Kurt Piehler: This begins an interview with Mr. Warren J. Bowers on April 17, 1995, at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey with Kurt Piehler ¼
Richard Fuhler: And Richard Fuhler.
KP: I guess I would like to begin by asking you a bit about your parents. Your father was born in Brooklyn ¼
Warren Bowers: Yes, that's right.
KP: ¼ but at one point moved to Jersey City.
KP: When did he move to Jersey City?
WB: Let's see. It must have been about 1919, 1920. He was in the First World War. His folks lived in Brooklyn, so he came back and then moved to Jersey City. I don't know why he did, really. I know he applied for a job as a policeman in Jersey City. I don't know whether it was at that time or later. But he ended up in Jersey City, and that's where he met my mother. That's what brought him there, I think.
KP: But he didn't get the job at the police force?
WB: I don't know whether he got it then, or later, but he did work for the police department in Jersey City.
KP: How long did he stay with the police department?
WB: I don't know.
KP: Was he dissatisfied at all with doing police work?
WB: I think he always wanted to be a policeman, but something happened. It didn't work out.
KP: How old were you when he left the police force?
WB: Oh, I was pretty young.
KP: ¼ so you really don't have much of a memory ¼
WB: Certain things stand out in my memory.
KP: Your father had a lot of wartime experience in the First World War.
WB: Oh, yes. He was in the trenches in Europe.
KP: Do you know which unit he was in?
WB: I really don't know. I've got his medals. He was in five major battles. I don't know what [unit he was in]. He was in the cavalry. He became buddies with a Rutgers alumnus over there and they held that relationship for many years. At the moment, I can't think of his name. They used to have a collection of photos of the graduates of Rutgers in the Rutgers library. He was in there. I looked it up.
KP: So is that in part how you knew about Rutgers? From this friendship?
WB: Oh, no. I knew of Rutgers. I lived in Jersey City and I knew of it. This was the Depression and we didn't have any money. When I graduated from high school, I said, "How am I going to get to college?" I took college prep courses, but I didn't think that I could ever get there. I knew a former governor of New Jersey, A. Harry Moore. He used to teach Sunday school up at Old Bergen Church in Jersey City. I asked him to give me a hand, and he did . He got me a tuition scholarship. That's how I got going.
KP: And that's how you knew A. Harry Moore, from church?
WB: Oh, yeah from church. Oh, yeah. He was a great, great teacher.
WB: Oh, yeah. He taught our Men's Bible Class in Old Bergen Church. He was a great guy. I liked him a lot.
KP: Going back to your father for a minute ¼
KP: ¼ what did your father ever tell you about the First World War, and about army life? Did he talk much about ¼
WB: He didn't really tell me much about it. He was gassed in the war. He never received any benefits from it. He never applied. That's the kind of guy he was. But I'm sure later on in life it attributed to his death.
KP: Was your father active in the American Legion or any other veteran's organization ?
WB: No, he never joined. He's like me. He never joined anything afterwards. After you get out, that's it.
KP: Did he ever see "All Quiet on the Western Front"? Or any other movies regarding the war?
WB: He might have seen it. He hid most of it, really. He never talked much about it. He was too concerned with making a living because of the Depression. It was awful. He'd find jobs, and then lose them, get fired again. It was just a horrendous time.
KP: So your family had a hard time in the Depression.
WB: Oh, yes, yes. Well, that's why he had a tough time finding a job. Different families lived together just to make a go of it. Or relatives, we grouped together in houses here and there. We would move all over the place.
KP: So you moved quite a bit.
WB: Oh, yeah. I went through, I don't know, about six or seven different schools in my growing up.
KP: All in Jersey City?
WB: No. I started school in Chatham, New Jersey. Previous to that, we lived in Ontario, Canada.
KP: For how long?
WB: Not too long. Two years, I think, we were in Canada. I was only an infant. But then we came back to Jersey City, and bounced around Jersey City most of the time.
KP: How long would your father be unemployed for a given stretch?
WB: Months at a time. He'd take anything, really. But he latched on to different jobs and held them for months.
KP: What was the steadiest, when you were growing up, what was the steadiest bout of employment your father had? With which company?
WB: I would say two years. He became expert as a knitting machine mechanic. I can't remember the company name.
KP: Did he ever take a job, for example, on the W. P. A. ?
WB: No, he didn't. No, he didn't like that.
WB: My uncle did. Not the W. P. A. , the C. C. C. . But none of my other relatives did. The CCC found something for them to do. If it didn't give them work, at least it gave them shelter and food. That was the main thing.
KP: Your mother, she did not work until you went to college.
WB: That's right. She just went to work to help me, that's all. She gave me ten or fifteen dollars a week, and helped me through my first year.
KP: It must have been very rough, in the Depression, in the 1930s ¼
WB: It was.
RF: About your mother, you had mentioned that she had been born in Scotland ¼
RF: When did she come over here? And why?
WB: She was about six or seven years old when she came over here. My grandfather came over here first. Then he sent for the rest of the family. I think my mother, her sister, her brother, and my grandmother came over all at once. They lived in the Lafayette section of Jersey City. That's downtown. The kids grew up there.
RF: Did your mother tell you much about her experience coming over?
WB: No, actually I don't think she remembered too much about it.
RF: She didn't work at all during the Depression to help your family?
WB: No, no. Actually there were so few jobs, and plus she was a woman, so forget it, unless they were housekeepers or something. My grandmother worked as a housekeeper. Other than that, there weren't any jobs. But 1942, when I graduated, my mother could get a job in a factory. Of course, the women could get jobs in factories. That's what she did.
KP: Did World War II help your family in terms of getting jobs? Did your father's situation improve?
WB: Definitely, definitely, no question about it. He wasn't in war production, but it definitely helped. No question about that. That's what got us out of the Depression.
RF: You mentioned that you moved around a lot, but you spent most of your time in Jersey City. What was life like growing up in Jersey City?
WB: It was good. I liked it. We had a lot of sports, there was no television or anything like that. You had to make your own entertainment. And I was always heavy on sports, football, baseball, and running. I did a lot of running. And we formed our own teams and had a great time. There were plenty of playgrounds around. There were plenty of kids. We had a great time. So, the Depression didn't bother us, it was just like any other kid growing up, really. It was just the question of getting the food.
KP: You lived several years in Chatham. Did you prefer living in Chatham or Jersey City?
WB: Oh, yes. Chatham was great; a nice little town. I started school there, but the business fell in. My father was in partnership with a fellow, but it didn't work out. So we ended up back in Jersey City. That's when we started our getting together with different families. It was kind of tough.
KP: What did you think of the differences between the schools. The education you were getting in Chatham versus the Jersey City schools?
WB: Well, it's hard to judge because I was in, I don't know whether it was kindergarten or first grade, I hardly remember really. Until I got in grammar school did I remember anything significant about the educational systems.
KP: How good was your education at Jersey City Schools?
WB: Well, it was good. In my high school, in Dickinson High School, I thought it was very good. Some of the teachers weren't that great, and I suffered on account of it in Rutgers, when I came here.
KP: Which teachers hadn't prepared you very well?
KP: Yeah, had not done a good job.
WB: My chemistry teacher didn't do a very good job. He didn't prepare me for college chemistry.
KP: Which teachers did do a good job?
WB: Oh, my mathematics teacher. I had a mathematics teacher who was the greatest guy in the world. It paid off for me here, especially in engineering. He got me going good. He lived in Highland Park. The kids in his classes really learned mathematics. I had him for two years, which was great. I appreciated that.
KP: What kind of expectations did your teachers have for you? In terms of ¼
WB: They never expressed it, really. We had one history teacher who wasn't very good. I knew that he was not really giving us what we should have gotten, and that's what really bothered me. But there was nothing I could do. I was in his class, and I had to make out the best I could.
KP: When you said that there was problems with him, what was he doing wrong?
WB: The way he was presenting the course. I thought that he could have made it a lot more interesting, but he didn't. For the most part the history teachers [were good]. I think I had three years of history.
RF: You did very well in school. Is this something that came naturally to you?
WB: No, I had to work very hard, but, I had an affinity for mathematics.
KP: So writing and doing mathematical calculations and formulas was the easy part, but doing a five-page essay ¼
WB: Right. It was an effort. That's the way I was made up, I guess. I don't know.
KP: You also spent some time, a half a year at Bangor, Pennsylvania. How did that come about?
WB: Oh, yeah. That was great. My father moved up there again. He went in partnership with another fellow in the knitting machine business. They did pretty well. It lasted about four years, I think, three or four years. I spent my middle grades there, four, five, and six, I think, it was. No, it was seven, eight, and nine. Then he went bankrupt, or some guy bought him out and he moved back again, back to Jersey City. But that was a small town, five thousand. It was great. It was really ideal for a kid growing up. Cost of living was good. I liked it very much. It wouldn't have hurt me if we stayed there because I liked the high school, the people in it, and everything else. When we came down to Jersey City, I said, "Oh, God, what are we getting into?" But it wasn't that bad, really.
