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Interview with Joseph J. Triolo [11/11/2013]

Mike Nerheim:

Today is November 11th, 2013, I am the interviewer Mark Nerheim, N-E-R-H-E-I-M, and this morning I am speaking with Joe Triolo, T-R-I-O-L-O. His birth date is [redacted]. He is a veteran of the United States Navy and he was in service from 1937 to 1958. We are in Waukegan, Illinois in Courtroom C102, I believe, and it is 10:00 o'clock in the morning. All right. We're off to a good start. I got everything I was supposed to say. Mr. Triolo, let's start with you joined the Navy -- well, let's actually go back prior to that. Where did you grow up?

Joseph J. Triolo:

I grew up in West Virginia.

Mike Nerheim:

Tell me about that.

Joseph J. Triolo:

Well, the place that I grew up, the town I grew up in was Monaville, West Virginia. The county seat was Logan.

Mike Nerheim:

I heard that was a coal town?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Coal mine. It's a coal fields, it's a coal camp, in fact. And, in fact, I was working in the coal mine. I was working the night shift from three to eleven.

Mike Nerheim:

Three to eleven in the coal mine?

Joseph J. Triolo:

In the coal mine.

Mike Nerheim:

What was that like?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Well, I didn't mind it as long as they kept me in high coal, so when they shift me to low coal then I quit the job.

Mike Nerheim:

What's the difference between high coal and low coal?

Joseph J. Triolo:

The mine that I was working in, one section of the mine had a high seam coal where the seam was maybe six or eight foot high. Then on the other side it was still six or eight foot high but it had a vein of slate right in the middle of it, so it was economical for them to timber up that 40 or 50 inches of slate and get the low seam and it became very dangerous. You kept timbering that up, so I was aware of that.

Mr. Niehus:

So the slate could fall down?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Very easily, right. I won't work in the low coal and I left and on my way out, the section boss said, Triolo, you'll never get another job. This is the only one you got. I says, I don't care. I'm going home, so when I got home I discovered my father had a pair of shoes and he wanted them -- the heels put on these shoes, so he gave me two dollars to get that done, so I was on the night shift so I'd be off during the day, I could do it. So I took the two dollars the next morning and went to the shoemaker who my father knew quite well and I told him, I says my father will pay you for this. It didn't bother him. He said okay. So I went out on the road which was about 72 miles to Charleston from where I was and I hitchhiked to Charleston and I had the two dollars and I didn't tell my father, anyone that I was going because I thought I would do it all in one day, so when I got to Charleston I discovered the recruiting office was closed, so I took the two dollars and I found a place to stay overnight and it wasn't much but I stayed, and the next day the recruiting office was open and there was a long line of men, maybe 10 or 15 fellows waiting to see the recruiter and I says I'll never make it but, anyway, the outcome was out of that group of people, two of us was selected and I was one of the ones that was selected, and in those days if you wore glasses they wouldn't take you. If you had filling in your teeth they wouldn't take you. You had to be a perfect specimen.

Mike Nerheim:

Let me stop you and back up for a minute. How many people in your family?

Joseph J. Triolo:

There were nine people in my family. That would include my mother and father.

Mike Nerheim:

Okay. Wow. So you had a lot of brothers and sisters?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Yeah. I had three sisters and three brothers.

Mike Nerheim:

And were they older or younger? Where were you in that line-up?

Joseph J. Triolo:

I was the middle one.

Mike Nerheim:

Middle.

Joseph J. Triolo:

There was three boys older than I and then my oldest sister and the three girls were all younger than I. I was the middle one.

Mike Nerheim:

So I read you were 17 when you enlisted?

Joseph J. Triolo:

17.

Mike Nerheim:

How old were you when you started in the coal mines?

Joseph J. Triolo:

I was about 16, a little over 16.

Mr. Niehus:

Wow. And again I imagine those were pretty rough conditions as you described.

Joseph J. Triolo:

Well, I was making four dollars and thirty-six cents for the shift and they -- I was working with a fellow by the name of Milt Mars. We were -- I don't know how familiar you would be with a mine, but they hung bradish cloth. You controlled the ventilation in the mine with this hanging bradish cloth and I worked with him on that for a while and then they put me on setting timbers. That's to protect the overhead from coming in on you and it was not a bad job and as long as they kept me in high coal I didn't mind it but when I went in the low coal.

Mike Nerheim:

Did most folks that grew up in Monaville, did most people -- was that sort of the -- most people ended up in the mines?

Joseph J. Triolo:

That was it. That's what the coal camps were for. You've heard Earnie Ford, haven't you?

Mike Nerheim:

Uh-huh.

Joseph J. Triolo:

That's an authentic song he sings. You know, "Working For The Coal Company," that's a true song.

Mr. Niehus:

Was your father in the coal company?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Yes. My father worked in the mines for about 40 years.

Mike Nerheim:

Wow. Wow. Now, we left off you were in line to enlist, you had made it. Was this something you had planned, you know, when you took your father's two dollars?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Yes. You see, as a younger person I used to hang out at the water purifying plant in the town and I saw these Navy magazines and I picked one up and I saw these sailors and ships and I got the idea much earlier and I knew I was going to go in the Navy.

Mike Nerheim:

Had you talked about that with your parents or maybe --

Joseph J. Triolo:

No. No. No. In fact, when I got back from the recruiting station with the envelope and all the necessary applications my father refused to sign them. He just put them in the drawer, he wouldn't sign them and then later on the recruiter came to Logan and my mother always thought my brother who was two years older than I was on sort of not up to par in health and she told him, she says, now, the recruiter is coming to Logan so you go and get an examination and it won't cost you anything. You don't want to join. Just take the exam.

Mike Nerheim:

Just to use it to get the physical?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Yeah. So sure enough the recruiter came to Logan, he went down and he passed and he got -- brought home a manila envelope too, so my father threw that in the drawer too, so he had two envelopes to decide.

Mike Nerheim:

This was 1937.

Joseph J. Triolo:

1937. And finally I know his thinking was this. My brother had not worked in the mine and I knew my father would say it was either the mine or the Navy and he finally called in the notary public, got the papers signed. He signed them and when they called me, they called my brother so we joined the Navy together.

Mr. Niehus:

So what made your father change his mind to sign the papers?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Because he knew that the only way we could go to work would go in the mine, a coal camp or in those days in southern West Virginia that's it, coal fields.

Mike Nerheim:

Yeah.

Joseph J. Triolo:

And I think that's what made up his mind and, of course, my mother did not agree with all of that and -- but he had no choice.

Mr. Niehus:

What was it about the Navy that appealed to you?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Well, in those days you must remember it was the recruiter, the depression was on and it was really someplace to sleep, someplace to eat with pay. You couldn't beat that. You certainly couldn't get it in the coal camp, so even like today I'm sure a lot of people joined the armed forces not so much for the armed forces itself but a place to sleep and eat and get some money for it, so it was more in demand than it would be now, so you might say I joined the Navy because of the depression.

Mr. Niehus:

Take us back to that 1937 era. Excuse me. I think they want us to get shots with the court reporter and the interviewer and everybody. [interview interrupted by photographer)

Mike Nerheim:

Okay. So 1937 you've left Monroe, you've join the Navy. Take us back to that period of time. Now, you talked about the depression was going on. What was the political climate like? I mean was the prospect of war something people were talking about, thing going on in Europe? What was going on back then?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Okay, Michael, the political atmosphere in the coal camp, the county sheriff prevailed over all the counties. There were 55 counties in West Virginia. That sheriff had hired a deputy for each coal camp and the job of that deputy was to enforce and keep the unions out. They prevailed over the community and that's the way it was. In our community the sheriff was Russell Hilton and he can tell you when to go to work and when not to go to work and the sheriff's name was Don Chaffings, I'll never forget it. They prevailed and their primary objective was to keep the unions out and thereby the operators could mine the coal at their will and do whatever they needed to do, and the structure, the community politically, you traded at the store because you could not spend any cash because you didn't have it but you could spend the strip which the community or the coal company issued. And when I went to the store my mother would give me the strip card and I'd go to the cashier or the strip writer and I'd either want a dollar in strip, two dollars in strip or three dollars in strip, whatever I needed to trade at the grocery store and the strip was only negotiable in the company store.

Mike Nerheim:

Okay.

