They were more optimistic about it being over than we had been. Like I said, we were at general quarters and not taking anything for granted. After the signing ceremony for the surrender, did you stay in the Harbor and then finally dock? Or did you go out again? Very soon after the surrender, we were given shore leave. We traveled all over. A matter of a few weeks. I was riding Japanese subway trains. They were glad to get American money.
We could exchange that for yen. I think the American dollar was more stabile than the Japanese money. So, you went on shore leave and you were able to travel around. Where did you go and what were the things that you could do? Other than the brothels, what other things did you do? You said you were able to go by train to visit different places. I think one of the things that sticks in my mind Until you were told that months before it had been part of their city that had been absolutely destroyed and burned No signs of buildings or anything.
There was hardly any rubble. Manila was a modern stone and concrete bricks city, and you could see rubble there. So the rubble had actually been cleaned up then. You went to Yokohama, but mostly in the Tokyo area? How long were you in the Tokyo area after the signing Or, actually, the surrender? Oh, I guess probably two or three months we operated out of there. From there we went back to Manila, then back to the United States.
Did you have any particular duty in enforcing the peace on land, or were you still based mostly on your ship? I had some shore patrol duty but it was just in the daytime. I think, for the most part, liberties were limited to daytime.
What was the reaction of the Japanese people that you came in contact with as an American military? Were most of the people you ran into women and children? Or men, women and children? Mostly women and children, but some men, too. The Japanese young men, I guess, were pretty well desolated by the war. But there were some older men and lots of women and children. That was absolutely unbelievable to me. How the Japanese flopped from being the enemy Well, and also the difference between the attitudes of the military and the military leadership, and the Japanese people as a whole, would have been quite different.
Well, you can contrast that to Iraq today. Well, this was certainly a different experience today than then, when hostilities ceased at the end of World War II in Japan, it was over. Then you said you went to Manila. We sort of wound our way home. From Manila to Samar in the southern Philippines, and I know we had to get a new radar antenna put on our ship.
You said you went on shore when you were in Manila and you saw a lot of devastation, right? Well, Manila was a devastated city. No question about it. Public buildings were just I mean it was building-to-building warfare for part of the time. One of the things that was rather remarkable to me was the ramifications, again, for the Japanese, was that we had some experience with First I had a thing that was like a police band radio sweeps thing where it would change frequency and go clear across frequency range, and it would hit the frequency of the Japanese radar and it would set up a pulse on a CRT screen.
That would tell you the frequency of the Japanese radar. So you got kind of acquainted with some of these guys, just for the little short while we did that. When the war was over we were in Yokosuka, which was a big naval base; it was sort of like San Francisco Bay, in a way, where the hills are around the Bay; and I went up to look at some of these radar installations.
This was a major naval base. Instead they had a big thing that looked like bed springs set up and it was pedaled around. A guy pedaled it with his bicycle to move it. I think they had two operators on each side. One pedal to do one series of motions and another pedal to do something else.
No power drive at all. Our equipment, of course, were all driven by motors and electronic equipment. Then the person who was getting the information on the range and direction, would yell to the operator I guess the command post operator No telephones or anything.
They just had this thing that was flexible, like a garden hose. Then they had their anti-aircraft guns. They were set up all along the ridge top. I know I saw a lot of ammunition dumps for 40 mm and 20 mm shells. As I said, I had shore patrol duty, but that was to keep American sailors in line more than anything else.
Laughing So, you were in the Philippines for a while and then did you start your way back to the United States?
Did your ship go into Pearl Harbor? If so, what was it like then? I suppose the ships were still there It was that way too when we stopped at Pearl Harbor going to the Pacific. It would come from Norfolk going to the Panama Canal. We went to Hawaii and then kind of island-hopped across from Hawaii to Saipan. I think everything had been cleaned up by that time.
I think the Arizona was the only one left. All the others were either salvaged or cut up for scrap. We came back to San Diego. The discharge was based on a point system and you had to get a certain number of points that included your time in service and combat experience, and a whole bunch of other stuff that added up together gave you the points you needed.
What was your point total? Was it a late or early Or a late discharge? Other people went off earlier but there were a lot of people staying because they had to keep the ships serviced. I was discharged up at Pleasanton. We had a demobilization center there. Pleasanton is east of San Francisco Bay. I might have been on leave and then reported to Pleasanton. Well, I was anxious to get started. I had a big interruption in my life and I was looking forward to going to college and I wanted to get a job to make some money.
