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|Oral History Interview
of Frederick Seelig
Military Service: U.S. Marine Corps, 1939-1946
Date of Interview: November 25, 2002
Location of Interview: Toms River, NJ
This Oral History interview of Frederick Seelig is taking place on November 25, 2002, at his home in Toms River, NJ. This interview is for the Oral History Project for HS 298-01, Oral History, at Monmouth University. I am Thomas Minton, a student at Monmouth University. I will be conducting the interview. I will be conducting the Interview.
Frederick Seelig served during World War 2, and was discharged from the United States Marine Corps with the rank of Captain on Dec 6th, 1951. He served on Midway Island, was a veteran of the Pearl Harbor attack, and served in the Guadalcanal campaign.
Frederick Seelig is a New Jersey
Native. He lives in a quiet little neighborhood in Toms River, New Jersey. Although
now classified as Senior Citizen, at the mere mention of the Marines, he becomes
as quick and agile as he was when he wore the Eagle Globe and Anchor. The American
Flag, and the Marine Corps Flag fly from the same halyard in his front yard.
A Pearl Harbor Veterans Association sticker is displayed proudly on his car.
Like so many people in this region, he is a retired member of the Bendix Corporation. His story is forever logged in the book he authored, "One Marine Mustang's Memoirs: 50 months with Defense Battalions in the Pacific: 1941-1945"
Question: Please state your name, and your date of birth:
Answer: Frederick A. Seelig, I was born on December 15th, 1920.
Q: What was it like growing up in NJ during that time period?
A: I was born in Newark, New Jersey, and my father was in the milk business, and at the time, he had three one-ton trucks; he had two drivers, and took one himself. He worked very hard, and died very young. Age 53, I think he was. Before that, we moved from Newark to Bloomfield [NJ]. We had a brand new home, three bedroom, Colonial style, in a nice neighborhood, in the Brookdale section of Bloomfield. And there were lots of new friends for all of us my sister and myself, and later on my younger sister. Growing up, we went through the whole school system in Bloomfield. I started there in the 5th grade, and went straight through High School, and graduated. And then the problem was to look for a job. (Chuckles) Jobs were hard to come by, and pay was low. So my father left me on the milk route for awhile, and then I got a job with Bamburger store in Newark, working in the store print shop, located on the 9th floor, and it turned out, without my knowledge, that the man who was head of the department was on vacation when I Was hired, and when he came back, when I went out after work, to get on the bus to go home, he stepped in the bus after me, and I sat in the back watching him, see where he was gonna get off, and he got off at the same stop I did, and he found out he lived one street over from where I lived.
Q: What would you describe your schooling as, compared to a modern student, what would you think would be any different, the way things were done?
A: Well, there seemed to be a lot
less trouble in the classrooms, and the discipline was better, I think, and
the [parents backed up the teachers when there was a problem with the student;
which, these days, I get a little annoyed, because some of the mothers think
their child can do no wrong, and tat is not right. Over all, I think we had
a nicer environment in school. We weren't overburdened with homework. We did
a good share of it, but today we have too many additional courses that didn't
exist in our times, so there wasn't as much pressure on us. We enjoyed sports,
we played with our little football team, we got together in our neighborhood,
and we called ourselves the "White Horses," and we were coached by
a former New York Giant, he was our neighbor, and he bought our shirts for our
uniforms, and we had to buy the rest ourselves. And he said if we're gonna put
a white shirt o the front of the shirt, he would pay for them- he was a liquor
salesman. His name was Bill Clarken. He later joined the war, became Assistant
to the coach in high school. And Bloomfield, in those days, had a very good
football background with Coach Bill Folley. I remember they played an all-state
game against a south jersey team. And the word was that this team was real good.
And he had a Andy Bino, I think his name was, he was a running back that nobody
seemed to be able to catch. Well, Bloomfield played them and wiped them out.
As far as social life, I said we found lots of friends in the new neighborhoods,
and I had two particular buddies, one was George Sichey, and the other was Brud
Hedden. His real name was Clarence, and I can understand why everyone called
him Brud. And I was working in Bamburger's, and during the evening one time,
we got together, George, and Brud and I, and Brud brought up the subject of
the Marine Corps. And, we were all anxious to get in. We had to get our parents
to sign, because of our age. Well, it turned out George's mother talked him
out of going, because she said she wanted him to go to college, and it was near
Christmas. It was in November, and she didn't want him away at Christmas, and
Brud was turned down by the recruiting Sergeant, without even going for a physical,
because he had polio, and had a short leg.