Joseph J. Triolo:

Sometimes I'd go to the window and the strip writer would say your father hasn't loaded enough coal so you're going to have to stick around until your father dumps some coal, and you know what the coal consisted of? A car that he loaded was five ton. Each car held five ton of coal. Now, how did he get that coal? He had to go in the mine, shoot the coal down, clean it and load it in the car and it had to be clean. He couldn't put in a bunch of slate or anything and he put his check on that coal cart. When the coal cart got to the dump there was a board across the dump, and if the pile of coal in your car didn't hit that board he'd dock you twenty-five cents and he got sixty-five cents for five ton car of coal. I wouldn't load five ton car of coal off a straight bottom. You had to shoot it down. You had to get ready and everything. See, the night shift would go in and drill the holes in the seam and they had a machine. Man would go in and cut at the bottom so when you did blast it would all fall in, so that's what a miner had to put up with. He had to at least load five ton of coal to support his family, five cars to support his family and that's why the union came in. They forced the miner. They got so that -- so that was our life up until I left and went to the Navy.

Mike Nerheim:

Now, were you aware or were people aware of things going on overseas at the time in 1937?

Joseph J. Triolo:

You mean other countries?

Mike Nerheim:

Right.

Joseph J. Triolo:

Were they aware of the conditions of the coal camps?

Mike Nerheim:

No. No. In terms of just war was sort of looming on the horizon in the late 1930s.

Joseph J. Triolo:

Well, not so much in the community itself. Of course, you know, the war in Europe I believe began in 1939, and by 1939 I had a couple years in the Navy. I was in the Philippines when the war was declared and that's when the Germans went into Poland I think was the first and the war was pretty well going on in Europe.

Mike Nerheim:

In 1937, a couple years before that, though, when you were thinking about joining the Navy, were there things going on anywhere overseas that people were concerned that war could potentially outbreak or was that not something --

Joseph J. Triolo:

Everyone was preoccupied with making a living.

Mike Nerheim:

Right, because of the depression.

Joseph J. Triolo:

You see, coal mining at that point if you got one day a week, two days a week, hardly ever did you get five days a week, so during the depression everyone was preoccupied with raising their family.

Mike Nerheim:

That makes sense.

Joseph J. Triolo:

In those days people had big families and I could understand why. They could help one another and that was the conditions.

Mike Nerheim:

Well, let's go back to your father signed the paperwork. Did you and your brother begin at the same time?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Same day. We left home together.

Mike Nerheim:

Do you remember that day?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Yes. It was December the -- I think we left home on December the 7th because we were sworn in in Richmond, Virginia December the 9th. Just a moment. I have here what they call a CSC. You won't see this today because -- See, when I joined the Navy they maintained a Continuous Service Certificate. When the war started they stopped it so you won't see many of these. See, here you go. There's the home town. This is where I was born Wilkerson, West Virginia. I weighed 134 pounds. December, the 9th, that's when we are sworn in in Richmond, Virginia so we left home on December the 9th. We went to Charleston. We hitchhiked to Charleston and then the recruiter in Charleston put us on a train to go to Richmond and that's where we took the oath of office.

Mike Nerheim:

So December 9th, 1937.

Joseph J. Triolo:

Yeah, that's right there.

Mike Nerheim:

Is the day you were sworn?

Joseph J. Triolo:

That's when we were both was sworn.

Mike Nerheim:

You were five foot seven, 134 pounds?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Yes. Yes.

Mike Nerheim:

That's neat.

Joseph J. Triolo:

There's all the scars and what have you. They were pretty detailed, and you see, from then on whatever ship or station I went to, in the executive office, the Yeoman would make an entry in this CSC, so whenever you left and when I left the service they gave me my CSC, but that was -- when the war started they stopped this and you won't see many of these, if any.

Mike Nerheim:

When you left home on the day you left which would have been ironically December 7th, 1937, you're leaving home, do you remember how you felt that day leaving home?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Well, no, I don't. Of course I know there was a lot of friends in the community there and I remember that but I was looking forward to it.

Mike Nerheim:

Sure. I imagine.

Joseph J. Triolo:

And you see I was rather adventurous. When I got in the Navy I wouldn't stay in one place long.

Mike Nerheim:

Again you're 17.

Joseph J. Triolo:

Yeah, I wanted to get going.

Mike Nerheim:

Sure. Where did you go first?

Joseph J. Triolo:

We went to Norfolk. We were sworn in in Richmond, took the oath of office, went to Norfolk for recruit training. Great Lakes was closed. That was after World War I they closed Great Lakes. So Norfolk and San Diego were the two stations that were still open for recruit training and the recruit training was nine weeks. After nine weeks they temporarily transferred us to a transport, a USS Shawmut and the Shawmut was a transport and it happened to be in the Navy yard at the time, so when I got through -- when we graduated from training we went to the Shawmut and we helped clean the ship, ship and paint and get it overhauled and everything. And when the ship got ready to go back to sea we went to San Diego via Panama Canal, via Cuba and to San Pedro, but on the way around after we got through the Panama Canal, they posted where we would go and my brother and I was assigned to the USS Oklahoma, so when we got in to San Pedro we -- by boat, we went to the Oklahoma and we were both in the Third Division on the Oklahoma.

Mike Nerheim:

What was the initial training? What was that like?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Well, it was drill, manual drill, a lot of walking. Today all of that is classroom stuff. The training was the manual under arms and we followed the Army format, the squads and stuff like that. The division of the Army and -- they are divided up.

Mike Nerheim:

You okay?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Okay. In my own platoon there were 90 some men in the platoon. Then you had the squads and then you had regiments, then you had the divisions with the Army structure.

Mike Nerheim:

Got you.

Joseph J. Triolo:

Today they don't have that. It's all classroom and that kind of stuff, all technical and so forth. In my day it was all manual. For example, you got a hundred dollars worth of clothing they issued you. You had to roll the clothing. You had to fold the clothing. All of that clothing must fit in one canvas bag. Plus they issued you a mattress and they gave you two mattress covers and they gave you one pillow slip and a pillow. Now, if I got orders to go somewhere, I had to make up that bed, put the bed, put the mattress, then take line and lash that up and when it was -- then I'd take the sea bag which was full of my clothing, put it in the bag, fold it together, lash it up and wherever I was going I had to put it on my hump and go there.

Mike Nerheim:

Wow. Everything.

Joseph J. Triolo:

There was no such thing as air transportation. It was all by train, and the reason it was by train, when they were laying the railroads, the train company gave the government the privilege of transferring its personnel in a Pullman car, and the reason they did that because the government gave them the right-of-way to lay their tracks, and as they compensated that by the agreement to transfer all the military, but they always transferred you first class. They put you in a Pullman, and that's the way we went from one place to another. But, nevertheless, I didn't have a suitcase. I had that seabag. In sea-going fashion, you may have heard that expression, sea-going fashion. That was everything you owned plus what was on you. That's the way it was until World War II. World War II changed it all.

Mike Nerheim:

When you were in training, were you with your brother as you were in training or did you split up during that time?

Joseph J. Triolo:

No. We were in training together and we went aboard the Oklahoma together.

Mike Nerheim:

Were you in the same platoon?

Joseph J. Triolo:

We were in the same platoon and recruit training. We were together all the time. We were together until we got separated and the way we got separated, when we got aboard the Oklahoma, the Oklahoma requested 50 seamen to be transferred to the Asiatic Straights to China. My brother wouldn't volunteer. I volunteered. My brother stayed on the Oklahoma and I caught the Henderson to China.

Mike Nerheim:

The Oklahoma was your first ship?

Joseph J. Triolo:

First ship for duty. The first ship for transportation was the Shawmut. Christ help all you marines on a daily transport. That's what the Shawmut stood for.

Mike Nerheim:

What was the ship like, the Oklahoma?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Oklahoma? Well, it was a battleship, 14-inch guns, two towards forward, two towards aft, and we were in the deck division, and I must tell you for my brother and I going to board the Oklahoma was not a stressful thing for us because we had been accustomed to work and to get three meals and to sit down and have a place to sleep and everything, so when they passed the word for working party or anything, my brother and I didn't have to be told. We knew right away we were up there, so doing work on the Oklahoma or the Navy was duck soup for us.

Mike Nerheim:

Now, you said you are on the deck division.

Joseph J. Triolo:

Yeah, the third division.

Mike Nerheim:

What does that mean?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Well, you take care of all the area topside. You heard of holystoning the deck. See, you had teakwood decks on the battleship, and the morning watch, the Boatswain mate and me would take a hose and salt it all down, you know, and they had bricks cut out about like that that came from the fire wall of the -- in the engine room. It was parts of the boiler that they disposed of, and you'd take that brick and they would put a swab handle in it and you -- ten licks to a board all the way.

Mike Nerheim:

Was it like a clay brick, like a brick you'd use?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Just like a brick. Yes, it was like a brick in a boiler. You know, it's fire resistant. Yeah. And you sanded, you holystoned the floor that day. And you could eat off of that deck.

Mike Nerheim:

Wow.

