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Brown, Roy W.

 

Sandra Stewart Holyoak: This begins an interview with Roy W. Brown on Tuesday March 12, 1996, in Chandler, Arizona. Mr. Brown, please, can we start with a little history about your parents in New Jersey and your father, Roy W. Brown, Sr.?

Roy W. Brown: Well, I was born in 1922, and grew up ... with a father who was working in Trenton, New Jersey, but, we lived [in] the bedroom town of Morrisville, Pennsylvania. We moved there just one year after the Depression and my father ... was one of the lucky ones who actually did well in Florida real estate. So, we grew up in a lovely, big home that he built in 1928, before the crash, and, still, we drive by, once and a while, and show our ... eight children, if we are with them in that area. We drive by and show them this lovely house where we grew up and lovely neighborhood, and I enjoyed taking my friends from college home there, etc. But, during the Depression, we had really very little income, and I always wondered why we drove second hand cars, ... and why my mother shopped so carefully for clothes, and why we had a dime to go to the movies, but, we also had a dime to visit either A&P or Acme, or what have you, to pick up groceries on the way home, at one can each, ... at the special price of the day. But, my father was Roy Brown Sr. and he was vice president of Lenox China. My grandfather had actually founded Lenox China with Walter Scott Lenox, who, when he became blind and incapacitated, and, finally, died, turned the company over to my grandfather, who ran it, with my father's help and my uncle's help, all through the Depression and all through World War II. At the end of World War II, father and grandfather were deposed by the uncle, who ... really had champed at the bit for a long time to get a little more authority, and, finally, had a chance in working with some of the others partners, to do that.

My mother, Lillian Crawford Brown, died in my junior year at Rutgers, but, she was a lovely lady, Irish Catholic decent. My father was a Presbyterian. We were raised as Catholics, my brother and I. We just buried my brother in November of 1995, but, ... he was a much more decorated veteran of World War II than I, in his brief ... time of combat.

SSH: What do you know about your brother's military career?

RB: Why, yes, ... he was in, ... I think, the 106th Infantry. I may have that number wrong. It was an infantry unit that lasted a very short time. They were in the Ardennes Forest and they were the first division hit by the Germans when they came through in the Battle of the Bulge. ... In the combat days, he single-handedly, with a flame-thrower, took out a pillbox when a lot of his comrades had been killed, and he got the Silver Star for that, as a PFC, which was rather remarkable, and then, later on, got a Bronze Star and Purple Heart. So, he is more decorated. I was lucky that I got a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart, but, for no way near as [hazardous an action]. But, yet, that period of combat that he had was quite short, because, thereafter, they were run over and he was very lucky to get through that alive. He was constantly moved from unit to unit as the units disappeared, and ... caught a severe case of frozen feet in those prolonged battles, and then, was reassigned for the rest of the war to Paris and the Strategic Command, ... under Eisenhower. So, ... you know, you can say he had a lovely war, as that ... British song of sometime ago, but, he certainly got a rough start. ...
SSH: Your father served in World War I?

RB: Yes. That was really a high point in his whole life. He hardly ever left Trenton, New Jersey. He went from high school, ... which was the equivalent of college in those days, ... to Lenox, to work under his grandfather, and he worked up through marketing, and was a plant manager for some of the time, and ended up as vice president of sales, ... and kind of general manager under his ... father, who is still chairman of the board until 1945, when he was seventy-six-years-old. Dad, at a certain point, left Trenton, New Jersey, where he was with the Rainbow Division, and it was a New Jersey division, and he served with people that he knew and grew up with. ... It was really a great war and they kept a great camaraderie and companionship ever since. They met frequently. At his funeral, people would come and say, "I served with him and blah, blah, blah." ... Our architect, on the home that we described a few minutes ago, was from the ... same division, and ... that was a luxury that people in World War II usually didn't have. ... We made up divisions, more or less, ... as the needs ... and times called for them, but, ... in the war, he was in the trenches all the time of his overseas service as a captain of an infantry. ... I guess ... that trench warfare must have been so much different than anything that most of us saw in World War II, with much more fast moving [actions] and ... widely territorialized. ... He wasn't wounded, and he just got the normal ribbons, but, he ... was a Captain, and ...did stay connected with his division in local activities, ... right until his death.

SSH: Your parents married after he came back from World War I?

RB: Yes, yes. He went away ... to World War I in love Deborah Gaskill, a pretty woman who went on to be Superintendent of State Musical Education. And came home, and, somehow, met Lillian Crawford, and ... was happily married to Lillian Crawford until 1941, when she died. ... Then, in 1945, four years later, he ran into Deborah Gaskill again, and she was his second wife, and a wonderful kind of stepmother to us, and almost grandmother ... to our children, until 1959, when he died. So, we saw them frequently and he was very happily married to two lovely women.

SSH: He was a fortunate man. What was the family business that your mother worked in before she married your father?

RB: She ran the undertaking company for Thomas Crawford Sons, in South Trenton. In those days, it was undertaking, not funeral direction. My grandfather lived in South Trenton for all of his life, but, his father was born in Ireland, and his mother was born in Ireland, and my maternal grandmother was also born in Ireland. ... They lived there, ... in South Trenton, and ... were famous for the ... for burying all the friends of the Crawfords, ... who had come, essentially, from County Cork. ... Then, when her brothers died, ... Mother really ... had the business acumen ... to run the firm, which finally passed ... into other funeral homes.

SSH: Were your parents involved in politics? I noticed your mother changed her political affiliation.

RB: They weren't heavily involved in politics. My father was always conservative, born, in part, of being a business man ... during the Depression and the period thereafter. He was always adamantly against Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The house was rife with humorous stories, and, yet, it seems ... my brother and I thought that Franklin Delano Roosevelt was doing a pretty good job of ... rebuilding the country ... and the economy, until we learned our own conservative doctrine. But, my mother had been an Irish Catholic, ... had to be a Democrat, and, ... as she moved into the affluent business community, or the partially affluent, during the Depression there wasn't a whole lot of affluence, but, our friends were quite wealthy and successful. ... We were considered successful because we were the Lenox Browns, but, we just really didn't have very much money. My father's income was no more than five thousand dollars a year, right up to, like, 1942. Then, ... he got a reasonable raise, but, five thousand dollars a year was considered adequate during the Depression. ... Of course, my brother and I ... were shielded from that. We had no idea of some of the hardships that the family may have been going through and our hardships were much less than those of some of ... our relatives, etc., and friends, neighbors.
SSH: How did World War II affect the Lenox Corporation?

