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Eugene Frediani

Eugene Frediani


JZ: This is an interview with Eugene Frediani,
as part of the World War II Veterans Oral History project Sponsored by the National Italian American Foundation and the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania It is April 16th, 2004 and we
are in Bethel Park, Pennsylvania JZ: Will you please tell me your
full name and date of birth for the record? EF: My name is Eugene G. Frediani. G as in
Gaetano. I was born on September the sixth 1916 in a house on the side of the hill of Mount
Washington, overlooking the city of Pittsburgh. JZ: Tell me a little bit about the first in
your family to come over to the United States. EF: Oh my goodness, I have a family tree that would
take you an hour to look at. JZ: Just the basics. Where did they come from? EF: My grandmother was born in Woollier, England.
That’s my mother’s mother, was English She came to America. My grandfather, whose name
is Gaetano whom I am named after, Gaetano Bonistalli. He came to America for the first time
on a sail ship. And he met my grandmother Mary Jane Frater from Woollier, England in
Cumberland County. They were married and then he returned to Livorno, Italy and he took
her with him and that’s where my mother was born. JZ: So they met here in Pittsburgh? EF: Yes. My mother was born in Livorno also
and my father. My father’s name was Santi Frediani and he came from a very large family
in Livorno. His father was a baker and had a bakery shop. He went to Genoa and was a
tailor apprentice and learned the tailoring business so when he came to America he had
a tailoring business in Pittsburgh. He opened a tailor shop on Brownsville Road in the South
Hills. He was very successful and an intelligent man. He raised a large family and did a terrific
job. He was a great guy and I loved him so much. I miss him, same with my mom, Clara. JZ: Where did they meet? Did they meet in
Livorno or here? EF: They met in Livorno and it was a wedding set up by relatives. There is a name for it, I can’t think of the word right now. Like I said, they settled in Mount Washington. My
grandfather Opened a grocery store, a sundry store, on Liberty and Penn Avenue
where the Greyhound Bus Station is now. I have photographs of that store. JZ: So your grandfather came over as well.
How about your grandmother? Did she come over too? EF: Well my grandmother passed away. The one from England passed away and my grandfather remarried. JZ: And your grandfather Gaetano. Did you
know why they came to Pittsburgh at all? Out of curiosity EF: I really don’t know. I dont’t recall. They Probably told me at some time or another. EF: I can’t recall the purpose of coming to Pittsburgh. I guess there were other people here that they knew. JZ: Tell me about your childhood in Mount
Washington. EF: Like I said I was born in the living room
of this house overlooking Pittsburgh.
Believe it or not I was fourteen pounds. My poor mama, I feel sorry for her.
I have pictures of me. I was just a big ball of fat. I have photographs. We moved to Oakland,
to the Boulevard of the Allies near Schenley Park. Then we moved to Mount Oliver on Quincy
Avenue. Then from Quincy Avenue we moved to Brownsville Road in Carrick where my dad opened
his new tailor shop. I enrolled in Carrick Junior High School with my brother Ed and my sister Evelyn. I graduated from Carrick High School in 1934. I played on the football team and I was in involved in band, science club and photography club. I was very active
in various activities in high school. JZ: A very good student. EF: I was the manager of the
track team. If I had any empty periods I
would definitely fill it in with a different study That way I took an academic
course to prepare (myself) for college. I also took business classes, such as short-hand
typing and bookkeeping to fill in my schedule. Whenever I had free time I took another
class. When I graduated from high school, I got a job in a machine shop on the
North Side called Barrack Machine Company. They were very nice to me. They
suggested that I attend night college. I attended Carnegie Tech which is
now Carnegie Mellon. I studied drafting
engineering and mechanical engineering. However, I didn’t get a degree because the
Depression came along at that time and I wasn’t getting full time work. So I took three examinations
for the Federal Civil Service. I took statistical I took statistical clerk, railway mail
clerk and post office clerk and carrier. I made the highest mark in the postal carrier examination and was
called immediately to go to work. I quit my job and quit college and went to work in the
post office. My father was furious and told me that would not make money in the post office
and that I was already making good salary. He told me I was foolish for quitting my job.
But I had that pension in mind. That Federal pension. I thought at least I would be guaranteed
a pension and today I am very happy that I
did continue working as a federal employee. I have a nice pension today, and I have credit for the post office for thirty-six years without any layoffs. Then I had four years plus in
the military when I was drafted and the post office gave me credit for that time towards the pension, which was a big help also. It increased my pension. JZ: Very good decision. Tell me, when you were growing up were there a lot of Italians? was it an Italian area? EF: In Mount Washington, there was quite a
few Italian people. There is still today a good
amount of Italian people in Mount Washington. JZ: How about Brownville in the Carrick area? EF: A few but not many. JZ: Tell me a little bit about what you remember
growing up? Any traditions you did? What kind of food did your
mom cook? Anything stand out? EF: My father was a terrific cook. He made
all kinds of Italian food. I think he inherited that from his father who was the baker. He
was very talented in cooking, he made delicious Italian dishes. My mom was also very good. We
always had pasta and different kinds of soups
and broth. Things that were healthy, healthy foods. We enjoyed our life at home.
We had a beautiful, wonderful family life. My brothers and sisters… Wonderful people.
We were a very loving, close family. JZ: Did you speak Italian when you were growing
up? EF: One time I spoke Italian fluently. I took
Italian classes at night school after I graduated high school. I learned to speak fairly well, my
professor was a professor Maluri, and
we had an Italian club for young people. It was called the Dante Club from the Dante
poet. We had a very friendly group of beautiful people. We had a great time with the different programs
offered. It was a very beautiful experience in my life. I took a couple trips to
Italy and used my Italian very well. However, since mom and dad have passed
away and almost all my family is gone, except me. I’m the only one left of the whole family.
seven brothers and sisters, i’m the only one
left and my relatives, my aunts and uncles are all gone. away I have no one to converse with in Italian
and consequently I have lost my vocabulary. Occasionally I write to my cousins that live
in Livorno now and I do write a few words in Italian but it’s quite an effort anymore.
Like I said, I have no vocabulary anymore. JZ: So you worked for the post office in the
late thirties? EF: Yes, I started in the post office in the
late thirties. Well, of course, I worked in the machine shop after I graduated from 1934
to about 1939 and went to Carnegie Tech. Then I took the examinations and was called in, in 1939. JZ: I’m curious to know during this time
in Europe and Asia I guess you heard what was going on the military expansions of the Germans and the Japanese. What were your feelings at this time? EF: Well, I didn’t feel too bad about going
into the service because at that time the policy was that young men were required to
register at eighteen years and up. We were told that we would go into military training for one year and then be discharged back into civilian life, which did not occur. As a matter
of fact at that time there was a popular musical song that was entitled, Good-Bye Dear, I’ll
be back in a Year, which was never materialized. It was over four years before I saw my
dear again. We left from the Pennsylvania
Station on the morning of June 21, 1941. JZ: What was your reaction of your draft notice? EF: I was sick. We had arrangements to
get married. We were engaged on Christmas Eve,
1940, and had planned to get married on June 25 1941. We had bought furniture and made arrangements
with the church. We had all our plans made. However, the draft board
said, “No way, man, you’re going.” So consequently I had to bid my darling fiance farewell at the Pennsylvania Station in downtown Pittsburgh. And they had to practically
carry her away. She was so brok…{tape cuts} JZ: So I guess you went to Fort Meade, no? Where everybody went to get a doctorate. EF: Yes, from our area. JZ: Oh, so the Pittsburgh area? EF: Different areas went to different camps.