RF: You were also very involved in clubs in high school, the science club, the chemistry club ¼
WB: Yeah, I'm never much of a joiner, but I joined those because I thought I could get something out of them. But I was never that active. I had the track team and the chemistry club. We had something in English, by the English teacher. I found that very interesting, but other than that I didn't participate.
RF: What did you run in track?
WB: I ran the sprints in track. I never really got a good chance at the varsity because there were too many guys ahead of me. I feel as though I didn't do what I could have done because of circumstances. There were cliques formed. You get pushed aside. By the time I got to my senior year I thought I was pretty good. The coach we had was hurt seriously in an accident and his successor wasn't very good. The chance of getting anywhere in my senior year was diminished severely. It was a good experience. This was sort of an outlet for me when I was growing up, in that period of time.
KP: You grew up in very different places Chatham, New Jersey, which was then and probably still is a fairly upscale town ¼
WB: Oh, yes definitely.
KP: ¼ and then you grew up in Bangor, Pennsylvania which was ¼
KP: ¼ Small-town America. And then Jersey City ¼
KP: ¼ When you were young and then later, which did you prefer the most?
WB: Well, I don't know. I liked Bangor and I wouldn't have hesitated to stay there until my high school career was over. But I wouldn't have stayed there. There's nothing there. I would have to eventually move out somewhere, after I went to college or whatever. There was just no industry there or anything like that.
KP: What about your friends? Did you have a hard time making friends?
WB: No, no. I always made friends wherever I resided. They remain to this day, actually.
KP: So you have friends from all these different places.
WB: Not all of them, but two or three. Of course, (laughter) they're all older, not too many left.
KP: What type of neighborhood did you live in Jersey City?
WB: Jersey City was on the border of being integrated. We lived off Jackson Avenue, Madison Avenue, in between Ocean and Jackson. It was just on the border of [being integrated]. I went to School 14 there. That was practically an all-black school. Then it gradually came over after we left. Now it's practically all integrated. That never bothered me, it's just a matter of course. Now a days when everybody talks about it, they get all excited. It was second nature to me because that's the way it was.
KP: This is when you were in elementary school?
WB: Yes, that was before I went to Bangor, that was in the fourth or fifth grade.
KP: So you were used to having black classmates and stuff.
WB: Oh, yeah. That was it. My friends, too, you know, it didn't bother anybody. It was a good experience I thought.
RF: And to you that was how it was. It wasn't out of the ordinary?
WB: No, I figured, well, that's normal. That's a city and people are growing. They have families. That's it. They look at it a little differently now a days.
KP: Then you went to Bangor, which was probably almost all white?
WB: Oh, yes all white. Definitely. I don't think there was a black family there.
KP: And Chatham, too, was similar. There's only, I think, a small black community in Chatham.
WB: In Chatham I doubt there was any black people there either. Of course, I don't remember. I was pretty young.
KP: When you came back to Jersey City where did you ¼
WB: From Chatham we ¼ (phone rings)
KP: Excuse me a minute.
WB: ¼ from Chatham, we came back to Jersey City and we lived on Boyd Avenue, I think. That's where three or four families, relatives, got together and stayed there for a few years.
KP: What kind of neighborhood was that?
WB: That was all white. It was east from where we lived before. That was a big old house. We stayed there for a couple of years.
KP: Was the neighborhood native born Americans or immigrants?
WB: Both. Jersey City had a lot of immigrants. People came in off the boat and found a place to live. Some went downtown, Lafayette section. That's where my mother first went. They either migrated to Jersey City or Manhattan, New York. Or else they had a sponsor and they went out wherever the sponsor was.
RF: The ethnic makeup of Jersey City, like the neighborhood you lived in, was that predominately German, English descent?
WB: Actually, I don't recall.
KP: Jersey City in the 1920s and 1930s and even into the 1940s is widely associated with Mayor Hague.
WB: Oh, definitely.
KP: Do you have any recollection of what your family thought of Hague?
WB: I thought he was a great guy. He had his own group there that he ruled with an iron hand, but he did a lot of good for the people. He built the Margaret Hague Medical Center there. A matter-of-fact, I got hurt one time and I went in. I had an operation and it didn't cost a cent. That sticks in my head, the fact that we didn't have any money and they fixed it. My father liked him.
KP: Your father left the police force, not because of any disagreement with Hague?
WB: No, no. He had an iron hand, and that town was clean as far as any roughnecks or anything like that. He cleaned it up. What else went on, I don't know. I thought, in retrospect anyway, I thought he was a pretty fair guy.
KP: How active was your family in the Bergen Reformed Church? You mentioned you met A. Harry Moore that way.
WB: Well, that's the funny part of it, nobody was. I went there on my own when I was in high school. Why, I don't know. I didn't know of any other [church]. I know that I had attended churches in the Lafayette section when I was growing up. It stayed with me. And then I got involved with, oh, I know, what it was, the Reverend Clee, Robert Clee, used to preach there. He was a great, great preacher. He used to have a men's bible class in the State Theatre in Jersey City. A couple of thousand men, every Sunday morning attended. So I started going there. Also, I attended Reverend Clee's regular Sunday morning service at Old Bergen Church. Then I learned that A. Harry Moore was the Sunday school teacher so I went. So I was inspired by those folks, Reverend Clee and A. Harry Moore.
KP: What type of expectations did your parents have for you for college?
WB: Well, they thought I was going to go. I don't know how they figured that I was going to go. My dad sort of gave up. He said, "Well, I can't give him the money, so I don't know how he is going to get there. "
KP: But they wanted you very much from an early age to go to college?
WB: Oh, sure. But, you know, whether you do it or not is another thing. Of course, if I had waited until after the war, I would have gotten all four years because of the GI Bill. What I did get was great.
RF: Your graduation from high school was in January of 1942, which was right after Pearl Harbor. Did Pearl Harbor sort of put a damper on that whole activity?
WB: No, we sort of expected it, not Pearl Harbor, we thought we were going to go in the war. Everything was sort of on edge. We knew we were going to finish our term. We graduated in the middle of the year there, we had half session. It didn't bother anybody. We were all thinking, what's going to happen? Where are we going to go? I wasn't draft age then, I was seventeen. I knew that I had a little time. Most of the people were over eighteen so they were worse off for the draft.
KP: Where were you when the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred?
WB: Where was I?
KP: Yeah, where did you hear the news?
WB: We lived in an apartment on the Hudson Boulevard. I can remember I was on the floor listening to the radio.
KP: How surprised were you? Did you expect war?
WB: We weren't sure. We weren't sure what was going to happen, but we didn't expect that. In retrospect, I guess they sort of expected it.
KP: Your father fought in the First World War. What was his attitude toward the approach of World War II in the 1930s and 1940s?
WB: Oh, he was one of the strongest opponents of any aid to Japan, long before Pearl Harbor. He knew that they were selling scrap, all kinds of stuff to Japan. He said that they were doing the wrong thing. He used to tell me that they were absolutely doing the wrong thing because they are going to get in trouble. They were selling everything to them. Sure enough, he really knew, he really knew.
RF: You say that he picked up on Japan, and warned you about Japan, did he pick up anything about Hitler's activities in Germany?
WB: No, no. It was different. I don't know what it was, but he didn't express an opinion to me about Hitler. I don't recall his talking to me, actually.
KP: How did you father and your mother feel about Roosevelt?
WB: Oh, they were for Roosevelt. They figured that he pulled us out. Actually, he did really. A lot of people don't like what he did, but there's a lot of people alive today thankful that he did what he did. They had a high regard for him really.
KP: And yourself?
WB: In looking back, of course, at the time, I was too young. But in reading his life and what he went through as far as running the country at that time, I thought he did a very good job. It was a very trying time for him.
RF: And in Jersey City with Mayor Hague, which is like the ultimate Democrat, it was easy to follow FDR.
WB: Oh, definitely. You had to follow the Democrats, that was it.
RF: After your graduation from high school, you mentioned in the survey that you worked for a time as a runner on Wall Street.
WB: Oh, yes. I knew I had until September before I went to school. I worked for the British Purchasing Commission. It was a wartime organization. They had a bunch of British people there arranging for money and so forth for Britain. I used to run tickets, get tickets, mostly railroad at that time for the people who traveled throughout the country. That's what my job [was].
KP: So you would go to Penn Station and ¼
WB: I was downtown, so I went to, I forget what they're called, but I used to have to wait in line to get the tickets for the people who traveled. So that was my first job there.
KP: How did you get this job with the British Purchasing Commission?
WB: I went through an employment agency. I think I got sixty-five dollars a month.
KP: And you would take what is now the Path train.
KP: To downtown.
WB: Right, right. Ten cents. (laughter)
KP: Did you learn anything about what the British Purchasing Commission was doing? Did you have any sense?
WB: No, I just did a job. The workers were mostly British and they adhered to their regular customs.
KP: So you would have a tea break.
