Skip Navigation and Jump to Page Content    The Library of Congress >> American Folklife Center  
Veterans History Project (Library of Congress) ABOUT  
SEARCH/BROWSE  
HELP  
COPYRIGHT  
Home » Text Transcript

Interview with Daniel M. Kissel [undated]

Larry Ordner:

Interview with Daniel M. Kissel, K-i-s-s-e-l. Date of birth, February 11, 1923. Mr. Kissel resides at 1617 Rainbow Drive, Evansville, Indiana. He served in World War II in the Army Air Corps in the training command. His highest rank attained was that of staff sergeant. He served from January 1943 until February 1946. Mr. Kissel, tell me how you entered the Army Air Corps.

Daniel M. Kissel:

Well, again, through the draft, and when I was drafted, the indication was that I would be in the Navy and got on a troop train, windows sealed shut. We couldn't see out, didn't know where we were for a number of days and the heat kept getting worse and worse, and we were in winter clothing, and when they finally let us see what was out, we were in the middle of Miami Beach in a bunch of beautiful hotels.

Larry Ordner:

You had no idea where you were headed?

Daniel M. Kissel:

No idea. No idea. I thought I was in the Navy until they raised the -- those things and we were in Miami, and they said welcome to the Air Force and, you know, the informal welcome, and this is where you're going to do your basic training. We were down at 40th and Biscayne at the Cadillac Hotel. We did our training down there and they had people cook our meals. I mean, it wasn't like the ordinary basic training that you go through because we would go back to our hotels at night, and in the morning we would go out again.

The heat was something else and we weren't used to it, but we were down there about six weeks, and then we received our orders, and it was still pretty cold up in the northern part of the country, and we got on a troop train and the same thing happened to us. All of the shades were pulled down. The first time we found out where we were was four days later, our train broke down, and they told us we were going to be there for three or four days because there was a shortage of passenger cars, and when they turned us loose, they opened us up, and they said, just stay around the area there, we found ourselves in New Orleans, and quite a nice time, you know, for three or four days there, but go back to the train and do your own cooking.

I cooked many a green pork chop, whatever was in the can, you know, and volunteered to do that kind of work just to have something to do, you know, get tiresome just setting around, but we were still in our -- by that -- oh, I forgot to mention that just before we left down there, they took our winter OD's away from us and gave us suntans or whatever they called them at that time, real light outfits, and this is what we had on in New Orleans, but this was nice.

But then when the train took off again, we had another almost five days where it stopped from time to time and let groups of soldiers out, you know, wherever they were going, different bases, and the weather started changing, and when we got off of the train in Amarillo, Texas, those light outfits didn't help us a bit because it was snowing and it was cold, and I can't think of a colder place in the world than Amarillo, Texas, in the wintertime.

And on top of that, of course, one of the stories that goes with it is we really didn't anticipate what we were getting into because when we got there, the field was connected to the regular airport, and they had one runway down there connecting the Army base with the -- with the air -- or original airport. That runway was almost 15 miles long. We talked to a pilot said it took him almost as long to taxi back to the terminal for the civilians than it did for his flight at times.

But anyway, whenever we had to take a shower, and you had to take a shower, we had to jog all the way across that air field to where the showers were. We didn't have any, we were in tents, and you had to jog back, and even as cold as it was, by the time you got back, you were sweating again, but that's where I got into aircraft maintenance. They told me that I was going to be an aircraft -- well, they really didn't tell me. They just said this is what you're going to do and --

Larry Ordner:

You were told what you were going to do. You didn't have an option.

Daniel M. Kissel:

No, but I filled out a questionnaire on the way through there, and one of the things they ask you in, I think it was basic or when you were taken in or something, but what your hobbies were and what your interests were, and of course I start rambling about airplanes. I used to build them as a kid and everything else, and I think that is probably what shoved me over into that particular group.

But after Amarillo, we -- first of all, we got into the training there and the idea was that they put us in a series of classes at the university and you started out by working on the controls, maybe, and you started working on the wiring, and everything was aircraft maintenance, and I figured this was it, and --

Larry Ordner:

I spoke to a woman here in Evansville who was in the WACs, and she was involved in some of the training. Now, did you encounter WACs in training --

Daniel M. Kissel:

No, I didn't encounter WACs, but I encountered or ran into a lady out there that taught us in one of our classes in electrical work, and she took us under her wing, and she and the gentleman that she was dating took the four of us from Evansville and wined us and dined us all the time we were down there, and my wife came down to see me and, bless her heart, she got chicken pox on the way down there -- girlfriend at that time -- but these people were so nice.

