Kurt Piehler: This is an interview with William H. Bauer on October 7, 1994 with Kurt Piehler and ...
Linda Lasko: Linda Lasko ...
KP: ... at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. I guess I'd like to start off by asking a few questions about your parents. Your father was born in Germany?
William Bauer: No. My father was not born in Germany. He was born in New York City. My mother was born in Switzerland. Maybe that's how you got that.
WB: ... My father was born in ... New York City. His father, or grandfather, I believe, was born in Germany, ...
KP: So you have to go fairly far back?
WB: Back several generations on my father's side. My mother came over to the United States when she was about sixteen years old from Switzerland. So, if I have to have an ethnic classification, I guess it's Swiss more than the Germans.
KP: So you identified more growing up as being Swiss?
WB: Yes, pretty much. But the Swiss knew German.
KP: Your mother came from the Swiss speaking Canton?
WB: Well, she came from the Canton that spoke Swiss and German .... But there is a Swiss language, too. ... She was very fluent in all kinds of languages. In fact, when she came to the United States she thought she was learning English, and she learned Polish. Of course, she was working in the sweat shops. So she could speak that and Yiddish and a whole bunch of languages.
KP: So your mother was very ... intelligent?
WB: Well I think they both were intelligent, but mainly because I think the Swiss are very ... like the Dutch, used to being bi/tri-lingual so that everything comes naturally that way.
KP: How did your mother and father meet?
WB: I believe through the church. There was a Presbyterian church, and I think that's where they met.
KP: You were born in South River. How did your parents move from New York to New Jersey?
WB: My father moved with his parents to South River. ... My father's father was a carpenter and for some reason, I don't know why, he moved to the South River area. My mother's oldest brother, who lived incidentally to be one-hundred and one, was the first of the family to come over to install embroidery machinery in the United States. And then one by one the family came over. My mother was the youngest and she came over the last with her mother. Some of the embroidery machinery is still in existence and some of my relatives are still running the same embroidery shop in South River.
KP: Oh really?
WB: Yeah. So, that's how they got to South River.
KP: And that's how your father ...
WB: My father and mother met in South River.
KP: They met in South River.
KP: You grew up then in South River?
WB: I grew up in South River. Went through the school system. At that time South River was a working class community, primarily working in Dupont's and Hercules and places like that. One of the things that they worked very hard at, and did a very good job at, was giving a great education. And I got a magnificent ... pre-college education. In fact, when I came to Rutgers and took the first chemistry course, and there was another kid from South River, the instructor watched us, and we were doing things when everyone else was floundering around. He said, "Where did you come from?" ... He said, "You've done more than you're going to get in this freshman chemistry course"-- because a lot of the approach ... [in South River] was, it was a terminal kind of a degree for an education, the high school degree, and kids [were] going to work in the chemical plants. So the chemistry course there was much more advanced that it should have been because they were training kids to go into industry.
KP: The expectation in your high school was a large number would work for Hercules and Dupont?
WB: The expectation, to put it in a different way, was that very few would go to college. Very few.
KP: So you were exceptional in your high school to go.
WB: Yes, there were very few of us that went to college and mine was as much by accident as anything else. I really didn't have any thoughts of going to college. By an accident having to do a little bit with Rutgers and my association with Rutgers. ... I was a musician, and I played the accordion. I worked for the, what was then the alumni office, which was one person, and at Rutgers we were doing some things. Then there was something called the Graduate School of Banking here at Rutgers, and I'd played in what [was] then the top spot in the area, the Roger Smith Hotel, ... across from the State Theater. ... The bankers were there and this was 1937, '38. [The] bankers said, "Aren't you going to college?" And I said, "No." I didn't have any money. My father was a mail carrier. We were just coming out of the Depression and next thing you know I had enough money in tips ... plus some help from my friends at Rutgers who said, "Give it a shot." So I did. I got here in '38 and I never left!
KP: In many ways if you had not been playing the accordion and had this job you may never have ...
WB: ... I would not have. Would not have. I had been a politician in high school. I was the class president for all four years and things like that. It was fun, and I was able to get in. I have an interesting story in view of what we do now about admissions. This was a very last minute, like in the summer before September. I came up with my father to met Luther Martin, who was then amongst other things the man in charge of admissions. We sat down and talked for a while. And he said, "Well you seem like a nice fellow. We'll admit you into school." It was that casual.
KP: I've heard several other people who have told me a similar story.
WB: It was [an] entirely different institution in those days. I've watched it since I've been here. When my class arrived, the undergraduate enrollment had gotten up to seventeen hundred and the alumni and the faculty were all dismayed because we were supposed to be about the same level as Lafayette, Lehigh, Princeton, and that size which was around a thousand, eleven-hundred, twelve-hundred. Suddenly we are up to seventeen hundred. This was thought to be absolutely horrible. And now we have far more than that in just faculty members alone.
KP: Just going back to your community again and your family. How badly hit was your family by the Great Depression?
WB: Well, as a kid you know it was hard to know. Except my father had two jobs. He was a mail carrier and when he finished carrying mail ..., he came home had something to eat, and he worked the night in the drug store. In fact he ran a little drug store which was a satellite of the main drug store. ... My mother worked. We took in roomers. Rented rooms. So, life was, I wouldn't call it rough, but it was certainly far different than anything now.
KP: So he always had a job during the Depression.
WB: He had a job during the Depression because he had gotten into the post office and that continued.
KP: When did he work for Mack Trucks?
WB: ... He had a couple of heart attacks and one eventually killed him, but he sort of retired from the post office. He worked [at Mack Trucks] basically during World War II. Started maybe just as the war was starting and worked through World War II. And then died shortly after World War II.
KP: I think Judge Crane worked in the same Mack Truck plant, and he remembers when he started there it was a twelve hour shift and when the C.I.O. came in it was an eight hour shift.
WB: And there were some tough human things going on. My father being a Republican said it was a little tough that he had to contribute to the campaign of Franklin D. Roosevelt or else!
KP: So he was a Republican growing up?
WB: In our town, the saying was: Are you a Democrat or can you read and write? And so, because it was a Democrat town.
KP: You were one of the lone Republicans then?
WB: Oh no, we were not alone. There were a few. There were a few. There were a few.
KP: In most of the community, how many were first generation Americans?
WB: I'd say most of the community was first generation Americans, not all but a great majority of it.
KP: Most were recently arrived or were they children of recently arrived?
WB: They were children of recently arrived. That's pretty much the case. And South River ... originally had a large Swiss population. That's how the embroidery business was there. ... Singer Sewing Machine had a big factory there. There was a big strike in the early 1900s. I'm not sure what year. Somebody was killed in the strike. Singer picked up out of South River and went to Elizabeth I think it was. It left a big factory there which became a number of small manufactures, particularly in the dressmaking and this kind of thing. A lot of Polish people moved in when the Swiss people moved out. In fact, there was a parochial school, a grade school, in which Polish was the basic language and not English. Then they came to the high school and that presented some difficulties. So there was very much a ...
KP: Mixed community?
WB: ... mixed community. We had Poles and Russians who fought. We had Hungarians. We had maybe about three black families. You might be interested in knowing that we had two black students in my high school class. Both of whom were able to go to college and both became college professors.
WB: From a class that very few people went to high school.
KP: Were they ministers' sons?
WB: No. And how it happened I don't know. I didn't find out till after World War II because ... basically I was away from town from '38 and we went right into World War II and so that was another four years. After World War II, we started catching up. The two of them, a boy and a girl, both went and became college professors.
KP: How interesting.
WB: Very unusual for that time period.
KP: And then for such a small community too.
WB: We graduated a hundred and some.
KP: You said the Russians and the Poles fought.
WB: They always did because that's gone on for centuries.
KP: They would fight over ...
WB: The only time they really got together ...-- we were a very sports oriented town, particularly in football. In those days they turned out some great football players. We had a great ... teacher/coach. He taught algebra. Many of these kids might have taken manual training or something. He insisted, if he thought they had the brains to do it, that they would take college preparatory courses. He was able to get many of them scholarships to fine universities. One of them became the head of the metallurgy department at MIT. So, he turned out good people, excellent football players, but they were prepared to go to college and many of them did. That was the way lots of the kids went. Very few families could afford to send anybody to college. They jock-strapped into school.
KP: I'll let Linda ask some questions about your Rutgers years, or if there's anything else you want to ask first.
LL: I would like ask you a little bit about your Rutgers years. What is your most vivid memory of your years as an undergraduate here at Rutgers?
WB: ... Well, I don't know most, but I'll give you a couple of them. One was the absolute, unbelievable excitement throughout the entire community with the opening of the new stadium ... which was Rutgers Stadium One, ... in my freshman year. And the victory over Princeton because the whole town ... got all very excited about that.
LL: And this was when you were a freshman?
WB: That was 1938, ... my freshman year. That was very exciting. It was also our hundred and something or other anniversary. We had a whole series of seminars and speakers including ... Wendell Willkie who came with this concept of one world ... [and] was a very impressive speaker. I also remember Paul Robeson coming back for a concert. How he was idolized. How he alienated some of the community in the concert in his encores. He sang the Communist International and that didn't go over very well. And I guess that's about as memorable as things get. Oh well, actually, the unbelievable, uncertainty and excitement because in our senior year Pearl Harbor came about. ... Perhaps we'll get into that later on as to how we all got into school and the attitudes toward the undergraduates and everything.
KP: President Clothier was a very conservative Republican. What was his reaction to Paul Robeson?
WB: I was an undergraduate. I hadn't the slightest idea of who the president was. I think not just President Clothier and not just Rutgers, I think before World War II, I know before World War II, we were very much conservative/isolationist oriented. Particularly, those of us who ... were first generation people because all of our parents ... [were] from Europe. Most of our parents knew of the squabbles they've had over there for centuries. Most of our parents didn't want anything to do with those people over there because they had been doing it for centuries, and they were trouble. So I think everybody was more or less conservative/isolationist at the time. In fact, there are those who say that a couple of things were allowed to happen to create the interest or the fervor of the public into going into World War II. ... Whether those things are true or not, I don't know. There is no question about it that. We, the general population, had absolutely no interest in the rest of the world, particularly in getting into any kind of a squabble over in Europe.
KP: Most students did not favor intervention in say '38, '39, and '40?
WB: Quite frankly we never thought about it. The word intervention didn't exist because we weren't intervening. ... You have to remember that communication was quite different then. You didn't have television. Newspapers had very little regard to pictures and what have you. Our little group in ceramic engineering became aware of World War II because one of our classmates, Charlie Swan, who was from Canada, disappeared, I think, in our junior year. He went to serve, and he died in the Canadian Navy. He may not have been the first, but was certainly one of the first of Rutgers community to die in World War II. So, I don't think that we had opinions about it. If there were opinions, they would have been negative, but there were no discussions about it like we have now about every issue. It was an entirely different undergraduate attitude in those days. It was much more tending to the business of education. Most of us were oriented. This was a shot, getting a college degree, that our parents didn't have. This was a shot at going out and making something out of ourselves. So, we were oriented towards our scholastic work. Don't misunderstand me. There was a lot of fun and everything else, but you weren't interested in other issues.
KP: You had a business life. You wanted to get through college and do well.
WB: We had that, but we also had a narrow environment or narrow universe. We weren't interested in what was going on out in other parts of the world. Really weren't.
KP: Did you ever join a fraternity?