WB: As a matter-of-fact, I used to have to make the tea. (laughter) And that was sort of demeaning, but that was part of my job. (laughter) Talk about tea and crumpets, that was it.
KP: What did you think about this contact with the British? Any other thoughts about the British personalities?
WB: No, no. I had a good time. I met a lot of people. As a matter-of-fact, a fellow in the house where I lived worked for them, also. He was an accountant. I figured it must be a pretty good office.
KP: While you were working for the British Purchasing Commission, you didn't expect to stay there for more ¼
WB: No, until September. I knew that I was going to college.
KP: When did you know you where coming to Rutgers?
WB: Well, as soon as I heard from Rutgers.
KP: When did you apply?
WB: It was late. See, I didn't apply for a scholarship or anything because I figured, well, at best it wouldn't be a full scholarship. I didn't know where I was going to get the money. Then one day I figured, well, I have to do something. Then I went to see Mr. Moore, and the rest is history.
KP: Had you thought of enlisting right away?
WB: No, I didn't. I never did. I never did. I figured I could get a year in because I was still seventeen. But it didn't work out that way. But I didn't, I didn't ¼
KP: You were going to wait.
WB: I was going to wait. I knew I'd be drafted, so. My father enlisted, he didn't get drafted.
KP: Your father enlisted in ¼
WB: The army when he was ¼
KP: ¼ in World War I.
WB: In World War I.
KP: After America entered the war?
WB: Oh, yeah.
RF: You also briefly had a job at a petroleum plant in Jersey City.
WB: Yeah, at M. W. Kellogg in Jersey City. That was after I quit over at the British Purchasing Commission. And that was more in my line because it was technical. It was petroleum research, they cracked gasoline. That's the way they did it. They still do it, but this was a technician's job. I liked that. You had to use your ingenuity. It was a chemical process you had to go through. They taught you how to run the stills with gasoline in it. It was dangerous, but once you did it right, you were all right. So I worked there until I went to school.
KP: When you say it was dangerous . .
WB: It was gasoline.
KP: Were there any accidents while you were there?
WB: No, there weren't. It wasn't the volume, but we were testing different processes. There were chemical engineers there, so I , I was going to learn from them. That was a good bunch. If Rutgers had had a chemical engineering department, I would have taken it, but they didn't. I ended up in electrical.
KP: Had you thought of trying to go to any other schools beside Rutgers?
WB: No, no. I liked to stay around. Plus the fact it was the money involved. I didn't think that I could afford it. Of course, it didn't cost me much to live here, but any other college I figured that it would cost a lot more.
KP: What was the campus like that you came to in September of 1942?
WB: Oh, boy. It was very small and there was hardly anybody around. We used to eat in Winants, up here, and you'd go in there, and hardly anybody was around. And guys would be sitting around after their meal and singing. Typical college atmosphere which you read about. And very small, I don't know what the enrollment was in those days. I never did look it up, but I don't think it was too great.
KP: And did you know that you wanted to be an engineer?
WB: Oh, yes, definitely. No question about that.
KP: How long did you know that you wanted to be an engineer?
WB: I was in high school. I just, I read about it one year. Our advisors were pretty good to in those days, I guess, they still are. The class advisors ¼
KP: Since they urged you to go into engineering?
WB: They used to tell us about what was involved. If you didn't have mathematical skills, then forget about it, and other stuff. So it, that's where I learned, that I found I'd like to be an engineer.
KP: It was very small, what about the teaching? How good was the teaching at Rutgers initially?
WB: I thought it was pretty good. My freshmen year was a jungle 'cause you never know what was going to happen. I said the chemistry teacher in high school didn't do a very good job with me, and I had a tough time with it. The engineering subjects weren't that troublesome, but when you have trouble with one class it sort of throws you off. So, I was a little bit unnerved, plus being freshmen you don't know which end is up, anyway.
KP: Where did you live your freshmen year?
WB: Oh, I lived up near the gymnasium. I rented a room from a local resident.
KP: You didn't want to live in a dormitory?
WB: Well, it was cheaper. Again money. She didn't want much money, so, I lived there.
KP: You mentioned that it was very quiet on campus. What about the expectations? Did you think in September you'd be able to finish out the year, or did it become more uncertain for you?
WB: Well, at the start, I wasn't thinking too much about it because getting started and all that. After the fall semester, I started thinking about it because I had to go into the draft board where I lived in Jersey City, and we could tell where things were, and my folks could tell. I knew it was coming up, but I wanted to try to finish my first year. And then when we got the notice, when I got the notice, I went to the draft board and they said, "No dice. " That was it. I went in.
KP: You only finished one semester?
WB: Actually, about one and three quarters 'cause I went in April 26th. I got credit for most of my courses. The only thing I didn't get credit for was chemistry and engineering drawing, those two. So I had to take those ¼
KP: When you came back.
WB: ¼ when I came back. So, I didn't lose everything. But I just took off and left.
KP: You were in ROTC at the time, everyone had to be in.
WB: That's right.
KP: What did you think of your ROTC instruction?
WB: I thought it was pretty good. I didn't object to it. It's just that it took up some more time that I didn't really have, you know, my freshmen year. I didn't mind it, really. A lot of people didn't like it, really, because of regimentation. I think it helped me in the navy.
KP: But you didn't go into the army, you ended up going into the navy?
WB: Well, the thing of it is, I had a choice. It was amazing. I was what they call a selective volunteer. At the time I went through, I could have picked the army, the air force, the navy, or marines. I had four choices.
KP: Even though you had been drafted.
WB: That's why the selective volunteer. I was lucky.
KP: Had you wanted the navy?
WB: Yeah. (laughter) It was just as though I enlisted.
KP: Why the navy as opposed to, say, the army?
WB: Oh, I always liked the navy. I liked ships. It's a lot cleaner, really. Of course, if you got torpedoed you really weren't in good shape.
KP: Why not the air force?
WB: It just didn't appeal to me. None of them, really, except the navy.
KP: The army, the ROTC ¼
WB: No. Now they have the Naval ROTC. I would have gone into that, really. It was just a matter of choice, really.
RF: Also while you were here the army had their ASTP program.
WB: They just started it, yes.
RF: Did you have any interaction with them?
WB: They weren't here when I left.
WB: It was just after I left that they came in. Because the fellows who were in my class, who didn't go, interacted with them and they were in their classes as they went through their years. I knew a couple of fellows that didn't go in the army or air force. They stayed here and finished out. When I came back in 1946, they were seniors. They, for some reason, didn't go in. But they were with the soldiers, and whoever was there.
KP: One of the distinctive memories of people who went to Rutgers before the war, or before 1945, was Chapel. Do you have any recollections of Chapel?
WB: Chapel, no, I don't, really. I know we had to go, once a week I think it was.
KP: Did you go regularly?
WB: Oh, yeah. I always follow the rules. (laughter) That's one of my faults. They told me I had to go, I went. (laughter) But, no, I liked the Chapel. The Chapel was great. As a matter-of-fact, my daughter got married there, in later years.
KP: Did you ever have any experiences with Dean Metzger?
WB: Just when I left, I told him I was leaving, and he tried to talk me out of it. He said, "Wait, wait, wait. " I said, "It's not going to do you any good. (laughter) I liked him, he was a good guy.
KP: You really didn't have much choice.
WB: I didn't have any choice. I told him I left just a little early. (laughter)
RF: How did Rutgers compare to your image of what college life was going to be like?
WB: It was just the way I thought it would be. You go to class, a certain schedule you keep, friends you make, you form study habits, or try to, anyway. It's just what I thought it would be. It's just that when you don't have a heck of a lot of money, that's what makes it a little bit more difficult.
KP: Did you work at all during school?
WB: No, I didn't. I didn't. I was too busy trying to make the grade really. I would've, if my mother didn't work, I would have worked.
KP: Your mother working was really crucial to your [schooling].
WB: It was, really. That's correct.
KP: Did you miss out, would you have liked to have joined a fraternity when you first came?
WB: No, I never did.
WB: I never did. See, that's it, I'm not a joiner, really.
KP: What about social activities? Did you date any women from New Jersey College of Women?
WB: No, I didn't at that time. As a matter-of-fact my, the girl I married came from there. But that was later on.
KP: It sounds like you spent most of your time studying.
WB: That's right. I really did. The switch from high school to college was a little bit trying, I thought.
KP: Were you tempted at all to join the track team or any other teams when you got here?
WB: I was tempted, but I knew I couldn't. As I say, I spent most of my time doing what I was supposed to do.
KP: You were a selective volunteer. Where did you initially report to in the Navy? You reported initially at Newark, but where did they send you and how did you get there?
WB: Oh, I reported to, they transported me to the Naval Training Station in Newport, Rhode Island. And that's where I started all of my shenanigans. (laughter) That was the most miserable day of my life, I tell you.
KP: Really, what was so miserable?