Joseph J. Triolo:

In fact, during the lunch hour we would crap out on the deck to take a nap. It's beautiful and there were -- we ate off mess tables. It wasn't a cafeteria style. See, the mess -- the tables were triced up to the overhead and when it came time for the meal, the mess cook would take those tables down, and there was about four men on each side and the mess cook had to go up to the galley to get the food in tureens. They had tureens. They could polish tureens up and the mess cook could go up and get it and bring it down and they were seated. You were seated at the mess table in seniority. The petty officers were always first. The end was the lesser seamen so that's the way that went, so.

Mike Nerheim:

How was the food?

Joseph J. Triolo:

I'd say pretty good. Compared to what we were accustomed to, it was a banquet for us.

Mike Nerheim:

And the living conditions, how were those on board the ship?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Very good. We happened to get a ship that had bunks. The Oklahoma had bunks. Some of the battleships had hammocks.

Mike Nerheim:

Really.

Joseph J. Triolo:

And I slept in a hammock all the way to China on the Henderson.

Mike Nerheim:

You volunteered to go to China. You left the Oklahoma. Your brother stayed on the Oklahoma.

Joseph J. Triolo:

Yeah, he stayed.

Mike Nerheim:

And what was it that caused you to volunteer to go on the Henderson?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Well, there again --

Mike Nerheim:

Your sense of adventure?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Excitement.

Mike Nerheim:

What kind of ship was the Henderson?

Joseph J. Triolo:

It was a transport. You see, the Henderson and the Shawmut were two Navy transports. When the Shawmut was in the states, the Henderson was on the Asiatic station and when the Henderson was in the states the Shawmut was there. See, in those days they did not relieve the ships, they relieved the crew and the tour duty in Asiatic station was 18 months, you see, so they transferred the men back and forth. The ships, the Asiatic station ships stayed where they were.

Mike Nerheim:

What was your duty aboard the Henderson?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Pardon?

Mike Nerheim:

What was your duty aboard the Henderson?

Joseph J. Triolo:

The Henderson was to try to stay alive. You see, the messing on the Henderson was -- it wasn't cafeteria but it was a line. See, when I went aboard the Henderson they gave me a tureen -- they gave me a plate, a mess plate and they gave me some utensils and a canteen and I had to take care of it, and I'd go through the line, get my food. After I got through eating, eat wherever I could eat, and then I had to go and wash them myself.

Mike Nerheim:

Do you remember what year it was that you went aboard the Henderson?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Henderson, yes. It was 1938.

Mike Nerheim:

What was your job on board?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Nothing. I was a passenger.

Mike Nerheim:

Okay.

Joseph J. Triolo:

And it was crowded. It was trying to find a place to sleep and I slept in a hammock from all the way from San Francisco to Manila in a hammock.

Mike Nerheim:

How long did that trip take?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Well, in those days to go from San Francisco to Honolulu was about six days and then from -- then to Wake was about three days. It was almost about 20 some days.

Mike Nerheim:

And then when you got to Manila -- so you eventually got to Manila?

Joseph J. Triolo:

When I got to Manila my orders was to go to the ammunition depot in Cavite, so a tugboat came alongside and they loaded us up on the tugboat and the tugboat took us to Cavite which was a Navy yard. It was a Naval base. In fact, I think it was a 16th Naval District in Cavite. That was the command out there and I was assigned at the ammunition depot. Now, the ammunition depot was an old Spanish fort.

Mike Nerheim:

Wow.

Joseph J. Triolo:

And at that ammunition depot we had mines, all kind of armament that the Asiatic fleet used, and our job at the ammunition depot was to take the ammunition from the ships when they came in for overhaul and they send the ammunition over to the depot to be reworked, and after it was reworked we would send it back out to the ships. That was the Asiatic station. I don't know how familiar you are with Manila Bay but Manila Bay is a land-lake harbor and the only entrance to Manila was via Corregidor. Corregidor sat right in the middle of the channel, and our job, we also had target repair. We repaired targets. We repaired ammunition. We repaired the mines and everything else, and that's what we did.

Mike Nerheim:

Now, you were overseas at this point. Your brother, he was still on the Oklahoma?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Oklahoma. He stayed on the Oklahoma until about a month before Pearl Harbor.

Mike Nerheim:

Were you able to communicate with him via mail?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Well, we stayed in contact through home. I would write home. He would write home. That's about it.

Mike Nerheim:

How often would you write home?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Not too often.

Mike Nerheim:

How often would you get letters from home?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Not too much. You know, people maybe, maybe a letter or two a month.

Mike Nerheim:

I imagine was it something you looked forward to? Was it something you looked forward to hearing from home, getting those letters then?

Joseph J. Triolo:

In a sense. You know, we were of a different mind in those days. You know, our environment and everything, our exposure was different. It was survival I think more or less wherever you went, and the sad thing about my brother and I if you want to hear the story, in our home town when my brother and I joined the Navy that caused a lot of young people to come in to the Navy. One particular fellow Donald Robert McCloud, he volunteered, it was maybe five or six months. He decided to join. Okay? And I'm sure he joined because we joined, so when he went through training he went through training in Norfolk, Virginia, so when he graduated from training he was he not aboard the Henderson because at that time the Henderson was in the states. The Shawmut was in China, so he went aboard the Henderson and while the ship was going from Norfolk to the west coast he had an opportunity to put in for a ship, and what ship did he put in for? He put in for the Oklahoma, so he came aboard and I was still aboard the Oklahoma. That was before I was transferred, so he and my brother stayed on the Oklahoma. Then a month before the attack, my brother got orders to go to aviation. Next day he was transferred, and by this time it was almost 1940 I guess it was or close to it. I had come back from the Asiatic station and the Oklahoma was in port in Pearl Harbor and I was in port in Pearl Harbor, we got together and on the Saturday before the attack he and I went to a baseball game. The Oklahoma and some other ship was playing.

Mike Nerheim:

You and Robert McCloud?

Joseph J. Triolo:

McCloud. So after the ball game we went to the Navy Exchange and had a couple of beers. In fact, I borrowed two dollars from him and he gave it to me and we had a beer, so after that that was it, so the next day, of course, the attack, McCloud didn't survive. He perished on the Oklahoma. The Oklahoma was one of the first ships sunk, and I think about that often until this day because he definitely was in the Navy because we had joined the Navy. I know that for sure, and he had no intentions of staying in the Navy I found out that later and so my brother went to Norfolk, I was at Pearl. I survived. He didn't survive, so in 19 -- the 50th anniversary, it was 1991 I guess it was. It was the 50th anniversary of Pearl Harbor and I went to Pearl Harbor and I made up my mind I was going to find Donald's grave, so when I got to the cemetery, they had in the cemetery -- I went to the office first and I asked for Donald's grave and the person in the office went through the ledger, he went through it, he says McCloud's not in here. I says, look, he's got to be in there. He couldn't be anywhere else. And I said in the cemetery they had sections of marble and they had the names of the deceased Donald Robert McCloud, fire mate second class. I said his name is on that marble plaque you got up there. He said if he's there, he's in a mass grave not identified, so Donald was never identified. So when they raised those ships and they took the bodies out of those ships, they couldn't identify him, so Donald is in a mass grave in Red Hill, so that's where he is. So I had the occasion to go back home and I did visit his mother and that was a sad occasion. I did the best I could, and I have a paper on it since I've gotten out of the Navy and everything, I wrote an autobiography. I have a complete chapter on Donald McCloud and I should have brought it with me.

Mike Nerheim:

I read about that. I read a story about that before you came here.

Joseph J. Triolo:

Donald McCloud?

Mike Nerheim:

About what you just said.

Joseph J. Triolo:

You're aware of that?

Mike Nerheim:

Yes.

Joseph J. Triolo:

Where did you get it? DEFENSE ATTY: There was an article written by a Major Van Harl U. S. Air Force Retired and it talks about the story how you and Donald were at the baseball game the day before.

Joseph J. Triolo:

Right. Right.

Mike Nerheim:

He loaned you two dollars to get the beer.

Joseph J. Triolo:

Yes. Yes.

Mike Nerheim:

Then of course the next morning.

Joseph J. Triolo:

Yes, it was a sad occasion.

Mike Nerheim:

There was a marker that was placed on December 7th in 2002 on the mass grave that talked about Donald.

Joseph J. Triolo:

Yeah. It's amazing. You mean to tell me they got that out of the computer?

Mike Nerheim:

Yeah. Yeah.

Joseph J. Triolo:

I wonder who has entered that?

Mike Nerheim:

Can I read the poem?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Sure.

Mike Nerheim:

So the marker, again, it was placed on December 7th, 2002. It says, "we buried an old Navy veteran -- I'm sorry. I'm getting choked up. "'We buried an old Navy veteran today,' unlike the poem 'The USS Oklahoma Veteran', not all combat-killed Americans are buried where family can go to visit and remember. No one can visit Donald Robert McCloud but he is not forgotten. If money spends in heaven, someday Chief Petty Officer Joseph Triolo, US Navy Retired will repay his friend two dollars.'"

