Interviewer: Erika Robertson
Interview with Sophia Miller in March, 1998
Sophia Miller, who grew up in Missouri, or "Missourah", is my aunt on my father's side; she married my dad's brother, who lived in Rochester, Michigan, and then remarried after he passed away. To me, she has always been Auntsophia-I used to think that "auntsophia" was one big word, her name. She made the baby blanket I carried around when I was little and still have on my bed today. She used to have a kitten I played with when I was young that's not around anymore; that's just about all I remember having changed at her house since I was little. We sat down at her living room table and she had an old photo album ready to show me; it smelled old. Most of it consisted of family members I never got a chance to know. I saw pictures of my dad's parents for the first time...the pictures seemed like they were not only from a different time, but a different world entirely, and they were...
Sophia: Lavern (Sophia's first husband) was in Romeo when he was drafted, he was about twenty-eight or nine, we'd been married about eight years cause Larry was my second child, my first child died. They sent a draft notice and he had to go up to Romeo, I mean we lived up there on a farm and he had to go into town.
Erika: Did he expect to get drafted?
Well, he was hoping not, but...
Erika: So, he didn't want to go?
No he didn't. It was not a good thing for us, broke up the house. You know, we was keepin' house and we had one child, we was tryin' to get started and we was real scared because of what had happened to John when John disappeared. (John was my uncle)
Erika: When did John go?
'41, he had just been drafted that year, that summer.
Erika: How long was he gone before everyone realized he wasn't coming back?
When MacArthur left 'em in the Philippines, he was missing and it went along for quite awhile just as missing, and then after so long a time they have to declare 'em dead or something and then they declared that he had died in a concentration camp and all Lavern could say was he starved to death and that most likely killed him, that his brother had starved to death. And so then they started the insurance to the folks, about seven years later. When MacArthur left, he left the boys and if you read it in a history book, MacArthur went off and left the men that was over there and got out of there in time to save his life and, um, left the boys and they got out and went gorilla fighting out in the woods and he (John) wrote a letter to his girlfriend, when we got it, we was just so pleased to hear from him and it read that he was gorilla fighting out in the jungle, that they captured him there, that's what the letter said. Then, the army declared he died in a concentration camp in the Philippines, he's buried in the Philippines in that plot of ground where they buried the soldiers over in the Philippines.
Erika: So, this is John in this picture?
The parents thought it was, the medics was what he was working with and they thought that was him from Life magazine, I think.
(The family thinks John is the one standing in the middle of this picture.)
Erika: So how long was Lavern gone?
Well, Lavern was in eleven months and he was sent to Texas and they kept sending him to different places and he was put under live ammunition, practicin', trainin' him for the front and he was shell-shocked and it hurt 'im back of his head and he had spells in his sleep he'd go unconscious in his sleep, like convulsions, he was then discharged. Seven years and then he died. Yeah, I'm a V.I.C. widow.
Erika: Do you remember how Lavern's parents, dad's parents, reacted to their boys leaving?
They took it real hard, it broke their heart to give up the boys, it was like a slow death.
It was hard after Lavern came home and at times he was awful hard to live with, he had a short temper and he would go off about things and they all grieved over him.
Doris (my dad's other brother) at that time was on the coast guard, the army at that time had a coast guard, or the navy did.
Erika: So Uncle Doris was the only one that continued to live on out of the three-did he have anything to say do you remember?
After the war ended, they took him clear around the world in a boat, they were "clean-up", they got bodies that had gotten bombed and all that, gottem all buried.
Erika: Were most comments you remember hearing negative about the war?
Well it's very heartbreaking to give up your family, let alone when they die.
They have books and things wrote about the Philippines at that time when MacArthur was over there, but we always kinda felt like, you know, he'd got his belt saved, but the boys, he abandoned, and they was young boys and all.
Erika: Do you remember watching any films?
Oh, we used to go to the theater, they didn't have television, and we'd watch the news-
Erika: Can you tell me more about that?
Well, see lots of things was secret then except what they would let 'em put out to the public and oh, you might see 'em on boats or gettin' off, you know, or something like that.
Lavern, um, was the one who wanted to go. We had a certain night we would go, Saturday night? down in Rochester and we'd always try to go to see it.
Erika: Did you get the feeling that they were trying to promote the war?
No, I never- People today, what's happening today is these people all run in to tell the news first and if they can't make it, they suck their fingers and make it up (laughs).
Usually whatever came out was true, it wasn't heresy, we didn't have that heresy stuff back then and they didn't foretell the future, try to predict it like they do now (laughs) and everything was rationed, of course, that was because of the Depression, they took canned goods, the can to make for the army, they had to have the metal and so all the canned stuff then was in jars, in glass jars. You couldn't buy nylons, couldn't get decent material for clothes hardly..
Erika: Did you work during that time?
