Oral History Interview with Don Sohm

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Record 99/959
Copyright Oshkosh Public Museum
Admin/Biog History Obituary, Posted May 23, 2006
Donald C. Sohm
Donald C. Sohm, age 84, of Oshkosh died peacefully at home on May 21, 2006. He was born to Fred A. Sohm and Vivian (Conlee) Sohm on February 5, 1922. Don was a graduate of Oshkosh High School, class of 1940. He worked at the Wisconsin Axle Co. until he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps on September 16, 1942. Don was one of the first Marine Paratroopers in World War II. He was wounded on the island of Bougainville and spent one year in a military hospital before being honorably discharged in February 1945. Don married Mary Jane Thoma on October 27, 1945. Mary Jane became ill with cancer and died July 12, 1977. In 1948 Don with his brother Lynn started Sohm Oil Company. Don was a life member of the Oshkosh Elks Club #292 and the Marine Corps League. He was also a member of the Oshkosh Chapter of the American Legion and the National Association of Survivors of the Marine Paratroopers. On Memorial Day 1981, Don married Dr. Joyce Jackson, a professor of Education at UWO. They recently celebrated 25 years of marriage. Don was preceded in death by his wife, Mary Jane, his parents, and a granddaughter Courtney Sohm. Survivors include his wife Joyce; his children Marc Sohm, Florida; Michael (Janet) Sohm, Oshkosh; Mitchell (Arlene) Sohm, Florida; Malcolm "Goofy" (Terry) Sohm, North Carolina; Merrick (Kandi) Sohm, Omro; Melissa (Tim) Greupink, Milwaukee; Melanie Sohm (Bernie Scham), Berlin; and a step-daughter Ruth A. Jackson, Hartford; his grandchildren Kendra Sohm, Oshkosh; Debby (Greene) Lawson, Oregon; Matthew (Rebecca) Sohm, Oshkosh; Jennel Sohm, Oshkosh; Tony Sohm, Milwaukee; Mary Kay Sohm, Oshkosh; Donnie and Gavin Sohm, Omro; Jason Sohm, United States Marine Corps; Tiffany Salas, California; Kaitlyn Greupink, Milwaukee; Samantha and Amanda Gajdosik and Rachel Merrick, Berlin; his brother Lynn (Betty) Sohm, Oshkosh; two nieces Linda (George) Garrity, Montana and Leslie (Stan) Tashiro, Nevada; his step-grandchildren Eric Ostertag, Pennsylvania; Amy (Chris) Wadel, Slinger; James Ostertag, Hartford; Kali and Candace Greupink, Milwaukee; and Alexandra Zarling, Omro; and his great-grandchildren Aaron Sohm, Oshkosh; Ava Grace Wadel, Slinger; Alex Salas, California. He is further survived by other relatives and many friends. Visitation is Wednesday, May 24, from 4 to 7 p.m. at Konrad-Behlman Funeral Home-Westside, with services immediately following, Father Douglas LeCaptain, officiating. Private burial will be with a traditional military service at Sacred Heart Catholic Cemetery.
Classification Archives
Collection Gordon Doule
Dates of Accumulation 1993 - 1993
Abstract Oral history interview with Don Sohm by Gordon Doule. He discusses his experiences in the 3rd Marine Division during World War II.

Interview with Don Sohm
Conducted by Gordon Doule
Dec. 30, 1993

S: I was born in Oshkosh 2/5 of '22; I married [ ] don't know about that; my first wife died of cancer, I was married thirteen years to Joyce Milner, that's her maiden name, she's a [ ] doctor, she's known as Dr. Joyce L. Jackson, she's got her doctorate, taught up here at the college for seventeen years.

My brother and I ran a service station on a famous corner of Jackson and Algoma which the county took over. I had seven children, boys Mark, Mike, Mitch, Malcolm, Melanie, Melissa and Mary. Two of the boys did tours of duty in Viet Nam; my son Mark did two tours of duty over there and they had a third brother Mitchell who had back problems and surgery, ended up working over there as a civilian and was one of the last ones out of there when they pulled the men out.

My mother was a Conley girl, her sisters were the Conleys sisters that used to be on the stage and they that played at the Grand Opera House years ago; I remember seein that. I lived in Oshkosh all my life. My dad was a street car driver. He was on the streetcar inter-urban and I remember that and he worked at the Axle Company.

