DESA Oral History Project
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|Oral History Interview
of Stephen Krupinski
Date of Interview: December 13, 2002
This is the Oral History Interview of Stephen Krupinski. It is taking place on December 13, 2002 at his home in Toms River, New Jersey. This interview is for the Oral History Project for HS 298-01 at Monmouth University. I am Steven Nardiello, a student at Monmouth University and I will be conducting the interview. Stephen Krupinski served in Korean War and was discharged with rank of Lieutenant Junior Grade. He served in the North Atlantic and the Carribean.
Q. Okay Mr. Krupinski, the first
questions I would like to ask you are mainly dealing with the time before you
entered the navy. Can you tell me a little about your childhood?
A. I was born Pasaic, New Jersey and lived in Newark, Irvington and Paterson until I was eleven. At the age of eleven my mother died and we moved to Pennsylvania. I lived in Wilksbury, Pennsylvania where I spent the balance of my career until I graduated from college.
Q. Could you tell about the life
you lived, like about how your high school was and college?
A. High School was in Wilksbury, Pennsylvania. Then my college was called Wilks College, today it is Wilks University. I majored in business administration and while I was in college I joined the naval reserve at the age of 18. I became a white hat and advanced up the ranks as a white hat up to the rank of third class yeoman. While I was in college the ROC became available, which is the Reserve Officer Candidate Program. I entered that and became a commissioned officer after spending two summers in California at different navy bases doing my officer training. Upon graduation, when I was twenty years of age and then I was commissioned into the navy the day turned twenty-one. My class graduated two weeks before I could because I wasn't twenty-one. I was commissioned in Long Beach, California at the ROC school when I was twenty-one years of age.
Q. What made you decide to join the
A. Mainly because most of my friends were in the Naval Reserve in high school. It was because of their association that I joined.
Q.When you first joined the navy,
were you a little nervous or were you looking forward to it?
A. I was looking forward towards it. Just like they say today, I looked at it like an adventure.
Q. I'm a little unaware if what the
ROC program is. Can you explain what it is?
A. Sure. The ROC program was newly formed around the time that I joined. I was designed for college students taking a four-year degree in specific subjects, business was one of the one that they were looking for. It consisted of two summers of training, which was about eight weeks of training at different navy bases throughout the United States. The two that I attended were between my sophomore and junior year at Tersure Island out in the harbor at San Francisco. That was about an eight-week course where you learned all basic navy leadership, navy justice, and naval customs and traditions. It was just basic stuff about the navy, nothing in detail. The second time was when I graduated in 1952 from Wilks. I had my second training which was eight weeks and that was in Long Beach, California at a Navy Yard. I completed my training there, and about a week or two after I had completed my training I became twenty-one years of age. I graduated from Wilks at that point.
Q. Had you ever been on a boat before?
A. Not on a Navy ship, I had been on small boats, fishing boats and things like that.
Q. Your childhood was during World
War II. Do you remember anything from that time?
A. The few that I remember was that I was involved in collecting scrap. I remember that while I lived in Newark. I ended up with a pile of scrap metal, aluminum and all the other things that they were looking for, in front of my house, it was about twenty-five feet high. That was by going door to door and asking people if they would like to get rid of those things that we were looking for like metal and scrap, or whatever the military was looking for. I remember that very much.
Q. Did that have any effect on you
possibly joining the navy?
A. No, I really don't think so.
Q. You served in the Korean War,
can you describe that for me? (in what way?) From the time you first stepped
on the ship and what ship did you serve on?
A. I served on the USS Blair, DE 147. I reported aboard that ship in 1953, the Korean War was already on its way for a few years. The ship was a sonar training ship. Sonar being the equipment that we used to detect submarines. We trained new sonar men who were reporting for the navy for the first time. We trained them out of Newport, Rhode Island and we trained them out of Key West, Florida. On a occasion we would detect unidentified submarines which were probably Russian. Our job was to track those submarines and actually to make them move out of the area because we didn't want them in the Newport area. This was where all our ships were stored. So we would track them and eventually they would leave the area. We never depth charged them, we never took any hostile action and they didn't either. That was what we basically did for two years.
