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|Interview with Dr.
David M. Graybeal
November 18, 2002
For the Naval History Foundation
This oral history interview of David M. Graybeal is taking place on November 18, 2002 at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey. This interview is for the Oral History Project for HS 298-01 (Oral History) at Monmouth University. I am Tom Hanley, a student at Monmouth University. I will be conducting the interview. David M. Graybeal served in World War II. He was discharged with the rank of Lieutenant. He served in the following areas: The Atlantic Ocean and the Port of Gibraltar.
Question: Good afternoon Mr. Graybeal,
thank you again for doing this interview with me. Could you tell me where you
Answer: Radford, Virginia.
Q: Did you grow up there?
A: Significantly, I did. Yes.
Q: Have you been back there recently?
A: Very briefly.
Q: Where you there after the war ended?
A: No, not really. My parents lived there and I visited them occasionally. I didn't go back to Radford afterward.
Q: Have you lived in Madison for most of your life after the war?
A: I have lived here since 1956.
Q: How would you say Madison has changed from 1956 to today?
A: The population is a little bit larger but Madison hasn't changed a great deal in those years. Downtown has shaped up nicely. They put the telephone and electric wires underground, which makes downtown look better. Madison has been a well-to-do, well managed town here in the time I have been here so it's hard for me to think of any significant changes that have taken place in Madison.
Q: Before the war, what did you do for fun?
A: I played tennis, swam, did a lot of something called English country dancing, and traveled.
Q: What did English country dancing entail? How does that work?
A: They are formal dances. Each one has its own music and you learn the movements of the dance. It usually has eight couples or twelve couples in a line. Sometimes four couples dance together. The dancers learn and memorize what they're to do. It is something like square dancing but it's not called that. I mean, people learn what they're to do and you just dance it. They had wonderful names like "punt the squirrel", "the Twin Sisters", "Salinger's Round" and "the twenty-ninth of May". They were names like that.
Q: From 1941 to 1942 you were a high school teacher. Is that correct?
A: That's right.
Q: What subject did you teach?
A: Math and General Science.
Q: Where there any specialized areas of math that you taught?
A: It was a very rural high school and the students were not well prepared. In Eastern, Virginia, actually on the edge of the dismal swamp and so it was mainly algebra and occasionally a little venture into trigonometry.
Q: What was your experience as a teacher like in general?
A: I had a good time. It was a very rural high school. Maybe there were not as many as one hundred kids in the whole school. The high school was together with the elementary school. It was there that I taught those courses. There were about ten women teachers, a male principal, a male farm teacher and me. The place was deserted when the buses left in the afternoon. I had a lot of privacy and lived with a family there. I enjoyed the teachers that I worked with. We always had our meals together. They lived in a place called a teacherage and I would go over there and have breakfast and supper with them.
I was just ten miles outside of town and after I'd been there about two or three months I felt very isolated. I bought a bicycle for twenty-one dollars so I could ride to town. I didn't have a car or anything at that time. My salary was one hundred and twenty-five dollars a month and I think I paid about fifty of that for where I lived and where I ate.
It was and interesting year. I was twenty-one years old then I guess. I coached the girl's basketball team and they won. We had a little four school league. I guess you could call it that and we won the prize that year. We were the best (laughs) and if you want to know what real living is be twenty-one years old and coach a girls basketball team that wins and get kissed by eight or ten seventeen or eighteen year old girls (laughs), who are ecstatic over having won. It was nice.
Q: Prior to the war, were you aware of the Nazi party in Germany?
A: Yeah, vaguely. I don't think anybody here knew much about it, though I remember we were worried in the years before the war about what was happening. We would hear about the encroachments of the Nazis on the rest of Europe. We would talk about it and debate about it in college.
Q: So, I imagine it was in the news a lot?
A: It was in the news some. Yes.
Q: A famous symbol of the Nazi party was the Hindenburg. This zeppelin had a huge swastika painted on its tail. It served as a means by which to glorify the Nazi party. What did you think of the Hindenburg and were you aware of any other types of Nazi propaganda in the United States?
A: I wasn't very much aware of Nazi propaganda, but I do think I remember seeing when the Hindenburg crashed and burned. I do think I remember seeing that on a news reel. At that time we didn't have television but we did have news reels and I think I saw that on a news reel. I know I've seen it since then, but I suppose I saw it then and knew something about it.
