Kurt Piehler: This begins an interview with Mr. Samuel Frankel on March 23, 1995, at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, with Kurt Piehler and ...
Jonathan Diaz: Jonathan Diaz.
KP: I would like to begin by asking you a few questions about your parents.
Samuel Frankel: Sure. ...
KP: Your father made his living in the clothing trade in New York.
SF: Yes, yes.
KP: What kind of memories do you have of him?
SF: Oh, very vivid memories. [laughter] He was a salesman when he was a youngster. ... He worked in the factory, actually, and then, he had six brothers that were all in the same business, and they were very successful, actually, and then, ... they went out of the clothing business and went into the real estate business, and they opened up what is now Massapequa, and, unfortunately, they lost all the money that they had made in the clothing business in Massapequa, because their timing came at just about the time, or just prior to the time, of the Depression. So, they ... lost a great deal. However, one of my father's brothers, Louie Frankel, started a business in Reading, Pennsylvania, making clutch motors for sewing tables, and so, ... that's where I ultimately worked after the war.
KP: How did the Great Depression affect your family? You mentioned that your family lost a lot of money.
SF: ... Yes. Well, actually, it didn't affect them that much. I really came from, I guess, a privileged background. I had no problems. I didn't know what the Depression was. I had a wonderful childhood, so, I really had no problems, and then, you want to know something about my high school? ... We used to live on Long Island, during the Depression, then, we moved to New York, and I got into Stuyvesant High School, and I loved Stuyvesant High School, and I got out of Stuyvesant High School in June of 1940, and then, I worked as a structural steel detailer in Manhattan, making eighteen dollars a week and saving nine, which was very wonderful. At the end of the summer, I thought I was a millionaire, [laughter] and then, I got into Columbia University, and I studied there for two years, until I enlisted in the Navy, and I was actually sworn into the Navy on December 7, 1942, exactly one year after Pearl Harbor.
KP: Did you move from Long Island to Massapequa?
SF: ... No, no, we lived in Long Beach, ... but, a lot of my father's brothers, a lot of my uncles, lived in Massapequa.
KP: Your earliest memories are of living on Long Island.
SF: Oh, yes, oh, yes.
KP: When you moved back to the city, where did you move to?
SF: Well, ... actually, we moved to 1165 Park Avenue. So, we had a very lovely apartment.
KP: Did you prefer Long Island or Park Avenue?
SF: Well, I live in the country now, so, ... I think I prefer the country. [laughter]
KP: You are not the first to speak highly of Stuyvesant High School. What do you remember about your teachers?
SF: Oh, they were superb. They were all superb. They were just excellent teachers and ... I guess they still are. I was back to Stuyvesant just a short time ago, in their ... new building, and it's just unbelievable. I was very impressed.
KP: How many students from your class, roughly, went to college? What kind of expectations did the teachers have for you?
SF: At Stuyvesant, you mean? I believe ninety percent of us went to college ... and the other ten had enlisted in the Royal Canadian Navy, or the RAF, or one of the service organizations, 'cause the war had started. ...
KP: That was a fairly high percentage of people enlisting at that point. What motivated them to go in so early? Were you surprised at how many decided to enlist?
SF: No, I was not surprised. The feeling then was very difficult to understand today, very difficult feeling. It felt as though the whole world was collapsing and ... there was nothing you could do to stop it, because, in the first couple of years of the war, they were just gobbling up all the countries, land, and it was very, very, you know, upsetting.
KP: Did you follow the events overseas very closely when you were growing up?
SF: Yes, yes.
KP: When did you realize, for example, that Hitler was a threat? When were you conscious of the danger he posed?
SF: I think I was most conscious, ... I guess, in 1940. There were several countries that fell in 1940, and I don't remember which ones, but, there [were] several in Europe that fell, and that's when I thought that there'd be no stopping them, and it was, you know, very upsetting, and, also, I thought the Italians would be very strong, also, and, of course, ... they had an alliance. It proved otherwise, but, at any rate, I thought, at the time, ... it would be very strong.
KP: What expectations did your parents have for you in terms of going to college? Was it assumed that you would go?
SF: Yes, I think so. I think they wanted me to go to college. They didn't want me, necessarily, to be an engineer, because they felt that I'd never get a job. [laughter]
SF: I don't know. ... They just felt that, you know, it would be very difficult to get a job as an engineer.
KP: I would have thought that they would have viewed engineering as a good profession.
SF: Well, in those days, ... the technology hadn't spread as ... widely as it is today and they thought only of the textile business. ...
KP: Do you think your father wanted you to go into the family business?
SF: Oh, yes, oh, yes. Well, actually, I did. ...
KP: Yes, but, not the textile business.
SF: No, no, no, no, in manufacturing machines, yeah.
KP: When your father moved to New York, did he stay in the garment business?
SF: Yes, yes, and then, he retired. ... In those days, I think [at] the age of sixty, they retired. I'm seventy-two today and I'm working as hard as I have ever. [laughter] So, things are different.
KP: Did your mother ever work outside of the home?
SF: No, never. She never worked.
KP: Was she active in the synagogue or any women's groups?
SF: I really don't think she was. She had a large group of friends, but, I don't think she was active, no. ... My mother's family was also very large and my father's family was very large, so, just to keep track of each other was a big job. [laughter]
JD: You went to Columbia.
JD: What did you major in at Columbia?
SF: I started in engineering, in mechanical engineering. ...
JD: What was life like at Columbia?
SF: It was very hectic, because, at the time, the campus was being taken over by the Navy, and there were midshipmen there, and you sort of felt like you were out of it, you know. You weren't in the service and these guys were. ... It just was very, very distressing for me, personally. I was very, maybe, overly sensitive to the whole thing. I found it very difficult.
JD: Is that why you joined the Navy?
SF: Yes, that's why I enlisted in the Navy.
KP: Why did you choose engineering?
SF: Oh, well, all my life, I've enjoyed, you know, doing engineering type work. I always built models and I always worked with drawings. ...
KP: Did you have a workshop when you were growing up?
SF: Oh, yeah, in my room. I did all kinds of crazy things. I built my own wind tunnel when I was very young, twelve years old, eleven, and I think my parents, ... they let me do it, but, they didn't really understand what I was doing. So, it was interesting.
KP: Did you go sailing at all when you were growing up?
SF: I would go fishing a lot. ... One of my father's friends was a great fisherman, and ... he would take us fishing on the south shore of Long Island, out in the ocean, and I loved that, so, but, ... I didn't do any sailing until after the war.
KP: You did not have a lot of experience with boats.
SF: No, no, no.
KP: Why did you choose Columbia?
SF: I don't know. I don't know why. ... I just did, that's all. I guess I have no idea why.
KP: What year did you enter Columbia?
SF: 1940, yeah, right after high school, and the first year wasn't too bad. The second year was very disastrous for me, ... just seemed like everything was crumbling all around. ... I was very concerned. As I said, I think I was overly sensitive to the whole situation, but, I'm very glad that I enlisted.
KP: Could you have avoided enlisting or did you really want to go?
SF: Oh, no, I wanted to go. ... It didn't even occur to me to avoid it. [laughter] I wanted to see if I could help in some small way.
KP: How did your parents feel about your enlisting? Would they have preferred that you finish out your degree?
SF: Oh, yes, yeah, they were not happy about it, ... but, you know, I just felt I had to do it, that's all.
KP: Where were you when the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred?
SF: I was at Columbia, in the dorm. I remember, very, very clearly, I was looking around to see if we were going to be bombed or something, you know. ...
KP: You were in New York for a year before you enlisted. What changes did you notice in the city? You mentioned that Columbia was very chaotic.
SF: ... I never could experience what went on outside of the campus, because I was there all the time. So, I really couldn't give you a handle on that.
KP: Did Columbia have blackouts? What were they like?
SF: Oh, they had blackouts, yeah, yeah. That also was very disturbing, because you felt [helpless], and then, we had, like, practice air raid drills and that sort of thing. So, it was ... not conducive to being calm and serene. [laughter] It was quite difficult, at least I found it that way. Maybe others didn't.
KP: Had you thought of enlisting in the Air Force? Were you interested in aviation at all?
SF: No. I was interested in aviation, but, ... I just wanted to get into the Navy.
KP: What was so attractive about the Navy? Was it the fact that the Navy had taken over Columbia?
SF: ... Maybe that had an influence. Yeah, I really don't know what the primary reason was, but, that might have been a significant portion of it.
KP: You enlisted on December 7, 1942.
SF: Yeah, yeah.
KP: When did you actually report for duty?
SF: Probably in January.
KP: January of '43?
SF: Yeah, yeah, right.
KP: Where were you sent first?
SF: I went to Samson, a training base for, you know, apprentice seamen. ... Do you want me to trace them?
KP: Yes, please. You reported in New York City. Where did you go next?
SF: ... To Geneva, New York, I think it was, and then, ... we went to, you know, basic training for about four months, something like that, and then, there was one man in the barracks who said he'd like to volunteer for motor torpedo boat duty, and he was a friend of mine. He said, "Why don't you do that?" So, I said, "Okay." [laughter] I didn't know what it was. So, we both volunteered for motor torpedo boat duty, and we were sent to Melville, Rhode Island, to the training center, and we stayed there a couple of months, and then, we were sent to the West Coast. ... Then, I got on a ship at a place called Port (Wynemee?), and we sailed for thirty-three days across the Pacific, on a Dutch merchant ship, but, it was commandeered by the American Navy, but, there were Dutch sailors there. ... The ship took us to Noumea, New Caledonia, and then, I joined the squadron at a little island called Rendova, and I was with Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Twenty-Three from April, this was '44 now, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, six months, about six months with this squadron, and we went up to a tiny atoll, that you never heard of, called Green Island, it's in the northern Solomon Islands, and we ran patrols from Green Island to New Ireland and New Britain. At the time, Rabaul, on New Britain, was the enemy stronghold, and I never knew how strong it was until this past August, when I took my wife on a sentimental journey, and we went back to Green Island, believe it or not. It was not easy to get to. We had [to take] seven different airlines to get there. [laughter]
KP: Did you land directly on the island?
SF: Yes. We landed on what was formerly the fighter strip. ... See, the Green Island atoll was shaped almost like a horseshoe, and there's a big lagoon, and the motor torpedo boat base was on the other side. Where the airstrip was, was a Marine air group and I wanted to take my wife actually to where the base was. There's no way of doing that, except there were natives there, and they told ... me, at the Navy Department, "Just bring fishhooks with you. They don't accept money. Their primary industry is fishing, so, if you give them fishhooks and ... point to where you want to go, they'll take you there." Sure enough, they did.
KP: The Navy Department's advice worked.
SF: Oh, yeah, it worked. It was great, and they took us right over, ... and I have videos of it. ... They took us right to where the base was. ... There's nothing there now at all, absolutely nothing.
KP: That must have been very haunting, since you could recall what it looked like fifty years ago.
SF: Yes, yes. It was exactly fifty. In August, it was fifty years ago that I was there. So, it was very interesting, ... and then, we stayed in Rabaul, which, at the time, fifty years ago, was our target, or one of the targets, and, two weeks after we left Rabaul to come home, the place was decimated by three volcanoes. It's surrounded by volcanoes. They erupted. So, 72,000 people were evacuated. Fortunately, no one was killed, but, it was interesting to me, ... seeing Rabaul. We stayed at a very nice, little motel there. It's a resort today ... and most of the people that come to visit are Japanese, because it was a stronghold over there, but, I never realized ... how strong it was and how many years they prepared for this, until ... [I] saw the tunnels that were built out of corral, ... deep into the mountain, to store ammunition, to store boats. ... I mean, this was planned many, many years prior to the actual attack. So, they ... anticipated it very clearly, and, after six months out in the Pacific with the squadron, I applied for midshipman's school, and I was selected, and I came back, and I went though midshipman's school at Notre Dame, and I loved it there, also. It was really great. I just enjoyed it immensely, and then, from there, I went out to the Pacific again. They liked me out there. [laughter] Only this time, I was an officer, I was an ensign, and I was on an LSM, and then, the war was over, so, we decommissioned the ship, and I came back to the United States in '46, and I worked in Reading for one year, 'cause I couldn't get into any college anywhere. Everyone was coming back and ... you just couldn't get in. In '46, no, in '47, I came to Rutgers, because my sister lived in South Orange, and I thought I'd just come here for the summer. So, I took a couple of courses here in the summer, and I liked it very much, so, I applied for the winter, and that was it.
