Roger Zepeda: This begins an interview with Lieutenant Colonel Frank A. Wiswall. I am Roger Zepeda ...
Sandra Stewart Holyoak: ... Sandra Stewart Holyoak ...
Frank Wiswall: ... Frank Wiswall. [laughter]
RZ: The date is April 25, 2008.
SH: We are in Boonton, New Jersey. To begin, could you tell us where and when you were born?
FW: I was born in Brooklyn, Flatbush, Brooklyn, in 1919, on September the 12th, 1919.
SH: All right.
RZ: Could you tell us about your family, your parents, give us a little more background?
FW: Well, my dad came from New England, Massachusetts, Lawrence, Massachusetts, and my mother came from Brooklyn. Now, what else would [you like]? ...
SH: What did your father, or his family, do in Massachusetts?
FW: Well, the first thing that I remember my dad telling me [was], he went and worked as a busboy in; oh, gosh, I can't think, remember the name of the place.
SH: That is okay. We can add that later. [Editor's Note: His father worked in the White Mountains.]
FW: But, it was there that he met the man that he later became affiliated [with] in his business in New York City. He was a very successful man and he worked with E. N. Campe Corporation, 350 Broadway, almost downtown, in today's language. ...
SH: Was he a salesperson?
FW: He was [employed] as a salesman. He was a very sharp salesman, too, my dad. [laughter]
SH: What were they selling? What was the product?
FW: Well, he was selling knitted goods, and then, after he left the Campe Corporation, he went into business by himself. ... He had one customer that really made him, and, believe it or not, it was F. W. Woolworth. ... My dad had improvised and made these little swinging picture frames, and he called himself the B. A. Wiswall Corporation, and he had a factory down in, I think it was Pleasantville, or near Pleasantville, that manufactured all these things for him. ... That went along fine until the '20s.
SH: Right, the Great Depression.
FW: The Depression, and, to me, that was an awful period of time. ... We lived in Mountain Lakes, NJ. We moved to there about 1920 or 1921 and, in those days, we had a beautiful, good house, which still stands, although the third floor has been renovated, because it was burned out by some people. ... Now, where was I here with that?
SH: You were talking about your beautiful home in Mountain Lakes and how good it was.
FW: Oh, yes. We had two maids and my dad was a terrific landscaper and he had a regular little show home, with small pools and gardens all over the place. ... Then, with the Depression, we lost everything, including the house, and those were bleak days, ... but I'm glad that I lived through them, because they made me a much better person, I think. I'm one of these jokers that I never get anything, and my wife is the same way; if I know I can't pay for it immediately, I don't buy it, [laughter] ... but those days, as I said, and I think I'm repeating myself, made me a much better person, because ... we learned how to live with, oh, practically nothing. ... Well, where do we go from there?
RZ: Could you tell us how many brothers and sisters you had?
FW: I had two brothers. I had two brothers that passed away in infancy, and my brother, Bert, just died, well, just, oh, three or four years ago now, and my brother, Fred, ... Fred's been gone about ten, I believe, and so, I'm the "Last of the Mohicans," I would say. [laughter]
SH: There were four boys, brothers.
FW: Three boys [growing up], but the two that died, I never saw. They died in infancy.
RZ: Are you the oldest?
FW: I'm the only one.
RZ: The oldest out of your brothers.
FW: Oh, no, ... five years in-between each one of us. Bert, my younger brother, was five years younger and my brother, Fred, was five years older.
SH: Can you talk a little bit about your mother's background, where she was from?
FW: Well, she's from Brooklyn, I mentioned that, and ... she remained a housewife for right up until the war.
SH: What about her family background? Were they always from Brooklyn?
FW: No, they came from Alsace, Alsace-Lorraine.
SH: Her parents?
FW: Her parents, yes.
SH: Did you know them?
FW: Oh, yes, my grandmother and grandfather, I knew well and they visited us quite often, when we lived in Mountain Lakes, and stayed with us.
SH: What did your grandfather do in Brooklyn? What was his occupation?
FW: Well, he was retired when I knew him. [laughter] ...
SH: Do you know what he did before?
FW: No, I don't. I don't really remember. I don't remember.
SH: Did he ever talk to you about his life in Alsace-Lorraine?
FW: As I remember my grandfather, he was always seated in a chair, reading a book, and I think he read every book in our house, and my dad had quite a few, but I should point out that I was gifted, because I had three grandfathers. I had, well, two grandfathers and a great-grandfather, and my Great-Grandfather Adams had a mission in Lawrence, where he was more or less like a pastor, and he would take these, what do you call them? I don't want to say, use the word, "bums," but he would take them off the street and bring them in his mission and nurture them. ...
SH: Was this Great-Grandfather Adams on your mother's side of the family?
FW: No, that's on my father's side.
SH: On your father's side.
FW: Yes, on my father's side, yes, and I bear his name; my middle name is Adams. ...
SH: Okay. I did see that in your diary, actually, before the interview started.
SH: Was he in New York? Is this where Pleasantville was?
FW: Pleasantville, New Jersey. ... Now, this is where my dad's plant was.
SH: Was that where your grandfather's mission was?
FW: Oh, no, in Lawrence, in Lawrence, Massachusetts.
SH: Okay. I have got to get my geography right. [laughter]
RZ: What denomination was your grandfather a pastor in?
FW: I don't know whether he was a Protestant [Presbyterian?] or a Methodist. I know that he preached once in an old church in Boonton.
Mae Wiswall: Methodist.
FW: Methodist? It was Methodist.
SH: Okay, that is great. When he came to visit, did your great-grandfather come to visit you here in Mountain Lakes?
FW: Oh, yes. Well, he lived with us in Mountain Lakes, until he passed away, and I think I was either ...
MW: I have a story.
SH: Your grandfather's mission in Lawrence, what are some of the stories that you remember him telling you about?
FW: Well, that was the primary one, but I remember that. ...
MW: They want to hear that.
SH: Please, could you tell us the story about your grandfather?
FW: Oh. Well, Grandpa used to take these drunks off the street and give them a bed and one thing and another. ... When they would get in bed, they would usually put the bottle under the pillow, and, when my grandfather found that they were asleep, he would go and get the bottle and pour the booze down the sink and fill it with tea and put it back under the pillow. Now, that's as far as the story went, as far as I was concerned, because Gramp never told me anything further, [laughter] but I know that, one thing that I remember, he had, and I can't find it and I don't know where it is; it got lost in the family, the way things do. He had a little booklet of sayings and hymns, and I used to sit on his lap and he would sing me these songs, and I remember one was They Rolled Away the Stoneand every song that Grandpa sang was in the same tune, the same tune, the same tune, [laughter] and I always remember that. The little store in Mountain Lakes, right on the borderline of Mountain Lakes and Boonton, we used to walk [to it]. It was only three or four blocks, and I was at that age where I had to hold a hand, but Grandpa had a never-empty little purse that he kept in his pocket that always had pennies in it. ... We'd go to the little candy store, oh, it's still there, only it's a real-estate place now, and buy me a licorice cigar or a licorice pipe. I remember that just as if it were yesterday, and then, we'd walk back home, [laughter] but I was very fortunate to have three grandpas at that time.
SH: That is a wonderful story.
RZ: Was religion an important part of your family life?
FW: Well, yes. Believe it or not, my mother was a very devout Christian Scientist and I was a Christian Scientist; went to Sunday school until the time I went in the service. Well, I think you could go until you were twenty, and that's all I ever knew in religion until Mae and I got married, in the Presbyterian church here in Boonton. The minister was Dr. (Cutler?), at that time. He suggested that, with the children, it would be best if we were both of the same religion. So, I joined the Presbyterian Church and I've been a Presbyterian ever since. ... I do remember that when I first got in the service, and I'm jumping ahead now, I was in the horse cavalry, and we were stationed at Columbia, Fort Jackson in Columbia, [South Carolina], that there was this one other man in our troop that had been raised a Christian Scientist. ... He and I used to get together in-between the tents on a Sunday, after; well, we had formations. Here, I'm jumping around, but we had formations. One, the formation would walk us to the chapel and we'd walk in the front door and go right straight through and go out the back door, but we had been to church, and I could never figure that out, but that's what we did. Anyway, he and I used to sit in-between two tents. There were tents that we lived in at that time, well, half tents, half wood on the bottom and a canvas top, and we would do what was called, "The Lesson," the Christian Science Lesson. We did that every, well, not every Sunday; we did it on occasion, because we were usually pretty busy when I first got in the service.
SH: We will get back to that. That is a great story. Were there any discussions between your mother, as a Christian Scientist, and your grandfather, as a Methodist minister?
FW: No, no. He was always interested in [Christian Science] and he went to church with my mother many times. No, no, never a problem; that's one thing.
SH: I was curious about that. Did you go to school in Mountain Lakes?
FW: Yes. I went to Mountain Lakes Public School. Oh, there was a big thing. The only time it ever happened to me, I started school in kindergarten. My birthday is September 12th and I think I started school a few days before the 12th, but, when the 12th came, I became six years old. So, I was too old for kindergarten and I was immediately promoted to first grade. [laughter] That's the first time anything like that ever happened to me, but I went through nine years of school in Mountain Lakes, through grade school, junior high school and one year of high school. When I was in ninth grade, we had to make our choice, whether we'd go to Morristown High School or Boonton High School. ... I always figured, well, Boonton was closer to home. So, I chose Boonton and I went to Boonton High School, where I graduated, and that's one thing, I never put in the year [on the pre-interview survey]. I don't know why, but I did graduate. [laughter] You must've thought I was pretty ignorant.
SH: You talked about when you lost the house; how old were you when you lost the house in Mountain Lakes?
FW: Well, I was still, I think, I just; it's strange that you should ask me a question and my memory ... of those days is so vivid. I think that I was either eighth or ninth grade, or I might have been just starting in high school.
MW: I think that's right.
FW: ... But, I can remember those years very well. Unfortunately, they weren't happy years, but we stayed together and we were a family. ...
SH: Your brother was five years older. Was he already graduated from high school?
FW: No. Let's see, Fred graduated, because I was in high school; we were in high school together. He failed a couple of years. Well, he was like me. When I was in high school, or in school, even the ninth grade, my primary interests, in those days, was sports and girls. [laughter] ... I always remember that and I tell everyone, which, once again, I'm digressing and I'm going ahead, but I so wish that I had done my homework and that I had studied harder when I was in my upper grade schools and in high school. When I was in high school, I did as little as I could get away with, let's put it that way, [laughter] and I'll tell you an interesting story [about that]. I took chemistry, it was either physics or chemistry, and I loved the teacher. He was a great man. ... I became a Mason, later on in life, and found out that he was also a Mason. In fact, he was there when I got raised. When I got my, I think it was a midyear [exam], it was either a midyear exam or my final exam, in chemistry, and, when I, we all, came back to class and we got our papers, ... I remember raising my hand. I said, "There must be some mistake. You have 'G+' on my exam," and everybody starts laughing. Well, I was a class clown anyway. [laughter] ... He said, "Well, Frank, I sort of figured that that was about the best grade I could give you," but, fortunately, he put "F" on the report card. He didn't put "G," [laughter] but it doesn't go down any lower than that. I've never forgotten that, though, and we became great friends later on in life.
SH: [laughter] I know that is one of Roger's questions; what was your favorite subject?
