Interview with Elvin Frick    (back to WWII Project)

EF: Elvin William Frick, and that's E-l-v-i-n F-r-i-c-k, Elvin William Frick.

JW: And when were you born?

EF: (DELETED CONTENT)

JW: And where were you born?

EF: New Orleans, Louisiana.

JW: And what were your parents' names?

EF: My father was William Frick, Jr. Naturally, his father was a William Frick. My mother was Myrtle Tardy, T-a-r-d-y. Her mother was an O'Connor, so her mother, my grandmother, was Irish and she married an Irishman and my grandfather was born on St. Patrick's Day and so was my mother born on St. Patrick's Day. My Daddy's Dutch, so I'm Dutch and Irish. And I was raised and they settled in the Irish Channel in New Orleans.

JW: And you had brothers and sisters?

EF: There were five of us, I was the baby. My two older sisters survived, I had a brother that died and a sister that died before I was, before I was born. My brother died of pneumonia as an infant, and my sister died of polio. My second older sister died just three or four years ago, and I still have-- My older sister's living and she is--

JW: And you told me that there was something unusual about your birth.

EF: Well, I was born at home. I was delivered by a mid-wife. I was the youngest. Mother, as I just told you, had four other children. And I was quite large, I weighed eleven and a half pounds at birth, delivered at home in May. And our home was pretty warm in New Orleans, it's always hot in New Orleans. So I can imagine what my mother went through that day giving birth to me. And my grandpa was a Dutchman, we put up home brew and my mother had twelve brothers and sisters, six brothers and six sisters. And so I imagine waiting for me to come, I imagine all my uncles were there drinking my daddy's home brew. And I can just see them talking to my mother after I was born, especially my youngest uncle, coming in that room, congratulating my mother on a fine boy.

JW: I imagine that's every woman's nightmare, a houseful of drunk men.

EF: Houseful of men full of home brew. I don't know that they were drunk because my uncles could drink a lot of beer; but I imagine that was a place to gather. They gathered at my house, there was always either a fish fry, or fish was plentiful, seafood was plentiful in New Orleans, so we either had a crawfish or a shrimp boil or a fish fry with that home brew, so I'm sure that's where they gathered.

JW: And what did your father do for a living?

EF: He was a baker. He was a baker and his father was a baker, and my 2 daddy told me, "Son, I don't care what you do for a living, but you don't ever want to work at a bakery." Because the bakery that he knew was very hot, everything was done by hand. And you fed the oven with what's called a peel board, you stood in front of it and but that long wooden peel board. And you slid those pieces of dough, they called a flute, into this oven that you stood in front of. And when the bread was finished baking, you slid a peel board under that baked loaves and pulled them out, but that was very hot. And I talked to a local man, Harry Shipley, and we talked several times about a bakery back then and he knew what I was talking about. As a child, I'd go down there occasionally and watch my daddy work. But he made he made a living, and during the Depression, if you had a job, you were fortunate because on a relatively small amount of money, he was able to take care of us. And I had an aunt and there was no work, so I had two aunts to move in with us with their husbands and children. So I was close to my first cousins because we all, I guess you could say, we were packed in that house we lived in. But I don't anticipate any problems, course I was just a child; but if times were tough, I don't remember. I was just a child, I don't know what the adults went through. But I never knew a day of hunger, we always had enough to eat. Daddy always brought home bread and we were raised in a large neighborhood, I had a lot a lot of friends and a lot of children my age and they liked me because my daddy would bring home those day old cakes that weren't sold, so we always had some cake. I guess food was mostly, what I remember, my mother always had a big pot of soup on the stove and had plenty of red beans and rice. Seafood was plentiful and very reasonable because this was a day when, as you know, refrigeration was nothing back then like it is now. So everything that was caught locally was processed locally and you could buy everything fresh because there wasn't a lot of seafood shipped because of the availability of refrigeration, so things were reasonable.

JW: You had to grow up at a time when New Orleans had to be about the most exciting place to live in the United States. Huey Long in the Governor's office, and who knows what else, you know. Do you remember anything from your childhood that--

EF: Oh, yeah.

JW: --would curl my hair?

EF: Yeah. I came up at an interesting time. And you mentioned New Orleans, and of course everything that's gone on now because of Katrina, I would recommend a book to everyone to read, "The Rising Tide", and it was about the 1927 flood and the things that went on then; not only in New Orleans, but up and down the entire Mississippi Valley where states on either side of the river would build their levees higher and higher than the other side because of the flood. And the only thing that saved New Orleans then, is they dynamited the levee below the city and they flooded that same Knight's Ward. The same Knight's Ward that got flooded now from Lake Ponchartrain was flooded back then from the river, but it was 3 intentional, they dyamited the levee. And the people down there were supposed to be compensated for their homes, but from what I can understand, they never were paid. But knowing New Orleans like I do, although it is a city below sea level, the part of the city that I was raised in was near the river, and the highest part of the city is near the river. Because if you understand how the rivers used to flood before we had levees, they would flood way out and then when they came back in their banks in the summer, they would deposit soil near the edge of the riverbank so those were the highest places. This Katrina flooded land that had been reclaimed. When I was coming up, that part of town out in Gentilly and near Lake Ponchartrain was not too well inhabited. And so with modern technology, when they built those canals and reclaimed that land and built back there, I don't think they anticipated the flood coming from the lake, everyone always was afraid of the river. But fortunately, the river was fifteen feet below normal, I understand, when Katrina hit. Had the river been up when Katrina hit, it would have been even worse. But the area we were raised in did not flood, and so we never experienced, although I'm sure there were several hurricanes come up, I don't anticipate-- didn't remember having a problem with a hurricane when I was coming up or people getting flooded. I'm sure the low lying areas would flood from rainwater, but this is the first I ever heard of Lake Ponchartrain coming in like that.

JW: Right. Were you allowed to go to the Mardi Gras festivities when you were a kid?

