Steven Whacker: This begins an interview with Evan G. Lindner on April 12, 2010, in Yardville, New Jersey, with Steven Whacker ...
SH: ... and Sandra Stewart Holyoak. Thank you for having us here and for agreeing to do this interview today. Could you tell us where and when you were born?
Evan G. Lindner: I was born in Sunbury, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, November 19, 1924.
SH: Okay. I want to talk a little bit about your family history and background. Could we start with your father?
EL: Yes, my father; I don't remember my father. I think he left probably when I was four or five, before 1930, I suppose. Years later, somebody asked my mother about my father and her only words were, "Charming." [laughter] She wasn't going to give [away] any secrets, either, I guess. We lived in a house on Twelfth Street in Sunbury that my grandfather owned [at] the turn of the century or before. He was the chief of police of Sunbury, [in] 1912-1913, when one of the local residents, who was not mentally all there, ... as the chief of police, his father asked him to go in and get him out of the locked-in attic and he shot him.
SH: Oh, my word.
EL: So, I never knew my grandfather, and my mother was seven at the time.
SH: This is your maternal grandfather.
SH: Do you know how the family came to live in Sunbury?
EL: No, I don't. ... It was Twelfth Street, and it was Midway Avenue back in the 1913s, [in] East Sunbury, which does not exist now. The house does, but it's been changed to Twelfth Street. I don't know when. My grandfather, as chief of police, had been kind of forgotten over the years. I got a call ten years ago and somebody said, "Are you the grandson of William Kerstetter?" I said, "Yes." She said, "I'd like to know some information about him." I said, "Well, I don't have much." She said, "Well, I have this and this and this and this." I said, "Where did you get that?" because I had been to the Sunbury newspaper and they had no information because the 1936 flood ruined everything. I had been to the police department. They didn't have anything. She said, "I went to Danville, Pennsylvania." It was another town up the river. She got four days of news articles, which I have upstairs, ... of information from old Danville daily papers, and I said, "How old are you?" She said, "Thirteen." [laughter]
SH: Oh, my. [laughter]
EL: She was a Girl Scout doing a project on policemen who lost their lives in the line of duty, and this came about because her father was a detective. So, she carried on. She says, "By the way," she said, "there's a monument in Washington for policemen who lost their lives in the line of duty and your grandfather's name is not on it." She said, "I'm going to see that it gets on it," and she did. The following May, we were invited to go to Washington for a big ceremony. There was, if I remember correctly, twenty-nine hundred seats and ten or twelve thousand people there, including policemen from all over the United States. I saw green uniforms, brown uniforms, black uniforms, police uniforms I've never even seen before. So, it was quite impressive, and this little kid got my grandfather's name on the monument in Washington.
SH: What a wonderful story.
EL: Then, she got the idea, "We ought to have a monument in Sunbury honoring local fallen police officers." I think they told her she had to raise forty or fifty thousand dollars. ... She started selling sandwiches, [laughter] but, in four years, she received a grant of $49,058. I've got a picture of the monument. I think it weighs twenty-six tons. It features ... an image of my grandfather, and then, the names of other officers who lost their lives in the line of duty in Northumberland County, but the sculptor wanted pictures of me, from [the] front, side, and so on, because Jessica's mother thought that I looked like the picture of my grandfather. So, they used me as an image for the sculpture. [Editor's Note: Mr. Lindner is referring to the Northumberland County Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Sunbury, Pennsylvania.]
SH: That is amazing. It just shows what you can do if you set out to do something.
EL: She was a very, very determined kid.
SH: I assume you have met her in person.
EL: Oh, yes. She's now married and has one or two children.
SH: Was your mother still alive?
EL: No, that's the unfortunate part about it. My mother and her two sisters, by the time this monument was erected, were all gone. I often said, "I wish they had been around to see it," because I'm the only one who cares, really, now.
SH: How did your mother's mother, your grandmother, take care of her family? She had two other daughters.
EL: I don't know. That was from 1913 to 1921. In '22, she got married again. That's another strange thing. Nobody I have spoken to in the past twenty years remembers. I found out, through the computer, that he didn't live very long after he married my grandmother.
SH: Really? Did she work outside of the home?
EL: I don't even know that.
SH: Okay. Did your mother talk about how tough it was for her as a young woman?
EL: No. You know, I do genealogy now--this whole book is genealogy--and like so many people, I waited until I was seventy-some to begin, so, all the sources are gone. ... When I started this, I realized I met very few Lindners in my lifetime and there were many of them. It was in Sunbury [that] there was one Lindner that lived up the block. I did meet him. My father's father had seven sons and one daughter. I never saw six of them. I saw one son, one time, and the daughter perhaps ten times.
SH: Did you ever meet your paternal grandparents?
EL: No, they were dead. So, I never met them, either. My paternal grandfather died in 1942, but I never saw him. My paternal grandmother died in 1924, two days after I was born.
SH: How did your mother and father meet?
EL: No idea. [laughter] I know they lived in Philly for a few months. He must have been quite a character. He took a job; ... my mother told me this. Now, she never told me much, but this she did tell me. He took a job as an electrician one time and had no experience. So, to show that he had experience, he bought tools and held them over the gas flame to darken them up a little bit, so [that] they looked old and used--conniver. Sunbury, what else happened in Sunbury? Well, [when] I lived in Sunbury, my mother started working at what was known as the silk mill. It's still there. It's now a textile mill, Sunbury Textile Mills. It was the biggest source of employment in town for a hundred years. She started working there when she was probably seventeen and retired when she was sixty-five, maybe. So, she spent all of her life there.
SH: Did your mother ever remarry?
EL: No, no. Because she had to work, and so on, I wasn't taken care of very well, running loose. ... When she did get somebody to take care of me, I wouldn't do what I was supposed to do. I'd run off somewhere. So, I ended up in a church home.
EL: So, when I was in third grade, ... just before I was eight, I went to Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, to a Methodist home. ... I look back on it as a good experience. First of all, they had a farm.
EL: So, I worked on the farm when I was old enough to milk cows, used to get up at five-thirty in the morning, go down to the barn, milk the cows, go to school, come back after school, go down to the barn, milk the cows--during the summer, harvest wheat, oats, corn, whatever. ... The training was good--made our own beds in the morning, before we went to school, cleaned the room every Saturday. So, it was a good training and I look back on it as a [good experience].
SH: Were you housed in a barracks or a dormitory?
EL: No, it was quite beautiful, really, Pennsylvania limestone stone houses, three stories, ... fifteen rooms, maybe. So, there was maybe twenty kids in each cottage. There were three cottages, and the number varied over the years. They had, when I was there, the girls in A cottage and the older boys in B cottage, the younger kids in C, and there was what we called a housemother in charge of each one, to keep us in line and assign us our jobs and whatever, but it was a good experience, really. It wasn't like so many institutions that I've heard about, that are tough on kids. My training on the farm, working, just learning the responsibility of a job, I think, was good, so that I never had any complaints about the place at all.
SH: The school was there.
EL: The public school was [in] Mechanicsburg. ... The home was a mile or two out of town and, in those days, we walked to school, usually, although, as we got older, we were needed on the farm. So, they got a bus to take us back and forth, but, before that, we would walk home.
SH: Did you come home for lunch?
EL: Yes, we did, yes, as a matter-of-fact.
SH: What is the name of the home?
EL: Methodist Home for Children, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.
SH: You went to public school, walked, and then, came back for lunch, then, walked back again.
EL: Well, no, we didn't walk home for lunch. The bus came, took us home, we had lunch and brought us back. No, we wouldn't have had time to walk.
SH: Did you have an opportunity for extracurricular activities once you got into high school?
EL: Yes. Sometimes, we were refused from playing sports because we were needed on the farm. Other times, depending on the number of older kids in the home at that particular time, they could spare one or two or something of that sort, and, sometimes, they couldn't.
SH: Who was running the farm?
EL: A hired farmer.
SH: Was it the same man the whole time you were there?
EL: Yes, and we had an assistant farmer, too. ... The farmer got off one day, one Sunday, every two weeks. [laughter]
SH: Oh, my God. Did you have cows to milk?
EL: We had, usually, thirty milking cows, and it was done by hand then, until maybe my sophomore year in school. Then, they got electric milking machines, but, before that, it was by hand.
SH: Were all the young men there under the same circumstances?
EL: I think it was a variety of things. One or two were orphans, some came from bad homes, some hardship cases.
SH: Do you keep in contact with any of those children that you grew up with in the home?
EL: There's a guy in Maryland who graduated two years before me; we talk to each other on the phone several times a year. ... There's a girl in Reading, [Pennsylvania], who was in his class. We keep in touch. Another girl, who was younger than me, I keep in touch with her, and not too many others.
SH: What about the woman who was your housemother?
EL: She retired, and I know that she's gone. ...
SH: Was there an administrator in charge?
EL: Yes, a preacher and his wife. The place is much changed today, much to my sorrow. It's run pretty much by [the] state now and, when that happens, all things go wrong. We had responsibilities, we had jobs, we had this, that and the other thing. State come in, says, "You can't work these kids in the farm. You can't have them doing all this work." Well, that was the training ground for us kids. So, the state ruined everything. We were taught to take care of things, too. We were allowed in the living room only on Sundays.
EL: There was a center staircase, nice, wooden, curved rails. State come in and says, "Hmm, can't have this. That's a fire shaft." So, they closed it all in; I'm sick when I go back there now, which I don't do very often.
SH: That is too bad. Like you said, it was a good place for you to grow up.
EL: It was.
SH: In school, what determined who could stay after school? Did it depend on what sport or activity you were in?
EL: Yes, as I said, if they could be spared and if somebody wanted to go out for football or baseball or something of that sort and they could be spared from work on the farm for that period of time, they were allowed to do it, and some of them did.
SH: Did you?
EL: I was [in] football for one year. I guess, that's all. ... If you only spend one year, you're not in the top ten. [laughter]
SH: What about academics? Did you enjoy school?
EL: Yes. I took the academic course; a lot of them took general course, commercial course. I took academic course. I was a fair student.
