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Interview with Edward Pursel [undated]

Grant Geddie:

Today is September 12th. I am Grant Geddie with Emily Zanetis and Patrick Rezek. We are interviewing Edward Pursel at, his address is, 5250 East 116th Street. He is Mrs. Lerch's friend. He is 86 years old and was born in 1923. He served in World War Two and was in the unit LST 49 (landing ship tanks), and held the following rank of signalman third class.

Edward Pursel:

We turned to the Brooklyn Navy Yard and loaded, it was 562 that we loaded the hull to the Pacific to start in convoy. We got out this a little ways, our starboard shaft failed and we had to pull back in to Portsmouth, Virginia, and have a repair-the shaft, and then we took off alone by ourselves. To back up a little bit, when we come back to New York we-half of the crew departed, and we got that many green soldiers on the ship so the old salts had to teach them all a few things, so we were taking off then to go down to the Panama Canal. These guys, its amazing how green they can be, you know, so the water line of course is where the water comes up on the side of the ship, you know, that's the water line. Well, there's a big hawser wrapped around one end of the other that we tied the small boats to and we told him to go get the water line off the side of the ship. Well, he's pulling this big hawser up and the captain walked by and he said, "What're you doing?!" and he says "They told me to bring the water line." He said, "Put that back down!" and he didn't know what to do [laughing], he did, and the captain just walked on. I mean, he didn't explain it to him, and one of them wanted to know how we got our mail and they told him, "Well, the plane flies out at least and leaves it on buoy out on our way down there and we go by and pick it up off that buoy," and said that it takes a guy that's young and pretty agile to get it as we go by and so we had him climb up on the wing with a boat hooker and go get it one time and so we finally told him and then-oh he said left-handed monkey wrench, you know, and the monkey wrench is either handed of course and we had put them through it, they were a bunch of nice guys, so but hey-

Patrick Rezek:

Would it make it easier if you had the logbook with you? Would you like me to get the logbook for you? Cause I can do that if you want to keep explaining some stuff I can go get the logbook for you.

Edward Pursel:

That would, it might help a little bit, yeah, cause we're getting ready to go into the [inaudible], so yeah, [interview paused]

Edward Pursel:

Did it get it all?

Patrick Rezek:

Yeah, it got a ton of this; most of it is scanned.

Edward Pursel:

Okay, here we are: "Affairs completed, depart Norfolk and going toward the Pacific and route alone, Cape Henry was the last U.S. land sided and then we rounded Cape Hatteras, and Cape Hatteras is usually pretty rough, but it was not too bad. Pass through the Woodard Channel, close to Cuba, about eight miles distance, eighteen clearly visible. April second anchored at Limonday, moved to pier [inaudible], starboard, whatever, entered... I put gatum blocks and pass through the Panama, anchored in Panama Bay, and on to Pearl. The temperature was 103 degrees- water temperature was 86." On April the 15th, I'm not sure what the exact date was that President Roosevelt died, but my grandfather died the same day and I was notified. But anyway, April the 15th, we held a memorial service a memorial service for FDR and then we arrived in Pearl-Pearl Harbor on the 24n. April the 27th we left Pearl in a convoy. See we-by that, up to that time we had been by ourselves in an LST, which most people think is pretty unusual but we had no problem with this ship. It's a flat bottom and it doesn't have a keel, and we had enough weight to hold us down so- and all those pontoons we weren't going to sink. So we were in pretty good shape and after we left Pearl Harbor I think it was the 27th. We left in a convoy and we stopped at Eniwetok, which is where the first atom bomb was dropped, and on to Guam and Saipan and then on to our way to Okinawa. We encountered a typhoon at on just before we got to Okinawa on June the fifth we encountered a typhoon one day out of Okinawa. The LST suffered no damage but the captain's remark was "But the waves were very impressive!" In June we were in Buckner Bay in Okinawa and there [were] air raids there. June 17 air raid, a Japanese suicide plane came over the hill and I happened to be on the deck, and he was headed directly for us, but there was some ships unloading over by one of the docks and so he curved and went over and he flew into the side of that plane.

Grant Geddie:

Was there just one?

