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Allen Easum video interview on experiences in World War II (transcript)

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  The World War II Years:

An Oral History Interview with Allan C. Easum

 

 

Note: Ellipsis (…) indicates a fragmentary or introductory utterance. Square brackets enclose information such as [unintelligible], the transcriber’s best guess as to what was said, or editorial notes from the transcriber.

 

 

Interviewer: Today is September 26th, [2007].  I am Nancy Porter, and we are in the home of Mr. Allan Easum.  Mr. Easum, [do] you want to tell us about this picture?

 

Allan Easum:  Well, this is at basic training in Camp Robinson, Arkansas.  This was the company I was in.  I just kept that over the years.  It’s getting pretty old now.  I’ve got an “X” on me there.  But [it was a] pretty big group.  That was basic infantry training in Camp Robinson, Arkansas [in] early 1945.  That’s about it, I guess.

 

Interviewer:  They all look really young.

 

Allan Easum:  Eighteen years old.  There are going to be a few in there.  You know, they got to taking them at that time up in their lower thirties.  We had guys in there 34 years old.

 

I:  Now, wait a minute; we may have some other things, so hang on.

 

[Filming pauses while other photographs are placed on display. The interview then formally begins.]

 

I:  Once again, my name is Nancy Porter.  I am with the Watkins Community Historical Museum, and we are in the home today of Mr. Allan Easum, and we are going to visit with him.  Allan, can you tell me when and where you were born?

 

AE:  I was born in Woodson County, west of Yates Center, Kansas.

 

I:  I know that place well.

 

AE:  Seven or eight miles out in the country.

 

I:  My girlfriend is from there, so I have been there.

 

AE:  Really?

 

I:  Did you know Kenny Reamer here in town at Lawrence National Bank? That is where he was born and raised.

 

AE:  Yeah, I talked to…. I used to work on his cars. Yeah, I used to be good friends [with him] at one time.

 

[The interviewer and Allan Easum discuss Kenny Reamer and his daughter.]

 

I: What was your birthday?

 

AE:  October 20th, 1926.

 

I:  Growing up down there, what did your father do?

 

AE:  We farmed.  At the time I was born, we farmed.

 

I:  And your mother, did she work outside of the home?

 

AE:  No.

 

I:  And how many children?

 

AE:  I was one of nine.

 

I:  One of nine.  How many boys and girls?

 

AE:  I was number three.

 

I:  Number three.

 

AE:  There were three girls and six boys. 

 

I:  Did any of the other boys go to war?

 

AE:  All five.

 

I:  Really?  All of you?

 

AE:  All six of us.

 

I:  All six boys.

 

AE:  I was the oldest of the six boys. There were two girls older than me.  My brother just a year and a half younger than me, and my brother Norman, they were both in the Korean War.  Chuck lost a leg.  And the other three younger ones, two of those were in Germany for the occupation.  One was in Japan. Yeah, all six of us went to the Army.

 

I:  Well, not all at once though.  That is a good thing.

 

AE:  No, no, as we became of age.

 

I:  Some of ’em, all of ’em went to war at once, and that was kind of bad.

 

AE:  Oh, yeah.  You know, ones that was five, ten years older than me, sure, they did, absolutely.

 

I:  What kind of chores did your dad have you doing on that farm?  I’ll bet you farmed with horses to start with.

 

AE:  We farmed with horses and...

 

I:  [Do] you remember their names?

 

AE:  Two of ’em.  One of ’em’s name was [Doc].  The other one’s name was [Claude].  I don’t remember any more of ’em, but those were…. You know, those were tough times.

 

I:  Yeah. What was the Depression like for you guys?

 

AE:  Very bad. 

 

I:  Did you do a lot of bartering during the Depression?

 

AE:  Well, I don’t know about that. But, like…. I think it was like 1933 or 1934….  Well, when did the WPA start?  About that time?  Well, we went broke farming.  The bank, you know, repossessed what cattle we had…my dad had, and that…. We ended up like a lot of other people, on WPA. Yeah, those were hard times.

 

I:  Yeah, a lot of people had lost everything.  What’d you do when everything was repossessed?  Did you guys stay in your home, or did you move?

 

AE:  Well, no, we left…. We left the farm and moved to the little town of Quincy, Kansas.  Just a little gravel street, a farming community.  We lived there, and my dad worked odd jobs and on the WPA.

 

I:  What did he do on the WPA?  What work did he do?

 

AE:  Well, he learned to be a stonemason, a rockmason.  They built a gymnasium in Neal, Kansas about seven or eight miles from where we lived. 

 

[Neal is an unincorporated community east of Eureka, Kansas.]

 

He worked there, and the superintendent on the job….  When that job was finished, the superintendent got a job at KU building…. What’s the name of that building?  But anyhow, it’s a stone building at KU.

 

I:  They are all stone buildings at KU!

 

AE:  Yeah. Yeah, I forget what is the name of that….  Might have been the military science building. I’m not sure.  It’s stone.  But anyway, my dad and five or six others from that community got work up here, and then we eventually moved to Lawrence.  That was in 1941, and we came to Lawrence in the spring of ’42, after my sisters got out of high school. They were both in the same grade; my mother started them when they was five and six, you know, and they…. Which wasn’t very smart, I don’t think, but they were always in the same grade.

 

I:  I’ve never talked to anybody whose family worked for the WPA project.  That saved a lot of people, I think.

 

AE:  Oh, yeah, that….

 

[The interviewer talks about a painting she once owned.]

 

AE:  Yeah.  Well, down there, the WPA, they built lakes.

 

I:  And roads?

 

AE:  Now, after we quit farming, my dad still had a team of horses.  He got to work his team building lakes and roads and that kind of stuff, and eventually got into that stonemason work. Then we come to Lawrence, and he worked as a stonemason some.  Then [he] worked at Hercules Powder Company during the duration of the war.

 

I:  Did he?  What did he do out there?

 

AE:  Well, he worked on a lot of those powder lines.

 

I:  Did he ever have any adverse affects from being around all that powder?

 

AE:  No, he didn’t.  Actually, I worked out there.  I got on immediately after I turned eighteen.  I worked about five or six weeks, and then I was drafted, but…

 

I:  Where did you go to school, mostly?

 

AE:  I went ten years at Quincy, and I went two years at Liberty Memorial High School.

