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Interview on experiences in World War II

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INTERVIEWEE: David Lee Smith


DATE: January 3, 2007

PLACE: Rural Rice County (Lyons address)

(Mrs. Smith is in the background of the interview at times)

POE: This is interviewer Marian Poe here in the home, in rural Rice County - is this a Lyons address?


POE: David?

SMITH: David L. Smith.

POE: Smith.

SMITH: Uhhuh.

POE: A World War II veteran.

SMITH: Yeah.

POE: And today is January the 3rd...

SMITH: 3rd

POE: 2007.

SMITH: Right.

POE: So, you want to tell us a little bit about yourself?

SMITH: Okay. First, I was born here in Lyons in 1917. My father was Edward Smith. We lived on a farm five miles north of Lyons and a mile west. And that's my introduction of my, where I was born.

POE: And what's your exact birth date? SMITH: My birthday is April the 28th, 1917. POE: Okay.

SMITH: So I'm getting close to 90 [chuckling]. So anyway, in 1934 I joined the National Guard down here in Lyons. Battery C. 161st Field Artillery. Stayed there three years then, I think I was age 17 or 18,1 went out into the working world to work. Course that's back in the Depression, you know. Everything was tough. Then in 1940 I was drafted in the Army, the United States Army. Went to Ft. Leavenworth, three months basic training there. From there I was transferred to Ft. Monmouth, New Jersey, took more basic training. We took - that was a big, a pretty big... trying to... a signal post, big signal post. Took training there. Took pole climbing and code - took code, telephone operation, pole line construction and such, back at that time; they got newer ways of doing things now. But I stayed there for about a year. Well, on December the 7th 1941, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Am I talking too fast [chuckling]?

POE: No. That's okay. I'm not-I will...

SMITH: That'staking care of it? [Pointing to the digital camera]

POE: That's taking care of it.

SMITH: Uh huh. So all military posts was put on alert. So when I left there in 1942, the early part of 1942,1 was sent to Camp Crowder, Missouri for training. It was a big signal training camp. All units from different posts was sending their men in there to get this special training of signal communication. So I stayed there in that and went all through basic training. Then I transferred - on the same post at Ft. Crowder, they was building a big cook and baker school there, so I transferred into that as an instructor, after some training. I went through all their training as an instructor there. Training cooks and bakers for all parts of the post and all parts of the world. They was getting 16-weeks training and then shipping them out. They had a big school there. Then... well, I'm getting ahead here... [looking at some sort of document off camera] After that then, during the year 1942, this - yeah, I've got that covered... [chuckling] Hope I'm not messing that up [pointing again to the digital camcorder].

POE: No. You can't, because it's just recording what you say.

SMITH: [Reading from a document off camera] Then in 1943, in October I believe it was, I was transferred to a company on the same post that was going overseas. Went to Seattle, Washington, boarded a ship, didn't know where we were going until 1,000 miles out at sea. Our company commander opened our orders; it said 'Philippine Islands'. We spent 16 days zigzagging across the ocean, then we got into Manila. Manila Harbor [stops reading]. The harbor was so full of sunken ships that we had to go in on rafts. And I went there as a signal company. We took all of our equipment with us, our trucks, our jeeps, trailers, and all these poles, 35-foot poles. We got in Manila, our job was to -the Japs had done tore up Manilla, the big city of Manila, just bombed it all to pieces -our job, we were assigned to, to unravel all the hot lines and cold lines out on the main street of Manila, big streets. And them lines was so tangled up and mixed up that they were big as a 55-gallon drum. They was all together, thousands of wires. You didn't know whether one was hot or one was cold. And we lost several men untangling those.

Got that done, then in July, I think it was, the Japanese surrendered and then our job was, we put all our equipment on a LST and spent seven days, if I recall, seven days from there on to Japan. There was 128 ships in our convoy, cause we didn't know whether the Japanese were gonna keep their word of surrender. But they did, they kept their word. Then we stayed there in Wakayama, Japan. Then had our - we didn't do too much there. We just, more or less watching things, our equipment - we had our equipment there, we took it with us, and we moved to Wakayama, the Subic Bay. That was a big harbor there. We set up there. Course, we had not only our company but there was other companies that had control of everything there that, all the big factories and everything. But where we was settled at Subic Bay, they had a big airfield there that our forces had conquered, you know, when they surrendered, and it was full of airplanes. And they took, our forces, took all those airplanes with bulldozers and bulldozed 'em up in a bunch, so they couldn't fly 'em, you know, put 'em out of commission. And where our headquarters was, it was a big Naval Japanese training place, where they trained their sailors and officers. But we lived in that. It was a beautiful place. It was all underneath ground, well, cement mostly. They had a big parade ground out there in the center where they trained their cadets. Then they had their- they lived underneath this big building, cement building. I stayed there until I had enough points, I come back - we went by points back then. I had 80-some points. I come back to the States and I - let's see where I was assigned to then [looking in a notebook]. I got it down here... it takes me just a minute to find out where I'm at [chuckling]. What my next assignment was. Well, in 1946, January of 1946,1 came back to the States. Stayed a while at Ft. Riley then I was assigned to Hawaii, went to Hawaii. In Hawaii we had a -1 was sent there, still in the signal corp., was assigned to a big signal communication station there, right out of Manila. That was close to Schofield Barracks, too. I stayed there until 1950, came back to the - assigned to the Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Maryland and I was there, I think, about 16 months. Then the Korean War started, so we was training troops up there. They was draftees, and they was tough training day and night. I mean, some of those trainees, they didn't want to train, you know, they were drafted and didn't care. But anyway, I stayed there until... [looking through notebook] yeah, I stayed there for a year or so. These years are kinda together... but I stayed there and then I went to Adaberry, Indiana. Was assigned to big general hospital there. There, and then the Officers Club... stayed there and I'm skipping a lot of stuff in this, see? I'm just hitting the highlights. And from Adaberry there, I stayed there for 8 or 9 months then I went to Korea, I went to Korea, well, I was assigned to the 7 * Division in Korea. Stayed with them for a few months. It was right at the height of the fighting there. Then they had a Puerto Rican outfit, strictly a Puerto Rican outfit, from Puerto Rico. They couldn't talk English and they refiised to go up on a hill. So they took a bunch of us NCOs out of different companies, split the company up, and sent us in there to train them. They couldn't speak English. It was terrible. So finally they broke it up and took these Puerto Ricans and sent 'em out to different regiments to English speaking people, could talk English. That^s the only way you could do 'em. They didn't know nothing, they - lot of'em didn't want to know nothing, you know. So they got, split that outfit all up. Then the outfit that I wound up with - still the 3rd Division, George Company, 3rd Battalion - I stayed with them and we were, we had two campaigns at that time. Outpost Harry - it was an outpost that the Japanese wanted awful, Japanese er, Koreans, North Koreans wanted awful bad. It was important terrain.

