Oral History Interview with Virl Jolin.

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Record 49/959
Copyright Oshkosh Public Museum
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Admin/Biog History Verl Jolin was born in Oshkosh, WI on April 13, 1925; family moved to Rhinelander, Wi circa 1930; moved back to Oshkosh 1942; worked for Paine Lumber Company and Mondl manufacturing; enlisted in the US Navy 1943; basic training at great Lakes Training Center; specially trained as a gunner on PT Boats in Rhode Island; served on board of PT 225 in the Phillipines and saw action; discharged January 1946; lumberjack; worked for Wisconsin Public Service for 42 years.
Classification Archives
Collection World War II Oral History Project
Dates of Accumulation August 13, 2003
Abstract Cassette recorded Oral history interview with Verl Jolin. He enlisted in the US Navy 1943; specially trained as a gunner on PT Boats in Rhode Island; served on board of PT 225 in the Phillipines and saw action; discharged January 1946. A typed transcript with index is located in his file and hand written notes.

Verl Jolin Interview
13 August 2003
Conducted by Bradley Larson

{B: indicates the interviewer, Mr. Larson; V: indicates the subject, Mr. Jolin. Open brackets [ ] or bracketed words denote either a word or phrase not understood or a word for which the spelling is uncertain, respectively}.

B: This is Brad Larson and I'm sitting in the home of Verl Jolin and we're just getting ready to talk so I guess if you're ready Verl, I'm ready.

V: I think I'm ready.

B: So if we could just start out, if you would give me your date of birth and where you were born, and then your mom and dad's name.

V: I was born the 13th of April, 1925 in Oshkosh. But I lived up north of Rhinelander for my first fifteen years. Then we moved back to Oshkosh when I went in the service. My father's name was Martin Jolin and my mother's name was Mary Jolin.

B: Prior to the start of the war did your family, was your family very much aware of the events that were happening overseas? Did you talk about it, was it a family conversation topic?

V: You mean before the war?

B: Before Pearl Harbor.

V: Before Pearl Harbor, no. Very little was said about foreign countries when I was a child.

B: Didn't pay too much attention to it?

V: No, it was during the Depression and we lived up at Rhinelander then and my dad worked in the woods, cutting logs. And so we lived out in the country and we had no television and sometimes we didn't even have the radio. And so we never really got to much news about the overseas events.

B: What brought you back to Oshkosh?

V: Well, it was kinda tough goin up there and he thought well we'd move to Oshkosh. Things were kinda pickin up a little bit then. We moved to Oshkosh in 1942. And I went to work at a mill. I worked at Paine Lumber Company and Mondl Shoe Factory. And I worked at the, well my dad and I, we went into kinda construction work puttin in sewers, sewer laterals into houses. Until I went in the service.

B: What do you remember about Pearl Harbor on that date, December 7th?

V: Well, I can remember it. When Pearl Harbor was bombed, we lived up at Rhinelander yet. And it was a, they had lots of news. I mean it was on, all you heard on the radios was events of Pearl Harbor. And then when war was declared by Franklin Roosevelt, I remember that. And that was a, quite a shock at the time. And at the next day, some of the younger men right around our neighborhood, four of em went and joined the service the next day after Pearl Harbor, the 8th of December. They joined the service then. And I was too young yet to join.

B: Do you remember what your family's reaction was to the news?

V: Well, they right away, they thought well, all the young people will be going away to war. Then there really wasn't too much said because like I say, we lived out in the country and there wasn't too many neighbors around then. So it wasn't really discussed too much except as a family we'd talk about it when we heard the news. News was kinda scarce at that time. You didn't hear everything that was going on.

B: Did you have any older brothers?

V: No. I was the oldest of seven.

B: So really, it would have fell to you then as the oldest son, probably.

V: Yeah, I knew I would probably be going in sooner or later, when we moved to Oshkosh. When I got to, when I was eighteen years old then I went and enlisted in the service.

B: How did you pick the Navy?

V: I didn't. I went for the examination in Milwaukee and went through the line. And then they come to the, I was asked, "What do you want, Army or Navy?" And I says, "I want the Army." He says, "You're in the Navy." I said, "Gee, I don't know if I like that or not. I thought I was going to be in the Army." "No," he says, "You're going to be in the Navy."

The guy behind me, they said, "What are you gonna go for?" He said, "I'm going for the Navy." He says, "You're in the Army."

V: So, but I was really thankful it turned out the way it did. Fate had it, I guess, that I was supposed to be in the Navy. And I wouldn't trade that for anything.

B: What happened then after you went through your initial enlistment? Were you sent off for training?

V: Yeah. We came back to Milwaukee, er, from Milwaukee to Oshkosh and then I got the notice to report to Great Lakes Naval Training Station. And so I went through eight weeks of boot camp.

B: Do you remember when that was?

V: That was in 1943 and I think it was in pretty much the spring of the year yet. I think it was probably in March or April or so.

And then I went to, back from, we got a 30-day furlough, went back to Great Lakes and then it said, give the names of just 14 of us from our company. Company 394. Said you're being transferred to [Melville], Rhode Island. I thought, oh boy, what's that going to be? Well, they said that's a PT training base and you're going there as mess cooks, you know. Galley work, and they had a funny way of working. They couldn't draft you in the Navy or the submarines. That was two branches they couldn't draft you. You hadda volunteer. So they made it so rough that we was glad to volunteer. Doing trays and doing dishes. Then they took us on a nice ride on a PT boat, made it look so nice. I thought boy, I'll sign up for the [ ].

