Kurt Piehler: This begins an interview with John A. Hurlbert on October 28, 1998, at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey, with Kurt Piehler and ...
Justin James: Justin James.
KP: I would like to begin by asking you a few questions about your father, who served in the Navy during World War I.
John Hurlbert: ... Yes.
KP: What did your father tell you about his experiences during the war?
JH: Well, ... he never left the States. His father had come down from Nova Scotia and started a ship repair yard right next to the Todd Shipyards in Brooklyn, and they were both small at the time; but Todd grew it seemed over the years a little more than his [yard]; my father and his brothers got a good basic training, after school, working for their dad, learning all about what made ships go, and all about engines, and so forth; and so, my father enlisted in the Navy. ... When he filled out his ... past experiences, [during the application process], they discovered that ... he had built a steam engine when he was about eighteen, right out of school; and so they never let him get away, and he was teaching motor machinists in Brooklyn. I'm trying to think, it was Pelham Bay; there was a Navy yard in Pelham Bay. So, he commuted from his home most of the time but had a job on the base. However, he wanted to go to sea; but somehow they wouldn't let him. I sort of made up for that a little bit. ...
KP: I find it interesting that the war did not really disrupt his life too much.
JH: No. See, he gained more experience and associated with men who'd been through similar things and saw how the ships needed this work. Yes, that's true, ... his life was not really broken up.
KP: You were born in Brooklyn.
KP: You went to the Brooklyn ...
JH: Public schools, yes.
KP: Then, you moved to Jamesburg, New Jersey. Why did your family leave Brooklyn?
JH: Well, we moved to a little town called Helmetta.
JH: Yes, ... it was the George W. Helme Snuff Company, which ... had the dubious distinction of being the largest snuff mill in the world; and they shipped out a freight carload, [do] you know what a can of it looked like? something like a roll of film, maybe just a little bigger, ... like a .35 mm film roll, filled with boxes of these things every day going to the South. In the South a lot of people down there used it. [If] it was dry snuff, they would inhale [it] through their nostrils. Wet snuff they would chew; and some of them walked around with ... big, heavy goiters or something on their jaws from having chewed this stuff for years. ... Anyway, it was during the Depression; and my grandfather had given a job [to] and trained a young man in New York who came to him. ... Everybody was out of work for awhile because my grandfather couldn't employ the whole family anymore. My father bumped into this fellow; and he said, "Gosh, my brother's looking for somebody down in Helmetta, New Jersey, an assistant." So, down we went; and he got the job and was there for years. Then he became later on chief engineer of the Nestle Company, making Nescafe coffee in Freehold. That's how we moved from Helmetta to Freehold.
KP: Your father had three distinct careers.
JH: Right, and, in addition to that, he had a fourth. When he was at Nestle, ... this may not have anything to do with the war, but it's interesting anyway. Every day they had ... a fellow in Freehold that formed a trucking company to cart away the wet coffee grounds because they would ... roast the coffee beans, process them in some way, maybe cut some, put them in this giant funnel, ... and they would have scalding water coming into this, and it would make a coffee syrup. ... When it ran out of the bottom of this funnel, they had hot air blasting in a big tube; and it flaked and became Nescafe. ... My father thought, "There must be a way to burn these ... grounds;" and he would work every Sunday afternoon for about a year on the drawing boards. He designed a Dutch oven; and, when he ordered parts for it, the company that was providing the parts ... became very interested. ... It got to be known around that he was doing a project they all were interested in. When the day came, they got this oven white hot. He had a worm-gear contraption along the ceiling bringing the wet grounds. They would, ... I forget what percent, something like thirty-five percent wet, in, on the worm-gear, [come] down a chute; and he could regulate the amount going into this ... furnace. They could turn the oil off and run the plant on their waste product. So, it created quite a stir in the industry. Everybody wanted him to come, but the company said they owned it because he worked for them, see? ...
KP: This was a side project.
JH: That was a sideline with him, yes. See, he was a natural engineer. He did not get a degree in college. He took some courses at Stevens and things like this; but ... you know, in those days you just didn't go [to college], ... but he made out anyway. [laughter]
KP: He seems to have been quite successful. Your father was laid off for awhile during the Depression, but, then ...
JH: ... Made a comeback, yes.
KP: How long was he out of work?
JH: Probably six months. ... Every morning he got up, showered, dressed, and went out looking for work. He wasn't just sitting around. ... That's how he ran into this gentleman who was so grateful to the family for teaching him what he had ... back in those days.
KP: His aggressiveness really paid off.
JH: Well, I guess, yes.
KP: It must have been very dispiriting for him.
JH: Oh, you know, the trouble with the Depression is everybody with talent, as well as people who don't care, are affected. So, ... he was fortunate that this is the way it worked out.
JJ: How did the Depression affect your family, besides your father being laid off?
JH: ... Well, you know, when it first happened, we lived, still, in Brooklyn, of course, because it was through this contact that we came down to New Jersey. When I was eleven I remember, oh, at the beginning of this thing, all of a sudden I realized that things were different, even in my young days. ... We would have dinner, and my mother and dad would divide a fairly decent-sized, hamburger-sized piece of round steak, fried or something, and I would get a whole one. I said to my mother, "Why? Don't you like this?" and they said, "Oh, we really eat more than you do at other times," or something. ... So, I know now that they were just being very, very careful, ... but, we all survived. I think, maybe, it made us more appreciative later on, I hope, anyway.
KP: Your father getting a job in Helmetta was a big move.
KP: I lived near there briefly, in Spotswood.
JH: Oh, did you?
KP: I know a little bit about the area.
JH: Oh, sure.
KP: I would imagine that moving from Brooklyn to Helmetta was a big change for you.
JH: Well, yes, ... coming from, you know, an urban situation; but Brooklyn in those days was a lot like Red Bank, and a little later became quite nice. We lived in Bay Ridge, and it was nice. They lost the house so I think that a lot of lessons were learned there. They would never get into anything that they knew they couldn't see through, you know; but ... it was nice to be out in the country. I palled around with fellows who played baseball; you didn't have diamonds to play on in Brooklyn, you know, and we just all had a good time. We played sandlot football and so forth growing up, swam in the creek, the Manalapan Creek, out at Jamesburg Lake. It was a whole different thing, but I felt as though it was good for me to get there. Of course, then I was encouraged in high school to go on with my education by the basketball coach and history teacher, who was a Rutgers grad and kept talking to me about Rutgers. At the time I thought, "Well, I don't know." All the fellows I knew who were going to go to college wanted to go away somewhere. When I came over to visit Rutgers, then I decided ... this was fine with me. I was encouraged to apply by Kenneth (Culture?), the principal of Jamesburg High School. Only one other student had gone to college from Jamesburg. It was a small town, and [you] have to remember ... I graduated in '41 ... [from] high school so ... a very small percentage of the population went to college. I think at one time it was one percent back in the early '30s; but he encouraged me, and ... I went back to Rutgers and told someone there that I had met a Luther Martin, who was head of admissions, I guess it was. ... He'd looked at me and said, "You look very young"; and I said, "Oh, well, that's good." I didn't know what else to say. He suggested [that] I go to Rutgers Preparatory School for a year and get seasoned up a little bit and [get] some age on me. I told him that I was going to go to college; and, if I didn't come here, I was going to go somewhere else. So, a friend of mine, two doors up, Gus Schuyler, who was a friend of my dad's, recommended Ursinus College to me because that's where he went. So, I went out there. I was accepted, and I had a room and key; but I still wanted to go to Rutgers, but ... I didn't hear from them. I was out in the backyard, cutting the grass one day; and a letter came, which was addressed to me. ... I opened it up, standing by the lawnmower; and I was accepted, admitted to the Class of 1945 in the curriculum of Business Administration. I said to my mother, "This is where I'm going to go." Dr. Clothier was president and highly regarded so it was a good experience, naturally.
KP: You said, "Good-bye," to your second choice, Ursinus College.
JH: ... I called up and wrote them a letter after I mailed the key back and thanked them very much for admitting me. They didn't give me any hard time at all; but I think Kenneth (Culture?) called up [Luther Martin] and said, "You know this man should go [to Rutgers], and I want you to take him; but, if you won't, he's already gotten accepted elsewhere." Then they kind of, reluctantly, let me in, I think, I don't know. As I look at my pictures in the yearbook and so forth, I did look like I was about fifteen instead of eighteen, you know. [laughter]
JJ: From the materials that you sent us I noticed that serving in the military was a tradition in your family. You mentioned that you had relatives who served in the American Revolution.
JH: Oh, yes.
JJ: It seems to me as though your family saw military service as its duty to the nation.
JH: Well, yes. In other words, I didn't wait to be drafted. I wanted the Navy because my family had been in there. My Great-Grandfather Churchill was a sea captain, and he had a clipper ship and was on the China Run. How in the world he got there, [I do not know]. He must have had to go down around the Horn, [Cape Horn], I guess. They didn't have the [Panama] Canal in those days; but ... I remember all the stories that he brought [back], and we also have some cloisonné vases that he picked up when he was there and bought. ... Yes, my family was in the military, Joseph Allen. ... Well, of course, there are two families here, my mother's, the Peckhams, and my dad's, the Hurlberts. During the Revolution, the Hurlberts decided [that] they weren't going to fight the king so they went to Nova Scotia and bought an apple farm and stayed there for a number of generations. ... My mother's family did get into the Revolutionary fracas. ... Sometimes, if I can't make up my mind immediately, I'll say, "Well, I come by this naturally. Half of my family fought the king and the other half decided not to." Yes, there is a history of military activity.
KP: You were an only child.
KP: What was it like to be an only child in an age when families were actually quite large?
JH: Yes, that's true. I don't know. My mother said I would give anything I owned away just to have a friend. I don't remember that except that I still find myself, if I go to dinner somewhere and a waitress is trying at all, always leaving her maybe three, four, five dollars? I'll always throw a couple of more in because so many of these women, who are doing this kind of work, usually are alone with two or three children at home and could use a little money. This is all they get. So, I just don't even say anything about it, just put another few dollars down. ... I never kind of really measure it with a slide rule or anything, I just throw it in; ... maybe my mother mistook that for buying friendship, but that isn't how it was. No, ... I think I had a rather normal childhood. I never let it get to me, anyway.
KP: In both elementary and high school you were fairly active in sports.
JH: Well, yes. ... Well, I was a runner at one time. ... I won a few hundred-yard dashes, and in grammar school and high school we didn't have a football team. I was light; I only weighed about 145 or 48 when I got into Rutgers, but I played a lot of football ... without equipment, you know. ... My dad came to a game one time. We played Spotswood; and they arrived with helmets and shoulder pads, and we got killed. I went up for a pass; and, when I came down, one guy hit me on the right and the other one on the left. Boy, I laid on the ground for a couple of minutes. ... I finally sprung up, you know, and my father whistled to me. He said, "Come here a minute." He said, "Get in the car." I said, "What do you mean? We've got a big game going on here." So he said, "Get in the car." I got in the car. He said, "Any time you ever get in a football game and they have equipment and you don't, I don't want you playing. Is that clear?" I said, "Yes." I said, "Can I go back?" "No." So, I didn't play anymore that day. Maybe it's a good thing, you know. [laughter]
JJ: You had a bit of your father's determinism, I should say.
JH: Yes, determination.
JJ: Determination. Sorry, I am taking philosophy courses now.
JH: That's all right.
KP: I believe Walter Denise was in the same situation you were. His father was also a Baptist, if I remember correctly, and his mother was a Christian Scientist.
JH: Well, this is how my family was.
KP: You shared a similar background.
JH: Yes, well, ... Walter and I went to Sunday School together. ...
KP: You have known Walter for a very long time.
JH: Oh, I've known him for sixty years, yes. ... He never talked about it much when he came home; and, gosh, I don't think I did either although compared to Walter my war experience was ... much more limited. However, in the Navy, he used to kid me about it, I always had a clean bed at night and so forth; and he was in the mud, you know, a lot ... behind the enemy lines almost every day. Let me tell you, I told Walter, "If you got hit with a shell in the right place you were going a mile down and you didn't have a place to crawl back to, to a medic, or anything." ... We joshed around about it. So, I was in on one invasion, but there were several highlights I thought I would sort of mention to you.
KP: Yes, just let me ...
JH: ... But, you're not there yet?
KP: Unless you really want to tell me now.
JH: No, no, no, that's fine.
KP: You graduated from high school in 1941. How much did you know about the world as a high school student?
JH: Oh, let me tell you; oh, first, you mentioned athletics. I'll finish one more thing. I was the ... number one player on the tennis team in Jamesburg High School so it's probably just as well that I didn't go out for football because I wasn't really built that way; but they had to catch me to hurt me 'cause I could run like the dickens, you know. ... Anyway, there was no money. They had a football field with the grandstands and so forth at Jamesburg; but they never could afford a team and all the equipment and so forth and the transportation. So, this is another effect of the Depression; but that school is now closed, and I think it's an office building or something like that.
KP: Yes, I have seen it.
JH: Yes. It still brings back a lot of fond memories because [of] the nice farm kids that I went [to school] with. [The] young ladies were really nice, and the fellows were regular guys; and we had a good time, but, anyhow, your question to me [was] about? ...
KP: How much did you know about the war when you were a freshman at Rutgers?
JH: Yes, I was about to say ... I was amazingly screened from it. In other words, when Germany attacked Poland, our family had taken a vacation trip to Canada. We stayed in some of the nice, famous places up there, like the Château Frontenac, and had dinner there. We're coming across the bridge into Canada just at the beginning of this thing when on the radio came the news that Britain had declared war on Germany. I had seen pictures of the German troops ... marching and their tanks and all. ... Only after that did I begin to get seriously involved in reading about it and thinking about it because you know in those days there were three thousand miles of ocean between us and anybody else, really, except ... South America and Canada. Of course, Canada was our friend so it was different. I wasn't brought up on anything that was always about the war or anything. I had a friend in Brooklyn by the name of Coop, and his dad was in the German Army in World War I. Once in awhile, they had a lovely home in Bay Ridge, ... I'd go over and sit on the porch and have strawberry ice cream with Bob and his dad and mother. I was sort of surprised when his dad on a couple of occasions mentioned how they mowed the Belgians down like hay; and I thought, "My God, what a subject. I would have to side with the Belgians." ... After the second time he told me I think I said something like, "Well, you know, ... they probably had fewer people than you did;" and he didn't ... like that at all.
KP: How old were you when you said this?
JH: Well, I must have been, ... let's see, I was probably ten or eleven; but he got to me, you know, and my father didn't like that at all so I didn't pal around with him too long, just awhile. ...
KP: Did you stay in touch with any of your Brooklyn friends after you moved?
JH: Yes. Well, my grandparents lived there so we were going there usually to one family one Sunday and another [on] another, and so forth. Then, there'd be times when they would come down, for Thanksgiving; and we had a big yard, and we'd all have fun out there. I kept in touch with [some friends]. I went back to the old neighborhood a couple of times, and the fellows could see a change in me and I in them. They sort of ... had more respect for me for some reason because I had already played a lot of football and so forth, and I could throw the darn ball, you know, up the street.
KP: You had had a lot of practice.
JH: I really had. ... I was accepted, but they were looking at me like, ... "This is the guy who used to play marbles with us, ... you know, on that dirt between the sidewalk and street." ... It was still a good neighborhood, I mean; but I don't know, it was different. I had gotten out in the country, had done more things, was more physically developed, and so forth; but ... there was one fellow I still deal with. His dad was chief engineer of the Board of Education in New York City, who lived across the street from us, Eugene Schou, ... a Norwegian family. God, I think I almost joined the Norwegian Club. I was down there a lot with them, to parties and Christmas parties. The Scandinavians are big with Christmas trees and things and Christmas cookies; boy, I ate those. ... Anyway, no, I had a great experience in Brooklyn, an even greater one in New Jersey; and, when we moved to Freehold, of course, I was already grown.
KP: Did you have a job when you were in high school?
JH: Yes, ... I did in the summers. I didn't have a job that conflicted during ... the school year, but I worked in the summers. ... Well, I started on the road gang; and, boy, if you don't think shoveling gravel and salt from the back of a truck builds up your arm muscles, it really does. I had never been a bruiser type at all, but ... I had muscles that I couldn't believe after I got through all summer of that. I'd wear a pair of shoes out about every two weeks so I had to buy some other things all the time. I hardly made anything on it, but I was too young to get a job with the paint gang. This is at the George W. Helme Company. They owned some of the houses in town down by the railroad station. They owned, oh, several blocks of houses. Every year the paint crew would paint about four or five of them and mix their own paints, and so ... I learned how to mix paint. They'd buy a fifty-gallon or maybe this was more like a five-gallon drum of white lead because you couldn't pick up a fifty-gallon one and take a paddle, a wooden paddle, and a dry can, and put so many lumps of this white lead in there, add turpentine, linseed oil, and dryer to a certain ... mix, and stir it. They made their own paints. They'd put burnt umber in for brown, and ... they could do anything; and I was with them learning. So, I did have a job with the paint gang the year after I did the roadwork. An old gentlemen, a watchman with white hair and a white sort of beard, came along one day in his plaid shirt and his baseball cap and said, "My God, ... have you shoveled out that ditch all the way from the plant to here?" It was probably ten o'clock in the morning. "Yes, Mr. (Messler?), I have." He said, "You keep that up, son," and I thought he was going to tell me I'd be President of the United States some day, "You'll be in your grave before you're twenty-five." So, he said, "Be careful what you give this company." ... He was a watchman; you know, and he was off duty, walking down for his mail or something. So, you remember some of these things. ...
