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Interview on experiences in World War II

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W. W. II Oral History Project

Barber County, Kansas

Carl C. Eckert

James Johnston, Interviewer & Cameraman

I'm Carl Eckert. I was sent to Far-aget, Idaho for boot camp training. I got a 15 day leave, went home and then went back to Idaho. Transferred me to Port Hueneme, California, just outside of Oxnard. We did amphibious, landing, practices down at Port Mugu. These boats we used would hold 32 men standing up. They were made out of plywood with metal V* inch thick down the sides and the ramp would drop over for you. From there my training was bayonet practice, hand to hand practice with 5th Marine Raiders. From there we went to Hawaii. I was there one month.

Like Melvin said I was on a troop ships. I was in the Navy. This troop ship, you go down

to eat, troops get sea sick     
boats moving around, it was kind of a mess. We took a

fire hoses and tried to wash the stuff down. We had water about this deep ( 18") moving back and forth across the galley. Tried to get it pumped out and cleaned up and then someone else would get sea sick again. So you don't eat very much.

We got to Hawaii, we had to wait for, they call them a pilot, to come get your boat to take you through because Pearl Harbor was all mined. There was a net out there with mines on it. Our pilot was late getting there and our ship sat there and we got in that net. You could hear the mines scraping down the side of the boat, but none of them went off.

We went in and took more training there. Hawaii wasn't like I thought it was. Everywhere you went there was another gate and another guard.

I left there and went to make invasions in the islands. We was on a troop ship, and the bunks was made out of pipes, long wise, with canvas stretched across it a couple of ropes holding it. You had to lay down to get in. You pack and rifle and everything stick into the walkway which was only about 3' wide. Stacked 8 high so you had 16 rifles right there on the floor and everybody's gear. Some joker up there, he'd got sea sick and everybody down gets it. He tried to get out and he falls over everything. You laugh about it later on but at that time it was disgusting.

I got into the suicide squad, in the Commandos. Right now they call them the Navy Seals. They went from the Commandos, to the Frog Men, to the Seals. Our odds were one out of a hundred of getting out of a landing. There was 227 of us and there are 7 of us left. We didn't have no dog tags and did away with all our identification. We never carried a rifle, we carried a little knife and our hands and two sianMe-capsules, £e4^ We weren't allowed to be took prisoner and we didn't take any prisoners. When we t/ went in we found out where their supplies, food and troops, estimate troops, things like

that and came back out before they landed, the Marines came in. I was in the battle of Tarawa. We were on a landing craft, we had to go in and take a boat, your stick off your boat to push your boat around, we had to push the bodies out of the way so we could get to shore. There was 8,010 bodies on this island and this island isn't as big as Kiowa. A half mile wide and a mile long. They had caves in it, you know. They'd get in these caves and that's where the artillery was, guns was and stuff. The only way to get them out was with flame throwers. Stick a flame thrower in and try to burn them out, then go to another one. If the guy with the flame thrower was killed someone else took it and tried to make it in there. It was hairy up there.

Then after that the 981h Battalion Sea Bees came in built an air strip. Took this coral rock, the island was coral, dry filled with sand, but when it got wet it would get hard as concrete. So they build an air strip and took this coral, what they made the air strip out of, water it down it would hold B-24 bombers, any kind of bomber you want, it was hard as concrete. We'd get air raids every night, 10 o'clock, 12 o'clock, 2 o'clock. Bombed the heck out of us.

Natives were on the next island over from us. I learned to talk native is I had to.

Is "good morning, how are you?"        
means "fine thank you". With his

hand he would say       
"are you married?" She' d say   
"no". The natives

over there, the King owned these islands before the Japs come in. They had a missionary over there, but they hadn't taught them what fire was, they never cooked a meal, they didn't know how to work, they didn't have no work, they lived off the food off the island. They could climb a tree faster with their hands and feet than you could with spikes on. They would catch a bird, they had a bird called a gooney birds, they flew by sound, they were blind. These guys would catch them birds by the neck and throw them down out of the tree. Come down and pull feathers, go to eating, never cook the thing. The English gave them nets to throw out to catch fish, you know. And they would catch these fish, and that rascal was still kicking and they were eating that rascal. Coconuts, they lived off coconuts. There was a real thin coconut, medium, clear up to where the coconut was solid. The one that was solid, the tree was only about that tall (3'). And the inside was just as sweet as anything you've ever ate. It was solid white. The water, I have yet to this day figured out how a little island, a half mile wide and one mile long could have a hole in it with fresh water. That was the water we drank. I have never figured it out, salt water all the way around you. If we took a bath we walk out in the ocean to take a bath, unless it rained. Took your clothes off and grabbed a bar of soap. It might quit raining when you're all soaped down, but anyhow we'd be darker than the natives, when we got through washing we'd be whiter than a ghost.

