|Oral history interview with George and Marian P. Kinderman by Brad Larson for the Oshkosh World War II project. A transcript is on a computer file in the archives.
George and Marian Kinderman
August 29, 2001
BL: Okay, it's August 29th, 2001 and I'm sitting in the home of Mr. and Mrs. George Kinderman. We're going to talk a little bit about the Second World War. So are you folks ready to go?
GK: All ready!
BL: What do you remember about the war before Pearl Harbor, before the United States was involved?
GK: I personally didn't think we'd get involved because it was way over there but you could see that Churchill and Roosevelt, they had other ideas, that's my opinion anyway, and eventually we'd be in it, whether we liked it or not. When the Japs attacked Pearl Harbor, that set it off. To me that was the key, they attacked on the United States of America. Pearl Harbor.
BL: Just about everybody can remember where they were or what they were doing on Pearl Harbor day. What were you two doing?
MK: We were at the Strand Theater.
MK: Yeah, mmhhm. His brother was in Pearl Harbor.
GK: When we were there, Victor Borge was playing at the Strand. Remember Victor Borge? He was a great entertainer. My brother was at Pearl Harbor and he was on the Oklahoma and he lost that, then he went on the destroyer, Buchanan, he lost that in a typhoon. He had some rough years, six years in the Navy, six rough years. Boy.
BL: So you came out of the theater, had someone told you or you heard it on the radio or what?
MK: Uh, I don't know…
GK: I don't think so, I think we came home and her mother was crying, you know. Her mother and dad were listening to the radio and her mother was crying and we said, "What happened?" and then she mentioned, she said, "They've attacked Pearl Harbor!" We found out that the Oklahoma was sunk, we didn't know for six weeks weather he was alive or dead. Six weeks, yeah. Communication, boy, that was zip!
BL: Where were you living at the time?
GK: We were living on Ninth Street in the yellow house over there. It was the home of my parents but next store to my grandparents. But then later there was an empty lot here and we bought the lot and built a house over here.
BL: So you heard about Pearl Harbor and I know a lot of folks enlisted right away.
GK: That's true.
BL: What about you George, what happened to you? Where were you working and what happened immediately after Pearl Harbor?
GK: Well, I was working at Rockwell International and naturally you're gung-ho, you're going to sign up, you're going to win the war! But that ain't so, they don't want you that fast, they gotta get time to train you and everything. Next thing I know I get put on, I went to Basic Training out in Camp Roberts, California. Ooh Boy I'm going to California! I couldn't knock that.
BL: Did you enlist then?
GK: No, no.
BL: You were drafted?
GK: I was drafted. I thought, 'well they'll get me anyway so why rush it', you know.
BL: What month was that that you were drafted?
GK: I think it was June of "44 wasn't it? Around that time.
MK: No, it was before that, cuz we were married in "43.
GK: Oh boy.
MK: So it was "42, 1942.
GK: You don't remember when you were married. (laughs)
BL: Well, Mrs. Kinderman what was your reaction after that day, and in the days that followed?
MK: Oh, gosh, I've gotta think a little bit now. What, was I nineteen at the time? You know, you don't think too much of it.
BL: Did you have any brothers that were of service age or any immediate friends or relatives?
MK: My brother-in-law went to service he was in the Pacific and, uh, his brother but my family wasn't. They were either too young or too old.
GK: My brother enlisted six years in the Navy. Six years he signed up. That's a long time.
BL: That's a long time.
MK: He died last year, 1999, or three years ago that is.
GK: He was eighty years old.
BL: So, George they sent you out to California to get trained. Is that where you went then for your basic training?
GK: Yes. I was out at Camp Roberts.
MK: Which is the Silicone Valley now.
MK: Silicone Valley now.
GK: Yeah,(laughing) the Silicone Valley, that's where all the big things ended up, you know, all the hot dogs.
MK: Yeah I had a sister out in California, so then I went out there and got a job at Lockheed.
BL: Did you know you know you could get a job when you went out there?
MK: Oh sure.
BL: How did you know that?
GK: They were begging for it.
MK: Well they were asking all over to work, you know, in war plants and every thing.
