Oral History Interview with Lawrence Dahlke

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Record 106/959
Copyright Oshkosh Public Museum
Classification Archives
Collection Gordon Doule
Dates of Accumulation 1993 - 1993
Abstract Cassette recorded oral history interview with Lawrence Dahlke by Gordon Doule. He discusses his experiences in the 182nd Infantry Regiment during World War II.

Lawrence Dahlke Interview
December 15, 1993
Conducted by Gordon Doule

{Initial L: stands for Dahlke and initial D: stands for Doule.}

L: You want my name huh? Lawrence Dahlke. The birthplace was Picketts, Wisconsin, Winnebago County, May 21, 1919. My wife's name was Margaret [ ], married May 12, 1941. I was a truck driver and I worked for Giddings and Lewis Machine & Tool for twenty five years. The children's names are: Dick, Diane, Debbie, Susan, Sandy and Cheryl.

I went to school in [ ] Center for eight years. My mother's maiden name is Alvina Miller and I've lived in Oshkosh eight years.

I was in the 182nd Infantry Division, the Americal Division. Three years I was [ ] approximately. And day I enlisted and was drafted was the 26th of March of 1943 and was discharged October 30th, 1945.

Well, the town has changed a lot after I left for the service. I served in the South Pacific from Guadalcanal to the invasion of Cebu and thirty days in Japan.

D: Where did you go Larry, after they called you up. You were at [ ] I guess. Where did you go for boot camp? Give a run down on that if you will.

L: Well I went to Little Rock, Arkansas and shortly after I got there, we had a flood down there. And we had to sand bag the river to keep it from flooding Little Rock, Arkansas. And from there I went to California, I forget the name of the camp, I went overseas from there.

D: Where did you go first when you went overseas then?

L: I went to New Caledonia when I went overseas. That was the first place - New Caledonia. From New Caledonia I went to Fiji Island which is a beautiful island….

D: Excuse me but when you were at New Caledonia, what happened to you there? Was there any fighting going on …

L: There was no fighting or anything. I was trans…. I was 182nd Infantry. And there were stationed at that time in Fiji Island and that's why I joined them and our supply ships [ ] cut out there and we had to go ahead and eat all native foods.

D: This was the beautiful Fiji Islands, huh?

L: From there we went to Bougainville.

D: Oh, Bougainville.

L: We spent pretty near a year or more on the front lines. And we went on from there…

D: Before you go on from there, you're leaving out some important stuff. What happened on Bougainville. You were there for a whole year.

L: [ ] Well, one of the things I never could figure out and I haven't heard anything, they had a volcano there. That volcano would be [ ] but the minute we'd open up with artillery that volcano would start erupting.

D: For goodness sakes.

L: We lost a lot of our men on that island.

D: Yeah. Even from the volcano?

L: No. Not from the volcano. There was no… casualties from the Japanese. And then when we left there, we had to go up to the front lines in Leyte.

D: But can you go a little bit farther on some of the instances. Maybe you remember some of the things that happened to you on still, when you were still on Bougainville. Do you remember any like for example…

L: Well, I would [ ]. I was on two or three burial details. And after I'd gone out on the fifth one, we'd take the dog tag off of one, put it on a stick, throw a little dirt over them, shove the stick up and ordinance would come along and pick 'em up afterwards. After I see that, I wrote home to my folks, I wrote home to my wife. I said, "If I pass away here, never ask for my body to be sent back, because you won't know who you're getting." Because the way we buried 'em, you don't know, you pick up a few bones and your dog tag and that is it. I wrote to both of them. Not to have my body ever to have to be brought back. Lot of guys got killed over there.

D: How many men out of your platoon for example… Do you remember some of those fellows that 'bought it' as we always used to say; when somebody got killed that they'd bought it? How about your own individual platoon. Do you remember some of the guys that you fought with?

L: Well, most of 'em they was from Boston, Massachusetts. There were a lot of them that I learned to be friends and stuff with. But ah, we lost most of 'em over there.

D: Out of your platoon, would you say that half of them were killed, and you got a lot of replacements, I imagine?

L: Oh, yeah.

D: From time to time. Did the platoon get almost all killed and then another…

L: Well, we lost pretty near half of 'em. In Leyte. Then we got the replacements in and then we went into the invasion of Cebu. And then from our company, I was one of seven that was left. In our company.

