Interview: Harald and Catherine
by Rie Yamaoka

 

Harald and Catherine live thirty minutes away from their daughter Carole and son-in-law Jim. Their granddaughter Julie goes to school thirty-five minutes away from home. Though a close- knit family, their perception and experience with war distinguish them; there is a definite transition between a generation of radios, B-29s, and atomic bombs, to a generation of mass-media, Iraq, and chemical warfare hysteria. Or is there?

Can you tell me your names, and when you came to Michigan?

Harald: My name 's Harald. I was born in 1920 April 2, in Tildon, Illinois.

I came to Michigan on April 46 after the war.

Catherine: I'm Catherine. I was born in Detroit in 1920 and lived here all my life

Where were you during the bombing of Pearl Harbor?

H: I was raised in Salem, Kentucky. I was at a little gas station just outside of town. I heard on the radio that Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor.

What were your first reactions?

H: I don't really remember. But I wanted to go to the Pacific. One reason was that I wanted to go to Australia, but when I went into the service on Feb. '42, I was drafted to England. My basic training was in Mississippi.

What was the basic training like?

H: They get you conditioned to take orders. When you're a civilian, you do your own thing. But when you're in the service they tell you what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. One of the ridiculous things that they have you do is, Nov. of '42, I ended up in Indianapolis. There was snow on the ground, and what they had you do was pick up the cigarette butts 'cause you don' t want cigarette butts in your snow man. It's a little thing like that to get you conditioned to taken orders. Extensive basic training, basically.

Do you remember any training films?

H: Oh yeah. . .no, not really. It's such a long time ago I forgot about that stuff. But most of the training was on health care and personal hygiene.

Do you remember seeing any films that talked about 'the enemy'?

H: No.

Were you living with your family?

H: Right.

Do you remember how they sent you out? Were there any tears?

H: No. There was nothing to cry about. It was our duty. I was glad to go.

What did your family say?

H: Naturally they hated to see you go, but I didn't see any crying as far as I know of. I just went up town and got on the bus. They gave me orders to pick up so many people, they gave me a list of the names. We all got on, and I finished the roll call, and we took off to the nearest army camp.

Where were you during Pearl Harbor?

C: When we received word, we were out in a car, and then we got home and my father turned on the radio and heard that Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor. We were just really stunned. We could hardly believe a thing like that. It was just a state of shock for a few days. And of course, we got the President's speech of the declaration of war. It didn't take long for them to start protection in the cities, like keeping the things dark at night because we didn't want to be attacked, and Detroit was quite a industrial city, and was valuable to the war effort. Of course it didn't take very long for rationing to be established. We had gasoline rationed and you didn't go more than where you had to go. Other than that, it just sort of clipped our wings as far as going any place because there wasn't the gasoline to go joy riding or anything like that. You went where you had to go, to work, and so, other than that, there wasn't really too much of a difference. The food was rationed. We didn't have some of the things that we were used to. I never stood in line, but I remember my mother standing in line for a few hours, waiting for meat to come in-- certain kind of meats were rationed and others weren't. She would find out when they were going to have the delivery of the meat, or other things that were rationed. She would stand in line with a whole lot of other women, waiting for their turn to be waited on. Of course, that was a time before supermarkets and you had more personal service than you have these days. Other than that, I don't think any of us suffered. I think it made us that much more patriotic. You realize that the effort we made would help settle the war, eventually.

Were you living with your family?

C: With my mother, father and sister.

Do you remember what you talked about the war with your family?

C: I'm sure we talked about the war, but I don't recollect specific things. The rationing made a difference in people's lives, and different foods, but none of us were starving.

Carole: Did Grandpa and Uncle George talk?

C: Probably so. That was when Don was in the Second WW War-- he was in the Korean war, but my cousins were all younger than me, so they weren't in the service. So we really didn't have anybody in the war. Herald and his brothers, he has an older brother, he was in the Pacific, and Max was in the Korean War.

Carole: Was uncle Thomas in the war?

H: Yup. He was in after the war, though.

