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Record 109/959
Cassette recorded oral history interview with Joseph Boyce by Gordon Doule. He discusses his experiences in the Marine Corps during World War II. Interview with Joseph Boyce 12-16-93 Conducted by Gordon Doule D: O.K. Go right ahead. B: Okay. My age? Seventy two, August 18th. I was born in Oshkosh and my wife's name, her maiden name was Kosup. Elizabeth Kosup. D: K-O-S? B: U-P. We were married in September 11th, 1948. Ah, occupation? Pshew God! Common labor. I done everything from soup to nuts so… D: Nothin wrong with that. B: A jack of all trades. Master of none. I built my own house. I run a crane. I worked at the paper mill. I done everything at American Excelsior except run the turbine and work in the office. So there isn't - I worked as a mason - well don't forget ah. Children's names, ah I have two. Thomas and Julie. I went to grade school over at St. John's parochial school. Catholic school. My mother's maiden name…. D: Did you go to high school? B: Oh yeah. I graduated from St. Peters High School. 1939. My mother's maiden name, Ellen Molash. M_O_L_A_S_H. D: How long have you lived in Oshkosh? B: All my life. I had three opportunities to move. I said I was born in Oshkosh and I'm goin home. That was it. D: [ ] You were in how long? You went in in January…. {here there is an exchange which cannot be made out with any clarity}. You went in in '42, didn't you? B: Yeah. August 8th. D: You got out sometime in '45. B: Yeah. Four months after Iwo Jima. D: What do you remember most about Oshkosh? Before you enlisted? B: Ah, well actually….. what you think of your personal life? I wasn't afraid of anything. I could prowl around nights. I would, I worked four [ ] doors while in high school at the Dixie Cream Doughnut Shop. Four doors from the Raulf Hotel. "Made in sight by men in white." I would go to high school and I would walk home from Main Street to down behind the Sacred Heart Church at two o'clock in the morning. And I would go to school the next morning, for a quarter an hour. You tell that to kids today. D: Twenty five cents an hour. B: Twenty five…. And if we had a blizzard, the guy who owned the shop says, "If you help me deliver doughnuts, I'll give you a ride home." So we didn't get home until six o'clock in the morning because we were pushing that truck through the snowbanks. And that's the way it went. That was one of the things. You couldn't buy a job around the City of Oshkosh. We had W.P.A. There was no place for to find a job. I worked for ah, fifty cents a day and I worked for a nickel an hour pulling mustard in fields for ten hours a day. I husked corn for farmers for three cents a bushel. Ah, we used to play in the river. We lived by the 'Badger.' And I learned to swim in the Fox River here. In the Wolf River by the Badger Lumber Company. And we never lost a fellow there. My parents forbid us to swim in the quarry which meant absolutely nothing. When the rest went, I went too. So, that was the only, as long as we could swim. D: The stone quarry. B: [ ] D: I remember. B: Oh yeah. Ah, we would borrow, well we [ ] lived up on the other end of the marsh. They always had a skiff or two. In the spring of the year, we used to spear pickerel. Would come home with a gunny sack full of pickerel. And everybody had fish during the depression. We kids went out and speared. Later on we had more game wardens out there than we did have pickerel. We'd have to go out on our hands and knees but we still did get a few pickerel. We used to go up to Waukau and spear carp. And we would smoke carp, clean carp all day and then we'd smoke em. And then we'd sell em for a nickel apiece. It'd be about a pound, about a nickel a pound. Ah, and if things got real good, we could sell six pieces for a quarter. And my mother always seemed to have one of her brothers at our house that was in tough shape. So plus my dad workin ten hours a day for forty cents an hour, we also would help feed my brother, my mother's brothers. The poor souls didn't have any money so what money us kids got for selling carp, he'd usually end up buying cigarettes or a bottle of booze and we got nothing out of it. So that was one of the low points and when I think of it to this day I still get angry about the whole thing. D: What was different about Oshkosh when you got back? B: Ah, the young fellows were, I had a job prior to this when I left Oshkosh. I come back and I went down to the factory and ah, 'you can start in the morning'. They needed a lot of help. No, no, no, no. I'm going to take a vacation. I'm going to take at least a week off. But these other guys were what, looking for these 52/26, or these 52 weeks of unemployment. But none of the young guys wanted to work. They were all gonna get their unemployment for, I don't know, how long was it? Twenty six weeks or something like that before they look for a job? They weren't gonna look for a job. And there were a lot of jobs because at that time the war took all the young fellows out and everybody was doing laying off this business of production but they didn't have the help. [ ] the taverns. We were entitled to go into the taverns and every night the taverns were full, and we did drink a few. We had a few high faluttin times. I wanted to buy a car. I saved my money during the war because I had no place to spend it. I drew five dollars a month on my payroll and I got the five dollar bill, I might just as well throw it away for there's no place to spend it in the jungle. Ah, everything we needed was given to us. If we didn't need it, they didn't give it to us. Ah, so I let 'er ride on the books. Then when I came home, I had $2700.00. I wanted a car. You couldn't buy a car for love nor money. There was no way. My third youngest brother was down in the Army. I'm the oldest. I was in the Marine Corps. The one next to me, he was two years younger, he was in the Navy. And the other one, he was in the Army. So we fought many a battle in the kitchen at home. But he was still in camp down in Clarksville, Tennessee and he said his sergeant had a car he wanted to sell. Well I come down, well I wasn't doin anything and I had a pocket full of money then. I went down to see him. I wouldn't take the car if he gave it to me. And I come home and looked around, you couldn't buy a car. Walkin' down Main Street, where it used to be Koepke's. And right behind Koepke's across from Dunham Fulton by the railroad track there was [ ] that had a garage. And in there, I stuck my head in there and they had a '41 club coupe convertible up on a rack. They were polishing it after giving it a fresh coat of paint. That was the most beautiful thing I ever seen in my life. And I say, "You wanna sell that car?" And he says, "No, I wanna save that for my boy. He's coming home from the service." "How much would you have to have if you wanted to sell it?" "I'd have to have at least $1700.00." Well I went right home, got $1700.00, put it in my hip pocket, I went back down, I says, "Hey mister, you want to sell that car now? Here's your $1700.00." He gave me the car. Boy, I was the happiest guy in the country. About the only '41 club coupe Buick convertible I ever seen, the directional lights were built in. You had push button antenna. And you had a push button the top went up and come down. That was a high class car. And ah, she went about 95 after four beers but I never went any further than that. Ah, I thought that would be enough. And ah… D: So that's what you really, that was the most spectacular thing, [ ] the car. Okay, now if we could ah, I didn't ask you this but I already knew it, but you were a member of the Marine Corps. B: Oh, yeah. D: I had written this down but I didn't ask you on the tape. B: Actually I was in the Marine Corps Reserve. But I didn't know that until later on. Ah, when I went in there, when I was in CCC camp, ah, I got fed up digging ditches. That's no job for me. If you folks wanna dig ditches, you go right ahead. And they needed a [ ] educational advisor. You had W.P.A. teachers there. They were civilians and Harold Davies was in charge of the three teachers. They needed a new person to take over and they hadda be from outa the camp. So I offered and I had my high school education. Okay. So that was fine and dandy. Well, we had two woman teachers there and one wanted me to continue to go to school. So I took up about four months of English. Boy, I never wrote so many - what would you call 'em - stories, etc., etc., in all of my life as I, that's enough of that. I just quit. And then we got 50 boys, Italian boys from Chicago. It was either reform school or CCC camp. They sent 'em up to us in northern Wisconsin. They couldn't sign the payroll because they couldn't write their own name. I hadda teach 'em how to write their name. Now here I am, eighteen years old and I got a bunch of boys here I should call, and they are rough characters. And you learn how to get along with people. Up there. And I taught 'em one at a time. I hadda get the spelling out of the office because there was no way in heck I could ever spell their names. Some of those names were eight, ten letters long. I finally got 'em all to sign the payroll so they could get their pay. We hadda get along up there