Karen Auerbach: This is an interview with Milton Lederman, in Rochester, New York. It is April 27, 1996.
Milton Lederman: I was born in southeastern Poland in a shtetl, which I remem¬ber as being kind of a mud [flat] and lived the first few years of my life in what I could only describe as a shack. It was real Bashevis Singer country and it was that kind of an environment. I had recently met some Polish people, and asked them if they were familiar at all with my home territory.
KA: What was the name of your schtetl?
ML: It was called Krasnobrod, located in southeastern Poland, it was just, very close to the Ukraine, half way between Lublin in Poland and which used to be in Poland, but is now in the Ukraine. The people [I met] tell me it's beautiful there which I found a little hard to believe.
KA: Not what you remembered from ...
ML: Right, from my recollection. [What my Polish friends told me was that the area] has been turned into a national park. Now I do have some curiosi¬ty about going back there. It's also curious that after the war, when I was on occupation duty in Austria, in Vienna, I was a couple hundred miles from my native village. I also had some awareness that my mother's family had mostly survived the war because they had been shipped out to central Asia by the Soviets. That was [when] Poland was divided between Germany and [the] Soviet Union [in] 1939. My relatives had a terrible time, but they did survive anyway. I could not get into Poland ...
KA: When you were ...
ML: When I was in Austria, I couldn't [reach my family by] telephone, telegram, nothing, the Soviets had [the borders] blockaded so tightly there was no way of getting through. I tried [a U.N. relief agency], I tried Red Cross, and I tried Joint Distribution Committee, [without success]. A few weeks after I shipped out of Vienna to go home and be discharged, my relatives came through Vienna.
ML: Yes, so I missed them by a few weeks and didn't see them until 1975 in Israel.
KA: Really? Did you know when you were in Austria, did you know, did you know whether they had survived or not?
ML: Yes, I knew that. I knew because they did manage to communicate with my parents in [New] Jersey, who in turn wrote to me. So I hoped to get some kind of message through, [but it] was impossible. I was offered an opportunity to take an Army comm¬ission and stay on for two years or to take a civilian job [with the Army in Austria]. I didn't do it. If I had, of course, I might have run across [my uncles, aunts and cousins]. Vienna was one of the main way stations from east¬ern Europe to what was then Palestine and became Israel, and that's where my relatives were headed.
KA: Your relatives went to Israel?
ML: In 1946-7, thereabouts. That's part of the background, I don't know if that's relevant, but there it is.
KA: I guess we should start with the beginning. You went to New Brunswick as a kid?
ML: We went, yes, because my father's family was already there. They had left Poland about the time I was born. My father was the eldest in his family and he already had a family of his own and there was a living great grandmother [of mine], who in the end refused to leave Poland, so we had to stay there until she died. Which she did, but, in that interim, 1924 was when the American immigration laws became more restrictive, so we were delayed by another three years. [My parents, sister and I] came over in '27; my mother was pregnant with what turned out to be triplets.
ML: We were a nationwide sensation. [The story was in newspapers from coast-to-coast.] [laughter]
KA: What do you remember about coming through Ellis Island?
ML: We came through Ellis Island. I remember very little. [That experience is] a hazy blur, a [dim] recollection of being examined and questioned and hanging onto my father and then being met by my grandparents and driven to New Brunswick. So it was from Ellis Island right to New Brunswick.
KA: What language did you speak?
ML: Yiddish, that was it.
KA: That was it, no Polish, or ...
ML: No, I hadn't gone yet to school in Poland, so I didn't know any Polish [We arrived in the US] in the summer I was registered in school by my father's sisters, who were somewhat assimilated by then, and went into kindergarten at age six not knowing a word of English. I do have some recollection. The poor teacher didn't know what to do with me, but I learned [fast, largely through daily contact with classmates].
KA: What school did you go to in New Brunswick?
ML: Livingston School. By [the time I reached] the third grade, I lived between two s¬chool districts, and I was transferred to the Washington School.
KA: Is it still in existence?
ML: Which still exists, which I hated. [laughter]
KA: Why, why did you hate it? [laughter]
ML: Well, first of all, there were different kinds of people. They were more eastern and central European immigrants, mostly Hungarian, some Italian, and some Slavic, whereas [in] the Livingston School, it was a more middle class population. So that [experience] took two years out of my school life. Eventually, I was transferred back to the Livingston school, rejoined my class, which had pretty much stayed together. They were a good group, and there was one teacher, as I recall, who stayed with this group of kids from about the second grade on, through the sixth grade, and then we went on to what was then Roosevelt Junior High School.
KA: Now it's the high school?
ML: I don't know what it is now; I don't think it's a junior high school anymore. What was the high school then is now a middle school, or something like that. It's a little confusing. I just don't know. I'm not sure of the facts.
KA: When you were in New Brunswick what did your father do for a living?
ML: Well, he was a laborer the first few years that we were there. Worked in a laundry and it was terrible, but he had a job during the Depression, which was rather important. He was also well-versed in o¬rthodox Jewish ritual and he became the sexton of a synagogue on Neilson Street. [The synagogue] is now a landmark building and [still] not functioning as a synagogue.
KA: What was the name of that synagogue?
ML: It was called Poile Zedek. It was on Neilson Street near the corner of Liberty Street. [His work there] was what he did for the rest of his life.
KA: Really, did you used to go to services there?
ML: Yes, I wasn't always very happy about it, but I was pretty good at it, and I had to hold up my end, so I went to Hebrew school five days a week, [well] past my thirteenth birthday.
KA: You were bar mitzvah-ed?
ML: Oh, yes, I certainly was. I did the whole thing. I conducted services. I did the Torah. I did [a traditional] speech. I had to do things like that because that's what people expected.
KA: Was your family an observant family?
ML: Yes, yes, it was. I would not call it ultra orthodox, but, yes, it was observant.
KA: You used to keep kosher?
ML: Oh, all that, keep kosher and all the holidays, which was embarrassing because when you think of the numbers of holidays that the Orthodox observed, and still observe, I lost a lot of school time. [That was embarrassing because it called attention to my Judaism.]
KA: During the holidays?
KA: You said your family fared well during the Great Depression.
ML: Well, I wouldn't say well, but my father [always] worked. I mean there was never [a] time when he was unemployed, and that made a difference, of course. We did not, I would say, live high-on-the-hog, at all, never. That is, I know what poverty is. Our first dwelling in New Brunswick, [was in one of two houses] my grandfather owned. He was a baker by the way. We rented half of one of those houses from him, and that's where we lived for the first few years in the United States. [It] did not have central heat, did not have a bathtub. We had to go next door to my grandfather's house to take a bath, for example. Well, these are things that you young, middle-class-types just wouldn't know about.
KA: But our grandparents do?
ML: Maybe your grandparents might have.
KA: What were your first impressions of New Brunswick when you first came here?
ML: Our first neighborhood was on Suydam Street, which if you follow it to its end going south, I think, would take you to what was the New Jersey College for Women, [now] Douglass. But the end at which I lived was near the railroad, and it was a poor neighborhood with, largely, as I recall, Catholic, Italian, and Hungarian population, laborers by and large. Next door to us lived a family of fairly recent immigrants from Sicily. The parents, I don't think, spoke English at all. They had quite a lot of children and we played and fought and had the typical upbringing. We, of course, were more education-oriented. We were, I think, out of place, culturally in that neighborhood; economically we were part of it. By 1940 we had moved, staying on the same street, but a [number] of blocks closer [to Douglass], not far from Livingston Avenue and that was the last house I lived in, in New Brunswick, with my family. Subsequently, [in 1938 I entered Rutgers, which I was able to do because I received a full state scholarship]. I graduated in '42, and, with many of my classmates, enlisted quickly in the service, and when we came out I did get a job for a while and then left that and went to graduate school and then got married and lived in University Heights [in grad school housing], which doesn't exist anymore.
KA: The name ...
ML: Maybe the name exists, but what we lived in was called Veterans Emergency Housing, ... [across from] the temporary chemistry labs, on Taylor Road. Now, whether Taylor Road still exists I don't know, but that's where we were.
KA: What were conditions like there?
ML: They were pretty primitive as a matter of fact. [We lived in former Army barracks that had been converted into apartments, two in a building.] We [had] no central heating. We didn't have a bathroom with a shower, but we did have a bathtub. We had a kerosene space heater.
ML: Yes, but we were young and healthy and it was a pretty homogenous population of graduate students. We moved in [in February, 1950. In] October of that year, a couple moved in with whom we're still friendly, still close, yes.
KA: What did your mother do while you were growing up in New Brunswick?
ML: My mother was a, what I would say, a long-suffering, hard working [Jewish mother]. Here she was with five children, living and interacting with, not o¬nly my father and his constituents at the synagogue, but with his family. She never saw her parents [or] siblings, again. They corresponded a lot and all that, but she just never saw them again, and I didn't see them from the time that I left Poland, 'til forty-seven years later.
KA: In Israel?
ML: I saw them in Israel, and my mother had one sister who had moved to South America about the time we were moving to the United States and we saw her children, two of whom were living in Israel, and the third was living in Buenos Aires and visiting at the time that we were there. [laughter] Not an uncommon phenomenon with people like us. Everybody with relatives in Israel has that kind of story I was s¬truck by the fact that this cousin from Argentina looked very much like one of my sisters. It was just a very m¬oving sort of reunion So my mother, as I say, she had to help my father, she had to raise the five of us, that is my sister and me and the three, the triplets and it was tough.
KA: Having triplets must have been difficult.
ML: It was, I tell you, for my mother there was no night and no day. [laughter] It was extremely difficult economically and otherwise, but we all got through it.
KA: What kind of student were you, in high school, and before that?
ML: I was a star pupil, yes, I always got very good grades. I finished second in my high school class, and that is what helped to get me a full scholarship to Rutgers. Otherwise there was no money for higher education, and I don't know that I could have worked my way through. I just didn't have the sophistication for that. I did have part time jobs that went through school, but they [brought in very little]. If I didn't have the scholarship it would have been extremely difficult, not impossible. So that's, that's how I got to...
KA: Rutgers ...
KA: That scholarship was pretty prestigious.
ML: Yes, it was, it was. There were, well, there were two hundred [scholarships]. Rutgers was then referred to as the State University, but it wasn't really, except by virtue of the, I believe, two hundred scholarships a year that the State provided.
KA: And you got one of those.
ML: And I got one of those, and they were allocated, by the way, by counties, and Middlesex county, which is where I lived and where Rutgers is, they [provided] something like twenty scholarships for more than a hundred applicants. Whereas in some of the other counties, north and south, there may have been as many scholarships as there were applicants. There may have even been more.
KA: So it was more competitive in your area.
ML: Yes, it was more competitive in the immediate vicinity of Rutgers. So I had a, not a typical college career, I mean, I lived at home and mostly walked to classes from home, until I got a bicycle.
KA: So you would ride your bicycle to classes?
ML: I rode my bicycle the last year or two, and I majored in English because I didn't know what else to do.
KA: Going into college you weren't sure what you wanted to do?
ML: That's right. I had some idea I wanted to go into broadcasting but there was nobody to advise on it. I remember talking, when I was a freshman, to the Dean.