From the South Hills area, we all went to Fort Meade JZ: I guess everyone from Pittsburgh was there.
Everyone I talk to went to Fort Meade. So that’s the place, in Maryland.
And so you went to Fort Meade and on June 25, you went to Virginia for basic training.
Tell me about basic training. EF: We went by train to Fort Eustis Virginia. We had our
rifles issued. We had rifle drill. We had training on tractors that pulled the 155 guns.
We had training on 155 millimeter cannons. We fired the cannons across the James River
for practice. We had various classes on military strategy and health. We had quite a few different
subjects to study for three months. JZ: Did you know you were going to be in the
artillery in basic or no? EF: No, they chose what
branches of service we would go into. I was
fortunate to get into artillery rather than infantry. JZ: Like my dad said when he went to
Vietnam. So you said something about the
James River, you would fire into the James River? EF: Yes. We set up our 155 cannons. They were
mobile and were pulled to position with trackers. They gave us training in driving tractors,
setting up the guns and firing the guns. JZ: When you say tractors was it a big truck? EF: Bulldozers. A bulldozer-type tractor.
JZ: And after Virginia you went to Georgia? EF: After (that) we had three months of
maneuvers. No, no, no I’m getting mixed up. We went to maneuvers from
Georgia Didn’t we? What’s it say there? JZ: “Transferred to 40K, June 25th, Basic training. September 25th, transferred to the 70th CAC.” EF: Now did we go to maneuvers from there? JZ: *quietly reads document*, Yes! We traveled by truck. (we) sat in
the back of the army trucks, the whole battery.
We went to Fort Stewart, Georgia. However when we were received at Fort
Stewart, I mean Camp Stewart. Well we call it
Camp Stewart or Fort Stewart. Today it is Fort Stewart. We were trained on and our name was transferred to the 70th Regiment Coast Artillery Anti-Aircraft. We were taken off of the 155
guns, the coastguard cannons. We were
(then) trained on the 90 millimeter anti-aircraft gun. JZ: That was a much smaller gun, right? EF: Right. JZ: It had one barrel? EF: It was one barrel. It had huge heavy shells.
They were drawn by trucks into position. We learned how to set them up and fire them.
We also got training on .50 caliber machine guns. We were issued Garand rifles rather
than Springfields. We started with Springfield rifles, then we got the Garand M-1s which
had a much greater fire power that the Springfield. However, to me the Springfield
seemed more accurate. I made sharpshooter.
I was trained on (the) .50 caliber machine gun also One battery I was brought into,
Dog Battery, D-battery. D as in dog, that’s
why we call it dog battery, not because we had dogs. We had four batteries A, B, C, and D. I was in D-battery. A-battery was comprised of huge search lights and that were five or six feet in diameter and shot a beam up in the sky at night, that was unbelievable, Ta search for enemy planes. Three batteries were 90 millimeter
batteries and we all had .50 caliber guns. We also had range equipment
which was electronic computers to judge
the range of the targets, of the enemy planes. JZ: What did you call these? EF: They were computers. The section that
had these was called the Range Section. They also had an instrument that required
someone with stereoscopic vision to view
through these huge telescopes, to view the enemy planes and judge
by merging images on this scope how far the
range was to hit this target. Or the vacinity of the target We did not try to actually hit the
target but put our burst in a pattern in the
sky around the target so that they were surrounded. We had all sorts of
ammunition for these 90 millimeter guns. We had anti-personal, anti-tank,
and anti-airplane. We had smoke shells
to indicate how far we were from the target. There were various types of ammunition and they came four shells in a case and they were awful
heavy, it took two men to carry. JZ: It took two men to carry for a 90 millimeter
gun. EF: They were big brass shells. Now I don’t
know what else to tell you. JZ: Tell me about when Pearl Harbor happened. EF: When we returned from the maneuvers throughout
the Carolinas, that was a very exciting time for me. We camped out every night and we belonged
to the Blue Army and our enemy was the Red Army. Anyhow, We were split up into to armies and
we tried to attack each other. We had bags of flour and if we saw an enemy we hit them
with a bag of flour and that way they were marked as prisoners. When we
worked our way down from Carolina to Fort
Bragg is where we got attacked by paratroopers. Fort Bragg was a paratrooper
training center. The sky was completely full of parachutes coming down it was an unbelievable sight. To me it was a bit thrilling but all-in-all I was homesick.
Anyhow when we got back to Georgia after maneuvers we were getting set up to get leave to go
home. It would be the first leave I would get since I was inducted into the army. However,
that Sunday our dear President Roosevelt told us about the Day of Infamy and that Japan
had attacked Pearl Harbor. All leaves were canceled so the first leave I was supposed
to have was absolutely canceled so it ended up that I never got a leave since I was in
the army. Consequently it was four years before I was
able to see my loved ones again. At that time we were told that we were ordered by one of
the generals to take our regiment up to Baltimore, Maryland to protect the Glen L. Martin B-24
Bomber plant up there because the United States intelligence thought that there was a possibility
of German subs or U-boats were approaching the harbor and could shell the airplane manufacturer
plant. We set up our guns around the plant and things seemed to have calmed down somewhat.
So they decided that we would be better transferred overseas.a It was then judged that we go to
the South-West Pacific. JZ: What was your reaction when you heard
you were going to the Pacific? EF: I wasn’t too happy about it. Scared.
Anyhow, we were going to get into action with the Japanese enemies. We boarded the ship
at the Brooklyn Naval Yards. It was the H.M.S. Kungsholm. It was a luxury liner of the Swedish
American Line. However they rechristened the ship when we boarded it to the U.S.S.
John Ericsson. We sailed down the east coast
and zigzagged all the way down to the Panama Canal. We had naval escorts, destroyers and other
naval ships with the convoy. We zigzagged
to prevent a strike from enemy ships or planes, and we entered the eastern entrance of the Panama Canal and
then zigzagged across the Pacific Ocean to the area of the Tasmanian Sea. During our course
we had several alerts and Japanese dive bombers but fortunately we had no causalities. JZ: Was
your convoy dive-bombed by the Japanese? EF: Oh yes. I recall a couple of these kamikazes, similar to these goofballs in Iraq, suicide bombers. They landed in the water right adjacent to
the ships but fortunately they didn’t hit the ships at that time. They did at other
times though. JZ: Were you in an anti-aircraft gun? Or you
weren’t involved? EF: No, the navy personnel manned the guns
on the ship. The Merchant Marine manned the other areas that needed to be taken care of.