They gave us a big car to drive around in, and when I told this fellow, his name was Clarence Edwards, I said, "Clarence, you know, I want to get married. I can't even afford a ring for her." He said, "Oh, I'll take care of that." He shows up with a ring. He says, "Give her this," and I said, "I can't afford a ring like that." He said, "It's only three thousand dollars. It will be a wedding present," and I just couldn't take it, you know. I said, "You know, that's too much," but I appreciated it, but this is the way they treated us down there, and they did that until we left, but anyway, from there we went into the construction of a B-17, and the first time I saw what held a B-17's wings on, I had changed my mind.

When you're looking at an airplane this big and all that's holding that wing on is six bolts with no screws or anything, just wedged in there, and I didn't understand at that time, even though I had built little models, you don't get into this, but an airplane cannot have rigid wings.

The first time you got in turbulence, it would rip the wings right off of it, and that's true today. That old B-17, that wing would flop a distance of 12 feet under certain turbulence, some turbulence, six feet either way. And, but anyway, that's all of them. It's kind of a bolt-type deal that it isn't even. It's -- it gets heavier at the end that they ram in and they put it in such a way that when the airplane is going forward, it gets tighter. There's no way that bolt's going to come out of there, but it shakes you when you first see that, you know.

My God, I have to fly in this thing, but we finished there and we moved on and went to Kingman and went to gunnery school, and the deal there was we were then -- if we were going to -- some of us would probably end up flying, we wouldn't all be ground mechanics, and we should know how to shoot a 50-caliber machine gun and how to lead a target and how to just be a gunnery, and that's the next thing that you find out, and of course, life in the service to a kid is strictly a series of surprises. Every time you get into something different, it's new, it's exciting.

But first we used what they called a Texan. It was a single engine AT-6 plane that they used to train pilots, so in the gunnery school, what they would do there, they would take one of these planes that they took the hatch off of the back, and you stood up in the air in the slip stream behind the pilot. The only thing holding you in that airplane was a belt around your waist bolted to the floor, you had this 50-caliber, and another AT-6 would come up towing a target, and he would get out there a distance like four or 500 feet or yards or whatever, I don't remember anymore, get out there a pretty good distance, and the idea was that you had to hit that target with so many shots in so many flights in order to qualify as a gunner.

And, believe me, some of us were just kids that didn't know. Some of these young fellows, they were gunnery people from the start. They had been raised with guns. They knew how to lead a target, but we were hurting for gunners. We were losing B-17 crews so fast in Europe that you just couldn't believe it. You'd read it in the intelligence reports and it boggled your mind that nobody over there in the beginning was flying over eight or ten missions and they were dead. We were losing that fast. And if you remember the old Memphis Belle, that was the first 17 that flew their 25 missions and brought them back and flew them all over the country selling bonds and everything. But later the fighters had got better, but at that time, they were losing them so fast that they couldn't get enough pilots. They were building planes faster than they could get them away from the factories, and they didn't have crews and, of course, this is where the Walla Walla, Washington, thing came in.

This was a phase training deal after they taught us that much, why you got your crew that you stayed with and then went over, but before you got there in the gunnery schools, and this is -- it's really a shame to say this, and it may disturb some of the parents of youngsters that were shot down at the time, but if you were on your last flight and you needed out of your 600 required holes in the target if you needed 600, that pilot towing that target would bring it in and put it right on the wing of that plane towing it. You couldn't miss it if you wanted to. You didn't lead it. You just pointed that 50-caliber right at it, pulled the trigger, and ran your whole belt of ammunition out. Then you were a gunner.

Larry Ordner:

Did you think for a while that you might be a gunner?

Daniel M. Kissel:

I thought I was going to be a gunner. In other words, I was lucky enough, I don't know how it happened, but again, when they shipped out, I was held on there as a gunnery instructor, and this is where I went back to Ft. Myers. I was a gunnery instructor down there, and believe it or not, this is where I got shot down by one of our own crew members. He stowed a 50-caliber machine gun in parallel to the fuselage and didn't clean the chamber, and he left a round in the -- hot round in the chamber and blew the stabilizer controls out.

Larry Ordner:

So this happened again where?

Daniel M. Kissel:

Ft. Myers.

Larry Ordner:

Ft. Myers in a training situation?

Daniel M. Kissel:

Yeah, uh-huh.

