Shaun Illingworth: This begins an interview with Mr. David Sive on November 7, 2007, in West Orange, New Jersey. Also in attendance is ...
Helen Paxton: ... Helen Paxton.
SI: Thank you very much for having me here today, and also to you [Helen Paxton] for helping to arrange the interview. Before we get into the interview itself, you were telling me about the 1962 Commencement at Rutgers.
David Sive: ... I don't recall the year, but there was a commencement where my wife, Mary, received her degree in library studies, a subject which has now broadened into information science, and the commencement speaker was Adlai Stevenson. That, I remember.
SI: Do you remember anything about what he said?
DS: No, I don't.
DS: No. I remember the heat of the day and Adlai, [laughter] and, when he ran for the Presidency, I don't recall the year now. I'd have to figure it out.
SI: In 1952.
DS: Was that it?
SI: 1952 and 1956.
DS: Yes. We lived in Rockland County then, and having moved to Rockland County from the city, where we lived near Columbia University in, I think, '51, yes. So, the longest residence after the war has been Rockland County, Pearl River, where I was active, among other things, with the Democrats and ran a couple times for public office; defeated both times. [laughter]
SI: Is Rockland County a more conservative county?
DS: Yes. ... It used to be conservative. It became much more liberal and Democratic right after the war, when there was a large number of people living at what had been an Army embarkation point, which was known as Camp Shanks, which was in Orangeburg in southern Rockland County. ... Actually, I was just telling Helen that the residents, who were just out of the Armed Forces, overturned the traditional law that the residence and voting place for students in college was held, for many decades, to be their home and not the college town, but, obviously, Camp Shanks was a little bit different from the usual college [town]. ... A large portion of the students had families and were married and were living there. You can still see the; oh, I forget what they call them, the buildings which comprised Camp Shanks. That was a port of embarkation where, among others, myself, men would spend two or three days just getting equipped, and then, go down, by the West Shore Railroad, to Jersey City or Hoboken, one of those towns, and, there, get on to the big boats and go to Europe. ... That's what I did in August of '44. I was at Shanks for two or three days, and then, by coincidence, ... when we left the city for the suburbs, we settled in Rockland County.
SI: It was a coincidence. It was not that you knew about this community and it was attractive to you.
DS: ... We moved there, in large part, because it was less expensive than houses in Westchester and we were both attracted to the place near, actually, Palisades Park and the hiking trails. ... Rockland County is a very scenic county, has the Hudson Highlands in the east side and north of it. ...
SI: Just from reading your letters, it seems clear that you have a great affinity for nature, camping and being outdoors. [Editor's Note: Mr. Sive has produced a transcribed and bound volume of his wartime correspondence entitled The Letters of David Sive: From the European Theatre of Operation, August 1944-June 1945(2000).]
DS: Yes, that's right.
SI: What you said about Camp Shanks is interesting, because that is how part of Rutgers New Brunswick Campus developed, out of Camp Kilmer. It was a port of embarkation, then, it turned into a veterans' housing community, and then, it became part of Rutgers.
DS: Yes, right.
SI: I am going to pause this for a second.
SI: Could you tell me when and where you were born?
DS: I was born in Brooklyn, on Union Street, just about located a mile east of the Brooklyn Museum, and that was on September 22, 1922.
SI: What were your parents' names?
DS: Abraham Sive and Rebecca, and her maiden name was (Schwartz?). ... My father had a middle name, I think, of Leon, as I recall it, and the names came from relatives who were deceased. I think there was a rule among Jewish people that you didn't name a person "Junior." That was forbidden, for some reason. I don't know whether it's still a habit or practice, but you're named after a deceased relative and I don't recall where the name [originated]. Well, yes, I think, actually, I was named (Hyman?) and it was some deceased relative, ... and the middle name was David, but (Hyman?) seemed not so very attractive, so, I became known as David and I've been David since, and without any middle name.
SI: Both your parents were born in the New York area.
DS: Yes. They were both born in New York, in Manhattan, in, I think, the Lower Eastside.
SI: Do you know anything about their family backgrounds, like where their families had come from and when they came over to the United States?
DS: Yes. Most of the ancestors, the grandparents, came from Russia and my mother's parents came, I think, around 1910. My mother had one parent who was born in the US and I think [they] lived in the Boston area. There was a group of cousins in Boston who were one generation ahead of the others in the family, but the three grandparents came from Russia. One of them was my father's father, who, we were always told, came and I think was in the Army. ... The story was that he fought in the Civil War, but I have figured out it couldn't have been. He wouldn't have been of military age then. ... I think he came to the US, and they all came through Ellis Island, I think he came here around 1870 and he was a very adventurous person. ... He did a variety of interesting things, including, we were told, being a bartender in New Orleans and a Republican committeeman, or [holding] some Republican office, in Paterson, New Jersey. ... He also had some kind of a store on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn, near Fulton Street, near the downtown area of Brooklyn. The father of my mother became a roofer, and he was quite successful, and his sons. ... My mother had four brothers; she was the oldest one of the family. ... All of the brothers of my mother were employed by their father. ... Until 1930, I think, I'll have to figure it out, my mother's father lived with us, with the family of mine, which consisted of my parents and one sister and one brother. ... My mother's father lived in the house where we lived, which was on Howard Avenue in Brooklyn. ... That's the western border, more or less, of the so-called Brownsville area, which was an almost wholly Jewish area and is now African-American and Hispanic. ... He [Mr. Sive's grandfather] died, I think, at the age of sixty-two; I'll have to figure out when. I can figure it out, but it was some time in the '30s. I remember that was the first experience I can recall of death. ... He lived with us and he earned enough to invest in real estate, I recall, and bought a couple one-family houses in the Bensonhurst area of Brooklyn. As I remember it, my mother, somehow, had the duty of managing those houses, which were lost in the Depression.
DS: ... We lived in this area on Howard Avenue, and then, moved, in '31, I think, to the so-called Flatbush area of Brooklyn. ... It was much more desirable and much more cosmopolitan and not wholly Jewish. ... I went then to a grade school on East 51st Street and Avenue M or Avenue L, which was the western edge of a vast, open area, mainly of swamps, which was called Canarsie. ... Since then it has been almost wholly developed and it is now [comprised of] one-family houses, I think. When it was originally built, in an early stage, it was mainly a residence of Italian-Americans, in Canarsie, and I attended a school in, well, you'd call it East Flatbush. I think it was called East Flatbush because Flatbush was a very, well, comparatively, plush area, a very desirable area. ... So, I suppose, beginning [the practice] with real estate brokers, they extended Flatbush to the border of Canarsie and into Canarsie. ... Canarsie was known as a very undesirable place. Among other things, it had a waste treatment facility, which the city ran, which was a very large garbage disposal area.
... I recall that youngsters, young boys, used to go there and use their BB guns to shoot at squirrels. ... That was the area which I lived in for several years. ... To locate it, where we lived in East Flatbush was about one mile, almost exactly one mile, east of the area of Brooklyn College. ... Brooklyn College started, I think, in the early '20s and it was located in office buildings in downtown Brooklyn, but, sometime in the '30s, I imagine with a fair amount of government money, it acquired a forty-two-acre tract near the junction of Nostrand Avenue and Flatbush Avenue. ... It was located on the border of a very desirable living area with very nice homes, one-family homes, in the Flatbush area, Flatbush proper. ... I imagine that the area where we lived became known as East Flatbush for the same reason that if you look at real estate ads in the papers now, they will always say, "Vic. Scarsdale," and this was "Vic. Flatbush."
SI: Do you have any memories of the neighborhoods your family lived in before Flatbush?
DS: Oh, yes. We lived on Schenectady Avenue, in a semi-detached house with about six rooms, and that was a good and proper neighborhood and a fairly cosmopolitan neighborhood, and I walked a mile to grade school. We moved there from Howard Avenue and moving there and getting out of the wholly ethnic area was a considerable advance, at least considered that. ... The school, the grade school where I went, ... a large number of the students were of Irish ancestry and the Jewish population of the school was only about one-third or one-quarter. So, it was an upward mobile location.
SI: Let us just pause for a second.
SI: All right, are you ready?
DS: Yes. I recall, very much, a large part of the aspect of living on Schenectady Avenue, where there was this semi-detached house of six rooms and it was close to Avenue J, which was an east-west road, and further west, toward Brooklyn College, the neighborhood became a very desirable one. ... There are areas of Flatbush now which are tree lined and utterly beautiful and the houses, which probably were built shortly after World War I. ... They are probably worth, I guess, a half million dollars and up to a million dollars. A fully detached place in one of the most desirable areas of Brooklyn, on a quarter-acre lot, probably is close to a million dollars now, at least a good number of them. ... I walked from ... home on Schenectady Avenue, which ... runs north and south, one mile west to the area where Brooklyn College was located. ... That was an empty area ... before the college was built there. That must have been in '33 or '34, . ... I recall that the forty-two-acre plot was the site of the Barnum and Bailey Circus in the year before the construction of Brooklyn College began, the year before it was acquired, by, I'd guess by the city. ... It was part of the city college system. ... Otherwise, I have the recollections of a childhood and walking to school and playing in the streets ... with the characteristics of a middle-class Brooklyn family.
SI: What did your father do for a living?
DS: He was a salesman for a company which sold olive oil, imported from Italy, and olive oil products, including what was called Castile soap. ... He covered the Long Island and Staten Island areas for the company. ... It included, Long Island, which ... includes Brooklyn and Queens, although most people, when they say, or used to say, Long Island, they meant the area of Nassau and Suffolk Counties. ... He was a salesman, and we were quite unusual in having a car.
SI: Yes, I was going to ask about that.
DS: In, well, through the Depression ... he earned enough for us to live reasonably comfortably. ... I recall that he paid fifty dollars a month as the rent for the house where we lived, on Schenectady Avenue. ... The bank, he told us, pleaded with him, the bank which was the owner, probably acquired the house in a Depression foreclosure, ... to buy the house, but, somehow, buying real property was considered, by a lot of middle-class Jewish families then, as risky, because if you had your home and your life's investment in it and you have to leave, that would be a problem. So, he, like a lot of people then, was wary about buying real property. I don't know, I suppose he could have acquired it by paying as the price purchasing the house the same amount that he was paying as rent, which was fifty dollars a month, but he did not, but I recall that clearly and it is part of the life of the Depression.
SI: The Depression did not affect your family as much, but it must have affected it in some way though. How did it affect you and your neighborhood?
DS: ... I recall some aspects of it. [In] that house which we lived in, on East 46th Street, near Kings Highway, we used to buy coal. We had a coal-fired furnace and people purchased the coal and, for some reason, quite often, we would purchase hundred-pound bags of coal, which I, and I think my father, too, would lift and put in the car. ... The coal yard ... just happened to be one block south and, to locate it, it was near Glenwood Road, which was an east-west road, going west to the better area of Flatbush and parallel to the Long Island Railroad, which ran from Nassau County in Queens west, I imagine, to the dock area of the mouth of the Hudson River in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. ... I have a good recollection of, fairly frequently, buying a hundred-pound bag of coal, I think because the cash wasn't available to pay for the ton, or two tons, of coal. The coal was put into a basement on a slide from the truck. There were large coal trucks which delivered coal, I think, in half-ton loads and ton loads. ... There were other aspects of the effect of the Depression. ...We were a typical ... middle-class family, although we had a car. ... My father, I think, never took any vacation. Actually, when I was about ten or ... eleven, my parents separated. My father moved to an apartment, or a room, in the Pierrepont Hotel, which is in the center of the now very classy and expensive area of Brooklyn Heights. It ranks, I see from the ads of new residential buildings, with the best areas of Manhattan. ... That area of Brooklyn, Brooklyn Heights and the Park Slope area and Bay Ridge, are now very expensive ... upper middle-class areas, where vast numbers of professionals live. ... They're very much like the best areas of the Upper Eastside [of] Manhattan.
... I remember that there were only two summers where we went on a vacation. ... We went to the area of the so-called "Borscht Belt" of Sullivan County [the Catskill Mountains in Upstate New York]. My mother took us ... for ten days or two weeks, by "us," ... the three children, the sister, the slightly older brother and myself, to a boarding house. ... It was typical of the resort area of the so-called "Borscht Belt" of Sullivan County. I remember, it was called "Brown's Farm." ... There were chickens there and it adjoined a dairy farm and ... occupied twenty acres. ... I would walk to the edge of the property of the boarding house and longed to go further into the dairy farm area, but it was ... set off by barbed wire. ... I was forbidden to go beyond the borders of the boarding house property. It was located just a couple hundred yards from a so-called "Black Lake." ... Black Lake is just a couple miles west of a larger community called "White Lake," which in turn is about ten or twelve miles north of Monticello and a bit south of Liberty, to locate it at about eight or ten miles west of the very famous Concord Resort Hotel. We were there two summers. ... One summer, [we] went to another boarding house which was operated by a distant cousin. ... A cousin whom we called Aunt (Lena?), I recall. ... She must have been a descendant of the children of my mother's mother. ... They were a bit better off and she bought a boarding house and real property which fronted on a "Lake Huntington." ... It was ... in the area within ten or fifteen miles of the center of the "Borscht Belt," and that was just a few miles east of the Delaware River and Pennsylvania. ... One of my recollections is going to Pennsylvania ... for a ride with an uncle, a brother of my mother. ... He came to the same boarding house and took us into Pennsylvania, across the Delaware River, which was a tremendous adventure for me.
