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Military Service: Navy 1943-1946
Date of Interview: December 9, 2002
Location: Monmouth University
This oral history interview of Edwin Sydney White is taking place on December 9, 2002 at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, New Jersey. This interview is for the Oral History Project for HS 298 01 Oral History at Monmouth University. I am Laurie Harow, a student at Monmouth University. I will be conducting the interview. Ed White served in World War II. He was discharged with the rank of Storekeeper 2nd class. He served in the following areas, the South Pacific.
What was your life like in West Long Branch before Pearl Harbor?
A. Well it was very countrified;
I don't think there were more than two or three thousand people that lived in
the town. And as a kid, you didn't have the toys like they do today. They didn't
have the organization with sports and things, so the only thing we could end
up entertaining ourselves with was we made wagons out of orange crates and stuff.
In those days, the orange crates were wood; they weren't cardboard like they
are today. We got the wheels from the dump, which was up where the SPCA is in
Eatontown today. Now, that used to be Eatontown City Dump. We used to go up
there and get the old baby carriages or whatever we could get a hold of to make
the carts and stuff. It was pretty hard to play with those things too because
all the roads were and everything were sand. There wasn't any pavement or blacktop
like there is today. It was a different ball game. And, outside of that it wasn't
outstanding. I went to West Long Branch Grammar School and Long Branch High
School. I came out of high school; I was seventeen years old, the year was 1943.
So then, I enlisted in the Navy, July 28, 1943.
I went overseas and I went to storekeeper school up in Rhode Island. They sent me to storekeeper up there, it was four months, because I had put on my application when I joined the Navy that I had worked for a grocery store locally. Which it saved me because I got to go to storekeeper school for four months, it kept me from going to the Pacific. Of course at the time, I wanted to go and fight the war and win the war, but as I look back at it now it probably saved my life. It saved me from going out there four months earlier. Then I went out on a troop transport out of California.
Before I got on the transport, after storekeeper school, I was in Maryland, California waiting for an assignment, and I was sick for two or three days. They quarantined me; they thought I had spinal meningitis. But they couldn't figure out what I really had, they took me out of quarantine. Finally, I got out of the pain I was in and they put me in with scarlet fever patients. So when they discharged me at the end of thirty-one days, they said well we don't know if you had scarlet fever or what you had. But we know you'll never get scarlet fever, because if you were going to get it; you would of got it when you was in there with all that contamination and you never showed any signs of it. So that was it; I never came out with any red rashes or anything. And then I was taken over to transport; I went to New Caledonia.
They had a leopard camp over there. I used to go on work detail and you could see them all inside this fenced in area in the leopard camp. And they would the paints all over their face so you couldn't see them; it was very mysterious, but it was a real leopard camp though. So while I was in the receiving station down there, my name was announced over the public address station to come down to the supply, the office, because I was going to be assigned to a ship. So I went down there, they gave me the name of the ship, I don't remember the name of it now, it was 57-58 years ago. I went back and told the fellow that was in the barracks with me, and he was on the Yorktown or something. I forget which aircraft carrier, but it was sunk and he was back down on his next tour of duty, he went down to Midway, I believe. I told him the name of the ship I was supposed to go on. He said, "You went to storekeeper school?" I said yeah. If you went to storekeeper school, and you get on that ship, you're going to be a deckhand, and you're never going to get off of it. He said they don't have storekeepers on that ship; that's a small minesweeper. And I don't know it to my recollection, but a few months later I heard that the minesweeper was sunk. Now whether it was true, I don't know. At the time, I was cognizant of the fact that I was familiar with the name but I can't remember now.
Then I was sent to New Heverties, then another DE, I was assigned to the U.S.S. Coolbaugh, DE 217, which was named after a pilot that went through the battle at Midway and then he came back after the battle of Midway training pilots and stuff in California. Something happened, he went out on a mission and never came back. They to this day don't know what happened to him, so they named the ship after him. He was a young pilot at the time. So then I was assigned to the Coolbaugh, and they had a first class storekeeper on there and a ship's store.
I ran the ship's store, which was about five feet square; my wife's heard about it for about fifty-some years. She saw it on the U.S.S. Slater, which is up in New York now, and she said, "this is the store I've been hearing about that you ran for two and a half years." I said, "that's it," but I'll tell you I had my own business after that and the records for that little, ship store was a lot more meticulous and a lot harder to take care of than what I had to do for own business. And all I sold cigarettes, 50 cents a carton, cigars by the box, $1.00 a box, Elroy of Tan was the favorite big seller, you could buy them by the case or the carton or something. And you sold toothpaste, toothbrushes and things like that, boxes of Hershey's candy, by the box $1.00. I had one fellow on the ship he was a chief, he was a yeoman, and he had an alcohol problem. I could never in Vitalis. Vitalis has a high content of alcohol, and he would actually wake me up in the middle of the night to get alcohol, to get the Vitalis out of the ship's store. I would do it just to keep him quiet. Finally, I would tell him I was out of it, even if I had it, because the poor guy was going to kill himself. But, I don't know what ever happened to him.
Then let's see hear, we operated out of Tulogi, all these different, little islands down there, with the ships and everything from island to island hopping. Then we were going to be sent back to Hawai'i they were going to put large, five inch guns on the ship. Not knowing at the time what they had in mind, because we had three inch as the largest gun on them at the time. They were going to five inch guns, so we're under way a few days or so and they called us into one of the islands. They wanted us to go in with a convoy. The captain and all the officers had to go over to one of the big ships. The next thing we know in a day or two, they are going to take off for Leyte Gulf in the Philippines. That's when we were going to take the Philippines. So that was around October '44.
A big typhoon hit when we were supposed to take off, and we were operating with aircraft carriers, cruisers, and battleships. The aircraft carriers were what they called CEV; they were converted. They were very small compared to the big carriers like the Yorktown. What they did in most cases, they were going to be oil tankers but they made them aircraft carriers. So there flight decks were smaller and shorter, but they still operated pretty good. They could maneuver pretty good; it was just like our DEs. They had a lot of destroyers but our DE was smaller and they figured they could build a DE sometimes in two to six months. They could build a DE that would fit 220 men. They figured if they lasted for six months they would pay. It would pay that they had these ships. They built 565 of them, gave 100 of them to England and Australia and places like that, so they put us that ship that was supposed to last six months. They gave us a six-month sentence. I didn't know it at the time but thank the Lord we made it.
So we went to the Philippines at Leyte and they had a big typhoon, so they had to put off the bombing to soften them up over there. So about the second or third day or so, about the 27th of October, you always went to your battle stations at dusk, because that's when the Japanese planes would come in and dive bomb you like that. So you would always be ready for it. We were in our general quarters in the morning and the planes had just come back from the U.S.S. Swani in Santide, the small aircraft carrier group that we were with. And they were fueling their planes up, and my battle station was right up on the flying bridge, its highest part of the ship, I stood right next to the captain, so I knew what was going on. Sometimes that was good, sometimes it was bad, but anyway I knew what was going on most of the time. I said to the gunning officer, who was up there, Lieutenant Burdenhart, I don't think that guy is going to stop. Well we tried to shoot him, but he was quite a distance off, we couldn't stop him. He was just barreling down and he did, he turned his wings and went right into their fuel compartment. Man, when he did that flames shot into the air and the carrier lost control.