GK: You could work two three jobs if you wanted to
MK: Yeah and I did. I worked in a restaurant during the day cuz I worked the night shift, eleven to seven, and then during the day I would go to this little restaurant in Hollywood and, uh, eat and they were always short of help, ma and pa place. I would ask, 'do you want me to cut in and help for a couple hours?' and they'd say 'oh, my god that's great', and so I did that.
GK: She always had a place to eat.(laughing)
BL: So you got a job at Lockheed, tell me what you were doing.
MK: I was grinding drills, sharpening drills on this big wheel and met a lot of nice people. I had a good time.
BL: They were making planes there?
MK: Yeah, mmhhm.
GK: You were really down in, uh, what town was that?
MK: It was Burbank.
GK: Burbank, yeah. Burbank, Napa Valley.
MK: (laughing) Well that's another story.
BL: Well you certainly can't beat the weather that's for sure. So George what happened then after training?
MK: Did you go to Fort Dixon?
GK: Yeah, and then pretty soon you were assigned to a regular outfit and you're pretty well a victim of that outfit. Wherever they go, you go, you know. You ain't got much to say about it anymore then. So I was at that for awhile and then I went, where did I go? Did we go down to Augusta, Georgia? I think we were down there.
MK: I think so, yeah. I didn't, but you did. I stayed in California.
GK: Then later I came back from Fort Dixon and went over seas, you always went back from where you started from. When you're discharged, you went right back to where you originally went in. That was the law of the army.
BL: What division did they assign you to?
GK: I was assigned to the 4th infantry, the fighting 4th. The Eighth Infantry Regimental Commander was James N. Fleet, one of the finest soldiers in the army. General Barton was commanding and Carmine McNealey was Lieutenant Colonel and George Bothovey had won the Congressional Medal of Honor. Three of our men got pinned down under heavy artillery up on the hillside; he crawled up there and brought everyone back. Took him half a day but he got up there and brought 'em back. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
MK: That was on D-Day?
GK: That was afterwards. Great soldier, he was concerned about his men, no other concern. "My men are important, I live by my men, I die by 'em." that was his theory.
BL: So you two got married then, somewhere about that time huh, 1943?
MK: Mmmhm, May 10th yeah.
BL: Where were you married?
MK: In Oshkosh.
BL: You came back here? So you got leave to come back here huh, George?
GK: Yes I was able to get a leave and she finagled to get time off. Hey, if you don't finagle, you don't get nothin'.
MK: Yeah, because they knew I would quit otherwise, you know, and they don't want you to quit so I had a leave. I had it, let's see I stayed home about a month and then I went back out there.
GK: She liked California.
GK: She always said, "I want to stay there."
BL: Where were you married at?
GK: Sacred Heart Church, Oshkosh. May 10th 1943. That's the best day I ever had in my life.
MK: Thank you.
BL: Did you know you were going to go overseas at that time?
GK: Oh yes, yes I was pretty definite, yeah the war was over there it wasn't here. It was in the Pacific, or a lot of it in Pacific, that was a different battle, you know. My brother was in the Navy and that was mostly a Naval deal out of Pearl Harbor. He was on the Oklahoma that went down, and he lost the Buchanan in a hurricane…
GK: …a typhoon yeah, they spent like a week or so out on a raft, before they spotted em.
MK: It was longer than that.
MK: It was longer than a week
GK: …before they spotted them and were able to rescue them they didn't know where the hell they were. They were just out there.
MK: Too bad you didn't get to interview him, he would have had a lot of stories.
BL: Yeah I know, I do regret that. What was the mood like in the country about the time you were married? How would you describe people's feelings toward the war at that time?
GK: A lot of people didn't feel we should be in it. It was a European war, more, you know. But then again it was just a matter of time they're going to get us, you know.
MK: We shouldn't have been in a lot of these wars.
GK: Yeah, Yeah I know, but the war was changing, and it was the air power was coming in and nobody was safe anymore, you know. There was no safe haven. You can't hide. Where are you going to hide? Crawl in a hole? That ain't going to do you any good.
MK: Yeah and then you went over to England.
GK: Yeah, I was down in Exeter for a long time, and then I was over, outside of London.
BL: When you got over to England then did you engage in a lot of training activities?
GK: Yeah, we did a lot of hiking!
BL: You did, huh?
GK: That's one thing the Army did. You wore out the shoes anyway. You got a new pair of shoes every two months. They wore out!
BL: Did they tell you that you were training for the invasion?
