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Record 18/959

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Oral history interview with John H. Galica conducted by Dr. Peter H. Liddle at the EAA Museum and donated by Adam Smith, Director at EAA, for the World War II project. He discusses his experiences in the 865 Bomb Squadron, 494 Bomb group, 7th Army Air Force as a ground radio technician/operator in the Pacific Theater. A typed transcript is on file in the archives computer. John H. Galicia Interview December 2001 By Dr. P.H. Liddle {L: signifies the interviewer, Dr. Liddle; G: signifies Mr. Galicia}. L: It's December of 2001. This is Peter Liddle of the Second World War Experience Center in Leeds talking with John H. Galicia, 375 N. Westhaven Drive, apt. G-104, Oshkosh, Wisconsin, 54904, U.S.A. With regards to John's experience in the Second World War which was in the USAAF, serving in the Pacific. John, we have to start at the beginning. Please tell me when and where you were born? G: I was born in Neenah, Wisconsin in July 25th, 1922. L: Your father's occupation? G: My father at that time was a farmer and worked at a rug manufacturing company. L: A farmer and worked. This is I suppose a reflection that a lot of your up-bringing is going to be during very hard times in Wisconsin. G: Very hard times. During the Depression, yes. L: Your schooling? G: Well, I went through grade school and I went through high school and I had some other seminars that I went to that pertained to my work after I got out of the service. L: Yes, but that's long ahead of this recording. So what work when you left school and college did you engage upon before the war? G: Well I worked at a lumber company. I was a machine operator at a lumber company, Paine Lumber Company in Oshkosh. L: So you were not in any way thinking of an air force career before December the 7th, l941? G: No. L: And then you were of an age almost immediately to enlist or be enlisted. Tell me what happened to you. G: Well, what I did was, in the process of working, I, my high school sweetheart in March of 1942, we decided to get married because we knew that something was going to happen after this Pearl Harbor thing. And that would be, I would be drafted or something like that, into the service. So we got married and ah, it turned out in July of 1942, I got my greetings from Uncle Sam to report to my draft board. And I went to report to the draft board and ah, and they said I would have to go and report. They sent me to Fort Sheridan which is an army base in Illinois. And I went there and they gave me all my details of induction and ah, physicals, and papers, signing of the papers and all. And then they sent me home and told me I wouldn't have to report until November of 1942, back to Fort Sheridan, Illinois. And which I did and took my basic training in Illinois at Fort Sheridan. When I finished with my basic training, they put me on a train and sent me to Atlantic City, New Jersey. It's in, along the boardwalk. And as I got to Atlantic City, we checked in and stayed at all hotels along the boardwalk. So I checked in to the headquarters there. They assigned me to a hotel by the name of Marlborough Blenheim. And it was a very fancy, ritzy place. And this was to be my home for awhile. And I asked em just what my duties were and they said I was sent there to be a drill instructor. That I would be drilling ROTC cadets on the drill field. So I was drilling ROTC and these were all kids that went to college and had ROTC training. And ah, were supposed to become officers after their schooling. And I trained there, it was about six months, and marched em up and down the boardwalk. And as I finished with a group, for five weeks I'd take em into the convention center and they'd have to go through the paces in front of all the majors and colonels and that, that was in charge of that training base. And as we finished, I took to the group, marched them in front of the group, saluted the group, and they told me whether they passed or not. If we got an okay, then they graduated, got all their slips and they went on and I was assigned another group to train. L: Now in fact your service career was going to develop in a different direction from drilling army recruits. G: Yes. Now, I was there for about six months and I finally went to headquarters because I could hardly speak from drilling and counting cadence and all this, and talking to them fellows. So I asked em, "Am I supposed to be stationed here or what?" They looked it up and at first they said I was permanent party, be cadre there, and then they looked up a little further on my records and says there's been a mistake, slight mistake. I was never supposed to go to Atlantic City, New Jersey. I was supposed to go to [ ] Field, which was in Sacramento, California. And I was supposed to go to communications school. Which two days later, I was on a troop train, goin to