WB: They take away all of your dignity. (laughter) You're transformed into a thing, a number, that's it. They give you clothes, and send your old clothes back. There you go. (laughter) You don't know where you are, you just go along with the mob. It really is, it's a degrading experience. Once you're used to it, it's all right.
KP: But it was a real shock for you.
WB: It's a real shocker.
KP: Even thought you'd been in ROTC?
WB: Oh, well, that's nothing. (laughter) You're completely on your own.
RF: How quickly did it take you to get acclimated to navy life?
WB: Oh, once you got into boot camp, it's okay. But the first week is awful.
KP: What, if any, specific memories do you have about going through it?
WB: You go up on the train, you don't know anybody to start with. You get out and they hustle you through the place. You had to get a physical, they check the results. You go through all that. Send your clothes home. They give you a bag to send them. Then they give you your clothes that you're supposed to wear.
KP: Did they fit?
WB: Oh, yeah. They made sure they fit. If they didn't, you know, they'd [get you new ones]. But then they throw you into a big dormitory and I don't know whether they had cots or hammocks or what, but anyway, you sleep. The next morning you get up, and you go through a lot of rigmarole to test you. You had to go through academic tests, and hearing, and all this stuff. And it took, actually, it took about a week to get all this business out of the way. Once you got routed into a particular outfit in boot camp, then you were set. You went through the regular routine.
KP: The first week, you didn't know what was going to happen to you.
WB: Oh, I didn't. They ask you what you like to do, and you make a list. Very seldom did you get what you wanted. That's the way they worked. You just had to sit tight until they figured out what to do [with you]. (laughter) But it really is a demoralizing experience. But after you get organized it's all right.
RF: And after basic, you went into fire control training.
WB: Yeah, that's where I ended up.
RF: Was this something you picked? Or you just got stuck in there?
WB: Yeah, I'm pretty sure it was one of the ones I picked. My number one pick was weather man, what do they call it?
WB: Meteorologist, yeah. That was my number one pick. I think fire control was number two. I think my tests were pretty good, and that helped me, I think, because they were both technical courses. I was happy I got that.
RF: Is that what drew you to that, the technical aspect of it?
WB: Oh, yeah. I knew what it was, and I figured I'd like it.
KP: How long were you in boot camp?
WB: Boot camp, gee, I think it lasted about twelve weeks.
KP: And you said it got better for you, being in boot camp. But who was your instructor?
WB: They had one fellow who follows you all the way through, and he's in charge of all your activities. I had pretty good instructors. It's mostly physical education, you know, exercising. They gave us some academics, show you movies, and all this stuff.
KP: What did you learn from boot camp that proved useful?
WB: I really didn't learn anything, really. The basics of, maybe, life, and life aboard a ship. That's about what we [learned]. Plus the fact that you got conditioning, that was the purpose of it, really. The rest you learn anyway.
KP: How did you adapt to Navy conditioning? What were the hard things?
WB: I adapted to it, all right. It didn't bother me, the shots and all that stuff, once that wore off, it was all no problem after that. But I didn't like shooting a gun. You had to go to the target range, and I could never shoot straight. I'd never made it in the army, anyway, if I went in. I never shot a firearm before. They give you a firearm and tell you to shoot it. They tell you how to hold it, but they don't tell you how to aim it or anything.
KP: The navy is a very hierarchical place.
WB: Oh, yeah.
KP: Did you sense that in boot camp?
WB: Oh, definitely. No question about it. I guess, it's that way all over, that's part of the system.
KP: Did you make any friends at boot camp?
WB: Yes. You have people you hang around with, commiserate with. It's just, you compare notes, see how you're doing, and all this stuff. Once you're over that, you get into the regular routine.
KP: Did you have any regrets you joined the navy?
WB: Oh, no. I was happy with that, no problem. It was a good experience.
KP: Did you get any weekend passes while you were in boot camp? Did you get out to Newport?
WB: No, not while we were in boot camp.
WB: After you get out, you go to school. Even then, well, you didn't get weekend passes. Not as I recall.
KP: How was the food at boot camp?
WB: Oh, great. I liked the food. I didn't have any complaints about the food. You never go away hungry, that was the thing. I appreciated that.
KP: Your instructors, how many of them had seen action, naval action?
WB: Well, in ¼
KP: In boot camp.
WB: ¼ well, not in boot camp.
KP: And he had seen, was he a navy regular?
WB: I really don't recall, his name, of course. I don't know whether he was. Of course, they had some civilians, but it was when I was going to school, I had instructors who were battle hard. Really, I don't know how they came out of it, really.
KP: You went into fire control 'cause it's very technical.
KP: What else led you to this area?
WB: You mean to fire control?
WB: Well, it's actually the heart of the fighting unit. What it does is control the equipment that controls the guns. You learn how it works. Today's navy is quite a bit different because of advances in electronics, and so forth. We had computers and electromechanical computers which were a maze of gears and everything. But today, it's all electronics, the difference is night and day. But the thing worked, so you had to learn how that input to that device ended up aiming the guns. You had to maintain them and make sure that they were working properly. And during a battle you had to compute the projectories, and so forth. Sometimes you fire star shells to illuminate the enemy, and then you bombard them with regular shells. Things like that.
RF: Was the fire control school at Rhode Island, also?
WB: Yes, it was right there. I don't know whether the fire control school is still there or not. But anyway, it was right there and I, my whole boot camp and fire control school were in [Rhode Island].
KP: You mentioned that you had a lot of hardened veterans. What did they relate to you about?
WB: Well, they didn't talk about it, really. But I knew from other instructors what they had gone through, and a couple of them were on the aircraft carriers that were in Leyte Gulf that sunk. And they had the scars to prove it. It was amazing how they even were alive. My commander, who was one of my instructors, was burned, and another first class was burned when his [ship went down]. So they really knew what they were talking about. Actually, the navy was giving them a break. Actually, they should have been out, but, they were regular navy. But they went through all kinds of hell.
KP: But they never told you?
KP: They never talked about it?
WB: We never really approached them on it. I found out later what they had been through.
KP: Did they, in terms of the actual learning to do fire control, use anything that they knew of what battle would be like? Mistakes that had been made?
WB: No. No, not really. They just told you what to do. It was all, most of it was, ABC's of what goes on inside computers and stuff like that. The rest you had to get from actual experience or any advanced work.
KP: How much hands on training would you get?
WB: Well not a heck of a lot. It was mostly academic. It was in advanced school where you got the hands on, or on a ship.
KP: So you really only had the rudiments from part ¼
WB: That's all it is. It was a basic, that was for about sixteen weeks. And that's all we got.
KP: The people you were in boot camp, and also at fire control school, what were their education levels?
WB: All over the place. You know, cross section of the population. Most of them were high school graduates. We had to be eighteen. So if they weren't high school graduates they were pretty close to it.
KP: Did you have any preference for the type of ship you'd like to go on?
WB: Well, I always wanted to go on a destroyer.
WB: Oh, yeah.
KP: Why the destroyer?
WB: Small, there were not too many people. You could see the whole system. On a big ship it's mind boggling, the number of systems involved.
KP: In terms of systems, in terms of fire control?
WB: Fire control, yeah.
RF: You also had some advanced training in Washington, D. C. ?
WB: Yeah, well, that's where I went after I was through teaching. I went down there and they put me in the advanced class.
RF: What was that experience like?
WB: Well, that was pretty formal. There were people from the fleet. Most of the school was made up of people who came in from the fleet. When you're out, you can apply to get the advanced training. They love to do that because it gave them a break. They were out, for God knows how long, out on the ocean. They apply for it and then they come back for a refresher course. So, I was doing just he opposite. I wasn't coming in, I was just heading in that direction. I guess, they figured since I was an instructor, they'd send me down there for more advanced courses. It was pretty formal. You just went to class and you're pretty much on your own, really. It wasn't strict at all. Once you go through class, you could do what you want.
WB: Oh, it was really loose.
RF: Compared to boot camp.
KP: Where did you live?
WB: Right on Anacostia, Maryland.
KP: At the Washington Navy Yard?
WB: Yeah, right there.
KP: But you could....
WB: I could go in town.
RF: Run into the Capitol?
WB: Yeah, oh, yeah. There weren't many restrictions. You had duty, once a month or so you had to stand watch or something. That was nothing.
KP: But that was pretty minimal.
WB: Oh, yeah.
KP: You didn't have to do things like KP?
WB: Oh, no, not there.
KP: What did you think of Washington in war?
WB: Really, I missed it. I should have paid more attention but I didn't. I wasn't thinking along those lines.
KP: Where did you go? You had more freedom there.
WB: Well, I went to movies and stuff like that, just to get away from the base. But I really didn't take in the sights that I should have. You know, the Capitol and all that stuff.
KP: So you didn't play tourist while you were there.
WB: No, no, I didn't.
KP: Did you go into any of the nightclubs?
WB: No, no. It was pretty run of the mill stuff, just to get out of the base. You know, get away from everything for a few hours.
