Shaun Illingworth: This begins an interview with Joseph J. Martinelli, Sr., in Brick, New Jersey, on January 16, 2006, with Shaun Illingworth. Mr. Martinelli, I would like to thank you and your family for having me here today. To begin, could you tell me where and when you were born?
Joseph J. Martinelli, Sr.: I was born in Brooklyn, New York, and I was baptized in … St. Patrick's Church.
Helen Martinelli (Spouse): In Brooklyn.
JM: In Brooklyn, and that was back in 1924.
SI: What were your parents' names?
JM: My mother's name was Mary Oliva. My father's name was John.
SI: Where were they from?
JM: From Italy.
SI: Do you know which part of Italy they were from?
JM: I think Naples.
SI: Did they ever tell you any stories about their lives in Italy or why they came to the United States?
JM: No. My father passed away when I was about four or five years old and my mother took sick. So, I don't know nothing about what they did, … although my father there, he was a foreman in the Fulton Street Market in Brooklyn at that time, and that was it.
SI: What kind of a market was it? Was it a food market?
JM: A food market. It's like the vegetable market over here and [they would] sell fruits and stuff like that.
SI: Did your mother work outside the home? Was she a homemaker?
JM: She was in the home, a homemaker. … Then, she took sick and they wanted to divide the children up, but my aunt there says, "No, they've got to stay together." They put us in the home. So, me and my brother, Dan, we went to St. Malachy's Home in Rockaway, Rockaway Beach. … My other four brothers, they wound up in Lincolndale, New York, [on] like a farm, a Catholic [farm], run … by these priests, and they had about four of them there. So, that was it.
HM: … Your sister, Anna, was just six months old and she was put into a Catholic convent.
JM: Yes, and me and my sisters, Anna, and Grace.
HM: … You couldn't have been four or five. What were you, four, five years difference [in age]?
HM: Because she was born right after you.
JM: About five years old, six years.
HM: … I didn't think you were that old.
SI: Can you tell me your siblings' names, in the order that they were born?
JM: Well, my brother, Jimmy, he was the oldest, and then came my brother, Rocco, my brother, Frankie, [my] brother, Johnny, my brother, Dan, and my sister, Grace, and myself and … Anna, and that's all.
SI: Were they all born in the United States?
JM: Oh, yes, all born in the United States. Well, four of … my other brothers were in the service with me, too. That made five of us [in the service], all at one time. …
Ann Martinelli (Daughter-in-Law): And you were all born one year right after the other. You were all very close in age, if I remember.
JM: Yes. Well, my aunt there made us stick together, but some of the other aunts there, … one wanted to adopt me, [which left children] who weren't adopted, but then, she [the one aunt] said, "No, they all have to stay together." That's what we did.
SI: Did you have many aunts and uncles living in Brooklyn or nearby?
JM: No. …
HM: You just had one. …
HM: And that's who wanted to take a few of them, and then, my mom moved in and she wanted to take a couple of them, even though she had eight of her own. … She still would [have], but … his aunt said, "No, we want all the children to be together." So, they took them into homes, but they were all [eventually] separated anyway. Yes, he just was with one [brother] and the other ones, they were all two or three together. That's it.
JM: The home that I was in, St. Malachy's, was a beautiful place.
HM: In Rockaway. …
JM: It was right on the beach.
SI: Do you remember your life before St. Malachy's?
JM: No, not before. I was too young to remember that.
SI: What was St. Malachy's like? What did you do on a daily basis?
JM: Schooling. It was a school and [they] taught us religion and everything and we had the beach for ourselves, the beach on 111th, the beach on 112th Street. That was in Rockaway. … We had good times there, and then, they wanted to change it over to St. John's. So, my older brother there took us out, out of the home. That was, what, twelve years? yes. … We came home after that. So, that's that.
SI: How often were you able to see your siblings during that time?
JM: I'd never seen my brothers there until I came out of the home. Just my brother, Danny, and I were together. He was a little older than me and we'd seen each other every day. … He was the only one I'd seen. That's it.
SI: You spent a lot of time at the beach.
JM: Oh, every day. … [laughter]
SI: Did you have an afterschool job at that point, like lifeguarding?
JM: No, you couldn't go out of the home, can't sneak out of the home, although we did there. When we came back again, [we had] to climb the fence. … [laughter]
SI: Were they strict on discipline at St. Malachy's?
JM: … Yes. Well, you've got to do the right thing, otherwise; … they never hit you or nothing, just that they disciplined you, [you would] not [be] going to the movies or things like that.
SI: What happened after you left St. Malachy's?
JM: I went to school, public school. Everything they taught me in public school there, I learned in the home. … There was not much schooling there until I became fifteen, when the war broke out. I was going to this place, North Sailmaker, and they needed rubber at that time, during the war. … I used to go over in[to] the big cans that they had there. … They used to chop off the ends of the ropes that they had and I used to get them and I used to collect all those [scrap pieces], the rubber bands, and I used to sell them back to the owners, North Sailmakers. That's who it was. It was Arnold Krist and … I can't remember the other name. Well, anyway, I sold them [the rubber bands] back to them and the rope, I sold to another guy. So, I had a business going and I was only fifteen years old. So, then, the boss, Arnold, … when I became sixteen, he says [to me], "Joe, you've got to work for us. We can't be paying you for rubber bands," [laughter] but that's what happened. So, then, the rope there, I got good money for the rope, too, little pieces of rope like that, because that was scarce, too. … Then, I had to wait there until they were going to call me for the service, but my other brothers [had] went into the service already. That was back in '42 and I went in [in] '43, though, and that was that.
SI: What do you remember about the Great Depression? How did that affect you?
JM: Well, I was in the home then. I really don't know, … although we used to go on the beach in the summertime there and look at the people eating there. … They used to call us over there and they'd give us, like, an apple or a sandwich or something. Well, we had three meals a day in the home and it was good. [The] Knights of Columbus there used to give us a lot of stuff and celebrities used to go up there. We'd seen Babe Ruth and Jack Dempsey and seen a lot of guys. … I forget the guy that [played] tennis, a tennis guy there. He's throwing all the balls out into the crowd, you know, [to] the kids. … I think everybody got a ball. So, it was good.
SI: Did you meet any of these people face-to-face or would they just talk to a crowd of kids?
JM: Talk to the crowd. … Then, you [Mrs. Martinelli] come in. [laughter]
SI: Did you know each other when you were younger?
JM: Yes, we were …
HM: Well, our families were …
JM: Her brothers and my brothers just stuck together.
HM: My mother baptized a few of his [siblings]. …
JM: Her sister baptized me.
HM: … Yes, and the others, too.
AM: So, your older sister, Josephine …
HM: Yes, yes.
JM: … She baptized [me].
AM: … Was your godmother?
JM: My godmother.
AM: That's what they mean when they say "baptized," that she was the godmother.
Joseph J. Martinelli, Jr.: … How do the families know each other?
JM: Well, we used to live …
HM: They were neighbors there.
JM: Neighbors, they were neighbors there. … In them days, everybody took care of each other there. So, that's when my mother got sick and everybody, you know, [helped out].
HM: They all wanted to take a few of the children, but … his aunt had said that, "No, I want them all together." … When they came to take them, they went all separate ways anyway. So, he never knew he had brothers and sisters, except his one brother that he was with, and that was it.
JM: And, as a coincidence there, during the war, I never even [saw] … none of my brothers there until I came home. I was in the South Pacific and they were all in Europe.
SI: When they entered the service, you did not know that they had gone in.
JM2: When you came out of the home, where did you live?
JM: Where did I live? …
HM: 26th Street.
JM: 26th Street.
HM: … With his mother, yes, yes. … She had a nervous breakdown, and then, they put her away for a few years. So, when she came out, little by little, the children, as they grew up, were able to go back with her, and so, it helped her, too. … Him and his brother, Danny, who was next oldest from him, they were the last two to come out, although, then, Anna, his sister, Anna, was two or three years younger than him, I think. Four years, maybe, I think only three, but, anyway, they took her out last, because she was the youngest. So, they were all together and the older boys were able to go out to work and they got [to] where they can help the mom get along.
SI: You said that you went to a public school after leaving St. Malachy's.
JM: Yes, public school there.
SI: How many years did you go to the public school after that?
JM: I don't know. I was playing hooky every day. [laughter]
SI: Was it a shock to go from a Catholic school to a public school?
JM: Well, everything they taught me, tried to teach me, in public school there, I [had] learned … in the home. Like I say, like, I had twelve subjects [at the home] and, in the public school, they only had about five or six. I made out all right, though. Whatever I missed there playing hooky, I caught up on it, because I knew everything there.
SI: It sounds like you went out to work fairly early. You went out on your own early.
JM: Yes, I was on my own, yes, and so on. That's it.
SI: Before Pearl Harbor, did you know anything about what was going on overseas?
JM: Oh, yes. I was in … Public School 15 and I was in the workshop there and, all of a sudden, somebody put on the radio that Hitler was going into Poland, invading Poland. … We all sat down and listened to the programs and everything and I found out a lot about it. … I was worried about my brothers, [because] they were going to go in. … They all went in and I was the only one left home.
SI: Did any of your brothers enter the service before Pearl Harbor? Were they part of the pre-war draft?
JM: I think two of my brothers there.
HM: No, I think they were all drafted. … They drafted them after the war [began] or during the war?
SI: The draft started in 1940, about a year before Pearl Harbor.
HM: … Oh, so, maybe they were.
JM: They were in [in] 1940, Rocco and … Jimmy; not Jimmy.
HM: No, Jimmy didn't go.
JM: No, Jimmy didn't go in the service. It was Rocco and …
JM: Frankie, and then, Johnny went in, then, my brother, Danny, then, me.
SI: Before Pearl Harbor, had you had any inkling that there would be a war and that you would have to go into the service?
JM: Oh, yes, I knew that. I knew there was going to be a war because [of] when I'd seen them, the troops there, the American troops there. … I don't know if you know anything about Brooklyn there, but Fort Hamilton, all the troops there from Fort Hamilton, they were marching on Fourth Avenue, all the way down through to the Grand Central Station train station, and they had no trucks in them days. They had to walk, and that's a long walk. You know where Fort Hamilton is?
JM2: Yes; all the way into Manhattan?
JM: [From] Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. Then, they took the trains there [at Grand Central] and they went to Fort Dix or wherever they went. …
SI: Did you see an increase in military activity around that area?