I enlisted in the Marine Corps. I was in the Marine Paratroops. I was in about three and one half years. And got out on February 14th '45 out of hospital in Key West, Florida.

Oshkosh, remember most, all the taverns and the grocery store on just about every other corner. Now your grocery stores are all gone, some of the taverns are even gone. Most of the filling stations are really gone.

Served in the South Pacific and we all had it rough. Anybody that was in combat knows it was rough, so we don't recall many of those things. I do recall some of the funny things when we were in training; 'er every time we were, seemed every time we made a jump, I was always on a plane that the jumpmaster didn't know his left foot from his right hand because we always missed the jump zone. Couple times we jumped, landed on the highway when we were jumping in California and some truck driver's stopped because he saw a shadow come over the top of his thing and I'm glad he stopped because I woulda landed right on top of that semi - when we were out on the highway. And another time in New Caledonia we were making a jump there was a kid by name of Willard Godfrey who was from Waupaca, Pete Hansen who was from Milwaukee; Pete's still alive, in fact I [ ] Christmas card [ ] around and see him; hadn't seen him in fifty years and I met him in October of this year. We had a Marine Corps reunion, a paratroop reunion and this one jump we made Godfrey went out and was supposed to holler "cargo" and the jumpmaster was supposed to put the cargo chute right behind him, well that tangled up crossways and Pete and I were trying to wrestle the cargo chute and the jumpmaster, I think we almost threw him out but he caught himself in time and Pete and I jumped, why we're way down out of the jump zone and perfect textbook case and our friends come in and landed in the trees and you're not supposed to pull on the shroud line and they're hangin in the trees and perfect textbook example Pete pulled the branches broke he landed on his head and out cold.

And stuff like that, and after I was hit I remember a lot of things in hospitals were rough. I remember on Guadalcanal they was giving me a spinal and I was being operated on, on my leg and I told the doctor I could feel that; the doctor says, "wiggle your toes" and the other doctor says, "Jesus Christ, they're movin." And they said, "open your mouth." Well I thought I was gonna get a gas tube or something down there and they gave me a two inch roll of gauze and said "bite." If they could ever find that operating table, you'll find the imprint of my right hand on it. Squeezed, I must have squeezed that thing in a hug [ ] break it. And I chewed my way through that gauze.

And, ah, the most interesting persons I've met, Oh God they all were characters. You had to be nuts to be in the paratroops to begin with. And they were all good buddies. It was a - we had good officers.

D: There weren't a lot of paratroops in the marines were there?

S: No, no, there was only about five - six thousand of 'em. And ah, they disbanded the Paratroopers and they also disbanded the Marine Raiders, formed the nucleus of the Fifth Division that went into Iwo. That's why a lot of friends got killed on Iwo and I knew a lot of guys that went into Iwo Jima. Fact, I got out in '45 and I was in a movie in the Oshkosh Theater with my first wife and they had the Movietone News and it showed [ ] goin into Iwo and I says "Jesus Christ [ ]" my wife looked at me and I recognized this kid just as plain as day. They panned him and showed a picture of him waitin for the front end to go down and of course I slumped down in my seat and and felt like a fool and everybody looked at me ...

D: That was The Sands of Iwo Jima.

S: Yeah, well yeah. But it was a perfect picture. And then ah, there was a Johnny [ ] from Oshkosh also a marine. He was in the Third Division. And he [ ] the Third Marine Division book. And I remember they took pictures [ ] combat photographers and I remember seeing these combat photographers - I came to as they were hauling me down and set me down and my picture's in there and then I was at my brother's house - they used to call it "Victory At Sea"; and ah, my brother was in the Marine Corps too but he never got overseas or anything but we were gonna watch a Bear game and "Victory At Sea" was on first. And we were watching that and it showed Bougainville and all of a sudden my wife says, "that's you on that stretcher." And it was, it was the part that they had taken these pictures and showed the guys carrying me out and I'm in the thing the "Victory At Sea." It shocked me I almost, I couldn't see who the guys were who carried me out. I still don't know who they were, but ...

D: That was from Bougainville....

S: Yeah, it was on Bougainville, so I seen that one other time, and when I say it was Bougainville, I, whoever was around, I guess it was my kids or one of my kids was there, did a rerun and we watched for it and there I was, a little exciting you know to see yourself.

