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Interview with James A. Swann [8/6/2001]

James A. Swann:

I was in the branch of the service, during World War II, that, in the first year of World War II, which I wasn't in it at that time, they lost more men than all other branches of the service put together. That was the United State Merchant Marines. [a few minutes of small talk about families, friends, etc.]

Martha J. Kounse:

What was your middle name?

James A. Swann:

Albert.

Martha J. Kounse:

Albert, James Albert Swann, right?

Martha J. Kounse:

Okay, your birth date.

James A. Swann:

March 13, 1928. You ain't going to believe that, that ain't even old enough to be in World War 2.

Martha J. Kounse:

That's what I was just wondering, but I wasn't going to say anything. Okay, your address.

James A. Swann:

624 Township Rd. 156, Chesapeake, OH.

Leo Martin:

Do you know what they call him? Ugly.

James A. Swann:

Big ugly. My little brother is little ugly, I'm big ugly. [Laughing]

Martha J. Kounse:

Oh, goodness, your phone number?

James A. Swann:

What is it? You gonna checking out, Leo?

Martha J. Kounse:

Where were you born?

James A. Swann:

Huntington, West Virginia.

Leo Martin:

Your mom still living?

Joann Swann:

No, my mom died when I was seventeen.

James A. Swann:

She died in 1948, my mother died in '48 too.

Martha J. Kounse:

You were with the Merchant Marines?

James A. Swann:

I was in the United States Merchant Marines, as they say USMS and they say, if anybody wants to know what that is, like USMC, you put down USMS and that United States Maritime Service, back then, see. Merchant Marines, we even had a uniform. [Laughing]

Martha J. Kounse:

What was your division or unit or?

James A. Swann:

You just went, I was a deck hand on tankers, I was on two tankers during the war.

Martha J. Kounse:

Your highest rank?

James A. Swann:

Really had no rank, just seaman. Well, in the Merchant Marines it was different than all of it. In the Navy, you got ranks, in the Merchant Seamans, you had a job.

Martha J. Kounse:

Okay. The date you were in service?

James A. Swann:

Well, it went from November of '43 to the end of the war.

Martha J. Kounse:

Do you remember how old you were when you joined?

James A. Swann:

Yep, I was fifteen years old. I turned sixteen in England.

Martha J. Kounse:

Gee, what a story you've got to tell, and you were in World War I, II? [laughing]

James A. Swann:

Two, don't put I down there now, you hear what she is trying to do? [laughing] I was a seaman first.

Joann Swann:

You better read what she writes about you. [laughing]

James A. Swann:

It's hard to tell what she'll put down, [laughing]

Martha J. Kounse:

Okay, and you were in England and one other location.

James A. Swann:

I turned sixteen in England, and then I came home and I took about two weeks off and went back and I got on another ship, went to the Pacific, and I was in the Pacific the rest of World War II.

Martha J. Kounse:

Did you sustain combat injuries?

James A. Swann:

No, yes, I got an injury, but it wasn't in combat. It was on guard duty, but this was in the Marine Corp, my injury was in the Marine Corp, I didn't none in the Merchant Marines, I got a mental problem there, [laughing]

Martha J. Kounse:

Medals or special service awards?

James A. Swann:

They didn't give them.ifi

Joann Swann:

Purple Heart, you got a Purple Heart.

James A. Swann:

That, Mom, was in the other branch of the service.

Joann Swann:

The Marine Corp, okay. Martha - That doesn't matter, if you got it, I want to know.

James A. Swann:

Well, I got a Purple Heart, setting on a land mine.

Joann Swann:

She wants to know where.

James A. Swann:

That was in China, and if you can spell, you can put down.

Martha J. Kounse:

Tsing, I'm guessing.

James A. Swann:

Tsingh Tou, or something like that, look it up on the map.

Martha J. Kounse:

I'll look it up. Do you have photographs you would like to share?

James A. Swann:

No, I'll tell you, all, everything, I had with my service, my mother got. And then, she died and even my brother, we don't where, what, we think she put it all in the attic of the house, in a box, and Dad sold the house after she died, and that was in '48. We went back looking for them, we got a discharge, didn't we?

Joann Swann:

Yes.

James A. Swann:

And that was it.

Martha J. Kounse:

Do you happen to have your discharge?

James A. Swann:

I don't know.)S] L

Martha J. Kounse:

That's okay, if you don't have it.

James A. Swann:

Now, this discharge was in the Marine Corp

Martha J. Kounse:

That's fine.

James A. Swann:

You didn't get no discharge from the Merchant Marines, you just... quit.

Martha J. Kounse:

I need to learn these things.

James A. Swann:

Well, back then, I don't know, it hasn't been too many years ago, they flared the Merchant Marines, a part of the service. Back then, it was a job.

Martha J. Kounse:

Here's my card, before I forget it, in case you remember anything, and want to contact me.

Joann Swann:

Briggs Lawrence County Public Library.

Joann Swann:

This discharge, that's all there is of it.

James A. Swann:

Is that it?

Joann Swann:

Yes.

