Kurt Piehler: This is an interview with Tom Kindre on June 28, 1994 with Kurt Piehler. ... Since you are in many ways one of the founders of the project, what ... are your goals ... for the project? How did this idea begin and what do you hope the oral history project will accomplish?
Tom Kindre: I think the project really began in 1992, which was our class of '42 50th reunion. I was class historian and had to come up with some kind of project. ... What I tried to do was to come up with a book, and I had the Rutgers University Press interested. It was to be based on writings of our class members commenting on various aspects of twentieth century change. The Press thought it was a good idea and I gave them a few samples and they liked it. The trouble was we got material from ... only 27 of our 228 class members. It wasn't enough. ... What I learned ... is that there is an awful lot of material in people's heads that is interesting if it can get out of there. ... I think that is why I began to get interested in another way of doing that, and the World War II Archives seemed to be a way of zeroing in on a specific facet of history ....
KP: What do you think people will learn from the archives? What one or two things do you think this will have to offer in terms of your conception of the project?
TK: I think for one thing it will indicate the great variety of experience that our classmates and others at Rutgers had in World War II. ... When we chat with one another and tell war stories ... that's just among the very few. But I think people will learn that our experiences were all over the world and covered a great range. The other thing that I hope will come out will be how people perceived that experience and what it did to them, what they learned from it. We all came from different backgrounds, and we came to Rutgers and we went in the service and it will be interesting to see how our backgrounds affected what happened to us.
KP: I guess I want to start now to jump all the way back to your past and to your beginnings and to your parents. What were your parents' attitudes toward education?
TK: My parents thought education was extremely important, my mother particularly. She had high school only and she thought college was important for a career. More than that, there was a competitive element involved. Her sisters' offspring, my cousins, were growing up as I was, ... and my mother and her sisters met very frequently. They had their own little culture, and I think there was competition among them. She wanted me to go to college.
KP: Your cousins had all gone to college?
TK: No, but they were going to.
KP: That was the point ...?
TK: ... I think she wanted me to go to college so that she could be one up on her sisters but that was only part of the motivation. I think her basic motivation was that she thought it was important. The way she defined it, I remember very well, she said, "You'll get a nice job. You'll sit in an office if you go to college."
KP: Your mother worked as a proofreader. How long did she work as a proofreader and how did she end up working as a proofreader?
TK: I don't know how she got that job. She worked at it, I think, for about 10 years or so. She was not an educated woman and I wouldn't call her a literate person, but she read a good deal.
KP: Did she work while you were growing up?
TK: No, that was before I was born.
KP: She worked in the home when you were growing up?
KP: And your father, he worked on the railroad when you were growing up. Do you know how he ended up on the railroad? Was there a story there?
TK: Well his father was a railroad man in Rahway, New Jersey and his father got him a job. There's an old picture of the gang-- the freight house gang, I guess. My grandfather's there and my father's there at about 10 years old, so he was sort of brought into the gang and when he was old enough to work, he got a job.
KP: What did your father do?
TK: He was a warehouse man essentially. He ran the freight station in Rahway. He checked in the incoming and departing freight.
KP: Did your father want you to go to college or did he want you to follow in his footsteps on the railroad?
TK: I don't recall my father ever expressing anything that strongly about it. I think my mother was the prime mover.
KP: What was your father's attitude toward the First World War?
TK: Well, he was too old for service. He was 37 ... in 1917. ... It's difficult for me to remember his talking much about it. He knew people who had been in the war, and I think he favored what we did by entering the war. But not having been part of it himself, he had no oral history of it.
KP: The reason I asked is that the Irish tended not to want to do anything to help Great Britain. I'm wondering about that.
TK: That's interesting. I think that Irishism was gone by the time my father came along. His mother was a strong figure, an O'Brien from county Cork, a very powerful Irish culture. They were the shanty Irish, poor Irish, but I think my father had been pretty well Americanized.
KP: Did he belong to any Irish-American organizations?
TK: No, he didn't. He belonged to fraternal organizations: the Elks and the Eagles, as I recall. Nothing with [the] Irish.
KP: No Hibernians?
KP: Why did you come to Rutgers, and had your mother wanted to send you to a Catholic college like St. Peter's or Fordham?
TK: My mother was a realist. At that time the Catholic high schools we knew had a poor reputation for scholarship. They weren't turning out people who were accredited for college and my mother knew that, even though she was a[n] ardent Catholic, organist and choir director. ... She never pressed the idea of a Catholic college. She left it entirely to me. I originally had been slated to be an engineer. All my uncles on my mother's side were engineers. My grandfather, my mother's father, was a stationary engineer. He ran an ice cream plant, and my uncle was in charge of an ice plant. They were sort of my role models. I was well on my way. At high school graduation, I won the Rensselaer Polytechnic Prize for the highest average in math and science. I was accepted by Stevens Institute. But something happened to me in my senior year in high school. I had got interested in writing, and I began to think it would ... be a very narrow thing for me to do to get into building a bridge or running a plant. I didn't want that. So I opted for a journalism career, and my mother and the rest of the family were totally amazed. Now why did I come to Rutgers? How I got to Rutgers is that the football coach in Rahway High School, Dave Bender, was an ardent Rutgers alumnus who lived here on campus. He lived in the old Faculty House on Queens Campus, and he was a teacher at Rahway High School. When he found out that I was interested in journalism, Dave grabbed me and sat me down and said, "You've got to go to Rutgers. Rutgers has the best journalism school in the Eastern United States." I had never heard of it so I came down here and looked at [it] and that's how it started, pretty accidental.
KP: What's important to know about your high school? What were your high school experiences? You were heading towards math and science .... Did you play football?
TK: No, I went out for track. That was about my only sport. It was a great high school-- very high standards. Rahway High School had produced Milton Friedman and Carl Sagan. Both had graduated some time before me. They had very good teachers, very high standards.
KP: What was the makeup of your high school? How many ... first generation Americans? How many immigrant groups roughly? Do you have any sense of that?
TK: Mostly first generation. ... I remember classmates who later said that their parents were poor immigrants and never thought that they would get the kind of education they did in Rahway High School. ... Hardly any blacks. There were four in our class, two boys and two girls.
KP: You mentioned on your survey that you had enrolled in the Civil Pilot Training Program. How did that come about? I know Rutgers had the program but is there a story of how you ended up getting a spot?
TK: I was a young romantic. I had on the walls of my study area photographs of Richard Halliburton, the popular adventure/travel writer, and Antoine de Saint Exupery, the French pilot and romantic novelist, and I've forgotten who else. Antoine de Saint Exupery probably had more influence on me. I read every one of his books about flying. He was a romantic himself and he romanticized flying. From Halliburton I got the idea of romantic adventure. I was very naive, unsophisticated, romantic. So, I wanted to get into flying and the Civil Pilot Training Program showed up and I was able to get my pilots' license for a total cost of $17, which I paid for insurance. I couldn't pass it up. The problem, though, was that I wanted to get into the Air Corps, and I couldn't make it because I was in the ROTC program at Rutgers, got my degree and was a second lieutenant infantry at graduation. There was no way I could transfer in grade. You couldn't do it in those days unless you had a congressman or someone to talk for you, and I didn't.
KP: In other words you couldn't get your same rank in the Army Air Corps. Was that the only barrier? Did you have all the standards for aviation?
TK: Well, I don't know because I never really took a test. I never tried out for the Air Corps at all.
KP: Had you wanted a career in aviation?
TK: A career? No, I wouldn't say a career.
KP: You didn't want to be a pilot?
TK: No, I never thought of that. It was just that I wanted to fly. It was kind of a romantic dream. No, I wanted to get into journalism. Maybe I wanted to write about flying the way Saint Exupery did.
KP: You were a commuter, and then the last year you lived on campus. One of the divisions on campus was between commuters and those who lived on campus. What could you add to that since you've experienced both?
TK: Commuters were felt to be a lower grade of people and in fact my friends and I-- there were four of us, three members of my class and one sophomore-- finally got together enough money to spend our senior year on campus because we wanted to overcome that problem of being looked down upon. Prior to that we also started a Commuters Club to do something for all these people who were just running back and forth on trains and didn't have time for a social life. ... It was a problem because you really couldn't take the time to get into activities. I went out for fencing, for example, and I loved it. But I didn't have the time in my commuting schedule. I had to drop it. I went out for Targum, the newspaper, and worked for a while on that, but again with the train schedule and everything I just couldn't do it.
KP: So you would take the train down from Rahway?
KP: And did you work during the school year?
TK: The first three years I worked summers as a salesman for a coal company, door to door, selling coal contracts for the coming winter. In my senior year, to fund the cost of actually living on campus and paying for part of an apartment, I worked for a while at nights in a meat packing plant in Newark, and at the same time I was in the Civil Pilot Training Program. So my schedule was to go to Newark at nine o'clock at night. I got finished around 5:30 or 6:00 and rushed to Hadley Airport for a dawn flight. They had a seven o'clock flight so people could work in a flying lesson before they went to their eight o'clock classes. I would work at night, take the flight, and then I'd sleep all day in my classes.
KP: How many nights did you work in the meat plant?
TK: Three nights a week.
KP: So you'd be up all night, and then you would fly and then you would go to class.
TK: I had to give it up eventually because I was sleeping through too many of my classes.
KP: You stayed in ROTC for four years? Why did you stay? A lot of people just served their two years and left.
TK: Well, I was a pacifist and that's the direction I was heading: to serve those two years I had to, because it's a land grant college and then get out. ... But toward the end of my sophomore year, ... I was beginning to see that Hitler had to be stopped, and I saw that we were going to be in the war. I had no doubt of that because of the way the conflagration was building in Europe. Since I was ... going to be inducted as a private anyway, why not go for a commission? So I did. I went into advanced ROTC. I even had to get a special dispensation because I hadn't made my decision before the deadline. I got into summer camp ... and then into the last two years of ROTC.
KP: So, when you say you were a pacifist, how did this view of war arise? When did you see the change? What was your view of ... being a pacifist? ...
TK: That started in high school. I remember writing essays about the stupidity of war. I don't recall whether there was a specific event that changed it. It might have been the invasion of Poland. It was something that finally kicked it over the edge, and I saw it was inevitable. "I'm going to be in the war," I thought, "and I don't want to be a private when I could be a second lieutenant."
KP: Did you belong to any peace groups?
TK: No. I flirted with a group that was promoting European union, but I never demonstrated or took any action like that.
