DESA Oral History Project
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|Interview with Edward
November 15, 2002
For the Monmouth University Library
This oral history interview of Edward Tallau is taking place on November 15, 2002 at the Vietnam Era Educational Center in Holmdel, New Jersey. This interview is for the Oral History Project for HS 298 01 (Oral History) at Monmouth University. I am Jennifer Raimo, a student at Monmouth University. I will be conducting the interview. Edward Tallau served in World War II. He was discharged with the rank of Electrician's Mate Second class. He served in the following areas, the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
Question: What was it like growing
up in New Jersey in the pre-World War II era?
Answer: Well, I was just a high school student at the time the war started, and I graduated from high school on one day and I got the greetings from the President the following day and a week or so later I was on my way to the Navy. (laughs) We lived in Maplewood, New Jersey which is a strictly residential middle class town, and my whole operation really was to go to school and that's what I did. My whole educational process was in Maplewood, through high school.
Q: How would you compare your childhood experiences in the pre-World War II to the experiences of children growing up immediately after the war, and the experiences of children today almost 60 years after the war?
A: Well, up until I was aware of this project, I thought they were very indifferent to the World War II activities and problems and so on. I feel this is a good sign. (Crying) If the kids are behind us, they're interested and they're learning, which is important.
Q: What were your educational experiences like? Can you recall if your high school history teacher spoke about World War I at all?
A: I can't recall that. I can't recall that at all, I doubt it cause it might have been more in the forefront of my mind if they had.
Q: Also, did your high school teachers discuss the events of World War II in Europe as they were going on at the time?
A: I guess we did. A current events type of thing was covered, or at least briefly.
Q: What did you do for fun as a youth, and what kind of recreational activities were you involved in?
A: (Laughs) We played sports on the streets in the neighborhood or in a local field. It was not organized to any extent as it is now. I am not particularly athletically inclined, and never have been. But I went to football games and basketball games at the school periodically.
Q: What were some of your favorite radio programs, songs, and or movies while you were growing up?
A: Oh boy. Well, let's start with the movies, even though you mentioned that last. Cowboy pictures were quite prevalent at that time, and I remember collecting soda bottles to get the deposit money to go to the movies to see these. And it was a good walk from where we lived to the nearest movie, and my parents didn't have a car of their own at that time, so it was walk, or not go at all. (pauses) Would you repeat that question?
Q: Sure. What were some of your favorite radio programs, songs, and movies?
A: Goodness. Radio programs, I don't think I can recall any of those. (laughs) Sorry.
Q: How did these radio programs, songs, and movies depict war in general and how did these depictions affect you opinion of the war?
A: Well, we used to play cowboys and Indians in the yards of the homes where we lived and that was further supplemented by the movies. And there were also radio programs, I can remember a couple now. The Shadow was one, it had a very unusual opening, but that was one of the radio programs that I can recall.
Q: What was your opinion of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt at this time?
A: I think he did a good job directing our country during the war period. There is a lot of controversy about some of the things he did or didn't do. Prior to becoming involved in the war, he did try to maintain neutrality, but it was very, very difficult because of our normal objective to help other people. England was certainly in trouble with the war, they got it first hand. And they needed our supplies and the little material that we gave them or served them. So, I think that's it, that's my opinion at this time.
Q: Were you aware of the rise of Hitler and Mussolini in Europe?
A: Yes, I have some vague recollections of that.
Q: Where did you acquire information on this topic, in school, on the radio, in the newspaper, or a combination of all three?
A: Combination, yes.
Q: Did you consistently follow the events in Europe prior to the United States' involvement in the war?
A: No, not to the extent that I would now. (laughs)
Q: What was your knowledge and opinion of Japan, before the attack on Pearl Harbor?
A: I just though they were Middle East countries or minding their own business and I was not aware of their imperialistic attitudes and objectives that led to the war.
Q: How was your knowledge expanded and your opinion changed after December 7, 1941?