KP: When you reported to Geneva, New York, what was that experience like, going through boot camp?
SF: ... I feel it was sad. I thought it was sad. ... I felt very unhappy, because [there were] all these nice, young fellows and they're there for only one purpose. Again, ... I think I'm always overly sensitive to things ... and I still am. So, I didn't ... enjoy it too much and I think we saw training films that disturbed me.
KP: What kind of training films?
SF: How to kill people. ...
KP: It sounds like you would have been miserable in the infantry.
SF: Yeah, I wouldn't have gone in the infantry, yeah, I don't think so. The Navy was bad enough as it was. [laughter] ...
KP: It almost sounds as if you would have preferred to be a pacifist if it were not for the cause. Is that accurate?
SF: No, I don't think so. I wanted to participate. I wanted to do something, but, it was very disturbing, that's all, and, with the squadron in the Pacific, it was also a little disturbing, but, ... in an entirely different way, just entirely different. I just didn't like seeing people wounded and that sort of thing, felt so helpless, but, ... coming down here, I thought of one thing that sticks out in my mind that happened after the war. I was in San Francisco, and I had a date with a young Navy ensign, a woman, lovely girl, and she wanted to go to the top of the (Mark Hopkins?). You know ... that place? So, we went up there, and we couldn't find a place to sit, and there was a couple there, ... middle-aged, ... and they invited us to sit with them, and we sat down, and they were drinking champagne. So, they said, "Please, have some champagne with us," and, of course, we did, and then, they told us a story that was just incredible. They were in a prison camp, outside of Manila, called Santa Thomas. Have you heard of that prison camp?
SF: Yes, you have heard of it?
JD: I have heard of the city. I am from the Philippines.
SF: ... Oh, are you? Okay. ... They mentioned that, unlike the Germans, who killed Jews, and ... Catholics, and Gypsies, the Japanese were much more democratic. They killed everybody, [laughter] ... and, also, a lot of torture, and the only reason, they said, that they got out alive was, ... they bribed one of the guards with jewels and so forth. So, they survived, but, they said it was absolutely horrible, and, in this country, almost no one ever heard of Santo Thomas. I had friends in Reading who were in the service, you know. ... I mentioned this, they never heard of it. You know, they hear of [Bergen-]Belsen, and Auschwitz, and all those other places, but, ... this place where the ... same atrocities took place, perhaps not in as great a number, but, nonetheless, you know, what is the value of one human being? So, it's just awful. ... Since then, I've really been very privileged to travel all over the world, and I was with the United States Department of Commerce, in 1988, on a trip to China, and we went to a city in northern China called Shenyang, it's an industrial city, and they told us stories that you wouldn't believe, you just would not believe, about what happened ... [when] the Japanese occupied in northern China. ... You know, they complain now about our bombing Nagasaki ... and Hiroshima. Well, what they did in northern China was, I think, ten times worse, but, you know, they want to forget it. [laughter]
KP: Going back to boot camp.
SF: Oh, yes, ... the boot camp. [laughter]
KP: Where were most of the other inductees from? Were they from the New York area or were they from all over the country?
SF: ... No. They were from the East, but, they were a terrific bunch of boys, ... really. In fact, after the war, I went to visit a few of them. One of them ... was an editor at Time Magazine and another one became a curator at the Museum of Natural History ... in Manhattan. So, these guys were really terrific people and that leads me to another story on Green Island. On Green Island, as I said, we were on one side, the Marine air group was on ... another side. There was also New Zealanders there, and, occasionally, we would play softball with the Marine air group, and, ... you know, this was a select group of men, by the way. They all volunteered for motor torpedo boat duty. No one was, you know, put there, all volunteers, and a terrific bunch of guys, really. The Marine air group would beat us in softball every game, every game they beat us, and, years later, I thought about that, because these guys in the Marine air group were culled and selected from Navy Air, which was very difficult to get into in the first place, and these were like the top ten percent of the Navy Air. They were terrific guys, and what bothered me years later was, these are the guys that are getting their ass shot off, that is how stupid the whole thing is, when you take the best of everyone and you kill 'em. ... It still goes on today and that's what's ... so infuriating to me. We didn't learn. You didn't learn from history, that's all, did not learn. So, why must the best [die], you know? ... Then, I'll tell you one more sad sight, the saddest sight I've ever seen in my life. The saddest sight was in Oxford, England, in a dormitory, and on one wall was a list of Rhodes scholars that were killed in World War I. On the opposite wall, there's a list of Rhodes scholars killed in World War II that's ten times bigger than that list and ... here's the finest people in the world getting killed. What is the sense of all that? That is just awful. So, now, I'm sorry, you want to go back to boot camp? [laughter]
KP: Had you traveled much before going into the Navy? Had your family traveled much outside of the New York-Long Island area?
SF: Up to Maine, that was all.
KP: Had you ever gone to summer camp?
SF: No, I never went to a summer camp. I never went to camp.
KP: Were you ever a Boy Scout?
SF: No, no.
KP: So, except for Columbia, this was really the first time that you were away from home.
SF: ... Yeah, right. That didn't bother me. I don't know why. [laughter]
KP: What did you think of your drill instructors?
SF: Oh, well, I didn't mind the drill instructors too much. ... Somehow, I seem to have thrived on discipline. I think that's why I did so well at Notre Dame. The discipline there was unbelievable, unbelievable compared to a classroom here. When we took a test, the instructor at Notre Dame would say, "Pencils down," and you had to all come down with the same noise, otherwise, you got penalized. So, you know, and then, you ran between classes, and, you know, ... I just thrived on that. Don't ask me why.
KP: Since you had been overseas, you knew the system.
SF: Yes. ... Oh, sure, sure, yeah. It was really strange.
KP: When you were in boot camp, did you regret that you were not going in as an officer?
SF: ... No, no, not at all. No, I just wanted to get in. It didn't make any difference.
KP: You ended up fighting in the Pacific. When you were enlisting, did you have a preference for where you wanted to fight?
SF: I did. It didn't mean a thing. When we were at motor torpedo boat school, they asked, "Where would you like to [go]?" You know, "What squadron would you like?" and I said, "Something around Attu, ... in the northern Pacific, where it's cold," I thought, "'cause I always liked winter sports." Of course, then, ... they sent me to the South Pacific, two degrees off the Equator. [laughter] So, it didn't quite work out, but, you had no choice.
KP: How long were you in boot camp?
SF: I guess three months, something like that.
KP: How successful was boot camp at getting you acclimated to the Navy?
SF: Oh, I think it was very successful, yeah. I think you got the routine. ... You knew what sort of branch to get into and what you wanted to do. For example, I got into navigation. I became a quartermaster, third class. ... When I went to the squadron in the Pacific, ... that's what was my assignment. ... I was a navigator. So, I enjoyed doing that.
KP: Do you think that your background in engineering at Columbia helped you in that area?
SF: I guess it did, yeah. I wasn't too aware of it, but, yeah, I guess it did, yes.
KP: What did you think of the food in the Navy?
SF: ... It was horrible, yeah, it was horrible.
KP: Even in boot camp?
SF: Oh, yeah, yeah, it was horrible. Even in midshipmen's school, it was pretty horrible, yeah. When I came back to the United States, on the LSM 298, we went to Astoria, Oregon, to decommission the ship, and, by that time, the war had been over, and ... I was in the officers' mess then, you know, I was getting great food, and the commanding officer of the base ... was at our table one night, and he said that it'd be very good if we could all re-enlist ... and, you know, stay in the Navy, 'cause they would use us for many years to come. I thought to myself, "No way. [laughter] No way do I want any more of this," 'cause ... I had a total of about three-and-a-half years, but, here's something interesting. Believe it or not, today, I'm still in the Navy. ... I've never been discharged.
KP: You are still in the inactive reserves.
SF: ... No. I'm a lieutenant now, a full lieutenant, 'cause I took courses, you know, and so forth, but, no, ... I don't have a discharge, and I asked them about it recently, and they said that, "When you die, your wife will get your honorable discharge." I said, "Thanks a lot." [laughter]
KP: You still remain in the inactive reserves.
SF: Yeah. I can't believe it. You'd think, at the age of seventy, they'd give me, you know, an honorable discharge. I don't have it.
KP: Well, that is interesting.
KP: The war has stuck with you for a while.
SF: Oh, yes. ... In fact, when they had this Persian Gulf thing, I was really tempted to go back in. My wife was gonna kill me. I thought, "They wouldn't put me on a ship. I'll just, you know, relieve someone else to go on a ship." She said, "Don't you dare. With your big mouth, you'll get on a ship." [laughter]
KP: You volunteered for motor torpedo boat training because of a friend of yours. Who was this friend?
SF: ... His name was Kuhn. He was from New York. His father was a detective in the New York police force, and, unfortunately, ... we went to training together, but, then, we got split up and went to different squadrons, so, I never saw him again. ... I tried to get a hold of him in New York. I couldn't. His father passed away and I don't know what happened to him.
KP: However, you became close friends in boot camp.
SF: Oh, yeah, oh, yeah, yeah. ...
KP: What did you do together on leave?
SF: Well, in boot camp, the only thing you could do, as I recall, is just go into the city of Geneva, just go in. Well, we'd go into a hotel and have a good dinner. That was the ... big draw, but, you couldn't do too much else, and then, ... oh, I got pneumonia when I was in the service, and I was in a hospital at St. (Albans?), Long Island, for a few weeks, but, then, ... from there, I think I went back up to Melville, Rhode Island.
KP: You volunteered for motor torpedo boat service and you were sent to Melville, Rhode Island.
SF: Yes, yes.
KP: How big was your class?
SF: It was quite large. Yeah, there was a couple of hundred men, including, oddly enough, a whole contingent of Russian sailors, and we had nothing to do with them. They were like in a different part of the base.
KP: How large was the Russian contingent?
SF: I guess several hundred.
KP: What did you know about them?
SF: Nothing, absolutely nothing. ... They really kept to themselves. We kept to ourselves. I think they kept us apart purposely, 'cause ... we couldn't understand them anyway.
KP: What were they learning?
SF: They were learning how to use and, ... I guess, function with their motor torpedo boats. ... That's the only thing they had there.
KP: I have never heard of Russians training in the United States.
SF: Yeah, there were a few. ... Well, I say a few, maybe a couple of hundred.
KP: Was this in 1943?
SF: '44. Yeah, I believe so.
KP: Were they from the Soviet Union?
SF: Yes, oh, yes.
KP: Did they wear the red star insignia on their uniforms?
SF: Oh, sure, sure, but, we had nothing to do with them, really. It was amazing.
KP: Did you have separate meals as well?
SF: Oh, yeah, yeah, we were not in the same area. They were at one part of the base, we were in another part. I've been back to that base since. It's now a yacht club. [laughter] I drive my family crazy taking them back to all these bases, because there's usually nothing there. I went back to Astoria, Oregon, with my family, ... and I was talking about, ... "This was here," and, "This was there," and they looked at me like I was crazy, because ... it's all gone, absolutely nothing there.
KP: Did it look permanent when you were in the service?
SF: Oh, yeah. It sure did. Well, ... thousands of people [were] there and a lot of equipment and there was no question about it. ... I thought it would be there. ... By the way, I'll tell you one upsetting thing that happened to me when I got to Green Island. ... Most of the people there are all natives. They're still all natives. There were a few Americans there who were in the Peace Corps, training natives, which I thought was wonderful, and they told us that at the other end of [the atoll], ... what was the Marine air group, there's still thousands of rounds of live ammunition and hundreds of five hundred pound bombs still stored there that we never took away, and I think that's so wrong, and, when I came back, I wrote to the UN, I wrote to some other organizations, you know, ... and I got nowhere.
KP: What did the Navy Department say?
SF: They told me to write to some group in Boston [which] I forgot, Amnesty International, I think, ... no reply.
KP: That is very interesting.
SF: Yeah, so, I really would like to see that destroyed.
KP: I might have some tips for you.
SF: Okay, good. If you know of any, I'll write them. [laughter]
KP: What year did you go back to Green Island?
SF: This was ... in 1994.
KP: The ammunition was still there then.
