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Interview with Thomas Melo [8/16/2012]

Lisa Dimonte:

Good morning. Today is Thursday, August 16th, 2012. My name is Lisa DiMonte, and I am here with my dear friend, Thomas C. Melo, conducting an interview in support of the Veterans History Project of the Library of Congress. We are here in Bethesda, Maryland, in the residence of Tom and Mary Melo. Good morning, Tom.

Thomas Melo:

Good morning.

Lisa Dimonte:

Thank you for taking the time to share with us your experiences in the war.

Thomas Melo:

You're welcome.

Lisa Dimonte:

Tom, when were you born?

Thomas Melo:

I was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on 13 January, 1919.

Lisa Dimonte:

And tell us a little bit about your parents, what they did, and also any of your siblings.

Thomas Melo:

I was the sixth son of my parents. I had two sisters and a brother younger than me. My parents had nine children, five girls and four boys. My parents came from Italy. My father was eight years old and my mother was 12 years old, but they did not know each other in the small community near Salerno, Italy. They met in New Jersey and subsequently went to Philadelphia where they got married. My father was a barber. He started out as an apprentice and worked his way and finally got his own shop, had two or three barbers working for him, and raised the nine kids on a barber's salary, which wasn't -- wasn't much in those days.

Lisa Dimonte:

Tom, I understand that you were drafted into the military, into the Army. Right before you were drafted into the Army, what were you doing?

Thomas Melo:

