Kurt Piehler: This begins an interview with Mr. Leslie C. Nelson, Jr., on October 10, 1995, at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey with Kurt Piehler and Susan Tong. I guess I like to begin by talking about New Brunswick because your family has had strong roots in New Brunswick. Your father was a police officer at New Brunswick.
Leslie Nelson: That's correct.
KP: What were your earliest memories of New Brunswick?
LN: We lived on Hassart Street and I started school at Lord Stirling, which is just up the street.
KP: ... Your father, as a police officer, probably got to know the community better than a lot of people.
LN: Oh yes, he was well liked and even today. He died. He died in 1943, after he came to visit me at camp. He had spinal meningitis and that was it. But he did ... You know the John A. Lynch Bridge? Well, he knew John A. Lynch.
KP: How did he end up a police officer? Was that an intended desire of his?
LN: No, but he was looking for security. Before that, he was what was called a steam engineer. They had steam shovels, and steam ... all kinds of steam power equipments. But he didn't see that as secure, so, when he got the chance he got on the police department.
KP: So for him the police department was a stable job that he wouldn't be laid off from.
LN: Hey, we even got paid during the depression. They only held back a couple of weeks.
KP: So in another word, your father felt very fortunate that he had the police officer job during the Depression.
LN: Smart move.
KP: You said they only held back the paychecks a few times, so, generally, New Brunswick met its payroll?
LN: Yes, pretty much so.
KP: How did your parents meet?
LN: I don't know exactly. He lived out in what is now Edison and she was on Hassart Street in New Brunswick. They both got around, and so.
KP: Your father served in the First World War. Did he ever talk about what had happened?
LN: Not much. He was in the Laundry Unit. He was in the Laundry Unit over in Bordeaux.
KP: Your mother went back to work twice in wartime, once for Johnson and Johnson and then for Squibb. Did she see herself as contributing to the war effort? Do you have that sense?
LN: The first time, yes. But the second time she went back to work was after the war and she .,.. the loss of my father hit her very hard. So, she figured her going back to work would do her some good, Get out and be with people.
KP: So the second time she went back to work, it was, in a sense, a therapy for her losing her husband. How good was the New Brunswick school system in preparing you for college, or at least, initially, for the ASTP?
LN: Well, it was pretty darn good. I didn't have any trouble getting into school, Rutgers, particularly.
KP: People had said that it was a very interesting school district, in that it was a regional school district, that you had a lot of farm kids. Any recollections of that?
LN: Well, I was in high school and, of course, we had kids from as far away as Edison, and Milltown, North Brunswick.
KP: You mentioned living in New Brunswick. Rutgers is a very much apart of the community. Did you often go to the football games when you were growing up?
LN: That's where I got started. Up here, where just behind Brower Commons is, was the football field. It was Neilson Field, N-E-I-L-S-O-N, not me, not my family. So they had what was called the "kiddies corner," where we get in free and the reason was that Timmy Neilson, he was an industrialist, mandated that when he donated the property.
KP: Really, that kids would get in free?
LN: That's correct.
KP: So how old were you at your first football game?
LN: Oh, about twelve.
KP: So you have a long tradition of going to football games.
LN: Still going on.
KP: How did your father feel about the New Deal and Franklin Roosevelt?
LN: He wasn't too enthused about it. In the first place, he was a Republican. But we never talked too much about politics ... talked about sports and other things.
KP: Although you could tell he was opposed, he never talked about it?
KP: Growing up in the 1930s, what did you know about what was going on in the world? In a sense, did you read the newspapers at all?
LN: Not very much. Just what I heard on the radio, newscasts and stuff.
KP: Did you have any sense that we would be going to war in the 1940s? Did at one point, did you ever say to yourself, "We'll probably be in a war?"
LN: No, because there was a strong public sentiment against getting involved. That's why it took Pearl Harbor to change the whole focus.
KP: So you had that sense that there was sentiment against the war?
LN: Oh, yes, definitely.
KP: Your father had been in the First World War, how did he feel about the whole topic? Did he ever express it in feelings?
LN: No, he was kind of a silent person, although I got a lot of indications that he really care about me and my brother, I had a brother, and he wanted the best for us and all that. When I was, the day I was born, I'm sure, it was his intent that I should go to college.
KP: You sense that they want ....
LN: I do now, in retrospect.
KP: But at the time, you weren't sure? What type of expectations, at the time, did you think your parent had for you? Did your father, for example, want to see you, or your brother become police officers, or you ....
LN: Oh, no, better than that.
KP: But he never said you were going to go to college?
LN: No, not in so many words. But, you know, he wanted me to study, you know ... keep my studies up, and all that.
KP: Did you play any sports when you were in high school?
LN: Baseball. I was too small for football, a hundred and thirty pounds, a hundred and thirty five pounds, but I played baseball in high school and it was enjoyable.
KP: Would you have liked to play baseball in college?
LN: I thought about trying, but, then again, they was so darn many recruits out then. Besides, I was pretty much busy. I lived in New Brunswick, not on campus. We already had a daughter, or we had a daughter while I was going.
KP: Oh, wow.
Susan Tong: So this is while you were at college?
ST: Where was veterans housing?
LN: Oh, it was up along the railroad track, on Power Street. I don't know if you know where Power Street is.
ST: It was along the Hillside trailers. I went through the Targum in .... from 1946 on. How in 1946, it was the largest class in Rutgers history. Is that when you were enrolled?
LN: Yes, 1946.
ST: Until 1949. So, I just thought it was kind of strange that, that Rutgers had 6,000, no, 3,000 students at the men's college.
LN: Well, what happened during the war was that the state legislature made Rutgers a state university. That's what happened.
ST: Yes, after the war, with the GI Bill, a lot of the ex-servicemen came to school here.
KP: Did you work at all when you were in high school?
LN: No. Very carefree time.
KP: So in many ways, looking back, did you ever think that in some ways you had a very lucky ... you and your family, were very lucky during the Great Depression? Did you have any sense of that?
KP: You graduated from high school in 1941, what happened after high school graduation? Did you apply to college at all?
LN: No, I was going part-time. I took a course in chemistry and algebra.
KP: At Rutgers?
LN: Yes, there was ... night school.
KP: And how did that go? How did you like the professor and how did you like the subject?
LN: Oh, I was bound and determined, I wanted to be a chemist. So, there was two professors: Van Mater, I don't know if you remember him, he's long gone, and Van der Meulen. Oh, and then there was ... I can't think ... I'll think of his name, it was another professor in Chemistry, so, Reiman, Dr. Reiman
ST: Were you interested in chemistry ... Oh, yes, you got it down as your favorite professor.
KP: When did you want to become a chemist? Was it before college?
LN: Oh, yes, in high school. They had a pretty good chemistry program, and physics wasn't so hot, and I didn't care for biology, but I did all right.
KP: You were, in a sense, a part-time student when Pearl Harbor occurred. What do you remember about Pearl Harbor? Where were you?
LN: The best I could recall, I went to see my girlfriend, she lived in the neighborhood, too. We were sitting there and the news came over the radio, so everything changed.