FW: Well, I loved science, but, like, I started out with biology, and then, I went from biology to physics and physics to chemistry, but, you know, those are required subjects, because I wanted a scientific diploma and I wound up with a general one, which I guess is "general know-nothing." [laughter] I imagine that's about what I proved [to be] when I was in school. ... I liked English, but my favorite, I thought, would be science, but I can't say, because I didn't work. I honestly didn't. I didn't work, and I've never been proud of that fact and, later on, I'll tell you why. [laughter]
SH: Okay, we will get to that. [laughter] One question I did want to ask was about your father and his military service. Before we began the interview, you talked about having some documents about your father's service.
FW: Well, my dad always told us, when we were small, he fought the "Battle of Ink," because he was in Washington, DC, during the war. [laughter] He never saw combat, he never [went overseas], but that's where he was based and where he worked out of, and I don't know what he did. He was a first lieutenant in the Quartermasters Corps.
FW: I honestly don't, other than he fought the "Battle of Ink." That's ... all he ever told us.
SH: I suspect this class clown thing is kind of inherited. [laughter]
MW: Oh, yes.
SH: I think I asked you this question already, but what did your grandparents from Alsace-Lorraine do when they first came to this county? Did they immigrate together? Do you know?
FW: No, I don't really know. In fact, when I say that Grandpa came from Alsace-Lorraine, I'm not sure that that is where he came from, but I know that he was a furrier and that up until when he retired, as I say, I don't really know too much about what he did or how he did it or when he retired or what he was. I do remember he was "Grandpa."
SH: Okay, all right, fair enough. Grandma was a housewife.
FW: Yes, she was a housewife, always.
SH: Do you have any stories of your grandmother from Massachusetts, your Grandmother Wiswall?
FW: Grandmother, oh, well, I remember, Fred, ... being older, I remember, he used to go up there and spend, oh, a couple or three weeks every summer, because he was older, and then, when I reached his age, of course, we were in the Depression stages, so, there wasn't any way that I could go up or be sent up there, but the house was always open to us. ... My dad would always go up there at least once a year, drive us all up, but there, again, you see, it was "Grandma," [laughter] and she was always ... a good, kind person and we loved her deeply, but I can't remember anything outstanding.
FW: She was the daughter of my Great-Grandpa Adams.
SH: Okay. That is where the Adams and Wiswall crossed. I got it.
FW: Yes. She was an Adams when she married a Wiswall.
SH: As a kid growing up with an older brother, five years older, and a younger brother, five years younger, did you play at all together, did you share friends, or was it just two separate worlds?
FW: Well, mostly, yes. ... Fred and I, who was my older brother, we got along very well and we used to, I remember, pitch and catch, we did that for years and years, fished together, hunted together. No, we had a very good rapport, and my brother, Fred, later on, became a, what do you call it? What are those people that are a collector of shark's teeth, which I still have a bunch [of] upstairs? ... He and his wife lived in Venice, Florida, and he was at the site of where an old canal had gone through and that place was loaded with shark's teeth. Because, I remember, I went down there with him to dig, and, while he was digging, he had a heart attack, right then and there. ...
SH: Are you saying shark's teeth?
FW: Shark's teeth, yes.
SH: Okay, I wanted to make sure I understood.
FW: Go upstairs in my top drawer.
MW: She wants to put that back on.
FW: My brother, Fred, when I went in the service, he worked for Hercules Powder Company in Kenvil. ... It's Kenvil or Roxbury, I think it was Kenvil, they called it then, and I think they call it Roxbury now, but he was, what was he termed? necessary for them, a powder company in Kenvil. ... It always bothered him, ... because, sometimes, on occasion, he would be looked down on. [Editor's Note: Hercules Powder Company, a major producer of explosives during the Second World War, had manufacturing facilities in Kenvil, an area within Roxbury Township, New Jersey.] He was a healthy, much bigger than I am, young man and there he was, living high on the hog, working for [Hercules] in Kenvil and not going in the service, but he couldn't have gone if he wanted to, because he was; what did they call that?
SH: War-related, war necessary?
FW: Yes, war effort or something, yes.
SH: He was deferred.
FW: I remember, yes, he was deferred, and that's what ... he did during the entire war.
SH: To back up a little bit, you said Fred had a little trouble in school. Did anybody ever think about going to college? Had you had any thoughts of that?
FW: Well, in those days, I graduated from high school in 1937 and I got a job, through my Sunday school teacher, in New York [City] for the Bank of Montreal, 64 Wall Street, for twelve dollars a week. ... Out of that twelve dollars a week, I had to buy my lunch, I had to buy my railroad ticket into New York and I had to give my dad, I forget how much it was, three or four dollars a week board, and, in those days, for the Wiswall Family to even think of college, negative is the end, no, and we just didn't. It wasn't thought of.
SH: Did your father find employment? You said he had lost his business.
FW: Well, ... he worked with a man for awhile, I remember, what was it? lubricating oil, selling a lubricating oil, and then, finally, I don't know when it was that he decided to change, or it wasn't lucrative enough, but he went to work for E. F. Drew [and Co, Inc.], in Boonton, which is where Wal-Mart is now. That was a big factory in Boonton. First, it was called (WACO Line?), and then, it was called E. F. Drew.
RZ: This is all through the Depression.
FW: After the Depression.
RZ: After the Depression?
FW: After the Depression. ... Well, that's about it, that's about it.
SH: How did they keep food on the table? How did you manage after that, when he lost his business?
FW: Well, I know there was always food to eat and, to tell you the truth, in those days, at my age, [laughter] I don't imagine I worried too much, as long there was something to eat.
SH: Yes, okay.
FW: I don't really remember how they all did it.
SH: Do you remember other families in your neighborhood being affected by the Depression?
FW: Oh, well, yes. I remember, Mountain Lakes ... got a terminology; first, the people in Boonton called them "the ten-cent millionaires," and which was true. They were. Mostly, in those days, they were looking down on people and they had; what was I [saying]? Oh, they had "midnight movers," because there were many deeply in debt and they all had beautiful homes, and it would work out, somehow, but around when it was late at night, and one thing and another, all of a sudden, they had packed everything up and they were gone.
MW: That was the Depression.
FW: That's what we'd call "the midnight movers." Now, what happened to them or if anything happened, I don't have the slightest idea.
SH: When you lost your house, where did you and your family move to?
FW: Well, we rented a house, on 9 Cobb Road, in Mountain Lakes, for awhile. They wanted me to be able to finish high school in Boonton. ... They moved then to Dover and I was fortunate enough to be able to stay with a family in Mountain Lakes until I finished high school.
SH: What about the politics in the family? Was your family involved in politics at all?
FW: No, but they always said they were Republican and that's what I say I am today. I'm a Republican, because my dad was. [laughter]
SH: What did they think of Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal?
FW: Well, I know that my dad, and when I say my dad, whatever my dad did, I know my mother did, that he listened a lot to FDR, and ... what he thought, what his thoughts were, let's see, I was in the service, I guess, when FDR passed away, yes.
SH: Yes, you would have been.
FW: But, I don't think my father ever talked very much about politics at all. ... In fact, I don't remember him talking about politics.
SH: As a young man, did you see any of the WPA or CCC projects? [Editor's Note: The Works Progress Administration (WPA) and Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) were New Deal agencies involved in mobilizing the unemployed in public works projects.]
FW: I heard of them.
SH: Did you?
FW: I heard of them, and some of my [friends], people that I knew, went in and got involved in those, but, I was, what? ... Well, it was in about October of 1940, just where that fits in with all these hard times, they came up with this conscription bit. You had to [register for the draft], and that's one thing that I will say, and I'm a preacher of it right now, you had to put in a year of service, everyone, every able-bodied person, had to put in a year in the military, and so, I volunteered for it. You had to get a number, and then, they were calling out numbers and one thing and another, but I had the opportunity to [get in a unit]. Well, a friend of mine had played in a little dance orchestra and this fellow who played the saxophone was a member of the Essex Troop in Newark, the horse cavalry outfit. It's still [there], but they're mechanized now, of course. ... He talked me into coming down and getting a look at what this outfit looked like, and so, I figured, "Well, [if] I have to put in a year, I'd rather be a volunteer than wait to be drafted." So, I volunteered and I was sworn in, I think, after being a cadet down at the Roseville Armory in Newark for about a month or so. I was sworn in, and it was either in November or December, as a member of the National Guard.
RZ: What year was this?
RZ: Okay. After high school, since you graduated from high school in 1937, what did you do?
FW: I was working for the bank.
RZ: The bank.
SH: In New York City.
RZ: Okay. Your friend wanted you to enlist. Did you want to enlist?
FW: No, no, he suggested it. He said I should, well, because I always talked about the service and, well, everyone, all of us, were talking about it, because we knew we were going to be called.
FW: ... But, what I was going to say is, I think that even today, if the economy would substantiate it, that the best prep school that a young man could go to, when he was seventeen or eighteen, would be a year in the military, and learn, primarily, discipline. I think it would be the best thing in the world. I went from 128 pounds, when I first got in the cavalry, when I left the cavalry to go in the Aviation Cadets, which I'll get to, I was up to, ... I think it was 152, 153 [pounds], or something like that. ... I was solid muscle, and I was a little, 128-pound weakling when I was in the [service]. [laughter] ... I still love sports, when I played on the football team in Boonton, and the basketball team, but I think that that's a very good stepping stone between [high school and] college and, if some still wanted to go to prep school, they could, but, between high school and college, learn to be away from home, learn to fend for yourself, take care of yourself, learn right from wrong, if you didn't learn it any other way, but discipline was the primary [lesson]. ... It was great and it was a great life, I thought.
SH: I want to ask more questions about that, but let us continue talking about high school and the fact that you played football and baseball.
SH: Basketball. Were there other sports that you were involved in? There was also this little drop about being involved in a band, a dance band.
FW: Oh, yes. Well, that was after, actually, ... I was out of high school.
FW: Out of high school, because I graduated from there when I was seventeen. So, I know I wasn't in a dance band then; it was after. I played ... a trumpet in the high school band, but that always interfered with my [studies]. In fact, I got a point for graduation for being in orchestra, but, ... between basketball and football, I missed so many practices and so many musical affairs, my orchestra teacher, and her last name was Miss Fagan, and I always said, "Fagan, youze is a viper," because she only gave me a half a point. "Frank, you were never here, so, I can't give you a whole point," [she said]. [laughter] So, I still have, in my report card, ... a half a point instead of one, thanks to Miss Fagan. ... Then, I can tell you, when I was in the orchestra in Mountain Lakes Public School, [this] is a sad story, [playing] trumpet, you have a quick slide from "B flat" to "A," and we had one march that we played, was theMarch of the Boys Scouts. ... The music instructor in that was Mr. Milky, and he's a great man. We visited him in Florida, both Mae and I, right up until the time he passed away. ... The other trumpet player and myself, Carl Kinscherf; he's gone. All my friends are gone now, all of them, but Carl and I flipped from "B flat" to "A." ... The song, March of the Boys Scouts, starts out, [Lieutenant Colonel Wiswall imitates the trumpet's part of the song], and we went from "B flat," which the music was written in, to "A," and so, if you know what the rest of the orchestra came into, [laughter] and I remember Mr. Milky walked over to me, with his baton, and broke it right over my head. [laughter] "I don't remember doing that, Frank," he said, "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have done that." [laughter] I said, "You did it," but I'll never forget that. I was always in trouble. I had a laugh. In fact, that was my legacy in high school, that I left it to somebody, "Frank Wiswall's laugh." I'd always get in ...