WB: I pledged a fraternity, and never had enough money to join. [I] pledged Alpha Chi Rho and [was] never able to go through with it. Remember also, that I was in what was then one of the most demanding curricula. We would start in ceramics traditionally with maybe eighteen or so students. My class started with eighteen, and I think we graduated eight or nine. The class of 1937, when they finished their junior year, there was only one survivor. They sent him out on a job, and he came back and graduated in '38. He eventually became a professor and retired from ceramics at Rutgers. He couldn't go his senior year. He was the only survivor.
KP: It was very demanding?
WB: Very busy. ... I was working several nights a week playing the accordion at various kinds of things all over. I didn't have the typical extra curricula activity as many of my classmates did.
KP: Where did you live?
WB: I lived at home. I was a commuter. There were many commuters in those days. I used to hitch hike.
KP: You used to hitch hike from here to South River?
WB: And back, yeah.
LL: Did you think that you missed out on the things that were going on at college?
WB: Certainly. Certainly. I missed out on many things at college. I regret it very much. I had been a singer. I had been in the All-State choir. I couldn't join the Glee club. Soup Walters was here then incidentally. I couldn't join the Glee club. I didn't have the money to buy a tuxedo. I missed out, and I probably didn't have the time for it either. Yes, I missed out on many things, and I regret it. When I came back as a graduate student, I jumped into things, and I enjoyed it. Of course, right after World War II, the students were my age. So it wasn't as if I was joining typical undergraduates. Students were my age, and I got involved in everything. I chaperoned the DU house for every party for two years. Every party they had. I enjoyed life. I enjoyed life much more as a graduate student than I did as a undergraduate. My story is not unique. There were many like myself who commuted, who hitch hiked. We ate our nickel sandwiches over in Charlie's grocery store he had there on Easton Avenue. Carl Bosenberg and some of the others will tell you somewhat the same story.
KP: Did you ever go to the Corner Tavern?
WB: Yes. As an undergraduate not so much. As a graduate student, yes. I have a mug that's hanging up there. A class of '41 mug even though I was class of '42. They were a dull class and needed some life so they put a couple of us in there. That's for your benefit Vince Kramer. The Corner Tavern was then, as it was for many, many years, ... the main place. And now there are others. It and Andy's, which is no longer in existence, was down sort of at the bottom of the bridge going into Highland Park. Andy's Tavern was a famous one because it had been there during the Revolutionary War. It's the famous one where Adams and Franklin got into a big debate about whether windows should be open at night or closed at night. That was also a hangout.
KP: How did you come to be a ceramics major?
WB: At that time, there was a fellow by the name of Stan March at Rutgers University who would go around to high schools and give a presentation about Rutgers. In his presentation, the ceramics department was featured. An unbelievable amount of time was given to the ceramics department. I guess because it was so unique. None of the other schools that Rutgers was competing with had ceramics. So, that's my first recollection of it. Secondly, ... there were some ceramic people in South River from brick plants and some other things in the vicinity. So I talked with them. ... I probably would have gone into chemistry or engineering or ceramics, but it seemed like it was different. It seemed like it would be something that would make you a little extraordinary or a little unique. When I found out a little more about it, I thought I liked it so I went into it.
LL: Were you involved in any research as an undergraduate in the ceramics department?
WB: In those days, we did a little bit. ... They had something called the NYA, the Nation Youth Administration, and they paid you thirty-five cents an hour. You did such things as mop floors and wash out dishes and things. Then after a year, one of the professors got me under his wing and had me doing, actually sitting, and taking data down off of some equipment he had. In the undergraduate courses, they did give us research projects to do. More for training than actually for the research. We weren't like we are now, a tremendous research organization. There wasn't much ... in research, although the department was started by the ceramics industry. The building, which is now the School of Social Work, I think, ... was furnished by monies given to start that building. But the school had started even before that and had been located off College Avenue here. ... We had research, but the professors did it. The students just helped.
KP: You mentioned that Professor [Laurence E.] Kane was your favorite professor. What made him stick out in your memory?
WB: Well, a couple things. Larry Kane was an Englishman. He did not have a college degree. Try that one on at Rutgers University now! He didn't have a college degree, but he was a highly trained ceramic technologist in England. He was a very unconventional individual, supposedly. He enjoyed his libations. In fact, unfortunately, he died an alcoholic. ... The main thing, he identified with the undergraduates. The other professors were rather severe and unapproachable. You got the impression that they were from the Victorian Era, and Kane was from your era. So, I think that's the main reason. Plus, he was an excellent teacher .... You learned. You were fundamentally grounded in ceramic technology with Larry Kane.
LL: Would you say that he became a mentor for you because you yourself eventually became a professor?
WB: God, I hope not! No. I wouldn't say he became a mentor. I did learn from him about identifying with the undergraduates. I think I did that. I know I did because I have many friends who were undergraduates who still contact me. I learned from him that the theory you teach people in college is probably not as useful for those who don't go out into research and go out to work in industry, the typical bachelors, than the practical things that you learn. We learned practical things from him. Those are the things which I think I learned from him.
KP: You mentioned that Pearl Harbor, and you've not been the first to mention it, that Pearl Harbor was really an electrified event. Were you surprised by the attack?
WB: Like everyone else, totally. Totally unexpected. I can remember to this day what I was doing. I was sitting listening on the radio to a Giants football game. This announcement came in. ... My mother started crying. My father was very upset. I didn't understand why ...-- because they had been through World War I. So they knew about it, what this was going to do. It didn't really upset me that much because I didn't realize what all was involved. I came to school, to the university here, nobody knew what was going on. Shortly, I don't know how long, but say within a month, most of the undergraduates went up to the quadrangle. If you went into one door, you went into the Navy. If you went into another door, you went into the Army. If you went into another door, you went into the Air Corps. Most everybody signed up. Partly influenced by one of my classmates, I signed up for Aviation Cadets Communications. Others signed up for artillery and various other things. ... They were drafting people and dragging them right in. In fact, they were doing that somewhat before Pearl Harbor. They were dragging them right in and putting them in basic training. We, [unlike the draftees] were going to go into a technical training or a flight training or something like that, so you had to wait for your class. The university then had a position that in the second half of your senior year, in any course that you were enrolled in a semester, if you were called in that semester, you got automatic credit for passing that course. So, those of us in our senior year had graduated as far as we were concerned because we were now in our senior year. What could they do to us? ... We were taunting him [Professor Kane] saying, well, "We've graduated. What can you do to me?" We weren't doing our work because who cared. Then the university, in its wisdom, started-- because professors were also leaving-- ... advancing when the term was going to end and when graduation was. ... We found out to our dismay that some of us weren't going to start military class for quite a while. Finally, Professor Kane was saying, "Well fellows, you know, you're still here. The term is ending. You had better do something." So, it was an interesting time. I actually ... signed up probably in January or so. I have forgotten when I was sworn in. I didn't get ... to report, I think, till August, end of August, somewhere around there. So, it was a wait for a while for lots of us.
KP: You mentioned you sort of went into the Air Corps more because a friend urged you to. Had you initially thought the Air Corps?
WB: Not really.
KP: You'd never been really intrigued by aviation?
WB: Nope. Nope, I hadn't been intrigued ... by anything in the military. R.O.T.C. was a requirement then, however, I wasn't in R.O.T.C. I was a musician. I was in the band, and I got all of my credit because it was a military band. Years later R.O.T.C. was trying to take credit because I had become a two star general. They kept saying, "Well, you were one of our graduates." I said, "No, I wasn't." I went from being a tuba player to a two star general. I didn't take R.O.T.C. So, I didn't have to take R.O.T.C. I had no interest in the military.
WB: None. I had to do something. So, Al [Alfred N.] Steiner, Class of '42 said, "Let's go into communications" because he was a radio ham. He was probably my best friend, and I said, "Okay we'll go there. We'll go together." We didn't go together. We were never together, but that's what started it.
KP: What did you do the summer while you were waiting to be inducted?
WB: I did the same thing I did all the other summers. I carried mail. I was a substitute mail carrier.
KP: Did you notice any changes in South River during the war?
WB: Oh sure. People were disappearing. That was just the beginning of the war. It really hadn't hit, except the only thing you noticed was that people ... my age were being drafted and disappearing. That kind of thing.
KP: You were actually delivering draft notices to people.
WB: I guess I was. I never thought of that, but I guess I was. At that time, there were only four or five mail carriers. Each had two weeks off. I delivered mail to every house in the whole town each summer, so I guess I delivered draft notices. I didn't realize it.
KP: A question that came to mind and before going too far ...-- you mentioned in terms of Rutgers that a lot of the professors were very Victorian and distant and aloof.
WB: I don't think I said a lot. I said the ones that were in ceramics. They seemed to be a little more aloof. Some of the others were too. Like I took an English course, and he was sort of unapproachable. [Donald E.] Cameron, who became the university librarian, I took a course with him, and he was very friendly. Soup Walters was very young. I took a music course with him. Incidentally, in those days, electives were few and far between. In fact, in my entire undergraduate years, I had two electives. That's all we had. ... Our class took things like music appreciation. They called a meeting of the class and told us this was wrong. What we should be taking was organic chemistry or something like that and not take this sort of thing. So, that gives you an idea what it was like. The best professor I had was Edward Burns of the history department. He taught something called contemporary civilization. He wrote a book which was an excellent book based on his lectures. I think he was the most stimulating professor I had. He also was a very severe and humorless individual, but an outstanding teacher. Many of my era always thought highly of him. ...
KP: The other name that comes to mind that everyone has a story of is Vinnie [Vincent] Utz.
WB: Vinnie Utz. Yeah, Utz is Nuts! You heard that probably. Vinnie Utz and Otto Hill came from the Bordentown Military Institute, whatever they called it. We claim they came from the Bordentown reform school. Vinnie was a tough guy from Bridgeport, Connecticut I think. ... Otto was a very nice guy. He's been my closest friend for many, many years because he also stayed here at Rutgers .... They were both football players. Vinnie was kind of crazy. He would do wild things not on the football field but off the football field. As you probably know, he lost an arm. You probably know how he died too. The story I remember about Vinnie is that after the war-- now he has lost an arm-- he had married a gal who was the secretary of either the dean or the president of the university. ... We were having lunch together downtown in a restaurant. When it came time to go, I picked up his coat as if to help him, and I thought he was going to hit me. He was so furious because he felt I was treating him like a cripple. I was sure he was going to hit me with just his one hand! I wouldn't have wanted to be hit by him one-handed! Incidentally, he was not a very big guy. He was not big. I was bigger than he was. Otto Hill was much bigger than he was, but he was very tough. A nice guy.
KP: That fits the pattern of a lot of them. When you were inducted into the Air Corps where did you report initially?
WB: I reported to Scott Air Force Base outside of Saint Louis. It's in Illinois. Bellville, Illinois. You might be interested in knowing that my retirement was held at Scott Air Force Base in the same complex which had been dormitories when I reported [and] ... then became offices. The same square that I stood in my first formation. That was written up in the Air Force newspapers and things. It just happened that way. So I can tell you this. One of the things that perhaps others haven't told you that I remember is how provincial we were, how provincial all of us were I guess, but certainly I was. I had probably only been to New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware. You've heard this before?
KP: Yeah. Did you ever make it to Washington?
WB: No. Our high school didn't even make it to Washington. Some high schools went, but we didn't have enough money for that. We went up to West Point of all places. But, I remember getting on a train and going out and being flabbergasted how flat things were out in the midwest. Being flabbergasted that the main street of a town was a railroad track with houses and stores on both sides of the railroad tracks. The same thing happened after I was commissioned from Yale University and went down to North Carolina. How different life was there and the attitudes of the people. Even the food was different. ... It was very much of a--I wouldn't call it a cultural shock, but certainly a surprise to find out how different other parts of the country ... [were] ....
