DESA Oral History Project
Back to the Home Page
Back to the Interview Index
|Oral History Interview
of Pelligrino (Bill) Soriano
Date of Interview: August 3, 2003
For the Monmouth University Library
An Oral History Interview with Pellegrino (Bill) Soriano
This oral history interview of Pellegrino (Bill) Soriano is being conducted on August 3, 2003 at his home in North Arlington, New Jersey. I am Thomas Greene, a student at Monmouth University, and I will be conducting the interview.
Question: Good afternoon Mr. Soriano. Thanks for taking the time to do this interview with me.
Answer: Well, I appreciate it, and I'm very happy that you made the effort to come up.
Q: Okay, I'd like to start off with some pre-World War II questions.
Q: Okay. What was life like growing up in New Jersey when you were a child? Was it different than how kids grow up today? Were there similarities? What would you say?
A: Well, it was different but similar. We used to be able to entertain ourselves with almost nothing. We would play stick ball because we didn't have the resources to buy a bat, a glove, guards, shoes, and all he sports gear. We just went out and played ball, and that's what we basically did. And most of us were in communities of our own ethnic bearing. We had the Polish section. We had Italian sections. We had German sections. We more or less kept out of each other's hair, but there was enough of us to really have a lot of kids around. A lot of boys. A lot of girls. Because in the early days, I didn't speak any English. When I went to school I could not understand English, and I was born here. Well, my parents only spoke their native tongue. Well, that's all we knew. So, when we went to school, we started in the kindergarten. Yeah, I couldn't tell you what anyone was even saying. So, my father and mother realized that. When we came out of public school everyday, we went to another school. A school that had a person that spke our language and English as well. So, that's how we really learned. We didn't learn it off the street because we always spoke Italian to each other. They were in the same boat that I was. So, it's quite a thing that most people don't realize. In those days, most of the families, the German families would do the same thing. They would send their children to learn English. They couldn't teach them. My mother and father came from Europe. I mean, they could speak English, but not very well. So, that was one of the big things. And yes, it was different because of that. Today, I don't see too much stick ball going on or any of these other games. You know, all kinds of running games and going after each other, stuff like that. Now, if a child doesn't have a car he's home looking at T.V. I don't see him playing ball, going swimming down the Newark Bay, because we used to go swimming down there. And that was big time for us. We'd go after school, go jump in the Ban River, come home and your mother would say 'Where were you?' And we were drenched (laughter). But no, we had a different projection on life. It was tough. My father didn't make very much. My mother was home all the time. I have a brother and a sister as well. But some of them had some pretty big families, so those mothers, they were kept busy washing and cooking, and it isn't today where they went out and worked. They had one hell of a job at home. So, it was different in that aspect. And I noticed and I see it in my grandchildren. Their life is tied up around the T.V., movies, entertainment, but they don't entertain themselves. They want somebody, someone, something, to entertain them. They sit back and they want to have it. That's not good. At least I don't think so. I mean, my mother used to ring a bell. You know a cow bell? And we used to play a few blocks a way, but we haeard that bell and we had to get home before the dog. We had a dog. Because if that dog beat us home my old man would come after us (laughs). You should see, and that dog I think knew. We would be racing after that mutt (laughter)to get in the door before he did. And that's some of the little trivia stuff that most people just either don't know or don't even hear about. So, it was different, yes. Where we were able to entertain ourselves with very little. Some of our neighbors would have fruit treees during the summer. Well, we would go get the fruit. They may not have wanted us to, but they let us take some of it. You know, so long as we didn't damage anything. That was about it. In school, I was on the track team and stuff like that when I became a little older, so then I was able to find some of the activities that I really wanted to pursue. And right out of high school I went into the Navy. I was getting ready to be drafted, so I had to either enlist or wait for the draft and go into the Army, and I didn't want that. Am I belaboring this too much?
Q: No. That's fine. Were there any radio programs or music or movies that impacted you or that altered your perception of war and whether or not it should be fought?
A: Well, it didn't change my mind. We were pretty patriotic in those days, if you want to use that word. At school we used to say the pledge of allegiance every morning, you know, when you get brouyght in. And during the day they would teach us, you know, patriotism. Not that you can teach patriotism, but to show you the values of this country versus some others and the liberties we have. Most people take these liberties really for granted, but we were taught that, honestly. And if you don't teach that the kids are not going to get it from the oatmeal. They have to be shown that this country is to be valued because some other countries are, most countries, they're not like this. You can't do what we take for granted in other countries, and I've been to other countries, foreign countries, I've been to North Africa and some of the other countries and the quality of life was so dismal, dismal. I mean, they don't even have electricity. They walk around barefooted with very little clothing. Their food supply must be awful. Their teeth are bad. They can't see. Young kids... So, you get to see that and that reaffirmed what we were taught in school. So, that really impacted me when we did get out. You know, I had never left Jersey City until I got on a boat, and the biggest boat I got on was the ferry boat. We went from Staten Island, from Bayonne to Staten Island. I mean, I was no big yachtsman or anything like that. I was just "Yeah, let's go on a boat ride." God help me I didn't know I was going to get this one.
Q: You said you did track, did you play or follow any other sports while you were growing up or did you admire any certain athletes?
A: Oh, I played all the sports. I mean, I like baseball. My sons played baseball, softball, track. So, I was involved that way. But in my days we didn't really have that much opportunity. In other words, to get to the ballpark it had to be free. Today, you go to Yankee Stadium or Mets it's impossible. First you gotta get there, and then when you get there you gotta pay to get in. And then you gotta eat and on and on and on. So, in those days it was a lot easier for us. Our kids went to high school. They went to college. So, we got involved with their sports, their activities, and things like that.
Q: Were you aware of Adolf Hitler's rise to power in Germany in the 1930s and did you have any idea that he was going to try to take control of all of Europe?
A: The only idea we had was some of the propaganda, the old movies, and news items that we used to see in the movies. You know, between pictures they'd always have a little section of current events, and believe it or not, I learned more going and watching the Three Stooges or some of that other stuff because in the middle of a picture, like the intermission, they would run these news clips showing bombs, showing planes. So, we were starting to get conditioned so our people that did that in this country knew how to do that. To kind of lift up the people to get behind the war that was coming. We didn't know a war was coming for us, but we used to see, you know. Hitler... They went to war there on September 1, 1939. So, I was still pretty young. You know, '43 I went into the service. That was four years later. But no, we used to see that in our newspapers, in our own propaganda machines. I think it was a good idea to let us know that there's trouble here and that we're gonna get involved in it. And then we had President Roosevelt. He was a man that kept us informed I think. On the news clips they would show him a lot. And he started building up when Germany first invaded Poland. Then they realized that either we were gonna help Britain or they're done. And that took a while before he jumped into that one. I mean, the British they're just screaming "You gotta help us! We're gonna lose this!" and on. Churchill and he, they used to have some real good things going because they knew that they were going to lose their country and so did we. We needed to get into that. We were alerted. I mean, at school like I got out in '43. Well, in '38 when I went to school, '39, '40, we're already driving saving copper pennies. We were collecting keys, brass keys, beacuse they needed them for the shells. So, the country was getting prepared even when I was in high school. So, we were kind of indoctrinated that there was gonna be problems. We were gonna get drafted. We were gonna be in the service. And we had to just acknowledge it and accept it. Okay?
