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Interview on experiences in World War II

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INTERVIEWEE: William S. Stockstill


DATE: July 10, 2006

LOCATION: Lyons, Kansas

(Mrs. Stockstill is also present for the interview)

POE: This is interviewer Marian Poe. We are today in the home of William Stockstill, in his home in Lyons.

STOCKSTILL: Well, what did you want me to talk about here?

POE: Well, just about anything you want to. But first of all, could you tell me your name again? And your birth date and where you were born.

STOCKSTILL: And where what? POE: Where you were born.

STOCKSTILL: Oh. William Stanley Stockstill and I was born at Gore, Oklahoma in 1921.

POE: And what's your birth date? STOCKSTILL: February the 3rd 1921.

POE: That's my father's birthday [chuckling]. Except early - not, earlier. But anyway, go ahead. And so, what did your family do there at Gore? That's mainly farming, isn't it?

STOCKSTILL: Geneseo? My family? POE: No. In Gore, where you were born. STOCKSTILL: Oh. What did I what? POE: What did your family do?

STOCKSTILL: Oh. Well, my dad and mother -1 think my dad worked in a glass factory at Sepulpa, Oklahoma, where we moved -1 was bom at Gore, Oklahoma and then my folks moved to Sepulpa, Oklahoma and then my dad went to work in a glass factory. And then he worked there for about, oh, a couple or three years, then he went to

work for Continental Oil Company. And then I grew up and we transferred up here into Kansas, and my dad was transferred to Kansas in... I believe it would've been 1934,1 believe. And then I lived at Geneseo the rest of my time up there, up until about, oh, we've lived here now about almost 20 years, Helen and I. She's my second wife. My first wife passed away, well, about 20 years ago. And then Helen and I have been married about ten. And lived here - I worked for a small oil company. I looked after production all over the whole state. And then I retired when I was 70 from them and I started drawing my Social Security. And I guess that's all. My war [inaudible] would've been from about 1942 to 1946. I was in the United States Air Force. I enlisted at Salina and then they sent me to Ft. Leavenworth and then from there I went to Bakersfield, California and went to a mechanic's school for about nine weeks. And then I went - then they transferred me to the Air Service group and I went up to Washington and trained there for about three months, then we came back down to the desert. I went to Washington and they trained me to work on bombers. B-24 bombers. And then when I came back, then they transferred my group to Desert Center, California and started training us to go to Africa and to go over and fight with 'ol Patton and his bunch over there. They were fixing to leave Africa and go to Europe to fight in the war over there. Well, in the meantime, the war had changed a little, so they turned around then and sent us to the Pacific. And I had been trained to work on fighters and then we wound up in the Pacific. First we went to Honolulu, Hawaii and Clark Field and then we left Clark Field and went down in the Admiralty Islands, in the Pacific, and went to work on bombers. And then, like I say, I'd been trained to work on fighters and here I was working on fighter airplanes. But it didn't matter. It was about as broad as it was long. And then we stayed, we worked in the Admiralty Islands there and the Palu Islands and they were working on the Philippine Islands, bombing from there every day. And once they got those, had kinda pretty well squared around over there, so then we started for Okinawa. Well, I got up on Okinawa and we were just, well, they had us all packed up and ready to go to Japan when the war ended. Japan - well, they dropped the atomic bomb. We was up in there when they done that. And after they dropped the second one, Japan was ready to sign over, to quit. The 'ol Emperor could see the handwriting on the wall and I think he figured the next one would be for him if they dropped it, which they was talking about, might get him so they didn't take long then, for 'em to get signed -well, once they saw, you know, what it would do to an entire country. I mean, just you know, level everything flat. Just like a tornado or something like that. Nothing standing. Everything's gone. People and all. So that pretty well sold 'em, that they needed to get out. And they did. So then I was in - there was a terrible lot of married men that had families, in the squadron I was in, well, so when they first started turning people loose, why, everybody had to sign up who wanted to go home. Naturally, everybody signed up. Well, if you were single you automatically went to the bottom of the list. The married men were first and the married men that had families was next, I was on the tail end of the list. I think I was the last one on there, on the damn list, on the whole island [chuckling]. So I hung around there about three months before they finally decided to send me home. And that was all of 'em. I did enlist in the Reserves when I got home and stayed, the Air Force Reserves, and stayed - I think I was in it about eight years, in the Air Force Reserves. And I was a Master Sergeant when I left. Well, I was a Master Sergeant - I'd been in the service about a year when I got my Master Sergeant stripes.