And some missing teeth, so they wouldn't take him. Well, these two fellas, George became a pilot, in the Air Force, and Brud Hedden went with General Patton's army in Europe. He was a motorcycle dispatcher. And during the landing, he was one of a group of motorcycle people that were killed. He was the only survivor, so he came back home, eventually, and so did George. George settled down in El Paso, Texas, as a real estate man. I haven't been in contact with either one of them lately, I don't weather they are still around or not. So, I enlisted, and I went in on the 14th of November, 1939.
I had a little problem with my parents, they didn't want me to go either, but I said that there was nothing for me here, I can't get a descent job, and my mother and father were having some problems between themselves, which wasn't too pleasant. (Laughs) So they both signed to let me go.
Q: When you were growing up, what were your favorite actors, actresses, or radio programs?
A: Oh boy. That's a long time ago. I'm trying to think. Well, we had the Lone Ranger, I remember. We used to go to the movies when we lived in Newark. We went to the movies on Saturday, and we got a double feature for ten cents. (Laughs)
Q: What were your hobbies when you were growing up?
A: I always wanted to be a pilot; I loved airplanes. I had one ride, and my father went with me. He didn't want me to go, but I talked him into it. I did apply for flight training after Pearl Harbor, but they turned me down because I hadn't gone to college. I found out when I was on Guadalcanal that I had another chance, but by then, I got commissioned. When I think about it, I think that if I had been a fighter pilot, I might not have come home.
Q: What were your sports growing up?
A: We had sports in our neighborhood. I told you about the Whitehorse football team, we also had a baseball tem. My brother in law coached it, and I was the manager. (Laughs) And I had my father's pickup truck to bring a bunch of guys to the field. We had good times. And no stupid things going on, we didn't get drunk, or have dope or anything like that, fortunately. And we were pretty good.
Q: What did you think of FDR?
A: Apparently, he was a very charismatic man. Like John Kennedy was. And apparently, he knew how to get what he wanted done. And we had to admire him for his positions during WW2. Considering that the man was a cripple all his life, it's amazing how much he got done. We admired him. I wasn't old enough to be politically involved, voting or anything like that, but I always had respect for the man.
Q: How many brothers and sisters did you have?
A: I had two sisters. My older sister, and I had another sister that was older than me, and then I was the third one. My second oldest sister was Winifred, and she died at the age of ten, while we were still living in Newark. And it was a couple of years after that when we moved to Bloomfield, and my older sister Harriet married, while we were living in Bloomfield, and she and her husband lived with us for awhile till they got enough money to go on their own, and he got a job on the police force. His name was Jim Folley. He stayed with the Police force for many years, and he had one of his son in laws also become a detective in the Montclair police. My brother in-law himself became a deputy chief of detectives. He's passed away. My sister passed away on November 14th, 2001.
And then I had a younger sister after that, after the second one died, and she was born while we still lived in Newark, before we lived in Bloomfield. She is now a widow, up in Wayne, NJ, his husband was one of our group, a neighbor. Doug Jesh. He was also a Bendix employee, he was an engineer.
Q: Did you have any knowledge of world affairs before you went in the service?
A: I didn't know what was going on. At my age, I was still working with my father. I remember we had a customer in Newark, Kalleens, I think his name was, this old Swiss man, opened this saloon on the corner, with the reservoir right across the street, and his son was a lifetime student. He was going to NYU taking a lot of courses. And he and my father used to do a lot of political talk back and forth, and the thing I remember was that he told my father that one day he would see me with a rifle. My father didn't believe it. That's about all I can say about the world situation. I was aware, after I got into boot camp there was gonna be a war, because we were told it was, but it hadn't started yet.
Q: Your military service; why the Marine Corps?
A: Well, they're were a lot of good movies about Marines in those days. Blue uniforms, and combat hats, what do you call them - campaign hats. And they're all tough and rugged. And they still are (Laughs) I'm not 'cuz I'm too old. (Laughs) I think it had a lot of influence on us.
Q: What was your first duty assignment?