A: I think it was a dirty trick, the way they did it. It was done on their part I believe, to give them an advantage of surprise and the advantage of surprise is probably why it was done, the way it was done. And I think now there's some controversy still brewing about how the things prior to the War should have been a tip off of what might be coming.
Q: How would you compare the attack on Pearl Harbor to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001?
A: I think they were both rather similar. That's the way I felt, they were very similar and very upsetting, both things were sad.
Q: What was your knowledge of the start of WWII on September 1, 1939?
A: What we learned came from school, which I think was rather minor.
Q: How did you feel about American neutrality in the early stages of the war?
A: Well, I am the kind of a person who likes to help other people and they were in trouble and I felt that we should have gone in and helped them. But, I don't think my parents had that same opinion. (laughs)
Q: Do you think America should have got involved in the war sooner?
Q: Where were you when Pearl Harbor was attacked?
A: I was out on the corner chatting with some friends in my neighborhood. Just sort of a Sunday afternoon where you were shooting the breeze so to speak. And somebody come out and said that they had heard on the radio that we were attacked and we sort of dispersed and went home.
Q: How did you feel at this point?
A: Well, sort of let's get in there and help.
Q: How did you feel when you learned you were drafted, and how old were you?
A: I was eighteen and I felt good. I was ready to go and anxious to go and get in there.
Q: How did your family react to this information?
A: Just the opposite. (laughs) They were not pleased, but I think they understood the need.
Q: If you had a girlfriend at the time, how did she feel when you were drafted?
A: I did not have a girlfriend at that time.
Q: Did any of your friends from high school get drafted at the same time you did?
A: Yes, one of my best friends. Actually, we went to the draft board together, and I was accepted and he was rejected, which made it tough on our relationship, for medical reasons I guess, that I was unaware of when it happened.
Q: Before you received your draft notification, did you have any desire to join the Navy after the bombing of Pearl Harbor?
A: I was anxious to get involved and my father sort of guided me towards the Navy, and I would much rather have signed up. But they encouraged me to finish high school, which I think was a great idea it would have complicated my future by not doing it that way.
Q: While you were in the Navy, did you ever have a desire or wish that you joined another branch of the military?
A: No, no. Definitely not. I felt very lucky to be drafted into the Navy, because that was an exception, rather than the rule.
Q: Now some questions on the War itself.
Q: When and where did you complete your Naval training? Can you describe a typical day of training, and how long of a period did your training expand?
A: I was sent to New Port, Rhode Island to the Naval training base there. And I believe it was about ten weeks of training, which consisted of rules and regulations. They had a "blue jackets" manual, that they called it, and still have it, and it was to familiarize a recruit on Naval procedure and things you should learn and do. That's what they did they tried to give us Naval history and background that would help us as we proceeded through the Navy. And I remember some of the things that we did other than marching and lectures. They were heavy on swimming (laughs) for obvious reasons and you had to go off a high platform into a pool with your clothes on. And also climb up nets that were fastened, just so you could get back on a ship, if you were unfortunate enough to be off, knocked off or jumping off because of a problem on the ship.
Q: Most of the men who served in the Destroyer Escort Service were between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five, many recent high school graduates. Considering this, and the young age at which you entered the Navy, where you intimidated by the equipment and weapons on the ship, or perhaps the ship itself at any point?
A: I would say I was intimidated by the ship, when I was delivered there to begin to get situated. That part of it was rather loosely done. They just put you on a bus and drove you to the Navy yard and said "There's you ship". They gave you sea bags, canvas bags with our clothes in them, and a mattress and blankets we had to take wherever we went. And they just said "well here you are". And the people on the ship said well that's your bunk and you put your stuff there. And that was it.
Q: Did you feel your training was adequate, and prepared you for the tasks that lie ahead? If so, why? If not, why not?
A: Well, I think they tried to give you basic training that would help in anything that you did. Destroyer Escorts were a very new concept in Naval shipping, and I had no idea that that's what they were preparing me for at the time, but I can see some of the things that we did, did prepare us for ship work life, and other things didn't.