Q. You would just follow them?
A. We would follow them around and they would hear us and we would hear them and eventually they would leave. At least they knew that we knew that they were there.
Q. Were you ever nervous that something
A. Oh yeah. We were nervous that they might attack us. At that time the Cold War was in full swing.
Q. Can you describe your feelings
towards the Cold War for me? Exactly how you felt.
A. I was concerned that we were gonna go to war. I was concerned that there would be atomic bombs dropped. I was concerned about all the things that they talked about. Luckily it never happened but it was always on the back of my mind. I wondered if we were gonna go to war? Was someone going to make a mistake, like we almost did in Cuba. Things like that.
Q. You said that you served on a
destroyer escort. How was it living and working on a destroyer escort?
A. To put it the best way I can describe it, it was a challenge. I came aboard the ship as a twenty one-year-old young man, just out of college. I was in charge of the biggest department on the ship. I had fifty-five men reporting to me. Most of them had a lot more experience in the navy than I did. The ship had a very rigorous training schedule. We were up at five o'clock in the morning and we got in at nine o'clock at night usually, sometimes we spent weeks at sea but most of the time it was up at five o'clock in the morning and in at nine or ten o'clock at night. This meant you didn't get to spend much time with your family. I was married at the time so I didn't see much of my wife. It was a very rigorous duty, the challenges were great. We had a small ship, rough seas and to prepare food under those conditions was extremely difficult. The whole payday was extremely difficult unless we were at port, which was some of the time. The personal problems were many and varied. Again being a twenty-one year old who didn't have any experience, so I relied on my chiefs and the senior people to handle the problems for me.
Q Is anyway that you can describe
some of the problems you had to take care of on the ship?
A. Oh yeah. We had the ship's store robbed while I was on my honeymoon. I was off the ship at the time and that was a big problem. Again I wasn't there but I took all the proper procedures but they weren't followed through by some of the other officers so they caught heck over that. I was subject to motion sickness quite a bit on that ship because it was a small ship and the north Atlantic was a rough place to operate. So I was constantly having motion sickness problems and no medication would help. It was tough to do my job. I really couldn't do too much when you were lying flat on in the bunk because you were sick. So I did most of my work when the ship was at port which meant that I didn't get much time to spend with my wife. On weekends and nights I was doing things that I couldn't do on the ship when it was out at sea.
Q. Where did you meet your wife and
A I met my wife when she was in sixth grade and I was in ninth grade in Pennsylvania. She happened to be living at a house where my uncle rented a place and I went across the street one day to buy some milk because they had cows over there. I never thought anything about it until years later when I decided to look her up. I started to date her and then eventually married her.
Q. How was it being a married man
and having to live on a ship? Was it tough getting home to her and tough contacting
A. I was really tough because of the rigorous training schedule we had. We were on our way at five o'clock in the morning, which meant you were up at four o'clock. You didn't get in until late at night, after dark because that's the type of training we did. So my wife didn't get to see me much except for weekends and like I said I had to spend a lot of weekends on the ship because I had duty. This meant I had to say aboard the ship but she would come and have meals with me but that was it. It was also rough because the ship moved every three-months. For three months we would be in Key West, and we would rent an apartment. Then the ship would move up the coast to Newport, which took about ten days. Then we would get another apartment and we would have to move again. It was very rough, very rough one her. I'm just amazed that she put up with all that because that was very inconvenient. We had no children at the time, which made it good, if we had children then we couldn't have done it. It would just be to tough, we would have to stay home.
Q There was a thing destroyer escort
veterans talked about and it was called shakedown. This was when you first learned
how to use the destroyer escort and everything. Did you have to go through that?
