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Interview with Raymond Aten [5/30/2004]

Shawna Williams:

Today is Sunday, May 30th, 2004 and this is the beginning of an interview with Raymond Aten at the Veteran's Memorial Park in Ocala, Florida. Mr. Aten is 77 years old and was born on 2/8/1927.

Shawna Williams:

Mr. Aten, if you could please state for the recording what War and branch of service you served in?

Raymond Aten:

World War II, Korean War.

Shawna Williams:

What was your rank?

Raymond Aten:

At that time?

Shawna Williams:

Uh-hum.

Raymond Aten:

I was a Baker Third Class in World War II, actually made up the Second Class of Submarine.

Shawna Williams:

And which branch of service?

Raymond Aten:

Submarine Service, Navy Submarine Service.

Shawna Williams:

Where did you serve?

Raymond Aten:

In the Pacific and -- then -- there, I was there, but I was also in Korea -- I was in 28 years.

Shawna Williams:

Were you drafted or did you enlist?

Raymond Aten:

Oh, no, I enlisted at the age of 17.

Shawna Williams:

Where were you living at the time?

Raymond Aten:

I was living in my hometown, Dover, New Jersey because I enlisted in a great big building in New York City. It was called the Post Office. And I looked at the Post Office and thought my goodness if this is the Post Office, what's the railroad station look like and it was across the street, Penn Station.

Shawna Williams:

Why did you join?

Raymond Aten:

Well, it was World War II and I joined because I wanted to fight for my country.

Shawna Williams:

And why did you pick the service of branch that you picked?

Raymond Aten:

Well, I joined the Navy-- well, I guess really I joined the Navy because of -- I watched all the movies with John Wayne and he was flying the helicopter, you know, and I was going to be a gunner for John Wayne in the helicopter. The only problem was I was six-foot-one by that time and 195 pounds and you put that in the end of the plane, those gunners were all 140 pounds, so if you had another 40 pounds and you would extend the point of no return on an airplane. So I didn't make it in an airplane. Then I was sent to Cooks and Baker School. Gases Mixologist we called it and that was in Jacksonville, Florida in 1944.

Shawna Williams:

Okay so you joined in?

Raymond Aten:

New York City.

Shawna Williams:

What year?

Raymond Aten:

19--1944.

Shawna Williams:

Do you recall your first days in service?

Raymond Aten:

Yeah.

Shawna Williams:

How did you feel?

Raymond Aten:

Bewildered, nervous. I went to boot camp in Sampson, New York.

Shawna Williams:

How was your boot camp?

Raymond Aten:

Strange, at that time, but military. I had belonged to Piper Concourse, so it was a little bit of military, but it didn't bother me much. But we learned all about seamanship and defending yourself and stuff like that.

Shawna Williams:

Do you remember your instructors?

Raymond Aten:

Yeah, um-hum, um-hum.

Shawna Williams:

How did you get through it? How did you make it through boot camp?

Raymond Aten:

I just did what I was told. And it was, you know, the barrack stand was a wooden barracks and I had shoveled coal and I was cool when I was 13 years old, so that made be an engineer. So they put me in charge of keeping the fire going at night, putting wood on the fire so they'd have hot water in the day time.

Shawna Williams:

Which war did you serve in?

Raymond Aten:

World War II, Korea.

Shawna Williams:

Where exactly did you go?

Raymond Aten:

Well, in submarines. The Pacific, Guam, Pearl Harbor and submarine patrols.

Shawna Williams:

Do you remember arriving and what it was like at your first?

Raymond Aten:

At the first submarine?

Shawna Williams:

Uh-hum.

Raymond Aten:

But it's not like going to a lot of schools. My first submarine I was actually on was in Sub School in New London, Connecticut, I went there. Actually, what happened was, I was graduated from Cooks and Baker School in Jacksonville and I was the honor man of my class so I got my choice of duty and everybody was telling me you got to go to Sub School. Sub School I was getting $30 a month and you get 50 percent extra taking submarines. So that was $45 a month and besides that it was near New Jersey and New London, Connecticut, so I choose the submarines. Now going that first boat up there went through school. Well, I remember that very well. It was the O2 and it was built in 1918. So it was the first boat we went down on. Then it went to the second one the R, I mean, yeah, the R18 and that was built in 1918 also. First one on that boat we put up the hatch and this torpedo and pulled a trash can, a 50-gallon trash can under the hatch and when that hatch, we started, dove, water came through that hatch and filled up that can until we got deep enough to seal the hatch and that's when I was wondering what I was doing in submarines. I think I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Shawna Williams:

Did you see combat?

