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Roth, Benjamin B.

 

Kurt Piehler:  This begins an interview with Benjamin B. Roth on November 4, 1994 in Baltimore, Maryland with Kurt Piehler.  I guess I wanted to start off by asking you a few questions about your parents and where you grew up.  To begin with, your parents, both of them were born in Poland, in Warsaw?

Benjamin B. Roth:  Yes.

KP:  When did they come over to the United States?

BR:  ... They both came over separately.  They didn't come together. .... My father came over about ... 1912 and of course I was born in '18, so my mother must of come over around 1916, ... a couple of years before she had children.  I was born 1918 and my brother is three years younger than I am, so he was born in '21.  They both were a couple of hard working people.

KP:  Do you know why they came to the United States?

BR:  No well, I would imagine-- like most immigrants they heard of the nice things about U.S.A. that were here and were coming from a desperate situation in Warsaw ....  My mother followed my father.  My father decided he wanted to come to try to make his place in this world.  My father did some traveling in the country itself to find a place where he thought might be a satisfactory place ... to live, and I remember him talking about spending some time in Galveston, Texas and then sometime in 1913, he went from Galveston up to Vancouver, and then he came back to New York where he found my mother through a Jewish newspaper ad: she didn't know where to find him except that she put an ad in the newspaper and he managed to react to it and joyfully they joined each other.

KP:  And then shortly in a few years you were born.

BR:  I was born in '18.

KP:  And then your brother was?

BR:  Born in 1921, there were only two of us, that was the extent of the family.  They were both a couple of hard working people that were running a retail business and ... worked extremely hard to a point where their lives were shortened, my mother passed away at 56, and my father passed away ... in his sixties, 68.  That was basically what ... life was all about in those days.  They worked for the kids.

KP:  So it was very important for them to send you to college and to get an ...

BR:  No, for the most part going to college was pretty much my idea, and it was not theirs and so they, ... never stopped us from going to college.  My brother did not go to college until after the war.  He started at ... one of ... state universities of New York.  The state colleges in New York, and he studied optometry and he is an optometrist today in Akron, Ohio.

KP:  Did he go on the G.I. Bill?

BR:  Yes.  I went on the G.I. Bill to a certain extent after I came back.  I took some graduate work at Kent State University and Western Reserve in Cleveland.  I took some ... classes at CCNY one summer as an undergraduate.

KP:  You mentioned your father was a tailor.  Did he own a clothing store?

BR:  No, he had a shop.  It was mainly alterations and ... cleaning and pressing of garments.

KP:  So he would he would work very long hours?

BR:  Depending on how much business he had.  Some days it was less and some days it was more.  My mother used to help him a bit with whatever she could do in the store, but come later on we got into another business:  a candy store, that's a 24 hour/7 day a week business.

KP:  Why did your family shift from the ...

BR:  Well, I guess the income.  ... The possibilities of income were ... much greater in that business.  We had a store down in Manhattan on York Avenue that was a good shop, but it was not the kind of thing I was interested in.  My brother worked in the business. And I just hated it.  I just stayed as far away from it as possible.  I went to school and that was it.  I helped in summers.

KP:  So you had seen enough by working in the store?

BR:  Yes.  He [my father] worked ... in the store on double shifts.  They were trying to do it with just two people.  It was a store that would open up at 5 o'clock in the morning and close at two the next morning.  It was a demanding schedule.  This was going day-in and day-out- 365 days.

KP:  Seven days a week?  So there was no Sunday or Saturday off?

BR:  Seven day weeks.  It was only  ... when both of us went to war that-- ... they closed on a Sunday-- ...  They just couldn't handle it.

KP:  Your home life sounds very bad.

BR:  Not too bad.  Of course, both of us were grown, my brother and I. ...

KP:  Yeah.  But having a family meal together was a very rare ...?

MR:  The ... tailoring business lent itself to that, not in the candy store.

KP:  Did your parents go into the candy store because of the Great Depression?

BR:  Well, that was one of the things.  ...They wanted to ... earn a little bit more than they had, and eventually it killed them.   It killed my mother.  I know that.  When we got home from the war, my mother at that time was already afflicted with cancer, ... and it wasn't long before she passed away.

KP:   You mentioned over lunch that you traveled to different places in the city?.

BR:  I had an aunt that lived in the Bronx, and we'd go up there.  She had five kids.  I have some ... good memories from there.  But ... the Bronx was the Bronx you know. (laughter)

KP:  You lived in Manhattan most of the time?

BR:  ... No we lived in ... Brooklyn.

KP:  Brooklyn?

BR:  Brooklyn.  I went to high school there.  I met some friends.  To this day ... we still keep in touch.  This is 60 years ago.  One guy just died a couple years ago, but there are two or three up there that I still see from Brooklyn.

KP:  From Brooklyn?

BR:  Yes.

KP:  And your high school you used to go to?

BR:  New Utrecht High School.

KP:  What kind of high school is it?

BR:  It was [a] city high school.  It was a very crowded school, I played football there.  [It] was a school with four annexes.  I lived three blocks from the main building, and they sent me to an annex that was about eight miles away.  You had to take your freshman and sophomore years in the annexes and then you only got the last two years in the ... main building. ...

KP:  You said it was an academic high school.  How many were in your high school class?  How many would end up going to college?

BR:  Oh, a great percentage, great percentage.  We had-- ... I would say it was a greater percentage.  The school ... was made up mainly of Italians and Jewish families, those two.  This was Bensonhurst. ... The Jewish kids for the most part wound up in college and the Italians had a good portion of them that went too.

KP:  And how would the Jews and Italians get along?

BR:  Very well, never had any problems.  We were kids there, and we were all ... striving for the same thing.  There wasn't anything like you see today.  These were simple kids, who were looking for a future in life.

KP:  Of the kids that did go to college, did most end up at CCNY?

BR:  Probably-- NYU, CCNY, Brooklyn College ... for them to go to other places was ... a rather difficult thing unless there was a kid that could afford it.

KP:  You did apply to a number of different schools?

BR:  Yes.  But then, you know, my father said to me, look ... you're not going to those schools, and I didn't expect too much help from them and I went to work and earned ... money and started Savage School for physical education, which was then on a 110th Street right near the Polo Grounds.

BR:  Savage was a very good school.  I spent two years there.  I graduated and went on to Rutgers.

KP:  Now you mentioned that you worked your way through school-- through Savage school for Physical Education.

BR:  Yes.

KP:  Where did you work?

BR:  Well I had a job.  It was a very interesting job.  First of all there was-- ... I think I spent sometime doing nothing but  working.  One time I worked in a cabaret.  I worked in Billy Rose's Casa Manana in the check room.

KP:  So you got a lot of tips?

BR:  ... No, the tips went to the concessionaire.  We got a straight salary and then I used to work at night in different places that this concessionaire had ... his franchising in, the Manhattan Center.  We used to work there at different events. ... They had ten or fifteen other places and they'd assign [us].  I would come home on a Friday night from school ... at three events which gave me, I think it gave me twelve dollars, twelve dollars weekly.  And that twelve dollars used to ... pay my room and board at school.  I never lived ... in the dormitory.   I lived ... over a luncheonette that was on College Avenue.

KP:  Yes.

BR:  O.K., right across from Winants' there was a luncheonette there.  And the landlady had rooms upstairs, and she used to take students.  And we had 12, 15 students living up there and all of us studied and they'd give us a desk and a bed and so forth and we'd have 5, 6 guys and each have their desk and a bed, you know. ... We lived there for five bucks a week.  So that and then of course we used to eat downstairs in the luncheonette.  Hey, how much could we eat.  Every so often ... I'd have a date and I'd spring for a pizza at one of the Italian joints around.  I think a pizza at that time was a buck and a half the whole pizza, okay! (laughter) Things were cheap in those days.  The other thing that it did-- and my parents never contributed to this except, my senior year ... They never contributed [to my tuition]. ... I paid that also.  My tuition at that time was very reasonable.  So by the time I got around to the senior year, my father was looking at my mother and he said, I think he is going to graduate (laughter) and then they decided to contribute some money my way.  It was never any ... vacation. ...

KP:  How many hours would you work when you were going to school for a given week?

BR:  ... This was only on the weekends. ... During the week I didn't work. ... Occasionally he would call me and say, "Hey I'm stuck.  I need you."  But other than that, after all, if we made four dollars a night.  Four bucks went a long way.  I mean it used to cost me ... on the subway a nickel.  We went through the Hudson tubes for 35 cents and then ... a commuters ticket, which cost very little.  We ... did very well in those days with very little.

KP:  You managed to find some very good jobs, weekend jobs.

BR:  Well the job was a steady one.  There was something every weekend.  They used to assign me ...on a Monday and they'd tell me where I'm gonna be on a weekend and it was all straight, so I was able to spend the week at New Brunswick.

KP:  Weekends.

BR:  I would come home on Fridays. ... How far is it from New Brunswick to New York?

KP:  I think it is an hour.  I know, I commuted a great deal.  You ... grew up in New York in the 1930's with Franklin Roosevelt as President and Mayor LaGuardia.  What did you and your parents think of Roosevelt and LaGuardia?

BR:  Well, they thought ... the world of LaGuardia.  They thought LaGuardia was a great Mayor and he did more ...to keep ... that city going.  He was a colorful ... character, very colorful guy.  I had high regard for him.  A lot people liked him.  He was no dummy.  He may have looked like ... a clown, but he was not a fool.  He was pretty sharp.  Roosevelt at the same time ... came in like a savior, ... savior of the country.  They ... had eight years of Hoover.  And ... [Roosevelt] came in and started different programs like NRA and WPA.  He did something.  He had a great personality, when he spoke on the air, the whole world listened.  No television.  It was all on the radio.

KP:  So you remember listening?

BR:  Oh sure. ... He had [a] manner of addressing the country and had them eating out of his hand. ... He stayed in office almost twelve years.  He was the only president to do it.  When he passed away it created a large void.  Peoples thoughts were, whose going to take his place.  Roosevelt was such a tremendous leader.  Who will take his place?  And it was Harry Truman.  He turned out to be one of the greatest presidents of all time.  Roosevelt and Truman knew how to appeal to the public. ...

KP:  You went to Savage School for Physical Education and you have fond memories of big ten football from growing up.  What did you want to become when you got out of college?

BR:  I wanted to become a good ... athletic instructor.  My forte was mainly in administration.  I wanted to ... become a good administrator. ...

KP:  Yes.  But going back you. You were interested in becoming an athletic director?

BR:  Yes, an athletic director of the day.  They use to have a couple coaches in college.  I was very interested in sports.  I was interested in athletics.  I was interested in physical makeup of people.  The curriculum ... lends itself to this direction, to the study of sports, the body movement, anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology. ...  Rutgers is that way still today.  You get people from New Jersey that apply, but not everyone is accepted.

KP:  No, not by any means.  How big was Savage?  How big was your school?

BR:  We had ... two classes, three classes, I think. ... 300, 400 people.  That's all, not more than that, men and women.  It was only a two year college and they had an agreement with Ithaca College.

KP:  After graduation many Savage graduates would be placed in the New York City high schools and elementary schools.

BR:  Most of us came from New York.

KP:  And would then stay in New York?

BR:  Yeah, a lot of them ... would apply ... to the city school system, and a lot of them got into it and spent their careers in it.  It was a ... reputation that was enjoyed throughout, because everybody knew once they got a Savage man ... they had a good teacher.

KP:  Did any from your school ever go into professional or college level athletics?

BR:  College level.

KP:  Say as assistant coach?

BR:  Rutgers or anything like that?

KP:  Yes.