MW: Trouble for it.
FW: My favorite physics teacher, and he was in physics, he was teaching us how to heat a test tube; no, it must have been chemistry. ... He was walking up and down and we were learning how to heat a test tube. ... I held it out when he came by and ... he grabbed a hold of it, and he's looking at me with this look [of pain] on his face. [laughter] He was Mr. Caplinger, and I couldn't stop laughing. [laughter] He said, "Frank, you're entirely too boisterous for this class. Get out," oh, and I still couldn't stop laughing. [laughter] I don't know; I wasn't a good boy. [laughter]
SH: What kind of afterschool jobs did you have?
FW: Well, I delivered the Morristown Daily Record. That's about the only thing that I did, oh, and mowed lawns here, mowed lawns in Mountain Lakes.
MW: And you raised chickens. You raised chickens, for their eggs.
FW: Oh, yes, I raised chickens. I started out with a hen and a rooster and I got my flock up [to fifty]. You can't have chickens in Mountain Lakes now, but, in those days, you could. I had fifty hens and they were pretty good layers, Plymouth Rocks and Rhode Island Reds, and there was this family in Mountain Lakes, the O'Dell Family, I remember them well, and they had nine children. ... Mrs. O'Dell would buy as many eggs from me as I could give her. Well, gee, I had to buy food for the chickens and everything. So, that was one thing, taking care of that, because my father made me take care of the chickens and the coop, and one thing and another, and that was a source of income, which I bought the mash and the corn to feed the chickens [with]. ... I delivered newspapers and I cut lawns, and I cut some pretty big lawns, that I wouldn't even look at today, for a dollar, [laughter] boy, and I mean big lawns. ...
MW: And the hay. You used to cut hay.
FW: ... No, that was in the cavalry.
MW: Oh, that was in the cavalry.
FW: Cavalry, the hay, boy, lifting bales of hay, oh.
SH: That will build your muscles. [laughter]
FW: Yes. It'll make you tired, too.
SH: Did you ever join the Boy Scouts?
FW: Yes, I joined the Boy Scouts and I loved the Boy Scouts and I had one problem. I became a Tenderfoot and, in order to become a Second Class Scout, in those days, you had to be able to swim fifty yards, and, to this day, I don't go in deep water. I just ...
MW: He has a fear of water.
FW: Yes. I was just scared of deep water, I admit it, and I'm fine as long as my feet are on the ground and my head's above the water; but, so, I never got any further in Scouts, but I became the troop bugler.
SH: You already had the song down. [laughter]
FW: ... Yes, and they used to get me on that all the time. I remember, the Scoutmaster, ... he'd get me up in front of the troop, off to the side, to blow Taps, to end the evening session, and he would say, "Bugler, sound off." ... I'd go to sound off and [Lieutenant Colonel Wiswall imitates a stifled blast of air]. They'd stuffed handkerchiefs up my bugle, [laughter] and this one time, they stuffed two of them up and I pulled one out and I started all over again and, I remember, the Scoutmaster was ready to kill me. ... Then, there was a time that; you want a funny one? With my laughter, I got in trouble again. The committeemen, they're all big shots in Mountain Lakes at that time, and we're standing at attention and, I don't know, this gentleman, I won't mention his name, I know he's gone, but I still won't mention his name, he sneezed. ... When he sneezed, his teeth popped right in his hand. [laughter] Another time I couldn't stop laughing; I just couldn't. Memorial Day in Mountain Lakes, where we're standing [Boy Scouts] --you brought it up; it's your fault-- in a line and, well, I forget, they were reading a prayer or a sermon, or something like that. ... This little dog came up and as he was walking along about every fourth boy there, he lifted his leg. ... Then, it was a solemn moment, but what are you going to do? [laughter] ... We all laughed. I couldn't help it. I was embarrassed that I laughed. ...
SH: In trouble again. [laughter]
FW: Why? You people are laughing at me. [laughter] Oh, boy, but I've been invited back to Mountain Lakes every Memorial Day to stand as one of the "old-timers" in their parades, but I can't do it anymore. I just can't make them.
SH: Are they as serious?
FW: [laughter] Well, I'll tell you, this, I call him a nephew, I guess he isn't; my wife's niece, has a boy, well, has four boys, but the oldest boy went out for his ...
FW: His Eagle Scout and we, Mae and I, had gone along with the children from the time they were born. I've told all of them that, "Well, I've changed your diapers." ... Even their mother, I changed the diapers on her, so did Mae, ... but, now, what was I going to say? ... They live in Randolph. He found a project that he could do for his Eagle Scout from the town and we helped him in that, and then, I was honored, when he became his Eagle Scout.
MW: He asked him to sponsor him.
FW: They asked me to come up and sponsor him, which I did.
MW: It was lovely.
FW: And I had to give a little talk about him, but he's turned out to be ...
MW: A fine young man.
FW: Well, in fact, all four, they brought up four boys that are ... perfect boys, above and beyond, and they're all [doing well]. One is in Villanova now, on a lacrosse scholarship, and the other one, T.J., he graduated from high school ... before he got his Eagle Scout, but he didn't want to go to college. ... He wanted to become an auto mechanic, and that's what he schooled for. How long was he in it, two years?
MW: Two years.
FW: Two years, and, now, he has a very good job with a Ford agency in, just outside of Philadelphia, PA.
FW: When we went to England, to go back to see my old airbase, and we took him with us.
MW: At thirteen.
FW: ... Yes. I was just looking at some of the pictures that we took and he's a little, boy that grew up to be such a fine-looking, young man.
SH: Let us talk about some of the experiences that you had in the three years before 1940, when you went into the horse cavalry. What do you remember about your travels into New York? For a young man, was this an adventure?
FW: Well, it was.
MW: And the money he earned?
FW: I already mentioned that. I already mentioned the money. ... Well, it was really an experience for me, because I think I'd been in to New York, as a little one, when my dad would take me in on a Saturday, when I wasn't going to school, but I'd never really had been around in New York, and that was an adventure. I enjoyed my work, a twenty-five-cent lunch in Horn and Hardart. You could eat like a king for twenty-five cents in those days, you really could, fortunately, [laughter] and I learned to mix with people and to get along. ... I had responsibilities, which weren't great, but, ... to me, they were important responsibilities. ...
SH: Before we talk about some of the work that you did, how did somebody go from Mountain Lakes to New York in those days? Did you take the train?
FW: DL&W, "Delay, Linger and Wait;" you would say, "Delaware-Lackawanna Railroad," yes.
SH: "Delay, linger, and wait," I just caught it. [laughter]
MW: He's still a comedian.
FW: ... Well, in those days, Mountain Lakes had a railroad station but I later on took a train from Dover, where we lived.
SH: Would you go into Hoboken, like we do now?
FW: Into Hoboken, and then, the ferry across to Barclay Street, cut across the Washington Market, some of these places are long gone, and it was a ten-minute walk to Wall Street. ...
SH: What were your duties there at the bank?
FW: Well, I started out as a runner and that's the way I learned Downtown New York. I got pretty sharp at knowing where all the buildings [were] and what floors, all the banks and the different companies that the bank dealt with, to make deliveries to them.
SH: What does a runner carry or deliver?
FW: ... Oh, I carried a little bag. You could always tell a runner because of this, little, not a briefcase, but more like a woman's purse, that you carry under your arm. You could always tell another runner, because that's what we looked like, that's what we were, and that's the way they usually started anyone out in the bank. And then, ... I went into the wire room and all you did was run around with cables and wires that came in for the various departments. ... You had to carry the mailbag around and deliver, pick up and then deliver. One job that I hated, there were two men, the general manager and another fellow, ... running the tax department. They liked a glass of milk at lunchtime and I had to go and pour that milk in a glass and put a piece of paper over the top, with a rubber band, and bring it to each one and put it on their desk, and I always would think, "Why did I do that? If you want a glass of milk, can't you get up and get it yourself? Why do you have to [Lieutenant Colonel Wiswall snaps his fingers] have a boy do it?"
SH: Snap your fingers.
FW: And then, from the cable department, I went up front where there were two boys that sat where all the executives were and, there, you listened for the "cricket," [a noisemaking device], and whenever the cricket [clicked], you had to jump up and go to them and do whatever they told you to do. ... Finally, after I don't know how long it was, seemed like a lifetime, I was promoted to the bookkeeping department and, from there on, I became great friends with the manager of the bookkeeping. His name was Fred Mara. In fact, we visited with him ... until he passed away, yes, and we became great friends, and I made many friends at the bank. Of course, I just lost the last one, oh, what? about three ... or four months ago. He was a Scotsman and he was my age. He was following behind me. There was another place where I made friends with people, and, to me, one of the most valuable things in life is a friend. ... Once I get one, I don't want to lose him, and I'll go out of my way to maintain the friendship.
MW: Did he tell you what he earned when he worked in New York City?
SH: Did your salary keep going up with these different changes in jobs, when you went from being a runner to the cable room to doing the bookkeeping?
FW: Fifty dollars per annum. You asked, and I still, in one of those diaries, I have a couple of those little slips. You had to go in front of the general manager and stand there, and he would hand you this slip and you had to make believe it was manna from heaven. [laughter] Fifty dollars per annum, that's a dollar; that isn't even a dollar a week.
MW: I know.
FW: But, those were the days.
SH: Did they give you any kind of a bonus at Christmas?
FW: Negative, not in those days. ... Maybe other people higher up, but I never got a bonus.
SH: As a young man traveling into New York, so cosmopolitan and sophisticated, were you paying attention to what was going on in Europe in 1939?
FW: To a certain extent, because the Bank of Montreal had to handle all of the British [assets], they were supposed to handle bonds, or something, of all the British subjects, ... and Canadian subjects, that were in the United States, ... very secret, and you couldn't even go in that section of the building. So, what they did and what they didn't do, [I do not know], but that was my only real thought of what was going on ... overseas, where the "maniac" was building things up.
SH: When did you first hear about Hitler and what he was doing?
FW: I most likely heard about it, ... or I read something about it, either through conversation or reading, when I was in the cavalry, in that first year.
SH: It really was not until after 1939, when he went into Poland, that you found out about it.
FW: Yes, I would imagine. I mean, well, that was the average [response]; I mean, if you're ... a youth, I like to think I was a kid, but I should have been more interested than I was.
SH: You were just a kid.
FW: But, I wasn't.
SH: From the time that you were a kid until 1940, when you went into the military, what were some of the major events that you remember, whether they were celebrations or, say, when Charles Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic? Of course, you were very young then, but what were the major events that you remember, World's Fairs or anything of the sort?
FW: Oh, World's Fair, I remember the World's Fair that was in Long Island, ... yes, in Long Island. I think the Perisphere, or whatever they call it, still stands from that. [Editor's Note: Lieutenant Colonel Wiswall is referring to the Perisphere from the 1939/1940 World's Fair held in Flushing Meadows, Queens, which was later torn down during the war for scrap metal. He may be thinking of the Unisphere from the 1964/1965 World's Fair held in the same location, which still stands.] I remember going to that, ... and even younger, I can remember when theHindenburg went down, at Lakehurst. [Editor's Note: The German zeppelin Hindenburg was destroyed in an accident at Lakehurst Naval Air Station in New Jersey on May 6, 1937.]
SH: Had you seen a dirigible before that? No, you had just read about it.