Larry Ordner:

What did you think when you were hit?

Daniel M. Kissel:

Frankly, I don't remember that part. I just know that the minute that it happened, you know, the airplane shuddered, The pilot still had up and down, vertical controls. He had no controls to turn. So the minute they told what, you know, that somebody called up and said this is what has happened back here, the decision came back as we may have to bail out. Well, nobody in their right mind, and I'm not a paratrooper or anything, so I figured have to bail out, but I didn't even look forward to it, so the pilot, he told us, he said, "I can control it." He said, "I can get it into the water. It will be a little bit rough, but," he said, "how many of you want to ride it down? How many of you want to jump?" And nobody wanted to jump.

Larry Ordner:

How many were on the plane?

Daniel M. Kissel:

Ten. We had two instructors and the pilot and co-pilot and six students, and but anyway, we -- everybody got back in the radio room or back end of the plane, and it's lucky that we did because when we hit the gulf down there, you can't judge it and it looked like everything was going to be right, but the pilot said later that at the last minute here come a swell along and instead of hitting that thing, he went right into it, and the front end of that 17 came off. There was nothing but Plexiglas, and the water started coming in, and here's one of my stories is the fact that when I was a kid, a boy scout, I almost drowned down here in the Wabash River, and after that, I could never swim. I just couldn't get myself to swim, and yet that day, they tell me I swam about a block or a block and a half with a flying outfit on and got into that raft, and today I don't think I could do it again.

Larry Ordner:

So was the pilot able to radio that he was coming down?

Daniel M. Kissel:

Oh, yeah, he called the base and everything.

Larry Ordner:

So at least then the rescue was underway before you came down?

Daniel M. Kissel:

Oh, yeah, yeah. They knew where we were and where we would -- how long, you know, he said, you know, he said, "We're going to come down as easily and as gently as we can." He says, "I can't turn my plane, so I'm on this heading," and this is what we were told later, that I'm in the back with the students in the radio room. I can't tell what's going on, but it was just -- everything was just like he was making a landing, and just before that water hit, he throttled back and the nose went up. He tried to pancake it in and --

Larry Ordner:

Was anybody injured?

Daniel M. Kissel:

Oh, yeah. I came -- I got all my ribs busted on one side, and they took me and wrapped me from under my armpits down to my crotch, and this was in the middle of the summer, and put me on a train and told me to go home, take -- I had leave coming, said, "Go home for ten days and we'll send orders to you," so I went home, and I was home for a few days and then my orders came to go to Yuma, and I rode all the way back to Yuma with that tape. I wouldn't undress in front of my mother. She never knew till the war was over that I had been in a crash, and she was scared anyway, like mothers are, and but anyway it --

Larry Ordner:

How serious were some of the other fellas injured?

Daniel M. Kissel:

Nobody was hurt badly. Most of it was heads banging on something, and evidently where I was sitting there, just happened to catch me on the side, but it was enough that I was in misery and I was hot, but I kept my shirt on all the time. I guess she wondered why, but I keep telling her, "Mom, I'm in uniform, I'm in uniform," but rode back all the way to Yuma, Arizona, and got off the train and went down to the dispensary there, and, man, they poured alcohol on me and that doctor grabbed me and pulled away and took that stuff, I looked like a lobster from here down.

And to this day, I have no hair or anything on my chest, you know, just scraggly. It was quite an experience. It -- it's funny to laugh about it today to think that you worry about the enemy when you almost get it in your own backyard, through no fault. But then when I got to Yuma, of course, why that's when the -- the commanding officer down there, we went in and, by the way, the Yuma was basically at that time not in full operation, and here I walked on the field as a sergeant and I think, man, I'm in good shape, and I found out that sergeants were the lowest things at the base.

Everybody else was either a sergeant or he was an officer because they hadn't set everything up yet, and that's when the commanding officer called us in and he says, "You boys are going to be here for the duration." He said, "You can bet on it." He said, "We need trainers. You're going to be trainers. You'll do this, you'll do that," and he said, "If you have a girlfriend, want to get married, get married and bring her back, and if you're married, bring her back, you know, this is it."

And so I called home and I told my wife now what was going on and we had already had our wedding license and everything. We had gotten that when -- earlier, and so I went home and got married down in St. Boniface, and here's another story, you know, and, this is the kind you don't tell outside, I guess, but to this day, I can still see it. I was Catholic. She was not. Catholics and Protestants didn't marry each other in those days. So we go to St. Boniface Church, and you know where it is, down on Wabash Avenue. Got married in the priest's house because they wouldn't even let you get married in the grotto. You got married in the rectory. Went in there and Father -- Oh, Father Riedford, he, you know, he looked at us, he says, "Well," he says, "here you are," and he says, "Are you ready?" And I says, "I'll never be readier," and to this day, my wife still throws that in my face.