So the whole 14 of us signed up for PT boats and then we went to the Pt Training School. And that was about ten-week training.

B: What kind of things did they train you on these?

V: Well mostly navigation and how to ah, operate PT boats. There was, well there was only 12 men on the boat. A skipper, a Lt. JG. - he was the crew captain. The skipper was strictly the manager of the boat. He was a full lieutenant. Then there was two gunner's mates, two torpedo men, a quartermaster, a cook, a deck hand and three machinist's mates. That was the crew of a PT boat.

So you went to these schools to learn different things about PT boats. You had to learn how to, a little bit of everything but they put me as a gunner's mate right away. So I was in the gunnery school more than anything. But you had to learn a little bit of everything about a PT boat and how to operate.

So we went through that ten weeks of training and then a notice come up, [ ] were sent to the Mediterranean. Boy, some of my good friends all going and I wasn't on that list. I thought, oh boy! And then about a week later, another list came out and my name was it. Going to Shoemaker, California.

So we took a troop train, fourteen days to cross the whole United States from Melville, Rhode Island to Shoemaker, California. The most beautiful trip I ever had. And it was…

B: It was huh?

V: Oh, on that troop train, fourteen days. They had to pull off to the side to let the mail trains by even. It was such a slow train.

B: I'll be darned! Had you seen much of the United States before that?

V: No. Nothin. I had never seen a city as big as Oshkosh. When I got to Oshkosh, I thought, oh man what a sized city this is, you know. And when you go across the whole United States, oh, just beautiful. And I spent the whole trip pretty near, in the caboose on the back end of the train, you know. On the outside of the train lookin at the scenery. It was so amazing, you know. You know you don't see nothing like that and then you spend fourteen days. You go right through Chicago, pretty near right by your house. Can't stop and go all the way to Shoemaker, California. But that was a beautiful trip.

B: It was, huh?

V: Then I was in Shoemaker probably about two weeks and waiting for an OGU, and outgoing unit. And in the meantime we went to San Francisco and worked in a peach factory, canning peaches. You know that would keep us, I guess, occupied. But then all at once we got orders to ship out to the Hawaiian Islands.

So in the morning about two o'clock you take the ship and go underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. And I see whey they call it Golden Gate because it was foggy and great big beautiful golden arch. Like that, we went right through, under there. I thought that was really something else.

B: What kind of ship was it? Do you remember?

V: Great big troop transport. Had over 5,000 troops on there. But we get to the Hawaiian Islands, then we go, they put us at Pearl City and that was a PT base in the Hawaiian Islands. A training base. And Squadron One was the name of the squadron. So we took training there and pretty quick they asked for volunteers to go to Squadron Seventeen which was stationed there also, and transfer for a combat unit. This was a non-combat unit where we were there. To go on a combat unit. So we all signed up to take this, to go on this Squadron 17.

B: Everybody did? Pretty much?

V: No. Not everybody. No, some didn't. Some didn't but enough of us did that we could build a squadron. See in a squadron there's 12 boats. 12 men on a boat. And they loaded four torpedo boats on each ship. And there was three ships of four of us, four boats. Loaded em up and shipped us to the Philippines. And we had to live aboard that PT boat, aboard this transport. We couldn't get down on the ship. We had to stay on our boats all the way. Which I though was kinda odd.

B: Must have been kind of cramped.

V: Well, it was good because we ate good and them guys on that ship, they wasn't eating so good. [ ] But did we pay for it when we crossed the equator. Because then they indoctrinate you, you know, and oh man, that was terrible!

B: Why. Did they have some little ceremony for you?

V: Ceremony? You had to get in line and then they initiate you into the, as a, oh what do you call it, into the midnight outfit. You're not a pollywog no more. You get to be a - when you cross the equator. And one guy had a Navy sock full of flashlight batteries and boy they whop you! Another one, oh they just had all things that make it miserable for you. One guy had mustard and ketchup on his chest and he'd take your head and rub mustard and ketchup in your eyes. They got even with us. But anyway that was one of the experiences.

And then ah, but first I'll tell you a kind of a history about PT boats.

B: Yeah. And walk me through a PT boat. Describe it for me.

V: A PT boat is 80 feet long and 20 feet wide, made of plywood. Strictly plywood. And like I say, there's 12 men on a boat and then there's four Mark VIII 16-foot torpedoes on each boat. Forty millimeter mounted on the bow. No, 40 millimeter mounted on the stern and 37 {millimeter} mounted on the bow. And two twin 50 caliber machine guns in a turret on each side. Then they had two smoke screen generators and two depth charges. And then every man had a rifle and a pistol. That was the armament of the boat.

And they were known as "the mile a minute boat." And they had three 1500 horsepower Packard marine engines in each one. On each boat. And like some of them, they claim they got up to 60 knots which is 72 miles an hour on water. Anyhow that was pretty rough.

B: That's fast!

V: For a small boat. But anyway, we ah, they unloaded our boats then near [Geeowan] in the Philippines. That's where we unloaded our boats. And we went to this PT base with 17 also. They were just making it as a landing place. And so the first night we get there, there was no place to sleep so we went and slept in a great big cathedral. And it was Philippine, like a Catholic Church. Built in 1676. And it had been bombed. It was in real bad shape. Took out our hammocks and slept on the floor there at night.

