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Interview with John Carver [April 24, 2003]

John Carver:

Jack I go by.

Alyssa Rupp:

And today's April 24th, 2003, and we're at the Parenting Community Center.

John Carver:

Good. I was in the United States Navy during World War II. In fact, I went in -- was a senior in high school when the war started and immediately after that, of course, the war started on December 7, 1941, and I was a senior and wanted to serve my country, and I was a year older than most boys at that time, and I would have been drafted about two weeks after I got out of high school, so I decided to join the Navy. I wanted to get into the Medical Corps because I had been doing first aid and water safety courses and I was an instructor. So I went directly into the Navy Medical Corps. I went in as a hospital apprentice to start with and worked my rank up to Pharmacist Mate First Class. And in my first year -- or first duty was, of course, training at Great Lakes Naval Training Station, and after that I was transferred to the west coast to Oakland, California, and I was assigned on a ship at that time, the USS La Salle. That was an attack transport out of Oakland, California. And I was on that ship for a while. We took Seabees, the first load of Seabees, into Guadalcanal. Quite a harrowing experience of going in Torpedo Junction, what they called it. And after we took the first load of Seabees in, we stopped at Noumea, New Caledonia, which was an island group in the Pacific, which is kind of a rendezvous point for many of the military ships. I was then transferred to a Navy hospital ship, the USS Relief. That was the first an original ship had made from the keel up as a Navy hospital ship. So I was put on that ship as a corpsman, and from that point on I stayed until after the war was over. And give you some of the highlights of what we did. While I was on the ship we had about 75,000 patients. Most of those, of course, are wounded in action, but we also would take on, when we were in between invasions, we would be sitting in a harbor someplace in the Pacific Theater and would take -- and act as a normal hospital. You know, when you have that many thousands of men and women around, you're gonna have illnesses, accidents and so forth. We were just like here. Anybody that needed any kind of medical attention, that's what we were there for, until an invasion started. So that's basically what we were doing. What happened was that we, being a Navy hospital ship, we tried to abide by all of the Geneva convention rules, and that is we were a white ship. I have pictures of it here if you want to see it, if you want to put it in the record. We were a white ship with red crosses on it, lit up like a Christmas tree at night. So if we were in a war-zone area, we would light up to let the world know we were a hospital ship. The only problem with that was the Japanese did not honor that. They didn't care. So as the war started to progress and we went in to invasions, we were in nine major invasions in the Pacific, almost -- every single invasion in the Pacific Theater except Iwo Jima. We were back in the United States getting rebuilt, badly need of repairs. We were falling apart at the seam. But anyway, we would go in on an invasion. We would go in with our lights lit up. Well, we were illuminating even our warships, which was too dangerous, plus the fact we were telling the Japanese where we were. They did not honor us, so they would bomb us, strafe us, kamikaze us, anything they wanted to. Luckily now we were never hit, but we were very close a number of times. So after those first few experiences of being picked on, we just -- the military, the Navy at the time, decided to forget that, so what we would do, we would not illuminate our ship, we would go in with a fleet and they would smoke screen us, and smoke screening is just what it means, it's an acrid, stinky -- if you've ever gotten in the congested traffic and get diesel fuel, smell of that in your car, well, that's what we were like 24 hours a day when we were going into an invasion. So we would -- but that protected us. To back up just a little bit, why we were smoke screened, as I say we were bombed, we were strafed, we were kamikazed by Japanese ships, and luckily never hit, but at one time, I forget which one it was now, you know, it's been almost 60 years so time progresses fast, one time we were being under attack and there was a kamikaze coming at us, and I never will forget "The Old Man." In the Navy you called your skipper "The Old Man." That's an endearing command, not necessarily bad. So, anyway, "The Old Man" was screaming on the P.A. system that a kamikaze was coming at us, right at our bridge, and it would have sunk us if it had hit us. Luckily we didn't know this, but a Tin Can, that's a destroyer, was off on the horizon. We didn't even see it. It was tracking this airplane and shooting everything it had, 5-inch guns, at it, and it hit it right in the fantail, just about, oh, a thousand, 1500 yards from us. So that's one of the narrowing experiences we had. Again lucky. So . . . So we went on our merry way. Now, about the invasions. What we would do, being a Navy hospital ship, we wore white clothes, we had life pretty easy compared to many other people. We would be up on deck watching the invasion ships go in, watch all the Marines or whoever's doing the invading, Army, Marines, or a combination, and frankly, we'd sit there and wait till they were wounded. Another hour or two we'd start getting patients. What we would do, being a hospital ship, we would get the worst of the wounded. They would triage them onshore or, if they came to us untriaged, we would take the more severely wounded, and any of the what we called "happy wounds," we would send to other ships. Every ship in the Navy always has a sick bay for eight or ten, 20, depending how big the ship is, with maybe one doctor, sometimes not even a doctor, sometimes just a pharmacist mate. So the "happy wounds," what we meant by "happy wounds" was it was something that was not life threatening, that would be -- put 'em back in action after awhile, a wounded arm, leg, something like that. So we would take the worst of the patients, and we would hold a thousand patients. Depend on the severity of the invasion, we would wait sometimes a day, two days, sitting there taking wounded as they come, giving them whatever needed. Operations, we had operating rooms, of course, just like any big hospital would. Remember, 60 years ago isn't as fancy as today's, but for those days it was a modern hospital. So we would load up whole thousand -- a thousand patients. Then we'd take off for the nearest rear-area hospital. Sometimes this would be one or two days' sailing time from the action, and we would drop our patients off. During that time we would be working almost around the clock, 24 hours a day. We would get an hour or two sleep here and there if we could. When you got a thousand patients, all wounded people of all degrees. Some were burned, some were shrapnel, some were outright bullets, some were bigger shells, bombing, where everything came crashing down. I'm sure you saw the Iraq war and you get a little idea what it could have been like. Anyway, we would work -- ride the clock until we discharged these patients in a rear-area hospital. That rear-area hospital, what they would do would, again, take the wounded and if there were any ships going back to the United States or any rear area, like Hawaii, New Zealand, Australia, big areas like that that had real good medical facilities, any ships that were going back, they would put wounded on it to fill 'em up with whatever capacity they could take. The worst of the wounded, they would fly a lot of them back. But, anyway, we would let them off and we would go clean up the ship overnight, head right back into the action again. In some invasions we would take three and four loads of patients. That's three or four thousand. Each load was roughly a thousand, depending on the severity of the action. Saipan, Iwo Jima -- not Iwo Jima -- Okinawa, so forth, the various invasions. Like I said, we were an active ship, but we were well taken care of. So it was -- it was quite an experience. We had all kinds of wounded. You just can't imagine what it was like. The thing is that I tell nurses and doctors today that the things that we did then in that hospital ship they wouldn't believe we can -- they did it. We made our own bandages. We made -- we made our own pills, like APC tablets, which would be Tylenol. We made them ourselves. Any for wound -- for broken legs, for casts, we made our own plaster casts material. We -- our own needles to give shots for morphine. The old-fashioned way to make morphine was with a candle and a spoon and you had to heat it and crush up the pill and put water with it and then boil it within a fire, then put it in the syringe with a needle and then give the patient a shot. You know, it's not heard of today.