SH: Did your mother come to visit, or did you go to Sunbury?
EL: With the okay of the administrator, my mother used to come to Harrisburg a couple times a year and I'd go there and meet her. ... We'd go out for lunch and that sort of thing.
SH: You kept up with the family.
SH: Did you have plans to go to college, since you were taking the academic course?
EL: No, I didn't. I just ... felt [this was] better for me, that's all. However, I did go to a place in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, called Thaddeus Stevens Trade School. It was formed by a guy named Thaddeus Stevens for, I'm not sure of this, ... orphan boys, but they relaxed the means of getting in and I went there. ... You could go there after your sophomore year in school, but I don't know where I got the brains, at the time, I said, "I'm going to finish high school first, and then, I'll go there." So, I graduated from Mechanicsburg, then, went to trade school. I stayed six months, and that was 1942. ... The war was on and a lot of my buddies were joining up, so, I did, too.
SH: What does a young man in high school think about the war? Were you hearing about what was going on in Europe or what was going on in the Far East?
EL: It was a Sunday afternoon--how well I remember--and Sunday is a lazy day anyhow, so, a bunch of us went down to the barn, laid on a bale of hay, waiting for five-thirty, when it's time to milk. ... I don't know what time it was, three, three-thirty--farmer's wife comes tearing into the barn, "The Japanese bombed Hoouauuu." "What?" "Hawaiian Islands." "Oh, Oahu." [laughter] So, that was my initial finding out of the war. So, the war started. ...
SH: What kind of discussion did you all have after hearing that news?
EL: I don't remember, but I didn't think anything about it, because I figured, "Well, I'm still in school, so, it's not going to affect me." Well, of course, [it did] and I graduated shortly after that, I guess, and ended up [in the service].
SH: What year did you graduate from Mechanicsburg?
SH: In high school, was there any discussion about what was going on in Europe with Hitler?
EL: Oh, I'm sure there was. I don't remember much of it at all, except one teacher said that the train yards, which were ten or twelve miles from Mechanicsburg, would be a likely target. Of course, they weren't. ... [laughter]
SH: Were there people who talked about staying out of the war? We hear stories of America First-ers or people who were part of the German-American Bund. Was there any of that activity, that you were aware of?
SH: Not where you lived?
EL: None. Again, I don't remember too much, but I know some of the guys, in their senior year even, quit school to go in the service.
SH: Did they?
EL: And went into the service--a few, not very many. We only had 126 in our class.
SH: You went ahead and pursued going on to the Thaddeus ...
EL: Thaddeus Stevens.
SH: Thaddeus Stevens School.
EL: Trade school.
SH: Did you have an idea, when you went there, that you would be able to take that training into the military with you?
EL: I didn't think about [the] military then.
EL: ... No, I thought, "By the time I'm done with school, or whatever, it'll be all over anyhow," [laughter] but, then, when my buddies started joining up, I went along with them. As a matter-of-fact, in Lancaster, ... they told me, "No, you can't join. You're registered, in [the] draft, in Sunbury." So, I wrote [the] draft board, "Take me as soon as possible." The next week, I was in. [laughter]
SH: How did you wind up in the Navy?
EL: The draft board collected us one morning in Sunbury, put us on a train.
SH: Did you have to go to Sunbury from Lancaster?
EL: I guess, by that day, I had left school, because I knew I was going in. ... I was at home with my mother. ... They put a bunch of us on the train, took us to Harrisburg, where there were hundreds of men. ... I asked for Marine Corps and the guy said, "Well, we only took three of them today and we have them already." Maybe it's a good thing--maybe I'd be dead. So, I said, "Okay, give me the Navy then." So, instead of going in as a draftee, like everybody else, I joined up for six years, which gave me the status of USNSV, Selective Volunteer, which I've never heard of before or since. So, everybody else was writing their mail USNR, United States Naval Reserve, but ... mine was USNSV. ... I don't know whether I went home after that day or not, or whether they just put us on the train and sent us to Bainbridge, Maryland. So, we took our boot camp there.
SH: Did anybody that you knew go the same route that you took?
EL: There was one guy on the train that I knew slightly, but, after that, I never saw him again. So, no, there wasn't anybody there I knew.
SH: Was the train ride exciting? Was there any trepidation? What were you thinking about?
EL: Well, I was never away from home much, so, I couldn't help but think, "What's going on?" I had never seen the ocean. [laughter]
SH: Why did you pick the Navy?
EL: I don't know. I guess I just didn't want the Army. I don't know why, either. I had no reason.
SH: Had anybody advised you one way or the other?
EL: No, no.
SH: Okay, go ahead, please. [laughter]
EL: Bainbridge was boot camp and that was wartime, so, they pushed us through [in] six weeks, maybe. I don't know.
SH: Did you have to take a lot of exams and tests?
EL: Not so much in boots. It was a marching bit and rifle thing and learning naval regulations. Well, my extent of gun training in the Navy was a twenty-two-[caliber] rifle and thirty bullets, and that was it. That was my [training]. [laughter]
SH: Being on the farm, had you already learned how to use a rifle?
EL: ... The preacher, who was the superintendent of the home, took me hunting once and I shot a rabbit, first time out, and I was never a hunter after that. I didn't care too much for shooting animals, but, in the Navy, I didn't have to use a rifle that much; if I'd been in the Marines and the Army, yes. [laughter]
SH: Did you find it really difficult to be away from home in boot camp?
EL: I don't think so, because of my time in the home. I was away from home then for about nine years. So, I wasn't tied to my home the way a lot of them [other trainees] were. Some of them were homesick and all that sort of thing.
SH: Had you done any other traveling? Had you been places with the home? Was this the first time you took a long train ride, to Maryland?
EL: We went away one time. I talked my mother into taking me to the World's Fair, New York. It was 1939, I guess, and, in Penn Station, we'd go out and look up at the tall buildings. [laughter] "Don't go too far, because you'll get lost in all these thousands of people around here."
SH: Right. That must have been exciting. It was just the two of you.
EL: My cousin went along with us, too, I think, a lady cousin, who is still alive. She's eighty-nine today, but just the three of us. It was a one-day trip, really.
EL: Yes. The train ran things called excursions, picked us up early in the morning, took us to New York, ran around all day, got on the train, came back. [laughter] That was a long ride. ...
SH: That was a long ride. I have done that Western Pennsylvania ride. [laughter] In Maryland, you were only right on the base there in Bainbridge.
EL: Yes, never got off the base in the six weeks, and I guess that's where I learned of my next assignment. ... I went to radio school.
SH: You must have done quite well on the tests.
EL: There was not much testing in boots. It was just, as I say, the marching and the training and learning what's expected of military men under officers, and so on, how to respect your officers and that sort of thing.
SH: Navy traditions. [laughter]
EL: Yes, yes. Radio school came next, after--well, we got home, I guess. ...
SH: Was it any different to come back in uniform?
EL: I think, yes, I think, by this time, we all had a little bit of pride in what was going on. ... My mother had a flag in the window and all that sort of thing. ... It was much different than recent years.
SH: Where was the radio school?
EL: In Noroton Heights, Connecticut, which is an old, old base.
SH: Is this Groton?
EL: No, Groton is another place, Groton, Connecticut, is the sub base. This is Noroton, N-O-R-O-T-O-N, Heights. It was closer to New York City. In fact, we could jump on the train being [so close].
SH: I bet you did. [laughter]
EL: A few times.
SH: A little different than when you went to the World's Fair. [laughter]
EL: Yes, yes.
SH: What were you being trained to do in school?
EL: Only two things you had to do, is learn to type and learn the code, Morse code. It's really the only two things that we did. I was not a very good typist. I took a couple months of typing in high school, I guess, ... but, when I got in the Navy, I had to learn to be a little bit faster. The code, interesting; well, I could talk about that later, I guess, what the code is and how it's used.
SH: At that point, what did you expect to be doing?
EL: Just receiving and sending messages with these characters, in Morse characters.
SH: Were you given any instructions regarding security, for when you would go on leave or a pass? Were you advised not to talk about what you were doing or where you were?
EL: No, because the code didn't mean anything to us. Even aboard ship, after I was in the Navy for years, I could send or receive and copy, type it all down on the paper--I have no idea what it is.
SH: Because you did not have the book.
EL: The only person that knew, after I would receive something, I would give it to the communications officer and he would take it to his cabin and look in the book to see which code was used for that day, because they changed the code every day. In fact, whether it's true or not, I don't know, but somebody received a message from a German sub telling them that they're using the wrong code for the day. [laughter] Whether it's true or not, I don't know.
SH: Did you have any hopes for what ship you would be assigned to?
EL: By this time, I had made a couple of friends and one of them was assigned to an oiler or a tanker. I knew I didn't want that, [laughter] but I don't think I had any preconceived thoughts about it. ... I ended up being on a fleet tug, which was kind of nice, I think, because, for example, battleships and aircraft carriers had three thousand men or more--you don't know anybody, you're not allowed to go everywhere. On the tug, there's a hundred men and ten officers and you pretty much had the run of the ship and you knew everybody. The tug duties were rescue, salvage, escort, towing targets for gunnery practice and towing disabled vessels.
SH: How long was the school?
EL: I would guess three or four months. I'm not sure.
SH: This would be towards the end of 1943.
EL: No, probably April, May and June.
SH: When did you receive your orders to report to the tug? For the record, Mr. Lindner has a fabulously organized set of notebooks and records here.
SH: It is back on; say that again, please.
EL: ... Okay, 25th of August, 1943, I reported for duty aboard the USS Carib (ATF-82) in Norfolk, Virginia.
SH: Did you take a leave between the school and reporting to the tug or did you go straight down to Norfolk?
EL: Don't recall.
SH: Okay. When you would go places, like New York or into town, how did people treat sailors, men in uniform?
EL: Again, I think most [of the] population, right from the beginning of World War II, were more sympathetic and caring of servicemen, always.
SH: Okay. That was something that people expressed.
EL: [Yes], and, like, today, they can run around in their civvies. We couldn't.