To get started all over again. Was there any kind of special reception when you got back home? I might have gone home on leave for a few days, then reported to Pleasanton.
As far as parades or brass bands go I think that maybe for some of the first servicemen returning home One of the things that did take place was a kind of funny little incident. During the war, you know, you had radio silence and strict radio discipline, and you were very careful how the radio was used and, at the end of the war, some time after we got back to Hawaii, and things were really settling down, with no more fighting with anybody, things got very lax.
The people would tune their radio transmitter on, and they would give kind of a long thing like "How do you hear me? Counting one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten It was very lax in the Pacific. But, when we got down to San Diego, we started getting into the spit and polish of the port master It was the harbor manager.
But he was gonna have lots of spit and polish. He told them to "Knock that off". It was not supposed to happen. And this one night, I was in our combat information center, and this guy counts on and on and the ships were all tied up. There might have been half a dozen destroyers tied side by side, and some guy counts up to about thirty and back down.
Somebody else, with the same voice, said, "Harbor master! I got a job for the rest of the summer and I applied for enrollment under the G. Bill at the University of California at Berkeley. I had been interested in forestry all along. I apparently planned that very early on when I was still in high school. I was sixteen that first year with the state and then seventeen with the forest service. We were on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Were you in a camp-type set-up?
Was it in northern California? Did they have a lot of high school students doing that? To answer your questions: Yes, and yes it was in northern California and the state crew had maybe eight or ten high school students and about the same for the Forest Service crew.
Different locations; but both in Lake County. Did you do the same thing then after you were discharged from the service? Were you on fire patrols? It was a forest insect control operation. Not insect, but pine disease, called "white pine blister rust". So, you were working in that.
Then you went to the University of California at Berkeley with a view towards preparing for a career with the Forestry Department? So, it was forestry with the scientific study of forestry and biology and that sort of thing?
I probably could have. In theory, you could skip a lot and still get credit for a lot of classes When you started at the University of California, you started then as a freshman, right? But I had enough credits So I had enough credits to go into college without having to do any make-up.
Then you finished your college undergraduate under the G. Bill and then you graduated from the University of California. Was that the Berkeley campus? I went to work for the State Division of Forestry. When it looked like you were going to be employed and you could support yourself, right? And you continued to work for the State of California in the Department of Forestry throughout your whole career then? I worked about twelve or thirteen years with them and then I went to work for the U.
I worked a lot during the summers and weekends and things like that while I was going to college, but I went to work permanently when I was twenty-five and retired when I was sixty-five, so I had forty years with them.
I worked twelve or thirteen years with the State and then the rest of it was with the U. Looking back on your military career, do you have any feelings about whether it was worthwhile? Did you have a sense that this was important stuff to do?
I think everybody figured it was essential. You look at the situation The Germans were winning and the Japanese were winning. But, by the time I went into service, it looked like: There was that sense at the time that this was almost a matter of national survival.
Did you personally think this was a valuable experience? Did it change you in any way? I guess maybe it was that way. It was certainly a growing up experience for me. Of course, you were right, at the time, as was most everyone that joined when they were seventeen, eighteen or nineteen, that big changes would happen in their life no matter when.
But this added a new dimension. My attitude might have been entirely different. But, you know, really starting in as a seventeen year old kid, you sort of mature in service, I guess. Did you join any of the military organizations or just to keep in touch with people personally? Just kept in touch personally. My ship has a reunion periodically but I never attended any of those.
Some people do, I guess. For example, like a reunion in Washington, D. Of course, your family was focused on education, obviously. Your parents were college educated. Have you thought about the G. Bill and would you have gone to college anyway?
I would have gone anyway. My folks had been saving money; quite a beneficiary of the G. As you look back on this, would you consider your military experience as a positive experience for the most part, or entirely? Did you find it more of an interruption or just something to deal with?
It delayed your college by what That would have a profound effect on them. For me, I think it was a pretty maturing and growing experience. It did put off my education. Some of them had been around, yeah. Well, that was a different experience They wanted to make up for lost time. Some of the grade point averages, you know Well, apparently your wife Carmen was impressed that you were a studious person. I was gonna make one point about the Japanese radar and electronics.
They just blossomed under a democracy. They were really competent, energetic, capable people. And I think that before the war, "Made in Japan" was synonymous with junk. But after the war, it was synonymous with quality.
I think that some American advisors had gone to Japan and helped them get started in their business technology. They emphasized that one of the ways to achieve prosperity was to produce quality products.