FW: No, read about it, yes. I was pretty ignorant in many ways, when I stop and think about it now. That was because my limited vision was that way; it wasn't that way.
SH: Were there other things going on in Mountain Lakes that were of tantamount interest for a young boy, other than sports?
FW: As a kid, most of the time, my biggest deal was fishing. I remember, I used to fish, fish, fish. That's what I did then, and then, after I got into my teens, I was pretty busy with all these little jobs that I was involved in.
SH: You talked a little bit about how your friend suggested that you come and check out the Essex County Armory. Is that what it is?
FW: Essex Troop Cavalry.
SH: It was called the Essex Cavalry.
FW: Cavalry, it was the 102nd Troop Cavalry, yes.
SH: Where was that, physically?
FW: Well, at that time, it was Roseville Armory in Newark and the Westfield Armory in Westfield, and I think it was the West Orange Armory in West Orange.
SH: Talk about that initial inspection, and then, your induction, if you would, please.
FW: Well, I remember, the only thing that I didn't have to be taught was how to march just a little bit, because I got that in Boy Scouts, but I joined as a cadet and, there, you had to learn how to salute and how to make a left turn and right turn, do this with your feet, and one thing and another. ... At that time, when I joined the horse cavalry, I must say that, when we were growing up in Mountain Lakes, we had a pony, a little Shetland pony, but that's nothing like riding a horse, but I'd never been on a horse.
SH: Really? You had had the pony, but never ridden it.
FW: Oh, yes, but that pony, Brownie was about like that. You get on a horse and the horse is up like that. [laughter]
SH: All right, that is true.
FW: So, I would watch, they used to have equitation and practice drilling on horseback, in the Roseville Armory, where I watched and I wondered how I would do. ... The first time I got on a horse, after we got down to Fort Jackson, I got thrown. [laughter]
SH: How long were you in the armories here in New Jersey before you were sent to Fort Jackson in South Carolina?
FW: We were inducted, or federalized, as they called it, on January the 3rd of 1941. So, I was only a couple of days [in New Jersey], and after that just a couple of visits, I mean, once or twice in the intervening period.
SH: For someone just entering the cavalry, what are your responsibilities? Are you feeding the horses, caring for them?
FW: What do you mean? When you get in the; am I federalized, am I in Fort Jackson now or am I in ...
SH: You are still in Newark.
FW: You don't do anything, other than you're just a follower-on. That's all I was, really, up to then.
SH: Did you keep working during that time? When did you quit the bank to go into the service? Was it when you became federalized?
FW: Oh, no, they knew. Oh, they were so proud, the Canadians. It was a Canadian bank, and they were so proud of the fact that I was getting in the service. ... In fact, I had more [attention]; some of the management, as you might call them, all of a sudden, they noticed me, because they knew that I was volunteering to go in the service, and the Canadians were pretty much involved, too.
SH: Was that because they wanted the United States to get involved in protecting England from the war?
FW: No, I think that that was because, well, everyone had a feeling, I guess, of what was around the corner, but I didn't know anything about that. ...
SH: That is interesting, that they would be so proud of you for joining the military.
FW: Yes. Oh, they treated me like a new, different person, once I got in. When I ... used to go in there on leaves, when, during 1941, of course, I didn't have any clothes other than the uniform to wear, because I was starting to grow out of everything, maturing and one thing and another, so, oh, boy, ... somebody was always there to take me out to lunch, or do this or do that, and I was treated like royalty. I really was. I remember those days well. [laughter]
RZ: How did your parents feel about you enlisting?
FW: Oh, no. [laughter] I remember, my dad was ... so proud of me that it was almost sickening.
FW: Oh, yes, it was. He sent me; well, that was after I had finished my combat tour and I had been given a Distinguished Flying Cross. My father sent me, I think it was a couple of dozen Christmas cards, and in the bottom of it was, "Captain Frank A. Wiswall," and then, under it, he had "DFC," because that's what all the people [do in Europe]. We don't do that in this country, but, oh, in England, if you had DFC or ARP or QRQ after your name, oh, you were important, [laughter] oh, and (Fitzgerald?) [became] the guy that used to call me every year and say, "Oh, how are you doing, DFC?" [laughter] He and I bunked together at Langley Field. When I got these cards, he never let me forget them, [laughter] and he just died, I'd say, six or seven years ago. I never knew what happened [to him], but I got a card from his son that his mother and father had both died the previous year, and that's all I ever heard from him again, but he never let me live that down. He used to call me every year, without fail. So, you asked me, I'm telling you, and I didn't like that at all.
SH: How were you transported from Newark to Fort Jackson, South Carolina?
FW: Well, we had to lead the horses from Newark to the railroad station. ... It wasn't too far, because, even today, the major railroads go through Newark, and load the horses on the railroad cars, and then, we took the train to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and that was on January the 3rd.
SH: Did you have to care for the horses as you traveled or was there someone else to do that?
FW: No, they had someone; no, we didn't. I wouldn't have known what to do anyway, to tell you the truth, [laughter] and then, when we got to Fort Jackson, we had to lead the horses from ... where the railroad [station was], wasn't too far from where we were going to be staying. In fact, they tell me that they still have some sort of a monument, or a bronze something, there, saying that the 102nd Cavalry was [there], brought the [horses?], and then, that's where my life started.
SH: Talk about what a traditional day would be like and what you did.
FW: Oh, boy, I wish I had ... [my diary]. I know I have it tucked away somewhere. For awhile, and then, they cut down on it, our day would start at four o'clock, when we would "rise and shine." ...
SH: Were you the bugler?
FW: Not at that time. Later on, I was.
SH: [laughter] Okay.
FW: Later on, I was. [You] watered the horses, and, after you watered the horses; we had about, all told, I think there were three horse troops, A Troop, B Troop and C Troop. I was in B Troop, and between the three troops, we had about five hundred horses, but we only had to worry about whatever the actual number was in B Troop, to water them, and then, after we watered them, we had to feed them, and then, ... after all that was done, we would walk, get back to the living quarters, which were half-tents; not half-tracks. ...
SH: Half tents?
FW: Half tents, wooden floors, canvas tops, coke stove in the middle to [provide] heat. You know, in South Carolina, it gets pretty cold in the morning, too, in the wintertime, and that was wintertime then. We had to police the streets, finish dressing, and then, we would eat, and then, our day would start. I know they had regular schedules for us. ... Remember, a lot of them, I'd never [been in the service, and] while if they'd been in the Essex Troop before, they didn't really know what military life was. I mean, you'd meet once a week and that was it. So, then, we had to start learning what it was all about.
SH: What would you be doing, learning to march?
FW: Marching, care of rifles, triangulation, later on, would come, going to ... ranges, where you'd fire the rifle, pistol, listen to lectures on gas warfare.
SH: What about taking care of your equipment and your horses?
FW: Well, oh, yes, well, the horse always came first. Well, we would usually have equitation in the morning, ride most of the morning, up until the time it was for the horses to be watered again and fed again before we had lunch. The horse was always the primary deal.
SH: You talked about getting bucked off.
FW: Well, yes. I still remember the mare. I don't know whether she was a mare or whether it was a mare or a stallion or not, but the name was Gossip, ... the first horse I ever got up on. ... We were riding in our little squadron, and in the troop, and I would say, oh, ... all we were doing is going around in a circle, trying to hang on. My horse, Gossip, got too close to the horse in front of him and the horse in front of him broke wind, [laughter] I'm telling you, and my horse went up like that and I went off like that. [laughter] ... I wasn't hurt, but I can remember it so [vividly], and I got up and I went back to that horse. ... [laughter] Captain McGowry, I'll never forget that man, he's one of the best officers I think I ever served under, Captain Mcgowry reamed me out. Oh, well, I won't use the vernacular of what he did to me, standing there in front me, "Don't let that horse ride you; you ride it!" ... I'll never forget that. ... I wasn't hurt.
RZ: [laughter] Were you laughing?
FW: My feelings were hurt, [laughter] I'll tell you that, because I got reamed out in front of the rest of the troop, but I learned that you've got to make the horse obedient, the same as you have to learn to be obedient, and you'd be surprised; you can do it. [laughter] I learned that after awhile. I got so that I was assigned a mare, Enigma was her name, 7K211 was branded on the side of her neck. ... We'd be out on [the trail], during maneuvers, and this was later on in the year, after both the mare and I got to know one another. I could lie down right alongside of that mare, as she was standing, and we'd take a break on the road as we were, during maneuvers. I never had to worry. That horse wouldn't step on you, wouldn't run away or anything else.
MW: You would lay underneath that horse, right?
MW: You laid underneath the horse, you said?
FW: No, no.
MW: Or sat.
FW: Alongside of it. I wouldn't intentionally [lay underneath], but I wouldn't have been afraid to.
MW: That's what I mean.
RZ: Were you very attached to your horses?
FW: Are you? Oh, gosh, yes; well, it's equipment. You treat that horse the same as you would your rifle, the clothes you wear, everything else. That was your means of warfare, in those days.
RZ: Did you have great affection for the horses?
FW: Oh, I did, yes, and I think most of the men did. I remember, ... this is one of the funnies. During maneuvers, we were pulling a charge. We were spread out, and you've seen the charge in the movies, I'm sure. I still watch cowboy movies, Indians, [laughter] but, anyway, we were spread out and this little, I think it was an L1 or an L2, it was one of these little planes, like you see flying around here, with the single-engine, ... came low over us and our horses went all over the place. Oh, gee, [laughter] that is, what I say now, ... later on, when they wrote that song, "Please, Mr. Custer, I don't want to go," [Verne Larry's Mr. Custer], if I was the one that was going to write a song, that was the song that I was going to write, [laughter] but, anyway, my mare got [hurt]. There was a little crevice in the terrain, when we're on this charge. She went down in this, not like a hole, but like an indentation, and there was some barbed wire down there and I remember that 'Nig [nickname for Enigma] cut her teat, scraped by this barbed wire. ... The veterinarian gave me some, well, it was purple ointment and salve. ... That's about the only thing you ever used for saddle burns, or one thing and another, but, anyway, I had to take her and stand her in water, and there was plenty of water. She was just standing in the water, but I had to sit alongside of her, with this salve, and massage that teat, and, as I would do that, the mare would turn around like that and look at me. ... I used to be the laughing stock of the troop, because everybody said, "Wiswall's playing with his mare now." [laughter] ... Oh, always happened to me, these things, [laughter] and this look that I would get from the [mare], [laughter] but, anyway, ... those are the things that you had to do, and you had to watch for saddle sores, the way you put your saddle [on] and the saddle blanket under it and you had to put it just so, you know.
SH: How long were you down in South Carolina, in Fort Jackson?
FW: Well, everything was honky-dory. We were getting ready to think that we were going to come home come early December of 1940.
FW: ... '41, yes, you're right and I'm wrong. Don't mark me up, [laughter] "G+," anyway. [laughter] So, we were really thinking about coming home, and then, of course, Pearl Harbor came along and, boy, oh.
SH: When were you scheduled to come back?
FW: It would have been January the 3rd.
SH: You would have just been in for one year and back.
FW: The one year, that it was supposed to be, would have been finished, and, in those days, if you were twenty-eight years old, which there were some, you were too old to be in the service. So, men, some men, got out, say, in October, because they were twenty-eight.
SH: Okay, men that had gone down with you.
