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Record 52/959

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Oral history interview with Gilbert Hollaus. He enlisted in the United States Navy on April 20, 1944 and served on board the USN Tug, ATR 83. He served in Miami, FL; Panama; Nicaragua; Mexico; the Hawaiian Islands; johnson Islands; the Marshall islands; and the Phillipines from 1944 - 1946. After the Battle of Okinawa, they towed the USS Frankiln (aircraft carrier) to Pearl harbor. He mustered out May 5, 1946. Gilbert Hollaus Interview 28 August 2003 Conducted by Bradley Larson {B: indicates the interviewer, Mr. Larson; G: indicates the subject, Mr. Hollaus. Open brackets [ ] or brackets around a word or phrase indicate either a word or phrase not understood, or a word for which the proper spelling is unclear, in that order}. B: August 28th, 2003. This is Brad Larson speaking and I'm in my office with Gib Hollaus. So Gib, why don't we start by you giving me your full name and date of birth and also where you were born. G: My name is Gilbert Hollaus and I was born 5-2 of '26. And I was born in Oshkosh here. B: What were your mom and Dad's names? G: Mary and Louis Hollaus. B: Where did your dad work? G: He worked at Leach Company for forty some years. B: Do you have very many memories of the Depression, Gib? G: I have some. The ones I have is the tough times and not much to eat. And the other thing is work wasn't that full. You know, a lot of people out of jobs and it was just a tough time. B: Do you remember, what did you do for recreation as a kid during the Depression? G: About the only thing we did was play ball out at South Park. B: Baseball? G: Baseball and then football, at the beginning of the season, you know. B: That's kind of the national past-time, baseball. Not so much now but certainly back then it was. G: All the kids in that area, on the south side, they all played ball. Baseball. B: Did your family pay much attention during the 30's, late 30's, 1940, did they pay much attention to what was happening overseas or was it a topic of conversation in your house? G: No it wasn't. But they would talk about it at times. They talked German and, mixed with English. That's the way most of them did. They would be wondering how the people over there were. They still had some relatives there. And so they were wondering what was goin on, you know. But other than that, they never said much. B: You had brothers and sisters, right? G: I had no brothers but I had four sisters. B: Did your folks ever talk about the war in front of you as kids or was it often, I mean the war overseas now. Before Pearl Harbor. G: World War I? They never said that much about it. My uncle, he was killed in that war, you know. Frank Obersteiner. And they never said hardly anything about it. In fact I found a telegram that Ma got from the War Department stating how he was killed. And that's the first I ever knew of it. I think my two older sisters probably heard more about it. But they never said anything either until later. They mentioned a few things to me about it, which I don't remember. B: When did you start to become aware yourself now of what was happening overseas with Adolph Hitler and Japan? When did you really start to pay attention? G: I guess that was about, I would say about a year or so before I joined the Navy. That would have been about 1941 and '42 when the war first started. So it was a little before that. Before I said was it was, we started in about, after Pearl Harbor. That's when we really started talking about it. And then all of the fellows that chummed around together, they were all thinking about getting in the Navy and most of us did. B: How did you happen to pick the Navy? G: I have no idea. Well we used to like to swim and stuff. That was maybe one of the reasons. But we just picked the Navy and didn't know where we were going to be sent or anything but… B: Did you enlist as a group with some of your neighborhood kids or did you go down alone? Could you describe for me how that came about that you joined the Navy? G: We joined, one of the fellows that I chummed around with, we joined down at the old Post Office on Washington. And him and I were the only two out of the bunch of us that went in together. In fact, we were in boot camp together. B: You mean by the bunch of you, you mean the guys you chummed around with? G: Right. The Kindermans on 11th Street , and the Schneiders on 10th Street and Troxels on 10th Street. That was our regular old bunch. And the Bahrs that lived right next to the ball diamond there on South Park. He was later killed. He went out by the old quarry, you know Lutz's quarry out there off of Knapp Street down the railroad tracks. And he went down there one Sunday and we had a church picnic so several of us other ones didn't want to go. We went to the church picnic. And what happened is when we came back, a couple of the fellows came down the street and said Kenny Bahr was shot. And evidently it was some hunter or something that, he was walking along the tracks out there and all of a sudden he dropped over and rolled down the hill and one of the guys called him and says, "Kenny, come on. Quit playing around." He used to play that way when he got shot, you know. And then hold your heart and bend over or something, or drop down. And he dropped down there and he wouldn't get up when he called him. So then they