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Interview with John Raymond Getzel [2/5/2003]

John Raymond Getzel:

I'm making this recording for the Veterans History Project, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress. I'm starting this recording on February the 5th, 2003. The recording is being taken at my home at 626 South Becker Avenue, Baltimore, Maryland 21224-3911. My name is John Raymond Paul Getzel.

In the service, I was known as John R. Getzel. At home, I'm known as Ray. No other one is here at the interview but myself. I'm self-interviewing.

My date of birth is November 15th, 1925. I was in World War II with the Army of the United States, known as A.U.S., and I was assigned to the Quartermaster Corps. My rank upon discharge was Technician 4th Grade, which was a sergeant stripes with a "T" underneath.

I took my training -- basic, technical and -- and advanced -- at the Quartermaster Training Center at Camp Lee, Virginia at Petersburg, Virginia; and oversees assignment was on Saipan in the Mariana Islands. I'm going to give this interview according to the outline in the manual that was sent.

The first would be Segment 2, Jogging Memory. I was drafted. I started my service on 11 January, 1944, leaving from the Fifth Regiment Armory in Baltimore and being sent to the reception center at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland, the reception center for the Maryland/Virginia personnel.

Why did I join? I was drafted. And, besides, it was land would be under my feet, rather than water. I picked the Army because I always had an interest when I was younger.

I do recall some of the first days in service. One of them was being that there -- there were quite a few men and boys, as I was, from various different modes and types of life, both in Maryland and Virginia, and possibly Pennsylvania. It was different.

How did I feel? Well, lonely at first, but all the other ones were there with the same thoughts. Basic training, I remember that, also. I'll talk about that a little bit later. I do remember -- some of the instructors' names fail me, but I do remember the type of people that were there. And how to get -- did we get through with it?

Well, it was rough and it was tough and it was discipline, but we made it. Most of us were anywhere between 18 and 24, possibly the first time away from home, but we met people that we would have never met had we not been drafted, had we just stayed in civilian life.

We'll move on to Segment 3, Experiences. As I mentioned, I was in World War II. I was overseas at the Saipan in the Mariana Islands under the Pacific Theater of Operations. Saipan is the group of islands that includes Guam. My assignment with the Quartermaster Corps was a clerk/typist to begin with. And overseas I was a Teletype operator and then a chief Teletype operator. We were in no combat directly.

The islands was populated by Japanese soldiers who roamed the island, but we never were in actual full combat. Of course, we were not prisoners of war. As to medals and citations, my individual assigned award medals were the Good Conduct Medal, the American Defense Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Theater of Operations Medal and the Victory Medal. The Unit Citation was the Presidential Unit Citation Medal, and this was for our participation in the POW release operation supply drops after the war -- the Second World War ended.

Segment 4, Life in the Service, both in the United States and overseas. I kept in touch with my family and friends and acquaintances by letter writing. Even to this day I write quite a few letters to relatives or the fellows that I was in the service that we still keep in contact. But that was the most important and the main staying in touch with people.

Now, food in basic was not bad. It wasn't home cooking, but we survived on the food. In general, it wasn't bad. Overseas was the same way. There was plenty to eat. There was no problem there. There was pressure and stress in -- in the training and in the duties and being away from home, being young as we were, most of us being young as we were, and -- but we kept ourselves busy in camp. They had dances. They also have the movies, the theaters that were in -- were on the campsite.

We had passes to Petersburg and Richmond, Virginia. We also had 72-hour passes that we usually went home, from a Friday to a Monday morning. Well, of course, we played cards. A lot of the guys played dice or craps, but I never got involved with that. And we sat around and talked a lot, talked about our families and talked about different things.

As I mentioned, we would have time to go on leave. Other than the 72-hour passes, we had 10-day leave, back in December, 1944, when the Battle of the Bulge was happening over in Belgium and in France. But normally if we got a -- more than 72 hours, we went home and stayed home, had our pleasures at home.

When we left Camp Lee, we were shipped out to Fort Lewis, Washington state, to the port of embarkation, and we traveled through the middle of the U.S., right through Kansas and Nebraska, and we went into Colorado and into Oregon, and, of course, into Washington state to Camp Lewis, or Fort Lewis I believe they call it, where we were preparing to -- to go overseas.

I do have photographs of basic and technical and the overseas trip that we had there, and many a time I'll look at these photographs and recognize people, remember people's names which I never thought about until I looked at the photographs. It's surprising how you can remember things.

Most of the officers were fair. We had some real good ones, but mostly they were second lieutenants, first lieutenants and captains. Once you got past there, they got a little bit of not being good to the -- to the men, to the enlisted men.