JM: Oh, yes, they had them [soldiers] up in Prospect Park. They had the little guys with the big cannons and machine guns and embankments … all over. On the top of the buildings, they had these Army guys there with, you know, their machine guns and everything like that.
JM: Yes, and then, we had the blackouts. … They had the spotlights going up in the air and everything. …
JM2: I didn't know that. So, there's fear of attack in [Brooklyn]. …
HM: Sure. They had guards in Fort Hamilton. That big cannon is still there. Do you remember that big cannon, they never took that down, overlooking the Verrazano [Bridge]?
SI: Is Fort Hamilton the fort that is right on Rockaway Beach?
AM: … Under the Verrazano Bridge.
JM: That's where the Verrazano Bridge is; … right there is Fort Hamilton.
SI: There was a fort on Rockaway Beach.
JM: There used to be a fort there.
SI: Is that Fort Totten?
HM: There may have been.
JM: Fort Totten.
SI: Is that the one?
JM: Yes. … I think they did away with that, too. Fort Hamilton, they did away with, I think. I think that used to be for the chaplains and they did away with it, I think.
JM2: … A big VA [Veterans Affairs] hospital is there.
JM: The VA hospital, that's on Fourth Avenue and 92nd Street, 93rd Street, yes. Well, that was for the VA. I belong to that, because I was service-connected, and, back in … 1946, I had to go there, because I was service-connected, and they treated me [then] and they're still treating me today. That's today [that] they're treating me.
SI: Do you recall any debates over whether or not we should get involved in the war? Were there isolationists or those who thought that we should help Britain and the other Allied nations?
JM: Well, the only thing that I was a little against was, … they had the Australian soldier and [the] American soldier and the Australians used to give us a can of bully beef [mutton] and we used to give them a jeep. … Everybody got angry on account of that. Just that fact alone there told you, you know, "What are we doing, feeding other countries?" …
SI: Do you remember where you were when Pearl Harbor was attacked?
JM: Where was I? I was in the movie house and we all scrammed down when they said it. They stopped … the film and everybody was yelling, jumping out of the seats and going outside.
HM: It was chaos.
JM: Me and my brother, Dan, we were in the movies together.
SI: Is that when you started selling rope or had you started that before?
JM: Yes. It was after that. That's when we really got into the war, at Pearl Harbor there.
SI: How did the war change Brooklyn? Were there blackouts right away?
HM: Yes, they did. They had blackouts.
JM: Oh, the blackouts, oh, yes, the blackouts. … If you owned a car, you had to paint … the front lights, paint them halfway black. …
AM: Was this before Pearl Harbor or after?
JM: … Before Pearl Harbor, yes.
SI: Were you an air raid messenger or anything like that? Were you involved in Civil Defense?
JM: Yes, … we used to have air raids, [drills]. … They didn't last long, but [it was] just the idea that you had to put out your lights in the house. You couldn't move the curtains to show the light.
SI: Did you take the air raid drills seriously? Was it scary?
JM: Oh, yes, absolutely. One of my brothers, … Jimmy, he had a bum foot or something. He couldn't join the service. So, he went out, picking up, house-to-house, papers and aluminum cans and everything and he used to turn them in to the dealers; wherever they went to, I don't know, all the papers there.
SI: There were many scrap drives and things like that.
JM: … If I had ten cents there, we used to buy the stamps and put it in the book.
SI: Yes, war bonds.
JM: War bonds, for the war bonds, yes. So, [you] fill up a book, and then, you get a war bond, ten cents, each one there, [each war bond stamp].
SI: Do you recall going to any war bond rallies?
JM: No, I never went on them. I was more worried about myself and my brothers there, being in the service there. … It's odd. We got into the service there and I didn't see them other four brothers of mine until after the war. … They were supposed to come over. They were in Europe. They were coming over to the South Pacific. Then, when the war … finished, the ships there just turned around. They came back into New York. … My brother, Danny, told me later on, he thought for sure [that] they were going into the South Pacific to fight.
SI: Do you remember rationing?
JM: Rationing, I remember. I sent her a can of …
HM: K rations.
JM: K rations. I mailed it to her from New Guinea. [laughter] … K ration was all right. The C rations were the little cans and it had bully beef, sausages, little sausages, and stuff like that. …
SI: Before you entered the service, did you notice shortages? Did you have to use coupons for sugar, for example?
JM: Yes, … you had to have coupons there, but I never went for that anyway, for the sugar. My mother there went for the sugar and what else? coffee and the meat. That was all rationed.
HM: Yes, you had to get food stamps, … coupons, to be able to buy it.
JM: … Gasoline. That was tough to get, the gasoline. You had to have coupons for that. We never had a car anyway.
SI: Did the war and the shortages make life more difficult?
JM: Not exactly. …
HM: I guess we were down [in the middle of it] and you didn't think of it.
SI: You said that you were selling rope and that the company asked you to join them as an employee when you turned sixteen. Did you do that?
JM: Yes. Well, they came down; he was up in his office, Arnold there. He was the big boss. There was three bosses there, but Arnold was the biggest one and he came down. … One day, he'd seen me from his window, picking out all the rubber bands and putting them in a bag, and then, he found out who I was and this and that and he says, "Joe, report to this place tomorrow morning. You're going to get a job over here. You're not going to be picking up them rubber bands, [laughter] and then, we've got to pay you?" [laughter] but I was too young to do anything. … Anyway, he gave me a job, "Go to the bank." The bank there was on 35th Street and we were on 27th Street, the warehouse. So, I used to walk to the bank, probably with the statements or something, whatever it was, and then, he said, "You're going to work for me, Joe." Then, we started making cargo nets, you know the cargo nets, … and they had the buoys there that they put on the side of the ship. When it goes into the port, they hitch the buoys there and it doesn't damage the ship.
SI: The bumpers.
JM: Bumpers, yes. That's what they were, yes. … I worked there until I went into the service.
SI: Were you still in school at that point or did you leave school for work?
JM: No. … I went [for] two years to school, in high school, and then, I quit and I went into the service.
SI: What was an average day like when you were making the cargo nets?
JM: Hard, that was hard, rough on your hands there, yes. … I liked to do the work there, but your hands are all tough and you get the splinters from the rope in your hand, but I did all right.
SI: Did you work with a machine or was it all hand-weaving?
JM: No, no machines. … So, we [North Sailmaker] used to work for, like, the Navy, Navy contracts. … They had to make up so many cargo nets there inside a week and [tractor]-trailers used to come and used to load up the trailer there with the cargo nets and the bumpers. It was interesting.
SI: How big of an operation was it? Were there dozens of people working there?
JM: Oh, yes. We had two floors. So, they had a lot of people working there.
JM2: It was fairly close to the Navy yard, then, the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
JM: No, … it was far away from the Brooklyn Navy Yard, yes.
HM: It couldn't have been too far.
AM: It was in Brooklyn.
JM: … It was a little far.
SI: Which shift did you work, day shift, swing shift or night shift?
JM: No, I did the day shift. That's what it was, day shift. The company there used to buy us lunch every day and they used to … itemize the bills and give them in to the Navy, whoever was in charge there, and they'd take it off the bill.
SI: Were you part of a union there?
JM: Union, no. … In them days, there was hardly any unions going on, although there was a coal strike there one time and Lewis there, John [L.] Lewis, … he was the head of the union, [United Mine Workers of America], and then, they settled, somehow.
SI: Was the coal miners' strike big news?
JM: Yes, well, that was terrible. I couldn't understand why it happened, but, now, they're trying to get into it and see why it did happen.
SI: I have heard other servicemen say that they remember that strike in particular and that they were upset by it, particularly if they were overseas. Were you overseas at the time or did it occur while you were still in the United States?
JM: No, I was overseas, right?
HM: I don't know. …
AM: … She just said she doesn't remember when they called the coal miner's strike.
JM: Repeat that question.
SI: Did it upset or bother you?
JM: No, I don't remember. …
SI: Going back to the cargo net factory, did you notice that there were more women in the workforce? Were there many women working there who normally would not have held a job?
JM: No, we had no women working with us. They were down in the shipyards, though, I have to tell you that, yes. Her sister worked down in the shipyard. Where were you? Oh, you were in the telephone company.
SI: Were you looking forward to going into the service?
JM: Yes, because there was nobody on the block. I say "the block;" there's nobody in the neighborhood. They all went into the service. So, I wanted to do something, get out of there. My brother, he was in the Eighth Air Force and he flew home from England, then, when he found out I was going in. … He didn't want me to go in. So, finally, there, he gave in and said, "All right, I'll sign the papers and everything." So, then, I went in. Him and his wife, his wife came to the train station to go to Fort Dix. … We left the train station to go to Fort Dix and my brother there, that's the last I saw him until the war was over.
JM2: Was that Rocco?
JM: Rocco, yes. He belonged to the Eighth Air Force and he found out [that] one of the planes was coming into Brooklyn. He hopped the plane then and he came into Brooklyn.
SI: Before you entered the service, were you able to keep in contact with your friends and family through letters?
JM: Oh, yes, yes. As a matter-of-fact, there, I've still got two of my friends there. We write letters every year. They were in the service with me, in New Guinea and the Philippines. … One lives out in California, the other one lives in Wisconsin and we correspond with each other every year. …
SI: You enlisted. You did not wait to be drafted.
JM: … Yes, I enlisted.
SI: Your brother had to sign a release.
SI: Did you choose the Army or was that the only choice left to you by that point?
JM: Yes, there was nothing else to do, just that you meet different people anyway in the service. … I was going to Fort Dix there, … stayed over until they sent us to someplace else, you know. Then, they sent me down to Atlantic City, because, when I got interviewed, they [asked] … me a lot of questions and they said, "Well, what is your hobby?" … I said that my brother, Rocco, he had homing pigeons and he gave me all the pigeons there and he says, "Take care of them. They're yours. Don't worry about it if you lose any." So, the lieutenant there, … captain, whatever he was there, he questioned me about that and he said, "Oh, you like pigeons." I said, "Yes." He said, "Well, we're going to have a good job for you." I said, "What is it?" He says, "We'll let you know." Sure enough, then, I had to go down to Atlantic City. From Atlantic City, then, they shipped us to Florida, Drew Field, Florida, and I didn't know until then there that I was going to go to school, had to go to radar school. So, I didn't do nothing else but radar, six weeks there, had the hurricane there, just radar, and no KP [kitchen patrol], no guard duty, no nothing. That was the best part of it. That was good, that I went to school there for six weeks.
