Shaun Illingworth: This begins an interview with Mr. Richard C. Arthur on April 19, 2005, in New Brunswick, New Jersey, with Shaun Illingworth and ...
Nicholas Molnar: Nicholas Molnar.
SI: Mr. Arthur, thank you very much for coming down today.
Richard Arthur: Okay.
NM: Just for the record, Mr. Arthur, can you tell us when and where you were born?
RA: I was born in Kenilworth, New Jersey. They don't have a hospital there, so I was born at home.
NM: Can you tell us a little bit about your father and your father's side of the family?
RA: Yes, my father was born in Philadelphia, and came to New Jersey with my grandfather, who actually was one of the builders of the town of Kenilworth. ... My grandfather sent my father to the University of Pennsylvania to get an engineering degree, and he went to work for GE [General Electric]. ... Then, my grandfather called him back and said, "We need you to run the business." They built homes; they even ... had water and electric power to some of the homes back in those days, in the early twenties, I guess. But, then the Depression came, and everything was in my father's name, and he lost everything, including our home. We rented the same home until 1949 when the owner wanted to sell it. We then rented an apartment, while I ended up going to Rutgers, so that's a little bit about the background.
SI: Did you stay in Kenilworth when you lived in the apartment?
RA: We lived in Cranford, which is where I live now. We moved to Cranford, to an apartment, and lived there while I was going to college.
SI: I haven't studied Kenilworth extensively, but I know that there was a lot of heavy industry there. Did Hercules have a plant there?
RA: No, I think that's a little further west. Volko Wireworks was there, which is not in business today to my knowledge. ... Schering-[Plough] is there now, and the town would have a struggle without them. Schering has done many things, for the town. There were other industries which I have forgotten, so in that sense, it was and is until this day, an industrial town. To this day they call "an industrial town with residential convenience," or something like that.
SI: I was curious what type of town Kenilworth was, whether it was an industrial town, like a company town, or a veteran's community?
RA: Yes, you know the term blue-collar town is what people use, and I think that's pretty much what it was; working people that were there. ... The taxes were a little better because of the industry in the town.
SI: When your grandfather built part of Kenilworth, was he an independent contractor, or was he working for one of the companies to build houses for their workers?
RA: The town of Kenilworth, which was not called Kenilworth at the time, but New Orange had some farmhouses and a few other homes. The town hired a builder who defaulted. ... My grandfather heard an invitation, to bid on the building of a hundred houses in a hundred days, which sounds strange, but he won the bid and somehow (according to town records) actually he did it. I don't know how he did it. We always would laugh about it in the family, "How in the world did you do it in those days?" ... That's part of the history of Kenilworth that you can read, is my grandfather building a hundred houses in a hundred days, which is part of Kenilworth history. He moved some houses, too, which created community units in the town.
SI: Can you tell us a little bit about your mother's side of the family?
RA: Well, my grandmother is from Scotland, and my mother worked in Manhattan, I guess. ... They also lived in town, and, I guess, that's where they met my father and got married. ... That's all I can tell you.
SI: You don't know the specific story about how they met?
RA: No, but it was probably in the church. I know how my aunt and uncle met, because my uncle was a roommate of my father's at the University of Pennsylvania. ... My father brought him home to meet my mother's sister, and they got married. There would be no Uncle Bill for me, if he didn't room with my father at the U. of P.
SI: Did your father ever talk about his days at college?
RA: Well, we saw some pictures of ... you think they have wild parties today? They lived in a dorm called the quad, and the pictures of naked students, all male, throwing stuff at each other. So even in those days, things were kind of crazy. I guess when you're in college it's the way it is, so we would to joke about it as we could not imagine our father carrying on like that. My father, although he had his electrical engineering degree, lost everything in the business, and ended up working as a refrigerator repairman. He worked for a very "hardnosed" boss, who demanded much but compensated with very little, so it was a struggle to make ends meet in the family. Our early life was kind of a struggle. I don't mean we were starving to death, or anything like that, or homeless, but it was the Depression. Even when the Depression ended, it was a struggle for us as a family and I never dreamed I'd ever go to college. I was sure that I could not afford it, nor did I think I could get in, as I was only an average student. I'm getting ahead of myself, maybe, but I met a friend who went to school with me, and who had just completed his first year at Rutgers. When he told me I ought to attend the next year, I said, "Yeah, I'll I'd never get in there." He answered "If I did it, so can you." Somehow I took a test and ended up in Rutgers. I was a commuter and missed a lot of college life. I have come to believe that much of college life is being on campus, but I missed that experience.
SI: When you moved to Cranford, how old were you?
RA: Well, I was out of high school, so I was probably eighteen. I didn't go to college the first year. I worked for my father's company and, well, I mean, the company he worked for till I had a little accident with a truck, and they fired me. ... I had all kinds of jobs; taking care of a swimming pool, selling soda in a drive-in movie, and jerking sodas in a luncheonette, which is what I believe it was called.
SI: Serving in a lunch counter?
RA: Yes, something like that, washing dishes, and all that stuff.
NM: After you said your father lost everything, did he find work fairly soon after?
RA: Yes, quite soon after, he worked for Public Service. I didn't mention that previously. Public Service was a power and light utility (of course it still is) and at that time they sold and maintained a service company for appliances. He repaired appliances in people's home working for them, but, then, Public Service divested itself from the appliance business. The company I referred to earlier run by a "Simon LeGree" took over the appliance business from Public Service and that's when it became difficult for my father. With Public Service he had a much better benefit package than with this new company. He was not paid well, nor did he have any benefits. It was a different age than we're in today.
SI: Did he ever retire from that job?
RA: Yes, he worked, I guess, until his late sixties when he could no longer do manual type work anymore, so he had to quit. My mother died in her late sixties, shortly after he retired, and so he lived alone after that. But I got through college before my mother died. Just trying to place the years, I don't know exactly when.
SI: Do you remember anything else about the Great Depression, for example how it affected the whole town?
RA: As a kid growing up, the word "depression" didn't seem to mean something to me. Of course, I was in a family that, in spite of their plight, hated Roosevelt with a passion. I mean, they would have hung him. (An exaggeration, of course.) It was amazing what they thought of him. Well, I guess, they were basically Republicans in an area where most people were Democrats. They were quite conservative in their outlook on politics and on life. We all belonged to a small conservative Bible church in the town that my grandfather brought from Philadelphia, so that's all been a part of our culture. I still go to that church after all these years.
SI: Which church is it?
RA: It is called the Kenilworth Gospel Chapel, associated with the group identified as the Plymouth Brethren, that was begun in 1720, or so, in Ireland and Scotland, where a group of men from the Anglican Church decided that, "It's not the building and the stained glass, it's the people." They became a non-denominational church with no pastor, but with men who served as elders and were the leadership. That church had a great influence on my life and "world view" growing up. That's where most all our friends were; that was the community.
NM: A lot of it centered around the church.
RA: True, my father had six brothers and they all lived within a few blocks of each other. In fact, one of the streets is called Arthur Terrace, named after my our family. It was a kind of a small community, a small life. In this day and age, one is aware of the world around you more, but I wasn't too much aware or exposed to of the world around me, and to different cultures and how they processed life. No TV growing up, until college, when watching it too often, it caused me to fail some courses in my early years in college. My uncle was the only one that had a TV, and he would finally kick me out of the house when it got too late for him. Absorbing everything on TV, and of course not doing the homework that I should have been doing while going to school caused my problem.
NM: What was the make-up of the town? Were there many ethnic groups?
RA: Yes, well, I'd say we were mostly English in background on our side of town. The north side of town had more immigrants, with African American, Italian, and other European backgrounds, living there. It just seemed to be the way things were. I remember once when we had kind of a revival meeting, and some people from the other side of town came, which everyone thought was great, until some the men and women started dating those from the north side and there was the fear that they actually might marry, and then it wasn't so great. So it was quite a study in culture, just to see things like this happen. I appreciate more, as I look back, how prejudice we were then.
SI: Where did you go to elementary school and high school? What were you interests?
RA: I went to McKinley and Harding grade schools in Kenilworth, the town wasn't big enough town to have its own high school, so we went to a regional system in another town called Springfield. Several towns in the area all went to (Springfield Regional High School?), and that's where I went for my fours years of high school. I took a college prep course. I think that was mostly my mother's influence, but never dreamed I'd go to college. Never got too much encouragement, because I don't think my folks felt I could ever go to college, so, there was no incentive to do it.
SI: Do you have any idea what you parents expected you to do after you graduated from high school?
RA: No, that never came through. My brother served in the Coast Guard in World War II. He joined the Coast Guard rather than get drafted. As he always would say, "I defended Key West, Florida against enemy attack." Everyone would laugh, and then he'd say, "Well, were they ever attacked?" - more laughter. He spent four years, in the Coast Guard in Key West, Florida. The closest he came to any combat was a snake, I think.
SI: Let's talk about World War II. You were about ten years old when Pearl Harbor was attacked.
RA: Yes, that's right. I was born in '31, so that must be about right.
SI: Do you remember that day?