No, I had the boys to take care of and I didn't work, I kept the home going, I didn't drive a car, I didn't do anything (laughs) like they do today, they were mothers. Oh, there were women who worked in factories cause Lavern worked in the factory over there in Pontiac for a while and he didn't like it cause of the women on the line and all that was goin' on. He didn't like their lifestyle, he said it was pitiful. He said, I never want you ever to be in a place like that . Lavern, he worked, carried mail an worked at Twist Drill for awhile and he worked at gas stations, he held two or three jobs at a time before he was drafted. We was on the farm so he got exempted for quite a while, they exempted farmers from the draft, well they needed the food and stuff. And he worked for Park Davis and they made medicine so he was exempted there, but he had changed jobs too many times...
Erika: Do you have any other mementos besides the pictures?
I got pillow tops that Lavern had sent me from Texas ( laughs).
Erika: He sent you a lot of stuff, letters?
Oh yeah he sent me letters and I don't have 'em anymore, they was personal and I got remarried; Lavern died in '52.
Erika: When Lavern wrote you those letters did he talk about how rough it was?
Oh yeah, he was homesick (chuckles), he didn't like it at all, he was very upset about having to go anyway.
Erika: Do you think most people, then, resented the war or do you think people felt it was justified?
Well, it changed his (Lavern's) life, it shortened it, so how would you feel? Well, we needed it to straighten out a few things and just like now, gonna have another one 'cause things are not settled after a war.
Erika: So, you think Clinton should start up this war?
Well, I hope he don't start it sooner than it has to be, but he's (Sadam) lied to us so many times we don't want him comin' over here and hittin' our land, comin' after us and he's the one that's got the hidden weapons-they're pretty sure of it I think because he may have 'em, someone said the other day, over in other countries so I don't know, I think it's terrible. We had Hitler and I think it's terrible when it's just one man-Clinton isn't doin' it by hisself, he's got others, the Republicans have really gone fanatic. My parents were Republicans, but I married two Democrats and I think I'm right on the fence now-I just think it's terrible how they go at Clinton, if he was that bad, how'd he ever get in? ...twice (laughs), he musta done something good along the way or something-they just pick him apart, I think it's terrible that they're pickin' our president of all people-our country's sposed to be respected-the Republicans have voted against everything he tries to do, makes it harder on him-if he was that lowdown why'd they put him in there? I can't believe those things.
Erika: Do you remember hearing a lot of racial degradation of the Japanese or when they moved them out to California?
No, no I never heard about that, I've never been out to California.
Erika: Do you remember anything about the atomic bombs?
They had done some in Arizona, I guess they had experimented with it before.
Erika: Do you think they should've dropped the two bombs on Japan?
Well, they'd done quite a bit of damage over there anyway...
Erika: Do you have any final comments?
It was just, you know, you're life ...changed. It was very sad to break up our home, relatives I cared for and stuff like that just like you, if everybody disappeared all at once.
The war was a long time comin' on , sometime there's nothin' else to do, but it hit the little man, the poor man, the working people most-the people with money don't always have to go in life, they can get out of it somehow, just like MacArthur, he got out of there, didn't he? John wasn't lucky enough, shinin' shoes, he had good jobs if you're gonna be in the war, but... They had to have 'im (MacArthur) and people suffered, you know, children without fathers.
Interviewer: Erika Robertson
Interview with Donald & Marilyn Trinkline in March, 1998
I met Donald Trinkline for the first time since I was a little girl; he used to work with my father, but is now retired and living in Rochester Hills, Michigan with his wife, Marilyn. I also met their daughter and grandchild in addition to two happy dogs who loved to happily trot around. We sat down and began,
Donald: I graduated from high school and in thirty-nine, they started the first draft of World War II, but they only took people who were twenty-one years old and I was eighteen and so I went to U of M (he is wearing a U of M sweatshirt so I say "yeah we, won this year and he smiles, "yeah"). On December the 7th, why the US. got involved in war, in the War, and at that point nobody knew really what was going to happen. So they lowered the draft age to twenty and I was nineteen by that time
Erika: So you were thinking pretty soon you'd be going...
