WORLD WAR II
Oral History Interview with Jean Nelson

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Record 66/959
Copyright Oshkosh Public Museum
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Classification Archives
Collection World War II Oral History Project
Dates of Accumulation 2001 - 2001
Abstract Oral history interview with Jean Nelson by Brad Larson for the Oshkosh World War II project. She discusses her experiences in Oshkosh on the homefront. A transcript is on a computer file in the archives.

TRANSCRIPTION OF ORAL HISTORY WITH JEAN NELSON
JUNE 4, 2001
INTERVIEW CONDUCTED BY BRAD LARSON

L: It's June 4, 2001, and I'm sitting with Jean Nelson in her home and we're going to talk a little bit about the home front, WWII. Are you ready, Jean?

N: I am ready!

L: Well, to start off with, why don't you tell us a little bit what you remember about the war, before Pearl Harbor, early on, what kind of memories do you have of WWII, the pre-Pearl Harbor?

N: I understand your question. I think perhaps I ought to say that I was born in 1928. So when the war began in Europe I was eleven years old. I was always an avid reader, and I still am. And I read a great deal about the war. I think I was an only child, perhaps not having siblings or brothers who were going to be enmeshed in a world conflict if one should come, maybe that made me a little more sensitive, I don't know. But my mother was widowed in 1937, and she, too, was an avid reader. And my whole family - my uncles, my grandmother, everybody read about three papers a day. And so, the Oshkosh Northwestern when I came back to Oshkosh in 1937, when I was nine and my father had died. We read the Oshkosh Northwestern; we read the Chicago Tribune, and usually the Milwaukee Journal. And I know that we could always go down to the library and read the New York Times or any other papers that we wanted to, because they took them. So what are my first recollections of the war, they're rather keen. We discussed it at home; we had a subscription to Life magazine, which covered the pre-war world very well. For some reason or other I remember the Japanese invasion of China and an incident in about 1938 called the Rape of Nanking. It was covered by some remarkable photographs. I remember that just touched me to think that such devastation was going on, and you couldn't help but realize that war clouds were definitely gathering over Europe. My mother and my family were very concerned about Hitler, the rise of Hitler, I think I was unusually prepared for the fact that we probably weren't going to keep out of this war despite our isolationist stance. So I would say I had a lot of recollections of the war prior to Pearl Harbor.

L: You say you were 'unusually prepared'; do you think that other folks weren't?

N: Yes, I think a lot of people just closed their eyes to international situations. That's true today, it was true then. People were just pulling out of a very protracted and unhappy depression. Times were finally getting better and jobs were [ ]. None of us wanted to go to war, and fight Europe's war again for them, which is what many people felt we did in WWI, and a lot of people ignored what I think were pretty clear signs that things were going to happen.

L: Outside of your house, your mom and your family, are there any other discussions that you can recall, in your age group, did you overhear adults talking about the war?

N: If we're talking about war in Europe, which began in September of '39, I will answer that by saying, yes, of course. In 1939, in September, when the war was declared in Europe, we happened to be visiting my great-aunt in Minneapolis, there were extras. Extra newspapers were issued every time there was anything very, very important and you could hear newsboy shouting "Extra! Extra!" shouting in the streets and it always meant something pretty serious had happened to warrant an [extra edition] My mother brought a paper and she got very pale. And I still remember that after all these years. And she said, Oh Jean, the war has come to Europe. And I shouldn't even be talking about it. Our whole family sat and talked about what my uncles had been in WWI, they had been abroad, had been in [ ], and some of the famous WWI battles. Very sensitized to what they were meaning with the
declaration of the invasion of Poland, which led to a state of war between England and Germany. So, yes, I heard people discussing it, but not as much, looking back on it, as I might have liked. I think people were hoping against hope that wouldn't happen here.

L: FDR was trying to put the United States on a war footing, little by little, working with Congress, against isolationists. Do you have any recollections about what folks, either in your family or around Oshkosh, thought about that?