We were guards. We were guarding all the time to site any suspicious sights such as enemy planes or vessels. I was busy with different classes as we sailed across. I do remember that one Merchant Marine was
killed but I don’t recall what happened, but we buried him at sea. JZ: About a month you spent at sea from the
Panama Canal. EF: It took us a month and seven days from
Brooklyn to Melbourne, Australia. We entered the Tasmanian Sea south of Australia and we
encountered a typhoon, a horrible storm. The waves must have been a hundred feet high or
so and it lifted some of the ships up in the air and you could see there propellers spinning
in the air because they were so high out of the water. We finally landed in Melbourne,
in southern Australia. The majority of our men were very sick with dysentery, diarrhea,
food poisonings, and sea sickness. The place was a horrible mess. They brought us to shore
and the medical officers suggested that our men be housed in private homes in a small
town north of Melbourne called Benigo, which was a gold mining town. We stayed in private
homes for a couple of weeks to recuperate. JZ: So one serviceman per house? EF: Me and my buddy went to the same house.
We went to a house of a widow by the name of Nancy Brown and her daughter Bess. They
were beautiful people and they couldn’t do enough for us. They wrote to my fiancé
and my mother and told them that I was okay. They had a very good friendship with my family.
After spending a couple of weeks there we shipped out
to New Caledonia. We landed at the bay of
Noumea. New Caledonia was a French possession. JZ: So who was charge of it? The French? EF: The French were in charge of the island,
it’s a huge island. However a great many of them were, Fasci-French. They were pro-Nazi and didn’t like us at all. As a matter of fact, sometimes if we walked down the street they would
come out and spit. They were very much
against the American forces being there. JZ: Were these French military or governmental? EF: Civilians. However, there were some French
military there. A lot of New Zealand and Australian military there. JZ: Who was in charge of the island anyway?
Was it occupied then? EF: It was the French government. We were
over there as guests. JZ: What did you do there? EF: We took our guns, our 90 millimeters and
our .450 caliber machine guns, all our range equipment and electronic equipment
and went to a little island called Ile Nou.
It was similar to a Devil’s Island with a prison on it, it was a horrible place.
We set our guns on top of a peek
overlooking the city of Noumea JZ: That’s the capital, right? EF: Yes. And we guarded the bay because many
of our naval vessels would go there to be serviced. If they had damage from battle they
would be repaired there. They would limp back
to the bay and they were able to repair a lot of them. JZ: Were Japanese forces fairly close to New
Caledonia at this time? EF: The Japanese forces had moved to the northern
section. Later on we moved from Ile Nou to a town in northern New Caledonia called Tontouta.
In Tontouta we set up our guns so they could build another airstrip that
would be closer to the Solomon Islands
where the Japanese were solidly embedded. They finally completed the
strip and we were ordered to relieve the
Marines at Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. We joined the Marines in the Solomons,
where we saw a lot of air action and a lot of bombing. We were shelled. The Japanese were beaten back but they were still there even after we left the island. JZ: Really? So this is in the Solomons? EF: Yes. We spent quite awhile there. What
does it say there? JZ: You went to Tontouta, New Caledonia in
January 14, 1943 and then you went to sail for the Guadalcanal on May 23, 1943. EF: Then the Marines left
and our one gun battery joined the Marines
because they were short an aircraft defense battery. We were told we were fortunate enough
to be chosen to go with the Marines into Guadalcanal to make a landing there. An invasion there. JZ: The Guadalcanal is in the Solomons? EF: Yeah, we went to Bougainville which is
an island north of the Guadalcanal. Bougainville was a horrible experience. JZ: This was your first time in combat then? EF: No, well we fired our guns many times
before that but this was the first time I ever made a landing under fire. The naval
vessels blasted the shores before we landed. They put tons and tons and tons of ammunition into the shores. Our planes straiffed and dive bombed the area where the Japs were concentrated. They
beat the Japs back quite a few. The Marines went ahead of our battery. As the marines went in, after all this bombardment that took place they suffered heavy causalities and we came onto the beach
to set up our guns they were bringing the bodies of Marines out on stretchers. They
had stretchers tied to the sides of jeeps transporting the Marines to shore to have
them evacuated on hospital ships. Quite a few Marines were wounded plus a lot of them
were completely dead. I saw them. JZ: So when you were landed you were the second
wave? EF: Yes. We went in behind the Marines. JZ: Tell me about when you landed, you were
in full gear? EF: That was in Luzon in the Philippines. JZ: You were brought to shore on? EF: On barges. In order to make the landing
we would climb down the sides of the ships far of of shore on rope ladders.
They had rope netting hanging down from the sides of the ship. It was very difficult with
the full pack and rifles and gas mask and whatever. With all that weight the climb down
these nets and getting into the boat bobbing up and down furiously was not an easy thing
to do. JZ: Did anybody ever fall? EF: Oh sure. Then we headed towards shore.
We were given signals when it was proper time to head for shore. We would come
into shore after the Marine boats had
landed. We followed the Marines inward. Inland. JZ: And you had the 90 millimeter guns? EF: We had the 90 millimeter guns on certain
barges and all our equipment. JZ: You brought them on shore? EF: Yes, we brought them on shore. JZ: And what? You had a tractor? EF: We had means of pulling each gun into
position. In the mean time we had to use our rifles incase we had hand-to-hand combat.
We had our bayonet fixed. JZ: What kind of gun did you have? EF: I had an M-1 then, a Garand. I had a .45
side arm and a jungle knife. JZ: A jungle knife? What’s that? EF: I’ll show you. [Tape pauses] JZ: So a jungle knife, you got that off the
natives? EF: Yes, they made them. Somewhere they got
pieces of steel and I imagine it might be… …steel from
them or I don’t know. They made a blade out of that. There was a lot of deer around
and would get the deer antlers. The natives were still a lit bit uncivilized. A lot of
the women wore no clothes. On one occasion two officers and I went on a reconnaissance mission.
[Interruption, Tape paused] JZ: So the military allowed you to have these
knives? EF: Oh yeah, they encouraged it, especially when you were in combat. I was telling you about the natives. These two lieutenants and I
went on this reconnaissance to
hunt for a Japanese ammunition dump. We went through the jungle and we found it.
There were a lot of things I would have liked to have as souvenirs but we
were cautioned not to touch anything
because a lot of things were booby-trapped. Consequently I didn’t get anything
but I did get a helmet off of a dead Jap. As we were going through this area,
we encountered a small village of native
Kenackies, and all the women were bare breasted. This one woman says, “Hey Joe!”
They called every G.I. a Joe, “you like banana?”
I said, “Yeah, we’ll take some bananas.” I said, “Ok” So she gives me a big stalk of bananas and she tells me five francs, so I give her the five francs. So we took ’em back, we were
traveling in a jeep, the three of us were
traveling on because there were no roads. We had to go along the sand on the beach
or where ever there might be a path. So we put the bananas in the
jeep and went back to our main camp. They said, “Gene, what do you
want to do with these bananas?” I says, “Oh, you put ’em in your tent and I’ll come down and have one every once in awhile.” So these two officers, they hung them
up on a tent pole. They next day I went
down and said, “How about a couple bananas?” “You can have them all!” He said, “Those damn things gave us diarrhea!” They were mad at me. He says, “What the hell (did) ya buy them for?!” They both had diarrhea all night from eattin’ those bananas. JZ: Did you eat them? EF: No, not after they told me that. But, ya know, this one officer, his name was lieutenant Poleski. He’s one of the guys that told us,
our battery, how fortunate we were to be
chosen to go into Bougainville with the Marines. I said, “like a hole in the head.”