yeah so, they came up with a V-12 program and my vision is 20/200 in one eye and 20/400 in the other eye and they wouldn't take me in the V-12 -that was a navy program. The navy program would let you finish college and you would graduate and then go in the navy. So, I figured well, what's gonna happen to me is I'm gonna get drafted as a private so I better try to get into something else, so I tried to get into the meteorology program which the airforce had, and the airforce wouldn't take me either so I just stayed in school until they finally lowered the draft age to I think eighteen years old. By that time I was nineteen, maybe going on twenty or something like that and, because I was in my third year in school, the draft board let me finish school, but because I had such lousy eyes why, they gave me a limited service classification so I didn't go in service right away-
Erika: Bad eyesight's lucky for once-
Yeah, yeah that's 'bout the only thing it's good for...(we smile)
Anyway, I ended up starting at Chrysler and then I got drafted because it got down to the point they had to have some people, but I never left the United States and I was working in the service center trying to handle people who were being discharged from the army and I had to go to special school in Georgia, Fort Oglethorpe Georgia, and we had to learn what the benefits are 'cause there were a lot of people coming out with disabilities and they had to go through somebody who had some type of education, could understand what the problems were and stuff like that. Well, anyway that was my job and I ended up with thirty guys working for me in a separation center as an occupational counselor and so that was my little thing in, in the army. Later, I tried to get into something I thought I'd like to do-it was kinda the CIA, in its early infancy or something and I got a transfer and, because we had a general on the force fight, he rescinded my transfer so I never got in there, but it was very intriguing because they taught you how to pick locks and put hidden microphones places, you know, gather secret data and stuff like that I thought that'd be a real interesting thing to do. I was young enough that I thought that'd be a real great thing to do-it probably would've been...
Erika: Did these discharged men say anything personal to you, did they seem really torn up over all of it?
Well I'll tell you, I had a group of people who were in the Bataan March and the Bataan March was the march that the Japanese, when they took Bataan Peninsula, in the Philippine Islands, they put these guys in the coal mines and made slave laborers out of them for four years or five years or something like that and these people were so...so depressed from what happened to them, they didn't even want to talk about it, they would never talk about it. You would try to tell 'em something or ask 'em questions about, do they have any problems that they'd like to get resolved, and the only thing they wanted to do was just leave. So, it was a very emotional thing-they came through as one special group and they went through our group because the guys that were working in my group were all college graduates.
Erika: Do you remember anything else about it?
Outside of the people who came out of the Bataan Death March, that was the only group that I really spent time with, we purposely gave them more time than anybody else. Other then them, everybody else was just: so you were in the army, what did you do in the army and you're entitled to certain benefits when you get out and what are you going to do, you know you have GI benefits of going to school. And, we had to let these people know they could go to school and that they had GI insurance which most people wanted nothing to do with the army, they didn't want to say anything, the only thing they wanted to do was get that piece of paper which says I'm out, that was all they were interested in. The men from Bataan, they didn't want anything, their minds were affected. I think if you were a slave in a coal mine for four years or something like that why, it would be pretty bad.
If you want to know what was going on at the time, um, meat of course was rationed and you had to get ration stamps every month. You'd go to the store and you'd have trouble buying meat even if you had the stamps to buy it, and butter was rationed and sugar and um...course, gasoline was rationed and I think you got five gallons a week or five gallons a month or something like that, you got a real small amount of gasoline...didn't do you much good and tires were rationed so if you were unfortunate enough to have lousy tires when the war started, the likelihood of you getting new tires was next to nothing.
My Dad chimes in: Do you remember any difference between the rural community and the urban communities?
The farmers got essentially all the fuel that they needed to harvest their crops-there was no problem with that. Fact, I guess some of the farmers used their gasoline that they had for their tractors and stuff in their cars.
My dad: Do you remember there being a black market in gasoline and such?
If there was, why I didn't really know about it and there weren't many cars on the road because there was a big shortage of gasoline. If you went from A to B, like I'd go from Ann Arbor to Detroit, why it was mostly takin' a bus or hitchikin' -and hitchhikin' was real easy and even when I came home from Illinois, it was easy to hitchhike if you wanted to, but that was a bad way to go because you never got that much time off and it would take too long. I guess there were a lot of restrictions on air travel. If you lived on a coast, it was a lot more restrictive because actually, the Japanese shelled California with submarines and um, the East Coast was really concerned about being bombed, but that never happened.
Dad again: Do you remember everything being in secret code?
I guess so, everybody was writing back home in code like um, this one guy, friend of mine, wrote a letter to his dad and his dad didn't know where he was and he says: Dad, I want you to know that I still go to church, I still believe in God, I still -the way he put was- I still believe in trinity dad-he was in Trinidad-that's what he wrote. Finally his relatives caught on what he was trying to tell them, but everybody was doing something like that.
(Donald's wife, Marilyn enters the room)
Erika to Marilyn: What were you doing during that time?
Me (laughs), (Donald: cutting out paper dolls) No, I was in high school and the women had to take over the men's jobs so my mother went to work in an aircraft factory and I had to take care of my brothers, I had two younger brothers at the house. That's what all the women did, they all went to work.
Erika: Did your mother feel patriotic about it, or did she feel hostile about having to go to work?
Marilyn: Everybody wanted to do something, it's not like now where everybody's against war and me!, me!, me! Back then it was everybody wanted to do something-they saved scrap metal, and nobody griped because they had to do without butter or coffee or gasoline or cars, they stopped building cars.
Donald: People saved fat, if you had bacon, you saved the fat.