RA: Oh, yes. Now, the radio was so much a part of life and we never missed a night listening to it. That is how we heard about Pearl Harbor and kept up with the war. We all gathered around the radio, as people gather around TV today. Somehow, I think you listened more then because as there was no visual aspect - you could only hear what was said and imagine what it all might look like. I had several favorite programs that I would never want to miss.
SI: What did you listen to, The Shadow?
RA: The Shadow, Amos and Andy, Jack Benny, Red Skelton and many others. Of course, you always watched the news, and when things would happen, I'd say "watch." See, I'm even using the word watch, but you listened to the news, and you'd always listen for what was happening in the war. So, even as a kid, you gathered around the radio listening to what was happening, and you would look at the newspapers and you'd see all the black lines indicating the progress of the Allies across Europe. Each day you would see the advance from one town, and then the next day they moved a little further and a little further until finally the war was over. But I can visualize that even now; the map with the black lines showing how far we have progressed through France, Belgium, and finally Germany.
SI: Before Pearl Harbor, had anything going on overseas been discussed in your home? Did you know about the situation in Europe?
RA: We were not aware of much. We were very missionary oriented in our church and for a small church aware of places where missionaries were and what they were doing in countries like Africa and South America. Missionaries would come and show us pictures. For instance a missionary would show people and would say, "That's us in the back," and, obviously, they were the only white people there, so ... obviously, that was them, but they had to tell us that. A woman came back, on furlough serving as a missionary in Africa. At a Wednesday night church service she showed pictures with women who were bare-breasted, and so the women in the church were horrified. So, they went out and bought several bras and gave them to her. ... Next time, she came back with, with tongue-in-cheek, and she showed a picture of the women carrying the stones with the bras that were sent to them being the containers carrying them from the stream, still bare-breasted. Somehow, we equate accepting Christianity with people dressing the way we westerners do. That was the mentality that existed in those days.
SI: Do you remember any presentations from missionaries who were in the Far East during that time?
RA: Yes. Japan, in fact, I had a relative who was a missionary there. I just remembered him being there, but know no details of what he might have gone through. It seemed an impossible situation. I don't think I visualized what Japan would be like, as opposed to what the USA was like, so, our vision of the world was kind of small when you look back. It just wasn't the same as it is now when TV shows you the world.
SI: Did you ever consider going on a mission?
RA: It is something, I just did. But, in those days I never thought about it, especially because what I understood about missionary work was going where there are lizards and snakes, and I didn't like either one of them. But part of my seminary, which I just finished was, we went to a mission field called Paris, so that's pretty different. In interacting with people there who have rejected Christianity for the most part, the effort is to just try to translate our life experience to them and not try to hit them over the head with what they should believe, or anything, but try to be real people with them. That is what I was impressed with, the missionaries that are over there right now; they try to live-out their belief without trying to persuade with words. Of course, I'm speaking of Protestant missionaries, not Catholic, but even, it doesn't matter whether Catholic or Protestant, or whatever it is, the French are not, not religious by and large. They don't go to church for the most part. We are a very religious country when you compare us to a country like France. But France says to us, you know, we've been here for two thousand years, we've been through everything. Whatever you've seen, we've seen it go around many, many times, so they get very exasperated with Americans when we try to tell them what we know. Seeing it lived out in our lives is something they can better understand. When you really get down to it, that is probably true everywhere. I sure rattle on.
SI: Well, we'll definitely ask you about that towards the end. Going back to Pearl Harbor, as a ten-year-old, do you think you were able to fully understand what was going on?
RA: I don't think, really, it sunk in, but it was scary to hear our ships being bombed. ... As they described people being killed and the planes strafing. ... But planes strafing, I'm saying that now, I don't think I probably knew exactly what that was, although as the war developed, and your toys all became army soldiers, navy warships, and airplanes. You had pictures of every airplane imaginable, and you would take them out and glue the wings on, or glue emblems on ... the planes, and you'd have air wars. All this kind of stuff was going on all the time. A lot of the games we played were war games. ... When we're outside, we would make-believe we were shooting each other. We had wooden guns and played war. I think we tried to visualize, as kids, what it was to be a soldier. ... It was kind of a dream, about that would be pretty great, till you get a little older, and you realize people shooting at you is not so great. But, you know, that doesn't come across to a ten, twelve-year-old child, at least in that time of the world, because you didn't know much past your few blocks away, except what you heard on the radio, saw on the newspaper. As I say again, there was no TV. We didn't go to the movies much, and I don't actually remember too much, seeing that much in the movies, at the time. But the radio comes home to me, more of giving the message of what was going on, in addition to all the entertainment.
SI: Did your parents listen to the Fireside Chats at all?
RA: Well, I heard a lot when Roosevelt would speak. When my parents would listen they to the president speak they showed respect and they would be angry with him. My parents had such bitter hatred for Roosevelt that when he died, I heard cheering. I can't say that we had a parade or something, but it was something that still amazes me to this day. Some of my wife's family were very enthusiastic about Roosevelt, loved his politics and to hear him speak. My sister married a man from the Bronx, who loved Roosevelt yet somehow he was still accepted in the family. I don't know how, as he was also Catholic as well as a democrat. He became, in later life, more conservative than any of us.
SI: Did you see any of the New Deal programs in action in your area with the WPA [Work Projects Administration] or the CCC [Civilian Conservation Corps]?
RA: Yes, the WPA was in our town, Kenilworth, and as a little kid I remember going down there with my shovel and helping them build a road that is there now. Of course, I didn't really help them, but in my mind I did. I mean, I was too little to do anything, but I do remember seeing people in action building roads. The parks in our area, our county, were all built by the WPA. They did a lot of projects, and I saw some of it happening. ... I guess, I didn't fully appreciate what was happening at the time, but in reflection I came to realize all that was accomplished and how people had work at the time it was happening.
SI: When your brother went into the service, how did your family take that?
RA: They were happy that he was in the Coast Guard and not in the Army, and, hopefully, wouldn't be shipped overseas into the war. He finally was shipped overseas just before the war ended, and that's another joke in the family. He said that, "Everybody says it was the atomic bomb that stopped the war." He would say, "No, they heard I was on the way." He was on a ship heading to Tokyo, so that's what ended the war. Not the bomb. That was just some of the stories told. I remember my brother coming into Newark and my mother going to meet him. Actually he called his wife and asked her to bring the over-night bag, but she misunderstood his message and brought my mother instead of the over-night bag. You see he was planning to stay in a motel, before he was sent somewhere. We had a lot of those kind of stories during the war, which we often have a laugh about to this day.
SI: Did you correspond with him during the war?
RA: No, I didn't. I didn't really know my brother as a child, as he left for the Coast Guard when I was about nine years of age. At the time that he might have been my "big brother," he was with the military, and away from home for the most part of four years. So it was kind of a critical time for me to have a big brother, but since he wasn't there he's out of sight, out of mind. I know him well now, but I didn't really know him then, and I think the war was part of it. That's how it happened, and then, as he was married during the war, he never really came back home.
SI: Do you remember any blackouts?
RA: Yes, I remember painting the top of the headlights black, and the whistles going off, pulling the shades down, and turning the lights off and all that. Never thought a plane would come. I don't know why. I thought it was all unnecessary precautions taken. When I think of it now, realizing people I know who grew up in London. They lived with the fear as they heard the bombs going off, and never knew when one is going to hit their home. Somehow, I never thought that was going to happen, but, at the time, I didn't visualize what was happening in London, or like that, or Berlin for that matter. I never associated with what was happening. Somehow this could never happen here was in my mind, in my young mind. I don't know why, but I just felt we were so far away. Europe was so far away, not so far now, but it was then.
SI: Did you ever experience any rationing?
RA: Yes, we had rationing of gas. One of the men who did a lot of preaching at different churches, as a minister had an B card, which entitled him to get more gas than if he had had an A card. With an A card, I don't know how much gas you could get, but if you had a B card you could get more. I am not sure I have it right, as it may be the reverse with the A and B, but whatever, we had rationing and the sign on your car told the station how much they could pump in your vehicle. Cars were something in those days. I don't know how many old, beat-up cars, I had, but although I wasn't particularly mechanical, I could fix them when they broke down, but now you look at a car you wouldn't begin to know what to do, all computer operated and all. Of course, they probably don't break down as much either. No, that was a fun part of the old cars. Today they're, you know, people go pay fortunes for these old cars. You wish they were still around. The streets were so open then without cars parked everywhere that when it snowed you could take your sled and grab the bumper of a car going by and ride it for a while. I did that until my father caught me and I never did it again. He also caught me smoking at age twelve, and I never smoked again. When people ask, "When did you give up smoking?" I answer, "When I was twelve, because my father scared me to death." He never hit me but somehow he could just scare me out of doing anything that he thought was wrong. My mother would hit me with a coat hanger a few times, but never put any fear in me. Perhaps for that reason my father and I were not close. He was my father, and that's what it was, and I don't know that I expected, or felt deprived, or anything, but there was no affection displayed at any time. My son married into a Russian family, and now he greets with a kiss, as they all do. I never could imagine that a man kissing another man, as this was unheard in my growing up years. Of course that was just crazy, so now my son and I embrace, each time we see each other.