D: Wow. That's not a very big percentage, is it? [ ] 14 percent. Well, …

L: We went in under strength, that I've gotta admit. Went in under strength and we lost a lot of guys [ ] and Leyte when we was there.

D: Of course, Bougainville that was still in New Guinea, wasn't it?

L: Yeah. [ ] Well there we had the New Zealand Air Force with us. On Bougainville. [ ] In fact, I ran into some very good friends ah, and ah, they was married then and their wives couldn't get this and that, New Guinea weather, so I would write home to my wife and she would go ahead and send stuff over to them, what they couldn't buy over there.

D: Oh. In Australia.

L: No. In New Guinea.

D: I mean to their wives.

L: Yeah. [ ] in New Guinea.

D: Oh yeah, o.k.

L: Not New Guinea, New Zealand. [ ] It was their air force that was with us.

D: She was sending gift packages to these fellows' wives. New Zealand. Oh…

L: It was stuff they couldn't buy. My wife would get it here in the 'states and then she would send it over to them in New Zealand.

D: Sure. Well, after the war, did you keep any correspondence going with any of them?

L: I have letters and stuff that we corresponded back and forth. And ah, then my wife passed away sixteen years ago and I don't know what happened. [ ]

D: You kinda lost track.

L: I lost track.

D: That's too bad. [ ] You'd probably still like to keep up with those…

L: I often wished I could get back over to New Zealand.

D: Did you go over there also…

L: No I never was there. I'd sure like to have gotten there.

D: They say it's a very beautiful country. And those Anzaks or Aussies and so forth were pretty high caliber guys, weren't they? Good fighters.

L: When I was in New Caledonia, I was only sixty miles from Australia.

D: That's right. You know most people don't realize how close that fighting was to Australia and New Zealand.

L: I got a son in law that a couple months ago come back from Australia. And he's supposed to go to, to New Zealand. He's with Mercury Marine in Fond du Lac and they've been having problems with this and that and he's been over there trying to straighten out the problems.

D: Wouldn't it be nice if you could locate the addresses of some of those fellows?

L: Yeah. Well I've looked through [ ] and I suppose the kids threw the stuff out afterwards. I've gone through everything and I cannot find these addresses and stuff from New Zealand [ ] were very good friends.

D: Well that's very sad and that's one of the reasons I'm asking you to do this because this won't be lost. Fellows that went through an awful lot of fighting like you did - a hundred years from now, somebody's going to be able to listen to your voice telling them about how you made out.

Now getting back a little bit to after you left Bougainville and went to Leyte, ah, that was a part of the Philippines of course [ ] Leyte Bay and there was some real tough fighting going on there. Maybe you could reminisce a little bit about what happened in the fighting there at Leyte.

L: Well, you see we got there and well we got off and invaded the island [ ] wade in, well we got in and the next morning we was supposed to go out to the front lines. And ah, so ah, I knew my brother was there so I went and I asked to go ahead and make contact with my brother and we could see one another. And so we spent the evening together and the next morning I went back to the outfit and we had to go up to the front lines. When we got done there we was supposed to leave for the invasion of Cebu and so we was [ ] out to the ship where it was stationed again. So I asked to be in the first echelon to go aboard the ship. And I could see my brother before we left. So we spent the night together and the next morning he left for Manilla and the air force and we boarded the ship and we went for the invasion of Cebu. We both left the same morning from Leyte.

D: My goodness. Here are a couple of brothers half way around the world ah…

L: Well we seen one another twice.

D: Well that's wonderful. That's really wonderful. Now tell me just a little bit about the landings there at Leyte. Did you run into a lot of opposition from the Japanese? I know that there was some trouble with the tides and so forth. In Leyte Gulf.

L: Well we didn't have too much trouble with [ ] or anything else from the Japanese. When we went ashore and that was it and, I don't recall, I don't think we had any casualties going in.

D: O.K. And were you there for quite awhile ah, before you then left to go to Cebu?

L: Well we went from there about thirty days. We was on the front lines there and ah, and I forget from there [ ] how many, we lost quite a few of our men.

D: In your citation.

L: Yeah.