KP: When you were growing up, did you think that the rest of the country in a sense was alike ... ?
WB: We didn't think thoughts like that. It's amazing. Today's students and today's kids are so much broader in their horizons of thinking than we were. We didn't think things like that. I don't even think our parents thought that way. ... The communication media wasn't that way. The communication media was very locally oriented. So, [I] didn't think of it.
KP: So, the war really exposed you to places you'd ...
WB: Probably the most significant thing that ever happened in my life and probably most of the lives of people of my generation in World War II was World War II. It changed your attitude completely. It changed direction completely for many. Those that survived ..., in reasonable shape, it's probably one of the greatest things that happened to them, really. It's a horrible thing to say, but it really was. It made you a much broader person and a much better person.
KP: You mentioned you were surprised how flat the west and midwest was. What about the south? What did you think of the south when you got there for the first time?
WB: Well, I guess the southern way of going which was so much slower than it was up here surprised me a little bit. ... I went to a place outside of Wilmington, North Carolina which was then a sleepy little city. Probably wouldn't even call it a city. Suddenly, they had 40,000 people from Camp Davis, and I don't know how many thousand from the Marine Corps and the Air Corps. [They all] had a base there ... in the town at the same time. Such things as milk. I always liked milk. They didn't have milk. It wasn't there. It's a dumb, trivial thing. That kind of thing. Everything was fried chicken. That was a big deal down there. It was fried chicken. I guess it still is, but it was then. That hadn't been a big deal up here. At Scott Air Force base it was the first time I ever ran into something that is very common now. Soft-ice cream. I couldn't believe it. I ordered a milk shake. It was so thick. I said, "How can they afford to do that?" It was the soft-ice cream. We never had that around here in those days.
KP: What about your experiences as a young Aviation Cadet at Scott Air Base? What was that like?
WB: As an Aviation Cadet, I went to Scott Air Force Base. It was like ...
KP: You also had no interest in the military initially.
WB: No. I don't think any of us had [any] interest in the military. I don't think I was alone. Even the guys who went in advanced R.O.T.C., I don't think had interest in the military. It was the thing to do, and you were sort of an elitist when you went to the last two years of R.O.T.C. I don't think anybody was excited about making it a career. ... Aviation Cadets was sort of like the kind of things that Hollywood does sometimes about a military school or West Point or Annapolis. As Cadets we were harassed. We were hazed and everything else by the upper classmen. The idea was that this prepared you so when you were commissioned you would appreciate having to take abuse from people so that you didn't abuse those under you. Which is why the military does that. The academies do it also. It was getting up early in the morning. Very early in the morning. Jogging in these big heavy coats and shoes and everything else to class. Going to classes. Doing calisthenics. Going to bed. Getting up early in the morning. Hardly any time off for anything. That was Scott Air Force Base. Then, after we had been there for several months, for some reason, they decided to move several of the Aviation Cadet courses from different bases, including Scott Air Force Base, to Yale University. I was the first class that was commissioned out of Yale University. We arrived up in New Haven. The people in New Haven, the Yalies, weren't too happy to see us because they were very Navy oriented with their fancy uniforms. We were coming in our beat up Army uniforms. I stayed in the old campus, in the old quad. Ate in their big dining facility and was commissioned there.
KP: Which must have been quite an experience after having been ...-- Harvard and Yale had such a reputation. Did you enjoy the whole experience or were you more proud of Rutgers?
WB: ... The first groups that came, they were made to feel very unwelcome. They would chase you out of stores because they were afraid you were trying to pick up the sales ladies and sales girls. A few undergraduates that were around, Yalies, would stay outside your window at night because they knew you had to get up early in the morning and throw stones at you and things like that. Later on, Glen Miller came and he then was the number one band. He had his military band which went overseas. Before he went overseas, they were at Yale. They would give a concert every Sunday out in the main green there. People would come from all around. Then it became sort of glamorous, but in the beginning it was not.
KP: So, you were not made to feel welcome?
WB: No, and I have no great feelings towards Yale.
KP: How many people made it through the training? Did a lot drop out?
WB: Not too many dropped out. I'd say no more than ten percent maybe dropped out.
KP: So it was rigorous but was not rigorous to get people to drop out like some ...
WB: No. It was not trying to get you to drop out. Just the opposite. No. There was a tremendous need for everything. Any kind of officer, and so the main thrust was not to eliminate people. The main thrust was to try to bring everybody up to speed.
KP: You were being trained in addition to ... general basic training, ... how to be an officer. You were also being trained for communications or did that come later?
WB: No. That came ... simultaneously. Communications training. Everything had to be done quickly. Whether you were in communications or meteorology or in engineering or ... in weapons, whatever it was, it was done in a hurry. It really was.
LL: How would you characterize the ten percent that dropped out?
WB: Probably dropped out ... Most of them had some kind of physical problems. That's my recollection. Remember that's a long time ago.
KP: Where did you hope to get placed after you finished your training? Had you given it any thought?
WB: Well, number one I was too busy to worry about where I ...
.................... END OF TAPE ONE SIDE ONE .......................
KP: You were saying that you were ...
WB: We were too busy to worry about where we were going to go. After commissioning you were to be assigned to a unit. Depending what the unit was or how far along was its training, you would go wherever that unit was going to go. ... I suppose, since I'm from a European derivation, I probably would have selected Europe. It turned out I went the other way. I went to the Pacific. I don't think that was something we thought about.
KP: So you were mainly focusing on your training?
WB: Focusing on my training and making sure I got commissioned. Then worrying about things later.
KP: What unit were you initially assigned with?
WB: I was assigned to an air base unit down in Camp Davis, North Carolina which was the headquarters of the anti-aircraft artillery command. We had two squadrons there. I was a communications officer in one of the squadrons. Then later I became the base communications officer. We did all kinds of things for the anti-aircraft command. We had planes that towed targets which they shot at with their anti-aircraft guns. Which was a little uncomfortable and scary, I think, for the pilots because they were shooting at something hanging out back a little ways. We had radio controlled aircraft which was very, very unusual, highly sophisticated for then. A plane would fly and a small plane would be on the runway. The man in the flying plane with his radio controls would take the plane off, fly it over, and it would be shot down. They did search-light missions. We had foreign aircraft for identification purposes. One interesting thing was that we had two classes of WASPs [Women Auxiliary Service Pilots]. They had been the ferry pilots. They had been flying planes around. There was a study to find out whether or not they should be actually commissioned and taken into the Air Corps and given non-combat missions. Jacqueline Cochrane was in charge of this program. Two groups were sent down to us ... to train, to evaluate this. ... A lot of them did not have night flying and things like that. I got to know all of them. It's kind of sad that it was decided not to commission them. I think primarily because Jackie Cochrane wanted to be a general like Olivite Culp Hobby was at the time, and the military didn't quite see that. I think that as much as anything else kept those poor gals from being commissioned. Some of them were killed. I had a girlfriend who was killed.
KP: One of the women pilots?
WB: One of the women pilots. Right there in North Carolina. They had no benefits or anything. Those gals really were given the business.
KP: You thought they should have been commissioned?
WB: Absolutely. They were capable pilots. Then again remember the chauvinistic attitudes. We still have some of that today as to what do you do with the women in the military. But, then we had women in the military, but not in this kind of proactive type position.
KP: And you thought they were doing military duties?
WB: They could have. They could have.
KP: What was the attitude of the pilots to the women pilots? What did you gage? You said you had a girlfriend who was a pilot.
WB: Sure, they were nice. There were two types. There were real all hardened war horses that had been flying for years, and then there were some young gals who had been flying. They were good troops. Nobody had any objections to them.
KP: In the unit?
WB: Not really. No. They were welcomed. They were enjoyed.
KP: Was there a lot of dating between officers?
KP: What else do you remember from you first assignment in North Carolina? Is there anything else that sticks out?
WB: [One] ... thing I remember is that I had a commanding officer who was probably one of the most unusual men I have ever met. And one of the loudest men I have ever met. Years later sitting in the Corner Tavern, which you asked about, somebody at the end of this long table started telling stories. Telling war stories. Telling stories about this gentleman [the commanding officer]. I leaned forward and I said to him, it turned out to be Hank Evans, who was then in the admissions office and became the first president of Somerset County College, I said, "I don't know who you are, but you weren't there. I was there. Those are my stories." Well, it turned out, Hank had been a currier pilot from the First Air Force down the coast including our base. So, when he got there once a week or whatever it was, he knew what had been going on. So, he did know the stories, but I didn't remember him, and he didn't remember me. He [the commanding officer] was a very unusual guy. He had been in World War I. Had been in the National Guard. He was now in World War II. He was shorter than I am. He had to be in his fifties, I guess then. I can tell you stories about him that you won't believe which I'm not going to because that's not the purpose of this thing. When I got finished with him, being under his thumb ...-- and believe me, he was a wild man. He would do things. Wild from the standpoint that he would drive you. He had a weird Alabama sense of humor about things. Nothing flaked me afterwards. I never had a commanding officer that bothered me. ... Nothing ever bothered me after him.
KP: How would he drive you? ... What made him so difficult ... ?
WB: Not difficult. Unusual. Well, this is not a bad one. I can tell you some things that we would have to put off the record. But this one is not a bad one. He believed in physical education. PT, Physical Training. So he'd say to the unit, a hundred and fifty men or so, "Every morning at 6:30 you are going to get out here on the apron, and we're going to do calisthenics." He said, "The officers will do calisthenics fifteen minutes before, and they'll do them with you, and I'll be here fifteen minutes before that. If any of you SOBs want to check me out, you come out and do calisthenics with me." He'd go around with a flashlight to make sure everybody was jumping up and down. I went with him and the executive officer, the engineering officer and myself. We went into Wilmington, North Carolina, and we had been drinking. There was one restaurant, ... and when it came our turn to come in, the owner said, "You're too loud." This man [the commanding officer] was very loud. He was a loud, ruckus guy, and we couldn't get in. He [the owner] wasn't fast enough because my commanding officer had his arm inside the double doors, and he had him by the neck. He was holding him up. The police came, and took him away. They took the executive officer away. ... I went to the police chief and ... told him what the story was and wanted to know what could be done. In those days I had red hair. The police chief said, "You look like a nice Irish boy." ... I am not Irish. "You look like a nice Irish boy," he says, "I'll do this for you. I'll turn him over to the military." So, he turned him over to the military and to make a long story short, I got him. Got him out and went back. The next morning, at calisthenics, he got up there in his own profane way, told the troops, "You blankety-blanks out there, I keep telling you. If you get blankety-blank drunk and go to town and go and get into trouble, you're going to get thrown in the poky because I know. That's what happened to me last night." Then he grabbed me and said, "Come with me." We were sitting outside the base commander's office before he got there. He walked in, and he told exactly what happened. That happened to be very smart because he told the bare facts before it got blown all out of shape, and it stopped the whole thing right away. ...
KP: You mentioned you were a communication's officer. How many enlisted men or did you have enlisted men that reported to you?
WB: Yes I did. As a brand new second lieutenant [just] arrived ... Incidentally, to give you another idea, when you were commissioned you were normally given a delay in route so you could go home and visit your parents and things. My orders did not have a delay in route. The man up at Yale said no problem just send the man a telegram requesting a delay in route. We left New Haven. I sent a telegram from New Haven. We left New Haven. I got home. That night I got a telephone call with a telegram ... which said, "There is a war on. If you do not report by such and such on the next day in the morning, you will be court martialed. Signed Stevenson."