SH: You always had to be in uniform, even when you were on leave.
EL: Yes, yes.
SH: What was reporting to the Carib like?
EL: I went aboard with four other guys that day. All of them, I knew. In fact, they all came from radio school, so, I knew all of them, and one became kind of a lifelong friend.
SH: Where were they from? Were they from all over the country?
EL: Yes. The only one I can tell you about is Jim. Jim Mercury and I were friends. We got to be friends because we came from the radio school and went aboard the Carib and we were friendly ever since. He was from Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania. ... He ended up being mayor there. ... We parted when we got out of the Navy and everybody went their own way. I lost track of everybody, but I knew where he was. Oh, I know why, because I went to a high school class reunion and somebody there--why we got into this conversation, I don't know--but somebody there told me that Jim Mercury was the mayor [of] Jersey Shore. So, after I retired, when I was fifty-seven, I called him. I hadn't seen him in thirty years, said, "Jim, I'm going to come see you." He says, "Come on." So, that kind of got me back into this stuff and, without that visit, I wouldn't have any of this data, because he pulled out a book about the Carib. [Editor's Note: Jim Mercury passed away in 2008.]
SH: Oh, my.
EL: I said, "Where'd you get that?" He said, "Wilber (Swift?), down in Florida, made it up." Well, Wilber was another guy from the ship, who I didn't know well, and because of Jim's meeting and this book and getting together--I knew of nobody in the Navy after thirty years except for Jim, and I hadn't seen him for thirty years. Since then, all these guys, especially Wilber (Swift?) got a lot of them together, we ended up joining an organization fifteen years ago, [the] National Association of Fleet Tug Sailors. I belong to it yet, and Ruth and I went to nine of their reunions, maybe ten. ... I met all these guys that I hadn't seen all those years, but Jim is gone, Wilber's gone, most of them are gone today. ... I don't go to the reunions anymore because nobody [is] left.
SH: To talk about reporting, because you were reporting in before other guys, it would be five of you coming from the radio school.
SH: Was this a brand-new ship?
EL: It was a month or two old. ... I went aboard in August and it was launched in Charleston a month earlier.
SH: Had it done its shakedown cruise yet?
EL: Yes, yes, that's the only thing I missed, and you call yourself a plankowner if you're aboard when it goes in commission. Well, I'm not a plankowner, because I came aboard, we came aboard, a month later. [laughter] So, we were assigned. I guess all of us were seamen, first class, at that time. ... We were just on the deck crew, which gets all the dirty work to be done. Then, gradually, since I'd gone to radio school, ... then, I got assigned to the radio shack, and Jim went to [the] radar shack. I don't know what happened to the other guys, but, from then on, he was a radarman and I was a radioman.
SH: How long did you stay in Norfolk?
EL: I don't think it was very long. We left there and headed south and we stopped in Trinidad.
SH: What was that like as a port of call?
EL: I don't remember. We didn't spend much time there, if any, because we were on our way to Brazil.
SH: Were you traveling alone or in convoy?
EL: We were alone at that time.
SH: All the way to Trinidad.
EL: Then, we went to Brazil, and I don't know how long we were [in transit]. All right, this'll give you a little [idea, referring to a history of the ship], "5th of August, 1943, the Carib went on its shakedown."
SH: You missed that.
EL: And I missed that. What did I say? When did I go in, later in the month? yes. Norfolk for shakedown, okay; September 14th, we got to Trinidad and we picked up a sister ship there, the [USS] Bannock [(ATF-81)], and we towed a floating drydock to Brazil.
SH: What was that like, towing a drydock? What was the weather like?
EL: Well, it wasn't bad, but, when you're towing a thing like that, you're only going very slow, four knots, five knots. ... At that time, there was German subs all over the Atlantic. So, we were being escorted by two World War I four-stackers. They were old. I think we could go faster than them. [laughter]
SH: Towing, oh, my.
EL: But, from then on, let's see.
SH: What kind of equipment was on the Carib?
EL: Okay, the Carib, a tugboat is a rescue and salvage vehicle. We have a diver aboard. We had capabilities of towing almost anything, salvage, going out to other ships who need help. ... A lot of the things that we did down there were towing targets, for other ships to be shooting at us, which is always fun.
SH: I can imagine. [laughter]
EL: Especially the day that one shell landed in front of us instead of back at the target. Captain wasn't very happy that day.
SH: Did you have good officers onboard?
EL: Yes. A lot of them were young, young like us. I saw one many years later and he said he didn't know which end was up half the time, but the captains of these tugs were old-timers. ... They were usually old chief boatswain's mates who knew the ropes, no pun intended, and they were made officers and captains of these tugs. Ours joined the Navy in 1919.
EL: So, he worked his way up, name was Gunn, Lieutenant A. H. Gunn. He was a good man. He knew what he was doing, and his story is interesting, too. Well, I call many of these old-timers boozers, and he was drunk half the time, but he was a good man. ... I can't tell you right now the lineup, but his son-in-law went to Annapolis and another family member went to Annapolis--there were high-ranking officers in his family. ... After he died, they had a place in Great Lakes Naval Training Center named for him. It's up there now. ... He got sent away--I learned this fifty years after I was out of the Navy--he got sent away for the cure, which I didn't know they had such a thing, in '41, '42 or '43. Yes, there was one of the other officers, a real nice guy, who took, temporarily, ... command of the ship when Gunn was sent away. ... He lived in Maine. ... I don't know when it was, twenty years ago, I stopped in Maine to see him. That was a fun experience, too. We pulled into this little town, went to a diner and I asked the waitress, "Where is Center Street?" or whatever it was. I've forgotten now. "Who are you looking for?" I said, "Fred Mahwinney." "He's home," she said. I said, "Well, I'd like to call him and let him know I'm coming." "Ah, just go knock on the door," she says, "he's home."
SH: Which officer was this?
EL: He was the executive officer. He was second in command at the time and, when Gunn was sent back to the States for the cure, he temporarily took command until we got a new captain. ... They're all gone now, both captains and him. There's only one officer left, that I know of, that's alive today.
SH: Gunn did not come back to your ship then.
EL: Gunn never came back. He did well for himself. He got assigned to other ships and he was in the Pacific. He did pretty well, I understand.
SH: Can you talk about what towing was like? What was a typical day like as you were towing this drydock down to Brazil?
EL: In the South Atlantic, the weather was pretty good, so, it was just a matter of keeping the towline attached. Sometimes, it would break, although it didn't on this trip at all, and they were big. They were heavy--just moving slow and depending on our escorts to ...
SH: To protect you?
SH: Was there ever a time that you were worried?
EL: Not on that trip.
SH: What would be your assignment for your battle station?
EL: For a while, I was part of what they called damage control. If we were hit with something, we were to plug up the holes and that sort of thing. Other times, later on, I was first loader on the three-inch-[fifty-caliber] gun. Shells are nearly three feet long. Somebody passes them to me and I used to ram them into the barrel.
SH: Was that the only gun on board?
EL: No, we had the three-inch-fifty and we had four twenty-millimeter guns, and depth charges on the stern. Depth charges, we used later. We were in Brazil, back and forth, doing various things, but different ports. ... As I say, at that time, German subs were numerous and [we used] sonar, which is an underwater detection thing. Radar is on the surface and sonar [is below]. Now, we never had radar, nor sonar, on that ship until we got into the war--well, well into it, radar especially. They installed the radar on the ship in Brazil, and then, they found out it didn't work anyhow, until we got back to the States.
SH: [laughter] Your friend was working on something that did not work. Did you stay in Brazil after this first trip down?
EL: ... We were here in Brazil for quite a few months. This is '43, '44, looks like we left June of '44. We got there in October of '43 and left in June of '44.
SH: What were some of the things that you were involved in during that year then?
EL: We operated with a Brazilian tug and towed targets, pick up passengers in Recife, drop them [off]. We had a bunch of Army guys on there one day; picked them up at one port, a lot of them, and took them to another, dropped them off, oh, forty of them.
SH: What were they doing there?
EL: US Army. I don't know what they were doing down there, [laughter] but they were glad to be on our ship, because they had lousy food. I will say that the Carib usually kept pretty well-supplied with fresh food.
SH: Did it?
SH: Did you have a good chef or cook?
EL: Yes, yes. We had a baker and we had a chef, yes.
SH: I guess that was a mess cook.
EL: Yes, mess cook's what they call him. [Mr. Lindner reads from his ship's history], "Escorted three ships from one port to the other. Escorted two ships through rough weather. Knocked out sonar gear." Yes, I remember that day. Sonar is a round, football-shaped thing that sat underneath the keel in the water. ... I know our diver had to go down and bring it up. Wilbur was our chief sonarman and he fixed it and the diver reinstalled it. "January 7, 1944, chased the SS Monte Amboto," a Spanish ship. The Admiral Graf Spee was a German battleship that was scuttled, I guess in Montevideo, a year before. ... One afternoon, some officer come running aboard the ship, "Get underway, we're going." A Spanish ship, the Monte Amboto, had a guy on there that they suspected as being a former officer on Graf Spee, German. So, we're going out after him. That was January 1944. I remember that day, because, being a little sailor boy, I want to volunteer on [the] boarding party going aboard this thing. So, we chased them. They sent a plane out to stop the ship, so that we could get him before dark. So, we caught up to them, eventually, and we assembled a boarding party. We had a gunner's mate aboard who was Portuguese and spoke Portuguese. So, he was going. Of course, ... one of the officers went, a signalman went, Bernie. ... Myself, I went to the Exec, "Can I volunteer to go on the boarding party?" "Yes, go ahead." So, we went over and they had us all standing on the stern of the ship, the fantail of the ship, in a row, rifles, that sort of thing. Rifle; what rifle training did I have? [Editor's Note: The Admiral Graf Spee, a Deutschland-class cruiser in the Kriegsmarine, served as a commerce raider, attacking Allied supply convoys, until she was crippled in the Battle of the River Plate on December 13, 1939. She limped into the port of Montevideo, Uruguay, and was later scuttled by her captain, Hans Langsdorff, on December 17, 1939. The crew was interned in South America for the remainder of the war.]
