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Interview with Robert Granston on October 8, 2002

Judith Kent:

Today is October 8, 2002. This is Judith Kent speaking from the Flagler County Public Library in Palm Coast, Florida. Joining me today is Captain Robert Granston who was born on December 28, 1916. He currently resides in Palm Coast, Florida. Captain Granston and I are the only persons present at the interview, and this is our first face-to-face encounter. Captain Granston, thank you for agreeing to tell us your story of your military service. Would you state just for the record the branch of service in which you served?

Robert Granston:

Yes, I was in the United States Navy and specifically in the Supply Corps of the United States Navy.

Judith Kent:

What was the highest rank that you achieved?

Robert Granston:

I achieved the rank of Captain in which I retired from.

Judith Kent:

Where did you serve?

Robert Granston:

I served in various stations, the last being in Washington D. C. at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. Before that I graduated from the University of Washington Naval ROTC and accepted a regular commission in the Supply Corps of the Navy in August of 1940.

Judith Kent:

Why did you choose the Navy?

Robert Granston:

I always wanted to be in the Navy, even as a little child. I wanted nothing more than to be in the Navy.

Judith Kent:

You were living in Seattle...

Robert Granston:

Seattle, indeed.

Judith Kent:

So you were exposed to boating and ...

Robert Granston:

I was, indeed. I wanted very badly to the Naval Academy but that was not to be. I was happy to be a candidate and subsequently enrolled in the Naval ROTC at the University of Washington. In August of 1940, upon graduation accepting a regular commission I went back to the Navy Finance and Supply Corps School in Philadelphia and was there for six months and then went to the Philippines. It was in the Philippines that I was eventually taken a prisoner of war.

Judith Kent:

Before we get to that, do you remember arriving in the Philippines?

Robert Granston:

I do. I came to the Philippines on the transport, The USS Henderson, arriving in Manila in May of 1940.

Judith Kent:

That harbor is something, isn't it?

Robert Granston:

It is, indeed! The SS Washington was departing Manila harbor as we arrived, and on the Washington was many of our nationals returning to the United States.

Judith Kent:

So there already was an awareness that...

Robert Granston:

There already was an awareness on the part of the United States that things in the Far East were taking a somewhat adverse turn.

Judith Kent:

So was that pretty scary, to be going into the area when other people were getting out?

Robert Granston:

I did not consider it scary, with all the ignorance of youth and enthusiasm for the Navy, I looked upon it more as high adventure than anything that may be ominous or a threat.

Judith Kent:

"Join the Navy and see the world?"

Robert Granston:

It was. I was assigned to the Cavite Navy Yard for duty, first in the Supply Department and subsequently as a Supply and Dispersing Officer of the Receiving Station at the yard.

Judith Kent:

It was a busy yard, I would imagine.

Robert Granston:

It was, and the events of December 7th in Pearl Harbor were followed by the bombing of the Cavite Navy Yard on December 10.

Judith Kent:

On the 7th, how did you become aware of the event?

Robert Granston:

Through the radio, through telegraph, announcements at the Navy Yard.

Judith Kent:

What was the response there?

Robert Granston:

[sigh] The response was less than I would have imagined later on. We were not on particularly high alert at the Navy Yard, even though we had the information of the bombing of the [Pearl Harbor] Navy Yard.

Judith Kent:

Did you know the extent of the damage?

Robert Granston:

No, at my level I did not know the full extent of the damage to Pearl Harbor. When I speak to the fact that we were not as prepared as we should have been, I was very surprised to learn that all our aircraft at Clark's Air Force Base were caught on the ground by the Japanese and our defense of the Cavite Navy Yard was not particularly vigorous.

Judith Kent:

Were you there when the bombs fell?

Robert Granston:

I was.

Judith Kent:

What was that like?

Robert Granston:

Again, with the raining of all of the bombs coming down at about high noon, your immediate reaction is one of initial fear and then your training takes over and you take up what defense positions you can and do your part. For what little I did at the Cavite Navy Yard and also doing my duty, I was pleased subsequently to learn (when on Corregidor) that I was awarded the Navy Cross for my duties in that defense.

Judith Kent:

What were some of the things that you did?

Robert Granston:

My duties were just helping in every way that I can, going out to the end of the Receiving Station (which was adjacent to the torpedo factory which was going up in flames) rescuing all of my funds that were in the Receiving Station safe and subsequently getting them to the bank in Manila, returning to the Navy Yard and again performing whatever duties I saw as necessary to do.

