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Interview with Paul Norman Moltane [Undated]

Jeffery M. Beers:

Okay, where -- tell me where you went to basic training again?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Great Lakes.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Great Lakes. When you got to the Great Lakes Training Center was that a bit of a culture shock for you?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Oh, no.

Jeffery M. Beers:

No?

Paul Norman Moltane:

I was 27 years old. I heard the last famous words though.

Jeffery M. Beers:

What was that?

Paul Norman Moltane:

You'll be sorry. (Laughter.)

Jeffery M. Beers:

Now, this is a little bit of a difficult question, and that's one of the ones I was talking to you about. How did you feel about being taught to kill?

Paul Norman Moltane:

I wasn't taught to kill. I was a gunner. No, I wasn't taught to kill. You took your basic training, and they never taught you to kill.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Well -- but the guns that you were shooting, did you have any feelings about the fact that those guns and those bullets were going to -- and the shells were going to perhaps kill somebody?

Paul Norman Moltane:

I wasn't worried about it. I'll tell you, I was always on a big gun, see. I was a five-inch 51. I was on a projector about that big. That's where the shrapnel was and there's a powder case out here, and I was the first loader on the big gun, and then I was the loader on a three-inch 50 and forward. On one ship I was forward and the other ship I was on the rear.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Was there anything about your basic training that was memorable to you? Do you have any strong memories about basic?

Paul Norman Moltane:

No, I don't think so. Man, I was a big strong man. I used to walk 40 miles a day. I worked on the railroad as a trucker, and we walked 40 miles a day. It didn't mean nothing to me. That exercise was just a joke for me. I was big and strong. I weighed 200 and -- about 210 pounds of dynamite with a half-inch fuse.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Now, when you were getting close to the end of your basic training how did you feel about the fact that that was going to be over, and you were actually going to be going to war?

Paul Norman Moltane:

We never thought about war. I always thought about getting a ship and going to sea. We hadn't worried about the war. No one ever said war. I want to get out of basic so we can get a ship or something.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Now, did you have a choice when you went on the ship about what job you were going to do?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Oh, no.

Jeffery M. Beers:

They just assigned that to you?

Paul Norman Moltane:

They planned -- see, we only had 29 men and an officer. See, that's all we had.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Uh-huh.

Paul Norman Moltane:

And we didn't have to go by Navy regulation see. We could wear dungarees all day long and all night and go to chow with it. The one thing nice about it, we had waiters. When we went in the mess hall we had waiters to serve us, and that was a good deal.

Jeffery M. Beers:

How did you feel about the job they gave you?

Paul Norman Moltane:

I never thought of it that way. I thought that was --

Jeffery M. Beers:

That was okay with you?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Yeah, and I didn't have to polish brass or nothing like that, see.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Now, after you finished basic training do you recall how long it was before you actually went out on a ship?

Paul Norman Moltane:

About three weeks.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Three weeks. What did you do during that three weeks?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Me, I just waited for a call. I was in the Armed Guard Center, and you got duty there and would give you different duty -- you know, and sometime you sweep the floor, sometime you do mess duty.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Okay, after you got out of basic where did you go first?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Where I went first?

Jeffery M. Beers:

After basic, uh-huh.

Paul Norman Moltane:

Well, I went to Philadelphia and caught a ship there.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Which ship was it?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Wait a minute, wait a minute now, no. We caught a ship, and we went down into New York and then we -- 42nd Street we loaded up, on 42nd Street, and then we went to sea.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Uh-huh.

Paul Norman Moltane:

And we waited for the convoy -- went out and we waited for the convoy. I was the second convoy to go through the Red Sea. We lost three ships there. I was lucky out of the convoy. See, I was riding one that had trains on it and everything. We went to Oran, Africa and we thought we had quite a good load, and then they started putting trains on us, and they put different airplanes and everything on it.

Jeffery M. Beers:

So, where was the ship heading?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Crumshaw, Persia. We went into Persia. Iran is where we landed but it was Crumshaw -- the town was Crumshaw, and the only thing they had -- they used to ration you one beer and one Coke a week, and you could go to town, and that was Crumshaw, and all it was just like Mexico then; little silver shops. I bought a couple rings there and -- one for my wife and one for me. [Inaudible, static in recording.]

Paul Norman Moltane:

It was so hot; 140, 145 degrees, and we used to get the cook to take an egg and break it on the deck, and it would fry it like nothing. That's how hot it was.

Jeffery M. Beers:

What was your impressions of that country when you got there?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Filthy. You could see -- you could be here -- standing here. Here's a guy going to the bathroom, here's a guy getting a drink, and here's a guy fishing, and just as -- the river was just solid like mud.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Hum.