... All of this, I suppose, the vacations, in part, built up the longing for the outdoors and nature and "the country." I used to mark the country by the end of the sidewalks going east to areas of Nassau and Suffolk Counties. My father would take us ... fairly frequently, on his business trips to the drug stores. His customers were drug stores and he was acquainted with virtually every fair-sized drug store in Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, and Nassau and Suffolk Counties. ... Among my early recollections ... are of those trips with him and the family. ... We'd stay in a hotel in the very small towns of Patchogue [and others]. ...They are now very heavily populated. ... Patchogue is near the South Shore of Long Island and about sixty miles east of ... Brooklyn, and we would stay in a hotel there. ... We also stayed in a hotel we stayed in Riverhead, which is in Suffolk County, at the point where the two forks go out, the South Fork to ... the Hamptons and Montauk, which is the eastern end of Long Island, and the North Fork, which goes out a little bit less and ends across the bay. I forget the name of the bay between the two forks of Long Island.
SI: Is that Oyster Bay? No. [Editor's Note: The North Fork and South Fork of Long Island are separated by a number of bodies of water, the most prominent of which are Great Peconic Bay, Little Peconic Bay and Gardiners Bay.]
DS: No, Oyster Bay is in Nassau County and Oyster Bay is located on the North Shore and is only about thirty miles east of Brooklyn. ... Oyster Bay is located near the very aristocratic area of the North Shore and the small villages of; oh, I forget the names now. ... They're small villages, which were the ... residences of aristocrats. ... Just to locate them, the Town of Huntington is about ten miles east of Oyster Bay. My father used to drive through this very aristocratic, beautiful, rural area from Oyster Bay to Huntington and point out the residences of the tremendously wealthy. ... One of them, who lived in Huntington, was [Henry L.] Stimson, whose first name I forget for the moment. ... He was the Secretary of Defense [Secretary of War] in World War II.
... It is interesting that I became acquainted with a gentleman older than I by the name of Palmer, Arthur Palmer, who was one of the aristocrats living near Huntington. He lived in a house which adjoined that of Stimson and he told me that he would occasionally go with Stimson and commute by the Long Island Railroad in Huntington. ... Stimson ... would often go on a horse. He'd have a servant go with him, bring the horse back in the morning, and then, come and pick him up at the Long Island Railroad Station in the evening. ... Palmer was an underwriter, an investment banker, and, among other things, acquired a very lovely estate on the shore of Maine near Bar Harbor. ... He became bored with the underwriting and became interested in the environment. ... He had gone to law school and came ... often to ... work in my office, with my firm, without any compensation. ... We became very close friends. He died about twelve or fourteen years ago. ... The trips to Long Island particularly and the vacations in Sullivan County ... created a very strong love of rural areas, ... particularly mountains, although the "Borscht Belt," which is called the Catskills, is really not in the mountainous part of the Catskills. The high mountains are north and east of the Borscht Belt; ... close to the center of them is the property which we acquired in '57. ... It was a dairy farm with a farmhouse and 160 acres. ... Yes?
SI: I have a question. As I told you before, I recently interviewed someone else from Brooklyn who spoke about how Brooklyn had a great system of children's museums and libraries.
SI: This helped foster his love of science and nature. Did you find that as well?
DS: Yes. We lived [near a museum], for one or two years, in the late '20s. ... That was a time where you moved almost every year or every other year. ... I suppose it was part of the upward mobility; you moved as soon as you could afford a better area. One of the areas where we lived was on Prospect Place, just across the street from a so-called Brower Park, which is a small park located on one whole block. A block was, oh, about two hundred yards long and one-twentieth of a mile in width. ... That was the location, at the western end of Brower Park, of the ... Children's Museum. ... I was told and always understood that it was the first children's museum anywhere. I spent lots of time there. [Editor's Note: The Brooklyn Children's Museum was founded in 1899.] I was interested in chemistry, for some reason. ... We lived there when I was between four and six.
... When I was six, we moved to the house on Howard Avenue, ... which was located at the western edge of the Jewish area of Brownsville and at the very beginning of Kings Highway, which was one of the principal roads of Brooklyn, going south and west, out to the southern area of Flatbush and ending, oh, I think, four or five miles from the shore area of Bay Ridge. ... I recall Kings Highway was a dirt road from its beginning, right ... in the center of Brooklyn and going out south and west and ... vast unpopulated areas, just empty lots. In the time that I lived there, [Samuel J.] Tilden High School was built, about a mile south, and reached by going along Kings Highway. ... The Tilden High School was almost wholly Jewish ... children, and that was, to my father and others, not as desirable as a more cosmopolitan school. ... So, he, through his acquaintance with a schoolteacher, somehow contacted some political people and got me entered into James Madison High School, which was very well-known and is now the school which was attended by three ... US Senators; ... [US Senators Norm Coleman (R-MN), Bernard Sanders (I-VT) and Charles Schumer (D-NY)], as well as Justice [Ruth Bader] Ginsburg of the Supreme Court.
... I attended Madison High School my third and fourth years. The first two years of high school, I was in Brooklyn Technical High School, which was, and still is, a very highly regarded special school for students who ultimately become engineers or skilled artisans. But I was a bit clumsy and failed the shop ...course, sawing and sandpapering wood, and, also, had great difficulty in the class of, I think we called [it] forge, which was creating holes in boxes of sand, and then, pouring molten metal into the sand. It was all just difficult for me.
... I transferred to a regular academic school, ... Madison High School, and, there, was a good student. I was admitted to what was called the "Arista," which was the honor society of fairly ... good students. [Editor's Note: Arista is an alternate name for the National Honor Society, most commonly used in New York.] The school was attended by a cousin of mine, a first cousin, by the name of Pearl, who was the daughter of one of my mother's brothers, a brother known as Abe. ... There was some information which I acquired that he took monies from the corporation which was run by my mother's father, a roofing corporation. It was called (Banner?) Roofing, and Abe was always considered, in my family, an undesirable character. ... Part of my childhood was this very close-knit family of my mother's brothers; ... three of whom ... lived within a quarter of a mile of each other, near Howard Avenue and near the beginning of Pitkin Avenue and Sutter Avenue. ... The Sutter Avenue Station of the IRT, the East New York Line, which goes out east to the border, near the border, of Queens. ... Pearl, I remember, was a student at Madison. ... I think we were both admitted into the Arista the same time, 1938. ... I entered Brooklyn College in September of '39.
SI: I wanted to ask a few questions before we get into your high school years.
SI: You mentioned that you have a brother and a sister. Could you state their names for the record?
DS: Yes, the sister, who died four years ago, is Lucille, Lucille Esther, and the brother, who died fifteen years ago, is Ira, Ira Aaron. ... My brother was twenty months older than I and the sister six years younger. ... An interesting part of the family history is the residence of my sister for twenty years in Seattle. That came about because, during the war, my father and sister lived by themselves. My mother died in June of '45. When I was given a special leave to see her, she was dying of cancer and ... had suffered from cancer for several years. She had several operations. ... The family, my father, couldn't afford a nurse all the time, though occasionally, a nurse would come in the times that my mother was in bed. ... My sister, then about fourteen, really nursed and cared for my mother. ... That was '45 and it was after I had begun hiking and camping overnight, particularly in areas in the high mountains of the Adirondack Mountains, particularly in the area about ten miles south of Lake Placid, which is called the High Peaks area. ... My sister ... went camping with me. ... In the Summer of '47, she was beginning, I think had one or just a couple courses, not a full-time student, at Brooklyn College. ... I urged her to take a vacation and go somewhere far from Brooklyn. ... She secured ... a catalog of the University of Fresno, California, which had classes living in tents in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. One class ... was fairly close to Yosemite. This was the time when I had made the religion of my life the love of nature. ... She got the idea of going to that camp in the mountains. ... My father very vigorously opposed it, but I prevailed and she went there. ... She was in a tent next to a boy from Boise, Idaho, whom she developed a friendship with and, ultimately, married. ... He came from Boise. ...It was quite ... an unusual thing ... for a Jewish girl to marry the non-Jewish boy from Boise. ... It was the time where some people thought intermarrying was just criminal, or something which you didn't want.
... They married and lived the first year of their marriage in Alaska; where ... the son-in-law of mine ran a fishing boat ... into Alaskan waters. So, the girl from Brooklyn, the Jewish girl living in Alaska, from which they moved after about a year to Seattle, was just so unusual and really seemed very troublesome to my father and others who spurned intermarrying. ... What you'd call the prejudice was on both sides of this, the Jewish side and the non-Jewish side, but the boy whom she married came from a family which, among others, had a poet, a woman who was then in her eighties. ... Through correspondence, I became acquainted with her ... which was very interesting to me.
... All of these events, well, the living in Brooklyn, what I've described, gave me a tremendous love of travel, which I still retain.
... The first job of mine was in a wholesale drug house. My father was acquainted with wholesale and retail drug stores and he secured the job for me. My first employment ... was in the summer of 1938 working in a wholesale drug ... house on Fulton Street, near Brooklyn Avenue, Brooklyn, which is part of "Bed-Stuy" now. ... I was employed, I think, nine-to-five weekdays and nine-to-one Saturdays and was paid six dollars, which came to about fifteen cents an hour. ... Then, while in college, I worked at a drug store at the northwest corner of Bedford Avenue and ... Fulton Street, which is now ... the southern area of Bed-Stuy and which, in my childhood, was the borderline of Flatbush, part of Flatbush, and the Negro area, the African-American area. ... I worked in the drug store there and used to work in the evenings while in, I think, the fourth year of high school. I'd take a trolley along Utica Avenue. ... It was one of the principal north-south avenues of Brooklyn. I took it from the area at the western side of Canarsie in Brooklyn and fairly close to the house on Schenectady Avenue, take the Utica Avenue trolley to Fulton Street, then, walk from Utica Avenue to Bedford Avenue, which was about, must have been about a half mile. The wholesale drug house was located along Fulton Street and the drug store [was] where I was employed as what was called a soda jerker. A soda jerker is one who worked, in vast numbers of drug stores and, in fact, the great majority, I think, had a fountain where ice cream and malteds and other delicacies, and, [at] some of them, sandwiches and light foods were sold. ... I became a soda jerker and the place didn't have the foods; it just had the ice cream and specialties. ... I suppose I acquired then my first taste for ice cream; [laughter] couldn't withstand dipping the spoon into the gallon jugs of chocolate and vanilla and strawberry ice cream and eat it myself. ... I worked, it must have been ... about thirty hours weekly. I worked beginning in '40, in the sophomore year at Brooklyn College, in another drug store, a retail drug store, located on the west side of Flatbush Avenue, just about fifty yards south of an east-west street, Church Avenue, crossing Flatbush Avenue. ... It had a trolley line. These principal streets, vast numbers of them, had trolley car lines, Fulton Street and Flatbush Avenue. ... At the southwest corner of ... Church Avenue and Flatbush Avenue is ... a very historic and very well-known church, going back to the Dutch era. There were several of those properties in Brooklyn and it's a unique landmark which tourists go to and is visited by vast numbers of people visiting New York and Brooklyn. ... I worked there from six to eleven each day, and then, 10:00 AM to 6 PM on Saturday. I would take the Flatbush Avenue trolley south to Glenwood Road, and then, walk the mile east to the Schenectady Avenue house. ... I took the trolley to the junction of Nostrand Avenue and Flatbush Avenue, both principal north-south streets which intersected at this point and is the end of one of the IRT subway lines. ... It was just about fifty or one hundred yards from the eastern side of the Brooklyn College forty-two-acre property.
... I worked ... there and was paid, I think, five dollars a week, worked there on Saturdays, the whole day Saturday, as a, well, I'd call it a clerk. ... Most of my work was in non-clerking duties, but filling in the empty or half empty shelves where there were stored the various items sold. ... I would walk down to the basement where there was stored all of the merchandise in reserve, put it in boxes and bring it up and fill the half empty shelves.
SI: Like a manager.
DS: Yes, right, and, in a later stage, late in my employment there, I ... graduated to being a sales clerk behind the counter. ... It was a fairly high position for me. Among other things, sales clerks there had to memorize not only the location of every drug item on the shelves, but the price. If a person asked, "How much is Bayer's Aspirin?" you'd have to remember the price. ... It was before the days of automation. ...
DS: Computer-driven machines, which now make it much easier to be a sales clerk, but I also had a principal duty there of deliveries and I would deliver orders of merchandise to the apartment houses on Ocean Avenue and the very fine area of Flatbush. This is the real heart of the real Flatbush, Church and Flatbush Avenues, and the area west of this, very well-known Church [Avenue area]. ... I would make deliveries and occasionally get tips and, occasionally, meet people who ordered the merchandise which I delivered. Well, that was part of the job.
... My father was a very affectionate person and he frequently would drive the two miles, or thereabouts, from the Schenectady Avenue house to pick me up at eleven o'clock at night on Flatbush Avenue. This was the days [when] you could get a parking place, but that was part of the life then, and part of the life with him was, sometimes, a feeling of embarrassment when he would kiss me. I just thought that was not manly, [laughter] not the correct thing for a child just kissing a father, but that was part of life with him. ... He, on the one hand, influenced me to go work for thirty-two hours a week while a full-time student at Brooklyn College; on the other hand, he would come and drive me home. ... That describes the economic class we were in, which is, I suppose, "middle" middle-class and, of course, much less comfortable than the middle-class now.