Just the three words, you know, "never be readier," but we got married and walked out the front door and her parents are on this corner and my parents are on that corner, and they never get together, and we go down to the old Vendome and spent the first night together as man and wife in a room that I've got a closet bigger than that here, and I was looking at my -- some of my stuff in here today and I had to laugh. I found the bill for that first night in the hotel, seven dollars.

But then we all got on the train together and went to Yuma after that and just like the -- they told us, you know. We were there for the duration, but even there, like I said, between she getting the lucky breaks and me getting lucky breaks, had it not been for the catastrophe that we were in the middle of in this world war, it would have been like a big vacation, you know, just like a honeymoon for us. Since I was married, they didn't have any barracks on the base for married couples, so we lived in Yuma. I had an old '34 Chevrolet, drove that sucker back and forth, you know, and every day go in. If I had to stay over for retreats or something like that, why, she would stay out there and we'd eat at the commissary and go back in, but I taught gunnery there for a while, and then I don't know what happened, but one day I got orders telling me I had been transferred to the -- I forget what they called it at that time, but it was simply teaching aircraft recognition where you got the slides all together and you taught your students, you know, you flash that thing and you go, What is it? And this in combat is what you had to do is just glance at it and recognize it, and we taught them how to track an airplane, and in those days, it was different.

Today these jets, they just dive at one another and they are through and the combat is over a thousand miles. Back in those days, everything depended on a pursuit curve. You're flying this way. Your opponent's coming this way, and the only way he can keep you in his gun sight is to make this curve with his nose pointing towards you, so we taught them how to recognize the pursuit curve and whether they were going to go under us or over us or what have you, and every once in a while, you would throw in a slide of a half-naked gal or something to make sure they were awake, you know, so that's the way I finished up down there.

Larry Ordner:

What was it like knowing that a lot of those men that you were instructing were going to go over there and they probably weren't going to come back in many cases? What was that like for you?

Daniel M. Kissel:

I don't know how to describe it. I really don't. There was -- the thought was always in my mind. Well, here was the first class I was with. I got this out. This was the bunch I was with. And four of these boys and I were from Evansville. Let me get down here where I can see here.

Larry Ordner:

Nice looking guys.

Daniel M. Kissel:

There is Jimmy Lutterbach. Now, Jimmy's brother ended up being the pastor down at St. Boniface Church, and not too long ago, I got this -- well, it's been a year or two now, but it was telling that his father was a priest who took his vacations riding bicycles through Italy and everything and this he put in the church bulletin that he had found it in Bogia(ph), Italy, where his brother had died. He had found the barracks were still there that they took off from and everything and, so anyway, Jimmy died there.

This was Carol Nix. Carol Nix came back with just about every medal except the Congressional Medal of Honor that you can find. He was a born natural gunner. And he was tremendous. This guy is Bob Sauer. His family were in the cottage building and construction company here in Evansville. I'm sorry, this is Bob Sauer. This is me. And I don't have my name on here. I thought I'd remember me, but with these glasses, I'm having a hard time. But anyway, that's Lutterbach and that's Carol Nix.

By the way, they owned the automobile agency in Evansville. They sold all the Bluebird groceries to everybody in southern Indiana, but anyway, these four is really a difference. Jimmy got killed. Carol won all the medals. I floated around all over the country. This kid here, Bob Sauer, was something else. He was one of these kids who had to try everything, and after he made sergeant, he went down and stole a money belt, of all things.

They caught him, and he spent the rest of the war working on moving base ranges and stuff like that out in the desert. You know, there's four kids, and you got four different stories. But, no, out of this bunch right here, you know, I don't have contacts anymore, but I would have to guess at least a third of these did not survive. I know that little Lyneese(ph) here, he was from Cleveland, Ohio. I heard that he was dead and Morton was dead, and but I'm sure that they --

Larry Ordner:

How did you get the word sometimes?