Paul Norman Moltane:

But we ate on the ship. We had everything good.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Now, when you first -- when you first went on the ship how was the morale?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Oh, they were -- the guys were from Brooklyn. You know how they are. They never cared for nothing. Most of them were from Brooklyn.

Jeffery M. Beers:

So, you'd say the morale was good?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Oh, yeah. Well, they were always good. We only had one deal where this guy from Georgia -- and they had a colored waiter, and he got a conflict with because the colored reached over to hand another guy something in front of him, and he got mad. That's the only thing I ever seen.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Uh-huh.

Paul Norman Moltane:

As far as drinking none of them hardly drank. They were all young fellows.

Jeffery M. Beers:

So, the bulk of those guys were from Brooklyn?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Most of them were from Brooklyn, yeah.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Do you know why?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Ha, ha, right by the Armed Guard Center. The Armed Guard Center was in Brooklyn.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Now, tell me a little bit about exactly what the Armed Guard is.

Paul Norman Moltane:

The Armed Guard is -- we protect the ships with the supplies that go over and bring the supplies, and, in fact, they're all supply ships, and that's what we were, we guarded that. If you look at that pointer there you'll see a lot of things in there. In fact, I'll give that you one if you want it.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Okay. Now --

Paul Norman Moltane:

See, I belong to the club.

Jeffery M. Beers:

What's the name of the club?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Armed Guard.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Do they have --

Paul Norman Moltane:

I'm a Merchant Marine too.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Do they have branches throughout the country?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Oh, yeah. They have them from New York on all over. If I had the one that told you how many Armed Guard got killed -- see, my wife's cousin, he was only 500 miles out of New York and got killed.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Oh.

Paul Norman Moltane:

There were subs in there then, 500 miles out of there. Then he got sunk, he got killed, and I got in the same damn outfit right afterwards.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Now, how did you -- tell me about your first encounter where you were being shot at?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Well, I don't think we were shot at. The first encounter was -- that really scared the hell out of me. I was going on watch at 12 o'clock at night -- wait a minute. That's all right -- I was going on watch at 12 o'clock at night, and we always had the blinds -- you had to shut the curtains and everything. I just walked out through the -- what you call it -- the gunwale there, and I took a step over that, and I looked up and here a white flash coming right straight -- right straight in the middle of the ship where I was standing, and all at once it just turned off. It was a porpoise, but it scared me. I'll tell you.

Jeffery M. Beers:

So, do you recall, was your ship shot at, bombed or --

Paul Norman Moltane:

No. That ship -- there was another -- I was -- I was in the invasion there, but we were in the middle of the convoy, and they had 700 ships.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Which invasion are you talking about?

Paul Norman Moltane:

That's in France.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Are we talking about the Normandy Invasion?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Yeah. See, well, hell, one plane went over there and there's 500 guns shooting at him, but we didn't have no trouble there on the beach. With the ammunition ship we didn't go ashore or nothing.

Jeffery M. Beers:

So, you were kind of out offshore?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Yeah, we were offshore.

Jeffery M. Beers:

So, were you there on the first day?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Yeah. The convoy leads right out there -- you know, and then they went in.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Uh-huh.

Paul Norman Moltane:

Your marines and then your soldiers went in, and then there were some -- what you call it from the Navy -- Coast Guard -- Coast Guard went in, but we didn't go in. We just sat out there, and we'd fill up one of those skiffs and shoot it in there and unload it.

Jeffery M. Beers:

And so, what was on the skiffs, ammunition and things like that?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Mostly ammunition, fruit, all kinds of food and stuff. We were sending supplies in too, but there was a lot of ammunition.

Jeffery M. Beers:

How long were you offshore there at Normandy?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Oh, hell, I don't know. I don't know. We sat there about a week. Then we moved on, but I've been all over Africa. I remember Africa, Cape Town. If your buddy was colored you couldn't walk down the street with him. It would cost you $25.

Jeffery M. Beers:

They would fine you for being with someone black?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Oh, yes. Man, the black would step up off the sidewalk when they seen you coming. Boy, it was rough down there in Cape Town, Africa. I think they got that squared away now.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Uh-huh.

Paul Norman Moltane:

But hell, you couldn't go in there.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Did you get used to what you were doing as far as did it become routine for you, or did you -- how did you feel about your job?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Oh --

Jeffery M. Beers:

It had to be done?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Regular -- see, when we went through the Mediterranean there was two on and two off.

Jeffery M. Beers:

What does that mean?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Well, you slept two hours and you stood watch two hours, and you did that for oh, about two weeks. It's all against the regulations to sleep on the hatch, but we were sleeping on the hatch. We'd just get off the gun top and go down and lay on the hatch and go to sleep for two hours, and then your relief would come and shake you, come on, it's time to go.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Did you ever -- this is kind of a difficult question. Did you ever see any of the end results of what you did, because you were helping supply the troops?