James A. Swann:

That's not my discharge, Mom.

Joann Swann:

Uh-huh.

James A. Swann:

That's no..

Joann Swann:

Yes, it is.

James A. Swann:

That was the...

Joann Swann:

Well, I don't know where you discharge is.

James A. Swann:

Come out in May of '47, come out of the Marine Corp(iJ

Martha J. Kounse:

You don't happen to have a picture of you in uniform or anything like that, right?

James A. Swann:

That's the only thing I got about me being in the military, hanging on the wall up there. That Marine Corp emblem.

Martha J. Kounse:

Do you care if I take your picture so I can have something to add to it?

James A. Swann:

Take my picture?

Martha J. Kounse:

Yes. You look nice, if you don't want me to, just say, I won't.

James A. Swann:

Just don't smile. Do I show my teeth?

Martha J. Kounse:

That's a good picture. Show it to you now, instant replay.

James A. Swann:

Why, good looking man. Best looking man in Scary Hollow. Let me show you a good picture of me. 1935.

Martha J. Kounse:

Oh my goodness, I bet you I can take a picture of that.

James A. Swann:

Got a big man [illegible] in front of it. [laughing] [Everyone started chatting about family and friends]

Martha J. Kounse:

Are you ready to get started? When I ask you these questions, if you feel like answering some other question, or you want something..

James A. Swann:

Or I don't remember it.

Martha J. Kounse:

Yes. If there is anything you think of, while I'm talking, just tell me anything, you know, it's nothing that we have to stick with. I know you were in the Merchant Marines and then you went into the Marine Corp after you left the Merchant Marines.

James A. Swann:

Well, yes. At the end of the war, I came home and went into the Marine Corp

Martha J. Kounse:

Okay, so you were in the Merchant Marines, how many years?

James A. Swann:

Two years, at least, a little over two years.

Martha J. Kounse:

And then when you came home, you were home how long before you went back in?

James A. Swann:

I don't remember. It wasn't very long.

Martha J. Kounse:

Were you drafted, or did you enlist?

James A. Swann:

I enlisted.

Martha J. Kounse:

And what branch of the Army, or ..

James A. Swann:

Don't say that. United State Marine Corp [laughing]

Martha J. Kounse:

You enlisted in the Marine Corp

James A. Swann:

Right.

Martha J. Kounse:

I take it that the Marines didn't like the Army.L

James A. Swann:

No, we are America's finest. Marines is the best, you know, that's, I'm brain washed. We are America's finest. United States Marines. We are the oldest fighting force, the United States has got. Now, don't get me wrong, the Army was established before the Marines, but they did away with the Army and the Navy and they kept the Marines. Then they started the Army back up. Back in the beginning of the country, they started, they had, and George Washington had an Army, United States Army. Okay, at the end of the war, they didn't have an Army, but they had to get the Marines to protect George Washington. So they started the Marine Corp And they did away with the Navy, so that's the way, in that way; the Marine Corp is the oldest fighting force the United States has the oldest branch of the service.

Martha J. Kounse:

How long did you enlist for?

James A. Swann:

I enlisted for four years, and I spent a year and three months in the Marine Corp

Martha J. Kounse:

Where were you living when you enlisted?

James A. Swann:

Huntington, West Virginia.

Martha J. Kounse:

And, why did you enlist?

James A. Swann:

I [asked my dad to] sign this paper, he said, I'll not signing that paper. I said, Okay, I'm going to Norfolk, Virginia and go to work in a ship yard. Back then a man could work anywhere and he said, "There ain't no son of mine going to go to work for Bethlehem Steel because they are non union". So, he said, give me that paper. I went toCincinnati and joined the Merchant Marines, come home and he picked me up over in Huntington, took me to New York for training.

Martha J. Kounse:

Why did you pick the Marines?

James A. Swann:

When I went in the service? Because it was the best.

Joann Swann:

Interview any more Marines, you'll get the same answer, their brainwashed. [laughing]

James A. Swann:

You will, you will. They teach you, honey, when you first go through that gate, they tell you, you are the best. You WILL be the best, and that's it. Every Marine that goes in, is taught the same way.

Martha J. Kounse:

And it stuck with you for fifty years?

James A. Swann:

Fifty-one, hell longer than that, forty-seven, I come out in forty-seven, fifty-three years.

Martha J. Kounse:

Do you recall your first days in the service?

James A. Swann:

My first days? In boot camp?

Martha J. Kounse:

Yes.

James A. Swann:

Or in the Merchant Marines?

Martha J. Kounse:

Boot camp.

James A. Swann:

Well, yes, yes, I had to go in and get a blood test and a re-examination and they took my clothes away from me, and they said, hand me a box about that big. And I put my clothes in that box, and they put the box up, and they said, we'll mail it home, and I was stark naked. They said we've got to go over to the corpman's shop and get shots. So, they run us out of that building.

Martha J. Kounse:

You were still naked?

James A. Swann:

Stark naked, [laughing] they run us across into the office, corpman's office, and, in a line, and we lined up there and they walked down through there and that guy, he didn't give you a shot, he was target practicing. He throwed it. [laughing]

Martha J. Kounse:

Seriously?