KP: Did you envision when you were a pacifist that you might become a conscientious objector?
TK: I never thought that through because by the time I began to think we'd be in the war, my practical nature took over and said, "All right, do the best you can now that you're going to be in it."
KP: How do you think most of your classmates felt about the coming of the war? I ask this in part because my impression is that a lot of people were very busy.
KP: People were involved in athletics and also schoolwork. What were people's attitudes toward the coming of the war?
TK: I think that what you say is right. Most people didn't give it that much time and thought because they were busy. I mean, it was our senior year. We had a lot of work to do, but on the other hand, once Pearl Harbor occurred we were in a sort of never never land. My classmate, Dick Kleiner, coined the term, "We were the class of forty-tude." Because we didn't know what was going to happen to us. So for five months we lived in this strange situation where we were trying to pursue a normal academic life at the same time the world was exploding. I don't remember getting together in bull sessions and saying, "What's going to happen?" "Where are we going to go?" We were just busy.
KP: Chapel was mandatory when you were in college.
KP: What was your reaction to Chapel, being a Roman Catholic?
TK: Never bothered me. I was not as staunch a Roman Catholic as my mother and father were, and it was part of the experience at Rutgers. I found it interesting. I liked Kirkpatrick Chapel, and I liked something new and fresh and different. I had no problem with that at all. I subsequently left the Catholic faith.
KP: No, I was going to talk about that ... [later]. I was just wondering because my sense of the Chapel is that it was a very Protestant service.
TK: Very, yes. And it was different. I remember my mother was a little concerned about that.
KP: Why would your mother fear that?
TK: Well, she feared that I was going to be weaned away. She was always concerned about outside influences of that kind but there was nothing she could do about that.
KP: What was your mother's conception of college and Rutgers as you were going through it and you lived at home your first three years? What did she make of the whole experience of you going to college and a college that, although she was a realist, you're still going to a non-Catholic college and you're going to Chapel which is Protestant?
TK: I think she was a little worried. My mother learned a lot ... during the years that I was in college. For example, when I approached her with the idea of taking flying lessons, that was anathema to her. ... She knew I was going to be killed because it was dangerous, and to her credit she signed the papers even though she feared for my life. That took a lot of guts on her part. I always give her credit for that and as far as the other religious influences, I think she just thought I would have to try to resist them, or she hoped I would.
KP: Did she understand ... the life of college in terms of the social events and the academics?
TK: I don't think so, really. I told her a lot about what it was like but of course, she'd never been to college and as a matter of fact, I didn't know that much about the social life on campus, not being a fraternity man. I'd heard stories about fraternity life and that's essentially it. I knew classmates who were fraternity men and I would hear from them, but it was kind of a foreign life to me.
KP: Now you were a member of the Philosophian Society? What is that and was it created while you were in college? How did that come about?
TK: I can't tell you that because I don't really know. ... I was elected in my senior year and I think there were two meetings and then we were all off to war and that's all I could say.
KP: I think you were even an officer, Secretary or Treasurer. It was a brief candidacy.
TK: Very brief. I know my English professor put me up for that-- Donald McGinn, a professor of Shakespeare, a great guy. I loved him and he had some notion that I might be a writer someday.
KP: You envisioned yourself as a second lieutenant because the war was coming but did you envision yourself as a writer or journalist or as an educator when you were in college?
TK: You mean in the future?
KP: When you were in college in let's say '41, '42?
TK: No, I envisioned myself as a journalist. As far as the link with my being a second lieutenant, I think I was very naive about what that meant.
KP: When you say you were naive what ...
TK: Well, I didn't know what it entailed. I found out later. It entailed danger. Second lieutenant infantry was arguably the most dangerous rank in the military because you were a platoon leader. You were the guy who said follow me and I never thought of things like that. When I got overseas as a replacement I went with a group of 90 other infantry second lieutenants. We got to know one another pretty well on the boat going over, and I found out toward the end of the war when I met a couple of them and we went through the rosters that there were four of us still living out of that 90. I was so dumb when I got into a replacement depot in Algeria and the major called me in and he had my personal record in front of him and he said, "It says here that you have a private pilot's license and we have an opening for a job as an Assistant Headquarters Commandant to a Corps Commander, and part of your job would be spotting locations for the Corps to move." ... It sounded like a very cushy job, and my answer to him was-- I can still hear it reverberating in my head-- "Thank you, Sir, but I've come this far and I'd like to see what's going on up at the front." It sounds like something out of the Dawn Patrol. I was so dumb.
KP: And this coming from someone who originally was a pacifist. You were a pacifist
KP: You were leaning towards pacifism.
TK: Yes. But it was this romanticism for flying that I apparently was beginning [to] attach to the war. Then eventually I was saved from myself at another replacement depot where they looked at my record and saw that I had taken the motor maintenance course, and they had an opening for an Ordnance Officer. There weren't any Ordnance Officers and I was second best, so I got that assignment and I went through the war as an Ordnance Officer.
KP: But you were all set to serve in infantry and may well have not survived the war ... statistically ...
TK: That's right. The people in wartime don't know that. When I saw the movie Gettysburg I saw that. ... Somebody else was going to get killed. You had blinders on.
KP: ... That's often what they say, especially young soldiers, new recruits. Sort of going back before fully going into the military, I guess one question I meant to ask from the beginning is how did the Great Depression effect your family?
TK: Oh, very much.
KP: ... I mean you went to college in 1938.
KP: And the economy was not doing very well.
TK: The Depression effected my family very powerfully. ... My mother and father lived with my grandparents in their rather large house, in Rahway and in 1933 my parents bought the lot next door from my grandfather and had a house built in 1933. ... They had saved their money, but what they reckoned without was my father's job because he lost his job. With a mortgage it was very tight living. ... I can remember putting cardboard in my shoes when the soles wore out and spending endless time scrounging up newspapers and wetting them down and making them into balls to burn in the furnace because you had no coal. You couldn't afford coal. I remember going out with my father into the woods and chopping down saplings and cutting up wood to burn in the furnace. There was no money.
KP: How long did your father stay unemployed and did he go back to the railroads?
TK: He was out of work, I'd say for about a year and a half and then he got a lesser job, not as good as the job he'd had, so it was still very tough. So in 1938, there was certainly no money to send me to college, but I got a state scholarship. I recently found one of the receipts from registration day, and my total cost was: student activities fee $10, and something else was $20. I think it was $30 a year. All I paid were these two fees. So if I hadn't had the state scholarship I would never have gone to college.
KP: You're fairly certain of that.
TK: I don't know how I would've done it. ...
KP: But at the time you couldn't conceive?
TK: But at the time I couldn't even think of it.
KP: How many in your high school went to college from Rahway?
TK: Very high. I'd say about 80 percent.
KP: ... Now everyone is really expected to graduate from high school. Did most people in the community in Rahway go to high school and finish or was it a sort of ... process?
TK: No, in my generation most went and most finished.
KP: In Rahway?
TK: Yes, in that particular school.
KP: And a large percent went where else? Did they go to college? Did a lot go to Rutgers ...?
TK: No, there weren't a lot at Rutgers. They scattered. ... I don't remember where they went.
KP: You entered the military as a second lieutenant for infantry. What were your parents' reactions to your decision to stay in ROTC and then go into infantry, your father and your mother?
TK: Well, they weren't very happy with it, but then they weren't very happy with the war, and I think when I explained to them my rationale for doing it they accepted it and agreed that that was probably a better thing to do. I guess if I had thought it through more thoroughly, I might have found that it wasn't the best thing to do in terms of survival. At the time I thought only that being an officer, I'd have a better chance of being able to contribute and survive than I would being inducted as a private, and they agreed with that.
KP: Where did you first have your training? You got through ROTC so where was your first assignment after graduation?
TK: Camp Croft, South Carolina. It was a Replacement Depot. I was there for only a matter of a few weeks, I guess, when along came this Motor Maintenance School assignment. Fate, fate, oh boy, fate was everything. I was standing in the day room by the door to the adjutant's office when he came out and said, "I got five for Fort Benning Motor Maintenance School. Let's see, you, you, you, you and you." I was standing there so I got sent to three months of Motor Maintenance School at Fort Benning and then after Fort Benning I was assigned to Fort Jackson, South Carolina to the then-assembling 100th Division. So, all my experiences were in the South.
KP: Before you had gone into the military what was the farthest you've traveled. Before college? Before 1942? What was the farthest west? The farthest south? And the farthest north?
TK: The farthest west was probably Akron, Ohio when I was in the soapbox derby at the age of 15. I went out to the national championships there. The farthest north-- I don't think I went north of New Jersey. I was never south of New Jersey. That's about it.
KP: So, you were sent to the south as a young second lieutenant? What was your immediate reaction to the South?
TK: Well, I had a rude awakening because when I saw what was happening to black people in the South I was really upset. I never had that kind of experience in Rahway. There were four black students at Rahway High School, and everyone treated them well. There was no segregation. Nobody looked down on them. Now suddenly down here in the South I could see all the separate but equal paraphernalia and I was very much disturbed by it. I sought out people, intelligent people in the community whom I could talk to about it. I struck up an acquaintance with a radio newscaster, and he spent long hours telling me about the separate but equal doctrine, but I couldn't accept it.
KP: He was trying to justify it?
TK: He was trying to justify it. Well, he was in the middle somewhere. He was telling me why it was and how it worked and so on. And of course it was always justified on the basis that it was best for the Negroes, as they were called at that time. Because it kept them separate from the whites, and therefore, out of trouble. But I didn't see it that way and I got into a fracas in the barracks with a guy from South Carolina.
KP: How did it begin?
TK: I don't remember how it started. There was a discussion, and it ended up in a lot of nastiness, just short of fisticuffs. But he threw everything at me, all the old cliches like do you want your sister to marry one and all that. I abhorred it. I just was very angry about it.
KP: Did you see any contradiction between the stated war aims and the segregation that you encountered in the first months?
TK: The state of what?
KP: The stated war aims of the war, the four freedoms, freedom against fear and the notion that this was a war of liberation or is that something now that historians have started looking back on?
TK: I don't think that really occurred to me. I was living more in the immediate terms of my life. I think the four freedoms didn't have an impact on me.
KP: This was more sort of a gut reaction?
KP: Did you have any experience with black troops during the war?
KP: Several people, Lew Bloom and others were sort of struck by how poor the South was.