Before I got drafted I was working -- when we were growing up my brother and I had a paper route. And the income from the newspaper delivery was very good, and we gave my father all the money that we were able to make. And it helped to pay the mortgage, and he was one of the few people in the neighborhood that did not lose his home. And he always was grateful to my brother Albert and I for helping out to save the home for the rest of the family. I worked in a playground for two months when I got out of high school, graduated from Northeast High School in Philadelphia, and I worked in a political job in a playground for two months. I got $100 a month, total of $200 for two months. During that time I met a neighbor that had gotten interested in stenotype and told me about it. And I told my father, I said, "Pop, it looks like this is going to be a wonderful opportunity, could I use the money I made at the playground for my tuition?" And he said, "Go for it." So I went down to the stenotype school, 13th and Walnut Street in Philadelphia, and applied to go to stenotype school. And I went to day school. I finished in eight months, and I got a job as a secretary at an oil company that was part of City Services. And I worked there five days a week for the wonderful salary of $70 a month. Anyway, I got some experience, and my Democratic -- rather, my Republican ward committeeman, I talked to him about getting a job down City Hall where I could use my stenotype. So he said he would find out what he could do. And he got me a job in December of 1940, and I was working down there at the city. I was getting $100 a month. It was a pretty good job and I felt like I was really making the money, and I bought a car for $400. So in March of 1941 I received a draft notice saying that I was classified 1-A and had to report to a doctor to get a physical examination. I went to the doctor and he passed me, said I was in able and shape. So the lady at the draft board said she'd be in touch with me. So I got a draft notice to report at the end of March to be considered as a draftee in the U.S. Army. So the day before I was supposed to report I got a call from her, and she said she had enough volunteers and I wouldn't be going until April. So I got another notice to report to the Armory in Philadelphia on the 10th of April at 9:00 a.m. So that morning we got together and I -- as a parting thing to my mother, I said, "Mom, I'm going to take my stenotype machine with me, I may be able to use it in the service." So I packed some packs of paper and the machine and got in a car, my brother drove -- drove me down to the Armory at 32nd and Market Street to be considered for a draftee. So they did the same thing down there, physical exam, took a couple hours. And they -- it got to be lunchtime. They lined us up and took us to a restaurant for lunch. That was the first experience with the Army, a free meal. So we came back from lunch and they called the roll. And I was one of the other people that were also considered for the draft. They had A to K went to Fort Meade, Maryland, and L to Z went to Camp Lee, Virginia. So they -- and they said we passed. We were sworn into the Army, took the oath, and sat around for about an hour. And they marched us over to the train station next door to the Armory and they put us in two cars at the end of a train coming to Washington. We got to Washington, we sat in the railroad yard for about three hours. Finally hooked us up to a train going to Richmond, Virginia. And the cold soup was coming in the windows; it was hot, April. And we finally got to Washington. And, like I say, we were there for a while. And then they transferred us to another train that was going to Richmond, Virginia. And that was about a three-hour ride. And it got to be 2:00 o'clock in the morning when we finally got to Richmond. More waiting. And they finally hooked us up to a train going to Petersburg, Virginia. And that was going to be our first reception center, Camp Lee, Virginia. We arrived there at 3:00 o'clock in the morning. Well, about 5:30 they came along and hit each soldier on the bottom of their -- of the feet with a piece of wood, saying, "Up and at 'em, time to get up." So they took us outside and they had reveille. And then they took us over to the mess hall and I had my first breakfast of GI chow. I must say, it was very good. And I had something that I had never eaten before, grits. And one of the people in the mess hall said, "Don't worry, you'll like them, put a little butter on." And I did, and they tasted good. I never had them, because in Philadelphia when you went to the restaurant and got eggs you got potatoes with it. But down South they gave grits. So I got to be a grit eater. And so after breakfast they lined us up and they gave us World War I uniforms. They were OD, olive drab, all wool. We had to put the leggings on, wrap them around our legs. It was about 100-degree heat down there at that military base, and we wore those uniforms from World War I for about two or three days. Finally, they said we were going to be transferred to Fort Eustis, Virginia, for basic training, and they issued us cotton khaki uniforms, shirt and trouser. And I was glad to get rid of those ODs, because they were really hot and itchy. So the day come they put us on the train. And we got to Fort Eustis, Virginia, in the afternoon, and assigned to the barracks, told we'd be there for 13 weeks for basic training. So on the fifth day they had roll call and the first sergeant presided. And he read out the assignments for the different ones. When he came to me he said, "Private Melo, you report to the Staff Judge Advocate at 1300 hours in Class A uniform. Any question?" I said, "Yes, would you be kind enough to tell me what the Staff Judge Advocate is?" And he said, "Yes, it's the legal beagle of the Army." So I said, "Okay." So that afternoon I had lunch and put my Class A khakis on and shoes all shined up nice, and went to the Staff Judge Advocate's office. And I met a Colonel Langfitt, who was the Staff Judge Advocate. And he told me they were going to have a court martial next week, and that they'd seen I was a stenotypist in Philadelphia, and could I handle it. And the captain spoke up and he said, "Melo, you get what they say and I'll show you the way the Army wants it." I said, "That's fair enough." So next week I reported to the place where they were going to have the court martial. It was a Colonel Pitts that was the president of the court martial, with one of those wax mustaches, very strict decorum, was nothing like I had ever seen before. But I didn't have any trouble, like, at the court martial. A soldier had rifled through the pants pockets of the soldiers in the barracks. And we didn't have a place to secure our clothing, you just hung them on a hook. And he was rifling in the pockets. He got some change, less than a dollar. And they caught him, naturally, and they gave him a court martial to teach him a lesson more than anything, because they had a lot of soldiers down there, 25,000 troops under training, and they didn't want to have any problems. So I took the court martial, I didn't have any trouble. I typed it up in draft and gave it to the captain. He looked it over, he said, "Very good. I was there, and you got what they said. So this is how you have to do it in the military." Well, then he gave me the Court Martial Manual. So I sat down, and they had manual typewriters, no electric. I typed it up in final, gave it to him. And he looked it over and he said, "Very good. Now, you've got one more thing to do." I said, "What is that, Captain?" He said, "You have to make a voucher." I said, "A voucher?" I said, "I'm a GI in the military, I don't know anything about a voucher." He said, "Yeah, you're a specialist, you get paid for taking a court martial 32 cents a page." Well, it was 10 pages long. So I typed up the voucher, and he took it and he put it on top of the thing, and it went to Fort Meade, Maryland, the Third Corps area. In about a week I got a green check for $3.20. I said, boy, this is really wonderful. And Colonel Langfitt asked me, "Would you like to work here all the time?" I said, "Colonel, it would be a serviceman's dream, I'll be glad to." He said, "Well, you have to go to basic training in the morning, you come here in the afternoon, in 13 weeks you will have completed your training, I'll have you transferred to headquarters company." And that will be -- I'll be the court martial reporter. So it was wonderful. So I averaged about one court martial a week, I got paid for it. And after the 13 weeks I was transferred to the headquarters company. And Colonel Langfitt greeted me when I came in, and he said, "You have a little private office there with a manual typewriter," and he said, "Maggie is the secretary, and she'll help you out, whatever you need." So I had it made. So the next week I got promoted to corporal. I was a private, made it to corporal. I got $54 a month. It was wonderful. It was all clear, because I got my meals.

Lisa Dimonte:

Tom, so little did you know that bringing along your stenotype machine would result in a --

Thomas Melo:

Never in a million years. Never. After that interview with Colonel Langfitt, I called my mother up that night, I said, "Mom, I did a good thing in bringing that stenotype machine, I was able to take a court martial, and I did good, and I'm going to be paid for it." And that was the best move I ever made, when I packed that up in my baggage.

Lisa Dimonte:

So it really was a good luck charm for you.