Judith Kent:

An event that shook everybody?

Robert Granston:

Well, it certainly turned my life around [laughs] as it did everyone else's at the Navy Yard. We stayed there at the Navy Yard until December the 24th and there we were involved in burying the dead. Commander Strong (we called him "Captain") was the Commanding Officer of the Receiving Station did a tremendous leadership, did a tremendous job in getting all of our people together and burying the dead!

Judith Kent:

You still had communication to the outside world?

Robert Granston:

I'm sure that we did; I can't say that I was in communication with the outside world. I was communicating at my level; I was an ensign at the time. Many levels above me were more concerned with communicating with the outside world.

Judith Kent:

How did that era end or change, the era where you were still at the base?

Robert Granston:

We were [under] a mandatory evacuation [order] of the Cavite Yard, no later than December 24th. We evacuated to Bataan.

Judith Kent:

What was that journey like?

Robert Granston:

It was a journey by private automobile through all of the hoards of personnel evacuating to southern Bataan, through all of the trucks and the like. It was organized chaos!

Judith Kent:

There were a lot of people moving.

Robert Granston:

Of course, everyone was evacuating to Bataan. I eventually arrived with my small party at the Navy Base, the Section Base at Mariveles (it is also called the submarine base). I stayed there at Mariveles at the Section Base until about the end of January at which time I was moved to the Island of Corregidor, the "Island Fortress" guarding Manila.

Judith Kent:

Impregnable!

Robert Granston:

Impregnable, yes, we thought, with all of our guns pointed out to sea with no concept that we would be invaded from Bataan. Being on Corregidor, I was not captured on Bataan on April 9th of '42, [as were the POWs who would undergo the Bataan Death March] however when Corregidor did surrender May 6th of '42...

Judith Kent:

MacArthur was able to get out.

Robert Granston:

MacArthur was indeed out, leaving the command to General Wainwright. I did have the opportunity to see General MacArthur, Mrs. MacArthur and their son leave Corregidor along with the Chinese amah. I think in a way, I felt for the first time that hundreds of ships and thousands of men weren't going to protect this little ass of mine. I think that I began to lose my innocence when I recognized that I ranked with, but after, a Chinese amah in getting out of Corregidor.

Judith Kent:

That put it into focus for you.

Robert Granston:

It did, and then subsequent events took over leading to the surrender of Corregidor.

Judith Kent:

How did that come about for you personally, what was the surrender like?

Robert Granston:

I was in Queen's Tunnel which was a Navy Tunnel. We were rounded up and taken down to the 92nd garage and concentrated in that area, all of the forces that were on Corregidor. We subsequently (after a week or ten days) were transported to Manila and marched from the end of Dewey Boulevard (the traditional name of that magnificent boulevard) to Bilibid Prison, the old prison that they had in the walled city of Manila. There we were kept for a week or so and then transported by truck to Cabanatuan (which in my memory was about sixty kilometers north of Manila).

Judith Kent:

What was your first impression of the camp?

Robert Granston:

We walked from Cabanatuan to Camp 3 which was a concentration of Navy and Marine personnel. We stayed there several months and then were brought back to Camp 1 where we were concentrated with the other prisoners of war.

Judith Kent:

What would a typical day be like there?

Robert Granston:

I will be glad to answer that, but having read Ghost Soldiers in preparation for this interview, you will recall that the prisoners on Bataan were taken [the Bataan Death March] up to Camp O'Donnell and then brought back to Camp1, so we were all concentrated there. In answer to your question, this was in May of '41 [no] '42 (excuse me) until October of '44 I was in the Camp 3 area and then subsequently in Camp 1 where the bulk of my stay was. The days were endless. At first unbelievably [we were] optimistic thinking that this period would be short-lived, that our forces still would come in and our release would be imminent. Then as our situation became more grave and more accepted and reality set in, it was one day at a time [added 10/19/02: year after year, over 3 years in all.]

Judith Kent:

Just getting through it.

Robert Granston:

We worked on the farm, which was in a way a godsend. It was getting out of the camp area and becoming somewhat active in doing things. Then from working on the farm detail I worked on the wood [cutting] detail there at the last. I observed that the wood detail under Major Ridgley of the Marine Corps seemed to fare very well and do somewhat better than the average prisoner. Luckily I became a member of that team, not because I had any wood cutting ability, but just... There was the opportunity to get a little extra ration of food.