So our job was to try and pick up the survivors, so we went over next to the ship. The captain's hollering at me, I spoke to damage control, the engine room, and the fire rooms. That was my position. I had earphones for the phone on my ear to talk to, and he's hollering at me to tell them to pick of more men, cause they're in the water all crawling off the ship blazing and everything else. And the guy on the other of end are telling me, Ed can't pick them up any faster. Their arms are falling off their backs are falling off. We're doing the best we can. So we ended up with a grand total of 91 that we picked up that time. We kept them on board for two or three days, took them to a hospital shop. One thing I that stood out as I remember is they asked anybody that could, we had a Chief Pharmacists mate named Wicks, who came from Maryland. And he was just like a doctor; you had any problems you went to Doc; you called him Doc. So he took care of the bad seriously; they put them all in the officers quarters, so they could take care of them best. So he asked me to come up and give him a hand, so I did around 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning.
And this fellow asked me if I would hold a cigarette for him. He was burned so bad his fingers, his hands, his mouth, his face; he couldn't hold a cigarette, his lips were. But he wanted to smoke a cigarette. I said, you sure you want a cigarette? As much fire as you've seen, I wouldn't want to see a cigarette. He didn't speak too well, but he did tell me he was from the Midwest sometime, he was 39 years old. He was the only means of support for his mother and he wanted to know if I would write a letter to her the next day. I said all right, I'll do it tomorrow morning. The only reason he was drafted he said was because they had to make a quota and they had to go to the point with the older men. So that's why he was drafted. The next morning I went to see him, he was one of the ones that died on the ship; they buried him at sea. I never got to write the letter to his mother, but when I look back what would I have written if I had known her address.
Then our next maneuver was we would operate with troop transports and that was after they had secured Leyte Gulf we went to ***Nogon through the strait there. That by the way, that battle there, that Leyte where we took Leyte back, if you go and look at naval history; it was the largest sea battle in naval history bar none. It even has it on the Intrepid in New York and you can sea a map of it and it tells you all the story of about the ships that were sunk. And the Japs didn't know it, but if they had gone another half and hour they would have wiped us out, but we were lucky. They thought Admiral Halsy was coming with his big fleet but he had taken another route and we were the ones who were brought with our small DEs and our smaller ships that got hit the most. But thank the Lord it scared them off, they all took off. So anyway we went up to the Liat Gulf with troop transports, so there again you go to your battle stations, we were all anchored down in then in bay, the Liat Gulf.
One morning, beautiful sunshine out on the water, and here we are out in the sunshine, beautiful. There wasn't any smoke around us. There is a big tank of stuff on the ships, flush the smoke stake, there are certain ways you can run the engine to make smoke, which you're supposed to do when you're anchored in the morning or night. In case, you got enemy planes coming in the Balmer Straits or whatever, so whoever it was that was ahead there was something wrong their smoke screen because it wasn't working. We were sitting right out there like sitting duck; we couldn't send anything out but we were there. The captain says I'm gonna weigh anchor full steam ahead because I am not going sit here. And he did, and I'm telling you, we looked back and I'll bet there were 25 or 30 bombs had dropped where we were, so we lucked out again. Then our next duty was troop transport again and we took them up to Iwo Jima. That was our next mission. You forget the dates of all these; they happened over a period of time, about a year or so. We went to Iwo Jima, and those poor guys at Iwo Jima that desolate place of fighting. I was sure glad I joined the Navy after that (Laughing) cause they don't have it too nice, the dust and the dirt and all you could see was the smoke and explosion. Poor guys, I'm telling you. That was such a barren place; it wasn't worth a nickel as far as the land goes, but they wanted an airport naturally if they could take that land. Well anyway, we were sent back then to Hawai'i, and the war was still going on naturally. We were hearing about all these kamikazes and that was what had hit that converted aircraft carrier that we had.
We were in Hawai'i, and then we got word the President Roosevelt had died. We were all pretty much shook up because we didn't know how good this fellow, this Truman was going to be, but thank the Lord he dropped the atom bomb. That saved a lot of lives. I know a lot of people were against, but you got to remember that the Japanese started it and we just had to finish it. When you're fighting somebody like kamikazes, it reminds me so much of what's going on today with the terrorists. It's a sad case when you go into the service, you go to fight for your country or to fight for your life, and you just go out there and donate your life like a suicide its sort of senseless. When you're up against people like that how are you going to win? It's a losing proposition if you fight people that are going to do that. So, oh, I can tell you a few stories, too.
We had the 1st Lieutenant on the ship one-day, and I had to type of requisitions to go get supplies so the supply officer came back, John Collin, he lives in California; I call him up occasionally now. He was 23; I was 18-19. He had graduated from the University of Southern California. Nice guy came from California. We became good buddies over the years. We still kept contact; we still send Christmas cards after fifty-some years. We talk on the phone two or three times a year. He calls me; I call him. He also is a very intelligent man. He wrote a book, and one year, it was a best seller over in Germany. He spent two or three years; I guess he lived in Germany at the time he was writing this book. But anyway, back to the story when the supply officer came down from lunch one day and we're in the supply office.
I've got my back to the door writing up requisitions and the supply officer says, "Ed, I got some more for you to type out." I said, "What?" And when you go into shore, you've got to get a work detail to do these things and the work details don't like to work too much. And they hate the guy that has to take them on these work details. But you've got to have help, you can't carry all this food and stuff yourself. So anyway he comes down with this big list that this Lieutenant Roos wanted and the supply officer is sitting at the deck behind me. And I am turned around to him and I'm cursing him, and I'm says, "That no good s" and I'm going on and on. And the supply officer Jack Collin, he's trying to make all kind of faces at me, and I'm trying to figure out what he's doing this for. And with that, I turned around and about two feet away was that Lieutenant Roos with his face right into my face. I said so needless to say I had to eat like a crow. So anyway, ten minutes later, I hear my name announced on the public address system, white storekeeper 2nd class lay up to the quarterdeck. I go up to the quarterdeck; he takes me up to the front of the ship by ourselves. He says, "You know I could court martial you. I had a lieutenant that witnessed all this profanity that you called me" and all this stuff, but he says, "under the circumstances I'm going to forget it for now but don't let it happen again."
So low and behold when I got out of the Navy, a month or two, a year or two later I guess, I worked in Monmouth Park Racetrack. My first job when I came out of the service, and who walks up to my window in uniform but Lieutenant Roos. I was so happy to see him, I put my hand out the window and said, "How you doing, Lieutenant?" He was just as surprised to see me, as I was to see him, so you never know how small this world can be sometimes.
