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Record 27/959

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Oral history interview with Walter & Lorraine Johnson conducted by Brad Larson for the World War II project. Walter & his friend Frank Karafotis went to Milwaukee and enlisted into the United States Marine Corps on November 1942 (Karafotis was rejected). Fought in the Pacific Theater; wounded on Tarawa November 1943. Lorraine was a teenager in Oshkosh during the war. Walter and Lorraine Johnson Interview June 4, 2002 Conducted by Brad Larson {B: denotes Brad Larson. W: or L: indicates Walter or Lorraine Johnson respectively}. B: Let's start with both of you giving your full names and your dates of birth. Walter, you want to start? W: I'm Walter Johnson. The date of birth is October 25th, '24. B: Mrs. Johnson? L: I'm Lorraine Johnson and my date of birth is January 26th, 1928. B: What was your maiden name? L: Feldner. F,E,L,D,N,E,R. B: Well, before, before we actually talk about the war, let's talk a little bit about what it was like in Oshkosh. What were some of the things that growing up in the 30's [ ] What do you remember? W: Well, it's a long, long time back. I was in, I left school to go in service. My buddy, my buddy wanted to be [ ]. And we used to talk. We both said we was gonna go in. Went down, went down to Milwaukee for a physical and for some reason, his jaws didn't come together just right. So he didn't make it and we agreed previous to this that if something should happen, we felt so strong on it, if something would happen, the other would follow through. Which, I stayed in. B: How did you pick the marines? Was there a specific reason? W: Well, my buddy. He wanted to be the marine. So I just agreed with him. I knew sooner or later at that age that I'd have to go in service. So I chose the marines just to be with him, more or less. L: You ah, excuse me. He did get into the paratroopers. W: Yeah, he got to be a paratrooper though. B: Who was that? W: Frank Karafotis. B: Oh, he was killed. W: Yes. He was killed. I believe there's a monument on South Park. I believe his name is on it. B: Right. Do you know if there is any of his family left in town? W: Oh…. B: There are none listed in the phone book. I'm just curious. W: I can't, he had two sisters and I don't know their married name. One was older than he was. And one younger. The younger one, well, since we were married, we met a couple of times but we just drifted apart. B: Sure. It would be nice to talk to those folks. If you ever happen to remember their name, that would be great. Do you remember much about Pearl Harbor? W: Well, B: What you were doing or how you heard about it? W: It was a Sunday afternoon when it came over the radio. That was the first that I knew about it. B: Had you kept up very much on what was happening overseas prior to that? Either one of you. Did you, were you aware of war overseas? W: Really no. I was, being young and in school, I had other things on my mind. I just knew we were at war. B: Well, you know, I think that's not unusual. Not either then or today. Especially when you're 17-18 years old. You have a lot of other things you want to think about. Well, tell me what was the Marine Corps like? Where did you go for basic training and …? W: I left, from here I went to Milwaukee and then I got in with a group, like a platoon, and I went to San Diego. San Diego I got my ah, my boot camp training. And there was ah, let's see, from San Diego, I went to ah, rifle range. I believe it was Camp Elliott. And ah, then I came back to marine base. It was like a casual company. We were waiting to get stationed or connected with some out fit. And I got in a machine gun crew. So I was, ah, in a machine gun crew the time I was in service. And I was, from the day I ent… I joined, December 12th, '42, and December 13th, '43, I made a round trip. B: Now tell me, was Marine Corps training pretty tough? W: Yes. Yes, it was pretty tough compared to what my way of living was. Was free and could go here and there. When and where I liked. But in there it was kind of strict. B: Yeah, I betcha it was because I've heard a lot about Marine Corps training. They say it was the toughest of all the services. W: Well I can't make a comparison there. Bein only in one. So I can't say marine is more rugged than the army. Granted, the army has got tough units in it too, I suppose. B: Well, when you were in the Marine Corps, the probability of seeing action as a marine is pretty high. As you were going through training, did you feel that you were going to get into action against the Japanese? W: Well, yes. Sooner or later. But I went overseas; went to ah, Pearl, no ah, I can't think of it. A small island that was beyond Pearl Harbor. There, some of the fellows were let off there. I was just there for well, for a day or two. Just to