Edward Pursel:

Just one by himself. Anyways, I don't think the bomb went off, but he did go through the side of the ship and so it wasn't nearly as bad as it would've been had the bomb went off, but he had a dud I guess, but it naturally killed him and it killed some of the soldiers in that area. So our captain sent one of the boats over. I was standing watches on the ship, too, as a signalman and I was also a signalman on small boats. But I received my rank before we left England after we first got into England, I took the test and got signalman third. So I was standing watches on the ship too which I enjoyed it because Europe on the outside and I like to be on the outside and you get the messages before anyone else does because you receive it and then you have to pass it on and so I kinda liked it. I was still on small boats when we needed to be, but otherwise I could stand watches on the ships, too. And the ship ran aground over in Buckner Bay and we went aground on a coral reef and we were stuck there until the tide went out and we were waiting on top, we were off the ship standing on the reef in deep, deep water. The ship had to wait 'til the tide comes back in-the full tide-and then a tug (this is liberated by a tug in high tide). July 10th we went to-we were in Saipan ordered by Commander Tusher, and party of-for materials inspection. Commander Tusher and party for materials inspection, and the captain's remark was not a report you would want your mother to see. And so he was in trouble of course. I think that's when he might have left our ship, and we had another captain. It wasn't mentioned in the book here but Captain Jones came aboard Captain Stickland left, Captain Jones came aboard and I think it was around that time so. And he had said that when he got off the reef that the 49th was liberated off the reef. Some of us remarked that that was humorous and we dived off in Saipan and the ship got painted and so we got our bottom fixed where the reef damaged it and then we went on to Pearl-back to Pearl Harbor. Well, there's August 14th I think 1945 when Japan surrenders and much of official festivities with ship's horns and search lights and pyrotechnics so everyone was happy that they had surrendered. And there we moved from Pearl Harbor to the hull of the Oklahoma that'd been sunk and we loaded, we loaded post office equipment and September 2, 1945, Jap[an] signed formal surrender aboard the USS Missouri and US LST has this post office equipment in and here again it says LST 49 reluctantly departs for Hawaii with two mobile post office units complete with personnel and equipment for return to western Pacific. In other words, we wanted to go home but they sent us on back and so we crossed the International Dateline, arrived at Ulithi and the Carolina Islands and first draft them in to leave the ship for demobilization, got off and was sent back to the States, and then we departed Ulithi for Okinawa and October 8, we hit- on the way from Ulithi-we hit another major typhoon, and it struck Okinawa-LST 49 underway in storm avoidance plan. Many ships beached and heavy loss of life and property damaged. Wind reported to attain 130 knots. LST 49 steamed east of Okinawa and sustained negligible damage, barometer dipped below 20 inches. October 12, typhoon is over, LST 49 again anchored in Tyguchi Harbor I think, I don't know how it's pronounced [papers ruffling]. This is gonna be hard to tape this all. Anyways the LST...

Patrick Rezek:

I just have a question, when you were traveling in your unit, and you were waiting on the ships when you were on leave, when you were coming home, was there anything that you had, like a rabbit foot or something, that was good luck? Like a cross or anything, there was no token for-

Edward Pursel:

No, not me, I didn't have any good luck, a foot or anything.

Patrick Rezek:

Did many other people in your unit?

Edward Pursel:

No, I didn't notice them too much, not really. Some guys had their good luck piece and so forth, but I didn't have anything like that.

Emily Zanetis:

What did you think of your officers and the other soldiers that you were with while you were in service? Did you guys all get along?

Edward Pursel:

