Oral History Interview with Orville Klotzbuecher.

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Record 36/959
Copyright Oshkosh Public Museum
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Classification Archives
Collection World War II Oral History Project
Dates of Accumulation January 23, 2003
Abstract Oral history interview with Orville Klotzbuecher by Brad Larson. He discusses his experiences when he enlisted in the band of the 32nd Division in the late 1930s (Wisconsin National Guard); his transfer to an infantry company; the Battle of Buna and others. A typed transcript is on a computer file in the archives.

Orville Klotzbuecher Interview
29 January 2003
Conducted by Bradley Larson

{B: signifies the interviewer, Mr. Larson; O: signifies the subject, Mr. Klotzbuecher}.

B: It's January 29th, 2003. This is Brad Larson and I'm sitting in the apartment with Orville Klotzbuecher. You ready Orville? So why don't you start out by telling me your name and where and when you were born?

O: My full name is Orville Fred Klotzbuecher. I was born here in Oshkosh on July 2nd, 1916. My folks are both dead. We lived in an area called "the bloody 6th" on the South Side.

B: Ah, a South Sider.

O: Yeah. And ah, my dad was ah, was a National Guardsman. He was a staff sergeant, and when they went to the Mexican border, why, I was born and they sent him home before they got started. And so he missed World War I. But of course I came along and got into World War II. Ah, I belonged to, as you know, the 32nd Division. That was ah, and we drilled on Tuesday nights.

B: How did you enlist? Tell me, how did you happen to choose to enlist in the 32nd?

O: Well, I played in the band. And they had, the band was from Oshkosh here at that time. And so ah, when I was 18 years old, why I joined the band. And we'll get into that a little later. But ah, one night our colonel came down and, we drilled on Tuesday nights, and when the colonel came down he says, "Fellas," he says, "Tell your boss you won't be back next Monday. You'll be gone for the year." That was ah, you could have dropped a stone in the… Well, anyway we told our bosses that. And sure enough, 18 National Guard divisions were inducted into federal service October 15th, 1940.

And we went to, the first camp we went to was Camp Beauregard, Louisiana. That was a tent camp and we lost a tent a night. They had these ah, I forget what kind of stoves you call em. They was just round and pipe goin through the ceiling and the sparks would ignite. It was awful.

But they were building a camp for us and it was called Camp Livingston, which was about 15 miles away. And that was the first place I ever saw a natural gas burner. They had oil wells that were, that they lit that were just burning off the gas. Well, they pumped that all into the camp. And we had a, oh, a just beautiful camp. Well, to make a long story short why one of the fellows had a car. His name is Elmo Woller. He lives in [ ] Massachusetts. And ah, he didn't have a radio in the car. We were riding around. It was on a Sunday afternoon and we came to a place called [La Palouses], Louisiana. And there was a restaurant there. And we went in to get a sandwich before we started back to camp. And the ah, fella that ran the restaurant said, "Did you hear the news?" And I said, "No, we didn't." He said, "Well, the Japs bombed Pearl Harbor." And he turned on the radio and just then it said, "All members of the 32nd will report back to their units immediately."

So we headed back to camp as fast as we could. And just like everything else, hurry up and wait. We tore down the camp but we worked all night tearing the camp down. Then we laid on the ground for [ ].

Then we went to Fort Devon, Massachusetts and [ ] port of embarkation, Brooklyn, New York. Now, they had, the thought was that we were all for German. And it might, if we could understand their German, we could probably save some lives.

But while we were at Camp Livingston, they had war games in the swamps of Louisiana. And ah, the 32nd Division did very good. So when the war started in the Pacific, then General MacArthur asked for the 32nd Division. And we were the first in combat. The Marines went in to Guadalcanal a week later. And they, they did it wrong. We had a National Guard general, General Hardy. And he said, "You're doing this all wrong." He said, "You should get out to the ocean and cut them off and let them starve in there."

B: You mean in New Guinea?