GK: You more or less knew. We were originally going down to a place called Slap-n-Sands [Slapton] which was off the beaten track and we were taking amphibious training, and warned us we were getting ready for an invasion. You could feel that, you know?
MK: You had to wait for the weather to be just right.
GK: Right, yeah so it was pretty much scheduled to be the first week in June, they would always say the longest day. What they meant by that was the longest daylight hours. It was always easier to fight a war in daytime than at night. First of all they can see you better, you don't see as well at night, you know unless the lights were on.
BL: Did you have pretty good morale?
GK: I would say the morale was very good, we all knew that "hey this thing is not going to go away" and we were pretty well briefed that "hey this is it boys whether you like it or not". I will say this that Eisenhower insisted that the American troops would be under American leadership and the British troops would be under Montgomery. No other way, and that's the way it went. General Bradley, Omar Bradley and had Stillwell out there, we had two of the best, uh, and I always consider James N Fleet one of the finest officers the Army ever had. He took care of his men, he looked out for his men and he said, "those are my boys" he said "I live with them and I die with them" and he was a great soldier. He lived to be, oh I don't know, what did he live to be, a hundred?
MK: He was quite old, yeah when he died.
GK: Yeah, he lived in California or Florida, rather.
GK: Yeah he had a place down there. Most of us Army guys retire to warm climates!
BL: After they loaded you on the ship, when you were headed over, did they tell you then that you were going to land in France?
GK: They didn't exactly tell you that, but hey, that was the only reason you were going, where the hell were you going to go? Yeah, where were you going to go? Yeah your training was centered on that. Your life preservers, your equipment, your waterproof equipment, everything was, that was it, there was no other way.
BL: Tell me what it was like that day June 6th.
GK: Well, gee it seems like so long ago, my feelings, I don't know if I…
MK: Well that's when you got off the ship and you were wounded immediately. You were hit with shrapnel.
GK: Yeah, then I know I got hit, and when I got hit I said to a guy, "I'm hit. Here, take the gun." I gave it to him and this guy he took the gun and I crawled up to the wall, you know, and I got medical attention because the Navy had landed. Medical attention on the beach to take care of their wounded and took back to the landing ships and back to England. Well I ended up in England for two years, before I even got home. She was writing everybody. What did you call that?
MK: I wrote the President, because everybody was coming home, and he wasn't and he was wounded. They let me know that he was wounded but I didn't hear anymore. Called the Red Cross and I didn't know if he was alive or dead. I wrote the President, I wish I had the letter that I got back from the Secretary of War.
GK: Secretary of War or Defense, whatever.
MK: I don't know what happened to it. When I moved back here it got lost.
BL: So George, you just got off the landing craft when you were hit?
GK: Yeah, I hadn't gone too many steps when I bent down and I was going to get up and all of a sudden, BANG. I said to the guy "I'm hit" and I gave him the gun, you know, 'cause I was done, I was hit, I couldn't move. So he took it and I crawled up to the wall.
MK: Then they put you under an ammunition truck. (laughing)
GK: Yeah (laughs), I thought of all the places to put me under. Oh my God, it was the worst place to go, under a truck. It could've been the biggest target on the beach. Oh my God, luckily the German's were too busy with everything else. They didn't see little ol' George under there! They thought, 'that guy, he ain't going to hurt anybody, he's too small.'
BL: How long did you stay there before you were evacuated back to the ship?
GK: I don't know how long, it wasn't too long, whether it was three, four days, whatever. I got medical attention immediately because you had your own medics with you, you know, and they had the Navy medical, which would be on the landing. Then, they'd take you aboard a ship where you'd get back to England and then they would transfer you to a general hospital where they'd evaluate the wound you had whether it was the chest or stomach, you know, whatever was the most serious problem.
MK: You were hit in the back with shrapnel then how long did you lay on your stomach in the hospital?
GK: Oh, I was so sick and tired of laying on my stomach and I couldn't lay on my back, only a little on my side and a little on this side. I was so sick and tired of that and they said, "well, pretty soon, maybe another two months," and eventually I got off of that but I think it was about ten months after I got hit. I took quite a serious wound. It took quite a while to heal inside out. It had to heal inside out. If it didn't do that it wouldn't do any good.
MK: No, your lungs where all punctured.