KP: So do you think it changed your plan regarding college? Had you planned to try to go as a full-time student at some point?
LN: At some point.
KP: Yes, but you didn't have any definite ...
LN: I didn't have the finances. I was working at Squibb. Eighteen bucks a week doesn't go too far.
KP: When you heard the news about Pearl Harbor, did you think you would be enlisting, or did you try to enlist?
LN: I tried to enlist. Wanted to go into the naval air; it's not the Air Force, but the Navy air program, and they said I didn't have the upper body strength, so I went into the Army.
KP: I get the sense that you sort of waited when you couldn't get into the Navy aviation, you sort of waited your turn?
KP: Any regrets in waiting your turn that you might have gotten into something? Actually, you did initially get into the ASTP.
LN: Yes, because I worked at Squibb, I was first assigned to the medical department. We had basic training and such there.
KP: You worked at Squibb during the 1942, in the New Brunswick plant. How did the war affect the plant? Any recollection? I mean, one thing, did you see a lot of workers like yourself who were probably leaving over the course of the year?
LN: Yes. As a matter-of-fact, a really funny occurrence. I knew this man, this boy, Al (Welzel?). We were in the same church. He was a year younger than I was, pretty sure. But then, when I went to Squibb, when I was leaving, Al Welzel came in, took my place. So then, the next occurrence, I'm walking around London, one day, there was Al Welzel. After I graduated from Rutgers, I got a position with the Atomic Energy Commission over in New Brunswick. A year later Al Welzel came.
KP: So the two of you were sort of following, he was following you over.
LN: Yes, very unique.
KP: How did the war change the work level at Squibb? I'd imagine business picked up quite a bit for Squibb in that you had longer hours.
LN: Yes. They were making tetanus. Tetanus, I was working where they were making tetanus toxoid, so that production was increased quite a bit. Then, they were working on penicillin, at that point, but it was still in the laboratory stage.
KP: What were your specific duties at Squibb?
LN: I was a lab tech, but I didn't do any of the technical part, but the production of the tetanus and other things that were needed for the war.
KP: How big was your specific department at Squibb?
LN: Well, I'd say ten people or so.
KP: Did you have any women lab technicians?
KP: Were they newer hires? Or did they, were they hired during 1942?
LN: I don't recall anything particulars.
KP: You would be inducted in 1943, January of 1943, and you reported at Newark. What do you remember about that experience of getting inducted into the Army?
LN: Just routine kind of stuff.
KP: Had you been a Boy Scout?
LN: No. That kind of activity just didn't appeal to me. We had a neighborhood sports center, actually organized baseball players, and we played teams, just pick up teams, and football. We played football, sandlot-type.
KP: It sounds like you enjoyed playing sports alot.
KP: You were inducted, where did you go? Did you go to Fort Dix?
LN: Yes, it was the Dix , left here, I went in early afternoon. I went down there and goes through the routine there. You get your uniforms, you get your shots, and then about midnight, they send me to take the Army general classification test.
KP: Which you must have been tired.
KP: You obviously did well on it.
LN: Yes, because that's why I got the, part of the reason I got the specialized training.
KP: Well, initially they sent you to the medical department.
LN: Medical department because I worked at Squibb.
KP: And so where did you do that training, at the medical department?
LN: Camp Pickett, Virginia.
KP: How long did that training last?
LN: That was three months.
ST: What did the training consist of?
LN: A lot of marching and they trained us in first aid.
KP: Were you being trained to be a medic, or to do lab work, or hospital work?
LN: Well, that was just general, that was just general basic training.
KP: So there would be more advance training you would go to?
LN: I'm sure I could have gotten into one of the technician's program. As a matter-of-fact, I met a couple of the guys, when I was coming back through the system.
KP: That you had met in the ...
KP: When you say you had a lot of marching, do you remember anything about your first sergeant, your drill instructor?
LN: Not specifically. I recall, you know, everything was on the fast pace. But then the next training period, they held me over and I became an instructor, a squad leader. I had some pretty good guys there. One of them was, last name was (Mediado?). He was part of, he and three of his brothers had a dance acrobatics routine. After the war, I saw him on TV once, but never got in touch with him.
KP: You said you did a lot of marching. What else did you do? What were your other impressions about your initial Army experiences in Army life. In terms of food, in terms of discipline?
LN: The food was good, I didn't mind it. Only the chipped beef on toast.
KP: You were in Virginia, which is not that far away, but had you traveled much before the war? Had you been outside of the ...
LN: Yes. Oh yes. My father was pretty much, he liked to traveled. We went as far as Roanoke, Virginia one time and up through Maine.
KP: So in a sense you had seen, you had been to Virginia before, so it wasn't much of a surprise to you?
LN: Well, the Blue Ridge Parkway is nothing like Camp Pickett.
KP: How did your selection into the ASTP come about? When did you learn that you would be going to the ASTP?
LN: Well, it was by the end of initial basic training. That's why they held me over, and I waited, and waited, and didn't get in until October of '43. That lasted six months, like I told you.
KP: Had you applied for ASTP or were you simply selected?
KP: You applied.
LN: Sure. The training officer, I forget who he was now, but, I had a brief interview with him and, "Sure," he says "We'll put you in for that."
KP: How did you look at the ASTP? As a way to go to college and come out with an engineering degree?
LN: The training was very good. They gave us one year and six months, you know, two semesters, in six month.
KP: You've already been through sort of a basic training, basic medical training. How did you find the change going back to a college campus, or going to a college campus?
LN: It was very fulfilling. I felt that I was doing pretty well. Again, this was a lot of exercise. We use to have a ... I forget, a cross-country type of course that we took to keep in shape. We didn't do a lot of marching.
KP: So the marching was low, but you still did a lot of physical activities.
LN: Yes, it was part of the program.
KP: You mentioned that the coursework was very good. It sounds like the professors were also very good.
LN: Yes. I recall one professor was in the engineering course I was taking, we were taking, and he was trying to get into the Army, I guess it was in the engineering. He says, "Well now we'll give you first lieutenant or second lieutenant in the some other branch." "No," he says, " I'll take a corporal in engineering, combat engineering." I don't know what happened.
KP: When you were in ASTP, how often did you get off campus and off base?
LN: Well, we had Monday through Saturday, that was the regular routine. And Sunday we had off, so usually try to get into Roanoke, which was about forty miles or there was another school down the road, girl school. We tried to get down there.
KP: Some people I've interviewed who were in the ASTP felt, other soldiers really resented them. Did you have any sense of that when you were in ASTP?
LN: Not while I was in, but when we got into the infantry, there was some of that feeling, "who were these smart guys?" and stuff like that.
KP: But when you were going there, you didn't?
ST: I guess it was during your stay in Virginia Polytech that you married your wife. Where was she from?
LN: New Brunswick.
ST: New Brunswick.
LN: We were going together since, like my senior year in high school. She was a junior.
ST: While you were in Virginia, did you come up a lot, up to New Brunswick?
LN: Probably. I got leave right away when my father passed away. Then, after that, probably two or three times more, because it was a race to get to Washington to catch the nine o'clock train, Pennsylvania train.
