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Interview with Arnold Peterson [Undated]

Zach Latimer:

Could you give your name?

Arnold Peterson:

Yes, Arnold L. Peterson.

Zach Latimer:

And you served for?

Arnold Peterson:

Merchant Marine. Either a seaman or actually a third mate.

Zach Latimer:

And when did you join?

Arnold Peterson:

In July of 1942, one month after graduating from high school.

Zach Latimer:

Could you give your rank for the Merchant Marine?

Arnold Peterson:

Starting out as an ordinary seaman and ending up third mate, which is comparable to the lowest ranking deck officer.

Zach Latimer:

How does that work, like just--as a seaman, what did you start out doing?

Arnold Peterson:

Just--well, it's just work. I mean it's cleaning or steering the ship or standing lookout and when we--if there's work to be done on the deck like, and there's a lot of that, there's workmen rigging or something, well, then you're obliged to do that if you're not actively on watch. A day's work when you're at sea for a seaman is you work four hours, let's say from eight in the morning until noon and then you're off for eight hours and then you come back to work again at 8:00 at night until midnight. So when you're on watch and not doing anything else, you can be working around, but in the afternoon in that day, you're not on watch, so you don't have to work evenings. It's a funny business. It's an eight-hour day but it's four hours at a time. So there's three groups of us. One of them works from eight to 12 and then 12 to four and then four to eight and then the eight people come back to four because these ships run 24 hours a day, they never slow down. So somebody always has to be steering or whatever. So we have to sort of rotate.

Zach Latimer:

Is that like the ships going out?

Arnold Peterson:

Yes, three ships and there's three guys on a ship.

Zach Latimer:

So if it's three guys at a time are running--

Arnold Peterson:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). One guy's steering, one guy is up in the bow at the lookout and the third guy's in the mess hall getting a cup of coffee and then we each get a turn.

Zach Latimer:

So what was the name of the ship you were on?

Arnold Peterson:

Well, I sailed on several but the one that I sailed on most was the--the name was J. Willard Gibbs.

Zach Latimer:

I'm just going to take a few notes.

Arnold Peterson:

Sure. These freighters were not named after generals or presidents but mostly prominent businessmen in the community. J. Willard Gibbs was a newspaper editor from Nebraska or something, so they named the ship after him. It was a good ship.

Zach Latimer:

You said you had sailed on others?

Arnold Peterson:

Yeah. Raymond. Let's see. I don't remember. Four or five.

Zach Latimer:

Four or five?

Arnold Peterson:

Yeah.

Zach Latimer:

Now, you started out as a seaman. Do you have any like -- what kind of superiors do you have over you? I don't know, I probably won't need the whole crew.

Arnold Peterson:

Well, we have what we call a bosun, he's sort of a foreman of the deck crew. He's just another -- he's just a seaman, a little better than average and taken on the job of running the wreck work that goes on on the ship, on the deck.

Zach Latimer:

Like a foreman kind of?

Arnold Peterson:

Yeah, kind of a foreman. He's the bosun. He has another helper, he's called a ship carpenter. So those two guys do not stand watch. They don't steer or anything else. They just supervise whatever work has to be done by whoever's available.

Zach Latimer:

When you excelled in rank, what was the kind of the hierarchy or the ladder?

Arnold Peterson:

First it was just an ordinary seaman. That's a man with hardly any experience and by law, he's not allowed to climb more than six feet off the deck because he's supposed to be not capable but it doesn't take long. Then the next jump is able-bodied seaman, everybody just calls them AB, and that's it unless you want to be a bosun and then from there, you become an officer if you're _____.

Zach Latimer:

As the _____ sort of--

Arnold Peterson:

Third mate?

Zach Latimer:

Third mate, you're an able-bodied seaman?

Arnold Peterson:

Yeah. On our last trip to India, Calcutta, on the way back, I got some orders to be third mate, acting third mate because we had some trouble in the crew and we had to leave some in North Africa. So we were shorthanded, so I got promoted to be the third mate _____+ although I did go to school to learn that but that was after the war.

Zach Latimer:

What were your responsibilities or positions as a third mate?

Arnold Peterson:

Was an officer of the watch from eight to 12 mornings and nights. We were on the bridge for four hours. If you were in a convoy, which almost every trip we made was in a convoy, then you're surrounded by other ships all going presumably the same speed but there's like five ships in a line and then however many lines there are, you might have 20 or 30 lines wide, so if you're in the middle of one of these and it gets night, there's no lights allowed and you got to be careful not to run into another ship because they might slow down and you got to be careful and just be on the alert. And that's essentially--during the war, that was essentially it. You didn't have to worry about navigation because there was an admiral up in front doing all the navigating. You just follow the ship up ahead but don't run into it. It's as simple as that.