and I was, funny I didn't get killed. D: This was before the war. B: Before the war. And then ah, what did you have? You had a group of Polacks, you had a group of Finlanders, you had a group of Norwegians, you had a group of Swedes, throw in the Italian boys up there, and you talk about cultures and segregation; each little group hung by itself. All [ ] there was dance hall. That's all they had. You go to a dance on Saturday night, the trucks would take us there. If you met the Polacks and the Swedes there, they didn't like to be together. A fight would be on. Because every time you got two of them groups together outside the camp, a fight would be on. The Finlanders were awful good with a knife. The Polacks, they were kinda good at lending money. You could borrow fifty cents if you swore on a stack of Bibles and you give em your left arm. Then the pay, you'd have to pay them a dollar, fifty cents interest back. Ah, so you learned to live and I learned at a very young age how to get along with people. When to back up and when to go ahead. D: Now, then, I kinda lost you a little bit. Now when you went into the service… B: I go off the… D: Oh, that's okay. That's good. I like it. I like it. Go right ahead. You signed up and you went to Milwaukee. B: Yeah. That's true. D: And you want to tell about that, ah? B: Ah, When we signed up from Milwaukee, this other fellow was six months older than I was. Florian [ ] He was from Mellon Wisconsin. And ah, we, the sergeant there, be sure to get us on the train. With our sheet of vouchers and right away the porters knew who we were. We were recruits and we could only have this and we could only do that. Because our vouchers only covered so much. I was very fortunate. [ ] I went one way and he went the other way. We only met at out Pullman once or twice in the night time. I met three salesmen, two men and a woman. I don't know how we got to talking. Well, for one thing, I looked like heck. I had a green suit on with a white tee shirt with Oshkosh on it. 'Oh, you have beer there.' [ ] We got four breweries. We're the {best] beer in the state. In fact, the country. Well, they took me under their wing because my voucher for food at the price in the dining car, I don't think I could'a got a whole sandwich for what they allowed me. I never paid for another thing. I didn't have no money to start with. I didn't have any money. They bought all my meals. I couldn't have a drink though. No way. Because the porter or, the guy who was in charge of the dining car, he must have known about us too, and he [ ]. And somewhere, I think it was Reno, Nevada, we got off for ten or fifteen minutes. They had a U.S.O. and they gave us coffee and doughnuts. To the servicemen. There was only about eight or ten on that train. They were all going out there. And they had slot machines, the first ones I ever seen. I think I put in a dime and I hit a jackpot. And I was scooping it up and I had a bottle of beer on the bar. The guy didn't know who I was. And he saw Oshkosh Beer. "You make Oshkosh Beer?´ I says, "Yeah, that's bad. Don't drink that stuff. Drink water." Well, Rahr's never shipped it out of the city. So Rahr's is the beer we drank there. Yeah we got good beer. And I says, okay, give him a drink. I says, "There's some change there." [ ] I had to get out to the train. The train was pulling out. I don't know just where it was, right outside of Reno or somewhere. A train come and hooked up with us and we got involved with a bunch of kids from the south and the salesmen said, "Now you watch these boys from the south. They're an awful dirty crew. I didn't meet any of them so I didn't actually know what they was talkin about. They were a bunch of hillbillies; I can tell you that. We went to wash, in that little dinky washroom you got in the car, And they were sittin up there soaking their feet in the sink while we were trying to shave and there was a you know it was a crummy mess. They messed up that end of the car about the first hour after they came aboard. They weren't really bad, I met a couple and got along good. I got along good with people. I knew the right people to pick and which ones not to pick. And [ ] I got along pretty good in the service. Couple of sergeants that hated my guts but generally speaking, got along pretty good. D: Then where did you go on that train? B: Went right out to L.A. The minute we stepped off the train, we had our papers in our hand, and the M.P.s picked us up and put us in another car. And there was about 40 or 50. They were coming in from different directions. And they sent us right down to Sad Diego. In San Diego, they had trucks. Oh, God, there must have been 80 to a hundred then. D: That's where you went through boot camp? B: That's where I went…. D: Oh yeah. And that's still a navy boot camp, I think. Well tell me a little bit about what happened to you during boot camp? B: Ah, I think the second day… Number one, I was in very good physical condition. I worked at American Excelsior and I handled [ ]. Cut 55 inches long from four to any dimension in diameter. They weighed from three to three hundred pounds and we wrestled them all day on loaded boxcars. A kid 19 years old and I was skinny. I was bone and muscle. And what they were doin to me was actually kids play. It was fun. The obstacle course, that was a joke! And these kids, they couldn't climb through a barb wire fence. Well they're coming from the big cities. There's a different ball game. I think the kids from the mid west had the advantage over these other people. We lived a different physical life. We, I hunted ever since I was 12 years old. I fished, I lived in the river. And I went through high school and played basketball. I was in CC camp. I had the preliminary for that. I knew, I realized what the army life was about a little bit. You shut your mouth and you don't talk to the wrong people. I knew that prior to that. D: ' Yes, sir; no sir and no excuse sir.' B: There was no yes, sir; no sir. 'No, sarge; no corporal.' One day the commandant came through. And ah, what the heck was it, oh I guess ah, the kid didn't salute him or something. He come through, come through with a set of dungarees on. People didn't recognize him. And he told this kid, he say, "Don't you salute your superior officer?" "Who the hell are you?" he says, "You ain't got no stripes on you." Oh, that was the end of that. You don't say 'yes, sir; no, sir to any more corporals or pfc's or sergeants after that. You said, "Yes sir" when somebody had something on their shoulder. That was the end of that right then and there. It all happened overnight. Well some of these kids took it very hard out there. Ah, we had physical exercise every day. I learned one thing. I don't care how good you are, there's always somebody better. There was a, we used to have to spar around with those 16 ounce boxing gloves on. I never liked those pillows to start with. Up in CC camp, we had a couple professional fighters. They were under 140 pounds. But I used to spar with [ ] they'd kill ya. I mean they could walk all over ya but I used to spar with them. And we had a little guy by the name of Klingerman. He always wanted to put the gloves on with me. I don't know why. To this day I don't know if he had something against me or not. Anyway [ ] we had 16 men in a platoon. We would pair up, put the boxing gloves on, then we would fight. Well, hell, by the time I got my last one tied, he went up the front of me, he went down the back of me, my nose was bleedin', I had a cut on my cheek. Here I am, trying to get them gloves on. And Fitzgerald come along, a buddy of mine; he [ ] I said, "That little son of a bitch, he went up the front of me, the back of me. I'll kill the little bastard!" I was used to street fighting, I woulda killed him right then and there. And I said, "Get these offa me. I'll get him, I'll get him." "You can't do that," he say, "they'll lock you up." He says, "Gimme your gloves." I give him my gloves. I never seen a kid take a pounding like that Klingerman did. It turned out Fitzgerald was a professional boxer from San Francisco. I think Mr. Klingerman learned something. And later on I found out that Klingerman was a Golden Gloves champ out of Detroit. Now isn't that some combination? So you gotta watch it. And then, out there in bayonet practice, we had the [ ] We had bayonets every day. Well, I never believed whopping somebody if they had… That's foolish. You hurt somebody. Then one day I had a little guy against me, Peterson. And I touched him gently with the butt. I didn't wanna hurt him. And here he comes, diving at me. I parried a little bit and damn if he didn't poke me in the ribs. Holy gosh, I couldn't breathe and [ ] some air. So I told the D.I. "Ah go over to sick bay. You're bangin off anyway." Okay, I went over to sick bay and and [ ] "Christ, you got a couple of cracked ribs there. Ah, we'll fix that. We'll tape you up." They put tape on me about that wide. Oh, they taped me up tight. Next day out on the drill field, we drilled. For five to seven hours a day, you know. Here we're marchin down this blue line and oh boy, I can't catch my breath. The water's boilin' offa me. The platoon sergeant, he stops the platoon, 'right face, at ease.' He says, "Boyce, what the