And when I left over there from Okinawa they were, I went down and signed up and they was gonna give me a Warrant Officer commission, but I left before it came through. So I didn't fight it any, cause I wasn't gonna stay in the service, you know, I decided I wanted out about that time. If I were to been any place except on those islands in the Pacific, all they were were just a rocky island, you know, and very few people on 'em. Now the Philippines, my brother was there for a while, now that was civilized, you know, Eisenhower, er, not Eisenhower, but MacArthur, he had lived there even you know and they had towns and everything else. Well, where we were at, when they got through -this first island on, it was a little over a mile across it and when we got on there, we sat out there in the bay while the Marines were in there cleaning up this island. By the time we got on there, with their flamethrowers and their tanks, they had that island completely flattened out just like - there wasn't nothing standing. Not a blade of grass was even standing. Just a few little stumps sticking up and that was it. And the Japs were in a lot of caves there, you know, there was a terrible lot of caves on that island and they had been expecting us all along, this invasion. So they had dug tunnels and big 'ol homes. They had ammunition and guns, all kinds of stuff to fight with and everything else, back in these caves. Well, the Marines were going around and systematically they'd just walk up to this cave, you know, clean off a little brush that they had over the front of it so they could see back in there, and they'd just throw these explosives back in there, you know, and blow up whatever was in there and also seal it off. But they had other entrances and ways to get out, see, and they'd come into our tents, camps at night, you know, and come into our tents. One morning I got up and it had rained during the night and we had these tents and they were four-sided, you know, and we had the flaps raised up on 'em, see, to let air in. It was in the tropics. It stayed up in the 90's or 100's at night. Those little islands, see, they were so small and the temperature on the island was the same thing as the water was at night, see, you know, they didn't even - they stayed up in the 90's in the daytime and at night when it got dark, you know, it didn't cool off. But anyway, this one morning I got up and I looked off and we, course, by then we had our little tents to sleep in and I had a cot to sleep on, see, instead of sleeping on the ground. I got up and it had rained during the night and it was a little bit muddy there and there was some of those prints that looked about like a duck's foot, see, and that's the type of shoes they wore. With this toe over here and the other four in the sandal and it made - so there had been one that had walked around my tent during the night in that rain. And there was a few of 'em that would come into a camp, where there was a lot of people sleeping, with a landmine strapped to 'em, see, and they would come in and set that off. Naturally it just blew 'em, you know, all there was was just little pieces left, about like a meat grinder. But they was, they got quite a bunch of Marines - I think they got eight or nine Marines in one night there, right there by us. And then they came in one night, right in the middle of our camp. We were spread out and everybody was sleeping in these little pup tents and they had a weather crew come in that night to run the weather instruments for the island, you know, for the airfield there, they came in, well, during the night - well, they came in about dark, so they didn't have no place to go so our commander of our little group there, he made us spread out more and let them set up their tents, see, in the middle of ours, to sleep. Well during the night, sure enough, here come two or three of 'em in there and got into this tent, right in the middle of all of us, and then he set a landmine off on himself. Well, there was another one, there was two of 'em, well, this one guy they

shot him, the infantry did, before he could get away. And he had a landmine strapped on him, but it never did go off. So they hauled him out to the bushes and left him out there. Then, of course, they detonated it and destroyed the bomb. But my brother Homer here, he's the one that - he was in the infantry. You'll have to go up and get his story, because he was really in some terrible battles there.

POE: And tell me again, you have - about your brothers and sisters. How many did you have?

STOCKSTILL: I got three brothers. POE: Three brothers. STOCKSTILL: Yeah. POE: Did you have sisters?

STOCKSTILL: Yeah. I got three sisters. And they all married veterans, I think. And then this is... well, let's see, this is...

MRS STOCKSTILL: One brother and one sister is deceased though, right now.

STOCKSTILL: I can't find what I'm... Well, I guess...

POE: Now, which one of these are you? I'm assuming you're one of them.

STOCKSTILL: This one right here.

POE: Right there? Okay.

STOCKSTILL: Yeah, right there.

POE: I'm just gonna put this up in front of the camera, just for a moment.


POE: I don't know if you can see it, but... this gentleman right here is the young Stanley.

STOCKSTILL: And this was our First Sergeant, right here, for the group. This little guy here. And this was a Master Sergeant. He was in charge of the ordinance for our group. And this guy here was a Quarter Master. He was a Master Sergeant. And this was a Japanese flag, right here, that one of the infantry boys had give me, so we're just standing there having our picture made with it. And of course, you can see that we'd been going without a shirt a little bit, you know, everybody. And this and that. And this little guy here, he was Italian, and we just ribbed him all the time about it, you know, we had a

little brogue and what not. And he wasn't but about this tall. But he was a pretty good scout. But this was made on Angar, down in the Palu Islands, where we were at. And some of these pictures I had here were made, well, I have a lot of pictures. I'll show you some more of 'em here after a bit.

POE: Okay.

STOCKSTILL: Now this is those flags I was showing you about up there. And like this right here now, you know, she told you that - well, I don't see that little building, but it's in here somewhere. But see now, all these poles here? Have you ever - you've never been up there on [inaudible]?

POE: I've never been to the Geneseo cemetery.

