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Interview on experiences in World War II

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Don Webster interviewed by Clara Marie Felts, Valerie Kepple, and Lynette Stenzel

Interview of Donald Webster, World War II Veteran

Interview conducted by Clara Marie Felts, Lynette Stenzel and Valerie Kepple on July 14, 2006.

CF: Don we're here today, Lynette Stenzel, Val Kepple and myself, Clara Marie Felts to record your history for the oral history World War II project and get your experiences and that you experienced during World War II and get it on record. If you would state your name, age, and date of birth please.

DW: Don Webster, born April 19, 1923, 83 years old.

VK: Where were you born, Don?

DW: Arnold

VK: Did you live there all your life, I mean you grew up there?

DW: Yes

VK: On a farm?

DW: Yeah on a farm.

VK: Did you have any brothers or sisters?

DW: Two sisters and one brother.

VK: Older or younger?

DW: Younger.

VK: You were the oldest?

DW: I'm the oldest.

VK: Where did you go to school?

DW: At Arnold.

VK: At Arnold. And then when you finished school what did you do?

DW: I worked for my uncle on the farm and up in Utica at the elevator.

CF: What were you doing when you entered the service?

DW: I was working at the Utica elevator.

CF: Were you drafted or did you enlist?

DW: Drafted.

CF: And what branch of the service were you drafted into?

DW: Army Air Force

CF: At first the Army?

DW: Army Air Force.

CF: Oh the Army Air Force.

VK: How old were you when you were drafted do you remember?

DW: February of ``43

CF: And you were born when now, Don?

DW: `23

CF: You were 20, just a young pup.

VK: Where did you report for you know your physical or?

DW: Fort Leavenworth.

VK: And you had a physical and all that?

DW: Yeah.

VK: Then where did they send you?

DW: Sent me home.

VK: Oh.

DW: They told me to come back.

VK: Why was that?

DW: Well I don't know they always give you it and then send you home then you have to report back see.

VK: Ok

DW: Then they assign you to…Where did I go? : It's all right there in that

CF: Oh in that little thing.

DW: I went to Edmund Oklahoma and then.

VK: Did you have a basic training there or?

DW: No, oh, the first place I went to was Miami Beach for basic training.

CF: oh yes you did he went to...

DW: Then come back to Edmund, Oklahoma.

VK: How long were you in Miami Beach for that training?

DW: Oh just six weeks. Six weeks is all.

CF: March 9, 1943 to April 16, 1943.

VK: And what did you all do in basic training?

DW: Just marched. Just marched and went to movies. Training movies.

VK: Were there any other individuals from this area that were with you that you knew when you got there?

DW: No.

VK: So then after that six weeks then you said you were sent to Oklahoma?

DW: Yes Edmund, Oklahoma.

VK: And what did you do there?

DW: Went to college.

VK: And what did you study?

DW: Typer, typewriting, book keeping.

VK: And the military provided this for you?

DW: Yep.

VK: So you knew then that their plans for you, you were going to do that type of work. Office work?

VK: How long were you there in Oklahoma then?

DW: Oh, probably a couple months.

VK: And the whole time you were being trained?

DW: And just going to school. Bookkeeping and typing.

VK: Ok then after you finished there then where did they send you, or did you stay in Oklahoma?

DW: Oh, I went to Eglin Field, Florida. Right down on the coast.

VK: And what did you do there?

DW: Went out and helped, we all went out and helped build a golf course.

LS: Was it a public golf course or?

DW: For the officers.

CF: Oh

DW: Went out in the fort and cut down trees

CF: Oh for goodness sakes.

DW: We didn't have nothing else to do see. We didn't have no assignment or anything. Just waiting so we had to do something.

LS: Did you feel like you were going to get sent overseas?

DW: No.

LS: You thought you were probably not going to be sent over or?

DW: Well you have to wait till everything gets straightened out. We was more of ah, in training we were training everybody see. We went from Eglin Field to Charlotte, North Carolina.

VK: And what did you do in North Carolina then.

DW: Bookwork.

VK: For the military?

DW: Yes.