Q: How much did you know about World War I?
A: Well, not a great deal. My father had been in the army and his uniforms were still in the closet with the kind of leggings and things that he wore. He had not had to go overseas. The war ended when he was still in training. I heard a little bit about what the war was like. I'm sure in college we read stuff about the war, about Armistice Day, how the war came to an end, but I don't think we knew a whole lot about it. I don't think I knew a whole lot about it.
Q: Do you remember what the overall common opinion of the First World War was of your time period and what people generally thought of it. Did they focus on the horrors that people experienced or the triumph of the United States and its allies?
A: Maybe about equally. It was billed as "the war to end all wars" and some were proud of the part that America had played in it. At the same time there were plenty of pictures and stories about how terrible the war had been. We weren't enthusiastic about it.
Q: What did you think when World War II broke out on September 1, 1939?
A: Well, let's see. I was coming into my second year in college and I think we all felt like we were under a cloud. It was in some ways similar to the way we feel today when we hear all this talk about war with Iraq. I think there's a likelihood that it's going to happen. You don't know what it's going to mean and who's going to be involved. We were nervous about it. We thought about it. We read about it. We talked about it.
Q: Did you think that the United States would eventually get involved.
A: There were a lot of people who were saying "oh let those Europeans fight it out. They liked having wars and it was their war. What's it got to do with us?" There were others who said that we know enough about good and evil to know that sooner or later we are either going to have to get into this or we'll be in trouble ourselves. There was a lot of debate about it. A lot of debate about it and a lot of people were saying about Roosevelt "he's kept us out of war" and so that's how he got re-elected to a third term in 1940. What we didn't know of course was that Roosevelt was beginning to think that we had got to get into it. He was beginning to trade with the British.
Q: Earlier, we mentioned the peoples' view on World War I and you said it as a fifty-fifty split of people thinking of the victory of this country and the horrors that were faced with trench warfare. You said people were debating U.S. involvement in the war going on in Europe in 1939. Do you think people were hesitant to commit to another war, after seeing the horrors of the First World War?
A: Yeah. Yeah, I think a lot of people were.
Q: We mentioned Nazi Germany and you mentioned that there was a cloud over your head. What was your opinion of Japan before the war?
A: Well (laughs) it's a little bit silly but when I was a kid my mother had gone to teach a church course on Japan in the early 1930's. When she came back, she told us a lot about what she said and she kept saying "The Japanese people are very short, very tiny and very small" and "Japan is a small island." For years, when I was eight, nine, ten and twelve years old I would picture the Japanese as being as large as this table top and the people being about an inch tall. It took me a little while to shake that out when Pearl Harbor happened.
Q: You mentioned Pearl Harbor. Do you remember where you were and when you found out that Pearl Harbor had been attacked?
A: It was on a Sunday afternoon. I was in my room at the farm house, where I was staying. I had the radio on and an announcer interrupted the program to say the United States had been attacked at Pearl Harbor and "we'll give you more details when we know more details." It was an aerial attack and many ships had been damaged. I thought "Where in the world is Pearl Harbor?" I had an atlas in the room and I dug that out and discovered where Hawaii was and where Pearl Harbor was and (coughs) that was about all I could know that day. I went over to supper that night with the other teachers and we talked a lot about what this was going to mean.
Q: What did your colleagues think?
A: We all thought "we're in this". No way not to be in to it. We didn't even have to question that for more than twenty-four hours because Roosevelt got on the radio and said we'd been attacked and since the attack we've been at war with Japan.
Q: How would you compare the day you found out about Pearl Harbor to September 11, 2001?
A: There's some difficulty about that because we knew very little about what happened at Pearl Harbor for the next year. The government sat on all of the information about what had happened there, whereas with the World Trade Center, we watched it happen. There was immediacy about that. It was a sense of involvement, instead of it being something that happened on the other side of the world.
One of the differences for me was that it was an action by a nation against us, whereas it came out very clearly that September eleven was more like a criminal act by a small outlaw group than by a nation attacking us. Afghanistan had not declared war on us. It was this outlaw group and so I think they're quite different in that way.
Q: Do you have similar discussions with people, for example, your colleagues at Drew University as you did at the high school you taught at?
A: We had a lot of discussions about it, yes, and gatherings and people working on their grief wondering how many people from Madison had been killed. It seems to me that I've heard of three who were working in the World Trade Center.