D: Tell me a little bit about the fight that went on up till the time that you got wounded.

S: Well we were, we couldn't jump in Bougainville, we'd still be hanging in the trees so they took us in and used us as raiders and we went up to straighten up the lines, that's all [ ] straighten [ ]. Where they had a problem we went out to push it out and straighten it out. From there I come back feet first, huh. 'Cause we were up there straightening it out and we had a hard time gettin there and then the guys got hurt and wounded and banged around; we had a hard time gettin back.

D: Was that from shell fire or small arms or what?

S: No, that was from grenades.

D: Oh, grenades.

S: Yeah, from bouncin back. So I was no hero, my own grenade come bouncin back. Trees and dark and you couldn't see nothin and you knew they were close.

But ah, I can remember things that come back, I remember things like you see in "MASH", about four or five stretchers on a jeep and guys layin on the hood, why they carried me on the front of one of those and I got stuck on one of those and then the mud all over, they got some other guys around there [ ] there was just a bunch of army and marines or whoever it was, seabees just come out of wherever the hell they happened to be around and start pushin those jeeps, they almost carried 'em across some of those muddy holes that we had. And, like I said, when we got back to the beach, why, guy by the name of Tom Crouse had his hand blown off [ ] say this? Well anyway...

D: Why not?

S: We were in these long tents, maybe about 25 feet wide and maybe about 40-50 feet long ...

D: Squad tents?

S: Yeah, I don't know what they call 'em but anyway bunch a cots layin on the ground in there and we were watchin the, it was a moonlight night and we were watchin the sky [ ] and the shrapnel was goin through the tent and this one friend of mine that I went through parachute training school with and all through up there he lost his hand, I forget whether it was his right or his left hand and he made the call for a corpsman and some of the guys are runnin laps around the beads and prayin and cryin and ,huh, and Crouse said he'd have to masturbate with his right hand because he lost his left hand and of course the corpsman was mad at him and was [ ] and the corpsman had to crawl on his belly to get across the thing, wouldn't walk across there and of course he went back and by that time everybody in the tent was laughin and jokin and talkin and took whatever you want to say being scared silly and cryin why, men all stopped and they were all jokin telling Crouse what a crazy nut he was anyhow every outfit's got a joker and that's what kept some of the guys goin. You might as well say he cheered up some of those guys and he did.

And the other things you can remember was when the army was comin off those big LST's and drivin down and they had us layin on the, on the side of the road and you see those great big six by six goin by and they weren't more than two feet away from you and you had to say "I hope that guy's a good driver."

D: And you're laying there on a stretcher...

S: You're layin on a stretcher, you can't Wiggle or move and...

D: You got it in the leg did you?

S: Both legs and my arm.

D: Both legs [ ]

S: Both legs and my left arm.

D: Okay. Where did they take you then after the [ ] to Guadalcanal first?

S: They took us back to Guadalcanal and from there I was flown to New Caledonia, I think we left there about the 23rd of December, that's why this time of year it's always, I think of it, I think of it a lot. They flew us to New Caledonia and one of the guys died after we got to New Caledonia and they weren't expecting anybody that's [ ] to a hospital, we didn't have a doctor and our battalion executive officer was a, a Lt. Carney who's father happened to be I don't know, Rear Admiral or Vice Admiral Carney who was there on New Caledonia where Sea Command was or whatever it was and we're in long Quonset huts like everybody knew was a hospital and all of a sudden a trumpet blew attention and in came this admiral and he says, "I understand there's some ah, some of my son's men in here." And he said he's lookin for some marine paratroops. And he says, "What can I do to help you?" A bunch of us guys says, "We'd like to see a doctor." And he says... We said, "We haven't seen a doctor, just a corpsman or nurse been takin care of us." Well, he got on the phone and I think we had more doctors than we had patients within about ten minutes.

D: It ain't what you know but who.

S: Yeah, that's about it. And then ah, also he came back in about two weeks and he says, "I've got an opening on a plane for who wants to fly back to the states." And then we said this Woodward, why don't you go. [ ] If you ain't got room for all of us, none of us are goin. So that was, Connie was a real good man.