N: Well, because we were a Republican state and a Republican town at that time, rather largely, I would say that Franklin Delano Roosevelt was not a particularly well liked president in this area. My father happened to be a Democrat and so he thought FDR had done some marvelous things to pull us out of the depression - the Bank Act and all that sort of thing. So my father was an FDR person. Around here, I think that Roosevelt's actions were considered somewhat war mongering. And of course historians today will say the same thing. But I think, my own personal feeling is, that he was clear-eyed, and realistic, and he had this great friendship with Winston Churchill and he felt that we were going to get sucked into it one way or another, and he certainly didn't want to see Britain go down without some help, like Lend-Lease.

L: When I interview folks from your generation, almost everyone can recall where they were on Pearl Harbor, what they were doing. Do you remember that?

N: Mmmhmm. It was Sunday, as you well know, and I had just come home from Mass. I went to St. Mary's Church in Oshkosh, 'round the corner from my home. Even though our major form of introduction to everything was the radio, we were we were so lucky to have that. Obviously it was pre-television. But the radio news we listened to all the time. Throughout the war. that and the newspapers, of course, but the radio was more instantaneous. Yes, of course, and it elicited a great reaction around the country and also here. Everybody realized - I can always remember Tom McNichol telling me that on Pearl Harbor Day, he was in the real estate business with his father in Oshkosh. And he was showing Eddie Meredith the house that Sunday afternoon. The young Muriel couple, newlyweds and looking for a house. And they were looking at this house on the corner of Cherry and Irving or someplace. And they decided they would look at the house and go out to the car and discuss terms. And they got out to the car and Tom just happened to flip on the car radio, and the announcement was on that Pearl had been attacked. And Eddie Meredith said, you know, Tom, you can forget this one. I'm not going to be here to buy a house and you're not going to be here to sell me a house. Because they were both at the right age. And they went soon after.

L: So I imagine you, and your household, since you were interested in world events as it was, sitting around the radio on December 7th, and shortly thereafter, it was a pretty traumatic time. You knew what had happened in China and in Europe, and probably better informed, I think, than the average person.

N: Well, I think the thing that was astonishing was, when they kept referring to Pearl Harbor as a sneak attack, and the events, is that really, nobody expected anything like Pearl Harbor to be attacked. Probably, largely, because it was so far from the Japanese mainland. And the idea of them launching an attack undetected from aircraft carriers seemed unlikely. So I think Pearl was an especially astonishing and we felt safe. We were buffered by two oceans - two enormous oceans - the Pacific and the Atlantic and I think that most people felt lulled into complacency. so, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and as that time you know it was not a state, it was still territorial U.S. property And it was, not only the devastation of the fleet, but the loss of life.

L: The Northwestern ran an article a few days after Pearl Harbor listing almost two dozen residents who were stationed either in Hawaii or in the Far East
in harm's way. So, I think it became apparent to people in Oshkosh that it was going to impact them personally because people they knew were overseas. What was the mood like? Do you remember what the mood was like in school and in the community?

N: I would say the mood was very serious. It was extremely serious. This was a very serious situation, and it was taken somberly and thoughtfully. Everybody had the same thought in mind - when do I, when is my draft number be up, when am I going to be leaving? That was the thoughts on a young man's mind. Parents - when will my sons have to go? Will all my sons end up going? Will this be a short war? Will this be a long war? The unknowns at a time like that. And it was very obvious that we had lost a good portion of our fate. What did that mean about the West Coast? Would the Japanese invade the United States? Would they try to do that? There were a lot of things to think about.

L: The news wasn't very good in the first few months of the war and throughout 1942.

N: I would say the news wasn't good until '43. We'd had nothing but one piece of bad news after another. So many things went wrong during the war. The fall of Bataan and Corregidor, the Battle of Midway, Wake Island. It was a string of defeats because of course we weren't well enough staffed in these bases, and so we were losing battle after battle.