KA: Dean Metzger?
ML: No, this [was] Dean Marvin. He was Dean of Arts and Sciences, and he was a Doctor of Divinity, as was Metzger, and he [was a] very nice man who asked me what I thought I ought to do. He didn't know what to tell me. There was no guidance to speak of, except for the typical, you're going to be a lawyer or a doctor or an accountant or chemist, or whatever.
KA: You didn't want to be those things?
ML: No, I didn't want to do those things. What I wish I had done was major in journalism, because I had some friends in my class and in subsequent classes who became quite prominent in journalism. [For example,] one of my classmates was named Nathan Polowetzky He recently retired from the Associated Press; he was [one of] their key [reporters] and an editor. He was famous by virtue of having been kicked out of Czechoslovakia by the Communists [laughter] with the charge that he was spying for the United States, and another classmate of mine is Richard Kleiner, who was a gossip columnist, Hollywood gossip, for a wire service. Not AP or U.P.I., I forget whether, N.E.A., National Editors [or] Editorial Association, or something like that. He's now the class secretary, and then in the Class of '43 where I also had some very good friends, one of my very good friends was a Elliot Frankel, who was an NBC news producer, and he was, in fact, one of my very best friends.
ML: Yes, I did the eulogy at his funeral.
KA: Really, wow.
ML: Yes, back in '89.
KA: Wow, did you ever write for a newspaper, or for the Targum, or anything?
ML: No, as a matter-of-fact, I never did any of that until, of all things, in the Army I did some writing for an army post newspaper. Now after the war, when I got a job at WCTC, a radio station [in] downtown New Brunswick, writing commercials, I lied, I mean I pretended I had experience, and I also had some opportunities to do some news writing and that's how I got into that. [Actually, that radio job had been offered to my friend Frankel, but he got a newspaper job and left the radio spot for me.]
KA: There was a man from WCTC who graduated in your class, Dick Mercer. Who was one of the founders of WCTC.
ML: Oh, I know Dick Mercer.
ML: He actually graduated, I think, in '48; he was strictly a, a postwar kid. He got to be a big shot at Batten, Barton, Durstine, and Osborn and, of course, I haven't seen him, I guess, since about 1950.
KA: He came and spoke to our class.
ML: Did he?
ML: Yes, I think he got to be kind of a pompous. I know this because I had a good friend from here who moved to New York and, at one point, he needed some kind of contacts for a job. He left one job, he didn't get another one, so I suggested he go see Dick Mercer at BBD&O and all he got from Dick was, "How do I know you're really the guy who wrote this stuff?" something like that. I said, "Geez" [he wasn't like that.] I remember Mercer as a kind of a slender, very eager kid. We had a lot of fun. I was very fond of him.
KA: You seem to have been close to a lot of people at Rutgers. Was it difficult doing that as a commuter?
ML: Yes, I think so. My contacts were restricted, really, to other commuters, because I did not [live on campus.] First of all, [the] kinds of social things that people did, mostly, I couldn't afford.
KA: Do you remember times when you couldn't go certain places?
ML: Well, I couldn't go out on dates. I couldn't take a co-ed to a movie, except maybe once in months, just didn't have the fifty cents it would take to buy two movie admissions. [I] didn't have a car, for example, and so I did [only] the major things, I mean, I went to my senior prom, [but only] because I had a friend with a car, and that's how we managed.
KA: What do you remember about the senior prom?
ML: I remember it was at the Forsgate Country Club, and I remember we sat [and talked] in the locker room. Of course, a couple of them had brought in some bottles of booze, and we partook of things like, I remember drinking a rum-Collins, and not particularly liking it. [laughter] My date for the prom was a journalism student from Douglass, NJC, and I can even remember her name was Marguerite MacCallum. I don't know what, if anything, she ever did in journalism and, after that we graduated, and some of us went into Newark and enlisted in the Army Air Corps. That's how I started in the military. Do you want to go on with the military, or do you have other questions?
KA: Yes, I have some other questions about Rutgers. You weren't in a fraternity.
KA: Did you ever consider joining a fraternity?
ML: No, being a member of a fraternity took some social sophistication that I didn't have, and money.
KA: Dues and whatnot?
ML: Yes, what I did do that I really enjoyed, I was in the Little Theater.
KA: Were you?
ML: Yes, I took a course. It wasn't just acting and playing. I took a course with one of the great ladies of the local theater. Her name was Mrs. Inge. I don't know if that name is still current, but she was the drama professor at the women's college and she was quite a remarkable individual. She had kind of a mysterious background. There was some belief that she had been an opera star in England, and she had her portrait done by John Singer Sargent, by the way. Now when I first knew her, she was already past middle-age but she had been a real tempestuous-looking beauty, and she had a tempestuous personality. She taught me things, she was a good drama coach, and the plays that we put on, it was three plays a year, they were very well produced and staged.
KA: What kind of roles did you have?
ML: I was a character actor. I had small parts until we did "Royal Family." "Royal Family" was a play by Kaufman, George Kaufman and I forget who his collaborator was. He had several different collaborators, and it was kind of a fictionalized biographical play about the Barrymores, and I played the part of the producer that the family worked with, and I had a nice part to play because I could do a German accent. So I became known a little bit as a character actor.
KA: Where did you perform the plays?
ML: In the Little Theater.
KA: Where was the Little Theater located?
ML: On Nichol Avenue, yes. It's been rebuilt, or something is happening to it currently, or recently.
KA: Did a lot of students used to come to the plays or was it mostly New Brunswick people?
ML: No, it was mainly University people. I think the seating capacity was maybe a hundred and fifty or two hundred. It was, literally, a "little theater."
KA: Was that like a social group that you hung around with?
ML: Well, to some extent, it was social, yes. The other activity that I remember [was] lightweight crew. I was a founding, pioneer member of the Rutgers 150-pound Crew.
KA: Really, how did that come about?
ML: Well, I wanted to do something athletic, and I didn't have the experience to play football or baseball or basketball. I was fairly good at them, but not good enough.
KA: Did you play sports in high school?
ML: No, I was into the learning process then. I suppose I might have made the lightweight football squad if I tried but, my sophomore year, I don't recall exactly how it happened, but I got word that the crew coach wanted to start a lightweight crew, so, [since] we were all even at this point, [that is, nobody had any experience,] I went out and made it.
KA: Was it a strenuous thing to do?
ML: Oh, sure, it was strenuous.
KA: You used to practice early in the morning?
ML: How did you know that? [laughter]
KA: I have a friend who does crew and he wakes up very early for practice.
ML: Oh, well, but this is special. You see, at that time there was a varsity heavyweight crew, there was a freshman heavyweight crew, and the JV heavyweight crew, and there was one coach and one motorboat. It was hard for this poor coach to divide his attention appropriately. Well, along came the stroke of the varsity crew [he] had completed his eligibility, but he had to be in school for an extra year to get enough credits to graduate. But he'd used up his three years of varsity eligibility so he agreed to coach us. But it had to be early in the morning, and by early, I mean six o'clock. [laughter] We did this for a couple of weeks and made a big impression. The director of athletics, his name was George Little. Earl Reed Silvers, does that name mean anything at all?
KA: Yes, he wrote ...
ML: He wrote "Dick Arnold of Raritan College" which was "I-Die-For-Dear-Old-Rutgers" kind of material and, well, he was known among some of the wags as Earl Reed Blah. [laughter]
KA: Why? [laughter]
ML: Because, what he wrote was poop. [laughter] You know, even for us [naïve] kids at that time, it was obvious that this was real pot-boiling stuff. But we used to say that George Little was the only person alive who believed what Earl Reed Silvers wrote. [laughter] That's a bit of lore that you might not otherwise have picked up. Well, George Little thought this was a wonderful example of college spirit, and, we did, as I say, for a couple of weeks we got some coaching, and so we learned more than we would otherwise have learned. I think that in the three years that I was on the crew, we won one race. There was another one we won, but I guess, I had graduated by then. But, at least, we laid the groundwork.
KA: Who did you compete with?
ML: Well, we went to Princeton quite a bit. We rowed a number of races on the Carnegie Lake. There was one at Penn, only I couldn't row in that one because I had contracted measles.
KA: Really? [laughter]
ML: Yes, [when] I was in college, there was an outbreak of measles among collegiate crews in the Northeast. I don't know, I guess somebody started it, and we all picked it up, and, I think, where I might have picked it up was at Columbia, because the week before I found the measles, we had rowed a race at Columbia and maybe we picked up the virus in the locker room there.
KA: Was there the Rutgers-Princeton rivalry? Do you remember that being really big when you were in school?
ML: Well, yes, I remember that it was big, but it was big for Rutgers, not for Princeton.
KA: Really, they didn't care?
ML: Well, you know, the Rutgers athletes going to Princeton were poor boys at a rich boys' school, that was the feeling and they tended to be a little over-awed. I had the best seat in the student section, in 1938, when Rutgers football team beat Princeton for the first time since 1869.
KA: I was going to ask you about that. You remember that? [laughter]
ML: I remember that, I even have the ticket stub somewhere. [laughter]
KA: Do you really? [laughter]
KA: It would have been a really exciting game, I guess.
ML: It was a very exciting game I remember it was very close, but the boys brought it off, and it was, oh, it was the biggest thing that had happened since 1869, and of course, subsequently, Rutgers went a little more big time in sports and Princeton stayed semi-amateur.
KA: You said in your pre-interview survey that your favorite professor was Donald McGinn.
ML: Well, [yes], he was my freshman English instructor, and through him I got interested in Shakespeare. He was the Shakespeare specialist and he was chairman of my graduate committee.
KA: What did you like about him?
ML: What did I like about him? His approach, as I recall, was pretty straight forward and realistic. For example, [regarding] the "who-wrote-Shakespeare's-plays" controversy, I still tend to cling to his view, which was that those who insist that somebody else wrote the plays have the burden of proof on them. Because Shakespeare's contemporaries said he wrote the plays and [as for] those who [talk about] Shakespeare's less-than-adequate education, remember what Ben Jonson said in his sonnet or ode to Shakespeare: "Thou hadt small Latin, and less Greek," and that's, you know, in those days, that's no education. [laughter] That the plays were great literature, well, the thing that I learned from McGinn was that the plays were not great literature in their time.
KA: In, Shakespeare's time?
