Oral History Interview with Robert Patterson, Air Transport Corps

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Record 14/959
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Admin/Biog History Obituary:
Robert C. Paterson
Robert (Bob) Chamberlin Paterson died at his residence on January 14, 2008. He was born in Oshkosh on February 18, 1922, the son of George Ernest and Gertrude Chamberlin Paterson. After graduating from Oshkosh High School, he entered the Army Air Force in 1942. He served his country in the China, Burma, India (CBI) theatre during World War II. He survived three plane crashes, received the Army Air Force Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Presidential Union Citation. Following the military service, he entered the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts, Master of Arts, and Master of Fine Arts degrees.
Bob began his teaching career of art education in Grand Rapids, MI., then Western Illinois University, and University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. He became the Director of Art Education of the Oshkosh Area school system in 1958 until his retirement in 1985. He was a member of the Wisconsin Art Education Association and served as its president from 1961-1963. His artwork was exhibited statewide and he was a prize winner in the 1960 Wisconsin Painters and Sculptors show.
He was united in marriage to Elizabeth (Betty) Buckstaff Stone on August 10, 1961 at Trinity Episcopal Church, Oshkosh. At Trinity he served on the vestry and as Junior Warden.
Service to the community included being a member of the Lakeshore Kiwanis Club, Lieutenant Governor of Division Thirteen of the Kiwanis organization and a driver for Meals on Wheels. He was a member of the Senior Citizen Board, the Fox Valley Investment Clubs, and the Board of Directors for the Oshkosh Chamber Singers. He also served on the Oshkosh Public Museum Board from 1981 – 1991 and as its president from 1987 to 1991.
He is survived by his wife and children, Robert B. of Oshkosh, Anne C. of Chicago and R. Daniel and Martha of Washington, D.C.
A Burial Service will be held at Trinity Episcopal Church on Thursday, January 17, 2008 at 4 p.m. The Rev. Steven Powers will officiate. Friends may greet the family following the service at the church.
The family requests that in lieu of flowers donations may be given to Trinity Episcopal Church, the Oshkosh Public Museum Endowment Fund through the Oshkosh Foundation, or to the Affinity Visiting Nurses Hospice program.
Classification Archives
Collection World War II Oral History Project
Dates of Accumulation 2002 - 2002
Abstract Oral history interview with Robert and Betty Paterson by Bradley Larson for the Oshkosh World War II project. He discusses his experiences in the Air Transport Corp as a cargo plane radio operator in the China Burma Theater during World War II.

MARCH 6th 2002

BL: This is Brad Larson talking and I'm in my office with Bob and Betty Paterson and it's March 6th, 2002. Now we're going to talk a little bit today about WWII

And the way I like to start this is if you would both give your date of birth and where you were born.

RP: February 18th 1922, here in Oshkosh.

BP: And I was born on July 4th, no…July 1st 1934, in Oshkosh.

BL: Well, what do you remember of the years before the war, like the 1930's and the Depression era. What was life like in Oshkosh, during the depression?

RP: Quiet, very quiet I think...if I remember it. I'd sell newspapers. I had a paper route and so forth and I had to sell papers not only for The Northwestern, but also The Milwaukee Sentinel, and I remember the build up towards the war cuz I was interested in the tension in Europe and so forth. But it wasn't causing much of a ruckus in the United States. The uh…I remember particularly for example, the day that war was declared…that is not in the United States but in Europe. War was declared in Europe and it even was…I picked up a whole stack of extra editions of "WAR DECLARED" and it was not the easiest thing in the world to sell because we weren't that interested in what was happening…Not that many people were. So that was…

BL: Would your parent's ever talk about it?

RP: Oh yeah, but not to any great extent. My father was in ill health at the time and he died in 1940 and of course the war started in 1939, so.

BL: Betty, now you were pretty young, do you have any memories of that?

BP: No, I just remember the saying, "Remember Pearl Harbor", and I think most of my memories are mostly of ration stamps and buying saving stamps at school on Friday and had a book to save stamps and when it came ready you got a twenty five dollar war bond.

BL: How did you get the stamps?

BP: Um, my dad would give me the money and we'd take the money to school and purchase the stamps.

BL: Do you remember what the denominations were?

BP: I think they were like ten cents apiece maybe. No that wouldn't be right because I think a twenty five-dollar savings bond would sell for 18.75. Something like that.

