Kurt Piehler: This begins an interview with Mr. James R. Moetz on November 14, 1995 at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey with Kurt Piehler and ...
Robert Archer: ... Robert Archer.
KP: I guess I'd like to begin by asking about your family background. One side of your family has roots in Germany and the other side of the family has roots in Milltown. It sounds like the Milltown roots go back several generations.
James R. Moetz: Yes, well, the original settler, the people who claim to be the original families, are the Kuhlthaus and the (Borms?). My grandmother was a Kuhlthau, and Philip Kuhlthau was the first one of the family who arrived in Milltown. That was 1850, the early 1850's. His farmhouse is still standing. It's occupied and it's in good condition on North Main Street in Milltown. There are still a number of Kuhlthaus in the area. Judge John Kuhlthau is a Superior Court judge, and he has a great grandson and so forth.
KP: Your father was of German heritage.
JM: That's right.
KP: Did your grandfather come over from Germany?
JM: Yes, I have his citizenship papers, and he did come. He was here, probably, in the 1880s, late 1880s, early 1890s. I'm not quite sure where his family was from, although we were always told they were from Saxony, from the Dresden area, which is Upper Saxony. So that's as much information on that, that I have currently, but I'm looking into [it] further. He came here and he didn't have any other relatives who came with him. He settled in New York. He worked for the North German Lloyd Shipping Company. So he had an occupation when he came here. He came from Brunswick or something like that, in Northern Germany, and [then] came here.
KP: So, in some ways, your grandfather transferred here for business reasons.
JM: Yes. Either he or [the company] transferred him.
KP: Your father served in the First World War?
JM: Yes, he did. Actually, he was based in the Raritan Arsenal, right in Edison, which is not there anymore, but [some] still remains. They are still digging them up. He met my mother there. My mother was singing at church, right near the base, and he went to church that Sunday and he saw her singing and he said, "She's for me." So he met her at the back door, as a New Yorker would do, and, being raised in New York City, he went to the stage door and met her and eventually married her. He settled in the area, too.
KP: So he was really a New Yorker up until this point, until meeting your mother? If he did not meet your mother, he might have just gone back to New York.
JM: He never liked New York, anyhow. He liked it out here better. There was more opportunity and it wasn't as congested. He just liked the area more, the fresh air.
KP: How did your father feel about his experiences in World War I? Did he ever go overseas?
JM: No, he spent some time in the Panama Canal Zone. He was sent down there. Then he came back up to the States and ended up at the Raritan Arsenal here. He was in ordnance, in the Army, and he never wanted to have anything to do with the German part of it. He always just downplayed it, even the family and everything. He never looked into history or asked about relatives or anything like that.
KP: He downplayed his German ancestry?
JM: Right, right.
KP: He must have felt a little bit ambivalent. I mean, his father was from Germany.
JM: Yes, but they were never a military family. Actually, they were quite the opposite. They were more of a peaceful type of people. They didn't like the military better than anybody else did.
KP: Did your father join the American Legion?
JM: Oh, yes, he was active in the American Legion and the VFW, in New Brunswick, actually. Actually, there's a VFW post in Milltown which has the family name, and that was named for my brother. My brother was in the Second World War and he was on the USS Juneau. That was a real, major tragedy. There were 700 men on board and they didn't have very many survivors. He was not a survivor, either. That's how it happens to get the name in Milltown, from him. He was the first fatality from Milltown, actually.
KP: It sounds like he was somewhat popular. Was he well known in the community?
JM: Oh, yes. He was in sports and things of that sort, around town and also in high school and things of that sort. He played in the Orange Bowl, actually. At one time, New Brunswick had a good football team and they wanted to exploit it and they arranged a home-at-home series with the Coral Gables High School in Miami, Florida. They played home-at-home in New Brunswick High School Stadium and then also in the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida. That was around, somewhere in 1939, '40. He was active then and active in other activities. He was a singer and took part in the high school activities and productions and things of that sort.
KP: Your family must have felt it lost quite a lot.
JM: Oh, well, yesterday was the anniversary. Friday the 13th, the Juneau was sunk, actually, off Guadalcanal. There's a book out, recently. It's in paperback, they also did it in a hardcover, about the Juneau and the tragedy. "Left to Die," I think, is the title of it. It was Halsey, I think it was, was the admiral in charge, and he decided that they wouldn't make any attempt to rescue any of the survivors, because it would put the rest of the fleet in jeopardy. He sent out the message, "Don't send any rescue. Keep your radio silence," and so forth. That was the story there. Oddly enough, as I said, it was Friday the 13th, and yesterday was the anniversary.
KP: You grew up in Milltown, which was really a mill town.
JM: Well, there was a big factory there. Michelin Tire had the biggest part of it. Milltown was, in a sense, a factory town, because they did have some areas where they had homes, and they brought people from France. Claremont, France is where, I think, the main office is. They brought people here and then they gave them a place to live and they had the company store, practically, as the saying goes. They did that for these French people. They had a French school there, a grammar school, which was right on the corner of Main Street and Ford Avenue, right across the street from the factory. Our house, my grandmother owned the house, which was, our backyard line, our property line, the other side of it was the Michelin Company. [They] owned the property there, too. We always told everybody [that] our neighbors were the Michelins, the Michelin family.
KP: So Michelin really dominated the town growing up?
JM: Well, yes, yes, it did. They ran into a problem, actually. It had to do with the whole economic situation in the country. The automobile industry was growing up in Detroit, and Michelin was here. They couldn't get the initial tires put on the cars because there were other rubber companies that went out into Ohio and that was a lot closer to Detroit and they could do a better price for them. Of course, Michelin, as you probably know, is the first one that had the balloon tire. They did that because they had a bicycle business and whatever, and a couple of the young men in the family wanted to have the comfort of a balloon tire on their bikes, and it eventually got to the trucks. I don't know whether you would remember it, but when I was a kid, the heavy construction trucks had just an iron rim with a piece of rubber about three or four inches on it, and that was the only cushion they had, until they came on with the balloon tire. It was a major contribution to the progress of the truck industry.
KP: Your father worked for the Highway Department?
JM: Yes, he did.
KP: For how long?
JM: Yes, he did that in, I guess he started there around the time I was in high school, I guess, in the late '30s, early '40s, somewhere around there.
KP: Before working for the Highway Department, where did your father work?
JM: I think he worked in, the family had some business, my mother's family, and he worked with them in their business. He had a hardware store or something, in the town that's still there. It's still a hardware store, too. Then he worked for the Highway Department.
KP: Do you know how he got that job?
JM: The Highway [Department]?
JM: Through politics. He was a faithful political worker, and he went down and found out what he had to do to be employed by the Highway Department. He took the test and passed the test and he was hired.
KP: Your father was a Republican in what was becoming a Democratic county.
JM: Well, it was still Republican. Actually, I remember that well, because there was a man, Albert Herman, who you may or may not have heard of. He was a political party man. He eventually ended up in Washington and he did work in some of the presidential campaigns. He was in charge of relations with ethnic groups. Even when I was a kid, I used to go around with him on Saturday or whatever, and we'd go around to baseball games in Buccleuch Park or whatever, and pass out the leaflets and everything. We'd get a buck or two for the trouble and so forth. I worked in politics. [William] Warren Barbour was a US Senator, and Herman worked with him on his campaigning and so forth. Then later on, he got into the federal level with campaigning, too. One time, they had a store, what had been a storefront, and it became their political headquarters in Milltown. That was across the street from our house. So it was pretty natural that I get a job working for them if they were willing to pay me.
KP: Given your father's activism in Republican politics, how did he feel about Roosevelt and the New Deal?
JM: Oh, I can remember the day that they passed the New Deal, and he said, "Oh, this is the end." Actually, I don't have much use for FDR either. He was the Secretary of the Navy, you know. When he got to be President, he ignored whatever information he had about the enemies of this country. It turned out that the Japanese had defeated the Russians exactly the same way as [they did at] Pearl Harbor. If anybody, you know, who was in that prominent a position didn't take that seriously, and [with] the admirals in this country sending him messages saying that the Japanese were organizing and so forth and so on. He ignored it. Then came Pearl Harbor, and he blamed it on the admirals and the generals. Anyhow, so much for politics.
KP: How did the Depression affect your family? It sounds like your father shielded you from the worst of it?
JM: Well, he had two sons and we did whatever we could do. Everybody just lived close to the vest. People had chickens in their yard and everybody had a chicken coop. People had grapes in their yard and they made their own wine and they put up the preserves and things like that, when the crops were available from farmers. In those days, people would come up with fresh fish from down at the Shore, and they would have these things that you blow at New Year's Eve parties now, these little horns and things, and when the guy would come up the street, he'd have the fish and things. It was iced, he had it on his truck and he'd come right down the street, blowing his horn, and the scale hanging right there, you know. You made your selection right off the street. Everybody was in business for themselves. They did whatever they could do to scratch out a living. That's pretty much the way it went. We survived, we weren't luxurious or anything. Everybody else was the same way. You did whatever you had to do.
KP: You mentioned you had a lot of French speaking people in the community. Was there ever any tension between the French and the non-French?
JM: No. Nobody ever had that much to get concerned about because people's properties were large. Property was different, it wasn't crowded. Most people were on speaking terms with each other or far enough apart that they didn't rub each other the wrong way. You didn't have the communication problems that they do today, [with] all the people making a living at stirring up other people. The communication is completely different. There was some, I guess. There was always a certain amount of tension, but the people that came here, came to get away from all that. Most of them who were in Europe, the Italians, or Germans, or French, or whatever, some Scandinavians and so forth, that's why they came here. They said, "We're tired of going off to war and killing off the young men and everything." That's why they wanted to come here. That's why they were happy here. The climate is moderate and they [had access] to a lot of things. You didn't have a whole lot of catastrophes of nature and things of that sort. They lived a peaceful life and could get along and most people were happy. At least reasonable enough to stay. They didn't have much choice. "It's a long swim," as my father-in-law said.
KP: I was recently at Milltown a few weeks ago, and it strikes me as a really small town. In the '30s and '40s, I imagine that it was an even smaller town.
JM: Actually, Milltown was a progressive town. I never realized how progressive they were until, looking back, and finding out that they had paved streets long before a lot of other people. We had central sewage before a lot of other people did, and city water. Part of that was because the [Michelin] factory was there, [along with] a couple of other factories and so forth. Of course, the schools, we didn't have a high school. We had a grammar school, and then we commuted, and everybody was always envious of the people from Milltown. They said, "Oh, you've got all these friends. Everybody knows everybody else and they're all friendly and they help each other out." It used to be a big thing for kids from Milltown, because they were just compatible and they got along well and they had a good education system there. Most of the kids did really well when they got into high school. The same thing, being the commuters, they banded together and had closer ties with the people in their class. I still write Christmas cards, we still send Christmas cards to kids I went to high school with, or grammar school. I've said that to other people and they just can't believe that anybody can ever keep up that kind of relationship. That's true. It's just a friendly place. At least, it has been in the past. It's just something about the area or whatever, the history. The people are very friendly.