RB: Well, it affected it terribly, because, one, people didn't have money for luxury items, and, two, ... it wasn't part of the war effort. So, what Lenox did do was start making as many service related things as they could. They were one of the first in New Jersey, which is certainly a leader in technical ceramics, ... to make steatite bodies. Steatite is a ... talc based ceramic which has good electrical properties, ... and it was the body that was early used as a support for some of substrates that are now, you know, on single, silicone disks, ... but, Lenox did have a steatite contract. They had another unusual contract. ... They made all of the ceramic indicators that were on ships that said, "Full Speed Ahead, Stop, Halt, Reverse," ... you know, all of those things that we saw as children, growing up, in the movies. When we were in the ... cabin of ... a military or civilian boat, there was always ... this disk that the men ran the wheel back and forth of, and we did make all those, but, they really had to work hard to keep that pottery afloat during the war. The sales had dropped to, like, four million dollars for the total year, ... which really wasn't very much, for as many workers as they had, ... and, of course, they had to press lots of women into the work that the men were doing, etc., as more and more people went off to war. But, the ... pottery survived, and prospered, and became enormously successful after the period of the Browns, who had just like carried it through. A man by the name of John Tassey took over Lenox, with the help of my uncle. I am happy to say that I was partly instrumental in getting my father, and uncle, and grandfather together ... when they passed on. So, I hope there was some reconciliation. I had been trained that you had to make peace with your brother ... before you laid your gift on the altar, and ... so, I think, essentially, they came back together again. ... Through stock, etc., my father had a decent living, and he helped us by giving us some stock, ... to give our children very nice educations, and, also, chances to see something of the world.
SSH: Your education began at Saint Frances in Trenton?

RB: Saint Frances in Trenton, a little German parochial. ... They [had] six little classrooms for eight classes, which is why I skipped a couple of classes, not through any brilliance, just through rote memory. I could sit in the ... second and third grade, and hear the classroom discussion, and just automatically drifted, ... which was terrible when I got to Rutgers, because I was only sixteen when I went there. ... That meant that, in high school, ... I hadn't gotten much out of high school, except, ... in drama, I was Grandpa Vanderhoff in You Can't Take It With You, which was the high point ... of my high school career, because I was always the little, short, fat fellow, and I fit very nicely into the grandfather role. Now, when I got to Rutgers, I, all of a sudden, gained about four inches, ... and, therefore, slimmed down, but, I hadn't had the benefit of any ... real athletic exposure in high school. So, I went out for the ... College of Engineering football team, ... and did make it in my freshman ... year, and that was good fun, but, ... had I had that ability in high school, I would have been, really, you know, like ... an "athletic entity," which I really never became until, really, I got in the Army. ... Some of the feats in the Army got as close to athleticism as anything that I had experienced in either high school or college. I did play lacrosse at Rutgers, but, again, as a senior, I was nineteen-years-old and ... twenty years old, and far too undeveloped for ... the rest of the team. All of my roommates were, like, all-Americans, and so, ... I was constantly the butt of jokes ... of my fraternity brothers, etc.

SSH: You must have been well respected, because I noticed, in the yearbook, that you were the president of Kappa Sigma.

RB: Well, ... it was a fun thing. I worked hard. I've always believed you should work terribly hard. The Kappa Sig house was in a very prominent spot. It was at the corner of College Avenue and Somerset, ... right where, now, ... there is a parking lot or, for a while, there had been a student union building. The old Kappa Sig house had been made into a student union building, but, ... it was the original home of ... one of the Johnsons, of Johnson and Johnson, and it was a magnificent place. And, when you get to be president, the big honor was that [you] got to have the butler's quarters, ... which had a bathroom, a sitting room, and a bedroom, with your three roommates. So, you didn't exactly share it by yourself, but, one of my roommates was Fred Baser, a distinguish veteran ... of the Army Air Force who ... was recently honored in ... Holland as one of the men who, on their own, flew over and dropped food to Holland when they were completely surrounded by the Germans and being systematically ... starved to death. ... So, the Dutch people made a great honor of these veterans. By name and by company, they knew who flew. My roommate was land based in the Air Force, but, he flew ... in that plane ... as a captain, and dropped ... food stuffs by parachute to them, to literally ... starving people, and ... they were, really, tremendously grateful. Had the celebration just two years ago, celebrating their fiftieth anniversary of this event, and Fred was there. My other roommate was Dick Nelson, who was in the Marines, ... and did very well, and was also a star lacrosse player. ... My third roommate, Lou Lasagna, was in the Navy at the time, ... being trained at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons as a navel cadet, but, for medicine, and he went on to be a distinguished person in the medical field, and is still president of Tufts Medical School in Boston.
SSH: Is he still there?

RB: Now, even at ... our age, he is the one of us that is now still working and ... working, apparently, effectively and very well. He was very well received ... by the Boston community for his [work]. We all remember him for his sense of humor and he still has that to an nth degree.

SSH: In 1939, when you entered Rutgers, how were you made aware of the war?

RB: Well, ... obviously, in '39, your mind ... was hardly on international events, but, as we moved through our freshman and sophomore years, there was more and more discussion around the campus. ... Even this morning, I remembered that Charlie Swalm, ... one of my friends there, arbitrarily left Rutgers. He was not a Canadian, but, joined the Canadian Corvette Corps, and was killed almost within a year, but, in that year, ... had seen enormous amount of life and death situations. And I thought of him this morning, just thinking about ... this interview, because he was, by far, the first to go in, the first to be so dedicated that he recognized the global problems, and ... the first from our house to die. ...
SSH: That is why he went to Canada?

RB: ... That's why he went to Canada, to serve in the corvettes. The book, The Cruel Sea, by Nicholas Monsarut, just tells such a story of what ... that particular branch of heroic people went through in trying to save ... and protect the convoys that were going back and forth, and at tremendous damage by the U-boats, and these ... little, tiny corvettes were trying to fight off the U-boats as well as, you know, save human lives, ... in that bitter, cold weather of the North Atlantic. ... Then, there was more and more discussion. More and more people began to go in the service. ... It came to a peak ... in 1941, at Pearl Harbor, of course. ... I was just still indifferent, you know, or casual about the whole thing. I seemed too young and blah, blah, blah, blah, ... but, the Pearl Harbor thing ... really struck us, and no matter where we are, we all headed back to campus ... to be with each other, and, also, to listen to President Roosevelt's "Proclamation of War" the next morning. I had been in New York ... at a formal dance, and I had been riding through Central Park in a Hansom Cab, which is something you couldn't do today, and ... we got word, ... and, in that unlikely situation, immediately, went back to campus, ... and worried about it. ... It seemed inevitable that, in ... April of '43, I would get drafted. I lived in a farm district in Pennsylvania where they just were giving farmers' deferral, but, not anyone else. So, regardless of the fact that I had two months to finish, I was drafted and, luckily, got my degree in absentia down in Camp McCall, North Carolina. I might not have passed that last half year, because it was a kind of a frivolous half year of not attending too many classes, etc., because we all knew that the inevitable was coming toward us.

SSH: How soon, from the time you got your draft notice, did you report to North Carolina?