BR:  No, no.  Vinnie Utz ... became a coach, but most of the guys-- I don't think ... there was a baseball player that was recruited out of there.  Ozzie Day, [class of] '42, pitched for Rutgers.

KP:  Out of Savage?

BR:  Out of Rutgers. ... Savage, ... first of all they did not have any interscholastic activity.  It was strictly and in-school kind of thing. ... Their modus operandi was mainly on their curriculum they dealt with that.  They had a lot of demonstrations.  The only thing that they would have once a year was an open house where people came and we had ... work on different routines, acrobatic routines, gymnastics, etc.  The glamour ... of athletic activity in those was very small.  Rutgers had 1500 students.  There wasn't a lot of people.  In some things we did well.  We were very good ... in rowing, but other than that they were a good quality college that we derived a great deal from.

KP:  Now you transferred from Savage to Rutgers?

BR:  Yes.

KP:  So you knew you wanted to major in health and physical education.  What did you see the differences between Savage and Rutgers?

BR:  Not that much. ... They had ... good teachers and professors in both schools.  We had a good professor in George Dochat, you ever hear of him?

KP:  No, I haven't.

BR:  Dochat, George Dochat.  This man was a fantastic athlete, and by athletics I don't mean the popular sports.  I mean he was a great diver.  He was a great gymnast, and he ... did very well.  He was a very popular at the time.  We had a couple of other people along-- ... most of the stuff that I took ... at Rutgers went into the administrative end of physical education.  They did do individual sports where they, for instance, ... the elementary things about basketball and other ... sports where we had the coach teach ... a course.  But .... the administration sports, old Mr. Rockafeller.  Remember a fellow named Rockafeller?

BR:  What a character he was.

KP:  Harry Rockafeller.

BR:  Harry Rockafeller, he ... taught some classes and with several other members of the staff.  Everybody ... in the department gave courses ...

KP:  What about George Little?

...

BR:  ... George Little?

KP:  The coach of the football team.  Did you ever have a course with him?

BR:  Yeah, ... he taught administration of athletics. ...

KP:  So you knew that you were going to go into administration and this was very helpful?

BR:  I wanted to go in that direction.

KP:  Yeah.

BR:  Yeah, actually I never taught [full-time].  I taught in the schools, but only in a substitute category.  I went from there ... right into the war and three years later, ... when I came out I got a job with New York City. ... They put me in a high school  and I was teaching veterans, elementary grades.

KP:  Elementary grades, ... what happened?

BR:  These were veterans who never finished elementary school.

KP:  And, so some of them were even combat veterans?

BR:  ... They were ... doing it on the G.I. Bill.  A lot of them were foreigners.  A lot of them were-- I had some Orientals.  I had a Turk.  They were in the military service, came out with a G.I. Bill and they were taught. ... In ... one semester, I was able to move them to graduation. ...

KP:  So you taught all the basic subjects?

BR:  All the basics of the three "R's".  I separated them in the classroom, and I'd work with one group and ... the other would be studying, and I would come into the other group and keep going back and forth like this all the time, and I did this at day school and night school, I had two different classes so ... like a country school.

KP:  How long did you do this?

BR:  One term. {six months}

KP:  One semester.

BR:  Then what happened was that ... when I was there during the day I used to meet the members of ... the high school faculty. Two teachers ... were teaching high school, who were [there] ... when I was a student at New Utrecht. ... One day one of them says to me, ... "Look," he says, "what do you want to fool around with this?"  He says, ..."Me, I'm too old," he says, "why don't you go out and get yourself a job in the Jewish Community Centers." I said, "Really, what's that about?"  He says, "Oh, they have Jewish Community Centers all around the country."  And, I say, "Where do you do all this?"   And he says, "You go to the Jewish Welfare Board."  And so I did, I applied and the first place I got picked up was Akron, Ohio and that's where I met my wife.

KP:  So you might well have just stayed in the public school system if it hadn't been for this teacher?

BR:  Well, yes and no.  It would of depended on where ... you were sent.  Because I never .... plan too much ahead. ... I didn't like working in a school, because you have ... a syllabus to follow and curriculum to go by. ... It didn't make sense to me.  In a JCC you had ... your own program, your own facilities.  You did the things that you thought people wanted to do and could put good program together along with it, as a result that seemed a lot more inviting to me.

KP:  So in a sense you were looking for opportunity, but you might not ...

BR:  You were responsible on the administrative end of it, too.  Since you put the program together, you discuss it with your boss.  He had the last say.  I spent about nine years there and then we moved to the Jewish Community Center in Baltimore.  I stayed about eight or nine years there.  I went into city service in 1967, and I became Assistant Executive Director at the Civic Center here, which is like the Madison Square Garden of Baltimore.  And after ... eight or nine years there, I was shifted over to the stadium, the Memorial Stadium and I was manager of the stadium. ... I ran that for a while, and was credited for about nineteen years of service doing that.  And I got out in 1984 and I have been a happy retiree every since.

KP:  Did your career turn out in terms of athletics the way you wanted it?

BR:  ... Yeah, I still officiate today, I officiate in swimming and track.  Nothing ... steady, and I enjoy that.  I'm still around a lot of kids, you know. ...

KP:  If the war hadn't come around, do you think you would have gone into the public schools?

BR:  Probably, probably. ... I would have explored it and ... you know and may not have been a New York City school, but it might have been somewhere out of town. ... For instance, ... in my senior year I did some student teaching at ... South River, New Jersey.

KP:  Oh!  Yes.

BR:  ... Practice[d] teaching [for] about a semester, and I enjoyed that.  That was good.  Now I wanted to get into a ... smaller locale, New York City was just too, too overwhelming for me anyway.

KP:  You very much enjoyed being out at Akron?  At the Jewish Center in Akron?

BR:  Yes.

KP:  The size of the community was more manageable?

BR:  Yes, I enjoyed that. ... When you talk ... about a city like that, your talking approximately 6[000] to 8000 Jewish population.  And for them to have a building, you got to know ... everyone. ...  We were able to identify with [the community with] ... very little trouble.  You were a big fish in a small pond and the difference was when you came here and you were dealing with a population of 100,[000] to 200,000 thousand people. ... You identified with a lot of people who came, but this is ... a lot ... bigger community than what I saw in Akron.  But after a while I was glad to get out of it because it ... kind of narrows down ... a lot of things that you think about.  I was glad I went to work for the city, because then you ... got to deal with so many more people different segments of the population. ...

KP:  So, you have enjoyed-- you have seen different aspects of the ...

BR:  Yes.  I'm ... [that] kind of a guy.  That's why I like traveling so much because with traveling I ... get to see the rest of the world. ... For instance, I have never been to Kansas City and I think that if I went to Kansas City I would enjoy it.  Just like I [had] never been to Prague, we went to Prague.  We enjoyed it. I want to see how the whole world lives.  That's the important thing and to see something like that.  It's a broadening experience.

KP:  Before you had gone ... to Rutgers had you done any traveling while growing up?

BR:  Brooklyn to the Bronx.

KP:  ... The first time you traveled was when you joined the Navy?

BR:  Yes. ... No, in those days who traveled?  They had me working in the store. (laughter)

KP:  So you [had] never been ... much out of the sight of New York City?

BR:  Rarely.  I remember when I was a kid my father sent me to a fresh air camp in Rockaway Beach, you know.  You know how long I stayed there?  Three days, until he came to get me.  (laughter)

KP:  You didn't like that?

BR:  (laughter) I didn't like that at all.  You know why?  They served farina and I hate farina.  Every morning they'd give you farina and the counselor says, "Eat it, eat it."  I solved his problem real quick.  He didn't have to fight like that every day. (laughter)

KP:  When you were at Rutgers you commuted into New York on weekends to work?

BR:  Yes.

KP:  Did you feel you were missing out on something in terms of college life or ...?

BR:  No, ... college life was good, you know. ... I knew ... where I stood and I had a pretty good ... handle on what was good and what was bad.  I felt that ... there were things that I would have liked to have gone to.  I enjoyed a good football game on Saturday afternoon.  I used to work at that as an usher ... and ... you know, if I went home that night, it was all right. ... Because a lot ... of things that I saw at Rutgers, I saw in New York.

KP:  Yes.

BR:  New York has got it all.

KP:  Oh, no that's right...

------------------------------ End of Side One, Tape One ------------------------

KP:  Do you wish you had joined a fraternity?

BR:  Well, I had funny ideas about fraternities.  The one thing I objected to in a fraternity was ... the hazing and junk that went with it.  That was one of the things that I remember writing essays about. ...

KP:  But some of them were very harsh?

BR:  They certainly were, and ... I always ... look at them with the premise of ... why ... does a freshman have to ... qualify by hazing him, in order to join a fraternity.   ... It used to happen where it was done in fun, but after while it was not fun anymore.

KP:  No, I have heard some of the initiations were very brutal.

BR:  I used to take those initiations-- I remember reading-- about some of those initiations where they'd take one kid ... blindfolded, out to a main traffic square put him in the middle of the street and say you stay there, in five minutes you could take ... [the] thing off and he'd stand out there and all of a  sudden cars [were] going in every direction.  You could get killed doing things like that.  To me, I ... saw no ... percentage in that.  I found that I got along very well with ... people on my own basis, you know.  There were things that I wanted to do and fraternity life, I used to visit the fraternities to see a particular individual.  But nothing [I saw]-- ... I used to ... come in and see a nice place and so forth and walk out.  It was never any ... big deal.  I didn't think that I needed some of the benefits that ... fraternities offered, you know.  I had a place to eat and a place to sleep.  I did very well where I was staying. (laughter)

KP:  So, you enjoyed your room over the luncheonette?

BR:  Yes, I had a room over the luncheonette, (laughter) and eating down there, I forget what her name was ... I remember her face ... just as clear as day but I forget her name.  Friedman or something like that.  She mothered us.

KP:  This is the woman who you rented your room [from]?

BR:  This is the woman that ... had the luncheonette, and she had the rooms upstairs.  (laughter).  Well, she used to get 50, 60 bucks a week from all the students, and that's not bad.

KP:  No, it wasn't.

BR:  In those days it was money, a lot of money.

KP:  She probably has fond memories of ...

BR:  Oh!  Sure.

KP:  ... of the kids coming through.

BR:  ... Every so often a kid would come back and say, "Aah! Mrs. So and So."  "Aah! one of my boys."  You know that was like old home week, but ... I got along well. ...  I enjoyed it.  There was not anything that I felt I was deprived of.  It was college life. ...

KP:  What about dating?

BR:  Dating, I did very little dating. ... I was not a big ... fan, at that time.  Don't forget it was strictly an all male school. ...

KP:  New Jersey College for Women ...

BR:  And you had to go over to Douglass ... to do any dating. And the only guys that did any dating on the campus were the ... agricultural students.  They had classes there.

KP:  So really they were the ones that really made the most of it?

BR:  Sure, those Ag students, used to go there.  What ... did they call it, the Coop?

KP:  Yes.

BR:  Used to call it the Coop, and they used to go over there.  That's where they dated.  Most of those guys married a lot of girls from Douglass.

KP:  I had not realized.

BR:  Yes, sure.

KP:  You were in the Queen's players?

BR:  Yes.

KP:  And how did you enjoy it?

BR:  Very much, very much. ... We happened to get ... a good director at the time.  He came ... from Broadway.  His name, I think, was Ed Golden. ... He put me in the lead of a play that they were having at the ... chapel, you know that old chapel on ....

KP:  Kirkpatrick?

BR:  Yeah, Kirkpatrick and we had that play there and I ... did the lead for that one.  We had about three or four performances and I enjoyed it.  And then later on we played ... one of O'Neill's plays and I played the policeman and ... it was nice I enjoyed that ...