Zach Latimer:

How far apart were the ships?

Arnold Peterson:

A couple hundred yards, I suppose.

Zach Latimer:

Not too close?

Arnold Peterson:

No, but at night it's close enough. Especially in a storm when you're really getting bounced around and at night and your steering breaks down and then you can't steer and then you get in trouble. There was lots of problems but mostly mechanical, things like that, or in a fog, you get a lot of fog in the North Atlantic, rough weather, other ships _____. We don't sail in ______ winter.

Zach Latimer:

You had ships of other nationalities, too?

Arnold Peterson:

Sure. Yeah, old ships. We had ships from World War I who would always be breaking down and he'd always be the one in front of you. You'd be dodging these people all the time. Then there's around these convoys, then you have escorts, they're military, Navy, destroyers or destroyer escorts, they're running alongside and they're listening for submarines, things like that.

Zach Latimer:

What kind of a -- which waters, which bodies of water?

Arnold Peterson:

Mostly North Atlantic, North Atlantic and been to Mediterranean a couple of times and Indian Ocean. Never got to the Pacific, actually, which is all right.

Zach Latimer:

How long approximately on average would you be at sea?

Arnold Peterson:

Three months, three to four months at a time.

Zach Latimer:

I'd say it was kind of long for me. Maybe not for you.

Arnold Peterson:

I'm fine. I didn't have any trouble.

Zach Latimer:

So I guess while we're on the subject, what kind of stuff did you do for fun?

Arnold Peterson:

Nothing. The ship has only 29 people on it, the whole thing counting officers, engine room, cooks, the steward department, the whole works, there's only 29 people and there's nothing to do. After you get off watch, you're going to be going on again in eight hours, so you go to bed and then you get up, you go back on watch, depending on what watch you have.

Zach Latimer:

So basically--

Arnold Peterson:

Sometimes they'll have a poker game going in the mess hall if it's early evening but I was always on watch eight to 12, so I never got into those. Ate my lunch.

Zach Latimer:

For the most part, you were either sleeping or working?

Arnold Peterson:

Yeah, or washing your clothes, you got to do your own laundry, and repair things or sometimes if you get in a storm, you might have to work on your time off, how long it takes to do the ship and things in the_____+ you got to fix them _____+. So this isn't like a military outfit. I mean we're just moving supplies _____+ so it's pretty much a working type thing.

Zach Latimer:

While I'm on the subject, I guess, what kind of cargo did you hold usually?

Arnold Peterson:

Oh, boy. Early on, probably military equipment _____ supplies, jeeps or trucks, ammunitions, locomotives. We hauled full locomotives but they were on the deck, wire them down and as we got--and for the invasion of Normandy, our cargo was a hundred percent field rations, just emergency rations for the Army. We loaded up in Baltimore for that and sailed over to Scotland and there was a town up there in one of these long bays that Scotland has and we just went back in there and dropped the anchor in about ten days and while we were there, the invasion started and we heard it on the radio and we _____ the anchor the same day and went off and went into Normandy then with the field rations. And of course there's no fear or anything there, so we just anchor out in the ocean and they bring a barge out and we unload into the barge and they haul it into the beach and pile it up there on the sand and come out for another load. So it was a haphazard thing.

Zach Latimer:

_____+ like what kind of--can you give me maybe like a general size of the ship?

Arnold Peterson:

Size?

Zach Latimer:

So I can get like a picture in my head.

Arnold Peterson:

It's about 450 feet long. I don't know if that--it's like one and a half _____+ in width.

Zach Latimer:

Is there like a class of ship possibly?

Arnold Peterson:

Liberty ship. I'll show you a picture. And this is the one that I sailed and I was probably steering it at the time. I don't remember the date.

Unidentified Person:

Was this the first ship you were on?

Arnold Peterson:

No.

Unidentified Person:

No? It says December 15th of '43?

Arnold Peterson:

Yeah.

Unidentified Person:

Yes.

Arnold Peterson:

But that was the same ship that we went to the Normandy invasion but we're on our way to London at this time.

Zach Latimer:

That's the J. Willard Gibbs?

Arnold Peterson:

Yeah.

Unidentified Person:

That's the name of the ship?

Arnold Peterson:

Yes.

Unidentified Person:

I'm going to take a picture later of you guys with that.

Zach Latimer:

That's pretty big.

