Sandra Stewart Holyoak: This begins an interview on December 4, 2009, in Milltown, New Jersey, with Thomas Kinaszczuk and Sandra Stewart Holyoak. Thank you, Mr. Kinaszczuk, for having me here today. To begin the interview, could you tell me where and when you were born?
Thomas Kinaszczuk: I was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, in October 21, 1920.
SH: Great, thank you. Briefly, could you tell me a little bit about your mother and father, what their names were and where they were from?
TK: Yes, okay.
SH: Okay, ready?
TK: My mother and father were immigrants. I [am] told they came over in 1911. That's before World War I, and my father's name was Hnat, H-N-A-T, Kinaszczuk and my mother, who was a Ahafia Kinaszczuk, but she was always known as Haska, and, when they came over to this country, they settled in [New Jersey]. Because of a previous connection with friends, they were told to come over to Elizabeth, New Jersey, which they did and set up a home, in Elizabeth. ... From there, the family was born, my oldest brother, John, and my second oldest brother, Michael, and ... my only sister, Jenny at the time, but, in Ukrainian, her name is Sonia, which she likes to be called [now], Sonia, and myself, Thomas Kinaszczuk.
SH: You were the youngest of the family.
TK: I was the youngest of the family and it stayed that way for years, no additions, no subtractions, yes. [laughter]
SH: What did your father do? What was his trade?
TK: My father came over, all he was, he was a carpenter by trade, which showed up ... during the early years around the [home]. We lived in a flat, a two-story flat, and we were on the upper level of this two-story flat. ... It had no electricity, at that time, no telephone, and on the back porch was the toilet. There were no bathroom facilities inside the apartment at all and, during the wintertime, ... in the kitchen, there was an old, wood-burning or coal-burning stove which was used to heat the house and do all the cooking. ... Getting back to the toilet, in the wintertime, when the bowl was all frozen, we'd have to bring up water and put it on the stove and make it hot, and then, take the water out to flush the toilet. That's how primitive this thing was, [laughter] but, gradually, we got electricity in the house and that's all. That's all, because I remember, my sister and [I], we're doing our homework or so, it was by an old-fashioned kerosene lantern, and that's how the family just prospered. ... My father got a job in Proctor and Gamble Soap Company in Staten Island. ... He used to walk from Court Street, 141 Court Street, where I lived, or that where the flat was, and he would walk about three or four blocks to get the ferry to go across the Kill Van Kull, and we called it the Staten Island Sound, and then, walk from there up about a mile to the factory. ... There, he was a common laborer, and then, on the way home, he would walk the reverse and show up at the house. ... My mother, she got a job as a cook, originally in Schrafft's, Lower ... Manhattan, and then, gradually, she asked if they couldn't transfer her over to a place closer to her home, which they did. So, she was working in a Schrafft's Restaurant in Newark. She took the bus every day, or [nearly] every day, and [would] go over to Newark, and then, come back again by bus and come back ... home, and this went on and on. ... I was nine years old ... when the Depression hit. I was born in 1920 and the collapse was in '29, I believe, '29, and so, we were very, very limited. Almost, I don't believe we had welfare at that time, ... I don't believe we had welfare, but, so, we survived. The worst of it was, my father got [cut] down to one day a week, and that lasted for several months, and then, gradually, he got back to where we finally recovered during the Depression.
SH: Were your older brothers and sisters trying to find jobs as well?
TK: No. Well, my oldest brother was crippled. He's crippled. He had infantile paralysis at five, and so, he was limited. He quit school in four years, or when he was in the third or fourth grade, because he couldn't get to school. ... He couldn't walk to school because of his bad leg. So, he survived by my father actually carrying [him] to school whenever he could, or to any function, and so, he decided to quit.
TK: Okay, back?
TK: Let's see, I'm trying to think of how he [his oldest brother] got into working, but he was very good at mechanics, on cars. ... Somehow, he wasn't working, but he [was] just helping out his friends or so. So, he grew up knowing a lot about it. So, finally, as he got older and older, he got a job at a gas station, servicing cars, and that's the only work he got to do. ... From that work, he met a woman and they got married and, during the years, they had four children. They had four children. ... The next oldest brother, Michael, [while] going to school, he got a job at a grocery store, just boxing it, and, finally, he got to be selling, selling behind the counter, small items, and he just fell in love with that merchandising, working in that grocery store. ... He finished about, I believe, the tenth or eleventh grade and decided to quit school and go into working in a grocery store. ... Anyway, he turned out to be a very good businessman. Later on in life, he had his own store, a good store, a prosperous store, and was able to take care of his own family. My sister, she finished high school, she went to secretarial school in Newark for one or two years, and then, got a job ... as a secretary with Krueger Brewing Company in Newark. ... I, of course, went to high school, and then, went to college to get my requirements to go into the Navy.
SH: Let us back up a little bit and talk about where you went to school. What do you remember about your schools in Elizabeth?
TK: Yes. Well, I have to start [with], ... we lived only about [a block away], I went to George Washington Elementary School in downtown, downtown Elizabethport, and we lived in a little house on the right. The first street next to the school was Second Street and, on that Second Street, we had a first floor flat and, I remember, I was five years old ... when my mother walked me over this block away to George Washington Elementary School and enrolled me in the kindergarten. ... All this time, we only spoke Ukrainian, except what we learned from being with friends. When I got to kindergarten, I imagine I must have known one or two little words in English, but, being with the teacher and being with the friends and talking in this [class], I gradually picked up the English language. I went to second grade, first grade, second grade, third grade, and, in fourth grade, I was getting along fine. ... Then, to go to the fifth grade, I had to go to Cleveland Junior High School, there in downtown Elizabeth, and the reason I'm saying that [is] because, at the same time I was in junior high school, I was also a member of the Troop 132, I believe, Boy Scouts, downtown in the park there, near the Catholic church. ... The reason I bring this up [is] because, at the troop, we had a field day. One day, we had a field day and the Scoutmaster was going to take us to Newark Airport, which, then, we got into his car, was only about five of us, I guess, plus the driver, went over to Newark Airport and the Scoutmaster went into the office. It happened to be an American Airlines field office. At that time, Newark was very small, just a ... cinder-packed runway, and he went into the office and he asked, he says, "I have my fellows from the troop. We're just looking around [to] get some information on the airplanes and flying." ... He said to the Scoutmaster, "You're in luck. That big, silver airliner out there is going to depart in about an hour from now and the captain is right inside." So, he haled the captain in and he said, "Captain, would you take these people out to your airplane?" and he said, "Gladly." So, we went out and we looked the airplane over, and then, as we were disembarking, I asked the Captain, I said, "Captain, where are all your pilots trained, some flight school out in," I think I'd read, somewhere, there was one big one out in Ohio. He says, "No, all of us are ex-military pilots," and I said, "Oh, yes?" and so, that sunk [in]. [laughter] ... Then, when I went to the sixth, seventh grade, went into high school, I was looking in an encyclopedia about airplanes, how do you control them and all, and then, ... somehow, I got wind of [that] the Navy had a program, elimination program, at Floyd Bennett Field to get into the Navy Air Corps. So, I drove down there and I found out the requirements and they said the requirements were you had to have two years of college toward an engineering degree and you have to be twenty years old. So, I said, "Thank you very much," and so, I set my sights [on that]. After I finished high school, which I did, in 1938, I said, "I'm going to have to go to college." So, I started inquiring about what college I can go to. In the meantime, I was a soccer player. I'd played with the social club, Spanish social club, down where I lived, and I played with [the] high school soccer [team].
SH: Which high school were you in?
TK: Thomas Jefferson High School in Elizabeth, and I was looking at a school. ... We had no funds at home, because ... we had no savings account, nothing, except what my mother brought to pay the rent and my father was making over at Proctor and Gamble. So, I told my [parents] after I'd decided. I picked a college; I called, I call it some kind of a bureau, or some people that handled selecting a school that you wanted to go to, or so on, something, right. ... So, I called them up and I told them, "I'm limited on cost, but I'd like to go to [college]. I'm trying to cover my requirements to get into the Navy," and they picked the school. They picked High Point College [now University], North Carolina, and I said, "Do they play soccer there?" [laughter] and I asked a couple more questions, and then, I got their address. So, I called the school and I asked them what their fees were. So, they said, "Tuition, room and board, the whole works, five hundred dollars a year," and so, with that, I came home. ... So, then, I told my mother and father, because my father couldn't speak any English at all. In fact, we had to hold his hand ... on his check and make him write his name on the check, but my mother, she went to night school because she was limited on English at the restaurant, at the Schrafft's Restaurant where she worked, and so, she went to night school. Right there at the elementary school, they had a night school once or twice a week and she did that for awhile. So, she could speak half broken English, but she was all right. So, I told her, I said, "Mom, I need five hundred dollars to go to this college." So, she didn't say nothing. ... This is in the summertime. I'm working toward the fall, and so, she didn't say nothing, but, a couple days later, she says, "We can get you the five hundred dollars." My father, at his job, went and, through the company and the bank, he was able to get a five-hundred-dollar loan.
SH: Oh, my.
TK: And, now, whether they took pieces out of his paycheck, [I do not know], because, at that time, I remember him saying that ... all he had to do was pay the interest. So, it was very minimal. ...
TK: We're back? So, he came home and he said, "We have the five hundred dollars for you." So, I called the school and made an appointment that I was going to come down, and I think I sent them the five hundred dollars by Western Union or so. Some way, I sent them the five [hundred dollars], and then, I made an appointment. I was going to go to school in that September. So, in the meantime, yes, that was it. So, when ... it's coming [time] to go down to [High Point College], ... I made arrangements to get a Greyhound Bus ... at that time, but not even talking to my folks. This, I was doing this all on my own. So, one day, I told my mother, "Well, I'm leaving. I'm going to take a bus from uptown," ... up on, I forget the [street name], not Elizabeth Avenue, the main street in Elizabeth. I said, "I'm going to take the bus and I'm going to leave for college," and that's all I did. ... Then, when the day came for the bus, I just packed my little bag I had and went up. ... We had a bus that went from downtown up to uptown. So, I took the bus, for a quarter, I think a quarter. [laughter] It cost a quarter, and so, I went up there and I'm getting on the bus and I'm looking out the window and there's my mother. There's my mother, not saying anything to me, or I'm not saying anything to her; she was there to wish me off. So, that brought tears to my eyes. [laughter]
SH: I am sure it did.
TK: Anyway, ... and there was nothing said. I went down there, I kept in it. I'm there almost a whole year, ... and then, I needed a slide rule, money to buy a slide rule. So, I wrote ... home and told them and my sister, from her paycheck, she went and sent me the money down to buy this slide rule and, after that, it was just quiet. ... [I] got my second year and, after I finished my second year, I ...
SH: When you were down there in school, did you come home for the holidays or did you work?
TK: I didn't have my car there. No, no, I didn't come [home] to any holiday. I stayed down there all the time.
SH: Were you working?
TK: I remember, I roomed with a roommate and, ... in our dormitory, we had upper level double bunks, and then, maybe there were two of those in that one little room. So, anyway, so, one of my partners there said, "I'm from Alabama and do you want to come down for the Christmas break or whatever? We'll go down there. You stay with me down in Alabama, Montgomery, Alabama." ... That's what I did one time, but, other than that, that was it, until I finished my [second year]. ... Then, I came home in June, May or June of '40, and then, I had that whole summer waiting for me, for my twentieth birthday in October. So, while I'm hanging around, I met one of my friends and I said, "Where are you coming from?" He said, "I'm over there at the vocational school, on the other end of town," says, "I'm going over there. It doesn't cost nothing," and so, I decided, "Hey, I'm just sitting around." So, I went over there, ... checked into vocational school and went into the department where they were teaching machine shop, you know, drilling machines and all kinds of machines. [We] had a German instructor there, I remember, used to eat peanuts all the time. [laughter] He had to eat peanuts all the time and, [as] he's talking to me, you could smell those peanuts, but he was a stern German, you know. He says, "Jah, you going to be good here, you going to be good here." [laughter] So, I'm working there and I'm learning how to [operate] on the lathe and this and that. ... Finally, I'm [to] where it's now [that] the summer's coming on, toward the end of the summer, and I'm already up on the machine that's going to start making gears, which is [interesting]. I didn't know how you do it, but it's interesting work, you know, and then, this instructor comes over, he says, "Thomas," he says, "I got a call from the Elastic Stop Nut Corporation and they would like to have an employee. Would you like to go?" and I said, "Certainly." ... So, I got over there and I checked in, did the application, mentioned that I had college and all, and the guy's kind of looking at me and [says], "This is a job [where] you're just going to work on a machine." ... This Elastic Stop Nut Corporation was doing a lot of government work, making all kinds of nuts. ... They called it [the] Elastic Stop Nut Corporation because the nuts they were making had a fiber insert there, insert, so [that] when you went and screwed that nut on, it made its own thread into the fiber, and so, [despite] the vibration, it couldn't release. So, my job, my first job, was on a machine [where] I would have a disc with little slots to put the certain sized nut [in] and the nuts would go around and they would drill, and then, tap. You go to the next, and then, drill and tap that nut and go around and drop it in the bin. So, eight hours a day, that's all I did, was keep this machine going and doing these nuts. So, I called [it], "I'm working in a nuthouse." [laughter] ... Oh, I got ahead of myself. This is what happened. After I checked in, at my birthday; this, I'll back up now. ... I checked into the Navy and they said, "Okay," and I gave them the résumé from the [college]; résumé, transfers, what do you call that?
TK: Transcript, and I gave it to them. They made a file on me and they said, "We'll let you know," and so, then, after that October, I waited; November, no word. In the meanwhile, I'm still working in Elastic Stop Nut. November came around, December and into January, and I called them up. Oh, I called them up in December. ... I called them up and I got the seaman on duty there and I told him, "I applied and I haven't heard from you." ... He misunderstood, I think, because he thought maybe I'm applying again. So, he took my name and all, and then, I waited until January and I called again toward the end of January, and the seaman came on and I say, "I've been waiting all this time and I haven't heard from you." ... He's looking around the files and he says, "Oh, I know why. You have two files on you, one when you originally came in and, possibly, when you called in. We have two files on you. Now, I have the original file. Yes, well, okay, we'll call you back in not too long," and so, that lasted until February. ... I was working. I got a call and I had the night shift at the Elastic Stop Nut Corporation. So, I got a call from Floyd Bennett [Field], from the Navy at Floyd Bennett, [Naval Air Station New York], and [they] said, "Report, the next;" let's say I got it on Friday, they said, well, anyway, it was a day of the week. ... "Report," say, two days later, "at nine o'clock at Floyd Bennett." ... So, at work, I was transferred to the midnight [shift], to the night shift, and I was working from eleven to seven, yes, eleven to seven or twelve to eight, I forget. Anyway, ... so, that morning, I went right from my graveyard shift. Instead of coming home, I went from Elastic Stop Nut straight over to the Floyd Bennett Field, to the Navy, and I checked in just in time. ... I walked in there and a lieutenant looked at me and I said, "I'm reporting, sir," and he says, "Reporting from where?" [laughter] He's looking because I've got ... fairly clean clothes, but he looks at me and I told him, "I just got off the graveyard shift and I went straight over here. I didn't want to miss my time here," and he says, "You should clean up," or something like that. So, he told the sailor over there, he says, "Okay, check him out." So, I went through the routine of the spinning around the ... chair, to see what your equilibrium was, or whatever it was, and he checked ... some other stuff, "Here, press your nose." It was a little physical, but it was a flight physical and, after I was through, the sailor took me back to the Lieutenant and he says, "He's okay, he's okay." So, the Lieutenant said, "Raise your right hand." "Yes, sir," I raised my right hand and he swore me in. Right there and then, he swore me into the Navy as a seaman, second [class].
SH: This is February of 1941.
TK: '41, yes, '41, and he says, let's say that was a Friday, ... "Monday morning, you report here at the field at," say, 0800, 0900, whatever it was, and that's all. ... I went home, and then, Monday morning, I drove back. I drove because I had to buy a car to go from downtown to Elastic Stop Nut in Union, and I remember, if I may back up ...
TK: So, I went looking around and there was a nice 1933 Chevrolet sedan in the window of this Chevrolet dealership, and I walked in there and I said, "How much is this?" He says, "Five hundred dollars, ... but you can get a GMAC loan, ... but, first, you're not twenty-one. So, we have to have your mother or somebody in to sign for you," which I did. The next day, I brought my mother up to the dealer there and she backed me up on the form and I bought that '33 Chevy, [laughter] used one, and so, that's what I used to drive to and forth from work. I was ... using it to work there, and then, I drove that straight over to Floyd. So, I had the wheels. Now, what comes after that?
SH: Before we talk more about the Navy, I wanted to ask about your time down in North Carolina at High Point. Did you get to play soccer?
TK: Oh, yes, oh, yes. One game we played, toward the end of the season, we had to play, go play Duke, ... at the Duke University, play Duke, and it wasn't in a league game. ... Oh, then, I have to ... really go back in the story.
SH: That is fine.
TK: When I was a young kid and playing, I lived two doors away from the Spanish social club and I was playing soccer. They had a little team and a big team and all. ... I used to, when I'd play, kicking a ball against the wall and bringing it back, I'd go with my right foot, and then, I'd go with my left foot. So, I became very good with my left foot, [shooting] from the left foot. So, when I got down to ... college, I went to make out for the team. ... Of course, I got up there and I'd been playing a lot of soccer, so, I was going right in there. ... The goalkeeper was a star of [the] basketball team, big guy, and so, he was ... kind of the coach and manager, the whole thing. So, he says, "Okay," you know, and so, I tried [out]. I got in with the main team ... and I was playing because I was outside left. They didn't have anybody that can play outside left, then, make the crosses over. So, I ... got the job right away. I was the outside left man. [laughter] So, I got good at that, but, then, gradually, because I was also good at the other stuff, I was good at shooting goals, so, finally, I'm playing center forward. ... Then, when we went to Duke, we'd been playing the other schools around, and, when we went to Duke, that game, ... we're playing out there and there's no audience or anything in there where I guess there were [normally]. ... I'm playing there and we had a penalty and I was center forward. So, I went up there real quick, put the ball down and, when the time was right, I shot it, [laughter] "Phew," see, and, well, I have to elaborate on that. I knew from past experience that if you're going like this and you're going to hit the ball here, you know, it looks like you're going to hit it and you're going to go off to the left corner. So, gradually, I go, start out like this, and then, I'm going like this and, in the last just couple feet, I go, "Phew," just like that, high and fast, you know, and I made it. So, I made that first goal, and then, we're playing some more and I [got] another penalty kick, and so, I went and I hit the top of the post, went back out again. ... We scrimmaged again, "Phew," I hit the thing again, and then, we played again. ... Anyway, we beat them 4-1 and I made three of the goals.