ST: How long did the train ride take, from Washington back up here?
LN: That's only about three hours.
KP: It was the race to Washington that really ...
LN: Yes. From Camp Pickett, it took four hours.
KP: And how did you come by, train?
LN: No, usually by car, I went. The non-coms had these big touring cars. They charged us, I forget, probably about a ten dollar a trip. To get there any other way was impossible.
KP: Getting married in wartime, how uncertain was your future when you got married? Had you hoped to stay in the ASTP?
LN: Well yes, I was going to stay in that. It was just that we didn't know what was going to happen, so we wanted to at least do that.
KP: Some people I've interview, they were seeing someone, who they later married after war, and they had simply said, "Well, we don't know what's going to happen so we'll wait," but you decided that. Where did your wife live during the war, after you were married?
LN: She lived with my mother, which was a good thing, both ways.
KP: Did your wife work in any defense plant or any other place during the war?
LN: She worked for a while in the Lend Lease program. They had it over at where the county college is now. It was the Raritan Arsenal, and then, I don't know how long she worked there because I wasn't here. Then she got a job with a company, just a small company, it was right near where she lived. They were making like bunk beds that go in the ships and other things that ... well, for the war effort, sure.
KP: How often did your wife write to you when you were overseas?
LN: A lot.
KP: You must have missed her a great deal when you were overseas, particularly, I mean, how much of a shock was it when they shut down the ASTP?
LN: Well, I guess I was just resigned to the fact.
KP: How much notice did they give you?
LN: I forget. It wasn't much.
KP: How did other people feel in the ASTP program at your college?
LN: They didn't want to go. A few of the guys who were from the Air Force, they had ... part of the reason they did come was that they would go back to their own units. They were writing letters or doing whatever they had to do to get back.
KP: A lot of people have been quite, even to this day, have been really quite furious at the breakup of the ASTP, Because, in a sense, it was a promise broken, that you were to complete this program and then serve as an engineer or other programs. People were sought of carte blanche marched off.
LN: Didn't care for it. Afterward, I learned that the reason they did that was they wanted to fill out these infantry units. There were a number of them. So they thought they could do that and win the war before the Winter of '44. Well, it didn't work.
KP: You had seen the medical corps and you had been in the ASTP, now you were going off to infantry. Where did you report to initially after leaving Virginia?
LN: Well, they sent us to Camp Claiborne, Louisiana.
KP: And you went with a group of people from your ...
LN: Oh, yes. Whatever they needed for each company, they filled in.
KP: So you were going in with a bunch of people you had gotten to know, it sounds like. What were your impressions of Camp Claiborne and Louisiana, which people have, also I should add, a variety of ...
LN: It was hot. It was dry. No, it wasn't dry, it was damp, and just very, very uncomfortable. We went on our maneuvers a couple of time. We were on maneuvers, as a matter-of-fact, when the first sergeant came and said, "You're free to go on two weeks furlough," which was time to leave. So that was in July, we broke camp and came back up in late August. Then we were, about four or five days we stayed in Camp Kilmer, and then they shipped us overseas.
KP: You had been through basic before, but of a different kind. What was the differences between your medical basic and the infantry basic?
LN: It was just you learn to use weapons.
KP: How about the marching? Did you do more marching?
LN: Oh, yes. Twenty miles. They had one that was a doozy, nine miles in two hours "Try to make it in less than two hours."
KP: With a full pack?
LN: No, that was light pack. Twenty miles was the regular.
KP: I'd imagine that the sergeants in the infantry were an earthier lot than in the Medical department. Is that a correct assumption?
LN: Yes. As a matter-of-fact, as I mentioned, Malcolm Forbes was in the same platoon as I was. He was what was called section chief. The thing about Malcolm was, we got to be really good friends, that he volunteered to go into the infantry because he said, he didn't say this so much, but I learned this much later, that he thought any experience there would serve him well in politics.
KP: What were some of your impressions of Malcolm Forbes, as an infantryman, both in training and later?
LN: He was very good. He wasn't my sergeant. When I went there, they assigned me a bunk that was right next to him. We talked a lot. He was pretty good. He had graduated from Princeton. One night, we were sitting there and so he says, "I have to write to my brother." He reaches down and pulls out his portable typewriter. The only GI I'd ever saw with a portable typewriter.
KP: Malcolm Forbes in some ways would become a very flamboyant figure, later in his life, did you have any sense of that?
LN: No, I didn't really understand what, who he was.
KP: When did you realize later how prominent the Forbes family was? Was it when he ran for governor? Did it dawn on you?
LN: Yes, that was about the first time. We saw him a couple of times during the campaign, went to him, to visit him after that at his office. He was quite a character.
KP: Your sergeants, were any of them regular Army in Camp Claiborne?
LN: I don't recall. It's hard to tell one from another. I'm sure that Malcolm wasn't.
KP: You mentioned that when you got to Camp Claiborne, there was some resentment toward the college boys.
LN: Yes, not too much, just "these smart guys."
KP: In your unit, in your company, how much was the percentage of ASTP versus non-ASTP?
LN: I don't know.
KP: Were you swamped by the non-ASTPs or did the ASTP ...
LN: No, no. It was less than half.
KP: Where did most people in your unit come from, in the company?
LN: Oh, boy, all over. Two or three of the ones I was friendly with otherwise came from Wisconsin, and Michigan. Not Michigan. What's the other state there?
LN: Yes, I'm very dry, and then, of course, there was a bunch of them from the South. They were probable the ones that were, I'm sure, they were there originally. Another guy was from Brooklyn and a few from Texas.
ST: What were your impressions of people from the South? Were they culturally different from people from New Brunswick, New Jersey?
LN: They were different, yes.
KP: Did you have any re-fighting of the Civil War in your barracks?
KP: No, you didn't have that argument. What about ... what do you do on leave when you did get a furlough, or leave in Louisiana, a day or two day pass?
LN: No, Pickett was, I mean Claiborne was close to Alexandria, which was nothing much more than a few saloons, as far as the guys were concerned. We did get down to Baton Rouge one time. I remember the tall capital building, but that's about it. Few of the people went down to ... on the coast, on the Gulf Coast.
LN: No that's too far. Part of Texas, see, close to the Texas boarder.
KP: San Padres Island?
LN: No, but somewhere. Can't think of it. It's a long time ago.
KP: You mentioned that you had your two week terminal leaves before going overseas, so you came home to see your wife. Did you rejoin up with your division in Camp Kilmer?
LN: No, went back to Louisiana. That would make too much sense. Well, it was July, so we didn't move out of Claiborne until end of August.
KP: And then you came to Camp Kilmer, which must have seemed somewhat ironic, given how close you were to home.
LN: Yes, well, I called my wife and she says, "Go to the fence along Plainfield Avenue, there's a hole in the fence and Uncle (Wolbert?) will pick you up." He was a policeman then in Edison. I get out the first night and Malcolm said, "Call my father." So I said, "Okay." Birdie, his name was. So I called him and told him that Malcolm was here. I had more pull than he did at that particular time.
