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|Interview of Harry
December 9, 2002
For the Monmouth University Archives
This oral history interview of Harry Jackson is taking place on December 9, 2002, at The Monmouth University Library at Monmouth University in West Long Branch NJ. This interview is for the Oral History Project for HS 298 01 (Oral History) at Monmouth University. I am Michael Lotito, a student at Monmouth University. I will be conducting this interview. Harry Jackson served in W.W.II. He was discharged with the rank of Quartermaster third class. He served in the following areas: the Pacific Ocean and the Marshal Islands, the South Pacific and the Philippines.
Mr. Jackson, what did your father do for a living?
My father was an automobile mechanic, he was an independent worker, but he worked in the backyard back then and today they would call it a shade tree mechanic, but he made his living that way and that was it. Times were tough back then.
Did your mother work?
No, not many women worked that far back. They were housekeeper so to speak.
What was life like growing up in New Jersey?
Life was tough in South Jersey, we distinguish ourselves from North Jersey, just because, I don't know why, but we were middle class poor, but we didn't know it because everyone else was in the same boat as us. My father fixed cars, junk cars too for a little while for a living and we had the pride for never going on welfare because things were though. And for the kids we made out three meals a day and all that we managed to eat fairly well. The people next door were on welfare and they would give us part of their ration from welfare and we survived the whole thing.
Where did you live?
You mean the town?
We lived in a town called Pleasantville NJ, which was oh, about, twelve thousand people then, a nice countrified town, very safe at night and all that. Its probably only has half the population now. It went downhill a whole lot. The fact that it was a place to grow up, nice quiet family town.
Where did you go to school?
Pleasantville High School. Graduated Pleasantville High School. And went from there to work for Woolworth 5 and 10 as a stock clerk in the backroom and from there in to the service in to the navy.
What was your family life like living in the depression?
It was very hang loose life. My father was busy as most fathers were all day long, he worked long hours and was tired when he came home so he really didn't spend much time with the kids my mother raised my mother was a trusting soul and as long as we stayed out of trouble we didn't have much trouble with my mother watching over us. She sort of just let us do what we would and we respected that and stayed on the strait and narrow path for the most part.
Did the depression have any influence on you to join the navy?
No, the navy came because of the war mostly, The depression had an influence, it still does on my life as a you're not sure of what will happen tomorrow, really, I'm still a compulsive food shopper I love to have the shelves all filled with food just I think because of the impact the depression had on me where you just wonder where your next meal is coming from sometimes.
Where were you when you first heard
about Pearl Harbor?
I was setting pins in the bowling alley. I was a senior in high school and I used to work. I worked hard as a kid I, had a news paper route plus I work a couple nights in the week in the bowling alley plus Saturday and Sunday in a bowling alley. And I think it was a Sunday, yes and I was setting pins in the bowling alley, back then everyone set the pins manually no electrical pinsetters then and I was in the back of the bowling alley. It didn't have that much impact on me, I knew the at things were bad, but I had no idea where Pearl Harbor was, just only a fuzzy idea where Hawaii was and the impact whole thing was on everything, but, I it was going to be big. The next day it was bigger though cause my newspaper route they put out an extra on the newspaper the Bulletin The Bulletin Philadelphia and we had to go sell newspapers up and down the street, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and get rid of them that day too. That's what we were doing then. I got a nickel a game to setting pins; I guess a lot of work for a little bit of money.
How old were you when Pearl Harbor was attacked?
Sixteen, uh -- Pearl Harbor? Just - seventeen I guess.
What did you know about WWII in Europe before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941?
I knew it was on and I knew it was bad. I knew the Germans were winning, I felt sorry for British getting bombed all to shreds. And I never thought we would get into it though there was a lot of people against getting involved in another war in Europe. But When Pearl Harbor came everyone sort of cohiesed together and said ok we're in war and now lets go do it. And that was about it and I followed the war in Europe somewhat but not with the attention that we were ever gonna fight in Europe.
What did you know about Japanese polices in Asia?
Really nothing. The Japanese, see was three thousand miles across the country then, plus another I guess five across the Pacific Ocean. That was a long way away and I knew the Japanese were fighting the Chinese and that they'd taken over big chunks of China and all that, and I never expected them to attack us. And just really didn't pay attention to them. They were very, it was the dumbest thing they ever did they weren't very industrial then the little things they send to America were awful shabby, and they wondered how they would ever fight a war.