RB: Right away, almost immediately. We went to ... Camp Carlisle, Pennsylvania, for induction, and, inside of two days later, ... we were down at Camp McCall, North Carolina, and had the most wonderful, totally mind-altering [experience]. Remember, I was a sophisticated, Eastern, college boy, and, all of a sudden, I was training in airborne engineering, which was ... a rough thing. We were in glider troops, taking our training with paratroops. So, from my rather flabby, but, fairly physical work as a lacrosse defenseman, I became 170-pounds of all muscle, all muscle. I just never was in better shape, never, and ... it stayed with me pretty well all through the Army, but, it was totally different than that kind of a pudgy, little fellow that had, you know, gone through Rutgers mostly with ... a good sized, beer-barrel stomach.

SSH: I noticed in the yearbook that, while you were at Rutgers, you were Mr. Esquire, meaning you were the best dressed.

RB: [laughter] Well, that's because I had, maybe, two coats. [laughter] Two coats and three roommates, because ... what really happened behind that wonderful election was that they had a campus poll, ... and three of them voted me as the best dressed. So, ... probably, a lot of other people got two votes, or, maybe, one vote. Maybe someone else voted, because I was very clothes conscious and my mother did a wonderful job. She had a little tailor shop up in the back of Princeton, up on deep, deep Witherspoon Street, and a lovely Jewish couple ran that store, and they got to be almost part of our family, in that they worked so hard to find nice buys for my brother and me. So, in college, we had things like homburgs, and Chesterfield coats, and tails, and tuxedoes, and several sports coats, which you could buy for sixteen dollars at De Pinna's in New York, and Browning and King, and the other famous stores. ... I would take my money, earned as a summer worker at the pottery [plant], doing different jobs like unloading clay cars, etc., never anything very ... administrative, ... and spend it on clothes. So, that's how I got to be the best dressed man on campus.

SSH: I see that you were also part of the Newman Club for four years.

RB: But, that was something that you used as fodder to build up ... your resume, or your little write up. I, maybe, went once or twice a year. My faith was not very good in college. My children's faith has been much better in college because ... they had a much broader background in their faith. I went to church, and I observed the commandments, etc., but, I really wasn't terrible interested in my religion, and didn't get super into the Newman Club, as, I am happy to say, some of my children did when they went to various universities. It was in the war that I began to get some religion back, particularly when facing death, and nights on the battlefield, or, you know, buried in the cellar of a bombed out house, or something where ... people around you were dying. Our division had a three hundred percent turnover. A table of organization of fifteen thousand men had forty-five thousand people carry the name of that division. So many of them, thank God, were wounded, but, still, it was that much of a turnover in the division, as time went on, so, there was a lot of intense war during my nine months of combat. But, I only had nine months of combat. ... The 84th Division won some meritorious award for being the division that was on line the longest during World War II. But, many other divisions, and I had friends in some of those, from home or college, were in and out of combat for the whole war, starting in Africa, and, ... maybe, starting in the Philippines, in that theater, but, in Africa. ... So, our division really didn't start its combat until some period after D-Day in Europe. We started ... at the Siegfried Line, at Aachen, Germany, where we went into combat. ... I didn't know if you wanted to get into that combat business, but, ... we started working from Aachen through the Siegfried Line, which was horrific. We just lost so many people, and there was so much death, ... and tales of heroism all connected with that battle. Got as far as the Ruhr River, which was a ... major thing, although you can hardly find the Ruhr River on a map today. I have, because ... it's about midpoint, the Ruhr River, between the Rhine River, which we hear so much about, and, which, of course, is a major tributary in Germany, and Aachen, but, that is the area of the Siegfried Line, and most of it was between Aachen, or the French border, and the ... Ruhr River, and we had gotten that far in our battles, and, ironically, had to withdraw from that position. I don't know if the Germans retook it, but, we had to withdraw from that position to race back to be in the Ardennes Forest in Belgium, to be, maybe, the last division that the Germans ran into, at [the] town of Marche, Belgium, which, when we read the Stars and Stripes, was always behind enemy lines. They thought it had been captured, but, luckily, it hadn't been captured, 'cause we were there, but, we were not there in great force. We were strung out, maybe as much as forty yards between foxholes, with no one in back of us.
SSH: What was your position?

RB: ... No deployment in depth. ... I was, at that time, ... just in the battalion guard. My division, ... my company, the company I trained with, were in heavy weapons, but, just before we went into combat, they took two men from each company throughout the ... division, or throughout the regiment, and made a little corps, a little, small group, more or less formed during the war, of battalion military police. And we had a couple of weeks of training in the military police procedure in England as we were getting ready to go into combat, and then, we learned on the job, otherwise. The work was, primarily, prisoner of war protection, and ... taking prisoners of war back from the front lines, and directing combat traffic, which got to be a little hairy sometimes, as you were, you know, waving a jeep forward, full of soldiers, ... where there might have been a land mine or there might have been an intersection that the German artillery had under fire. We were constantly playing games with the German artillery. ... We knew that we were out of their sight, but, we were in their range, and, since they were retreating, they could easily target an intersection, but, Germans were very methodical, and they would fire religiously every two minutes. Every two minutes, we knew a bomb would come in, or a shell would come in, for ... this intersection, and they were very accurate, but, in that intervening two minutes, we would all jump out of ... what foxholes, or whatever, we were in, run out, and bring through four or five trucks, or jeeps, or, you know, cars carrying ammunition for the ... mortars or the machine guns. ... We were able to, then, wave them to a point of stopping and jump back in the ... foxholes. But, that's not a terribly heroic story, except that, once, I jumped in on a dead body, and went right up to ... my boots in blood, and it was, you know, a dead body of a German soldier who had been left there in the retreat. Other times, ... one particular night, when we had gone out to retrieve some prisoners ... at a base hospital, you know, a forward hospital, really, a place where they took care of ... the early wounded, and they would come in with a lot of artillery, which knocked me under a half truck, ... and that half truck probably saved my life, but, a lot of our people were torn to pieces. ... I remember staggering inside the little cave that we had cut out of a rock, where the medics were, carrying just a leg. Whether they were ever ... able to put that leg back with the soldier is problematical, but, usually, when you lost a leg, you lost a life from ... massive bleeding. ... We did pick up some prisoners and carrying them back through the lines at night, in the darkness. While I was leading this group of six, and there was another fellow GI in back of them, I fell into a foxhole, and I was sure that they would jump in ... and have their way with me, and then, escape, but, they jumped in, and helped pull me out, [laughter] and dusted me off, ... and let me go take them back to, really, safety, and that was the most harrowing single experience. There are a lot of others, just seeing so much stuff, and carnage, and being subjected to it, but, luckily, I was ... not at the company level, then. I was at the battalion level, which ... probably saved my life, because I had, before that, in training, been a forward observer for .81 millimeter mortars, and forward observers have to be right up in the front-line, and call in fire, often, on or near themselves, but, so many of my friends, who I trained with, were killed. ... We had a ... kind of a funny division, in that it required six thousand men from ASTP to join this division to bring up the division IQ to, I think it had to be sixty-five, or, maybe, seventy, the division IQ. Now, all of these boys from ASTP were all college, you know, college educated, or had high IQs. ... I was in an ASTP unit where I was supposed to be a first lieutenant, supposed to take eighteen months, it was at Lafayette University, where I met my wife, which was the high point of the [training]. But, Lafayette was very familiar to Rutgers people, ... and Eastern Pennsylvania [is] very close to my home in Trenton, New Jersey, in Morrisville, Pennsylvania, so, it was an idyllic existence, but, it only lasted until the battle of Monte Cassino in Italy, which proved, decisively, that Air Force alone could not win the war. You needed to have infantry to slug up that mountain, and then, do a little hand to hand combat with the Germans to dislodge them, and so, all those ASTP units, with their high IQs and their fancy ways, were sent back to infantry divisions. My division was the 84th Infantry, was made up of people from Arkansas, real hillbillies, of Indians from New Mexico, ... of people of Spanish-American descent ... from, say, Texas. A wonderful, rough, tough group of men that we finally assimilated with, but, it took us several months of training down ... in Camp Clayborne, Louisiana, and then, of course, during the war, we did wonderful things together, and gelled, and we were just as happy with the wild Indians and the wild Mexicans, who were wild. In camp, we would have knife fights almost every night, but, in combat, ... they gelled beautifully together, and some of the heroism was, you know, movie-wise. ...