Paul Norman Moltane:

No. I never got off the ship because I had to stay on the gun.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Did you ever have to justify to yourself the fact that you were in a war against another people?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Well, you're talking about -- we never thought about it as war. It was a job, and we had to do it. You didn't have no yes or you couldn't talk back or nothing. If he said take that gun there and shoot it you shoot it.

Jeffery M. Beers:

So, you just pretty much did what you were told?

Paul Norman Moltane:

That's all. I was very contented in my life. I wasn't one of these mixed up, get excited kids or nothing. I was 27 years old, and I'd been a bartender when I was 16 years old, and I've been a taxi driver 17 to 20 years. I drove a bus and I know how to deal with people. A lot of people don't know how to live with them, but I lived with them, and I worked for Dow Chemical, and when they let me go because I was a one, see -- they let me go, so then I went to the railroad.

Jeffery M. Beers:

So, they let you go because you were afraid you'd be drafted out of their --

Paul Norman Moltane:

They didn't want to send me to school and --

Jeffery M. Beers:

Invest time in your training, huh?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Yeah. They keep you for five months and let you go. Six months you'd be a steady employee.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Hum. Now, did you have any time where you were able to get off the ship and go relax and --

Paul Norman Moltane:

Oh, you mean look for women?

Jeffery M. Beers:

Leisure time?

Paul Norman Moltane:

No. I never drank or I didn't smoke.

Jeffery M. Beers:

So, what did you do when you got an opportunity to get away?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Go and maybe look up some bar where there was some wine and have a few drinks and Cokes and look around -- look at the -- everything -- you know, but hell, it was mostly blowed away. I can't think of that one place in Italy there. We pulled in there, and there was ships all over so we had a hell of a time getting in there, and we stayed there three or four days 'till things calmed down, and then we went on.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Did you ever have an opportunity to actually talk to anybody in the enemy forces or interreact [sic] with them?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Well, we had Russians on the ship. That's what we hauled. That's where I got that medal for; hauling the Russians into Iran and Crumshaw, Persia, and we went up the Crumshaw River -- you know.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Un-huh. So, you never had any interaction with Germans or --

Paul Norman Moltane:

No, none of that.

Jeffery M. Beers:

-- As far as talking to them or anything like that?

Paul Norman Moltane:

I had good duty. You know what I'm telling you?

Jeffery M. Beers:

Do you know anyone on the ship or anywhere you were stationed that had any of these little side businesses -- you know, where they would --

Paul Norman Moltane:

When I was in Frisco I used to go every night -- see, I was an M.A. there, and every night I'd go and --

Jeffery M. Beers:

Now, what's an M.A.?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Huh?

Jeffery M. Beers:

What's an M.A.?

Paul Norman Moltane:

An M.A. is a master of arms, and so we would go out every night and this guy would pick -- I worked at a fertilizer joint, and then one time he said to me -- he said -- you know taxi cabs, you know streets? I said yeah, I know streets. He said I want you to come tomorrow and deliver. It was on a Saturday, and we was off. So, I want you to deliver fertilizer for me -- holy Christmas -- in Frisco, and I didn't know -- but he drew a map, and I just took the map and followed it up, and what happened was the other guy used to take a day and a half to do it, and I did it in eight and nine hours because I didn't take no chow or nothing. I just delivered, and the regular driver caught heck.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Now, you tell me that you never drank?

Paul Norman Moltane:

No, I never drank, not much. I drank a beer or two -- you know.

Jeffery M. Beers:

But it wasn't a problem for you?

Paul Norman Moltane:

No, no, I never -- no hard liquor or nothing like that.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Now, your buddies, did they drink a lot?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Oh, full of hell. We went in one time -- this is on the -- when I was in T.I.; Treasure Island. I went ashore with this -- this guy was a first class painter. He could draw anything you wanted. He used to do all the painting on the ships, all these faces and everything on the ships, and I lent him some money. We was gambling, and I let him take $30, and he won about $550 to $700, and he said I want to take you out on the best time you ever had when we got in Frisco. Hell, we went in Frisco and went to the nightclubs, and I don't know where he got all the pennies, but we went into one of them shows where the girls are dancing, and the guys were throwing up money. He took a handful of pennies up there. That stopped the show. She said Buddy, if you want to throw pennies up here throw dollars, she said, I'm not picking them up. He stopped the show right there.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Did you ever pick up smoking as a habit?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Never smoked in my life.

Jeffery M. Beers:

You never smoked in your life. Was that a -- a lot of people smoked on the ship, was that fairly common?