Then another situation, we came back from the West Coast, from the Pacific, came back through the Panama Canal. We only stayed a day and a half or say, and a man came on and he had all kind of taboo perfumes, alligator pocketbooks. It was real expensive stuff when you brought it back to the States, but down there something that you pay $50, $60, $100 here, you could by it down there for $5 or $10 but with no taxes or anything. He asked if we wanted to sell it. They had a code on it, and he said you can add whatever you want to that price. This tells you the code, the amount of money. You can make yourself a bundle of money if you want to, but I didn't do it. I just charged whatever it said on the code and that's what I charged. So when we went to balance out when he came back, I was $87 or $90 short and I didn't have the money so I had to borrow from Lieutenant Jack Collin. He loaned the money graciously, so I paid the man. About after chow that night, around 6:00, the public address system announced white storekeeper 2nd class lay up to the quarterdeck again. I went up and there was a gunners mate up there with an envelope in his hands and he says, "we understand you were short when you went to balance out with that man."
I said, "I sure was."
He says, well I've got an envelope; there's over $90 dollars. We heard what you had done. The other ships next door, he says, those storekeepers charged $10 or $15 over. We heard they made as much as $300-$500 by adding some money to that. I said, "how could you do that to your shipmates?" Just came back overseas, I just couldn't do that, I wouldn't be that kind of guy.
So lets see what else we got to talk about. (Laughing) Oh yeah, yeah I got another story! So we came back here, we operated New London, Connecticut. I liked that. I used to come home. I bought a '33 Chevy from a fellow that was a storekeeper on the ship, he was from Connecticut. I bought '33 Chevy for $65 and I drive back and forth from New London, Connecticut to home to go roller skating in Asbury Park, Casino Roller Rink. I did that several times while the ship was stationed there.
Then it came time for me to get discharged, but in the meantime, one month before I get discharged the ship was sent to Key West, Florida, to operate with submarines for training and stuff. So when I get down there, by that time, we had another yeoman, pharmacy came on board to replaces Wicks, the Chief, the name which, Bill Roller. We became friendly just the length of time he was one there, so he knew I lived near New York, and he had met a girl in New York that he was going to get married to. So he wanted to know if I would the week after I got married on Saturday and be his best man. I said sure I'll come up and be your best man, so I went up to be his best man. Well to make a long story short after that, we keep very close, the DE Coolbaugh. We've got some good yeomans to take care of things, the paperwork. We got a list of everybody who that's active, you pay $5.00 a year to be in this group. And they list your name, your address, what your rank was, your telephone number, even your wife's name if you submit it to them. So low and behold not long ago, I got one of these up to date lists, and here's this Bill Roller, Las Vegas, Nevada. There's a telephone number and everything there, so I said to my wife, "I think was his best man. I am gonna call him up." So one Saturday morning, I called him up and it was a recording. So when I came home, we had to go somewhere, I came home. There was a recording on mine; he called back. I had said to him, "I was the best man at a wedding for a fellow by the name of Bill Roller and he was a pharmacists mate and he came out a captain. I said I was just wondering was it really you. So he came back on the recording and said, yes it was me. I'll call you later. So he called me later that afternoon and we got talking and I said what ever happened. "Are you still married?"
He said, "Ed, you won't believe this."
I said, "what's that?"
He said, "Six months after we were married, I came home one night to the apartment. She left a note on the table saying I'm leaving you. I don't what anything. I'm going away with a fellow from Hoboken" and that was it. He said he a complete divorce, no strings attached. They did it all through the offices and the lawyers; it didn't cost him anything but a nominal fee. So I asked him, how in the world did you really come out a captain? He said yeah. What did you do go to become a doctor or what? He said no, I went through the executive branch, I was regular Navy if you recall. I stayed, he said, 24 years or something; he got out in the mid 60s I took every test or exam I could take, and I lucked out not matter where I went I went right up the ladder. And he says, I came out a captain and my last duty was in Japan, I was in charge of a submarine base. I was the captain of a submarine base. I said, well you've done all right for yourself. And then I said, I thought for sure you'd be a doctor. He said then when I came home because of the my having been a pharmacists mate and my experience I had at that; I went to work for the state of Nevada in their pharmaceutical outfit for the state. I had a good job. I get a pension from the Navy; I get a pension from the State of Nevada.
I said, "did you ever remarry?"
"Oh yes," he said, "I remarried. We had many years together, but I did loose my wife about six or seven years ago."
I said, "Well you live alone then?"
He said, "No I don't live alone. There's three other men and myself, we're all widowers. We didn't know what to do. We went out and bought a house. It has five bedrooms, three baths. We have the whole house to ourselves."
I said, "Well, how far do you live from Las Vegas itself with the gambling?"
He said, "Only about six miles."
I said, "You go and gamble?"
He said, "No, I'm not a gambler, but I do like to bet football. I do real well at it too. That's my out, that's what I do for entertainment. Gee Ed, you'll have to call me again sometime." Well, I will because its been about five or sixth months now and I think its about time after this conversation I may just call him up and see how he's doing.
Now what else you got to say, so I got discharged from Florida. Then when I came out I went to work at Monmouth Park Racetrack. Jay Walters Wilson got everybody, all the veterans a job at Monmouth Park Racetrack, $2.00 an hour. Worked 40 hours a week, if you were lucky you took home $60.00 for the week. That was good money in those days. Then I put in for a G.I. loan.
I wanted to open a grocery store. There was a small grocery store on Monmouth Road and West Park Avenue, Oakhurst. You wouldn't believe it, the fellow that I worked for, had it nine years, but about nine months before I got out of the service, he closed it up for some reason. Built a little store up on West Park Avenue, up on the Wayside Hill, in Wayside. He wanted me to go work for him but my mother said, "You're not going to waste your time there."
So I said, "By golly, I'm going to get a G.I. loan." I went in, they gave you a mustering out paycheck. They gave me $300.00 for three months after you got out of there. When you joined the 52-20, you got $20 a week for 52 weeks if you didn't get a job. If you got a job you weren't supposed to get that $20. Of course, you got paid under the table, they didn't know if you were working or not. So anyway, that's water over the damn now. (Laughing). So I went in with my mustering out paycheck to New Jersey National Bank, on Broadway, in Long Branch and there was a girl that I graduated high school with. Maureen Bobber, her father was president and her uncle was vice president. She says, "what are you going to do, Eddie?"
I said, "well just came in to cash my mustering out paycheck."
She said, "well what are you going to do now that your out?"
I said, "well I was think I'd like to get the G.I. loan to maybe open back up the little grocery store that I worked out before I went into the Navy."
She said, "You want to open up a grocery store. My Uncle Lou takes care of G.I. loans, why don't you go in and see him?" She didn't even give me time. She just threw the door open and pushed me in. "This is Eddie White, Uncle Lou. He's looking for a G.I. loan." So I filled out all the papers and everything.
So I knew a friend of mine, it happened to be that she was a widow, and John Flock was a big shot in the bank on the board of directors or something. So this woman knew him, in fact he used to take her Monmouth Park Racetrack for lunch and for the day like that. They were in their 70s and 80s at the time, so one day she was at the racetrack a couple days after I put in the papers. He said, "This Eddie White put you down as a character reference, you know him?"