Unidentified Person:

It is. That's awesome.

Zach Latimer:

What body of water is this in?

Arnold Peterson:

I think it's just either New York Harbor or Baltimore. Probably New York. Can't really make it out but I think these locomotives are--there's probably one there, one there and another one on the other side and more deck cargo back here but I don't remember what that was. But these are called Liberty ships and they made a lot of them. Some were good, some were not. But in the early days, these Liberty ships had trouble because they're welded and very quickly they would cut, get in a storm and they'd just split open and sink. In this ship, we crashed but not badly, so we got into New York after this trip, came back, we went into New York and they welded an extra thickness of steel along the side to prevent it from cracking open. And it seemed to work because it went pretty good.

Zach Latimer:

So you didn't have a lot of problems, did you? Like what would be an issue that might come up with that that would be a problem?

Arnold Peterson:

Steering gear would break and then you can't steer and you're surrounded by ships and it was at night and you can't put any lights on. That's a problem. But it's not for me, it's for the engineer. All we do is just hope that nothing happens in the meantime. As far as--the weather's always bad. I've never crossed the Atlantic without big storms. It's almost guaranteed. It may last for days. It gets pretty rough.

Zach Latimer:

You're out on the deck while that's happening?

Arnold Peterson:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, you have to get up here on the bow. That's where you kind of look out up there on the bow right up at the peak because that's where you can see if you're going to -- you might see a light post in the water, you got to see it, so if you steer up here in the wheelhouse and you stand lookout up there in the bow, then you hand your _____+ and that's your whole life.

Zach Latimer:

_____+

Arnold Peterson:

That coffee gets pretty rough.

Zach Latimer:

I know you put this on the form but what places did you sail to _____?

Arnold Peterson:

First trip was to Liverpool, then the second one was with the Gibbs to London and then the Gibbs into Normandy Beach, Omaha Beach and then also Gibbs to Cherbourg, which is a seaport in France not far from Omaha Beach. Utah Beach was next to Omaha Beach and that's on the same peninsula that Cherbourg is. They wanted to liberate Cherbourg so that we could bring our ships into sea rather than anchor off in the ocean and take a chance with the weather. So the next time I went would be in Cherbourg. Then after the Battle of the Bulge, I went into Amsberg, Belgium. Now there, we were just coasting up the sea, Germany's shooting their V-2 rockets up. You could see them going up and then you just wait, then bong, they're trying to destroy the port of Amsberg so that you couldn't bring ships in and supply the Army but they didn't do a good job. They never--it was sort of like Fourth of July but they never really did very much.

Zach Latimer:

You never got shot at _____?

Arnold Peterson:

Generically, you know, because I've seen these rockets come up and they're coming down but they weren't aiming at me, just--and these buzz-bombs, you've heard of those, that's called a V-1 rocket, that's like a bomb with wings on it and the Germans would shoot those off and aim them at London and shoot them off and they would control how much fuel was in there so that when they fly so long, the fuel is gone and they'd come down and fly over the city of London. So they could land anywhere and I've seen those. I thought for sure we were going to get one of those because the anti-aircraft people in England, they would try to shoot them down with their anti-aircraft guns. You could see them coming and they were shooting, shooting and it rarely hit them but they did wound one and it sat up there going (sound effect) and you got to think it's got to come down here because it's not going off but it came down but didn't hit us, it was next to us. That was a V-1, buzz-bomb they call it. That was a very popular thing with the Germans. That has a ram jet engine in it. That just means that a forward motion of the bomb left in air and then that explodes like a gasoline mixture which closes the trap door and then it all goes out the back and then it would open up again, more air comes in, so it goes bing, bing, bing, bing, bing, bing, bing, it goes brrrrrr, it's a buzz. So they called it a buzz-bomb. You don't need a pilot, just a bomb with wings and this ram jet engine in it. It did a lot of damage.

Zach Latimer:

_____+ V-2 bombs ______+?

Arnold Peterson:

V-2?

Zach Latimer:

Yeah.

Arnold Peterson:

They go up high, you could see those going up and they just sort of went up and up and up and just sort of disappeared and then you wait and you wonder when it's coming down.

Zach Latimer:

On the ship, what kind of living condition?

Arnold Peterson:

Each had a--each watch of three guys had a room, it was probably as big as the back room here, you got two bunks, one on top of the other, there's two bunks and then just a passageway maybe this wide to walk through with a porthole and that was it. There's two--and there was four lockers that are like school lockers and that was it. So it was just a place to sleep, there were no chairs in there or any--just some--and all three of you from the same watch sleep in the same room and when the guy comes banging on the door to wake you up, everybody wakes up and all three of you go on the ship for four hours and then the guy who's down drinking coffee, he bangs on the door for the 12 to four watch at about 11:30, so it's just a _____ seven days a week 24 hours a day.