C: We were quite fortunate because we didn't have any immediate family that was in the war. But we had people all around us and I knew several people that had brothers that were in the service.

Did your family or friends go away to the war?

C: My first cousin married a fella that was in the service and he went over to Europe. He was over there but they were married before he went. He was out in Kansas, because I went out to visit him over a weekend, and then he went overseas. She came back to Detroit and she had her daughter. Her first child was born when he was overseas and he had been wounded, but it wasn't life threatening or anything like that. Their little girl was born while he was still overseas, and then he came back to them a couple of months after she was born. Sheryl was born in '45. But that's the only person in our family, on my side of the family that was in the service. He's (Sheryl's father) been gone now, he's died of cancer 5 or 6 years ago.

What was your feeling when somebody around you was drafted?

C: You understood why they had to go. Of course there were lots of young men who already had families. They were given deferment-- exempt from the service, but there were others that rushed to get married, because they had received word that they had been drafted. I know we have several people in our church that got married before they went overseas. I didn't have anybody that I knew of, there were no fellas that I had gone with. There was one man that I had dated during the war, but he was a little bit older than me, and I guess his job was that important that he was exempted from going. But I didn't date any fellas that were in the service. In fact I didn't date during the war, there weren't that many men around! It makes a difference!

Has your impression of the German/Japanese during Pearl Harbor changed before/after Pearl Harbor?

H: Well, I thought it was a pretty sneaky attack, and what you've got to do is go and try to straighten it out. As far as the German people or the Japanese people are concerned, you can't feel bad at them. They were only doing the same thing that I was, what the government told them to do. If you want to place blame, you place blame on the government. That goes for this country or the Japanese or the Germans. Now if you take all of those presidents and dictators or whatever you want to call them and put boxing gloves on them, they should go ahead and fight it out. There'd be a lot of boys still living, and you wouldn't have as many wars. But the old saying is 'the rich man's battling and the poor man's fighting.' I don't know if you've ever heard that expression or not, but it's pretty true.

C: Like Harald said, I think it's pretty sneaky. But I do feel that the wars are fought because of the dissension in the government and a lot of people die on the behalf of the leaders of the country. As far as Japan was concerned, they were doing their government's bidding, as same as Germany and our country. Like Harald said too, there'd be a lot of lives saved if they just got down to brass tax and talked things over and used some diplomacy. But the dictators were having things done their way, and Hitler had ideas ruling the world, and Tojo probably had the same ideas. We couldn't let that happen. We thought it should be a free world. It was a bad time for an awful lot of thousands and thousands of soldiers.

Do you remember any documentaries, or Hollywood films?

C: I don't remember. I don't know if they would be documentaries or not, but there was one done after the war. I can't even remember the name of it...

H: I can't think of any. We didn't have any theaters where I lived. We had to hitchhike about 12 or 15 miles to the nearest theaters. Back in those days, we didn't have money to go to the theater, although it only cost a dime, but we didn't have that dime. Ten cents was about ten dollars in those days.

Carole: What about those news reels? Didn't you say the movie house had news reels that showed you what was going on overseas?

C: They probably did show you the battles that went on and stuff like that. . . but that was no more than two minutes and went on to another subject.

Carole: But you didn't have TV, so that was the only way you could see real action.

C: You got radio, and that was it, because you didn't have the pictures, but there was something over Tokyo or something like that. That was another one that showed the planes coming down, making glide bombings on boats.

Carole: 'Tora, Tora, Tora'?

C: Yeah. That's the only one that I can think of.

H: That was after the war.

C: But that was after the war, and it wasn't a documentary.

H: That was a Hollywood film, an entertainment picture.

Any specific images, or things you heard on the radio that you remember? Any slogans?

Carole: 'Uncle Sam wants you'?

C: Yeah.

H: Yeah, I remember that.

C: Oh, you used to see the placards around too. 'Uncle Sam wants you,' and you'd have a hand, with a finger pointed at whoever was at the opposite side of the picture. I think we had to use our imagination a whole lot more than after these days, 'cause you got everything right there in front of you. But we did get the news reels, and they were pretty good. Other than that, I don't remember any visions or ideas.