L: How did that effect people at home?

N: I think it made them even more aware that this was going to be no easy task. It was going to call for everybody's effort. And I think very definitely that people began to be aware that this was not some isolated war that Europe was going to have to face. We were in a world war and there were so many fronts to be fought on and that became increasingly important as our sons and daughters went off to the armed services and they were stationed all over the world.

L: You mentioned it was everybody's war. That everyone had to contribute. And there were a lot of ways that people did that. What do you recollect that you did? Your family did? Your school did? What kind of activities?

N: Well I think that we were keenly aware that we didn't have any very much in the way of a hardship. We were always very aware of that. They had some minor sacrifices like ration stamps and you couldn't always get all the sugar or meat or whatever, but that was nothing compared to what was going on in Europe and the deprivations that people were feeling there and I think that we were all very aware of that.

L: OK, we were talking about rationing and some of the things that weren't really hardships

N: Well they were inconveniences certainly and it was a way of bringing home to us that there were a lot of deprivations that might lie ahead. We really didn't know how much was going to happen. You know, American didn't know its own might, really, at that point in time. We had come out of a very devastating and demoralizing, you might say, depression. And getting America on a war footing and manufacturing planes, and so on and so forth, it certainly - we didn't know what we were capable of yet. In the end, it was America's industrial might that really won the war. There were a lot of contributing factors, but it was America's industrial might that really won the war.

L: As a young girl, did you go around with all the other kids and collect scrap and fat, and thing like that?

N: Not particularly. We did have scrap drives at school but I don't remember being in any major things. I would say that probably, I notice on the list that you have scrap drives, collect fat or silk, participate in Junior Red Cross. I did help roll bandages, although I was never really sure if it was a whole big help or not. But I think some of the things that I remember the most, that brought the war home, very much, to the students in high school when I was by that time in high school, we had for instance, school assemblies. And rather often one of the programs would be somebody who had a connection with the war. For instance, I remember a very attractive woman who was a Hungarian and had been in a camp. And she was talking about a prison, a concentration camp, in Germany. And I remember being very powerfully affected by her presentation. Also, I think that I went to a great many, there were a great many movies - excellent movies, comedies, musicals, and so on and so forth, and there were war movies as well. And although you could say that some of them were rather propagandaish, they really were rather

sincerely done and sincerely made. And they gave us a very good picture in many ways of what was going on. I remember very particularly in 1942 Mrs. Minever which was about the British after Dunkirk. And Wake Island. You know it's easy to laugh about the John Wayne heroic World War II movies, but they were close to reality and they gave you a very good feeling about what was going on. I commend Hollywood for its real effort to try to give the public documentaries, within some censorship parameters I'm certain. Movietone News. Excellent, excellent. I'm sure the photographers took great risks to bring to the public those movies of combat and actives around the globe. I went to all of them; I watched all of them. Fascinating. I also think one of the most profound impacts of the war for me was a history teacher I had. He was Rexford Hess, H-E-S-S, and he was suppose to be teaching a class that one semester on the Civil War and the causes of the Civil War and the ten reasons for the Reconstruction and all that. And he said to us, we're going to forget that. We are in the midst of history at this very moment and we're going to talk about history that we're in the midst of and try to make some sense out of it and I want you to be keenly aware of what's going on. And our assignment was to read the paper every night and then come prepared to comment on the day's happenings. And our class met at 7:30 in the morning, we met early, and I'll never forget getting ready for that class I had to sometimes grit my teeth because the news would not be the best. And we would talk about, I can remember a variety of things. I can remember one time when Singapore fell, when the Brits lost Singapore, that was suppose to be impregnable, that was not suppose to happen. The Japanese took over Singapore and I remember feeling so worried about that, because that was the South pacific and of course everything was always pretty bad in Europe. We were, the Brits were, at this time the Battle of Britain had, was well over, that was in September of 1940, but, there was so many things that were going on all the time. And then when we began to get organized and went into North Africa, under Eisenhower's command, that was extremely encouraging because it was the first time we seemed to be on the aggressive. The Brits finally won in North Africa, I remember talking about that in class and being so glad that we finally had a success. We were very spooked by the German successes. Rommel was almost to be an invincible German general. The Blitzkrieg, it was almost invincible when it started the war in '39. We were a little bit psychologically pessimistic that we could turn the tide.