went down there by him and here he was shot and died right there. B: Did they ever find the guy that did it? G: No, they never found out that I know of. I know they came around, they came around, they came over to our house. They wanted to take my gun. I had a 22 and they wanted to take that gun and check the shell in it. And then they brought it back to me. And so they did check some guns from people around there. But they never did find out that I know of. And his folks are passed away and there's still a brother. His brother still lives in the homestead there next to the park. He was in the Navy too, his brother. He went, he joined the Navy too. B: Sounds like the war really affected your neighborhood there. Like it had a big impact with all the, all your friends off to service. G: Right. They were, most of em went to the Navy. And there was a couple, the Kindermans on 11th Street, they went to the Army. But the rest of us all joined the Navy. B: So you went to boot camp, basic training in Great Lakes? G: Great Lakes, Illinois. B: How did you get down there? G: By train right from Oshkosh here. B: Had you traveled very much prior to going to basic training? G: No. We never traveled. Ma and Pa never had a car. And some of the friends that Pa had at work, they would take us down to Fond du Lac once in awhile. But other than that, we never got very far away until after I got to be about 15 or so. Then I went with my brother-in-law. And we would go hunting up in Princeton and Montello, and up at Bowler, which I own property up there now. And I have a huntin cabin there and I do deer huntin there. I still do. B: It's nice country. Really nice. Well now, tell me what went on in basic training. What were some of the things you learned and what occurred there? G: Well, I would say the biggest thing was discipline. Because you had your time and it was always on time. Whatever time they woke you up, at 6 in the morning and then you went out on the grinder and did some exercises and then you went down to the mess hall and ate. And then come back, and then you went to different schools. Different classes. And then at the end of the day they had a little smoking period. They had what they called a smoking light. If that was on, you could smoke. If it was off, you couldn't. And then 8 o'clock was lights out and then you didn't know when but they did quite a few times, our CO would come in there and blow that whistle, turn the lights on. And that could be 11 or 12 o'clock and then they marched you down about a mile and a half and learned you how to shoot a gun. It was different. B: So what happened after the training was done? When you completed your boot camp or basic training. Then what was the next phase of your service? G: Just before we finished boot camp we could have visitors for a couple hours and my sister from Illinois came to see me, and her husband. B: That was a good treat. G: Right. And then we got out of boot camp and we had, I think it was ten days at home. We come back home on the streamliner and had ten days at home and then we had to report back to Great Lakes. B: Do you remember when that was? G: I don't. Let's see, May, I think that was near the end, somewhere in July. Let's see. We had… That was in 1944, right. And we ah, we just had to come back and report in and then we had to wait there until they sent us where they wanted us to go. B: And where did they send you? G: Finally they sent me down to Miami, Florida to go to Diesel Engineering School. And then we were assigned to a patrol craft. Then we finished that school and then two of us were transferred. Gus Holmes, he was from Cleveland, Ohio, and I. We were transferred to New York to pick up a Tug and Rescue Ship; ATR-83. B: Do you remember what you thought when they assigned, when you read your orders that said you were being assigned to a tug? Do you remember what your reaction was? G: I don't know. We thought, what are we getting into, I think. To be put on a tug, you know. We always thought of a tug as a small boat, you know, or a ship. You couldn't really call it a ship until, this one here that we were one was a ship. It was 163 feet long. It had a lot of power and once we saw it, we figured oh-oh, she's going to be a rough rider. But it was too. B: It was huh? G: Oh yeah. When we in storms that was a rough rider. B: So you picked up the ship in New York? G: We got it in New York. It came down from Providence, Rhode Island. That's where it was built. B: Brand new ship then. G: Brand new. B: That was nice to get assigned to a new ship. G: Right. It was a wooden, oak hull ship. And the only metal on it, well of course the guns and the cover over the engine room was a metal cover. B: Was there a reason for making it out of wood, do you know? Or was it because it was fast or cheap? G: I have no idea why they made it out of wood. I think that most of the tugs, even the smaller ones, all the ones I saw, they were all made out of wood. And they must have had a reason but I don't know why. B: What were your duties aboard the tug? G: When I first got on, I was down in the boiler room. Then we all had to take turns in the kitchen. Other than that, I was down in the boiler room the whole time I was on that ship. B: Tending the mechanical systems and… G: The boilers and pumps and taking care of the, at that time they called us water tenders. Because we had to watch the water in the