Joseph J. Triolo:

Yeah.

Mike Nerheim:

You knew about that marker that was placed on the grave, in 2002?

Joseph J. Triolo:

For the Oklahoma?

Mike Nerheim:

Right.

Joseph J. Triolo:

Yeah.

Mike Nerheim:

Now, that morning -- let me back up because we kind of left off, you were still at Cavite. What ship did you get placed on after you left Cavite?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Okay. USS Augusta was the flagship. I believe the admiral on there was Admiral Yarnell. He was the admiral of the Asiatic fleet. Now, the Augusta had been out on the Asiatic station for an extended time, so they sent the Houston which is a sister ship to the Augusta, you know, in style and dimensions and everything. This was in November I believe, in November, November, what year was it? 1940 I guess it was.

Mike Nerheim:

Okay.

Joseph J. Triolo:

The Houston came out. In the meantime before that happened they transferred me from the depot to the USS Genesee and from the USS Genesee aboard the Augusta.

Mike Nerheim:

Augusta. What kind of ship was that?

Joseph J. Triolo:

It was a heavy cruiser. It was a heavy cruiser. In fact, it's the very ship that Roosevelt and Churchill went to Northern Atlantic on that tour. That's the very ship. But then it had not gone overhaul. There's a story behind it. I went aboard the Augusta and when the Houston came alongside, well, the Houston came from the states and the Houston was loaded with married men and the people on the Augusta were all single people, most of them were shacked up with Japanese, Philippines and everything and they wanted to stay, and the people on the Houston said, fine, we'll exchange, we'll stay on the Houston and you go come aboard the Augusta and go back to the states, and it was no trouble to get a swap including me. I got a swap and one morning when we was getting ready at quarters when the division officer mustered us and said, Triolo, you're going to go back to the states, I said, look, I got a swap. It's approved of. I'm going to go aboard the Houston. He says no, you're not. You got to go back because your enlistment is up. I said so what. I can ship over on the Houston and he said no. You joined the Navy when you was 17 years old. That's a minority cruise. They can't discharge you anywhere but in the states, so I had to come back. So I went back to the states on the Augusta. And you know what happened to the Houston, don't you?

Mike Nerheim:

What?

Joseph J. Triolo:

It was sunk in the Java Sea, practically all hands aboard.

Mike Nerheim:

When you came back on, excuse me, on the Augusta, where did you go? When you came back to the states where did you go?

Joseph J. Triolo:

When I came back from the Augusta we came into San Francisco for overhaul and that's -- we stayed in San Francisco for the Christmas holiday and then we went to Mare Island. That was a shipyard in Vallejo, shipyard for overhaul, and that's where they put on the elevator for Roosevelt on the aft part of the ship, and on the Augusta, so one day they passed the word all hands that were receiving venereal treatment fall in on the dock. The medical officer from Mare Island Hospital came board and asked did all men on the Augusta fall in on the dock that had venereal disease. Well, when they passed that word three-fourths of the crew ended up on the dock. And next day the orders came in, they were transferred all over the place. That's what happened.

Mike Nerheim:

Is it then that you were assigned to the Tangier?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Pardon me?

Mike Nerheim:

Was it at that point that you were assigned to the Tangier?

Joseph J. Triolo:

I was Tangier. It was being built in Oakland. It was just being built, but it was a new enlist crew and just being built and while it was being built they sent us to Tiberon and in Tiberon, California they were making nets, steel nets for entrance to harbors and everything, so we ended up making nets. The war was that (indicating). We put and we had to rewire and make nets and then clamp them together.

Mike Nerheim:

So it was like an inch in diameter?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Yes.

Mike Nerheim:

That was for submarines so it couldn't get in the harbor?

Joseph J. Triolo:

It was anti-submarine. We were versed on river boats. You heard of the Delta Queen. I had a room on the Delta Queen and that's where we stayed and the next -- every day we'd go out on the slab and make those nets.

Mike Nerheim:

This is while the Tangier was being built?

Joseph J. Triolo:

While it was being built. Then from the Tiberon, you know the prison is out in that area, the California prison is out in that area. Then from then they sent us to Alameda, they put that air station. It was just being built to put it in commission, so we went to Alameda and Tangier was still being built, so we went out there and stayed at Alameda for maybe a month or so and then finally they sent us aboard the Tangier.

Mike Nerheim:

It was a brand new ship?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Brand new ship.

Mike Nerheim:

What type of ship was it?

Joseph J. Triolo:

It was originally built as a cargo ship but they converted it. They put a flight deck on the stern. They put a crane on the stern. They completely remade the ship.

Mike Nerheim:

That was in San Francisco?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Oakland. All that was done in Oakland, in Alameda really.

Mike Nerheim:

Is that where you went on board the ship?

Joseph J. Triolo:

That's where I went on board. I put it in commission there.

Mike Nerheim:

What was it like going aboard a brand new ship?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Well, you know, they called us plank owners. We knew what to do and I was going aboard before it was completed and the ship that you put in commission is the best ship for you and I put a destroyer in commission and I liked the destroyer and I liked the Tangier.

Mike Nerheim:

What were your duties aboard the Tangier?

Joseph J. Triolo:

See, by this time I was a boatswains mate. I was third class.

Mike Nerheim:

For those who might read this that don't know, what does that mean, a boatswain mate?

Joseph J. Triolo:

I was in the V division. That was the aviation division. See, it was a sea plane tender and I was assigned to the crash boat as a Coxswain to the crash boat, and my job was when they started launching planes, landing and taking, they'd put me in the water to stand by in case one crashed.

Mike Nerheim:

Okay. Now, you eventually ended up at Pearl Harbor?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Pardon?

Mike Nerheim:

You eventually ended up at Pearl Harbor?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Yes. After we went in commission, we made a shakedown cruise. We went to various ports. We picked up torpedoes. We picked up bombs. We picked up all kinds of ammunition and so forth. We picked up -- see, we could rig parachutes. It was a sea plane tender. We tended VPYs and with that crane on the stern of the ship we were -- we could pick up a plane. The plane weighed 13 ton. We could pick a plane up, set it on deck, overhaul it and everything and put it back in the water. It was that crane. That crane was a vital part of the ship.

Mike Nerheim:

Now, was Pearl Harbor part of the shakedown cruise?

Joseph J. Triolo:

No. No. No. We went to Seattle, picked up torpedoes. We went to Long Beach, San Pedro, San Francisco, everything that a ship needed.

Mike Nerheim:

Got you.

Joseph J. Triolo:

We equipped the entire ship. After we got equipped then we were assigned to go to Pearl and we got in to Pearl I guess maybe a week or so. I used to know exactly. I used to know all of this stuff. See, I tried to keep this up. Although they won't keep it up, I tried to keep it up after they stopped. Okay. On November the 7th, 1940 I was transferred to the Augusta as a Coxswain and Mare Island I had two years. April the 10th, 1941 I was transferred to the receiving station in San Francisco. From there I went to the Tangier December the 7th, 1941. Commended by the commanding officer for his courageous skill and devotion to duty while in action against strong enemy, bombing and torpedo attacks at Pearl Harbor. Two days, completed the general qualifications for petty officer. I was a gun captain and there you have it, so I was on the Tangier '41, '42. I left it in 1943.

Mike Nerheim:

If we can, I'd like to --

Joseph J. Triolo:

Pardon?

Mike Nerheim:

If it's okay with you, I'd like to ask you some questions about that day, about December 7th. Before we do that, do you want to take a break? You doing okay?

Joseph J. Triolo:

You know, my memory isn't as keen as it should be.

Mike Nerheim:

Your memory is amazing. Your memory is outstanding. You okay? You want to use the bathroom or anything?

Joseph J. Triolo:

No, I'm okay.

Mike Nerheim:

So you arrived in Pearl Harbor.

Joseph J. Triolo:

Yes.

Mike Nerheim:

You thought maybe a week before December 7th.

Joseph J. Triolo:

Well, let's see. This will tell me. It was 1941, it was about May or June.

Mike Nerheim:

So in the weeks before December 7th.

Joseph J. Triolo:

Yeah.

Mike Nerheim:

You're at Pearl Harbor, and again as we talked about earlier, the day before you were at a baseball game with your friend?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Yeah, with Donald McCloud.

Mike Nerheim:

Take us through the events of that morning and as you recall them.