KP: That was your new commanding officer?
WB: That was my new commanding officer. It gives you an idea. I walked in. ... This had been an outfit that had been in existence as a balloon squadron, to give you an idea, a balloon squadron. ... I walked in and there hopping up to attention for this brand new second lieutenant were a bunch of sergeants and enlisted men. Many of whom were as old as my father. Had been in the service for years and years and years. ... I was smart enough to know that there was no way I was going to tell them what to do. ... We reached an agreement in a hurry. I would be the front man, and we would decide what to do and that's what we would do. You might be interested to know that from that small beginning of about eighteen [to] my last assignment in the reserve with the major command, the Air Force Communications Command, I was an individual Mobilization Augmentec and my position was mobilization assistance to the commander. We had 15,000 reserve forces, so I went from about eighteen to 15,000. ... I wasn't working 15,000, but overall concern for those people.
KP: So in other words, your sergeants were crucial to your survival?
WB: Sergeants are always crucial to everyone's survival in the military believe me!
KP: And you learned that lesson very quickly?
KP: How long did you stay with that unit ... ?
WB: The first unit?
KP: Yeah. The one in North Carolina.
WB: About fourteen months I think. Yeah about that.
KP: So, 1943 into 1944?
WB: '44, end of '44 maybe.
KP: Where were you sent after that?
WB: After that I went to outside of Denver. No, outside of Salt Lake City. Provo, Utah I think it was. Someplace in Utah to a camp to be processed for overseas. ... They processed us there for a month or so or whatever it was. Then we moved to California and we waited for ships. After we got on the ships ...
KP: Sorry to interrupt, but were you processed to go to a new unit ...?
WB: Processed in general. We got assigned to units after we got overseas, but there were some requirements for so many of this and so many of that.
KP: You had no idea where you were going?
WB: No idea. Oh, we knew we were going to the Pacific, but that's all. You didn't know what unit you were going to or where you were going, but you knew you were going to the Pacific ... That way you were going to the Pacific. If you came to the east coast you were going to Europe. So, that's where I went.
KP: You were saying you went from Utah to San Francisco?
KP: Did you go to Hawaii before ... ?
WB: No. No, we got on a boat, and we very slowly made our way across the Pacific. We left off some troops in Australia and got off in New Guinea. Hollandia, New Guinea. Which was something out of the National Geographic, believe me. In retrospect, I am glad I got to the Pacific. I got to see things that I would have never gone out of my way or done on my own. I wouldn't have taken a tourist tour over to that part where obviously Europe you would go to. So, in retrospect, I'm glad I got over there. I saw things that I probably never would have seen.
KP: When you say it was right out of the National Geographic, what were your immediate reactions? What did you see and what were your reactions? What sticks out?
WB: The natives that you saw. The jungles. The knowledge that there were people who were headhunters out in the wilderness there ... Rockefeller's son disappeared in New Guinea. And that's many, many years later. Say these dirty native women with their pendulous breasts hanging down like in the National Geographic. As dirty as can be walking along. It was like you've seen in National Geographic.
KP: So, you had read National Geographic growing up?
WB: [I] saw National Geographic. I said boy this is it!
KP: On your travels, [did] you ever make it to Hawaii?
WB: No. We didn't even travel to Australia. We sat out in the harbor and looked at Australia and unloaded some troops and some equipment.
KP: You didn't even get shore leave for twenty-four hours?
WB: Not for five hours, not for ten minutes. They kept us aboard. After something like five weeks ...
KP: How was the voyage?
WB: Slow. Nothing special. Just slow, totally boring, totally boring.
KP: How crowded was the ship?
WB: Very crowded. Very crowded. You had people stacked. If you, in the middle of the night, threw your arms up in some sort of a nightmare, you would hit somebody above you.
KP: Then, even as an officer you were very cramped?
WB: Oh sure.
LL: This was the first time that you'd done this type of extensive traveling on a ship?
WB: Exactly. The first time ever on a ocean voyage of any sort. The first time ever out of the country. The first time ever out of New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware really.
KP: Did you get seasick?
WB: No, I did not. No, I had no problems.
KP: How was the food on your route to Australia? Did that stick in your mind or had you gotten used to Army Air Corps food?
WB: Well, by then I guess we were all used to it. There was no sense in bitching about it. It didn't do any good, so we just ate it.
KP: Did people aboard gamble a lot ... ?
WB: There were some, but I don't think it was commonplace. People read a lot and talked a lot.
KP: You were sent to New Guinea. What were your responsibilities when you got to New Guinea?
WB: It turned out that the outfit that I was assigned to join, the Third Attack Group, which incidentally was a very famous unit, it had been one of the four units that had continuously existed from World War I into World War II. ... Most of the generals of that time in World War II, ... Air Corps generals, had served in all four units including our unit. So whenever there were generals around, they would come to their old units. We'd be lined up. They also saw to it that the units got some of the juicier missions which was a mixed blessing for the poor guys that had to fly because it also meant you had a better chance of being a casualty. They had moved, and what was left behind, say sixty percent of it, had moved forward up to the Philippines. So, I had joined the unit and was told to make my way to the Philippines. ... I landed in Hollandia. Was there [in Hollandia] waiting to get up ... [to the Philippines]. Got to Biak, which was an island by one degree off the equator, and got stuck there. ... I was bumped there and got stuck there along with a couple thousand other people. We were sitting for about a month in this transit camp. Some general came through and said, "These guys have to get out of here. The first ship that comes through takes them out." The first ship that came through was an old Dutch trader with an all native crew ... They put us all aboard that thing. I remember going up the gang plank. They gave each and every man a case of beer, 3.2 beer practically non-alcoholic beer and a case of k-rations, and that's how we ate. Where was it going? It went back to Hollandia where most of us had come from. So, we got back to Hollandia, and a lot of the GIs were going to try to get to their outfits .... This was an old coal burning ship. It had no bulkheads to speak of. You could walk from the stem to the stern in practically nothing. So it was not a very safe ship, and it was horribly overloaded, so a lot of the guys were jumping off. They would take their personal possessions wrap them in the raincoat and swim to shore ... There was some Army colonel I guess, who was nominally the senior officer, and he was threatening [to] court martial ... everybody. But, two warrant officers and myself decided that that was a good idea. So, we bribed some Navy guy, who was running a little alligator going back and forth with supplies. They were putting coal aboard this ship. This ship was then going to join a convoy and go all the way up to the Philippines. The convey would probably be faster than the ship so everybody got the idea that this thing was going to be falling behind and would be a perfect target. So, everybody wanted to get off. So, we got off. We got off. These two warrant officers were old regular Army warrent officers, [and they] found out that there was a flight that was going up to the Philippines. One flight every night. We walked into the colonel's office and said, "We understand you have a flight, and what are you going to do to get us on it?" The colonel looked at this warrant officer and thought for a minute, then realized he was talking to an old Army guy, and says, "I'm going to try to get you on." Three or four days later we got on a flight, and we got up to the Philippines.
KP: Did you ever know what happened to that ship?
WB: Yeah, it made it up there about a month, six weeks later ...
KP: But you were glad to have flown?
WB: I was glad to have flown. Glad to be off it.
KP: When you got to the Philippines where did you land and where were you assigned to?
WB: I first went to Tachlobyen, where the headquarters was of the Fifth Air Force. I had to report in there. Then I joined my unit in the island of Mindora, San Jose Air Base. That's where I joined up with them. ... Stayed there until we went to Okinawa. From Okinawa the war ended, and we went to Japan. ... I can't tell you any exciting war stories because as you probably know the war was fought by all kinds of activities including the pilot or including the infantry man out in the front with his gun. You have truck drivers, you have bus clerks, and you have the technical resource, the technical support group. As a communication's officer I was part of the technical aspects of the war. We sent people out. I lost some of my men. I have a unrelenting, almost fifty year old, hatred for the Japanese because of some of the things that happened. Including to one of my men.
KP: What happened to him?
WB: What happened to him? He was shot down over, outside of Manila. He was a good Catholic boy from New York. [He] goes to the convent. The good sisters there, because the Japanese were the authorities, turned him over to the Japanese who took him outside the convent, strung him up to a tree and bayonetted him and doused him with gasoline and burned him while he was still alive. ... The commander of that unit was tried as a war criminal later on. I lost friends, fellow officers, several of them having nothing to do with the Japanese other than the Japanese shot them down.
KP: But this one incident really sticks in your mind?
WB: Yes it does. Very much so. ... We had other units on board our base there. I remember going out. Just saw a picture of a B-24 in this week's Star Ledger. One that's been restored, and it brought back memories because I knew I was coming here. ... At one time the B-24s were having a problem. They were blowing up on takeoff. Actually blowing up. ... I was in the attack group which was A-20s and A-26s. It was ground support primarily in precision bombing. The 24s would take off before us in the morning because they were going on long range missions and high altitude missions. We would go down and watch them. It was sort of a gruesome kind of a thing to see what was happening. It turned out that they grounded them for a while. They found out that there were gas fumes coming in. There was a certain motor [that] went off and gave a spark which had blown it up. So, it was a number of things like that. But, I never saw any combat. Never saw any combat. ... In Okinawa some Japanese dropped things down. It didn't come near me.
KP: You were there when there was a bombing?
KP: In Okinawa.
WB: Yeah. There was some bombing there, but nothing really. We sat outside and watched.
KP: You mentioned large numbers of people in your unit didn't make it. How did you react the first time someone you knew didn't make it back from a mission?
WB: Well, remember now we had seen people get killed otherwise. [We] saw people get killed back in North Carolina. Several. ... I don't know, I think it was something we just accepted. Just part of the game. I don't think anybody got into a blue funk over it or anything else. It was just the way it was.
KP: Were there chaplains in your unit in the Philippines?
WB: Yes, there was. There were chaplains in the unit. In fact, its funny how you jog my memory. ... Aboard ship I had gotten friendly with a chaplain. In fact, when we got up to Japan, there wasn't much for us to do, so we would get in the jeep. The chaplain, one other fellow and myself would just take off with some sandwiches, and we'd drive around to the countryside and see what was going on. We didn't have any maps or anything else, but I have a good sense of direction, so we could get back. So, I got very friendly with him. I got aboard the ship to come home, and he said to me, "I'm having services on Sunday. Would you play the pump organ?" I said, "You know what chaplain, I just realized that we've been friends, and I've never heard you preach." I never went to any church. Still don't. I said, "I'm ashamed of myself" and everything else. When I told him some of my feelings towards religion, ... he said, "I understand you. I sort of agree with you." One of my hang ups with ministers and priests ... is they tend to get involved in the personal affairs of families and things. He said, "It's going to be tough for me to go back to being the southern Baptist minister where if Aunt Tillie has a cold or something, and I don't show up, the whole family's nose gets out of joint." He said, "I'd rather not be doing that." So, they were there. I think they were, in general, I knew a few of them, very straight forward, real down-to-earth guys. Got along well with the troops.
KP: Do you think that helps?
WB: I can't answer that question because I'm not a religious person. I'm sure it did, but I can't personally answer that question.
KP: Your responsibilities in the unit, what did they entail when you were in the Philippines? Say what would be your day to day in a sense? In an average day what might you do?