SI: In your letters, it is pretty clear that you have a love of literature and classical music. Did that start at a young age or did it come later, in high school?
DS: My father particularly loved all the popular classics and he loved the musical comedy music of the '20s and earlier, the operettas of Sigmund Romberg and Victor Herbert, as well as the popular classics. I remember, he religiously listened to the New York Philharmonic Concert on the radio from three to five Sunday afternoons. That was part of life at home. I acquired some taste for music, in part, his influence, and that extended to what I'd call popular classics, a Beethoven, a Tchaikovsky, Mozart, as well as ... the later music of the great operatic writers, and Viennese waltzes, I particularly had a fondness for. One event, which we'll come to when we get into the military service, ... involves listening to a Viennese waltz, which I still love, but I didn't develop a very sophisticated love of music. My daughter, Helen, whom you met, ... she and her husband both earned degrees in music at Columbia University, she a master's and he a doctorate, but music was part of our life. ... I've always loved classical music, and never acquired much of a taste for jazz and just don't like rock and the music now, I forget the name of it, which consists of, among other things, songs which glorify the rape of women. That's part of things I don't quite understand.
SI: How politically aware or politically active was your family in the 1930s?
DS: Yes. My father was very politically aware and politically active, and, in his younger days. ... I think he was around the mid-thirties when he married my mother. He was a Republican and a member of a Republican club and fairly active, and voted for Herbert Hoover in '28. ... By '32, influenced by the Depression, he'd turned Democrat. But politics was a part of our life and I became interested in it. That led to membership in a Democratic club.
Actually, I organized a Democratic Club in Pearl River, where we lived, in Rockland County, which was a Republican area. ... Politics was always ... at the center of my life, and still is. ... That led to, ultimately, running for Congress in '58 and the New York State Supreme Court, which is the lower court, though called the "Supreme Court" in New York, in, I think, '62, both times in Republican areas, and losing, but with no expectation, really, of winning. [Editor's Note: Mr. Sive ran as the Democratic candidate for the (then) 28th Congressional District seat in 1958. He ran for a seat on the New York Supreme Court in the Ninth Judicial District in 1965.] ... That's the very center of much of my life and is related, of course, to the profession of the law, which I didn't want to do until World War II, and the aftermath of it.
Lawyers then, the typical [course], I suppose, [of] the Jewish lawyers, the ones who were barred from a number of law schools and were the sons of people [who] emigrated from Russia later than most lawyers, the ones [who were] Jewish. The typical course of a man, a boy, who became a lawyer was to then attend high school for two years, and then, enter a law school. The bachelor's degree was not required. They'd enter law schools in the night sessions, which were carried on by New York Law School; NYU and St. John's and Brooklyn Law School. ... They'd go for five years to night school, then, get out of school and be admitted and hang out a shingle and wait for the [clients] or develop the business. Well, of course, many of them became very successful. ... That class of lawyers practiced in fields which were spurned by the best law firms and the ... older lawyers. ... I didn't want to do that. I just didn't want to go through this five years and waiting; it seemed to me ... just waiting until the first death of a cousin whose estate you handled or you waited for an automobile accident of an acquaintance or a cousin. That was the course of a first cousin, the older brother of the girl, Pearl, whom I mentioned. ... They were the two children of Abe, the disrespectful one in the family. He became such a lawyer and his last job was [as] a hearing examiner or referee for the Motor Vehicle Bureau. ... It was a very good ... position for the ... those lawyers. ... My father always had his idea that I should become a lawyer. This was at a time where, again, the typical Jewish family wanted every son to be a lawyer or a doctor and, if he couldn't do that, become an accountant or a dentist. That was the folklore, but the GI Bill, or the other [law], actually, there's another law, much like the GI Bill, which aided disabled veterans, veterans who had a disability, finance law [school]. [Editor's Note: Mr. Sive is referring to the Veterans Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1943 (Public Law 16), which assisted wounded veterans in advancing their education in a manner similar to the GI Bill (Public Law 346), but with additional benefits.]
... At the end of World War II, I entered, a few months after that, Columbia Law School. That was at a time when there were three elite schools, Columbia, Harvard and Yale, and [one] I'd call a semi-elite school where, occasionally, the Wall Street law firms would take a graduate of the U. of Virginia. ... The interest in law was part of my interest in politics and the ambition, I suppose, ... the finest thing to me would have been occupying a high public office. Like so many lawyers, I would have been very happy being appointed a judge. Actually, I missed out, I think, being appointed to the federal court because one very highly-placed lawyer and judge, I think it's (Paterson?), I think, opposed my being appointed as a judge because my work was too political. I was then the advocate, a leading advocate, of environmental groups, many of which were fighting the establishment, opposing important roads and dams and being in the same class as radicals. ... I didn't get any appointment, but I did become a member of the very topmost group of lawyers, the leaders of the Association of the Bar of the City New York, the Bar Association, which was the association for the better lawyers, the older ones, all of the classical Wall Street firms. ... Shortly after World War II, for different reasons, and an interesting history, of which I was at the center, of expansion, and then, of course, [exclusion from] the bar to women, non-whites and Jews by the classic Wall Street firms was in force. ... It was one of the casualties of World War II.
... That is, when you think of it, one of the areas in which the world is much better now. In my childhood, calling people "kikes" or "WOPs" or "niggers" was accepted. That was a part of the world and, of course, now, in fact, if any person in public life is caught using the N-word, that's his political death. ... There are always a few each year who err and use the N-word, but it was perfectly acceptable then. I recall my father telling me, describing the Bed-Stuy area as the undesirable area, and I imagine he used the N-word then. He was, in his later years, a liberal, but that was part of life then.
SI: I was curious, after reading your letters, you were very forward thinking on race relations. Where did that come from? Was it from your family or from your work?
DS: Well, the liberalism came from father and part of being liberal was opposing any kind of race or religious prejudice, and my father became a liberal. In fact, for some reason, when I was in the sixth grade, in grade school, about that time, for a year or two, he subscribed to a Communist weekly, a newsweekly. I'll recall the name of it. I recall, in grade school, in the sixth grade, I was a student of a teacher who called me "the boy with the overdeveloped sense of humor." I was a bit mischievous and I took a copy of that Communist magazine and placed it in the pile of Boy's Life and other magazines [laughter] in the grade school library. ... My father became a radical. ... I'd call myself now a moderate left-winger; that emanated, in part, from my father. ... I could talk with you about other aspects of life in Brooklyn, pre-war, but I don't know what your [plan may be].
SI: I would like to hear about what influenced you prior to going into the war.
DS: Yes. Well, the ... love of nature, in part, came from being a Boy Scout. ... Going on camping [trips] with the Boy Scouts on Staten Island was a great adventure. We couldn't afford, or my father didn't want to use money, to finance going on [a trip to a] Boy Scout camp in a real rural area while I was of Boy Scout age, but that was one of the influences. ... The other was these trips to the country with my father to eastern Long Island. ... The first camping, overnight, was when I was, I think I was, fifteen and went for a long weekend ... with a friend, a boy, to part of the Catskills, the very beautiful and scenic area west of Kingston and northeast of the "Borscht Belt" and south of Oneonta.
... The scenic area included the High Peaks of the Catskills, Slide Mountain and Balsam Lake Mountain and others. ... I went to the Catskills. No, before that, when I was at Madison High School, ... which I attended in '38 and '39, my third and fourth years. A very close friend was a Leonard Zinker, who was a great camper and woodsman, a master of woodcraft, and had spent a lot of time in the outdoors. He was the son of, well, part of, a family which lived in one of the fully detached houses and was a little bit better off economically than I, whose father, very successfully, ran a laundry, a wholesale laundry. He influenced me. ... The very first night outdoors was in Harriman Park, near Bear Mountain, which adjoins the so-called Palisades Interstate Park, Harriman section. ... We camped out, overnight, at some point about a mile west of Bear Mountain, and I remember, we walked, near midnight, ... west of Bear Mountain, along what is called "Seven Lakes Drive" and walked at the base of fairly high mountains. ... I pleaded with him to go and climb to the top of a mountain at midnight. ... He correctly told me that isn't possible. [laughter] Well, we camped ... in Palisades Park. ... Then, [when] I was, I think, sixteen or seventeen, I took one trip to the Catskills.
... I became interested in the Adirondacks, and my love of the Adirondacks has been a very important part of my life, and I first went camping in what I'd call the wilderness area in September '39, the same year that I entered Brooklyn College. ... That trip was very influential. I induced my brother to go with me and we went to the southern ... area of the Adirondacks, which is really just north of the Mohawk River, which goes east and west of and approaches the southern Adirondacks, which are not quite as rugged as the so-called High Peaks. ... We camped ... at Spruce Lake, which is near Piseco Lake, which is in the southwest part of the Adirondacks. ... It is near the center of a tremendously large wilderness area. ... We walked nine miles, carrying heavy packs. ... The packs ... bounced on your back and were difficult compared to the present varieties, which are much more usable ones. We walked to Spruce Lake. ... Then, I wanted to go further ... on, that's called the Northville-Placid Trail. Northville is a village in the southwest corner of the Adirondacks and Lake Placid is near the northeast edge, north of the High Peaks. ... For three or four days we camped at Spruce Lake, ... nine miles from any road. ... I wanted to go further, to the very center of the largest wilderness area of the Adirondacks. The very center is an area of [the] so-called West Canada Lake, which is one of a group of lakes, and we lost our way, weren't able to find the trail to West Canada Lake that we wanted to go to. We went back to Spruce Lake. ... We then hitchhiked to Keene Valley, which is a very beautiful place in the eastern ... part of the High Peaks. It's about nine hundred feet above sea level, but it's the eastern edge of an area where the mountain peaks are forty-five hundred [feet]; and Mount Marcy, [the tallest mountain in the Adirondacks], is 5,344 feet. That was [an experience that] reinforced the love of the wilderness and camping.
... It may be that, I don't know, if some psychoanalyst would analyze me, it was part of a little bashfulness and backwardness with more social habits. I don't know. It may be that that's the desire to escape. ... You can analyze that the same way that somebody may now psychoanalyze, if we could, Henry Thoreau and find ... explanations of his behavior. ... Some people state ... that it is being afraid, or being disdainful, of society. There are some aspects of his friendship with Emerson which feed that attitude toward Thoreau and his very famous trips into the Maine wilderness, [chronicled in Thoreau's The Maine Woods], and the climbing of Mount Katahdin. [Editor's Note: Mr. Sive is referring to Thoreau's tendency to dismiss social institutions and the opinions of others, as witnessed by poet Ralph Waldo Emerson.] I've very often argued, in effect, said, "So what? He created great literature, and even though a psychoanalyst might think he was peculiar, and he was peculiar in many ways, that's what makes great things, in every field."
... All of this reinforced the love of the outdoors and nature, and indirectly led to my legal work as an environmental advocate at a very early stage and led to the concentration in environmental law. ... It has led to my being called, in many places, "the father of environmental law." ... All of these things together created the love of nature.
... When people ask me my religion, I tell them, in truth, if you want to know, I consider myself a pantheist, [a belief that only the universe and nature are sacred]. ... I don't believe in God. I'm really an atheist. I just don't believe that the world was created in ... seven days ... as described in the Old Testament. I've always been ... well, since the age of fifteen, ... very much a nature and outdoor lover and a lover of [natured-inspired literature].
My favorite poet is Wordsworth and the others, comprising the Concord group of poets and writers, Thoreau and Emerson, others, and of the poetry of [Walt] Whitman. [Editor's Note: English poet William Wordsworth (1770-1850) was a major artist of the English Romantic movement, which heavily influenced the Transcendentalist Movement in the United States, a movement led by a number of writers who lived in or near Concord, Massachusetts, including Emerson, Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Louisa May Alcott.] So, all of this is part of the [literature] related to environmental law.
SI: Did your readings lead you to conscientious objection and the peace movements in the 1930s?
DW: I think so. I was a very strong pacifist in my teens and it was actually the military aspect of the Boy Scouts which dissuaded me from bothering to go more than Second Class, [the second lowest Boy Scout rank]. I was a pacifist, and, like so many others, I left my pacifism courtesy of Hitler and I became a non-conscientious objector, because I very much believed that we'll all be lampshades if we ... let Hitler conquer all of Europe. [Editor's Note: Mr. Sive is referring to the atrocities of the Holocaust, specifically the horrific act of turning the flesh of concentration camp inmates with tattoos into lampshades and other objects perpetrated by Ilse Koch, the wife of Karl Koch, commandant of the Buchenwald and Majdanek Concentration Camps.] That's history.
SI: Was there a specific event or time that caused you to shift away from conscientious objection?
DS: I don't think so. I think it was, in part, my disdaining fighting. ...
SI: I meant when you went from pacifism to deciding something had to be done about the Nazis. Was it Munich or anything like that that drove you?