She said, "Yes, I've known him ever since he was a little boy."
He said, "Well he put in for a loan for $3,000. Do you think he's worth it?"
She said, "You ought to give him the $3,000. You're only going to lose $300 if he does go defunct. The government guarantees 90% of it." So you wouldn't believe it, the next day I got a call my loan had approved. So that was in May, had to be June sometime.
So I went to work and I spoke with the man that owned the building. I happened to know him. He was a carpenter that had worked with my father, and I was doing a little moonlighting at the gas station up the street from him. And he came in one day and I told him how I would like to get it. And he tells me, "Well I'll tell you Eddie, I got a fellow who's interested in it. He's supposed to tell me Saturday whether he is really going to do it or not. If he doesn't, you can have it. It's yours." So low and behold he came in that Saturday and he said, "No he doesn't want it. There was a five-room apartment above it, two bedrooms, a bath, living room, dining room, and kitchen above the store.
I said, "How much you want rent?"
"$80 a month."
I said, "I only want the store."
He said, "Oh no. I don't want two tenants in the building. I don't want any problems. If you want it, you take the whole thing or you don't get it." So I took it. There was a couple living there at the time, in fact they had a couple little children. But to make a long story short, two years later I got married, and those people got out. I lived in the apartment for seven years from 1948 to 1955 when we built the house on Larchwood Avenue, which is right down the street from Monmouth University, about ¾ of a mile.
So I have a son, he's going to be 52 in March the 25th; I have a daughter who is going to be 50, March 1st, and unfortunately we had a son that would have been 37-38, he was born in 1964. One of the worst things you can ever experience in your life, we lost him March 21st, 1987. Choked to death in his sleep; you never know what tomorrow is going to bring. He was living out in Pennsylvania, graduated Susquehanna University, and hadn't even been out a year. He'd been living out there four months; he had a job working in a government office, some new project they were working on. He had a nice girlfriend; no doubt in my mind they would have been married within a year or so after that, but unfortunately it never came about. But we found out later, he had affixation, choked to death in his sleep. You see all this advertising on television for Pepcid and all these kind of things. You have trouble with your esophagus that's the muscle down there that doesn't close. It took us about two or three months before we got the autopsy report from Virginia. That's what it was, that miniscule muscle; they say within 30 seconds he was dead. The autopsy reports have got to be over a half-inch thick. They sure are very thorough like that. It was very unfortunate. He was home the weekend before and his mother said to him the weekend before, "Kean, do you have a cold?"
He said, "No why Mom?"
She said, "Because all night long you were (imitating coughing sounds) hacking." And by doing that you opened the muscle there, that flapper and it would close and close properly. But if he didn't have two pillows under his head like that, he didn't have two pillows under his head that night. In fact, he went back to his fraternity, one fellow lived in Maryland he had graduated with, he was 22 years old at the time. He hadn't even been out of Susquehanna University a year; he played football in college, went out for track and threw the javelin and all that. Lifted weights, 6'1", 200 pounds, his girlfriend's aunt was a doctor and she pleaded with him several times, let me take you to me aunt. He said no; I'll be all right. Just heart burn, no problem, but it wasn't just heartburn, so I'll tell you whoever listens to this, if you have this problem do something about it. Because, they say it could be serious and it certainly could be serious that's for sure.
My wife and I have been married for 54 years; we got married November 14, 1948. 54 years, the same woman and my son and daughter sent us to Hawai'i for our 50th wedding anniversary, which was great. We enjoyed that. Maybe we'll be able to go again if we live long enough. I have health problems; I have heart problems. I've had radiation treatments, 39 of them, but I'm pretty good for the shape I'm in. I have no complaints; I've had a good life, and I've had a lot of good friends. I have met a lot of people over the years being in that store, you could never meet that many people just working in one place. That was a great experience; I enjoyed every minute of it. Fortunately, I had a chance to sell the corner in 1974.
Real estate was bad; gas was short. It really was a tough situation at the time. So the people next to it wanted to sell it so I had a chance to sell it to Mobil Oil. I went through three years of it, and I got it approved and there was a gas station up the street. They appealed it to the Supreme Superior Court in Freehold and they said I couldn't do it because there was a gas station within 500 feet, so I couldn't sell the corner for $88,000. So I ended up selling it to Frank Rozano, you'll see on it now there is a sign on it that says Rozano's corner and I sold it to him for $49,000. Everybody says how do you sleep at nights; it's got to be worth so much more. Listen, everything is relevant. I was just happy to get out from under it; I had 28 years and I am thankful I came out with my health. I raised three children with it and I am very happy because when you're in business for yourself, it's a 24 hour a day job, even if you are not there. I was there 12 hours a day, up to 65-70 hours a week, and I mean I loved it, I loved it. I loved doing business with people, which was great. Then I got a job as a police dispatcher with the Ocean Township Police.
They came out with a seeder program. Things were really bad and if you couldn't get a job or whatever. I went to work for racetrack again; they started fall meeting that year. So I went to work for racetrack that year, and the last day the guy next to me was selling Jacksonville green cards; he said, I sold the programs that year, "I see you go to the window once in awhile you're in here. How do you do?"
I said, "Not too good."
He said, "Well I'm going to tell you something, I am 65 years old," I was 48 at the time, "I'm 65 years old. My mother and father are still alive. I never got married, but you told me you've been married, you got a son living home with you yet still going to school. You have a house and everything. You're over here at this racetrack working and you go to the windows and you're not good. You take my advice; when this meet closes," only a 30 day meet, "you get out of here and don't come back. Because if you don't and you come back, you're going to lose everything that you got. Sometimes I'm broke; sometimes I'm on the top of the world. Sometimes I sent my parents; sometimes I have to write to my parents for money. So you get out of this." So I took his advice ad I didn't go back.
I go there once a year with my son. In fact in the meantime since then, my son was very fortunate in computers and stuff, my older son. He lives in Virginia. He had a lot of money he made, and you got a lot of concessions when you own racehorses. So he bought racehorses. I interceded and the fellow that owned Carl's Greek Meat Company, he had a racehorse at the time. So I got him in touch with a woman that was a trainer with patience counted. She was a horse trainer; she had a horse at Monmouth Park Racetrack. My son had his first win up in the Meadowlands, and he had about, I guess, altogether over a dozen or more horses. I got a lot of pictures. Got a few pictures of winners, but it is a lot of second place and third places and it's a big difference between second and third. But then after he did that and he decided maybe he'd give up on the horses but they didn't give you any concessions like they used to, and he decided to raise kids. So now he's got a twenty-year-old son and a seventeen-year-old daughter.