Sacramento, California. And in Sacramento, California, they assigned me to school, communications school. I was there for fourteen weeks and upon graduation there, they transferred me and said I was all set. I was goin to be sent to a bomber group which was forming. And they sent me to Boise, Idaho. And when I was sent to Boise, Idaho, I was part of a group. We had ah, maybe about 25 fellas there. Some fellas were comin in from bases in Florida, and some were comin in from North Dakota and some other ones. And finally we had the squadrons that were assigned there. And that was one of the phases of training there. Then they sent me to Pocatello, Idaho. And I went to an air base there and had some more training. Finally, they sent me to Wendover Field, Utah and ah, which was another training base for B-24's and communications. So I finished up another phase of training there. L: Now it takes all this to become a skilled member of a ground crew unit. G: Yes. Yes. L: Your specialty then being? G: Communications. And this was ah, and so after I finished my training in Wendover Field, Utah, they sent me to [ ] Air Base in Idaho. And this was my last phase of training. And from there they sent us to Vancouver, Washington. And was put on a ship and sent to ah, Kawaii. An island that's part of Hawaii. It's called Kawaii. And there was a base there called Barton Sands Airbase. And we went over there and our planes weren't ready yet. So they sent everybody by boat. We all landed in Barton Sands and we had to get the base all straightened out. Get all the communications and our personnel straightened. Then finally, theses women pilots were ferrying our B-24's to us, which were not completely completed. They had no communications in em, and they had no armor in em. Guns and stuff. So we had to take and put that in over in Barton Sands. They sent over some fellas in charge, civilians in charge of these from this plane company where they were supposed to be in. And ah, most of the fellas had not completed their final phase of training. But I was one of them that had, so they gave me a job by the nose wheel where there's a big junction box. And I was there hooking on communication wires and they went by the color code. So he told me, he says, "Red on red, green on green." And so on and so forth. And that was a pretty big junction box. And that was my part of the job, to hook all those communication wires to that junction box. And I went through all the planes then, and somebody else worked on the armament. And by the time the fellows were through training in Hawaii, they were in Honolulu; they finished the basic training. They came in and then we got our orders that we were gonna be shippin, start shippin to the islands. L: Which island was to be your first base? G: Well, our first island was supposed to be [Angaur] Island. And on this island here, the, as we got there, the island wasn't, they were supposed to take a corner. And the marines and infantry was supposed to have a corner of the island ready for us so we could set up our air operations and start bombing the other end of the island, and islands around there. But they run into some resistance and we had to stay in the ships there for about 14 to 20 days extra before the island on that corner was partly secure so we could make a beach landing. And we could see the battleships and the planes. And when the battleships would fire those big long range guns on em, big fires, you could see big flames shootin out with each shell. And you would figure that the total, that the island would be totally destroyed. Yet they says, "Okay, now we can start proceed." So they had this here ship we was on, troop ship. They threw this big rope over the side, like a ladder, and you had all your full field pack gear on, your rifles and everything with you. And you climbed over the side. And they had a landing craft boat. And you had to watch that because the water, the waves were quite high. And so, as the landing craft would come up to its highest point, then you'd jump into the boat. And some of em missed, and as it was goin down, they landed in there and of course they hurt their self. They were hurt. They hadda go to the infirmary. But once we had put us on this LST boat, then the navy guy would take us in. We'd probably be maybe about 200 people on the boat, landing craft. And as they pulled us into shore and lowered the front gates so we could get off, why there was a lot of sniper fire at us too. So we hadda watch that and soon as we got on the beach we would dig ourself a foxhole. L: Can you spell the name of this island for me please? G: A-N-G-A-U-R. Angaur. L: Now one of the things we perhaps ought to have made clear was that you were a, your rank at this stage was a sergeant and we're speaking of 494 Bomb Group; 865 Bomb Squadron; USAAF. Establishing yourself and living on this island. What about enemy action? Is it interfering with what you're doing on your