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|Interview with Mr.
December 2, 2002
For the Naval Historical Foundation
This oral history interview of Mr. Alfred Marker is taking place on December 2, 2002 at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, New Jersey. This interview is for the Oral History Project for HS 298-01 (Oral History) at Monmouth University. I am Christopher Ciminiello, a student at Monmouth University. I will be conducting the interview. Alfred Marker served in World War II. He was discharged with the rank of Third Class Petty Officer. He served in the following areas: the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean.
Question: Mr. Marker, before the war, what was it like living in Highlands, New Jersey?
Answer: It was very pleasant. It was around when I was a young boy, about 1200 people; there were seashore resorts, mostly fishing of lobsters, fishing of all types, no licenses; you could go when the water was clean. It was very pleasant. We had one of the famous lighthouses in America. It's the Twin Lights of Nava skink. I don't believe there's a duplicate of it all over the United States. In fact, one time many, many years ago I was in Liverpool when I was in the navy, and this Englishmen said to me, "Where do you come from?" I said, "The seashore in New Jersey." And he said, "What's the name," and I said, "The Highlands." "Oh yeah, I know the Highlands!" And I figured there was a joke coming. And he said, "You've got a twin light up on the hill." The reason I know that is that was a navigation thing, two lights, twins. Then they went to timing, and then they went to blinkers. Then they went to Marconi, also. You should go to the Highlands lighthouse.
Q: Did you live there immediately after the war was over?
A: Yes. I should say, first of all, I was a local person. I was born on 60 Sea Drift Avenue in the town, not in a hospital like today. A doctor who was a family doctor that I knew when I grew up, and a midwife delivered me. I was an eight-month baby, but mom said she was married six years, so I had no worries. My grandfather, he was a Dane from Baunhome (Pause). When the doctor looked at me because I was premature, and only weighed five pounds, he said, "You'd better get the priest because he's not going to last." But we're here today talking, and I did last, and God has been very good to me in my whole life. I can site many things that I felt were miracles.
Q: Since there were no televisions, what was your favorite radio station to listen to? It doesn't have to be a radio station. It can be a broadcast, some type of Sports Broadcast.
A: No, I was never sport inclined. I was more into scouting, boating, water, and stuff like that. Things like the Lone Ranger, and I don't remember which one but he had silver cup red, W-EAF, W-NBC, about four or five major stations. Believe it or not, a lot of people didn't have radios.
Q: Did you have any relatives that served in World War I?
A: My father.
Q: Can you recollect any of his experiences?
A: He had a very bitter experience. He was injured in Camp Dix when he was in basic training, and they gave him, well anyway. He was injured in his back, and through other means they tried sabotage them by poisoning the watermelons. They slept in fields where it was corn a week before. My dad never went out of this country, and he suffered all his life from the injuries that he had.
Q: The impact of World War II sparked a great deal of nationalism for the United States. How do you think that nationalism effected the production of war goods, and do you think that nationalism was one of the major reasons we won the war?
A: Logistics is why we won the war, patriotism, and the living human beings that won the war. But you never win a war. It's when you can't sit down, and peacefully come to a conclusion that both can agree to. And in World War II, there wasn't a house that didn't have a little flag with a star in it or many. They represented how many of their family members were in service at that time. I wanted to go in but I was seventeen, and I was the only child, so my folks wouldn't sign for me.
But Highlands is a very beautiful little town. It's a seashore town, and it has three main values. One is, it faces the Shrewsbury River. At the far end, which is south of us it turns into the Navasink, which was named after the Navasink Indians. Across from us is Sandy Hook, which is historic, very historic, and I can go into more detail, and please visit there. My father-in-law, my wife's father, from 1930-1940 was weather bureau man at Sandy Hook. His name was Clarence Hans.
Q: Did either the genocide committed by Adolf Hitler against the European Jews or the attacks on Pearl Harbor motivate you to join the armed forces?
A: I come home on a Sunday afternoon, and my neighbor next door to me said, "The Japs had bombed Pearl Harbor." Being it was so close to Fort Hancock, I had been familiar with and had known many army personnel. I remember one fellow, Mr. Smith, that's not a phony name his name is Mr. Smith. Anyhow, he said that they had so many ships in Pearl Harbor you could walk across them, that they had them too close together. Should I put in a personal comment? I think Franklin Roosevelt knew Pearl Harbor was going to be bombed, and I'll tell you why. There's a man right now that is a music teacher; his name is Elliot. And Elliot's father, and another signal call men was on one of the high points in Hawaii with the newest equipment, at that time, which we were forbidden to talk about when I went in, was called radar. And he picked up the Jap planes coming into Pearl Harbor, he reported it, and they did nothing about it, and that is a fact (Very adamant). George Elliot is in Florida, he's still alive, and his son is a music director in the local high school.
Q: Would you say that the attack on Pearl Harbor motivated you and possibly the rest of the country more than the genocide committed by Adolf Hitler?