L: What other things brought the war home to you? Some of your classmates, did they have any brothers or fathers . . .

N: Everybody did. Almost everybody had a brother or a father or an uncle or a cousin or what-have you, and most, some of them would get home on leave once in a while and that was always a wonderful occasion. You had to wear your uniform when you were home on leave. And you could always spot a sailor or an Air Force crew person or whoever was coming down the main street in Oshkosh. The very, one thing that I was thinking about when I knew we were going to talk today, was there was a marvelous Broadway production that was done and it was about a serviceman's production, and it was really wonderful. And I saw it in Chicago at the lyric opera, and there was one song in there, "You're either too young or too old," and I will never forget that because, that was the case. When I look back on it, there were no men on the street. There were boys and there were old men, but everybody from about 18 to about 40, was gone. And it was like a ghost town in many ways. If you looked at Oshkosh today and you had removed all the men between 18 and 40, practically all of them, it was very strange feeling.

L: That is an interesting comment. That is something that I hadn't thought about and I don't think other folks did either.

N: It was very much at the time. And this marvelous song was sung by Bette Davis, the movie actress, in this musical, and I'll never forget her saying, "They are either too young or too old. They're either too bold or they're grassy green." And I just remembered that because I thought, is that true. There would be, you know, a long period of time except for an occasional service man home on leave, you just never talked to a man, never saw a man. And I, in my class, I graduated from high school in 1945, the spring the war was over, but a few of my classmates had left already didn't stay for graduation, joined the service. Probably none of them made it to combat they would have been in training probably when the European war was over in May of 1945. May 8. And then the next, of course VJ Day in August of 1945. And you asked about people, reaction to the end of the war in Europe and the end of the war in Japan. Well, it was one of enormous relief. I don't recall, we did have some yelling, kids and teenagers and 20 year olds were in the street dancing down on Main Street near Merrit Street and you know everyone went out and had a few drinks because it was so wonderful to have it over with. But as far as VE Day, I spent the whole of VE day in the doctor's office. I had been dispatched front door of my mother's to sweep off the front porch and then you can go downtown and celebrate VE Day. Well, I swept the porch off and I got a cinder in my eye and I couldn't see, and so I ended up in the doctor's office for practically the whole thing and I was so provoke - but happy, happy it was over. And then when VJ Day came, that was of course just marvelous. Because everybody realized we had, they weren't happy about the atom bomb. I can't think of anyone who gloated or was happy about that, that was a frightening, that opened up a Pandora's Box and everybody realized that it was a Pandora's Box. The thing about it that everybody forgets today is that most of the fellas that were coming home from Europe, including my husband, expected to finish they had finished European War in May, they were going to come home as soon as possible, [ ] make it home for a year or a year and half because they were in the occupation force, but a lot of them did get home and they were expecting about a month's leave and then going to the South Pacific. And the calculations were that if we had to fight island by island to the Japanese mainland, and then try to take the mainland of Japan, where there already was the suicide issue, the kamikaze, they did estimate that the casualties would be about a million. Maybe higher. Maybe two million Americans.

L: Do you remember what people thought about that -about invading Japan:

N: Well, they thought we would have to do it. Because nobody knew about the Atom bomb. The atom bomb was a well-kept secret. One of my friends was on the island where the Enola Gay took off and he was a Sea-Bee and was working on the airstrip and he tells me that he looked over to where there was an airplane by itself which was unusual and they rolled out one big bomb. Kind of fat. And they loaded it on. He had never seen a plane take off with only one bomb. It was the Enola Gay. So he saw that plane take off. And the rest as we know is history. But none the less nobody knew, he was on the base and none of them realized what it was.