SI: Were those six weeks at Drew Field?
JM: … Drew Field, Florida. That's where I had to go to radar school. … We finished the school, and then, they gave us, like, a couple of days off, but, when they gave me the diploma, we were all on the field there. It was just like in the movies there. The planes came over, welcomed us and everything. They had thousands of soldiers there and they gave me the diploma and everything. It was nice. Then, I get home. As soon as I opened up the door, the Western Union guy gives me a note, a telegram. "Report [in]. Go right back to the base immediately." I told the guy, I said, "Tell them I ain't going until I stay home for a couple of days," and he said, "No, I ain't telling them nothing there. You've got to go," and that's it.
SI: Before you enlisted in the Army Air Forces, had you considered the Navy, the Marine Corps or another branch?
JM: No. All my brothers were in with the Army and the Air Corps, but they called us … the Army Air Corps, and then, when I came out, they changed it back to just the Air Corps; no Army Air Force, it was [just] Air Corps, [US Air Force].
SI: What was it like to go from your home into the service? Was it a shock to go into military life?
JM: No. I know, at nighttime there, you see these guys crying, hear these guys crying there, big men. They're crying because they're going away. Me, I was used to it. I was used to it, because I was in the home there. I was away from home all the time, but they were crying. I couldn't understand what they were crying for. … After that, we went to California, California there, Vancouver and Washington. We had to try out our sets there, radar sets, [at] all different angles, all different places there. … After that deal, we got on the boat there to go to Oakland and, from Oakland there, we went on that big ferry boat there and they took us out to the ship and we went.
SI: What were the facilities in Atlantic City like? Were you put up in one of the hotels?
JM: Oh, yes, I was in the biggest hotel down there, the Traymore Hotel. If you go down to Atlantic City, … we just saw it, … got a big picture of it. …
SI: What was your training like? What did you do every day? Was it very physical, like running and marching?
JM: Oh, yes. … I took down my squad. There's twelve guys in a squad down there. I had to take them down to the baseball field and … run around and [lead them in] marching. … Then, coming back one day, … the guys there told me, "Come on, Joe, let's … stop here and have a drink or some soda." I said, "I can't. I can't make you guys break ranks. You know the rules." Oh, they called me all different names. So, I says, "Okay, let's break. Break ranks there, but only for a minute," but it just [so] happened there, when they broke ranks, some lieutenant, … he was an actor, I don't want to mention his name, he came over, and then, he told me the same things, "You shouldn't have broken ranks there." He wanted to know who was in charge. I said [that] I was. Well, when I went back to the hotel, I was called down to the office there, the orderly room, and the Colonel, or whoever, says that what I did there wasn't supposed to be. He says, "You've got to learn your lesson." So, he broke me down to a private again and I was a corporal at that time.
SI: You were a corporal.
JM: Corporal, yes. [He said], "So, you'll probably pick it up anyway, again." … That was that. That was down in Atlantic City, no slot machines, you know. [laughter] … It used to be a pleasure, walking out at nighttime on the boardwalk. There was nobody out there that could bother you, nobody.
HM: You weren't there very long, though, were you? …
JM: No, I wasn't there long, no, like, what? a week, two weeks.
SI: Do you remember what time of year it was?
JM: No. I think March. It was warm, though, very warm, yes, March.
SI: They made you a squadleader fairly early.
SI: Did you find it natural to lead a squad? How did you feel about being a leader?
JM: It's nothing. … You know, you give out orders there, you know, and some guys get mad and some guys don't get mad, but I had my crew anyway. They were all with me.
SI: Were most of the men in your squad in Atlantic City from the New York/New Jersey area?
JM: Oh, yes, they were from all over.
SI: They were from all over the country.
JM: Yes, all over the country there. I had a guy, … Tony (Masiosi?), he was in Cuba. He was a regular sergeant in Cuba and he lived in Cuba. Then, he came … back to the United States there, and then, he came into my outfit there and he was my good friend there, my best friend there. So, he looked after me a lot.
HM: He was a lot older, like the father of the group, tried to take care of them.
JM: … Then, one night there, we were getting bombarded and everything there from the jungles and he became nervous or something and he jumped out of the foxhole and started running. … Me and my other friend, Doc, he came up and he says, "Come on, Tony, get down, get down, get down." We had to tackle him and throw him over into [the] foxhole, and then, we brought him to the medic and that was the last I seen him, until that time there when we went out; I called him up.
HM: Yes, he got sick and they sent him back home.
JM: He had to go to East Orange [a VA hospital] here.
HM: … One day, we had him come to my house, when he was home, but that was the last we ever saw of him. He told Joe, "You won't see me anymore."
JM: He said he won't see me no more.
HM: And he never did. … He had two sisters, that's it, as far as family, and we wrote to them and they never wrote back. It was just like he disappeared and he either went back into the hospital or passed away, or what, we don't know.
SI: He was in your unit overseas.
SI: Did you meet Tony in Atlantic City?
JM: No, he wasn't in Atlantic City.
HM: … He was much older than him and that's … why he took care of him. He said, "You're just a baby compared to me." He watched over him.
SI: When did you first meet him? Was it overseas or in the United States?
JM: … Yes, over in New Guinea. …
SI: What can you tell me about Drew Field?
JM: Drew Field, I'll tell you the truth, I hated Drew Field. [laughter] It was bugs, them little scorpions there. What do you call them?
JM2: It's in the Everglades, isn't it? …
JM: No, no. Drew Field there, for the planes, that's where I had to go to school.
SI: It was very swampy.
HM: Where in Florida was that?
JM: Drew Field, right … near Orlando or Tampa.
HM: Oh, Tampa, that's it.
JM: … But, they did away with that.
SI: At Drew Field, you were trained as a radar operator. Was that the first time you ever did anything with radar?
JM: Yes, that was the first time. … When I had to sign all the papers and everything, … I had to give five names of people I knew before I could even touch the radar. I had to give the names of five people that knew me. … I told them at the office, the CO [commanding officer], gave him the names of the people, and then, they called me up and said, "Joe, are you in trouble?" [They] said, "The FBI came and they wanted to know all about you," but I passed. … There was nothing that I did wrong. I guess that there was secrecy in them days. It was a big secret, that and the [Norden] bomb sight. That was the two biggest secrets in the war. … If the enemy was coming, you had to destroy your radar set and the bomb sight.
SI: They impressed upon you the secrecy involved with radar.
SI: Did they tell you not to talk about what you did with other people?
JM: No, you couldn't talk about it. You couldn't tell nobody what you're doing or nothing.
SI: At Drew Field, was it non-stop radar training or were there other types of training going on?
JM: No, they had the planes there. They had a lot of planes there. … They used to work on the planes … or they'd come in.
SI: However, you were just training on the radar set each day.
JM: … They'll go off and we used to track them down. So, seven days a week, they were training us.
SI: What was your specific job on the radar? What were you trained for?
JM: Well, I was a radio operator. … [With] radar, you set up your scope and you've just got to sit there and watch if … any, what do you call them? the beeps come in, and then, you had to track it down. … Well, they had to put on something there and, if they didn't put that signal on, then, they [the base planes] had orders there to shoot them down.
SI: Was it the friend or foe system?
JM: … Friendly or foe, yes. They had a name for that.
SI: IFF [Identification, Friend or Foe].
JM: … IFF, yes. … [If] they didn't put it on, I had orders there to send a squad of planes up after them, shoot them down, no matter if it was a friendly plane or what. You never knew. So, it was interesting
SI: Was training on the radar set difficult? Did you pick it up easily?
JM: Yes, radar, I picked up very fast. It was just a radio with the Morse code and they have to go over that and go over it and go over it. As a matter-of-fact, I've still got the code in my room there.
SI: Were you attached to a unit when you were at Drew Field or was it just a training unit?
JM: No. … If some outfit needed a couple of guys, radar guys, they would send them there, and then, the other places, but, then, they separated everybody.
--------------------------------------END OF TAPE ONE, SIDE ONE--------------------------------------
SI: Please, continue. We were discussing that you went overseas as an individual.
JM: Yes. Well, we went over as an outfit, and then, we all … joined the outfit there and that outfit was [the] 737th Signal Air Warning Battalion. … We had so many men in our outfit, and then, when it settled down and everything, then, it became [the] 595th Signal Air Warning Battalion, and then, that was for the rest of the war. … That's how I came home, with [the] 595th.
SI: Where were you when you joined the 595th? Was the unit formed before you left for overseas?
JM: Oh, before that? Oh, it was the 737th Signal Air Warning Battalion.
SI: Okay. Where did you join the 737th?
JM: That was back … near Australia and before I went to New Guinea. New Guinea was Finchhaven. Finchhaven, New Guinea, that's when we joined the 595th.
SI: When you were in Florida, were you ever able to get off the base and visit any of the surrounding areas?
JM: No, because they made us wear our field jackets. That was the only kind of clothes you got, field jacket and regular pants. … If anybody'd seen you in the town with a field jacket, they knew darn well that you didn't belong there and they would grab you and the MPs [military police] there, or whatever it was there, would turn you over to your superior officer and [they would ask], "What are you doing out? You know you're not supposed to be out." So, we never did any more, though.
SI: What did you think of the South? Was this the first time you had been outside of Brooklyn?
JM: Yes, right.
SI: What did you think of the other areas of the country that you visited? Was it a shock to see how people lived in the South or to meet people from the South?
JM: … No, I didn't stay near the [civilians]. …
HM: … Like the USO [United Service Organizations], Joe. Did you go to the USO? … Were the people friendly and … try to dance with you guys and everything?
JM: Oh, that was in California, … the USO, but we didn't stay there long neither. We're always moving around. When I was overseas there, I didn't get her letters there for, how long?
HM: A few months.
JM: A couple of months there. I was always moving. … Then, when I did get her letters, … (it took me a week there?) to read them, yes, and they were old.
SI: You mentioned that all of your brothers were in Europe. Did you have any feelings about whether you wanted to serve in Europe or in the Pacific?
JM: … They all came home. They didn't want to stay there. One of my brothers there came home with shrapnel in his back. He was blown out of a tank. My other brother, Frank, there, he was [in] the Battle of the Bulge and … his feet there were frozen and the good thing [was] that the paratroopers got the supplies to them at that time. Otherwise, … they would have chopped his feet off, amputate his feet, because it was so bad, but it's a good thing that they took care of him. My brother, Rocco, he was a pilot for a glider and he got messed up for a while there. So, once your glider falls into the ground there, forget it, they were all broken up. … Myself there, I was in the hospital twice, with dengue fever and jungle rot and whatever. That was that. That's why I still go to the VA clinic. …
SI: How did you feel about being sent to the Pacific? Were you scared to go? Were you eager to go?