James A. Swann:

That is true, boom, like a whap, it hit the arm, it went in, and that was it. And we had to have those shots. Then, they run us back out of that building.

Martha J. Kounse:

Still naked?

James A. Swann:

Yes, into another building, into another building, and they started measuring, they measured our feet, and they hollered out a number and a guy throwed a pair of shoes at you. Then you went over and they measured your waist and the length and they said, Thirty, Thirties, that what it was, Thirty, Thirty, and they throwed me a pair, or they throwed me uniforms. He said, go, after they give it all to you, they said, go back there, and put one of those on. So I went back and put my uniform on, put my shoes on, and come marching up through there and he looked at me, and he said, everything looks goodexcept your shoes, go get a size smaller, and I went and got a size smaller. They throwed the combat boots at you, and your shoes and everything.

Joann Swann:

Did they fit?

James A. Swann:

Yes. I know Leo didn't go through the same thing like that.

Leo Martin:

Yes, about the same, too small, too big, that's the way it was, you know.

James A. Swann:

Back then, we didn't pay for our clothes, they was all give to you. Now they have to pay for them. Yes, they give you an allotment, a clothing allotment and they say, you need a shirt, you go buy a shirt. Back then, if you had a pair of socks that got a hole in it, you take the sock in, turn it in; they give you another pair of socks. So, we had two socks, this one got a hole in it, this one probably did too, so you just take this one in, week later you take this one in.

Martha J. Kounse:

What did it feel like on your first days in service?

James A. Swann:

I enjoyed it, I enjoyed it, it, they made you feel like you was a man. They didn't pick on you or anything, but now, there's one thing about it, once they told you what to do, you done it. And if he told you how to do it, you better do it the way he told you, even if it was wrong, and you know a shorter way to do it, United States Marine Corp had a way and you went by the United States Marine Corp's way, even if it was wrong, you done it.

Martha J. Kounse:

Can you tell me about your boot camp experiences, any of them?

James A. Swann:

Well, yes,

Joann Swann:

Tell her about the bucket on your head.

James A. Swann:

If you got caught doing anything wrong, you stood outside the barracks, next to the walk and you had a bucket, the bucket was your bucket you used to washed clothes in, and they put it over your head and every DI that come up that walk, slapped that bucket, and they would say, "What the hell are you doing out here?" And you had to tell him what you were doing out there. Marine Corp is a funny branch of the service, but they're good.

Leo Martin:

You mean every time you did something wrong, they put a bucket over you?

James A. Swann:

If he caught you, if he caught, yes. I remember one time, I remember one time, one of the boys, he didn't cover his pillow completely up, with his sheet. In other words, they teach you, bottom sheet is folded down, you know, and the top sheet, you put your pillow there and you make your bunk and you run it up over to the top of the pillow and down, you know. Well he didn't cover, completely cover that pillow up, and we were all outside, at roll call, and we came back inside, every cot, every bed, and there was seventy some beds, everything is laying out in the middle of the floor, everything, and they gave you a half hour to straighten it up, and mop the floor.

Leo Martin:

That's the same way it was in the Army, one guy make the whole company [illegible].

James A. Swann:

Oh, yes, yes boy. [illegible]

Martha J. Kounse:

Do you still make the beds today?

Joann Swann:

No. [laughing]

James A. Swann:

Oh, man, and them were, beds in boot camp are cots, or they're beds, but they are double, you got to be good to get it [illegible] bed.

Joann Swann:

How many times were you made Corporal?

James A. Swann:

I made Corporal twice, and Buck Sergeant once.

Martha J. Kounse:

What's a Buck Sergeant?

James A. Swann:

Three strips.

Joann Swann:

It's what they used to call [illegible], it's different now.

James A. Swann:

I went to the gate and they made me put the strips on, and I went out the gate and when I came back in, I had to see, this was in China, and they had to give you a check out when you came back in the base, make sure you didn't carry anything on, or anything like that. You see, we weren't even allowed to eat Chinese food or any restaurants or any thing over there, and he took care of the strips, he just [rip], I was drunk, off come the strips.

Martha J. Kounse:

They took your strips away because you were drinking?

Joann Swann:

Yes.

Martha J. Kounse:

How many times were you Buck Sergeant, you said?

James A. Swann:

I was once but, see I was a tank driver and you had to have your strips when you had five men in that tank and they had to trust you.

Martha J. Kounse:

They were strict, weren't they?iHr

James A. Swann:

Oh yes, they were, and the officers were gods. I mean they were God, and they acted that way too.

Martha J. Kounse:

How long were you Sergeant?

James A. Swann:

Oh, I don't know, I'd say three, four days; I didn't even put the strips on until they made me. But I enjoyed the service. Mom, I'd like to have a cup of coffee, you got everybody coffee but me. [small talk again]

Joann Swann:

I'll show you what he looked like when he was young, when we got married.

Martha J. Kounse:

My goodness.

Joann Swann:

He wasn't bad looking then.