D: The landings in Cebu; were they pretty difficult? Were you under a lot of fire there?

L: That wasn't too bad. It was under cover of darkness when we went in.

D: Was it a mountainous island?

L: Yeah. It was mountainous, all mountains.

D: The Japanese were shootin down at you, right?

L: Well in fact ah, to be honest with ya, I was one of the seven that was left in our company and we hadda go ahead and clear up the island. After they surrendered. And ah, [ ] it was, to set up a machine gun and I sprayed thirteen hospitals plus over one hundred barracks. We asked them to come out and nobody come out. We set the machine gun up and we sprayed the beds. Then we went on to the next one. We did that with seven hospitals plus over a hundred barracks. Now if we killed anybody, I don't know.

D: Well, you gave 'em a chance to come out with their hands up and…

L: That's right. Nobody ever come out and surrendered.

D: You're sure as heck didn't want them coming out when your backs were turned.

L: That's right. So we asked 'em to come out and they didn't come out so we just set up the machine gun and sprayed the beds and that was it.

D: They would have done worse to us I'm sure. If things had been reversed. Well then how long were you there then at Cebu cleaning up and all that sort of thing?

L: Well, we left right away. We were the first troops that landed in Japan. For guarding McArthur's headquarters.

D: Oh, I see. Then from Cebu you went right to Japan. The surrender had taken place and that pretty well… Now tell me a little bit about what happened to you while you were in Japan. Did they treat you halfway decently or…

L: Well, ah, I can't really say too much. I was ah, in charge of the barracks ah, where all our equipment was while the guys was unloading the ships. And about 11 o'clock that night, here I had two guys from our outfit come back in, packs on their back, rifles ready, [ ] "Well, we was to Tokyo." "What the heck you want in Tokyo?" We got us a [ ] for [ ] they says.

D: They got a?

L: They got a woman. For a little jar of jam.

D: For goodness sake.

L: Then they come back and want to lay down and go to sleep. I should know. I said, "Put your packs here." And I says, "Get out there. If you want to lay down out there and go to sleep, go ahead, but you're not sleeping in this warehouse here." So they put their packs down, and their rifles, and I don't know if they did anything or not.

D: Yeah. When you landed in, when you landed in Japan, did you land fairly close to Tokyo?

L: I think it was about forty miles from Tokyo. Yokohama is where we landed.

D: Oh, you landed at Yokohama.

L: Yeah, we landed at Yokohama.

D: That's a pretty good sized city.

L: Yeah. And [ ] we go there and we was in charge of unloading the ships and a hundred and sixty four that was [ ] our barracks. [ ] Where we wanta move into. When we got done unloading, and we got up there and jeez, the next morning, the barracks were out in the wheat, out in the rice paddies. What the world's wrong? Bed bugs were so bad that they couldn't stay. In the barracks. They had to go out in the rice paddy. And luck would have it, I had a bunch of the [ ] and stuff that we had for killin bugs and everything.

So, I didn't have no trouble there but then they wanted volunteers for guardin McArthur's headquarters. So I volunteered for that and we went back to Yokohama to guard his headquarters and ah, we got down there and then they wanted to if somebody could bake. Well, nobody knew how to bake. Well I says, "I tell ya, you give me a cookbook and I'll try. We'll see what happens." So I'd start about 10 o'clock at night and get done about seven in the morning. And all I did was bake bread, cookies and this and that for 450 men. I baked for 450 men.

D: You learned fast.

L: Yeah. In fact I brought a lot of those recipes back home. [ ]

D: And how long were you in Japan before they finally shipped you back to the 'States?

L: Thirty days.

D: About thirty days.

L: Yeah. And ah, in fact they wanted to give me First Sergeant rating. Ah, when I was in Japan. Well then that means I'd have to stay longer. And I wanted to get back home to my wife and son.

D: Yeah.

L: I'd been gone long enough. I turned into [ ]. I did afterwards; I should have taken it and been a lot more for mustering out pay.

D: Yeah. Well then ah, tell me a little bit about what happened to you when you got back to the 'States, you know. What was the routine, where did you go?

L: Well, we were supposed to fly home from Japan and we [ ] this typhoon. The typhoon season was arriving so we finally had to board a ship and come back through Alaska. And then back home to California. And we got to California and they put us on a train to come up here to Camp McCoy where we got discharged from.