Q: Did you have any inkling that Hitler was murdering millions of innocent Jews in concentration camps?
A: Not until, not until the news clips would show us that. There was no way of us knowing that.
Q: Before Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, did you know anything about Japan or the Japanese people, and did your perception change of that once they attacked Pearl Harbor?
A: Well, you know we had current events, we had geography, we had history. As far as Japan was concerned, it was just a far away nation. But Japan started chopping up the Chinese a long time before that war. They were invading China, big parts of it. And we used to get playing cards showing some of the atrocities that the Japanese were doing against the Chinese. I mean, they would cut people up in pieces, burn them, put them on fire. Well, whoever was drawing that stuff must have known and must have seen and up to a very few years even after school I still had those cards, and it was like bizarre that you're looking at people getting chopped up. And they used to have on these little... You know like you buy gum and they give you a card like the baseball people, all the sports. Well, in those days, when you bought bubble gum it used to be all these war pictures showing the atrocities that Japan was already really going into in China. Well, that's where I kind of said "Gee. What the hell's going on? This is madness." But I was already indoctrinated, and I didn't have too much love for the Japanese. So, basically when they took Pearl Harbor, I didn't really get to like them. That was for sure.
Q: Where were you when you heard about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th?
A: We were in school. Yeah, we were in school at the time and they announced it. We didn't have a PA system, but they announced it in all the classes. And then at night we saw it on the TV. We didn't even have a TV, but my friend had one. So, we could see, you know, the routine that was waiting to happen, and that was quite a disaster.
Q: In retrospect, do you see any similarities between the attack on Pearl Harbor and the attack on September 11th?
A: No I don't. I think there was two motives there. At Pearl Harbor, the Japanese wanted to take our fleet out. Their ambition was to take the whole Pacific coast, the whole Pacific rim. For a lot of reasons: the resources, the rubber, the food, a lot of things along those islands. So, you know, Japan is a small nation. Well, they couldn't get into China too easily because the Chinese became very strong. So then they had their eye out on the whole Pacific rim. They needed it not only for the food, for land, they needed it for a lot of things. So, it wasn't strictly to come and kick our butts. It was because they needed that land. And a lot of wars were started because of that. I mean, earlier wars. They were started because the people weren't getting enough to eat, they needed more land, or whatever. Well, they took their shot and it worked with another nation. And they always started with a nation that they could conquer quickly. They never started with a big one, and they just built up just like Germany went for Poland. The Polish people are a very strong people, a very religious people, a Catholic nation. So, I think Hitler went after them for a number of reasons. One: to see if the army worked, if the German army worked the way he wanted. That was a piece of cake, They went in there and bing, bing, bing and it was gone. So, that gave him a lot of lift. "Oh yeah, we can do this." And then he started going after the other smaller countries, and I had a whole list of where he went down the list. And you could see by the size that he was gaining more confidence. First of all, nobody would stop him. We didn't. Britain couldn't. France just capitulated. They didn't do anything. They didn't want their country destroyed. So, they signed an armistice with Germany. That's why Germany didn't take them out. They occupied France, only because of the strategic location, because if we needed to get to them we had to go, you know, through the Mediterranean, go through the sea in there. So, he had all the forts and well built, especially in North Africa, Casablanca, french Morocco, and all those places. He knew... His generals knew what the hell they were gonna do and were gonna obliterate the world. They almost, they almost did.
Q: Okay, you said you volunteered for the Navy. Right?
A: Yeah. I'd like to explain it.
Q: Sure. Go ahead.
A: Well, when we were in high school, we got a draft number. I was 18. The year was 1943. You get a notice from the government that you will be drafted because they had numbers. They used to draw numbers. So, before I was drafted, they had a program. We used to call it SV-6. Selected Volunteer dash six, and I'll tell you what those numbers are. If you enlisted in any branch you wanna... I could've enlisted in the Marines or in the Army, Air Force, Army Air Force, or the Navy, or Coast Guard. I could choose the branch of service. Otherwise, wherever they needed us they were gonna send us, and they needed Army. A lot of Army people. So, I had the opportunity, and most of us that graduated at that time, most of us selected our branch of service. We didn't wait to be drafted. But that SV means selected volunteer. You will be in the service for the duration of the war whether it was a month, ten years, fifty years, plus six months. That's where the six comes from. So after the war was over I still needed to be in for six months because I was able to select the branch of service that I wanted, and I preferred to be in the Navy. Not that I knew much about the Navy. I just liked the way the boats used to go out, the ships and all, big battleships blowing things up. Little did I realize I probably got the smallest one in the fleet.
Q: How did you initially cope with going to war? Were you afraid or did you feel it was your duty and you had to serve?
A: Well, it was apprehensive for us. I wouldn't say I was afraid. Was too young I think to be afraid. I was apprehensive. I mean, I was still more or less a high school kid. You know 18 years old. So really I don't think I had fear. I didn't really realize what fear really was. So basically we got together when we graduated high school, there was a whole bunch of us. We went down to our draft board, which was also in Jersey City, and we told them we'd like to volunteer in the SV-6, you know, the SV-6 program. They enlisted us and then we were shipped out of Newark, and that's where we went to boot training up in Newport, Rhode Island. I don't think I was really afraid. Sure, I didn't know what was coming. I didn't know what the feel of a boat, of any ship was. So, no, I don't think I had a problem with that. I became frightened many times after that. Really scared. But not when we were first going there.
Q: Did you serve in the North Atlantic theatre or the Pacific?
A: Yeah. Both. During the war with Germany, we were ...This ship was designed to hunt submarines. You see, in the early years of the war, '39, '40, '41, the German navy, especially their submarine fleet, was probably the best in the world. And they had a lot of submarines, well-trained, the equipment was the best, and they realized that if we were going to help any of those nations, like England especially, they would have to obliterate our supply routes. They did it with some surface ships, bu most of it was done with submarines. So, they were very much equipped, you know, to handle that. So, but we were mostly in the North Atlantic and then we had the whole Atlantic, north, south. We dealt mostly in the North Atlantic. I mean, that was rough.
Q: Did you ever come into contact
with the enemy whether it was a U-boat or...?