BL: Well Mrs. Kinderman, when did you get the telegram about him? How long after D-Day?
MK: Probably a couple of weeks. Yeah.
BL: Did you know, when you heard about D-Day?
MK: Yeah, yeah. Mmmhmm.
GL: Yeah, the papers knew that but everything was pretty secretive.
MK: Yeah, but then I contacted the Red Cross and they didn't know anything either and that's when I wrote directly to the President. So I didn't get much information as far as that goes.
GK: Me and the other guys in the same boat
MK: Yeah and then they kept you over there in England, working in the hospital.
GK: Well they were always looking for clerks and typists. That they needed, oh boy, someone who was a typist. Typists were in short supply. You'd be surprised at how many people don't know how to type.
MK: I don't.
GK: I know it. You'd be surprised. You think everybody knows how but they don't. I went to Business College and had a business course and learned typing and it did help me.
MK: Yeah, and then you came back on the Queen Mary.
GK: Yeah, oh yeah.
BL: You did!
GK: Oh yeah, I thought I was going to get a nice leisurely ride, you know. Oh yeah, we climbed aboard that old Queen Mary on that morning, we marched up there, oh boy we were happy. We were on that ship about a half-hour, "This is your captain speaking, we intend to leave in a half hour and we intend on making a record crossing of four days." Ohhhh man, we don't want to make a record crossing. Well we did, four days is all it took us. We didn't even have an escort, the Queen Mary was so speedy it could outrun all the destroyers, hopefully their submarines too, you know. Any way we landed, well we landed somewhere, I don't know, New York or where the hell it was. Any way we went to Fort Dix, you always went in to where you left, then from Fort Dix we went back here to Wisconsin which was over at Camp McCoy, wasn't it?
GK: Yeah and we drove over and I got discharged there and that was it.
BL: What was your date of discharge?
GK: I think it was in December wasn't it? December, early December, I know it was before Christmas, I know that. Because I was home, it might have been a week or two before Christmas, cuz I was home for Christmas. At least I got home for Christmas.
BL: Now when did you finally hear that he was okay? When did you finally get some kind of notification that your husband was okay?
MK: It was months later. Yeah, communication was very bad.
GK: There were so many of us over there, you know.
BL: The worrying must have been something.
MK: Oh, yeah. Not knowing if he was alive or dead, they couldn't even tell me that.
GK: All you knew is if you knew a unit they'd say, they might say, well this division is here, but that would be about it. They didn't know if they were wiped out or what the hell, you know.
MK: Well about twenty-five years ago we were over in Europe and we went to Hitler's Eagle Nest and uh, through uh, where they bring the people, uh,
GK: Oh yeah, that was, uh, Dachau?
MK: Dachau, yeah.
GK: Yeah that was terrible.
MK: Yeah, so we went through all that.
BL: Had either of you heard about the concentration camps during the war? Had you heard any rumors or anything about it all?
MK: I don't think so. No. No.
GK: That was pretty well quiet.
MK: Because after that, then we learned about it…
BL: You mean after the war.
MK: Yeah, yeah twenty-five years ago.
BL: And George, what about you, did you hear anything about those while you were waiting?
GK: Not too much. They kept that pretty well, they didn't want a lot of publicity on that, whether it's good or bad, you know. I guess it was a case of security, you know. The less you know, well, the less you know I guess.
BL: What'd you do at the end of the war, when you heard the war was over?
GK: Got drunk. We threw a big party, Oh boy.
MK: When my daughter was in service and she was in Germany, this was twenty-five years ago, well that's why we went over, and she was in your same regiment?
GK: Same regiment, yeah. The eighth infantry.
GK: She was stationed in the same…Omar Bradley was more or less the overall infantry commander, you know. He determined which units got the infantry and which didn't. Which ones would be picked and which wouldn't. It all depended on which kind of training you got. Boy I know we got plenty of training. We went to Florida and all we did was go out in the Gulf and back in, go out in the Gulf and HEY we don't have to do anything else but make a landing. That's all we're doing. Shortly after that we're off in France, and we're making a landing.
BL: I imagine when you were riding that landing craft in toward the beach, that was a terrible feeling wasn't it?
GK: It was, yes it was. You didn't know if you'd be… We landed June 6th. My birthday was June 16th and I thought 'well I hope I can at least make it to my birthday'.