SH: Good for you. [laughter]
TK: I made three of the goals. So, that's my soccer experience in High Point College. Now, it's called the High Point University, see, but it served the purpose, and not only that, the government was instituting an airplane pilots' program, [with the] little Piper club and teaching [college students]. ...
SH: The Civil Air Patrol?
TK: No, no, ... this is college, just college. [Editor's Note: The Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP) was started in 1938 by Franklin D. Roosevelt to train civilians as pilots so that a reserve of trained pilots would be available in case of war. It operated in 1,132 colleges and universities and 1,460 flight schools.] They wanted to know if they had any college kids that are interested in flying. So, I went and I signed up for it and, sure as hell, then, I went out to the airport and they instructed me to take off this little Piper Cub, come around, and I actually soloed, but that was on my record. That was on my record, see. So, when they saw that the second time at Floyd Bennett, when they looked at the second [set of papers], they looked at my résumé, they saw there's a little flying. So, that's why they called me, "Okay, come on in." ... So, that helped, that helped.
SH: Did you play any other sports?
TK: Basketball. I didn't play officially on our team, but I did a lot of scrimmage. ... When I left the second year, the coach, because I was doing very well on basketball, ... their star player was doing some funny things, you know, like a back flip to make a pass for a goal, where most of the guys [were] in front of me, he's standing there and I'm going on, looking this [way], and I hit the ball between his legs, and this is their star player. [laughter] ... The coach, later on, you know, we're scrimmaging or so, he says, "Tom," he says, "you're coming back next year, aren't you?" "Yes." I didn't say anything, see, because I'm making plans for the Navy. ... I don't know, ... I never told him. [When] I got the transcript, I may have told him I was applying to go to the Navy, I think, on the transcript. ...
SH: When you were growing up in Elizabeth, you talked about your father only speaking Ukrainian; was there a community right there?
TK: Yes, yes, there was, yes. We had our own social club, Ukrainian social club. ... In fact, the choirmaster at our church, way up town, just a couple blocks away from Battin High School, the all-girl high school at that time, and the church [was] St. Vladimir [Ukrainian Church], ... the choirmaster, back at the social club, in the basement, he was running a class for the kids on how to read and write Ukrainian. So, one day, my mother called me, says, "You go to school over there, you know, for Ukrainian," and I went over there. I sit in on the class and learn that, the alphabet, you know, and how to say the alphabet and how to write the alphabet, and then, read a little bit. ... Then, little by little, I just gave it up, didn't even say anything to my mother except I never went back again, but, for a long time, when I had trips going to Moscow, you know, I could read [some things]. The alphabet's just about the same. It's just the way you say it. So, I was able to pick out words, and so on. ... Because I grew up with Ukrainian, I could speak my Ukrainian here and there and I got along very well.
SH: You talked about playing with the Spanish social club soccer team. Did you pick up any Spanish at all?
TK: Oh, yes, all the dirty words. [laughter] ... Yes, I had a close group of friends there, Spaniards, yes, and then, ... I went into the Navy just as the, what did they call it? the call-up, the draft, started. So, all my friends were getting called and I was ahead of them. I went into the Navy. ...
SH: Before we talk about the Navy and going to Floyd Bennett, were you aware, down in North Carolina in 1939, of what Hitler was doing in Europe?
TK: No, no, we never talked about it.
TK: Never, never heard anything. The only thing I knew from the social club was the Spanish War, the war there in [Spain], Spanish War. [Editor's Note: The Spanish Civil War, fought between the Spanish Republicans and the fascist Spanish Nationalists under Francisco Franco, lasted from July 1936 to April 1939.] In fact, I remember, we had a big donation and we had enough money to buy an ambulance, you know, Red Cross ambulance type, to be shipped over. ... Some of the people in the social club were the ones from, not the Madrid area, but maybe the southern part of Spain or so. ... The slang term, they called them peasants, you know, like Mexican. Anyway, so, that's all I knew about a pending conflict of some kind. ... It wasn't until I got into the Navy, in training, that, all of a sudden, that Sunday morning, we got [the news]. The loudspeakers were going and everything, "Everybody form on the field," you know. So, all the cadets, we all formed on the field and the commanding officer gave the unit a talk, "We've now been attacked at Pearl Harbor by the Japanese and we are now at war." ... There wasn't much said about that. So, we all dispersed.
SH: This was at Floyd Bennett.
TK: Yes; no, ... this is in Jacksonville.
SH: Okay. From Floyd Bennett, where did they send you to?
TK: ... Oh, I have to tell you about that elimination training. So, I didn't know [much about it]. I knew it was called elimination training and, somewhere, I heard all you get is six hours of training and I assumed it was for solo, ... but I didn't pay any attention to that. So, I went in. When I signed in, they said, "Okay, you reported in," he said, "now, what you have to do [is]," we had a couple of shacks there, "you have to do some ground [training]. You have to go to one class on naval [traditions]." See, there's no boot camp in this, in the [Navy] Air Force, at that time.
TK: No boot camp. So, you're just a seaman, second, see, but, to get into this program, you have to have a class in Navy customs and traditions, so [that] you know what it's all about, and then, another one [was] radio, learn how to do the code, "dit-dat." ... Until you finished those classes and got proficient in the Morse code, you know, sending and receiving Morse code, then, the next step, you go over to the hangar area and work around the airplanes, maybe wheel them out or bring them down or clean them. Somebody comes in with a lot of "upsets," you know, puke, and you would have to go out, and then, clean it, but the idea was to get you used to being near an airplane, you know, and kind of see people wiggling the controls and all this stuff, because, supposedly, you don't know anything about flying. ... I never told them this, never told them this, [that I had the CPTP training]. ... Then, my day comes, I'm on the bulletin board, "So-and-So, report, first flight tomorrow," say 1000, whatever it was, and then, looking around, I saw what the procedure was. The procedure was, they parked the airplane out on the field, it was an all dirt field, grass and dirt field, and the student would go out to the airplane and his chute would be out there already. Yes, I don't remember carrying my own. It was out there already and, oh, it's already in the backseat of the open cockpit, and then, the other thing, the student goes out there and the pilot's parachute is on the lower wing, sitting on the lower wing. ... The idea is, when your instructor-pilot comes out, you smartly grab the chute and he extends his arm and you help sling it around his back. ... Then, he says, "Go in the airplane," and you go up and get in your seat and he goes up and gets in his seat, and then, you go off. So, I'm watching all this stuff. So, one day, [it was] my time to go. ... I'm out there at the airplane, the chute is on the bottom of the [wing], on the lower wing, and here comes this guy out, no cap on, he was burly, looks like a football player, burly, crew cut-type guy, kind of roly-[poly] a little bit. He's walking up here and I smartly ... grabbed the chute and I'm starting to go; he puts his hand out there, "Give me that chute. What do you think, I'm crippled?" My first [time]; I've never seen this guy before, so, I didn't say a thing. He says, "Get in there." So, I climbed in, got in my seat. He got in there and we started the engine. He started the engine, got it all [ready], and turned around, he says, "Follow me through on the take-off." So, we go around and he goes roaring down the field and he takes off, and I guess he'd meant for me to hold the stick and ... [put my] feet on the rudders. So, we took off and we're going straight towards Staten Island there, because of westerly take-offs, southwesterly take-offs, and we're up about two or three hundred feet and he says, "Okay, hold it. Climb to a thousand feet and level off." So, you know, they've got the big stick [laughter] and I'm sitting there and I'm looking at the [altimeter] spin and I get up there, getting close to a thousand feet. I nose it over to hold [at] a thousand feet. I knew that much from my previous flying. I nose over, hold at a thousand feet and he says, "Okay, I got it." He pulls the throttles back and we're sailing along about fifteen hundred feet, maybe, twelve hundred feet, whatever, and we're flying, go across the Verrazano, get over the edge of Staten Island ... We go only three, four, five miles inland and he says, "I got it." ... All of a sudden, we're going down and we're going down to a little dirt field over there. As we're coming in, I'm looking. I'm looking way ahead; nobody there but that little shack, and I see some kind of machine out there, by the doorway. Anyway, we come in, land. We pull up fifty feet from the shack or so. So, he kind of swivels around a little bit. ... He gets a gun out and he says, he gets out, "Come on, come on." So, I got out and I'm following him. He comes up and he goes straight for the Coke machine ... He pulled it, he says, "You want one?" I said, "No, sir." [laughter] So, he opens the door and he shouts, "Hi, George," or whatever the guy was. He'd done this before. So, the guy knows, he knows. So, he's shooting the fat with this guy, the guy, and I'm sitting there, just waiting on him, just waiting, standing by, and, finally, he says, "Okay, let's go back." So, we get back in the airplane and he takes off again and we're flying back and we come back to Floyd Bennett. He said, "Okay, follow me through the controls," and we go and we come down making an approach and we make a landing and we taxi in. What he was doing was eating up his first hour of being on the job, the instructor, see. [laughter] ... That's the way you killed the first hour, because you can do all that in about twenty minutes, you know. [laughter] So, anyway, but that didn't bother me. So, the next shot, next time I had a training flight, we went through the same thing, except I'm practicing more take-offs and landings, not air work, just take-offs and landings, take-offs and landings. ...
SH: With the same instructor or a different one?
TK: Same one, same instructor. So, now, it's come [time for my test]. I don't know what day it was, it wasn't in sequence, anyway, and so, it's my turn and I'm on the board. I'm going. So, now, I'm taking off. He said, "Okay, take off." So, I take off, you know, smartly, come around and around, come around, come around, and I land nicely right there and it stopped. No brakes on these airplanes, come down, roll it to a stop there. So, he says, "Stay right there." The engine's running. He gets out of the cockpit. He walks over about seventy-five feet, he turns around and he squats and he sits in the grass. He sits there, looking at me, and I'm looking at him. Finally, he reaches up and he says, like this, he waves his right hand in a "Go" fashion. [laughter] So, I proceeded. I took off, came around, same thing, landed in the same spot and I stopped there, everything. I looked over and he's still sitting there, and he gives me this "Go" motion again. [laughter] So, I [figure], "All right, ... that's what he wants." So, I whipped around, came around, came around, came around, and nicely come down, same spot again, you know, to stop and [I am] holding there, and then, he comes. Harry comes waltzing to the airplane, he gets in and we taxi then. That was my final checkout. I made three take-offs and landings by myself, I finished my six hours, I passed. ... The first thing I knew, "You're now going to be an Aviation Cadet and you're going to Pensacola," and then, your pay immediately goes to seventy-five dollars a month, see. [laughter] ...
SH: Where were you housed at Floyd Bennett? Where did they put the seamen, like yourself? Where were the cadets housed? Was there a barracks there?
TK: ... Yes, there must have been. ... We were near the hangar. ... Oh, we had some kind of a barracks there. We used to get out and do the morning run around the hangar for exercise. So, it must have been the barracks. I'm eighty-nine years old.
SH: That is okay. That is amazing that you could do that.
TK: ... That was called elimination training and, in my group of about forty that ... came in, only about twenty of us made it. ... Then, to follow up, ... just before, a couple of them, my group, went to Pensacola, but Pensacola, already, the Navy knew ... they needed a lot of pilots, so, they went and they built Jacksonville, an auxiliary training base. So, instead of going to Pensacola, they assigned me orders to go to Jacksonville. That's where I checked out, did the same thing I would do at Jacksonville ... than they'd do in Pensacola, except that Jacksonville was good for night landings. They had the St. John's River and we're using flying boats, the old PBY, and then, ... to check out, you'd do night work and all ... in that St. John's River, which was nice. [Editor's Note: The PBY Catalina "flying boat" was the primary long-range reconnaissance aircraft used by the US Navy in this time period.] So, the Navy decided that was going to be a hell of a good training base. So, that's why I graduated from Jacksonville and not from Pensacola, but it was the same thing, just an auxiliary field.
SH: Did you get a chance to go back home to Elizabeth before you went to Pensacola?
TK: Yes, ... before I went to Jacksonville, yes, because I took my old Chevy with me.
SH: Jacksonville, I am sorry.
TK: I drove my old Chevy.
SH: Did you?
TK: Yes. ...
SH: Did any of the people go with you? Did you drive down alone?
TK: No, no, all by myself.
SH: Did you?
TK: No, the first people I met were all strangers, everything with strangers.
SH: I wanted to ask, here you are, a young man from Elizabeth, you had gone to an all-boys high school, right?
SH: How was it to go to North Carolina that first time by yourself on the bus? Was there anything that shocked you?
TK: ... No. When I was a young kid, I used to wander all by myself. That's where I got the bug for [flying]. In downtown Elizabeth, there's railroad tracks that go right on ... the edge of the airport and I used to walk that four miles. So, I'd go all the way to the air[port], look around the airport and all, then, walk all the way down to [Elizabeth again], and then, my mother would [ask], at the end of the day, "Where were you?" "Oh, nowhere, nowhere," and that's all my life. ... I'd take a walk to the ferry to go to Staten Island, get a bus to go all the way over to St. George to take the ferry to Manhattan, so [that] I could see the Statue of Liberty and all. ... I used to walk, in later years, when I was eleven, ten, eleven, ... from the Battery all the way up to 42nd Street to see Times Square, look around, and then, walk all the way back to the Battery, and then, get on the ferry.
SH: By yourself?
TK: By myself. Yes, I used to wander all over the place, always by myself. So, I had no problem, no problem, no matter [what], and my mother used to say, "Where were you?" "Nowhere." ... I never talked about these things at all. ... When I said, "I'm going into the Navy," or so, you know, ... all my decisions were [made by] myself.
SH: When you were down in Jacksonville, can you talk a little bit about that and what your experiences were like? Now, things are really building up.
TK: ... Yes, I'll tell [you] what the system was. Of course, they put you in the all-metal trainer, and then, they put you in a bigger one, a more up-to-date one that they used in the fleet, you know. ... You're practicing around and you do, in your training, I remember doing formation flying, ... and then, in the primary one, it was a little bigger than the one in Floyd Bennett, you go on up and do all kinds of maneuvers, you know, all kinds of maneuvers. ... In Jacksonville, we had another auxiliary field where we did a little of this training, not at the main base. Cecil Field, it was called Cecil Field. ... So, we were flying around. ... One of the highlights, so, one day, we're standing there, just came in ... on the bus from Jackson[ville], we came over to Cecil Field and we're lining up for a morning muster over there and the guys ahead of us are walking down. Oh, that's another thing; I have to tell you that first.
SH: Okay, please.
TK: ... The airplanes are parked there.
SH: In a row.
TK: ... Then, airplanes coming in off a flight will come down like this and you're told, "When you walk down, you know, and you're going to go between airplanes, if you're going to [be] walking, make sure you don't go this way." See, here's the airplane coming down this way. Now, he's moving. "If you're going to walk, when you go there, walk this way. Never go like this and go across like this." So, that's what we used to do, see, anyway, but this guy was walking this way and, right in front of our eyes, goes out and that propeller chews him up, parachute is flying. ... Then, we're standing there and the fellow in charge said, "We told you. You don't walk that way; you walk this way."
SH: At a right angle.
TK: ... Like you do crossing the road. You don't go diagonal, you go, "Phew," go right across. So, that was the first incident that stuck in my mind. The other one was, we were all getting ready to go on our flights, on different stages of flight, and, one time, they halted us all. Somebody already in training got into a spin and he went down and he crashed. That was the first one that crashed, and the only one ... in my whole training period there ... What happened is, they always told us, you know, how to make a regular spin, get out of a regular spin, but this guy was going on and did a loop. He got up like this and he flattened out and, whatever he did on the controls, he got himself in an inverted spin and he went all the way down and he crashed, killed himself. ... That's when they told us all that we have to go up with the instructor and check out in an inverted spin. So, we all had to go up on a special flight, go on up and get into an inverted spin and get out of it, so [that] it wouldn't happen to any of us. So, that was the other thing that stuck in my mind, and the other [thing that] stuck, initially, I was looking to go into the Navy, get my experience and all and come out and get into the airline pilot business. So, I'm doing all these different airplanes and flying, and then, there comes a time when you can bid on what stage of the fleet you want to go into, if you want to go into OS2Us, [the Vought OS2U Kingfisher, which] was the observation plane. That's the one that they had on the back of a battleship, that would go out and observe, you know, whatever they needed. The other one was fighters, that, ... according to your training, you would bid for it, but, in your training, the instructor could see that, "Boy, you can really do this kind of stuff." ... [If] you put a bid in for fighters [and if] you're good on your chit, and then, chances are, you're going to get fighters. I bid big boats, because I'm looking at the biggest thing you can fly. I'm looking for big boats and, when I got my bid, there I was. I got assigned to the flying boats, and then, I spent a couple months or so, finally, I checked out finally in the PBY, got my wings and went to the fleet ... The one peculiar [thing], the Marines, see, the cadets [were] not in the Marines, the Navy, but we find out that the Marine Corps only had fighter pilots, and, in the Pacific, they had, well, that guy's name, that certain leader there, anyway, but the Marines all have fighter planes. [Editor's Note: Commander Kinaszczuk may be referring to US Marine Corps fighter pilot Colonel Gregory "Pappy" Boyington, who commanded VMF-214, "The Black Sheep Squadron."] So, if you were gung ho to be a fighter pilot, you changed your status into the Marine Corps.
SH: Oh, dear.
TK: Yes, you transferred. Right then and there, you go into the Marine Corps. You finished up, you got your ... Marine Corps wings; Navy wings, but in the Marine Corps. So, that's one particular thing about that training. So, ... from that training, I got checked out. The most violent thing, I remember checking out in the PBY. They had an upper wing, then, they had, like, a thick thing where, actually, a flight engineer is in that, then, it comes to the body of the boat part, see, and then, we were taught to do full stall landings at night. [laughter] So, you ... come in, hold it up like this, and, "Boom," [laughter] and everything would be [shaking]. You'd think the wings are going to [come off], but I always think of that poor guy in that center [area], the flight engineer. ...
SH: A conning tower, almost.