A: I was just a member of the gun crew. A lot of our platoon went right from boot camp to Hilton Head, that's where they were building up a new system. They never had defense battalions before, and this was a new type of organization that was designed to be on small island defense, and airports. We started out with the .50 caliber machine guns with the water cooled jacket, and they were 36 inches long, the barrels. And later on, we got ones that were 48 inches, and sat up on big tripods, and you'd lean back against a hook, and pull the gun around with your body.
Q: On December 7th, 1941, it was early in the morning, you were in your bunk. You heard loud explosions. What happened from there?
A: Well, I was not ready to get out of the sack, because the night before I had done all my Christmas shopping, and it was a Saturday night, and we got paid that day. And one of my friends came over, Willie Marten, he shook me and wanted me to go over to the mess hall with him, and I said "Oh go away leave me alone" and that's when the boom came. And one of the men looked out the window, he says "Those damn Navy pilots gone crazy up there, playing grab ass." And then somebody else looked, and says "That's not ours, they're Japs!" The planes were down pretty low. And of course, I got out of bed pretty fast, and so did everybody else. We had gun sheds in the back of the barracks, and unfortunately we had left our tripods for the guns out at one of the beaches. They were all settled into the sand, and every time you moved them you had to settle them in and shoot them, because the vibration would settle them down. But we left the tripods out, and brought the guns and ammunition in with us. That's when we went to the gun shed in the back, and realized we didn't have any tripods.
The First Defense Battalion had taken
over one of our barracks, they were rear echelon, and there was a lieutenant
with them. And we broke into their storage area and into their gun shed, and
took what we wanted; just the tripods. And we took it out, and then Bob Woolfe,
this buddy of mine, we threw it into this garbage cart we had behind the barracks.
And we rolled it onto the parade ground, and we started filling up sand bags,
which was hard to do because of that hard clay. And we dumped the cart over,
it had started to rain, so we got underneath it. And this lieutenant from the
First Defense. Battalion came over, and he wanted his gun mount - tripod- back.
And Woolfe is about 6 foot tall, and 180 pounds, and he looked at the lieutenant,
and he says "Sir you ain't gonna get it."
So the lieutenant, he just got ticked off, spun around, and walked off.
Q: After the attack died down, what was it like still being at Pearl with all of the destruction?
A: Well, we were moved out all over the area, inside the Navy yard. We got organized, on other words. Some of the guns went up on the roofs of buildings, and some were on the ground. I wound up on the shore line between Ford Island, which was the air base was, and there was a torpedo storage and maintenance building there, so we built sandbags around our gun, and we slept under two man tents. Pup tents, rather. We were still at war as far as we were concerned; we didn't expect it to stop.
We stayed there until around June, and then we got new equipment. We went from the .50 caliber guns to twin .20 millimeters on a 4-wheel carriage. And they had one out in front of the barracks during our lunch hour. We used to go back to the mess hall for our meals. And there was this gun carriage sitting in front of the barracks,. And a bunch of us went out to look at it. And a lieutenant came along, and he was trying to figure how to get it down. You had to rotate the wheels up on their axles to get it off the ground, to get the feet for it down. We had .37 millimeters before that, we had them at Midway. The lieutenant was there, and he didn't have any manual for it, and it was set up on the outriggers, rather. So, the lieutenant told me to get by the latch that released the wheels so they could get them down to the ground. And then he told another fela to hold the tow bar, it was like a pry bar that hooked into the axle. And when you lift that up, you rotate the wheels. He was supposed to hold this thing up, so it wouldn't fall down on me.
Well, unknown to the lieutenant, there was a giant spring inside the system, which as soon as I pulled the lever, the thing come down. Fortunately , I wasn't tall enough to go through the skull, but on the rebound it whacked me on top of the head, and knocked me cold. I woke up and I was laying on my back with my arms folded up at my elbow, and my knees up in the air, flat on my back. And I could hear them talking. And they said I had a fractured skull, and all of a sudden, I got feeling back in my arms and legs, and they just dropped down, and I rolled over. So, I went to get up. They had sent over to the sick bay for a stretcher. I get up on my feet, and I said "Forget it guys." The lieutenant was very upset, and he walked, and helped me get over to the sick bay. And he stayed there with me, till they had me checked out. They had to send me over for X-rays, and they just sowed up a little stitching in the top of my skull. But I have a hard German head so it didn't sink very far. (Laughs)
So then, because of that, I was left behind when the battle of Midway came up. We were scheduled to go, we already packed and everything but they wouldn't take me with them, they left me behind. And I gave training to some of the sailors who were going to take over our gun positions. I stayed there right until before they were getting ready to go to the Solomons.