They wanted that. So we went back and forth for a while. We finally got it. And that was the one campaign. The second campaign I was doing there was Sugarloaf. It was a mountain. The Japanese, er, North Koreans, they're Japs but North Koreans [chuckling], they wanted to hold that mountain and we wanted it, too. So we fought back and forth for months, at times we'd have it one day or maybe a week and then they'd get it back. Well, that went on for quite a while until finally they had a truce, the sign, so we quit our fighting on both sides, had this truce sign, cease fire, I should say cease fire, not the truce. The truce come out later. It was a cease-fire, so we all pulled back off our positions and about a month after that then I returned to the States, assigned to Ft. Crowder, Missouri again. But it wasn't no signal post. It was a prisoner post, where, it was where American GI's was prisoners. They was, ended up AWOL's, black market and all that stuff they were doing at that time, selling stuff that belonged to the government. So I stayed there as a guard for about three years there. Then that broke up, they closed the post. Now these prisoners, American GFs, when they come there they had 50-years on 'em and all that stuff. They was in for a long time. But they took 'em down there and they had several companies. I was in the company that, it was trustees. You could take 'em out and they could clean up the post and do work outside of the wire. But they had others that couldn't. They had, while I was there, three or four murderers, but they went to Leavenworth. We didn't keep them down there. We just kept the ones that was AWOL's and thieves and stuff like that, black market. They broke that post up in 19... [looking in notebook] Well, I'm a little ahead here - in 1957,1 went from there to Ft. Hood, Texas to the 4' Armored Division. And I went to Germany. Stayed up there for a while for a little training and then we went to Germany. Heilbronn, Germany. The town, big town, it was all bombed out. It was all torn up. We didn't do anything over there. We trained. I was over there about 14 months, I guess it was. We went to [inaudible] for training. We had tanks and tracks and stuff like that. Just training. Then in 1960 I come back from Germany and was assigned to Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri. Well, I stayed there until 1962. We trained troops down there, basic training, still training. Then in 1962, in September of 1962,1 retired. Now that's just hitting the highlights. That's not hitting the [chuckling]... all those years, that 25 years - three years active guard and 22 years regular Army service.

POE: Now, when you were in the National Guard, you said 1930-what? Did you... ?

SMITH: 1934. I entered, it was in 1934.

POE: And you stayed then there for three years?

SMITH: Yeah, three years.

POE: So that'd be 1934 to 1937.

SMITH: '37, yeah.

POE: And then you were in the Army it was the Army, right? Army Signal Corp.?

SMITH: Yeah. I was drafted in the Army.

POE: Was... from some - 1940 and then you got out in 1962?

SMITH: Right.

POE: Well, it just shows that some people who get drafted, stay in.

SMITH: Ma'am?

POE: Some people who got drafted became lifers [chuckling].

SMITH: Yeah. Well, I was drafted, but after a few years I went to the regular Army cause I was gonna make it a career. I got up in rank pretty good and got along good. They always tell you, a lot of'em couldn't understand that, if you can't take orders you'll never give orders. That was our policy. You had a trainee or something, he wouldn't listen or something like that, he - course most of 'em was wanting to get out as quick as they could, but we had a few that stayed in that could take orders, you know, and then they could give orders. They ride up rank where they give orders. Well, that's what I done when I was [chuckling]... I took orders and I finally wound up where I could give orders. Got up in rank - but I retired as Master Sergeant.

POE: Master Sergeant?

SMITH: Yes. I was offered - when I was up in Aberdeen, I was offered a Warrant Officer appointment. That was appointments. But back at that time, they have five grades of Warrant Officers and three of 'em were just like Corporals in the Army. They were just flunkies for the higher rank. But they had Warrant Officer and Chief Warrant. The top two was good positions and it took you a while to get there, to get up there. When you got Chief Warrant, they draw more pay than the Major did. They were... whole lot of positions. But I didn't take it because I'd had to went to Junior Warrant and the money I was making was just about as much a Junior Warrant Officer would make. And he had to buy his uniform and I didn't have to buy mine, mine was issued to me. So my friend, I had a friend [chuckling] that took it, that was working for me. He took it for a two-year appointment. "At the end of the two years," he said, "I'm going back to my lower rank that I had." He had, go to the Officers Club, he had to drink their whisky and everything when they wanted a drink he said. And they had family parties, you know. He said, "I just don't make that kind of money." He said, "I have to back to where I don't have to do that." So... [chuckling] It's funny, but it's true. But that's the way it was. But anyway, that's just the highlights of what happened and everything. My citations I had, I got a Bronze Star in Korea. And alt together I had thirteen medals and ribbons. Four stars, two in the South Pacific and four in, well, it was all in the South Pacific - four, er, two in Korea and two in the Philippines. I overlooked one thing, I never was in much danger. Only one time in Korea. We were moving and I had two Koreans and an American GI down this hill, cleaning up. The policy was anytime - in our outfit it all worked that way - if you moved into an area, when you left there you

didn't leave it all littered up with trash. You cleaned it all up. Well, these three boys was cleaning this, I was down there talking to 'em, in this one spot. I was telling 'em what to do, how to clean up, and I walked away and I heard a round coming in. Boy them things come in fast, mortar round, and it landed right down below us, so it hit a big 'ol rock in the canyon. In about five minutes I heard another one coming and I knew it was gonna land. You always got to listen to them things. I knew it was coming in, gonna land down off this hill here. Boy, I hit the ground. I never had time to tell them guys. I was far, from here, oh, probably as far from this wall back here, from it, I just walked way back, about 30 seconds from it. And that thing hit right where them guys was standing. Boy, it raised an awful dust. I was on the ground and when the dust settled I looked where I'd been standing with them guys and they were dead. Now if them guys would've hit the ground, I don't know whether they did or whether they didn't, but they might've been living. I don't know, but it got'em. But that's what saved me. That's the quickest I ever hit the ground in my life [chuckling]. Outside of that, I got along pretty good. That's about the end of my... [chuckling] That's skipping, you know, just hitting here and there on things. That's about covered it.

POE: You remember your service number?

SMITH: Ma'am?

POE: Do you remember your service number?

SMITH: Let's see... yes. RA3701457 -1 got it on my dog tags.

POE: Right.

SMITH: I got my dog tags.

POE: I just was wondering if you remembered it.

SMITH: Yeah. Oh yeah. I could get it and give it to you. I got it on my dog tags here. I still got my dog tags.

[Marian turns the digital camcorder off briefly while Mr. Smith gets up from the table] SMITH (Off Camera): I have two dog tags. My first one... [Marian turns the digital camcorder back on]

SMITH: .. .back from World War II. They put your mother's name and your hometown number and everything on it. And the Germans, they got all of that - this is my first one here - and the Army finally wised up. It says, "David L. Smith, 37015614". That's '42. Okay. And it had my mother's name on there, Lola Emmol (sp?). My mother's name wa's Lola Emmol (sp?). She'd been married a second time; my dad was killed. "Route 2, Lyons, Kansas". That wasn't a very good thing to have on your dog tag overseas cause

the Germans could write back and, you know, say your son's been captured or killed or something like that. So they come out with another one - I'll put that one back here -with just your name on it. The one here just has my name on it, my serial number and my blood type. That's all it has on it. So that's all you had to tell 'em anyway when you... [showing it to Marian]

POE: Yeah. Can I see? If you don't mind. And your religious preference here.

SMITH: Yeah. Yeah, uh hum.

POE: So there's no personal information on that one?

SMITH: No, huhuh. No, that's...

POE: I didn't get all that number so I'm just gonna - 37015... I didn't write fast enough. And that's 614.

SMITH: So that's when they -1 don't know of any case that it ever happened, of dog tags like that. But they figured it out that it might happen, but the US Army, the government, changed that. From this to that. That was one of the first ones to come out. Which it would be; it'd be information for the enemy, you know.

POE: Uhhum.

SMITH: So... Any other questions that I can ask you that, maybe I could answer [chuckling]?

POE: [Chuckling] You indicated you were not injured.


POE: And you didn't have even any accidents?


POE: Or anything that caused injuries?

SMITH: No. That was the nearest thing, what I told you earlier.

POE: Yeah, so... I was trying to figure out what battalion, regiment, division - but you were in several, weren't you?

SMITH: A lot of'em.

POE: Okay. During World War II, what was your most - what was the one you were in the longest? Do you remember?

SMITH: Well, I went overseas...

POE: You were in the Signal Corp. Let's say - pick one.

SMITH: Yeah. I spent about, I expect about eight years in the signal - signal was mostly my prime part of service... unit, you know.

POE: Uhhum.