TK: Yes, ... in that tower. So, those little things stick in my mind, [laughter] and so, to follow that up, ... in 1942, I got orders to join the patrol bomber squadron, with the PBYs, up in Argentia, Newfoundland. When I got there, all the flying boats are gone and they have land-based bombers, like this, land-based bombers, and so, I checked in. ... Then, the story goes, the British command, [RAF] Coastal Command, they had a plane like this, [which] was used by National Airlines to fly from New York to Miami, nice, silver job, very similar to this. So, the British said, "We like that. We can use an airplane like that." So, they made a military version of the Lodestar, like this, for the British. ... They were doing very well on Coastal Command with that airplane and the [US] Navy Department decided that, "Hey, we're going to try that." So, my squadron was the first squadron to get ... rid of your boats and go into land-based patrol bombers. [Editor's Note: The Lockheed PV-1 Ventura was a medium-sized US Navy bomber. The design was based on the Lockheed Lodestar, an aircraft originally developed for commercial passenger travel, then, adapted as a military transport. The RAF Coastal Command commissioned the initial military version as a replacement for the Lockheed Hudson bomber and deployed them as Lockheed Venturas or B-34 Lexingtons. The US Navy's PV-1 Ventura featured increased armament, radar equipment and fuel capacity to fulfill its primary role as a patrol-bomber.]
TK: ... Yes, and so, I joined the squadron and, immediately, ... checked out in the airplane.
SH: How long does it take to check out in such a different aircraft?
TK: Well, for me, it's no problem. It was just training, you know, training, because I'd flown nothing but regular airplanes until the last two months on the PBY. [laughter] ... Before all this history, the Navy Department, they were looking for, [now that the] war's come, ... pilots. So, they decided they're going to take a regular sailor, who's been in the fleet, probably a chief, a lot of experience, and he's got the inclination, maybe, at one time, he put a chit in, he wanted to get into Naval Air, you know, and so, ... they had his record, a guy named Donald F. Mason. So, they decided they're going to choose this guy. ... He went through Pensacola, went through the whole program. He's just a regular Navy [sailor] and he went, checked him out, and he got his wings, but they didn't call him an ensign. They called him a Navy pilot, special designation. ... Yes, he was able to get into the officers' quarters and stuff, see, almost the same as an officer, but a special designation, Navy pilot, see. ... About a month-and-a-half before I got there, he was on patrol when he sent the famous message, "Sighted sub, sank same," whew, and people all over ... the world [saw that], you know. Then, the Navy has pictures of, you know, "Silent Donald F. Mason, 'Sighted sub, sank same,'" ... and it's history, you know. So, anyway, to follow on that real quick, ... he was still in the squadron for a couple months after I was still there and they sent him in for a bond tour and he was all over the country, you know, ... driving around all over, "Donald F. Mason, (no sell?) bonds, you know, 'Sighted sub, sank same.'" So, I have that picture of him and his crew. ... [Editor's Note: On January 28, 1942, Aviation Machinist's Mate First Class Donald F. Mason, piloting a PBO-1 Hudson of the VP-82 squadron based at Argentia, Newfoundland, reported that he had sunk a German submarine with the brief report, "Sighted sub, sank same." The story and quote helped buoy American morale during the bleak months following the attack on Pearl Harbor. While it was discovered after the war that the submarine Mason's crew attacked that day was not sunk, he did successfully sink a submarine in March 1942.]
SH: You do.
TK: Well, you want me to say the same thing?
SH: Yes, please. We are looking at some of the material that you have collected.
TK: ... I got into this propaganda, too, soon. So, the pictures I took [of the sinking of the U-174], that one big picture of the submarine, this one here, well, they put it in the bottom of the Daily News, front page of the [newspaper].
SH: This is your story, when you found it. Is this when Mason sank the U-boat or when you sank your U-boat?
TK: Me, that's me. That's me; the whole thing is down.
SH: This is the Daily News.
TK: ... We're going to get up to this, finally. See, we're going to get the history of my sinking. ...
SH: Your crew member was part of Donald Mason's crew.
TK: Yes, yes.
SH: Okay. What was his position, this Holt? Was that his name?
TK: Yes, yes, it tells you right there on the [article]. He was the gunner's mate. ...
SH: This is from the PV-1 Ventura In Action [by Charles L. Scrivner and W. E. Scarborough (1981)] publication and has a picture of the different types of planes you were flying. It talks about the Battle of the Atlantic.
TK: ... This caption here shows this fellow here. See, what was he?
SH: He was a gunner.
TK: And gunner.
SH: Okay, great. Do you remember where he was from? Do you remember anything about him?
TK: ... No, Mike.
SH: This Donald Mason then becomes a full lieutenant in the Navy.
TK: Lieutenant, junior grade, yes.
SH: JG. The Navy was pretty hierarchal, correct? Mixing of the enlisted men with the officers was not ...
TK: ... I don't know how many the Navy tried, whether he was the only one. ... They must have tried more than one guy, but it's the only one I ever heard of, special, from the sailor right up through the ranks, you know. ... "Let's see if we can get a plain, old guy and teach him how to fly, see if he can make the grade," which he did, see, and he showed it by [sinking the sub]. He says he sunk the submarine, but no proof, [not] like me. I got the proof. [laughter] See, there's the proof. Oh, no, getting back to this ...
SH: To your sinking.
TK: So, what the Navy Department did, they run this propaganda, see. You can tell by the wording on the bottom.
SH: This is from the Daily News, June 7, 1943.
TK: Yes. That's where I had these other photos. ... They took the pictures from one of my actual photos.
SH: You had cameras on the plane.
TK: Yes, yes. That's a story in itself, but I got that with my other information. Can you read the line?
SH: The headline reads, "Just before making its death plunge, a U-boat is blown up with its bow in the air. It is depth bombed from four charges from a new Navy Vega Ventura patrol bomber, piloted by Lieutenant Thomas Kinaszczuk, ... Elizabeth, New Jersey. The plane is riddled with bullets, but it went right in for that first U-boat kill by a Ventura."
TK: ... After I sunk this, in April, ... April/May, they gave me a couple weeks' leave. So, I came home, I didn't say anything to my family, none of my friends, except, "I've been running around," and one of my friends says, "Hey, Tom, I got a picture that was in the paper," you know. So, this is [it], and so, he showed it to me and that's what I have on my file.
TK: ... Yes.
SH: You got it from your friend, not from the Navy.
TK: That's right, yes. ... Well, no, I got my own pictures from the Navy. [laughter] I've got, in that other book, my actual pictures. No, what it was, we had, at that time, ... there's one set of controls. The other fellow was doing the [camera work]. No, my airplane had two controls, but we always carried a K-20 camera, you know, as part of the kit. ... When I went in and bombed this thing, came around, took pictures, my copilot took the camera and took the pictures. ... The bad part about it was, we always had a load of fifty shots, and then, for some reason, they're trying to save money and they reduced it to thirty-five shots. So, when we came in and started taking pictures around, the actual picture showing the submarine sinking, this, we got lots of other good pictures, but that one, we ran out of film. We thought we had all that film in all the final film. ...
SH: I will put this back on.
TK: Yes, if you like.
SH: We have another newspaper article here that talks about the new ...
TK: Well, no, first, this is the one that came out. That other ... one I showed you, I didn't have the picture. I went to the library here and I remembered the date, about; I called it June 6th or so, and we asked the New York Library. I knew it was in the Daily News in about that time, and the one I showed you before was a reprint from the library. That's why it's so fuzzy and all. It was a microfilm.
SH: Microfiche, yes.
TK: See, they take pictures of all the papers, all the pages. ... So, they sent me that one that I showed you in the beginning, but the original one, here's a copy of the original one, see.
SH: Wow, that is a great shot. It shows it sinking.
TK: ... Yes, when this was finally going straight down, because that brought up another thing; when I got my award, it said, "Probably sunk," and then, that's a whole new story, that I had to convert it, go to the Navy ... and prove that I finally sunk it. ... I've got a history of all that stuff that went on, and they finally came back and gave me a new citation saying that I sunk it. ...
[Editor's Note: The text of the final citation for Commander Kinaszczuk's Navy Cross appears below:
"The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the NAVY CROSS to
LIEUTENANT (JUNIOR GRADE) THOMAS KINASZCZUK
UNITED STATES NAVAL RESERVE
for service as set forth in the following
For extraordinary heroism and outstanding courage as pilot of a United States Navy bombing plane in offensive action against an enemy submarines on 27 April 1943. Lieutenant (jg) Kinaszczuk was on a convoy coverage flight when he sighted a surfaced enemy submarine approaching the convoy on an intercepting course at high speed. Immediately increasing speed, he began his approach for an immediate attack. When the range had closed to about one and one half miles, the submarine commenced a very accurate and heavy anti-aircraft fire which it maintained throughout the attack. With completed disregard for the accuracy of the enemy's fire and the damage which several hits caused to the plane's starboard wing and aileron, the pilot pressed home his attack. Finally, from an altitude of only 25 feet, he released his depth bombs. Of the four depth bombs released, three were observed to have exploded beneath the submarine. Shortly after the attack, the submarine broke surface at an extreme angle and soon thereafter sank, stern first, in a nearly perpendicular attitude. By his great courage, marked skill, airmanship, and loyal devotion to duty, Lieutenant (jg) Kinaszczuk exhibited in determinedly attacking and sinking an enemy submarine in the face of heavy anti-aircraft fire; thereby reflecting great credit upon himself and upholding the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
For the President,
John H. Dalton
Secretary of the Navy"
Secretary John H. Dalton served as Secretary of the Navy in the late 1990s when Commander Kinaszczuk had the record corrected.]
TK: This is a copy [of the Daily News article] from the library, New York Library, ... but this is the original one.
SH: That is quite an article.
TK: You see, you can read it more clearly, the same thing you read on the other [copy].
SH: Now, we can see all the print. That is great. This U-boat had riddled your plane with bullets.
TK: ... Yes. Somewhere, I have a picture.
TK: Okay, we're talking about the submarine and bombing.
SH: It said that the U-boat's guns had riddled the wings of your plane.
TK: Yes. ...
SH: We have been looking at some of your folders, but let us back up now and talk about your assignment to Argentia. What group were you assigned to? What was a normal day or week there like, the weather and where you were assigned to patrol?
TK: ... You know, the duty, at that time, 1942 and 1943, the submarines, German submarines, were raising havoc with the shipping, sinking troopships and ammunition ships and supply ships along that northern, North Atlantic route, because they were all going up to England or beyond England, over to Russia. So, each squadron, our squadron, another squadron [that] was off further up in Iceland, our job was to go down and protect these convoys. We had a limited distance where we can go, because of the airplanes, but our job was to go out [on patrol]. We'd get a briefing every time we'd go out on a flight of where we [would go], what we might see or what convoys are out there. ... I remember, in the stormy North Atlantic, icy, cold, stormy, ... one day, I'm patrolling and the whole convoy, and they're convoys loaded with supply ships and troopships made of the; what'd they call them? Liberty ships. [Editor's Note: Liberty Ships were ships built in World War II that cost under two million dollars to construct and could be finished in a matter of days.] [At] that time, they were producing them one or two a day, at least one a day [or] every two days, and they were, [the] ships were, almost sent as a one-way trip. They figured, once they got over to the other side and finished their mission, you might as well give them up. So, they're supposedly supposed to be very well-built, to stand the very violent weather in the North Atlantic. So, you're cruising around, you see these convoys and you see all these ships bouncing around. ... It's so violent, the ship would go forward, with the aft end where the screws were out of the water, spinning around and actually out of the water, and then, when it came back in, it'd slam and start. So, it must have been a terrific surge on the drive shafts, but I remember one, actually see one, of those Liberty ships just break in two.
SH: Oh, my.
TK: And sink, and you say, "If there were troops onboard, everybody's gone, because you only can stand maybe one, two minutes in that icy water and you're gone," of the North Atlantic, especially during the winter season. So, that was my taste of, "God bless those guys," you know. ... You see that, and that brings back the reason we were there. ... Besides the heavy weather, we were [to] stop these wolf packs of [German submarines], and they had many stories of different destroyers that have chased and got [U-boats] and did their work, but our job was to chase, sink the submarines, of course, but ... the fact that you're on patrol, maybe, would keep them away. ... So, that's what I [did], and, after all these hours and hours and hours of patrolling, you know, I happened to [sink one]. I'll tell you about my incident. I was on duty that day to do the flying, or whatever mission came up, and we got a command. We got a call from the Canadian Air Force, through the Navy Department, and they said that, "We can't spare an airplane. ... We have a big convoy coming out of Halifax, Nova Scotia, bound to," I imagine to Russia or somewhere. "Would you fellows be kind enough to send down a patrol plane to cover this convoy?" So, [it was] on my duty [watch] and the Skipper said, "Tom, okay, we have this coverage for you and it's so-and-so and head there. ... The briefing is, there are no American subs at all, any, in the area;" didn't even mention submarines, but, you know, "That's your job. Go down and protect the convoy." So, I flew down with my new copilot, see, who I didn't know. ... He's coming to replace the Skipper, but he's there to join me on my flight. ... We meet, and then, we're on our way. So, I'm heading down to get to the area where the convoy is and I come down there and there's this big, huge convoy of about seventy-six ships, seventy ships, all in rows, spaced out, and almost all of it is just out of the bay, you know, headed out to sea. It has one destroyer escort, two of them on the right and they must have a couple on the left, and so, I came and I spied it. I went past the convoy and my mission was to see the convoy, and then, you're supposed to send back to base your "met report," the met report; you met the [convoy], you're on [your] duty station, whatever it is. You don't say convoy, because there's radio silence. So, here's the convoy, [we are] coming on, flying here about twelve hundred feet [altitude], and I said, "Wait until we get past it a ways before you send the met report." So, I'm sitting there, and then, way out in the distance, I see a very long, sharp wake, just a stir of water, but a thin one, and, to me, [it caught my eye]. So, I went and I spied that and I said, "We've got one," and I just poured the coal to her, went diving, and, as I approached, I'm going for my attack. I've been trained for this. We used to, in the bay; to back up, in the bay, in our spare time, or training time, we used to go [on bombing runs] and our procedure was to go down and finally drop your charges at twenty-five feet, because the depth charges were set, ... for water pressure, to go off at twenty-five feet, and so, you know, they wouldn't go instantly. They'll wait until they're [down] twenty-five feet, and then, they go off. They could be set for fifty feet, but, by that time, the submarine's going to go by. So, it's all set for twenty-five. So, our training was, ... kind of off shore, there are a couple big stones, rocks, and we would come down and I'd give a smoke bomb to the crew and say, "Okay, throw it out." ... I'd be passing down, passing down, down to twenty-five feet, go over that rock and pull up, and then, look around to see where the smoke bomb [hit], but the idea was, they're going to attack in twenty-five feet [of water], and then, come around. So, that was already instilled in me. So, I went pouring down, I went pouring down and it's starting to go in, go in, and like my report says, about a quarter, and then, just about that time, he's turning toward me. ... The reason for that [was], this guy's the number three submarine commander of the whole fleet and he knows [what to do]. He's fought it before. We had a lot of reports of [U-boats] being bombed, but they get away with it, you know, because they know, they don't [stay in one place], anyway. ... Then, because of that, you know, they turn directly to you, so that the [closing] speed is almost doubled or tripled, see. So, that way, you have a tendency to overshoot. So, I went in then ... and I poured and all, and I didn't see much, but he's shooting at me. He's shooting at me. Anyway, so, I came in and I went down, right down, to twenty-five feet and I thought, at the right time, I'd hit the "pickle switch" [bomb release]. As I went down and dropped, out of my window, I'm looking down and I see the rim of the conning tower ... about a foot under water already. He's in the crash dive. See, so, he's in the crash dive. ... When I start to pull up, [I] feel my controls are jammed, you know. So, I figure, "Well, I'm not thinking about [the submarine any more] and I've got to fly this airplane." So, I came around and I'm fighting the airplane, came around, came around, and that's when ... [the copilot was] starting to take the pictures, but, just about that time, one of the crewmen in the back comes up, says, "Lieutenant," he says, "we've got bullet holes all through the wing." It must have been later than that, because I actually went out of the seat and went back there, looked out over the wing and saw these bullet holes and these big holes around. So, I got back in to take [it] around. We continued. No, it must have [been] after we did all the picture taking; then, I took a look at it. I wouldn't go back there while I'm in a turn. [laughter] So, anyway, so, that's happened. So, I went back to the convoy, and so, [under] radio silence, we had an Aldis lamp, big Aldis lamps. You could trigger it. [Editor's Note: An Aldis lamp consisted of a spotlight with shutters on the front which could be opened and shut quickly to flash messages.] So, I asked my radio operator, I said, "Go back with the Aldis lamp and send a signal to the escort commander," the first one over there, I figured he's the boss, "and send the message, 'Sunk sub,'" and I figured, "'from,'" here's the convoy, "'about 050 relative,'" would mean relative [to] the way you're headed, 050 degrees relative, and ... I said, "'at about fifty miles.'" Actually, it must have been a hundred miles, but, [when] you're flying around, you know, in the distance, it's hard to tell, anyway, and then, this is all part of the action [report]. So, I went by at about eight hundred feet or so and he sent the message that I told him to send, ... "Sunk sub, 050 degrees, fifty miles," or whatever, said fifty miles. ... Then, I came around again, repeated the message, in case [they missed it], you know. Meanwhile, the whole convoy [knew what had happened], ... if they knew how to read, "Dit-da," [Morse code] by light. The dit-dat is "A;" you go, "Flash, flash-flash," you know. So, anyway, I came the second time and, when I finished [the] second time, the escort commander, [Commander Kinaszczuk makes a noise], there he goes. He changed course to starboard 050 degrees. So, I went kind of over him, and then, I told my crew, "Send a message back to base, 'Returning to base.'" ... I'm trying to remember if I said, "Sunk submarine. Returning to base. Bullet holes in wing." I think I didn't even mention that. I just [sent], "Returning back to base. Bullet holes in wing." So, I flew back, and back to Argentia must have been an hour, maybe, something like that, because these airplanes weren't that fast, except in a dive and that. [laughter] So, when we came back, oh, here's something interesting. I knew from experience, where I read, I knew, that [there could be] possible damage to my undercarriage, or something else besides the wing. If he hit me there, probably, one of the shells, and I think it was probably at least a twenty-millimeter shell, it came through my leading edge of the wing, went, blew a big hole, came up, and then, back down, and inside, maybe two, two shots, one in back of the other. So, I didn't know. I figured, "As long as I've got damage, I'm going to go back and see if something underneath the airplane is damaged, like my gear and stuff." Of course, everything's buttoned up. So, I flew and came back to the airport and I called the tower and I said, "Would you please [examine the aircraft]? I'm going to fly slowly and low, right past your tower," [the] tower with all the glass windows. [I] said, "Would you please get some binoculars and, when I come by with my gear down, you take a good look and see if you can see anything broken." So, I slowly came by with the gear down, and he called back. He says, "Lieutenant," he says, "everything seems to be okay." So, I slowly went around, left everything hanging, came around and came down, made a nice, smooth landing, and then, taxied slowly, and the hangar was down in the deep slope. So, I taxied down carefully, came around, spun around and stopped the airplane and, just as I stopped here, everybody's running out to the airplane. The first guy to come aboard was a guy who says, "Where's your camera?" ... He knew each flight had a [camera]. So, he's the one that took the camera and disappeared, and he's the one that finally came up and gave me pictures of the thing, see, and then, from then, ... we all went and went back up in the hangar to the office. ... I had a debriefing with ... our information officer, and, yes, I didn't even say hello to the Skipper, you know. I just stopped there, and then, I went back ... to my barracks, I guess, to my quarters. So, that's [it], and then, from then on, yes, then, I did some more. Oh, about two weeks later, I went for a patrol [to] the same place, another convoy. I went back there and, out there, I could see how far I was and I see a big, huge, about a half a mile wide and about a mile long, big, oil slick over there. ...