O: Yes. And on the island of New Guinea. And ah, he kept shoving em through their machine guns. We lost 85% of our division in the first, there was 13,000 went in there and only, and 10,000 were casualties.

B: What company were you in?

O: I was with the, we were attached to the service company. The band was. But before we went up to New Guinea, we had a regular army colonel. And he says, "Nobody goes along for a free ride." So lo and behold, a 6 by 6 pulls up on the company street and they dump off four 50 cal. Machineguns. After that, we became machine gunners. And we didn't, we played once I think, after that. That's all. The rest of the time our, our instruments were packed away.

Well ah, the first place we stopped was Milne Bay, New Guinea. Now there was a high cliff right, oh I'd say four, five miles in. And it made a perfect lookout. And so the colonel said, he came down to the band and he said, "You fellows go up and check out that lookout out." So we went up there and, oh, we were green. You could tell that. Because all they had, after we were up there, they could have just thrown one grenade over and that would have wiped out half the band. 'Cause we had to climb up to see rock wall. So we got up there and there and there had been a lookout there but it was no good anymore. They hadn't been there for quite a while.

So that, then we, that's where I met my brother-in-law. My sister and brother-in-law were married while we were on the high seas. And so the ah, the first officer came down and he says, "There's a Lieutenant Schultz wants to talk to you." I said, "I don't know any Lieutenant Schultz." He said, "He knows you. You better talk to him." Well, then I got on the phone and I found out it was by brother-in-law. So ah, I said, "Where are you?" He says, "I'm ten miles up the beach." Well, of course, I really shouldn't have gotten a Jeep but one of the fellows from Oshkosh was Service Company. They had control of the Jeeps, you know. He said, "Be sure you bring it back, Orv." He gave me a Jeep and I went up and saw my brother-in-law.

Well, after that, then we went to place called Finschhafen, New Guinea. Ah, the[ ] the case, and the 126 and the 128 went in to Saidor and we were held in reserve. And we could hear turkeys out in the jungle. So there was a bunch of us got, took our rifles and they were all around us. We couldn't see em. Finally, one of the guys saw one and he knocked it down. And then they shot one, it looked like a homing pigeon only it was real big. And of course, only the guys that went out there got a chance to eat that. So the next day, everybody was gonna go but in the morning, one of the fellas was going to the john and three Japs ran out. Went out in the jungle and so, needless to say, they wouldn't let us go out there.

B: What was combat like against the Japanese? Could you describe that, in the jungles and, tell me what happened, what exactly was that like?

O: Oh, we had ah, I was on a patrol that went out. The Japs went through the line one night and cut all the lines of communication. So we had to go out there and find that break. And we only had a small patrol. And we just had ah, two wire men, ah, I think there was four or five of us from the band. And ah, of course we had a corpsman with us. And ah, on the way out there, there was a dead Jap along, next to the trail. And they played it wise. They laid on their rifle and then when the patrol would go by, they'd raise up and shoot the last man in the back and fade off into the jungle.

Well, we had a, were told how we take our knee and just hit him right in the small of the back and it'd knock all the air out of him. And they always kept their helmets buckled. So you pull up the head and you cut the throat. Well, you know we didn't do that. And when we came back, we couldn't remember whether he was there or not. And to this day, I'm the last guy left, I don't remember whether that Jap was there or not. I think we were so frightened we just, you know we just forgot about it. But ah, it was awful. If there is such a thing as hell on earth, we've been there and back.

But when the Saidor campaign was over with…

B: Why was it hell on earth? What made it so awful?

O: Well, for one thing, the heat got everybody. It got up to 130 every day. And you always slept in a hole full of water. And the mosquitoes just chewed the life out of you. And of course we all got malaria fever.