Q: Was there any news coming back about the Japanese slowly taking one US Island after another?
A: The news we were getting was "Tokyo Rose" She was on while we were on Guadalcanal, too. As far as newspapers, or anything like that, there was nothing.
Q: How far did segregation go in the Marine Corps at that time?
A: At that time, there were no blacks in the Marine Corps. And, even after the war, there were still no blacks.
Q: When were you shipped out for the Solomons campaign?
A: I can't remember the date we left Pearl Harbor, but we stopped in the Fiji Islands, because we had some naval aviators on board the ship with, and we had to drop them off, and we didn't get ashore at all. We just went by, and went to the Solomons. And when we got to the Solomons, you couldn't believe the number of ships out there on the horizon, we didn't know who was around us. And we pulled into the channel, and they divided our battalion up. We arrived on the 7th of August (1942), and 2/3rds of the battalion were on a different ship. We landed on the same day, but on Tulagi, there was still some resistance and the Raiders were in there, and I think they had some paratroopers fighting in Tulagi at the time. So, we couldn't get ashore right away. Plus we had a coupe of bombing attacks. They didn't hit us, fortunately, but they were trying to.
And our ships had to pull up, and move around, so they wouldn't get hit with the bombs. We actually landed on the 9th of August, it took us two days before we could get in to the beach. And, when we got on the island, they had trucks the Japanese had carved - Tulagi was a small island, and it had a peak mountain right in the middle of it, and there were beaches on both sides, not too far apart. And they had cut a defilade through the top of the hill all the way down to ground level just wide enough for a 6X6 truck to get through. So, we were able to go back inside the cut there was a horseshoe cave that was holding us up, too. There were Japanese soldiers in those caves. They threw hand grenades and everything in there, and they killed most of them, but they said one young Japanese came out in a poncho, that's all he had to cover him, and he was laying in a cave, and he didn't get hurt.
We went on to the back side of the island, towards the Georgia islands, and we stayed there till it was September we were there about a month, and then me moved over and joined the rest of our battalion on Guadalcanal.
Q: When you went in, was your landing opposed, were you shot at?
A: No, that's why we had to wait, because the infantry troops were going in first.
Q: Do you remember the Battle of Savo Island?
A: Yes. We could see the gun flashes away through the coconut groves. We were too far from the bay and it was an awful lot of shooting going on between the ships. And that was when we got a couple of battleship rounds come over us. And at the time, there was an old Gunnery Sergeant that nobody could stand, and he moved himself to our gun crew because we tolerated him. (Laughs) We had our guns dug in deep, and he and I were standing on the parapet of this gun pit, and looking through the trees seeing all this shooting going on, and all of a sudden, we heard something go over our heads. And not a word, we looked at each other, and dived head first into our hole, and we hit bottom. Tommy, his name was. He looked at me, and I looked at him, and we both started laughing at each other.
But they did hit a tent with some soldiers in the army infantry in it. They came walking through our area with us that evening, just to listen to the radio we had. Tommy got that. He had all kinds of privileges, I guess. And they went on to their gun pit, which was not too far from us. It was one of ours, .30 caliber machine gun, 3 man crew, and these guys went back, and were visiting there after they left us, and the raid came. And a shell dropped right into their living tent. Of course, the crew for the gun were on the gun position, but the army guys went into the tent. And they were killed. So, Tommy and I took a walk up there after it was all over, and looked at the hole in the ground from the explosion. And he says, "Go down, and see if anybody's in there," sand I went down, and it was pitch dark, and we could only use a blue light, I looked around and I said "I don't see anything here, Tommy." So jumped down, started wheeling around in the dirt, and he says "Uh-oh, here's one here." Then he found another one. Two of them were buried under the dirt. Fortunately , it didn't hit us.
Q: After the battle of Savo Island, and the transports pulled out with most of your supplies, and almost all of the reinforcements on board, what was the feeling on the beach?