Thomas Melo:

And that was -- that was wonderful. So the summer went by and I got promoted to buck sergeant, and then later on I got promoted to staff sergeant. And I was working there. On a weekend I would ride the troop train to Washington as an MP. They had two cars of soldiers that came up to Washington for the weekend, left on Saturday morning, came back Sunday night. And I had the armband and the club. And I got free transportation, came up to DC, and we'd always have a nice weekend every weekend, so... And then the fall came, and before you know it, it was going to be Thanksgiving. And I was planning on going home for Thanksgiving. So Colonel Langfitt called me in and he said he wanted to talk to me. So this was November. And he said, "We got a TWX in today, and you've been selected to go to Washington to the Office of the Inspector General of the Army as a court reporter." And he said, "You have to report there by the 14th of November." So he said, "We'll have a little cake and ice cream here for you; you've been a faithful servant." And he wrote me a letter of recommendation. So the 14th I said good-bye to everybody and got the train up to Washington to report to the new job. When I got here I reported to the Inspector General in 2145 C Street, Northwest. It was an old apartment building that the Army had taken over. And the -- it was an eight-story building, and the first two floors were assigned to a lady that was the National Youth Administration, and the other six floors was the Inspector General of the Army. And up on the 8th floor was Major General Peterson, who was the Inspector General, and Colonel Cook, the deputy, and General Davis, who was at that time the only black general in the Army. And we reported in, and we got assigned. Some of the people went out on trips with a senior officer, usually a full colonel, investigation. So in February I was picked to go to Alaska. And they were building the ALCAN Highway up there. And somebody stole the ammunition and blew up part of the ALCAN Highway, and a lot of people were killed. So the Inspector General was sent up there to investigate. It was a Colonel Lane and myself, two of us, we went up there. And it was the first time I -- we went in a nice plane from Washington to Seattle, and then from Seattle to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, in a smaller plane, but still comfortable. And then we were going to a place called Dawson's Creek, and that was where the explosion happened. And they -- Colonel Lane got a C-45, that was one pilot and couple of seats. And they had a bunch of bags of vegetables in there that they were going to take up to the unit that was stationed up there, military unit. And that plane was going side to side, side to side. And the first thing you know, I upchucked. And Colonel Lane handed me the bag that they had in the seat. And I said, "I'm praying that I get there to whatever Dawson's Creek is in this plane." I was back and forth, back and forth. So anyway, we got there and met the commander and conducted the investigation. Colonel Lane took testimony. And I was the reporter taking it down, naturally. And we were up there about 10 days and we went to Anchorage, that was the headquarters. That was nice, a nice base, a lot better than Dawson's Creek. We got finished the mission and we were coming back. So we came back in a C-47, which were the DC-3s in the civilian aircraft, and that was nice and comfortable. But depressing. They had a civilian that broke his neck, and he was lying prone on the fuselage and he was strapped down. In those days I smoked. I lit up a cigarette. And he said, "Would you be kind enough to light one up for me?" And he couldn't do it, so I lit the cigarette and put it in his mouth, he puffed away. And he got -- we got to Seattle, and he was going to go wherever he -- I guess to get medical care. And we got a civilian plane back to Washington. And that was the first trip. It was very nice. And that was in '43, February of '43. I went on a lot of trips with senior officers different places, all through the United States. I think I went to San Francisco at least five times on cases. And it was going along real nice. So it got to be 1944, around February, again. And they picked me to go with General Davis and a full colonel, Colonel Shoemaker, to go to Selfridge Field, Michigan, above Detroit. It turned out that the commanding officer was drunk and he shot his chauffeur. And the White House, I saw the paper from Mrs. Roosevelt to General Marshall, "Look into this matter." So we went up there. And we got to Detroit, and the acting commanding officer, he met us at the airport. And we went to Selfridge Field and went to his office. And he told General Davis, he said, "General Davis, you and Colonel Shoemaker go up to the officers' quarters, and the sergeant, you go up to the enlisted quarters." And General Davis says, "I'm sorry, Colonel, but he's my secretary, I need him 24 hours a day. I'll go up to the enlisted barracks with him so he'll be available for me." And that's where the caste system in operation, he's, "Oh, we can't do that, we can't have you going -- a brigadier general going to enlisted barracks." He said, "We'll put the sergeant with you up at the officers' quarters." So I was really uncomfortable. But we conducted the investigation. And what it turned out to be, this colonel that was the base commander, he had been at the officers' club drinking, he was intoxicated. His chauffeur picked him up, and he -- it came out that he had it in his mind that his chauffeur was messing around with the colonel's wife. So he takes his gun, a .38, and shoots him in the back -- in the back of the head. So they were all praying that this soldier lived. He was black. They said if he would have died, it would have been hell to pay. But anyway, they took good care of him at the hospital, and he lived. Well, we were up there for three weeks, because we got collateral allegations about different things. The club officer was stealing money from the slot machines. So the general went into that and got a statement from him that he was taking money. And we came back to Washington. So one day I'm sitting there in my office and the phone rings. I answer it, it was Arlene, the general's secretary. She said, "Mr. Melo, come on up, I want to talk to you." So I went up to see her, and she said, "I've got something for you. I'm going to tell you, but don't repeat it." It was a memorandum from General Davis to General Peterson that went to the Chief of Staff of the Army recommending that the nine of us in the office be appointed warrant officers, and if we passed the examination, be appointed and be warrant officers. So, "I'll tell you, Arlene, thanks a lot, that's wonderful." So we went to the oral interviews. And it was a captain that interviewed us. And he told me, he said, "Sergeant," he said, "you did very good in the oral interview, now we have to wait for the written examination that you took, see how it comes." I was, "Thank you very much." So a few days later we heard. And eight of us passed and were appointed warrant officers. The ninth person was in the office and he was transferred to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, because he couldn't stay there as an enlisted man. We were all warrant officers. So as it turned out he went on trips with Roosevelt and Truman to the Big Three meetings with Stalin and Churchill. And so he had a good job. He didn't make warrant officer, but he had a good job. So things went along okay. End of the war came in '45. Several of the warrant officers there were going to go downtown and work for Alderson Reporting Company. He was giving contracts out for 4400 a year for 11 months and guaranteed salary. So Colonel Miller, the executive officer, called the rest of us in that didn't take a contract. I was happy in the IG, and I traveled all over, I was still a young man, single. And Colonel Miller said, "Whoever stays on duty here will get promoted to chief warrant officer." So Tom Conley and me put our hand up. The rest of them, they wanted to look for greener pastures, I guess. So sure enough, Colonel Miller had us promoted to chief warrant officer. And that was really wonderful. I made more, $10 more than a first lieutenant in salary. So I stayed there. In '48 I went to Alaska again. This time a group of generals and some colonels went up there to look after what Russia was up to with the atom bomb, and how many they had, and stuff like that. It was all top-secret at that time. And we went up there and we came back. And it was a colonel in the IG that was going to an outfit called Air Force Office of Special Investigations, and he was going to be the commander at Fairfield-Suisun in California. And he said, "I'll take you along as my administrative assistant, are you interested?" I said, "Yeah, I'm interested, Colonel, I'll be glad to come." So he went to see Colonel Miller, the executive officer, and he said, "Oh," he said, "I'll tell you, you went up to Alaska, you took that transcript, you get that transcript out, the day you finish it I'll approve your transfer to the Air Force."