STOCKSTILL: Well, I tell you - she's got some better pictures than this - but the whole thing just -1 mean, the whole big cemetery's just lined. See, now these flags are - there's a dead soldier behind that flag. And there up there in that, in the American Legion at Geneseo. You'll have to go up there and get the story from them. But now, you'll notice this big - there's three or four big roads all the way around this cemetery. Now, you don't want to put this in your story, but I'm telling it to you, see, to make it sound a little better for you. But you'll notice these flagpoles.. .[flipping through an album] See and then here's some more. Well, here. See, you can see - See all over that, them flags?

POE: Uhhum.

STOCKSTILL: All those poles, I donated all that pipe, that oilfield tubing, for the poles, see? There was a whole string of it about, I'd say roughly 3,000 feet, probably a little over a hundred poles and they're all cut up and hanging up there, for their - they've got room for some more flags up there, you know, if someone - I hope they have one for me by the time I get there, see?

POE: And this, again, is a project that your wife instigated... STOCKSTILL: Yeah.

POE: .. .to have at the Geneseo cemetery. A board, which the American Legion put up, it has all the deceased veterans' names of all the services.

STOCKSTILL: Yeah. With this building, I don't see... but now these are just the poles, see, right here?

POE: Uh hum. And you donated the pole material. STOCKSTILL: See, they mail these flags to the veterans, you know. POE: Uhhuh.

STOCKSTILL: And then, of course, they keep 'em up there in - they take 'em down, keep 'em inside the post up there. But anyway, they have flags for everybody.

MRS STOCKSTILL: That board has the names of everyone from World War - probably Civil War, World War I - anyone that has served in the military. Their names are on that board.

POE: Okay, but they have to be deceased to be on the board?



POE: So you're name's not on there [chuckling]?



STOCKSTILL: My name is - see, now these are back in, these are in Washington D.C., aren't they?

MRS STOCKSTILL: Well, the registry is in D.C.


POE: Yeah. The registry of these are in Washington D.C.

STOCKSTILL: See, and they're all - that's my brother, Homer.

MRS STOCKSTILL: You can bring those up on the computer.

POE: Uhhuh.


STOCKSTILL: And that's my brother, Bob. Now this is the one that...

POE: And he passed away?


POE: He was in the Marine Corp.?


POE: Your brother that was in the Marine Corp. has passed away. Your brother that was in the Army is still in Geneseo?

STOCKSTILL: Yeah. Right. MRS STOCKSTILL: Uh huh. POE: And then your... STOCKSTILL: And this is me.

POE: And there you are as a young man and I'm just gonna put this right here for a moment.

MRS STOCKSTILL: And on the other side is Fred.

STOCKSTILL: This is my brother Fred.

POE: Okay. And this is your brother Fred who lives in Wichita.

STOCKSTILL: The youngest one.

POE: Your baby brother who lives in Wichita.

STOCKSTILL: He was in the Corp. of Engineers. And I guess that's all. Here's a picture of my whole...

POE: Your whole family. STOCKSTILL: Yeah. POE: And you have sisters, too. STOCKSTILL: This is me... POE: Uhhuh.

STOCKSTILL: .. .and this is my youngest son. And these are my granddaughters. This is my granddaughter and that's a grandson. That's a great grandson there. And he's... what nationality?


STOCKSTILL: Guatemala. My granddaughter here adopted him.

MRS STOCKSTILL: They also have adopted a little girl by now. You may have this.

POE: Thank you.

MRS STOCKSTILL: Did you read this? This is a letter that he wrote home and I'd be glad to make a copy of it.

POE: I'd love to have one.

MRS STOCKSTILL: I will go do it now.

POE: Okay.

MRS STOCKSTILL: I've got a copy machine.

POE: That'd be great.

MRS STOCKSTILL: Cause there's a lot of it here.

POE: No, I have not read that.

STOCKSTILL: That's gossip [chuckling]. That's gossip.

MRS STOCKSTILL: No. It's a very interesting letter. Cause he wrote it when he was in the islands.

POE: That's very good. Now, you were 21 when you went into the service. Did you enlist or were you drafted?

STOCKSTILL: I enlisted. My Army Air Force serial number is AF17058841. Now what that means is, this right here... that right there means that I enlisted in the service.

POE: Oh, okay.

STOCKSTILL: These first four numbers mean that I'm from the Middle West, in Kansas, and then these others are just odds and ends.

POE: So, you enlisted?


POE: And you were about 21? 20 or 21...? Something like that.

STOCKSTILL: Yeah, I was - no, I was about 20,1 think, when I enlisted.

POE: Yeah. Was this before or after Pearl Harbor?

STOCKSTILL: It was after.

POE: Okay.

STOCKSTILL: After Pearl Harbor.

POE: So you must've - it must've been like in December...

STOCKSTILL: Yeah. Uhhuh.

POE: .. .or something of '42. Then were you married at the time?