hell's the matter with you?" "I can't breath." "Why?" "I'm all taped up." He says, "What do you mean?" I says, "I got some cracked ribs." "Lift up you sweat shirt." I did. He took hold of that gol damned tape and gave it a jerk and he spun me around about three times. "Can you breathe now?" "Ya, I can breathe now." "Get back in line." And away we went. And I never had any more tape on. That was the end of that. I learned another lesson there. That was about the extent of it but the platoon sergeant was in the paratroopers and he cracked an ankle. He always thought he could get back in, so he kept in shape. And there was this [ ]. Every night we ran down to the bay. To watch the ships come in. They had the navy ships coming and going all the time. So we'd run. We was always in pretty good condition. But like I said, we would have ah, we would have endurance contests. We had them overseas too. Out of 200 guys I would be one of the 8 or 10 that was almost up there, physically and yet the skinniest. [ ] It didn't really make any difference there. It was just the way we were. Brought up and other guys couldn't. Some I felt sorry for. D: When you got through with boot camp, then where did you go? B: Okay. From boot camp, I saw the movie, "Blue Angels" or something. I wanted to be a radio gunner in a SBD, one of those dive bombers. Fine and dandy. When they started throwing the Morse code at me, I didn't know a dit from a dot and in about four seconds, out. That was the end of my career as a radio operator. I never heard 'em before. [ ] And then, I came out of CCC camp, and I could type pretty good on the typewriter. And they wanted to make me a company clerk. "Oh, you'll be a top sergeant in less than six months to a year." "I don't wanna be a top sergeant. Give me my rifle and let me go. I wanna be in the infantry." I didn't hear any more about it. About 11 o'clock one night, "Everybody fall out. Full gear. You're travelling." We loaded our sea bags, we put on our uniforms and they had a whole convoy of trucks. There was about 14 sergeants out, they was calling names off in all directions. There was about six [ ] I'll take that back. After boot camp we had one month. Every third platoon had one month at the rifle range [ ]. We spent two weeks, I think it was two weeks at the rifle range. I was a pretty good shot. When they got through with me, I couldn't do nothin. Their method of shooting and my method was too different. And their method was correct. Mine was no good. I had sergeants stand on my back, kick me in the rear end, pound my head in the dirt and everything else. But I qualified. I qualified. I was mad because kids that never saw a rifle before were shootin expert. Because they were taught the right way. They never seen a rifle. I got by. I qualified. That was all that was necessary. It made me mad that I couldn't be a sharpshooter. But anyway, getting back, on these trucks. They loaded up one truck. They threw me on that truck and we drove all night long. There was about three or four trucks together. They went in all different directions, these trucks. I didn't know where they was goin. We ended up in Chocolate Mountains. In the artillery range. Ah, and we sat there for a few days ah, oh a couple hundred of us. We were from different batteries. But the full complement was gonna be made up with us. The division was coming in from the east coast and we was gonna be thrown in as the replacements. Well I made two mistakes right then and there. The first one is walking in the top sergeant's office and asking him for a transfer. You never ask for a transfer out of the artillery. You are nothing after that, absolutely nothing. The gunnery sergeant and I, I thought I was the only guy he hated. After the 44th reunion down in St. Louis, I found he didn't get along with anybody, officers or enlisted men. He called me every name in the book. After he got to be the [ ]. Okay, we was supposed to become automatically sergeants within six months. We never got any stripes. "There ain't gonna be no transfers. You get in the gun section and you get a stripe." [ ] We never got any stripes. We were there, September, October, November, December, a little over two months. On New Years Eve, Christmas, New Years, Christmas we had a rainstorm you wouldn't believe out there. Knocked all our tents flat. [ ] That was right out by [ ] by the Salton Sea, in the Imperial Valley. That's where they grow all the vegetables for the winter time. The trucks came to town and picked us up. "All Marines aboard trucks." We went back to camp and they moved us out six o'clock in the morning. We didn't know where we were going. We had everything we owned and we went to San Diego and we boarded, aboard ship. We couldn't talk to [ ] couldn't do nothing. Strictly secret, secret, secret and that was it. We were aboard ship. And we got aboard the U.S.S. [ ] a luxury liner. D: What was that"? B: The U.S.S. [ ] a luxury liner. D: [ ] B: [ ] That was one of them from the Mariposa Line. The Monterrey, the Mariposa, the [ ]. I would like to have seen that in peacetime. That was a beautiful ship. Well, everybody had to have a job there, the troops, because they had no. They was a merchant marine ship. You had no guards, no escorts. Because I don't know, they said if you go 32 knots an hour but I think that's pretty damn fast. I'd like to see that myself. I'd like to see that; boy she vibrated after dark… D: And she went over without an escort. B: We didn't have an escort. In the daytime we [ ]. In the nighttime, we made a beeline. Holy man! Boy, varoom, varoom, .. D: You were blacked out anyway. B: Oh, we were blacked out but she was just a vibrating from one end to the other. But ah, need a couple of boys with the spudlocker. And hell, I ain't gonna sit up there on the topside with a 50 cal. machine gun watch. Hell, I had enough of that machine gun watch. I'll go in the spudlocker. There was only two of us. This George [ ] he come along with me [ ] the two of us; he went down [ ] Filipino [ ] This Filipino, I didn't know if he was 20 or if he was 50. They all looked alike to me. And what did we do? We open a bag of spuds, we throw em in the spud peeler and they come out over here already peeled. In about 15 minutes we had enough spuds peeled that we could feed a thousand men. That was it. "Hey, what do you guys have to eat? "You like steak?" "Yeah, we like steak." "You like strawberries?" "Yeah, we like strawberries." "We like everything." {Laughter}. He got us anything we wanted. We had a good time then. D: Then where did you head for? B: Then where did we go? We went to New Zealand. And I'll never forget that, when we came in, that channel. I tried to find it on the maps but I, well it's been so long ago but there were porpoises everywhere. That was the prettiest thing I ever seen. There was [ ] straight up and down along the ship and the porpoises were just a playing games with us. That was nice. And then we landed at Auckland. And then ah, from there we went to Port… I couldn't tell you how far that is from Auckland. Within 90 miles. [ ] I got some [ ] But ah, that was our camp and they all little A-frames . They looked like all little pig huts or whatever you want to call em. Pig pens. But they were A-frames with a kerosene burner in there. We came during the wet season. And ah, three of us in there. And we didn't do much because of the rainy season. We did have a little drilling. But what they did do was make us hike. We had to have, oh two 60 mile hikes and three 40 mile hikes. That was the worst thing they could have done to these young fellas. Their shoes and feet were wet. And you get wet socks and wet feet and it just pulls the meat right off the hide. We had more guys crippled up with them hikes than anything else. I don't know who came up with that idea. Was the poorest thing that ever came up. That's the way she went. Then they went on a…. D: Somebody that didn't have to do it themselves. B: Well, [ ] he gave the order. He went to the officer's mess and had a few bottles of scotch. Ah, when they went to shoot, they didn't take us along. We had to stay in camp, five or six of us. Kinda protect the camp and we had a guard but we didn't need much of a guard there. And I'll be a son of a gun, I got transferred. Into an M.P. company. Who in the heck done that? The gunnery sergeant. That's the one that loved us so well. [ ] I got to that ah, that was in Auckland. And we wore our best uniforms, our greens, they all fit but I didn't have no dress shoes. All I had was my field shoes. I wanted some dress shoes. We was there about, oh the first week then these M.P.'s, I never had any respect for M.P.s. They wanted us to buy some cheap wine after hours from this guy and then turn him in. Then we'd have to swear in court that he sold it to us and use that as evidence against him. I says, "No way in hell will I do that. You buy me a pair of shoes, I might buy the wine and drink it but I wouldn't do that to anybody. If a guy wants a bottle of wine and he's fortunate enough to get it, let him have it." That's about all we got over there anyway. They didn't have no liquor. Ah, they had gin, a ration and about 15 minutes after four o'clock [ ] it was all gone. And they had their beer came in