KF: I am Katie Flax here today with Casey Pridey
Interview of Paul Wasinger, World War II Veteran
Interview conducted by Ness City High School Audio-Video Technology Class students Katie Flax and Casey Pridey, on September 13, 2006.
KF: I am Katie Flax here today with Casey Pridey. It is September 13, and we are here today to record the oral history of World War II veteran Paul Wasinger.
KF: Will you please state your name, date of birth, and where you were born.
PW: Paul Wasinger. Born April the 2nd, 1926 in Ness City, Kansas.
KF: And who were your parents?
PW: John and Anna Mary Wasinger.
KF: Did you have any siblings?
PW: Two brothers and five sisters.
KF: Did you attend high school?
KF: Where did you attend high school?
PW: Ness City.
KF: What was your job prior to your military service?
PW: I worked on a dairy for George Cox if that means anything.
KF: Do you remember the announcement of Pearl Harbor?
PW: Well I remember it but I was still in high school.
KF: When you entered the service did you enlist or were you drafted?
KF: What date were you drafted? Do you remember?
PW: My induction, I was inducted on August the 15, 1944.
KF: Were there others from this area that joined with you or were drafted when you were?
PW: Oh yea there were quite a few. I guess. . .I turned 18 on April 2, and I had to take my pre you know my pre-examination with about 25 other guys and I was called later on I think in May and I was to report and I was inducted on August 15, 1944.
KF: Were any of your siblings or any of your other relatives in the service?
PW: At the time yeah, I had an older brother that was in the army before. He was older than I am.
KF: When and where were you inducted?
PW: I was inducted at. . in Fairgood, Idaho. I couldn't think of the name of the town.
KF: How…what did you do during your basic training?
PW: Just the things they made you do. You just took your basic training like they required.
KF: What camps did you take training at?
PW: At Camp Ward in Fairgood.
KF: How long was your training?
PW: Twelve weeks. My basic was twelve weeks.
KF: Did you choose your job or were you assigned one while you were in the service?
KF: No? Were you assigned one?
PW: I went wherever they told me to go.
KF: Did you serve stateside or did you serve overseas?
PW: I was overseas.
KF: Do you know where. . .what area?
PW: Well I got aboard ship and we went from San Francisco to Long Beach. We loaded our ship and we went to. . . . our first stop was Melbourne, Australia, then we went to Calcutta, India. Made two trips to Calcutta, India. We came back from Calcutta, and went to Long Beach and loaded up again and went back to Calcutta, India for the second trip.
KF: What did you do in Calcutta?
PW: Well I stood watch basically we were to man guns aboard the ship and had to stand watch.
KF: What were your first days of service like?
PW: Well now that's a good question. Being 18 years old you know, like I said it was kind of a funny thing to go through but I survived it all.
KF: What unit did you serve with?
PW: The Armed Guard
KF: And you said that you were in the Navy?
PW: Yes. It was an added deal they had. We manned the guns and stood watch but it was on a merchant marine ship.
KF: Did you experience any combat? Were you in. . .
PW: No I sure didn't.
KF: What were your living conditions like?
PW: They were pretty decent. There was six of us guys to a foulksole as they called it and I think was five or six foulksoles on there and each one slept six. I was in one group with the other five guys.
KF: Was the food very good?
PW: Excellent. It was excellent we had…merchant marines had almost like going to a café. He would come in and had the menu on the board and you could look on the menu and see what you wanted and he would call it into the cook or to the galley and they would bring your meal out and set it down in front of you. We ate and it was like almost going to a café in that respect. A lot different than what the Navy personnel on aboard the regular ships would have been.
KF: Was you unit well supplied?
KF: Was your unit well supplied? Did you run short of any ammunition or food or anything?
PW: No never did. To my knowledge we never did
KF: How was your relationship with your commanding officers?
PW: It was great. He was a good man. I liked the man very well.
KF: Do you have any officer or fellow soldier who was significant in your service?
KF: Did you stay in contact with your parents or any of your siblings while you were overseas?
PW: Yea I wrote home and like I said not that often. But then of course my older brother he wrote to me. We communicated back and forth every now and then.
KF: And where was your brother at?
PW: He was overseas in Germany.
KF: What branch of service was he in?
PW: The army. He was an engineer in the army.
KF: Was this your first time away from home or were you away from home any other time?
PW: Well I stayed out there when I worked out at the dairy I stayed out there at the farm. It's about eight miles east down there. George Cox had a dairy and I stayed right there because we had to do the milking early so I didn't drive back and forth I stayed with him. I would come in and go to school mornings after I'd get the milking done.
KF: Did you ever get homesick?
PW: No I couldn't say that I ever got homesick because I wasn't home, too much staying out there. I was away from home quite a bit.
KF: How did you spend your holidays when you were in the service like Christmas?
PW: Aboard ship basically.
KF: Did they have any special meals?
PW: Oh yeah we maybe had you know maybe like. . . I don't know whether they had turkey or not, but they had little extra deals for you on days like that but then basically it was all about the same routine.