And in fact when they went on the last [ ], they went on a beach landing to ah, what the heck was the name of that place? I forgot the name of the place. But anyway, the Japs had just built an airstrip there. And that's what we had to get to, had to, had to get that airstrip. And they only had a few service troops there so we, we took it fairly easy. But ah, the Australians came in with P-40's and they used em for ah, photographing plane. And they estimated there was 65,000 Japs out ahead of us. And the most we could scrape, putting everybody in the line, was 20,000. And so the general came up. General Gill came up and said, he said, "You'll have to stay here till the last man," he said, "We'll fly in the troops as fast as we can." So they flew in another National Guard division and a squadron of the 112th Cavalry. And our line extended 14 miles in from shore.

117 days of continuous fighting. You just can't imagine what that's like.

B: You mean, 117 days without a break?

O: Without a break.

B: How did you survive it? How did you do it?

O: I don't know. We were all young then, you know. But still, it gets you after awhile. And you never get used to seeing your friends killed. That's the thing. Gosh!

B: I imagine you lost quite a few friends too, didn't you?

O: Yeah. Yeah. Oh, yeah. Well…

B: Japanese were good soldiers? Were they good soldiers?

O: Yes, they were. But they were told that if we captured them, they would be tortured. And of course, it wasn't true. The ones we captured, they never had it so good. They got new clothing and something to eat which, the Japs were really starving to death.

Now on that last campaign where we made that, that beach landing ah, they were going around our line in the jungle and heading towards [a landing] in New Guinea. And ah, our, they sent us, a company of men out there to you know, shoot em. They never fired a shot. They said they were falling over and dying from the malaria and starvation. Gosh?

B: How did you feel toward the Japanese? Thinking back on it.

O: Well, right then they were the enemy and we were gonna do everything we could to get rid of them. And ah, it's hard to explain it but if anything moved we shot it. And they were well camouflaged. And they had snipers, we called em a "ten-cent rifle", but that ten-cent rifle killed you just as dead as a 30-06. They had a long 22-caliber shell. And of course when that went in, it made a hole about that big around. But then it cartwheeled inside of you. And it just tears everything, tear the back of your head out. And those snipers were darn good. They would put themselves up in a tree and tie themselves up there. And then they'd wait until they saw somebody give a motion, like ah, who is in command, and they'd get him first.

I skipped something there.

B: You said they were in ah, they were in bunkers or camouflaged…?

O: Yeah. They had camouflage clothing on and they stuck twigs and stuff in their helmets so that you couldn't see em.

B: Well, how did you go about, how did you go about attacking them, or how did you go about ferreting them out?

O: Oh, we didn't. We made them come to us because we would then, we knew where they were and they. The blood on the [Drenora] River actually ran red with blood. They hadda take a backhoe and dig holes and just push the bodies in. The same way at Milne Bay. Ah, there had been a battle there and ah, the guy in command of it was a staff sergeant, or a tech sergeant. And they put the guns out in the jungle and the Japs came and made a landing and there wasn't a shot fired. So finally the whole works came and they marched in a company front up to the airstrip. And when they got em right out on the airstrip, they just opened up with all the machine guns and they just wiped that whole mess right out. There were holes where it said, "250 bodies" in one hole.

The next place was [Hollandia], New Guinea. And I was supposed to go home but [ ] that afternoon. The U.S.S. Wisconsin was standing offshore and we would, we were gonna get on that ship and go back to the United States. 12:30 my orders were cancelled. 1:30 I was on my way to another landing. And we were, they took us away from the 127 and attached us to the 126 for beach control. In other words, if they were pushed back in the ocean, we would be expendable. We would stay there and fire till the last man got off.

But for some reason or other, we got off at Hollandia. We didn't know. Were we headed east? And when we were out to sea, the sun was just shining and we saw a little knot of ships tied up in the harbor. And my God, it was 50 brand new destroyers. And we looked at one another and said, "the Philippine Islands." Sure enough. Every night and aircraft carrier would come in. They'd fuel up and they'd head back out to sea. And when I left they were getting ready to go. I was on the high seas when they, going back to the United States.