KP:  You enjoyed that?

BR:  I enjoyed dramatics, yeah. ... I've been on and off, I've been in dramatics in high school and college ... wherever ... they could use me. ... Even after I got into the JCC, I got into some of their dramatic groups, Stalag 17 and things like that, I enjoy it.

KP:  Did you ever want to play a sport while you were in college?

BR:  Yeah.  Baseball, didn't last very long. (laughs)

KP:  Did you go to chapel at Rutgers?

BR:  No.

KP:  Did you have any run in's with Dean Metzger over the issue of attending chapel?

BR:  No, it was never an issue. ... I ... think that at that time it was ... strictly a voluntary ... activity and if you were so disposed-- the only time I went to chapel is when they had a meeting, when they called the whole school, the student body in there and that was the only time I went, but other than that never on a Sunday or anything like that, no.

KP:  What about Dean Metzger?  Do you have any memories of Dean Metzger?

BR:  I remember what he looked like.

KP:  I've been told he was a very stern man.

BR:  Aah!  He ... impressed me as-- ... why he was pretty much at the end of his days there.  And he was an old fashioned guy, but yet ... you lived ... with what he said, ... whatever decision he made.  He never showed any ... intolerance from that ... and he never got any back talk from anybody once he made a decision.  He was ... apparently a very wise man.  I never had--... I don't think I spoke two words to him on the campus, so.  But that's the way he impressed me.

KP:  When you were on campus in 1940, 1941, did you think that the United States was going [to] enter the war?

BR: (laughter) Sure.

KP:  Because I remember reading some of the Targum articles of Russ Janoff.  There was a lot of reporting on news.

BR:  Oh, ... it was always there, and it was always imminent, and it was always in the back of everybody's mind, and so when it ... broke out in Pearl Harbor ... we said '42 so long.

KP:  When did you think that the United States was going to go to war, 1940-41 or ...

BR:  ... In those days you ... just never thought too much about it.  You pretty much hoped it would go away. (laughter)

KP:  There are a lot of people I have interviewed who said that they were so busy that they never had time really to read a newspaper.

BR:  That's right.  We ... had school work to do.  We had a lot of classes to go to go to.  We had a lot of papers to write and you know, particularly when you are in a senior class, they assigned these papers to you.  So you know, ... who worries about that.  I used to worry about the "C" Dr. Ellis  gave me for history after I worked my fool head off in the libraries.  Libraries and quotations and the whole thing and ... I said, ... What?  Why the "C"? I said, I did a lot of work on the thing ... Ellis was a very impressive guy.  Ellis was a very quiet spoken individual, but whatever he said were like pearls of wisdom when it came to history.  He came out with facts and ... he lectured like that for hours ... and quiet like he always ... wanted to speak with him, you could generally catch him in the hall and he always had time for you, you know, that kind of a person.  He was most impressive.

KP:  You very much enjoyed the Rutgers faculty?

BR:  Oh yes.

KP:  You found ...

BR:  I tell you one professor gave me ... a fit was Dr. Marden, in sociology.  He used to talk with his hand over his mouth ... (changes tone of voice)  He'd go spinning around in the front of the class and he'd have 70 students in the class. (laughter)  He'd turn around all perturbed and he wouldn't know what he said. ... But that's the way he used to talk, used to talk, "aah, aah mmm, mmm", I'll never forget it.

KP:  Where were you in Pearl Harbor occurred?

BR:  Pearl Harbor.  Pearl Harbor occurred on a Sunday.

KP:  Yes.

BR:  Right.

KP:  So you were ....

BR:  I had just finished work in New York.

KP:  So you'd been up very late?

BR:  No, I didn't get out late.  It was ... an afternoon event, and I was home and I had something to eat and then, ... I said good-bye to my parents and headed to the train, to New Brunswick and ... When I arrived, I came up ... to my room and Sammy Kaufman says to me, "Well get your things on.  Pearl Harbor just happened," and he explained the whole thing to me.  When Pearl happened, I was on the train.

KP:  On the train.  After Pearl Harbor, did you know you would be going off to war?

BR:  Oh, of course.  We were ... all signed up by a draft board.

KP:  So you knew that.  Which branch did you want go into?  Did you want the Navy?

BR:  Navy.

KP:  Why the navy?  Why not the air force or ...?

BR:  I don't know.  You know what ... a white shirt, a neck tie, and a blue uniform.  The Air Force was part of the Army then.

KP:  That appealed to you?

BR:  Appealed to me a lot more than the brown khaki clothing.  I felt I made the right choice.

KP:  You [are] really glad you went into the Navy?

BR:  ... Yes.  If I'm going to get killed, might as well be on the water. (laughter)

KP:  Was the appeal also clean sheets and food?

BR:  Loved that.  ... [On] a lot of the ships-- I was involved with carried army troops. And, when we ... disembarked troops in different ports, I used to watch these men with the packs that they used to carry and inevitability of a roll of toilet paper.  If you touch that toilet paper, you could get your hand cut off.  That's how valuable toilet paper was.  ... [The] navy was a cleaner service.  The marines ... had a lot of navy activity, but ... they were still were basically soldiers. ...

KP:  You were glad to be in the Navy?

BR:  Yes.  Navy all the way.

KP:  When did you report for your first assignment?  How soon after graduation did you report?

BR:  It was September 1942.  I signed up in '42.  Yes, I signed up in the V-7 program in '42, took three months indoctrination ... at Notre Dame University.

KP:  So even though you were signed in '42, you didn't actually report to Notre Dame?

BR:  I reported to Notre Dame, (looks at paper) on September 12, 1942 ... and on January  28, 1943.  I became an ensign.

KP:  So you went in ...

BR:  September 12th, 1942.  That's when I ... reported to Notre Dame and ... we got out the ... 28th of January '43.  That was four months.

KP:  How did you feel about Indiana and Notre Dame?  You had never been far from New York City before this time.

BR:  Oh, I was happy.  I went to a place I had never been before.

KP:  So [you] really enjoyed the whole experience?

BR:  I enjoyed the experience.

KP:  You took the train out and ...

BR:  Yes, I took a train, ... to Notre Dame. ... They herded you around a little bit, but it was not like boot camp. It was a different kind of training altogether. ... They gave you one month as an apprentice seaman.  The next month they made you midshipman, and ... the third month you became an ensign.  We took it [seriously].  We had classes.  We ... did seamanship and leadership.  And we had about three or four [other classes].  You also had the color of Notre Dame activity.

KP:  Yes, but you must've really been thrilled to be at Notre Dame because of football?

BR:  Football and then South Bend was a pretty jolly place on a Saturday night. ... We used to have a good time when we [would] ... go into South Bend.

KP:  So what would you do on an Saturday evening?

BR:  Go to a bar. (laughter) What else?  I mean, you know, these guys, these people that were there were all college graduates.  This wasn't a rah, rah, rah crowd.  Not anymore. They were there for a purpose and when they let loose like that ... that one night.  That was it, and you are back ... to school for the week ...

KP:  In boot camp, how strict was discipline?

BR:  Discipline was tough, ... you ... had to ... toe the mark.  There was a lot of things you had to learn.  You had to learn terminology ... the make up of a ship.  "What is this and what do they call this and why is it this? ... You had to learn to become a sailor and ... though it was far from water ... they could simulate ... a lot of things there.  A lot of us became good sailors.  I did.  I commanded a ship after awhile.

KP:  Before joining the Navy had you ever been on a boat?

BR:  No. ... You were part of a crew ... and had ... different jobs. ... The leadership of men, the various responsibilities ... we learned.  How ... I started out on the first ship I went to as a small boat officer.  We had rocket craft when we went into invasions.  We went ... in [a] small boat, ... a 36 foot boat, filled with rockets.  We went in ahead of the first wave.  We were to knock out whatever was on the beach so that the troops in back of us were able to make the beach with some degree of safety.  And afterwards, we moved back to our assigned ship. ... I was on a troop ... ship, an APA, and they took troops across the ocean and then into an invasion.  From there with ... small troop boats would go in, along side the ship and the troops would go down the cargo nets into the boat.  They were called, LCVPs.  They formed waves and headed to enemy shores.

KP:  So you would be the intermediary?

BR:  No, I wasn't the intermediary. ... What I did, did not involve large numbers of personnel.  We had a crew of five and one officer and we went in and cleared out a beach using these 4.5mm rockets.  Each one had two launchers and we fired as we headed to the beach, after we expended what we had we came back to the ship.

KP:  But you said then another ship you had was a personnel ship, an APA?  How big was the APA?

BR:  An APA was a freighter that carried troops and LCR's (my boat) and LCVP's.  They these were Old Moore-- McCormick freighters, freight ships.  They were huge, 300 to 500 feet long.  They used to carry cargo, you know.  They were cargo ships.  And ... I got switched just prior to the invasion ... to an AKA with my boat and my crew.  I only had five crew men to deal with ... on this boat (LCS).

KP:  On the AKA?

BR:  Yes.  We'd get launched from these ships by large slings that came together. (on a big?)  They hooked on the ring and then pick you up to the main deck.  It was a heavy boat.  All steel ... reinforced, ... steel armored the ship would pick us up crew and all or take you over the side and put you in the water. ...

KP:  You must of had very close calls with this?

BR:  It scares you. ... Have yourself swung out and if you are misguided, you can swing back in and you hit the side of the ship and you can shatter the boat ... You've got to be very careful with ammunition.  On August 6, 1943 after the invasion, we were ordered back to the Thurston and returned to the United States.  Detached from the Thurston took fifteen days (???) in New York City and reported back to Camp Bradford, Virginia, on 22 of August, 1943.  After several movements between AT Bases, we were ordered to LST 263and went overseas in a convoy to Naples in March 1944.  The convoy suffered losses of ships from German sub attacks.  Very large convoy extended over horizon beyond our sight.  Stayed in European Theater when we were detached and ordered to LST 551 and later ordered to Thurston to make Southern France invasion.  After this invasion, we were ordered back to LST 551 from the Thurston.  At this point (1 September, 1944) things happened that I have no record of.  I found myself in Bizerte, Tunisia awaiting transport back to LST 551.  There was no strong recollection of my whereabouts, at this time.  But what must of happened was that I stayed on the Thurston until I went off at Bizerte.  From there I caught the LST 692 and stayed on till 16 October, 1944 and got back on LST 551.

... Our activity from then on found us on the Mediterranean and going up the west coast of Italy on cargo trips.  We handled German prisoners and supplies going north and south until 7 April 1945, when orders came for detachment from LST 551 to return to the United States.  This was just about the time of President Roosevelt's death.  I remember the way this news was treated.  It was a very somber day among the crews and in the ships harbor.  Very little was said.  Flags at half mast and everyone anxious as to who would replace him.  When Truman came to office, his image and show of leadership did not compare with Roosevelt and the pall that fell over most crews was very evident.

... At any rate we got back to Norfolk on 29 April 1945 and on 4 May 1945 ordered to Amphibious Force, Pacific which was based in Honolulu, Hawaii.  After a 30 day leave, we took a train to San Francisco and went aboard a carrier for an overnight trip to Pearl Harbor arrived 25 June 1945.

... We awaited assignment to a ship until August 1945.  Meanwhile, I was promoted to Lieutenant on 23 August 1945.  I was also assigned to the LST 222 in Hawaii.  From there, we set out for Japan with crated "spotter planes" and Marine pilots aboard.  This trip took about a month and after a stop in the Philippines arrived in Sasebo, Japan.  We were the second US warship into a harbor that was surrounded by mountains with only a 400 yard opening to enter it.  About this time we were involved in moving operations ashore and giving crews liberty.