Q: Can you describe a typical day on your Destroyer Escort? What did you find difficult, or what did you find easy?
A: That's interesting. Days are divided into watch periods, that was where you had a specific duty, at a specific time. You might have been a signalman that had to go to the bridge for a four-hour period and then you had an eight-hour off. Now, in the day light hours, you did other work. I was an electrician's mate so it was light bulbs to change, new equipment that had to be wired, and so on. And then, you maintained the existing material during that off hours. But watch time you had a specific duty to do your part of the ship work, work. As an electrician, that for me was actually, running the ship, when we were at sea. Which was an engine room location, and we actually took orders from the bridge, as to what direction we were going forward or backwards first, and then the speed that they wanted you to go. We controlled the motors, which were electric motors and we turned the propellers that drove the ship. Does that make sense to you?
A: Okay, if you need further questions, don't hesitate to ask for further clarification.
Q: Thank you.
A: Some of my pictures may show you, so you can visualize it.
Q: That sounds good.
Q: What was your job on the ship?
A: I just went through that.
Q: You just said that. (laughter) Did you like the job you were assigned?
A: Yes, I did. Definitely.
Q: How do you feel your job contributed to the war effort?
A: Well, the engine room part was particularly good. I enjoyed that. There was never any problems, doing what they expected me to do. That is about what I would answer to that.
Q: Did you have any contact with the enemy while you were on convoy duty in the Atlantic? If so, how did you feel, and did this contact result in actual fighting?
A: Well, Destroyer Escorts were primarily designed to hunt submarines, and we had sound equipment that as you sailed through the ocean, they were looking for something underwater that probably would be a submarine. So there were sailors that took care of that. They were called sonar men, and their job was to listen to these "pings" that they sent out at a wave, not a water wave, but a sound wave, and when that hits a something, it would bounce back and would come out as a "ping" in their earphones. And then they would say we think we have a sub and its here and then the captain of the ship would try to get the ship in that immediate area and we would throw depth chargers over. They were ash cans, they called them, they were about the size of an ash can and the appearance of an ash can. And we had K-guns on the back end of the ship and we would throw them off to the sides. They had a charge in them that actually threw them off the ship, and then they had in the back end, racks that they stored the depth charges in, and they would roll them off. Just pull a handle and it would release one and it would roll into the water, and when it got to a predetermined depth, it would explode. And if the submarine was where it exploded, then you got a submarine. It would be fractured, the water would come in, and it probably would sink. And there would be discharge of items from the ship, or from the submarine (correcting himself), would come to the surface too, oil and rags, and that sort of material that would float would come to the surface, and you could see that, if you got one.
Q: Did your ship ever (get hit)?
A: No, we never got one. We threw a lot of ash cans, but we never knowingly got one. We also had something called a hedgehog, which was at the front of the ship. And I always thought this was a great piece of equipment. It was little cans of TNT, which they could throw over the bow of the ship, like a rocket that went into the water and sunk. And when that hit something, it would explode. So you knew, that you probably got a sub then, because it exploded. If they just went down to the bottom of the ocean, there was no sound, and could have just been a fish or something that caused that sound to come back and indicate that there was something in the water. And you never knew what it was, it could have been a sub, it could have been a fish, or it could have been nothing.
Q: Did you have any contact with the enemy during any of your duties in the Pacific?
A: Yes. I have a picture, that I can show you later. Do you want me to get it now, and stop this, or do you want to continue?
Q: We can stop, if you want to show it now.
A: Yes, I think that would be good.
(tape turned off and on again)
Q: Did you have any contact with the enemy during any of your duties in the Pacific? If so, how did you feel?
A: Well, as I mentioned some of the fellas when we had Japanese prisoners on our ship, thought that we should just take a gun and shoot them. I did not share that opinion. Their prisoners, and they should be treated as that, and they were. They were fed, and had access to restrooms, and that sort of stuff so they could keep themselves clean. We just took care of them, they didn't damage anything or try to escape. And most of them didn't want to escape because of actually the virtue.
