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Philip Korthanke video interview on experiences in World War II (transcript)

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PHILIP KORTHANKE

 

WORLD WAR II ORAL HISTORY INTERVIEW

 

     This is Suzette McCord-Rogers and Peggy Stanton and we are at the home of Philip Korthanke in Hiawatha, Kansas.  It is October 7, 2007.

 

Mr. Korthanke, can you tell me where you were born?

 

Mr. Korthanke: Robinson (KS).

 

Suzette:  And what year were you born?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  1927.

 

Suzette:  Your entire birthdate.

 

Mr. Korthanke:  2-13-27.

 

Suzette:  OK.  And what branch of service were you in during the war?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Navy.

 

Suzette:  And what was your ship and your unit, do you remember?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  USS MERIWETHER 203.

 

Suzette:  What kind of a ship was it?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Well, it transported the soldiers over and had boats on the ship, little boats and small boats.  And they put ‘em off and they’d go to shore in the little boat.  Amphibious personnel attack.  APA was the name of the, the initials.  That means amphibious personnel attack.

 

Suzette:  So like, for instance, when they were invading an island, your ship would transport troops there and then they would be transported on to the island?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Yes, yes.

 

Suzette:  OK.  And what was the highest rank that you achieved?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Fireman third class.

 

Suzette:  Fireman third class.  And did you enlist or were you drafted?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Drafted.

 

Suzette:  And what were your service dates?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  1945.

 

Suzette:  Do you remember the month?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  August.

 

Suzette:  August of ’45.  And when were you released?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  August of ’46.

 

Suzette:  After you were drafted, were you drafted with any friends?  Did you go together to be inducted?

 

Mr. Korthanke: Not friends, some from other parts of Brown County at the time.  One I can remember was here.

 

Suzette:  Where did you go for your basic training?

 

Mr. Korthanke: San Diego Naval Base.

 

Suzette:  You went straight to San Diego.

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Um, hum.

 

Suzette:  And that’s where you received your basic training?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Yes.

 

Suzette:  And how long was that, do you remember?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  I think it was six weeks probably.

 

Suzette:  Did you go anywhere else to get trained after that?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Well, I had a furlough about a week after the six weeks and came home.  And then went back and had a short training in fireman’s school, I believe they called it.  It was cut pretty short.  It was probably about a week.  That’s all it was because the ship came in and they needed replacements so they loaded us up and shipped us out.  It was a short training on that fireman’s school.

 

Suzette:  They did it in San Diego?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Yes.

 

Suzette:  OK.  Were you in high school when you were drafted?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Yes.

 

Suzette: So you…

 

Mr. Korthanke:  I graduated in May of ’45 and then I was deferred to help Dad farm because I had two brothers already in the service and I needed to help farm.  So they deferred me til August and then I went in in August.

 

Suzette:  They didn’t defer you very long, did they?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Well, no, just for the planting season, you know.  August that was all done, so that’s when I went.

 

Suzette:  It sounds like they really needed soldiers pretty badly by then.

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Well, they needed farmers too.  You know, to keep the crops goin’.  They needed to feed the soldiers so they needed all that stuff they could get.

 

Suzette:  I would think so, especially when you already had two brothers in the war.  How did your family feel about that when you got drafted?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Well, I thought they were satisfied with it.  It was just the thing to do at that time, and we did.

 

Suzette:  There was a high feeling of patriotism at that time?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  During high school, I remember the boys went down to the National Armory and we had some ROTC training.  I remember that.  We marched a little and I don’t know what else we did, but we went down there some, and I think that helped.  When I got in boot camp, I knew a little bit more about marching than I would have without it.

 

Suzette:  When you guys went down to do that, was there a feeling that that made you part of the whole event?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  I think so.

 

Suzette:  So there was a definite feeling of spirit.

 

Mr. Korthanke:  A lot of the kids that I know were 18 and they wanted to get in a particular service they enlisted before they graduated, so they went off before graduation when they got in the line of service that they wanted.  But I didn’t want to volunteer!!  No sooner than I did!  So I just waited.