DS: I don't think [there was] one specific event; [it was] the whole procession of history, and I became somewhat, well, I wouldn't say disdainful of ... I very much disagreed with pacifists. ... In the '20s, just as an explanation, there's a group, beginning in England, called the "Oxford Movement," [the Oxford Group, an Anglo-American Christian movement that advocated "moral re-armament"]. ... They were pacifists and conscientious objectors, objecting to building naval boats. ... They were real radical pacifists. ...It took quite a few years to wean them to the dangers of, and the probable course of history if you didn't fight Hitler, and, of course, pacifism was part of Chamberlain in Munich. [Editor's Note: British Prime Minister Chamberlain attempted to appease Germany and avoid war through concessions made in the Munich Pact of 1938.] Although he wasn't a left-winger, he led England [and] part of English history has been the fear of fighting, pacifism. But I don't think there was any specific event which turned me to favoring and doing what I did in World War II.
... One of the best ways of explaining that is the reaction which I [have when I am] asked [what it was like] to being wounded. People study that and I have a very clear recollection of the mortar piece entering my thigh. ... I happened to be located then at the infantry battalion headquarters. ... The very first reaction [I had] to being hit was a feeling of heroism, that I, at last, did my part to beat Hitler. ... It takes just a few seconds for that to give way to shock, and then, after shock to ... pain. ... [Of] course, I was very lucky. At the battalion headquarters, [is where] the medics were located. So, it didn't take more than two minutes after the artillery barrage was over for a medic to come to me, and he looked at me and he exclaimed, "Million-dollar wound." ... A million-dollar wound is a wound which disables you, takes you away from combat, for a fair while, but doesn't result in any serious disability. ... I was interested, I heard the term "million-dollar wound" in the PBS [Public Broadcasting Service, a non-profit public television service], the Channel 13 [PBS is commonly broadcast on Channel 13 in New Jersey] movie about World War II.
SI: Ken Burns' The War, [a PBS documentary film series on World War II which aired in the Fall of 2007]?
DS: Yes, right, but I dropped the pacifism and I have always ... felt a little bit at odds with the conscientious objectors to World War II. Maybe it's because I'm not serious enough, maybe I just don't have the courage, or the will, to go to prison ... but I also don't disagree with the nuclear bombing of Japan. I would argue this many, many times. ... But for that, a couple hundred thousand Americans would have been slain. ... Also, [the thing] these people who argue against the nuclear bomb don't realize, or forget, is that the firebombing of the Japanese cities killed as many people as the nuclear bombs, but, somehow, nobody objects to it. These people who disagree with the course we've took don't ever know, or, if they know, forget, this aspect, or the firebombing of the city in eastern Germany. ...
DS: Yes, Dresden, [which] took at least fifty thousand lives and was unnecessary. [Editor's Note: Mr. Sive is referring to the February 14-15, 1945, air raid on Dresden, Germany, in which the Royal Air Force conducted area bombing with incendiary bombs at night and the US Eighth Air Force targeted marshalling yards in the city center during the day.] It was in April, when the Germans [were near defeat]; it was just thirty days before V-E Day [May 8, 1945, Victory in Europe Day]. So, I've developed that attitude about pacifism. ... That may be just rationalizing my own failure to rise above private first class. ... Maybe somebody would think, "If I were smarter, I would have escaped the infantry," but I feel good about it. I feel that I did [my part]. I can stand alongside the most right-wing American Legionnaire [a member of the American Legion veterans' organization] in looking at World War II and my own ... part in it.
SI: In your letters, you seem almost enthusiastic to be on the frontlines, at least in the very beginning.
DS: Yes, right, yes. ... You might analyze that as just rationalizing and not being smart enough to escape the fighting, or not being smart enough to rise from private first class. ... The greatest casualties were among first lieutenants. They're the ones who die most. Hardly any of them lived, or I shouldn't say that; hardly any of them escaped being hit.
SI: Before you left pacifism, had you belonged to any pacifist organizations or peace movement organizations?
DS: No, I don't think so, no. No, I didn't.
SI: Were you a pacifist only during your high school years or were you also a pacifist while you were at Brooklyn College as well?
DS: ... No, in college, I was not a pacifist. In '39, although I can't say that I opposed Munich, I can't say that if I were in Great Britain, [I] would not have thanked Chamberlain for Munich, [for] the "peace in our time," and, at college, I was anti-Hitler and left-wing and not a pacifist, although I've always been a non-fighter. I'm afraid of fighting. Oddly enough, ... when I got the Rifleman's Badge [Expert Infantryman Badge], I think it was only because the leaders, the persons teaching combat skills, just passed everyone to become ... a rifleman even if one really didn't hit the target on the tests.
SI: In training, on the rifle range?
DS: And I was a leader in Brooklyn College ... in the college politics, school politics, and created a political party in the college which was anti-Communist. ... I was very outspoken when the Russians and the Germans [made] the Nazi-Soviet Pact, [the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of August 23, 1939, which pledged non-aggression between Germany and the Soviet Union]. I remember, the left-wing group in college rationalized the Nazi-Soviet Pact, in late '38 or early '39.
SI: Do you remember the name of this group that you organized?
DS: Yes, we called it the Campus Party, and ... it contested the left-wing party, which I think was called the Students' Union [American Student Union]. There was an American Students' Union [American Student Union], which was [part of a] national federation [the American Youth Congress] and there were chapters in the colleges. There was a very strong Communist chapter at Brooklyn College and I organized the Campus Party, which successfully ousted them from leadership posts; but, then, while I was in the service, I think that they lost one election, a student election. ... Some of my letters, I think, referred to it. At least I was told of that. What the course of student politics has been since, I don't know. It's altogether different, because the population which then went to the city colleges ... doesn't generally go there now. They're for the newer educated classes in large part, non-white and non-Jewish. The Jewish students now can go to Harvard and Princeton, and Virginia [University of Virginia]. The prejudice has ended, at least in large part, and, now, the problem is [of] too many Asians in the colleges. ... I'm always fascinated by persons, ... well, Jewish persons, who now may think, "Well, maybe quotas [race-based admissions guidelines] have a part to prevent schools from being wholly Asian." ... The Asians are the best students, just the way the Jewish students were the best a generation ago.
SI: How competitive was Brooklyn College when you were there?
DS: I'd say moderately competitive. You needed an average of over eighty percent in high school, which was fairly good, not outstanding. ... It was competitive in that sense and you had to be a good student, but not a top student. ... I was never a top student. I was a good student and member of Madison High School, and ... I was mainly "Bs" and "As" in college, particularly in political science and philosophy, and related subjects. I was very good at mathematics before college. ... I somehow didn't carry it on in college because of my interest in political science. ... There were more required courses then. You had to have a physical science, and so forth, and a language.
SI: Did you find the transition from high school to college to be difficult, easy or somewhere in-between?
DS: Not particularly difficult, no, though I wasn't an outstanding college student and I didn't secure any prize or award. Well, when we graduated, ... I ended my college days in May '43 when the Army called up the so-called Enlisted Reserve Corps [an enlisted component of the Organized Reserve under the National Defense Act of 1920], which for whom they postponed the entry into the service. ... I remember, the college gave the degree to those students in the Enlisted Reserve Corps. They got away with taking the final examinations in June. [laughter] We were granted the degrees, and my mother and a couple relatives attended the commencement in June '43.
... One of the aspects of my childhood was being ... almost a wizard at mental arithmetic. ... I was really outstanding. I would give, mentally, the answers to mathematical questions without going through the long course of division or multiplication. ... At the age of six to eight or nine, my father, when we visited relatives, and that was part, an important part, of my [childhood], would set me up standing and [I would be] going through some mental arithmetic problems, by way of amusing the relatives. ... I have a very clear recollection, when I think of childhood experiences, of being once, eating out, which we did infrequently, we didn't have a lot of money, ... at a restaurant on Pitkin Avenue [in Brooklyn]. ... When we got the check, the check added up to a dollar [and] ninety [cents]. Well, I looked at it and I figured out it was a dollar [and] sixty [cents]. I told my father and he called the waiter over and he corrected it. It was just mental arithmetic, which involved ... looking at the check and pointing out the error. The whole family, then ... five of us, was served a meal for a dollar [and] sixty [cents]. ... That illustrates life at that time, as well as a sign in a store along Fulton Street, which I noticed when I'd walk from Utica Avenue to Bedford Avenue, [that said], "Frankfurters, Two For a Nickel." ... Part of life then was the fifteen cents an hour which I was paid for working.
SI: You seemed to be very aware of what was happening in the world.
DS: Oh, yes.
SI: You were especially aware of Germany and the Nazis.
DS: One of the highlights of the high school time, the fourth year, was winning some borough-wide contest in Brooklyn, which the Brooklyn Eagle, the newspaper, ran throughout the borough. ... I won one of the two awards by the Brooklyn Eagle in current events, and that ended with a contest, like a spelling bee, in current events, and [we were] ... asked questions ... about current events. ... That was one of the highlights of my high school period. ... I think they took students representing the several high schools, and I represented Madison High School. ... It was at the top and the peak of high schools in Brooklyn. ... It was located in the area which included the better Flatbush [community in Brooklyn] area and, which I said, my father succeeded in getting me into because he didn't want me to go to Tilden, which was colloquial and did not have the reputation of Madison High School. ... That was in a class with, or maybe a little bit above in its reputation, Erasmus [Hall] High School. ... It is a very famous one and [offered] top scholarship. It is located on Flatbush Avenue, just across the street, literally, from the drugstore where I worked. Yes, one of the events in childhood was winning this contest in current events, a borough-wide contest.
SI: Were your friends as aware of what was happening in the world? What did they think about issues like isolationism, intervention, helping Britain, those sorts of things?
DS: Well, the friends and acquaintances were anti-isolationists. This was the days before Pearl Harbor, when the politics was [dominated by the] Committee to Defend the Allies [an interventionist political group] versus America First. America First was the great isolationist organization. ... It included famous liberals, [such as] Senator [William Edgar] Borah from Idaho and [Henry Cabot] Lodge, [Jr.]. No, not Lodge; I forget the name of a great liberal from Nebraska [Senator George W. Norris] in the '20s [who] was isolationist. ... That continued up to Pearl Harbor. ... That was the ... event which finally weaned the isolationists, or most of them, to be anti-Hitler, to support the war and support the British. ... Part of the history is the renewal of the draft act [Selective Training and Service Act of 1940, which] passed the House by one vote, in, I think, '38 . That was the height of the strength of America First-ers, who then had ads in the [New York] Times and other papers. ... Of course, the real reactionary [right-wing, counter-revolutionary] groups were isolationist because they didn't see Hitler as an enemy. ... They included, of course, the whole group of anti-Semites and semi-anti-Semites, people who were anti-Semitic but weren't the radical Nazis or such. Part of that era was a great leader of anti-Semites and isolationists, Father [Charles] Coughlin, you've heard of him, from Michigan. ... He used to be on the radio every Sunday. ... I remember often listening to him. ... I felt very strongly that the war was a good war. ... People refer to it now as the "last good war," and [I] have this strong feeling about the bombing of Japan, in part, I suppose, because I didn't look forward, after being wounded twice, to being with the Ninth Division as one of the battle-tested divisions leading the land assault on Japan. They landed in Europe on D+3 [three days after D-Day], the Ninth Division, I was told by persons in it, and that was part of the history.
... I remember, I was hitchhiking (I used to do a lot of that, in part because of my love of nature and geography, the best subject of mine was always geography) the day of the bombing of Hiroshima. I was hitchhiking along the road going south to Chattanooga, where I was assigned and told to go to a military camp there. ... I ... thought it was to rejoin, ultimately, the Ninth Division and be part of the land invasion of Japan. So, you can, again, analyze and conclude that, well, it was just the cowardice, the fear of going into battle again, and part of the experience is the fear mounting. The second time you go to the front, or the third time, you're much braver, and this is reflected in a lot of literature and in a recent movie about World War II, [you are] much braver than when you first ... go to the front. ... I recall doing things which persons who had been there longer than I, in the Ninth Division, wouldn't do [during] the first few days ... in combat. So, my attitude about the nuclear bomb may be, in part, ... pure fear. That's, again, something to analyze.
SI: You were hitchhiking when you heard about Hiroshima and your first feeling was relief.
DS: A very profound relief.
SI: Were you surprised by the news?
DS: Yes. I had no knowledge of, nor did Harry Truman even know about, the nuclear bomb or the Manhattan Project until he became President. ... Then, while I was in ... Chattanooga, I think it was nine days later, came the bombing of Nagasaki, and then, V-J Day [Victory Over Japan Day] was early August, I think August 9th. [Editor's Note: The atomic raids were carried out against Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, and Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. V-J Day was declared on August 14th in the United States.] ... At the end of August, I was assigned to go to a Camp Stoneman, [a US Army staging facility], in California, at the eastern edge of San Francisco Bay. ... I remember part of the course then was I think what they called a reclassification, and I took the Army intelligence test again and I think I got a grade of 145. ... The first time I took it, I don't think it was higher than 125, which was good, but no specialty, but that's part of my recollection of the ten days or two weeks in Nashville; no, pardon me, not Nashville, Chattanooga. This camp was, I forget the name of it, [Fort Oglethorpe, a US Army induction center] in or just outside of Chattanooga. ... Because of my love of geography and the mountains, I did a lot of hitchhiking. ... The hitchhiking to Chattanooga took me through the Shenandoah Valley and the mountains of the Southern Appalachians, that I saw for the first time. ... [For] the hearing of the bombing, I was in the City of Bristol, Bristol, Virginia, which is part in Tennessee and part in Virginia, about, oh, fairly close to Chattanooga.