ML: Right, they were popular. They were popular entertainment, in much the way that television is, so, in fact, when Ben Jonson talked about publishing his plays as his Works, he was almost laughed out of England. Plays were not works; they were popular entertainment. In fact, that attitude was what I liked about McGinn: absolutely no nonsense. He didn't take care about the Bard of Avon, for example, that sort of language made him sick. This guy [Shakespeare] was a commercial writer, and he was an actor, and he was a stockholder in the company, and they had business agendas. They had to put on a certain number of new plays every year in order to hold the audience. Of course, they would do reruns of old plays, but for thirty-seven plays to have been attributed to one playwright, who retired and died he was about fifty-two, that's a lot of work, especially, when he was also busy doing other things. So that there's plenty of evidence, internal evidence, in the plays that Shakespeare did not write every word. In fact, I can imagine, Shakespeare saying to Thomas Middleton, "Hey, Tom, I'm in a hurry here, would you do a scene here for this, this thing, this play that I'm doing?" And that's what tends to get left out of these high-flown arguments about, "Well, it couldn't have been this guy, this glove-maker's son from this small town." There was a recent television special on Public Television about the Earl of Oxford's authorship of the plays, yes, and that was the most plausible of the alternatives. But to say that Bacon wrote them was ridiculous. I mean, Bacon couldn't write a line of poetry, and then there was [one] guy, who said it had to be Marlowe, Marlowe must've written the plays, for reasons that I don't recall. Only, he, the proof was in Marlowe's tomb, and the British government wouldn't let him unseal Marlowe's tomb and so, he could claim that that's where the evidence is, and [he's denied access to it.] It's like flying saucers, you know. Finally, they did let him open the tomb and there was nothing there. It was like that Al Capone fiasco. Remember that Al Capone fiasco?
ML: Well, it was this fellow, this guy on television, Rivera?
KA: Oh, Geraldo Rivera.
ML: Yes. Geraldo said that if he could get into some crypt or some compartment, secret thing, somewhere in Chicago, he would find all kinds of dirt on Al Capone and his activities. Well, the big thing [happened], cameras were there, there was nothing. [laughter]
KA: Nothing, yes.
ML: Sort of like the Marlowe controversy. Anyway, that I think gives you some idea of how I felt about him [Professor McGinn]. Again, he was also very supportive when I decided to get into graduate school and I was going to do Shakespeare, of course it didn't quite work out as planned, but that's another story.
KA: With your thesis?
ML: I took the courses, I got a masters along the way and went on from there, and did all the course work, passed the exams, written and oral, and wrote a draft of a thesis, which had to do with Shakespeare in the eighteenth century and how Shakespeare wasn't [fully recognized as a genius] until the eighteenth century, when, first there was Nicholas Rowe and Alexander Pope, they came out with editions of Shakespeare's plays almost a century after Shakespeare's death. Remember, when Cromwell closed the theaters in England, Shakespeare was totally lost, and it wasn't until Dryden became interested that there was some revival [and initial] attention, and then, of course, it proliferated, or grew from there. Anyway, that was my [subject], and I had fixed on, at McGinn's suggestion, on a guy named Edmund Malone as my hero because he was the founder, or the ancestor of modem textual scholarship. So I wrote this thesis and went over it with McGinn and he had a lot of suggestions, but nothing major. Then I went to the second man in my committee, and he was the chairman of the English department.
KA: What was his name?
ML: French. And he killed me, and, first of all, the first thing he said was that my thesis was too short.
KA: How long was it?
ML: It was like a hundred and sixty pages. [laughter] Well, but, he came from a generation that [when they] wrote [dissertations] for an English doctorate, they would write six, seven, eight hundred pages. I had chosen to show my points relative to two plays, Hamlet and Coriolanus because each represented a major kind of scholarly problem. As Coriolanus existed in only one printed version, the Folio, and Hamlet, in two Quartos as well as the Folio, and therefore there were different kinds of problems and whatever applied to these two would apply to most of the rest of the plays. Not according to French. He said I should do all of the plays. Well, that would have taken me about fifteen years, I guess. He also thought I should do most of my research in the Huntington Library, that's in Pasadena. I was not in a position to do that.
KA: To go to California?
ML: Yes, and he also contradicted himself and I have my, I don't know if I should put this on the record.
ML: Okay. All right, I think there was a case here of anti-Semitism.
ML: Yes. I have some, it's hard to say, "I have evidence," but I majored in English. I took courses with French, not too many because [he was] a very dull teacher. But [I thought] we were friends. I wrote him from the army.
ML: Yes, then I came out and I wanted to go back to graduate school. He didn't remember me, he thought I was an accounting major. Now, who were the accounting majors, for the most part?
ML: Jewish boys, that's right. [Accounting was laughingly called "Jewish engineering." French's attitude] which was a bit of a shock because, [while] I know he had a lot of students and all that, there were [only] three hundred in my class. This was not the Rutgers of today, there were twelve hundred undergraduate male students and not so many English majors. Okay, that was one. Somebody else who was also a graduate student in English overheard a conversation between French and a Professor Kirk, who was the chairman of graduate studies at the time in the English department, and what he overheard was a conversation having to do with another graduate student [whose] name was Becker. Now the two of them agreed that with the name of Becker, "you just never know."
KA: Never know what religion they are?
ML: Yes, right. What else? The fact that there were a high proportion of Jewish graduate students in the English department, and, as far as I know, I was the first, and in my generation, maybe the only one to finally finish.
KA: To finish the graduate program?
ML: Yes, so those were my bits of evidence. Anyway, I dropped out at that point. I had a wife and a kid and a job, and I was just not going to have an academic career. I went, let's see, then we moved to Rochester and French retired and then he died. Well, my wife and her mother wanted me to go back.
KA: And you did?
ML: Well, yes, but, it was more than seven years later, and there was that seven-year kind of statute of limitations and I had to get a waiver. Well, so I wrote to Professor Kellogg, who was then in charge of graduate studies and he had been my Chaucer teacher. I applied for what was called "matriculation continued." I had also talked to a friend of mine who was at that time on the staff, I think, he was in public affairs, and told him that if they gave me a hard time I was going to make a fuss about it.
KA: Did you ever confront French about it?
ML: No, no, I was not in the confrontational mode then. I just dropped out and sulked. I don't know if I would have made a good English professor anyway. I did it, which I'll tell you about later, on a part time basis, but, the fact is that they welcomed me back with open arms, and reconstituted most of my original committee, chaired by McGinn. He said I caught him just in time because he retired shortly afterwards I took the same basic thesis and I did some more, I did quite a bit of revising but, it was not major. I did it gradually, over a period of a couple of years, and I finished. Because, well, let's see, it's like climbing Mount, you know the old story about the Englishman who had to climb Mount Everest. Why? "Because it was there."
KA: That's why you finished your thesis?
ML: Yes, the fellow's name was Lee Mallory and I don't believe he ever said that, but it's a good story. [There was another reason. My mother-in-law told people I had a Ph.D. I had to make an honest woman of her.]
KA: As an undergraduate, did you ever experience any kind of anti-Semitism?
ML: Well, there was nothing blatant, but there were certain [attitudes typical of the time.] First of all, [on] the campus there were three Jewish fraternities.
KA: And the Jewish kids could only join those fraternities?
ML: Yes, that's right, and it was just generally known and accepted these were where the Jews went and the others were where the others went, and even the Jewish fraternities and among the others, there were caste gradations.
KA: What do you mean by that?
ML: Well, for example in the three Jewish fraternities, there was Sigma Alpha Mu, the Phi Epsilon Pi, [and] Tau Betas, and socially, the most acceptable was Phi Epsilon, and then the Sammys and then the Tau Betas. Among the gentile fraternities, I believe it was Delta Phi and Zeta Psi, [that] were the social upper-crust, and then the Dekes [Delta Kappa Epsilon] and some others. In social activities, things were fairly well segregated.
ML: Yes. There was a lot of [mixed] interaction, but nevertheless there was not the kind, certainly nothing near, the integrated social life that probably exists today. There was certainly the consciousness that "we were we and they were they," [but I never encountered overt hostility.]
-------------------------------------END OF TAPE ONE, SIDE ONE---------------------------------------
ML: ... Chapel, but we required an excuse from the rabbi.
ML: Yes, daily chapel was, as I say, a class meeting, with announcements and this sort of thing, so it was a matter of business. But it always opened with a prayer, enunciated by Dean Metzger, who always invoked Jesus. "We all ask in Jesus' name," I can hear him saying it today, and today he'd be ridden out of town on a rail with tar and feather all over him but this was 1938, '39, '40, '41, and there wasn't the kind of boat rocking. It didn't occur to us that we had enough power to do anything about it, so we just shut up, and resented it, but we shut up.
KA: What were your feelings about Dean Metzger in other ways?
ML: Well, he was generally regarded as a prime anti-Semite.
ML: Yes, and not a very pleasant guy. There he was, and you avoided him as much as possible. We didn't have a lot to do with him and that was that.
KA: Were you involved with Hillel or any of the other Jewish organizations on campus?
ML: Not really, no, I don't recall. I remember there was a Hillel, but, you see, I didn't need that sort of stuff because I had enough religion at home. I did belong to a commuter club and I belonged to something else but it was pretty nominal. The things that I really wanted to do, theater and crew, I did, and of course, a fair amount of studying. I did make Phi Beta Kappa, and finished, I guess in the top ten percent of the class, because that's what was required [for Phi Beta.] I wasn't in the top five percent, at least, because I didn't make it as a junior. You had to be in the top five percent. [laughter]
KA: Phi Beta Kappa was a big honor.
ML: Yes, it was pretty well, you know, generally regarded [as] one, and by the way, and that's another thing, you know, what the nickname was? Phi Jake!
ML: Well, why do you think?
KA: Phi Jake? I am not really sure.
ML: Well, who's Jake? Jakey?
KA: Jakey? Jews?
KA: Was it, because there were a lot of Jews ...
ML: Yes, there was, that's right, proportionally a great many. I guess one of my proudest moments had to do with something that I didn't get. There was an annual graduate, each graduating class, a certain percentage of the higher grades were allowed to take competitive exam called the "Jacob Cooper Prize for Logic and Inductive Thinking" or something like that. It was generally won by somebody, a science or math major, but they always announced the names of the top ten finishers in the exam, and in my class I was in the top ten, much to the astonishment of a lot of people: "Where does an English major come to this?" So, I guess, that was one of my proudest moments. [laughter]
KA: What do you remember about your two years of ROTC?
ML: Kind of a joke.
ML: Yes, remember this is '38 and '39. We were not at war, the military was a very low [ranking institute] in general estimation, and professional soldiers were men who couldn't make it in any other way. They tended to be semi-literate, mostly Southerners, whom we called hillbillies in those days, so ROTC was something we had to do [because Rutgers, as a land grant college, was required by law to offer military science, and students were required to take at least two years of it.]
KA: Did you choose to continue?
ML: No. No, I didn't get good grades in military science.
KA: What were the feelings about the war, you know, in '38 and '39 and '40?
ML: Well, we were aware of it. It didn't occur to us that we might get into it. It came as a shock In fact, I remember on December 7, 1941, it was a Sunday, Sunday afternoon. I was in the library, in the main reading room, and in came the assistant dean and he announced, at that point, that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor and we were at war.
KA: What was your reaction?
ML: [Without thinking coherently about it, my feeling at first was] "yes, but this doesn't affect me." That was my first reaction. Well, we're at war. War was something we expected in those days. It was kind of soon after World War I, but it was, this was part of the way things were. Well, and we talked among ourselves quite a lot, and some of my classmates went and ran right out and enlisted.
KA: What did you do?