Alyssa Rupp:

Right.

John Carver:

We even sharpened our own needles. You know how you sharpen a knife with a whetstone. Well, that's exactly what we did with needles. Doctors, I don't think, even nurses and doctors, just can't envision doing that today; you know, you use it once and throw it away, get a new one. Well, we weren't anywhere near a drug store so we couldn't get any new ones. So it was quite different out there than it is here. On our ship we had a hundred and -- about 120 hospital corpsmen, which is the medical staff. We had 12 Navy nurses and about 20 to 25, on average, doctors. That varied all over the map. They would come and go. Some doctors would be there six months, some a year, some two years. I was on that ship three and a half years total till after the end of the war. Some of the things that happened, these are some hilarious, some are funny and some aren't so funny, but having Navy nurses. Of course, a Navy nurse was an officer, and you know an enlisted man has to respect officers, but being Navy nurses, the camaraderie was kind of -- especially when we didn't have patients. If we were in between one invasion or another, now they didn't come right after another, they were six months apart, three months apart, things like that, so in the meantime we had time on our hands. We would have routine patients, as I mentioned, but not wounded. So we had a lot of fun with the Navy nurses. Some of 'em were real good, and some of 'em were old sourpusses. So we had a set of twins at one time, I never will forget as long as I live, Noreen (ph) and Coreen (ph) Johnson, and they were young. They just was out of school. Of course, I was only 18 years old at the time myself, so that's the way it was. But these nurses were a lot of fun. The one nurse we got to kidding around one day and I forget how it came up, but something about, "Well, if that was my wife or my girlfriend and she did that, I'd paddle her butt," and she says, "There's no man ever dare better paddle me," and a couple of us says, "Well, ma'am, if you take your bars off," which means your officer's bars, "we'll see." So she said okay. She did. She got her butt paddled. All in fun. So these kind of things. You know, you had to have fun. If you didn't you'd have gone stark raving mad. So the other activities, the things that would go on, at one point, only one time did we take on any Japanese prisoners and at one -- one invasion we took on a thousand Japanese prisoners. Now, these were severely wounded men that had been very badly wounded, and it was -- it was a sight to behold. They were filthy dirty. The Japanese would live in these islands for ages, and their health habits weren't too good. If they were wounded, they'd literally -- this sounds gruesome but it's the truth -- maggots to eat the dead flesh in order to save them. They'd come aboard ship that way. They acted like they couldn't speak English. We thought they could speak English, but they wouldn't let on that they could. They were belligerent little SBs, is what they were. Somebody, I don't know who in the military command above us, got an idea how to quell this. We were sitting in Ulithi harbor, which is one of the biggest harbors in the world. Later after the war was over it was used as an atomic energy place where they actually exploded atomic bombs, but during the war it was a huge anchorage. More ships could go into that anchor than anyplace in the world. We were sitting there getting ready for a big invasion. Somebody got the idea how to quell these Japanese. They picked out what they thought were the leaders, the officers. They were correct, they were. They put them in a little motor lodge. Remember, these are big ships like the cruise ships you see. You've seen pictures of them. They're big ships. Anyway, they put them in -- four or five of them in a motor lodge with a couple of Marines, and they went out around all the battleships and the carriers and all the supply ships, thousands of them there, and they had them blindfolded when they took them out. They got them out in the middle of all this, took off the blindfold and said, "Now, look, you little SBs, this is what's going to tear your home country up. You know we're going to blast you off the face of the earth." That instant they decided you were right. They could speak English. The minute they got back aboard ship the word spread throughout the entire ship. They took showers. They cleaned themselves up. They bowed to you. They were pleasant. They were decent people once they knew that the war was over for them. I guess in my old age I'm getting pretty sentimental. But that just -- like I said, I don't know who gave that command but it was certainly brilliant to do it. Of course, we were just -- we were just there taking care of the wounded, you know, the best we could, and that's the way it went. One of the other memorable experiences, there are a lot of 'em, I could go on for hours and talk about 'em, but just the importance I think of some of 'em. The other one was the only time we came back to the United States, we had gone into Hawaii once and had a three-day rest leave in Honolulu, and that was fun. There was surfing and sailing and things like that. And the other time we did get down to Aud -- Auckland, New Zealand. We were there for 10 days, 10 or 12 days, I forget, but something like that, beautiful country, during the war, but it was nice, but the only time we got back to the United States was about a year before the war was over. We took -- here again this sounds pretty gruesome and it was. We took a thousand mental psycho patients, a thousand of 'em. Remember, there was 10 million servicemen in the service during World War II. When the war in Germany was over, all of those men came as quick as they could get them from Europe to the Pacific Theater to finish the Japanese off. So I don't know how many. There was probably at that point 7 or 8 million military people in the service. So out of that people cracked under the strain. They just simply couldn't take the punishment that was given out, the threat, the bombings, all the atrocities and all of that that happened, which isn't very pleasant. They just cracked. Shell shock, they called it, a lot of 'em. Now you'd call it psycho patients. Anyway, we had a thousand of them on ship. That was some trip. There was about 30, if I recall correctly, something like 35 days sailing time from where we were to back to the States. We came back to Oakland, California, and we had to walk around at night, we wouldn't dare to walk around ship at all by ourselves. It was too dangerous. These psycho people could be very dangerous. They could -- they could be docile one minute and one minute they'd go off their rocker and they could kill you. We carried a wet towel around our neck all the time, so if anybody would attack us, that was how you would subdue a psycho patient, so that was quite an experience, just to add a little personal tidbit in there. When we got back to the States, our ship went in the dry dock and was a lot of very needed repairs. Our ship was built in 1917, prior to even World War I.