RA: When you were at New Brunswick High School, I was wondering what the relationship was towards Rutgers? Did you have any interaction with the college students?
JM: We had the teachers, the people who were in education at Rutgers, would come to high school and practice [their] teaching. I remember, Art Gottlieb came there. He was there the week after he threw the pass against Princeton, over in the stadium, over across the river, when they beat Princeton there, for the dedication to the stadium. There were other teachers of other disciplines who were there and they would have that relationship of coming in to do practice teaching. Of course, Rutgers was smaller in those days, too. There were people from what's now Cook College, from the AG school, who had lived in Milltown. It was just convenient for them. It was handy. They took part in the community activities, in the life of the town, the churches and things of that sort. So there always was this connection. Some of the professors lived in Highland Park and Milltown and places like that.
KP: I've interviewed a number of people who went to New Brunswick High School in the '30s and '40s, and New Brunswick High School was really a regional high school.
JM: That's right.
KP: You had both the city kids from New Brunswick and the farm kids from the other areas.
JM: When I was there, it was just kind of getting toward the end of that, because the other schools, the other towns, had become large enough and they had projects, government supported projects for rebuilding schools. We had Franklin, we had what's now Edison, and the other one, across the river, over where the other part of Rutgers is?
JM: Piscataway. Now people came in from all over. It was a regional school. They had a good faculty. You almost had to be a graduate of Columbia Education School in those days. In those days, Columbia, I guess it still does, [had] an excellent reputation in education. The graduates did well when they went on to other schools. So that was one of the reasons people wanted to come to New Brunswick, too, to that high school.
KP: Did you think you would go to college when you were going through high school?
JM: I had nothing else in mind. I didn't know where I was going to go, particularly. I mean, [I knew] what my goal was. It was pretty much set in my mind, anyhow, that I was going to become a college graduate, at least. I would have said that there was no doubt at all that I was going to do that. It was my cousin, who I mentioned before, he was in chemistry. I chose chemistry because I said to my mother, I said, "You know, there's this big factory back here with a lot of people, and a lot of [those] people earn a lot of money. Who earns the most money?" She said, "Well, they have some chemists. They have a secret room in that place and they mix their materials in the secret room. Those are the guys that get the most pay, outside of the top executives." So I said, "That's good enough for me." Mom was right.
RA: Did the proximity to Rutgers make you choose that or were you looking at other schools further away?
JM: When I was in the service, we had this ASTP program, specialized training. I think that was a kind of a survival thing. I think the Congress passed that to try to keep a cadre of people of a certain age group away from being slaughtered in the war. So we did get into training. I was sent up to Michigan. We were actually assigned to the University of Michigan, but they had so many other programs there from the state that they didn't have room for us. So they sent us over to Ypsilanti, which was like a state teacher's college at that time. It's now Eastern Michigan University. So I did go to school there for a while. That wasn't very long. That was just basic engineering courses. I was there, probably, about February or something like that, and then went to, in the fall we went out to Wisconsin. I had some exposure there, to the University of Michigan, and, of course, with Princeton down the road, and being in the area, Princeton always sticks in your mind around here. At least it did in mine, as a real premiere place. Actually, I worked in the Princeton area for about twenty-five years, down in Lawrenceville. Our company had a world headquarters, which they built down there. That was Squibb. I was assigned there to be, what they called "The Institute" at one time, the Squibb Institute for Medical Research. I spent a number of years there. So I did get to Princeton, by the side door. It was always interesting to just be in the atmosphere, around the town and so forth. It was not overwhelming. I enjoyed the time there, but a lot of people say, "Oh, everybody's so stodgy and everything. They don't have time for anybody else," and so on. It's no different than anywhere else, really. It's just what you make of it.
KP: You went to University College before you went into the Army?
KP: How many semesters did you do at University College?
JM: Well, I graduated from high school in '42. I mean, I was classified the Class of '42. We had split high school years in that time. We graduated in February. That was the relationship that came about because of birthdays. If you were born after a certain day, you would go to the next class. If you were born before, you would stay in the calendar class and so forth. My birthday is in December, so I was always a little ahead. I finished in February of the year instead of in June of the year.
KP: Did you go to school during the summer?
JM: No. Just September to January. It was a marking period, essentially. That's all it was. From September to January, and then February to June. The thing is, when we graduated, we stopped going to class at the end of January, and then we went to the prom in June or something, or whatever, got our certificates and so forth.
KP: Why University College instead of Rutgers College?
JM: Because I worked during the day to pay the tuition to go to school at night.
KP: Where did you work your first college job?
JM: I worked in the neighborhood store and a grocery store and so forth. I enjoyed it all. I got the feeling of the University and it did serve me well because I got into it, gradually, and didn't get overwhelmed with everything at once.
KP: Did you take chemistry at University College?
JM: Oh, yes, yes, I did. Dr. Van Mater was here at the time. Then, later on, P.A. vanderMeulen was across the street. I met quite a lot of people, nice people, actually. Actually, when I worked at Bristol, well, it's Bristol now, it was Squibb, I got to know a lot of people who had reputations, international reputations and so forth. I enjoyed that, just the challenges of being around them, around these kinds of people. There was a lot of activity and a lot of rewards. Just the satisfaction that you contributed or did something meaningful or that sort of thing. Being in the pharmaceutical industry makes it a lot different, too. Then, later on, when we went down to Lawrenceville and the world headquarters, that was like day and night, because it was a completely new building, [with] all the beautiful facilities. It was the kind of thing you'd see in the movies somewhere, but you'd never expect it was going to happen. We had banquets galore, we had lectures by prominent people. [They] still do. They have an excellent reputation. We finally go into, I worked in development in the latter years, chemical development, where we would take a laboratory process and develop that to the point where we could go onto larger scales and eventually into industrial production. So we were kind of the intermediate in that part of the operation. It was very rewarding because there were just so many things going on and the company was at the peak of their activities. We had a product which is still being sold, v, and that's a product that's used for blood pressure. Believe it or not, they were selling, at one time, one and a half billion dollars per year. The development of that drug came right from across the hall, Miguel Ondetti who was the person who was really responsible for it. He was the one who pushed it through to the management, forced it on them, to say, "You know this is so good you can't turn it down."
KP: So there was some initial management resistance?
JM: Oh, there is, there always is. Otherwise, there's resistance from the business people.
KP: Capoten became crucial to Squibb.
JM: Right, oh, yes. See, one of the things about Capoten was that, when they tested it and then they went to the patients and they said, "Now how do you feel?" And the guy says, "Hey, that's great, give me some more." It was like the newest breakfast cereal or something. The patients, not only did they lose the symptoms of their blood pressure, but it made them feel good. That is really the part of it that was so remarkable. I know before that, of course, they developed new methods for administration. That was another big thing, really, in a pharmaceutical industry. Recently, they made the tablets and so on and they'd say, "Take one or two or whatever," then spread them out over a period of time. Then, as they became more technological, their information, they could have suspended medication, [so] that you would take a pill in the morning and you didn't have to take another until the evening or whatever, and you would get the same dosage through the day because they had coatings and the capsules that just dissolved slowly and things of that sort. I know many people who had the cups lined up, you know, one every two hours or whatever, and you had to take the cup and pop it. Actually, this is not the same subject, but a friend who had a heart transplant, and he told me, at one time, he was taking, I think it was fifty-six pills a day, while he was recovering. Fifty-six pills a day. I mean, that's horrible. But anyhow, it was very rewarding to be in a place like that, with the towers or whatever. It wasn't ivory, but it was really nice. Once you're on a roll, once you have something that the company, the management wants, then they'll give you whatever you ask for. We were no different. We did get what everybody wanted. It was very rewarding.
KP: It sounds like University College paved the way for that. It was your initial introduction to chemistry.
JM: Well, that's true. It was an introduction to, a jump, a quantum jump, in the activity of going-to-the-university type of atmosphere, away from the individual, high school level. It was rewarding. I never forgot. As a matter-of-fact, I keep saying, I remember a course I took in Algebra, or arithmetic, whatever you want to call it, mathematics. At that time, they had a very basic review of mathematics and they said there were several different ways of describing your numbers and systems and so on. One of these systems is known as the binary system of numbers, otherwise known as "the Russian Peasant's System." That always stuck in my head. Now, here we are. Now, we're into computers and digital systems. Russian Peasant's System is a binary system.
KP: Your education would be interrupted by the war. Did you enlist or did your number come up?
JM: Oh, my number came up. I wasn't going to go. I didn't have that career in mind. After what you could see [of] what had been happening in Europe, I had no desire to end up on the front lines. That's where we got to.
KP: Would you have preferred going into another branch of the service?
JM: I had no desire to go into the Navy, that was for sure. The only other option was aircraft, and I didn't know that much, except [for] a few planes that flew around in the area, [with] the commercials [that] went overhead, where we [lived], but I would never have [done that.] At that time, I had no desire or interest in that. I guess I got what I, I didn't choose it, but ...
KP: You initially reported to Fort Dix?
JM: Right. I went from Fort Dix to Texas, and then, we were sent to Michigan, where we went to the ASTP. And then they were organizing a division for, they were preparing, actually, for combat in Europe. Then we went to La Crosse, Wisconsin, Camp McCoy, or Fort McCoy, it is nowadays. We trained there as units. They have different stages. You start as an individual and you learn all the weapons and the things that you're supposed to be able to do. Then they go into small units, squad, platoon, and then company, and the regiment, the battalion regiment, and so on. We had these maneuvers of the larger units, battalion, and most of it [was] night training. Actually, night warfare was pretty much what won the war. Plus the overwhelming [amount of] equipment that we had. In our division, actually, we went through the Siegfried Line. It was like the South Pacific, [what] they had at Iwo Jima, those things, pillboxes, and all this sort of stuff, emplaced units. We went through the Siegfried Line, and, actually, I was in the 417th combat group, and we had a Presidential Citation for that, breaching the Siegfried Line. My brother also got a Presidential Citation.
KP: How much time did you spend in Camp Walters?
JM: About three months. Ninety days.
KP: Did you do basic infantry training?