KP: It sounds like Helmetta was a company town.
JH: Oh, it was. They owned the post office building, and everybody paid them rent. The storekeeper, general store, rented from them. (Polumbo's?) had a vegetable truck; the father and the boys had an ice cream parlor in the front of their little store. ... I would come home every day and get showered. Then, I would walk down and have an ice cream for about fifteen cents. So, I was making forty cents an hour the first year. In the second year I got seventy-five cents an hour. All the guys on the gang found this out, I don't know how, so they said, "Jeez, you know his old man is assistant chief engineer. No wonder he's getting almost as much as we are." You had all this and ... began to see that the world had its problems, too, you know.
KP: Your father because of his job was one of the higher-ups in town.
JH: He was one of the officials, yes. ... He had to join the fire company. It was like a requirement of the mill. I suppose it was [for] their protection, too; but he was just the age that he got in, ... but he never took a pension. He would have been entitled to it, but I think ... he was a few days over the age that you had to go; and he didn't want to ... write letters and everything. So, he just said, "I'm going to go in because they want me to." He had a good experience. ...
KP: Were there ever any strikes while you were living in Helmetta?
JH: No, none to my knowledge. No, it was a tight-run place; and families worked for generations there. The company gave them a house for twenty-one dollars a month. My mother and dad bought a home up on the other end of town, next to the school, a nice house. I went by there not long ago just to see what it was doing, and we had a circular drive[way] around the house, a nice, big lot. They, whoever it was, took the front lawn and made the circular drive a little shorter; and it looked like the dickens. So, I thought, "Well, I'm glad I'm not there anymore." [laughter]
KP: When you arrived at Rutgers, your class was the last class to enter in a "normal" world.
JH: That's true. ...
KP: What are your memories of your first semester at Rutgers?
JH: Okay, I came over from, you know, a country high school; and it was far different than I had thought. I think this is one advantage the prep school kids get ... [over] the regular high school students; I think they go from class to class instead of sitting in one class all day or moving to algebra from here or there; but, ... somehow, it was different. They went to different buildings and so forth, and we stayed in one building. ... At the middle of the first semester I was called into Olde Queens building to talk with, I don't remember his name. Of course, I didn't talk to the president; but he said to me, "Now, John, ... you have to lift your grade level."
KP: This sounds like Dean Metzger.
JH: It might have been, ... but I remembered him. So, I said, "Well, I want to tell you not to worry because I'm a slow starter, at times, on things; but I'm digesting it, and eventually I will have it digested, and it'll be all right," and it was. In fact, when I went to midshipmen's school at Northwestern, ... I was very grateful. I mean, some of these courses were a little tough, especially navigation; ... but, I gave it that much more, and I didn't have to take any of the final exams. ... All my grades were high enough so they exempted me from them. So, I had my commission in effect before the exam period. When I apply myself, that's about how it happened. Sometimes I would not miss a football game [to study], you know, or something like that. ...
KP: You enjoyed the football games. You enjoyed college life.
JH: I did, yes.
KP: In that brief period before Pearl Harbor you were still subject to freshman hazing.
JH: We did have some.
KP: Did you wear a dink?
JH: Yes, but after the first half of the first semester you could get away without it. Once in a great while they made ... you tell who you were, and what class you were in, and why weren't you wearing it, that dink. ... I hated the dumb thing, but I had an uncle who went to Brown; and his was still up in his closet when he passed on. I guess it was part of college life at that time.
JJ: Were you also hazed when you joined the fraternity?
JH: Oh, yes. [laughter] That's where I got most of it.
KP: When did you join the fraternity?
JH: Well, I've been trying to think [of] exactly what time it was; but, ... it was right away. It was in the fall of my sophomore year. I met Dave Kingston; ... I think you interviewed Dave. ...
JH: He was my roommate. The first year I commuted 'cause I had a Model A Ford that I bought for fifty dollars, when I was ... painting houses, from a lady who said to me she had a chauffeur with a big car in the garage. She also had this lovely little ... Model A Ford coupe. ... I said, "I heard your Ford is for sale. May I make an offer?" ... I said, "What are you asking for it?" She said, "What do you want to pay?" I said, "What are you asking?" She said, "I'm asking fifty dollars." So, I just didn't say a word, just whipped the fifty dollars out and handed it to her. She said, "Well, if I'd known you were going to give me cash, I might have charged you less." So, I didn't know what to say. I should have said, "Well, go ahead and charge me less and see how excited I get," but I didn't. [laughter] At any rate I was happy to have the car, and I took it home, and I sanded it. Of course, I had been painting, and I bought some black enamel, red lead; and I sanded every inch of that thing with emery cloth and brushed it off. It took me like two weeks to really get this thing done right, and ... I gave it red lead, two coats. I sanded the first [coat] down a bit, and then with a brush I put that enamel on; and it came out just like it came off the assembly line. I had yellow wheels, and my dad had a friend of his grind in new valves, and I could pass anything in that car. ... I got a couple of tickets in Staten Island, going to see my grandmother; but other than that I guess it was all right.
KP: You had a car on campus.
JH: Yes. That was my sophomore year.
KP: In your sophomore year?
JH: Well, I ... commuted with it the first year, but I didn't live here. Then, ... Dave and I had rented a house over on one of these streets back here, behind the gym, where the original football game was played, on one of those side streets, lovely room, nice people. ... His [David Kingston's] uncle wrote a letter to the ΔKE House, he was a ΔKE, and said [that] he would appreciate it if they could take a look at these two boys, Dave Kingston and Jack Hurlbert. ... So, we got invited, and I guess they call it "rushing"; and we were invited into that class. So, my golly, we had to leave this place because they had a room for us at the ... ΔKE House, which, incidentally, is going to come back again. The ΔKEs own it. They're renting it to the University now for various groups, but they're about to pay the mortgage off ... from the refurnishing they had to do after all that nonsense took place in there.
KP: It sounds as if you were upset by what happened to the ΔKEs.
JH: Yes, I was because we were ... the crew house and the football house. We had members of the crew and football teams in numbers, not just one guy here or there. ... It was the kind of house where, if you were struggling with physics or something, we had fellows come and spend the whole evening with you and just make it simple; and they really tried to do [good]. The fraternity life some people think of it as sort of a class distinction situation, not really. They want to choose their associates; but ... they will help you like mad to make it, and it shows, and everybody then gets that spirit.
KP: You were helped in that way, also.
JH: I was, I was, ... Dave and I both. This is sort of off the [subject]; you're going to go over this anyway; but we had a pre-theologian student, a theology student, Roy King. He came to our room a couple of evenings, Dave was also a Christian Scientist, and asked us some questions about, "What would we do in a situation like this?" ... When we gave him the answers that we had been taught in Sunday School, he liked them. ... So, one day ... they were rushing a fellow from Canada; and, when he found out that we had gone to the Christian Science Church, ... he began to sort of deride Christian Science and everything it stood for. We just didn't say anything, but Roy King spoke up and put him in his place. He was a little older than we, and later on, I'm told he did not become a minister. Somehow he just didn't want to do that anymore. I haven't seen him, and I tried to call him for our fiftieth reunion here last year, and all I got was a busy signal. ... I don't know whether there was something wrong with his telephone or if he was away or what; but ... that's just a little side issue.
KP: What do you remember about your hazing for the fraternity?
JH: Well ...
KP: Am I asking you to reveal any fraternity secrets?
JH: Oh, no, no. During the initiation ... I think it was very meaningful because they put you through a lot of anguish to get to a certain point; and, when you made it, you felt so relieved [that] you didn't care what it took to get there. The physical part of it, staying awake all night for a couple of nights and all this kind of nonsense, ... you know, that was small. I was ready to go in, and so was Dave. We just put up with all of it, but we had some very good fellows. ... I looked around just as I was beginning to feel [that] they were really heaping it on a bit, but not seriously. Nobody had to drink a gallon of anything or anything like that. In fact, every time you got thirsty, you could have a glass of water any time you wanted; but, ... it was a psychological thing, too. You had to produce, you know, and come up with the answer and have proved that you worked it out and so forth. So, it was educational. It wasn't destructive. It was just physically beating. I mean, ... they didn't beat you; you were beat from the exhaustion of being awake and going through all these different things; but, other than that, why, [it was fine].
KP: What kind of trials did they put you through?
JH: Oh, I'm trying to think. They would ask you questions; and, by the time you got there, it was difficult to think sometimes about what you wanted to do. You'd think of it later, [but they would say], "No, you had your chance." You thought, "Well, I failed;" but you got through anyhow. You know, this kind of stuff; but, I should have known that once you get that far they want you in. ... We all survived.
JJ: Did the hazing make you want to be a part of the house more?
JH: ... I was interested in becoming a full-fledged ΔKE ... from day one. We had some football players. I'd go down to their room, maybe once a week. I'd say, "Hi," or something; and they said, "You know ... we were down in this game, and we had to come back;" and I was congratulating them. We had some good boys. ... Oh, God, we must have had six or seven football players in there, George Ranieri, Lou Angelilli, ... good boys; and Jack Everett ... was our president. He's not going to have an opportunity to come and talk to you because he was killed on Normandy Beach. I've talked to people who were there and said that the Germans in a pillbox stood and waved a white flag. Jack went up to take them prisoners. As soon as he got within about fifty feet, they grabbed a machine gun and almost cut him in half. So, the boys decided [that] they weren't going to live either, not them. The Germans were going to die. So, they massacred them; but, it was, of course, too late for Jack. ... He was gone; but he was quite a "man on campus," ... well regarded. Yes, he's not going to be able to come and testify so I'm putting a plug in for him now.
KP: If there is anything else you would like to say about him or anyone else, please feel free to do so.
JH: Yes, he was a gentleman and a scholar and an athlete. He was on the crew.
KP: You were also on the crew team. One of my interns is currently on the women's crew team. Crew is pretty challenging. You have to be pretty disciplined.
JH: Oh, yes, you go from ... top shape to exhaustion in a mile and five-sixteenths. That's what they called "the Henley." ... It's a British measurement; and they row that on the Thames, I guess. We lost to Columbia; not by a lot, and ... we only had two races because they were just forming the 150-[pound] crew. I have a sweater with a black "R" on it and an oar that I kept. I put it on by mistake last week, and the sweater still went on; but I don't know if I could have buttoned it all the way. ... So, I salted that away and out of mothballs. I thought it was something else and pulled it out. I'd almost forgotten I had it. ... Chuck Logg was the coach. His son was an Olympian, I believe. Chuck was a great guy. After the Columbia race George Little, director of athletics, came down to the boathouse. He said, "Boys, that wasn't a race; it was a disgrace." We were all kind of withering and everything; but, you know, it was our first race. We had just had the coach. So, I noticed that the coach gave us time for the next three weeks, two or three weeks. He really put time in with us, and we began to smooth out; and we beat Princeton on Carnegie Lake in 1942. ... They were so confident that they were going to beat us because they always won everything, it seemed, that they wanted to know if we'd like to bet our shirts. So, we said, "Sure." We were a little bit cocky by this time 'cause the coach had given us hours of training. ... I piled as many guys as I could on my Model A Ford every afternoon, and we'd leave from College Avenue and go down. There was a big Irish cop down near the station. About twelve guys would be on my little car that held two people. It didn't have a rumble seat, just a trunk. Guys were in the trunk. They would close the trunk lid down, and four guys would hop off each running board. Then we'd get past the cop, and back on the car they'd get. [laughter] ... We had a good experience; and by the time we got back to the ΔKE House for supper we were ready to eat, but, we won. ...
----------------------------------------END OF TAPE ONE, SIDE ONE----------------------------------------
JH: ... It was a weekend. I guess it was a Sunday, wasn't it? Yes, December 7, 1941; so I was at the dining room table typing, and my dad had returned from taking the dog out for a walk. He said, "I just met Allen (Trudenick?)," he was one of the assistant plant managers, a Princeton boy, "who told me that the Japanese have just attacked Pearl Harbor." Well, that made quite an impression upon me. I went to the general store the next day, and everybody's talking about people with slanted eyes don't have the vision that we have, and ... you know how these farmers all get together and talk. All of a sudden, of course, Franklin Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on them, "A day ... that will live in infamy forever." At that moment I heard my folks talk about that I was at the prime age for a thing like this; but, yes, I think everybody remembers where he was when Kennedy was shot. This is where I was when the war [began], when we got bombed.
KP: Did you want to enlist right after Pearl Harbor?
JH: Well, ... I kind of wanted to because some of the fellows I knew, [who] had not gone to college enlisted. This was a different country in those days. People weren't running to Canada to get out of this thing. They were ... going in; ... but a number of them had stuff that they had started ... like new jobs and so forth, and they thought, "Well, I want to go, but I don't want to lose this job forever. Maybe when I go, ... if I show them I can do this, they'll take me back after the war." ... They all had personal things to think about, but ... it wasn't an era where ... nobody wanted to go. They wanted to go, the majority of people.
JJ: You wanted to get in more time at college.
JA: Well, I did. ... I think about it often. ... I didn't comprehend the seriousness of this stupid thing because Hitler marched his troops into Poland and Britain told him that if he did they would fight. I don't know whether Poland appreciated Britain coming into the war because maybe by that time they were decimated anyway. Nonetheless, they kept their word and were in; and that's the first real block that Hitler had gotten. Everybody else just let him walk through them. ... The war was there; it was always there in an increasingly growing type of situation. ... We have an old farm in the family up in Petersburg, New York, just across from Bennington, Vermont, and Williamstown, where Williams College is, Williamstown, Mass. ...
JJ: I have been there. It is a nice place.
JH: Williams College, yes, nice place. We'd go over every evening for dinner somewhere there and the theater. ... They have a summer theater. At any rate, I sort of lost my train of thought on the Williams thing; but ... I will say that by the time I enlisted I was fully aware that we were really in a deep, deep situation.
KP: Did you initially think that you might finish out your college education?
JH: No. ... I never thought about graduating or anything. I just thought, "Well, this is it." ...
KP: Did you enlist in February of 1942 or 1943?
JH: 3, right, and we went to New York, ... Dave and I. We talked about it. The guys in the house, some of them said we were crazy, particularly my friends from Helmetta, whom I grew up with. "Jack, you're making a mistake. You know you're going to be right in." They said, "Why don't you wait and, when they take you, you'll go?" I said, "No, I want to get in the Navy." I was in the ROTC, and I probably would have been a second lieutenant in the infantry. ... The Navy, it's funny, we enlisted; and we took some little quiz or something up on Pine Street, New York, and they seemed very good about it. However, they asked us if we would be interested, I guess we got, "Two and two is four," right a couple of times, ... in officer training school; and we decided, ... we looked at each other, that would be fine, but I failed the eye exam. I haven't admitted this very often, but I wore glasses. Once you start to wear them and you're studying late every night, you finally lean on them a little bit. I took them off that day and just went to New York; and, jeez, I mean, my left eye was fine. That was like twenty feet, and it was clear. My right eye, I had to walk up to thirteen, I think, or twelve, to see it just right. So, I said, "Well, gentlemen, I'm going to get in the Navy so I'll be back." ... They said, "When are you coming?" and I said, "This afternoon, after lunch. I don't want to miss lunch, anyway." So, I went out and sat in the park, and I don't mean to make this sound religious; but I called a Christian Science practitioner and said, "Mr. DuBois, this is Jack. I'm trying to get in the Navy, and I just didn't make it with the eye test." "Well, now, Jack," he said, "I can't will you into the Navy"; but he said, "How far can you see?" and I said, "Well," I started to tell him thirteen feet with that eye. He said, "Can you see ... some of the stars and so forth?" I said, "Yes." "Well," he said, "good heavens, how much further do you want to see?" ... It just gave me sort of a new slant on things. I went in the park; and I had lunch, a hot dog or something; and I sat there on a bench for a little while. I went back, and I just made it. I think it was at 20/15 or something. He said, "Well, you're in." I said, "Fine." I didn't have time to memorize it or anything. ... That was a nice day, and I went home and told my folks ... I had enlisted. My dad was proud, and my mother cried a bit; but they got over that. That was all right.
JJ: Did you choose the Navy because of ...
JH: ... From the family, yes, and my dad was in it.
JJ: You mentioned also that your great-grandfather was a clipper ship captain.
JH: Yes. ... They were sea people, seafaring people, yes.
JJ: Were there any other reasons? Some people say they joined the Navy because they would have clean sheets, fresh food, and so forth.
JH: No. Well, that was debatable because, let me tell you, when you were ... on a tour of duty on the water in those days you ran out of fresh vegetables on about the sixth day and you're into canned stuff. You had green scrambled eggs for breakfast, with powdered milk and water that they made from seawater. You know it all sounds glamorous, but each thing had its own drawbacks.
JJ: Can you tell us about boot camp?