A. Yes, when I first reported aboard the ship it was in dry dock and it was at Philadelphia naval shipyard. It was just finishing up its dry-dock which was usually about six months to a year where they go through the whole ship and rip out some of the old equipment, put new equipment on, fix all the major problems, prepare the engines, etc, etc It just happened that my reporting aboard was just at the end of that period of time. So I spent two weeks there and from there we went to Earle, New Jersey, which is very close to where we live now. We loaded ammunition because the ships unloads all ammunition when its in dry-dock for fear of an explosion because there are welders and fires and everything else going on. So we loaded our ammunition back and fourth which was 40mm and 3inch 50mm and then we took off and went to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. That was were they conducted refresher training and that was where they put the ship through all of it's paces. They check out the guns, we did gun firing, we had sonar tracking, we had depth charge practice, we have torpedo practice, and we did all the different things that the ship was capable of. We did that for like three months and at the end of those three months you are graded and you must past the exam by pretty tough officers that come aboard. They check everything out and once you do that you are back into the fleet again.
Q. Other veterans that I talk to,
when I bring up Japan they say that they didn't even know about Japan. You served
in the Korean War, did you know anything about the Korean conflict?
A. Oh yeah, I knew about. I read about it, I heard about it. I saw message traffic on the ship that referred to it and ships that we involved. I was aware of what was going on.
Q. What were your feelings towards
the war? A lot of people call it the forgotten war, so what are your feelings
towards the war and how people look at the war now?
A Well I think that at the time they weren't aware of just how serious that war was. I think now that you can look back and its easier to say, yeah that was a pretty serious war, we lost a lot of men. We almost lost more when China invaded North Korea and pushed us way back from the chosen area. We lost a lot of marine people there. I was very concerned that we would enlarge and it would take on a broader meaning with the Russians getting involved. The Chinese got involved but I was worried about the Russians getting involved because they had the most powerful navy in the world at that time.
Q. You were an officer on the ship
and I know a lot of people have told me that a lot of officers and crew members
didn't get along. How was your situation on the ship.
A. I thought overall that I got along with the crew pretty well. I didn't have too many disciplinary problems occur. I'm sure that they didn't agree with everything that I told them but again that was my job. You have to tell them to do things that they might not always want to do. Over all though I would say that I got along very well with the crew and never really had any problems with the crew. In those days you couldn't fraternize with the crew, you had to keep your distance from the crew. Today it is much different, I see that there is a lot more closeness and there is a lot more fraternization. In those day is forbidden to even play cards with your crew mates, which I did when nobody was looking. I did that occasionally but I don't think the captain was aware. The distance was there between the crew and the officers but today its much more different.
Q. A lot of people I have talked
to said that back in the 1940's except for the USS Mason, African Americans
really did not serve in the navy unless they were cooks or servants to the officers.
Can you explain an experience with African Americans on your ship?
Q. Yeah, on my ship most of the African Americans were in my department, they were stewards. The stewards were the people that were responsible for taking care of the quarters of the officers. They would make the beds, do the cooking for us, serve the food to us, they would do the dishwashing and things like that. So yeah I did have experience with them and I had very little problems with them. There would be the occasional going ashore, getting drunk, and coming back with the shore patrol because there was a fight or something. On board the ship though they did their job and I was very pleased with the way they operated.
Q. You never had a problem with other
crew members giving them a problem?
A. I wasn't aware of any. There were other African Americans on the ship, but like I said most of them were in my department and I didn't have any problems.
Q. Where were most of the men on
your ship from? Where they from the East coast or where they just scattered
from all over the place?
A. It was a mix. There were some from the Deep South and there were some from the Northeast like me. I would say it was about half and half from the ones that I met and found out where they lived.
Q. So you got a good experience by
learning from where everybody was?
A. Yeah, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, not to many from California though. Most of the time the navy didn't send people across to the other side because they wanted you to be close to where you were living. It cut down on the cost because it cost too much money to ship you across the country. They would probably station your near to where your home was, which in my case was the East Coast. So that was where I spent my time. I'm sure that that's the way they did it, today it may be different but in those days they kept you close to where your were from.
Q. You ended up serving in the Navy
for almost 28 years, what made you decide to do that?