One of the other things about Guadalcanal I can remember is they took us off these LST's, they put us on these, you see in "MASH", these army ambulances, four stretchers in there and this guy, he must have tried to pass every other thing on the road. He hit every chuck hole in the road and he had he had a helmet with the red cross thing on it and I could reach it with my one hand and it was good and I reach over the top of my body and I got it and I passed it over to this Woodward and he handed it to Tom Crouse and Tom Crouse threw it at the driver just to tell him to slow down. God, we were, Woodward had a leg off, Crouse had his hand off and I don't know the fourth man to this day. And I was hoping to see Crouse this year at the convention but he couldn't make it. And speakin about a small world, what it is, Tom Crouse's wife had [ ] in early childhood and my wife, Tom sent us pictures, my wife recognized her because they'd been to some national conventions and talked to one another and never realized it. Their husbands had been friends in service.

D: That's Krause?

S: Yeah that's Tom Crouse. His wife is dead now too. She died of cancer.

D: K-R-A...

S: No, it's spelled with a "c." Crouse, we called him Crouse. It's spelled with a "c."

D: Well that's unusual.

S: Yeah. "C" [ ] I dunno. When I spell squirrel, it's cow so I can look it up. [ ] He spelled with a "c."

D: I'll get that a little later.

S: And ah, jumpin around, I don't if I told you about the turkeys that time or not, that's all...

D: No, you can repeat that [ ] your were not on the record then.

S: Well when we were [ ] when we went up there why we been gettin two meals a day it was it was a pea soup and some sort of a corn muffin or pancake [ ] going chow the second time and he ended up in the brig or extra duty or something because they were just short of chow. And, [ ] our exec officer, exec officer at the time, he, who got the Navy Cross and stuff for what he did on Guadalcanal. He had some friends in the navy [ ] down the line and they went and commandeered a DC3, they went to the "canal" and they unloaded one ship and put in his and unbeknown to us those turkeys were spoiled but we hadn't had good food and man, we were sick for four or five days. Every Thanksgiving everybody thinksabout it and every time we have a reunion, why everything is brought up about Thanksgiving 'cause we were never so sick in your life.

D: That would be in '44.

S: '43. November of '43. I got hit in December of '44. 'Cause I remember comin back, I was on, I forget the name of the ship and I was near a port hole and the guys put me over so I could look underneath and I saw the Golden Gate from underneath, and I kept saying, "Those golden shores in '44." That must have been March, I guess, somewhere's in there. And then they stuck us on an ambulance and took us over to Oak Knoll so I saw the Golden Gate Bridge from beneath it and then from the bottom of the ambulance so I could look up and see the top of it. And they took us into Oak Knoll.

D: How long were you in gettin patched up?

S: Way over a year and then I've had eleven months at one time at the V.A. hospital getting a skin graft on my arm and then another time down there for three months with my legs so I got about three, four years hospital time.

When we were at Oak Knoll there was a friend of mine had been in the sack next to me for couple of month on New Caledonia and on the ship and he was wounded in the chest so when we got to Oak Knoll, they separated us according to our wounds. He was an Italian and he could sing like crazy. Good singer, we used to call him "lover boy." And all of a sudden we're there, second day we were there, the first day we were there, he comes over he's got an old fashioned wooden wheelchair, if anybody knows Oakland up there, it's one hill after the other, and he took three guys and he got me into a wheelchair and he pushes meover to this other ward where he was and said he had a surprise for me. Well, I didn't know what the hell the surprise was but I figured I might know one of our guys and those wooden ramps that they had connecting these huts over there, why, the wheelchair got away from him 'cause he was, he wasn't any too strong and a couple of corpsmen came in, thank God, 'cause I think I'da busted through those 2 x 4's. So they pushed me into this ward and the next thing I know I hear this woman bellow, "Angelo, get in your sack!". that was his name, Angelo. I looked up and it was Betty Binder from Oshkosh who was a nurse who I graduated from high school with and, Betty had a couple of corpsmen push me back to my ward and she used to come and see me just about every day, when she got through with her work on her ward, she'd come over and see me. So when we have our class reunions here, our high school reunions, every once in awhile she's here and I get to see her, I get a great big kiss and call her my private nurse and of course we have to relate the the story to others around her because how come I get to kiss her and she comes, hollers for me and it was a real big thrill to, scared, sick, just get back to the 'states and this guy wouldn't tell me where we were goin and I thought it was somebody from our outfit that I hadn't seen and here it was Betty Binder. She's married and her married name is Cox and I think she lost her husband a few years back.