D: That in Sparta?

L: Well near Sparta. And in fact [ ] my wife and my brother-in-law who'd been in service with me. Him and [ ] he got out before I did. And ah, he could be going in before I did. [ ] him and his wife and my wife come up and picked me up and we come back [ ] town up here and we stopped and stayed overnight in a hotel and took off next morning and come home. [ ] Markesan at that time.

D: Now ah, how do you, how do you think that your war experiences affected your life later. You know after you got back. What do you think that those experiences that you went through, ah, how did it change your life from what it was before you went?

L: Well I'll tell you one thing, I never did care about a gun. I never cared about guns. I never bought a license in my life. I never owned a gun in my life. The only guns I ever owned was in the war and ah, in fact I was in a machine-gun section and I carried a '45. And when I left Japan to come home, they had a hole in the wall; I threw the '45 into the wall and I left it there. I never even brought it home.

D: Well I suppose did you have, I suppose this is a question that many people have asked you; did, obviously when you're in fighting you had to kill somebody. And if you killed somebody, that might turn you off on guns.

L: Well, I don't know if I ever did or not.

D: You don't really know.

L: No. I do not know.

D: Maybe when you were spraying those hospital beds…

L: Well, the hospital, I sprayed them but if I killed anybody I [ ].I don't know if I ever killed anybody.

D: Yeah that would sour you on…

L: [ ] But I never cared for guns and…

D: Did you care for them before you went in?

L: No. I didn't care [ ]

D: You weren't a hunter or …

L: No. No, I never bought a hunting license in my life.

D: I don't hunt anymore either.

L: Ha, ha. Like my dad used to have a shotgun, this and that. They had 22 cal. rifles and stuff but I never cared for 'em.

D: It's all in what you're interested in.

L: At home, my youngest brother, he liked the guns again. And the one time I remember my dad went to Ripon and my youngest brother went along with him. And he come home and jeez he went out in the field and he was shooting a 22 rifle all the time. [ ] "What the heck, where did you get those shells?" And he said, "I stole 'em." My dad says, "You just take the rest of them, put them back in the box. You get in the car. I'm takin' you back." He took him back where he stole those shells in the store, and he had to go in and confess and give 'em back those shells. Well, he never stole anything after that.

D: That's back in the "good old days" when the parents took care of us when we did something wrong. We didn't just get away with it like [ ] today…

L: Well, he stole 'em and he admitted it to my dad and my dad made him go back and [ ] to the store and admit that he stole 'em and give him back the rest of the shells.

D: Now to just kind of wrap this up ah, I suppose that when you got back to[ ] you bumped into some of your buddies that you had buddies prior to the war. Did you run into a few of those fellows and sit around and gab a little bit and tell them a little bit about the…

L: No I didn't [ ] I come back here and [ ] in the Air Force and then he got out of the Air Force right away and ah, I belong to the American Legion [ ] in there. And ah, we had this ah, [ ] that [ ] there. He was [ ]. Then the first Decoration - Memorial Day, he wanted to and it was hot, oh terrible hot and we had our uniforms on and everything. And he went and give us [ ] and we marched. And then we went to [ ] and marched there and we hadda come back to [ ] and ah, this was right around noon. And it was hot, boy it was [ ]. Then he give us close order drill. On Main Street. Well, that was the last parade I was to or anything else.

D: You do belong to the VFW here in Oshkosh. Now do you belong to the Legion too?

L: Yeah. [ ] Yeah.

D: Well, I guess this is about it then, ah. Ah, Larry I sure appreciate and ah, we're ah making this on the fifteenth day of December 1943, rather 1993, excuse me. Next year is going to be a big year because it's the 50th anniversary of the D-Day landings. [ ] I appreciate everything you've told us and ah I'm sure that people in the, and ah, people in the future are going to be doggone happy that there was a guy named Lawrence Dahlke around to share his experiences with them.
Event World War II
Category 6: T&E For Communication
Object ID OH2001.13.12
Object Name Tape, Magnetic
People Dahlke, Lawrence
Subjects World War II
United States Army
Pacific Theater of Operations
Title Oral History Interview with Lawrence Dahlke
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