Zach Latimer:

Did you have any like personal possessions that you like in your locker or _____+ clothes?

Arnold Peterson:

I had a friend of mine one time _____, he got a piece of material, aluminum, I guess, from one of these buzz-bombs that came down in Liverpool and he just grabbed a section of this metal and took it down in the engine room and he worked around with files and everything and he made bracelets, just portable bracelets out of a buzz-bomb material, I have one of those. But when we came back to port, somebody had stolen it out of my locker, so I didn't have it after all.

Zach Latimer:

_____+ equipment _____+?

Arnold Peterson:

_____+.

Zach Latimer:

Why did you want to join the Merchant Marines?

Arnold Peterson:

_____+ I didn't want to go to the Army. Everybody when you're in high school and the war starts, all the guys are going to war, you know that. Everybody goes I'm going to the Air Force, I'm going to the Navy. The Air Force and the Army didn't appeal to me, so I said well, I'll go to the Navy and the Navy didn't have anything for me, so they said why don't you join the Merchant Marines and that's what I did. My dad was a seaman _____+ so maybe it runs in the family.

Zach Latimer:

You just got out of high school and you were going to join up?

Arnold Peterson:

I had a whole month of freedom before I joined.

Zach Latimer:

Did you start out at an academy before you joined?

Arnold Peterson:

No, they just--

Zach Latimer:

You trained right there?

Arnold Peterson:

Well, yeah, we do have a training session that was a--there was an old passenger ship tied up in a dock in Baltimore and they used that for training purposes. So that's where I first went for training and it was just very basic deck mate work or engine room, whatever, wherever you were intending to go. And then after a while, I did go to radio school and learn the Morse Code business to be a radio operator but that didn't--that wasn't very satisfactory either, so then I just--I was a seaman. Oddly enough, the way that came about, we were in the radio school in Boston Harbor on an island and from there, then I took a train up to Portland, Maine where I knew a guy and he wrote himself a letter saying that I need this man to fill out my crews to sail and it's an emergency, I need him right now and he signed it Captain A.B. Jackson. It wasn't his name or anything. So I took that to the Coast Guard and they gave me an ordinary seaman's license and from there, I went to the ship yard and they had a ship just finish, so I climbed in and the rest is history.

Unidentified Person:

Wow. That's cool.

Arnold Peterson:

Not very _____.

Zach Latimer:

These three guys to a ship, were you getting to be good friends with them?

Arnold Peterson:

No.

Zach Latimer:

Was it Raymond?

Arnold Peterson:

Yeah, Raymond, yeah. Oftentimes, one of them--we get a lot of alcoholics, ex-convicts, almost anybody who can't hold down a good job will go to sea. Usually that's what you find. So I sailed with alcoholics and it was--so you don't get friendly. It's none of this army buddy type thing. When you leave New York, say, to go on a trip, you sign a contract that you're going to stay on that ship to do that work till you get to London or whatever and return. And then when your ship returns to port, your contract is over, you're now free to do whatever you want to do. You can pack your bags, you can find another ship, you can hang around and when they get ready to go again, you can sign up for another trip, which is what a lot of people do if you like the ship or if you like the bosun. It was very loose that way.

Zach Latimer:

It's like a contract thing?

Arnold Peterson:

Yeah, like a contract, exactly right.

Unidentified Person:

What if a whole bunch of people left and didn't want to sign up, would they just delay the trip till they signed up enough people?

Arnold Peterson:

They were recruiting all the time.

Unidentified Person:

Oh, okay.

Arnold Peterson:

As soon as everybody--as soon as you come into port, then everybody is off and then if you want to sign on again, you have to tell the captain or somebody that I'm going to make another trip. So then they find they're ten guys short, so then they put in a call, send ten guys, need three AB's, an ordinary seaman, two boilers and a third mate and then we got a full _____. So these guys eventually come in and they sign up and then you're ready to go, you're waiting for a convoy and take off. END OF SIDE ONE, TAPE ONE - - - BEGIN SIDE TWO, TAPE ONE

Zach Latimer:

You went for a little over three years?

Arnold Peterson:

'42, '43, '44, '45, yeah.

Zach Latimer:

So that's--how many contracts would that be, like signing--

Arnold Peterson:

By the time I got out of the active business, not counting training, about seven contracts.