CF: In fact Don you were a bookkeeper for all the years that you served in the service weren't you?

DW: Yes.

CF: That's what I thought you had told me when we talked previously. That you were a bookkeeper.

DW: Then I went down to Talla and Gadsden, Alabama.

CF: I knew I had Gadsden, Alabama on there somewhere. Yes and that is where you said you served as a bookkeeper for two years in Gadsden, Alabama.

DW: That was an infantry base. We had a little airport there and the pilots would go out and spray these

infantry soldiers with water or dump some flour sacks for bombs on them see. They was out there in the field training see. They had people in the airplanes. They would just drop a flour sack. If you got flour on you well then you got hit with a bomb see.

CF: After those two years that you served there Don, in Gadsden, Alabama, you were in the army air force at that time and then did they transfer you after those two years?

DW: Yeah

CF: To the army because they needed infantry is that not correct, Don?

DW: Right. Went from Alabama back up to Camp Gordon, Georgia.

CF: They transferred you to just the army at that point and time, did they not? Because they needed, I think you told me they needed men for the infantry, so that's why you were transferred from air force, army air force to just the army. I believe that's what you told me when I talked to you last.

DW: So they put me back to keeping books see.

CF: Yes you said that they also remained in Georgia and remained a bookkeeper also.

LS: When you say you were a bookkeeper, what did a bookkeeper all have to do?

DW: Service records. See they printed orders see, and they would send them to whoever, whatever company where the records was kept see, We would sort them all out and then each guy took care of certain so many companies see. You have to enter all that stuff in those records.

LS: They would just come to you on pieces of paper and you would have to type them into?

DW: See they just put them out like an order. So and so transferred to so and so you know.

CF: And then you were only there for about one year were you not?

DW: Yes.

CF: And then you were discharged?

DW: Went to Fort Benning.

CF: But I mean all together how long were you in the service before you were discharged?

DW: Right at three years.

CF: All right.

DW: We went to Fort Benning went over to PX one day and there stood a guy reading the Ness County News.

CF: Oh for goodness sake.

DW: Rich Pfannenstiel

LS: Oh really?

CF: Then did you meet anybody else from Ness County while you were in the service?

DW: There was Vance Gennings was down there he was from Utica and Elmer Meillor. He was from Arnold. He had been there for years. They were permanent regular army guys.

CF: And they were in the same station?

DW: No they were just at the base.

CF: Oh just at the base.

DW: Yeah, I seen their names on the bulletin board.

LS: Were you glad to see somebody's name that you knew?

DW: Oh Yeah.

LS: I mean how did you feel when you saw that Ness County News?

DW: I didn't know Rich see. I heard of him but I didn't know him.

LS: Did you go visit with him?

DW: Oh Yeah.

LS: And ask him who he was?

DW: He was ready to come home that day I think.

CF: Did you form any relationships in the service that you continued and kept in contact with in later years, you know buddies?

DW: Well I never kept in contact with anybody, but I went down there to a little town by Kansas City one time and I went and seen a guy up at Effingham. Town north of, up there by Leavenworth. He was in the army with me. That's the only time I seen him since then. Then there's a kid from southeast Colorado, Springfield. I was coming out of Texas one time and I stopped by and seen him.

VK: Now when you were in the military you lived on a military base while you were serving? Did they provide all the meals for you and do you recall if the meals were very good?

DW: Oh Yeah

VK: And where did you live? Did you live in a, did you share a barracks?

DW: Oh Yeah a whole mess of guys did.

CF: Barracks right Barracks?

DW: Yeah barracks.

VK: Now this says that you got several medals.

DW: Well just for sharp shooting being in the army for three or two years whatever it is

VK: You got a good conduct medal.

DW: Yeah I never got in trouble so.

VK: And you said sharp shooting?

DW: We would go out on the range and shoot a rifle and if you get a good score you get a medal see.

VK: Who did your laundry for you?

DW: There was a laundry on the base.

VK: And it says it was a $1.50.

DW: $1.50 a month.

VK: Oh a month?

VK: Do you recall when Pearl Harbor was bombed?

DW: Yep

VK: Because you were still in Utica then right?