Q: You said that you felt on December seventh that you were involved in a war now. Japan attacked. Did you think there would be a military reaction immediately on the eleventh?
A: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, in a couple of weeks I went back across the state of Virginia to my home in the western part of the state. I have four brothers and my father said to us "I think it's going to be a war, a long war" and "I think you're all going to have to be involved in it and if I were you, I would look into being in the Navy. I was in the army and it was a lot of rain and mud." The navy is a lot more technical. At least you have got a place to sleep at night as long as you're not torpedoed.
I was teaching not too far from Norfolk, Virginia, which was a big naval base. I had been there several times, just walking out on to the pier and looking out at ships and thinking "they're so beautiful and I'd like to be on one of those." I went back and signed up in early January, I guess.
Q: So the reason you enlisted in the navy was your father's opinion?
A: Well, I knew I was going to have to go. I was glad he said that. I think even if he hadn't said it, the navy would have been my choice.
Q: Would you give the same advice to a young man today if we had something like another great war, like the war with Iraq that might be breaking out. Would you tell them to go into the navy?
A: I might. I loved the navy and I love the navy now but I don't know. My son decided to be a conscientious objector and I support him in that decision. So I don't know what I would say to a young man. A lot would depend on who the young man was.
Q: What was it like leaving the life you had established in Virginia for the service?
A: (Laughs) well, I signed up in January and they said "ok, go back to your job and we'll call you when we're ready for you." So I went back. I thought they would call me within a week and someone else would have to finish out the school year. As it turned out, I didn't get my orders until late June. I was to report to Mid-Shipman's school in New York on July 2, 1942. Waiting for that was kind of I got tired of waiting (laughs) knowing what was going to happen next.
Q: Were you more nervous or anxious?
A: I don't remember being either of those. I just knew I had made a commitment and they were holding all of the cards. They would tell me when they wanted me to do something. Most of my life I'd had more control over my life than that. I was glad I got to finish the school year. I liked teaching. I actually went back home and had taken a summer job managing a swimming pool in my home town. I had that for about a month and then all of a sudden, here I had to go.
Q: You trained in New York. What did your training entail?
A: (Laughs) I went to Mid-Shipman's school at Columbia University. They told us to bring one suitcase and just one change of clothes. When we got there we lined up and went through and they gave us our uniforms; khakis, two sets of khakis, four sets of underwear, four pairs of socks, four shirts, you know. They said "put your clothes in that bag" and they shipped it home for us.
Immediately we were all looking, dressed alike, learning how to get into formation and to March. I enjoyed Mid-Shipman's school. It was ninety days long and we were always referred to as the "ninety day miracle guys," who learned how to be naval officers in three months. Everyday was programmed right down to the minute when you got up, when you took a shower, when you went to meals, and when you went to classes. We had forty minutes, as I recall, late afternoon, that we were free to do whatever we wanted to do. Not much you can do in forty minutes, except walk over and look at the river or something. Then we would have about twenty-four hours on the weekend, to be off but we were studying gunnery, navigation, and seamanship and a lot of the things we needed to know
The wall was called a balk head. Even in this College dormitory this was the deck, this was the overhead, the windows were ports, stairs were ladders and we did that routine so we wouldn't get on board the ship and say "look out the window there" and feel funny about it. It was a real mind-stretching exercise. We would drill some at regular times, get out and march and try to keep formation going. We were in platoons, units; I forget what we called them. There were maybe twenty to thirty guys. There were no women and actually that unit seemed to stay together for a long time after Mid-Shipman's School.
Q: You served aboard the USS Snowden. What was it like, the first time being on the ship?
A: It was great.
Q: Did you have any trouble adjusting to the ship at all?
A : Well being a member of the crew is a lot like being married to the ship There are good times and there are hard times and those destroyer escorts in the north Atlantic were heavy sea rollers like everything and so we were always dealing with some sea sickness and about equally bad was getting bruised. Sometimes we rolled more than 45 degrees from vertical, which would mean that the bulkhead was more level than the deck and we had a passage way. I've seen men's feet patterns on the balk head where they would put their foot up there to keep from falling over. You'd be walking along and and all of a sudden the ship would throw you into one of those iron stations or something. I was always bruised in some way or another by being thrown around and sometimes it would scare u to death too. You'd think "boy this things going to roll all the way over and it would come back but after a while after a year or two I got to the place where I thought it's not going to roll over so I just got a kick out of when it would keel over like that.