SI: Did you have any strong feelings regarding the situation?
JM: No. …
HM: Probably a little of both, right?
JM: Well …
SI: Some people say that they really hated the Japanese or that they wanted revenge for Pearl Harbor, or they had heard so many horror stories about what happened in the Pacific that they did not want to go there.
JM: Well, it happened, so …
HM: He had no choice.
JM: I had no choices, right, then. … The only time I was afraid was at nighttime, because me and my two other friends there, … at night, you had to … sit down near a pole, a palm tree, back-to-back, and, if you hear any noise, you've got to just shoot. … They used to watch that way, that way and this way, all around, and we used to set up barbed wire fence all along the perimeter and tied in the mess kits and the tin cans and stuff like that and, if anybody tried to come across, they will make them things there make noise. No matter who it was, you had to shoot. So, we started shooting at anything that [we heard] coming in from that direction and you had to … know the password. That was the main thing. If you didn't know the password, forget about it; you were dead.
SI: Did you have combat training when you were in the United States? Did they train you in how to set up a perimeter?
JM: Oh, yes, I went on maneuvers there a couple of times.
SI: Where did you go on maneuvers?
JM: In Florida, and then, in California, … not long, though. You'd go to bivouac in maybe about a week and that was that.
SI: Was your unit assigned to a particular squadron? Is that who you sent these coordinates back to, alerting them that enemy planes were incoming?
JM: No, we knew when the planes were coming in, because it shows up on our radar, the beeps there, coming in. … We used to send out the alarm and the pilots there, with the P-51s and the P-38s, they used to take off and we used to give them directions there. … Once they're up in the air, then, we'd give them directions there.
SI: You would talk to them, tell them where the enemy was.
JM: Where the enemy was.
SI: Could it have been any squadron or was there a particular unit that you worked with?
JM: Yes, well, it's my unit there, then. … Radar will go so many miles out, because we had the one that you just set up, do your damage there, whatever it was there, and get out and set up some other place.
SI: Was it a very mobile unit?
JM: Yes. We used to set up so many times there, different places there.
SI: Was all of your equipment in mobile trucks?
JM: Truck. The generators were in the truck and the big set there was outside. It had to be facing, like, the north or the south. It's just like a television, [to] give better reception. …
SI: Can you tell me about your trip overseas? What was that like? Where did you leave from?
JM: Well, going over, we passed …
HM: First, where you left from.
SI: You were in California.
JM: … In California.
SI: Do you remember where?
HM: … Was it Fresno? That rings a bell, Fresno.
JM: Fresno, … oh, I went (so many places before there?).
HM: Yes, but where was the port?
JM: Oh, we had to go to; I forget. It was in Washington, the State of Washington.
JM: Yes, Seattle there, and then, the line there was Vancouver, Vancouver and Seattle. … Fresno was all the way down, Fresno, San Luis Obispo and all them other places. … I was all in them there and we … didn't stay there long, though.
SI: You did some training there.
JM: [Yes], San Luis Obispo, what else? Remember, I used to write to you?
HM: I know, but Fresno just rang a bell for me. …
SI: When you were in San Luis Obispo, were you practicing for amphibious assaults, how to get out of the boat, into the boat and all of that?
JM: Yes. Well, they didn't teach us much about that, because we were mostly with the planes. …
SI: You left from Seattle. Do you remember the name of the ship?
JM: No, but I know the name of the ship that we went overseas [on] there. That's … the (Kota Baroe?). That was the name of the ship. It was a Greek ship and it was made of steel and bolts, iron bolts, and we said, "Man, what a ship this is," while we were going on it, but, when we got out past San Francisco, the bridge there, we were afraid a little bit more. … Then, they had to shoot their guns and anything that was [not] welded down broke. All the American stuff broke. [laughter] The Greek stuff that they put on, they were all beautiful. … As a matter-of-fact, they had make-up bathrooms up on top of the deck and, when we went into the (storm, the whole thing?), they went all the way overboard. … [laughter]
SI: Was it a big ship? Was it pretty cramped?
JM: Yes, it was a big ship there, very big, but it was a solid ship. That was the main thing. You get these other ships there that they make in thirty days there [Liberty ships] and they all busted up.
SI: Were you jammed into the holds? Was it cramped for you?
SI: What were your living conditions like on the ship?
JM: Oh, each guy had a bunk and you had to take care of that bunk, because, if anybody gets in there and they take that bunk, oh, you're out. So, you had to watch out for it.
SI: Did the ship cross the ocean alone or were you in a convoy?
JM: Yes, we were in a convoy, but, then, one morning there, we woke up, we didn't see nobody around. They left us. [laughter] That's [like], … when we used to make an invasion, the planes there used to come over, and then, at nighttime, the Navy planes from the aircraft carriers would come over … our ship and they'd go like that, with the wings there, and we knew damn well they were going back home. We're on our own, and that's when the Japs used to come. They'd bombard us and every darn thing.
SI: Did you go directly to Australia?
JM: Yes, right there, right from the United States, Australia, Sydney, and then, we went to Finchhaven, New Guinea. … Then, I went to Finchhaven, Biak, Hollandia, Morotai and a couple more islands there, I forgot.
SI: How long were you in Australia? Was it just a brief stop?
JM: Oh, just a couple of days there, picked up some supplies. That's all.
SI: Your first deployment in the field was in Finchhaven.
SI: What was that like? What was it like to go into the field and into combat?
JM: It was jungles, jungle. As a matter-of-fact there, after a couple of days I was there, I fell down and [was covered] all [in] mud and they picked me up and they washed me off and I said, "What happened?" He said, "You've got the fever. We've got to take you to the hospital." There was no hospital; it was a field hospital, just a tent. That's all it was. They treated me and, [for] a couple of days, I stood there, and then, I went with my old outfit. …
SI: You came down with dengue fever pretty quickly.
JM: Yes, but it could come back on you. Well, it's just like that malaria, dengue fever.
SI: Were you given any medicine, such as Atabrine?
JM: Oh, yes, Atabrine. Yes, you know about it.
SI: Some servicemen said that they did not take the Atabrine because it turned them yellow.
JM: I used to carry it around with me, take it maybe every day, used to take one or two pills. …
SI: In your first position in Finchhaven, how far away were you from the front?
JM: Right there. Right across the street there, that was the front. … You don't go deep into the jungle, because it gets dark in the jungles maybe by two o'clock in the afternoon, three o'clock, and, [if] you get lost in there, forget it.
SI: What was the jungle in New Guinea like?
JM: Well, let me tell you this way, I don't want to go back there. [laughter] … The cannibals there used to; they didn't bother us much, because the Japs there used to do bad things to them and they used to work with the United States Army, you know. They were all right.
SI: Veterans talk about the smells, animals and other aspects of the jungle. How did that affect you?
JM: Oh, the crocodiles and snakes and the bats; you used to hear them at nighttime. They'd chip away … at the coconuts and you can hear them coming down, "Boom, boom," and you don't know who the heck did it, you know. Well, like I say, in the nighttime there, [with] all the noise, you couldn't hardly sleep. You didn't want to sleep anyway.
SI: How soon after getting there were you involved in a combat action?
JM: Did I see combat action?
SI: When was the first time you witnessed a Japanese bombing raid?
JM: New Guinea, … Finchhaven.
SI: Was it soon after you got there?
JM: Yes, as soon as we got there. I had to come back on a ship, the (Kota Baroe?). They had the cargo nets coming over the side of the ship, the ladders, … rope ladders, like, that's what we used to make [at North Sailmaker]. … You'd climb down from the ship there with them. … I used to yell up at the guys there, "Don't drop anything." [laughter] … Everybody used to say the same thing, "Don't drop anything. Hold everything," [laughter] and then, we'd come down off the rope ladder and we'd get into a Higgins boat and they took us right into the island.
SI: Was that at Finchhaven?
JM: … Finchhaven. That's the only time we came down off the rope ladder. The other ones there, we used to come over with an LST, [Landing Ship, Tank]. That's when the ship goes right up on the land. They open up the big door. That was the LST.
SI: Once you set up your first position in Finchhaven, did you stay there for a while or did you keep moving forward?
JM: No, we stood there for a little while, and then, we moved up. You don't stay too many … [days] at a place there. They didn't want to give our positions away, but, then, the other crew, with the biggest sets, they used to come in right after us and we'd keep on moving, all the way up, all the way up through the Philippines, and that was my last stop.
SI: You mentioned that the Japanese would attack at night. Did you mean the Japanese Air Force or the infantry?
JM: Oh, the Jap Air Force used to come and bombard us all the time there. Every night, they'd come. No matter what we used to do, they used to still keep coming over and, as many planes [as] I sent up after them there, … they [would] still come.
SI: What do you remember about coming under fire for the first time? What went through your mind and how did you react?
JM: Not to get hit. That was in my mind. [laughter]
SI: How did the men around you react that first time? Were there men who could not handle it or did everyone react pretty well?
JM: Well, some guys there committed suicide. They couldn't handle it, especially going into … one of the islands there. We'd seen the Japs there, all floating in the water there, because they were being bombarded by our fleet and they were floating in the water. These guys used to look at that thing. I don't think half of the guys there made it, you know. They killed themselves, committed suicide. … It was bad.
SI: Were you prepared to dig trenches and foxholes to protect yourself against the bombing?
JM: Oh, yes, we used to dig a foxhole, and then, we used to leave them there for somebody else there to come in. Once we move out, we'd leave them. We don't fill them up there; we used to let the other guys there use them.
SI: Did you have to take any precautions to protect the radar equipment?
JM: Oh, yes. We had to call in the 737th one time, infantry guys there, to come in and there were some Japs there sneaking around. So, they had to come and protect us. So, that was the main thing there, protect the radar set. Without that, the United States there would have been lost.
SI: How many hours would you spend operating the radar set in your position?
JM: Well, you could only do it for so long, because your eyes there [would get] blurry and your ears [would not be as sharp]. So, about, maybe, three, four hours, and then, somebody'll come in and relieve you. … That was that.
SI: What did you do with the rest of your time?