collect, get orders to go. I got a, joined up with the 2nd Marine Division in Wellington, just out of Wellington, New Zealand. B: So did you know where you were heading when you…? W: No. No. I had no idea. It was just a boat ride. B: Was it a troop transport or…? W: Yes. B: A converted liner or? Do you remember? W: If I recall, from ah, when we left San Diego, it was more or less a luxury ship. Converted to a troop carrier. B: Well, you know, did they let you know what was going on on that ship or were you pretty much kept in…? W: No we were pretty much kept in, we were so many on ship anyway. B: Now I'm curious. Now before we actually get into this, into the battle of Tarawa. Did you think that America would win the war eventually, even though things were not looking all that good all the time? W; I really couldn't say. I really couldn't say. B: Was it ever a topic of conversation among the group of guys you were with? W: Well, a little gab session here and there, but to really get serious about… It was, what we were going to do when we got back or, if we got back, or… B: When did you find out then where you were heading? W: Really, I didn't. Cause I didn't, we got the, we went on ship at Wellington. Then the ah, I think we were alone just at the time. I mean the ship that I was on was alone. And ah, oh, it seemed like a long time, couple days or so, we met up with a regular transport unit. I never saw so many ships. And then we still didn't have no idea where we were going. B: Well, how did you learn then. Was it actually when you got… W: Actually when I got there, I still didn't know the name of the place. Afterwards I found out the information. B: Describe for me what happened that day? Can you? W: Ah, I gotta stop and think now. Well I remember it started, it was, it was dark at the time at the time when we disembarked ship. I remember climbing down the net and into the ah, I can't think of it, the boat to carry us inshore. And it seemed a long, oh, God knows how long we were sittin out there. I suppose just to rendezvous with, with, to make a line going, the whole group goin in. And we got ah, goin, and you could hear ah, goin [ ] the machine gun spatter around from the ah, ah island. Then all of a sudden it seems the boat came to a stop. Well we, there was only one thing to do, was to jump. I was just about waist deep in water. And could go in. We walked, oh not too far, and the whole, bullets start strafing across the water. There was a ah, a beached Japanese boat to our right. I'll call it the Navy's direction, at 3 o'clock or there. And that night, or the night before, they had crawled out there. Gotten out. So they had us in a crossfire going in to shore. I got though, maybe about half way in. They estimated it was about 400 yards we had to go in. I lurched and it felt like somebody snapped me with their finger. A slug had hit me just below the belt. And I stopped and investigated and my canteen was clipped. Was missing. So I knew that I was, and salt water smarts when it … But they say that it was about the best thing that could have happened. It does something, coagulates the blood so it don't bleed. But for a few minutes there it stung. And I waded into shore with the group ah, and we collected. I shouldn't say collected, meaning we got together, our group, our squad, on the beach. There was a pier that the Japanese would bring their supplies in from… and we got together then and got the word to move on. Oh it was out quite a ways in the water. About a hundred yards or so alongside this pier. And it went in towards the breakwater. The breakwater was protection so we stayed behind the protection of this breakwater for most of the time. And at the, well, this was in the morning. I can't, I have no idea of the time. We got our places, position on the beach just ah, right at the seawall. We used that for our protection. And ah, so was there pinned down pretty much of the day. And at night we were supposed to stand guard duty with just our little group there. And I went on at let's see, about, around midnight I think I was supposed to go on. And then again at four o'clock, around four or six in the morning. And the tide will, The tide that I was….I got a, a buddy and I dug a little foxhole on the shore right next to the breakwater and ah, the seawall - not a breakwater. A seawall and we laid our ponchos down and laid down. Pretty soon it seems like it was getting a little kind of soggy. Tide was comin in. Filled up with sand, spread some sand around and came in again. So then we climbed up, it was a ah, a pillbox. Climbed behind that just on top of the seawall. And ah, well, protection there. So when I got ah, when it was my turn to ah, to get up for ah, stand guard again, I just got up on my knees and rolled over backwards. Sniper dropped me. Then I, I remember I'm ah, it seemed ages before a