... It was amazing to see the behavior of the Japanese.  Their self discipline after the Emperor told them to stop was incredible.  About this time, the atomic bombs had dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

... I must say had the war continued there would have been a lot of blood spilled from our side as well.  They had set up defenses that were impregnable and we were all glad it was over.

KP:  What was the ship like?

BR:  ... It was a flat bottom with no keel.  They used to roll badly from side to side in bad weather.  But it was like running a big ship, I had 128 men on this vessel along with seven or eight officers and a commanding officer, Executive officer first lieutenant, a supply officer, and an ordnance officer. ... They assigned me different jobs on the ship, ... [I] was a first lieutenant.  The first lieutenant is like a maintenance officer.  He sees that the ship is kept in repair. ... I became executive officer and then commanding officer.

KP:  You look at the Navy as a place to gain a lot of experience you might not have gained in other places?

BR:  Very much so.  It was a great experience.  Then we ... had the ... awesome task of taking over the ship in Japan and I ... ran ... two or three different trips with it.   Then they decided to give the LST's to the Japanese after the war, and I had to decommission our ship.  ... This was done in Yokahoma.  You have to remove all ... the armor, and ordnance, ... and guns.  All armament.  ... The ship starts to lighten.  You [have] a lighter ship and a bad ship stability.  LST's that bounces around like a cork ....  Even the ballast tanks cannot sustain ... [it] enough to keep that ship steady.  You drag anchor at nights.  All of a sudden you are awakened in the middle of the night ...  We are anchored at four o'clock in the morning ... you go up and you take a look.  ... Here comes a  great big ship that's like about three decks higher than us, and we're going right by 'em.  And our anchor is dragging.

KP:  Where were you anchored in Japan?

BR:  Oh, this was in Yokohama. ...  There is another place. ... We decommissioned at Yokohama.  We visited Fokuoka once.  The city was completely leveled.

KP:  So you saw both theaters?

BR:  Both theaters, yes.  Europe and the Pacific Theaters.

KP:  Which ...

BR:  After V-J Day they shipped the whole bunch of us home.

KP:  What did you think of these different people from different parts of the country?

BR:  I loved it, loved it.  These Texans would come in like ... full of spit and vinegar, bragging about Texas, that went along for awhile and they toned down later.

KP:   You seem to have been very impressed by your training.  It sounds like you were a 90-day wonder, who really learned a great deal.

 BR:  We had to.  Well the proof of the pudding was that everyone of us were college graduates.  So particularly if they came from the class of '42, at that time ... their minds were still very agile and were able to absorb whatever else was given to them. ... These fellows ... soaked it up pretty fast. ...

KP:  Did you have a low washout rate?  How many did not make it through training?

BR:  Not many at all.  Washing out was nearly impossible and many times done under protest by the midshipman.

KP:  You don't remember it as very many?

BR:  No, they ... never advertised that.

KP:  And you didn't wake up in the morning and look out at roll call and see faces disappear very often?

BR:  No, no.  We never had that.  We were in one battalion and I don't recall, unless there was something that was so aggravated that we just ... couldn't hold 'em. ... You had to let them go.  But, the wash-out rate couldn't even been measured.  I don't know what happened to some of these people like Bob Sabin, a Rutgers graduate (1942). ...

KP:  So then they grouped you ...

BR:  Alphabetical. ... [I was] with the R's and Bob was with the S's and after graduation I didn't know what became of him. ... Did you ever hear of him?

KP:  No, I have not.  I  will have to look him up to see what happened to him.

BR:  There was a guy named John F. Crane that was with us, as well as C. D.B. Schimmel ('37) ...

KP:  John Crane, Judge Crane, I think ....

BR:  Let me see that coxswain  [Looks at V-7 Yearbook from Notre Dame]. ... Boy the schools these guys went to, Jesus, I don't think we missed one.  Here's one here, Rutgers '41.

KP:  1941.

BR:  Yeah.

KP:  Richard G. Kedersha ('41).  Did you get to know any of the Rutgers people?  While at Notre Dame?

BR:  Not at all.  You stayed with people around you.

KP:  Where you would hang out with them on Saturday?  During training did you mainly hang out with people from your battalion?

BR:  Those were who I went out with.  I remember I hooked up with a bunch of Irishmen, you know, McGillicuddy, McGowan and O'Rourke and you know and all them.  And so we all went to Sweeny's bar ... in ... South Bend and we ... just had a good time.  You know everybody drank a little bit.  They were beer drinkers that couldn't afford anything more than that.  And well ... we just had a good time with them and we wandered home after a certain hour and we were glad to get home and go to sleep, because most of us had to get ... up very early ... in the morning particularly during the week.  On Sundays, they let you sleep until 8 o'clock.  You know that was a luxury. ... [Points to Yearbook] Here is another guy ... Robert Luehman, East Orange, New Jersey, Rutgers '40, Class of '40.

KP:  1940, yes.

BR:  ... It was all in good fun and usually ... we'd get to Sweeny's ...after a Notre Dame game.

KP:  So you got to see Big Ten football?

BR:  ... Yes.

KP:  So that must of been a big highlight, something you dreamed about as a child?

BR:  Absolutely. I remember losing a wad of money by betting against Notre Dame.  I said to myself, never again.  I will always go [Notre Dame]. ... Here is Peatro V. Marchetti, Marchetti, ...

KP:  Rutgers 1941.

BR:  Richmond, Virginia, Rutgers '41.  We had eight guys in here, which is not bad.  ... We never got together as members of the alumni.

KP:  The Rutgers alumni?

BR:  No.

KP:  But would you see each other and recognize each other?

BR:  No, no.  Sabin was the only one I knew, because ... he was close to my billet.  I'd see him quite often.

KP:  Yes.

BR:  But ... these other guys that were A's and C's and B's and D's they were the first battalion.  You never knew them.  Schimmel, this guy Schimmel class of '37 he was in here, you know. ... I remember him quite a bit, because he ... brought out the fact.  "Oh, are you from Rutgers?"  And this was from the first day.  I said, "Yeah."  He said, "I'm from Rutgers too." I said, "Really, so what class were you in?"  He said " '37." I said, "37."  "Holy smoke, what are you doing here?"  ... But he ... came and he was there.   We had a lot of these people in there.  Did you see Schimmel?  ... I don't think he is alive.

KP:  No, I haven't interviewed him yet.

BR:  ... [Flips pages in book] Schimmel, Schimmel where are you?  Schimmel ... he was in the third battalion.  He was still in it with us.  Sadler, yeah, where are you Schimmel? ...

KP:  Maybe he is S-h...?

BR:  Here he is S-C-H, Short Hills New Jersey.

KP:  ... D.B. Schimmel ....

BR:  ... Short Hills, New Jersey...

KP:  S-c-h-i-m-m-e-l.

BR:  ... I don't think he is alive anymore, frankly.  '37 that means he was four years ... ahead of us.

KP:  Yes.

BR:  And he was in that class.  That's something ...

KP:  When you were in training, what type of ship did you envision being assigned to?   Did you want to be on a battleship, a cruiser, or destroyer?

BR:  It really didn't matter because in those days we were at the Navy's disposition.   You knew you [were] going to a ship, but you later learned that the best place to be was where you went.  In other words, when I was on an LST most of us were 90-day wonders including the CO's.  So these people, ... had a kind of a camaraderie that you just didn't get ... on a larger ships.  If you got on battleships, ...  battleships will kill you.  Because most of them are flagships, and a flagship means that ... there's an admiral aboard with about ten officers, beside the ship's captain.  ... And you walk around like a ... scared jackal ... You also had the problem of ... the boys with the ring. {Annapolis graduates}

KP:  Yes, other people I have interviewed have noted the brass ring worn by Annapolis graduates.

BR:  That's right. ... They were a different breed altogether and I've often ... heard stories about some of these guys.  They're suppose to be ... hard and tough as nails and perhaps they were because they did give them a different kind of training than what we had ...

KP:  But, you said the Annapolis people were what you expected them to be.

BR:  Yes.

KP:  They were in fact tough?

BR:  Yes, ... they were tough guys.  Of course, they came out of Annapolis with ... good mental and physical ability. ... They were assigned to cruisers, battleships, and destroyers.  You never saw them in the Amphibious Navy. ... Where we were assigned was in the Amphibious Force.  We knew there was a ship and there was water underneath it (laughter) ...

KP:  But after that ...

BR:  But after that, ... you learn from experience. ... Even though ... whatever training you had at midshipman school the only affect ... that [it] had was that you knew that the left side was port and the right side was starboard-- but the toilet-- and that ... the head was not the captain's office.  You know what I mean?

KP:  Yes.

BR:  ... These are the kinds of things that you learned.

KP:  Now you mentioned that the Navy sent you to a lot of different places because they didn't know what to do with you. After you graduated from Notre Dame, where did most people go?

BR:  A lot of us went to amphibious force because that was the time that they were getting ready for invasion.  We were beyond the North African campaign that had already been done.  They were preparing at that time a series of invasions that just had to be done and so you know that's a tremendous coordinating exercise where ... the Navy has to do its job putting together groups of boats and ships and its coordination.  The Army had to put together their units to coordinate with Naval support.  It was a tremendous logistical effort. ...

KP:  Even at the time, even despite being ....

BR:  Yes.  Oh, ... the training we used to get.  When we were on this APA, ... we had people aboard that were ex-Merchant Marine sailors.  They ran these ships in peace-time ... They knew their ... business.  They knew navigation.  They knew ... how to work with vectors. ... They had practical training ... like one person I remember was a navigator on this ship.  He was miserable personally, but he knew his stuff.  And he'd take us out in a small boat and ... he'd teach us the stars. ... An engineer [who] came out of the Merchant Marine ... knew ... his engines down below.  People like that, were a tremendous support to a lot of us.

KP:  So when you were first on ships, you felt that you had a lot to learn?

BR:  We were absolute neophytes.

KP:  How long were you in amphibious training in Norfolk?  How many months did it take?

BR:  ... We went down there ... from Notre Dame. ... And then from ... [Norfolk], we had ... different places that they sent us, but they weren't sure how they were going to use us.  So we knew that the first place that they sent us after Norfolk was maybe a couple weeks or maybe a month, then they put us all together and sent us up to Solomons, Maryland.  Solomons was to be for LST training...

KP:  Yes.

BR:  ... but they never had any LST's to train on.  And so we went to classes to try to assimilate material that had little to do with the practical training on the LSTP.

KP:  What was there to do?

BR:  After a month, ... we were sent to Little Creek, Virginia.   For small boat training.  They were ... the actual invasion boats going in. ... We'd form waves of boats at sea ... in the deep at night.  Very miserable out there.  This was winter-time ... when we are doing this.  We would practice going beaching, then coming off the beach, going out again, falling in again, back into the beach again.  We kept it up all night ...

KP:  When you were training with-- did you already have a crew?

BR:  No.

KP:  Where did you get the ...

BR:  ... No, when we were with LCVP's, we must of had about three or four boats under our supervision and I'd be on one of them, and the other two had the crews along with this crew.  So you know, I'd have responsibility for these people in seeing that they were doing as assigned.  But then ... later they developed this LCS boat which was ... the rocket craft.  [It] was a different kind of a boat in that it was designed for this purpose.  We had ... two launchers on either side of the boat.  We had about five or six crew plus an officer on each boat.  We trained there, firing, getting some ideas to just how far these things operated.

------------------------------ End of Side Two, Tape One --------------------------------------------

KP:  This continues an interview with Benjamin B. Roth on November 4, 1994 with Kurt Piehler at Baltimore, Maryland.  You were saying in terms of your training that you learned how to operate several different crafts ... and that they were preparing for a cross Channel invasion...