BL: How old would you have been then?
GK: I would have been uh, twenty… twenty- seven. Nineteen seventeen, I was twenty-seven years old. I wasn't no spring chicken, but I wasn't no youngster neither, but most of your best military men were somewhere between twenty and thirty, you know. The other ones got weeded out, you know. Flat feet.
MK: Well you had flat feet too and they still took you.
BL: Was there very much talking in that landing craft as it headed toward the shore?
GK: No, no it was pretty… a lot of us were sicker than a dog. They were hanging their heads over the side and heaving. Whoo, yeah you got sick to your stomach, you know. Bouncing around, woo-woo-woo-woo, you were so sick you didn't care if you lived or died, you know. You landed; you recovered pretty fast though, especially if they shot at you. Ooh boy, you recovered then fast. Where's the nearest foxhole, ooh boy! Anyway, I got banged up and I ended up in England and I spent two years there, two years. She was writing everybody, "When's he coming home?" "Oh no, he's winning the war, we need him over here."
MK: Yeah! You were peeling potatoes or typing!
GK: Yeah, I was in the kitchen peeling potatoes. I said to the sergeant, I said, "Sarge, if I go into the kitchen at four in the morning and peel potatoes, can I quit at noon?" "No," he said, "we'll give you a job." I went in at four o'clock, I peeled 'til twelve, he said, "Kinderman take off." He gave me a three-day pass. He didn't see me anymore for three days. He didn't know if I was going to come back or not. I showed up again, I didn't want to be AWOL. Oh god, he'd throw me in the old slammer, you know. Then you get a court martial and that's bad. You don't want to get court martialed.
BL: Did you ever hear what happened to the rest of the men in your unit?
GK: Ahh, no, I wrote to some. Later on one of the guys I was with told me that Captain Warvitz was in Trent, New Jersey at a post there. He was our mail clerk and I wrote him and he filled me in on what had happened to a lot of guys, which ones we'd lost and so forth. I'd lost some of my best friends even, you know, Del Manissi, and Kiefer. You always felt bad, but what could you do, what could you do?
MK: Well, didn't they lose a lot of your papers so you lost contact too with a lot of fella's.
GK: Yeah that's true, I had a bag and it got lost.
MK: You came home and you hardly had anything, just the clothes on your back.
GK: Addresses were lost and, well, afterwards you started writing to these different posts, you know, and they'd fill you in. You'd recognize the name of somebody and " that guy was part of our company", and you'd write to him and he'd say, "Yeah, I remember you, you were that guy with a crewcut from Oshkosh." They all remember that guy with the crewcut from Oshkosh. I was the only guy in our outfit with a crewcut. (laughing) The Army didn't allow anybody else. Every Wisconsin signature, Crewcut.
BL: Well now, tell me, how did you feel when the Atom Bomb was dropped? The war with Germany was over, but Japan was still out there and so the war really wasn't over.
MK: Well, I agreed with them to drop it.
GK: We felt that Japan was not a power. They didn't have the military might or the resources that Germany did. The German army was perhaps the most efficient army ever in a war. It was, it was very efficient. Boy, they were well trained, well disciplined, they were under Hitler.
MK: He wasn't too smart though, Hitler.
GK: No, I know but boy, the people didn't do much either, or you'd wind up in the slammer or in jail or what the hell.
BL: So now, did you get your job back when you came back?
GK: Yes. Yes that I did do. That was part of the deal, that when I came back… I made a mistake; I applied right away, the first week. I should have taken three weeks off but I thought, 'ooh, I better get it back cuz I might never get a job.' One of the worst things that happened after WWI was the unemployment among veterans was high. They didn't get their jobs back and I thought that could happen again. Boy, I went back there and I made sure I got my job back. I went back to Rockwell and I worked second shift for, oh I don't know how many years. But at least I had a job and I made good money. Rockwell paid well and they had a good pension system too. They had a good… what do you want to call it, uh… medical program.
BL: Mrs. Kinderman, when did you come back to Oshkosh?
MK: I think I stayed out there two years and then I came back here and, uh… When I was in high school I worked at Everett's Bakery which, was on Ninth Street, and then when I came back, they hired me back again. I ran the bakery for them. I was the supervisor.
GK: He was a good baker, one of the best in the state.