Next morning being Sunday, wake up and hear a bunch of noise, and here Filipinos are all coming in for church service and here we are all laying on the floor in there in this church. And they come in the church on their knees and they cannot stand up until they get back out again. They have to stay on their knees from the time they come in that church until they went out the door again. I thought that was kinda strange. But anyway…

B: Now had the Philippines been invaded? About what time of was this? What…?

V: The time when MacArthur, after he'd left, you know the fact is the 'Pete's', there were some PT boats there, that took MacArthur out of the Philippines on a PT boat. You know MacArthur, when he went to, what's the name of that…?

B: Australia?

V: Australia. Yeah, he went to Australia. And in that time, that's when we landed in the Philippines. Right after he had left, and there's about, see that's when the Japs chased the Americans out of the Philippines completely. Well then we come back on the invasion when they were starting to come back in again to take over the Philippines and that's when we came in. That was in 19, yeah that was the latter part of 1943 when we got there.

But anyway that was quite an experience in the Philippines with them boats. And we had a PT tender, the USS Cyrene, that if we went far enough out to sea, this PT tender would go along. Refueling. A PT boat held 10,000 gallons of gasoline, 100 octane, and that was goof for about ten hours. That's ten hours of wide open traveling, you'd have to refuel.

B: So what were some of your duties or patrols? What were some of the things that you would do?

V: A lot of it was patrol. We had a lot of light patrol. We'd get an order that submarine was sighted someplace near a cargo ship or something. They'd send us out. This one night it was pretty dark and our squadron 17 was sent out to investigate the island of Marinduque. And they said that some enemy ships were sighted.

So when we get pretty close, then they'd go on blackout and they'd throttle the motors. They have something they kind of chuck in the motors, the exhaust, so you can't hardly hear em? They go "Doob, doob, doob," you know, just like that. But when they're wide open, you can hear em. But anyway then we was circling this island of Marinduque and all at once we saw a flash ashore. And we were probably less than a quarter of a mile circling this Marinduque Island which wasn't a very big island.

All at once, it's starting to get daylight, and we could see something that looked kind of fishy you know. And here they had a big Japanese cargo ship anchored to shore. And had it camouflaged with all kinds of bamboo and stuff but you could see its outline of a boat. And so the skipper give the orders to man our guns. And they took the 40 millimeter and the 37 and the twin fifties. My battle station was the twin 50 caliber turret gun. They were twins, the turret, you could turn them with the turret. They were link belt fit with good size bullets. Anyway we all opened up and pretty quick the whole thing blew up. It was an ammunition ship loaded with all ammunition. Just blew right up, the whole, if you ever see fireworks… And it kept goin, you know. Kept goin [ ] all the ammunition. And you could see Filipinos - it lit up the sky - you could see Filipinos and Japs running up the hill. You could see em going just as fast as they could go to get out of there.

But anyway then, the planes come in and they really strafed and stuck that island really good. Because there was, they could see that there was a lot of Japs on there. And anyway that was one of our…

B: Was that your first combat experience?

V: That was the first one. First combat experience.

B: Quite an initiation.

V: It was. It was quite a… But there was no return fire on that patrol at all. It was just a one-sided deal but they must have had an awful lot of ammunition on there because it really did blow up. Yeah, it was quite an experience.

B: But I imagine not every patrol was as one-sided as that.

V: Oh no. No. We had some other ones that was pretty scary. I know one time we was going in some Jap planes, Zeros, were coming in. Then all at once they decided to make a bank. You know they, if we was on the ball, they couldn't hit a PT boat. When they make their strafing path, you know, you just make, you ;just [ ] goin like you're goin. But otherwise you can just turn your boat, just zing in here at 90 degrees and they'll just, they'll miss you every time.

So we, only once we ever got strafed in the boat. Our boat got hit with machine shells. But anyway…

B: Did you manage to shoot down any of the planes?

V: Oh yes, we got quite a few planes.

B: I imagine that's pretty challenging, pretty hard to hit an airplane.

V: Well, I tell you what, when they ah, we took a lot of gunnery lessons, you know in training. How far you gotta lead em and stuff, you know. The planes. But we shot down - every boat has got a battle record - and they paint it on the hull of your boat. Shows how many planes you got and whether you did it alone or with somebody. Or if they had, kind of a record on your, painted right on your ship.

So anyway, we got a few Zeros and then one time we see a ship, a good size ship. We didn't know what it was but we knew it was a Jap ship. And see, what they do when you have a squadron and you see an enemy ship with a PT boat, you go as close as you figure you can without getting hit yet. And then you lay a smoke screen, a real thick smoke screen. Then you all line up. And then you come through that smoke screen. And then that's when we'd make the attack. And with a PT boat, when you fire torpedoes, your ship aims, you gotta aim your ship and you [ ] your speed, how far away they are. And then that's how far you lead em. And you fire your torpedoes and they go about 8 foot underwater. And then you're hoping, usually if you got four or five PT boats firing your tubes, you usually are pretty apt to hit em. But boat that's, they're a hit and run boat. They're not a boat that you're going to go and battle with, a battleship or something. You fire your torpedoes and get out of there.

B: Did you take return fire from that ship then as you're attacking it?