TK: That also was proof, you know, and I remember looking at charts. There's, like, a [underwater] cliff and just beyond, a little beyond the cliff, ... it shows here [on a map Commander Kinaszczuk has displayed in his home], see the dark, it goes two thousand fathoms. Times six, that's twelve thousand feet. So, he went down in about twelve thousand feet of water. So, there's nothing left there.
SH: It was twelve thousand feet, that you think the crew is resting at the bottom.
TK: Yes, yes, ... when he went down. ...
SH: You actually wound up with the communication between the German sub commander and headquarters.
TK: Oh, no, ... afterwards, I got that.
SH: You said your son found out.
TK: ... That's a whole new story.
SH: Okay. We do not need to go there now. We can stay where we are if you want.
TK: Yes, if you like.
TK: This story begins with, I'm going down the street and a fellow says, "Hey, I saw your name and your submarine and the whole works in this book that I have. It's called The Third Fleet, and it's made by ...
SH: The Tenth Fleet [by Ladislas Farago].
TK: The Tenth Fleet. ... He says, "In there, it gives a description of everything, and then, of your flight and the number of your sub, the name of the commander, all the details." ... One day, Tom was in here, my son, and ... my granddaughter, and they looked up there and they said; the citation, that's the new one, this old citation said my sub was "probably" sunk. So, then, I happened to be talking to my son-in-law, who's a Navy man, and he says, "Why don't you [have it rectified]?" Oh, first of all, I got this [letter]; this is the interesting one. This is from the son of Slagle, [Jay Slagle], who was my ... copilot at the time of the sinking, Lieutenant Commander R. J. Slagle, who later was the commanding officer of my squadron, VB-125, and he addressed [it], "Dear Mr. Kinaszczuk, I'm writing you to thank you for your condolence call to my sister, Sue. She and I were with my dad when he quietly passed away. He was buried next to our mom at Oak Hill Cemetery in Washington. I sent a couple of items which I thought you might find interesting. The first is a copy of the Germans' reconstruction of U-174's final cruise. All German U-boat records are on microfilm at the National Archives and they made a copy and had it translated. The second item is from a pamphlet on the PV-1. I happened to be [in] a hobby store several years ago when I ran across it and, much to my surprise, found my dad and you are pictured in it. I talked to (Wit Kearnes?) the night my dad passed away and he told me some interesting stories about my dad during the war. He also told me the story about your trip to the Soviet Union after the war and the reception you received. After I graduated from college, I went into the Marine Corps and spent five years flying helicopters, including two tours with the Sixth Fleet. After I got out, I continued flying helicopters commercially and I'm currently flying offshore in the Gulf of Mexico supporting the oil rigs. I've written a book about my great-great grandfather, titled IroncladCaptain. It is due for release in about a month. I dedicated it to my dad," and, in the box, he has a copy of the communications between the headquarters in Germany and U-174. ... It continues and it says, on the final notice of this communiqué, that they had a problem communicating with 174 and, at the end, it says that the communications with 174 has stopped and [it was] presumed to be sunk. ... So, the final wording, official wording, was, in the translation, "Missing too long. Total loss is assumed," straight from the German Admiralty. ... Then, this little file is for me, "From Commander Thomas Kinaszczuk, USNR (Retired). To the Chief of Naval Operations in Washington. Correction to Naval Cross Citation. An enclosure; temporary citation for the Navy Cross, done on 12 January '44, 1944; photo of the U-174; extracts from the German Admiralty log. I'm writing to request a permanent citation for the Navy Cross I was awarded in 1944 and that the wording of the citation reflect that the submarine involved was sunk, not probably sunk, as indicated in the temporary citation. On 27 April, 1943, while flying North Atlantic convoy escort, I sighted, attacked and sank a German submarine in the vicinity of Sable Island. For this action, I was later awarded the Navy Cross. Enclosure one, clearly labeled 'temporary citation,' was presented at the time of the war. I never received a permanent citation. The last paragraph of the temporary citation includes the wording, 'determinedly attacking and probably sinking an enemy submarine.' Enclosure two and three indicate that the submarine did in fact sink. The attitude of the boat depicted in the photo and a declaration of loss annotated in the log clearly support that conclusion. Therefore, I request that a permanent citation be forwarded and that the citation read, 'determinedly attacking and sinking of an enemy submarine.'"
SH: You did this in 1997.
TK: And then, I got a letter back, "From the Department of the Navy, CNO, Chief of Naval Operations. Your letter," so-and-so, "corrected Navy Cross citation and certificate. As requested by reference A, your Navy Cross citation has been corrected to reflect sinking of enemy submarine. I am pleased to forward the corrected citation and a certificate. If I may be of any further assistance, please let me know," and there's the [citation].
SH: There it is.
TK: And my old copy of the citation. Yes, this is the old citation, this is all part of the changing and this is what I sent to them, with this picture ... and the citation itself here, and that was the original letter that started the whole thing.
SH: I am glad that you were able to rectify that.
TK: Yes, that's a ... very hard thing to do, but, since my son-in-law was in the Navy at the time, he's the one that actually wrote that cover letter for me.
SH: Good for him, good for you.
SH: How big was the base at Argentia?
TK: ... It's right on the coast of Newfoundland. Here's Newfoundland and it's right there, just in the middle, on the coast, right there. ... This bay is famous because, one day, we saw a carrier, small carrier, in there, in the bay, and then, we later found out that it was a meeting between Churchill and Roosevelt. They had a special meeting there in that bay, very secretly. They came in, they had the meeting, and then, left. ... Nobody was sure what it was all about, but we later figured that was a meeting between Roosevelt [and Churchill], and then, I have, talking about that, ... got a citation here, kind of a Navy unit citation, thanking all the forces in the Atlantic that were covering then. We were doing the submarine patrol when Roosevelt went over for the Crimea Conference there, and so, kind of a thank you and appreciation of all the forces that made it come true, because you had the submarines to worry about, you had the air attack; ... so, [to] all the forces in this region. ... [Editor's Note: In August 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill met aboard ship off Argentia for the Atlantic Conference. This earlier event may have led to speculation over another conference in the area during Commander Kinaszczuk's tour there. The Crimea Conference, also known as the Yalta Conference, was a meeting held between Joseph Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt in February 1945.]
SH: How many members were on the crew? Was it a four-man crew on your plane?
TK: Me and the copilot, the radio operator and two in the back, one, the plane captain, you know, the crew chief, you might call him, and the other was listed as a gunner, though we didn't have [additional guns]. I only had [forward-facing guns]; oh, I didn't show you that picture, where I'm strafing the bow of that submarine. You could see the bullets. We have two fifty-caliber machine-guns in the front.
SH: When did you determine that that carrier actually was this meeting between Churchill and Roosevelt? Was it soon thereafter that the buzz got around the base that that was what they had been there for?
TK: No, that was during the war. I guess they were talking over strategy or something.
SH: When did you, as part of that base, know what had happened?
TK: ... That's just word of mouth, that's all I'm passing to you, word of mouth, had no details on that. I was just told that that carrier that was in there, you know, that what it was was a secret meeting between Churchill and [Roosevelt]. ...
SH: Did they have an officers' club on the base for you?
TK: Yes, a small one. ... I'm looking for that nice letter that we got, thanking the forces for ... Roosevelt going to the Crimea Conference. ... I just passed this one. ...
SH: Quite a stack of awards here. ...
SH: You sunk the submarine very shortly after being stationed in Argentia.
TK: ... Let's see, I got my wings in '41 and I went [to Argentia] '42 and I "sunk the same" in '43. So, I was there '42, joined the squadron in '42, in the Spring of '42, and sunk the submarine after I was there only just about a year. I sunk the submarine, and then, in '44, our squadron was moved down to Quonset Point, Rhode Island, and then, broke up. ... Half of the squadron, we had further duty down at the Key West [base], Naval Air Station Key West, which put us in a position [for duty in Cuba]. ... The intelligences, I guess, must have got [wind of the] fact that submarines were operating too close to the Panama Canal. So, while [Fulgencio] Batista was still head of Cuba, the Navy Department, with Batista, [made] some kind of a deal to let us build an air station on the very southern coast, called ... San Julian. It was a little airbase, had only one big runway, but it had quarters for [officers] and barracks for the crew, and we sent three airplanes down there to operate. ... We patrolled down toward the Panama Canal on that side, and then, on the other side of Key West to the northeast, ... around that area, looking for submarines that are possibly there. ... Then, when I was back in Key West, one day, doing something, ... the Skipper said, Slagle had to be the skipper [at] that time, too, he said, "Just got word from the Navy Department. They're looking for volunteers for a secret mission. ... Would you like to go?" and I said, "Yes, I'll go," figuring, you know, this is getting a little stale down in this Cuban area. So, I said, "I'll go," and one of our other fellows, a young lieutenant, copilot, he says, "I'll go, too," and then, the crew, the whole crew, we all volunteered and, as one unit, we went up to Quonset Point, Rhode Island, to report for this secret mission. So, we got up to Quonset Point and went over to the hangar, ... to see the airplane we were supposed to fly, and looked in the hangar and there, on the side of the airplane, was a big opening, maybe six-by-six, of the body of the airplane, and it was closed with chicken wire. You know, if you've ever been near chicken farms, you have that big, one-inch hole, chicken wire around, to keep the chickens in their coup, in their area, and there's a lot of boxes of all kinds piled up inside. ... Then, I got a briefing that, ... "You and your crew were going to take this airplane all the way to Europe," you know, because ... this is before the invasion, "and your routing is going to be, from Quonset Point, down close to Florida. In Florida, you're going to hop over to Borinquen Field, Puerto Rico, and, from Puerto Rico, you're going to fly down. ... On the northern coast of South America, you're going to stop near Belem, [Brazil], near the Amazon, and then, you're going to stop in Natal, Brazil, and we have a naval air station at Natal." In fact, I didn't know it, but that was ... my same squadron, who were then repositioned all the way down to Natal, Brazil. I didn't know that, but all I did was come in and go to the briefing, and the next step was going to fly from Natal, Brazil, all the way over to Ascension Island, which was a long haul, and then, from Ascension Island to the coast of Africa. ... I don't know, that distance there was probably a hundred or two hundred miles, but the longest flight was from Natal to Ascension Island. ... All that's from my briefing and, from there, when you got to Nigeria, I think it was, where the next stop was, ... from Nigeria, you flew all the way up to Marrakech. Marrakech was at, not Dakar, must be just before Dakar, ... the airport at Marrakech, and then, from there, you'd be flying, "We're not sure, but you'll be flying either to England or to France or somewhere in there," and that's all I knew. That's all they would tell me, see, and so, ... I started out from Quonset. I have it all reported on my ditching thing. Anyway, talk about that later, ditching; this is all in my ditching report. So, I started out from here, from Quonset, took it down from Quonset to my next stop and I was going close to Norfolk. I was going to go to Norfolk first, and then, from there, [the next] position down the line, and, on the way to Norfolk, I was having propeller [problems]. Normally, on a two-engine airplane, ... you set the RPM on the propellers so [that] they synch, they synch, so that ... one is not going faster than the other, and I'm having trouble to get these two engines to synch properly. So, I flew down to Norfolk, and maybe I flew it [there] purposely, to get this thing, problem, fixed. So, I went, landed in Norfolk, and I went and had the maintenance crew [fix it], told them my propellers weren't synching properly. ... I went to the BOQ, bachelor officers' quarters, while they were working on it for a day, and then, they said, "The airplane's ready to go," and I said, "What'd you find?" He says, "In the distributor;" I guess, ... where the ignition wires go in, into there, I guess the center piece is supposed to be made of a certain material and it was an old type that was in there, made out of soybean or something. He said, "That was your trouble. That's failing." So, he went and he fixed the distributor, ... whatever he had to do, fixed the distributor or fixed the point, or so on, and I took off. ... I'm heading down, going toward Puerto Rico, toward Borinquen Field. Now, I'm getting down there on that next leg and the prop is still so out of synch. ... So, I landed at DeLand Airbase, Florida. I knew it was a military airbase. I dropped in there and told them I'm having ... this propeller problem. So, he fixed it up and he said, "Well," he said, "I put in new ignition wires, did something there," and so, I took off from there for Borinquen Field and the props, the controls are not lined up, ... the same RPM, say eighteen hundred RPM. I had to move the throttle about a half-inch further or so to get the same RPM. So, I wrote that up. In the meantime, we're having a briefing in there about emergency equipment and all this stuff goes somewhere down there. All the Air Force [US Army Air Forces], they were flying that same route to take small airplanes over to Europe. This is before the invasion, and so, ... they fix it up. So, I go down to the next stop and I finally get to Natal and I'm still having this prop problem. So, they did what they did. They fixed it up, put something new in. Meanwhile, I had a briefing. ... Because it was a long-range flight, the Air Force there was loading our airplane and they put a life raft on it, because at all the other times, you never carried a life raft. They loaded an incorrect life raft. We had a five-man crew, but they just loaded whatever they load on to [their USAAF aircraft]. ... All their airplanes that they were using to ferry over to Europe were two-man crew, like the old DC-3, the old Dakotas, they called them, the old two-engine DC-. So, they only had a two-man crew, maybe one mechanic in the back. So, anyway, so, then, about over three hundred miles out, my right propeller started to run away, started to oscillate, you know, [Commander Kinaszczuk imitates the sound of a propeller oscillating]. ... Every time it did that, I'd have to adjust my rudder pedal, you know, to keep it from pushing the airplane around, and then, it went on for awhile. We're still flying forward and I decided, "I'd better shut this thing down and return back to Natal." So, I, what we called, "feather" the engine, meaning all the blades are like a windmill, they're slanted, for that [pitch], but, when you want to stop them, you hit the feathering switch and all the blades, going like you're rowing a boat, you know how you feather the ... [oars]? You know, you do this [to] all the blades, a four-engine prop, four engines on this big airplane; that one shows three. It must have been only three. That was the new one, anyway, and all the blades [were] feathered and the engine stopped. So, I goose the throttle on the other one, because we're at eight or nine thousand feet and we're heavy with all this equipment. ... Not only that, for the long-range [flight], in the bomb bay, they put a special bomb bay tank for fuel, so [that] you can make this long overseas hop, and we had two drop tanks also installed. So, we're quite heavy. So, with all the equipment and all the fuel, only got four hundred, three hundred and fifty miles out or so, maybe almost four before I turned. So, we're heavy. So, I'm giving it [the throttle], goosing it more and more; we're still ... losing height. So, I told the [crew], "Start throwing equipment out," [laughter] you know what I mean? telling them we're going to crash, you know, so, we won't get back. So, we start throwing most of that equipment that they put on board, boxes and stuff, throw that all out, and all the stuff we had, all the equipment ...
SH: Do you know what it was for? What were in the boxes? Do you have any idea?
TK: Probably material that; well, no, I don't want to tell you that part.
SH: Okay, go ahead.
TK: Don't want to tell you that part. So, we're throwing [out] whatever we can to lighten the load and, now, meanwhile, I'm back on this one engine and it starts to go [Commander Kinaszczuk imitates the sound of the failing engine], and I'm there, you know. ... I pull the throttle back. You can't do much, because you're too heavy. So, I'm just trying to fly the airplane and I told them, "Well, really, throw everything you can out but the life raft." I said, "If we have to land in the ocean, for some reason, I want you to swing open the door," because you're not flying that fast, anyway, "swing open the door and take that life raft and stick it maybe a foot or so [out] to jam the door open, because, if we have to land, that door is liable to slam and [water will] come up. We'll never get out of the airplane, you know." So, they did that, as we're going down, down, down, and they're cleaning it [out]. ... I looked back there and I could see they did their part. You could look again. ... Then, we came down and we're stalling. ... I told the crew, "I'd better ditch this thing. I'd better land this thing, ... [while] I've still got some control, because, if all of a sudden, the engine quits, then, I have to go glide. I may have to go too fast or so. I'm going to lose control. ... So, get ready for ditching and, when I tell you we're going to ditch, just be sure to do whatever you have to do." ... Then, I decided, "Well, I'm going to have to ditch." So, I told the crew, "We're going to have to ditch." So, in that airplane, above the cockpit, we had, like the cars have, we have an opening, you know, where you can get up and look around. ...
SH: Like a sunroof, yes.
TK: It could be an escape hatch, too. I took that off and I'm strapped in with my [seatbelt]. Anyway, we're all getting ready [to ditch]. ... I didn't put my life jacket on. We had the old rubberized one, where if you had to inflate it yourself, they had the cartridge in [it, which inflated the life jacket, but] if you had to, you opened up the tubes and [Commander Kinaszczuk imitates blowing into a tube]. ... You can blow in them, and then, you close them back down. So, when you hit the thing [cartridge], they blew up, but you never use it until you have to. You don't put it [on in the aircraft]. We're briefed on all this emergency gear. You don't inflate it until you're ... in the water and, you know, you need it, because you're drowning or whatever, but never inflate it out of the water. So, we're all getting ready, and so, I went there and I carefully; ... we're talking about [this sort of scenario] in the crew room, but, if you had to land in the water, how would you do it. Would you put your flaps down, so [that] you come down slow as you can? Would you put your gear down and the flaps? You say, "No, they'll probably hit the water and make your nosedive steeper," or your gear, if you put the gear down, your gear's going to jam and you're going to nosedive, too. So, I said, "Well, I'm going to leave the gear up and I'm going to only put a little ten degrees of flap or so, so [that] I can come in as slow as I can," and the other thing is, when you come in, you come in and you come in so [that] you kind of hit the tail first. You know, you kind of go like this in, and it makes it [positioned] to better ditching, and then, you're supposed to ditch not into the swells, but, at that point, you're so busy, you know, really. It just so happens, I landed with it, you know, parallel to [the swells], as it turned out. So, as soon as we touched down, I had my hand on the [yoke], I rolled forward on the yoke, the airplane went in smoothly. We're just down, down, nose down, and the water came, started coming up, but, just as I hit, compression blew the gas tank, bottom gas tank, and it's just a ball of fire in the cabin.