Why would anybody want to go into
combat like that voluntarily without hesitating? So, we were supposed to be honored
going in with the Marines. This same lieutenant after we landed, a few weeks later. He’s up with his
hands around a palm tree. And he’s trying to shake this
palm-tree, it’s so big and so heavy ya couldn’t even
budge it. He’s making like he’s shaking it and saying, “Come down here, you son of a bitch! Come down here, you son of a bitch!” He
thought there was a sniper up in the tree. They took him away. I found out
later on that they gave him a section
eight, which was a medical discharge. But that’s the same guy
that told us how lucky we were to be chosen. JZ: And he was in the army? EF: Yeah he was a First Lieutenant. And he’s
over there trying to shake a tree. JZ: Was this during combat? EF: This is when we were subject to shelling by
the Japanese. He thought there was a sniper up there. JZ: Tell me about your combat experience when
you were on Bougainville? EF: We first set up guns along the beach.
The main purpose of our protection was to protect a stretch of land that they wanted
to an air strip. So they brought in the CBs, the Navy Construction Battalion, to build
this air strip because the Japanese were shelling and bombing the heck out of us. The CBs
built the strip and at that time I had a radio station. I had a hole in the ground with sand
bags all around it and I would contact other parts of my regiment that were
on other islands. Dog Battery from
the 70th was the only battery there at this time. The other batteries were
all spread out throughout the other islands. In order to maintain contact with headquarters
and the other officers we had to have a radio. I went to school and was trained. I had this
radio station in a hole in the ground with sand bags all around it and I
would keep our officers in contact
with all the other officers in other parts. Well, as I set up my radio in this place
and we set up our guns to protect the area. Every night the Japs would come
through with their bombers, their Mitsubishis,
and they would blast the heck out of our area. Ya would just crawl into a fox hole
or stay down in my hole. I would contact the other
areas and tell them we were
under attack and stuff like that. They would send messages to my
officers and I would copy the messages down. We had codes. We had to decipher
the codes and write out the messages
on message pads and give them to the officers. JZ: This was all by Morse Code? EF: No, this was phonetic. This was
by phone. However, I was capable of using
the code too because I was taught both ways I had to learn the code also, I could
use either one. However, when it was
possible I would use the microphone. So I get a message, “Be prepared for Condition
Black.” JZ: What does that mean? EF: Condition Black was your subject to be
invaded by the enemy by sea. JZ: How big is this island? I am trying to
get the scale of it. Fairly big? EF: I can’t tell you. It’s a big island. JZ: So you’ve been there for…? EF: Well for thirty days we had been shelled
by Japanese artillery from another island right off of where we were. They’re shooting shells
and they’re landing all over us. So we had to spend a lot of time in the fox holes.
At one time we had a 155 ammunition dump close by. Right near where my radio station
was. Well, they actually had a lot of duds. Their equipment was horrible, there
tanks were junky, their guns were junky
and a lot of shells were duds, fortunately. In one volley of artillery shells
they hit the 155 ammunition dump. Consequently there was shrapnel
flying everywhere. The only thing you
can do is get down in a hole and pray. This other town I was telling you
about was when we got the report that it was Condition Black. Someone in our intelligence sighted an invading Japanese force that was coming to make a landing. They told us to prepare for hand-to-hand combat and put your bayonets on your rifles. Fix bayonets. We all got into a
fox hole and waited for them to come. JZ: Were we right near the beach then? EF: Oh, right on the beach. We waited
and waited and finally I got the radio report,
all clear, they had been intercepted by our navy. Right after that, Boom. A shell hit right in the middle of our kitchen tent and all our food was blown up. Even after that some of the cans we salvaged, we’d open ’em up and there’d be shrapnel in the different canned foods. We had big gallon cans, ya know,. And some of these cans had shrapnel in them from these Japanese. Well, we finally got a plane
to spot this Japanese artillery position. However, the plane’s radio was on a
different frequency from what our radios were. So we couldn’t communicate with the plane and he couldn’t give us the information that we wanted. Accidentally, I found a way of
connecting a counterpoise, which is a
big wire spider spread out on the ground, and use that with your vertical
antenna, a big high antenna. This counterpoise
improves the signal, reception and transmission. So I found out by accident by putting my
counterpoise directly into the antenna coil of
my transmitter, I could speak to the man on the plane. He would give me correct information.
We would set our guns up and fire towards
this island and try to hit this position, these Japanese. This man in a small spotter plane,
he would give me the coordinates whether, to give more elevation or to what Azimuth
corrections to make in order to hit the target. So we shot so many
smoke shells to get the position. He’d tell me the corrections to make and I would
get on the telephone an’ tell the guns and the officers, whether to raise their guns up, move them left
or right, east or west and we finally knocked ’em out. There was a live volcano right beyond these (Japanese). They must have hit that volcano or something,
because we got a little tremor, like an earthquake. It’s the first earthquake I have ever felt. We had jungle hammocks, which had mosquito
netting and you would string them between two trees. A couple mornings after that I
was in the jungle hammock sleeping
and all of a sudden my hammock is moving. I get out and the ground is moving.
I felt like I was pickled, like I was drunk. They finally told me that it was another
shock wave from the volcano that erupted. This was just an odd experience. JZ: Everyone slept in these jungle
hammocks and they’d just tie them between
trees with netting around it. Is that comfortable? EF: Better then sleeping on the ground. All
through maneuvers I would sleep on the ground. (I’d) Wake upin the morning with snow or frost
all over me. Slept on the cold ground. Even in the Carolinas there’d be frost all over ya in the morning. A lot of things I don’t
remember anymore. I don’t have a good memory anymore. That’s over sixty years ago. JZ: On June 18, 1943 there was a massive air
attack of 120 Japanese aircraft. EF: That was in Guadalcanal. JZ: You participated in the Guadalcanal as
well? EF: Yeah, that’s where we worked before
Bougainville. We went up through the Solomons and then we went to Lae, New Guinea. Then
we went to the Admiralty Islands and we went from there to launch our invasion on the Philippines. JZ: Tell me about this attack then. You remember
seeing all those dog fights on the Guadalcanal. EF: Oh it was frightening. There were so many
planes up there shooting at each other. And we were ordered not to fire
our guns in fear of hitting friendly planes. Another thing I might mention, we were able to identify
an enemy plane or weather it was a friendly plane by a gadget that was called I.F.F. – Identification
of Friend or Foe. This was an instrument that would send a secret signal that we were
able to detect on our radars. Incidentally
each battery had a radar, I didn’t mention that. The radars could tell if it was an enemy plane
or a friendly plane because of this I.F.F. signal. If they didn’t show an I.F.F. signal we would shoot
at them. We always watched for that I.F.F.. When there was this massive air battle
up there, we couldn’t endanger the lives
of our aviators in our planes by firing bursts. The ammunition in these guns goes up
to a certain area in the sky which is calculated
by our computers, where that burst was going to be. It’s timed and it’s a burst in a certain
time and a certain position in the sky. We like to make a cluster of four bursts
in that area of where the enemy planes were. We had four guns and the
position of the guns on the ground is the
position of where the burst should be in the sky. We had to stand by at the time
and wait for a clear signal, but we didn’t
have to because our planes massacred ’em. Of course we had a lot of casualties
too, it’s in the news article but it’s too detailed. I can’t get through all that
detail. It’s boring enough as it is. JZ: Oh, I’m not bored. *tap cuts* Now did you keep a diary? Did this come from your diary? EF: I have three diaries, three books. You
need a microscope to see the writing it’s so small. JZ: Guadalcanal is another island as well.
