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James Thompson video interview on experiences in World War II (trancsript)

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This is Suzette McCord Rogers and Peggy Stanton. We are at the home of James Thompson on November 26, 2006. We are going to ask you a few questions to start off. Where were you born?

Mr. Thompson: Where?

Suzette: Yes, where were you born? Where are you from?

Mr. Thompson: Falls City, Nebraska.

Suzette: Falls City, Nebraska. What was your date of birth?

Mr. Thompson: April 1….You better hurry up…..

Suzette: …a little bit about yourself. Are you married, do you have children?

(Tape is skippingparts are not recording)

Suzette: Do you have children?

Mr. Thompson: Yes, four boys.

Suzette: four boys. That sounds like that fits you really good when they were growing up(?). And, where do they live? Do they live here in Highland?

Tape skips

Mr. Thompson: ..He lives in Highland and your other children live in Kansas?

Tape skips

Suzette: …in Virginia…when you grew up in Falls City, did you go to high school in Falls City?

Mr. Thompson: Yes, graduated.

Suzette: You graduated from high school in Falls City, and then, how long have you lived in Kansas?

Mr. Thompson:..(tape skips)

Suzette: When you got involved, did you enlist or did you get drafted?

Mr. Thompson: a special program where they sent you to college for awhile, and then enlisted.

Suzette: You enlisted in what branch of the service?

Mr. Thompson: _____tape skips

Suzette: The Army Air Corps? Was it still called the Army Air Corps then?

Mr. Thompson: Yes.

Suzette: Prior to your enlisting in the Army Air Corps, were you still living in Nebraska or had you come to …

Mr. Thompson: I started in Nebraska for awhile and ….

Tape skipping

Suzette: Wichita, didn't you?

Mrs. Thompson: Yeah, before we met. He went to Wichita and worked at Cessna for …to help the war effort.

Suzette: That's right. A lot of people worked at Cessna, but didn't realize the importance of helping the war effort.

Tape skips

Suzette: You had graduated from high school, you farmed a little, then you went to Wichita and worked at the Cessna plant.

Mrs. Thompson: Yeah.

Suzette: How old were you when you enlisted?

Mr. Thompson: Let's see, I don't remember…

Tape skipping again

Suzette: went to work for the Cessna plant when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and that was in..(tape skips) to enlist? After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, is that when you decided to enlist?

Mrs. Thompson: He figured he would get drafted, so he enlisted.

Suzette: Do you remember what the name of your company?

Mr. Thompson: (skips)

Suzette: ….work force. When you joined the Air Corps, do you remember your division or anything?

Mr. Thompson: I doubt if I do..

Suzette: And what did you do? What was your role?

Mr. Thompson: (skips) …airplanes. They decided that every time that army plane took off it had to have a navigator aboard. They had a pilot, co-pilot, engineer and a navigator. That was required. And so I got to go a lot of places. And that making coffee most of the time. (all chuckling)

Suzette: Did you do training before you became a navigator? Were you trained by the Army?

Mr. Thompson: Yeah.

Mrs. Thompson: 15 weeks of it.

Suzette: …here in the United States.

Mrs. Thompson: Yeah, Louisiana.

Tape skips

Suzette: When you enlisted, did you join with other friends or did you have some friends you joined with when you enlisted in the Air Corps?

Tape skips

Suzette: …you went on your own.

Mr. Thompson: Uh, huh.

Suzette: OK. What do you remember from the Philippines? Did you go when you went first in the Philippines?

Mr. Thompson: ….(tape skips)

Mrs. Thompson: You went right to Hawaii first.

Mr. Thompson: to Hawaii first…

Tape skips

Mrs. Thompson: it was '46.

Suzette: It was 1946.

Mrs. Thompson: He went to flight school too. That wasn't his job…(tape skips)

Mr. Thompson: …six crew members in the airplane I flew off.

Suzette: How did you get chosen? Just randomly?

Mr. Thompson: No, I was more or less assigned with these pilots.

Suzette: Did you know McArthur? Had you met him?

Mr. Thompson: Yeah.

Suzette: So that must have been really fun. A special thing…

Peggy: Did you know before you left what you were delivering, or did you find that out later?

(Tape skips)

Suzette: When you were working, did you feel like you were part of a bigger nation, a bigger event?

(Tape skips)

Suzette: What was it like when you went in?

Mr. Thompson: when we went in?

Tape skips

Suzette: Private. OK. So then, but then you went to all this training…

Mr. Thompson: First lieutenant.

Suzette: Oh, first lieutenant.

