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Dale Starr video interview on experiences in World War II (transcript)

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DALE STARR

 

WORLD WAR II ORAL HISTORY INTERVIEW

 

This is Suzette McCord-Rogers and Peggy Stanton and we with Dale Starr, at his home in Holton, Kansas, and his wife, Mary Starr.

 

Mr. Starr, where were you born?

 

Mr. Starr:  May 5, 1922.

 

Suzette:  What is your place of birth?

 

Mr. Starr:  About three miles south of Soldier, Kansas, in the country.

 

Suzette:  OK.  So you were born at home?

 

Mr. Starr:  Yes.

 

Suzette:  What branch of service were you in?

 

Mr. Starr:  The Army Air Force.

 

Suzette:  We’ve got another Army Air Force guy.  And do you remember what your unit was, your battalion, your…?

 

Mr. Starr:  Ninth Engine Overhaul Squadron.

 

Suzette:  Ninth Engine Overhaul Squadron?  What was your highest rank?

 

Mr. Starr:  Corporal.

 

Suzette:  And were you enlisted?  Do you draft?

 

Mr. Starr:  No, I was drafted.  When I was 20 years old.

 

Suzette:  When you were 20 years old.  What was your date of service, when you went in?

 

Mr. Starr:  I went in the end of October, 1942.

 

Suzette:  And when did you get out?

 

Mr. Starr:  February 6, I was in three years and three months. (1946)

 

Suzette:  And did you go to high school near Soldier?

 

Mr. Starr:  Yes, I graduated from high school in Soldier and went to K-State for a year and a half.

 

Suzette:  What were you studying when you were at K-State?

 

Mr. Starr:  Agricultural administration.

 

Suzette:  What did your father do?

 

Mr. Starr:  He was a farmer and dairyman.

 

Suzette:  Were you going to be a farmer with your dad?

 

Mr. Starr:  When I came back, we decided that’s what we were gonna do.

 

Suzette:  So you were trained to pursue your dad’s occupation.

 

Mr. Starr:  We more or less followed in my folks’ and her folks’ were farmers too.

 

Suzette:  Mrs. Starr, are you from about this same area, from Soldier, also?

 

Mrs. Starr:  Four miles apart.

 

Suzette:  Well, did you know each other in high school then?

 

Mrs. Starr:  Yes.

 

Suzette:  Were you sweethearts in high school?

 

Mrs. Starr:  Yes.

 

Suzette:  Ah, that’s so romantic!!  So did you get drafted out of K-State, you got drafted out of college, that’s what happened?

 

Mr. Starr:  Yeah, well, no at the end of the first semester when I was a sophomore, I knew I was gonna be drafted, so I quit and got a job down to the Ordnance plant at Parsons, Kansas, and worked in the hospital down there.  I was drafted out of the hospital, really.

 

Suzette:  OK.  What were you doing?

 

Mrs. Starr:  I took care of the family’s two little boys and then I worked at Crown Warehouse and where I still work.

 

Suzette:  So you had two little boys?

 

Mrs. Starr:  I took care of two little boys.

 

Suzette:  They weren’t your children.

 

Mrs. Starr:  No.

 

Suzette:  OK.  Did you stay near this area waiting for him to come back?

 

Mrs. Starr:  Um, hum.

 

Suzette:  After you got drafted, where did you go to report for duty?

 

Mr. Starr:  Fort Leavenworth is where I went first.

 

Suzette:  OK.

 

Mr. Starr:  We had our physicals, took tests, and after that they sent me to Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, St. Louis.  That’s where I took my basic training there.  After that, they sent me to Kansas City to the National School of Aeronautics.  I learned to be an aircraft engine mechanic.

 

Suzette:  Did you have any choice about what you wanted to do?

 

Mr. Starr:  They give us aptitude tests and then they picked out the ones they thought could do the job, and that’s how I got to go to aircraft school.

 

Suzette:  And where was that at?  Where did you go to aircraft school?

 

Mr. Starr:  Kansas City, Missouri.

 

Suzette:  You never got out of Missouri!  And how long was that?

 

Mr. Starr:  Seventeen weeks.  When we graduated out of there, they sent me to San Antonio, Texas, to an air base at San Antoin.

 

Mrs. Starr:  Lackland Air Force Base.

 

Suzette:  And did you join him on any of these bases?

 

Mrs. Starr:  Not until we were married.

 

Suzette:  Did you get any furloughs or anything to come home?