We had good officers and bad officers. We had some very good officers, in fact, we had a buddy come down with the crew and we still-we're going to have a reunion next week, and it will be our 22nd reunion. And we have one officer that still comes, we have two that come but one of them is not too well anymore and I don't think he's gonna make it this year. He was our gunnery officer and his daughters were going to bring-had been bringing him and his wife. But the officer that-we're going to Baltimore, Maryland-the officer lives in Virginia close to Washington, D.C. and he still-he's 87 [years old]-he runs daily. He has won several meets, and even in the last year he just won a thirteen-mile run. He's slender, in good shape, and he sat down [at our banquet] and he ate a ham that big and that thick and all the trimmings and dessert and I couldn't get it I was trying to get too much and I couldn't do it, and [laughing] he's thin, you know. Anyways, he was one of our good officers, and I talked to him a lot when I was on watch. See, I was on what they call Conair box, above the wheelhouse, with two signal lights, one above each corner and we had an officer of the day on our deck that was usually on duty too and I always joined him because we could talk, you know. And so then our boat officer that took us in to southern France was a very good guy, and he'd been-like I say through five invasions already, and so he figured it would get him sooner or later anyways, but anyway he had kinda a blah-blah attitude. We'll just get this job done and not have a lot of baloney along with it. And we had one officer that I was surprised someone didn't throw him overboard, our Captain Stickland; the guys called him the geezer, not to his face naturally [laughing]. But the officers didn't like him, he was something else, a big guy, very powerful, not a tidy man like most officers are. He wore a pair of shoes with the laces cut out, you know, and tucked his pants underneath the heels-his heel. Of course, we would run out of water, get low on water, and they would make [water] with the evaporators, try to get some more water. The guys weren't too good at it; it usually looked solid. That's when I started drinking coffee, poured a lot of cream in it. But anyway, I was standing watch and he was on watch that day for some reason, I don't know why he was up there, but he says, "If they were like me they wouldn't be wasting water," and I said, "Yes sir." But he just wasn't the officer type, especially the captain, but the guys figured he had a relative or something that was an admiral. He wasn't-I thought he was a good officer as far as loading the ship was concerned and putting everything in its place, but he wasn't real good with the personnel. And I got along fine with him myself, I never had any problem with him. But as far as getting along with the officers most of them were pretty decent guys. In fact, they'd go out come down and play poker with the guys sneak down there, you know. After the war was over we went to these reunions he was still one of the guys you know and he'd join us, but he was a smart guy, he became quite wealthy after he got out. Anyway our First Division officer in England was put on the captain's admiral's staff or something when we first got on the ship we got a new officer at that time and so he did alright, too, and most of the officers were pretty decent, so. Do you have any other questions?

Patrick Rezek:

Was there any other form of entertainment besides poker games? Did you guys play other card games?

Edward Pursel:

Oh yes, we played pinochle. We had a constant pinochle game going. We'd go off watch and come down, the guy going on watch would take off, you'd sit down in his seat and play pinochle constantly, and we played hearts. And I never got into the gambling games, cause I'm not a good gambler and I didn't want to cause some guys were pretty sharp. And we had movies on the ship on the tank deck this talk deck was big and they'd go get, they'd swap movies with another ship so. One time we were, we finally ended up in an area in China called Tai Koo but before then we went, we'd gone back from the typhoon, we took-some guys had left them off at Shanghai and said, October 21 we entered Yangtze River and boarded a wharf in Shanghai, and the fifteen postal personnel was detached, and six men went home for demobilization. We departed Shanghai for North China and on October 30th we ran into a mine-we saw mines near the mouth of the Yangtze River, five mines were sighted within 24 hours out two were, and they let us go get rifles and shoot at them, and so the big guns were shooting at them-50 calibers-and I think we had a 40 caliber-the 40 millimeter on there, too, I'm not-I don't remember not sure about that, anyways two of them we sunk two of them with gunfire and the ones we hit lost it anyways, and then we arrived at the Tai Koo anchorage and launched our, another LCT that we'd picked up in Pearl, when we picked up the post office, and we ended being fleet post office and we sit there in Tai Koo harbor and ships would come in the harbor and ask for their mail. Mail was a big thing, and signalmen, in the meantime Captain Jones, we had Captain Jones on there at the time, but we were dragging anchor and the guys, I'd just come off watch and everything was fine, there was no ships going alongside we weren't starting or going anywhere. Well, they started playing peanuckle and they started ringing anchorage detail. Well, there was a signal went up when they had for any kind of detail, nothing going on, I'd just come off watch so then they rang more in detail, still there's no one coming alongside, I'd just left. And so we didn't go up. So finally they rang general quarters and when they ring general quarters everybody goes, so to get these guys up there why that's what they had to do, and were dragging anchor. It wasn't boring or anything, we were just dragging anchor, and so we had to get the engine started and get back and get our position back, and so the captain goes-the captain's mast, that's a penalty, and everybody had to go up in front of the captain and so all these guys in our division went up to get called so I thought "Uh oh, what's going on here?" So anyway I went to the movie and then pretty soon here my name was called so I had to go up and he said, "What's your excuse?" I thought, "Uh oh, the guys ratted on me, they said it was my fault or something," so I told him what happened, I said, "Well when I went up there wasn't anything going on," and he was looking at my record and everybody called me Pursel [emphasis on 'sel'] and he looked at my record and he says your name is Pursel [emphasis on 'pur'], it's not Pursel [emphasis on 'sel']. I said, "Yes sir, you're the first one in this navy that's recognized that," and he says, "Yeah, well, you're the only one that had an excuse," he says, "I'll let you off," [laughing]. Got lucky there cause the rest of them would have dirty duty to do like cleaning the bilge or something, dirty work to do. So I got out of all that. Anyway, soon after that we-let's see-after Tai Koo, we got through that and it was a pretty cold winter, but it wasn't any fun just sitting up in that harbor just being the post office and said the monotony was occasionally relieved by a liberty in Tiensen, or Peking, or by reading mail, eight men assigned to the ship, which eight new men came aboard, and then I guess we had a problem one alongside of the field ship, and punched a hole in bow, then. I'm pretty sure that it was the 21st of November, 1945, that we dragged the anchor, it was the engines offline and the 22nd, seven men were detached for separation and two new men went aboard and I'm thinking that I got off the ship the 22nd , because it doesn't say names it just says that we were sent but anyways I came back by troop ship to Treasure Island in San Francisco, California, and from there-I was there a couple weeks with a friend. (I think I had his picture over there, that I came home with), I don't know, but probably, but his name was Gallagher and he was a pharmacist mate and from there we went to Treasure Island and we were both broke, but we were just trying to find something to do, we were walking down the street and some guy says, "'Hey, you wanna go to a roller, not a derby, but a show, like an ice show you know?" So we ran and it was very good and these people are on these roller skates, doing all kinds of tricks on roller skates, and they had a little square, but anyway we finally got out there and went back to the Great Lakes, and that's where I was discharged, from Great Lakes.