Paul Norman Moltane:

You could buy cigarettes for -- when I first went in it was $40 a carton -- I mean 40 cents a carton, and then you could get them for 60 cents a carton, but soon as -- I used to buy my cigarettes and soon as you hit Africa you get $40 a carton for them. See, the black market, and then a lot of guys would take them little sheets -- well, I used to stick one in my belly here -- you know, and go ashore.

Jeffery M. Beers:

So, that was one of those little side businesses people had going?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Then this buddy, Lillard, now he was sailing ever since '40, and he knew all the tricks, and he was telling me about it. I'd hang around with him, and he would carry a whole bunch of these 10 cent lipsticks, and we'd going into a French bar -- you know, put one of them up there. You didn't have to buy a drink. All those French girls were -- what you call it -- they were the barkeepers and the waitresses. There were no men then. But you just put that little lipstick up there and boy, they wanted that, but that was in Oran, Africa, and then they had about -- I would say 150 to 200 steps from the sea bottom to up to Oran, Africa, and Lillard got -- he got so drunk that the shore patrol told me take him back to the ship. So, I took him down all them steps and everything. He said I'm tired, I want to sit down. He said how in -- he said -- looked up there and he'd go, how did I ever get down them steps, but he was a good buddy, a real good buddy.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Now, did you write home a lot; write letters home?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Oh, I caught hell for not writing.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Mostly to your wife?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Yeah. I caught hell. I didn't write for about two or three months, and they got the Red Cross after me and stuff like that.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Was that common if guys weren't writing the Red Cross would kind of step in?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Well, we were going up to the streets and all through up in that area, and it was around Christmastime, and they took all our oranges off for the soldiers. We had oranges and apples, and they took all them off the ship and gave them to the soldiers for Christmas, and like I say, they were real good.

Jeffery M. Beers:

What -- when you wrote home what did you mostly write about; what you were doing or --

Paul Norman Moltane:

You can't write none of that. You just write -- just -- you can read the letters there. I'd just say well, I'm doing well, feel good. You couldn't put nothing in there.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Did you get a lot of mail from home?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Oh, yeah, I'd get 15, 20 letters. She -- she was only -- my wife was only 22 years old, and I was 27, just a young girl, and we had been married six years, see, and -- but anyway one time I come home, and we got the idea that we'd have a girl, and that's my daughter. She was wanting -- my wife worried about losing her and everything. My wife never ate -- a candy bar maybe for dinner. Smoked -- smoked all the time. She just died. She was 73 years old. We were married 57 years.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Uh-huh.

Paul Norman Moltane:

She's over in Fort Rose --

Jeffery M. Beers:

Do you have a sense of accomplishment with what you did in the --

Paul Norman Moltane:

Oh, yeah.

Jeffery M. Beers:

-- Second World War?

Paul Norman Moltane:

I figure I did my part.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Now, when you came home -- how long were you in the service?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Three years and a half. The first year and a half I didn't get home very much, but then I got -- we went in Norfolk, Virginia, and they gave me 30 days. So, I went home for 30 days. Then I came back, and then they took everybody off the ship, and I had to report at the annex. So, then they told me they'd give me 30 more days, so I got two months right in a row there, but that was in the last of '43 or '44.

Jeffery M. Beers:

So, your service was over when the war ended?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Yeah. I was all done then. Well -- you know where I was when the war was over?

Jeffery M. Beers:

I was just going to ask you that.

Paul Norman Moltane:

In the Philippines.

Jeffery M. Beers:

What were you doing?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Well, I didn't do much, just sit there. We'd have the -- most of the time -- when I first got in the Philippines the chow, all we had was Spam three times a day, and then once in a while they'd get oatmeal, and you had to take them white bugs out. If you wanted to eat it you had to clean all the white bugs out of there -- them little white worms for -- that was about two or three weeks we had Spam in the morning and Spam at noon and Spam at night and then you had -- they had --

Jeffery M. Beers:

Now, were you on a ship at this time?

Paul Norman Moltane:

No, no.

Jeffery M. Beers:

You were ashore?

Paul Norman Moltane:

See, I got transferred out of there -- out of the Armed Guard. We're talking about a different thing. We're talking about this. This is Club 16. See, I took commando training in Frisco, Shoemaker, Tanforan, and advanced -- what you call it -- in Tanforan, and then we went to Treasure Island. From Treasure Island I went --

Jeffery M. Beers:

Now, where's Treasure Island?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Out of Frisco --

Jeffery M. Beers:

Okay.

Paul Norman Moltane:

-- and we went out of there and the funny part there, they quarantined you -- you know, and then they put -- a mistake they made, they put the guys that were in there and put them on guard duty. Well, in the fence they'd shove their gun in there, and the guys would step on their gun and jump over and go to Frisco every night.

Jeffery M. Beers:

So, your first part of your service was --

Paul Norman Moltane:

Armed Guard.