base? G: Well yes. As I, as we went in and to start settin up in there, we run into, encountered a lot of resistance which on all those islands you know, the native, the, the, Japan was there for so many years. They had caves there were as deep as 80 foot deep. And they would go in there and, and go down in there. And as we would go by and they'd see the fellas, they'd come up from behind and a lot of the fellas got hit and hurt and shot at. And me, as soon as I got on the island, I had to start setting up my communications for the different areas. Which meant that I had to have ah, my wire reels. And I had them mounted on a vehicle so I could tie one end of the wire in one corner where I'm going to use the phones at or the switchboard at. And I had to set up the switchboard area for the switchboard that communicated to all these different ah, departments. And as I went along with this, I was kinda scared. You don't know where you're at. And so I'm driving along, reeling, and I'd have to stop and tie this wire so I wouldn't keep pulling and pulling on it. It'd be loose enough so that I could work with it. Then as I got the wire where I wanted it, then I went back and start, at these different places where they were puttin up these officers tents. They were officers. And ah, then I would hook up the telephone system in there. And then when we got all that hooked up, all the telephone systems hooked up, then we had our regular command unit where we put in the switchboard. And I had to hook all these phones into the switchboard. Because immediately they started making the runway and they had the runways so the B-24's could start landing in there and the could start communicating and having their meetings so they could set their bomb, bomb places where they are going to start in bombing at. And ah, so the commanding… L: Bomb dumps. G: Yeah. Bomb dumps. And where we had all the ammunition and all the bombs lined up and they had the different bomb carriers comin in there so they could haul em out to the planes, the B-24's. L: One thing I wanted to ask you, was to make absolutely clear that you talked about these tunnels through which the Japs would emerge. But my guess is, I'm not sure, this would be something that was not experience for you but for infantry soldiers who would have to deal with that…. G: No. That was for us too. Because you never know. You run into a lot of sniper fire, see? Where them, they'd come up from these caves L: Did you ever see a live Jap? G: Oh, yeah. I've seen a live Jap, yeah. L: Under what circumstances? G: Well ah, what it was, was I was goin to fix up one of my lines to one of the tent areas. Then I see there was a Jap over there and I hollered over to another fella that was more handier than I was because he had his gun handy with him. And he tried to take and fire at this Jap. And the Jap hollered, "No shoot, no shoot, no shoot!" So finally he went over there and took the gun away from him and he tried to pull the trigger and it was so rusted shut that it wouldn't even go off. So, I mean we ran into that several times. You know them people were so hungry. They had nothin to eat. They would infiltrate. They would come and you could hear em. And we used to have cans and stuff from our rations hanging around the area. So when they'd run into that stuff, you could hear the rattling. You know. And then they had, another thing they had in there, like they'd dig a pipe hole in there for the latrine where the fellers used to go at night - the latrine. And these guys'd be at the latrine and the Japs would sneak up behind them, haul right up to em and point some guns at em and them guns were all rusted shut. They wouldn't even go off so they'd capture them. And I think myself they did that so they could be captured so they'd have some food or something. 'Cause I seen, I mean I seen like where the infantry, see the infantry and the Marines are still fightin on these islands. They only took a part of it so we could start bombing the other end of the island and that. And we seen a lot of fighting where you couldn't, you couldn't go past there. But we seen a lot of those dead Japs. Dead, in a pile and… L: Did you see Japanese who wanted to surrender and got shot? G: No, I didn't see any who wanted to surrender and got shot. They took em as a prisoner, you know. And they didn't shoot em. L: Now what, you mentioned sniping fire. Was there any other way in which your work was harassed? Maybe bombing. I don't know whether the Japs had aircraft from the other end of the island, but I just don't know that which could possibly have… G: Yeah, I was comin to that point. There's some. Like see on Sunday when we had services there, you know? They'd put up a big canvas because it was so hot in there. So they put up a canvas to be the shade area. And we would have like mass services and everybody was in there. And all of a sudden these here, they call them "Jap Bettys" would