boilers. And then after that they changed to boiler technicians. But we had to take care of all the pumps, all the different types of pumps. And the boilers. Everything down there. And it was hot down there. B: I'll bet you it was. No air conditioning in those days. G: No. None. B: How many men were on the crew? G: There was, I think there was, what was it? 63 or something was on that crew. B: So with that small of a crew, you probably got to know everybody pretty well. G: Just about. Everybody, including the officers. B: How many officers in the crew? G: Well we had the captain and then the ensign. And they had the boatswain. And then they had the engineering officer. B: So you were all pretty tight knit? G: Oh yeah. We saw em everyday. Yeah, bein that close, you know. B: So where did you head out Gib, after you left New York? What was the destination? G: When we left New York, we had three barge-loads of Quonset huts that we had. And we were to take those, which I found out later, we were to take those over to Guam. So when we left New York, we went down through, first we hit a storm in Cape Hatteras. And we made that. B: Well, you're pushing those… G: We're towing em. We're pulling em. We're towing em, one behind the other. And our ship pulling em. And then we went down to Florida. We went through the Panama Canal and hit another storm. B: What was it like to be on that tug in a storm like the one off Hatteras or in the Pacific? Could you describe that for us? G: Well, it was a bobbing and it was, I was down in the boiler room and at times the waves were that high that the water would come right down through the smoke stack. And we had to take the inspection plates off the boilers to let the water out, and then pump with the bilge pumps. Pump it out. And everything was sealed off. So there was nobody topside or you couldn't, you couldn't stand it up there. And then this ship would just raise up at the bow and then plunge down and then propellers, we called it the screw in the back, that big propeller, it was about I would say at least 8 feet tall. And it was a big brass propeller. And then that thing would speed up because there was no resistance there from the water. And that would vibrate the whole ship you know. And then back down and that was for hours, sometimes for like 12 - 14 hours. B: How were you at seasickness? G: At first. At first I was . There was, I would say that there was about oh, 80% of the men were seasick on there because we were all young and new, you know. We did have some regular Navy men on there. Our officer that was, not the engineering officer but our officer in the boiler room, First Class Petty Officer, he was regular Navy. And so was the one in the engine room. In all of these departments they generally had First Class Petty Officers in there. Including our doctor or Pharmacist Mate. He was like our doctor. That's all we had. And he gave us our shots and everything right on board ship. When they were due, he'd call you or he'd come right down the boiler room and give it to you. But it was something, you know. B: When you left the Panama Canal, I'm just trying to visualize this, did you head straight to Guam or did you head over to Hawaii first? G: No. When we went through we hadda take those barges loaded with Quonset huts, we hadda take those through one at a time and then come back and pick up another one, come back and we hadda anchor em in between. So I went through the Panama Canal three times in one day. B: That must have been quite and experience. G: Right. We hadda hook em up and disconnect em and that's what we hadda do to get em through there. And then we went around and then we come up on the West Coast. And we went to Nicaragua and, where else did we go? Let's see we had to get fuel at Nicaragua. And then we went up to California. San Diego. We stopped there. We had to get fuel there again. Then we went up to, in the San Francisco area. We went under the bridge there and then we wound up at Oakland, California. B: Did you get some liberty while you were there? G: Yes. We were there for, by that time it was around Christmas time so we had a little time off there. I think we were there for about 2 ½ to 3 weeks. B: Well, that must have been exciting and fun to be in California. G: Right. A lot of different things to see. And then we could take the A Train and get around to where we were on liberty. Generally went to roller rinks because we liked roller-skating. A half a dozen of us guys, we'd go there and… B: How old were you? Let's see, you were born in '26? G: I was born in '26. B: Okay. So you were about 18 G: I was 18 years old. My 18th birthday, I was in boot camp. That was my first day in boot camp. May 2nd. Yup. So, then from there is when we got our orders to go overseas. But we knew we were headed for Guam because that's where them Quonset huts were going. But where we were going to be on the way, we didn't know. In other words, we didn't know the route that they were going to be taking. B: This would be a good time to talk about how this tug was armed. Because you had armament on there. How, what kind of defenses did you have mounted on your ship. G: We had two 40-millimeter antiaircraft guns. And we had one 4-inch gun which had a shell about, better than about two and a half feet long. B: So as you headed over there, were you in escort of a, did a destroyer or other ship escort you or were you