Martha J. Kounse:

No, you both are cute.

Joann Swann:

When we got married, the day we got married.

James A. Swann:

That's the night we got married. I got married at 7:00 o'clock in the evening, I don't know, that must have been 10:00, wasn't it?

Joann Swann:

Yes.

Martha J. Kounse:

Dad doesn't get out too much. He is enjoying this; it's been good for him. Let's see, better get back on track here, Do you remember any of your instructors?

James A. Swann:

Let's see. Sergeant York. He was a drill sergeant, and Corporal, what the hell was his name, I can't remember his name.

Joann Swann:

Who was the one that was, had a Polish name?

Martha J. Kounse:

Can you tell me how you got through boot camp?

James A. Swann:

Well, I went right along with what I was told to do and the last day of boot camp, they had on a Saturday and they had a parade, and they told us we all done real good. That's just about all I can say about it.

Martha J. Kounse:

So, you were in World War II, right?

James A. Swann:

Not in the Marine Corp now.

Martha J. Kounse:

Okay, when in World War II, you were in the Merchant Marines?

James A. Swann:

Merchant Marines, yes. That was just after World War.

Martha J. Kounse:

Okay, so you joined the Marines after the war was over?

James A. Swann:

I come home, see, I was in the Pacific when the war ended, and I come home and joined the Marine Corp We had to go out there, that's what I was doing in China was relieving, withdrawing the Japanese.

Martha J. Kounse:

Withdrawing Japanese from what?

James A. Swann:

China. They were all over China.

Martha J. Kounse:

You were withdrawing Japanese from China. Why did you have to relieve?

James A. Swann:

Well, the Japanese, they took everything away from them, boom, at the end of the war. And they didn't have gas, nothing. So it was our job to go in and withdraw the Japanese and transport them to a shipping point to where they could ship them back to Japan. See Japan was a defeated nation; it wasn't just the atomic bombs that beat them. They were a defeated nation.

Martha J. Kounse:

You did the transporting?

James A. Swann:

We transported the troops to Tseng Tao where they could take them by boat, down the river to their.. Oh, yes, there's a lot of stuff in World War II, the people in the country don't know, a lot of it, a lot of it. I could tell you some here, but you'd start arguments with everybody all over the country.

Martha J. Kounse:

I don't care, tell me.

James A. Swann:

United States Marine Corps., in the Pacific during World War 2, now you just think, we had the Pacific Theater had the greatest General, this country had at that time, and where did Roosevelt send him, to get him out of the Marine Corps, way, they sent him to Australia. MacArthur, sent him to Australia and they gave him two things to take, he had New Guinea and he had the Philippines, the Marine Corps, had, they had, now this was the whole time of the war, they did not take New Guinea. Marines had to land in New Guinea and defeat the Japanese there and then they moved up to the Philippines at [illegible] and I went in there, with them, and the Army went in after the Marines did. The Marines had to establish a base for the Army to go in. Then theywithdrew the Marines and sent them around to another city around there and then they had to go in again. But, now they took MacArthur and shipped him, and Roosevelt done it on purpose, he put him in Australia and he was to stay in Australia, and he stayed in Australia throughout the war, until the end and he came up to the Philippines when they took the Philippines back. And he never had nothing to say with the war in the Pacific. But you don't want to put a Marine in there, now, because I'm running the Army down all the time. Something else, the only thing the Army done in the Pacific during World War II, now I'm talking about the island wars..

Joann Swann:

Leo' here now.

James A. Swann:

I know.

Martha J. Kounse:

He fought in Africa

James A. Swann:

He was in South Africa, or North Africa?

James A. Swann:

He was over there with Had Noble. The island, the Marines would take, like Guam, the Marines went in there, and they lost thousands of men, and here come the Army in. They pulled the Marines out and set the Army there to occupy the islands. The Marines took them and they moved the Army in, same thing with Bataan, the Marines went in and took the dam island, here come the Army, the biggest war in the Pacific was during World War II, wasn't it?

Leo Martin:

Yes.

James A. Swann:

And, took them, and they put the Army in, at the end of it, pulled the Marines out, sent them back to Pearl Harbor and trained them for another one. You wouldn'tL want me saying anything because I'll tell you what I, it wasn't right, really. If the Marines took the island, they ought to leave the Marines there to occupy it.

Leo Martin:

People wants the truth, you know. I wouldn't want someone in there to make up stuff would you Joann? They want history, you know.

James A. Swann:

I'll tell you one about World War I. [laughing]

Martha J. Kounse:

Go ahead.

James A. Swann:

During World War I, the United States Army and the French Army and the British Army, was knocked out of, what the hell's the name of those woods over there, Bellwoods or something. Any way, they kicked them out, so, here come two Battalions of United States Marines, the Third Marines, and the Fifth Marines, Battalions, of the First Marine Division, and they sent them in and they whipped the daylights out of the Germans in that force. I think it's called Bellwoods.

Joann Swann:

I think it is.