 

I:  Oh, here in Lawrence.

 

AE:  Uh-huh.

 

I:  Where was you when Pearl Harbor happened?

 

AE:  I was in…. I think I was a freshman in high school in Quincy, Kansas.  They had us all come into a gathering room there.  And the radio…. They had a radio. [They said] that the Japs had bombed Pearl Harbor.  I remember that.

 

I:  So they let you listen to the radio?

 

AE:  Yeah, we listened to some of that, yeah.

 

I:  What was the reaction of the students?

 

AE:  Well, my reaction was that…. I was young, you know.  I didn’t…. I figured, well, it would last a couple of years like World War I did, and that would be the end of it.  But that didn’t turn out to be the fact, you know.  First thing you know, I was eighteen years old, and I was drafted.  Yeah, those were….

 

I:  So being in school, you was kinda aware of what was going on in Europe prior to Pearl Harbor to some extent, but you didn’t know….

 

AE:  Oh, I suppose [so], yes.  But where I lived, you know, we didn’t hardly get out of the county, or nothing.  We weren’t too aware of a lot of things going on in the world.  You know, we didn’t have electricity, and we didn’t have radios. [We] got the paper maybe once a week.  It was a print, you know.  I kinda sold a print newspaper once a week.  But, no, you didn’t know what was going on in the world like you do now.

 

I:  Yeah. Sometimes we know too much.

 

AE:  Yes, I think so.

 

I:  So they drafted you?

 

AE:  Yes.

 

I:  And what year was that?

 

AE:  1944. In December.

 

I:  And you were living in…?

 

AE:  Actually, I tried to join the Navy, but I didn’t have a birth certificate, so I went to Topeka to get it, and I wasn’t even registered as ever being born.  The doctor hadn’t turned me in, you know.  So then I had to get school records, and have an aunt or an uncle verify that I existed.  By the time I got that, why, time had passed for…. I was too late to join, and I was just drafted.

 

I:  Yeah.  So the Army drafted you?  Doggone it!

 

AE:  Uh-huh, through Leavenworth. 

 

I:  You went through Leavenworth.  Where did you go to basic?

 

AE:  Camp Robinson, [at] Little Rock, Arkansas.

 

I:  Tell us about that a little bit.

 

AE:  Well, it was hilly country. I don’t remember how long it was.  I think it was only, maybe, eight weeks or something like that.

 

I:  [It] got you in shape.

 

AE: [It] got us in shape.

 

I:  [Did they] run you and…?

 

AE:  You know, I was young.  You didn’t…. It was kind of a challenge, and you just done your duty.  You know, that is….  You know, back in them days people were more patriotic then they are now.  Everybody, he wanted to pass his physical and go to service.  Now it is a bit of a different story, and I can understand why. 

 

I:  So from Camp…. I have to ask, what was your sleeping quarters like there?

 

AE:  We had…. They are kind of cheap buildings, huts, put about….

 

I:  Wooden?

 

AE:  Wooden, yeah, with tar paper on the outside and tar-paper roofs.  We had coal stoves, one on each end of the building.  That is how they heated them.  It sounds kind of primitive, but that is the way it was.  Heat ’em with coal stoves.  Now I have been…. I have thought about this, and you know, I can’t remember whether there were civilians there keeping the stoves.  I suppose there may have been civilians working for the Army [who] kept the stoves going and that kind of stuff, but I don’t ever remember having to tend to the stoves.  Of course, I forget a lot of things after sixty years.

 

I:  But you’d think you would remember that.

 

AE:  I think I would.  I think we had somebody that took care of the stoves.

 

I: What about food?

 

AE:  Food was good.

 

I:  Was it? 

 

AE:  Yeah, food was good. 

 

I:  You got three squares a day?

 

AE:  We always had a breakfast, and we always had, like, cereal for dessert if you wanted that, too.  But, no, the food was all right.

 

I:  What about your bunks? Were they just bunk after bunk? Were they stacked or cots?

 

AE:  No, I think we had Army cots.  We sure did; we had Army cots.

 

I:  And you don’t stack those!

 

AE:  No. We had Army cots in the Philippines, and we had Army cots in Korea.

 

I:  Because a lot of ’em were in hammocks or in…you know, where they stacked ’em.

 

AE:  Yeah, the only time I slept in them kind of quarters was on board ship.  They was about five or six high, them bunks, and about that far apart.

 

I:  Where did you go from Little Rock?  Where did you go next?

 

AE:  You know, I went to…. I came back home after my basic for fifteen days.

 

I:  Oh, yeah, you got liberty.

 

AE:  And then my orders was to go to…. I believe it was…. Was it Fort Dix, New Jersey, perhaps? 

 

I:  Yeah, that’s probably right.

 

AE: I was going to ship out to Europe.  Well, while I was there the war….

 

I:  … in Europe was over.

 

AE:  … ended in Europe.  I was in….  In fact, I was on leave in Washington, D.C. the night that they really celebrated World War II in Europe [ending].

 

I:  What was that celebration like in New York?

 

AE:  In Washington D.C.

 

I:  I mean, in Washington; I’m sorry.

 

AE:  Oh, they lit up the Capitol and…. What is the main thoroughfare going in there?  There was a big celebration.  They had people in the streets, and they had entertainers as far as movie stars and singers, and it was quite a deal.

 

I:  Really?  Because a lot of them say, “Oh, well, we didn’t do much,” because they were stuck somewhere where…. I know in a big city like that, [it must have been] kind of like New Year’s Eve.

 

AE:  Oh, yeah, they were…. You know, they were selling war bonds, too, on the streets. If you bought a war bond, you could go up and get a hug from the movie star or whoever it was, you know.

 

I:  You don’t remember who that was?

 

AE:  I don’t remember who it was, but I did it!

 

I:  Was it a female?

 

AE:  Oh, yeah. Yeah.

 

I:  Oh, okay.  A female movie star.  There was a lot of them.

 

AE:  I don’t know who it was.  But after that….

 

I:  She must not have made much of an impression on you!

 

AE:  Well, I guess not!

 

I:  So after that?

 

AE:  After that, why, I got new orders, and I went on a troop train from back east clear to Camp Beale, California.

 

I:  Them troop trains, tell me about that.  Was that a forty and eight? 

 

AE:  Oh, boy, it was….