FW: Yes, and that was, twenty-eight, now, you stop and think back, "Twenty-eight years, gee, you're still a [young] chicken." [laughter]
MW: When you reach eighty-eight, that's what happens. [laughter]
SH: If you would, can you talk about what you can remember about December 7th? How were you informed and what was your reaction?
FW: Well, I don't know whether we were in Columbia. I ought to get my [diary]. See, on things that I [cannot recall], I look in the diary, [laugher] but it seems to me that ... the base wasn't; base, let's see, I'm not in the Air Force, yet, the fort was actually put on the alert because of Pearl Harbor. ... Of course, FDR [President Franklin D. Roosevelt] had declared; no, he hadn't declared war, yet, I guess. Yes, he had declared war by December ...
SH: December 7th was a Sunday.
FW: It's a Sunday.
SH: Were you on leave?
FW: Oh, that's it. Well, that, we were frozen there. ... Oh, I was in town, I think, with a whole bunch of fellows, and we had to be searched before we could get back into Fort Jackson. The MPs were; I'm trying to remember. It's funny that ...
SH: We were just talking about what you remember.
FW: Yes. Do you want me to read that off again?
SH: For the record, Mr. Wiswall has his diary, which he has kept faithfully for years, if you would just read that entry.
FW: All right, "December 7th, went to church in AM. Columbia in PM. Saw Swamp Water, [a 1941 film]. Japan declared war on United States. Battleships reported sunk and many people killed." On December 8th, I write, "Dismounted drill. Horse exercise and equitation riding in AM. Cleaned the rifle in PM. Went to Doghouse at night for a few beers." That was the canteen up the street.
SH: Did they bring you together at any point and talk to you about what had happened? Some people tell us that when they heard that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor, they thought, "Where is Pearl Harbor?"
RZ: Did you have an idea where Pearl Harbor was?
FW: I don't think I did. I didn't know where anything was outside of New Jersey and New York in those days, and a couple of times that I'd been to Massachusetts. It's interesting. I'm seeing if I put anything down here. Now, on the 9th, that's a couple of days later, of December, "Dismounted drill. Horse exercise and equitation riding in AM. On stable detail on PM. Men over twenty-eight going to be held." Remember, I told you that they were going to be held, "The war situation is getting very serious. Beer party at night." [laughter] Well, you've got to remember, when you're twenty-one and twenty-two, those are the [priorities]. "Drill equitation in AM. PM off. Only twenty-five percent of men allowed to leave the post for furlough at one time. I was supposed to leave on the 12th, but, no, I won't leave until late in January or February."
SH: Leave for where?
FW: Furlough, home, come back to Boonton, yes. ... Things changed, but, I mean, you're still ...
SH: It was more gradual.
FW: Gradual, and I don't think the impact was really there, but it was about that time in my life, when I knew I wasn't going to get home and I knew that we were going to be at war, that they were starting to go into mechanized. We were going to lose the horses.
SH: They told you that.
FW: They were going to lose the horses and they were going to mechanize, and, boy, that was awful, especially to some of the older fellows that had been in the 102nd Cavalry for years, as the National Guard, and they're going to lose the horses. ... I mean, I remember seeing one major, that he was actually crying, ... but, anyway, that's another story, too. I started thinking about, "Do I want to stay in the mechanized group, in half-tracks, riding around in jeeps or motorcycles, or this or that?" and I started to think about, "What are my alternatives?" and I thought of the Air Force. ... My best friend from Mountain Lakes was in the Aviation Cadets, but he had gone to Ohio University for [college]. He graduated [in] four years. I'd never been to college and a prerequisite for the Aviation Cadets, in those days, you had to have at least two years of college, which I didn't have. ... Then, later on, and early on in '42, they came up with this method, that if you could pass what they called a (six/four?) physical examination, which was supposed to be about [as] rigid a physical exam that you could take, and then, take a four-hour exam that would throw questions at you [based on] what they would expect a two-year college student to be able to answer, and, if you could pass both of them, you could join Aviation Cadets. So, I don't know when it was. ... It's immaterial, really. I took the physical and passed it, and I took the mental, don't ask me how, but I passed that. [laughter]
SH: Was this in South Carolina?
FW: South Carolina.
SH: Still in South Carolina.
FW: South Carolina, right on the base, and so, it was a short time after I'd passed both of them that I left, that I was transferred, paper-wise, from B Troop, 102nd Cavalry, to the Aviation Cadet program that was going on at Fort Jackson, but assigned to B Troop for duty until I was called, because there was no place to send me. Everything was really a rat race in those days, if you can use that term. No one was really certain of anything, but, anyway, I went back to B Troop to stay until the Air Force called me, and, of course, what was I there? I was dead wood. There was no sense in them trying to train me further. So, what did they do with [us]? There were two or three other fellows. ...
FW: Well, they made me a bugler because ...
SH: Wait, wait; how did you become the bugler?
FW: Well, because, you recall, I told you I had played the trumpet, and so, as a consequence, the bugle was no [challenge].
SH: You told them that you did. I mean, you volunteered.
FW: Oh, yes, they knew I did, because I had brought my trumpet down there. ... It was the cornet, ... in that time. So, we would have little jam sessions down there, and so, they made me a bugler, but, then, [Mr. Wiswall indicates that the time to move on arrived]. ... I do remember that while I was there, there were details that you would get put on, sporadically, I mean, [like] supply; you'd have to deliver rations and food to the troop, or within the regiment, all the troops. You had guard; you're on guard duty for twenty-four hours, and, the following day, you were off. What else was there? You had to deliver [rations]. Then, they had the garbage truck detail. You had to go around [and collect garbage]. These things all had to be taken care of. So, what actually [happened was], to make a long story short, they took us who were no longer [cavalrymen], the word "deadwood," and used us to do all these details, so that they could concentrate on those that were still in the 102nd Cavalry (Mechanized). So, I had that.
SH: Did you also train people on the bugle?
FW: Yes, I did that there, and then, I did that at Kelly Field. When I ... first went down for Aviation Cadets, my first place, they sent me out on a field with, oh, I forget how many guys there were, and in those fields were rattlesnakes. Oh, ... I'm deathly afraid of snakes. [laughter] Show me a snake and I'm gone. [laughter] I [could] tell you a good story about that, too.
MW: Not now.
FW: Not now, all right. Well, at Kelly Field, which has now been closed, in fact, we were at San Antonio for our reunion last year, and ... this Kelly Field just isn't [there], but, anyway, they were building up this area in Kelly Field at that time. They called it "The Hill," where Aviation Cadets, brand-new Aviation Cadets, like myself, would come for their training and the psycho-(medo?), what'd they call that? psycho, some sort of kind of psycho test, [psycho-motor] where they would determine whether we were fit to be a pilot, a navigator or a bombardier, and determine what sort of training you were going [to enter]. That's what that spot was for, and so, while we were there, ... everything was slowed down because [of] the jam-up, and they loved to march. [laughter] Oh, all they could think about was marching, and then, when they wanted to march, you have to have music. So, then, ... I was gifted with the job of teaching these other fellows, like myself, how to play a bugle and, also, the different marches. There's a lot of marches you can play on a bugle, and, ... if you learn, you have to learn how. So, I don't know how often we'd do that. They would send us over [to] the far, remote section in the field, [laughter] and then, after we're out there, I remember, they said, "Fellows, the one thing you've got to watch out for are the rattlesnakes." [laughter] ... I used to die being out there, but the story [on] that was, they were building up on it there, putting up regular barracks, and, also, latrines and one thing [or another]. Everything was being built, but it was all in stages, and this one fellow went to the latrine and he was in there, sitting down, and he heard a noise and he looked down and there it [a snake] was, sitting there. [laughter] I would have died right in the spot.
SH: I would have, too. [laughter]
FW: That was another time when I started laughing, and [they] wondered, "What's funny about it?" It's funny now, but imagine that poor guy.
MW: Yes, at the time.
FW: But, I don't know how they ever removed the problem, but they did. ... Then, everybody was afraid to go in the latrine, [laughter] because they were wide open, you know. ... The things were built, but they were building the outside around the inside. I remember that, oh, gee. ...
SH: Did you get bitten?
FW: No, no. I could outrun a snake, [laughter] at least I think I could, but, I remember, it was a short time after that that, when I took the tests, believe it or not, I qualified for any one. I could have gone as a pilot and I could have gone as a navigator, I could have gone as a bombardier, but I wanted to be a bombardier. So, that's why.
FW: Don't ask me; because I seemed so adept at what they put me through ...
SH: What attracted you?
FW: ... With the tests. Yes, well, ... you know, I don't think I can remember these psycho-motive tests. ... All kinds of mechanical things that they were, I'll be darned if I can remember.
FW: I see here that, on February 26th, I have a notation here, "Spent the day at Army Air Corps Center. Passed the physical and mental examinations. I'm now in the Air Corps. Stayed in at night. Herb left for hospital, nasopharyngitis." That was, no matter what happened to you, what you were ill from, when I first got in the cavalry, [it] was always nasopharyngitis. I never did find out what it was, [laughter] but that's what I [wrote]. "Bugle school." Then, this one that started here, with this, "Bugle school. Stables in the PM." Oh, that was another thing, stables, horses still. We still had the horses and the horses had to be taken care of. ...
SH: Do you know what they did with the horses?
FW: I don't [know]. You know, I think they sent a lot of them; I understand that my mare, Enigma, became a bell mare. Now, a bell mare is a horse that'll lead jackasses, or donkeys or whatever they [were], whatever they call them, and I understand that that's what she became. When I left, that was the end. ... I went one way and the horse went the other. ...
SH: Some of them were sent to the China-Burma-India Theater, were they not?
FW: Well, it could have been; I really don't know what happened to the horses. ... When we got horses in, they were remounts from Fort Royal in Virginia and they'd been just grazing around for years and they were pretty rough when we got them. They were tough to tame them again, you know, but ... I really don't know what happened to them. I don't know whether that's a fact with my mare, whether she went [overseas]. "Bugle school. Bugle school. Inspection. Bugle school."
SH: During this time, it is March.
FW: I'm in March.
SH: You are in San Antonio, Texas, right?
FW: No, no. ... Now, I'm waiting to get called up by the Air Corps now. "Bugle School. Worked in supply tent all day. (Showdown?) inspection, took all day. Orderlied for Lieutenant (Fitzpatrick?)." In other words, I had to be what they call a "dog robber" for a day.
SH: Where does the term "dog robber" come from? [laughter]
FW: I don't know where it came from, but it ... [was something] I never wanted to be. In other words, you had to be, like, an orderly for a second lieutenant, or, well, an officer, and you had to clean his gear, you had to [do other chores]; wouldn't have been my cup of tea, I'll tell you that. "Bugle school. (Showdown?) inspection. Herb and I (worked on the injection?) of horses in PM. Went to radio school at night." Oh, that was another thing. Later on in life, I'd always wanted to, I had an interest in radio, ... become an amateur radio [operator] and, Lord, when I was in Boy Scouts, I couldn't even learn the code. ... When I got in the Aviation Cadets and I started in the program, you had to learn to send and receive five words a minute, and, within, oh, a couple or three weeks, ... I was up to five words a minute and didn't have any problem at all. So, then, when I came home, now, this is later on, when I came home, ... riding back and forth in the train to New York, I read and I memorized how to become a ham, and I couldn't do any of the operations now if I tried, and I got my license and I became a ham radio operator.
MW: This was after the war.
FW: So, that was after the war. So, there must have been a brain down here somewhere.
