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|Cassette recorded oral history interview with Peter Weitz. He enlisted in the Marines in July of 1942. His basic in San Diego lasted six weeks. He was assigned to the 5th Marine Division and went to New Zealand for a year doing mainly guard duty. He then was assigned to the 3rd Marine Division and went to Guam. Pete went to Iwo Jima and was in the third wave. Casualties were heavy. His Lieutenant was killed next to him. After 28 days, Pete was shot in the right buttock by small arms fire. He was evacuated to a field hospital and then to a hospital ship. He was sent back to the states and discharged on July 15, 1945.
Pete Weitz Interview
27 April 2005
Conducted by Thomas M. Sullivan
(T: identifies the interviewer, Tom Sullivan; P: identifies the subject, Pete Weitz. Open brackets [ ] or bracketed words indicate that either a word or phrase is not understood, or that proper spelling for the word is unclear - in that order).
T: It's April 27th, 2005. I'm Tom Sullivan at the Oshkosh Public Museum with Pete Weitz who served in World War II. And Pete is going to be telling me about his experiences in that war.
Let's begin Pete, by having you tell me when and where you were born.
P: In Neenah. 1920.
T: Were your mother and dad both from that area?
P: No. My dad was from Hungary and my mother was from Shiocton.
T: What did your dad do for a living?
P: Common labor.
T: Did your mother work as well or was she a housewife?
P: My mother worked for awhile in a rag mill in the paper mill.
T: That was in Neenah?
T: Do you have brothers and sisters?
T: So you were an only child. Tell me about your childhood Pete. Where did you live in Neenah and where did you go to school? And what did you do for fun after school when you were a kid.
P: Well, I lived in a few places before I got settled down. And that was on Elm St. And I went to Washington School for grade school. Went to Kimberly School for mid school. And I went to Senior High for high school. But we used to go home and play and I had to do the chores if there was any to do. Then we'd play. And go the greens, skate every night in the wintertime and have some fun. And we would play out in the street. There weren't any cars in those days, you know. And we used to, I grew up as a regular boy would grow up.
T: You did the baseball and football thing?
P: Sure. I was so small that the trouble is I'd try out for these things and they wouldn't take me. I was too darned small.
T: In high school did you engage in any particular activities.
P: Well I used to help on some of the shows that we put on, as a stagehand. And I'd play intramural basketball. Because they wouldn't take me on the first team. I was too small. And I finally got on the football team and I was too small. My legs weren't long enough to run. So anyway I didn't grow until I got out of high school. And I didn't grow very much more.
T: When did you graduate from high school?
T: You grew up during the Depression and a lot of people were affected quite a bit by the Depression, some more than others. Was your family particularly affected by the Depression?
P: Yes. My dad owned a whole city block. He had one more payment to make to the bank to own it officially. And they wouldn't let him wait that time and pay it off, so he could pay it. And he lost the whole block. Gave it away, sold it, $50.00, anything. Gave it away and sold the land.
T: Was he able to work all through the Depression? Some fellows lost their job or had reduced hours.
P: Well, he didn't work much. He worked WPA jobs. And that wall along the hospital there, that was built by the WPA. And he had to go on that because there wasn't any work around. For thirty-five cents an hour but you did it. He hated to take anything.
T: Do you remember how Neenah as a whole was affected by the Depression?
P: We weren't affected by the Depression as much as other cities because of the paper mills. The paper mills kept working two days, three days a week. And if you were employed you had something comin in, see? Because you ate hamburger many different ways. And you ate soup and things like that. And you survived if you used your head, you know?
T: Were you able to work at part-time jobs and that sort of thing when you were in high school?
P: Well, they wouldn't hire anybody.
T: I guess they hired the people that really needed the work.
T: After you got out of high school, what did you do then, Pete?
P: One year I worked at Bergstrom Paper Mill. And just on the deck out there, loading boxcars and that stuff. Just labor work. And then I went in service.
T: During the late thirties and early forties there was war over in Europe and war in the Far East. When you were a young fellow, did you give any thought to those wars. Did you think that we would ever be involved in those?
P: No. When I was a junior in high school or like that, nobody talked war. And nobody thought they were going to war.
T: I guess it was just too far away.
P: Yes, but we were closer than we thought.
T: When did you join? Did you join the Marines?