SMITH: Type of service. Signal Corp. Now Signal Corp., when I was in Hawaii there, that underground station over there in '46 to '50, only hot stuff was coming from other countries, coming through that station. You had to be cleared to get in there. Back at that time in Korea and everything, there was a lot of stuff coming through that was classified information that everybody couldn't know. So it was interesting there. I spent four years there, from '46 until '50. And plus it was a beautiful island, too [laughing].

POE: [Laughing] Now, you're married to Betty?


POE: And were you married when you went into the service?

SMITH: No. This is my one and only [chuckling]. I didn't get married till I was -what? '59, Betty?

MRS SMITH: '59 or '60.

SMITH: Yeah,'59 or'60.

POE: You were a single man during all this time?

SMITH: Yeah.

POE: So, and because Betty's sitting right here... [chuckling]

SMITH: I met her in Nebraska.

POE: In Nebraska?

SMITH: Alma, Nebraska.

POE: Okay. And you were from Lyons? And you came back to Lyons...


POE: ... when you retired out of the service?

SMITH: Yes. I was...

POE: So you maintained your contacts here? Your family or... ?

SMITH: Yes. I was in and out at different times - see, when I was born in Lyons on a farm out here, my grandfather homesteaded it and we lived there, oh, I think I was about seventeen when we left, well, I was younger than that, I was about sixteen, I guess it was. Then my grandfather was a senator of Kansas for two years.

POE: Okay. And what was his name? SMITH: His name was Samuel Edward Smith. POE: Okay.

SMITH: He filled in a term. I don't know what ever happened to the other senator, but he filled his term out. I think it was 1888 to 1889,1 think that's when it was, the years that he filled it out as senator. And my dad was a farmer, but he got killed in 1933 in a car accident east of Lyons. A mile east of Lyons on the old #4. You know where Ed Keppel used to live out there? Well, it's the road that goes to the salt plant, a mile right out, right on that corner right there.

POE: Uhhuh.

SMITH: My dad pulled up to the intersection of the highway - that was the old #4, it was just a gravel road then - and this guy come over the hill from the east real fast and my dad was just about halfway across the road, caught him right square in the center. That was back in 193 3.

POE: So did you have brothers and sisters?

SMITH: Yeah. I've... they're all gone but me. But I had quite a family. I had three half-brothers and I had four full-brothers, five counting myself, and one sister. Then I had one half-sister, too. Nine all together.

POE: Wow. Well, when your father was killed, that left your mother with five boys and one girl?

SMITH: Well, actually three. I was gone more or less. POE: Oh, okay.

SMITH: In and out. And my other brother, a year older than I, he was gone in and out. But mother had my other two, Clifford and Bob. They were pretty small. But Clifford,


about a year or two afterwards, he was big enough to take care of himself. But Bobby, Bob, was the youngest. He was, I think Bob was 12 when my dad got killed.

POE: And they were farming on your grandfather's homestead? SMITH: Well, we had done left the farm then. POE: Oh, okay.

SMITH: That was, this is back in 1930... let's see, dad was killed in 1933. We had moved out to Cimarron, Kansas. That was right to the, that's west of Dodge City, that was on a farm out there. I wasn't there, but my folks did. And they had, the dust storms started blowing out there, my folks had a crop out there on a quarter of land. The crops grew up doing pretty good, got a little rain out there. They raised corn and wheat out there. I think my father had some com out and some wheat out. So he sold his crop to the neighbor. He bought those crops, they moved, my folks moved back to Lyons. That was in, let's see... 1930... about '32. About 1932, cause my dad was here when he got killed. So in 1932 they moved back to Lyons. I was big enough where I was, could take care of myself. I was out in Colorado, working a ranch at that time. So I could take care of myself, me and my older brother done it. My three, er, two older brothers, well, three. I had another - when my dad and mother were married, my dad had two boys and a girl. When my mother got married, she had one boy, small boy, and there was five of us then. Mother and dad had five of us kids [chuckling]. But I had two-half brothers that were big enough to be my, old enough to be my father. In fact, one of 'em had a boy 28 days older than I [laughing]. I was his uncle.

POE: And so, now on your schooling, you went to school in Lyons then?

SMITH: Well, I went to school... yeah, I went to grade school out here on the farm. We had a grade school -1 don't know whether you'd remember some of the old teachers? Viola Metcalf. I don't know whether you remember her? She was one of my teachers and, well, some others. Then I went out to Cimarron for a while. I finished my schooling out at Cimarron, Kansas.

POE: Oh, okay.

SMITH: I didn't go through - I only finished 8tl grade, cause the rest of that, well, I had to get out and work. Then I finished my schooling in the Army.

POE: Oh, okay.

SMITH: I went to school in the Army, finished it. Got my high school diploma. So, I got that [chuckling]. It was pretty rough, back at that time. But I finished my education while I was in the service. They had schools set up, you know, which was good. I had my diploma... everything was happening back during the Depression and everything,


when dad get killed and everything, we had to get out and do anything, make a living for ourselves, you know. It was rough.

POE: And you said you were stationed in the Philippines?


POE: And also... during World War II, you were stationed in the Philippines.

SMITH: Then went to Japan.

POE: And then Japan. Okay.

SMITH: Stationed right in Manila. We were stationed in Manila, right at Clarkfield. That was a big air base there, that was where our camp was, at Clarkfield. But Manila was right there - about 2 miles out south of Manila was Clarkfield.

POE: And then you were stationed in Korea, I mean, you were in Korea during the Korean War?

SMITH: Yeah. I spent fourteen months I went there in '53, come back in January of '54. Cease-fire, they had the cease-fire in '53, latter part of'53. Then in '54 they signed the truce. They had the 38th parallel there then, the North Koreans stayed over there, the South Koreans stayed here on this side, cause, parallel, the 38'1 parallel.

POE: Have you stayed in touch with any of the people that you were friends with when you were in the military?

SMITH: Yes. I have one in Kansas City. His name's Smith too, no relation, that I used to soldier with. I still, we call each other once in a while. They've come up here and seen us, him and his wife, or we've been down there a couple times and seen them. He lives in Kansas City. Then I was in contact with two or three others, Sergeants, but they're dead now. I was reading the one up here in Belleville here three or four years ago, I get that Sunflower, that VFW, er, that Legion paper you know? I got to reading that, they have a list of names, you know, that World War U guys are dying like flies now, you know? And I seen his name, 'Charlie Fife', and "Gosh," I said, "I know him." Told my wife, I said, "Him and I soldiered together." Then I had another one in Rolla, Missouri, a Master Sergeant - these are all career guys that have died - seen where he died. Then I had another one in Miami, Oklahoma that I was, communicated with. He died. Those three or four, plus the one there in Kansas City. In fact, some of those places we'd been a couple times at different posts, you know. You'd run across one that'd be the same outfit. The one in Belleville, Kansas, I met him down here at Ft. Crowder, Missouri and then I met him again over in Germany [chuckling]. Strange, you know, when you meet some of your old friends and so many people, you know. POE: Did any of your, the units that you were in have any reunions?


SMITH: I went to one at Ft. Crowder, Missouri. What year was that Betty?

MRS SMITH: Oh gee. I don't remember.

SMITH: It's been, oh, about six years ago. I expect it's six years...

MRS SMITH: Oh, more than that. I've been retired from the hospital for ten years.

SMITH: Been longer than that then. Well, I guess maybe it was. I went to one. After I got out, out of the service, I decided I was gonna get out to the country, get away from everything, which I did. I come out here in 1962. I've been here ever since. I'd been used to being around so many people and everything. I wanted to get away from 'em, big cities, not only the Army, but other people. Lot of our posts was in big cities, you know, they had a post set up. And I decided I wanted to get to the country and stay in it [laughing].