A: Yes, yes, and I'll tell you why. Pearl Harbor was an American base; it was Americans that got killed there. It was the old deceit thing; two men being in Washington talking of peace, and the carriers off of Hawaii. I really believe that Franklin Roosevelt did this; this is not a political opinion. But you couldn't stir up the American people, like you had with the Twin Towers. The whole United States, the ladies that were the home makers, the mothers, and the grandmothers; when their family members got into the service they either wrapped bandages, worked in factories, or manufactured the logistics that we couldn't have done without, we couldn't have done without it all. When we went into Normandy, we had over five thousand vessels, and they were filled with people and supplies. We used to send too many supplies to England, we used to kid them, and say, "If you'd cut the balloons loose, the whole thing would sink!" It's the truth; I never saw so many in my life. Before we went into Normandy, there were one thousand planes made a day, all the way over going over they were getting these radio broadcasts. Hitler was just like the other germs and diseases that effect mankind. He climbed out of nowhere, and he went to nowhere. You can't condemn a country and people (pause) for (pause) the war. It was people like him; the people he chose to take over the country. My great grandmother came from Hanover. I didn't know it; I had nothing against any of the people. In fact, I just had a Japanese lady who married an American Irishmen named Horann, she died about a month ago, and I met her in 1966, and my wife (laughs) thought she was Korean. She was a lovely lady. One of her children is a doctor; he's a chiropractor. The daughter is in computers in California. She comes to see us, she grew up with my daughter, and she's like one of the family, and she was half Irish and half Japanese, I never knew which half.
Q: What was your knowledge of the rise of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini in the 1930's?
A: I think he gave the German people false hope to recover from World War I because anyone that's defeated is generally stripped, disgraced, walked on, or mocked either way. Mussolini, I didn't know too much about. Mussolini was typical of a lot of leaders. I've known a lot of Italian people in my time, I've never learned the language, but I can still use my hands (Laughs). Anyhow, the one thing he did that they liked him for was that he made trains run. Did you ever hear that? He made the trains run on time. I call it the inverted triangle. A triangle starts with a big top and down to a point. The point isn't generally the thing with the power, but the head becomes the big thing. He had become bloated with himself. I don't know if you can look back through the other side some people say you do, you don't, but look at the glory how he went out (Seems to be amazed) Damn shame, but the trains were on time. And I'll tell you, if you ever commuted that was important, that's important. The thing I had against him the most was that he went into Ethiopia. Guys running around with spears and stuff like that. Early civilizations that sprung out of Christianity, they say that (pause). Heidi Cilasi was related back through the Christian era. I don't know that too well. But, here we are in Long Branch, New Jersey, and in Long Branch if you take a telephone directory you would think you were in Smithtown. It has a lot of Italian families that live here, some of them from generations, and some long before me. I only came here in 1900, and my grandfather from Denmark, he came over in 1890, he came over in a sailing vessel. He came down here because he was working for someone who owned the whole island. He owned Sandy Hook and all the hills of Navasink, from the Navasink River to the Shrewsbury River; he got it from the Indians. My grandfather worked for him for nine years out in his place. It was called Portland because it looked like Portland England. The American Indians that lived in this area lived within five miles of where we lived up on top of a hill. As kids if you'd go out there you'd find arrowheads, different artifacts, and things like that. And he used to say, the Indians used to come down and bang on his front door when they wanted something, so he had the head farmer put a cowbell out, and he'd ring the cowbell, and give them what they wanted.
Q: What was your knowledge of the start of World War II on September 1, 1939 in Europe?
A: I believe Neville Chamberlain believed in what he said, but he was misled, and I think one of the greatest statesmen and diplomats that I can think was Winston Churchill, and about eight years ago I stood at his grave because it was his voice on the radio that held the British together. They were down on their knees. In fact, when I went to boot camp in 1943 in Newport, Rhode Island, we had dummy rifles because the United States government gave them all their rifles to protect their homeland. Roosevelt was smart, I think he got us into the war because maybe that would have gotten us out of the Depression, which I believe was the result, but of course it got us in debt. When you take Churchill and Roosevelt, and they worked together on these things, they were losing ships faster than they could build them or get them. The German submarines were killing us; right off our own cost here they sunk a lot of ships. If you get a map, you'd find it. Roosevelt gave them, what he called, reverse Lend Lease, and I get a kick out of that. He gave them fifty, four stacker destroyers that we had in Norfolk, which was like giving them a transfusion. Also, when talking of DE's, there was five hundred of the DE's made. They were smaller, they were around three hundred and five foot long, and they had many advantages. I went over on a Convoy, and thank God they were on our perimeter. The United States government gave Canada and Britain DE's, and they called them Corvettes.
Q: Where were you when you heard of the attack on Pearl Harbor?
A: I had come home from visiting my grandmother, which was over on Heartstone's Woods, which I always thought was utopia because it was completely different. It was quiet, it had many advantages, and I spent most of my youth with my grandmother in the summer. She was a deaf mute so there wasn't too much noise going on, but I learned to talk sign language because I couldn't spell when I was too young. I came home, and the neighbor next store who worked at the station hospital in Fort Hancock said, "Did you hear they bombed Pearl Harbor?" And that's all you got on the radio that happened. You know, there are several stories about Pearl Harbor. The military got word about the bombing coming after the bombing was over. I think my wife had relatives that were out there, not on the Arizona; I've never been there. The Nevada was with us. Phrase that over again.
Q: Where were you when you heard of the attack on Pearl Harbor?