 

Mr. Starr:  Yeah, after I’d been down there in Texas.  I got down there in February and I got a furlough long about my birthday, the 5th of May, and came home and that’s when we got married.

 

Suzette:  Oh, you did!  So then after you got married she got to go with you?

 

Mr. Starr:  She went back to Texas with me.

 

Suzette:  And did you write letters to each other in between those times?

 

Mr. Starr:  Um, hum.

 

Mrs. Starr:  I’ve got a suitcase full of some overseas mail.

 

Suzette:  You do?  That would be really interesting.

 

Mrs. Starr:  I don’t know where we put the box!!  I haven’t opened it or anything.

 

Suzette:  People haven’t usually been able to keep their letters.  I think that is really unusual.  I think that would be interesting.

 

Mrs. Starr:  I’ll ask my kids to open up the suitcase.

 

Peggy:  One of ‘em will make a fortune writing a book on them, you watch!

 

Mr. Starr:  Ha ha

 

Suzette:  You’re writing an autobiography?

 

Mr. Starr:  No, well, I started one, but I think I got about eight or ten pages at home.  I started to write the story of my life.

 

Suzette:  And so then he could have referred to your suitcase as primary documents.

 

Mrs. Starr:  Lots of little V-mails, that’s what they call ‘em.  They are copies and they are reduced down to about the size of a postcard.

 

Suzette:  What are they called?

 

Mrs. Starr:  V-mail.

 

Suzette:  I’m not familiar with that.  What is that?

 

Mrs. Starr:  Well, he would write a letter on regular sized paper, and the Army would make sure it was censored, make sure that he said only what he said, and then they would have these old-fashioned photocopies.  So they would shrink it down and the letter that started out about this big would wind up about this big.

 

Suzette:  Oh, my gosh.  Could you read it?

 

Mrs. Starr:  Yes.  They were_______; I’m surprised that they are as legible as they are.

 

Suzette:  I’m not familiar with that at all.

 

Peggy:  She isn’t old enough!!

 

Suzette:  So you went to Lackland Air Force Base, and then where did you go from there?

 

Mrs. Starr: Stinson Air Force Base.

 

Suzette:  And where’s that?

 

Mrs. Starr:  San Antonio. It’s the staging area before you get sent overseas.

 

Suzette:  So he was bound for overseas at that point.

So where did you go after you left the States?

 

Mr. Starr:  I ended up in Calcutta, India.

 

Suzette:  Did you expect to end up in Calcutta, India?

 

Mr. Starr:  No.

 

Suzette:  I didn’t realize we had any forces over there.

 

Mr. Starr:  Yep. This was a big air depot.  We overhauled all the airplane engines, the C46, the C47, B29, P38.  It was like a big factory.  The engines were taken off the planes, put into crates, and shipped in and came in the door where I was.  We started tearing ‘em down; we completely tore ‘em down.  They was all cleaned and washed, new parts put on there, come out the other end of the building.  There was crawled on a thick stand and run through about 12 hours, and then they were shipped back out.

 

Suzette:  Were these engines that had been damaged with the plane going down, or just standard maintenance?

 

Mr. Starr:  Both of ‘em.  Some of ‘em had maybe six or seven hundred hours on ‘em, maybe some of ‘em had been shot down, and half of the engines that we had were had damage on them and we had to throw away a lot of the parts and put all new ones on.  We tore ‘em down, put the pieces on a big rack, they was rolled down through the building, cleaned, and the old one taken off and a new one put on, when they come back out the other doorway.  It was all put back together. 

 

Suzette:  Was that in India because this was the South Pacific?

 

Mr. Starr:  No, it was China-Burma-India.  CBI, they called it.

 

Suzette:  You don’t hear much about that.  That was going on during World War II?  The China-Burma-India?

 

Mr. Starr:  Um, hum.  We really worked on the cargo planes that flew the China-Burma-India, they call it “over the hump”.  Where they took all the supplies.

 

Suzette:  “Over the hump”, is that like a mountain?

 

Mr. Starr:  Mountain, uh, huh. 

 

Suzette:  That was the Himalayas?

 

Mr. Starr:  Yeah, they was the mountains there.

 

Suzette:  Wow, I had no idea that was going on.  How long were you stationed there?

 

Mr. Starr:  I was there about two years and three months, I think.  We got there on Christmas Day and we left, I came back to the States in February.  Two years and three months and 27 days over there.