 

I:  Was that a forty and eight train?

 

AE:  I don’t know.

 

I:  Forty men or eight horses.  Is that what it was?

 

AE:  I don’t know what it was.  But they were…. They was kind of like…. It wasn’t nothing fancy, you know.  It was just kind of boxcar-like transportation.

 

I:  Yeah, I think that is what it was back then. [This is partially correct; “forty and eight” railroad cars were only used in Europe.]

 

AE:  And we had colored people on there for porters.  It took…. I don’t know; it seems like it was two or three days maybe on the train. I can’t remember, really.  It seemed like a long time.

 

I:  Yeah, it probably was.

 

AE:  And then we got to Camp Beale, California, and then we shipped out of there for Leyte in the Philippines.

 

I:  So the Philippines was already taken at that point?

 

AE:  Pretty much.  Actually, at that time, there had been a big battle on Leyte and Luzon and them places.  But Leyte was more…. At that time [it] was a distribution center for new men coming in and old ones shipping out, and we was there for a while.

 

I:  How did you get over there?  What kind of boat did you go over on? A ship?

 

AE:  I think they called them an APA.  They held about…. I think they held about twelve or fourteen hundred troops.  They took three weeks.  They made a zig-zag course day and night, and they….  No lights, you know.  [They] travel[ed] at night.

 

I:  And you slept in a hammock there?

 

AE:  Oh, yeah.

 

I:  Several high?

 

AE:  Several high, right.

 

I:  Seasick?

 

AE:  Not me very much, but some of them poor guys was sick the whole three weeks!

 

I:  Was you on top hammock or bottom hammock? 

 

AE:  I was down below.

 

I:  We’ve heard a lot of stories about being on that bottom hammock!

 

AE:  No, I don’t remember; I think I was maybe in the middle somewhere.

 

I:  Did you run into any storms going over?

 

AE:  No, we didn’t; no, it was pretty….

 

I:  Pretty quiet?

 

AE:  As I remember, there was no storms.

 

I:  So you got over to Leyte, and they offloaded you there?

 

AE:  Yeah, then from Leyte, I was assigned to the 40th Infantry Division, 160th Infantry.  They were stationed on Panay. [Panay is an island in the Philippines.] And on Panay, we trained every day. We even had…. Towards the end of the summer, the middle of summer, we were taking…doing amphibious training: you know, boarding ships and hitting the beach and getting ready for Japan is what it amounted to.  In fact, I was…. We had been doing that all day, and then we was on board ship at night, and we got news that…about the atomic bomb, and the war was gonna to end and….

 

I:  What did everybody think about the atomic bomb?  Did they really understand it at all?

 

AE:  We didn’t understand it.  We didn’t understand it.  No way did we understand it.  But….

 

I:  But it still had to make an impression on you.

 

AE:  Yeah. Yeah, it did.  I don’t know whether we thought it was just a bigger bomb or something that caused the Japanese to quit, but we didn’t know the destruction that it done, which was horrific. 

 

I:  Some of the guys that’s been where they’ve seen both that and the fire bombing, they say the fire bombings were much worse.

 

AE:  Well, I never seen all that, but [from] what I read since and seen since, I don’t know.  I’m glad we done it, because it saved my life.

 

I:  It saved many, many, many lives, Japanese and American.

 

AE:  But look how many people it killed.

 

I:  But that is what happens in war.

 

AE:  That is just part of history, I guess.

 

Technical Assistant: I was going to ask, when you were on the Philippines, did you see any devastation from earlier combat, or any damage?

 

AE:  No, but when I was on Leyte, we had air strikes where we had blackouts, you know, and that.  Then when we went on Panay, you know, and the war ended, there was Japanese troops in the foothills.  A few days after the atomic bomb, they all surrendered and come marching out of there, and they were rough-looking troops, you know. They’d been on short rations for a long time. We took all their weapons and things like that from them.  In fact, that sword laying right there…. Where is it?

 

I:  It’s right there; we will get it pretty soon.

 

AE:  It’s a…. It was one…. Anyway, I think it was just like a noncommissioned officer’s sword.  But, yeah, those Japanese troops, they was ready to quit.  They didn’t have any fight left in them, anyway, because they done been whipped.

 

I:  Yeah. How big of a group would that have been?

 

AE:  You know, I don’t know, but I think there was maybe not a thousand, but several hundred. 

 

I:  [Referring to the sword]: This is heavy!

 

TA:  Yeah, it looks heavy.

 

AE:  That’s a non….  I think that’s just a cheap…. That ain’t nothing fancy. [It’s] just like a noncommissioned officer’s sword.  Push that little button right there.

 

I:  Oh, I’ll let you.

 

AE:  Yeah, that was a souvenir.

 

I:  Is that pretty sharp?

 

AE:  Oh my, yeah. Really sharp.

 

I:  You can go ahead and pull that out. I’m not gonna.

 

AE:  This is one of my war souvenirs.

 

I:  See, it’s so heavy, if I had been without food, I couldn’t have carried it.

 

AE:  But I kept it all these years.  You know, they advertised…. People want to buy ’em and all, but I’ve kept it. I’m going to give it to someone in my family. Those are Japanese-issue binoculars right there, too.

 

I:  Japanese-issue binoculars?

 

AE:  They came from there, too.  Got Japanese writing on it, doesn’t it?

 

I:  Yeah. Well, it’s got something on it.  It looks like American.  A …

 

AE:  Well, no, turn it over.  There’s a Japanese name or somethin’ on there.  Everybody had to have souvenirs. 

 

I:  Well, not everybody got home with them.

 

AE:  No, they didn’t.

 

I:  I think it was easier to get home with them after the war than it was if you came home during the war.

 

AE:  Actually, you know, I guess that I was lucky that I was born later than some of the guys, because I got to see half of the world, and I didn’t have to do the fighting.

 

I:  [Referring to an object]: My goodness, tell me about this.

 

AE:  That…. My parents bought that from a door-to-door salesman, a guy that worked for the railroad. He was from Mexico, or old Mexico.  He come in there and  had a sample of one of these.  So my mother and my two older sisters, they went ahead and purchased this, and they gave, like, I don’t know, thirty, forty dollars. 

 

I:  This picture of him is actually wooden. See, that’s wooden.