WB: Well, Besides being a communication's officer, I sometimes had other duties. As a communication's officer, after getting up in the morning, breakfast, it depends upon the missions, you know, sometimes we'd go down the flat line before the missions. I had to make sure the other people did their jobs. Basically, that's what you do as an officer. You make sure other people do their jobs. I had to check ... to make sure maintenance was done, had to make sure things were working so that there wasn't a glitch.
KP: So you were responsible for making sure that the communications equipment in the planes were ...
WB: That's right. And the ground base was fine ... We didn't do much air traffic control other than landing and taking off. The flying radio operators were trained and raring to go because we had radio operators in some of these planes ...
KP: The men who were the radio operators, were they under your command?
WB: Yes. They were in my section as we called it.
KP: How long did your particular section function? Did you have any problems?
WB: We had no problems. No. Good troops, good sergeants. No problems. Everybody was motivated, really. ... I had guys that wanted to go off and do this and everything, but when it came down to do the work, everybody was motivated I think. At least that was my observation.
KP: How big was your section, roughly?
WB: Communications maybe twenty-five or something like that.
KP: You were on base and in a sense you spent a lot of time in one particular place. How was that staying in the Philippines?
WB: Well, I wouldn't distinguish it by calling it a base. It was a strip, and it was a few tents. They were all that way. They weren't prepared bases like you are familiar with from Vietnam and what have you or Korea ... When we got to an island, they found a level spot or something. It turned out that the one we were in had been alongside a dry river and ... when the rainy season ... [came], we had to move. And we did. But, they were bulldozed, they were grated, they would do things, the engineers would come in and you would set up some tents. ... Our living area was about three miles away in another rice patty with tents and rats and everything else.
KP: So, you were not the most comfortable in the Philippines?
WB: I don't know. We made it comfortable. We didn't feel picked on. We didn't feel uncomfortable.
KP: In terms of food, did you eat any sort of food from the islands? Did you buy any?
WB: No. No. We did not at all. I don't think anybody did. We had dehydrated food. We had our Australian rations. The Australian rations were absolutely horrible. ... We were lucky in our unit, we had a man, a cook who had been a demonstrator for dehydrated foods, so he was very skilled with that. We would buy from less than honest Navy, quartermasters, and what have you. We would buy fresh meat once in a while. One of the skills of our unit was ..., of our whole group not just our squadron, our whole group--incidentally I eventually became group communication's officer. Back to your question--before where there were three squadrons of communications officers. At the end I did have more than one squadron. We had this captain or whatever he was and had an intelligence officer who was quite a manipulator. He was a lawyer ... He [got] a ... whole reffer of pork chops. So, we now had pork chops. We gave pork chops to all the other squadrons. Everybody had pork chops. We ate pork chops three times a day. The guys were taking pork chops out into the civilian population. Traded for you can guess what. Everything was fine, except, ...
KP: You were mentioning the trading that had gone on.
WB: Everything was fine, except that, shortly after the ship pulled out, the captain or the mate or whoever it was that sold it to us, died. They came back in. They did an inquiry and found out that there was a reffer of pork chops missing. It was fairly easy to chase the pork chops bones back to our outfit. They decided they were going to court martial this officer. The group intelligence officer, who was also a lawyer, went before the court martial board and convinced him that this man had done it only for the good of the unit. Made no money or anything on his own. "Instead of courtmartialing, they ought to give him some sort of an award." So, he got off. The food was not good. The other thing that made life a little better was that there would be once in a while a liquor run down to Australia. A plane would fly down, have collected money from units and people, and come back with a lot of liquor. That helped.
KP: How much contact did you have with the civilians. You mentioned there was some trading?
WB: We had contact through the civilians primarily because the group had a movie once a week out in the open. You sat there rain or shine. You sat on a little box, you had your seat. It was on the side of a hill. Just a screen up. All the natives would come and watch the movie. ... Young guys would come, and they would be tent boys and take care of things for a little bit of money. Or just a little food or something. The one tent boy brought me a rooster. ... It was a fighting cock, a young one. We named it John L. Sullivan. ... We decided we would have a cock fight because we were bored for things to do. That first very simple little cock fight turned into something that became known. People were coming from other islands and bringing these breds to fight chickens ... and betting big monies on it. So, we got to know them from doing some work around and from our movie and then this cock fight thing which was every Sunday also.
KP: Did men from the unit go to the cock fights?
WB: Oh yeah. All the natives would come. Actually they put a lot of money on it. They had the steel spurs and all that thing that we didn't know anything about.
KP: Did people from the unit bet on the ...
WB: Oh, Sure. Everybody bet on it. It was a horrible thing.
KP: How much work did the civilians do for the base in terms making your unit run more efficiently?
WB: They did absolutely nothing.
KP: Nothing? They didn't do the laundry or ...
WB: I misunderstood you. Yeah, I guess they did some laundry. ...
WB: They weren't hired by the unit at all. It was just individuals would have a boy do something. That's all. They had nothing to do with the flight line. They weren't even allowed near the flight line. Nothing to do with the administration. Nothing to do with anything, really.
KP: How effective was your unit in terms of its missions?
WB: I think it was very effective. A great deal of the missions had to do with support of the ground forces. We got a number of unit commendations. As I said, since most of the generals had been part of the unit at one time or another, we were looked after. We were given good assignments. So, it was an effective unit.
KP: In terms of leadership, you've mentioned ...
WB: Incidentally, as far as I know, it's still in existence.
KP: Really. In terms of the leadership, you mentioned a number of generals went through it. Who was the current leader when you were ...
WB: Oh, boy. I'm sorry, I don't remember.
KP: Did you have much contact with him?
KP: None. Who would you immediately report to?
WB: I would report to the commanding officer of the squadron and then later on to the commanding officer to the group. He would be a colonel.
KP: Your squadron leader, how effective was he?
WB: He was very effective. As a pilot he was a great pilot. We had several of them. One West Point officer was killed. He was all around very effective and everything. His replacement was a wild Texan. ... Absolute great combat pilot. An absolute idiot when it came to being a commander, as an administrator ...
KP: You were talking about your commanders. The wild Texan.
WB: He had absolutely nothing to do with running the squadron other than flying missions. ... He was a problem because he would end up getting drunk and turning over a jeep someplace. We would have to bring him back and everything else. But, he was an absolutely magnificent ... combat pilot. Everybody respected him for it, and everybody liked him. He was such a nice guy that nobody objected to this. So, the executive officer would run the squadron, that kind of a thing. It ran fine. Ran fine. The commander of the group, a colonel, later became a four star general, I think it was a four star, ... in the Air Force. He was the youngest. The only reason that he wasn't a general was that he was too young. He was a great combat pilot and also an outstanding individual across the board in all types of things. ... He didn't become a general. He was too young to be a general. But, eventually he became general. I think he became a four star, definitely a three star, maybe a four star. It was a good unit.
KP: Did you ever have any discipline problems in your unit?
WB: Not really. Not really. No. Bitching problems. Maybe somebody feeling somebody else got a better deal than he did. That kind of thing and nose gets out of joint. But, not discipline problems. Number one, ... there were some fights and what have you, but when you're on a stinking little island out in the middle of nowhere, its hard to get in trouble.
KP: How big was the island?
WB: This was a fairly big island, but you know, you're there. There's nothing there. The island of Biak was small ... Mindora was a fair sized island. There's nothing there.
KP: There were no places for the men to go?
WB: No place to go. There was no town to go to or anything to go to. You were there.
KP: I've been told by some people that after a certain number of missions, you'd be rotated for R and R in Australia. Did any of your unit go to Australia?
WB: Later on they did. In fact, that was one of my disappointments ... It was also a certain number of missions or a certain amount of time. ... I could have been R and R'd back to Australia, but instead, I was R and R'd from our little island to Manila. By then, the war had moved on in Manila.
KP: In Manila, you saw Manila had been quite devastated by the war?
WB: Yes. There were lots of bridges down and things. ... I was interested when I went back to Manila a number of years ago to see what it was like and to see what the Philippines were like. It was entirely different. In fact, that isn't at all good because when I came on the Admiral Dewey Boulevard, which I remembered, the first thing I saw was a Shakey's pizza. I thought that's a shame this sort of thing has happened. But, when you got out in other parts of the Philippines, things were still somewhat the same. You had open sewers running alongside of the roads. They still had oxen doing some of the work. It was again, for us provincial people, it was very interesting. Very interesting.
KP: Your unit stayed in the Philippines for how long? Your squadron?
WB: I guess a year, until the war ended. No. We went to Okinawa. ... Stayed in Okinawa, went through a couple of typhoons in Okinawa. Was there when they dropped the bomb. The big bomb. You might be interested, we heard about this thing. In those days, they had a way of communicating that if there was going to be a air raid or something like that they would take anti-aircraft guns and shoot these flares up into the air. That meant something .... We had just heard about this bomb being dropped. That night all of a sudden these things go up in the air. Everybody is scurrying around. What do these flares mean? What it meant was gas attack. Pending gas attack which caused a great deal of consternation because most of us had thrown our gas masks away years ago ... We used the gas attack bag, this thing we had, to put other stuff in. So, nobody had anything in the way of a gas mask. It turned out to be a false alarm. They thought the Japanese would try to do something dramatic.
KP: There was some anticipation of a gas attack?
WB: Some guy someplace thought that that was a possibility so they went and unnerved everybody on the island on Okinawa.
KP: Your unit, when it was moved to Okinawa, at the Philippines you had done close air support for ground forces but ... did your unit also do strategic bombing?
WB: No. No strategic bombing because that's high level bombing, and these things wouldn't go up there. They did interdiction of the shipping lanes and things like that. They flew some long missions not into Japan itself, but into other parts, the southern part of the Japanese area of influence. They flew missions, bombing missions because we didn't have ground troops there. They would bomb air bases. They would bomb supply lines.
KP: All low level?
WB: Yes. Low level. Supply dumps and things like that.
KP: How effective was, for example, the ground to air liaison? How did that operate and how effective was that?
.................... END OF TAPE ONE SIDE TWO ........................
KP: This continues an interview with William H. Bauer with Kurt Piehler and
LL: Linda Lasko
KP: At Rutgers University in New Jersey on October 7, 1994. You were saying about the lack of coordination.
WB: We didn't have the coordination that was developed in later years. People didn't call in strikes and change things like that. There was some of that, but not much. Mostly, these were targets that had been selected by intelligence headquarters someplace. Probably in the Fifth Air Force headquarters. Assigned missions, go bomb this, go bomb that, and go bomb the other thing. Or it was go fly to a certain area, and there would be some identification marks as to where the combat zone was and strafe there, bomb there or do something like that. The particular squadron that I was in had as its symbol a parachute with a bomb with steel rods strapped around it because back before I joined them, they claimed that they were the first to have these fragmentation bombs. What they basically did is, was the troops themselves sat there and had steel rods and what have you, they strapped [them] around the bombs with a parachute ... and dropped the bomb. When it impacted, it exploded and gave off shrapnel. That was one of its claims to fame.
KP: When you were sent to Okinawa did your missions change or what became your missions in Okinawa?
WB: Same missions. Except that not that much ground support. That sort of disappeared because there was just a little bit going on. The Marines and those troops up there were taken care of. There wasn't much.
KP: There wasn't much once your unit came. So, most of your missions were flown over sea lanes?
KP: Any over Japan?
WB: No. That was beyond the range.
KP: You were a communications officer. Did you have a sense of what kind of radio traffic was going on or were you concerned with how the radio traffic was operating and not necessarily with what was the traffic?