SI: What was the church's whole take on the war? Were they in support of it?
RA: By in large, most everyone in the church supported the war. There was some of the same anti-Roosevelt feeing in the church as was in my family. It seems that Protestants were Republicans and Catholics were Democrats. It was kind of a mind set, and I don't know why. I don't know if that's true today, it may be, but that was kind of the mind set, as a little kid, that's what I picture, that's what I remember. There were some conscientious objectors who actually served in the military, and ended up working in institutions, or such, rather than fire a weapon. They were part of the church, so you could say that it was an individual thing. The objectors felt they, as a Christian, could not fire a weapon at someone else.
SI: You went to high school after the war or during the end of it?
RA: I graduated from grade school in '44, so the war was just about over, and by the time I graduated in 1949 we well into peace time, but, of course on the verge of another conflict. I came to Rutgers in '51 and spent five years here.
SI: Do you remember things being curtailed because of the war at your school?
RA: At high school?
SI: High school or the elementary school. People talk about sports programs being cut, and so forth.
RA: I don't remember that. Again, it was rationing, of gas for automobiles, but there never seemed to be a problem with people not having food, clothing, orb other necessities of life. Life would pretty much went on as usual. I do remember my mother and other women complaining that they could not get nylon stockings, because nylon was needed for parachutes. When I see people in poverty today, I don't think of myself, even during the war, of ever suffering the way they do.
SI: Do you remember going to the store with your mother and having to wait on line to use coupons?
RA: Yes, but for some reason we, my parents, had to struggle paying the rent and doing other stuff, but there was always plenty of food on the table. As I reflect back, maybe they should have been wiser in how they did it, but they never scrimped on food, and they were very generous in having company and visiting preachers to eat and also stay a day or two in our home. Our door was never locked. I remember people walking in the front door, and going upstairs while we were eating at the kitchen table, and we'd look at each other, and say, "Do you know who they are?" "No," and they finally would come downstairs, and say, "Is this where so and so lives?" "Oh, no, they're down the block," we would answer and, so they would leave and we would continue eating. So, no one worries, "Well, did they go upstairs and steal something? What did they do?" That was not unusual at all, as everyone's home was yours, you ate in their homes and all, back and forth. No one seemed to scrimp on food at all.
SI: Did you have a victory garden? [Victory Gardens were a call for self-reliance supported by government and corporations where people in all areas worked the soil to raise food for their families, friends, and neighbors. Victory gardening enabled more supplies to be shipped to our troops around the world.]
RA: Yes, we had a victory garden, you know more than I do. You're bringing back memories. That was a big deal, growing tomatoes and stuff like that. Some people were better at it than others, but we had something of a victory garden. I think we, I remember the tomatoes. I don't remember too much else from the victory garden. I remember the tomatoes. Pick them, bring them in and eat them.
SI: What was it like to go to Springfield, the regional school, with students from all different towns?
RA: Each student had pride in their own town, that was for sure. Springfield were the smartest and they were the quarterbacks on the football team, where Kenilworth and Garwood supplied the linemen. That's just the way it was. Berkeley Heights and Mountainside students were from a higher socio-economic background. I guess you'd call them white-collar towns, as opposed to blue-collar towns. Clark Township was about in the middle of socio-economics. That's what it The Springfield, Mountainside, and Berkley Heights group were likely to attend college than the other towns. Everybody had their own little clique that pretty much was related to where you lived. I don't remember feeling deprived as a result. I just went to school, but I was not very much involved, norm was I at Rutgers. I was pretty shy and quiet and really, just took life as it came and didn't go for anything more. My mother would push me out the door to go to the prom, or go to the dance, or do something, but just never went, because, I guess, I was insecure socially. My mother worked hard in trying to get me involved, but I was just kind of shy. My father never got involved in influencing me one way or the other.
SI: Were there any extra-curricular activities you were involved in?
RA: I was in this French Club and was on the wrestling team, but never wrestled in competition, as, unfortunately, the one, the guy in the one-forty category and the guy in the 138 category were a State Champs. I took credit though in making them champions, because they would tune up wrestling me in practice and then go out and win their matches. I went out for track, I went out for football, but I never really played that much in any of them. I enjoyed them all, but wasn't really good enough to earn a letter. My brother was a four-letter man, which was some pressure for me to do well in sports.
SI: Did you go to the same high school?
RA: He went to the same high school, and you can't do it, I understand, today, but he got four letters.
SI: Yes, they had [different] rules.
RA: Yeah, of course, he could have track and tennis, which you wouldn't be able to do now, so that was my big brother, four-letter man, and I didn't earn a letter at all.
SI: What about academics?
RA: You know, probably above average, but nothing special. Again, not having any expectation that, even if I could afford college, that the college would accept me. I never felt that I was probably smart enough to go to college. I don't know, just ...
SI: Did you have a particular area of academic interest?
RA: No, I probably would have thought of myself more interested in the sciences, yet I didn't do very well, and probably was [why I] ended up in the arts and sciences. That's where I went when I came to Rutgers. ... It was more history and, although, I didn't do well in English either. I had a hard time here at school, and part of it was a spiritual or religious experience, because I had a western civ professor, and I could never forget him, "Now we come to the most important period of antiquity," but he ripped into all, anybody that could have any faith in God, ... whether it was the Pope on the Catholic side, or whether it was, whatever it was, any belief, you know, Calvin was, you know, and he would describe all these people in biblical history, or not biblical history, but church history. ... I had to struggle, because, "Was my church and my family deceiving me all these years?" Because this guy is ... I looked up [to], that's one thing that I remember, because of my father, and everything, whoever was [in] authority, whether it was the policeman or the teacher, whatever they said was right, so we didn't, have much, question. So he and I had a real struggle. ... I was five years at Rutgers rather than four because I just didn't do well. I did pretty good by the time it was over, but it took a while, and, I guess, it's not unusual. But it was a, I'd say a religious struggle with the history professor.
SI: People have noted in the post-war period that they thought some of the professors were more left leaning, perhaps even communists.
RA: I would say that's probably true. I don't think now, reflecting on it, that I would have said he was left leaning. ... I think at the time, I think he was against anybody. Of course, again, this wasn't World War II. This was the Korean War, and he was opposed to anything what was going on there, and used to talk about that. ... Then, actually I was called, I was drafted and I had to pass. I had to get a decent grade in his course, and I think he helped me because he didn't want me to go to the war either. So, it was about the first time I've ever mentioned that; I feel a little bit tainted for that, ... I think he helped me get through, and because I was in ROTC, and I was going to go as an officer, anyway, but I didn't. I would have gone, [been] drafted, because I hadn't done well enough in school. But I think he probably gave me a better grade than I should have had because he was sympathetic. I just do remember that he didn't have much use for war. I think I would have identified him then as left wing, [of] course, [I] probably didn't even know what left wing was. But anyway, I have a great respect for him now, but when I was there I didn't. I struggled with him.
SI: Just one or two more questions about World War II. During the war, or immediately afterwards, did you see how Kenilworth changed? Were you still in Kenilworth at that time?
RA: Oh, when the war ended?
SI: When you graduated high school that's when you moved, did you see how the changed the town? Were people flooding into work in the industries or veterans coming back and settling there?
RA: Yes, I was aware of some. My brother never did, but my brother-in-law did. Everyone seemed grateful to the country for providing that. We had the development of the town, it wasn't very big, and still isn't, but a new development started that we all referred to as had a place called "boomtown." It was actually called Blue Ridge Manor. But it was a news section of town composed of Cape Cods houses, which many thought odd as they were, so much smaller than the existing homes. In those days everybody lived in a bigger home, even though it was the Depression, the homes were all big, and these were all little Cape Cods. There were just rows after rows and people would say, "How in the world could people live there?" But they did and do until this day. I always remember the town of Winfield, which isn't far from us, that was a temporary community to house people during the war. To this day, there are still people who live there in the same buildings that have been added to, and fixed up. They were actually Quonset huts which were constructed to temporarily house people to work in some of the industries around the area such as General Motors and Ford, who were making war related materials, such as vehicles and tanks, I believe. It's amazing that people continue to live in that community.
SI: Did you go to school with any of the kids from the temporary community?
RA: No, I didn't, but I think it would seem that every year or so they were moved to near-by towns for schooling. Today they have their own grade schools, but our still bused to another town for high school. I noticed particularly for sports, as the students from there were always in different schools.
SI: Which sports did you follow, which teams?
RA: The high school teams with basketball and the county tournaments and state tournaments and the football teams, especially my own school.
SI: Do you remember any kind of celebrations at the end of the war, either on V-E Day or V-J Day?
RA: Yes, we heard it on the radio and saw it in the newspapers. I can still remember seeing a sailor kissing a woman in the street in NYC and being surprised that anyone would do that in the open. Again this was a different time, but my surprise was also a result of my conservative upbringing. But it was great to see everyone so happy that the war was over. Actually happier than when Roosevelt died, which is a sad thing. Why do I remember that in my little community? And no one knew it, that he was a crippled, nobody. Nobody knew he had polio; maybe they would have liked him better, I don't know.
SI: Yes, it was a well-kept secret.
RA: It fooled everybody.