D: C-o-x?

S: Yeah, it's her married name, she was a Binder and her father was an insurance salesman [ ] over on 9th and Oregon St., Binder Agency, not the Binder Beverages but the Binder Insurance Agency. It was her dad.

So, it was, then I met Pete Beck over there in New Caledonia. His dad used to have Beck's garage, the S. B. Beck Plymouth Garage. I met him overseas I met several people - Billy Lynch, Dr. Lynch, now a lot of people, a lot of people say Billy Lynch, well he did die an alcoholic but he was a tough corpsman and nobody'll say anything against corpsmen, he was a real good navy corpsman. He took his jump school over in New Caledonia and that's where I met him, he knew me, I didn't who he was but I knew his sisters 'cause I'd gone to school with one of his older sisters and that. And when we were in [ ] he stole a case of medical brandy and it's 48 2 ounce shots of medical brandy. And he brought it over to me, my squad. Well I was on a first name basis with our company captain because we'd take one of those 2 ounce bottles and about four of us guys in our squad would drink it, man we couldn't find our tail with either hand and we'd run up to the captain and he wanted to know what we were drinkin; he wanted to know if we were making jungle juice, he was afraid we were gettin, go blind like the guys would if you made this jungle juice, torpedo juice or whatever you want to call it, the guys were makin at the time and my squad went on more workin parties.

D: Well, Bill Lynch, was he younger than you?

S: Oh yes.

D: Well how old are you now?

S: I'm seventy two.

D: Yeah, Bill would probably be around sixty eight or something ike that.

S: I don't think so. Yeah, 68...

D: My wife knew him quite well.

S: Oh, Bill's in this thing here. He was a - his folks were proud of him at that time. We all know what happened to Billy.

D: He used to live across the street from Dale School.

S: Yeah, yes, yes, well when I came home on convalescent leave, well Billy got home on leave and his folks took him out to meet my folks and he could tell them about the last time he'd seen me. And of course when I came home on convalescent leave why, my mother took me over to Lynch's [ ] and I'd go there and Doc would come home for lunch the first thing he does, takes one look at me, he makes me drop my pants so that he could see what was wrong and he wrote a prescription so I could put some meat on my bones. And of course Dr. McDonald was his brother, in Winneconne.

D: In Winneconne?

S: Yeah. He married one of Billy's, I think an older sister of Bill.

D: I wonder which one that would be?

S: Patty Lou.

D: Patty Lou.

S: Yeah, and one of 'em was married to [ ] up there. That was the oldest one. She went to Oshkosh High School, the other one went to catholic school.

Yeah, Bill was a good corpsman, he was right in it there but then he got back and he went over to Korea, he was a Marine then. He enlisted in the Marine Corps then. That's where he got [ ] boozer. Got fouled up, yeah I met him overseas.

D: Which one did they call "Weasle"?

S: That's his younger one. He's still alive. He hasn't had a drink now I say in three, four years. He's all crippled up. Yeah, that's the baby. [ ] I don't know where heis, I think so. 'Cause his sister was here what, this Spring or how the springtime flies. I met he and his one sister that married an O'Connor from Texas were up here and uh, I met him out at Jeff's on Rugby. And said hello to him, talked to him.

D: How do you feel that your experiences in World War II had a big impact on your future life? After the war.

S: Well, I learned to appreciate a lot of things. The good Lord nailed me about three different times and I didn't think I was going to make it [ ] and said I'm not a keeper so he threw me back so I appreciate life a helluva lot and if I was to die last week, I done everything that I think I would never be sorry for it, I've had a good family and a good marriage now and uh, I can understand, I feel sorry for some things and I know what it's like to go hungry and be without and bein miserable and I can feel for some of these people that have hard times now but, ah...

D: Do you have any problems right now with the way society is now, compared to what it was back in those times?