RP: 18.75 or something like that, I had accumulated war bonds.

BP: I remember they would have scrap drives for aluminum.

BL: Did you participate in that?

BP: Mmhmm, mmhmm yeah.

BL: How did you get the aluminum?

BP: Well, I think my dad gave me tin cups and I don't know if it was all kinds of tin stuff that he collected. I really can't remember.

RP: For more than forty years, Betty has claimed that she was my child bride.

BP: And then I remember, people having stickers on their car for gas. If you had an A stamp you only got so many gallons, B and you got a little more, I think C you got more and since my father was in business he had a C stamp.

BL: What did he do?

BP: He was President of the Buck Staff company. I can remember traveling, my grandparents lived in Southern Wisconsin and because of the gas rationing we couldn't drive down there. So, we would take the train to Milwaukee and have to stay over night and then catch this train early the next morning to a little town called South Wayne Wisconsin. So it was always a two-day affair.

BL: Was the war a big topic among you and your friends, a topic of either playing or discussion or wondering what was happening? Do you remember anything like that?

BP: Not really, I think the boys played war games but I don't remember that. I remember one of my friend's mothers was a terrific knitter and she was always knitting sweaters for the boys.

RP: What kind of conversation about the war, picked up enormously, of course when…after December 7th you know, when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and I remember that because I was listening to a football game on the radio, a National Football League game, and they broke into the game, somewhere late in the game and said there were reports that Pearl Harbor was attacked and that there would be more reports coming. Well the next day I think, they had reports, you know that Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor. About one day after that…uh…at the time I was going to the University…Teachers College here, just as a Freshman, they had said that there was serious damage but they didn't go into detail about how many battleships had been sunk. Of course there was great burst of enthusiasm and so forth and people enlisting and people joining in the service and that was what I think woke up ninety-five percent if not ninety-nine percent of Americans, you know, to the war. Roosevelt meeting with the joint session of Congress and I heard it on the radio, the Declaration…The Declaration of War and uh…What was that expression? Something about an evil…an evil empire, and of course that expression has been used a couple times since. But, um…I was there.

BL: Thinking back now, put yourself back, you're a twenty year old young guy, tell me do you recall…How did you feel, what was your feeling when you were listening to the President declare war and here, you know you're of military age. Do you recall what your feelings were?

RP: Well…Just like I think…like many others, I wanted to get in to the service and uh…I knew my brother had just been married and…my older brother, and he would be going and I thought well, you know, I might as well go too and as a matter of fact we both did. We went to, what was it…not camp…in northern Illinois…Army. It's still there…

BP: Just outside of Chicago.

RP: Yeah, just outside of Chicago.

BL: So you enlisted in the army?

RP: Yeah.

BL: Here in Oshkosh?

RP: No, in Milwaukee. Signed up in Milwaukee and returned home with a…something like a twenty day leave, and then back again. I had no idea what I was in for, but I wasn't concerned about it. Everyone was enthused, I shouldn't say enthused, that's not quite the right term, but everybody was interested and I ended up…I had a choice…you'd take exams of various types and so forth and I had chose the Air Force. So, I took some other exams and ended up going to camp in Texas. I can't think of the name of it right now but it's an air base and a training camp and I was there for a very short period of time, like about two months or so or something of that sort. Basic training was over with, and I shipped back and I was assigned to go to a radio school in Chicago…What was then and what is now a very, very fine hotel…It was the, uh…

BP: Conrad Hilton?

RP: Yeah, it was the Conrad Hilton, it was the…well, it's another name but I can't think. But anyway, it was just like the hotel except that they had put in bunk beds in the rooms. They were…I was in a large room, an actual bathroom and I remember the faucets had not only hot and cold, but had ice water. Anyway, Chicago was a very interesting and exciting experience for me. This was all new to me. I had been out of the state of Wisconsin on a couple of occasions. We had an old car and we went to Iowa to visit my mothers relatives, and uh…But that was about it you know. That happened about once a year and it had probably been two to three years since I had been there. So Illinois and Chicago was a very nice experience for me. "Wow, this is something!" You know and the dining room, it had huge, enormous chandeliers. They still have it at the Carlton Hilton. They had a huge bank of telephones at one end of the hallway. The people I was assigned with were all as a group…from uh, the Air Base camp in Texas, and we were a flight group…A group of young men and we went to radio school and I struggled through radio school. They uh…Operating the key and so forth and they said, "Overseas, don't worry about the key, all you have to use is voice transmission. We got very little training as far as mechanics that would repair a radio. In a typical plane, what I was in as a radio operator, you have a bank of uh, radios that were tuned to a particular station and they would all be set up by the crew chief or a Master Sergeant ahead of time. If you had to make a stop at some other airbase, other than the standard ones, you just look for that one and so forth, and pull it out in place of the one that was there and usually that went pretty well. We had some good experiences and some not so good.