corpsman or somebody got to me. He put some morphine or medication or something on my wound. And I heard him, at the time, "I'm hit, I'm hit." Now I don't know if I had sense enough to be quiet or if I couldn't yell any louder. So they grabbed, pulled me off the seawall and down on the beach again. Pulled, carried me to ah, alligator tractors. And I put, oh, I remember after a shot of morphine, they'd, see, I'd go out. I don't know if I was relaxed or it was putting me out. But when they moved me over the side of this, I come to. I remember a couple sprays. Water comin over the top. And ah, then I'd go out again. The next thing I knew, I was right alongside this wall. It was the ship. They put a sling around the stretcher and over the side they took me. B: Where were you hit? W: The chest [ ] broke the ribs as it came out. Pretty far. The first time I was hit just below the belt. On the left side. B: What happened then when you got on the ship? W: Oh, golly. I don't know how much time had elapsed. If I was still under medication or just went to sleep. I don't know. But I really don't know. Then when, on the ship, after the crew, the corps got on like on ship, doctor says to me, he says, "You better stay with us." Meaning some of the fellows, the worst of the casualties were dropped off at Pearl Harbor. And the ah, those that weren't, they were dropped off also. [ ] "You better stay with us." I went back to, landed in San Diego. B: So you stayed on that ship the whole time? W: Yeah. I stayed on the ship. B: How long were you at San Diego then, convalescing? W: Ah, about eight months. B: You were, huh. That's a long time, a long time. L: [ ] did you have your rib removed? W: Oh, this was afterwards. I got outta… Was bein discharged. This one wound. It seemed to stay open. Wouldn't really heal. This was a period of time. Quite a while. So when at Great Lakes, the doctor said, "Better stay with [ ]." Come to find out, the rib had gotten infected. And they took a chunk of rib out of me. B: So after you went through this eight-month period at San Diego, you were discharged then? W: No. I went to ah, to the East Coast. I got in a guard company. And was at ah, Rhode Island. I forget how many. I was just out there a matter of months. Then I was ah, I think we had a physical again and I was qualified for overseas duty but not as combat. I went over the second time as a guard company. B: How did you go over the second time? W: On ship. B: Like a member of a warship? A marine complement or, do you remember what ship it was? W: The Tryon was one of the ships I was on. I forget, I can't remember the other. I think the Tryon was the ship that I came from Pearl Harbor or say, from Tarawa straight… they didn't take me off. Stayed right on it. And they ah, San Diego they took me off. Put me in the hospital. Was on the same ship the whole time. B: Did you get pretty good medical care, do you think? W: Yes. I thought so. B: Tell me, what, what was this little island like? How would you describe what you, what would it have looked like? W: Oh, about all I can say was it was sandy. It was a low island, meaning there was no mountains or anything on it. I guess it was only about 800 yards wide. And it was, it had an airfield on it. That was the importance, I feel, of the, the country took that one. And it had a pillbox and that was their main protection. It was, really bombed that so to get the Japanese out of there. B: They were all dug in then? W: Yes. Yes. B: Could you actually see any of the enemy soldiers or were they all underground? W: I, actually the only ones I saw were dead ones. B: Much has been said that the Japanese never surrendered. They either died or… W: Ah, I've heard something similar to that. We, the marines were supposed to be such terrible people. The story is anyway, that we had to have killed one of our parents in order to get to the [ ]. So they, they ah, thought rather than killing them, they'd kill themselves. Commit hari-kari. How much is a, a story somebody made up or what. But I had heard that a couple of times. B: How did you view, the people in your unit, or how did you feel about the Japanese? Did you have any, do you recall how you felt when you were a 20-year-old marine? W: Well just that they bombed us. That's about the extent of it. I couldn't say they were, I knew of in school, I knew of a Chinese fellow and two sisters, but I didn't know any Japanese. Just this fellow I noticed at school. But other than that, I had no feelings towards em I guess. B: Mrs. Johnson, how about you? As a girl, do you remember that at all? L: You mean the war, the…? Yeah, I remember, you know, what you read in the paper and see and everything like that. But ah, I mean I just felt that it was terrible that they did that to us. You know, they bombed Pearl Harbor. As I remember, on Sundays I'd always go to mass. Then