come flying in there and drop a bomb you know. And then this one time they blew the, we all took off but they blew where our mass was. We were havin a service. That tent was blown up and they blew our kitchen area all apart. So they would sneak in but we had antiaircraft batteries all the way around the island. But still some of them would sneak in, sneak in that there you know. And then later on I mean, they'd send up these planes, fighters and all that. Why they would never make it to the next island because they were, they were shot down. L: What about any accord between flying personnel and ground crew personnel? Was there a working relationship or were they so separate? G: Well what they told us was not to fraternize too much with our boys who did the flying. With the gunners and that, because a lot of the planes, the gunners were here today and gone tomorrow. And then you'd just run yourself into a lotta, a lotta people ran into a lot of grieving you know. They would miss. And as it was like, some of the fellows… L: By the gunners, you mean the antiaircraft… G: No. This is crew that flew in the bombers, the planes. L: Oh, yes. I'm sorry. G: Crews that flew in the planes. And they were like tail gunners, and nose gunners and waist gunners and all of that. See, they didn't want you to get too friendly with them because a lot of them guys were like here, here today and gone tomorrow. Depends on what kind of mission and how bad. And it did happen a lot of times. L: How long were you on Angaur? To go on to this next stage of island hopping campaign towards the mainland of Japan? G: Well, we were on, we were on there and then our planes bombed from there. We bombed in the Philippines. I was in on the liberation of the Philippines. And then an island called Pelau Island which was another island over there. We went and bombed over on that island. L: Do you remember you said you were in the Philippines and after its recapture, the dreadful fighting there had been to secure ah, the Philippines? G: Well that was, that area in there was around Leyte, Luzon, Arey, Linguyan Gulf. And that was like it was totally, totally dissipated. I mean there was nothin there. You know it was totally bombed. And we went there to get like a ah, there was runways that they cleared off. A lot of B-24's when they were shot, we were short of electrical parts and short of communication parts. So we went to these different islands that were, knew of our planes being shot down and had to take and strip em all to get some of the parts back so we could re-use them again. 'Cause we had a shortage. L: So, Angaur to the Philippine Islands and I think you mentioned Luzon, didn't you? G: Yeah. Luzon. L: And then, any further north or not? G: No. No. Then, back to Angaur and then after Angaur Island was cleared, we started goin to Okinawa. L: What can you remember of the experience of landing at Okinawa? {There is a pause in the tape at this point}. L: This is December, 2001. This is a continuation tape being made by John H. Galacia, 375 N. Westhaven Drive, Apartment G-104 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, 54904 in America. But the interview in fact is taking place in the famous air museum in Oshkosh. And we're speaking with John Galacia about his experiences as a sergeant with 865 Bomb Squadron. And I was asking him about his experience at Okinawa as the Japanese mainland is being approached. G: Well now in goin to Okinawa, we had to seal all of our stuff because the salt water would damage the stuff like our guns and rifles and all of our parts, communications and stuff and that. So when we, upon landing there, we had the same thing, the rope, climbing over the side. And then we got in these landing, landing crafts and were hauled ashore. And we encountered the same sniper fire that we encountered on other islands And ah, when we landed there, and there was the same thing. We dug in over there. And we landed at low tide. So we dug some fox holes all along the shore and pretty soon the high tide came in. We all got wet. So we had to start comin up to higher ground. And as we come into higher ground, we run into more resistance, more gunfire, sniper fire. And then ah, we had our own unit which had about four guys with machine guns would set up on there. And they took care of some of those snipers for us. But ah, but ah, the infantry and the marines and all that, they kept movin on so we could keep movin in. finally, we moved in on a place. We got in there. They called it Kadena Air Base. It was where we start settin up our operations. And all around there yet was, on the island, over half the island was still fiercely engaged in real heavy combat, and a lot of airplane bombing, a lot of strafing, and a lot of antiaircraft batteries and shore batteries from the big battleships and all that were firing in there. And so we set up on the Kadena and we got all of our communications, I had our communications