alone? G: We were alone. We would see other ships now and then but not that many. And then we had to refuel at sea. B: Do you remember how you felt about that? Heading off alone into the combat zone? Did you think about that at all? G: Well, we all did. Wondering what was going to happen, you know, to us. Here we were on this little ship, you know. And then we see these cruisers and aircraft carriers and stuff, you know. But it was different. But we never really gave it a whole lot of thought. Because we, this was what we hadda do and that was it. So we just did what we hadda do. B: I imagine you were very busy all the time too so you didn't have a lot of time perhaps to dwell on it. G: No. Because you had your watches. You had your watches like from 4 to 8, so you had your watch form 4 to 8 say, in the morning. Then you had another watch from 4 to 8 at night. And then sometimes, well when you had that watch, then you had to work all day. There was always things to do. Cleaning and painting. And whatever. And we had a certain amount of parts on the ship in case something went out. Otherwise there was no place to go to get parts. B: Well one thing I remember from my time in the Navy Gib, is the Navy does not like idle sailors. G: No. You always did something and if there was nothing down in the boiler room, they had you topside doing something. B: Well what happened once you got to Guam with your Quonset huts? G: Well, before we got to Guam, before we were headed for our first stop was Pearl Harbor. And on our way we had problems with the engine on the ship. So we couldn't make any time. It took us a whole month to get to Hawaii. And what had happened is that somebody had thrown sand in the engine on that ship. B: Deliberately? G: Deliberately. Evidently threw sand in there. And they never did find out who did it. That I know of. That I know of. B: So when the ship got to Pearl then, did they have to overhaul the engines? G: Then they put us in, on a dock, and they come with two railroad cars. And what they did is that steel part over the engine room, they cut that part right off with a cutting torch. And they took the engine apart and lifted the cylinders out and the crankshafts and everything out. Put em on these flatcars, took em into a machine shop, redid them. [Rebevetted] the bearings. Brought em all back. Put em all in, put it together. Welded the top shut and away we went. Amazing. B: When you think about it. Could you, what was Pearl like at that time? Describe the harbor for me. You go into the harbor and… G: Well, you could see the islands and stuff and I didn't think it would be that well developed. They had bigger buildings there. And after awhile when we got in and went on liberty, they had USO's there which I went to several. That's where we would go. And they had nice entertainment there and movies and stuff, you know. We were there for a month to get that engine fixed. And then we could go to a couple of the other islands. Lee Jones, he was a buddy of mine. He's from Missouri and he ah, him and I would play croquet, you know. Hit the ball around. Give us something to do. You know there wasn't, once we got off the ship on liberty, then you had to decide what you were going to do, you know. B: Was Pearl a pretty busy harbor? G: Yes. It was very busy. You know that was after Pearl Harbor there, you know. But everything was really going there. They had all, everything for repairing ships and that was really, they had that all fixed up. B: Could you see some effects of the attack on December 7th? Were you able to see some of the remains of the Arizona and some of the others? G: Some of that we saw, yes. B: It was still evident then? G: Right. Where we saw the most damage was over at Manila because they had just bombed that out when we got there. That's where we saw the most damage. Buildings were knocked down. And we got there right after they bombed out. Just within I think a week or even less than that. Because there was a lot of people walking around that were still hurt and bleeding and selling pencils and stuff. B: You left Pearl then and went to Guam to deliver your… G: Yeah. We stopped at [Eulithi} and Johnson Islands and all these islands on the way, we stopped. And then we finally got to Guam and unloaded them barges and then we went to Leyte and Manila. We were in the port there at Leyte. B: That was a big anchorage, wasn't it? G: Right. Yeah that was really, them places were really well fortified, I'd say. And the Marines had these Japs working on Guam and that, where we dropped them Quonset huts. They had them shoveling that coral sand and if they stopped working, they had machine guns; they would just throw a few blurts at em you know, and boy, they'd start shoveling to beat the band. And it was hot. But they, they hadda keep workin. And that's what they were doin. We saw em doin it every day, you know. But it was something. B: So at this time, when you're going to head to the Philippines, did you have any sense of, did they give you any idea what you were going to be doing or where you were going? G: No. None. We had an idea and they were talking about a big push, you know. And what it was about, they never tell you. B: You didn't have any idea…? G: Didn't have where or when. Any time that you moved anywhere, it was then and that was it. You didn't know you were goin. They just, the captain got the orders and away he went. B: What happened once you got to the Philippines? And could you describe what that was like for us. What was the Philippines like and if you remember what your reaction was as an 18-year-old kid coming into this war zone in the Philippines. G: I didn't think, I didn't think that people lived that way. In small little huts, like. And dirt floors and whatever. I didn't think that people, a lot of people lived that way there. And it seemed just different to me, being that young. You know I didn't understand why, I thought everybody lived like they did here, you know. That's not getting around, and at that time you didn't have television and all that stuff yet to know that, you know. So… B: Did you and your shipmates talk about that very much as a topic of conversation? G: Not that much. They were, the biggest topic of conversation was getting back home. That was the biggest thing. But you probably know about that. B: How about the mail. Did you get, when you were overseas did you get communications from home? Did your mail reach you? G: It reached us but it was always late. Sometimes as long as three months late. So when we had, we would get a ship that was carrying the mail over, then we would transfer that at sea and then we would get it. Or we would get it on the island. Evidently the officer that went in would pick it up and then bring it out and they'd have mail call. And then you would get your mail. And then everybody was quiet. They was all reading, you know. So that was something to get mail. B: But I imagine it was kinda hard to wonder what was going on at home and not have regular…? G: Right. And not know, you know because you was thinkin, what happened? You know, in a month and a half, sometimes two months, what happened? You didn't know what was going on. And then you'd get, sometimes you'd get quite a bit of mail. And sometimes packages; people would send packages. We'd always get some packages from Mrs. Reichow from Oshkosh Sausage Company. She would send us packages, because I worked there before I went in the Navy, for awhile. And so she would always send us packages that we would get. B: Little care packages of sausages? G: Right. Well there was ah, they knew Harry Awe that was right next door, I believe it was. At the candy company? So we would get candy and different stuff, you know. And maybe like tee shirts and something she would send. She would send us different things you know, to quite a few because I think there was four or five guys that worked there that were in the Navy. B: I imagine that was very welcome to get that. G: Right, right. Yeah, it was quite a thing. And then that's where we found out that the ship that Gus Holmes and I were assigned to was sunk. I don't remember the number, if it was 1250 or what, but it was a patrol craft. It was something like small destroyer. B: Do you remember the circumstances of that? G: No. That's what we went to school for, two run these, there were two diesel engines in there. And that's the reason that we went to school there in Miami. And then we went through this whole school and then they transferred us. So evidently they needed us on this tug or something to… and then after awhile we found out that this ship was over there. And, matter of fact, we saw it in Pearl Harbor and went over and visited the guys. B: When you left the Philippines, where was your next destination? G: I think we went to Okinawa and that's where we towed back that "Big Ben" that was hit. B: The battle was raging at Okinawa? G: Over in there. And we towed back that Big Ben, that aircraft carrier that was hit by a Japanese suicide plane. B: Let's talk about that, oh we have plenty of tape. Let's talk a little bit about the suicide planes because there's probably people that don't understand. G: Well it was these Japanese. I think they had regular schools there in Japan where they taught these guys, these pilots to just crash into our ships and try to sink em. And of course, they lost their lives. And that's what they did. There was quite a few ships that got hit by these suicide planes over there. B: Did you actually see some of them when you entered the waters of Okinawa? G: I saw one other one that was damaged, but the Big Ben, that's the one that really had the big hole in it. B: Describe that for us. What…? G: Well, it was a hole that you could probably drive something bigger than a semi through there. And I, there were thousands of men killed on that ship. And then we towed it back to Pearl Harbor. And then they took the men off at night and piled them on pick-up trucks. They had their identification tied on their leg and that's how they got em off. And then they put a, they were startin to, as soon as that ship got in there, there were startin to repair it. With magnets, they were holding big thick pieces of steel up against it to weld these big steel plates in place. And then we hadda leave. B: Well, towing the Franklin from Okinawa to Pearl Harbor must have been a tremendous task to tow this big, damaged carrier. G: It ah, I don't remember that we had any problems with it. Because we had a lot of power on that tug. It was a four-cylinder tug and the pistons in there were pretty near three feet around. And so we had a lot of power. B: Were you the only tug that did that or were there several others? G: We were the only tug. B: Were there people still on the Franklin? G: They were still on the Franklin. The