I'd come home and make my bed and that. And I'd always listen to Don Ho, you know from Hawaii and that. And ah, I used to enjoy listening to him and when it came about that the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, it was such a shock. You know, I mean. You never think they would do anything like that to us. Well, just like the Trade Center. Whoever thought… But ah, I mean, I can't really say, 'cause I never saw a Japanese person. The family probably Wallie's talking about. One of the girls was in school with me. Lane… W: Lem was the name was. L: Yeah, was their last name. And ah, other than that, I never really knew, just like we had no colored people here except for the Shads. You know I mean so, we really live in a little bitty, our own little world in Oshkosh. Until all this happened. But ah, I can't really say I knew too much about the war except for what I read in the paper and heard on the news. And of course they had all these ah, things about movies that came out. Things like that, but… B: Did you go to movies very often? L: Yeah, I think we did. We'd go maybe once a week at that time. It was cheap. But you can't go… and that there. So, but ah, that's about my only connection. Then when Walter got out, we met up. I worked at the dime store, Newberry's. And he and his sister came in. And she says, "Is that [ ]?" This kid, that Karafotis, he was a big tall, stringy kid. And I was just a, well I was only about 12 years old, 13 years old, something like that. And ah, my girlfriend knew Wally because her grandparents lived down the street. And this kid, he'd always call me 'termite'. So that's where, he didn't know my real name. And then his sister and I, we met up at roller-skating. We used to go roller-skating. And at the Armory B at the time. And then ah, that's how we got together. So, that's about it. B: Well, tell me how, tell me about your discharge and coming back to Oshkosh. W: Ah, let's see. I got out, I got out on points. I forget just how many. I believe it was 40-45 points I had acquired so…. And I ah, got to ah, Great Lakes. And there, had to have a physical there. That's when they spotted this ah, infected rib then. I was planning on goin home on such and such a weekend, that I think I shed tears when the doctor said I had to stay. It was well worth staying for. Since then its never… B: When was it that you got discharged then? W: I think it was around May 13th, '46. B: And then how did you get back to Oshkosh? Did you take the bus or train? W: I think I took the train. Took the train, yes. B: Did you have a little welcoming committee when you got here or what happened when you pulled into Oshkosh? L: Your mother was out at Sun…. W: My mother was out at Sunnyview at that time. And my, my folks were gone. My dad was working. And my sister must have been in school. I forget just what day this was that I came home on for a, then I had to go back. So the, I was well greeted anyway. B: Did you find a job right away when you got out? W: Let's see. Oh, I think from about May to, yeah, when I got out, until August, around the first of August. So I joined the, the 52 [ ] year, whatever it was. Didn't want to do anything. Just plain loaf. And then I got a, had a chance to ah, got to ah, I had to go to the college for an interview of some kind. And the ah, it ended up that I could do, my hands, with my hands I was good working but I couldn't do any heavy lifting. I ah, the girl made a call. She says, "How would you like to make glasses? Work with glasses?" Mmm. I needed a job, anything. I got the job working with the American Optical Company. B: And how long did you stay with that? W: About 20… L: Twenty-six years. W: About 26 years. The ah, the company got, pulled out. I guess it was competition in general for glass work was all pretty well so you just dropped the company out completely. L: Warren Lampert bought the company. And then [ ] pulled out. W: Warren Lampert Pharmaceutical {Warner-Lambert}. They bought the ah, the American Optical Company. B: Back to you for a minute, Mrs. Johnson. How did the war change what your family did? Your family life. Did, did your mother go to work for example? Did you participate in bond rallies? How did it change you? L: Ah, let's see. At the time I was 16. And then they had ah, the Leach Company had a little place on 8th Street. W: Ceape. L: Ceape Street. Anyway they had this place there and they hired young kids and older people and we would wrap, what do you call em…? W: Sparkplugs. L: Sparkplugs in ah, wax paper and then we'd have to dip em in wax. And that was our thing for the war. Anyway that's what I did that summer and as far as my mother, well, she was widowed and she couldn't get into a factory 'cause she was older. And so she just did odd jobs like cleaning for different places and stuff of that sort. And my brother was young. Younger. So