A: Okay, I said I came home. In 1941 I was sixteen going on seventeen, and they wouldn't take you unless you were seventeen and they signed for you. I always wanted to be in the Navy. I remember, pictures years ago of Jimmy Cagnie and his big old dread locks like the Texas. They could make about eight knots, twelve knots, full speed sown a hill. They were the utopia, but the thing that saved us were the aircraft carriers, the aircraft was marvelous.
Q: After Pearl Harbor, how had your opinion of the Japanese changed?
A: There was an inherent feeling of anger on the way it was done, and that we, to the best of my knowledge, never attacked someone without being attacked first. I personally feel that when the settlers came to America they did the Indians an injustice. I've met a few Indians, and they were full-blooded Indians. Between the service, and thirty-five years working at Fort Monmouth I've met people from all over the world. In fact, one day there was this girl typing, and I was ready to see the boss, and I said to her, "I hate to tell you but you've got your fingers on the wrong keys." Oh no she said, "The interpreter rewrote the lesson on signal equipment, this is Vietnamese." (Coughs)
Q: Do you think that after the attack, you felt anger?
A: Anger, and I know it to be a fact but our west coast was not defended, our navy was leveled to zilch. They didn't know it or they would have done it faster, and come right over here. But, what they did to Japanese families because I hear it on television today, "I am an American." An American is a person who likes freedom and the opportunity to make what he can for his life within the framework of law in the country he lives in. What they did to the Japanese families was wrong. And then when I heard one time when they moved the Japanese farmers, they were great farmers, especially in tearing, and things like they did in China and stuff like that. They went around the Dakotas; they had settlements, and they kept them like you would keep cattle. They brought sugar beets with them. They never grew sugar beets before, a great producer of sugar.
Q: How did that attack on Pearl Harbor compare to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon?
A: In the time of Pearl Harbor, December 7th around 8 o'clock in the morning, we were a nation at peace. We had the ability to defend ourselves, and we trusted too much, and they took advantage of that trust, they felt that was our weakness. But our trust, our faith in whatever faith we believe in, that there is someone bigger over all of us helped an awful lot. But the type of attack on the Trade Center, and I saw it on TV, I'll never forget that when those planes hit that building because I've been in there with my brother, my brother-in-law, and my daughter-in-law, Annie, used to work right in the Trade Center there, and she had quit I think a year before or she would have been in it. The nurse in the hospital here at Monmouth Medical, Joan, lost her brother-in-law. I was in there for keno therapy, and the people that I would listen to when I was having coffee in the hospital. It reached the fingers of the thing that happened to the trade building was not an attack on America, but again on the freedom, the ability for people to get along if you think of how many different people were in those buildings.
Interviewer's comment: What America stands for.
Yes, definitely. All, except one of my grandparents came from Europe, and I have a little peace of paper at home that is signed by the governor to give a recommendation to my grandfather, Otto Alfred Marker, and Alfred is a family name all the way down. It said, wishing him well, and that he would be a good person to employ in his new adventure to employ in the Americas. Such a phraseology, in the Americas. And this little island is twenty by thirty miles; it's in the middle of the Baltic. It's been occupied by many Norsemen that came under Denmark in the year 500. I was in a fort in the church that was built in 1100 on that island. Think back, when we discovered America in 1492. So, America today will only be salvaged by letting people use their rights under our constitutional government, use their rights of freedom of speech, and freedom to do as they wish as long as they don't do onto others to take away their freedom. That's the bad part.
Q: Out of all the military branches you could have joined, why did you pick the United States Navy?
A: (Cough) I went to Washing DC with a friend of the family, and then I went down to Dumphries, Virginia, which is just outside of Camp Laguna, I'm trying to think, it's a marine base. My cousins had a hotel there, a Stage Coach Inn. She took me out down in a Ford, 1940 Station Wagon. She knew the people from the base because a lot of them came up and stayed at the Stage Coach Inn. There were three uniforms standing at the gate and she said my cousin here wants to know what he should do, which service. One guy, a marine said, "Don't go in the marines," the other guy said, "Don't go in the army," the third guy said, "Stay home." I said you guys should get together. Anyhow, I always wanted the Navy. The Navy to me is like an arm on a giant, the United States, and without our navy, we couldn't have protected this country. I know a man from south Jersey, who put the flag up at Okinawa, and he was a marine. We didn't know how to fight, but we had that will to overcome the bad that had gotten into the world that would sit in peoples heads, greed, mostly its greed. The biggest problem in the world today are the haves and the have not. Years ago I went up to Stony Point on the Hudson River there were eighty vessels tied together over there, well they could have been shipped around the United States, they could have been used for homeless people, they could have been used as emergency vessels, and they could have been used as hospitals. But no, they scrapped them because the guy that built the ships didn't want them getting around. That's where the greed comes in. But the American people gave us the supplies we needed, and moral support.
Q: After the attack on Pearl Harbor, did you feel obligated to join the United States military forces or were you drafted into service?
A: I was drafted into service, not of my wishing but of the way they ran things. Like, a few years back, I'm now seventy eight, when I turned sixty two I had to take out Medicare. They didn't ask me, they told me, and that's what they did. So, I asked about joining up, and they said, "Here are the papers if you get your folks to sign it, you can go in." So, they didn't sign anything. I was still in high school, by the way. I left high school in my third year (pause). Rephrase it.
