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Interview with Robert Shears [10/21/2003]

Rachel Shears:

October 21st, 2003 with Robert Harold Shears and Interviewer Rachel Christine Shears, granddaughter.

Rachel Shears:

What year did you join?

Robert Shears:

9/7/43.

Rachel Shears:

How old were you when you joined?

Robert Shears:

I was 20 years old.

Rachel Shears:

Were you single or were you married?

Robert Shears:

I was married.

Rachel Shears:

Did you write to her?

Robert Shears:

I joined. Is that what you said?

Rachel Shears:

Did you write to her?

Robert Shears:

Oh, yes, I wrote to her, but I wrote to my mother every day.

Rachel Shears:

Was there a certain reason why you enlisted?

Robert Shears:

The reason I enlisted, if I hadn't enlisted, they would have took me anyway. So I got what I wanted.

Rachel Shears:

What division did you join?

Robert Shears:

I joined a Naval construction battalion maintenance unit.

Rachel Shears:

Was there a certain reason why you chose that division?

Robert Shears:

Yes; because that was right in my trade, mechanical.

Rachel Shears:

What battalion regiment number were you in?

Robert Shears:

I was in the 532nd CBMU and the 504 CBMU.

Rachel Shears:

Did you have any brothers that fought with you in the war?

Robert Shears:

I had two brothers, twins, Albert and Alfred. Went to Texas. They were in the Air Force servicing a jet plane regiment, Air Force.

Rachel Shears:

What year did they join?

Robert Shears:

Year after I did, in 1944.

Rachel Shears:

How old were they? Do you know?

Robert Shears:

They were about 18 years old.

Rachel Shears:

Did you keep in touch with them?

Robert Shears:

Yes.

Rachel Shears:

How often would you say, like?

Robert Shears:

Oh, maybe every four or five months we sent a note back and forth.

Rachel Shears:

What were those notes like? What were they like?

Robert Shears:

Oh, just saying we can't wait till we get home.

Rachel Shears:

Were they like -- what did you call them, Grandpa? V what, your picture?

Robert Shears:

Yeah; just what was going on with our lives.

Rachel Shears:

What kind of letters were they? Were they like a picture thing, Grandpa? How did -- what did you say it was?

Robert Shears:

Little pictures they would send us?

Rachel Shears:

Yes.

Robert Shears:

V Mail. Back then during the war, they used V Mail. Which they took a picture at the beginning and sent it to the United States. And then they took another picture and sent it on home.

Rachel Shears:

Did you have any family members influence you to join the military?

Robert Shears:

Yes. I had -- my dad was in the infantry in France during the World War I. Two of my sons joined, Randy, who was in Florida, Tallahassee, Florida; and Gayle, who was in Thailand.

Rachel Shears:

What were your feelings about the war?

Robert Shears:

It was a good thing. It was a good experience. Make a man out of you.

Rachel Shears:

Did you form any special bonds with the people in your regiment?

Robert Shears:

We were all close.

Rachel Shears:

Do you still keep in touch with any of them?

Robert Shears:

No. Most of them are probably gone.

Rachel Shears:

Where were you stationed at?

Robert Shears:

I was stationed in Norfolk, Virginia in the Naval base there, took my basic. From there, I took a train to California, which was Port Hueneme. That was a staging area. We got all of our equipment and rifles and all of our equipment. And we were loaded on a liberty ship, which held about 7- or 8,000 guys, and sent us to forge Guadalcanal. Christmas Day 1943, we went by Christmas Island on our way to New Zealand. New Zealand, everybody got sick. They fed us some spoiled lamb. We there about two or three weeks, and then we went on to Guadalcanal, which we took care of the airport. And every time they would bomb it, the next day, we would go out and replace the steel. Which the airports then was made out of steel mats. From there, I went to New Hebrides, which was a little island called Peleliu. It rained every day at two o'clock there. It never failed. It always rained. I was there a few months and then they shipped me back for a little vacation, or liberty they called it, to Hawaii. Well, that was my 21st birthday and, like all the guys, I got a tattoo. And then from there, they shipped me back again by liberty ship, which was a nice, long trip to Guam. On Guam, I serviced and took care of the pumps up in the hills that serviced the whole island. V Day, that the war was over with, I was up in the hills, working on a pump when we got the message. From there, my time was almost up, so they sent me back to California and put us on a plane to Chicago, Great Lakes Naval Station, where we were mustered out. And they give us 451 dollars to go home on. And that was 1945.

Rachel Shears:

What kind of jobs did you have?

Robert Shears:

I worked on pumps, mechanic -- I done mostly mechanical work. On Peleliu Island, I went out and traded stuff for parts for the jeeps and stuff. They let -- I was good at trading. The Navy, we had plenty to eat, but some of the Army guys didn't. So I would trade a bag of potatoes or something for some parts.

Rachel Shears:

Did you enjoy it?

Robert Shears:

Yes, I enjoyed it very much.

Rachel Shears:

Did you ever get wounded?

Robert Shears:

No, I didn't get wounded.

Rachel Shears:

How long were you in the military for?

Robert Shears:

I was in there from 1943 to 1945.

Rachel Shears:

Highest rank earned?

Robert Shears:

Sorry?

Rachel Shears:

Highest rank earned?

Robert Shears:

My highest rank earned was Second Class Machinist Mate.

Rachel Shears:

Did you receive any pins or medals?

Robert Shears:

No.

Rachel Shears:

Did you have any life experiences that changed your outlook on the war?

Robert Shears:

Not really. It just -- it is one day at a time and we done what we were told to do. But it was a good experience. Every young guy should do it.

Rachel Shears:

What was your home life like after the war?

Robert Shears:

Well, I went right back to work at the Chelsea Frame Company. My job was still waiting there and we went right back to work just like we had a little vacation.

Rachel Shears:

What war did your dad fight in? World War I, right?

Robert Shears:

My dad was in World War I and he was in the infantry.

Rachel Shears:

Do you know any of his experiences?

Robert Shears:

Yeah. He had a tough time. He was gassed in the Argon Forest with mustard gas. Mustard gas would burn their lungs. He always had lung trouble.

Rachel Shears:

What would you tell a young person if they were looking to join the military?

Robert Shears:

I would tell them very much to join, because it will make a man out of them or a real woman. That's -- see what Jessica Lynch done. Little school girl took on the world. Well --

Rachel Shears:

Thanks, Grandpa.

Robert Shears:

Am I right?

Rachel Shears:

Yep. (Interview ended.)

 
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