SI: To go back to the beginning of the war, do you remember where you were when Pearl Harbor was attacked?
DS: Yes, I was home, and this was when I was a sophomore, December of '41. No, I was a junior then, because I would have started my junior [year] in September of '41. That was December and I was at Brooklyn College. ... The day of Pearl Harbor was a Sunday and I was home in the house on Schenectady Avenue, right. ... It took Pearl Harbor to [bring] in, politically, the isolationists and the America First-ers, but the reaction was strong. ... As I say, there was that margin of one to renew the draft, I think in '38 , and the terrible problems which FDR had with Lend-Lease [the program to provide the Allies with military equipment] and other ... measures to help the British. ... People charge him now with always wanting to declare war, and it may be so, but that's part of history and the many different analyses of FDR. ... Part of the politics then was, of course, is that the strongest anti-Hitler people were the Jews, as strong as anybody, but, in the '20s and '30s, a much larger percentage of Jewish people were pacifists. They were part of the left-wingers and Communists and pacifists. The people who went to West Point and went into the military service before Hitler were the right-wingers, the American Legionnaires, and so forth. So, it was an interesting part of the politics of that period before Pearl Harbor.
SI: The day of Pearl Harbor, do you remember if there was a lot of fear or panic after the news broke?
DS: I'd suppose so. Part of that fear or panic was what brought about the internment of the Japanese descendants and uprooting them to the camps in the desert. ... We now, of course, look upon that as ill-advised and we enacted legislation giving them some money awards for suffering. ... Oddly enough, something I learned when I was in Hawaii, that the Hawaiians didn't intern the Japanese. A much larger percent of people with Japanese ancestry populated Hawaii than California or any other place. ... There was genuine fear of the Japanese invading California, the West Coast. [Editor's Note: Executive Order 9066 ordered the relocation of Japanese-Americans into internment camps. The Civil Liberties Act of 1988 provided for reparations to internment camp survivors. Due to the large Japanese-American population in Hawaii, the government decided to impose martial law rather than attempt internment.]
SI: Were you aware of the internment camps at the time?
DS: Yes, yes, it was in the newspapers then. ... I don't think I felt strongly against it. ... I may have been of the view in balancing matters that it was unjust, but I wasn't strongly against it, because I was so strongly anti-Hitler.
SI: Had you been aware of events in Asia involving the Japanese and the war in China?
DS: ... Yes. I was a very good student of current events and part of that ... was the Japanese invasion of China.
SI: Were you surprised that Pearl Harbor was what got us into the war? Were you more expecting a war with the Germans?
DS: I was surprised by Pearl Harbor, as everybody else was, but, in a sense, [I was] glad for it, because that finally got us to fight the Germans and I still believe very firmly that, had the British not weathered the bombing in 1940, ... we'd all be lampshades. At the very least, Hitler would have succeeded in securing some allies in ... South America and elsewhere. ... The ... influence of Father Coughlin and people like him would have become ... much stronger. ... The renewal of the draft by only one vote was a frightful event. ...
SI: After Pearl Harbor, a lot of young men your age were going into the military. Everyone's fate was thrown up to the wind. What did you think was going to happen to you? Did you think you were going to be able to finish college? What were your plans?
DS: I didn't know, but I was to go ahead about [securing] the permission to stay to finish, to get the bachelor's degree, which was granted ... to the members of the so-called "Enlisted Reserve Corps," the ERC. Oddly enough, and it's ironic that that turned out, in one sense, to be unfortunate, because the men who went in earlier became the leaders and the officers and, in large part, the ones who went in later, like myself, became the infantry. ... My brother, ... was in the Navy and was discharged for high blood pressure, then, went into the Army, I think in '40 or '41. ... He was assigned to the Coast Artillery, which spent most of the war in Kittery, Maine, near Portsmouth, with the Coast Artillery, defending against the invasion of the coast. [Editor's Note: The Coastal Artillery Corps consisted of many regiments for harbor defense that had antiaircraft weapons to protect the American coast from invading enemy forces.] Finally, in March of '45, or April, after breaking through at St.-Lo [in July 1944] and ... with the war ... to end soon, his unit was sent over to France with the big guns besieging a couple French ports, which were besieged, but which the Americans and British never thought were worthwhile assaulting. ... They were just held. So, he told me, he fired some guns at the enemy, which ... were their Coast Artillery guns, or something equivalent to them, were fired at the Germans in one of the ports. I think it was Biserte. I'm not certain.
SI: Brest? Biserte is in North Africa, correct?
DS: Well, maybe, yes.
SI: I know what you are talking about, those peninsulas that were out in Northern France and by the Bay of Biscayne.
DS: Yes, right. It's south of the D-Day beaches.
SI: Right. It was called the "Forgotten Front," the areas where those German garrisons were located.
DS: Yes. Well, the ones who went in later, the college students in the Enlisted Reserve Corps, became infantrymen and that was ... an important part of the history. The Battle of the Bulge [December 16, 1944 to January 25, 1945], the breakthrough at the Bulge, was the breakthrough ... the thinnest part of the line, held by the 106th Infantry Division, which is [was] virtually all college students who were trained in the Army, in the so-called ASTP. ... They were at first to be the rear echelons and the technicians. ... [Editor's Note: ASTP stands for Army Specialized Training Program and it was created in December 1942 to train the academically distinguished men of the Army as officers.] In early '44, maybe middle of '44, '43, the determination was made that you needed more foot soldiers, more infantry, and vast numbers of young college students who were in the ASTP were thrown into the 106th Infantry Division, and a couple other divisions, with just a few weeks' training, to be riflemen. ... They held that section of the line and, ... among other ... events of the Bulge battle, [it] was the largest mass surrender of Americans in history, I think one group of seven thousand men. ... The breakthrough where they were was [comprised of] those who went in later. ... Had I gone into the service, say, the same time as my brother, [I] would probably have become an officer in some non-infantry group, at least not one which was not assigned to the battlefront. ...
SI: Let me just pause the recording.
SI: Thank you very much for lunch. I really appreciate it. You mentioned before the break that you were in the Enlisted Reserve Corps.
DS: I went into the Enlisted Reserve Corps, I think, in mid-'42 and the policy then was to permit Enlisted Reserve Corps members to finish college. ... I was slated to finish in June of '43, get the BA, four years after high school in Brooklyn. We were called up in May. With a group from Brooklyn College, I went to Fort Eustis, Virginia, which is fairly close to Norfolk, and we were trained ... to be part of, or maybe the whole of, an antiaircraft unit; antiaircraft, I suppose it would have been a battalion. ... The basic training was the usual thing, the strictly military part, ... learning to fire a rifle and a lot of marching, and then, ... quite a fair amount of time learning the mechanics of antiaircraft guns, ninety-millimeter antiaircraft guns. ... The memories and impressions of that Fort Eustis are not too many, but one of them, of course, was the impressions of a person's first visiting the South and, in going into the nearby city, I think it was Norfolk, I'm not certain, the shock at seeing the signs, "Colored," "White," and other aspects of the South, and the heat of the summer. There was no special event, except the difficult part of acclimating oneself to the roughness and the discipline and the subservience to the training officers, which, of course, I don't criticize. ... War is war. The one particular event occurred near the end of the period there, when, for some reason, one of the training officers made some announcement through the public address system, which covered all the dormitories where the men lived. ... He was very angry at something, and one was able to speak back in the public address system. So, I've always been very sensitive about cursing. I brought up my children, for instance, to just avoid any rough language, and I'm infamous for that. ... I got angry and yelled back through this public address system, "You don't have to curse." Well, that was a breach of the rules and they came to me and took me outside and gave me a pail and a brush and made me, for three or four hours, scrub the sidewalk. ... It was an experience. It was really cruel and, looking back at it now, it may have been a fairly common thing, but I was the one person in this group of college boys who got that [punishment]. ... It became quite an event, and, when I wrote back, as I used to write home each day, my father made some effort to see some politician and complain. I'm not as bitter at it now as ... I was then, because I've just learned that war is hell and that's part of it and it may be a necessary part of the military training. ... I think that in August, we completed the training there and went out to various units. ... I was then sent to a camp in Mississippi, I think to continue the training for service in an antiaircraft unit. I forget the name of the city in Mississippi which [is] closest [to the camp].
I remember a noteworthy ... was taking a weekend pass and going to New Orleans to be with a friend of mine, who initiated me into hiking and camping, who lived on Avenue P in Brooklyn. ... We met in Madison High School. He was attending Tulane University, the medical school or pre-med. ... That was financed for him ... by the Army, the Department of Defense. ... I visited him in New Orleans. I hitched to New Orleans. ... One event ... was being given a ride by somebody who turned out to be gay. ... He really made serious proposals to me. [laughter] Well, that was my first such experience with that; it frightened me some, but I didn't ... stay with him and he was nice and took me to where he was going, a place short of New Orleans.
... I befriended, I think in Mississippi, a fellow my age, a college student, who lived in Morristown, Tennessee. ... I took a weekend to visit his family in Morristown. ... That was a great adventure. I just loved travel. ... My friend's mother was very gracious. ... Part of going to visit him was getting a pass for the weekend. ... I think I went a bit beyond the fifty-mile distance that the pass specified and, at one point, at nine, I think [on] the Saturday night in Morristown, a bunch of soldiers became unruly. ... The military police rounded up everybody in uniform. I was theoretically breaching the pass by going more than fifty miles from the camp where I was based. So, they put me ... in jail for the night. It was a signal experience of my life.
DS: [laughter] I spent a night in jail and, of course, I looked upon it with a bit of melodrama and thought very much about Thoreau and his famous night in jail, which was related in one of his great writings. ... That was an experience while in the camp in Mississippi. ...
SI: How did they treat you as a serviceman in the jail?
DS: No complaints. There was nothing like the event of the scrubbing of the sidewalk at Fort Eustis. ... Part of ... the stay in Mississippi was the overnight encampments and the hikes ... which I liked. ... I like seeing any new area. ... There, too, were trips into towns. ... The visible aspects of segregation were quite memorable. ...
SI: Were there any African-Americans training to be antiaircraft artillerymen where you were?
DS: No. I was never in a unit which had any non-whites.
SI: Were there any African-Americans in other parts of the base that you may know about?
DS: I don't recall whether there were African-Americans in the camp. ... I forget the name of it.
SI: Was it Shelby?
DS: I think so, yes, yes.
SI: I know antiaircraft units were one of the few units that African-Americans were able to get into.
DS: That's right, yes, though I never saw them, but you're correct. They were one of the few types of units which they put non-whites in. I don't remember any other event from Mississippi, except getting a pass and coming home once.
SI: Did you have a specific job within the antiaircraft unit?
DS: I don't think so. The jobs involved the maintenance of the guns and the firing of the guns, but I don't recall any specific job. ... I don't think the jobs [were assigned, that] men were given specific assignments where they'd spend the bulk of their time. They were trained in all aspects of the work of an antiaircraft unit, I think which had about a hundred men.
SI: How did you feel about the discrepancy between how enlisted men are treated and officers are treated?
DS: ... I had some idea of applying to become an officer, but I didn't, in large part because the availability of officer training was to train first [second] lieutenants in the infantry. ... I just didn't think, I don't think that I had the ability to lead men with my pacifist history ... to lead men to their death. So, I didn't apply for any officer training and there was nothing else to apply for.
... From Mississippi, I went to a camp, in Maryland, I think, in the Summer of '44 or the late spring. I was there for several weeks receiving further training, which was specifically infantry training. This was after the determination was made to move large numbers of men, including college men in the ASTP Program, to the infantry or the field artillery. ... The training there was the usual things, firing the guns on the rifle range. That was of interest to me, because I remember myself as the one person among a group of boys who didn't want to have and never had a BB gun. My brother had a BB gun and a BB gun was part of the upbringing in Brooklyn of boys. ... Among the amusements of boys when we lived in East Flatbush was going out to Canarsie, to a garbage treatment plant, and shooting rats [laughter] who wandered around the garbage. I just was afraid of, and didn't want to touch, a BB gun. ... It was so antithetical to me ... to be a leader, a lieutenant in the infantry. ... I just don't think that I could have passed ... whatever tests they gave anyway.
SI: Do you think that your training at; was it Fort Meade?
SI: Was that more intense than your training had been at Eustis?
DS: It was more specifically infantry, yes.
SI: Did they work you harder, more calisthenics, something like that?
DS: I don't think so, no. I think the work was equally hard at the beginning in Fort Eustis in Virginia. I don't have clear recollections of Fort Meade. I think I was there about six or eight weeks. ... I did get one pass home and, at the end of it, I was sent to Camp Shanks, in Rockland County, the eastern edge of Rockland County, where literally millions of men spent a short three or four days receiving the equipment and otherwise being given the final processing to go to the fighting in Europe.