BL: What were some of the good experiences?

RP: The good experiences, well, a group of us…A bunch of us were together almost all the time. We'd go down to the Karachi Air base…The Karachi Air Base was were I was stationed, just outside of Karachi.

BL: And where is that?

RP: Pardon?

BL: Where is that?

RP: Karachi? At that time it was in India, today it's in Pakistan. At that time it was a moderately big city but grubby, at least I thought it was grubby. Today it's a huge city, I think several million people. In any case, we would go to the theatre, the movie theatre, and they had uh…Not just seats, they would have couches and they would have girls that would serve drinks while you were watching the movie. What more can you ask for?

BL: Where they American Movies?

RP: Some, some were British, American, whatever. But we'd go there and laugh and be loud and obnoxious and we would take some of the best seats, for we were very well paid, much better than the British. I remember a time when we were kicked out, it happened that there were some British Officers sitting in front of us and they had taken about as much of this nonsense as they had wanted so they got up and ordered us out…and, we left. But you know there's some dumb things of that sort. Some of the other things that I remember about Karachi…the market, huuuuge market, open shelves and open trays and so forth…of meat and everything seemed to be covered with flies, millions and millions of flies and I remember particularly seeing a young woman…almost a girl and they're all smaller people…generally than we were at that time and this girl was carrying a baby and the baby nestled up next to her breast and the baby's face and her breast were covered with flies. I thought, my God, what a place. This is really lower than the lowest that I had ever known, but anyway, that was Karachi. We got up to places once in a while where the paper was ordered, the news, and they'd talk about the Pakistanis in Ralwanpindi and so forth and I was up there on occasion and up in Lahore and I didn't get to the Khyber Pass but we were within forty miles of it. The countryside is not very conducive…You don't think of it as a place to go on a vacation. But further on up and further on in to what is India is an area which is unfortunately, being contested by Pakistan and India… and it is beautiful, mountainous…It's not as dry for one thing. It's luxurious vegetation and so forth, and beautiful, beautiful lakes, unbelievable. You see the extremes from one to another, unfortunately I wasn't stationed in Karachi for terribly long. I was moved out to what became the East End of…and that was the Province of Osan and from there we flew over the hump as they called it. The hump was a ring of mountains that come from Tibet on down and then into China. There were…There wasn't really anything that I could think of that was a real good experience, there just weren't any real bad experiences for me either. I was very lucky I think. I had friends who on their first trip would have to bail out. Usually that would be because of running into terrible storms and the monsoons and so forth, coming up the Bay of Bengal and the only trouble…I shouldn't say the only trouble but the real trouble was bailing out, you would either bail out into the mountains, which were not good or into the jungles which was even worse, but I never had the misfortune of having to do that.

BL: What would you do? What were the flights for?

RP: Well, we carried cargo into China.
BL: Tell me what a typical flight would be like.

RP: Well, they were going almost all the time through a rotating basis, when you came back from a flight, you went to the bottom of the list and they had a flight circle everyday, you know. So you would be flying a lot of the time.

BP: Tell him the supplies you were taking.

RP: What?

BP: Supplies.

RP: Military supplies, everything and anything, boxes and food even, food ah…I think…Bringing supplies to Shang Hai Shek and what was left of his remnant of the Chinese Army and keeping…more or less, keeping the morale up. I had a friend who ah…We lived together in one of the tents. I have a picture, just a couple of pictures. This is Jack Lawrence, he was killed when the plane he was in smacked right in to a mountain in a storm and this happened in China. The areas in China were all mountains and rugged too, so…So that's about the way it was.

BL: You know they say that the China, Burma, India theater is often referred to as the forgotten theater.