JM: Tried to sleep, [laughter] … used to go on the beach there in the daytime, … go swimming, but there had to be somebody there with a gun there. This way, if you see any sharks or anything like that, they had to shoot them. So, there were a lot out there, too.
SI: You probably did not wander too far off from the Allied base.
SI: At Finchhaven, was it just the Americans there or were there Australians there, too?
JM: Australians, yes.
SI: Did you interact with the Australians often?
JM: Yes, they were there. …
SI: What did you think of the Australians that you worked with?
JM: Oh, they were damned good fighters, boy. They weren't afraid of nobody. … Most of them, they were all big, six feet, yes.
SI: Was your unit close-knit?
JM: Yes. Everybody had to look out for each other. That's the main thing.
SI: What do you remember about some of the men in your unit? You talked about Tony from Cuba.
JM: Well, yes, Tony there, (Masiosi?). When I called up his house there one day, the sister says, "Joe, you won't see him no more. He went to the Oranges." I never knew what the Oranges were, until later on, you know, I found out [about] East Orange. That's where all the …
SI: The VA hospitals.
JM: Yes, the hospitals up there and … I told the sister, "Give me his room number," or whatever it was. She says, "No, he doesn't want … you to know where he is." That was that.
SI: What about some of the other men that you knew?
JM: Well, Don, Don (Bernard?), he was a good friend of mine and he used to take care of me, too, and Hank (Lohman?), another guy. He's in California. Don (Bernard's?) over here in Wisconsin and Joe (Perchu?) there, he's up in Connecticut. …
HM: Nobody closeby. … No friends closer than that, right?
JM: No, they were all from Texas and California.
SI: Did you become friendly with them because you worked closely together on the radar set?
JM: Yes, … the radar set, and then, everything else there.
JM2: You had a nickname, didn't you? …
JM: My name there was Smokey.
JM2: Smokey. Who gave you that nickname?
SI: Why was that?
JM: The guy's name was Doc (Rainer?). Everybody used to call him Doc. He used to call me Smokey, because I never smoked.
SI: You never smoked.
JM: … Then, we had another guy there, his name was Major (Marrow?), and that was his real name, Major. That was his real name and, any time we used to do something there, if it was [a case where] somebody there's doing something wrong, we'd say, "Here comes the Major." [laughter] Everybody stands up and they thought he was a regular major, because we never put on any medals or insignias of what we were; just plain soldiers, that's all.
SI: Did you feel as though you were well supplied when you were in the field?
JM: Oh, yes, especially with beer. When we got the beer, everybody was helping out. [laughter] They had about ten Japanese prisoners of war on the Army truck. They were taking them to; I don't know where the hell they were taking them. Anyway, … there was a ship there that had all beer on it. So, they were unloading the beer and nobody was guarding the Japs. [laughter] Oh, boy, I'm telling you, but they didn't try to get away, though. They knew they were getting fed well.
SI: After Finchhaven, your next stop was Biak.
JM: Biak. How did you know that?
SI: You told me before.
SI: Was that much different from Finchhaven or was it the same set up?
JM: All the same. The jungles were all the same, yes, and the further you go in the jungles there, you'd better find a way to get out fast, because, once it gets dark, you have to have a plane overhead there to get you out. In them days, they never had helicopters, either.
SI: Were you ever stuck in the jungle?
JM: No way.
SI: You mentioned that the nights in the jungle were terrifying. What else can you tell me about that? You mentioned that you were up all night looking for where noises might be coming from.
JM: … Well, you see, everybody used to be jittery, because, once you hear noises, you don't know where the heck it's coming from and you've just got to keep your eyes peeled. … The radar used to go off. We used to shut them off [at a] certain time, because that light used to bring out where the set was and they didn't want the Japs to even know where it was.
SI: How far away were you from the airfield?
JM: I was right there.
SI: You were on the airfield or next to the airfield.
JM: Yes, it was right there. That's where I got my boat. We made a boat, me and my friends there. There was a dock and we made a boat. One of the pilots from a P-51, he was a good friend of mine, too, there, … I told him, "I need two gas tanks, belly tanks, empty." He said, "What are you going to do with those?" I said, "Well, we're going to make a boat." So, we found this motor in the water, in a crate. So, we picked it up and brought it back to our post … and opened up the crate there and it was a motor, a (PE 75?) motor. They said, "What are you going to do with that darn thing?" "We're going to make a boat, but we need the pontoons there from the belly tanks." So, we finally got them. We cut them out and it was good. … Two people could sit in it. It had everything there, propeller, the shaft, lights, everything. … Then, when we were coming home, … the Filipinos, they wanted it, because they could get lights. Just plug it in there and you could have lights, but we didn't want them to have it, because they treated us rotten. No matter what we told them to do, they always wanted to get paid, no matter what you did. So, when we left the island there, they asked us, "What are you going to do with your boat?" "Do you want to buy it? Three hundred pesos." They didn't want to give it to us. So, Doc there took out his gun, his rifle there, and he pushed the boat out in the lake and he shot it full of holes and it sunk. He said, "Now, you can have it for nothing."
JM2: Was the war already over at that point?
JM2: The war was over when you built the boat. You stayed behind.
JM2: Why did you stay behind?
JM: Why? Because we didn't have no planes or no boats to take us home. They had the invasion going on for Japan at that time. They took care of all the boats and the planes. So, we didn't have nothing. … Finally, there, they got home and they brought in some boats and planes. … Before that, though, we were … supposed to go to a rest camp, me and Doc and the other guys, but, instead of going to the rest camp, we went to Manila and they were fighting like anything in Manila. Good thing we took our guns with us. … The Filipinos took over all the bars and everything there and I can't understand why the Japs didn't get in there first, but, then, later on, I see why. They had the baseball field that they were camping out in, and then, they went to get the prisoners out of the [camp]. They had a lot of prisoners in this place there, St. Thomas, I think it was, [Santo Tomas]. … A lot of guys there, they looked down the fences and the iron gates that the prisoners were in and it was a sorrowful sight to see some of these prisoners.
SI: You actually saw them.
JM: Yes, like [the] Bataan [Death] March, remember Bataan? and there were another couple of places there. They were bad, real bad. One of my friends there, his brother there, he'd seen his brother coming out of the camp there. He had one leg, and my wife there, she … went to the movies one time and she'd seen … her friend there, seen one of the guys there. … Her son was a prisoner. [Editor's Note: The Martinellis produce several photographs from Joseph J. Martinelli, Sr.'s overseas tour.] … This is the pontoons … from the planes, that they dropped them off and they came skidding right into where we were. … I don't know what happened to all the other pictures.
SI: Was that in the Philippines that you did that?
JM: Yes, that was in the Philippines.
SI: Were you able to interact with the natives in either New Guinea or the Philippines? It sounds like you had some interaction with the Filipinos.
HM: Yes, you did.
SI: Did you meet, talk and work with them?
HM: You always talked about the natives that used to come over, … the natives, the people that lived there.
JM: Oh, yes. Well, there's one guy there, his daughter or his wife there came over to me and said her husband there, his foot there was that big, like that, and I said, "How did he get that?" … He had a fishing pond and was getting the fish out of the pond there. Something snapped on his foot and it swelled up and he had, like, a disease. So, I've got some stuff that the Army gives us, medical [stuff], … some kind of powder, and put it on his foot. In a couple of days, it was gone. It was amazing. … They wanted to give us fish and everything. They killed a buffalo and they wanted us to eat that. [laughter] I said I didn't want it.
SI: Unless we have already discussed them, what are some of the things that stand out the most about your time in the field?
JM: Well, being with my friends, Doc and Hank, and I missed Tony there, because he was a good friend, too.
SI: Was there anybody else who had shellshock or similar problems?
JM: Oh, yes, a bunch of guys, yes. We had a lot of guys there, but they never wanted to give up, though.
HM: What you always said was that you never could sleep much, because you're always so tense and you wake up constantly.
SI: You mentioned earlier that you would sleep back-to-back under a palm tree with your rifles. Did you ever have to fire your weapon?
JM: Oh, yes. A lot of times, we had to fire them there, because you're cutting into the jungle there. You hear noises there; you don't know if somebody's coming out, … so, you start shooting there.
SI: Were you ever under direct attack from Japanese infantrymen?
JM: Oh, yes. … Americans, they used to give the women there food, with their kids and everything. … Down the line a bit there, the big line that they had for the people there, all of a sudden there, a lot of these people there, they took out guns, rifles, and they started shooting at the Americans there. … They pulled off the dresses there and they had the guns on them, and then, … the Americans opened up fire and they killed … a whole bunch of them there. Good thing I was on the other side; me and Doc was on the other side, but they caught hell, though.
SI: Did you have to look out for booby traps, people trying to sneak in and things like that?
JM: Yes. Well, I never went in for that stuff there. We had a Japanese sword or (an Italian gun there?). They were in the swamp. … They had a guy in the Navy there; … I got [to be] good friends with him there … on the ship. … He wanted the [Japanese] rifle and a helmet. I says, "Well, go out there in the jungle and get it." He says, "Oh, I'm not allowed to leave the ship." I says, "Okay." So, I went out, I … brought him back a rifle and a helmet. Oh, he couldn't thank me enough. At suppertime, they had supper and he came over to me and he says, "Joe, here, this is for you." He gave me some ice cream. I said, "How the hell did you get ice cream?" … They make it on the ship there, yes, but he became good friends there, too. … The same ship there, we took two times there, [for] invasions. … [They] hardly ever do that, you know, take the same ship.
SI: It was an LST.
JM: LST, yes. Then, he says to me, (Herbert?), that's his name, … "Come here, Joe." He says, "Look up there, … where the Captain is." I see him. I said, "So what?" He had a Japanese, what do you call it, what they fly in? They shot it down.
SI: A Zero.
JM: A Zero. They shot it down, says, "See that? Now, we're veterans." [laughter]
JM2: Were you going in before the infantrymen or after they were already there?
JM: … No, we had to get in there first and set up communications and everything. … Then, the infantrymen, they used to come and guard us. … Once they passed us there, they cleared up that section there, then, we'd go up further.
SI: Were you ever under fire when you landed on any of these islands?
JM: Oh, yes. Going into Lingayen Gulf there, we were fired upon. That was January?
JM: It [the anniversary] was the other day there. It was in the paper.
JM2: Lingayen Gulf, January 2nd.
JM: Yes, they fired on us, and so many times.
SI: You were part of the main invasion fleet at Lingayen.
JM: Yes, Luzon, yes.