EF: Yeah. It's annoying, though, when you see the news, all they want to talk about is the French Quarter, everyone wants to talk about the French Quarter isn't this but the French Quarter's all right now. Native Orleanians, the people that I knew, you just didn't go in El Ducarais (?), the French Quarter. It was a part of town that had open prostitution, gambling. And what's tragic, all you read about is New Orleans, the Sin City; but yet New Orleans, there was just parts of town that was like that. The Garden District and the Irish Channel and the Uptown where I was raised, people go to New Orleans and they miss seeing the beauty of the city. I mean they miss Ordinant Park, campus at Tulane and Loyola, and the live oak trees that are in existence and the pure beautiful history of New Orleans people miss. And I'm fortunate that I have a cousin still living who's a guide now and in the part of the French Quarter that's not Bourbon Street. Part of the French Quarter is the Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral and the Place Villions where the Louisiana Purchase took place and the Cabildo and places like that is where people should visit. And you know, you're here about World War II, but I love history. And they miss going down to Chalmet where the Battle of New Orleans was fought, and they miss all the colorful history of Andrew Jackson and Jean Lafitte that fought down there in the Battle of New Orleans. And Governor Claiborn, who wanted to capture Lafitte, and yet Lafitte was one of the heroes of the Battle of New Orleans. 4 But you asked me when I was coming up in the Depression about Huey Long. In Louisiana, in the Depression, from what they tell me because, remember now, I was ten, twelve years old in the middle 30s, but there was no such thing as a Republican Primary. You were a Democrat, and in the Democratic Primaries, whoever won was the one that was going to be elected because we didn't have any Republican Primaries, and it was machine politics. Huey P. Long came along at a time when people were anxious to hear what he had to say. He was a Socialist, out and out Socialist. And yet, in spite of Socialism, which I don't like, he did a lot of good for the State. I mean he built roads and bridges, and people in Louisiana loved him. But he did some things, he had a way of getting things done, and I'm sure some of it wasn't quite legal. I could tell you some stories that I heard. When they opened Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, the circus was supposed to come to town. And he called one of the either Ringling or P.T. Barnum, one of them, and said, "We don't want you to be in town tonight, we open Tiger Stadium and we don't want anything else going on." And the owner of the circus said, "We can't change our schedule, it's just that we open in New Orleans, go to Baton Rouge and then Shreveport." So he said, "You better reconsider," because he said, "I can tell you now if you don't change your schedule," he says, "we have a law, you have to dip animals coming into this State." And he said, "I'm including your tigers and your lions, and they'll be dipped at the border before they come in." Needless to say, they changed it. I don't know how much you want me to put on this tape but you're talking about a subject that I know something about and maybe posterity might be interested in this. But there was a very popular song that went on during the Thirties that was called the "Three Little Fishes", and they swam and they swam over the dam. Well, then someone put the lyrics to it. And the Governor at that time was a man named Richard Lesch, Dick Lesch. And when Huey P. Long went to the Senate, he handpicked his successor as Governor, which was Dick Lesch. And if you go through Louisiana now, you'll see signs on the bridges "Built during the Huey P. Long Administration", Dick Lesch, O.K. Allen, people like that. So someone put these lyrics to the song after, when the Federal Government came in. And it went: "Down in the meadow at LSU, stood Monroe Smith and Dick Lesch, too. Run, said Dick, run as fast as you can while I hold your resignation in my hand. Now, Bob told Dick you've gone too far, you'll resign tonight or I'll tell the law. OK, said Dick, I'll quit if I can, but you know darn well I'm in a hell of a jam." And so it went. And course, had Huey Long not been assassinated, they said that he would have been quite a rival to Franklin Roosevelt.

JW: I remember Franklin Roosevelt was taking him very seriously.

EF: Yes, because he had a following and it was very, very strong, especially, especially in the rural parts of Louisiana where people-- Before Huey Long, they didn't have any paved roads, they didn't have electricity. And so he put-- it didn't matter to him how many poles they had to put up to give one family electricity, they were going to have electricity. And it didn't matter if they had to drain the swamp 5 to put a road in there, he was going to put a road in there. And this is how he won people over, he knew how to get things done.

JW: And you know, there's not a lot of difference between that story and Lyndon Johnson stories doing the same thing in Texas at the same time a lot quieter than Huey Long, but it's the same thing. Electrifying the farmland, bringing people things that they never had before because they were poor and no one cared, you know. I met Gerald L. K. Smith one time when I was a kid. And that was-- I barely knew who he was the day I met him, and I've since learned a whole lot about him. And he said at the time that Huey Long died in his arms and that may be true, but you know, just reading biographies and that sort of thing, I think maybe Gerald L. K. Smith was a larger devil than Huey Long ever thought about being.

EF: Well, Huey Long knew how to get it done. And you know, when he started all this paving of these highways, he went around on the Gulf Coast of Texas and the Gulf Coast of Mississippi and in Louisiana and those shell beds. And I don't know whether he had an option to buy them or what he did, but a lot of those shells belong, and when he got the job as Highway Commissioner, this is before he was Governor. If you look at them old roads in the State, if you look at the old pavement, the cement wasn't mixed with gravel, it was mixed with oyster shells. And so he knew what he was doing and there was nothing wrong with shell. Instead of gravel roads down there, you had crushed shell roads, which served the same purpose.

JW: I've seen that in my lifetime.

EF: Sure. It served the same purpose, hard, hard shells, you crushed them and they held up. So old Huey, he was smart, he was smart.

JW: Well, did you go all through New Orleans schools?

EF: What happened was I finished grammar school at Laurel, it was Laurel McDonaugh #1, they called it McDonaugh. In the City of New Orleans, there was a man who was a philanthropist, he was from Baltimore, and his home was either New Orleans or Baltimore, I'm not sure which; but he left a lot of money to the school system, and so the schools down there were named for John McDonaugh. So I went to school at McDonaugh #1, which was right around the corner from where I lived so we could walk to the school until the 7th grade. And most of the kids I came up with, when they finished grammar school, the whole thought was going to work. Soon as we'd get out of school, we were going to go to work. And so when I finished Laurel, I went to high school at Peters. We were raised right on a car line, streetcar line, and I had a bicycle and a paper route. So I rode my bicycle back to school, it was about probably four or five miles to school. And I rode right through bad neighborhoods going to school, but there was never any problem. So in the afternoon when I got out of school, I'd go pick up my papers and I had a paper route and I caused it to grow and I was doing pretty good. And so I was in my sophomore year that December when, I told you my birthday, I was born in '26, so that December, I was fifteen when Pearl Harbor was attacked and I was in my sophomore year in high 6 school. And a lot of boys I came up with, though, not all of them, some, most of them went to Catholic school; but some of them were already working at fifteen, they had a job, a fulltime job. I had a job, but I was going to school. And so we came out of the theater that Sunday afternoon. And they used to have these in all the stores, I don't know how it worked, but run across the screen was information like a teletype. And all the talk was that Pearl Harbor had been bombed and we didn't even know where Pearl Harbor was, where is Pearl Harbor? All I can remember was it must be a pretty place to have a name like Pearl Harbor. So they start enlisting. All of my friends, seems to me like they were a year or two older, people that I ran around with, played ball with. I was small in stature but it just seemed like I was small for my age. And they were all leaving, going. And so that summer, I finished my sophomore year in high school and I had my route, plus my uncle was head of the Pipecutters Union there and he gave me a job during the summer. I made extra money working out of Camp Leroy Johnson, there was an Army camp there on the lakefront. And so I'd see all that military and everything going on and the war was not going our way in '42. And after the Battle of Midway, where the YORKTOWN, the old YORKTOWN went down, and I'd read about all of these naval battles and everything going on and people waving the flag. And I asked my mother if I could join. She said, "Son, they won't take them at sixteen." I was sixteen that summer of '42. And I said, "Yeah, Momma, they're taking them now, they'll take any." And my daddy had been in the Army. My daddy was born in 1888, so he was in the Philippines during the Philippine insurrection. So I went down there to the custom house and had to fill out an application. And if you were seventeen, if you were not, well as I remember, even if you were eighteen, but if you were seventeen, you had to get your parent's signature. This is something I'm not proud of; I put my birthdate down as May the 5th, 1925. And I brought the papers home, said, Momma, you have to sign them, but I'll be okay because as young as I am, they're not going to-- they won't treat me like they would someone-- And as it turned out, I signed up without really realizing it, in the regular Navy, not the Reserve, until I was twenty-one. The recruiters back then, I've heard stories where you'd go in there and tell them you're sixteen and they'd say go around the block, come back and tell us you're seventeen. I mean it was just a different time, a different war. And then all my friends were gone, I mean they were gone. So momma said, "Are you sure?" And I said, "Yes, ma'am." And I didn't tell her I'd falsified my age, I think, until after I was in. So she signed them and this is something that I know ever since then, didn't realize what was going on, but naval aviation was the way to go in the Pacific War. The old battleship admirals wanted to keep building more battleships, but the people who knew what they were doing, knew there was going to be a submarine and amphibious forces, and naval aviation was going to do the war in the Pacific. So in some respects, I really felt like I wasn't treated right because I went from New Orleans directly to Corpus Christi, Texas. I didn't go to a regular boot camp and I wasn't by myself, a 7 whole contingent of us. And I had steel roller skates and a bicycle, so this was my knowledge of machinery. I mean we never had a car because we had a street car. Didn't have to-- I didn't know how to drive an automobile, I didn't know anything about engines. But I was turned over to a civilian in Corpus Christi. And Corpus Christi hadn't been, that base hadn't been open that long, but Pensacola and Corpus Christi were the two largest naval air stations and they were training pilots. I look back, we had auxiliary fields all over that part of Texas. And it was mainly these training planes that we were working on, single bank, nine, seven and nine cylinder air cooled engines. But this civilian that I was turned over to, he knew what he was doing and he had several of us. And so I worked on everything connected with the mechanical part of an airplane, the engine, the props, you name it. And was given the rating of an Aviation Machinist 2nd Class, which is NFS test (?) which is equivalent to a Buck Sergeant in the Army. But that November, I went home on leave and then I went back; but then later on that summer, well as I remember I was probably fairly proficient in what I was assigned to, even though I had just turned seventeen. So the Navy doesn't activate you as a unit like the Army does, according to your rating. So this is getting kind of vague, but seems to me like I was given a ticket, must have been a foot long, to go from Corpus Christi to San Francisco. Caught a train to Houston, changed trains in Houston and changed somewhere. Anyway, I wound up at Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay. Treasure Island was the sight of the World's Fair that went on in San Francisco before the war.