KP: You then had this unauthorized leave. Did you get back in time?
LN: Oh, sure. They never question you when you come in, only when you go out.
KP: You mentioned your uncle was a police officer in Edison and your father before he died, died during the wartime. One of the questions I've been curious about is, in terms of, the impact Camp Kilmer had on Edison and New Brunswick and the surrounding towns, because it was a big base that all of the sudden sprung up.
LN: It had a big impact on New Brunswick.
KP: What was good and bad about it?
LN: I don't remember anything particularly bad. It was a lot of soldiers around, but there were never problems that I ...
KP: No problems with say, soldiers who had too much to drink and caused any problems or anything?
LN: If there were, they were minor.
KP: So your wife or other people, never really, never complained, in a sense never complained.
KP: After leaving Camp Kilmer, where did you embark? Which port? New York? Hoboken?
LN: We went to New York. The ship was the Orient. The Orient was the sister ship of the Morro Castle.
KP: Which must not have had been a positive sister ship to have.
LN: No, because its main trip was to Bermuda. The ship had to have a very shallow draft, a round bottom to get into that harbor, so it rolled a lot. I got sick, got sick one day.
KP: How comfortable, or I should say how uncomfortable were your quarters?
LN: The bunks were all right. But there was the head, you know what the head is, right at the bow of the ship, and when you went in there, the ship going up and down and the air coming right up through the funnels.
KP: People who have served had said they were very tightly packed in there. How crowded were you?
LN: Well, I'd say it's about four high.
KP: And which bunk did you have?
LN: I had one of the top ones.
KP: Which I've been told was also an advantage, in terms of when people got seasick. Was that true?
LN: Yes, I didn't recall much after the first day or two.
LN: Took us six or seven days, I forget.
KP: Were you in a convey?
LN: Yes. There were just a couple ours (ships) before we got to England.
KP: How was the food abroad ship?
LN: It was all right. I don't have any impression whether, if it was bad or good.
KP: What did the people in your unit do to pass the time? Was there a lot of card playing?
LN: Oh, yes.
KP: For poker, for stakes, or ...
LN: I'm sure. I didn't participate.
KP: Your unit landed in England. Where did you land?
LN: In Southampton, and then they brought us up to Winchester. We were held there a month because we were suppose to go into Le Havre, but the place was a wreck. The Germans had sabotaged everything, sunk ships in the harbor.
KP: So you were in England for longer than you and your officers expected?
LN: Yes, we were there a month.
KP: What did you do in that month?
LN: We played tarts. Big table.
KP: Well, did you do any additional training?
LN: Well, they took us out for exercise, but nothing ...
KP: No maneuvers or anything?
LN: No, no. There was no space.
ST: What was your impression of England, since it was your first time there?
LN: Well, at that time, it was a novelty. As a matter-of-fact, Malcolm and I went into London one day. He took me on a tour.
KP: So he had been to London before?
LN: Oh yes.
KP: So what was it like to have Malcolm Forbes as a tour guide?
LN: Well, it was pretty good.
KP: What did you think of the English people? They had seen a lot of Americans before D-Day.
LN: Well, I didn't really get an impression, until after afterward, when I was in the Air Force. They're very likable people, low key, but friendly, very friendly.
KP: What about the pubs? Did you go to any of the pubs?
LN: No, I didn't drink then. Not until, one night at our place in England, after I went over there, we went out to a pub with this buddy of mine, and I had too much. First experience with anything like that.
KP: So you hadn't had a drink before the Army?
KP: Had you smoked at all?
KP: And you didn't take it up in the Army?
LN: No, they tried to trap me. In the K rations, there was one little package, four cigarettes, so I took one out and I lit it. I took about three, four puffs and then I said, "The hell with this." From then on I gave them to somebody else.
KP: You left England in the Fall of '44.
LN: That was about the first of November.
KP: And then where did your unit end up landing? In Le Havre?
LN: No, Omaha Beach. That was still the only way we can get in and out, and the supplies could get in and out.
KP: Admittedly, the battle had passed quite a bit, but Omaha Beach, even at that point, had become really quite a famous place.
LN: Yes, we knew the name.
KP: And you knew what had happened.
KP: How nervous were you in going across the Channel and getting ready to really move into combat?
LN: I was just resigned to it. I didn't really have any fear. There was guys that feared, you know, for their lives.
KP: Did anyone ever go AWOL before any of the shipments sailed out of the United States or England?
LN: I don't know.
KP: After going to Omaha Beach how did you get up to the front?
LN: In trucks and jeeps. We traveled on what was called the Red ball Express. That was, the Red ball was the line of supply for all the troops in the front. We went through Paris, but we didn't stop.
KP: When you got up to the front, how long were you up at the front before you were actually put into combat, your unit?
LN: We almost ...
KP: Got out of the truck ...
LN: The next day.
KP: That was in November.
LN: That was around the 15th of November.
KP: What were your initial, when you actually did get to the line, what were your ... well, maybe I should ask the question what did you expect to find and what did you actually find?
LN: I didn't know what to expect. But found that they were shooting at us.
KP: And, was that a shock, well, I wouldn't say it's a shock because you know it's wartime, but for people who really are out to get you, in a sense, not deliberately, but pretty deliberately?
LN: The .88s were really were, very scary.
KP: That was scarier than other things?
LN: Very much so. That's the first thing any of the soldiers talked about when they talked about their experiences were.
KP: Was how scary the .88s there?
LN: They screamed.
KP: You weren't in battle very long. You would be wounded very earlier. Were you the first in your unit to be wounded?
LN: No, there were a number of them, minor ones. Nobody had been killed, so far.
KP: On the first few days on the line that you were with the unit, what was your object? Were you just holding the line or were you advancing?
LN: No, we were advancing. First day, we went like five miles, which was a lot, into a town called (Guilenkirken?).
KP: And how much German resistance did you encounter?
LN: Considerable. After that we couldn't advanced, we had trouble advancing anymore.
KP: But that initial day you advanced even with German opposition.
LN: They didn't expect ...We were a new unit and so they didn't expect that much from us.
KP: So in other words, you really exceeded the expectation of your commanders it sounds like.
LN: Yes, we took our objective ... like I say, was that little town.
KP: And taking that objective, the German resistance, was it on the outskirts or was it also in the town itself?
LN: Oh, yes. We spent the whole night in the basement. The Germans built good houses, they had good solid walls in the basements.
KP: So you were being shelled?
LN: Oh, yes.
KP: Which must have been, even in the basement, not pleasant?
LN: Not very.
KP: Your unit didn't lose anyone in that, was any one killed in that initial assault?
LN: No. There was no one killed until after I was wounded. You see, we were what was called heavy weapons unit, heavy machine guns and mortars, so we were in a supportive role and in a ...
KP: Rifle combat.
LN: Rifle combat, yes.
KP: What weapons did you have responsibility for?
LN: Well, initially I was carrying ammunition. So I had a light rifle, didn't have the M-1, and then, the day before I got hurt, they gave me a bazooka for anti-tank purposes, which never materialized. Matter-of-fact, when I got wounded, I was in a trench and I had the bazooka laying up top because there was no room for it in the trench, and one of the rounds just destroyed the bazooka and a couple of other things I had there, a canteen. That's how close it was.