JM: That's it, you're right. We did a lot of night maneuvers there, too, because the heat was too much. We just lost a lot of people in the summertime.
KP: What did you think of basic training?
JM: Well, it was what you expected that you would have to do. It's like going out for football. You know you're going to get hit and you learn how to do it and you're going to have to hit somebody else. You learn how to do it to the best of your advantage. That's what we did. We had a lot of discipline, water discipline, because we were expected to go to the desert. You just learned to live on a couple canteenfuls a day. That was all you got for your personal hygiene, [to] brush your teeth [with] and everything else. Of course, they did bring us food and an evening meal and so forth. You could always load up then or whatever. It was very good discipline, the training. I mean, even with people who had the right attitude, you still have to get your body, and everything else, in condition for all of that. Then, when we left there, we ended up going up to Michigan. And I remember going over to the University of Michigan stadium, [to] a couple of games. We went over there because they wanted to have some troops out there to sing the national anthem and salute and everything. We got bussed over and we paraded onto the field. 100,000, the stadium holds, in Ann Arbor. I remember a couple of games that they played [that] we got to go to. One was Notre Dame and Michigan, and then Indiana and Michigan and also Wisconsin and Michigan. We paraded on the field every day, and I thought, "This is great. Now I know what it's like to be on the field, there, in front of 100,000 people." So that's education, too.
KP: What did you think of Texas?
JM: Well, we were in a place called Mineral Wells. Mineral Wells is partway between Dallas and Fort Worth. [In] Mineral Wells, there are two hotels. One is the Mineral Wells Hotel and the other is the Crazy Hotel. It has a big sign at the top, neon sign, it was in neon red, "The Crazy Hotel." The Crazy Hotel was [named] because of the crazy water crystals, and Mineral Wells, of course, because they have springs and stuff there where they have all this mineral water. People go there for their health and bathe in the waters and will take the mineral water for a beverage and all that sort of stuff. So it's a kind of a resort. It's as much a resort as Texas was in those days. It was the only thing that was anywhere near [us]. It wasn't on the base, so when you'd get a leave or a pass or something on a weekend, you'd go into town and that was it. It was just open plains and stuff, trees and oaks and scrubs and that sort of stuff. There wasn't much excitement or anything going on. There were no big attractions. It wasn't like New York or even Philadelphia or whatever, or Newark even. Newark had the burlesque.
KP: How did you get selected for the ASTP program?
JM: I got a good grade on the test.
KP: So you were picked out without applying?
JM: Yes, that's right. It was just, when you first go in, I think they did it down at Dix, you take a test, just like [for] college placement. You take this, multiple answers and so forth, multiple choice. If you score above a certain average, then you were qualified. That was rewarding, too, because then, I actually got in with a whole bunch of people from all different places, and we went to Michigan [together]. They were from all over. We lived in dorms there, too. That was pretty nice. It was a completely different experience. Actually, I should've remembered a thing here. Here, it's in the front page here. Here's my picture. That was when, I took that out in Michigan. Pretty young looking guy there, right? We got stuffed into our barracks one week, I don't know what happened. The officers, we did something they didn't like, so they decided they would provide some entertainment and that's our band. We had enough guys to get a band together. I guess I must have misplaced it. So, anyhow ...
KP: It sounds like you had a good time in Michigan.
JM: Oh, yes, it was like being on leave. You just went to class every morning. We marched to class, and I liked being at the university because we lived in the dormitories and we had all our meals and everything. It was fun because if you had a grade, a two average or, well, in those days it was one, two, three. If you had better than a two average, then you were off at five o'clock, Friday afternoon. You were on your own until eight o'clock Monday morning. You could do whatever you wanted to, as long as you had a good enough average. So I made that. I used to come home from Michigan and take the train out, and come all the way here and get into New York, and I'd come over to New Brunswick and visit the family and so forth and pop back out the next day.
KP: How many semesters were you able to complete at Michigan?
JM: Well, we weren't there very long, really. We went in September, we went to Michigan, and we left there, probably, around March or so, because it was still snowing when we went into Wisconsin. Wisconsin, the guys who were there, there was a second division [that] had been on winter maneuvers, and they had been in upper Michigan. That's up in Iron Mountain. I don't know if you know Michigan or not, but Iron Mountain is pretty cold. It's not too far from Minnesota, where they report the record lows and that sort of stuff. They set them up there for, see, the military anticipated [that] they were going to have a winter campaign in Europe. That's why they sent them there. Those guys, we took over their barracks.
KP: Just to finish up a few things about Michigan, were you studying an engineering curriculum at Michigan?
JM: Well, everybody did. Everybody that was in ASTP took a basic engineering [curriculum]. They must have got their idea from West Point, because that's an engineering school.
KP: You had been at University College and now you were at Michigan. How did your professors at the two places compare?
JM: Where we were in Michigan, I think the professors there were not at the same level [as] here. It was like a teachers' school. It was like Trenton State. Trenton State's improved quite a bit now. It was a grade above high school level, but it wasn't Ivy League or whatever or the Big 10 or whatever. It was in-between.
KP: It sounds like you got a lot of time to go into town.
JM: Well, yes, you never had assignments that were long or anything like that. So what else is there for you to do? We had a football team, one time. We played the squad from the school, the civilians who were still in school there. We played football against them and beat them. But things like that. You're limited by your pocketbook, pretty much, when you're in the Army.
KP: Did you go into any other cities when you were there?
JM: Oh, yes, we'd go into Detroit whenever we could. Well, see, they had shows, they had facilities, clubs and things for the military. It was loaded there. They had, of course, the automobile industry. Right nearby, Ford was making bombers at Willow Run. So there were all kinds of people around there and everybody went to Detroit. They also had the USO there. Then they had clubs, people had different groups, and would invite GIs and have dances and whatever, all kinds of parties and things. So we'd go quite frequently, whenever we had the chance and had the money, into Detroit. Michigan Avenue, that went all the way up to Ann Arbor. But that's one of the things that I remember about Michigan, was that they had beautiful roads there, big cement highways and multiple lanes. They didn't have anything like that here in New Jersey. I used to think about, you know, I'd say, "Geez, boy, are we ever going to get this crowded where we're going to need roads like this?" It wasn't that crowded there. You see what's happening on US 1 right now, down at the lower end, anyhow. Those huge contracts down there, what they're doing. But they have, you know, all the multiple lanes, divided highways and things like that, long before anybody thought of it in this area. Well, the same thing. When I went to the football game over there in Michigan, I thought, "Geez, do you think you'll ever see the day when Rutgers will have a stadium where they'll have a crowd like that?" Well, here you are. They made it. The University has just grown. Another thing, we came back from Europe, I came home on the Queen Mary, believe it or not. It was a troop ship in those days. We came back from England and we had to stop and stay there. We came through Lucky Strike. I was, on V-E Day, not V-E Day, when the war was over, when they surrendered, I was at the Hotel (Nabresco?) on Cote d'Azur in the Mediterranean. My number had come up and they had passes for a couple of people and I lucked out. They pulled my number out and said, "Here you go." I ended up with a case of hepatitis [down there]. I came back and they had to send me back up to go back to my unit, which was still in Germany at the time. I ended up in Lucky Strike, Camp Lucky Strike, which is the place, the organizing area. When the war was over, I saw all these Frenchmen down there with the tanks and everything, American-made, you know, and all the French girls were coming out. All the French guys were taking all the rewards, you know. "Thank you, thank you, you guys did a great job," and there they were down there at Nice. It has its ups and downs, military life, and everything else.
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KP: You were taken out of ASTP in Michigan because it was going to be disbanded?
JM: Well, I'm not sure about the people who were over in Ann Arbor. You see, we were in what they called "the Detachment" from the 3665th, I think it was. ESU. There were people who were at Ann Arbor. I don't know what ever happened to them. We were just sent to this division because it was in anticipation that they were going to have this final, big battle. The battle of Europe was really what it was. They were just trying to muster whatever resources they had and get them ready. We were assigned to the 3rd Army then. Of course, that turned out to be George Patton. So we just went over and trained to get the units organized so that the large units could learn how to work with each other, [learn] how much time it takes to do things, the best way to do it, and get people familiarized with moving larger units around, the logistics and whatever.
KP: How many people from ASTP joined you with your unit?
JM: We were scattered.
KP: So you didn't all go to one place?
JM: No, no, they were scattered. Actually, I haven't run into very many people, actually, who I had been in ASTP with. My one friend, as I say, we kept up, always kept up a correspondence. Whenever we'd go through some action in whatever, and we'd calm down and we'd get a chance to maybe get in touch with someone, I'd go over and look him up because, see, we had been in the same battalion, actually, in Texas. We went right along. When we went to Texas, I met him on the way down there. And on the way back from Texas, we went to Michigan. [From] Michigan, we went to Wisconsin, then we went to Europe. Then we came back and they sent us down to South Carolina, because we were going to be trained to invade Japan. So anyhow, [we] went down there for a while. We got down there and they said, "We don't have anything here for you." I think we had corned beef. Yes, canned corned beef and pancakes, and that was the only food they had when you were on the base there, at the time. So they shipped us home for a while and we had to leave, and the next notice I got was to go to Dix. I went over to Dix and they sent me home again. Then I was sent to Fort Monmouth and then I got discharged out of there. It was nice traveling around. I saw a lot of territory.
KP: Had you traveled much before the war?
JM: No, outside of the Jersey Shore and New York City, to visit relatives and things of that sort.
KP: So before you had gone to Europe, you had seen a good chunk of the United States?
JM: You mean, in the States? Yes. Well, I saw part of it, the East Coast and the Midwest, a little bit. We used to travel by train, so you got a chance to see it, not just fly over it. I didn't have anything with the West Coast at all. Only from Texas, up to Wisconsin. It changes your whole perspective, of course. Every experience does. Just like the military, and then, even the industrial experience. It's the greatest education, when you travel. [You] learn things.
KP: You'd mentioned you'd learned about the highways in Michigan and they showed you the highways that would eventually come to New Jersey. What else did you learn from these different parts of the country? Was there anything that surprised you?
JM: Yes. I have a tendency, I guess, to project things. I remember telling people, a long time ago, that central New Jersey is going to be just like Long Island. It's true. It's what it is now. It's like Long Island. Things like that. It's just something I learned somewhere along the line, to project into the future a little bit. [It was] part of my education, I guess.
RA: When your unit was sent to Europe, how did you feel and what was the feeling among the men you were with?