Did you have to land on Guadalcanal like on Bougainville? EF: No. Guadalcanal we pulled almost up to
the land and got into boats and landed. JZ: What goes through your head? Was that
your first time on combat? EF: I was scared a lot. When I’m
in a hole there or in a gun emplacement
or in Headquarters we’re all sandbagged in, and bombs are *imitating bomb
noises* coming down alongside ya,
and there’s shrapnel flying all over the place, I’d get down on my knees and pray. It’s
scary. Maybe I’m yellow but it’s scary. JZ: Do you think your faith got you through
it? EF: Yeah, right. I was wondering if I
would ever see my darling again. She was
foremost in my mind. My mom and my darling. JZ: Tell me about some other stories you have? EF: Well, I’ll tell you something about the people, the natives. In the Philippines they had some strange habits. Such as, a lot of the women would smoke cigarettes and would put the lit end of the cigarette into their mouth. I know it’s crazy, but they enjoyed a
cigarette better if they have the lit end inside
there mouth. They would swallow the ashes. The Philippine’s people were very friendly.
I made a friendship with a young boy, Ramon. He would come to my tent. Oh,
by the way it rains a lot in the Philippines. We had to build walk-ways between tents out of bamboo. There are huge forests of bamboo there. The natives make everything
out of bamboo, including there homes. This is outside of the cities. They
had bamboo homes up on stilts because of the prevalence of rain. They had chickens and pigs
running around under the houses. This Ramone became a good friend of mine. I don’t know why he took a liking to me. He said he was
my boy, an’ he wanted ta take me to meet his family. I said, “Ok Ramon, the next time
I’m free to go out and I get a pass, I’ll go
along with you and you can take me to your barrio.” They call their little villages
barrios. So, he says, “Sergeant, would you
like to go with me today to visit my mother?” I says, “Sure! I’m off today.” I got my
pass and he took me down to a river
an’ he had a dugout canoe in the river. that’s a canoe made out of a log
that’s dugout, that’s what a dugout is. I got in and he paddled that canoe
with one oar. I don’t know how he did it, because I tried it and I couldn’t keep
it straight. He could paddle that canoe and keep it on a direct course. We went down this river though the jungle and we went on and on an’ on. an’ every time we pass another canoe
coming from the opposite direction, every time we came to a canoe they would speak in their native tongue. I’d say, “What’d he say?” “Oh he wants to know
where were going.” I says, “well you don’t have to
tell him, its none of his business where were going.” I didn’t understand then that that’s a tradition
the Filipinos have as a friendly greeting, ta ask where you’re going, not that they want to mind your business. I was wrong. So, Anyhow, we got down to his barrio and he took me up to where his home was. Which was a big bamboo shack on
stilts. And down below the shack was a
big circle of women weaving palm leaves. They called them nipa palm, they have a very wide
leaf. An’ they were weaving them to make roof shingles. They use these big wide palm leaves, they weave them and they tie them with bamboo string onto the roofs. This group gets together and makes them and sells them to make a couple bucks, couple pesos I mean. And these women are, and he comes by and they speak in their native tongue. He explains, they want to know who I was. I had a smaller version of the
M1 Gerand. I had that rifle with me and
they wanted to know why I had my rifle with me. I explained that I am ordered to
carry it wherever I go and not to be alarmed. So then they all saluted me. Then as he
went up this bamboo ladder into his house
to meet his mother, they all started singing. They continued to weave and they
were singing. It was beautiful. It was
quite impressive to me because I love music. But they were all singing real nice. All these
women in a circle, must’ve been a dozen or so women. So I entered this house and his mother,
a little shrunken gray haired woman, came over and he bowed, took her hand and held it
to his forehead and he said, “kabisaan uchikai oh.” And I says, “What’s that Ramon?” He
says, “Oh that’s the Filipino custom to greet
your mother, it’s the same as saying I love you.” So I was very impressed by that, so I took her hand
and said the same thing. She was very much moved. She told him in Filipino that I must stay for supper. Boy was I sorry I ever agreed. [Laughing] It was horrible! They had some kind of stuff made out of raw coconut and they had a vegetable something like turnips. And so Ramon says, “Sergeant you must eat, you must eat. Very guut, very guut, very guut.” JZ: So he spoke English, this young boy?
EF: Yeah he had a few words, “very guut.” I say, “ok, alright.” To please them, not to
insult them, I ate a little bit. Well the raw Coconut
was real sweet, they had a lot of, like, molasses in it. an’ I don’t like the taste of molasses, but I ate some anyhow and it kinda nauseated me, but I just did enough. an’ he (Ramon) says, “ohhh some more, some more!” Oh no, no I can’t eat to much, my stomach very small. So then he gives me this vegetable. He said,
“oh eat, very good, very good.” So I took a bite
of it and then I chewed it up and it was horrible. I forced myself to swallow it and I took another
bite. Then, [imitating Ramon] “more more more!” I took another bite and all of the sudden I
started feeling itchy all over, I broke out in hives. So I says, “I have plenty, plenty. Their
very good, it’s very good, thank you very
much, thank you very much, it’s very good.” But I couldn’t stomach it anymore.
I didn’t want to insult them an’ yet I couldn’t
endanger my health cuz I was itchin’ from head to toe. Well that’s another experience that I
thought of, that you asked for. There’s
quite a few things like that (that) occurred. Some of those Filipinos were very talented.
Very good artists, good painters. They made
trays. They wove trays out of thin bamboo strips, and they painted scenes of the
Philippines on ’em there. I had some of ’em
but they deteriorated and I threw them away. JZ: Now were they much different
from the native people in the Solomons? EF: Actually the natives in the
Solomons were the pure natives, kanakies,
they were black. And they were bushmen They weren’t too well civilized, however, the French people, the white people, were very educated They had what they called
their stores were antiquated, very old-fashioned. Same way in the Philippines, they were very much
behind the times judging by American standards. However, in Manilla I encountered a lot of
Spanish people because the Philippines were once owned by the Spanish until the United
States took it over from Spain in the Spanish American War. The US took the Philippines. Consequently there are a lot of Spanish in the
area and some of those Spanish girls were beautiful, and having been away from white women for four years they looked gorgeous to me. I tried to behave myself. I went to Mass in a cathedral in Manilla on Eater Sunday and it was very impressive. The Catholic Filipinos are very devout. It was a very nice Easter Mass but I missed
my honey and my home. I never got over being homesick all the time. JZ: I’m always curious, because you were
Italian American did you ethnicity ever come up with anybody in the military? EF: No, because several of my buddies were
Italian Americans. I was the only one from Pittsburgh. There were some from Wilksburg
and eastern Pennsylvania but there were Italians from New Jersey, New York, Long Island and
one Italian was from New Orleans, Louisiana. Most of them were from New York and that area
and New Jersey. But I never had any difficulty with the fact that I was Italian especially
since I made sergeant, I got a little more respect. However, I was inducted into
our regular army outfit. These were all men that volunteered and signed our regular enlistment.