Zach Latimer:

And you just kept resigning up?

Arnold Peterson:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Not the same ship every time. Because sometimes you might get a guy on a crew that you don't like and he's going to sign up, so then you don't. So you take your chances with somebody.

Zach Latimer:

This is a question of my own. Do you guys use any special sailor language?

Arnold Peterson:

Not in public. They're a pretty crude bunch. They're a rough bunch. As I say, they're alcoholics and ex-cons and rough people, rough people. We had a little guy, I don't want to say feisty, obnoxious, he was really aggressive but because he was small, he tangled with one of these guys and he had him half over the side, he was going to throw him in the ocean while we were _____ and somebody grabbed him by the foot and pulled him back in. It's a rough group usually.

Zach Latimer:

Ever any fighting going on?

Arnold Peterson:

No, no fighting. Offshore, once you get ashore and then everybody goes gets drunk or something, then they have fights. You never fight on the ship. Just this time, this one argument where they were trying to push him over the side.

Zach Latimer:

I know you went to some other countries. Like would you go sightseeing, look around?

Arnold Peterson:

Yes, not in Normandy but when we went to Cherbourg, while we were unloading, then we had a couple days off. If we don't do anything when the ship is being unloaded, yeah, I'd walk through the countryside. That was pretty much military, bomb freighters and lure people. The French people, they ____...(14 seconds) and they're trying to make a living and there's the Army Corps on the road with ______+. It's just a rough bunch.

Zach Latimer:

When you left the service, the Merchant Marines, what was it like, what did you do to get back into society?

Arnold Peterson:

Well, _____ I was never--since I wasn't really military, I was never really out of society _____.

Zach Latimer:

You were just on a ship all the time?

Arnold Peterson:

Yeah, and when you decided you're not going to sail anymore, you just go home and I worked a couple months in the local factory here just till the winter quarter started.

Zach Latimer:

So you moved here after you got out?

Arnold Peterson:

Into this house?

Zach Latimer:

Into Ohio.

Arnold Peterson:

Oh, yeah, Wadsworth, yeah. I moved into Wadsworth when I was six months old, been living here ever since, so it was just a--I just most usually lived in Ohio.

Zach Latimer:

How old were you when you started--in the three years?

Arnold Peterson:

Well, I was 18 when I graduated from high school and I started right away, so I guess 18--I must have been 22 or--22 or something. I lose track.

Zach Latimer:

Just a couple _____. Is there any things that stand out for you, like certain things during the war or during the service?

Arnold Peterson:

Omaha Beach, that's number one, but--yeah, there was a lot of turmoil then.

Zach Latimer:

Get pretty rough for you?

Arnold Peterson:

No, not really. It was interesting really. On this particular ship when we sailed from Scotland and we went around the north and came down the English Channel between Europe and England to get to Normandy Beach _____ so as we were coming down and getting ready to turn to go across the channel, then we got instructions that we had to string a mooring line, one of these ropes that you tie the ship up with, from the stern all the way to the bow on the outside so that when the barges come up, they can grab ahold of that and tie up to that while we unload so there's no fear, we're out in the open water. So on the outside of everything, we just tied some of these mooring lines together and ran them out the back and all the way to the front. Then you get up here to the bow, somebody had to get down on the anchor, you know, over the bow and on the anchor to get the end of it and feed it up through the hole with a chain tongue and so that was my job is to get down and ride on the anchor while we're heading for Normandy Beach and we had the--and that was no problem. So I didn't get _____ because the bow sort of comes out and the anchor's tucked underneath so you can't climb straight up. So we had a French Canadian in that crew who was like six foot six, was a very gentle man, called him Big Frank, so when I got ready to come back up, I just hollered for Big Frank and he let a rope down and I grabbed ahold of it just like that, over the side. Then the barges would come and tie up _____ onto this rope and when they get it like half, maybe three-quarters full of cargo, which is just field rations, crates, wooden boxes just stacked up like blocks and then the wind came up and of course it's getting rough and this barge is bouncing around, it bangs into the side of the ship. So then they said well, we got to stop unloading and somebody has to get down on the barge and let one of the ropes loose so it will swing around in the back and just wait for the water. Well, that was my job, too. So on the cargo net, I just got ahold of the cargo net and they swung it out and down and I just jumped onto the barge and then clambered up to the corner and let the rope loose and then you have to run through all that mess to try and cut that cargo net before you swing out along with the barge. So that was interesting. It was interesting. _____+

Zach Latimer:

So like the barge is just coming straight to you and then going right back to --

Arnold Peterson:

Back to where the sand is, to the beach and then they unload it and then they drag it back up, there's a little tugboat that's going around. It was just a flat barge. There's no sides on it or anything. And they're just out there floating in the _____. The rough weather was the biggest problem. Always a big problem as the invasion itself, too. It comes up very quickly.