 

Suzette:  I guess a lot of people said they didn’t want to be in the Army.  You lucked out getting in the Navy.

 

Mr. Korthanke:  I know.  Well, yeah, at the time, we went to Leavenworth to be inducted down there, and then we went on to Kansas City, and they had us all in there to choose where we wanted to be, which we wanted.  Most of ‘em were askin’ for the Navy, and it didn’t seem like they wanted the Army, and about one out of four would get the Navy.  Well, all of ‘em were asking for it but they didn’t get it.  I had what I wanted, the Navy, but I just lucked out.  The one in front of me got the Army and the one behind me got the Army!  I lucked out!

 

Suzette:  I guess you did!  What was your dad growing?  He was farming around Robinson?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Yeah, corn was our spring crop, that we planted, and we had some wheat, and we harvested it before I went.  Sometimes we had oats. That’s about it.

 

Suzette:  Did you use horses at that time?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  No, we had tractors.  Two-row tractors.  I remember planting corn that summer way into the night, trying to get done, we only had a two-row.  Now they have 15 or 18 rows, you know, but we had the two-row planters, so that was pretty slow.

 

Suzette:  But at the time, other people just had horses.

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Well, just before that I worked horses very little when I was young.  I did light work with them but I didn’t do the heavy work because I wasn’t big enough to handle them.

 

Suzette:  Did your farm still have horses at that time?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Yeah, we had horses.  I don’t remember when we finally get rid of all of ‘em, but I think at that time we still did have horses.

 

Suzette:  Did you have like a garden that your mother grew food and canned?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Yes, had a big garden.

 

Suzette:  Did you have sisters?  I knew you had two brothers.

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Two sisters.

 

Suzette:  Two sisters.  Where did you go when you left San Diego?  Where did they send you?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  The first ship we went to Leyte, over in the Philippines, I think that’s where it is.  It’s way over there!  And we brought soldiers home.  That’s what we went over for.  The war was over!  When I got in, they sent us to San Diego on a train and when I got off the train, the newspaper boys on the street were a hollerin’ “The war is over!  The war is over!  Extra!  Extra!”  You know, the papers and the war was over.  Well, I thought they’d put me back on a ship(train?) and send me home, but they didn’t!  They kept me a little over a year!  But so the war was over, after my training, the ship came in, and they needed to go back, so they put me on that ship.  And we went to Leyte the first trip.  And brought soldiers home. 

 

Suzette:  How long did it take to go from Leyte?  Did you come straight back to San Diego then?  Or did you stop in Hawaii?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Well, no, I don’t think we stopped any place that I know of, but I remember on the way back, we had two Christmases.  On the 25th we were coming back, and we hit the International Date Line on the 25th.  We had Christmas on the west side of it, came on a little ways, and had Christmas over here in our zone!!

 

Suzette:  Oh, that must have been fun!!

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Yeah!  I tell you I don’t remember it that well, but I know that happened.  I’ve got some information here and I’ve been reading up on it.

 

Suzette:  Oh, excellent!

 

Mr. Korthanke:  And the dates and things when that all happened, but that was in ’45, December of ’45.

 

Suzette:   That must have been a real thrill for the troops that you were bringing back.

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Well, yeah.  I felt sorry for ‘em cause they got two feasts, you know.  And it wasn’t fun seeing them eat and then go up on top and get rid of all that over the side.  I kinda felt sorry for them.

 

Suzette:  So you had a special Christmas feast for them?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Well, I don’t remember just what we did.

 

Suzette:  You must have had your sea legs by then.

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Oh, yeah.  I did.  That’s something too.  How you have to walk when you’re going down the alleyway on the ship.  You walk one corner and the next thing you’re over in the other corner, go back and forth.  Until you get that, it’s hard to walk.  You’re hitting the wall and everything, but you get ‘em.

 

Suzette:  Well, that is interesting. 