TK: Oh, yes. I was struck by that, too. Total poverty. Such a difference between that and what I was accustomed to. Even in depression times here in New Jersey, it was so different. And I was struck by the people. They were so slow. Some of us would take advantage of that. We went to a restaurant and the waitress [slows down speech considerably] would talk at a rate about like that. We would kid them. We would ask for a double order of crivishes with stuffed ferbobishes. ... Everything was so slowed down from what we were accustomed to up North and the poverty was terrible.
KP: When you were in the South what did you do for recreation? Where did you go when you were on leave?
TK: There weren't too many leaves. On leave I went to Florida with a buddy, to Tallahassee. That was a weekend trip from Fort Benning.
KP: Or even I should say furloughs or nights out.
TK: Well, nights out it was mostly dates, you know. We dated local girls and there were canteens and local girls and you'd make a date for next weekend or something. And we went to dances.
KP: In terms of music, did you hear any local musicians? Did you hear any new music in the South that you hadn't encountered in the North?
TK: No, it was mostly jukebox music that I encountered. I guess that was pretty much the same everywhere.
KP: You were Roman Catholic in the South. Did that ever come up? The South was very Protestant. Did you ever encounter any ...
TK: No. I never did because that was kept separate. That was a separate niche. I went to Mass in the military chapel with other Roman Catholics and the rest of my life was entirely with other people and they were two separate niches. ... I don't think I ever discussed religion with people at all.
KP: Did you ever strike up any conversations with black residents in the South that you'd encountered?
TK: No, I don't think so.
KP: How did the black community seem? Did it seem very distant and alien or? You had had some limited experiences in Rahway but now you had much larger black communities and did you see a real bridge at the time?
TK: ... This was the first time I had seen the separate restrooms and all that-- the actual appurtenances of apartheid and that was shocking. I saw people going in separate entrances and that really got me.
KP: Another thing you mentioned when we were talking over the telephone was your contacts. You were based in Kentucky at one point?
KP: You had a large number of men ...
TK: No, that was at Fort Jackson, yes,-- the backwoodsmen?
TK: Our conscripts coming in were mostly from Kentucky and Tennessee. The boys with the squirrel rifles.
KP: ... I guess the first thing that sort of struck me was how very different they were, even more-- that they were illiterate.
KP: And many of them-- you might want to recount their experiences with modern technology which were ...
TK: Well, they were illiterate. Many of them had never driven a car and had to be taught to drive. They had the greatest difficulty on the rifle range because they were all squirrel shooters. They were accustomed to using a rifle and they were very accurate with a rifle, but to get them to do it the Army way, by putting the sling around their arm and so on, it was terrible. But if you were an officer on the rifle range, as we all were from time to time, you'd see this guy in the most uncomfortable position possible, and his shots would be all around the target, but if you took the sling off and told him to just shoot at the target he'd hit it every time. They were a difficult lot to work with, but they turned out to be good soldiers, very good.
KP: You were this naive young officer. What was your relationship with your NCOs especially when you were still in infantry?
TK: When I was still in the states, you mean?
KP: Yes, when you were in training.
TK: Camp Croft and Fort Benning were school situations. When I got to Fort Jackson, which was ...
KP: You had your division there?
TK: I was a company commander at Fort Jackson and we started out with just a cadre of officers and then gradually the enlisted men were brought in as conscripts. We had regular Army noncoms, which was very interesting because they knew much more than we did, of course, about the Army, about virtually everything military, and so there was this constant tension between the officers, most of whom were either reserve or ROTC and the noncoms, who were regular Army, who looked down with disdain on most of these young officers.
KP: ... The term often used is the 90-day wonders.
TK: Oh, absolutely. And you got a vision of the way these guys lived which was sort of appalling. All they were interested in was sex and finding a place where they could bring women in. Their language was absolutely foul and so there was a lot of tension there.
KP: What about in terms of authority? Did sergeants you worked with, did they sort of say you let me run my world, you run your world and the two will never meet? Did you have any clashes in terms of trying to establish your authority?
TK: No, not really because they knew I had to depend on them to get things done and we had an alliance, I think. I think that's the way it was in most cases. The officer could give commands but only after reaching some conclusion, probably after asking a noncom for advice on something.
KP: You would frequently turn to yours and say, "What do you suggest I do?"
TK: Either that or "What's your experience in this situation?" Most of the situations were ..., at that point, logistical or they dealt with paperwork and getting in supplies and so on, and these guys had a lot of experience with that, whereas most of us coming in as officers had not. So we had to rely on them.
KP: When you were at Fort Jackson, where did you first embark? ...
TK: ... The 100th Division was at Fort Jackson and I was there from October of 1942 until April 1943, and at that point the division was being raided for replacements.
KP: So, you didn't embark with a unit when you went overseas?
TK: No. I went out as a replacement with 90 other second lieutenants and 600 enlisted men. I went from Fort Jackson to Shenango, Pennsylvania which was an assembling point and from there to Camp Kilmer and from Camp Kilmer, zoom, out across the Atlantic.
KP: Was it a strange feeling when you came to Camp Kilmer?
TK: Yes it was.
KP: What do you remember about war-time New Brunswick and Rutgers? Did you go back to see the college or see the town?
TK: No, I didn't have time. At Shenango before I got to Camp Kilmer the discipline was so bad that I signed myself out and came home for a weekend. Nobody knew or cared and I came home and it was at that point that I got engaged. I came home to spend time with my girlfriend and when I got to Kilmer I was able to see her once. She was at NJC, now Douglass. ... We weren't there very long. ... When I got to Shenango, I was put in charge of a train [of] 90 second lieutenants and 600 men because I was the senior second lieutenant. Some officer came up and said, "Here are your orders, lieutenant, you've got 600 people under your control here." I opened the orders and I knew we were going to Kilmer. So, at Kilmer I was still responsible for those enlisted men and the thing I remember most is guys going AWOL because they knew they were heading overseas. They would take off in every direction and the MPs would drag them back. I had one guy that did it three times in the few days we were at Kilmer. Each time I gave him company punishment, which was to dig a hole six feet deep and then I would put a fork from the mess hall in the hole and cover it up and then [have] him cover the whole thing up and then ask, "Now which way is the fork pointing?" He didn't know so he'd have to dig it up again. That was standard company punishment at the time.
KP: ... Would you like to elaborate more on your views towards NCOs and your experiences with them?
TK: Well, I disliked them because they were foul mouthed and all they were oriented to was getting girls in. It was a sterile kind of life they led, and I think it took a certain kind of person to want to do that endlessly, and it was not a kind of person I liked very much. I admired their abilities because they knew what they were doing very well, most of them. They had done it for so many years. They could take a rifle and disassemble it in a minute and hand it to you. I encountered them all the way from Plattsburgh, where I went for advanced ROTC training through all the other camps, and I always felt that the training they were giving was excellent. In places like the Motor Maintenance School all the instructors were noncoms. They were staff sergeants, and they really knew their business. Personally, I just didn't like any of them.
KP: Did you feel that as an officer you had received good training through ROTC and through the Motor Maintenance School? Did you feel your training prepared you?
TK: No, I didn't. At one point when I was at Fort Jackson I had a fuss with a company commander I was assigned to. He was a casino operator from Florida and his name was Tony something or other. He was a very smooth and slick operator. He wanted to be seen in the best light by everybody. I was his mess officer and there was an inspection coming up and he told me what to do. I had to get to the mess sergeant and get everything ship shape, get the kettles up on the tripod and all that. Well, he came around and looked at it and it wasn't the way he wanted it, and he really gave me a hard time and I went to the colonel, the regimental colonel in charge and he had me transferred out. I was transferred into the motor pool at that point. I ran the driving school. But after that experience, I remember going to the colonel and saying, "Look I just feel that I need something more than I have. Would you consider sending me to infantry school because I don't think the ROTC was really enough." I treated ROTC courses like all other courses. They were part of your college curriculum. I didn't think this was something I've got to know because it might be a matter of life and death. At this point I began to take it a little more seriously. But he said, "No, you're doing fine. Don't worry about it."
KP: So, in a sense you felt, in some way, that you were, in fact, a 90-day wonder.
TK: Oh yes, I felt it very much.
KP: Did you sense that the people under you-- apparently the sergeants definitely realized that, but below that, say the privates?
TK: No, I don't think so. That's entirely different. They were mostly conscripts and they treated officers with respect. The fact was that they were mostly uneducated persons and the officers were educated.
KP: The fact that you were even from another part of the country-- did that have any effect?
TK: I think that had something to do with it. ... In any case, they looked up to the officers.
KP: In terms of your experiences before you were sent abroad is there anything I've forgotten to ask? ... Did you consider getting married before you went off to war, before you were sent abroad?
TK: No. I'm not sure why. I suppose if we'd been really practical about it we would have gotten married because then my wife would've had an allowance, but again it's part of this notion of being the young romantic, I think. I didn't want to tie her down or get tied down myself because I didn't know what was ahead and we mutually agreed that we would be engaged.
KP: Which is, in a sense tying yourself.
TK: Well true.
KP: ... You embarked for North Africa and what were your experiences embarking? You lost the 600 men you were in charge of.
TK: Yes, but I went with the 90 second lieutenants.
KP: Did all the second lieutenants embark together?
TK: Yes, but with a whole shipload of other replacements. There were 15,000 on that ship. It was a big ship. It was called the Andes. It had been built for the British cruise trade and it was a large, very modern ship. It had never been commissioned in the cruise trade because it was completed, I guess, early in the war and put right into troop service. It was a fast ship, and it went alone. It had no convoy. I was out in charge of the guard unit on the ship, which I liked a lot because it gave me the run of the ship. Most of the guys couldn't go anywhere, but I had the run of the ship. I went outside through the blackout curtains and patrolled the whole ship and got to know what they were doing. What they were doing, of course, was sailing a zigzag course-- seven and a half minutes in one direction and then seven and a half minutes in another. It took six and a half or seven minutes for a sub to fix on you and get a torpedo lined up. We had some great storms, two tremendous storms at sea.
KP: So, you really enjoyed your embarkation?
TK: Oh, yes. It was a great experience. I'd never been on a ship. It was terrific.
KP: You'd never been abroad?
KP: And since you say you were very romantic, what were you expecting to find, especially in North Africa? What was your image of North Africa or Arabs?
TK: Sort of exotic, I guess, and a lot of that was borne out along the way although a lot of other things were borne out that I hadn't thought about, too. It, ... let me go back for a moment to the blacks in the South. I think a major thing I learned in the war that I had never really experienced was the inhumanity to people, how people were treated inhumanly everywhere by various groups of people. This was a new experience for me. In Africa, I learned that among certain American units, they would use the Arabs for target practice.