 

Suzette:  Wow!  What was it like to be in India?

 

Mr. Starr: It’s real hot.  In the summertime, it gets about 120 and stays there day and night; in the wintertime, the coldest is 48 degrees. 

 

Suzette:  Calcutta is a pretty large city.  Was it pretty overpopulated?

 

Mr. Starr:  Oh, yes.  We were about 12 miles west of Calcutta.  The first time we went into town you go down the street and you’re liable to find dead boys or girls laying on the street, just dying, laying there. 

 

Suzette:  Really?  People didn’t pick them up or anything?

 

Mr. Starr:  Nope, a lot of times the poor people there had a place where they would bring the bodies and burn ‘em.  They had a big cement wall, they’d put ‘em in there and then they’d burn ‘em and scoop ashes out, put ‘em in the Ganges River.

 

Suzette:  OK. So people were starving to death,..

 

Mr. Starr:  Oh, yeah, there was a lot of poverty over there.

 

Suzette:  Did you worry about getting any tropical diseases or anything?

 

Mr. Starr:  Our biggest problem was the heat.  We had what they called impetigo.  You sweat so much, you know, under your arms, you’d get big blisters from the heat.

 

Suzette:  Did they have ceiling fans in your factory?

 

Mr. Starr:  No, we was in this, where I was was just inside the big door on the south.  During the day it wasn’t too bad, but at night we had some of the men that worked in the airplanes, they would get these little ol’ 24-bolt motors and we hooked enough of them together to get all the electricity over there, 220 volts.  So we hooked them up, 24-bolt motors together and plugged them in.  We had a little bracket on the foot of our beds, underneath the mosquito net, and that’s what how we slept at night.

 

Suzette:  A ceiling fan?

 

Mr. Starr: Just a little fan about this big.

 

Suzette:  Wow!  That must have been terribly uncomfortable.

 

Mr. Starr:  No, it wasn’t too bad with those little fans.

 

Suzette:  You probably didn’t have ice.

 

Mr. Starr:  They had ice.

 

Suzette:  You did?  That might cool you down a little bit.

 

Mr. Starr:  When we first got over there, we were in barracks that were made out of bamboo and plaster with a thatched roof on ‘em.  We was there about a year, and then they the English built new, brick buildings for us.  We had a two-story, but they don’t put any windows in ‘em.  They just had a big ol’ things in ‘em.

 

Suzette:  Why?

 

Mr. Starr:  It’s so hot that they just don’t use windows.  The troop trains that we were on, they just had openings in them.  There was no windows in them.

 

Peggy:  No glass?

 

Mr. Starr:  Yeah, the engines, were all narrow-gauge railroads.  The troop trains, I think we were on them for five or six days going from, when the troop ship landed, we was in Bombay.  It took us about five days on troop train to go across India to get to Calcutta.

 

Suzette:  Now were you stacked in?  Did you have to stand up like cattle?  Did you have places to sit?

 

Mr. Starr:  No, just wooden benches.

 

Peggy:  How did you stand it?

 

Suzette:  That must have been horrible!

 

Mr. Starr:  It wasn’t very comfortable.

 

Suzette:  How did you sleep?

 

Mr. Starr:  Just wherever we could.

 

Suzette:  Whoa!  You were hot, probably, and thirsty…

 

Mr. Starr:  Oh, not too bad.

 

Suzette:  Did you have an opportunity to get out and meet the people from India?  Did you make friends?

 

Mr. Starr:  Yeah, uh, huh.

 

Suzette:  What was your experience with that?

 

Mr. Starr:  Where I worked, I had about 10 or 12 native Indians that worked with me.  I kind of supervised them.  They done most of the work.  Whenever they, you might say goofed something up, so that they couldn’t get it off, then it was up to me to get it off.  We had some real nice native people there that we got acquainted with.  We got acquainted with one man and he knew Calcutta real well.  So I’d go in town and my favorite hobby was go find all the jewelry stores, and your opals, and star sapphires, and all those were real cheap over there.

 

We’d go in on Saturday and go to a jewelry store and go through all these packages and things, and pick out the good ones, buy ‘em.  I had rings made, necklaces, earrings, stuff made and sent home.

 

Suzette:  Oh, aren’t you lucky!!  Did you like the jewelry you got?

 

Mrs. Starr:  Yeah, it was soft material and it didn’t wear very good.  It was 9 carat gold, real soft.