Daniel M. Kissel:

It came back from other people that would -- you get mixed up as you go along. And when the crews are put together, sometimes a crew in there will say, well, I knew him back there and he knew Dan, and the word would filter back to you. Sometimes you would pick it up from the newspapers. When the families would be notified, and my families would, you know, pick something up, but in most cases, you just assumed the worst and hoped that it hadn't happened, but like I said, at that time, oh, they were losing 50 percent of all of the B-17s, and I don't know whether you've ever heard of the raid on the Ploesti Oil Fields. Well, the Ploesti Oil Fields were in Romania, and we decided, the country decided that if we could cut off the oil, that Hitler's machine would grind to a halt.

In order to do this, they were going to have to make a mass bombing attack. They were going to have to go in low, which is ridiculously low, around eight or nine thousand feet, and they did it, and they sent 8,000 planes over in three days. They lost 800 planes times ten, lost 8,000 men. Plus all of the injured and everything else in the flak that was hitting them, and that was just about the time, you know, that they were all over there.

But the only one that I can just positively say, you know, like I said, was Jimmy Lutterbach and that was because he was from Evansville to begin with, and I ran into his brother and committed one of the cardinal sins. In your mind, it tells you that I was with your younger brother, Jimmy, but Jimmy was the older brother. The younger brother, this priest brother, didn't come along until years after that, and so one day out at the airport, we were both out there and he was there to look at a B-17 just like I was. They were fascinated by them. We got to talking, and he told me about this, and then it was in the bulletin, you know, that he had gone over there, and I don't think they ever found his grave.

I think he just found out where they took off from because as near as he could find out, they got hit by ack-ack with a full bomb load. The plane just disappeared out of the formation. The other night, there was a show on it called The Shades of the War on TV, and it was the Air Force, and it was crews put together -- Billy Wilder, the director out of Hollywood, he put his camera men right on these 17's where you saw all the blood and the gore and the planes going down and the guys in the planes that were still okay pleading, "Jump," you know, "get out, get out, guys, jump!" They knew it was going down, and they showed the effect that it had on the ground people when their plane didn't come back, you know, that they brooded about the fact is it something we did and that we couldn't control, because along with what the enemy did to you, you know, there were accidents. You can't maintain aircraft that are flying every day, getting shot at and everything else.

Larry Ordner:

How did that affect the trainers as well?

Daniel M. Kissel:

I really -- I can't tell you that. I knew -- it didn't really affect me because I was not over there. That was the whole thing. I was so isolated from the war itself that it seemed unreal. Out at Yuma, Arizona, we had Chinese cooks. I think they were Chinese. After the day was over, after we flew the training missions and everything and we came in and we went in the mess hall and we sat down and ate out of china plates and everything, the best food you could get, and then when we didn't want to do that, we jumped in a car. Had a friend named Joe Dye whose father owned a haberdashery right next door to Grauman's Chinese Theatre, and he and his wife and my wife and I, we'd jump in his car and 15 miles down the road was Algodones, Mexico, and we would go in there.

They didn't know what rationing was. I sent every ration card home and every ticket that I ever got in the service because we didn't need it. And their idea down there, they would take a fillet and put three of them together and they would wrap bacon around it, and you would get this and you would get enchiladas and tostadas, just everything else they had, and your whole meal might run you 1.75, 2.00, so we did a lot of eating out like that.

The reality, I can't really say the reality ever set in on me. That's why I feel like I had so little to offer, you know. I can't tell you I laid awake nights thinking about them or that it still haunts me. It just doesn't. Like I said, I got every break in the world. Every time something happened, I just seemed to, one way or another, get into it. Sometimes because of things I knew. Basically I think I got in the Air Force because of the stuff I gave them about all of the models I had built, which was the truth. I always had built models, and once I got in there, I had a decent vocabulary.

I looked through here, and I don't mean to be bragging, but I read -- picked up some of my -- I got two or three things in here that where I was graded as a teacher, and in most cases on a seven scale, I would have three or four sevens, mostly sixes, I guess, one five, and I think that's why I kept shifting around in the training command that I could communicate, and you never know, you really don't.

This is digressing to something about the war, but I tell you one of the funniest things that ever happened. My wife had never been around planes or anything, so we go to Yuma and she gets a job in the air inspector's office, and the first time they asked her to write up a report, we had an AT-6, also called a Texan, that's that little single-engine plane. We had a plane go down and crashed in the desert, and they told her to write up a report, and because they had a place on there for four engines, she filled all four engines out, you know, four-engine AT-6 had crashed in the desert, and of course that got in the camp newspaper, you know, little things like that jokingly. But I did quit flying down there because of her. That's when I got into the ground training, I guess, and kind of forgot about that, but I was on the flight line one night -- no, I wasn't on the flight line one night. I was coming in on a flight from the Yucca range, which is down in the desert there near the Mexican border, and the plane just ahead of us couldn't get the landing gear down, so they bellied in and rolled a ball ____ all the way up through there and slid in and the smoke was spewing and everything, and she thought that was the plane I was on, so once I got in there, she was just literally wrung out, and she says, "Dan," she says, "if you don't get yourself grounded," she says, "I'm going home. I can't take it."