Raymond Aten:

Yeah.

Shawna Williams:

Were there any causalities in your unit?

Raymond Aten:

No, no, I was in a submarines. The only causalities that were there are still there.

Shawna Williams:

Tell me about -- tell me about a couple of your most memorable experiences.

Raymond Aten:

That's a hard question. There's a lot of, I think probably got to go with Zapter (ph) War and nuclear powered submarines. I put the USS Skate in commission, the third nuclear power submarine back in '78 and putting shake down and everything and August, August the 5th -- 5th -- 12th, 1958, we went to the North Pole. First submarine ever to surface at the North Pole. And we had met the Notlets (ph) at the same time we left the West coast coming to the East coast under the ice, completely submerged. First time ever a submarine had been surfaced at the North Pole. They'd come out and we'd follow them in. And we surfaced nine times through the ice and found this Ice Station Alpha there which was there and that was where they announced to the world that the USS Skate was surfaced at the North Pole.

Shawna Williams:

So you were not a prisoner of war?

Raymond Aten:

No.

Shawna Williams:

How did you stay in touch with your family?

Raymond Aten:

Telephone calls, writing letters. That's, I mean, that's how we stayed in touch that days. That's in World War II, that's going over 28 years. But, World War II there's what they call a "flimsy message." I forget what they call it now, but it's a flimsy message. You could send those things out in the mail. They went fast.

Shawna Williams:

How did people entertain themselves?

Raymond Aten:

In 28 years?

Shawna Williams:

On the submarine?

Raymond Aten:

On the submarines? Oh, okay. Well, I think really the one thing you say is, little things like you can't get to me, or you kind of needling a guy and see if you get to him or lose his cool or something like that. Well, we'd play Acey Deucey, Peknuckle. We had, at that time, we had records, records and radio, movies. We'd have movies that they'd come. But we also had, now you need to know this, see, we always had a movie because you had to get mad at something beside each other and a movie there was always a dog. And I just think of remembering "Good Queen Bess" with Earl Flint and Betty Davis. We must have seen that thing 50 times.

Shawna Williams:

Did you see any entertainers?

Raymond Aten:

Once in Pearl Harbor. We didn't -- we weren't around where they were. Once was in Pearl Harbor it was when some USO Troop came through.

Shawna Williams:

Who was it?

Raymond Aten:

Don't remember now. They were singers.

Shawna Williams:

Do you have photographs?

Raymond Aten:

Yeah.

Shawna Williams:

Of people in your unit or --

Raymond Aten:

Yeah. I got them, lots of them. Those -- my first submarine I was on was USS Pocono 319. We picked her up in Marihan (ph) overhaul, went to Hawaii and then went to Guam. We were in Guam, and the Pocono actually, right now and the Pocono's in a museum boat in Philadelphia.

Shawna Williams:

What did you think of officers and fellow soldiers?

Raymond Aten:

Oh, fellow soldiers were good. We all got together good. I -- I -- you ask that question to people, but submariners you -- you -- you got along with each other. You didn't, they __...(3 seconds). They didn't talk to much people.

Shawna Williams:

Did you keep a personal diary?

Raymond Aten:

No.

Shawna Williams:

Do you recall the day your service ended?

Raymond Aten:

Yep. July 1st, 1972.

Shawna Williams:

Where were you?

Raymond Aten:

We were at a Naval Air Facility, El Centro, California. It had been my second tour of tour duty there in 28 years and Pauline was there, my wife, and we were piped over the side and that's where the Blue Angels train in the winter time. We were the crack team there and I was the Supply Officer of the base then.

Shawna Williams:

What did you do in the days and weeks after...

Raymond Aten:

Oh, after I retired? Well I relaxed and played golf and we drove across country.

Shawna Williams:

So you did not go to work or school?