Lisa Dimonte:

Tom, what year was that, '45? Was that 1945 when you transferred from the Army --

Thomas Melo:

No, that was '48 --

Lisa Dimonte:

-- to the -- I'm sorry.

Thomas Melo:

-- after they made the Air Force -- after the Defense Act added the Air Force to the Defense Department and changed the name from Secretary of War to Secretary of the Army, Secretary of the Air Force, Secretary of the Navy. And so I -- I worked day and night and got the transcript out, went in, saw Colonel Miller. "I got the transcript finished." He said, "Okay," he said, "I'll sign off on your transfer." So I was transferred, and they put me over at Bolling Air Force Base across the river. And I was in this outfit called Office of Special Investigations. I knew nothing about it except they told me it was like CIC in the Army. So I was there, and Colonel Swope went to California. S-W-O-P-E. He called back and said, "When are you going to send Warrant Officer Melo out?" And this Colonel said, "We're not sending him, we need him here." So he died some years later, but he went to his grave thinking that I pulled a fast one. I had nothing to do with it. It was because of my ability as a stenotypist, they were going to keep me there for General Carroll, who was the head of OSI. I found this out later on. And I never lifted a finger to not go to California. I was looking forward to going out there. That was near San Francisco, it was a nice place. But anyway, I was up there at Bolling Air Force Base. And one day Colonel Gillette, commander at Bolling, he put me working for his tech sergeant. And I didn't like it. And I talked to his secretary, "I want to see the colonel, I've got a personal problem." And she said, "I'll call you when he's available." So she called me later on, I went up to see him. And he said, "Well, Tom, what's your problem?" I said, "Colonel, I'm a chief warrant officer, I have a good record. You detailed me to work for a tech sergeant, enlisted man." I said, "I don't appreciate it, and I don't want to work for a tech sergeant." He said, "Well, what do you want?" I said, "I want a job commensurate with my rank." He said, "Okay," he said, "I'll put you in charge of the files, central files." I said, "Okay." So I was in the central files, and I wasn't there too long. One day I got a call from Hazel that I had to report to a Colonel Carroll in the Pentagon. This is December of '48. And I said, "I don't know any Colonel Carroll. I know a General Carroll, but I don't know a Colonel Carroll." So I went over to the Pentagon, was interviewed. And it turned out Colonel Carroll was special assistant to General Eisenhower. Truman was going on after Christmas that Eisenhower resigned his job as president of Columbia University and was going to be NATO Commander in Paris. And I was selected as one of his secretaries. And he said, "Are you interested?" I said, "Sir, this is a wonderful opportunity for me, I could not say no." He said, "You go back to your office and tell them that you were interviewed for a top-secret matter and that you cannot divulge it, the command will be notified through channels when the time comes." So went back to the Pentagon. I wasn't in the building five minutes, Hazel said, "Colonel Gillette wants to see you." I said to myself, yeah, I guess he wants to see me, find out what happened. Sure enough, that's what -- he wanted to know what happened. I told him, I said, "Colonel, I was sworn to secrecy. I was called to discuss a top-secret matter, I'm not at liberty to divulge it." He says, "Oh, that's an outrage." He said -- I said, "Colonel, I'm in the military, I was instructed not to divulge why I was over there, that you will be notified in due course." He didn't like it. He picked up the phone, called General Carroll. He said, "Warrant Officer Melo is up to something over the Pentagon, I can't find out what it is." He says, "Tell him to report to me tomorrow morning at 9:00 o'clock in the Pentagon." So I went over there and I went in. He said, "You know, you've been selected to go to work for General Eisenhower. I checked and found out what it was all about." He said, "I was not going to let you go, but I decided it was a wonderful opportunity for you." I said, "Well, General, I thank you." I said, "I've been on a lot of trips with you, took the testimony, I guess my reward is now to go to work for General Eisenhower." So he shook hands with me and wished me luck. So two days later I got a notice to report to Lowry Air Force Base in Colorado for activities with the Department of the Army. Didn't say anything about Ike. So I got an airplane reservation, flew out to Denver, and went up, they put me up at the officers' quarters and then gave me a place at headquarters. And General Carroll came in the next day. And we were sitting there talking, and he says, "You know, Mr. Melo, how well do you know General Carroll?" I said, "Well, I've been on some trips with him, investigations, and now he told me that he was going to let me go, he didn't want to, but he thought it would be a wonderful opportunity." And so Colonel Carroll says, "Mr. Melo, let me tell you something. He did not want you to go, he was very adamant to keep you here, but General Norstad, who was the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, promised Eisenhower's people that anybody he wanted in the military, alls he had to do was ask for it and they would get it." And he said, "That's why you're here, because General Norstad made a commitment to the staff." And I just shook my head. I said, "I can't believe it." I said, "He was so nice to me, wishing me good luck, saying he didn't want to let me go." I could not fathom it, that -- anyway, I went. Two days later General