Marilyn: Nothing was wasted, you saved everything and almost every house had a flag in the window with stars on it-the blue stars were for the soldiers, or servicemen that were still alive, a gold star meant somebody had died in the war. It was very uncommon that you wouldn't have a flag with stars on it. The number of stars told how many dead from that house. My math teacher left, all the men were going, there were no boys, no men, no boys...You know, everybody wanted to do something and I don't think they actually felt patriotic, they felt it was their duty, that that was just something they should do. Now, if you ask somebody to do something like that, give up their coffee or their butter why they'd, they would cry. Sugar, we couldn't have sugar, we couldn't have gum. A friend of mine was in the navy and brought me back a big box of gum (smiling, laughs), little chicklets in little tiny boxes and he bought it overseas and brought it to me so I had something special... They didn't have nylons back then, they had silk hose and we couldn't get those because they needed the silk for parachutes so women painted their legs, like make-up, and they would even draw a line up the back of their legs because then you had seams up your stockings. And all the girls and women wrote letters-you had to write letters because they said constantly: write to the boys, keep up their morale, keep up their morale. But, if they wrote back, it was all censored-they could not say where they were, what they were doing or anything, and if they did say something they shouldn't it was cut right out of the paper! Because mail was expensive, they had paper that was thin and it folded up into the envelope.
Donald:Yeah that's because that was airmail, but soldiers could send letters home free, you didn't have to use a stamp.
Erika to Donald: Do you remember going to see any films, war-related, newsreels?
Yeah, if you went to a movie show they always had a newsreel and the newsreel would always contain something about what was going on in the War.
Erika: Did any of them seem biased at all or did they seem fairly objective?
I don't know how you would know whether anything was biased or not, just whatever they showed you is what you saw 'cause there was no television so you never saw anything. The only chance you ever got to see anything were pictures in Life magazine and in the newspaper and the newsreels at the theater-those were the only three things that you could get some information from. Apparently, they never told us everything because the United States was in real bad shape right after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor because we lost almost the entire fleet and we didn't want Japan to know that.
Erika: The newsreels we've talked about in our class seemed drastically pro-war even while they were showing what seemed factual, or ...
Dad: Well, that was what they were meant to do, they showed what was happening but it was the way they talked about those kind of things-
Donald: Well, they had a lot of things like, um, Donald Duck made a cartoon which was aimed at Hitler and he was mocking Hitler in his cartoon, yeah, it was about a fifteen minute cartoon or something. He would go sieg hail sieg hail, in the furor's face or something like that and it was all done for patriotic reasons, but they never had any real problem with being patriotic in the United States. Because Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor, people were kinda anxious to get in the war. There were a lot of bond rallies and stuff like that, most of the people would buy war bonds and um, the women, of course, because there was a shortage of men around why the women started goin to work, working in the bomber plants and stuff and they built the uh, Liberator bomber out at Willow Run, they even built a special highway to carry people from Detroit to the factory site.
Erika: Do you remember people talking slanderously about the Japanese or the Germans, Nazis, Japs like that or anything?
I don't know if it's because of my physical location or the lack of information you know, during the early part of war I don't think they told us, the American people, much about what was really going on, you depended on seeing a newsreel if you went to a show and what you might read in the paper, but all transmissions were of course, in code of some type or another.
Erika to Marilyn: Did you watch any films, newsreels or anything?
Oh, well yeah, you had to go to the movie theater because you didn't have t.v. and that was the only way you got news and newspapers came out in the morning and in the afternoon, but if there was something special that happened, in the middle of the night you'd hear the newsboy screaming out extra! extra! (she yells it) and you'd run out and buy a newspaper from the newsboy. We used to listen to the radio all the time too.
Donald: But the stuff that was coming over the radio was heavily censored and you only heard what you were supposed to hear.
Erika to Donald: Do you remember when the Japanese-Americans got relocated?
Yeah, the only thing that we ever heard about that and maybe it was because of my age -we didn't have communications like we have today. Here now with television something happens, five minutes later why there's a guy there making an interview with somebody. Um, we just heard about it that they interned all the Japanese nationals that were living out in the California area on the West Coast-Well, that was a pretty hot thing that was going on out there because the Japanese submarines would sneak up and lob some shells onto California's coast and so, as I understand it, they just didn't want any Japanese guy who might be friendly to the home country, you know, giving the signal so that they could land, or a small boat could come in and plant bombs or something like that
Erika: So it sounds like there wasn't much protest against it because they thought it was a national security issue?
Well, I think that people, because we had gotten bombed and there was really so much devastation that happened at Pearl Harbor, I think everybody was really upset about this thing. First, people didn't want to get into the war, didn't want to have anything to do with it and Roosevelt was secretly sneaking materials, war materials to England. If he hadn't done that why, England probably would've been wiped out- then it would've really been a, a bad thing. He was giving 'em money and, the lend-lease program, all kinds of stuff was going on- it wasn't general knowledge- the extent of it, I don't think even Congress knew the extent that was going on. I think Roosevelt really understood what the problem was.