POE: [Laughing] Well, you're on a fairly major road. SMITH: Right on the highway here, yeah. POE: You can watch the traffic go by.

SMITH: Yeah. That's why I got - right on the highway where I can get to town when I wanna go. Which, I do. I go to town pert near every afternoon, have coffee or something with some of the guys downtown, you know. I know quite a lot of people around here. But most my old, kids that I grew up with, boy they're gone. I knew a lot of 'em that I grew up with. I don't know whether you remember Ralph Helmer. He died here...

POE: He just died this last year. Yes.

SMITH: Yeah. He was one -1 went to school with him. He was one of the last ones that I went to school with and was kids with. He was our neighbor. He lived over west of us there when he was a kid. They're all gone.

POE: Yeah. He was one of the interviews - one of the veterans that I was going to interview. But he was ill and then he died and I never got a chance to interview him and I was really sorry about that.

SMITH: Yeah. Well, Ralph told me something, he was stationed down in the, some of the islands down in the South Pacific and he told me once he spent a lot of time there. He was on one of the islands down, the Japs has formerly had, and they occupied it and he stayed there until he come back to the States. That's what he told me. I can't think what island it was... on the Azores or something down in, way down there in the South Pacific. He told me a little bit about it. But, yeah, Ralph was a good friend of mine. We was in the same grade together at the country school.


POE: How many kids were in your school? Your country school that you went to... SMITH: Yeah.

POE: How many kids were in your school?

SMITH: Well, at one time there's about 15 or 18, you know, from the first grade up through the - at the time I went to school there they had the 9th grade, normally the 8th grade was normal school, not the year after, but the 9th grade. We had quite a few. I don't know if you remember the Swartz's? Carl and Robert and all of'em. Well, they had three people, boys - three boys went to school there. Then there were several other farms that had families. About 18, but it - right there to the last there was 7 or 8, dwindled down to about 7 or 8 [chuckling].

POE: Yeah. And I suppose that's why the schools all closed.

SMITH: When I went to school there I think the teacher was drawing $80 a month teaching school. That was her pay at the country school. That was back in the hard times, you know. But I did hear of some teaching for $60 a month. [Chuckling] But that was a lot of money back at that time though, you know, cause stuff was so cheap. You'd buy loaf of bread for four cents [chuckling]. You could buy a car for $2,500, a nice car, you know. Fact, cheaper than that, cause that was a nice car. I remember the cheapest car I ever bought brand new. It was a '58 Buick. $3,200. Brand new Buick Special.

POE: That was a while ago. SMITH: That was back in '58. POE: Was it? SMITH: That's right. POE: Geez.

SMITH: Yep. 1958. You could buy a - course they had more expensive cars too, but as for Buick Special, was a small, well, it wasn't a small one yet. It was a pretty good-sized car. But $3,200, cause I - fact, I bought two at different times. They was still cheap cars- two Buick's, I had three Buick's all the time, not at one time, but at different times. But there's two of 'em there that was pretty cheap. That was the price of 'em.

POE: Hum. So now, I think in '58 the minimum wage was $1 or $1.10 or something like that.

SMITH: I expect it was. POE: Yeah.


SMITH: Yeah.

POE: And, but now you were in the military so you were drawing - you weren't getting a lot of money.

SMITH: No. That's right.

POE: The military did not pay civilian wages.

SMITH: When I retired from the service, as a Master Sergeant, I was drawing $230 a month.

POE: And that - what year was that?

SMITH: '62.

POE: '62.

SMITH: Yeah.

POE: That wasn't a lot of money [chuckling].

SMITH: No, it wasn't a lot of money. But you could buy a lot for it, er, with it, you know.

POE: Yeah.

SMITH: But I got a raise in stance, you know, every time the Army got a raise. Now, the guys in the Army now, as my rank and even a PFC, draws over $1400 a month, a PFC, a Private.

POE: Really?

SMITH: As a Master Sergeant now, course I'm told that was single, now if you're married you get more, but as a Master Sergeant now, I think you could probably draw close to $3000 a month. Officers, a Colonel, he draws $6000 and $7000 a month now. Back then you didn't get it.

POE: Yeah. That's a big change.

SMITH: Yeah. Well, you know, I went into the Army, I was drawing $21 a month [chuckling]. Twenty-one bucks a month.

POE: Wow.


SMITH: I made PFC, four or five months later, I got $36 a month. Made Corporal, I think I got $42 or $43 a month. You went Buck Sergeant, you got about $10 more. I know if you're Staff-1 made Staff Sergeant, I was getting $96 month. Made Tech Sergeant, I was getting $110 a month. I made Master Sergeant, I was getting $130 a month back at that time [laughing]. Big money.

POE: [Laughing] Yeah.

SMITH: But that's the way it was. Gee, I remember back at Ft. Riley, back in '35, '34 or before then, them solders out there was just getting $18 a month. And some of 'em was married. How'd they live off post? Course they was getting some allowances, food allowances, probably amounted to that much. And they was getting a clothing allowance, too. But there was guys, was married, had families, drawing that pay. But they made it, you know.

POE: Yeah. As a single person in the military, you lived in the barracks?

SMITH: Yeah.

POE: And you ate at the...

SMITH: Mess halls.

POE: .. .mess halls. And so, outside of your personal vehicle and your personal expenses...

SMITH: Money was clear. POE: Yeah.

SMITH: Now, I've seen guys get paid and go to town and come back broke [laughing]. They blew it. I always had a policy, I never went to town much, course I had a vehicle most the time I was in the service, but I wouldn't go to town for a couple weeks after payday. Boys all went to town and spent their money. I'd go to town and take their girls and... [laughing]. I was king. That's what they'd do. They'd go to town, boy, they come back all drunked up and had a good time and everything. Then they had to bum cigarettes for the rest of the month [chuckling]. It was funny. But I did, I made that policy. I always had money when I was in service. In fact, I used to loan out money. Got a little extra back come payday. Never got ripped off, well, a couple times I thought I was going to, but I made some fairly good loans, I mean, they were about $200 or $300. One of 'em was $500, another was $300, and another was, oh, about $200. Guys transferred on me, out of the outfit. I guess they had to figure, "Well, I'll never see him again" you know, but I tracked 'em down and with the help of my company commander, I got my money back. One of 'em was in Germany, was buying a German car, he transferred into another outfit but he was still in Germany and I got him. Then another one was - his father, they were friends of mine in my company, his father had died back


here in the States and he wanted to come back. The Army would send him, but he didn't have no money to come back on so I loaned him enough money to come back and he was supposed to come back to Germany but he didn't, he got re-assigned out in Washington, a post out there. I got track of him and he paid off. So [chuckling]... I was - then another kid, was in Hawaii, I was in the same company he was, and I had a -1 re-enlisted and I got a 60-day furlough. That was a lot of days. I come back to the States. Well, he'd been up here at Harrington, Kansas and he finally got a 45-day furlough. Fifteen days later, he come back, I'd loan him the money to come back on. But when we went back, we went back together, but I had track of him all the time, I watched him every payday till I got my money. Not all of it, but a certain amount. So I got paid there. But I'd never do it again [chuckling]. I mean, you just.. .took the chance. But like I say, I always had, I never was broke, you know, when I was in the service. I took care of my money. Always had enough to - didn't, maybe a lot of times, I didn't have a lot, but I never was broke.

POE: Well you were a lifer, okay, so whenever you got out where you entitled to GI Bill benefits?

SMITH: Oh yes.

POE: Did you use them in any way?

SMITH: Never used 'em. When I was in Hawaii, I had one thing I didn't get that I was promised. While I was there some of my friends could take a training, whatever training you wanted to use - two, three of the guys they wanted to be pilots. They went down to the - they allowed you $2500 if you wanted to take any GI Bill training. Well, some took it. They said if you didn't want to take it you'd get it out when you got out of the Army. I thought, well, I'll just take mine when I get out of the Army. Never did get it.