Q: What was your duty on the ship?
A: When I came on board I was assistant engineering officer and supply officer because we had a small ship we had to double up on things. So but my main duty was engineering because I was getting ready to become the chief engineer and but my duties also include when I was an assistant engineer I was stood at deck watch also, which would mean 4 hours up on the bridge and 8 hours off and so and my what I took to be my duty was I was spending a lot of time just memorizing the machinery of the ship and the engineering stuff and learning all I could about it I was a I think I was a teacher even then and I've heard I've seen a lot of the ship mates since the war and more than one has said to me the most educational time in my life was when I was in the engineering crew because I was always pushing them to say if this starboard pump breaks down and we have to transfer oil from this starboard tank here to the port tank in the rear how are you going to do that. Well there were always secondary ways of doing it if you could think about how you'd run it through this pipe over to hear and so on and so I was always pushing them to learn stuff like that. And it was kind of like a game and but we thought I thought it would be useful if we ever had accidents and damage that a lot of people would know how to adjust things to make it work again.
Q: Did you have a specific position on the ship during General Quarters?
A: yeah well (clears throat/coughs) yeah I was always in the engine room I think even when I was an assistant I would be in the number two control room. And then when I was chief I would be in the number one control room. We had four rooms. There'd be a number one engine room and a number one control room with a balk head in between them number two engine room number two control room and so that we were all connected by telephone and we could take care of stuff down there.
We did that for about a year in 1943 and 1944. Then in late 1944 we shifted then to being what was called a sub hunter killer group. We operated with a small aircraft carrier. Six of us in a division of ships all alike would work with a small aircraft carrier and these little planes would go out looking for submarines on the surface or submarines submerged with their periscopes up. Then they would radio back where they saw somebody and we would go tearing over there and see if we could get them.
Q: Did u ever encounter a German U-Boat?
A: We six worked always as a team and we are credited with having sunk 7. To say encounter is kind of funny because sometimes it would be a beautiful day quiet sea sunshine and we would have a submarine down there and we were trying to find where he was and we'd be steaming around and when we'd think we had him we would drop depth charges and sometimes we would just get a big balloon of oil and other stuff and we'd know that we had killed a submarine because you would hear it go on down to the bottom.
One night we had a submarine come on the surface and send out a message to us in English "save our crew" we turned on our lights and you could see the crew getting out into the waters of the north Atlantic cold as it could be. There were forty-nine men between us. And we picked them all up. We got three on board the Snowden and the USS Inch got most of them. We had them for a couple of days and then we transferred them over to the carrier. That sub went down after they left open the sea-cocks, as they're called. It was sinking when they abandoned it.
Q: Was it sinking as a result of something your ship or the ships around you had done?
A: I think we had had it down for a day or two and its batteries were dead and it had just enough pizzazz to get up to the surface. It was about mid night and it didn't have enough. We were surrounding it by then. So I think they just scudded it as they said. We were eager to get it. As a matter of fact it was my job to go over and go aboard to see what I could find down there by way of valves that were open and so on. I took a couple of seamen with me and the captain called "a way the whale boat", as we say. I was getting all my gear on and was getting ready to get into the whale boat when he called out and said "belay that" which means cancel that order. The subs going down so there wouldn't be a way to get over there. I was very glad I didn't have to go.
Q: How many Germans did you have on your boat?
A: We had three.
Q: What was it like having them on the boat?
A: Well, they were virtually frozen when we got them on board. They were wearing coverall kind of things and so we stripped them as quickly as we could and put them in the shower to keep them from dying of being frozen. I don't know, they were 18, 19 years old just like a lot of our crew were. They looked like us and I was the only person on board who'd ever heard a word of German and I didn't know much. We wanted to find out what the number of the boat was, their submarine and so I kept trying to ask "what was the number of your boat?" They were very well trained. They knew that by war regulations all they had to do was say their name, rank and serial number and so that they'd just repeat that again and again.