SSH: Now, when you were in Louisiana, how difficult was it to get the group to gel? Were there groups pitted against each other?

RB: Yeah, kind of against each other, and they didn't like other smart college boys coming in, and, like, I came from Lafayette, where we were all college seniors, all college graduates. There were many others, like, my brother, ... he was a college freshman, and he went to the University of Nebraska for a year, and a lot of people who were going through college went to these Army ASTP Units, Army Specialized Training Program, and it was just a way to keep the colleges moving as much as it was to keep the boys heads moving. ... They had to abandon that program almost completely to just throw a lot of men in the infantry, and so, all of us met there. Here, I ... [had] a college degree. I had passed up ... ROTC, or ROTC had passed me up, you could say. I loved ROTC, just loved it. I thought the idea of running around in those armies, and being at attention, and marching, and, "Rah, rah, rah." I just loved the close order drill and I loved the study. I loved being able to figure out a map, and, you know, Rutgers had infantry ROTC, and all of my friends were able to easily make it, but, during the interviews, I, who had been fairly lucid in other things, just absolutely didn't make it, and my teacher was just appalled for me, and said he would get me in the Marines. Well, my father ... kind of persuaded me not to go in the Marines, but, going into the infantry was bad enough, because our men at Rutgers, so many of them that went into ROTC died, ... and, certainly, the corps of the leadership of the campus, ... wonderful men, died. ... My best friend was Malcolm Schweiker, who was a ceramic engineer with me. His father had been president of American Acoustic Tile, the biggest ceramic manufacturer of wall tiles in the country, and Mal was, of course, going to take over, as I was, as the senior executive, and he would have made it right on through to the President of the United States. His younger brother, Dick Schweiker, became senator from Pennsylvania, and, at one time, was secretary of one of cabinets, but, Mal was so outstanding, everything he did on campus was A-1. The only thing ... I beat him out with was, I got to be president of the Ceramic Club and I won Lillian Nitz, for a while. ... She was a lovely girl that went to Georgian Court College and I beat Mal out. ... Otherwise, he was the most [successful], but, he died almost instantly in World War II. ... So many of our great men from the Class of '43 were wiped out, because, '42, '43 were the years most impacted by the war, and with smaller amounts coming up to that and fading away from that.

SSH: How did you get over to England?

RB: We went over ... in a very large liner of some sort, you know, obviously converted, ... six cots high in the public rooms and full of the odors of ... seasick soldiers. No way they could keep them clean, ... or sanitary, and we had no protection. ... We had high speed, but, had a U-boat met us, we could have been in serious trouble. I don't say no protection, but, very little protection, and an enormous convoy, and we got overseas in about five days, which was ... quite fast, so, obviously, it was a fast moving convoy. Had no ... combat during that time. We [went] right to Liverpool, England, we were transported from Liverpool in darkened trains, with the windows closed, to Winchester, the home of the legendary Winchester University, ... the home of the legendary Knights of the Round Table, and we were near Salisbury. So, I, who had studied art, got to go over to see Salisbury Cathedral, and stand in the Bishop's Garden, where Thomas Constable had painted it, blah, blah, blah, and I wrote home to my wife-to-be, Peggy, and told her all about these things, and the letter was in tatters, just absolutely torn and censored to death, because I should of known better. You're not suppose to say where you are, etc., etc., and that letter, mail, was censored then.
SSH: How long were you at Winchester?

RB: Oh, just three weeks and we got quickly into [France]. I think we landed on Normandy Beach, but, ... there were still lots of signs of war there, but, no actual combat. So, it was just a question of unloading, and getting into trucks, and racing through France, except that I had the biggest single event of my life. I directed traffic in Paris for our division as it went through, and I had had very little training for traffic practice, and, ... luckily, there weren't too many French cars on the road, but, still, ... it was a daunting [task]. ... Again, not much heroism, but, quite exciting, ... and then, we went right into combat, but, it was like D-plus-forty or fifty at that stage of the game, and all of my fighting was only against the Germans. When the war ended, we were up waiting at the Elbe River. We fought under the British Army. The 84th Infantry was under Field Marshall Montgomery, and Field Marshall Montgomery had General Collins, [who] was our principle American commander. The division that I was in was headed by General Bowing, who didn't have, you know, such a distinguished career, but, we were around some outstanding military men, and we were made to stop, however, at the Elbe River, and wait almost a week and a half for the Russians to burn their way toward us

SSH: Can we stop right there?

RB: Yes.

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RB: ... The extent ... of finishing ... at the Elbe River, waiting for the Russians to come, we had been given instructions that had been long since settled, maybe ... at Yalta, ... that the American forces were not to go into Germany. ... Then, the post war period might have been much changed, because the Russians were angry, and, as they forced their way west, they just burned, and we could see them coming at night by the ... proximity of the fires. As they got closer and closer to us, they just ravaged the earth as they moved toward us, and, at the end, some seven thousand German soldiers moved across the Elbe River, or tried to move across the Elbe River. Many of them drowned in little boats, and big boats, ... and in different ways, but, it was just too powerful and too wide a river to swim. So, there was a lot of drowning, but, those that made it were docile and so happy to be in the hands of the Americans. I was one of the three men guarding the eight thousand. I was sitting on a roof of a little barn of a farmhouse, ... just sitting there with a rifle next to me. I really didn't need it, because there was nothing but happiness on the part of the ... people who had come over. Ironically, the one thing that I remember out of all these soldiers, most of whom looked pretty beat up after a long, hard war, the officers corps were very, very beautifully turned out, very well uniformed, and almost each of them with their own female companion, where they had been pressed into service of some sort or another, but, it certainly [was] an astonishing sight for most of the GIs who were observing them. ... Then, night after night, the Russians would come over, and drink with our regimental officers, and they would just almost kill them. Part of our job was to help get Colonel Parker to bed, sometimes, ... after these vodka drinking Russians ... had been over, and spent an evening with [the Colonel]. It was ... short lived period of time. We stayed there at the Elbe River for about no longer than a week, and then, started moving back through Germany. The division paused at Hameln, where the legendary Pied Piper lived, and we settled in ... Schwetzingen, which was a suburb of the town of ... Heidelberg. During our time in Heidelberg, we had great opportunities to visit the castle, Der Schloss, which was preserved by the American ... bombers, just as the legendary city of Kyoto in Japan was preserved. There were no bombing in Heidelberg, so that the town looks then, as it looks today, as it looked through ages of history. And I had been back there working, and I took my wife to Heidelberg a couple of years ago, and ... nothing had particularly ... changed. ... It was a lovely city then and now.