TK: In Algeria. Guys would brag about it. They'd see some Arabs come across the hill and they would dare each other. Let's see if you can knock one off, and they would shoot these Arabs. They were a subrace. They weren't human. The Arabs got even, though. The American GI's drove Jeeps around with the windshield down because of the hot climate and the Arabs strung piano wire across the roads and decapitated a lot of them.
KP: So, this shooting, ... the target practice, when would ...
TK: Target practice on live human beings. This would take place in the ... evening. ... They were having fun and across the hillside there would be some Arabs walking, and they would dare each other to see who could knock one of them off.
KP: How common do you think this was? Was this just an isolated incident?
TK: I don't know how widespread it was, and I don't know whether it was related to a particular type of American soldier or to somebody from a particular part of the country. I didn't have direct experience, but I heard about it.
KP: Enough to leave an impression.
KP: But it wasn't isolated?
TK: No. It happened enough so that people talked about it.
KP: And the stringing of piano wire? How often, how frequent was that?
TK: I have no idea. But I did hear it happen from time to time and then, of course, when that began to happen, they put the windshields up. They didn't ride around with the windshields down anymore. At the time I was in North Africa you were told, "Don't drive around with the windshield down in a jeep at night."
KP: Because of the wire?
TK: Yes, but the reason they were doing that was because GI's were using them as target practice. That was a terrible thing ...
KP: No, this is the first I've ever heard.
TK: It was what I came to call the gook syndrome, ... which is that some people are lesser than others.
KP: But, they were not the enemy, the Arabs.
TK: No, they were not the enemy.
KP: ... In terms of your experiences with their culture, did it live up to your romantic view? Had you watched French Foreign Legion films?
TK: Oh sure.
KP: And you read National Geographic?
TK: Yes. There was a certain amount of romanticism there and I got to talk with a number of Arabs. I had German in high school as part of my scientific curriculum, and I encountered a number of Arabs who had fought with the Germans in World War I and so I was able to converse with them. I found them to be very interesting, proud people, with a good sense of themselves. I was quite impressed by the ones I knew.
KP: You were interested in seeking out Arab culture?
KP: ... In terms of your ... views of Arabs what changed? What did you learn that you wouldn't have gotten from National Geographic? From a textbook?
TK: Well, I learned that they were people, for one thing, real people and they had a variety of experiences and they were mostly colonialized people and never had much for themselves and they were always serving another master. I admired the ones I met and talked with. The country itself was still romantic. Algeria was lush and full of orange groves and people would run along side the train selling bottles of mango wine. We took French 40 and eight cars on the trip from Casablanca, where we landed, all the way to Tunisia. It was some trip because everybody was in the same clothes for six days and nights. You slept, took your shoes off at night and that's all. They'd stop periodically and everybody would pile out of the train, and they would set up big GI cans and cook up C-rations. That would be our meal. There was very little room to sleep. There was nothing to sleep on. You slept on your pack, that's all. It was quite a trip.
KP: Now you were a replacement second lieutenant. How long were you in North Africa?
TK: Let me back up and tell you about my baptism to North Africa. We knew that the Andes was a real prize. U-boats were all looking for it because it was almost as large as the Queen ... [Elizabeth]. It was one of the big prizes. When we came into Casablanca Harbor the U-boats had thought they had the Andes but they got a ship just before us and when we pulled into Casablanca harbor all the bodies were floating by.
KP: Is that the first dead you had seen in the war?
Thomas Kindre as a first lieutenant. Note the 34th Infantry Division patch on Mr. Kindre's shoulder.
TK: Yes. That was our welcome to Africa. ... Now to answer your question about Africa. After going cross-country in the 40 and eight cars we arrived at Tabarka, Tunisia-- that's were I was assigned to the 34th Division as a replacement ordnance officer. I joined the 34th in Tunisia and had a couple of interesting experiences that summer. They assigned me to a salvage patrol to go down in the desert and police up the wreckage of allied airplanes that had been shot down. I took ... 12 six by six trucks and I had a jeep. A sergeant was the driver and we just headed south over those terrible roads. At one point, in the middle of the desert we passed a Roman ruin with stone columns.
KP: This must have really fit your romantic notions.
TK: And then we got where we were going, which was an oasis, called Gafsa. There was a full moon. It was an absolutely gorgeous place surrounded by all this bleak desert. Here were springs and palm trees and a little hotel run by a Frenchman. I took my whole crew for every meal into the hotel and we ordered Boef Stuk (beef steak) for every meal. It was undoubtedly horse, but didn't matter. It was a fun experience. And then I had a terrible experience coming back because I had, just in that short time, grown accustomed to the unit I was assigned to and when we came back from the salvage operation to where our unit had been, there was an empty hillside. They were gone. I was in shock. We found that the 34th had been moved into Oran in preparation for the invasion of Italy. I rejoined them, but then I got hepatitis. There was a faulty yellow fever vaccine that had been sent overseas and a lot of people got hepatitis from it.
KP: When was this faulty vaccine?
TK: That was in the fall of '43. It was about September of 1943.
KP: And how many?
TK: I don't know how many were affected by it.
KP: How many in your immediate unit or were you the only one to come down with it ?
TK: I was the only one in my company, but there were others.
KP: Say in your division?
TK: Throughout the division there were a few hundred, I think, who were affected by it. So I was hospitalized and I missed the invasion of Salerno. The invasion was September 8th or thereabouts, and I didn't get released from the hospital until October so I had orders and I had to find my own transportation across the Mediterranean to join my unit.
KP: ... That's occurred in several [cases thus far], ... getting orders and then finding your own transportation. How did you go about doing this?
TK: Well, you just went down to the dock and you talked to the dockmaster or somebody and asked if any ships were coming in or going out. [They would say,] "Well, nothing now but three days from now, so and so will be coming in. Do you want to wait until then?" The trip over on the ship was fascinating. I guess it was a freighter because it had the traditional 12 staterooms. You know, the old freighters used to have just 12 staterooms. That was required by law. ... I had one of those and two others were occupied by my companions, whom I met and spent all my time with on that trip and really got to know. One of them was a journalist from Lebanon, who was married to Napoleon's granddaughter, a fascinating guy. Another, a Frenchman, was in the French Secret Service was called. He was on his way to go underground in Italy. I spent the trip with these two guys.
KP: What did you talk about? It seems very memorable.
TK: Oh, we talked about the whole war, everything about the war, about the deployment of forces. Chidiac (the journalist) told me about his background in Lebanon. It was a family newspaper that they ran so that was very interesting.
KP: ... So you made it to Italy? ... Was that your only real contact with Army medicine-- your experience with Hepatitis? Were you in the hospital ever again?
TK: Oh, once in Italy I was in the hospital. Something bit me. I don't know what it was. Something bit me in my ankle.
KP: How did you find the care when you were in the hospital? ...
TK: I found it excellent, no problem at all. I needed a diet to get over the hepatitis. It just took time. The food wasn't that great, but it was all right.
KP: So, when you made it to Italy, you never rejoined your salvage unit?
TK: The salvage unit was an ad-hoc group. That was just put together temporarily, then disbanded. I rejoined my 34th Division Ordnance Company when I went to Italy.
KP: And when did you catch up with them and where were they when you caught up with them?
TK: They were near Benevento, south of Naples. The big push was shaping up then to cross the Rapido River, which was a very bloody battle.
KP: You mentioned in your survey that you never killed anyone or had never been directly fired at by an individual soldier. What's your most vivid memory of the war? ... Is it in Italy?
TK: Yes, I guess I had a number of vivid memories. I think probably one of them would have been the first time I came upon dead German soldiers. There'd been rapid advance by our division so the graves registration people hadn't had time to catch up. We moved into a new area and I was walking out to establish a location for a latrine, and here was a little mound and two bodies, two Germans who had been in a machine gun emplacement. I remember being particularly impressed by the fact that there were letters. The guy had been reading a letter from home. There was a little book with names and addresses in it. That was the first time I had seen dead Germans. I'd seen a lot of live German prisoners in Africa because we went by one of the pens where they had thousands of them when Rommel's Army was broken up, but I hadn't seen any dead ones before, so I remember that rather vividly.
KP: Did you have any discussion with the German POWs in North Africa?
KP: You were just driving by?
TK: Yes, but I did talk a little bit with two of them in Italy who wandered into our unit area one day. These two guys, they just wandered in. They had their hands up and they ...
TK: They'd been hiding out, you know and I spoke a little German and I didn't interrogate them. You weren't supposed to do that. You saved that for the people who did the official interrogation, but I did talk with them a little bit and the first thing, of course, was that they were hungry, so I took them to the mess tent and got the mess sergeant to give them some food. I was impressed with the fact that they were very, very ordinary looking people, nothing special about them at all.
KP: Had you expected a German to be a very powerful adversary?
TK: Yes, I guess so. Well, my image was that of the movies: the arrogant jackbooted German SS officer. I never did see a[n] SS officer. These were just GIs, hungry GIs. Although later I had a ... memorable experience. I encountered a whole regiment of Germans toward the end of the war in April of 1945. My sergeant and I were out one day in our jeep heading out for a supply depot, and there was a convoy up ahead of us on the road. There were huge clouds of dust, and I said "Let's leapfrog this convoy and get ahead of them so we can get out of this dust." So he started pulling out, pulling past one truck after another, and we were up somewhere in the middle of the convoy when the convoy stopped and the dust gradually cleared. That was the longest moment of my life, when we saw we were in the middle of a German convoy. ... Ahead of us around the bend in the road were trucks. All these trucks had infantry soldiers standing, packed in the trucks with their weapons. The trucks were towing artillery pieces. Behind us was the same thing. ... I had a .45 pistol and the sergeant had a carbine and I think it took about a minute and a half to go through two stages. One was, "My God what is this? How did we get here?" Two, "Why aren't they shooting at us?" It came very fast, but when we realized they were not shooting at us, we got out of the jeep and approached a noncom and asked him what was going on. It turned out that this regiment was on its way to surrender. Their colonel wanted to surrender to the Americans. These guys were spit and polish. Every shoe was shined. Every shirt uniform was buttoned and in place. They had pressed and shined themselves for this ceremonious surrender. I offered my services, and they sent a messenger up to the head of the column, to the colonel. The messenger came back in a little while and said the colonel would only surrender to an officer of equivalent or higher rank. He wouldn't surrender to a first lieutenant. So, I never did get to see that colonel.