Alyssa Rupp:

Wow.

John Carver:

So it needed repairs badly. I had a 30-day leave and I went home, and a long story, to make it short, I met this girl, a friend of my family's, and my family and her family was friendly. Anyway, in 30 days we fell in love during World War II. She was a senior in high school, and we got married, had a full wedding, full church wedding, and then off I go again to the war. The only thing is she came out to California to be with me for a short while when my ship was finishing being repaired, and she was with me for, oh, three or four weeks before we went back out and went back into more invasions, so just as a sidelight. Some of the other interesting things that happened during this whole period of activity, you always have people that are -- want to drink, you know. No different today than it was then. It was that way. So we always had these guys, and of course aboard ship there was always medical alcohol. Guys could use -- drink medical alcohol, put it with tomato juice or grape juice or something and drink it, and there were always guys that were getting a little drunk and that. So when we had these Japanese prisoners on, unfortunately we lost a few of 'em. I don't know how many died. Fifteen or 20 of 'em died from their wounds, and our morgue was full. We couldn't -- didn't have room for 'em. So we had a couple of 'em laying out on deck, covered up, of course, on stretchers. And one of these -- one of our friends got drunk this one night, and he passed out. So we fixed him, we fixed him for good. He was out on deck. We got one of these little dead Japs and put it in bed with him. He woke up with a little Jap next to him, dead. Needless to say, he got sober in a hurry. So these are things that I don't think the Navy would publicize very much, but these are kind of the reality, things that happened. So you can go on and on about things like that and the things that happened, it was quite interesting. The other tidbits about the invasion, we go into these invasions, as I said, in smoke screens. We'd sit there for two weeks sometimes ahead of time while the big military ships -- in those days they had the battlewagons. Now, you girls, I don't think, ever saw a battlewagon 'cause they've been out of commission since you were born, I believe. They're -- no longer do the job. Aircraft carriers take care of it now, but you know what a battleship is. Now, you know on a battleship they had nine 16-inch guns. Now 16 -- each shell weighed about 3,000 pounds.

Alyssa Rupp:

Gosh.

John Carver:

They would throw a salvo of nine 16-inch shells into the beach where they were going to invade, soften it up, trying to bomb all the emplacements before our invasion forces went in. We would sit there amongst those battlewagons, six, eight or nine of 'em at a time, and every seven to eight minutes each battlewagon would throw that salvo in. That -- you wouldn't believe the percussion. You'd look out in the ocean, and you see a battleship now that is longer than a football field, weighed 300,000 tons, huge things. You'd see that ship move sideways, broadside, every time that ship, 15 or 20 feet, just the percussion would move. That sounds -- can you imagine trying to live day in and day out every seven minutes having battlewagons with those percussions? Whoom, every seven, eight minutes. It just unbelievable. Talk about getting on your nerves. Oh, something else, something else, something else. Of course, we lived for when war would be over. Just as a sideline about when the war was over, we were sitting in this harbor ready to invade Japan, and the Japanese knew the war was about over, but they were like the Iraqi people, they weren't ready to give up, they weren't convinced that their country wasn't going to win. They were still convinced that they could beat us. Of course, you now know, because history, that the atomic bomb was developed by then, and I think you may know from your own history lessons the Enola Gay, the airplane that flew the atomic bomb, I'm sure you recall that. Jimmy Doolittle, okay, took off on an aircraft carrier. Couldn't land back on it 'cause he was too big a plane. They could take off. But anyway, they dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and, of course, that then convinced the Japanese that the war was over. Some people condemn it. It saved millions of lives. If we'd have had to invade Japan, it would have been a lot worse than Iraq. Iraq, you know, we anticipated there that they would fight back. They didn't. They turned cowards and ran. You know, they took off their uniforms and acted like they were civilians. In the World War II they didn't do that. If anybody was ever caught doing that, they were shot immediately, especially the Japanese or the Germans. So we were ready to invade Japan when they dropped the atomic bombs, but the night that was done we were sitting in an area that was a battle zone, and we were still afraid that there were Japanese planes around that could bomb and sink us, any ship, and we were -- had a movie theater on top of the deck. We had a canvas on top, and a place where we could have movies at night after dark, and you had to be careful that you didn't illuminate too much, so you had to have all the side curtains down and all that. Of course, we were in the tropics and it's hot and you want every bit of air you can get. But anyway, they were showing a movie when the war ended, when the Japanese offered to surrender, and I had a knee operation and I was still on crutches from that, so to get over the -- get away from the excitement, I went up on the flying bridge, which is where the officers commanded the ship and ran the ship. It's the central portion of the ship as far as that goes. Anyway, the captain called on the telephone down to the electrical gang, which we called the "black gang," which was the men that ran the engines and things like that on the ship, and asked 'em to illuminate ship. Now, we hadn't illuminated ship for a couple of years because of the war and that, I told you, you know, we didn't want to. But the war was over, they wanted to illuminate the ship. The guys down in the engine room thought the captain was drunk, and they refused. They said, "No, sir," you know, "we're in a war zone." He said, "This is the captain." The guy said, "I don't care who it is. If you want me to do that, you send me a written order, signed by the captain, and if that written order is the captain's signature, then I'll do it." So that's what happened, to give you an idea. When that happened, when he illuminated ship, of course everybody in the harbor then, there were thousands of ships there, I mean literally thousands getting ready to invade Japan. When that happened every ship in the harbor would start firing their guns and doing what we call tracer bullets, which were like -- almost like fireworks. You wouldn't believe the sky that night, with the fireworks from shells. I'll bet we spent $20 million on ammunition that night in that harbor. But what elation to get over the war, so those are just some of the tidbits. I have here, if you're interested in seeing pictures, I don't know, I know that this is a picture of the ship. There's a picture of one of our Navy nurses. Another tradition in the Navy, I don't know if you ever heard of the -- when you go across the equator in the international date line, did you ever hear of what happens? Now, this is mainly in peace time. In war it was done occasionally but not often because of the seriousness of war, but every time you went over the international date line they would have what you call a "shellback initiation." It's like being initiated into a fraternity and the hazing and the initiation that goes on. Well, there they have it. Here is a couple pictures. When our ship went across the equator, we were -- did not have any patients or anything, so we were free to have shellback initiation, so that's some of it. So here's another one of 'em. These are all pictures of the initiation. Now, I also was able to collect some war souvenirs. Here is some money. That's American money. That was printed so that when we invaded -- if we -- of course, we didn't have to because the war ended before that. That's Japanese yen put out by Americans so that after we invaded Japan we were going to use that money. That was legal tender at the time, although it was -- never came out. Here's also a lot of pictures. [Interview interrupted by a knock at the door].

John Carver:

Those are Jap -- those are Japanese.

Mrs. Hunt:

Hi. Wow, this looks fascinating. I'm Cindy Hunt.

John Carver:

How are you?

Mrs. Hunt:

My husband Bob.

John Carver:

Hi, Bob, how are you?

Mr. Hunt:

How are you?

John Carver:

Jack, Jack Carver.

Mrs. Hunt:

Nice to meet you, Jack.

Mr. Hunt:

Nice to meet you.

John Carver:

Good.

Mr. Hunt:

Are you getting these girls brought up to speed, are you?

John Carver:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, we're giving them some sea stories.

Mr. Hunt:

Sounds like, huh?

Mrs. Hunt:

Oh, wow, you were in the Navy?

John Carver:

Yeah, I was on the Navy. I was on a Navy hospital ship.

Mrs. Hunt:

Oh, this is your ship. Are you a medical person?

John Carver:

Yes. Well, I was a pharmacist mate.

Mrs. Hunt:

Oh, okay.

John Carver:

I was a pharmacist mate.

Mrs. Hunt:

Wonderful.