A: We felt like we were disserted, and we didn't know what's gonna happen. They did manage to fly in a Catalina with some medical supplies, that was all we got. The food, they had stored a bunch of canned corned beef; shredded corn beef. And that was all we had for food. They did have some pancake mix, but the corned beef was every meal. And one day, we were standing in line, and they said they made turnovers for us. Well, we were all gobbling down our corned beef, and we ate it, and one of the guys went over, and picked up a turn over, and it was filled with corned beef. And he threw it down on the ground. (Laughs)
Q: What was the general mood, and what wad the general reaction of continually being shelled by the Tokyo Express for those first few months?
A: Before the Tokyo Express, we got what we called Pistol Pete. It was a place up in the hills, and they were shooting down at the airfield. The dive bombers went up there day after day, and knock them out. They'd come back and say they got him, and then at night they'd come back again. Somehow, they moved the gun, and kept going on for quite awhile. The shells weren't - we were pretty far up on the fighter strip, so they weren't aimed at us, they were heading down closer to Corps Headquarters, which was right off the bomber strip. See, the two strips were down by the water. The bomber strip was closer, and the fighter strip was a little inland, and behind it. The center of things was down by the bomber strip. The control tower, and everything like that, that's what they were trying to get. But, they burned up a few fighter planes. They eventually got him.
Sometimes our fighters would get up in the air, and be attacked by the Japanese fighters, so when they couldn't shake 'em loose, they'd fly down over the field for us to shot at . We got a few of them, but we couldn't catch everyone. I remember Joe Foss, he was the real John Wayne. We had four fighters left, and he was the squadron leader. And it was pouring rain, the field was full of mud, and he came out in his F4F, and he started down the field. He couldn't get off the ground, because of the mud. He turned around, came back the other way, couldn't get off the ground. Then he went the third time and he got off the ground (laughs). The squadron got up, but every time they got up, the Zeros were already over us, so they had to battle it head to head.
Q: As far as being shelled by the Japanese navy each night, how long did that go on for?
A: We didn't have too much of it after that Savo Island thing.
Q: Did you have any contact with Japanese forces?
A: Not directly, no. Things started to calm down, though, and one day, my buddy Wilhelm and I decided to take a walk up towards the front lines, I guess it was towards the north end. And, we went up, looked around, we could see the fighting going on from the hill, and we turned around and went back. (Laughs) We weren't obliged to get involved in that. But, we were lucky, actually, because our gun positions were all around the field, and they didn't make a target of us. Generally the airfield area, but not us in particular.
Q: What were the mud-Marines like who had to hold Henderson Field, and fight the Japanese?
A: Those guys, they had to fight through all the jungle. They were out quite a ways from the field; I didn't have any close contact with them.
Q: Were you stationed around Henderson Field at the height of the battle for it, when the Japanese were still trying to recapture it?
A: Well, they were trying to recapture it, but the infantry was holding them off. They didn't get close enough to us. Our biggest enemy was the malaria - the mosquitoes.
Q: What were daily conditions like on Guadalcanal?
A: Well first of all, it was hot as blazes. One of our buddies, Hank Turner, he walked around with nothing but a jock strap, and he went over to the army food depot with a truck, and he demanded getting some juice, some cans of juice. Of course, they used to use that to make wine. (Laughs) And of course, the army guys in control of the dump at that time, they didn't know who he was, or what rank he was, so they gave him what he wanted. And he rode off with a truck load.
Q: When were you finally pulled out of Guadalcanal?
A: We landed in August. It was February of '43. And we went down to New Zealand. I didn't get malaria until I got aboard ship. I had the gun crew - we had to man the anti-aircraft guns on the ship going back. And I started feeling woozy, and no strength, I couldn't stand up hardly. So I was sitting down inside the gun turret, and the Officer of the Day, he come around and wanted to put me in the brig for sleeping on watch. My crew said he's not sleeping, he's sick. So they sent me down to the sick bay, and I stayed in the sack for the rest of the trip. But I recovered in time, by the time we got to New Zealand.
Q: After you got down to New Zealand, what did you do then?
A: Well, they unloaded us and gave us Shore Leave the day we got there, and we walked around town. This was in Wellington. And the next day, we went aboard a train, and went up through the mountains, to Masterdon. It was in the middle of a sheep-farming district. Small town, very nice little town. And that's where we had our social life, until we left.
Q: And when did you leave?
A: Around September.
Q: Where were you sent after that?