WB: No. ... It depended upon where things were going on, but we would monitor. ... Particularly in Okinawa, when it was far out, we wouldn't hear anything. We would monitor. In the Philippines we could hear, but not in Okinawa.
KP: How much of a sense did you have of how the war was going as it was progressing?
WB: Not much. Really not much. We got the armed forces radio news and they told. That's all we really had. We would listen to that. We would get intelligence briefings. An intelligence officer would brief and try to bring you up to date. But in reality, in comparison to what you know now, at least what we knew back here, [in retrospect] I am not sure how it was out with the troops in Vietnam, how much they knew what was going on ... we didn't know too much of what was going on.
KP: We look back at the air offensive, and we know that Japanese cities were actually devastated. Did you have a sense of what was happening to Japan and that they were losing?
WB: Yes. A little bit. I might note that we were very happy when they dropped the atomic bomb. No one liked the idea of invading because the Japanese were very fanatical and rather uncivilized people as far as we could see. I think there would have been a lot of civilian, like they had at the end of the war in Germany, a lot of civilians popping out from behind our poor guys and taking pop shots at them. I think we would have had a lot of casualties. You're a historian, ... and it gives me a little bit of ulceration that the revisionist historians today are trying to say that we didn't have to drop the bomb. As you may know, the Smithsonian Institution has got itself in a big problem because the Enola Gay exhibit they are putting on now portrays us as the capitalist people picking on the poor Japanese. Those of us who served in World War II don't quite see it that way. I think Harry Truman did a fine thing when he made this decision because it saved, I'm sure they say a hundred thousand American lives and in my opinion, unfortunately, probably another hundred thousand or so Japanese lives. ... I think he did the right thing. However, I also think he did the wrong thing. I sort of agree that the people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were just people and they bore the brunt of it. I think he should have dropped it on Tokyo because it would have killed far more people, and those are the people that were really the ones that were responsible. Other than that I think it was a good move, and it offends me that your revisionist historian colleagues, are turning it the other way around.
KP: Its interesting, most people I have interviewed ...-- to historians it is a very debated question as to whether the bomb should have been dropped. Almost everyone I have asked, everyone agrees that it was necessary to drop it, and they thought the war would go on, not forever, ...
WB: The war would have gone on much longer. It would have taken us a long time to develop the capability of invading. When you bring more kinds of troops together and ships together and everything together, just plain accidents kill people. Just plain actions would have killed people. ... The Japanese were very fanatical. I mean the idea of a kamikaze is foreign to our culture. The whole concept of their Air Force-- for example, their planes ... [had] very little in the way of armor to protect their pilots because they didn't want to waste the weight ... The hell with the pilot. ... I remember I was in Japan about three or four days after the war was over ... [I] was flabbergasted to see how different they were. Some of us were upset because at night Japanese would lie down on steps in front of buildings and ... in the morning only so many would get up. The rest of them had died during the night. I think we knew some Japanese, and we sort of expressed some concern about this and they said, "Oh no, that's not because of the war. That's normal." It didn't bother them. Their concept of life and death, I think, at least then, was different than ... ours. I think it would have been a horrible thing to have to invade, and it would have cost us a lot of people. I saw no reason, and I'm sure anybody that was in World War II didn't see any reason why any amount of Japanese causalities warranted the death of one American G.I. Pure and simple.
KP: Why did you think that neither side in the Pacific ever used poison gas? ... You didn't anticipate it?
WB: No, didn't anticipate it. I don't know, I think mainly because we didn't anticipate it. Maybe we should have, given what the Japanese attitude was towards the enemy. I guess maybe we should have. ... Some of the horror stories out of World War I ... of the gas attacks ... and what it did to people, it was just one of those things, as it is probably unthinkable now that we would use the atomic bomb. It was so unthinkable that you would use gas.
KP: During the war did you encounter any Japanese POWs at all?
WB: No. ... The strategy of MacArthur which I think was a very good one in World War II, meant we leapfrogged. We left lots of Japanese units behind and cut off. ... Some of them would have real chutzpah ... actually come in to a unit and stand in the chow line ... We had one do that and somebody caught him. They were desperate. As you know, some of them, not more than five years ago, some of them just came out of the caves in the Philippines. They had been there all this time. ... Other than that, no. Didn't see any. I was not in any position to.
KP: You were sent to Japan after the surrender?
WB: Yes. Our unit was transferred from Okinawa to Japan. This was the unit that was always going to be there and stayed in Japan right through the Korean war.
KP: In Japan?
WB: Well, they probably moved over to Korea, but, you know, it was over in that theater. I went up and joined the unit. I was group communications officer. Of course, the thing just fell apart. Everybody was going off and equipment ... [was] being mothballed and the whole thing. It just suddenly disintegrated ..., completely.
KP: How long did you stay in Japan with your unit?
WB: I stayed in Japan for I guess about three months till the end of the year. I got back home about the first of February.
KP: What were your impressions of the defeated Japan? You mentioned the one thing about the sleeping on the streets.
WB: Well, of all the things I remember of Japan ... It was one, the use of human excrement for manure for their plants and ... being admonished not to eat any of the vegetables because of the chance of getting a disease. Things such as places where they had octopus and what have you for sale which was a little unusual to us. Not total animosity towards the Japanese people. They seemed to be very anxious to please ... or anxious not to get in trouble, if nothing else. I always remember when I got off the plane at Atusgi Air Base, coming from the Philippines, where we walked around with a forty-five because there were so many cut throat kind of things going on in the Philippines. [I remember] getting off the plane and not even the MPs had guns. I walked over and said, "Hey, what goes on here?" to this MP and he said, "... No problem at all. Just look over there." There were a bunch of people all squatted down, and there was some guy standing over them. He says, "The guy standing over them has a flat sword there. If any of those guys get out of line, he just beats the hell out of them." They were very much imbued with the idea of obeying authority. They obeyed authority. ... It was just a different authority that came in so they obeyed. They obeyed. I, like everybody else, went out and tried to buy things ... For example, if you wanted to buy some silk, he [the Japanese man] would do everything possible to make you think it was silk even though it wasn't. ... If you finally put him against the wall and said, is this silk usually he would say yes or no. ... Before that they would do everything possible to cheat you. ... I went to some of their shrines. I found that very interesting ... how old it was and what have you as a typical tourist. In general, I think the breath of how imbued they were with obeying authority is the thing I remember.
KP: What about the decision by the American government to keep Hirohito? How did you and other men in your squadron feel about that or didn't they give it much thought?
WB: Well, we didn't give it much thought. Hirohito had been, you know, in the same category as Hitler. He was a kooky looking guy on the white horse and what have you. I guess everybody thought he should have been disposed of, but it was not something we thought very much about. No. ... The only thing we thought about at that particular time, right after war, was going home. Period. ... In the meantime all we did was enjoy life as much as possible by being a tourist and going out and looking at things. Nobody cared much about work or anything else.
KP: Did you ever go back to Japan?
WB: I have been back to Japan, yes.
KP: And what's your impression?
WB: Well, I still don't like them. I found them all to be rather rude, particularly the young Japanese. Awfully crowded and polluted, I thought.
KP: Japan at that time was not as crowded as ... ?
WB: No. Not at all. They didn't have these hoards of people and subways and things like that.
KP: Are you surprised that Japan rebuilt itself so relatively quickly into such an economic power?
WB: I disagree. I don't think Japan rebuilt itself very quickly. We rebuilt Japan very quickly. ... I think it would have taken Japan much longer to rebuild if it hadn't been for all the tremendous aid and things that we put in there. Some of it to the detriment of our own industries. We deliberately did certain things knowing that it would hurt our industries. I heard a government man tell a group of ceramic people that made dinnerware and what have you that, "Well we're sorry, but this is the way its going to be. We have to rebuild them." It was our government policy to rebuild Japan. I think we rebuilt Japan. It did not surprise me that they took what we gave them and picked it up and ran. Because they were very hard working and not interested in their own enjoyment of life. As you know now, they are starting to say, "Hey, we have now ... sacrificed our personal lives to this greater glory of Japan and now we want to enjoy some of it." They didn't enjoy life. They didn't think about enjoying life. So I'm not surprised, but again I'm saying I think we are the ones that rebuilt Japan very rapidly.
LL: What about this notion of authority. When you returned did the notion of authority still seem like it was a major part of ...
WB: No. It did not. ... I arrived at the airport. Got on a bus. Outside there were hoards of chanting people. Next day getting to the airport, I had to be examined because there was a group of students and other people demanding that this airport be changed. This was when they were extending the airport. They were putting things up in the air to try to keep the planes from landing. Entirely different thing. I was in line to get my hotel room because ... I was staying overnight at an airport hotel. So I got on line to get on a bus. There was a couple of young women, and they pushed in front of me. ... They grabbed first. Now I get up and I'm going to get the hotel room. It's my turn, and these two women push in front of me. ... In my own inimitable style I say, "Well now, you must be very, very busy and you must have something very important to do that you'd be so rude to get in front of me like that." And the desk clerk said something to them in Japanese in a very strident tone, and they immediately backed off. It was typical. Typical. So I don't think, at least a segment of them, and I think it's the young and I think it's as it is in this country or was in this country at least for a while, the students were very defiant of authority. But I think society in general has changed tremendously over there and its probably for the better. Hopefully anyway.
KP: Before asking a little bit about your G.I. Bill years, did we forget to ask anything about your military experiences during World War II?
WB: ... No. There's lots that you can say, but I don't think there's anything of major significance. I think World War II overseas, World War II in general, the things that stick with me most are personal things. Relationships with people. And many different kinds of people. I'm talking about U.S. people now. Different attitudes, different backgrounds, different things. I remember that as much as anything else.
KP: So you really changed your attitudes about different parts of the country and met people you never would have met?
WB: No. I developed an attitude. I didn't have any attitude about different parts of the country. It was of no interest to me. I didn't know anything about it. I suddenly became from a very provincial person to a person that was very much internationally oriented, much less nationally oriented. I think that happened to many of us.
KP: So you can see the United States as part of a larger world?
WB: Yes. Very definitely. Very definitely can see that. World War II brought us the concept of other countries as allies. I will always remember at the end of the war some Russians came down to our base at Atusgi in Japan to pick up some things. These Russian guys flew in. ... They saw jeeps and they say, "Russian! Russian!" Because we had supplied Lend-Lease to the Russian. They were never told where it came from. They thought these were Russian airplanes, Russian things that they were picking up. So, we got to appreciate that there were different people out there. Because they were our allies and because we knew so little of them, we were given a lot of indoctrination information in our area about the Russians. I imagine in Europe they were given even more. At that time I thought it was a very intriguing place. A very intriguing place. It sounded like ... the old U.S. ..., the frontier and what have you. I didn't even know what communism was, not really. Not really. I knew a little bit in principle, but what it was in actuality we didn't know. Didn't know. Yes, I think I saw a bigger world.
KP: And you saw a lot of different cultures?
WB: I saw different cultures.
KP: That you would have to pay for now to ...
WB: No. I've been getting paid to see several, but you're right. I, particularly now, enjoy the cultures that I have been working with recently. I enjoy Thailand. I think the Thai's are wonderful people. When I went to Thailand, even now fifteen, twenty years ago this late, it was a different culture. In that fifteen, twenty years it has changed, but it was a different culture and you knew you were in a different culture. I enjoyed that, and I think most Americans enjoyed seeing different cultures. As you know, lots of them who went to Europe married people over there and came back. ... I think my generation in World War II was greatly internationalized by the war.