SH: Oh, my.
TK: Towards the flame. ... It came up and just as the flame came up, the water was coming up, coming over the top. So, I only got singed, singed on the back and a little bit on top. My copilot only got singed. This is afterwards [that] we found out, and I only got singed in the back and I didn't know what [happened], ... didn't even know what happened to the crew in the back. ... Anyway, soon as we went down like this, hit, I came back and I looked. There's nobody here in the copilot's seat. I don't know [where he went]. I don't think he went this way, I don't know which way he went out, but I went down there. I'm looking around and there's smoke and stuff. ... Anyway, I'm looking around, nobody. I got on [the seat], stood on this, unbuckled, stood on the seat and just got up, went up through the hole there. I'm looking around. I don't see anybody. I look down the fuselage and I see, way back, the door is missing on there and the edge of that life raft [was] there, and it's smoldering. So, I jumped into the water, just in front of the wing. ... I climbed up on the wing, slid down along the wing until I got [to] the end of the wing, into the water, and got by the door and I could see the raft, the nose of the raft, there, on fire. So, I got my feet on both sides of the door, grabbed the raft, rolled it and pulled it into the water. Meanwhile, the airplane is starting to go, starting to sink, nose down. Anyway, I got the thing out, I pulled it, pulled it away from there, rolled it, to get the flame out. Just the cover, ... thank goodness, was burning, and I rolled it and rolled it back. I don't hear anybody, nothing but me, me and this sinking airplane. So, I started to try to unbutton that cover. I got the raft in front and I heard my radio operator, [who] happened to be a polock, [laughter] Polish guy, (Kuzamiter?). I said, "Hey, (Kuz?), come over here and help me inflate this raft," and so, he came over. ... Then, I had the raft cover off, I had the raft coveroff, myself and the tanks that hold the CO2 were ... sinking about a foot or so below the raft, which is flat, [you] know. ... I said, "Kuz," I said, "I can't find the ripcord." I said, "I'm going to go duck down and I'm going to push this tank and stuff up, and you, as soon as you see the ripcord, grab it and pull it." So, I did that. I went down underneath and pushed it, because I could swim a little bit. I was a pretty good swimmer. [laughter] ... I pushed it up and I'm holding it and I'm kind of still underwater and I hear [Commander Kinaszczuk imitates the sound of the raft inflating]. I hear the thing flow, inflate, and so, I went [back up] and, meanwhile, we're helping it inflate a little bit, and then, he got in and I got in, and then, we hear another voice. So, with our hands and all, and I don't know if there was a loose paddle, no, we did it all by hand, we're paddling over. We pick up my copilot. Yes, he's kind of wobbling up, but he never inflated his life jacket, and nobody did, because all could swim, except one. Anyway, I got, you know, the three of us [together] and I said, "Where's Gotsy?" the fifth crewman. He's the last man around and he was known, from joking around, [for the fact] that he couldn't swim for beans. He didn't know how to swim at all.
SH: Oh, my.
TK: So, anyway, I looked out there and I could see, above water, I could see about a foot [down], two hands, like this, and they're slowly going down. So, I said, "Oh, that's Gotsy. Let's go over." So, we paddled over and I go over and here's Gotsy here. So, I reached over, I looked over there and I could see his hair, about that far under the water.
SH: About a foot.
TK: So, I grabbed his hair and I pulled him up like this and I looked, straight at me, he's all blue. ... "Hey, he's dead," and, you know, I figure, in fact, I told the guys, "He's dead. You can see he's drowned. He's drowned. You've got all [the] indications he's dead." So, I said, ... "No, I'm not going to let him go. I'm going to pull him in the raft and maybe we'll get back somehow." So, I pulled him, I chugged him, and then, now, the copilot went [to help], we're pulling, and face first, pulled him into the raft. ... There must have been an inch or two, a couple inches, of water from all this, ... from getting in and out, and he went forward with his face into the water and he laid straight, prone, and I'm looking there. ... After we pushed him in, plopped him in, I'm [thinking], "God, you're really dead," and I'm looking back and I see [Commander Kinaszczuk makes a bubbling noise] a couple of bubbles coming out in the face area. So, I reached back there and I flipped him over, just flipped him over, and he's laying there like this and didn't do anything. We're all resting there, all pooped out from this affair, [laughter] this airplane affair we had. So, I laid there and, quietly, I'm looking back, ... me and the copilot on the gunnel, sitting on the back, because the other guys are just laying there. The other three are just, you know, laying there. All three of them are just laying there and this one guy's in the middle, and so, I'm laying there, and then, I see his mouth going [Commander Kinaszczuk makes a popping noise with his mouth].
SH: Oh, my word, it was moving.
TK: Just like that, just a little bit. So, I didn't do nothing, nobody knew nothing, just sat there and watched him, and, little by little, he came back to life. This is [with] no resuscitation, no nothing. He just came back to life. He didn't even throw up or anything, just came back to life, and then, gradually, we got him [roused], he came back to life, came to. You could talk to him, you know, except he got the worst of it. His skin was taken off, almost, both arms, you know. He was burned bad, the worst, from the explosion. So, then, he just laid there, and then, we took our, you know, senses and started looking around [for] all what we had onboard ... [for an] emergency and we took that all off [the wreck], and we're still pooped out. Everybody's pooped, not doing much. We looked in the life raft. In the beginning, the life raft they put on was only a four-man raft. ... It was only [for] four and we were a five-man crew, but the Air Force was so used to just giving us the equipment from the other airplanes, they put on this [smaller life raft]. So, we had to do with the four-man raft equipment, whatever there was onboard, and the only thing we could use, there's one kit that had sponges, these coral sponges, you know, ... so [that] you can wipe out the water. ... We looked around, we saw a couple of paddles, we saw one or two paddles, that we finally used to keep the back of the raft with the breaking waves. Anyway, we looked around in the emergency equipment. ... The radio operator saw [that] in the kit was a mirror that you use for flashing, an emergency mirror. So, we didn't have [real food]. We had a couple cans of rations with nothing but Charms, candy Charms, different colors, [laughter] and that was our rations, the only rations we had.
SH: Oh, no.
TK: And I think we only had a couple of those cans and that was all, and a couple cans of water, some water; see, the very minimum emergency equipment. We had nothing, oh, but we had the equipment to put up a sail. We had the tarpaulin in there. That way, you could put up a sail, to make it sail. So, we didn't do much of that except, that first day, that first afternoon, a squall hit us; no, not then, the second day. We were able to put up a sail, and then, we're sailing along, getting our wits about us, trying to [sail], and I'm looking. I'd read an [article] and known the prevailing winds for that area out of an old National Geographic, and it was from a certain direction. ... I figured, if we were in that area, we gradually would be going back toward Natal, you know, I thought. I had no idea, just entered my mind. [laughter] So, anyway, we're relaxing, we're going the ... first day, we're just examining everything, and then, it started getting stormy. ... At nighttime, oh, we found out we had a Very pistol gun [flare gun] and I'm trying to [recall], let's see, ... the first night went by, and then, it got stormier, stormier, and the second day, the second, yes, second day already, we were in a squall. We're going [in]to big swells. We went down about ten, fifteen feet into the bottom of this, and then, come back up again. It was very stormy and, one day, we heard this airplane, engines, and before we got back to the top of the [wave], we could tell it was [searching for the crew]. ... On the radio, we were telling them, you know. They knew where we were from our contact. In fact, I told the radio operator before we hit, "Screw down your key." So, if they had home finders anywhere, they would be able to at least know about where we are, and, sure as heck, [we were] on that same route, [so], we must have been on course, even coming back. We heard this air[plane]. They were telling guys, "Get down to about five hundred feet or so," in our area, "and look around, see if you can [see any survivors]," and we heard this one airplane, and [heard], "Zoom," while we were down in the bottom of this trough, and that was the end of that. ... Then, the next day, it was still stormy. ... The squall went through, and then, the sun came out, and then, we had to worry about, you know, how we [would move]. So, we put up ... the tarpaulin. Oh, a very critical point; we're in that squall. Since we didn't have much water onboard, we wanted to use the rainwater and we hung the ... tarpaulin so [that] we'd take the raindrops and try to drink it or use it. ... Then, I wrote, later on, in my report, I told them the rubberized material in the tarp was so caustic that ... it sounded like you were drinking lye or something, from that caustic coating they put on. So, [I suggested] for them to develop something new. So, that didn't work; collecting rainwater didn't work for us. So, anyway, then, on the fourth, I think the fourth day, ... the third day; no, no, it had to be after the first day. What I'm getting at [is], we heard an airplane and we're facing this [direction] and the sun rises here [in the East], ... and we're in this raft. So, the radio operator was sitting in this, in the back, in this corner, and he had the mirror, and I said, "Oh, there's an airplane." We heard it, and we could see it. So, he got this thing [the mirror] out and he went like this and he kept, you know, shining, kept flashing. ... Meanwhile, he's not saying anything and the airplane's going [over]. He must have been about nine, ten thousand feet [above us], I guess, and the airplane's going by. It was a C-54 [Douglass C-54 Skymaster, a four-engine transport aircraft] and he's flying by, flying by, and he's going and he's going and he's going, all like nobody onboard saw anything. ... He's over here, we're in this position. Then, all of a sudden, I looked and he did a bank. He did a bank. He comes around, he comes around, he comes all the way down to look us over. That's when somebody from the cockpit took pictures of us in the life[boat]. That's why I have those pictures.
SH: Right, the photographs.
TK: ... Anyway, and then, the plane tried to drop some "Gibson girls" or whatever, life preservers, to us, but, in my report, I say, "Whatever they dropped to us, they dropped it upwind." [Editor's Note: The hand crank-powered SCR-578 military survival radio was nicknamed the "Gibson girl" due to its hourglass shape.] See, they dropped it upwind, so, we had no way [of picking that up]. ... Then, the second night, we had another, a [B-24] Liberator, four-engine Liberator, that came by. Maybe [it was] they that took the picture. They came down and they dropped in more supplies. They dropped us a "Gibson girl." A Gibson girl, ... that's the crank-[powered radio], but it was downwind, so, we were able to pick that up, and, other than that, ... yes, I think they dropped us a couple of jugs of water or so and we were able to pick that up. [I] think I have that in my report, and so, then, after they did that, the Gibson girl, and with the equipment comes the equipment to put the balloon up, with the hydrogen developer. ... The flight engineer, I mean, the radio operator, [had] been through all the briefings on emergency equipment. So, we were all briefed on that stuff. So, ... as soon as they dropped the package with the Gibson girl, he went and he set up the balloon, and then, we figured the time to do that was a quarter after the hour and, [at] a quarter of, we'd crank that thing. So, we took turns on who was going to crank it, put out the signal, and that worked. ... Then, the second night, after we did that, then, we heard this other airplane, at night, come down and he dropped us some stuff. So, it must have been the first one that took the pictures, and then, after that, the fourth or fifth day, we're cranking around and, in the distance, we see this crash boat, [a rescue vessel]. You know, they sent a crash boat from Natal all the way out there to our position. ... Of course, the other airplanes told [them] ... where we were, so, it was no problem and, with the cranking of the Gibson girl, the crash boat was able to [find us], a big crash boat. In fact, there was a captain from Miami that got called in, because they wanted the boat captains. So, they called him in as a crash boat skipper. So, anyway, we got on, and so, they pulled up and we came around the back, with the raft in the back. ... We're going to get on and they're yelling, "Take your time, ... take your time," and then, we got [on], one by one, yes. We got onboard, and then, someone said, "What are we going to do with the raft?" "We have no use for that raft now, you know. To hell with the Air Force, that's their raft." [laughter] So, we let it [go], we didn't even bother with it, just didn't even sink it or nothing, just let it go. We got onboard and the first thing I remember [is], the crewman, Gotsie, ... he went and he was smeared with sulfur salve, I'm pretty sure, yellow salve, all over everybody wherever they were burned, you know. ... It was the salt water that kept us from infecting for those first four days, I assume. ... [We were] all doused in the salt water and ... that prevented infections. So, it worked out great, ... and then, we sailed back and we got to Natal, [the] naval air station in Natal. We all went to the hospital and ... all the crew were taken care of, and just a local [treatment], you know, little dressing for our little things, and then, we went to ... quarters, and that's where I met a couple of my former mates. They're all different people, but one of the guys, an intelligence officer, ... "Hey," I said, "I'm going to have to make a report on this." He says, "I'll do it for you. I'll do it; well, we'll do it together." So, that's why it started out; ... you want to continue with that story?
TK: That goes into the ditching. ... Here's the original report.
SH: Oh, dear.
TK: He says, "We'll write [it]," and he starts, he says, "Let's start it this way," he said, "instead of being a real, you know, real official report." So, he says, "Five days on a life raft in the South Atlantic can be grim enough, yet, five of us, my copilot and I," and so-and-so, ... but he started out with it, and this went right to the [Chief of] Naval Operations.
SH: Just as he wrote it, right? [laughter]
TK: Yes, so, that's the whole report. ... I made one copy.
SH: That is your report. This is amazing that you have this.
TK: ... Oh, then, that leads me into another story.
TK: Continuing story. So, after we [recovered], then, we were ordered to go back to Norfolk for reassignment. ... Then, the Navy had [its] Air Transport Command that flew [to] all those bases for doing naval work. So, we got onboard and went back to [Norfolk], me and the whole crew, went back for reassignment. So, I went up to the reassignment office, or into that personnel office. I walked in, said, "Hello," and just me, and he says, "Hi, Lieutenant," he says, "now that you're back, ... you can go out to the Pacific with this same [aircraft]." They had a new PV, a new, bigger one, and the PVs were all going out to the effort in the Pacific. He [said], "You can go out ... on this PV-1 airplane or," he says, "we ... are forming a squadron of Liberators, four-engine Liberators, that are going to do submarine work in the North Atlantic." ... I said, "Four engines?" He says, "Yes." I said, "That's what I want, four engines." [laughter]
SH: You could have used them on the other airplane. [laughter]
TK: And so, he says, "The training base is at Chincoteague [Island], Maryland," and then, ... [I asked], "Well, can I keep my same crew, you know, my copilot and my same crew?" He says, "Yes," he says, "but the Liberator," they called it, the Navy called it something else, [the PB4Y], ... he says, "It's a nine-man crew." He says, "No problem. I'll just add four more guys to your crew to make the full complement," and I said, "That's great." So, the whole gang of us went down to Chincoteague [Island], Maryland, to check out in the Liberator. ... So, I did, I checked out, and then, they say, "Now, you go down to Boca Chica [Key], Key West, where the training is on, the actual submarine training, attacking submarines, using this big, new Liberator." So, I went down there and I'm looking at the airplane and it's got a huge, huge light mounted. Someone told us [it was] a five-million-candlepower light, attached [to] this one-wing airplane, attached somewhere out there. ... The idea was, the operator is in the nose of this Liberator and the procedure was, you're flying along and, if you got it on your radar, you got contact, you have to investigate it. It could be a submarine, ... supposing [it was] a submarine, and you went down, right down to three hundred feet, and continue on the target. ... When you got a mile-and-a-half from the target, the controller turns on the switch for the huge lamp and it's supposed to light up the target. ... Then, you make a visual approach to the target, drop your charges, or do whatever you want to do, drop your bombs or depth charges, and do that, but you had to be careful, because some of those big ships, they have three hundred-foot stacks and antennas and stuff hanging on, like a cargo ship or so. So, I have to be careful that you don't [hit them]. [laughter] ... So, you have to make up your mind what it is real quick, but that was the procedure, and I took that airplane. Then, I went, I picked up ... that Liberator now and I'm going to take it to Europe. I'm [going to] take it to Europe. I'm going to join a squadron over in England with that airplane, so that I had the same routing as I did over Natal, Ascension Island, and went all the way over there. ... From Marrakech, I flew directly to Dunkeswell, England, and to join my squadron, [the] 114th Squadron, there and, supposedly, to help the British Bay of Biscay patrol and go and clean up all those submarines that were out there, but, then, they moved the squadron from there to the Azores, to make a sweep in that area. So, I was stationed with the Liberator, the largest in the Azores, and that's where I finished in my last year in the Navy, and then, after that, let me go through quickly, after that, I got out of the Navy in October and I'm looking for an airline job. So, I'm looking all over. I'm going [to] American Airlines, I started [there], ... but I didn't know anything about this. I went to the office on 42nd Street, or somewhere up in that area; I went up to the personnel office in there. I'm talking about how I'm looking for a job, to fly American. He said, "Oh, we stopped hiring in August." ... Anyway, then, one time, I had a trip somewhere and I went down to TWA in Washington, asked them, you know, to get on with them and they said, "No, we're only hiring people that are going to be our flight engineers." So, I said, "No." So, [I] went back to New York, La Guardia, and I was walking around and I happened to see a friend of mine that I knew from Elizabeth. ... He said, "What are you doing here?" I said, "I'm looking to get a job with the airlines." He says, "Oh, I don't know about this," he said, "but I heard Pan American, at that hangar way over there by the old Marine [Air] Terminal," he says, "they may be hiring." I had my logbook with me. ... In fact, I got the logbook right there. I want to show you that, too. ... So, I went into the personnel office. The secretary was right on the bottom floor and they had stewardess training or something in that big area there. I went to her to fill out an application. So, I filled out the application, and then, I gave it back to the secretary. ... On the application, I had, "Four-engine time in the North Atlantic, you know, in the Navy," [it explained that] I was a Navy pilot and all this stuff and she says, "My, this looks good. I'm going to send it right up to the Chief Pilot." So, she did so. She sent it up to the Chief Pilot. I didn't know it at the time, but he was ... one of the ex-Navy pilots that formed Pan American way back. He knows; he used to be an old flying boat naval aviator, and, now, he's in La Guardia, over with [Pan American], and, now, they've got all new airplanes, you know, and that's why they're hiring. They got rid of all the flying boats. [Editor's Note: From its formation in the 1920s to the immediate postwar era, the Pan American Airways fleet consisted of flying boat aircraft, popularly known as "Clippers."] So, all of a sudden, ... after calling the Chief Pilot, she says, "Go on up and see him." So, I went up to see the Chief Pilot. We said, "Hello," and he talked to me; I showed him my logbook and all this stuff. He says, "Yes," he says, "I'm hiring a bunch of guys." This was on a Friday; I'm pretty sure it was a Friday. He says, "But, I don't know whether we're going to hire any more or so," he says, "but, if I hire [more], I'm going to let you know Monday." So, then, Saturday, Sunday came around, Monday came and, about eleven AM, I'm at my old house in Elizabeth, ... just my father's there. My mother's working. ... My father sees I'm very depressed. I said, "Pop, I can't find a job. I can't find a job." He says, "Oh, no, they'll call you," in Ukrainian, "You are good, very good," or whatever, and so, then, I went home. ... I was home, and this was about on Friday, in the afternoon now. I called up Western Union and I said, "Western Union, do you have a telegram, maybe, for a Tom Kinaszczuk?" He said, "Let me see." He said, "Yes, I have one for you. We're just about to deliver it or call you up," or something. I said, "Could you read it over the phone?" and he says, "You report by nine o'clock Monday morning." You know, it just says, "Report," it doesn't say, "You're hired," or anything, just, "Come in." ... So, I went to the Western Union, I got the telegram, and then, Monday; oh, I know what I want to [say]. So, I set the alarm for, say, seven o'clock and my [telegram], "Report," he says, "Come down by 0900." ... He may have said 0900, I think maybe 0800, but, ... say, 0900. So, I set the alarm. ... I know it's going to take me [awhile], of course, I knew, to get to La Guardia, I'm driving back and forth, going to take me at least an hour, you know, at least an hour. ... Monday morning, I wake up. I wake up, it's almost eight o'clock. I overslept. The alarm didn't go off. ... Oh, this is a continuing story. ... So, I jumped [out of bed], I dressed, I did whatever I could. I jumped in the car and I'm tearing down and I get there. ... I check in and I go up the stairs and there's a secretary sitting over there and, as you came in and reported in, that was your seniority number. I didn't know it. Already, half of the guys were already hired, half of the guys were hired. See, at least half of the guys already came in ahead of me and I came in [late]. I forget [if] there was no set time, [if the telegram] just says come in Monday morning or so. ... Anyway, I came in and I was hired, but, then, I had to go to ground school and get my airline transport license and all this other stuff. So, that's the first thing I did, you know, and I got hired and I went in and that's how I started with Pan Am. ... Then, it cost me, because, later on, as we got new [aircraft], I was a copilot and, as we got new equipment, and then, needed more pilots, and they came all the way up, ... I was still copilot, until the 707 came up. I was a copilot for ... over twenty years.