ML: I waited until I graduated and then enlisted. We had, there was one, I had one classmate, this is one of my favorite anecdotes, by the way, who was reputed to have gone and enlisted in the Marine Corps, which surprised everybody because he could barely see. [laughter] I mean, he had very thick glasses, but he was a very gung-ho type. Well, the story about him was that he went to an ophthalmologist and memorized the chart, and he went in for an eye exam without his glasses, and simply recited the chart from memory and he got in. That was, that was the story, okay? Now at my fiftieth reunion, I saw him.
KA: What was his name?
ML: Bill Berglund, and I said, "Bill, I have a story about you and I want to know if it was true?" [laughter] And he told me, not only was it true, but it was even more complicated because there was the first eye exam, and then after he passed that he had to go through some more tests, which included a second eye exam, and it was apparently a different chart, and he's in the waiting room he told me, and then when the door opened and his predecessor came out [Bill] quickly was able to memorize the eye chart. So he did it twice. [laughter] He faked it twice and he got into the Marine Corps. [laughter]
KA: Did he do okay in the Marines?
ML: Well, I guess so. He certainly survived it. I don't know how much combat he got into. I don't recall. So that's the story of Bill Berglund and his eye tests. I went with some friends to Newark, and enlisted in the Army Air Corps. Remember in those days there was not an Air Force, there was an Army Air Corps, and a Navy Air Corps and the Marine Air Corps, and they were all separate, but [Navy and Marine air were] part of their basic, as the Army Air Corps was part of the Army. The air was not a separate entity in those days. Well, that turned out to be a bit of a joke, because I could've enlisted in [the] reserve and then been called [at some point] or enlist for immediate duty, so I enlisted for immediate duty, [and] got called six months later.
KA: Not too immediate I guess.
ML: Not too immediate.
KA: Why did you choose the Air Corps?
KA: Yes, the flying?
ML: Yes, that's right. I was going to be a hot pilot. Well, I never got off the ground. We were called by "class," and I was a member of a certain class, and in my class, ninety percent flunked out before they even got into an airplane because [the Army had] oversubscribed. So I got flunked out on the basis of bad sinuses or something like that. I would have trouble at high-altitude, flying or something of the sort, and this happened to a lot of guys. So, [here], I was in Texas; I'd gone right from New Brunswick to Texas in February of '43.
KA: You trained in New Brunswick, or you trained in Texas?
ML: Oh, I had [boarded a] train in New Brunswick that was all, I mean then went right to San Antonio to the aviation cadet training center, where, I flunked out, and then was shipped about a hundred and fifty miles west to an airfield, army airfield on the Mexican border in a town called Del Rio.
KA: Texas, okay.
ML: [I] was simply assigned to an office job.
KA: How did you wind up in that job?
ML: Luck of the draw, that was all. In fact, what I did was, the office was called special services, which had to do with entertainment.
KA: So what did you do?
ML: I mostly supervised moving a piano from place to place. There were [USO shows and other] entertainments, [but] there was [only] one piano for the whole base. While we were there I had this brilliant idea and I got a bunch of guys together and we put on a play, Three Men On A Horse, a three-act Broadway show, and we performed it several times on the base and once in town, because we got some civilians to [play parts] and, oh, the town went crazy over this. "Broadway quality." I'd helped to direct it and I played a part in it.
KA: You said it was well received in town, and the base, too.
ML: Yes. Well, then after about six months, the Army required everybody who, I guess, a college graduate or [had] at least two years of college, I don't remember, to take an exam to qualify for ["advanced"] engineering. They needed more engineers. Well, to my own astonishment, I passed the damn thing, and then, it didn't matter, because so few guys passed that they didn't have a program. [laughter] So, not long after that, they did the same but it was in languages. This was what became the Army Specialized Training Program, ASTP, it was called, and I qualified in French.
KA: Had you studied French in high school or college?
ML: Yes, four years [in college.] I had four years of French and two of German. Or was it three of German? I don't remember now, but in any event, I know I had four years of French, never had it in high school. In high school, I did a lot of Latin, but not anything else. So our group was shipped out from Del Rio in the summer of '43 to Texas A&M, where we went to take some further tests. Now I remember asking somebody there, I know I qualified in French, but I really was interested in Russian, "Any chance of getting into a Russian program?"
KA: Why Russian?
ML: Russia was the major ally, and I was just very curious and interested. So I was told, "Impossible, you don't know any Russian, out of the question." Well, okay, fine. [Not long afterwards,] a group of us [got] on a train, and when we got off the train, we were in Ithaca, New York.
ML: [Yes,] Cornell. We were divided [into three groups.] Our group [climbed] on a truck, and we got off at Chi Psi house. Now the Chi Psi house I had a little history with, because [in] one of the crew races that I was involved in, in June of '41, we drove up from New Brunswick, a couple of carloads of us, to row against the Cornell lightweights, and we had to go find the crew manager. Where was he? In the Chi Psi house. [laughter] Well, here we were back at the Chi Psi house. [laughter]
KA: A couple of years later.
ML: And we come up to the door, the door opens and there's the sergeant. Sergeant Steve Capestro, my classmate. [laughter]
KA: Your classmate, really?
ML: Yes, from Rutgers, yes. [laughter] So, we went in there and then along came [another sergeant] that says, "Here's paper. I want you to fill out, name, rank, serial number and all the usual things, and indicate your choice of language training." "What do we have a choice of?" "Well, you have a choice of Italian, German, Russian, or Chinese." "But sergeant," said somebody, "we're here for French, we all qualified in French." He said, "You have a choice of German, Italian, Russian or Chinese," so I chose Russian. [laughter] There we were.
KA: What was the training like when you were there?
ML: It was, it was really amazing. It [used] a technique that has become very widespread, but the army pioneered it, as far as I know.
KA: What was it?
ML: It was strictly oral, [and it remained oral for the most part. The method was called, informally, "me me my mo." We learned as infants learned their native languages.] All of our instructors were native Russians.
ML: Civilians that the army had hired, and they were good, and they were a terribly interesting cross-section of Russian immigrants. The chairman of the Russian program at Cornell, named Charles Malamuth, was a native of Poland, but he spent a lot of time in Russia and we never knew for a long time just what his [ideology was.] We were always interested in their political [and] social [status.] He turned out, we had some reason to believe, that all through this, he was a Trotskyite. Because Trotsky had written a biography of Stalin, a very derogatory biography as you might expect, and Trotsky was killed before he finished it, and it was edited and finished by Charles Malamuth. Yes, I didn't know this until after the war. Then there [were] a prince and princess, very old, dynastic family, they had left Russia [in 1917] and settled in France. There were [also] two prominent members of the Kerensky government.
KA: And these were your instructors?
ML: And these were [some of] our instructors. There was [also] a woman from an upper-bourgeois Russian family, who had escaped to France, and she was working in the anti-Nazi underground and she got out of France just one step ahead of the Gestapo. And she was a little ball of fire, and then there was a little, old lady who looked like a scrub-woman. She was short and squat and bow-legged and had the peasant face. Well, she came from a very aristocratic background. She, eventually, was a professor of Russian at Connecticut College for Women, and there was a couple of others; they were all fascinating people. The first day, [we] never used a word of English [in the "conversation" classes.]
KA: All Russian, all the time?
ML: Right from the beginning, that's right. [As you might expect, we started by naming everyday objects like "chair, table, etc."] It was kind of simple. We gradually worked our way up. It was nine months, and we were a fairly select group. [In fact,] I think, except for a couple of boys, who were not old enough to have graduated, we were mostly college graduates.
KA: What was the interaction like between people from different areas of the country?
ML: I think we had a very [cohesive] group, socially and otherwise. Even though some of our backgrounds were [wildly varied.] You see, there were some [strong political views and some political] infighting. There [were] a couple of highly nationalistic Polish guys. One of [them], by the way, was a Rutgers graduate from the mid '30s, his name was Bruno Schmidt, and then there [also] were several native Russians. You see, we were graded; there were three levels of [competence]. There were so-called "experts" in Russian, [native Russians] who didn't ever have to study, but who helped the rest of us, and these were Poles [and] Ukrainians, who had a pretty good knowledge of their languages, which are close to Russian, and then there were the rest of us. We, did as well as we could. Some of us were more interested and better students then others, but this was a group that, with at least some members of which, I'm still in touch. It was, it was like, sort of like being in a fraternity.
KA: Was there tension between the group of you and the Cornell students that were there?
ML: Not particularly. First of all, [Cornell had] an enormous population of military. There was [the four] language program. There were several hundred troops in that. There was a pre-West Point program: boys who applied for, or would apply for admission to West Point, and they were getting some pre-West Point training. There were navy V-12's and V-7's and V-5's, and there was even an Army program called A-12, which was an imitation of the navy's V-12. So there were hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of military personnel on this campus and we all respected one another, I think, as far as I know, and then, of course, there were the co-eds, who got a lot of attention. They weren't too unhappy about this, because there were plenty of campuses that didn't have [many males]. Cornell had a lot of influence in Washington, which was good for our program because along the way we had some trouble.
KA: What kind?
ML: Well, [there was] one of our instructors who taught us not language, but history and geography. We did get some general background in the history of Russia and the Soviet Union. [He] who was an acknowledged member of the Soviet communist party, and what he was doing in the United States? There was a lot of mystery about it. But there's no question about his political affiliation. He came from an aristocratic background; his grandfather, I think, had been an admiral in the Imperial Russian Navy. He would laugh and [tell] us that he became a communist after he had been sent, before the revolution, he'd been sent to work on Wall Street, and he became a communist at that point. [laughter] Anyway, there was one guy in our group whose mother had some journalistic connections, [with] right-wing journalists. Our nine-month program was divided into three, three-month semesters. At the end of the first semester, suddenly, out comes the leading red-baiting reporter for the New York World Telegram at that time, which no longer exists, "American GI's Indoctrinated [With] Communism At Cornell."
KA: And this professor spoke openly about this?
ML: Yes, yes, he didn't make any bones about it. Well, there was a lot of [controversy], a big flap. Cornell [officials] were going back and forth, to [and from] Washington. This guy, this instructor resigned, and that was the end of that flap, but he was replaced by a Professor Joshua Kunitz, who had been, a native Russian, but was now an American citizen, and a historian. His specialty, of course, was Soviet and Russian history, and he was writing a book [of] the Soviet history his lectures consisted of [reading aloud from the book]. It was kind of dull, [but] he [too] was an open and acknowledged member of the Communist party. [laughter]
KA: Still? [laughter]
ML: Yes, well, there was [a media] scandal about him. [laughter] That got quieted down, and so we all finished the program. But if it hadn't been for Cornell's influence in Washington, it would've been wiped out.
KA: What did you think of all this?
ML: I thought it was ridiculous, because they weren't indoctrinating us. I mean, we would not admit to being so naive as to be indoctrinated, and there was a lot of pro-Soviet feeling anyway. We were allies, you know. It wasn't until we got into intelligence training that we realized that the intelligence services were much more concerned about left-wing politics than right-wing. In other words, we were never asked if we were ever fascists, but we were checked out for communist affiliations. This [was] during the war.
KA: When you were at Cornell, did all of you know what you were being trained in these languages for?
ML: Well, we assumed we were going to be interpreters. Joint military ventures with the Soviets.
KA: How did you get involved in this special project that you worked on?