quart bottles. Sixty dollars a case. But it looked like a casket. It'd take two men to carry the thing. And ah, it didn't go [ ]. It didn't go over like our beer. So forget the liquor and the beer. D: How long were you then in New Zealand? B: Well, anyway I was there less than a month on the M.P.s. And one day here come a captain in a jeep. "Where the hell are you boys and what are you doing here?" I says, "I don't know. I got transferred here while you were out on maneuvers." "Get in here, we're leavin right now." So Captain [ ] he come after me and he took me back to the company. So that was very nice. Somebody missed me anyway. And ah, we were there about three months. And then we went to, from there we went to Guadalcanal. D: Were you in the landings at Guadal? B: No. Almost a year later. But there was patrols every, every other day. You had to go on a patrol. All the way from 10 to 20 fellas. D: On Guadal… B: Yeah. While we… D: But there was still a lot of Japs.. B: Yeah, they never, I don't think they ever did get em all. I think there's still Japs living on those islands yet. They were just scared to death. They were more scared than we were. You know we were scared too. Then ah, every other patrol [ ] artillery outfit, anyway in the artillery outfit the set up isn't like the infantry outfit or anything else. Gun inspection is number one. Then the communications section, then the truck section. In the communications section, you had about 30 people out of 200. Now out of those 30 people you have to divide that up. Fifteen are assigned to your forward observer positions and a switching central. We had a switchboard set up after we land, halfway between the front lines and the beach where the guns are. You have to take care of, the forward observers have to have a couple of linemen come back and repair lines to the switchboard. And from the switchboard back, the battery has to take care of the lines, The F.T.C. Most of them are tied into battalion headquarters. That way you can get a battalion or a regiment or the navy out there with a hundred ships out there fighting all at one time if you need em. Anyway, you're limited with the number of people on these F.O. teams. Now if you've got fifteen people… D: What does the F.O. stand for? B: Forward observer. We had a forward observer 1, a forward observer 2 and a battery commander. Well, the battery commander, he very seldom comes up unless one of your F.O. teams gets knocked out. You lose that team. So actually, you only have about ten fellows on F.O. teams. Well, that is the poorest job. All the new second lieutenants get that job. And oh, they loved it. Some of em right out of school. They were younger than we were. They were only nineteen and stupid. I mean, unh unh. Unh, unh. It really, it's a bad [ ] a lot of em. But anyway ah, the number of fellows you could put on the line or send out on patrols was very limited. 'Cause you didn't know what they were gonna do. Somebody'd shoot and they hadda run home and maybe they'd get lost in the woods. What ya gonna do, I dunno. You had well, about ten fellows you could count on. Out of 200. I would have to alternate every other time. Well, if you lost em, on Bougainville now; I'll jump, show you what happened here in a thing like this. On Bougainville, out of five of us after the second day there was only three of us left. Two of em got hit. It was cutting our original number down. When we landed on Guam. Here we had, we had no decent communications. The equipment. We had all old World War I equipment. And I don't know the correct name for it, was it TBX or TBY. It was, one was the controls and the other was the battery. That was a two man load. Three mile range on the thing. They had the old hand cranked generators with the long antenna, and ah, there must been four on there. Four fellows on that one. And when we landed on Guam, we don't want to get into Guam, that's another story. What are we talkin about… D: Well, we're getting into combat pretty soon. B: Alright, we'll get into combat. We're still on patrols on Guadalcanal. We could go on weekends, it was very nice. They would let us [ ] five men. We would have to have one automatic weapon, and have to have four rifles. Like I said, they'd say, "Boyce, go get a bar." {BAR; Browning Automatic Rifle}. And you carry the ammunition, the other guys. I'm not carrying any. Or else, we would go up to Henderson {Henderson Field} and watch the airplanes come in. Airplanes, we had every kind of airplane there was coming into Henderson. And we sat on the side of the hill and watched the airplanes come in. There was no end to em. Then there was a few P-38's. We were sittin there watching them. They come and land and take off, three at a clip and away they go. And we were watching, Boom! One P-38 completely disappeared in a puff of smoke. There was nothing left. The other two, they took off. He was gone. We just see him come in. When the B-25's come in. We used to go up there and watch them. The guys would jump out and they'd grab their armor plate and they'd look it over. They knew they had a piece of shrapnel in their seat but they wanted to find it out As long as they weren't hit they knew that they came through. They'd look that plane all over, they'd get up and run around it, feel each other all over to see if there were any wounded. And that was kind of comical when you see em come in. They'd come in with one wheel down, some with no wheels down. And some would take big belly flops and man, and they'd crack up on the end of the pile. It was like a bunch of gooney birds landing. And we'd see that every day because you're flying some long flights there. 800 to a thousand miles was the shortest run to the next island and they were [ ] in for the next invasion. So that was our treat. We'd go up there and some of these guys, I wanted to but I never had the opportunity. Every fourth day, the way I understood, the B-24 pilots or crew would have to go on bombing runs. One day they rested, second day they overhauled or checked their plane and the mechanics went over it, and the third day they tested it, run it, flew it. They had to have a full complement every time that plane went up. Or else you got docked for combat pay. These guys that were waist gunners, our guys would go up and act as waist gunners, they didn't have to go as long as they had the full complement. Then you get good free meals in the air force. Boy, they ate like kings. They had steaks and strawberries and everything. We didn't have that. We lived on our rations. Oh, that was ridiculous. [ ] I never done that because the line was too long. And we use to… I didn't like the way Uncle Sam treated us either. We were just as much American as the army was. The army had a dump up there with flour goin to waste. Sugar goin to waste. We didn't have sugar for our coffee. They'd get 50 pounds of meat for 200 men. And then what? Feed the officers out of that too, they sliced the best out of that for the officers. While we made stew, you couldn't find it - it was worse than the chunky soup you buy here in the can, [ ] Campbell's soup. Campbell's Chicken Soup had more chicken that what we had. But anyway ah, we would steal stuff up there. We had to unload ships every night. And every night old "washing machine Charlie" would come over them dog-gone [ ]. They never even turned the lights off after awhile. One night we were down there unloading bombs and gasoline all in the LST, rolling them out and well, they had one little fork lift. Well, I would have called it a kid's toy. It could hardy pick up a 250 pound bomb. And it was only about that big - the bomb was that big. It could hardly pick it up, and it had wheels on that fork lift and we would get em off the ramp and we would have to roll em up the sandy beach and up onto these boards. And the other guys would roll them into a pile and from there I don't know where they ever went. And gas drums. Same way with the gas drums. And our division commander volunteered that for us because we had to stay in shape. Unloading ships for the Army [ ], oh, we loved that. We stole everything they had there. D: Was this still on Guadalcanal? B: This was all on Guadalcanal. [ ]. [End of first side of tape.