So I got myself grounded, and I found out in a hurry that you can't change your mind. After a few weeks, she realized I was a little bit unhappy, and she says, "Why don't you go ahead? It's all right. I'll get through it. I'll make it, go ahead and fly," but ____ wouldn't even talk to me. Once you're grounded, you're grounded, period.

Larry Ordner:

How did you feel about that at the time?

Daniel M. Kissel:

It hurt. It really did. I think maybe I might have been a career guy because I was enjoying what I was doing and yet when the war ended, who knows where they would have stuck me or what I would have been doing? You had no way of, you know, you never second-guess yourself. You do the best you can with what you got at the time you have to make decisions, but I was totally in love and enjoying life and had the word of the commanding officer when I came down here you're going to be here for the duration, and but that's what I say basically the realities of the war, I guess, really didn't sink in and register until the war ended and we didn't have our funds yet and we were eating food in Mexico in the morning and we were shooting up all the ammunition in the desert on the trucks on this moving base range, having a ball, and then they start releasing the intelligence pictures and the intelligence reports, and we got to see these planes going down, shot up, kids getting dragged out with arms, legs shot off, heads gone, it's very realistic, and that's when you started thinking, you know, about how lucky you had been. Up to that point, you just accepted everything. The Army said do this, you did it. They didn't tell you to do it, you didn't do it. You just, you know, straight arrow, I guess, you just didn't make any waves. But no, I think a lot about that. I guess what I think about the most is is what my whole life has been like because starting with these guys right here, I'm the only one alive out of the boys from Evansville. They all died of something a long time ago, and I don't know whether you ever heard of the West Side Nut Club, but I'm a member of that, and about 25 or 30 years ago, we took all of the things off the creek, all of the houseboats and cleaned the creek up down there, and I got a picture of 28 Nut Club members there and only two of us are still breathing and the other one who's breathing has got terminal cancer, so it looks like I'm going to be the sole survivor, and you start asking yourself why? You know, if I had been overseas, I would have probably asked myself that same question right then and there. Why? If I had survived actual combat and the rest of my friends had gone. But here, you know, I'm almost 80 now and I still ask, you know, say why. It just doesn't make good sense, but like I said, it's -- I just -- I just -- I don't feel any sense of accomplishment for what I did because I just did what I was told to do. There wasn't any initiative there that I could think of, you know. I didn't work myself into any high position. I didn't accomplish any great thing. I just filled up a spot here and a spot there, and my kids keep telling me, you know, Dad, don't feel that way.

Larry Ordner:

But there's still an air war that was conducted effectively because of trainers like you despite the losses.

Daniel M. Kissel:

Yeah, but again I come back to why me? You know, I could see one break, two good breaks, maybe, but just to keep catching them even to the time when -- well, like my brother, I was telling you about him. I got his picture here in the back of my book. Here's a young man, friend of mine, still lives here, and this is Don Waterman. He was in a tank in the hedgerows at Normandy, and to this day, here we are 60-some years later, he has to go into the veteran's hospital every so often and have flak metal pulled out of him. Shot one in his tank and rattled around and its little pieces will still work out of his arm and things like that. And this is the priest. This is Yuma.

Larry Ordner:

Oh.

Daniel M. Kissel:

This is my brother. He died two weeks ago. He was the one that was in almost as long as I was, but at the end of the war he didn't have his points so he went overseas and he sent me all this stuff back, you know. This is when I started putting on my weight. When the war ended, we didn't have anything to do down there but eat and mess around with that moving base range, and this fellow I was telling you about, his dad had this haberdashery in Hollywood there, we started putting on weight, put on 60 pounds in about six months, I guess, and it got to be a joke. Every week instead of getting our clothes cleaned, we'd go get new ones. We're going to take this off when we got home. It doesn't happen that way. I picked up an extra 40 or 50 since then. This was my wife. You can see why I didn't want to leave her at the time. And my flying stuff here. By the way, here's the -- you know, this was the Air Corps, but these were all air forces within the Air Corps. There were 15 of them all together, and I thought sure I would be in the eighth, I mean, because that's where all my buddies were going.