KP: They didn't even take you to see him?
TK: No, they sent a messenger up there. So we told them where the 34th Division command post was, and they went on their way. Strange experience.
KP: Do you have any other vivid memories? You mentioned that you hadn't been fired upon directly, but you had had several close calls with artillery.
TK: Oh, yes. That's true. I remember one time in front of Monte Cassino. The 34th Division was part of a force that was trying to take Monte Cassino. We were scouting an area for the ordnance company, facing directly toward the monastery. I mean, we were standing in a field that sloped down to the river from the other side of which rose the hill the monastery was on. There was a ruined farmhouse, I remember vividly, with one stone wall standing and I started to walk toward the stone wall and maybe out of instinct or what, I don't know, I walked to the left of it. At the very moment I did that, an 88 mm. shell exploded on the other side of the wall, just a couple of feet from me. I would surely have had it had I walked on the other side of the wall. There were many little instances like that. One night we were pounded by artillery. It was all around us. I slept through most of it and my fellow officers were up all night. They were all prowling around and I slept.
KP: You were just a sound sleeper?
TK: I was a sound sleeper.
KP: Had you gone to bed before the artillery started?
KP: And you just slept?
TK: I just slept right through it all.
KP: In terms of the ordnance, what were your ... unit's responsibilities during the war, and did they change during the Italian campaign, the part that you were in?
TK: Well, the ordnance company was charged with supplying vehicles and armaments for the division and repairing. Repair, replacement and so on. So we had constant traffic and vehicles that were brought into us for repair, and we were constantly ordering weapons and ammunition. I remember the first shells we got with proximity fuses. They had radar elements in the shells so that the shell could perceive the altitude above the ground, and they could be set to go off at any altitude. That was a big advance. I remember when that happened. I was in supply. I was a supply officer and I had six parts trucks. Each with a parts man specialist. We carried most of the automotive parts. We had some interesting experiences. The first division commander that we had was a wild man. His name was Ryder, General [Charles W.] Ryder, and he wanted to be up where the action was so he kept getting his jeeps shot up. He kept bring[ing] them in for repair, you know or salvage. Most of them were just salvage, and we knew that whenever we heard from division headquarters that General Ryder has been out again with the recon troops, we'd have work to do.
KP: What happened to him over the course of the war? How long did he stay with the division?
TK: He did not make it to the end. He was replaced by General [Charles L.] Bolte. He was a more quiet man, not a wild man. So, our wrecker people had some interesting experiences. Our wrecker crews had to go up and reclaim these vehicles in areas that were under fire sometimes, and they were interesting guys, the wreckers. They were big and husky, very husky and devil-may-care.
KP: Had many of them driven tow trucks during the war?
TK: Oh, sure.
KP: Did you find that your unit personnel matched up? Had they done this as civilians?
TK: Pretty much, yes. It was a National Guard unit, and they had been mechanics or parts men or something like that pretty much before the war. I was thinking of this one wrecker driver that I knew. His name was (Willie Williams) and ... I was responsible for him, along with the others. I had to get him out of trouble quite frequently. He was a big guy, and he liked to have a good time, and he had a short temper. I remember one time I had to go into Naples and get him out of a whorehouse because he had shot the place up.
KP: Quite literally?
TK: With a Tommy gun. He stood in the middle of this place and shot all the mirrors off the walls. The MPs had picked him up and I had to go vouch for him and take him out under my recognizance. There was a lot of that kind of thing.
KP: You were at a National Guard unit and I guess this is what I found quite remarkable, every now and then I would play the devil's advocate with myself and say, "Well, how significant really is World War II?" and, you know, "Are the critics correct?" You'd spent two years with the 34th and had you noticed that your speech patterns were changing? Maybe you could recount the case?
TK: I didn't know about it, and strangely enough, when I came home none of my friends, even my girlfriend, didn't say anything about it, but I was on a business trip one time after the war riding on an airplane and my seatmate turned out to be a professor of linguistics who said that he could determine within a hundred miles where anybody came from. I said, "Okay, where have I come from?" and he picked an area that included the southern part of Minnesota and the eastern 50 miles or so of South Dakota. "You're from that area." I said, "No way. I was born in New Jersey and lived in New Jersey all my life." He said, "Well you couldn't. That's impossible." "During the war," he said, "where were you?" And I said, "I was with the 34th Division." " Ah, Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota National Guard Division." My speech had been permanently affected.
KP: And you hadn't realized this?
TK: Hadn't realized it.
KP: This was a National Guard unit and what did you think of the nature of the leadership of the National Guardsmen?
TK: A lot of problems in the National Guard. My company commander of our company had his brother as shop foreman and there were at least three other sets of brothers within our company, lots of prior relationships. Lots of people who were now in the command structure higher than the people they had worked for back home. I remember a guy saying one time, "Well, I can't do anything to him. When I get home he's my boss. I can't discipline him." There were many problems like that. Another one that I remember vividly was the infantry lieutenant colonel who had goofed up badly in one of the major battles and was relieved from duty but because he was a friend of someone high in the division, maybe the division commander, I don't know. They made him the division special service officer. The guy should have been court martialed. Instead he was made the division special service officer and also, talk about injustice, he was put on the division court martial board where he became one of the most bloodthirsty advocates of severe sentences. Things like that happened in the National Guard divisions.
KP: Your initial experience was with a draftee division, but regular Army divisions nonetheless?
KP: Did you notice this even more coming from a regular draftee division from the ground up?
TK: Not really, because I never had served with a fully mobilized unit before. The 100th Division never did get fully mobilized while I was with them. So, I can't compare them.
KP: I guess one particular area that I'll ask you to compare would be the NCOs in the ill-fated 100th versus the 34th. Were the NCOs National Guard?
TK: No, they were regular Army in the 100th.
KP: But in the 34th?
TK: 34th they were all, everybody was National Guard.
KP: ... What did you think of the quality of the NCO leadership?
TK: There wasn't very much command structure. They were all nice guys, and they all knew one another and they worked together well, but there wasn't much command structure because they knew one another so well.
KP: So then there was more familiarity. So, certain things worked well because of that.
TK: Because of that familiarity, if you got into a discipline problem of some kind where somebody committed a crime or goofed or so on then there was a big problem because they tended to cover it up to the extent that they could.
KP: Did you always have enough parts particularly in terms of motor maintenance?
TK: No, we would run out occasionally. Tires were critical in Italy because of the rough terrain and we never had enough tires. We had to go out and scrounge for tires. I would spend part of my time in .... a jeep just going back to Army ordnance headquarters just trying to pick up some tires, and there were various other shortages that developed. These were not critical. The division was not stopped from operating. It was never that bad, but there were a lot of vehicles that would be deadlined on any given occasion for lack of tires or lack of some other critical part.
KP: Did you ever end up using mules at all?
TK: Absolutely, yes. That was very big in the 34th Division, mule skinners.
KP: And did you have any responsibilities for the mules?
TK: No, that was a separate outfit.
KP: ... As a National Guard unit, was that a natural fit having enough people with experience dealing with mules? Do you have any memory of that?
TK: I can't tell you about that. I knew about the mule skinners, but I don't know where they fit in the chain of command.
KP: So your part in ordnance you kept to motor vehicles?
TK: Yes. We didn't maintain mules.
KP: You had experiences in northern Africa. What about Italy? I know in your article Rome must have been an incredible romantic place. What were your experiences with Italians as you were moving up the boot of Italy. Did your views of Italy change?
TK: It's a strange thing to say, I know, but I felt more at home in Italy than I had in the United States growing up. Well, that's a difficult thing to say, but I say it because the Italian people so impressed me with their warm earthiness, real earthy friendliness which is something I had not encountered in the United States. It was a new feeling for me. It was a new kind of culture. I never thought that was possible and I loved them. They were all great.
KP: In other words you were struck by the sort of aloofness of New Jersey?
TK: I wasn't at the time but .... In contrast, when I got to Italy I thought, my God there are people who live like this. They're open, friendly, earthy, honest and those were mostly the, peasants, I guess that I encountered. I didn't know anybody in high places, but I really loved them. I thought they were great.
KP: Did you often eat at the homes of the Italians you encountered?
TK: Yes, when we move[d] into a new town there was a lot of give and take. I remember one little town that we moved into. Their lighting system was dead. They hadn't had their lights for a long time, and we had these M5 generators in the ordnance company which were big enough to light a town like that so we'd hook it up. Turn on the lights in the town and the mayor would come, and we would talk to him and then everybody would get invited for spaghetti and vino at somebody's house and oh, yeah, great fun. And one time we were invited, we were traveling and we just stopped for a meal and this family just came and invited us in. When I say us, I mean the group of four or five officers. And they served us tremendous piles of spaghetti, and we didn't want to hurt the woman's feelings, but we couldn't begin to eat all of it. You know it's incredible when I think back on it now, what we did. We opened the bottom drawer in her bureau when she was out of the room, and we took all the spaghetti that we couldn't eat, and we shoved it in the bureau drawer and closed it and went on our way and said thank you.
KP: So this has left a lasting impression on you?
TK: Oh, yes.
KP: A lot of veterans talk of D-Day overshadowing the Italian campaign. Did you feel this at the time?
TK: No, because just as the people who were preparing for D-Day didn't know anything about the Italian campaign, we didn't know anything about D-Day. We might have read there was going to be something going on, but we were ...
KP: When the actual invasion took place, what was your ...
TK: Well, that, of course, was a tremendous piece of news. I remember that very well and it had a big impact because the Italian campaign was essentially a slow, slogging campaign. It was an inch by inch campaign and a lot of people got to be very disconsolate because they thought it never was going to amount to anything or go anywhere. At best, it tied up a number of Hitler's divisions and from what I've read about it, subsequently, that seems to have been its value. But in terms of morale, it was tough. So that when we heard about D-Day that was a big event. That meant things were really going to move now. The war was really going to move to a conclusion, and I think we all felt a lot better.
KP: So, it actually boosted morale?
TK: Oh, definitely.
KP: From what I've read, the Italian campaign was a tough campaign also in the sense that it was very dirty and difficult ... in terms of mud.
TK: Mud everywhere, just terrible. You were always slopping through mud. The weather was not great and the winter in the hills was very cold and dreary, overcast for weeks on end and no sunshine at all. It was dirty ... and it was slow and there wasn't very much hope for advance. Even Anzio was a mess. They failed to exploit Anzio and the landing turned out to be just a hanging by the skin of the teeth action.