H: I don't remember any slogans. I can't think of any.

C: You were more where there was more action, in England, but we were more on state-side.

H: We didn't have any slogans.

When you moved stations in England, how long were your there?

H: About two years, nearly two and a half years.

What was your job there?

H: Well I was in the eighth air force. I was attached to the eighth air force. I was in the service group, and fire fighting and rescue work. I went to school over here for about 2, 3 months in New Orleans, to learn fire fighting. Then when I was shipped overseas. I went to school there for 3 months to learn how to adapt American equipment to the English equipment. We were assigned to an air base at that time.

What did the fire fighters do?

H: We took care of the plane crashes, the planes came in all shot up. We were stationed not too far from the channel, and when the planes would come over--they always flew over our base-- if they needed to land, if they were out of gas and needed to land, or an emergency landing, they always landed at our air base. We had to take care of them.

How many planes would come in a day?

H: That varies. A normal day would be, it's been pretty long, but I'd imagine 25, 26 (planes).

How many people were in your group?

H: Eight or twelve.

When were you sent back to the States?

H: We didn't come back till the war was over in Germany, and then we came back to the States and then we were able to go home for a month's vacation. Then we had to report back and ended up in Dayton, Ohio, Patterson Field. And then were sent to north Dakota and I was stationed up there for a while. And then we were transferred down to a little air base in Kansas. I can't think of the name of it now, (it was) way out in no man's land. All there's out there is tumble wheat. They had the B-29s out there. We had to take the training with them to learn the escape patches, and how the best way to approach them when there was a fire. Then we were scheduled to go to Okinawa. . . . .and we were lucky.

So you never went to Okinawa.

H: . . . . . . .

Carole: When you were in England, Dad, did the air raids that the Germans flew over England, did they affect you?

H: Oh, they came right over.

Carole: Did they bomb you guys then? Like night after night after night?

H: No, not every night, but. . .about twice a week, maybe.

What would a typical day be?

H: A typical day was 24 hours on, 24 hours off. We didn't have any extra duties other than fight fires, and take care of the planes.

What did you do on your time off?

H: We just chewed the fat around the barracks, go into town.

C: Go to the pubs.

H: Go to the pubs. Have a few beers.

Carole: Did you ride a bike?

H: Ride a bike... if we wanted to go to town we had to ride a bike. Everybody had their own bicycle.

What was a typical day for you?

C: I was working at the Edison company when the war started. I worked in the cashier's office in the Edison company, and a typical day would be to either get a ride with a person who'd sort of took a group of us that were going to the same building--that were working the same hours. That, or get on a bus and go downtown where my job was. After the day was over, I'd come back home on the street car or the bus or with a driver. One day was pretty much like the other. During the week, I know that my mother and dad had a victory garden, to grow vegetables, for our table, and I used to go out and help my mother and dad. My dad didn't do too much gardening-- he wasn't much of a gardener, but my mother was. We had pretty good gardens during the war, and it helped with the food bit, but it was a matter of helping people, helping my folks and things like that. But on off time, like after my work day, sometimes I'd stay downtown and have dinner with other of my friends-- my work friends down there, and girls that I went to high school with. We'd meet because they were working at other places downtown, and we'd go out to dinner and go to a show or something like that. Other than that, it wasn't too active of a social life. It was a little on the dull side, but it was better than just working everyday and just going back home!

Where were you when the war ended?

H: Where was I when the war ended? In Germany or in Japan?

 

In Japan.

H: I was in. . .I can't think of the name of that air base.

Carole: In Kansas?

H: I was stationed in Kansas at that time when the Japanese surrendered. I was still in England when the Germans surrendered.

How were you informed that the war had ended?

H: I heard it on the radio. I had a radio when I went overseas, and I brought it back with me after the war. I carried it with me all the time I was in the service. All of the boys in our group used it. That's the way we heard about it.

Do you remember how they said the war ended on the radio?

H: How they said the war had ended? Not really. I don't remember word for word, but the fact that the Japanese had surrendered. Then it was all 'hooray,' and--

C: Oh man, was it!