SI: Many people, whether they were pro or anti-FDR, showed concern when Truman became president. It seemed that nobody knew him, and yet he had to make important decisions.
RA: Yes I recently read a book about him; with that and a looking back in history I've determined that Truman was one of the greatest presidents that we ever had. Whereas he was thought to be a mistake, or just somebody, Roosevelt decided "out of the blue" to chose as his VP, he turned out to be the right man for the job. I remember the saying that he used about himself, "the buck stops here," and that seemed to characterize his administration. Whether his decision was right or not with the atomic bomb, or the firing of Macarthur, he wasn't afraid to make it. Throughout history, things happen because of certain people who could be looked on later on as good or bad, but they did what they thought was right.
SI: I'm amazed how rural it was back then, because I think of that whole area now as being more suburban.
RA: It was really was small as I knew it yet certainly not farmland, but it was certainly a lot smaller town than it is now. I wasn't conscious of everybody going off to New York and working, even though the railroads existed to take people to New York to work. It didn't hit me as a little kid and I didn't recognize until I lived in Cranford, that there was a north side and a south side, because of the railroad, which exists till this day. In our town of Cranford, we couldn't build a high school because if you built it on the south side, the north would come out and vote it down. If you build it on the north side, the south would vote it down. It's just amazing what existed, and not the Mason-Dixon Line, but the railroad dividing towns in half in Union County and West. Supposedly, the better side of town was the north side, with the south side being an inferior area to live. Perhaps it depended on which side of town you lived as to which was better, but we lived on the south side and thought the north side was better.
SI: Yes. First, you worked for a year and then you went to Rutgers.
SI: Can you talk about the process of getting into Rutgers and how you found out about Rutgers.
RA: Yes, from a friend of mine who I knew from high school and wrestling, in fact, he was the wrestler that I helped make a State Champ that I mentioned earlier. He had attending Rutgers at the time and asked me to consider it. He got me the application and I applied without any encouragement from my parents, who had never thought of it. I never resented them because they didn't, but when they heard, they were kind of surprised. My brother-in-law was thrilled, because he had worked his way through City College in New York City, and in that day it was very competitive to go to City College. You couldn't just go there, although it was free to City residents, but you had to be pretty smart. So I got into Rutgers and I told you, had my struggles, but am happy my friend talked me into it. I never really got into the college life, because, as a basically shy guy and a commuter I knew very few other students. It was only getting involved with the fiftieth reunion planning that I have felt more a part of Rutgers. How in the world I ended up as class president I can't figure out.
SI: Can you tell us how you settled on business administration for you major?
RA: I suppose can. I don't know that I had any kind of idea who I was and what I was going to be, much like a lot of young people I talk to today. Some know they're going to be a doctor, lawyer, or accountant, as they have the interest and skill required. I don't think, I just said, "I guess one day I will be in a place where I'll be in a business of some kind and so I'll take business administration." I just remember sitting with all the incoming freshmen and hearing someone say, "Look at the person in front of you, and alongside of you, and behind you, "and only one of you will be here in four years," or something like that. I don't know whether those kinds of statistics are the same, but certain things you remember. I bought the presentation that liberal arts will give the broad educational background so that you can learn to work anywhere, and decided Business Administration would be my major.
SI: I think now they say, "You are not going be here next year." One of the reasons why we are presently stretching [our oral histories] out into the '50s is to find out what Rutgers was like then. We've already heard a lot from the '30s and '40s about Rutgers' traditions, such as wearing a beanie during freshman year. Do you remember any of these types of traditions?
RA: Because I was a commuter, I never did. I think that was more in the fraternities that pushed that. I did end up in a fraternity, but never got active. I liked Ping Pong, and I was playing Ping Pong, and probably drinking more beer than I should have been, then I found out I was a pledge, and in the fraternity. I never was active and spent little time there. Now, two of the people that are serving with me planning the fiftieth are both fraternity brothers, but, because of what I just shared, they tell that they don't remember me. Of course, another reason they didn't know me was I was in the Class of '54 at the time. I do remember harassments that came with my fraternity association. As a fraternity pledge, I had to hitchhike to Dickinson College and get the presidents signature. I don't know whether the local chapter realized it, but when I went to see the president for his signature the our chapter got in trouble, as the Dickinson president was part of the national fraternity hierarchy and hazing which included the hitchhiking I did to get to see him was against fraternity rules.
SI: Did they have a house on campus?
RA: Yes they did on Union Street. I don't know where it is now, but it was on Union Street at that time. I never lived there. After the first year I just wasn't in the fraternity, although it's a peculiar thing about a fraternity, you can never, once you know the handshake and all that, not be a fraternity member, so, I used to say to them, "You send me the magazines and literature. Why not save your money and not send it all." Anyway that's my story.
SI: When you were here on campus, were there still a decent number of World War II veterans coming back on the GI Bill?
RA: I don't really recall them in the beginning, and again, as a commuter I missed part of that. But I do seem to remember some older people than the average student that began coming that were probably veterans.
SI: You mentioned having a smaller world perspective in Kenilworth and Cranford. Did attending Rutgers broaden your horizons or perspectives?
RA: Yes, it was the beginning my broadening. It was a growing period, perhaps a little slower for me than others but, it was the beginning of realizing that there are oceans not just lakes, a world not just the country. I'm not aware of there being that many minorities here, at that time, but I think it is great to see a cross-cultural group of students attending Rutgers now. In my seminary classes that I recently attended and in our church we are seeing the same cross-cultural swing that is wonderful and helpful in learning other perspectives on life. I mention that in the fall of my freshman, year I lived at the Raritan Arsenal. We were told, I don't know whether it was true or not, that the dorms that were used then for freshman there were former prisoner of war barracks. I stayed there for one semester, and then I couldn't afford it anymore. So in a way I was not a commuter, but really was, we had to brought to classes by bus. I'll never forget, we didn't have lights over there, and I came to school one day with one brown shoe and one black shoe. Which might have been pretty cool today, but not then. But nobody noticed until I told them that I had two different shoes on. Why do I remember that, I don't know? But it was like the military, because you were in bunks with rows of people in a military like building.
SI: I've seen pictures, it seems like it was just two bunks and a footlocker, and that's all you had.
RA: Yes much like military life. I was involved at ROTC at school. I became a company commander. I got a little ramrod I guess, as we used to call it, and enjoyed that part of the training and marching the troops out at Buccleuch Park, and all that kind of stuff, and some of the classes were good. I just remembered one of the military officers that was here, who talked about being aware of the world. He said, "I wouldn't change my life, because my children realize the difference between a lake and an ocean." That's where I picked up some of that stuff. I always remember his class that you'd walk in, and hear, "Okay, what's the latest in Dien Bien Phu?" This was Vietnam, before America got involved. The French were there, and we just followed that everyday. He honed us in on what was the situation was and made sure we read about it; came back and he would say, "It's indefensible, it can't happen, it's got to end." ... Anyway, you remember some things and I remember that.
SI: Most people didn't know about Dien Bien Phu then. Did you have a choice between Air Force and the Army? Why did you choose the Army if you did?
RA: I don't really remember having a choice. I guess I did, but I never thought I would be in anyplace but the army, so I was. At our reunion committee meeting, one of my classmates brought a picture of me in Fort Meade. In those days, in the summer before your senior year, we went to Fort Meade for, I don't know, whether it was two weeks or what, for army training as part of the ROTC program.
SI: How realistic was your training? I know the ROTC students today participate in many activities such as rappelling.
RA: No, we didn't do any rappelling, or there wasn't much of that. The only physical stuff was mostly marching. A lot of it was learning tactics, and learning about Rommel and what a great general he was even though he was also a former enemy. He was the enemy, but now he was a hero because of his skills in deploying troops. So, we did a lot of military tactics, and learned the difference between strategy and tactics. Understanding when it's not a soldier's decision, that's a government or a political decision, things like that you remember from military science. That is what we called it, I guess, they still call it military science.
SI: This whole period, from the end of WWII to when you were in college, is when the Cold War really began, was that something you were aware of? Did you ever consider the possibility of nuclear war?
RA: Yes, but, I guess, I still had in my mind that somehow it'll never come here. The 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon brought it home, and made me realize it could and did happen here. We got very upset about what happened, but when I think about people in Europe, and other places in the world, that knew of worse things happening. I can't imagine what it was like in London to head for air raid shelters on a daily basis for years. Many Americans, myself included would think that, "it can't happen here," but it did. I don't think I ever had a fear of an atomic bomb. You'd watch them, see them exploding them in the desert, and see the mushrooms. We had a lot of training in what it was. How you had to have so much between you and the radiation. There was the blast, but that is only part of the atom bomb. It was the radiation where the real long lasting danger came. You had to put something between you and radiation which never stopped it but the more you had between you and the radiation the less came through.
SI: When you learned about this, was it at Rutgers or when you were in the Army?