he really was thinking of joining up but I, for some reason, well, for one thing, he has one eye is kinda, he was poked in the eye when he was a kid and some of the fluid drained out so he could not get into the service. But, and he's younger anyway. He would have, the war over by the time he probably would have gotten into the cleanup of over in Germany or something like that. He woulda gone there. But outside of that there ah, there wasn't too much that changed us kids. We all, well we didn't do anything with the bonds but, I don't know. B: Did you go around and collect waste [ ] or anything? L: Yes we did. B: Did you? L: We went… silver. We would go and ah, take gum wrappers and whatever, anything that had silver foil {probably means lead foil and aluminum foil}. We would roll it up and then we'd take it to school and the nuns disposed of it somehow. They took it someplace or something like that. And yeah and tin cans. We would ah, save all, anything that was metal or tin or something. We'd get it together and we'd… I don't remember how we disposed of it. I think we put it out and somebody came and picked it up or something like that there. But ah, yeah, it was different than what I'd been used to and that there. B: Did you have a sense that everybody was working toward the war, even kids collecting? L: Yeah. I felt that they were. And my brother-in-law, he had a very low paying job but when the war came on of course you couldn't leave your job or you would be drafted right away. So what he, somehow he worked at, what was that called? The venetian blind outfit. W: The venetian blind on Marion Street.. L: Yeah. And ah, somehow they caught on fire. Nobody knows was it accidental or what but most of those people went to the Axle, Wisconsin Axle at the time. And ah, then my sister, she got a job at Leach's. 'Course when I worked at Leaches, it was just for the summer. 'Cause I didn't go back to school and that. And ah, but she had gotten a job there and that's how most of the people got… Actually it's a terrible thing. You had to have war in order for somebody to make a decent living. But that's how a lot of people bought their homes and got um, a start in life. Because the money that they made compared to what they made before, I mean 25 cents an hour ain't very much money. Now we don't realize how, how poor [ ] and what that depression really did. I don't remember much of it because I was a kid, you know. So I didn't know too much 'cause I know my sister said that was not easy. So, but outside of that… B: Wages were that much better during the war then? L: Oh, yeah. Yeah, they went from 25 cents an hour, it hadda been, up to at least a dollar, a dollar and… I'm not sure what they made but it was a lot better and they had a lot better conditions. They had insurances. They had things that they didn't have at these other place. B: Things we take for granted. L: Yeah. We do. We take it for granted. And now the sad thing is ah, it's probably going to go more back that way because they're taking away insurances from people and things of that sort so, now these young kids are going to learn what it is. And of course they have been spoiled. B: Do you remember at all, food rationing or using the stamps? L: Yeah. W: I remember the stamps, yeah. L: And the gas. Well, we didn't have a car so it didn't make any difference with the gas stamps. But the food stamps, yeah, we, I used to do the grocery shopping and that there and ah, you had to have so many stamps and my mother says, "Now we can't have a lot of sugar. We've only got so much for sugar." They got so much, the stamps were more or less rationed out. And ah, of course, sugar, we didn't have sugar in the country, you know. It had to be shipped in and that. So, yeah it was kind of rough. We all survived. B: That must have been, that must have affected how you cooked then. It had to. Do you remember….? L: So my mother had a garden. So we mostly ate off the garden. And then I can't remember if she still had chickens or not. But ah, we didn't starve but we, it was different than what we had before. B: Was that here in town? L: Yes. B: Whereabouts? L: She ah, I lived on 8th Street at the time. And ah, she, well most people had victory gardens. But she always had a garden. B: Well, what's a Victory, could you explain what that would be? L: Well the Victory Garden was more or less people, they got plots of land somewhere. And then they would plant different foods and that there. And what they didn't use they mostly would give either to a poor family or they would give to a neighbor or maybe a relative or something like that there. But they did ah, they planted like potatoes and carrots and stuff that you could use and put up, you know. My mother was a big canner. She used to can a lot of stuff. So, like I said, through the winter then you, it wasn't too bad, but… And