BR:  Yes.

KP:  ... But, they were not quite ready for it yet.  When did you finally get your permanent assignment?

BR:  Never.  Never had a permanent assignment until we got on an LST, I was part of ship's company. ... The only LST that I was ship's company on was the LST 222 which was the one in Japan that we decommissioned.

KP:  Could ...

BR:  ... [In Japan] I was ordered as ... commanding officer, of LST 222. ... What normally happens is assign you to the ship, place you aboard as filling a billet on the ship.  So you're part of the crew.  ...The ... present CO would recommend you the job.

KP:  A number of the people I have interviewed after their training stayed on one ship for the duration of the war.  You never had that ...

BR:  No. (laughs)

KP:  Permanent?

BR:  Oh, no.  Until the LST 222 until she was decommissioned.  ... I was looking some of the records I've kept. ... There was a summary sheet [that] somebody did on me.  It filled the sheet.  ... It was a tremendous amount of movement.

KP:  Was that common for people in your training class?

BR:  Yes, .. and particularly if you were in small boats.  It was common because they needed these people.  The only ones ... that were permanent ship's company were those people that operated the ship.  ...  We were very fluid in other words.  For instance, ... this APA ... carried me across the ocean.  The Thurston ... brought me into the Mediterranean and then for temporary duty they sent me to the Betelguese, the AKA-2.  We made the invasion [and] got back on the AKA-2. ... After the invasion was over, they shifted me, my crew and the boat back to the Thurston.

KP:  When were you assigned a crew?  Did you have a permanent crew that followed you the whole time?

BR:  The same crews came with us.

KP:  So when did your crew join you?  When were you united with a crew?

BR:  ... We were assigned a crew in Camp Bradford and ... worked with the crew for a while.  But that didn't mean that they all stuck together.  Any illness or indisposition meant replacement.

KP:  So your crew would often be taken apart?

BR:  They'd be taken apart and put together elsewhere.  Because ... they dealt with ... different ratings.  They generally gave us an apprentice seaman, three seaman second class, and a ... motor mechanic, ... (engineer) that knew diesel engines and a coxswain, who knew how to handle the boat, ... an ordnance man sometimes.  But there was only about six people. ... This person was one of five, and he trained with us and he knew his job along with the others.

KP:  So the crew that you trained with in Virginia, how many stayed with you until the end of the war?

BR:  None of them, none of them.  They went elsewhere.  They went [to] different places.

KP:  Your first crew, where were they from and what were there backgrounds?  So you didn't really get to know them?

BR:  No, no. ... You saw them everyday and ... you spent time with them.  But you ... never got that close to them. ... These were regular enlisted and ... you dealt with them as people who had to work for you.  So that you got [to] ... know all about them.  ... You would [know about] their problems and sympathize, but you were the boss.  Getting too close did not encourage effectiveness in battle, we were close but to a point.

KP:  So in other words you really kept that officer and enlisted man separation?

BR:  Yes.

KP:  Even when you were very small?

BR:  Yes.

KP:  Small units.

BR:  Yes.  It was ...never to the point ... where you considered it snobbery or anything like that.  These were people and our relationship of was employer-employee.  We were friendly. We would censor all their outgoing letters, and were familiar with all the problems they had. ...

KP:  What were the problems that they ...

BR:  You cannot run a ship as a ... social occasion. ... When your are dealing with a vessel, that vessel is represents your life and survival. ... The people that operate them need to have the discipline to do what they're supposed to do.  Otherwise, you are lost.

KP:  Did you learn this lesson or did you know it from the beginning?

BR:  No, it was very obvious to me.  You watch the way other officers, handle things ....  You also get to realize what kind of organization is involved. ... There was no Bill of Rights here.  The military is a dictatorship and when you're ordered to do something, you better do it.  Everybody did what they were suppose to do.

KP:  Did you have any regular navy people at your training bases?

BR:  Yes. ... The captain, C.O.

KP:  The small craft training centers.  Did you have any regular officers there?

BR:  ... You know who they were?  Chiefs, the chiefs. ... The chiefs were the most experienced boat handlers as well as coxswains. ...

KP:  You had a lot of chiefs thrown in?

BR:  Yes, we had a lot of them. ... They never took advantage of their job to where they would give officer a hard-time.  They'd let you know, very definitely any advice or instruction. ... You dealt with practical kinds of experiences that not many officers get.

KP:  Did you think you were luckier than being in the Army as a second lieutenant?

BR:  Yes.

KP:  Having to really ...

BR:  Absolutely, Oh, yes.

KP:  In other words, while you had a lot to learn it sounds that you had [a] more structured way of learning it, such as how to run a ship ...

BR:  Yes.  You ran the ship, you ran .... most of the things that you learned ... through experiences.  That was the way you learned.

KP:  What were some of the hardest things to learn and what do you have memories of learning?  Any big mistakes?

BR:  ... You start handling the vessel, 328 foot without a rudder or keel.  That's not fun.  Sometimes, you get into situations, where you have to take a LST.  And run it onto a beach and take it off a beach.

KP:  And I've been told that if you don't do it right you are not getting off that beach.

BR:  You ... have to get pulled off.  These ships have a stern anchor.  When we start to the beach, we cast the anchor some distance from the ship.  When coming off the beach you backed off with the ship and the anchor.  ...  I don't recall anytime that an LST went into a beach during an ... big operation.  They were designed for that.  But they were used to unload cargo.   In  Sicily ... they used small boats (LCVP's) and they came up on the beach and as the tide went out, they were all stranded on the beach, hundreds and hundreds of boats.  Their assignment dealt with delivery of troops.

KP:  After you finished your amphibious training and your small boat training, where was your first assignment?  When did you finally get overseas?  In your pre-interview survey you mentioned convoy duty.

BR:  Yes.

KP:  Was that your first assignment?

BR:  No, that's not an assignment.  All ships were assigned to the convoy, but ... they were merely ships that were operated by the Navy so they were considered cover for the rest of the convoy, ... for the merchant ships.  We used to have fantastic size convoys. These ships use to spread 50 miles ... and sometimes it just didn't have the little ships to cover all this.  And there was one time ... we got into a thing with the German subs and then it was very easy to ... get into a convoy when you are spread out that far, you know, and they just knocked out five or ... six merchant ships.  This occurred in March 1944.

KP:  So when you were on the convoy, what type of ship were you assigned to?

BR:  LST 263.

KP:  And that was your first assignment?  Or did you do a beach landing?

BR:  ... I did the Sicily invasion.  We didn't go into the beach. We came close to the beach, ... fired our rockets and came on out.  And we did the same thing up in southern France.  They were useful.  The boats that we were on ... were to clear the enemy off the beach.  This was a risky situation ... coming in before the first wave.  {This took place on June 7, 1943.}

KP:  I just wanted to get a sense of the chronology.  Earlier, you mentioned your first assignment was to small rocket boats.

BR:  LCS, yes.

KP:  The LCS.  Was that your first battle-front experience?

BR:  Yes.

KP:  Or was it the convoys?

BR:  No, ... the convoys were the manner how ships reached the European Theater.

KP:  You were headed in that direction.  Yes, so you were ...

BR:  So, ...they said while you're on your way, you ... do convoy duty, protect other ships in [your] convoy.  If you can, our armament was not extensive, so defense against subs was impossible under water.

KP:  Now when you were on board the LST what position did you hold?  Were you an ensign?

BR:  I was an ensign.  When you are at sea, there isn't too much you can do.  You're assigned to watch duty- handling the ship underway.

KP:  So you did deck watches aboard your LST going over?

BR:  Yes, going over. ... Anytime the LST was under way there was ... watch assignments.  Officers and crew members took four hour watches. ... The ship was underway, and the captain was trying to sleep, as well as everybody else.  Those awake were me- a quartermaster and a signalman. ... Once in a while, ... if they had enough officers, ... they'd assign ... another officer to the watch.  The watch moved faster.

KP:  So your first assignment was as a deck officer?

BR:  Yes.

KP:  When did [you] leave for North Africa and Europe?

BR:  May 1943.

KP:  Was it sometime in 1943?

BR:  We were assigned to the USS Thurston in May 1943.  The ship was readying itself for going to North Africa.  After the crossing, we trained for invasion of Sicily.   My boat crew and boat and myself temporarily transferred to [the] USS Betelguese, an AKA and on 28 June, 1943 invaded Sicily with thousands of others.  After three days, we transferred back to the Thurston and returned to the United States.

KP:  So in other words you went to Europe, but then you came back to the USA?

BR:  Yes, after Sicily.

KP:  After Sicily.

BR:  I came back with the Thurston and, after thirty days leave, they sent me to ... Camp Bradford, Virginia.  [Points to paper]  ... Here are the crews that were put together.  My crew is in here somewhere.  ... My ship was one of two ships that went back to the states.  The other guys went on to the Salerno invasion.  ... Camp Bradford and task force 85. Here, ... when you are hereby detached from duty on board the Thurston-- this was August 6, 1943.

KP:  '43.

BR:  ... 1943, so it was prior to that. ... We did this invasion ... the ... beginning of August and as soon as we got all done. ...

KP:  Back you went.

BR:  Back we went.  Oh, it was great.  On ... July the 12th ... we went to the Thurston, see, these five guys.

KP:  Were these your men?

BR:  ... And this was to me.  I was ordered to the Thurston. ...

KP:  July 12, 1943

BR:  '43, yes.  See this is-- [Reads document] and now here one day ... coming take charge of the following enlisted men precede immediately by ships boat to USS Betelguese and report to the commanding officer.  This was just prior ...

KP:  Prior to the invasion.

BR:  Yes.  June the 6th 1943 ... this was before the  invasion, just before the invasion.  ... We went to the Betelguese and we got off afterwards ... went back to the Thurston.  They said, I went to U.S. Naval Aircraft Gunnery School, Dam Neck, Virginia, and I don't ever remember this.  I don't remember doing this. ...

KP:  So you remember World War II as a lot of shifting assignments?

BR:  For the most part.

KP:  For a lot of people in the Navy, they talk about staying on one boat for the rest of the war.  They got on ...

BR:  Being a boat officer, you never felt as part of [the] ship'd company. ... We were moved from one place to another until I was out in the Pacific and assigned to the 222.  That was the first time I felt part of ship's company. ... Then the same thing ... ashore.  [We] shifted between Solomon's, and Little Creek and Camp Bradford. ...

KP:  You had mentioned the first time that [you] had crossed the Atlantic that you were on a convoy and several ships were sunk.

BR:  Yes.

KP:  Was that your first contact with the enemy?

BR:  Indirectly.  The first contact with the enemy was when we did the invasion into Sicily.  ... The convoy was the second time going across the ocean ...

KP:  Did you actually have ...

BR:  But ... the second convoy ... is the one that ...

KP:  That you really ...

BR:  Really caught it, yes.

KP:  Were you on deck when the submarines started attacking?

BR:  We didn't see it, because it [was] over the horizon.  But we did see the explosive light up the night sky. ... Over the horizon you could see the ... flashes.  The flames and all of that.  All you saw was the shine up into the sky.  It was pitch black.

KP:  And when the attack came, I have often been told ... that the convoy would just keep moving in the event that a submarine torpedoed a ship.

BR:  True, we were moving all the time.

KP:  Did your ship have any depth charges?