 

AE:  But anyway, they paid for it, and they never did get the picture.  So they contacted the Better Business Bureau, and they got on this guy, and finally they got that.  That is kind of an…

 

I:  It’s very unusual.

 

AE:  I have never seen anything like it.

 

I:  I haven’t either.  And believe me, I have been seeing a lot of things. Yeah, it is very unusual.  See, when I turned it around and seen it was wood…. That is really neat.  Beautiful carving.

 

AE:  Yeah, they…. That is…. I think it came out of Mexico.

 

I:  Yeah, they do a lot of nice stuff down there.  How did the people on Leyte, in the Philippines, how did…? Did you have contact with the native people there?

 

AE:  Yeah, some.

 

I:  How did you get on with them?

 

AE:  I liked the Filipino people. 

 

I:  Did you?

 

AE:  In the evenings, after we’d had chow, you know, and before dark, why, they would let the civilians into the Army camp, and they’d come in there and... In fact, Filipino women would take our laundry—take our dirty laundry—and bring it back the next day all cleaned and ironed.  And we bought bananas from them, fresh off of the banana trees, you know.  It was all right. I did; I liked the Filipino people.  In fact, we had a young Filipino boy.  He was twelve years old. We lived in tents. [We] had about one squad to a tent, which was twelve men.  And he was our handy boy, or handy man, in there.  He kept things picked up, you know.  Oh, he really…. He wanted to go with us when we left.  But I did; I liked the Filipino people.

 

I:  Yeah?  What about on Panay?  Did you have contact with native people there, or…?

 

AE:  Well, that’s what I was telling you about this boy here.  That was on Panay.

 

I:  That was on Panay?  They were still the Filipinos?

 

AE:  I didn’t have too much contact on Leyte.  We didn’t…. It was a replacement depot, and they shipped us right on out of there.

 

I:  What was the terrain like on Leyte?

 

AE:  Well, it was kind of like Panay.  It was pretty much…. Most of it [was] pretty much flat, but there was hills, too, like on Panay.  Them Japanese, they were way back off up in the hills.  Small mountains, like, you know.

 

I:  These were not real large islands, either.

 

AE:  No, but there was an airstrip there on Panay, where we’d set out tents.  It was an old Japanese airstrip, is what it was.  We had our tents all set up on that.  They had lots of rice paddies there, and the Filipinos farmed with those water buffalo.  They worked them in them fields.  And they lived in…. Their houses was…. Some of them were up on stilts like, you know, and then they had their old caribou.  He kinda lived under there in the shade.  It was pretty primitive. It was primitive, now.  It really was primitive. 

 

I:  And you guys lived in what kind of quarters on Leyte and Panay?

 

AE:  Tents.

 

I:  Now, did you dig a foxhole and put the tent over it?

 

AE:  No. There was no combat there when I was there.  No combat when I was there, now, but the squad that I was assigned to, they had just came out of combat on Luzon.  I think, out of twelve men, there was only three or four left in that squad.  We were replacements for that, you see. 

 

I:  How did you get along with those men?  Did they accept you pretty well?

 

AE:  All right.  Well, they…. Yeah, we all got along pretty well as I remember.

 

I:  What was the food like there?

 

AE:  You know, the food was all right.  We had a big mess tent, which you went into, although when we left there we had to take it all down—take our tables down and all that. But, no, we had pretty good food.  We would get fresh eggs, I think, on Sundays, and boy, everybody was ready for breakfast on Sunday when you got fresh eggs. Most of it, you know, it was like dried eggs and…

 

I:  Powdered eggs, powdered milk.

 

AE:  Powdered milk. We had powdered milk.  I never did like powdered milk very good, but on the whole I...

 

I:  What did they do with these Japanese soldiers when they took ’em prisoner?  What did they do with them after that, do you know?

 

AE:  Well, I’m sure they eventually sent ’em back to Japan.  They had them in…. They had them quartered where…by themselves.  Eventually they were shipped out to back home.

 

I:  Because they didn’t ship the ones that was in America back home.  The Germans, they just opened the gates, and they…

 

AE:  Turned them loose and let them go.

 

I:  Turned them loose.  That’s how Alma, Kansas came about.  They’re all Germans down there.  There was a German prisoner-of-war camp down there.  Same thing here; they just opened the gates and the….

 

[Phone rings.]

 

I: How long was you on Panay?

 

AE:  Seems like from April until…. I think we went into Korea for occupation in September. 

 

I:  Tell us about Korea.

 

AE:  Oh, that was the most backward country that ever was.  It was a really primitive country.  And those people, the Japanese had ruled them for ten years, the way I understood it.  One of our first projects was shipping all the Japanese people back to Japan, and then they would bring Korean people back on them boats.  I was in the southern end of Korea at Pusan.  That’s where the shipping docks were.  Lord, trainloads of those Japanese people—civilians and kids and old people—they’d come in there on a train you know, just packed like cattle.  They were on them docks with no bathroom facilities whatsoever, you know, and they’d have to wait there for two or three days to get on board a ship to go to Japan.  They’d load ’em up like cattle on the ships.  There was…. Makes you kind of…

 

I:  … thankful for an outhouse!

 

AE:  Yeah. Makes you appreciate where we came from. 

 

I:  What was your job then?  Because the other places, you was pretty much training the whole time. 

 

AE:  Yeah.

 

I:  What was your job on…at Korea?

 

AE:  Mainly, it was more or less guard duty, like guarding warehouses and….  And we also…. We worked Korean laborers unloadin’ ships with…well, like with lumber and stuff that our government brought in there for building purposes.  We was….

 

I:  Did the troops help rebuild places like that?

 

AE:  Somewhat, yeah, but we also worked civilian Korean people.  Yeah, they…. Some of those people, they learned to speak English pretty fast—some of the younger ones, the kids, you know, the young people.  Yeah, I was there for a year anyway.  I didn’t go…. Yeah, I was there just a good year, [for the] occupation. 

 

I:  What was your quarters and food like there?

 

AE:  Oh, it was a little better.  We had…. We was…. We were in a Japanese army camp, and they had buildings.  We wasn’t in tents there. It got cold in Korea, just like it does here.  Just about the exact same weather.  We had some snow; we had…. It was winter, cold; it was…. I watch the paper here all the time.  When it’s thirty degrees here, it’s thirty degrees [in Seoul]. It’s kind of about the same meridian or whatever you want to call it.  But that was…. It wasn’t awfully…

 

I:  What was that terrain like?