Emily Zanetis:

How long were you in service total?

Edward Pursel:

I was in three years and six days, I think it was, or seven days.

Emily Zanetis:

So were you discharged like right after the war ended, or did they keep you after for a while? Or was it before the war ended?

Edward Pursel:

The war was actually ended, and I didn't have points as of yet.

Emily Zanetis:

Oh, so it wasn't based on the happenings of the war, it was based on how long you said you were going to... Edward Pursel:: Yeah, you had to have so many points to get out, you're awarded so many when you're overseas and so many when you're in, and I had 36 and a half points I think it was

Grant Geddie:

How many did you need?

Edward Pursel:

What?

Grant Geddie:

How many did you need?

Edward Pursel:

Probably 36,1 don't know, it was around 34 or 35 along there. And they let us out right away after we got our points, they didn't need us anymore. They had other guys so over there.

Patrick Rezek:

Do you remember any special thing that you did as soon as you came back, you know, when you came home, was there any, was there a big celebration, did you go out and just hang around with your old time friends?

Edward Pursel:

I think I just went out and hung out. In fact, I think I hung out with one of the guys I joined with for awhile.

Patrick Rezek:

Oh, okay.

Edward Pursel:

I had his picture; it might be over there too. But there's my brothers picture. Now that is a picture of the small boat. There were sixteen of us. Yeah, I'm in there somewhere. This is my brother, he was in the army, and this is a neighbor friend of mine and-excuse me just a moment- this one is me, and this one is the guy that I joined with, so this is another friend. By the way, we're-in making an invasion of Southern France-this fellow was a good buddy, he was a pretty tough guy, no one messed around with this guy, but he was a pretty good friend of mine and he wanted me to go ashore with him and hunt for souvenirs, and I declined, but he went anyway and he got [inaudible], and that bayonet, and he was selling them. In fact he asked me if I'd give him five bucks for it and I said no, and some guy run in saying, "I'll give you five dollars," and he said, "No, I'll just give it to Ed," He just handed it to him, so anyway I don't know what he got now but he told us some story about what happened to him up there, I was glad I didn't go, but anyways he ended up-when we started back to the states he had about 100 boils-and when we got back to the states they took him off the ship, they sent him to the hospital with 100 boils or whatever it was and who knows what he got into, I don't know. But he-we became good friends again after afterwards and I knew that he'd be wealthy someday, any guy that's going to go up and be [inaudible] is going to be rich someday. Well, he ended up he started selling prosthesis, you know, and then he ended up he owning half interest in a business, and then I think he started another one, but he made money after he got out. And he bought a-he lived in Atlanta, Georgia- and he bought a part of a mountain in North Carolina, and he built a log cabin, he and his wife. There was a little house there beside it he jacked it up and made a guest house out of it and we'd go down there, and he put us in the guest house, and he was the type of person who, he was Scotch, he was [inaudible], and he was scotch to the point where he'd drive twenty miles to save a nickel on gas or something like that, but he wouldn't let you spend a cent when you were there. He paid for your meals, if you wanted something else he'd pay for it, he just would not let you pay for anything.