POE: Oh...

SMITH: That all blowed over. But the guys that took it got a little benefit out of it. I thought, well, I don't need it right now, but I'll use it later, come in handy.

POE: Yeah, it would've.

SMITH: But it didn't fill out, work out. Somehow, I don't know what stopped it or anything, but we didn't get it. But otherwise, I got all those benefits, but I didn't have to use 'em. I did go to a VA hospital, after I got out, retired, I went down to Wichita, the VA hospital, I got a thyroid tumor is what it was. They took care of me down there, in good shape. But after I got married, me and my wife we had good insurance and everything. We didn't need any of the GI help. I've got a coming, but I have something now that is really good. I have insurance, the Army pays for it, it's called... what do they call that Betty?

MRS SMITH: The TriCare?


SMITH: TriCare. It pays for everything. That's only for retired, not for GI's. It's, if you retire, they pay everything. So, I got my wife one.

MRS SMITH: That's medical.


MRS SMITH: That's medical.

SMITH: Yeah. Every once in a while we have to buy a few pills. Some pills cost you $100. We have to pay $9 for 'em, that other people have to pay $200 for. And it runs down to $3 for some pills.

POE: Well, that's a good benefit and you deserve -1 mean, you gave your entire life over to the service.

SMITH: Yeah.

POE: And you...

SMITH: Yeah. Well, I figure I've earned it, you know.

POE: Yeah. Yeah, it's a good retirement benefit.

SMITH: Yeah.

POE: And you deserve it.

SMITH: Yeah and I have some Army insurance, I still got. And I have other insurance. My wife has insurance, at our older age. And we have insurance for homes or anything, if we ever have to go to a home or anything, we have that, so... We're pretty well set up for our old age.

POE: And that's a long way away from now, right?

SMITH: Yeah. Yeah, so we do all right. We do fine.

POE: When you got out of service did you join the American Legion or VFW here?

SMITH: I'm a life member of the VFW and I've paid my bills, I mean my dues, for the Legion, for -1 think the last card I got, I got in there, I think 34 years or something like that, membership. Yes, I paid for all of 'em.

POE: Yeah, so you...


SMITH: But I have a life membership in the VTW. It only cost me - normally it's pretty high now. I guess the guys that belong to it year by year, but when I bought my life membership to VFW, I think it cost me $85 for life membership.

POE: That's not bad at all.

SMITH: Well, I saved a lot of money by doing that.

POE: Are you active here in the Legion or the VFW?

SMITH: No, I don't go to it. I used to before I got married. Wife said, "No, go to the bar." [Chuckling] So I quit that. She was a nurse out to the hospital - she worked up at Alma for several years. How many years up at Alma Betty?


SMITH: 16?

MRS SMITH: Maybe, almost 20.

SMITH: Yeah. Then you had how many down here? About 20?

MRS SMITH: Uti huh.

SMITH: Twenty years down here as a nurse out at the hospital. She's retired, so... Both of us together, we get along pretty good financially and such. She draws nice retirement.

POE: Somebody likes cows.

SMITH: She does. I like toys. You ought to see all my old cars over there.

POE: Oh, okay. I'm just gonna pan the camera around here, because I've been sitting here looking at the cows here, all over the place. We'll just have to take a look at your collection here, too.

SMITH: I have a lot of hobbies. I like old cars. I've got some old cars, big cars. I got...

POE: I noticed that there's quite a few vehicles parked out front. I was gonna ask you about them.

SMITH: Yeah. That'snot all of'em. POE: [Chuckling] Oh, that's not all of 'em?


SMITH: [Chuckling] They're not here, but they're.,. And then I've got a bicycle collection. I've got about 30 bicycles out there, old ones, most of em are old ones. And I have my toy collection of old cars. And I got a coin collection. I got a gun collection.

POE: Yeah, you like to collect.

SMITH: Yeah, I kinda do. I kinda like to collect things. I'm not into it in a big way, but I - anything, I see something that I like, I get it. One time I had several cars out there, but two of em I give my wife's son, up in Kansas City. My oldest car was a - not a car a pickup, 1938 pickup.

POE: Oh...

SMITH: And it was a nice one. It run. It was a nice looking little car. Then I had a '72 Ranchero. Really a nice one. My nephew up at Topeka had one when it was new and he loved it. And this was a nice one - he come down here one time and he, we were having kinda a reunion out here, and he was out there looking at that thing and he looked at it and he said, "Uncle Dave," he said, "would you sell that?" And I said, "Oh, maybe," you know. So he wanted it so bad I let him have it [chuckling]. Then I had several before that I sold. Nice, old cars. But I still got two out here. One over here in the shed. I still got three. But I had at one time seven of 'em out here. I used to, before I was married, I used to do a lot of trading. I was single. I lived here by myself. I had another trailer, I had a smaller trailer. And I'd buy these old cars and fix 'em up where they'd run pretty good and sell 'em [chuckling]. I had some nice ones I wish I had back now. Back then, back in the '60's, that was back in the 60's after I got out of the Army, I was kinda a wheeler and dealer, I guess you'd call it [chuckling]. Some of those cars I wish I had now. Back at that time, you know, they wasn't as - people didn't want 'em as bad as they do now.

POE: Yeah.

SMITH: Now they see one, boy those people are breaking their necks to get it.

POE: We're gonna have to pause here for just a moment.

[Marian changes the mini-disc in the digital camcorder]

SMITH (Off Camera): I used to be active in the Legion down here and the VFW. But like I say, after I got married, why, I didn't -1 kinda had to stop a lot of that.

POE (Off Camera): Yeah, because they have the bar there, right? And cards and things like that?

[The digital camcorder is turned back on at this time]


SMITH: I don't know anybody down there now, at the hall. I suppose it would be strangers that run it. I don't know who runs the...

[There is a long pause while Marian looks over the paperwork]

POE: I have a Release of Information form here we need to have you sign.

SMITH: Yeah.

POE: [Handing Mr. Smith the form] Would you read it and sign it?

SMITH: Yeah. [Reads the form]

POE: And I was going to ask, do you have a picture of you whenever you were... ?

SMITH: I've got one down there in the museum.

POE: Oh, okay.

SMITH: Yeah, I have one there.

POE: Oh, you have one down there now?

SMITH: Yeah.

POE: Okay.

SMITH: Yeah. It was there...

POE: You were in the display, right?

SMITH: Yeah.

POE: Right.

SMITH: It was over there by that front door there, or someplace there going in from the east side there was a...

POE: Okay. I will...

[There is a pause while Mr. Smith continues to read over the Release of Information form]

POE: I'm gonna interrupt you. What does the 'L' stand for?


SMITH: Lee. It's my middle initial. David Lee Smith. See, I have to use my middle initial all the time cause there's so many Smiths. I know one time I went down to the filling station several years ago down here, the old Standard station, and I paid another guy's gas bill who had the same name. Finally got that straightened out. But the guy, I don't know whatever become of him. He's gone. [Again there is a pause while Mr. Smith reads over the Release of Information form]

[Marian turns the digital camcorder off briefly while he and Marian go over the details of the Release of Information form]

SMITH: ... "He or she may do so." Would I initial it there? POE: Yeah. Initial it there in front of the'may.' SMITH: I guess down here, too.

POE: Yeah. And sign it down there where it says'signature.' I can fill the rest in. Your address is Lyons, isn't it?

SMITH: Yeah. 515 State Road 14.

[Bird sounds are heard in the background]

POE: Now, I'm hearing echoes. Your bird echoes your clock [chuckling].

SMITH: [Chuckling] Yeah.

MRS SMITH (in background): Did you tell her that you run several mess halls for a while?