SH: [laughter] Those thirty shells.
EL: So, in the meantime, the Carib is circling the ship, with a three-inch-fifty-[caliber gun] aimed at my head. I said, "What am I doing over here? I'm supposed to be over there." [laughter]
SH: Oh, dear.
EL: So, the officer and gunner's mate, Borges, who spoke Portuguese, went below to get this guy. They brought him up and the small whaleboat that took us back and forth was there. So, we all crawled back into the boat and he sat right beside me, a well-dressed guy, young fellow.
SH: He was in uniform.
EL: No, a suit, suit and tie, and, climbing down, he got his hands dirty. Well, I had my old dungarees on, so, he wipes his hands on my pants. [laughter] ... It ended up--they found out he was the wrong guy. So, the Navy had to pay his way back to Europe. [laughter]
SH: Did you pick the wrong one up or was he not onboard ship at all?
EL: He wasn't there at all. He wasn't there at all. Somebody had some bad information, I guess.
SH: Was he protesting his innocence?
EL: Not at all. No, he was a very nice, friendly guy, went along with it.
SH: There must be more to the story.
EL: He was Swiss, I think. ... Yes, well, you know, at my level, I didn't learn the real details of the thing.
SH: That must have been an exciting day.
EL: Yes, it was--well, better than sitting around in port, not doing anything, I guess. [Mr. Lindner looks through his photographs] More targets, all right, let's see ...
SH: Who was shooting at the targets? Was it destroyers or submarines?
EL: You have cruisers, destroyers, yes, only the Brazilian ... sub. That's the only sub I can recall, and then, we had target practice. Every once in a while, we'd have a plane fly over, towing a sleeve. Our crew would be shooting the sleeve. That's a switch.
SH: It was much easier being the target puller, I assume. Talk about what a typical day would be like if you were in port, in Recife, right?
EL: Recife, Natal, Fortaleza, Belem, [all port cities in Brazil]. Belem was up the Amazon, and the Amazon, at the mouth, is two hundred miles wide. ... I was on the helm that day and the water was just like glass, beautiful.
SH: Talk about what you remember about each of these ports.
EL: Bahia is the furthest south we went, and the only thing I can remember about that that was something to talk about was a church. ... We normally didn't go into churches, but we did [when] we heard about this. Except for the floors and the pews, it was gold, all of it, real gold.
EL: [Yes]. Now, I don't know whether it's just layers of gold or what. I'm sure [the] columns weren't solid gold, but the whole interior was real gold.
SH: Oh, my.
EL: Recife was the biggest place. We spent a lot of time there. I remember, we ate at a place called Green Door, I think, and steak and eggs was the thing to order. Recife is where I got sick, really. I got typhoid fever there.
EL: And that's when I was sent on base, or on the shore. America didn't have a big base there, really, but they had a hospital type thing. ... That picture they sent me, I don't remember it being like that, but maybe it was, but, with typhoid fever, you're supposed to be in isolation. Well, they didn't have an isolation room. So, I was in a ward, in a corner, with sheets around me. So, each morning, I'd get out of bed and a corpsman came around, fresh sheets and all that sort [of thing]; oh, I know what they did. Penicillin was new, but they didn't have enough penicillin for guys like me. They used penicillin for the guys in the next building with venereal disease. So, they used penicillin for them, but I had typhoid--I can't have it. [laughter] So, they sweat the fever out of me, Navy mattress, hospital, about that thick.
SH: About six inches.
EL: And I sweat through the mattress, puddle on the floor, no lie. So, each morning, I'd get up and the corpsman would change the sheets. ... One morning, after about a week, I'd lost so much weight, I keeled over. So, they decided [to] build me up. I had eggnogs; six eggs beat up in a glass, flavoring, no milk, because there isn't any room for the milk, three times a day. That's eighteen eggs a day. Medical world might go nuts today [if] you do that. Well, I want to tell you, it worked.
SH: Did it?
EL: In a few days, I was up, walking the beach.
SH: This is a Navy hospital.
EL: This is a temporary Navy hospital, yes. ... Compared to today, [when] they don't keep you long, I was in there from February 24th to April 6th, 1944.
SH: Six weeks.
EL: And that's the place that, one day, they came around and said to me, "Come with us." They had a Navy brig. In the hospital, I guess, they have to have one, it was the size of a small room. So, they threw me in the brig. I didn't do anything wrong, but Eleanor Roosevelt was showing up and they didn't want her to know that they had a typhoid fever patient that wasn't isolated. So, Eleanor did her little tour around and I wasn't there to see it. [laughter] [Editor's Note: First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt conducted a goodwill tour of Allied bases in the Caribbean and South America in March 1944.]
SH: You were in isolation. Was there anybody else in the brig that day?
EL: No, no.
SH: Oh, dear; your one chance to meet somebody famous, right?
SH: Was it a little more spit-and-polish that day than usual?
EL: I'm sure it was. I'm sure it was.
SH: What about some of these other places that the Carib went along the Brazilian coast, Natal and places like that? Do you remember?
EL: Not really.
SH: Did you have any interaction with any of the other services? You talked about having the forty soldiers onboard.
EL: Not much, and, of course, I didn't drink, never did drink an awful lot, but some of the guys would drink pretty heavy, and they'd meet guys from other ships, and so on, or Marines was even worse.
EL: And, if they'd get drunk, they'd mouth off a little bit and get into fights, and so on, but I didn't have any part of that kind of stuff. We got to go ashore every other day, usually. One thing that was interesting that happened there, I went ashore one day and, oh, I know, I was walking along the dock, between the ships. Some guy hollers out, "Lindner." Turn around, it's Bob Stauffer, who I'd gone to school with.
SH: Oh, my word.
EL: So, he said, "When do you have liberty?" I said, "Tomorrow." He said, "I've got mine tonight." So, I went to the Captain, asked whether I could switch. So, he and I went into Recife, and USO always had a club of some sort. We went to [the] USO and there was pool tables on the second floor, went up there. Who was there? Bill (Gable?), another guy from our class in school.
EL: Yes, meet two of them the same day. ...
SH: In Brazil.
EL: We had a picture taken ... of the three of us. I have it around here, somewhere, and Bill sent it to Harrisburg and put it in [the] paper.
SH: That is unbelievable that the three of you would wind up there. Your school was not very big.
SH: I did not think it was.
EL: The other big thing that we did in Brazil happened January 17th. There were three German ships coming up close the west coast of Africa. Well, some of our Navy ships caught them. They weren't flying [the] German flag at all--Panamanian.
EL: They were cargo ships that the Germans had been [using] in the Far East and picked up bales of rubber. They were loaded with them. They were taking them back to Germany for their war effort, but they got caught and, instead of waiting to get shot out of the water, they scuttled their own ships, sunk them, but rubber floats. So, they sent us out there, the Carib and the [USS] Seneca [(AFT-91)], both tugs. They sent us out there, off the coast of Africa, to pick up these bales of rubber. Well, at first, they sent a cargo ship along with us. So, we were going to get the rubber, put [it] on the cargo ship and that was it. Well, after the third day--they were paying an awful price for this extra ship--we decided, "We didn't need that ship. We'll put the bales on our own ships." So, we were out there a better part of a week, I guess, and we picked up a thousand bales each. Now, here it says we had 1,001 bales. Now, the bales were two-by-three and five feet long, worth about two hundred, two hundred-and-fifty bucks apiece. Somebody told us later, after we got a nice letter for doing this, that they were going to make airplane tires from it. They'd make five thousand tires out of the rubber we brought back. ... Of course, the problem there was, the Germans knew that, [where the ships had been scuttled]. So, we knew they were going to send subs after us.
SH: I was just going to say, how long could it be before that happened?
EL: Here's pictures of the bales of rubber.
SH: How did you get these bales of rubber onto the ship?
EL: Yes, that's all right, put it on if you want. Our shipfitter made a hook, a big hook, and we'd just hook into the bale, get four or five of them, tow them back to the ship. ... They'd drop other hooks over the side of the ship and pull them aboard, and then, we'd go back for more. So, we kept this up all day long, until nighttime, or until evening, when we're going to quit, and this is another funny story. It's the end of the day, we're all done working and there's a line or a rope, a small rope, hanging over the side of the ship. Higgins boat is in the water and will be picked up with us in it. I'm not going to wait for that. I'm going to grab the rope, climb up. It wasn't tied at the other end. So, I end up in the ocean. The officer of the deck is up there, watching this thing. [laughter] He's got to stop the ship, get me out of there, and I got out and a carpenter's mate, Ron, told me later, "There were sharks down there with you." "Yes, sure."
SH: You did not believe him.
EL: No, but, fifty years later, I'm at a ... Navy reunion in San Diego and Jim Gauntlett is telling the story about all this rubber stuff, and he says, "Somebody fell overboard and there was a bunch of sharks around him." I said, "Jim, that was me." So, I guess maybe there were sharks there, [laughter] took me fifty years to believe it.
SH: You did not see them.
EL: I didn't see them. I didn't see them.
SH: Okay. When you found yourself in the drink, so-to-speak, were you concerned that they would not see you?
EL: No, no, we didn't worry about things like that. [laughter]
SH: About how far off the coastline of Africa were you when you were doing this? You were out in open water.
EL: Well, yes, I guess between South America and Africa is probably, what, a thousand miles? I don't know. So, we're probably three hundred miles off Africa.
SH: As you said, you knew you had very little time before the German submarines arrived.
EL: Yes. After we got back, after we brought the rubber back, we got the report that American planes were flying over there and they found the subs. They were there. So, if we didn't get out of there, we wouldn't be here, either.
SH: Sharks, submarines, wow.
SW: Going back to the Carib, what were your living quarters like on the boat?
EL: Bunks, of course, stacked three high. Everybody had a locker, I don't know how big it was, two-by-two, and the bunks, they were adequate.
SH: Most of the time, you were just in dungarees and shirts.