Now the best part of it is that we went, this was a luxury liner that we went home on. And there was only 4,000 of us on board. And the first thing they did, they had a table with only four guys at a table. Gave us a whole pound of butter. And we had been eating this cheese, they call it 'tropical butter'. All it was, it was cheese. It was a whole, there was one of these little cartons of milk, roast beef, mashed potatoes - real potatoes - not ah, dehydrated. And then they had a dish of ice cream that I got, heaped right up with ice cream. We cried in our beer! We cried in the ice cream! And a sailor said, "For gosh sakes, eat some more. We got a lot of it." We couldn't.

When my outfit pulled out of Finschhafen, I got the fever. And I hadda stay behind and I didn't have anything to do. Now the Aussies, their coins were made out of just about pure silver. And we, all we had to do, to use was our combat knife and a spoon. We couldn't carry a knife, fork and spoon because it rattled. And that would give your position away. So I took the spoon and I had a schilling which is about the size of our quarter, a sixpence was about the size of a nickel. And the threepence was the size of a dime. And I'll show you what I made of it.

B: I'll be darned. It's a good looking ring.

O: Can you open this?

B: Sure. It's got the 32nd Division arrow right in there.

O: Yup. I saved every scrap of… You can see where I riveted it.

B: Sure. It's a fine little silver ring. And you did this while you were sick with the fever?

O: Well, after I got out I hadda go in a collecting camp. And we didn't have anything to do. So we set there all day and pounded with our spoons and kept turning it. And then that's…

B: How did you inlay the little arrow in there? How did you get the…?

O: The service company made me a firing, a chisel and a drill out of a 30 cal. Machine gun firing pin. And that's what I, and that's of course a red toothbrush I had underneath there.

B: Well I'll be darned! That's very beautiful. That's very nice. What kind of fever did you have?

O: Malaria.

B: Malaria, huh?

O: I, to this day I can't give blood because it lays dormant next to your skin, your bone. And I'm liable to give somebody malaria fever. If I were to go back into a tropical climate, I'd get it back again.

B: Was that common? Did a lot of men have malaria?

O: Yeah. Yes. 'Cause ah, some of em were real bad. Some of em, their spleen busted. And it killed em. Now, now they take your spleen out. And it's nothing. But in those days, if that busted, you were done. Well then of course, we came home and …

B: When was that? Do you remember the date when you came home?

O: In November of 1945. Well, when I came home, when I was discharged, It was just two weeks lacking five years that I was gone.

B: Then you came back here to Oshkosh?

O: Yeah. I always said I'd never leave Wisconsin again if I got back alive. Then my wife was waitin for me at the station at home.

B: You were married then before you left?

O: No. We were married, I, in fact I had to wait three years after I got back. When I met my, when my wife met me at the station, she weighed 110 and I weighed 105. There was nothing left of us.

B: What did you do when you got back?

O: I came back on a Friday and went to work on Monday.

B: Where did you get a job?

O: Oh, I had a job before I left.

B: Where at?

O: Rockwell. My wife worked four years for Rockwell. Then I went in the grocery business with my brother-in-law, which I shouldn't have done. I should have, I wanted to teach biology. I should have gone to school. But I said I was too old. I was 28 years old you see. And so that ended my career there.

But, oh yes, I'll tell you something that I forgot. The [Genoa] River was what- five miles to the north of us. And we were on another little stream that had just a log across for ah, patrols to cross. And my commanding officer saw fish in that stream. And he asked if somebody could make a net. I said, "Jeff, what can I make it out of?" I said, "If you could get me some of this ah, line that they put our buttons on, on our shirts that was real heavy," I said, and then I stayed up all night. I made an inch, an inch and a half stretch mesh. And I made that made that whole net to fit across that river. And they'd had an artillery barrage and there was some empty shell casings in there. Well that was going to be the weight on the bottom. And then on top, we'd just put some limbs of a tree and stuff. Then the fish would swim in there and they can't back out. We moved the next morning. I asked our warrant officer, I said, "What did you ever do with the, with the ah, the net I made?" He said, "I put it in the piano case." And they buried the piano. Some place in New Guinea is this…

B: Was food hard to come by? I mean, what, what did you eat?