A. Well I first got out of the navy in '54 and I was a little disgruntle about the navy because I didn't get along with my commanding officer at all. He didn't give me good fitness reports, and I thought my career would be over because of that. I probably would have been if I hadn't decided to do anything else. I decided to join the active reserve back in my hometown. Again all my friend were going to drills and you went to drills once a week. Then every summer you went away for two weeks training duty on a ship or aircraft. So I did that and I enjoyed it very much. I enjoyed being in the reserve and I overcame all the adverse reports that my commanding officer wrote. I ended up being a commander which was higher then he was, he was a lieutenant commander when he was my commanding officer. I was surprise by what I had accomplished that. It was mainly because of good grades that I was getting in the reserve, doing the things I was asked to do, doing a good job and my commanding officers in the reserve were giving me excellent fitness reports.
Q. What exactly do you do in the
reserve? What does that mean?
A. In the reserve you drill once a week. It started out once a week, which was about four hours at night. You had like classrooms where you learned all about naval problems, naval traditions, the history of the navy, it was just basically that that was taught to young men like yourself that joined the reserve at 17, 18 and didn't know anything about the navy. We would teach them naval customs, traditions, courtesy, naval code of justice, things like that. It was typical training. In the summer time or whenever you could, you would take two weeks of steady training, spending the whole two weeks on a ship or on a base where you did whatever the commanding officer of that unit wanted you to do. In my case being an officer I would be given a special assignment, I was told to check into this problem, we have been having a problem with this particular thing, work on it and give me a solution in two weeks and that's what I would do. In two weeks I would come back with a written report for him, explaining to him and all of his officers, this is what I think is happening, and this is what I think you should do to correct it. They would thank you and say job well done and then I would be off the ship. I spent a lot of time on different ships doing that. I must have been on 12 or 14 different ships, atomic submarines, aircraft carriers, large ships than a DE, I was on other DE, a patrol boat and then a lot of shore duty. I went to schools, while I was in California I went to four different schools, called naval transportation management schools. There I learned how to load a ship, load hazardous material on a ship, how to stow it on a ship, how to design the stowage for the time the car arrives on the pier to getting it on the ship without causing a problem. That was an interesting course that I took. For four different summers I did that and I also took overall naval supply depot courses down in Norfolk. I did about seven of eight of those down there.
Q. You mentioned that you were on
a submarine. Can you describe the experience of being on a sub?
A. I was on a fleet ballistic missile submarine called the USS Birmingham out of Connecticut. I spent 24 hours on that sub as part of my two-week training at the navy's submarine base. It was most interesting to looking through the tower and through the periscope, tracking an aircraft carrier that we were attempting to sink in an exercise, and they were attempting to sink us by using helicopters. I really enjoyed that, it was one of the highlights of my 28 years to spend that time in the submarine. I wasn't claustrophobic at all, I thought it was a great duty, I wouldn't had of mined having a duty like that. That sub was a beautiful sub and it had a lot more room then WWII subs.
Q. Was there a major size difference
in size and living quarters between the destroyer escort and the sub?
A. No, they were about the same. The quarters were cramped and you had to share a small space. I had five officers in my room and it was probably big enough for two comfortably. Five made it very tight, we had one head between the five and it created problems in the morning when it came time to get up, take showers, etc Submarines were pretty much the same, they didn't have much room either, in fact it was probably less.
Q. What year did you end up getting
out of the service?
A. Active duty, 1954.
Q. What year did you end up leaving
A. I cannot really remember, can we move on?
Q. Did you doing any work in the
navy when Vietnam began?
A. I was training once a week but it actually went from once a week to weekends, one weekend a month. They thought that you couldn't do as much in four hours as you could in a whole 2 days. So now instead of going once every week, we went Saturday and Sunday, once a month and we put two full days in now. We did the same thing, holding classroom training, going out to sea on different ships, participating in two weeks of training duty, and going to school to get up dated on what was going on in the navy. We were updated on the latest armaments the ships had and the latest ships that the Russians had. There was different training of all kinds.
Q. So being in the navy for 28 years
you must of seen technology in the ships increase drastically. Can you describe
some of these changes?