Judith Kent:

That was vitally important.

Robert Granston:

That was terribly important! We had occasional contact with Philippine civilians and there not only exchanged limited (and questionable) information, but also sometimes to receive little portions of food from them. My wood cutting partner was Peraneau Brown Wingo III from Richmond, Virginia. I cite this because over the course of a year as a partner we because we became not only close friends but we exchanged a great deal of personal information about our families. Perry had been the Executive Officer of the mine sweeper, the USS Nappa and in prison camp he had painstakingly etched the profile of the mine sweeper on his canteen cup; and therein lies a story. It is this kind of thing that I am citing to you wasn't unique to me; it was happening to all kinds of prisoners in their relationships with each other. When we finally left the Philippines, and particularly Cabanatuan in December of '44, we were eventually loaded on the Oryoku Maru. It was on this ship that Peraneau lost his life, as did my other buddy, Chuck Wilkins. I was able to keep Peraneau's canteen cup that he gave me [before he died] throughout my remaining captivity up in Japan and also in Korea. When I came back to the States after my release in (I am jumping ahead, only to carry out this story) we received many letters from families, wondering if there was any possibility that we might know of the whereabouts of their loved ones. I received this one letter from John Wingo II (Perry's father who was a lawyer in Richmond). My first reaction was to jump on the phone and call Mr. Wingo and advise him that not only did I know his son, but I had a personal possession [of his]. Little did I know that this would turn into quite an event. After I was married and came back to Philadelphia on extended leave, our trip included going to Richmond in a used car that hardly would get from one place to another. We were able to travel from Philadelphia to Richmond and put the car in a garage. Mr. and Mrs. Wingo lived on Park Avenue. I don't know what I expected, but it was a very cool reception. After dinner, I turned to my new wife and I said, "Norma, if we could get out of here I think that we should; our car is in the garage and there is no hotel room, but we must do something." After dinner we sat in the parlor there and had coffee and at the appropriate time I extended to Mrs. Wingo this cup of Perry's; it was received with all the coldness possible. Then the next day we had to go see the mother of John Xavier Phillip Golden. Mrs. Wingo stopped her car [in which we were riding] and said, "Bob (I am now Bob) the Wingo family owes you an apology. You must have felt that something was wrong." I said, "Yes, Mrs. Wingo I did, and had there been an opportunity to leave, indeed I would." She said, "At the time that you called from Seattle telephoning Mr. Wingo that not only did you know your son, Perry, but also that you had a personal possession, there was also appearing in the Richmond Times stories of returning prisoners of war from Germany 'allegedly' knowing their loved one and bring possessions for which they wanted and extorted a price. You fell in that same pattern." She said, "I can't tell you how sorry we are that we misinterpreted this, your motives." I said, "Thank gosh, because this is a shock." She said, If you could stay an additional three or four days and accept the traditional hospitality for which our Richmond families are capable, please do." I had nothing but leave, so staying an additional five days with a broken down car was no particular problem. Norma and I were feted up and down the James River for four or five days and the Wingo family and I became such very close friends. Elizabeth [Mrs. Wingo] did die subsequently. Our last meeting with John was an early Sunday morning as we were driving through Richmond in route back to Washington [D.C.] and we arrived early at his place on Park Avenue (about 11 o'clock) catching him in his sweater, not in his morning coat. He excused himself, went and put his morning coat on and received us properly. From a very surprising beginning it was the most glorious finish to that, one that I think Peraneau might appreciate. I go into this detail only because I think others might have experienced [something similar] somewhat. I have always been indebted to the Wingo family for not only the friendship of their son, Peraneau, in prison camp, but their friendship subsequent to that.

Judith Kent:

I think that is a very important issue to bring up, because how could you have survived those hardships without the friendships that you forged?

Robert Granston:

You could not! I mentioned earlier my friend, Chuck Wilkins (who went to the University of Washington with me) who also accepted a commission in the Supply Corps, went to the Naval Finance and Supply Corps with me and went out to the Philippines with me with all the enthusiasm of youth. He was killed on this ship, the Oryoku Maru.

Judith Kent:

How did that come about, was the ship bombed?