JM: "Here we go." That's about it. It's like coming out of the locker room, if you're on a football team or something or other. This is what they trained us for and this is what we're going to have to do. It was anticipation, but it wasn't, I wouldn't say it was a pleasant anticipation, because nobody knew what was going to happen. It was that kind of a thing. Actually, we left Wisconsin and we went over to Miles Standish, up in Massachusetts, and we got on board a ship there. It was the USS Brazil. It had been on a South American run, deferred passengers and so on. It was good accommodations.
KP: Could you be more specific about your accommodations?
JM: We had bunks, but we just had pipes with a piece of canvas laced on the side and so on. That was your bunk, with a pillow and a couple blankets and so forth, and that was your bed. There wasn't a lot of place to move around once you got up on deck or whatever. You find a spot or something there, and they piped in music and that sort of thing. We had to wear life jackets all the time. They were sinking submarines off of New Jersey. Submarines were out there and they were sinking tankers and everything else. Actually, when I was in high school, I was an airplane spotter. I don't know if you remember hearing about that one before, but they had a system in New Jersey, Central New Jersey, anyhow, where they had a twenty-four hour alert. They had these little buildings with a roof over them, where somebody was up there and you'd track in each plane that came over and you had to telephone into Floyd Bennett Field in New York.
KP: Was this after Pearl Harbor or before?
JM: This was in high school.
KP: In high school?
JM: Yes, yes. It was before Japan got into the war. This was before, in Europe, the war was on. December 7th, I remember that day, too, because it was a Sunday afternoon and I had a portable radio. My brother played football, and their local team was playing that particular day and I was listening. I think it was a Giants game or something and they came on and [said], "We interrupt this ball[game] to tell you that Pearl Harbor has been bombed by the Japanese," and so on. "President Roosevelt will make a speech and address the nation at such and such a time." I remember that very afternoon. It was a Sunday afternoon. Well, everybody was on edge, I guess. It was almost a foregone conclusion that something was going to happen out there. So it wasn't a surprise. It was a surprise, in a way, where and when [it would happen], but not if [it would].
KP: How much did you know about what was going on in Europe and the Far East? How closely did you and your family follow the events leading up to the war?
JM: You know, what you get, in language, in school. We always listened to, my father always had, not a hobby, he always had something to do with radio. We always had a wire antenna up in the backyard and so on. He was always listening to things on the radio all the time. He read newspapers all the time. Having come from New York, I guess, he was more accustomed to that. So we were always well-informed on what was going on in the world. Of course, our neighbors, our friends and [other] people, they were always pretty well-informed also. Plus, what you got in school, programs and whatnot. There were always activities that, you know, people were being called up, who were in reserve units and things of that sort. Of course, as I said, I had the cousin who also went to Rutgers and he was called up. He had been in ROTC here at Rutgers. He was also a chemist. His degree was in chemistry. Because of all of these things, we were always aware of what was going on. My father was in the American Legion and the VFW, and when we were kids, we'd always go to the parades and all that kind of stuff.
KP: So you must remember Armistice Day very well?
JM: Yes, well, they always had, New Brunswick always had big parades. Actually, the street where I lived, where I grew up, they had a monument for World War I, and they would put some flowers on it on appropriate holidays, and play "Taps" and sometimes have a couple of guys come down with their rifles and shoot off a couple of rounds and so forth. Of course, my father, being in a patriotic organization, he would go to a lot of these affairs and things. We had that tradition to a certain extent. I don't know where he got it from, because his father never had anything to do with the military. The same way with my cousin, the one who got to be a colonel, and that paper there tells [about the] citations that he got. [He was in] the Atomic Energy Commission. He did pretty well. Through and through, he was pretty militaristic, I mean, as far as his activities. He wasn't a guy who said, "Let's go out and kill those SOBs," or something like that. He wasn't that kind of a guy at all.
KP: But your cousin made a career out of the military?
JM: Well, yes. When he was called up, he was one of the first to go and the last to come out.
KP: So he was called up in the 1940 draft?
JM: He was in the Reserves. He was a Reserve officer. He was called up. Yes, I have that thing here for him. I have his [papers]. Again, he was in chemistry, and, apparently, they didn't have very many people who had that kind of a background. See, here is the chronological order of his positions, the chronological record of military service. Oh, this is in code. You know, abbreviations. Here's his citation from the United States Atomic Energy Commission. See, this is was in 1963, "Consideration of Promotion in the US Army Reserve." And then it has, "Military Chronology and History. Bachelor's Degree in Science, in Chemistry, June 1939, Rutgers University in New Brunswick. Master of Science Degree, Physical Chemistry, Lehigh University, June '41. Doctor of Philosophy, Physical Chemistry, June '51, Princeton University. Joined the Division of Intelligence, US Atomic Energy Commission, April 1951. Promoted GS14, GS16, designated Director of Intelligence, US Atomic Energy Commission in April, 1995. Promoted to GS17 in June of 1960. Awarded Sustained Superior Performance Certificate, US Atomic Energy Commission, 8th of August 1962." So, that's his [story].
KP: Is your cousin still alive?
JM: No, he died. I don't remember, now, how many years ago. It's probably about five years or more, though. It was probably from radiation. We knew he had cancer, so that's probably where he got it from.
RA: Did you have any correspondence with your cousin during the war?
JM: No, he was a very closed person. He never corresponded with me. He probably corresponded with his wife. I never had [access] to any of that.
KP: Did your cousin ever give you any clues about the military life? Did he ever tell you what you should do or not do?
JM: No, no. He was a scout, too. That was one of his big things, he was an Eagle Scout. Even after he finished with [his] military thing, he still went on camping trips with the kids in the troop and things like that. He went to national, whatever you call them in the scouts, round-up or something or other. He always was a big scout. He has a son [who] is a professor out in the University of Colorado, or somewhere out there. He's a professor of psychology. I never had direct correspondence. He never, unless it was something business, family affairs or something like that, that would be, probably, the only time. I got most of this information that I ever had about him mostly just by inquiring with his brother and sister and so on. They would say a few things, and every once in a while, we did get together. But I never got too much out of him. He did show me the Atomic Energy Office down in Washington. Well, it was across the river, it's in Virginia. That was named after Dulles, Allen Dulles, I think it was. He was the head of the Atomic Energy [Commission], I think they called it. So that's pretty much that story.
KP: Going back to your voyage going to Europe, did you go over in a convoy?
JM: Yes, we went over in a convoy.
KP: Did any of your convoy get hit by submarines?
JM: No, we didn't have any problems. Not that we know of. They may have put off those depth charges or something like that. We left from Boston, and then we came south and picked up some other people in the convoy. Then we went right across through the North Atlantic and went to England. I think it was Bristol that we went in to. Then we were put up in places in England there for a while, to get ourselves organized, I guess, until the equipment caught up. Then they got everything dispersed again. We lived in houses. [They were] resorts. It was a city, which is a shore resort. They had a lot of, you know, hotel kinds of a places there, so we stayed there. I do remember going there, we got a pass up to London, and the big thing was to go and see where the buzz bomb had hit the night before or something or other. I never actually saw the buzz bomb or even the V-2s. You could see where the damage was and things of that sort. We got up there a couple times, I guess. Paddington Station, one of the most famous things. It was an education and a lot of adventure, a lot of things you never thought you would see or do. All that before the big show.
RA: Once you had gotten over to Germany, did you or anyone you know collect battle trophies or souvenirs or anything?
JM: People brought some things home. I had a few things that I brought myself, but they were illicit. We were told not to bring things and whatever. I had an engraved bayonet that I picked up in one of the houses we stayed in, a swastika flag, and things like that. I left them at home and my father disposed of them somehow or another. I don't know whether he gave them to the American Legion or the VFW or something like that.
KP: How long were you in England?
JM: We left Thanksgiving Day, or the day after Thanksgiving, it was, for Massachusetts. Then we got over, it took us, probably five or six days or so, maybe, to get over there. We were out of England by the end of December or very early in January. We were over to France and went right up to the line.
KP: You were in England when the Battle of the Bulge started.
JM: Right. We got in on the end of it. Actually, we went in there and the stuff was still smoking and there were still bodies around and everything else. It hadn't been cleaned up at all. We went a little south of, we were on the edge of the Bulge, down toward Luxembourg. Actually, they still are getting citations from the government of Luxembourg, because we liberated it from these Germans or something. So it wasn't a whole lot of time that we were in England.
KP: When you were in England, did the Battle of the Bulge concern you at all? Because there had been a lot of optimism about the war coming to a close.
JM: You know, with the analogy of the football game again, the things aren't over in the military, especially when someone has to go in and do the work. The politicians and the communicators have all these terms that they use, but we knew that we were going to be there until, we were going to probably to end up being in the occupation [force]. We did, actually. It wasn't very long, but we did do a little bit of occupation there. We were stationed there, but we weren't going to be there for a long, extended time. We went into East Germany, and we went across through Germany and we ended up in East Germany. We were in a place, which at one time was called Chemnitz. When the Russians took over, it became Karl-Marx-Stadt. We were right on the border there. We were just told to hold the line and wait until we got orders, because the Russians were pushing the Germans back on the other side. They had, Truman and Churchill and Stalin, had a conference and they had made decisions about who was going to do what and how far, and who was going to go where. Stalin wanted to be sure to get Berlin because of the atrocities the Germans had done to them and so on, the politics and all. That's pretty much where we ended up, in that part of Eastern Germany.
KP: You mentioned that you were sent up to the lines. Your movement was fairly quick once you left England.
JM: Oh, yes.
KP: When you were first put on the line, what were your reactions to combat?
JM: Well, as soon as we went there, we did what we were supposed to be doing. I was a radio operator with a battalion commander. We had to keep track of all the forces under his command. It was 800 men or something like that. Wherever he went, I went with him. He was having conferences with his people, [reporting] and getting assignments. Actually, when we first went in, we had been sitting on the line there, along a river. It wasn't as big as the Raritan, but it was a river, and we were going to go across that. We had to go across in boats. That turned out to be pretty nasty stuff. On the other side were pillboxes. These people were all in there, in the cement stuff. So they made the attack. It was a night attack, waited until the sun went down or whatever it was, and then they went across. It was cold and nasty and it was really rotten. The water was high. It was just a small river, but the water was very high, because we had rain a lot and some melting and whatever. So we jumped across there. Then we had to neutralize all those pillboxes and whatever. It was nothing like we had ever practiced for, because you don't use live ammunition. I mean, once in a while [you do]. Before we left Wisconsin, the last maneuver we had, we fired live ammunition. Of course, no one in the group had ever been subject to that. That makes a lot of difference. They found that it's different on the practice range than it is in real life. You're going to end up with things like short rounds, and the projectile just doesn't go as far as it's supposed to go. We had casualties in Wisconsin and that was when everybody got serious about it. Not that they weren't serious before, but it was another degree of being serious.