L: To back up a little bit, in Oshkosh there were 46 different war industries purchasing everything from small castings to fairly large pieces like Universal Motors and that sort of thing making transmissions. And they attempted to enlist both women and teenagers. Do you have any recollections of war industries, or women in war industries, or any of your classmates working in the war industries?

N: No I don't have any personal contact with that at all. The closest I got to that was the Bell Machine Company. They got a V for victory, which was given to plants for outstanding performance. And the Bell Machine Company was given a V and they lived next door to my husband's family. The man who would later become my husband.

L: Did you know what the industries were making? Did you.

N: It wasn't talked about very much, but it was reasonably obvious that some of it was material and making parts for things needed for the war effort. I never knew any woman or teenager I never heard it discussed at school. If they were teenagers they were probably older I mean I guess my teenage college boys would have been 16, 17 they would have been too young. You might have gotten a few 18 and 19 year old men before they were drafted or maybe with some small exceptions some might have been draft deferred as you know they were for vital industries.

L: Was the school a clearing house at all for any kind of war efforts, the war industry, in other words did the school try to channel students activities and energies toward war related projects?

N: I think, yes, I think to this extent. There was a period of time I don't remember exactly how long, maybe a couple of years when they started school early and let everyone out early so we could go and work. I remember I got a job when I was 14.

L: What was your job?

N: Working downtown. In one of the stores. But I was able to release an older person for something else more valuable. I was a fourteen-year-old, I was working and I made 26 cents an hour.

L: Well that is something I always find really interesting because we really need to focus the efforts of the labor force on the work that needs to be done and the older work force the male work force primarily in the war industry and so by taking these teenagers and putting them in the jobs like shop keepers and counters[ ]and that kind of thing would release men for other vital activities. Did you know that, have a sense that that was what you were doing?

N: Oh yes. that was the purpose of it and it was made clear. That is why I did it because it certainly wasn't the money. I was doing something that could possibly help.

L: Well this is kind of a fun question is in regard to fashion. I know that during the war the fashions changed quite a bit to reflect the austerity of the war but also military fashion. In women's clothing, do you have any recollections of that?

N: Well, of course, clothing is always very much of interest with any teenage gal and teenagers dress more than they do now. Because now it is [ ] jeans and Reeboks. But we were not deliberately wear military fashion. That never caught on that was considered kind of [ ]. I think what most people tried to do was dress as nicely as possible, with rather limited resources. Skirts were shorter, it was in 1947 when the new look came in and there was more material available in France and America that big skirts and long skirts came into fashion. But as far as clothing in wartime, why people could not afford a great elaborate wardrobe clothes were very chic and very nice. I remember thinking my sister dressed beautifully. She managed to always look terrific.

L. My mom said that when she was growing up they had a very large Victory garden in their backyard. Did you have a Victory garden at your house?

N: We had a garden but we didn't call it a Victory garden. And I've asked around my friends because I thought you might ask this question, if anyone had a victory garden. I can remember gardens of course but I don't remember anybody calling them Victory gardens. We were well aware that they much in vogue in various parts of the country and we probably had them but I've asked several people did anybody go. Usually a Victory garden was not in your own back yard, that was considered your garden. And you might have shared it with neighbors or with people who needed some extra groceries but a Victory garden was usually off premise somewhere and in most towns Victory gardens were like on the edge of town. You took the bus, probably not your car; you wouldn't use your personal gasoline because gasoline was rationed. But, Victory gardens I got the impression always that they were a little more prevalent in larger cities. Because we had a garden, yes.

L: Let's talk about writing to servicemen. Every week the Shop-O-Gram would have on their front cover featured servicemen you could write to and they encouraged citizens to write to servicemen and they gave you the address. Did you ever participate in any of those letter-writing campaigns?