In case we don't get back to this Our sister ship The Inch picked up most of them and each of our ships has been having reunions since the war annually pretty much and I heard that the year before last when the inch had its reunion they got in touch with some of the Germans living in Germany and they came over, about a dozen of them, and they had a reunion together somewhere in the states. I forget where it was now. That was really nice
Q: I guess it was "no hard feelings"
A: Not after 50 years. There weren't hard feelings then. I mean we'd been trying to kill each other alright but the sea is the great enemy and so sailors from all over the place feel like we have something in common. We got them on board we saw that they got something to eat and they got some clothes. They seemed to be nice guys.
Q: Were they grateful?
A: I'm sure they were. I'm sure they were grateful to be alive
Q: What did u think of your shipmates?
A: We were I loved my shipmates for the most part. We lived together for nearly three years in close quarters and we knew that each one of us had our quirks but u stand long night watches with a guy and hour after hour after hour and u really get to know the person pretty well so we had very little conflict. And I'd say that was true between the officers and the enlisted men too. And I think they would say that too. When we get together for reunions its just like were all one bunch. They still call me Mr. Graybeal and I still call them by their last name Scarborough, Malechesky and Maskerelli, That's how we knew each other then. I would say we were on... I never heard anything about many hard feelings on board.
Q: Do you see them often?
A: I guess I've been to a half dozen reunions since World War II. So its not often and I didn't go this year. They were meeting in Florida and they were going to go on board an atomic submarine they said the first thing you do is climb down a vertical ladder sixty feet. I thought man I looked down that hole I don't want to climb down a ladder sixty feet and get under the water there I've had enough of that so and it didn't come at a good time for me so I didn't go. It was just a couple of weekends ago.
Q: When was the last time u saw them?
A: We met at the Slater in October of 2001 I think it was.
Q: Was that the first time that you all had been at the USS Slater
A: Yeah I had been up there before and been on board the Slater so they were there for two or three days and they'd taken a tour so we had all been on board but not at the same time
Q: What would you say was the general reaction to seeing a destroyer escort like that fully restored almost fully restored?
A: its an emotional thing. I always thought the DE's were beautiful ships and I think the Slater is going to be a beautiful ship when they get it all finished up again. It was exciting to see it. I took a friend to see it too, who had heard about the ships. To show a friend around was fun.
Q: Dating back to your time in the service you said you had 40 minutes a day and 24 hours a week of free time. How much free time did you have on board the Snowden?
A: I guess anytime we stayed busy. We stayed busy. There was a work day from eight in the morning till three thirty in the afternoon. Let me just talk you through a day. Lets say I was on the mid watch: Mid night watch Midnight to four. Come off the watch a four o'clock turn in and if we were in the submarine zone at five thirty or six the alarm would go off and we'd all get up and go to our battle stations because at twilight was the most dangerous time when we were running convoys. Then we'd secure and go back on watch again. We'd catch a quick nap then, get some supper at six o'clock and then maybe get go to battle stations for an hour. Get off of that at eight o'clock and turn in, sleep till 11:30 and then get up and go back on watch again. So there were times (laughs) when I've often thought that every time you see a see going sailor he's sleepy. Sailors turn to just drop and sleep because there wasn't much sleep.
Q: I imagine there wasn't much recreation if you were so busy on the ship
A: Not much. Not much...
Q: With all of the running around you had to do on the ship when you weren't having to sleep was there any particular thing you did on the ship you liked the most?
A: We usually had some books on board and I would read. Shoot the breeze with a ship mate, drink coffee. Exercise some
Q: Where would you exercise on the ship?
A: Well it was hard. It was hard. Ship mate Murphy and I discovered we could get into what's called the Muffler room, which is a big room on deck and four big snubbers or mufflers in there for the main engines and there'd be about 18 inches between them and longer than this room.. We could do push ups and chin ups and stuff like that in there. It would be good and hot too so. But apart from that you could climb up and down the ladders if you wanted to there wasn't much opportunity for exercise.
Q: You mentioned the USS Slater. You had a reunion there last October 2001. I recently visited the USS Slater this October and what I Found most striking about the ship was the size in relation to its crew. About how many men were on the Snowden?
Q: 200. How did you guys manage in that small area? How did it work?
A: We had crews quarters foreward and aft and on the outer balk head there would be three bunks. A bunk is just a steel pipe with canvass underneath it and those things would go up during the day time and then down at night or sleeping time for sailors when a sailor could sleep. And underneath that would be each one of them had a little container for his stuff clothes. So we would have had two crews quarters aft. We'd have sixty men in one and forty in another and foreward we'd have 30 and 20 or something like that and it was crowded. There would be a center aisle they'd have six bunks by each other there and so it was crowded.