KP: Did people do what they were supposed to do?
JM: Well, not only that, you just looked for something that was going to be really secure. Just laying around in a hole or something, in a ditch, isn't the way to be, the way to go, you know. So, anyhow, of course, when we got there, the other guys were all veterans, on the other side. They had been around a long time. I remember, we were watching, you could watch guys that were out walking around and so on, and some of our guys got real smart, and at lunch time, they decided to throw in a few shells, on their lunch. Well, they didn't take it laying down. They scrammed, and the next thing you know, all the incoming stuff starts coming over. So they shut down early. There was a lot of very close fighting in this mobilized area. They already had all of these emplacements and everything. Actually, as we found out later, a lot of these German forces, that they had then, were guys that they rounded up. They weren't their top line troops. They weren't the guys who went across France and Poland and Eastern Europe or whatever. You know, when somebody's shooting stuff at you, it doesn't matter who it is. It does the same thing, whether it's an expert or not. Then, once we broke through that line on the river, well, on this river, the border of Luxembourg, then, we still hadn't been into Germany. It got looser. We moved a lot and became a lot more mobile. Then, of course, the big thing then became getting up to the Rhine and getting a bridge-hold and getting across the river there. Once we went across the Rhine, then it was all vehicles. We did everything in vehicles then, on trucks and tanks and whatever. You'd go in and take a town and send some squads out to clean up and go through the houses and whatever, to see if anybody was left behind, and take prisoners and whatever. Then, of course, as we started to get further in East Germany, then there was the question of all these refugees, who were coming because the Russians were pushing on the other side. You know, the people were just, all these civilians, and the people were just messed up. They were all coming down the road, carrying all their possessions and all. That's always one of the big things in a war, the people who are being displaced and so on. They clogged the roads and make a lot of problems for the military.
KP: Where did you learn to be a radio operator?
JM: I had a little bit of knowledge, I guess, from home and whatever. I guess, maybe I sought it out. They have a certain amount of opportunity, so to speak, and I thought, "It's better to be with the commander than it is to be with somebody else, though."
KP: Did you seek this out at Camp McCoy?
JM: Yes, that is where it would have been, because before that was all individual training for basic military skills.
KP: Being with the commander, you had a better view of what was going on than a lot of people did.
JM: Well, you do and you don't. For instance, I would always look up my friend, because I'd always tell him what was going to be coming up. I knew a little bit more in advance than the ordinary guy would. Most of it, again, the analogy of the football game, you've got the head coach down there and he has his coaches and subordinate coaches, they each get their assignments and they go out and do it. You let him know what's going on. Of course, in the field, you have to have more communication, because it isn't right there on the table, so to speak. I had the advantage of time. I knew, beforehand, what was going to happen a little more than other people. It's just a lot of confusion. War always is that way. It's amazing that they do as well as they do, as far as one person knowing what the other is going to do, because it's easy to end up shooting at your own troops or whatever.
KP: Did you know of any cases of friendly fire?
JM: Well, I wouldn't say that I knew, specifically, but it's practically impossible, because you do, see, we had codes for radio transmissions. You know, you're supposed to be able to send stuff so the other guy doesn't know what you're saying or going to do. A lot of these codes are supposed to change every day. You didn't always get a change every day, you didn't know what the change was going to be. So if you're looking at your calendar or whatever, and you have a certain date where you're supposed to do this, you don't know what the other guy's going to do. Usually, what we would do was send information, mostly by maps and grid coordinates. You would have to notify people about the lines and so forth, "Don't go past a certain grid coordinate and so on and so forth." Finally, we sent most everything in the clear. I mean, or you'd use jargon, figuring that the people who you talked to, if you were in battalion, and had to talk to regiment, then we would know the operator at regiment. So you got to know it just like any two people with any kind of a communication system, you knew each other and you could talk in your own language and you could get to understand each other. That was a better code than trying to go through a pattern here, put a certain strip over here and then move one here and then move so many places here and so many places there. It was more confusing and inaccurate.
KP: What was some of the jargon you would use? Do you remember any specific terms used?
JM: No, it's just something, when you talk with people after a while, you use certain phrases or expressions and things like that, usually with numbers. That was a code in itself. If you go grid coordinates, you give them the map number and then you give the coordinates that you're talking about. That's a code. Especially, you know, it isn't like you see in the movies, where some guy was at his desk or whatever trying to unscramble the other guy's code. That doesn't happen in front line type of activities. It's just not the place for it.
KP: You really got to know your battalion commander.
JM: Well, yes, you lived together, and other people, too. You just get to know different ones. You traveled together. When we got going across country, we'd usually have the jeep driver and the commander, our battalion commander and then his second-in-command. Usually, they were kept separate, afterwards, for purposes, so they don't get shot up at one time. But then he'd always have someone else with him, usually an intelligence officer or whatever. The four of us would go bouncing across, up and down the line. It depended on what the movements were on a certain time, what the situation was, whether there were obstacles that had to be resolved and things like that. If someone got into trouble, they ran into a hotspot or a stronghold and so forth, you'd shoot right over there and go over there and find out what could be done. It was mostly that kind of a thing. It wasn't dramatic in the literary sense or theatrical sense or whatever. It was just necessity of getting the job done.
KP: Your battalion commander, Major Charles Levy, what did you think of him? How good of a leader did you think he was?
JM: Well, he was a major. When we were ready to come over, leave Wisconsin, for some reason, they were going to bring the tables of organization, the TO, as they call it, up to snuff. The battalion commander was supposed to be a lieutenant colonel. We had been training, Levy had been in command, and just before we left Wisconsin, they put him back and made him the, I don't know whether they took him to regiment or what they did with him, but they relieved him of his command and they replaced him with a lieutenant colonel. When we got into the mainland, into Europe, into Germany, well, into Luxembourg, as soon as we really got into action, he wasn't getting the job done, this lieutenant colonel. He'd been off at some college campus or somewhere or something or other beforehand, and they called him up and put him in. They threw him in the line. The word got back to regiment and they relieved him.
KP: Were you his radio operator, this lieutenant colonel?
KP: Did you sense that the job wasn't getting done?
JM: Well, at that time, everything was so new that it was, we'd never been there before. Nobody had ever been there before. Confusion always comes when you have a lack of familiarity with what you're doing. This guy never would go out of the pillbox. He was always, had to be, in a concrete place, in a fort. Levy wasn't that way. He was always out on the line. I could sense that this [other guy] wasn't going to stick around long, because you're not going to have guys coming off the line and going into a pillbox and sitting down and reporting to this guy and whatever. Then they have to go out and do the dirty work and get out on the line again. Word got around or something, because he wasn't there very long.
KP: So Levy made it a point to go out to the line?
JM: Oh, yes, he was a good man. Oh, yes. He was right there, where he was supposed to be. Well, everybody knew him, too. Everybody had trained with him. You know, this idea of bringing in somebody to fill out the chart, so to speak, with the proper rank or something or other, that wasn't very good sense. That's the way things work sometimes.
KP: Was Levy a career officer?
KP: He someone who came in because of the war?
JM: I don't know where he had been prior to that. I mean, he may have been, you know, like in a National Guard unit, in the Reserves or something like that. Actually, I think [he was in] the Connecticut National Guard. He may have been, as I say, he may have been in something like that.
KP: It sounds like you don't know very much about his background.
JM: Well, how would you find out? I mean, when you're in this circumstance, it isn't like somebody working in an office or somebody's [alone] and you meet them at parties and all that sort of stuff. It just wasn't the same kind of relationship. You're known by your last name in the military. So you just don't get that familiar, even though you spend a lot of time together. There's a lot of responsibility for each one's activities. Yes, those are some of the things that happen in real life.
KP: By being part of battalion headquarters, did you eat better than the guy on the line?
JM: No, no, no. We had field rations. We had just stuff that was already packaged, and had coffee and stuff like that, and that's about it. Hot stuff. Once in a while, when there would be a lull or something or other, then the mess trucks would bring up hot food and things like that. But a lot of it was field rations.
KP: What about hot showers in the time you were on the line?
JM: Well, that was the biggest thing everybody looked forward to, was to get a hot shower.
KP: How many did you get?
JM: Well, when there was an opportunity, when there was a lull, that's the first thing they do, hot meals and showers, yes. That's a morale thing. They always looked after that part of it.
RA: What was the reaction to being attached to General Patton's Third Army? What sort of reputation did he have among the men?
JM: Everybody that I knew liked Patton, because they felt [that] he was a guy of his word and they could trust him. It wasn't like the newspapers. The press, they're always out to make a buck for themselves, reporters. They're like guys in business. A lot of people, military guys, felt like he got a bad shake. They had a famous case, that he was slapping a soldier, you know. Okay, the way they play it up, he was punishing this man. That probably wasn't true. He's buried in Luxembourg. He's buried in the military cemetery there. He's buried with all the guys he fought with. If he hit this guy, you know, he might have come and given him a little whack or something on the cheek, to break him out of his state of mind or something like that, but he wasn't punishing him and he wasn't calling him a coward. It's just that the media, being what it is, their purpose is to sell newspapers or magazines or films or tapes or whatever it is, they made it all, distorted the whole thing. As I say, he was. ... I've read things since, in Europe, about what happened. For all the things they said about Patton, you look to see the number of casualties that his troops suffered, compared to what some other people suffered. His casualties were much lower than any of the other groups. That includes the British and the French and the Dutch and all the other guys that were out there. He had, as far as I know, and as far as I am personally concerned, I had the greatest respect for him, because he's going to do it the best way, it was going to be for the guys who were doing it. It may sound crazy, but sometimes that surprise is the biggest thing a military unit has. It's like football games. That's why Rutgers hasn't done so good. They didn't have enough surprise.
KP: You mention you ran into Patton one day.
JM: Well, he came down to the, I didn't run into him, personally, but he came to our unit there, somewhere on the Rhine River and whatever. He did that, too. He made himself visible, to let the guys know that he was there and that he wasn't hiding in the bushes or something like that, or thinking up bad things for them to do. He let them know that he was out there, just like anybody else. I never heard him say anything about anybody, except maybe some of the other guys on the other side of the line.
KP: Did you ever come in contact with any German prisoners?