JH: Well, what happened was, ... when we enlisted, we were told to go back to school since we were going to go into this other program; and I couldn't believe this. I said, "Well, I thought we would be going into the Navy like next week." "No," he said, "if you're going to go in the officer training program;" before you got a commission you had to be twenty-one, ... and you had to have three years of college. ... We were in our sophomore year, just ending it, ... well, midway through our sophomore year. So, they sent us to Colgate. We were issued uniforms, but we didn't put them on until we got to Colgate. Then we were in the V-12 program, and our training started. Every morning at five-thirty we're up. Every night the lights went out at ten, with bugle calls. We paraded and so forth. So, our ... basic training was at a university instead of a boot camp; and then ... I went to Northwestern. Dave had gone to Plattsburgh. Another friend of mine went to Columbia. They had several schools, midshipmen's schools; but they never sent two fellows who were together much to the same school. For some reason they broke us up; but I always felt that I went to a really nice one. I mean, Northwestern is a class act out there; and we were on Lake Michigan. They had a downtown campus and a swimming pool on the roof of one of the buildings, Tower Hall, and it was a good experience but work; you worked.
KP: How long were you stationed at Colgate?
JH: I think we did it, talk about ninety-day wonders, ... it was like mid-year, we had our third year and took our tests and everything because it was all business; I mean none of the "rah-rah" stuff and just really working in the library evenings. ... I didn't want to work in the house. Somehow there was always some darn distraction, and this time I was really working. So, we did get through. ... We had three years of college. We were twenty. They figured that by the time I got out of midshipmen's school I'd be twenty-one, and it all worked out that way.
JJ: When you graduated from Colgate, midshipmen's school, were you immediately assigned to the USSKershaw?
JH: No. ... Oh, you mean out of midshipmen's school? Yes, what happened here [was], I was notified that I was to report at Northwestern University on a certain date. However, I had to wait three weeks for the graduating class in there to come out, ... you know, to have room. So, they sent me to Asbury Park; and I don't know whether you've ever been there. I'm sure you have. ... The big, old, brick hotel on the north end, I can't think of it, the British had occupied it. The British Navy had personnel there for a ... large part of the war, and they used to whitewash their hats instead of washing them. I don't know how they ever did that because it would have ruined your forehead, all that tough stuff; but they did. They had a bucket of whitewash and a brush in the men's room, near the toilet. I mopped the whole marble entrance foyer of that hotel, with two other guys, more than once; and I don't know what the reason was, but they thought they were passing it along to everyone else. Somehow the guys would put that on your door; I guess, but, ... when you caught on to what was going on, ... you said, "Hey, it's your turn, fellow." They would march us up the boardwalk to a swimming pool, ... and it must have been eighteen degrees on the boardwalk, and [there was a] stiff wind and snow around. ... We'd go in, and put bathing shorts on, and go in the pool for half an hour. It was a heated pool, thank God; but we'd come out and march back to ... lunch or something. It's just something to pass the time; but I was grateful to get on the train and head for Chicago when it was my time.
KP: What was the most difficult part of your training? You went through three different phases of Navy training. In the V-12 program at Colgate, you took regular courses and ...
JH: ... Yes, Navy courses.
KP: What course work did you complete at Colgate?
JH: Well, at Colgate I just took college courses; but we learned to march, to drill, and to parade; and they made us [exercise]. You either played soccer every day, which I didn't care about, or you had to run around the track. If you started walking, the whistle would blow; and one of the coaches would say, "You're supposed to run." So, you know, you'd jog. I would jog two miles while they were playing soccer. I got in the game a few times; but, somehow, soccer was not my game, but, ... it was mostly physical development. ... We were in the gymnasium one day, and they wanted to know who played basketball and where. Dave stepped forward; and I said, "What are you doing?" He said, "Come with me." So, we get out there; he said, "Where did you go to school?" I said, "Rutgers." "Oh," he said. ... He threw the ball over, [laughter] and, fortunately, I threw one; and it went through the hoop. From then on I was on ... the coach's team, but I was embarrassed. [laughter] ... I was really not good, but there was one thing I could do from my crew experience. ... You had to lie on your back, put your hands behind your head, let your knees stay out straight, then come up and touch your left knee with your right elbow, go all the way back, and come up. I was ... in my 180th or so of these in a row, and there was a young fellow watching me who was, you know, a Navy personnel. He ran over to the Chief; and the Chief came over and said, "Stop this man. How many have you done?" and I said, like, "193." "You stop at 209. That's what the Navy book says, 'No more than 209.'" I did the 209, and from then on. ... everybody kind of knew who I was, I don't know, but it was the crew. I mean my stomach was tight, good and hard, from rowing; but ... the Navy courses were minimal there. In midshipmen's school we had ordnance, navigation, and so forth, seamanship.
KP: At Northwestern, what were your easiest and most difficult courses?
JH: ... Well, the hardest course for me was navigation. So, I studied the most in it; and it began to make sense after awhile, dead reckoning and the whole thing. I later became a navigator on my second ship so I guess the training didn't hurt me. It's like [the fact that] Winston Churchill failed English twice, and he became a good writer. Seamanship I enjoyed. I knew that when we went into training at Coronado Beach, California, I could handle ... any boat that we put on our ship, and could back it down, and make it go forward, and stop it, and turn it; and I made sure I could do that. We always had a crew, ... and the coxswain always thought that this was his job; but, ... in case something happened to that boy, I wanted to get us off the beach again. So, I did that.
JJ: Always thinking ahead.
JH: Yes, a little.
JJ: After you graduated from midshipmen's school you were assigned to the Kershaw?
JH: Yes, what happened was, ... oh, you would have thought this was, like, a privilege. They sent this big notice around, describing the various vessels in the Navy and asking what we wanted to be on?
KP: What type of ship did you want to serve on?
JH: I wanted to be ... on a cruiser because I felt that a battlewagon was like a floating city and I didn't think much about an aircraft carrier. I didn't want to fly at the time. I mean, I just wanted to be on the water. ...
KP: You did not want to be on a destroyer.
JH: No. A destroyer is right down under half the waves and over the other half. Their decks are awash, but I would have taken it. My father-in-law was ... on a destroyer.
KP: You did not get your choice?
JH: Well, the whole class, ... we took a whole afternoon trying to figure out what we wanted to do. We each gave them first, second, and third choices; and we sent them in. They made an announcement the next day, "We've reviewed all of your responses, and we're happy to say that the entire class is going into the Amphibious Corps so [it is] small boat training for you at Coronado Beach, California." So, that's where we all went.
KP: Other veterans have told me that the Navy was very rigid. For new officers, particularly, they wanted to teach you properly.
KP: Could you reflect on that, some of the Navy's customs and traditions?
JH: Oh, yes. ... This is skipping ahead just a little, but we were loading a Marine battalion onboard for Iwo Jima; and I might get some of these mixed up, ... but, all my ... active participation in the war was during the time I was an ensign on my first ship. No, I guess ... this was when we were loading for Okinawa; and we also were loading for [Iwo Jima]. Our unit went to Iwo Jima, and we were supposed to go right along with them; but we developed boiler trouble.
KP: You were supposed to be at Iwo Jima?
JH: Yes, and, you know, this is something from ... graduating from midshipmen's school in July of ... '44 and then being right over there in the thick of it. They needed some fresh blood, I think, and a lot of it. ... So, we were ... tapped to go; and I didn't know where we were going. Nobody ... at my level knew where we were going; but, when we developed boiler trouble, you never saw [such a thing]. It'd be like a well-trained, well-oiled football team standing there with tears in their eyes as the whole darn fleet pulled out. I know they got the thing going in about an hour-and-a-half, and ... you didn't put your radio on in those days much. You used light. ... I had a free period in midshipmen's school, and I sat in on a class ... where the Morse code was going on; and I learned a lot about it. I could read the lights myself. So, we sent a light over and told them, "We're fixed. May we go?" They said, "No, wait for further orders," because we had not only our five hundred ship's company onboard, but we had five hundred Marines onboard. That was for the first mission.
KP: There was a story there about Navy customs.
JH: Oh, yes, well, ... that is kind of funny. Yes, we were in port; we hadn't gone over yet. We were entertaining the Captain. He was a pretty wealthy man in his own right. I mean, you sort of got that from people who knew him better. His ambition was to save I don't know how many million, not just make it, save it, you know, and that kind of drifts down, that kind of talk. ... So, he entertained some pretty social-looking folks. I mean, they'd come onboard. ... The boatswains were weaving new fenders, which are ... made out of rope. They probably are seven inches in diameter and hang over the side of a boat so when the water pushes it against the ship it doesn't rub and take the paint off or it doesn't hurt it. The Captain's gig, especially, [laughter] has a number of fenders on either side so that his boat always looks great. I had to take this party that came because I had the watch. All this stuff happened when I had the watch, it seemed. ... They came aboard, and it was my duty to get them back toward ... the Captain's cabin and the bridge. I had to take them on a different route because, my God, the deck was covered with ropes and everything. ... The long fenders were on the starboard side so I took them over to the port side. As we're going, we had to duck under the short fenders. ... There was a huge blower coming up out of the galley, and all their hats blew off. We had these greased lines on the (well and?) davits to lower the boats over with. Here I am picking up their hats before they got grease on them. I was so glad to deliver these people to the Captain's cabin. I didn't know what to do [laughter] ... As I started to say, we were loading on the Fourth Marine Light Artillery Battalion in preparation to go to Okinawa; and it was a foul day. I mean, the sea was just running fast. Our anchor chains were being put to the test; and still this went on. ... They threw a rope ladder over; and these boats are going up, maybe, six feet and down ten, or down four and up six; and these Marines all were not like John Wayne. Some of these guys were like four-foot nine or something, ... but, tough, tough guys. ... So they would jump over with full packs and everything and go up that soaking wet [rope net] and the wind was lashing. ... Once in awhile I'd see one guy struggling so I'd say, "Get back in the boat." He'd say, "Thank you," or something; and I told the coxswain, "Bring him around," and he'd come up the ladder. Well, the Executive Officer was all spit-and-polish and books so he looked down at me and said "Hurlbert, ... that gangway is for officers and officers only. Keep it that way." I said, "Aye, aye, sir." "You bastard." [laughter]
KP: The Marines literally had to climb up the ladder.
JH: Oh, yes, they had to go up that line. So, all of a sudden, I'm looking out in this squall; and this boat is disappearing and coming up out of it again heading for the ladder. So, I thought, "Oh, Jesus." I leaned down and whistled and said, "Hey, Mac." This fellow looked up at me, and he was covered with a cape. I said, "Up the rope ladder," and it was the Marine general. [laughter] He had a star right in the middle of his helmet, but I didn't see it until he slid the cape off in the boat and jumped on to the ladder and came up. This was John Wayne, I'm going to tell you. This guy was a big, rugged guy.
KP: You did not know that he was a general?
JH: No. Isn't that awful? I didn't go to apologize or anything, of course. He spent his time with the Captain, I guess; but he wanted to know, ... "Where are my men, son?" I said, "Up forward." ... I ran over to apologize. He said, "Forget it, son." Just like John Wayne [he] hit me in the middle of the back, between my shoulders; and I slid about three feet on the wet deck. He said, "Where are my men?" I said, "Forward, sir." ... You know, he wouldn't make anything out of it. I mean, he was a regular guy. ... Some guys would still be talking about it.
JJ: This was on the way to Okinawa?
JH: This was on the way to Okinawa. ...
JJ: I believe that may have been General (Van Dreo?). I looked it up in the book. Your ship was not listed for the invasion of Okinawa; but they did mention that General (Van Dreo?) was on a train of fifteen, I believe it was ...
JH: Yes. ...
JJ: ... APAs and APDs. I believe that was your convoy because it noted that a plane, which you mentioned as well, attacked the lead ship.
JH: Oh, was he on that? Was he on that one?
JJ: I believe so.
JH: Well, we had ... a commodore onboard; and somebody described him to me after the war as a captain that really wasn't going to go much further but to give him some credit for the good work he'd done up to this point. [The reason] could have been physical, or age, or something, why they made him [a commodore]. I mean, if he was really a nut, they would have retired him; but it was like an honorary degree or something of that nature to just have it. So, he was a commodore; and because of that we got to be the lead ship on many of the convoy lines; whether that's a dubious honor, [I do not know]. I mean, that's the one that gets hit, usually. ... Has Tom Blanchet been [here] to talk about this with you?
JH: Class of '36 or so, [Class of 1938]. He was a football player.
KP: No, he has not been interviewed yet.
JH: One hell of a man. I mean he's got a big company down in Freehold. ... He fought [on] Okinawa from tombstone to tombstone.
KP: I have a feeling that we may have interviewed him. You are about the two hundred and fiftieth interview that I have done so I have forgotten some of the names.
JH: Oh, yes, sure.
KP: Some names I recognize.
JH: You've gotten that many so far? Boy, that's wonderful. ...
KP: I want to discuss your experiences at Coronado and what you learned there. I read a clipping in the University Archives that said that you were involved in diesel engine operations.
JH: Oh, did it say that? How did they ever get that? They even have that on file?
JH: Well, it was a newspaper item for some reason. Okay, you want to know how that happened?
JH: ... We had to know a lot about the boats. Not only did we have to know how to run them but how they would perform. They made us kind of dig into the engine part of it, and I never was [mechanically inclined]; my dad would have been able to take the whole engine apart and put it together again. I could screw a screw in the wall, and so forth, and maybe I could tune up my little Ford a little bit, you know, adjust something so it ... idled faster or slower; but I was not an engineer. ... It was good to know because I think there ... were about four or five basic things that if we [were] stranded somewhere we could sort of dry this out or flood this or whatever to get going again. Those were the things they were showing us; and we were practicing when, all of a sudden, somebody came in ... I guess it was [that] the Navy had gotten this newspaper gentleman to come and take some pictures. He asked me where I lived and which papers I read. I told them the Daily Home News, I believe it was. I'm not sure, at that time, whether it was or not. My folks began hearing that some of the neighbors saw Jack Hurlbert's picture ... or an article about Jack was in ... the paper. ... So, they looked back through and saw it. Then I think some of the neighbors felt ... there was a little, maybe just a slight, tinge of jealousy that I was somehow written about. I told my father and mother, "Forget it. ... If the engine in the boat that I'm in goes, I think I'm going." [laughter] I said, "I don't know that I could ever fix it. Why did they do that?" ... It seemed to me as though whoever happened to just be ... over an engine at that moment when this fellow came in to take pictures [got in the story]. I was there with a couple of other people.
KP: Your training was not centered on diesel engines?
JH: No, no.
KP: We should not trust everything we read in the paper.
JJ: You were the de facto expert because you were standing there.
JH: I think the Navy did this, yes, just to show people back home that ... they were training people, but that was not my forte. ...
KP: However, you did do some work with the diesel engines. What did you learn?
JH: Well, I want to tell you this; when I first got out there and realized we were going to have diesel engines there were two kinds: the Chrysler engine and the Gray Marine diesel. I thought, "Gray Marine, I never heard of them." So I always made sure I had a Chrysler engine in my boat because I wanted to come home again, ... but we practically lived in those darn boats. I mean, I could keep telling you stories here; but I think I'd better let you ask questions. ...
KP: How long were you stationed in California?
JH: Oh, several months.
KP: What was the daily training like?
JH: Well, up early and, you know, jogging a bit. ... We had a little free time. I made one huge mistake. I put a bathing suit on and went down to the beach, and I think the Alaskan current follows the California coast right down to Tijuana, Mexico, where Mexico starts to go eastward. Then, ... all around there is all greenish, warm water; and it's beautiful. Out where we were, oh, the California coast is gray ice water; and I dove in headfirst, and I dove out headfirst. [laughter] I want to tell you, boy, that must've been forty degrees, the water; and it was like eighty-eight outside. That was bad. I didn't do that again. I got my feet wet a couple of times but never dove in.
JJ: What exactly were your duties on the ship? During the Battle of Okinawa, for example, you operated a .40 mm gun.
JH: Well, ... I had the gun tub. ... I wasn't the gunner. Yes, I was just going to say, if I may, ... well, let me answer that then I want to tell you one more thing about Coronado.
KP: Sure. I have gotten the impression from other interviewees who were Navy officers that, being on an amphibious ship, you really had to be a jack-of-all-trades. It is not like serving on a big ship where you have a specialty.
JH: No, no. You do it all and ... you can't forget things. You've got to be able to take some food with you when you get out there, too, and ... water. One night, the men came to my cabin ... We had like staterooms, the officers had ... four bunks in a stateroom; and they tapped on the steel wall. I said, "Hello," and went out. It was one of my men; and I said, "Are you all right?" He said, "Yes, we want to show you something. Can you come?" I threw a jacket on and went out; and, my God, they took all of our fresh water out of one of the boats because they used to load our ship with supplies, with the boats ... If they had to use them to get in with they would siphon off fruit and fruit juices and everything. They had poured the oak barrel [of] fresh water out and put yeast and fruit juice in one of these, like five-gallon drums of water. They said, "You know, we enjoy working with you, Mr. Hurlbert; and we want you to have one of the first drinks." I said, "Well, ... I'm honored, I really am, fellows; but the last thing I'm ever going to do is do something the Navy has told me not to do as an officer"; but I said, "As far as I'm concerned, I don't know what you are talking about. You haven't showed me anything." So I got out of there. ... At breakfast the next morning the ship's doctor was a full ... commander, and he had scrambled eggs on his cap. He was a pretty high-ranking boy. He said, "Mr. Hurlbert!" I said, "Yes, sir!" He said, "One of your men crawled into my operating room ... last night about 3:00 AM sick as a dog. ... He threw up liquor all over. ... Did you know that he had liquor?" I said, "Well, I don't think so. ... I never saw it." I knew they would bring bottles over. It depended who the officer of the watch was. They would bring a bottle in on their hip, sort of, sometimes, not much; but ... I was there with another fellow one night, and you could hear them splash in the water. They just kept throwing them away. They weren't going to bring them in; but I wasn't that lenient, but I just wasn't bookish, I guess, about, not everything, but I was about most ... things.