P: Yes. Six of us got together one day and we said, "Let's go." I didn't want to go in the Army and that stuff. I thought I would make the Army my last choice if I had to. "Let's go." So we all went to Green Bay. And we enlisted at Green Bay.
T: What year was that? What was the date of your enlistment?
P: 1942. July 15th.
T: Can you remember where you were and what you were doing when Pearl Harbor was attacked?
P: I was working at Bergstrom Paper Mill when that happened. And after that happened, that's when we went in.
T: I see. You probably knew that Uncle Sam would be breathing down your neck.
P: Yeah. That sign that says, "I need you," yeah well, we gotta have a head start on em.
T: Why did you pick the Marines?
P: Well, I don't know. I just picked the Marines. I thought it was a good outfit and they had a good rating with themselves and everything. And I just felt I ought to go with the best.
T: They had a nice dress uniform too! (Laughter).
Tell me about your training Pete. You see movies about how rigorous the Marine training was. Where did you go, and tell me a little bit about your training, the basic type of thing?
P: Well, we had our training at San Diego. And we only had six weeks of boot camp. And we had thirteen problems to do. And we'd take off and go out in the field and we would learn to do different things. We had to crawl under wire, cradle our rifle and crawl under wire. That was one thing we had to do.
And we'd run, jump in a foxhole and a tank would run over you, see? Well we had two of us to a foxhole. I jumped in. Another fellow jumped in behind me and before he got his rifle down, the tank ran over us and split his head open. So he had to go in service. So I didn't see him any more.
And we had to learn marching orders. And we had no freedom. Couldn't go anyplace. Just boot camp, stayed there. And we had oh, we diddled around then. You could play a little bit and have some fun. Write letters home and things like that, see?
T: Were your instructors pretty tough guys?
P: One would steal from us. He stole…
P: One was real nice. He said to us when we walked into boot camp there and changing our clothes we had on, he said, "You're here because you want to be here. I didn't ask you to come here. And now all I ask is that you do what you're told and don't talk back." And he worked real well with us.
But the other fellow didn't say much but he'd steal from us. He stole a pen and pencil set out of a kid's, underneath his pillow. We could leave things like that there. And by cracky, it was gone. So the next day we stood up for inspection. Roll call, that's all it was. And he looked and he saw that pen and pencil set sticking out of his pocket. He said, "That's mine. My mother and dad gave that to me." He was a big boy. He'd a murdered him if he coulda got ahold of him. And anyway he says, "Yeah that sure is." And by cracky he had to wear sand in his pockets for a couple days but his pen set was back under his pillow again. And we never saw him.
Yeah we went through boot camp on highs and lows. We didn't have the rigorous training that is given the Army and the boys today. Because they wanted men overseas and that's where we were headed.
T: After boot camp was over with, what was the next step then? What were you trained to do?
P: Well, all of us were just nothin but just flunkies, you know. We broke boot camp and we could have a beer on base. We couldn't go ashore. Because we were leaving for Alameda the next few days by boat. We would go up by truck. We left at night and everything.
But this one DI (drill instructor) came around and he said to us, "What do you want to do, what do you want to do, what do you want to do?" And we'd tell him and he'd go. He said, "I'll be back." Well, he got three fellows jobs typing. They never left the United States. And he got other fellows different jobs that they could get into.
Well he asked me. I said, "I don't care." And didn't have anything. If I woulda known, I woulda went in the Air Force. If I coulda got in the Air Force, I'd a went in the Air Force.
But anyway, that's what he did. He was real nice. I'm wondering if he's still alive yet. He was a real nice fellow. I have his picture with me today.
T: After you were trained, where did you go next?
P: We went up to Alameda. We boarded ship and we sailed for seventy-five days. We never go off that ship except for an island stop. (Laughter).
T: What division were you attached to at that point?
P: I was attached to the 5th then and we sailed and ended up at Auckland, New Zealand. Of all places. That was the war we hadda fight. It was just like California. It was beautiful country. The girls are just as pretty there as they are here.
T: How much time did you spend in New Zealand?
P: Over a year. We were lucky we got there.
T: What did you do there?
P: Just guard duty. That's all we did.
T: When you were in New Zealand, did you make friends with the people there?
P: Oh sure. We had a lot of fun down there. We had good times and we…
T: Did New Zealanders like Americans?
P: Yes, they liked us.
T: I know the Australians got along very well with the Americans.
