that they would come in through Alaska. 

On his time as a paratrooper:

It’s a matter of training. They trained you so well, and go through such rigorous training, I was glad to get my shoot off. That’s all I could think of as they tightened the buckle so tight! They don’t have to be that tight, but it was just to instill confidence in people who were afraid of the jumping. Fortunately, I was always the lead jumper as a lieutenant, because I didn’t go into jump school until after I’d been commissioned. 

Tell me about any specific memories or experiences that stand out.

Because I had been on the football team at Michigan earlier, they asked me to coach the team. I said I would. It was fine, I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the coaching, and I had to go in a few times because my speciality was that I was a long snapper, and I could center the ball well before punting or field goals. 
 
Why, or when, did your service end?

The first time, my service ended when I came back from overseas. I had to spend a certain amount of time at the end of WWII, came back, and enrolled in college. When the Korean War was over, I came back again. 

How did you feel about your service ending?

I was not unhappy about my service. I tried to do the best I could in the service; I was particularly trying to make sure that the bullies in the military- I would discipline them. Even our first sergeant. I just did not tolerate that.

Where did you live? 

Most of it was around [South Bend], although we did spend time up in St. Johns, Michigan. That’s when I ran for the prosecuting attorney’s office, so for five years I was prosecuting attorney. Most of the [cases] were not interesting, just dummies.

Did you have a family after your service? 

Yes, I have four children. Two boys and two girls. Boys are the oldest and the youngest, and the girls are the middle. My oldest boy works for AT&T, and he’s at retirement age now. Our next oldest is a teacher in Niles, [Michigan]. She also teaches overseas in the summer time. Our [next] daughter is a lawyer- she and her husband are partners in a big law firm in Chicago. She’s not unafraid of taking on any challenge that comes along. I can always remember when the kids were playing football, she’d come out with a pair of shoulder pads. [My youngest son] is a salesman in Grand Rapids. 

What was your job or career after your service?

Initially I came out and had both a law degree and a MBA. I started out as a tax lawyer. I don’t know whether I didn’t like the taxation part or my boss, probably a combination of the two- one aspect of it, and it quite describes me- is that he used taxation and the threat of tax problems as a means of control. I said that the company should be run to make a profit, not to keep the taxes low. He and I had basic differences in our attitude on that. I came back in, and I volunteered to defend people who were charged because I’d done it in the service. I wasn’t a lawyer at the time I was in service, but I was interested in going to law school, and so I did things that were connected to the law. I went ahead and did those programs that would promote the legal side of business, and would help all people who needed legal advice and defense. [When] anybody who [was] charged with a crime had to appoint somebody to handle the case, I volunteered to try the case. 

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

The impact of the military on me was to learn discipline. I think that’s the most important thing that young people do not learn- self discipline. That says it all.

Have you been involved with veteran’s communities during your life?

I have not been a strong veteran supporter. 

How did your service affect your life as a whole?

The main part that impacted it was the G.I. bill. It made it possible for me to go- with some work- all the way through business school and to get my MBA and my law degree. It was a big impact. 

Author’s Note: TCC was not able to provide any personal photographs from his service in the Army and Air Force. The photos below are provided for the reader’s reference, but do not describe TCC’s exact experience or his surroundings. The images are cited to their respective owners. 

SS2591516
Paratroopers board plane bound for Korea, circa 1950-1953. Image retrieved from https://www.sciencesource.com/archive/Korean-War–Paratroopers-Board-Plane-SS2591516.html

Author’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 in South Bend, Indiana. 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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