Well, they certainly have been very successful, in part, at our expense, and in part because they just are a very industrious people.
Well, I think that that probably brings this all to a close. I want to thank you for participating in this project and sharing your military experiences. Then, eventually, the tape and transcript will be shelved in the Riverside Public Library, minus all the personal information and will be available for students to read, and anyone else I think yours will be one of them.
All over the country we have people participating in this project. So, this concludes the interview. Riverside Public Library Library Home. Interview with James B.
Now, is Lakeport in Lake County? Did your dad stay there through his whole career? He died of cancer when he was about I was back in college when he passed away. And what about your mother? Did your mother work when you were growing up, or was she always at home? Did you have brothers and sisters? So, you grew up in Lakeport, right? Then before the war, you were still in high school?
That would have been , right? No, south of Redding. The question people talk about: What did your family think about it? Well, they were aware that military service was imminent. How about your brother? You said you had one brother. Was he older or younger?
Did he join later? Where was your boot camp training? How long was your boot camp? Is that where you were? Did the Navy use some of those Clipper airplanes that landed on the water? We had a lot of flying boats of one kind or another.
So, some of your training there was at Treasure Island? Maybe about ten percent. You went onto a ship as it was being fitted out, right? Although some women did become welders.
How about the technical people from Raytheon and some of those other companies? They were all men that I can remember. Were they older men beyond military age? What was that ship? Now, were these torpedoes launched off of the deck, or down under water? The kamikaze attacks were new? That was the purpose of that tripod mast radar. So you had to reset it.
We had to reset it, which was about a half hour detailed process to do it. Did you have to climb up to set it? It was in the radar room down below. How were you with your sea legs? Were you getting used to rough weather? Was it ever enough to actually destroy or sink ships? Now, was this still the Hawkins that you were on? Was there a first name So, you stayed with the Hawkins for a while?
And that would have been early ? Or still late ? Most of the picket ship duty was closer to the Japanese mainland? Did a kamikaze plane hit the Frank Knox or try to? By that time in April were you on the Frank Knox or was it later? Did most of the equipment work pretty well?
What would you do if you were called to battle stations? Did you ever have to do your fire control duty on either ship? Neither ship ever got hit. The Frank Knox was kind of closer to action but it never got hit. It never got hit. How close did it come to the Frank Knox?
That must have given everybody a start. To what part of the ship was it headed? About the middle of the ship. Where were you standing? So it could have been pretty close to you. I guess it was about as good a place to be. You could have jumped into the water maybe. When was this particular incident That was at the very tail end of the Okinawa campaign.
So, that would have been May or June? Did you ever hear any of the radio broadcasts from Japan? So, the Normandy invasion What was the reaction to the announcement? Well, we were pretty glad that it was taking place, and everybody was listening A lot of whooping and hollering? Take part in the invasion and get his extra star or stripe or whatever.
Well, your career people have different agendas than your enlisted people. They were people who had had career aspirations. Was there a great sigh of relief like this might bring an end to the war? About how close were you? Did they let you celebrate a little bit?
You said you went into Tokyo Bay and then what did you do when you went in there? Then you knew at that time that the ceremony would be on the Missouri? Meaning that you were on alert? We were ready to start fighting if something had gone wrong. How large was the escort fleet for the Missouri? Was there a certain amount of suspicion then that this might not be for real?
As far as you knew, were there any U. They started to go in. In and around Tokyo to check these batteries There was a steady flow of troops going ashore, and aircraft flying above. Before the signing ceremony actually took place? Now, Saipan is one of the islands? How close were you actually?
Oh, a couple of miles. And you could see them. Were people watching the fleet out in the harbor? They wanted to see it? And they knew that the surrender was about to take place. Well, by that time they had already heard from the Emperor. They knew the war was over. So there was a great deal of respect for the Emperor. In a matter of days, you mean, after the signing?
What did you do in terms of money? Did you have to change money? Well, we went sightseeing and buying curios. The sailors were glad to see the girls. And they planted it with I imagine they probably did. Did you travel to any other places away from Tokyo by train? Did you encounter any hostility? Yeah, and that was quite a while after the war was over. This was in August then, before the war was over? Were their guns pretty good range, as far as you could tell? We went to Hawaii and then came back to San Diego.
Well, not very many. The Arizona was there, but most of the others had been cleaned up. So it was a working shipyard. So, Pearl Harbor was quite useable then in when you went over? Other than the two or three ships that they just left?
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