SSH: When you were with Colonel Parker, what sort of cooperation was there between the Russian and the US forces, at that time?

RB: ... Just, we had met, so, there was no ... The Russians held all the land east of the Elbe River, and we, of course, Americans held the land west of the Elbe River, but, of course, east of the Elbe River ... was Berlin and all of its suburbs, ... and you know all the agony ... the world went through over the city of Berlin, and that could have easily been [avoided]. We had to wait a long time for the Russians. We could have easily been in Berlin ourselves, and that may have changed a lot of the ... post world war history, but, I don't have enough of a historical perspective to say much more than that. So, there wasn't any cooperation. They were just new comrades in arms, so to speak, toasting each other night after night, to the point that our battalion offices were just ... absolutely humiliated ... by the Russian capacity to hold liquor. [laughter]

SSH: Now, the German prisoners of war that you had with you, or that you were in charge of, was there any difference between how the US treated their prisoners of war than how the Germans treated them?

RB: Oh, yes, yes, the US took them as prisoners, protected them, and, had they stayed in Russia, they could have easily been shot as they moved. One of the terrible things of war is the treatment of prisoners of war and ... America is not completely blameless in that area. During the Battle of the Bulge, there were widespread tales of atrocities of the Germans to divisions, like my brother's and others that were there on the front line, where prisoners of war were killed or mutilated. ... After the war, when we began to fight back through the Ardennes Forest, during the time ... of the surrounding of the 101st Infantry, with General McAuliffe saying, "Nuts," when they asked him to surrender, ... we led a pinch coming from the north to get through to Bastogne. ... General Patton led a pincer from the south to get through and we met there. We had ... terrible fighting during the Battle of Bulge, during the first part when we stopped the Germans. Now, when I say stopped the Germans, you always have to have tongue in cheek there, because we were spread so thin. ... The popular thought was that we stopped them. Maybe the more truthful thought is that they ran out of gas and they just couldn't go any further. The whole idea ... of the Battle of the Bulge was that they would quickly penetrate Belgium, and they almost did, they almost overran the whole county, and get into some of the great fuel depots in the north part of France, and, had they done that, ... and had they captured them, they would have enough fuel to carry on a prolonging action for the war for many, many times, but, they literally underestimated, maybe, weather and terrain as much as they did troop strength. But, the Americans did stop and contain the Battle of the Bulge, where its final penetration was, and we were there. We were at that line. I was in a foxhole where we were surrounded. We had wooden logs on top of us, with dirt on top of them. So, we had a frontal exposure, and ... they would bring us food, little K-ration packs, which had all cold food, of course, some of which you could ... heat if you could make a little campfire, but, also, had four cigarettes, and, somehow, I had gotten all the way to four individual cigarettes with each meal. ... Somehow, I had gotten all through the war and all through college without smoking, but, at that period, thinking we were doomed, ... instead of throwing the cigarettes up in the top of the foxhole, ... we reclaimed them, and started experimenting with smoking, and I got to be quite addicted until about ten years ago, but, it started there, thinking that we were ... surely goners. But, had they ... gone much further, ... then it would have been a much prolonged war, ... I am sure.
SSH: What about the prisoners of war that you had?

RB: Oh, prisoners of war, ... I was going to tell that story. During that period, in the Battle of the Bulge, I would, occasionally, get word that there was a prisoner or two that had been captured ... by our tankers, ... and I'd get up there, and we would almost get there, and we'd hear a, "Rat-tat-tat," and we would get there, and these rough looking guys would get up out of the ... tanks, ... and say, "Oh, they tried to get away." ... I felt, in many cases, it wasn't possible to prosecute, but, ... you really did scream at them, ... that they probably weren't trying to get away, they were scared to death, and this was retaliation. It was never written up, so that it couldn't have been too widespread, but, some of us who were up there trying to retrieve prisoners, and trying to get them back to orderly ... prisoner of war camps, ... were often rebuffed ... and almost treated like the enemy ourselves. ... That we would do that, because ... they had heard all these ... atrocity tales that had come up from the early days of the Battle of the Bulge, ... when there really were a lot of well documented cases of prisoner brutality on the part of Germans. But, they were special SS troops that were leading that, and they were really tough and nasty, ... but, by the time ... the war was over, the kind of prisoners we saw were old men and children, and very few battle scarred veterans. They were pretty much over here in the beautiful prisoners of war camps we had in the States. When we were training in Camp McCall, North Carolina, and, also, ... in Camp Clayborne, Louisiana, we saw the beautifully maintained [camps] and beautifully maintained physical specimens, that, you know, ... were out there playing volleyball all summer in the sun, beautifully tanned, blonde hair flying. ... They just had the time of [their] lives ... during their interment in our well taken care of prisoners of war camps, but, that wasn't the case on the other side, ... and there were some depressing periods of American insensitivity, right afterwards. It really was hardly ever ... portrayed, or written up, or talked about, ... and, luckily, the innate goodness ... would have prevented most of that, and we worked hard at it, ... in the military police, in the battalion military police, in trying to ... preserve the prisoners, because that ... was a trust, that was a part of our responsibility.

SSH: Now, the prisoners of war that you dealt with, were they strictly German or were they also deserters?

RB: Strictly German. ... No, no, strictly German, and they were not deserters. They were, for the most part, captured, and it was our job to get them out of combat conditions, back to some reasonably orderly state, and we did that as much as we could, and did a fair amount of it. We saved a fair amount of them, but, you almost felt you were saving them, sometimes, rather than transporting them. You felt that they might not have made it without some armed guards.

SSH: For the most part, were you doing this on foot?

RB: On foot, always on foot. Yeah, I was hardly ever inside of any moving vehicle. ... We were always on foot. We were in pretty good shape and ... we carried all the sidearms and firearms that the infantry divisions carried, because we were often... in fire fights ourselves, but, ... nowhere near [the front]. We were, like, two hundred yards behind the lines, for the most part.

SSH: Did you ever do any kind of interrogation of the prisoners?