Q: What would you say was the hardest part of being on the ship that size with 200 men? I'd heard from some people that one of the first things restored on the Slater was "the trough". People said that was one of the hardest things on the ship and one of the most inconvenient things. What was it like for you?
A: Are you talking about a trough in the bathroom
A: Yes well I didn't have any experience with that because we had a urinal in the officer's bathroom so I never used the trough and I don't even remember it.
What was the hardest thing for me? Doing without fresh vegetables I think. The only thing we ate was canned. Frozen food was just being invented during World War II and I remember one Thanksgiving the cook haled out a turkey. We'd been at sea for six weeks and one of the other officers said "Where did you get this turkey?" He said "well we picked it up last August in Norfolk. The guy said "How could you do that?" He said "it was frozen" The guy just pushed it away and said "I'm not going to eat no bird that's been dead for three months." (Laughs) Well we learned to do that after a while
Q: A big contrast from today. Every thing is frozen, freeze-dried, and microwaveable.
Q: Now your main mission in the North Atlantic was escorting convoys across
A: Escorting convoys and then hunting submarines.
Q: How many crossings did you make?
A: At least three and maybe four over and back.
Q: So it was four crossings and you got seven submarines. You also mentioned that you served in the pacific theatre of World War II
A: Yeah, after the war in Europe was over we were sent to Charleston, South Carolina. We re-provisioned ourselves and then we were ordered through the Panama Canal and to go to the Pacific and help end the war on Japan.
That took a long time. It was a long way from the Panama Canal to Honolulu but the night we were going into Hawaii the word came that the Japanese had surrendered. So the war was over. So we were moored, anchored, hung around Hawaii for a month. Waiting to know what was going to happen when we got ordered to come back to the east coast. So all we did in the pacific was travel.
Q: You saw a lot of action in the Atlantic but you didn't see any in the pacific?
A: That's right
Q: I know that the Kamikaze attacks were a big deal in the pacific. Did you know about them when you were waiting to go?
A- Yeah. Yeah we were. After I graduated from midshipman's school, I went to Ohio state university to study engineering there A lot of officers were ordered there and they e were joined by about fifteen chief petty officers who had been at Pearl Harbor and who were also learning engineering, getting their skills upgraded, although they'd been in the navy for fifteen years and they knew a lot. They were older than we were and on December 7, 1942 the US announced and showed pictures about how bad the devastation had been in Pearl Harbor. That night they said "well we can talk about it now." They said we were there we saw it all and when we were ordered over hear. We gave an oath about how we would not say how badly wed been damaged because we didn't want the Japanese to know what bad shape we were in so they' come back and get us again. So after a year' time things had gotten geared up and it became public so these guys told us all about dive bombers and kamikazes
Q: Were you worried about encountering one of them if you had the chance to go into the pacific?
A: I don't remember.
Q: President Roosevelt was elected to a fourth term, though he did not serve much of it. What was your opinion of President Roosevelt?
A: He was a big hero and I remember when the word came we were at sea, actually we were on our way to Hawaii and the word came that he had died and it was like a member of my family had died. Like my father had died and we just thought "what's going to happen now?" Then the word came that some guy named Truman was going to run the country. I said "What does he know?" (Laughs) Everybody was down on Truman.
Q: Initially, did you think that would hurt America's chances of winning the war?
A: No, by that time we thought, we thought "we're winning this war" no doubt about it
Q: You said that for the most part the people were down on Harry Truman
A: (Laughs) Yes. Didn't know anything about him.
Q: How would you rate his performance as President?
A: Oh I'm high on Truman. He was a great President. He helped us get the United Nations. Helped the Marshall plan. Helped, sought to it that Japan and Europe were rebuilt after the war. I liked Truman. He was a great President.
Q: Before you when you were waiting to get to Honolulu you found that the Japanese had surrendered. Were you aware of the Atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
A: I don't have a very clear memory of that I think the kind of word that we got was that some kind of super bomb, super weapon had been used against Japan. We had no idea about how powerful it was or anything like that and it was not until after Japan surrendered and we began to get some pictures and have some idea of the scope of the thing.
Q: What was your reaction to that?