O: We, in the beginning we had 1916 rations. C rations and B rations. Now that's the first place I saw soluble coffee. And it was writ right on there, 1916. When we moved to Hollandia, then we got K rations. Now that, in fact I got a K ration in my car. If we'd go someplace in the wintertime, then we would put heavy clothes in there and that K ration so that in case we got stuck some place, we could get something to eat.

B: What's in a K ration?

O: Oh, there was ah, bacon, oh I can't even remember right now. But it was a luxury compared to the 1916.

B: Yeah, I'll bet. So you didn't go to the Philippines?

O: No. I came home just when they were going, ah the fellas that went, they said that as far as the eye could see, there was ships. And of course the kamikazes came after them. And this one friend of mine said that thing was diving at a ship right next to him. He said, "We threw everything but the kitchen sink at em," he said. And we got him just before he got to the target. And he said he went into the ocean. And one man landed his plane of the beach. He was an American Japanese. He wasn't about to give his life up for the, for the emperor.

B: When you got back home here to Oshkosh, did you visit any of the families of the men who had lost their lives?

O: Yes. Ray Kuebler and Roger Partridge. Which was kinda hard. And then when they took a look at us you know, we were so thin and yellow looking. Now you can't see it on this but we had something called Atabrine. It was a suppressive. It didn't stop you from getting malaria but you didn't get it as bad. And of course that came out through the pores of your skin. All the white stuff of ours was just all yellow. And of course, when they saw us, it was hard. But the four of us went together that came home. I came home with ah, three guys, two other guys from Oshkosh and then one fellow from Merrill, Wisconsin. And ah…

B: Do you remember their names?

O: Yeah. Ralph Rothe, Max Paulkner, Gordy Regal and myself. Ah, we had a reunion fifty years later and of course each company clerk had to, had to find his men. Well, I didn't know. Gordy stayed, I knew that Gordy stayed in the service but I didn't know where he was. But I found out through a high school reunion. And so I called him up and I told him. I says, "Gordy, next year we're going to have a reunion," I said, "Will you come?" He said, "Sure.." so when it came time, I sent out the letters and his came back marked 'deceased'. He'd died in the meantime.

B: Was it common to visit the families of servicemen who had lost their lives? The families? Was it a common thing to do?

O: I really don't know. We did it because they, well you know, they were good friends and they were from the same town we were, you know. Yeah, it was a mess.

B: During the war did you ever imagine the United States would lose the war?

O: No. No, because all we had to do was bypass the islands where they were on and starve em out. And they had, they a fuel shortage. They couldn't get their airplanes off the ground. I forget what was. I think it was the Jap 16th Army that was at, at Wewak, New Guinea. And planes in good condition but no gas.

B: So you felt that we would win eventually?

O: Yes. The way we were going, yes. Because ah, a friend of mine was on Saipan. He said they could have bypassed Saipan. They lost a lot of men on, the marines lost a lot of men on Saipan. And there'd be a hole in the ground and they'd throw a grenade in there and then they'd take a flame thrower and put it down there. And those Japs come running out burning, you know. They just left em burn. You get hard after awhile.

B: Did that happen to you?

O: No. No.

B: I mean, did you get hard?

O: Well, yes, yes. Well, it was either them or you, you know.

B: Is the war something that you think of very often, Orville?

O: Well, you see it on TV you know. And then that brings back bad memories. I usually turn it off then or turn to something else. Now this one here, now those guys are gonna get, this Saddam Hussein - our president has been telling them all the time we're gonna attack Iraq. Well he got rid of all that stuff. I bet the terrorist groups all around the world have got that stuff that he had. I hope they don't go in there. It's senseless to waste all those lives, and the money. Just think of how much money it's costing every day.

B: I have a couple of questions. Thinking back to when you were in the National Guard here in Oshkosh before the war, did you think very much as a National Guardsman that you may be involved in a war?