 

Mr. Starr:  I had a star sapphire ring made and I think I give about $30 for it over there.  When I brought it back, the man at the jewelry store here, nothing to do but he wanted that.  He said, “I’ll give you $130 for it!”  But I didn’t sell it.  We give it to my son here a while back.

 

Peggy:  I’ll bet he appreciated it.

 

Suzette:  So you were supervising 10 to 12 workers that were natives.  What were you responsible for?  What were you repairing?

 

Mr. Starr:  To see that they done their work right, help them if they needed help.

 

Suzette:  Did you have a specific part of the engine that you worked on, or certain type of engine?

 

Mr. Starr:  Most of the engines had two rows of cylinders. The first B29s, the right engines, they were lemons.  We had lots of trouble with them.  What would happen is the crankshaft goes around and all the pistons, if one of those rods broke.  Each one of those cylinders had a screw about that long, that stuck down through the case.  When that rod breaks, it goes right in and rivet all of them.  So my job was to have an acetylene cutting torch and I’d have to cut that cylinder around, cut it off and get ‘em out of there, and try and save that main case.  That was real good when it was 120 and them sparks was going in your shoes all the time.

 

Suzette:  Did you have to use welding all the time when you were there welding?

 

Mr. Starr:  No, all I done was just cut off the damaged parts of the plane.

 

Suzette:  Did you get to go around and travel to Calcutta and to different parts?

 

Mr. Starr:  Oh, yes.  I traveled clear across India this way and this way, and after we’d been there about 18 months, they sent us up to the mountains to a rest camp for about a week. 

 

Suzette:  Was that nice?

 

Mr. Starr:  Um, hum.  It was up in the mountains and we had fresh milk and fresh meat and stuff up there.

 

Suzette:  What were your rations normally?  Were they normally that good?

 

Mr. Starr:  Our food was pretty good.  They had like dried milk and dried eggs, and stuff like that. 

 

Suzette:  But in the mountains you had fresh; I guess that was a real treat.

 

Mr. Starr:  Yeah, that was one of the main things.  When you went to rest camp you got fresh milk.

 

Peggy:  It was cooler in the mountains too.

 

Mr. Starr:  Um, hum.  They had deer up in there, and these guys would go out with the jeep at night and get a deer and come in with a deer, and we’d have deer meat.

 

Suzette:  Ah, ha! I’ve heard stories about how officers confiscated those deer and ate them themselves.  That didn’t happen to you.

 

Mr. Starr:  No, it wasn’t.  We was all right when we was at rest camp!

 

Suzette:  That must have been nice to do that. 

 

Mrs. Starr:  You didn’t tell about going on the train’s tour delivering the repaired engines.

 

Suzette:  No, tell me about that.

 

Mr. Starr:  When the engines were done, and run, and we shipped them back out, they had like a coal car, open.  They’d put three or four of those engines in there.  And then they’d ship ‘em out and they’d always send two guards along to make sure they got where they were going.  Me and my friend, we was together all the time, we talked to the man in the office and said, “Whenever you get a shipment going to southern India, that’s down in the nice country.”  They put us on.  Boy, bananas over there was real cheap.  What we did, we had two cars with six engines and we was responsible to see that they got from there down to where we was going.  So, the first day, we had this Army cot and this caboose of the train.  It was big enough we had two cots set up in there.  Anyway, Charlie said, “Let’s get a stock of bananas.”  You know, they bananas in big, ol’ long stocks.  So we bought one, I think sixty cents!!  We hung it up.  I think Charlie ate 10 that night.  He set on the steps all night!! HA HA HA

 

When they uncouple the train and make up a new train, they’d get ‘em up on the hill and then turn ‘em loose and let ‘em go down bang!  We were in bed there one night, and they turned ‘em loose, and we was going down the track 90 miles an hour!! When we hit the end, our feet just pushed the board right off the end of our car! 

 

They parked us one night way out in the jungle; the next morning, some of the natives come around, and said, “You know, there was a leopard running around here all night!”

 

Suzette:  The leopard could have got you!!

 

Mr. Starr:  Yeah, it could have.  As long as we didn’t know it, it was all right.

 

Suzette:  How long were you the train guard?  That sounds like an interesting job. Were you doing that more than one time?

 

Mr. Starr: No, just that one time.  That was the only trip we went on.  When we got there, we went into the commanding officer, and he said, “This is kind of a resort town.  You guys just go and whenever you get tired, you come and tell us and we’ll send you back.”  So that is what we did.  We was there probably 10 or 12 days.