A: Well I think... I personally was horrified by it. And at the same time we were hearing things about the Japanese emperor and Hirohito very much like what you hear about Saddam Hussein today. So people wed say to each other "I guess it was the only way to bring the war to a quick close." But just the idea of obliterating a city like that when we began to realize what had happened it was really very heavy.
Q: Were you at all relieved that the war was over?
A: I suppose so. I just don't remember much about that. I was still in the navy and we didn't know what the navy was going to do. So I'm sure that I was relieved that the war was over, although (laughs) we kept hearing that we had to be careful, even around Pearl Harbor because there were presumably some little Japanese submarines at sea that hadn't heard that the war was over. So for a while we thought that we were going to be sent out to see if we could find them. That's when it became clear that they had finally gotten the word that the war was over and they were heading for home.
Q: If they hadn't had found out that the war was over; would your mission have been to destroy them?
A: I think so. If we couldn't have gotten them to surrender.
Q: Did you play any role in the occupation of Japan?
Q: About how much longer after the war did you serve in the navy
A: Six months I guess. More or less.
Q: Where and when were you discharged from the service?
A: (Laughs) I think from Norfolk. I think that's probably where my final orders came from. I didn't bring them with me. We brought the ship back through the Panama Canal and back to Charleston and then they said we were going to be laid up, moth balled in the St. Johns River in Florida. A place called green cove spring where they were laying up a lot of ships so we went down to Florida got into that river, went down to green cove spring and took it alongside there and began unloading.
We offloaded our ammunition, a lot of the oil and it was kind of a funny story about our ship. All six ships when we went into commission in 1943 had been lined up alongside a whole bunch of RR flat cars that had all our supplies; our food and everything. AND each ship was supposed to get an equal amount of stuff but somehow we got all the canned figs that were supposed to go to all six ships. About 400 gallons of canned figs so we had fig ice cream, fig upside down cake, fig on breakfast cereal all during the war and when we put the ship into mothballs there were still some figs in cans down there. We just left them there to dehydrate in the place and thought "well who knows" and I was telling this story at a reunion two years ago. The ship had been put back into commission in the fifties with another crew and I didn't know whether I was telling the truth or not when I said there were still some figs on board. One of the sailors on the second crew ten years later raised his hand and said "That's right. We had those figs when we came on board." (Laughs)
Q: They lasted that long.
A: He didn't say whether they ate them or not. He just said they were still there.
Q: Upon returning home, how were you received by your family, friends, and your town?
A- Wonderfully, yeah WWII is so different from the wars since then, particularly Vietnam. WWII you felt like everybody was in it, everybody was together. The nation felt like a family. Everybody was proud of us. When we came back we were really local heroes.
Q: You served from 1942 to 1946. After 4 years of service, what did it feel like to be a civilian again?
A: It felt good
Q: So you had no trouble adjusting?
A: I don't think I did, no.
Q: Had America changed at all from when you left to fight?
A: Well women were working in the ship yards and in the armament factories and that seemed like a big change but apart from that it seemed the same. It seemed like my home town.
Q: Had any aspects of your personal life, such as relatives getting married, happen during the war?
A: No, the thing about the kind of duty we had, wed be gone for a month, say a couple of months, we'd take a convoy out of Norfolk and go across, wait a week, and bring another convoy back. That would take maybe six weeks or two months. Then we would have to lay over for a week and so I could get on a train and go home in twelve hours when I got some leave off the ship. It was like I was back in my home town several times every year during the whole war. I remember sometimes people would say to me "When are you shipping out?" We had a saying "Loose lips sink ships" so we just we didn't talk about it. Couldn't keep a diary because they knew that stuff could be of use to the enemy if they picked it up so
Q: Did you return to Virginia after being discharged
A: guttural noise (yes)
Q: Had that changed much
A: Well my home town had changed a lot because they'd put a war plant in there and it had been 7000 people before the war and 25000 in 1946 so it just boomed but apart from that it hadn't changed much.
Q: Prior to the war you were a school teacher. Did you take up teaching again at the high school? If not, what did you do for work?
A: After the war, I decided I wanted to be a minister and so I was immediately asked if I would look after six little churches down in the Smokey mountains of Tennessee I did that from the end of February to September when I went off to Yale to the divinity school at YALE and so I was, Then I was in New Haven, where Yale was for the next six years. Am I talking about what you wanted me to talk about?
Q: Of course.