KP: What were you bookish about? It was clear that you would not drink with the men, but it seems as though you did not stop them from drinking occasionally.
JH: ... You know, I thought to myself, "Here, these guys could be dead tomorrow," so I looked the other way at some of those seemingly harmless things; but ... I told them never to show up on watch if they were ... even sampling anything. I said, "Because the lives of every shipmate are in your hands when you're up there." So they got the seriousness. I had an unfortunate experience with my men. We only lost one man onboard the whole ship. His name was (Pratt?). He was from up around Boston somewhere, a nice young man; and I was shocked because ... we were on a train, I guess it was in New York; we were all going out. He was there and his family; he had his girlfriend, his sister, and his mother and father; and they said, "We're so pleased he's going with you. We've met you, and we know that you will do your best." I said, "Oh, yes. We all have to do our best." We had been given a list of things not to do if we ever got on an island. ... Saipan Island, there were Japanese still living in the mountains of, where was it that we took off from to bomb Japan all the time? Tinian and Saipan. They were adjacent. One followed the other in a coral reef type of thing, and Saipan was a large place. ... We all went on leave, and it was just a treat to go sit in the officers' club, which was nothing more than you would find, ... like, at Farrington Lake, where ... Rutgers has a cabin over there or something. ... Everybody would have a beer; I had my Coke and peanuts. We lived on peanuts. Then ... I took a walk up a road. I had heard there was a place where they sold different foods and so forth; ... but you should see the place. The meat was out on trays, about this wide of a table; and the trays would come up to like an A-frame type thing. On there would be all the beef and everything else with flies all over it. If you wanted to see a piece, you would shake it to get the flies off. I thought, "Oh, my God." A terrible storm blew up. The storms there in the Philippines on Leyte Gulf were very severe. I mean, ... you'd be walking in six inches of water on a coral road; and the sun would come out twenty minutes later. A half-hour later, it was just hotter than [the] dickens, you know. I heard an explosion and wondered what it was. When I got back down, having seen this market, I was informed that Pratt had been killed; and I said, "How?" I thought maybe one of the Japanese had come down and shot him or something, ... 'cause they kept capturing them, and they always had fresh haircuts; but they didn't have a big operation to kill them off. They'd just let them figure it out. ... They said [that] he and a fellow from a destroyer ... took a five-inch shell and were banging it against the wall of ... this bunker that the Japanese had a couple of .40 mm type guns there to resist an invasion. They were breaking it so [that] they could take the brass shell case home as an ashtray; and they kept saying, "Come on, there's a couple of shells here. You can get an ashtray out of this or something." ... I had read so many safety measures about [this]. ... The thing that saved me was every time I read it every morning, I put the date down. ... I'd read it by flashlight. ... We had a nest of boats there; I had three of them. They would all sign that they heard just exactly what I read.
KP: You would read the safety measures to your men.
JH: Every day. ... I must have done this twelve times, and they would all sign it. It finally got so they were just kind of, "Yeah, yeah"; but then one of them picked up a shell.
JJ: It seems like common sense not to play with shells.
JH: ... You know it's sad to kill yourself when the enemy is trying to do it to you, too; ... but, I was really broken up. I had to write a letter to the parents. ... I just said he was ... in the line of duty and, unfortunately, was killed by a shell. I didn't tell them that he did it to himself, no.
KP: You were in command of a group within the crew.
JH: We had a group onboard ship. ...
KP: When you were out in the boats, you were independent; but, when you were on the ship, you were part of the larger crew.
JH: ... Larger thing, and we had other assignments onboard ship.
KP: How many men were in your group?
JH: Okay, well, we had twenty-six boats; and I knew, at one time, exactly how many there were.
KP: You were responsible for all twenty-six boats.
JH: ... No. I had assigned to me the care and servicing of three. They were called LCVPs, Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel. You could get a jeep on one, and it would run down the ramp; but, when you did that, you couldn't drop the jeep off in six feet of water. You had to get them on the sand, pretty much. ... One of the things in this movie that we saw here recently about the Normandy invasion [Saving Private Ryan] showed that they dumped these guys off ... in six feet of water; and some of them drowned, which was unfortunate; but the Germans had built these blocks of things that you couldn't get all the way in. If they did, they would have trouble getting out; and the coxswains just weren't going in, and that was wrong. ... When I was out in any kind of situation, those three boats were mine; and I knew where they were. I usually kept one on each side of me except going into Okinawa. ... Because we were a flagship ... we had a gentleman onboard who was a flag officer; and the boat group commander was a commander (Abner Rosenfeld?) from Chicago. I think he was in the clothing business or something; but he was a good administrator, I want to tell you. ... He told me, "Tomorrow ... I want you to take the third wave in, Jack." ... I said, "Okay"; but it was not our mission to land. I didn't know that until the next morning. ...
-----------------------------------------END OF TAPE ONE, SIDE TWO--------------------------------------
KP: This continues an interview with John A. Hurlbert on October 28, 1998, at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, with Kurt Piehler and ...
JJ: Justin James.
KP: Could you tell me a little bit about the men in your crew, those who reported to you? It seems as though you got to know them fairly well.
JH: Oh, yes. I had the crews of the ... three boats. It would only be about, maybe, twelve men; ... but, of course, I had other duties. I would stand CIC [Combat Information Center] watches ... up in the bridge, above it in the flying bridge at times. So, ... it was sort of a dual situation; and, when I was there, then I was basically for a little while in charge of the "N" division, the navigation division, ... with all its men, ... but, that came a little later. ... Each boat had a coxswain, a deckhand, a motor machinist's mate, and at times maybe a second deckhand. You always had a couple of reserve people in case somebody was ill. You had to take it in anyway, and so that's what it was; but we couldn't clutter up the thing. It only held thirty-six troops. ... If we had too many guys up in the front, ... it would've kept them from going in; but ... they were good men. ... One of them came to me when I was navigator of my second ship; and he was a hardened, full-time sailor, looked a little bit like Popeye, you know, [laughter] crew cut; and he asked me if he would be able to work with me and learn a little bit more about navigation. I said, "Of course, but I've got to tell you something. You've got to get up with me at four-thirty in the morning and meet me up here 'cause we have to shoot the stars when we can bring them down onto the horizon; and we've got to see the horizon and the stars, and you only get about fifteen minutes for that. So, as we steam along time changes and so does our latitude and longitude. So, I'm up at four-thirty every morning, out there, waiting for the correct time; and any time you want to join me, I'll show you just what I'm doing." So, he was delighted; and, boy, every time I said to him, "This deck really is getting kind of bad," he'd have six guys out there right after breakfast, chipping and sanding and painting, ... I mean, in exchange for my cooperation with him. That became the best division on the ship, you know, and it was fun; but everybody had a job and knew what to do. I think we've gotten into some of the battles. I just want to mention that in order to get passed by the Navy to go overseas we had to take ... a test, and several very important individuals came to see how we would handle an invasion. We were on the northern California coast on a day when the wind was whipping, and it was sort of a squall day, like the one where that officer came over the side, the general. I don't know about [the] California coast; ... I was standing on the stern of the boat, which was this high from the sea; and, you know, add six, that's nine feet, and I'm looking up at five-feet above my head, yet, wind coming, pulling the water, and the waves. ... The secret is you had to go into the beach perpendicular. You had to go right in on it straight. If you got turned sideways, your boat would broach; and it'd sink. I selected my coxswain. I got a nice crew to come in with me so [that] we could make it in and back; and we got hit with an unusually heavy wave, ... and the rudder turned; and it took the wheel right out of the coxswain's hands. He's trying to get it back, and a second wave came in and flooded us; and we were standing around in like a foot of water. By this time we began to slide sideways to the beach, and the third wave took two-thirds of the space left in the boat. I told everybody to get on the stern with me and to jump off because I didn't want them between the beach and the boat to get rolled on and killed. So, we all went off the stern; and, ... as I'm there on the back of the stern, ... they're diving off, jumping off, along comes this kid, the radiomen went in with us, and he had this forty-pound radio in a canvas zipper bag. I said, "Hey, I don't want you to drown over this radio." "Mr. Hurlbert, we'll both be there in a few minutes," he said. Off he goes with the radio; and, sure as shooting, he was there when I got there. We had to swim in.
JJ: How did he swim in with a forty-pound radio on his back? Did the radio work when you got in?
JH: He did. It worked, yes; and I guess it was oiled or something, you know, the cloth, the cover. What happened was ... we were the complete ship. ... We had onboard what they called a beach party, but it was more or less like the frogmen you hear about. These guys would go in before an invasion; and somehow they'd get in there in the dark, and they'd be there when you hit the place. They'd have signs up, "Kilroy was here." They'd have, you know, "This way to Tokyo," or something just so you'd know that there were Americans around. They were hiding in bushes and under cliffs and anything. So, I knew they'd be around; and the commander of that group was Lieutenant Kluge, ... and he was one heck of a guy. He ... [was] a redheaded German, a good guy. ... When my boat sank, I looked around for them; and I saw them running across the beach with all their kits and their flippers on and everything, and they dove in. I said, "Please go down and tie that, get lines around the cleats on both sides will you so that it doesn't go out with the tide." Boy, they were in the water; they got that tied up. They had huge, like, crowbars that they drove into the sand, way up on the beach; and that boat wasn't going anywhere. So, we saved the boat, right; ... but I made the men stay around that boat with me even though it was cold and they were wet. We started to walk along the beach, and the medics wanted somebody to practice on. So, they ... said, "If you guys will lay down, we'll give you liquor." So, jeez, my whole crew laid down, all the guys from all the boats. I was really ticked off about it; but I said, "Well, go ahead." I mean, they'd been through a lot, you know. So I walked down the beach, and there was an LCVP. Now, they could carry a tank; and we had two of them. The coxswain was lying on the beach in great pain. Evidently, that same wave, it was unusual, slammed into his boat, drove him into the steering wheel with such force that he broke two ribs, and the boat broached up on the beach. ... They were just a little further in than we were. We were about, I don't know, thirty feet out; and he was maybe just a few feet out, but he couldn't operate it 'cause he didn't have a rudder. So, I thought, "Well, I lost one maybe I can save one." So, I went to Kluge; and said, "Can some of your boys help me with lines if I take this thing off?" He said, "Jack, it doesn't have any left rudder." I said, "Maybe we can get off if I just hold it straight coming through the first few waves, if they hold me from turning, you know." So, boy, his guys got on those lines; and we got it out of there. ... I asked for volunteers; and three or four guys hopped on it with me, and we got it off. When I got back, all the guys on the ship [said], "Look at him." I mean, I couldn't come in like this, I had no left rudder so I had to go out like this to the ship, and come back, and go out, and come back, until I finally got it alongside. They're laughing at me. "This guy where'd he learn how to drive?" you know. So, the Captain told me later that he heard them all talking about how I messed up the approach and everything. He said, "I want to tell you something, fellows. That boat didn't have any left rudder." So, then they knew we saved it. From that moment on the boat group commander, ... somehow, when there was some darn thing that he wanted done, he would come to me and [say], "Will you do this?" It was an unenviable position to be in because some of the things weren't as easy as others.
KP: Sometimes, if you prove you are good, you wind up with more work because people trust you.
JH: That's probably what it was.
KP: I assume that your captain was an Annapolis man.
JH: I don't know; I don't think so. I think he was a very successful [businessman]. The only thing is, though, he was a full captain, A.G. Davenport; and the second skipper was Bagshaw, ... and they both were excellent men.
KP: What differences did you notice between your two skippers?
JH: Well, ... Davenport was not very approachable, very quiet, studious. I don't think I would expect to see him at a football game; but I'd see him in the library maybe, you know, very serious. I had one typical incident for me; I fell asleep on watch following one of our busiest days; and I had a midnight watch up in the radar room. I'm sitting there talking to the guys; and all of a sudden my eyes just kind of closed briefly. I looked up, and opened my eyes and saw a pair of very shined shoes standing in front of me. The Captain said, "I'm glad you ... awakened on your own"; or some such thing. He said, "Report to me in the morning"; and he turned around. This was a very serious guy, Davenport. Well, it's very serious to fall asleep on watch, I want to tell you. I think if anything had happened to the ship I would have been hung, you know; but we had been up a long time, and we were steaming away from the area. I should not have done that; I said to the kids, ... "If you see me look that way, ... you keep me awake because ... it's important that we are doing our duty." So, I apologized to the Captain the next morning; and he never put it in my record. He just said, "Don't do it again." [laughter]
KP: Standing watch seems pretty rigorous for both officers and enlisted men.
JH: Oh, yes. Oh, God, yes.
KP: It is not like working the night shift where you get used to working from twelve to six.
JH: You'd fall into that pattern. No, this is ... around the clock; you're on duty at any old time. ... You get four on and eight off. One very interesting officer was a lieutenant junior grade, Foster Furcolo, ... who later became governor of Massachusetts. He was a lieutenant junior grade when I was an ensign; and we had watches together, and he was the funniest guy. He would send the messenger down ... for coffee; and then he'd say to me, "Would you like coffee?" ... A little later, I didn't know he had already done this, I'd say, "Yes." I'd get a ... messenger; we had a few on the deck on the bridge. Things were quiet so I'd say, "Could you go get some coffee for everybody?" So, he'd go down. All of a sudden we've got about twenty-four cups of coffee on the bridge, [laughter] and that was Furcolo's big joke for the night; ... but he was just a regular guy. ... I wrote him a letter when I discovered he'd been elected governor, congratulating him on his election; but, I addressed it "Dear Furc" or some such thing. ... I think an assistant never let it go through. In the letter I had told him we had stood a number of watches together in the Pacific. I think he would have certainly answered it if he had gotten it; but somebody just derailed that one, and I learned that I should be more formal, I guess, when you're writing to the governor of a state.
KP: It sounds like you spent a lot of time with him on these watches.
JH: Oh, yes, oh, yes.
KP: Did you have any sense that he would go into politics?
JH: Not really. He was very bright. He was a lawyer, and so he had the qualifications. ... Most of the politicians have been lawyers, I think; but, no, I wouldn't have thought that he would go on and do that.
KP: How many men were in the ship's company?
JH: Five hundred, ship's company, fifty officers.
KP: Of those fifty officers how many were Annapolis men and how many were Naval Reserve?
JH: Well, ... I would guess that we all were Reserves, USNR.
KP: No one was an Academy graduate.
JH: No. Now, the Captain puzzles me. I never thought about it that way with him. If you want to know the truth, I don't think he had the personality to survive at Annapolis. This is just my feeling.
KP: You were a Naval Reserve ship.
KP: There was no tension between Academy men and Reservists to speak of.
JH: No, except the Ancon was the ship that directed the invasions; and it was loaded with technology and everything else. It was always in the center so that nobody could get to it much when we steamed around. ... If you haven't ever seen a Navy convoy you may never see one because these things are sort of going by the boards, I guess;, but, they cover ... the ocean, from horizon-to-horizon, sometimes. On the outer sides are the cruisers, up in the back ... the destroyers are buzzing around up forward. They can drop an ashcan [depth charge] on it. They can outrace a submarine. If the Japanese had had a submarine fleet like the Germans this war would still be going on.
KP: Is that what you believe?
JH: Oh, ... because we wouldn't have been able to maneuver. We owned the Pacific, finally. ... Once we got out of [the] Guadalcanal area they didn't get a chance to get down there again 'cause ... we skipped up; but we took enough places so [that] we could reach back a little and bomb them if they started in another place, you know, that sort of thing. We didn't fight for every island because we would have spent our time doing that for another year or two and losing men. So, we skipped around, cutting them off.
JJ: Let them whither on the vine.
KP: I want to ask you about the invasion of Okinawa. What were you briefed on about the operation? How much opposition did you expect?
JH: ... Well, what happened [was] it was rumored that we were going to invade Japan, not long away; and ... they figured on a sixty-five percent casualty rate because everybody on the island would have a gun and shoot at you. ... They were going to do it anyway, but by this time planes were taking off from Saipan and Tinian ... and bombing them just about every day.
JJ: That was pretty far away.