 

Suzette:  So what town was it that you went to that was the resort town?

 

Mr. Starr: Madras.

 

Suzette:  And you wanted to leave?  You didn’t want to hang around?

 

Mr. Starr:  No, we stayed as long as we thought we dared.

 

Peggy:  Ten days was a pretty good vacation.

 

Suzette:  So what kind of things could you do in Madras?

 

Mr. Starr:  Oh, we went to the movies, we done a lot of lookin’ through the shops, and stuff like that.  The temperature was a lot better down there.  They were kinda up more in the mountains.

 

Suzette:  A kind of green area, as opposed to Calcutta.

 

Mr. Starr:  It was more of a resort area.

 

Suzette:  Oh, gosh, that sounds wonderful.

 

Mrs. Starr:  They have monsoons and rain though.

 

Suzette:  Were you in a monsoon?

 

Mr. Starr:  Monsoon?  You know, every day, at 3 o’clock, you could set the clock, it would just rain like crazy.  The soil in our camp was just sand, desert-like.  And it rain, and then the sun would come out, the steam would just come over, and you could just look out and see the steam just every where.  It would do that about every day, during the middle of the summer.

 

Suzette:  Did that cool you down or make you hotter?

 

Mr. Starr:  No, you just stood on the porch and prayed!

 

Suzette:  Now were some of the parts being manufactured in India?

 

Mr. Starr:  No, uh, huh.  You know about the Army?  The cylinders on the airplanes had little gears on them, and they had metal that fastened to ‘em to cool ‘em.  When the cylinders came in, maybe one of those ears would be broke off.  They’d just throw that darn thing away; it only cost $300; they’d just throw it away. 

 

Suzette:  Rather than fix it.

 

Mr. Starr:  Yeah.  Rather than try and fix it or do something.  It was wide enough, they could have drilled another hole in there and fixed it.  But anything, when we got ready to come home, they took all the tools away from us and cut ‘em in two, and threw ‘em in the ocean!

 

Suzette:  Why?!

 

Mr. Starr:  It’d cost more to ship ‘em home than they was worth.

 

Suzette:  I just don’t understand that.

 

Mr. Starr:  They run trucks and bulldozers and everything else right off those docks.

 

Suzette:  I don’t understand.  Didn’t they pay to take them over?

 

Mr. Starr:  They took ‘em over, but they just didn’t bring ‘em back.  They wouldn’t let us bring anything.  I couldn’t even bring a flashlight home I had.

 

Suzette:  In Calcutta, you said this was like a big center for the Air Force.  Were they doing any flights out of Calcutta, or was it primarily all maintenance and repair?

 

Mr. Starr:  This was mainly just a repair place.

 

Suzette: I don’t know what was going on with the China-India war over there.  Were you familiar with it?

 

Mr. Starr:  No, we got in Calcutta either Christmas Day or the day after, and they said they had bombed the docks there at Calcutta.  But they never did come back. I never seen any action at all.  I wasn’t ever in any danger, really.

 

Suzette:  Well, did you hear about any of the other expeditions or anything in the China arena?  You know, just by being there?

 

Mr. Starr:  No, not really.

 

Mrs. Starr:  (says something, but can’t hear her)

 

Suzette:  What were they doing in China, Burma, India?  What was the campaign supposed to be doing?

 

Mr. Starr:  Mainly transporting cargo from base to another.

The planes we worked on were really carrier planes, you might say.  I think we had, you know the P38 had, it was a fighter plane that had the V12 motor, long motor, in it. WE only worked on a few of them; they kind of, were made obsolete after a little bit.  We didn’t work on ‘em except once or twice and that was all.

 

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

 

Suzette:  So when you were in the service, did you get really close to the people you worked with and that you did maintain friendships with them when you came back to the States?

 

Mr. Starr:  No.

 

Mrs. Starr:  Masterman.

 

Mr. Starr:  Oh, yeah, there’s one man we still write to.

 

Suzette:  Was he the buddy you were talking about, Charlie?

 

Mr. Starr:  No.  No he was just in the same class when we went to school in Kansas City.  I was in Texas with him too.

 

Mrs. Starr:  You went on the train ride with Johnny York.

 

Suzette:  Did you maintain contact with him because he was from the Kansas area and not from somewhere else?