 

AE:  Hilly, really hilly.  Yeah, there was a lot of, like, wasteland there. 

 

I:  And vegetation?  Did they have a lot of trees, or…?

 

AE:  Had lots of trees, but they…. It was…. They raised rice.  That’s what they raise is rice.  It was hilly, you know.  We was kind of in the foothills. 

 

Technical Assistant:  What were relations like between the infantry and the Korean citizens?  You mentioned that a lot of them learned to speak English. Were you able to really interact very much with them, or were you just working?

 

AE:  Oh, we could interact with some of them. Yeah, with some of them.  There was quite a few of the younger ones that could really speak English.  You could kind of use them as interpreters if you had a work detail and were wantin’, you know….  We got along pretty good with them, really.  I think…. At least in the first few months we was there they really liked the Americans: we got rid of the Japanese, and it kind of improved their life.  They got…. Oh, they liked us, but…. I don’t know. 

 

I:  When you were rebuilding there, or helping them rebuild, what was you rebuilding? Homes?  Government buildings?  Did they have government in place?

 

AE:  Oh, you know, I don’t…. I can’t recall too much about that, really.  I don’t really know what all the shiploads of lumber was being used for that come there, but it did.  Then we loaded them on trains and sent them somewhere to the…more to the inland.  So I suppose the Corps of Engineers used them supplies for them when they were doing the building. But, you know, like the….

 

Pusan, it was a pretty big city even at that time.  They had stores and all that, but they weren’t…. It wasn’t a modern city.  In fact, they didn’t have modern plumbing, even.  They had…. See them ox carts with a wooden tank on them?  They’d come in and get behind the big stores, and they’d pump out the waste and haul it to the country.

 

I:  To the rice paddies.

 

AE:  To the rice paddies.  There would be, oh, a whole train of them going, you know.

 

I:  Did you eat a lot of rice over there?

 

AE:  Never ate anything over there!  No, I ate government food the whole time I was there.

 

I:  Government food was really good then, wasn’t it?

 

AE:  Oh, yeah.

 

I:  What was the weather like when you were over there?  You were saying it was pretty similar to ours, but was you in the winter months, or summer months, or…?

 

AE:  I went through one winter and then one summer, yeah.  It was winter.  You had to have winter clothing, and it was [cold].

 

I:  Tell us about the clothing that the service give you.

 

AE:  Oh, it was a kind of a…. Wool.  We had wool clothing, you know—them old-time…

 

I:  Itchy?

 

AE:  Itchy wools, yeah.  You had long underwear.  That was all….  And we had good shoes, boots.

 

I:  Who washed them for you?  Who cleaned them?  Or did they get cleaned?

 

AE:  Well, when we was in the Philippines, the Philippine natives, they did our laundry, but….

 

I:  But not wool?

 

AE:  No, not wool.  I don’t think you cleaned them.  We had…. We wore most of the time fatigues, like them old kind of dark gray fatigues.  I think maybe…. You know, I think maybe in our camp we had our own laundry system.  We did.  Yeah, you turned…. Because there was labels, you know, and you had to turn ’em in, and they’d get your washing back.  Now, maybe they had civilians working there, but, yeah, that is how you washed your clothes.  That was in occupation.

 

I:  What about bathing and shaving and all that kind of stuff?  I know you didn’t have a bathtub.

 

AE:  Well, in the Philippines…. No, the Army had their own shower systems to put up, you know.  Like, in the Philippines they’d fill them tanks, and the sun would keep the water warm.  I think in the wintertime there we had…. We was in that Japanese barracks, [and] I think we had shower facilities there. On board ship for three weeks, we had to take ice-cold, salt-water showers.  We didn’t have the fresh water.

 

I:  You know, that salt water is not good on your body.

 

AE:  No, but after a while you’d do it.

 

I:  Yeah, because you don’t want to smell.

 

AE:  I remember them cold showers on board ship.

 

I:  What did you use for soap?  Did they issue soap?

 

AE:  Oh, they had…. Oh, yeah, we had G.I. soap.  Oh, yeah, it was strong soap.

 

I:  Was it?  Kind of like the old lye soap?

 

AE:  You just called it G.I. soap, like everything; everything was G.I.

 

I:  Do you remember your G.I. number, [your] serial number?

 

AE:  Yeah, 37758430.

 

I:  Everybody remembers that.  They can’t remember when they went in or out, but they remembered that number.  Because you got paid by that, right?

 

AE:  Yeah.  Yeah, that was…. You didn’t forget that.

 

I:  You said you had guard duty, and you were guarding the warehouses. Is that what you were guarding?

 

AE:  Yeah—supplies, you know, that would come in on docks, and that…. Then later on I went on up to Seoul, and there I got…. The Infantry outfit disbanded, and I was assigned to an engineering outfit.  There I worked in a…more or less like in a big garage, and we made oxygen and acetylene.  We had an oxygen-acetylene plant.  A portable plant on trucks, you know.  We filled those oxygen bottles for welding and that kind of stuff.  For hospital use too, I think.  Acetylene and that is what I did with…in the engineers until my time come around to get discharged.

 

I:  And did any of the natives work with you on any of that kind of stuff?

 

AE:  No, they didn’t, no.

 

I:  They kept them away from the oxygen, huh?

 

AE:  That was pretty…. This oxygen and acetylene truck, it was equipped with all of that…. Those boys that was on that, they trained them in the United States, and they were sent over there with that unit.  They had guys like me just in there as helpers.

 

I:  And they did what with it?

 

AE:  They made oxygen.  They sucked air in out of the atmosphere, and, I don’t know, this big pressure outfit, it…. We filled these oxygen bottles, like, for welding and hospital use.

 

I:  Oh, for welding and for…. Okay.

 

AE:  Hospital use.  It was high technical stuff at that time.

 

I:  Well, sure.  And oxygen in a hospital is pretty important.

 

AE:  Oh, yeah.

 

I:  Well, what…. You say, “On up to Seoul.”  Was that, like, up in the hills or something? How big of a city is that?

 

AE: No. Seoul is about halfway up in the country.  And then, you know, later on Korea [was] divided. That dividing line was north of Seoul, somewhat, but not a whole lot.  But I was always in South Korea, or middle to South Korea.