A: We were sent back to the States, and of course, I got my Commission there. I was sent back to the States, and had leave for a while, and then I went to Officers' Training School in Quantico. And from there, I went down to Camp Lejune as an instructor, and that lasted awhile. And then they sent me to an Army Anti-Aircraft school, Camp Davis. And, that's when I had a little fun with the .50 Caliber machine guns. The Army had little turrets with four .50 caliber machine guns, two on each side, just like you'd have in an airplane. They turned with electric motors, and they had this pair of handles, and you could turn 'em this way, or go up, down, had a nice scope to look through. This was luxury for us, because all we had was this big scope and standing on our feet, and trying to move everything around with our bodies. But this thing was very convenient. So, the day we went out for firing practice at our school, (we had a few fun days at that school) I was the last one on the firing line to get into the turret. And the little drone plane was still flying back and forth - nobody hit it. So, I just looked through that little sight, and I put the gun right on it. I pulled the triggers, and I blew it out of the sky. My instructor got all ecstatic over the fact that I was his student. When it was all over, we went to lunch, and he wanted to know where I had training. And I told him overseas. (Laughs)
Q: What did you do from that point on Mid-to-Late '43 to the end of the war, where were you stationed?
A: Well, when I left Camp Davis, I went back to Camp Lejune, as an instructor, and then I got married. Fran and I were married at Camp Lejune, in the Chapel. We got a house on the base, and my chief instructor was a major, and he had a brother who was captured on Wake Island, and when he found out that I got a house on the base, and he didn't, he was all upset. What had happened was, when I applied for a house, they asked what date I reported in. I gave them the original date when I went to Camp Lejune, so I had seniority over him. He didn't like it. But then they sent me down to Florida, to an Air Force school, fighter searchlight, night fighting tactics and in this big gymnasium, they had a map of the United States, with all these remote controlled buggies running around, and these were supposed to be airplanes. And they rolled them at scale speed that would be equivalent to real speed, how much of the map they covered in a certain period of time. It was kind of a fun game. But, we had a nice time down there, Fran and I; we had a rooming house that we stayed in. It was right on a lake. And we went back to Lejune, and we stayed there until just before Christmas of '44. And we bought a car.
We had a leave, and we went home. Fran went home, because she had to finish her teaching year up in Bloomfield, and then while she was there, I told her to get her father pick out a car, and we'd pay him for up. And he picked out an old Hudson Terra-plane. As soon as I drove it, the radiator was boiling over, so we took it to her cousin who had a service station, and he poured some Arm and Hammer stuff in to the radiator, and it seemed to work. And then we headed back to Lejune, with the car. And then we got down in to Virginia, into tobacco area, where the tobacco factories were, and the radiator was boiling over. So I took a little strip off the hood - you know, the hoods used to open on the side on that car - a little strip of rubber off of that, and I pushed it into the overflow pipe. And it started whistling (Laughs) and we drove through town with the thing whistling, and everybody's looking at us. And we got down to camp Lejune, and we had the car, and we kept it till later on, until after the war.
I went back to Camp Lejune just before Christmas, and they gave us leave, and we left the car at Fran's parents house, and we took a train to the West Coast; I was being shipped back to Midway. That was not a very eventful trip. That's when I met Marvin Browne in Hawaii. He was on Midway, on leave back in Hawaii, and he was going back to the island while I was going there the same way, and we got to be friends. And he's the guy who helped me write the book. He bugged me all the time. First he started out asking me questions about my background, and then he got interested in me writing a book. I said I'd never written a book. But he was the one that pushed the issue.
Q: Where were you when you heard that the war ended?
A: Midway. Yeah, we heard about the
A-bomb, and it wasn't long after that, they started releasing people. A group
of us, we had enough points to go back to the States, and we got into Camp Cattlin,
in Hawaii, right outside of the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard, that's where we had
left from to go to the Solomons. And, they issued us tents to go in, and we
got in this tent row, and there was a new group of people coming from the States,
and they had their backpacks, and weapons and everything. And we said, "Where
you guys going?" And they said, "Oh, we're going to China." And
we said what are we doing in here? So, I went up to the Adjutant, who fortunately
I knew, because he was one of the instructors at Camp Lejune when I was down
there. And I said, "Hey, what's this? Our orders say "For further
assignment." What are we doing with these guys going to China?"