KP: You mentioned in Advanced Fire Control School you had a number of people from the fleet. Did you get to know any of them?
WB: Oh, yes. I met a few. I have formed a friendship with a few, but it's so fleeting, your time there. You get separated, and then you're gone again.
KP: Did you talk to anyone about their experiences in actual combat?
WB: No, no, I didn't.
KP: Comparing your basic fire control school, how good was the advanced training?
WB: Really, it was over my head. It was really, really advanced. And it would have helped me a lot if I had had fleet experience because they were dealing with things that I hadn't been exposed to before. And these fellows had it by experience, and I had never had it by experience. So it was kind of tough. But I got through it. But a lot of it went over my head.
KP: After the Advanced Fire Control School, you then continued to head south. You went to Norfolk.
WB: Well, that was just an interim before they shipped me off to the West Coast.
KP: So did you have additional training there?
WB: No. It was just a stop off point. Just so they could get the people together who were going different places.
KP: You were assigned to the USS Wiley. And where did you meet the ship? Was it in Norfolk?
WB: The ship was being constructed out in Bremerton, Washington.
KP: What month and year did you report to Norfolk?
WB: Let's see now. We were commissioned on ¼
KP: On February 22, 1945.
WB: ¼ 1945 ¼
KP: How long did you have to wait for the ship?
WB: Well, it was a least four months, or so.
KP: So roughly October, November of 1944.
WB: We went out then.
KP: You left Norfolk for Washington?
WB: I joined three other guys who were going to go to the ship in Norfolk, and we all went out together.
KP: How did you get there?
WB: A train. At that time planes weren't too abundant, at least for commercial purposes.
RF: And how did you get assigned to that ship?
WB: They did it from advanced school, that's where they get all the requests from different people. Then they take the people with different rankings and they make up the complement from the graduating class from advanced school. And that's how it came about.
KP: What did you think about you first transcontinental trip?
WB: Oh, it was awful. It really was. We had to sit up with these straight back seats, did you ever see these straight back seats? Three days, well, four days, actually, one day to Chicago and three days across. It was horrible. (laughter)
KP: You went on a troop train?
WB: No, it wasn't. Not that way, we went, we had tickets. But forget it. I'd never do that again. It was awful. You had a broken back, you're dirty, you wish it was over with. (laughter)
KP: Did you travel with civilians, too?
WB: Oh, you had a ticket just like anybody else. Coming at the end of the war, coming back, it was the troop trains. That was the same kind of a deal. But you knew it was over then.
KP: When you got out to Washington, was this in November, December of 1944?
WB: Yeah, right. It was, let me think. We had a good deal there, our ship was almost completed. We had to get organized. We met our officers and so forth. And they gave us the instructions of what was going to go on. We had to get spare parts. Everything was scattered all over the place, so we had to dig in and find out what's what. It took us quite a while. And when we got everything together we had to, as the ship was being completed, we had to find places to put all these spare parts in the ship. Because when you're at sea, everything has to be lashed down because it can't be shaking back and forth. That was a big project that we had to do. But there wasn't then any other formal training. It was done now.
KP: You were just waiting for your ship.
WB: That's it. Once you were commissioned and you go out on shake down, then you find out whether the stuff works properly or not. You had civilians on board who designed the stuff and installed it. They check it out. Then they turn it over to the Navy. Then it's ours.
RF: While you were in Bremerton, did you have a lot of liberty, shore leave?
WB: Well, a couple times a week, I guess you get it, or weekends. We used to go to Seattle, there was a ferry that ran between. Bremerton was just a small navy yard. Most of us went over to Seattle for any recreation.
RF: What did you do usually?
WB: Again, go to movies, walk around. There's a lot to see out there. Seattle's a nice, nice city. Except it rains all the time.
KP: Anything that sticks out about Seattle in your time waiting?
WB: No, not really. There's not too much, not too much. It was a busy town.
RF: Despite the fact that your ship wasn't built yet, you still had a lot of duty to perform.
WB: Yes, oh, yes. Right. It kept us busy.
KP: What type of task did they assign to you?
WB: Well, as I said, spare parts. Making sure that everything that we needed, that wasn't attached to the ship, was there when we wanted it. Where it was, was part of the job because they dumped everything in a warehouse, and you had to go digging through everything. And there was everything else there, everybody else's spare parts. So you too more or less segregate everything. That was the biggest problem. But we got over it.
KP: Before you were even on the ship you were getting to know your fellow crewmates and officers. What was, I guess, maybe starting with your fellow crewmates, what were they like? Where were they from?
WB: Oh, they were from all over the country. We had them from eighteen-year-olds to thirty-eight-year-olds. And fellows who were drafted, they were drafting them at thirty-eight. They were from California, Iowa, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and Alabama.
KP: It was a brand new crew?
WB: Well, no, I won't say that. There were some in our crew who were battle hard.
KP: How many?
WB: Well, there was three in our group, who had been in battle.
KP: The chief and two others.
WB: Two others, a first class and a second class.
KP: Were they regular navy?
WB: Regular navy, yeah. You know, they ran the action. We just sort of followed. All the rest of the fellows had been drafted, so it was an interesting group, really.
KP: What about the officers, I guess starting with the petty officers. A lot of people said they really ran the navy.
WB: Well, it's all according to the conditions you ran in to, really. You have to have good officers. They have to know what they're doing, or else you're in trouble. But as far as I looked at it, it was sort of a mutual thing. We always had good officers. Our gunnery officer was a great guy, level-headed. He was the second in command. He was the executive officer. And then we had our own fire control officer. We had a chief, one first class, and two second class. I was one of the second class, but I hadn't been to sea. And then about three third class, and the rest were seamen or non-rated.
KP: So you'd done quite well in terms of your training to get promoted to second class.
WB: Oh, yeah. Well, that was the thing. I took the class and I passed it, that was all right with me. Because of the fact that I had taught, helped me out as far as the second class rating. I took the test, and after I finished that, and then fire control school, and advanced school. But I still had to get sea training.
RF: The officers, were they mostly Annapolis grads or reserves?
B: Very, very few. I think one of them was an Annapolis grad.
KP: Which officer? Do you remember?
WB: The exec.
KP: The exec, but not the captain.
WB: I don't know. I don't think he was.
KP: So the only one you're really sure of is the exec?
WB: That's right. He was a good guy. He helped us out a lot.
KP: Were all the officers regular navy or were some naval reserve?
WB: Oh, most of them were naval reserve, really. See, they, when peace came, they just left. But the regular navy guys went to another assignment.
RF: What were the feelings amongst your group? Most of the navy was out in the Pacific fighting, and you guys were still waiting for your ship to get launched. Is there any kinds of feelings toward urgency to get the heck out there?
WB: I don't think so, really. We were just wanted to get the ship going. We knew that a lot was happening out there, and I don't think it bothered anybody.
KP: Were there any fiascoes in the precommisioning and then in the post commissioning? Any problems that the ship had that needed to be corrected?
WB: No, not really. It was a pretty good shake down. They call it a shake down after you're commissioned. You got everything all in line. You go out to sea for a few days and you put it through all the paces. You make sure nothing falls apart. Everything works. It wasn't eventful at all. It was just a regular routine shake down. You see you have to fire the guns, and you have to fire the depth charges and so forth. When they go off, you rattle everything. And if anything is going to come loose, it will. Most things were good.
KP: When I went to the naval seaport where Intrepid is, the aircraft carrier Intrepid, there's also a destroyer there, and a cruiser, I believe, what struck me was how cramped many of these ships were, even an aircraft carrier.
WB: Oh, yeah.
KP: Except for the hangers the rest of the ship is really small.
KP: And I was struck how in a destroyer the cabins where the crew slept must have been a room not much bigger than this.
WB: Oh, yeah.
KP: It had thirty people sleeping in it.
WB: Yeah, well, it's one above the other.
KP: How did you adapt to it?
WB: It never really bothered me. If you want to go to sleep, you go to sleep. You have very little storage space, and you made good with what you had because that was it. You can't find anything else. (laughter)
KP: Did you have your own bunk?
WB: Oh, yeah, sure. I think it was four high, and there was storage underneath and stuff.
KP: And what level of bunk did you sleep at?
WB: Oh, I was down, I was the first one. I had rating. (laughter) The lower the rating, the higher you go. (laughter) Just like anything else.
KP: What about the food on board?
WB: Well, the food was great. Navy food always agreed with me.
KP: So you did find that you were eating fairly well.
WB: Oh, sure, sure.
KP: What about such mundane things as showers?
WB: Well, you had to walk the whole length of the ship from where we were. We were up forward, and we had to walk all the way to the stern to get a shower. I don't know whether it was salt water. Lots of time you had to shower in salt water. It was rough outside, you had to hang on or else. It was very easy to go over the side on those things. There was a handrail.
KP: Did you ever witness any crew members go over the side?
WB: No, we had never did. We never did.
KP: But that was always a concern.