SMITH: Well, yes. I guess I probably didn't hit them, I don't suppose.

POE: Well, I was gonna pick up on -1 was gonna ask you about that. I've been kinda like holding that question back, but you mentioned that you were, went to the cook and bakery school.

SMITH: Yeah. I went to that school down there and...

POE: And then you were an instructor there.

SMITH: Yeah.

POE: And then you didn't mention ever doing that again until you were running the...

SMITH: At Adaberry, I run the Officer's Club.


POE: The Officer's Club, right.

SMITH: Yeah. Then when I come back to Ft. Leonard Wood, I skipped this earlier, I had three big mess halls down there as a supervisor and run in between 'em and checked 'em out. So I overlooked that.

POE: [Chuckling] Yeah.

SMITH: If I'd read it all off, I probably would've been better off. I tried to...

POE: I was wondering on those, if I could borrow your notes... if I could borrow those?

SMITH: Yeah. You can take it right along with you.

POE: I appreciate that. We'll just type those up.

SMITH: Okay. That'd be fine. Some of my words might be misspelled [laughing].

POE: [Chuckling] Oh, that's okay. We can correct the we have this thing called Spell Check on the computer that takes care of those things for you.

SMITH: [Chuckling] Oh, okay.

POE: Well, speaking of mess halls. That's one of the things that a lot of people talk about is food.

SMITH: Oh yeah.

POE: And so, where, of all - so you were kinda like responsible for that?

SMITH: Oh, yeah...

MRS SMITH (in background): I felt really, really sorry for those guys under him.

POE: [Chuckling] Well, because they... ?

MRS SMITH (in background): Because he really, really would've been a rough one.

POE: [Chuckling] Let's see, you were a Master Sergeant...

SMITH: [Chuckling] I get on my wife sometimes. Yeah, I was very strict. Well, about everything I was very strict.

POE: You learned how to give orders quite well. [Referring to the Release of Information form] Yeah, that last signature's the place where I sign, so...


SMITH: Yeah, a lot of guys in the service really hated me in a way. Cause I was a career man and I wasn't gonna -1 wanted to do things right. I got a lot of recommendations for my work and everything and I didn't want anybody to foul it up. So I was pretty strict with my junior personnel.

POE: Oh, on the Release of Information form, you signed "yes" that the Kansas State Historical Society can include the information on their website. There's one more after that, if "yes" - the Kansas State Historical Society may or may not include your address, which one?

SMITH: Well, it's all right.

POE: Okay.

SMITH: It's all right.

POE: Then I need you to initial that part right there.

SMITH: Yeah.

POE: Yeah, they kinda...

SMITH: I just overlooked it. I'm hard of hearing and hard of seeing sometimes.

POE: So, where was the hardest, okay - a lot of people complained about, I mean, a lot of people have had, not as many as one would think, but have... aren't always complimentary, particularly during - were you involved with the cook part in World War II at all?

SMITH: Part-time.

POE: Part-time.

SMITH: In World War II you didn't do too much of it.

POE: Right.

SMITH: You had to - if you cooked at all it'd be in the field and that was dangerous, so mostly you used C-rations.

POE: Okay. Yeah, those are the ones that most people complained about. SMITH: All you had to do was hand 'em out, you know. POE: Yeah.


SMITH: So you didn't do too much of it. But I had the cooks. I had 'em, but part-time they wasn't cooking they were soldiers out on the front line. So they didn't sit back, wait around doing nothing. They had to be cooks and soldiers, too. Had their weapons, so it was not all [chuckling]... Lot of 'em complained that they had to do it.

POE: Yeah.

SMITH: I was a squad leader. That was my position as a mess Sergeant. I was a squad leader, so...

POE: You had to have your weapon, too.

SMITH: Oh yeah. Yes sir. HadanM-1. I had a machinegun. I had a .45 issued to me. My machinegun was on the truck. My .45 was on the side. M-l was on my shoulder. [Chuckling] So it wasn't all gravy.

[Bird sounds are heard in the background]

POE: [Chuckling] No. And that's your bird over there?

SMITH: Yeah. Yeah, momma's got two birds. That one will do everything but talk [chuckling]. He's whistling now.

POE: [Chuckling] Right. Well, is there anything else you'd like to add?

SMITH: [Chuckling] Well, like I say, I just hit the high spots. Everyday life for that many years, you know, a lot of things go on. I could tell you a lot of stuff, lot of it good. A lot of it was good.

POE: Well, you wanna tell? I've got some time. If you wanna talk, I'll listen. SMITH: [Chuckling] Well, I'll tell you one that was fiinny. I was over in Hawaii... MRS SMITH (in background): David!

SMITH: Well, now this is not a dirty one. This is a good one. I want to tell about the truck we pushed over the hill. One of the boys in our company had bought one of these Army surplus - it was after World War II, back in '46 - he bought one of these big 'ol weapons carriers. It was one of these big 'ol touring Dodge trucks the officers rode in. Had a canvas top on it. He bought it. He was at - for his private car, you know, run around in. I guess it got to using much gas, anyway, he parked it there in the company parking area. Company Commander - it was sitting out there for several months and nobody bothered it or anything, he wasn't driving it - so he called this kid in. He said, "You gotta put a tag on that. It ain't no Army truck anymore. It's private vehicle." Although it was still the same color. Well, he - so we were out, bunch of us guys was out drinking beer one Sunday afternoon there at a field of beer - it was a tent with all kinds of


beer. Got to feeling pretty good. Well, I had a'35 Ford Coup. My buddy had a'34 Ford and his old truck wouldn't run. So we hooked on it - right back of our camp there, at the Hilo old radio station that I was just talking about, and there was a big mountain. It was a pretty high mountain. So we - he got in that old truck and pulled that up and rode up as high as he could go with it. So we hooked our two cars on it, pulled it up a little bit farther, till we couldn't get no farther. Right down along this road was a big gulley, oh way down there, I don't know how many hundred feet. We unhooked that thing and four of us got it right over to the edge and we gave it a shoved and shoved it off. And boy, it went down that hill, head over heels, fenders and tops and everything flying off of it. And it landed down there, we didn't know any - in a big pond. The Philippinos there had a big pineapple field down there and they had this big 'ol pond down there. And it went right head first in that pond. All was sticking out was the hind wheels, I guess, and part of the top, or what was left of it. Well, for couple, three weeks and two or three of those Philippinos and Hawaiian guys come up there to our company commander asking "Have you lost any solders in your outfit?" [Chuckling] He answered, "No." He said, "I don't think so." He called the First Sergeant in and had - took a report. He said, well, he said, "Well, there's an Army vehicle down there in a pond of ours down there, just the hind wheels sticking out, maybe a little bit of the other..." He said, "We thought maybe somebody went over the hill, over the edge." [Chuckling] So, they went and called us all in, called this kid in, course we had to go in too and told 'em what we'd done. He didn't like it too good, but he kinda laughed, too. We got out of that all right [chuckling]. But them guys thought maybe there might be somebody under that thing down there.

POE: Yeah.

SMITH: That was one of the funny things. I could tell a lot more of the ones that are funny [chuckling]. Good for a laugh.

POE: I've been noticing, is that a rose on your arm?

SMITH: Well, it's what's left. It's faded. Been there probably... I got those when I was a young kid, when I first went in the service. Yeah, it's a Hawaiian rose.

POE: Okay.

SMITH: It's supposed to be a Hawaiian rose. That there's - that was my first one I got. My mother, I got my mother's name in there but it's all faded out. Then I've got two up here on my arm of Hawaiian girls, on my arms here.

POE: Ahh...

SMITH: [Chuckling] They're faded out pretty much. Crazy guys back at that time, you know.

POE: Yeah. You've got quite a bit of tattoos there.