RA: I think it was a little of each. I don't remember how much was here. I guess it was some of it here, but I learned a lot at Fort Benning officer's training school. Sometimes, it all blends together, as to whether it was military science here, or whether it was "Benning's School for Boys," as they called it, where we all went. I only went to Ranger School because, I don't know whether I said that here, but I was told that, "If you go to Ranger School, you'll go to Japan," and your wife can join you Japan. I just happened to be married right after the Fort Benning schooling. But if you just go straight over, you go to Korea and you can't bring anybody, because then Korea was a primitive country. Well, I got the Ranger training, and went to Korea anyway. I have that stone face, that people don't know me, so when I arrived at Korea, I was later told that most of the guys that hated my guts, as they maintain that I arrived with my Ranger patch and asked, "When to we have some field exercises. It took me a while to overcome that first impression. There were many second lieutenants like me, so many that the army wasn't sure what to do with us. The saying goes that in war times the second lieutenants, are the first to die, but with no war we weren't dying. They used to tell us, "It's fourteen seconds in the frontlines for a second lieutenant." But in this peacetime, so what do you do with second lieutenants? I never regretted my military experience. I kind of wished that I'd gone to Japan, and my wife could have come, but it wasn't to be.
SI: How did you meet your wife? Were you still at Rutgers?
RA: She grew up in the church that I did, but she was younger and it took a while for me to see that she was no longer a young Sunday school girl, but one day there she was and we started to date while she was in nursing school. She was the first nurse in her school, Orange Memorial Hospital, to get married while still in school. Even after we were married, I had to say goodnight as I took her back at the hospital where she was required to be every night. I still remember being up along the Hudson somewhere, we were parked in the car, and a policeman came over. I told him, "We're married, we're just saying goodbye, I have to take her back to school." "Yeah sure" he said, "Get out of here before I arrest you." Anyway those were experiences.
SI: There were pretty strict rules at women's colleges particularly.
RA: I guess there was, but I only knew about this nursing school. My wife got her three year nursing degree there and didn't get her BS degree until later on. We got married, and, in fact, those are the kind of things that happen. I heard I was going to, going to go to Ranger school, and who knows what was happening then? ... I said, "We were going to get married, let's get married now because I'll get $125.00 tax free while I'm in Korea, $125.00 a month." "Big deal." But that was a big deal then. Her mother had died when she was about three years of age, so her aunt had some say in the matter and that was, "No way," this wasn't going to happen. So I called my father and, somehow, he made it happen and put everybody together while I was in Fort Benning waiting to see what would happen. We had the wedding in the church, and then I went back in about a week's time to Ranger school, came home again for another few days, and went to Korea. I came home sixteen months later, thinking that, you know, everything is fine, but we had to get reacquainted. You just don't realize that anything can happen in sixteen months. My brother wrote me a letter once in Korea, "Well, Joyce is," that's my wife's name, "Joyce is working with this young doctor on some special project, and every night, I don't know why, but they're working every night." That's my big brother telling me this while I'm in Korea. But our job in Korea, I don't know if I'm getting ahead of myself, but our job in Korea, as officers, was to keep the VD rate under five percent. The Americans were not allowed to have any kind of contact with the Koreans, and yet we had all kinds of problems with the Korean, young boys, coming in and stealing, and young women coming in and getting in bed with the guys, When I got there, we were guarding ships in Pusan, but we had no ammunition because they were afraid an American soldier would accidentally shoot somebody, so we're defending the ships and supplies coming in and going out with empty weapons. Of course everybody knew that. I always remember, it was the Turks, I guess, they caught one of the young Korean boys stealing, cut off his hands, and hung him outside the gate and never had a problem again with stealing. It got the desired results, but I don't know that one could say in any way that, "the end justifies the means." Not the way to do it, but we had all kinds of problems with the boys stealing and the women sleeping with the troops and inevitably doing something, even without bullets that caused embarrassments with the Korean government. Everyday, the big two-and-a half-ton trucks would be taking women and young boys back into the community where they lived only to have them return and then bring them back out the next day. When I see what South Korea is today, I haven't been, but I've seen pictures, one of the most progressive countries anywhere. At that time it was very poor. The sewers were open gutters in the street that ran along in front of the humble dwellings where the people lived. The little kids all had their bottoms of their pants cut out, even in the cold weather, rather than have diapers. The house were constructed so that where you cooked the smoke would run under the rest of the house to keep the floors warm and then would be released to the open air on the other side of where the cooking area was. These were the more primitive homes, but there were many. They had homes that weren't exactly like that, but it was a primitive country. There were no modern buildings. I always remember in Seoul, there was one modern building, and they said, "The Japanese built that," and they'd never use it because there was such hatred for the Japanese.
I went on R&R (rest and relaxation), and went to Tokyo and made contact with a missionary, because growing up I knew missionaries. He was an Irish missionary. He wanted to get this literature to Korea, and he said, "I can't get it to Korea, because you can't mail anything from Japan to Korea, they won't accept it, and vice versa." So, he mailed it to my APO or my military address, and I would take it down to the Presbyterian ministry, mission, where they would use it. I would then take a jeep and go down and take it to them. I don't know whether that was a proper thing to do, but anyway, I took it in a US government jeep. That's not separation of church and State, I guess. Of course I could say it's to partly to my credit that, (an exaggeration for sure) Korea is probably the only Asian-Christian country in the world. I think that's the statistic, I don't know but I've heard that.
NM: Most of the Koreans I know are Christian.
RA: And most of them are Presbyterian.
NM: From what I know, yes, that is true.
SI: Yes, foreign exchange.
RA: The seminary where I serve as a board member, twenty-five percent of the students were from Korea. Somehow I was meant to be part of Korea, I don't know, I've never been back though. I think it was a horrible war. I read an awful lot about the Korean War, and in my family Macarthur was a hero; I found out he was no hero, from what I have learned in my reading. He just sent a lot of men to die for, not knowing what he was doing. It was just crazy. He didn't know who he was fighting, and didn't understand, and it was just obvious he didn't realize what he was up against. It was a horrible war, but it didn't last long, so it wasn't as unpopular as Vietnam. Vietnam just never ended. Just like we are doing it all over again in Iraq. You know, if it was over right away maybe it wouldn't have been so bad, but now you keep saying, "When is it going to end?" That's the way that I remember Vietnam, because it become unpopular because it lasted. More people died, in a shorter period of time, in Korea. I think it's a kind of "forgotten war."
SI: I thought if you were in the service you got benefits for life.
RA: I wasn't in Korea during the fighting and because it was a police action, not an official a war, I received no benefits as a veteran. I do have a grave in a national cemetery, if there's enough room when I die, and someone can get me there.
SI: Can you tell us about graduation?
RA: Graduation would stand out, because we all gathered at the Rutgers Stadium, and just as they started the program, the sky opened up, and down came the rain. Someone shouted, "Come to the," and I've forgotten where it was, "to get your diploma." "Goodbye," and that was it. That was my graduation. Actually, I think the military one was the day before, or something. That was also in the gymnasium I believe stadium with a much smaller group, so that was a little more of something to remember.
SI: Why did you decide to stay in for all four years? It was only compulsory for two, wasn't it?
RA: No, I didn't stay for four years in the military.
SI: No, in the ROTC.
RA: Well, then, you had a choice after your junior year. I decided I would end up in the military; I wanted to go in as an officer, not as an enlisted man. I just thought that would be better, that was before I learned that the life of a second lieutenant in the infantry is not very long. We used to sing in Fort Benning, "Follow me and die," because while you're running up out of the trench everyone else is staying there saying, "Let's see what he can do." But one of the things I heard about the military, I'm getting ahead of myself again, but it was, don't worry you're a young lieutenant, but you'll have some sergeants in there who have been in the military a long time. But, it probably was because it was peacetime, and I'm just looking down on sergeants, I guess, but anyone that I had contact with, they were mostly alcoholics. There was no war and they didn't know what else to do, whatever it was, but they were drunk much of the time. They couldn't lead troops around the corner let alone fight a war. I wasn't intimidated as I always felt well prepared, between Rutgers and my training in Fort Benning and Ranger School.
SI: How did you react to your first assignment as a leader?