Erika: Do you remember anything about the stereotypes of Japanese in the newspapers, buck teeth and glasses...
Well, yeah the real thick glasses and the buck teeth and stuff like that, I don't think ever registered with me until many years after the war or something like that. I think they were still carrying it on-We never had Japanese people living around this area that I can remember, we might've had Chinese restaurants, but I don't think you had any immigration from Japan until after the War was over- that's why not many Japanese-Americans were interned, because there weren't may Japanese people in the United States as I remember. Now, we had a very narrow view living in the midwest, I'd never been to California, I'd been to Illinois and Wisconsin and that's about as far west as I'd ever gone and I don't know how far east I ever was, not very far...
Erika: Do you feel like most people felt like they were defending China or that they were responding to Pearl Harbor?
Oh, I never knew much about the relationship between China and Japan and the connection with Pearl Harbor and all that I mean I, I don't think we understood, I don't know that we ever got the full story of what was really going on until we really got involved in the war and then, we never knew much about what was going on because everything was pretty much of a disaster at the beginning. In the first place, the United States never had any aircraft which could compete with the German military aircraft. And, I don't think we knew anything about the Japanese war effort that they had, that they really had as many machines and such a big navy and stuff like that I don't think we ever understood that. And then they had a completely different philosophy and I don't think we were necessarily aware of that philosophy and that is that they were going to get a special place in Heaven if they died in the war, that they would be exalted heroes in the life after the kamikaze pilots all came out, and the Japanese would just never give up. Why, they tried to burn 'em out of holes and caves- I had a friend who was on Iwogima and he lost an eye there and that was a terrible battle because it lasted so long- that island got shelled for almost six days or something by the navy and these guys just lived in bunkers and caves on the island and they were ready to give up their life as soon as the shelling stopped, they were gonna go out and kill the Americans- with the Japanese it was almost a religion, the war so, the Emperor was god and told you to go to war and so you went to war-that's the way they were and I don't think anybody knew that. I lost a good German friend; he got killed in Germany.
Erika: So he was fighting against his ancestral country?
Not really ancestral, he was born there- I never saw him again, he was in the army when I was in Ann Arbor and he went over to Europe and got killed; he never came back. And I had another friend who was born in Germany and came over here. He stepped on a land mine and had a part of his foot blown away. Also, my brother was where the US, in the latter stages of war, went and started invading Germany and the Germans got American uniforms and came back at the Americans and nobody knew who anybody was and it got to be a real mix-up thing. There was a thing where some guys say they were told to give up and they said they would never give up and they were surrounded for six days by the Germans and, at Bastone or something like that, some little town-my brother got transferred over there and he said that was a really horrible, terrible part of the war- My brother was in a woods for thirty days and the Germans were shelling the woods and they'd shoot the shells into the trees and when they would hit the trees they'd explode and these guys (Americans) couldn't dig foxholes and get out of there. The Americans tried to relieve this group something like four or five times and they couldn't get these guys out of there, they just wouldn't want to go and so they (Americans) physically had to drive this one unit of the army out of this woods, the Americans had to bring reinforcements to drive them out of there. My brother was a Ford observer for field artillery and he said that was one of the worst parts that he had ever seen in war...I shouldn't tell you this I guess, but he'd see guys that would be walkin' around with their friend's head in their arms or something like that-it'd been blown off their body and guy's calling for a medic-people were completely irrational when you get involved in something like that why, it's a great shock...Well, a friend of mine who was on a landing craft infantry in the Pacific told me, he was an officer in the navy, that they carried a machine gun. I said, "What'd you do with a machine gun, you never got off the boat?" He says, "No, if troops wouldn't get off we were told to shoot 'em." So, you were gonna die one way or the other.
Erika to Donald: I just interviewed my aunt, and she was talking about how MacArthur abandoned some men in the Philippines, she seemed pretty upset...
He was ordered to get out of there, he had no choice-I don't think he would've ever left because MacArthur was ordered out of there by Roosevelt.
Donald to Marilyn: What do you remember about MacArthur, did he abandon..?
Marilyn: Well, it depends on who you talk to, the ones that were over there felt that he abandoned them because he left, he got out of there and the rest of them were forced to be prisoners and march for many days, many died on the way, but when he left he said, "I shall return" (she shakes fist as she says this).
Donald: yeah, he was ordered out by Roosevelt; it's cause they sent VT boats in to get 'im, that's how he got out of there.
Marilyn: That was terrible, that was the low point of the war, but had he stayed he would've been killed too and they needed him to go back-the general has to be saved in order to go back , you know, and help.
Erika to Donald: What do you remember about the atomic bombs being dropped?