Eisenhower came in on a train. His wife did not like to fly. Her mother and father lived in Denver on Lafayette Street. And they came out to stay for Christmas. So the next morning Colonel Schultz, General Eisenhower's aide, and Colonel Carroll, and me went out to General Eisenhower's house where he was staying with his in-laws. And Colonel Schultz says, "You sit here," and it was at the top of the basement steps. There was a phone in there. He said, "The General's going to be making some phone calls, I want you to take down everything that's said." Well, the first call he made was to a Lieutenant General Gunther. And he called him, and he called him Al. He said, "Al, this is Ike." I'm taking it down. He said, "You know, I've been appointed NATO Commander." And he said, "I want you for my chief of staff. Will you accept?" And I don't know what General Gunther said, but I'm assuming he said yes. And he said, "It's wonderful," and that was the end of the conversation. He wished me a Merry Christmas, and we went back to Lowry Air Force Base. So the day after New Year's we went down to National Airport, the MATS Terminal, M-A-T-S, to get on Ike's plane to go to Paris. And everybody was put on the plane except Ike. And he drove up. And I found out from being on the plane, President Truman was coming to wish him well. And he drove up in a limousine and he had a little package. It turned out it was a bottle of scotch and a bottle of bourbon for Ike. And he gave them to him, shook hands with him. And Ike got on the plane and they shut the door, and we taxied down the runway, landed in Paris. That was the first NATO stop. And Colonel Walters was Ike's interpreter, and he spoke seven languages. He was a lieutenant colonel. And he went with Ike to the heads of state in each country that we visited and did the interpreting for Ike. And when he came back he would dictate a memorandum of what happened in the meeting. And he had a book, and he -- after we typed it up he put it in the book. So we went -- we went to the NATO countries. And we got up to Iceland, that was one of the countries, and I got sick as a dog. I was throwing up, didn't know what was the matter with me. So they had two berths on the plane, and Colonel Schultz said, "Put him in one berth, the other one's for the general." And he said, "When we get to Ottawa, we'll have the Royal Canadian Air Force doctors look after him." Well, we got to Ottawa, and the doctors came on the plane and they examined me. They said I had appendicitis. So Colonel Schultz said, "It's okay, do whatever you have to do, we're going to take him back to Walter Reed, we're not going to leave him up here." So we finished the business in Ottawa and got in a plane and took off. And he stopped at West Point, he was getting off there to visit his son, who was an instructor. And before he got off the plane he came into the berth and he shook hands with me, and he said, "Mr. Melo, don't worry, you're going to be in good hands. I told Doc Snyder" -- and Doc Snyder was his doctor, major general. He said, "I told him to alert the people at Walter Reed and take good care of you." So we got to National Airport. There's the ambulance there, Mary, my wife, she's pregnant with her first son, in January, near the end of January, but in -- I think it was the 26th or the 27th of January '51. So we were in the hospital. In less than an hour they had me up in the operating room and they cut me open and took out my appendix. Three days later I had terrible pains in my stomach. I told the civilian nurse on duty, I said, "Will you please get a doctor, there's something wrong with me." She said, "Don't worry, it's gas pains, you'll be okay." Mary came out to visit me that night, and I told her, I said, "Mary, the omen's coming, there's something wrong with me, I have to have a doctor, please go find one." So she did. She found General Seely, S-E-E-L-Y, who was the number two man at Walter Reed. He talked to me and he asked me what was the matter, and I said, "I've got terrible pains in my stomach, General, there's something wrong with me, I don't know what it is." He said, "Well, we'll take you up to the operating room. If you can't sign the paper, your wife can sign for you. And we'll put the scope down your throat and find out what's going on in your stomach." Well, that was wonderful, because when they put that scope down they found a pool of blood in my stomach. And later on I found out what caused the blood. But they said they had to do an exploratory, and they cut me down the center. They had arteries -- when they cut you to operate on you, they have arteries that they tie. And one of those came loose and had been oozing blood for three days, and it was pretty well full. And one of the team with General Seely said, "Well, we got you ahead of time, otherwise you'd be going to Arlington Cemetery." What a -- it was just -- I can picture it to this day. Anyway, they operated on me and they tied the vessel up, put a tube down my throat. And I was oozing. And this stuff kept coming up, it looked like spinach. And to this day I cannot eat spinach. Anyway, I laid there for two months. The end of March they discharged me, and I went back daily to have the dressing changed. I had a hole in my stomach and a tube in there, and they changed the dressing every day. And it got to be the 10th of April, my draft day, they told me I could go back to duty and make arrangements to go back to Paris. So I called the liaison officer in the Pentagon, a Colonel Davidson, just like it sounds, Davidson, and told him that I was discharged from Walter Reed and that I'm available to go back. And he said, "Well, the plane's coming in in a couple days, and I'll reserve a seat