KP: The 34th pretty much stayed-- I mean it wasn't fully withdrawn ... to England to prepare for D-Day. The unit was sort of taken off the line for rehabilitation. How did you see the unit over the course of your service there? How did you see the unit dealing with the fact it was constantly in action with rehabilitation and particularly in terms of getting replacements? How did that process go?
TK: Actually the 34th had gone originally to Ireland and came down from Ireland to the North African invasion in November of '42 and then through the African campaign and then into Italy. So there were a lot of old timers who'd been there for a long time and among the infantry units there were real problems because those who were still there had a problem thinking they couldn't last much longer. Something had to hit them. ... Their morale was very bad and the constant turnover brought a lot of changes in the cultural composition of the division. My company, the ordnance company, remained as it was because we didn't have causalities, but the infantry units had great turnover so that the National Guard aspect of it, after a while, was gone. It was a more cosmopolitan kind of organization, and I think that that put a burden on the National Guard officers that they hadn't had before. There was a medical man in the 34th Division who was the first who identified what came to be called battle fatigue. He wrote a paper on it which I've got. I could give you a copy of it. And he had observed two kinds of battle fatigue: that which comes from long experience at battle and that which comes from no experiences. At the very beginning, the first battle, people were getting a kind of battle fatigue because of the shock of combat. He identified the symptoms of these two different phenomena and wrote extensively about it, and it was through him that the Army came to recognize that there was such a thing as battle fatigue, that a man just couldn't go on anymore, couldn't cope after a while.
KP: Now you were in ordnance. Did you feel the tension between the front line units and those in the rear? Although it's not that cushy, because you were often shelled so it's not that not like you were, you know, in this secured area that's totally safe.
KP: What did you make of this from your end of not being an infantry man but wanting to be one initially? How did you perceive the war from that perspective?
TK: We were what Bill Maulden called qarritroppers. A qarritrooper was too far forward to wear a necktie and too far back to get shot at. In terms of our own relationship with the infantry units, it was very good because they were dependant on us and the people that came to us-- the motor officers and motor sergeants-- were friends of ours. There was never any complaint that, "You guys have it easier," or anything like that.
KP: So that was really reserved for units further back?
TK: I think so. [The ones that] were back far enough to wear neckties.
KP: So that was really the big division that you could see? Those that were far enough back to wear a neckties?
TK: Yes. I think that was the real division. I think the service units that were integral to a division-- that would be ordnance, signal company, the engineers-- I think they were all felt to be part of the unit. I don't think there was any feeling that they had a cushy job because they were so necessary to the operation. But it was the guys back in Peninsular Base Section in Rome, for example, who walked around with their neckties and their clean uniforms. There was a lot of feeling about them on the part of the infantry soldiers.
KP: Now you mentioned that you had one run-in with someone who did some shooting. ... Did you have any other experiences in terms of discipline especially with MPs in terms of your men or was that the one notable [instance]? Because there was resentment of GIs towards the MPs.
TK: Toward the MPs, oh yes. I know that. I had a few others like that in Italy who shot things up in town from time to time. I can't remember another specific instance like the one I mentioned, but they hated the MPs because the MPs were inhibiting their fun. They were back in Naples to have a great time and that meant just letting off steam totally, and the MPs were rotten people. Discipline, I had another guy in Italy whom I had to discipline constantly because he couldn't stay away from the prostitutes, and he'd come in with a case of clap every other week or so, and I had to do something to try to keep him from getting out of the area so I'd restrict him to quarters and make him dig a hole or make him do some duty like that. And a couple weeks later he'd be back again, and he'd show up on the medical record again. This went on the whole campaign like that.
KP: You had mentioned earlier in the assignment for people in the class and one the questions you had asked them to write about was sex. Given your most recent story, what were your observations of the soldiers in terms of sex? Was going abroad a liberating experience from say the restrictions at home?
TK: No question about that. It was totally liberating. Most of the people that I was with in the military were from small towns and fairly restricted upbringing. Everybody knew everybody else and you couldn't get into too much trouble. So here they were in a foreign country with license, they felt, to do just about anything they wanted to and I think the sexual mores were very open. The problem was one of disease that we had to try to control because venereal disease was rampant, but that didn't stop some people at all. This leads me to another thought about the Italian people. ... I felt such sorrow for the Italian people in one way and that is because of the prostitutes. There were so many of them and of course the coming of the war and the foreign troops and the shortages of food and virtually everything turned so many, many into prostitution. Our guys would occasionally bring one along to a dance or something and I remember talking with some of them and they could sense, I think, that I didn't approve of their lifestyle, and they would begin to defend themselves. We had some conversations and it became apparent to me that this was a life saving step that they'd taken. They had nothing to eat. The family had nothing to eat and so they entered into prostitution, and they didn't necessarily all feel very good about it.
KP: What was your attitude as a junior officer? What was your sense of the Army attitude toward prostitution? The official and maybe the unofficial?
TK: The official position was strictly a defensive one in terms of disease control. "Stay away from these women because you'll get sick, and we can't have you getting sick because we need you to work here in the Army. We need you to do your job." That was pretty much it. There was no moral judgment. The unofficial position was do whatever you want to do as long as you don't have a problem, and that was true of the officers as well as everybody else. Nobody was told not to deal with prostitutes-- only in terms of keeping disease free.
KP: So in other words you could sense that the Army could otherwise care less as long as you didn't get into trouble. You didn't shoot up a place or ...
KP: It seems from what you've said so far that there was a closer rapport with the Italian people than say with the Arabs in North Africa. Is that-- ... am I getting a correct sense?
TK: Yes, I would say so, and it helped also that there were always a lot of guys in any unit of Italian ancestry, and they would be the entry points for the rest of us.
KP: So you had several in your unit?
TK: Sure. I had a driver named Jimmy Ferraro from Brooklyn who took me into any number of different places, introduced me to people and so on. I remember one day in one of the tiny mountain villages, we drove up there just to see what it was like and they were virtually untouched by the war. There was just this tiny, little place but they didn't have very much either. The priest came out and met us. The priest was the authority figure, and he invited us to stay for lunch. He had bread, cheese and wine. You got a big loaf of bread and you tore off a chunk of it. Took a chunk of cheese, took a swig of wine. Perfect Italian lunch, but yes, the relationship was much different. I think in a large measure because so many of us had known Italian people back home. They weren't strange to us. They were part of our European heritage whether we, ourselves, came from Italy or not. I think there was a lot of familiarity.
KP: You'd written about being part of the liberation of Rome. What struck you about Rome? I mean also as a romantic, it's probably one of the most romantic cities. What sticks out in terms of your memories of liberating Rome?
TK: Well, the Colosseum was the first thing I saw in Rome, and it was the night before the official parade, still under blackout conditions. [I] didn't know where we were until the clouds had parted and the moon came out and there we were right in front of the Colosseum. That was a tremendous impression. I was impressed just by, I think, the antiquity. The fact that any place of human habitation had been around that long and here was the record of it. It was absolutely fascinating and I remember just standing on one of the hills and looking at that great open space which was at one time the Circus Maximus, this huge empty field and just trying to reconstruct it from images like Ben Hur and the films.
KP: You'd had a real image of Rome and of Italy before you'd ...
TK: Oh yes. The Vatican was also tremendously impressive. I had an audience with the Pope, a small group of us. After Rome was liberated the division special service people would arrange for small groups to have audiences, and of course I was still Catholic and the family back home were still Catholic and what you did, you went to a souvenir shop facing the square and they ... had all these medals, religious medals. You bought a whole bunch of religious medals and then you went in, when you had your audience with the Pope, you asked him to bless these. Then you had the keys of the kingdom. You send those home and my God, they were cherished.
KP: So, you mailed them to your parents?
KP: And what did they ...
TK: Oh, this medal was blessed personally by the Pope and my mother gave them out to her friends, and it was a great thing. I did that just for her. I didn't feel that was anything special, but I was much impressed by St. Peter's. It wasn't until later, as a tourist, I came back and saw the Vatican Museum and was impressed even more. That wasn't open at the time I was there. It was all impressive. Oh, I remember something else that impressed me again in terms of contrast. Right behind the Vatican is one of the poorest areas of Rome, (Trastavera), where a lot of the prostitutes lived. I was always appalled that here is this wall and here is the Vatican with all its splendor and all its principles it stood for and right next to it is this slum.
KP: And you noticed this right away when you saw it?
KP: How do you think the military affected your religious faith. As a Catholic, you'd even made a pilgrimage at the time to Rome, not deliberately, but your parents probably-- if they were very devout-- felt this was ...
KP: One of the ultimates you could do?
TK: I have to admit it meant something to me to be in St. Peter's and to see the Pope, but my impressions of Rome were much greater than just the Vatican. The overall impression of Rome, the history of the Roman Empire and so on, it was much stronger than anything to do with the Vatican. How did the military affect me? The military certainly showed me that there were a lot of other people with different stripes around, and there were many religions and many nationalities. I ultimately broke with the Church when I was married and I got home.
KP: So that was more decisive ...
KP: In your break with the Church.
TK: I think it was more than anything in the military. Although the military was definitely a broadening effect and I remember being particularly impressed by a lot of the guys I knew in the unit who would say things like-- toward the end of the war especially we'd be talking to one another and we'd ask, "Do you think you're going to go back to Little Falls?" And the other guy would say, "Nah, I don't see how I could live there anymore." They had this world stage experience coming from a small town, and it affected lives drastically after the war.
KP: How do you think it affected your life? You mentioned one was the ... the Italian people. Is it the way you had wanted to live?
KP: And your contact with other cultures. What other ways do you think it affected you that you can name?
TK: Well, for a number of years it made me want to put it all behind me because of the tremendous loss of life and the tremendous waste. I kept thinking of waste. I wanted to put it all behind me, and it wasn't until maybe just a few years ago that I began to look at it through different eyes.
KP: So in other words if I'd come to you 25 years ago and wanted to interview you on your experiences in World War II you probably wouldn't have had a great interest.
TK: I closed it all away for a number of years. I wasn't interested in war at all and of course the Korean War came along and that was another waste. The Vietnamese War I thought was dreadful on all grounds and no, I just put it all aside. I understand a lot of the D-Day veterans did that too.
KP: You never joined the American Legion?
TK: No, I didn't.
KP: You really just wanted to move on.
TK: I just wanted to get it all behind me.
KP: Did the military affect you? You ended up going into a career in journalism and public relations? Did the war alter your sort of career plans at all, your thinking about careers or did was it just in many ways an interruption, although a broadening experience?