O: No. Because the National Guardsmen were supposed to protect the lives in the United States. You weren't supposed to be shipped overseas. But of course that all changed. But to tell you the truth, we all, we all joined the Guard because it was extra money. We got $1.15 a drill.

B: Was that considered a lot?

O: Well, it was extra and that's what helped. $1.15. Good Lord!

B: The day you left Oshkosh, got on the train and took off to go to camp, do you remember that day?

O: You're darn right.

B: Could you tell me about that?

O: Well, here was a bunch of guys that probably the farthest they got away from home was Chicago. And here we are going the length of the United States to some place called Louisiana. And Camp Beauregard was anything but a pleasure. And when it rained, the mud got so deep that, in the band they got us all rubber boots. So ours wasn't bad but the poor devils that had to walk around with their military shoes on, they had to all be cleaned up, you know. And that was a mess.

B: But it must have been pretty exciting to be leaving, or wasn't it?

O: I think there was mixed feelings. When that train pulled out over that bridge, and headed south, I don't know, I had a funny feeling. I had a gut feeling that something was gonna happen. I don't know why, or what made me think that. Well, for one thing, the World War I vets told us, "You'll never come back. You're going to go into a war." See, the same thing happened to them. They went to Mexico and then World War I came along and they shipped em right overseas. Good Lord!

B: And I suppose that was in the thoughts of you and a lot of other men.

O: that was…?

B: That was in your thoughts. You and a lot of the other guys. 'Cause they probably had relatives or fathers that were in the first world war.

O; In the first campaign, K Company from Milwaukee, they were all from south 16th St. 175 men went up and 7 men came back. That'll never happen again because now if something happens, they break up the companies so they aren't all from one district.

And it seems like opposites attract. We had a reconaissance unit with a fellow named Farley from Sheboygan. He was a lawyer. He was a good one and he was going to general headquarters when, but he wanted to go through a campaign first. And his buddy was a polack from Chicago and you know this Beetle Bailey, that guy in there? Well, that's just like this kid was. But Farley and the polack were always together. And the got separated. They went out on different patrols and the Japs almost cut the Polack in two. Well Farley came back and he said, "Where's the Polack?" Well, of course they had to tell him. And boy, he just like went out of his mind. And Blackjack Pershing's grandson was with us and there was a fellow from Arkansas. Now we all had Garands but he wanted to save that bolt action Springfield because he could fire that. And they crawled up behind a log and Farley threw a grenade and it hit the limb of a tree and the Japs opened up and it stabbed him in the shoulder and just rolled him over and just… He died right there. And so ah, Pershing said, "Shall we get up and clean that nest out?" And he said, "Yeah." And this Arkie, he just up and bingo, he shot the machine gunner right between the eyes and they went right in there and killed the rest of them with the bayonets.

B: What was the better rifle, the Springfield or the Garand?

O: Oh, the Garand by far.

B: Why?

O: You could put that in the mud and of course it fired rapidly too. Carried eight shells. No, that was a good rifle. Very good. And that slug was big enough.

B: How about the carbine?

O: The carbine was for very close firing and of course after awhile we got the carbine because we had those 50 cal. Machine guns and that darned gun weighed a 140 pounds. It was broken down into three parts. And I don't care whether you had general's stars on your shoulder, when it came your turn, you carried that darn thing. Well, that's about it.

B: Let me tell you a few names here, Orv, and let's see if you know any of these men and maybe you know some stories about em. Because I interviewed some other 32nd Division ah, fellows. So I'll just name a few. Clarence Jungwirth.

O: Oh, Inky?

B: You know him?

O: Oh you bet I know him.

B: And let's see, ah Reuben Drexler?

O: You betcha.

B: Hank [Crea]?

O: [ ] Crea?

B: Yeah? And um and then how about Norm Radig? Yeah?

O: Yeah. Sure. He's dead now but there was a Bill Procknow. Ah, he and a fellow called Ben Zwiege, they had to haul water up to the front and the Japs the thing, shot the water tank full of holes and all the water ran out and they were, they weren't mad at it being lost, they got mad because they had to go back and get another one. Yeah.