Three days after Japan surrendered I was on Tarawa, Makin, Manchro, Quaduline, Roy, Enuwetok. That's where I wound up at, At Enuwetok they had a big anchorage, 100 and some square miles. Task force, fleet would come in and make up the next invasion there, I had a job there at times, this anchorage they called them berths. Each ship would have a certain b§th to anchored at, only one way in, narrow channel. I had a job running a

pick up boat. Every ship came in I ran out and showed them which bfrth they were supposed to anchor at. My brother came in one time and I didn't even know it. He knew I was on that island and he tried to see me but they wouldn't let him. At that time I had myself and two other brothers in the service . One was in Germany on the Normandy, and the other one was in the Pacific in the Army in the Signal Corp. in Saipan, Guam, Iwojima. I have flag (he meant picture) of him in Iwojima on the hill with the flag before the Marines every raised that one.

Another job in the Navy was the floating dry dock. You never heard of them but they come in three pieces. They towed it with tug boats and followed the fleet, and when they got somewhere close to the invasion they put this thing back together. If they had a ship get hit or something that couldn't come in on it's own power. They pump water back in this dry dock and sink it, pull this boat, ship in, pump the water back out, raise it up so they could work on it. While I was at Enuwetok I was destroyers come in, from the front of the bow clear back to two thirds of the front, that much of the ship was gone. They had to weld pontoons on it so it would float. Saratoga came in that had a hole in the side where plane went through the side of it. A120 some guys in it were dead, it was

still running. Had boats made to hang over the side     
rope and put the fire out just as it

came through the channel. I saw them come through with the top of mast all blew off, back end all blown off, being towed. Dry dock the only way they can keep afloat to get back to the states.

Question: Were those men still in the boat? Those 120 some?

Carl: Yes. Saratoga was a large aircraft carrier. What do you call them, Kawasaki

water level clear on up 

Question Cindy Archuleta: So who took the men out? Carl: They didn't take them out until we got back.

We was on Enuwetok, they brought most of us there, we was all kind of whacky. That was where we were to be rehabilitated at. They said we weren't fit to come back to the states and we needed to get our head screwed back on right.

There was one chief standing there, a chief petty officer, laughing. A destroyer came in,

a plane went clear through the top deck. He was just laughing. I said "What's the

matter chief?" He said "The officers are all mad on there." I said "Why?" He said

"They just lost their bathroom and every thing, they got to use the enlisted bathrooms

downstairs." We had a lot of fun over there at times. I don't know what I'm supposed to

tell you        

Anyhow, I got orders to come back to the states. I got thirty days leave, went back for 7 days and I was home with my discharge. You got any questions?

Question Cindy Archuleta: Why did they not want any identification on you?

Carl: They did want them to know how many of us there is, or what outfit we were. We were just as brown as the natives. And we talked native and if the Japanese caught us they didn't want us, if they was torturing us, you wouldn't believe the torture they could put you through. I could tell you but it would make you sick.

Question Cindy Archuleta: So what happened?

Carl: They didn't want no one to know who you were, how many there was, or anything.

Question Cindy Archuleta: So, if the guys in your group died there was no way to get them, they were just left there?

Carl: Right. If you were captured you took the sianide capsule. Because their torture, you won't believe, I've seen them set there and scream for someone to kill you. You don't dare touch them because you're dead then too. If you're hanging by your hands with your feet that far (6") off the ground, split you open and let the flies eat you. I can tell you lot worse that that.

Question Melvin Conrad: Carl, what were some of those islands that you were at?

We left Hawaii and crossed the equator and the International date line all in one day. Here's the Hawaiian Islands, we went through there, down to the Gilbert Islands. This was supposed to be the Equator I guess. We were right on the equator. I tell you about hot. It was so hot! They claimed 100 degrees equaled 137 degrees back here in Kansas.

We took our gas, our gas came in barrels, 55 gallon barrels, they'd dump them out in the ocean and the tide would wash them in. We'd walk out and pick them up, 55 gallons of oil and 55 gallons of gas and load them in a truck and haul them in and stack them. Try lifting one of them sometime, I can't do it now but I did then.