POE: Okay. So you - oh, that's right! You were one of the single guys. Sorry. Yeah [chuckling].

STOCKSTILL: [Chuckling] That's why they always let me go first. POE: [Laughing] Yeah.

STOCKSTILL: [Chuckling] I never did figure out how come - except in the chow line, then I had to go to the back.

POE: So then whenever you got out of service, then you came back to Geneseo?

STOCKSTILL: Yeah. Uh huh. And then I went to work for Continental Pipeline Company, Conocco Oil Company, and then I got married and then I moved to Ponca City, Oklahoma. And I worked down there about six months and then I quit and came back to Geneseo and went to work in the oil field, and that's where I worked ever since. When I retired I was working for Martin Oil Producers. They're a real small, independent oil company and they had about a hundred wells scattered around over the state of Kansas and a few in Oklahoma and Texas. And I looked after them, that's what my job was. Anybody had trouble, I had to go fix it. And I did all the buying for the company, the rods and tubing and the pipes, surface pipe, casing and then I was in charge of all the drilling of wells and going in and completing 'em and then equipping 'em, putting 'em on the pump, getting 'em ready to go. And tank batteries and all. Then hiring the pumpers to pump 'em and then they looked after 'em. And when I quit, I had a little interest in everything that they had. About this much [laughing and indicating a very small amount with his hand]. But it's paid off. It's doing real good right now, I'll say that. [Chuckling] I'll say that. It's doing real good.

POE: Good. And how many children - you had how many children then?


STOCKSTILL: I had two boys. POE: Two boys, okay.

STOCKSTILL: Yeah. Dan and then Darrell is a younger one and they both have college degrees and they both have nice jobs. And when they graduated from school, they got a new vehicle, and then their dad kicked 'em out [laughing].

POE: [Chuckling] I was going to ask if either one of them went into service?


POE: They both have served? Yeah.

STOCKSTILL: Yeah. My brother, Homer, probably had the roughest - the one at Geneseo - he probably had the roughest tour of all of us cause he was in the infantry and they was in some pretty awful battles. But you'll have to have him tell you about 'em, not me.

POE: While you were in the service, you were on the island and there was no - so most of the time - how long were you on the island? I guess I should ask that question.

STOCKSTILL: Well, I was overseas roughly two, almost three years. Thirty-some months. And none of it was very pleasant [chuckling].

POE: Yeah.

STOCKSTILL: Well, no civilization, I mean. Every place we went, see, we had to start over again, you know, with fixing you a place to set a - enough flat ground to set a tent on and hook it up. And then we had to eat out of cans for a long time. Then we'd finally get a mess hall. By then we were getting all the parts we needed and ammunition. There was times when we had to go help unload ammunition, just right before dark and during dark, so that - and then during the dark, we'd get these airplanes loaded so that they could work on the Philippines. This little island of Angar we were on was roughly about 600 air miles from the Philippines. And that's all they did, these B-24's and B-29 bombers, they worked from these little islands. They would fly over during the day and make a bombing run, come back home, we would patch all the holes that the Japs' antiaircraft would have on their flaps and wings on the airplanes. Sometimes they'd come in, the four-engine bombers, sometimes they'd come in with maybe just two of them engines working. But of course, they wouldn't have no loads, so two engines would bring it back. And some of 'em, the airplane just barely got to where they could see our island when they would run out of- see, with their extra gas tanks they would have on the planes, the Japs would, they'd get a bullet hole in one. Well, by the time they got back, there wouldn't be no fuel in there and that's what made it rough. But there was a few of 'em come in and they would radio in that they were about out of gas and they didn't know if they'd have enough to land. We had to get everything off the runway and like if


the wind was out of the south, you know, then they would try to bring it in, land in the wind, we'd get all the fire trucks on the north end. Well, the minute they hit in and slid in and, see, so many of 'em couldn't let their landing gear down because it had been shot up so bad that your controls wouldn't work. So when they'd tell us that they had to come in on their belly, why then we had to take the fire trucks and foam the runway with soap and water. We'd have water tanks, the fire trucks, everything, Anything that would hold water, we had 'em out there wetting that runway down, cause sometimes we only had a couple hours notice. And of course we had to use seawater, ocean water, to do it and it was hard to make it foamy. If we'd had fresh water, it would've been a lot easier to make it foamy, you know, like over here in the sink. And of course, if they had nice soapy water to land on, well, that thing would scoot right on in and usually the guys would get out without even a scratch on 'em, you know. Course the airplanes would be pretty well skinned up. But if they could get 'em in close enough to land 'em on their belly, why, they would.

POE: So you were on the Air Force, but you were on the mechanic end of the Air Force. And so you didn't...

STOCKSTILL: And supply.

POE: And supply. But you didn't...

STOCKSTILL: Supply and maintenance was my main job.

POE: Right. So you didn't fly?


POE: Okay.

STOCKSTILL: I did draw a little flying pay once or twice, but not much.