Q: After the attack on Pearl Harbor, did you feel obligated to join the United States military forces or were you drafted into service?
Okay. They locked down the enlistments that you had to go through the draft board, and then they would forward you into the services where they needed the human resources, as far as that goes. So, on August 25, 1943, my buddy Joe Dean, who lives in Florida right now, and I hope to see him before Christmas. We went up to Newark, and we went into the army up there, and we were examined, and found to be A1, as they called them A, B,C,D. I always said I wanted to be 36V, and they said what's that? In case of an invasion of the country, I'd like to get out of here with the women and children (Laughs). They said, "We don't have that." I throw in a little humor, I'm sorry. Anyway, they examined us, and they said we passed. This captain said to me, "Marker, do you have any questions?" I said, "Yeah, I don't want to go to the army." He said, "Why?" I said, "Because since I've been a kid I was a scout, almost an eagle, I was one badge short; I went to sea scouts; I live near the water, I'm water oriented, and I want to go into the Navy." So he took the stamp, (Banging on the table, motioning in a stamp like fashion), and stamped the papers, and said see the awning down the end of the hall. I had to volunteer to go in the navy, but I was put into through the draft to go into the navy. And they were very nice to us. 6 o'clock we said, "I do," and they gave us hell at 6:05 because now we belonged to them.
Q: Where did you do your naval training?
A: Newport, Rhode Island at Quonset Point.
Q: Can you describe a typical day of training?
A: Sleep is imagination so don't look forward to too much. Your soul belongs to God; the rest of you belong to the petty officer in charge. We didn't even have a chief, but we had a third class boats men mate (Says name that is incomprehensible), pretty good to remember that far. We had seven weeks of training in luau of six months because they wanted to get you out there in the fleet. So, what did you do? We got the treat; we got the cruisers; we got these luxurious hammocks to sleep in. Did you ever sleep in a hammock? Anyhow, we walked into this empty building, except it had long poles, these big pipe poles, and this one fellow showed us how to hang a hammock, and we hung the hammocks. You weren't allowed to get in them until 7 o'clock at night, but you could sit in the grass or anyplace you want. 10 o'clock was lights out, 5 o'clock the lights come on, and you hit the deck. If you don't hit the deck the time the chief goes through he just took a knife and cut the end of the hammock, and you get out of bed very quickly (laughs). It was a great experience. They gave us many shots; I think they hollowed out screwdrivers at that time because they didn't have enough needles. They'd hit you on both sides with them; they give us all those shots. When the tide came in some of the guys fell out and got injured. They taught us discipline. Within a half hour of getting up, everything had to be tucked away, and the building had to look like the day you walked into it. You'd go outside, and if it was cold out they let you wear a bathing suit, no sweats, and no shirts, but shoes, and they'd run you for an hour. And this big, heavy guy would run you out of the base, and up into the mountain land, and the first thing you know. It was really funny, we were sweating him out, and we didn't find out until a week later that he had been a wrestler, a boxer, and a physical lug that you couldn't wear out. He could run backwards as fast as we can run forwards. They taught us many things. They fixed our teeth completely. In fact, I got my teeth fixed at two in the morning. The dentist worked around the clock. Medical, I didn't need any medical. They taught you seamanship. First of all, they taught you how to be a militarian. When you got out of boot camp, you were no longer a civilian. You felt you were part of the team. You remember seeing all the guys from marching; you remember when there was maybe five thousand guys on the kid's field there, drilling, and the manual of arms you would do to the music of the band. They took you on rifle range. There would be a big marine standing right at your ankles if you didn't lay him out the way he wanted. Newport was good training. I went back there many years ago.
Q: What was the name of your ship and can you describe a typical day on the ship?
A: The ship I was on was the USS Neversail because I went to Boston for five months to become a Radio Operator, stationed in Backbay, hotel Summerset. When we were ready to graduate, they gave us an option, and this is something a lot of people don't get. I picked DE, PT, and Land Base. They didn't give it to you, unless you can meet the requirements for subs. I got sick, and I was confined to the hospital down here at Hancock. When I went back my group had busted up, and most of them went to New Rooten Heights, Connecticut, which is not a ship. It's near Stamford near New Britain; do you know that area (Coughs)? You were put in a unit that was made up of fifty navy, seven officers, and forty-three men. We were trained to be communicators, and used in the Pacific, and they dumped fifty of us there to set up, operate, maintain, and defend. They even gave us carbon guns. While I was there, one day they said so and so go to mess hall, so we went to mess hall, they had the pharmacist mates, they gave us shots, and they said, "Guys, you're shipping out in the morning, gather up everything and leave it outside the docks, and send you to Lido Beach, Long Island. There's a hotel out here, but we didn't get in a hotel. They built barracks and stuff there, but I don't know if it still exists. Ten days preparation for overseas, and they did everything from rifle range, two times over the obstacles, and chemical warfare when they make you take off the mask and go through that damn gas. But it was good training. Then they issued us complete greens, including a belt, a green jacket, green overalls or coveralls, and the idea was that you couldn't tell us from the marines. We got the scanner, the pop, the sailor helmets, and they assigned us rifles. They did very nice. They launched us out to the railroad station; they put us on the train that goes from Penn Station that goes to another train. We went out to New York Meadows, stayed out there for a while, and then went into Jersey City, and was launched into a Ferry boat down to Bayonne, went alongside of the dock, and there was a ship, the USS Ariel, A-R-I-E-L. She was a navy supply transport. All our viewers were all piled up there, so if you could read your name, you picked it up, and you