ST: Was anybody with you at the time in the trench or were you by yourself?
LN: Oh, individual, you know, the foxholes, the trenches were individual because, well, I don't know, but that's what we did.
KP: When you said the shell came in and destroyed the bazooka and stuff, it wounded you, fairly badly.
LN: It was pretty close to the trench. Matter-of-fact, I could hear it come. It was a mortar round, but what you do with a mortar is you have an observer and you adjust your range and direction until you hear you're on the target, and you say, "Pour four down the barrel for a fifth." I counted and could hear it coming because every time the mortar round goes off, it moves that base plate a little bit. So the last one was close.
ST: What were you thinking at the time? Were you just really scared?
LN: It wasn't a time to think. I called for medic and he came right over, after the barrage was finished.
KP: Where had you been hit?
LN: One here, on my upper arm and my knee.
KP: You were wounded. Did you lose consciousness at all?
LN: No. It was about four or five o'clock in the afternoon and they kind of tucked us into bed.
KP: And after the medic got to you, were you bleeding very much?
LN: I don't think so. I couldn't see. He says "It's all right, it's all right." Of course, that's what you were trained to do, reassure the patient.
KP: How did you get off the line?
LN: Well, I laid there several hours and then I said to myself, "It's going to get light pretty soon and I don't want to stay here." So I just got up and started walking back, limping a little.
KP: And you walked back to an aid station?
LN: I walked back to a, like the company command post and then they called medics and they carried me back a few hundred yards more into one of the bunkers in the sick-leave line. So I stayed there the rest of the night and then in the morning they loaded us on the jeep and took us to the field hospital.
KP: At the field hospital, what did they tell you about your condition?
LN: They didn't tell me much of anything. They took me into the, you know, operating rooms, the operating tent, whatever it was, and they patched it up, you know, just put dressing on it and then a cast, to keep it stable for the travel back. We were supposed to fly back to England the next day, but the weather conditions then were bad and the planes couldn't get off the ground. So they loaded us on a train, and started back for Paris. See, that was like about the 4th of December, the 5th of December, or something. You loose track of days then. So it was only a few days more when the Bulge started, so we just got back in time.
KP: You weren't on the line for very long, but it sounds like it was very vivid, your experiences.
KP: How did different people react to combat? Did you have any sense of that? Were people more scare than others?
LN: Oh, yes. Matter-of-fact, we had a spit and polish company commander. He just went what they say, "Section Eight."
KP: Really? Did that surprise you at all that he was the one that snapped right away?
LN: In retrospect, no. Yes, I kind of thought that's the kind of guy he was.
KP: Any other cases?
LN: I don't remember any other specifically, but there were a few.
KP: Did anyone surprise you about how comfortable, in a sense, comfortable they performed really well.
LN: Yes, our squad leader. He was a nut from West Virginia. He had no fear at all.
LN: No. He would set up the gun, he set up right up in plain sight, where anybody can see it. So I said, "Can I help you?" He says, "No, no, get down." So he was firing the gun.
KP: You had mentioned that you initially had a very good day, you took your objective and advanced five miles. What about the Germans? Were they taking many casualties or were they just pulling back?
LN: We took quite a few prisoners.
KP: What was it like to encounter the Germans?
LN: It just didn't faze me at the time.
KP: In November there was a lot of talk still about the war, I've read, about the war ending by Christmas.
LN: Yes, that's why they put us over there.
KP: So you still had the sense that this might be over in a few weeks?
LN: Not after that first day.
KP: It sounds like a lot of your conceptions of battle and war changed, as the result.
LN: Oh, definitely. A couple incidents. We were always under fire. They knew where we were and they had us pretty well zeroed in. But then, later on, we did, advanced onto a hilltop. What did we find on the hilltop? A haystack. What's under the haystack was a dugout. It's where the observer was and there was no hay around, it was all sugar beets.
KP: You were an ammunition carrier so you never fired a weapon in combat?
KP: Looking back, at the time did you think that was strange? Did you want to shoot your gun at all, shoot the gun or shoot a weapon?
LN: It didn't bother me at all. The closest I got was with the bazooka.
KP: Which you never got to ...
LN: No. In the first place they couldn't. The tanks couldn't get around too much because the ground was too soggy.
KP: So one of your memories must be a lot of dampness and dankness and mud?
LN: Yes, and a lot of trench foot.
KP: Did you get any trench foot?
LN: No, I made sure, whenever I could, to take the shoes off and warm the feet up, make sure they were all right. Because we had almost as many casualties from that, as we did from ...
KP: You weren't on the line for very long, but you were on the line long enough to probably get a sense of this. How were your supplies and since. Did you get any hot meals?
LN: Oh, yes, sure.
KP: Which must have felt great.
LN: Well, food is good when you're hungry, it doesn't matter what it is. Every opportunity they could, the kitchen brought hot food up.
KP: How did you like the K rations? Some people hated it, some people didn't mind it at all.
LN: The K rations were all right, but the C rations, that's small cans, usually like stew, that was very good. You take those and put them in a big tub and heat them up. You open them with a little can opener. They gave you a little can opener about that big. I still have it at home somewhere.
ST: Your brother also served in the military. Was he drafted?
LN: Yes, but after the war. He was five years younger than I. He was assigned to a supply ship, Army supply ship. So one time he was up north of Alaska, on the North Slope. Let's see that was probably in the fifties, of course, anyway.
KP: Did you go to services at all when you were in the military? The chapel?
LN: Not specifically. No.
KP: Did anyone in your unit go to the chapel call?
LN: Don't recall.
KP: Some people have described or talked about the million dollar wound. Did you have any sense of that, that in a sense you had got a million dollar wound?
LN: I'd never put it into that term, but it probably saved my life, because the next day was when there was some killed in action. That's what you get from the book.
KP: Yes, your unit would see a lot of combat.
LN: Ended up at the Elbe ... and they were right, after, you know, the Bulge started, they were moved from the front. We were [sent] on down to the Hürtgen Forest and then there was snow. It was a bad time, I can tell.
KP: I mean, it sounds like even for your limited time in combat you had a real appreciation for how tough it would be.
LN: Of course we have the reunions. I went to a couple of them.
KP: What's it like to go to reunions?
LN: It's a lot more fun. We had one in Baltimore, a couple years back.
KP: From the reunions, what kind of sense do you get from people you served with, in your company, and what happened to them?
LN: Oh, there were a few stories, but we really didn't dwell on it.
KP: Sounds like you talked about everything, but the war. You got sent back to England, the long way, but where were you initially sent to in England?
LN: It was a hospital. It was somewhere in western, southwestern England. I never could figure out where it was. I spent until March almost, at the hospital, because they did a skin graph on the arm.
KP: When were you trained for photo reconnaissance? When did you ...
LN: When I was interviewed, at the beginning, I told them I did some photography and darkroom work.
ST: So right after the hospital stay, they assigned you to the photo reconnaissance squadron?