BR:  No. ... We were the last ship ... on each aisle. ... They put an LST at the back of line of ships. ... They had a convoy in mind that ... may have been five or six ships long and an LST was in back of it.  We were the last ship.  But ... we never had ... a problem with that.  The only time ... we really got pasted, and this was very funny, was up in Anzio.  We were running a lot of materials, men and supplies from Naples up to Anzio, to the Anzio beachhead.  And each night, we'd come in, dock the ship.  They'd take off what they had to and we'd stay there.  So one night, when ... I had the watch, ... I got off where the watch was stationed. ... And walked forward to the ship's bow.  I heard some buzzing above us, ... just buzzing around, a couple of German planes, and they determined that there was a ship parked in there.  They went to work on us.  They started dropping some bombs.  Meanwhile, I'm down there forward and the only way ... I called general quarters and went back where I was originally.  I get half the way down and the first one comes down-- right close by.  I'm running like hell, and I'm hollering, "Sound general quarters.  Sound general quarters!"  Well everybody turns out pretty fast when that happens, we got our guns going.  No damage to the ship and no casualties.

KP:  That was your close call with ...

BR:  That was a close call. ... We started shooting, ... When you're off-duty like that ... you gotta get your ammunition.  You gotta get it into the gun and all that.  And they finally got some guns going, ... went after these people.  They couldn't hit anything.  Of course, they couldn't see them. ... But ... they took off.  The Germans at that ... time were pretty well decimated. ... I mean, two planes can cause a lot of trouble, just like we had one plane that used to come into the theater when ... we were unloading Sicily and ... going in there.  ... And this guy would come in right-- daylight ... he'd come in.  He'd buzz off.  And just his presence, people would open fire on this guy like God!! ... They must've wasted a million dollars just shooting-- shooting this thing out of the sky.  Never came close to him, never came close to him!  He'd come back in two, three days.  Never came close to him.  But, they did one night. ... It was broadcast to every ship that was in the Sicily area, and this was, Oh I'd say 60, 80 ships there, war ships as well as freighters ... Everybody was notified that there was a lot of American airplanes coming in loaded with troops coming into Sicily.  When it came the time, ... didn't mean a thing to them.  They opened up fire on those planes and knocked out, I would say 15, 20, 25 of those planes.  125 planes loaded with personnel, ... that's how ... touchy these people were, you know, itchy, itchy, itchy fingers.

KP:  So you were there during this incident of friendly fire?

BR:  Yes! ... People were hollering cease fire, cease fire, cease fire!  Didn't mean a thing to these people.  You know, you had people, for instance, that were not on the [large] ship[s], but they were on small ships and were never in such a threatening situation.

KP:  Who were firing?

BR:  All the small craft in the area.  The small boats had 30 plus 50 caliber machine guns.  They were firing up in the air. ... It was ... sad, that was one sad, sad time.  But ... other than that ... we never got into ... too many sticky affairs.

KP:  But you were on a rocket boat?

BR:  Yes.

KP:  In the invasion of Sicily?

BR:  Yes.

KP:  So what happened to you that day, when the invasion took place?

BR:  Well, we did what we had to do.  And once we got out of there, ... returned to the ship. ... They lifted us all out of the water, boat and all, [and] put us on a boat cradle ...

KP:  So before the invasion you went in close to the beach and ...

BR:  Yes.

KP:  Now this is before the first wave had landed?

BR:  ... [Yes.]

KP:  So what time of the morning was it roughly?  Was it?

BR:  About four o'clock in the morning. ... I have the Sicily invasion plan and I'll send it to you.

KP:  So you came there, and did you experience any fire?

BR:  No, we were very fortunate.  Actually in Sicily ... we didn't know what they had on the beach. ... So we went in, and the beach was deserted.  There wasn't a soul on that beach.

KP:  So you shot your rockets?

BR:  We shot what we had to shoot. ... We had more of a problem with weather in the Mediterranean operation in that Sicily invasion.  And this is very unusual because the Mediterranean is usually a very placid sea, and you don't get too much weather problems.  The day before the invasion-- the weather kicked up like you couldn't imagine, and it was high winds ... a bad day.  It was a sunny day, but the winds which blew waters to where ships were affected ... And we were on the Betelguese.  This was a merchant vessel and rolling like you wouldn't believe with a keel and everything else, O.K.  And I remember-- ... here we are during the day and we knew that night we were preparing to invade.  I was concerned about getting my boat and crew off safely, so that we could go out and do battle.

KP:  You were going to be?

BR:  We were aboard ... trying to sleep. ... No way!  Well finally after rolling around the bed for a couple hours ... I got out of bed and I put some clothes on and went up to see the navigator.  I said, "I got get off in this boat."  He says, "Well, by nightfall," he says "Wind ... ought to quit."  He says, "Once we get in the lee of the land," ... "it won't roll so bad."  ... He was right, he picked it up.  In southern France we had no such problem, we went up did it.  We saw some ... enemy firing off to one side and went over and threw [a] couple in on them and that was the end of it, you know, no problem.

KP:  So the two beach landings you did you really didn't encounter much hostile firing?

BR:  No.

KP:  Especially in Sicily, but your close call came in Anzio bringing in supplies after an invasion?

BR:  Yeah, that was closer than the two invasions.

KP:  And ... when you were off Anzio, were you aboard an LST?

BR:  Yeah, I was on an LST then.

KP:  Your ships changed so many times?

BR:  No, at this time, we stayed on the same ship.  Changes are made for Special Operation only.  You are on board these ships ... even though you are a small boat officer, you're still part of ship's company.  They make you part of [the] ship's crew.

KP:  So you end up doing the watch?

BR:  ... Deck watch and everything else. ... When you're off-duty, you're supposed to work with your boat, keep it clean, ... and see that the engine works.  Test the engine every so often. ....

KP:  So you really had two jobs?

BR:  Yes.

KP:  You had the ships duties as well as boat duties.

BR:  Yes.

KP:  And a small boat?

BR:  And a small boat.  That small boat was your life.

KP:  Would you keep the same small boat or would it be shifted from ship to ship?

BR:  Same boat.  There weren't many boats of this kind in the area.  One to each LST.

KP:  So then you stayed with your small boat? ...

BR:  No, ... you stayed with the ship. ... The crew was acclimated to the use of that boat. ... We knew how to handle it and most of the crew were experienced with them.  It was a nice boat. ...  They armored the boat, and heavy, but we liked it.

KP:  Now when you were in the Mediterranean did you get off the boat in Sicily for any shore leave?

 BR:  Not then-- later our LST lost a bow door and needed repair.  So we went to Palermo for this.  We went to visit the area, at that time.

KP:  Or in any others ports of the Mediterranean ...

BR:  Well ... we visited Naples, Pompei, [and] Capri.

KP:  Any other ports?

BR:  We were in North Africa.  We were in Bezerte, and visited Algiers and we were in-- ... three ports: Algiers, Bezerte and Tunis. ... They'd get a fortune for them!

KP:  I was also told there was a lot of trading in the navy.  I also was told that the Navy had a lot to trade with the army?

BR:  No, because ... the army was in on most land operations and ... they had some captured equipment from the enemy.  Very little trading was done.

KP:  Although I have been told that the navy had a lot of the good food to trade for and that some people in the Pacific, ... for a few steaks they could have a jeep.

BR:  (laughs)  I remember some ships that had their own jeep. They use to park that thing in the back.  One time we tried to get hold of a jeep and we brought it into the tank deck and we parked it in there and we put tarps all over it.  And they came after it the next morning. (laughs)  Yes.  Oh a jeep was a handy thing to have.

KP:  A lot of people in the Pacific describe how they bought jeeps during the war and then had to find ways of disposing them after the war.  One individual described having to sink a jeep because he did not have a receipt.

BR:  ... That's right.  They did ... a lot of goofy things.

KP:  Did you find these ports in North Africa very exotic or were they just over run with Americans?

BR:  In Africa.  No. ... I never got into that. ... Bezerte was nothing; like a sand spit.  You ... have a few huts. ... Algiers was a fair size city, but again, ... this was a different situation.  These were Arabs that lived there. ... They had ... French troops there, and a couple of nice hotels. ... Besides going into the hotel for a drink and back to the ship, that was it.

KP:  You didn't really do very much else.

BR:  No. ... We went into the casbah ... in Algiers and you don't want to go back to the casbah.  That's the stinkiest place in the world.  They ... have no ... facilities and it's right out in the street.  So, you go in ... maybe ... one flight of steps, that's it. You don't want to smell anymore of that. ... What you saw in the movies looked a lot better.  The movie "Casbah", with Hedy La Marr and Charles Boyer, smelled much better in the movie house.

KP:  Were you somewhat disappointed in terms of what the movies had depicted?

BR:  ... Just surprised.  Charles Boyer wasn't there and neither was Hedy La Marr.  You don't remember that, huh?  What was her [name]?  The picture was made in Hollywood.

BR:  I was in the casbah. ... We went to a casbah in Morocco, didn't smell so bad.

Betty Roth:  Didn't?

BR:  You weren't in the one in Algiers!

KP:  Then you meant ...

BR:  Probably smells the same today.  If you want to just smell something good.

KP:  ... You mentioned that men going on shore leave in North Africa ... stole sheets from the vessel.  Did they get into any trouble?

BR:  I suppose they did.

KP:  But you didn't have any problems?

BR:  I had no problems with it.  But I heard that this was happening. ... None of my people or anyone around me were involved.

KP:  Was charged with it?

BR:  I don't know.  It was a rumor.

KP:  What about in Italy and southern France, did you get ashore?

BR:  Italy was a very interesting place.  We stayed around southern Italy and we got to visit ... a large part of that area.  We went to Capri, just beautiful.  We went to Vesuvius, ... Pompeii.  ... That was an interesting place to visit.  Naples itself, you know, such as it was...

KP:  Italy was very poor and very devastated by the war.  What were your impressions?

BR:  Yes.  They were fine ... I've dealt with Italians all my life. ... At home, I used to pal with them, one way or another.  We played football together.  ... I've always regarded them ... as nice people, simple, open, and frank. ... They tell it like it is, and ... they enjoy life in their own way, regardless of whatever circumstances they're in.

KP:  You enjoyed being in Italy.

BR:  Yes.

KP:  There is a lot you enjoyed in Italy while you were on leave?

BR:  Oh! ... Italy, is a great place.  We went to Rome.  We were in ... Leghorn, Italy.  We were in Anzio, in Attuno, which was part of Anzio. ... We used to carry back equipment ... [to] a port north of Naples that was a supply distributing center.  The Americans ran it, a port called Nisida, and the LST's used to come in unload and reload up and they would take it to Anzio.  There were ... these was mountains and there were Germans, ... Cassino was under siege at that time.  We use to go up every night and as we passed Cassino, it was like daylight.  There were fighting intensively.

KP:  So you would be in the area of the fighting?

BR:  No, we were out to sea...

KP:  Yeah.

BR:  But we could see from the sea.

KP:  That's how much fighting was going on?

BR:  Yeah, we saw where we were ... sailing parallel to Italy and Casino.  ... [The Americans] lost a lot of people ... in those battles.

KP:  I know, it was rather costly there.

BR:  But anyway, ... We'd go up to Anzio, unload, reload what they had to ship and leave that night.  Anzio was as far north as we could go. ... So ... when we broke out of there, ...  the Army chased the Germans further north.  We were able to go up to Civitavecchia, which is the port for Rome, and we started taking troops and men ... north ...  As the Army kept going north and chased the Germans out of Italy, we went into Leghorn.  Then from Leghorn, ... once ... the Italians helped chase ... the Germans out ... Italy was secure.  So we started going up to Marseilles.  And Marseilles was ... [a] real city that was something.  But we'd go in there every night and before that we'd have to go through a rough body of water that use to give us a fit.

------------------------------- End of Side One, Tape Two ---------------------------

KP:  You were saying ... to get into Marseilles the vessel used to have go through difficult straits.