A: Yeah. Yes. Yeah. We were in a... We were called, you know, anti-submarine hunters. Instead of waiting for the subs to come after us, we would go after them. And we were equipped with the finest sounding gear, radar... We had the best in the world. So, we turned the tide a little bit. Because we had so many of these boats being built, we were able to form a group with an escort carrier. An escort carrier was not a full fledged carrier. It was a smaller one. It was built on a cruiser hull. They took a cruiser, before they put the superstructure on it, and they built the flight deck, but it was much smaller than the regular aircraft carrier, you know, that we know like the Yorktown and some of the big ones. So, they were able to build them very quickly, and we used to operate together. Their planes, they would have planes aboard. It was short, but they would have enough planes. The planes would sweep the area. They would launch a few planes, and the planes would fly in a circle. Five miles out, ten miles out, over the horizon, which is over twenty miles, and they were able to scan huge parts of the ocean. We didn't have to go around with it. When they saw a sub, first they would report it to the carrier, and then we would dispatch. We would be dispatched to go into that area and form a ring around where we thought the submarines were because the airplane, the air craft had sonar buoys that they would drop from the plane. So, they could listen fifty miles, you know. They would be fifty... We wouldn't even see the planes most of the time. But they would drop all these little radio systems in the ocean, and they would pick up a sub just like we would. Their sound equipment was as good as ours. Well, once they finally said, "Yeah, we got a whole wolf pack," you know, wolf pack meaning many subs gathering together because they were going to wait for a convoy to come through or whatever. So basically, you know, we did a pretty decent job. No, we went after the subs. So, when we came in the picture, Germany had a problem because we were really sinking a bunch of them. And to get back to your question, yeah, we were in one day... It was in September '44. One of our ships took a hit. A submarine put a fish into it. A torpedo. It was in another task group. We were all in a task group. We had a carrier and six or seven or eight DEs with that carrier. The carrier was strictly there for a plane, to put our planes to go find what they could find. Once they found it we appeared, and we took over the sound and then we traced the sub and went after them. So one morning, early, the submarine was getting a little... I think the guy was really crazy. He sunk the boat. He sunk the USS Davis. It was a DE just like this one. Out of 220 people, only 79 survived. The ship just cracked in half. It took a hit in midship and the thing exploded within the ship and the ship just folded, you know, stern and bow up, and went down. They were about, oh maybe, two miles from us, you know, about two miles in another task group. Well, when that happens, well we were alerted. And they sent us... The carrier says, "Okay. This group of DEs, the sub's out there. Go get him." And it took us about ten hours, and we had this thing boxed, the sub. You know, these guys were pretty smart down below. They knew how to evade. They had all kinds of devices that would clutter up the sound, our sounding gear. But our sound people, the people that operated the sonars and stuff like that, we were getting pretty smart after a while. We could almost tell what kind of evasive maneuvers that that sub was thinking. Well we got this guy. Took us ten hours. There was six DEs. We were dropping depth chargers from the rear rollers here and from the K-guns. See those things along the side? Those things would shoot out, you know, shoot out from the ship, and we would be dropping them off back. And up in the front we had hedgehogs where we would fire them out in front of us. In here there was like about twenty... I'll have to show you the picture, and I will after we're finished here. We used to launch these things out over the front of our boat by about forty feet! And they used to go off only on contact. When they hit something they'd go off. These here went off on depth. In other words, any of these depth chargers, they had the ability of being set for twenty five feet deep, fifty feet, a hundred, two hundred, three hundred, five hundred feet deep. So, we would get them by concussion. We would hopefully break up something in the sub where they'd have to surface. So, the fire power on this little boat was incredible. I mean, we didn't have heavy deck guns to you know, shoot it out with a battleship or a cruiser. We didn't have that. We only needed those front cannons. Those three inch cannons. Was it a sub surfaced? They had a four inch cannon. We had a three. They could out shoot us so we made sure that we never really let them come up to the surface. We used to just try to get them while they were down. And to continue with the story, we got the sub that sunk the USS Davis, and as I say, for ten hours we unloaded all our depth chargers, all our equipment where we had to go back to the carrier and load up again because we didn't know how much longer it was going to take. And our ships were running out of depth chargers and that's our main weapon. So, when we basically... This thing started to surface. This U-456. That's the number of the sub U-4-5-6. When it surfaced, it opened fire...It was going to ope fire, but it was damaged. The submarine was damaged. So, it surfaced between two DEs. So we couldn't shoot and the other DE couldn't shoot either because we'd hit each other. So, when we saw him breaking the water, we just backed the hell out of there so that the other DE could take a clean shot, and then we were able to start firing at the sub. So we really strafed the deck of that sub that was coming up, and it didn't last long because there was an awful lot of... We had 40mm guns and we were able to put a lot of steel out there quickly. So, when the sub went down, there were some German and Italian survivors. Italian, meaning that when Italy joined the Axis the submarine crews of the Italian navy became part of the German navy. So their crews were mixed. They had both German and they had Italian submariners. I mean, these guys were experts. So when they... We didn't know how many were going to be saved because once that ship took surface gunfire we put holes all over that damn thing. It sunk. But they had time to get some of their people off and they got off thirty three people with the skipper. Usually you don't get the skipper. He usually goes down with the boat. Well, we got this guy. So, the thirty three guys we picked up, our boat, we were dispatched. The carrier says, "Go pick them up. See how many you got." Because we wanted them. We needed them for interrogation and I'll tell you why. It's another story. So, we picked them up. They're on our deck for about two weeks, and of the thirty three there was almost half and half German and Italian crew. So we had them aboard. They slept in the aft quarters and we all moved down into the engine room because they wanted to keep them all in one compartment. So, we had them aboard for a while and the beauty of it is that I understood Italian and that's all they were speaking except for German, and my buddy was German so he understood German. So we used to go on deck because they were kept in a group, you know, and we would just listen. We never answered. Our skipper told us, "You don't fraternize with their crew." Since we had a lot of Italian guys and German aboard... "You do not fraternize. Don't talk to them. Listen. If you hear something, tell me." So, we had them aboard and one of them died. One got hit with some shrapnel. And we buried him. We had a burial at sea off the... This is the fantail of the boat where the skipper reads the Geneva rules, you know we were bound... So basically, I was able to listen to what they were saying, their concerns. They were really frightened of what we were gonna do. You know, sometimes you know, you have an anger towards the enemy mostly. And we did have that. You know, they took out one of our boats and most of the crew was you know, killed. So, the skipper also warned us of that. We abide by the Geneva Conventions. They'll be fed. They'll be clothed. We will fix their you know, their injuries. And if they die we will give them a burial at sea like they would for me or any of the other American people. It was quite moving. I was quite impressed with that, that we believed and we did what we believed. We never maltreated them. We never did any of that at all. And there was a lot of animosity on that boat too. But I'm glad it worked out that way. So that's how that came about. Yes, that's the prisoners we had aboard our ship, and it gave us a whole new outlook that these people were human, they were afraid, and they didn't know what the hell was gonna happen to them, but we did. We dropped them off at a prisoner of war camp up in Argentia, that's New Foundland. We had a couple of camps, prisoner of war camps, and that happened to be... We had a big one up there in Argentia. I don't know if you're familiar with the place. It's in New Foundland. There's Argentia, Placentia, all these odd names, but we also had a big base there, you know a regular Navy base. What's next?