TK: It was an interruption. At the end of the war, I guess it would have been in April of 1945, I remember they pulled out my record, my personnel record and because I had a degree in journalism I was asked if I wanted to try out for the position of division historian for the 34th Division. That would have fascinated me, but I wanted to go home and I knew if I applied for that and got that job I'd be there for a long, long time getting the records together and doing all the rest of it, so it was an opportunity that came a little too late. I turned it down. Then when I got home the war affected my career in that there were so few jobs in 1945, because the economy hadn't really started to turn yet. The best newspaper job I could find paid $25 a week as a general reporter and so I never really got into journalism. I had an offer of a job in Union Carbide's Public Relations Department for $45 a week, which was big money.
KP: How much did you make as an officer?
TK: I can't remember that.
KP: So, you had thought of going into journalism and you still wanted to, but in a sense you couldn't afford to do that.
TK: I couldn't afford to because I wanted to get married and so I never really became a journalist.
KP: How did the offer from Union Carbide come about?
TK: Through Rutgers.
TK: There was a woman there, in their public relations department who was an NJC graduate, and they were looking for somebody so they sent word back to the Rutgers placement office and that's where I picked it up. It was my only really good job lead. I tried a great deal on my own and couldn't get anywhere.
KP: You did stay in the reserves until 1955. How did that come about? You didn't think of making a military career at that time?
TK: No, it was strictly a matter of building credits for retirement benefits. That was the thing that everybody wanted to do. If you put in 20 years combined field service with reserve service, upon reaching age 60 you would have a military pension. At the end of the war, I already had three and a half years active service so I went into the reserve, and went to summer camp and I was a reserve a member of the 78th Division in New Jersey and met for a while in Newark, and we met for a while in New Brunswick. But, what happened after a while my career began to advance and taking that time for summer camp got to be too much of a chore. It got in the way of client needs. I was directly involved with clients and finding time for a vacation was hard enough, but the summer camp was a little too much, so I reluctantly dropped out and I remember at the time I dropped out I submitted my resignation, and I was appalled with the alacrity with which it was accepted, because there was a whole new rash of Korean War officers who were back in the reserve now, you see, and we World War II guys were old hat.
KP: You weren't called up for Korea. Had you feared being in ...
KP: ... the reserves that you would be called up for Korea?
TK: I guess I thought about it, and I worried about it a little bit, but I don't know why I wasn't. I had friends who were called up, but they were friends who were in specialties, like intelligence work or something of that sort. I think my area of experience, ordnance, they probably didn't need anybody.
KP: But in the end you weren't.
KP: There weren't any close calls?
TK: No, I was not.
KP: You had worked for Union Carbide for several years and you ended up in Hill and Knowlton. Your direction that occurred away from journalism was that something, did you always long to be a journalist ...
TK: Well, what I longed to be was a writer and that's what I was. My whole career was spent as a writer and editor and consultant, but I wrote. I wrote speeches. I wrote programs, public relations programs. I wrote guide books.
TK: Articles and enjoyed every bit of it so I in a sense I had a much broader scope of writing than I would have had as a reporter. I worked with a good many reporters being in public relations, and I always had a good relationship with them and kept up with my friends from the class of '42 who did, indeed go into journalism with The New York Times, Associated Press and so on.
KP: You became active with the YMCA. How did that come up?
TK: The YMCA? I did?
KP: Yes, the National Council of the YMCA, the Public Relations?
TK: I'll be darned. I'd forgotten about that. Yes, that was when I was in Hill and Knowlton and that was a volunteer job. The YMCA asked Hill and Knowlton to provide volunteers.
KP: Ah, ah.
TK: So, I was selected. It wasn't something of my doing, but I worked with them for quite a while on recruiting and publicity and so on. It was rather interesting.
KP: And you were also involved with the Layman's Movement.
TK: Oh, yes.
KP: And I have to be honest I've never heard of them. I've just seen a blurb on them, but it was described as an international non-sectarian association.
KP: I don't really know much more about the organization. What was the organization and how did your involvement come about?
TK: Well, the organization was actually a kind of Christian businessmen's organization. J.C. Penny was one of the founders of it and their idea was to try to apply Christian principles in the business world. They held seminars and they had a structure of little cells that would meet for lunch at somebody's office and discuss something relating to Christian principles and business and so on. They had speakers from time to time. I got to hear about it from a man I worked with on television commercials when I was at Union Carbide. He was a member, and he brought me to a few meetings. I was very much interested in what they were doing, in exploring religious principles in business and I became a member. I was a member of their board for, I think, a year and we met regularly in one of these little cell groups of about six or eight people. We'd meet maybe once a week and have a discussion. We'd do book reports and things like that. I kept it up for quite a while. I think I finally got out of it when we were having a problem with our son and it took all my time and I didn't take the time to do that anymore. But it was rather interesting. There were some zealots in the crowd, and I wasn't happy with them. I was never a zealot. I was not somebody who, like some of them wanted to do when the steel strike was on, they went to the president's offices of the steel companies and said, "Get down on your knees with us and pray that this strike will be over." That kind of thing was not for me, but I was interested in the principles and making them work.
KP: Now you had moved from Catholic to Unitarianism which are real, I wouldn't say extremes, but they are, it is a real move. How do you trace that?
TK: Well, again just through influence, I guess. Unitarians, strictly speaking are not Christian. They are not a Christian sect. Well, my wife was Presbyterian. I was Catholic. It was a problem for our families, a real problem and the way it was done did not make everybody happy. I felt that if I left the Church to be married my mother would be totally disgraced. I even had a cousin who was a priest, but it was my mother mostly. I felt she would be a broken woman if that happened and my wife-to-be accepted that and understood it so we were married in the rectory of a Catholic Church. We couldn't be married in the church because my wife was Protestant. We were married in the rectory and of course that made her father wretchedly unhappy. He was miserable about that because his daughter wasn't good enough to be married in the church. So there were tensions. ... After marriage we just went our own way. We had more in common than religion. I mean, religion didn't keep us apart because our loyalties toward each other were much greater than our loyalties to any religion, and we explored. We joined a Presbyterian Church in Newark where we lived for a while. We joined a Methodist Church in Maplewood and we explored, and then finally we had some friends that we met through our son in school. The man was a professor of engineering at Newark College of Engineering, and we got to be very friendly with them. They were Russian. They were interesting people. They were naturalized citizens, and they told us about this church that they went to in Summit, New Jersey, the Unitarian Church. We'd never known anything about it and we went with them and we ended up 18 years with the church and we loved it. It encompassed all the things we needed. I mean they drew as much on the Upanishads and the Koran as they did on the Christian Bible, which is the way we were feeling. We were feeling that we wanted to constantly broaden ourselves, so we were very happy in the Unitarian Church. We never got into the most activist phases of it, like demonstrations, anti-war and so. But we belonged to Church organizations and philosophy clubs and things like that.
KP: Did you ever think in terms of your career that you might well have become a teacher or a university professor? ...
TK: It's occurred to me from time to time. I think I would have enjoyed it. Not that I didn't enjoy what I did. I did immensely, but I could see myself doing that sort of thing.
KP: ... Your son went to Fort Dix and then left the military. ... Was your son drafted for the Vietnam War?
TK: No. My son was in his junior year at Princeton in 1968 when he had a mental and emotional breakdown. It was a bad time, as you know, the late '60s. Young people were being disaffected everywhere and were out on the road, and Jack Kerouac was appealing to them and so on. Whether that had something to do with it, I don't know, but he had been under tremendous self-imposed pressure to go to the best Ivy League school he could go to and in his high school graduating class the pressure was just terrible. He was accepted by Haverford, Amherst and Princeton, and we wanted him to go to Amherst. We thought it was a nice school. But he wanted to go to the biggest and the best, and he got to Princeton and everybody, every student there was a star. All the football team captains, all the debating society heads, ... and the pressure was just awful. I suppose that had something to do with it. Anyway, he got through his ... junior year and he had this breakdown and he was hospitalized. We had him in a number of different psychiatric hospitals and eventually he came out on his own and joined a religious community where he still is. But to answer your question about the Vietnam War, no, he was 4-F in the Vietnam War because he had been hospitalized.
KP: Oh, okay.
TK: So, he was never drafted. Now, when he joined this religious community in Vermont and he was kicking around up there and didn't know what to do, someone said why don't you join the National Guard or the reserve? You can always get a little money out of the reserve. So he joined the reserve and they sent him to Fort Dix for basic infantry training. He was as far from being a soldier as I could think, and but he was 29 years old when he did that, but his record was so good that they wanted to send him to officers candidate's school and at that point he said no, he didn't want that. He got out of the reserve, again on the basis of his medical record.
KP: You thought the Vietnam War was a waste .... Did you think this initially in say '65 or was this later.
TK: Oh, yes. I felt it then. I felt it then. My sympathies in 1965 were entirely with the young people who were revolting against the Vietnam War. I wasn't out on the battle lines, but my sympathies were entirely with them. I felt it was a total waste of time. It was a waste of life, of energy and none of our business, really. I was on their side.
KP: You mean despite your military career?
TK: Oh yes. I couldn't see it at all.
KP: What about your colleagues? Your ... classmates and your colleagues at Hill and Knowlton, how did they feel about the war? Did you feel like you were exceptional in your views?
TK: No, although I must say there were a lot of them that were very solidly behind the government on the Vietnam War, but there were enough that weren't so that I ...
KP: You didn't feel ...
TK: So that I wasn't uncomfortable. No, no.
KP: ... You started with Union Carbide and then Hill and Knowlton. Did you feel there was a sort of coming of age with the World War II generation moving through with the system? When did you feel the World War II generation dominated public relations? Did you see that there was this change in generations?
TK: Yes, of course change in generations are always gradual so when you're in the middle of it it's hard to perceive but ...
KP: Looking back now, it's probably clearer in perspective.
TK: Yes, I'd say in the '50s and the '60s, my generation certainly dominated. No question about that. We all came back in 1945 or thereabouts, and by the '50s we were working our way into management. By the '60s we were well up into management and that was the time of William White and the Organization Man. I remember the movie The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, and we were very much of that generation. When did our influence wane? Oh, by the '80s, by the '70s probably it was waning and in the '80s it was largely gone, I think.
KP: Did you feel that the World War II experience gave you this common bond generationally? Had most of the people in your generation ... at Union Carbide served in the military? Was this a sort of common bond?