My daughter also has two daughters and a son. One daughter went to school to be a dental hygienist, but my daughter has worked for the dentist for thirty-some years, and she was always sorry that she didn't go to be a dental hygienist. We used to go up to Bridgeport, Connecticut where the dental hygienists school is to be a patient. My wife went up to stay overnight and she's a dental hygienist, she now does real well working for my dentist. I got her a job with my dentist. He gives me free, my services because I got him a good dental hygienist. I just hope he never retires, but there's rumor that he's going to, so then I'll have to start paying again. And the another daughter went to Villanova and she graduated and she's in computers. There all in the $50,000 range. There doing very well and they also had a son too, Louise. He had a wonderful job. He worked for industrial and drove trucks. Before the World Trade Center thing, a couple of months after that he lost his job. So that World Trade Center has really changed a lot of things. It's gonna change a lot of things in history, it's been a very bad, very tough situation. Now I don't know what the answer is, I just hope they're doing the right thing down there Washington so that we come out on top. Now do you have anything else to say, I think I've run out of gas. Come on Laurie. You have to have a question or two.
Q. I have lots of questions. Okay, let me go back before the war. How did Pearl Harbor effect your senior year of high school?
A. Well Pearl Harbor, you knew darn well that you were going to go into the service, unless it ended overnight, so you just knew you were going to be in the service. A lot of folks quite their senior years, I have all those pictures in the yearbook that didn't come back, they joined before the graduation and everything and there was one Anthony Colangela that could play the trumpet as good as Harry James. He never came back, he was in the Battle of Gulfs and he didn't make it, and there was a lot of them out of that class that didn't. You just knew that you were gonna go into service, one branch or the other. And your probably gonna ask me why I chose the Navy, but I told you before I live near Fort Monmouth and I've always seen the army, and I just couldn't see myself living and working and shooting and fighting in mud. I'd rather be on a ship; I thought it would be cleaner and it turned out to be that way too. It was very nice.
Q. Can you tell me what it was like in storekeeper school?
A. I'll tell you it was very strenuous
in storekeeper school. They really taught you stuff and it was very, very
the reports and things you have to make for the government and for the Navy
was unbelievable. You wouldn't believe you had to make a report every month
really, and all transactions. When the supply officer came aboard we used to
go to another ship and to pay them for when the supply officer came aboard then
they assigned supply officers to the Coolbaugh and to any DE in fact, they didn't
at first. And you had to, I figured the pay on the ship, you had to figure it
right down to the minute. I can't remember how much the salary was now, would
you believe that I can't remember. I know it wasn't good like it is probably
today or as good, but the school itself, had several classes. They had only
a first class seaman that taught it. I can't remember his name now, but anyway,
I had just come out of the school, so it wasn't too bad, I think I ended up
with a 3.4 or 3.5 or something like that. But they had some guys that were accountants
and stuff that were 39-40 years old. And they were always in the top of the
class, so you weren't gonna knock them off the top rung. But I was just happy
I graduated from storekeeper school and became a storekeeper, because I wouldn't
have wanted to be a deckhand scrapping them decks and painting. That was tough
work and going over the side. I wasn't the greatest swimmer in the world, so
if I fell over I probably would have drowned.
Q. What was it like the first time you got on the ship, the Coolbaugh?
A. I was on another DE because it wasn't in the port that I picked up a ship so I stayed overnight on one DE and it took me to where they were and where everybody was. It was quite different. Of course when I first went in the Navy in Newport, Rhode Island where I went to boot camp. I think the boot camp lasted five or six weeks or whatever. Called you skinhead, they shaved all your hair off your head and I didn't like that, but I couldn't do anything about it. But I'll tell you, I cried myself to sleep many a night because I had never been away from home before. Many a night I cried myself to sleep. And it wasn't any fun, but then when I got on, by the time I picked up the Coolbaugh, I had been in maybe for five or six, lets see, in July I went to storekeeper school. I'd probably been in the Navy seven or eight months, so I adjusted to being away from home by then. I was just happy to get to my ship that was going to be my ship. And I befriended a fellow that was a former Indiana State trooper; he was a radioman on the ship. It was always sort of remarkable, because everytime we went through rough seas he'd take these, he had false teeth. He was 29 years old; I think I was 18-19. And he'd always take them out because he didn't want to loose his false teeth, if he got seasick, and he got seasick most of the time. I was fortunate; I never really got seasick. Thank the Lord for that. Don't need it.
Q. What did you miss most when you were in the Navy from things that you had done while your were home?
A. Well you were just homesick that's all. You just liked to be home; that's the name of the game. You just want to be home.
Q. What was the training like at bootcamp?
A. Oh boot camp, that was fun time. Get up 5:30 in the morning and you all line up and get in the regular troop for training. It was double time! You had to go outside of the base and go up side of the hill. It was just nothing but dirt and mud. It never rains too much in the summertime when I was up there in July and August. It was real hot in Newport, Rhode Island, but I always felt bad for the older ones that were drafted. Some 37-38 years old and I was just a young kid, so that double time and that rushing wasn't too bad for them calisthenics. But they took it all. They had you work with gas masks and all those types of things. Then, showed you airplanes on slides. Of course it was such a quick process, you really didn't learn that much. The only way you were really going to learn was to get out there where the action was. The actual experience of it was the only way.
Q. Were there any outlets that you could have fun on the ship during your breaks?
A. No, no. I was very fortunate. When they first had me on the ship, I was standing watches, but it wasn't long after I was on the ship that the supply officer came onboard. And he finally told the captain, listen this man's got to figure pay, he's got to run the ship's store, he's got to take care of inventory. He can't be standing watches and doing this. He's going to work seven or eight hours a day anyway, so he did convince the captain. I didn't have to stand watches anymore. And I did, I put in a regular day's work, I'd start work around 8:00 in the morning and have my time off for lunch and then we'd quit around 4-5:00 in the afternoon. We didn't have a supply office when we first got on. It was just a little place to work out of, but they finally took a section, took a few of the bunks out and made us an office, about eight by ten feet or so. And we had a calculator and we figured the pay out on a couple of typewriters. Everything was bolted down because if we didn't, it would fall on the deck. I was getting ready to say floor but there is no floor in the Navy. It's only the deck.
Q. What was the food like on the ship?
A. Very good, very good food. You had a chief, what did they call him, he was in charge of the mess halls and everything, Chief Hoover. He'd make a regular menu, that was another thing I had to do was type up the menu, and see we had a 1st class storekeeper and myself and another fellow that was a storekeeper on the ship before I was. So when it came on, I had been to school, so naturally they threw everything at me. But I didn't mind it, it kept me busy with my job and I was willing to do it, very cooperative. At night, in the supply office, we would play cards a lot. We would play cards almost every night, the chief and the lieutenant and the lieutenant who was the supply officer, and myself and the other storekeeper. The other officers didn't like Lieutenant Collins because he was more or less with the enlisted men. He would come back and play and they would get mad, because they didn't understand why he didn't set up in the wardroom with all the officers. He just didn't fit in; he said he'd rather be back with us, guys. So did the records then, everybody like him, he had a way about him.