On one island was bombs and all the ammunition on the next island next to it. You could go from one island to another while the tide was down. You could walk and not even get wet. When the tide came in we was hauling gas back to the air strips, you know. Haul gas back the tide had shoved that tanker side ways, it had that much pressure. Take these island. The Sea Bees had come in and made these-air strips, bombers come in, fighter planes come in, go bomb the next island up like, Trek, Guam, Siapan. Then they'd build another air strip,

I'll tell you what I saw, you'll never believe it but it's God's truth. A native took a wood match and lit it and set against his bare foot, they are just like rock, their feet are. And could blow that fire out. Another one let that match burn up to his foot and never bother

him but you put an empty gas barrel out there in the sun and he could not stand on that barrel, it was that hot.

Question James Johnston: It was really humid? Does that mean heat?

You'd go on the other islands to get gas, you'd swear to God sometime that gas was on fire, the steam was coming out just like smoke. We pulled back out of there several times, waiting for it to blow. We did have some of it blow up. You wouldn't believe, that was quite a sight a 55 gallon barrel going up there 150 foot in the air, streak of fire.

On your invasions, before the troops landed, they would shell it, bomb it. There wouldn't be no trees left, out of ajungle, there was no trees left. They would have pill boxes in there, made out of cement and coconut logs so thick a l,0001b bomb could sit on top of that rascal and go off and never tear it up. An 18" shell off a battleship could bounce off one of them things. That is why we had to use fire extinguishers, not fire extinguishers, that's how come we burnt them out of there.

Question James Johnston: What were those pill boxes made out of again?

Concrete, steel bars and coconut logs. They over 3 foot thick.

Question Cindy Archuleta: How old were you when you went into the Navy?

I was 18 years old.

Question Cindy Archuleta: I thought you were younger.

I was drafted, I turned 18when I was in high school and I got drafted before I got out of high school.

Cindy Archuleta: OK

I was 21 years and 2 days old when I got out of the service.

Question Cindy Archuleta: You were how old?

I was 21 years and 2 days old. When we went over there I weighed 185 Ib, when I got back I weighed 135.

We lived on, we lived on can    
I was in the Navy, I was with the Marine Rangers, I

was with the Army, I was with the Sea Bees, anyone that needed anything done we done

it for them. I lived in pup tents, same as the rest of the troops,      
I ate K rations same as

the rest of them. You never, and I pulled guard duty same as the rest of them.

I could tell you what I did. I will! We wa& in Tawara when they brought food into eat, they brought in two ship loads of beer. I pulled guard duty on beer pile. And I issued beer... Then guys would comeby and ask if they could have a beer. I'd say "Just take a case!" One day this lieutenant came by. I had given two Marines two cases of beer. I'm guarding it, you see. He asked if I saw those two guys get that beer. I said "yes sir". He said "You know they're not supposed to have it?" I said "I know, I felt sorry for them." He said "They haven't been here any longer than we have." I said " I know." He said "Ok, I want to know your name and serial number, I'm going to put you on report." Alright! He didn't know it but I was already half drunk on beer already. Anyhow, this beer I tell you what, it was hot. They'd explode in the case, the bottles would bust, right in there. Can you imagine opening one of them up? Open it, comes out your ears, your nose, it comes out of everywhere? Any how, about 6 days later, 4 days later, here comes this lieutenant. "You know I got to thinking about that, I didn't put you on report." I said "I thought you was kind of chicken if you did." He said "What was the chances of me getting some beer?" I said "If I'm on the other side of the stack I can't see you can I?" He said "no". I said "Wait until I get around there." I went around and he went and loaded his jeep up and took off.

The Cooks. They'd, they had a cooler, we didn't have no cooler. So in the morning about 4:30 on the way to chow hall they'd come by and I'd give then about 6 cases of beer and they'd give come back with one cold case. So we had that set up pretty good too.

Oh, I don't know, there was these pilots, fighter pilots, bomber pilots, you know when these bombs are coming, you know where that rascal is, you know by the sound of that thing where it's at, if you need to be under cover or not. Sometimes I wish I had been under cover sooner but I wasn't. I was about half covered up with sand and had

shrapnel. I remember a tree I was under I       
one goes off here I lay here on top of the

sand and one goes off here and I halfway covered up with sand. You know, I should have gone under cover first but I was on the way to get some beer for one of those pilots. You know, you do some stupid things over there but you gotta do something to entertain your life.

Question: Are you married? Were you married at 18 years old? Do you have a wife?

I am now, after I got back, I wasn't then, but as soon as I got back I got one. I got out November 11 at 11 o'clock. 11-11-11 that is when they signed the armistice. I thought they were celebrating me getting out of the service. I got married in February. I didn't fool around.

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