P: Well, we didn't stop there. We stopped at Australia but we stayed out at sea. We couldn't get in close enough to… Because fellows were goin in on shore and skipping the boat. They wouldn't come back. And they were losing too many so they hadda think. From then on they didn't let anybody go and they counted em. And if they started to go ashore and not come back, they took everybody else and away they went, see? Yeah, there's a lot of Americans over there yet that never came back. If they come back, they go to the coop.
T: Yeah, that was desertion in wartime. I know the Japanese were in New Guinea just north of Australia. Was there any Japanese threat to New Zealand itself?
T: You didn't see any Japanese planes or anything like that?
P: No, we didn't see a thing. We were too far south. We were halfway around the world.
T: When you were in New Zealand then, you were pulling guard duty. Was that the main thing? What did you guard?
P: Barracks and the tents and the airfields. And different things like that.
T: Did they have a lot of training exercises?
P: We didn't have much.
T: Sounds like pretty good duty for awhile.
P: Yeah, it was.
T: When did you leave New Zealand? Can you remember what the approximate date was?
P: No, I don't. I left New Zealand and I came back by boat to the United States. And they gave me liberty so I came home. And that was in July. I got home in July.
T: Would that have been in forty-three maybe?
P: Yeah, about a year later. I come home in July. It was so cold you had to wear your blouse at night. It was weather like now. And I was home for thirty days and then I went back out to Camp Pendleton this time. Because San Diego was being closed up, you know, to the recruiting business.
Then I joined the 3rd Marines. And I went through some more training and then I went out at sea again. And I was on Guam and saw some action on Guam. Not much. We ended up clearing the island so there wasn't very much action there. And we didn't know where we were gonna go next. But we were gonna go somewhere.
T: So when you hit Guam, things were pretty well under control then.
P: Yeah, we got off ship right on shore. Walked on shore and everything. There wasn't much. A bullet now and then but not [ ] you know.
T: Did your unit sustain any casualties?
P: I don't think so, unless they go bit by a mosquito or something.
T: Well I guess that was a problem. A lot of guys got sick from things other than bullets. How long were you on Guam, Pete?
P: I think about six months before we just packed up. And we were starting doing training. We had to go through some training there. Then they boarded us up and we went to Iwo Jima.
T: What was the weather like on Guam?
P: Beautiful weather. They say it's a beautiful island right now. It's been all constructed with new stuff and roads. There's woods there so thick you couldn't get through.
T: Isn't it a tropical…?
P: Yes it is. It's a tropical.
T: During that time on Guam, what was your job? Were you what you would call an infantryman? What kind of a weapon did you carry?
P: Well I didn't do much of that. I went in the mess house and cooked. Helped cook. So I didn't have to go out. I did the butcher end of it, see. So I don't know what they did.
T: Where did you go after Guam then?
P: I went to Iwo.
T: Iwo Jima. How many Marine Divisions were involved in Iwo Jima? I think there was three, wasn't there?
P: Third, Fourth and Fifth I believe.
T: Tell me about, when you were going to Iwo Jima, what did you hear about the island? What were you told?
P: They didn't tell us much about it at all until we almost got there. Then they told us that you're going to see a lot of casualties and stuff. And we were about the third wave in or something like that. And we got there and they had this hill of sand and we'd stick your head up and they'd shoot at you.
And I'll show you, this is what's on this, that's Iwo Jima. (Shows Tom a little jar of the black granular sand of Iwo Jima).
T: I've heard that was very hard to dig a foxhole in, to do anything in. To bring vehicles in.
P: Oh yeah. See, there's me. (Shows a photo taken by a combat photographer). We were right on shore. Just off the shore aways. You can see this hill up here. These are bombs goin off. And when you stick your head up, they shoot at you. The idea is just to keep down.
T: What wave were you in when you went on to Iwo Jima?
P: We were in about the third wave I guess.
T: Who took this picture, Pete?
P: I don't know. I got it out of a magazine. I tried to find the magazine and I can't find it since. It's someplace in the house. They were flashing around. They'd take flash pictures and they didn't ask your name or nothin. Not me anyway. They just took this picture.
T: It doesn't look like you were relaxing there, does it?
P: No, I wasn't. As you can see, the dead men are there too. When we landed on a Higgins boat, we all went ashore and one fellow laid in the back. And he cracked up. He went berserk. We wouldn't come in. They took him, "Go on, go on!" They took him back out to the boat. Whatever happened to him, I don't know.