 

Mr. Starr:  No, not too many.  The man that I run around with all the time, he was from Indianapolis, Indiana. He wasn’t any hand at writing, and I never found out anything about him until we had somebody here one day.  They lived in Minneapolis so they called, and they said he died in 1990.

 

Suzette:  Oh, gosh.  That’s too bad.  When you came back, did you take advantage of the GI Bills to go to college?

 

Mr. Starr:  No.  I took advantage of the GI Bill.  When we come back and started farming, and they had a GI school.  We went to Soldier to the high school and they give us, I was one of the first ones to sign up for that, and they give us $100 to buy tools with, like saws and hammers and stuff. And then we went to school on Saturday mornings.  And we got I think $100 a month, I think, for going to school.

 

Suzette:  Was that a farming school?

 

Mr. Starr: Yeah, you more or less learned how to weld and make different gates, and things.

 

Suzette:  You didn’t want to go back to college once you got out of the war?

 

Mr. Starr:  No, I didn’t.  She wanted me to, but I didn’t like school that well.

 

Suzette:  So you went home and started farming.  Were there any other classes you took other than the farming class?

 

Mr. Starr:  No, just the GI school.

 

Suzette:  OK.  Did you get a GI loan?

 

Mr. Starr:  Yes, we bought our first 80 acres with a GI loan.

 

Suzette:  And did you build a house or buy a house with the GI loan?

 

Mr. Starr:  No, we bought 80 acres that had the buildings on it, but we had to do a lot of work on the house and all the buildings.

 

Suzette:  Was there near where your family lived?  Near Soldier?

 

Mr. Starr:  It was just a quarter of a mile from where my folks lived.

 

Suzette:  Oh, so they could come help you do the repairs.

 

Mr. Starr:  Yes, my dad and mother helped us a lot.

 

Suzette:  What was it like setting up housekeeping with buildings that needed a lot of repair?

 

Mrs. Starr:  Well, back in those days, everybody was poor and you didn’t have to keep up with the Joneses.  You did what you could afford to do.  I said I lived in that 100-year-old house for almost 50 years, and it still had work to be done on it!

 

Suzette:  That’s the beauty of old homes, is the continuing upkeep.  Do you have any memories that you’d like to share with us about your service time in Calcutta?  Any little stories or anything that you haven’t told us?

 

Mr. Starr:  Oh, I think I’ve told you most of ‘em.  We was about 12 miles west of Calcutta.  They had a big army truck that went back and forth every half hour.  It took us from the camp into town; you’d meet it at a certain place.  When you come back, you had no certain time you had to go or come; you just had to be on that truck by 10 at night to get back to camp.

 

I think about the main thing I told you I liked to go to jewelry stores and check and see all the gems.  And on Saturday night the English had big hotels there.  We’d go in there, five or six of us, we’d go there for supper.

 

Suzette:  That was the thing to do in the ‘40s, wasn’t it, to go eat dinner in a big hotel?

 

Mr. Starr: Yeah, and they had five courses.  You wouldn’t believe it but you could buy a whole platterful of shrimp for about thirty cents.  And one of the main delicacies was beef tongue. 

 

Suzette:  Huh!  Did you like it?

 

Mr. Starr:  Oh, yeah.

 

Suzette:  How did they cook it?

 

Mr. Starr:  I think they kind of boiled it.

 

Suzette:  Did you have like a white tablecloth, and..?

 

Mr. Starr:  Oh, yeah.  They served us in courses and they’d call ‘em bearers, the people that brought the food to you.  You could take what you wanted.  If you liked something real well, if you’d tip ‘em a little bit, they’d bring it back again!

 

Mrs. Starr:  India was owned by England and they had very definite caste system.  And what he saw mainly was the lowest class, caste.

 

Suzette:  Oh, so the people that you were working with were from the lower caste.

 

Mrs. Starr:  He didn’t tell you about these long, long boat rides.

 

Suzette:  No, let’s hear about that.

 

Mr. Starr:  Oh, I don’t know whether I ought to tell you or not! 

 

Suzette:  I want to hear this, I can tell right now.

 

Mr. Starr:  Well, we got on this ship at L.A., Los Angeles.  The night we got to the port to start overseas, they picked out about eight or ten of us, and we had to help load the food.  We carried crates, and crates, and crates of turkeys, and blackberries, and everything else.  We went under the Golden Gate bridge [Typist’s note:  Golden Gate bridge is in San Francisco!] and they raised it up and we’d go through.  The ship I was on was called the HERMITAGE.