RP: Yes! I went to the EAA the first time, I like it, it's a beautiful…Oshkosh is very lucky to have it. But they have a beautiful display of the war planes that were used and so forth and maps of this and that and…lets see, the first time I went I discovered finally…They had a map of CBI area and it looked like a small display that you would have fit on the top of your desk and I thought Holy Cow, is that all we ended up with? But that's a… that was different.

BL: At the time did you feel that you were a forgotten part of the war?

RP: No, I wasn't worried about being forgotten. I tell you what, I was happy to get in a large number of flights because rotation back to the States was based on a point system and you accumulate points by a large number of flights and other conditions and so forth. I remember I tried to…On one occasion, I tried to get out of flying and for a while, but they looked at me and talked to me and so forth and so forth and I said "No Way." So I knew I was stuck with it, so…But I did accumulate a lot of points and I was rotated fairly early.

BP: Well you went to some kind of rest camp too in India, didn't you?

RP: Yeah, yeah. There were about oh, half a dozen of us…the same group and we went to a rest camp that… so the story went, whether it's true or not I don't know. The story went that it was part of a camp that had been used by a big game hunter who came to India, I don't know, every few years…took photographs…he'd photograph elephants in the wild and tigers in the wild and what not. Anyway, this was up in the Aswan Valley, and right near the (?) River, so…We were at camp there and we knew we were going back to the States, but they let us go to camp…I don't know if it was a week or ten days or something like that…rather than continue flying. It was a very welcome relief. So then, we piled up and we left.

BL: When did you get over there, Bob?

RP: Oh, let's see…I know I've got that record.

BP: You enlisted in "42".

RP: Yeah, "42" to "45".

BP: And you had your training, was it the end of "42" maybe?

RP: I picked this up right at the last minute, it's so small I don't think…you can't read it, but maybe it can be enlarged. You can have it. I've got my own and it'll tell on there…ah…

BL: Sure, okay we'll take a copy of this. So then you left? Do you remember when you left?

BP: You mean when he went to India, is that what you mean? Was it probably the end of "42" after your training, the beginning of "43"?

RP: No, I was over there in "43" and "44" part of…a lot of "43" and a little bit of "44". I was overseas for not quite a year and a half and I was in the service for a little over three years.

BL: Was there any entertainment while you were over there, was there anything that you airmen could…?

RP: I don't remember seeing any uh….

BP: Nothing like USO shows or…

RP: No, that was back home…but

BL: How bout mail, did you get mail on a regular basis?

RP: Yeah, we got mail, we would get mail not on a real regular basis but it would come fairly frequently and it was always…for me anyway, a difficult thing to write a letter home because there was very little you could say and uh, there was even less of that, that I knew. If I knew what was happening I wouldn't be able to write about it anyway.

BL: Can you explain why, why wouldn't you be able to write?

RP: Well, it would be crossed out, blacked out.

BL: Who would do that?

RP: Well the mail always went through the commanding officer and two or three other officers that were with him and they would block out you know, "I flew into such and such an airbase," well, that would be gone. There were ah…There were things that I remember, I consider myself very lucky.

BP: I was going to say, one thing you got that you really enjoyed was your mother would send you fruit cake and cheese for Christmas.

RP: Oh yes, I developed a thing after that, for years I think about fruitcake. She sent me a metal box with a couple of fruitcakes and ah, I think it was a block of cheese, or a roll of cheese.

BP: Was it something like Velveeta or something?

RP: Yeah, I have since…I don't like Velveeta but at that time…

BP: It was quite a treat right?

RP: It was the best thing in the world.

BL: I'm going to put a new tape in because we're just about at the end.

RP: Okay.

BL: Okay, so you were saying you remember a few incidents that happened. What do you remember?