JW: I was trying to remember what year from memory and I can't now.

EF: But it was where the World's Fair was. So it's hard to remember this, but seemed like I got off the train and there was shore patrol there to look at my tickets and put me on a bus and next thing I knew, I was in the middle of San Francisco Bay on Treasure Island. And I can remember being very cold because they put us in these buildings that had been used for the Fair and they were very open and wide and wasn't heated. And they had bunks all over the place where we were sleeping with all your gear, everything you owned was in one sea bag. And you had to look at the bulletin board to see where you were going. So well as I remember, I was there two or three days. And one morning, told me where to report to a truck, and everything you own, and we went to Alameda, the naval air station at Alameda, over in Oakland. And that's when I got my first look at the new YORKTOWN, which is an Essex Class Carrier, I learned later. That was the biggest thing I ever saw in my life. And so for some reason, I thought that I was going to be ship's company on the YORKTOWN. And I can remember this, I was a very slight-of-build person, I was still growing; and I had to get help to get my gear carried aboard that thing, up that gangway getting aboard that ship. And here's all these cots, Army cots was on the hangar deck. And it was after I got aboard that we found out that so many of us, we were passengers on that YORKTOWN, just passengers. And I was waving a 8 flag, still very patriotic; and I didn't realize what I'd gotten into until we went under that Golden Gate Bridge. And you know, that bridge didn't open until 1937, so it was fairly new. People on that bridge, waving, carriers would come in. I come to find out the YORKTOWN had only made one, it was launched in April and this was September of '43. And it had made one raid, I think, Macon, I think, I'm not sure; but when we pulled into Pearl Harbor, and this was just a little over a year after it had been bombed, well as I remember the OKLAHOMA was still being raised, but we went ashore on Ford Island. And then my records indicate I was attached to Air Transport Squadron 10. I'd had some training in Corpus Christi in sea planes. And so there was a lot of air traffic in these PBMs and Martin Mariner sea planes between Pearl Harbor and San Francisco and all the islands, for that matter. But I don't remember doing a lot in that transport squadron, I know I wasn't part of an air crew. We were quartered in a masonry building, but what was very vivid was going down to those hangars and working on aircraft engines. And now that I realize what was going on, these planes from these carriers, as they would come into Pearl, they would fly off the carrier at sea, land on Ford Island. The ones who needed engines or changed or repaired or something, we would overhaul these engines and put them back on the planes or put an engine on a plane that we had already overhauled, and then take that one that needed overhauling and overhaul it. Then when that carrier went back to sea for another invasion, then these planes would fly off Ford Island and land because it was a slow process to load planes with a crane. We loaded some with a crane, but it was simpler to fly them aboard than loading with a crane, and less dangerous. So for well over a year, that's what I did on Ford Island, and it seemed like it was work all the time, constant. And before these invasions, there was a lot of work because not only would you work at your assigned duties, and mine was of an aviation machinist and I got to be fairly good at it, I guess; but loading these ships, you would do anything you was asked to do. And these carriers would come in and we would take days loading them and we'd load everything under the sun, from aerial torpedoes to bombs to new engines to parts to food to you name it. And as a result, I got pretty stout.

JW: Lifting all day?

EF: Yeah. So then Com Air Pack (?) commanding the Pacific, came out with an ordinance that if you'd been out for a year and a half, you get rotated. So I was a passenger. I didn't know-- There was a lot-- Pearl Harbor was just nothing but a hub of activity, just unbelievable amount of activity. But you can imagine when the war started going our way, it was just really going our way. And when I mention that Essex Class Carrier, the YORKTOWN, the keel had been laid, it was going to be the Bonham Richer (?). And when the old YORKTOWN went down at Midway, they changed the name to YORKTOWN, and these were called Essex Class Carriers, and they must have built twenty of them, Essex Class, that harbor was full of them. And somewhere in there, I don't know or remember the exact 9 date, but I think it was before the Marshall Islands Invasion, but one day, we were told to get on our dress whites and the whole harbor-- Roosevelt was coming to the Fleet. And I know now from what I read, he was coming to meet with Nimitz and MacArthur. Nobody knew why he was coming, but if my chronological clock tells me something from what I read, this must have been what he was coming for, because Nimitz and MacArthur were at an odds as to how they was going to fight that war. So I think it was Roosevelt that negotiated with them, and Nimitz got the Central Pacific, MacArthur got the Southwest Pacific, Guadalcanal, New Hebrides, New Georgia, those islands. Nimitz went through Saipan, Tinian, all the Mariannas. But I think Roosevelt came out there for them to mend their fences, but this was one of the most moving experiences. Submarine base was located at one end of the Navy yard, and we were all on Ford Island, all these ships at anchor, men dressed in whites, that whole harbor was very quiet. And that Captain's gig left that submarine base and was the only thing moving in the harbor. And I think it was the BUNKERHILL where he was being piped aboard. And you could hear that PA system, that bosson's (?) pipe, but moving, you could hear that clear across that quiet harbor. And then his little vessel, that little boat, disappeared behind this BUNKERHILL, I think it was the BUNKERHILL. So how he got aboard, as crippled as he was, I don't know, I don't know, I didn't see that. But that was the second time I'd seen Roosevelt. I had seen him before when I was in Corpus Christi. He drove through in a convertible through a hangar when I was in Corpus Christi one time, but just saw him in passing. But that was a moving experience because that whole harbor was there and the war was beginning to go our way and we had the stuff there, because from what they told me, we had to fix things because everything was being concentrated on Europe. Churchill and Roosevelt decided we'd concentrate there. And I don't want to put anything on this film that isn't true or can be documented, but a lot of what I know now is what I've read. We were catching holy hell in '42 in the Pacific, I mean we were losing ships like you wouldn't believe. And to this day, I think it was a disgrace that our men were expendable on Wake and on Guam and in the Philippines. I think they had made a decision that they were expendable, and we could have gotten them. In my opinion, I think we still had enough ships, if we couldn't defend the islands, if we couldn't save them, I think we could have evacuated a good many of them anyway and not subject them to the terrible treatment that they were subjected to following their capture. And in all fairness to MacArthur, too, I think he really believed that help was coming for what he had. I guess you're entitled to your opinion on these films. When the war broke out, we never had any troops in Europe, we never had any troops there. Why should we concentrate on helping everybody and his brother over there? Well, I know we needed to. We did in World War I and it was a good thing we did in World War II; but the point I'm making is why should we have gotten so excited about concentrating over there first, when we had men, our people were on these islands and were 10 told help's coming and it didn't get there and it didn't get there.