ML: Well, we were assigned to it, is how [laughter] we finished our time, nine months at Cornell, and then the group of us, by this time the group had been winnowed, we had started at ninety-five and we finished at sixty.
KA: People failed out?
ML: Yes, the whole program was reduced, and it was reduced on the basis of grades essentially. Well, at least sixty of us finished and we were divided into ten groups at that time, and each group of six was assigned to a different infantry division. So we spent the summer of '44 in the infantry, as plain infantry GIs.
KA: Where were you?
ML: Mississippi. Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
KA: Were you kind of anxious to get into the war itself?
ML: Well, not necessarily as a foot soldier. As a matter of fact, I applied for Officer Candidate School when I was in Mississippi, and nothing happened to it, because, one day the company clerk came by and gave me a wink, and the next day we had orders from Washington, and we were transferred [those] on orders from Washington out of the infantry, into the Army Air Corps.
KA: So now you were in the Army Air Corps.
ML: [We were] sent to Kearns Field, Utah, which was outside of Salt Lake City, and we had a monster reunion of all our Cornell buddies, except a couple of them, fell between the cracks and actually got into infantry combat. Then there [were] thirty guys, who had had the same Russian training we had, only at Wisconsin and Georgetown, so, here we were, all hot and eager, ready to go, and suddenly we found that we were permanently assigned to this base in Utah.
KA: What was the reaction to that?
ML: "What, what does this mean?" The reaction was, "This is idiotic." Well, that lasted a couple of weeks; then we were put on a train and sent to intelligence school. We were [transferred] to ground forces intelligence school, but we were still in the Air Corps, which was unprecedented, because normally, the normal [process] was if you got assigned to Army Ground Forces intelligence school, you then belonged to intelligence.
KA: Not to the Air Corps.
ML: Not to the Air Corps, or to any [other] unit you had been in. You would then be assigned, after completion of intelligence training, to some kind of intelligence unit, depending on [need.] Nobody was a specialist, they made it very clear, but you were either going to go into photo interpretation, or language interpreting, or counter-intelligence, or one or two other kinds of specialties, and we, of course, were linguists. Well, we finished the course at intelligence school and then we ...
KA: The intelligence school was in Utah?
ML: No, it was in Maryland, in the hills of Maryland. In fact, it's in the area where, I believe, now Camp David is, and the camp that we were in still exists as a permanent installation, called Ritchie, Fort Ritchie. That was a two-month [program], they crowded a year's training into two months; it was really quite effective.
KA: What kind of training was it?
ML: Well, we had smatterings of all, counter-intelligence, photo intelligence, but we concentrated mostly on interpreting, and so we did field exercises in which we simulated being an intelligence team of an American division that was collaborating with a Soviet unit, and the [simulated] Soviet officers, who had happened to be Russians, would come over and we'd practice our trade. We also got some pretty good insights into what [might be] coming. We had classroom exercises, for example, that simulated [an] invasion of [Japan] and which was actually planned, never happened.
KA: Did you know at the time that it was planned?
ML: We kind of suspected that it was, it seemed the perfectly logical thing to do, and we, after we finished the training at intelligence, we were split up into three groups and assigned to three different Air Corps technical schools. The one I went to was in Denver, and it had to do with armaments. I learned to defuse, or fuse bombs, and I could assemble and disassemble [an] aircraft machine gun blindfolded and all this sort of thing.
KA: Was that dangerous?
ML: No, no, not especially. It was just cold in the morning, and then we got, it was really crazy, we got shifted someplace else, and I managed through. I can't get into all the complications, but I got my name on a shipment to go overseas, and I was with a group of about twenty guys, who wound up in Italy. It was towards the end of the war, and we sort of waited it out there. Now, it turned out that, well, now, I have to tell you that we got assigned from Italy to Austria at our request. They didn't know what to do with us. We talked to a personnel officer and got shipped to Austria for occupation duty, for which we were pretty well qualified.
KA: Well what were you doing in Italy, just having a good time?
ML: Yes, oh, yes, oh, we had a great time in Florence, for example. [But there was also a plan, classified, of course, about which I'll talk later.] We discovered, [in Florence], an expatriate Russian prince named Obolensky, who was a cousin of the make-up Obolensky. You know there's a cosmetic, cosmetician, or cosmetic manufacturer named Serge Obolensky and this is his cousin, Nick, who was an authority on Renaissance art, and he had lived in Italy since 1917, and he was kind of down at the heels and a little seedy, but he was an, oh, absolute aristocrat to his fingertips, and he worked for the Red Cross, as a tour guide. [He spoke excellent English, as well as Italian and French. But refused to talk Russian.]
KA: So he used to give you tours?
ML: And [he] would have tours of the art galleries that were just beginning to [be] put back together after the Germans were driven out, and, oh, he took us to Fiesole, to the Etruscan ruins, and it was just a marvelous experience, and then we got shipped over to a camp over on the east coast of Italy that was in an area controlled by the British Eighth Army. Where, by the way, I first met up with the Jewish Brigade.
KA: There was a Jewish Brigade?
ML: In the British Eighth Army. Yes, the British Eighth Army was a very polyglot group. It included troops from Greece and Turkey and others that were not really British. I guess, there were some Ghurkas and others from India, but, there was a Jewish Brigade of Palestinian Jews, who looked British, by the way. [laughter] They tended to be blond, and Gentile-looking. Well, then we flew up, we got into some bombers and we flew up to Austria where we were settled on, what had been a Luftwaffe, a German air force base.
KA: So then your involvement in the US occupation of Austria, that was after the special project you were on, or was that the special project?
ML: It was, no, it was really instead of. Now, how we found out about this, a couple of our guys, who did not go overseas, they eventually, got to Washington, and they, I don't remember how they did it, but they were very clever fellows, you know, and got to talk to a colonel in Air Force personnel, who had been a law professor at Harvard, and they got the story.
KA: What was the story?
ML: Well, there was a plan, which involved the bringing in the Soviets as [allies in the war against Japan. The Soviets] had agreed to attack Japanese [forces] in northern China, Manchuria and northern China. It was called the Kwangtung Army, which was supposed to [contain] the very finest Japanese troops, and as a matter of fact, in the late, mid-to-late '30s there was an actual war in Siberia. It was kind of a test run between the Japanese Kwangtung Army and the Soviet troops in the Far East, and so they felt each other out, in effect. Well, [in 1945,] the Soviets didn't have enough material and industrial capacity to have an air force to support their ground troops, so there was going to be American tactical air support for Soviet ground troops attacking [the] Japanese through Manchuria.
KA: And you were going help?
ML: We were going to be the liaison officers, which explains the fact that we had spent time in the infantry, so we knew something about ground fighting. We were in the Air Corps, we had some Air Corps technical training, and we had the Russian, and so it all added up.
KA: But the whole time you were kind of getting all these pieces of your training, you did not know what it was for?
ML: We didn't know what it was for. Certainly not in these specific terms, we figured it had to be some kind of collaboration. It had to be.
KA: What happened to the plans?
ML: The atomic bomb happened to it.
ML: Yes, and the Soviets did take on the Japanese armies, you know, towards the end, on their own and they went through them in four days and then everything was over. Well, [in] the army, as is typical of the military, there was a secondary objective for our group, and that's why our group went to Italy.
KA: What was that for?
ML: [It was to be shuttle-bombing, similar to what was happening in Northern Europe. Shuttle bombing] had started from France, fairly late in the war. You see there was a lot of bombing of Germany, and the bombers would, have to fly from bases in England and France, over Germany and then drop their bombs, turn around and come back. So they had two exposures to German fighters, coming and going, and there were a lot of casualties. So, this is the brilliant idea. They did shuttle bombing, that is, they'd fly over, drop their bombs in Germany, and keep going and land on bases in the Ukraine.
KA: So they wouldn't have to face the Germans twice.
ML: Then they could reload with bombs and fly back and bomb them again, and then, the plan that we were involved with, our secondary objective, was a similar operation going out of Italy, across Austria, Romania, into Soviet bases.
KA: You were going to be bombers?
ML: Yes, we were going, well, we were going to be "Russian-speaking crew chiefs." That explains the technical training. Some of us were trained in armaments, as I was, some in mechanics, aircraft mechanics, and some in communications, but we probably would have been stationed in the Ukraine, [doing] liaison [work].
KA: Whatever happened to that?
ML: That was called "mission sixteen." It was part of the 12th Air Force [of] the Army Air Corps and it was being bought together a little bit too close to the front lines and it got shot up by [enemy] artillery and that kind of scrubbed the mission. So they just didn't know what to do with us. We had to volunteer for occupation duty because most of us spoke some German, some French, and, of course, Russian. So I wound up with a, finally, with an office job in Vienna, doing, actually I was sort of running a message center, but anybody who couldn't speak English was initially sent to me, for initial screenings, and I would determine whether this was something I could handle or not.
KA: What kinds of things did you handle?
ML: It was mostly routine; some Russian would come in and say that he needs to do something about something, I don't know what, and I would say, "You'll have to get in touch with..." send them to the liaison section or to economics or whatever it happened to be. But I'll never forget the Russian major who came in one day and he wanted, he was asking me if we would sell him a machine. I just didn't get it. "What kind of machine are you talking about?" Well, the term machine is pretty generic, and, in this case, he was talking about an automotive machine.
KA: A car?
ML: He wanted to buy a Jeep for his general. Well, there ensued [some negotiations] and he offered me six thousand dollars. [laughter]
KA: That was a lot of money in those days, right?
ML: It was a fortune, except that it would've been in Russian occupation currency, which was worthless. Anyway, I said this, "I cannot sell it to you," and he said, "Why not?" and I said, "Because it's government property." And he said, "Well, aren't you the government of the people?" "Yes." "And aren't you one of the people?" "Yes." "So, it's your property, right? Sell it to me." [laughter]
KA: It is an interesting way to think of things. [laughter]
ML: Well, there you are. [laughter] Well, of course, it didn't work. Finally, I guess, I sent him to liaison, just to get rid of him.
KA: Well, what were the relations like between the different occupying forces?
ML: They were rather good, in Vienna, and I'll tell you, there's a particular reason for that. Now in Berlin, where some of our boys wound up, there ... were separate zones and there could've been friction because, "this is ours, and we're French," and "this is ours, and we're American," and "we're Russian." We had this in Vienna, but the inner city, the old city of Vienna, was internationally administered, so that we had police patrols, for example, with four guys, a Russian, an American, a Frenchman, and a Britisher.
KA: So they were integrated?
ML: We also had lots of activities [where we mingled freely]. There were concerts. There were plays. People were going to the operas before they [had more than a minimal diet.]
KA: Was Vienna a fun city to be in?
ML: It was absolutely fascinating from start to finish, because, really, because a lot of it was the culture, and I saw, I would say, probably the best production I have ever seen, one of the best, of a Shakespeare play. It was As You Like It, and [it was] done in German, and I understood it almost as well as the Austrians did. Then, of course, there were operas and there were constant symphony concerts. The Soviets were staging them all the time. There was the anniversary of the revolution, [for example,] and [other occasions] and we always went, my little group and I, because this is what we wanted to do. I remember seeing a production of an Oscar Wilde play in Vienna, it was Lady Windermere's Fan. Now Wilde writes this petty frothy stuff in some ways, it's wit, that's all. The Austrians played it [as] heavy melodrama, it was really interesting.