JH: ... Well, enough, but we had ... good aircraft ... I didn't know where we were going until we got out on the water; and so I've got ... the Light Artillery Battalion of the Fourth Marines, who incidentally never hit the ground there; and we didn't invade with our [boats]. Okinawa is a big island; it really is. ... The Japanese had an army there. They just didn't have a brigade or anything; and our mission, we were told, was to steam in at about four-thirty in the morning, be off the island ... near enough to be detected. They wanted us to be detected, and so the entire Japanese army moved down. It took them all from about three in the morning until nine, I guess, to get down there and do everything right. Like, I had the third wave. The first two waves go in. Normally in an invasion the first wave goes in with shells still sailing in from the New Jersey battleship or something [like that], and the second wave the enemy is brushing itself off and getting its guns back in place and everything, and the third wave they're firing at them. ... I found out [that] our mission was to go in to within a thousand yards of the beach and turn and go ... east. ... We were on the southeastern side of the island so we did turn south, and they were firing at us with ordnance. The shells were skipping on the water just like you would throw a rock, and they would skip along. I thought, "My, God, if one of those hits this boat, ... we're going to be matchsticks; but it all worked out. ... Then we had the Marines onboard so [that] anybody with a [spy] glass would see you coming in. We wore helmets. That was part of the uniform. You put a helmet on in a ... boat like that. ... The line was huge going into the island, and they couldn't miss it with the naked eye. They could see us coming; and ... the beauty of all this was that, when they realized that we were turning away, it was too late because the forces that were going to land were being dropped on the beach about around nine o'clock or so in the morning; and they just walked ashore. ... The Army was down here. The mission was a tremendous success from a Navy standpoint and from an Army standpoint and a Marines'. Tom Blanchet was there; he said it was the toughest battle of the war for the Marines.
KP: I have interviewed a number of people who fought on Okinawa.
JH: Yes, from tombstone-to-tombstone.
KP: What did you do after this diversionary feint was complete?
JH: Well, our mission was to land on Ie Shima, which was just southwest of Okinawa.
KP: The planners did not expect Ie Shima to be such a difficult operation.
JH: No, ... but the landing was tougher than ... Okinawa. ...
KP: The combat became very fierce. I interviewed someone who fought on Ie Shima. Ernie Pyle was killed there.
JH: I know he got killed. He was the correspondent.
KP: Were you aware that Ernie Pyle was there?
JH: Yes. We knew the next morning. ... One of the weaknesses of our whole mission there [Ie Shima] was this; [the Okinawa landings] were a tremendous success. The resistance of the Japanese was tremendous on the land, but the landings were so successful that, instead of us going around the south side of the island and landing the next morning on Ie Shima, they took about a third of the landing force and put them that afternoon on Ie Shima. ... They had told us the whole story by this time so we were wondering whether we were going to land or what; and they said, "Well, ... they walked ashore." So, they took a third of them and went over and creamed Ie Shima and landed; but, of course, they were aware from radio and everything else that something was going on on the big island, and it became a very hot fight; ... but we were not sent there because they did it the day before. However, we were left out in the water; and reconnaissance planes with their ... insignias would fly low. In the morning they'd come out of the rising sun; and in the evening they'd come out of the setting sun. They were smart. You couldn't see them; you could hear them. All of a sudden they'd zoom right over your ship; and, if we fired at them, our shells would be hitting the ships in the convoy because we were really spread out. We couldn't do that too well. They never came from the island where we could have fired at them and knocked them down. ... So, that morning I woke up, I couldn't sleep anymore,... about maybe three-thirty or four and I grabbed my Bible; I was sitting on my bunk with a little light and was reading a few passages. All of a sudden Franklin Roosevelt came on, in a recording, and introduced himself and told us that our country was depending upon our successes and wanted us to carry ourselves like men and do our duty and he would be very proud if we did. ... He had quite a commanding voice, you know, FDR.
KP: Your parents were Republicans. You were a Republican.
JH: Yes. I voted for him.
JH: Yes. I voted for him in the first election I ever voted in. That was his fourth term.
JH: ... I would have voted for him forever. I just liked him.
KP: You obviously found this recording to be very inspiring.
JH: Yes. In a war you sort of put politics aside. You're Americans; but Franklin Roosevelt was more than just a politician, I think. ... My father didn't like him, but I did. ...
KP: You served as a decoy at Okinawa, and the mission was so successful that your Ie Shima operation was cancelled so you never made a landing.
JH: ... Never put it on the sand.
KP: How long did your ship operate off of Okinawa?
JH: Well, ... we came back on that same day, probably eleven o'clock in the morning. We were all ... back onboard, and we got a lot of spray on us and everything so we all kind of cleaned up and put the boats where they belonged. We stayed there for probably too long I can tell you because the Japanese had decided to trade a plane for a ship, and they were being highly successful. At five o'clock in the morning, as we were going in, ... I was still on watch; and I was in the gun tub, the .40 mm gun tub, just forward of the bridge on the starboard side. I had twin .40s, and they have quite a shell. The darn shell is as long as this notebook here; and it had armor-piercing stuff, too, and every so many were tracers. You could see where you were going, but I had to get out of that and into my boats and go over, after a certain period of time. ... Being a flagship, we were the first in our line; and we were told to fall back another five ships or so and fit in that line, the outside line; but ... there was a ship ahead of us, and you sort of just had to kind of guide the things here, and, you know, there're big swells in the water. You don't want to crash into another ship so you give it just a little more than five hundred yards or whatever; but, ... all of a sudden we saw tracer bullets coming from this ship, like ours, up forward ... where we had been; and they were coming both ways now, the plane was firing, and it came right in and lowered itself down, like this, and went right along the water and right through the side of the ship into the engine room. I guess there were probably about, I don't know, sixteen men [that] were lost. I heard some numbers the day or so after. ... They had to close the engine room off and seal it, or they would have lost the entire ship; and it wouldn't have taken too long either, like the Titanic. [laughter] ... They ripped the side open. ... The compartmentalization saved about five hundred lives and more, maybe a thousand, because they had Marines onboard. ... I knew we were at war then. ... They were flying around. ... Why they didn't come down on us [I do not know]; but ... we had some heavy-duty men-of-war around us, and they would have gotten shot down if they'd come; but they would have gotten a few more ships. They were picking off ships every day; and, finally, I heard later that the Admiral had told Washington, "If you [do not] get us out of here, you won't have a Navy." So, the men were ... safe on land. We had to get supplies to them; but they could air[drop] those in, if they had to, and so they got the Navy out of there, ... and then we went back.
KP: Was this kamikaze attack your closest call?
JH: Yes. I'll never know exactly how close. I saw one shell skipping along the water, which I think ... [with] two baseball throws I could've had it. So, that was closer, a little bit; but they were a thousand yards ahead of us, I guess, and it was scary before daylight. ...
KP: Did you expect to encounter kamikaze attacks before Okinawa?
JH: No, I didn't think about it. I heard about it; but I thought, "They're not going to attack a convoy"; but they did, and they kept doing it, too, boy, night and day.
JJ: What was your opinion of the Marines that you transported on your ship?
JH: Oh, great, great. ...
JJ: We hear many things about the Marines, the legends, their professionalism ...
JH: Well, they were all of those things. In San Diego it was always, like, you call them the "seagoing bellhops" or some such thing; ... but, let me tell you, [when] you get out there with those guys [it was nothing but respect]. ... You know, if we had hit the beach, ... we wouldn't have had as much resistance ... as we did have going into the southeast side; but you have respect for them because they've earned it. ... The fellows we took from the Fourth Marine Light Artillery said that the Japanese, when they were there, ... had formed a line with the light artillery, I guess, maybe like two-inch guns, I don't know; and they had to set the shells for zero so [that] they'd just come out [armed]. They had them piled up in front of them like fifty yards away, piles of the Japanese. ... They had rifles and ... a bottle of sake wine in the other hand, coming up the beach; ... and they ran right through them. They didn't shoot. They were drunk. ... If you wanted to kill them, you could do it behind you; but they ... just took them prisoners.
JJ: Okinawa resulted in the first big batch of prisoners in the Pacific Theater.
JJ: In the letter that you sent to us you mentioned that prior to the invasion of Okinawa your commander made you lay out your fresh clothes for the attack.
JH: Oh, everybody [had to]. The Captain did that. ... You never heard that [before]?
KP: Me either.
JH: The Captain made everybody shower and put clean underwear and clean uniforms on, well, our fatigues. ... Somebody said, "Why?" and he said, "Well, if you get ... hit with shrapnel or anything you won't get blood poisoning as easily if you're clean."
JJ: Did you believe that?
JH: Yes, I did.
JJ: If that was the case I thought that would have been the standard practice.
JH: But, you never heard of it before?
JJ: I thought perhaps the Captain just wanted you to look spic-and-span for the battle.
JH: Well, no; I don't know, but that's what I was told. Some of our men had been ... in on other operations, but they were older fellows. The JGs were older, good men.
KP: Where was your vessel ordered to after Okinawa?
JH: Well, we ... dropped our troops back where we picked them up. ... After every big operation everybody gets a thirty-day leave. The Navy would come back from something like that to their point of origin and then be sent home. We started on what they called the "Great Circle Route," which takes you up toward Alaska because the theory is when ... you're navigating, if you go around the Earth at the Equator, it's a longer trip than it is if you go around the Earth up at the Poles; and it's true. ... So, a ship going three thousand miles or, maybe, seven thousand miles will go north and do enough of that ... turn up where you're covering more ground as you fan out down here, see? So, we got up ... right into a monsoon or whatever you want to call it [typhoon]. ... We call it a hurricane, I guess; and it was the worst thing I was ever in.
KP: How long were you in the storm?
JH: Three days.
KP: Were you ever concerned that the ship might not make it?
JH: Yes, I was. We all were. We had a forty-five degree [roll]. Did I say that? Yes. ... What happened was that ... all the messmates, bless their hearts, set the table for soup and stuff. Every time the ship rolled all the dishes fell off and broke on the steel deck. They just kept doing that until we didn't have any dishes left. ... Finally, one of the officers saw this going on. He said, "For God's sake save a few of them. We've got to have coffee once in awhile." So, we had sandwiches on the whole trip; and [we were] glad to get them. I started to go up for a watch to the bridge, and we had a stack of radios on the ... bridge deck just where it was wide enough to come out before you went down this ladder into the deck below the main deck. The stack must have been four or five hundred pounds of big radio equipment ... I put my foot on the bottom rung. I saw this stack kind of break in the middle a little bit; and I just got myself out of there, ... and every radio came crashing down those steps. They would have killed me, I'm sure; but ... we stood our watches. ... I wanted to tie myself to something because I was standing now on the bridge that had to be at least thirty-five feet above the water, and I was looking up at waves like fifteen feet high. It was the most frightening thing I ever saw. The Captain was intelligent. ... He might have been an Annapolis man; I don't know. You have to take the ship through something like that by keeping much of the ship on top of a swell because, if you get broadsided and you're down in that gully, you're down thirty-five feet. The water's going to just sink the ship. So, your mission in all the wind and waves and currents [and it snowed up there] is to keep the ship knifing through the water, go off course to make it. ... So, the captain chose the northern course instead of going south across them. ... The storm was coming from there, I guess; but we heard the next day on the radio that destroyers had been washed up three blocks into towns along the Japanese coast. ... Anyhow we got home, but we ... looked like a saltbox or something. ... I sat in a stateroom ... and in our little stateroom we had lockers. Each guy had a locker, four lockers; and I hung a pencil on a string on the hinge of one of those. I marked off forty-five degrees on either side with a ruler. That ship was going out; and the pencil would go like this, and it would get to forty-five. ... The whole ship would quiver because our screws were sticking out of the water a little bit at moments when we were going through a crest. Then it would kind of hang there and hang there, and then would slowly come back down and go up the other way. We were rocking, and it was a bad place to be. I heard about one destroyer that they got in there, parallel to it; and it just filled the whole thing up, and it went right down. That was it. ... That was the worst experience as far as that sort of thing.
KP: Do you remember which month it was in 1945?
JH: Oh, my. Well, let me say that we went back to the States. When we were there the Captain told us, I was kind of shocked about this, that we would be in on the invasion of the mainland of Japan and that, if we wanted to see anybody, ... we should do it on this visit to the coast. We went in [as] we had to get some repairs. I think the worst damage we had was from the storm, and we were over by Oakland. There was a yard there. ... My mother came. I almost fainted when I heard she was on her way. I just said what they told us, and she came. I called up to see how everybody was; and my dad said, "Your mother's halfway there." So, I said, "Oh, egads." We had ... no idea [that] the war was almost over, but I think this is when they dropped the A-bomb. ... She came, and I met her in Oakland. We came across [on] a ferry, and I had to stand in line ... to get a room for her. ... There were lines out to the street, in a park, and under a tent, several tents, you know. They had these people with reservations for hotels for the servicemen; and this one fellow looked up and said, "You see that Navy Officer out there with the long hair who needs a haircut?" "Yes." "I want him up here next." So, they sent me up. I was as brown as a berry; and he said, "Who is it [that] you want a room for?" I said, "My mother," and pointed over to her; and he said, "Oh, you look like her." He said, "Take this." "Some of these guys are stationed across the bay here," he said, "the hell with them." ... So, he gave me a pass to a lovely room in the St. Francis Hotel; and ... Dan London, the manager, gave Mother an orchid. People were all over. In Chicago when I was in midshipmen's school you couldn't pay for a ride anywhere. I'd go to church, and people couldn't wait to ask you to come to dinner with them at some restaurant or something.
KP: You were, in fact, invited to dinner?
JH: Yes, and taxi drivers wouldn't take money; and those guys were living on that. ... So, I would try to leave a buck or something; but they didn't want it. ... One other incident I had, if this is all right to just [mention it] ... before I forget it. ... We had a mixture of ... amphibious ships in Leyte Gulf, and they had been on all kinds of missions and had problems. So Leyte Gulf was under American control. ... It's big; it's like the Gulf of Mexico; and [the] Japanese were in there, too, at times. ... There was a naval base across the bay [where] we were anchored. I had to run about forty miles this way, northeast, ... to get to [it]; and we had to drop off boats that needed repairs and so forth. ... One of our ramps had gotten hurt on that California deal. Once again, (Rosenfeld?) said to me, "Jack, I want you to take this whole crowd over to the base." He said, "Take a boat to come back in but leave these two." He didn't tell us this, though, until about seven o'clock. I had to send somebody quickly down and make up sandwiches for everybody who was going to be in a crew on these boats and keep a boat that I could get them all in[to] to come back. The supply officer saw what we were doing; and he wanted to come with me because he needed some supplies, some rain gear or something. Boy, it was very timely. So, I said, "Well, you don't want to get into this. ... You're going to get seasick. It's really a mess this whole damn thing." "No," he said, "I'm going with you." So, he climbed on; he was a nice guy. We went out and met these other boats, and off we went. ... One thing that was surprising as the dickens to me [was that] I wasn't much older than these sailors. I was twenty-one, twenty-two.
KP: By any standard, you would be young.
JH: I was young, and these fellows acted like kids. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. They didn't feel responsible because you had the responsibility, and it's the funniest feeling to be directing men older than you who act like children. Don't ask me why. Did you get this from some other people?
KP: Well, it strikes me that, as a Naval officer, you had a lot of responsibility. Any officer in any of the services held a great deal of responsibility.
KP: The Captain is the man commanding the ship. He can order the ship to go here or there.
JH: That's right.
KP: You had a lot of responsibility.
JH: ... And you have to assume it, and you have to do it; and, therefore, you're always ... kind of the guy that's holding [them] back from doing the wrong thing; but I was just surprised at that.
KP: These older people under different circumstances might be telling you what to do.
JH: That's right, that's right. So, at any rate I didn't let that get to me.
----------------------------------------END OF TAPE TWO, SIDE ONE---------------------------------------
JH: ... We didn't realize what was going to happen to us, but we got over there; and ... the coxswains I chose, somehow, ... who performed the best so [that] I'd be safe enough with them let me down. Well, one of them lost the boat; but ... it's a wonder he didn't get killed, you know, ... so you can't fault him for that. It was a terrible surf, but in this case I had asked a seaman ... he was a boatswain ... a boatswain's mate first class ... to make sure fuel was in the boats that were going to go on this but especially the boat we're going to take everybody home in. ... That morning as we're about to lower it over I said, "You fueled it last night, didn't you, (Nolan?)?" He said, "Oh, Christ, I forgot." So, I had about ... a little over half a tank; and I thought, "My God." So, when I got over there and dropped off these boats and signed them in, I got a receipt for each boat, from all the ships and everything I said, "Can I have a little fuel because somehow we missed it?" "No, sir." I said, "What's the matter? Do you think I'm in the Japanese Navy?" I mean this kid really bothered me; but, as you say, the Navy was very strict about things, and they stuck to it.
KP: You could not get gas.
JH: I couldn't get it; and I said, "Christ, we're an American [vessel]. We're teammates on this thing. What's the matter with you?" "My orders are not to let anybody have fuel unless ... the commanding officer, and he's not here today, approves it." ...
JJ: The regulations overruled common sense.
JH: I had a .45 pistol on me, and I was severely tempted to pull it on him and tell him to load that up or I'd blow his friggin' brains out; [laughter] but I didn't. Here, I'm swearing on this thing. ...
KP: What did you do?