H: Everybody was glad that it was over--

C: Yeah. . .

H: -- and we knew that we'd be going home before too long.

Where were you when the war had ended?

C: I was. . . I can't remember if I was at work, or whether I was at home when we received word, but my gosh! I guess I must've been at work, because I got home from work, but I remember my dad driving us downtown, because downtown Detroit was just! Oh, the people! You couldn't drive downtown. I mean, you just had to park your car and get out on the street and of course everyone on the street was huggin' everybody, and kissing everybody, and the yelling and the screaming! Oh, it was unbelievable!

H: I was stationed in Victoria, Kansas. It just came to me. It was a little one-horse town. In fact, I'd never even go to town, it was so small.

Were you informed about how the war had ended?

C: You mean with dropping the bomb and things like that? Oh, yeah.

What were your feelings about that?

C: Well it seemed like a terrible thing for that to have to happen in order to stop a war. But we figured that was the only way the war was going to stop. But it certainly was devastating to an awful lot of people. I remember we got back, we drove back to the main part of downtown, and it was my uncle's birthday. So we were over at their house for ice-cream and cake, but of course all we could talk about was the war being over. But yeah. . . it was a horrible thing to happen. . . and so many lives. . . If people were alive, they were so devastated. The injuries that they received, and the cancers that they got. . . generations had that happen to them. . .

H: Have you seen Hiroshima?

Yes, I have.

H: It has recovered, quite a bit?

Yes.

C: I'm sure that it has.

H: But the bomb in itself in Hiroshima was in a way a life saver. Because if we had invaded Japan, there would've been twice as many people killed.

C: Probably so. . .

H: On both sides.

C: Probably so.

H: And they thought that one or two times they would have to bomb Japan. It would kill a lot of lives, but it would save more lives than it would kill. . .and I think that probably held pretty true. If you look at the times when they invaded Okinawa, and some of those other islands, the number of people that were killed on both sides-- the lives saved would be a lot more if they didn't have the bomb. It was hard on. . . a lot of innocent people died--

C: Yeah, that's the thing. . .

H: -- but that's the way it is in any war.

C: Yeah.

How would you feel if in the future there was another bomb dropped somewhere?

H: Depends on the situation. . .now if you're talking about Iraq, or something like that, I'd say go ahead and drop it.

C: Hope they got Sadaam.

H: Just hope that Sadaam's under it. Then you'd have peace over there. But as long as he's in power you're not going to have peace. I think it's. . .I don't like the idea of using it again, but it's a good deterrent. As long as the people think that you might use it, they'll think twice before they try to invade and try to take over other countries. But little countries like Iran and Iraq , well, I don't think it would ever be necessary. But if you're talking about Russia, then it might be. But I don't think the atomic bomb will ever be used. I think that's the thing that matters.

C: Yeah.

What did you tell your children about the war?

H: Don't fight.

C: Oh golly.

Carole: We never talked about it. I didn't. You wanted to talk with Glen, because he was the history person.

C: Yeah, our son.

Carole: I was never interested.

H: I don't think he was too much interested.

Carole: Anything to do with history would fascinate him.

Carole: I wasn't interested in it when I was younger, so I don't think it was ever discussed

around the house.

C: I don't remember if it was discussed all that much. Glen was the history buff, and he still is. But I don't recollect that there was too much of a conversation. I kept scrap books, during the war. Or in fact, I started before the war. I started when I was 13, 14 years old. So all during the war, I kept pieces from the newspaper and kept them in loose leaf books. . .and so when Glen got older, and he was interested in history, I showed him the scrap books. Of course he'd go and leaf though them and read different articles, but as far as holding any kind of conversations with him, there really wasn't too much of that. It was what anyone was just interested in. I had my scrap books, and you (mom) looked at them, but as far as the war was concerned, that wasn't of any interest to you.

Carole: Not back then.

Do you still have the scrap books?

C: Mmhmm. They're quite yellow, very fragile.

How many articles would you cut out in a day?