SMITH: [Chuckling] Yeah. And I've got one... POE: You got one on that side.

SMITH: Yeah. It's a skull, supposed to be a snake curled around a sword, I guess is what it is. Have another one up there.

POE: Huh...

SMITH: Yeah. We used to go over to this bar, get tanked up and go down and get a tattoo [laughing]. Yeah, let's see... one, two, three, four, five-1 got one of my leg - six I


POE: Well that's - some people are getting tattoos now just for the...

SMITH: Yeah. But all mine are not bad, they're not dirty. Oh, I've seen some guys get some dirty ones, you know, that I'd be ashamed of.

POE: [Chuckling] Might, you know, might end up getting married some day.

SMITH: [Chuckling] Yeah. We had one kid, friend of mine, you know, in Hawaii. Every time he'd get drunk he'd go down and get a tattoo. And he'd get a dirty one, boy -he'd go back to camp and wake up Monday morning and look at that and say, "Oh shoot!" And he'd go down the next week and get it covered, you know, get something else put over it. [Chuckling] His arms looked like a... it was terrible looking. He was quite a guy. Smart kid. He was Company Clerk. He ought to know better than to get those dirty tattoos. He'd have to get 'em covered.

POE: Was there a policy about tattoos at all? You could just do anything you wanted to? SMITH: No. No, there wasn't when I was in. I don't know what they are now. POE: I don't either, but I was just wondering.

SMITH: No, they might - course, I've seen a lot of guys that'd been in the service and, not too many years back, and got tattoos. I don't suppose they are. I remember when I got some of these here I was down at this station, down at this tattoo joint in Honolulu, and a guy from the Navy, he was having, in there, a sailor was having a big battleship put on his chest, had the anchors run over up, clear up over his back, part of it on his back. I don't know how a guy can endure that, you know, with the needles, you know, that needle just put that ink in there, you know. Cause what I have here didn't feel too good. But that sailor was really getting his body tattooed. And I've seen pictures of guys that have their complete body tattooed. There's pictures of... so I don't know. But I'm lucky. I never got no bad ones. But I was crazy for doing that, as far as that goes, but...


POE: You know, I thought of something - when you were coming in to the Philippines, was that the time that Tokyo Rose was still on the air?

SMITH: Yeah.

POE: So you - how long did she stay on... ?

SMITH: Well, she was on quite a while. I don't remember just when she went out. I think clear up until Japan surrendered. I think that was about the end of it then. But she was on all that time. We heard her a lot of times.

POE: Yeah. And how did hearing her - what kind of reactions did you guys have?

SMITH: Well, we didn't believe her too much. She'd tell you things, sounded like she was on our side and she'd tell things that on the other side, you didn't know what... no, I don't think nobody paid too much attention to her. It's - she was just talking, you know. But I remember her very well. She'd tell you things that if you could figure it out, it might've been in your favor or could be in the Japanese favor. If you listen to it just right, could figure it out. So I don't know whose side she was really on, this Tokyo Rose. And I - seeing the place over there, Hiroshima, that was bombed out. Boy, I mean, that bomb really burnt that place up. I think they had an Army post on that place, Hiroshima, and then the big city, boy, just burnt everything out, buildings, foundations. Some of the Japanese had buildings that were partly cement and some of 'em was wood and stuff, but all was left was just cement standing. The rest of it was all gone. And there was another one, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, I believe it was, yeah. But that I seen the one. The other one was just like it, bombed out just like it. But I kinda felt sorry for the civilian people. Boy, they were burnt, a lot of'em was burnt, had scars on their face, that did survive, you know. And then the little kids, they were hungry, they didn't have much to eat. I had a mess hall there in Japan, they come down there and get in your garbage cans, trying to get something to eat, you know, the little kids. For they guys, I didn't feel sorry for them at all then. Used to kick them around like footballs [chuckling].

POE: Literally or just...?

SMITH: [Nodding] Japanese people. Not the women, I mean, the men, all the men. I had no respect for 'em. Lot of'em were ex-soldiers anyway, you know. They'd kill you just as quick as you'd wanna kill them, you know, at that time. Course they, when they surrendered, why, they had to straighten out, whether they liked it or not.

POE: One of the other things I was having a hard time visualizing was when you were talking about those live wires and the hot wires and the cold wires...

SMITH: Uhhum.

POE: ... or whatever, how... yeah. Anyway the wires, that big a bundle. How did you start to unravel that?


SMITH: That was the point, to get 'em unraveled. They - we had the things that would detect the hot wire, but once in a while you might miss it. They was - down one of the main avenues in Manila, they had high lines crisscrossing and going - a thousand wires they had going. When the Japanese bombed that city, all these wires fell down and tangled right in the street. They were that big around [indicating size with arms]. Like I say, a 5 5-gallon drum.

POE: Uhhuh.

SMITH: And you had to be awful, awful careful unwinding them. That was our company's job to do.

POE: Yeah, that's what you said.

SMITH: It was a slow job. That's all we done there. When we left they was still untangling wires.

POE: Hum... So would you have, I mean, like how - would you have like a bold meter or something that you... ?

SMITH: Yeah, they had meters...

POE: Okay.

SMITH: ...whereyou...

POE: But you had to touch the wire?

SMITH: Well, yeah. Yeah, then they had a thing that would tell you...

POE: Oh...

SMITH: The meter would rock back and forth if it was a hot wire. But there was cold wires in there, too. They were all right, but the getting to 'em...

MRS SMITH (in background): Didn't you say there was a lot of guys that got killed doing that?

SMITH: Yeah, there was. There was several of our boys -1 say several, there was a few, I'd say eight or nine, got killed there. One of 'em was up on a pole, this wasn't a wire on the ground, he was up on this telephone pole, a hot wire, he was up there on one of the rods there, tightening wires up and his head hit a hot wire.

POE: Oh...


SMITH: And it burned the top of his head up, before he ever hit the ground. Had a thousand volts going through that thing. Manila was a pretty city before the war, before the Japanese bombed it. It was a beautiful city. I seen Mac Arthur's home. Now, it wasn't hurt. They had that all fenced off and I guess they had guards, but lucky a bomb didn't hit it. But it was a beautiful home. I didn't get inside of the house or anything, but it was guarded too well. But in Manila there are them old colonial buildings, they was high, these big old banisters way up, you know. It was beautiful. Then they had what they call a 'wall city' there, too. The Philippine people lived underground. And that was the last strong hold that run the Japanese out. They got in that underground city. Boy, it was hard to get 'em out. They had to take these flamethrowers and go in the - open the doors and shoot that flame in there. They was roasted [chuckling]. But it took a lot of time. They had snipers around, shooting at you. After they - suppose they all got out of there, what didn't get killed, all run out, they still had snipers around. Maybe some of 'em might've been pro-Philippino, too. You couldn't trust them either. Some of those Philipinos that... they were just like - well, I don't want to say the word, but you couldn't trust 'em. They'd stab you in the back just as quick as the Japanese would. Some of 'em was mixed anyway. In Manila and the Philippines you had all kinds of mixed people, Spanish, Philipinno, Hawaiian, Japanese. Just all kinds of mixed people. Some of'em was pretty people. They was mixed, you know, they was pretty people, but you couldn't trust 'em. You didn't know who was who. Same way in Korea. You couldn't trust the Koreans over there from North Korea or South Koreans. We worked with a lot of those South Koreans, but a lot of them wasn't really your friend. You just had to watch 'em and keep an eye on 'em all the time.

POE: Well, is there anything else you'd like to add?

SMITH: Well, no. I can't think of anything [chuckling].

POE: Is there...?

SMITH: You can take this book.

POE: Okay.

SMITH: There's probably a little bit more in there than - if you can read my writing, I just...