And he told me that the guy had forgotten to put down "to the United States" on the letterhead. (Laughs) He straightened it out, and we did get home.
Q: What did you think of the Atomic bomb when you first heard of it?
A: We thought it was great. But, looking back on it, maybe it wasn't so great. It would have been great if we hadn't been betrayed by people who gave away the secrets of doing it. If we'd been able to keep it, we'd be a lot better off, but the espionage made everything now everybody's got it.
Q: Where did you meet your wife?
A: She lived in the same neighborhood. In our senior year of high school, her family moved from Bayonne, to Bloomfield, and she lived right down the end of our street, on a cross road. My friend George Sichey- I used to go with another girl called Violet - he said to me, "Do you mind if I dated Violet?" And I said "Hey, she's a free girl, do what you want." So, he decided to have a party in their basement, in their house, and he arranged for Fran to be my date. So, we had a treasure hunt, and they had things placed all over the place. First thing we did was go out on the golf course, which was right near us, and we looked around out there, and there was nothing going on there. So, one of the things we had to do was get a policeman's signature. Well, there was a policeman who lived in the neighborhood, but he was on duty down by the high school, which was a couple of miles away. We got on a bus, and we went down to the corner of the high school building. Karl Lyndsey, his name was. So, we asked him for his signature. We come back with this signature, and then George was mad at us because we took so long. (Laughs) But, I guess I was lucky, I still got her.
Q: What day were you married on?
A: (After a moments thinking) It was April 28th, 1944. I know that. It was a Friday, I think. Because Fran wanted fish when we got to the train station. And this was at Camp Lejune, in the Chapel.
Q: Did you ever talk about all the things you went through, and your military experiences?
A: Not too much, no. Some of my old friends, who are still around we used to go to a lot of reunions, but at our age, we don't travel as much anymore. And Fran's had a bad back, the past couple of years, and I had an operation on a Pituitary gland tumor. And now I'm on a very strict diet because I had some stomach and esophagus problems. Everything I'm not crazy about eating is on the diet.
(After a moment's deliberation with his wife, he tells the following story)
One time, at Pearl Harbor, up by the Punchbowl, they had maps of the Pacific theater and they had a symbol for units. And I forget what the colors were but the Marine Corps one was white, and it should have been yellow. It was the attack force of the 1st Division going into Guadalcanal, that's what it was. And they had the arrow, and it was the wrong color. And they had a star where they landed. I went to the desk, and one of the women clerks, I told her "You've got that down as an Army unit. That was the Marines." But, later on, I got a confirmed letter saying they had changed it. Another person carried it out. They corrected it. They were surprised, because they had all kinds of high-ranking generals and admirals looking at this thing, and nobody mentioned it.
Q: Did you take advantage of the GI Bill?
A: I did for awhile, I went to the Stevens Institute for about a year and a half on the GI Bill. I was getting 90 dollars a month. I was achieving to get out, and get a job. I didn't wanna live that way. Maybe I should have, but in the end, I think I did the right thing. I didn't get a degree, but I did well with Bendix. I started there as a lay out draftsman. And then when they started this move the division Utica, the pumps, the icebreaker system we didn't do any electric motors, anything with an electric motor or starter we had to get through Eatontown. I knew several of the engineers there, because I used to go down and visit them when I was working on some engineering units. They promoted me to engineer, and then I got to be senior engineer. And they I wound up as the product manager. And that's when I retired after that.
I had a boss that was an old navy man. We had a big office, and I used to sit on one end. And we used to pull each other's chains every once in awhile. And if he wanted to talk to me, he'd say, "Hey, Jarhead, come up here." There was a man before me that had the job; product sales was his title- and I had the engineering part of it. And he was a West Pointer. And he gave everybody the impression that he came out as a Colonel. They thought he was Colonel because of his age - he never got past second lieutenant.
Q: Where did you work after Bendix?
A: I didn't. When we got down here, we both went into the First Aid Squad. I served 9 and a half years, she served a little longer, I think ten years. I had problems lifting the stretchers. I was afraid I was gonna hurt somebody, so I quit. This was after I had the operation on the pituitary gland. But we go down and visit them all the time, they're just down the road here.