James A. Swann:

And, boom, the French gave the Third and the Fifth a medal, in the Marine Corps., and you'll see them, when you see them, they wear, we call it a ribbon, cause I wasn't in the Third or the Fifth, but it is a award, hangs on their shoulder like that and they wear it. They earned it during World War I and then in World War II, they told the Marines they couldn't come back in, they wouldn't let them back over there, they had to ship them up the Pacific. The Marines were not in Europe, they wouldn't let them over there.

Martha J. Kounse:

In World War I?

James A. Swann:

World War II. They weren't in Europe in World War II, they wouldn't let them over there.

Joann Swann:

There was too mean.

James A. Swann:

No, they did what they were told to do, they told them to take a forge, they did it. And the Army didn't want the United States Marines putting them to shame, did they Leo?

Martha J. Kounse:

Where exactly did you go when you were over seas?

James A. Swann:

Well, my first trip was from Chester, Pennsylvania, I went to England, then we hauled a hundred octane gas over there and we were over there, I don't know, about a month and then I came home. I came home, and I don't know, I took a couple weeks, went back, got on another ship, got on the Southern Sun then, I was on the MS Sun, the first one went to England, on the MS Southern Sun, I went to the Pacific on it. Now Sun, is Sun Oil Company. I went to the Pacific and then, I came through the Panama Canal three times, but we could always go back into the Pacific again, picking up fuel and hauling it out there for them.

Joann Swann:

You went through a hurricane too, didn't you?

James A. Swann:

Oh, yes.

Martha J. Kounse:

You did?

James A. Swann:

Yes. That was [illegible]

Martha J. Kounse:

Oh, anything, this is real interesting. You did go through a hurricane?

James A. Swann:

It was [illegible]. We pulled in there, up on the beach, and the water was down here, and it was, oh, I don't know, level, out this way, setting up on that thing, was a merchant ship, [illegible] right straight up on there and it set completely out of the water, and I mean them ships are big, ain't they Leo?

Martha J. Kounse:

What was you job assignment?

James A. Swann:

I was hauling fuel to the combat ships out there, combat bases and ships, whoever could use it, we hauled it to them.

Martha J. Kounse:

How did you haul it, did you haul it on ships?

James A. Swann:

Tanker.

Joann Swann:

It didn't have any guns on it either.

James A. Swann:

Yes it did.

Joann Swann:

Did it?

James A. Swann:

Uh-huh. I was on a, had a five inch and three inch gun and 20 mm, and I was on a 25 mm gun.

Joann Swann:

At sixteen?

James A. Swann:

Yes. Hell, it don't take nobody, Joann, to pull a trigger. They got you strapped in.

Martha J. Kounse:

Did you see any combat?

James A. Swann:

In the Philippines, when they went in to Tackalo. We went ashore and I was sightseeing and the Sergeant grabbed me and put me under a culvert, bridge, told me tostay there until he came back after me. We had air attacks on convoys, see, we, you travel in convoys, you had twenty, thirty ships with you, and then the Navy had ships running with you and we, our convoys were hit several times, but they didn't get into us because we were the very center of it, we carried a hundred octane gas and that was really explode if it hit.

Martha J. Kounse:

You were in the center of the convoy?

James A. Swann:

Yes. When you carried a hundred octane, they put you where they didn't want you getting hit, cause you could probably sink a couple more ships if you got hit. Because a hundred octane is what the airplanes used, a hundred octane gas.

Martha J. Kounse:

Were there very many casualties in your company?

James A. Swann:

No.

Martha J. Kounse:

Can you tell me about something, memorable experience?

James A. Swann:

Well, only one I'd say would be going into the Philippines, they were fighting on the beach and we pulled in to the dock, and docked and they were still fighting for the island, they still had machine guns going and everything and the Japanese still had planes in the air.

Martha J. Kounse:

What were they fighting for the?

James A. Swann:

They were taking the Philippines, they had to retake the Philippines during World War II.

Martha J. Kounse:

Who was fighting?

James A. Swann:

The United States Army, United States Marines and anybody else they could get in there, they organized, see knowing the history of World War II, they was some American soldiers left in the Philippines, they went up on the mountains, and they lived with the Filipinos. The Japanese took the level, you know, and so they went in and those men joined them and finally they took Alantia, [not sure about the spelling of that word] New Guinea, they took the island of, not Atlania [not sure about the spelling of that word] but Baclovan [not sure about the spelling of that word]. They took did, they took the whole island of Lazy. Then they went up to the capital, had to take it, but we were in, I was in Taco [not sure about the spelling of that word] and Layz [not sure about the spelling of that word]. I guess that's the best thing in my memory would be.

Martha J. Kounse:

Do you remember what year that was?

James A. Swann:

'44

Martha J. Kounse:

Okay, were you a prisoner of war?

James A. Swann:

No.

Martha J. Kounse:

Were you awarded any medals or citations?

James A. Swann:

No, just, they didn't give us Merchant Marines medals. We had to earn the medals to make medals for them, [laughing]

Martha J. Kounse:

How did you receive your Purple Heart?