MW: It was still there.
FW: I don't know. [laughter]
MW: It was always there. You just never used it. [laughter]
FW: "Bugle school." It's all the same. It seems to me, all they did is use me for bugle school, bugle school. "Our squadron was mechanized." This is April 6th. "As of the date, we are still B Troop. Tanks will replace the horses." So, that was when I was so glad. ... Now, here, April the 7th, "Testing the Springfields," that's a rifle, "Bugle school in PM. Got ready for a ten-day furlough at night," prior to my transfer to the Army Air Corps, and I worked in stables. "Left for home. Harry (Drayton?) and I left via thumb. [laughter] Hitchhiked to (Raleigh?), Virginia. Greyhound at eleven PM to Washington. We left the fort at one-thirty. Arrived in Washington seven AM. Hitchhiked to Baltimore. Rain. Greyhound bus at one o'clock to Newark," and I got home at nine-fifteen that night." Well, then, I'm home for ...
SH: This is the early Spring of 1942.
FW: 1942, yes, and they started me in again when I got back. "Lectures on," something, "movies and lectures on," oh, [laughter] "movies and lectures on sex hygiene in PM. Walt and I;" [laughter] oh, that's stuff that they were always trying.
SH: Did they work?
FW: Yes, they did, they did.
SH: Were they graphic?
FW: Oh, they did. They'd scare you half to death. No, right in here, I still hadn't been called by the Air Corps. I'm in May now. "Worked in regimental guard. Worked in regimental all day. Worked on regimental in AM." See, I wasn't doing anything. "Worked on supply. On KP," that was another thing, "all day. Worked on S-4," that's supply. ... Some of my old buddies that are long gone, "(Hart?), (Coon?) and I went on regiment S-4 all day. Stable guard at night. On stable detail. Bugle school," no, "Bugle guard all day. On garbage truck." ... Well, that's what they had me doing until I got called. "On guard as bugler until six-thirty PM. Ken Horner and I went to PX for a couple of beers." Ken Horner, he was [one of] a couple of brothers that were in there. ... Ken became a good friend of mine, and he was; what's that mountain that they went up in Italy?
FW: Yes. He was killed going up there and bled to death, Ken Horner. I heard that way after the fact. He was a great, great guy.
SH: Is that H-O-R-N-E-R?
FW: ... Yes.
SH: Was he from this area?
FW: ... More like the Oranges and that area, than in here. Most all of them were from New Jersey, I'll say that.
RZ: At this time, were you aching to go into the Air Corps?
FW: Oh, yes, oh, wouldn't you? Oh, boy, I'm [telling you], I hated this. This was no life. I wasn't learning anything, I wasn't doing anything, really. Yes, I was, "On garbage truck in AM. Ken Horner and I went into Columbia, got a quart of rum. Went out with Dick and Don (Stewart?) and their fiancées at night." They were down from New Jersey. That's where I learned to drink rum and Coke. That was a cavalry drink in those days and I can't stand the sight of rum, looking at it today. [laughter] Oh, I can't. I don't know how I did it. "May 23rd, played ball in the AM. ... Ken Horner and I went to Columbia, went to the (Stewarts'?). Back at camp. On provost all day. Up at seven o'clock. Worked in garbage truck all day." Well, [if] you think that that was fun, that was hard work, hoisting those [cans]. That's for a troop. That's for a lot of men, and hoisting those garbage things aren't [easy]. "On latrine during daytime. Over obstacle course four times at night." We had an obstacle course right near our troop street and I remember, I used to ...
SH: What is the entry below that?
FW: This? "Went to classes all day. Intelligence tests. Both of my ears are clogged up. Went to flight surgeon's at night."
SH: What clogged your ears up? Had you been up in a plane? I would assume not.
FW: Day before, "Classes all day. Took a three-hour hop in a B-17E at night." This is when I [flew]. I'd never flown before when I got in Aviation Cadets, I mean, in a military plane. "My ears clogged at two thousand feet, hurt like hell, enjoyed the hop, nevertheless."
SH: That was May 25th.
FW: May 25th, yes, and that's the next day, ... "Went to the flight surgeon." No, "Went back next day. Classes all day. Flight surgeon, three times, better." [laughter]
SH: Did they actually start training you at the very end of May?
FW: No, no. I'll tell you, no. "On provost. On S-4." ... It was a long time, really. Now, I'm going, I'm in June, ... "Sergeant (McCormick?) and I left for home." Now, here was a guy that I think he was discharged for dependency. Well, he was lucky, because he got out. If he'd waited, in a month, he wouldn't have been able to get out. Now, I'm home. I'm home.
SH: Is this in July?
FW: This is in July.
SH: How had things changed?
FW: ... "At the beach with Carl Kinscherf." ... I buried him a couple of years ago, too. "When I was called back to the fort," and they came, ... I forget who it was, came down, "Telegram had been delivered to the home for me to report back to Fort Jackson." It's the Air Corps, Air Force, had called me.
SH: Is this July 5th?
FW: July 5th.
SH: Can we look at the entry for July 4th?
FW: Sure. "Around home," I was on furlough at that time, "around home at night." My writing isn't so good, is it? ... "Party at Tom (Coles?) at night. I took Pat." [laughter] I won't read this, dear.
MW: Okay. [laughter]
FW: "I took Pat." Well, I'll read it, "I took Pat," and this is the gal that I was really involved with when I was a kid. "Pat told me that she loved me," [laughter] and I never put things like that in my diary. I honestly didn't, but I don't know why I did then.
SH: How had things changed since you left eighteen months ago for Fort Jackson, before World War II broke out? How had things changed in this area? How had the war impacted you, with the gearing up and, obviously, your brother was working at Hercules?
FW: Yes. Well, Bert was still in school and Fred, of course, was still at Hercules, but, well, everyone was war minded. I mean, you had, in fact I found some not too long ago, the little tickets for gas rationing, [which] was on, and a lot of people were [using] oleo margarine, instead of butter, and ... the atmosphere, as I remember it, was all war.
FW: ... Everyone was restricted in what you could do and what you couldn't do.
SH: Did your father have a war-related job at this point?
FW: Let's see, Dad, I think that he would have been at E. F. Drew then, wouldn't he or would he?
SH: Did he have a war-related job?
FW: Well, I don't know. I don't know whether they did or not. ... They made oils. I don't really know. I don't know the answer to that question. ...
SH: Did your mother have a victory garden?
FW: Oh, my mother got herself [a job]. She went to work for; where did Bob (Rechy?) work?
MW: Radio Frequency [Company]?
FW: No, no, down here in Boonton.
FW: Molding, Boonton Molding, and they were making some military parts. My mother went to work down there.
SH: Did she?
FW: All of them, ... what did they call them? the Rosie the Riveters and all that. ... You'd be surprised; I never thought of my mother working in a wartime job, but she did.
MW: She did, though.
FW: ... Most mothers did. A lot of mothers did; I don't know what most did.
SH: Did your mother have the banner in the window?
FW: With the stars? yes.
MW: I think she did. I think we have them upstairs somewhere. We still have them.
FW: I think she did, I think she did. Like I say, I'm sure if my father had anything to do about it, they had a flag with sixteen stars on it in the window. [laughter] Oh, yes, but that's when I was recalled back to Fort Jackson. "I had a four-hour delay in Washington and I had to wire Lieutenant Brown to that effect, and then, I arrived at Columbia at eleven-forty PM. In the Fort at twelve o'clock. No orders, so, slept there. [laughter] Reported to the Air Corps at eight AM, and then, moved in." So, from there on, then, oh, that was a change, when I got [in the Army Air Forces]. The biggest change was, I went from twenty-one dollars; no, I think I was up to thirty, as a private. I went from twenty-one dollars a month, "twenty-one dollars a day, once a month," that's from the song, to seventy-five dollars as an Aviation Cadet, and brand-spanking-new uniforms, and the chow, the difference between Fort Jackson and the cavalry, oh, they fed you like a king.
FW: Yes. Well, they wanted to make sure that ... [if] they were going to spend the money, the government was going to spend the money, on you for your training in the Air Corps, that you had to get the correct nourishment and, boy, I hadn't had nourishment like that for the whole year that I was in Fort Jackson, boy, yes, yes. [laughter]
SH: Was the training very intense? Was it all day long? What was a day like now? You were at Fort Jackson, but you were in the Air Corps.
FW: Yes, all right, yes, no, but, now, "I left [with] the Air Corps, July 9th. Left for Kelly Field, Texas, at five-thirty AM. Five-hour stopover in Spartanburg. We're riding in Pullman cars, Southern Railroad. Five-hour stopover in New Orleans. Had a shower and shave and, about five PM, arrived July 11th, at Houston, Texas, early in the morning. Arrived San Antonio three-thirty. Assigned to tents. I am in Squadron 126, White Crew, Group C, Replacement Center. Loafed all day, most of the day. Read awhile at night. Looked over a new B-17F." No, no, wait, I'm a year ahead of myself. "Took out a ten-thousand-dollar insurance policy in AM." That was the government [insurance]. It was pretty cheap, too. "Drew new uniforms in AM. Took physical exam in PM. Had to have recheck on my eyes, 20/30, 20/40, and passed, normal. Sex, Articles of War, and first aid lectures at night. On the 15th, took mental aptitude tests, (solid "A"?). Wrote letters at night. Worked around street. Didn't take coordination test in PM, but went ... to PX instead. Saw a religious film at night." They threw everything at you. ... "Took coordination tests in AM. Worked around the street in PM. Wrote letters at night. Went to San Antonio. On tent moving detail all day. ... Joined a drum and bugle corps, made an instructor. Classified as a bombardier. [laughter] Gave instructions in bugling in AM. Went to PX. Bugle instruction on the 23rd. Bugle and drum corps practice." That's when they go into the march. "Corps practice in AM-PM. Had a form review. ... Bugle drum corps practice. Drum and bugle corps all day." That's out in the field now. "Drum and bugle. Drum and bugle. No open post." I don't know. "Drum and bugle all day." Now, I think I'm in Houston, [Texas]. "Left Kelly Field on August the 5th at noon and went to Ellington Field, Texas," that's right near Houston, "by train. Had to turn camera in at gate," all things like that, that it became very strict; everyone was war minded. "We were moved to a new site. We call it 'Bataan.' It's located in a field surrounded by swamps. Got processed at night. Worked around new area. Raining. ... Turned laundry in AM. Cleaned up around the barracks. Couldn't leave post at night. Stayed in the barracks all day. CQ," made me in charge of quarters, "all day. Drilled in AM. Assigned to squadron." ... You had to really do a lot of marching when you're in the Aviation Cadets. "School all day. Started school. All we have is code, PT and math. School all day. School all day," it was a long day. "School until two PM," must have been Saturday. "Open post. Went to Houston." ...
SH: How did they treat people who were in the military in Texas at that time?
FW: Very well, very well. In fact, it was a new life for me, because, not to degrade the Army, but, when you're only a private in the Army, you're not very much and you're ... not getting much money, but once you got in the Air Corps, the Aviation Cadet program, it was like being in the elite, after being a private. Oh, I know I really enjoyed that. Here's my registration certificate. We lived on (Alcock?) Avenue in Boonton. "This is to certify that, in accordance with the Selective Service Proclamation of the President of the United States, that I have been duly registered, the 16th of October. Keep this card with you at all times." [laughter]
SH: This was in 1940.
FW: Is there a date on this? ... I don't see a date on it, though.