... I remember ... that I liked the stay in Camp Shanks, because there was a view of the hills. It was the western slope of the Palisades ... where I'd done a fair amount of walking in the trails, including the so-called Long Path in New York State. ... It runs from the state line of New Jersey at the hamlet of Palisades and along the Palisades. It goes ... over the mountain which was visible from the camp. ... The "Long Trail" goes ... to the Ramapos [a mountain region in New Jersey] and Palisades Park and north. Now, it's completed wholly, I think, and goes all the way to the Mohawk River. ... It was and is an important hiking path and that interested me. ... Where we moved to in Rockland County was just two miles west of Camp Shanks, the unincorporated village of Pearl River. ... It is on the state line and adjoins Montvale, New Jersey, fairly close to Woodcliff Lake and Hillsdale, and southeast of Spring Valley. ... Rockland County was quite a rural county then. When we moved out there was before the building of the [New York State] Thruway going east and west through the county and the Palisades Parkway going north and south through it. ... The great suburbanization of Rockland County came from those two roads. We lived for over thirty years in Pearl River. One of the reasons for doing that was the proximity to the hiking trails, particularly in Palisades Park, the area, well, which [is] very close to the Jersey line. I don't recall whether it goes over the line south, but one of the trails in Palisades Park goes from the Hudson River about fifteen miles southwest to the Village of Suffern on the state line. ... One of the reasons for going to Rockland County ... was the rural aspect of it and the comparative low price of houses. ... The houses were all modeled after Levittown. ... We bought a house in a development in Pearl River for 12,900 dollars. ... The least expensive Westchester place we looked at was nineteen thousand dollars, which was then a lot, and you got a good, big house. ... This beginner's house had two bedrooms and an unfinished second story.
... I went out there and looked at this particular house, which had views east, ... was very rural woodland and farmland and bounded by the height of the hills along the Hudson. It was the same view of hills which you got from Camp Shanks. ... The view included the Empire State Building and Riverside Church. That was the view south ... of the Hackensack Valley. The Hackensack River rises in Rockland County, north of a place called New City, which is one of the larger villages of Rockland County.
... The ... river goes down east of the Palisades, the view on clear days and clear nights just fascinated me. ... I did something I should [not] have done; I went out there without my wife and, when we went out there the week later, I told her I'd been there. [laughter] She was correctly angry, because I decided to buy the house when I saw the view and, of course, I shouldn't have decided to buy it without consulting with her. ... Fortunately, she was attracted by it and the rural character of Rockland County. ... We lived there and raised five children there and became, really, part of the community. My wife, among other things, became a member and the chairperson of the Pearl River school board. ... My wife and I organized a Democratic club. ... I commuted to Midtown Manhattan, where I was an associate and the youngest member of a small law firm. ... It did mainly litigation, and my interest was litigation. I became an associate, beginning, in that law firm, paid fifty dollars a week.
SI: Before we go further into your career, can we talk more about World War II?
DS: Sure, right, yes.
SI: You were in Camp Shanks, getting ready to go overseas.
SI: Did you have any concept of what that meant? What were you thinking at that time?
DS: Well, just, I think, pleasure, a pleasant feeling of traveling. I was so fascinated by travel and interested in doing my duty. I welcomed ... going to the war and, also, I think that was softened somewhat by the expectation that the war was ending in Europe, and that's definitely documented now, ... before D-Day [June 6, 1944], the Americans and British expected to end the German war in the Fall of '44. ... We got on to the Mauretania, the big boat, ten or twelve thousand men, sleeping in several layers in hammocks in the various rooms of the boat. ... One of the events on the trip was turning over letters to some officer to censor. That was required. Well, I was fascinated with the sea travel. The ocean travel was something which the rich uncle and rich aunt did when I was a child, and I had read several of the novels of Joseph Conrad, who's the great novelist [in] writing novels about the sea and South Seas Islands, and Lord Jim is, I think, the most famous one. So, I wrote a letter which was somewhat poetic and quoting Conrad, and I got the letter back from the censorship officer, asking, "What is this?" He evidently thought it was some code ... or just couldn't understand the fascination and the poetic interest in the sea. [laughter] I thought it was quite unusual. Other than that, I don't recall any event of the trip. ... The trip landed us in England, I think in the Port of Southampton, and, from there, we were sent to some camp in England. ... This was near the end of August '44 and, on the boat, there was a lot of talk about the probable end of the war, because Paris had just been taken. [Editor's Note: The RMS Mauretania sailed from New York Harbor on August 24, 1944, for the European Theater, arriving in Liverpool, United Kingdom, on August 31st. The battle to liberate Paris took place between August 19th and August 25, 1944.] The liberation of Paris occurred while we were on the boat, and we, and a lot of generals and politicians, expected the European War to end.
... The Battle of the Bulge caught them ... and the men in the Battle of the Bulge and the Hurtgen Forest didn't have the proper winter clothing. ... That led to the development of trench foot, which was a prime ... aspect of that fighting in the Hurtgen Forest. ... [Editor's Note: Trench foot is a fungal infection, often affecting the feet, caused by extended exposure to wet and cold conditions.] We ... expected, and, of course, hoped for, the end of the European fighting by the time the boat landed, but it didn't, of course. ... Then, I was sent, and I don't know or recall the exact location ... somewhere in northwestern France, to the first of a chain of three or four so-called replacement depots, RDs, "rep-dep," it was called. ... The replacements ... were in ... "packages" of two hundred men. ... You got further and further up to the front ... and you were finally sent out to fill a vacancy created by men being evacuated or killed.
... That was the time of the first entry into Germany proper. The liberation of Belgium and the capture of Liege was while I was on the boat or in replacement depots [during the first week of September 1944], and a number of units went to the "West Wall" [also known as the Siegfried Line] in Germany and were filtered out to [the] Ninth Division and the 28th Infantry Division and some to the Second Division. ... Some went to areas in the south, Patton's Third Army. ... As I recall it, a political decision was made to ... let the Free French, [under Charles] de Gaulle, lead the march ... into Paris. That was something which got a lot of ... comment. Patton then went through Paris. ... He went very rapidly east and wanted to get permission to go to central Germany. ... The fact is, ... I'm not certain it's wholly a fact, but the documented history is that they didn't have the supplies. He ran out his supply line, particularly the gasoline. ... This was discussed in many books and there were rumors, talk, that the gasoline had been stolen by some of the soldiers and sold in Paris and that's why he ran out of gasoline. I don't think that's the case. Reputable histories have talked about his running out of supplies. ... He, in September, reached the area of Metz, the fortified city, where he was stalled until February 1945. ... He was held up and the British ... in this period of early September, went across "The Bridge Too Far," across the Rhine, with the paratroopers. ... That's a well-documented story at Arnhem. [Editor's Note: Mr. Sive is referring to Operation: MARKET-GARDEN, a combined airborne and armored campaign designed to capture key bridges in the Netherlands and advance the Allied drive into Germany. Launched on September 17, 1944, the attack failed as ground forces could not reach the airborne units at Arnhem in time. The title of Cornelius Ryan's 1974 account of the operation, A Bridge Too Far, is often used to refer to the event.]
... The Ninth Division, a couple others, went toward Aachen, and then went to a village where I first arrived at the front, the Village of Monschau, M-O-N-S-H-A-U, I think. ... Before the war, it was a very lovely place at the western ... border of the Hurtgen Forest. ... We were told that Monschau was a village where honeymooners went, "the Niagara Falls of Western Germany." It was very scenic and the scenery attracted me. I was thrilled with the travel and the country, as much of Germany, particularly the forestlands, though ... the trees are all lined up. ... There's nothing like wild forest ... that we have. Well, I got to the village of Monschau, and ... finally, got to the Third Battalion of the 60th Infantry Regiment of the Ninth Division of the First Army. ...
SI: Before we talk about that, you mentioned in your letters very vivid descriptions of how you felt while you were in the "repple-depple" pipeline. Can you describe that a little bit, what it was like to not be attached to anything?
DS: It was an unpleasant time and ... I had some fear of going to the front. ... There was a reaction to the failure of the war to end, although this was two weeks after the taking of Paris.
... Part of that story is the failure of the Americans to close the Falaise Gap through which the Germans retreated. Although vast numbers of Germans were captured, hundreds of thousands, I think. ... The Americans didn't quite close the Gap and the Germans were able to evacuate, in good shape, much of their army and get back to Germany proper. [Editor's Note: Between August 12th and 21st in 1944, the Allies sought to cut off and eliminate the bulk of the German Army in France in the vicinity of Falaise.] The "repple-depples" were unpleasant. ... I had a feeling of some fear, but still some hope that maybe ... the war would end very shortly there, the European War. ... I got up to Monschau, I think, in very early September. ... I ended up in the Hurtgen Forest, near Monschau, with the Third Battalion of the 60th Regiment of the Ninth Division. In the forest was the 28th Division, which is the one, I think, which is in the film about World War II currently being shown [Ken Burns' The War]. ... I was attached to the light artillery unit which was part of every ... infantry battalion. ... There were five or six men ... who operated the light artillery, which was an antitank unit of the rifle battalion. ... The antitank unit was stationed then, part in foxholes, part in buildings. ... We ...were in buildings somewhere in back of the men who were the real heroes of World War II, the riflemen. The riflemen were in the holes closest to the Germans, whom you never saw, because it was a dense forest. ... I was a rifleman and I dug my hole and went through the usual course of spending most of the time waiting and not knowing as much as tourists in Times Square about how the war was proceeding, how the Russians were doing, and getting a look, most days, at the newspaper ... stories of Ernie Pyle. ...He was a hero and wrote the most accurate description of life in the infantry. ... He was slain fighting in the Pacific War, some Pacific [island]. [Editor's Note: Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ernie Pyle covered the war for the Scripps-Howard newspaper chain and was killed during the Battle of Ie Shima on April 18, 1945.] ... It was the newspaper; I forget the name of it. I think it was just called Yank.
SI: Stars and Stripes?
DS: ... Yes. It carried the cartoons of [Bill] Mauldin, who, by sheer coincidence, lived in Rockland County, which had an important colony of theatrical people along a particular road north of Pearl River and ... close to the mountains, very scenic, I think called South Mountain Road. [Editor's Note: During World War II, Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Bill Mauldin developed a series of cartoons featuring the characters Willie and Joe that typified the experiences of the frontline American soldier for Stars and Stripes, the US Army newspaper, based in large part on his own experiences as an enlisted man in the 45th Infantry Division.] There's a South Mountain Reservation here. One of the hills is called South Mountain; ... it is near High Tor, T-O-R, which became well-known as the name of a play, a Broadway play by a playwright who lived there, I forget the name, [James Maxwell Anderson], and there were quite a few theatrical people and authors. Mauldin moved up there, and then, he became the Democratic candidate for Congress in '53, and I was the Democratic candidate in '57. ... Of course, ... I lost to the Republicans, though I always felt good that I did better than he did. ... It was four years later and there were more Democrats and young people and men [who] were veterans in Rockland County, [both] commuting and a large number housed in the barracks of what had been Camp Shanks and commuting to New York University and Columbia University. ... Part of the history of that group of people is many of the men being married with families. ... They brought a lawsuit to declare Camp Shanks, in Rockland County, as their homes, their residence for legal purposes, including voting. ... They changed the long-standing law that the residence for legal, including voting, purposes of college students was their homes, not the college area. Well, they got that reversed and a large portion of men there settled, when they graduated and became older, in Rockland County, including one close friend who became a state court justice, who was active with the Republicans.
... Part of the folklore of Camp Shanks was the new twist they gave a traditional, conservative, Republican area to the modern age, and hitchhiking to Manhattan. ... [Regarding] the folklore of hitchhiking, they had points where they assembled and were picked up. ... Camp Shanks had its separate folklore. It was a very interesting place. Well, I got up to the front and was a rifleman, digging a foxhole at the western edge of the Hurtgen Forest. ... I lasted there for about thirty days ... and [have] very vivid recollections of that, as you ... would expect. Among them was the cold and numbness of the feet, which, after several weeks, had become affected by trench foot, which affected vast numbers of men, when the feet doubled in size ... as they were just filled with cold water. ... I remember feeling numbness, quite uncomfortable, but not to the point of being disabled. ...
DS: ... There's time to think in the foxholes and I had a lot of thoughts about poets and war and novels and pacifism, the irony of my being in the infantry and some thoughts about becoming [an officer], rising up in the Army ranks. ... It was a life which is very well described in some novels and [the] writings of Ernie Pyle and other literature, with which you must be as familiar as I am. ... I wrote a letter virtually every day ... to my parents or younger sister. Well, I never saw a German and I don't recall firing a rifle at the enemy. I recall firing ... maybe it was just once or twice. ... I don't recall [if] that was in this first stay of thirty ... days or the second trip when I went back to the Hurtgen Forest. ... The Americans were still housed in Monschau.
... The front had ... advanced two or three miles east and was very much written up and very accurately described in this TV show, which has a twenty-minute interlude about the Hurtgen Forest. Well, the Forest was, in peacetime, a beautiful evergreen forest, at least beautiful to me, and the area was one of rolling terrain ... one of deep and scenic river gorges and the rivers flowed east to the Roer River, R-O-E-R, which is about halfway, or a bit more, to the Rhine, going east. ... Around the Roer River Valley were big dams. ... One of the objects of the Americans [was] to reach the dams and I think destroy them and proceed east to the Rhine River. ... They never got even close before I was wounded. ... The Roer Valley dams were finally captured in February, 1945. ... Those events I wrote [about] in the letters which you've seen. I think about ... five days after I ... arrived in the Forest, the communications section of the Third Battalion, which was a unit of, I think, five men lost, two or three men, one of which ... was a wireman. ... He had as his principal assignment the operation of a switchboard at the battalion headquarters, which operated the communications from the riflemen to the Third Battalion officer and a line to the regimental headquarters. ... Around the ... fifth day in the Forest, two or three men of the communications section were hit. I don't know whether they were wounded or killed. ... I was told to go to the communications section and be a wireman and it took one afternoon to learn the technique of splicing wire, which is a very simple thing. You cut it and ... tied it and you tape it and you're back in business. ... To reach a break, you proceed along the route of the wire ... looking for the break. When you came to the break, you ... take the two ends, if you could find them, and splice it. That was the assignment for me. Well, I very much welcomed that, because I was afraid ... of the hand-to-hand combat, which I couldn't imagine myself doing, ... with my pacifist background, and my fear of fighting.