T: As I understand it, the Japanese had all of these areas zeroed in with their artillery and their mortars And they didn't do too much to stop the boats from coming in but once you got there, once you got on land, they really let you have it. Is that pretty much the…?
P: Yeah, well see we were fired on out at ship. Bullets were glancing off the bulkheads and metal plates. And gee, we'd duck. You know comin in because we were getting loaded to come in and they were firing at us there. We were comin down these doggone rope ladders and they were son-of-a-guns. So we were fired at before we landed and then we were fired at after we were there. But I never say a Japanese all the while I was at Iwo. They were dug in so well.
T: So you were in the third wave. When you hit the beach, were you able to make any progress getting up away from the beach at all.
P: Well, you had to wait your turn and then go up and, it's awful stuff to walk in. Just goes out from underneath your feet all the time. Just ash, that's all that it is. And then we'd get up and run another little hole or little wave, like. You could get behind you know, and they couldn't get you. And keep on like that, see. Finally you got to go where you had to go.
But they were so well, they had that island tunneled from end to end. And see, Mt. Suribachi is this way. Okay?
T: On the south end of the island.
P: And we were on the, I went the other way. So I didn't go to Mt. Suribachi. I went down the other way. And we finally turned and saw the flag flying and we were happy. We didn't see it go up but we seen it flying.
T: Of course a lot of guys were hit. How were the corpsmen able to help these guys? There was so much action and so forth there. Can you tell me a little bit about their…?
P: Well, once you got hit you fell to the ground and you'd lay there and moan and groan.
T: Were the corpsmen able to get to these wounded or was it difficult for them to…?
P: Sometimes it was. Sometimes it wasn't. They'd come to assist you and ask you where you were hit, what part of your body. Because they don't know. You tell em and they would look at it and say, "Well, it's not so bad so just relax." And they'd throw some powder on it to keep and put a patch on it and plug it up or tie you off. If you lost a limb, they'd tie your arm off so, or leg or whatever it was so you wouldn't keep losing blood. And if you could get to a hospital, they could do more for you there.
T: Were they able to evacuate these guys with any degree of safety at all?
P: They just picked up and went. That's all. He didn't look for safety.
T: When a man was wounded and once they were patched up, I imagine they wanted to evacuate them to a hospital ship. How did they get them…?
P: Back to a field hospital.
T: Did you have a field hospital on the island itself. But that must have been after the initial action?
P: Yeah, it was later on. I laid between two men. One died right next to me and the other one lost an eye. The minister was there, the priest. And say a grace and a prayer for you. And then went to a hospital ship.
T: What type of a weapon did you carry?
P: That was an '03. See, the M-l's didn't come out until later. Here's my platoon. (Shows picture of group of men). Find me.
T: They all look the same, Pete. That's an impossibility.
P: Right down here. Here's two Japanese pictures I accumulated. (Shows pictures of a Japanese family - mother and father and children).
T: Where were these taken Pete?
P: I took em off at Iwo. I took em off a dead man, a dead Jap.
T: That was probably his family then.
P: I had a pair of chopsticks too and I gave those away like a dumb fool.
And that's our two lieutenants (Shows another photo of two officers) and this man here became head of our division because the others were all hit. He was looking through his field glasses, that's before they had the what-do-you-call-it, the sunproof ones, you know. That didn't glare. He got it right between the eyes standing next to me. I was standing next to him and down he went.
T: And that was this fellow here? (points to officer on left).
P: Yeah. He was a helluva nice fellow.
T: So all the Japanese had to do was aim at that glare of those…
P: Yeah. Killed him. He was a nice fellow. I hated to see him go.
T: How long did it take you to get off the beach once you'd landed and you were in this situation here? How long did it take you get up to where things were a little more quiet, if that was possible?
P: Oh, couple hours. Then they laid an airstrip in there later on so the planes could start to land.
T: What was the, what did you eat when you were …
P: Well, they gave us mess gear and stuff and we threw everything away but the spoon. That you could put in your pocket and then you could cut with it and eat with it, see?
T: You only had one utensil to wash. I did the same thing.
P: Yeah, we never washed it. Just wipe it off and stick it in the pocket.
T: What was your opinion of the Japanese? Were they a pretty tough opponent? Of course you didn't really see any, as you said.