Zach Latimer:

Did you always contract with the government like for supplying--

Arnold Peterson:

Yeah, our cargo was always government except maybe the last trip to India. That was--the interesting thing about that trip was the Europeans stayed when the war ended on our way out. We were at sea heading toward the Mediterranean probably a week or maybe ten days, then the European war ended, Germany surrendered, we were all alone now with no convoys, we blew the whistle _____ and then all the way to India and we loaded up with just materials, natural rubber, we had _____ of rubber and copra, coconut meat that people used for making candy and coconut oil or whatever, a few other things, had to come back through the Mediterranean ____ through the Suez Canal both ways _____+.

Zach Latimer:

You were sailing?

Arnold Peterson:

Yeah, I was steering through the Suez. That's hard to do because of the--if this is the width of the canal and you're going down with the ship, from the bow are waves that come out--you know how waves will come out from the bow?

Zach Latimer:

Yeah.

Arnold Peterson:

So if it gets too close to one side, that bow wave hits the bank and comes back and hits the stern and turns the ship right into the beach. So you really have to stick right in the middle so that the effects are the same on both sides and then you can get it straight. So that was a tricky place to steer. But then coming back through the--we had some trouble with the crew and we had to stop in North Africa and _____+ and we lost a couple of officers the same way and we were really shorthanded but finally we got out. Coming across the Atlantic coming home, well, the Japanese _____ on the same trip. We had the Germans on the way out, Japan on the way back. So we blew the whistle again. So we were _____+.

Zach Latimer:

You were out there in full canteen?

Arnold Peterson:

Yes. But the copra, that was a problem. That's coconut meat and it was different. Loaded in India and by the time we hit the Mediterranean, the ship was crawling with insects, the cocoa bugs, bluish black beetles, they would be in your bed, you would have to sweep them out, and cockroaches. _____+ and you would be in eating your dinner or something and your _____+ cockroaches are running, they're all kind of super highway out there, bouncing down on the table. We finally got back to New York and they wouldn't even let us into port.

Unidentified Person:

I was going to say, I bet they didn't want your boat infested with bugs.

Arnold Peterson:

No, they stopped us out there and put us a big quarantine flag up and they took us ashore in small boats and then I went home then.

Unidentified Person:

They probably had to fumigate the boat or something to get all those off.

Arnold Peterson:

Yeah, had to fumigate ______.

Unidentified Person:

That's the last thing New York needs is a boatload of cockroaches. It's got enough problems.

Zach Latimer:

I know you worked on other ships like _____?

Arnold Peterson:

They're all the same. They're all Liberty ships. They're mirror images. They're all the same. I was going to sign up once on what they call a Hog Islander, which was a ship built during World War I and that really was old. That's 50 or 60 years old, 50 years old. We went on there for an inspection before we signed the papers and we went down to the engine room and looked around and the engineer said well, this is in good shape, the inspector was just here and approved the whole ship and just then, a safety valve fell off that was on the steam line, you know, it just fell off. Steam was coming _____+ so we didn't sign up on that one.

Unidentified Person:

I don't think so.

Zach Latimer:

I hope not.

Arnold Peterson:

Hog Island is an island off the coast of North Carolina. It had shipyards during World War I. They just built these ships. You could spot them from a great distance, mm, it's a Hog Islander, just like you can spot a Liberty ship just by the outline.

Unidentified Person:

Just the model of the ship, that's what it was?

Arnold Peterson:

Yeah, they're all the same. They built these at the rate of probably one a week or one a day probably in the country. One ship yard would build one a week of these once they got up to steam. They just pre-fabricated everything in large masses, they just put them together, weld them, ship them out. They intended that if this ship could satisfactorily make one trip over and back, that's worthwhile.

Unidentified Person:

Really?

Arnold Peterson:

It paid for it.

Unidentified Person:

One trip?

Arnold Peterson:

I made three on that one. So they made a profit. But some didn't make even the first trip.

Zach Latimer:

Did you kind of celebrate when all the war stuff was over a little bit?

Arnold Peterson:

Not really. We just usually--nobody really--so all of these you see on the news, all these celebrations in Times Square and everything, we missed all that.

Zach Latimer:

Is there anything else I should -- that I missed?