RP: I remember in Calcutta how the American Army Air Force took over a hotel. It was an old or older British hotel but a very fine hotel, a beautiful place and we had the best of service, we had the best of food the best of everything. The hotel rooms, the room I had was a huge room with about three, floor to ceiling windows you know, and so forth. It had a lattice sort of window covering but this was up on the third or maybe fourth floor and it was at that time, if I remember correctly, 1944, they were having a…there was a famine in Eastern India, in the Aswan area and where Bengal, the Province of Bengal was. There were people…People were dying. They would come from the countryside into the city and every day they picked up seven or they picked up twelve or they picked up two people who had died in the street and it was not uncommon to say the least. I could not combine that with the almost lavish food that we had at the hotel. I had a bill from the hotel; you know paying with Rupees and um…what was the name of it? I think it was the Grand Hotel or the Grand Imperial Hotel…It was really a very fine hotel. All the service people were Indian people and thinking back on it, probably quite a few of them were Muslim. There were some who would always wear a turban and some who would not. There was no…at that time, I never noticed any problem between the Indian people and the Muslim, those that were Muslim. Of course later on when Bengal separated…Bengal became a Muslim state. You know there was a time, I think there were three of us…that had arrived together in Calcutta to stay over night, and we had went out just to see the town and we got in to a horse drawn carriage and this little Indian…I say little, he was older but smaller than I am and I think the most tragic thing that happened as far as I was concerned…that I was aware of…that I saw, was that after towing us around a short while, this horse absolutely keeled over and died. The man who, you know…The Indian was holding him and urging him to get up and so forth, and he was crying. I've thought of it many a time since that…(crying)…excuse me.

BL: Well here's a question for you Bob, did you ever think the United States would lose the war with the Allies?

RP: Never.

BL: Never?

RP: Never occurred to me.

BL: Not even at the beginning?

RP: Not even at the beginning. I thought, I don't know what you would qualify this kind of opinion but I thought 'how crazy, how crazy of them to do this, they're going to be crushed.'
I tell ya, I felt the same way when I heard that some Arabs had destroyed the Towers in New York, I thought 'well, it might take a few months but we'll devastate them.'

BL: Do you think your opinion was shared by other people at that time?

RP: By a great many people at that time, today I don't know? I would say our technical advantage is so great, I think of the people in those countries and they are so far behind in terms of even agriculture at that time. It was not even feasible for them to think of…They had years of manufacturing and development to get close to a par with us. So, anyway.

BL: How did you feel toward the Germans and the Japanese?

RP: I wasn't particularly concerned about either of them, I mean, oh yeah sure, I had a certain I suppose…a type of hatred for their attacking us. One of the flights that I was on, we ended up flying into a little place, it was called Mishamou in Northern Burma and we landed with some gunfire…crossfire, so when we came back from there we came back by truck over the Burma road. To my knowledge nobody hit anything but the British very shortly afterwards had completely driven the Japanese out and from that time on the British very slowly took over Northern Burma and then worked their way on down. So that was that, it wasn't bad. I tell ya, I would think of my brother who went in to the…why, I don't know. I didn't know at the time, I was so mad at him, he went in to the infantry and I thought to myself, 'What in the Hell are you doing that for?' So anyway, we separated after basic training and I never saw him again until about two months after the war, when the whole thing was over. We had a couple of interesting experiences, I had…I still remember some thing of it. I remember the day, this friend of mine was killed and rammed into a mountain and another friend of mine had to bail out, the whole crew bailed out over China and for about two months, he walked or he was partially carried. He lost most of the toes on one foot from frost when he got back. But he was a…He was a basket case. Then there were some people who really had tough luck and I considered myself afterwards, very lucky.

BL: Bob, did you know of any of the atrocities that were being committed by the Japanese or Germans? Had you heard any rumors or reports?

RP: Not at that time. I couldn't tell you exactly when, I remember of course…this was before…and I can remember the American troops in the Philippines and being holed up in the Baton Peninsula and I think that lasted for a long time and by that time I was getting involved myself, excuse me…But that was…

BL: Well let's talk about coming back to the United States now and then eventually getting back to Oshkosh. How did you get back to the United States?

RP: Well, I came in a hurry…uh, we were alerted, as I say there were about half a dozen of us had been over there together, had gone to school together…We flew out, we flew across the Indian Ocean, part of either Saudi Arabia or that area, into Africa and across Africa with about three stops. I remember, in (?) Africa, which is…Many of these were British outposts of the Colonial Empire. They had pretty good facilities, they really did. Then, across the South Atlantic, and there's an island in the middle of the South Atlantic, which we landed at, and from there, over to the hump of Brazil, that's how. We got stuck there, the plane broke down, the
motor and so forth. It was very civilized, compared to what we'd had it was a very civilized spot, so we weren't worried about getting the damn plane fixed. We didn't care. But anyway, then finally after about two weeks, we were on our way again. I think we landed in one other place in South America and then went on to Puerto Rico and then Florida.