FW: Is it? Oh, [if] it had teeth, that would bite, wouldn't it? [laughter]
RZ: It was a snake. [laughter]
MW: Do you want to see that?
RZ: No, it is fine.
FW: ... "School all day. Got two gigs on a rifle inspection." Oh, they were so strict then, and I think that, sometimes, they would give out gigs, or demerits, just so that you didn't think you were too sharp, keep you on the ball, in other words. I swear, they do. "School all day. Studied at night." See, now, there, I studied, "School all day. Studied for exams," and I never studied for an exam in my [life], and that's the thing that, ... if I had my life to live over, I've always said it, haven't I? that I would study in school. Otherwise, I don't think I'd change; I've had ups and downs, but, if I changed my life, I wouldn't be right here now. So, I wouldn't give up my life today, even with my arthritis. [laughter] I'm here. Where would I be if I hadn't done all the things that I had done?
MW: Interesting life he had.
SH: Within the school, was everyone around the same age or were there older people and younger people?
FW: ... Well, let's say, what would the average age be for either a college graduate or a two-year college [graduate]?
SH: Between twenty and twenty-two.
FW: Well, you know, I (opt out exactly on the?) book inside, I'm right at that age, ... when Tom Brokaw wrote those stories [in his 1998 book The Greatest Generation], the ages he talks about; that was me. So, I would say ... there were a few older and there were a few younger. There were a lot of guys that, somehow or another, got in the service way before they should have. One way or another, they got in, and I know that in some of the military magazines that I get now that they're still trying to corral some of those older men now that got in before they should have been in and want to hear their story. "School all day. Studied at night. School all day. Got two gigs on my rifle inspection." I've been on that. "Studied for exam. Took exams all day. I think I flunked math, and maps. Passed 2-3 in code. Got twelve letters. ... School all day. Passed 2-4 in code." Apparently, I didn't fail the (map?) [math?]. "School all day." ... No, once you failed, you failed too much, you're on your way out, and, I mean, they didn't waste time on us. You work, you work, you work, or you're out, that's all, and I guess, if they'd done that to me when I was in high school and said, "All right, either do your work and get passing grades or get out, we won't waste time on you," I most likely would have done it.
MW: He probably would have done it.
FW: But, there again, discipline, I didn't have that kind of discipline. Now, here, I knew what would happen. "School all day. Passed 2-5 in code. Go to eight words a minute now. School all day. First class graduated. I'm a red tag now," whatever [that is]. I don't even ... remember what that means, or second classman. "School in AM. Big hurricane on the way. August 29th, field ready for evacuation. Bud Sacco and I stayed in Houston. ... Hurricane missed us." Scare you to death, and then, "No school. We moved to 'Bataan' in Ellington. Moved to the same old barracks. September the (8th?), school all day. Missed on ten-word check in code. School all day. Studied at night. School all day. Dismissed from code. Passed ten words ... per minute in code. Studied at night. School all day. Test in math. Studied at night." So, I must have passed. "School in AM. Went to Houston in PM. ... School all day. Studied at night. School all day. Studied [at night]." Not a very interesting life, "School all day. Studied at night." [laughter]
RZ: It certainly prepared you for later on.
FW: Yes. "School in AM. Squadron C and squadron just missed winning again." Oh, that's the marching. ... "School all day. One hundred in enabled forces test." Oh, a one hundred, how did I ever do that? [laughter] "School all day. School all day. School all day. School all day. Secretary Patterson [Undersecretary of War Robert Porter Patterson, Sr.], reviewed us in PM. We took our final physics exam at night. I think I flunked." Well, I didn't think much of myself, I tell you that. ... "First week as first classman." I must have, "Made a corporal," so, I must have passed.
MW: I think so.
FW: "School all day. School all day. School all day. School all day. School all day. School all day. School all day. Graduation dance." I must have graduated, too. [laughter]
SH: This would be in October then.
FW: I'm in October 3rd, yes. Gee, I got that, this VCR [VHS cassette], many years later, Orchestra Wives [a 1942 film]. That's the one that I think Glenn Miller was in.
SH: What is this that you are saying?
FW: The movie, I think Glenn Miller was in it, Orchestra Wives, and that's what I saw. ... "School all day. Math," what did I say? "Math final at night. Took a final in meteorology." Oh, meteorology, that was a [tough subject]; I studied and studied. ... That was so technical, and that's why anyone that criticizes a meteorologist, when they try to forecast weather today, I mean, I know it's much advanced from what it was in '42, but you can have pressure changes and you can have changes, so many changes, within a matter of an hour or fifteen minutes, this forecasting the weather, it's not easy. ... "More to be pitied than scorned, too many factors against. Up early. ... School all day. Physics exam at night. I think I made out all right," gee. [laughter] "Classes all day. ... Open post. On guard, twelve o'clock, second relief. On guard. Drill in PM. We got paid. Drew," now, can you imagine? "drew 205 dollars." I can't imagine drawing that much money, ... back in those days.
SH: Was it cash?
FW: Oh, yes, it's cash. "Paid. Wound up with 135 dollars," because I most likely, "PX, books," and I think that they charged [us], ... you started getting charged, because I think ... you get fifty dollars a month, plus, twenty-five dollars of flight pay, or some darned thing, that I can't remember exactly how it worked as an Aviation Cadet, but I know that you got a wee bit more. "Worked all day. Drill in morning. Got ready for a furlough. Reached St. Louis, Missouri. ... Arrived Newark, seven o'clock. Home, eight-thirty."
SH: This was the end of October. Did you finish class?
FW: On October 23rd.
SH: Had you finished this training segment?
FW: I guess I must have. I wanted to see now where we are. ... "Moved to cadet area. Barracks, eleven. Supposed to pull out shortly."
SH: This was the beginning of November and you are back, correct?
FW: November 3rd.
SH: Are you back in Houston?
FW: Yes, I guess I am. "Around barracks all day." ... No, yes, "Back in Houston. Left Houston for unknown." That's right, we didn't even know where we were going then, "Rode all night."
SH: That was November 5th.
FW: November, and, "November 6th, arrived at advanced training," I said, "Brook;" I didn't even know the name of it, but it was Big Spring, Texas. [Editor's Note: Big Spring Army Air Force Bombardier School existed from 1942 to 1945.] "Passed my physical in PM. Wrote letters at night." These are the kind of things sent to me. There's a girl that I used to take out. [laughter] ... She's a very nice gal, too. She was from Boonton, engaged. "Passed (Snyder?)." What the heck would that be? "Passed (Snyder?) in PM." I don't know, some sort of test that, I guess, they gave us.
SH: A (Snyder?) exam?
FW: Here, I was just trying to get a ride now in a B-. "Started school. Saw Norden sight on trainer and studied it." That bombsight, in those days, when you went to draw it, you had to have a .45 out of your holster and cocked, to bring it to the plane. That's how secret it was and how they made [you take it]. ...
FW: Oh, yes, yes.
SH: This is the Norden bombsight.
FW: Norden bombsight, yes. ...
MW: That's interesting, for you to tell. That would be an interesting thing for you to talk about.
MW: We'll be here for two days, with his life.
FW: ... "Classes in PM. Training in (trainers?). Studied at night. Training schools in PM. On flight line in AM."
SH: You were now in advanced training, correct?
FW: "November 15th, up early. Bruce, Bill and I saw Tales of Manhattan [a 1942 film]. ... Classes in AM. Had a wisdom tooth pulled out and two fillings, hurt like the devil. Trained in PM, felt pretty shaky. Studied at night and wrote letters." ... Now, this is when we started the training as a bombardier. You had these big trainers, the big elevated thing, like that. You sat up in the front and your fellow behind you was the steerer, and you had the bombsight and they had a mock target set up in front of you, a little mouse-like deal that would move along, and you had to try to manipulate the bombsight the way you were trained and hit the target. Boy, you got tired of that after awhile. ... "Classes in AM. Trainer in PM. Trainer test, got eighty percent."
SH: Was the person training you regular Army?
FW: No, regular Air Force. His name was Lieutenant (Whittington?). ... After I left Big Spring, for gunnery school, I never heard of him [again]. ... I met one guy, ... that fellow that sent me that one thing from, he's down in Cherry Hill now, (Dalsey?). He was an instructor and he never left where (Whittington?) was. ... I asked him to check his 201 file, to see if he could find his serial number for [me], if he could get me his serial number, I know how to track him down, but I never have been able to find out what happened to him. He was a great guy. He was a second lieutenant and he trained me and three other guys, or it was four of us in each [group], assigned to each instructor, and I really thought a lot of him.
SH: Where was he from? Do you remember?
FW: I don't. I don't even think it's in that bombardier book that's inside, when we graduated. He was a heck of a nice guy, though, I'll tell you that.
SH: Were you still pleased with the fact that you had picked being a bombardier over the other two options?
FW: Oh, yes, definitely, definitely.
SH: How long were you there at Big Spring? How long was that training? Do you remember?
FW: I graduated January the 3rd.
FW: '43. ... That was another time where we ...
SH: Is the bombardier one of the officers?
SH: When were you commissioned as an officer?
FW: Second lieutenant. Well, later on, a lot of them were commissioned as flight officers. They didn't quite make [them officers]. I could never understand the ... difference; I could understand the difference, but I don't know why they had it.
SH: As for yourself, when was your commissioning? Was it at Big Spring?
FW: Big Spring, January the 3rd; what the heck, or was it January the 28th? Me and my smart mouth, maybe I was wrong; [it was] the 28th.
SH: The 28th of January.
FW: "Graduated as second lieutenant at nine-thirty," and I remember the first, I think he was a private, first guy that saluted me, and it's the old adage that you gave him a dollar.
FW: Yes, the first salute you got as an officer, you always gave the guy that saluted you a dollar.
SH: Really? [laughter]
SH: Had you known him before?
FW: No, I never saw him before, and never saw him since. [laughter] I don't know, he must have been walking around in a circle, collecting bucks. Well, that's what I would have been doing. [laughter]
SH: I have never heard of that custom before.
FW: Now, you see, ... after we graduated, this January the 3rd ...
SH: January 28th.
FW: 28th, they didn't know what to do with us. Well, we're bombardiers and, normally, when you finished, graduated, then, you were sent to Salt Lake City and you were crewed up, was en route to where you were going, but there wasn't any place to send us. ...
SH: You were still part of that bottleneck.
FW: Yes. Well, they've got to hit them. ...
SH: Did they keep you there at Big Spring?
FW: For a little bit, yes. "Meeting (in AM?);" let's see, when did they send us to Harlingen? [Editor's Note: Harlingen Army Air Field in Texas was an aerial gunnery school.] Oh, yes, here it is, "February the 3rd. Up at eight o'clock. (Realbruce?) and I had breakfast, then, bed again. Caught train for Harlingen." Yes, ... once you're an officer, you had to make all your own arrangements. So, "Arrived at ten-thirty," and so, they took our entire class, of bombardier class, and sent us to Harlingen, Texas, which was a training school, normally, for enlisted men in gunnery, but I'm glad I went there. It was very enlightening and I always liked shooting anyway, and I earned my second set of wings, as an aerial gunner. So, I was qualified for both the bombsight and aerial gunnery, and they shot just about every type of gun, when you're at gunnery school, and in every turret that the Air Force had. ...
SH: How long were you at Harlingen?