P: No. I didn't see any at all except the dead ones. One I was sleepin, trying to sleep. You didn't sleep much. And I laid down and there was some blankets there. And I laid underneath some blankets. And I was warm. All I had out was my head, see? And there was a group of fellows in a bunker over here a little ways. About four or five of em. And all of a sudden these crazy Japs come out hollering, you know. They do that.
T: This was at night.
P: Yeah, at night. One stepped right on me. I went, "Oop." That's all I did. Never let a breath of air out. So I got… anyway they were at that bunker and they were all dead. They killed em all. They killed the Marines and they killed the…
T: Gosh, were you able to fire at them at all?
P: No, you don't. They went over a hill and down … You don't know where they went to. You were foolish to fire anyway. You might have been killed.
T: Yeah, they'd probably come back after you if you were outnumbered.
P: Sure. Yeah, that was the closest I came to a Jap.
T: Well that's pretty close when they step on you. Were the casualties in your unit quite heavy?
P: Well, you don't know. They were, I suppose they were to a point because all you know is when you get hit. And you don't see anybody else fall or anything like that so…
T: Well I suppose at some point, after everything is all over with, you line up and get counted more or less. And you see that so and so, and so and so aren't there. You have some idea then of what kind of casualties you took.
P: Yeah, because you count your leaders and everything else. All of your big shots are out on the boats giving orders, sleeping in sheets and things like that, eating steak, you know.
T: Well, that's the way it is.
P: Yeah, so I was there 28 days before I got hit. And about four days later or so, something like that it was, four or five days, the island was secured.
T: What were the circumstances of your getting wounded? Tell me about how that happened.
P: Well, you don't know when you're gonna get wounded but we were on a drive and we were standing up there. One fellow's kneeling down next to me. I was standing up and the fellow was giving us orders, where to go, what to do. And that's when I got hit. I was listening to the orders. If I wouldn't have gotten hit, he'd have gotten it in the head. So see, that's the way it is.
T: What were you hit with? Was it small arms?
P: Well it's the size of our '03's.
T: Where did you get hit; in the tail?
P: Yeah, I got hit in the ass. It glanced off the bone and it went on out. I was lucky I didn't lose my leg.
T: Not a very glamorous wound. But could have been very dangerous.
P: I'm lucky I didn't, I lost the feeling in about half my leg for about a year after that. It all came back but I lost the feeling out of it. You couldn't feel anything.
T: And that was about four days before the end of the action?
P: Something like that. It was just there at the tail end of the war. If I hadn't been hit then, I woulda went through the whole thing without any…
T: I see. What did they do for you? What was the procedure?
P: Well it knocks you down. It'll knock you down. It don't [ ] it will. It'll knock you down. You go down and of course you tell em you got hit. Well we gotta carry you back so they come up with a stretcher. And four men have to carry one man back. Well that takes four men off the field, see?
And they took me back to the field hospital and examined me and then they finally took me out to the hospital ship. And they examined me and I was just wounded, that's all.
T: You didn't need any blood or plasma?
P: No, none of that stuff. One fellow was in the birdcage. He was completely gone. His mind was gone, shot. And he looked like he could tear you right apart. He was a big man. They put him in the birdcage and kept him there.
T: Now what is the birdcage?
P: It's a sealed cage. They had those. He had to go behind bars of something. All I know is that he was kept in that steel cage all the while until we got to shore.
T: Were you able to walk at all?
P: After I was on the ship a couple days. I laid around and then I started to walk a little. The doctor come around and he looked, the assistant says, "What's wrong with you?" Well the fellow says, "I got some shrapnel in my back. That's what happened to me." "Turn over." Okay, he turned himself over. "Oh yeah, here's a piece." Takes a shears and cuts it. No anesthetic or nothin, see? "Oh yeah, we got that piece. Here's another piece. Hey!" He was hollering like hell. We laughed.
He come to me. I says, "I'm perfectly all right. There's nothing wrong with me," I said. He laughed and laughed. He says, "I gotta look anyway." He looked and he said, "Okay," he says. So I went back home.
T: When you were on Iwo Jima, what did you eat? Did they have C rations or K rations? Was it just a sort of catch-as-catch can type of thing. What kind of food did you have, because you were there for almost a month?
P: Yeah, I know. I ate whatever I could get ahold of I guess. That's about the size of it. You had these soup tins that were about that deep. And they were three of them in a case like this, see.