TK: Yes, it was. ... Again at Hill and Knowlton when I got there, most of them had been in the military.
KP: Do you think seeing the people above you that hadn't served-- did you notice any sort of generational things? Sort of looking back now, what were the differences between generations?
TK: In the business world, you mean?
KP: Yes, yes in the business world.
TK: Yes, I remember that particularly at Union and Carbide, where I spent my first six or seven years of my career because the managers there were much older and I was very impatient. Most of us were very impatient, and they did everything by the book and we were not interested. We wanted to move ahead and also there was injustice there, too because Union Carbide happened to be the kind of a company, where no woman ever got to be a supervisor and that bothered me, because the woman who I told you was responsible for me getting the job there, the NJC graduate, couldn't be a supervisor.
KP: No matter what?
TK: No, she was there, she had the experience, but other men were promoted above her into the supervisory jobs simply because Union Carbide never promoted women into supervisory jobs. That's all changed drastically. In those days that existed. It was very bothersome.
KP: ... What about at Hill and Knowlton, was that a similar [case]?
TK: Women had a much better shot at things at Hill and Knowlton because of the nature of the work. It was more worldly. It was dealing with people. It was communications oriented and so on, but there were still problems. Speaking of women, the first women on the staff at Hill and Knowlton, the first women were what we called women's women. They were women's page editors. They'd come from women's magazines and they dealt with women's issues so what they had to do to distinguish themselves from the secretarial staff was to wear hats. Whenever you went in and saw a woman with a hat, you knew she was a member of the professional staff. She wasn't a secretary. She had to do that because if she didn't some guy would come up to her and say, "Hey come here and take a letter."
KP: So that was the hierarchical division?
KP: The hat or the non-hat?
TK: Yes, the hat or the non-hat. That's right.
KP: So, did a secretary every now and then break the rule and wear a hat?
TK: No, absolutely not.
KP: Oh this was a real ...
TK: That was an unwritten rule and eventually it took a long time before the professional women took off their hats, before they were truly recognized as professionals. That didn't happen until maybe the '60s or sometime there [abouts].
KP: What about in terms of, you mentioned the Organization Man and the military sort of ... teaches you to dress a certain way even if you resent it. Did you feel that you were very regimented? Did you feel that you were becoming like the Organizational Man? Was that a source of tension there? ... There is certain rhyme and reason to this method of organization?
TK: The business world, right?
KP: The business world. Do you think the military sort of affected attitudes towards business?
TK: I guess so. I remember that John Hill, the founder of Hill and Knowlton was a tough guy, for example, with a dress code. He was not as bad as IBM where everybody had to wear that navy blue suit, nothing like that, but somebody came in one time with a checkered waistcoat and he couldn't stand things like that. He forbade women to wear slacks in the office until one day the secretary of a friend of mine who, in her spare time, was a bellydancer, said to him, "Mister Hill, if you forbid me to wear slacks I'm going to take you to court." Hill learned the lesson. From then on it was a little easier. To answer your question, though. I never felt regimented, no. I mean I had to wear a suit, but that never bothered me. Our work was so diverse and interesting.
KP: How do you think the military affected your working career, particularly at Hill and Knowlton? I think one thing from what I've gathered is your experiences with different cultures and situations. Were there any others?
TK: Well, I think that the idea of working together to accomplish a common purpose, despite all the disjointedness and the problems, I think there was something about that. That was a grand experience. This came upon me over a period of time. Right after the war, I didn't feel it, but over a period of time it did come to me. That is that the whole thing had been a tremendous enterprise and a necessary one, and at all levels it was working together. We in the ordnance company were working together. We knew what we were doing. We were supplying weapons and ammunition to keep this division going to achieve those objectives to work together to bring down the Nazis, so I think it had a big influence on me in those terms. I learned to work together with people.
KP: It strikes me that working at Hill and Knowlton is opposite from being a lone and solitary writer. I mean you have to interact with a wide range of clients.
KP: And you seemed to thrive on that.
TK: Oh, yes, I loved it.
KP: Who were some of your more memorable clients?
TK: Oh, my, there's so many of them. I worked for the American Iron and Steel Institute for a while, the ... Manufacturing Chemists Association, the Pharmaceutical Manufactures Association, the Savings Bankers Association and the American Petroleum Institute. I worked with the oil industry, the banking industry, the steel industry, the pharmaceutical industry, you name it. Many more. You had to become an expert with each one in order to talk to the people about their problems, so it was very interesting.
KP: How did the nature of public relations change? You've seen the nature of public relations, in a sense, go through several different eras. I mean when you started at Union Carbide television was very much in infancy and print media was really in many ways dominant to the 1980s where not only is television a major force but even that's fragmenting to cable. What have been some of the shifts in the industry of public relations?
TK: The shifts I've seen have not been so much in terms of the media that they used, but of the way that they have approached their work, and I don't think its been a change for the good at all. John Hill founded Hill and Knowlton on the basis of two credos. (1) People in business and industry should align their ... operations with the public interest. (2) They should be honest with the press. He built his whole firm on those two principles and they are contrary to what a lot of people have thought when you mention the word public relations. I always felt very good about what I was doing. I think it has changed drastically even ... with Hill and Knowlton now and other public relations firms. The huge massing of special interests, especially in terms of lobbying, and the need to do whatever you have to do to accomplish the objective. ... I think they lost a lot of their principles along the way. I wouldn't want to be part of it now.
KP: Really? You wouldn't see yourself comfortable in public relations?
TK: No, I don't think I would. I feel I'm very fortunate because I came into it at a time when it was growing and I was in it when it was at its peak, at its best and I don't know if I feel comfortable with it now. A lot of conglomerates have bought up the ad agencies and the PR firms so Hill and Knowlton is just a little entity now in a company that is owned by an outfit in London. That means that they have to produce for stockholders now so that means they're given a goal, a 10 percent return. However you get that 10 percent we don't care. Just do it. That's vastly different from the way it used to be. A small service firm in the past was operating on the principles of its founder, and they were seeking to do a good job. They weren't oriented just towards the cash register. It's a very different world.
KP: I guess I wanted to ask one or two questions about the memory of war. One question is a lot has been written about the Italian campaign by historians and also there had been a number of war movies that deal with Italy. What movie do you think, if any, best reflects the Italian campaign?
TK: I remember one called A Walk in the Sun, which I thought was very good. It captured a lot of that. The devastation and the bleakness of battle. I can't think of any others about Italy, specifically.
KP: Even World War II in general?
TK: Two Women with Sophia Loren, was a very powerful anti-war statement, I remember that. That was good, the Italian peasantry, very accurate.
KP: You had a very romantic vision of war, but had you seen, for example, movies like All Quiet on the Western Front?
TK: Oh, yes.
KP: Some have compared that of all the theaters, the Italian theater was much more like World War I than any of the other theater. Did you ever get that sense when you were there?
TK: That's true. Well, it was more static, yes. It was much more static than any of the other theaters. It wasn't exactly trench warfare, but it was the closest to it, probably of any place in World War II. And there were a lot of morale problems caused because the motion was so slow and the cost of every inch was so high. It was tough. You didn't have any breakthroughs. It was just slog, slog, slog.
KP: General Mark Clark, many military historians find him a controversial figure. What is your attitude towards Mark Clark and in general the leadership of the Italian campaign as a young first lieutenant? What is your thinking over time?
TK: Well, I think Mark Clark was a remote figure and I side with those who are his critics. He had a sense of history like George Patton and he operated on that level. It was said by people at that time that he was mesmerized by the idea of taking Rome from the South because Hannibal had failed to do it and he was going to become a greater general than Hannibal. ... That's not much of a basis on which to make command decisions .... And what he did to the 36th Division, he decimated the 36th Division in the Rapido River battles. He just threw them in and kept them on line. They were in there for, I don't know how many days on the line until they were virtually decimated. The 36th Division after the war, I think, brought action, or tried to, against Mark Clark for having done that. I had an experience with a young second lieutenant that I brought back under guard to Casablanca (and this was in the 34th Division) because he had been under orders to hold his ground at the Rapido River and tried to advance. No one had advanced for weeks. What they did was pull one unit up after another, put them in and they'd all get shot up. Pull them out, the remnants, put another unit in. They'd all get cut up in pieces and pull them out. He was there in an untenable position and his men were all getting picked off and he couldn't go anywhere and he ordered a withdrawal and he was court martialed and given the death sentence for misbehavior in the face of the enemy. I understood perfectly what he did.
KP: Do you know what ever happened to him?
TK: No, I know he wasn't executed because Eisenhower commuted all death sentences, except one toward the end of the war. Private Slovik was his name. No, I don't know what happened to him, but he was typical, I think of the kind of push that Clark was putting on his troops. He was forcing them through sheer numbers to advance. There were no brilliant tactics or anything here. ...
KP: So you think his reputation as the butcher is accurate.
TK: Yes, I think so.
KP: That was commonly held at the time?
TK: Yes, yes.
KP: Not historians, looking back, and trying to find ...
TK: No, yes, I agree with that. I saw it on the ground. I saw it happen.
KP: Did this change your sort of romantic ideas? When did you realize that you were lucky that you didn't follow your initial wish to be a young infantry second lieutenant?
TK: Well, I guess, by the end of the war I understood that.
KP: But, you understood it very quickly though, and not that you had a very cushy position.
TK: No, but I understood it when I was in the Ordnance Company. As time went on I realized that I was still alive and that had an affect.
KP: You mentioned that you'd been back to Italy, to Rome. Have you been back to North Africa?
KP: Had you, in a sense, retraced part of your Italian experience?
TK: I was there with my family, my wife and son. We were on a tour, a package tour so we had to go with the tour, but we did cross places from time to time where I was and I'd pointed them out. We had some time off on our own, two or three days in Rome and I took them to the places where I had been and told them how I felt about things at the time.
KP: What was your reaction when you went back to Italy, seeing it in the 1960s or '70s?
TK: '60s I guess it was. I loved it, would've enjoyed spending more time there I guess.
KP: Is there anything I've forgotten to ask?
TK: No, I can't think of anything, Kurt. We've covered a lot of ground.
KP: I'm sure.
-------------------------END OF INTERVIEW---------------------------------
Revised 6/14/96 by Linda E. Lasko
Mr. Kindre has authored a series of articles, published by the Asbury Park Press, concerning his wartime experiences. This series serves as an excellent companion to the interview published above. To read these articles, click on the headlines below. The articles have been reproduced as JPEG format images.