Q: Okay. Did you or anyone close to you ever get injured in the midst of battle?
Q: No? Okay. When and where was your naval training conducted?
A: Well, we first had our basic seaman ship was taught at Newport, Rhode Island. That was our boat training so to speak. It was eight weeks. From there they gave us a whole battery of tests to see where they were gonna place us. You know, they don't know us from Adam. So they used to have, and really good ones too... I was quite impressed today more than I was then on the psychological questions, and from that they could determine where your strengths were and where your weaknesses were. In those days. This goes way back. And then they would screen you and feel, "Alright, you're mechanical. You do this well. You do this well," from those tests. And I was amazed because I was very, very mechanically inclined. I used to fix my father's car all the time. Not well, but I used to fix it if I wanted to borrow it (laughs). So, basically from there they assigned us to diesel training, diesel engine training, turbans, condensers, all the machinery which is down below the main deck. And from that they sent us to school. The first school I went to was South Richmond, Virginia where they had a building set up almost like a ship. I mean, it didn't have any of this other stuff, but the way the machinery was laid out. Everything on a boat is port and starboard. In other words, you got a power plant driving the starboard side of your boat. It screwed me up too. See, you had a double screw here. But they had it so well set up, and you know, they knew I think what ship I was gonna be on because they were forming crews. And I think in their papers and everything they knew that, "Look, these guys are gonna come out at this time, this boat is being built, it's gonna be ready." So we went right from school right aboard boat. Perfect. I couldn't believe it. And you're talking five hundred of these, over five hundred DEs. They were training crews all at once, all at once all these crews were being scheduled in as they came in the service, and sure as hell this boat was ready when I got out of school. Now, went I went up to Chicago, Navy Pier, that was an advanced school where they taught us a lot of the other, you know, intricate machinery down below decks. So from there I went right aboard.
Q: What was the name of your destroyer?
A: Pardon me?
Q: What was the name of your destroyer?
A: This is the USS Janssen. J-A-N-S-S-E-N. And that's another during. When they had these they were naming these after common military people not admirals, not presidents, not states, not cities, after a guy like you and me. And this was named after a guy who was killed at Pearl Harbor. He was a pilot. He never got off the ground so at least that's what they...the history. So they used to name all these DEs after anyone whether you were a seamen second class, if you were a captain, if you were a chief or a petty officer they would put your name on a boat. Isn't that something? That was different from World War I when they had all these capital ships. You know, capitals of the cities, states. You know, all these were all common soldiers, common sailors. That was great. I thought that was neat. And we were on when it was commissioned. Our crew, when we came out of school, the ship wasn't quite completed, but they wanted us to get familiar with the boat a little bit before the rest of the crew because the machinery was very complicated, and you know, you're on a live boat now and you better have an idea of what's going to happen because when you're out there, you know, you gotta get it back.
Q: Could you describe what a typical day aboard a DE was like?
A: Yeah. Sure. Well, you know the day is broken up into four hour increments. You know, twelve o'clock at night is twelve o'clock. But anything after that like one o'clock, it would be 1-1-1-1 until you got to twelve o'clock noon. Right. It's still twelve. Then, one o'clock in the afternoon becomes thirteen hundred and then on and on and on until you reach the circle again. So, you would be on watch for four hours and off for eight. And then you would sleep in that time, you would be fed, you would repair machinery. In other words, in that eight hours you don't go back to your bunk and sleep. Once you were you went to sleep only before your next watch so that you would have enough sleep for that. So, basically you would be routine. There was always things breaking, things happening on the boat, and it was a small ship. But most of the time at sea, our shake down cruise was only about, oh maybe about eight weeks, when we took the boat out of port which was down in Brown's Shipyards, Brown Ship Building Company in Houston, Texas. So we had to come through the gulf into the Atlantic and sail the boat, but to help us the Navy, smart, they put on a lot of civilians. We had civilians aboard war ships, something I never knew they did. They had experts, like all the companies that supplied the engines, the turbans, and all the equipment, the companies used to send their best technicians, and they sailed with us for eight weeks. God bless them. I don't think we could have made it without them. They were so good because things would break. You're underway. You're at sea. The seas might be running high and you don't know what the hell you're doing really. I mean, sure they showed you and they trained you for a little bit, but when you're on an actual cruise, an actual operation, and all of a sudden an engine dies or a turban starts overheating or one of the boilers is not firing or this isn't happening. You know how long it would've taken us to find out? Forever! But these experts, these men, these civilians, they were civilians. They were fathers of sailors that were in the service because I spoke with many of them. (Snaps fingers) They knew and that's what kept us afloat. Many, many times I saw the boilers just going out of range and I said, "What the hell am I gonna do with this?" The guy knew. He says. "Come here. I'll show you. And if it happens again you better remember it." So, they were training us and they were helping us sail that boat, and I don't think they got any extra what their company was paying them. I don't think they got any extra for putting their lives on the line because the Germans were sinking ships right off Bermuda and that was our training ground. They'd wait for us! So it was something else. I was quite impressed with those guys I tell you. They were like a father image to us out at sea. It was almost like your father because they had sons of their own I think that was the reason you know.
Q: What was the relationship between crew members and officers aboard your DE like?
A: On a smaller ship it isn't as rigid. In other words, usually the officers aboard got to almost know you almost by first name, especially when each division had their own people like say the engineering division right? Well, the engineering division had an engineering officer and he had two chief petty officers under him, but under that we have a whole crew driving that shift. And not only the officer but the chief petty officer, they knew us all by first name, by recognition. We only had 210 people on that boat broken up into all those divisions. So, the engineering division wasn't that huge like it would be on a carrier, a cruiser, or a battleship. You gotta have a chain of command that's endless. So basically, it got very good. Our respect for them was top notch. The skippers were good, especially in bad weather. You know, you're at sea you're looking at twenty, thirty foot waves. You're not talking about, you know, small stuff. But you better know how to drive that thing because it'll capsize on you. If you get caught broad side with a wake and you're in the throft of that wake, you're done. That thing will turn over on you. So, we had a lot of respect for them. And they were young guys. We were all young. I think the oldest guy we had aboard was the skipper. He was about twenty five. He wasn't from Annapolis but I mean this guy was good. The respect for our crew and each other and for our officers was really great because we had to get home again and that was the onl;y way you were gonna do it. So it was great. We enjoyed it. Honestly.
Q: Were you a religious man prior to entering the war and if so, did you keep your faith throughout?
A: Yes. Very much so.
Q: Were you able to attend any church services.
A: No. At sea we had general services. In other words. on Sunday one of the officers would say a combined you know, some readings from the Gospel. You know, some of the fellas were not of my religious... Well, they wouldn't attend, but most of them did. I mean, whatever they were because you'd get a little frightened out there and say, "Gee wiz. Maybe I won't be here tomorrow." You gotta get close.