B: You remember any stories about any of those guys?

O: No. Not really.

B: Not really? I imagine you got pretty homesick over there, huh?

O: Well there was always something doing so we didn't get homesick. But when we got on that ship to go home, that's when it hit us. We were gonna go home. And of course we were on a luxury liner. We were fast. We could outrun all the Jap submarines. In fact we got almost, we to [ ] Hawaiian Islands and there was a freighter out ahead of us and the Japs sunk that freighter. And we had to [ ] out for two days. Just zigzagging. And when we came home, came to the United States, we came off the coast of Mexico and then we came along the shoreline.

And I had a job. I had a crew of men that put the blackout shutters on and took em off in the morning. Well of course, the sailor came in and woke me up and I have to wake my men up. And so I walk outside and here we are anchored right outside the harbor. Of course I got my men up and pretty soon there are 4,000 guys on the ship and leaning that way. And the captain, he's screaming. He says, "They can sink us right here." So at nine o'clock that morning they, they opened up the submarine {the submarine nets} and that's when we went in. And the first thing we saw when we tied up to the dock, there was a beautiful girl and she was pretty. And she had high heels, and we hadn't seen anything but blacks, walked across going to her job on the docks. My God! You never heard so many catcalls in your life. Yeah.

B: That was San Francisco?

O: Yeah.

B: Is that the port you left from back in 1942?

O: Yes. Yes.

B: Do you remember getting on that ship and leaving the state?

O: I was the company clerk too and I had two barracks bags and I had my ah, ah, field desk on the top of my head and on the back of my ah, my two bags. And when the officer standing there said, "Klotzbuecher, Orville F. 20645448. And he checked me off and I went up there.

B: What was it like when that ship pulled out of San Francisco harbor and all you men knew you were going to be heading overseas?

O: Well, it was pretty rough. We didn't have any, the only thing we had for supporting us was a cruiser. And ah, they had the 105's lashed down on deck so that they had em you know. If the Japs did come, they'd have something to fire. But that's when the Coral Sea battle took place. We were the first complete division with all the ah, complete units with artillery, all that stuff, to be shipped overseas at one time.

And of course, they tried to get us. And instead of going into Brisbane, we went down to Adelaide and then we came up by train. And then from there, we got on a ship and headed for New Guinea. Ah, they lost the Saratoga there, the aircraft carrier. But the Japs wanted the ah, harbor at Port Moresby. That was a deep-water harbor. They could get their battleships in there and they could come into Australia from the north.

B: Did you know that at the time?

O: Yes.

B: Did they tell this?

O: Yeah. Now when we got there at Port Moresby, when we first went over there, they took us to the end of the road which was probably a mile and they said, "Follow the squad ahead of you." So that's what we did. Raining, oh jeez was it raining! And the Jap bombers followed that storm in. It got just as bright as day. And right up on top of the hill was a battery of 90-millimeter antiaircraft guns. We didn't know that. But all of a sudden they started to go. And we had, at that time we had pup tents. And we dug deep trenches around the edge of it so that the water flowed away - so that it didn't run through there. And when the, when they started shooting like that, the tents would blow up and then they would slap down. Blow up and slap down. All of a sudden they fell right on top of us. It was kind of funny.

B: You know what I'm going to do? I'm going to change tapes real quick here because we're almost to the end.

B: Let's talk a little bit about those, the native people over there in New Guinea.

O: Well, at Port Moresby the old man who was at the head of his tribe had to be carried. He was only fifty years old but he looked awful. Ah, they had, they used something they called a beetle nut in their hair. And their hair was almost red-like. And their teeth were just about black. {They chewed the beetle nut}. But they were friendly. And they, they really knew what to do. They sold us coconuts for sixteen cents apiece when you could have gone out and picked it yourself, you know.

B: Did they help you at all? Did they help the soldiers?