went over. That was the first ship I was on. That ship, flew out the next morning, she was anchored out in the bay, and there was a little fellow from Staten Island, he said hey Marker, "This is where I live, over there." Anyhow, the next morning, about 3 o'clock, you could hear the engines turn over. They locked us in because sometimes people like to go swimming at night, they told us. And they said, "If you go swimming, you'd be shot." They would do that, it's hard to think it. Anyhow, in the morning, about 8 or 9 o'clock, we were out in the Atlantic Ocean, my mother who worked in the station hospital as a cook, I told my father, we're leaving, but don't tell mom, so he didn't tell mom. But she stood on the porch in the Highlands, and watched the convoy go out, it gets you in hear, you know. (Pounds his heart) So I think we were out there ten or twelve days, I can bring it down closer, we went across. I just found it out from my friend in Washington, his name is Smith, and that's not a made up name, he's in College Point on the Beltway, and he supplies me a lot of things. I found out in 2000 that we were on a forty-seven-ship convoy. Most of them were gasoline and oilers. Jesus, those things were around us all the time, and you'd hear these boom, boom like somebody hit the ship. That's the DE's coming in and dropping the depth charges because the wolf packs would follow you. Luckily we did not lose our ships, and we got into Scotland about twelve days later. In there, I've never seen so many ships in all my life; it was an enormous harbor. The British Isles does not have docking facilities for even the Queen Mary. Anyhow, we laid there until they bring in lighters, small things that go down below deck; there were other ways of getting in. They sent us into a base, and we stayed there, and we left about the fifteenth of June 1944. And I'll always remember something from church, "those that are first will be last and those that are last will be first." They must have thought that we wanted to get up front where we could see, and we didn't put in any request, but that's where they put us. Anyhow, they put on a train; the distance is about from here to Florida from Scotland to England. We were assigned way back in March to go on the DE because I've got copies of the orders. I've got copies of everyone of our rank and serial number. We went on the DE in Plymouth Harbor in 24, May 1944. We were allowed to go ashore at night. All of a sudden you're on the first, they seal all the ships, and you couldn't go anyplace. Do you know the difference in the timing? Originally the invasion was going to be on June 5th. I'm talking about the first now. They wouldn't tell us then. I think we were on the third. The skipper had everyone out on deck, and he read this proclamation that Eisenhower wrote it that we were going to invade Europe, and free the people of Europe. They didn't give us too much detail. He said we'd be leaving as soon as they get the word. The word was going to be for the fifth and they changed it to the sixth. So on the sixth, late in the day, it's only ninety miles across there, and we took off. Before we left we were invaded by a major General, Galeheart, a two star General who ended up between the big division that got slaughtered on Omaha. He slept right next to our radio room. Then we got an admiral, and they don't put admirals on DE's (Pause). They had built a radio shack on the port side of the DE. They extended the lower deck out, and they loaded it up with communication equipment. When we found what we were going to do was to be under this Commodore Edgar, E-D-G-A-R. He was going to control the landings, as the beaches required it. So we left, and we were slated for the second wave, the first wave went in, I think that was the big red one under Bradley. The beaches in Omaha were the Canadians and the British to the left, and to the right were the Americans. Utah was on the Cotine Peninsula, which was off to our right, which if you go out to the furthest place would be Chawberg, which was a big naval and army instillation. On the DE, when they brought us aboard they didn't have bunks for us so we slept any place we could find, laying our hammock out, we had little mattresses. We slept either on the deck or if you could find hooks and ropes, we'd swing a hammock. The guys that had bunks (laughs) would want to get in your hammock, and we'd only let them do it if we could get in his bunks. Anyhow, we did not have the facilities either for the army or for us. That's how we got over there, we went in with the second wave, and I'll stop there because you have other pertinent questions.
Q: How did you keep in touch with your family while overseas?
A: 'V' mail. I have some of them at home. They were condensed versions. They were brought down to be very small, and then to be reduced again. I think they were to be the forerunner of your computers with the e-mail. Mail was most important, mail, food, and to know where the latrine was.
Q: You grew up in a period where Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the only president you knew of. What was your view of him as president? Where were you and what were your immediate reactions to his death in April of 1945?
A: He died April 12, 1945. How I know is because it was the day I was married. We were in Danith or South Hampton. It was a very solemn time for everybody aboard ship because the leader who was our president had died. We knew nothing about Mr. Truman. But when he died, you'd swear you lost a member of your family. Nobody talked; they just went about doing what they had to do. It was a very sad time because it was something we didn't expect.
Q: What did you think of him as president? Do you think he did a good job?
A: I'm not going to put this on tape. But I think the world of Harry Truman for two reasons. One is he dropped the bomb. The other reason is in March of 1954 I was going to a adjunct general school by the army in Kansas City, Missouri, and I asked the chiefs if we could go down there and catch him on his morning walk. On March 5th around 11 o'clock, a group of about ten of us got in to see Mr. Truman at an office building that was the Federal Reserve Bank building. I asked him if I could take pictures. He said, "Don't break your camera." Harry Truman was a different type of person. He was a big listener. If he said the buck stops here, the buck did stop there. If there was a newsman in back of him, and he would be telling you something, and he would say, "Don't put that." Just that reaction. I got two autographs on a picture, I'll never forget. What he did in Japan was necessary. I think they say a million or more would be killed if we went into the island.