V: No. No, that ship didn't, fact is I don't think that ship had any guns on it even. It was loaded with rice. All solid rice. We had captured the crew and took em prisoner and sunk the boat.

B: Were they Japanese crew?

V: Yeah.

B: Did they want to surrender?

V: No. They weren't too anxious to surrender.

B: How did you get…?

V: Well, we ah, the skipper, first we pulled up alongside. And you know they don't speak English or nothing. So we had the guns aimed all at em. They're standing there with their hands up, you know. So we motioned come aboard our boat. Now we pulled up alongside and they got on there and some of us got onto the boat. And checked it out to see if there was any more people on there. And it was the stinkiest boat I ever see in my life. That rice had an awful smell. The whole hull, and then their hatches about that big square, them Filipinos are all little people you know? We couldn't even get down the hatches on some of them.

B: Looked like maybe 12 or 14 inches?

V: Probably about 14 inches square. But anyway we got em on our boat and took em prisoner. Took em back to the base. Yeah, that was quite a deal.

B: I'll betcha it was. That would be unusual though. Most of the time I would think, from what I've read and from what other veterans have said, they didn't want to surrender.

V: Yeah. Well these, this was not a battle, they didn't have no armament at all. It was just transporting food to the… And they had no, nobody turned fighter and all. They didn't have much choice.

But anyway, we had em sit on our ammunition box in the front of our boat. And had two guys with their M-1 carbines covering them. And all at once this guy made a grab for this guy's gun. And got it back and whacked him with the barrel, the stock of his gun. Knocked him right out. [ ], you know. These other Japs were all lookin, you know. But anyway, then all at once, we were talkin about em, you know. Great big, this one Jap was a good-sized guy. Bigger than most of em. He says, "Hey mate, what state are you from?" In English. We looked at him. We couldn't figure out, you know. Seemed so funny. He says, "I went to the University of California for four years. I graduated from that university."

B: I'll be darned.

V: That was, that's amazing.

B: I'll bet some jaws dropped when that happened.

V: We were talking about them pretty mean, you know. And he says, "Hey mate, what state are you from?

B: How did you, Verl, how did view your enemy? Did you know very much about him? Thinking back…

V: We viewed em as enemies and we didn't have much love for em. Because we heard so many stories about how they really treated a bunch of… See that was after that death march you know, when they had that death march from Bataan to Correg… back to Bataan. I forget how many soldiers were killed and stuff, on the way. You read that kind of stuff, well you just, and then it's self preservation too. You don't want to get too friendly with em. You know you're gonna stay your distance and not get too reckless with em.

B: Did you, what kind of stories did you hear about Japanese atrocities? What kind of things were circulating through the…?

V: Well with the Filipinos, you got a lot of stories from em. They were really mean to the Filipinos. The Filipinos couldn't stand em. That's why a lot of Filipino guerillas, they were really, gave us a lot of leads, what to do, where some Japs sometimes hid or something. Then they'd tell the soldiers and they'd go get em.

But anyway yeah, they were mean. You could never trust em. They liked to punish people. They didn't just kill em. They punished em. [ ] you heard of, they'd do things, not just shoot em but make em suffer first. You hear those kind of stories and you don't want to take no chances you know. No.

B: Is there any particular patrol or action that sticks out in your mind above all the rest of them?

V: Yeah. One patrol sticks out pretty much. Is when one time we were all sent out. They said they saw submarines by this one island. I think it was the island of [Geeowan]. The Japs submarines were sighted. So we're goin on a patrol and there was two squadrons, 24 boats on this, no, yeah - 24 boats on this patrol.

And all at once, we're going along near the island of Luzon and we hit a coral reef. Right just, our boat just boom, boom, stopped. Stopped right there. Right on this coral reef. And we hit the reef at high tide. And they got 14 foot tide out there, from high to ebb. 14 foot, we hit it at high tide. And we were stuck right there and the other boats, they kept goin because we was in enemy territory. And they spotted some Jap planes, you know, just before that. And we figured they were kinda circling, kinda making their way toward us.

So all the boats took off and here we're stuck on this reef. And then when it got daylight and the tide went down, you could get out and walk around the boat on this coral reef. So we took bars and stuff and our boat on the bottom, there are two propellers. There are three 12-foot propellers and two of em were bent. Their shafts and everything were bent right back. And so we tried to get this coral reef with these bars, by that one good propeller, clear it so we could back up. Then we threw all of our ammunition, everything overboard. To make the boat lighter. And we all got off the boat. When the high tide came in the next day, and we all got off the boat, first we was all on the front of the boat so the back end would be up in the air. Then all at once it started moving a little bit. Pretty quick we got off that reef.

But we was on that reef for over 24 hours. In enemy territory. Saw planes and stuff but they never noticed us. We called the base to send us some help and they said, "No, we can't send nobody because it'll cause too much commotion. You're better off to just work at it. And that was scary when you know you can't do nothin. You're just helpless.

B: I imagine the 12 men on that PT boat of yours were really sweating it out too.

V: And I wrote a song about it.

B: Did you!

V: Fact is, on the way back. But anyway…

B: Do you still have a copy of that song?

V: Well, no but I know some of the verses.

B: Do ya?

V: Yeah.

B: Would you be willing to sing it for me?

V: Well, I can, it's like a poem. I can tell you:

"It was on a dark and stormy night,
there were no stars in sight,
when 225 was ordered out to sea."