A. Well we went from a gun navy to a missile navy. We went from torpedoes that were almost obsolete compared to acoustical torpedoes, which could do so much more damage. They tracked the ship, the ship could turn and the torpedo would go right after it, as opposed to WWII and the Korean War where torpedoes couldn't do that. So we got much more sophisticated, we had more highly trained people with more schooling. We had smarter young men, which is what we need today.
Q. As you were coming out of the
navy what did you decide to do with your life?
A. Oh my civilian career. Well while I was going to drills I took a job took a job with a corporation, which has since changed its name to Unisense Corporation. At that time I was selling adding machines, cash registrars, book keeping machines, and things like that until computers came along. Then sold one of the first computers ever built and I did that for many, many years and then became a manager for the company and I had different management positions with the company. In West Virginia I was the manager, in New Jersey I was the manager and I had duty at the home office which at that time was in Detroit, Michigan. So I had two years of duty out there working as the director of local and state government marketing in the United States. Basically my last couple of years was selling computers, making presentations, demonstrating the computer and what it could for somebody and helping to get it installed.
Q. Since you served 28 years in the
navy, do you think the overall experience made you a better person?
A. Absolutely. It gave me experience as a young man that very few people ever had at 21 years of age. I was in charge of a huge department, like I said. I was responsible for making sure that 175 men were fed everyday, or bathed twice a week, or whatever it was. It made you mature real rapidly and it helped me with my career.
Q. Did your service in the navy effect
your children? Did they end up going into the Navy?
A. Well I had one that ended up going into the military. I have three children. My oldest son never went into the military, my daughter never went in to the military but my youngest son didn't want to go to college so he considered going into the service for awhile but he wanted to deal with airplanes. I said fine, we'll go to the airforce so we went to the airforce but for what he wanted there was a two wait. I said we're not going to wait two years your gonna go to the navy, they have airplanes. He thought I wanted the navy because I was in the navy but I said I wanted the navy because they have airplanes too, there are airplanes on carriers. So we went to the navy in Red Bank, New Jersey and I talked to the chief there and I didn't know him before then. I asked him what he could do for my son and he said he could get him into the navy in one week. I said chief, where can I buy you the best dinner in town? So I took him and his wife out to the best dinner in town and he got into school. He went to school for almost a year to learn how to become a electronic aviation technician to work on the intruder which is no longer an active airplane but at that time it was very active plane. They used it quite a bit in the Vietnam War and after. He spent four years in and then he re-enlisted for another year and a half because he loved it so much. Now he is the daytime manager for the Air Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington. He stayed in the reserve for awhile but he never went to drills like I did. I tell him that was a big mistake and now he is regretting it because he already had six years in active duty and all he needed was 14 more in the reserve and then he would get pension like I get. But he never did, so its too late now because he is out already.
Q. With all the problems going on
in the world today with Iraq and Bin Laden, what are your feelings towards these
situations being a veteran?
A. Well I hope we don't go to war, number one. I think that is a mistake if we do. There has to be other ways to solve the problem without going to war and risking all these people's lives. We don't gain anything from a war, as far as I can see. We had all these wars such as WWII and Vietnam and we still have wars, we haven't solved the problem yet of how to stop fighting with each other. So I don't think we should go to war with Iraq, like we did during the Persian Gulf war. Unfortunately I don't have that much say about it, so whatever the president and congress want to do is what they will do but I don't agree about going to war. Pursue the terrorists though, absolutely just like what we are doing now. Go after them where ever they are, root them out, get rid of them but I don't think they have to attack Iraq to make this happen.
Q. Other veterans that I have talked
said that 9/11 hit them really hard because they had fought so long and served
their country and this ended up happening. How did you feel when you saw the
A. Devastated. I had just seen those towers two weeks before. I was on a boat out in the Hudson River going by those towers. We had just taken pictures of them and its very coincidental because two weeks later they were gone. I was devastated and then I realized that this would not be an easy battle to fight because the trade towers were blown up once before. They were telling us that they we're going to get that building and they sure got it but the first time they blew up it underneath, it didn't destroy the building but a lot of people were hurt and killed then. Then they came back and did it again and we were not prepared and I don't know why, I'm still trying to figure that one out. It's a very tough battle because we don't have an enemy you could put your hands on like you do in war. These guys are silent and they have been in the U.S. for years and years. You don't know who they are and you gotta hope we catch them before they can do more damage.