 

There were about 8000 men on there.  We went about five days and we pulled into the island of Bora Bora.  They let us off the ship there, and it was just a little island.  We walked down the street down to the little ol’ shops.  The water was just as clear as could be.  Coral, coral in the water, the natives couldn’t swim or anything, it was just real sharp stuff.  We were there I think one day.

 

It was so darn hot on the ship and I was clear down in the bottom, I think on the bottom deck, down next to the floor.  It was so hot you couldn’t sleep.  There was some places up on the deck; they didn’t want you to go up there, so you had to sneak up there if you wanted to go.  So I found a place that had a big, a cargo place where they had loaded this stuff down in, in that big old deck, and there was a place probably about that wide at the bottom, and air would come through there.  So I’d take my blanket and go up and sneak, and I slept in there on my side most of the time.

 

It was so hot down there you couldn’t stand it down there, down in the bottom.

 

Suzette:  Didn’t they have any air flow down in the ships or anything?

 

Mr. Starr:  Not very much, no.  We had two meals a day.

 

Suzette:  What did you have?

 

Mr. Starr:  You know, I could remember one breakfast more than anything!  I went down for breakfast one day and the ship was just doing like this anyway.  We had baked beans and boiled eggs.  So I started eating that, boy, I got sick, and the closest thing I could find was a water fountain.  So that’s where I went!

 

Suzette:  Ohhh!  I imagine that was a memorable breakfast!

 

Mr. Starr:  Yeah.

 

Suzette:  So did you have breakfast and dinner, were those your meals?

 

Mr. Starr:  We had breakfast about 9 o’clock and another meal around 4.  That was all we got.

 

Suzette:  Now I thought when you were out in the ocean on the ships, you got better rations than you did on land.

 

Mr. Starr:  No, uh, huh!!  No, we just had two meals a day, just barely got by.

 

Suzette:  Is this when you were on the way to India?  The ship you were on, the HERMITAGE, was this on the way to India?

 

Mrs. Starr:  They didn’t know.  They were in a convoy, and they went all the way around Australia to keep from the Jap submarines.

 

Suzette:  Ah, so he was on his way to India?

 

Mr. Starr:  We left L.A., and we went to Bora Bora, and from there we went clear down around Australia.  We crossed the equator two times, going down, and coming back.

 

Suzette:  Did you get baptized?

 

Mr. Starr:  Yeah, a little bit of everything. Both times we went across the equator. We spent more time zigzagging, going back and forth.  There was a whole probably, 20 big ships and all the time, they just done like this to keep ‘em from shooting at ‘em.

 

Suzette:  Were there submarines in the area?

 

Mr. Starr:  Well, we never seen any.  We never had any trouble.

 

Suzette:  Where was your convoy going to?

 

Mr. Starr:  We went clear around Australia and docked at Fremantle, Australia, and they let us get off the ship there.  And that was December 11, her birthday.  We got off on the dock, of course we hadn’t been on the beach or nothing, so we took advantage of it.  Most of ‘em stayed out there all day.  The next day everybody had such a bad sunburn they just couldn’t even set down!

 

Suzette:  Oh I bet!

 

Mr. Starr:  We was there I think one or two days.  Then we left there and went back, ended up docking at Bombay.  Then’s when I got on the troop train and spent five days going across India to Calcutta.

 

Suzette:  That sounds interesting.  Did you call your wife on her birthday?

 

Mr. Starr:  No.

 

Suzette:  No?  You probably didn’t have a phone.

 

Mr. Starr:  No.

 

Mrs. Starr:  In the meantime, we had a son. It took us over six weeks to name the child!  We couldn’t get our boys’ names and girls’ names.  And the Red Cross never did send him a notice that he had a son, until he got my letter.

 

Suzette:  So you hadn’t settled on a name then?

 

Mr. Starr:  Of course, we had the son’s name, he named it after one of his buddies and it was Robert_____.  He lived in California later on.  Anyway, it was Robert, then Dale, which was Dale’s middle name.

 

Suzette:  When you got letters from him, did they have big black box where they cut it out?

 

Mrs. Starr:  No, I don’t think so.  We didn’t try to find out where he was or anything like that.  I don’t know if he had a hole cut in his mail or not.

 

Suzette:  I’ve talked to some people who had holes cut in their mail.  It sounds like you guys wrote a lot to each other.