JM: Oh, yes, we took a lot of prisoners. Most of the time, you know, it's like a bunch of kids playing hide and seek or something. When you don't have a frontal attack, where two guys would line up over here and line up here like the Civil War, when you don't have that kind of a situation, it's skirmishes. A group here, a group there, houses, buildings, different features of the landscape or whatever. These guys will stay there, as long as they think they've got a chance of getting out or wiping out the other guy. When they come to that conclusion, then they just say, "That's it, " throw up their hands and hope you don't shoot. You know, you see a lot of that. A lot of our stuff was really like cleaning up, as I said. People were scattered. Once you get, that's the other big thing in the military, is to divide and conquer. You get the other guys, their forces are spread, and then it's not a force anymore. They scatter and you can pick them off and get them to surrender in small units and whatever. Once we got across the Rhine River, then that's what most of that stuff was. It was that kind of thing. Yes, you find prisoners. A lot of guys, they didn't want to fight more than anybody else does. They were forced into it. They were hiding in a house somewhere, in the attic or somewhere else, and somebody came out of the door and, "Oh, no shoot, no shoot," or something and that's all. Just like the cops, you know. That's the way it goes.
RA: You received a Bronze Star. How did you receive that?
JM: That was in, actually, in the Siegfried Line part of it, because we had to spend a large amount of time on duty. There was no break. Essentially, that's what we all got them for. Medals are a funny thing. They almost have a quota system, especially for the higher-level units. This is something I learned on my own, nobody ever showed it to me or told me about it. But there's a quota system, like after a big battle or something like that, or in this case, through the Siegfried line, they'll get a notice from higher headquarters saying, "We're planning to take appropriate measures to see that people are recognized for their activities and so forth, and a successful conclusion of the campaign, and so on and so forth. We have determined that we would leave so many Medals of Honor, so many Silver Stars." And also, rank has to do with it. For every guy who got a Bronze Star, somebody else got a Silver Star, who was a higher rank. In my case, I think the citations said that, "For commendable service during the area," and they give the dates and location and so forth, "for maintaining his station and for operating effectively and so forth, and contributing to the success of the military, he be awarded the Bronze Star." So that's how you get a Bronze Star. Actually, I have in the book here somewhere, one of the platoon commanders who I had served with before. See, I was an ordinary rifleman in a platoon, in a line company. In case you don't know that, if you're in the next situation, you're the first guy who goes across the field to find out if there's somebody else on the other side. That's when I decided [that] I think that I would do better if I could operate a radio.
KP: Did you ever have cause to shoot a rifle in battle?
JM: Yes, well, that happens. Nobody tells you. It's something that happens when you're out in a field or you see somebody who is hazardous or a threat to your existence, and you figure, "It's either him or me." It's like a "High Noon" kind of a thing. When that time comes, there's no question about it, what you're going to do.
KP: What were the occasions that you had to use your weapon?
JM: We had an assignment to capture a certain town, because other units had run into severe, heavy resistance there. Actually, the story was that there was an SS training school there, and these guys had gotten out of school and were out, coming up against us. So they thought that they would be, since they were SS, that this was the elite force, that these guys would be tougher than some of the other people we'd encountered, as far as their resistance. So the commander, Levy, decided that he would, actually, what happened was, the regimental commander came and said, "What's going on down here? How come you guys aren't moving ahead?" He said, "Well, we had very severe resistance and we've been taking a lot of casualties." So Levy said, "Well, maybe we shouldn't go right down the main road here and into town." And the colonel said, "Nope, we want to have that place cleared out by dark." So he said, "Okay, very good, sir," and gave him a salute. After he left, he said, "Okay, let's go." He said, "We're going to go ...
------------------------------------------END OF TAPE ONE, SIDE TWO-----------------------------------
KP: This continues an interview with Mr. James R. Moetz on November 14, 1995 at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, with Kurt Piehler and ...
RA: Bob Archer.
KP: I'm sorry to interrupt that great story, but you'd mentioned that you were given orders to clear this town by a set time?
JM: Yes, right. So anyhow, he decided we were going to go and do a reconnaissance. So we were looking around and he saw a path that was like a clearing. [There's] a lot of forestry in Germany. They cut these paths down through the forest. We started out going across country and surveying with binoculars and so forth and looking for a better path. We came to, slowed down, at this one point, and we hear some noise in the brush nearby. Somebody says, "Oh, a wild boar." So, anyhow, we drove over and got a little closer to it, and here comes this guy, up out of the ground, you know. I mean, he's got his helmet on and everything else, and he had an SS thing there. We were sitting in a jeep. So, I had, at the time, I was carrying a grease gun, because I threw the rifle away. I was too clumsy, and it wasn't suitable for what I was doing. So we had a grease gun. I drew a line on this guy right away, and as soon as he came up, you know, he comes up with his hands and he's got grenades sticking in his belt. He starts up with his hands, and I got the jump on him to let him know I was there, and he just kept on going up and we took him prisoner. That was a first-hand experience with a prisoner taking. The rest of it is when you're out and somebody's shooting at you, you let them know you're there. You're not going to lie down and roll over. So, most of the times that we've ever had things in towns or whatever, somebody'd take a potshot and you'd take a shot back at them, or enough to make him put his head down until you got past him and away you go.
RA: I'm not sure how much activity you had in it, but there was a lot of house-to-house fighting in Hamburg, after you crossed the Rhine.
JM: Oh, yes.
RA: I read that there was some tough fighting there.
JM: Yes, well, that's the kind of thing that happens. We had a lot of [training in] house-to-house fighting. They actually set up villages in the training camps and you would have to go through there. You used dummies, of course, and you'd go through those training courses. You're either supposed to bayonet them or shoot them or whatever you could do, whatever was suitable. But I never saw anybody with bayonets in this war. I mean, never had at all. A lot of people surrendered, especially toward the end, when there wasn't that much to fight for. They were doing what they had to do so they wouldn't be shot by their own. That was pretty much the story.
KP: Any cases of Germans using the surrender as a ruse and then shooting after surrendering?
JM: Well, I don't know, I'm sure it happened, but I don't ever [remember] having any contact with anything like that.
KP: What was the roughest action that your unit saw? Was it the river crossing that you talked about?
JM: Well, yes, that was very bad because of the circumstances. What you don't see, even in the movies, is you don't see stuff like white phosphorous. That terrified me. We used a lot of it and they used a lot of it. Originally, white phosphorous was the thing they used to use for marking for artillery and so on. They would usually send white phosphorous up in mortar shells, and they would lay out a pattern which they wanted the artillery to fire on. But white phosphorous is terrible.
KP: Why so terrible?
JM: It'll just eat you up. You get hit with white phosphorous, it just chews your flesh away and everything. We had a captain who had taken a hit right in the face. He was a well-liked guy and I had known him from previous training and so forth. That was pretty devastating.
KP: Did he survive?
JM: Well, he went off to the hospital. I never heard from him again. That stuff, and when it hits, it splashes, you know. It just flies around and pieces go everywhere. It's like shrapnel, but it's on fire. When it hits flesh, it just tears it, rips it. [It's] brutal. But they used so much of that, but you hardly ever hear anybody talk about that.
KP: What about artillery bombardments?
JM: Oh, well, yes, you get artillery shells all the time. I mean, after a while, you can tell. They say you never hear the one that's going to hit you. Artillery shells are the same way. You can tell, pretty much, whether they're coming in, whether they're going out, how far away they are and all that sort of stuff. You just tune yourself to the sound of it.
KP: How many times would you call for artillery or air support?
JM: We had called for assistance. When a unit, depending on the size, probably at the battalion level, would be either bogged down or they would anticipate that they were going to have a very severe time, as far as the resistance was concerned, then they could call to the next higher unit, which would be regiment, and ask for artillery fire and for the heavy artillery. See, because we had battalion cannon company, and then you had regiment, and then you get 105mm, and then you get 155mm, or at least we did in those days. 155mm, which was really heavy artillery, and this was usually attached to the division. So, you exhaust those things first, and if they couldn't do the job, then you could ask for air force support, air support. Then, that would have to go through regiment. If regiment said okay, then they'd have to go to division, division had to go to corps, corps goes to, well, along the line, depending on how much you want or need. There's a system to everything in the military. It's organized.
KP: How many times did you require air support?
JM: I think we requested air support once, going across the Rhine River, when we were being attacked from the other side. They came in and flew one sortie, I think it was. That was as much as ever happened. But that had to go up the line to get permission. All the way up the line. Now, of course, by that time, a lot of the German air support wasn't around anymore. It was either shot up or didn't have enough pilots or something or other. So it wasn't so much of an Air Force operation for us. But I can imagine being under that stuff all the time. My cousin was married to a colonel who was in, well, he was in B-52s, he used to fly. Eventually, he was in SAC. He was in Curtis LeMay's air force in Europe. He did that all the time, just fly over and pull the lever and let it go, you know, dump the load. And that was it, turn around and go back home. I mean, it wasn't that simple, but that's what he did. He's still flying, you know. He's on military leave, or retirement, but when you talk to him, he's still flying. It's just too bad that it has to be that way, but ...
KP: When you say he's still flying, is he still in the military?
JM: His attitude, you know, he still has that discipline, and it has had such an impact on his attitude that he still has that attitude that he's in command and he has to carry out his orders. The responsibility, it's that kind of a thing that he has, yes. It all depends on what parts you're in and where you are and how far you get.
KP: Do you think you would have made it through the war if you had stayed in your rifle company?
JM: I would have been dead.
KP: When did you sense that? When did you realize really how dangerous it was?
JM: Well, when we went to Wisconsin and they put us in the regular organized unit. There isn't much chance of quoting the odds on that one. When you're the first guy who has to go across the field and see if anybody's on the other side, you know, it's pretty sticky.
KP: So you sensed, even before you got to Europe, how dangerous the rifle company was?
JM: Oh, yes. Yes, that's it. Pretty devastating.
KP: You mentioned that you acquired hepatitis while you were on leave, just before V-E day.
JM: Yes, I was down in France, I went down to, well, see, we went to the motor pool, and they had trucks going to different place. And then we went down to Aachen, which was a big train terminal there, and then I went down on a train, down through the middle of France. Going down there, you had army food, I guess it was. I don't even remember now. That's a long time ago. Fifty years. I certainly got poison food somewhere along the line, or it wasn't cleaned or something or other. I ended up in Nice, right on the waterfront there, in one of these big hotels. It was just one of those things that came over me, I guess. I just didn't feel good and turned yellow and whatever, and then I went back up on the train. I got up to Aachen on the way back, and I went to the military hospital there. It was really long ride.
KP: How long were you in the hospital for?
JM: It was probably about ten days or two weeks. But they put me in the isolation ward. They had a sheet right next to my bed, or two beds away, and the people who really had something, which was virulent or whatever, they had them back there, behind the sheet. I wanted to get out of there as fast as I could.
KP: How long did you end up staying?