LN: Well, that's another ...
KP: For most people, I've heard, who have been wounded, unless they could go back to their unit, they often were sent right back, they were eventually sent to the United States.
LN: I was what was called 'limited duty,' which means I couldn't be sent back into the infantry, so I went on a really big circle tour. Left the hospital, they took us to Calais. Took a boat across to Le Havre, this time I got into Le Havre, and then, several camps and I ended up outside Paris. I got one night's leave into Paris and then all the way back and, finally, I was assigned to the Air Force and back to England.
KP: So you spent several days, basically almost ...
KP: Weeks traveling. Did you get any impression, what the war had done to France? You even got a day in Paris ...
LN: It wasn't too much damage that we can see. It had been probably cleaned up by then. French people are cynics.
KP: You got that sense even ...
LN: They could speak English, but they wouldn't speak English to us. Just the French. Once in a while you would find somebody who would speak English to us, but they all study it.
KP: What did you think of Paris?
LN: It was all right. Went to one of their shows, not the Follies (Bergiere?), but one like it.
KP: You sort of did this grand circle, which must have given you a sense of Army efficiency, or inefficiency.
KP: And you eventually ended up back in England, which must have been seen more ...
LN: Well, when I got there, I was pretty happy.
P When you were going to these different places, what would happen? Would you find out that the unit didn't need you or was it ...
LN: I never got much feedback.
KP: So. how would you travel? Would you get individual orders from point to point?
LN: No, usually in groups. But the last leg was only three of us.
KP: So you start out with a big group that got smaller over time?
LN: Yes, went to ... distributed to different places.
KP: And you were one of the last who didn't get distributed.
KP: Until you got back to England and then you ended up with the photo reconnaissance unit. When did you join them and where were they based?
LN: Well, they were based in a place called (Charlegrove?) which was just outside Oxford. Oxford was nice.
KP: And what month was that, that you finally did join the photo reconnaissance?
LN: It was in March.
KP: So the war really getting ...
LN: It was pretty close to over, yes.
KP: And what were your duties at photo reconnaissance?
LN: In a photo lab. All these pages of these things are contact prints. They get the negatives, they were on rolls, the way they are in a camera and they had these printers that they, once they got the right exposure, then they do about ten or twenty of them all at once and then you have an assembly line, developing and processing the pictures.
ST: How many people worked in the lab?
LN: Oh, I'll say about ten or less.
KP: Did you have any women who worked in the photo reconnaissance?
KP: You mentioned before we started the interview that this was your best assignment.
LN: Best duty.
KP: It sounds like you even appreciated it more, having been in infantry for ...
LN: Oh, yes. As a matter-of-fact, in August ... Is that it, when V-J Day was? I buddied up with this guy and we took a leave. We went up to Scotland and took a ship over to Belfast, Northern Ireland. The reason was that there was no soldiers there anymore and no MPs, so you do what the heck you want.
KP: When you say going to Belfast where there were no MPs, could MPs be a problem, it sounds like?
LN: Well, yes. They kind of keep watch over you all the time.
KP: In what ways would they keep watch?
LN: I don't know. They just patrolling, like any policemen.
KP: Would they, for example with dress, would they pay particular attention, that you were in correct uniform? Would that be one?
LN: Yep, that's one of them.
KP: How else could an MP hassle you?
LN: I don't know. I never was hassled, but you knew.
KP: What was Belfast like?
LN: Belfast was fun.
KP: What did you do? Anything memorable?
LN: Well, V-J Day, we took a ride on top of a crowd, two GIs in Belfast, I think.
KP: Sounds like you enjoyed the pandemonium quite a bit. Had you expected, had your photo reconnaissance lab, were they expecting to go to Japan? Did you have any sense of that?
LN: No, never got to that point. In December, early December of '45, we got orders to go to the Continent, so, it took us all the way across Germany, across into Frankfurt, and all the way down to ...
KP: In Germany, Munich?
LN: No, we went to Nuremberg for a little bit. A couple other places, Nuremberg and down to Munich. We got established there to do some work. I didn't know what the heck it was because they didn't have a photo lab set up.
KP: So what were you doing this time? What were your responsibilities?
LN: Non description.
KP: It sounds like, in other word, you sat around quite a bit, in a sense.
LN: We got one leave, they were pretty liberal then.
KP: You got to see images of Germany, first from the air, and then you were actually in Germany. What were your impressions of the air war? How effective was bombing?
LN: It was terrible. Nuremberg was like I would describe as a bunch of pile of rocks. There were a few good buildings.
KP: When you were looking at the photographs of the bombings, of the different bombings, were you surprised as how effective the bombing could be or was it ineffective?
LN: Just look at the book. We were processing these photos for quite a bit of time.
KP: When you were in Germany itself, when you had gotten leave, what did you think of the German people? Sort of a general question.
LN: Really didn't get in contact with them too much. There was the non-fraternization during that period.
KP: How widely observed was it by the people in your unit? The non-fraternization?
LN: Pretty much, but they traded. They traded cigarettes for a lot of things. A pack of cigarettes was like a piece of money, cause the mark was destroyed.
KP: There was no dating by any people in your unit with German women?
LN: There may have been a few.
KP: But it sounds like it was pretty discreet at that time.
LN: They had to be.
KP: So you got a sense that the officers in your unit were trying to enforce non-fraternization?
LN: The MPs. I'm sure the officers also were involved.
KP: It sounds like you didn't really have any significant contact with any Germans while you were ...
LN: No, not then.
KP: When did you finally get to go home? Did you go home with the unit or did you come home?
LN: Well, there was, you know, quite a few of us who became eligible for return. So the Air Force people, being very resourceful, we were going in forty-and-eight boxcars, you know what they are? It was getting cold so they rigged bunks in the boxcar and a stove, one of these coal stoves in each one.
KP: It's interesting you should say that because one of the thing some people observed is that the Air Force really did take care of their men, even the enlisted ranks, that there was a lot of concerns for them. They could have let you be cold.
LN: I'm sure probably the reason we had to do this kind of thing was because many, many of the railcars were destroyed.
KP: You were in different sections of the Army, I mean, the Army Air Corp was still a part of the Army. Did you have any sense of the differences between those, in terms of how they treated you as an enlisted man? Or differences in attitude?
LN: Yes, there was a big difference.
KP: Say in military discipline, who was the strictest?
LN: Well, of course, the infantry.
KP: Did you find the Air Force Air Corp more informal?
LN: Yes, very much so.
KP: You mentioned before we got started that you got into London quite a bit because, I believe ,it was a colonel that ...
LN: Yes, unit commander.
KP: For example, when you say it was more informal, was there a lot of saluting on the Air Corp base?
LN: Much less.
KP: Would you always address your immediate superiors in formal terms, lieutenant or sergeant?
LN: Oh, yes.
KP: That still ...
LN: That still held.
KP: What about military dress when you were in England? How formal did you have to be?
LN: Well, you had to have regular uniform. but it was all mixed, there wasn't one particular one for any day.
KP: Whereas back in infantry training, it was a very...
LN: Yep, a uniform of the day.