Q: What were your initial reactions
when you heard that the United States dropped the Atomic Bomb on Japan and did
you feel that was a necessary action?
A: Absolutely. The atrocities that were engaged on our troops in the South Pacific were the most horrendous atrocities. You know, a lot of people didn't realize what the Japs used to do. The used to fill the trenches with troops and pour gasoline in the trench and light it. And this was a fact. This was not somebody's imagination. They have pictures of it. They have records of it. So, we at times we didn't realize what was going on too much in the South Pacific. We didn't because we had a problem in the North Atlantic. But when we did get some news, some of the atrocities we would hear them and see them in film because we used to get film from the carrier. And they would send over some of the film, especially news items, news clips, items of that nature to show, "Listen to me. This is serious. This is a serious thing that we're doing here." No, I didn't feel bad at all. Maybe bad from a humanistic feeling, but not from something that needed to be done because when we finished in the Atlantic, we went through the canal, Panama Canal, and we became part of the invasion fleet that was gonna invade Japan. About two weeks and there were thousands of ships, hundreds of thousands of men. We were gonna just take it because Japan would not surrender. Okay. Harry, President Truman told them, "You need to end this, and you need to end it quickly." And the Japs said, "Well, we'll fight it out to the last woman, child, person." Well I think Harry Truman realized we had already lost in the war alone we lost about 400,000 people. I think we just about had enough of our losses, and I was kind of, I'm not gonna say jubilant, because I wasn't, but I was happy the war was over because of the atrocities that I heard and saw that the Japanese inflicted on American troops. It was just unreal. I could never believe anybody could think of some of these atrocities. So, we were assembled. We were all there. We were waiting for the word. Then Harry, President Truman, dropped it. Not only did he drop that one. They didn't believe this. He dropped the second one. They believed it, that we're not dealing with this anymore. You've done what you've had to do now we're gonna do what we have to do and we did it. And on the way back we took over a whole bunch of Army who were stationed, you know, assembled there to go invade. When they looked at the boat they didn't want to come aboard. They said, "Where you gonna go with that?" You know, they at least knew a big transport. They looked like cruise ships. I said, "They wouldn't come aboard." Most of the soldiers refused. They said, "No, we ain't going on that thing." (Laughs). We had a hundred of them. So, we moved out. Most of us moved into the engine compartments, you know, most of the crew, and they moved into our compartments. But a lot of them were getting sick. This was a pretty rough boat and you gotta somehow either get used to it or you die. So they were so, "Oh no. No. We want the bigger boat. We want the bigger boat." Well, there's no bigger boat. You either come home with this or you don't come at all. Boy I'm telling you, you know we had to watch those guys. Some of them were gonna just jump off at sea. They were so sick. They had to tie them down. So when we got back we took them into Long Beach, California. (Laughs) Oh man (Claps hands) Man, they just whoo!!! They took off out of that boat because even in the harbor this thing was shaking a little bit. (Laughs) Oh God.
Q: How did you view Franklin Roosevelt as a president? Did you feel he took the necessary actions to ensure an Allied victory?
A: From what little oversight I had until now when we realize what Germany had in mind, oh I think he made the right move. And he didn't do it that quickly either. If it wasn't for Churchill... Because you know, the president knew that we were going to get into the war eventually, but we needed bases. We needed navy bases. So when he was talking to Churchill about it he says, "Listen. I'll give you the boats, but we need the bases. Your bases. Up in New Foundland, Alaska, any place." You know, the British were all over. They had a lot, Bermuda... They had them all over. And you know, Churchill was a little reluctant. He didn't want to give away British possessions. So, I think President Roosevelt told him, "Look, we'll join you, but we need bases. We cannot fight this war from the United States. We need to get closer to Europe. The closest point is up in Greenland there where you can go right in. We need bases to help you." So that's why we gave them a lend lease. We gave them fifty old destroyers, World War I destroyers, to at least help them because they were in dire straits. And then when the new ones were built they got a whole bunch more. But we had bases in the Azors which was British and Bermuda which was British. A lot of places! And that's how we finally...Excuse me. They agreed and then we joined them.
Q: What was your reaction to FDR's death in April of 1945?
A: Well, you know, he was the president for such a long time that when he died I don't think anybody believed it. We thought this guy would go forever. I think he was a good president for what he needed to do. You know, he had to make some hard decisions, but he made them, and I thought he did the right thing. I always admired him. He was not only a naval man, he was Secretary of the Navy. So, he knew Navy, and he favored Navy a little bit, and I felt kind of proud of that, that we had a president who understood what the difference was between a scuttle boat like this and an aircraft carrier because most of them don't have a clue. Politicians that is. Unless they get their pictures taken on it. you know, something like that.
Q: When and where were you discharged from the Navy?
A: I was discharged in 1946 from Lito Beach, New York. That was a deactivation camp. In other words, when... I may have to go back a little bit. When the war ended in the Pacific, we came back to the United states. We came back to Florida to decommission this boat plus about three hundred others. So we went through the Panama Canal, we went down you know, all the way around, and then we finally moored the boats down in Florida. Green Cove Springs, Florida. On the St. John's River in Florida there, it's near...I'm not quite sure. There must have been two hundred DEs moored. It's like a swamp. We took that boat all the way up to the end of the St. John's River and just left them there. They were gonna go into mothballs, you know, we were gonna fix them so they could last for awhile in case we needed them, and sure enough Korea came. We needed them. Vietnam came. We needed them and on and on and on. And these boats just went on forever. So, we had all these boats moored on the St. John's River up to the end. In order to get into that river, we had to trim our boat so our screws would not hit the bottom because in the bottom of that swamp here was huge trees, and if you hit them you're gonna bend something, you're gonna break something. It was the funniest thing. So, outside where the St. John's River feeds into the gulf, you see all the ships going this way so that we could get the hell up that river because we didn't have enough free board to get as far up as we wanted. And then they had them batched at about ten together, and this is where that plus six months came in. We needed to be there for six months to decommission and put these boats in moth balls. In other words, we had to seal all the compartments, take out all the materials like canvas and materials that would degenerate with moisture. And so we used to go over and we finished one boat, the next one, we did that one, and we did the next one until our time, our six months was made up. And then from there they shipped us up to Lito Beach, New York and that's where we were discharged.
Q: Were you happy to be going home and how were you received by your family and friends?
A: Oh no, they were very much happy for me. They were proud of me. I felt very good that I was able that that thing, you know, whatever happened, was during my lifetime, where I was able to not only be there but also be able to talk about it. Oh no, they were happy for me and they supported me. My father, matter of fact, my father worked for the naval department. He worked at the naval base in Bayonne, and he met us one time. Our boat put in for parts, you know, different spare parts and stuff like that. We were also taking on ammunition down at Earl. Earl, New Jersey. So we made the trip.