SF: Oh, yeah, it was fifty years old, but, still live, and they showed me that it was live. [laughter]
I mean, you could explode the bombs. ... You could fire the ammunition. In fact, they said New Zealand Marines come up, and train, and they steal the ammunition away and take it down there. I mean, it's ridiculous. It shouldn't be there, that's all.
KP: The motor torpedo boat service was an elite force that you had to volunteer for.
KP: What was the wash out rate at Melville? Did everyone make it through the training?
SF: No, they didn't make it through.
KP: How many did not and for what reasons were they washed out?
SF: I really don't know all the reasons. I just know that they weren't there, that's all, and midshipman's school was even worse. ... I think midshipman's school did more for me, psychologically, than anything else in my entire life, can you imagine that? Because guys were washing out of midshipman's school who were Phi Beta Kappas from very fine schools and I just couldn't believe it.
KP: Why were people washing out? Did they just disappear one day?
SF: ... I think ... the regimen and ... the strict way of doing things, ... they couldn't put up with. Now, they might've come straight from civilian life into midshipman's school, whereas I had the advantage of having ... [been] in, so to speak, [laughter] but, it really ... gave me a great deal of confidence, and I felt that, "Gee, if I could get through there, I could do anything." It really made a big difference and I think ... it helped me later on, many, many years later. ... You know, I had my own business for a while and I would meet presidents of companies and so forth. I was never intimidated by them, never.
KP: You attribute this to your Navy experience.
SF: I think so, yeah. Well, of course, I got a ... Master of Science degree in mechanical engineering from Drexel and I think that helped, you know, a little bit, too, but, I think ... that midshipman's school really made a tremendous impact, 'cause you felt that, you know, you were competing with a whole bunch of guys who really [came from good backgrounds]. At that time, I only had two years of college. These guys, they were graduates ... of some fine schools, and they were washing out. So, it's really interesting.
KP: What did you learn in motor torpedo boat training?
SF: Oh, well, we learned how to navigate it, we learned how to fire all of the ammunition, all the guns, and they had many different kinds of guns on the boats. You wouldn't believe the firepower that it could have, in addition to the torpedoes, and then, we had smoke-screen generators that we would practice using, never used in the Pacific, but, ... still, you know, we learned an awful lot. It was very intensive training and ... it certainly worked. ... When you got out there, you felt prepared.
KP: When you actually got out to Green Island, you believed that you had been trained very well.
SF: Yes, yes. The only difference, the boats out there were a little different from the boats we trained on.
KP: However, in terms of how to navigate and how to use the weaponry, you felt prepared.
SF: Oh, yeah, oh, yeah, sure.
KP: What were your responsibilities on the ship?
SF: Well, that was one of the great advantages ... of being in a squadron like that. Every man really almost knew every other task. There were fifteen men on the boat, a commanding officer, an executive officer, just two officers, and the rest were all enlisted, but, you could certainly run the engines, you could certainly fire all the guns, whatever it was, and ... communications. I think, in addition to navigating, I also did communications. We didn't have a communications [officer] ... as such, but, there were other men who could also do the same thing, and, very often, I would take the wheel. I would take the helm ... and steer the boat, and, ... of course, communicate and navigate.
KP: How many of your instructors at Melville were regular Navy men and how many were Naval Reserve?
SF: Oh, most of them were Naval Reserve, most of them. When we got out to, say, Rendova, before we even went to Green Island, 'cause, from Rendova, we went to Bougainville, and then, from Bougainville, up to Green Island, ... in the squadron of about 250 men, there was one regular Navy chief petty officer who was tough as nails, and he would teach us how to fire the weapons, and he was very tough, but, he was the only regular Navy man in the unit.
KP: Did you sense that the regular Navy men looked down upon the motor torpedo boat service at all?
SF: No, no.
KP: You did not feel that motor torpedo boat duty was viewed as worthy of only the newly arrived.
SF: No, I don't think so. I don't think that was the case, no. ...
KP: You never sensed that.
SF: No, nothing like that, no. In fact, ... I'm trying to think, when I was accepted to midshipman's school, I was sent from the base at Green Island down to Guadalcanal, to a base hospital, because I had developed what they called "jungle rot." I had, like, I don't know, ... rashes all over my legs, and they put me in a hospital there, and, when I was there, ... we spoke with some of the people, and they, I think, ... looked up to guys who were in the squadrons. So, I don't think it was [frowned upon]. ...
KP: You felt that the Navy appreciated your job.
SF: Yeah, I think so, yeah, yeah. In fact, ... I've often said to friends that, if I had to do it all over again, ... I would do the same thing all over.
KP: Do you know why other men volunteered for the motor torpedo boat service?
SF: I never asked. [laughter] I never asked, but, they were a wonderful group of men, really wonderful. ...
--------------------------------------END OF SIDE ONE, TAPE ONE------------------------------------
KP: Did you make any lifetime friends or friends that you stayed in touch with for a while in the Navy?
SF: No, no, no, no. For a short time I did, but, ... not for very long. ... They were from all over the United States, you know. [I] just didn't, and then, I was concentrating on getting my degree, and then, getting to work, and, ... no, I didn't.
KP: After you finished your training at Melville, where were you transferred?
SF: ... We were transferred, ... actually, for about a week or two, to Boston, the Boston Naval Yard, and then, from there, ... to San Francisco, to pick up a ship at this other port to go out in the Pacific.
KP: How did you get to San Francisco, by train?
SF: By train, yes, oh, yeah.
KP: Was that your first transcontinental trip?
SF: Yes, it was.
KP: How were your accommodations?
SF: They were pretty humble, yeah, they were pretty humble, but, ... not too bad, really, not too bad. It just seemed to take such a long time. I think it took five days to go across and [it] seemed ridiculous, you know, to take such a long time, but, ... as I said, it took thirty-three days to go out in the Pacific from the West Coast, back to New Caledonia.
JD: How was that voyage?
SF: That was a very interesting trip, because, on the Dutch ship, I learned how to play bridge. I never knew how to play bridge, but, ... there was nothing to do, and the ... Dutch people were wonderful, the regular crew was wonderful, and the American officer in charge there was a terrific guy, too, and there were ... several hundred Navy men aboard, but, we had no escort until we got, I guess, within a day of New Caledonian, and then, we picked up a New Zealand destroyer, I think. So, as we got closer, you know, it became a little upsetting that, you know, we could be torpedoed right out of the water, but, fortunately, nothing ever happened, and I spent most of my time topside. ... I was really concerned that we were gonna be torpedoed and I didn't want to be below decks. So, at night, I would sleep topside, even in the rain, and, knock wood, [it] never got cold. [laughter] It's amazing.
KP: Did your ship ever sight any submarines?
SF: No, nope, no, never.
KP: So, in the end, you had a very uneventful trip.
KP: Did you get seasick at all?
SF: No. I didn't, fortunately, yeah, although, all the time I was in the Navy, I did get seasick once, and it was just off the port of San Francisco, within sight of the land.
KP: Going out or coming back?
SF: Coming back, yeah. ... The ship was waiting for a pilot to come aboard, take us into the harbor, and it's just sitting there, and it was doing this, a very slow roll. I couldn't believe it. It got to me very quickly. I got sick then, but, ... no, just passed right by, but, otherwise, I was never sick. Yeah, I was lucky.
KP: How much contact did you have with the Dutch crew?
SF: Well, I became friendly with one of the engineering guys, and he took me down to the engineering room, and I spent a lot of time in the engineering room, 'cause they had, as I recall, ... what they called Sulzer diesel engines. These are huge, diesel engines that were built in Switzerland and ... it was very interesting. ... I stayed in the engine room a lot.
KP: How crowded was that ship?
SF: It was quite crowded, quite crowded.
KP: Where did you sleep? How many passengers to a compartment?
SF: Well, ... below deck, there was a place with, maybe, a hundred ... hammocks, you know, but, as I said, I slept topside. I didn't care, 'cause I didn't want to be below decks. [laughter]
KP: How rough was the voyage? You mentioned that there was some rain.
SF: Yeah. It was not that bad. We didn't have any storms ... on that crossing. I made another crossing after that and that was very rough, ... very stormy, but, this was not bad at all. We were very fortunate.
KP: Where did you land? Did you stop in Hawaii?
SF: No, no, no, we didn't. I did go to Hawaii the next time out. When I went to the LSM 298, I was at Hawaii and I've also been back to Hawaii since. ... I wouldn't recognize it, it's so built up. ... It looks like Manhattan, you know. When I was there, there was one hotel on Waikiki Beach, just one hotel. Now, you can't see the beach for the hotels. It's just interesting, but, on this trip that I took my wife ... back to the Pacific, we landed on the island of Fiji, I don't know if you've ever [seen Fiji] ... and that is magnificent today. That's just a pristine, beautiful, South Pacific island, the way you would imagine it should be, ... and my wife loved it. [laughter]
KP: After Green Island, it sounds like she was a little skeptical.
SF: She was very worried about Green Island, and she was worried that the natives would eat her, and I told her that she did not have to worry, because the natives do not eat white meat. They are big fish people. ... Oh, they treated my wife so beautifully. They treated me like, oh, my god, it was just embarrassing. It was just very, very delightful.
KP: Were any of the natives old enough to have been there when you were there?
SF: ... Yes, yeah. Now, you have to understand something, when we were there, ... the native population was approximately 200. Of the 200, 190 had been shipped away, because they were all diseased. The Japanese had occupied that island, but, they didn't do anything to the natives. So, the ten that ... remained, the men, ... approximately ten men remained, and one of them was at the meeting, that I had remembered, but, the population, today, of Green Island, the native population, today, is 4,100. So, the population, in fifty years, went from 200 to 4,100, and should anyone ever question you about the world population explosion, that's a ... good yardstick. I couldn't believe that there were that many natives there and ... they're in good shape. ... They're healthy looking. They're ... well-dressed, so to speak. I mean, they don't dress very much, but, you know, there's nothing wrong with them, which is wonderful.
KP: You were eventually escorted by a New Zealand destroyer.
SF: Yes, yes.
KP: Where did you land?
SF: ... Noumea, New Caledonia, yeah.
KP: When did you actually join your squadron?
SF: ... From there, we went up to Rendova. That was in April of 1944.
KP: That was where you actually joined your squadron.
SF: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
KP: Were you a replacement?
SF: Yes, yes, I was a replacement.
KP: Who were you replacing?
SF: I don't know.
KP: You never found out.
SF: ... No, no, no, no.
KP: You joined a pre-existing group. What was that like? You were an outsider, initially.
SF: Initially, yes, yes. ... It was interesting, because the ... boats there, as I said, were not the same as the boats we trained on. They were all very heavily camouflaged, a little more armament than we had, and the commanding officer, one of the first things he made me do was take a truck to pick up some ammunition, or ... pick up something, I don't remember what it was, but, I had never driven a truck before in my life, and he said, "Just take that truck, Frankel, and go over there ... to the point, and get, you know, the boxes or crates there, bring it back," and I don't know how he thought that I would know how to drive a truck, but, I did. [laughter] I don't know how I did it. ...
KP: You must have been a little scared to drive it.
KP: Trucks are big.
KP: I would not want to drive one.
SF: Yeah, right, and then, ... I think I even had some ammunition in those boxes, too, yeah, including hand grenades, and, by the way, ... at Green Island, we used hand grenades to ... kill or stun fish, so that we could use the fish for bait to catch barracuda, because, if we caught the barracuda, then, we would eat them. We had a shortage of food. Oh, that was another thing. We had a shortage of food, believe it or not. We didn't have enough to eat. [laughter]
KP: What do you mean? I have often read about how great the supply system was during World War II.
SF: Yeah, well, I'll tell you what happened with Green Island. Somehow, something got screwed up, and they dropped off crates ... of what we thought were food, but, it was full of chewing gum, and we had a lot of chewing gum and no food, but, then, we went on the other side, ... we went to the Marine air group side. They had plenty, so, we would bum food off of those guys, but, we really didn't have enough food ... for quite a while. It was maybe a month or so. ... We just did not have enough to eat.
KP: So, you actually went fishing.
SF: Oh, yeah, sure.
KP: Did you eat anything else that came from the island?
SF: Well, coconuts, ... got sick of that, and we ate something called Taro root. Have you ever heard of that?