JW: '42 was bad.

EF: '42 was terrible. And--

JW: And a lot of things about 1942 weren't released for thirty or forty years afterwards.

EF: The public wouldn't have stood it. In Sebo (?) Island or in the slot (?) there at Guadalcanal and when we lost those cruisers and they were going down, and just I think overnight, we lost some maybe five thousand sailors off of some of those ships. But you can't fight a war without casualties and who am I to know in my little part of the world as to what they should have done or shouldn't have done. I just know when these silk suit Johnnies make decisions, when they're up there making decisions, it's those poor guys that are out there, and I just can't imagine what went through their mind on those poor people on Bataan that were left without enough ammunition, without enough nothing.

JW: There's lots of examples of that in 1942, especially.

EF: Yeah. It was just seemed to be unfair. But anyway, that is another thing that I don't understand. This ship that came in that I was a passenger on, well as I remember we had some marine casualties and I think they were from Iwo Jima because this was in March of '45.

JW: Do you recall the name of the ship?

EF: No. Either the EDGECOMB or the FAIRLANE because I was a passenger on another-- Must have been the FAIRLANE. It was either the FAIRLANE or the EDGECOMB, I'm not sure; but it was an APA that had been converted to a hospital ship, I guess, because I was just a passenger. And I worked my way back on that ship, I think in the galley, to San Francisco. All I know is when we pulled into San Francisco, the dock was lined with ambulances. And if these were some of the men because they put into there, they probably would put off a lot of men that weren't too severely wounded at the Naval Hospital at Pearl, and the balance of them them probably took home to the States. But I worked my way back. All I can remember is that they had ambulances lined up taking those people off. So I assume that's where they were and were from. And I thought I'd inject this, I don't know how many people would agree with this; but the more I read, the B-29s were bombing, firebombing Japan from Saipan. And according to what I read, we wanted to invade Iwo Jima because they would harass these B-29s, the planes from Iwo Jima would harass the 29s on their way from Japan back to the Mariannas, Saipan. Well, there was no water on Iwo Jima. I mean I don't know why we never reinvaded Wake, and I don't know why, with all the carriers we had and all the carrier-based planes we had and as many as we had in 1945, we had some carriers, we had some highly trained naval pilots, we had people that were kicking their butt; and why we couldn't have used those Navy fighter planes to protect those B-29s with these carriers, why we sacrificed twenty-five thousand casualties to go into Iwo Jima, I mean I'll never understand that. 11 There's a lot of things I don't-- Halsey told MacArthur we don't need Peleliu. Halsey told MacArthur we don't need to invade Peleliu, and he had in his mind we needed Peleliu on his way back to the Philippines. Halsey convinced-- and I'm reading all of this, we didn't need Peleliu. We had about eight or nine thousand casualties on Peleliu and they never used it. It was just useless. But do you know what it was back then? They were all expendable. I mean these admirals and these generals, I mean they sacrificed these people like they were two for a nickle. Today, we wouldn't stand for that, not to do that.

JW: In those numbers, no.

EF: Those numbers, unbelievable. But anyway, here I am going back in Alameda. Boy, you been out a year and a half, you got your choice of duty. Because if you'd been out a year and a half, you're not going to go back to sea.

JW: Oh, I see. You'd been in Hawaii for a year and a half?

EF: Right.

JW: Okay, I'm with you.

EF: All right. So I had read about Washington, D.C. There were ten women to every man in Washington at Anacoster (?) Field, all these workers. I read about that, and here I am at that time, I was eighteen in '45, I was still just eighteen years old and I'd been in two and a half years. Kind of grown, though. But anyway that's where I wanted to go was Washington, and the New Orleans Air Base was my second choice. So here came thirty-six days delayed orders to report to Combat Aircraft Service Unit in San Diego. So I went home on leave and enjoyed being home, and saw a friend of mine who, he was on leave, Navy man, come to find out he was going back to the same outfit I was. He had been on board an escort carrier that was in that typhoon. And I have his ship's paper now where, during that typhoon, they used human ballast to keep their vessel from-- So we went back to San Diego. And by now, I feel like I'm grown and so forth. But in California, you cannot drink unless you're twenty-one. So I decided to take my ID card and change it from twenty-five to twenty-three, I was born in 1923. It was easy to make a three out of a five. So I'm ashore at San Diego and all I'm doing is drinking a beer and here came the shore patrol. And evidently I didn't do too good a job because they sent me back to North Island, I was at Captain's Mass. And they said what are you doing? I can remember, "What are you doing violating the laws of the State of California?" Here I was, I had been two and a half years--

JW: Right. And you're eighteen years old?

EF: I'm eighteen, and you could not drink a beer. And I was raised in New Orleans, I was raised where they make home brew.

JW: Raised in a houseful of beer.

EF: So they said, well, you can take thirty days restriction or we'll 12 send you back to sea. Well, I was so annoyed, I think I told the Skipper, I said this is not right, I mean I'm just drinking a can of beer. So anyway I wound up back in San Francisco aboard, I remember, I think it was the JOHN WAYNE-- that was the EDGECOMB, so the other one was the FAIRLANE. So this ship was the EDGECOMB, that ship was the EDGECOMB. And I'm in San Francisco aboard this EDGECOMB on my way to the Philippine Sea front.

JW: And all right up to now. Everything had been all right up to now?

EF: Up to now. So I think finally got to the island of Samoa, where we had an air strip. And then I was sea plane, that was in my record, and we had put in a sea plane base in Leyte Gulf. So I found myself on a little LCI with just a handful of other fellows, well as I remember only about thirty of us. And to this little island of Heneboat (?), right in Leyte Gulf out from Tacluman between Samoa and Leyte Gulf and Leyte. The island was called Heneboat and they tell me that's mosquito in Philippino. Well, the Seabees had been there and put us up some Quonset huts; but after they left, I mean our job, we found out we're going to be servicing sea planes coming out of Australia, PBMs. Every now and then a Catalina, but mostly PBMs. And so we found ourselves without a place to take a bath, without a place to use the can, so we built our own privy, floating man's privy (?) we built and this was before the environmental protection agency, so everything went in Leyte Gulf. We bent the eaves of the Quonset hut to catch the rain, and we got a wobble pump, commandeered one of them off of one of the planes and fixed us a pump. And we had some tanks, we'd catch the water, it rained every day, the sun would beat on that thing, warm the water and we had a place to take a bath and we had a field kit (?). And of course then the war's over and everybody had points, they were getting out and--

JW: The war is over by this time?

EF: Yeah, yeah. This was '45, the war is over. We had then secured the Philippines, and we had just finished Okinawa and they had dropped the bomb and so the war's over; but I'm on that island, I'm on this island in the Leyte Gulf.

JW: That's where you were when the war ended? Okay.

EF: No, no. The war had ended before I got there.

JW: Before you got there? Where were you when you heard the war was ended?

EF: I was still in San Diego.

JW: I see.