RA: Well, it was something that I think I enjoyed doing, but one of the problems with the infantry, is they get the last of the last, and especially if you go to a country like Korea in peace time, because anybody that has any intelligence never ends up in the infantry. You have no contact with the civilians, so the government has to provide everything for the soldier. So the people with any intelligence were used to run all the necessary things needed to make Americans feel at home in a country that can supply nothing. Whether it's the PX, staff people for headquarters, or whatever it might be, and then you get the different branches, and by the time you get to the infantry, you're getting people of very little intelligence, and you're lucky to find someone to be a company clerk. You always needed a company clerk, and so you look for the brightest guy who could type, but that was hard to find. The troops that ended up in the infantry, I am sad to say were ill prepared, so much so that you sure hoped there wasn't going to be a war, because they couldn't fight their way, "out of a proverbial paper bag." There was no ammunition anyway, and you just felt the group you had was very inept. I remember running some training, and a couple of my superiors thought I was unfair in reporting their ineptitude, so I said, "You know we're supposed to be training people how to be soldiers, and these guys have to learn that." But it was almost like the superiors were thinking I'm wasting my time, so it was kind of a little discouraging. I had begun to think at Rutgers and through my early Ranger school that maybe a career in the military, maybe that's what I'd like. Well, I got discouraged there, and I don't know at what point I realized that my wife would have to be the same rank that I am. I don't know when I was exposed to that. I don't think the Army is as bad as the Navy, but they still have that, you know, in the Navy, there the officers are on one deck, and the enlisted men are on another deck. The Army doesn't do it that way, but, if you're a major, your wife is a major, and the captain's wife has to be submission to her, and so on. I knew my wife would never like that. But that's just the way it went. So I kind of rejected that and, of course, I rejected, again I'm getting off the subject, but I rejected the way my fellow officers treated, well, what can I say, African Americans and other groups among us. They were completely unfair, if I ever got exposed to what prejudice was, I saw it there, and I was happy to be able to serve as a defense counsel. I don't think I ever won a case, but, it was just so unfair what the way many of the minority soldiers were treated and unfairly court marshaled. I could some of my fellow officer's talk and I worked with them, and they would say things I wouldn't repeat here, that. I just, I didn't grow up with that. I certainly have prejudice; I guess everybody does, but these officers who had such prejudice against the Hispanic and black soldiers was hard to take. They had no use for them and would find all kinds of ways to accuse them of all kinds of stuff and court marshaling them. I remember served as defense counsel at many court-martials. It was a hopeless situation. So many of them were sent home and dishonorably discharged, and a lot of it was just over plain prejudice. That's some horrible memories
SI: What would they accuse them of?
RA: Oh, accuse them of stealing. What happened was, in one particular case, a soldier who was black was assumed to be the one who stole a watch from one of the officer's that stole it. It was probably one of the Korean 'slicky boys,' referred to earlier that did it. There was no evidence, but the black soldier was accused (in my mind because he was nearby and was black) and court marshaled for the theft. The Korean boys, as I mentioned earlier would sneak in to the compound all the time rob stuff from the soldiers, but they would merely be rounded up each day and taken back outside our military compound to the local village. Several times American soldiers who just happened to be black ended up being accused and subsequently court marshaled for crimes that were most likely committed by the 'slicky boys.' I began to realize that's part of opening up your mind to the world, on what's happening, what goes on in the world. I saw racial prejudice in the military. I don't think it was official racial prejudice. It just went on with people that you served with. It wasn't that the general ordered everyone to watch out for those minorities; it was just what went on. It was just crazy.
SI: Were all the officers white or were there any minority officers?
RA: There were a few minority officers, but in my group there weren't any. I do remember some in my training at Ranger school, but the percentage of minority officer's was much less than that of regular soldiers. Like an infantry platoon of forty men, probably more than half were minority, mostly Hispanic or black, whereas ninety percent or more of the officer's were white. I don't know how I got on this subject; it brings back some memories of what it was like.
SI: We actually have a student who is going write a thesis on segregation during the Korean War. I am sure this information will be interesting to him.
RA: This probably is not shocking in the world we live in today, but an officer I knew slept with the Red Cross nurse during his stay; he was never in his bunk. He I flew home on the plane with him and watched him greet his wife and family and probably just went on with life with his Korean experience forgotten. It was inconceivable to me then, but that's probably not a shocking thing in this day and age, but it bothers me to this day.
SI: You mentioned that VD was a problem many encountered in Korea. I've heard a joke that enlisted men get VD, and officers don't. Do you think that a conspiracy of silence is responsible for this?
RA: Yes, well, that has probably a little truth to it. I had a humorous experience when was ready to leave Korea. I was tested and told, "You're positive." I answered, "I'm not positive unless there's something to this toilet seat thing. I can't be positive. They made a mistake." I was then told, "That's okay, it's no problem. We'll take care of you, we'll give you the medication." I repeated, "It's not true." So finally it got it straightened out, I got retested to find I was not positive. The positive test, as too often happened, was of someone else. I still laugh about that kind of stuff, but that's what happened. I knew of an officer or two that had VD, but it was unusual. Was it hidden when officer's got it? I really can't answer that. Contracting VD wasn't serious if you got treated right away. Some back home heard that we actually about gave condoms to soldiers and were horrified, but we knew they were going to be exposed so why not protect them. This is more today, but most people don't realize we did it back then. It is still controversial, but I don't know why. I am conservative myself, but too many conservative people have their heads in the sand and don't understand the necessity for prevention. It was one of those things you recognize, even though the soldiers were not allowed out of the compound they were going to go and, if not the women would come to them, so why not protect them." That was the thinking though probably published too much.
SI: Did you have to show them shock films?
RA: Yes, we had sessions, and would show them what it could lead to, but it's sort of like today; it doesn't come home to you, "It's not me, it's not going to happen to me." Whether it is sexual intercourse, abuse of alcohol, or drugs, cigarettes, whatever. It is not going to happen to me.
SI: Were the men that you served with, either in the officer corps or the enlisted men, just coming out of school or recently drafted? Or were there veterans among them?
RA: Most of us young lieutenants were recently out of school and not full time military. The captains and above were regular army, as were many of the noncommissioned officers. Most of the infantry troops were draftees. I ended up in command of the company, because the regular army captain who was the commander had a problem with alcohol problem. He was gone for the longest time, but eventually came back. I enjoyed the opportunity and challenge to be company commander for a while. So much of peacetime military life was boring but also full of things you had to do because the general said you had to. We were required to give money to the Red Cross. "Everyone will give $50.00 to the Red Cross by order of the commanding general." I wasn't against giving money, but I wasn't going to be ordered to do so. There is one command I will never forget, "Everyone will play games on the athletic field at 1400 hours and they will have fun, by order of the commanding general." Just on principle, many of us just out of school part time officers were not going to something like giving or having fun, because we were ordered to do so. Another thing that bothered me about the military, and it probably still goes on, the old general leaving would inspect the troops and he would announce, "This is the greatest group fighting group I've ever had." He goes on, and on about how the group he is leaving is in such great fighting shape. The new general comes in, looks at the same barracks, the same troops, the same everything, and pronounces, "This is the worst outfit I have ever seen." The outgoing general wants his resume to show how he built this group to be a strong army unit. The incoming wants to be sure he can show success by time he leaves by depicting the unit he has just taken over to be much in need of his great leadership. This kind of stuff in the military bothered me, but industry has a lot of this, "politics," or other probably a better not fit to print description would better characterize what goes on. It was a part of industry life, but not as bad as the military that I experienced. But it was a peacetime army, we weren't shooting at anybody, so it was a different world, a different life.
SI: What do you do as a company commander in peace time? You mentioned training a lot, but were there other operations?
RA: Yes, we have training and you'd run, but usually the company commander wouldn't do it. He'd get one of the other officers to conduct the training. So, you would get your manual out and you get the troops out, "We're going to have mortar training," or, "We're going to jog around, then run around the," wherever it was, because conditioning was important and so we did a lot of that. There are a lot of things you got cynical about after a while. Some of it, you just did it because you did it. They used to say, "If it moves, salute it, if it doesn't, paint it white." There is some truth in that with a peacetime army.
SI: Where were you stationed in Korea?
RA: Initially I was in Pusan, and our mission was to defend the ships docking there, bringing in supplies and so on. Then, I was sent up with the, I can't remember the name of the camp, but it was above Seoul, about twenty miles above Seoul; Camp Hovey I think it was called. But anyway, that's where we served. Then I had an opportunity to fly in an L-19, which is a little single-wing plane, single engine, and we'd fly along the DMZ [demilitarized zone] with binoculars. I was supposed to be looking for the enemy. I never saw anything but smoke. But you'd fly up and down the DMZ with a bunch of show-off pilots, who would like to scare the newly assigned observers by flying into mountains and just before crashing into them, pull up suddenly straight up for a while and then let the plane spin round and round, heading downward, and just as suddenly pulling the throttle up and escaping a crash into the ground. These pilots loved to show off their skills, but one of them tried to land on a snow covered road and nosed over damaging the plane that he had to pay for.
SI: The units you were with were regular infantry units?
RA: YES, I happened to be with a weapon's company platoon. (An infantry company had three rifle platoons and one heavy weapons platoon-mortars and heavy machine guns.) I was there when they reorganized the Army. Instead of companies and regiments, we had, I can't even remember the terms, and I don't know that they haven't gone back to where they were, I don't know.
SI: Was it regimental combat teams?
RA: Yes, something like that. I believe the term was brigades that replaced battalions with companies and platoons.
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SI: This continues an interview with Richard C. Arthur on April 19, 2005 in New Brunswick, New Jersey with Shaun Illingworth and Nicholas Molnar.
SI: Please continue, you were talking about the reorganization of the Army.
RA: Yes, you know, we were not platoons and companies anymore. The term, as I said was brigades but I can't remember how it was broken down. That's the way it was, and they changed it and I can't remember how. It wasn't too significant, but it was significant to us, because when you have whole organized in a certain way, so your heavy weapons were not in little units. They were altogether in some other kind of thing, so, it was a different way of deploying kind of weaponry. Of course, we were in Korea, and we weren't allowed, because of whatever the government agreed on, to have the latest weaponry. So everything you were talking about, and trained in Fort Benning we had to work with the stuff that was old-fashioned, because we weren't supposed to have any of the later weaponry. We had sixty-millimeter mortars, which were obsolete.