} ended up with army raincoats. Everyone had an army raincoat. An officer's raincoat. We all had raincoats. And then they found the chocolate bars. And the army supplied them. D: Now how long were you on Guadalcanal before you went to Bougainville? B: Guadalcanal was our base camp for over a year. We worked outta Guadalcanal. We went up to Bougainville, it must have been in late November. D: You didn't see any action on Guadalcanal? B: No. D: That was pretty routine. B: Oh, yeah. And I actually well, seen a lot of stories there. It was common. I don't know if you want that in there or not, but anyway we come out from a patrol one day and we heard the shooting. Oh, God. Line up, formed a skirmish line. We go out, we took off, we all knew our job, I'll tell you that. And we come out and what'd we see? We see about 40 guys out there with some old, old trees, trying to get some tin cans down that they were [ ]. There was officers trying to instruct this army crew how to shoot. That was [ ]. Oh God, we couldn't believe it. We couldn't believe it. We had one kid, he was a rough character. Whiskey Smith. [ ] I'll tell you a story about him later. At the time he stole a tommy gun. He picked that darned gun right up and he shot each tin can right down the row until the magazine was empty. Then he put another one in and kept right on goin until he ran out of bullets again. And these guys couldn't hit em with a[ ]. That was ridiculous. And you were all in the same service. I mean this was Uncle Sam. Uncle Sam's pride and joy. I wouldn't want one of those fellows next to me if, I wanna be alone. I mean there was so many things that was ridiculous. But anyway I would say right prior to, it was in late November. It was late November we went to ah, Bougainville. What did we have? I thought I had all those dates. We went up there at Cape [ ]. And there was a little island right outside there [ ]. And we had two Raider battalions ahead of us. And ah, they piled and stored gasoline on this island because they were shuttling it in from the ship and it was too shallow for them to get in, from the island in so they stored it on this island. And a Jap bomber got it the second night. So that thing never did quit smoking as long as we were there. Ah, ah, when we came in I never seen…now here's another story again what I'm referring to; you only got so many men that are available for forward observer team. We had five on our team. We had five on the other team. We would have two f.o. teams. And we went up there with the infantry. D: This is now Bougainville? B: We're goin to Bougainville. And we're on an APD's. They are converted cans. I dunno. That's the only destroyer with wooden decks. And, and ah, they used those for transport. And that is one of the roughest riding things there is. There is always a roll on them on the ocean. You're lookin this way, you're lookin this way, you have water 20 feet above your heads. The next minute you can't find the water. It's 20 feet down there. That's the way they roll. And when we got outside of Bougainville four o'clock in the morning the Jap bombers got in on top of us. Well, boy did we catch it. We didn't have no cover. We didn't have no protection. They shelled us and they bombed us 'til morning. Our gunners were shootin at each other. They were clearing off each others decks. All the troops below decks. Baloney. We go 300 men aboard this thing. We got 75 bunks below decks. And we got ammunition, 50 cal. ammunition piled 10 high with cargo nets and then packed down on top side. Well I ain't goin down in that manhole when they hit that, goodbye! So I sat between these two piles of 50 cal. ammunition and watched the airplanes fly by. And then we looked over the side and there's a Jap plane floatin by. And there's a Jap pilot sittin on the wing. And then they come over the P.A. system and [ ] shoot [ ] gonna get a court martial. So, [ ] let him go. Go [ ] somebody pick him up [ ] And they kept it up until 8 o'clock that morning, bombing. Ah, we unloaded. We climbed down the damned cargo nets in the bay and we were pestered all the way in with the dive bombers. God, that was our first combat. You talk about shakin. We didn't know what to do. I hit the beach and we had a red-headed Lt. Bradley, he died a short time ago. Anyway, I stuck my head in a … D: Was he from around here? B: No, no. I don't know where he was from. He was from the east somewhere. Anyway, I stuck my head under a coconut palm. Oh, God. Now I don't know to this day whether it was ants or bees stung [ ]; in about five minutes my head swelled up about a third bigger than it normally was. When you're getting bombed and you can't see and you don't know what you are you just lay still. And this George [ ], this other kid with me, he says, "Hey, Joe. Here, take my canteen." He give me his canteen, he poured water in my face. Cold water. He kept pourin' the water. Kept [ ]. And in about an hour, it was all cleared up again. It disappeared, whatever it was. And then we had a, by that time it was getting daylight. The problem here on Guadal, on Bougainville was, you're over 800 miles from Guadalcanal. You only have two hour at a time cover for our fighter planes because of the distance. And we couldn't have no air cover. So in the morning, they would come over at sunup. I can see em just like I was there yesterday. These Japs, those rear gunners, they had them big black cameras, big black boxes. They were photographing us all over down there. And when they got done, they'd make a couple of passes at us and they would just strafe the hell right out of us. And then, I hated to see that sun come up. Oh, I didn't wanna see that sun come up. I was shaking like a leaf at three o'clock. Anybody that says they ain't scared, they ain't got no head because it already got blew off. But anyway, we ah, the bombers would come in. They would bomb us and they had 'daisy cutters'. We were always told, I don't actually know how true this is but they had a long fuse on em or a rod that they would hit and everything below four feet would go off. Above four feet it didn't touch anything because it kept the, the shrapnel down. I can testify to that. The first night there, after they flew away, the bombers. They got tired of bombing us or they ran out of bombs. They ah, the lieutenant ah, said or made us find the infantry outfit that we had to reinforce or be with. We were all intact, all five of us. We never got hurt. We found our company we had to go with. [ ] We were always with the 21st Marines. We were assigned to the 21st Marines. We found that ah, the company we hadda go with and we went with them. They [ ] from the, from that dump on Guadalcanal. They stole all these army hammocks. We never had anything like that. They stole all these army hammocks. Boy, that was the cat's meow. Hang em up here and hang em up there. And they hung em up in the jungle on Bougainville. So that was fine and dandy. The lieutenant says, "Dig your foxhole and get in your foxhole." And then the boy from [ ] he's a farm kid from Monroe, Michigan. I write to him; he come here at my wedding. Him and I slept together. If you want a good night's sleep, you sleep with Carl because nothing bothered him. You could drop a log on us and he wouldn't shake a bit and I was just a-bouncin' all night long. And that was the first and the last time I ever undressed in combat. I took my clothes off because they were wet. We dug a hole. We lined it. We always had a shelter half, a blanket ah, a parka, a rain… anyway we put that, we each had three pieces. You used one on the bottom and one to cover us. The shelter half was over us and on there we'd hang our Rising guns with the chokes. I'll tell you about the Rising gun in a minute. But ah, we'd hang our clothes. When they dropped that doggone 'daisy cutter' next to us we had nothing. Everything off that was within 50 feet of us. Everything around us was gone. You'd crawl out the hole, everything was gone. Where the hell's my pants? The pants are gone. My jacket's gone. I gotta have my gun or I'll catch heck for that. Ah, I went and found it. It was about 14 feet from me. These Rising guns were made for the paratroopers and they must have not fizzled. Everything was stampe on. They must have cost about $1.98. They had a floating bolt on them. It looked like a bobbin out of sewing machine. They were only accurate for about 20 feet I would say. 45 cal. You got 10-round clips. But any time there was a little fog in the air, they would rust up. They wouldn't work. You couldn't handle em. After the second day, we were all disarmed. We didn't have no guns. That was it. The seabees were there. They'd already started an airstrip. You get a beachhead and the seabees are right behind you with their bulldozers. There's an active volcano there. The most beautiful thing I ever seen and I haven't seen a picture of it since. It was brown and green, then brown, then near the top it was red and at the top it was stemin'. Oh, that was really pretty. But anyway, we went by the Seabee camp - no rifles. "What's the matter?" Oh, damn Rising guns didn't work. Here, everybody got a Tommy gun. They threw us their Tommy guns. "I only want one magazine." I says. I'm not carrying all that 45 ammunition. That gets pretty heavy with your pack. So we carried them. And that's what I carried there for about ten days. We set up a line about oh, two, three thousand yards in. We set up a defensive line. Then we stayed there for a couple a, three or four days. Then we hadda advance. Okay. Well, our radio didn't work that good. We had the old ones, the old TBY's I guess you called em. [ ] Whenever it was possible, we would put in wire for communication. We had a VR-8 and a VR-4. I don't remember which is which. One weighed 85 pounds and we carried it on our backs. And one weighed about six pounds and we carried it on our chests. When we moved out in the morning, we used the little one. And that's what we used [ ] And everybody [ ]. Well, we would string wire back to our switching central. And from the switching central, [ ]. Well, our wire's out. Two of us go in. [ ] Already, we were only in there a couple of yards, a thousand yards and already they were dumping army defense outfits in behind us. To take care of it after we took it. And