JH: I cast off as quickly as possible and got the hell out of there because I thought, "The less we spend on this, the better off we are [for] getting home." I looked, and we had just over a quarter of a tank; but ... it turned out that this supply place was down, oh, ten miles south of that other place. It was hard to get to, and I had to work my way in through piles of big, like, pilings, and so forth; and we finally got in there, and I told him to turn the engines off. "Don't run them even while you're waiting." ... He went up and got some raingear. It's a good thing because a squall came like a monsoon almost. I mean, ... I was far enough down so that I couldn't follow the reverse pattern; and, when we had to get out of there, I had to go south five more miles. So, what I had to do [was], ... this is why I was so glad I paid attention in midshipmen's school, dead reckon getting back to our ship; and they didn't want to stay there forever in that place; I was afraid that [if] we were too late getting back ... they might be gone. They were off shore a couple of miles and so I dead reckoned. All the sandwich papers these kids threw on the deck when they had their breakfast; ... it was already nighttime, they didn't have any lunch or supper; I tried to tell them, "Save that." ... They each had a cup of coffee and a roll and so forth. ... I got them fed before we left, ... but they ate it anyhow. ... Some of these guys were forty years old. So we dead reckoned, and all of a sudden we hit this terrible storm. I mean it was a terrible storm. We started to fill up with water because our bilge pumps were filled with wax paper. I sent a guy down there who was doing a lot of talking; and I told him, "Get your damn shoes off, roll your pants up, and go get the paper out of there. You threw it in yourself, anyhow." So, he did; and we had another officer, who went along for the ride who got seasick so we slung a hammock ... under the canvas tarpaulin and stuck him in there. He was moaning and groaning. The supply officer sat on the afterdeck with me, and I sat next to the coxswain; and I watched that compass needle. Boy, he didn't get out of it; but the wind was taking us all over ... but I allowed a little for it. I mean, I was really kind of breaking new ground for me. All of a sudden somebody yelled; and a big, sleek destroyer was coming along, and he could have cut us in half. He didn't see us. We saw him; and to this day I didn't see big numbers on it so I don't know whether it was a Japanese vessel coming in under dark in the storm or what it was; but I didn't want to show a light because they'd blow us out of the water. We just laid low and pulled the canvas up over [ourselves], even back over the coxswain a bit. ... The rain was lashing around, and they just weren't looking so we got missed. I think we were about thirty feet away from them when they finally zipped by and left a big wake that we bounced around in for awhile; but, finally, I began to think [that] we might make it; and ... I saw the running light. I saw a masthead light, two masthead lights; and I knew we were there, and the fuel went out. It went out. We had probably three hundred yards to go so I turned the key in the starter; and the starter, before the battery ran out, turned the propeller enough so [that] ... we drifted alongside the ladder and got hauled out. I went up to ... (Rosenfeld's?) cabin; he had a room to himself, and the Captain had one, too; and I reported. ... He was reading a mystery novel and [had] a cigarette sticking out of his mouth with about seven-eighths ashes, and it never ... fell anywhere. ... Always, the ashes would stay right there when he was reading. Then, he said to me, he took it out of his mouth very slowly, ... "I knew you'd come back." He said, "You always make it"; and I thought to myself, "Thanks a lot." [laughter] I told the men to get showers and go down and demand some food. I sent word down for the cook to get something for these boys, and I think we had sandwiches. We were just kind of thanking God that we got through. ...
KP: This should have been a routine operation.
JH: Oh, we should have been back, well, in the mid-afternoon; but we got in this terrible storm, ... and that's what took our fuel because we ... had over a quarter [tank] to come back [on].
KP: Even though you were not near a battle zone your duties were still very hazardous.
JH: ... We could have died right there.
JJ: You came close to death several times.
KP: It seems as though at times the weather was your worst enemy.
JH: Right. I don't know whether I should tell this story or not because it might sound a little too personal, but I'm going to tell you because Walter Denise told me [that] he had sort of a similar experience in the Army. He probably didn't even mention this; but there was a fellow, you know what a Neanderthal man looks like in pictures? We had an officer there; and I used to think to myself, "How in the world did they let him get through midshipmen's school?" He was so gruff and rough, and he didn't look the part or anything. I don't know maybe it was because I thought about that; but, somehow, we would go down to Tijuana, Mexico, when we were in training at Coronado. We had a jeep, and we'd run down once a week for a steak dinner, right within earshot of the bull fights. In ... the restaurant down there you got a steak and, I guess, a potato. That was it. You didn't get any vegetables or anything, but ... it was meat. We were on rations up in the States, and the Mexicans had anything they wanted to eat, right there. ... [That officer] came over and made some kind of ... a derogatory remark to me; and I said to him, "Now, why don't you calm down? I mean what's bothering you?" He couldn't tell. I mean he ... just like bristled or something. Then, a couple of times he growled when I was [walking by]. ... On another occasion or two I was giving a little talk about something; he growled. It was just sort of a "hate at first sight" for him for some reason. In his crew he had some of the men who worked the booms; and I would bring a boat alongside; sometimes I would bring it in instead of a coxswain. They would drop this huge hook. ... It would have pulleys; and it was ... maybe about a third of the size of this table, solid steel, with cables. The trick was, ... because the boat would be up on a swell and down, ... to get it in the boat, lying down, without putting a hole in the boat; and I didn't know they were doing this yet because I looked up and nobody was ... on the deck, right where I needed them. So, I stood looking over the side; and something told me to turn around. I turned around, and I saw this thing coming at me, like a whole ton of it. I jumped and slid back into the rear part of the boat, and it crashed into the gunnel and cracked the top board. It would have killed me, and I looked up; and this guy was directly [over me], not this ... officer ... his senior enlisted man had tried to picked me off. Whatever he had done or told him [I do not know]. So, I had enough of this nonsense; and I went to the Captain. I just said to him, ... "I hesitate to report this, Captain, but this has been going on," and I told him the story. He was on another ship in about forty-eight hours.
JH: Yes, he got rid of him. I had another incident, sort of like that; as we were leaving Coronado Beach, an older fellow, probably thirty-eight or so, forty, he looked older, too, came to me. He'd been all right all through the training; but he always kind of hung back, and he never talked much. He came to me and said, "Mr. Hurlbert, I've just got to tell you, I feel I can tell you," ... "I don't think I would be any good in a battle." I said, "Well, nobody knows until they get there." I said, "Lots of heroes come out of those experiences." He said, "No, I know ... I would go to pieces, and I would be a detriment to the Navy." So, I said, "Well, thank you for telling me." I said, ... "Do you want a transfer or what?" He said, "I don't know, but I don't want to go to sea." I said, "Thank you for telling me." I went right to the Captain. That was the first thing I did. It was just before supper. He said, "Thanks, Jack, thanks"; and he was gone the next morning, and I don't know where he went. He was assigned to a shore station somewhere because he did have some talent; it's just that he was frightened to death. ...
KP: You were twenty-one, and you were given a lot of responsibility.
JH: Twenty-two but still a kid. Yet you're right; when I got home, my mother said, "Gosh, Jack, I see a tremendous change. You seem to be so responsible about everything now." ...
KP: Your family noticed this change.
JH: My family, yes.
KP: The amount of responsibility thrust upon such young men and women has always struck me. When did you realize how much responsibility was in your hands?
JH: ... You know when it hit me that I had not even done enough was maybe when we lost that boy. ... That put me way back. That ... was so unnecessary; and ... we had talked about that very thing, "Never try to break an explosive over a rock," or "Don't try to take it apart with a screwdriver. It's loaded; it's lethal." They would sign this [statement], and he was there. I remember him signing the thing several times, and I had it in case [something] came up about it. The Captain said, "Never lose those papers." He said, "You've got everybody's signature, and I see you did it well." "It was just [that] the damn kid," he said, ... "wasn't old enough." He was probably eighteen, nineteen; and he wanted a trophy.
KP: When did you learn about V-J Day?
JH: ... Well, I was taking my mother back across the harbor, San Francisco Bay, to Oakland to pick up the train to go home. She had been telling me that she knew that we would be safe on our next mission and so forth; and I said, "Well, they're talking sixty-five percent [casualties]; but we'll all do the best we can." Then, we were part way over; and all of a sudden I looked around because it's like a half-hour ride, ... and it looked like it was snowing. I mean, there was this huge cloud of paper coming from downtown ... San Francisco; and ... it finally reached the ship on this wind. It reached our ferryboat; and then somebody had a car with a radio on and said, "The war is over. The war is over." Everybody cheered. ... I put my mother on the train; and I saw a young officer on [it], and I said, "Will you kind of look after my mother a little bit and make sure she gets a plate of soup or something on her way home?" He said, "I certainly will"; and so he and a couple other guys decided to adopt her because they'd make sure they went first, the civilians waited until last; they took her right along. ... They told the waiters, "Don't worry about that. She's with us," and so ... [laughter] she had a good trip home. ... I found out when we were on the ferryboat. Then I went back [to the hotel] and I went up to her room because I had asked them if I might occupy that [for] one more night, one night after my mother left. I didn't want to go back to the ship. So, I'm ... there, listening to the radio; and, my God, I could hear this thing outside beginning to build like a volcano. I put my uniform [on], my jacket and shirt and tie and hat. I went outside, and I walked down the hill to where the cable cars get turned around; and they had people standing on this ... turntable with their left foot and pushing the ... turntable around with their right foot. It was really moving around kind of fast; everybody was getting a ride. Some guy ran up and took the hat off a commander and ran down the street with it. I heard him say, "Goddamn it," [laughter] and the hat was gone. ... It took me a long time to walk [around], and I got down to this statue in the middle of the square down there not far from the turntable; and there was a girl standing up on like the second level of the statue disrobing. She was attracting one devil of a crowd.
KP: This was somewhat unusual for the 1940s.
KP: It would still attract a crowd today.
JH: ... Yes, but in those days [it was really unusual]; but this girl happened to be a very good-looking girl, and she was taking it off. ... She took her slip off, and she was just in her underpants and a brassiere. A Navy officer somehow ran up with his uniform, lifted her up from her knees, down to where he was, threw his coat around her, and got her out of there. I never saw her again. The crowd didn't kill him or anything else; but then it started to get nasty. There were people down there, I tell you the truth, the fellows from the Navy bases acted badly. ... They would finish a liquor bottle and throw it through Macy's windows; and, oh, God, they were looting, not the Navy men, ... but they were throwing bottles. Finally, what they did [was], they couldn't draw on the Navy base over there for help because they were all raising hell in town so they got the ships in the harbor, which had been around a bit, to send a hundred men a piece over and put this thing out. So, what they did was, they started on the outskirts; and they walked in. If a guy wouldn't obey, they'd club him over the head and throw him in a truck. They finally ... got down to where this statue was. They had the whole thing in hand by that time because everybody saw they were going to get knocked out.
KP: You watched this whole scene.
JH: I watched it, yes; and finally I took my hat off and carried it, or else it would have been gone. It would've been a souvenir, [laughter] but I was kind of disappointed in the crowd. We were all delirious with [happiness]. I mean, these Japanese were tough fighters, and on the island of Guam ... there was a prison compound. Oh, I never told you this either; we took five hundred Navy nurses over on our first cruise; and they used our ship, I believe, because ... we had just been dating girls and so forth in Chicago and LA.
KP: Was this your shakedown cruise?
JH: No, well, yes, ... well, no. Our shakedown was when we had to go through this other stuff, the landings and everything; ... but, anyway, so many things [were] coming together. The day we left for overseas, we went out to sea, they sent a plane out, pulling a target on a wire. ... The guys had, I guess, been drinking the night before; and nobody could hit the target. We had a five-inch gun, and the gunnery officer forgot to turn his radio off ... because they had fired the five-inch gun at the target, which was about a hundred yards behind the plane, I guess; and we got close, but we didn't hit it. Nobody hit the target. ... We had already been approved so they weren't going to turn us around; but this guy was there, and so the five-inch gun crew, figuring they had fired their round, loaded for the next one; but ... the gunnery officer was talking to the twin .40 crew, and we were going to shoot at the target ourselves with our .40 mm aircraft guns. I was among them, and all of a sudden the five-inch gun went off because the gunnery officer when he said, "Fire," forgot to push the button to the five-inch gun off, and they were training on the plane; and this time [laughter] the shell went off just behind the plane, and it was rocking up there. The pilot, I could hear him on the radio, said, "You sons-of-bitches." He said, "I'm getting the hell out of here," and he turned left; and he was reeling that thing in, and he took off, and we never saw him again. So, I thought to myself, "Well, we've failed in our first trial of being any good"; but that was just another one. ... I don't know; I get off from one story to the other here too much.
KP: When did you have the nurses onboard?
JH: Oh, my God, yes. ... They were very nice looking girls, well dressed, disciplined; and we ... put them in, well, you know, where the Marine officers would be. ... I thought [there were] five hundred. When Marines were onboard, they had a forward compartment; and it was a good-sized one with showers and everything. The girls took that. Maybe there were a hundred Navy nurses; that's more like it a hundred Navy nurses. You know, the story could get bigger.
KP: Where did you pick them up, and where did you take them?
JH: From San Francisco to Guam Island.
KP: This was before Okinawa.
JH: Yes, we got out there away; and going through the Golden Gate Bridge, I don't care ... if you've been in the Navy for fifty years, you're going to get seasick when you go under the Golden Gate Bridge. There's a long row of swells; and the ship's nose goes down, in, and comes out with a spray, and the tail goes down, and, ... my God, it's like being on a rocking horse. ... If you just had a banana or ate a hot dog or something, it's coming up; I don't care who you are. ... We got out to sea a ways, and the sun was starting to go down; and I saw one of [the nurses] crying. ... They could walk around on the main deck, between the bridge and their quarters; but they couldn't go aft or down below. I mean, they were there on that deck. That was their deck. So ... the officers would go through there and talk to them a little bit. ... I said, "Are you feeling badly? Are you seasick?" She said, "No," and she was blotting her eyes, blowing her nose; and she said, "I'm just ... miserable." She said, "My husband is back in San Francisco; and here I am going overseas." [laughter] He was an officer or something in the service, but he wasn't going overseas. She was going over[seas]. She was already crying about it. They were good girls; and, when we got to Eniwetok Island and the officers [there] found out that we had a hundred nurses onboard, they threw a party. So, we had to take the girls over. We took ... two jeeps we had, and we ferried them from where we dropped them off at the dock up to this officers' club. One of them said, "Will you take a look in on us a little later to be sure we're okay?" I said, "Okay." So, I took a guy with me, and we looked; and four of them ran out of the building. They wanted to go back to the ship. This was about two hours later. Some of them wanted to stay. Some couldn't get away, I guess, because we only had two jeeps; but we brought a few back; some never went, but it was one of those times. ... The men hadn't seen a girl in a long time, and they just wanted to have a dance for them, you know; but I never forgot. That was precious cargo. [laughter]
JJ: After the Japanese surrendered you were reassigned to the USS Crockett?
JH: Yes, well, after Okinawa, we were sent home. I mean, you got a leave; ... and I went to the Third Naval District. I had to report there for my leave. ... I left there and went home. I had been engaged to a girl, and I broke that off because she ... had been dating some other guy. ... One of my neighbors told me about it. So, I figured, "Oh, well, there's no time like the present." ... That was the end of that. At the end of thirty-one days I reported back to New York; and they wanted me to become skipper of a minesweeper in the Atlantic. I thought, "That's great, you know. That'll be fine." I had to take a physical and thought, "Okay, that's fine, too." ... Everything was fine except now they had to check my eyes. Well, the same old story, I mean, I just saw fifteen feet. When I was at sea I didn't put glasses on anymore, and after a year-and-a-half I could see; I mean, I didn't need them. ... They focused again. ... They got rested, I guess, on the water. Sometimes the sun would kill you on the water; but, otherwise, that was fine. So, he said, "Young man, I can't approve you." I said, "Why not?" He said, "You're colorblind," and I said, "Oh, I don't believe that, Sir." I said, "I'm not colorblind"; and I described something. ... "The curtains are maroon." "That's gold with a greenish sort of ribbon" and so forth. "You have a gray suit, plaid; and this is sort of a yellowish-green stripe." I pulled out all kinds of colors; and he said, ... "All you're saying is correct, but I have to write down in detail everything I see about you." He said, "When you look at this jumble of dots on these pages, you don't come up with a letter or a number; but you can tell me exactly what number it is." He said, "Suppose you're out there with this minesweeper and you see what you think is a red light and it's green, and you have a collision; you know who they're going to hang? Not you." He said, "They're going to kick you out of the Navy; but they're going to hang me." I said, "Well, look, Doctor, ... if this bothers you, then ... I have no recourse except to tell you that I know I can see color. I've done many watches, and I knew the green and red lights when I was there." They sent me back to another ship that was the [APA]-148 out in Seattle. ... The day we were supposed to go on MAGIC CARPET duty to pick up the troops and bring them home ... from the Far East we developed boiler trouble on this ship. So, ... they said, "Fix it." The same thing happened. We got it fixed, and [we were] going in about two-and-a-half hours later; and they told us, "Wait for further orders," and we were ordered over to the York River in Virginia to put it in mothballs. So, I never went back over.
KP: You were never on a MAGIC CARPET voyage.
JH: ... No. Have you heard about MAGIC CARPET [duty]?
JH: Yes, so, we got out. ... It was nice. It was right near William and Mary College, and we saw a couple of games there and so forth, you know.
KP: Did you consider staying in the Navy?