RB: No, no, I couldn't. I had no language skills, and there were ... carefully trained people who did that kind of thing, and that took care of dead bodies, etc. We didn't have much to do with dead bodies, or, maybe, sometimes, had to prevent looting or striping of dead bodies, but, for the most part, ... I think they were called "Graves Details," but, that took care of our dead and their dead.

SSH: What sort of documentation did you have to do? What supplies did you have to carry for the people that you transported?

RB: Oh, ... very little. ... Most of our work was doing something ... [like] directing traffic, or guarding, and minimal documentation at ... our level. Remember, ... I was a PFC through all the combat, and then, as people died, ... I would start moving up a little bit, and I, finally, ended up as a staff sergeant. Three times, they asked me to stay in Germany and take a battlefield commission. ... Some of them were not battlefield, some of them were post battle, because they had to [have an] army of occupation, and they thought that I would be well qualified for that, and I was. I did, you know, really brainy work for our company. I was, at the end, the company administrator. The lieutenant in charge of our group was quite a lover, and between his ... work in making love to the young German widows, ... I was literally doing everything ... to run our little unit, which, at that point, ... was quite simple. ...
SSH: Were there any opportunities for recreation?

RB: Oh, not really. ... They would, maybe, put up a volleyball [net]. ... One of the best things that happened was a chance to travel on your own, depending upon the points you had in service, and the combat points. You got so many points for being in service, so many points for being overseas, so many points for being in combat, Purple Heart, ... I did get wounded a couple of times, was worth five points, a Bronze Star was worth five points. So, they gave you extra time for travels ... and we went to places like ... Metz in France, and Nancy in France, Paris, very frequently. My brother was there, so, I got to know Paris awfully well ... as a GI. At the end of the war, ... I was sent to Epernay, France, in the heart of the Champagne Valley of France, near Reims Cathedral, which, again, I had studied in my courses in art in Rutgers, and, ... therefore, enjoyed more than most, I am sure. ... I was next [sent] to [the] Mercier Champagne factory. ... For a package of cigarettes, you got a bottle of champagne, for ten packs of cigarettes, you got ten bottles of champagne. I got ten packs a week. I drank ten bottles of champagne a week. I drank champagne like it was Coke. I was lucky I didn't become a permanent alcoholic. ... We also went to England a lot, and I had wonderful trips in England and Scotland, and so, ... there were those chances to travel. There was not much local recreation of any sort. One of the places that we were, ... I was running a post office in Epernay, France for a while, and it was a military post office, but, ... that did give me a chance to ... smuggle bottles of champagne to my wife-to-be in America, through special pouches that you learned about when you were in the military. That was very much ... against the law, but, ... there were movies, and there were calisthenics, so, we kept ... in shape, but, there really wasn't much to do, except to be in occupation, and the places where we ... occupied were quite benign. So, there was no danger, and so, the more adventuresome would explore the country, ... and get to know some of it, and enjoy ... the special things. ... I loved England ... and I really loved Paris, too. I got to know Paris very well, and went to all the museums, which were just beginning to open. They were just beginning to take things that were crated and [restoring them]. ... I remember seeing many of the French Impressionist return ... to the Louvre, as it was before they started the Jeu de Paume or the Neu Beaux Arts Museum that they have at the railroad station, but, I saw them in three different museums in my lifetime, or three or four, and painted some of them. ... I got some pretty good Van Gogh's that I painted.
SSH: How long were you part of the occupational forces?

RB: We were there from when the war ended, which, I think, [was in] April of '45, until February of '46, so, it was about eight months.
SSH: 1946.

RB: Seemed like forever, because everybody wanted to get home, wanted to get on with their life, and though I was offered these battlefield commissions, and they meant it, because I did have the college training, and the education, and some leadership skills, and a strong sense of responsibility, etc., but, obviously, I wanted to get home and go to work at the pottery, where I still thought I was going to forge through the ranks as vice president, maybe. ... Well, it just didn't come, so, when the family was fighting each other, ... this bad uncle of mine, who was so great to us all the time we were growing up, and so close to my father all those years, and was, eventually, at his death, also, this bad uncle got me a job at Rutgers. ... I worked there as a research associate for about a year, and found myself, because I really was quite stunned, but, I was married when I was working at Rutgers, for a very, you know, minor sum. It was considered okay at the time, but, the work wasn't very [difficult]. The work that they assigned for me was almost a make-work job and didn't involve ceramics. It involved an evaluation of some chemical products, but, it was only an evaluation. ... It wasn't making anything yourself, so, I had a chance by another one of my friends. That happened to a lot of us. A wonderful man by the name of Otto Stack, who is still alive and very big contributor to Rutgers activities, ... he is major fund raiser ... and donor to Rutgers, ... Class of '40. He was also working there. ... He had been discharged as a major, I as a staff sergeant, neither of us had work to do. We both went there because he was ... a class adjunct to Carborundum, and I joined Carborundum a few months later at his urging, and we worked together, and exchanged jobs, and [have] been overseas with each other, and Otto was manager of our German operations, and he was manager of our English operations at a time when I was back and forth a lot, and so, he is one great friend of Rutgers that ... has stayed through ... all these years.

SSH: You said you remember where you were when Pearl Harbor occurred. Do you remember the dropping of the bomb in Japan and how you became aware of that?

RB: In Japan, the atom bomb? Yes, we were back in Heidelberg, but, we were training. ... It was said that we would be ... maybe the first group of American troops to leave the German area of occupation and move over to Japan, for the battles of Okinawa and for the battles ... of the mainland of Japan, which was going to be bloody stuff. So, ... we were very aware of that ... battle and aware of all the battles that led up to the dropping of the bombs. We followed [them] intensely, because we were quite fearful. Fearful was the keyword. We felt the fighting of the Germans had been fairly civilized. We had been getting bad pictures of how rough it was to fight the Japanese, their tenacity and their ... fanatical resistance. So, we were worried about that and it was a great relief when we [heard about the atomic bomb]. We felt no sense of shock or ... none of the revisionism that's going on about what a terrible thing that was, because Japan ... would have wiped out half a generation, had we had to go through ... a land battle ... for the continent of Japan, when you saw how they fought for the little atolls ... that they resisted in. So, I was deadly afraid of the Japanese, and, ironically, in 1962, I started going to Japan, and I went there twenty times, so, I got to know and work with some of the most wonderful Japanese people, but, ... you couldn't conceive [of them as an enemy]. Once in a while, you'd see that Mr. Ito, as Commander Ito, might have been one tough cookie to do business with, but, Mr. Ito as the president of our ... Japanese joint venture, was a tremendously good friend, ... and a tough guy, though, but, you could picture him as a very tough military factor that you would just as soon not have to face. But, I, ... you know, just fell in love with everything ... concerning Japan ... and I was very happy that we ... didn't even have to think about that, except we had two or three months of anxiousness as we were being prepared. My own group didn't have too much to do, but, the military people, the soldiers, were having lots of preparation work ... and orientation work. ... So, we did not expect, when we left the Elbe, ... that was the end of our fighting. We thought we certainly [were] going to be cannon fodder for another bloodier war in the Pacific.