O: Oh, did they ever! They carried wounded men, in the Buna campaign especially. They carried men out of those swamps where we never would have gotten em out. And they were so, four of em would carry em and then another one would carry a palm frond and keep the flies off em. But when they had a Jap, when they got to where they would leave em, they just pulled their shoulders out and let them fall on the ground. Because the Japs took their women and they didn't like that.

B: You said you wouldn't have gotten them out of the jungle. Was the jungle so ah, ..

O: It was only, you had to follow the trail. You couldn't, it was almost impossible to go through the jungle.

B: It was, huh?

O: And especially at Buna because there was so much swamp area. I wish I had that, I let somebody take my, my ah, book. The 32nd, er the ah, State of Wisconsin issued a book that 32nd division members could purchase. And it gave all the battles in there and everything about it and I loaned it to somebody and never got it back.

B: So they were so thick you couldn't, you could not get through them. The jungles. The jungles were so thick you could not get through them?

O: The jungles that were so thick that a lot of places the sun never got down to the ground. It was pretty darn thick. And the heat. My gosh! 138, of course we were only five degrees off the equator. That was awful.

B: How did you cope with the heat like that? Was there anything that you could do to try to alleviate the heat?

O: No. I passed out twice from the heat. And now it still bothers me. I can stand the cold but I can't stand the heat. And that's 61 years ago. Gosh!

B: After 61 years, those memories are still vivid, aren't they?

O: They sure are. They sure are. Or if you go, happen to go to South Park or something like that, there's that plaque up there with the guys that got killed. And those two guys, Roger Partridge and Ralph ah, Ray Kuebler, they were from Oshkosh and their names are on there. Well that brings back unpleasant memories too, you know.

B: They were good friends of yours, huh?

O: Oh gosh, yes. You know in a small unit like that, we only had thirty guys in the band, twenty-nine and a warrant officer, and you get to be pretty close. And you always trust your life to the man on your left and the man on your right. Well that's about it.

B: What instrument did you play? Just one more question. What did you play in the band?

O: Oh, I played, I played baritone, French horn, ah, E-flat alto. So I said baritone. Yeah, any three valve instrument. The only difference, the French horn fingers a little different but not that bad.

B: Did you play after you got out of the service? Did you continue to play?

O: No. No. I had enough of it then.

B: And you worked for Rockwell then for your career?

O: I went to, I went in the grocery business.

B: Oh, that's right. You told me that. Where was your grocery store? Was your grocery store here in Oshkosh?

O: Oh, yeah. Duffy Meyer, did you know him?

B: No.

O: Well, he started up a bunch of grocery stores and he tried to get too big too fast. And we went under. I lost everything I had.

B: Then what?

O: Well then I went to work for Oshkosh Paper Company and then I answered an ad in the paper and I, I was hired by Race Office Equipment. And I worked for them for 29 years. I went through 14 station wagons.

B: Well I can't tell you how much I appreciate this. This has been a real pleasure.

O: Well I suppose there are other things that I've probably forgotten, you know.

B: If you want to talk again, just give me a call and I'll come over.

O: Yeah.

B: It's, I'd be happy to just zip over. It only takes me ten minutes.

O: Yeah. I wish, I wish I knew where the, or course when you move in a place like this… Now we live in this room so it's never straightened up. It's always messed up. But down the basement, I've got stuff. I had a, I've got a little metal box that was medical supplies in. I made that ah, ah, then when I had to make a shuttle. And I made it out of a tooth brush handle. That's down there someplace but oh, we got so much junk down there in a 6 by 8 cage.

B: Well keep the museum in mind. We'd love to have that sort of thing so keep us in mind if it's something you want to go through sometime. Thanks a lot Orv.

O: You bet.
Event World War II
Category 6: T&E For Communication
Legal Status Oshkosh Public Museum
Object ID OH2001.3.41
Object Name Tape, Magnetic
People Klotzbuecher, Orville F.
Subjects World War II
32nd Division
Pacific Theater of Operations
Title Oral History Interview with Orville Klotzbuecher.
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Last modified on: December 12, 2009