Larry Ordner:

And really you trained with all those, right? You trained --

Daniel M. Kissel:

No, I didn't train.

Larry Ordner:

But I mean --

Daniel M. Kissel:

Yeah, because I didn't -- the people I trained, I don't know what Air Force they went to.

Larry Ordner:

Right, right.

Daniel M. Kissel:

When they left us, and, of course, this was the rest of them back here. You got 20th Air Force, that was the B-29's. This was the training command. Of course, this was General Chiang Kai-Shek. I picked these up someplace, and, but most of the stuff that's in my scrapbook here is just junk that I sent home that my wife decided to keep. One of the things I got pictures in here shows the south side of our barracks where they gave us our flight suits, and, boy, we were a happy bunch of yokels then, and we found out that those flights suits weren't what they were. You would sweat like a Negro from the ground up, as we used to say, and you would get to 40,000 feet and it's 50 below, your hair is freezing. Do you remember a sports writer we had here in Evansville named Marv Bates?

Larry Ordner:

I certainly --

Daniel M. Kissel:

He was killed with that ______, but anyway Marv had the greatest head of hair you ever saw in your life. He went into the Air Force and came back from one of his flights, and when he took his helmet off, all his hair came with it. He had perspired and it had frozen and he just yanked his helmet off and it just broke off, and he was balder than anything and it never came back. He had a little bit around the back, and they made you wear them from the ground up. That was always stupid, and but when you're dealing with a lot of people like that --

Larry Ordner:

Tell me about your discharge.

Daniel M. Kissel:

Well, the discharge was a little bit unusual too to the extent that when I got to Fort Sheridan, this officer, Captain Neumann, I can't remember his first name anymore. He's the one got me in up there, and I went to work as a staff sergeant, and one day I told him, I said, "You know, this -- I'm going to stay until I get discharged," and I says, "My wife, we just found out, is pregnant," and I said, "Is there any chance at all that I could make a little money?" And in 24 hours, he had me discharged and a C-85 rating where I was going to make 2,300 bucks, I forget for what length of time it was, but that was my rating so that by the time my wife had the baby and the Army paid that expense and I picked up enough money to come home and get a place for us to live because my family couldn't help me. I had eight brothers and sisters who lived in a shotgun house, two bedrooms and a kind of a little dining room they slept in, wherever you could pile up, you know, but it was just -- it was just strange. I waited up there for my brother, after even after my -- we had the baby. I waited for Gary to come home because I knew he was on the way, and so when he got discharged, he took my wife and drove to Evansville with her, and I stayed two or three more days for some reason, and then I just crawled in a train and came to Evansville and got off, and Mom and Dad said, "Hi, nice to have you back, son," and that was it, you know. The parades went to New York for the guys that came home first. By the time we got out, there wasn't any hue and cry for any celebration. I mean, we were just tickled to death that this thing was over and we were alive. But like I said, even there, I got a break at the end. By knowing him, he just ran this thing through and on the promise that I would stay, and so I stayed. I worked and I did go out and buy myself what I thought was a grey jacket and I got home and found out it was purple, and my wife accused me of shopping down in Harlem or some place. That was another thing I didn't find out till the war was over either. The Army never found it out or they didn't tell me is I'm color blind, so I come home and buy a printing business, and I can't mix colors, so -- it's always been some little thing like that. It's not a tragedy. It's just a happening.

Larry Ordner:

So what did you do for a living?

Daniel M. Kissel:

I ran a printing business with my brother for a while and then we split. He wanted to get in taking political work and I'm not a politician, and so I said, you know, you buy me out or I'll buy you out. Well, he decided that he was going to buy me out, and I went down to the Evansville Courier Press and I put my name in what they called a chapel list. I don't know whether you're familiar with that, but in a newspaper, they had what they call a chapel list, and in Evansville here, they had a hundred names, basically a hundred names that were full-time people. You put your name on that chapel list and nobody in that hundred regulars can get any overtime till you get your time, if there is overtime. If there's no overtime, you don't get any time, but that's the way you work yourself into it, so I was up there about two months putting out, you know, working in the composing room, and you were hand setting -- that was days before, like it is now, where you bang on a typewriter, take a picture, you're in business. I tell you, you hand set those headlines one letter at a time. You had Linotype, those old hotline type machines, and one day I came up to the shop and told him, I said, you know, "Let's get something settled here. I could use that money, and if you're going to take it over, why drag it out?" And he just looked up and says, "I've changed my mind. It's yours." So I started chasing around to banks until I found a guy named Ray Elmendorf(ph) down at Morris(ph) Bank to loan me enough money to get started and --

Larry Ordner:

Did you ever use the G.I. bill in any way?