 

Mr. Korthanke:  What I really remember about the ship.  I was in the engine room, mostly, I was down pretty deep in the ship and keepin’ the boilers fired up to make the steam and run the engine, so I didn’t get to see overboard a lot or out over the sea.  But you know, we did some.  And I can remember sometimes you’d get up there and you’d look out and you’d be like in a hole and there’d be nothing but waves way up high.  And about the next thing, you’d look out and you’d see for a hundred miles, nothing but water.  That was just the way that ship rocked, come through a pretty good storm that one time. 

 

Suzette:  Oh you did?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  And that’s when I noticed that.  You’d be way down, like in a hole, on the bottom of the wave, and then you’d be up on top of it, in another two minutes, you’d be way up there.  That was interesting to see that.

 

Suzette:  Were people scared or apprehensive when that storm hit you?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Well, no doubt, some.  The boat was rocking a lot more than usual and it was a little scary, I suppose. I don’t remember now how scary but it was a little scary I’m sure.

 

Suzette:  Was it pretty hot down there?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Oh, yeah, down in the engine room it was hot.  You bet!  It was real hot!  You had little containers of salt capsules; you were supposed to take them every so often.  Take the sweat or whatever they did.

 

Suzette:  Did they give you water too?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Oh, yeah.  Plenty of water because it was hot.

 

Suzette:  So when you got to Leyte and picked up the troops, were you able to get up on top of the ship and see?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Oh, yeah, we got see things like that.  It was interesting.  The Filipinos, I liked the way they came out to see ya.

 

Suzette:  The Filipino people were at the ship?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  They came out to meet us in those little boats.  They’d come out, and they wanted you to throw coins over the side.  We’d throw coins over and they’d dive off those little boats, and go down, and get ‘em.  They knew how to swim.  They were good swimmers; it was interesting to see those Filipinos come out there and dive in after those coins.

 

Suzette:  Was it pretty shallow there?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Oh, I don’t think so.  The ship had to have pretty deep water to even be there, you know.

 

Suzette:  Wow!  This is real interesting.  I haven’t seen a picture of these little boats before.  What else do you have?  What other pictures do you have?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  I just have a few pictures.  I don’t have much. That’s one of the boats that sent the boys in to the shore.   Had a lot of those on ours and they filled them up  and sent ‘em in to make an attack.

 

Suzette:  How much of a crew was on those attack boats?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Well, I suppose, I don’t know that.  That’s a drydock.

 

Suzette:  And where’s that?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  In San Francisco Bay.  And this is just a picture of part of the ship.  Here’s some of the crew.

 

Suzette:  Are you in there?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  No, I don’t think I was in there.

 

Suzette:  Do you have a picture of yourself in uniform?

 

Mr. Korthanke: Well, yeah, I’ve got ‘em someplace.  I don’t think I put one in.  I might be in this one?  Yeah, that’s me there! 

 

Suzette:  That’s you sitting there?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Yeah!

 

Suzette:  Well, we need a picture of you.  If you have one in uniform, we’ll take that too.

 

Mr. Korthanke:  I’ve got one.

 

Suzette:  We might want to borrow it, scan it to our computer, and bring it back.

 

Mr. Korthanke:  This is a picture of one of the fellas that got injured, to his arm.  He got the honor job of decommissioning the ship. Put it in mothballs.  This fella got injured hanging down in the stack, in the grinder, polishing the inside of the smokestack.  He cut his arm.  So that’s what we did for about three months before we got discharged, decommissioned the ship.

 

Suzette:  And what does that involve?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Well, clean it up, and then spray it with preservatives, and they call it “putting it in mothballs”.  The thing was preserved; they sprayed everything.  And brushed it down and polished it, just like new.

 

Suzette:  To keep it from rusting?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  To keep it from it rusting, and possibly if they ever needed it, why then it wouldn’t be too hard to clean that stuff off and ready to go again.

 

Suzette:  That’s interesting.  No one’s ever said that about putting it in mothballs.

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Oh, yeah, that took us three or four months.

 

Suzette:  I’ll bet.