sailors were still on. And then when we pulled into port, they all stood up on the deck in their whites… B: What was the general reaction to kamikazes? Do remember what you thought about these terrible suicide attacks? G: Well, we had no use for em. That's for sure. How anybody could do that, you know. And they knew they were going to be killing people. But that was their last push, you know. That was ah, their last push. Dave bought, my son-in-law, he bought me some tapes that show these different phases of that. But the tape, the one that's got some of the things about these suicide planes, there must be something wrong with the tape. Because it skips, and that. I tried watching it several times. And he's got one at home too and his is all right. So when we go there this weekend, we'll probably watch it. B: So did you, after you were at Pearl and you brought this terribly damaged carrier back for repair, what was the next thing then? G: Then, after that we hadda go back out. And then by that time, when we went back out, that's when they started the big push into Japan. And we hadda go along to, if any ships were disabled, then we hadda tow em outta there. B: You went along with the fleet then? G: Right. B: Well that's something people don't often think about because I think when they think of the Navy, they think of strictly warships. But there's all sorts of other vessels that are an essential part of the Navy, and tugs being one of em. G: Right. And they had destroyers and cruisers. They had everything goin in there. And other tugs besides us. And if there was anything damaged, because they were heading in. They were gonna go in and take it. That was it. And so then, we weren't with em, I forget how many days. And by that time, they declared that the war was gonna be over. B: You heard that they dropped the atom bomb? G: Right. That we heard, yeah. B: Did you know what that was at the time when you, did you get it over the radio? G: Right. And then we had ah, we had ah, radio broadcasts from, I think it was Hildegard and also, what the heck was that Japanese lady's name? She was a propaganda gal. I can't think of her name. What the heck was it? B: Are you thinking of "Tokyo Rose?" G: Tokyo Rose, yeah that's it. B: You'd listen to her? G: Oh, yeah. B: Why would you listen to Tokyo Rose? G: I don't know. We just did. The guys would put that on and then the radioman, his name was [Mootchon]; he would always tell us or something when something good was on. He'd tell us. And he was quite the guy. We always wanted to get some of this news to try and find out what was goin on, you know. But we just hadda do what we were told. B: Describe for me what happened when you found out the war was over. G: We were happy. Yup. Yeah, we thought about now, how long are we gonna be here before we can go home. And then not too long after that, then they started sending some of the guys on the ship home. Bob Lindsley, he was from Green Bay. His dad was a steamfitter. In fact he done work here at the university. And so did Bob. He worked here after we got out of the service. And I got to go up to Green Bay, and Bob down here. And we were friends, good friends; went out together with our wives. And then he hadda move. He got down with the Atomic Energy Commission down in Florida. And then I haven't heard from him since. I don't know what happened to him. B: They sent guys on your ship singly? You didn't go back as a…? G: No. They sent em… No, when Bob Lindsley was transferred, then I was put in charge of the boiler room. B: How long was it before it was your turn? G: I never did get a turn. I brought the ship back. B: Oh, you did? G: Right. I brought the ship back and back up to Charleston first, on the East Coast, and then down around again and up to Charleston and that's where we decommissioned it. B: It must have been kind of sad to decommission it, huh? G: Yeah, after, after putting it in commission and then decommissioning it. Everything hadda be sprayed in case it would have to be used again. And we had to take all the burners out of the boilers and everything. And store all em, spray em first and store em. B: What did you spray them with? G: It was some kind of rust inhibitor. We even hadda spray the inside of the smokestack. We took with a spray gun on it and swirled it around and up and down and then the officers checked it to make sure it was all sprayed. B: That sounds like a lot of work. G: And I don't know what they did with them ships. I'm sure they're not there any more. I don't know if they took em out at sea for target practice or what. Towed em? Who knows? B: Any incidents going back from the Pacific back to the States? G: No. We never had any problems. B: Everything was smooth? G: No problem. None whatsoever. B: The mood was a lot different, I'll bet. G: Oh yes. Yeah, it couldn't go fast enough. And we were on that slow ship, you know. We couldn't, we didn't have much speed. We had power but not much speed. B: How many knots could you go? On average, what was the speed? G: I think, what was our average speed? I think it was six. It wasn't very fast. But like I say, we had a lot of power. B: So then you were discharged or you had decommissioned the ship in Charleston and then from that point you were sent where? G: Well, after we got the ship decommissioned, then, well I was married in Charleston then, before, after we got there. B: Your wife came