Q: Harry S. Truman once said that dropping the atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima was the easiest decision he has ever had to make. First, what was your reaction to the dropping of the atomic bombs? Second, do you agree with Truman's statement?
A: I don't think he was the easiest decision he ever made. I think he was just making a comment. I know people that worked with him. I thank God that he dropped those two bombs. I know that God will compensate for those that were destroyed while here on Earth, but he saved maybe over a million Americans by doing that. So, I've had the experience of living in a city that was bombed. I didn't know any Japanese. Did I agree with his statement? (Pause). Maybe the statement was true, but I've never heard it before until you just told me. Truman was a captain in World War I, and through circumstances my friend from Fort Loughton out in Washington and I went in to the city hall building, and we went up to the archives, and we met an old timer named Mr. Anderson. Mr. Anderson was inside a regimented company with Truman in World War I. He gave us the history of Jessie James, the Dalton Brothers, the Younger Brothers, and Prendergast. That's a mixed bag of tricks too because everybody knows something, he was in the Prendergast. He was a concrete man, and he made roads. So any decision he made for roads gave Prendergast money and the Prendergast gave him funds. And when he died, he went to his funeral I believe. It might have been an easy thing for him to say because what he had to say was, "Go," or whatever he phrased. And I thank God that he did, and I'll always remember him, and I'll always remember meeting him, and talking to him. And recently, I found out that a phone call is thirty-five cents, not a nickel.
Q: During a convoy mission, why did German U-Boats pose the greatest problems for Destroyer Escorts?
A: Have you ever seen a German U-Boat? I saw one when they gave up. If I knew the size of their deck gun, I would have quit early in the game. I would say that German people are smart and scientific. You asked me about the U-Boats. When we used to convoy, we would have maps where ships were sunk, and the ships would go along, and sit on the bottom next to us. So if you traced it with sonar, you'd get it back, is it a ship or is it a sub? There were many advantages. Storms, they could go out underneath, they wouldn't be out in a storm. But a DE is like a sub chaser. Sub chasers were only 110 feet long. They called them iron men on wooden ships; I think they were wooden men on iron ships. German equipment was good. But I taught some German prisoners in the harbor one time when they were first capturing them. I said to the guard, "Do any of them speak English?" He said, "Go ahead, you can talk to them, but don't put your hands near them." I said, "How do you feel being captured?" In essence, he said, "I'm in here now, soon you be in here." I said, "Jeez, we're up on the boarder of Germany now," and he said, "Oh no!" He just wanted us in the cage; we could have been in there too. In fact, I knew of some guys of the time. I wasn't on a DE for that long. Do you know about the Slater? Have you been there? (No I haven't) Go. A picture is worth a thousand words. DE's are small; they're easier to build. (Pause) Submarines and DE's or anything else are a cat and mouse game, and when we got radar, I think the British originally developed radar and we worked with them. When we went into Boot Camp, if anyone asks you about radar, report it, but don't say anything about radar. We've only met within the last hour; you know me as a person, you know my voice, you know I served, and we talked on the phone, but you really don't know me, and that's what it was like working with those submarines. In the military at the army it's down to squads, small units, and specialized; today it's so damn specialized. Hell, I had a radio; it was about two foot wide about three foot high, and about a foot thick; it weighted twenty five pounds, and you'd put it on your back. It's now in the helmet, and you stick it in your ear. Militarization, new techniques, circle and valley, moving ships and things; the greatest thing they ever did was make graphs from sound, but these guys make electronics from sand. You were saying the difference between the DE and the sub. I would say they were brave people to fight for their country. If they volunteered I don't know. I was in a sub base in England once called Gottsport, right across Portsmith, you go up the alleyway and go in. Portsmith was here and Gottsport was here, (Motioning with his hands), and the kids go in at fourteen for three years.
Q: How did you feel about the segregation policy enforced in the United States Navy?
A: What segregation policy?
- Further explanation of question: African American sailors could only serve on the mess crew or they had to be segregated from white sailors.
I didn't like it because when you're on a ship, everyone is responsible for everybody else, no matter what your job is. One of the mess cooks you referred to slept underneath on the sub chaser. His only duty was to take care of the officer's need, and their food and stuff like that. He was their housekeeper. Segregation first hit me when I was stationed in Norfolk. When we got into Cape Charles, which is the northern route to the entrance of the Chesapeake, we got on one of the ferries. They had bathrooms for whites, they had bathrooms for blacks, they weren't called blacks, colored; water fountains. When my wife and I were married we went to Miami; we went to a drive in. They had a fence in the middle of the drive in to keep you separate.
- Even on a ship it was separate too?
You see I only came up against Stewarts who slept under me. I very seldom ever saw them. They just took care of the officers.
Q: Did you feel that African American sailors were mistreated?