SF: It's a good thing you haven't. [laughter] It's the equivalent of an enema, and then, papaya. You've heard of that. ... I'm trying to think. One thing we had that we had every single day, at every meal, and, today, I don't even eat it, ... I can't even look at it, and I've forgotten what it is. ... You'd probably love it. ... I forgot the name of it, but, it was just awful. So, my wife doesn't [make it]. It's not allowed in the house. It's like a Mexican dish or something. ... I'm sorry.
KP: Is it chili?
SF: It is chili, ... that's exactly what it was.
KP: You ate an abundance of chili.
SF: Yeah. I had ... a lifetime supply of chili. I never have it since, but, we had it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. ... We didn't have anything else.
KP: How large were the Navy and Marine contingents on Green Island?
SF: Our base, as I said, had about 250 men. ... Across the other side, there were quite a few Navy men and there was one who you've probably heard of. He was there when I was there. His name is Lieutenant Richard Nixon.
KP: Did you know Lieutenant Nixon at the time?
SF: No, no, but, I know that he did nothing while he was there. [laughter]
KP: How do you know that?
SF: Well, we knew it from ... the activity that he was connected with. He was, like, planning, I guess, I don't know how to put it, ... the arrival and departure of some of the aircraft, and supplies as well.
KP: He was a naval officer.
SF: Yeah, he was a lieutenant.
KP: However, he was assigned to the Marines.
SF: Well, he was on that side.
KP: He was on that side of the island.
SF: Yeah, yeah, ... and then, there was a construction battalion there, Navy construction battalion, of, maybe, a thousand men, and the Marine air group had, perhaps, 500 men, including, you know, mechanics and support personnel.
KP: And, Lieutenant Nixon.
SF: And, Lieutenant Richard Nixon, yes. ... As a matter-of-fact, if you come to my office in Reading, Pennsylvania, you're both invited, you will see on the wall a picture of my all time hero and it is not from the American Navy. ... You will not guess who it is, so, I'll tell you. It's Lord Louis Mountbatten. I saw him during the war, and I was, maybe, twenty-two years old or something when I saw him, and I didn't know what the word charisma meant, but, this man had it. If he'd have said, "Frankel, we're going on the most dangerous mission you can imagine, I need you," I'd say, "Aye-aye, sir." I mean, that's the kind of guy he was.
KP: How did you meet him?
SF: I didn't meet him. ... I was about this far away. I saw him. He had been in the Pacific and I saw him in San Francisco.
KP: Was this after the war?
SF: Yeah, yeah, right after the war.
KP: You sensed his greatness right away.
SF: Oh, absolutely. ... He just exuded that type of, you know, behavior. Now, I saw Admiral Halsey, also, and I saw Admiral Nimitz, and they looked like, you know, just admirals, yeah. You put you in a uniform with all those stripes, you'd look impressive, too, but, ... Lord Louis Mountbatten was really something special, and it's just a crime the way he was killed. I wrote an article, in the Reading paper, that they published, because it just accomplished nothing.
KP: You had a lot of men on an island with only ten native men.
KP: The social life was pretty limited.
SF: Oh, yes. That's why I never could watch these television stories about McHale's Navy or anything like that. I could not look at it, 'cause that was not the way it was. There were no women at all. ... On those programs, they're beautiful nurses, ... and aides, and everything running around. We had nothing like that.
KP: Were there any nurses on the island?
SF: No, no. We had Navy corpsmen, men. ... In fact, the squadron never even had a doctor. ...
KP: With all of those men on the island, there were no physicians.
SF: No, and, if you got sick, they'd send you off. If you were wounded, they'd send you to a base hospital.
KP: How long would that take? How far away was that?
SF: Take a couple of hours. They'd fly you down. ...
KP: The squadron was very dependent on the Navy corpsmen.
SF: Sure, oh, sure, sure. They gave us injections, you know, anti-malaria, ... and yellow fever, and something called dengue fever or something, I don't know, ... but, you know, ... there was no hospital there at all, no dentist at all, nothing like that, and, in fact, if you go back to the island today, it's the way it was fifty years ago. There's no electricity, no running water, nothing. It's just, really, very primitive, and it was then, but, we managed. [laughter]
KP: It must have been quite exotic. Had you ever read stories or novels about tropical islands in the Pacific before you went in the service?
SF: ... Had I read about [it] before I went there?
KP: Yeah. What was your opinion of the South Pacific?
SF: Oh, it was not what I [expected]. ... It was not reality, no.
KP: What did you expect?
SF: Well, I thought it would be much more docile, and palm trees, and lovely, lovely beaches. ... Incidentally, an atoll, as you may or may not know, is the cusp of a volcano, and the water gets very deep on each side, so, ... you have to be very careful swimming there, but, what is also most difficult, and ... people don't realize it, [is] that everything that you look at on the ground, if you look at it long enough, it will walk away from you. There's all kinds of land crabs and ... little creatures that, you know, proliferate all over the place. So, it's ... not too plowed. [I was] very glad to sleep on the boat, you know. ... It was not pleasant walking around. You couldn't, ... and the natives walk around barefoot, that's the amazing thing, and they did fifty years ago. They walked around barefoot. They still do it ... and they eat (beetle nuts?). Have you ever seen that? It looks like they're bleeding from the mouth. It's red, yeah. ... You know what it is?
KP: I have seen them.
SF: You've seen it? ... I never ate beetle nuts. ... Beetle nuts, they say, is almost like stimulant, you know, but, ... it didn't appeal to me at all. It looked like they were bleeding from the mouth. It's interesting, really interesting, and the video I have, we took us some pictures of some of the natives, today, eating beetle nuts. Nothing's changed. It's fascinating, but, it was ... certainly not what you would conjure up ... as an island paradise.
KP: In other words, you expected women and hula hoops and palm trees.
SF: Yeah. I didn't expect hula hoops, but, I certainly ... expected a little more tranquil scene, you know. It wasn't like that. Even the coconuts were dangerous. We had one man who was very severely injured by a falling coconut, and then, after a while, we stopped eating coconut. ... You just got fed up. [laughter] ... I never wanted to look at another coconut.
KP: You served on a ship ...
SF: The LSM 298? Yeah, that was entirely different.
KP: No, excuse me, I meant the torpedo boat squadron.
SF: Yeah, Squadron Twenty-Three. ...
KP: Did your boat have a name?
SF: No, no name, just a number.
KP: Just a number?
SF: Just a number, that's right.
KP: What was your skipper like?
SF: Oh, he was very nice, oh, yeah, yeah.
KP: How do you pronounce his name?
SF: Which one, Parnigoni?
SF: No, no, Parnigoni, no, Walker ... was the squadron.
SF: ... Yeah, in the motor torpedo boats. Yeah, he was known as Fearless Fosdick.
SF: Well, ... whatever the mission was, he would do it, regardless. ... You have to understand that we only went out at night. ... We only went on patrol at night and we don't go out every night. We only went out every third night, three boats at a time, ... and the time that, for example, ... my boat would be the lead boat, I would feel a lot of pressure on navigating, because they all depended on me, and, if I screwed up and hit a reef or something, it could be very bad for everyone. ... Lieutenant Walker, ... he'd lead the boat wherever ... he wanted to go, no matter what the situation was, no matter how much enemy fire there was. He would go right into it, didn't make any difference to him, but, fortunately, when there was fire from the beach, invariably, they'd be firing over our head. I think ... they couldn't see us too well, and they thought we were much bigger than we were, 'cause ... the boats were not that much off the water, and so, that was lucky.
KP: What were night missions like?
SF: Very scary, very scary. ... I couldn't stay below. I was supposed to stay below in the chartroom, and, when we got on what they call "on station," which means when we were ready to fire our guns, ... I would jump out and hop into a gun tub. I couldn't stay below. I was just shaking too violently. [laughter] I was scared stiff. So, I just couldn't do it, and the worst part was, ... at first, they gave me a Browning automatic rifle to shoot, but, I wasn't supposed to have a gun. I was supposed to be navigating. I wasn't supposed to have a gun, but, I couldn't ... stay below. So, they gave me, they call it a BAR, B-A-R, Browning automatic rifle, and I couldn't shoot it. ... It was too big and too heavy for me, and, ... I still do, I shoot left-handed, and the shells would be ejected ... almost into my face, 'cause, ... you know, if you were shooting right-handed, it would go out this way, but, left-handed, it would go right towards me, and, at night, you know, you couldn't (direct and stuff?). ... I gave that up, and they gave me something else, and then, ... I jumped into the gun tub, which was twin .50 caliber machine guns. That was very easy. It was just a bar. You hit the bar and off you went, [laughter] but, it was very scary, very, very scary, always. ... Sometimes, the most frightening situations had nothing to do ... with fire, or gunfire, or anything like that. ... One night, we landed a native on the tip of what they called Cape St. George. We wanted to put him ashore to find out where certain armament was for intelligence purposes, and, in order to do that, you had to come in close to the beach, and, of course, there's coral all over the place, and you were afraid that the bottom would be ripped right out of the boat, and you also had to come in on one engine, so, you didn't want to make a wake, and that was also very scary, and this guy went off, ... again, barefoot. You just can't believe it. The native went barefoot, and he was picked up, several days later, by another boat, and then, he told us that the guns that were bothering us, the Japanese had built a rail system so that the gun would be in a different position every time it was fired, in the jungle, you know. We thought there were a lot of guns. There's only one gun.
KP: What did you do?
SF: Well, the Marine air group took it out. We told 'em. They told them where it was, or that it was a mobile situation, and ... they found it and took it out, but, it's amazing.
KP: You were part of a very small crew.
KP: What was it like to be part of such a small crew? You obviously had a lot of responsibilities.
SF: Yeah, everyone had responsibilities, really.
KP: How formal or informal was it on your ship?
SF: Very informal, very informal. ... We all wore Marine greens. We didn't wear Navy clothes, ... everyone, and it was a little embarrassing once. I can tell you a very funny thing that happened. We were at the dock, ... and an Army lieutenant general came aboard the boat, and one of the sailors looked at him, and he yelled out, "Hey, Skipper, there's some Army guy here, wants to see you." [laughter] ... He didn't know the rank or anything. Here's the lieutenant general. God, they almost killed him, but, that's what happens. [laughter]
KP: There was less formality than on the larger ships.
SF: ... Yes, oh, much less, much less, yeah.
KP: Did you salute on ship?
SF: No, never, never. You'd say, "Aye-aye," but, you never salute. ... We didn't salute on the beach, either, ... just when you got back to the United States you did, not out there.
KP: What was the crew like? Where were they from?
SF: Oh, they were from all over, also, all over the United States, and, surprisingly, might say even the majority, had no concept of what it would be like to be on the ocean. They were from Kansas, or, you know, ... Iowa, land-locked states. They never saw the ocean. At least, ... when I was a kid, I went fishing in the ocean. I knew what to expect and I could swim. Well, all of 'em could swim, but, you couldn't swim too much out there. It was very dangerous to swim.
SF: There were several species of poisonous fish and there was also something called a coral snake, extremely deadly. So, you had to be very careful and it wasn't enjoyable to go swimming, you know, when it was like that. So, we didn't go swimming too often. We did go, but, not often.
KP: That must have been disappointing.
KP: You probably figured that the South Pacific had great beaches and that you could go swimming.
SF: Oh, sure, sure, and, in fact, when we were at Green Island just this past August, with all the students ... and people that were there, I asked about the different sports they had. They have a ... number of different sports, and I said, "You don't have a swimming team," and they said, "Oh, no, we can't go ... swimming in the lagoon." [laughter] It's a shame, because, you know, the water looks beautiful. It's a greenish-blue. It's just gorgeous looking. It looks so attractive to go into, but, you can't swim. Aside from the poisonous fish, there were barracuda and ... they like you. So, it's ... just a shame, but, you think they would net some of it off or something to make some facilities for swimming, but, they don't.
KP: What were your skipper's and your exec officer's backgrounds?
SF: They also were from the Midwest. ... I really don't know what their backgrounds were. I mean, I don't remember.
KP: How long had they been in the service?
SF: ... Now that I think of it, the skipper was a Lt. (Butterworth?), and he was out there about the same length of time that I was there, about six months, and then, oddly enough, when I went to midshipman's school in Notre Dame, he was an instructor in Notre Dame. Isn't that funny?