EF: I was still in San Diego when the war was over. I was in San Diego, in that combat aircraft service. So the reason I was sent back, well, for two was because I just told you came by (?) the card. But the reason was I had enough points, but I was [couldn't understand what you said here], I couldn't get out. I had to serve out an enlistment until I was twenty-one. 13

JW: That's right, you had an enlistment, you weren't--

EF: I wasn't in the Reserves. So on this little island of Heneboat, what an experience that was. They were shortlived, but we took those engines and we took them off the planes, we pickled them and then we took the hulls out and scuttled them in the Gulf. And then after that, after going through all that work of pickling them engines, then we took them out and scuttled them. And I thought they'd forgotten us, and finally they came and got us and put us on the island of Samoa on that air strip. And this was my first experience with men coming in the Navy toward the end of the war. These fellows were twenty-eight, twenty-nine, some married, most of them married, didn't want to be in, had only been in a short while and most had been drafted. They used the draft-- When I went in, the Navy was all enlisted; but then they started drafting them and put them in. So here I was nineteen years old, I was 2nd Class by then, probably kind of salty. And here these fellows-- It rained all the time and we were in a privateer squad. This was a B-24 that the Navy converted to a privateer, had a single fin, and they required a lot of service. And whether it was raining or not, they had to be serviced. And incidentally, up to that time, I had never driven an automobile in my life. And they had vehicles all over that air strip, trucks, jeeps, you name it, and this is my first experience driving a car. Had a little button for the ignition. But I can remember having to really get kind of rough with some of these fellows who just wasn't going to go out there in that rain, they wasn't going to do this. And I had to pull rank on them and here I was nineteen, they were eight, nine years older than I was and had to listen to this kid. But I had earned the right to tell them what to do, and I didn't have too much trouble getting the job done. And then when everybody was getting out in the fall of that year with all the points they had, I had more than enough points than anybody because [sorry, I couldn't understand what was said here] I had to serve the enlistment.  So the worst experience is yet to come and was April of '46, my enlistment was up in May of '46. I was supposed to be twenty-one that May of '46 but I was still not even twenty in April. So here's a ship at anchor in Leyte Gulf from Samoa and I was going to be a passenger going back to San Francisco to be discharged, and that thing was riding high. I asked the [?], said, "Man, we going to take on any ballast?" I said, "This thing's riding high." "Oh, no, we'll be fine, we're going to make it back in eighteen days, we'll be back to San Francisco."

JW: Do you recall the name?

EF: JOHN LAND.

JW: Spell the--

EF: The JOHN LAND, well as I remember, the ship was named JOHN LAND.

JW: L-a-n-d?

EF: I think so, JOHN LAND. I think that was the name of the boat, so 14 JOHN LAND, I'm pretty sure that was it. We skirted north of the Hawaiian Islands. And I don't know who was the fellow aboard ship who knew something about weather or what have you, but we ran into the worst storm that I had ever been in in my life. And that thing was not built to take the punishment it was taking or take the list it was taking. And I had never been so scared in my life because for two or three days it was ka-pum-choo, just like that. And you couldn't go top, everybody in the hole was sick. I wasn't sick, thank goodness; and this went on, I thought she was going over, we couldn't go topside. And if it had gone down, and those waters are pretty cold up there, we wouldn't have survived. And I don't remember praying as hard as I did in all my life. And then finally, the good Lord calmed the waves; and couple of days later, we came into San Francisco. And had signs up, "A Grateful Nation Welcomes You Home". And so then checked into Alameda and got home to New Orleans, I was at the naval air station and that's where I was discharged. And I was discharged with them thinking I had just turned twenty-one because I signed up until I was twenty-one and I got out, and that was on my twentieth birthday, I was only twenty. So I had been for three and a half years and was still only twenty.

JW: Seen the world.

EF: And some other experiences in between, but basically, my service, it was uneventful. I was never exposed to any real danger except at sea that time coming back. And of course, normal, people getting hurt or killed, and the duties I was performing, had to be very careful with all of those propellers turning up, you had to watch what you were doing.

JW: And it took that, you know, couldn't win the war without all the bases being covered, all the jobs being done.

EF: Yeah. I brought that magazine and that's what this admiral said about us mechs. And further commenting about Nimitz and MacArthur and some of the decisions that were made and why they were made, we had so many things and I happened to just mention a while ago about how, in my opinion, we could have by-passed Iwo Jima. Because I just know how many carriers we had out there and I know how many planes we had out there. And I know how good our pilots were and I know how good our equipment was in 1945. Not so in '42, but those men in '42, they did a wonderful job with what they had to do it with. So I just felt like after I see how many Marines that we've lost and were wounded, why-- and especially an island that, unless it's supplied, you can't live there, there's no water on that island. And we could have starved them out and protected our B-29s with our fighter planes because with the carrier, you didn't have to have an air base here, an air base there, an air base here. We had these carriers on station, we had so many of them, they were just like floating islands all over the Pacific.

JW: Right.

EF: And too, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention, although I had nothing to do with it, a lot of people don't know that of all our 15 service vessels and all our aircraft, combined, did not account for more sunk tonage than our submarines. Our submarines are the unsung heroes of the Pacific War. And I have a book at home that lists all the vessels we lost and how we lost them. And the overwhelming majority of the submarines is just overdue, overdue, overdue. They just never knew what happened to them.

JW: They were just gone forever.

EF: Gone forever. Communication was not. And even when you've got supposedly good communications, things happen. That's what happened to that poor INDIANAPOLIS. This book is Aviation Maintenance dated July '45. And after recording this, my interview, I'm sure to the listener, was not that colorful as to what you did during the war. This fellow's got a title here, "The Men Behind the Headlines". And this Admiral, Admiral Ramsey, he wrote a lot; but this last paragraph I'd like to read it. "When a Navy pilot takes off from a rolling carrier deck or an island runway to seek and destroy the enemy, his skill and training are useless if his maintenance men have slipped up on the smallest detail. Teamwork counts in this relationship as in few others. A pilot must be able to have complete confidence in the work of his mechs." That's his mechanics. "And in the conditions a plane which is to take him into combat and bring him back. The outstanding role which the Navy maintenance men played every day in the smooth operation of our air strength, merits the warm gratitude of our airmen. I'm sure that I express the sentiments of every pilot in the Fleet when I extend these timeless hardworking mechs a hardy well-done." So it's nice to read something like that and feel like, hey, in my own small way, maybe I contributed something, you know.

JW: Well, you know, being the pilot had to be more exciting; but he couldn't have got to be the pilot if you weren't down there making the plane go.

EF: And then frankly, we had to scavenger some time parts. And well, there's one part of an aircraft radial engine, the cam, which goes around and the push-out housings that open and close the valves ride on this cam. And when we tear that engine down from wear, you had to take and stone that cam to smooth it out. Well, when you stone one, it's going to cause wear on that cam. And we'd have to take what's called a field gauge, when you'd check the clearance of those valves on that engine because that's a four stroke engine, that radial air cooled engine. And sometimes on this stroke, you would read something, and you'd bring it around on the next stroke, and they'd read something else because it happened to hit a low place on that cam. But as long as it was operating, we had to close it up, crank it up and send it off because that's all we had. Now, it was a different story starts coming back, and we really began to get more than we needed. I mean then we had a surplus, it was either not having enough or having too much, one or the other. But there for awhile, we just had to scavenge it. 16

JW: Were you in a position because of where you were and all that, were you in a position to know when they didn't come back, the ones that you had worked on? I mean you worked on planes that just came through and came through and came through?

EF: Right.

JW: It wasn't like the same planes went out and came back and went out and came back.

EF: Okay. I never had that. Frankly, I'm glad I didn't have to. I'm glad I didn't have-- You get to be called a plane captain. When you are in charge of that aircraft as a captain, you are over the guy, the ordnance men who armed them, the electricians, the metalsmiths, you was the captain over them all. And that was your plane. And so I have talked to some-- well, not many because sometime when these carriers would go in, I'd go aboard them and different things because we could do that. I mean you was free to roam around, and we'd go off and on those vessels and those carriers. And I had an idea, I should have brought my-- I got an ID button that's got my picture on it in that area. But these plane captains, I mean I was responsible, it was usually an aviation machinist, like I was, a captain was an aviation machinist. And when they launched a plane, he had to feel pretty responsible that that thing was okay, at least it checked out as far as it could. But we lost, I'm sure during the war, we lost a lot of planes from mechanical failure. We lost probably a lot of planes-- I think it came about then what they call that Marianna Turkey Shoot, when they shot down so many enemy planes. I think there was a number of them, but they just run out of gasoline, or sometime they couldn't find their way back sometime. That's a big ocean, and from the air, a carrier looks like a postage stamp.