SI: What was that like? That was a massive invasion. Can you describe the scene?
JM: Well, at Morotai, we went into Morotai, too. That was a big invasion. That was in September and we went into that. Then, from there, the group that was with us, they went to Leyte, and then, we overshadowed them there and we went to Manila, … and then, from there, that was the last thing there.
SI: During these invasions, were you given a rifle and put ashore or did they have the LSTs beach and have you all get off at once?
JM: The LST, … they had the tanks on there, too. …
SI: How did you go in, basically? How would you get from the ship to the shore?
JM: How? Well, they opened up the doors. The ship there would come right up on land and open up the big doors that they had, and then, you scram out.
JM2: You had a rifle with you, didn't you? …
JM: Oh, yes, a carbine. … I had a carbine. Well, when I used to go on the planes, they used to give me a .45, because a carbine, you couldn't use on the plane. In case you got into trouble there, you can always shoot the radar, the radio set and everything on there, … the bomb [sight]. … Then, when you come back there, you had to turn in your .45 and pick your rifle up again, my carbine.
JM2: … Where did you get your marksmanship award? Was that on the carbine?
JM: It was on the carbine. I got the medal. …
SI: When would you fly in the planes?
JM: What was I doing there? radio.
SI: Were you just traveling from one point to another or were you actually flying missions?
JM: Yes, bombing.
SI: You were flying missions.
JM: Yes, bombing the islands there, like Iwo Jima. We used to go up there and bomb, put down all the bombs there on Iwo Jima. [I thought], "What the hell are they doing with this, you know, place there? It's all rock," but we knew why and bombed the hell out of it. I was there. It's a good thing we didn't have to invade Japan.
SI: How often would you fly these bombing missions?
JM: How far?
SI: How often?
JM: Sometimes, I'll go up and take over or my friends would go up. We'd take chances, maybe once a week, once, twice a week, whatever it was. … Like, I [would] tell my friend, Doc, "Doc, you want to go up today? I want to stay on the ground today." He says, "Okay."
SI: Do you remember which type of planes they were?
JM: B-24s. Yes, that would be B-24s.
SI: Were you along for the ride or were you operating the radio?
JM: No, I was operating the radio or the portable radar.
SI: Were you flying with a regular crew?
JM: Yes, a regular crew, about eight guys, nine guys.
SI: Was it the same crew each time or was it a different crew each time?
JM: … No, the same crew.
SI: Do you remember any of those guys?
SI: How many missions did you fly, a couple dozen? Was it more than a few?
JM: … Yes, more than a few, yes. … [Editor's Note: The Martinellis produce more photographs.] That was in Drew Field.
JM2: This is in New Guinea.
JM: Yes, that's in Drew Field.
Joseph J. Martinelli, III: This was when?
JM: That was when I was eighteen years [old], just turned eighteen. … That was my carbine, throughout the whole war, and I tried to sneak it home. …
JM2: You brought it home with you? You did get it back.
JM: I was on the hospital train coming back. So, I took the carbine apart and I put it in my duffle bag. … We were supposed to sign out for it, but, when the guy came to … sign me out, somebody called him and I just took off. [laughter] So, I had Doc there hold it for me, the bag there, the duffle bag.
-------------------------------------END OF TAPE ONE, SIDE TWO--------------------------------------
SI: This continues an interview with Joseph J. Martinelli, Sr., on January 16, 2006, in Brick, New Jersey, with Shaun Illingworth. We were just talking about how you brought your carbine home. I am not sure if that last part got on the tape. What happened after Doc saw you?
JM: With the rifle, carbine? Oh, then, I took it from him and he had to go to a different place there, because he was going up to Wisconsin. I was going to Fort Dix. So, I took the rifle home, the carbine, … with me and, when we were going to get married, my wife came over at that time and helped me pack and she said, "What's in that?" I said, "Nothing." So, she'd seen the barrel [and] she said, "You're not coming into my house there with that." [laughter] I had about fifteen hundred, no, five hundred rounds of ammunition open, [in] cases like this. … I went down to the docks and I threw all of them overboard. That was a damn good carbine. [laughter]
SI: You mentioned that there was a lot of souvenir hunting going on in the islands.
JM: Oh, yes. I didn't go for none of that.
SI: What kind of souvenirs would people take, samurai swords and weapons?
JM: Mostly rifles or helmets or stuff like that, but I never went for none of that. Usually, when we made an invasion there, they used to give us about three cases of cigarettes and a couple of cans of beer, a cigar, but I used to give cases of cigarettes away and I used to take a can of beer from [them]. [I thought], "I ain't going to carry no cigarettes there instead of ammunition." So, then, you see the guys there taking it and throwing them away, because they didn't have enough room on their backs there for the ammunition.
HM: What about the K rations? … I know you sent me a package with K rations.
JM: … The guy that was in charge of our outfit there, this was a captain, I knew him. He only lived a couple of blocks away from where I used to live and he knew me and he used to just sign [off on] everything there. He used to send it right off. He never looked inside the packages or anything.
SI: Is that what you ate most of the time in the field, K rations and C rations?
JM: Yes, K rations, C rations and … I don't remember anything else [that] they used to feed us.
SI: Were you ever able to eat hot meals? Did they ever bring a chow wagon up?
JM: Well, sometimes in New Guinea there, they would come in, the planes, … with eggs and the guy used to cook them. "How many eggs you want? You want a dozen eggs?" and they used to cook up a dozen, whatever you wanted, or milk. A friend of mine there, George (Walton?), … he used to guard General [Douglas] MacArthur, a bodyguard. He was a bodyguard and we used to go on our B-24s to go to Australia. [They were] supposed to get milk, but the guys were loading up whiskey and mostly beer and, when they came back, this guy George Walton there, he was minding the planes and everything. He said, "What you got on the plane?" They said, "Nothing, milk." He says, "Okay, let me see." They showed him milk and that was it. After that, they took everything off of the plane and they gave [it] out to whoever wanted the beer. He's still living today, George Walton. He was a good friend of mine, too, lives over here in Brick.
SI: Did you ever know of anybody making their own alcohol in the Pacific?
JM: No, not made their own alcohol, but they used to get it from … the natives there. … One time there, what was he, a deacon or some[one] from a different country? … Well, anyway, he grabbed one of the guys and he says, "Are you guys there drinking that stuff that you're getting from the natives?" He says, "If you are, … I want to show you something." He called out to somebody there, one of the natives there. He came over. He said, "Open your mouth," and he opened the mouth there. He said, "Look at his teeth." … It was all red. His whole mouth inside was red. He says, "You want to go home to your wife or your girlfriend like that?" He said, "You'd better stop drinking that stuff," and that's what they did.
SI: When you were out in the field, would you sleep in a tent or in a foxhole?
JM: No, foxhole. In a tent there, you have to have a buddy with you. You've got half a tent and the other guy's got the other half, but we used to put them up only when it rained. [With a] foxhole there, you had to make sure you know how to make a foxhole, first of all, and how to make sure that you got, like, the water going out. …
SI: What was the weather like?
JM: The weather?
SI: Yes. Was there a lot of rain?
JM: Oh, yes. We had typhoons a couple of times and rain like [anything]. When it was a rainy month, it used to rain like anything all the time, rain, rain, rain, but, when the weather didn't rain, we used to go swimming.
SI: How did the weather impact your job? Did it affect the equipment?
JM: Yes. You had to make sure it didn't get wet. If it got wet, it could shortcircuit. A friend of mine, … we had a rainy day there and this guy there, he relieved one of my friends there and he became the radio operator. … It stopped raining, so, we all went to the radio shack there, where the guy was, and we seen him. He was in half water, up to his ankles, and he's giving out codes and he's falling over all the time. We picked him up there. We shut off the power. His hair, … black hair he had; by the time we got to him, his hair was all white and he had a heart attack and [we] had to take him out of there. He should have shut the set off. This way, it wouldn't have bothered him. …
SI: Were you ever trained in how to fix the set?
JM: Yes. Just the main things, that's all, but, if it broke down, we'd just blow it up. If it was too much bother to fix them, they'd blow it up and get another set.
SI: Really? How often did that happen?
JM: Maybe once in a while there, not too often, though.
SI: You were instructed to destroy the machine if you were about to be overrun, correct? You were given a gun and told to shoot the set.
JM: Yes. Well, they had, what? detonators in there. … I'd just press a button, use the time clock, [which] used to go around and blow it up; make sure you get out of the way. [We] used to blow it up.
SI: Were you ever in a situation where you thought you might have to do that?
JM: Oh, yes, yes. They [the infantry] had to come in and get us out of there, and then, everything was cleared. Then, we went back to the setting up.
SI: Where was that?
JM: That was in Biak.
SI: When you started flying missions in the B-24s, were you flying from the Philippines or some other place?
JM: All over. That was from Finchhaven all the way up [that] we used to fly. Like I say, maybe once or twice a week there, I would go up, but, then, I used to stay down and take care of the set downstairs, while my friends there would take over the plane there. Did you get that B-24? You know where that B-24 is? [Editor's Note: Mr. Martinelli is referring to a model.] It's in the closet, a B-24.
HM: A picture?
JM: No, the plane itself. [laughter] My friend there made me a B-24. …
SI: What do you remember about those missions? Were there any instances when you came under attack?
JM: Yes. Well, [the] first time I went up there, I seen all these black clouds there underneath us. I said, "What the heck is that?" So, the pilot says, "Put your parachute on." He says, "You know what that black stuff is? They're shooting at us." I said, "Well, let's get out of here." [laughter]
SI: What were your duties as a radio operator on the plane?
JM: Well, we used to signal back and forth there, you know, where we're going and how long it's going to take and how much fuel you've got left and stuff like that. You had to be careful [that] you didn't overrun your fuel tank. Otherwise, nobody's going to come and save you, because it's mostly all water there, all water and jungles, and don't get caught going down in Borneo, because, if you did, forget it. Borneo used to be all them cannibals in there.
SI: How often would you be attacked by antiaircraft?
JM: Oh, every day there, every day.
SI: Did you ever see any enemy fighters?
JM: Yes. We were putting up one of our antennas, … me and Doc there, and then, all of a sudden, we see the Jap plane and the American [plane], a P-51 there. They were shooting at each other and I see the Jap plane there going one way and there's smoke coming out from his tail. … The other plane there was a Navy plane and he went down, parachuted down, but the submarine there came up out of the water and they picked him up. I don't know what happened to the Japanese. He must have went down, too.