BR:  ... It was the Gulf of Lions, and we'd go through that about two a.m.  Nobody slept and ... you'd come blurry eyed ... into Marseilles and unload and reload, you know, this kind of thing.  We were doing ... mainly cargo duty. ... Things were kind of drying up in that area. ...

KP:  So you were doing a lot of different tasks.  For instance, you were going in on invasions, you were on convoy duty the four times you crossed the Atlantic ...

BR:  Yes.

KP:  And you also were shuttling of men and supplies.

BR:  Yes.

KP:  So you ...

BR:  We also shuttled prisoners, German prisoners.  We shuttled them back to the prison camps.

KP:  How many prisoners would you shuttle back at a given time?

BR:  We'd get about 200.  They'd keep 'em down on the tank deck ... with guards

KP:  And would the Army bring their own guards for the prisoners?

BR:  Yes, ... it was just an over night ride with us. ... What we would do, ... we would come in the a.m., we'd come up from the south overnight and we'd unload in the morning and we'd reload around noon time, and about an hour later we'd take off and we'd get back to ... Nisida like ... five, six o'clock in the evening. ... It was a ... safe operation.  Once and a while, ... I remember one time we got into Corsica, ... we got into port there a couple a times and ... it's ... an island off ... Italy.  We go around different places. ... It was very interesting, very interesting.

KP:  So you got to see all the different ports?

BR:  You get to see them.  And then you also-- see ... a little of the country side. You don't get too far with the people, because for the most part those people were really in tough straits. ... They had problems. ... Best you stayed on the boat.  You never stayed too long.  ... That was your attitude. ... At any rate once we were done with that, and detached we got ordered back to the states, and I got on West Point, ... the America.  We got on the Americawhich took us back to New York.  My mother almost died of ... heart failure when she saw me pop in with out calling.

KP:  Oh you just surprised her in New York?

BR:  She went to tears.

KP:  And you were in your uniform?

BR:  In uniform and everything and I'd said, "Hello mom." (laughs) ...

KP:  Did you show up at the store or at home?

BR:  Home.

KP:  But you know that you surprised her?

BR:  ... She was home.  The orders were already cut saying 30 days and ... you report to San Francisco, so you had get out there.

KP:  So did you take the train out?

BR:  Yes.

KP:  So you went cross country?

BR:  Yes.

KP:  So how did you enjoy that?

BR:  Well, it gets tedious after a while. ... A lot of gambling was going on.  We enjoyed La Platte, Nebraska, because they'd stop at La Platte and the women were just aces out there.  ... "Anybody got a birthday?"  They had cakes and ... they were ... baking up a storm ... "Anybody got a birthday?  Anybody got an anniversary?  Anybody got this, got that?"  And they'd give you cake. (laughs) They were nice people.  They were really nice people.  They achieved a large measure of fame from that, "60 Minutes" covered it.

KP:  So you were very fond of, what was the name, La Platte?

BR:  La Platte, ... Nebraska.

KP:  La Platte.

BR:  The train generally stops there for a short period of time. ... As a matter of fact ... they wrote about it.  I forget what magazine.   One of these magazines ... wrote about it. ...  There were still a lot of women that are alive and living and remember those days ...

KP:  You eventually made it out to San Francisco.  What was it like to see the Pacific and San Francisco?

BR:  Lovely, loved San Francisco. ... [I've] been back there three times.  That's a great place, lovely city.  And then we went to Hawaii, ugh!! ...  There ... I did great-- that was a great place.  First of all, ... all the professional baseball players were in the services.  And they were all out there in Hawaii and they were playing in a whole league out there and Bill Dickey, ... the catcher of the New York Yankees, ran the league. ... I used to have a regular routine and I decided I was going to lose weight and I did a great job there because I lost about 15 pounds.

KP:  Why did you need to lose weight?  Had you gained weight?

BR:  Yes. (laughs) I wanted to lose weight. (laughs)

KP:  Were you overweight because you ate fairly well in the navy?

BR:  The food in the Navy. ... That's the greatest in the world.

KP:  What would [you] eat on a typical day?  What were typical meals?

BR:  Great variety.

KP:  How often would you see certain foods?

BR:  We had the usual array of meats and fish ... buffet style.

KP:  In other words you didn't feel deprived being in the navy in terms of food?

BR:  Never.  The chow in the navy was a lot better than in the army.

KP:  Could you see this when you would have army people aboard your ship?

BR:  I'll never forget one time we had a bunch of Canadian soldiers.  Canadian soldiers came aboard the LST we were on and you know Canadians [are] like Americans.  They speak the language. They have the accents and everything else.  So one time, our steward, in charge of the galley, he ... brought in a few cans of corn. ... He had opened the cans and started handing them out, and so forth, and so on.   And this one guy says, "You have no idea how much this reminds me of home."  Corn which is an American product, basically and these guys sat there eating cold, cold corn. ...

KP:  For these Canadians, this was a very special treat?

BR:  It was a special treat to them.  They hadn't had that in months. ... We got very friendly, the crew and ... the Canadians.

KP:  You really do have a fond memory of this particular unit of soldiers, the Canadians.

BR:  No, I had no problem with them. ...

KP:  No, you enjoyed them?

BR:  Oh, yeah!  They were wonderful people, wonderful people.  I'd say ... "Hey, what's the difference?" ... What's the difference?  And they appreciated it.  They appreciated it.  They'd came up with-- they came up with some bottles of alcohol.  I mean these guys could carry liquor.  They came up with some, [that] they handed that around.  Handed it around for cans of corn, that's trading. ...

KP:  The people in the Pacific have told me about the navy beer parties they would occasionally have on an island.  Did you ever have any beer parties in the Mediterranean?

BR:  No, not then.  We'd have beer parties in the Pacific.

KP:  Yes.  That seems to be more common.

BR:  Yeah. ... I had one beer party that was a near ... fatal thing for us.

KP:  Why, what happened?

BR:  We were in Japan, ... and we had been running between the Philippines ... and Yokosuka, Japan.  Bring up and back, up and back, up and back, bringing troops up you know.  So, one time in comes ... a big supply ship.  They supply the other ships.  And they signals across and say, "We have some beer for distribution to ships in the area.  How many would you want?"  So, the signalman gets hold of this. ... Well the crew ... had no mail.  They weren't ... going ashore.  Morale at a low ebb. ...  So I said, "Okay, ... let's have a little party."  So I said, "But we're going to have it on the ship," which is illegal.  So what I did is, I opened the bow doors, in front, big bow doors and they have a tremendous ramp that you put down.  I said, "Each man gets two bottles, ... two cans of beer.  You drink it out there.  You throw the cans over the side, and that's the last I want to hear of it."  But, there was a few chiefs who got a little greedy.  They didn't take two cans.  They took a half a case each, ... and they were guzzling the stuff up. ... They were going to settle some arguments that they had with one another on the ship with guys that ... they didn't like ... There was a gunner's mate and ... he had a crew man on his side. ... a chief had talked to the crewman ... and disciplined him.  The gunner's mate didn't like it, so he went after the chief and ... he hit him, blackened his eye.  And by this time, somebody in the galley is involved in this thing and he's coming along with knives and the gunners mate's coming with guns.  Okay.  Well, at any rate we, we got this thing stopped, very quickly.  We got 'em to their quarters.  Later on we had a ... captain's mast.  We demoted them all.

KP:  What do you mean?

BR:  Reduced them in rank.  The gunner's mate was the chief master-at-arms, which is the leading security person on ship.  Involved in something like this, he's no longer a master-at- arms.

KP:  Yes.

BR:  You see.  So we knocked him off.  And we took the chief and we sent him to another ship.  As far as the beer was concerned, that went over the side.

KP:  All of it.

BR:  All of it! ... That was the end of the beer party. ... Later on, ... a couple of months later.... We decided to have a beer party.  Ashore.

KP:  You understood why they had beer parties ashore?

BR:  Ashore. ... That taught me a lesson.

KP:  When I visited the Intrepid Museum in New York harbor I looked at the a destroyer,  submarine and cruiser.  I was amazed at how compact things were on these ships, especially on a submarine.  I had wondered what it was like to live with people in such close quarters for such a long periods of time.

BR:  ... The quarters on an LST were a little more spacious.

KP:  But they're not that spacious.

BR:  Yeah, they're not bad. ... They will house-- ... the one I was in, had four bunks in it.  ... Whenever you had officers come aboard for transportation to different areas, ... they'd get into these bunks. ... We were a little more spacious, I think, than ... you found on destroyers and particularly ships with ... large ship's companies.

KP:  In other words, you did feel that on the LST that you had enough space?

BR:  Yes, a lot of ... space.  It's like tankers today.  I don't know whether you've ever seen, been aboard a tanker.  Sometime if you have a chance, go aboard a tanker and see their quarters up there. ... It's as big as this place.  ...  The captain's quarter's, they're as big as this ... [apartment].

KP:  I have seen captain's quarter's on several World War II ships and I was surprised to discover that they were relatively small.  I said, if this is what the captain gets, what about the enlisted personnel?   I went to the enlisted men's berths and they were really cramped.

BR:  That's done ... out of necessity. ... Space is not wasted.  The ship is there to fight.

KP:  Not to ...

BR:  ... Not to house them. ...  Those ships are made to fight.  Destroyers are the worst.

KP:  No, I could tell.

BR:  Destroyers are bad. ... We've heard stories on destroyers.  You could write a book on destroyers about unusual occurrences.

KP:  In other words, what was so crazy about destroyers?

BR:  Well, their speed.  Sometimes they got into situations that combine speed.  If weather is a problem ... it becomes contra to the speed of the ship and that can have disastrous results. ... I've heard stories where some destroyers going into an operation ... were doing ... some rolling where ... they were ... hanging on to the ... stanchions that usually was up and down ... and these ship's capsized near typhoon in weather.  This was in Halsey's fleet.

KP:  I've been told by many of the Navy people that the weather was often more feared than the enemy, particularly in the Pacific.  Did you ever ride through a typhoon?  You had mentioned the rough weather in the Mediterranean and Sicily.

BR:  No. ... I was lucky in ... the Pacific we came close to ... a typhoon.  We were a couple of days, ... behind the typhoon.  So the typhoon had ... passed over.  ... In  Okinawa we went by ... and you saw ships up on the beach as a result of that typhoon and I mean big ships, LST's and everything else were up there.

KP:  You know people who've gone through a storm have said that was ...

BR:  Oh yeah, you have no idea.  Its very wild, windy and destructive.

KP:  You mentioned you had very fond memories of Hawaii.  What else did you like about Hawaii?

BR:  Well, the baseball, it was relaxing. ... You had places to go, you could go to an officer's club and get something to eat and ... you've got a swimming pool which is handy, you know, this kind of thing.  It was nothing ... that I would consider cabarets and exotic or anything like that.  But steady pleasant weather. ... I was always ... I was comparatively quiet compared to some.

KP:  So you didn't hit the town like some people I have interviewed who really-- they go into port and just ...

BR:  Some of these airplane pilots, navy air pilots.  Oh! their out of this world those guys. They're young kids, young kids!

KP:  [When] you entered the war, did you ever have any enemy contact with the Japanese before V-J Day?

BR:  No. ... We never had contact like that. ... People stationed in the Pacific had contact like that, you know, between ships, but some of those ships ...

KP:  Where were you when V-J Day took place?

BR:  I was coming back from southern France and V-J Day wasn't that far off.  As a matter of fact, V-J Day happened close to Roosevelt's death.

KP:  Not V-E Day, V-J Day.

BR:  V-J Day let's see where we were.  We were in the Philippines when ...

KP:  The atomic bomb was dropped?