EL: Most of the time. [When] you went ashore, of course, you got dressed.
SH: Did you wear whites all the time or khakis? What did you wear?
EL: South America, we wore whites, always (white uniforms).
SH: What is a South America white, because you were in South America?
EL: No, because we were down there and it was warm.
SH: Okay, I thought maybe there was a different uniform.
EL: No, no.
SH: We were talking about interaction with any of the other services. What about the Navy Air Corps there?
EL: We had no contact with them at all. There was an island off Brazil, Fernando de Noronha, where we had a small base and they had a blimp. [Editor's Note: Fernando de Noronha is an archipelago off the coast of Brazil consisting of twenty-one islands.] Now, blimps were good during World War II, because they flew slow and you could look into the water, sometimes. If water's nice and clear, and often it was, you could see subs beneath the water. So, they used blimps for spotting and we were going out to the island, one time, and radar picks up this object. ... The radio operator tells the Captain, "It's coming at us, right at us, but it's too slow to be an airplane and it's too fast to be a ship." So, nobody knew what was going on, really. [laughter] It was dark, it was nighttime, and, pretty soon, we see the great, big blimp coming over the bow of the ship, [laughter] ... and so, a little concerned for a while. [There] wasn't much fear on that ship, except, one night, radar said they had contact with a sub. Well, whether it was a school of fish or a sub, I don't know, but they shot everything on that ship. They dropped depth charges, they shot the twenty-millimeter--they shot everything on that ship. Whether there was a sub down there, who knows? So, next day, the chief quartermaster, who was an old-time Navy man and had a lot of years, wrote a poem and hung it up on the board, "The Famous Run of Captain Gunn at 0230." I wish I had a copy of that today.
SH: You talked about the one time you had to get underway right away to try to intercept the ship that was supposedly carrying the German officer. Were there other times that you had to get underway right away, or was it pretty standard?
EL: I don't remember any that was in a hurry. We had a miscommunication on the ship one time. We were supposed to get underway, to go somewhere--I don't know where. The Captain was not aboard and the Exec was a young, twenty-two-year-old guy named (Daley?), decided he's going to take the ship. "Throw off the lines, get underway, we're going." Then, a signal from the beach--a signal is a light that you can send Morse code with. Signal from the beach says, "Standby, Captain Gunn coming aboard." He was at the harbormaster's office. He came aboard and sent (Daley?) to his cabin. He says, "Don't come out until I tell you to."
SH: Did he remain on the ship?
EL: For a time. He did eventually go, but, yes, he was one of these young Navy guys that had bars on them. ... Some of them were good, some of them were "authority boys."
SH: You talked about the USO. Was there a USO in every ...
EL: There was a USO in every port down there.
SH: Was there?
EL: Yes, there was.
SH: Did you go make yourself comfortable there?
EL: Sometimes, yes, yes. I was on an ice cream kick down there. ... When I was young, I could eat ice cream, like, about a quart at a time. ... That's one of the places I went for ice cream, because we didn't have any on the ship, very much, anyhow. We had good food, but not ice cream.
SH: Did you get mail regularly?
EL: Yes, I think we did. All mail was censored then, but, yes, we got mail frequently. I wore a size thirteen shoe and I needed shoes one day. We didn't carry them, of course, so, you had to go over to the base and get them. They didn't have my size. So, they had to order them from the States. It took several months, I think.
SH: Did it really? With the weather, the salt and everything, was it hard to keep your clothing together, because there were stories of things disintegrating?
EL: No, I don't think we had a problem with that. We had a laundry, and lots of times, we'd do our own clothes. ...
SH: Were you well supplied with everything you needed to do your job, like equipment and replacements?
EL: I think so. One other thing about laundry, too, I don't know why we did it, because we had a laundry onboard and you could do your own, but there was laundry girls who would come on the dock. ... We'd give a couple pair of dungarees and our underwear, and so on, to these girls, they'd wash it, bring it back. There was an old, old lady there, real old, wrinkled up. I felt sorry for her, so, I used to give her money to do my clothes. ... The amazing thing about it is, we left Recife and, weeks later, we came back--there she is, with my clothes.
EL: I think those people knew when the ships were going to leave and when we were coming back more than we did. [laughter] We had an officer onboard that, when we'd move around, here in the States, you're not supposed to tell people where the ship's going. We leave New York, go to Florida, Virginia, Norfolk, wherever--Mr. Morin's wife [was] standing on the dock, there she is, when we pulled in. [laughter]
SH: Really? It just depends on who you could tell.
EL: I guess. He's the only officer today that I know is alive yet.
SH: Did you have any interaction with the Brazilians, other than the laundry girl?
EL: Not a lot, really. They have what happens in Louisiana, Mardi Gras. Well, they have a thing like that down there, every year, and that's a wild three days.
EL: Carnival, right. Three days, that was wild. [Editor's Note: Carnival is a large celebration before the Roman Catholic Lenten season marking the coming of Easter.]
SH: Did you go to Rio?
EL: No, never got to Rio, never got that far south.
SH: For a kid from Western Pennsylvania, to be in--I guess you would call that sub-tropic or the tropics, right?
EL: Yes, it's tropical. ... I used to send my mother cards, postcards. She had a stack of them six, seven inches high, that every place I'd go, I'd send a card. Brazil was good, ... get haircuts on the beach and things of that sort. I remember, one time, honesty or kindness or whatever, they had twenty-five dollar bills and I handed him [a vendor payment] and there were two of them stuck together. He took them apart and gave me one back, which I thought was kind of nice, because they'd sell you things. Perfume, I bought my mother Channel No. 5, was it?
SH: Yes, that was a popular one then.
EL: Yes, I bought that, sent that home. Pineapples, vendors with a cart, [on] a corner, for a dime, the guy would take a machete and peel it for you and hand it to you for a dime. A stalk of bananas, four foot long, I guess, I bought that for a dollar one time, carried it back to the ship. Everybody ate them. That was the only intermingling, I guess. ...
SH: You said you got to know everybody, the guys on the ship. Were they from all over?
EL: All over, all over.
SH: Was it hard to adjust to living that close? Were there different customs and practices of the different crew members?
EL: Well, the other thing, even though we were close, different departments kind of hung together. For example, [regarding] the people I knew the last twenty years, when I was on the ship, they were in a different department, so, I didn't interact with them as much then. So, we got to know them much later. ... Not much trouble aboard ship; once in a while, somebody'd get into argument, that kind of thing, but I think, all-in-all, we were pretty good.
SH: How diverse were you?
EL: Well, one guy was from Nebraska and his nearest neighbor is twenty-four miles, so, his lifestyle was different than ours. Another guy, from Delaware, came from an extremely rich family. I don't think he could tie his own shoes; I think somebody tied them for him all his life. Coal miner, there was a guy mining coal. Yes, they were all things. One of them, his name was Gil, was Jewish, and I don't think many of us knew it, but, years later, I found out that he was always self-conscious about it, which I could never understand those things, but lots of people do. We had four blacks onboard. Now, they were mess cooks when they first came aboard, serving the officers, and I was in the Navy when the Navy changed, so that they could go into other duties, and some of them did.
SH: Did they go ashore when you guys went ashore?
EL: Yes, they did, but I never saw them. I don't know where they went. ...
SH: Could they go to the USO as well?
SH: I mean, they did not have a segregated club.
EL: No, no.
SH: How did you keep up with the war, what was going on in the Pacific and in Europe? Did you pay much attention to that or were you just concentrating on your work?
EL: I think we did. One of the radiomen, that came aboard much later, could type really fast and he would go up in the radio shack and put the earphones on. ... It was news being sent in code and he'd copy this stuff--he was good--and posted it up on the board, so [that] you could see what the news was all about, yes. Well, the radio, I was talking earlier about the code, ... the way messages were sent and received really [was] as five alphabetical characters like, "ARLSP MIZUE OXREF." The whole thing was made up of groups of five letters and nobody knew what it was, of course, and then, the com officer would take it and break it down. So, you never typed English words--you're always typing characters as code. [laughter]
SH: Was there any reaction when President Roosevelt died?
EL: Where was I then? I don't know.
SH: I was wondering if you were already in North Africa.
EL: I don't remember.
SW: After you were in Brazil, you went to Africa for a while. What were you doing over there?
EL: We went across the Atlantic in[to] Gibraltar, stayed there for a little while and went to Oran, Algeria, and Casablanca, Morocco.
SH: Did you go alone?
EL: We went alone going over, and that's one of the few times that there was anxiety, a little bit. We'd leave Gibraltar, go to Oran, across [the] Mediterranean--we knew that the German action was pretty heavy at that time and didn't want to get caught out at sea. ... In the harbor at Casablanca, there was a French battleship, the Jean Bart. It was sunk. It still sat there on the bottom, ... one of the newest ships in the world at the time. [Editor's Note: The Jean Bart was an unfinished French battleship controlled by Vichy forces. On November 8, 1942, during Operation TORCH, the Jean Bart engaged the USS Massachusetts and USS Augusta and, after taking hull damage from aircraft from the USS Ranger, her captain grounded the battleship in Casablanca Harbor.] Oran, all right, our purpose in going over there, one thing, was [to] pick up a ship at Oran and tow it back to the States. The ship was a destroyer escort. It had ninety-three feet of stern blown off. The Germans, at that time, were using acoustical torpedoes, which would follow sound. ... You'd see it coming and the ship would turn and it would just turn with you and hit the screw in the back, and they lost thirty-three men, I guess. So, they cut the thing off and put a big plate on the back of it and we towed it back to the States. ... Another ship had the front blown off, so, they brought it back to the States and they cut the two ships in half, welded them together.
SH: Oh, my. I would not want to be on that ship.
EL: We were in convoy coming back to the US. ... There were three tugs at the back end [of the] convoy towing damaged ships. So, this Coast Guard commander, who was in charge [of the] convoy, had a fast, little cutter and he goes all around. We had trouble with our tow line. It broke twice. So, we got to the Azores and he says, "Pull into the Azores and wait for the next [convoy]."