for you, be at MATS terminal at such and such a time." So Mary took me down there that day, and I had two small bags. And we got to Paris at night, and I reported the next morning. And another aide to General Eisenhower, Colonel Cannon, he said, "Well, you know," he said, "you were gone a long time, we got a WAVE to take your place. So we'll have a job for you, you'll be the court reporter that takes down everything General Eisenhower says when he meets people. We want a written record." He said, "Will you be satisfied with that?" I said, "I'm satisfied." Well, as the time went on from April to the summer, all these people were coming over, dignitaries from the States. One in particular was Henry Cabot Lodge. His father used to be a senator from Massachusetts. And he was the ringleader, trying to convince Ike to come back to the States and run for President. Well, I was taking down everything that was said. So I said, he's pretty good, he's going to be our next president, I'll keep it in the back of my head, but I can't say anything. So in October he made his announcement, he was resigning from the Army and going back to run for President of the United States. So they asked me what I wanted to do. I said, "Well, I'd like to go back to Germany. General Ridgeway is coming from Korea, has his own warrant officer, so I don't think there'll be a job for me, and I can be happy in Wiesbaden." So they said, "That's no problem." So I got orders to report to Wiesbaden. And they assigned me to headquarters, USAFE, United States Air Force in Europe, the headquarters in Wiesbaden. And I was assigned to work for General Crawford, who was the A-4. And he called me in to interview me and told me I had wonderful experience working for General Eisenhower and all, and he said, "I'm going to make you a top-secret control officer, you'll be in charge of all the top-secret files." I said, "I can handle it." Oh, I'm getting ahead of my story. I'm getting ahead of my story. I was in a holding company in Rhine-Main before I was assigned to headquarters, and the personnel officer said, "I think I can get you a commission." He said, "We'll put in for a first lieutenant and send it back to the Pentagon." Okay, it came back, he said, "Second lieutenant or nothing." So the person also told me, he said, "You take the second lieutenant, in six months I'll have you promoted to first." So they did the paperwork and went back. In the meantime, I was transferred to A-4, General Crawford's office. And the papers came in for me to be second lieutenant. General Crawford pinned the bars on my shoulders. That was wonderful. They took pictures. I had the pictures, I don't know whatever happened to them. But anyway, I went downstairs to the coffee bar the next day, and I met a captain from OSI. And he come up, he says, "Tom, what are you doing here? I thought you were working for General Eisenhower." I said, "Well, do you read the papers?" He said, "What do you mean?" I said, "General Eisenhower went back to run for President, there was no job down there for me, so I transferred up here." He said, "Oh, that's good." The next day I received orders to report back, transfer to OSI in Wiesbaden. And General Crawford called me in and wanted to know what happened. I said, "General, on my word of honor, I met this captain down in the coffee bar yesterday and he asked me what I was doing up here when I was supposed to be working for General Eisenhower. I told him that General Eisenhower went back to run for President and I didn't have a job, so I got myself transferred up here." And I said, "I had nothing to do with this transfer." So he accepted my explanation, and I got orders to report back to OSI. And Colonel Murray was the Commander of OSI, and I knew him from going with General Carroll on trips. He was General Carroll's right-hand man; they used to be in the FBI together. So he was active in doing investigations, also. And I went with him and took some notes on investigations while I was up there. And he said, "You know," he said, "when you go back to the States I'm going to have you attend agent school, you should be a special agent." I said, "Well, it's up to you." So sure enough, when I came back to the States I was detailed to go to the OSI school, which was 12 weeks, I think. And I passed, I was appointed special agent. And whenever I went on a trip with a senior officer, I'd put on civilian clothes. And when I wasn't going on a trip I wore my uniform. And I did very little agent's work until later on. In around '56 they assigned me to the general investigations division, and I was carrying a caseload and running cases, going out myself, interviewing. And it worked out nice. So in -- it got to be '59, February, and I was going on a trip to the Commanders Conference. Every year I went with the -- all the commanders and took the minutes of the meeting. And we went to Biloxi, Mississippi, for that conference. And on the way down, Colonel Murray came over and sat in the seat next to me, it was empty, and we were talking. He says, "Tommy, how are you getting along?" I said, "I was getting along pretty good until last week." Oh, in the meantime he had made general, brigadier general. I said, "Until last week, General." He said, "What happened?" I said, "Colonel Sigmund," S-I-G-M-U-N-D, "put me on orders to go to Libya." And I said, "I won't be going on any more trips with you. And it's been a wonderful experience, but I'm in the military, and I go." So I see him writing in a little book that he carried with him. When he comes back to Washington he called up Sigmund and revoked the orders. He said, "He's not going anywhere, I need him right here to take down investigations." Well, unfortunately, the