SF: ... I saw him again. Then, I saw another officer when I went out to Hawaii and I forget his name. So, you bumped into these fellows once in a while, and, at that time, I was an officer, so, he was surprised to see me as an officer.
KP: What was your first mission like?
SF: The first patrol, you mean?
SF: ... They were all very frightening. That's all I can tell you.
KP: You were scared.
SF: Oh, I was scared stiff. There's no question about it. [laughter] I was scared stiff. I mean, my stomach was churning and ... it was just very, very scary.
KP: Would you have preferred a larger ship?
SF: No, no, I liked the camaraderie of a small, you know, group. ... I could tolerate that very nicely, but, it was just when you got on station that it was very disturbing, especially when, you know, there were three boats, and you'd hear one guy yell out, "Tracer fire," and you'd look up, you'd see, you know, fire from aircraft, because this Rabaul had a number of air bases on it. In fact, when we were there, I saw them. There's still remnants of both American and Japanese fighter planes and bombers that they never cleared away. That's very sad. ... They ought to just get rid of the stuff, don't keep it.
JD: Does any one patrol stick out in your mind?
KP: Well, the one that stuck out in my mind most was the one that ... should've been the easiest, where we dropped off this native ... to make the, you know, check. ... That was very scary. There were a couple of others where we narrowly missed floating mines. That would've been very bad. Of course, you know, these boats were made out of wood. They were all wood. There was no armor on them at all and we always used to joke that, ... if an enemy fired a .22 caliber, you know, gun at us, he could blow us up, 'cause we had one hundred octane gasoline tanks that were not protected. So, it was very dangerous.
KP: Did any boats in your squadron ever get hit?
SF: No, not while I was there, no, no. We had some men get hit, but, the boats were not hit.
KP: So, no one's boat exploded.
SF: No, no, no. Though, at Rendova, when I joined the squadron, if you looked down in the water, we saw some sunken boats that were hit by aircraft.
KP: How many patrols did you go on?
SF: Not that many, not that many, because it was every third day, and, by the time we got to Green Island, I'm just trying to think, roughly, May, June, July, I don't think I went on more than a dozen.
KP: However, it sounds like they were anything but routine.
SF: Oh, no. They were not routine.
KP: What was the range of missions that you would be given?
SF: Well, we'd have to destroy trucks that we could see on the beach or destroy barges. In fact, that was our biggest target, ... barges. ... See, if you look at the geography of it, Green Island is situated north of Buka, which is the tip of Bougainville, and that was occupied by the Japanese. New Ireland was all occupied by the Japanese and New Britain was. So, we were, like, in the middle of all of this and they were trying to consolidate their forces to Rabaul, ... which was their stronghold.
KP: Your mission was to frustrate that consolidation.
SF: Oh, yes, prevent it, yeah, yeah. That was it exactly and the ... Marine air group would fly missions to Rabaul every day, every day. They would fly during the day, to strafe. ... Of course, you know, I didn't realize it at the time, not until we went back there, everything was underground. They had ... built tremendous underground fortifications, ... unbelievable, and ... I could be very wrong about this, but, I am sure, at least I feel sure, that Amelia Earhart was killed because she must have inadvertently come across one of these fortifications, this was well before the war started, and they didn't want her to tell anyone.
KP: Did you think that at the time?
SF: No, now, after seeing Rabaul. ... Well, they told us, when we were there, [that] they worked for years and years ... to build this. ... You don't build this overnight, ... and they used native labor to do it, and we were told about that.
KP: Did you have any contact with the natives during the war?
SF: No. Well, the ten or so men that were on Green Island were on the other side. We did go over there and eat with them once in a while, 'cause they invited us. ... They would talk pidgin English, which is very difficult to understand.
KP: What did they think of the Japanese?
SF: Oh, they hated them, because, ... you know, they were very cruel.
KP: They viewed the Americans as liberators.
SF: Oh, yes, very definitely, very definitely.
KP: How were they treated by both the Marines and the Navy?
SF: Oh, very well, oh, yeah. ... We gave them whatever they wanted and they wanted strange things, as I recall. They loved the beer. We had beer and, believe it or not, one of the biggest things that they enjoyed was talcum powder, can you imagine that? White talcum powder. They would put it all over themselves. They loved that. So, we would bring them white talcum powder, and then, we would sit down and talk, and you never spoke to a native standing up in those days. You always sat down. It's interesting, but, they were very nice and they still are. They're still unchanged. In fact, on April 20th, I'm putting a show on for the (Shillington?) Lions, I'm a member of the (Shillington?) Lions, and it's called "A Tale of the South Pacific." I'm going to recount the trip that we made in August, with the video and so forth. I wanted to have authentic South Pacific food, but, I can't do that.
JD: Were you ever attacked by the Japanese air force at Rabaul?
SF: Yes, yes, yes, and, fortunately, they didn't hit us.
JD: What was their main target, the torpedo boat base or the Marine air base?
SF: Oh, no, it was us, oh, yeah, yeah. The Marines, at night, they didn't go up. ... We had air cover, but, it was a lot different than you would imagine. These were ... PBY Catalinas. ... They could stay up for hours, and hours, and hours, see, they'd be there for many hours, and they had tremendous reserves of fuel, 'cause they could stay up all night, and what they would do is drop flares near the beach and back in the jungle, ... so we could see targets to hit, and, ... you know, the Japanese air force would go after them, primarily, but, I never saw one of them go down, either, so, they were lucky.
KP: What did you think of the Japanese as the enemy?
SF: ... Well, we were schooled so, you know, carefully that we didn't think very much of them, and, of course, since the war, in retrospect, when you think about all the good men who have been killed, and only recently have I started thinking about all the good Germans, and all the good Italians, and all the good Japanese who were killed that could've made tremendous contributions to society, ... 'cause there must've been a lot of them, just as there were British, and American, and everyone else, ... but, you don't think of the enemy in that light, usually. You don't, but, ... it's true, I'm sure.
KP: Did you ever encounter any Japanese prisoners of war?
SF: No, no, no, we didn't, no. That's why I couldn't understand ... the Vietnam War. ... We just didn't take prisoners. We just killed everyone. We were not allowed. There was a sign on the beach from Admiral Halsey, "Kill the bastards." ...
KP: When you arrived at Green Island, you saw that sign.
SF: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
KP: That order was taken very literally.
SF: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. We never took prisoners.
KP: Did you ever have the opportunity to take any prisoners?
SF: No, no. When I came back, I saw a German prison camp with German soldiers, but, I never saw any Japanese.
KP: Where did you see the German prison camp?
SF: Near Raleigh, North Carolina, there was a prison camp there and it was fine. I mean, you know, ... the prisoners looked fine.
KP: Did you ever go to religious services during the war?
SF: Oh, sure, sure, yeah. As a matter-of-fact, on Green Island, let me see, ... I happened to be the only Jewish member of the squadron, the only one, and it was Yom Kippur, ... which is a big holiday, and the skipper called me into ... what was his office, it was really a tent, and he said he got a directive from Halsey that any sailor who wanted to attend services could do so, and, when he said that, I thought, "Oh, boy, they're gonna send me home," but, that's not what he had in mind. ... He sent me across [the lagoon]. He said, "There'll be a launch here tomorrow that will take you to the other side of the island," where, you know, the Marine air group was, "and they're gonna have a service there," and he said, "You could attend if you want to," and I said, "Sure, I'll attend," and this was most interesting. We went into a Quonset hut, and there was ... a chaplain there, and there were maybe twenty or thirty men sitting down. It was hot as hell, but, I'll never forget it, because he had a pulpit, and in the front of the pulpit was a cross, and one of the officers, at that time, went up to him and said, "Excuse me, sir, but, maybe some of the men might take offense at this. Would you mind, you know, removing that?" and he looked at me, he said, "Oh, my God, please, excuse me. Men, I apologize. I'm sorry. Please, excuse me," and ... he picked up the pulpit, and turned it 180 degrees, and there was a Star of David. [laughter] Isn't that a riot? And then, he conducted the service in Hebrew as good as any rabbi.
KP: He was not a rabbi.
SF: No, he was a minister.
KP: He was a Protestant chaplain and he did the whole service in Hebrew.
SF: Sure, sure, did the whole service in Hebrew. Isn't that something?
KP: Were all of you pleased with that?
SF: Oh, very, sure. It was perfect, but, it was so funny when he turned that pulpit around. God, ... we all got a big kick out of that and he just, you know, was busy doing other things. He didn't know.
KP: Did you encounter any anti-Semitism in the service?
SF: Very little, just once, ... and that was in San Francisco. ... One of the Navy personnel directors had written in my, ... what do they call it?
SF: The record, ... that, "Frankel speaks with a Jewish accent," and another Navy officer got it, that was the only thing that was there, and he tore the page out and threw it away. He showed it to me, then, threw it away.
KP: That was the only incident.
SF: The only thing, yeah.
KP: From your experiences on Green Island, it seems as if the Navy could be quite understanding, going so far as to have a service for Yom Kippur.
SF: Oh, sure, oh, yeah, absolutely. ... I was really amazed that they would have that.
KP: What about the food? Was your family observant at all?
SF: Well, ... not Orthodox.
KP: Did they observe the dietary laws?
SF: No, no, no, no, no, nothing like that.
KP: Was your family Reform?
SF: Conservative, yeah, but, we never did anything. No, I ate ham, and pork, and everything else.
KP: You did not have a problem with the Navy's food then.
SF: No, I never had any. ...
KP: Just that the food was terrible.
KP: There was no problem in terms of what you had to eat.
SF: ... Yeah, yeah, no. ... It wouldn't make any difference to me, not at all. It was interesting. I had a lot of interesting experiences, now that you are recalling them for me.
KP: Did you ever get to see movies, since there was not much to do on this island?
SF: No, but, I'll tell you what we did get, and I mentioned this in the video that I have, on this tiny place, this little base with just 250 men, we had a visit from Bob Hope and two other people, a woman, ... Francis Langford, and Jerry Clonona, and Bob Hope, ... and they put on a little show for us. Can you imagine that?
KP: You actually saw Bob Hope.
SF: Yeah, yeah, and then, we also saw another guy who was very funny. He came and gave us a show. I forgot his name. He did a pantomime, it was very good, and we did see some movies, once in a while, not too often. When I went down to that base hospital on Guadalcanal, we saw movies every night. They had movies there every night, every night, but, at Green Island, no. We did see them, but, ... I'm trying to remember, ... almost none, almost none.
KP: How much mail did you get?
SF: Oh, we got mail, yeah, and we were not allowed to write mail as to where we were. ...
--------------------------------------END OF TAPE ONE, SIDE TWO-----------------------------------
KP: This continues an interview with Mr. Samuel R. Frankel on March 23, 1995, at Rutgers University, in New Brunswick, with Kurt Piehler and ...
JD: Jonathan Diaz.
KP: You mentioned that you could not write the name of the island because of mail censorship.
SF: Security, yeah, security, yeah.
KP: What was discipline like on the island? It sounds like it was very informal.
SF: Very informal, yeah. There was very little discipline and very ... [few] breaches of whatever discipline there was. In fact, ... in my recollection, I don't think anyone was ever censured for doing anything, you know, [that] should not have been done. ...
KP: It seems like you also had very good leadership. They knew what was important and what was not.
SF: Yes, yes, oh, yes, yes, absolutely, yeah. As I said, the group of men were such that, if I had to go in again, I would be very happy with that type ... of group, because they were really a terrific bunch of guys, and ... we just worked very well together, and it was good, and ... that's what you should have, really, if possible.
KP: Did you keep in touch with anyone from Green Island?
SF: No, no. [laughter]
KP: Did you ever hope that there would be a reunion of people who served on Green Island?
SF: I did. Well, no, but, I did go to a motor torpedo boat reunion and I [was] not too happy about it, because of all the people who had passed away. So, I don't think I want to go to another one, but, I did go to a reunion.
KP: Did you see anyone you had served with?
SF: Oh, yeah, sure, sure.
KP: What had happened to them?
SF: Oh, all ... different things that you never would imagine.
KP: What do you mean?