John Carver:

A Pharmacist Mate First Class when I got out, which is equivalent to a registered nurse today --

Mrs. Hunt:

Uh-huh, uh-huh.

John Carver:

-- so . . .

Mrs. Hunt:

Wow.

Mr. Hunt:

Interesting, interesting.

John Carver:

But I was on her for almost four years.

Alyssa Rupp:

Is this a little like pool that you got in the middle of the boat that you're dunking in?

John Carver:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, we made a pool, put canvas all around it. This is shellback initiation on ship. When you go across the equator and the international date line, the -- historically Navy ships initiate your people, and this is a time when officers are -- no longer have rank, they're just along with any enlisted man, so we were more fun initiating officers. We also had Navy nurses on ship and they were treated the same as anybody else, so it's a lot of fun. We only did it once, because after the war got going, why, you're too busy, you couldn't -- we had patients on board and things like that, so you didn't dare to do it.

Mr. Hunt:

Interesting.

John Carver:

When the war was over, all of us were anxious to come home. Of course, I had gotten married by that time, and my wife was getting ready to have a baby, and of course I wanted to come home in the worst way, but we weren't allowed because we were too important to the recovery area. So our ship was sent -- first of all we were in -- oh, golly, one of the harbors in one of the islands, I forget, we were supposed to go up through the Yellow Sea, up around the Philippine islands to Guam. We went into a typhoon, and it was one of the worst typhoons in the history of the area at the time. It took off 38 feet of the battlewagon Pennsylvania, cut it off just like you would take a fork and cut off a nose of a piece of pie. It sunk a couple of destroyers. We were an old riveted ship, as I said, built in 1917. We took a 47-degree roll. 51 we would have capsized. For three days we were going -- our ship was going 13 knots an hour. That's -- a knot is an eighth of -- one mile and an eighth, so 13 miles was about 14 and a half miles an hour. We were heading into the wind. Now, picture this, in 24 hours, full -- going full blast inward, we were pushed back 600 miles.

Alyssa Rupp:

Oh, gosh.

John Carver:

Six hundred miles pushed backwards, the force of the water. It took off -- you could see here the picture, the ship has these promenade decks like you see on a cruise ship where you can walk around and have covering over. Anyway, they have these steel beams like this holding that ship up, the upper decks. I saw the water cut those steel beams, the first couple, cut 'em just like somebody took a cutting torch, a couple of them, and then they would bend them. Unbelievable the force of water. The only way you could sleep was tie yourself in a bunk with a piece of rope. Otherwise you'd have been thrown out. You could not hold on, 'cause if you went to sleep and relaxed, it'd throw you on the deck and could kill you, just a steel deck. So that -- that's one experience. Then the final experience, this is, of course, after the war was over, our ship was sent up through the Yellow Sea. Now, if you recall geography, the Peninsula of Korea, okay, Korea is North and South Korea now. Of course, in those days it was just Korea, up the head of Korea is Manchuria, okay. We were the first American ship ever to enter the harbor of Dairen, Manchuria, when the war was over. The -- our own B-29s had sown this whole sea so full of mines, trying to bottle up the Japanese so when the war was over those mines were still there, so we had two minesweeps go with us, and it took us four or five days to go up, which would have taken a half a day to go up because we went through all these mines and had to sweep these mines. When we got to Dairen, Manchuria, we went in this harbor. As I said, we were the first American ship ever to enter that harbor, but that -- all the -- for a hundred years it was Japanese mandated, Japanese and Chinese, American ships just weren't allowed in there. We went in there. The Russians had swooped down and had liberated the people that were held hostage there. But what we were trying to do, we were trying to liberate the prisoners of war up in Mukden, Manchuria, which is about 80 miles north of the sea. So we took a train, a rickety old train trip up there, and we went up and liberated General Wainwright, prisoners of war. He was on Corregidor and Bataan with MacArthur when the war started. And MacArthur, of course, if you'll recall your movie theater, PT-109 and They Were Expendable, I don't know if you've seen -- you girls probably don't watch war films like I do, but anyway, MacArthur was taken off of there by command of Roosevelt, President Roosevelt, and went to Australia and then he commanded the forces in the Pacific from Australia. But anyway, Wainwright was -- and his men were captive even before the war got started and prisoners of war in Japan, and are held in POW camps. And we liberated a thousand of those prisoners of war, and a lot of them were British, Australian, New Zealanders, and so forth. And, again, it was a -- it was a moving experience, because, remember, these men had been held prisoners for almost four years. Brutally, brutally, the atrocities of the Japanese held makes Saddam Hussein look sick as far as the atrocities we got those men, some of 'em were still crippled, tremendously malnourished, skin and bone. If they weighed 200 pounds normally they were lucky to weigh 110 pounds when the war was over. We liberated them. We took a train back down to our ship and it was about midnight when we got back, and we took them aboard ship. The first thing most of them wanted to do was to take a shower with fresh water. So we let them take a shower. Of course, we had -- by that time the -- our B-29s had parachuted in supplies, so they had -- most of 'em had new uniforms, so they didn't have their old tattered clothes that were just rags on their backs, but if they didn't, we had new clothing for whatever they wanted, and we said, "Okay, guys, all of you, what do you want to eat? You name it. This is a short-order restaurant. You can have whatever you want, steak, whatever you want, as much as you want, whatever, you tell us," midnight, didn't make any difference. So we fed them all they wanted to eat. I have in my scrapbook at home an album where most of these pictures were from, where all probably 150 or 200 of those men signed it for me, from England, from Australia, from New Zealand, from all over the world really had been held prisoners, so that was an experience.