Daniel M. Kissel:

Never did. Never thought of it. That's just like the Veteran's Clinic. Right now, my medical bills -- my wife's medical bills and mine together chew up our social security, and I never thought of going -- I just still didn't feel like anybody owed me anything, and when my brother got so ill and was having these high expensive drugs, he went down to the Veteran's Clinic, and he told me, he said, "Dan why don't you go down?" He said, "You got it coming, you earned it." I said, "How in the hell did I earn it? I didn't do anything that anybody else didn't do." He said, "Didn't the Army take a couple years of your life?" I said, "Yeah, but that, you know, that was -- that's just payback. Everybody has to pay something in the world." But I went down there, and 6th of May I'm supposed to start and, hopefully, you know, that will save me about five or 6,000 a year, as long as I live, but at 80, I don't have much of a future. I mean, I'm not stupid. I have diabetes bad. Neuropathy is up to my knees. I've had a number of surgeries. I've had back surgery not too long ago. I've got right now what feels like a tumor forming right here. I don't know what that is. Looks like a golf ball. And my life expectancy, my family is not much more than this. My mother died at 63. My dad died at 81. So, you know, you just don't expect to live much more than what your parents did. But it's been a good life, and if I had it to do over, I don't want to do it over, but if I had to, including all the mistakes that I've made in the past, I'd go out and make new ones. That's what it's all about, really. But it hurts sometimes when I have to -- excuse me, to use a cane when I get on rough stuff and where I shuffle and it hurts my leg so bad, but again that's what I get for living so long, but, you know, if I can save that much. I heard the other day, I don't know about this, I guess I'm one of these people that just absolutely procrastinates. I don't look into it until it's necessary, but I understood the other day when I applied for this veteran's claim, this medicine thing, they wanted to know my wife's birth day and how long we've been married and everything, and I said, you know, She's not involved in this. I'm the veteran, and they said, Well, if you're deceased, she can get some of those benefits, so that would help her too.

Larry Ordner:

Any other comments on the military?

Daniel M. Kissel:

No. I really haven't. I've -- I've never lost my love of airplanes and flying and stuff like that, and you have a red light blinking here. Has that always been blinking and I just noticed it, or are you running out of --

Larry Ordner:

It's getting close.

Daniel M. Kissel:

I just noticed it for the first time. Isn't it strange to do how you think it's either now or it's later, and if it's later, it could be catastrophic. They start throwing nukes around, they start throwing these chemical warfare around and there's nobody going to change the wind currents or anything else. It's going to blow where it's going to blow, and we don't know what's going to happen. We do know a lot of what we know says do something now, so I'm a pretty minor percent. He'll make mistakes. If he didn't, he wouldn't be doing anything. I'm not sure that this Bin Saden or Laden or whatever it is is alive or dead. I really don't think now it makes any difference. I also don't think we're doing any good in Afghanistan. Russia couldn't do it, and they're right over there. They walked away finally in disgust and broke and they already were talking about these little conclaves and everything or enclaves. Re ___+, they just love to fight. They got -- the other night again I heard something on TV I wasn't aware. The money I guess is coming from Bin Laden, but the story is you're over there and you're not carrying a gun, you'll make about 10 dollars a month. If you'll carry a gun and fight, you'll get 200. If you've ever looked at their terrain over there, I have yet to find a tree. You know, get to the point now I'm looking for a bush or a tree. See what's there. There's no infrastructure. There's no roads; there's nothing. They have got every right in the world, I guess, in their mind to hate us. It's the old story. We have it here in this country, not to that extent, but I'm always appalled at the number of people who instead of climbing to try to climb where you are, as an example, they'd rather pull you down. It's easier. And this is basically what they are doing over there. Instead of saying, Hey, we'll quit fighting, you send us the aid that you're spending now on a worthless cause and let's get this war going. It isn't going to happen. Just a little while ago there was a report came on some guy walked into a place having a cedar, cider, I think it's called cider dinner --

 
Home » Text Transcript
  The Library of Congress  >> American Folklife Center
  October 26, 2011
  Legal | External Link Disclaimer Need Help?   
Contact Us