And most of the -- my fellow enlisted men were good people. There were some -- some that weren't that good, but you just avoided them and you stayed with the ones that you did like. I made very good friends with about four or five. Most of them were from the West Coast. Seems like the West Coast people, they sent them to the East Coast; the East Coast they sent to the West Coast. But the people that I met, the fellows that I met were good fellows. And I didn't keep a personal diary, so everything I'm mentioning here I'm going strictly from memory.

Basic training was the standard for -- as most veterans have to take. I was with the 87th QM Training Company, 15th QM Training Battalion at the Quartermaster Replacement Center at Camp Lee, Virginia near Petersburg. Some of the things that I remembered in basic training was that we used the 1903 Springfield rifles for training and using only on the rifle range. They were weapons that were made and used from 1903 on, so we were still using them in 1944.

We had to keep the barracks warm with those coal stoves. We were get -- given this duty ever so often. I didn't like it because it was a dirty job and it was pretty hard to keep coal stoves going every night, to them.

We done a lot of KP. If you done wrong, if you fouled up in your training, you ended up on KP on the weekend, plus the regular KP that you got by rotation. Also we had guard duty, which was for 24 hours, still was two hours on guard duty, four hours off of guard duty, but you went for 24 hours. Most of the time it was for fire guard so that if there was a fire anywhere on the post, somebody would find it. Each company, each regimen had its own group of guards.

The guards were also -- the guard duty was also used to work with the regimental prisoners, those that were in for bad conduct or that -- that were AWOL. You had to guard them on work details. And if one got away, you his time until they caught him. Of course, we went out on these guard duties without ammunition. So what would happen if one did try to escape? I have no idea what would -- what would we do.

As a private or recruit private, we made $30.00 a month. Of course, we were paid once a month, so the old song "$30.00 a month" was rather -- was rather appropriate.

At all times, while in the service, when we did mail something out, letters, mostly letters, of course, they were mailed free. What you would do is work -- write the word "free" in the area of the stamp; therefore, you didn't have to pay any postage whatsoever. I think postage at that time, though, was about two or three cents way back then.

After my basic and technical training, I was assigned to the Quartermaster School for Advanced Administrative Work, which was to the end of 1944. And after Quartermaster school, I was then assigned to a company, which later was to be made into the 61st General Depot and the 62nd General Depot. I was assigned to the 61st General Depot Headquarters and that -- that -- this outfit went over to the Pacific. The other half of the company was made into the 62nd General Depot Headquarters, and they were assigned to the European Theater of Operation. We done, again, training. I was then a clerk/typist doing various work there.

We left Camp Lee, Virginia by troop train and we went over to the West Coast and arriving at Fort Lewis, Washington state in May of 1945. This was a port of embarkation to the various areas in the Pacific Theater of Operation. We left Fort Lewis on a troop ship that was convoyed by two destroyer escorts of the Navy.

Even though the Pacific is supposed to be calm, it's not calm when it gets into a storm. We arrived, its -- at Saipan, Mariana Islands, I believe it was -- it was in about two and a half or three weeks because we had to zigzag. We stopped at Hawaii for about 12 hours and continued to Saipan. On the first night on the island, they had an attack siren, and, of course, it wasn't anything that was really serious, but it scared the devil out of all of us being the first night there.

Of course, we had rifles and carbines, but we had no ammunition; maybe best so, because I think if we would have became frightened, we would have maybe shot each other.

Life on the island, it wasn't bad. I mean, we were assigned to Pyramidal tents, which I believe was about four or six men to a tent using cots. It wasn't too bad. The weather was hot. The weather was extremely hot from the standpoint that -- humidity.

We were assigned to various sections. I was assigned to the Teletype section. Various other enlisted men of all grades were assigned to the various service depots; for instance: Medical, quartermaster, ordnance, chemical, signal. They were sent there as advisors, so to speak, for that specialty.

When off duty, we had a little prefab building that we used as a club. 3.2 beer was the only beer that was served in the service. It had to be imported from the United States, so it was -- sometimes it was plenty, sometimes it was nothing. We did have a Coca-Cola plant on the island, so there was plenty of -- of Coke.

We took quite a few pictures of various items, various things on the island. Some of the nicer views was on top of Mount Tapochau, which was the highest mountain on the island. There were various places that had off-limit signs because it was a jungled area and there were Japanese soldiers and sailors that were still hiding in these large jungled areas.

There were signs posted, "Beware - Japanese. Keep out." Life was -- was -- after the war, there -- there wasn't that many of a problem with the Japanese, except that the Japanese did raid the warehouses for food. In late 1945, the last Japanese -- Japanese Oba, Captain Oba, he surrendered his troops -- it was in the paper -- around 19 -- end of 1945.