James A. Swann:

Through the mail, [laughing] I stepped on a land mine and, this was in Peking, China, which was the capital of China, it's Bejging now.

Martha J. Kounse:

So they actually mailed it to you?

James A. Swann:

Well, yes. I got my discharge, they mailed it to me, they sent me home from Norfolk, Virginia and then I got all that crap coming by mail, that's why it went to my mother's house.

Martha J. Kounse:

So you were sent home after you stepped on the mine?

James A. Swann:

Oh, yes, and the first thing I did when I came out of there, I was on crutches. I came out of the base and I had one shoe, this one here was just in a sock and I came across the road, there coming out of Norfolk Naval base and there was a shoe store. I went in set down and got a pair of shoes, throwed my crutches away and went to the train station and came home, [laughing]

Leo Martin:

They didn't even know about it?

James A. Swann:

Yes, they discharged me, told my I was discharged; go home, so I went home. But they had, hey, Norfolk you had to go across the bay to do anything. I went across the bay for pictures just to put on pass cards, you had to go across the bay.

Joann Swann:

You know he tried to get in the Korean War?

Leo Martin:

He did?

Joann Swann:

Yes, they found out, about his foot and told him to get out of there.

James A. Swann:

She didn't want me leaving her by herself, did you?

Joann Swann:

No, I told him the next time he got that patriotic I was going to stick a flag up his butt [laughing].

James A. Swann:

And they always told me Leo, that anybody could work, what was it they, the old saying is about ice cream factories?

Joann Swann:

Anybody could work in an ice cream factory.

James A. Swann:

Anybody, so the first job I got, before we got married was in an ice cream factory, and they don't make that ice cream any more, Imperial Ice Cream. Remember that Leo?

Leo Martin:

Yes.

James A. Swann:

Imperial, over on First street?

Joann Swann:

He had to go to work the day after we got married.

James A. Swann:

The guy came and got me. I worked five days, you know, and walked, so we got married Friday night, Friday evening and, by God, he came and got me the next day, next morning, three o'clock in the morning, go to work.

Martha J. Kounse:

You worked in the factory?

James A. Swann:

Yes.

Martha J. Kounse:

Did you get anything by the G. I. Bill, once you got, come back? Did you ever use the G. I. Bill?

Joann Swann:

Yes, we used it to get our first house.

James A. Swann:

Well, I bought, on the G. I. Bill.

Joann Swann:

But, he didn't go to school.

Martha J. Kounse:

He didn't?

Joann Swann:

Should have.

James A. Swann:

Why? I graduated from high school, that's all you needed, wasn't it? I came back from the service whenever I came back, that where I met her. I came back and went back to school to get my diploma, and I run into her and she put the keeps to me right then, [laughing]

Martha J. Kounse:

So you did go back to school, high school, when you got back?

James A. Swann:

Yes.

Martha J. Kounse:

Really? How did you stay in touch with your family?

James A. Swann:

Not very well. No, I wrote a letter every now and then.

Joann Swann:

He was in the hospital for nine months and didn't write his mom, they had to get the Red Cross after him.

James A. Swann:

I came back, I was in the [illegible] Heights in Pearl Harbor and, came back, into Oakland, California and Oakland Naval Hospital and a guy says, "Come on." And he had me a wheel chair and he shoved me out of the bed and he said, "Here's your bed." I got up, set on the edge of the bed, and I looked down the, here came, a man came walking up with a telephone. He said, "Are you James Swann?" I said, "Yes." He plugged the telephone into the wall and handed me the phone and he said, "You got a telephone call." Red Cross notified my mother where they were bringing me and there was a call waiting on me.LibJ

Martha J. Kounse:

Oh goodness, I bet she was upset with you.

James A. Swann:

Oh, she was.

Martha J. Kounse:

Could you imagine what she went through.

James A. Swann:

Well, it was different back then. Our country needed us, didn't they Leo?

Leo Martin:

Yes.

James A. Swann:

Honey, I'm telling you now, this is no lie, you could go over in the city of Huntington, and every damn house you went by had a star in the window, some of them two and three stars.

Martha J. Kounse:

What was?

James A. Swann:

That's servicemen, and if you had a blue star, it was dead.

Joann Swann:

I thought it was gold.

James A. Swann:

Was it gold, okay? You had blue stars, then you had gold. The gold star was killed in combat.

Leo Martin:

Your mom had one on her window, when I was in.

Martha J. Kounse:

Really, I didn't know that

James A. Swann:

Hey son, I'm telling you, you reach and get about seventeen million men, put them in uniform.

Joann Swann:

Three or four stars there for you.

Martha J. Kounse:

What was the food like?

James A. Swann:

Well, I guess it was good, honey, it was, you get in line first you got the most.

Leo Martin:

I hate them seconds, don't you?

James A. Swann:

Hey, now some times you could run into a cook that really could, oh man, and other times you run into one that couldn't even fry an egg without busting it, you know.

Joann Swann:

You all got sick one time too, didn't you?

James A. Swann:

Yes, oh yes man, I walked around that parade field and heaving, and I won't say what the other part was, but that was, now there was my two and a half gallon bucket. Had to use that two and a half gallon bucket.