BR:  The atomic bomb went off in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, O.K.  We were in Philippines.  ... And when that happened that was enough for the Emperor to say, "Lay down your arms."   And they did that, and ... the LST I was on went into Theisasebo harbor.  We were the second LST ... to go in there.  As an ... enemy ship taking possession, and ... after that atomic bomb straightened out a lot of things.

KP:  You had seen both theaters and in a sense you had directly or indirectly fought against two enemies.  What did you think of your enemies, for instance, the German prisoners in the war?

BR:  ... Both were efficient fighters.  Our resources was greater than theirs.  We had more arms and men, as well as, a highly organized manufacture that could have produced indefinitely.

KP:  Did you have any ...

BR:  ... They were both enemies that had to be respected.  They knew what they were doing.  They were sharp ... They were not stupid. ... You weren't dealing with a bunch of jungle animals ... coming out of the USA.

KP:  A lot of the army and marines had really harsh attitudes toward the Japanese in particular.

BR:  Oh, there were a very respectable enemy. ... Life to them didn't mean very much as far as the country was concerned. ... Let me say this to you, had we not dropped those bombs, to make an invasion of Japan would have cost this country a tremendous amount of blood.  When we went into Sasebo-- Yokosuka has a harbor and then there are mountains that ring the side of it.  The only opening is a 400 yard opening between those mountains to get into the harbor.  The mountains were hollowed out and they were making armaments ... and ammunition.  We actually saw plans of where they were taking ... suicide divers with mines coming off that beach of those mountains, going down into the sea and looking up to see. ... If they see a vessel they let the mine go, and they go to with it.  But this was ... the extent to which they would go.  They had things well prepared for an invasion and it would have cost us a lot of people. ... Those atomic bombs ... saved a lot of our people, and Truman at that time told you to remember that.

KP:  Your last naval assignment was in Japan.  How did you feel about decommissioning a vessel in order to give [it] to the Japanese.  What did you think of being in Japan?

BR:  I laughed at it. ... My whole interest at that time was to go home, and ... most sailors felt that way.

KP:  How did you sort of get stuck staying so long because you must of had enough points from Europe to go home?

BR:  No, ... I come out with about 40 points.  I guess I must have had something.  But ... I had no problem going home.

KP:  Yes, but how long did it take you to get home after ...

BR:  From Japan I went by boat. ... I forget what kind of a ship I was on ... but ... that's what I went home on.  Oh, no I'm sorry ... we went to San Francisco and then from there they gave us ... orders to New York. ... I went across by ... train again. ... I remember, I stopped in Denver, never been to Denver in my life, haven't been there since. (laughs)  But I remember we stopped in ... Denver and then went on to Chicago and ... came home.  This was in 1946-- April of 1946-- and ... that was the end of the big adventure for me.

KP:  You'd had been in Yokohama.  You had been in Japan.  What struck you about Japan?  They had been a very fierce enemy and you were even saying how well prepared they were for an invasion.

BR:  ... They were not people that were offensive.  They were people that were used to certain customs and ... certain traditions. ... When we occupied, they welcomed us.  ... They were always pretty close to Americans.  They were very disciplined and not disillusioned by the defeat.

KP:  Did any of this surprise you, given the image we had of Japan during the war?

BR:  ... [No.]  I wasn't surprised, no. ... You get to know the Oriental in this country and ... their cultures are pretty much on an even keel. ... You don't see too much variation.  You get a little variance as far as the Japanese and the Chinese and the Okinawans and the Koreans, you know.  But basically there is an even thing ... as far manners, as far as conduct in the street, as far exhibitionism, and that sort of thing.  The traditions differ a little bit, but I was in Tokyo and ... [when] you walked among the Japanese there was no hatred or any problems like that.  They are a nice people.

KP:  One more other thing in terms of your Pacific tour, you spent some time in Philippines.  Were you ...

BR:  Yes.

KP:  What assignments did you have in the Philippines?  Were you ferrying equipment as well as men and supplies.

BR:  We were picking up troops.

KP:  Picking up troops?

BR:  Troops from the Philippines and taking them up ... to Japan.

KP:  So you were ferrying people for the invasion of Japan?

BR:  ... Oh yeah.  But ... once ...

KP:  ... The atomic bomb ...

BR:  The atomic bombs [were dropped], they went anyway ... and we took over Japan.   ... We bombed the place.  Yokohama wasn't too bad ...

KP:  Have you ever been back to Japan?

BR:  Have we been back to Japan?  I don't think so, no.

KP:  Have you been back to Hawaii since the war?

BR:  Yes, a couple of times.  I took ... [my wife] to Hawaii.  We might do that one of these days.  We might go back there and go to Australia or something.

KP:  You stayed in the naval reserve, but you didn't want to make the navy a career?

BR:  Since separation, I enlisted in naval air reserve. ... I stayed ... with squadrons and I was a ground ... personnel officer. ... Each squadron has three or four ground officers and ... had one of those billets. ... I'd go on two weeks active duty each year with them, go to different places.  I've been to Guntanamo, Cuba. ...

KP:  Guantanamo Bay ...

BR:  Guantanamo Bay, Quanset, Rhode Island, San Diego, California ... Where else did we go?  We went to Florida, Jacksonville.  Yeah different towns, different places.  It was interesting. ... I used to be in charge of the crew's cruise end party. (laughs) ... One time we were up in Quanset, Rhode Island and the crew, ... a bunch a from Virginia and Maryland.  So I said we're going to have a clam bake.  They didn't know what a clam bake was.  "What's a clam bake?"  I said, "You watch and see."  I said, "You'll love it."  So we went ahead and we hired a couple of bake masters out of Providence, and they came down and they made us a clam bake, a real old fashion clam bake.  These guys ate till their sides burst.  Never forgot it.

Betty:  Did they have lobsters there?

BR:  Lobster, chicken ...

Betty:  Corn?

BR:  Clams, oh, they had ... corn on the cob.  What they do is ... dig a big pit, put stones in there, and then they would take wood, logs of wood, and they'd ... build this thing up about six feet high and they'd burn the wood down and get the stones hot.  Then they had trays of this stuff and they'd put it one on top of the other interspersed with sea weed.

KP:  I've heard that.  Yes.

BR:  Yeah and then they'd cover the whole thing with a tarp and they'd let it cook that way for six hours or something like that.  These guys absolutely went crazy.  Key West, we went to Key West, ... had a party.  I sent them all out on a boat and I said, "Go catch fish."  O.K.  They went out and these guys came back with fish like ... beautiful groupers and fish like that.  We cooked them that night and had a softball game and had beer.  They had themselves a ball.

Betty:  You really treated them good.

BR:  We tried.  All the officer's contributed.

KP:  Were you concerned you might be called up for Korea being in the Naval Reserve?

BR:  I was not concerned about it, but I knew that ... if I was called, I would go.  Because  that's what they pay me for.  I'm like a fireman waiting for a fire to happen. ...  As it happened in Korea, they did call up a couple of squadrons, but mine wasn't one of them.

KP:  Yours wasn't ...

BR:  No.

KP:  In terms of Vietnam, were you still in the naval reserve?

BR:  What year was that?

KP:  Vietnam was in 1965.

BR:  Yes.

KP:  And also then again, you weren't ...

BR:  Yes.  I got out of the reserve in '69, yeah.  We were in that, but ... at that time they didn't ... talk too much about reservists getting on active duty like they do today.  Today, they put 'em in as fast as they can get 'em, reservist. ... In these days they have a lot of active duty.  That's what it was. ...

KP:  Is there anything else I forgot to ask you about World War II?

BR:  No, you pretty well covered it. ... I got you round the world in two hours.  Have you heard any of these things before?

Susan Contente:  No, this is my first.

------------------------------END OF INTERVIEW------------------- 

Prefix of Activity 

1. September 11, 1942-Assigned to University of Notre Dame for training
2. January 28, 1943-Commissioned ensign USNR and assigned to and reported for duty on February 8, 1943 at N.O.B. Norfolk, Virginia to the Amphibious Force 
3. February 10, 1943-Assigned to Solomon, Maryland for training in Landing Craft, in gunnery 
4. April 5, 1943-Ordered to ATB Little Creek, Virginia for small boat training 
5. April 20, 1943-Ordered back to Solomon, Maryland for further training in landing craft 
6. April 29, 1943-Ordered and went aboard USS Thurston, AP77 with crew of five me, with LCS(s) for duty.  Reported 2 May 1943 
7. June 7, 1943-Temporarily transferred to USS Betelguese, AKA2, for duty, took part in invasion of Sicily 
8. July 12, 1943-Detached from Betelguese and reported back to Thurston 
9. August 6, 1943-Sailed back to United States and detached from Thurston and ordered to A.T.B., Camp Bradford, Virginia.  After fifteen days (???).  Reported 22 August 1943 
10. September 15, 1943-Ordered to A.T.B. Solomon, Maryland for LCS(s) refresher course (Had mock maneuvers in Chesapeake Bay, simulated landings on the beach) 
11. November 11, 1943-Ordered back to Camp Bradford, Virginia 
12. December 26, 1943-Temporary duty to Solomon, Maryland - Landing operations, then back to A.T.B. Little Creek, Virginia 
13. January 1944-Ordered to A.T.B., Solomon, Maryland for support boat instructions 
14. February 26, 1944-Ordered back to A.T.B. Little Creek, Virginia 
15. March 8, 1944-Promoted to Lieutenant (???) to rank for March 1944 
16. March 18, 1944-With five man crew, went aboard LST 263 - Was in convoy across Atlantic Ocean to Naples 
17. July 2, 1944-Transferred to LST 551 in Naples - Arrived 9 July 1944 
18. July 16, 1944-Ordered to LST 659 for temporary duty aborad 
19. July 19, 1944-Ordered to USS Thurston with crew (made Southern France) 
20. July 26, 1944-Ordered back to LST 551 
22. September 1, 1944-Found myself at A.A.T.B. Bizirte, (Trenisia?), and ordered back to LST 551.  Went via LST 692 on 22 September 1944 and on 16 October 1944, and reported to LST 551 on that date 
23. April 7, 1945-Detached from LST 551 to go back to United States for further assignment 
24. April 17, 1945-Boarded USS West Point and landed in United States on 29 April 1945 (Norfolk, Virginia?) 
25. June 25, 1945-Transferred to Amphibious Forces, Pacific - And reported 25 June 1945 
26. May 4, 1945-Ordered Amphibious Force, Pacific to San Francisco after thirty day leave 
27. June 19, 1945-Aboard USS Long Island (carrier) until 25 June 1945 to Hawaii 
28. August 10, 1945-Reported to (???) LST Officer present 
29. August 23, 1945-Promoted to Lieutenant on 1 August 1945 
30. August 21, 1945-Reported to LST 222 in Hawaii 
31. November 12, 1945-Order to command of LST 222 
32. November 28, 1945-Assumed command of LST 222 
33. January 25, 1946-Requested separation from active duty 
34. February 7, 1946-Reported for transfer to United States - Arrived 21 February 1946 
35. February 28, 1946-Reported to 3rd Naval District for release from ACDU 
36. March 1 , 1946-Released from active duty - after leave on 19 April 1946

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 
 

Transcribed:  May 1996 by Fred Robinovitz 
Reviewed: July 22, 1996 by G. Kurt Piehler 
Edited:  July 22, 1996 by Linda E. Lasko 
Edited:  December 22, 1996 by Benjamin B. Roth 
Entered:  May 1997 by Jennifer Lenkiewitz 
Reviewed:  June 25, 1997 by Melanie Cooper 
Edited:  July 26, 1997 by Benjamin B. Roth 
Entered:  July 28, 1997 by Melanie Cooper 
Reviewed:  July 28, 1997 by G. Kurt Piehler 

 

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