KA: Was that typically Austrian?
ML: Yes, I guess so, and the reason that their production of their performance of As You Like It was as good as it was, was because it's a melancholy play anyway to begin with. [laughter] It's got, the whole thing's a melancholy cast over it, even though it's technically a comedy, and they did it, they just did it very well. [And] we had Viennese friends.
KA: Was it usual for the army men to date Viennese women?
ML: Well, there was an anti-fraternization policy, so-called, but nobody cared about that, and then, the attitude sort of changed, and, yes, we want to be friends, after all. Austria was treated as a liberated country, not as an enemy country, and that made a lot of difference.
KA: So it was okay to be friends?
ML: So, it was okay to fraternize. Somebody once asked me, "What do [you] need to have a woman in Vienna?" I said "The strength to drop your hat." [laughter] Yes, there was a lot of that sort of activity going on.
KA: Anything worth mentioning?
ML: Well, I went for a while with a woman who was, I guess, she was about five years older than I, whose father was a university president, and who herself was, roughly the equivalent of the solicitor general [of] the United States. She was a professor, a legal expert, a doctor of law, and I met her because I had earlier met her sister who was earlier visiting Vienna from her hometown of [Klagenfurt], and when the younger sister went back home, I got word that the older sister wanted to see me.
KA: She was Austrian?
ML: Yes, these were Austrians, and we were pretty close for the rest of the time I was in Austria.
KA: Was that kind of frowned upon?
ML: No, not at all. I felt like an international [operator] with her because we could converse in German and in French, depending on the mood and all this sort of stuff. I thought I was a pretty hot shot at that time.
KA: Did you have a lot of interaction with German people?
ML: Well, with Austrian people. I didn't get to Germany.
ML: Except in passing. There was an interesting incident. If you want anecdotes, I got a million of them. We got word one day in Vienna, that there'd been a happening on the American leave train. Vienna was an enclave in Soviet-held territory. The American occupation zone of Austria, as opposed to the occupation [in] Vienna, was in western Austria, which included Salzberg, by the way. We got to see some of that, and Mozart's [birthplace], and so on. Let's see, how shall I put this? The army ran a train, one train back and forth each day, the train was called "The Mozart," by the way, and American personnel who were going on leave, or had to go someplace on business would, [ride it] from Vienna to Munich, and back. Well, this train had to go through Soviet territory, between, after it left Vienna, and before it got to the international boundary at [Linz. Going] through, totally through Soviet territory, at one stop on this train, a couple of Russian soldiers, officers, got on and according to the story, they were drunk, and they demanded to ride the train, and this was against regulations. The American train commander was an American sergeant, who was also the conductor, and the guard, and everything else, and, well, the upshot was that both of the Soviets were killed by the American, because, he said, "They refused to get off the train, and they started to go for their guns," and he got his gun out first.
KA: Is this something that you heard about while you were there?
ML: Yes, yes, because that was an international incident and we had to do something about it. So, I was assigned to ride this train as an interpreter. I made one round trip, and I says, "I ain't going to do this anymore!"
KA: What were you worried about?
ML: I wasn't worried. It was because the train left Vienna in the evening and a few hours later it came to the border, and at the border there were American and Austrian personnel and Soviets, and we had to get their permission to cross. So I talked to them, had a nice chat in Russian, and "on you go," and everybody was very happy about this. Well, we got to Munich and it [would] just simply wait ['til] morning, turn around and [proceed] back to Vienna, arriving at dawn, and I simply dis-assigned myself from it. I wasn't going to just do this for the rest of [my Army time]; who knows how long I was going to be there?
KA: Did anything ever come of that incident??
ML: Yes, the American sergeant was put on trial, court-martialed for murder, [and acquitted. He was then sent home.]
--------------------------------------END OF TAPE ONE, SIDE TWO--------------------------------------
KA: [Were relations strained between] Americans and Russians?
ML: [Official relations were proper. Relations among individuals were generally cordial. The train incident was a product of circumstance. But there's a personal sequel.] According to the novel I read by John Irving, an American family had bought a hotel in Vienna just after the war and somewhere in the course of this novel [Irving] made reference [to] this incident. He said there was one Russian officer, my information was that there were two, otherwise it was fairly accurate, and I wrote him a letter, which he never responded to, but, it kind of hit me that here was something I really knew something about; I was there. That was one of the more interesting [events.] Otherwise it was a fairly routine office job that I had. Then one day, [an Army] captain came into the office and he, and I said "Yes, sir, Captain," and said, "Call me Jack," and, well, "What can I do for you, Jack?" "How would you like to take a commission?" And I said, "How much time does that mean?" And he said "Two years." I said, "No, thanks," and that was the end of that.
KA: Why didn't you take that?
ML: I'd been in the army for three years already. I didn't want two more years. What I sometimes think [is that] I should've taken a six-month assignment as a civilian employee, and stay down in Vienna, but I guess I was tired of it. I wanted to get home, and get on with my life, as we say.
KA: Before you were mentioning that when you were in Austria, [where] your mother's family from Poland came through.
ML: Well, after I left, shortly after I left, yes.
KA: So you just missed them?
ML: I just missed them, I think by a few weeks.
KA: You were right in Eastern Europe. What kind of information did you have about your family? Were you worried about them at all, in Poland?
ML: I knew that they had survived the war in central Asia, and I found out in a letter from home that they had come back to Poland and tried to reestablish their lives there. What I didn't know was that they were, by this time had decided that there was no way they were going to stay in Poland, and [so] they were starting to [leave]. You see, there was an underground route at that time, you know the British blocked immigration of Jews, European Jews into Palestine. But there were ways to get in, and you may, or may not, have read about the famous Exodus episode. I guess my relatives were on that kind of a ship. Would you like some tea, coffee, wine, anything?
KA: No, thank you. I'm good.
ML: Water, water, please. [Mr. Lederman speaking to his wife]
Deborah Lederman: What?
ML: Water, yes.
ML: Yes, isn't it amazing. [laughter] I thank you. I have a bit of diverticulitis; I should drink a lot of water. The route was from Poland to Prague, where there was a kind of a way station. That was sanctioned, or at least not closed by the Czechs, and the next was Rothschild Hospital in Vienna and from there, the underground movement was to Genoa, usually, and that's where the illegal ships were waiting that would take them across the Mediterranean, and I think this is the route that my family followed. It was unbeknownst to me at the time. I knew that they were back in Poland, that's all I knew, and as I told you, I couldn't get through to them in any way. I didn't, I wasn't high [up] enough. I didn't have enough influence, and even then I might not have been able to do it.
KA: Now who was it that was blocking communications between Austria and Russia?
ML: It was the Iron Curtain, really, before it was called an iron curtain, and this was their occupation zone and they were going to exercise total control. Maybe they were afraid to let western influence in, in any way. I suspect that might have been the case.
KA: When you were in Austria, did the stories of the concentration camps start to filter in? Did you start to realize what had happened?
ML: It didn't, it didn't have to. One of my early experiences at the first station in Austria, which was in the countryside near Linz, I saw people who had just been released from Mauthausen, which was a typical concentration camp, and it was in Austria. It was not one of the better known ones, it wasn't Auschwitz, or Buchenwald, it was a concentration camp, and I remember seeing a young man, it looked like a young man, in the striped pajamas, bending over, bent over to pick up a cigarette butt, fell down, and couldn't get up without help. These were recently released people. They hung around the American installation and we gave them food. So, we knew. I'll tell you something curious. They weren't there very long, a few weeks, and then they were shipped back to their [home] countries. Quite a few of them, as I recall, were from Hungary, and they disappeared from sight. By this time, my American compatriots had made friends among the local population, people who, of course, knew nothing about the camps, and I actually, I heard, I remember listening to, hearing American GIs questioning whether there really were these awful concentration camps, maybe it was just a rumor, they said.
KA: What did you think of that?
ML: Well, I thought it was absolutely dreadful. [laughter] They had seen with their own eyes, but, you know, the will to disbelieve, somehow they conveniently seem to forget.
KA: How close was that concentration camp to where you were?
ML: I don't know exactly, but I would say it was close enough so that some of these people walked over. It was, it may have been a couple of miles, I'm not sure, but it was in the vicinity.
KA: How did it affect the way that you saw your role there?
ML: Well, I kind of, I sort of felt bad that I didn't, hadn't done anything, by way of active combat to bring this to an end.
KA: Did you have any relatives that died in concentration camps?
ML: I think so. One of my mother's brothers lost his wife and daughter. They simply disappeared, and he spent a couple of years looking for them in Poland, and Germany, and never found them, so I have to assume that that's what happened to them. Now my grandparents, that is, my mother's parents, I know they died sometime in the early '40s and it's, and we never got any clear idea of how they died. They were getting fairly old, as old went in those days, and they were not well. So they might have simply died faster, sooner than they might otherwise have died through hunger, deprivation, and so on, without having gone to a concentration camp. But I don't know that for a fact, it's all supposition, we just don't know.
KA: Was there any lingering anti-Semitism in Austria that you experienced or that you saw?
ML: I didn't experience it, but I certainly heard enough about it. I talked to people, I had friends who were born in Austria and they said that in some ways Austria was worse than Germany. Remember, Hitler was born in Austria. The percentage of Nazi party membership in Austria was significantly higher than in Germany, and a lot of Austrians said that they needed to have that party card in order to get food rations and jobs, and so on, which may have been the case. But we got to be very [friendly with one Viennese family], or, my roommate. I had two roommates; we lived in the Vienna University student dormitory. One of [my roommates met] an American soldier, who was a native of Vienna. [This man] said that, he simply said, "Look up my mother and sister, there in Vienna" because this guy couldn't get to Vienna. He was assigned elsewhere, so, we looked them up, and it was this nice woman and her nice daughter and we got to be very good friends. Now they had also been in a concentration camp, but they were political prisoners, not, not because they were Jewish, because they weren't.
KA: They were treated a little bit better?
ML: Yes. They were Socialists, [so they were sent away. When we met them,] they were living in the Soviet occupation zone in Vienna, but since access was free, we went and visited them, quite a lot, because as I say, we got to be very good friends. They had another son, a younger son, who was not there because he [had left home at] age eleven, he was eleven years old when Hitler marched into Vienna, in 1938. He saw what was happening, and he, on his own, at age eleven, went to England.
KA: Because he was scared of what would happen?
ML: Yes, and he came back [to Austria] as a British soldier. He wanted to be assigned to Vienna, and finally he managed to do it, and we got to be very good friends with him. He had acquired a lady friend, who was a member of the [Vienna] police department, or something like that, who had also been a political [prisoner]. He said, "There were a million Viennese 'heiling' Hitler in 1938, with great enthusiasm and acceptance." But, [even now,] my Jewish friends from Vienna assure me that anti-Semitism, not only was rampant in Austria before we were in the war, but it's pretty alive and well even today." I knew a Rochester man, I'm not sure if he's still alive, but I knew him pretty well, who was a native of Vienna, he happened to be a chemist at Kodak. He went back to Vienna for a visit, and [when] came back, he was shaking his head, he said, "They're as bad as they ever were."