Q. What was segregation like on your ship?
A. We only had six blacks on the
ship, but there was no problem as far as segregation. They were segregated with
respect that they were across the ship from the brig. The brig was in the back
part of the ship near the fantail. In fact, I slept in that brig about two or
three months before I got a bunk on the deck in that brig. We didn't have any
prisoners till we picked up one of the Japanese that was in the Saragora Strait,
when we went through there one time. But anyway, I slept on the deck there,
but right in between there, there was sort of an open space that went to the
aft steering room. Right across from that there was six bunks, in a twelve by
fifteen whatever room, and six bunks with the lockers underneath the bunks.
And they were real nice guys. I can remember one of them was Johnson, the other
one that was a 1st class stewards mate, Oxner, he was a real strong looking
guy. I used to go back there and talk with him quite a bit. We were real, he'd
tell me about where he lived and all these things and everything. And another
one was Booker; his last name was Booker. There was no problem with segregation.
They did their job.
All they did was they took care of the officers; they cleaned for the officers. They cooked for the officers, and they made their beds and all this stuff. But they had their duty and that was their duty. They didn't have to stand watches or anything. They were nice guys; I enjoyed them. There didn't seem to be any problem with segregation but there was only six off them onboard. One time when we dropped 56 depth charges, Oxner, his battle station was down in the hole where the depth charges were, and they ran 250-300 or 400 pounds or whatever, something like that. So the day or two after, they asked you to pick one up. He couldn't hardly pick it up off the deck, but when that old adrenaline got flowing, he could pick them up, put them over his head, and hand them up to the guys. Just goes to show you, when you got the adrenaline going, you can do lots of things, you don't know if you can do them or not.
Q. Where were you when the atomic bomb hit Japan and what was your reaction to it?
A. The ship was in Hawai'i as I said, they were putting the five inch guns on to send us back to Japan. We were very happy because we figured with the next day it ended. We knew; we heard that the war was over. We were naturally happy, very happy. I am glad it happened and that's for sure. As I said before, a lot of people don't agree but that was the way to do it.
Q. I am going to stop the tape now and turn it over.
Q. This is a continuation of the oral history interview with Edwin White.
Of all the places that you have traveled to with the Navy, have you ever returned to one of these places, and you said that you did Hawai'i, after being released from the Navy and what was it like being back there?
A. Well, what do you know, we went
back there in 1998. Fifty years married, my son and daughter sent us back to
Hawai'i, so we flew back to Hawai'i. It was an eleven-day trip, one-day flight
out, one-day flight back and nine days there. So we get off the airport in Honolulu,
Oahu and this fellow pulls up in this big limousine. I said to him, I'm going
to sit in the back. The fellow says, you sit anyplace you want you're the only
one, you and your wife, that's going to ride in this car tonight while I'm driving.
So on the way from the airport he takes us to the hotel, we went to the Hilton,
Hilton Village in Oahu, and I'm saying to him, "how long you been doing
He says, "twelve years."
I said, "oh yeah."
He said, "I used to be a garbage man before I did this."
I said, "you're kidding."
He said, "nope."
I said, "which job you like best, this job or that job?"
He said, "well I don't get all those goodies like I used to get before when I was driving that garbage truck, but I guess this is best."
Then I said to him, "Gee, I've got to get to Hotel Street."
He said, "Hotel Street? You don't want to go to Hotel Street, that's the red light district now. That's Chinatown, you gotta stay out of there."
I couldn't believe he told me that. That was where the main U.S.O. used to be when our ship was stationed there. I used to go there at lunchtime all the time. Never was a dancer then never did any dancing. I didn't dance until after I got married. So he dropped us off there and in the meantime, he was telling us about how his father was from Arizona. And he was in the Navy and he went home for one year after World War II and he wasn't happy in Arizona. So low and behold, he came back to Hawai'i and his father married a Hawaiian girl, and he was born and raised in Hawai'i. And I would say the gentleman was probably in his mid 40s or so, and he said that he takes people on tours and he had one incident where they had five or six people going on the tour and they were in a van. And he went into the boss and he complained about him; he didn't want anyone from the States taking him around Hawai'i telling the like. He said my boss told him this fellow was born in Hawai'i, he's a real Hawaiian. He says so he sold him a billy good and I took him on his tour.
And it was, god, we went to three islands; they flew us to three islands, it was a great, great trip. The weather was beautiful, you can't beat old Hawaiian weather and that's the way it was when I was in the Navy. I mean you went on liberty sometimes and it would rain like the dickens and ten minutes later your dry. It's not the same kind of rain, like around here. It's really God's country, it really is. And that's the only place that I really went back to of monumental proportions.
Oh, I should tell you, when I got married, I had my store at the time, and I got married on Sunday and on Monday morning, we went up to New York State, Hotel Plymouth. That was where I stayed when I was overnight for that wedding for Bill Roller that I was talking about. So I went to the Hotel Plymouth. The place isn't even there now; they tore it down since. And then that next day we went up to New London, Connecticut, I showed my wife were the ship was in port there. We were operating the submarines out of New London. So that was our honeymoon, I came home that night and I went to work on Tuesday. That was a one-day honeymoon. I told my wife we would go places, we went places fifty years later when our kids sent us to Hawai'i. Thank the Lord they sent us on a trip, so I could live up to my promise to my wife that I would take her places.
Q. How would you describe closing ceremonies and your being released from the Navy?
A. There was no closing ceremonies.
I was sent up on a train from Key West, Florida. I was only down in Key West,
Florida one month; the ship got sent down there one month before I was discharged.
Oh and by the way, I always had very soft teeth and I always a couple of fillings
right in front main teeth, right in the dead center. And one of the fillings
fell out of the front when I was in Key West, Florida, and I went to the dentist.
It was a nice, young dentist and he looked at me and said, "You know, I'd
like to do a good job; you would never even know that those fillings were there.
How long you got to go in the Navy?"
I said, "I got about a month and I am supposed to be discharged."
He said, "A month. Well I can't do what I would like to do with it. I could put porcelain in there, and you would never see it but I can put gold inlays in there for you. There last you a long time, but you'll show gold right there in the middle of those teeth." And by golly, he did it; I think I had them for fifteen years after I got out of the Navy. I was twenty years old when I got out of the Navy, and by golly I had two beautiful gold inlays. I always said that if I ever had to have false teeth I was going to have those gold inlays put in there, but I didn't. I've got the false teeth but I don't have the inlays. Some dentist made money on that gold. But that's all I got to say about it.
Oh, you talked about monumental getting out. All they did was send me up, I don't know that I was even with any other fellows, came up on a train. I went to Lido Beach, in New York. Lido Beach, I slept there one night I think, and I got up and went in an office with a couple of fellows. There was nothing monumental about it, and he said, "Mr. White, two years, nine months, thirteen days, and ten hours." I can remember it just like it was yesterday. So I was a little less than three years, and that was ironic, because my brother-in-law was in the Korean War, and he had the good conduct medal. He asked me, not long ago, "why didn't you get the good conduct medal?"
I said, "Well it wasn't because I was bad. It was because you have to be in three years before you qualify for it." So that cut down on him picking on me for not getting the good conduct medal. And that was from what I understand, when I was in the Navy, was what it was. Otherwise, I wouldn't have gotten it anyway unless I was in for three years.