 

Mr. Korthanke:  There’s a job.  Of course, they gave us,…

 

Suzette:  (Looking at pictures)  Can we take this and scan it in my computer and then we’ll bring it back to you.  It’ll probably be Wednesday before we get it back, will that be OK?

 

Mrs. Korthanke:  That’ll be OK.

 

Suzette:  Nobody ever talks about mothballing a ship.  So you actually get everything clean so you didn’t have any rust, and then prepare it.

 

Mr. Korthanke:  It was a very dirty job.

 

Suzette:  I’ll bet!  

 

Mr. Korthanke:  The boiler, down in the engine room, has a fire underneath the pipe and above it to make the steam.  And those pipes are close together and you had to get in there, on your back.  You’d get up there with a file and brush and clean that stuff off of all those pipes. And you couldn’t really do a very good job.  We had to get in there and do the best we could, and boy, that was a dirty job!

 

Suzette:  That doesn’t sound like fun!

 

Mr. Korthanke:  No, it wasn’t.  And it was a big boiler, you know.  It was bigger than this room.   Each one of ‘em, and they had four of ‘em.   So that was part of our job, cleaning those up.  I mean getting up in the smokestack and cleaning the soot off the inside of a smokestack.  You can imagine what that was.  I don’t know how thick it was but we had to brush it down with a wire brush and then you had to get in there with a sander and sand it down clean.  And then they’d go and spray it.  So that was a dirty job.  It wasn’t any fun.

 

Suzette:  Now did you do that while you were in dock?

 

Mr. Korthanke:   Oh, yes, yes.

 

Suzette:  Where did you mothball the ship at?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  That was Mare Island.

 

Suzette:  Where?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Mare Island.  Right there in San Francisco Bay.  Close to Stockton, the river goes up to Stockton, and Mare Island is what they call it.  That’s where we docked and mothballed it.

 

Suzette:  Now prior to preparing it to be mothballed, first you went to Leyte and you brought soldiers back, did you interact with the people that were coming back, that you were transporting?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Oh, yes, yes.

 

Suzette:  Did they talk about any of their experiences?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Oh, they did, but I don’t remember anything.

 

Suzette:  But they did talk about it.

 

Mr. Korthanke:  We got to interact with them some,

 

Suzette:  How long did it take to go from Leyte back to the States?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Well, I could look it up.  It’s in here.  It probably took two or three weeks, I suppose.  It took quite a while.

 

Suzette: Two or three weeks.  And then how many times did you transport the people?  Where did you go after Leyte?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  We went to Leyte, from San Diego, and then went back to San Francisco Bay, and that’s where they got off the ship, and then we went to Pearl Harbor.

 

Suzette:  Oh you did?

 

Mr. Korthanke: And brought some back from Pearl Harbor.

 

Suzette:  Had some of these people been wounded?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Not when I was on it.  They had a record that they did pick some wounded up and took them to a hospital but that was before I was on.

 

Suzette:  Did you get to see Pearl Harbor when you were there?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Oh, yeah.  We got an eight-hour liberty.  Each one on the ship got an eight-hour liberty to go into Honolulu and Waikiki Beach, you know.

 

Suzette:  Um, hum.  Did you go there?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Oh, yeah, I went to Waikiki Beach.  We each got eight hours.

 

Suzette:  Did you swim or did you just walk around?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Well, I guess we looked at pretty girls out there!

 

Suzette:  Oh, I see!!!

 

Mr. Korthanke:  I don’t remember; I probably did wade out in it.  I don’t remember, but that’s what we did there.  Of course, then, they had Pearl Harbor cleaned up.  You couldn’t tell that anything had happened.  As far as we could tell.  Four years.

 

Suzette:  All the ships were gone.

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Yeah, everything was cleaned up.  We couldn’t see anything bad there.  It all looked great, you know.

 

Suzette:  After you went to Pearl Harbor, then you brought that load back.

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Came back to San Francisco also.

 

Suzette:  And then where did you go from there?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Well, we went to Mare Island. Then it was time to mothball.

 

Suzette:  Now is Mare Island spelled like the horse mare?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  I don’t know.  I think that’s the way it was.