WB: Oh, yes, especially on rough seas, very rough, at night, too. Sometimes you had a watch in after steering, at the back end of the ship. At night you have to find your way back there. If it's a rough sea, you really had to watch yourself. But you learned. You learned to hang on.
KP: What about the officers? You mentioned that the executive officer was a West Pointer, excuse me, an Annapolis graduate, what was your relationship to the officers? Did you have any, in fact? What did you think of them?
WB: The only relationship we had was with our immediate supervisor, the fire control officer. The rest of them we never saw.
KP: How involved was the fire control officer in the actual operation?
WB: Oh, he was really involved.
KP: He didn't just delegate it to the petty officers?
WB: Well he delegated, but he worked with them. He knew his stuff, and he worked with the chief. You see, the chief was the next level. And he had more to say with the chief then to anybody else. Of course he would talk to you, but they talked more together. And they planned out what they wanted to do. If they ever wanted to make changes, or anything like that.
---------------------------------------END OF TAPE ONE-------------------------------------------
KP: This continues an interview with Mr. Warren J. Bowers on April 17, 1995, at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey with Kurt Piehler and ¼
RF: Richard Fuhler.
KP: ¼ and what was the captain like? Any memories of him?
WB: He was eccentric.
KP: When you say eccentric, how eccentric could he be?
WB: Well, to give you an example, he painted a question mark on the side of the ship, up above. Nobody knew what it was for.
KP: Which is not navy.
WB: Not navy. No, it isn't, really.
KP: When did he do the question mark?
WB: Pardon me?
KP: Shortly after the ship was commissioned?
KP: ¼ and he never explained?
WB: He never explained to us, anyway. So we never did find it out. I have pictures that shows it.
KP: What about discipline? How stringent a disciplinarian was he?
WB: He was all right. If anybody got in trouble, he wasn't that mean.
KP: What about incidents aboard ship? What always struck me was that you had a lot of people living in a very confined space, and it's not like you can go anywhere.
WB: That's right.
KP: Were there any incidents? Fights?
WB: Not really. Most of the people got in trouble on the shore. The shore patrol would bring them in. Then they have a court marshal and all that. But aboard ship, very few problems.
KP: I guess, since you bring it up, where were you able to get some shore liberty? Which ports do you remember?
WB: Well, really, it was along the West Coast, when we were there and Hawaii, when we were there. But out in the Pacific we got out in China, Tsingtao, Tientsin, Shanghai, and in Korea, Jinsen. We got to the Great Wall, we could see it, went in close but we couldn't get off. Then there were beer parties. We used to carry beer, we never served it on the ship, but they sent it ashore, we'd go in to an island or something and have beer.
KP: How many beer parties did your ship have?
WB: Not very many, really. Beer wasn't very good, really. It was warm, too. (laughter) But, you know, get off the ship, that was the main thing.
KP: What kind of trouble would people get in on shore leave?
WB: Fighting, most of the time. You know, they didn't know what their limitations were. Lots of people get into fights when they drank. Some of them extended their leave, and then they were in trouble.
KP: What did you do on shore, on the various shore leaves, and any memories?
WB: Just went sight-seeing, like in Shanghai, that was very interesting. We weren't there very long. But the Chinese places, I enjoyed those. Korea wasn't very good.
KP: And this was after the war was over?
WB: No, the war was still going on.
KP: When you were in China?
KP: What were your missions, though. You mentioned that you were never in any big battle, but you had a variety of different missions.
WB: Well, mostly looking for mines. A lot mines floating around the place and they to detonate them, which they did.
WB: Rifle fire mostly.
KP: You mentioned that your tour took you to the Philippines and to Okinawa. When did you go?
WB: See, that was after they were liberated.
KP: Oh, so initially, you were in the Yellow Sea going after mines.
WB: Right, right. That was after we had Philippines and Okinawa. We did some convoy work, that was most of [our work]. We did a lot of convoy work.
KP: Convoy work from which point?
WB: Well, all along the area that they previously had cleaned out all the Japs. From the Philippines, up to China, and around, we did a lot of convoy work.
KP: Did your ship see any hostile action?
KP: You never witnessed any kamikazes?
WB: Never, never.
KP: Did you have any black sailors on board. Any stewards, mates?
WB: Yes, they were stewards. They served the officers.
KP: Did you have any contact with them?
WB: Very seldom you even saw them because they were near the officers quarters all the time. It really impressed on me that something was wrong here. And I didn't realize that there was so much segregation in the services, but it was there, definitely. You read about it now, but I didn't realize it then.
KP: It sounds like your world was pretty limited to duties at fire control.
WB: Oh, definitely. No question about it. But, to return to the stewards, when you were served, at night or any time, you used to have to go down a ladder and the stewards would be right there. There was a certain area where they slept. And if you didn't know they were there, you wouldn't know it. If you didn't go down that passageway, you wouldn't realize it. There they were. They served the officers quarters, and you would never see them.
KP: What were their duties? Stewards often had a combat role.
WB: Well, everybody had a station, at general quarters. It could be anything, really. Loading shells, or passing shells to the front, anything. Operating a gun, anything. It was up to whoever made the plans as to what they did.
KP: Did you have any regrets, once you were on the destroyer, that you went into fire control?
WB: Oh, no, that was a good match. As I say, there wasn't anything that I was sorry for, really.
KP: And did you get to use your training?
WB: Oh, yeah.
KP: How good did you get at your job?
WB: I got very good at it. When you're out at sea you're just sailing. You leave Hawaii, and you are thirty days on the open sea. So you had time to look at things. You don't really do anything except, when you're at sea you have a special sea detail and you you're on watch. You go round and round twenty-four hours. Its very monotonous, but it's a time to study.
KP: How bad was being on watch?
WB: Very boring, but you had to do it.
KP: Did you ever have a hard time staying up?
WB: Oh, yeah. You had to just discipline yourself or else suffer the consequences. You just didn't fall asleep.
RF: Was there any gambling on board?
WB: Oh, boy, all the time. After supper, lots of guys make plenty of money. Poker games.
RF: And how did the officers feel?
WB: They never even were bothered by it. That was part of their recreation. They were probably doing the same thing in the wardroom. (laughter) But it was rampant, really. That's the way it is. Every night there was a poker game going.
RF: Several interviews have also mentioned the fact that typhoons were a very terrifying experience. Did you run into any of those?
WB: We caught fringes of them and it really is. The bow of the ship would be out of the water, and then it would come down with a thud. This went on for hours and hours, you just couldn't stand up. It was really awful. But, thank God, the ship stayed together. I wouldn't know what it would be like to be in the center of one.
KP: What else do you do aboard ship to pass the time?
WB: Really you don't do very much.
KP: How good was mail call?
WB: Well, it was good if you got to a place where they had the mail. That was the thing. You very seldom [got it]. The mail was always following you, and when you did get it, you'd get a whole bunch at once.
KP: What about movies?
WB: Ships would trade movies all the time.
RF: You mentioned for a while you were also in Hawaii and the Philippines. Can you tell us something about what that was like? You were at Pearl Harbor?
WB: We didn't go into Pearl Harbor. I don't know where exactly we were, but it wasn't Pearl Harbor. I didn't see any of the after effects. We must have been at one of the other islands because, I guess, the port at Pearl Harbor was pretty much messed up. But by that time it should have been pretty well cleared as it is today. But, I can't remember how long we were there. It doesn't stick in my head.
RF: But did you have the opportunity to go there and see what the damage was like?
WB: No, no. I didn't. And also, in those days, I wasn't one for just sight seeing. It wasn't one of my things. It still isn't, but I'll go. I really don't know where we docked. We docked along side other ships, with destroyers. They put them side by side when they dock. You'd have to walk through them all, to get to where you were going.
RF: Did you have any contact with the natives in the Philippines?
KP: But you did mention that you found Shanghai very fascinating.
WB: I did. Yeah, I did.
KP: Was that the most interesting place you visited?
WB: Yes, it really is over there.
KP: What made it so interesting?
WB: It was such a big city. Everything is going on. Little tiny streets. There was a lot to see. Tientsin, that was China. The natives didn't bother you too much, and they sold all kinds of things. They try to sell you everything. You know, this kind of stuff. Nothing really exciting happened in those places.
RF: Where were you when you heard about the atomic bombs being dropped?
WB: That was in August 1945. We were in the Yellow Sea.
RF: When Japan surrendered, the same thing, you don't remember where you where?
KP: When you learned that the war was over, had you thought of staying in the navy?
WB: Oh, no. See, we worked on points, the one with the longest service got the most points, and he got out sooner.
KP: Did you know that you wanted to come back to Rutgers?
WB: Well, yeah, I wanted to try, anyway. I didn't know what the situation would be, really. I had no idea what the conditions would be.
KP: How helpful or how important was the GI Bill?
WB: Oh, it was great. It didn't cost me a cent. It gave me sixty-five dollars, a month. I lived on that.
KP: Had you thought of going elsewhere?