Joseph J. Triolo:

Prior to the attack the uniform of the day was whites, shorts skivvy shirts, white hat. Once a day we'd go through the exercise, okay, (indicating,) ship board routine, maintain it, chipping rust, painting, scrubbing, maintaining the ship. Okay. They were allowing one-third of the crew to go ashore but you had to be second class or above you could go ashore, so that was the routine. It was wonderful. The weather was wonderful, going back and forth in boats and so forth, holing our drills and what have you. Almost two and three times a week, we'd have general quarters. Everyone go to their gun station, drill, drill, drill, we make -- and I must tell you, the ship at that time was obsolete, and I say it was obsolete because we did not have the armament that we should have had. For example, the gun that I was on was a .50 caliber water cool machine gun. We should have had pompoms of .40 calibers or something like that you see. They had it on paper and everything but they didn't put it on the ship. The helmet that I had for general quarters was World War I, so that -- the life jacket World War I. That gives you some idea what preparation and we just came out of the Navy yard.

Mike Nerheim:

Right. This is a new ship.

Joseph J. Triolo:

Yeah. You see, there was no forward-looking and, look, the war had been going on in Europe since 1939, you see. And they moved the fleet from San Pedro Long Beach to Pearl Harbor. Well, that should have said something. That should have told you, and the negotiations were going on, you know. They were at odds in the State Department. I know all of that now. I didn't know it then, but there was all kinds of crap going on that should have alerted us.

Mike Nerheim:

Yeah.

Joseph J. Triolo:

You see, so it was a surprise. Whoever thought that anyone would attacked us. There's some -- I think there's some notes here what the Tribune said. By the way, the harbor is 10 square miles. That's what the harbor is.

Mike Nerheim:

Pearl Harbor.

Joseph J. Triolo:

All of this may be boring. I could read it off. Admiral Kimball was in command of all the Naval forces. Short was the commander of the Army. The chief targets, of course, were the battleships. Eighteen ships were sunk, 174 planes were destroyed. Admiral Stark was the chief of Naval operation. Kimball and Short were criticized for the losses. I have something to say about all of that later. And another, in 1937 the Panay was sunk on the Yangtze River, 1937. The Japs sunk -- it was a river boat. It was an American ship, 1937. Here's what the Chicago Tribune carried on Navy day, October the 27th. The Navy day used to be October the 27th. They've changed all of that. In 1941 this is what the Tribune said, quote, "she cannot attack us. That is a military impossibility. Even our base at Hawaii is beyond the effective striking power of her fleet. And what has Japanese -- what has Japanese that we want. That was in the Tribune, so I could read this and show you all kinds of stuff that brought that on. To begin with, what were nine battle ships doing in Pearl Harbor, a landlocked harbor. One -- the entrance is one mile. One way in, one way out. Nine battle ships, not anchored out.

Mike Nerheim:

All in a row.

Joseph J. Triolo:

Nested together. Nested together. See, in San Pedro and San Francisco -- in San Pedro and Long Beach the battle fleet was anchored way out. You needed a boat to go from ship to ship. In Pearl Harbor they put the ships together. They nested them together because of space, so they had no idea to put nine battle ships, plus the heavy cruisers, light cruisers, the whole fleet in a landlocked harbor. That's what the Tribune was talking about impossible and here they got within 200 miles.

Mike Nerheim:

Right. Do you remember that morning when you woke up?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Oh, yes, I remember it.

Mike Nerheim:

Can you tell us?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Here's a letter I gave the Tribune -- not the Tribune but the New Sun. This was at the 50th anniversary. They asked me to make a statement, so I wrote this statement out. That was in 1991. That's exactly what happened.

Mike Nerheim:

I'd like to read this for the record if it's okay.

Joseph J. Triolo:

Okay.

Mike Nerheim:

Before I do that, though, could you in your own words and based on your memory kind of walk us through that day?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Okay. I was in my -- well, to begin with, the Island of Oahu was very thickly populated with Japanese. I'm not saying they were agents, I am not saying they were spies, but nevertheless there was large amounts of Japanese in Oahu before the attack. If I wanted a haircut, I went downtown, a Japanese woman would cut my hair. They had complete run. Now, I believe that the Japanese that attacked at Pearl Harbor knew every ship by name. They knew the capacity of the ship in armament and men. There wasn't anything that they didn't know about the Navy because they had years of time. They had been operating in and out of Pearl Harbor. They knew all there was to know about the fleet, that they attacked it, so from that point on when those flyers left those aircraft carriers, they knew exactly where they were going. They knew exactly -- they must have -- they practiced in Pearl Harbor. They practiced -- they had a place in Japan. They run dummy runs on Pearl Harbor. One obstacle, they didn't know if the torpedoes would go in shallow water. Well, they developed the fins or what have you. They developed torpedoes that would go in shallow water, you see. Okay. They knew all of that before even one shot was fired, so there we were. We were totally exposed. The ships were open. Most of the ships were getting ready for inspection the Monday morning. No water tight integrity. Church service began at eight o'clock. Those that weren't going to church were in their bunks. I was in my bunk third decks down. I heard the alarm. I didn't pay any attention to it. I took my time because it was just another drill to me, so I got out of my bunk, went up there, went all the way back and when I got to top side, I saw the Jap plane coming up the channel, and I had been on the Asiatic station. I knew it was a Jap and I immediately went up to my gun, the .50 caliber machine gun. And guess what? The ready boxes were locked. I couldn't get the ammunition to the gun to start firing. Finally, the gunners mate come up. I said, you got to get these ready boxes open, and he finally did. And we got the -- finally got the gun going and they were -- it will all be right there. They were like bees. I could see the pilot just as plain as I'm looking at you coming right up the channel. I was on the flying bridge. I was up here. The plane was down here. I could see him. I could see the expression on his face.

Mike Nerheim:

So the plane was actually lower than what you were?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Oh, yes. It was a duck shoot. It was really a duck shoot. They fired anyone they want. For example, they -- they only lost seven planes on the first attack. The reason? They didn't have any opposition. On the second run they lost over 24 planes, so that tells you what would have been--what would have been happening if we all had been at general quarters. If we'd all been on our guns, you start to think. We could have did a hell of a lot of damage. We'd had a lot of casualties. We would have had a lot of instructions and all of that, but just think if that whole fleet it had ten minutes' warning to set general quarters, set the integrity, water-tight integrity, we could have probably survived the whole -- I sometimes think they couldn't even -- they couldn't have even sunk a ship. The Oklahoma took I think about six torpedoes right off the bat right on the first ship over. The Utah, that's the ship that I was shooting on. The plane was coming in on our starboard side, and I was firing on the plane that launched the torpedo, and that torpedo hit that Utah just below the water line and at that gangway, there were officers and men returning from liberty under that when that torpedo went off, and I can still see them going up in the air like dolls, and that ship just went right over, and the men that survived just followed the ship as it went over and it still capsized there, the Utah and the Arizona, the two ships, so, you know, with everything that had taken place we should have been more alert. Short, the general and Kimball that morning were going to go golfing and, you know, it's hard to blame anybody about anything something like that you don't like, but someone dropped the ball. Like Short, it took General Marshall who was in charge of the Army to notify Short. It took him about eight hours to notify Short. MacArthur was notified in November and what did he do? His wing commander begged him to get the planes off of the tarmac. And Clark Field was in the Philippines at the time. They could have started bombing in the midst and he didn't do it. All of his planes were caught on the ground, so there's a lot of things there that some people don't even know about and those are some things. This is all factual information and when you stop and think about it, could it have been prevented? I don't know. Could it have been less damage, less loss of life? Yes, if we would have had the notice. If we would have been right in place in Pearl Harbor with all guns manned, the illustration that I made, the comparison that I made, the seven planes that they lost on the first run, the second run they lost 24. That tells you.

Mike Nerheim:

Right. Right.

Joseph J. Triolo:

If all those men would have been at their gun stations when they attacked, it would have been a different ballgame.

Mike Nerheim:

Would you -- I'd like it make this part of the record.

Joseph J. Triolo:

Go right ahead.

Mike Nerheim:

Would you like to read it?

Joseph J. Triolo:

I read it. I know it by heart.

Mike Nerheim:

All right. Being stationed on the ship -- I'm going to need your help a little bit. Being stationed on the ship's fly bridge, I could observe the entire harbor. The Japanese planes were like a swarm of bees, all over the place, flying at will, attacking the ships in the harbor. The nearest ship to my vantage point was the battleship Utah which was astern of us. I saw and was firing on the plane that launched the torpedo that sank the Utah. When the torpedo was launched, there was an officer's motor boat alongside the gangway unloading officers who were returning to the ship. The torpedo struck the ship below the water line under the boat and the gangway. I can still see the boat, the boat crew and the officers, passengers being blown hundreds of feet in the air resembling miniature dolls. The Utah capsized at its berth in a matter of minutes where she still lies. Those crew members who managed to go topside followed the hull of the ship as she rolled over, then swam ashore. At the time of the attack we reacted. It was reaction to survive. When it was over we were stunned and shocked as to what had happened. As I recall there was very little said. We all seemed to be preoccupied with our thoughts which did not lend to adequate verbal expression. What else can I say. The memory will live in those that were there. Will it be on those that follow? That is the question that is utmost in our minds on this fifth anniversary.