Q: Since living quarters were so tight you were forced to live very closely with the other sailors on the ship. How did this affect your relationship with your fellow crewmembers? Did you become close friends, or even best friends with anyone on the ship?
A: Oh yes, I did. I was very close to one fellow who lived in Ohio, and he even drove out to visit me in Florham Park after the War, after I was married and such, in our first house. Is that sufficient?
Q: Can you recall any humorous stories from your time on a Destroyer Escort?
A: Well, one of the things I intended to mention to you was the fact that the first time we came out of Brooklyn Navy Yard, to the Hudson River, we could still see the Statue of Liberty, and I was sea sick, and I was sea sick until we tied up on the other side. I just didn't eat and just carried a bucket. And even on duty in the engine room, I had the bucket right along side of me. And there was a chief machinist's mate who was really my boss in the engine room, who loved to make me make the coffee. And I don't drink coffee, period, never. And that was just one of his vindictive things that he thought he was going to make me do. So I had to do it.
Q: In addition to living and interacting with other sailors while on the ship, you also had to deal with officers. What was your relationship like with your officers and how close were you in age to your officers?
A: Well, there were some older officers, we had an engineering officer who was regular Navy, and he would be older than most. We had some, what we called, "ninety day wonders" who just got out of school, and came aboard, and we felt they didn't know their head from their elbow.
Q: If you were close in age to any of your officers, did you find it easier or harder to deal with the officer, since they were so close in age to you?
A: Some of them were friendly, and didn't subject us to the normal protocol and they would go out admirably, and you could talk to them as a buddy. Others, they just were aloof and didn't. They wanted to keep the arrangement, according to the general rules of the procedure manuals. I found out that one of our officers was the executive officer, which was the number two man on the ship, lived in the town next to us in Morris County and I did contact him and went to his house and showed him some movies I had, and he showed me some movies he had and we got to know each other pretty well. But there was none of that on the ship that was part of the system, we mainly just stayed separate.
Q: While you served in the Destroyer Escort Service, did your ship experience any kamikaze attacks? If so, can you explain your feelings at the time of the attack? Also, did you witness any kamikaze attacks on other Destroyer Escorts, during your service?
A: Yes on the heel of the boat, we would see them and hear them coming in and then on our radar and radio back to the other ships in the harbor that they're coming. And they preferred to go in and get the bigger ships in the harbor, than to bother with our little APDs but you could see them fly over, and sometimes they shot at them. But being in the engine room, I missed a lot of that, because of if you go to general quarters you have a specific job to do and some of the jobs I had at various times was in the repair party which meant that you were inside too. They were the ones who went to fix any damage that happened if you were attacked. And then as an electrician's mate at one time I had to go to the bridge and tend a 24 inch search light, which is a pretty good search light, because it is what they call a carbon arch light. It burns carbon under a high electric current to make the light extremely bright, it is like weld, if you've ever seen a welder, how bright that is when they touch the rod to whatever they're welding. It was an intentional way that they made lights extremely bright, add a piece of carbon to burn. It was burnt to make the light, so you had to go take care of it. The carbon had to be replaced when it burnt down, and that sort of thing. So that was my job one time.
Q: Being away from your family, must have been difficult. How often were you able to contact your family, and how often did your family contact you in the form of mail? Was both your incoming and outgoing mail previewed before you received it or it was sent out? If so, how did you feel about this?
A: Okay, I usually got mail every time we came to port, because it was important to the Navy to get your mail delivered as timely as possible. Even though, it took weeks sometimes. And they had fleet post offices where the post office new where you were, and you knew where you were, but you couldn't let your family know. So they'd send it to a fleet post office, and you go into a harbor or an island and they send a boat over with bags of mail for the whole crew and that's how we got the mail. But I would get one probably every couple of weeks, and I would do the same. My mail was censored, where they actually cut out pieces of words if it was inappropriate, like if you said were at Okinawa or arrived at Okinawa yesterday, they would cut that out. They don't even mark over it, you know, they just cut it out. That's not something that I appreciated, but you have to accept the system.