 

Mrs. Starr:  We did.

 

Suzette:  Now when you got married, did you wear your uniform?

 

Mr. Starr:  Yeah, that was more or less the way…

 

Suzette:  Do you have your wedding picture?  Oh, that is really nice.

 

Mrs. Starr:  My hat and every thing.

 

Suzette:  Yes, I see it.  That is really fancy.

 

Mrs. Starr:  When they closed down to camp, they shipped them to Pakistan, and these…single and didn’t have any airplanes.  So they sent Dale to Pakistan so he could come home before Charlie got home.  Charlie got home on Thanksgiving; Dale got home in February.

 

Suzette:  Oh, really?

 

Mrs. Starr:  Because the Suez Canal froze and  they couldn’t bring troops back to New York.  So he missed going around the world.

 

Suzette:  Wasn’t that unusual for the Suez Canal to freeze?

 

Mrs. Starr:  I think that’s the only time we’ve ever heard about.

 

Peggy and Suzette talking about the pictures, and scanning them.

 

Dale:  Can we borrow your album and then bring it back?  We want to scan some of the pictures from your album.

 

Mr. Starr:  That man, he was from the aircraft factory back in the States, and he was kind of a civilian supervisor.

 

Suzette:  Oh, he was?

 

Mr. Starr:  I worked with him, just before he went home, why he asked me, he wanted me to design any tools that would help ‘em tear ‘em down.  He put me in charge; I’d go up there to the machine shop and have ‘em made that would help them get the engines apart quicker.

 

Suzette:  What are these little carts?  I know in China they call ‘em…

 

Peggy:  Rickshaws.

 

Suzette:  Rickshaws in India too? 

 

Mrs. Starr:  In summertime, I don’t know if there’s any in that book, but he got bored and so he went down to a shop and he helped print off pictures that other people would take.  So he’s got a lot of pictures by making reprints.

 

Mrs. Starr:  The caste system was terrible.  I don’t remember how many stations the caste system there was. There was the super rich, then the rich, the very poor and I don’t remember what’s in between.

 

Peggy: I think there’s about seven.

 

Suzette:  That’s what I was thinking, seven.  They have skulls everywhere, and using a cobra and a mongoose…

 

Mr. Starr:  You’d go to town in Calcutta, those natives with those cobras would be settin’ along the side of the street, and be playin’ a tune, and them things would just dance around.

 

Suzette:  I didn’t think that was real.  I wonder how that works.  There’s all these skulls around.

 

Mr. Starr:  I don’t know whether to take a picture or not, they have a disease over there they called elephantitis.  The legs will swell up and big about that big, and I think I have some pictures of it somewhere.  It showed the men sitting on the street in their big legs out.

 

Suzette:  I think the tropics have a lot of problems with skin diseases.  This must have been quite an experience for you.  Did that make you want to travel more, having gone to India and everything?

 

Mrs. Starr:  We talked about we’d like to go; but we never did get rich enough!

 

Mr. Starr:  We’ve traveled over about most all of the eastern half of the United States.  In 1998 or ’99, we went to Alaska on a 14-day cruise.

 

Suzette:  How was that?

 

Mr. Starr:  I think that was the best trip we ever had.

 

Mrs. Starr:  It took me that many years to get him on a boat!!

 

Suzette:  Did you want to go back after that?

 

Mrs. Starr:  No.

 

Suzette:  He wouldn’t go back on?

 

Mrs. Starr:  All of our friends said don’t wait until you are 79 years old to go to Alaska.

 

Mr. Starr:  We went on a 14-day trip down in the southeastern part of the United States.  We went Florida, over to New Orleans, and up to Nashville, Branson.

 

Mrs. Starr:  We went clear to the tip of the Florida keys.

 

Mr. Starr:  All over Kentucky and Georgia.

 

Suzette:  Now were you driving yourself?

 

Mr. Starr:  We went on a lot of tours.

 

Mrs. Starr: No, neither one of us had courage enough to drive.  I did drive to the Black Hills in an R-V.  That was a big undertaking.

 

Suzette:  Well, Mr. Starr, do you have anything else you’d like to share with us?

 

Mr. Starr:  I think I’ve covered about everything.

 

Suzette:  What about you, Mrs. Starr?

 

Mrs. Starr:  I think I’ve interrupted enough.

 

Suzette:  You have not!!  I want to thank you both very much.    



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