Q: Now that quite some time has passed since World War 2 was fought, and after the end of the war There have been hundreds of movies made on every conceivable subject - Navy, Marines, Army, Pearl Harbor especially - movies like "Tora Tora Tora" and "Pearl Harbor" even "Guadalcanal Diary" and "Thin Red Line"- Which ones do you think carry the most weight, and accurately depicted what happened.?
A: Tora Tora Tora. Because it showed the politics behind it, and everything. In fact, it's one of the tapes I have. The new Pearl Harbor movie I wasn't too impressed with. I mean, that really, it wasn't all Pearl Harbor; it was the Tokyo Raid, that was big part of it, the love story but the "Tora Tora Tora" showed both sides, the American and the Japanese. And Admiral Yamamoto was not - I haven't seen it in writing, or print, but they made him sound like a villain. This man did not want to go to war. It was the Japanese Army that had the authority in it, and they pushed him, and he had to make the plan. But he told them that you're gonna wake a sleeping giant, and he was right (Laughs). And he was killed, he was shot down in the Pacific somewhere.
They tried to kill the American Admiral, Bull Halsey. H was real tough nut, and he wasn't afraid to commit his ships to war. He was low in his class at the Naval Academy. But I always admired Halsey - because he pulled our chestnuts out.
Q: What do you think of the modern American military?
A: Well, it's changed so much; I can hardly have an opinion on it. They are apparently using so much different equipment, and different training they've got all kinds of things. It was a lot simpler when we were in.
Q: And, of course, what do you think of the Marine Corps?
A: Let me show you a card. (He draws his wallet) I got this from a Colonel down in Camp Lejune when we were on a trip. He was an artillery colonel, and he handed these cards out to all of us.
"Honor, Integrity, Responsibility, Accountability, The Courage to do The Right Thing, The Right Way, for the Right Reasons. Commitment and Devotion to The Corps and My Fellow Marines. Marines Live by the Law, Lead by Example, Respect Themselves and Others, Maintain a High Standard of Integrity, Support and Defend the Constitution, Uphold Special Trust and Confidence, Place Faith and Honor Above All Else, Honor Fellow Marines, Corps, Country, and Family."
I don't remember what his name was but he gave one out to everyone who was there.
Q: In comparison to your experiences at Pearl harbor, what was your reaction to the September 11th attacks?
A: Well, Of course, we were all shocked. There's people in this area who had friends and everybody over there. I feel that politics prior to this were not too good. The Arabic countries I hate to say it, but Israel is in the middle of it. They denied that it had anything to do with Israel, but I think that's really the focus as far as the Arabs are concerned. They hate the United States, because the United States helps Israel too much. It's an unsolvable problem as far as I'm concerned - I don't care what they do. There's always going to be hatred between Israel and other countries there. It's happened it other places too. It's too bad they just can't back off, and shake hands, and say "Lets stop right here." Bush tried to get them to do it, but both sides are after each other, and they aren't gonna give it up.
Q: Do you think the public reacted the same way to the September 11th attacks, as they did the public in 1941, when they reacted to Pearl Harbor?
A: Well, of course, that was a different
situation. This was a whole country, not a group. It was a solid, self-governed
Japan was aggressive, and was trying to expand there area, and they didn't like
the fact that we got our nose into their business. It was the only thing we
could do, really. So they decided to go to war with us without telling us they
were coming. In this situation there were warnings. Weather this latest inspection's
going to solve anything I don't know. Sadam has had plenty of opportunity, if
he has got anything to move it around. There was someone who said it's hard
to find because it's moved in mobile homes. How ya gonna keep track of 'em?
Q: What do you feel the world should learn from your military service, and your experiences?
A: I support, and George Bush supports the idea of trying to stop this stuff. I wish we could eliminate wars altogether. So many people are killed for poor reasons. And I have a grandson in the Coast Guard now, and he may get involved in South America - the drug lords. We don't know. He's down in camp Lejune for training. He's going to Guantanomo Bay from there. He was stationed in Michigan. We went to his graduation in Cape May. The Coast Guard is really getting into the military situation now; it didn't used to be.
I really don't know what the answer is. I don't know how you can satisfy peoples' groups and now, Bush wants to hit them before they hit us. And there are organizations all over him for it. But if they find something, he'll have good cause. I don't think he wants to go to war, but I'm glad he's strong, and has the help of other countries.
Conclusion of the Interview.
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