Jeffery M. Beers:

-- Armed Guard, and when did that end?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Oh, that --

Jeffery M. Beers:

How long were you in that?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Oh, heck, I'd say about a year and a half all together.

Jeffery M. Beers:

And then when you finished that up --

Paul Norman Moltane:

They shipped me to -- from Brooklyn they gave me 30 days, and I was to report -- wait a minute.

Jeffery M. Beers:

That's okay.

Paul Norman Moltane:

We was to report to Brooklyn Navy Yard, so I reported there, and then we had -- they quarantined you for three days.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Now, was this something you volunteered to do, or did they say this is what you're going do?

Paul Norman Moltane:

No, they did it. They tell you. You don't say nothing. Then I was watching the waves. I was leaning against the building there that we had mustered, but I leaned against the building there, and here comes a guy, First Class Bugler. I never seen one before. He said come on, Buddy, you're going with me. I said what the hell did I do. You're going the brig. I went to there, and he said you're going to be a master of arms. You're going to take the guys to chow and take them to the bathroom and all this stuff, and I said okay, looks like I'm getting a shore job. So, I was a brig ___ Philadelphia, but boy, you're talking about bugs, bed bugs. That place was lousy with bed bugs. Oh, man, you had to check your bed every night.

Jeffery M. Beers:

You mean the brig?

Paul Norman Moltane:

No, no, this was our quarters.

Jeffery M. Beers:

This is where your quarters were, okay.

Paul Norman Moltane:

The brig -- heck, the brig was clean, and then the guys in the -- I used to let them smoke -- you know, when I was on duty. I'd let them smoke, and you'd hear the guys, well, Tiny is going to be coming in pretty soon.

Jeffery M. Beers:

That was your nickname?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Yeah. I weighed 260 pounds and I was like that table, hard as that table, and Tiny will becoming in pretty soon. He'll take you in there and let you have a smoke. Well, I couldn't get this damn first class -- he'd take all our money -- and we had a big glass outfit. It was full of money. He'd take it away but he wouldn't buy cigarettes or give them guys any money at all. I don't know what the hell he was keeping all their money for, but he never give it back. One guy run away, and he was gone for a year, and he come back and the damn fool, he got married in the brig, and he was going to get five years, maybe eight years for running away and missing his ship. See, if you miss your ship, why, if you don't have a good reason they'll go to the brig maybe a year, maybe six months, you never know.

Jeffery M. Beers:

So, after you did that where did you go next?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Well, then I got in a deal -- well, they came and told me that there were going to be -- 2,000 men are going to the west coast to Fresno -- around Fresno and then Shoemaker, and they said to me you're going to be one of the M.A.s. I said I don't want to go there. They already got it wrote up, he said. So, anyway we took 2,000 men from Philadelphia to Fresno. It took us a week to get there.

Jeffery M. Beers:

How did -- what was your transportation?

Paul Norman Moltane:

A cattle car.

Jeffery M. Beers:

A train?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Cattle car, yeah.

Jeffery M. Beers:

And it took you a week?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Took us a week. They had to let all the main trains go by.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Well, now, were these regular troops or -- they weren't prisoners, were they?

Paul Norman Moltane:

No, no, no, no, no. They were out the jail. There was one guy that was a chief, and he'd been in the Navy for about 22 to 25 years. They broke him down to seaman first, and he was in that gang too, but they were the best bunch of guys, but you would go to the U.S.O.s, and they'd take everything, every cake, anything eatable. Hell, we had pies, cakes piled up in a -- and we had -- they there -- let's see, one, two, three, four. There was about six high in a caged outfit on both sides, and you only had to walk in there and that's what we called them; cattle cars.

Jeffery M. Beers:

So, what happened after you got out to California?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Oh, in California then I started taking commando training.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Commando training, okay. How long did that go for?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Oh, hell, that went for about -- oh, I'd say three months.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Was this also something they told you you were going to do, you didn't volunteer for it?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Oh, no, you didn't volunteer for nothing.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Okay.

Paul Norman Moltane:

You didn't have no say at all.

Jeffery M. Beers:

They just told you you're going to be a commando?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Yeah, and said we're going to send you out there and have commando training.

Jeffery M. Beers:

How did you feel about that?

Paul Norman Moltane:

What do you think? I wasn't going to worry about it. I exercised all the time anyway. I wasn't scared of the stuff and crawling through live ammunition and stuff like that. I wasn't worried about that.

Jeffery M. Beers:

How long did that training last?

Paul Norman Moltane:

I would say we had three -- about three months all together, and then they ship you from one place to another. First we was in Frisco, and then we went to T.I. -- no, we went to Racetrack, and I told the guy there. I said hell, I just took this training. What the hell I got to do it again for. He said oh, well, we're making you master of arms, get these guys and pick up butts. I told them, I said I took that training.