SSH: So, when you left the Elbe, from that point, where did you go?

RB: Well, we moved to Hameln, as I mentioned, and then, to Heidelberg, and we were at Heidelberg until they started breaking the units up, to now send them home. The war was over. So, ... because I had like fifteen or so extra points, because ... of Purple Hearts and Bronze Stars, I moved ... to Epernay, France and spent about, I think, two or three months there, ... and was one of the first to get home, ... certainly of my infantry division, but, ... there were so many soldiers that I mentioned that had been fighting in Europe ... and stayed alive. That's the trouble with so many of those divisions, ... like the famous 29th, and the famous 3rd Infantry, and blah, blah, blah, fabled bunches of men who were in Sicily, and were in Anzio, and were in southern France at the invasion of Marseilles, or, maybe, came in on D-one, and they had been so brutalized and so beat up, but, some of those men served all the time. So, they were almost discharged instantly when the war was over, and the rest of us had to move with our point system, you know, in an orderly manner, ... and got out February 1st of '46, was pretty early ... for getting discharged, and I had ... lost a month in a hospital as I was coming home. I, ironically, got some infections that hospitalized me, but, ... they [were] with my teeth and gums, because military dentistry was pretty bad ... and it just lasted a couple of months, and then, infection took over.

SSH: Before we discuss your re-entry into the United States, could you tell me a little more about your Bronze Star and Purple Heart?

RB: Well, ... the Bronze Star and Purple Heart were kind of related ... to that incident ... where we were up getting prisoners ... at the front lines in a ... front line medical place, where they did almost triage on who they could save and who they couldn't, and it was related to carrying some of the soldiers in under this enormous deadly fuselage of .88 guns. ... The Germans had the best cannons in the world and were the best cannoneers in the world. ... They were uncannily accurate. They were very systematic. ... It was a weapon that arrived without any pre-warning, ... so that the havoc that the fabled .88, which was the name of the gun, .88. All of a sudden, there you were, and ... it was that incident that I was wounded, and being wounded ... was how you got Purple Hearts. It was almost how you got Bronze Stars. Bronze Stars were given away very casually, as far as I am concerned, because I didn't think there was enough heroism to have a Bronze Star, but, somebody gave me one afterwards. It was after the war was over that they gave us these Bronze Stars. My brother got his Silver Star on the line, you know, because he had done this brave thing. ... And, as we were visiting back and forth during the time he was dying, he was showing me a lot of these things, again. I hadn't seen them for a while, but, imagine my little brother picking up a flame-thrower ... and single-handedly wiping out a pillbox in the Siegfried Line, the lower Siegfried Line. That was ... rather remarkable. I didn't have anything quite that remarkable.

SSH: On your re-entry into the United States, how were you received?

RB: Well, there were ... no parades. We were just quietly discharged. We went to ... Fort Dix, ... and we were there a day or so, and we were discharged, ... and then, you'd just show up home. ... I wore my military uniform, with all the battle stripes, and was proud of it, but, you only wore it a ... few days. You make sure everybody saw you with it, with your discharged button on it, and all your overseas stripes, and I had something like eight ribbons, you know. There was the simple ribbons, like a serving in the European area, and serving so many months in the European [area]. ... It still looked like about eight ribbons, which was nifty, and I had a Combat Infantry Badge, which ... I had won, you know. I had learned to fire all types of weapons and was, you know, an expert in all types of weapons, but, ... that was short lived. And then, the problem was ... getting back to work, and I was all excited about going to pick up the family tradition at Lenox, and that was just wiped out for me, ... although, ... enough trickled down that it did help educate our children. They all have a nice feeling for Lenox ... and it helped Mom and I have some nice trips. I always had a good job, but, ... no way near enough to educate eight children with ease. It was a piece of cake, and I mean law school, and medical school, and MBA school, and all the things that they got. ... Mom and I just had undergraduate degrees.

SSH: What other details can you remember about your post-war experience?

RB: ... We were discharged in February of 1946. The war had essentially been over, both in Japan and Europe, now for a while, and they were just going through a fairly orderly dismissal of the troops, ... using a point ... system that was generally accepted as being pretty fair, involved months of service, months overseas, special things, decorations, etc. So, I was ... fairly high up on that for a man who had so little combat, really had, ... in combat, only nine months, overseas, really, only like eighteen months, compared to the ... many, many men who had been overseas almost since the early 1940s. But, when we came home, ... by that time, the great enthusiasms and celebrations were over, so, we quietly went to ... Fort Dix, New Jersey, and, within a day or so, were discharged quietly. Came home, wore our uniform for a few days, so that all of our old buddies who survived the war could see us, as well as our ... families, and, in my case, sweetheart, and then, got out of those Army clothes as fast as we could, back to our college garb, and got started on a new life. In my case, I eventually ended up in the Carborundum Company for forty-five years, one company for forty-five years. But, as I look back on the service, one of the interesting things, it was my first opportunity to have a thoroughly American experience of Eastern, sophisticated, unsophisticated, of the rural South, Mexican, and Native American groups, although, at that time, ... they would have been called Mexicans, not Hispanic, and Indian, ... not Native American. We meshed very well in combat, but, ... you might note, there were ... no experiences with blacks, none whatsoever. Only once in all of my military time was I ever even near ... black soldiers, and that was one night ... in an overnight rest depot, or a sleeping depot, where I was sleeping, alone, in a room ... on a cot, and group of twenty ... black soldiers came in, and slept all around me. I covered my head and laid there, almost trembling, figured that I might be fair game. ... There was just a frightening experience for someone who grew up in a town [like] Trenton, New Jersey, now, almost a 100% black, which had, maybe, three or four black families before the movement ... of the blacks during the ... later aspects of World War II. So, I didn't have any integration experiences in college, or in the service, and, really, very little in industry. Although, I worked a lot as a Catholic co-chairman of the National Conference of Christian and Jews, human rights coordinator for the city of Niagara Falls, and lots of other brotherhood activities. The other note that I made in my written notes for Rutgers was that our most famous alumni in the 84th Infantry Division was Henry Kissinger, who joined them strictly as a young intelligence officer. He was a corporal, but, by far, the brainiest and most brilliant analyst of the war, and ... he just went around the division giving speeches on the causes of the war, the reasons for the war, ... the possible aftereffects of the war. He had no more crystal ball than any of us, but, was so well trained, and such an exquisite historian, and it was interesting to see him during his embryonic days. He was probably one of the youngest men in our division, which was mostly young soldiers.

SSH: Was there any anti-Semitism in your group, that you were aware of?