next week he was admitted to the hospital at Bolling Air Force Base with a massive heart attack. And he lasted about a week, and he died. So I said, well, crossroads come again, I know that guy up in the management office is going to be on my tracks, and he's going to send me to the worst place he can find. So I talked to Mr. Long, who was acting director. And I talked to his secretary, I told her I wanted to have a meeting with Mr. Long, I had problems. And she said, "Okay, when he's not busy, I'll call you, and you come up." So later on that day she called. And I went up, and Mr. Long, he called me Tommy also, and he said, "What's your problem?" I said, "Well, you know, I was on orders to go to Tripoli and General Murray took me off, said I was needed here. And now that he died I'm going to be assigned somewhere which I will not like, I'm sure. But if I have to go, I'd like to go to a decent place." So he said, "That's no problem, where do you want to go?" I said, "Back to Wiesbaden. I spent two years there and it was very nice." So he called up this Colonel Sigmund and he said, "Sy, this is H.B. Long. I have an agent here, Mr. Melo, and I want you to find a spot for him in Wiesbaden, Germany." And I guess his face dropped a mile a minute. Well, he found a space in the headquarters in Wiesbaden, and I -- in April '59. April was a good month for me all the time. I went to McGuire Air Force Base, New Jersey, and got the plane to Germany. And I spent three years in Germany in headquarters. In June of '62 I was eligible to come back, and I put in to retire. And they told me I could not retire, beings I had taken an overseas assignment, and I had to do two years in the States. I said, "Well, that's the way it goes." And by that time I was a captain, I made captain. But anyway, the summer of '62, August, the majors list came out, and there was Thomas C. Melo, promoted to major in October. I said, "Well, I put in to retire and now I'm going to miss a nice promotion and I won't make the money." So I sat down, wrote a letter, and I requested that I be extended until the end of October so that I could be promoted to major. And over in the Pentagon, somebody must have liked me over there, because they approved it. In October, or whatever date it was, I pinned the major bars on. In the end of October I retired as a major. Well, I've been 48 years retired, and it's a lot of retirement money difference in pay between captain and major. And so anyway, I retired. And it was on a Friday. And that afternoon I went downtown to see Artie Wolff. I had talked to him on the phone different times when I was originally going to retire. And he said, "Well, when you retire, come down, see me." So I went down that afternoon and he took me in to Mr. Friedli -- that's on the list -- and Friedli hired me on the spot. He said, "When can you start?" I said, "I can start Monday." He said, "Well, I'll send you to a deposition, and I'll come with you and swear the witness," beings I was not a notary public. And I worked for Friedli eight years, got some nice assignments. And I decided to go on my own. And I solicited some lawyers that I knew and worked for, and I gradually built up. In the beginning it was a little hard, but I gradually built up. And I guess the best -- there was a reporter that worked for Mr. Nussbaum, who was -- had a group of attorneys in Greenbelt, and he had the Board of Education for Prince George's County, all the work, accidents, self-insured, the school board en masse when it met at night. And there was a reporter that did this for Nussbaum after Fred Cohen, another good friend of mine, and he went to work for the court in Marlboro, and he did that work for Nussbaum. So they hired this other young man. And it got to be 11:30 at night and the whole school board en masse, and he packed up his stuff and walked out. So Nussbaum fired him on the spot. And he happened to talk to -- a big case I was working on with Gary Alexander and Mr. Nussbaum, and he asked Gary Alexander about me and how my work was and all that, so -- and Gary gave him a wonderful writeup. And that afternoon I got a call from Nussbaum's secretary to go over to Rhode Island Avenue, that was before he moved to Greenbelt, and he wanted to see me. And I asked, "Why does he want to see me?" And she said, "I do not know, but he asked me to call you, and come over." So I went over. And he came out and greeted me and said, "Would you like some coffee?" I said, "No, thank you." And he said, "You know, I had a reporter that did all my work, and he walked out of a school board meeting 11:30 at night, left me hanging." He said, "I fired him. And I checked around, and are you interested in doing the school board work?" Well, boy, that was a bonanza. I told him yes. So he called in Mr. Brown, who was the administrative lawyer for the practice, and he dictated a memo, said, "Mr. Melo will get all the work deposition-wise, school board, accidents, whatever, he will be the official reporter." Well, I said, what a -- I couldn't believe it, it was -- and as it turned out, the money, it was wonderful, and paid right away. So that afternoon I went over to Gary's office to take some depositions in that big case, and Gary said, "Tom, how did you make out with Mr. Nussbaum?" I said, "Oh," I said, "did you have a hand in that?" He said, "Yeah." I said, "Well, he hired me to do the -- all the work for his office." And I said, "Thank you so much, Gary." And I knew Gary when he was a law clerk, and he always called me Mr. Melo. But then after some years I told him, I said, "Gary, you know, you're a lawyer, you call me Tom." So he did. He was terrific. And he won that case, by the way. He got a lot of money for his client.