Martha J. Kounse:

So you carried this bucket everywhere?

James A. Swann:

That bucket went with you, you had to have it. You come in the barracks, you know, and he says "Tomorrow morning this will be scrubbed." You took your little bucket, you filled it up, that bucket is what you used, fill it up, and you got down on your hands and knees, with a brush and you cleaned that floor.

Leo Martin:

It was like a gun, wasn't it?

James A. Swann:

Yes.

Martha J. Kounse:

I thought it was your hat.

James A. Swann:

And if you had to go to the bathroom while you were out in the middle of the field, and sick, the bucket.

Joann Swann:

Then you had to wash your clothes in it?

James A. Swann:

Yes. You wash the bucket outL'

Leo Martin:

You washed your hair in it. We called ours steel helmet, we shaved in it, took a bath in it.

James A. Swann:

You did everything with that bucket, and you get out somewhere where there's no water, you know, except out of the faucet, hey, you got to have water.

Leo Martin:

Shell holes, I drank out of many holes. Where the bombs would make a hole, cows step in it.

James A. Swann:

We were over in China, and you could not drink Chinese water, it'd come through pipes, you could not drink Chinese water. You could not drink anything China cooked, you couldn't drink no Chinese whiskey and they had a funny way of doing something. They drilled a hole in the bottom of American whiskey bottles, and they drained the American whiskey out, they wouldn't break the seal, they drained the American whiskey out and then they would turn it over and they would pour their whiskey back in it and plug up that hole and sell it to you. You had to find it.

Martha J. Kounse:

So what did you drink while you were there?

James A. Swann:

Biggest part of the time I drank American whiskey because on base, they would have, what did they call it Leo?

Leo Martin:

Cognac?

James A. Swann:

No, they, the beer gardens on base.

Leo Martin:

PX

James A. Swann:

Yes, you go on there, you go in there, find it, and buy it and it was cheap. But, I'll tell you, the easiest way of losing strips, especially three of them.

Martha J. Kounse:

Did you have plenty of supplies?

James A. Swann:

Oh, yes, we never did do without. That's what I was in, the Merchant Marines; we had to carry that stuff to those people.

Martha J. Kounse:

Did you ever do anything for good luck?

James A. Swann:

Good luck?

Martha J. Kounse:

Yes.

James A. Swann:

No. Never thought about it really. I never thought about getting hurt.

Leo Martin:

I never either, it never even entered my mind about me being killed. I think it was those shots they gave us, you know, [laughing]

James A. Swann:

That hurt worse than anything, them shots, especially when that guy would go ummm, and it wasn't only him, it's every time you went in to get shots, every corp. man, played target practice with you.

Leo Martin:

One on each side, one on each side.

Joann Swann:

You need to take shorthand.

Martha J. Kounse:

I wish. How did you entertain yourself?

James A. Swann:

Well, any way I possibly could, go ashore, see the town and, back then, in the Pacific, you had to be 21 years of age to drink. Once you got in, like Hawaii, once you got in a bar, you stayed, because you were checked at the door. You got in that bar, you stayed there, they wouldn't..

Leo Martin:

Had to carry you out, huh

James A. Swann:

Yes.

Martha J. Kounse:

Did you ever meet any entertainers?

James A. Swann:

No.

Martha J. Kounse:

Or see any?

James A. Swann:

Yes, I saw them and everything like that, but you couldn't get close to them.

Martha J. Kounse:

Did you ever go to the movies?

James A. Swann:

Oh, yes, yes, had to set on the ground, and they had the movie out there and you set there and watch it. I'd go to those get together they'd have, they'd bring those girls over and they'd dance and sing for you and all that crap.

Leo Martin:

Yes that was a big joke.

James A. Swann:

Yes.

Martha J. Kounse:

What did you do when you were on leave?

Leo Martin:

Get drunk

James A. Swann:

Well, now, hold it, now, hold it, this you are not going to believe, I got ten days the whole time I was in the Marine Corp, I'll only got ten days, and I came home and when I went back and they put me on a train and shipped me to the west coast and went over to troop train went overseas from there, down to Bego, [not sure about the spelling of that word] but I really never had any liberty, it was very little did they give you onthat, unless you were stationed state side, you could go out in the Pacific, one of those islands. There wasn't nothing out there to go to.

Martha J. Kounse:

Where did you travel while you were in the service, or did you?

James A. Swann:

Well, I was all over the world, from England to China, but I was always by ship, except across the Panama Canal and I rode a train, that was once. I missed a ship on one side and I got on a train and caught it on the other side.

Martha J. Kounse:

You rode a train?

James A. Swann:

Across the Panama. It only took a couple of hours.

Martha J. Kounse:

Do you recall any humorous or unusual events? He's just full of that, I think he has already told us. What about pranks?

James A. Swann:

All kinds of them, [laughing]

Joann Swann:

Tell them about the ice cream that you all stole from the Navy.

James A. Swann:

Oh, hell's fire, I stole everything from the Navy. I'd go up on board that ship, steal ice cream, steal anything the Navy had.