JW: I've had several bomber crew tell me that they witnessed accidents while flying in formation. They said that it looks easy, but flying formation is hard as hell and was very dangerous. And more often than people think, two planes would collide, not in combat, just simply going across. It's dangerous, it was all dangerous.

EF: And that hangar deck with those props turning up, you get on a line, even on the beach, when you get that many planes, working on them, you had to watch where you were walking, you had to be careful.

JW: My father-in-law was a crop duster and he got hit by a prop out in the middle of a field, just having a moment of not thinking. And he was very lucky, but it was a terrible wound he had to recover from. So I can only imagine if you're on a flight deck with how many propellers spinning and the sea rolling and everything else, you know, how many accidents-- just anytime machinery is moving and there's human beings, there's somebody that's liable to walk right into something.

EF: Uh-huh. Dr. Bost, I'm active here in the Bost program. And I had a chance to speak to Dr. Bost, who was a pediatrician. And I didn't know it, but he was down at Corpus Christi same time I was. And he 17 was telling me some of his worst duty. See, Corpus Christi was a basic training base. We had these Steermen, the Army called them a Texan [?] and then the Steerman was another, they call them a y'all apparel [?]. But then the Navy had a plane called an N-3-N, it was a biplane and it looked like a Steerman. And these were biplanes, two seated biplanes. And these pilots, I mean training these pilots, that's what was going on down at Corpus Christi, it was basic training. And he was telling me that some of his worst experiences was treating these young men for burns because so many of these pilots, and remember, these were kids, and so many of those planes crashed. And if they crashed with that high octane gasoline, they were going to burn, and they couldn't get them out fast enough to where they'd suffer these burns. And this is what he was telling me, Dr. Bost was telling me, treating these burns was really a terrible strain for him, him being a pediatrician.

JW: Burning is not the way any human being wants to go, they'll pick anything but that.

EF: Well, so many things happened that, now, it's getting kind of vague; but I think of something else that happened at Pearl Harbor that is probably lost in history. I don't remember whether it was the Marshalls or the Mariannas but there were three LSTs of four Marines tied up at Pearl Harbor where there was an explosion, while I was there. And I don't know how many were killed because they were loaded with ammunition and gasoline and you name it and there was a fire and explosion. And I don't know how many, but the casualties right there and they never even had a chance to fight, you know.

JW: Was it ever determined if it was accident, sabotage--

EF: I doubt if it was sabotage.

JW: It was just one of those mistakes, something went wrong.

EF: I doubt if it was sabotage. In fact, when I think now how people can infiltrate, it's just a wonder that more sabotage didn't go on because we didn't have that much security. I mean you could go and come, I don't remember. And now that I read about it, I think how really dumb the Japanese were. If they wanted to cause us problems, they should have done something to the Panama Canal or to the Golden Gate Bridge. I mean I don't know what their thinking was. They could have done some things that would have really put a big hurt on us. But if that Panama Canal had been blocked, that would have been bad news.

JW: You were in Hawaii for roughly a year and a half?

EF: Uh-huh.

JW: Did you get to enjoy being in paradise any, or was it all work and then sleep? I kind of doubt it off the top of my head.

EF: Well as I remember, we stayed busy constantly. There was a lot of-- That island-hopping required a lot of traffic. That was the main place, so we worked; not only at my duties, at my regular duties that 18 I was trained to do, but everything else. It didn't matter, you worked. But you'd get liberty and I could go into Honolulu. There wasn't nothing much in Honolulu. I regret to say that on my 18th birthday, I went into Honolulu and I got tatooed, I got an eagle put on on my right shoulder. And then I felt like I wasn't naked anymore because everybody else was getting tatooed. So that was not a pleasant experience because these guys that get tatooed now, they tell me it doesn't hurt and you don't bleed. But I had on a white jumper; and by the time I got back to the Navy yard, that sleeve of my jumper was solid red, bled all through. And I went to sick bay and they told me get out of here, nothing we can do for you now. It seemed like it took a month or two months for it to heal, but it healed. And so that's-- I remember, that was-- if you want to know what scars I have from the war, it was being tatooed in Honolulu.

JW: Well, when I was growing up and somebody had a tattoo, it meant they were in the war. I don't recall running across somebody who got it for nothing. They got it because they were in World War II.

EF: You were either bored or you were scared and so bored, you know, so this was something to do; but there wasn't nothing else to do.

JW: What's a Navy man without a tattoo?

EF: And I've seen some that were unbelievable. But I welcome this opportunity to be interviewed. I cannot, for the life of me, look at 16 year olds today, I can't see them doing what I did. And it's not because they couldn't, it's just because I don't think they're raised with the kind of-- See, we were already disciplined when we went in, we were disciplined people, we came from disciplined families we were used to being sacrificed. Sacrifice, I mean you didn't have your own way. I was raised with a mother that said, "Son, I'm raising you for somebody else. I want you to understand that." So that made a lot of sense, you know, she was raising me for someone else. And pardon the animosity, but that just proves to be very valuable when I was married. Fortunately, I married, the first time, married a registered nurse and we had six children. She didn't work, but thank goodness she took care of those children. And she developed Alzheimer's and I was very privileged to take care of her at home. And then after she died, I was going to be a grandpa, because I was sixty-three; and then I met a lady who'd been a widow for nineteen years, and so we've been married now eighteen years. So between us, we have a raft of children and grandchildren, and I have teenage great-grandchildren in college.

JW: That's great.

EF: Yeah, it is. And I'm very fortunate. I enjoy very good health for my age.

JW: You're in great shape.

EF: I garden, swim, play a lot of bridge, we ballroom dance, I sing, like to sing. 19

JW: Well, back up a minute. When you did get out of the Navy, what happened to you?

EF: All right.

JW: If we're ready for that.

EF: Yeah, sure. I got out--

JW: You got out in November of '46?

EF: No, May, May, on my, they thought, on my twenty-first birthday.

JW: They thought?

EF: They thought I was just twenty.

JW: 1946.

EF: '46. And so I felt like I needed to go to work and they had what is called a 52-20 Club. You could get $20 a week for fifty-two weeks. And that was about-- I was making $96 a month when I got out. And I was second player[?], I was making right out of the Navy. You know, you asked me questions that makes me think about something. Before I got out, out at that naval air station, they brought me in a room, I was 2nd Class Aviation Machinist, had all my records and so forth. And they talked to me at length about staying in because, I don't know that they told me that, but we're going to have something big going on and they needed people with my expertise. Come to find out it was the Bikini bomb test that they were going to have. And had I reenlisted, I would have probably been on that. And those men were walking around on those ships that were in those Marshall Islands, with a Geiger counter, with no protection. And I have a cousin who was an electrical engineer, and he was an Ensign in the Navy, he died, he was thirty-six, eat up with cancer. And I know that's what it was from, he was in on that test, and all those men got radiation poisoning. They had to.

JW: I wonder, my father was in Japan in the occupational forces and they went anywhere and everywhere, and he died of cancer at fifty- five. And I've always thought do I want to go look up everybody that was in his Unit and see if they all didn't just die young.

EF: Radiation.

JW: Yeah, because you know, whenever there's an accident, they say, oh, it will be uninhabitable for ten thousand years. And then you hear about all these people in the Forties and the Fifties that were right in the middle of it, walking on it, setting on it, eating it, you know.