TK: Yes, all because ... those pilots hired ahead of me were senior. They were getting all the captain openings, bidding all the captain openings, and until the 707 came around, then, I got a bid on becoming a captain on the ... 707. See, I was after everybody, but that story goes back to being, you know, late getting up, you know.
SH: [laughter] That few minutes late.
TK: I could have been a captain for years before that. This way, I only wound up a captain for sixteen years, sixteen years. See, I could have been doing well a long time before that. ...
SH: I wanted to go back and ask a little bit about the war. Were you able to write home to your family, since you were moving around so much?
TK: I never contacted them. ... Until after I sunk the sub, [when] they gave me leave, I told you I came home for leave, you know, said hello to the family and everything. ... That's when; no, I came home on leave before they gave me the Navy Cross and I came home ... after I sunk the sub. I came home, because ... the Navy Cross and all came out in June. So, no, I came home and had my week or two. Oh, they gave a couple weeks off, liberty, because I sunk the sub. He said, "Go on," because the Skipper knew I lived in Jersey here. He said, "Go on, go on home for a couple of weeks." You know, so, I did that, and then, I went back and, meanwhile, I used to spend time in the social club there, where I played soccer, just three doors away. ... I never mentioned my duty up in the Navy, and then, finally, after I got out ...
SH: Did you stay in the Reserves?
TK: No, no. ... That's when the thing came out in the newspaper. That was in June, and then, after that, I must have been home for something, maybe a holiday or something, and that's when one of my buddies, my old-time buddies from there, he says, "Tom," he says, "I saw your picture in the paper and I cut it out and I saved it for you." ... By that time, the word got around in the social club that, you know, they saw it and all, and that's the first thing anybody ever knew about it, you know, the [Navy Cross].
SH: [laughter] Local boy made good.
SH: Where did you learn to swim?
TK: Locally. ... I learned to swim right there; I lived only two blocks away from ... the docks.
SH: That was where you swam.
TK: Yes, that's where I started, but, [as for where] I really started, there was a ferry ... between Staten Island and Elizabeth and, on the side, there's like an opening where the water would splash in against the wall. ... When I was only six or seven years old, I would go down there in that water ... and go in, paddle around in that little slip and, from there, I started learning how to swim more and more there, but, then, we moved over. All our gang used to swim off the docks. Off the pier, they had docks, where the ships used to come in. ... Oh, right at the recreation pier was the city pool. There was a big building there, recreation pier, where the excursion boats used to come, and right next to it was the ferry slip. That's where I started, but, then, they built that new pool, and then, from there, I remember going into the swimming pool. I think it used to cost ten or fifteen cents, because I never had the money, but, when I did sneak in there and do some, I remember sitting, hanging on the edge of the pool with my front of my feet splashing, and then, I'd turn around and tried to do a couple dog paddles, and then, I'd come back and grab on, and that's how I learned in the swimming pool. ... Then, over the years, I did better and better, and then, all my big swimming was off the docks. All my diving and stuff, it was all off the swimming pool diving board, but the big thing about [it], tugboats are going [by], big oil tankers are going by, and a big deal, like, almost like a graduation, was, you took ... a five-gallon tin, see, and you cut off the top, and then, you'd put your clothes in there. ... Then, you went with that tin, you swam and put your tin ahead of you, you swam all across the Arthur Kill Sound to the shores of Staten Island there. ... That's where Proctor and Gamble had their property, all the way down there, and then, you're supposed to get out, and then, you dress in whatever clothes you wanted. ... Then, you could walk around and all, and then, come back, put your clothes [back in the tin], and this is a BAB (Bare Ass Beach). This is an old BAB, you know, and then, you'd put your clothes back in. Then, you have to watch, so that you'd time yourself with the tugboats and the big ships are going [by], and you go and you swim and, when you did that, with the gang, you passed. [laughter] Then, you knew how to swim. ... If something happened, then, you had to do manual swimming, don't look good. You were determined that you can make it over and back. That was their graduation.
SH: Would you have let your kids do that?
TK: No, no, they never knew that. ...
SH: [laughter] What I meant was, you would never have let your kids do that, would you?
TK: No, no, these [were] Depression days. No, no, my kids, we didn't get married until 1948. See, my first, Tom, was born in 1950, my daughter was born in 1954, see, ... and all that's [got] nothing to do with my childhood.
SH: How did you meet your wife?
TK: Oh, that's a nice story. The gang of us, the Spanish kids and all, one of them knew a family in New Brunswick, see, and there's a teenage daughter there and she had some friends here and we used to get in my car and drive all the way to that house. ... The father was a butcher on Lee Avenue there in New Brunswick. So, we used to come over and kind of gang up with a group, a social group, and then, the older daughter there, she would call up her friends, and then, we'd go have pizza or so. So, anyway, ... we'd do that periodically, and then, one day, just my friend, Joe, who happened to be my best man, finally, ... Joe said to me, "Hey, let's take a ride to New Brunswick, see [if] there's anything new over there." So, we're driving down Route 1 from Elizabeth to Highland Park, ... to go to New Brunswick, and we're coming down, and we'd been out to different hangouts, anyway. So, anyway, we're driving down and right on Route 1, I think there's a Chinese or Japanese restaurant there now, on this side ... before the Raritan, maybe just before the Raritan bridge, [the Goodkind Bridge], coming this way, a place called the Gypsy Rendezvous. You ever hear of that place there?
TK: Gypsy Rendezvous, but it was a restaurant. You'd walk in, there's a nice, big bar and in the back is like a big dining room, with tables, and they had music going on over there. So, we're driving up and Joe says, "Hey, Tom, let's stop in here, see what's going on." So, we dropped in. Oh, this is a long story. We dropped in, we enter the bar and we're going and looking in. There's two women over there, having a drink. ... The music's playing and I asked the bartender, "Hey, can we go in there and ask the girls to dance?" and he said, "I don't think [so]. They're kind of private," you know, "kind of private." So, we had our one drink or so and here comes the two gals. They're coming out. It happened to be my wife and her aunt. ... They're coming out, ... and so, I go and follow them. They're going to the car and I'm trying to get their name. ... Finally, I talked to my wife and I said, "What's your name and ... where do you live?" She says, "I live on;" she lived on 9 such-and-such a street in New Brunswick, happened to be on the far end, near the cemetery. So, anyway, I jotted that down and, one day, I went into the ... [phone booth] at my social club. I had a couple beers or so and I decided, "I wonder if I can find out her telephone number," you know, and I don't know how they had a New Brunswick [phonebook]. Anyway, I [went] page by page until I found ... the address, see, and I didn't really even know her last name. I found her address and I got the telephone number. I knew her name was Peggy. So, I looked, of all these pages I went through, ... about halfway through, ... I found the street address that she gave me. So, I called up the telephone [number]. I got her on the phone. I said, "Hey, I want to come down, take you out to dinner." She said, "Okay," and so, that's how it started. ... It goes back further. ... The reason she and her aunt were in that restaurant [was], ... my wife's sister's daughter just had her baby ... in Perth Amboy and they were waiting for the delivery and all that stuff in Perth Amboy Hospital. ... Then, on the way home, they decided, "Oh, dear, let's stop in and have a drink or do something," wanted something to eat, I guess, because they were sitting in a big [area]. ... They happened to be there after the birth and I came in there, just by chance, and we met there. ... From then on, it went on, and that was in 1947. So, [that was] the beginning of 1947 and I courted her and all until [we got married]. ... That '47 [was] my first year with Pan American. I was on probation for the whole year, see, 150 dollars a month for a whole year, because, on probation, ... you know, you foul up, you're out. I was in my second year now. ... I got a job with Pan American, so, in my second year with Pan American, I decided I was going to ask her to marry me, see. ... She came from a very poor family, like I did, see. ... So, yes, we got married in a little church on Somerset Street, a Ukrainian church. She was a Lutheran, but, anyway, so, she decided to be on my side. So, we got married in that little church. There was something I wanted to say before that. Yes, oh, this is going to be a long story. You want to continue talking about my wife?
SH: Sure, if you would like to.
TK: All right. So, after we got married, ... we get, not free passes, but discount tickets. So, I decided, through Pan American, I was able to [use them] on American Airlines. ... We wanted to go to Acapulco, Mexico, for our honeymoon. So, through the Pan Am ticket office there, at the hangar, for employees, I got tickets to go to Acapulco on American, ... plus, Mexicana Airline, and then, come back the same way. ... That was all during my vacation period, that we got married, see. So, everything, we had to do it all [within that time], and that's what we did. That's what we did. ... Before we got married, we decided; they were building Raritan Gardens on the corner of Route 1 and Route 18. They now call it "The Gardens," right by that traffic light where all the accidents are all the time, but that's before that, before the war, the whole thing. ... I put a deposit to rent one of those apartments, and everybody's saying "You're going into there? [It is] seventy-five dollars a month. Over here in New Brunswick, [for] thirty dollars a month in rent, you know, you get a flat for twenty-five, thirty, thirty-five at the most, and you're going to pay seventy-five dollars a month?" Everybody's trying to talk us out of it. So, anyway, but it wasn't finished yet. ... They said, "By the time you go on your honeymoon for a couple weeks," whatever it was, "the apartment, it'll be ready, so [that] you can come in." [We] get back from the honeymoon; they're still finishing up around my apartment. ... There's no steps or nothing going in on the first floor on this one building, one apartment building. So, we had to go to a motel down Route 1 for a couple weeks or so. ... At that time, we went down to buy some furniture and stuff. So, after that, we were able to come into the apartment.
SH: Was Peggy working at that time?
TK: In all the time, she was working at Personal Products, right here off Route 1, and she was in the packaging department, packaging Modess. ... When I was courting her, she told me she worked there and, you know, a lot of times, she had that shift where you didn't quit until eleven o'clock. So, I would come down from Elizabeth, drive around the back of the building, pick her up, and then, we'd go down Route 1 to the gin mill, or somewhere down there, and have some beers and stuff and talk and talk, and so on, and that's how that was. ... After courting for almost two years, then, I asked her to marry me and that was it, since I had a steady job now, [laughter] and then, after she got pregnant, she only worked until our son, Tom, was born, then, she stopped, yes.
SH: When did you build your house?
TK: We were at Raritan Gardens for about; my son was born from there, St. Peter's [Hospital], but we were living there and he was now about ... five years old, so, just ready to go to school. ... I don't know, I forget where he went to school, here at Raritan Gardens, must have been up by George Street, anyway. ... My neighbor across the street, who is now my neighbor across the street, ... he was in ... the Navy, in the SeaBees, [construction battalions, CBs, known colloquially as SeaBees]. He got out of the SeaBees, he went into construction and he built his house there across the street from where I live, right here, across the street there. ... We used to visit and, one day, he says, "Tom," he says, "this place used to be an apple orchard. Mother Massing and son are the [owners]. They have a big house in the middle here." He says, "Their son," who worked for Public Service, he was a linesman or whatever, he says, "their son talked to his mother, Massing, to ... [make] the offer, cut a new development in here and to sell the lots and give up this [land]." ... So, he says, "Buy that lot across the street and I'll help you build your house." I said, "Oh, Joe, you're nuts." ... At that time, we were kind of looking for another place to live and, when I went to visit him, he mentioned that. He said, "Tom, buy that lot across the street. It's just the dirt here, but it's actually a corner lot." We didn't have any macadam here at that time, either, and he says, "I'll help you build your house." I said, "Joe, we can't do that. I'm flying and, anyway, if I got started, you know, you may quit the job, and then, I'm stuck there. I don't know anything about it. I don't know anything about building, and I'm going to [be] left holding the bag." He said, "No, no, once I tell you I'm started, I'm going to stay with it until it's finished." So, he talked me into it. I said, "But, ... I have no money." He says, "You can get a construction loan, like I did on my house." There's a guy named Mr. Schrum. He used to be a teacher in New Brunswick and he was moonlighting in plumbing. Oh, he had a plumbing class, ... that type of class in school, and then, he was moonlighting and loaning money out for mortgages and stuff. So, he said, "Go ask Schrum and see if he can give you a construction loan." So, I saw Mr. Schrum and he said, "Yes," he says, "I can give you three thousand dollars," ... started out [as] three thousand dollars. So, I got the loan, got the money available, went back to Joe. I said, "Okay, Joe, I got the money ... to start a construction loan, to do the construction." So, Joe knew, from building his house, he knew what mason to call in to do the foundation. He knew the electrician to [hire to] come in and do [the] electrical work. ... He knew somebody ... to do the well for us. I still have an operating well in the back. He did the well for me. He did all these things. So, all I had to do, and I'm going to show you in the book; when I came in off a trip, I took my pictures.
SH: Yes, you have shown me those pictures.
TK: Yes, anyway, ... when they're doing the foundation, and I told them [what I wanted]. I had a booklet to start with. I bought it at the lumberyard, showed these houses, and I had a picture of this house, complete. This was a porch, [an] open porch, anyway, a porch, and I showed Joe the book and, from the book; no, I had to make plans to give to the neighbor here who had to approve the plans for buildings on his lots that he sold. So, I did all that. So, out of the book, Joe went and, you know, did the plan to get the permit from the township. So, with these plans [and] with the book, he called in the masons, told them what the size and everything [should be], and then, I told him, "I want a corner fireplace." He said, "No, nobody has a corner [fireplace]. You have the outside. It'll be in your porch here, you know, and you put the fireplace [there on the porch]." I said, "No, I think it'd be nice, something unusual. Build it in a corner." "That's a project, that's a special project," so, anyway, and they did. They finally built all that. So, anyway, ... I'm building this [house]. Finally, we finished the house and I settled with Schrum. I got a regular, documented fourteen-thousand-dollar mortgage, ... but the nice part about that [was], he was the one we went to to do the plumbing. See, so, he knew, like these baseboard radiators, you don't see them, but they're cast-iron.
SH: Oh, my, yes.
TK: See, they're best with the hot water. ... When they came in, I said, "I want reflectors, aluminum reflectors, to reflect [the heat], ... so [that] it don't soak up the wall." ... So, they came in, did that, but, anyway, being with the guy that's going to do all the work, I was able to [control it], and an electrician. Anyway, so, all these things [happened] and Joe found [a plasterer]. This is a plastered house, he had a plaster house, one of the few you'll see. After that, everything is sheetrock. He called in a plasterer. Everything is plastered, except this. Everything is plastered. All the closets, everything is plastered. ...
SH: Did you use your GI Bill?
TK: No. I used that at the beginning. Oh, now, that's another whole story. We were a very poor family. We were only paying twenty-five dollars a month in that [apartment]. We were upstairs in this two-flat building and that's where everything, the whole family, everything was born, right there. ... It only had the toilet on the back porch, I think I told you, and no electric, no nothing, no plumbing, no nothing, except a sink. ... That's where we'd do the sponge bath, in the sink, how we kept clean. ... Oh, so, anyway, while I was ... in the Navy and all, I was putting [money away]. ... I was saving a little money in the bank. Yes, I had a bank account. I was sending my pay, I was sending some money, to the local bank. ... The old house had no plumbing, you know, and it was dirty with cockroaches. When the light was out, you'd turn the light on, cockroaches [would be] running all over the place, and so many of them, no matter what you did [to get rid of them], you're going to poison everybody with all the poison. So, anyway, I was so sorry for my father and mother, you know, and myself, too. Here it is, I'm twenty years old over there and I'm still in the Navy, now, I'm whatever, and I'm back to the same house. ... I said, "The least I could do is get my folks out of this damn house." I could have done anything, gone apart and do anything, by myself, but I said, "These poor people, immigrants, you know, all their life, my mother working so hard, my father worked in this dump, you know, I've got to get them out of here." ... My brother, ... now, he had a candy store and he'd had other stuff in it, ice cream and bread and stuff, right on the corner of Kenneth Avenue and Edgar Road here. ... Just down the street, about four houses down, was a nice house. ... I'm telling my brother, Mike, I said, "Mike, I'm looking for a place." I didn't tell my mother and father about this. I said, "I'm looking for a place. I want to get rid of the apartment down there and buy a new house, somewhere." He said, "You're in luck. Just down [the road], this Mrs. So-and-So, she's giving up her house over there and she has a nice house there, an old one." So, I went down and asked her if she wanted to [sell it]. She already [had] it on the market, and I said, "How much you want for it?" She says, "Eleven thousand dollars," see, and it had, still, the steam radiators and stuff, anyway, but it was nice. It's a one-family house, but the living room and everything was done up, the kitchen, upstairs were the bedrooms, all nice, and they even had a little attic and ... a one-car garage in the back, with a little plot of dirt there and a couple of trees. So, I said, "Mike," I said, ... "I'm going to buy that house down there." I didn't say anything more than that, and then, one day, I bought the house, got the mortgage, the whole thing, and I'm still living in the old place. My father's going to work, to Staten Island, every day, my mother's going to Newark; to Newark, I think, anyway. ... I said, "Mike, I ... bought the house now." I said, "I'm going to move everything out of the house, everything, all the clothes, everything of value, everything, move them up there while they're both gone," and I did that, with my friend, Joe, and other guys. We got a truck, hauled everything up, moved everything completely out.