Q. Serving in the navy and reserve
for 28 years is a long time. How was it adjusting back to the civilian life
to where you didn't have orders to do any more?
A. It wasn't all that different because I ended up being a manager pretty quickly in my company so again I had to led people and give orders. It was a little different because it wasn't a military organization but I still had an organization in which I was responsible for. I had to hire and fire, I didn't do that in the navy of course, the hiring and firing was done by someone else. I had a direct them and I had to see that they got their job done properly and that they did what they were suppose to and on time. That why I say the navy experience helped me very much because I had to do the same thing in civilian life. It was a little different because I had pressure in civilian life, I had quotas to meet and expenses to control. It wasn't quite that defined in the navy, although I did have expenses to control in the navy too but in the civilian life it was much more difficult. I had to hear from my boss every week that we were spending too much here, you can't spend that, you have to get rid of people, just like today down sizing was going on all the time. So the two were related and yet they were a little different.
Q. Serving in the navy for 28 years
means you must have had met a lot of people. Do you still keep in touch with
A. Oh yes, my best friend I spent after graduating college and getting my commission I was sent to a 6 month school in Bayonne, New Jersey, a supply course school. That's where I learned to be a supply officer and it took 6 months of training to learn that job. While I was attending the school I was looking for quarters because the navy had no room at the base. So I answered a news paper ad and in answering it by coincidence another young man like myself, same as me, attending the same school, went to the same officer's course that I did although we didn't know each other at the time, ended up at this man's door at the same. We decided that we would share the room together and to this day he is still one of my best friends. I was asked to be best man at his wedding but I couldn't at the time and regret that very much. I still keep in touch, every year we go visit and he visits us and he was the closest friend that I had in the navy. He ended up being a commander, the same as me. He was also a supply officer on my sister ship in my squadron. So we ended up spending a lot of time together on active duty and we still do.
Q. Is there any other lasting memories
or people from your navy years that stand out in your mind?
A. Yeah. I told you that I have two weeks training duty at Norfolk and I'm a tennis player so it happened to be the Saturday and Sunday between my two weeks and my wasn't with me that particular summer. So I went to the tennis courts which were right behind where all the admirals lived and that's where all the beautiful tennis courts were. So I had my racquet and while I was there, there were two older gentlemen and two younger men playing and one of the young men said dad, I have to leave and he left. I was hoping that they would ask me to play and of course they did and asked me to join them. To make a long story short, I ended up playing with an admiral who was, when the Vietnam War was over we had one man who was over there for 9 ½ years in jail, in solitary confinement, his name was Jeremiah Denton, that was him. I didn't realize it at the time. He came off that plain weighing 90 pounds, I never forget because I saw it on television, he came off the plane and jumped down, kissed the ground and said God bless America. I didn't recognize him because he was all muscle when I saw him. So I met his family and he went on to become a two-term senator from Alabama. Jeremiah Denton, I think he is still alive. Of course he made admiral, meanwhile he was commander of the Naval War College down in Virginia. He made an impression on me and I invited him to visit me, I lived in Fort Wayne, Indiana at the time and I said if he was ever out that way I would love for him to talk to a club that I was an officer of. I never saw him afterward though but I watched his career and he went on like I said to become a senator from Alabama. Terrific guy, I met his wife and his whole family. On television there was a story about his life because he was a very extraordinary man and it was called "When Hell was in Session". Hale Hobart played his part and I watched it twice and told my family that that was the man I told you I met, not Hale Hobart of course but the man, his wife and dog, those were all the people I met. That made an impression on me.
Q. You said that you traveled a lot
all over the country. Did you move to those areas?
A. Yeah they moved me nine times.
Q. How did you react to that? How
did you adapt to moving to all these different areas?