EF: These guys were walking around with them Geiger counters on those vessels that weren't sunk and they were radioactive, and they didn't know what was going on. So you asked me what I did afterwards, I was tempted, because I loved the Navy and I guess if I hadn't met and married, I probably would have reenlisted. But AT&T had an ad, and I answered the ad, it was Western Electric Company. And the telephone system, everything had been put on hold during the war, so they were putting a lot of these community 20 dial systems. And I was told that with Western Electric, if I signed on, I wouldn't leave the State for five years. Two weeks later, I was in Miami, Florida, and I was working on putting in the dial system. And then when I came back to New Orleans later that year, on early '47, I had met my wife. And we married and she was encouraging me to go back to school, which I did do, and finished high school. I went back at night and finished high school.

JW: You met your wife in New Orleans after the war?

EF: No. I met-- After the war. I met her on a Greyhound bus. She was working for the IC Railroad hospital, and I was on a Greyhound bus. I had put in a job at Jackson, Mississippi, and was coming home on a bus.

JW: For Western Electric?

EF: For Western Electric. And then in '49, we already had a new baby, Western Electric laid us off, head of construction in '49. And I went to work for the the Life of Georgia [?] I'd never sold anything in my life, and I went to work for the Life Insurance Company of Georgia in 1950, I stayed with them forty years. And my wife was always encouraging me, so I went on and got a degree, chartered life underwriter's degree out of Panama, Pennsylvania. It's a degree that's conferred, it took me five years and about sixteen hours a week, but anyway. And so I had a career in management in the life insurance business, which proves to be very good. I've moved around, company moved me around a lot. And I came here in Fort Smith in 1980, turned out to be the best transfer, I put some roots down here. And then my wife died in '87. And I met and married my present wife, Sally, in 1989. I'm very fortunate. I had a wonderful marriage the first time, raised six wonderful children. And Sally had three. Tragedy in my family, my oldest daughter had high fever when she was two and it did brain damage, so she has a developmental disability, but she had thirty years of special ed and she's in the Bost program. And then in '76, my twenty-one year old son got stranded in a duck blind down in Louisiana overnight and froze to death. That's unusual, especially down there. But life's been good and I think Sally and I are growing old very gracefully. We're enjoying a life that was denied her first husband because they were happily married and he died quite young, took sick one day and died the next. And she had a good first marriage and I had a good first marriage, and we have now a good marriage.

JW: Do your kids live around here?

EF: No. My daughter's here, she's the one with the developmental disability. My youngest daughter is a librarian at the University of Tennessee. I have a son in Lafayette, Louisiana; a daughter in Lafayette, Louisiana; and a daughter in Brookhaven, Mississippi. Sally's children, she has a son in Maumel [?], she has another son in Rogers. And then her daughter married a career Army man, he is a Colonel and is due to become a General this fall. I have a grandson that's a physician's assistant who was in 21 the Navy in Desert Storm. And came back and got in the National Guard, he got to be a physician's assistant and he was in Iraq, he's been back now about a year. He served with those people there, that's her grandson. On both sides, our grandchildren are all doing real good, but we don't have any of them in town except my daughter.

JW: But you've got a bunch of kids and a bunch of grandkids.

EF: Raft of kids, raft of grandchildren.

JW: And a blink, there will be great grandchildren, if not already.

EF: Well, like I say, I have teenage great-grandchildren in college, in college, my great. So I've got a shot at being a great-great-grandfather and so does Sally.

JW: I had a wonderful relationship with my great-grandfather. I was twenty when he died, and that's one of the things that I treasured because most people never get to know their great-grandfather, much less get to know them for that length of time and he was a character. So my four children never met a grandfather. And you know, they don't know what they've missed, but I know what they've missed, so I'm sad for them.

EF: Well, I don't know how much of this is being recorded. Is this being recorded?

JW: You bet you, uh-huh. Just like candid camera, it's always on.

EF: It's always on. Well, we read about it and we talk a lot about what goes on now and our future generation. I think that these young people today, it's unfortunate that they didn't come up at a time like we did. I think we were a happy bunch of kids with nothing, you know. I think they missed out on so much. They missed out on making houses out of cardboard boxes. They missed out on looking forward to Halloween, when it was Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas. Even though there wasn't a lot there, you didn't have Christmas starting in July. And not that you got a lot at Christmas and so forth, but it was just different. Now, it seems like kids have to have things to make them happy. I think they miss out on the unbelievable safety it is to walk the streets like we could, and as kids, to go out on a vacant lot and choose up and play ball without your parents being there. I mean everything is so important to win. Us boys used to scrap; but once we found out who could whip who, that was the end of it, the parents didn't get involved with all that. And they missed being close to their uncles and aunts because now it's a society that moves, they miss all that. They miss out on getting Christmas once a year, not every week. They miss out on what it is to have to save to get something, to sacrifice to get something. Those are the things that I think made us stronger and happier. This affluent society takes all that away from youngsters. I guess everybody had their style, everybody had this and so forth. You'll never been able to explain it to them because you have to have lived that. But I look at them, and although they seem to be happy, they seem to have-- everybody has a cell phone, everybody has a car, 22 everybody has a credit card, but it's things, it's toys. I think in this society that's becoming too socialistic, we miss out in the churches, when it was the churches who went around giving baskets at Thanksgiving. I think you have to go through a depression to turn to God every day, and when you say give us this day our daily bread, it meant something back then. It doesn't mean anything now, there's such an abundance. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to go back to sleeping without screens or in a hot house, I enjoy air conditioning. I enjoy a regular transmission in a car. I enjoy all the things that we have today; but I think I can enjoy them because I know what it was not to have them. These children are growing up not ever knowing what it is not to always have it. But the kids today are much smarter, they're bright, smart minded, more advantages. Some people say that today, there's no more advantages like there used to be. You find somebody today that has a good education and is willing to work, he's going to stand out like a sore thumb. He'll go places if he's disciplined. As I think Henry Ford said, he'd pay for a disciplined human being than he would for somebody with ability. But life's been good, I've been very fortunate. I could have been-- They could have taken me in, they could have put me on a submarine, they could have put me on a destroyer, they could have put me no telling where and I would have gone where they sent me. I was just fortunate that I wasn't exposed, so I was one of the lucky ones. Now, them boys I was raised with, two of them across the street, one went in the Airborne, the other was in the Infantry, both of them were in the Bulge. Boy across the street was killed the night of the Bulge. One next to him, a good friend of mine, was severely wounded that night and was taken prisoner. He would have-- He was bleeding, but it was so cold that night, thank goodness, the blood just froze, because otherwise he'd have probably bled to death. He was one of the fortunate ones because when the Germans overran them, he was telling me, they were looking to see who was still living. Some, they were bayonetting. But the fellow who found him, the German, picked him up and carried him back to an aide station, so he was just lucky that a Christian German had pity on him and picked him up. And he survived the prison camp and he lived up until about two years ago. This fellow that I served with in the Navy, that we was in the same outfit, he just died a couple of years back. All the boys I grew up with are all gone because they were older.

JW: They were older than you, yeah.

EF: That helps because they were at least two years, most of them, were two years older than I was. So that, although I went in early in '42, that's another reason why I'm probably beating the odds. I look at that cemetery out here, and boy, oh, boy, we're dying like flies; but it's normal because we're living much longer than what we were supposed to.

JW: Well, you know, I've talked about that. Remember what an eighty year old man, active like and look like when you were a boy? They set 23 on porches and rocked, and they couldn't get around and they ate soft food because they had no teeth. And people just blessed their hearts and left them alone. And heck, I can't catch the Veterans that I talk to when I have a question. They're never home, they're running around. I told one of them, I said you're old, don't you know you're old, you're supposed to stay home now and then so people can get ahold of you. So that's great, it's great to be eighty years old and be like you're fifty or fifty-five, that's great.