POE: You were taught to fly? You went to school...


POE: Okay. You just...

STOCKSTILL: Just worked on the airplanes.

POE: [Chuckling] Okay.

STOCKSTILL: I went from, one time, I went from Palu, down in the Palu Islands, up to Okinawa and Saipan and Guam and Tinea.


POE: Okay, can we hold that thought for just a moment? I'm going to change out the disc. [Marian changes the mini-disc in the digital camcorder]

POE: Okay. Now, you were right in the middle of a thought when I so rudely interrupted you. So, you remember what it was?

MRS STOCKSTILL: He was flying from the Palu islands somewhere. POE: You logged some flying time.

STOCKSTILL: Oh, up to -1 went from there up to Okinawa and Guipan and Saipan and Tinea. And I was within about 20 miles of the island of Japan when we turned and I got into a little anti-aircraft from the Japanese. And it's kinda amazing to be flying up there, you know, about 3,000 feet and look out the window there and see some little 'ol black puffs of smoke coming apart, you know, from them anti-aircraft guns when they break. And it was just - and every time then we got close enough to where when one of 'em would pop, the airplane would bounce a little bit. They got that close to us. But we weren't supposed to flying over that island. The pilot told us later [chuckling]. But he wanted to look, see? So he went over it. Course, [inaudible]. But this was a bomber that I was in, but it didn't have no bombs in it. It had been one that they had sent up there to Saipan to have worked on and then we brought it back down to where they could fly and go back and work on the Philippines with it, too. And we were just getting ready to start working on the island of Japan when they, that's when they gave up. Well, they dropped the atomic bomb and then that, just in a couple days everything was all over with. The island of Okinawa there, where we were at, most of those treaties that they signed, you know, there at the tail end of the war, well, they were right off shore there of Okinawa. Well, Eisenhower he was, er, not Eisenhower, but MacArthur, he was there on the island. I got to see him while he was there. And I got to see - then when we were training, when we left the States and went to Hawaii, there on Oahu, the big island, that's where we were training and going to school to learn to work on the different types of airplanes, that's where I got to see Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He came over and toured the island there. And I think that's when he was running for re-election there during the war, you know, and I think he... And he was just - he was in the back of a Roadster or a sports model car, whatever you want to call it. It was two-seated, but it didn't have a, the top was let down. There was two Army guys in the front and he was sitting in the back. And they took him on an entire tour of the island. They had troops lining the roads every place he went because -1 don't know how many million GI's there was on that island, plus the Navy, too, you know. So he had plenty of people in uniform to look at [chuckling]. And let them look at him. He was in pretty bad health I think then, but he still made it over. They flew him over and he got to look around. And of course, we got to see Eisenhower. Well, she was along too. Where did we see him at? Up there at Abilene?

MRS STOCKSTILL: I saw Eisenhower. I don't think you saw Eisenhower. STOCKSTILL: Yeah. I did.


MRS STOCKSTILL: No. No. Because you're quite a bit older than I am. STOCKSTILL: Yeah.

MRS STOCKSTILL: And Eisenhower - when I was in college, you already had started a family.

STOCKSTILL: I guess you're right.

MRS STOCKSTILL: When I saw Eisenhower.

STOCKSTILL: But I did get to see him.

MRS STOCKSTILL: But not during World War II.

STOCKSTILL: No. But that's about all I had overseas. Now my brother, like I say, my brother Homer and Bob - Bob was in some pretty nasty stuff too over there, in the Marines. Then of course, he had just got in to Japan, I think, when the war ended there. So he was... But you'll have to get my brother Homer's. He's the one that had all the...

POE: Just some more of your - I'm assuming that, since you were in the Air Force, that whenever you were going like from the United States to Honolulu or whatever, that you flew all the time? Or did you go on troop ships?

STOCKSTILL: No. I went on a troop ship. POE: Oh... Now that was an experience, I bet.

STOCKSTILL: Yeah. When we left the States to go to Japan, er, I mean to go to Hawaii from the United States, I was on a Navy ship and this Navy ship hauled us over and we had several alerts, submarine alerts, while we were traveling. And then we had - it took us quite a while to get over there too, but we would go so far this way and then they would turn and go this way for a while. We never did go in a straight line very far, all the way from the United States over to, well, that would've been from Portland all the way to Hawaii. And when we left Portland and went down the Columbia River out to the Pacific, that was - it was just getting daylight when we left Portland and went down that river to the Pacific Ocean. That was quite a - I didn't know them big boats traveled that far inland, you know. But that river, well, it's a lot bigger river than you think of it as being. But then when I came back from Okinawa, we came right straight back to Portland. That's where I - then I left Portland and came to Colorado and got my discharge, in Colorado. Came home. That was all [chuckling].

POE: Were you able to stay in communication with your family? Your brothers were also in the service at the same time, so were you able to communicate?