SH: In one day? [laughter]
TK: My old clothes and all, everything, everything. So, my father was [the] first one home, [at] about four, quarter to four or so. He's walking [home], I'm on the front stoop there, and my father, he's now, oh, he's over sixty, yes, over sixty, sixty-two, anyway, somewhere in there, and he's coming here. He's got a heavy leather coat that I got from the Navy. ... He's walking up, and I said, "Hi, Pop." He's walking up to me and we're ready to hug and I said, "Where are you going, Pop?" He says, "(De dumo, de dumo?)," "To the house, to home." I said, "No, you don't live here anymore." He looks at me. [laughter] He says, "Ha," like I'm joking or something. I said, "No, Pop, you can't go in here. You don't live here anymore. I'm going to take you now where you live." So, I got in my car and I take him all the way over to the new house. This is a row of houses. They're residential. ... I said, "This is where you live. Come on in." I showed him the house. He said, "Oh, Lord, Lord." ... So, I went back down, and here, about maybe five o'clock or so, here comes my mother. She has to take [a bus] from Newark, she had to take a bus to Elizabeth, and then, we had a bus that came all the way downtown, to downtown [Elizabeth]. Then, she had to walk that big, long block to the house. So, here she comes, coming down the street, you know. I said, "Hi, Mom." [Editor's Note: Commander Kinaszczuk imitates their conversation.] I don't know if we were speaking Ukrainian or English, probably English now, and I said the same thing. I said, "Mom, where are you going?" She said, "I'm going home." [I] said, "No, you can't go home," and I went through the same routine. [laughter] "You don't live here anymore." She said, "What do you mean, [I] don't live here?" I said, "I moved you out to another house," and so, she got a glee in her eyes, you know, because she knows I'm not kidding and she's so happy, because I said something about a different house, you know. So, we got in the car and I drove her back and I showed [her the house] and the first thing we did [was], we looked in the backyard. ... She saw a plot of grass, you know, grass with trees, and here's the garage and she saw this, that and the other. ... Then, we went in through the kitchen entrance in the back. She looked here, "Oh, my," and anything. So, we settled down and I was so happy to get them [the house]. ... Then, that's what the four-percent mortgage was [used for], to get them out of their poverty and ... all those years of [staying in] a dump, you know.
SH: They were close to your brother then, too.
TK: Yes, and then, not only that, ... across the street from my brother, there was a house back here and they're almost like relatives; not from our family, but we knew the people there. So, my father, at the beginning, used to walk over there. ... Then, he finally retired at sixty-five, and then, he was home all the time and my mother was still working. ... So, he would go over there and talk with the father over there, who was, like, almost like a cousin or so to him, but, anyway, it worked out very well. ... Then, we had this social club, the Ukrainian social club, downtown, where my mother used to go down there, once in awhile, sort of kept all those connections, until my father, finally, ... he was cutting his bunion or something, you know, and he infected it and got gangrene. I took him to the hospital and he finally died. Finally, they wanted to cut the leg off, but my mother wouldn't let them do it. So, we brought him home and he stayed home and he ... finally got a heart attack and he died from that. ... My mother, then, after that, she quit working there, no pension or anything. My father had no pension, at that time, no, but, then, now, they were going to be able to get on Medicare, I guess, at sixty-five.
SH: Social Security?
TK: No, no. I can't remember that. Anyway, they were still poor. I mean, anyway, my mother, finally, on the corner, there was a place, a pizza place, and ... my mother walked over there one day, asked if she could get a job. So, she was, in her last years, working in the pizza place. ... Probably from that work, heavy work there, she probably went to bed and she died in her sleep from a heart attack or a stroke, because ... she must have forced herself too much or so and it probably killed her. ... When I used to go from here to go to my trips, I'd stop over at their place and call her, have her come out, on my way to the trip. I'd say, "Hi, Mom, I just wanted to say so long," and ... kiss, and so, I'd go off on my trip. Sometimes, on the way back, I'd come back, then, say, "Hello," on the way back to my own home.
SH: That was very nice.
TK: So, that's that part of this family.
SH: You had your eyes set on flying commercial airplanes from early on.
TK: Yes, from my walks.
SH: Did you ever consider staying in the military after World War II?
TK: Yes. When I was in the Azores, I figured that, you know, I'm not sure of getting a job anywhere, but I liked the Navy and I was USNR [United States Navy Reserve]. ... The skipper of the base in the Azores was a real SOB, you know, as ... you know, Navy people, rough. ... He was going to Washington for some legal business and, while he was gone, I was thinking about going USN [United States Navy]. So, I went to his, what'd they call them? personnel [officer] or whatever, and I said, "Would you put ... a message in to the Navy that I would like to transfer to the US Navy, from the USNR to the USN?" and so, he did. He said, "Oh, the Skipper's going to be happy about this, you know. He's got a candidate, you know, to join and stay in the Navy." So, I put that down. Then, after I put the chit in, about a week, he was gone for a couple of weeks, so, I was there about a week, and then, I keep thinking of another friend of mine, [who] said how, when he got out, he was going to go join the airlines, because he had friends in the airline. ... I kept telling myself, I said, "That's what I always wanted to do, and this son of a [bitch], I'm going to stay in the Navy and I'm going to have duty with some more of these SOBs?" you know. So, I went back to the guy in the office. I said, "Would you send a message over to the Navy?" the headquarters, I guess, what do they call them? anyway, "and ... cancel my request?" So, it went through, and then, the Skipper comes back and the guy told him my story, you know, that I cancelled my request, and he blew up. ... Just about that time, my orders came in; I had enough points to get out. [laughter]
SH: Saved by the bell. [laughter]
TK: Yes. So, then, after that, ... all my life, it seems like, you know, it's hard to do what I wanted to do, but it's kind of worked out. Oh, going back to the life raft story, when I first got into the raft, you know, we're all there, ... none of us are throwing up. That's a surprising thing, because, from all the nervousness, the only [reaction we had was that]. Anyway, so, I'm sitting there and I said to myself, "Son of a gun, here it is. I'll probably never get back. I never had a chance to get married." Oh, here, I'm only twenty-three years old, see, twenty-two, twenty-three years old, and that being so family-oriented, with the family and the mother and the father and all, and all this other stuff, just didn't [seem fair]. The first thing in my mind was, "Here, I'll probably never get back. I never had a chance to get married." Isn't that an odd one? Anyway, so, ... then, it happened. It all came through, see.
SH: Beautifully so.
SH: As you were occupied with your own missions and assignments, were you aware of how the war was progressing in both Europe and the Pacific? Were you able to keep up with that?
TK: Oh, yes, yes. ... No, we had a map on the wall in the officers' [club], a little Quonset hut for an officers' club, and we had all the dispatches coming through, before the invasion and after, when the invasion happened. In fact, we had a big party then, because, when the invasion started; ... no, not that, it must have been V-E Day [that] we had the party. We wouldn't have a party on the [invasion date]. I know we followed all the progress, [the campaigns of General George S.] Patton, all the stuff that's going on, and, in the Pacific War, we were in contact, fully [in] contact, [with] what was going on in the rest of the world.
SH: Were you?
TK: Oh, getting back, in the Pacific War, this goes back to what we're talking about, my flying that secret mission. In Tarawa, or whatever, there was a big beach landing and all the Marines ... or so, whoever they were in these landing crafts, they were hitting these reefs that you couldn't see. They'd run up on them and they'd bust up and they'd drown all the guys going [in]. So, they were losing hundreds and hundreds [of] guys going on the beach, being upset and drowning and killed in hitting these reefs. [Editor's Note: In the Battle of Tarawa, fought in November 1943, the US Marine Corps suffered approximately one thousand battle deaths and over twenty-two hundred wounded.] ... I never was officially told this, but I figured, when I saw that big opening, I figured that was [for] a loudspeaker. There's going to be a loudspeaker and what I heard, somewhere, I discovered something, they were saying if they only had [a warning], I'm assuming the Navy saw that if we only had an airplane flying along the beach, warning the landing craft that there are reefs here, there are reefs there. That's when I saw this big opening. I figured, "I'll bet you that's going to be a speaker," and then, I'm putting two and two together and I figured that I'm going over there to be one of the [warning aircraft]. The Navy's experimenting. See, I'm going to be the first guy [over the beach]. So, when they make the invasion or so, or they didn't know whether it's going to be Southern France or Normandy, ... I figured, "If I'm going, ... it's going to be either place, they're going to want me to get an officer, you know, another officer onboard, intelligence officer or somebody, that could fly along and he'll tell me what to do, fly back and forth, and direct the landing." Of course, the guns are going to [target me], we don't even talk about that, like they did on the Normandy [landing force]. They were shooting and hitting the ships as they were coming in, you know. So, this, I went in there slow moving, only two hundred miles [per hour] at the most, and, when you're doing that slow, ... you're not going to be going fast. So, I was in a big, good pickle. So, this ditching may have saved me. [laughter] You know, I'm sure it would have saved me. If that was the original mission, I know I would have been blown out of the sky, but the Navy wanted to try that, see, save [them from] all those catastrophes that they had over in the Pacific.
SH: No one ever confirmed what that flight was for.
TK: No, no. I never talked, legally, to anybody. [It was] just that I just surmised all that.
TK: Especially when I saw that big hole in the side of the airplane. [laughter]
SH: Flying a plane with a hole in it. What was the reaction when you heard about the atomic bomb? Did you know about it before the surrender? Were you aware of it?
TK: No, no, nobody knew, nobody knew. ...
SH: I am going to put this back on. When were you discharged from the Navy?
TK: It's right on the back of your sheet.
SH: Okay, on the pre-interview survey, it says that you were discharged on October 11, 1945. From the Department of Navy, in January 1946, you were awarded the Order of Glory, Third Class, by Russia, for the work that you did in the North Atlantic, protecting the shipping lane.
TK: Oh, there must be one before this.
SH: It was for work from July 20, 1942.
TK: ... This is the whole thing. ... There's a whole separate thing on the Russian thing. ... Oh, I think this is the explanation, from the Russian office.
SH: I see, "120 Orders and seventy medals of the USSR, in accordance with the attached list to persons among the personnel of the US Navy Reserve, Coast Guard and Coast Guard Reserve are awarded by decree of the President of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, July 7, 1945, for outstanding military activities aiding the delivery to northern ports of the Soviet Union during the war against the common enemy of the USSR and the United States, Hitlerite Germany, the transport with military cargo and for valor and courage displayed while performing this."
TK: I'm trying to see the page here, where it told you what to do. They told me to send a picture in, certain size; it should be right here.
SH: Yes. That is amazing that they did that, in what we know as the beginning of the Cold War.
TK: But, yes, ... somewhere, there's a letter that says, "Send two copies of a picture, certain size, and then, we will put it in," like, a little, almost like a ...
SH: It is like a little award. It is a leather-bound, wallet-sized photo.
TK: ... Yes, see, like a little booklet.
SH: It has an official stamp.
TK: So, that's what they did, and then, I think the award was separate, that award, and then, they also sent me [this]. They refer to this ...
SH: That is great, really.
TK: Coupon book here. ... See, this, in Russian, it says, "??????," "Coupon," and I think these things were [for use in the USSR]. It had a letter here, that the [US] Navy says, "Don't use any of this stuff," yes, and, if you did, you have to call the bureau and explain exactly how much it was worth and all, but they're the coupons, I think, for taking the bus or the train or so.
SH: You would use this in Russia. Have you ever gone to Russia since?
TK: ... Yes, I used to fly to Moscow. I had a Moscow trip.
SH: You talked briefly about being able to use your language skills.
TK: The one who was in charge of the affair, they'd go through the Navy Department. They'd find out whatever they want; let's see.
SH: When you would fly into places like Russia, as a commercial airline pilot, were you followed? How open was the society for you? Were you confined to certain areas?
TK: In the airways thing, they speak English, just like you do right after the war, [if] you went to Germany, you're coming in, flying in there, or [to] go anywhere, Turkey, everywhere, the controllers all knew. They're taught, they know the basic words, like, "You are cleared to go this," "You go up or down," or whatever it is, but, on their own national airline, they speak their own language. Now, they all speak pretty good English.
SH: When you would go, you would have to stay overnight in Russia, correct?
TK: Yes, yes, we'd have a crew layover hotel we used to go [to], called the (Stalingradskaya?) Hotel.
SH: Were you followed? Could you only stay at that particular hotel?
TK: Oh, no. No, I have a story to tell you about that, too. [laughter] No, one time, ... I was still a copilot and we had a flight, ... two in a row, flight to Helsinki, Finland, with a layover. ... Then, when you lay over there, you had to be there two or three days, maybe it was a twice a week flight to Helsinki and, on the schedule, you caught those trips. So, I went there with this captain one time before and he said, "Hey, [before] we're coming back, you feel like going over to Moscow? ... We'll go downtown to the Russian Embassy there, or consulate, and get visas, so [that] when we come back next week, we'll be able to go right on over." So, we did all the procedure. We paid the Intourist fees, everything, all ahead of time. [Editor's Note: Intourist was the official state travel agency of the Soviet Union and managed foreign citizens' access and travel within the Soviet Union.] ... So, the next time we came back, we went straight to the office, picked up our visas and stuff and got on an Aeroflot [Russian Airlines] and went over to Moscow. We're going to stay there a couple nights. ... You have to do it all through the Intourist, do the booking, do everything, and we went over there. Sure as hell, there was a representative [of] Intourist there, and they never told us where we're going to stay. Go over there and they tell [us], "Okay, you go with this driver." He'd take you to the Intourist [hotel] and the Intourist gal stays right with the driver, takes you right to the hotel, in Moscow, and you check in, but they know you're coming already. This is all planned, right away. ... So, then, we were in civvies, of course. We're in civvies. ... We go to the hotel and we check in and I said, "My name is Thomas Kinaszczuk." He said, "Yes, we know," and they pronounce my name right back, and so, then, we said, "We want a room, one room for the both of us." [They said], "No, no, no possible, no possible. You go on second floor and he go fifth floor," or whatever it is. They wanted to separate us. So, that's all right. ... The next day, we walk around. We take that ride with the tourists, we walk around. They're showing us all the places, going by the Kremlin, the whole thing, driving around, and this captain I was with, he was sassy, you know. ... Meanwhile, I brought that.
SH: Did you?
TK: I brought that with me.
SH: You brought your award.
TK: Yes, not the medal, but the booklet. I brought that, put it in my pocket. So, I'm in a taxi and ... the Captain says, ... "He's got something from Russia," and they look. I know the driver must be spy, you know, and the Intourist is also a spy, or in that category, and so, I pulled it out and she looks at it. ... She shows it to the driver, "Look." "Yes, oh, yes," at this book, and gives it back to me, didn't say anything, and he was trying to impress her that, hey, I got something from the Russian Government. ... Then, we're going along and she said, "Oh, there's apartment. Oh, there, we have apartment. On the end, there's a place where the kids can play," and this and that, and the Captain says, "Yes, but I don't see anybody. It looks like an empty building." So, you see, we were getting propaganda, as you know, and we'd talk about something else and the Captain would needle her. ... Anyway, so, then, we're back at the hotel; oh, no, this is the first night. We're back, ... and so, we're going to go out to dinner. Oh, that's another story. Before, somehow, I found out that one of the real good restaurants in Moscow is such-and-such a restaurant. So, anyway, ... it was a set up. Tomorrow night, we're going to go to this restaurant, but, anyway, and I'll go back to the first night, we were in the different rooms. Oh, we're getting ready to go out there and he's saying something and I said, "You know, probably, the ...
SH: It could be bugged.
TK: And he says, "Oh, that damn Khrushchev," you know. I says, "Shh."
SH: Told him to be quiet. [laughter]
TK: Yes. [laughter] ... Nothing serious happened, but I'm telling him, "Gee, be quiet," but he wants to rabble-rouse, you know, and here we are in a strange country. [laughter] ... Anyway, so, this other part of the story; so, I'm on the outside of the hotel and I'm going to wait for a cab, and way on the outside is a cab just around the [corner], and I used to be able to ... [Commander Kinaszczuk whistles.]
SH: Whistle with your fingers, yes.
TK: And way over there. ... The cab, I guess he didn't hear me or maybe he saw me going like this here, so, the cab comes around, you know, and nobody else is around us. ... The cab comes around real quick, we jump right in and the cab starts to go and I show him ... the restaurant. I said, "(Restorante?) So-and-So," and he goes, "(Ya, ya?)," and so, we're going, we're going and we're going and we're going. [laughter] ... I said to the Captain, I said, I forget his first name, ... I'll call him Cap, I said, "Cap, if it starts snowing, we'd better get the hell out of here and go back the other way." [laughter] So, we laughed and, sure as hell, he came into this building, in front of this building. ... The restaurant's on the second floor. So, we get out and we've got to go into the restaurant area. ... I say in Ukrainian, I said, "Huchima yiste," "We want to eat," and so, the guy says, "Sit over here," and, meanwhile, the orchestras are playing. They're all in 1929 tuxedos, you know. It's a high bandstand, the high bandstand there, and the guy's with the fiddle and the other guy, they're playing kind of slow music, but, you see, it's ancient. ... So, we're waiting and there's a young lady sitting in there, waiting all by herself, and the Captain says, "Hey, let's go, let's talk to her," and I said, "Gee, you don't [want to]." ... So, he goes over, he starts talking to her. I'm trying to remember if we took her over to the table or not. No, we're thinking of dancing or so, but, then, we're just talking across the way, maybe not too far, the length of this room. We're talking a little bit about this and that and we're talking and, finally, it's time to go. ...