Q: During World War II, as in other wars the United States was involved in; the United States Navy was segregated. Were you aware of and how did you feel about segregation in the Navy at this time, and what were your feelings on and opinions about the U.S.S. Mason, the only Destroyer Escort manned by a predominately African American force?
A: I thought it was a great idea, to give the black sailors a chance to show how good they were on the Mason that was a good thing. But they should have been able to go any ship and do the same thing, because that's just the way I believe. There should be no segregation. We had black cooks and mess men, they called them, for the officers and some of them were black, and they were no problem. It was just a bum system.
Q: Today, almost sixty years after the end of World War II, the decision to drop the Atom bomb is still debated and discussed, how did you feel about the dropping of the Atom bomb immediately after it?
A: I thought it was good, and since it has proved that it was good. Because I have a paper that was classified information and it's been declassified and it really indicates the that the ship I was attached to would have been in on the invasion on Japan and they anticipated that that invasion would be very costly in lives. So, I'm very happy and thankful that that was done. And what really bothers me most of all, was something that happened very recently when they didn't want to upset the Japanese for some silly reason. Oh, it was the movie Torah! Torah! Torah! It may have seen that in the paper recently. But the government, our government, tried to have that movie banned, because they thought it might offend the Japanese. I hate to say it this way, but the Hell with the Japanese. They were the ones that attacked Pearl Harbor and killed many of our sailors and soldiers, and now we're going to bow down to them, and say, "we don't want to offend you". That's wrong, in my estimation, very wrong. And I'm very opinionated on that.
Q: What were your opinions and feelings about President Franklin Delano Roosevelt during the War, during your service?
A: I thought he did a great job during the War for our country. And I think that he had done some finagling prior to the declaration of War against the Germans that things were manipulated so that we would get into the War, possibly, but that's very difficult to prove, and some people might object to that opinion, but that's part of my thoughts. He wanted to help people and I think we should have helped them sooner, in a more effective way.
Q: Where were you when you heard of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's death in April of 1945, and what was your reaction to his death?
A: I was very sorry that he died. We were out in the Pacific at that time, and it was very sad, because he had worked so hard for our country, as far as the war is concerned, and we were making such good progress at that time, since he was not able to see the final conclusion. But, I was happy with the way he did things, should have been sooner from my point of view.
Q: Did you ever hear of Harry S. Truman, before he replaced FDR as President?
A: (laughs) No. I hate to admit that.
Q: What was your opinion of President Truman when he took office?
A: Well, he was Vice President and that's part of the system, that he should be President when the need arises. I think his decision on the Atomic bomb was wonderful, and for several reasons, one it ended the War, and second of all it may have made it possible for me to come home in one piece.
Q: Just a few questions on your life after the War.
Q: When and where were you discharged from your services in the Navy?
A: Lido Beach, and I think that's on Long Island somewhere, and it was just a formality it went very quickly, and we knew we were on our way home once we got to that point. We had to have points to get out, in or to come back, and our whole ship came back, and anybody who had adequate points was sent for immediate discharge.
Q: How did you feel about the end of your service?
A: Well, I really had a pretty good time in the service. The fellowship and the excitement of it, that's sort of the way I like it.
Q: How did your family and friends react to your return home?
A: They were very happy that I got back in one piece.
Q: Did your town throw some sort of welcome home reception for you and any other local men who served in the war?
A: Not that I recall. We did recently, as recently as 2001, receive a letter from the Morris County Freeholder as a congratulations for our service to our country, and I am proud of that.
Q: After you returned home from the War, did you continue your education and go to college?
A: I did. I went to Rutgers, in Newark, under the G.I. Bill.
Q: What degree did you receive?
A: I didn't receive one. I had recently gotten married and found it very difficult to both things at the same time. We had a house at that time too, that needed care and upkeep, normal upkeep, and kids.
Q: What did your professional life include after the War?