T: A big kettle.
P: Yeah, a big kettle. And that would keep it hot. You'd get some of that. And they give you stuff by hand. Rations you know, chew on. And that's about, I just had , didn't sit down to a square meal, no. Just ate…didn't have a bath for 28 days. I smelled like a rose. (Laughter).
T: Well, you had a lot of company. Everybody was in the same boat.
P: Everybody was in the same boat. Laugh, geez we laughed. Boy that hot water felt so good! It was just wonderful. When it would rain, it didn't rain over there at all so we were lucky that way.
T: Was it quite hot on Iwo Jima?
P: Oh, in the daytime it was hotter than hell and at night it would be cold. You'd dig down a ways, you dig down into this ash and you couldn't dig a foxhole, see because you could dig a hole…
T: Probably just keep filling in.
P: Yeah, and it'd be hot and it would get down your leg against that hot ash, keep you warm at night. But there was rockets going off and flare guns going continuously all night long. You could read a newspaper all night long. I slept maybe oh, a week out of the whole month. Off and on, off and on. Finally you get so tired you just fall asleep.
Then we had an old sergeant with us. We came out of a hole, a place, and three Japs were in this barricade, you know, the places that they made. And we knew they were in there, see? We knew that these Japs were in there. "Hey Sarge, Japanese here." "I'll take care of em." Pulled a pin, 'wheewt' threw it. Grenade went in. 'Wheewt', grenade come out. We laughed and had to go like hell for cover. To get covered up, see? So we did that three times. Finally the third one got em. "I'll get em this time," he said. Set it down to the second. [ ] he let er go. Oh, geez!
T: You hang on to the thing awhile, let it tick off a few seconds.
P: Yeah, he knew how to handle it. He let it go and it didn't come back again. We had another one that was in a tree, a bush, shootin at us. He got one fellow right ahead of me. We were running there and he got him. Oh geez he hollered and bellowed. I said, "You just got a flesh wound. That's all you got," I says, "Slow down." He had to go to the hospital. Well anyway we told the sergeant about him. Anyway a tank came along and we says, "We got a sniper in here." He's giving us a bad time. He says, "Draw fire and we'll get him." See, every gun gives off a flare. They drew fire and he laid that old cannon on him and let er go. One shot and he's still comin down. Yeah, that's a laugh.
T: Were the heavy vehicles like tanks and so forth, were they able to eventually go around on that…?
P: Well, after awhile but they were limited to what they could do because this ash would keep going out from underneath em, see? So there weren't really a lot of tanks on Iwo. Well, I didn't see any anyway. I saw one or two and that was all. Because of the condition of the ground.
T: Tell me about some of your friends that you had when you were on Iwo Jima. Friends that you paled around with and so forth. Were some of them colorful guys? Can you think of any that stood out, being different?
P: Well, in that respect, some of us would hang together and some of us wouldn't. Because we didn't like to get into groups because that would draw fire. So really I didn't attach myself to anyone except this lieutenant that was killed right next to me. I was around him quite a bit. He was from New York. And so I know that. It's ah, you don't buddy-buddy too much because of your fear of getting killed or hit or something.
All the while I was in service I never buddied up to anybody real tight because they always wanted to go out drinking and a lot of times I'd like to go places and see things. They didn't want to do that.
T: Sometimes when you are in service you can recall colorful characters. Guys that stood out from the crown because they were sort of weird or different.
P: We had one that stood out. He wouldn't take a bath and he stunk like a hog. We got ahold of him and about four or five of us took him down. We stripped him. He got a bath. We took these old fashioned scrubbing brushes…
T: The proverbial G.I. bath.
P: Yeah. We scrubbed every inch of his body. We didn't miss a thing. Everything he owned, he was scrubbed. The old man came by. "What are you doing here?" "We're scrubbing him up, he don't want to take a bath." "Oh, carry on," he says. Kept on going. Didn't bother us any.
T: Did that straighten the guy out?
P: Yeah. He took a bath from then on.
T: Usually that's curative.
P: He didn't like to have his privates scrubbed. [ ] Oh we had fun.