SF: Well, someone who you didn't think would accomplish very much became, I think, a neurosurgeon of all things. [laughter] ... I'm trying to think of someone else who became an electrical inspector, ... I don't remember all of them, ... and a number of them have become sort of, I think, outstanding executives in different businesses, which is interesting, I think. In fact, I'm still friendly with two of them in Pennsylvania. So, it's ... interesting.
KP: You developed jungle rot.
KP: What caused it?
SF: ... On the days that we went, you know, on patrol, we would go ashore. We'd go into the island and do all kinds of things, you know, like, I made beads out of shells and I made cigarette boxes out of mahogany. You don't realize it, but, the woods out there are very valuable here. ... The Seabees were using mahogany to pour concrete into concrete molds. They're using solid mahogany, and oak, and what's that black wood? It's very expensive. I forgot the name of it, but, they would use them for construction purposes. ... That was prevalent. So, I made some cigarette boxes out of mahogany.
KP: Do you still have those?
SF: ... I gave one of them to my mother, and then, my mother passed away, and I don't know what happened to it. I don't have it. I still have some beads. ... I still have my Marine greens, and I have ... an ammunition box that I saved, a .50 caliber ammunition box, because that was my suitcase, and, of course, I have my Navy officer's uniform, and, naturally, I still keep that.
KP: How common was jungle rot?
SF: Oh, it was quite common.
KP: How sick would people get on this island?
SF: You didn't get sick from it. ... It was just very annoying, and, I guess, perhaps, it was contagious. I really don't know, but, I was in this base hospital for just, as I said, about two weeks, and then, it was all cured up.
KP: Were you sent back to Green Island?
SF: No, no. ... I came back to the United States to go to midshipman's school.
KP: Did the jungle rot have anything to do with it or were you already tracked to go to midshipman's school?
SF: Yeah, I was, ... yeah.
KP: The jungle rot interrupted your stay at Green Island more than anything else.
SF: Right, right.
KP: How many people contracted tropical diseases? How full was sick bay?
SF: Not very. We didn't have much, fortunately. The biggest problem was malaria and we had medicine for that. We took something called Atabrine in those days. ... By the way, when we went back in August, we did take some medicine for malaria, but, it wasn't Atabrine. It was something else that's been developed, and yellow fever was something that was very dangerous, but, no one that I knew of in the squadron ever had that. I don't think any of us got it. So, that was lucky, but, the natives, unfortunately, had all of these diseases, and even the natives that remained, the ten or so men that were there, were not well. They were not. ... They had terrible teeth. Their teeth were falling out, and, you know, ... they needed medical attention, and they were the good ones.
KP: The natives that were taken off the island, where were they sent to?
SF: They went to base hospitals, ... I think maybe even as far south as, maybe, you know, Noumea, New Caledonia.
KP: They were taken care of.
SF: Oh, yes. They were taken care of, yeah. They were flown down, 'cause they were very sick. ... I can remember seeing a few of them. They had almost like bleeding sores all over. ... It looked very serious.
KP: What about smoking and alcohol? You mentioned that you had beer.
SF: Beer, yes, and we had cigarettes. That was given out ... like chewing gum, you know, with chewing gum, and cigarettes, and beer. That's what you survived on. In fact, I stopped smoking after I got out of the Navy. I guess I smoked for a few years, and then, I stopped.
KP: Did you learn how to smoke in the Navy?
SF: No. I smoked a little bit before, but, not like I did in the Navy, 'cause they gave us the cigarettes. Can you imagine that? It's incredible. ... On the Marine air group side, the TBF Avenger, the torpedo bomber, would fly in, and the torpedo bay would be loaded with cases of beer, so, we would go over there, and get the beer, and bring it over to our base. [laughter]
KP: It must have been a rude awakening to enter the disciplined environment of midshipman's school. It sounds as if you had fairly loose discipline on Green Island.
KP: However, in midshipman's school, you went to the other extreme.
SF: Yeah, the other extreme, yeah, yeah. Somehow, I just fit right in. I don't know why. I think part of it was, I was really very determined to get the commission. I was really focused very strongly on doing it and succeeding.
KP: Why were you so determined to get a commission?
SF: I don't know. I don't know why. [laughter] I really don't.
KP: That was your goal.
SF: Yeah, I wanted to do it.
KP: Were you unhappy as an enlisted man?
SF: No, no, I wasn't unhappy at all, no. When I was a quartermaster, third class, I was ... fine.
KP: In your class at midshipman's school, you mentioned that there were a lot of people from Ivy League schools who were Phi Beta Kappa.
KP: They were clearly very bright.
SF: Oh, yes.
KP: Who do you remember from your particular group?
SF: You mean from midshipman's school?
SF: Yeah, yeah, there's a couple of fellows I still occasionally hear from. See, they're not in this part of the country, though. ... That's the problem. So, it's a little bit difficult. One is from Waterloo, Iowa. I used to box with him. ... We had to do boxing, and he was about my size and weight, so, they paired us together, and there was another guy from Connecticut that I saw, ... and another from Chicago, a very nice guy, Al (Zorno?) was his name. Lou (Growning?) was the guy from Waterloo, Iowa, that I would box with, ... and I love the sports. ... I love sports, and ... I still consider myself to be somewhat athletic, 'cause I run about twelve miles a week, and I swim laps, and, you know, I ski in the winter. ...
KP: You are doing the athletic program my wife would like me to do.
SF: Oh, yes. [laughter] ... I find it very valuable, actually. It's really very good, but, ... yeah, midshipman's school was a big, big revelation.
KP: You learned a lot from serving aboard a very small ship.
SF: Yes. ...
KP: What did you learn in midshipman's school that added to your abilities?
SF: Well, we learned what they called "damage control," which I had no idea of, really. We learned about heavy firepower, which we didn't have, of course, and, also, about a lot of aircraft that we didn't know anything about, both ours and, ... you know, German and Japanese aircraft, because ... we only saw one kind of plane, really, and it was much broader, and ... we also had other courses that were very good. I think we had just a straight mathematics course that was excellent, which included trig and some solid geometry, and then, ... I'm trying to think of something else. Oh, something else happened that was interesting at midshipman's school. ... I don't know how, I got an assignment from one of the officers who was an instructor to draw some pictures for a book he was writing and I did. I made some sketches, and he put it in his book, and I don't remember the name of the book.
KP: Was the book published?
SF: It was published.
KP: Was it a training manual?
SF: No, no, no. ... It was a story about the Navy.
KP: Well, that is interesting. If you locate it, please let us know.
SF: Yeah, yeah, all right. I can't think of it now. I just thought of it, but, that ... actually was while I was at midshipman's school. So, that was interesting, yeah.
KP: How did you like being in South Bend, Indiana?
SF: Oh, I liked that a lot, yeah. I liked South Bend and ... we would go to Chicago. ... Like the last month I was there, I would have every weekend off and I would hop on the little train and go to Chicago. So, I enjoyed it, and there were a lot of WAVES to date, and no shortage of women.
KP: Did you prefer dating WAVES? Did you also date civilians?
SF: I think mostly WAVES, yeah, and I tell my wife that I had a girlfriend in every port, ... not that I wanted to, but, because it was Navy tradition to have a girl in every port. So, I just conformed to the tradition, that's all. In fact, ... on the LSM, we had an executive officer who was engaged to, I think, three girls at the same time, can you imagine that? ... The Skipper put him on report and wouldn't let him ashore when we got to Portland, 'cause he was dating another girl that he wanted to engage. Can you imagine anything as ridiculous as that?
KP: The Skipper would not let him off the ship.
SF: He wouldn't let him go ashore. He was restricted ... to the ship. [laughter] That's ridiculous, but, these things happen.
KP: When you were in midshipman's school, what kind of assignment did you hope for next? Did you want to go back to the Pacific?
SF: No, I didn't particularly want to go back to the Pacific. I think I wanted to go to the Mediterranean, but, I didn't get that duty. I thought that would be nice. Since then, I have been to the Mediterranean and it was nice. [laughter] ... You really never got what you wanted, you know. ... It was sort of silly to ask, I think, because they put you wherever they needed someone, you know, which, of course, makes sense, but, still, you feel that there's a chance that it might happen.
KP: You were assigned to an LSM.
KP: Were you disappointed with that assignment?
SF: No, no, it was like paradise, compared to the motor torpedo boats. It was like I was at the Plaza Hotel. We had showers, and we had good food, and ... it was just very nice, comfortable quarters, and, of course, I was an officer, then. We had officers' quarters and the officers' mess, you know. So, it was entirely different.
KP: You saw the Navy as both an enlisted man and an officer.
SF: Yes, yes.
KP: Which did you prefer?
SF: Well, the officer, naturally. ...
KP: What were some of the differences?
SF: Tremendous differences, yeah, and not only the food, but, everything else, everything. It made a big difference.
KP: Was the food better?
SF: The food was better. The pay is better. ... I just think the camaraderie was ... a different layer, a different, you know, scale. The enlisted men were all okay. I mean, ... at motor torpedo boat squadrons, ... they would talk. We had one guy who was a cook, and all he could talk about was killing his cows, and, you know, it got a little bit sickening after a while. [laughter]
KP: There was a wider range of conversation among the officers.
SF: Oh, yeah, yes, yes, yes. ... It made a big difference. It really did.
KP: What did you not like about being an officer? Was there anything that ever made you wish you were an enlisted man again?
SF: Oh, no, no. I never wished I could be an enlisted man again, no, no. I just didn't want to make it a career. I didn't want to stay in for the rest of my life, that's all.
KP: In sending you to midshipman's school, do you think that the Navy expected you to stay in?
SF: ... At that time, I don't think it was even [a concern]. ... I don't think so, no. ...
KP: Where did you join the LSM 298?
SF: In Hawaii.
KP: How did you get to Hawaii?
SF: ... I went out on another ship, another big ship.
KP: Was it also a Dutch ship?
SF: No, that wasn't a Dutch ship, that was an American ship, but, that's when we ran into a huge storm, a hurricane.
KP: Was that the first storm you experienced?
SF: Of that magnitude, yes. It was a very large storm.
KP: Which is more frightening, being in combat or being in a hurricane?
SF: Oh, in combat, there's no question about it. ... In a hurricane, it didn't bother me. It bothered a lot of other people, but, it didn't bother me.
KP: You were not at all concerned.
SF: No, no, not at all, ... and, when we got to Pearl Harbor, the bow of the ship, the deck plates were buckled, that's how severe the storm was, but, ... it didn't [bother me]. In fact, most of >
e all below deck, sick, and, when I was up on the bridge with the Skipper, ... I was fine. ... It was like a challenge to me. Who was gonna win, the storm or us? but, it didn't bother me, and, ... as I recall, the skipper of that ship was a former enlisted man. ... He must've been a chief petty officer, was promoted to, like, lieutenant commander, and, now, he was lieutenant commander ... in charge of the ship, and I was more concerned about him than the storm, because he was very upset with the Navy, because I think he was gonna be reverted back to a chief petty officer after so many months, you know, and he was, like, very disgusted. ... I was worried that he should concentrate on, you know, where we're going, not about what's going to happen to him in six months, but, ... yeah, he definitely was very, very upset.
KP: Was he a career Navy man?
SF: Yes, he was a career Navy man, ... very concerned about going back to enlisted status, after having been an officer.
KP: He saw the other side and he wanted to stay.
SF: Oh, yeah, oh, yeah, especially being the skipper. ... He didn't want that. He didn't want to lose that.
KP: You met your LSM in Hawaii. What were your impressions of Hawaii?
SF: Well, it was okay. ... I think I enjoyed the beach there. ...
KP: Did you go to Waikiki Beach?
SF: ... Yeah, I went to Waikiki Beach and I had a very unpleasant experience there. ... I love to swim in the ocean, so, I swam there, and, when I came out of the water, I was dripping blood all over, 'cause I cut myself on the coral, and then, on the trip that I took with my wife, I went swimming on Waikiki, not this trip, but, before, on the way to China, ... and I cut myself again on the coral, and my wife, really, she said, "You're just so stupid. You never learn. You cut yourself in '44, and here it is, in '94, and you're still cutting yourself," but, ... coral is very sharp. You can't believe how sharp it is. You just can't be too careful and I love to body surf. That's when I do it. I love to body surf. Have you ever done that in the ocean? Oh, it's great. It's a lot of fun, but, that's when you cut yourself, [laughter] if you do it at Waikiki Beach. Here, it's perfectly safe, nothing to worry about.