Mike Nerheim:

You talked about in the letter the aftermath and how everybody seemed kind of shocked still.

Joseph J. Triolo:

Yeah. You know, after -- it was a survival exercise for us and after it was over, what happened, what happened, and the whole fleet was in ruins. I was a Guard Mail Petty Officer after the attack and, you know, that's to go around and pick up the mail and it was -- and I went through around the harbor in a boat in the oil and what have you, and it was distressing.

Mike Nerheim:

So you were in a boat going around the harbor?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Yeah. Just guard mail, what they call guard mail trip. That was after it was all over.

Mike Nerheim:

Let's talk about the weeks after Pearl Harbor. What happened?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Well, you see, we happened to be one of the ships that survived the attack. We got some strafing. We got some near miss, but we did not get bombed. Although we are right there next to the Utah and aft of us and forward of us the Enterprise got under way, I believe it was the Friday or Saturday before the attack. The aircraft carrier got underway. And we were the surviving ship, so what the Admiral did, Admiral Kimball, to try to save face, he concentrated on us with officers and Marines and they put on all kinds of armament on our ship. They put -- strapped machine guns to the rails and what have you and what they wanted us to do to go to Wake. He was going to reinforce Wake. He was going to reinforce it with us. I saw the dispatch. I was on the upper wing of the bridge. They had Marine officers came aboard, Naval officers came aboard to help stand watch and everything. He concentrated on our ship and that was within a week of the attack. They knew that Wake was next. The Chief Quarter Master showed me a dispatch, and what our ship was to do to go to Wake and beach the ship, beach the ship, get as many men and material and supplies off of the ship on Wake. That's what we were supposed to do. Now, to get there, they had the Saratoga which came out from the states. There was a cruiser and a couple cans and that was it. We were to go to Wake and our job was to reinforce Wake and if possible beach the ship, sacrifice the ship, get as many men and material off to survive, to save Wake. Well, the Japs didn't beat us there. You've heard that.

Mike Nerheim:

Uh-huh.

Joseph J. Triolo:

They didn't beat us there. What happened, Kimball was relieved and the men at Kim -- the minute Kimball got relieved he stopped the whole operation. I remember that morning when the scouting planes left the carrier, within five or ten minutes they were back on the carrier. Well, I thought the Japs had already gotten there, and that wasn't it at all. Kimball's relief stopped the whole operation and they ordered us to Midway and we went to Midway and evacuated Midway.

Mike Nerheim:

Do you know how close you were to Wake Island before they canceled the attack?

Joseph J. Triolo:

We were within a day or so, couple days, yeah, but his relief, whoever he was, I did know his relief stopped it and it would have just been more casualties.

Mike Nerheim:

Yeah.

Joseph J. Triolo:

You see, we are outgunned. The Japs were ready for the war. They prepared for it. They just couldn't back it up.

Mike Nerheim:

So you went to Midway.

Joseph J. Triolo:

Yeah, we evacuated Midway.

Mike Nerheim:

Where did you take the folks you took off of Midway?

Joseph J. Triolo:

You know, at that time they had civil defense workers. You remember a guy that was on the commission here by the name of Surta? He was in the Lake County Commission.

Mike Nerheim:

Okay.

Joseph J. Triolo:

He was one of the civil service workers on Midway.

Mike Nerheim:

So you evacuated?

Joseph J. Triolo:

We evacuated and all those civil service workers wore overalls and up front they had a big pocket here for their overall and every one of them had choke full of money and the sailors won a fortune off of those fellows. They all came aboard with all kinds of money.

Mike Nerheim:

Was that -- how far prior to the battle of Midway did that happen?

Joseph J. Triolo:

That was quite a ways before, because after we evacuated Midway we went to Pearl. We would load up again and we went south. We went -- see, the Japs controlled all the northern Pacific and the central Pacific. The only way we would go -- could go was south, and we got back, we evacuated the Midway, took the civil service personnel off of Midway, dumped them at Pearl Harbor and then we regrouped. And from Pearl Harbor we went to Simoa and from Simoa we went to Fiji. From Fiji we went to New Caledonia and we set up the first base in New Caledonia which was of French possession and we stayed there and serviced those sea planes. The sea planes were there on patrol and we were there about three or four months. Then we were ordered back to the states but we left a nucleus crew there. That was the first setup of the World War II in the Pacific. That was the first place that we took its stand was in New Maya, New Caledonia and we sent a signalman over there. We sent a third class, a radio man, stuff like that and set him there and we went back and then we want back out again. We made about three trips out there, the same route, Simoa, Silva, New Caledonia. Finally we extended to New Hebrides and I left the ship in New Hebrides.

Mike Nerheim:

Where did you go then?

Joseph J. Triolo:

I went aboard the Tangier to come back for new construction, and, you see, in those days they tried to get the experienced personnel back for new construction. They tried to put at least a third of the crew, seasoned people and two thirds of the crew were draftees or people who come in during the war.

Mike Nerheim:

What year was it that you went aboard the Tangier?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Went aboard it?

Mike Nerheim:

When you went on the Tangier.

Joseph J. Triolo:

Originally?

Mike Nerheim:

Yes.

Joseph J. Triolo:

Right here, I was assigned to the Tangier May the 8th, 1941.

Mike Nerheim:

Okay.

Joseph J. Triolo:

That's when we went to the receiving station, May the 8th, 1941.

Mike Nerheim:

Then what was the next ship after that?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Then I stayed right on and then I left and went aboard the Chandeleur March of 7th, 1943. I was Second Class then. I came back and I went on leave. My sister was sick. In fact, she passed away while I was there, and I reported in at the Alameda Air Station, and when I reported in the air station they start issuing me equipment and so forth, and I could detect it was all landing force equipment and I says, gee, I not going back aboard ship and I asked the guy, I says why are you people giving me? I said, I'm a boatswains mate. I said I belong aboard ship. I don't belong carrying all this landing stuff. They said this is it. You're supposed to go and they issued it. I swallowed it. There was about 50 of us, but most of them were aviation rates, aviation ordnance man, aviation mechanics, aviation parachute riggers. I was the only general service guy in the whole crowd, and I found out later why. There was a radioman but the radioman can go with anybody, communication, so they formed their VS 68, scouting squadron 68. That's what I was in, but they had about eight or ten aircraft. I didn't see the planes, I just going by the numbers and the letters, VS68 and there were about 50. I was in charge of the draft that was supposed to go aboard a Dutch ship in San Francisco for further transfer to the Pacific. Then they had the aviation ranks stayed and went to a ship that was going to transport the planes. We were separated. I didn't know where they were going. They didn't know where I was going, so we got on this Dutch ship, 50 sailors, loaded with soldiers going to the Pacific. You couldn't even find a place to sleep on deck. I wouldn't sleep below. I always slept on top side.

Mike Nerheim:

Why?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Huh?

Mike Nerheim:

Why?

Joseph J. Triolo:

I didn't want to get caught below. A ship like that was -- we were wide open for torpedoes, submarines and we were going to go across the Pacific.

Mike Nerheim:

Yeah.

Joseph J. Triolo:

That was a long haul on a Dutch ship. Her Magesty Ship Solensties, that was her name and the person in charge was a soldier. He was either brigadier general or something, and I can remember, this is the troop commander speaking, no place to take a shower. No place to shower. What they did, they built latrines and washrooms on the dock and when they got them built, they hoisted them and set them on deck and after they got on deck they connected up the sea water, not fresh water, sea water, so that's what you used for a shower and that's what you used all the way across the Pacific.

Mike Nerheim:

Man.

Joseph J. Triolo:

But they had a gravity tank, you see, for the ship's crew. That was part of the ship and it was way up here, and at the end of that gravity tank, there was a spigot but there was a Marine guarding that spigot and they'd give you a canteen of water from that spigot, but that's all you could get, nothing else. That was drinking water. It wasn't being used for toilet purposes or anything.

Mike Nerheim:

Yeah.