A: (Pause) I think all African Americans had been mistreated, and they were mistreated because it got so bad that this country went to Civil War, which I think is the worst war we ever had where brother could fight brother. (Tape Break) I personally did not see segregation in the military outside of the one colored fellow that was on our sub chaser. I didn't see any on the DE. They were used as port battalions for heavy, laborious work; but somebody has to do it, but it would be much better if it were mixed. That's what we discussed in the beginning. This country is people that should be free. But the south couldn't exist without the colored. That's another balance when you think about it. Do you know any colored people yourself?
Do you think that they would have become as advanced as they are today if we hadn't brought slaves over here?
- I think they could have.
They could have advanced? When you go to the east, to the west, the hump in Africa, Nigeria, they're brothers as they call one another. We went in, took children, women, young men, and old men; made sure they were healthy; brought them out to the coast and sold them to the American settlers. So they were dealing with slaves with their own people. In fact they got a lot of insurrection over there now. Africa is a very interesting continent. When immigrants came to this country they first came through a port, and then looked for work. The guys that had work would hire them. It was the Irish and the Italians that built the railroads in this country that linked the west and the east coasts. I worked for a man many years ago, John Marzuto, and he told me stories about his father being segregated against; they wouldn't let go into the local tavern to get a canister of beer. I've heard that from my Irish relatives. So segregation isn't just the one. I think the difference is because of the color. Yet again, you go the beach in the summer, and these people are out there getting brown and tan; who's who if you go by color?
Q: After the war, do you feel that earning your life was the best possible reward? Why?
A: Phrase that again?
Q: After the war, do you feel that earning your life was the best possible reward?
A: Earning your life? I don't understand the question.
Q: Instead of earning a metal for you duty?
A: Do you mean that I came home in one piece? Oh definitely. Being I was an only child, if something happened to me, there would be no more Markers, and my folks wouldn't have a son anymore. I said before you don't win a war, it isn't like a sports game. I have a book at home, and it is the story of one of the LCVP's; a fellow was coming over, and the guy on the rotter was going to pull him out, and throw a rope to him, and I'll never forget that quote in the book; he said, "Don't bother with the rope I have no arms, I can't grab it." The first night of the invasion, everything flew over, ours or otherwise. Every ship fired. Do you think Macy's think it has the best fireworks? No, it's that sky. I remember them saying when you get on that deck put the helmet on. My God the stuff that fell down. In the morning you'd see it on the deck, nicked in the side of the ship, you'd hear this clink and clunk because everything that went up came down. We were bombed one night; I forgot to tell you that. On the second night, a bomber came in over us, he came diagonally across, and it would be like shooting ducks in a pond. He dropped five or six bombs one between the LCI, one off our fantail, and one behind us. And through my friends in a thing called DESA, Destroyer Escort Sailor's Association, I got in touch with Dick Russell from Denver, Colorado. I've been communicating with him since 1990, I never met him, and he died this last year. I said to him, "Do you remember the night when we were bombed?" He was a part of the DE crew; he was a radio operator on the ship, they called them cabbies. I said remember the one guy got caught in the screws, and we couldn't get him lose, and they brought that one pilot on the one aviator on board, and I said that I got a big hunk of that parachute. Everybody wanted a piece; I got a piece that big left (Explains with his hand). He said, "You mean the bomber we shot down." I never knew that. It was our ship that shot him down.
Q: After you were discharged on January 25, 1946 did you have a feeling of uneasiness once you became a civilian?
A: Yes. I think it might be the same feeling that you're going to experience when you leave Monmouth University. You are now here, you're learning, setting your future, and your goals in life, and then it's going to be yesterday, and you'll feel emptiness.
Q: Did you feel somewhat empty?
A: Yes. I remember that in Camp Sheldon, Virginia. I was a civilian. The country is full of them. I felt that I had been apart of something I'll never be part of again, and I thank God collectively for letting me come home not maimed or loss of a limb or of an eye or something, and go back to civilian life, what I knew. When I say civilian life, I forgot to tell you one thing; when I was going through high school I got a job in the summer of 1942, and I worked for a core of engineers during the summer as a laborer, I made seventy five cents an hour, and you can buy a set of KEDS shoes for sixty nine cents. And we built battery lewis up in the Highlands. A battery is two rifles, two sixteen inch gun impalements, which could kill anything over twenty five miles out at see, where you can't see more than about ten miles at sea level. And we also built ones in six inch, and we brought stuff down to Kingdom Mills over twelve down in Hancock. I learned about construction of all phases because the foremen, Charlie, took me under his wing. He said "You belong to me and the truck belongs to me," and he would send me all over with the truck. So I did any job. I did whatever he told me to do. When you get a break or have a buddy with a car, go up to Henry Hudson High School, and in back of it are the gun emplacements. There's about eight foot thick of concrete over the roof of it. You can walk through it; you can walk the grounds, it belongs to the state as a park. That prepared me for the military. I hated going back to school, and Charlie said, "I'll let you work up until four hours. If you quit school, you lose your job. If I need you in an emergency," and we worked it out.
Q: What career did you pursue after the war?