Q: Yeah, that's not far from us.
A: Yeah. We made the trip once we picked up the parts that we needed for the ship. We went to Earl and we loaded up with tons of TNT because this whole boat was like something with a little fuse on it. And then we went back out to sea. We went back up into the North Atlantic. So my father knew I was coming home because he used to see the billow 80, and he was in the packing department so he'd say, "This stuff is going to this ship. This stuff is going to this ship. Bingo! Here comes the Janssen." He never told me. You know, he never told me because it was secret and my father was in World War I for the United States. He was a real democratic person. He really loved this country, and when I got home he was waiting on the dock. I couldn't believe it. I was so amazed. I said, "That's my father." The guy said, "What do you mean that's your father?" "Yeah, that's my father." (Laughs). It was so that when I got ashore he was waiting for me. We took him aboard. I asked the, you know, the captain of the deck here. I says, "Can I bring my dad up?" He says, "Yeah, bring him up. He's okay. He works for the Navy." So we had lunch (laughs) on ship. Oh my father was amazed. "Wow, look how small!" Everybody just got a charge out of it. It was so great. I couldn't believe it. It was one of the most happiest moments when I came home. I didn't get home too much. I only got home once besides that. That's just a trivia thing. A trivia question, but I'll never forget that scene. And there he was with this big smile, and we used to write to each other in Italian, but they used to censor the letters. But he knew that and he never dared mention, hey you know, "You're coming home," because they would have pulled him against the wall and shot him or something.
Q: Did your experiences in the Navy prepare you or shape your future life in any way?
A: Absolutely. Beyond a doubt. As a matter of fact, it matured me so quickly. Without it I think I would have taken years to grow up, but we grew up quick. I was eighteen right. Alright, they sent me to school again, but that was all trivia stuff. I grew up when we were on that boat because of the things we saw, the things we did, how we did them, and how much responsibility was put on us and me. Every guy on that ship was almost like eighteen or nineteen years old. As a matter of fact, you know, when we had those people aboard, the prisoners, I heard one of the Italian prisoners say, "Who's running the boat?" They looked at us... Most of us didn't shave. They were all scruffy. They were matured people. They were men. And I turned. I was gonna question him, but then he was talking to his buddy in Italian, "Where's the crew?" I was so tempted to tell him, and I didn't, "We're not here on a pleasure cruise. We are the crew." And you know, even the German skipper, his last name was Just. Heir Captain Lieutenant Heir Just. He looked at us like we were you know, high school... Well, we were high school kids, and he could not get it in his head (laughs) that this young crew... you know, officers almost didn't even shave either, took him out. That's what burned him. You could see the amazement in his eyes as he looked around at the gun crews and all the other people. That's when I grew up, when I realized that you know, you don't have to be a hundred years old. If you pay attention you can do almost any job that you want. Did I answer that properly? I go off on a tangent.
Q: Yeah. No, you're giving great answers.
Q: Did you know anything about the passage of the G.I. Bill of Rights?
A: Oh yes. Absolutely.
Q: Did you take the government up on that?
A: Well, I did for about a year. I did go back to school and I got married and we started having children (laughs). That was the end of the school. Well, when I was in high school I took a drafting, you know, I went to a vocational school. I had two years of college prep courses at Snyder High School in Jersey City, but then I figured I wasn't gonna be going to college. I knew I wasn't. My parents first of all couldn't afford it, even as low as it was. So I switched to Dickinson High School which is a pure vocational school. Boy, am I glad we did that. They taught us enough where I could go out and work and earn a living, and I was basically a draftsman. So, I think that it was good. It was good that way, and I did a year. I went down to Rutgers for a year, and I figured that I just wouldn't be able to do that. To be honest with you, I really didn't think needed it, and it was true. I did some great work, I got some great jobs, and I made some great money without, you know, without the college education.
Q: Over the years many films have been made about World War II and about the events that took place during it. Do you feel that they are accurate? Which ones have you seen?
A: I've seen a whole bunch of them. I have the whole series of the U.S. Navy at war, and they did take it quite a bit, you know, of the whole scale. No, I think they did a great job. As a matter of fact, they have a film on this thing and I have the video on it where they show in the video they show why it's built, why the ship was built, when it was conceived, and how well it worked out. No, I think most of the...except for some of the other earlier pictures which they were unable to get the graphics and everything ready, but no, with the later ones they're pretty good. I think so. I think they replicated it very well.
Q: Now you were all teenagers for the most part in this war.
Q: Do you think if America was to go back to drafting today if we were in another war...
Q: ...do you think kids of today would be able to handle the job the way you guys did?
A: If the young people are called, you know, if they have the courage, the will, to have some regard for this country, they will go and it wouldn't be that bad honestly. I know that even during the Korean War, The Vietnam War, a lot of the young people did go up to Canada. Well, you know, in every civilization there are people that just don't have the courage to do it, and it's better that they don't go in there because they're gonna mess up. But I would say that even though our view of the young people today is a lot different, I think that they could do it. Yes. And it won't take long. I think that if you spent about a week on this boat you'd be gung ho and I think that you would do what I did (laughs). Honestly, because it's another world. It opens another thing to you, and this was huge as far as what had to be done. Yeah, I think that would have been good. I think you can do it. I know my kids did.
Q: I anything, what do you feel the world should learn about your experiences in World War II? Is there any knowledge or advice that you could pass on to future generations?
A: Well I don't think individuals by themselves are gonna change history or change another war. Collectively if we...
Previous question continued:
Q: If anything, what do you feel the world should learn about your experiences in World War II? Is there any knowledge or advice that you can pass on to future generations that will help them better understand what you and your fellow crew mates endured while in the service?
A: Yes. Basically, what I think with our young people maybe... You know, we're approaching a point where the young people eventually are gonna be the leaders of the world, not only this country, but the leader as well. And if they could start thinking about some of the responsibilities that we need to have or feel or... the word patriotic comes to mind because of this great country. In this country people have absolutely no idea the difference of this country versus any other country in the world. We are the top at this point, but I think if more young people don't take an interest in their country and be able to say, "Yes, I need to help the situation. I don't need to work against it or be bad or feel bad that I'm gonna get drafted. I don't wanna go. I don't wanna kill. I don't wanna do this. Well, you know, you could find many reasons why you don't wanna go. I could have found many as well, but I was young at the time so I didn't have too many reasons. I said, "Yeah. I'm ready. Let's go. Let's go do this." But I think that the young people need to take more interest in themselves, to be educated, not to fight to many things too deep, but to get with the program and see if they can help out because, you know, it is gonna be your world. Us old guys are kickin' it, but I think our young people... I think they proved it already in Iraq. They proved it in Desert Storm. They proved that. They do have the courage. They do have the whereabouts to, you know, to get with it because, you know, life is like a card game. You get dealt some pretty good cards. Sometimes you don't, but then you gotta know when to hold them and when to fold them. So the idea is to gather as much information and to become aware of the country more, the needs of the country, because there's always gonna be wars. The wars never end. I made a list of all he wars that we've been in. I was amazed. So, that's not gonna go away. So, be somewhat prepared to maybe step up to your country. You live here, you enjoy it, hopefully, you got opportunities that are not in any part of the world. Trust me, and I think you can do it. I think if you were against the wall, think you'd do it (laughs). That's about, that's as far, you know. I couldn't add too much more to that.