They were very envious of the draftees that came in and especially if a draftee
was promoted they raised all kinds of hell. When I got my PFC and eventually my
sergeant rating they were really burning up. They’d say, “We’re career soldiers, we signed up for a three year term.” But I was in there for over three years. They were enlisted men and consequently
they didn’t want draftees, this particular group. Most of these men
were Tennessee hillbillies. They all loved moonshine and no matter
where they went they would find a still, a bootlegger. JZ: Okay. EF: And they’d buy white lightening
and would be pie-eyed drunk. And when we
got to the Philippines they did the same thing. In the Solomons some of the natives
made wine called Nipa and they would always
manage to get a hold of a lot of Nipa. It was alcoholic. JZ: So you made sergeant
when you were in the states? EF: No. I made sergeant overseas. I made PFC
in transit. I don’t remember if I made PFC in Baltimore or after I was on the ship. I can’t remember that. But I did make sergeant in New Caledonia. I was buck sergeant for awhile. JZ: What does that mean if you’re buck sergeant? EF: Buck sergeant has three stripes
and then I was made a technician sergeant. That’s three stripes with a T. It’s the same pay. JZ: What was your pay?
EF: You want to know what I
made when I went inta the army? JZ: Yeah. EF: Fifteen dollars a month. That was my pay.
Wait a minute, twenty-one dollars a month. JZ: That’s as a PFC? EF: I made twenty-one dollars as a
private. I don’t know what I made as a
PFC. Twenty-one dollars when I was inducted. It wasn’t much more later on, you never got much. I always had it sent home to my
parents. I had no need for money. JZ: Did anybody keep the money? You couldn’t
use it. EF: Oh yeah. Like in Noumea they had a place
to go buy a candy bar or something like that. Maybe I would save a buck out of my allotment.
Instead of sending the whole amount I would go and buy a few candy bars. We got free cigarettes. JZ: Did you smoke? EF: I smoked like crazy. Thank God I had sense
enough to quit once I got back to civilian life. But they did give us free cigarettes. JZ: Tell me about, you were in the
army and you were put with the Marines. Was there any conflict there because you were in the army? EF: No, just that one operation. JZ: And that was in Bougainville. EF: Yeah, that one operation because
they were shy one anti-aircraft battery. JZ: [reading notes and muttering] So you had pretty much cleared the Japanese out? EF: Yeah, but there were a lot
there, and after we left there were
still a lot of Japanese back in the mountains. JZ: Tell me about your job, you were with
the radio now? EF: I started out in basic training as a gunner,
then I was on the machine gun for awhile. I was on everything. I was on the 90 millimeter
gun crew. I was on the radar. I was at various times an observer, a perimeter observer watching
enemy movements. Then I went to radio school and they sent me a big transmitter out and
I took over the transmitter. Ninety percent of the time after that I was radio man by
myself. I did give classes sometimes on radio just so they would understand how it works
incase something happened to me. Other than that I was strictly radio operator. Of course
I had all kinds of combat training and rifle training an’ so forth, use of the bayonet.
How to charge and so forth. JZ: So most of the time there were 155s or
did you use the 90 millimeter? EF: We only used the 155s at Fort Eustis at
basic training for three months. Then we went to 90 millimeters anti-aircraft. JZ: So most of the times on the island were
you firing against enemy aircraft? EF: Oh yeah. We would fire against enemy aircraft
and sometimes we would be getting bombed. I would give corrections on the telephone
and I would be in contact with the other batteries on different islands and we would always shoot
at the same area. My commanding officer would stand by my side and I would tell him everything
I heard on phone or on the earphones or on the radio. JZ: Can you fire a 90 millimeter on land (targets)? EF: Oh yes. JZ: You can use them on both? EF: We could use them for anti-tank or enemy positions. We had different kinds of ammunition for those things. JZ: Oh, different ammunition. EF: The Japanese had a different kind too.
When I was in there they attacked us on Bougainville, they would drop what they called Daisy-cutters.
These bombs were anti-personnel and when they hit the ground they would give a big burst
of shrapnel, pieces about the size of a quarter or so. The shrapnel would fly all over the place. I
woke up in the morning sometimes after an attack, and when I went outside there were pieces all over the place. I was in my hole. JZ: What did they look like? Just pieces of
metal? EF: Jagged metal. Chunks of metal, steel or
whatever. They would be shattered all over
the place. They called them Daisy-cutters. JZ: I’ve heard of them. EF: They’re anti-personnel. One thing I
forgot to mention, on November 10, 1943 to December 12, 1944 we endured constant daily
and nightly bombing and shelling attacks. The island of Bougainville was not yet secured
by allied forces. 24,000 Japanese troops still occupied much of the island when Dog Battery
prepared to advance to New Guinea. JZ: So you were there for a year? EF: Yeah. Well, right. And Dog Battery boarded
the U.S.S. Sheridan, ready to sail to New Guinea. When we got to New Guinea we
landed at Lae. We came up the beach in
Lae and four days later we got back on the ship again, and left New Guinea and landed on Manus
Island in the Admiralty Island Group. The reason we went to this Manus Island was because
they had a dry dock there and the U.S.S. Sheridan could not keep up with the convoy. So what
they did was bring the Sheridan into a dry dock, which is a huge bracket that a ship
sits on and they drain the water out so the whole bottom of the ship is exposed. They
ordered all the men on our ship, every man had to get off the ship and go down under
the ship with brushes and scrapers and scrap the bottom of that ship. Scrap the barnacles
off the ship because the barnacles were the reason the ship couldn’t go fast enough. JZ: What are barnacles? EF: Barnacles are shell fish that attach themselves
to everything underwater. There like little cones. This is a baby barnacle. The ship was
completely covered, every inch of the bottom
of the ship. It keeps the speed down on the boat. JZ: Boy, a little thing like that can slow
it down. EF: Well yeah, because there are millions
of them. JZ: Of course your job was to? EF: We were all given scrapers and long handled
brooms. [losses clip and fumbles with mic] Even the officers were down there. I was along side the brass scraping and I made a friend from my home town. He was an officer in the Navy. His name
was Unitas, Jerry Unitas from my home town. He was the cousin of Johnny Unitas that played for the Baltimore Colts. So when we got back on the So when we got back on the ship we
prepared to make our landing on Luzon. It was around Christmas time. JZ: December 20, 1944. EF: December 20, 1944 preparations
were made to invade the Philippines. We weighted anchor toward
Leyte Island in the Philippines. However, Christmas occurred when we were
on that ship as you can see by my dates here. The Navy had brought a ship load of Christmas
presents for the navy men, this was a Navy ship. So this Jerry Oneidas, this officer, they had a beautiful set up for them. We were down in the moldy hold in our bunk beds. An’ they had the beautiful suite upstairs for
the officers. So he came down and looked me up. He found me down in the hold and took me
up to the officer quarters for the Christmas party. Those lucky guys had all
kinds of good stuff to eat and I was eating
garbage. And they opened Christmas presents. He said, “Look Eugene. Look what I got
here.” He opened a box and got a real fancy tie. He
says, “Now what in the Hell am I going to do with this?” He’s dead now. Whether he died in combat
I don’t know but he’s gone. But he was good enough to come down
and look me up. He was a neighbor of mine. So we went to the Philippines
and like I said we landed in the water. We thought we were going to Leyte. However we
past the islands of Mindanao and Leyte and we pulled a sneak attack from the absolute northern
piece of Luzon, which is on the Lingayan Gulf. We came in the Lingayan Gulf and the landing
craft was unable to proceed all the way to the beach compelling us
members of Dog Battery to disembark into
nearly four feet of water and wade to shore. With full packs on our backs, full
ammunition belts, loaded rifles with
bayonets fixed, our gas masks and whatever. JZ: Were you under fire at this time? EF: Fortunately the infantry had beaten the
Japs back far enough that we could land peacefully. The infantry was ahead of us
and they had pushed the Japanese back
enough so we didn’t have to land under fire. We were very fortunate. We
followed them all the way down ta Manilla. JZ: And during this time was this all jungle? EF: No, there’s Barrios hear and there.