 

I:  How big a city would that have been?  As big as the other one?

 

AE:  Yeah, bigger. 

 

I:  Bigger?

 

AE:  Seoul is the capital, I believe.

 

TA:  What were conditions like in Seoul? 

 

AE:  Well, I think…. I thought Seoul was a more modern and maybe a little…as far as….

 

I:  More advanced?

 

AE:  More advanced, and people had a little better living conditions up around Seoul.

 

I:  What kind of quarters did they have for living, the natives up there?

 

AE:  They had…like shacks, really. But, you know, they’d have different communities.  But they did…. They had real primitive housing.  They…. You didn’t have houses like…

 

I:  What kind of roofing did they have on them?  Do you remember?

 

AE:  I can’t remember.

 

I:  So, and how long was you up at Seoul?

 

AE:  I was probably there six months, and then I got to come home.

 

I:  And how did you come home?  Where did they send you to come back home?

 

AE:  We shipped out of…. I think…. Well, where did we ship out?  I don’t think it was very…. Basically [they] trucked us from Seoul to some port there, and we loaded on a ship.

 

I:  What kind of…. [Did you have] about the same kind of ship coming home?

 

AE:  No, it was a big one.  A big ship.  I’ve got a picture of it.  I’ve got two pictures of it.

 

I:  Oh, don’t pull it out; we can get it right there.

 

AE:  There we are, getting into San Francisco, I believe it is.

 

I:  This is the SS Sea Barge, so that would be a Merchant Marine ship.

 

AE:  It would?  It held about 2500 men, I think.  [It was] a lot bigger then the one I went across on.

 

I:  Here is another picture of it down here, [in] Incheon, Korea.

 

AE:  There is where I shipped out of—Incheon.

 

I:  And then this one over here is the same ship again.

 

AE:  Yeah.

 

I:  So how long did it take you to get home this time?

 

AE:  You know, I think…. We went from Incheon to Tokyo and refueled, and then came home.  We had some rough weather.

 

I:  Did you run into bad weather?

 

AE:  Yeah, we had bad weather.  [We] had a lot of guys sick on that deal, between Incheon and Tokyo.  We were close to three weeks coming home, too.

 

I:  And you were anxious to get home, I’m sure.

 

AE:  Oh, yeah, it’s….

 

I:  Where did you dock? In San Francisco? I think that’s what it said.

 

AE:  Yeah.

 

I:  So from there where did they send you?  What year would this have been that you got discharged?

 

AE:  ’46.  End of ’46.  Yeah.  I got discharged, like, in October of ’46, I think.

 

TA:  You mentioned going through Tokyo on your way back to the United States.  Did you actually get off the ship in Tokyo?

 

AE:  Yeah. Just on the docks is all, though.  We couldn’t go downtown.  We were just there overnight.

 

TA:  What did you see in Tokyo?

 

I:  Could you see much devastation or anything?

 

AE:  No. No, I didn’t.  I don’t think there was much devastation in Tokyo.

 

I:  No, I don’t think so.  Was there a lot of ships there?  Was that a big port that the government was using to get in and out of?

 

AE:  Yeah, it was. Yeah, there was [a lot of] American ships.  Several of them docked around there.  And the Navy guys, they was out in their little boats, you know, that they run [around] in. They were having a good time, it looked like, there. 

 

I:  So you got to San Francisco.  Where…what did they do with you then?  It’s always a “hurry up and wait” game, isn’t it?

 

AE:  It didn’t take long, though, until we were…[until] we got our discharge papers and got out of there and boarded a train and came home on the train.

 

I:  And where did you come into?  Kansas City, Denver, Omaha?

 

AE:  Kansas City.

 

I:  [Did your] family pick you up?

 

AE:  No.  You know, I think I got off the train right here in Lawrence.

 

I:  Did you?

 

AE:  I think I did.

 

I:  Maybe you went through…. Well, why would you have gone through Kansas City, then?  It was going to Kansas City, I’ll bet.

 

AE:  It was going to Kansas City.  Well, I think we got off right here in Lawrence. 

 

I:  I’ll bet you were glad to be home.

 

AE:  Glad to be home.

 

I:  So you was overseas how long without seeing your family?  About two years?

 

AE:  Well, from April of one year till October of the next year, I guess.

 

I:  About a year and a half.

 

AE:  Another thing: there is guy here in town named Ivan Wiggins.

 

I:  Uh-huh. We talked to Ivan.

 

AE:  Him and I took our physical the same day. We were inducted the same day, and my last name was…. [It] started with “E”; his was a “W”.  He…. We never seen each other except for when we were travelling.  When I got on board ship to come home, there was old Ivan.

 

I:  There was Ivan.

 

AE:  And we both got into Lawrence at the same time.

 

I:  Isn’t that interesting! 

 

AE:  Yeah, he ended up being…. [He] was…. On board ship going over, why, I was just on regular KP all the time.  But Ivan, he volunteered for the bakers.  He worked in the bakery. 

 

I:  Yeah, ’cause he’d worked in the bakery here in Lawrence.

 

AE:  Yeah, he had.  And you know, he was a baker all the time that he was in the service.  He was baking in Korea.

 

I:  Yeah, he was, but that wasn’t his main job.

 

AE:  Oh, no, but he…. Part time he did.

 

I:  But they let him bake, yeah.  It seems like all the bakers we talked to that wanted to continue baking and cooking, that is not what they got to do.

 

AE:  Not all the time, but every chance he got, he’d get…

 

I:  No…. [He was] paymaster or something else. But yeah, yeah, he did.

 

AE:  Did you interview Ivan?

 

I:  Uh-huh.  I’m not sure that he’s not the one…. I’m going to ask you about this because I can’t remember if it was Ivan…. I think it might have been Ivan that was telling us about the raisin jack that they made.  Did you guys have any stills on your…where you were located?

 

AE:  No.

 

I:  You didn’t make any home brew?

 

AE:  Oh, no, we didn’t do that, no.  Well, here is our “Eighteen to Take Exams.”  I think you’ll find him on there, too.

 

I:  “Eighteen to Take….” This is an article that was in the paper.

 

AE:  The Lawrence paper.

 

I:  He is saying Ivan Wiggins and him are both in there.  Let’s see; it had Elmer Cooper, Elmer Edward Butz, Kenneth Norwood Johnson, Roger Irving Caruthers—that’s my uncle.