JM: As I said, it was about ten days or so. They told me it'd be okay, not to drink, they said to lay off of fat, fatty foods, don't smoke very much, don't drink a lot of caffeine and [have a] fat free diet, and not much alcohol. I've lived by that ever since.
KP: Did you smoke at the time?
JM: Yes, everybody smokes in the Army. They tell you, in a way, they say, "Okay, we're taking a break, light them up. If you don't have one, get one from your buddy." And that was it and everybody said that. After a while, it was like a fall-in, you know. Everybody smoked.
KP: How good was the medical care? How confident were you that you would be taken care of?
JM: Well, as good as can be under the circumstances. They had corpsmen all around. I've forgotten, now, what the ratio was, but they had medics and guys that were doing that on the line. See, a lot of our stuff was more mobile, and so people would get winged all the time, or a piece of shrapnel or something like that. You don't have much choice about that, shrapnel, or throw some shells at you, mortars or, that's another thing. Most people don't hear much about a mortar until you get in the army, and then you find out that's one of the basic weapons that they have, because they can shoot up and come down without flat trajectory and all that. In the military, they use [that], and that's what happened in Vietnam. They used that an awful lot, and that's why there were so many wounded there. They do a lot of damage. That's the thing that you don't read about in the local press.
KP: On that subject, after you got back home, what best reflected what you'd experienced during the war and what did you think was really inaccurate, in terms of people's perceptions of the war?
JM: I thought things like Frank Sinatra and these guys, who were making fortunes in the military and all this stuff and having the big party and all about the socialites and all that stuff in the films, you know, and Hollywood, disgusting. You know, it's not real and they all get rich on it. That was the kind of thing that I didn't like.
KP: Do you think any Hollywood film captures the experience of the average soldier?
JM: Well, I think what happens, there have been some films which are dramatic, which are best-selling books and magazine articles or whatever. There are some, but most people don't want to see that. And I can understand that, too.
KP: You had mentioned the white phosphorous, which I don't think I've ever seen in a Hollywood film.
JM: No, you probably wouldn't. But it was so ordinary in the preparation for an attack. You laid down a barrage, an artillery barrage, and then you have white phosphorous in there all the time. That stuff, you'll see it in some pictures, you know, where it just plops and then it goes splash, white stuff flying all around. It's deadly for flesh. A lot of burn wounds, and that's what they'll classify it as, a burn. It's bad.
RA: During the occupation, there was a directive from the supreme headquarters ordering no fraternization with the local women. How did the soldiers react to that?
JM: You know, a law is only as good or as strong as people who can enforce it or agree with it. Most of the people that we saw, I didn't see any problems with fraternization or whatever. As a matter-of-fact, a lot of these people were glad to see us, because we would give them food and things that they didn't have. People living on potato peels. They have to bake them in the oven or something, heat them up so they wouldn't contaminate them, but this was no food. People would do all kinds of things. That comes from higher headquarters and that sort of thing. A lot of those people, you know, didn't hate the GIs who were coming through, because they realized that if it wasn't us, it would be them or something or other. The table would be turned. Most people were just [concerned with] survival, a matter of survival. Actually, the refugees were running from the Russians because they wanted the Yanks to take them and take care of them or something. They didn't want to wait for the Russians. The Russians would take everything that they had. Where we were, at any rate, there wasn't that much question about it. A lot of those things never get in the press, though. They might, you know, an obscure place or a small limited readership or something. They don't get into the big things.
RA: After V-E Day, what kind of information did you receive on what was happening in the war against Japan?
JM: Well, we had radios. We were in England. We were ready to ship back to the States. We had radios on. We'd listen to BBC and everything else. They were keeping us pretty well [informed].
KP: You didn't stay very long in Germany after V-E Day.
JM: We had shipping orders, you know. We were supposed to come back to the States and get retrained. So I ended up in South Carolina.
KP: One point, just to follow up a point you made earlier. You mentioned that in training camps, you practiced house-to-house fighting. Was that in Wisconsin or was that in England?
JM: No, we never did any training in England. We were just there, waiting to be committed, until they decided what they were going to need and where they were going to need it. We just had our duffle bags and that was about it. We didn't have weapons or anything there, because we didn't get those until we got over into the mainland.
KP: Did you have chaplains with your battalion?
JM: Oh, yes, they had chaplains. Actually, I guess I saw more of the chaplains. They would have Sunday services and whatever set up. We saw more of the chaplains on the ship going over than at any time, because they could have a service or whatever, whenever they found space in the dining room or something or other. They had chaplains there. The only thing I remember distinctly was, about the chaplains, was going to one of their meetings, and the chaplain asked if anybody had any comments or any questions or anything, and I said, "Yes." I said, "We were always taught that 'thou shalt not kill.'" The chaplain said, "Well, you know, that isn't really what it says. The scripture says 'thou shalt not do murder.'" And that's all he said.
KP: It sounds like you were a little skeptical of that theological ...
JM: Interpretation. Yes.
KP: You wanted something a little bit more.
JM: I don't know what the reasoning was, but that always stuck in my mind.
KP: Did you feel that you should have come home? I mean, the units that had enough points knew they weren't going to go in combat. How did you feel about the prospect of a war against Japan, fighting the Japanese after having been in combat for several months.
JM: Well, by the time we got home, we already knew what was going to happen. That didn't bother me there. Oh, I would never have looked forward to it, I'll tell you that. I don't even know what kind of training they were talking about, whether they were talking about a month or two months or whatever it would be. I mean, they're still discussing those points, actually. I heard them, not long ago, somebody on TV was talking about how, I think they did a show on how they arrived. This was when they just had the anniversary of the end of the war with Japan, and on how the president said how many casualties there were going to be if there was an invasion of Japan and all that sort of stuff. Plus they were just estimates, anyhow, because nobody knows unless it happens and you can actually take a count.
KP: It seems like you have a lot of sense that things would not go as expected from headquarters.
JM: Yes, the so-called "intelligence" is limited. It's like the response. The potential might be there, but the performance may not. You never know. You can underestimate, overestimate, depending on the estimator. It's always something like the stock market in certain respects, too. You find out later why things happen, but you can't anticipate them, either good or bad. That's part of the activity there, what makes military things the way they are. After seeing some of the things that they did in the Civil War, that they have on these TV shows in the last number of years. Gee, that's horrible. I mean, it's bad enough when you do things remotely, with artillery and all of this, but this standing head-to-head with somebody and slicing in and all that kind of stuff, that was awful butchery. And the people would come out and bring their lunch to watch it even, for the politicians in Washington or whatever. It leaves you pretty cold. At least it does me.
RA: After you were discharged, did you just apply back to Rutgers right away?
JM: Yes, I got out in, what was it, December, and I started in the first of February or whenever the terms was over.
KP: So you started February of '46?
KP: Had you thought of going elsewhere? Had you thought of going to another school besides Rutgers?
JM: Well, no, because of my family circumstances. It was convenient, I could live at home, I could commute, and it would be more comfortable to do it that way. I figured, at least at that point in time, Rutgers would be sufficient. I wouldn't have to go to Harvard or something or other. So that's why I went there.
RA: What was it like to be commuter student at the time?
JM: There were a lot of commuter students, an awful lot of them. A lot more than were residents. If you look around, you see how many dorms there are now and whatever. An awful lot of people commuted. Even by train from Newark or somewhere and wherever. Newark, Trenton, Camden and all that sort of stuff. It was the thing to do, actually. You could spend some extra time, if you wanted to [stay] on the campus. It was convenient. I had my family problems and responsibilities and that was probably the biggest thing. I could be at home with my folks and so forth. Rutgers had a good reputation. They weren't always the top in the field, but they had a good reputation, and you get a good education for my purposes, at the time. My cousin, as I say, he had gone through there, so I figured, if he could go through there, maybe I'd make it, too.
KP: It sounds like you went to quite a few football games when you were going to college. Did you get to many Rutgers games?
JM: Oh, yes. Well, years ago, before they built the stadium, they played over here, right over on, what the heck was the name of the field?
KP: Where the library is, actually.
JM: Yes, right. We'd go to the games there. If there was a high school game that we were more interested in, we wouldn't go to the Rutgers games. But we could go up here, to the college game. It was like a lot of other things. It seems like people were closer to the university. Those who came here, even from New Jersey, were from nearer to the university than they were further away. So if they were down near Camden or somewhere, they'd probably go to school in Philadelphia or Rutgers Camden and whatever. It was more intimate, I guess, and everything. Cars, you go thirty-five miles an hour, you're going at a pretty good clip in those days, even. Now, it's nothing.
RA: You mentioned that Professor vanderMeulen ...
JM: vanderMeulen, yes ...
RA: ... Was your favorite professor. What was he like?
JM: He was the head of the School of Chemistry, the PA. Bill Rieman, the Rieman Laboratories [are] named after [him]. He was in analytical chemistry. I don't know, I think, probably, Rieman was probably one of my favorite professors, too. I guess analytical chemistry was more to my liking, or the thing that I could handle better or something like that. I didn't have much of an attitude toward organic chemistry, but I ended up doing it. I did it reasonably well. Some things, you just don't know about, so you can't really pre-judge it because you don't have anything to go by. vanderMeulen, he was a doer. He was a good man. He'd help you out and he'd stand by you if there was any need for that, too. Actually, he worked, he got his Ph.D. with Peter Debye. He got a Noble Prize, Peter Debye did. These are things, you know, that when you're going to school, you don't think about that. I knew he'd gone to Cornell and I looked into his credentials a little bit. I mean, now, you know, it surprises me, sometimes, to think about some of the insights that I had in the past, because you just don't think that you would have that. But as time goes on, you look in the journals and you see societies' publications, and you see how they evaluate things and what's valuable to them and their assessments and that sort of thing, who they got their advanced degrees from and what [their] areas of expertise [were] and things of that sort. These men were, Rieman was a Rutgers man through and through. It was just, some people impress you and other people don't. It's about that simple. It depends on your nature, as well as theirs, and how you get together with them. But I was satisfied. Actually, when I got out of school here, the first interview I went on, I was hired.
KP: Your first interview was with Squibb?
JM: Yes, I was hired. I went through the placement thing that they have here and they said, "Well, there's an opening over at Squibb. Would you like to go over and interview for it?" "What time?" So I went and I was very pleased with everything that worked that way. Then, after I'd been there, the longer I stayed with it, the more I was glad that I had done what I had done, because I had very good training there and I had good opportunities for training and retraining and extending training and whatever, and got recognition for what I was doing. So, that was satisfactory.
KP: Had you ever thought of trying to go on for a doctorate in chemistry?