Robert Granston:

Yes. We left Pearl Harbor (excuse me) Manila on the evening of December the 13th. The conditions as described in this brochure [gestures to Death Ship: Voyage of the Oryoku Maru] and as described Hampton Sides' book, The Ghost Soldiers speaks to the death voyage of the Oryoku Maru. It is very well described in great detail. I will go into that later, if you wish. Chuck lost his life in that. Without the friendships there and the buddy system in which you looked out after each other... I was also fortunate to have the friendship of Bob Glatt from Patterson, New Jersey and of George Petritz who has an interesting story in connection with the Oryoku Maru. The four of us stayed together as close as we could and we watched out for each other and helped each other throughout.

Judith Kent:

On a larger scope, was there organization among the prisoners, higher ranking (not necessarily Army or Navy ranks) but leadership for the camp as a whole?

Robert Granston:

Oh yes. There was the organization of the camp headed up by senior officers over all the camp by an Army officer; our Marine Corps/ Navy section [was headed] by Colonel Curtis T. Beecher (he was a Colonel at that time).

Judith Kent:

Was that pretty effective?

Robert Granston:

Yes, without organization, without some sense overall purpose to it? yes, we couldn't get along without it. Colonel Curtis T. Beecher, I just love the guy! He was a remarkable leader. I just have not had the opportunity to learn what subsequently happened to him after we left Korea, but I am sure that he had a great, great career. One of the officers in the Navy [corrected 10/19/02 to: Army], General Johnson, who was a Colonel in our camp, he also became after his release the head of the Army and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. So, we had some remarkable, remarkable people in that camp.

Judith Kent:

The other authority figures there who were not as helpful were the guards.

Robert Granston:

The Japanese guards are what you are referring to? Hardly! [laughs]

Judith Kent:

What was your impression of them?

Robert Granston:

The guards were probably the lowest rank of the Japanese Army that they could recruit from what ever sources that remained. [sighs] The Japanese soldiers and the like were probably in fighting positions.

Judith Kent:

So they [the guards] were the dregs?

Robert Granston:

The dregs. They were anxious to show their authoritative positions at all costs.

Judith Kent:

They could be brutal?

Robert Granston:

They could be brutal, indeed. I think that the worst thing that any of us could learn to do was to bow [demonstrates bowing] to the Japanese.

Judith Kent:

I'm sure that there were many difficult things about the experience, the food, the confinement, the...

Robert Granston:

It was [difficult]. As I mentioned much earlier, one day follows another. It is never a question in your mind as to whether or not the United States would emerge victorious. It boils down to a personal, day to day survival of you, the Japanese and the elements (the elements being polluted water, the mosquitoes with malaria). I was very fortunate, Mrs. Kent in the sense that being born in Seattle, I came from a farm. During the Depression years there was not an extra five cents, but there was always a history of good food which I likened to "money in the bank". I drew upon that history of good nutrition during my period of adversity in camp. Also, I was fortunate in that I drank the same polluted waters and did not get amoebic dysentery. I was bitten by the same mosquitoes and did not get malaria. It was the malaria, the dysentery that wore so many of our soldiers and naval personnel down.

Judith Kent:

Surely you lost weight.

Robert Granston:

Yes, my lowest weight was approximately 102. My regular weight going into that was about 150, but yet I was relatively a "heavy weight". Prisoners much taller than I am with a bigger build, it was not uncommon for their weight to drop down into the 80's and the like. So I felt that I was very fortunate in that situation, not only having a history of good nutrition but also fortunate enough not to be defeated by the elements.

Judith Kent:

It was very warm; it was hot.

Robert Granston:

Yes, during the summer months. The period of March through the end of October was the hot rainy season, but from the end of October or first of November to the end of April it was the most beautiful weather in the world. We had both extremes.

Judith Kent:

Was there anything that helped pass the days, any entertainment, any self-organized entertainment that you could invent for one another?