EL: So, we stayed there for a couple of days, I guess, until we got our towing line fixed, and the next convoy that came west, [we] jumped in there.
SH: What was the Azores like?
EL: Beautiful, beautiful. I remember, the World Series was going on then. I don't know who was playing, but the people on the island were asking about it.
SH: Really? How did you spend the holidays, like Christmas, either in Brazil or in the Mediterranean?
EL: I don't remember any of them. I suppose the cook made something out of the ordinary, but I really don't remember.
SH: Were you in the Mediterranean when the D-Day invasion into Europe took place, in June of 1944?
EL: June of '44; Brazil.
SH: You were still in Brazil. Was there any reaction when you heard the news? When did you go to Africa?
EL: It was after that, not too long after. In fact, right after that, we were in Casablanca [on the] 18th of June.
SH: What was your first reaction to seeing something like that, Casablanca?
EL: The only thing I remember about Casablanca is, no matter how much money you had, there was nothing there to buy. In fact, we tied up at the dock and, in order to get out of the area, kind of, you had to go through a gate where the US Army posted it. So, you didn't get in and out of there without going through them, and they wanted to buy dungarees, think it was fifteen, sixteen dollars a pair for them, worn out. They don't care.
SH: The Army?
EL: Yes. They wanted to buy our dungarees because they'd sell them to the locals up there. Everybody had money--nothing to buy.
SH: How often would you be able to replace your dungarees? [laughter]
EL: And the sheets off the bed, they'll buy them, too. I guess they made clothes with them. I don't know. I don't think I sold anything--probably didn't have any extras. [laughter]
SH: Was there a USO there, or did you go out on the town?
EL: Went into town. I don't remember a USO, don't remember one.
SH: Were you shocked at the culture there?
EL: It was different, much, much different. I must not have liked it that much, because, years later, when Ruth and I traveled, we went to Spain and they had a trip [to] Casablanca. I said, "No thanks." [laughter]
SH: I would assume you did not like it. [laughter] In Oran, you picked up another ship to tow back to the States. Did anybody ever bring up the French ship that was sunk?
EL: I don't know what ever happened to it. I imagine, eventually, they did. [Editor's Note: The Jean Bart was eventually repaired, completed and utilized by the French Navy after World War II.]
SH: Did you see a lot of wreckage along there? Several years had gone by since the North African Campaign began.
EL: Oh, in various places in the world, we saw a lot of it. We were [in the] Panama Canal, later, and an aircraft carrier, the Franklin, a small one, came through the Canal. We saw it, and [the] flight deck sticking straight up in the air. [Editor's Note: The USS Franklin (CV-13) was an Essex-class aircraft carrier. Commissioned in January 1944, the Franklin earned four battle stars in World War II and is famed as being the most heavily damaged carrier to survive the war.] There was still, I don't know how many men, dead, still in there and they never took them out of there until they got back here to the States.
EL: That was real beat up.
SH: When you towed something across the Atlantic, would you always take it into Norfolk?
SH: New York?
EL: New York, Brooklyn Navy Yard. [Editor's Note: The Brooklyn Navy Yard, located on the East River in Wallabout Basin by New York City, served as a naval station that built, fitted and repaired naval warships from 1801 to 1966.]
SH: Did you get a liberty to come home?
EL: I would imagine we did, because, after being over for a period of time, they usually give you time, yes. I don't recall it, but I'm sure they did.
SH: How long was the turnaround before you would have to go back to the Mediterranean?
EL: Don't remember.
SH: When did you get off the Carib?
EL: We were in Africa, came back to the States, went down to Panama, went up to the West Coast and the ship was going to Hawaii, Eniwetok, China, but I didn't go. They transferred me off, sent me back [to the] East Coast, must have been in '45, late '45.
SH: Before the war was over?
EL: [Yes], and then, I was assigned to another ship, the USS Mercer, which was an LST [landing ship, tank] that they sealed up the bow. [Editor's Note: The USS Mercer (APB-39) was a Benewah-class barracks ship launched in Boston Navy Yard in November 1944. It was commissioned on September 19, 1945.] A LST is a ship that carried tanks and stuff, and they'd drop the bow and they'd roll the tanks off. Well, with this ship, they welded the bow shut and put twenty-four hundred bunks in it. What they were for, they were going to take it to the Pacific, these islands where the Marines and the Army were fighting, and have a place for some of the Marines, twenty-four hundred at a time, [to] come back out, be on the ship--a good place to sleep, barbershop, soda shop, library, the whole works. It never was put into use because the war ended, but I didn't stay on that ship very long. I went back to school, radio, electronic tech school--instead of operating radios, repairing them--and it was an eleven-month school.
EL: Was a good course.
SH: Where did you take this?
EL: Great Lakes. The only trouble was, it was getting close to the end of the war and a lot of the guys were getting out, because we had a chief [as an instructor], from the fleet, an old-time chief. ... He came in the very first day and he looked at the book, "Logarithms." He says, "Anybody in here know what a logarithm is?" He said, "If you do, come up here and tell me." [laughter] They had college kids teaching these classes and the Navy was discharging them and bringing in Navy guys from the fleet to teach, but they weren't qualified at all. So, then, getting back to my USNSV rating, they came out with an ALNAV [a memo to all US Navy personnel] that said, "All USNSVs can get out on request, unless your job is vital." Well, at that time, I had a wife and a young daughter. I figured my place is home. So, I went over to this building at Great Lakes. I said, "I'm USNSV," I said, "I want out." This old chief looked at me, says, "You're not qualified to get out." There was a young lady sitting over there. I went over, "Hey, I'm USNSV. Can I get out?" She said, "Sure. Here's your papers, sign them." [laughter]
SH: Had you ever entertained the thought of staying in the military?
EL: Oh, I guess it had passed through my mind every now and then, but, after I was married, I figured my place is home.
SH: I think we should back up and talk about where you met your wife and when you got married.
EL: Okay, let's see.
SH: We have you zipping around. [laughter]
EL: Hey, I can't put times together very well here. When was I in [Rhode Island]? It was after [I] got back from overseas, I know, and I went to Newport, Rhode Island. What was I up there for? Oh, the ship was there. Ship was there, okay. ...
SH: This was the Carib.
EL: Yes, yes, this is the Carib, yes, and I went to a roller-skating rink with Jim Mercury, ... our buddy-buddy thing. We went to a roller-skating rink one night, and Jim liked to drink. I never drank nearly as much as Jim did. So, we were in a roller-skating rink and I don't know whether we met Rita there [or not]. I guess we did--ended up in a bar, Rita, Jim and I. So, Jim and I went to the men's room, flipped a coin. I won, so, I stayed and he left. So, twenty-one days later, I got married. [laughter]
SH: Rita was from Rhode Island.
EL: Rita was from New Jersey, as a matter-of-fact, but she was up there with a friend of hers. They had an apartment. Oh, she was working at the base. She went up there with Ann and Ann got her a job on the base. ... So, like an idiot, twenty-one days later, I took a train to Maryland, because you can get married easier there, [laughter] got married and ended up in Florida. Rita and I had a place in Florida for several months and, after she got pregnant with our first daughter, Rita came back home to her mother. ... Oh, she came home because we were leaving, went down to Panama and the West Coast.
SH: The ship was operating out of Florida then.
EL: At that time.
SH: Which base were you at?
EL: Fort Lauderdale, city; Port Everglades was the Navy base. Oh, I know what we were doing. They had electronic stuff aboard the ship, that some guy from Harvard, a civilian, was working on. So, we'd take him out to sea and run exercises with him. ... He was the brain behind it and he did whatever he had to do and that's what we did down there for a while. Then, the Coast Guard base, which Port Everglades was, I guess, at that time, needed a radio operator. So, the Captain figured he'll get rid of me. He sent me over on the base. So, the Coast Guard officer there said, "Are you going to take a bunk here or [are] you going back to the ship every night?" Well, Rita, my wife, was in town, in a room. I said, "I'll go back to the ship." I never did go back to the ship--I went home every night. [laughter] So, I was getting sea pay, never on the ship. [laughter] So, I was operating radio between the ships in the harbor, because they would go out every morning, do whatever they had to do, and they'd radio in, tell me what they're doing, and I'd pass on whatever I was supposed to pass on to the officers. ... That was nice duty for a while.
SH: The war was over at this point.
EL: Yes. When was the war over? When did I get out? Yes, the war's over, yes. [Editor's Note: V-J Day was declared on August 14, 1945, in the United States. Japan formally surrendered on September 2, 1945, in a ceremony held onboard the USS Missouri (BB-63) in Tokyo Bay.]
SH: You did not think of staying in the military.
EL: Not at that time, no.
SH: When you were in school in Great Lakes, was your wife able to go out there?
EL: No, she never came there. She stayed home. Oh, Great Lakes, yes, I got sick there, too.
SH: Oh, no.
EL: Spinal meningitis. So, they put me in Great Lakes Hospital. After they found out what I had, they dumped me in a field ambulance--Great Lakes is huge--and my head's hurting and this field ambulance had no springs in it, I don't think. ... They drove me about ten miles, I guess, over every bump he could find, haul me into this place. The nurse comes down and says, "How much insurance do you have?" I said, "Ten thousand. Why?" She says, "Okay." [laughter]
SH: That must have given you heart. [laughter]
EL: So, I spent time in there and got 121 shots, penicillin.
SH: Thank heavens you were eligible for it now.
EL: Yes, yes, and I guess it was shortly after that then. Let's see, I must have gone back to school, and then, got out, came back home for good.
SH: What were your plans? What were you planning to do?
EL: You know, when I was a kid, I don't think I had plans. I just went one day to the next. [laughter]
SH: Where were your wife and child?
EL: North Bergen, New Jersey.
SH: That was where you came back to. Did you take a job right away?