BL: What did you do when you landed back in the good old USA?

RP: I went to the closest ice cream shop that they had could find at the PX, and I ordered the biggest sundae.

BL: Was that something you really missed?

RP: Ohhh, jeez.

BP: He's always loved ice cream.

RP: I called home, cuz I knew they would not ever see the letters that I mailed. When I called home, I think they almost dropped the phone…

BP: They were relieved weren't they…Where did you go from Florida then? Is that when you went to…?

RP: Well, we flew up to an airbase in uh…

BP: …or was it Texas, that you were…

RP: …in the air, uh, near Fort Wayne. No, no not there, not on…to Detroit, Ramulas Airbase in Michigan.

BL: And when did you finally get back to Oshkosh?

RP: Well, about two days after that, it was very quick.

BP: Was that…you came home on leave and then you went back because you were flying planes back and forth for the…

RP: Well that was when I was

BP: Before you were discharged.

RP: Yeah, I was assigned back to Detroit after…I think it was a thirty day leave and we thought 'well, we'd probably be going into the Pacific after this,' and during the time that I was home, I was visiting relatives, and they came across with some kind of a special bulletin of some kind of an atomic bomb that had been dropped in Japan. I was so excited, I was so elated, I thought 'An atomic bomb?' 'If they've got that than that's the end of it,' and it really was. It took one more bomb; Hiroshima was the first and then Nagasaki. The war with the Japanese quit.

BL: Was there any celebrating here in town?

RP: I don't know about here because by that time I was back in Detroit, and downtown Detroit was going wild.

BL: It was, huh?

RP: There was a whole bunch of us, some that I had been with for quite a while and we went downtown Detroit and um, it was almost…you could have anything you wanted. The air base, Ramulas Airbase was my place and it was…well, it was very comfortable. But it wasn't really quite home and I was homesick, I think for the first time in my life. I didn't know if I was homesick for home or homesick for three or four of the buddies that I had been with through a lot of things for the last couple years. Anyway, I was assigned back to an air base in the East Coast and for I don't know, maybe three months or so, we would pick up what they called War Wearies. They would be B17s a B24, with a crew coming back from Europe. The crews would drop them off and then take off, and the planes…We would fly them down to Arizona or Texas, park them in the middle of the desert, you know. There would be hundreds of planes, sitting right next to each other and you get out, lock it and leave it. They'd have a jeep come and pick you up and bring you to the airbase and the next day, or maybe that day, they'd fly you back to the East Coast. So that was my routine for the last couple of months. Then that was about it.

BL: Had Oshkosh changed when you got back? What did you do when you were discharged back in Oshkosh?

RP: I wanted to go to school and so I…I went to school up here first and I didn't do very well at the beginning, but then I kind of settled down, and it went okay and I ended up getting a pretty good record. Then I transferred from here after the first year and I transferred down to Madison and I loved Madison. I did very well academically. I don't know why I didn't do very well here but anyway, that was neither here nor there. I was getting back into it, and by that time I had forgotten about India and had forgotten about the Air Force and glad to forget it.
Not that it was all that bad but there were some things. So as I say, I considered myself very lucky and happy to be home and happy to be out of it. Then after getting back here to Oshkosh after I became a teacher, I met Betty and I was quite a bit older, but I was in good shape. I think I was (laughs) though I could keep up with her.

BP: Well there were a few years in-between that…

RP: What?

BP: There were a few years in-between, you taught in Michigan and then you taught in Illinois.

RP: Yeah, I taught two years in Michigan and then I taught for a year in Illinois, Western Illinois State College, and I liked the job but I heard about this job opening up in Oshkosh and I thought, 'Holy Cow!' So I applied for it and I got it.

BL: Had Oshkosh changed in the time you'd been gone? Did you think it was a different community from when you left in "42"?

RP: Yes, but not drastically.

BL: What were some of the ways that it had changed?