Arnold Peterson:

I don't think so.

Unidentified Person:

Dad, would you repeat that thing that you had to memorize to take the test to be Merchant Marine?

Arnold Peterson:

Oh.

Unidentified Person:

You have to do this.

Arnold Peterson:

This was a long time ago. After coming back from India, then the wars, both wars were over with, everybody was at peace and that's when the Coast Guard notified me that my application to go to officer school has been accepted. So I could now officially, although I was a third mate on this ship coming from India, I would now be able to go to school for four months to learn navigation. That was in New London, Connecticut. So we learned the navigation, the rules of the road. The rules of the road are like traffic laws, stay on the right side, things like that. And they have lights, there's a running light here and up on these masts are lights for navigation purposes. In other words, this light on this mast is 15 feet higher than this light, so if a ship is coming right for you, leave the lights up here one over the other and if it's off to one side, you know, this one is in the back so the ship is going that way. That's the purpose for the lights. And we had to learn to describe that light and this was in 1945 and I can still remember the description. They were--the Coast Guard was very particular about the _____+ and when they put down in the final exam describe the mast headlights, that's the _____, then you have to say on board front of the vessel on the foremast of that vessel or if the vessel does not have a foremast, at least 20 feet above the deck, or if the vessel is more than 20 feet at a height not less than such width, so however _____+ 40 feet shall be a blank blank blank _____ show an unbroken _____++ on either side visible for 14 miles on a clear night. And that's the _____ we had.

Unidentified Person:

He still has it memorized. Isn't that good? Wow, that was 60 years ago.

Arnold Peterson:

That's right.

Unidentified Person:

Yeah, from '42. Time flies, huh? That's amazing. What a memory.

Zach Latimer:

Long question to answer.

Unidentified Person:

I can't even remember yesterday.

Arnold Peterson:

And then that's the mast headlight and then this is called the running light. That's the ring light, I'm sorry. That's the one in the back. Same description except it's 15 feet higher than the mast headlight. That's the only thing you have to add. And then these running lights, green on the right and red on the left and they have to be described the same way except it's from _____+ on the starboard side or on the port side. Then there's a taillight that goes in the back and that shows _____ and all these things have to be--that's all part of the rules of the road, just like red is stop and green is go, driving a car, you have to learn the rules of the road.

Unidentified Person:

Did you become an officer with the Coast Guard?

Arnold Peterson:

Not with the Coast Guard, with the Merchant Marines.

Unidentified Person:

So you went to school?

Arnold Peterson:

Yeah. And after that, I came home for three or four months and worked in a machine shop in Kenmore. I didn't care for that. So I went back to _____ this was a peacetime trip, just to say well, here I got an official third mate's license now. I've never really sailed as an official third mate. So I went back one more time and we went to South America for Alcoa ______+ up the river and they had an aluminum ore mine up there and we went up and loaded bauxite, they call it, _____ up that river and we'd take it back over to Trinidad and unload it into an empty ship that was anchored there and we had a small ship, just a _____ and we'd go back up the river for more, so we did that four times and then finally came back and unloaded for the last time and came back through the islands picking up cargo or people or unloading a tractor or just odds and ends like driving a truck and you're going to unload _____. So we saw a lot of the islands in the Carribean, in Bohemia on down to Trinidad, St. Thomas and St. Croix, Martinique, Dominican, Barbados, Trinidad, South Guiana, British Guiana.

Unidentified Person:

I could have sworn I heard _____ all the islands. That you saw a ship go down like during the war like near you or something. Did a ship get hit?

Arnold Peterson:

Yeah, I got torpedoed but it was--it went diagonal. It didn't last very long. It just went straight down like if the--the Navy destroyer, they'd pick up the people. One of the rules is if anybody ever falls over the side, nobody stops. They don't stop for you. You're just there. And hopefully one of the escorts will pick you up. So if somebody, like if a ship next to you gets torpedoed, don't stop and pick up survivors, you just keep right on going, stay in line.

Unidentified Person:

And one time you were on deck during a storm and you slid and you're hanging on to _____.

Arnold Peterson:

Oh, yeah.

Unidentified Person:

Like you know, there was like a ridge.