of course there was, you couldn't get all the foods that you were getting before but when we were before, actually it wasn't too much different because we didn't have money before either. You know I mean ah, there was just not enough money to go around and that. So I think that we being my mother and that, going through the depression and everything like that, I think that helped us more than a lot of these other people. Whereas now, these kids, they aren't gonna know what to do. I mean that's my feeling. I mean if we really had a bad thing, ah I don't know how they would… B: I think that's something we don't often think about because we never had the experience that you had. To base it on. There was nothing like that in our lifetime. So far. You mentioned that you went, what school did you go to? L: St. Vincent's. St. Vincent de Paul. It's on, the church is on 13th and the school is on 12th Street. I went there for eight years. Or nine years. We had nine years. Then I went to Oshkosh High School. Which is no longer gonna be the Indians. B: Yeah. That could be a whole tape in itself. W: Yeah. B: Now tell me what you remember about the end of the war in Oshkosh? Was there any big celebrations? L: Yeah. There was a big celebration, I think V-E Day, the one in Germany. That there was a celebration. You had, you had, oh everybody was happy and they had things all over. And then when V-J Day was, it was the same thing. By the way, we went over to Hawaii ah, in February. May ah, grandson, he's in the Navy. And they had a little baby. And so we went over to see it. And we went on the "Mighty Mo", you remember the ah, Missouri. And ah, we saw where it was the signing of the papers. W: It was staked off. L: That was interesting. That was a big, big ship too. And that, and of course we went to Pearl Harbor and to the… W: The Arizona. L: The Arizona, well [ ] that's where he was. Pearl Harbor. And but he had just come back from being sent out, deployment at the time. He just got back when it, the day after we got over there. So it was something to see that "Mighty Mo." B: What did you do? Did you participate in any of those parties or ceremonies on V-E or V-J Day? L: Well, a bunch of the kids that I hung around with, we went down, down on Main Street they had something going on. And I can't remember too much but I know us kids we went down and we were just so happy the thing was over with and that. But ah, … B: Lotta people down there? L: Yeah. Everybody was happy. B: Of course Main Street was really the place, wasn't it? W: Yes. L: Yes it was. I had [ ] because… When I worked at, Newberry's I worked at. And when they, every Friday night, people, I don't know where they came from, but that was the busiest place that you ever wanted to see [ ] the Main Street. Everybody went down to the Main Street. And ah, but, well, that's another whole thing. Anyway, yeah, that's about it. B: What did you do when you heard about the end of the war? That had some real meaning for you. W: Yes. I was ah, I think I was in the, I think I was out in San Diego at the time. When I heard about it. But we were restricted. We couldn't… I remember that. Nobody could go out and get rowdy in town. We were restricted a day or two. B: Quite a celebration. W: Oh yeah. B: Especially among those marines. You remember when you heard about the atom bomb? Do you remember anything about that, or perhaps any…? W: Well, at the time, the Japs, they struck us first. So I was in favor of it. I guess I didn't have a good reason, actual reason. Just that "this serves them right." So, but that's about the extent of it, really. I didn't know, didn't know how immense it was, that you could ah, how much damage you could do, or did do. Other than destroying the city, well I can… that's about it, what I remember. B: Do you remember anything about that, Mrs. Johnson? L: Yeah, I remember about it and it's a [ ] to do something like that. But we had to end the war, so it was the object of it. Well, now they come with all these things, "oh, they coulda done something else." Well, at the time Truman thought that was the best solution. And in a way you gotta give the man credit because I don't know how many other people would have taken the initiative to do it. But ah, I felt sorry for those people. But [ ]. So, right or wrong, I don't know. B: I talked to, I interviewed one lady who said, "Unless you lived through that," and her husband was going to go over into the invasion of Japan. And she said, "It's too hard for me to explain to you how I felt." And it is hard to explain, isn't it? L: Unh, huh. It is because some people thought it was a terrible thing for us to do, but then what else, I mean, I don't know how many more people would have been killed if we went there - of our people. So it is a very, very difficult thing if you don't live through it. B: Do you