 

Suzette:  I can look it up.  Well, gosh, they kept you pretty busy there for that year, didn’t they?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Oh, yeah.  They kept us busy.

 

Suzette:  When you came back, did you receive training while you were on board the ship that helped prepare you for what you did when you came back?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  No.  No other training, that’s it.

 

Suzette:  And when you came back, were you planning to come back to Kansas or did you have a desire to stay in California?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  No, just glad to get home.

 

Suzette:  And you were going to come back and farm again?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Come back and farm.

 

Suzette:  And did you help your dad or what did you do when you got back?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Well, I got discharged in the fall, in August, and I spent that rest of the fall at home with my parents.  And then in the spring, I decided to go into farming with my brother, my older brother.  He’d been in the service and he was home and farming.  So I got in partnership with him.  I bought a small tractor and started farming.

 

Suzette:  So what were you raising when you were farming?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Well, corn, mostly.  And then I decided to get so more schooling, and I went back to California and went to diesel school under the GI, they paid for it.

 

Suzette:  So you took advantage of the GI Bill?

 

Mr. Korthanke: Yeah, I took advantage of that.  And I got diesel mechanic training, and then came back, and went to farming again.

 

Suzette:  How long did it take for your diesel mechanic’s training?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Eight months.

 

Suzette:  Eight months!  That’s a long time.

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Um, hum.

 

Suzette:  So did you enjoy it when you were there?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Oh, yeah.  I enjoyed it.  It was fun.

 

Suzette:  You met some friends that were about your ship, I see.

 

Mr. Korthanke:  And in the diesel training.

 

Suzette:  That looks really fun.  Now was that able to help you when you were farming?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Oh, yeah.  We used a diesel tractor and you know, it didn’t help me too much financially but it just helped me take care of the machinery some.  It was good.

 

Suzette:  Now I know that some of the people took advantage of the GI Bill to have farming school, did you ever do that?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  No.

 

Suzette:  OK.  You decided to go to the diesel school.

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Yeah, I don’t know why.  Diesel was just new at that time.  Yeah, it was new; I could have gone to Greenland, you know, and made a pocketful of money for a couple of years.  But I didn’t want to go to Greenland so I didn’t.  They used those in the oil wells, I think, up in Greenland, where a lot of the guys were going up there, to service those engines.

 

Suzette:  To make money.  Really?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  But I didn’t.  I wanted to come home I guess, that’s what I did.

 

Suzette:  You didn’t want to go to icy land?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Another thing I did, on the GI paid for, I learn to fly a private plane.  Right here in Hiawatha, they had a program here.  They had a little airport out there where Walmart is now, I learned to fly planes and got a private license to fly an airplane.

 

Suzette:  Really?  Did you fly people around?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Oh, no.  I’d just, maybe I’d take a plane up once in a while.  I didn’t do it a lot.  It was interesting to try.

 

Suzette:  And how long was this flying school?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  I don’t remember.  During one summer, I think is all.

 

Suzette:  Pretty short?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Oh, yeah, it didn’t take that long.  I had 30 hours and then you could solo.  I don’t remember for sure just what the hours were, but it was interesting.

 

Suzette:  I’ll bet you got a whole different view of the country from the air.

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Oh, yeah.

 

Suzette:  Especially as a pilot.  Were there other things that you took advantage of using the GI Bill?  Did you go to college?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  No.

 

Suzette:  Or use it to build a house or to get a loan?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  No.  I didn’t.  Didn’t do anything else with it.

 

Suzette:  How did you meet your wife?   Were you in the military when you met your wife?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  No.  I don’t remember just how I met exactly the first time.  I think I had a friend that had a, no, I was dating a girl that had a and I had a friend that wanted to double date.  He wanted to get a date for him because she knew Helen my wife and so she got a date with him with her!

 

Suzette:  Oh!  That’s how you met your wife!

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Yeah, that’s how I met her.  She wasn’t my date, but that’s where I met her.  And then of course it turned out later I married her and my friend married the gal I dated.  That was pretty crazy!