... I remember that I was afraid of fighting, while living in Brooklyn, while in grade school. Part of the folklore there was to avoid running into, it sounds horrible now, "Leo the WOP," which was the name given to some ... boy who allegedly ... beat up ... other boys and girls. I don't know whether that was true or just part of [the] folklore. ... My thoughts were of that and I welcomed the shift to the wire section, because my main assignment was not finding the enemy and ... winning in hand-to-hand combat, which I couldn't imagine myself doing. ... It may be that if it came to hand-to-hand combat, I would have given up. I don't know. That concerned me, not [having] enough courage to do that.
... The wireman's function was ... in some respects more dangerous in some respects than that of [the] rifleman, because you were repairing the wire whatever the situation. ... The great bulk of injuries ... was from artillery or mortar shells, with comparatively ... little from bullets ... because you couldn't see [the enemy] and the bullets couldn't travel [very far]. The artillery fire was primarily the German "eighty-eight" millimeter guns, which is a weapon, for some reasons, better than and more effective than our ninety-millimeter artillery. ... This is documented in literature. ... The "eighty-eight" was very effective and vast numbers of men were hit by it. ... In thirty days, or thereabouts, it was accepted that ... half the men in any given package of two hundred ... would be hit, and the only question was ... that of whether one would be wounded and how badly, ... or be killed? ... The danger was equal to a wireman going from the battalion headquarters to the forward-most rifleman.
... The weather was ... quite cold. In the beginning, ... there were some snow storms and flurries. I had a love of snow; I still do, and, to me, it was beautiful. ... During the Battle of the Bulge, walking and finding the wire in the beautiful, pastoral country of easternmost Belgium, where I ... worked as a wireman, was actually quite pleasant. ... I developed successfully the necessary fatalism and the necessary humor, the same humor about which Bill Mauldin and Ernie Pyle ... wrote [on].
So, I weathered the Hurtgen Forest until I was hit and I was hit a few miles east of Monschau, alongside a stream, across which ran a hiking trail, what I was told was a hiking trail [on which] Germans ... walked in the woods. ... I was lying on a stream bank ... when I was hit by a piece of artillery, or mortar shell. A little, well, not so little, ... about three-quarters of an inch long and roughly maybe a half-inch in diameter ... entered my left thigh. I still have the wound, the mark. Well, it turned out it didn't disable me. It didn't injure me badly and the wound was "a million-dollar wound." ... Within two or three minutes, the medics came to me and administered the painkiller and took care of the dressing, to avoid infection. ... I was, as wounded men were, put on a stretcher on a jeep, which had, I think, four stretchers on it, and would carry the wounded to the forward-most field hospital. ... I think I was evacuated and put on a stretcher in Monschau, the closest village, but, before that; no, the interesting story I was trying [to recall] was the second visit to the Hurtgen Forest. Well, I was evacuated to southern England, where there was a hospital in a very beautiful area, as is so much of rural England, about ten miles from the town of Torquay. ... It is a port on the southern coast, and the hospital is in a rural, pastoral area, very beautiful. It was like the classical country which you read of in novels and travel books, and which I was familiar with from reading. ... It took about forty or fifty days for them to surgically remove the shrapnel, which was very easy and simple, and then for me to convalesce. There came recovery and convalescence. I don't recall any particular events before the day came when I was discharged from the hospital, except the beauty of the country.
... Near the end of my stay, ... this is interesting, I noticed some men in the hospital, also recovering from wounds, feigning injury to delay return to the front. ... I wrote a lot of letters home and did a lot of thinking about English literature and the poetry of Wordsworth and the other Lake Poets, which I always had a passion for, [Percy Bysshe] Shelley and [John] Keats and Wordsworth.
At the end, they gave every person a three-day pass ... before going back to the front. ... I got a pass and, instead of going into a town and looking for women, which most ... men did, I rented a bicycle and cycled for a couple days across the area known as the Dartmoor Heath country, in one part of which is the location of The Hound of the Baskervilles, the Sherlock Holmes story. ... It was very romantic and interesting and scenic. ... I rented a bicycle and the third day, came back, and ... started the journey to France and the replacement depots. ... One funny part of it was in the hospital. The last day or thereabouts, ... some of the other men, when they came to [checking their] health and [being] discharged from the hospital, avoided or feigned the examination by the nurses, who would check that ... they were fit. ... As soon as they heard the nurses coming, [they] would grab crutches and feign, and tell the nurses about pains, and feign ... diability to stay a little bit more in the hospital. ... I, being ... quite introspective ... and moralistic, (I don't claim being more moral than other people, but [with] the moral view of things, the philosophical view, the view from the standpoint of a reader of literature and such) that troubled me. So, I thought a good deal of that problem. Then, I came to do some mathematical reasoning. ... The reasoning took the form of starting with the premise that if you went back to the infantry, particularly to the Hurtgen Forest, there was a fifty percent chance you'd be hit within thirty to forty-five days. That was the figure which I gathered from the first stay in the Forest. ... It was accurate and that's documented. So, I reasoned then that the European War wouldn't end before May or June, because it was well-known that the Americans and British were imprisoned, they were just held up. Part of that was the story of "The Bridge Too Far" and part of it, and this is well-documented, is the cold and life in the forest. ... I reasoned that, as part of a mathematical view of things, I would be hit again, by big odds, because [after] thirty days, or forty-five days, you had half the chance, the chance was fifty-fifty, you'd be hit or wouldn't be hit, and twice forty-five or thirty days, the odds were three-to-one you'd be hit, and 125 days, the chances were fifteen-to-one. Well, this was, when I was doing this reasoning, the end of November. So, I figured, "I'm going to be hit again. May is 150 days and the chances are fifteen-to-one." The real chance was whether you'd be wounded or killed, and the odds were four or five-to-one. I ... learned that the ratio of killed to wounded was four or five-to-one, and it incidentally puzzles me very much that the ratio in Iraq now is ten-to-one, at least, and I'm troubled by the thought, maybe, the men now are more cowardly. ... I don't know, but that remains to be explained; maybe it's explained, or half explained, by better medicine and better care and the urban location of the fighting in Iraq, compared to, parts of it, in the Hurtgen Forest. ... In any event, I started to get to reasoning, "I'll be hit again," and it turned out [to be] very accurate. I was hit again in March, ninety days after my return to combat, and I then began the trip up the "repple-depples" again. ...
SI: Do you want to break for the day or do you want to keep going?
DS: I can go forward, and then, you can come back, ... if that's convenient to you.
SI: That will be fine.
DS: Okay, yes. I went to the replacement depots and began the trip back, slated to go back to the Ninth Division and the 60th Regiment, which was comforting and a good military decision. ... It had a good deal of sense to it. That's where the men went, and, in the infantry ... if you got hit and you went back, and you went and got hit again, and ... went back for as long as you were able. ... That was different from the Air Corps or other units. It was a feature of the infantry divisions and, I don't know, I think the flying, the Air Corps, they may have suffered the same number [of casualties] or even more, I don't know, a proportion of men who flew. I've never seen any calculation of that, but I know that they were given a certain number of combat flight duties and the casualties were very heavy, sometimes a third or a quarter of all the planes. The first time we bombed the oil fields in Germany and the earliest flights by the British and Americans was a fantastic number of casualties, not only killed, but wounded and successfully evacuating to the ground, where they became prisoners, but, [in] the Air Corps, after a certain point, you were sent back, out of it, out of the fighting. So, it wasn't quite like the infantry, where the only comfort and way of staying sane, really, was by developing the necessary fatalism and the humor. ... That is documented in some of the better novels, and Ernie Pyle is the best [example]. So, I went to the replacement depots in early December or mid-December, and the day of the Battle of the Bulge, the day the Germans broke through, is when, I think I told you, I was on a train going to Liege and I went that first night of the Bulge battle and was told to go to sleep on the floor of a gymnasium. I couldn't sleep. I really was fatalistic then. We were going on patrol, [to] be the rear guard and the protectors of the evacuation, and, in the first one or two days of the Bulge battle, the Germans ... killed or wounded thousands of men and ... took at least ... eight thousand prisoners, including the 106th Division. ... It was mainly college kids who had been in ... training programs to be technicians and then, shifted on short notice to be infantrymen, and that was part of the Battle of the Bulge. Well, for some reason I've never known, we weren't called out in the middle of the night, after I wrote a long letter [to] my sister, quoting Wordsworth and referring to the Adirondacks, ... disposing of my worldly goods, which were a few books and a bicycle and other things. ... It took about two or three days to finally get to the frontline again, the Ninth Division, the 60th Regiment, Third Battalion. ... That, as I mentioned, was not in the heaviest fighting area of the Bulge. It was the northeast corner of the "U," a few miles into Germany from the Belgian border. ... I remember going for the few minutes' jeep ride up to the Village of Monschau again. ... Yes, that was the second time, right, went to the Village of Monschau, as I mentioned, and it is documented, the Americans, in the two months from September to December, went four miles, and life has been described in the Hurtgen Forest; excuse me, the first several days during the Battle of the Bulge, we were not in the forest, we were in a ... pastoral area, dairy country, really. ... I spent most of the time in the basement of a farmhouse in which the farmers housed animals, cattle, in the house as part of the customs of this part of Belgium and Germany. ... It was beautiful, pastoral country, very much like the northern slope of the Catskills, hilly, not mountainous, though, and other areas, very beautiful areas, like northern Westchester County or northwestern-most New Jersey. ... It fascinated and thrilled me to be in that beautiful country. ... My duty was to maintain the wire lines, which involved walking, sometimes a mile or two, to find a break in the line. ... It was very cold. I have always been a student of the weather and I learned that, on most cold days, the temperature would range to a minimum of ... ten degrees. ... It is comparable to central New York State or central New England or northern New England. ... There was a good amount of snow, most of the time it was a foot or two feet of snow. ... The walking on the snow was, to me, beautiful. ... It was comparatively quiet, compared to the fighting in Bastogne and other areas. ... I was housed in the basement of a farmhouse, the one unpleasant part of which was one of the men with me, when he got [to] talking politics, was making the point, not too subtly, that the Jews were responsible for the war. Of course, that was demoralizing, but part of life and I ... wasn't bitter over it and I still tried to befriend him. ...That's one of the events which I recall ... of the stay in that farmhouse.
... The Battle of the Bulge was ended about New Year's Day, with the Americans dominating the air and relieving Bastogne, telling the Germans, when their demand for surrender, quote, "Nuts," [un]quote. That's part of the history, and the Americans ... and the British resuming the drive east to the Rhine. ... The Battle of the Bulge actually, it's documented, lasted into February and I've read that the greatest amount of casualties in any war, ... the greatest number was in the Battle of the Bulge, seventy-five or eighty thousand or more, although it isn't proportionately the most casualties, compared to the Marines on some of the Pacific Islands or other places in the Hurtgen Forest or Monte Cassino; ... all this is documented. [Editor's Note: The Battle of the Bulge lasted from December 16, 1944, to January 25, 1945. Involving over half a million American soldiers and resulting in over 89,000 American casualties (approximately 19,000 killed and over 70,000 wounded and missing), it was the largest and costliest engagement of World War II for the US Army.] ... In late January and February, the Americans and British proceeded east toward the Rhine. ... They advanced fairly rapidly. For awhile, I remember we were going three or four miles a day, village to village. The Americans, finally, I think at the end of February, got through the Hurtgen Forest and to the Roer River, finally. Then, by the middle of March, no, March 7th ... a unit of an armored division crossed the Remagen Bridge. During that period, the Ninth was going from village to village fairly rapidly and not suffering many casualties. ... Patton's Army ... crossed the Rhine, I think, on March 22nd. The Remagen Bridge was March 7th or March 9th, and he was advancing rapidly, going into central Germany, held up only by the lack of gasoline. [Editor's Note: The Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen was captured on March 9, 1945.] The Russians were in Poland and I think in ... early April, into Germany proper. ... Part of the life then was going into German houses and the GIs taking interesting things. I took an accordion. ... We were warned, "Be very careful and don't open closets and cabinets. Booby traps are there." ... A fair number of men were hit by booby traps, both on the ground and taking items from German houses, of the Germans who left.
Well, on March 7th or 9th, I'd have to check, ... the Ninth Division was scheduled to take the City of Bonn. ... The advance eastward was by each division going in parallel lines to the western bank of the Rhine. ... They're holding up to organize an outfit, shell the Germans, in due time, cross the Rhine. Well, by this time, for some reason, I was taken out of the communications section, I think it was near the end of February, I don't recall, was never told why, and assigned again to the antitank unit of the Third Battalion.