KP: A lot of you came back to school. Was that your intention?
WB: Absolutely not. Had no intention of coming back to school.
KP: Did you want to stay in the Air Force?
WB: No. No I wanted out. Got out. Here I am. I ended up with thirty-five years of service in the Air Force! I got out as quickly as possible. Got a commission. They said you can have a reserve commission. I had saved my money. Remembering back now, I was the accordion player and New Brunswick was then a great town, a great city. Had lots of money in it. Nightlife in it. Restaurants. It was the social center of central Jersey. It was the shopping center and everything. I was going to open up a restaurant and a nightclub. I had saved my money. We had architects in one of my squadrons, and we drew up plans. ... During the war the Woman's Christian Temperance Union and the alcoholic hotel and saloon association ... got together, and they passed a law that said the licenses in New Jersey would be based on population. Well, New Brunswick had enough licenses that it could probably go up to a half a million in population and still not have any new ones. ... The saloons in New Brunswick-- because of Camp Kilmer-- had been making money like it was going out of style. You know from the poor G.I.s at Camp Kilmer. ... When I looked into this, I found out that it would cost me ten thousand dollars. This is 1945 or '46 money. ... Just for a license. And another umpteen thousand dollars for the beat up equipment and what have you. It was beyond my budget very quickly. In the meantime I had gone up to my old department to see what was going on there because the department had disappeared. Everybody had gone. Incidentally, from a Rutgers standpoint, the head of the ceramics department, George Brown, the man I told you who was sort of a stern ..., wore Herbert Hoover stiff collars .... When the war broke out the electronics field suddenly needed a particular type of insulation for high frequency, called steatite. When they looked into steatite, this was the war production board, they found out that the two plants that were making it were manned by Rutgers ceramists. Indeed, a lot of the research had been done here at Rutgers. In fact, you asked before about undergraduate research. I had worked along with others on this particular composition. ... They decided that they would come to Rutgers. ... They came to George Brown and sort of put him in charge of trying to develop this industry. When I came back after the war, the only person that stayed was the secretary who had been there during the war. She had pictures of him because the first thing you had to do was go out and find your raw materials. Now here's a man who lived in Highland Park, who lived a very sedentary, a very fine life, on a donkey out in the Southwest looking for the talc and what have you [which] he needed for raw materials. He came back after this, I don't know how many months of this trip, and while he's writing his report over in Highland Park, he drops dead. So, he was actually a war casualty. ... I came back to see what was going on. I found a couple of my buddies that were there who had come back as graduate students. The head of the department was still in his Navy uniform. He came back down and said, "What are you going to do?" I said, "I don't know." I told him my story. I said, "I'll probably go find a job or something." He says, "Well while you're doing nothing," he says, "I have our first commercial contract,"-- first after World War II--, research contract. "I need somebody. Will you fill it for three months?" So I agreed. "Yes." When he retired twenty some years later he said, "You're still here!" As you know, I stayed until I retired. So, it was totally unplanned, totally unplanned.
KP: If there had been liquor licenses available ...
WB: I would have got into the business, and it would have been a horrible thing in retrospect because New Brunswick went down the drain. I would have been, gosh knows what. I'm a firm believer that the best things happen to you that you don't plan. I didn't plan to become a college professor. I became a college professor, and it beats working. Being a college professor beats working. I can't think of a better job, really. I've lived with young people all my life, and I've enjoyed it. Strictly by accident. Strictly by accident. My wife who is an NJC graduate got a job at WCTC which was then a young radio station telling children stories. Her boss asked her, who was also a Rutgers graduate, found out that I had been a communication's officer, ... and he talked me into going into the active reserves. Out at Mitchell Air Force Base. After another twenty-five years or so, I retired as a two star general. Totally unplanned. Something I'm very proud of. I'd like to say, gee, I knew what I wanted, and I put my nose to the grindstone, but I didn't. Strictly by accident. I became a professor strictly by accident.
KP: You were at Rutgers at ... a very exciting time, with all the G.I.s coming back.
WB: Probably the time right after World War II was the finest in Rutgers' years, undergraduate years. These people came back. They had shown they were men. They didn't have to do some of the macho things that the normal undergraduate feels he has to go through. I'll always remember [the Christmas parties we used to have] in the ceramics department ... right after World War II. A bunch of G.I.s married with kids. The head of the department would come dressed as Santa Claus. We would have a ball. Every class would put on a skit. We would have a ball. Now the G.I.s have sort of disappeared, and now we've got the normal undergraduates. The normal undergraduates said, "Oh!, you don't have any alcohol." All we have is punch. "We couldn't come to this. I wouldn't invite a date to this." The guys who had been all over the world and fought in wars and everything else, it didn't bother them that they didn't have alcohol to drink. They enjoyed life. Right after the war, we had people who had been all over. They were older. We had the greatest school spirit that I have ever seen. I am a great sports fan. I go to all football games. I have for years. I have probably seen as many football games as almost anybody else since 1938. There's only I few I missed other than World War II. We had cards. The students put on card things like you see out in UCLA .... We had it at Rutgers. We had a band, a huge band. And the social life was fantastic. Remember, I said I chaperoned for a couple years. Hey that was the G.I. years. They were great years. Student spirit was the highest I think it ever was. Higher than it was when I was an undergraduate. Certainly, life was a lot more spirited than it is now.
LL: Did these G.I.s all live on campus?
WB: G.I.s lived up where the river dorms are. There were huts and what have you. Out at Camp Kilmer they were living in old barracks. They were living wherever you could put them. Incidentally, we are now Rutgers, the State University. I think that was one of the things that cemented it because we had had a loose association with the state, mainly through agriculture and state scholarships. At the end of World War II, [New Jersey had a lot of] ... G.I.s. Traditionally, our kids were going out to the midwest to the big ten schools, going out of state to schools. Now suddenly these states ... had their own people who were G.I.s returning ... to take care of and New Jersey has nothing. ... So, Rutgers stepped in and saved their [Politicians'] fannies for them because we took them in. The G.I.s were used to it. They lived in things that now we would have student protests. They were in classrooms and perhaps there were some teachers that we would have student protests over now. We pulled New Jersey's chestnuts out of the fire, and we gave them an education. It has been a very successful generation of students. Those people have been very successful. ... I think that was the beginning of the state's appreciation that they really had to have a state university. We have what we have now.
KP: Did you know any veterans who had a hard time readjusting to civilian life and to college?
WB: Not at all, not at all. I find it somewhat amazing having to do with the veterans of Vietnam and the veterans of Desert Storm, and I am not in any way denigrating them at all. But, I find it amazing about all of these psychologists who have been involved with things and involved with their wives and the parents and tell us about the adjustments and what have you. No. We didn't. We were probably gone longer in time than any of these other people ... Again, it was different. During World War II, almost everybody was in the war. Unless you had some handicap or something. Even those who were conscientious objectors, the Quakers and what have you. Actually, ... sometimes they were ... more in harms way than the combat people, but everybody was into it. ... The entire population was into the war. The Korean War was a little less, and the Vietnam War was entirely different. In fact, in general, there was almost the feeling that if you were in the military in the Vietnam War, that you were pretty dumb .... As you well know, loads of so called colleges and universities were started in that period just because everybody was trying to get the deferment to go for advanced education. Which I thought was totally wrong. I thought you should have had a draft, and if you were drafted, you went. You didn't get an automatic deferment by being a so-called college student. So, we didn't have adjustment problems.
KP: You ended up staying in the reserves which you said was an accident. Were you ever called up for active duty?
WB: No. ... People kept saying, "Are you going to be called up?" I said, "If I get called up you better take to the hills because the war is being lost!" Because, the one thing they don't like to do, the military doesn't like to do, is to call up somebody with a fairly high rank. I was never in a reserve unit. I never served in the normal reserve. My entire career was with the active duty. I was called a mobilization augmentec. I was considered fully trained, fully qualified to step into the job. For example, my last job was as the mobilization assistant to the commander of a major U.S. Air Force command. My job, if I was to be called, would have been to be the vice-commander of that unit, that big organization. The vice-commander would move off and create some new unit. ... I was presumed to be trained enough to be able to meddle along, learn on the job to serve as the vice-commander. ... So, I was never called up, because number one I would have had to been called as an individual. Yes colonels were called and even some generals were called because their whole units were called. But I would be called as an individual. ... When you are called as a reservist and say you are a general officer or even a colonel, that means you're occupying because there is a limitation to the number of slots. A limitation to the number of generals that there can be, the number of colonels there can be. So, the active duty people would justifiably resent to have a part-timer come in and occupy one of those slots. So, I never made it.
KP: You never went to Korea or Vietnam?
KP: You mentioned earlier that you went to the transition from G.I. Bill classes to regular, more traditional undergraduates. ... You in many ways liked the G.I. Bill classes better. What other differences did you notice between the G.I. classes and the non-G.I. Bill [classes] in terms of education, attitudes towards Rutgers?
WB: Well, the attitudes towards Rutgers changed. I think the G.I.s were far more loyal group towards Rutgers. But, I think that was a change that my era of Rutgers students, pre-World War II people, are far more loyal towards Rutgers than these later years. Part of that was because we were a small school. We identified more with each other ... Even though we put in our so called individual colleges. What do we call that plan? ...
KP: Livingston and ...
WB: ... We have these different colleges all affiliated, which was a good idea that Mason Gross came up with based on the English system of a university ... Where you have an identity to a college as part of a university. That was a good idea. But even the colleges, Rutgers College was much bigger than it was intended to be. It was really supposed to be much smaller, but it just grew. The College of Engineering was much smaller. It's grown. So I think there is less identity with Rutgers. There is some identity with the individual colleges, particularly Cook College. Cook College is like old Rutgers used to be I sort of feel. So, there's more identity with the college than there is with the university. Even though in engineering we have pretty motivated students, and we keep them busy so they stay out of trouble, but I think the ones coming out of World War II maybe because they were more mature, and they were more motivated. Some of them had kids ... They were working to get out and get a good job. I think they were more motivated, the World War II, were than those that we got later who were normal.
KP: At one of the alumni meetings, you'd mentioned that you remember the Vietnam war well, and you remember it well at Rutgers. What did you think of Rutgers during the Vietnam war? The history department had some quite, had quite a reputation at that time, especially a former professor here Eugene Genovese?