 

Suzette:  That worked out well for everybody!

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Yeah, I guess that worked out well for everybody.  And he and the other girl are still married and we’re still married, so it worked out for both of us.

 

Suzette:  I always ask people how they met their wife because I always want you to meet her when you are in the service and was it your uniform that caught her!!

 

Mrs. Korthanke:  (Can’t hear her at all)

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Well, it’s more than just the uniform!  It’s what was in the uniform!

 

Suzette:  Yeah, you were a real cutie, weren’t you?

When you were in the service, did you form any friendships that you maintained when you came back?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Well, one pretty much.  We still correspond.

 

Suzette:  And does he live in another state?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  He lives in Oklahoma.

 

Suzette:  In Oklahoma.  And do you ever get together?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Well, yeah, we’ve had reunions.  I guess just one.  They have one about every year, the ship, a reunion, and they came by and we went to St. Louis together to the reunion.  That’s the only we’ve been together that way.  And then they came by one other time just visiting, driving close and they stopped in to see us.

 

Suzette:  And so do you go to the ship reunions fairly often?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  No, not very often.

 

Suzette:  When you went to the one in St. Louis, was that, did you enjoy that?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Oh, yeah, it was nice.  But see I was only on that ship very short time, and the old timers that were on there, during the war, they were closer than we were.  I never really got that well acquainted with people on the ship because I was in the engine room for one thing, and I just really didn’t get to know very many people close.  So when I went to the reunion, I didn’t know very many people. Only the one that I went with.  It just wasn’t that interesting for me.  I was younger than most of ‘em.

 

Suzette:  Didn’t have that same bond.

 

Mr. Korthanke:  No, I didn’t have the bond that I would have had I been there, on the ship, earlier.

 

Suzette:  OK.  A lot of Americans, prior to the war, pretty much stayed in their own local area.  They hadn’t really traveled a lot.  Do you feel that having gone to California, and having gone over to the Philippines, did they kind of widen up your horizons a little bit as an individual?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Well, I don’t know.  It was just something that I was glad to be able to do.  No other way would I have been on a ship to go anyplace.  Yeah, it was interesting that way but of course, then I went to California later to school.  Maybe that drew me out there, I’d been there once maybe that’s the reason I wanted to go back, I’m not sure why I went out there to school. 

 

Suzette:  Do you think that after the war, that because of it, people started traveling more in America?  That they were driving more and connecting in a way that they might not have?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Well, I don’t really…

 

Suzette:  Did you travel more?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  No, no.  I haven’t traveled very much.  We raised a big family and we just stayed home, I guess.  We just don’t travel much.

 

Suzette:  OK.  Overall, do you think your service was a positive experience?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Oh, yes, it was really good.

 

Suzette:  Do you take advantage of the veterans’ medical benefits, go to the VA hospital for..?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  I do.  The VA hospital I go to get my checkups all the time.

 

Suzette:  And do you get your medicines or anything like that?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Um, hum.

 

Suzette:  Are there any other benefits that use that you found useful?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  No, I can’t think of any.  Once in a while you’d be asked if you’re a veteran, but I don’t recall what advantage.

 

Suzette:  When you came back, because the war was over, did your community respond to you as a veteran?  Did you feel special because you had been part of the war?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  I don’t recall.

 

Suzette:  There was something that everybody took part in.

 

Mr. Korthanke:  There was acceptance because you had been in the service, but I don’t recall anything special.

 

Suzette:  I see you have some papers and some ship information over there, what do you have?  Let’s take a look at that.  Here’s a picture of your ship.

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Oh, I’ve got all kinds of stuff here.  This is some of the reunion that we did go to.  That picture is the people that were there and all.  I’ve got my discharge papers, and all that stuff.

 

Suzette:  Oh, this is an itinerary of your ship and where it went and what you were doing.

 

Mr. Korthanke:  That’s got the map in it.  Did you see that?

 

Suzette:  No, I didn’t see the map.