N: No. I didn't because I was, aware of them of course, but I was 14,15, 16 years old and I didn't imagine anyone would want me as a pen pal. I really, [ ] who would want to write to me. And so I didn't. But I did have a British pen pal, a girl. She lived near Manchester, England in { ) I still remember that. We wrote back and forth all during the war. Of course they were bombed a good deal in Manchester. That was interesting. And of course, you did get V mail. You know, that was a special kind of sort of tissue paper letters servicemen could send. And of course, it was always interesting if you got a letter from a serviceman which I did you know [ ] we got letters. It was always kind of fun if it got censored. Sometimes they would cut them out the things that weren't supposed to be said. We'd get letters that looked like a mouse had been eating it or something. Sometime there would just be lines through it that the censor that were some things that they weren't supposed to be. Most of the times when servicemen wrote letters they stuck to impersonal things because they were aware that it was going to be censored and if they put anything inadvertently in it would get chopped out. They weren't supposed to let anybody know where you were. Although of course there must have been a spy network a good one in America. People knew I think I told you the story of when my husband told [ ] that when he got to Britain with the Air Force on the Queen Mary, he and his crew members went down the length of Britain and ended up in the camp they were assigned to Ruffin Army Air Base near Cambridge beautiful Cambridge University its near . They got in their barracks late at night. They were the last crew off the troop train leaving American servicemen and crewmen off at every camp. They were in East Anglia, which was loaded maybe 60 or 70 air bases. My husband always said it was a wonder that England didn't tip into the Atlantic from the weight, but anyway they got into their barracks and they thought that they would listen to Lord Hall who was the propagandist who broadcast from Berlin and he welcomed them to Ruffin Army Air Base by name. And said we will see you tomorrow over Berlin because your crew is scheduled to be on a mission to Berlin tomorrow. And they were. So that [ ] but you know it happened. And although I think the British were terribly security conscious and I think the Americans were good. There are ways of finding out everything. And I am sure in America that there were ways of finding out you know how the Germans kept loose-leaf notebooks on all the troops was by getting American newspapers saying that Sgt. Brad Larson was home on leave in 1942 and I had a friend who was interrogated when he crash landed in Germany and he gave his name, rank and serial number which is all you're required to do by the Geneva Convention and when he left the German interrogator said "Well you were very appropriate, you didn't tell us anything but we knew it all anyway ." He had read it in the sheet himself and he said "My god, they even knew my mother's maiden name."
L.: Scary
N: Yes, so that was a very formidable enemy. Both the Japanese and the Germans.
L: Let's talk about the enemy. One of my questions is how did you feel towards the Japanese and the Germans, you personally and then wider, folks in the community, and I know that's a harder one, but how did you personally feel about your enemy?
N: Afraid. They were formidable. You would be foolish not to think so. The Germans were determined to be the thousand year Reich, and they put every effort and a lot of manpower, muscle power and money. I thought that Hitler was mad, even then I did not think that he could be in full balance. To listen to his speeches, to listen to him ranting you knew that he was ill, you just knew it. But none the less, I had read a great deal of about the treatment of the people in the concentration camps and I knew that the Nazis were to be greatly feared, and I was very afraid that we might lose the war and that we would have a country like that. That was very much a fear to me as a fourteen, fifteen, sixteen year old. I was not saying that we would win the war, and I don't think that anyone else was either. You just didn't know. And now we know that the Germans were just a little bit behind us with the atom bomb, and we could have had that dropped on New York City and the story would have been very different. The Japanese, I had never seen a Japanese person but I had always been very interested in Japan, read a great deal about it, the wonderful Japanese culture. As time went on I realized that it was on a war footing and that Tojo was in charge and that he was a warlord and that a very vicious, very sadistic regime was in control just like Germany, very much to be feared.