C: A day? Oh dear. . . I couldn't tell you as far as that's concerned, because some days there might not be that much in the paper. Maybe from a day up they were just getting the information, later, but other times, in a big battle or something like that, I would cut that out and put it in my scrap book.

You started when you were 13?

C: Of course that was before the war. I was 21 when the war started. I started my scrap book when I was 13, 14.

What did you cut out when you started?

Carole: I remember Emilia Earhart.

C: Yeah, Emilia Earhart-- that was '37. Yeah, when she was lost. . .

H: The Hindenberg.

C: When the Hindenberg crashed--

H: Major event at that time

C: When the Duke of Windsor, when he abdicated his throne to wed Wallis Warfield Simpson, the deaths of different kings. . .oh gosh. I'd have to get my scrap books out to remind me. I kept taking things out of the paper. I guess when we were first married, then after Glen came, I just couldn't keep up with it. I wish lots of times that I could have, because there'd been so many things that had happened that were something for the history books. But that's gotten lost in time. . .I thought maybe Glen might take over

Carole: He did for a while

H: -- but he got busy with school and things like that .

What kind of articles did you cut out during the war?

C: Just things that I thought were of historical value.

How about things mainly about the war itself?

C: Lots of things on the war; different ships that were sunk, and different notables that were in the war. Eddie Rickenbacker and Ernie Pyle when he died of. . .he was a war correspondent--

H: He was shot.

C: Just things that I thought were of historical interest, and things like that. I don't know what'll happen to them after I'm gone, but there down in the basement right now!

Do you remember anything about Executive Order 9066?

H: Never heard of it..

When the Japanese-Americans in California were relocated?

H: Oh, you mean when we put them in the concentration camps. I didn't hear anything about it, because I was in the service, and that was all pretty hush-hush until after the war.

C: I remember hearing about it. But it was sort of taken as a, well, that we couldn't do anything else but, because they didn't know how many people might be doing spying, or doing subversive activities.

H: Sympathizers.

C: And it was one way from keeping anything like that happening. I could see were there would be a lot of Japanese-Americans put out because they were indicting the rule, Americans because they had come over, or they had been born in this country. But that was the protection that the United States had to take for their own people, and it was just one of those things. Like an act of war that had to be taken care of in order to protect the citizens of this country.

H: If we had another war, we'd have the same thing again. It would be with all different ethnic groups.

C: We've got a lot of them over now. The ones that we didn't have then.

Did you say that they 'would' ?

H: I'd imagine that they will. . . if we get attacked again. Any other country would do the same thing. There's really not that much difference in the Japanese holding all of the Americans in the prisons over there. There isn't too much difference, it's the same thing.

How about in terms of the Japanese-Americans being civilians, people who had houses, people who weren't soldiers. Do you think there would be a difference there?

H: In what way?

Would you say there's no difference?

H: If they had a home here? If they had property here?

 

If they thought of themselves as Americans.

H: Well, I don't think that was much the problem. It was their parents; if they were born here, they were naturalized Americans. But who knows what their parents was. They was raised in the old country. They were raised in Japan, they were educated in Japan, and then they came over here for a better livin'. A better life. And then they were naturalized. But still, they have roots back in Japan. So naturally they're going to have feelings for Japan, it's only natural. That's where the problem lies. It wasn't the people that were born over here, probably there wasn't any difference. They didn't know the Japanese custom.

Do you have any family, relatives that were lost in the war?

H: I had a cousin that died in the Pacific. He was on the destroyer Spence. It went down in a typhoon. He was in 5 or 6 battles in the Pacific. Both ships were damaged, pretty badly. They came back to SanFransisco for repairs, and then he went out to the Pacific again, and the typhoon came up, and. . . there were no survivors in that. They all went down. And I had a cousin that was in the service. He was only in for a few months, and he got wounded over in Germany. But his brother went through the whole campaign-- North Africa, Sicily, Tunisia, Normandy, and over in Germany, without getting a scratch.

C: Oh, the Lord can pick out the certain ones.