down? G: She came down, right. And then we got married there. B: She's from Oshkosh? G: She was from Oshkosh. Originally she was from Sheboygan. But she was living here in Oshkosh with her parents. And she came down and we got married. B: You met her before you went in the service? G: Yeah. Oh, let's see, at least a year before. And we were gonna get married when we got home but then she came down there and we got married there. And then I got my orders to report back to Great Lakes. And I hadda take a prisoner back. And so we just, I hadda get on the train and take him back to Great Lakes and then my wife was going to follow the next day. So when I got back to Great Lakes then I hadda drop this prisoner off there. B: What kind of prisoner was it? G: I had sealed orders and they didn't tell me what he did or what. B: Was he handcuffed or what was… G: I never had to handcuff him. I just hadda bring him back and the guy didn't give me any problems. So, whatever. They did give me a pair of handcuffs but I never hadda use em. So that's the way that went. So I got back here and I dropped him off. And there was a whole line of sailors there in this line and I thought, whoa, I'll be here all day. And ah, but then they took me right up to the front of the line with the prisoner and I give em the orders and they told me to see the captain. And I went in to see him and he said, "They don't give…" This was about oh, right around noon and then he said that they don't leaves at noon. They give in the morning, the first thing in the morning. But he said, "Seeing your circumstances," he says, "We're making yours as of this morning." So then he give me my papers and stuff and they called up somebody and they come and picked me up in a car and took me out to the gate. And they see that, and then some other car took me down to the railroad station and I was right down, ready to go home. And then I hadda wait for the train. It was later in the afternoon. And then I got on the train and we got back to Oshkosh and my folks and my sisters were there and … B: They met you at the train? G: They met me at the train station. And then… B: I'll bet that was a joyous time, wasn't it? G: Right. And then, after we were all talkin there for awhile, here my wife, she was on the same train and I didn't even know it. B: I'll be darned! G: Yeah. She was on the same train. B: So she got off and came walking, oh…? G: Right. Because I didn't, I thought she was comin the next day. But that's the way it happened. So we were all there together and that was it. B: Double surprise. When was that? Do you remember the day you got back here? G: That was, let's see? That was in, hadda be in May. B: May of '46. G: Right. Because I got discharged in June. I had, they gave me 30 days because I hadn't had any leave in several years, you know. So and then they gave me that leave time and then I hadda go back to Great Lakes to get discharged. B: Thirty days later. G: Right. I didn't like it but that's what you hadda do. B: Well, what happened after you got discharged? Did you go to school or did you get a job? G: There was, there was all these guys comin back and so there wasn't that much goin on. I put my name in for a plumbing apprenticeship and there was nothing. The guy told me there that, his name was Moon by the way, and he told me that some plumber hadda die before I could get in. I told him that I didn't have that much time. So I did what all the other guys did. I went on that "52-20", where you got $20.00 a week. And then I was lookin for a job but you couldn't find any. B: Competition was pretty tough. G: Right. Then Leo [Schowalinski], he was, he managed Heiss Bakery. He lived down the street from where I lived. I was born and raised on 10th Street. And then he come up one night and asked me if I had a job yet. He said if I didn't, "How about helping me out for awhile until you get situated?" I says, "Okay." So then I worked in the baker shop. B: How long did you work in the bakery? G: Geez, I worked there for over a year. Let's see, yeah, I worked there for about a year. And then I went to Kelly's Bakery. They started a bakery here and I worked there for about a year. '47, '48, '49, right. Then I worked at West Bend also. But there I only worked a few months. And then I got into the heating and air conditioning field. B: And that's where you spent your career then. G: That's where I stayed. B: When did you retire? G: I didn't yet. I'm still working. Not that much any more, but I still serve all my own customers. B: That's good because I think it's really important to keep people, be as active as you can for as long as you can. I really think that's important. G: That's what the doctor told me. B: When you came back after the war Gib, did Oshkosh seem like it had changed at all? G: It did as far as the people that were home here. They were all workin. They all had jobs. And the Axle was goin strong and you know, all these places were really goin strong. And ah, which we saw before we went in. Before I went in. Because by that time the war was on several years already. {The first tape ends here}. B: So a lot of people had jobs already in the war industry. G: Right. The people that were home had jobs. But the fellows that were coming back, that's where the problem was. And they were trained in whatever they were in, in the service, you know. But there weren't that many jobs. There was quite a few of the boys gone, you know. B: Your circle of friends that we talked about when we first started the interview, the Kindermans and all the rest of your friends, did you all get together after the war? G: Oh yeah. We still all remain friends. Oh yeah. We still all remain friends. There are the Kindermans, a couple of the Kindermans are, have passed away. And ah… B: Did you know George? G: George? I knew of him but I didn't know him personally. B: George said his brother, I think his brother's name was Ralph but I'm not positive, was in the Navy. G: Oh, I don't know if that's the one. Kenny Kinderman, well there's Kenny and Leroy and then there was other brother???