JD: How long did you stay in Hawaii?
SF: Just two days.
JD: Two days?
SF: Yeah. You mean with my wife or when I was in the Navy?
JD: When you were in the Navy.
SF: Oh, not long, maybe three, four days, ... not very long. I went over to Oahu, ... [to] something called (Aiea?) Heights. Have you ever heard of that? It's up on the top. It's the other side of the island, where they do a lot of surfing, and that was nice, but, ... Fiji is gorgeous. ... I'd never been there, but, it's just beautiful, gorgeous. It's just what you would envision a tropical island should be and it's not built up that much. There's very few hotels and it's very low-key. It's just very, very lovely. It's something ... to really see, and you could relax there, and you can go swimming there. I swam in the ocean there, very safe. It [was] really very enjoyable.
KP: What was your vessel like? How large was the crew? How many officers were on board?
SF: On the LSM?
SF: It was a captain, exec, two, three, four, ... about five officers and about fifty men, something like that, sixty men. ...
KP: What was your assignment?
SF: I was the engineering officer at the time and I enjoyed that. That was good. I got into trouble, though, with the Skipper, because I would walk on the bridge, and tell the guy who was the quartermaster what to do, and he used to get back down to the engine room. [laughter]
KP: How much did you learn on the job as an engineer?
SF: ... It really was not that difficult, because everything worked beautifully, and, very often, I'd even sleep in the engine room, just to, you know, be there, but, it didn't bother me, and, ... again, it was a diesel ship, so, it was no problem, ... not complex, fortunately.
KP: How many men were under your direct command in the engineering room?
SF: Well, there was ... a chief petty officer and about eight men and we got along very well. I think they knew that I had been an enlisted man before. ... I'm trying to think of what they called [me]. It was a funny name.
SF: A mustang, right.
KP: You were respected by the enlisted men because you were a mustang.
SF: Oh, yes, absolutely, yeah, yeah. In fact, I have a photograph at home, taken in Astoria, of just the engineering group, the chief and about eight men. We went out ... and had a party. In fact, it was my birthday party. That's what it was. [laughter]
KP: What was the LSM's mission?
SF: ... It was a troop carrier, ... and, also, it could carry some, I guess, small vehicles.
KP: When did you arrive in Hawaii?
SF: Well, the war was over then.
KP: You arrived in Hawaii after the war had ended.
SF: Yeah, yeah.
KP: Were your orders issued while the war was still on?
SF: Yeah, yeah.
KP: Where were you when you heard the news of the dropping of the atomic bombs and the end of the war?
SF: I'm trying to think of where I was. ... I don't remember, but, I knew that it would be over. In fact, to be very honest, I was a little upset that we did that.
KP: Dropping the atomic bomb?
SF: Yeah, yeah.
KP: Your reaction is quite unusual.
SF: I know, [laughter] because I thought they were defeated. I thought they were just about whipped, anyway, and this was sort of like the icing on the cake, and we really didn't need it, since it really, you know, devastated civilians, not necessarily military targets.
KP: Did you notice this at the time?
SF: Yeah, I did notice it. Yeah, I knew it at the time, yeah. Also, I think the second one bothered me, too, because I thought they should have surrendered after the first one, ... and we should have said, "Listen, you know, surrender now or there's gonna be another one." We didn't really do that. We just did another one and I thought that was a mistake.
KP: It sounds like you saw the need to go to war, but, you did not agree with the amount of people sacrificed for the cause.
SF: ... Right, exactly, yeah, and what's, of course, so horrible is that it still goes on. ... That's why you're in a great business, the history business.
KP: Yes. In fact, I often say to my classes that we tend to fight a war every generation.
SF: Yeah, well, ... isn't that stupid?
SF: Isn't that?
SF: I mean, how stupid can we be? ... In fact, when I got home, I remember saying to my parents, "You know, it's like four years are out of my life, but, I don't mind it, because I'm sure, now, there will never be another war." That's exactly the way I felt, and, while I was at Rutgers, the Korean War started. ... A couple of years and they're fighting again.
KP: Did the Korean War come as a surprise to you?
SF: It did, it did. In fact, I thought I'd be called back again, but, I wasn't.
KP: What was your LSM's mission? Did you transport troops?
SF: No. We never got to do that, no, we never got to do it. We rehearsed it. We had some trial, you know, runs, and so forth, but, we never actually did it.
KP: Was your LSM a new ship?
KP: Was the entire crew new?
SF: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. As I said, it seemed like a paradise to me, and then, we went back to Astoria, Oregon, and then, from Astoria, Oregon, by the way, we went up the Columbia River to Portland, and had some work done on the ship, ... and then, went back to Astoria for decommissioning, and I had a wonderful time, then. That was really very enjoyable.
KP: Your ship was based in Hawaii. Did you ever make it out to the Pacific?
SF: ... No, no, that's as far out as we went, yeah.
KP: You spent some time in Hawaii.
KP: Did you get to know any native Hawaiians?
SF: No, no, no, never.
KP: I have read that Honolulu, with all the military personnel stationed near there, was a pretty raucous place.
SF: Yeah, yeah. I mostly stayed on the base. I mostly stayed in Pearl Harbor. I didn't go into [Honolulu]. ... Well, I went to Waikiki, but, I didn't go ... to Honolulu itself, except maybe once, to get a haircut or something like that.
KP: After your ship was decommissioned, what happened? Did you stay in the Navy?
SF: No, no, then, I was sent back East and that was it. I was separated. They didn't say discharged. They said you were separated. I went to the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, and ... they examined you, and then, ... that was the end.
KP: You remain in the Navy to this day.
SF: Yeah, yeah. It's amazing. ... I can't believe that they'd let you hang on that long. I don't know why. I tell all my friends now that, if I had to go back into the service, right now, I'm sure I could pass the physical, but, I'd flunk the mental.
KP: Why do you say that?
SF: ... Sometimes, I'm not with it, you know. [laughter]
KP: You mentioned that it was very hard to get back into college.
KP: Did you try to go back to Columbia?
SF: Yes, couldn't get in, and I tried some other places, and I kind of tried Lehigh and I couldn't get in. I tried Lafayette, and then, I was working in Reading, in the family business, and then, in the summer, ... as I said, my sister was in South Orange, so, I came here, and I could get into summer school. They didn't say anything more, just summer school, and I did very well in that summer school, by the way, and then, ... I enjoyed it, so, I applied for admission, and was accepted, and I loved it here. I had a wonderful time.
KP: Were you disappointed that this was not your first choice?
SF: No, no, oh, no, not at all, not at all, no, no, no, not at all. ... After getting my degree here in mechanical engineering, I went back to work, and then, I was assigned to do some work that I really was not qualified to do, ... more electrical engineering than mechanical, so, I went to Drexel, in Philadelphia, to take some courses, and then, I got interested there, and then, I went after my Master's ... in mechanical engineering, ... with a lot of electrical electives, which was wonderful.
JD: Did you live in a dorm here at Rutgers or were you a commuter?
SF: Yeah, I was at ... Wessels. I lived there, yeah.
JD: What was that like?
SF: Oh, it was wonderful. I enjoyed it. It was very nice and I just had a great time, really. I enjoyed it very, very much. This fellow that you interviewed, Wally Lohmann, he was my roommate, and he was wonderful, and we see ... each other quite a bit.
KP: Have you stayed in touch with some of the friends you made at Rutgers?
SF: Oh, yeah, oh, yes, a number of them, yeah. There's another one, Hal (Leary?). Do you have Hal (Leary?)? I don't know whether he was in the service or not. ... I don't remember. He was the Class of '49.
KP: I do not think he has sent in a survey.
SF: Hal (Leary?), yeah, I don't know whether he was in the service. I think maybe he was, but, I'm not sure, maybe not.
JD: Were most of your friends about your age or younger than you?
SF: Oh, yeah, no, ... they were all 'serious-minded veterans.' That's what we called it. We were playing football, and hockey, and all kinds of nonsense, and we called ourselves 'serious-minded veterans.'
KP: You were a member of the Booster Club and you were active in the Quad Club and Hillel. You really did enjoy college life.
SF: ... Oh, yes, oh, yes, I did very much. I even dated a couple of girls from NJC, as I recall. [laughter]
KP: Did you ever consider joining a fraternity?
SF: No, no, I didn't want to. I don't know why. I don't remember why. I had a reason. [laughter]
KP: Did you think that they were snobs? Did you not want to go through the initiation process?
SF: No, no, no, I don't know what it was. I really don't remember, but, ... I had a reason for it.
KP: Several alumni from the Class of '49 have told me that engineering was a very tough major, particularly since Rutgers had enrolled too many people in the engineering curriculum. As one person put it, "They did not mind losing a few people."
SF: ... Yeah. [laughter]
KP: Would you agree with that statement?
SF: Yeah, it was difficult, but, again, compared to Notre Dame, it was a cup of tea.
SF: Yeah, for me, yeah, interesting. [laughter]
KP: Your favorite professor was Professor Slade.
SF: That's right, James (Jeremiah?) Slade, yeah.
KP: What do you remember about him?
SF: ... He taught a course that was the most difficult course I ever took in my life, I think it was called Engineering Analysis, or something, and he had a way of teaching that was most unusual, 'cause he would come in, in the morning, and write on the board in chalk, you know, put down equations, and talk while he was doing this, and you were writing down, and copying, and writing down, you know. You didn't understand what he was doing, and then, he would fill the front board, and he'd go over to the side, and he'd ... keep going, fill the side board, then, go to the back of the room and fill that board, put the chalk down, and walk out, that was it. ... You wonder, "What the hell is going on here?" but, we had been warned that that's the way he was. ... Really, for, I guess, even two months, I didn't understand what the course was about. [laughter] I didn't understand it, and then, it started to come together, and it made a lot of sense, and he was really very, very good. He also taught at Princeton, I believe. ...
KP: That was a pretty unorthodox method of teaching.
SF: Yeah, and you would think that would not be a way of communicating with the students, but, ... I think it forced you to do it, otherwise, you'd fail the course, you know, and it was required course, ... you couldn't graduate without it, but, ... it was excellent, and, sometimes, ... I still have my notes, I look at it, I don't know what I'm looking at today, 'cause I don't use it. You know, he used some differential equations, which, you know, you have to keep up with, if you want to know how to use it.
KP: Actually, Jonathan started out in engineering.
JD: Yes, I was in engineering at first, but, I just did not like it.
SF: Yes, yes, yeah. [laughter]
JD: Then, I switched to history and political science.
SF: I see. That's good, very important, very important.
KP: How much did your Naval engineering background help you in your engineering courses?
SF: Very little, ... some, but, very little, very little, 'cause it really wasn't engineering as such, as a ... formal discipline. It wasn't like that.
KP: You were interested in engineering before the war.
SF: Oh, yes, yes.
KP: Your parents had been a little skeptical.
SF: Yes, yes.
KP: However, you remained interested in engineering.
SF: Oh, yes, yes, and I can tell you, I don't want to brag, but, I now have nine US patents and one more pending. So, after the tenth patent, I will consider myself an inventor. Up until now, I'm not.
KP: You are waiting for number ten.
SF: Yes, I'm waiting for number ten. So, that's interesting.
KP: What did you think you would do with your engineering degree?
SF: Well, I knew, I knew. ...
KP: Your parents were skeptical before the war.
SF: Yeah, yeah, but, then, since I worked down in Reading, there's no question about it. I enjoy doing that kind of work, and working with machinery and equipment, and then, in 1958, I left that company and started my own business, doing special machine design ... for several different industries ... in the Reading area, and then, I got into computers, and I represented Hewlett-Packard in the sale of computers, and we wrote our own software for numerically controlled machine tools. So, I had a very nice niche.
KP: Did you want to go into the family machine tools business or did you try other companies first?
SF: No, I wanted to go into it, yeah, because there was no one in the family who was in the engineering aspect of it. They were all in the, you know, executive, and sales, and managerial, you know, shop manager, and so forth, but, no one actually was in engineering, so, I had a nice, free reign. ... So, I enjoyed that a lot. Of course, then, you know, everything changed when one of the uncles, who was president, died, and then, someone else took over who was somewhat incompetent, and then, they kicked him out, and there was a lot of turmoil, you know.
KP: Is that why you decided to go off on your own?