EF: I don't know how you're supposed to feel, like you say, used to be somebody that was sixty, sixty-five. But I garden, I have a garden. I cook [?] In the easement, so I cultivated the easement. We have a pool and I enjoy swimming. We play bridge, enjoy bridge. We ballroom dance. I met my wife on a ballroom dance floor. We cruise.

JW: I know being active, that's got to be the key to it because that's the one thing in common about, I'd say, about sixty out of the sixty-six or seven people that I've interviewed are still up and running. And the one thing in common is that they're active, they didn't decide that, oh, I'm too old, I better slow down, I better set down, I better sleep late, I better all that sort of stuff. They move. And I think when you don't move, you get rust.

EF: You do.

JW: But I tell people that hundred is the new eighty.

EF: Well, Momma made it to ninety-four. And you know, this age, another thing I feel like we were, we were responsible. I'd like to say this as an example. I volunteer at St. Edwards and I've been there since I retired eighteen years ago. And I only work on Fridays and I work at the Center of Excellence. But there's some Fridays I get up and I say, oh, man, it takes you awhile to get straightened out. But I get to thinking, you know, I just volunteer, I don't have to go there today; but then they're looking for me and they're expecting me. And unless I'm sick, and it's because I enjoy good health, I worked for one company forty years and I missed three days in forty years because I came from a generation that said you don't fake being sick, but when you're sick, you're sick. You may not feel good, but a lot of it's in your mind. And just go on, you'll feel better, you know. And I think it has to do a lot with-- now, don't get me wrong, there are some poor unfortunates that are sick, they have problems, they got arthritis, you name it, and I know it. But a lot of times, people give in to their feelings and then they really feel bad. So if you got a job, people are depending on you. And that's another thing, it's unfortunate that children today don't have chores and they don't have things that they have to do which, in my opinion, helps them grow, helps them be responsible.

JW: I tell mine when you get off the nest, if you don't know how to do it now, you're going to have to learn it then. And it's skin off your nose, not mine.

EF: Better learn it now, than when you really have to learn it. Well, I don't know what else you want me to put on this tape. I put a lot 24 of philosophy on it.

JW: I want to take an opportunity for the rest of the world to thank you for giving up three and a half of probably the best years of your life, to go off and set on an island and do what other guys told you to do. We didn't think about it-- It took fifty years to figure out that that was a big deal, but it finally came to our attention that that was a big deal.

EF: It was a big deal.

JW: It was a big deal; and so we thank you for it, we thank you.

EF: Joe, you mentioned something. And when I see these kids going to proms and their high school reunions, and I see them going to these different things and having girlfriends, when the good Lord breathed life into me, he breathed into me I am a full blooded male with all the feelings and emotions of a male, but I am a hopeless romantic. And when I think, hey, since you mentioned that, I didn't have my teenage years, I didn't have those years. And I didn't have a girlfriend and I wished I had had one to write to. But if this is on tape, my kids will laugh because I'll be hamming it up. But these fellows that I served with would get mail, especially the ones with a girlfriend or were married. And they'd take that letter, might have taken them a month to get it, you know. And they'd say, "She wrote this. I mean she licked this envelope. Can you believe that?"

JW: I can only imagine how that must have felt.

EF: And then they would take it out and they would read it. "Say, How many times you going to read that thing?" But it was something that was a closeness to that person that they dearly loved. And see, not having had that kind of relationship, I can imagine what it is now at my age because I'm still a very romantic human being. And I can imagine someone who is twenty years of age, twenty-one, maybe, who had a year or two of marriage and he's left. He knows what it was like to have the love of a woman. And all these poor guys who never ever lived long enough to have that experience, they just never lived. But going back to the letter, did you ever hear the lyrics to the song "Love Letters"?

JW: Well, let's see. No, I'm thinking of "Love Letters in the Sand."

EF: That was Pat Boone. No, no, this was-- It describes completely what I'm talking about. And can I put this on tape?

JW: Yeah, sure.

EF: Now, I want you to think of-- I've set the stage for what this lyricist wrote. And he wrote, (singing beautifully) "Love letters straight from your heart, keeps us so near while apart. I'm not alone in the night when I am sure of the love you write. I memorize every line, I kiss the name that you sign. And, darling, when I read again right from the start, love letters straight from your heart." Now, you would have to have experienced that to understand these people taking a letter and reading it over and over and over, 25 and they may not get another one.

JW: The closest they came to a little touch of home, just a fragment. And you know, I remember being that much in love with a girl who lived over on 6th Street and I was on 16th Street, you know, we were ten blocks apart. And I can just imagine if I was on some forgotten island, three, four thousand miles away, year after year.

EF: Yeah.

JW: At that age. Not at this age, but at that age, it had to be maddening.

EF: It was, it was terrible. It was terrible to think and to dream and to wonder, hey, am I ever going to get off this stupid island. Especially when I was in the Philippines. Am I ever going to get out of here?

JW: And every dead body that gets loaded up, am I next, you know, am I going to miss that--

EF: Yeah, for eternity.

JW: Yeah. But you know, this all goes back to, everything goes back to wouldn't it be great to think about everything involved and do anything possible to avoid the next war. Because of the million bad things you can say that happen in a war, tearing people away from their loved ones, and then you've got the horrible deaths in droves and all that.

EF: People being maimed. But Joe, it's not going to happen. As long as you got men, we're going to have wars; and as long as we're going to have wars, we have to have West Point and Annapolis. We have to have a military, we have to have people who are responsible, and we have to have some people running the show that are not motivated by politics. And that Viet Nam mess, we had McNamara who just wasn't too smart, we had Rumsfield in this one. And then on the other side of the coin, people have already forgotten what happened with 911. I mean these people, and we better pay attention to the next guy who's running. This business of terrorism is going to be with us, we're going to have to fight these people from now on; but it's a different kind of war.

JW: You know, people say that World War II was the good war, and that's probably not the word to use, but it was the clearer war, everybody was clear as to why it had to be fought and what was going on and what the desired outcome should be, you know. And ever since then, they've just become more vague and murky.

EF: Well, look at our own people. We talk now about the collateral damage. Well, in every war, you're going to have collateral damage. And then they have some people who said Harry Truman shouldn't have dropped the bomb. What they don't realize is we were firebombing Japan long before we dropped the bomb and--

JW: We killed forty thousand people in Germany on one bombing raid. 26

EF: Sure. And look at what Hitler did in the Blitz in London. So this is what war is about. But to fight it, like in this war, I think Colin Powell and some of them had it straight. If you're going to go in there, let's go in there big time. You know, you can't halfway go to war. And it's all those little things that mean when the war effort, the only thing I knew about was everybody was behind the war effort. And that time I came home on leave after being gone so long, and you know, people down in New Orleans, they drink a lot of coffee, strong coffee. And my poor Momma said, "Son, I don't have any sugar." But she had some jelly beans that was left over. And so we used those jelly beans and it was funny. And then I was smoking at the time, but not much, and we were getting cigarettes fifty cents a carton, and I knew eventually I was going to go home. I actually saved up, and when I went home I had six or seven cartons of cigarettes. My uncles liked to drove me crazy because even that was rationed.

JW: What a luxury.

EF: What a luxury to bring home and give them those cigarettes. It was a different, different time.

JW: Yes, it was.

EF: But I was so young, it's hard to remember a lot of it and the accounts, other than what you read. So if you read enough, you can kind of put things together and see how things were. 1

 

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