A. I adapted good but I'm sure my family didn't adapt to well. The kids were not to happy. They made friends and all of the sudden you would have to pull up roots and start all over again. I'm sure it was very difficult for them. For me it was the same job but just in a different area, doing it on the same equipment, same rules and regulations for me but for them it was a whole new way of life. New schools, new friends, new this, I never forget that one time we moved, my daughter had three months to graduate from high school in Indiana. I asked her to stay there with a friend, graduate and then come out to meet us but she decided not to and ended up graduating from another high school having been there for only three months. That was difficult, very difficult but that was what she wanted. Recently she came to me and now she is 40 something years of age and she said to me that "things were tough when you made us move", just like I mentioned about giving up boyfriends, and giving up these friends, "but now that I think about it, it wasn't so bad, I'm glad that we did because now when I move I look forward to it, I take advantage of the new areas, I'm not afraid to move". But how do you explain that to a seventeen-year-old? Now that they are 40, they understand and I'm glad that she feels that way and I'm sure the rest of my kids feel that way too.
Q. When was the last time that you
stepped foot on a ship?
A. The Slater and also the USS New Jersey. The New Jersey is here in Camden, and I belong to a navy league and we went down for a trip there just like we did for the Slater. It was about two weeks later that we went to the Slater. Those were the last two ships that I was on.
Q. How did you like the USS Slater?
A. I enjoyed it, it was like going back fifty years in time. That ship was very much like my ship. My ship was the same class as that one. I enjoyed it very much, I didn't even know that the Slater was there until I joined DESA. That was how I found out. I'll probably go up again and take my grandson when he gets older, right now he is only seven and lives in Florida but when he gets to 9 or 10 and comes up here to visit us, I'll probably take him up there to go see it. Give him a chance to see what his granddaddy was on.
Q. Do you guys have reunions?
A. I wish we did, the ship had one but I didn't know about it until after I had joined DESA. I called him on the phone, the man that had the reunion but he said they were not going to have anymore, I was devastated when I heard that. He said there weren't enough people what whatever it was, I told him I would be glad to help him, I'll do whatever you want me to do, I'll call people but it looks like its not gonna happen. I keep watching the DESA newspaper to see if there is anymore scheduled but I doubt there will be because we are getting older and they are dying off in a rapid rate. I love to do that, to go to a reunion. I probably wouldn't know anybody because the ship was in service for quite a long time. The two years that I was aboard on it was a small window of the 15 or 20 years that it was on active duty. Most of the people would probably be from WWII and times like that, which I wouldn't know. I would like to go anyway just to see what they did and what the ship did.
Q. Did you any history of your ship,
the destroyer escort that you served on?
A. Did I know the history? Oh yeah
Q. Can you tell me a little about
it? What it did during WWII and how it got it's name?
A. It was named after an enlisted man, Blair, Eugene Blair. He was killed in action at Pearl Harbor and got the Silver Star. What he did, I don't know the specifics but he did something very heroic to get the Silver Star and the ship was named after him. It was commissioned right near the end of the Second World War, 1945. It went to Japan, from what I read and it was to participate in the invasion of Japan but of course the war came to an end when they dropped the Atomic bomb. Therefore the ship never really had to participate in that battle during the Second World War. After that it was put into mothballs after the Second World War. Then the Korean War came and it was activated, taken out of mothballs and that was when I got on it. After that it was a training ship for a long period of time, then it was put into a shipyard for upgrading. They made it a DER, a DER is a radar picket ship and these were ships that be out with the carriers, 50, 20, 30, 40, 50 miles away from the carrier task force as an early warning ship. If planes or missiles were coming in, they could warn the other ships in time so that they could react to it. After that it was taken out of duty and sold for scrap metal, they sold it to somebody so now it no longer exists. I think that happened in '59 or something like that.
Q. Do you think serving in the navy
back when you did and serving in the navy now is different?
A. Yeah I think they are not as strict as they were then. Of, course then we didn't have men and women serving on ship together, we have that today, never then. Women were never on a ship as part of a crew but today they are on carriers. Today women are fighter pilots, we never had that then. It such a whole different lifestyle now that women are aboard, there are separate quarters for women on ships. It was bad enough then but now it has to be even worse having to take away some of the quarters to give to the few women on the ship. Of course they also have more sophisticated weapons now, such as better missiles and missile launchers, and tomahawk missiles. We never had any of that so we need much smarter people, much more highly trained people. It tough to hold those people because those people are smart enough to get a better job on the outside. They can make a lot more money than being in the military. Those in the military has a real problem with recruiting and retaining good people. Recruiting and retaining is a real big problem for all services, not just the navy.