SF: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
KP: What happened to the family business? Does it still exist?
SF: No, no, it's gone, no. The uncle that was the last one to run it sold it to Teledyne, and then, Teledyne, unfortunately, didn't run it properly, and it just went out of business.
KP: I have been told that the machine tools business usually follows the cycles of the economy, in some industries.
SF: Oh, yes, oh, yes, and, also, today, and even in those days, I think you had to have a worldwide view of competition. You weren't just competing against other companies in the US, but, all over the world, and, ... for a while there, we did compete all over the world. We had agents all over the world. In fact, I went to Europe on business, and it was great, but, then, ... that sort of didn't continue, and I think that was a big mistake.
KP: A mistake on the part of your family?
SF: Well, yeah, the guy who was running it then, yeah, but, that's all hindsight. [laughter] It's easy to have 20/20 hindsight.
JD: While you were at Rutgers, you joined the ASME.
KP: Yes, yes, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and I'm still a member.
JD: You are still a member.
SF: Yes, yes, ASME. ... I still think I have a membership card someplace. I'll show you what it looks like. I think I have it, anyway. Let me just see, oh, I'm also on this now. It takes a lot of time.
KP: The National School Board Association.
SF: Yeah, yeah, I'm on ... the school board. Let me just see, I'll get my ASME [card], let me show you what it looks like. ... Oh, here's armed forces. Here's my ... ID card from the Navy. ...
KP: Is this your original ID card?
SF: Yeah. ... That doesn't show the present rank. ... Here's my ASME, life member, forty-five years, [laughter] hard to believe. You see, that's the only number I ever remembered, 449505. [laughter]
KP: While you were at Rutgers, did you attend chapel at all?
SF: I don't think so. I don't think so, no.
KP: Did you ever have any run-ins with Dean Crosby?
SF: No. I liked him. No, I didn't have any run-ins, I didn't have any run-ins. In fact, I really admired Dean Easton, who was the dean of the engineering school. He was wonderful.
KP: There were a number of traditional students, non-veterans.
SF: Yeah, we had some. ...
KP: What was the relationship like between the veterans and the traditional students?
SF: There's certainly no conflict of any kind, as I recall, nothing, nothing. I think we got along very well and we had some visiting profs that were wonderful in those days. There was one who wrote books about coming of age in Samoa. What was her name?
KP: Margaret Meade.
SF: Margaret Meade, Dr. Margaret Meade. She came here to lecture. I heard her. She was wonderful. Is that one of my cards?
SF: Okay, sure, yeah, we heard her, and then, we heard some other people. We had some wonderful lecturers here at that time.
KP: Do you remember Paul Robeson coming back to campus?
SF: Yeah. Well, no. ... Coming here? No.
KP: Do you remember him coming here to sing?
SF: No, no, no, I don't remember.
KP: I have read that he frequently came here to perform.
SF: ... He did? Yeah, that's interesting. No, not while I was here. ... I'm trying to think. We had a man, who was the president of the class, who was a candidate for a Rhodes scholarship. He was a good athlete and a good student, and Robert C. Clothier, who was the president of the university then, he endorsed him very heavily, and we thought there was no question about it. He's gonna make it. He didn't even come close, didn't even come close. So, that gives you an idea of the kind of guys who do make it. Well, you know, ... I thought this was gonna last a half an hour, really.
KP: I only have a few more questions.
--------------------------------------END OF TAPE TWO, SIDE ONE-----------------------------------
KP: Are you still in the computer business?
SF: No, no. ... Yeah, I do this now. Since I have a few patents and I work with patent attorneys, I have a second career going.
KP: However, you are retired.
SF: Yeah, but, this is what I do full-time, now.
KP: Oh, that is interesting.
SF: I work for a law patent firm in Washington and another one in Philadelphia.
KP: How did you get into that?
SF: Because of the patent attorneys that I've used to get my own patents. ... One of them happened to say, "You know, I have a case coming up, would you like to try and help me ... [by being] an expert witness," and I looked at the case, and he said, ... "if you feel comfortable with it." I said, "Yes." So, the next day, I was in a federal court, testifying.
KP: What are your patents in?
SF: ... I have a patent on an electronic sewing machine and I have a patent on an automatic needle threader for a sewing machine.
KP: Did you develop these when you worked for the family business?
SF: No. ...
KP: Are these recent developments?
SF: ... Oh, yeah, yeah.
KP: When did you receive your first patent?
SF: At that time, I was at the company. It was for a collar machine, a collar/cuff machine, and then, I did some other patents for clutch mechanisms and ... some in computing.
KP: You really are an inventor.
SF: ... [I did one for] the steel industry, for determining the weight of the steel. ... You know, you see rolls on trucks, they don't weigh them properly. They guess at the weight. ... So, I have a weigher [that] calculates the weight quite accurately, with a computer program and some other electronic equipment, sensing, and I got a patent on that.
KP: Did you ever think you would be an inventor?
SF: No, I just see things. ... [It] just appears to me that there's a better way of doing it, that's all, and, invariably, there are better ways. [laughter] Yeah, I have another invention, ... a stitch controller for a sewing machine. ... You know, it's a computer program that determines the stitch pattern in advance and does a lot of other bookkeeping chores, automatically. So, I've got a number of them, but, I don't have number ten, yet. [laughter]
KP: You have seen the industrial side of America from many different points of view.
SF: Yes, yes.
KP: What do you see as the future of the United States, and, also, Pennsylvania, as an industrial nation?
SF: Yeah, I think the biggest problem we have is in education, keeping up with the rest of the world. I think we've sort of slipped back a bit, and I have friends in France whose sons are in chemical engineering, and one of them is in something else, ... some other branch, and they mentioned that, you know, the level that we have isn't the same as theirs. ... They have a higher level of training and ... we have to catch up, I mean, for the majority of people. There are individuals, of course, who excel, always, but, I think, for the majority of people, ... the technology today ... is expanding. ... I like to perceive it as exponential. ... You know, it's really like e to the x and ... we're not with it, but, we've got to really do much more in schools.
KP: Is that what prompted you to run for the school board?
SF: Yes, yes. ... I'm doing that now. ... We have five schools in our district and we are now computerizing all five schools. So, I'm working with the computer technologist to computerize the five schools and network them, so that even in grades two, three, four, five, six, the kids start using computers.
JD: I have a cousin in kindergarten and she is already learning how to use multimedia.
SF: Sure, sure, why not?
JD: You have to start early.
SF: Right. There should be a computer in here. Do you have one?
KP: In fact, that is where your transcript will be done.
SF: Okay, on the Dell, good. Now, that's fine.
KP: Yes, I could not live without it.
SF: You have a Laser Jet? Fine, that's good, very important, very important, but, it's, ... I think, something that has to be ... put in a very good light. I think that's part of the problem. ... If someone does well in school, today, he's a nerd. ... They look down their noses at him and that's not the way it should be.
KP: You have remained a Democrat.
SF: Yes, yeah.
KP: To what degree would you say you are a Democrat?
SF: Well, I never vote a straight ticket, never. I always split the ticket. I just vote for the one who I think can do the job best, but, I'm a registered Democrat.
KP: What did you think of Lieutenant Nixon when he ran? [laughter] What did you think of Nixon during the long course of his political career?
SF: Well, initially, I voted for him.
KP: In 1960?
SF: Yeah, the first time he ran, and then, when he had that big debacle, ... it was just criminal, because it needn't have happened, if he was just honest. That's all it took was honor. He could've just come out and said, "These guys broke into Watergate for me. They tried to help me, but, it was a stupid thing and I'll make sure that they're fired," and that would have been the end of it, instead of covering it up. I mean, that was just the stupidest thing he could do, and it's just all wrong, and, on the other side of the coin, what he did in China was excellent. He opened the door in China and ... that was a great thing, but, that's overshadowed by his other misdeeds.
KP: You went on a mission to China in 1988. What was that all about?
SF: Yes. ... I always wanted to go, and I had an opportunity with the United States Department of Commerce, and I was selected, apparently, I don't know why, for the software, I think, because we had software for numerically controlled machine tools, and eighteen of us went to China, and it was just marvelous. It was just marvelous. I enjoyed every minute of it. We went to several different cities, as I mentioned to you earlier, Shenyang in the north, and then, ... I gave some lectures at the university there in numerically controlled machine tools, which was wonderful, and then, we went to Beijing, and I spoke at the university in Beijing, and then, from there, we went to Shanghai, and, from Shanghai, to Guangzhou. Did you ever hear of Guangzhou?
SF: Guangzhou used to be Canton.
KP: Oh, okay.
SF: They changed the name because of the bad reputation that Canton had. They wanted to get rid [of it]. ... They're so sensitive to that. They changed the name of the city, and, now, it's Guangzhou, and then, from there, we went to Hong Kong. So, it was a wonderful trip, and I enjoyed it immensely, and ... that was before Tiananmen Square, a year before, and I've been accused of having started Tiananmen Square, but, don't believe that, because it's not true. [laughter] I didn't start it, but, ... when we were there, in '88, it seemed like they were just emerging to the point where they were really gonna be a world factor, and then, that Tiananmen thing just set them back, I think, many, many years. I don't know what they're afraid of. I don't know what they were afraid of, but, all the men that I came in contact with were just wonderful. ...
KP: Given how much anti-Chinese sentiment there was in the fifties and sixties, has it surprised you how good relations with China have gotten?
SF: ... Yes, it was a surprise, yes, and ... they've had a terrible road ... to follow in the past fifty years, very bad, and it's remarkable [that] they've emerged as well as they have. They've got a long way to go, but, at least, they're in the right direction, now, I think, but, the more students that come here, and the more interaction we have, the better off we'll all be, because it still represents a huge chunk of the world population. I think there's 1.2 billion over there now. ... Have you ever walked on Fifth Avenue during the week of Christmas in New York?
SF: Well, if you walk on the streets of Shanghai, it's ten times more crowded. You can't believe how many people are in Shanghai. It's incredible and population's a big problem, big problem.
JD: How were you treated in China?
SF: Royally, just treated royally. It was wonderful, had a little problem with the food, but, we were treated royally. ... We had a banquet every night. Every night, we had a banquet and I would walk away from that banquet hungry. You could not eat what they served. Well, ... you couldn't eat everything. They had a lot of things that were very nice, but, some other things that you wouldn't want to put in your mouth, but, ... it was great. It was just great, and ... that's, I think, so important, to get them over here, to get us over there, and I think, ... if I really had anything to say about government today, instead of spending the money on munitions, and bombers, and weaponry, and everything, I would bring, and I'm not kidding, ... ten million Chinese here, quarter them, billet them in private homes for a ten day visit, and then, I'd bring ten million US citizens over to China and billet them over there, because you'd get a much better feeling for what life is like there, and they would have a much better feeling here, and there'd never be any strife after that, never. ... It's like, we have friends in France that we've had now for twenty years, and, you know, people like to bash French, you know, but, I always stick up for them, because I know this French family is wonderful. They're just wonderful and ... I'm sure they do the same with us. They come to visit, they stay in our house. We go to Paris, we stay in their house, and entirely different religions, they're Catholic, doesn't make any difference at all, no difference at all. ... They teach us recipes on how to cook, and, you know, that kind of thing, and it's just very, very important, and I think it has to go on all over the world, not just with China, but, with Russia, with India, all over. The greatest thing is to mix it all up, and so, you get an appreciation that we're really all human beings, that's all, with the same desires, the same ambitions, the same goals. Doesn't make any difference where you are, in my view. So, you want to vote for me for president? [laughter]
KP: Well, I should say that this material is going to go on the Internet.
SF Oh, thanks a lot, fellah.
KP: Your schools will be able to access it, after you have looked over the transcript and approved it.
SF: You're joking, of course?
KP: About the Internet?
KP: No, all of the interviews will be publish on the Internet.
JD: Put it on the web.
KP: The students in your district's schools will be able to access them, ideally, as well as researchers at universities, museums, and private homes around the world.
SF: Oh, I'm in big trouble. [laughter]
KP: This has been a great interview, thank you very much.
--------------------------------------------END OF INTERVIEW-------------------------------------------
Reviewed by Shaun Illingworth 2/12/00
Reviewed by Sandra Stewart Holyoak 2/24/00
Reviewed by Samuel Frankel 3/16/00