Q: And as a last question, why do you think few people know about the role of the destroyer escorts in World War II?
A: Well, at first it wasn't really published very much. You know, everybody was accustomed to the battleship, a cruiser, a destroyer, which is much bigger than this, a full fledged destroyer, and an aircraft carrier. That's all we ever heard of. This ship was thought of back in World War II believe it or not, and Roosevelt, President Roosevelt, had an idea to build a destroyer. Not only is it expensive, a full line destroyer which is about 464 feet, this one here was only 300 feet, took three years to build and cost twelve million dollars in depression time. If you're gonna prepare for a war, we can't build these kind of things. First of all, you can't build them quick enough, they are too expensive, and they break down a lot. They needed to come up with a cheap, quick boat. This boat was made in four different parts of the country. This boat came to the final shipyard on a railroad car. This after-section was built in Wisconsin where there's no water. This section was built in some other Midwestern country, and they put it on a ... Yeah, any machine shop that knew how to weld were making these all over the country. So what happened is that, that' s what we needed: a fast, production line boat. This boat ran only about three million bucks as compared to about thirty three million for a destroyer which was about this much bigger. Alright, it had more heavier guns and it was able to be in combat with larger ships, but for the need of the submarine, the anti-submarine, you know, job, you needed cheap, you needed quick, and you had a small crew. Instead of having over four hundred people on the boat you had two hundred. Instead of sinking thirty three million you sunk three. You could build these is two months. That's the reason, first, nobody ever hears about it, but that was the very reason for this. And I'm really impressed that President Roosevelt had the foresight at that time, to at least get the Navy people working on this idea. And it took them almost from World War I to World War II (laughs) to do it because there was no need, but when the need arrives that was the answer. And when the subs...This German submarine skipper, our skipper talked with him. First of all, they didn't know about this boat until about 1943. '42-'43 they started to come out. They didn't know what it was, but they knew it had a sting that could sink. But when they saw two DEs together, they either got out of there if they could, and most of the time they could not because we would surround them and we would call all our other ships, our other boats, to help us, and once we had them it was like a noose. They wouldn't get out until he came up, and we waited until he did come up. So, that's why I really think that people should maybe , you know, look around. There's a lot of articles on this, and Albany for one. That's a living boat. That boat doesn't have its own power yet, and I think eventually they may get the power fixed, you know. the engines and all. But that boat is a living, an idea that really worked, because without this our convoys would never, never have reached the ports on the North Atlantic seaboard or even on the African seaboard. This ship didn't save everything, but boy it sure helped because before that the Germans were sinking anything in sight. Anything. Until... Then they realized. And Doinitz, who was the admiral of the German submarine fleet, he knew it, and he told Hitler at least on some of the records. "We have a problem!" So they started taking the subs and they put snorkels on it. In other words, where the sub could still stay submerged before the surface without exposing the whole boat. So, this snorkel would take in air and it was a simple operation, just like a ball. In other words, when the water came (claps hands) the ball would stop. So they were able to stay submerged and run their diesel engines, keep charging their batteries, without surfacing completely because if they showed the surface they were dead. We had planes, we had boats, they were in trouble, especially when we had so many of them.
Q: (My father) How did they...Tom, I'm sorry to interrupt but I still have this one question. How did a submarine, a German submarine...
Q: ...if you've got a destroyer or a DE going, if they're submerged, did their weapons come up or did they have to come up?
A: Yeah, they came up. They didn't have to surface, but they could direct that torpedo so that they didn't have to fire that from the surface. They could fire maybe about twenty feet, thirty feet below.
Q: Oh, but they couldn't fire from when they dove?
A: No, they wouldn't have been able to direct it. So in the other words, the sub would come up and scope the area and say, "Okay, I got a tanker there. I got a transport over there. Which do I take?" Well. you're gonna take the tanker first...
A: ...because without the tanker the other ones are dead. So basically, that's how they got the other ship. See they were trying to fire underneath the DE to get to the carrier because the carrier draws a lot more water than we do. We only draw eight feet of water.
Q: Oh okay.
A: So they would miss. Not all the time. If the sea was not running too high or too heavy and it was smooth, eight feet they could hit. They could hit eight feet and they would just aim right for the center of the boat because this is the most vulnerable point of that ship and it breaks there. In other words, this comes up and this comes up and the damn whole boat goes down in about two and a half minutes. And that's what happened with the Davis, the USS Davis. It was a shallow shot, but the sea was calm. And that's why they felt that they could go underneath and get to the carrier which was maybe about a hundred yards, maybe two hundred yards away. So in a way the screen worked. We were supposed to take the hit not the carrier. Because if you knock out the carrier you knock out the planes. You knock out the planes you're gonna knock the DE out because we don't have that coverage of the ocean, large, huge areas of the ocean. You know, you would launch about four or five planes. Now they can cover a thousand miles between them.
A: So that was the key. That was how we worked. Carrier. Escort carrier. Cheap. Again, we needed them quick so we built escort carriers. At first they were using hulls from freighters, you know, carried freight. Then they used a fleet oiler, a ship that used to oil us ships. They put a deck on it . They took the superstructure off, the bridge, and put a deck on it. That was the first aircraft carrier. I mean, escort carrier. Then they started building from the keel on up like in '43 because they had a way of also making them in pieces. You follow me? So that's when they started coming off the line. I mean, they only built about nine, nine or ten escort carriers, but they were all over the world. I mean, we had them in the North Atlantic, the South Atlantic, had hem in the Pacific. They were cheap, and they built them fast. Because the hulls were cheap, put a simple deck on it. The rest of the money was really in the airplanes. So, I would say that this did the job. This boat did the job. I'm not saying it did it all, but once we turned the tide on the wolf packs, in other words, the Germans would group and wait, and when one would spot a convoy they would call this other group so that they would gang up in a convoy. They would get in between them. In between the convoys and shoot anything they wanted, and they were able to do that very, very easily. Not when they saw this one. They knew. You know, the skipper that sank the Davis, I think he had to know that he was gambling because he knew of all other DEs that were there. He knew. He saw us. Why he took that shot, I don't know what it was. He wanted that carrier. I know he did. He wanted to get sunk that he took out a carrier right, an escort carrier, but he got killed by it.
Q: He signed his own death wish.