Jeffery M. Beers:

So --

Paul Norman Moltane:

Then they sent me to another place -- advanced training, and the guy in charge says to me did you take this training before. I said yeah, I was here, I was there. He said be an M.A. You're the head of the barracks, so anyway that was it. I had one kid there. I think he was Spanish or something -- I don't know, but he wasn't -- and one morning he said hey, Tiny, I can't move my legs. I said well, I'll check you into sick bay. He was gone all morning and half the afternoon. I said to him did you go to sick bay. He said yeah, it took me three hours to get there and three hours to get back. He said I can't walk. So then -- what you call it -- the head officer said to me -- he said what seems to be the matter with that man. I said he's really bad. I said -- and so anyway they -- he walked -- took him three hours again to walk to the hospital, and they put him in, and in three days they shipped him out of there. He had some kind of magnet -- what do you call that -- multi --

Jeffery M. Beers:

Muscular dystrophy?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Yeah, he had it. They shipped him out right away back home.

Jeffery M. Beers:

So, did you do this commando job for the rest of the war?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Well, that's when we went to the Philippines.

Jeffery M. Beers:

So, you went to the Philippines as a commando?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Yeah.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Okay.

Paul Norman Moltane:

See, we was going to invade Japan.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Uh-huh. Tell me about that, what was that all about?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Well, that's the deadest life you ever had. All you had to do is -- they'd find a work detail for you, and we just laid in there a whole year.

Jeffery M. Beers:

So, this was probably what, 1943, '44?

Paul Norman Moltane:

It was '44.

Jeffery M. Beers:

And where were you actually in the Philippines, what island, I mean what --

Paul Norman Moltane:

Daewhan and Tubabao. See, I was in the M.A. force there. I'll tell you a funny thing that happened. We got a call from the chief, pick up a rough box. So, we got --

Jeffery M. Beers:

Now, what's a rough box?

Paul Norman Moltane:

That's what they put the dead guy in. It's a wooden box, and so -- what you call it -- said to me -- we got to the hospital there. That was a Seventh Fleet Hospital, see, in Daewhan, and so we went up there, and the chief said bring it right in here, Tiny. I went in there and here's the guy laying bare naked. He's stripped skin back all the way back, never did find out what the heck killed him. He had been drinking torpedo juice.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Torpedo juice?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Yeah. That's alcohol -- denatured alcohol and boy, he was just as blue as can be, but they had him split -- everything -- the skin all back.

Jeffery M. Beers:

So, doing, like, an autopsy?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Yeah. That's what it was, but they were checking everything -- you know.

Jeffery M. Beers:

So, basically you just kind of hung out in the Philippines waiting to go to -- waiting to invade Japan, but it just didn't happen?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Well, we had other troubles there too. The blacks were fighting the whites, and we had to walk to chow -- we had to walk a whole mile, mile and a half to chow, and then we carried a 30M1 -- carried your 30M1 if the colored would be shooting at you, but they had trouble then with the black and the white, but heck, I remember many a times I'd wake up in the barracks and receiving -- you know.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Uh-huh.

Paul Norman Moltane:

Well, hell, you'd be six big black men there and three or four whites here and more blacks and -- but we never paid no attention to it. Hey, Buddy, what's going -- you know, I've been around. I know how to talk to people, and so anyway we had to -- we made a life out of it. The funny part about it we used to eat chow, and we'd go to early chow at 4 o'clock, and then 5 o'clock we'd go down to the show so you could get a seat, and they had nice big rocks you'd sit on -- you know, a nice rock, hard as hell on your butt, and we would sit there until 8 o'clock 'till the show came on.

Jeffery M. Beers:

So, you never actually saw any action as a commando?

Paul Norman Moltane:

No, we didn't see no action.

Jeffery M. Beers:

So, you were in the Philippines when the war ended?

Paul Norman Moltane:

I was in the Philippines, and I had a hell of a time getting out. I had a lot of points. Hell, I was way over my points, but they weren't sending no ships in there.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Uh-huh. So, how long after the war was over before you actually made it home?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Oh, let's see when the war was over -- when was the war over?

Jeffery M. Beers:

1945.

Paul Norman Moltane:

Well, I was home in December the 7th so --

Jeffery M. Beers:

Of '45?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Yeah.

Jeffery M. Beers:

So, it took you a few months?

Paul Norman Moltane:

No. It took me almost six months.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Uh-huh.