RA: The eighty-one was the unit with which we had our training in States, but in Korea we were still working with the sixty-millimeter mortars.
RA: Yeah, that's not the mortar. No it was the sixty-millimeter one. I taught a couple of classes in the woods and mountains using that mortar. The mortar was obsolete, but that's the mortar we had to use. So we started having this new training with deploying weaponry differently than you did before, and yet you were working with the older weapons because of whatever agreement that was made in Korea. We couldn't bring the new, latest weaponry in. It was kind of a struggle. But I went home shortly after. We all counted those days until you were going home.
SI: Was it like a rotation?
RA: Yes, that was a joke about the soldiers who were "short timers." Whenever a soldier wasn't performing his duty or was just lazy, it was called being a "short timer." If you were heading home in two weeks or less you did nothing as you were going home and didn't have to prove anything to anybody.
SI: I want to go back for a moment and take it more chronologically. What was your training like at Fort Benning? Did you have to go through a normal infantry course?
RA: Yes, we ROTC officers were there with West Point officers, who went through the same training we did. So you have rifle training, you had weapons training, and training in tactics and strategy. But it was a lot more into conditioning, a lot more out in the open, a lot more deploying I tactical offensive and defensive situations. I remember a lot of it sitting in the classroom or in bleachers outside listening to a lecture or watching a demonstration. Sitting in class just watching and listening it was tough to stay awake. You'd sit in that class, and listen to lectures from a captain or a major, whoever he was, on a certain kind of weapon or something. Then later, you would go down and use that weapon, or deploy with that weapon, or whatever they were on at that particular time. But you do remember a lot of sitting in the bleachers, falling asleep and feeling a stick hit your helmet, because there was a training officer waking you up, because you dosed off. But much of the training was good, and I think I learned a lot from watching the teachers and use of training aids in the military, because they were excellent for the most part. I think the military did a good job with training in spite of the fact that you fell asleep once in a while. I think they prepared their instructors well, they had a little humor, and I think it was good preparation. Should someone want to be a teacher at that time, even without power point at the time, the techniques and use of training aids and class participation was excellent in preparing one to be a teacher. You know, you need more than a lecture to teach young children, but training aids and participation is necessary in teaching adults as well. Teaching has to be visualized and the army did a good job in doing that in their training. I started off saying I fell asleep, and now I'm telling you what a good job the army did in preparing me. I can say that the training I received at Fort Benning and in Ranger school was as effective as any I have ever received.
SI: I've spoken to a few people who were college educated and went in as enlisted people. They felt they encountered 'lowest common denominator' type teaching, but it sounds like in officer training they really taught at a higher level.
RA: I feel they did a good job with us and perhaps we were better able to listen, as we were all college educated whereas many enlisted men were not. Yet I know of some pretty smart guys who were enlisted men who felt, as you said, 'lowest common denominator" teaching. In my experience in teaching Sunday school at church, you have an eighth grade class, and you'll have four kids that don't have a clue what you're saying, so, if you try to reach them you lose the rest of the class. If you try to reach these guys, you know, whatever it is, you have discipline problems and such because people come from all different backgrounds and perspectives, and they're kind of a captive audience, as the military is, so they have to be there so you ... "force me to learn." That may partly answer the problem of teaching enlisted men and officers. But, again, I had some buddies who were enlisted men and the army training was frustrating for them. Usually they found a way, or the Army found a way to utilize them, sometimes in other areas. Sometimes they never did because sometimes there's too many of them.
SI: Did you see any differences in either attitude or ability between those who were coming from ROTC programs, the Academy, or the OCS, in this training course at Fort Benning?
RA: Yes, I don't think there was a lot of difference, although we had, we called them "ring knockers," the West Pointers. They thought they were better than we were form the most part. When you get right down to it, we were all pretty much the same, but the academy officers probably were a little more motivated as this was a career for them, whereas we were in it for two years. Most of us probably didn't think of ourselves as full time, although some of us started to think the military as a career. I don't know whether I'm answering that or not?
SI: No, that's a good answer. During any part of your military training or service, did you receive indoctrination about the enemy or who the Army thinks the enemy will be in future conflicts?
RA: No, I don't think we had much of that. That was more in the political realm, and understanding who the enemy is kind of thing, which we didn't get into, but back to comparing us and the academy, I believe they did have a lot more political training such as that. Most of the examples they seemed to use were previous wars, even wars when we didn't have all this weaponry, of how tactics were used, and how you did certain things. I don't know that so much came through to me. It may have been there, maybe I missed it, but I don't remember too much of that.
SI: There was nothing that indicated where you might see combat? There was no hypothetical conflict concerning what could happen in the future.
RA: Yes, well, they talked about, jungle training, or cold weather training, and all that, but Korea wasn't much different as far as climate is concerned than where we were, so, I wasn't aware of any hypothetical conflict preparation. All I remember is you had to describe the terrain. In Georgia, it was always scrub oak and slash pine, so you always remember filling that in as the answer for what type of terrain it was." What is the terrain like?" "Scrub oak and slash pine," because what else is there around there? It was dealing with where we were, coping with where we were.
SI: How long were you at Fort Benning before you went to Ranger School? How long was the course?
RA: Yes, ... I'm thinking five weeks, but I don't know exactly, but something like that, more than a month, perhaps it was six weeks.
SI: Was the Ranger school at Fort Benning?
RA: Well, yes, the first part was at Fort Benning where we had our training in the Georgia mountains for one aspect of Ranger training, and then we headed for the swamps in Florida for that particular aspect. It was really up in the panhandle. I remember, with our equipment, going out to a PT boat in the Gulf where everybody got sick. I can still remember being in there. I just never got sick even though everyone else did. I was determined not to get sick. Everybody on that boat, that I remember, was throwing up all over the place, but I never threw up. How do you, why do I remember that? But it was great conditioning. I never was in such good shape.
SI: What would they have you do?
RA: Ranger school was mainly leading a small task force, actually a small squad of men. It took me a while to learn that no one was shooting at me, except they would let off firecrackers every once in a while to tell you that you have been killed. You then never knew when you were going to be the leader. If the trainer didn't like what the assigned leader was doing, he would throw the M80 and say, "You're dead. So-and-So, now you (another so-and-so) is in charge. What are you going to do now?" I finally realized that it was "do something, even if it's wrong." That's what I learned in the military. There's a stream in front of you, you're going to go across it, you're going to go down, or you're going to lead the troops up the river; it doesn't really matter. No one is shooting you, just gather the troops, make a plan, and do it. It took a while for some of us to learn that, but we learned it. I think one of the most effective training things was, and they said they got it from the Germans, is they'd have an incident. They would just put you in an incident. You have to climb this wall, or you had to cross this stream, or you had to do something else, and there was nobody appointed to lead. It might have been three or four of you in a group, and you had a few things lying here, piece of wood there, or something like that. No one was assigned to lead. They wanted to see who would take over organize the accomplishment of the task utilizing everyone in the group. One of us would say, "You grab this pole, you grab this, you do this, and we'll do this and we'll get over this hill," or whatever it was. I thought that the kind of training was very effective. Not only to fight a war, but it is good practical training for leadership in civilian life as well. How do you implement in getting a job done? It's easy to do it yourself, and most of us get in a position where rather than get somebody else to do it, "I'll do it myself." But you're in a situation where you can't do it yourself; how are you going to get everyone together to accomplish this goal? Maybe it's only going over a wall, but you'd be doing it together. I think I learned a lot in the military in that sense, not necessarily how to fight somebody, but how to make decisions, and how to get people to work together to accomplish something; to have a goal and a plan to reach it.
SI: What did you learn from the people that you served with? Did you discuss what life was like or where they came from?
RA: Yes, you start to expand your life with people from different parts of the country. I guess you can call it a culture lesson interacting with people from different parts of the country, and how they lived, what they did. But we bonded together. There was a real camaraderie. I can remember bonding with the guys we knew. We'd make up songs together, singing about it all. This one guy would make up a song about everybody. As soon as he heard a little bit about your life, he'd make up a song about you, and you'd all learn that song about that person. Everybody had a song about themselves. That's just an example of what happens when everyone from all different places are put together. Where are we going? Not going anywhere, we're right here. Let's make the best of what it is. I don't know what I can really say I learned, especially me because I was kind of a loner, kind of quiet.
SI: Was it difficult for you to make the transition from civilian life to military life?
RA: No, I think it was much harder going from military life to civilian life than it was the other way around.
SI: How so?
RA: Well, because now it's up to you to find employment, and they weren't out there waiting till I came back, so that was a struggle. I remember going to a lot of places. I still remember some place near here, one of the J&J facilities where I applied, telling me I was about the greatest guy they ever interviewed. I had so many skills, and, "You'll certainly do well with some other company." It was] a nice way of saying, "You don't qualify, so being faced with that was tough, trying to find a job, and I ended up in, well, I'm getting ahead of myself here. I ended up working for a company called CIT, who was like GMAC, they finance automobiles and I was called an adjuster. But I really was a legal car thief. At the end of every month, I had to go in Newark and Jersey City and steal cars from people who didn't pay their bills. We would go out at night, all night, picking up cars. You learned how to jump start them. I could never steal cars today. I am sure the only way is to get a key. In those days we would use a broken windshield wiper, brake into the car, jumped the engine with a wire and drive off with the car. We would go a short distance, call the police to tell them, "This is CIT Financial, we just took such-and-such's car. He didn't pay the bill."