Q Now that you are retired, what
do you find yourself doing to keep yourself occupied?
A. I play tennis every day. Travel, we just came back from Europe and Australia, we were just there two weeks ago. We travel a lot, we take a lot of vacations all over the world. We go to Florida every winter, which we are going to in a few weeks. We go for the whole winter and play tennis down there, seven days a week in the morning. I try to keep in shape. So we travel there and take trips all over Florida. Are grandson lives in Florida so we get to see him a lot, we don't get to see him now of course. We really look forward to that, he lives in Tampa, which is 30 minutes away from where we stay. So we do that and they belong to boat clubs so they have a small, they take out a fishing boat and we go out boating a lot. We're teaching how to be a sailor on one of the small boats. It's a great life, I enjoy it very much. We're both in pretty good shape and health wise, so we do what we can.
Q While you were in the Navy and
when you got out of the navy, did you find that your kids asked you about what
you did in the navy?
A. When I was in the navy they did but when I got out into the reserve they didn't. By that time they were married and had their own careers and taking care of their own kids and so on. When I was in though, they were still kids, yeah they wanted to know what I did and I took them aboard the ship. Later on I took them to other ships, I took them to the Intrepid and took them there, my son, I'm sure that got him interested in what I did.
Q. Two more questions. A lot of veterans
say this and I posed this to the other veteran I interviewed. A lot of kids
my age really don't understand what veterans went through or serving in the
military because we never had a war like Korea or like Vietnam. The only thing
I ever really had was what happened on 9/11 but a lot of kids my age don't grasp
the situation and grasp what you and other men did for this country. Do you
feel that way that a lot of kids don't respect the veterans and what they did
for this country?
A. Well I don't know if I don't feel that they don't respect us. I just marched in recently in a parade with the DESA group and I never saw so many people saying thank you in my life and there were young people there to, not just older people. I think more and more they realize. I didn't have that much hardship like they did in the Second World War and in the Vietnam War that was terrible what they had to go through. I think that young people are slowly realizing that there is more to it than just the glory day and having fun on a ship and stuff like that. There are a lot of dangers involved and a lot of people killed and a lot of people hurt during the wars. More so now than I think a few years ago, since 9/11 I think it started. It's a dangerous world we live. If you ever wanted to read a good book about what war is about, read that right there, Band of Brothers. I just finished that and its an excellent book. It a story about the Screaming Eagles, the guys at Bastionge were surrounded by the Germans and its all about that group that held them off. Quite a story.
Q. Did you ever see that movie on
HBO, Band of Brothers?
A. No I haven't, I don't get HBO but I'm looking forward to see that. They guys are so today, even today they are just like brothers because of what they went. Horrible stuff.
Q. What are your feelings towards
the movies about wars like Vietnam and WWII? Do you think they are a good thing?
A. I really don't have any feelings. I watch them and I'm interested in seeing them. The Longest Day, I enjoyed that very much. Saving Private Ryan I enjoyed that one. I also read a lot of books, I read a lot of stuff. I really don't have any feelings though, like I said I'm just interested in them.
Q. Last question. The project that
I am doing right now where we are interviewing Veterans to get their story,
How do you feel towards a project like this?
A. I think it is excellent, its great what you are doing. I admire the cause that supports it, I admire the fact that you take the time to do it. I never thought I have a chance to do something like this in my lifetime, its great, keep it up. I hope you get something out of it too by doing it. Is anything going to get published. I would like to get my hands on something someday so I can look at this. Give it to my grandson.
It will be at the Library of Congress
and there will be something on the internet.
I would like to thank you very much for this interview.
Thank you for taking the time and coming here. It has been a pleasure meeting you and I hope you have everything you need.
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