 

Mr. Korthanke:  There it is.  I wasn’t on it on all those trips.  I was just on it on the last two.  To Pearl Harbor and to Leyte.  That’s a long ways.  Leyte. 

 

Suzette:  You know it is.  I didn’t realize how far it is.

 

Peggy:  Half way around the world.

 

Mr. Korthanke:  A nametag with a picture of the ship on it.

 

Suzette:  Oh, that’s a nice picture.

 

Mr. Korthanke:  You know, I was a farm boy, went in the service, and got over there in San Francisco Bay, and docked up there, and I wanted to send a picture home to my folks of the ship.  A nice big picture, in a frame, you know.  And some fella from off shore came on to sell them.  He probably sold 300 of ‘em.  $20 bucks apiece.  I think he sold probably 300 of ‘em, and he still had the one left and he never sent it home.  Give him $20, you know, I thought everybody was honest but he didn’t.  We never got it.  Did the same thing to my sea bag.  When I got discharged, I went down, I think a lot of people were, mailed them home, shipping them ahead.  And then we’d get on a train to come on home.  But the sea bag never got home.

 

Suzette:  It didn’t?!

 

Mr. Korthanke:  No, we never did get it.

 

Suzette:  You mean the postal service stole from you?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Well, somebody did, yeah.  I’ll bet you a lot of ‘em didn’t get home.  Oh, I’m sure a lot of ‘em.  You know, people were looking for that kind of stuff.  You know, there were souvenirs in there and I don’t know what all they found in those sea bags.

 

Suzette:  Yeah, but I thought the postal service was taking your packages…

 

Mr. Korthanke:  I didn’t know anything about insurance.  No way I even thought about it.  Probably if they had a program where you could insure it, I might have done it, but I didn’t.  I just trusted everybody.  I got hooked.

 

Suzette:  I guess you did.  Let me ask you one other thing.  Were you able to see your brothers at all when you there or had they already come back?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  My brother Glen was in the Navy also, and he stopped in San Diego one time.  He had leave down there somewhere, and he stopped in to see me when I was in boot camp.  But my other brother was in the Army and he had been over in the war and he was home before I went in. By that time, as soon as the war was over, he came home.  He came in while I was in boot camp, I guess.

 

Suzette:  When you came back, did you join the American Legion?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Yes.

 

Suzette:  And that would be the Robinson Legion?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Yes.

 

Suzette:  And how important was that for you to join that?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Not too important.  Well, it was important, but I didn’t go to the meetings.  I didn’t really get into the organization like a lot of ‘em did.  I didn’t enjoy what they did at the meetings.  They liked to gamble some and play cards, and gamble, and so I just really didn’t get involved in it like a lot of ‘em did.

 

Suzette:  And did they ever talk about their experiences in the war, in the few times that you were there?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Not that I remember.  There was very little of that.

 

Suzette:  One of my questions is was it important to be with people that had gone to the Philippines or had been in engaged in the war?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  I think I felt like I wasn’t really in the war, probably, because it was over before I ever started training.  See, I got off the train, the war was over.

 

Suzette:  Was that a big surprise to you?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Oh, yes!! It was a big surprise.  I thought they’d send me home.  I think I felt not equal with those guys over there fighting and all.  Joining the American Legion, they had experience, a lot more than I did.  I didn’t know anything about carrying a gun.  I didn’t carry a gun on the ship.  We had training in boot camp, marched and carried a gun, but that was six weeks was all it was.

 

Suzette:  You didn’t know.

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Yeah, I didn’t know.  Those guys in the Army, they used the guns.  I think I probably felt a little bit not equal with them; they were better than I was as far as the war was concerned, so that’s one reason I didn’t get into the American Legion operation as much as the others did.

 

Suzette:  I know that they did have some special community functions and that.  Do you in Robinson have enough people to go out and have a military escort on Memorial Day?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Well, our president goes to funerals.  They have the guns, shoot the guns at funerals, they do that some.  They don’t really have very many left, it’s even hard to do that anymore.  I think I got in on that twice.  But it was really difficult for me because like I say, I didn’t have the training with the guns as much as they did, and I just wasn’t at ease handling a gun. 