Joseph J. Triolo:

Served two meals a day. The best deck was two decks down, and the boards were on statues. You could raise them up and lower them and you ate standing up. You know, one guy on that side and you on that and that's the way you went all the way across the Pacific, and they had -- they did have what they called the Armed Guard, you know, Merchant Marine Armed Guard and I noticed they were separated from us, they were completely separated and I noticed they were feeding them pretty good. They all -- and we were eating practically nothing twice a day, so one day the aroma come over the ship, baked bread. You could smell it all over. Well, I knew it wasn't for the troops. It was for the crew, and it was by a porthole and it's by that spigot and a marine was there and I went up there to him and the bread was by the porthole. I went up to this Marine and I said, listen, why don't you let me get one of those breads and then I'll share it with you when you get off watch. Well, he finally agreed. No more than that bread came through that porthole that porthole was welded shut.{laughter}

Mike Nerheim:

How did that taste, the bread?

Joseph J. Triolo:

We had a good time with that bread I'm telling you. That aroma went all through the ship. They should have known better. They should have known better.

Mike Nerheim:

Wow. You know, there's something, you read this earlier but I just want to highlight in your Continuous Service Certificate. You received a commendation for your actions on December 7th.

Joseph J. Triolo:

Yeah, the captain of the ship. I think that accommodation went to everybody that was on board. I really do.

Mike Nerheim:

Well, it talks specifically about you and your actions that day.

Joseph J. Triolo:

Yeah. Yeah.

Mike Nerheim:

So this ship the -- how do you pronounce that name, the next ship you were on?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Chincoteague. Okay. This is another story. You know, I was on Guadalcanal but before I was on Guadalcanal I was on VS68 and I noticed the MC mentioned someone was on Guadalcanal. Let me tell you something about Guadalcanal. You know, Guadalcanal was the first landing we ever made during World War II in the Pacific, and what they did, they put those Marines ashore and left them and there was no way of supplying them or reinforcing them for months, and the reason for it, after we made the landing, the Japanese start raiding Guadalcanal every night. We lost ships, cruisers, personnel off Guadalcanal. They couldn't give those fellows relief, and then my opinion, the people on Guadalcanal had the worst landing, the worst of all of those landings because when you landed in Bougainville or Iwo Jima or wherever, Buckner Bay or wherever the landing was, they are prepared to reinforce them. Everything went with you.

Mike Nerheim:

Yeah.

Joseph J. Triolo:

Your medical supplies, everything. But on Guadalcanal, nothing. Those fellows practically starved to death. Malaria, dysentery. You should read about Guadalcanal. That was the worst in my opinion of all landings. All of them were tough, all of them took its toll, but in terms of reinforcement or supply, Guadalcanal was left. Now, VS68, that's why we were formed in Alameda unbeknownst to us. We went to New Maya and an LST picked us up in New Maya. We still didn't know where they were going. We loaded it all. We loaded our supplies and everything. The LST backed off. We went aboard the LST, and I think it was about a day and a half we were underway and in the Solomon Islands, an island by the name of UGI, U-g-i, about 100 or 200 miles south of Guadalcanal and what we were supposed to do when the LST landed is get off and we got off. That was nothing there but natives. We had to set up our camps. We had to put up the ramps. We had to put up everything, put up the radio station and everything from scratch and that LST couldn't get out of there fast enough. There we was, so we started setting up camp and our job after we got there was this, was to service sea planes, OS2Us.

Mike Nerheim:

You doing okay? You want to take a break?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Yes, give her a break.

Mike Nerheim:

We're been going almost two hours. [Short break]

Mike Nerheim:

Your story is amazing and you're doing great, but this is as long as you want to go, you tell me, so.

Joseph J. Triolo:

This VS68 was significant to Guadalcanal. We set up camp in Ugi and the purpose of that camp being set up in Ugi was to service the aircraft which were seaplanes and the seaplanes could land and we would have to send men out with attachable gear to the pontoons so the plane could drug you on the beach and serviced and then put back in, and before the planes got there we had to set out buoys, anchor buoys out so when the planes landed they could taxi up and tie up to those buoys. Now, the purpose we were there, the planes carried the depth bombs, depth charges. I think they were 50 pounds on each wing and we would put up two patrols, two plane patrols of a morning, of afternoon and the night and the reason we were there was to patrol that channel that led up to Guadalcanal because the Japanese were coming in every night and it's just beaucoups of sailors and ships lost in trying to keep Guadalcanal and our job was to patrol that channel for subs and we were there for over almost a year and the camp site we had a doctor with us, fortunately we did. Some of us had gotten malaria. There was malaria. We had to set up latrines and stuff like that and they would fly in the food, meat and vegetable stew, lamb from or mutton from New Zealand or Australia, fly that in and that's the way we subsisted, but one day Ted White who was a planning tax manager, he was an English man, he deserted from the American -- British Navy when he was about 18 years old or 17. He deserted and hired out on an island boat and they had a plantation out there and the Japs took over and he was living with us in our camp. And one day he said, Joe, why don't we take your boat and go fishing. He says you're eating all of this stuff. He said why don't you get some fish. I said okay, so the captain gave me permission to take the boat and the island was about maybe eight or 10 miles around, and before we started he went into the supply tent that we had and he got some white line and there were salt water lilies on the beach, and the salt water lilies were about that high, but the diameter was like that and he cut a stack right out of the center of that salt water lily and he unlaid the salt water lily until it became as white as this paper and he put that over a lure. He had two lines, two white lines from the stern of the boat and he put that over the lure and he let those lines out and he was trawling and he said, Joe, get as close to the reef as you can but don't go aground. He says we'll catch the fish in the coral. I said okay, so we started and when we started we had nothing in the bottom of that boat, but by the time we got around we were in fish up to our knees. He kept dragging them in, dragging them in. It's never been fished there before.

Mike Nerheim:

Was that a treat to have?

Joseph J. Triolo:

It sure was. The cook didn't like it, but we had fish from then on. The waters were never fished and sharks were all over the place. It was unbelievable.

Mike Nerheim:

Now, when you were stationed on that island, it was how long?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Almost a year.

Mike Nerheim:

What was your duty?

Joseph J. Triolo:

My duty was bringing in those planes. You see, I was in charge of the beaching crew. That's what I was cut out to be when he was giving me the equipment. I didn't know that. I just said looked like landing gear to me, but that's what it was. We had a tractor and we could pull the plane up, service it, gas it and everything. Now, the gasoline was a problem. This island was out by itself, Ugi Island from Sancristobal, Guadalcanal and the ship would come out, but it couldn't come into the beach. He'd come in maybe four or five miles about as close as he could get and the gas came in 55-gallon drums and the crew of the ship would dump the gas over the side and we swam the gas into the beach and that's the way we got our gas.

Mike Nerheim:

Wow.

Joseph J. Triolo:

And later on we found out I was catching about a shark a day and we were out there swimming that stuff into the beach. And what I did on the buoys, I'd take a piece of that mutton and we had a shark hook with a chain about that high. The rest of it was line and I would attach it to the buoy say during the day and float it out. The next morning I'd take binoculars and if the buoy was sunk then I knew there was shark and we'd go out there in a boat and, sure enough, there would be a shark. He'd go around and around and around until he got to that bite of chain. He couldn't go any farther so what we did, we put a grapnel over, attach it to the boat and drug the whole works back into the beach.

Mike Nerheim:

You'd eat the shark?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Huh.

Mike Nerheim:

You'd eat it?

Joseph J. Triolo:

The officers would eat it. I wouldn't eat it. You got shark meat on the -- in the market today. No. I never did eat it, but most of the crew would skin the shark or cut out the teeth. The shark's teeth, it has two sets of teeth and they were like that, they cut when -- see, the shark teeth, so we would cut out the jaw bone of the shark and we'd put the jaw bone in scalding water and then take out the teeth and you could take a tooth and shave your arm. You could probably shave yourself. That's how sharp those teeth were.

Mike Nerheim:

When you were on that island, did you ever come under attack?

Joseph J. Triolo:

No. We never were bothered, never were bothered. We were set up for it. We were never bothered. There's no one on that island but natives. There was a missionary Father Hill and he says, you people are ruining my natives. You see, they -- we would give them cigarettes and stuff like that, and if you gave a native a bar of soap, there was a fresh water stream in back of our camp, and if you gave a native a bar of soap he'd stay in that stream and use that soap until it was all gone. He wouldn't leave and he'd have bushy hair. He'd soap all this, and he'd stay there with that bar of soap was all gone, and the missionary, he said, you're ruining my natives. He says it will take years to get back.

Mike Nerheim:

What was your next assignment after the island?