Well, I know where I first heard it, I was coming out of the Rackham building. Pearl Harbor was a Sunday afternoon, I know where I was then too, I was doing schoolwork, I was in my room, my cave. As for the bomb, I guess nobody knew how horrible it was, what power they were talking about with that bomb and what the consequences would be. (to my dad) Charley was working on the atomic bomb. We were developing a special plating process which was used in some part of the bomb or something and he was involved in that phase of it-there were a lot of different people who were doing things and nobody knew what the overall picture was, well somebody knew what it was, a mad scientist or someone.
Erika to Donald: So, do you feel that the war was justified, that it had a good cause?
Well, I'll tell you, when the war was over thirty years why, I went to Germany with my brother and he said he wanted to see some of the places and we went to a death camp in Passel, which was Austria I guess, and it was really horrible...
Oh, I think this is real important and this makes me angry even today: during World War II, when it first got started before the US was in it, even though I had strong German ties, I'd listen to German people talk on how terrible it was that the English were bombing Germany because they were wiping out towns, these poor people didn't deserve to get bombed and it was just the innocent people that were getting bombed and, of course, that war blew up, got bigger and bigger and it could've demolished the United States, but that's the same thing that goes on nowadays when the US wants to bomb Iran. We had some friends and they weren't really all that German, but they ,um, just didn't really like the English bombing Germany like that, but what the Germans were doing was so bad anyway, it's like what the Iranians do to the Kurds and the Shee-ites over there and stuff like that-same type of thing. Why, everybody that's got relatives over there says how terrible it is they're bombing all these innocent people. Well, if they don't get rid of their leader who is not an angel, why it's their responsibility I guess.
Erika: Have you had any thoughts about the US's involvement in the World War II in retrospect?
Donald: During the war, if the United States made some kind of little victory, I think it was blown a little bit out of proportion so you think we're doing real well, and I don't think they told us some of the rougher times that we were having and I never knew until really just recently that D-Day going into France, 98% of those guys that went in were killed, I guess it was Omaha beach or something, to get their foothold and then I had friends in Ann Arbor that were on some of these islands trying to dig out the Japanese, one guy, a friend of mine got his eye blown out, we began just realizing what a terrible thing that war was that was goin' on.
Marilyn: But it brought out the best of everybody, everybody worked together, the fellows that were in the service felt like they were doing something patriotic and they were proud of what they did.
Donald: You gotta remember one big thing, we were really still in a depression there at the time, it wasn't until the war got started that the United States came out of the Depression. The GIs were getting, I think, 21$ a month after they got their raise; it was much lower at first.
Marilyn: Yeah, we'd been in a depression, before that time women only were teachers or nurses or secretaries and women started working in the factories and started doing the kinds of work that men had been doing all along-not only factories, but gas stations and anywhere women could take over the men's jobs.
Erika: Didn't most return home though when the war was over?
Marilyn: Well yeah, but that I mean, that was the turning point, that's where women started working, really working and found out that they could do it! They could handle a home and work too-I think that's probably why we got all these household conveniences now, because it made it easier for women to work. You know, Rosie the Riveter...(chuckles)
Donald: Well, I don't think that we had robberies, I don't think we had rapes, I don't think that we had people that were shaking down companies
Erika: People were more honest...
Marilyn: Yeah, we never used to lock doors on houses and stuff like that...I don't know whatever happened.
Donald: Well they had a lot of effort that was going on by the Japanese to make the soldiers homesick, Tokyo Rose, but they would play Glen Miller type music, the Japanese would, and so to the American troops, Wouldn't you like to be home with your loved ones? but I don't think any of that ever demoralized anybody-and I don't think there were ever any big insurrections in the army, guys deserting and stuff like that.
Marilyn: Yeah, I don't know what would happen if we ever had a war like that again...
Erika: I don't think it's even possible...
Donald: Well it's very difficult, with the spy satellites, to amass a big fleet of warships like they did in World War II-the Japanese got wiped out in the Coral Sea battle and Midway Battle, I guess-I don't know where the intelligence came from I don't know how they found out that the Japanese were moving like that, but they caught the Japanese unaware, wiped out their fleet. Nowadays it would be no problem, all you'd do is look down the spy satellite.
E: Do you have any final comments about anything at all?
Well, I guess I, personally I was fortunate that I never got shot, never got involved in battle or anything like that, it wasn't that I was trying to avoid it, I couldn't 've been in combat cause I couldn't see-if I'd ever lost my glasses, I would've been blind and they didn't, you know, put people into those types of positions.
These two interviews contain some remarkable differences. In fact, the contrasting characteristics of the two are so evident that they fall neatly under two words: I and We. Whereas the whole first interview depicts a very emotional, personal scenario, the second one seems to explain his and her relation to the country's emotional history. Many differences emerge from these two perspectives, including general attitudes about the past, opinions about women in the work force, and the range of opinions about MacArthur. However, despite these differences, the marrow of war experience is similar. An unpersonalized feeling of censored knowledge during wartime and personalized common attitudes about modern day occurrences is apparent in both interviews. These viewpoints expose the fact that every individual's experience of war is different, yet uniquely shared during such a momentous event as war, which leaves its imprint on a person's mind forever.