KP: Any other differences between the different branches that you can think of?
LN: No, not particularly.
KP: You have a distinct memory of the forty-and-eight. How did you get from Europe back to the United States?
LN: Initially, on this train we went, a day, into Antwerp,loaded on the Liberty ship. The Liberty ship was kind of small, but we weren't crowded. The only thing I can remember about the food was the only dessert we got was Lorna Doones. But then the captain of the ship, it was in January then, he decided that he was going to cross the Atlantic and not in the most direct route because of the winter storms. So we went all the way down to, we went the southern route, a big swing around. It took us nineteen days. But it wasn't rough, so that was good.
KP: So you had a good voyage home, it sounds like?
LN: Yes. I didn't get sick. I walked on deck. Best way to not get sick is to go up on deck.
ST: How did you pass time for nineteen days on a ship back home?
LN: Reading. Yes, they brought quite a few books with us.
KP: You'd mentioned that you gotten to know ... I meant to ask you a little earlier, you mentioned you got to know the English a little better, when you were based in England. What did you think of the English, now that you got to know them a little better?
LN: Well, they were quite hospitable. As a matter-of-fact, I took, through Red Cross, they send me out somewhere to a family and I would stay, had dinner with them. You know the meat that they served was probably all they had for that month.
KP: They served it to you?
LN: Yes, stayed overnight and went back the next day.
KP: It sounds like you had very fond memory of the time, your second time in England.
LN: Mostly, yes.
KP: And mostly, was there anything unpleasant you found?
LN: Nothing outstanding.
KP: When you got back to the United States, when did you think you were going back to college?
LN: As soon as I could.
KP: When did you learn about the GI Bill?
LN: Oh, we knew about that even before I went overseas.
KP: It sounds like you were expecting to take advantage of it?
KP: How hard would college have been if there hadn't been a GI Bill?
LN: I don't know. Besides the fact that they paid for tuition and books and ninety dollars a month subsistence, which was pretty adequate, my wife was working.
KP: You could have gone elsewhere with the GI Bill, why did you come to Rutgers?
LN: I don't know I never thought of it. I didn't want to go anywhere else.
KP: Really, Rutgers was the only school you considered even?
KP: You had already, sort of had a little bit of an introduction to Rutgers, at the night school, and you had also been to Virginia, Virginia Tech, but you also been in the Army. What was it like coming back to college, after?
LN: It was a breeze.
KP: Really? And chemistry's not the easiest of fields.
LN: Well, the only thing I had trouble with was German.
KP: And physics didn't cause you any problems?
LN: No, I did quite well in physics, but it didn't have the appeal to me that chemistry did. It was when I graduated from Rutgers and I went to work for the Atomic Energy Commission, we had a lab out here on Jersey Avenue, stayed there for twenty eight-years.
KP: Yes, I never realized we had a division of the Atomic Energy Commission.
LN: Yes, we had about a hundred employees or so. It went up and down a couple of times. They finally decided they didn't want to keep it here because we were getting into analyzing plutonium. We were right next to the railroad tracks and behind that was a housing development. Somewhere up the line, they decided to close it, move the operation out to Illinois, Oregon, Illinois. So I took my leave. I was twenty-eight years, plus three in the service. I had thirty-one years, so I took retirement.
ST: Was it strange coming back here after a year or two in Europe and in the war and just coming back?
LN: No, it was easy.
KP: Did you get the sense that the war had made it easier for you in terms of all the responsibilities you had or was it ... some people have talked about a greater sense of maturity ...
LN: Yes, they [Rutgers] wouldn't make us wear the beanies.
KP: Some school customs you fought against?
LN: I didn't fight. They just knew they weren't going to do this, and, of course, we didn't have to take military training.
KP: One of the things I've asked a lot of people is, and now I'm no longer surprise by the answers, but did you talk very much about the war when you first got home?
LN: Very little. Matter of fact, this is probably the most I've talked about it, at all. I've related a few things to my wife and the family, but never this extensive.
KP: When you came home, did you join any veteran's organizations?
LN: The AV, disabled veterans, which was a good move.
KP: Why do you say that?
LN: Oh, it keeps me informed on all the politics of that nature.
KP: I haven't really ... I asked you generally about your wound. How has your wound effected you over your life? You've got a pretty serious wound.
LN: The arm didn't bother me much. The knee bothered me more for quite a long while. It got sore all the time.
KP: Did you ever have any follow-up surgery for treatment after the war?
LN: No, I went back for one examination and that was it.
KP: You mentioned that they didn't make you wear beanies. It was, in many ways, a very unique time for the college because you had people who had been officers and had seen quite a bit with students who were eighteen and nineteen who had just gotten out of high school. Any sense of the interaction between the two, or lack of interaction?
LN: I didn't notice any cause I had, there was a number of guys in the chemistry course who were out of high school. I guess our maturity canceled most of that out because we weren't going to look down on it. Some of them were smarter.
KP: You were living in veteran's housing, in New Brunswick, with your wife. How did having a daughter affect your studies at all?
LN: Didn't notice any.
KP: Did your wife leave her job after having a daughter?
KP: Was it rough getting by on your stipend at all?
LN: Well, I guess she didn't quit work right then. She took another position. She was business, office manager.
KP: And who cared for your daughter when she ...
LN: My mother. We lived together. She lived with us for the rest of her life.
KP: Did you get to participate? I mean you had a lot of responsibility, you had a wife, you would have a daughter, and, at least for some, a difficult major. Did you get to participate in any Rutgers activities?
LN: Just a couple, the Chemistry Club, and let's see, what else?
KP: Did you make time for football games? Did you have a chance to go to games?
LN: A few of them.
ST: How was Rutgers different because, I guess, that was the year when you had a huge numbers of veterans coming back to school with regular college students that just finished high school? Did they have questions? Did they ask ...
LN: No, we merged in quite well.
KP: How did you get your job with the Atomic Energy Commission? How did that come about?
LN: I read something on a bulletin board in the office, wherever it was. I called and they said, "Come in." I had an interview with a couple of people there, my immediate boss and a personnel manager, that's all I recall, and they said, "When can you start?" "Well," I say, "I need about a week to get things straighten away, and started working."
ST: This is after you had graduated?
LN: Yes, the only time I worked during school was one summer at Squibb. It was all together a different department. It was, I was on the Strepto, big tanks, three stories high.
KP: I've heard people describe the tanks. It sounds like you liked your work at the Atomic Energy Commission a lot.
LN: Oh, yes, very much so. I learned a lot.
KP: I'd actually saw, the alumni office had a list of an earlier resume. You've really published quite a bit.
LN: Well, the director of the lab, this particular lab was very much like a college, he says "publish." That's what he wanted to get out of it, besides doing the work that was necessary.