DW: It come over the radio on Sunday afternoon.

VK: Did you think then that you would probably be drafted?

DW: Oh Yeah

VK: Did any of your other family members serve?

DW: My brother served.

VK: And what branch of service was he in?

DW: He was a Marine.

LS: Did he serve overseas Don?

DW: Yeah

LS: You were the oldest?

DW: He was over in the Solomon Islands.

LS: Were you both in the service at the same time?

LS: So did your mom stay in contact do you feel like was she able to stay in touch with both of you?

DW: Yeah we would call home every once in a while.

LS: Did you ever get to converse with him when you were both in the service?

DW: Well after he got back to the states we did.

LS: When he was overseas you would have to write him, would be the only way?

VK: Did you get very many letters from your parents or from?

DW: Oh Yeah they would write every day or two.

VK: And being here in the states you probably got mail regularly?

DW: Yeah you didn't want to miss mail call.

VK: Did you work everyday of the week or did you have a day off or?

DW: Well we had a day off.

VK: Did that vary from week to week or?

DW: Well if you worked on Sunday you would get a day off during the week.

VK: And where were you at then when you found out you would be discharged?

DW: In Fort Benning.

LS: Did you celebrate?

DW: Oh no didn't have time.

DW: They just come in one day and said get everybody out of here.

CF: And that was it huh?

LS: And how did you get home? Do you remember that?

DW: Hitchhiked.

LS: They didn't put you on a train or a bus?

DW: Well we were in such a hurry we just you would just go to town and get a bus or whatever and

CF: And got the heck out of Dodge

DW: The bus broke down and then we had to hitchhike. That's where the hitchhiking came in. We didn't want to stick around we just caught the first ride going,

VK: How long did it take you get home? Several days?

DW: No. I had to go into St. Louis and catch Eagle coming out of St. Louis. It used to be a diesel west of an evening…no west of a morning and east of an evening on the Missouri Pacific. I was coming home one time and I looked out the window and I told this conductor you know I live right out there, if you'll just stop the train I'll get off and walk home. So he stopped in Utica

VK: You didn't have to…did you have to go back to then Fort Leavenworth to formally discharge?

DW: Yes you had to go back to Leavenworth to get discharged.

VK: Did you have a pretty good relationship with your officers?

DW: Oh Yeah.

CF: What did you do for recreation, Don? When you didn't have any bookkeeping during the day?

DW: Well played some softball. One place we had played softball

CF: Anything else that you did? You didn't play softball all the time did you?

DW: Well no only in the summer time.

CF: What did you do like movies or?

DW: Well Yeah there was a movie every night.

LS: Were you ever in an area where there was a USO?

DW: Yeah there was a place or two.

LS: That you could go into and?

DW: Yeah but you had to go to Birmingham or someplace like that.

CF: How did you spend the holidays like Christmas? Did they have like a regular Christmas dinner?

DW: Well I was home most of the time.

CF: On holidays? Oh you got to go home then mostly on your holidays then?

VK: So you had several opportunities to come home during your time of service? You came back a couple of times?

DW: Come back for harvest twice.

VK: And how long did they usually let you stay?

DW: Two to three weeks.

CF: That's a long time.

VK: Was it difficult to go back then after those two weeks were over?

DW: Well you had to go or else they would come get you.

LS: I'm going to go back to when you came home and you said the train left you off at Utica. Was there someone in Utica who offered to take you out to your parents or were you able to get a hold of your parents?

DW: We'll my dad was waiting there for some reason. There was another train coming from the West see and it hadn't got there yet. Oh back then the train never run on time

VK: So they were expecting you?

DW: No. Well Yeah they expect me but not on this train.

DW: No I was going to go on to Scott City and then hitchhike back see.

CF: Oh.

DW: One other time I had to get off at Hoisington I went over to Great Bend and caught a ride.

LS: People weren't afraid to give people rides and things back then. They respected your uniform? Were you in your uniform most of the time when you came home?

DW: Oh Yeah. It's not like nowadays you don't have to wear your uniform if you're not on base.

CF: That's right you had to wear your uniforms back then

DW: That's all we had.