EL: My wife's uncle was a builder. So, for a little while, I worked with him. Then, I went back to school again; how about that? GI Bill gave us the right to go to school. So, I went to RCA Institute on Varick Street in New York, and I did graduate from there and I had a radio telephone license, which qualified me to operate a broadcast station. Unfortunately, at that time, if I didn't belong to the union in [the] New York area, I couldn't get a job. If I didn't have a job, I couldn't get in the union. So, [the] school called me up one time, said, "I've got a job for you at a radio station in Rome, New York." Well, by this time, I had two kids, young kids, and I said no. So, I never did use the license at all. I went into work [in the] television field, installing antennas, made a decent living on that for a while.
SH: In the early 1950s, television was really flourishing.
EL: Yes, it was new. I was twenty-four or so. I was pretty good at climbing around roofs. I wouldn't try that today.
SH: [laughter] What do you remember about the celebration when the war was finally over?
EL: Let's see, I was in, of all places, New York City, Times Square, at the end of, [the] Japanese War? I don't know. I'm forgetting.
SH: In September of 1945.
EL: Yes, I guess it was, and everybody went crazy. That was the place to be then.
SH: [laughter] Are there any other stories that we forgot to ask about your service?
EL: Illness is about all I had, I guess. [laughter]
SH: Do you think you received good care?
EL: Yes, I think so. ...
JW: In your pre-interview survey, you said you were in the Navy Reserves Surface Division. Can you explain what that is?
EL: My Reserve thing never worked out very well. I got discharged from the Reserves. I was discharged in 1954. My original discharge from the Navy is September '46. I got out. At that time, I was living in North Jersey and Jersey City had a Navy Reserve organization down there, "I'll just join the Reserve." So, I went down and they were happy to see me, and he says, "The only problem is," he said, "we don't have a complement for a radioman." He said, "We do for an electronic tech." I said, "Well, I'm a better technician than I am an operator anyhow, so, that's fine." He said, "Well, you're going to have to take a test." I said, "Good." So, he said, "We'll have to order it from 90 Church Street, New York City." So, he wrote all the information, this was an officer--he wrote all this information down and he put it in the drawer of a cabinet. He says, "Okay," he says, "come back in September," whatever it was, "and we'll have the test for you." So, I went back. They couldn't find any test for me. So, some higher-ranking officer walked in, he says, "What's the problem?" I said, "Why, I was supposed to come down here and take a test. They were to order a test for me, so that I could take it and I could get in the Reserves." He said, "What happened to it?" I said, "I don't know. I know they put the order in that drawer down there." [laughter] Well, this guy jumped all over the officer. He said, "Here's a guy that wants to get in the Reserve and people like you don't allow them in." So, I never did go back.
EL: That was the end of it.
SH: However, you were still officially in until 1954.
EL: I officially was in, I guess, because I found this a couple years ago here. I even forgot I had it.
SH: Was there any chance that you would be called back for Korea?
EL: Had I been in the Reserve at the time, quite possible, because my buddy, Jim Mercury, from Jersey Shore, was called back and he was in the Reserve fully. In fact, as a matter-of-fact, he ended up--he and I were little peons--and he ended up retiring as a chief warrant officer, after he went back for Korea. ...
SH: Wow, that is amazing. Could we talk about your interest in photography?
EL: Yes, I started in the early '70s, I guess. When I was a kid, I used to do all of my own developing and printing, then, of course, getting married and having four kids, I didn't have time for that, or the money. So, it was after Ruth and I ... had been married seven years or so, my interest came alive again and I went to Mercer County College for photography and bought myself a good camera. I ended up carrying pretty darned good cameras. Ruth and I've been to Europe--well, we were in Portugal six times--and I used to go to Europe with a camera case, three thousand dollars' worth of cameras in there. I'd take forty rolls of black-and-white and forty rolls of color. So, you know I shot some pictures over the years. There's some of my black-and-whites up there.
SH: I can say, for the record, they are beautiful.
EL: I spent thirty years [in the] darkroom downstairs, but, about five or six years ago, I figure, "At my age, staying down there for four hours, three days a week, on that cement, too much. So, I quit," and, now, of course, [with] digital, I don't have to do that. I can take a picture, run it upstairs, stick it in the computer--five minutes later, I have a print. I don't have to do all that work.
SH: You can still stay interested in photography. Why Portugal? Why did you go to Portugal so many times?
EL: A couple of friends of ours from Mechanicsburg had been there and they said, "Oh, nice there, romantic," and that sort of thing. So, we had been to Spain a couple years earlier and we had some friends here and they said, "When Dick gets out of college and you take a trip, let us know. Maybe we'll all go along." So, they did. They went all six times with us, and we would not do it like most people do. Ruth and I went the first time on an organized tour kind of thing, but the next one, we said, "We're not doing that." So, the next five, I planned out before we ever left here, where we're going, what we're doing, all that sort of thing. We'd get into the airport, Lisbon, pick up a car, and I knew just where we were going. I had a map, I had the hotels. One year, we stayed at many motels from five dollars up. One day, Paul says, "Maybe we could upgrade the next time," [laughter] but we stayed away from Americans, we stayed off the main roads. We took the back roads, saw the people. I'd go to work and, at night, I'd take Portuguese words, "Left, right, bed, hotel, dinner, breakfast," and I'd learn a hundred words--didn't know how to speak Portuguese, but I knew [those terms]. ... I'd go over there and we'd get lost or something; I'd stop some guy and we'd talk a little bit. ... Yes, we got by, we got by, but we had more fun staying out of the tourist areas, especially at that time, because a lot of those people rarely saw an American. We went places where Americans didn't go. One Sunday, we decide, "Instead of stopping for lunch, we'll [get] a bottle of wine and cheese and bread and eat along the road." So, I went in some bar and they had cheese down there, wanted to buy cheese. "No, no, no," they wouldn't sell me any cheese. He pointed back [at the] road and there's two guys standing in the middle of the road. So, I said to him, "Queijo, vinho?" He looked at me like I'm nuts. "C'mon." He had a warehouse, no sign that says, "Store." He opened up the doors and it's a store. He has everything in there. I bought a block of cheese like this and a bottle of wine. Jerry didn't drink wine, so, I got her a bottle of soda. Probably, three pounds of cheese and the bottle of wine and soda and bread probably cost me two bucks. [laughter] So, from then on, we had a lot of bread and wine for lunch. [laughter] ... It was a Sunday afternoon. There was no indication that it was a store, just opened the doors and there it is.
SH: [laughter] It sounds like you had a lot of adventures.
EL: They were fun. ... Paul always used to make wine, [with] his own grapes. So, we wanted to go to the wine country in Portugal during the wine season. So, we went there in September. We go north, drive around--don't see anything going on. Finally, we see a couple people with big buckets of grapes on their shoulders. Gerry says, "Look at that." So, we followed them. They dumped the grapes and they went back down. We must have gone half a mile down the hills. We had to walk, couldn't take a car. Down there, they're picking grapes. So, I'm taking pictures and having a good time, and so, from then on, we found people picking grapes. We enjoyed that.
SH: You found the winery eventually.
SH: When did you meet and marry Ruth?
EL: [laughter] Ruth and I were in the same class in high school. I never talked to her once, [laughter] never, never. So, I ... went to work [for the] Public Service at the power plant in Linden. Then, they built Mercer [Generating Station] down here [in Hamilton Township, New Jersey], in 1960, so, I transferred down here. I got a promotion when I came here, and Rita stayed up north. We were kind of apart by then anyhow. I'd go home once a week or whatever. So, when I found out that being by myself is not much good--I mean, I got into trouble down here, in being by myself--so, "Let me go back to Mechanicsburg. I haven't been back there in twenty years." So, I get in the car on my day off and I went to Mechanicsburg. I knew the lawyer in town. He was in our class. I went to see him a little bit. He says, "Jean Jones lives up there on the corner." So, I went up to see Jean. Well, Jean was a ball of fire. She says, "Why don't you go down [and] talk to Ruthie Basehore?" and I said, "Oh, I never talked to her." "She lives right down there on the corner." "All right," I went down to talk to Ruthie a little bit. Well, that started it. I came back to work and, two weeks later, I went back to Mechanicsburg. ... For four years, practically, on my days off, I'd go to Mechanicsburg. It took us that long before I could convince her. [laughter] She was a classmate in school and she worked for Civil Service. So, she finally married me and we moved down here. She quit work. ...
SH: Do your children live close by?
EL: Ruth had three boys, I had two and two. Ruth's oldest was in the Army, Vietnam, wasn't very good when he came out and he died, in 2000, I guess. ... Her other son lives in Texas and one lives a couple miles from here. Tom's gone. Rita always wanted to go to California anyhow. She meets this guy, Campbell, she marries him and they go to California and take three of the kids. The oldest boy stayed here, in the East. So, in '96, my oldest daughter got cancer and died. My youngest daughter worked for Hollywood-type people for years, Sally Field's husband for one, that sort of thing. She was really into that kind of thing. Let's see, so, my son, my youngest son, and my youngest daughter live in California. My other son, who lived here in Jersey, just retired last March, and went to Iowa to live. [laughter] So, they're spread all over the place.
SH: Is there anything that we have not asked either about your military service, your growing up or your education?
EL: I'll probably remember a lot tomorrow.
SH: That happens.
EL: Can't think of anything.
SH: Were there any other adventures on the Carib?
EL: Not involving me, but the Carib was eventually sold to the country of Columbia. It became a naval ship for them, and this guy from the Carib who I, in later years, got to know well, he and I almost had plans made to go down to Columbia as guests of the Navy and go aboard the ship. ... I think the guy who Wilber was writing to got a new commanding officer and he said--you know, Columbia's pretty bad with the drug things. He says, "No," he says, "we don't want any Americans down here, putting them in the middle." So, he wouldn't allow it, but we almost did it.
SH: I want to ask about Brazil and your work with the Brazilians. Was there ever any question of their loyalty, whether it was pro-American or pro-German?