RB: There was some ... anti-Semitism in the beginning, when we first moved down, and had brilliant, young, Jewish soldiers, ... students who were coming from the other ... ASTP courses. As I said, I came from Lafayette, but, others came from all over the country, and that would bring the bright, young, Jewish students, too. So, there were ... some, until we got to know each other, and there was lots of discussions ... about each others faith, and, I think, that was a rich experience, and, for me, it was a rich experience. I became, as I said, very active in organizations ... that couples Christian and Jews, and I had many, many friends in the Jewish business community, in particular in Western New York, where there was very little anti-Semitic activities, or feeling, in Western New York. ... I had a brother lived in Philadelphia, and he was, ... I'd say, somewhat of a fixed anti-Semitic, and ... that bothered me, and we had many arguments about it, but, ... he passed off his feelings by saying that ... there were many less Jewish people in ... Western New York, and, therefore, they were not ... as aggressive as he thought the people in Philadelphia were, but, that was always a touchy subject with us, and one that I just didn't ... worry about. ... I don't know if I would know Rutgers today, with the things I read, like the recent incident with ... poor President Lawrence, who, I think, has had a distinguished career of trying ... to be color blind, ... and trying to be positive in all of his work, and the campus itself has certainly done a lot, but, in the Class of '43, we only had two black students. I don't remember any in the Class of '42, and those two black students were outstanding in every way, but, even they suffered from some ... anti-black situation, because, one of our most wonderful fellows, Walt Alexander, in our class, studied engineering, and did a beautiful job as an engineer, until it got time to, after the war, get a job as an engineer. ... Then, he felt there was so much anti-black feeling that he went back to school and became a famous dentist, had a second career, and, you know, made a handsome living. And our only other student, Harry Hazelwood, became a very prominent judge. So, they had two wonderful people, but, ... you didn't think of them so much as black, or we weren't oriented that way, and I ... don't know what colleges feel like today. I sometimes worry about Rutgers ... and the problems it's going through as a state university, because we were about the last days of the college as a private university, ... any of the Class of '42, Class of '43, etc.

SSH: As the father of eight children, how did the Vietnam War affect you?

RB: Well, ... I was very much in favor of the Vietnam War, and I believed all of the domino theory, and I was an intense ... Communist fighter, ... and tried to shield our children from a lot of that, but, my oldest son, who was then in college, ... was very much against the war, against Nixon, felt Nixon was really the force behind Watergate, while I kept saying, "No, no, no, he wouldn't do a thing like that," and so, he and I ... have been somewhat estranged ever since. Now, the rest of the children, ... my second daughter ... went to Marymount in Terrytown, New York. So, she was from Western New York, from Buffalo, quiet Buffalo, quiet Lewiston, New York, which is a suburb of Niagara Falls, and quiet Jamestown, which were thresholds of conservatism, ... but, she became kind of a radical. I believe she burned her bra, or few things like that. She wanted to march on Washington, but, wasn't able to, because she had a foot infection. Then, the rest of the children, no problem, ... Vietnam, ... the history began to unfold, and ... they were less involved, or less caring, about it than ... their older brothers and sisters, who were in college during the height of that period, and none of our children were anywhere near in danger of being drafted, because they were all able to go to college, and there was no effective draft of college students, so, it was a poor man's war, I am afraid.

SSH: Are there any other incidents that you would like to put on the tape?

RB: No, I feel I am happy to participate in this oral history of the war from someone kind of, like, in the middle, in combat or near combat, but, certainly, ... not heroic, and I dedicate any of my thoughts to those wonderful men in our class, so many of them as second lieutenants in the infantry, who were killed immediately. ... The great leadership, with ... some wonderful exceptions, was destroyed. ... Our great monument, which I ... was there for its dedication, when ... we put that stone in, and we have gone back to visit it as a group each ... five year reunion since, the last being our 50th. I am not sure that we'll have five year reunions after you have your 50th, so, I'll miss that, but, at that time, those of us who are left, for the most part, were gather around, and, ... still, it brought tears to the eyes of some. I remember one classmate, Jim Chandler, who played lacrosse with me, and who was a Delta Epsilon fraternity leader, and a wonderful, wonderful classmate, who went, ... ironically, into the glass business, the business that I was in for thirty years. We never saw each other at that time. We met at the 50th reunion.

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RB: As I think of recounting ... these recollection with Mrs. Holyoak, I dedicated these thoughts, and many thoughts ... and prayers ... that have taken place in the meantime, to the terrific men of our class, the Class of 1943, who were killed, my favorite being Mal Schweiker. ... I think the story I was telling, I was with Jim Chandler of the DU House, I think the DU House is no more on campus either, but, it, ... probably, of our class, had the most leadership. ... It was a great house to be friends with, ... and it was the first time that Jim Chandler had visited this site, and seen all these names carved in granite ... of our great friends who didn't survive a year, any of them. They were all killed almost immediately, as second lieutenants in the infantry, [who] are almost ... cannon fodder. ... They're on the front lines, they have the smallest units in combat, ... and face, by far, the most danger, ... and have the highest fatality rating. ... It's almost as though they are setup, ... as infantrymen, in general, are sacrificial front lines for the more mobile forces ... that they penetrate for, or mop up after, blah, blah, blah. So, the infantry was an interesting place to see a war, ... and, you know, ... certainly one of the highlights of our young lives, at that time. I regret that I didn't have more of a leadership role, but, ... that had its roots ... in skipping a couple of grades back in Saint Frances, and being only twelve when I went to high school, and sixteen ... when I went to college, nowhere near mature enough. ... Maybe mentally able, but, ... not mature enough ... in any other ways to cope with the modern days of college. We learned about all those things, and made sure that our children went to college at the right age, and had more say in what kind of colleges they picked, and kind of careers that they took, 'cause they had nothing pre-ordained for themselves. There were about five of us in my class who studied ceramic engineering, who were scions of major ceramic companies and were expected to go to the top. None of them did. One fell into alcoholism. One fell to no chance of joining a company that his family had started. One, ... who was one of our classmates, I won't name him, ... somehow, he ended up in a band, playing the saxophone most of his life, ... and clipping coupons. So, it was funny how war ... put an abrupt change to a lot of those potential careers, and some, of course, like Mal Schweiker, who would have gone to the very top of American Olean Tile, the biggest in America, and I think would have gone on from there to be President of the United States. He was so outstanding in his campus life and he, tragically, was snuffed out the first day. My own three roommates, who I mentioned earlier, have done quite well in life, and we're now all in frequent touch with each other, see each other every year, and are now all retired, except Lou Lasagna, who is president, and ... an active president, of Tufts Medical School. Well respected in the field in Pharmacology, where he taught one of my sons, who took medicine underneath him at the University of Rochester Medical School. So, we're just happy that we survived to have a marriage that took us around the world a lot, that gave me lots of opportunity for leadership, and entrepreneurship, and, also, were able to raise eight distinguished children who have all gotten some impressive things behind their names already.

SSH: Thank you, this concludes the interview.

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

Reviewed by Shaun Illingworth 10/10/99

Reviewed by Sandra Stewart Holyoak 10/14/99

Reviewed by Roy Brown 11/20/99

 

 

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