WB: Eugene Genovese. Well, I feel better towards him than I do to many others of that era. Because, the fact that he made no bones .... At one of these meetings he said, "I am a Marxist, Communist. And I tell you that because you then know my prejudices." And you admire a man that does that, alright. It just so happened that this happened as we were going into our bicentennial year. ... I was [then] president of the Rutgers Alumni association. Along with Mason Gross, I took a lot of heat from alumni about this. And I think it was kind of a sad era. I think it was primarily fueled by young professors who had guilt feelings .... The Vietnam War took a long time. So we had people that went through college and became young professors in that era. They had guilt feelings that some of their generation had gotten killed and were getting killed. ... This is my own theory about this. That somewhat fueled their protests against R.O.T.C. ... Remember, I knew a lot of military people, I knew a lot of generals. They were against the war in Vietnam. This was a dumb war and who was getting the brunt of this was the military. These people who are protesting had nothing to do with the military. They were going around screaming and they're screaming against the guys in the military who are the ones getting killed. I never quite understood that situation there. But, Arnold Grobman was then the first dean of what was then Rutgers College. ... Dick McCormick reminded me [that] ... what we went to was not called Rutgers College, it was called the men's colleges. Whatever the heck that meant. Rutgers College was a creation, a late creation. Arnold Grobman was the first ... [dean] of that. And he made the point that the R.O.T.C. was being used as a surrogate target of protest. They were protesting R.O.T.C., burning the building and doing things like that. If you want to know a little bit about that, because I was very much into that, I will tell you .... Arnold Grobman did a very smart thing. He asked and got my name from someone. I think it was Howard Crosby. I'm pretty sure he is the guy who did this. He had a couple people, faculty members who would be considered pro-R.O.T.C. Then it was very easy for him to pick out the leaders against R.O.T.C. Then he wisely put a group in the middle who he felt would be objective about the whole thing. He created the committee to study R.O.T.C. at Rutgers. And it was a good committee, and it met. It came up with some solutions which predated even the U.S. presidential committee which came later with a bunch of college presidents. For example, ... the things that could be taught by the history department, having to do with military history and things like that, [instead of] being taught by the R.O.T.C. officers ..., it was assigned to the history department to teach. That was something ... that came seven years later nationally. That was done by Arnie Grobman's committee. That didn't really satisfy the protesters, ... particularly the faculty protesters. Particularly in your department, the history department. For reasons I don't know why, but it didn't. ... When Nixon came aboard and we went into Cambodia, things erupted all over again. We had a real nasty situation. ... The faculty at Rutgers College voted and said that R.O.T.C. was no longer a department and no longer permissible at Rutgers University. They took away academic credit and everything else. I was at the meeting. I knew Mason Gross came into his office around eight o'clock. I was sitting outside of his office waiting for him. He said, "I thought you would be here because we had been assistant professors together." We were the same generation. He said to me, "Look, I never thought they would do this." He said, "Not only that they can't do this, because only the Board of Governors can do this." Actually, as it turns out, only the state of New Jersey can do it.
KP: We were a land grant institution.
WB: Actually, that was always said. It turned out that it wasn't true. You did not have to have R.O.T.C. You had to offer instruction in military things. It could have been done and that had been fought out in the courts at some other university. So the people who were saying no you don't have to because you're a land-grant institution were correct. They were correct. It had been fought out somewhere else. You could still satisfy the Morrill Act without R.O.T.C. That was almost like revisionist history. It was after years and years and years of every land grant school having R.O.T.C. Somebody challenged it, and it had been changed. ... So he asked me, he told me, what you have to do is create a controversy and create support for R.O.T.C. Because, then, that allows me to throw it into a committee of the Board of Governors who will then examine it. He didn't say it, but I got the inference [that the board of governors] would then say, "No you can't do that," and we would continue R.O.T.C. He never actually said that, but I got the message. It so happened that we had then a very good professor of military science in the Army and a very good Cadet commander by the name of Freeman .... His father was at the time, I think, the Secretary of Agriculture for the United States. ... I went to him and said, "Hey, here's what you got to do." ... Some of the students had occupied Queens building and the rangers said, "We're going clean it out." They were going climb up the sides and clean them out. ... The saner heads of the R.O.T.C. undergraduates put together a parade, and they paraded up College Avenue. There was a big parade and people turned out in droves supporting R.O.T.C. Some of the unwashed beatniks got up from their blankets and paraded with R.O.T.C. The rational of those people-- because we tried to find out-- was, "Look they want to do their thing, we want to do our thing." Our R.O.T.C. people, the undergraduates, had made inroads and actually had belonged to organizations that supported student rights and student freedom and what have you. ... Their attitude was that "We want to do what we want to do. They should have a right to do what they want to do even though we don't agree with them." That was a very mature attitude by these guys who most of them looked like the great unwashed. It was a great outpouring of support. Marched up College Avenue. All the secretaries turned out and people from the town turned out to support R.O.T.C. Mason Gross threw the Board of Governors up in the RAC up in College Avenue, the barn. There was this big meeting. It was broadcast on radio. People testified. I testified.
..................... END OF TAPE TWO SIDE ONE .......................
WB: ... [I remember at one meeting] a gentleman getting up, a faculty member, with a foreign accent saying he supported R.O.T.C. because he would like to know that these were civilians and not a military cast as it had been in Europe ... where the leadership came from. And I think that is eventually what went out. The idea of hey where would you like to have your people come from. Do you want to have it a closed system where they were all away from the civilians? Arnie Grobman made that statement to the entire faculty that he supported R.O.T.C. because he felt that was the way it should be done.
KP: Stephen Ambrose has made the point that one of the reasons the United States in a sense prevailed in World War II was in fact the fact that we were able to take citizen soldiers and that citizen soldiers performed well with the right training and so forth. Do you think ...
WB: Absolutely. The same thing applied because we took many of those citizen soldiers and put them into the Korean War. It is also the reason why I think the Vietnam War was such a bust. Because, it is the first war in which the reserves weren't called up. O.k. It's the first war where we didn't have a broad spectrum of citizen soldiers. We mainly had the poor and the blacks in Vietnam. We didn't have the middle class. The middle class guys were going as I said before, going into college. So, we didn't have the same spectrum that we had in other wars. That's why I think it was very easy to turn the civilian population against the Vietnam War. That plus the fact that it was the longest war we've ever been in in an area that we didn't have the home ties that we had with Europe with most of our population then being derived from European immigrants. So it was a different war. I think he is absolutely right.
KP: You had stayed in the military, in the reserves, for a long period of time. What changes did you see? One of the changes you saw was the split of the Air Force and the Army. Where there any other changes? Obviously the technology also changed dramatically.
WB: Tremendous technological change. Tremendous upgrading of the ability of the military personal. Being a professor and being with the active Air Force, I was asked to speak many places many times. ... One of the themes I used to develop had to do with the analogy between the academe and the military. The military is a fantastic and very skilled training organization. ... Even in World War II. They can take a kid from a farm community and through tremendous visual aids and the tremendous system they have convert him into a nuclear submariner or an aircraft mechanic with the most sophisticated thing. They are tremendous trainers. Secondly, the military tends to be a very young organization. ... It's twenty years up and out. Even the generals go out. You know when you are going to get out. ... It is a young environment, just as academe is a young environment. The thing that I think you might be interested in that strikes me is that, ... most of my ... Air Force career has been in communications. That has become one area that has become extremely sophisticated. You just think of what has happened with television and satellite communication. All of that we had in this command .... We got these G.I.s and a tremendous number of them are minority. A tremendous number of minority. Particularly in the senior enlisted ranks. You have an abnormal amount of blacks who are tech sergeants, master sergeants ... running extremely sophisticated systems. ... A black when he got into the military and he's now worked his way up to be a staff sergeant ... and he could get out. He's done his hitch. Lots of the guys go into the military to learn a trade and then they get out and go into the civilian world. The black guy says no, maybe when I get out there I'm not going to be able to hack it, not going to be able to get the kind of job I want ... where I know I've got it here. So he stays in where maybe the white guy gets out. He does a great job and he moves up. He assumes leadership. It has been something very interesting to see. Very interesting to see.
KP: In World War II we fought with segregated armies. Did you ever think that desegregation would go as smoothly in many ways as it did with the military?
WB: Well, I never thought about it, but it doesn't surprise me that it went well in the military because we are a military organization. We obey laws. We obey rules. We do things .... When Truman said we are going to be ... one, no segregation, sure you had fights. ... [You have to] remember we tended also to be a rather southern military .... Particularly after the war. Why, I am not sure, but we did. We still have that tendency. But, I'm not surprised that it went so smoothly. No. ... You learn in the military that when the decision is made, you go with it. I used to have young officers in R.O.T.C., when a new ... professor of military science would come in whether he was Air Force or not, ask me to take him out to lunch and explain to him what it was like. Because, most of the military guys coming in feel that the faculty meeting is a very academic study of situations .... As you well know it gets to be very emotional. I have to point out to them that this is not like a staff study. In the military when you have something that is going to be discussed, all the divisions come in with their little agendas, their little game plan they want. They present the pros and cons. Its all discussed and ... then the commander, makes a decision. He says, "This is what we are going to do." Then everybody jumps on the band wagon and tries to make it work. In a typical faculty situation, we have the arguments, a decision is made, and those that are unhappy go out and try to undermine the whole thing. It is not surprising to me that the military would be the first place, and they keep forgetting it. It's the first place that really did integration. It's not surprising that it went well.
KP: Linda do you have any more questions?
LL: No. No I don't have any questions.
WB: This has been a very un-World War II interview.
KP: Is there anything else, I forgot to ask about World War II?
WB: Yes. Incidentally, there was a professor here in the history department who left. I think he became chief of history for the Air Force.
KP: Yes. Richard Kohn.
WB: Yeah. Well, I didn't know who he was, and we were at something. Suddenly this guy is needling me about how ineffectual the Air Force is. He was trying to get a response from me I realized later. Who was this guy? Later, I find out he became an Air Force historian, chief of Air Force history I guess was his title. ... He was needling me that the Air Force really had no impact on winning the war. That was basically what he was trying to say. ... The other thing we haven't talked about and perhaps we shouldn't because I'm probably not qualified is to what I thought about what the Air Force did to win World War II. I happen to think it did, but that's ...
KP: You felt at the time that the Air Force was very effective?
WB: Yes. Definitely.
KP: And your squadron ... ?
WB: Definitely. Definitely. I don't think ... MacArthur could have done his leap frogging without the Air Force. I don't think he could have done it just with the Navy. I think you had to have the Air Force out patrolling and interdicting in things. Certainly, ... the disruption ... in Europe of lines of supply, communications, everything, for the Germans had a great effect on them. ... What changed the Vietnam War dramatically is when Nixon finally went up and started bombing North Vietnam and started making them pay for it. They said this is stupid. We are getting beat. So we'll now have a truce and we'll just take over from a political standpoint, which they did. Before that they were very happy because we were the ones who were getting bloodied and they weren't. We deliberately didn't go up there. I served up at Westover Air Force Base with the SAC bombing wing. I knew those people. They were called over for their six month tour over there. They came back, and they were totally demoralized, because SAC had been totally convinced that there could be no war because SAC's strategic bombing would take out the enemy. They got over there, and they weren't allowed to bomb. They weren't allowed to bomb anything in Vietnam. North Vietnam. They were demoralized because the whole reason for being--- [as it] turned out the government didn't use them. As soon as we did, North Vietnam quit. They didn't quit they just went a different way. Went a different way.
KP: You mentioned you think very highly of Douglas MacArthur. Did you think it at the time?
WB: Not really. I'm not so sure I think very highly of Douglas MacArthur. I thought very highly of his strategy. I think it was the correct strategy. I'm not so sure I think very highly of him. He almost killed me, inadvertently. ... I'm driving along the road and here comes this car with a wreath on it. I'm saying what a dumb looking thing that is. What's a wreath mean? Suddenly as it came closer, I realized it was five stars. I pulled over into a ditch and almost turned over to get out of his way. I think he ... when I stopped thinking highly of him was when he disobeyed Truman even though I think he was right. I don't think he should have disobeyed Truman. I don't think with his entire life, including his father before him, in the military, which is imbued with idea of authority and you obey the guy above you whether you like it or not. I think that was out of line for him.
KP: Even though your sympathies were with the Republican party?
WB: It had nothing to do with politics.
KP: You still thought the president was the ultimate authority?
WB: Yeah. Yeah. Even with, pardon me, the idiot we have now. He's the ultimate authority which I find absolutely nauseating for the military, but its the way it is. You can't help it. Thank God I'm not in the military at this moment.
END OF INTERVIEW
Updated 4/24/96 by Linda E. Lasko