Little towns. They called them Barrios. JZ: So with your 90 millimeter guns were you
firing them into enemy aircraft? EF: Oh yes. JZ: So there were aircraft the Japanese still
had in operation? EF: Oh yes. They were getting pushed back
though, pushed south. We landed on the north
beach and the infantry went ahead of us, for cleanup. But the Navy blasts! Before they (infantry) land, they blast the place with artillery, big guns on the ships. JZ: The artillery is in support of the infantry,
were they with you as well? Were you supporting the infantry as well? EF: Oh yes. JZ: The 155s and other guys
like that would help the infantry directly. EF: Yeah, they would fire inland
over there heads. They would try to wipe
them out before the infantry and Marines get there. They do the best they can but there not a hundred percent. There still are a lot of casualties. JZ: Now was MacArthur there with you? Would he land there? EF: No. He landed later on. JZ: But in that same spot? EF: I’m not quite sure but all I know is that I saw
pictures of him landing with water up to his ankles. Maybe not that high. Just covering
his shoes. When he left the Philippines
when the Japanese invaded he said, “I will return.” That was a famous statement he made. Well, when he landed and so called
waded ashore he said, “I have returned.” Now at the funerals I use one of his
statements at the end of one of my prayers. I say, “My commander, General
Douglas MacArthur once said, ‘Old soldiers never die.'” An’ that’s one of my closing statements in one of my prayers that I say. JZ: I’ve heard that. Does he say
something else after that? “Old soldiers
never die?” Or is that it? That’s the saying? EF: Well that’s not the whole statement.
“Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.” But I don’t put that on there because I’m
standing in front coffin of a dead soldier or dead sailor. Well,I don’t say it for sailors,
I just say it for Marines or soldiers. I say
something else for sailors. I have a different cozy. JZ: What did you think of
MacArthur? He was your commanding
general. They always say, “Oh, he was controversial.” EF: I didn’t have much of any kind of feeling
for him. I didn’t have any association with him. All I know is that he was the head of what
they called the Americal 23rd Division. JZ: And what is that, Americal? Why did they
call it that? EF: I don’t know, that’s what they just named
it. I was a member of the Americal Division,
70th Coast Guard Artillery Anti-Aircraft Regiment. JZ: Was that maybe because Australians served with you? Americal? EF: I don’t know where they derived the name from.
All I know was that it was called the Americal Division. He had his headquarters
in Australia for a long time. JZ: Tell me about the Japanese soldiers? I
don’t know if you had any close contact. EF: I didn’t have any close contact
except prisoners sometimes. My feelings
towards war in general, I’m very much against war. There’s nothing beautiful about war. War is just legalized murder and you’re just out there to kill somebody. And your enemy is in the same boat you’re
in. He’s put there because he has to be there. He’s forced to be there and I’m forced
to be there and we’re forced to kill each other. But for protection, ya gotta
defend yourself. Protect your own life. That’s the only reason you have to kill,
is ta’ protect your own life that’s the way I feel.
There’s nothing glorious or glamorous bout war. That’s my personal feelings and
some people may object to me saying that. There’s not one thing that’s glorious or
glamorous about war, I’ll stick to that till my dying day. An’ I still think that they ought to bring our people home from Iraq as soon as possible. JZ: When you got down to Manilla, what was
it like there? EF: Manilla was a thriving city. However,
the Filipinos are very enterprising people, they had stores and restaurants and loads
of prostitutes. The poor things, (It was) Sad. But then like I said, They were devout
Christians, the ones I encountered. A lot of
them were very good people, trustworthy people. There were some I wouldn’t trust but
majority were nice people. The one thing
about the kids, I enjoy kids, the kids were so cute. They study hard and English was their second
language. They liked to speak to you in English
and they wanted you to speak to them in English. An’ they do pretty well. But
they don’t have a Toys ‘R Us stores there. So the kids would enjoy themselves
by catching a cricket and making a
little harness and tying a string around it, and make the crickets do so
called tricks. It was so cute! they’d say, “Sergeant look at this, look at this. He’s
gonna do a somersault.” They’d jerk the
string and the cricket would flip over. [laughing] I enjoyed the school kids. I went to
several of the schools and talked to some
of the teachers, they were dedicated teachers. JZ: This was after the Japanese surrendered? EF: Well no. They didn’t surrender until I was discharged. I was back in the States when they surrendered. I was on my honeymoon when
they surrendered, I was in Atlantic City. JZ: So you ended your service in the Philippines. EF: We had what was called the point system.
You got so many points each month you were overseas. You got points for different things.
I don’t remember what the points were for. I had accumulated enough points to discharge
ten people being overseas all that time. forty months! JZ: Yeah, you got drafted before the war
even started. EF: When I was told that I was going to go
home I was jumping with joy because the war wasn’t over yet. I hated to leave some of my buddies because
I made real close friends with some of them. Some of them cried and some of the little Philippine kids cried when I got onto the truck to go to Manilla. You see, we were still up north in Binmalley, a small Barrio. I got onto the truck and I can still see one particular
little boy standing there crying because I was leaving Anyhow, a good friend of mine, a staff sergeant from Wilmington, Delaware he also shed a tear when I left. I said, “I wish you could go
with me.” He said, “Yeah, so do I. When you
get back give my wife a call and tell her that I’m okay.” His wife Katie. They were real good
friends, even after the war. We would visit each
other quite often. He became real wealthy by the way. Anyhow, I boarded an Air Force C54.
A great big Air Force transport at Nichols Field in
Manilla and made hops all the way across the Pacific. We landed at Guam, Kwagalen Island,
Johnson Island and finally the Hawaiian Islands.