STOCKSTILL: I wrote letters back and forth to my brothers and also to my folks, you know. They had good mail service over there and we'd get - it'd take about, maybe five or six days, you know, for a letter to get to us. And course, then, all the - at first we used airmail, then finally they gave us free postage. All you had to do was just write - if you had your name and serial number on there, why, it just went through the mail and went that way.

POE: When you got out of service, were you able to take advantage of the GI Bill in any way?

STOCKSTILL: Well, I was thinking about going to school, but I didn't. I went and got me a job, went to work, and in a short while I got married and it eliminated all that.

POE: Not even later, to buy a house, you didn't use the GI benefits?


POE: And you said you joined the Reserves when you got out?


POE: What job did you have in the Reserves?

STOCKSTILL: Well, it was just on paper. See, when I got out they jumped on me about joining the Reserves. But I was never active. They would write me a letter from the war department and ask me if I wanted to go on maneuvers with 'em. I never did. I always turned 'em down. And as quick as my enlistment run out, I run out. I quit [chuckling]. Well, in the meantime I'd got married, see? And I didn't want... I think I'd been in the service 11 months when I got my Master Sergeant stripes and then, course, when I went overseas from the States I was getting ready to go to the - they was gonna try to give me a Warrant Officer's commission. And then when I came home from the service, they were giving out commissions if you wanted to stay in the service. So I decided while I was messing around there waiting to get a ride home on a ship, being as I was single and on the tail end of the list, I knew I was gonna be there for a while and I thought, well I'll go down and see what they had to offer. So I go down and they told me that they'd let me enlist at my regular rank, see? You know, if I wanted to enlist in service. So then I said, "Well, where would I be at?" So then they told me the name of where'd I be at and I knew what it was [chuckling]. It was an infantry camp, see? And I said, "Isn't that an infantry camp there?" And they said, "Well yeah, that's what we're gonna give me a commission for." And I said, "No. You're not giving me a commission in the infantry" [chuckling]. I said, "I believe I'd rather go home." So I went home. That was all.

POE: And whenever you got out, did you join the American Legion or the Veteran's of Foreign Wars or organizations like that?


STOCKSTILL: I think I joined the American Legion just a short while after. And I've been in it ever since. I've got some plaques downstairs of how long I've been in. You want to see 'em?

POE: I might do that later, yeah. STOCKSTILL: Okay. I'll take you down. POE: After we get finished here.

STOCKSTILL: And than I think that's all the big stories, the tall stories, I can tell you [chuckling].

POE: [Chuckling] Did you make any friends while you were in the service that lasted beyond that time, that you're friends with today?

STOCKSTILL: Well, you know, I thought I had some friends that I'd made there with me... do you want to turn that machine off a minute?

POE: I can do that.


[Marian turns the digital camcorder off at Mr. Stockstill's request while they talk briefly]

POE: Yeah, the 'Dear John' letters had a very bad effect...


POE: .. .on the group. Now you were the Master Sergeant, so you had a group of men under you that you were responsible for?

STOCKSTILL: Well, there was about a hundred of 'em. I was in charge of a flight land. Actually, when I left Okinawa I was running a whole airport. The weather end, the ordinance, you know, the maintenance, and all the repair work and the whole works. I was the NCO in charge. I had about a hundred guys working under me. And when an airplane come in, somebody had to decide what we had to do to it.

POE: But you were responsible, just like the story you just told me, you were responsible not just for the work that was being done but also for the well being of the people that were under you.

STOCKSTILL: And this man that was my Captain Nosbaum, he was a Jewish boy, and he came over from the old country and hit the United States and went to school, got a college education and come out and got him a commission in the Air Force. He was a Supply Officer. And he knew that an airplane - some of 'em had two wheels and some of


'em had three [laughing]. That was his experience, see? And they gave him to me. But I will say this about him, I got him when he was a brand new Second Lieutenant, just brand new. When I left him and him and me came home, he had his Captain bars up here, see?

POE: So you trained him well?

STOCKSTILL: Yeah. I thought I did a good job on him [chuckling]. Cause he went right on up in the two years I had him. Course, we done a lot of moving around. Every time we moved the Officers all got another bar when we moved. They all got a jump. I heard, a time or two, from him and then he quit writing, I think, and then I got married and I quit writing and that was all. I've often wondered what happened to him. But his people owned, I think it was in New York, they owned a chain of automobile supply stores, you know, that they had. So I know he was pretty well fixed, you know. And I've always figured maybe I should've went back there and run one of them stores for him and in the meantime he could've adopted me and I could have owned it then, see? [Chuckling] That way I wouldn't have had to work, you know, for a living.

POE: Did you have any special interests or hobbies that you were, when you went into service or you developed while you were in service or since then?