Q. What was the first thing you did
once you were out of the Navy?
A. That's been so long ago, I probably didn't do much. (Laughing) I just came home I guess to little, West Long Branch, New Jersey and that's where I stayed. Well, I went to work for the racetrack as I said. I think they only had a forty day meet that year, but I got out May 10th, so it had to of been just June and July that it was open, so I didn't have much time to fool around. It was right to work and then I opened the store. Let's see, May 10th, May, June, July, I opened the store August 6th. I was only out of the Navy four months when I opened the store. I look back at it now and I don't know how in the world I did it.
Q. What was it like opening your own store; you had to go through the G.I. loan process?
A. Well, yeah, I go the $3,000 and
I went to open the store. Well there's a little thing if you're going to carry
meat, cold cuts, and things. You got to have refrigeration, so I went to Hill
Refrigeration Company, which was out on Highway 35 over in Asbury somewhere.
So I went into Hill Refrigeration; I needed refrigeration. $1,800-$1,900 for
the refrigerator, eight feet long. Didn't have any credit because I hadn't opened
my store yet. I had borrowed $3,000, so I had to pay cash, $1,900.00, which
I did. It didn't leave me much to work with, $1100 leftover for the store, put
stock on the shelf, have a sign made, and whatever. There had been a sign on
it before. I think it was Pioneer Store or something, and my brother was pretty
handy, my brother Ira who wound up being Chief of Police in West Long Branch.
He served on the Coast Guard in World War II, and he was on a yacht that was
stationed up in Raritan Bay, and he guarded the arsenal in the Coast Guard.
The owner of that yacht was from Kildear Farms; Monmouth University had just
bought the farm, over here on Willow Road or Hollywood whatever [Monmouth University
is on Cedar Avenue]. Anyway he was the one that owned the boat, and that's the
one that my brother was stationed on. I am loosing my train of thought. (Laughing)
What was that question again?
Q. What was it like opening the store?
A. Oh yeah, the store. So anyway,
I was figuring out what I was going to do. There was an old counter in the store
and we rebuilt the old counter, we put it in the back. This was in the days
when you had shelves all around the sides of the store and you went up within
a foot or two of the ceiling or a couple of feet of the ceiling vents. Cereal
boxes and things put up there, but you only had Kellogs Cornflakes, Kellogs
Rice Krispies, and one kind of Cherrios maybe, and Wheaties probably. There
wasn't too many cereals back then like there are today. You only had a few of
them; soap powder was the same way. And of course, right after the war was over
soap powder was very scarce, but I had a very close friend of mine that I knew
from West Long Branch. He used to have a farm in West Long Branch, and him and
my brother were the same age. But anyway, his father had passed away, during
the war, and he is working out in Detroit for the Cadillac Company. He had worked
out there; he didn't pass his physical for, I don't know what reason. And he
had to come back; his father had passed away. He had to come back and help his
mother run the store, which was on the corner of Oceanport Avenue and Broadway.
So I went in and saw Eddie one day, Eddie Stravin, and I said how I was thinking
about opening a store. He said, "Gee, I'll help you as much as I can Eddie.
Anything I can do for you." So low and behold, he did.
He gave me about 500 and some dollars worth of groceries gave me some soap powder, which was very scarce. You couldn't get it. He gave me a few boxes of soap powder, a few pounds of sugar, a few of this and a few of that. Then, I just placed it all up on the edge of the shelves, and we did business by golly with it. I don't know how we did it, but not only the refrigerator did you have to buy but the insurance. Couldn't open the store without insurance, so that was another fee you had to pay. I forget what it was now, but it was pretty rough. I'll tell you. I didn't have any bookkeeping system to speak of; I didn't set up anything. And of course when it came up to income tax time, I was in trouble, so I had to hire an accountant for that. That cost me $300.00 for the accountant, but then I paid $25.00 a month, I think for a year because he said I owed him $300 dollars or something. Low and behold, a few years later after I had a bookkeeping system, I was called by the Internal Revenue Service, because why they did attribute to how I did so much business and I didn't make that much money. So you had a lot of factors.
This was when I was in there really doing the butchering. I had cut my own meat and bone it and everything. You had a vanIderstein company; he used to make soap and things with the bones and the fat. They would pick it up and pay for the bones and the fat, and they would pay you for it, seven cents a pound or whatever, and I kept everyone of those slips. They would send the check for seven or eight dollars for three or four hundred pounds or so. That would be a month. Well I had a stack that must have been two inches thick and I took them down. This was when they were in Asbury Park, the IRS, and I took them down there with me. The accountant was talking to me about how did I attribute that I did this much business and I didn't make that much money, so I showed him these and I showed him what they were and what I got paid for it. He said, "You know you got a good point." Then he said, "and you had all that waste."
I said, "You know we trim our meat more than what they do in the supermarket. You work with people; you're face to face. And all of that bone that costs me 79 cents a pound for that hindquarter of beef, and I am only getting 7 cents a pound for that fat and bone; I don't make that much profit on it." Well after it all went through it, I was scared about what was going to happen, but he said, "You'll be getting a letter, stating whatever." Give and take a few months later, I received a letter stating whatever. Said no cost, everything was fine, and that was it, I never heard from the IRS again. Then got a bookkeeping system that kept me informed on all my records and simplified system New York, which would send back my income tax with their signature and everything on it and on my figures and everything like that. This bookkeeping system it had everything right, every Wednesday night, I spent 3 or 4 hours writing down all my business, and the book was colored and at the end of the year I sent them a recap income tax. I never had any problem after that.
Q. Do you have memoirs of the war that you are able to look at?
A Do I, I got a scrapbook two inches thick. When you come to the house to pick up those pictures; I will show you that scrapbook. I'll bring that down so we have that available. The unbelievable part of it is the number of pictures that I got that was taken with a camera. I don't remember taking the pictures. I don't remember what kind of camera I had; I don't how, but I got all these pictures and I got all the fellows names on it. Their first names not their second names, I couldn't tell you who they are now. But I got a lot of pictures and I know that they were gunners' mates or they were torpedo men or whatever. It's funny because I say I got all this and I've got books and things they all made and I got some pictures out of a Life magazine that was sent to me when I was overseas when we went to Iwo Jima and back. It's really interesting that of all the stuff I've accumulated, and you know that I didn't get into this and make all this thing up until we lost our son. And then for some reason, one winter I just go this out a few years ago. I just put everything together and made this scrapbook out of it. And he would have been the one that would have been into that more than ever, but maybe somebody else will appreciate it one day. Well there it is, such as it is.
Q. Have you kept in touch with anyone else besides going back and talking to the guy you were best man for?
A. The best man and Jack Collins,
who was the supply officer on the ship, and there was that Cox, remember the
Cox that I told you. I was funny. After 40 years, I think it was New Years Day,
or during the Christmas holidays, I had his, we always sent cards to one another,
but I never talked to him on the phone. He was Shoals, Indiana, Harold Eugene
Cox and I got on the phone this day and called up information. I said, "I
want to know if there's a Harold Eugene Cox, Shoals, Indiana."