MK: They're still down in Fon du Lac.
BL: Were you here when George came back then?
MK: Yeah, mmmhmm.
BL: That must have been a joyous reunion.
MK: Oh yes.
BL: You hadn't seen each other for a long time.
MK: For a long time, yeah. He was a skinny guy.
BL: For a long time, you didn't know if he was dead or alive.
GK: No, that's true, communication was very slim.
MK: Yeah, and then we were in California because our one daughter was out there, she went to college out there, and we went on the Queen Mary, after it was all refurbished and everything. It was quite different than when you came back on it, wasn't it?
GK: Oh yeah, I'll never forget, "Oh we're going to have a nice leisurely ride." We get on board in the morning, eight o'clock, "This is your captain speaking, we intend on making a record run for the United States, we intend to get there in four days." "Oh you son-of -a-bitch" we said. We made it, four days and we were back in the states. That son of a….. Oh I shouldn't say that.
MK: No (laughing)
GK: (whistles) But anyway you always went back to where you went in. If you went into camp McCoy….
MK: You said that.
MK: You said that.
GK: Yeah, okay.
BL: So, looking back on it, you got any particular memorable experiences, either one of you?
MK: We were so young that we didn't really…. or I was young; I really wasn't that concerned, you know, except when he didn't come back.
GK: Yeah it was slow getting back.
BL: Well, here's a question, was the pay pretty good at Lockheed?
MK: Oh, yes. Yes. Mmmhmm. I made about forty dollars a week.
BL: And that was considered good.
MK: It was very good, because they didn't take out tax. It was very good money, yeah.
GK: She liked California. She never forgave me that I didn't stay out there with her.
MK: Oh I'm glad we didn't now. (laughs)
GK: But we came back here.
MK: Yeah, I made a lot of good friends out there. They came from all over, Oklahoma and all over, they came to work at Lockheed.
MK: Because jobs were available.
GK: Defense plants. Well, most of your defense plants, aircraft ones, would be in warm climates where it didn't cost a fortune to house people with barracks and everything. That's the way they did it. That's why Texas and California and Arizona always had a lot of defense industry.
BL: But you must have felt like you were making a very significant contribution.
MK: Oh yeah, sure, I wanted to do something to help and figured that was the way to do it. Then you heard about Rosie the Riveter and all these others and I thought, well, I'm part of it.
BL: Was it mainly women in the plant?
MK: Yes, mmhmm, or older men.
BL: So did everybody feel like they were part of the Rosie the Riveter?
MK: Yeah, mmmhmm. Everybody worked hard when they were there, nobody scuffed off or anything, everybody worked hard.
GK: War, we gotta get out boy's home.
MK: They came from Mississippi, from Oklahoma I met people, oh, where else did I….
GK: Your best friend was in Mississippi wasn't it?
MK: Pauline, yeah.
GK: Pauline, yeah she had money, her folks had money didn't they?
MK: Yeah, she inherited money from her Grandma, but that's another story. (Laughs) She married a German fella, a Bob Volgel.
GK: Vogel, yeah, he was a watchmaker wasn't he?
MK: A jeweler, yeah, she married him. Now her son lives in Hawaii in Maui, and he changed his name to Vogalie he didn't want to be Vogel.
BL: You must have kept in touch then afterwards?
MK: We went to Hawaii about four years ago and I wrote to him, I contacted him because I had lived with his mother for a while in Pasadena and she ran a health food store and worked at Lockheed also and she was pregnant with this child. It was the only child she had and now he's, oh how old is he, he must be in his late fifties, and he got three children, he married a Hawaiian girl. So I contacted him that we were coming out to Maui and we were going to meet. Somehow we didn't get to meet. We talked on the telephone every day, but we didn't get to meet. I felt really bad about that. I had all these baby pictures and everything, his mothers pictures and I put them all in an envelope, his son worked in one of the large hotels out there so I left them at the hotel for his son.
BL: Well, both of you thank you very much. This has really been fun for me and very interesting. We've got a good tape here. We'll incorporate some of your memories into our project. Thanks!
|Oral History Interview with George and Marian P. Kinderman
-WORLD WAR II
-Copyright Oshkosh Public Museum
COPYRIGHT INFORMATION ~ For access to this image, contact firstname.lastname@example.org