RP: They were, I remember a silly thing…I don't know when this was but somebody was building a building and was going to open up a kind of a fast food place. I don't even know exactly where it was, here in Oshkosh…and it was one of the first buildings, you know, new buildings in Oshkosh, and I thought Jeez, a fast food place, that's it? It's just that, Oshkosh had not moved an awful lot. I must say that I think it has taken a number of years, not since the war…It was years and years after the war, when the City Government really began to move development and improvement in the City and so forth. The uh…I think it was just a few years ago that the population of Oshkosh was listed at about 45,000. Next step up it went up to about 53,000, and then from 53 to 62,000, 62 plus whatever. As I occasionally read off or hear of somebody coming in or somebody developing or somebody growing…Like the four hundred women, or the four hundred people that the bank wants for their work, whatever and so forth. It seems like FOUR HUNDRED PEOPLE for that bank and I thought 'Good Heavens'. Well I anyway…you know, there seemed to be developments that were coming and I think Oshkosh went into hibernation of some sort during the depression and afterwards. It just sat there and I don't think it did much of anything. It probably didn't have very much tax money to do anything and they weren't about to stick their nose out to do very much. Certainly, as far as I could see, there wasn't much growth until the last, oh I would say twenty years or so.

BL: Betty, I know again, remembering that you're very young during the war, but do you remember the end of the war?

BP: Mmhmm, cuz I was down visiting my grandparents and it was in August, I remember that and people being very excited about it.

BL: Any big parties down there, anything like that?

BP: No, mm mm. This was just a very little, tiny, tiny village.

BL: Well do either one of you have anything that you would like to add, anything that we didn't cover?

RP: Oh, I don't know…I apologize for…I shouldn't have…I have been thinking about this off and on and there are some things that come out, that you haven't thought of for years and a couple of things I avoid and so on. But of all of this bunch of guys that I was with, I think that Harry Ray and myself are the only ones left and we uh…connect with each other a couple times a year.

BL: Do you try not to think of the war?

RP: I beg your pardon?

BL: Do you try not to think of the war?

RP: Not too much…Yes, a little. I do that. I know a friend of mine and he had joined the CBI…This is not Harry Ray, but a different…and he was a pilot. I was a radio operator but I had a lot of other fringe duties, anyway I asked him about…I said, you know "The museum is looking for some local history," I said to him. He said, "Bob, it took me months," he said, "I would have nightmares, from time to time for months afterwards," He said, "I don't even want to think about it" So…anyway

BL: That's important too.

RP: I haven't felt that way but there are some things, I must say I'm embarrassed today…

BL: You needn't be.

BP: No.

BL: I hope you don't think that.

BP: The things that I remember, you know as a child you don't pick up on too much but I remember the rationing and having to have food stamps and going to camp, we had to take our meat and sugar stamps. We had to use those to buy the groceries you know, for the camp. I remember my father joking that he never got a new pair of shoes during the war because the shoe stamps always had to be used for me to get new shoes.

BL: Do you remember what are called Gold Star Flags…

BP: Oh yeah, that people would have in their windows?

BL: Did people know what that meant?

RP: Yeah.

BP: Did they know? Sure.

BL: How did they know? How would you describe it to people? If somebody was listening to this tape fifty years from now, how would you try to describe those to people?

RP: Well, first of all there would be flags…

BP: They'd hang in the window and the number of…

RP: Somebody in the family was in the service. If it was a gold star, it meant that somebody had been killed.

BP: Well your mother must have had a flag with two stars, I think they were blue.

RP: Living in Chicago at what is now the Conrad Hilton Hotel, I would come home many weekends on a twenty-four hour pass, and I would go back…but it was…When I'd come home, everybody would combine their coupons and I remember one time they said they went to the grocery store and they said they didn't have enough coupons to get a pork roast or whatever it was…And I think the guy at the meat market said "Oh hell, just take it." Anyway…there were times that were very good and times that were fun. It just…Some memories are very close to you and some that you don't even really quite remember.

BP: We lived with my aunt and uncle in the house down on Washington street and I remember my uncle went to California to work in some kind of AirCraft Plant.

RP: You've got those pictures, haven't you?

BP: Oh yeah.

BL: Well, I tell you what, we'll copy these, if you'll allow us to copy them.

RP: Absolutely.
Event World War II
Category 6: T&E For Communication
Object ID OH2001.3.21
Object Name Tape, Magnetic
People Patterson, Robert
Subjects World War II
China Burma India
Transport planes
Title Oral History Interview with Robert Patterson, Air Transport Corps
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Last modified on: December 12, 2009