She said, "I don't know."
I said, "I haven't spoken to him, but I was in the Navy with him in World War II. It has been 40 years since I spoke to him, but we've written Christmas cards and put little notes on them.
She said, "Why after 40 years all of a sudden?"
I said, "I don't know why, but I just got a notion that I want to speak to him and if he's got a phone I would like to speak to him." So she got a number and I called him and I spoke to him. He had gone back, he had been a state trooper for about ten or twelve years, I guess, when he went into the Navy, and when he came out he went back again for awhile until he got retirement from that. And then, he went in the insurance business, as an insurance man, and he did real well at that too. And he also had a farm out in Shoals, Indiana. I was always going to go out there, but I never got out there. He had a farm out there and he used to raise quarterhorses and race them once in awhile. It was ironic because my son had racehorses about the same time. We used to call each other quite often; he was a talker like I was and he talked fifteen or twenty minutes. Not long, in fact the last phone call I got from him, I didn't happen to be home. My wife answered the phone was home and answered it. She said he was so interesting to talk to. She said, "I thought he was never going to stop."
I said, "Well, him and I had the same problem, we never knew when to shut up." And she laughed. But you know, that was the last phone call we got, he passed away. But he had a stepson, when he remarried the woman had children I guess, and I got a letter from him after his father had died. I didn't know he had died. And he wanted to know if I had any pictures of him, so I went through my scrapbook and here was a picture of him, Harold Eugene Cox with me on liberty walking down Hotel Street in Hawaii. So I sent it to him and I spoke to him once or twice on the phone since then, but I don't know what I've done with the number after that I lost it. He had a stepson, too. I was unfortunate to have the same, we lost our son, and he had a stepson that worked at Fort Brag and used to travel back and forth to Shoals, Indiana. He was killed in an automobile accident. So we sort of had a broken heart together with catastrophe happened to our family. You never know.
Q. Have you attended any reunions with your ship?
A. Yes, I have. Ten years ago in
1990, in Baltimore, Maryland, we had one of the toughest raw sailor guys. We
hooked up with him and his wife, Wesley, what was his last name I'm drawing
a blank, but anyway, him and his wife were there. And we hooked up with them;
we used to go out to eat with them and everything. We went to the harbor in
Baltimore; they've done that all over, it's beautiful. And we spent four or
five days there, and low and behold, who did they have there but the captain
of the ship came to that reunion. And the Omi Hotel that we stayed in, they
were sold out, they didn't have any rooms for him there so they put him in a
hotel across the street, him and his wife came. He lived in Connecticut, Lieutenant
Commander Hodgkiss. So I went over with Wesley, and we went over and got him
off the elevator. He had a bad leg. He couldn't walk to good; he had a cane
and his wife with him. I said, "Do you remember me?" He said, no he
didn't, and I said well I was a talker for you on the flying bridge when they
went to their battle stations. He still couldn't remember me, so I said, "Well,
if you got any words that you can't say, ask me, I'll be able to say them for
you." And he laughed and he said, "I'm quite sure you would."
And we had quite a talk with him and his wife and since then I hear he's passed
away. Well, I thought he was an old man then, he probably was 27-29 years old.
As I say, I heard he passed away. He lived in Connecticut, but he was a nice
Oh, more reunions, sure, that was only one reunion, I went to another one that was in Buffalo, New York. We went to Buffalo, New York another reunion and we had a great time up there too. We went to Niagara Falls again, I've been to Niagara Falls three times, but I'd like to go back again sometime. Can never get enough of Niagara Falls, have you ever been to Niagara Falls?
A. You should. Don't miss it, you
haven't lived until you see Niagara Falls. You can't imagine how much water
or where it comes from. And let's see where the next one was, oh, up in Albany,
New York two years ago. We didn't go to the one this year. We went up to Albany,
New York and the barber on the ship, he lived in Baltimore, Frank Chichelo,
and he's a comedian. He can tell joke after joke after joke. Him and his wife
flew up from Baltimore to Albany, and we happened to get a hotel room, motel
room rather. We were supposed to go to the Holiday Inn, but we go to the Holiday
Inn and they're sold out. The sent us across the street to Best Western. We
go to Best Western, that's in the heat of the summer, the transformer blew out
and they have 40 rooms they couldn't use, so they sent us to the Howard Johnson,
which they told us was just up the street. We went up the street and we couldn't
find it so we went back. And they said oh you didn't go to so and so, you're
supposed to go to so. It was about five miles away, so anyway we went to that
one. We had a great time. Well low and behold, when we got there they had put
us in the back. The Howard Johnson was in back of a restaurant, and it wasn't
Howard Johnson restaurant in the front. They put us in this room, which was
moldy and terrible. I said to my wife that we're not staying here, so I went
to the room and I got changed. And low and behold, when this Frank Chichelo
and his wife checked in, we got them to get a room right next to us. So he didn't
have his car but we had our car, so we got together and we went to everything
together. They have a big dinner the last night, Thursday night. Every body
was there. Must have had 500 people in this restaurant there; it was a real
big affair. But it was nice seeing the old-timers back again.
Then there was another fellow, Jim Loder, who was the mailman on the ship. He did the mail and he was also a sonarman. I am in contact with him now, too. He was the Garden State Chapter of the DE Sailors Association, they have their own chapter, and he belongs to that. He just got through serving as president of it. Well they call it skipper when your president of it. That's our name. So he was skipper of it, he just resigned; he was pensioned off of that a couple years ago. Somebody else is skipper now. But I still keep in touch with him too. He used to bring all my letters when I was in the Navy. So I went to three conventions so far. I hope to get to some more, but I don't know if I will or not. As you get older, you're just as content to stay home.
Q. Do you think that World War II is accurately represented history books today?
A. Well, I don't read too many history books, but I think they have done pretty well so far. The only thing that disturbs me is it has been how many years since the war ended in 1944-45 and it took them this long to decide to put up a memorial. I'm a winner; I don't need a memorial, but to just overlook all those men and women that died during that war, to go all of this long without having a memorial, is a disgrace. It really is a disgrace. When I got the first literature on that about they were going to make a World War II memorial, I wrote a note on it that said, "you won't get a nickel from me. You have no respect that you haven't respected those poor men and women that died in that war. It's just as far as you're concerned, it's a lost cause and I think it's a sin. But you know what, they kept sending me that stuff and I broke down and I'm a Charter member. Cause two wrongs don't make a right. So I contributed to it and I still get the letters. I still send them money once in awhile. I am really glad, finally, but you know it's sad that the poor guys that went in this aren't going to live to see it. And the poor ones that are gone haven't been recognized and I just don't think it's fair. I mean look how many memorials you have for wars since then and I mean that was supposed to be one of the biggest wars and they're just recognizing it now. And I don't think that's fair for those poor men. It's just not fair. I don't know anything else to say; what do you know?
Q. I think that's good. Thank you for sharing your story.
A. Well, thank you for listening. It must awful boring for you to listen to us old guys.
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