JH: I did think of it. I was invited to. Captain Bagshaw wanted me to join the regular Navy and stay, so he must have been regular Navy. He flattered me once. ... When we were pulling into the York River ... there was going to be a dance at some club, and he wanted me to take his daughter; ... and I did because I thought I'd better. [laughter] When I met her, you know, she weighed about 180 pounds, bless her heart. ... We had a good time. We talked and all, but I never did that again; but he was my friend. He gave me good write-ups. ... When I reported to that ship, the Crockett, in Seattle on Christmas Eve, boy, what a lonely experience that was; but I just turned the lights off and hit the deck, hit the bed. ... The next morning I reported to the Captain on Christmas morning, and he talked to me for about fifteen minutes and said, "Go get some good food on the beach." He said, "You'd better get another pair of shoes because it rains every day here, all day." I said, "Oh, thanks a lot, Captain." He said, "By the way, I want you to be my navigator." He said, "I want you to be the assistant navigator at first but my executive officer's navigator." I said, "Captain, that was my toughest course in midshipmen's school." "Yeah, but," he said, "you made it. You didn't have to take your exams, I see." I said, "No." I said, "I haven't used it, you know." I did use it, dead reckoning, a couple of times; but he was true to his word. I brought the ship into, I guess it was, Hampton Roads. ... Was it the Missouri ... one of the big ships that went aground there about like six months before? So, it's tricky. They give you a chart, ... you put quarters down in rows and trace them so that there would be rows like this going across this page, ... it was a big page; and they gave you "B-16," boom, so, you had to come in. What you did was you took a church steeple here, a water tank there, something else over here like an office building, a church, or something; and you drew lines out so [that] when you were coming in you had to tell the bridge through a tub; you were down below and you couldn't see where the heck you were. I had people taking these readings, and I'd ask them; and they would say, "Okay, I see the church steeple on the starboard side." I said, "Well, okay, now, then," and I had to do all four of them at the same time because otherwise you'd slip past. We got the damned thing in slot sixteen, somehow; and the Captain said, "See there ... I think that's fine." That was, from him, a real compliment. ... So, I knew I was going to be navigator for sure. One day he came up, and we had a tough time. I had this boatswain's mate, chief boatswain's mate, with me; and I showed him what we were doing that morning, again. ... He got a reading that I didn't on one of the stars like Antares or one of them; and I used his star. ... You're supposed to be able to cover the convergence of the lines from the stars you use and cover it with a dime. Then you're in there somewhere. I covered it with a quarter, which meant we could be off a bit; but at least I had a fix. So, he said to me, "Hurlbert, the Exec didn't get a fix today. Did you get one?" I said, "It was a tough day, Captain. It was very tough. That's why he had a problem." I said, "Nolan was with me, and he got one good star; and I had three others, but it takes a quarter." "I'm coming up." He came up to the flying bridge, and he looked it over for the longest while. He studied it, and I had the lines to the stars labeled. He said, "Mr. Hurlbert, you have fixed our position for the day." Then, I felt that, ... maybe, I had arrived.
KP: Navigation has become a lost art since the advent of GPS satellites.
JH: Oh, yes.
KP: What you were doing was a very traditional, time-honored ...
KP: Yes. You were navigating the same way sailors had for centuries.
JH: I was always struck by navigation. The first island we hit was Eniwetok Island, and we had the nurses onboard. When we hit that, [it came] out of the middle of nowhere; I saw the size of it. You could ride a bicycle along the whole island in about fifteen minutes. It was a cone; like a volcanic cone sticking up, and the basin of the cone was white sand. It was, I would say, thirty fathoms to the bottom; and I could see the white sand shimmering on the side of the ship where it was darker, and I could look down. It was clear, beautiful. A few of us had sort of shook hands on a deal that after the war we were going out there and build a resort hotel with an airstrip. There was a strip on it, and we sort of thought, well, that's what we'd do; but ... the powers-that-be decided to explode atomic bombs there as a test and so that was out, but we loved it.
KP: It was a very beautiful island.
JH: It had peach-colored sand, and I stood there because it came right up out of the water; and there'd be a ridge of a mountain, almost, and then some flat places further in. I guess it was only a mile long. I'm trying to think, I don't know, maybe a little longer; but we walked right out from where it went under the water in sneakers. You didn't walk in that stuff in your bare feet; that rock would cut you to ribbons. So we went out in there, and I stood knee-deep where it was kind of flowing this way for a few minutes and then it would ease out again, out of that cone. It was just gorgeous, but the banks of the sand would come up from the water in this end of the room and like twenty feet away from you was grass growing on a ridge of sand; but you could stand in front of that bank with the sun at your back and get sunburned on both sides. I mean, it would come off that sand on you; and it was just the most gorgeous experience so I was very sorry to see them decimate the place. ...
KP: You had some remarkable, scary experiences in the service. You were in a major American city for V-J Day.
KP: You visited Eniwetok, a beautiful place.
JH: ... Right, it was a paradise island, really.
KP: You did have clean sheets.
JH: And meals, yes.
KP: Is there anything else that you enjoyed about the Navy? You spoke about some of the hard parts of being a naval officer.
JH: Oh, well, I just loved it. I would have gone back to sea; but, to tell you the truth, once I got home I went up to my ... former bedroom, and there were a couple of Rogers Peet suits hanging in the closet. I was going to church the next morning, and my mother wanted me to wear my whites, my white uniform. I said, "Mother, dear, I'm not going to wear any uniform." That kind of broke her heart, but I wore it the second Sunday after I got home. I got in that old suit with a pair of shoes that I can't describe exactly; but, they had ... all those little holes, not holes but the leather was punctuated with ... a little design on the front and all. They were dark tan, and I had a brown suit on; and I felt like a new man. [However], the next week I could see that everybody had expected me to come to church in a uniform so I did for two Sundays. The uniform is still hanging in the garage in a zippered bag. I ought to throw it out. ... Some friends of mine offered theirs to a theater company so [that] if they ever put a play on they could have an officer's [uniform]; but it's fifty years old. I'm going to just quietly put it in the garbage next week, I think, or something like that; but it was fun to be in it. I learned a lot. I'd get orders to California from New York or whatever. At first I used to think, "My, God, I don't even have a reservation; and they want me there in two, three days." One old-timer in Penn Station or somewhere said to me, "Young man, I've been in the Navy for thirty years. Just get on the train and go to the dining car. You can work it from there." I said, "Thank you." ... I went in there, and I had a cup of coffee and a piece of pie. I saw the porter start to go check everybody. I said, ... "I'd like a berth. If you've got one, let me know." He said, "I'll have it," and disappeared; and he was right. He came back about an hour later and said, "Well, I've got something like seven choices. You want an upper or a lower?" If you know how to work it, you get on the train and go because you've got to be there; and I ... never missed a good night's rest on the train. So, it was interesting. I learned a lot from the Navy. The first day I got to midshipmen's school, Captain B. B. (Weigand?), [who] was the commandant of the Naval Training School, gave us a talk. He said, "Now, men, I'm not trying to frighten you. This is very serious business. I want you to look to your left," we all looked to our left, "and to your right." He said, "One of you isn't going to make it." He said, "The man who's going to make it is going to just have to have his eyes on the goal and not get deterred by all kinds of interference." He said. "Good luck." I found out about him. I said, "Why isn't he commanding a battleship? He's great." He was up in a terrible storm on the north coast of our country and had been up three nights, and he decided to hit the sack. They persuaded him to hit it, and they'd call him. They felt sorry for him. When they got closer to the rocks than they'd wanted to, ... they lost the ship. ... Nobody was dead. They went aground, and so he could never have a ship again; but he made the most of it. He was the commandant out there. ... He was turning out men who would see plenty of things.
KP: Did you, in fact, know anyone who did not make it?
JH: No. I thought I wasn't going to make it one time. ... There was a cluster of us talking on one deck, and we were ... supposed to be in studying, ... we had to go out and just talk; and ... I saw this officer's hat coming up the stairs, ... one flight below, and I kind of took off, and I went down the hall. He said, "Where's the third person?" and my friends said, "That isn't like him at all, Sir. I don't know why he went around the corner here, but we can tell you he's all right." The way they stuck up for me impressed the officer. ... I came back and spoke to him. I said, "I'm sorry that I did that." I said, "I just felt guilty about being out of the room, but I had to get a little air." So, he said, "Hang in there," and he turned around and walked away. ... It didn't hurt anybody or anything, but it was stupid. So I learned that ... I was as vulnerable as the next guy.
JJ: When you went home on leave, why did you decide to go back to school instead of re-enlisting?
KP: You had already made that decision.
JH: ... I had made that decision. ... When I got that suit on at home; that did it. I wasn't going to go back. Then I was called, and they even wrote an order for me to report after I'd been discharged. ... Perth Amboy had a PC, patrol craft; it was a small, like, destroyer, destroyer EDE, destroyer escort type of thing; and they needed a navigator badly, and they said that I would get a good pension someday; and I'd be in the service and could be doing things that I enjoyed. I'd have to take ... three weeks off. I was working for a country bank; and I thought to myself, "These guys aren't going to put up with this if I'm gone for ... three weeks." ... I thought for sure when we got into the next war that I would be called because I had experience in landing craft ... but I never was. I more carefully read before I came over here through my papers, and they had given me the option of being active in the Reserves or inactive. To be very truthful with you now that I'm through with it, and more so then even, somehow I'd been a Boy Scout. This seemed too much like the Boy Scouts for me to devote much of my life to it from here on in, and the war was over. It would be just a routine situation. ...
----------------------------------------END OF TAPE TWO, SIDE TWO--------------------------------------
JH: He wasn't on it when the Germans dropped a bomb down its stack early in the war; but, after it had been repaired and put back into service, he got on, and he was the flight officer. They had a plane on the stern of that cruiser. ... I went and had dinner with him up in New York when they got in from an Atlantic run in the winter one time. I happened to be home, maybe it was on one of my leaves; and ... it was like the windshield of a car only, you know, huge; and ... they're beautifully built, these men-of-war, but it was caked with about three inches of salt. I don't know how they even saw through the window to handle things. They were bringing it in with radar, I guess; but somebody was out there, cleaning some of the salt off. The ocean spray does dry and cake on everything, and the whole ship looked gray-white, you know. ... Coming back to Rutgers, it was good to get back on the Banks. There were enough of us here then so that we weren't standing out. I mean, the kids didn't outnumber us if you want to call them that. God, I was only, like, twenty-[three].
KP: You thought of the students coming out of high school as kids.
JH: ... I did. In fact, when I saw the football team for the first time after the war, I thought, "My God, Dave, they're kids." He said, "Yes, that's what they always were." ... [I] said, "Well, they looked like giants to me when I was first here." Yes, there was a difference; but you quickly put that behind you. You had to study, and you were given assignments, and you had to produce. I enjoyed every minute of Rutgers, I really did. ... When I went for a job at one time in New York I went to Guaranteed Trust Company; and they sent me from one fellow to the other, this is right after I graduated. I got in the president's office, and he was a very imposing gentleman; and he leaned back in this huge chair and asked me what I thought about Harry Truman's tax. ... He passed a tax law or approved it or something. I said, "Well, I'm in favor of it," and he came down on both feet. I thought the chair was going to crash right into his desk. "What?" He said, "You think that Harry Truman is correct in increasing our taxes?" I said, "Yes." He said, "How come?" I said, "Well, that's the only money the government gets; and, if they're ever going to pay their bills, they'd better start doing it now." "Well," he said, "I'll tell you, ... on second thought, young man, don't call me, I'll call you," or something like that. So, I thanked him very much for the interview, and I backed out. I went to Chase, and they took me right away.
KP: Were you being honest, or did you think that he wanted to hear that?
JH: No, I meant it, yes. ... I wouldn't want to work for a guy like that.
JJ: You would not want to work for someone who you had to lie to.
KP: It seems as though you liked Harry Truman.
JH: I liked Harry; yes, I did. ...
KP: Many interviewees bring up Harry Truman; but he is not always remembered fondly.
JH: Well, let me say that I liked his frankness; he said it like it was. At first, I thought we were in deep trouble, frankly, when he succeeded Franklin Roosevelt. I thought we were in deep trouble; but, I guess, ... the war wasn't over yet, quite, as I recall. It was close. We knew we were going to win; and I thought it might give ... the enemy renewed energy or something, but it didn't because we ... controlled things. I mean as Winston Churchill said after the war, "The oceans became Anglo-Saxon ponds." ... But, when I saw Harry in action, I liked him. ... I mean, I liked the man; I don't care about party that much. I mean, I do, but ...
KP: Did you vote for Truman in 1948?
JH: I can't remember now. I honestly don't know. I didn't like Dewey too much; wasn't he the one? I forget now. Yes, I thought ... I wasn't too fond of him. I was wondering how a guy could look like he did and talk like he did and become so successful; but, I guess, he was a very intelligent gentleman. I don't know that I voted for him; I can't tell you now. I know I voted for Roosevelt.
KP: That was your first vote.
JH: My first vote.
JJ: What did you think of Rutgers academically?
JH: Well, I started to say something about that. ... When I was interviewed by one of the bankers ... I went to several places; somebody asked me, "Who prints the money?" and I couldn't tell them. Then I got angry that nobody at Rutgers had made that a point in any class that I attended; and I thought to myself, "God, I thought that we got pretty well educated," but ... that was a bald mistake. So I apologized to that fellow; and I said, "You know, I must have missed class that day." He told me that the Federal Reserve Bank was ... printing it, but it came from the Treasurer of the United States. He gave me a little lesson on it, and I thought I should have gotten that here. Other than that, I had no complaints. I liked it. I liked it very much.
JJ: You returned to Rutgers for your MBA.
JH: Oh, yes. I was invited to go to Colgate again. They sent me a nice letter and said that they had my records and wanted me to come back.
KP: You could have finished up at Colgate. With the GI Bill you could have gone anywhere.
JH: Yes, ... I could have gone anywhere; but I chose Rutgers. ... I told them; I wrote them a letter and said, "Thank you for having enough faith in me to ... invite me back to your school. I liked it, but my heart is really at Rutgers"; and it was.
KP: You mentioned that two of your favorite professors were Dickie Morris and Dr. Agger.
JH: Yes, the economics professor.
KP: Can you tell us a little bit about them?
JH: Well, Dickie Morris was a math teacher, probably retired in the '30s, who was so intelligent and vital he could hold you spellbound about mathematics. ... I think through his efforts navigation came to me a little easier than some. They brought him out of retirement at a time ... when it was necessary to do [so], and he was excellent. He made mathematics come alive to me, and he was just a regular guy. He would joke about it like "I have to ask my wife" or some little thing if you wanted to know [something]. ... He was just right down there with you on the field; but he knew the answers, and he'd show you where you went off. He taught spherical trigonometry, which was kind of spheres above where I was at the moment; but, when I got out of there and looked back at all the things he taught, it all began to sort of fall in place. I mean, he wasn't there to confirm it; but I had a feeling that this is what he meant, like the arcs, you know, ... that are on the globe. I found it easy to comprehend the entire picture with navigation after I had had his class even though I was not a math major by any sense. He made it alive for me. Dr. Agger wasn't stiff, but ... he wasn't jovial. I remember distinctly on several occasions some of the fellows in the class would have the ... Daily News, you know, reading the thing. He'd say, "Rutgers men don't read the Daily News. ... You should read either the New York Times or the Herald Tribune or in the evening the Sun." ... Nobody argued with him ... so we just listened. I know my father read the Herald Tribune. Dr. Agger was a good Republican. I read the Times now as often as I can. I don't get it every day anymore. I tried that for awhile. You just can't do it when you're busy; but, when I want to know something, ... something that is true, I go to the Times. I read the Christian Science Monitor. ... I don't like Barron's so much because they sort of ... stir up trouble when it isn't even there yet. They were calling for a depression here three weeks ago, and then the market went up for five straight days. Alan Abelson, who wrote the article, was so chagrinned; he was calling Greenspan a kook and everything else. ... I said to my wife, "Alan," not ... Greenspan, Alan Abelson, the writer inBarron's, who writes the principal article, "I think he sold short"; and, when it all went up ... he was ruined. So, I said, "That serves him right." ... It's published by Dow Jones, but I look at it for the stock quotations because they're clear, not for the articles.
KP: How did you feel about chapel? You were required to attend chapel services.
JH: I liked it.
JH: Oh, sure. In fact, I sat next to some good [guys]. We sat alphabetically, and ... it was Honeywell and then Hurlbert and so forth. I still see guys ... that I knew there, or I'll see a list and know they're the boys that were near me in chapel. I liked it. It was a beautiful building.
KP: As a Christian Scientist serving in the Navy did you ever experience any conflict between your duty and your principles?
JH: No, no, what I did [was] I stuck my arm out and took the needles. I felt that this is what my country needed now, and I would do my best to fulfill it. If this is what they wanted me to do, to go through here, I was going through.
KP: You compromised a bit.
JH: Yes, a lot.
KP: I know it was very tough for Walter Denise.
JH: It was. Well, yes, it would be. ... Well, I would assume it was. Walter is ... very strong. My wife is probably a little stronger than I am in it. I see the good in it. I wouldn't want anything else. I go and hear some sermons. I've gone to the Catholic church with friends of mine at times. ... I enjoy a good sermon, I really do; but sometimes the depth of them, ... it's more social in some churches than theological. I think that in the Christian Science Church it's kind of down to business for that hour [with] lots of Bible passages and lots of the writings from Mary Baker Eddy's Science and Health. When you're there, that's what you're listening to. You're not thinking of the turkey dinner afterwards, [laughter] but that's just an individual choice. I mean, I like all kinds of people frankly.