Paul Norman Moltane:

And then the worst part about it, I got in Chicago, Great Lakes, and I was supposed to go home the next day. Someone stole my uniform. I had $80 taylor-mades, and I had 32-inch bells on them -- you know, real sharp looking taylor-mades, and I was wearing dungarees. They put me to a work detail there putting in bulbs around things, and when I come back after chow at 5 o'clock I looked under my bed and found my taylor-mades were gone. Then I had to run around. I went over to boot camp and asked if there was any big guys there, and one guy said I got an extra pair I'll sell you, and I give him $20 for the pair of pants. You could buy them for $6 in the store, but I wasn't going to wait until the ship's store opened up, and then I came back to barracks and one guy said hey, Tiny, I got a jumper here I'm not going to use, so he give me the jumper.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Uh-huh.

Paul Norman Moltane:

And I got home.

Jeffery M. Beers:

When you got home what kind of reception did you get from your community and --

Paul Norman Moltane:

Nothing.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Nothing?

Paul Norman Moltane:

We never got nothing because we were way after the war.

Jeffery M. Beers:

So, the big hoopla was people who came right home after the war ended?

Paul Norman Moltane:

The ones that were in the States and all that stuff. We never got a -- in fact, there was nobody to meet me at the bus or nothing. I got off the bus and grabbed a taxi cab because I used to drive a cab and they knew me, see, and it took me --

Jeffery M. Beers:

This is Michigan, right?

Paul Norman Moltane:

They took me home, and my wife was up at the Imperial Hotel with my brother-in-law. He was quite a guy. His name high Clarence Finner. He was quite a guy, and he was German, and he liked his beer -- you know, and they were up there having a few beers.

Jeffery M. Beers:

She didn't know you were coming?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Well, they knew I was coming but --

Jeffery M. Beers:

Just didn't know when?

Paul Norman Moltane:

I got in quicker than they thought, see, but hell --

Jeffery M. Beers:

So, you found your wife --

Paul Norman Moltane:

I hid behind the door, and first thing she said to her mother, is he here, and then I grabbed hold of her and oh, Jesus, she was tickled, but it was a wonderful thrill -- you know, after living three and a half years away, and then I had a daughter a year old.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Oh, so, when you got back you had a daughter?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Yeah.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Okay.

Paul Norman Moltane:

Yeah, I had a daughter. I didn't have nothing to do with it, and what she is today is -- her mother did that to her, made a lady out of her.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Was it hard for you to get right back into civilian life?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Well, it took me about two months, and then the railroad was after me to come back. So, I went back there for about six or eight months, and I'm used to giving orders, not taking them like this guy was, this agent. We had changed agents, and I used to weight on the customers -- you know, on the freight train, and you know how you talk a little bit to somebody. Come on, let's get going, we can't be standing around all day, and he'd be on my back, and then I had to tag all the cars with them little tags on each door and put the explosive outfits on the outfit, and I was working -- hell, I was working anywhere from a half hour to 45 minutes over every night. So, I went to him. I said a want overtime. You can have overtime, and we argued there. So, anyway I'd go home at night and I'm fighting him all night long in my sleep. So, my wife said to my dad -- she said Paul's having a heck of a time with that job. He's fighting all night and everything. So, my dad said to her tell him to come down to the ___+. I'll get him a job. My dad was the head watchman down there. So, I said I think I'll take the next day off. So, I went and took the next day off and went down there. The guy said well, we need a guy tonight, can you come in at -- I think it was 8 o'clock. You come in at 8 o'clock. We'll put you to work. So, I went to work, and then I went down to get my money down there, and that agent said well, you had no right to quit. I said I'm not going to be fighting with you all the time, and I'm not used to that. I said I'm a very even guy, and I'm not going to take nothing from you or anybody else, and so anyway he said well, you'll never get another job on the railroad, and I said I don't want another job on the railroad. So, I worked at ___+ for a year, but my wife got so sick. She got real sick. She was down to about 80 pounds. So, I said to the boss there, I said hey, can I get on days, my wife is pretty sick. I'd like to be home at night. Oh, hell, you have to have 25 years to get on days -- you know. So I said to him well, I don't have 25 days -- I mean 25 years to get on nights. So, anyway we -- I monkeyed around and then my other brother, he had been a bus driver and he said hey, Paul, how'd you like to get on the extra board. I said I'll take it. So, I quite the ___+, and I went to the bus and hell, I was working 80 to 90 hours a week and driving on ice and snow and everything, and so anyway I drove a bus for about two years and a half, and then I -- my brother-in-law said -- they'd come over the house and I'd be sitting there -- you know, and I'd fall asleep right sitting there because I worked so many hours. He said hey, Paul, come on down to Garber Buick, run the recondition shop. I said I don't know nothing about recondition -- nothing to it. So, I went down there and $100 a week was a lot of money then. So, I took the job anyway, and I did that for about two years, but I always said to my wife when I first come home, I like California. I said that's the most beautiful place there. I said to her maybe we'll go there. So, anyway it went on for about ten years, and then one time I come home, and she said are you ever going to take me to California. I said you really want to go. She said yeah. So, we'll sell our house, sell everything we got. We'll buy a trailer, and like a damn fool I bought a great big 35 foot trailer. In them days they didn't pull trailers, and I had a little Plymouth convertible, a nice red one, beautiful little car. So, I went down and had the motor all fixed up and everything and got a hitch on it, and so it took us about three months -- a guy come in the used car lot where I was working, and he said I understand you got your house for sale. I said yeah. He said well, I'll sell it for you. I said I want to sell it with the furniture and everything. I got a trailer, and I'm going to take what I want, and you can have the whole thing. So, it was about three weeks later he come -- I sold your house. So, anyway we had a month to get out, and we got all our stuff picked up, and I quit the Garber Buick Company, and we took off but Jack Garber was mad because he couldn't replace me because I could do anything there on the cars and stuff, but he was mad. He wouldn't give me unemployment even. He wouldn't give to it me. He said you quit your job. Now if you quit your job in two weeks you get unemployment.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Uh-huh.