WB: Well, after I got out, I went up to Columbia. I don't know why. I think I was angry that they didn't give me my full credit for my first year. But I found out things were worse up there so I came back. (laughter) No, the guy told me, "You don't have any problem. " I said "Do I have any problem getting in?" "No, you won't. " They took me right back. I went to the summer school and made up. So that was that.
KP: How had Rutgers changed since you had gone away? You remembered a very quiet and very deserted campus.
WB: Well, it was just a mass of humanity. It was well underway by the time I got back. The summer I was here, there was, of course, nobody here yet. In the Fall, it was a real hustle and bustle type of thing. It was good, I enjoyed it.
KP: What about the classes?
WB: They were full.
KP: Had you noticed the change in size?
WB: No I didn't, really. They probably had more classes. More of them than we had originally. But they were full. I mean each class had the full compliment.
KP: How large were the classes?
WB: I would say at least twenty-five to thirty. Most classrooms in the College of Engineering aren't very large. And that was typical, really.
KP: Had your navy training helped you at all, in studying for engineering?
WB: Well, it just, in terms of discipline, learning to study and things like that. As far as technical knowledge, it didn't help me. I learned what I had to learn. It was good training, I never hesitated to feel good about the whole thing.
KP: You had mentioned that you had a favorite professor. Professor Malmberg of mechanical engineering. You had him after the war?
WB: Oh, yeah.
KP: What was he like?
WB: Oh, he was very a fine professor. When he taught you something, he made sure that you understood everything. And not too many professors, at that time, did that. You know they'd throw it at you and that's it. But he took a definite interest in us, and bent over backwards that we understood what the problem was. Heat Power was a little bit complicated at times, he helped me tremendously. We had good sessions with him.
KP: Some engineers I've interviewed said they found it very tough in the engineering curriculum their sophomore and junior years.
WB: Yes. Those are the two critical years.
KP: Did you experience a similar problem?
WB: Oh, yes, definitely. Senior year you're either there or you aren't. But especially the junior year, where you had all the labs, you might have five labs plus four credit courses and it keeps you hopping. But that was for me, it was a critical year, but actually it was my best year.
KP: You met your wife after you got back from the war. Had you known her before?
WB: Yes, well, during the war.
KP: How did you first meet?
WB: Well, actually, her mother and my mother were friends.
KP: So you knew her from Jersey City.
KP: For a number of years?
WB: Oh, they went back years and years, when we were children, five years old.
KP: So you knew your wife over a number of years.
WB: Oh, yeah. We knew each other.
KP: Did she write to you when you were over seas?
WB: Yes. I visited her when I was in advanced school down in Washington. And then we wrote to each other when I was away.
KP: Had you thought of marrying before, during the war?
WB: I never even thought about it, really.
RF: And she had gone to the New Jersey College for Women here.
RF: What period of time was that?
WB: She was in the Class of 1948.
KP: She later went to Kean College and finished up.
WB: Yeah, she finished up. But, originally, she was in journalism and she might have gone in a different direction if she had finished from Douglass. She had a scholarship. She gave her scholarship up, too. She got a state scholarship before she went to college.
RF: After you got married, you got married in 1948, you were still going to school, then you lived on the Hillside Campus.
RF: What was that like?
WB: That was really an experience. We had those one room trailers. You never saw them, they tore them down.
KP: But I've heard a lot about them, and I ¼
WB: It was great. It was the best thing that ever happened to me, really. It really helped out as far as housing goes.
KP: But they also were not the most comfortable or ¼
WB: No, no, well, there's a little double bed on one end and then you had a table and a day bed on the other end, so that was it. Pretty close quarters.
KP: And they had ice chests, but they didn't have running water.
WB: That's right. You had to go get your water. You have ice somewhere. Then you had to go across the street to go to the bathroom and all that kinds of stuff. It was very interesting. That was good for a year.
RF: I read that they sort of made it into its own little town and it had a mayor or something.
WB: Oh, yeah, everything. You know, they had a postman. One of the guys in the class was postmaster. Yeah, it a good deal. Most them were veterans. (laughter)
KP: When you came back veterans pretty much dominated the campus.
WB: Oh, yeah, sure.
KP: What was the relationship between people who were not veterans, were sort of traditional eighteen and nineteen year old students and veterans?
WB: As a matter-of-fact I didn't know any younger fellows. Most of the guys in my class were veterans. Of course, they were sophomores, but I really didn't know any young fellows.
KP: Did you ever talk about the war after you got back, with the other veterans? Did you ever share stories?
WB: No, not really. It was over, it was done. We wanted to deal with what was now. If something came up, we'd talk about it.
KP: What about Dean Crosby? Did you have any experiences with him?
WB: I knew of him, but I never really had any experiences with him. I guess it was quite an abrupt change for people who were running things at that time, when they first got that influx of veterans.
KP: Did you sense that the college was really overwhelmed?
WB: No, I didn't sense it, but, you had to appreciate the fact that these guys are administrators and they have to deal with a lot of people coming in, where they did not have that before. You know, you take an environment the way it was in 1942 and go back to 1945, 1946, that's quite a difference. Feeding them, housing them, everything. The office of housing was a real mess. You know, you had to find places for people to stay. It was really quite a competitive thing to find a place to sleep.
KP: Where did you stay when you came back, before you got married?
WB: In Highland Park.
KP: You rented a room?
WB: I rented a room, yeah. On Sixth Avenue. Then when I got married we moved to [Hillside]. A friend if mine had one of those trailers, so fortunately we worked it out so I took it over. I don't think I qualified, but we got it anyway. That was that.
RF: At this point your parents were living up in Newburgh.
RF: I'm sure you were there for periods of time. Did you have any interaction with the cadets from West Point up there?
WB: No, really. Newburgh is a little bit away from West Point. I don't know how many miles. Actually they never came into town, as far as I knew, anyway. There wasn't any interaction.
RF: I know there I because I have friends who live up in that area, but I guess it was different back then.
WB: Yeah, it must have been, really.
KP: Any other thoughts about life at Rutgers for returning veterans?
WB: Well, see, I spent most of my time off campus. I didn't take part in anything.
KP: Did you go to football game at all?
WB: Oh, yeah, when I was up in the ¼
WB: ¼ Hillside Campus. It was right next door. I used to go over and see football games, that was about it.
KP: Did you ever, did you and your wife ever go to any of the proms?
WB: No, we were trying to make ends meet. There wasn't much loose change around. (laughter) We were right back similar to the Depression. We had money, but.
KP: Even sixty-five only went so far.
WB: Well, I got more when I got married, I think it went to one hundred and twenty. (laughter) Then she worked to help things out a little bit.
KP: Do you think your wife left school to make ends meet?
WB: She figured she could save, but that was a big mistake. You never save, not in those days, anyway. I don't whether you'd save anything now, if you did the same thing. You spend the money just living. She was half way through. It was a very major mistake, I thought, to do that. Her friends graduated, and they got to be teachers and so forth. But that's the way it went.
RF: After your graduation, you started working for the Wood Newspaper Machinery Corp.
RF: How did you get that job?
WB: I got it through personnel. Actually, I had a job lined up. My uncle had me lined up with Westinghouse Elevator, and something went wrong. He got very sick, that finished that. So here I was left high and dry without a job in 1949. The job market was awful. And so I just came back here and I talked to the director, and he said he just received this application, so I went over there and I got the job.
RF: What were your initial responsibilities with them?
WB: Development of the electrical systems for all the machinery that they manufactured. Supervisory duties added when more people where hired and so forth. And that's what I stayed in all my working years.
KP: Do you consider yourself fortunate to be able to stay with Man Roland USA for the bulk of your career?
WB: Yes, I did. You see, I liked what I was doing, and that was the main thing.
KP: In interviewing some engineers, some said that they had a hard time taking their theoretical materials and applying it to the work.
WB: Well that's a big problem.
KP: Oh, yeah, sure, sure. You know it's good to have a basic understanding of something. Sometimes when you go to apply it, it's still there but you go about it in a different way or try different methods, but your basic understanding is still there. It's just how you apply it that's the trick, really. If you're successful at it, great, if you're not, then, oh well, try again. Did you ever sense, would newspaper machine corporations and US metals get that sort of, did you learn a lot of the job that way.
WB: Oh, yeah. Oh, sure. You had to apply yourself. You just don't, what you learn out of the textbooks is good but the practical application is entirely different, it's different, and it's the way you apply what you have learned.
RF: Do think your navy experience helped you at all during your career or job activities? Whether like in discipline or in training?
WB: It was discipline, mostly, plus handling people. I'm more or less a loner, really. I wouldn't be very good in today's market because everything is team oriented. For most of my career, I was more or less by myself. And, of course, maybe an assistant or something like that. And that's the way it was throughout the whole thing. So I really didn't have to learn a lot about people interacting with a lot of people. It wasn't one of my strong suits, anyway, Maybe that's why I veered away from it. But it worked out and I was able to handle whatever I had to do.
KP: What was your favorite type of work? What was your favorite assignments that you look back on?