SI: Did you have any close calls with that?
RA: Yes, I stole a car out of a driveway; you're not supposed to do that, so I may go to jail over this if you're recording it. I had the right and it looked like the car, but after I drove a few blocks and checked the serial number, you guessed it, I had the wrong car. There was no point in taking it back, so I left it and made my way back to my car. In this case I really was a car thief. I felt very self-righteous in taking because I was the person who was lied to a million times about paying the bill. "The check is in the mail," some would say, others were never home to talk to, their check bounced, whatever. I would also see after only having the car a relatively short length of time, what a poor condition it was in. They just bought a brand new car and it's completely shot by the time I end up taking it away from them. I'm out of the war (military) and now into another war, the job war. The job war was tough, to go and find good employment. I bought into signing up for a liberal arts degree when I heard the argument for it at Rutgers. "You need a good broad background, that's what industry wants, a guy with a real broad background, who knows a little bit of accounting, he knows a little bit of management, he learned about leadership, and organizational skills." This all sounded good until I went to apply for a job. "What can you do?" I was asked. "Well I have a little bit of accounting, a bit of psychology, and some management training." "So are you an accountant, an engineer; what skills do you have?" I have this broad background, so that I can handle anything." They didn't say this, but I think some interviewers thought it, "The job you seemed prepared for is that of president, but that job is filled." There were firms with management training programs for a guy with my liberal arts education, but everyone I applied for required person who graduated in the top ten percent which wasn't me. My favorite course at Rutgers was Organization, Management and Procedure. It had some good stuff, about how to organize and manage people to have a plan and accomplish it. The people they already have in their employ are already doing that kind of stuff. So you have to be able to do something, have a learned skill to get the job. That's what I came out feeling. In the long run I'm happy that I got a broad education but those first few years trying to find a job that was fulfilling, rewarding, and enjoyable, was very hard.
SI: Oh, no, it is fine. Do you think your military strength helped you in that respect?
RA: Yes, the military training and experience was very helpful in helping me handle life, as did my liberal arts education at Rutgers. I regret not being able to live at Rutgers, as I missed much of the college experience. I always tease engineers and others with more technical training. "You guys, have all this technical background, but you know you don't know what life's about." I understand that engineering majors are now required to take more liberal arts to make them more able to handle management jobs where many of them end up in industry.
SI: Where did your career go after the car thief experiences?
RA: Yes, well, I actually was fairly honest, from my background, but we had expense accounts, which became my undoing in the financial field. I was told by my boss, "We don't pay a large salary, but we give you expense money which is not taxable and you be able to take home a decent amount." Initially I was turning in $20.00 expense accounts, and my fellow adjusters came to me and said, "You're making us look bad, because you're turning in a small expense," With this pressure from my peers and even the boss, I ended up padding my expense account. It was only a few dollars, but I cheated. There was an investigation in the company and I was called in to explain my expenses. My colleagues and my immediate boss told me that it was such a small amount, I could obtain something to show where the money was used. I told them, after this misappropriation, I wasn't going to add a lie on top of it. I never realized they were going to fire me and blackball me in the finance industry. I was told it was because of the bonding company we have to fire you. For a $9.00 unexplained expense account I was fired and banned. If I lied and not confessed to what I did, I maws assured that it would never been an issue. So in business life I found things to be what I rejected in the military. So, they didn't want to know the truth and work it out, they would rather, what can I say, "play the game." Why not, "You made a mistake, don't do it again" or something like that. Everyone else is doing it, but that doesn't make it right. I profess to be a Christian and perhaps it was God saying to me, it may be alright for others, but you claim to be my follower, if so, it is not alright for you. After all these years I believe that was probably why it all happened.
A man that I knew my whole life growing up had a business in New York fixing swinging, revolving, and automatic doors. I went to work for him as his service manager. I had college and he wanted me to manage. I couldn't really direct anyone else if I didn't know what I was doing, so for two years I worked in the field and in the shop learning the mechanics of the business, so I could manage others. I've been in that business for forty-five years and most of it has been managing and working with people. As we say, "Sometimes the job is easy, it's the people that are hard." You need people to get the job done and that has been my job; to organize and manage people to do just that. So that's been my life, and I think Rutgers and the military prepared me for working and managing people, whether it's fixing doors, or preparing for battle.
SI: You mentioned before the tape that you recently went to the seminary?
RA: Yes, a friend of mine was the president of a seminary out in Pennsylvania called Biblical Theological Seminary. He asked me to serve on the board, which I did for ten years or so. The seminar then began a master's program to adapt to the needs of minority, by in large African American pastors, who had not earned degrees, but they were the pasturing churches. The new program was one night a week, one Saturday a month, and two weekends a year over a three-year period to earn a master's in Divinity, or an M.Div. The main purpose was to involve minorities, but it filled a need for others, who had churches without degrees and no time to take a few years off to get one. This filled the bill for many, including me. I said to myself as the planning began for this, "I can do that." "Signing up and completing the work for this degree in my 70's was one of the greatest things I ever did. Getting the old mind working again. Never wrote so many papers in my life. But that's what it is all about; a lot of reading and a lot of writing. So much so that I can now go for a counseling degree, and I would only have to take half the credits because my theological credits would count. So I'm starting in September, again, Monday night, at seventy-four working on my second masters. So by the time I'm a counselor, I guess I'll be helping the guy in the bed next to me in the nursing home, or whatever. It is actually fun to learn now. It was never fun that I remember, struggling through those grade school, high school and the first years at Rutgers. I will say that I enjoyed learning in my junior and senior years at Rutgers
SI: So when you complete the career you have now, does that mean you are a Reverend?
RA: I have a degree in theology, which is what most Protestant pastors would have, some of them go beyond that, but I don't intend to at this stage of my life. To be a reverend you have to be ordained by a church. My church doesn't ordain, as the elders lead the church and do much of the preaching. I have done some preaching and now am probably better qualified to do so. I do a fair amount of teaching in the church and sometimes churches such as ours in other communities. Right now, I'm teaching on the first books of the Bible, the Pentateuch, on Wednesday nights in our church on. As Rutgers did, the Seminary has helped broadened me and helped me be a better teacher. I was kind of narrow as several in my church are. My gets upset with me brother, because he thinks I'm getting too broad minded, but I appreciate that I have been exposed to some good education. When you are in a small group, you think you're the only ones. I think going to seminary helped me come out of my shell and get excited about coming back here and getting involved in planning the reunion and start to be a little more generous with Rutgers than I was before, because this is where I went to school. I wish we would return to playing Lafayette, Lehigh and Bucknell instead of attempting to go big time with division one big time football programs. I used to work in the stands selling hot dogs and stuff. I did a lot of things to make an extra buck and get me through.
SI: I wasn't aware you had a job on campus, because you were a commuter.
RA: Yes, I worked at home for the most part. I worked for the Union County Park Commission, but it was in the summer, not much in the winter. So here, I'd find anything I could do, like students do today, I imagine.
SI: Did you drive to school or take a train?
RA: No, I drove to school in one of my father's old service vans. The guy who's the president of our class now said he commuted with me; he's the one that enlisted me to be a part of the reunion planning. He commuted in the back of my little truck. He said, "I died back there, it was so hot. There were no windows." Anyway, who knows, these are old stories.
SI: Is there anything that we skipped over?
RA: Probably. I think I just skipped around and I don't know whether I helped you at all. Whether you can get anything out of this I don't know.
SI: No, I think it went well.
RA: It's almost me giving my personal life story rather than you getting educated about where I was and what happened and what went on.
SI: It is most important for you to tell your story in your own words. Is there anything else you'd like to put on the record?
RA: I guess it was my New York involvement. We're so close to New York and the rest of the world doesn't realize how close. In many ways North Jersey is an extension of New York, as South Jersey seems to be an extension of Philadelphia. I have lived just seventeen miles outside of New York, so New York has been a part of my life. I also worked there for forty-five years. There's so much New York has to offer, although I have people work with, who can't wait to get out of it, and never go back in at night or weekends. They don't realize the culture that's there. It's a cosmopolitan city, it's broadens you like college and the military.
SI: Do you go to a lot of events in the city?
RA: Yes, my wife and I used to go to the opera regularly, but don't do that anymore. We go to the ballet once in a while, theater once in a while. Sometimes, just go to New York. We often spend our anniversary weekend in New York in February. We would go to the City and stay in a hotel. And then one year we found out that what we're paying in New York for a weekend, we could go to Paris - fly to Paris, stay in a hotel. Not today, not anymore; the exchange rate is brutal. So we went to Paris. Again, I'm dribbling on.
SI: Thank you very much for coming down today. It has been educational and very interesting.
RA: I don't envy you; you have to listen to all this.
SI: This concludes our interview with Richard C. Arthur on April 19, 2005 in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Thank you.
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Reviewed by Kelly Curtin
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