POE: Well, let me see... oh yeah, not a problem. You write nicely compared to some people's writing. Like mine.

SMITH: But I tried to date it as near as I could.

POE: Yeah. You got good dates in here, yeah. We'll type this up for you and include that in the thing. Now, tell me how your - okay, you say your picture is at the Historical Society?


SMITH: Yeah, yeah.

POE: Did you bring that down for the display just this time?

SMITH: Yeah.

POE: Did just plan on leaving it there forever?

SMITH: Well, leave it there and the wife said, "I'll bring it back sometime." I said, "Leave it there for a while."

POE: Okay.

SMITH: We'll pick it up one of these times.

POE: Okay, so you're - it's left there until you pick it up.

SMITH: Yeah.

POE: Okay. Okay, I just wanna make sure that somebody wasn't supposed to bring it back out to you or something.

SMITH: Yeah.

POE: Yeah, okay.

SMITH: No. Leave it there till we pick it up.

POE: Okay. I'll take a picture of that picture [chuckling].

SMITH: Okay. That'd be fine. Whatever, yeah.

POE: Yeah. So I can have it before...

SMITH: But that picture down there, I can tell you another story on that [chuckling]. I'm not bragging on myself. That picture there was taken in Germany, when I was over in Germany. They had a recruiting campaign to get recruits, you know, of the GFs that was already in the Army but their time was running out and wanted to get 'em to re-enlist, in our outfit. And they called us down to what, oh, it was twelve or thirteen of us NCO's, to have some pictures taken for recruiting purposes. And they - out of that bunch, they picked mine. [Chuckling] The one that's down there. I didn't know till some of the guys told me. Well, they said, "You know your picture's down there in the recruiting office in our outfit?" And I said, "No." "Well, it is." So that picture there was taken off and used for recruiting purposes - a duplicate off of it.

POE: So, yeah.


SMITH: What they wanted, I suppose, was - had a composure, dressed neat and everything, was what they wanted. And I guess mine must've been what they wanted out of the bunch. I was dressed, well, when I was the service, I always had my clothes tailor-made. Wore good clothes. I always got complimented on that. And that means a lot when you're a soldier, when you're in garrison. Not when you're out in the field, you're not that way, when you're in combat.

POE: Right.

SMITH: But I mean, when you're in garrison it means a lot to keep your shoes shined. I used to have my shoes like that, my boots, all the time.

POE: Your boots are shiny.

SMITH: [Chuckling] They always shine. All my boots. I used to - when I come in at night, when I was in State side duty, I'd get off at maybe 8 or 9 o'clock at night. I'd come home to my barracks, I had - I always had a room, most the time, on my own. I'd iron my clothes, press 'em, have 'em ready for the next day. [Chuckling] But a lot of guys didn't do that, so they looked sorry. And it paid off. It paid off looking neat. Never had no problem at all. Never had no problem with higher rank officers. Got along good with 'em. They were a lot of people that didn't... miserable, you know.

POE: Well, in the Pacific you were serving under Mac Arthur's... ?

SMITH: Yeah.

POE: And then, in Korea who was the... ?

SMITH: Well, in Korea we had - they're retired now, but we had two or three different Generals over there. But Syngman Rhee was the President of South Korea when I was over there. I got a citation too from the, well, we all did, a ribbon. But, gee, I can't think of the - Taylor. General Taylor was one and then there's I see 'em once in a while on TV. They're retired. They're... I can't think of their names [chuckling]. I forget their names. We had a lot of 'em, Generals, over there that we was under. But in the Philippines, MacArthur was our top one and his General under him, Wainwright. General Wainwright. But in World War II from Hawaii on to Philippines, they call it 'Mid-Pac', mid-Pacific. Mid-Pac was 'M-I-D', but it was mid-Pacific, was what it stood for. I rode on a lot of troop ships out in the South Pacific, or the Pacific. I rode on that one ship, General... It was a General ship. I can't even think of the name of it now. I know it-1 rode that thing back and forth, two or three times, that same ship. It was in service quite a while. It was a General ship, is usually a big ship, would transport troops, you know, back and forth. It operated out of Seattle, Washington.

POE: When...


SMITH: I was down - when I was in Hawaii, now that outfit I was in, that single outfit, they was sending some of the boys, go down to, well, Christmas Island was one and then there was two or three other islands down there. They had these surplus ships from World War II they wanted to get rid of. They took 'em down there in those islands and the water - deep water down there. They would use these bombs on 'em like they done in Hiroshima and see if they'd sink 'em, you know. They had to get rid of'em, so they figured the bottom of the ocean was a good place for 'em. And some of those ships, they had a hard time sinking 'em. Some of them, boy, was pretty hard to go down. But they, but that radar - they had this, not radar, but... the radiation was so bad that you couldn't stay down there very long. They'd send the boys back, about two months, go down and stay two months, then come back and send down some more. But that's what they was doing, put them ships out there then they'd sink 'em that way, get rid of 'em, cause they was already radioactive anyway from the... They had to get rid of 'em. Our outfit over there done a lot of stuff, a lot of secret stuff that was highly classified. Probably ain't now, but it was. Un-classified now probably. Even a General come down, high ranking General, to get in that underground station, he had to be cleared himself. It was nice duty there. You didn't have to get out and everybody done their job and go back and go to sleep, had different ships, you know, you didn't have to get out and soldier out in the fields, training and exercise...

POE: Yeah.

SMITH: You just done your job. Go to town or whatever you want to do, go back, work the next - you worked about a day on a day off, about what it worked out to be. Good duty.

POE: Well, before we finish here I want to take - you said you had some toys over here?

SMITH: Yeah.

POE: I want to take a picture of your toys.

SMITH: [Chuckling] Okay. All right.

POE: I'm just gonna like pick this up and take it [referring to the digital camcorder].

SMITH: Yeah, I've got...

POE: And take it with us.

SMITH: [Chuckling] Some of them toys are kinda expensive. Some are less expensive, most of'em are.

POE: I see a'56, er, '57 Ford. SMITH: Yeah, that's a'55 there.


POE: '55? Okay, okay. I'm looking at it wrong here. That's a '55, huh?

SMITH: Yeah.

POE: Okay.

SMITH: That's one of them classy...

POE: I guess I was looking at the tail thing on the back, thought it was a '57.

SMITH: No. The'57 had a different...

POE: Yeah.

SMITH: .. .tail lights, they was kinda small. Now this here's a '55 Chevy, right here. Course that thing's in the way. I can move it.

POE: That's okay.

SMITH: And this here's a '47 Indian motorcycle. That one there.

POE: Uhhuh.

SMITH: And, of course, these are less expensive, they're Harley Davidson's, but they're less expensive. But that one there cost me $125, right over there.

POE: Wow.

[Marian, Mr. Smith, and Mrs. Smith look over this toy car collection and talk about the various pieces for a few minutes.]

POE: And now Betty, with your permission, I will swing the camera around and introduce you. If I may?

MRS SMITH: Oh, okay.

POE: Okay, and here we have Betty.

MRS SMITH: [Chuckling] Hello.

POE: Retired nurse.

MRS SMITH: Nurses Aid.

POE: Nurses Aid. Okay and now we'll say...


SMITH: [Laughing] You don't want the birds?

POE: [Laughing] Oh well, hey, we've been listening to the birds all afternoon here. So we'll just say hello and goodbye to the birds here. And I'll ask you if there's anything else you'd like to say?

SMITH: Well, that covers about most everything.

POE: Well, we appreciate you letting us - us, letting me come into your home today here in Lyons, Kansas. This is interviewer Marian Poe in the home of David and Betty Smith in Lyons, Kansas. Today is December the 3r 2007. Thank you.

SMITH: Thank you.

[Marian turns the digital camcorder off and the interview is concluded at this time]

Item Description

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