we go back and there's a camp set up. And where the hell's the end of our wire? There's our wire. Where's the other end? Some sergeant from that army outfit cut a chunk off and had his clothes hanging on. Well, this other kid says, "give me that cutter. I'll cut that son of a bitch in half." He was gonna [ ]him. Some major come along. "What's the matter boys?" "That stupid so and so cut a chunk out of our communication wire to hang his clothes on." Oh, boy, he disappeared. Next day we see him when we come back. He was a tyrant. They couldn't do that with us in the Marine Corps. No, they'd take his stripes. He'd get court-martialed. But they couldn't touch him. But ah, that was the end of that for awhile. Then there were posters everywhere, "TOUCH NO WIRE WHATSOEVER!" after that. And ah, D: This was still on Bougainville. B: Yeah. That's right. When the heck was Thanksgiving? Thanksgiving Day I got two pieces of turkey. I got, everybody was guaranteed a pound of turkey on Thanksgiving. D: So you were there in November [ ] B: We hadda go and get some wire. And on the way back it got dark. So when you're in no man's land, it's a helluva place to be. So, [ ] We ran into an infantry outfit. Just the two of us. You know, it ain't very healthy [ ] a couple of guys in the jungle. So we run into this army camp and they were just eatin. And they were getting their pound of turkey. And we went in there and one of the corporals there, the sergeant, and I says, "We can't make it to the beach, back to our outfit. Can we stay with you guys tonight?" "Sure, did you eat?" "No," "Well hey, give em some mess gear. These guys didn't eat." So they give us some mess gear and we ate. We got a pound of turkey. And the next morning we thanked them. They even had the foxholes dug, four guys in a foxhole, we [ ]in with em. Next morning we thanked em and took off for the beach to our outfit. We got back and they were serving the turkey there and we got another pound of turkey. We got what we needed, I forgot what we were after - most likely batteries for our radios. And ah, telephones. Then we went back. And on the way back we got lost. Went too far. Anybody that'll look at a map of Bougainville can see there's only one trail from the east to the west. A path through the mountains. I think it's the Numa-Numa Trail. It's the [ ] river and the Numa-Numa Trail. Well, we went too far. We went by, you can have a whole company hide behind a patch of brush and you'd never see em. We went by our outfit. And we were in a little valley. We knew we were going down. And all of a sudden, all hell broke loose. The Japs were on the next hill and our outfit was over here and we're sittin in between the two of them. And boy, they are mortaring each other like nobody's business. And then the artillery starts. And, oh boy, there's nothing like artillery and mortar shells in the jungle. Tree bursts all the time. And like when we were movin up. I says, "I hope the hell we don't have any tree bursts." Because we were walkin in water up to our knees most of the time. I got scars yet on my back from jungle rot. And [ ]. This one kid says, "I'm [ ] not worried about tree bursts." He says, "It's the damn torpedoes that got me scared to death." We set there and finally we decided we're in the wrong place and we started crawling out on our hands and knees - to our own lines. We hollered, "Hey guys, knock it off. We're comin in." Well, then a couple of guys picked us up [ ] see who we were. Then after, after it all quit, they laid a helluva barrage down on us. And ah, they took off the infantry and our outfit stayed there until they relocated the infantry and set up a defensive line. I guess they had more staggering Japs around there. They made [ ] at them. They knocked their heads off [ ] with rifle stocks and everything else. They were. We really whupped it to them there and they didn't know what was happening. Well, that was about it. We set up one big defensive line there. And then we went down to the beach. I think we was there, I don't think we was there 20 days. We were fortunate and in a way we weren't so fortunate. The forward observers were the first ones in all the time. When the Higgins boats went in with the infantry, we were assigned a destroyer. We had radio contact. The minute we hit the beach, we contacted our destroyer and he acknowledged us and we would have communication. And that destroyer could contact cruisers, battlewagons, anything they wanted, so you had the firepower. And we had contact with them at all times until your guns got ashore. The minute your guns got ashore, your battalion hadda set up a fire direction center. They would switch you over to your battalion fire direction center and they would take care of all the firing. Well, we were the first ones in and the first ones out, so here we are. We're going back to Guadalcanal. We went back to Guadalcanal. I'll never forget that. And of course all our heroes, you know those guys over 25. They're the men. Us stupid kids, only 19, We're going to separate the boys from the men. And some of these incidents that happened on Bougainville, in a machine gun pit one night, [ ] we had a sergeant there, "They're coming. I'm gonna shoot. I smell em." "You shoot ya stupid, you're going to get us all shot." "Knock it off." They almost had to sit on him to hold him down because he thought the Japs were coming in. He had it in his head the Japs were coming in and he would have shot every shell we had in those for or five tins, cartridge cases. And ah,… D: This was on Guadalcanal. B: No this was on Bougainville. One of the incidents that happened. While we were there. But the next day they took him out. He was one of these guys that was old timers. He was going to show us troops, us civilians how to handle it. Next day they sent him down to the beach. He's a sergeant. He's gotta have a job you know. These guys with stripes, they're the boys. Okay. You come…your 75 [ ] ammunition comes in a cloverleaf form. Three rounds in the middle and - that long. And he hauled ammunition all day, he was supposed to [ ]. When he got done that evening, he turned in his tally. He didn't know if he had rounds or if he had cloverleaf. Holy God, did he ever screw things up! Then they didn't know what to do there because they had [ ] sorted all out [ ]. But ah, that was the end of him. Ah, what else was there? Oh, there was a couple things. We, I seen a semi load of machine gun barrels get stuck in a swamp. And the doggone thing just settled out of sight [ ]. That's the way they was. It was a swamp we landed in. That was the only logical place we could land I guess, according to them. Ah, amphibious tractors, he tore a track. He couldn't get him out. [ ] alligators. That was some of the original equipment. See, we didn't have much equipment at Guadalcanal. There wasn't much to fight with those guys and you didn't know how much we had either. People wouldn't believe what little stuff we had… D: Didn't they land paratroopers at Guadalcanal too? B: Are you talking to Donnie Sohm? You told me about Donnie Sohm. D: Yeah. B: On Guadalcanal or… D: Bougainville. [ ] At any rate, now you're back on Guadalcanal. From there you went to Iwo Jima didn't you? B: No. We had to take Guam. D: Oh, I see. B: No, we went back to Guadalcanal and we stayed there for… D: Almost another year. But there was no fighting there anymore, was there? B: Where? D: At Guadalcanal. B: No, no, no. That's all being built up. And they're movin all the time. They're calling in supplies so to keep going. They were supplying these other places. But let me get back to Guadalcanal. Our brilliant old timers you know. This old veteran Marine gunner, officer, warrant officer. We didn't have uniforms to wear. "You can't get aboard LST with that uniform on. Go find some clothes to put on." Where are we gonna find some decent khaki or camouflage…the guy had rocks in his head. But we borrowed it from some guys that knew what our position was. We finally got enough to get the heck out of there. We got back to Guadalcanal and the men in the meantime, they had the tail end of a typhoon go through and our Christmas packages were in a camp where the water was that deep. And when they picked up the bag the bottom fell out and there was wrist watches and fountain pens and cookies and soup, and that was our Christmas there on Guadalcanal. And that was really something. How often, well what could they do? Who knows, there was nothin they could do. All right. We're there for another, almost a year. In the meantime these other divisions are taking [ ]. At one time we had three divisions all at one time, takin [ ], first, second and third. Okay, we're on Guadalcanal. From there we're gonna go and help the 2nd Division take Saipan. And if they can take it, they would run us into Guam. The 3rd Marine Division [ ] Guam. Ah, now we had ah, we had thirty days supply of chow and we were aboard the LST 50 days. That's a long time to be aboard an LST. And we didn't have any cover. Ah, we had two destroyers. We had one destroyer about 150 miles ahead, and one about 20 miles ahead. Because they were going after Saipan and they figured the Japs would have everything after them up there and leave us alone. And there was ah, I