Wait, I gotta think of this:

"And with his orders in his hand,
the skipper in command,
had orders to find the enemy.

About an hour before dawn,
near the island of Luzon,
our boat came to a sudden stop.

When we checked the scene,
we found our boat was on this coral reef.

And so the tide was going out,
you could hear the sailors shout,
and pulling coral from the sea.

But the tide came in next day,
and we soon were on our way,
and we were as happy as can be.

As we pulled into the base,
you can tell it on our face,
that we had an awful rugged night,

But with the weary mind of blue,]
we once again came through,
with our PT 225 alright."

B: Oh, that's great!. That's really nice! That's, thank you for sharing that.

V: In the song, you know I'm not used to really being interviewed, And I ah, but in the song it sounds different. And I left out maybe a couple of verses too, but…

B: Most of your action then was at night, huh?

V: Mostly at night.

B: And then you would come back during the day and you'd, what would you do during the day?

V: Well, sometimes we would stay at sea because we had our tender along and we'd stay at sea and just anchor out. And get rest. And at all times there was, no matter where you were, if you was at shore at the dock or at sea, one guy on top was always standing guard. We never left the boat unattended without a guard there. Even if there was ten boats in a row, there'd be ten guards, one on each boat. And when you're on guard at night and everybody's sleeping and you've got the 12 to 4 watch, that's one of the loneliest times of your life I'll tell you, out to sea like that and you got to walk around that boat all the time, you know. And look, keep your eyes open for anything you might see.

B: Yeah. I'll bet it is.

V: But anyway, you could take a PT boat, when you're standing still in the water and your motor is idling and all at once you want to take off. You pull all three throttles back and the nose of your boat just goes right up in the air like this and then all at once your boat just takes off, and all at once it just planes. And then the only thing that hits the water is the stern of your boat where the three motors are. Your boat is up in the air like this.

B: Did you do that very often? Was, did you go full out very often?

V: Yeah. We'd do that quite often. But anyway, you had to hang on then. When you're going, I seen it already where there were 14-16 foot waves. And a squadron of boats you know going sometimes, being trio formation, sometimes vee formations or whatever you'd be traveling. And you could look at the other boats and all at once you wouldn't see a boat around. They'd be down in a hollow then all at once you'd be up on a wave. You'd be riding the crest. Yeah, I tell you, you go 60 miles an hour, when you got rough seas, lot of times the nose of your boat goes right under the water. And you gotta hang on so you don't get swept off.

B: I'll bet.

V: And my favorite spot was when we was underway and I had, everybody was on watch then when you're in battle conditions. My favorite spot was on the bow of the boat, one foot on each side of the [peak], at the big bullring there? And then I'd hang onto that and then I could [ ] binoculars at the forward watch. And that's quite a ride too.

B: I'll betcha it is.
V: Like I say, then four men slept in the bow of the boat, below deck. And on each side you have a porthole, probably 16-inch diameter. And then in behind this plywood side, there'd be your bunk. Two in the front on each side and two behind that. Eight slept in the crews quarters.

B: Kinda tight. Sounds like kinda tight…

V: Yeah, it is. Tight quarters.

B: Did you have a galley as well for food and…

V: Yeah. See, they had a hatch in the top up here. And then you could come down mid-deck and come into the crews quarters from the back too. You go through the officers quarters. They had their quarters mid-ship. Then you come in, then the galley was right in where we slept. And then they had a fold down table, have it come down. And that's where we'd eat. And like I say we had a [ ] and then two men had to sleep in the lazaret in the back of the boat; the deck hand and the cook. But the gunner's mates, torpedoemen and machinists mates and the officers all had their sleeping quarters.

B: It sounds like the moral was really high, at least in yours.

V: It was. It's like a family. It's like a real close family because each one's depending on the others, you know. And I knew everybody by name, their addresses, where they lived, came from, you know. There were only 12 men, you know. You could pretty well acquainted.

But anyway, one time we was at the station, this one island. And some Filipino people all come, bring us bananas and stuff. So we invited em aboard the boat. We had an old record player with one record and it was Gene Autrey singing "Back In the Saddle Again." I put that on that table down below and those Filipinos on top deck, they couldn't go below but on the top deck they all had their heads around there and I was playing this record and they couldn't figure out where that was coming from. They never heard a record, you know. And I bet you I played "Back In the Saddle" twenty times. [ ] says, "Hey, if you play that once more, I'm going to break that record!"

B: You know, having a close crew is good in a way. Very cohesive unit. But I would imagine if something happened to one crewman, you would have all felt it, didn't you?

V: And one bad experience we had, we was on patrol. I forget what island we was by. I think we was by Luzon. And I had right turret watch at this time. And all at once I saw a flash from shore.

{There is one minute of dead tape here This is intentional; BL}.

Oh, no more casualties. That was the only casualty we had. On our boat. But some of the other boats would have casualties. [Ordinary], we were pretty lucky. And lot of times, on a lot of cruises, just nothing happened, you know. You're just looking and trying to find… You get the word that there's an enemy ship around and then you… Once we dropped our depth charges. We picked up something. Figured maybe we were over a submarine or something. But we don't think we hit him because no oil slick came up or nothing.

{The first tape ends at this point}.

B: So, did you spend most of the time at the Philippines or as the war moved closer to Japan did you move?