In the beginning of Sophia Miller's interview, I ask her if her husband Lavern wanted to go into service and she quickly responded, "No he didn't. It was not a good thing for us, broke up the house. You know, we was keepin' house and we had one child..." At this point, her interview takes on a personal tone; it is her story of the troubles that occurred in her family because of the war. In one of Donald Trinkline's last comments, "I was fortunate that I never got shot, never got involved in battle or anything like that, it wasn't that I was trying to avoid it...", a subtle difference in tone emerges. Although he feels lucky that he was not hurt, he does not blatantly say that he does not want to go. In fact, in an evident pre-Vietnam way, he acknowledges his concordance with the idea that a sense of duty to one's country is not to be "avoided". If one were to read more into his various comments such as, "So, I figured well, what's gonna happen to me is I'm gonna get drafted as a private so I better try to get into something else," a sense of self-preservation is evident, yet no clear-cut statement is given saying he did not want to go. A sense of obligation and also, perhaps, a little dread about that obligation exists. His dread is buried under the "We" of duty, while Sophia's foreboding sentiments emerge in a personal way, the "We" of home and family. Throughout the interview with Trinkline, he describes most events using a We narration, referring to Americans in such comments as, "And, I don't think we knew anything about the Japanese war effort". In contrast, Sophia is telling her story, "They sent a draft notice and he had to go up to Romeo, I mean we lived up there on a farm and he had to go into town." I might think one of the main explanations for this difference in choice of how to narrate the past is due to the difference of sex, but Donald's wife, Marilyn, also chooses to explain the past in the same ambiguous We manner as Donald, "Everybody wanted to do something." Statements such as this could imply that she also wanted to do something, or it could be a simple statement of history.
I believe that a reason for the choice in narration of the past may become clear by examining Marilyn's overall tone as compared to Sophia's. Marilyn's opinions lie in her comment, "it's not like now where everybody's against war and me!, me!, me! Back then it was everybody wanted to do something..." She demonstrates a sense of pride in the selflessness of the country she grew up in while summing up her experience of the eagerness of the people she was surrounded by to support the war effort. I did not get this impression of life, however, from Sophia as she tells how hard it was for Lavern's parents to "give up the boys, it was like a slow death." Also, as she tells how Lavern was homesick, I did not get a feeling of gun-ho patriotism that I got from Marilyn as she told of flags waving in the windows. Instead, a picture of long, monotonous days of waiting for news of the well-being of brother in-laws and a husband comes into mind. This clash of tone does not speak to the faultiness of one history, instead it speaks to the existence of two histories. It clarifies the fact that there exist as many histories of war as there are people who experience it. Perhaps for some, an "I" history, a personal narrative, is needed to define their personal experiences, while for others, a "We" history, them amidst the group, more precisely explains their past.
Another way that the I and We perspectives of history play a part in these interviews is when the subject of women in the work force arises. Sophia's account of this is opinionated and revolves around her former husband. She believed that her place was at home with the children. In fact, she told me later that one of the main reasons she remarried quite awhile after Lavern died was because her second husband took her son fishing and was good to him. On the subject of women working in factories, Lavern "didn't like their lifestyle, he said it was pitiful. He said, I never want you ever to be in a place like that." This very personal, family perspective contrasts greatly with the matter-of-fact comment made by Donald, "the women, of course, because there was a shortage of men around why the women started goin to work, working in the bomber plants..." He goes on to say, "they built the uh, Liberator bomber out at Willow Run, they even built a special highway to carry people from Detroit to the factory site." Once again, Donald gives no clear-cut opinion as to whether women working was a good thing; only a sense of pride about the history of the women's accomplishments which contributed to the war effort comes across. Marilyn passionately stated that "that was the turning point, that's where women started working, really working and found out that they could do it!" She, of course, being a woman, is included in this statement and her pride is obvious by her emphatic speech. However, she again explains her opinion of history as history, not by using a personal tale of her involvement in this history, as Sophia does.
A range of different histories is seen among the three interviewees when the subject of MacArthur arises. Sophia brings him up several times during the course of her interview in a negative light. To her, he is someone who abandoned her brother-in-law to die in a concentration camp in the Pacific. She tells of Lavern's fear for his brother and of how the knowledge of John's starvation affected Lavern, "and all Lavern could say was he starved to death and that most likely killed him, that his brother had starved to death." She emphasizes her opinion about MacArthur when she says, "we always kinda felt like, you know, he'd got his belt saved, but the boys, he abandoned, and they was young boys and all." When Marilyn tells how she understood this "abandonment", she seems to acknowledge two perspectives by saying, "Well, it depends on who you talk to..." She, however, sums up her opinion by saying that MacArthur was supposed to come back and help the men, which did not end up being the case. For Donald, he sees it as a question of orders; MacArthur was ordered out, so he had to go. This range of perspectives on one event is just another example that illustrates that varying opinions can create multiple individual histories that exist within one history.