don't know how many actually carried. Maybe 25 ships in there. We rode in the president line. Our attack ships, our AK-80's were in the president. We had the Adams, Jackson's, the 80's and the Crescent City. The Crescent City was the flagship for Admiral Byrd when he went to South Pole. And it had wooden decks. And that was a nice ship yet. There's still pieces about it in the paper. I see it the other day about the Crescent City and the Jackson. They're luxury liners. They're back in business again. But anyway ah, we were aboard the LST for 50 days and in 30 days the chow ran out. We had a double scoop of dehydrated [ ]. It was a Merchant Marine ship with a, I think they had a Navy gun crew on it. It was full of Marines, with a basement full of amphibious tractors and gasoline which is a poor combination. And ah, we had trucks on topside. We ran into the tail end of a typhoon. You could see them things dance. You could see the prop go up in the air just like a fish's tail goes up in the air. And then the Japs cut in on us [ ] the damn torpedoes. And here we are lined up. One LST here, one LST there, and over here you had your LCI's. The Landing Craft Infantry. They were the ones with the ladders on each side. And they pull up to the beach and they drop em down. Here the Japs come. Boy, they were all over us. And oh, these brilliant Navy with their 20 millimeters, there was no place for us to go. We were all topside and here they're clearing each others decks off with the 20 millimeters. That's just about what they were doin. But those Japs, they only hit one LCI. They hit the bow. They lost eleven men. And that 'can' up ahead, that destroyer came back. And I'll bet it took them 3 hours to sink that doggone LCI with shootin 5 inch shells at it. I don't know if they were having target practice or what. But they played all that time with it. Maybe they went further and further away just to see if they could hit it or not. At any rate, we were getting kinda weak you know. Not much to eat. Some brilliant sailor there, he pulled a bright one when he ran the salt water into the fresh water tank and the coffee was salty. Oh, that was lovely. We didn't even have coffee. Now the coffee was bad. I wouldn't even drink the coffee. 'Cause we at least had pills in our water [ ] make us sick. So you wouldn't drink it. It was just a matter of keeping food in your body. In dire necessity, you'd drink a glass of water. Then things got rough. Some sailor [ ]tried to [ ] marine with knife or something. I thought he was going to kill him and throw him over the side. And then the fight started. I can still that big fat farmer up there that was the skipper. He had one leg up here, and one leg was hanging down there. He had a belly like that. I'm the boss, God Almighty. This is my LST and I don't care buddy if you're in the Merchant Marine or not. You come down here in the dark and you're going to get it. But he was up there on the bridge, he stayed up there on the bridge and he was giving orders like nobody's business. Well, anyway, they decided that they could take Saipan, the 2nd. Okay, they was pounding Guam night and day. B-24's, everything they had [ ]. Well, it comes our turn to land; we're pretty damn weak, I can tell you that. You don't eat, you don't have much fresh water. You get weak after awhile. So the [ ] we go in. We drop the old tank, the gangplank and we go down to load up. We're all assigned our R.M. (armored amphibious tractor). That was the first time I ever rode in one and I didn't know they were that low. My God, you're only a foot and a half above water. Now when we went in, they come in with the LCI's, the LCM's, everything the Navy had, and they were loaded, some of the LST's even had racks of rockets. And there was a solid sheet of rockets going. And they were bombing and that was the prettiest thing you ever see. It sure was. But do you ever feel lonely. You are that far above, out of the ocean and you look up there and them guys are pointing V for victory and "Come up guys." And there you are, about 40 of you down and [ ] and there they are up there waving you on. Oh, God, you feel lonely [ ]. And here I am. I must have claustrophobia and never know it. And the lieutenant, [ ] Cottinger, I wrote him a card and I can't find it. Lt. Cottinger; I was with him more than any of the others. I met him down here at our reunion. He was a state senator for Ohio for the longest, he spent the longest time in the state senate of any man in the state of Ohio. I don't know if it was 12 years or 12 terms. Something like that. He had a hip replaced, he had a shoulder replaced. But anyway, I would stand up, "Boyce, get your head down!" "Yes, sir." [ ] "They got another one. Poor devil landed right in there. They got two of em over there!" the Japs were blowing our amphibious tractors out of the water and I was reporting them. "Get your goddam head down Boyce!" "But I can't see. Yes, sir." Down I go, like a ostrich. But finally we hit the beach. Before we landed, we were aboard this LST. We didn't have any mail all this time. We didn't have any cigarettes. And we were at Eniwetok; I guess these are pictures of it. They stopped our convoy at Eniwetok. And they had the almighty gall to get us off our LST and make us do close order drill on this little island. To get some exercise. [ ] And we get, and while we were there, they took us over to our ship where our crew was. The Crescent City. Ah, the skipper let us use [ ] so we went over there and climbing up the cargo net, everything was cargo nets, that's all we ever had. I looked up, 'what the hell', Blackie Schmidt, a kid I was in CC camp with. "What are you doin here?" [ ] What's [ ] ha,ha, ha. I said, "We're goin [ ] what are you doin here?" "We're practicing." He was aboard the ship. Complement. He was in the Marine Corps. Practicing loading wounded. That's what they were doing. He says, "Can I get you anything?" I said, "God, Blackie, I've been wanting an apple for the last year and a half. You guys have any apples?" He says, "Come on with me." We went down in the Marine quarters and he give me five apples. So, God, when I went upstairs and I showed my buddies, I think I got a half an apple out of it. I gave em all away. But, that was one of the episodes. We got our [ ] and we went back and then we landed on Guam. But anyway… D: Was this Guam now or Saipan? B: Guam. We didn't go to Saipan. Saipan was being taken by the 2nd Division and we would take, seein they could handle it, they went up in, [ ] Guam. So ah, that is something when you land on the beach. We were in about the third wave to hit. And you can't see nothin. All brown sticks. Putrid smell makes the tears roll down your cheeks and you're half blinded. And these [ ] getting back to when I was aboard the LST. They come out with some new army [ ] SCR-300. Maybe you know more about it than I do. Anyway it was a radio with a butterfly switch on, weighed 30 pounds, and you had14 channels on it and it had a switch for receiving and sending for communications. I'd never operated a radio in my life and I was a radio operator right then and there. Then I had it all through the Guam campaign. But anyway, when we landed on the beach, and we couldn't see nothin, he said, "Boyce"; the lieutenant, he's in charge, he says, "Boyce, find us a hole." Okay, over the side, the guys [ ] couldn't have piled it up right there. And there's a couple of amphibious tanks right there, bang, and they got a [ ] other side and dumped them. And I grabbed one, and says, "What the hell you guys shootin at? We can't see out here. How can you see all buttoned up?" Well, they knocked it off. They weren't going to shoot the hell out of nothin. Well, they knocked it off. But anyway, we went ahead a little. Everything is balled up. The squad leaders are tryin to find their squads. The platoon is tryin to find the squads. The captain is tryin to find his - everything is screwed up. We gotta get off the beach, get off the beach because they're piling in behind us and the mortar shells are comin at us. So we keep goin. Well, here we are on a hill, we can see a rock pile way up there. So we gotta get up there by nightfall. Yeah, unh huh. There's a lot of open country between here and there. I can tell you that. So we took off and I could hide behind a matchstick though. Ah, you learn that hunting up here. Bein in the Midwest like I said, we learned a lotta things you did here. I see these mortar shells. I don't know how they mighta had four or six together and they were walking. They were walkin em right at us and I knew we were gonna get it. Well, I wasn't gonna be in that group. So I see a place behind us, a gravel pit. So I run back about 50 yards and I run under the overhang in that gravel pit. And about the time I got standing there, kapow, one hit right on top of that pile. The gravel pit and me, we all went down [ ]. I got up and felt all over, I'm not bleedin or nothin, I'm all right. I shook myself and then I went to see what happened to the other six guys. Oh God, they're scattered all over. They were right in the middle of the mortar. And the lieutenant [ ] says, "Hey Boyce, gimme your radio." Well, we made contact. He says, "F.O. one or two knots up." Nobody got, okay. "Hey