Arnold Peterson:

There's a second deck, the main deck is here and then one deck up is where the light posts are, called a boat deck. So the main deck, they have a railing about this high to keep you from falling over but the boat deck does not. So because the boat has to be _____ so there's no railing there. So we had just loaded up a cargo and we were just leaving Boston for Nova Scotia, Halifax and we were just leaving Halifax heading out into the North Atlantic and we hit a storm almost right away and we had 55-gallon drums of cooking--or diesel oil that the cooks used for the kitchen, that was their heating oil, and they had these drums stored up here on the boat deck so they could just pour it down the pipe back into the gallons which is directly under them. So that's why they were _____. All the ropes were loose. They made ropes _____+. In the middle of the night, we hear this rolling, these drums were rolling back and forth. As the ship was rolling like this, the drums would roll and roll back. So for the safety of the ship, everybody on deck, so we climbed up _____ and lashed them up again so they would stop rolling but some of them had broken, had been punctured and it was raining and this oil got on the deck along with all the water and it's just like paste and it took me by surprise. I came running up there onto the boat deck and the first thing I did is slipped _____ down I went and just then, the ship rolled and I was just sliding right over and we got a lift about like that and I grabbed that and that was a hook _____ water, a big wave was coming and I thought that ship would always hang there forever. And then I slid back the other way. I grabbed something else.

Unidentified Person:

Oh, man. That was too close.

Arnold Peterson:

_____+. I never saw anything like it. It was slippery. Yeah, with all the oil.

Zach Latimer:

I want to get to one more question. Do you remember--I don't know if you got like an exact like a radio--that's something that happened but do you remember where you were on V-day or D-day or VE Day?

Arnold Peterson:

VE Day, yeah, I was coming back from India. VD Day Europe, I was on my way to India. That was that last trip to Calcutta. VE Day on the way over, VJ Day on the way back. That trip was a _____. That was a bad trip. That's the one with all the cockroaches.

Unidentified Person:

The coconut meat.

Zach Latimer:

You got a lot of stuff here.

Arnold Peterson:

Probably more than most.

Unidentified Person:

I want to take that picture of you guys together on holding that --

Arnold Peterson:

This is the Atlantic, Atlantic war zone, Pacific war zone, Mediterranean. I don't know what that is. Just staying alive, I guess. My son put this together for me. He was in the Air Force _____+.

Unidentified Person:

What are those metals there?

Arnold Peterson:

This is the Atlantic war zone, Pacific, the Mediterranean and this one--can you read that?

Zach Latimer:

It says World War II on it.

Arnold Peterson:

Okay. Just for making it through, I guess.

Unidentified Person:

So the Merchant Marines gave you those?

Arnold Peterson:

Coast Guard.

Unidentified Person:

The Coast Guard?

Arnold Peterson:

Yeah, but it wasn't till quite recent. Merchant Marines were not considered veterans for many years.

Unidentified Person:

Right, I read about that.

Arnold Peterson:

But about ten years ago or so about, then they decided well, they were veterans, too.

Unidentified Person:

Don't they have a video about that, didn't they give you a video all about really the type of work the Merchant Marines did?

Arnold Peterson:

Yeah, that was a little commotion.

Unidentified Person:

Why? It was good. But how unfair that was. Just because some radio personality back then kind of dissed the Merchant Marines like all they do is carry cargo instead of--you know, all that. They're just as important ______.

Unidentified Person:

So when they recognized the Merchant Marines about ten years ago, that's when they contacted people and sent them the metals?

Arnold Peterson:

No, you have to ask him. That's what my son did.

Unidentified Person:

Oh, I see, he requested that.

Arnold Peterson:

He was in the Air Force. He was a colonel when he retired. So he contacted the Coast Guard and arranged for all -- first of all, he arranged for my whole itinerary, all the ships that I sailed and when, to make me eligible, then he asked for all metals that I was eligible for and any bars I was supposed to wear and the ship pictures. I gave him all the ships that I could remember and I've got several of them but this is the one that I sailed the most on. So he put this together.

Unidentified Person:

Oh, that's great.

Arnold Peterson:

So I got some of these. Then I got the veteran's package a couple years ago saying that I'm now eligible for the GI Bill of Rights to go to college.

Unidentified Person:

Can you go to college now? It's a little late.

Arnold Peterson:

Life insurance has expired and actually, all I got out of it was a free plot in the military cemetery.

Unidentified Person:

I was going to say, did they say you could be planted in the military cemetery?

Arnold Peterson:

But I already have a plot here locally.

Unidentified Person:

Oh. Well, that was big of them, wasn't it?

Arnold Peterson:

The irony of it was--not irony, I guess, my older brother, he's two years older than I, so he was already in college when the war started, so instead of quitting, the Air Force, Air Corps, Army Air Corps at that time told him that you may--if you go this summer, summer school to Harvard and when you finish-- (Tape ended at this point).

 
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