KP: Is there anything that we did not ask about Rutgers or World War II? I want to ask you just a few questions about being, as you said, a country banker.
JH: ... No. I remember that I decided for some reason; I can't think why. I wasn't forced to because in the country bank back in those days there weren't too many college graduates. It was a funny thing. My father got a call. He was the chief engineer in Nescafe at the time in Freehold; and Cliff Hance, the president of the First National Bank, called him on a Sunday afternoon and said, "Brad," he was also in Rotary, "the young man in the Central National Bank across the street from me flew the coop and left his wife and child. He's gone, and he was a young officer of that bank; and they're looking for someone, and all I could think of was Jack would be good for the job if he wants to work in the country." So, my dad said, "I'll tell him; but you know Cliff, he's going to have to make up his own mind." So, he did get to me that evening when I got home. He told me what happened and said, "I want you to think about this. ... Don't just push it off. I know working for Chase Bank is sort of an honor, too; but I think you'll have maybe a better life in the long run in the country than you will in the city." I thought about it and went down to meet them. I met the president and the senior vice-president, and they were very nice gentlemen. I thought about it some more and called and said, "Is that job still there?" They said, "Yes." I replied, "When do you want me?" They said "June 16th." On June 16, 1948, I reported and did it all. ... I did the general ledger bookkeeping, didn't have a green eyeshade. I was a teller and the general ledger bookkeeper ... I didn't want to leave anything in that bank undone. I even opened the vault in the mornings and wanted to know what made this thing tick. I had a good education in it, but other than that it wasn't much different. We were all trying to make a dollar, ... but I made probably less money staying here. Chase would have paid me a lot more, I think.
KP: You also would have been much more specialized at Chase.
JH: Well, yes, and I was being considered for the training program where you went through every department for a year or so, and did work in it, and got to know the people there so [that] later on, if you were an officer, you could call them up and they'd say, "Oh, Jack," or something. Somehow in spite of all that I chose to come down to the country; and one or two times I wondered, "What in the world did I do this for?" but ... overall ...
KP: You were very pleased.
JH: Yes, because I ... stayed in that bank, didn't have to go anywhere; and it merged like six times. We got picked up by the First National Bank in the same town. Then two men came down from Long Island, one bought one bank in town and another [bought] the other. They decided to merge them; and so here I was. One day at a meeting they had put a bad service charge into the records. ... If somebody gave you a bad check and you deposited it in your account, they not only took money out from that guy for the interruption; [but]they took it from your account also. So, ... the chairman of the board was up there, this big, heavyset guy; and he was going through this new rule. He said, "Any questions?" I put my hand up and said, "I think it's a bad rule." He said, "Oh, why?" I told him, ... "Why are you penalizing the fellow who got the bad check? He had problems, too." He said, "You know, you're right." After the meeting he came up to me, patted me on the back, and said, "I like it when somebody speaks out." He said, "You keep that up, and you and I are going to do some business together." So he promoted me; and then it began to be fun, you know. [laughter]
KP: What was your position when you retired?
JH: Well, I'll tell you, ... I was supposed to be the next president of the First National Bank of Freehold after they merged. ... Ed Tilton was ahead of me; and he was a great man, but he retired, ... By that time we had merged with ... the Fidelity Union Bank, and they sent people down to ... run the main branches in the area. Every time there was a chance for something like that to happen we got bigger, and more Wall Street types showed up. ... So, it never bothered me. I had a good time. ... I never got kicked out; I never had a problem, and ... I found out that I could sell. They needed somebody to sell a thing, and I got a loan from a car dealer that brought in millions of dollars. He would never come [in] before, and I just got him at the right breakfast meeting. I told him what I was doing, and the bank across the street that he'd been in for about twenty years was charging him prime plus something. I said, ... "I just saw in the paper this morning that prime has gone down; I'm sure we'd give you prime." ... I reached out, and they backed me; and we got every account the guy had. So then I thought to myself, "I enjoyed that. I enjoyed that encounter." I wound up in a region selling the bank in northern Mercer and ... western Monmouth; I was selling the bank to businesses, and I had fun doing it. I'd talk to the elevator operator on the way up, and I would talk to the president up on top. Then I would come out, and I'd get a call. I'd lay out something; ... I went to one place; the guy had twenty-six trucks. ... He had a big business, and one of the banks in Monmouth County was giving him truck loans, a separate loan on each truck at twelve percent. I looked at it and said, "You know what you need?" Right at the first meeting I said, "You need a line of credit for trucks, ... and we'll charge you six percent on the line." He said, "My God, I'm going to cut the cost of every truck down in half?" I said, "Yes. You should be getting that right now." So, he was there the next day and signed all the papers. [laughter] I had fun doing that. It just was like I [had] found my niche.
KP: A friend of mine, who is in banking, told me that selling the bank and its services to local businesses had been a problem in the recent past.
JH: I know.
KP: The financial services industry has really cut into the banks' sphere of activity because the banks are not selling themselves properly.
JH: Right. Well, one of the greatest problems with the banks, as I see it right now, is that they are cutting down on personnel. When I managed the Freehold office at the end, ... when Ed Tilton retired, it was the largest bank in our system. It had like sixty-seven, sixty-eight million dollars in deposits; and we had the training school downstairs. We had a money room that took care of Great Adventure's money and everybody else's money and brought it in in trucks. We had about thirty some-odd people that I ... had to make sure were there every day, and I would spend the first fifteen minutes every morning covering absentee tellers and ... stuff like this with the head teller. Then I would go out and meet my customers and thank them for their business and see if they needed [anything] more. Today you know how many people there are full-time in that office where I had thirty people? Two.
JH: Two full-timers and the rest are part-timers. I was in a long line here two weeks ago in the bank at noon, and one girl closed her window and started to prove out. I walked over and said, "Is your relief coming soon?" She said, "I beg your pardon?" I said, "Is your relief coming?" She said, "All I know is I'm part-time, and I go home at one." It was ten of one now, and she was proving; and I thought to myself, "The bank doesn't give a damn. They've got two tellers and twenty people lined up. ... They're not going to be around." Their thought was, ... a girl I'd known, I mean she worked for me once, ... there's no manager, she's the one you see who's in charge of directing you to the right telephone if you want to know what the mortgage rates are. You don't ask the manager anymore. I had loan authority. I could give a hundred thousand dollars to somebody. I knew them, and I made sure that they were not going to go down the tube. I looked at their statements. I could read them like a book, ... but nobody there can do that. You take them to a telephone now, and the mortgage officer has a clerk who tells them what the rate is [and] what the terms are. The same thing for business loans; you get another phone. I have a feeling that maybe I'm out of step, ... maybe I'm an old foggie now who wants personal service and friends in there when I go to talk about my money, not a machine, or a telephone, or somebody part-time who doesn't know who I am. It's very serious. I'm debating whether to keep all my bank stock; I really am.
KP: I agree with you. [laughter] How have you enjoyed your retirement?
JH: ... Well, I never really retired. The bank came to me and said that I was now in Trenton ... They thought that if I joined the Chamber of Commerce we'd get every account in Trenton. I said, "You've got to really stop and think a minute." I said, "I've been through this game. Not only do you have to join the Chamber, you've got to be on the board of directors; and that takes countless meetings." I said, "I've done this all my life, and I don't want to do it again." Somebody in Newark wanted to give me the district from the Raritan to the Delaware; and I said, "Do you realize that I would be about 130 years old before I got to the other end?" I said, "I wouldn't know whom I saw; they'd be retired up on the other end." I said, "Thank you for the compliment, but this is not [feasible]." He said, ... "Oh, well, you would train a crew to go do it and be overseeing the whole thing." He liked, somehow, the way I sold, I guess; but I didn't want to get in that. I [replied], "I've done this all my life, and I have to tell you the truth; I know you sent a few of us down here because we had experience to make the bank grow; but, I belong ...
KP: This was at First Fidelity Bank, correct?
JH: Right, and he said, "Well, at least go to Trenton and help me out a bit." So, I had fun calling businesses down there, and I got some new business. One guy was going public, and ... I think he was going to get like four million the next morning from the stock issue on Monday; and I went [in] on Friday. He said, "I thought nobody was coming from your bank, but I'm very pleased and flattered that you got over here." So, I talked to him. ... Before we were through, I didn't push ... he wanted to know all about why ... such a large bank was [interested]. ... He was going to go to a small bank with his millions. I said, "Well, they're going to be insured, I'm sure." He said, "Well, how much is the insurance?" I said, "A hundred thousand dollars"; and he said, "I'm going to put four million in and be insured for a hundred thousand?" I said, "Well, I don't think it's going to fail; but, ... you know, who am I?" So, he said to me, "I just changed my mind. I'm going to bring three million," whatever it was, "seven hundred thousand to you, Monday morning; and I'm going to plop three hundred thousand in the other bank, and maybe I'll whittle that down to one hundred thousand after I pay off everything I want to pay off." So, I ... said, "Well, I hope I haven't been too forceful." He said, "Forceful? Hell, you haven't been forceful enough." ... I went back to the office, it was Friday night; and I called the head of this department up and said to him, "We got the account." He said, "Oh, you've been down there?" I said, "Yes, we got the account." "You got it?" I said, "Yes, he's going to bring all his money in here Monday and leave a little bit in the other bank." "Holy Christ," he said, "that's wonderful." So then when I wanted to leave he didn't want me to go; but he had to get rid of a certain number of people so he came to me. He took two guys upstairs; they came down, all ashen white. One had been in Banker's Trust in New York for years. He'd dressed up in fancy clothes and all. He was gone; and he said, "I have to be out of ... here at two-thirty." He was working at his desk but never ... called on companies. He just sat there and read the Times all day and stuff. [laughter] I mean, you could ask him a question and get a good answer; but he wasn't out on the street so he wasn't what they needed; and the second fellow got it. He wanted me to come upstairs; and I said, "No, I'm not coming upstairs." I said, "I've been here almost forty years. You want to talk to me? Come on down and tell me that I'm through." "Goddamn it," he said, "you're different. Get up here." So I went up; and he said, "Now, you're not being fired. In fact," he said, "I'd hate like the devil to lose you; but you keep talking about Freehold where you'd be more effective. I can't send you there, and I've got to get rid of three people this week." It was at the beginning of all this restructuring business, way back, ten years ago. So, I said, "Well, okay. I'm very sorry, but ... I'd hate to be let go." He said, "You're not being fired. You're going to get all your benefits; but that reminds me; call personnel and find out what your pension's going to be because you're leaving six months early." So, I did. ... I called him the next day and said, "My wife feels that it's not fair for me not to get my full pension after all these years." He said, "Jack, you leave it with me. I'm going to Scotland for three weeks," big deal, right? but he said, "I will see what I can do." He came back from Scotland. I wasn't going to call him on that Monday. ... He called me at five after nine. "Jack, have you talked to personnel?" I said, "No." "Well," he said, "don't tell them I told you; but, they're going to pay you to stay home." He said, "You've got a good record here," and I felt good about that. He said, "We don't want you unhappy. Your wife is right. Listen to her a little bit, will you?" He said, "We're going to pay you ... until February the 1st." This was June; and he said, "Your salary's coming in, but I've got to get a body out of here. You're going to suffer less than," [and] he names some woman who had two kids and her husband wasn't with her anymore. So, you know, that sort of thing; but ... I had a very successful termination. I even got another job with another bank. I didn't look for it. They came to me and wanted me. So, I've been active; and then I got my real estate license, and I've been sort of selling, part-time. I haven't really stayed home. ... [In] 1998 I've been home more than any other time, and I begin to kind of feel as though I like that.
KP: Are you still in real estate?
JH: ... I still have my license, yes.
KP: You really did not retire until recently.
JH: No, I retired in December of '97, you might say. As far as retirement goes, I drop in, clear out my mailbox there in the office, pay my dues and my fees; and I don't do anything. I refer people to other people, you know; but I may just continue. All of a sudden, though, I may want to go back and do a few deals; I don't know, but I like what I'm doing now. I read the Asbury Park Press pretty much through in the morning, ... on a cup of coffee or two. ... People don't think of me as a realtor. They call up about interest rates, "Jack, what's going on?" ... But they're not going to find out at the bank, I can tell you that. ...
KP: Have you ever attended a ship reunion?
JH: No. That was a curious thing, and ... it's a question that dawned on me as I was sort of thinking about all this. I didn't. ... I never got a notice of a reunion meeting. Some units are still at it, and I think it would have been nice. Maybe if I were on the carrier that's anchored up here in New York.
JJ: The Intrepid.
JH: ... Yes, I'd probably go up. I want to go, anyhow, to see that. ... A friend of mine in Rotary has a son who is a naval officer now, and he was one; and he went to visit him on a little cruise; and they let him ... onboard. ... I don't know if he wore civilian clothes or his uniform. The only thing that would fit with my uniform would be the tie, and ... that was the story there. I never did. ... Nobody ever put it together, but we came from all over. I kept in touch with [someone]. One young fellow came up to me when we hit the coast once, and he lived in Arkansas or somewhere; he said, "Mr. Hurlbert, if you'll give me leave," we were going to be there ten days, "I'll be back." I knew him. His name was Bill Lampkin. He later got a real big job with one of the utilities out there and had a beautiful home. ... Every Christmas he sent me a card, pictures of his kids and his wife. He lost his wife ... a couple of years back, about a year-and-a-half ago, and that was sad. She was a beautiful girl, but he had a very successful life. ... I told him to hit the road fast and be sure he showed up because with five hundred men around they would never miss [him]. We didn't have a roll call every night; but I knew where he was, and he was there. He came back a day early.
KP: He really appreciated what you did for him.
JH: He never forgot it. I wouldn't have either if I hadn't seen my family in a couple of years, but it was interesting. So, I've had ... a good life. ... I wasn't in the middle of hell with the Navy, but we would've gone to hell if we had to. I mean, we just weren't called upon. I tell guys who never got overseas, "Nobody ever paddled their own canoe over there. They were sent."
KP: You joined the American Legion.
JH: I did, and ... I'll tell you the truth it became a marching-and-chatter society, a bunch of drinkers. I was their treasurer. It was logical, and I put a few stiff little things in there that, if they did this, they had to give you that. I was trying to build it up, and a couple of guys came to me and said, "Jesus Christ, Jack, we had enough of that in the service. ... We just want to raise a little hell once in awhile and have the money there for that, and we want to spend it all when we get it." I said, "Well, that's fine. You know you're entitled to do that. It's your money." I sort of slowly withdrew from the thing, and I never got back in.
KP: You have not stayed active.
KP: You were active for a time with the Freehold post.
JH: Well, no, in the Helmetta one before we moved. We didn't move to Freehold 'til 1952, I think it was. My dad became chief engineer at Nestle. ...
KP: That was what prompted you to move.
JH: Oh, we took off, yes.
KP: You mentioned that you were engaged before going off to war.
JH: ... I tell you she was not too bright, I guess. She was a pretty girl. She went to Douglass or NJC at the time, and she was a rather pretty girl; ... but she told me something very stupid. When I got back, I took her out. We went to Frank Dailey's Meadowbrook, and she ruined the whole evening because she said she had been dating a guy in the, what Army unit was in here ... during the war? ...
JH: ASTP, I guess; and she was out with him often. In fact, I didn't know how often until these two cute girls, who were nieces of ... the next-door-neighbor to us in town, [who] was the school principal, would come over to see their aunt, and I knew them, told me that they hated to tell me but they saw this girl that I had given a ring to walking around all over New Brunswick hand-in-hand with this fellow in an Army uniform. I just confronted her with it the first night I saw her; and she said, "Yes, I did." So, I said, "Well, let me have the ring back. I'm going to just take off." So, I did. ... It was very simple. I didn't want to get embroiled again with it before I did that so I just settled it right there, the first night.
KP: Were you disappointed at the time?
JH: Well, it was disappointing, ... but I had a feeling that there was something because she didn't write to me much. Some of the guys were getting letters like three a week, and I would hear [from her] about once every six weeks or something. So, I thought, "Something's wrong there. I'm going to have to settle that as soon as I get back"; and that was one of the first orders of business.
JJ: I had a long list of questions, and you have just about covered them all.
JJ: Just about.
JH: You did ask me one question that I didn't follow up on, but I forget what it was now; but I think we covered everything.
KP: You came back to Rutgers for your class's fiftieth reunion.
JH: Yes, Dave Kingston and I were both there. I think Dave has had a slight stroke, I don't know what; but I think you were going to go down and interview him at his home.
KP: Yes, we did. We actually drove down on a stormy day.
JH: Oh, dear, yes.
KP: Also, the recorder failed. Luckily, he had a cassette recorder.
JH: Oh, thank goodness.
KP: Thank you very much for all your time.
JH: Well, thank you for your time. I mean, ... I appreciate your kindness. I'm sorry I didn't have this grueling [story]. ...
----------------------------------------------END OF INTERVIEW---------------------------------------------
Reviewed by Shaun Illingworth 3/21/03
Reviewed by Sandra Stewart Holyoak 3/25/03
Reviewed by Betty E. Hurlbert 3/2/10 & 2/26/11