A: When I was in high school for three years, and then went into the navy, I had elected to take college prep. I wanted to go into the navy, and if I could I wanted to go to Annapolis. I also wanted to be a flyer. When I got into the navy I tried to get into the Blimps down in Lakehurst, no vacancies. I thought I could get into some of the aviation set up of the navy. Now, as I told you before, they put you where they need you. So, my plans when the war came along were put on hold. Even though I was in the navy they were still put on hold. When I came home, 25th January, 1946, my mother said, "Did you read about Fort Monmouth is hiring." I said no so I called and they said come over. It was one month from the day I got out of the navy I was working as a Teletype operator in Russell Hall, which is the main building in Fort Monmouth. Teletype would be one of the ways back from computers and stuff because it was wired, and because computers aren't. I worked there until June, and they had a big lay off, and I went over to see my old principal. And he said, "Well, I'll tell you what, I can take your credits from all the schooling you went to, and I can give you a diploma. But you have to come back to school for a year." Come back to school? I don't even fit in the seats. And he talked me into it. It was a very precious part of my life that I went back to school brothers and sisters of those I went to school with all my life. In fact, the English teacher, BJ, she was my age, she'd sit up on the corner of my desk, and I'd lean up against her, and she'd say, "Don't do that." It was strange. The history teacher was ex-army. The librarian knew me from church. So I wouldn't go to study hall, I'd study down there. They gave me quite a send off. I knew of a few other fellows that did the same thing around that period of time. You're now at Monmouth University; would you like to go back to high school? What was I, twenty-one.
Q: At what point did you share your war experiences with your family?
A: I think I shared my war experience with my family by writing letters.
Q: So you shared you experiences during the war?
A: And some of them that were sent looked like a punchboard because they were censored; they were either cut out or blacked out. Never really, I never sat down with my dad and talked about it because I went right to work, and I was starting out like you are. No, I don't think so. When I was about sixteen I fell in love with a girl, and I wanted to marry her, but it wouldn't have worked for one reason. Just make sure you life isn't dominated. They say we have the freedom but if you don't have the money do afford what you want. Now, I have a Lincoln Town Car, I bought it second hand; it's only got 69,000 miles on it; it's a '93, I've had two of them. I have grandchildren and great grandchildren. My wife had two children when I married her. If we last until April, we'll be married forty-five years, so we did something right; we had a boy and a girl.
Q: Did you share your experiences with your children?
A: No. I remember my son, who is not thirty-nine, wanted to know what television I watched as a kid. But we did watch television in the 1939 World's Fair out in Flushing; I went to the first one. And when they destroyed that, it really got to me. Why would they destroy the world of tomorrow? I have photographs taken from there. My grandson is now twenty, Thomas John we call him TJ. He's taller than I am, he's bigger than I am, and his father's a little fellow who is married to my daughter. We had everyone, except one of the kids that lives in South Jersey, for Thanksgiving. That was the thanks that I gave to God before we had our meal to say that we're so thankful that we live in America, that we're free, that we're free like this, and that we have all the family that is still around us because all my family, before us, is gone. I have two step children, they think the world of me, but I don't know why. Bobby, when he was about twelve or thirteen, I taught him carpentry, and I taught him electricity. I built my own house because I couldn't afford to buy one. I wired it, did not do the masonry, plumbing, I can do plumbing. If you want it and you work for it, I tell you, you appreciate it a lot more. The kid from college writes his father; Dear dad, Roses are red and violets are pink, send my $500 as soon as you get this or something like this. So the father writes back and says, Dear son, roses may be red and violets may be pink, but $500 in this letter you will not find I do not think. Are you engaged? Engaged is like shifting a car; you get into gear, but make sure you get into a good vehicle because it's going to determine everything you do. The lady I married I can tell you, she gave me the one thing I wanted was someone to love me for me and me to love her for who she was, and I think that's important for you young people. It isn't sex. Sex is something that God gave us to perforate.
Q: What do you feel the world should learn from your experiences in World War II?
A: Not to get into another war. You know Iraq, I believe between the Tigris and Euphrates River, which runs through Iraq, is the old set up of Babylon. According to my Bible study, which I went to for ten years once a week for two or three hours, getting into the meat and vegetables of what it's about. I had an opportunity once to see your Pope down in Washington. He was up on this podium, they say there were 80,000 people there, and they said when they gave out the Holy Communion the priest throughout the whole area. Anyone and I stress anyone who wants Communion will be given Communion not through an interpreter, but from him. Well, go back to the last question.
Q: What do you think the world should learn from your war experiences?
A: To love one another, and not to hate. To feed those who need food, and give them clothing because we are the land of the plenty. But there is always going to be a Hitler and a Mussolini, and all the rest of them that don't earn but take. (Pause) They do something in church, the procedure of passing the peace, which is new. They turn the alter around. Now you face the people. Their more lenient with that you can go beyond the rail. As a baby, I was baptized by a Catholic priest. My grandfather was a Lutheran. All Scandinavians are Lutheran, I don't know if you know that. I've been to cathedrals, I've been to Saint Paul, and I've been to West Minstar Abbey. I'm a strong believer God is always with you if you want him to.
Post interview over telephone:
(The interviewer did not pose a question. Mr. Marker felt that he needed to add this).
I got a medal in Normandy from D-Day. The medal is a thank you from the people of Normandy for thanking us for liberating them.
Conclusion of Interview:
Thank you once again Mr. Marker for coming to speak with me today. I just want to let you know that I am forever in debt to you, and I will always be grateful for the service that you and other sailors and other military men like you for serving in World War II, and made this country the way it is today. Without that this world would be different. Thank you very much for that.
Conclusion of the Interview.
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