STOCKSTILL: Well, I didn't have then. I didn't have any time for it. I collect old barbed wire and railroad date nails. I've got a collection of about 800 different kinds of wire I'm gonna give to the museum up here. And then I've got a railroad date nail board that I'll probably give 'em up there. And what it is, it's a board about, probably about that long and about that wide, and it's peg board and it's got a complete set of Santa Fe Railroad date nails on. Then I have a complete set of Santa Fe bridge nails that they put in - see, when they used to build bridges the railroad would put a date nail in 'em, just like they did the railroad ties, you know, when the railroads, when they first built these railroads the first number they had was number 1, see, which would be 1901. But they started, they actually built the railroads here in Kansas in about 1880,1 think, started on 'em. The Santa Fe, I think, come across about that time and the Frisco; the first ones that came across the state of Kansas. And finally I got all of those. I had to do a terrible lot of horse-trading to get all them. But I got a lot of 'em out of, they was - Geneseo up there was kinda a hub for the railroad and they was, the Frisco and the Santa Fe both, and then the Union Pacific was north of it, up there at Ellsworth, And they had branch lines, you know, connecting the two of 'em together. And of course, the Santa Fe run across the whole United States eventually. Well, the Union Pacific did, too. Union Pacific was first. And they dated their ties so that the people working on the railroad then could -they could go along for years, they could go along and tell the old ties in the railroad track, even if they weren't worn out. Another reason they dated 'em was so that they could determine, try to determine, they made railroad ties - when they first started, they made railroad ties out of anything that was wood. Well, see, pretty soon they come to find out that there was certain types of wood and then they could treat 'em and that some of those ties would last fifty years, sixty years maybe, if they had a good roadbed. If they had a poor roadbed, where they could get next to like rock, but where they could next to


dirt they would deteriorate in just nothing flat. It was just something to do in my spare time. I guess that's about all I have.

POE: Did you receive any special medals or citations?

STOCKSTILL: No. Let's see, well, I got a Good Conduct ribbon [laughing].

POE: [Laughing] Well, good for you.

STOCKSTILL: And then I got an Asian/Pacific medal, I think. And something - let's see... I can't remember what...

MRS STOCKSTILL: Did you tell about...

STOCKSTILL: They gave us a Victory Ribbon, I think.

POE: Okay.

MRS STOCKSTILL: Did you tell about that airplane disintegrating above your tent?

STOCKSTILL: Oh, in the-no. The flack coming out and...

POE: Hum...

MRS STOCKSTILL: And the motor coming down in your tent?

STOCKSTILL: No. This was right after I got on the island of Angar and the Japs would come over, you know, at night. And of course, this little 'ol island I was on, like I told you, it was just solid with troops. When we first came in there, in that island, those big 'ol ships, big 'ol Navy battleships, you know, and everything else, they were just sitting off out there about two miles off shore, or up to a mile. Every once in a while there'd be one of 'em go up in there and get real close and then they'd sit there and they'd shoot all their big shells that they had. And when they quit, that whole island, there wasn't a blade of grass standing up. They got everything. But anyway, then we went on the island and set up our tents and they made the airstrip. And then the Japs, see, we'd go over and fight, we'd bomb them during the daytime. Then at night, they would come off these little islands around us. They would fix up just any kind of an airplane that would fly. They had all types of different kinds of airplanes. But they would hide those in the caves in the daytime, see, and the boys - the first thing in the morning the aerial photo planes would take off and they'd go around and take pictures of all these little islands that had runways on 'em. Well, see, the Japs would repair one runway so they could get an airplane off, which they wanted to do and then come over and bomb us. Well, see, now those airplanes that they were coming to bomb us on, they just had enough gasoline in 'em to get from this one airfield on this island here to this airfield here. Course when they dropped their bombs then they'd come back and drop the airplane on us. They made another bomb out of it, see? And if it had bombs on it that they couldn't get turned loose


off their plane, they would dive -just nose it into the ground and dive bomb us with it. Commit suicide, but also try to take everybody with 'em that they could.

MRS STOCKSTILL: But that airplane got shot down...