T: When you were on that hospital ship then, how long were you there? What was the next step for you after you were wounded and you were on the hospital ship? I assume that you recovered a little bit. That they patched you up so that …
P: Yeah, I got so that I could walk around, go to the south side and things like that. I was there for, how many days was it? I don't quite remember. But anyway we stopped at Hawaii. I came back with Bradley from Appleton. And I heard he was on and I talked to him for awhile. And he was glad to see me because we were…
T: He was a corpsman wasn't he?
P: He was a corpsman. And he got off at Hawaii. And they brought me to the United States. I went to a "Frisco" hospital and after I was there I got liberty and I…
T: When did your folks find out that you were wounded?
P: I don't know.
T: Did you write to them or did the Marines…
P: I wrote after I got back to the United States.
T: The Marine Corps probably notified them in some way.
P: They may have. So I came home by train. Then I went back again and I sailed out to Camp LeJeune. And I was in Philadelphia when the war ended. And we went down to Camp LeJeune and I was there for awhile, not long. And they put us aboard train, old open windows and smokestack comin in. Then we went back to Pendleton. And that's when they had the point system to get out.
T: Were you in pretty good condition physically then? Your wound was…
P: I still had the wound but I could get up and walk around.
T: Because your leg was affected a little bit for awhile. But you were on regular duty more or less. Did you get any special treatment?
P: They didn't keep us for very long after that. Then we got on the point system. I got out on that and came home then.
T: When was the date of your discharge?
P: July 15th, '45.
(The first tape ends here).
T: This is tape 2 of our interview with Pete Weitz on April 27, 2005. Pete, when you heard about the dropping of the atom bomb, how did you feel?
P: Well it made me, I felt good that it happened and I felt bad for all the people that it killed that didn't have to be killed. So it was a great thing and they dropped another one I guess, on top of that.
T: Well, if we'd had to invade Japan that probably would have been a real mess too.
P: It would have because you'd have to fight kids. Everything would be loaded. You'd have to fight kids, women and everything.
T: And I think from your experiences on Iwo Jima, you probably knew that the Japanese were a pretty tenacious type of fighter. They fought to the end.
P: Oh yes. We would have had a real war then. I don't think it would have been any fun at all. I don't think many of us would have came back from that one.
T: During your time overseas were you able to get mail and write to your folks?
P: When I was in New Zealand we got mail. Then we got mail when we were on Guam. And that was it. They read it first. Somebody would read your mail first and if they thought there was something being, code of any kind, they cut it out. So you had to read between the lines.
T: I guess some people did have a sort of a code established so that they could let their families know where they were and so on.
P: Yeah, some got through with something.
T: When you think back about Iwo Jima, what are maybe one or two things that stand out the most in your mind? Things that you remember the most vividly about that particular experience?
P: Well, I never got nightmares. I'll take it back. I had one nightmare when I came home. I thought I was trapped in a tank and I pounded on the wall and woke my dad up. He said, "What's the matter?" "It's alright," I says, and I laid down. And I never had any more dreams about Iwo after that.
So, the thing that stood out in my mind is that the first casualty that I looked at didn't have a head. I'll never forget that, I don't know why.
T: I imagine that would be pretty difficult to handle.
P: I had no more than landed on shore, walked about three feet or so. You know I got up there and saw this fellow laying there. No head.
T: I suppose that the situation being as it was, it wasn't long before you had seen a lot of that type of thing, a lot of wounds.
T: I don't know just how many casualties there were on Iwo Jima. I think it was several thousand. I think it was 6800 or 7000 or thereabouts. Can you remember?
P: I just read it awhile ago and I can't think how many myself. There was an awful lot of casualties because for awhile, well when you first went in you see em laying all over. And finally we got up on shore and away from the beach, well then you wouldn't see so many because it's a, as they got hit they picked em up. But it kept somebody very busy.
T: I think I read that when fellows were hit and they wanted to evacuate them to the ships, they put them down on the beach but that area was still being shelled by the Japanese. So they weren't really out of harm's way at all even after they'd been wounded. Which is really sort of tragic.
P: They were fired on all the time as long as they were alive. They (Japanese) didn't care because they would shoot out of bunkers. They would shoot out of those little holes that weren't that big around. Well you take a little hole that big around, some were a lot bigger, but you just see how much area you can see out in front of you. And they'd fire at you and you wouldn't know where that shot was coming from, see?
T: Very early in the war and we'd suffered some setbacks and things weren't going too well, were there ever any doubt in your mind abut whether we'd win the war?