Joseph J. Triolo:

The next was Bougainville. They moved us up. The ship came in and loaded us up and we went to Bougainville. When we went to Bougainville we went to SBD, scouting bomber. Me being a boatswains mate in VS68 and all these fellows were getting flight pay, you know, the regular pay plus flight pay. Here I am first class boatswains mate and these people were all making more money than I was making, so I couldn't see where it was all that bad. They'd go up, take a turn, come back in, so I told the captain one day, I says, captain, why don't you put me on that flight list. I says I can man that rear machine guns. I have no problem. He says you really want on the flight list? I said sure. You give me the flight pay. He says, okay, we'll put you on, so he put me so I would take my turn. That was good. We'd fly all over the channel, all over the canal and see the scenery and everything on regular patrol, so when they got the SBD I was still on the flight list. I made one trip, on this SBD. He came in on a target and I thought he was never going to pull out and he finally pulled out, and when he pulled out and we landed I wanted off of the flight list. I said I'm a boatswains mate, I'm not -- I don't have an aviation rate, take me off and he took me off.

Mike Nerheim:

And were a tail gunner?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Yes. Yes. On the OS2. One run on that SBD, that's all.

Mike Nerheim:

And where did you go after that?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Then from Bougainville we went to Treasury, and that's where I left it and I was went to Guadalcanal and from Guadalcanal I went aboard the Chincoteague. The Chincoteague I went back to the states and put the carrier in commission Capegloister and I ended up the war on the Capegloister, Buckner Bay and we lost more sailors in Buckner Bay than the Marine Corps. or the Army combined, and that was when they started those suicide attacks. That was -- the war was closing.

Mike Nerheim:

Now, you were on the Capegloister when the war ended?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Yes. That's where I ended up the war.

Mike Nerheim:

Do you remember that day when you found out the war -- do you remember the day when you found out the war was over?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Well, it was all I know was four or five, I don't know. I was aboard -- No, I don't remember the day.

Mike Nerheim:

But when you got the news when you finally heard?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Yeah. I was on the flight deck when we got the news.

Mike Nerheim:

How did you feel?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Well, we were relieved because the kamakazies, they were taking its toll. They were really, really -- as I said before we lost more sailors in Okinawa than the Army and the Marine Corps. combined.

Mike Nerheim:

Wow.

Joseph J. Triolo:

That was really something and, you know, this was at the end of the war. And after that, you know, they dropped the bomb on Hiroshima I think on the 8th of August and then they dropped the bomb on Nagasaki and we were ordered in to Nagasaki and we picked up about 360 prisoners who had been working in coal mines in Southern Japan, and the funny thing about that, I told you while I was at the Cavite ammunition depot in '38, I was there, I knew those fellows. I worked with them and when we picked up prisoners in '45 in Nagasaki I knew three of those fellows.

Mike Nerheim:

Wow.

Joseph J. Triolo:

Met up with them again.

Mike Nerheim:

They had been captured.

Joseph J. Triolo:

They had been in the prison all the war. They was in that Batton Death March and they were transferred aboard ship from the Philippines to Japan to work in those mines, and one told me he had spinal meningitis on the ship. A lot of them lost their lives on that ship transferring from the Philippines. That Batton Death March was no cake walk either and all those prisoners were no cake walk. They were brutally treated. Japanese were very, very brutal with prisoners, so to see those three, there were three fellows that I knew that I had been with and it was really something, so we went back after we evacuated and we went back to Okinawa and put them on a hospital ship, then they -- I guess sent them back to the hospital.

Mike Nerheim:

Now, you stayed in the service?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Yeah, I stayed in. I stayed in in the Navy. I had eight years in. I did go back home and I enrolled at West Virginia University and was accepted, but in the meantime while I was waiting I changed my mind and went back to the recruiting station and shipped over.

Mike Nerheim:

What made you change your mind?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Well, the eight years, that was a long time to lose and I didn't know what civilian life, I didn't even know if I could cope with civilian life. I wasn't coping at home, you know. I was unsettled and everything. Seems like the only time I was settled is when I was in that Naval atmosphere so I just -- and a friend of mine who was also accepted at the university, he was a retired Army captain, he went on. He stayed a year. He went to West Virginia for one year and he finally went back, so it's an adjustment to make. Some people never make the adjustment. You see, it's hard. You know, you people should be commended for what you did today. I'm not talking about interviews. I'm talking about, you know, recognizing these people and seeing them. You are to be commended for that. That made an impression on those fellows. And most of them are not too far from the grim reaper. You know that. See, most of them are old people and it was really something. You did something today that's really worthwhile and worth to them. That means everything in the world. They'll never forget. They'll always admire that. Because you didn't have to do it. Someone arranged it. You know, someone had the foresight to say, look, let's get these people together and see what they know.

Mike Nerheim:

Yeah. Well, you know, we know it's not easy I'm sure sometimes to talk about this, but.

Joseph J. Triolo:

At one time that was the case because it didn't mean that to much. You say, look, I experienced it. This guy doesn't know what the hell I went through. Why should I talk to him about it.

Mike Nerheim:

Right.

Joseph J. Triolo:

Now you can talk to another fellow veteran but, you know, just sit down generally with a crowd of people, it meant nothing, but if another veteran you talk to, it would be different but I've gotten over most of that. I taught school for almost 30 years.

Mike Nerheim:

I heard. In North Chicago?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Yeah, right in North Chicago.

Mike Nerheim:

What brought you to this area?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Recruit training. I was assigned to recruit training. See, after the war, well, the Korean war, when the Korean war started, they called in the fleet reserve. That's people that already retired. And where did they put them? They put them in these recruit trainings, so after the Korean war they started releasing those fellows back into retirement so they needed someone to fill those vacancies. That's when I came here. When I came here there was nothing but fleet reserve, and these taverns and the places, they are all, so I was a single person and I was assigned to the recruit training and I stayed in recruit training for three years and I met my wife here and that's what I'm doing here.

Mike Nerheim:

And you live in Waukegan now?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Huh?

Mike Nerheim:

You live in Waukegan?

Joseph J. Triolo:

Yes. It's her home, not mine, but, you know.

Mike Nerheim:

Yeah. Is there anything -- I know we've talked you've talked for a long time and I can't thank you enough for giving your time to us today to make history.

Joseph J. Triolo:

Well, I was surprised you have all of this information.

Mike Nerheim:

Well, we don't have -- your perspective is something nobody ever has and that's something that's so important. You could read about this in history books but to actually hear it from you and what you experienced and, you know, the smell of the loaf of bread across the ship, I mean that's the stuff that the history books don't have and that's stuff that only you can give to history, so, you know, you've given obviously your service. You've given a great deal of your life for this country and then again today to come here and give your time and to sit here for two hours and put it all out there, we really appreciate it.

Joseph J. Triolo:

Yeah.

Mike Nerheim:

I think I spoke for everybody and everybody appreciates it. Is there anything I didn't ask you that you want to talk about or anything we didn't talk about that you think we should put out there? I know we covered a lot and it was very helpful that you had your service record and the notes that you had. That was very helpful but I don't want to leave anything out, so if there's something I didn't ask you, this is for you too so.

Joseph J. Triolo:

No. You pretty well covered it. I have no complaints. I die, the service treated me well. You see, I survived Pearl, I survived the Houston, and then in a sense the Capegloister at Buckner Bay, so in terms of life and living, I've done quite well, you see, so I don't owe anyone anything. They don't owe me anything, and I went where I was ordered to go, did what I was told to do. I wasn't a volunteer. I didn't get any medals. I'm not a hero or anything like that. I just happen to -- my age and everything put me right in the middle of World War II.

Mike Nerheim:

Uh-huh.

Joseph J. Triolo:

And my background and everything put me where I belonged. I don't regret a day I did and even today the government, the Navy treats me well. I have no complaints.

Mike Nerheim:

What was it like, you know? You had spent all these years on ships and on the island and overseas and battle, what was it like after all of that coming back to West Virginia?

Joseph J. Triolo:

It's rough. I wouldn't want to live in West Virginia. I will probably have to live in West Virginia. I probably will be buried in West Virginia, but to say that I want to go back there to live and all that, no, I wouldn't. No, it's strange. Although I was in education all those years and I think I did a good job for them but I was always somewhere else.

Mike Nerheim:

Yeah.

Joseph J. Triolo:

Always. And that's why I say, this session you had today I think did these veteran's a lot of good, and I think they'll think about it many, many times and all of you people should be commended. You should be. Really, really, to take your time and put something like this together.

Mike Nerheim:

Well, I want to thank you and I disagree. You are a hero.

Joseph J. Triolo:

Pardon me?

Mike Nerheim:

I disagree. You are a hero. I got you something. It's a pin for the State's Attorney's office.

Joseph J. Triolo:

Very good. I appreciate it. Thank you. I'll put it on my cap.

Mike Nerheim:

Honorary State's Attorney, so thank you.

Joseph J. Triolo:

I've been invited a couple more places in December on the anniversary of the 7th, so I'll probably go there, but.

Mike Nerheim:

Okay. Thank you. This interview is being concluded at 12:15 p.m.

 
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  October 26, 2011
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