Do you think the United States should of entered into WWII before Pearl Harbor?
(Laugh) I never thought of that until now. I doubt it, it was sort of Europe's problem, and we had already fought one war in Europe, the WWI, and really didn't get much out of it, and they are all busy fighting again and I think we stayed out, and they fought till exhaustion and maybe never have any more wars over there. I don't know I wasn't all for it. When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, yes, we had to get into it.
How does the bombing of Pearl Harbor compare to September 11th?
Well, uh. -- There you knew who your enemy was. Right now you don't know who your enemy is I don't think. You know it's the militant Muslims maybe. But you can't go out and put your finger on em. When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, we knew, hey the Japanese are no-good-nicks, the Germans are no-good-nicks, the Italians were no-good-nicks, and we knew who we were mad, and now it is sort negligent, we just can't put our finger on it I think the country united tighter for WWII because the military was in it from the get go there, not the civilians, and they didn't carry far from there
How old were you when you enlisted in the navy?
I was just eighteen, I was eighteen
at the end of April and went in I believe in June. But it was a -- an oddball
thing to happen in a way. My mother was against me to going into the service
and she wanted me to be eighteen, which was fine. Many people joined right after
high school at seventeen, you had to be eighteen without your parent's position.
As soon as I was eighteen and I knew I had to go soon, and I was working in
Woolworth like I said at the 5 and 10 and I took the express truck delivering
goods that day to back it up to unload it when the driver was eating lunch and
I backed into a light standard and it broke off at the base fell over, hit a
hotel, broke in half again fell down on a sidewalk and made a big mess and the
electric company wanted a hundred dollars for knocking it down and I knew I
had to go in the service soon so I went down to the navy and said hey I am ready
to go now, and I went.
Why did you join the navy?
That was it. (Laugh)
Instead of any other branch?
Oh, yeah that was different OK. At home my father was a plotting man and he said go in the army everyone else going to the army and I looked at the army uniform and they were khaki and wooly, and it didn't appeal to me much. My older sister said go in the Marines, look at their spiffy uniforms, wow, and I looked and right they sure are spiffy uniforms but they sure gotta work to get them. My younger sister said, hey go in the navy, look who walks down the street with the girl in their arm and I said hey your right they're nice looking uniforms and they always have a girl in their arms, so I went in the navy.
Did any of your family members ever serve in the military prior to your enlistment?
Did you know what a Destroyer Escort was before you entered the navy?
No, they weren't even in being then, I don't believe. I went to the Destroy Escort just via rumors I had heard rumors that if you went to a big ship like a Battleship or Cruiser you had to stay pretty well dressed up at that time because they were rather formal. When they gave a choice to me right after training as quartermaster they asked me what kind of ship I wan to go on, I wrote a small ship for instance Destroyer. And I got myself a little smaller a Destroyer Escort, but that's just how I Destroyer escort just by not wanting to be dressed up all of the time
During the time you served in WWII, can you describe some of the places you visited?
Well it was a multitude of places. It was a big experience for a country boy and I knew I was only going around that way one time so I tried to make the most of it. Whenever we stopped at an island I was always there to help take the mail into shore or pick up supplies or something. Always wanted to go to shore where we landed It was, I only been to three states when I joined the service, four maybe, New Jersey, once to New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware four states I think, and the school trip went in to Delaware, but, that was it. And to go in the navy and to go across country, Wow! Big thing at each train stop I'd get out to look around get back on and after we left the west coast and to Hawaii, to Oahu, Pearl Harbor, and of course out to Waikiki. Waikiki then was, there was only one hotel out there, the Royal Hawaiian which is still there, but look around see palm tree, Polynesian people and all that. It was an experience; most of it were Malaysian, not Polynesian, Mel-o-nasian. Who are the black or woozier hair people, who live in the islands not attractive don't think, but wherever I had a chance we went off shore the Solomon's. a lot of times I went ashore in Bubbenville where they were still fighting went I went ashore, Iwo Jima, the fighting was over but went ashore and explore the caves there. The Japanese had honeycombed the whole islands, the Japanese with tunnels and caves and all that its a wonder how we through it to see that the Philippines go to shores very lovely people the Philippines almost all of them spoke English surprisingly. And just about every where we went, it was I remind you that I was only going through it one time so I wanted to see what I could do each time.