EL: Not that I saw, no. [As a] matter-of-fact, ... well, I told you, I think I wrote and said this guy put an article in the paper, that was in the Jornal do Commercio, Recife, Brazil. It was put in the paper February 9th of last year, and he sent me this, in Portuguese. ... I found a place on the Internet that did electronic translation, so, at least I can read and know a little bit, but, you see, they have, "American rifleman," instead of sailor. What he's doing, he is writing the World War II history of the Fourth Fleet, which was the American Fourth Fleet in Brazil, or the South Atlantic. ... Portuguese word for "Wednesday" and for "Fourth" is similar. So, they wrote here, "Faced with situation, the soldier," a soldier, "of the Wednesday Fleet;" [laughter] it's supposed to be Fourth Fleet, and this tells, too, ... a little bit about Eleanor [Roosevelt] coming down. [As a] matter-of-fact, the title of the thing is, "The Prisoner and the First Lady." I'm in the brig. ...
SH: I am going to assume you were never in the brig again.
EL: No, not before or since.
SH: No problems with the shore patrol.
SH: Were you ever assigned to the shore patrol?
EL: Yes, Philadelphia. We were in Philly for something, I don't know what, but I was told to report over in the city. ... So, I was on shore patrol there for a while, but the thing that happened on base, I was told to get up at four o'clock in the morning and go over to the German compound. They had German prisoners
EL: In Philly, I was told to get up at four o'clock in the morning, go over to the German compound and take these German prisoners over to the commissary, or the place where we eat. They're preparing the food and they're serving the food to all Navy people eating there. So, I get over there and there's another guy. I said, "Where is the commissary?" He said, "I don't know." I didn't know the base--he didn't, either. I was new there. [laughter] This little guy opens the gates and, I don't know, thirty or forty Germans march out of there. I said, "I'm going to walk ten feet behind, because they know where they're going. I don't know where they're going." They could've walked out the main gate, as far as I'm concerned, [laughter] but they were a happy bunch, ... these Germans. They were happy to be out of Europe. They were getting fed well, they had a nice place over there. You could hear them over there at night, singing, carrying on. [laughter] ... I didn't know what I was doing. I had a .45 on my hip, but, if they wanted to walk out the main gate, "Go ahead, I don't know where you're going."
SH: Tight security. [laughter]
EL: Yes. I thought he knew, he thought I knew, the other guy.
SH: Are there any other questions you want to ask?
JW: You said, on the pre-interview survey, that your son was part of the Navy.
EL: My son in California was in the Navy, yes, Vietnam, nothing out of the ordinary. He spent his time in and got out and he went back home. He wasn't a dyed-in-the-wool Navy man.
SH: When you were on the ship, did you ever think of going to a different ship? Did you ever want to transfer out, or consider it?
EL: No, I think I was happy with the Carib. In fact, I was always a little bit sorry that I did get transferred off the ship when I did. As a matter-of-fact, Jim Mercury was my buddy and officers and enlisted men aren't supposed to be that friendly with each other, but he and the Captain were real buddy-buddy. ... They were over--I don't know where they were, China or Hawaii or someplace--and Jim happened to mention to the Captain that I was a six-year man. "He was? If I had known that, I wouldn't have got rid of him."
SH: Oh, my, because he thought your time was up and the war was almost over.
EL: Yes, yes.
SH: No one paid a lot of attention to your "SV," did they? [laughter]
EL: He didn't know what it meant, either, probably.
SH: Did you ever run into any chaplains?
EL: Well, we were too small to have our own. [While at the] hospital, yes, they came through then, and there was services held. I guess when we were in Recife and ports like that, there was services on the base that guys could go to.
SH: Were there any fatalities or accidents on the Carib? The work you were doing does not sound all that safe.
EL: I don't remember losing anybody. One fellow, who was a Navy man through and through, but he got in trouble every time he turned around, they transferred him off, of all places, in Brazil, to a base, and put him on watch at night, at the gate. ... Some "gook," as we used to call them, was drunk and attacked him and Gilbert took his .45 and just blew a hole in him, which was legal at the time, but it wasn't a very nice thing to do, but, no, we didn't lose anybody on the ship that I know of. ... Before he came on the Carib, he was in the Merchant Marine.
EL: While in the Merchant Marine, and then, [the] Navy and he had five ships knocked out from under him. So, no wonder he was nervous.
SH: Did he come back on the ship or did he stay there?
EL: He never did come back, no.
SH: What happened after this incident?
EL: For some reason or other, you do something like that, they transfer you, so, get him out of their hair, I guess.
SH: Thank you so much for talking with us.
SW: There is one more thing I forgot to ask about. When you had typhoid fever, was there any medical care on the ship, before you got into port?
EL: We had a pharmacist's mate, one first class pharmacist's mate, nice guy, except that he was an X-ray technician. So, he wasn't--well, they're not supposed to be doctors anyhow, but he wasn't qualified to be a doctor or to diagnose--but the Navy used to have a thing called cat fever. I never did know what it was or what it meant, but he thought that's what I had. So, after three or four days, he decided, "Well, better send you to a doctor and find out what's the matter with you." ...
SH: If you had to be in isolation when you had it, what about all the men on the ship?
EL: Nobody ever got it, as far as I know, lucky.
SH: Amazing. Other than that "non-diagnosis," how was the care that you received?
EL: Yes, they were good, they were good, I think. Oh, one other thing I missed--I had typhoid fever and I guess, typhoid can be gotten from dairy products, which I didn't know. So, who comes in to see me one day? Admiral [Jonas H.] Ingram and his staff, wanting to know where I ate. Well, I told him I had ice cream, so-and-so, but that's in these papers, too. ... Oh, the other thing he came in for, he wanted to know who was eating all his eggs, [laughter] because Admiral Ingram had a farm, on the beach, with chickens. I didn't know whether to believe that or not, but, years later, this guy who I'm in touch with down in Brazil now verified to me that Admiral Ingram did have a farm.
SH: Was he selling his eggs?
EL: I don't know what he was doing. ... I don't think he sold anything. I don't think he needed the money. ... I don't know whether I told you this or not, this Brazilian, oh, three or four months ago, said, "A reporter's going to come in here," and he said, "I want him to know some things." So, he gave me questions to answer and one of them was, "Did I think Recife was an ideal place for the headquarters for the Fourth Fleet during World War II?" wrote back, I said, "Hey, I was a seaman, first class. [laughter] What do I know about what's qualified to be a headquarters?"
SH: [laughter] You can only answer from your perspective, right.
EL: I guess. This is the ship after it became part of the Columbian Navy.
SH: Does it look pretty much like it did when you were onboard?
EL: Yes, pretty much.
SH: It looks so small to be going out on the ocean. [laughter]
EL: They were 205 feet long, for towing, three-thousand-horsepower diesel engines, like I said, a hundred men and ten officers, and even the Captain gets in trouble once in a while. We have a big boom in the back of the ship and a big hatch that opens up. One night, he came back with a jeep. He stole it from the Army. It's an Army jeep. At ten o'clock at night, we open the after hatch, picked up the jeep with a hoist and put it down there and repainted it. [laughter] So, from then on, the first thing that was done, when we pull into port, get the Captain's jeep out, put it on the dock. [laughter]
SH: Was Gunn still the captain, or was this the new captain?
EL: This was Terrio, I guess. Yes, it's Terrio. This was our second captain. Both of them are dead now.
SH: Did he give anybody rides?
EL: Not that I know of, unless it was the other officers. He didn't give me a ride, I know that. [laughter]
SH: Do you think your upbringing, being on the farm and some of the things you learned, the responsibility, helped you to be a better sailor and deal with things?
EL: Helped me ... be a better person, if nothing else. I always tried not to give people any problems, yes. It was a good life.
SH: You talked about some of the crew members having been in the military for years and years. Did they share any sea stories?
EL: Oh, sometimes, I'm sure. The chief quartermaster had got himself stabbed years earlier; probably got drunk and disorderly and picked a fight with the wrong guy. In fact, ... I was never a fighter, but all the time that I was in the Navy, he's the only guy that got under my skin. In the Azores, he was drunk and ... giving me a bad time, bad time. So, he got back to the ship, I guess, and I came back later, and, by this time, I was so mad that I said, "If he walks by me one more time, he's going to get it," and he's a chief, I'm not. ... I came storming aboard and Mr. Morin was the officer of the deck and he sees what kind of shape I'm in. He says, "Go down below, cool off." I said, "If he comes by me one more time, he's going to get it." He said, "Don't do that."
SH: Hardly worth it at this point, having been on the ship for so long.
SH: What did you do when you had a watch during an alert? What did you do to pass the time?
EL: Well, some of our watch depended on where we were. If we were at sea, with a chance, at least, of enemy around, we were, sometimes, four on, four off. So, you were four hours on watch and sleep for four and eat in-between. Another of my watches was on a twenty-millimeter gun. You stand back there. You had phones, that you could talk to the other guys who were on watch, but it's lonely, kind of, back there at night, looking at the stars, and most of the time was quiet. ... Well, this officer we went to see in Maine, he'd walk around at night, talk to you, nice guy. Mr. (Daley?), at night time, he never came out, might throw him overboard. [laughter] He never came out.
SH: Did you read?
EL: A lot of guys played cards. There, again, that was not my thing. I didn't gamble. Reading, yes, some guys read a lot; wasn't much else to do at all. Of course, one of the things we used to do in port is show movies. We had our own projector. You could get movies fairly often, although we saw Bob Hope's Road to Morroco [(1942)] six or seven times, I think, because that's the only one we had. [laughter]
SH: Did you trade with other ships?
EL: Yes, or get them on the base, if they happened to have any. One movie--well, the shipfitter found a dog. He brought him back to the ship. The Captain didn't say anything, and we kept the dog. So, he was our dog. Timber was his name. So, one night, they're showing a movie and some guy choped down a tree, he hollers, "Timber." The dog went nuts. [laughter]
SH: Who took care of the dog?
EL: What was his name? Edgington. He took him home with him, after the war. He had a farm, New York State, I don't know where, and he had to put him in quarantine, but he ended up taking that dog home.
SH: All right. Thank you so much for talking with us. I am so thankful that we were able to interview you at Gary Saretzky's suggestion. It has been a delight, thank you.
EL: You're welcome.
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