Paul Norman Moltane:

He wouldn't sign for it.

Jeffery M. Beers:

How do you feel about people who are running for political office, whether or not they've been in the military? For instance, Present Clinton was not. Do you have strong feelings about --

Paul Norman Moltane:

Oh, I don't have. What the hell, I think he was smart. What the hell, if he would have went in he would have had to be an officer. He wouldn't have did anything anyway. You know that. Anybody with a college -- I went through -- when I went in there was a college guy there. He said I don't want nothing. Shit, he went through boot -- I said what did you get. O.C.S.; officers training. So, that took another six, eight months. So, he got that, but I think Jack Garber -- no, not Jack -- Kennedy, I think he was my boss over when I was in -- over in San Francisco.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Is that right?

Paul Norman Moltane:

I'm pretty sure it was him. He used to have an old Ford, and he'd charge each one of us 35 cents to go to town, and we'd all pile in that old convertible Ford, and he would drive the whole bunch up to town.

Jeffery M. Beers:

So, he had a little side business too, huh?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Oh, well, yeah.

Jeffery M. Beers:

What do you think's the greatest lesson learned from fighting a war?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Well, I don't think -- myself -- well, it seems like nobody wins. You know yourself, nobody wins. Hell, all you do is just rid the people, you lose a lot of bodies, that's all, and not everybody is crowded.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Are you still in touch with any of your friends that you made during the war?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Well, the only ones I'm in touch with is that Armed Guard bunch. I belong to the Legion, the V.F.W., and the -- what the heck is it -- the Purple Heart deal.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Uh-huh.

Paul Norman Moltane:

I don't have a Purple Heart, but it's disabled veterans. I belong to them all.

Jeffery M. Beers:

So, you were never injured when you were in the war?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Well, I've been in the hospital but I never figured I was injured that bad. You know, I had -- (telephone rings) -- I had yellow jaundice. I had stuff here. I would turn yellow.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Was that when you were in the Philippines?

Paul Norman Moltane:

No, no. When I was on my first trip going across, and then we hit different places but --

Jeffery M. Beers:

Did you ever have any problems with malaria?

Paul Norman Moltane:

I never knew -- figured that. They used to give me them damn little yellow pills.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Was it quinine?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Quinine.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Yeah, uh-huh.

Paul Norman Moltane:

Quinine and some other one but heck -- you know, all I had to do is smell the food, and I was feeding the fish. One guy told me -- he said if you get a funny little tickle in your throat there don't spit it out. I said why. He said that might be your ass hole. (Laughter).

Paul Norman Moltane:

That was a sailor.

Jeffery M. Beers:

I believe you. Do you think there are any positive lessons to be leaned from fighting in a war?

Paul Norman Moltane:

I really don't have no opinion on it.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Is there anything else you would like to tell me that you recall distinctly or just anything else you'd like to say?

Paul Norman Moltane:

Well, I haven't been thinking about this stuff for years.

Jeffery M. Beers:

You don't have nightmares or anything about your experience, do you?

Paul Norman Moltane:

I just live my life --

Jeffery M. Beers:

So, that's --

Paul Norman Moltane:

-- one day at a time.

Jeffery M. Beers:

-- in the past?

Paul Norman Moltane:

I'm 84 years old.

Jeffery M. Beers:

What's your birth date?

Paul Norman Moltane:

My birthday is the 25th of January in 1917.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Okay.

Paul Norman Moltane:

And like I say, I never take nothing serious. If I have to do it, I do it, and I've always been that way.

Jeffery M. Beers:

Okay. Well, we really appreciate your taking your time to talk to us.

Paul Norman Moltane:

You want to look at that book there? This is the book.

[END OF INTERVIEW]

 
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  October 26, 2011
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