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? was Pearl like at that time? Describe the harbor for me. You go into the harbor and… G: Well, you could see the islands and????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????really, they had that all fixe d up. B: Could you see some effects of the attack on December 7th? Were you able to see some n you got back that someone had lost their life that you didn't know about? Find out about? G: None of the Schneiders, or none of the Kindermans, or Bahrs or none of those got killed overseas. None of us that chummed around together got killed. We were all lucky. B: As you think back on the war, well first is it something you think about very often? G: I do every so often but not like everyday. But there's all different things that kinda remind you. It's in your mind. Well you know how it is. If once you go through something, it's just like bein with Ma and Pa. And they go and you keep thinkin about em. It's about the same thing with me. B: Is there anything in particular Gib, that'll bring it to mind? G: If I see a guy with a uniform on, a Navy uniform, I think of it right away. I always try to see what rank he had in there, which you can tell right away. And what he did you know. But they changed some of these emblems, you know, so it's a little different today. But if I, as soon as I see a, in fact I watch "The Price Is Right" every day and there's always some sailors there. So you always think about it, you know. And then they got different movies out and stuff, you know, that you can see. But I would like, I don't mind seein them movies and that. It's something that you never forget. I always figure that was about the best thing for me. Taught me discipline and that you're not alone in the world. That's what it taught me. B: As you look back on the war as a period in your life and the experiences that you had, what's the one thing that sticks out above everything else? If there is one thing, I guess. Maybe there's not. G: I think it's a lot of different things that we went through. And that we made it and going in, one of the biggest things that stuck in my mind is when I left. When I hadda leave home. That was the biggest thing. B: In what way? G: That you were never away from home before. You were always home by Ma and Pa. You know, you were with your family. And so you never ah, and it was the same with all these other fellows. They were the same way. That was the biggest thing. "Now he's gone, well now I'll be goin pretty soon." And then one guy was gone, and another guy was gone. And pretty soon they're all gone. You know, that ah, and I don't, and none of em were, none of em were left behind. B: One of the things I like to ask all the veterans: after Pearl harbor, did you feel that the United States would win the war? We were up against two very powerful enemies, Germany and Japan. Did you have any doubts in your mind or thoughts that we would eventually win? G: I had no doubts. B: Why? G: And the reason was let's see, I can probably say the determination. And how all these people were in the service, how they went about it. You know they were just there and that was it. Although they weren't real happy about bein there, but they wanted to get the thing done and go home. That was it. And then you could see what happened. When all them ships were, and people were killed and ships damaged at Pearl Harbor, sunk and everything, look how that came back. How quick. You can say quick --it took several years - but look at how quick that happened. Who else could do that? Even Japan couldn't keep up. They lost their navy. B: You know, you saw some very traumatic things in your experience overseas. Let's face it. The big aircraft carrier Ben Franklin. That was a terrible thing to see and experience. It wasn't easy for somebody who was 18 years old. G: No. I think I was 19 then. But that one year didn't make that much difference, you know. But it was something you could, you can't forget that. B: But at the same time you have a level of pride I think, in what was accomplished. G: Right. Because at least, the ship wasn't sunk to start with. And they saved it and it went back in. B: Very battered. G: Right. B: Well Gib, that's probably about all I have unless you think of something else we haven't covered you'd like to talk about. Just feel free to go right ahead and … G: That's about it. That's about my experience and… B: It's been really a great interview. I've enjoyed it a great deal. If you have a few minutes, I'd like to go through some of these photographs. G: Sure.
Oral History Interview with Gilbert A. Hollaus. -WORLD WAR II -Copyright Oshkosh Public Museum
Gib Home 1946

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