One point, my boss and the director were out at lunch and they came back and they said, "Can you try this experiment?" There was this stage in the processing of uranium, where you have to make it into uranium hexifloride, which is a volatile, used in the separation of the isotopes. So he said and then from that, when you finish that they had to treat it some way, in a couple of steps. So he says, "Why don't you try this, use a hot filament with hydrogen and hexifloride," which would go directly to what's called green salt, uranium fluoride, which negated. What they did was they hydrolyzed it and bubbled it into water, which made some other salt. I forget which, and then they had to reprocess that to get the green salt, which they then used to get metallic uranium, which is what they use in the reactor. So it was successful. So it worked. Eventually, they said it was saving them thousands of dollars.
KP: So that's a fairly impressive accomplishment.
LN: Yes, but I never got anything out of it. You sign away your right to that.
KP: You mentioned you were a part of a lab. How long did you stay in one lab at the Atomic Energy Commission? Or did you move around, in terms of your responsibilities?
LN: Things were always changing. It was highly interesting, and I finally was made branch chief.
KP: Did you go back for any additional, any graduate work?
LN: Yes, about twenty-two credits I got. It was a required course and I couldn't quite fit it in. It was a funny arrangement so I just dropped out of it.
KP: Was your advancement at all, you think hindered by the fact that you didn't have an advanced degree?
LN: No, very informal kind of set up. People do their work and prove yourself and you get ahead just as well as anywhere.
KP: My impression is you were at a very fortunate place because you got to do a lot of research and publishing.
LN: Publishing and the nature of the business. What you called radio chemistry involves a lot of electronics, so when I left there I was pretty computer literate. I had done programming on a smaller machine, but programming.
KP: Had you thought of following the Atomic Energy Commission to Oregon, Ohio, at all? Did that cross your mind at all?
LN: No, I didn't have to since they were moving further than I could commute, I was eligible to take retirement.
KP: It sounds like you wanted to stay in this area?
ST: Were you living in New Brunswick while you were working at the Atomic Energy Commission?
LN: Until, let's see, '53, I built a house and we moved out to East Brunswick.
KP: Which must have been very quiet in 1953.
LN: Yes, my grandfather came out while I was working on the house and looked around and said, "Why are you building this way out in the sticks?" He should have talked because where they lived they were a stick for many years.
KP: Atomic energy has been very controversial in some circles. Any thoughts you have on the whole question of nuclear energy from your experiences?
LN: No. I'm very much for it.
KP: Why do you think there's such public skepticism of atomic energy? Have you ever wondered about that?
LN: It's just the politics of it. The people in Washington, you know, Congress and the President, and all the other branches, the AEC itself, were very reluctant to stick their necks out for anything controversial so it just got passed by. All of the reactors that have been built are currently supplying twenty percent of our energy in New Jersey and throughout the country and we should had gone on and did more. The Three Mile Island kind of skewed the feeling, I'm sure.
KP: Since you're very closely connected to the atomic energy, what do you think about the whole issue of safety from an insider's perspective?
LN: One of the safest industry of its size and worth and that's where OSHA (Operational Safety & Health Administration) came from, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, their safety program grew out into OCHER.
KP: Because I knew somebody who had worked for the Atomic Energy Commission, in a non-technical, he had actually worked in headquarters, and he said he had a much better view of the Atomic Energy Commission and of nuclear power after working there than before he had.
KP: None of your kids have served in the military.
LN: No, just, we had a girl and a boy. The boy is forty-one now. So he was after Korea and Vietnam.
KP: Do you think that either one of them would have benefited from serving in the military? Are you glad they avoided it or wished they had gone?
LN: No, no. They were both pretty intelligent. Our son went to Iowa State and he got his degree in biochemistry, biology more. He worked for J & J for quite a few years. He now works for Church and Dwight, which is a parent company of Arm and Hammer. He does field studies of their oral products.
KP: So both went on to science.
LN: Yes, my daughter didn't stick with it for long. Matter-of-fact, she's going back to St. John's. She wants to become a counselor. So she picked it up quite easy.
ST: While you were, I guess, living in New Brunswick, then East Brunswick, did you get involve in the local government scenes?
LN: Mostly PTA. My wife is very active in that and we're active with Rutgers sports. She's very active. She's that kind of a person, she just likes the game.
ST: You were in a club called the Touch-Down Club. What was that all about, the Touch-Down Club?
ST: Was it football related?
ST: Do you just go to games and things like that, or what do you do?
LN: We had a club. Each week during the football season, the coach and some other, a couple of the players would come to our meeting and talk about the last game and the next game, such as that. I eventually became the referee of the Touch-Down Club, which is the top post.
KP: Do you travel or have you traveled to many away games?
LN: We do now. We're going this weekend, we're going to Miami. Next month we're going to New Orleans.
KP: It sounds like you were very positive toward your Rutgers educational experiences. Is that so?
LN: Oh,yeah. I enjoyed most all of it.
KP: I almost get an impression that you considered yourself a little bit lucky for what happened to you. Your military experience could have turned out a lot worse.
LN: I'm sure.
KP: Is there anything we forgot to ask you?
LN: I can't think of any. Any scars or birthmarks?
ST: Have you gotten a chance to go back to Europe since the war?
LN: Back to where?
ST: Europe, England, France.
LN: I did. I had a trip to Vienna where I was working the US/UN Atomic Energy.
KP: Were you surprised at how, after seeing the photo intelligence, how rebuilt Europe was, I mean, Germany, in particularly, and Austria?
LN: Yes, it's changed an awful lot. The only scars, not really a scar, in Frankfurt, they were digging a subway system while I was there.
KP: Which it must have been striking, having gone from rubble to ...
LN: Yes, very much so.
KP: When was the first reunion you went to? When did you go to your first reunion? Was it a recently?
LN: The first time, it was quite a while ago. You see, I go to two of them. One is the 84th Division, the other one's the Air Force unit.
KP: Which are more fun?
LN: Both of them.
KP: In both groups, were both groups just as successful after the war, in terms of careers and in other areas? Do you have any sense of that, the Air Force and the Infantry?
LN: No, as a matter-of-fact, when you go back to these things now, there's nobody there that you knew while you were in the service.
KP: So you haven't run into old people you knew ...
LN: I've run into several of them, like these pilots, they're pretty old now.
KP: They were the old men of the ...
LN: Their training took a lot longer.
ST: How often do you have the reunions?
LN: They have them every year, but I've gone about three times to the Air Force and about three times to the Infantry, 84th. Do you know where that came from? Illinois, it's call the 'rail-splitter' after. Abraham Lincoln, the Illinois National Guard was Abraham Lincoln's, he was in it originally, so that evolved into the 84th Division.
KP: Oh, how interesting.
LN: See? That's the rail-splitter right there. That's the Division emblem.
KP: That's interesting.
LN: The other one's the regiment, I think, or maybe it's the ...
KP: That's interesting because this one book we have doesn't have that, the 84th Division. It's interesting because their research is not ... The 84th Division, it says, "No distinctive insignia." No source is infallible.
LN: If you want, maybe I can find the regular insignia, or something with it better than that. I'll look around.
KP: That's just curious to know and record. Well, thank you again for coming.
LN: Thank you for having me.
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Reviewed by Mark Miller 10/25/02
Reviewed by Sandra Stewart Holyoak 11/15/02
Corrections entered by Nicholas A. Ferroni 1/29/03