A: I worked for an insurance company in the statistical department immediately after the War. And I spent twenty-eight years on a temporary basis with the company. (laughs)
Q: What role if any did your experiences in War and on a Destroyer Escort play in your professional career?
Q: You mentioned you married after the War, how soon after your return home?
A: I was discharged in 1946, and I got married in 1947.
Q: Do you have children?
A: Yes, three children. Two girls and a boy.
Q: Have any of them served in the Navy or any other branch of the military?
Q: Did you share your experiences in war with your family?
A: Not originally, it is gradually leaking out, as it is today. And it's a difficult subject, but its necessary to preserve the information for our current generation, and future generations as this program is, that's very important to me.
Q: Since the end of World War II, many movies have been made about the War. Most recently, the film Pearl Harbor was released. Many critics feel this movie is accurate, whereas others feel it is extremely inaccurate. If you have seen Pearl Harbor, do you feel it is accurate? If not, have you seen any movies about World War II that you feel are accurate or inaccurate?
A: Well, I think the trouble with any movie is that they editorialize things, and to the point of making it convenient for movies. Just as recently as last week, I saw a movie on the capture of the U-505, submarine, by a Destroyer Escort, the U.S.S. Pillsbury. They captured this ship, or boat in the Atlantic Ocean, in a coordinated effort with the DEs and an air craft carrier and they actually were able to save the ship after it was evacuated by the Germans, and bring it back to Chicago as a museum. And it's a good story, I think the movie probably, as I said editorializes it, but it tells the story, so I don't have any complaint about that.
Q: When and why did you decide to get involved with the Garden State Chapter of the DESA? What is your role in this organization, and how do you feel this organization has benefited you?
A: Oh boy, that's a great question. The neighboring fire chief invited me to a meeting at his house of Destroyer Escort sailors, and we met a couple of fellows that knew or became acquainted with and the thought of preserving our heritage so to speak, appealed to me, and I immediately joined. And I got a lot of support from my wife on that subject because the ladies of DE sailors had an auxiliary and they became part of our activities, which is good, great. And as far as dealing with the DESA, we have had many, many happy times, we particularly enjoy their annual conventions throughout the country. We went to one on the Queen Mary in California, we went to Norfolk a couple times, and all the other ones. We haven't been to all of them, but we went to a lot of the, and are still going to them, as recently as October of this year. We went to Myrtle Beach, and they are always meaningful, and its good to have the camaraderie with the other sailors.
Q: Recently, President George W. Bush has been talking about the United States going to War with Iraq. As a veteran of war, how do you feel about the United States going to war, yet again?
A: Well, I am in favor of it. And it's not because I wouldn't be going. I just hate to be bullied by anybody or any country and I think that these people are in effect, due to their actions, bullying this country, and I don't think we deserve it and I don't think we should put up with it. And I would be right on a DE again, if I could.
Q: What advice do you have for young sailors and military personnel of today?
A: I have a saying by a very famous, I think he was an admiral, " Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead".
Q: In retrospect how do you feel about your service as sailor on a Destroyer Escort during World War II, and how has this experience affected your life in general?
A: Well, I think through the DESA, we have increased our social life, and have acquired many friends through them, and I enjoyed my service on the DE. And if I had the physical capacity and the need I would go tomorrow. (crying)
Q: What do you feel the world should learn about your experiences in World War II?
A: Well, I already said it. I think we shouldn't let anybody bullies us, and if it takes war that's what you have to do to protect the freedoms we have fought for and have given our families and countrymen. That's just the way I feel.
Q: That's the conclusion of the questions. Thank you very much, and I really appreciate your contribution to my project.
A: And I appreciate the chance. You did a super job. (crying)
Q: Thank you.
Conclusion of Interview
Mr. Tallau's Destroyer Escort, the
U.S.S. Frament, DE 677, was named for Paul Stanley Frament. He was a pharmacist's
mate 3rd class. He was killed in action at Guadalcanal on November 19, 1942.
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