Joann Swann:

They had an ice cream maker and you all stole it, stole a jeep.

James A. Swann:

Now, we went in and we stole this Naval ice cream maker.

Leo Martin:

Yes.

James A. Swann:

Yes. So we took it and put it in the Marine kitchen there. Hey, we made ice cream and they came looking for it.

Joann Swann:

Did they take it?(J"-'

James A. Swann:

Nope, it was issued, we told them. But, listen, you've got to realize that the Army, the serial number on tanks, or on jeeps came from people stealing jeeps, and the Marine Corp, like in the Philippines, the Marine Corp stole jeeps from the Army and they painted them green, the Army's wasn't green, see, Marine green, they painted them. And then here come the Army out with a serial number on all the tanks, jeeps, and everything.

Martha J. Kounse:

So you started that? That was the reason?

James A. Swann:

They had to have serial numbers.

Martha J. Kounse:

Did you just steal from the Navy, or was it just everybody?

James A. Swann:

No, no, it was who ever was close to us. Now you've got to understand, the reason we did that was the Marine Corp was last getting the supplies, in other words, the Navy got theirs, and the Army got theirs. The Navy had to give to the Marine Corp, so what they didn't give, we stole. Honey, you've to realize, people make a big to do out of this, but nine chances out of ten, when you talk to a man who was over seas during World War II, he had a damn good time. Now, he had times that he didn't like, but he had a good time. You had a good time, didn't you? [asking Leo]

Leo Martin:

Yes. Sometimes, it depended.

James A. Swann:

It got rough on you.

Leo Martin:

It depended on what I was going back to.

James A. Swann:

But it got rough, the biggest part of them, they..

Joann Swann:

Did you all get home sick?

James A. Swann:

Did you get home sick?

Leo Martin:

Oh, yes.

James A. Swann:

I didn't.

Leo Martin:

It like when you're on vacation, from HUPCO, you had a good time If you didn't think about going back to HUPCO, that's they way it was in the Army. When I got hurt, they sent me to Rome hospital, I was in there for two months recuperating, then they sent me to Reppa Deppa [not sure about the spelling of that word], where they train you over again, then they took me Nice, France. I was up there about a week on vacation, you know, but I didn't enjoy it.

Martha J. Kounse:

What did you think of your officers or fellow soldiers?

James A. Swann:

Oh, they were good, they were mostly your officers, some of them was smart aleck, but they were good.

Martha J. Kounse:

You got along good with them?

James A. Swann:

Well, you had to, you might cuss them behind their back, if came up and told you to do something, you still did it.

Martha J. Kounse:

Do you remember the day your service ended?

James A. Swann:

Yes, I told you about it.

Martha J. Kounse:

Where were you?

James A. Swann:

I was in the Pacific, in the middle of the Pacific when World War 2 ended, but when my time ended in the Marine Corp I was in Norfolk, Virginia. No, I got my discharge at home, so I was at home. I enjoyed the service.

Joann Swann:

He would have made a career out of it.

James A. Swann:

I probably would have, if I hadn't got hurt, I would have made a career out of it.

Leo Martin:

Like Nobles.

James A. Swann:

Huh?

Leo Martin:

Was he is the second war, Nobles?

James A. Swann:

Clyde? No your brother was, but Clyde wasn't.

Leo Martin:

His brother was killed at Anzio wasn't he?

James A. Swann:

He had one, yes, one was in North Africa there, Hayes Noble.

Leo Martin:

Hayes, where does he live at?

James A. Swann:

He's dead now, he lived down at South Point. He was in North Africa there with the first evasion of North Africa, he was in that and then they moved him around to top something. Stopped the Germans from coming in over here.

Joann Swann:

He was military police, he used to come and get people that went AWOL.

Martha J. Kounse:

Where were you when Pearl Harbor happened?

James A. Swann:

At the, in Westmore Theater in Huntington. I came home and my dad was sitting at, we had a great big radio that wide, that tall, and my dad was sitting there at that radio crying.

Martha J. Kounse:

Westmoreland?

James A. Swann:

Westmore Theater.

Joann Swann:

It was a little theater in the west end of Huntington.

James A. Swann:

Westmore Theater.

Martha J. Kounse:

Do you remember what show you watched?

James A. Swann:

No. You'd have to have a good mind to remember stuff like that.

Martha J. Kounse:

This is a day in history you are supposed to remember.

James A. Swann:

You got another question?

Martha J. Kounse:

No, that's all.

James A. Swann:

Now, you can also put on the bottom of that underneath my name, the best looking man in Scary Hollow.

Martha J. Kounse:

Okay, [laughing]

Leo Martin:

I didn't even know where Pearl Harbor was. When someone told you about Pearl Harbor, did you know where it was?

James A. Swann:

I didn't know where it was, I didn't know where Hawaii was.

Joann Swann:

My brother was there.

James A. Swann:

That's the one over there in that [illegal], he was at Pearl Harbor when it was bombed. [End of Interview]

 
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  October 26, 2011
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