think of the war very often, either one of you? Does anything bring back memories? Do you think…? W: Now and then it does. For one thing is, the flag raising on Iwo Jima. It seems every time I see a picture of that, it brings back memories. Although I wasn't there. I was in the, in the hospital then. But ah, other than that it's not too much. B: Not too much? L: Well, you know, they have so many movies. And ever so often, and they always have this "Tora, Tora." And that's the one that I, I don't know. I think they had something to do with Tarawa at the time too. But they had that and I mean, there's so many ah, movies that you see that it kinda brings it all back. And it really does. I mean if these kids would even see some of those; of course they're not true to life, but. Yeah, I don't think that much of it. B: You don't huh? If you hear for example, a good Glenn Miller tune, would, do things come back? W: Yes. Yes. I remember when I was in school. Well, before I went in service. They used to have, about every couple months it seems, they'd have a big band. They'd play at the Oshkosh Theater. Couple of us would always go and see these bands there at the… L: Well, they had em at the Eagles Club too. W: Well, but I remember goin to the movie and seein em. Glenn Miller, Lawrence Welk, and ah, Lionel ah… L: Lionel Hampton? W: Yeah. Lionel Hampton. I remember. B: There was a place south of town too, where you could go. W: Eweco Park? Yeah. I was never there. But I was ah, I heard about it. [ ] talk about it. L: Yeah. My mother. That was in her day. And that's when, they used to go, and I talked to different people whose mothers', everybody must have gone out, down there. How they got there, I don't know. B: Well, there was a street car that went down there W: Yeah. B: So it was a pretty popular… {The first tape ends at this point}. B: Okay. Second tape. L: Really not. I mean ah, ah, it's just, well that was what, sixty years ago? And you mind fades. As you get older. B: You know there's some things that obviously are going to be in your mind forever. W: Oh, yeah. I think so. B: You will probably never forget your experience at Tarawa. W: No. I don't, I really don't think so often. Figured, wading ashore and all these slugs comin at us. B: I imagine that seemed like a long way. W: That was a long way, yes it was. B: You'd never get there. L: You just, did you tell him you got shot going in? W: Yeah. B: Well, I see you have some photo albums here for me to take a look at. That's great. If we could borrow these and copy some photographs, I'd return those to you in just a few days, if that would be all right. L: Okay. That's his sister and Wally. Wally, you explain those. B: I'll bet you your folks were pretty proud, weren't they? Like your dad, he looks pretty proud here. His son the Marine there. This is very nice. L: My daughter. W: And there's a picture, and there's a telegram that my, my folks got. B: It just really makes me feel good when I know that your family really appreciates this. It's real good. You know I, it's great. L: My daughter put this up. And that there. His family there. And I got one of my family she did. B: I'll pass this. This is probably not warrior stuff. W: No. No, no. That's afterwards. B: Okay. Well, great! {There is a pause here and it appears that some of the conversation may not have been recorded}. B: What was Frank like as a person? How would you describe him? W: Well, he was a good buddy. He was tall, tall lanky fellow. Put it that way. B: Pretty gung-ho was he? W: Oh, yeah. Yeah. L: did you ever have a picture of him? It seems like…. Look in your pictures. W: Yeah, here. In his uniform and his dog. B: How did you hear about him being killed? Do you remember? W: I think my folks wrote to me. And said that he was, that he had gotten killed. Yeah. After the war I found out from another fellow that was in school with us that he was a paratrooper and supposedly he was dead before he hit the ground. L: It was in Germany though, wasn't it? W: Sure. L: I mean, European… B: Right. Very nice. Well one of the things I like to do [ ] monument at South Park. And you folks are probably very familiar with it. It has the names of 160 men on it. W: I don't know how many but I know it's on the… B: 160 from Oshkosh in World War II. W: On the southwest corner, Oregon and 11th? Ohio and 11th. B: So I'm trying to take those names there and take some meaning. Like Frank for example. And describe what Frank was like as a person. [ ] we're not gonna forget. So, that's one of the things that we're trying to do. Well, great. Thank you both very much.
Oral History Interview with Walter & Lorraine Johnson -WORLD WAR II -Copyright Oshkosh Public Museum
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Walter Johnson

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Last modified on: December 12, 2009