V: Yeah we were just headed for Borneo when the war ended. We had secured the Philippines and they were pretty much secured. And ah, then when we had our boat in dry-dock, getting all the boats ready to go, moving off [ ] PT base 17, and then we went to PT base 16 and that was at Truax Air Force base. Right next to, well about 90 miles from Manila. On the island of Leyte. And then we were all ready to go to Borneo, which wasn't just too far. Because the planes were already bombing Borneo from where our base was. You know the planes coming back and going back and forth, you know. And we just get ready to go and here the skipper comes and we figure he's coming with our leave. He says, "Yeah," he says, "The war's over." He says, "The war is ended. The war is over now." That was the biggest thrill of our life. Boy, we had a party right then when we found that out!

B: Well, did he explain what had happened or did you know what had had happened?

V: Well they said that they dropped some bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I guess. They dropped these bombs. They said that the war was over. That the Japs surrendered. So then we were just waiting. Well then they took the boat, we had to go to different islands and make sure that, you know, the Japs didn't believe on those islands, they didn't believe the war was over. They didn't take that. They thought everybody was just trying to fool them, you know.

B: What did you have to do then?

V: Well, some of them picked up prisoners and brought em back. They wouldn't believe the war was over. They'd go out, they'd come up to this island and circle around it, you know. See some Japs, we'd take em prisoner, you know. Tell em the war was over. A lot of em didn't believe it. That was the most dangerous thing of the whole outfit. Because they didn't want to kill any of the Japs after the war if they surrendered. Some wouldn't take your word for it.

B: So they wouldn't accept the fact that the war was over and they continued to fight? So even though the war was over, you were still in combat then.

V: We were trying to, our mission then for awhile was to go these islands and tell em the war is over. That the war was done with, you know. And we did this mostly through Filipinos. You know, Filipinos would come out to our boat and stuff. We'd tell em to go tell them Japs, you know, that the war's over. And then well a lot of em surrendered right away. They took the word for it but some didn't.

B: So you had a big party when the war ended, huh?

V: Oh yeah. He had a case of beer on his shoulder when he came from, see officer's quarters were right there. Near the base. And he had a case of beer on his shoulders. "We're having a party," he says, "The war's over." You know only 24 bottles, 12 men, that's only two bottles apiece but that was a big thing then.

B: I'll betcha it was. What are some of the things that you did for recreation? Did you have any time when you were in the Philippines to do recreational at all?

V: What we had was, once in awhile we'd come in to the base, a lot of times we'd stay at sea, you know. When we'd come in to the base at night they'd have outdoor movies. Showed [ ] movies. And then a couple USO shows came over. You know ah, what was it, came to our base there one time. And they had all the squadrons come there and they put on the USO show.

B: Do you remember, what was your reaction to the USO show?

V: Oh, that was nice. We had some of them in the states before we left the states, you know. They'd come to the base, Back in Melville, they'd come there and put on a USO show for us one time. And then when we was on PT Base 17, they come and put on a show. I think that was Red Skelton, I think. At that one. Yeah.

B: So there was some opportunity then to have some recreation and…?

V: Yeah, there's lotta times like if we had time off some of the guys played cards. Some of em shoot crap, you know. There's always some of that going on.

B: Did you get mail from home very often? Did it reach you out there in the Philippines?

V: Yeah, we had mail call probably about oh, once every two weeks. And then, I'll never forget one time, here's another kind of a funny story. A couple of us guys decided to write to the Milwaukee Sentinel and tell em there's some lonely PT sailors out in the Philippines that would like to get mail. And the mailman come with a great big basket of mail. We pretty near got extra duty for swamping the post office. I betcha we got hundreds of letters. And some of the most beautiful letters you ever saw. Poetry in some of them, and pictures, and boxes of candy and oh man, we really…

B: How did that make you feel?

V: Real good, because the other boats, they didn't know what the heck was goin on. We let em read some of our letters and stuff, you know. But four of us guys, we got together. And we give em our address. Four of us. Give em our PT boat number. And oh man, the letters we didn't get. I got letters even from a guy that was in World War I. He said during World War I he was sent to the Philippines in some extra duty or something. And he was telling me of all his experiences he had there, you know. But man, lot of pictures and stuff. Lot of pretty girls and everything, you know. All those pictures.

B: Do you have any of those letters yet?

V: No, I never kept any. Yeah, another bad thing, sad thing about the whole thing was when the war was over, we took our boats back to PT Base 17, took all the armory off of them and everything. Pulled em all up on shore and set em afire. Burned em up.

B: Burned the boats up?

V: Yup. They saved two boats from our squadron. The rest were pretty well shot up. But two boats from our squadron, they gave to Philippines, the Filipinos, for inter-island travel and stuff.

B: What happened to 225?

V: That got burned up.

B: That must have been very sad.

V; Oh, that was a sad deal. And one, that was sadder yet, when we got orders to go home, we had our, we was on base then and we had our sea bags all wrapped up and had it on my cot and [ ] I got an appendicitis attack. We was supposed to go home, aboard ship the next morning. And I woke up and oh, I couldn't hardly move. I got out of my bed and sick bay was probably couple hundred feet away. I crawled, I hadda crawl on my hands and knees over there. And they called a doctor and they operated on me. And they had test [ ] acute appendicitis.