 

Suzette:  Well, is there anything else you’d like to add that we haven’t covered in memories, or any experiences you had, like picking up the troops.

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Well, there’s some things that I fondly remember.  I can remember the train ride from Hiawatha.  It was the first ride I’d ever had.  And I was inducted.  I remember going to Leavenworth, and then to Kansas City, and then on to San Diego on the train.  And some reason I can remember going through Texas and it rained, it rained and poured and we thought we was never going to get out of Texas!  It seemed like it took so long to go through Texas.  Then I remember getting into San Diego, getting off and the war was over.  Then I got leave to come home for a five-day furlough, and I don’t remember whether I came on a train, or a bus, I don’t know how I got home.  I hitchhiked from Topeka home. 

 

Suzette:  Well, you were lucky.

 

Mr. Korthanke:  I remember that but I don’t remember if I got off a bus in Topeka or if it was a train.  I don’t know what it was.

 

Suzette:  You were just glad to come home.

 

Mr. Korthanke:  And the same thing when I got released, or discharged.  I don’t remember how I got home, whether train, or bus, for some reason those things I don’t even remember.  There’s a lot of things that happened on the ship that I guess at the time just weren’t that important to me, and I just can’t remember a lot of the exciting stuff.

 

Suzette:  Well, this is just your opportunity in case you had any memories you wanted to share about anything.

 

Mrs. Korthanke:  You didn’t tell ‘em about the kitchen.

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Oh, well, yeah.  Most people when they get on the ship take their turns in the kitchen.  They call it scullery duty.  And they had to take turns.  So I took my turn and then when it was over, I volunteered to do it again.  I liked that.  Down in that old hot engine room, we was up there with the cooks, and I liked that.  And so I volunteered for two or three times.  I spent more time in there than I did in the engine room.  Yeah, I thought that was good.  Of course, I got chewed out one time.  The chief that oversaw all that, I was putting potatoes in a machine they had that peeled them. The salt water and the rust from the machine tumbled ‘em long enough there wouldn’t be any eyes left in ‘em.  So I’d tumble ‘em down and there was just little ol’ potatoes, the chief caught me and chewed me.  And I had to stop that.  I had to use the paring knife to get those eyes out.  I didn’t like that.  I got caught.

 

Suzette:  Oh, I always see people peeling potatoes; I didn’t know there was a machine.

 

Mr. Korthanke:  I did that also when I went back from my furlough at boot camp, at fireman school.  There was about 20 or 25 of us in the school, in the class.  They had a big table with pipe fittings all over it.  The instructor said, and he had two wrenches on the table, and he had things to take apart.  He said, “Well, who’ll volunteer to get up here and take this joint apart?”  Nobody volunteered.  I did.  I was a farm boy.  I knew about those wrenches.  I jumped up there and grabbed the pipe wrench and put it on a rectangular fitting and boy I caught it right then.  They didn’t have a monkey wrench up there.  All they had was a pipe wrench.  He was just looking for a sucker!  And I was the sucker and I…I got out of class, so I don’t think I learned much in that class.  He put me in the kitchen there even before I got on the ship.

 

Suzette:  Because you used the wrong pipe wrench, after he asked you to volunteer?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Yes, yes.  I volunteered and the right kind of wrench wasn’t even there!  The only wrench that was there was a pipe wrench. I grabbed it and I was going to take that apart.  And he said, “You never put a pipe wrench on that kind of fitting.”

 

Suzette:  So did you become a cook after that when you came home?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  No.

 

Suzette:  So how many children do you have?  I forgot to ask you that.

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Five.

 

Suzette:  You have five children.  And so you got married after the war when you came back?

 

Mr. Korthanke:  Um, hum.

 

Suzette:  Well, do you have anything else to add?  Well, thank you very much.

 

Mr. Korthanke:  I’ll think of something after you’ve left.

 

Suzette:  Write it down and send it to me.  We’ll be in touch.



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