 

AE:  Really?

 

I:  That’s my husband’s uncle, Roger.  He’s gone now.  [Continues to read names]: Fred Martin Mauder, Floyd Earl Landreth, Allen Carlisle Easum—that would be you—William Ralph Keller, Ivan Eugene Wiggins, Walter Fox, Rudolph Carl, James Theodore Getty, Thomas Donald Hutton, Walker Leon Stan, Raymond George Miller, William Othell Roberson, George William Thompson.  Coffee and doughnuts were served to the group. I’ll bet you really appreciated that!

 

AE:  Yeah!  And there is the induction.  Look at that paragraph below the induction.

 

I:  Okay, this is the induction.  It says, at the last one, “One colored man is scheduled to go from this county for induction January fifth, and two colored men will report for pre-induction physical examinations on the same day, while two men are scheduled to report for induction January ninth. 21 white men will go for their pre-induction physicals January fifteenth.”  They had segregation, didn’t they?

 

AE:  Sure.

 

I:  Did you have any Indians or Mexicans in your group?

 

AE:  We had Indians in our companies, but no black people.

 

I:  No black people.

 

AE:  They had their own company.

 

I:  Yeah.  And here again is…. [Reads names]: Becker and Easum, Wiggins, Hutton, Stan—he’s from Haskell Institution—Spallsbury, [sp? Durr], Foster, Gerald, Mills, Sellers, and [sp? Vandeveer]. He was also from Haskell.

 

[They look at AE’s book of photographs]

 

I: Can you tell us where this was at?

 

AE:  This was on Panay in the Philippines.  And you can kind of see them tents we lived in there.

 

I:  And who are these buddies?

 

AE:  That…. These are in Korea, those pictures, I believe.

 

I:  This man here looks Indian.

 

AE:  Yeah, he is.  He was an Indian.  He was probably in his low…late thirties…early thirties, that guy.

 

I:  Let’s see if we can find another.  Okay, now, where was this?

 

AE:  I thought….

 

I:  This looks like you’re unloading something, or building something.  Unloading [I’ll bet].

 

AE:  Well, I think that is in…. I think that is in Korea there, too.  I know these are Korea.

 

I:  What is this, Korea?

 

AE:  Yeah, that is Korea.  There is a river there that we…. I don’t know if I got any pictures or anything of that, or not…. That’s my little brother’s [?? brothers’] bicycle there, when they was…. They ended up goin’ in the Army, too.

 

I:  Who are these? That’s an interesting….

 

AE:  Oh, that’s just me and my two buddies.  We went into town and got our pictures [taken], and we got that girl to take a picture with us.

 

I:  Oh, lookee here.  Is this down in Woodson County?

 

AE: Nope, that’s 13th and Massachusetts Street at….

 

I:  Thirteen and Mass?  Look at them old pumps there.

 

AE:  But that is gone, now, that gas station.

 

I:  Yeah, yeah, that’s gone.

 

AE:  I was home on…. I worked there.  I was home on leave.

 

I:  What is going on in…?

 

AE:  Well, that’s a fire we had there in Korea.

 

I:  Is this the same…?

 

AE:  That’s it, yeah.  A garage fire, where they worked on trucks and stuff.  It wasn’t from the war. It was just from a fire.

 

I:  Yeah, just a fire.  But you know, [in] everyday living, things like that happen.

 

AE:  That’s pre-war stuff there.  That’s high school days.  I don’t know if I can name any of them people or not. That right there was Lloyd Wilson.

 

I:  Oh, I know Lloyd Wilson.  I seen him just the other day.

 

AE:  That’s Lloyd.

 

I:  I ran around with his…. Lloyd Wilson. Oh, I’m thinking Whitson. I’m sorry.

 

AE:  Well, Wilson….  They ran…. They had an implement shop / garage there in North Lawrence.  Dallas knew them.

 

I:  Yeah, Dallas knows everybody.  [Referring to another photograph]: Oh, 1951 flood, I’ll bet.

 

AE:  Yeah, probably is.

 

I:  So when…. Have you ever been married?

 

AE:  Got married in 1948, and my wife died in 2004.  Been dead three years coming here at Thanksgiving time.

 

I:  It’s hard.

 

AE:  I just tough it out now.

 

I:  I lost mine in ’03.

 

AE:  Lost your husband?  He wouldn’t have been very old.

 

I:  56, 57.  Yeah, it has been tough. It is. But I don’t think it matters if it’s 25 years or 125; you still miss them, you know.

 

AE:  Yeah. That’s true. You…you…. It gets easier to talk about it, and that...

 

I:  It gets easier to live with it.  You learn to live with it.  You never get over it.

 

AE:  No.

 

I:  How many children?

 

AE:  Two boys, five grandkids, and nine great-grandkids.

 

I:  Where did you meet your wife?

 

AE:  At the Lawrence skating rink.

 

I:  A lot of people met their spouses there.

 

TA: A real common place to meet spouses.

 

I: What was her name?

 

AE:  Dorothy [McCall].

 

I:  Dorothy [McCall].  So, what did you do for the rest of your life?  Did you use the G.I. Bill at all?

 

AE:  Yeah.  I went to work in a garage, and the government furnished…gave me a small box of tools. I worked for Pickens; it was a machine shop and welding shop, and [did] wheel alignment, frame straightening—that kind of stuff.  Across from the old ice plant.  Pickens paid me 25 dollars a week while I was learning, and the government paid me 75 dollars a month and gave me them tools for a year.  Then when the year was up, Pickens was supposed to raise me. He did raise [me] a little bit, you know, and I think I got up to…. I did get up to fifty dollars a week in 1954, and then I got a job at the Ford dealership.  I worked [at the] Ford dealership for eight or nine years.  I was a front-end man there as far as wheel alignments and frame straightening, and [I] did undercarriage, brakes—the usual stuff.  Then I started my own shop out there at 541 Minnesota [Street], right there across the street west of the lumberyard.  A.C.E. Steering and Brake Service. That A.C.E., that’s my initials.

 

I:  Oh, is that right?

 

AE:  Yeah, that is how that came about.

 

I:  I never knew that.

 

AE:  I started that in 195--…no, 1963.  Then I worked [up through] all of 1993.  I worked thirty years, and then I turned it over to the boys.  My boys are there, and my grandson now.