Robert Granston:

Yes. There were various things that you did to keep busy, Mrs. Kent, other than the work detail (which in a way was a godsend as a way of passing the time). You would regale each other with stories of your background. You would discuss food endlessly and the discussions of the southern chaps' Brunswick Stew is always a good one. Warrick Potter Scott was the aide the Commandant. He was a "main- liner"; [lived near the Pennsylvania RR route to Philadelphia] he lived in Villanova. Warrick was at least 6'5", very thin with skin that was very sensitive to the sun. He had a pillow case that he [wore over his head in which he] had cut two eyes, nose and mouth. He looked a lot like Ichabod Crane, I thought. The Japanese Soldiers didn't know quite what to do with him. Occasionally Warrick would make [work] details in this garb, but he was a highly educated man. He would conduct seminars in the evening on English literature, on wine making and on his travels abroad. His brother, Edgar Scott wrote me [after the war] asking me if I knew his brother. I replied in a long letter in great detail, including the story of the pillow case. Edgar was kind enough to include my input into a memorial [book] for his children. His wife (this is an aside) was Hope Scott. The playwright, Phillip Barry wrote the play, The Philadelphia Story and that was made into a film. It was the life of Hope Scott which was featured in that play. They too became very good friends of mine. The friendships made in camp carried over in maybe a little bit different form. I'm sorry I got off on that.

Judith Kent:

No, that is right on target. Let's take a brief pause here.

Robert Granston:

Judith Kent:

OK, let's go back to your experience on the "Death Ship" (you can pronounce it better than I can).

Robert Granston:

I remained in Cabanatuan until October of '44, a member of one of the last large drafts to leave that camp for Manila. This large draft is mentioned in Hampton Sides' book, The Ghost Soldiers. This 1,618 of were taken to Bilibid prison again and stayed there from the middle of October until about the middle of December. A period of bad weather set in and the Japanese were not able to get the transport [ships] in until the weather abated. Then on December 13th of '44 we were loaded aboard the Japanese transport, the Oryoku Maru (Maru meaning ship in Japanese). It was one of the last large transports to leave the area and [aboard were] Japanese nationals who were evacuating. We were eventually placed into three holds, the aft, middle and forward hold (in which I was). The conditions that are described in this book [gestures toward the book, Death Ship: Voyage of the Oryoku Maru] as well as Hampton Sides' [book] are very well recorded and documented. I choose not to get into that if you will allow me.

Judith Kent:

Sure.

Robert Granston:

We were bombed the night of December 13th by our forces [who were unaware that there were American POWs on the ship] and again the morning of the 14th. The ship was "worried" into the old naval station there at Olongapo in the Philippines and we evacuated that ship, were held in the tennis court area for about ten days and then transported up to Pampanga by truck and then by train up to Lynguyan Gulf, arriving there in December 24th of 1944. Several days later we were loaded aboard another transport [the Enoura Maru] that was bombed in Formosa. It too was bombed and of the 1618 that left on that last draft approximately 350 of us (by my count) arrived in Kyoshu, Japan. Of that number, I am advised that many died subsequently due to exposure to cold, pneumonia, malnutrition and wounds sustained during the bombing. [Wheeler estimates that 300 survived the ordeal.] Our group was divided and a good portion went to Fukuoka, Japan where we were held until after President Roosevelt's death in April of 1945 at which time we were moved to Korea and landed in Pusan, Korea. [We were] taken by train through Seoul, the capital and then brought to the prison camp called, "Jisen" Korea (that is J I N S E N), a name given to that city or port by the Japanese. It was subsequently returned to its traditional name, Inchon by MacArthur. I was in that camp until the surrender in October [corrected 10/19/02 to: August] of '45. Then our forces came in to the port there in August of '45. We were taken by ship to Manila and there went through a rehabilitation center (the number of which was 691st)

Judith Kent:

What was the best part about that?

Robert Granston:

The best part of that was initially confirming the fact I was going to live.

Judith Kent:

Back to basics!

Robert Granston:

Yes. The second day that I was in camp and orderly came up to me after a particularly tiring day (physically) to ask me to come back to the administrative center. I thought, "Why do they want me to come back there? Who has turned me in for some possible war atrocity?" As I worked my way down slowly to the administrative office out of the screen door ran a woman in uniform, running towards me calling, "Bob, Bob!" It turned out to be my twin cousin, Harriet Mench (M E N C H) who was a WAC. I didn't know anything about that. The best part of that was that for three days she stayed with me. I helped her celebrate her twenty fifth birthday by giving her $25. I thought I was the last of the big time spenders. She brought me up to date on all my family, the fact that my fiancé was waiting. I did not receive a "dear John" letter as some did in prison camp!

Judith Kent:

Let's talk more about this fiancé. We haven't given her due credit. Did she have any idea what was going on with you, where you were or...