set up over there. And the, and ah, our bombers were bombing the other end of the island on the same island. Because that island is 76 miles long and about 26 miles wide. So it's a very big place, and there's a lot of place. And that place was really heavily fortified. They had, in some of the places where the Japan, in the hills, they had guns mounted like on a train tracks. And they moved them from area to area and fired a blast at us, and moved over to the next one, fired some more blasts. And ah, so ah, it took a long time for them guys, for our boys to take and clear away so we could have that island. And at the same time we had a lot of typhoons and monsoons, and heavy rain. We had a lot of obstacles to go through to keep agoin. We were all wet. We were soaked and still had to keep on goin, and so we could keep our planes aflying, and they could keep on bombing L: Now, one of the things that is interesting about your service is that you have some remarkable photographs where you've caught ground crew personnel in moments of relaxation. They were photographed all looking very fit and healthy. Some of the nature of your work is shown. Some of the destruction on the island is shown, and I'm hoping that these photographs may be being preserved under your name at the Second World War Experience Center. But I wanted to ask you, do you think that you would be able to denote which island these photographs are taken on, as well as in some cases, the actual personnel shown in the photographs. G: Well, in some cases I will probably be able to do that, yeah. L: But also, you very kindly brought in a commemorative book that mind you, one made right in 1945, so it's not what might be called a real veteran publication. It's a contemporary document of the 7th Air Force which has a really wonderful account of the ah, service of men in the flying and the ground support personnel of the 7th Air Force. And then two magazines entitled, "Brief", which were sort of reading entertainment for the ah, servicemen on the islands. Ah, you had a full set of these but lost them in the typhoon and the watery and windy circumstance that you occasionally found yourself. What memories have you got that you yet haven't had a chance to speak of. I don't know whether it's going to be your fate to go onto the Japanese mainland or not. G: Well no. I didn't get to go on there but ah, as ah, my last place was Okinawa. And when the war was over there, in Okinawa, I ah, we had a hard time to ah, ah, from this here typhoon. There was nothing on there. The planes were damaged. They took and they had to bulldoze most of those brand new planes, shovel them right over the cliff into the water. And we had no food, blankets. Everything, all of our tents, everything was all destroyed. They had B, ah, those big bombers, B-52's were flying, flying in ah, food for us, clothing for us, blankets for us. And then so, they decided in October that anybody that had over a hundred and some points that was on there - 'cause I spent around two years in the Pacific - so I had over a hundred and some points. So two weeks, within two weeks later, it was ah, the end of October that I was sent back to the United States with a bunch of other fellas that had over a hundred points. L: Tell me how, as you look back on your service, do you think it shaped you in any way for your future. G: Well in, what it did for me, it told me what a great place that we have in this United States. In that a person could come and do whatever you wanted to do. So when I came home, they had what they call ah, "fifty- two- twenty." You could take fifty two weeks and get twenty dollars a week. And of course I was married and had a daughter already so I said, "I don't want to get into that. I'm going to work immediately." I went to this Rockwell International and they hired me right away. And within two weeks I was there workin. And I retired from there and that's, and I think it was a great experience for me to go through that service, and to get into the branch of the service that I was drafted into. And ah, it was a lot, it was a lot better in that service than the infantry had it or the marines, or anything like that. And watchin some of those guys, and seein some of those guys come from the front lines, and ragged and torn. And go past these field hospitals and see how these boys were hauled in there on these jeeps with arms, legs missin. And I talked to some of em that I knew, even from our outfit that were ah, shot. And poor young guys that were maybe seventeen, eighteen. And I was in my twenty's already. And they said, "Oh, am I gonna make it?" And what can you do? You have to give em, and console em, and tell em, "You're gonna do just fine. You're gonna do just fine." So the next day, they're gone.
Oral History Interview with John H. Galica -WORLD WAR II -Copyright Oshkosh Public Museum
Joe Whaley

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