... I remember clearly being on top of a hill west of the City of Bonn. ... We [had] the assignment of taking the City of Bonn. ... About four PM that afternoon, the 7th or the 9th, we heard that the Remagen Bridge had been taken and we were pulled ... out of the position and transported in the evening to some point west, then, on a road south and in some building in the Village of Remagen, which on the eastern bank of the Rhine. ... There, early in the next morning, we were taken out and sent across the bridge, and then, proceeded several days, ending on, I think, March 13th ... about two miles from the Bridge. ... We went from the bridge, going up ... fairly steep river valleys of the streams flowing west into the Rhine, through mainly pastoral country, again, very scenic. ... The afternoon of the 15th or the 17th, I was hit by a piece of antiaircraft flak, striking in the middle of my back. ... At that time, I was located a bit west of the Rhine, near the top of a hill. ... There was a tremendous concentration of antiaircraft firing at the Germans who husbanded in probably a tremendous fraction of [the] remaining Air Force [Luftwaffe] to destroy the bridge before the engineers could build pontoon bridges to carry trucks, supplies ... across the Rhine. ... There was a fair number of casualties. I think nine men were killed crossing the bridge, but, for some reason, this is documented, the Germans, whose army was then, a large portion, old men and young boys, didn't put enough explosives hanging from the bottom of the bridge to fire off, as they did successfully with every other bridge across the Rhine. ... The bridge at Remagen battle is documented ... in a whole book about it and there was a movie about it [The Bridge at Remagen (1969)]. Well, I was struck by a piece of antiaircraft flak. ... I have a clear recollection of seeing large numbers of German planes and the antiaircraft flak virtually covering the sky, ... the images of the antiaircraft flak moving south, parallel to the river. ... I compared it to the sight of a snow squall traveling and the view of it, the traveling of a snow squall. ... One of those pieces of flak tumbled on my back. So, I was able to hobble, the last bit to crawl, to some other GIs nearby who put me in a jeep. ... I went to a field hospital, I think back in Remagen, across a pontoon bridge, which the Army Engineers, with a fair number of men killed, [or] been hit, had built before the bridge totally collapsed. The bridge was a railroad bridge and the eastern end of it didn't go on the ... ground but went into a tunnel. ... I don't know how far the tunnel went ... circumnavigating the steep hill, the hills east of the Rhine. ... An interesting thing, in describing this, for many years, I compared the side of the hill at the eastern end of the bridge, again, I have a habit of romanticizing things, particularly terrain, geographical features, I compared the hill, ... and the Rhine, to the Hudson, which a lot of people have done. Well, the Rhine is beautiful and interesting, in large part through the history of it, Wagner operas and everything else, ... to the Hudson at the Highlands is often called "the Rhine of America," and I compared it to Storm King Mountain and the gorge of the Hudson. For years, Storm King Mountain has been very large in my experience, because the modern environmental movement and the first important environmental lawsuits involved Storm King Mountain, and ... I would compare Storm King Mountain to the hills just above the Remagen Bridge. [Editor's Note: In Scenic Hudson Preservation Conference v. Federal Power Commission (1965), a landmark case in the history of environmental law, and subsequent legal actions, Mr. Sive represented several hiking clubs in opposing the construction of a pumped storage power plant on Storm King Mountain near Cornwall, New York.]
... In 1958, I think, ... I'd have to figure it out, my wife and I took a trip to Europe. ... We featured going to a town in Austria where she was born; no, she was born in Berlin and she lived in Austria, in Graz, which is the city about three hours south of Vienna. ... We traveled there and saw places where she had been as a child and went to part of the Alps, the so-called "Salzkammergut," which is an area of lakes and the salt mines. It was very beautiful. ... We went to the areas where I had been in the war, and because we were ... both very good map readers, particularly hikers' maps, I figured out the precise point on the stream bank where I had been hit the first time. ... We went there and picked up, as a souvenir, a couple trail markers for hikers, little metal plates nailed onto trees, analogous to the trail markers in the Adirondacks. ... We then went to Remagen and went in the area to the hill where I was wounded the second time. ... We couldn't find the exact spot. The first spot in the forest was along a hiking trail, which crossed a stream, and on one bank ... which was where the battalion headquarters was, where I was wounded. So, we spent several days in the area of Remagen and the Hurtgen Forest, and about a week in Austria.
... I was taken by a jeep to some field hospital near Remagen, and then a train, and it took a day or two, I think perhaps two days, where I finally got to a hospital in Paris. ... The hospital was located in the southern area or southern suburb of Paris. I'm not certain whether it's in Paris proper or is a separate community. It was a hospital where I was housed. ... The hospital was an institution taken over by the Americans, which had been, I think, a mental asylum of the French. It was a fairly large institution and, there, I had very simple surgery; well, I didn't have any surgery. No, I'm just confusing it. The flak just bounced off my back and the wound was not serious, although, for a couple of days, I was on my stomach, because I couldn't breathe well. ... One unfortunate aspect of it was, the person or persons who first looked at my back gave a report, which wound up on the second telegram to my father and sister, which said, "Your son has been gravely wounded." ... That was corrected, shortly thereafter, saying, I think, "Slightly wounded," and one of the first things I did when I got away from Remagen was to write a letter, reassuring them, "I don't think the wound is grave or serious."
... I was in the hospital in the area up near Paris called Villejuif, which, in French, means "City of Jews." Part of the history must have been a large number of Jewish people living in that area. ... The hospital was very pleasant, [including] a very pleasant nurse of mine, whom I befriended, who was the daughter of an opera singer. ... I recovered and began walking, stayed in the hospital, but, from around March 20th, the third or fourth day, after the; no, pardon me, it was about ten or twelve days after March 7th or 9th, when the bridge was taken, and then, convalesced and wrote a lot of letters and went on some dates with the nurse, who was very pleasant, and [I] stayed there, on the list, until mid April or the end of April, I think. No, ... [I] stayed in the hospital until around May 15th or 18th.
SI: You were there for V-E Day.
DS: After V-E [Day], and the recollections include those of V-E Day, which was really the saddest day I ever experienced. When I tell the story, I unfortunately get emotional about it.
SI: Do you want to take a break?
DS: Yes. ...
SI: Do you want the recorder back on?
DS: Yes. I was in the hospital and around mid-afternoon of V-E Day; no, it was in the early evening. [Let me] figure out the sequence of events. ... For V-E Day, I got a pass and went into the center of Paris. I thought I would go on the commuter train, and part of that was across a vast number of kisses and embraces of people [in] Paris, but the pass that I got required me to be back in the hospital, I think by six PM or thereabouts. So, I dutifully took the train back and got back to the hospital, which was enclosed with a wall. It was a walled institution and [the] entry was guarded by GIs. ... When I got back to the hospital then, I had no plan and I decided to visit a buddy whom I'd heard was in the combat fatigue ward. Combat fatigue has a different name now, and, of course, in World War I, it was shellshock, and, now, I forget the exact term [post-traumatic stress disorder]. ... The number of men afflicted with it is subject to a lot of study and comment now. I wonder whether, and you don't see any answer to this, there's a far greater number of men afflicted with it and whether in successive wars there's less courage in the men or sociological reasons, what the explanation is, but part of my thinking is the vastly greater proportion of men wounded to men killed, in Iraq, particularly.
In any event, I went to visit this fellow and I saw him and it was on a kind of veranda, I think, I thought it was marble, where a number of men, I think ten to twelve, were chatting with a couple nurses and, a part of the time, they were eating ice cream and cookies. ... I joined them and part of the recollection is, without any advanced notice, ... heard sounds of what must have been a firecracker, or something like that, which I found out was sent into the air by a group of young people marching, I think it was about a mile, from an urban center in this Villejuif area to the hospital, ... with the idea of entering the hospital and frolicking with the GIs. Well, part of the celebration was sending something up into the air, the sound of which was a virtual duplicate of that of a German "eighty-eight" shell. ... It was frightening in different degrees. ... I remember crouching and, after a few seconds, just telling myself, "The war is over," but a number of the men, virtually all of them, went berserk, and took spoons to chip at the marble or something, or dig, and literally clawed the nurses. Well, I went out of the institution grounds, went down the road and saw the group of young people, and then, was able to tell them, in French, which I spoke fairly well from school study and being in France a good ... while, "(Les soldats sont malades à la tête?)," "The soldiers," literally, "are sick in the head," and they stopped the celebration. I went back to the hospital, and ... just tried to be philosophical about war and peace and went back to my room. I don't recall the days immediately thereafter in the hospital, but; no, let me put this in the context. Yes, I have to go back chronologically.
I was virtually fully convalescent a few weeks before V-E Day, in, I think earlier, it was mid-April, and the routine then was to go back to the front and fight more, unless you were disabled. ... Part of the routine was a physical and mental examination and, in the course of that, I remember being asked, "How do you feel about going back to the front a third time?" ... I answered, I think truthfully, "With some fear." I don't know how I was as calm about it as I am now, and, in part, because each time you went back, you were more afraid. That's documented, too, I think, in one of the comments in a current film about the war. ... I was sent to a part of the hospital where there was a two or three-day treatment. I don't know the technical name of it, but it was well-documented and, essentially, wipes memories out.
DS: Wiping out fright, or thoughts akin to it. ... I have a recollection, which is a kind of irony, of looking out of the hospital windows and seeing snow on the hardwood trees and I later on found out that it was actually a very rare snowfall, in mid-April in Paris, the climate of which is, I compare to Washington, DC, which is slightly warmer than that of New York and Northern Jersey. Well, I went through that, and then, letters told me that my mother was graver and I applied for a special furlough, but it was denied. ... I remember then using, or trying to use, the help of the Jewish chaplain, to whom I'd never went ... to in the Army because I'm really an atheist. ... I don't believe ... in an all powerful god and I've never been an observer. Well, ... I really was denied, but, then, shortly after V-E Day, a furlough was granted and, near, in the middle or the end of May, I was permitted to go into a plane and ... fly to Prestwick, Scotland, I think, on the coast of Scotland, and to fly to New York, to La Guardia Airport, with a stop in Newfoundland.
... In late May, I came back to the US. ... I was one of the very earliest of men coming back. One interesting event was, in the airport, ... a commercial building where cargo carrying flights go through La Guardia Airport, was some newspaper reporter, not an important one, but one who interviewed the men coming off the plane. ... I told him my story, a bit of it, and I must have been more interesting than most of the others. ... The Sunday Times, a day or two after, had a short article, just a few inches, on the next to the last page with a short headline, "Wounded Veteran Home;" ... that was a description of me. Well, for some reason, my father didn't see that, but some friend of his, somebody [who] I think worked in the same drug store as I did, saw it and called his attention to it. ... He started ... to wonder where I was, and I think even phoned my rich uncle who knew a Senator from New Jersey and asked his help. ... I was at Camp Kilmer, where there was some processing, which took two or three days, and I got home on the Tuesday. I didn't phone.
... About three or four weeks thereafter, my mother died. ... I then stayed with my father and sister. ... In July, I was ... told to go to Chattanooga, and looked ahead to the possible leading of the land invasion of the mainland of Japan by the Ninth Division. ... In early September, no, the end of August, no, I think around the third week of August, a day or two before, or a few days before the nuclear bombing of Nagasaki, [I] arrived at the camp in Chattanooga, the name of which I don't recall, and was there for about three weeks. I think I made an error. I think the visit to the family of this friend from Tennessee, Morristown, was from Chattanooga, because I was thinking of Tennessee and Chattanooga was, I don't know, fairly close to Morristown, which is in the center of Tennessee. East Chattanooga is the western border of Tennessee, and then, must have been around the end of August, flew out to ... or took the train to San Francisco. ... Then, I suppose in part because I got a high grade on the test to reclassify, [I] was assigned to be the assistant editor of a camp magazine. It was just biding time, and then, was among the very earliest of the men discharged, [at] the very end of October.
... I didn't go directly home, and perhaps unfairly to my father, and, well, my sister understood, I had this tremendous longing to see the US. So, I hitchhiked home, must have hiked thirty-five hundred miles, from San Francisco north through the Redwoods and over the mountains to Crater Lake, which I wanted to see, and through Portland and Seattle. ... In Seattle, [I] left there, well, delayed a day going east to go around the Olympic Peninsula, see the Olympic Mountains, came back. ... I remember [seeing] dawn from Seattle, crossing the bay which bounds Seattle on the east, dawn looking at a sunrise over the mountains, where I'm now looking at the sun rising, ... the first light over the Cascade Mountains. ... I went to Spokane and Idaho and Boise and Cheyenne, Wyoming, thrilled to cross the Continental Divide, the route of the Oregon Trail down to Denver and Omaha and Chicago and Cleveland, ending up in Albany, and then, taking another day to go up to the Adirondacks. ... Came down and, finally, getting home. ... The whole ... trip, perhaps, was unfair to my father and sister, more my father, but I just wanted to see the country. ... The hitchhiking was very easy then, ... being a soldier in uniform, with the Combat Infantry Badge and the Purple Heart and [Oak Leaf] Clusters, I didn't have any difficulty getting rides and invitations, a couple of which I accepted, to stay overnight [at] houses along the way. ... It was a very interesting event. Well, almost immediately, just a few days after being home, as was the custom then, isn't now, I went back to work. ... I applied to Columbia and Harvard Law School, was admitted to both. ... I chose Columbia because it would have been very cruel to be in Boston and [leave] my father and sister alone again.
SI: That could be a good place to stop for the day.
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