Robert Granston:

She did (as we were talking about over coffee). My friend, George Petritz who escaped from the prison ship, the Oryoku Maru by swimming to the opposite shore [some twelve miles distant] was picked up by the Philippine guerillas and while there contracted malaria. George upon his return to the United States was used by our government and the Navy in connection with [war] bond drives up and down the east coast. As he came into Philadelphia he had a reoccurring bout of malaria and his presence there in Philadelphia was advertised in the Philadelphia Inquirer, which my fiancé, Norma Beatrice Cisco read. She came down to the hospital, met George (he was well aware of who Norma was from all the stories he had heard about her in prison camp.) She stayed with him for three days, helping him reply to correspondence received from people who were wanting to hear about their loved ones. One month and one day after I was released from prison camp in Korea I was back in Seattle and married.

Judith Kent:

Oh my!

Robert Granston:

My biggest fear (as was the fear of others) was that as a result of our prison experience we would not be able to be a good husband or a good father, or [even] be a father.

Judith Kent:

Right.

Robert Granston:

However, that myth was soon dispelled when Norma became pregnant and our first child was born ten months later. [laughing]

Judith Kent:

A healthy baby!

Robert Granston:

Indeed.

Judith Kent:

You went from horrible to wonderful in a very short period.

Robert Granston:

Yes. I also had five months leave upon my return. After being married in Seattle we took the train back to Philadelphia in January of '45, excuse me, January of '46 where I met her parents for the first time.

Judith Kent:

They were trying to fatten you up, I'll bet.

Robert Granston:

Yes, my weight went from the 102 that I mentioned earlier and by the time I got back to the states I was well on the way to recovering my weight. When I was married I weighed about 125 and escalated up to 190 and had to then push myself away from the table. The duty after I returned from our honeymoon was at the Naval Air Station at Sands Point (that is in the Seattle, Washington area).

Judith Kent:

Did you consider at all leaving the service at that point?

Robert Granston:

I never gave a moment's thought to it! The Navy was my life. My experience of being a prisoner of war did nothing to diminish my enthusiasm for a service career. The Navy has been tremendous to me. From Sand Point I went back to Philadelphia to the Aviation Supply Office for one year and was fortunate enough to be selected to attend the Stanford Graduate School of Business in Palo Alto from 1950 to 1952. This October 18th there will be the 50th reunion of our graduating class. Regrettably I am not able to attend that, but those were two great, great years at Stanford.

Judith Kent:

Let's pause here for a minute. [attaches the microphone to his shirt] OK, I'm sorry that I interrupted you.

Robert Granston:

Not at all. After graduation from Stanford I came back to Washington DC for duty with the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project at the Pentagon. With my Dad's help we bought our first home in Arlington, Virginia. We paid the unheard of sum of $35, 500 for his lovely brick home with three bedrooms, three baths, family room. I thought that spending that kind of money that I had learned not a darned thing at the Business School. [laughter] But location, location, a home that subsequently sold up into the six hundred thousands of dollars. [He stated later that he wished he had held on to that property.] From my Washington duty I went to the Naval Air Station in Pensacola [Florida] as a Supply Officer. It was there that I learned to like this area. My father-in-law moved from Bucks County Pennsylvania to Sarasota [Florida] and enjoyed that. From Pensacola we went on to Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania to duty at the Fleet Supply Office there and then to the Industrial College of the Armed Forces in 1965 as a student and graduated there in '66. Because the Navy didn't know what to do with me then they made me an instructor there. It was while at the Industrial College that I retired from the Navy after almost 30 years. I felt the need to augment my income to send my kids to college (which was one of the motivations to retire). We remained in the Washington DC area where I was employed in connection with Navy logistic matters including the Special Weapons Laboratory for the last two years before I finally retired to Florida and a life of leisure. My wife and I were privileged to have two children, one daughter who remains in the Washington DC area and a son who lives in Sarasota. Sharon has never married, Jeff married but divorced. We sold our home in Sarasota and after exhaustive research of at least two hours we decided to move to the east coast. We always liked the Ormond Beach [Florida] area and we had a home down here in Plantation Bay. Then Norma died on January the 7th of '93. She had severe rheumatoid arthritis and heart complications. We were married 47 years, but in 1995 I met my present wife (with whom I have been married now over 5 years) through a good friend of hers. We met on the driving range at Plantation Bay where I do my best golf. I think that [her friend] Betty Hayes was more impressed with my new golf clubs than me, but she did say that there was a pretty lady she would like me to meet and she left Iris' telephone number with me before she departed. Iris said that was an improvement because Betty usually left her number on a match box cover in a bar. [laughter] Iris and I were married in June of '97 after we had gone out to Seattle to a family reunion. By process of attrition I am the patriarch of the family and of course had to return to this reunion. I think that my family's younger generation was far more impressed with Iris than the patriarch (particularly when they learned that Iris had been to the Masters [golf tournament] for the last 30 years). They knew that Uncle Bob had made the right decision. We live currently here at Hammock Dunes and my days are occupied with trivia: playing golf (which hasn't improved), croquet, gardening and other matters.