SI: You were on the ground, though.
SI: When you were in the B-24, were there ever any fighter attacks on the B-24?
JM: Oh, yes, a lot of them. Well, you had three or four guys there manning the guns on the B-24 and they used to try to take care of us.
SI: Were you flying in large formations of B-24s?
JM: Yes, well, … maybe about six or seven planes in a convoy-like [formation], you know.
SI: Did you have your own fighter escort?
JM: Yes. Well, the B-24s go out so far, and then, the P-51s take them. That's when they got the P-51s there [and] put belly tanks on [them], because they'd go further out.
SI: Did you prefer being on the ground, working on those sets, or being on the B-24?
JM: Oh, I don't know. [In a] B-24, you're safe at a certain distance, but, when you're on the ground, you're not certain, because, if you didn't dig that hole … deep enough, then, forget it.
SI: Did you undergo any special training to serve on the B-24s or did they just put you on there?
JM: No. … That's a different crew that does that, different people that do that.
SI: Your job in the air was not that different from what you were doing on the ground, correct?
SI: Did your unit suffer a lot of casualties? Was there a high turnover rate?
JM: There was a lot of turnover there, but they don't let you know. They don't let you know. They're [the officers are] just saying that they were transferred to a different outfit. … Nobody knows what happened to a lot of guys. They don't know.
SI: It sounds as though you interacted with Navy and Air Force guys and regular infantrymen. Was there any rivalry between them?
JM: No. …
SI: Wow. [Editor's Note: The Martinellis produce a model B-24.]
JM: Yes, my friend made me that.
SI: We are looking at a wooden model of a B-24.
JM: … Our outfit used to be [called] "the Jolly Rogers." …
SI: Do you remember the numbers of the squadron?
JM: Yes, that was the Jolly Roger there, [painted on the tail of the B-24]. My friend, Mike, made this.
SI: Did you ever have any close calls in the B-24?
JM: Not with the B-24, but with a C-47. That's a cargo plane. … Back in Finchhaven there, where we first started at, MacArthur wanted … so many guys there to come back to Australia and teach the new recruits that are coming in about the radars. So, they picked me and my other friend. So, we get back to Finchhaven, go on back in a C-54 [C-47] and it has two engines and one engine there either conked out or was shot out. … We were running along and the pilot said, "Guys, you'd better hang on and throw out everything out of this plane that you don't need." So, they started throwing out everything and he kept that plane going like this, but he got us back into Finchhaven. We landed, … them guys are professionals, and we went to … the Captain, or colonel, whatever it was there, [who] told us, … "Go to sleep there and wake up in the morning and let me know if you really want to go to Australia and pick up the radar guys there to work on the radar." So, we all went to bed and we were talking, "I don't want to go back to Australia. Our outfit is moving up." So, my other friend says, "Yes, we're not going to go back, neither." So, we went in the next morning, [saw] the Colonel there, or captain. … We told him. He says, "Okay, boys, if you don't want to go." He picked up the phone and he … called up the airfield and he told them, he says, "Hold that B-24 that's going up," [that] there'd be a crew coming out there in a jeep. So, there were about six of us and we went back to the jeep, to the plane, and they took us back to … Finchhaven. We went back and the guys there seen us there, my friend, the other friend there, [and said], "Ah, we knew you're going to come back. We knew it." They were going to make us second "louies," [second lieutenants], but we didn't want it. …
SI: Had you ever been in an airplane before you went into the service?
JM: Had I? no.
SI: Did you have any apprehensions about flying?
JM: No, no. We went to Florida a couple of times, [by] plane, went to Las Vegas with the plane, California, Hawaii, a lot of them.
JM2: … All with the service?
JM: No, this is when we came home. …
SI: The first time you flew was in the service.
SI: The first time you flew, did you have any fears about flying?
JM: No, never. …
SI: Do you remember where you were when the war ended, when you got the news?
JM: Where? We were ready to go to Manila there, to catch a plane. It was supposed to come in. They were on the shore, but we knew it was going to happen, because, when we were in our boat, … all the planes were coming in to land and we'd seen a lot of these B-24s and … [B]-25s. They all had yellow spots on them. They were flying so low that we seen the spots. We said, "Uh-oh, something there must have happened, real big." Then, we found out that the Japs were ready to use gas. So, the planes that flew in with that spot on them, they had to dump them in the ocean. Everybody bailed out of the plane and the planes … had to be dumped in the ocean, because they couldn't allow them planes with all that gas on them to land, because it could contaminate everything else. So, they dumped them in the ocean. … Well, anyway, we knew beforehand that it was going to end.
SI: Did you hear about the atomic bombs being dropped?
JM: That was it. That's when we knew about it, yes. We knew about it then.
SI: Was there a celebration when the Japanese surrendered?
HM: … Did you get drunk? [laughter]
JM: Get drunk, no. We went to Manila a couple of days later and they were celebrating like crazy over there.
SI: What was Manila like then? It must have been pretty devastated.
JM: Oh, it was all shot up, everything, yes, but the Filipinos took care of that. They were still dancing around. We went into a night club and we had about four of us, five of us. So, we went into the night club and they were charging the people to go into the night club, the Filipinos. So, I was the first one in. The guy says, "Where's your ticket?" I said, "The guy in the back [has it]," [laughter] and it went down the line and the guy came running after us there. "The guy in the back there [has] got it." Well, we had a good time there.
SI: You mentioned that you had a captain above you. Were there other officers in your unit that you reported to? What were their roles?
JM: Well, our boat there was stolen one time and we found out from the Filipinos who took it. … The outfit that was right next to us there, they were camped there, they took it. We found out where they were. So, we went down to the field and [there was] a big load of soldiers there. I've never seen so many soldiers in my life. They were all gathered around there, [listening] to this guy talking. So, we went up there and he says to the MPs, "Who's that talking back there? Go get them guys and bring them up here." So, the MP there … brought us up to this guy talking. So, we looked at him, he looked at us and he says, "Smokey, what the hell [are] you guys doing here?" He said, "You should have been home by now." He was a general; he was in our outfit [earlier]. He took care of us there when he first started. He came from Texas A&M, twenty-two-years-old. His name was Captain (Deuce?), we called him at that time. … I said, "Oh, Captain Deuce," and then, looked at his shoulder. "Major Deuce, no, General Deuce, oh, my god," [laughter] and he said, "What brings you here?" So, we told him the story. … I says, "Somebody there took our boat, but we want it back." So, he says, "Okay." So, he says on the loudspeaker, "Whoever took that boat, you'd better bring it back to where you got it from." So, sure enough there, we see some guys running. They took the truck out and they … went back to where we were, Lingayen Gulf. So, we shook hands, the General and us, and he says, "You guys, I don't want to see you guys anymore. You'd better get back home." They were going to Okinawa. That's where they had the big push, on Okinawa.
SI: What was your opinion of your officers?
JM: Good. Yes, I never had any problems with them, never. They were all good.
SI: Did you work with them closely?
JM: Yes. Like I told you, nobody wore any bars, no stripes, nothing. You had to know the person you're talking to by face. So, we knew everybody. So, you were not saying, "Hey, I'm going to kill that guy there, and then, shoot this guy;" there was none of that. Everybody knew each other, [we were all] friendly.
SI: After the war was over, you stayed in occupation duty for a while.
JM: No, we came home. I had to get home, so [that] she [Mrs. Martinelli] wouldn't be mad at me. [laughter] She says, "What would you do if you didn't come home?" I said, "I would have stayed in the Philippines." … [laughter]
SI: Did you want to get home as soon as possible?
JM: Yes, … soon after that. I wanted to see my brothers there and I wanted to see her.
SI: Did they have the point system at that time?
JM: Yes, they had the point system. The reason why [I went home so soon was], I had all the qualifications there, I mean, how many Battle Stars I got and everything there, but the guys that were married and had children, they came first, which I don't blame them [for]. …
SI: Approximately how long were you overseas?
JM: About two years.
SI: On your trip home, where were you picked up from? What were you doing between the end of the war and when you came home?
JM: Well, we landed in Frisco, yes, with the boat. I think it was Frisco, and then, I had to take a hospital train to Fort Dix. That's where, … at Fort Dix, I got discharged from.
SI: Were you put into the hospital system in Frisco or overseas?
JM: No, because I had that … dengue fever and the other … jungle rot there, that they had to keep watch on me.
SI: When did that start, in the Philippines?
SI: What did you think of the medical care you received?
JM: What did I think about it? Over here, I get treated good. [At] the VA clinic, I get treated good. I get my medicine and everything when I need it.
SI: Did the overseas field hospitals treat you well, also?
JM: Yes. … In Manila, they had the big hospital there, but, when they cleared it out, the Japanese there, that's when … the Americans took over that hospital. I used to go to a field hospital. [In] the field hospital, there were only a couple of cots in there, in a big tent. That's all there is.
SI: After you landed in San Francisco, how soon were you able to get across the country and out of the Army?
JM: Oh, they had to give us a big dinner, all the officers that were there. They gave us a big steak dinner, with ice cream and everything. So, you had to eat it all. You don't throw any away. [laughter] … Then, the next day, they took my clothes back again, all my clothes, because it all had to be fumigated … from the jungles there, and then, I took the train there to come into Fort Dix and I think I was still the youngest guy coming home, too; the youngest guy going in and the youngest guy coming home from our outfit.
AM: How long was the train ride coming home?
JM: Oh, man, I'm telling you, it seems like a couple of days. [laughter]
HM: It was a couple of days with the train. It took five days.
SI: Were you discharged from Fort Dix shortly thereafter?
JM: That's it.
SI: A couple of days?
JM: I'm pretty sure; it could have been four days.
SI: What did you do once you were discharged? What was your first move?
JM: Well, they get you in the office there and they ask you a lot of questions and everything there, … "Any discrimination against anybody?" whatever it was. I says, "No." … Well, they had all the information there about me, and then, they signed the paper and he says [to me], "You'll get two dollars and something there, for traveling time to go from Fort Dix to Grand Central." I think two dollars and forty cents. I said, "What am I going to do?" He said, "Take the train and go home. You've got to take the BMT [Brooklyn Manhattan Transit], too." [laughter] … When I came home, it was at nighttime and I walking down the block with a duffle bag and all the people on the street there [were yelling], "Joey's home, Joey's home," and somebody ran up to my mother there and all my brothers were there and they all ran [down], hugging me and everything and yelling, "Joey's home, Joey's home."