Alyssa Rupp:

Pretty special.

John Carver:

Then right after that, after we brought them back, again, what we did is bring them back to a rear area, field, I think it was Okinawa at the time, which is, remember, after the war, they had a big airfield there, we dropped them off and then they would take them by air back to the United States, and of course then the ones that went to Australia or New Zealand, instead of going there, then they flew them back to their home countries. That was interesting. After that was over, then a lot of us in the war, how you'd get discharged from the war was by points. And I forget the exact number, but just, say, you had to have 30 points in order to be eligible to be discharged in order -- and who had the most points was discharged. You had a half a point for every month you were in the service. You had an extra half a point if you were in action, for every invasion you were in you got extra points. So being in a hospital ship and all the action we were in, every one of us had more points than we needed to get out, so we could get out quickly. They gave us a choice. They said you could either stick with the ship and wait for another two or three months, 'cause they were supposed to go up someplace else and liberate another bunch of prisoners of war in China. If we wanted to wait till they come back from that, the ship was scheduled to come back to the States, which would have taken 30 days for it to get back to the States after that affair, anyway, or we could go on one of the islands and try to bum our way, literally hitchhike our way back to the United States. Remember, all these thousands of ships were there, warships, supply ships, all kinds of thing, merchant marine ships, all of that were there. So some of us buddies, we all decided we were going to get off at Okinawa. We wanted to get home. So we did. We got in to Okinawa and we just got in there at the end of a typhoon and we had to go back into a cave to keep from being swallowed up with mud and that. Anyway, we were there three or four days when we saw a ship come into harbor, so we literally ran down to the ship and got on the ship, said, "Okay, you're going to have to kick us off if you want us off, but are you going to the States? We're going to the States with you," so we did. We hitched a ride back to the States. So that was kind of fun. You can't believe the chaos on the west coast. Remember, there were 10 million men coming from the overseas areas, not all at once but as quick as they could find a way back to the west coast, anywhere from Seattle, Washington, to San Francisco, Oakland, clear on down to San Diego, all along there every port, ships were coming from all over the Pacific Theater, and everybody wanted to get home and get out of the service. You know, the war was over, we'd had four years or more of it and wanted to get home. So that was quite a deal. And to make a long story short and put a personal note in it, my wife was expecting a baby, and I got back -- a long story, would take a half hour to explain the whole story -- but anyway, I got home five minutes after the baby was born.

Alyssa Rupp:

Oh, my.

John Carver:

My discharge from the Navy is October 20th, 1945. That's the day my baby was . . .

Alyssa Rupp:

+

John Carver:

So do you girls have any questions that you want to ask of things that happened or things that you'd be interested in knowing? (End of interview)

 
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  October 26, 2011
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