ML: Yes. That was, that's the kind of anecdotal information I have.
KA: You were in a lot of different branches of the armed forces. What was the difference between them? The treatment, the food, you know, all that kind of stuff.
ML: Well, the best treatment was, we got, at least in the material sense, was when we were in the intelligence school, because this was a pet of the War Department, and they treated us very well. We worked very hard, I mean, this was when I talk about cramming a year's worth of instruction into two months, they actually did it. We operated on an eight-day week, seven days on, one day off, and our classes would begin at about seven in the morning and go 'til six at night with a half hour for lunch, and then there would often be night problems. We learned a lot and we had to learn it fast, but we had baked Alaska for dessert. I never heard of baked Alaska until I got it in an army camp. [laughter] The allotment per man at this camp was significantly higher than it was in other army units. I would also say that the Army Air Corps was a pleasanter, more easygoing place to be, let's say, than the infantry. The infantry was rough and ready and this was real soldiering, and that was that and a lot of time [was spent] in the field. I swore a great oath when I came out of the 69th division that I was never going to spend the night out in the open again. I mean, really, it was not, not comfortable, and the infantry, really took [punishment]. I once figured out that the actual fighting was done by really, [a] relatively small minority of the troops, because there was so much by way of backup, of supply and administration, and so forth, probably a lot more than we actually needed. [The technical term was "division slice," which referred to the proportion of combat to non-combat troops in the field.]
KA: Did officers and soldiers interact differently?
ML: It tended to be less hierarchical in the specialized [units, like intelligence and] Air Corps administration, and so on, and it also, I'm sure, varied from post to post. It would depend on what the commander was like, that's really what it amounted to.
KA: Were things very secretive when you were in the intelligence unit?
ML: We didn't know an awful lot, there were things that we did without really knowing why we were doing them. We had to do a lot of surmising. But I know that I dealt with a lot of secret documents in Vienna. They passed through my hands and I had to distribute them. There were reports from various, not necessarily American, but other Allied and native sources about Soviet troop [strength] here and there. I mean, we were very conscious of wondering of what the Soviets were up to, and what kind of threat they might pose.
KA: To the Americans you mean?
ML: Yes, [to us and to the French and British. During my service in Vienna and international incident occurred that had the potential of turning into a sizeable disaster. One morning, one of my roommates, who was assigned to the State Department representative's office, came into my office. He was tense and looked frightened, and he said that a Soviet train had invaded the British zone of Austria. That was all the information we had at the time. Somebody remembered that the previous day, at a meeting of the four-power senior officials there was a fierce confrontation between the British and the Soviets over ownership of the assets of a formerly of a formerly Nazi-owned shipping firm. There was a flurry of tense speculation about who would be able to escape if hostilities broke out, or alternatively, did we have enough white bed sheets with which to surrender: we knew that the Soviets had as many troops in Vienna as the US, France, and Britain combined, and Vienna was like an island in the midst of Soviet-held territory. A few hours later we got word: The Soviet train was a freight train, and the incursion into British territory was an engineer's error.]
KA: You stayed in Austria for several months after the war ended.
ML: Let's see, I got to Austria in June of '45 and I went home in March of '46. So I was there for about nine months.
KA: Well, what was the atmosphere like after the war ended?
ML: Well, my whole experience in Austria was post-war.
KA: After the war, the occupation.
ML: At least the post European war. Now, I remember we were sitting, before we got to
Vienna, we were in the, our unit bar, we had our own bar in this air base near Linz, in [western]
Austria, when the news came of the atomic bomb and then of the Japanese surrender.
KA: What was your reaction when you heard about that?
ML: Well, I was glad it was over, because there's always that possibility that they may suddenly decide to pick you up and send you out to India, or China, or someplace.
KA: To fight?
ML: To fight, yes. So, once that the war was over then it was just a question of how much longer before we're eligible to go home.
KA: So when you went home you went to New Brunswick?
KA: And you went back to get your masters.
ML: No, not right away. The first thing I did was to enroll in the Russian Institute at
ML: That lasted one semester, because I just didn't know, after I took these courses, what I was going to do with them I had some vague thought about getting a job in the State Department or in the UN, but it was not clear what I could have done. [My] language [skill] was not good enough, really. There were bilingual people who were available to do interpreting and translating, and I was by no means bilingual.
KA: How good was your Russian?
ML: It was good enough.
KA: To be able to communicate?
ML: I could communicate quite well on a day-to-day level. But, see, they never really taught us, for example, how to read and write. We picked it up, some of it along the way, but it was mainly conversational, and it was mainly job-related. ... I can still talk, I mean, I can give a native Russian the impression that my Russian is very good because of the way we learned it.
KA: Which was completely oral.
ML: Yes, it was all oral, and I have a fairly good ear for language so that I can imitate the intonations and the accents, and there were a lot of [colloquial] expressions that I picked up, some of [I] which retain so that I can give that impression, but it was mostly phony.
KA: What did you do after you left Columbia?
ML: Then I ... let's see, at the beginning of 1947, my old buddy, who got to be a journalist, the journalist who went to NBC ...
KA: Elliot Frankel.
ML: He was interviewed for [the New Brunswick radio] job, and he didn't want it, but he told me about it, and I went and got it.
KA: This was before he became famous?
ML: Yes and he left there and he went to work for a newspaper. It was a newspaper, a very good newspaper in Newark, called the Newark News, which was known as the New York Times of New Jersey. Well, it was good enough so that it went out of existence. He worked there for a while, and then he got an opening at NBC, and that's where he stuck. Eventually, he was the producer of the Huntley-Brinkley Nightly News, which was his main achievement. Because I knew him, I did some things when I worked [in] medical [public] relations here at the University of Rochester. I got us on his magazine show a couple of times.
KA: You and he were very close.
ML: We were, we were very close, yes. As a matter of fact we were so close that I found, every once in a while, especially in the fall, I would find an urgent need to go consult with him in New York, you know. It almost always happened, [of course] this is a coincidence, about the time of the Rutgers/Princeton game. Now, my late brother at that time, lived a five-minute walk from Palmer Stadium. So I would fly into Newark, and Frankel would pick me up there and we'd drive down, park in my brother's driveway, and have a drink with my brother, and then walk over to see the game, in the press box, of course, and then come back and socialize. Spend some time there, and then I'd go home with Elliot Frankel and spend the night. We'd sort of talk business a little, then I'd come back here.
KA: There was a job you mentioned that you took over when Elliot left.
ML: Oh, that was writing commercials for the radio station in New Brunswick.
KA: Did you enjoy that?
ML: Well, the work itself, after a while, [was not much fun and poorly paid.] I left after a year because it got to be awfully dull, but I made the mistake of leaving before I got another job, and I really was not prepared for the New York advertising agency scene, which is where I thought I wanted to go. So after eight months of unemployment, I decided to go back to graduate school. I had taken a couple of graduate courses before the war, while I was waiting to be called, so I had those credits and I actually slid into graduate school in the second semester, and there I was, and I did spend the two and a half [or] three years at it, until the fiasco with my first draft of a thesis.
KA: How had Rutgers changed since before the war?
ML: Well, immediately after the war, it was not very different; it was quite familiar. But, after some years, it got, of course, it proliferated. It got to be the full-time state University, and it took off.
KA: Were there a lot of veterans around?
ML: Yes, as a matter of fact, I [had] a graduate assistantship, a teaching assistantship, when I was in graduate school and I had a freshman section in the English department, and here were these guys calling me "sir," and they were older than I was. [laughter] Yes, there were, there were a lot of veterans.
KA: So you lived in New Brunswick, and you commuted to school.
KA: You lived in University Heights you said?
ML: After I got married I lived in University Heights. But prior to that, I lived in my parents' house. We did that in those days, we weren't so oriented toward, "I'm on my own now." Even when I worked at the radio station, I didn't [live on my own.] I might [have done] it differently, if I had known then what I know now.
KA: How did you meet your wife?
ML: Mutual friends. She had been married before and her first husband was a graduate student in physics at Rutgers, and he died suddenly. She went back to Rochester, [then left and went to work at the U.N. in New York;] but when I started graduate school I met this couple from Lakewood, who were both in the graduate English program at Rutgers together, and they had known her [and] her first husband, and they had been in, in school then, so we met, in Lakewood, [at the home of these mutual friends.]
KA: You were a New Brunswick resident, what was the relationship like between the town and the school?
ML: I was certainly not aware of tensions, because I was just not oriented to them. I am much better acquainted with Rochester University town/gown relations because I had some involvement with it, through the job that I did. But my town/gown connection was that when I was a kid I went to the Rutgers football games. They [were] where the [Brower] Commons now is, [that] was Neilson Field, that was the stadium.
KA: That's where you used to go?
ML: Yes, and they had a special [free] section to which they would admit local kids, under age sixteen. You should've seen some of the under sixteens! But we would line up there and [go] for free.
ML: Yes, and we would wait and go charging into these stands, and so we were pro-Rutgers. It was wonderful.
KA: Maybe that was Rutgers way of reaching out to the youth.
ML: Yes, maintaining good relations, but I at any other level, I was just not, not aware [of town-gown.] I guess they were okay, I'm not, I don't recall any particular problems.
KA: Did you end up in Rochester because your wife was from here?
ML: Well, yes, she was originally from here. I had a job, when I was in school, graduate school, I continued to write commercials and news at the radio station part-time. I did public relations, free-lance, part-time. In fact, there was one point when I had six part-time jobs. But it was all in this field, in advertising and public relations.
KA: And that's what you eventually went into, advertising and public relations?
ML: Yes, that's it. So, we would come to Rochester for the summer on vacation, it's a wonderful place in the summer.
KA: It seems beautiful.
ML: Especially compared to New Jersey in the summer, and after, I got a job, at the United, it's called the United Way now, I guess, but it was called the United Fund then, doing public relations. I was one, it's another one of my funny stories. I was one of three finalists for this job and the guy they wanted had been a newspaper, was a newspaper man, who had also done quite a lot of non-profit agency public relations work. But he was a recovering alcoholic and they were a little afraid to hire him because, "Who knows? Maybe he'd fall off the wagon." So they hired another fellow, who had done PR for Red Cross. Well, about two weeks went by and I got a call from the director, wanted to ask if I was still interested. So I said, "I'll let you know." By this time I'm getting wised up, you see, [laughter] and I called a newspaper reporter that I knew, and I asked him if he heard about what happened? Well, he had.
KA: What happened?
ML: Well, the guy they hired came in one morning drunker than a hoot owl. [laughter] So they fired him. I remember once somebody asked me how, on what basis I got this job, I said, "Sobriety." [laughter]
KA: You eventually rose to be head of that?