From the Hawaiian Islands we landed at Hickam Field. That was one of the fields that was struck during the Pearl Harbor attack. Hickam Field was hit very hard. A lot of planes were destroyed then during the Pearl Harbor attack. On June 23, 1945 I landed at Hickam Field from
the north. Then I boarded a plane and touched down on June 30, 1945 at Hamilton Field,
San Francisco after landing on all those islands. JZ: I bet you were so happy to be back on
American soil. EF: So then I was a NonCom in charge
of ten fellows that were up for discharge
with me and I had to see that they got on the train. We rode the train all the way
to Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania. JZ: So you probably passed through Pittsburgh? EF: Yes. JZ: I bet you wanted to stop in Pittsburgh? EF: That hurt. Yeah so I got to Indiantown
Gap and I got my Honorable Discharge. JZ: I’m curious. In the Philippines
did you hear anything about the soldiers
that had been captured and had been tanned? Did you hear
anything about it? EF: I didn’t hear any details but I knew
about it. It was horrible what those men went through. JZ: Did you hear any of the stories when they found them in the prison camps after they were liberated? EF: I heard mouth to mouth. I heard stories
about how they were abused and how they suffered and everything. It was really moving to me. I felt so badly about those poor guys. It was horrible what those guys went through. That’s another reason why these
guys in Iraq are not having a picnic. But
you hear their wives say that there going to have to be there for another month. What’s
a month compared to four years plus? JZ: Your generation served four years, five
years of war. EF: A lot of my guys didn’t come back. A
lot of them lost their lives. I was lucky. Like I say, those bombs have no respect for
anybody. Fortunately God was with me and brought me back safe and sane. I did have a form
of fever, dengue fever. It has symptoms of malaria. However, it isn’t as permanent as malaria. I had nausea and stomach pains and diarrhea at times but I survived. JZ: Did you receive any awards or medals? EF: Just my regular medals and they’re over
there in that room. Anyhow, we were compelled to take salt pills everyday and a pill called
Atabrian, was to prevent the occurrence of malaria. It makes your complexion
a little yellow and your urine becomes yellow.
But we were compelled to take them both everyday. The salt pill was because of perspiration. JZ: Would that make you perspire? EF: Well it prevented you from having heat
exhaustion. JZ: Of
course it was always hot. EF: It was the jungle. It was hot, very hot.
I received the American Defense Medal. I received the South Pacific Campaign
Medal. I received the Good Conduct Medal. I got six medals. I got the Philippine
Liberation Medal. I got two Philippine
medals. I have to look, I can’t remember. JZ: When you came home, I’m curious
to know, there wasn’t much excitement
when many soldiers came home, no parades? EF: No Vietnam. Well, not when I came home. JZ: Of course the war
wasn’t over. Well it was in Europe. EF: Well, right. JZ: How do you think the war affected you? EF: Well, I can’t help feel that I lost
over four years of my life. I mean I’m not I mean I’m not real happy that I did it. I don’t
think it was such a great thing. I was drafted, I didn’t volunteer. An’ if I hada volunteered
maybe I would feel different. Like I said, I hate war. Just like Roosevelt said, “I hate war.” But in the meantime he sent all us guys overseas to fight. Anyhow, you got to do what you got to do. Its Gods will, and God took care of me, thank God. I thank God. It could have been a lot worse.
I saw a lot of guys (who), gotta lot worse I go to the Vet’s hospital and see
these guys, they’re still suffering from it. JZ: Tell me about how you got involved with
the VFW and now you’re a Chaplin. EF: Well when I was overseas I got a letter from the
VFW from the Uhlman-Horne post in Mount Oliver, PA. They suggested that since I was overseas I was
eligible to become member of the Veterans for Wars. So I joined at that time. When I was discharged
and I came back they were located close to my home. I thought maybe I’ll be an active member. However, the first communication that I received from that post was, “Our next meeting will be, So and so time, bring a hammer and a saw so we can build our stands for our carnival. They never said a word of
welcome home after being over there all
that time. Nothing. Bring a hammer and a saw. So I thought, the heck with this.
Then later on I was approached to rejoin
by the American Legion in Bethel Park. I sent in my applications and
they Hem and Hollered around like they
weren’t very interested, so I said forget it. Then this outfit where I’m at
now approached me. The Library VFW. These people are all old miners
and farmers and they approached me to join. They said just come out and look over the place. I went out and they made a big fuss over me. They were so nice to me I couldn’t resist. Well, after I joined, they conned
me into being Chairman of the Board,
Board of Directors, Trustee, and do this and do that. Me and another fellow, (he) fought in Europe
and was a disabled veteran, he talked me into
going to the schools and give talks on patriotism. So I finally agreed and
we started that program. We were appreciated very much
and complimented a lot. And as a matter of fact a lot of
the kids sent me wonderful letters for
thanking me for coming to their school and talking about our government
and the flag. These letters are so cute and
beautiful. That influenced me in continuing. After that, I was approached by the South
Hills Military Honor Guard Society. They needed a Chaplin. At the mean time I was assistant
chaplain at the Library. They also elected
me as adjutant. There were so many duties. We have essay contests for the
kids and award the kids saving bonds and have dinners for them. I’m involved in all that stuff and
going to the schools and talking to the kids. It’s time consuming and I’m tired of
it but no one wants to take over my job. It’s too much work for me. Since my
darling wife is gone I have a whole six room house
to take care of and cooking, laundry and housekeeping. Plus the fact that I take the minutes of
every meeting and have to transcribe them
and type them out and read them at the next meeting. The young people don’t want to do it anymore.
I’m trying to get rid of this job very soon. We have participated in about a hundred
funerals within the past year, military funerals. What we do there is have a twenty-one gun salute. We have seven rifle men that give the twenty-one gun salute. After the clergy man speaks I
say two prayers and give the command
for the firing squad to commence shooting. They shoot, an’ then the bulgier plays taps.
Then two representatives from each branch
of the service fold the flag that drapes the coffin. During the course of folding the flag I give
another talk about the representation of three
spent rifle shells and tell them what they represent and then I insert them into the flag as
they’re folden’ it. The highest ranking man from the
forces presents the flag to the survivors of the veteran. That’s the procedure we
follow in a military funeral. That’s it. JZ: Unfortunately you’ve been doing a lot
of funerals. EF: Yes. Particularly World War II veterans.
Sometimes we have two funerals in a day back to back. We have to do one funeral and hurry
across town to do another. It’s quite moving. I have little prayers that I have printed
on cards that if I see anyone weeping at the funeral, after the funeral I offer my condolences and give
them one of these little prayers to help console them. A lot of people have called me and written
thank you notes for having done this. I watch to
see who are most affected by the death of the veterans. JZ: Anything else you want to say? EF: No, I think I beat your ears to a pulp. JZ: I just to say, you’ve served your country
and you continue to do wonderful things today. EF: I’m trying. JZ: No, you’re doing. I hope through these
interviews like you say, “Old soldiers never die.” And we hope your service never fades
and is never forgotten. Thank you so much.


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