FW: Well, I'm just going to let you know. "First day of classes was February the 8th. The work is very interesting and all our equipment is up-to-date. Had a class from ten o'clock [in the morning] to eleven at night. Classes in AM, turret manipulation. Took our first exercise in aim classes." I had an interesting thing [happen] while I was at Harlingen, I'll have to tell you about.
SH: Please do.
FW: [Editor's Note: Lieutenant Colonel Wiswall flips through his diary.] How did all these darn pictures get in here? "Got some flying time in;" well, Harlingen, if Texas comes down like so and Harlingen is here, ... Matamoros, Mexico, is right below Harlingen, and I'd never been in Mexico, and I don't think any of the fellows that I palled around with in that class [had, either]. So, we went to Matamoros, but that's not the [story].
SH: What happened there?
FW: Oh, yes, I went to Mexico to see the bullfights. ... Oh, I couldn't stand it. That was the most brutal thing that I ever saw. That's slaughter. I wouldn't be a good Mexican or a good Spanish individual that loved being el toreador, or whatever they call him, because it was murder, absolute murder. The poor beasts, they didn't stand a chance. You know, ... before the guy stands up in front of him, like the Almighty, with a sword and rams it through the vital point, the bull is weakened by all these, I don't know what they [are], stilettos or whatever they are.
RZ: Picadors, [horsemen who stab the bull with lances].
FW: Put them in. Yes, well, then, you know what it's like. They drive them in the hump, where the bull has all its strength. So, by the time the guy stands up there, with his cape; I'm not trying to belittle whatever the profession is, but it's murder. ... We watched them kill two and walked out. I couldn't stand it, couldn't stand it. Oh, here it is, "February 22nd, classes all day. (Al?) Williams and Paul (Caselatti?)," Paul was killed, "and myself went to Mercedes, [Texas]. Missed the last bus." Now, you know how we got back to Harlingen? [laughter] and I don't know where I got the nerve, because I've always been afraid of heights, but there weren't any busses. There was no way that we could get back. There was no means of transportation. So, we went in the rail yard and we saw a train sitting there and the engineer was in the engine and we asked him where he was going. He was going to Harlingen, and we asked, "How about giving us a ride back? We're stuck and there's no other way." He says, "Well, I don't see you, ... but, if you want to climb on the back of one of these freight cars," he says, "when you get off at Harlingen," he said, "be careful, because there are guards all around in there and they'll shoot at you if they see you." [laughter] ... Anyway, we went back and climbed up on a freight car, and you know the little; what would you call it, the little, on the roof?
SH: The catwalk?
FW: Had to get on that and pull the strap and ... it's all I could do to get up on the damn freight car, to be honest with you, because I don't like climbing things, and we rode that freight car all the way back to Harlingen. Oh, but where did I get the nerve to do things like that? "So, we hopped a freight back. What a night," I have down here. "Next day, classes all day." [laughter] I wanted to find out when we [left]. "Shooting operations in AM. Spent three hours at thirty-eight thousand feet in oxygen tank."
SH: Was this actually in a plane?
FW: No, on the ground, yes. Oh, I hadn't even been off the ground yet, as far as Harlingen was concerned. I'll tell you another interesting thing there.
RZ: At this point, you had never been in a plane.
FW: Oh, yes, oh, yes. I'd been through my bombardier training. I was in a little AT-11. There, I mean, the highest we flew was twelve thousand feet, which was nothing. All right, I left; "I finished up. Flew my last AT-6 mission in PM. Went out at night." We finished up March 12th, because, on March 13th, "Trained all afternoon. ... Graduated from Harlingen Aerial Gunnery School in AM. We killed two women about an hour after we left." They pulled their; our train hit this woman, hit this train, crossed right in front of our train ...
SH: A car.
FW: Yes, and killed them both. Oh, I'll never forget seeing that. It was an awful sight, but there, March 12th, is when we were finished with Harlingen. Now, what I was going to tell you, we had airplane-to-airplane shooting at Harlingen. In other words, ... they had these AT-6s, were the same type plane you see in the movies flying over Pearl Harbor, with a front seat and a back seat in the center, a two-seater plane, and in the rear of the AT-6, as it comes around, you have a mount and your machine-gun was there. No, it was in the locked position, it was down and it didn't swivel, and, when you get in it, you have a parachute on and a parachute harness, of course. Now, the instructors, of course, were all pilots and they were mainly second lieutenants. They'd just gotten their commission the way we did, but they were under strict orders that when enlisted personnel [were] flying their plane, they don't pull any shenanigans on them. You'd scare the devil out of a guy. ... You were a hot pilot, you know, and you want to have fun, but they didn't have any such rules on brother second lieutenants, only on the enlisted personnel, and, when we were finished shooting at this plane, and I got very good, high marks on the shooting; ... well, another plane would fly either at your own level, up from your level and lower, faster or slower, faster or slower, and you had to learn how to lead, this and that. ... You had bullets in your machine-gun that were dipped in ink and that, when they went through, they were good and hot, but, when they went through the sleeve that this other plane was towing behind them, they would leave the color. Oh, I got pretty good marks on that, but, anyway, I did my shooting and I told the pilot that I was finished firing, [through the] interphone you have on, and the interphone, the pilot said to me, "Okay, stow your gun." So, I stowed the gun and locked it and the minute he heard that click, "Ugh." ... There was a ring on the floor of the backseat of that AT-6 and I had a strap going through the leg part of the harness that I have on, holding me in the plane, and that's all. [laughter] I almost had a movement, and, now, that's putting it mildly, but it just ... scared me to death, and all he did was laugh. [laughter] I just said to him, "Thanks a lot, buddy, thanks a lot." [laughter] I'll never forget that, oh, and that way, no one's going to laugh at Wiswall. ... [laughter] He said, "Oh, gee." Now, if they'd done that with an airman and he would have died. ...
FW: So, we killed two women, and then, "On the train all day."
SH: Do you know where they are sending you at this point?
FW: "Arrived at Army airbase, 18th Replacement Wing, Second Air Force, Salt Lake City."
SH: You finally got to Salt Lake.
FW: "We are awaiting orders." Now, see, what they did [was], that was the meeting place for airmen, gunners, pilots, pilot and copilot, navigators and bombardiers, and there is what they call "crewing you up." In other words, there are ten men in a B-17, four officers and six enlisted men, and that's where you meet your crew. ... Let's see, "Had breakfast;" it's best that I look through here, [diary].
SH: What time of year are you getting to Salt Lake?
FW: March 16th, of '43.
SH: Okay, all right.
FW: Wait a minute, ... "No orders. Went to town. Orders came." Oh, what they did [was], ... well, most likely, I didn't [write about it], because it was all top secret at that time, the orders, when they did come out, the Luftwaffe, which is the German Air Force, was making head-on attacks of the bombers as they came into Europe, and, unfortunately, they were either seriously wounding or killing bombardiers and navigators. So, they took about twenty-eight bombardiers. I don't know how many [navigators]; I only know the bombardiering end of it. They took about twenty-eight bombardiers that came up from this Harlingen group and put us on top secret orders to move immediately to Fort; what's the one in New York, by the Verrazano Bridge? Hamilton, Fort Hamilton, for immediate flight over to the Continent, [the United Kingdom?], for replacement, [assignment to a] replacement center, and so, the end of the alphabet, Wiswall, I was always [out of luck]. Wiswall's not only the shorty, but he was at the end of the alphabet anyway. So, I was one of the fortunate ones. Anyway, when we took off ...
SH: You did not get matched up with a crew. They just took you separately.
FW: Yes. I should have said that, because that's important, that crewing up thing, but there again, you don't trust fate and it worked out fine for me.
SH: When they sent you to New York, did you get a chance to come home at all before you took off?
FW: ... Yes, but the trouble was, "Traveling all day." You see, "Orders came through. On March the 20th, orders came. Left for Fort Hamilton, New York, at eight PM. [March] 21st, traveling all day;" traveling all day, because that was all by train in those days. "Grand Central at eight AM and over to;" we spent the weekend. I brought one of my buddies home, "Reported to Fort Hamilton at five PM. Dad was with us. Morning, (Jan?) and I took the (tour?) equipment..."
SH: Your dad took you back to the base.
FW: To Fort Hamilton. ... It was fairly easy [to get] there, but the trouble was, we missed our shipment. The means, the setup, to carry us on was already gone; don't ask me why, because I don't know. So, we're in "la-la-land" again. I mean, where are we? We're no place. ...
SH: Was this just you and your buddy, or were there other ones?
FW: Twenty-eight of us. ...
SH: All of you missed the shipment.
FW: We all missed the shipment. We were all traveling together. I brought (Williamson?) home. I can tell you the story on him. He's a real, real nice guy and we got along well. We really hit it off and I had him back and forth from ...
SH: Fort Hamilton?
FW: From Fort Hamilton, and, also, from the place right near Rutgers. ...
SH: Okay, from Kilmer.
FW: I'll tell you about when we got there, and, anyway, he stayed. He went on for navigation and I didn't. ... I don't know how many years ago it was, because he became a regular then, he had to bail out of a plane, somewhere in the far West, back in the States, and his chute caught in a tree and hung him. Can you imagine? Oh, well, that's just the way things happen, I guess. So, anyway, and most of us, believe it or not, most of the twenty-eight men were killed in combat, that I could keep [track of]. We were spread all over after we got over there. We were all in different groups, and I was assigned to the 96th Bomb Group in May of . ...
SH: From Fort Hamilton, they sent you down to Kilmer just to wait.
FW: Well, school, yes, that's where we were sent. ... I just want to find myself here [in the diary], because Bill and I are still coming back and forth here, and going back and forth here. I don't know where I got the money to do that, [laughter] although the people were pretty good to servicemen in those days. Oh, "April the 2nd, moved to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, in afternoon. Willie and I went to park;" just to sit.
SH: Where did you and Willie go?
FW: To Camp Kilmer.
SH: I meant, you said, "Just to sit;" you were sitting there.
FW: ... Yes, to await, find out what they were going to do with us next, because we had missed our shipment. ...
SH: Were you able to leave Kilmer or did you just stay there?
FW: Oh, yes, we could do it. They didn't know what to do with us, but that's frustrating to you. Well, it was to me, anyway. I can't judge the others by me, but it was fun coming out here, home, and having my friend with me, too. "Back at camp. Around camp. Billy the Kid. Around camp." One night, while we were at Kilmer, ... out of sheer desperation, I guess it was, they made us take all of our equipment, and we had all heavy flying equipment, the sheepskin stuff and all, and they put us out in, it looked like a parking lot, and we had to sleep out there overnight, and this is April. [laughter] ...
SH: Why would they take you out of the barracks and put you out on the parking lot just for one night?
FW: Yes, just for one night, yes, [laughter] to show who's boss, I guess, and then, "We're restricted. Restricted lifted. Went to New York, and then, walked through Central Park." ...
SH: Did you go to any USO shows?
FW: Oh, that thing in the middle of 42nd Street there, in Times Square, ... for the soldiers, you know, [the Times Square USO Center]. We could go there every time. We could get tickets to just about every [event]. I think I saw every play. I got sick and tired of seeing plays, [laughter] good seats, and didn't cost us a thing. They gave them to us, yes, to servicemen. I never had any complaints. Some people complain about the treatment they had when they were in the service, but I never [did]. ... "Saw Human Comedy [a 1943 film] at night, and then, some plane," or play, rather. ... Believe it or not, it was [that] we were there until May 4th.