And so I was in the hospital there and my whole crew came through this sick bay the next morning, saying goodbye to me. They all went home and here I sit there. I didn't know a soul after they all went. And here at this base, in sick bay. And then I had to wait another 30 days before I had another chance to go home.

B: Did you ever see any of your crew again?

V: Yeah. We have a reunion. Fact is ah, we had one in Racine this year. Nobody from my boat was there, but from our squadron there was quite a few. Every year we have a national reunion and a state reunion.

B: And do you try to go to those as much as you can?

V: Oh yes. I sponsored one here in Oshkosh one time.

B: Did you?

V: We had oh, probably 40 PT boaters. At Pioneer Inn. And we took em to Winneconne and took em for a ride on the boat. And they had dinner at Winneconne. Took em to the EAA.

B: How did you get back to the states then after you had recovered from your appendicitis?

V: On a ship. And it took me, what was it, 28 days I think, coming back on the ship. In the Navy, on that PT boat for close to two years. Never was seasick in my life. And coming back on that ship, I got so seasick that I thought I was going to die. I don't know if it was because I was so weak from that operation, but it was rough. But this great big, oh that ship was just really reeling back and forth. And I got so sick and I never ate a meal, I don't think, all the way home.

B: Where did you land?

V: At, oh what's the name of that city? In fact I went to visit that this summer, where I got off the ship. Portland, Oregon. Went up the Columbia River on this great big ship. We were supposed to get off at San Diego and the water was so rough that they sent us all the way up to Portland, Oregon up the Columbia River to Portland.

And when they got off the ship, oh I don't know how many sailors were on it from all over. A lot of em were coming home then on that same ship. And then they had cages with girls in, passing out doughnuts and milk. And talk about a treat! And they had em all caged in because you know these sailors are overseas for [ ] years and they didn't trust us!

I went there this summer now and they're fixing a boat up. A PT boat that they're gonna refurbish. Supposed to be done in October and they're gonna give rides up and down the Columbia River on a PT boat. I got pictures of something, got pictures of it, you know.

B: That would be special for you.

V: I said, "How much are they gonna cost?" He says, "You guys won't have to pay nothin. You earned your fare."

B: Did you take the train then from Portland back to Wisconsin?

V: Yes. Yup. Yeah. The "400." You know the "400" used to go through. And then my wife, she wrote to me. I met her in Oshkosh before I went in the service. And she wrote to me all the while I was overseas.

B: She did, huh?

V: Oh yeah. I don't think there was over three days in a row that I didn't get a letter all the while I was over there.

B: What's your wife's name?

V: Geraldine. [Streblow]. She was from, a farmer from south of town. Yeah. Van Dyne. Yeah, I got a lot of letters from her.

B: So then where were you actually discharged? Where was your discharge?

V: At Great Lakes. Yeah, I went from Shoemaker, not Shoemaker, from Portland, Oregon on a train to Great Lakes. Then there's a base camp there. Then they'd discharge us and I came home on the "400."

B: And what happened when you got home?

V: Well, I come home on the 28th of January. In the Philippines it was about 100 degrees. Went up to Rhinelander; I was going to work in the woods with my dad and it was 18 below zero. I went to Rhinelander and I bought the heaviest clothes I could get. And I didn't get ten feet away from the heater. I just froze. I says to my dad, I says, "Well Dad," I says, "I'm not going to be a lumberjack," I says. "I'm going to head for Oshkosh." He said, "Well, if you're gonna do that, I'll sell the farm," he said, "We'll all go." So he sold the farm and we moved to El Dorado and I got a job in town and then I went to work at Public Service for 42 years.

B: Did you have a big party when you got home?

V: Oh, yeah.

B: Did you? Everybody meet you at the train station?

V: Well, my sister and two brothers picked me up at Rhinelander at the station there. And then drove out to our home, farm. That was about 8 miles north of Rhinelander. And oh, it was so cold that it was terrible.

B: Did it seem strange to you at all to he home after the war or did you adjust easily? Do you remember, thinking back on it?

V: Yeah. I can remember, you're glad to be home. But you actually miss the service too. I missed all the guys I was with because we were real close friends, all of us. And then I still call some of em once in awhile. I got one from Detroit, Michigan. He was a gunner. Him and I were the two gunners mates. Fact is, he and I are the only two living that was on my boat. Now they say there's 2800 PT boaters dying in a year. That's how many died last year; 2800.

You take, there was 39 squadrons. 12 boat in a squadron. And that's around 7,000 men. And ah, like our boat, this guy, Robert [Meetfeld] his name is, from Detroit. He's the only one, he and I are the only two left in the boat.

B: When you got out of the service, did you contact the family of your skipper or anything like that?

V: No. No, I never got in contact with any of em. In fact they had no reunions until about 20 years after we got home, when we had the first reunion. But you think of em, you know. And I never even got any calls or called anybody or nothing. But now when we meet each other, it's a, oh man it's a big reunion. Now this fall, we're having a state reunion up at Minocqua. And we'll be going to it. They have this every year but this guy that's gonna have it now, about two weeks ago had a heart attack. But he pulled out of it and he said he's still going to have it. He said we gotta go up there next month now and spend three days up by his cottage.

B: That's good.

V: Lot of stories get told then.

B: I'll betcha there are. During the war, did you ever, thinking back now, twenty-year-old guy, did you ever think that the United States would lose the war? Or did you always think that…?