When did you serve?
From, I have to wing it. June of '43 to February or March of '46, I believe.
What was the highest rank you achieved in the navy?
I got Quartermaster third class. Which was the same as a Buck seargent in the army.
What was the name of your ship?
The William C. Cole that was named
after some admiral somewhere who was not distinguished but got his name on the
ship and it was named after him, William C. Cole, D 641, the hull number
How did you feel about living on the ship?
Not too bad we all had to be somewhere. It was a - after your overseas you realized how well off you were when you went ashore and saw the army, the groundpounders living in tents eating out of cardboard boxes and things, where you would go to the ship, the ship you had your own bed with a mattress, you had your own kitchen that served you food, hot food where you sit at a table, you had showers, you had. -- It was great compared to what they had to live on cause those poor guys got handed a K ration in a box, they burned the box to heat the beans to eat the beans and it was a great life, they would pester you to come on the ship visit, eat, take shower and I thought we were well off
Describe a typical day on a Destroyer Escort?
A typical day for me was getting up earlier than I thought we had to. It was a make work proposition they want to keep everyone busy so retired and get in trouble really They get up at I believe they woke you about six, and you'd get dressed around seven, seven thirty, go eat. You ate in three groups, sections, the sections going on watch decks would eat first then next group, next group and if I was going on watch group then I would be first group then you have maybe fifteen minutes. Go up and my duty station was on the bridge and you go relieve the guy on the bridge he'd stay with you a few minutes to make sure you're up to speed with things were there. The duties were navigation, keep track of the navigation, weather, take the weather down as to what was going on weather wise and to help the officer on the deck do what ever he was doing and it was one of the better ratings you knew what was going on and you were treated much nicer than some of the deck ports or engine room people, I always felt, I always felt it was a good place to do duty. But you do for four hours, eight to twelve say, then you will be off till six o' clock at night there would be a watch from one to four then you had watches which made the shifts from one to four made to watch a shift two hour watch and two hour watch then you would have to do a cleanup, straighten up and all hat stuff which took you long enough so you worked hard by the end of the day and didn't get in much trouble.
Did you know much about what was going on in the war during your service?
Yes, by virtue of the position I had on bridge. I got to be in on any radio transmissions and all that plus a feel of what we were doing at that time while we were doing and all that I felt pretty much up to speed with most of it. Radio broadcast in most of the time and we would put on a loudspeaker system. Tokyo Rose gave us a lot of our information she was an American who went over to the Japanese side and did broadcast to break your heart. Its Tokyo Rose sleeping with your wife is sleeping with your best friend type of thing. What was going on in the world and she played pretty good music too and didn't take serious
How did that influence your world?
The which Tokyo Rose, or the?
Knowing what was going on?
Very little. We were just a little calm in a great big wheel our ship was the smallest, we were the smallest line ship there was you could expect to go in a big fight, we were small we were, what happened a navy battle or a big battle in Europe didn't affect us much we were way down the line and we were all glad the war ended of course. When the war ended in Europe we were all sort of glad. And we knew the war in the Pacific wouldn't last long. We lived the war in our own little world than we did a big picture world for the most part.
Did you think that we were going to win the war?
Absolutely, I don't ever think I met anyone that didn't think they were going to win a war, but the Japanese but, no doubt about it. After being in it and seeing what the Japanese had you knew there was no contest, except that they were fanatics. The Germans had pretty good stuff but I wasn't in that end of the war and no doubt in my mind what so ever that we'd win, absolutely.
During your service, did you ever visit Pearl Harbor?
Yes. Several times.
What was your reaction?
Well the ships were sunk there of course when we went out there, the battleships but they didn't impress me either way as being a loss to me or anything else there were a couple big aircraft carriers when I was there, they were what was impressive, aircraft carriers were the thing battleships were from WWI, battleships, battleship mentality carried over, but aircraft carriers is what won the war of course, the navy war. Pearl Harbor in itself was a nice busy place and you can catch a bus from there into Honolulu or out toWaikiki beach which was nice, you had plenty of liberty there go out and see things. The one thing that stuck in my mind about Pearl Harbor, a fellow would come around everyday in the afternoon on bicycle a great big basket full super ice cold Dole pineapple juice which he'd sell you for a dime. And that was the big treat of the day to watch for him to come pedaling down the way there selling us pineapple juice. I don't know how he ever got on post of Pearl Harbor or where he got the cans of pineapple juice but he was a great sight to see coming along.