L: Do you think you were unusual or do you think your fear of losing the war was shared by your friends or the people around you?
N: Sure. People didn't talk about it, but on the other hand you would have to be foolish not to entertain the possibility. Even when we were triumphing, as when we made the successful D-Day landing and went across France. I had a friend whose brother was in the Battle of the Bulge which was December 16th it started in 1944, and all of a sudden I remember going to bed that night and I thought Oh my Gosh, for all our advances and for all our successes we have not got this thing licked yet, and we didn't.
L: What about E-Day itself, the invasion of Europe?
N: Terribly exciting, very serious, very worrying. You know, in the morning when they announced the landings, the real question was, would we be off the beaches by nightfall? Because it was clear to everyone that we had to get off the beach right away and go inland or the Germans could strike all those troops, and the whole thing would be for nothing.
L: What did you do that day?
N: Sat by the radio, June 6th, 1944. I kept thinking, they have got to get off of the beaches.
L: Radio was a pretty important part of your life wasn't it?
N: Sure. Sure, and I think we were served well by the war correspondence and the announcers. As a general rule they were pretty straightforward. There was, I suppose some propaganda, but in the main they didn't try to sugar coat it. If it was serious they said so, which I still think was wise and appropriate.
L: Do you have any other memories you want to share Jean, any other thoughts?
N: No, I don't think so.
L: Well, thank you very much.
N: You're very welcome. Is there anything more you want me to comment on?
L: Well, I'll probably think about it on the way home. (laughing)
N: Why don't you turn it off and let's just think a minute.
L: (Returning ) We'll talk a little bit about receiving telegrams.
N: I think probably one of the saddest things about a war in any town is the casualty lists posted in the paper. In the town like ours, where a lot of the men were missing, wounded, killed and what you feared the most as a family was to get a telegram 'The War Office regrets to inform you,' that's how all the telegrams began that way, ' The War Office regrets to inform you that your son was killed' and there you were that you read this telegram. Then hopefully, later, somebody from his office would write you and tell you exactly what happened, otherwise you didn't know much about it.
L: So when you saw the telegraph runner peddling through town…
N: You knew that he was probably delivering one of those telegrams because they would hand deliver telegrams. Sometimes a member of the service would come and tell you but many times you would just get a telegram. I know my mother-in-law said she would see a telegraph boy on a bike go by and her heart would just stop right in her chest, and she thought it was her turn next, that Phil would be killed. I think that's the real impact of a war like this, on a town of this size in the middle of America was having so many of your sons gone in all parts of the world and never knowing what kind of danger they were in or where they were. You didn't know where they were! A lot of times, even what part of the world they were in. I can always remember my mother-in-law telling me that one New Years Eve she could not sleep and she paced the floor and paced the floor and her husband kindly said, "What is the matter? Why can't you sleep?" and she said, "I don't know, Phil is in great danger tonight I know this." When Phil got home safe and sound she said "You must tell me, were you in any kind of danger on New Years Eve?" and he said "For heaven's sakes, it was the worst mission I was on, and almost everyone in our unit was killed," then she said "I knew it." So. . .
L: Oshkosh lost 160 men.
N: When you had that display at the museum, you know, some years ago. Phil said he was just astonished at how many of his classmates had been killed he just assumed that after the war, when he didn't see them that had gone somewhere else, to college or moved away or what have you. He was very surprised that so many Oshkosh fellas were gone. Actually 160 is quite a few.
L: It's a lot for this town. For a city the size of this city. I don't have records for how many were wounded or missing POWs but I know that 160 were killed.
N: Of course you ask about POWs, you have interviewed Paul Fergot of course, and then there was a lot of men who were badly wounded and also a lot of POWs
Event World War II
Category 6: T&E For Communication
Object ID OH2001.3.7
Object Name Tape, Magnetic
People Nelson, Jean
Subjects World War II
Homefront
Title Oral History Interview with Jean Nelson
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