CF: Yeah cause I can remember my brothers.

VK: Do you remember how much you were paid?

DW: Sixty-six dollars.

CF: A month?

DW: A month.

VK: Did you keep that money or did you have it sent home?

DW: I had $ 25.00 in bonds, government bonds, every month.

VK: That you bought?

DW: Yeah

VK: And then you kept the rest? Did you have to spend a lot of money though, while you were in the military? I mean the food and everything was provided right?

DW: No

VK: Did you buy anything special then when you got home?

DW: Well I bought a…well let's see…

CF: car?

DW: I bought a car.

CF: What did you do Don then after you got home?

DW: I was a carpenter.

CF: A carpenter there at Arnold? So…was that mainly your main occupation being a carpenter? I want to know about when you first got the Mobile Station because that's how I remembered you. You know when you first got the Mobile Station down there. What made you go from being a carpenter or whatever to…and how long ago was that?

DW: I just wanted a change

CF: How many years was that after you got out of the service was that quite a few years?

DW: From '46 to '55. Nine years.

VK: Did you ever go back and visit or drive by or any of the places you that were stationed?

DW: No.

VK: You never did?

DW: They're all way off too far.

LS: Do you think you learned anything in the service that you were able to apply to your…you know if you did a lot of bookkeeping was bookkeeping something easy for you then when you got back out?

DW: Yeah but there wasn't any jobs for a bookkeeper.

CF: You probably did your own bookkeeping when you had your Mobile Station

DW: Oh Yeah.

VK: And how long did you have then the Mobile Station?

DW: Eighteen years.

VK: And when you sold that, is that when you retired?

DW: No I went to farming.

VK: You went back to farming?

LS: Do you still have land or have you sold all of your land, Don?

DW: I've got a half section

CF: Up around Arnold?

DW: Yeah.

LS: Did you ever join a Veteran's Service Organization? Did you join the Legion or the VFW or anything like that?

DW: I joined the Legion for awhile.

LS: Were you still in the service when the war ended?

DW: Yeah. He might have been home before I, can't remember

LS: Well I kind of wondered if maybe if since you served stateside that maybe the boys overseas actually got to come home and be discharged but yet they needed you to take care of paperwork probably. Did you have to help do paperwork of those coming home to put in their service records that they were discharged and stuff like that?

DW: No they shipped me out before it got too hard.

LS: Do you think you had one time that was something that you remember more than anything? I mean you just remember getting drafted or what do you think if somebody said `what do you remember about World War II what do you think? What does it make you think of?

DW: Just another job.

LS: You just had to do what you had to do. Do you have children, Don?

DW: No

LS: Ok

VK: Did you consider reenlisting at all? Did anybody ask you to or?

DW: Well I had a chance to go to Germany but I didn't take it.

VK: You were ready to come home?

CF: Did you bring back Don any pictures or any souvenirs or anything during the service? Do you have any like old photographs of army buddies or your time in the service? Seems to me when I was up here one time you were showing me something but I wasn't quite sure.

DW: Yeah there is a book up in the shelf there with some pictures.

VK: Do you have your uniform?

DW: Yeah but it's up home.

CF: It's at Arnold?

LS: But you did save it?

DW: I guess they did but I don't know what happened to it. I didn't bring it with me because I couldn't wear it.

DW: Say, down in Fort Benning they had a football team and basketball team. One time there was a bunch of red headed girls come in there to play basketball against the Fort Benning team and the boys was way ahead and the girls talked them into letting them catch up see, and the girls got ahead of them. I think Johnny Lujack played down there at Fort Benning on the football team and he was a big shot out of West Point.

LS: Did your brother and you ever get to be home at the same time while you were both in the service?

DW: No. Well I don't know he didn't get to come home he went all overseas I think.

LS: Well we really appreciate your time today Don and we think it is really important that we get the histories of the people that we still can and so we are really thankful that you took the time to share your time with us and we really appreciate that.

DW: No that was it was a real nice deal getting to see all the country. I met a lot of people. It was enjoyable.

LS: All right thank you very much.

DW: It was a great experience I'd say.

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