V: No, I never had any doubt that we'd win. [ ] really had hopes ever. But I wouldn't trade my experience on the PT boats for anything. The memories and everything. It was really a good branch to be in.

B: It was a very close-knit special group, wasn't it?

V: Yeah, it was. Yeah. Very much so. Yeah. Yes it was quite a deal. Now the skipper that was on one of the boats, from Madison, he died with cancer about two months ago. He was the guy that started all these reunions and everything. One of the nicest guys you ever want to meet.

And another guy, Mike Sharkey from Rhinelander, he was skipper on a PT boat in the Mediterranean. And he took Admiral Buckley and also the King of England on his PT boat across the English Channel during the war. Anyway, he's at these reunions all the time. Fact is I even called and told him I was going to have an interview today about PT boats. He said, "Well, you do em justice," he says.

Anyway he told me about a bunch of things, you know. And I got it written down. A lot of things that maybe you would like to read.

B: Sure, I would like to do that.

V: I've got some pictures too.

B: Yeah. I'd like to take a look at that. Is there anything else you want to tell us, record here as we wind up the interview? Any stories or experiences? Something we might have missed or overlooked?

V: Well, we had a monkey on our boat as a mascot. Until he bit the skipper. Then he wasn't our mascot any more.

B: How did you happen to acquire a monkey?

V: Well, from a Filipino girl. She said, when she had this monkey [ ], said, "How much you want for the monkey?" she says, "Ten centavos." I says, "Ten centavos?" Less than a dollar, you know. A peso is a dollar, you know. Like a dollar. But anyway I says, "I'll buy the monkey." So I take the monkey aboard. Had him so trained, I'd get up in the morning, he'd go get my shoes and bring em over to me. It was my monkey really because I bought him and the other guys took a liking to him. And oh, he liked to kill mice too. Go to shore and stuff and he'd see a mouse or something. He'd run up the, we was in a tent one time. He went right up to the top of the pole and come down with a mouse. Talk about a…[ ]

B: Then he bit your skipper, huh?

V: Bit the skipper. He never did like him. I don't know why. But he never liked the skipper.

B: And that was the end of the monkey.

V: And then on PT 226, Wallace Waite from Rhinelander was on that boat. And he bought two parrots from a Filipino. He said he was going to train em how to talk. I said, "Oh, yeah?" I said, "You gotta split their tongues or they won't talk." He says, "Well, how do you do that?" I said, "You bring em over to my boat and we'll do it." He just pulled out his tongue a little bit like that [ ]. I know someone who did that with crows and they taught em to talk. But anyway, I split the tongues on both of them and took the alcohol and put it on it, you know. And that parrot, now he says, "You can talk easier." Next time I come to the boat he says, "I'm gonna shoot ya!" I says, "Why?" He said, "Both my parrots died." (Laughter}. He didn't like that too well. I don't know how much he paid for em but…

B: Those Filipinos sound like they were pretty friendly, pretty happy to see the Americans.

V: Yeah. There was this one Filipino girl on the island of Marinduque Island? Every time we'd come up to this place she'd come out and she'd take my laundry and wash it on the rocks, you know. And bring bananas. She made me a tablecloth all out of satin. All embroidered with the Philippine Islands, little huts on it. And she gave that to me and before I got home, somebody cut the bottom of my sea bag out and stole it on me. Boy that'd be worth money now. That was the most beautiful thing.

B: What a wonderful memento. Talk about bringing back memories.

V: :Yeah. And I brought back some bolo knives and stuff that my brother got. Anyway the Filipinos used us really well. Yeah. They couldn't treat us any better. Some guys didn't treat them too good though either. I know this one Filipino girl came up with her [bunka] boat. You know they got these outriggers, you know? Come up with a bunka boat with a string of bananas. Your bananas are about this long but the most sweetest, nicest bananas. And she said, "Me trade." He says, "Trade?" He says, "I'll give ya," he held up a pair of dungarees, you know. They loved to get dungarees or chocolate candy or something. Anything like that, you know, they'd trade anything they had for it. So he says, "Yeah, me trade." She puts the bananas out and he takes his pistol out and shoots in the water, side of her. He says, "Go." He, aw that just turned me off. I got so disgusted with that guy. And you know, why he'd do that, I don't know.

But they always, I never seen a Filipino that really weren't friendly people. They were thankful that we liberated em.

B: Plus, I think after hearing some of those terrible stories that were circulating around of what it was like during the Japanese occupation, it must have been a terrible three or four years.

V: Yeah, it was. It was something else.

B: Well Verl, thank you very much. I guess we're at an end here unless you can think of something else we've overlooked.

V: Well I don't know too much. There's probably lot of it overlooked but I think I thought of most of the things.

B: I'd love to take a look at some photographs if we can…

V: Yeah, I'll show you the photographs.

{The second tape, and the interview, ends here}.
Event World War II
Category 6: T&E For Communication
Legal Status Oshkosh Public Museum
Object ID OH2001.3.53
Object Name Tape, Magnetic
Location of Originals Oshkosh Public Museum
People Jolin, Verl
Related unit of descrip photographs in the Archives.
Subjects World War II
United States Navy
Naval warfare
Paine Lumber Company
Wisconsin Public Service
Title Oral History Interview with Virl Jolin.
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Last modified on: December 12, 2009