Boyce, you follow Captain Stevens from now on. Don't [ ] check in every half hour or so. Let em know where you are." D: Those five guys were all killed? B: No. [ ] Three of em went back to the states. I don't know how bad. One lost the rear end. My lieutenant got a chunk of shrapnel. It broke his ribs. About three days later, he's out of the hospital. He's back with us. Hit him there. Ah, three of em, two of em, I never really did find out if they were casualties. They were gone. You never see em after that. But ah, the lieutenant I did see. There was two of em I'd like to have seen. One was a very sharp kid. He was going to U.C.L.A. when he enlisted. Davidson. He was an awful nice guy. When I went in '51, I was out in California, I met him. But he lost a chunk of his left butt off his. That was it . They just sliced it off he said. But ah, he's alive. [ ] But we took off. Oh, God. I tried to keep, read where I was on the map. Check in every, on the map. How the hell am I supposed to know where we are on the map when I can't even find the captain. I didn't know [ ]. So I knew just as many guys in the infantry there because I was with em on all the maneuvers, as I did in our artillery outfit. So I chummed with these five guys and boy, she was getting hot. We gotta have more water. And somebody plants an idea in your head, you don't know how far that's goin. Ah, what if they poisoned the water? "Oh," I said, "that'd be great." And there was mud puddles there. And ah, we only [ ]. I says, "You know what, you're gonna die of thirst, you're gonna die of poison. So what?" So, [ ] I run up half a canteen of that muddy water [ ] threw that old rag into my canteen cup and I poured it in there. And we always had, we didn't have all the fancy stuff. We had a little bottle where you shake out iodine. Three drops in every [ ]. My coffee didn't taste right without iodine. Iodine we [ ] in the water. We drank the water; didn't hit anybody. We all drank that water. But ah, we got to the foot of that ridge. Oh she was a sharp one. And ah, I looked up and boy, I couldn't talk anymore. My voice was so dry and hoarse. "Hey chief, what the hell are you doin up there?" It was the lieutenant from another dog battery. One of the other batteries in our battalion. He says, "Well [ ] was knocked out, I come out here. We haven't got any communication whatsoever." I says, "Here take this damn radio. I been carrying it all day. [ ] the thing." And then ah, I give em, I was using the wrong call words, "fox F.O.2." There wasn't such a thing. Our lieutenant Cottinger reported it knocked out. They thought I was a Jap with a stolen radio. That's what happened. He said, "Boyce, call in and tell em it's "dog F.O.2." I did. Ah, "who is it?" [ ] Well, [ ] . He says, [ ] "where were you over there?" I says, "Just settle down, [ ] the damn thing burnt down the night we left." Okay. They knew I was there. Okay. So they got in touch with the FTC. Then they run us right on through and I give the whole doggone works to them, the lieutenant. And then he laid down our defensive fire for the night so we were protected for the night that way. But ah, then, we were there six days. Behind that rock was. And we had ah, oh we had some interesting times then. Ah, things happened there. We were across a gully. It must have been a thousand yards at least over there. Over here was a great big ca.. another … it was a hole in the ground. Gully [ ] and a gully there. They could come across it [ ]. Over on this end was a great big, it looked like an ice cream bar. We called it 'George's nose'. We tried to go around there. To the left. Well, to start with, the first night we got there, we were so tired out that you, we laid on that rock wall head first, and you were supposed to about every five minutes pass the word [ ] yell at them. Everybody's sound asleep. I [ ] down there down at the end, and everyone, I was living on nerves. That's what I was living on. [ ] If you couldn't sleep, go ahead. Here was a case of grenades, there was a case of grenades, and right down [ ] I threw grenades half the night. Just tossed em over. Boom, boom. Boom, boom. Like fireworks. Let er go. Then come daytime, I was asleep. Let them guys worry about it. And we stayed there. [ ] In the meantime, at night, the Japs would come over this ridge. And boy did they ever come over. We shot half the night trying to knock them off. Finally, the put a tank in there. And the tank, [ ] these Japs all full of Sake. They were all shined up. I gotta [ ] a hot Sake [ ] down in my locker [ ] base [ ]. But anyway ah, they were on top of that doggone tank chopping on it with sabers. They weren't doin any good. But what did happen, they broke through that line. That poor company over there. I didn't find out 'till three years ago at the Iwo Jima convention what happened there. They had some guys from the 21st Marines there. They came through and like I said, half of your fifteen people had to watch the wire up to the switching central. They had a switching central down there. And we went in the morning to check our wire. Boy, what a mess. The Japs went in there and they jumped in on top of those guys and they held a grenade between the two and they blew the chests off of both of em. And I can still see this. We had one guy that saw quite a bit of it. He was over there. How he ever got in there, I don't know. He had a gold tooth and curly hair and looked like a Rough Rider from out west. We called him 'cowboy'. And he got killed in there. Another guy was trying to dig a dog tag out of a guy's chest with a stick you know. It looked like hell. It's hard to forget stuff like that, but ah, they cleaned it up and I think we only lost two or three men. Other outfits in there, they lost the whole 15. They walked right over them. They [ ] And ah, they tried to get around this way. This outfit, this infantry outfit tried to go to our left and get over to that next ridge. We took off. We didn't get 50 yards and boy, did we get pounded. I never seen so many mortar shells. It looked just like rain comin down on top of us. They knew where we were and they gave it to us. Well, we lost quite a few men. I remember Lieutenant Brown. There was a big cave there on the west side of that ridge. He must have been looking at that cave about a hundred yards from there. He didn't move for a long time. He was all curled up. So somebody run over there and said, "Come on, we're goin back." And he had a little black hole right between his eyes. They got him right between the eyes. But ah, we pulled back. And then, you talk about interesting. You see things in the movies that weren't even as good as the show that they put on for us there. They were going to try and skip bomb a 500 pound bomb into that cave. [ ] in that cave. They were comin over this ridge and they would drop it and would go over. If they dropped it too short, it blew up here. So they were gonna try and skip bomb [ ]. I never see such a comedy in all my life. They done that for a half a day. I don't know how many bombs they [ ]. They never did get one in there. But we were used to that. Blowin up caves. That was part of our training. So we hadda do it manually. So we tried it again. About ten guys. We covered em from our ridge. We sent about ten guys over there. They way we done it was we had two BAR men. One over the top and he come around from the right and the other from the left. And they would blaze away at that entrance to that cave 'till their magazines were empty and then they put another one in as fast as they could. In the meantime, they would come up there. The guy on the left would quit. Then we'd make satchel charges up. We always carried a quarter pound box of TNT. Somebody always had a box of we had some [ ] Whiskey Smith [ ] They'd make up a satchel charge. We'd put 15-20 of em in a pack. And we always measured the fuses. You come up with a long fuse and you cut it in half. Then you time it. You be sure how long it took. That way no, if you get one ah, same [ ] then you know they should burn em up the same length of time. Any way we got the fella on the left here. If he would stop shootin for a minute, here come the guy swingin' the satchel charge. He'd let go and he run like hell and the guy'd open up with the BAR again and he'd keep him covered until he got over here and then this guy'd open up so they keep him covered. The minute that thing went off, boy there was nothin but smoke and fire. They had two flame throwers run in there and give it to em while they couldn't see. We usually cleaned em out that way. That's better than any movie I ever seen. We could do a better job. We finally got around to the other side. But then one thing I didn't like, they brought in four or five army tanks and to this day I'll never know why they done it. There was five brand new white trucks parked there. And that tank come up there and he put a shell in each one of those [ ]. Can you imagine what some of those were worth? Well, that was one of my problems. I'm a civilian at heart in the Marine Corps. 'Cause we were out there on maneuvers one [end of tape ].
Oral History Interview with Joseph Boyce -WORLD WAR II -Copyright Oshkosh Public Museum
Joseph Boyce

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