SH: Did she speak in English or Russian?
TK: Yes, yes, broken English. [I] couldn't figure out who she was, but you never know who she was, but we were socializing there, socializing, never got to dance or anything like that. ... No, then, after that, then, the next night, or that night, when we got back to the hotel, there was a message from somebody saying that, "Your flight going back to Helsinki," something was wrong with it or something, "you may now leave tomorrow morning on the flight." So, we went and packed up our little bag, whatever we had, went to the airport and got on the airplane. ... We're flying along and I told the woman stewardess, ... because, years ago, [in] those years, we pilots, we invited somebody in the cockpit, you know, but, anyway, I asked the stewardess, "I'm a pilot, I'm a pilot. I'm pilot, I'm pilot. Can I go talk to the crew?" and she looked at me like that, [laughter] and then, later on, she comes back and says, "Yes, yes, yes, go." So, I went by myself. I went up in the cockpit, said hello to the Captain. He could speak pretty good English, the copilot could speak pretty [good English]. So, we're talking, you know, "union business," you know. ... They have a good job, because they get paid for [flying], they have a villa on the side, you know, and all this stuff, and because they're flying international, they have to ... get it. ... I don't know if they had [a recorder], if they're on a recording, too, though, but we're talking to them, we're talking about pay and union business. Pay, [I] mean, I'm talking about real pilot talk, you know, [laughter] and then, I say, "You want to come look at our airplane?" ... because it's parked [nearby], ... when we get back to Helsinki, invite them to go and look in our [aircraft], see what we have. He said, "Oh, I see many times, I see many times," and that was it. So, we landed, and then, the next day, we had our own trip back to New York, but that was my personal experience.
SH: Cutting through the Cold War.
TK: Well, no, that's not counting the regular flights I had; this was to stay there. We had flights where I flew in, I must have, because we used to stay in there. I must be thinking of another place. ... I had many trips to Moscow, because I remember that we used to go from Stockholm or Helsinki, and that was one stop, and then, we continued on to Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow, and we used to be precise on the course. We flew right over that concentration camp in Lithuania, Riga, something like that, and then, you stayed on and a voice comes over. The controller says, "Pam Am, turn left two degrees," they're watching us on radar, "Turn left, left two degrees." ... The other odd part about communications there, all our clocks are set and we used Colorado, that station in Colorado, for time, [WWV, the National Institute of Standards and Technology radio station in Fort Collins, Colorado]. Everybody does, worldwide, but, so, we always set our clocks, and on the dash, too, and, when you're getting clearance, you say you're taking off and you want to go to, say, twenty thousand feet. They said, "You're cleared, but you must cross," all meters, but, to make it easy, "You must cross ten thousand meters, ... ten thousand feet, at time so-and-so," because they got a lot of [air traffic], see, military, whatever, and you must pass [then]. That's why your clocks have to be [set]. Then, when you get off, coming down, you gain descent, you cleared down here, but, then, when you get low, "You must clear a certain descent altitude within time so-and-so." So, very precise, see, ... and that's how tight they are on that radar and control. They're the only ... place in the world that they did that, you know, be very careful; so much traffic, I guess, military traffic, "Cross by time so-and-so." That's why you can't have your clock off, you know, and you're always checking to make sure it's right on. The one in Colorado, ... they give you the "beep, beep," you know, and an exact time. I think it turned to atomic now, so accurate; they turned it into atomic.
SH: What was the most memorable trip that you ever took as a commercial pilot? What stands out?
TK: Well, then, they're all about the same. The first thing I ever did, when I went to the first place, [was to] get a guided tour. When I went to Rome, the first thing I did, I went, got a human guide that took me all through the Vatican and the whole thing and all, and then, afterwards, when I [would] go there, I knew where to go and what to do. London, I met a fellow, nice Scottish chap, little, rugged guy. I took a walk down the Strand over there and I walked and this guy's coming, "Would you like a guide, sir?" and I said, "What do you mean?" He said, "Just for a pound," he says, "we'll walk around, I'll show you all the places." ... He says, "First, would you like some fish and chips in that little café? It's now coming lunchtime," or tea, or whatever he said, and so, we went down there, ... and he paid for it all, too, and he said, "We'll walk." So, we wandered all through the Strand, down [to] 10 Downing Street, went over to the Parliament building [the Palace of Westminster] and walked all around, nice day. ... Anyway, so, the next time I went, I always used to walk down just to say hello to him. He showed me all the spots that I could [visit] by myself. I knew where to go. So, I did that and, when I went to Rio, the same way. I got a guy that took me down along the beach, showed me all the stuff around, Ipanema Beach, and we stayed right on the Copacabana Beach. So, I'd try to do that at most every place I went to.
SH: Great life.
TK: Yes, yes, this flying. The only thing is the baggage drill; you know, you've always got to carry suitcases, when, most of the places, you open up a suitcase, take your pajamas out and a clean shirt or whatever, ... and you have to figure on the whole trip, because you never figure on cleaning this stuff.
SH: All right, let us put this on pause.
SH: Are you ready?
SH: You were talking about when you were in Key West.
TK: This goes along with the ditching. The airplanes that were flying by that finally helped us, one captain I think was this Al Thacher, over here. He's the one that we got with the signal light, with the signal mirror. This other fellow here was flying that four-engine Liberator, flying equipment, cargo, and he's the one that probably dropped the Gibson Girl. ... I was called over to Miami, to the Navy [headquarters], to get my award. See, that's where this, the award, comes in. ...
SH: Okay, can I put this back on now?
TK: While I was in training at Boca Chica, on this new air[plane], on the four-engine airplane, the message came through from the Navy, [an] Admiral's office in Miami, saying, "Me and my crew to report to the Admiral, (Monroe?)." So, we went to the Admiral and he says, "Welcome, gentlemen," and he starts pinning us up, see.
SH: Look at this, yes.
TK: See, this one here [of] my crew members, here's a picture of me, ... crew members here, Joe, and here's Slagle. He became my commanding officer. [laughter] He's the one that took the pictures. He had the sense; I didn't even think of it.
SH: Handsome men.
TK: You know, I was so busy during the attack and the whole thing that [I was busy], and he was smart enough to reach down one end, it's [the camera is] always stowed in the same certain spot, and picked the thing up and take pictures. It wasn't until after.
SH: Those were great shots. I am sorry hear that they are classified. [laughter]
TK: ... And where the training shows up, if I may go back a little bit, when we came in for the attack, ... from all my training, I automatically knew what I [had to do]. So, I had to hit the switch. He (the Co-Pilot) says, "Too early, too early, too soon." I think he said, "Too soon, too soon," because, visually, to him, he was new at the game, see, that's what everybody else does, "You're too soon," and you shoot too short or, you know, too late. You're going to overshoot, but [you think that] on the way in, and it came out that I was perfect. See, I hit him; see, I was perfect.
SH: Was that the only submarine that you saw in all of your flying? Was that the only submarine that you actually had a chance to engage?
TK: Yes, yes, for me. Yes, all those hundreds and hundreds of hours. I finished the Navy with a couple thousand hours, I guess. That's impressive. ... Pan American, when it came for a job, I had already accumulated a couple thousand hours. See, that's a lot. ...
SH: That is.
TK: Here's the whole group together. ... This is the one I like, and that was our new skipper. Afterwards, we had a new skipper, he became our new skipper, and Slagle became our skipper when we went down South.
SH: This is you showing how you attacked the submarine.
TK: Yes, there's the submarine there, "Give it hell, give it hell, Tom."
SH: That is a great shot. [laughter]
TK: Hey, see, you can see, ... you're looking at it, "What the hell are you doing?" These, I go along with it, see. [laughter]
SH: He looks a lot older. Slagle looks a lot older than you.
TK: Yes, yes, he was. He's an Annapolis graduate, I think; pretty sure he was an Annapolis graduate. He's got the commanding officer's look.
SH: Doesn't he? [laughter] Do you still keep in contact with him?
TK: Except that letter, when I told you about his son called me up and said, "Thank you for calling up," and saying hello to his wife.
SH: That is right. I remember that now.
TK: And then, he put me on to ... all that communications between headquarters and the German submarine.
SH: That is a good shot that the plane took of the life raft when you ditched as well.
TK: Yes. ...
TK: If you want.
SH: We just found the logbook that has the total. Go ahead; this is your last flight with your crew.
TK: Yes, this is my [last flight] with Pan Am, ... and so, my total, that's the Navy and Pan Am, all the time. My last flight with Pan Am, where my wife and I [made it], my wife came along with me, in New York to London and London to New York, and I added up my logbook, shows my actual flight time, 30,094 hours, and my total air miles, 10,271, and my night flight hours, 10,915.
SH: That is a pretty large number.
TK: My night hours are almost as much as my miles.
SH: That is amazing. These logbooks have been very interesting to look at.
TK: ... I had extra copies, not there. That's the best history.
SH: Just for the record, on the day that he sunk the submarine, in the logbook, the yeoman wrote, "Right in Der Führer's face." [laughter] That is great. Before we conclude today, I wanted to ask one final question. How do you think World War II impacted the man that you became, that I interviewed today?
TK: [I had] not thought of it that way, just a job I had to do. Even when I got the Navy Cross, it's just ... [like] in the airline flying, whatever you do, it's your job, you know. That's the way it was. It's your job.
SH: What are you most proud of?
TK: In the military?
SH: Just for you, personally.
TK: No, it's that my future came out the way I planned it. It was rough in spots, ... [like] just the six months it took to get a job with Pan Am, that type of stuff. Everything rolled along and came out, ... not like I would [choose] twenty-two years as a copilot only sixteen years as captain. That disturbed me quite a bit, but there's nothing I could've [done], glad I had a job, you know, look at it that way, because I know how [being unemployed can be], you know, from growing up. You know, you didn't have much, so, you're sort of thankful you got it. You don't pick it apart, be thankful.
SH: You have a son and daughter who were both in the military as well.
SH: You said your son had been a flight surgeon for eight years.
TK: Yes. See, each US Air Force fighter squadron, or all the squadrons in the fighter department, they have a doctor onboard as a flight surgeon. He's listed as part of the squadron. You have ... an intelligence officer, and then, ... they all have flight surgeons. If you go on a carrier, there's always a flight surgeon. Anything to do with the military in the air, there's always a flight surgeon involved. So, any sickness or so needs [to be] detailed, and checkups and all this stuff. "Keep the boys flying," that's what the flight surgeon basically is for, "Keep them flying. Don't let them sit on the ground. So, you've got to get that next mission in." ... So, he was attached to, the last three or four years, ... the squadron in Atlantic City. They're the high-performance jets that ... are protecting us along this area. So, then, one day, what he did, [of] course, he's a licensed pilot also, general aviation, and he said, "Pop, I've got a duty ... this weekend, down in Atlantic City, at least for Saturday." ... He says, "You want to come with me? I go over to Robbinsville, rent an airplane, and then, I fly over and do it, so [that] I don't have to use the car." He said, "You want to fly over, Pop?" ... So, I said, "Sure, I'll go." So, he flew. Of course, he knew the latest contacting [procedure] in McGuire [Air Force Base], get clearance to go through the area, the whole thing. We went down there and he landed, and he says, "Come on, I'm going up to the [office]." So, I followed him up to the office, and I was up there sitting around the anterooms while he was doing his duty, and so on, and then, he was showing me where they have a simulator for the fighter, took me down there, showed me around a bit. ... Then, on the way back, he said, "Pop, you fly back." So, I flew back, back here ... to Robbinsville, flew back, and then, we came home. ... When he was going to Princeton, the last year in Princeton, or even before that, anyway, one day, he says, "Pop, teach me how to fly." ... Oh, this is going to be a long [story]. All right, he said, "Pop, teach me how to fly," and I said, "I don't have an instructor's rating," you know, but, in the airline, airline pilots, we can instruct the airline pilots, but you can't do any gen[eral aviation education]. You have to have an instructor's license. So, anyway, so, I said, "Well, okay, come on," and he said, "Somerset Airport, up there on [Route] 202," he says, "let's go up there." So, we went up there and I rented one of the little [Piper] Colts, rented one of those, and he sat in the seat and I said, "Okay, let's go." Pushed the throttles forward and I said, "Hang on," and let him fly, kind of, and we took off. We flew around, and then, you know, we flew around, then, come back and he put it in his logbook, but you couldn't sign it off. ... Then, next time, we got started in a [Piper] Cherokee, a nice Cherokee, and then, I started right from scratch. We started doing all the take-offs and landings, the air work, all the stuff, and I give him my Navy experience, put him into unusual latitudes, and then, told him the new way, you watch your horizon, and something else. ... I said, "In the Navy, we watched needle ball airspeed, put the needle in the center," because your foot, with your rudders, and that needle, needle ball, ... like, you centered the ball, so [that] you know whether you're sliding this way or that way with your rudder, and air speed, whether you're climbing or gliding, you make sure you chase the air speed, and I did that. ... Anyway, they teach you something else in the book. So, I did that and a lot of other stuff, and then, right away, I'm getting [him] to keep your eyes on the [instruments], scan on the dash, you know, and then, when we got to flying at night, ... anyway, I used to train a lot at night, so [that] he could watch the instrument panel. ... Yes, so, he'd get it on, and then, check it, keep scanning the instrument panel, because it's a lot different at night, you know. You look at night and you forget about everything else, and then, I told him, ... "Well, let's do a GCA," ground-controlled approach, which is the radar, the old radar approach, where the controller is on the field there and he watches you on the radar and he brings you in, turn you on the course and all this. So, I said, "Okay, Tom, let's do this," and I put a cardboard hood ... over there, and even at night, I'll do it sometimes at night, and I do it. ... I said, "Okay, you're heading so-and-so. You're now on downwind from runway so-and-so, and maintain your eight hundred feet, and then, go down there." I said, "Okay, now, turn and make a 180-degree turn, come back the other way," and, as he's coming along at a certain airspeed, ... "Hold it there now. There is an intercept course for your approach," and then, I'll guide him around. ... Then, I said, "Now, start descending at five hundred feet a minute," and this is all primary. ... So, he locks on, five hundred feet a minute. I give him heading changes and [tell him], "Hold your airspeed," this or that, and I bring him down to a controlled radar approach, see, right down to a hundred feet, and then, I take him to final approach and he sees it. He's lined up. They've got the lights on and all that. He comes in, makes the landing, see, and then, we go around, come around, but all that stuff, I was doing. So, he went through, and then, this is important, then, ... I forget how many hours he had in already, ... I see that he's going for his private pilot's license, but I can't sign off any of this stuff, you know, because I'm not an instructor. So, I have to go get my instructor's license for a general aviation rating. So, I went through the exam, the oral exam, flight exam, the whole thing, ... to get my instructor's rating on small airplanes, and, because I'm a twin-engine pilot, or multi-engine pilot, I got it for multi-engine, too, instrument, multi-engine, the whole bit. So, I've got the instructor's license that I got with my airline pilot's license, anyway, and we went through that. We finished up, we finished up it all, and then, ... on the solo, I gave [him] to another instructor for solo, but, then, as he came up to take the exam then with the FAA, ... anyway, he got through his [exam], no problem through his [exam], and then, I said, "Okay, Tom." ... Oh, because, back when he was [at] Princeton, he wanted to get into the Air Force and he took his eye exam and, from all that studying and all, he [originally] had 20/20 vision, the right eye went 20/25. ... At that time, no glasses, 20/20, [or] you're out, see, and he was so disappointed and I said, "Tom, I'll teach you how to fly. I'll teach you how to fly," to calm him down. So, anyway, I taught him. He got his private pilot's license, and then, I said, "Okay, Tom." He said, "I want my commercial." [laughter] So, he went for commercial. ... I helped him as much as I can and, ... anyway, he went through and he got his commercial, and then, he says, "I want my instrument rating." So, he went all through the fuss and, I remember, I took him and my wife and daughter on it, because he had to have a long-range flight on instruments. So, I set the whole thing up and taught him how to do all that stuff. So, we went under the hood, ATC [Air Traffic Control] clearance all the way down to North Carolina, or somewhere, landed there, stayed overnight at a motel and flew all the way back and put it in the logbook; he passed. ... Then, after, he says, "I want my instructor's rating." So, God, he goes and he goes through all the trouble. [laughter] So, on his ticket, he's got a commercial, an instrument, instructor's rating, on his pilot's license.
SH: Does he still fly?
TK: ... Well, you know, I asked him the other day. Oh, you have to keep your license up every two years, you have to take an annual, biannual, review and he's been doing that ... with seminars, instead of taking flight tests. ... A couple of times, he took his flight test. You talk to somebody who likes airplanes. His car license plate reads "MDFLY2."
SH: Does your daughter fly as well?
TK: No, no, she wouldn't, no. ... I think Tom took her up for a ride one time, but she don't fool around with that. This is my airline transport rating. It's got all the airplanes I [flew] and each one you had to be FAA-qualified, take a ride and check out [in] it, oral. ...
SH: There is hardly enough room on this little card.
TK: Yes. See, I got it, ... it goes [through] all the Boeing [aircraft], the Constellation, the 377, that was that double bubble, the best passenger ever, then, the 707, and the 720 is the same as the 707, a little bit different model, 747. I also flew the, qualified on the, DC-8, and then, all the other, DC-4, the Douglas airplanes, including the DC-8. See, here, "Commercial privileges, airplane, single-engine, land," and then, on my instructor rating, it's different. See, it says, "Flight instructor, ratings and limitations, airplane, single and multi-engine instrument airplane." As an instructor, I can do that, but I had to get my regular instructor's license first. Of course, the airline transport license doesn't do you any good unless you're in the airline business. They can pull you aside and say, "You want to be an instructor?" or this or that, and make it count.
SH: What does your daughter do?
TK: Right now? No, I told [you], she was a nurse, and then, she resigned, and so, she's there with her four kids. That was it.
SH: She was a Navy nurse for awhile.
TK: Yes, for four years, made lieutenant commander before she resigned out. ...
TK: We're done.
SH: Okay. This concludes our interview today. Thank you so much for talking with me. It is my honor.
TK: It's my honor.
---------------------------------------------END OF INTERVIEW-------------------------------------------
Reviewed by Paul Shi 7/24/10
Reviewed by Rebecca Schwarz 9/1/10
Reviewed by Shaun Illingworth 9/7/10
Reviewed by Thomas Kinaszczuk 9/22/10