S: Well everybody's in such a hurry, such a fast pace and they all want to start out all the kids want to start out where we're ending up. When I go married I had used furniture, used rug from friends, something no one was using, man, that was great. These people, these kids nowadays, they have these big weddings and the're all driving fast cars or big cars, new cars. When I first got married my brother [ ] an old '32 Plymouth he gave me. [ ] to get around, man, that was great, man, I thought that was great. Had an old '32 Plymouth. Now kids wouldn't be seen in a car that old. Anybody gettin married today wouldn't be seen in a car that's twenty years old.

D: How did it actually change your life ah, when you got, when you were, you know, when your wounds were all healed and everything and...

S: Well, I couldn't [ ] do the things that, I couldn't ice skate. I used to love to ice skate, the old Reed school and all that. When we that. But of course I don't, I'm hearing the guys around me [ ] but of course I don't cry about that. But, yeah, I was limited to what I could do on certain jobs because of my hand, didn't work, but ah, I never cried. I got in business with my brother, we made a lot of friends, we didn't make a lot of money. Could have probably if we had done things different, but we made a lot of friends and we had a good living. I'm happy, I mean there's no...

D: You had a lot of work ethic.

S: Yeah. Well that was taught to me by my dad and of course in the Marine Corps, goin through paratroop training school, boy that taught ya, man! [ ] I couldn't see why these guys, they'd take us for a ten mile run. And right after breakfast, and some guy passed out, couldn't make it and fell down and they ran the platoon around and around him 'til he got back up. And they say, "Hey [ ] if he can't take it you don't want him next to you if you're in combat. Well, jeez, I couldn't see that but kid by the name of Tuckett, he's a Mormon, he was out there in Utah and he was shorter than I am and I used to look at him in front of me and say, "If he can make it I sure as hell can," and we got our wings and I looked at him and patted him on the back and shook his hand and says, "Tuckett," I says, "I gotta congratulate you for gettin me through school." And he says, "Why?" I says, "If you, little shit can do it, I could." He says, "You know what? I thought if I fell down, you big bastards stepped on me and that's the only reason I kept going." So he says, "I guess we got one another."

D: `Yes sir, no sir and no excuse sir.`

S: That's right.

D: Yeah. That's what the Marine Corps was like.

S: Right way, wrong way and the Marine Corps way. Yeah, there was a lot of good experiences, lot of bad things. I never thought much of friendship and that but now the older you get, the more melancholy you get. Like I said, I got a phone call today from Kent Stegner and when they come back from they went on and that and when they got back there, 'course they didn't get hit at Bougainville, when they come back the Marine Raiders had got into their sea packs and stole all their gear and stole Kent Stegner's razor. So Pete Hanson had an extra razor and gave it to Kent and he used it and they went through Iwo Jima together and Pete got shot up pretty bad over at Iwo but Kent always had his razor. He kept it, heh, heh; it was the old kind that twisted out and you know, the double-edged thing and ah, so just this winter, he mailed it back to Pete. He always took it toreunions and Pete never showed up and this was the first reunion that Pete showed up was this '93 and, and so Kent mailed it to him and he caught me today and he says, "By the way," he says, "mailed it to Pete told him and said get it fixed and send it back, the screws are all worn out and it don't work too good`." Ha, ha, that's after fifty years.

D: Yeah what does he want.

S: 'Course he said he never used it but just in service you couldn't get anything and that's the only thing he had. Pete had an extra one.

D: Tell me, where did you go through boot camp?

S: San Diego.

D: San Diego, most of the marines went through there.

S: Well, yeah. Oh, Parris Island was a big one too, but I went there and then I had jump school out at Gillespie out there. Parachute jump school, then we went to Camp Elliott, that was before those other camps were built.

D: What did you go across the ocean in?

S: The Mount Vernon, a converted luxury liner.

D: Mount Vernon.

S: Uh huh. And it seems like we were always standing in line waiting to go to chow. Two meals a day. They served so many guys up there it...

D: Oh, yeah, that was typical...

S: [ ]

D: Ten in the morning, four in the afternoon.

S: Yeah, start lining up already at noon to get there for the four [ ]. But we hit some rough weather one time and I know how those stanchions are, standin up hah, my tray disappeared down the line and when it come back [there was an apple on it] the apple was gone, I thought it rolled off. The next time it came someone says, "Jeez, that piece of cake went." I looked down and another guy and [ ] went back the other way as the ship rocked. Oh, my.

D: I came back from Europe on the S.S Marine Panther. It was an air-conditioned troop ship, run by the marines.