There are, however, intersections of the myriad histories that exist because of shared, or common experiences. These shared experiences are narrated in the same manner, I or We. One such experience is the deliberate censoring of information by the government and promotion of certain viewpoints. In other words, the American population during World War II was victim to government propaganda. As both Sophia and Donald point out, information sources were very limited, so what an individual heard was controlled by "higher authorities" than the masses. Donald expounds on the fact that everything was censored. On several occasions, he talks about the secret code that was used and Marilyn points out that the government would cut holes in letters that contained illegal information. Trinkline tells about a Donald Duck cartoon which he says, "was all done for patriotic reasons...", but continues on to say that US did not have many problems with patriotism because of Pearl Harbor. He does not acknowledge the fact that cartoons such as the one he describes along with all the information sources pushed the war movement forward. He states, "Apparently, they never told us everything because the United States was in real bad shape right after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor because we lost almost the entire fleet and we didn't want Japan to know that." He does not add, however, that the US did not want him to know that either. Sophia also acknowledges that "lots of things was secret then except what they would let 'em put out to the public." She also believed that the films were not trying to promote the war and that "whatever came out was true, it wasn't heresy..." The acknowledgment of such vast censorship in conjunction with a denial of war promotion seems like a contradiction, yet the people who lived through the time make this contradiction work. To them, it was necessary for the government to censor information for war-related reasons. The lack of anger in the speech of the interviewees when discussing this commonly accepted censorship speaks to their acceptance of it. Both of them deny that this censorship played a part in forming pro-war opinions. For them, this censorship is separate from propaganda because both are subjects of censorship, but neither wants to admit to being among the American victims of propaganda. In this case, propaganda takes on a We narration, simply because both parties deny its impact on themselves.
Yet both parties were subject to propaganda because most information channels, if not all, were controlled by government authorities whose job was to push the war effort.
Sophia spoke about the truth of the newsreels and most likely most of what she saw truly happened and, in that sense, were true. The question remains then, what about the things she did not see? The lack of information about certain occurrences, such as the Japanese-American relocation, definitely skews the truth. Sophia does not know about this occurrence even today. Why would the American government choose to censor this event? The answer seems obvious: to keep any potential internal conflict over such an occurrence from happening. There are probably many other similar reasons for it as well. She denies any bias in the newsreels and that may be close to correct, but what about the bias in deciding what goes into the newsreels? She is unknowingly a victim, like most were, of war propaganda.
When Donald talks about Japanese-American relocation and its occurrence due to submarines shelling the Pacific coast, this becomes more evident. Today, we believe that no Japanese submarine ever shelled the Californian coast (a few balloons carried over bombs which randomly exploded in the Northwest). The newspapers at the time, however, reported otherwise. News spreads and whoever began this rumor most likely knew this. Of course it would be in the US's interest to promote the thought that the coast was being bombed; it would increase anti-Japanese support and perhaps even provide a cushion for the atomic bombs to wait upon. Indeed information was limited and traveled less efficiently than today, which left Americans in the position of having to accept what they heard. There is always the possibility that what we know today may be wrong and we may all be victims. Perhaps the Japanese actually did shell the coast, but then the post-war government did not want the American population or the Japanese population to know that they ever came that close...
Whereas the subject of war propaganda is considered in the We context, the viewpoint on modern day politics takes on a definitive I characteristic. This, perhaps, occurs because these interviewees both feel they are reliving a past experience to some degree so it is more personalized. The two interviewees accept the modern conflict's relation to themselves and the impact it will have. Sophia states that, "Sadam lied to us so many times we don't want him comin' over here and hittin' our land, comin' after us and he's the one that's got the hidden weapons... I think it's terrible." Her direct, personal opinion gives her narration of her political view an individual tone. Donald also states his opinion on the subject when he says, "Why, everybody that's got relatives over there says how terrible it is they're bombing all these innocent people. Well, if they don't get rid of their leader who is not an angel, why it's their responsibility I guess." The two individuals' histories merge. Even after both have endured the pains of World War II that, they both share an attitude that points to a justified war on the horizon.
The reason I have used the I and We perspectives in discussing these interviews is mainly to stress that there is more to an occurrence than different opinions about what happened. It is to show that, although academia may consider a true occurrence to be the facts of an event, history stems from people's minds. In these minds are different interpretations of occurrences and we can not discount them if they are not in accordance with "fact". These interpretations are personal histories and they may be represented differently in each person's mind. Because of this, different methods of speech are used on such occasions as oral interviews. One may erroneously believe that, because someone does not give an opinion on a matter or feel a relation to an issue, that it is not important to that individual. This may not be the case. That person may simply be using the most appropriate manner of speech to represent their personal history. This is how I interpret the differences and the similarities between these two incredible interviews.