JM: Well, yes, I had thought about that, but it's very demanding. It seemed like what happened to my cousin, who had been away in the military for a number of years, he and his wife are living in student housing on the campus, down there in Princeton. I visited them a number of times. Here is a man, as far as his career was concerned, and he was still just starting out, he was starting at the starting line with other young people who were just starting out. I tried to make the best of what I had and I thought I wouldn't go, because then, you have to start all over again at the starting line.
KP: It sounds like you liked Squibb.
JM: Well, when we first went there, it was a friendly place. It was a friendly place and people looked out for each other. They really had a camaraderie kind of a thing. There wasn't a lot of pressure. I mean, from time to time, it was, but it wasn't steady pressure. Now, of course, they got into bigger things and all that, and that all changes as you go along. I never did mind the time that I worked there. I was always willing and able to, actually, in my early years, we were working on some medications for, there was barbituric acid. They used to give barbiturates for all kinds of things, and Squibb was trying to come up and see if they could find an improved one. I was given an assignment to make one of these new things for them and to take it to a hospital up in New York and to give it to the physician there who was going to administer it, do tests, and evaluate it. So I had to prepare all my materials and things that I had, and it all had to be sterile and all this sort of thing, to meet all the requirements for injection into a person. I got that all prepared, had the date set and everything, went up to New York, got to the hospital. The doctor was there, he was waiting, had the patient in the operating room and everything. I went over, took my materials and everything, mixed them all up to make a solution for him. He took it and put it in the patient and everything worked fine. Well, they never did make a commercial product out of it, but it was kind of rewarding to be able to do that. You couldn't do that today. I did the same thing several times in Washington. We had a doctor there who was in the Veterans Administration hospital. He was screening some compounds and I had to do the same thing there. I had to go down there and make up the solutions for him, and he administered them, right on the spot, to the patients and all. It was really rewarding to me that they would trust me. Since it's inoculation, it was directly into the person and all. Everything in it worked out without any problems.
KP: You actually got to see who your medicine was helping.
JM: Right, it wasn't just the reading of a report. It was actually going right on the scene. But that was a long time ago, too.
KP: You met your wife through Squibb.
JM: Well, yes, she and I both worked there. Of course, she came from the same town as I did. But we were in the bowling league. When the league started this year, I didn't know she was going to be there. We were bowling and I noticed that she was bowling in the league. Right after, we had gone to church next Sunday and I saw her church after a while, and we have a coffee hour after church service and I went over to her and I said to her, "Oh, how's your bowling," you know. And she said, "Oh, not so good," and so on and so forth. "How would you like to go out and practice a little bit this afternoon," or something like that. So that was the beginning of my wife and I.
RA: Had you known her in high school or in your town?
JM: No, she's eight years younger than I.
KP: What church did you meet her in? The Methodist Church?
JM: The Methodist Church, yes.
KP: You'd mentioned having to have your unit wait for the Soviet Union to finish fighting the Germans. Did that surprise you?
JM: Oh, yes. We wanted to get it all. I mean, we were moving along about forty, forty-five miles a day.
KP: Towards the end?
JM: Yes, right. Yes, we wanted to get as much as we could, because if we don't get it this way, you know, we're going to have to fight for it later. But I don't know, I guess the command didn't hear that. Because once you get them on the run, it's relatively easier that way than it is to give them a chance to dig in. That was all rehashed. They had these summit meetings and that had all been settled before that event. You know, the other thing was there were these refugees. We had details out who were fumigating these people. You know, they would come down the road and they had these guys with these sprays and everything, and they were spraying all their clothes and everything else, all their possessions, so they wouldn't bring the diseases with them.
KP: Did you have any contact with any of the refugees?
JM: Didn't have any reason to.
KP: Did they ever get in the way of any combat actions or other movements?
JM: They would avoid whatever they could, where they thought there was going to be any problems. I mean, like in Vietnam, especially, they ran into the problem of the clogging of the roads with refugees and all. They actually clogged them. Actually, I guess in some places, the military encourages it to clog them. But we never had anything like that.
KP: Neither of your two sons served in the military?
KP: Did you want them to serve? Did you wish they had gotten the same experiences you had had? Maybe not combat, but being in the military?
JM: No, I wouldn't encourage him to do it, because I think we've given our share. Actually, I only have one son. One son has died.
KP: Oh, I'm sorry.
JM: He had epilepsy. He went on a day off. My son worked here, actually, at Rutgers. He had a job in the library, and I was thankful for that happening, too. He had gotten to the point where he was doing very well. He got his driver's license back. They tell you, if you have more than three seizures, they lift the license. He had been taking medications and so on and, apparently, he was doing better. He had a day off from his job and he decided to go fishing up in Spruce Run. He went with a friend of his and they went out in the boat. He was out in the boat and had a seizure and that was the end of that. I wouldn't recommend anything for my other son, as far as military. We've had enough of our share.
KP: It sounds like your parents and other family members were quite worried during the war.
JM: Well, that's the way families are, fortunately.
KP: How often did you write and how often did they write back?
JM: Oh, whenever we had a chance. Of course, once we got to England, then they started a censor. But I never worried about that. My father was always knowledgeable about how things work, having been in the military and other places. Whenever we had an opportunity. Of course, communications then, where you just sent postage cards or envelopes or whatever. You didn't have cables and all the other sophisticated things, TV, satellites.
KP: Your father was very active in the Legion but you never joined.
JM: No, I didn't want to have anything more to do with it. I guess I get a misty eye on Veterans' Day or something. They serve their purpose, a lot of people like to go there. It's just not my bag. I don't like to go around parading. I've always felt the same way. There are a lot of people who give impressions that are false.
KP: Do you think a lot of veterans don't recount exactly what happened to them?
JM: I don't know. It seems to me, there are always a lot of mail clerks and people who never saw the front line or anything else, who were the officers and whoever, and parade around on the holidays, Fourth of July and all that sort of stuff. It's just my own experience, I guess. I don't have anything against them. I have friends who are there all the time and everything, you know, go there once and awhile and have a roast beef dinner or something or other. It's just a personalized thing.
KP: During the '50s, you served in the civil defense.
JM: Civil defense, yes, I said, airplane spotters. Well, actually, even when I was in high school, they had airplane spotters. That was early warning system or something that they had incorporated.
KP: Did you want to get out of the Army as fast as you could?
JM: Oh, yes, I gave them what they asked for and I did my share.
KP: You weren't tempted to make it a career?
JM: No, you have to have a certain mentality. It depends even on the level of your aspirations or performance or whatever. I couldn't ever see myself doing any of that, in organizations or whatever. It just isn't my thing anymore. I want to get away from all that. There are a lot of noble people and good people who are in the military. It's just I had enough.
RA: I had one more question that wasn't necessarily related to military things. I had seen that you were awarded a patent.
JM: A patent?
JM: Well, I guess I've gotten more than one. What was the question about it?
RA: What was it for? Was it for something you were doing in Squibb?
JM: Yes, it would all have been in the company, through the company.
KP: Were you excited to get a patent in your name?
JM: Well, not really, because the patent is just, as you learn, the ordinary perception of a patent is not reality. It's like a license for a piece of property for a limited time. You have to, like your property, you have to take care of it and you have to protect it. So these are group patents for the most part, and a lot of them are what they call "defensive patents." They patent something to prevent somebody else from patenting it. The patent lawyers do this. It's a whole world of its own. The people who get most of the corporate patents are very selfish about them and they're very, I'm not too generous with who gets all the recognition. It is not a matter of recognition, it's a matter of business and property. So you see it differently when you're in the business itself.
KP: I guess we have an old-fashioned view of patents.
JM: Yes, it's a kind of romantic view of it. The fact is, it's hard-nosed business property, just like an office building or whatever, or owning a piece of land under a certain property or something like that. You have to work at it and there's a lot of skullduggery. I worked for a number of years with a man who was employed by a national patent development company, which is out on Jersey Avenue, or it used to be. I think it's still there. He worked there and he told me some stories about the way those guys worked, too. If anybody had any thoughts about those people being noble, he scuttled it all. They have a lot of skullduggery. They manipulate the market, press releases, and all this sort of thing. You really, before you put any money or anything into it, you really should know and be informed, intimately informed. I don't even remember if you have one there. I've been on several, I guess. Maybe they're not all there. Usually, we get an assignment to do certain things. When we would do those things, you'd report the results. If that becomes useful on somebody's patent application, then you would be listed as being a co-inventor. So that's pretty much what that was, in the case like that. You can always send in recommendations, you know, to the company, but it all costs them money. It has to be something worthy or else they're not going to consider it.
KP: What was the most rewarding work you had done at Squibb?
JM: Yes, I thought the work that we did with Captopril and things of that sort, and the high blood pressure problems, were very rewarding because it saved a lot of people a lot of suffering, and their quality of life was improved. As I say, this one friend, he had the pills in the cup, paper cups on the shelf and every day, he'd have to go and take, I don't know how many he took. He told me how many. Actually, the stuff he was getting was something that I had worked on previously at our company, too, but it was a cardiovascular drug and it was what they call a beta-blocker. It was not as sophisticated as Captopril. I remember hearing him talk about all the things he had to do. Eventually, he died, I guess, partly from his blood pressure problems. Things like that are rewarding. There have been other things that we've had from time to time. You can become part of a very big project and that's the way Captopril was. Sometimes you can make a contribution and it'll be just a little piece of something or other.
KP: It sounds like you liked working in a team.
JM: Well, yes, it's a good way to do it, working with other people. You learn a lot more from other people than you can do by yourself. You learn a lot of other aspects. For the pedestrian answer to what a patent is, they think of something that people are going to get a lot of money out of or whatever, or are going to create something that's a very useful product or that sort of thing. It sometimes does that, but it is a lot of hard work. And continuing--it never stops. I get stimulated by a lot of other people around, especially if I can learn something from them. I think that's one of the reasons, as I say, I do like to work with groups of people. It's an education. It never stops.
KP: Anything we forgot to ask you about?
JM: No, no, no. I wonder where you got your profile from there.
KP: They occasionally had newspaper clippings, and we took stuff from the yearbooks.
JM: No, I wondered where you got the patent number from.
RA: Oh, I don't know what the number is. It was in the alumni file.
JM: Oh, that must have been a long time ago then, because I don't remember filling one out lately.
RA: Yes, I think it was at least twelve years ago, maybe even later.
JM: Ok, well, I had a couple more patents I was on there since then. I worked a couple out that I was a co-inventor, another fellow and I ...
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Reviewed by Dennis Duarte 11/00
Reviewed by Sandra Stewart Holyoak 11/30/00