Mrs. Pursel:

[inaudible] [laughing]

Edward Pursel:

You'll go over there, and he was nice. And I said, "Here, here," and "No, no," and if he said no, he meant it, you'd get it back to him, he was just that kinda guy. And I made it up, I managed to do something nice for him later on, I paid for-we went out to eat one time and I paid for him, I sneaked around and paid the girl before she got back to him and when he went to pay the bill she said, "It's already been paid for," and he says, "What do you mean?" and he was mad at her for taking my money. I said, "Well, I talked her into it!" And I thought, "Well, hey, I don't wanna do that again." I think that's about the end of it, all that I've said. Unless you've got any more questions, I'd be happy to answer them.

Grant Geddie:

Did you work or go back to school when you returned?

Edward Pursel:

I went to work the same job I had before I went in. I was manager of the shipping department of Herf Jones Company. I'm sure you've probably heard of that, it's a big company, and when I come back I got my job back and I worked for awhile, and a friend of mine wanted me to go into business so I quit and we went into the cement block business and we made cement blocks, as much and as many as we could until we couldn't get anymore cement. At that time the building was so demanding that you couldn't buy a bag of cement, so the cement block business went on the rocks, so to speak, so then I think I went to see the service officer and he says, "Well, why don't you go back to college?" and I said, "Well-," (we were married then had a daughter) and I said, "I can't, I'm married, got responsibilities," and he says, "Well, take a short term school," so anyway I did that. He mentioned some different ones, real estate, barbering, and cosmetology, and he says, "Do you know what that is?" and I said, "Well, I've got an idea of what it is," so I started that, you know. I went down to talk to all these people about schooling and the beauty colleges had the best offer so I took that schooling and I thought well if I don't like it I can maybe become a [inaudible], and so I went to work in this shop, and was doing pretty good, all of the sudden I decided I didn't want to do that anymore, so I quit. I got a job with star news as district manager and I had this enormous district of Lards and Castleton and, what was the other one-Sonia Sides Sanatorium and the-I cant think of the-[inaudible] yes it was and then I wanted to [mumbling], well anyway the lady from Washers came down and asked if I could come to work at a store, I said, "Well," Rosie says, "It's a better deal then you've got now," and it'd be a pretty good deal if I did, so I went back to work. They sent me to New York for more training, so I built up a pretty good trade, and a lady from Blocks sent someone over to ask if I would come over and talk to her about a job, so-she couldn't come herself cause that was not the thing to do, so I went to talk to her and she wanted me to come and work for Blocks, so I went to work for Blocks and then she let me go back downtown, and I said, "No, I don't want to go back downtown. I like it out here, easier to get to," and we lived at Michigan at the time, and so after that I was working at Blocks, and a guy that owned a salon sent his wife over to have me go over to go talk to him so I went to talk to him, he says, "Why don't you come over here and rent a booth?" so I went over and rented a booth and I worked for him for awhile, and he says, "Why don't you buy the shop?" I said, "I don't know." He says, "I'll give you a good deal," and so then I owned a salon in Broad Ripple for twenty-five years and I rented, I had seven booths, and I rented out six of them and worked. And I finally retired from them when I was about 68 years old.

Patrick Rezek:

Were you really good the haircuts after you were going to Africa right?

Emily Zanetis:

Is that where you got your start?

Edward Pursel:

Well, I knew that I could do it. I'm sure I've left out a few things, but right now I can't think of what they might be, other than the cement blocks. Oh, I drove a truck after that for two or three years after we run out of the cement blocks, I decided to drive a truck for two or three years so I've done a little bit of everything. Okay.

Emily Zanetis:

Thank you for your time.

Patrick Rezek:

Yes thank you very much. If we have more time and we need to, you know, throw up some follow up questions if it's all right for us to give you a call.

Edward Pursel:

Okay, yeah, unless you can think of anything right now.

Patrick Rezek:

Well I think we're gonna have to stop right now because of the next interview coming in but thank you for your time so much.

Edward Pursel:

Oh, yeah, well did you, did the young lady get all of the pictures she wanted and all that? Yeah.

 
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