KF: Did you have any time like for recreation or anything?
PW: Not aboard ship. There wasn't very much you good do aboard ship but stand watch and go around the ship and visit the guys.
KF: Do you remember what your service pay was?
PW: Well it started out $50 a month and when I got out I was getting $97 a month.
KF: Did you send that home or did you keep that with you?
PW: No, I kept it most of the time. We had to take out bonds all the time so what little I had left that was always sent home but then otherwise I kept everything and that didn't amount to too much.
KF: Do you remember where you were when the announcement came for the end of the war?
PW: Yeah we were right off the coast of Australia I think when we heard it.
KF: And what date did you get discharged on?
PW: June 21, in `46
KF: How did you get home?
PW: Took the greyhound bus from Schumacher…I got discharged in Schumacher, California and took the Greyhound bus home. I got tired of riding trains, what little they had. So I took the greyhound bus and came to Denver, and then from Denver I took another Greyhound bus to WaKeeney and came home from there.
KF: Did you have to hitchhike home or did people give you rides?
PW: Well I hitchhiked when I came back from overseas. One time we had a thirty day leave, another kid and I hitchhiked home from New York but outside of that why I always took either the bus most of the time. Other times coming home from boot camp or stuff like why you rode the train.
KF: What did you do after the service?
PW: Well I went to work back out there for him and then I went back to school for awhile. Then I started my own business.
KF: Where did you go to school at?
PW: Fort Hays.
KF: And what business did you start?
PW: I bought the Phillips 66 station. Well wait a minute I'll take that back. I worked in Santa Fe for a while and then I bought that here…bought the Phillips 66 station after I quit Santa Fe.
KF: What did you do while you were in Santa Fe?
PW: Well I was a helper clerk and later on I delivered the freight around the town.
KF: Did your wartime experience contribute to your career choice?
PW: I don't think it helped me but it was an experience.
KF: Did you form any close friendships with any of the guys you served with?
PW: Well I did, a couple of fellows I got to know real well but I never did. . . only one guy. . .but I never did go to see anybody. One guy did stop in one time to see me. He was from Tyler, Texas and he happened to come through here and he stopped and seen me when I had the Phillips 66 station.
KF: Have you attended any military reunions?
KF: Or are you involved in like the organizations?
PW: Well we thought about going up there. They always usually have em up at Fairgood, Idaho there. In fact there's one, well it's probably over with by now I think it was September the 8th, and 9th this year. I think they have one about every year but I never did take one in.
KF: Are you or were you a member of a Veteran's Service Organization like the American Legion?
PW: American Legion and the VFW, both
KF: Do you have any photographs or souvenirs that you brought home with you?
PW: No I don't think I have anything.
KF: Do you still have your uniform?
PW: Still got my uniform. I don't know if that's a souvenir or not but I still got it. My wife thinks I ought to throw it away. One guy asked…Father Gregory asked me one time whether I could get in my uniform. Well I can get in it uniform but I can't button it. There's such a deal as that.
CP: Is there any other interesting stories you want to tell?
PW: Oh, basically like I said when I was aboard ship you know, like I said, there was probably in the Armed Guard, I suppose there was probably, oh maybe 80 to 100 guys aboard ship plus the merchant marines. When you're on this side of the equator you are a pollywog and when you go through or across the equator you are a shellback. Well naturally I got the initiation…they give you quite an initiation when you go through it believe me you. They caught me. . . I was standing watch and they saw that I was standing watch they grabbed me. They cut my hair, they painted me up and they did all kinds of stuff that wasn't…things that they done to you sometimes are not worth mentioning I think.
KF: Well do you have any other…anything else that you would like to add in?
PW: Oh, spent almost two years in there and of course after the two years I didn't have any plans of staying in. Of course then you had to wait awhile…we went on a point system and we had to wait until we had enough points to get out. I got out as soon as I had enough points.
KF: You never thought about going back?
PW: No I never thought about going back. Of course if a guy would have been smart they might have been going back in. If you had twenty years in you could be well retired. At that time I had no desire to be back in it.
KF: Well I guess if that's all
PW: Well basically that's about the size of my story.
KF: OK, well thank you for sharing this with us.
PW: Oh like I said…maybe I should have added that…I was stationed at Treasure Island for when I got off the ship I was stationed at Treasure Island, California out there for six months before I was discharged. They disarmed our ship in Paterson, New Jersey and then when I came back home I had to go back to Treasure Island and I spent the rest of my time that I ,before I was discharged at Treasure Island. Just as well add that I guess.
KF: And did you do anything special there?
PW: I was an SP for a while and then after that I didn't like the SP duty too well. I asked and talked to the captain one time and asked him whether I could get off SP duty and he said `yeah we can probably move you someplace else'. They put me as a brig guard. I don't know whether I made any advancement or not. I hated that SP duty so . . . and in the brig guard no one could get away from there. We had to stand and you know watch the prisoners. I think that probably pretty well takes care of my doings.
KF: Thank you very much. It was very interesting.