Raymond Aten:

I think I only went to work for Thomas English Muffins for a short time and then after that I did a little time with -- for most of the time between '72 and '93 I was Association Management of Land Improvement Contractors of America. It's a Personally Contractors Association independent businessman. So I was Association Management then I became, also became involved in the political, not political, I don't like that, Statesmanship. I was involved in that and I served in the Warden Counsel, Warden, New Jersey. I was a member of the Morris County Republican Committee. I was on the board of directors of them and also Municipal Chairman and Councilman of Morton.

Shawna Williams:

Did you make any close friendships while in the service?

Raymond Aten:

Oh, yeah. I get asked that question --

Shawna Williams:

Did they continue?

Raymond Aten:

Oh --

Shawna Williams:

Are you still in touch?

Raymond Aten:

-- We followed around. It was on a place since 1946. I meat Harry and Ann Rogers. He just died last year. Ann is still here in Florida, but we followed each other around for 58 years and kids are -- grandchildren are Godparents to our grandchildren, or children and their children. We follow each other around -- we -- we served on two ships.

Shawna Williams:

Did you join a Veterans Organization?

Raymond Aten:

Yeah. I belong to the Submarine Veterans of World War II and I was a past President of the North Central Florida Chapter and I belong to the American Legion, VFW, the Navy League, life member of Military Officer's Association and let's see, I'm a life member of both the Submarine Veterans of World War II and Submarine Veterans of Nautilus Base here in Ocala.

Shawna Williams:

Do you attend reunions?

Raymond Aten:

Yeah, yeah.

Shawna Williams:

What does your post do?

Raymond Aten:

What is that?

Shawna Williams:

If any of the Veterans Post that you are a part of --

Raymond Aten:

Not the VFW. Mostly the reunions I go to are Submarine Veterans Reunions. You can't go to them all. It's interesting, we had a 2000, the biggest one was had was in New Jersey. It was a 2000 turn of the century and it was also 100 years in submarines.

Shawna Williams:

Did your military experience influence your thinking about war or the military in general?

Raymond Aten:

No, I don't think so. We defend our country we all, that's part of our job here.

Shawna Williams:

How did your service and experiences effect your life?

Raymond Aten:

In 28 years it's effected my life all the time. I don't -- it doesn't -- I'd say I'm a dedicated patriot of the United States I'll tell you that. We have to live in this country and we have to support our country and support the people elected to our country. You don't have the right to tell everything bad about the name of your country. It's pretty darn good. If you haven't been around the rest of the world, it's pretty nice right here in this country.

Shawna Williams:

Is there anything you would like to ad that we have not covered in this interview?

Raymond Aten:

I don't know. That's a good __ question. Of my life? Oh, sure. After the war, mainly after the war was over, the fighting started. We went home, and I think at the ripe old age of 18 I meet my high school sweetheart and we were married and have been married for 59 years. And we have three children, seven grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. And she has spent the time and she put 27 years in the Navy following me around. Places we've been: Hawaii; Spain; Florida; South Carolina; New London, Connecticut, all over. It's been wonderful. Okay, also, I think I would like to mention the Hollywood tours while in California. We made movies on four different ships. It was on the bay when we made a movie after war "Mystery Submarine" with Macdonald Carey who is a soap opera king now. And then there was "The Flying Missile" was a flim up on the bay where they actually shot off the missile that was blunt forward with Viveca Lindfors. And then the next movie was with "Submarine Command", which was kind of a classic with William Holden and Nancy Olsen about a submarine who, during the Korean War which actually got sunk. I had put the Sterlet in commission and that was a submarine they used for that movie. So that's a variance of three or four films plus the lots from the North Pole which had some films that ran on TV a lot of times. Well, one of the things I do remember, I was mostly, is that Gun Ford was standing in the Galley when I was cleaning chickens and in those days they weren't cleaned. You had to take the gizzards out and I was standing there talking to him and I turned around and he wasn't there. So I saw him later topside and he said, "If I'd stood there one more minute, I'd be seasick all over your floor." So I remember and I'm sure he remembers that also. And then William Benedict was in one of those films and very surprising person for William Benedict was the parts he played. I think he's a very religious man and his personal life was a lot different than some of the parts he played on. But they were very interesting in those films and they're classics today.

Shawna Williams:

Okay. Thank you Mr. Aten.

 
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