A: and then I got both my seminary degree and my doctorate in the field of sociology religion. Tthen I went back to my home territory and actually became the Chaplain of the college, where I had been a student. Emory and Henry College is the name of it I was there for 4 years and then I was invited to come here to drew and I came here in 56' to teach. I've been here ever since
Q: What do you teach here at Drew?
A: What do I teach at Drew? I am professor of church and society and I teach,
The courses I teach the most in recent years have been one called "the search for the good community" another called "church and community" which has to do with the way
Congregations relate to the communities in which they're located. And I do a course
Called "Ministry of non parish settings" in which I Invite a different chaplain to come
In every week: prison chaplain, a hospital chaplain, a university chaplain, a truck stop
Chaplain, and to talk about what they're doing and how they do it because about ten
Percent of our students end up in jobs like that so this is a chance for them to get some
Feed back about what goes on in places like that. That's a lot of fun to teach too.
Q: How would you compare your teaching experience here on the university level to the
High school you taught at before you fought in the war.
A: Its been a lot more fun here. Even in the best high school situation you have
Discipline problems with students and teenagers acting out and you know feeling their
Oats but here I've been teaching the students who've been through college all the time
And I teach seminary students and graduate students mostly in their mid twenties and now
The average age is about 35 or 40. Most of them are second career people. They've been nurses and teachers and accountants and lawyers and everything under the sun so they've been around and they are glad to be here and they are hard working and all I have to think about is how to program it and take that and. It's a lot more fun, teaching at this level.
Q: When did you become a member of DESA and what is your role in the organization?
A: I Guess 10 years ago I heard about it and sent my dues and I've been getting the news paper ever since then and sometimes I rip through that and see if I see anybody's name that I know or something about the Snowden having a get together. That's the only role that I have is that I'm a member and a subscriber to the paper. When they were raising money to bring the Slater back. I gave money to that and. Two hundred, three hundred dollars, something likes that because I thought "that's a great idea, there's only one left in existence. Lets get it back here." And then they had this historical foundation that supports it. The work on it now, and I joined that last year for two hundred dollars. So, that's related to DESA.
Q: At the present time it appears that our nation will once again engage in a war. What do you think of the possibility of going to war with Iraq?
A: Well, George Bush seems to have his mind dead set to do it. I'm a great supporter of the United Nations and I m just hoping that Coffee Anon and the United Nations, the Nations of the Security Council will be able to hold the line and say to this administration you simply must not do that unless we come to a world wide consensus that Iraq is dangerous that Saddam Hussein is crazy and even then I would have great doubts what I hear about the plans just to blow the place up. I am absolutely against it.
Q: on a bit of a lighter note, we mentioned your ship the USS Snowden. I know that a lot of ships after they were discharged they were either used for other crews, your ship was used again, and some of them were used for target practice during the Vietnam War. Do you know what happened to the Snowden?
A: Yeah, at one of our reunions, somebody got up and said "I know what happened to the Snowden." He said "I was somewhere in south Carolina, I was jogging and some guy came past me wearing a t-shirt that said USS Snowden DET-46 and I stopped him and said hey who are you?" And he said "I'm a member of the last crew of the Snowden." And he said "what happened to it" he said "it was towed out to sea and used as a target for bombing and strafing and everything and they set it on fire and she went down" I was very interested that all the sailors in the place just broke out into applause like that was a worthy final action by the Snowden. To serve, to give up its life like that and I think it kind of indicated that they were afraid it would be just cut up and used as scrap metal or something. SO, it was an interesting reaction. We never talked about what it meant to us but it was the way I thought we were feeling about it.
Q: Because of the efforts of servicemen like yourself the world is a much different place than it could have been had the axis powers triumphed in World War II. What do you feel the world should learn from your experiences in World War II.?
A: I think war is one of the most terrible things that the human teacher does and I think that its just too late in the history of civilization for us to go on killing each other and I would like to see the United Nations strengthened as a peace making force and I just think that its too late for us to be going to war. The environment's going down the drain, AIDS is getting Africa, and billion people don't have fresh water to drink. We have such resources that if we could take half of what we put into the military and put it into the development of the world. Things would be so much better. I'm just completely opposed to all the war talk and think that we could do better than that. I guess that's what I'd say about it.
Q: Thank you very much Dr. Graybeal
A: Thank you. It's been a pleasure.
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