P: Oh, we'd win.
T: I think most people felt that way.
P: We had that potential that we'd win the war no matter what it cost you.
T: When you got out were you awarded any medals or citations?
P: I got the Purple Heart. I didn't bring it along with me.
T: After you were mustered out of service, what did you do?
P: Oh, I played around awhile.
T: Was it difficult to adapt to civilian life?
P: It's what you made of it.
T: Some fellows had difficulty. Some just went right back in…
P: It's just what you want to do. It wasn't hard to, it wasn't for me anyway.
T: What kind of work did you do?
P: Post office.
T: Were you working inside the post office or carrying?
P: Both. I ended up being a carrier but I started inside.
T: Did you do that kind of work up until retirement?
T: When did you retire, what year?
T: How did you meet your wife and when did you get married?
P: Ha! I met her through a woman who said she had a nice girl for me. She was married once before and had a daughter. Yeah, so it went back and forth. She was a nice looking girl and I married her. I didn't get married until I was 40. I thought she was brighter than she was but she wasn't as bright as I thought she was. So I had to learn the hard way. And now she's in a home.
T: Did you have any children?
P: One daughter. And that was a mistake. We didn't want any children at that age. Didn't want to put children in the world. The doctor gave us the wrong advice.
T: Well that happens. You make the best of it.
Do you think the war changed you in any way, Pete?
P: Well, I grew up some.
T: I think a lot of fellows say that. It made a man out of them. Because they went in as kids for the most part. They matured a lot in the service.
Were any of your friends from Neenah killed during the war? Fellows that you chummed around with.
P: Yes. Well I used to pal around with this one kid all the time. We used to go out together until he got married of course. And then we couldn't anymore. Anyway, six of us went in up at Green Bay to enlist that time and I'm the only one left.
T: I see. Out of that six the others are all gone. Did they all get killed in the war?
P: No. They all died at home.
T: :Do you think of World War II very much today?
T: Most guys have sort of put it on the shelf. Do you ever go to reunions? Does your Marine Division have reunions?
P: No. They do but I don't go. I never heard from them.
T: Did your experiences in the military affect your feelings about the military in general?
P: No. I wish I woulda stayed in.
P: Yes. I wish I had made a career out of it.
T: Do you think it would have been a good life?
P: Yeah, it would for me.
T: That's interesting because a lot of fellows were so glad to get away from it.
P: No, I wish I would have stayed. I enlisted for the duration, for the war, you know. And if I had put down four years, I think I would have stayed in. Because it builds you up in a hurry.
T: Is there anything else that relates to World War II that you'd like to tell me about, anything that comes back to you?
P: Let's see. Oh, I think of my buddies once in awhile, that I used to chum around with and now I don't. I do yet today, once in awhile something will happen in your life that you go back and you relate to like where one fellow, he met his girlfriend, his wife in a bowling alley. And I go to a bowling alley and I think of her. And now they're both dead and kids are still alive yet. In that way, but I don't let it bother me. I sleep at night and forget about it.
T: What kind of activities are you involved in now Pete? You've told me that you do this volunteer work at the Veterans Museum. Are there any other activities that you engage in?
P: No. Except doing the general work around the house and that stuff.
T: Tell me a little bit about your work at the Veterans Museum. You said you work as a docent. You take people through and explain things to them? Tell me a little about that.
P: Well we have there, we give a little tour like you know. And I sell em anything they want to buy. And we answer the questions as best we can. Some I can't answer. I ask somebody else and they might come up with an answer. So they can help you out. Always willing to help out.
It's interesting. You meet all kinds of people.
T: Do young people go through that museum? Or is it old guys like us?
P: Well they're starting to, young people come in and see and look it over and try to wonder why all this had to happen.
T: Do teachers ever bring classes of school kids through?
P: Yes. Appleton, Mondovi comes, was just through. There's another group gonna come through. I can't think where they're from. And we have three men go out and talk to classes. And I go out and talk to classes. And it makes it interesting that they want to hear about something so long before they were ever born. So we do the best we can.
T: That's good. I think that's a good effort. Well Pete, it's been very interesting talking to you. I certainly appreciate your willingness to come down and tell us about your life in the Marines. And it was a very interesting story and I thank you very much.
P: You're welcome.
|Oral History Interview with Peter Weitz.
-WORLD WAR II
-Copyright Oshkosh Public Museum
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