Tape skips

Suzette: Are there memories you'd like to share? That McArthur one is pretty good.

Tape skips

Mr. Thompson: stationed in New Guinea for awhile, clear down bottom of New Orleans, then we'd fly up to …tape skips…in a way, and one time we were….tape skips….it wasn't too nice of a place. Tape skips…to Japan, Japan has a pretty good smell.

Mrs. Thompson: …he went from Manila to Tokyo.

Mr. Thompson: yeah...tape skips… on the map, …..pretty soon they all go…

Mrs. Thompson: tape skips…the first time…

Mr. Thompson: …so we followed that thing around, and you could look out the window, and the ocean was just boiling. All the big crowd over there, the typhoon. We went on around and the wind was at our tail, so we were really making time. (All chuckling)

Peggy: You had a good tail wind.

Mrs. Thompson: 150 miles per hour winds, they could go through it.

Mr. Thompson: So we got to where we were goin', …tape skips….the airport, and the next airplane available. And we landed anyway, in record time. We got out of the airplane,….

Suzette: Was it exciting, were you afraid that you'd get pulled in by the winds?

Mr. Thompson: Well, we could look over, out there in the distance, and see the big clouds. So I guided the airplane by sight, and I said, ``Go over'', …so we just turned around…

Mrs. Thompson:…tape skips

Suzette: Where were you permanently stationed? Were you in the Philippines permanently or did you just move around?

Mr. Thompson: …

Tape skips

Suzette: ….Japanese were really nice, pleasant people. Did you have any…tape skips….

Tape skipping…all talking at once…

Suzette: You have a brother, don't you? Did he also enlist?

Mr. Thompson: …

Tape skips

Suzette: I was just wondering, did you form lifelong friendships as a result of being in the service, with people you served with? Did you keep in …

Tape skips

Mrs. Thompson: …as he goes from north down to south…tape skipping badly here

Suzette: Wow!

Mrs. Thompson: …every year, but that's was the only one.

Suzette: Did you meet your wife as a result of being in the service?

Mr. Thompson: What?

Suzette: Did you meet your wife as a result of being in the service?

Mr. Thompson: ..Met my wife as a…

Suzette: …hometown sweetheart.

Mrs. Thompson: We were in the country, out in the rural.

Suzette: Did you write letters back and forth during the war?

Mrs. Thompson: No. The war probably brought us together in the sense that I wasn't attracted to him at all before, we grew up together. He was the neighborhood boy that I…I admired him; he was fine. But I never expected to…tape skips…he came home in uniform. So in that way I…tape skips…

Suzette: Aren't you glad you had your uniform on? (chuckling) So, he went back to the war?

Mrs. Thompson: Yeah.

Suzette: So you didn't correspond with him.

Mrs. Thompson: No.

Suzette: Did you write to your family during the war?

Mr. Thompson: Yeah.

Suzette: Was it important to you to get letters from home?

Mr. Thompson: Oh, yeah.

Mrs. Thompson: He begged!!

Suzette: What kinds of things did your family send you that you needed?

Mr. Thompson: FOOD!! Food…

Tape skips

Suzette: ….did you share with others in your unit?

Mr. Thompson: Not too much.

Suzette: Not too much. They were more private.

Tape skips

Suzette: It's interesting that you mention that they were all from different parts of the country and that it was like a different world. So at that time America was very different; people from different regions spoke differently. Did they have different food,..tape skips…

Mr. Thompson: That's probably…tape skips

Suzette: So what you are saying is a lot of times in your off-duty times, that maybe they would play cards and games and things, and you preferred to do things by yourself.

Mr. Thompson: yeah, …tape skips

Suzette: Really!

Mr. Thompson: and I didn't do anything.

Suzette: What other kinds of activities did people do when they were off-duty, that you remember?

Mr. Thompson: Well,…tape skips

Suzette: Do you remember any particular areas that you flew to that were interesting, that you liked,?

Mr. Thompson: What?

Suzette: Like when you were flying, when you were navigating, and like you said, you went to New Guinea, and then you went to Tokyo, and then you went to Japan…tape skips...areas that you really liked more than others, that you remember?

Mr. Thompson: tape skips

Suzette: You do, and why is that?

Mr. Thompson: ..go down the coast of South America, we was about half way down, and there is a …..sticking out. It didn't look like much, but they had the best restaurant there in the whole world. All the travelers stopped there.

Suzette: Really? What did you eat there that you liked?

Tape skips

Suzette: As a result of all the training you received and the experiences in the war, did this help you start a business or get a job after you returned home?

Mr. Thompson: No.