WB: Well what we did really was design systems for the printing machinery that we built, and to take a system from scratch to completion, that's it, and the fact that it works after you get through. You push the button, and everything works the way that it is supposed to work. To me that's the name of the game. This is engineering. You know that what you did was right, that's the satisfaction I always got out of doing the job.
KP: Your children, one of them served in the military during the Vietnam War.
WB: Yeah, right.
KP: Did he volunteer or was he drafted?
WB: No, he volunteered. He was in Korea for three years.
KP: Why did he volunteer?
WB: Well, he was going to be drafted, and he wanted to pick the service. They had the lottery, and he did all he could to avoid the draft. But time was rolling by and he figured he better get on his horse. So his buddy and he enlisted in the Air Force.
KP: Had you encouraged him to volunteer?
WB: No, I didn't tell one way or the other, it was up to him. I never liked to interfere with these kids. They have their own minds. If they asked me about it I'd tell them.
KP: You didn't encourage him to join the navy?
WB: I didn't encourage him, no.
KP: What about your other son?
WB: He had a high draft number, so he didn't have to worry. He was opposed to the Vietnam War, and he wasn't going to volunteer.
KP: Do you consider yourself lucky that your son, who was in the Air Force didn't get sent to Vietnam?
KP: What did you think of the war at the time?
WB: It was a horror. I wanted it over with. And I think they were making a big mistake. Every time they dropped more bombs on Cambodia, I shook. That's what got me soured on Nixon. Of course, he kept it going, and I thought it could have been ended a lot sooner.
KP: So initially you were a hawk?
WB: Maybe, I used a wrong term, I was against the war. And I thought we shouldn't even be there. Then when I found out the 58,000 guys were killed over there, I said "What a waste. "
KP: So you didn't see this as similar to your war?
WB: Oh, no, no. It was entirely different. It just like night and day. We were fighting for a cause. In Vietnam, I don't know what we were really fighting for and the kids over there didn't know what they were fighting for. It was horrible.
RF: And what about Korea? What were your thoughts on that?
WB: Nobody paid a heck of a lot of attention to it at the time, that wasn't long after the end of World War II. It was there, people knew it was there, but there wasn't very much controversy about it. There was a heck of a lot of dying over there. People figured they were holding back communism, more so then in Vietnam. And they accepted it. And the way the Vietnam War escalated was a mess. The reports that they would send back that they needed more and more and more, and nothing was being accomplished. That's what really got me. I got in more fights with my people at work.
KP: Really, you were exceptional?
WB: No, really I had a lot of support, but to a lot of them it was a decisive war.
KP: So there were some hawks till the end where you worked?
WB: Oh, yeah. Yes, right to the end. And it's still an argument, today they argue with me. No, really it's amazing.
RF: In the period of time after World War II, were you surprised at how sudden the US turned friendly towards former enemies in Germany and Japan, and turned against their former ally in Russia?
WB: That was a very interesting development. I knew they were trying to build up the defeated in Germany and Japan, and I had mixed feelings about it. And I knew Russia was a working problem from the way it was handled, at the end of the war. They didn't stop them from coming into Berlin. I figured we're in trouble there, really, I had some feelings about it, but it really didn't bother me that much, I was too busy trying to establish myself, doing what I was supposed to be doing.
KP: Did you ever join any veteran's organizations?
WB: No, no. They've approached me but as I say, I'm not a joiner.
KP: One of the senses I get from the World War II people is that they were often joiners, though, did you feel exceptional in not being a joiner?
WB: No. There are a lot of people like me, they just wanted out, once it was over with. You don't mind putting your time in and doing whatever you had to do, but when it was over, "Let me out of here. "
KP: During the decommissioning process, did you ever think, "Why am I still in, the war's been over for several months?"
WB: No, no. We, that was a good period. We learned how to decommission the ship. And we often wondered what happened to the ship, it's probably all cut up by now, that was a long time ago.
KP: Did you ever return to the places that you saw?
WB: No, never.
KP: You've never been back to Hawaii or China?
WB: No (laughter) I don't want to go back. No, there's nothing, really. People go back to Normandy, D-day, Hawaii, and Pearl Harbor, that I can see. I might do that if I was part of it. But if I'm not part of it, I don't have any ties to it, really. That's the way I am.
KP: Did you keep any friends from your navy days?
WB: No, no. See, most of them were from out West, anyway. I didn't.
RF: What about your fellow Rutgers students? Do you still keep in touch with any of them?
KP: Your wife went back to work. It sounds like she raised the kids.
WB: Yeah, right.
KP: What encouraged her to go back to work?
WB: She just wanted to, well, she wanted to get a degree that was the main thing. See it still bothered her.
KP: She did regret it?
WB: Yeah, sure, she did. We helped her. It was a struggle, but, she made it. She got her degree and her certificate, so she taught young kids.
RF: How did she enjoy that?
WB: She enjoyed it.
KP: It sounds like one of your sons did follow you in engineering.
WB: Yeah, the youngest.
KP: What did your other children end up doing?
WB: Well, the oldest one owns his own business, a meat distributor. The other son is a tool and dye distributor, he's not independent, but he works for somebody. And the youngest works for the Postal Service, he went to NJIT.
KP: He works as an engineer for the post office?
WB: He works as a supervisor, but his training was in industrial engineering.
RF: And did your daughters work?
WB: Yes, both of them. My oldest daughter worked as a secretary. As a matter-of-fact, she worked for CBS, for the president of CBS, actually. When she first started, that was a pretty good job for her, you know, assistant secretary. She worked there for a few years before she got married, and even after she got married for a while. Then she had a couple of kids and she went back to work. She's working now. My other daughter has been a waitress for most of her life. She's married now, so they're all married.
KP: Do you wish any of your sons or daughters had followed your example and gone to Rutgers?
WB: I gave David, my youngest son, the option, he chose NJIT. I had him out here to Open House Day, and he picked NJIT for some reason.
RF: None of your other children had an interest in going to college?
WB: No, they went to other schools, but not to college, not trade schools, some other sort of structure.
KP: Did that disappoint you at all?
WB: Not really. They had their own goals. You can lead them, but you can't make them. I know how tough it is to get through a course, or a series of courses, and if they don't have the desire, forget it. You've just wasted your time.
KP: You mentioned earlier in the interview that for several years you had gone to an integrated school, that you were used to having blacks in the classroom, your friends and classmates.
KP: What did you think in the 1950s and 1960s when Civil Rights became a national issue? Did you ever think back to your own experiences?
WB: Sure, sure. I'm saying to myself what's all the hullabaloo about, when I didn't realize that this was a major problem. It never occurred to me that it would be a major problem.
KP: Were you surprised that so many white people were so upset about going to school with black people?
WB: Oh, that's what really got me. I didn't understand. And it's still prevalent. I don't know why, really. And each generation, I think, it gets worse, and it's got to be, the kids don't know any better, it's got to be the parents. And why they do that, I don't know. That really upsets me.
RF: So you really think it's gotten worse?
WB: I really do, from my limited experiences with people nowadays.
KP: What about in your profession?
WB: It never, really, I don't know whether it was a policy of the company, but they didn't hire very many blacks. It was a fact, and I never questioned anybody about it. I think in all the years, I don't remember any more then two black people in the engineering department. That's a very sad thing, As a matter-of-fact, when I came back, in my class, we had one black fellow. I thought he was going to make it, but he had to drop out. And I never saw him again.
KP: Is there anything we forgot to ask you about your career or World War II?
WB: I've covered it pretty well, kid. (laughter)
KP: I should say that the Alumni file had a clipping of you. They used to clip newspaper articles on alumni, and they had a clipping of you that one year you won three thousand dollars ¼
WB: (laughing) Oh, jeez.
KP: ¼ from the GE contest for the closest point score awarded at the decathlon.
WB: That was something, that the only thing I've ever won.
KP: Well, you won a lot of money, at the time. What was your secret?
WB: See, well, the odds. Usually, if I can enter something where the odds aren't that great, then I have a pretty good chance. And I knew a little bit about track and field. I predicted the total number of points. (laughter) It's amazing that they picked that up.
KP: Yeah, it's just a small clipping.
WB: (laughing) It was just a little thing in the paper. That helped out a lot.
RF: Yeah, the article mentioned that you had a choice of taking the money, or going on a trip to Rome.
WB: Well, going on a trip, forget it. (laughter)
RF: Well, it's like, I'll take the cash, thank you very much. Right?
WB: That's right. (laughter) The heck with the trip.
KP: Well, thank you very much for coming.
WB: Oh, you're welcome.
KP: We enjoyed it a great deal.
WB: I wish you luck, I hope you have luck with compiling all this stuff.
RF: Well, Rich will be doing the transcript, and we'll be sending it to you to review.
---------------------------------END OF INTERVIEW---------------------------------------
8/2/99 -- Edited By Sandra Stewart Holyoak
8/24/99 -- Edited By Lynn Marley