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Interview with Harry L. Harkness [6/12/2003]

Harry L. Harkness:

I was born in Bremerton, Washington-a Navy city about 15 miles from Seattle on [birth date redacted].

Steve Estes:

Alright. So what did your parents do for a living?

Harry L. Harkness:

My dad was a truck driver for the Navy and my mother was a housewife.

Steve Estes:

Had your dad served in the Navy?

Harry L. Harkness:

No. He missed World War I by getting married.

Steve Estes:

Where did you go to school?

Harry L. Harkness:

Bremerton High School.

Steve Estes:

Did you go to college?

Harry L. Harkness:

University of Washington.

Steve Estes:

Before or after your service?

Harry L. Harkness:

After the service on the GI Bill.

Steve Estes:

How did you get into the Army Air Corps?

Harry L. Harkness:

When I got my draft notice. [He laughs] That was in about September of 1943. I got my draft notice, and half a dozen of us, kids all about the same age, real good friends. We went to Seattle on the ferry boat and took a test for the Army Air Corps.

Steve Estes:

Why did you want to do the Army Air Corps rather than the Navy?

Harry L. Harkness:

I didn't look good in a Navy uniform.

Steve Estes:

Was your dad annoyed that you didn't go into the Navy?

Harry L. Harkness:

Well, he wasn't in the Navy, but he worked for them.

Steve Estes:

How did your parents feel about you joining the service?

Harry L. Harkness:

Well, they had no choice. Everybody was going in. Everyone my age was being drafted. War was in full swing by 1943, by the time I got drafted. By the time I actually got into active service in Italy was November 1944.

Steve Estes:

You said your friends all took this test.

Harry L. Harkness:

Yeah, we took this test and some did go into the Navy, some went into the paratroopers, some in the regular Army.

Steve Estes:

How did the Army decide that based on this test? What kinds of things did they ask you?

Harry L. Harkness:

The test was brutal. They had psycho-motor and it was several hours for three different days. But it's hard to recall all of that. I took a test to get qualified, and then once I got in, I had to take another batch of tests. So I guess maybe the other guys didn't qualify for the Air Corps. They wanted to make me a radioman. They tested my hearing and so on. But I actually wanted to be a pilot.

Steve Estes:

Why did you want to be a pilot?

Harry L. Harkness:

Well because that was the big deal in those days. You know, pilot a big bomber. But at the time, they were using an awful lot of gunners. See, there are ten men on a bomber. There's the pilot, co-pilot, navigator, bombardier, radioman, flight engineer, ball turret gunner, two waist gunners, and a tail gunner. After taking the test for the radioman, I thought, "Well, I better not do that." They said, "Well, listen, you're not very tall, so you can fit into the ball turret real easily." So they sent me to Las Vegas Army Air Field in Nevada, and we had gunnery training. They took all ofthe short guys in the training. There were about a thousand of us in columns of four. The short guys were the ball turret gunners. A little taller, and you get into the waist gunners, and then if you qualify for radio operator, you're in the front. We were all enlisted men, right. None of my close friends actually went into officer candidate school or anything like that. Pilots trained in other parts of the United States, and so did the navigators in various other places. Actually, it ended up that I was the youngest guy in our crew often. There was a time-I recall all of these kinds of things nowadays, because I am writing my memoirs-we were in Italy. Six of the enlisted men were in a camp; four officers were in another camp a few yards away. We never thought about ages. We didn't realize until much later that I was the youngest. I'm in touch with one guy, the tail gunner, and we talked on the phone just the other day. He's in Kansas, and he's a farmer. He is 81. Here I am just 78.

Steve Estes:

You're a spring chicken.

Harry L. Harkness:

I was a spring chicken.

Steve Estes:

Tell me what you remember about the training for the gunners.

Harry L. Harkness:

I thought it was a lot of fun. The skeet training was ground to ground, laying on your back shooting a rifle at targets. And then there was ground to air shooting and air to ground, from an airplane down to the ground. There were also tow targets.

Steve Estes:

A tow target?

Harry L. Harkness:

A tow target. Anther airplane would carry a tow target that had little colored bits on it, so we knew where to aim. But I got in trouble. Well, I didn't really get in trouble. I shot the tow target down. I hit the cable and it just went fluttering down. This was some place in Mississippi. But it was fun.

Steve Estes:

Were you flying that kind of distance from Las Vegas to Mississippi?

Harry L. Harkness:

No, we had the gunnery training right in Las Vegas, and then we were transferred to Mississippi for air training.

Steve Estes:

What part of Mississippi? Do you remember?

Harry L. Harkness:

Yeah, Gulfport Army Air Field.

Steve Estes:

What did you think of Mississippi?