S: [ ] turn over. My first wife wouldn't believe it. My first wife. The bunks were so damn narrow that to turn over you had to get out in the aisle, turn over and get back in. And we were on a trip out there at Long Beach and we saw the Queen Mary out there, it showed where it's converted and I says, "Can you visualize somebody turning over in that bunk where they had the stanchions and bunks so close together? She realized yeah, you had to get out to turn over and slide back in there.

D: The two "Queens" took well over a million troops abroad. Just those two ships alone. "Course they were going to Europe.

S: They were going to Europe, yeah but now the one is out at Long Beach there. The first one.

D: So, have you got any other memories that strike you, that like, 'course how long were you on Bougainville before you got hit, or that was almost immediately?

S: Almost immediately when I got hit; yeah, we come in there that first couple of nights why we were getting ready to go up when two shells went over the top of us and that let us know what we were gettin into and we went up in there with that ...

D: Did you jump out of C47's?

S: No. DC3's and 4's. Yeah, C47, yeah. One of the funny jumps we had to, in rough weather [ ] what was happenin, oh, airsick, everybody's sick and throwin up, oh, id in front hooked on and slipped and fell down and cracked his suit, his chute, jumpmaster says, "Close 'er up so [ ] picked up his chute and I got it in my hands. [ ] slide through that stuff, boy, when we hit the deck the first thing - we were lucky - there was a little river there. Half the guys were in the river cleanin that stuff off of themselves. Aw that was another bad jump. I always said ever jumpmaster I ever was on, he didn't know his left foot from his right.

One other time that they jumped, was at the school [ ] jumpin; you were responsible for the man below you because he can't see up. We jumped over the runway and of course the hot asphalt, the air currents were goin up and all of a sudden I'm in silk all the way up to my armpits. Jeez, and I looked down and I spilled all the air out of Sellars suit, chute, Doug Sellars. He went down like a rock for about fifty feet or so and boy, my feet didn't touch the ground and those instructors were there and I had to take my chute off and I had [ ] maybe couple of miles from there and it was almost straight up hill, up and around the water tower and back. Wow.
Then one other time, we jumped [ ] oscillate and comin near, you're supposed to spread eagle so you don't go into the next guy's chute and get tangled up and two guys ride down on one chute. And [ ] he stuck one arm out and he come up with his nose no more than six inches away from me and he says, "Get the hell out of my way." And we were both lucky. He swung right out same way he went in without tangling up the shroud lines and collapsing my chute. When he touched the ground, those instructors were there and he went up and around the water tower. Those were the funny things that happened when we were jumpin in training.

When I was in boot camp, I stood there for about an hour and a half to two hours to, I can say I saw President Roosevelt go by in a touring car. It was`zoom`and he went by. It was hotter'n hell, guys were passin out, corpsman there, we just stood there with our winter greens on, oh was it hot. I can say I saw Roosevelt; I saw him go by in that open touring car and it was `wham` and he was gone.

D: Before you went to Bougainville it was...

S: New Caledonia.

D: Your were at New Caledonia before then.

S: Yeah, then Guadalcanal, then up to Bougainville.

D: Well Guadalcanal was kind of a staging point wasn't it? They secured that. I was wondering if you went into Guadalcanal prior to that.

S: It was secured. We used to get - we called 'em `pee call Charlie` come over [ ] was where we had most of that. They'd come over at night, bomb and put these scatter bombs out and that, and we'd hit the holes over there but that was that.

But I'll never forget [ ] boot and we'd start out and as all guys start up in those days, the D.I's had a swagger stick with a 50 caliber on the end of it. And I started out and he said, "Sohm, from now on you start out on your left one; that's the sore one." `Whock!' I got the swagger stick on my left foot, so I started out on my left foot every time after that. I limped for the next three days but I learned which foot you start to march with.

D: So you were a pretty young guy when you went in.

S: Yeah. twenty, twenty years old. I was 20.

Event World War II
Category 6: T&E For Communication
Object ID OH2001.13.5
Object Name Tape, Magnetic
People Sohm, Donald C.
Subjects World War II
Pacific Theater of Operations
United States Marine Corps
Marines (Military personnel)
Title Oral History Interview with Don Sohm
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Last modified on: December 12, 2009