STOCKSTILL: Yeah. Overhead, see, the ones that got shot down. Well, the Marines had anti-aircraft guns all over this island. And at night you could sit there and read a paper by the light off their bombs breaking up in the air. And it was - at first, the first two nights we were there, here come this shrapnel out of the air from all of the bullets, you know, and bombs up there and pieces of bombers coming down, hitting our head. We had foxholes dug that we were in, but there wasn't no top on 'em [chuckling]. The second night, we had a top on 'em because when we got out and got to looking, there's some of them holes in their tent from some of that hot medal coming down and parts of those airplanes laying right there all around us on the ground. The next day we had, we cut branches and brush and covered the tops of those over, just left a hole to crawl in at the end and we had long sled trenches dug to keep that medal from getting us at night. But we only had about five or six nights of 'em coming over and then they couldn't ever get their. In the meantime, the Marines - the CB's had come in first and built the airstrips and they come in, you know, they have those big bulldozer blades on the front of that Cat, you know, a bulldozer. And they bulldozed this stuff up, leveled that choral off, then they'd run back and forth on the choral. They'd get the choral right out of the ocean, you know, and dump it out there in these trucks and they'd run over it with a bulldozer, flatten it out, and it would make a nice, springy runway. In fact, the pilots liked it better than they did concrete, because it was a little spongy, see, and it would give and it would also let 'em go back. Especially when they had to scoot in on their belly. And then every morning real early the water trucks would be out there and they would dump salt water on that choral, see, where they had worked it and it was just fine, like powder on the ground. And that would firm it up and it would also make it a lot springier for them to land their airplanes on. But we had water trucks doing that, putting salt water on it. Then of course, we had them water trucks there, too, when somebody come in on their belly, why, we'd foam the runway. Or if one of 'em come in on fire, they'd be out there and run it down, hose it off, you know, trying to save the pilot. Most the time they would try to get them guys to ditch, you know, the plane out there, dump it and then the boys -somebody would be out there circling with him and then they had some pontoon planes they'd fly out there and get the 'ol boys. They'd have on their vest and be out there floating around. Course, there was some sharks in that part of the country too, you know, out there and the boys wasn't too crazy about bailing out [laughing]. So, it was...

POE: About how many planes were flying out of that island that you were on?

STOCKSTILL: How many what?

POE: How many planes were there, stationed there?

STOCKSTILL: Oh. Well, I would say roughly about a hundred. And we had - we didn't have much room when they'd land on the apron, we'd have to scoot 'em off. Get


'em off to one side. But then they had - in the meantime, in about six days, they had another island. An island of Angar they had there, right there by us, and it was bigger and the Marines already had an airbase. They just, the Marines - once they could get one boat over through in there, they had them little fighter planes off the aircraft carrier, see, and they'd run in there and work off there. Then, of course, I had to get busy and they flew me in a big 'ol tank that would hold about 10,000 gallons of aircraft fuel. And they brought it in on barges and barrels and the CB's would haul it up there and I made a big 'ol ramp-like deal so that they could haul them barrels in there. And then they had CB's come in there and the CB's would haul that up there and unload it and roll it out here on this and I had a big 'ol trough made. I just took some barrels and I had 'em cut in half, and made troughs out of 'em, made real long one. And then we had it right at the end of this strip, right even with the ground, see, and they'd back up there, back those tankers up there and unload 'em with that. And then when they got there, they come in with some stuff looked like irrigation pipe, joined it together and laid it on top of the ground. Run a pipeline up there then, see, and then hooked it into the tank and then the boys could haul their fuel out of that. See, being out - they had some tankers out there in the ocean, but they didn't have no way to get it in the airplanes, see, or no way to get the gasoline in the trucks. So all the gasoline for the trucks and the airplanes both had to come in, so we finally got this first tank fixed up for the airplanes cause we - the trucks, we was using the gasoline in the barrels for the trucks, to run them with. But even, when we left Angar, we were there roughly, I'd say about seven or eight months and when we left there, there was still Japs on that island, hid out in those caves. And they would go down to the island that had the junk, they would gather up all the trash and refuge from the mess tents and stuff on the island, and take it down there and dump it in this place and it had pits they dumped that in. Well, them Japs would come out at night and get stuff to eat out of that. They knew there was two or three of 'em and, in fact, I think even I got home I read in the paper a place or two where a couple of them had come out, had been hid out, and they would go around to the Army camps and eat out of their junk, you know, before they would pick 'em up. I think you better shut that off. I'm using up too much of your film [laughing].

POE: No, you're not. [Laughing] I got - look at all the little discs I got here. STOCKSTILL: [Chuckling] Yeah, but you need to save that for some good stories. POE: [Chuckling] They're all good. I've got more. STOCKSTILL: [Chuckling] Have you now? POE: [Chuckling] Yeah. That's what grants are for. STOCKSTILL: Well, that's about all, I guess, that I have.

POE: Okay. Well, would you like just to maybe conclude then, just about how the service experiences affected your life?


STOCKSTILL: Well, I don't know. I can understand how, you know, how rough the military service really is. It's not a bed of roses [chuckling]. For none of it, the Navy or-I was in there with the Navy and I worked around the Air Corp. while I was in the Air Corp. And then, of course, I was always around the infantry. They was always around. And from what I can hear, about the Marines and the Navy both, none of it was a rose bed, you know, so... And the food, you just had to learn to like it [chuckling]. But I don't know, when I came back to States though, those separation centers seemed to have awful good food. Maybe it was for a reason, you know, trying to get everybody to come back, I guess [chuckling]. But I doubt it.

POE: Anything else you'd like to add?

STOCKSTILL: That's all. I better quit [chuckling], I mean, while I'm still ahead. POE: Okay. Well, this will conclude this interview today. And today is July the 10th. [Marian turns the digital camcorder off and the interview is concluded at this time] TRANSCRIBER: JOHNEL POE

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