 

I:  Well, that’s nice to have something to pass on like that.  You know everybody has got a living.

 

AE:  Yeah. You know, it was a living.  It wasn’t no get-rich deal, but [I was] kind of my own boss.  Well, it wasn’t…. Everybody is your boss when you are in business for yourself. But it was all right. 

 

I:  Well, we really appreciate the interview.  It was real interesting.  And I love all your articles and stuff and your mementos. I love that picture of you—that wooden one.

 

AE:  I have never seen one like it.

 

I:  I haven’t either, but it is just really….

 

AE:  My folks had to…. Boy, my sister…. They battled to get that.  [They] finally got it; [it] took a long time.  But it is…. Everybody….

 

I:  You were a handsome devil back then!  Well, you still are!  You haven’t changed that much.  Yep.

 

AE:  Yeah?

 

I:  You haven’t changed that much.

 

AE:  I even have my greetings from the President [his induction notice].

 

I:  Do you?  Let’s get that on the film.

 

AE:  Let me see where I got that.  That’s my certificate of fitness. Here’s my greetings right here, I think.

 

I:  [Reads]: “Accepted by the Army.  Physically fit, acceptable by Navy including Marine Corps and Coast Guard.” 

 

E:  We always called this our greetings. The greeting’s right there.

 

I:  Order number 12,519.  I wonder if that is for Douglas County.

 

AE:  I don’t know.  Yeah, I got a lot of Army…. I got an old shot record.

 

I:  Here is the greetings from the President of the United States.  Except he didn’t sign it. 

 

AE:  There are some old pay slips when I worked at Hercules Powder Company before I went into the service.

 

I:  I see that.

 

AE:  I think you made about 85 cents an hour.  I think I only got one week there when I got a full week in.

 

I:  Those are something.  Not many people have pay stubs that far back.

 

AE:  I don’t know how…. My mother saved them, I suppose.

 

I:  “Occupational disability”?  What’s that mean?

 

AE:  I don’t know.  Oh, I got hurt out there. I got blowed out of there.

 

I:  You got blowed out?  Blown out?

 

AE:  Blown out.

 

I:  How did that happen? Tell us about that.

 

AE:  Oh, I worked in what they called a solvent recovery area.  These buildings had five tanks of powder in them.  It was supposed to have been, like, five thousand pounds of powder in each tank.  They were sealed tanks with, I think, ether and I don’t know what all cooking that powder.  Well, our job was to get those tanks ready for the little buggies to come and unload them.  We had to go and…. Up on the upper floor, that had a block and tackle, a rope affair, to pull a plug up out of the bottom of the tank so they could open the hopper and unload them.  And somehow they hadn’t evacuated all the fumes, or danger, out of the tank.

 

I:  Oh, no!

 

AE:  We was in the…doing the last one.  There was five in a row, and we was at the clear end of the building, and when we broke that seal loose, she blowed.  Fire come out and….

 

I:  Knocked you back?

 

AE:  Yeah, just blowed us back.  Boy, and then there was a runway through there that you could…a walkway through there.  Rather then go out the nearest exit, why, we both ran clear through the building and went out to the north end.

 

I:  Well, it kind of knocked you senseless, didn’t it?

 

AE:  Oh, yeah! And we was goin’ so fast.

 

I:  How did it injure you?

 

AE:  The flames burnt…. I was in the hospital a couple of days.  It burnt all…. Second degree burns, like, you know.  But what I remember was, we was goin’ so fast when we hit that exit…. We was one story high, and the…. We’d practiced goin’ down these sliding chutes, you know, they had to get you out of there.  Well, we was goin’ so fast…. The chute was off to a little bit of an angle from the walkway, and we fell out into…. Just…. But there was snow on the ground.

 

I:  And you laid in the snow.

 

AE:  I was with a guy from Holton, a one-eyed, guy.  He was 4-F, you know. He didn’t go to service because he had one eye.  Boy, when I was gettin’ up, old Tony was down and up and runnin’.  He said, “Come on before the rest of ’em blow up!”

 

I:  Did they?

 

AE:  No, they didn’t.  I don’t think they did.  But I did get burned a little bit.  So that is probably what that says on there.

 

I:  It says “occupational disability,” yeah.

 

AE:  Yeah. That’s why I was in the hospital—I got burned a little bit.

 

I:  So you got a little pay for that?

 

AE:  I didn’t know that was on there.

 

I:  Yeah, it’s right up here on the corner.

 

AE:  I’ll be darned.

 

TA:  Did they have temporary housing at Sunflower for military personnel when you were there?

 

I:  Military didn’t work there.

 

AE:  Military didn’t work there.

 

I:  Very few.

 

TA:  Because I interviewed a veteran here about a year ago.  He was in Lawrence for electronics school, but he actually lived at Sunflower for a while because of a shortage of housing at KU.  So I was wondering if…

 

AE:  Okay, now they built housing down there at…. Where was that?  They called it Sunflower Village.

 

I:  Well, they had the old village, and they had the new village.  The old village was block houses, and new village were wood.

 

AE:  But you know they worked…. They imported Haitians from Haiti.  They were Black people.  They imported them in here to work out there at the plant during the war.  They was in a village of their own, I think.

 

I:  My husband lived out there for years.  I’ve never heard that part of it.  But then, see, you would have been later.  He would have been after… you know, after the war, when he was born.

 

AE:  You know, they had them people from Haiti.  They had them Haitians.  They worked there.

 

I:  That’s interesting.  I think the new village probably grew up for Korea.

 

AE:  Could be.

 

I:  So I was just….

 

AE:  Yeah, there was a big housing development out there, I was thinking, called Sunflower Village.

 

I:  Yeah, they were, and they had block houses.  [To TA]:  Have you ever been out there?

 

TA: Yes, I have been around the plant some.

 

I:  No, I meant into the village—Sunflower Village.

 

TA: I have been to…. I know where Clearview City is, if that is the same place.

 

AE:  Yeah, now they call it Clearview City.

 

TA:  The same place?  Okay.

 

AE:  Yeah. We called it Sunflower Village, didn’t we?

 

[AE and the interviewer talk briefly about the interviewer’s mother.]

 

I: Well, we thank you very much for doing this interview.

 

 

Length: 65 minutes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Item Description

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