HM: … You never told me that. … You ran out and bought civilian clothes right away, I'll bet.
JM: They didn't have a suit that fit me. [laughter] All my clothes there, my mother threw out. They were all small.
SI: Did you jump right back into working or did you take some time off?
JM: Oh, I took the time off. … I went to North Sailmaker, just to see the bosses there, and they were all glad to see me. … They said, "You know, Joe, we can't give your job back, because we're closing up. We ain't got no more contract with the Navy." I said, "I didn't come here for the job," but across the way from there, from that place there, I knew the bosses in this big foundry. I'd known them for years. So, they asked me [if] I'm looking for a job. I said, "Yes, later on." So, then, I went to work for them. Thirty-eight years, I worked for them. … They're a very good outfit there, worked for the big foundry.
SI: Which foundry was it?
JM: Foundry, yes. …
HM: … Prospect Smelting.
JM: Prospect Smelting. …
SI: What did you do with Prospect Smelting?
JM: Well, I became a foreman. I'd seen the other guys there. Well, my job, at the beginning, was tough, but the other guy that was supposed to be doing something straight, … he mixed up a lot of the stuff, the metal, in the pot there, … a two thousand-pound pot, that he ruined it. … They found out he was drunk. So, I took over and I became foreman for thirty-eight years there. I made up the lead, non-ferrous metals there, aluminum, made big (things?) out of them, sent them to the plumbing supply houses and all of that. … We started shipping stuff all over Europe, Japan, Switzerland, all over. A lot of times there, I had to ship a lot of stuff over and it had to be on a deadline, too, right, babe?
SI: I read a book the other day about making steel. It sounds like it is very dangerous work.
JM: … Well, I enjoyed the work. They used to tell me all the time, "You're working so hard," and I said, "I enjoy it. If I didn't enjoy it, I would've quit." … They used to make sinkers, the sinkers for fishing, all right. All the fishing places there, they used to [buy from Prospect Smelting]. The company used to do that; oh, a lot of stuff there.
SI: Did you have any trouble readjusting to civilian life?
SI: Did you ever make use of the GI Bill benefits?
JM: I never went for that, never went for the GI benefits.
SI: The GI mortgage?
JM: No, no, I never went for that. My brother did. He took everything. [laughter]
SI: When you were leaving Fort Dix, did they try to talk you into joining the Reserves?
JM: Yes. They told me, "Do you want to join up in the Reserves? I said, "No. I'm finished." … They wanted me to teach, teach the radar, but, at that time, radar was getting [well-known]. Everybody knew about radar.
SI: When the Korean War came along, did you have any fears that you might be recalled?
JM: … I had to get a physical. I told them, I said, "What are you taking me for? … I just came out of the service and I've got a baby as well." So, he said, "You've got to sign up." So, I signed up anyway and they had me down as 1-F, 1-A, something like that. I've still got the card there from the [draft board]. They interviewed me and everything. They said, "Okay, you don't have to come here anymore." …
SI: What rank were you discharged at?
JM: First, I was a PFC [private, first class], and then, I was a corporal. Then, when I was telling the guy there [at the discharge center], he said, "I just wrote it down." I said, "What are you telling me?" He said, … "I'll have to make another sheet up." I says, "Forget it." So, he wrote it up and I took it home.
SI: Did you join the American Legion and the VFW [Veterans of Foreign Wars] as soon as you came back or later?
JM: Later on there. I became [a member of the] American Legion, [the] VFW.
HM: … It was years after, though. …
JM2: After you retired. …
JM: … The DAV, Disabled [American] Veterans; I belonged with that.
AM: … [In the] late '60s, they moved to Staten Island, so, it was beyond that. It was some time in 1968 or after.
HM: … Because a friend came up one day, a neighbor, and [said], "Joe, I see you've been in the service," and he kept telling him, you know, "You should join. You should join. Please, join it," and talked him into it, but he never went to a meeting or anything. … When we got down here, he got very involved. He was past [post] commander.
JM: Then, I belonged to everything. I became, first, guard.
HM: Yes, you were a guard. …
JM: Then, I went to a junior vice-[commander], senior vice-[commander], commander, and I made over one hundred-plus command [increase] of membership. … They gave me everything they wanted, jackets, coats, hats. Oh, whatever they wanted, they gave me.
AM: … Commander for how many years?
HM: Just one year.
AM: One term?
JM: Yes, that's all I wanted.
HM: He didn't want it any more.
JM: I didn't want too much responsibility, too much money involved, … especially with our own building there and how to put [it] out and save it.
JM2: This post, isn't it one of the largest in New Jersey?
JM: Ours is the second.
JM2: Second largest.
JM: The one that's the largest is down in Beverly.
AM: Are you still chaplain now?
JM: Yes, now, I'm still the chaplain, but I'm going to give it up. … [For] thirteen, fourteen years, I've been chaplain and the service officer there. …
SI: What do you do as a service officer?
JM: Service officer? Well, if somebody's … got a problem, they come over and they see if I can fix it up. Like, last week, I got a call from this guy there, he came out of Korea. He was in Korea and he wants to … find out what he could do. I said, "How long [ago]? What's wrong with you?" and he told me he fell off a truck in the Navy. He was in the Navy and hurt his back or something. Now, he wants to get compensated and I said, "How long ago was that?" He says, "Fifty-two years ago." I said, "Fifty-two years ago? I'll tell you what; you'd better get a lawyer on your case, because they ain't going to believe you [after] fifty-two years. You should have did that sooner." [laughter] I don't know. He's supposed to call me up again, but he never called me.
HM: … When a serviceman passes away, he does services for them.
JM: We do the service if someone dies or something. … That's the worst part of it. Every time you look at the body in that coffin, I always just say, "That could have been my brothers or me," although, when Danny did die, my brother died, they wouldn't make me do it. … Then, I belong to the Old Guard.
SI: What is that?
JM: [laughter] … Everybody asks me the same question. I'll tell you the truth; I say, "I don't even know myself." [laughter] … The Old Guard is, the king, in the olden days there, … when they went against the king, he had … these people there, they called them "the Old Guard," and they stood with him. Yes, they stood with him. … Then, it became another year with them.
SI: How soon after getting back did you get married?
JM: '47, 1947, yes. That's a long time. … [laughter]
SI: How many children do you have?
HM: He's got to think.
JM: [laughter] Got three children, and how many grandchildren?
JM: Eight. …
AM: How many great-grandchildren?
JM: Five. [laughter]
SI: Wow, a very big family. Congratulations. Is there anything else that you would like to add, anything that I may have skipped over?
JM: Probably, when I lay down at bed at nighttime, it comes back to me. …
SI: Yes, that is what I usually hear. Many of the veterans that I have interviewed say that they did not want to talk about the war for a long time after they got back.
HM: No, he didn't, not to me or anybody. You never talked about anything when you first came back.
SI: Why do you think that was? You just did not want to talk about it.
JM: Too many memories there, too many.
SI: Have you had any reunions with men that you served with?
JM: Yes, sometimes at night, when we first got married.
HM: No. … He asked you about reunions, like meeting people. The only reunion was [with] that Tony, that we got to see him when he came home from the service that one time, and then, he said, "Joe, you're not going to see me anymore." Evidently, he went back to the place that he was at or the hospital or he passed away; we don't know. … They just didn't want to see each other. … Well, what about, one time, that [guy], I can't think of his name, he came up to see us one time?
JM: Oh, that guy in Brooklyn.
HM: Connecticut or someplace?
HM: The one from Connecticut. … My sister moved to Connecticut, and he wrote to him and told him that we were going to be up there a certain weekend.
JM: We went to baptize Richard.
HM: Yes, right, Richard. … We had a baptismal [ceremony]. We were godparents and we went up there. So, we told him. Did he come to see us or did we go to his house?
JM: We went to his house. … He had a big farm.
HM: We never got to see the house, though. He came down this big, long field, I guess when he saw our car there. He came down and walked down and we just stood over there by the gate for about a half-hour, an hour, until … I said, "We've got to go." …
AM: But, you never had any organized reunions.
HM: No, no reunion, completely, no. … They came from so many different places.
JM: Although, my outfit there, they keep on sending me letters and everything.
HM: Right, but he never goes.
JM: No, they're too far, Arizona and Florida. We traveled all over.
SI: You folks have probably heard certain stories all your life. Is there anything that we skipped over?
AM: I don't think so, Dad. …
-------------------------------------END OF TAPE TWO, SIDE ONE--------------------------------------
AM: … I've known him for thirty-six years, since I was a teenager, and, you know, I've heard some stories over the years, but I heard some more today that I hadn't heard, that were very interesting.
SI: Is there anything else you can think of that you would like to put on the record? Do you have any reflections on how World War II made you who you are today?
JM: Well, let me see.
HM: He was very proud of what he did, right?
HM: You're very proud of what you did, because you joined the VFW and the DAV. … You always go to the big parades, Veteran's Day parade. He always marched in the Veteran's Day parade here in Brick.
JM: And the flag is flying every day. [laughter]
HM: Do you have anything else to say? He wants to know. …
JM: What else?
JM2: … We'll read the transcript.
SI: Yes, you can add more information later. I was just wondering if there is anything else you wanted to add, any vivid memories from the war that we did not talk about.
JM: Just that when I was down in Atlantic City, … I had to do KP. So, if you [could] see this hotel when it was up there, you've got about five, six thousand soldiers in there. They put my name down for KP and I says to everybody, "Anybody wants to do my KP?" So, some guy says, "Yes, I will. How much [are] you going to give me?" "Five dollars," [I said]. "I'll take it," [he said]. Yes, they took it, but he didn't know that you've got to get up at five o'clock in the morning [and], until ten o'clock at night, you've got to work in the KP. So, when I seen him, I says to him, "How did you make out?" He says, "No more, no more." [laughter] That was a big hotel.
SI: If there is nothing else that you can think of at this time, I would like to say thank you very much for your time.
JM: You're more than welcome.
SI: Thank you, everyone, for having me here. Again, if there is anything else that you think of, you can put it in the transcript or you can call me back. I would be happy to come back. I think we covered pretty much everything.
HM: I think so.
SI: Thank you very much.
--------------------------------------------END OF INTERVIEW--------------------------------------------
Reviewed by Tiffany Hsia 3/27/06
Reviewed by Shaun Illingworth 5/19/06
Reviewed by Joseph J. Martinelli, Sr. 7/22/06