H: He was in the group that liberated Guatemala prison, and liberated that. When he was over in Germany, he made some pictures of that prison camp-- several rolls. He was in Germany, and they had a group of prisoners that they wanted to send back to the States, so they asked him if he would volunteer to take them back. They said, 'Well you've been in the service quite a bit,' and they said 'you need some R & R anyway.' So they gave him these prisoners to bring back to the States. Well, he started back with them, and somewhere in France, I forgot where it was, but they took the prisoners off of his hands and told him that the war's over, as far as we're concerned, and he said you go on home. So they sent him back home and they asked him when he got back to the states, if he would like to have a discharge. And he said 'yes.' He was so nervous he could hardly sign his name on the papers. But they discharged him, sent him home, and he forgot all about the film that he had in his army boots. When he turned his stuff in, he left all his film in his boots and that stuff was all turned in. Good Lord only knows what happened to the film, but it would've been a prize film if he could've had it because that was the actual photographs of the prison. It was such a surprise that they offered him a discharge, that he forgot all about the film.

C: Probably everything else was dismissed from his mind.

You were released in '45?

H: I was discharged in October of '45. I went over on the Queen Mary, I came back on the Queen Mary.

How did you feel when you were returning?

H: Like any soldier. I was glad to get home.

You haven't seen your family up to that time?

H: I'd seen my folks in November. We went overseas on November the 22nd, 1944, I believe it was. When I went over................it's been so long...........

C: I think that's all (for now).

H: . . .I said Nov. 22, it was Nov. 14 that I went overseas. I was sworn in on the 22nd. When I went overseas, I sent Mother and Dad a short letter. . .just enough to have my name on it. When I put my return address on it, or when I signed the letter, because you couldn't put a return address on it. . . when I signed the letter I signed my middle initial. . and then they knew I was going over seas.......................

Carole: That was your code to tell them that you were being shipped out?

C: Yeah, it must've been, yeah.

Carole: Did you write Grandma and Granddaddy? Did you have communication back and forth in the years that you were over there?

H: Oh yeah. . .

Carole: Were they ever censored?

H: They had to. But they didn't censor mine, whenever I was over there. Of course I wasn't over in Germany, I wasn't in combat, battle. But I was stationed in England all the time.

C: But they would still censor the letters, wouldn't they?

H: Not as much as over in Germany and in battle. That's where you were censored. But ours wasn't censored that bad.

Did you write about what was going on?

H: I never wrote about what was going on.

C: Play it safe.

H: Yeah.

C: Did you write to Malva and Sylvia?

H: No, they were all home. They could all read the same letter.

H: You wouldn't write more than you had to. I'll bet the letters were short.

Carole: One of the gals at work, her father worked the telegraph, and she said that to this day, when he's bored, she'll notice that his hand is tapping. She said it drives her nuts!

She doesn't know what he's tapping but to this day he's tapping it out!

H: Morris Code..

Carole: (to Jim) Your mom wrote soldiers. His mom was born in '29, so she was considerably younger, but she had a whole raft of fellows that she wrote to. Just to cheer them up, I guess.

Julie: She's a sociable gal!

Carole: She had a whole raft of them that she'd write to over there.

Jim: She was 14, 15.

What are your feelings about the 'enemy' countries now?

H: I'd like to go back to Japan.

C: We've never been there!

H: Yes we have, at the airport. Well, that's Japan!

C: Oh, I know it but I mean... you make it sound like we've been around the streets!

You had a stopover there?

H: Yeah.

C: When we were going to China.

H: I'd like to go to Japan for a visit. Not just to stopover. I'd like to go to interesting countries to see. I'd especially like to go up to where they just had the Olympics.

Nagano.

H: That's a resort area. That's where everybody goes to ski. That country side is just littered with caves. And the reason for it was that the Japanese people dug these caves in case of another attack. So they would have some place to go and hide. At least that's what they said in the paper not too long ago.

Do you travel a lot?

C: Quite a lot of traveling. Ten years of traveling. China, England, Australia, New Zealand, a European tour, Egypt, Israel. . . Ireland was the last country we visited, but pretty well state side now.