The war ended there on August the 15th. Here in the United States it was August the 14th. But there it was August the 15th after the atomic bomb was dropped. It was a happy day for all of us. We were all glad that the war was over, and it was one day closer to going home. That was in August.

I was returned home in March of 1946. During the time from August to -- I was sent on to return to the United States, we done our regular, normal everyday office work and it was the same as before the -- during the war, but it was a little bit less of pressure. We were sent to a replacement depot on the island and, in my case, we waited two weeks before a ship was available, it was called Marine Lynx, and it took us about 10 or -- 10 days or 12 days to get back.

We came in at -- San Francisco was our returned port. It was supposed to have been San Diego, but they were so filled with troop ships back then that they diverted us to San Francisco, and, of course, it was beautiful going under the Golden Gates, see the -- the bridge there. It was a cold morning in March. It was rainy and overcast, but to all of us it was a beautiful, beautiful day.

We were transported by ferry to Camp Stoneman in California. The next day we were put on a troop train and it returned us to Fort George G. Meade for our discharge area. My last day of official service was on March the 25th, 1946. I was discharged from Fort George G. Meade to -- and I returned to Baltimore, to my parents' home, which I was still living at. After my arriving home, I visited friends and relatives, and I stayed in uniform for about a week before I switched over to civilian clothes.

We were -- we were proud that we had served and we wanted everybody to know that we had served. I returned to high school. The last semester of high school I had to make up before I graduated. I was drafted in 1944 in my second -- in the first semester of my senior high school, so I didn't really graduate until after I got out of the service.

I graduated in June of 1946 from the Polytechnic Night High School here in Baltimore. I then went to the University of Baltimore under the G.I. Bill of Rights, and I graduated in June of 1950 with a Bachelor of Science degree in industrial management.

Although I never used it in industrial management, I did use that in construction as a purchasing agent and used it through my business career, which I finished and retired in -- in 1990. As I mentioned, we met -- or I met several good friends in the service at various times.

One of my good friends was Jack Stevenson from Washington state. Another was Clarence Candler (ph) from St. Paul, Minnesota; Pete McGuldy (ph) from Boston, Massachusetts; and O'Neil Ray (ph) out of Alabama. I still keep in contact with everyone except Jack Stevenson.

I lost contact with some and have never been able to thus far find any contact back with them. I have written to other people, other fellows that were in the service, but I've lost contact with a lot of those also. I wrote to them occasionally, they'd return and we still talk about the service, and it's like a real good friendly relationship. This has been going on since we got out of the service, so it -- a number of years that we've been -- that we've been corresponding with -- with each other.

The only veterans organization I joined was the Catholic War Veterans. I was with the VFW for a short time, but it never -- just seemed never to be of interest to me.

Before my retirement, I was a purchasing agent for a general contractor. I was a purchasing agent for a manufacturing company, and the last was as an office worker for a mineral warehouse company. I started working in 1950 and, like I say, retired in 1990.

Did the service experience influence me? Yes, it did. I still have my shoes lined up in the cupboard. My clothes all hang a certain way, the same way. When I walk, I still walk with a certain military stride, although at -- at this present speaking, I'm 77, but I still walk in a -- in a military stride as best I can.

I'm patriotic. I think most of these fellows from the Second World War and the Korean War were the more patriotic people rather than any present or past wars. I found the service was very good. We complained a lot, but after you think back, it -- it -- it was -- it was an experience, and it was a lot of fun at times, a lot of work, but it was a lot of fun, and we did meet, as I said, a lot of good people we would have normally not met had we not gone into the service.

The 61st General Depot Headquarters never had a reunion, so I don't know if or when or these people are still around or what has ever happened to them. Like I say, I've lost contact with quite a few of them. This about completes the outline as shown in the book and from my past experience. I do feel that possibly young fellows and girls should really go into the service for one or two years. If nothing else but to give them discipline and cooperation and not such much of the self-centeredness that most of them are today. I enjoyed the service.

After I came out of the service, I joined the Army Reserve for a year and a half, then I joined the 29th Military Police Company of the 29th Military Infantry Division from 1949 to 1952. I haven't been in any kind of -- of service -- National Guard, Reserve or anything -- since that time.

But I have enjoyed making this recording and I hope whoever does hear this in the future will get something from it. I'm available if anybody wants to write or call me. I'm here at (410) 276-8968 at the address that is -- that was at the beginning of this recording. I thank everybody for their cooperation and listening in. One correction, on the good friends I met in the service, I overtaped, Pete McGuldy (ph) from Boston, Massachusetts.

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