Judith Kent:

Good things.

Robert Granston:

Good things.

Judith Kent:

We touched earlier on the fact that you don't dwell brutal and bad experiences of your life but you are able to some extent to block them out and focus on the good.

Robert Granston:

I have been able to do that. Whether that is part of my nature or not, I suppose it is. I see no purpose in dwelling on the horrors of the "death ship" voyage Oryoku Maru or the horrific event took place in prison camp which have been well documented elsewhere. It serves no purpose for me, personally to dwell on that.

Judith Kent:

But also your modesty keeps us from appreciating some of the heroics of your service. You didn't just transfer from that ship, [the Oryoku Maru] right; you went over the side?

Robert Granston:

[sighs] Well yes, as quickly as I could. No, I don't think that I had many heroics in that particular ship other than just to swim doggy paddle to the nearest shore. My heroics I leave to others who accomplished far more than I.

Judith Kent:

Well the Army, I mean the Navy valued your service in the medals that they bestowed on you.

Robert Granston:

Yes, they have, Judith; thank you for that, I am very proud and very privileged to be awarded the Navy Cross (which for a Supply Corps Officer is somewhat a singular thing). By no way do I mean that there might not have been others that have received it as well, but I did receive that. For my services at the Industrial College I was awarded the Legion of Merit. I think that just being able to survive I should have gotten the Good Conduct Medal. [laughter]

Judith Kent:

There you go, the "good gene medal"! [earlier he had credited his survival to good genes]

Robert Granston:

[laughing] I think, Judith that is pretty much the end of my story other than...

Judith Kent:

You told us that you made fast friends and that you have kept up those friendships.

Robert Granston:

I have, and unfortunately I have lost many of them, including Ken Wheeler who was in prison camp with me (also in the Supply Corps). Ken's story is one that should be told (if not already). It is Kenneth Ray Wheeler. He had a much more successful naval career than myself upon getting out of prison camp, rising to the rank of Vice Admiral. He and I kept in touch all these years, at first Christmas card close, but later (as we got increasingly aware of our mortality I suppose) more frequently. He and I were among the more well members of prison camp, particularly at Fukuoka, Japan when we arrived there. Again, we would work on the farm detail. Do you know what a "honey bucket" is or a "benjo bucket" is? It is a container in which the "night soil" [human excrement] is transported from the source to the farm by way of a bamboo pole over the shoulders of the guy in front and back. Ken and I were on this "honey bucket" detail together and we would always jockey to see who would be in front. [laughter] To put it rather inelegantly, after working a farm detail over a period of time, one or the other isn't going to give you any crap. [laughing] Ken's funeral was at Arlington last June the 20th. I was honored to be one of his honor pall bearers. As I walked behind his caisson to his burial site at the cemetery (it was a circuitous route of about a mile) these thoughts came to mind about him and I working the farm detail together. I couldn't help get somewhat amused as I followed his caisson thinking about how he and I had worked the farm details. Was that an irreverent thought? I think not. I think Ken might have enjoyed my remembering that. [laughs] That is an example, Judith of how we have kept in touch through the years (others possibly more than I have). I have not had a history of joining a lot of the prisoner of war organizations until just recently. I have attended several chapter meetings here recently and feel maybe I have missed out by not [doing so earlier]. In the beginning I did not speak a lot about my activities in prison camp at all. [Some] Prisoner of war organizations adopted a logo of a prisoner of war hanging on barbed wire, which I did not feel particularly appropriate. I was discouraged initially about doing it [joining POW organizations]. I think it is my fault for not doing it. With these remarks I think I conclude.

Judith Kent:

Thank you again for sharing your story.

Robert Granston:

Judith, my pleasure. I am again sorry it has taken so long, us getting together.

 
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  October 26, 2011
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