Suzette: Your family expected that of you. How did you feel about that after you'd been out and seen the larger world? Did you want to do something else?

Tape skips

Mr. Thompson: …worked for…tape skips

Mrs. Thompson: …graduated and…tape skips…dad had heart trouble…

Suzette: I didn't ask you this, but how long were you in the service, you enlisted in about '43, and got out in '46. So then after the service, you came back and farmed for awhile.

Mr. Thompson: Yeah.

Suzette: Ok, and then did you…tape skips…

Mrs. Thompson: he went to school.

Suzette: …to go to college.

Mrs. Thompson: …to go to…tape skips

Suzette: …a good benefit.

Mrs. Thompson: It wasn't really the GI Bill, but I don't think it was the GI Bill, was it?…We were losing ground…so he went on a _____foundation grant.

Suzette: But the GI Bill, though, was a benefit, after the war…but you farmed. How long did you farm?

Mrs. Thompson: tape skips really bad

Mr. Thompson: …it was the middle of the Depression, wasn't it?

Mrs. Thompson: No, no, no. You were very distressed about working hard to raise a lot of food, and there was a surplus. We didn't need it. Tape skips…tired of milking cows back then; tape skipping badly…he did not like the store…

Suzette: I just wonder if maybe seeing Japan and seeing that wider world didn't change things for you, and make you want to do something different?

Tape skips

Mrs. Thompson: I think he did not want to farm the rest of his life. So he better be prepared.

Tape skips

Mr. Thompson: …straight north of here, the north star, the attitude, the government had it figured out they could tell you everything you wanted to know about where you were, and you didn't get lost. And they ….in an airplane.

Suzette: Is it true? (chuckling)

Mr. Thompson: Yeah, anyway, so when I went to Alabama to college, navigation school, we learned all about the astro compass, the stars told us exactly where we are and you couldn't get lost. I learned all about the astro compass, how to set it, and how to find the stars, and on the airplane as a navigator…tape skips….(all chuckling)

Suzette: Isn't that supposed to be like a secret weapon at one time?

Mr. Thompson: All the airplanes had `em cause they were losing airplanes, and they had a rule that you had to have this and a navigator on every airplane. And so I was a navigator and the secret weapon.

Mrs. Thompson: Secret weapon, but didn't use it!!

Suzette: Sounds to me like they had a wild navigator.

Suzette: When you got out of the Army, were you a second lieutenant?

Mr. Thompson: First.

Mrs. Thompson: After you graduated and received your wings and bars, you were commissioned a second lieutenant. Tape skips….

Suzette: Do you think the war changed American society? Do you think it made people feel less isolated…tape skips…

Mr. Thompson: …saw different states…tape skips…you had to work together…

Suzette: …tape skips…traveling more after the war and our society sort of blending a little more with the…tape skips…

Was your service a positive experience?

Mr. Thompson: Yeah.

Suzette: You enjoyed it.

Mr. Thompson: I don't know what I would do without the oxygen!

Suzette: We were talking about…tape skips…have you received any veterans' medical benefits?

Mrs. Thompson: Well, no. We didn't apply for them; he said the Army didn't owe him a thing. Tape skips…we did, and he was turned down.

Suzette: He was turned down?

Mrs. Thompson: Yeah…tape skips terribly here…college courses, I think we paid for that, didn't we?…tape still skipping….

Suzette: He went in as an officer, not a private. That was probably beneficial.

Mrs. Thompson: And more money too. Tape skips…

Suzette: …the community response when you got back? Tape skips…were you regarded as a hero…

Mrs. Thompson: We didn't have any parade. We just…tape skips

Suzette: As a World War II veteran, that you…tape skips…serving the nation. And that was important to you. Did you come back on a transport ship from Japan?…tape skips….You saw that the atomic bomb was a positive effect on the war..

Mr. Thompson: tape skips…the war disaster…all mountains, building into the mountains, it would be almost impossible to root them out. ….tape skips

Suzette: Was the atomic bomb a surprise,…or did they drop it and then you were told about it?

Tape skips

(conversation among several here)

Mr. Thompson: …over the ocean and Nagasaki.

Suzette: What was the first thing you did when you got off the ship and did you go to California, what did you do?

Tape skips

Mrs. Thompson: Called him, to get home.

Suzette: When did you move to Kansas, then, this was after the…tape skips

Mrs. Thompson: …high school in Ottumwa…tape skips

Suzette: Do you have any other memories that you would like to share with us? Thank you very much. I appreciate your time. And Marion, I want to thank you too. Thank you so much.

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