What contact did you have with the enemy during WWII?
As far as shooting at them or what? Any contact? (Laugh) The first - we went to the Mariana Islands they were already pretty well taken over had pretty well calmed down they had cut great big crosses in the sides of the hills and they would shine spotlights on them at night with one spotlight centered on the center where the two crosses came together and they would drop leaflets and to tell the Japanese soldiers that were still there, they were still on the hills came down to the open spot and to walk down to the bright light they would come down and be taken prisoner, I never saw anyone come down but they did that. It was the first; the Japanese are up there type of thing. On Boggenville in a strange thing that we can go on all day to talk about, I got left ashore there with a group cause a typhoon came up real quick and they couldn't take us back to the ship and insuring time we got lost and got on the front lines with the Australians who were buy shelling the Japanese who were heavens know where but we were all puckered up and scared but got on our ship and didn't see anybody The real action came, - when we were actually shooting back each other at Okinawa, which was April 1st,which was Easter Sunday, which was also April's Fools Day, which was also D-Day and Okinawa and we went in there as a, in submarine vessel really out in the agent of thing. There was a lot of air action there, the Japanese came over as kamikazes which were one way pilots they just dove into the ships they just dove smack into you and the bomb exploded and the planes exploded and that was there thing. But that morning as soon as it got bright out there was a lot of them flying around there was a lot of shooting whether we shot any down was anybodies guess, we thought we shot two down, the captain said the other ships were closer, maybe they did it. Anyway that was the first day people shot at you they didn't shoot back much you were a kid and you are invincible so you don't worry. The real squeeze came in May, probably May the18th, we were bunked by ourselves pretty much going to a little island, Ioshima, where they had an ammunition ship where we were going to pick up more ammunition. And as we were going along there we picked up four Japanese planes off in a distance. You could tell they were eyeballing us with the ideal of tactic, and I was on watch at that time and we sounded general quarters and an LSM, landing ship machine, not landing ship tanker, landing ship machine, they were a little smaller than a LSD, came over to be near us because they didn't have as many guns as us and a ocean going tanker came over to be hover us too they only had two 20 millimeter guns on them and they sort of came by we were be big brother and protect them the airplanes did circles one time them one headed in for us for our ship and we shot up a storm at them he just barely missed us, he was right coming gonna hit us when I guess we hit him and the wind tilted up where he went right across the superstructure in front of the pilot house and went off and crashed on a beach, maybe the beach was Ioshima, I don't know but maybe, maybe a mile, mile and a half away where he crashed on the thing was drug out a little bit, the second plane started in, and as he came in we were sorta praying we had gotten our feet wet and we were shooting up a storm and he veered off just before he got to us maybe, I don't know how far away, a fair distance away, and veered over towards the ocean going tanker, ocean going tub and crashed into the fantail of the tub which was a big open spot like tugboats have, he hit there and slid into the superstructure and explode in there and set the ship on fire fairly well, we were busy but I believe the tub was abandoned and really hurt badly LSM came over pick up men in water from the tub, we didn't we were too busy worrying about the other airplanes coming in. They opened the doors and put the ramp out and they picked up a lot of people the third plane started in wet look up the fire we had the guns we had a hard time coming in LSM where the doors were open and the ramp out and went over and when they see some set that ship on fire too and you can see the whole glow with the at from the fire we had one more plane to go and they were in the water, he came straight for us he crashed just maybe ten feet from the side of the ship blew up and pieces of the plane shot up and of course the bomb he blew clear over the ship to the other side did a little damage here and there put them in a ship, the ones off the tugboat would not take their life jacket off
Did you or any of your shipmates suffer any injuries?
No, unfortunately two or three jumped overboard nobody got hurt in the fiasco
Do you recall any humorous or unusual events from the navy?
There were a lot of things. We went that way only one time there were probably twenty waterspouts all around us.
Thank you for taking part in this interview
Conclusion of the Interview.
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