A: He did. And he did. And I think he was really gambling. I don't know why. I don't know what made him make that decision because most of them don't do that. If they see a couple of these they go deep. I mean, they drop down five, six hundred feet and we'd wait. We'd wait because they couldn't charge their batteries and they had to come up. It was just a matter of waiting the game out. And boy, like I say, we were with this that one sub that we took out for ten hours. Ten hours! And we were blasting the hell out of it. Each depth charger is five hundred pounds of TNT. Each one. Six of us were running patterns on him. We'd dump out, there was another DE behind us. We kept that guy buried. We would not let him come up until our terms because then we could hear him. In other words, our sonar people would know, "Okay. He's coming back up." And sure enough, that's how he did. He came up about a hundred feet, and he was down about five hundred, six hundred feet. Come up a hundred feet. (Snaps his fingers). Our sonar people says, "He's coming up." And they knew exactly how much he came up! So rather than waste all our depth chargers, you know, we wanted to really get him up a little higher, but he stayed. He stayed. He stayed. And all of a sudden we got the word. He's coming up. Boy! We waited. We had four DEs waiting for another run, and we had one DE stationed out to the side. He was the sound guy. He was telling us because our sonar would go to hell because of the sound of all our charges going off. But that ship stationed out there, he was on track. So we would do whatever we had to do and that ship would tell us the coordinates. "There he is. He's moving in. He's going back. He's trying to come out starboard. He's trying to do this." Whatever the maneuvers. And those skippers were pretty sharp, but they ran out of tricks. They just couldn't cope with this boat. Even after the war, we had a reunion with some of the German submarine captains that lived. I'm surprised we did this, but we did. They went to England, and they asked me and a whole bunch of us, "We're gonna go to England as a group. We're gonna, you know, meet up with the skippers of the German subs that were still alive." Because they were much older than we were, and they freely talked about this. There's a film on this boat, a small video. And it gives you the history and it gives you like some of the German aspects of it where they were speaking about it after the war. And they weren't really afraid of a battleship. They weren't afraid of a carrier. This one here, because we had more... I mean, this main mast here, we had yard arms that were loaded. Our screen up here was almost the width of our boat. A huge screen! We had surface radar. We had air radar. You name it, we had it. The most equipped boat. All electronic equipment, electronic equipment that did the job. So, when I first went aboard I said to myself, "Holy smokes! It's like a row boat." But then when I saw what it could do... It was pretty quick too. We didn't have the speed of a regular destroyer but we were able to go twenty four knots at least. And that's fast, but we didn't need the speed.
A: We were never chasing anybody. We would stalk them, but we would never chase them. And if we couldn't get to them, "Hey. That guy's coming you way. Be on the look out. Get your sonar gear up." So they would pick up another group and they would pick up the ball, just like football, you know. "Hey I'm gonna throw to you, but you know...(laughs)." And it worked as a team. It was great. The teamwork on that is just incredible. It was just incredible. As a matter of fact, you see these torpedoes? We only fired them once. They never worked. We had the old Mark 8's, which were twenty one inch torpedoes, but they came from World War I. They never worked in World War I and they weren't working in World War II (laughing). So, on the first trip we fired them, you know, trying to see. So these things would swing out in other words, and then they would drop down. We couldn't hit the side of a barn with those things. The gyros were not really designed properly. They were very erratic and we were afraid that the damn thing would come back and sink us. It was a sound directed. It was strictly you pointed. Yeah. Plot. When you saw this thing going all over the place the skipper says, "Shut down this operation (claps hands). (Laughs). We never fired another one. He says, "Engh, engh, engh." So we pulled into one of the navy yards and sure enough there was a crane. They cut a hole in the deck, lifted this whole thing, all the wires, all the hydrolics systems, and they gave us a couple more forty millimeters. This boat is as built but it was modified when they added some more forty millimeters on here. See these side guns here? These were heavy forty millimeters, and we had two more sitting. Like, these were there and we had two more to take up that space. And then they had to you know, just weld it, remove the deck plate and welded it, ran all the electronics that they needed. Then they'd save room down below where we used to store some of those torpedoes. They were hard to get to. You know, we had this little crane here that held them and brought them up, but what a job. I'm glad they got rid of those. They just never worked out. But you know, they had them. Ah, out them on the boat. It looks good, you know (laughs). Maybe you'll scare somebody. Yeah. We were scaring ourselves. (Laughs). Honestly. But no, this is as built and then they made some modifications.
Q: You put that (model) together yourself or you nought it like that?
A: Oh no. I had a friend of mine who built them, and I saw one of his models in a paper for this DESA organization and I called him up. And I says, "Hey, I need one." And he says, "Yeah. When do you want it.?" He was on a DE also. So I said, "I'm not in a hurry, but I'd like to have one also." You know, it took him a couple of weeks. Yeah, and I got the guy's name right on here. It's Ed Uncle. His last name is uncle. Odd name. I'll never forget that. As a matter of fact, he was in South Jersey and I told him, "Meet me on the end of the thruway." I said, "You know, we'll stop for lunch. I'll pick up the boat. I'll pay you." We had a great day. He was on... I can't think of the name of the boat he was on or the number. But sure enough we down there at I think a Holiday Inn or something down there. Pretty big. My wife and I took a drive on afternoon, met him. He had it in a box. I said, "Wow! What a job!" He said, "Yeah." It took him about oh maybe about twenty hours to paint it and everything. Isn't that neat? Oh, I was impressed with this. I've seen little one but I says nah maybe something...
Q: Yeah. Hat's nice. Rest it right up there. Beautiful.
A: Well, you know, with my grandchildren sometimes they get a little frisky and I don't want them to reach it.
Q: I don't blame you.
A: But, no, this was great. I really, really liked that.
Q: Is the number the same one you were on?
A: That's the number. Yeah, well, if he builds it for you he puts your number on it. Right. But he did well with this. I mean, there's some areas that like I say, it's as built because he had the plans for the boat when it first came off the waves. But in the mean time, they made a few modifications. We had another mast in this spot here. We had another high frequency radio system so that another mast came up. Boy was that powerful! I mean, they could communicate with the airplanes. They could do almost anything we wanted to. And that thing must have had so much power transmitting, you know? So they had to be careful. Because you know, we had to be careful where we were transmitting. But yeah, it changed very little, but this basically was the boat. I got some pictures if you want to see.
A: Would you care for a lemonade or something? You want a few cookies? I don't want to keep you if you've got to go somewhere.
Q: I'd like to thank you for doing this interview for doing this interview with me Mr. Soriano.
A: I'm glad that you came by. I was getting a little... I knew Rutgers was having it too in Newark, and if I didn't get a response from Monmouth I was gonna go down there. So I had all my stuff ready. So, I'm glad you came up. I know you made the effort and I appreciate it very much.
Q: No problem. It was very interesting. Worthwhile.
A: well, you know, if you had three
days I could really do the job, but .... (laughter).
Back to the Interview Index
Back to the Home Page