ML: No, no, I was public relations director, I started and finished there. I got bored with it after three years, and also my, I was getting pressure from my wife's family to come move to Rochester, "Nice place to raise kids." We had two kids, and I agreed. So, they arranged for me, through family contacts to be interviewed for an advertising department job at Stromberg Carlson, which was then a, a fairly well known manufacturer of electronics and products, consumer electronics, radios, televisions, and telephone equipment. Well, I talked to them and didn't come to any conclusion, but the advertising manager thought I ought to meet his agency. So I went to meet the agency and I liked it. So I said to the vice-president, "I talked to you, do you have an opening here?" Well, they happened to have an opening there.
KA: They did?
ML: Yes, so I went to work for, I mean Stromberg agreed and I worked on that account. I also worked on Kodak.
KA: That's the big firm?
ML: That's the big one, and I got eventually to be the vice president, and after fourteen years I thought I'd like to do something else. As it happens, I had, for a period of about ten years I taught English in night school, mostly lit surveys and that was nice. I don't think I would've wanted to do it for a living, but I, it's hard to say. In any event, I got interested in University.
KA: The University of Rochester is where you were?
ML: Yes, and I on two occasions, I was brash enough to apply, there was an opening to be dean of the night school. Well, they didn't think I had the right credentials for that, and I didn't, but I thought I would give it a shot. [laughter]
KA: You might as well try. [laughter]
ML: Yes, and I remember saying to the personnel director at that time, who was a neighbor, lived around the block, "If anything interesting ever comes along that I could qualify for let me know," and he did, and it was the public relations job at the medical center.
KA: Then you did that for?
ML: And I did that for sixteen years, and then I retired.
KA: You rose to become the head of that?
ML: Well, I started and finished as the head of that.
KA: During the time in Rochester it sounds like you kept in touch with a lot of people from Rutgers.
KA: Yes, did you get to go back to Rutgers once in a while?
ML: Well, whenever I was in New Brunswick I might visit campus to see visiting an occasional faculty member I got friendly with, a member of the psychology department who how did I know him? I met him through somebody else, I guess. Some of the old University Heights connections, there was a couple that we knew who, well, he was a microbiologist who had graduated, gotten his PhD in the microbiology institute, and he eventually went to work for, what the hell was the name, for a major pharmaceutical company. He invented prednisone.
KA: Oh, really?
ML: This guy's name was (Charney?). He's dead now, he died a couple of years ago, he had bad Parkinson's, you know, we get to this age, and you start losing them. I had actually a little reunion, the same year that, shortly after my class' fiftieth class reunion. We had arranged to meet some of our old army buddies, and we met at a restaurant in Long Island. There were nine of us.
KA: What was that like?
ML: That was, it was, some of these guys I had not seen in fifty years and there was no fifty years. It was if it were yesterday. Yes, it was real love, you know, we were like that. Well, you know, that within a year, two of them were dead?
KA: Your father went to Israel, right?
ML: Yes, yes, yes. I wrote some articles, a couple of articles about him by the way, which were published in the national, Bnai'N'Brith national magazine, called: "My father the (Chamus?)" was the title of one of them. Well, my mother died in '67 and a few years later, six years later, we went to Israel for the first time, oh, about four or five years later, and there he met a cousin of his who he hadn't seen in a long time. He, this cousin, subsequently died and my father remembered this cousin's widow, and he got, he was very interested in her, and he brought her over to meet the family, and we didn't like her at all.
KA: Why not?
ML: She was kind of a pushy, grasping, that was all. My siblings, well, of course, we, you know, [we're] looking out for pop's best interests. But she really was not a very potent person, but she must of represented some sort of glamour to him. I don't know, they came to visit here, and he married her. He got married and they moved to Israel, and I told him, I don't want him to move to Israel, "If he wanted to get married, okay, but stay here." Well, he was committed, he wasn't going to change. They moved to Israel and within ten days he was dead.
KA: After moving to Israel?
ML: Yes, sudden aneurism, was what it was, but he was eighty-one.
KA: He lived a long life, and he got to Israel.
ML: And he did get to Israel, well, that was very important to him, because I got to Israel a
couple of times. It was a real picnic to meet with these cousins and ...
KA: The cousins from Poland?
ML: Yes, and Argentina. All my mother's family, okay, got nothing.
KA: You were involved with the American Veteran's Committee?
ML: Yes, I was, did I tell you that? [laughter]
KA: Yes, it was on the pre-interview survey. [laughter] Why did you choose that and not the American Legion?
ML: I was getting into liberal politics and the American Veterans Committee, I would not have joined the Legion, or VFW, or any of those because they are, I thought of them as kind of reactionary, right-wing organizations that spent most of their time either lobbying for special favors for veterans, or dropping bags of water out of hotel rooms on people's heads at their conventions. That's how I thought of them, and, by the way, there was a, in New Jersey, there was a proposition on the ballet once for a veteran's bonus, and I voted against it.
KA: Really, why?
ML: I didn't want that kind of special favor. The GI Bill was something else, but just money for being, anyway, I didn't think I earned it particularly. I had a bit of a joy ride through the war, for the most part.
KA: What kind of involvement do you have with the Veterans Committee?
ML: Well, we got involved, as-a-matter-of-fact, I can only recall one activity that we got into and that was, there was a labor dispute in New Brunswick and I don't recall what the nature of it was, but we sided with the union and tried to help the union get whatever it was it was after.
KA: Was it a liberal organization?
ML: Yes, oh, yes.
KA: Was there talk of communism or anything of that sort?
ML: Well, I guess there must have been ... especially during the McCarthy era. Oh, that reminds me, one of the guys in our Russian group at Cornell was one of these young, brilliant types, he was a historian. He had graduated from City College, I think, at age nineteen, and he was a kind of a loud mouth, rather unpleasant guy, very much, "Stalin himself said!" He was a card-carrying communist we found out later. ...There is another angle to this, which is political, which I'll get into in a moment. So, no, most of us didn't care to keep in touch with him and a number of years went by, say thirty-five, forty years, and I was watching Rukeyser on Public Television one Friday night, "Tonight's special guest is an expert in American investments in Japan," and out comes this guy. [laughter] I really wanted to write to Rukeyser and say, "I know something about him that you don't know!" [laughter]
KA: You saw him. [laughter]
ML: I never did, he's dead now. This fellow was, but ... when our project, which was called by the way, Project FAH, and I'll have to tell you about that, and why it got called FAH.
ML: Project FAH.
DL: Was your ...
ML: When we were sent to ...
DL: You mean, you didn't tell her about the ...
ML: I told her about the project, but not the name.
DL: Oh, that's the most interesting thing around.
ML: When we were all gathered together and sent to intelligence school, there was one guy that was not allowed to be part of the group. He was a very fine fellow, by the way. He had been a member of the Lincoln Brigade that fought in Spain against Franco. He was an American, but he was apparently a communist, and he was excluded from American Intelligence School because they didn't want communists in it. ...
KA: Really, but you had Russian features.
ML: Well, but that's got nothing to do with the Intelligence School, that was just the language training. Yes, there may have been some concern about that, I don't recall, because I didn't hear anything about it.
DL: Show her, this is what you looked like when they were ...
ML: Yes, this one ...
DL: But I didn't know him them. [laughter]
ML: This issue, this guy, his name was Bob (Steck?), not that it mattered, went all the way to the Pentagon, and he was reinstated in the group, which told us something about the clout that this project had.
KA: You mean, the man who was and who wasn't allowed to continue?
ML: That's right, he was reinstated at the, on orders from the Pentagon. In fact, a letter from the commanding general of the air, Army Air Corps, followed us wherever we went, with instructions as to how we were to be treated. Well, our friends who got to Washington that time to track down this colonel, who had been a law professor at Harvard. By the way, we have a friend, a lawyer here, who was, who remembers this guy as a professor, he was a graduate of Harvard Law.
DL: I want to say something.
DL: I lived in New Brunswick, too.
KA: You did?
ML: Yes, I told her about that.
KA: In University Heights?
DL: Yes, but ...
ML: No, but prior to that, her first husband, remember I told you [about] the physics graduate student?
DL: I lived there and I worked for Rutgers University. First, I worked for the School of Education, and my first husband was in the Physics Department, so they're back to back, or they were, I'm assuming, and then I worked for Rutgers Press.
KA: You did? What did you do there?
DL: Oh, I was a secretary.
ML: So, yes, that's her.
DL: So that he could go to school ...
ML: One of those things.
DL: And then what happened? Oh, I had a job in-between, and it was for business, and it was the first and only job, as far as I know, that I ever got fired from because I was Jewish.
ML: At Rutgers.
KA: At Rutgers Press?
ML: No, no, the Rutgers Business School.
KA: Rutgers Business School?
ML: No, no, you mean here?
DL: No, the economy forms, remember was concrete blocks at the Hill building ...
ML: Oh, but that was in New Brunswick.
DL: I didn't know you.
ML: No it was ...
DL: It was in New Brunswick.
ML: It was a building contractor.
DL: Town of New Brunswick.
ML: Yes, it was a building contractor, that's right.
DL: And they actually asked me to leave. It was really funny, you know, I guess New Jersey didn't have laws, or I was [not] smart enough to [know].
ML: No, [New Jersey] didn't [have laws about that].
KA: And they said to you because you were Jewish you had to leave?
DL: Yes, it was a Midwest company and they didn't want that. So I went back for this one and I went back to the Rutgers Press and then two years later, he and I are there. I went to work for the UN in New York, and I came back and worked for the Ag department because I was about to have a child.
ML: She works for the Dairy department, I'm going to get into their milk supply I guess. [laughter]
DL: Yes, well, it's great fun, and now we have to tell her one great female angle on all of this. When Milton and I met he told me, very soon after, this whole story, and, you know, I didn't remember one good [part of it].
ML: It made no impression on her whatsoever. [laughter] I couldn't imagine ...
DL: It did, it did, but not enough to make, I wasn't interested in the war, even though I was living in it. I hate war and I didn't want to know all about it. [laughter] But then when we really were seriously going together he would make reference and I didn't know what the hell it was. I finally had to tell him. [laughter]
ML: Yes, almost, almost dumped her.
DL: I think she should have something. [laughter]
ML: Yes, well, when her gentleman friend comes back, I'll offer some coffee, tea or milk or whatever. Anyway, Colonel Leach said, they asked him, where's, what's FAH, because we had been through codebooks. "What's the F? What's the A," he said. Well, that officer over there, we had to name it something; his name is Frank A. Hartman.
KA: So it's just named after a random officer?
ML: Yes. [laughter]
KA: Was the special project ever mentioned in history books?
ML: Not that I know of.
KA: It was just never written about?
ML: No, but there was a, I talked to a fellow, another Rutgers alumnus, the Class of '44, as I recall, but who didn't graduate in '44, name is Herb Striner, who told me about something called the XYZ plan. This also had to do with the war in the Pacific. The plan was it was going to be a two-pronged invasion of China by American troops. One, coming into, landing on the southeast China coast, and another coming over land from Burma, and that, one was the X force, one was the Y force and then there was the Z force which was, I guess, the support group and I made a mental connection between that plan and then the Manchuria plan so that they probably, there might have been that kind of connection, but I haven't seen it anywhere.
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Reviewed by Mark Eiseman 2/22/05
Reviewed by Sandra Stewart Holyoak 2/28/05