Lisa Dimonte:

Tom --

Thomas Melo:

I handled that work for Nussbaum. And, like I say, it was lucrative. And the other one was Chuck Wilson, McCarthy, Wilson & Ethridge, in Rockville, and I got all their work. And with those two clients I didn't need anything else. I took other work, but I had a good, lucrative business with those two clients.

Lisa Dimonte:

Tom, in the few minutes that we have remaining --

Thomas Melo:

Pardon?

Lisa Dimonte:

I said, in the few minutes that we have remaining, your military career spanned decades and your court reporting career spanned decades. Is there any other memory that you would like to share with us before we conclude?

Thomas Melo:

I don't think so. I think I gave the important highlights. I had wonderful opportunities. I just want to say, my parents couldn't afford college. High school, and that stenotype came with this friend that told me about it, and I went to school and I got out in eight months. And that was the beginning of -- and then taking the machine down to Fort Eustis, never knowing what was going to happen. And all the things -- and working for an individual that got to be President of the United States. How many people can say that? Just -- it was wonderful, Lisa, that's all I can say, it was a ride that -- it will stay up here until the day I die.

Lisa Dimonte:

Tom, I'm just thrilled and excited to have this opportunity.

Thomas Melo:

It's a -- I've got good memories, and I can remember. And I -- I don't have anything to add except to be thankful for -- to the three of you for taking the time to come and get my record recorded. I think somebody reads it, they're going to say, what a man.

Lisa Dimonte:

Indeed, that is true. And let me take this opportunity to thank our court reporter, Jackie Jarboe, who's been my dear friend for 35 years -- we actually went to court reporting school together -- who has given up her time and generosity to take down every word that you've said and shared with us today and will be providing a transcript to the Library of Congress on your behalf.

Thomas Melo:

A transcript, and I can give it to my family to preserve.

Lisa Dimonte:

Absolutely. And also to David Bayles, our gracious videographer, who has been very kind and generous to give up his time to record your video. And you and your family will be provided with not only a transcript but a DVD of the video, Tom.

Thomas Melo:

That's wonderful.

Lisa Dimonte:

And congratulations on all your successes both in the military and your professional life. And thank you on behalf of every U.S. citizen for your service in the military. It's been a pleasure.

Thomas Melo:

24 years.

Lisa Dimonte:

Thank you, Tom.

Thomas Melo:

And 48 -- I've been collecting retirement pay twice as long as I served, you know? And just -- I want you to look at the picture my daughter Mary Ann got. The picture on the right was our home in Philadelphia where I grew up, and the picture on the left is where Mary grew up on K Street, Northeast. And Mary Ann had a girl that she went to school, high school, at Holy Child, she painted those pictures from a snapshot.

Lisa Dimonte:

Thank you, Tom. All the best to you and your family. (The interview of THOMAS C. MELO was concluded.)

 
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