Harry L. Harkness:

Well, it was August, and it was hot with mosquitoes. It was steamy and hot.

Steve Estes:

Did you go out from the base at all?

Harry L. Harkness:

Sometimes we'd have weekend passes. But I was only there for about three months, and then we went to Tampa, Florida. That's what they call the "Repple Dep" or the Replacement Depot where they get all of the crews together. That's where I met the tail gunner, the officers.

Steve Estes:

Tell me a little bit about the guys that you served with. I imagine that it was really important that a crew get along.

Harry L. Harkness:

We got along beautifully. We did lose one waist gunner just before we went over seas, just an hour before we shipped out on the big cruise ship. He and the waist gunner and the tail gunner were horsing around over in a gymnasium in Newport News, Virginia. They were playing some basketball, and by golly, the waist gunner broke his leg. He may have gone overseas in the service, but he didn't do it with us. We had to have a brand new face, and we got an old man. He was about 24. His name was Bill Huntley, and he got killed overseas.

Steve Estes:

What were your thoughts when you were shipping over on the troop transport or on the ship.

Harry L. Harkness:

It was kind-of interesting. You know how the number 13 is supposed to be unlucky. The last barracks we were in before we went overseas was Barracks number 13. There was a whole line of 'em, but we were number 13. A truck came by to pick us up and take us to these railroad cars. The truck was number 13, and the railroad car had a 13 on it. This was in the wee hours, like about 3:00 AM. And we went by this long, long train. When we pulled up to number 13. [He laughs.] It makes you kinda wonder and feel squeamish about it. The last 13 that happened was that we left on a Friday the 13th. And we had to stay out in the ocean about three miles out for about three days to get the convoy together. There are 23 ships, I think, in a convoy.

Steve Estes:

This was Friday the 13th, 1944? What month was that?

Harry L. Harkness:

Yes, it was October '44. We didn't know until about three days out to sea-none of us on the boat knew where we were going. The orders were opened after we got three days out. Most people were excited that we were going to Italy instead of England. England was getting an awful lot of help from the US. We went to Italy and were excited: "Oh we're going to learn a new language, a new culture."

Steve Estes:

So what were your impressions of Italy when you arrived?

Harry L. Harkness:

Oh it was real wet and rainy. We pulled into Naples. It was quite a gruesome sight. I'll tell you. There were ships sticking out of the water-the bow maybe or the stem and one on the side. We had to maneuver around all of them. It was tense crossing the ocean, but it was kind-of exciting to see the Rock of Gibraltar real close. We'd see these really strange things that we had read about or heard about since grammar school.

Steve Estes:

Was there any fear of German submarines?

Harry L. Harkness:

Yes, all the time. One of the stories is that I think about half way on our trip over-it took us about three weeks to get over from Virginia to Naples. I got guard duty way up on the mast. I mean they put you way up there, and it was spookier than hell, because it was a moonlit night, and I could see periscopes all over the ocean. Or so I thought. I was up there by myself, and I had a three-hour shift, maybe 12-3:00 AM. I don't know exactly what it was. It was choppy, and a lot of guys got seasick until we left the Atlantic Ocean and went into the Mediterranean, which was not real rough. Aren't you going to ask me what I did on the way over?

Steve Estes:

Tell me what you did on the way over.

Harry L. Harkness:

Well, it was a real dark and stormy night. [He laughs.] I had begun to feel queasy and we were five decks below, way down on G-Deck. So I climbed and climbed and climbed way up there. I found myself on a clear night standing by a lifeboat. And there was another GI standing over there. We had all kinds or people on that boat-Marines, Navy, paratroopers, infantry, and all that. Then, of course, there were Air Corps. There was a guy over there standing by the railing. We said, "Hi" to each other and got closer and closer together. That was about the first contact I ever had. We jerked off each other. I don't know if I should go on there or not. Anyway, another significant thing about going over. We had some good days crossing the Atlantic. And a lady by the name of Margaret Burke White was on board. She was famous as a reporter for Time-Life. She came over to me and talked to me. She said, "I see your Air Corps patch. I flew on a BB17." I said, "You did?" She said, "I flew some missions and I'm going back for some more to do some reporting." I think that's about all we discussed. Except I was eating a candy bar while we were talking. It was a Babe Ruth. And I looked down and saw a worm in it. She said, "Oh my god. You better get rid of that. There's a worm eating that Baby Ruth." [He laughs.]

Steve Estes:

Did that make it into the papers?

Harry L. Harkness:

No, it didn't. Stars and Stripes was the paper over there. But no, it had to be more significant than that to get in. I read a couple of books on the way over. I think the Story of Lou Gehrig and it was kind of fun. We had nurses and WACs, which were the females. We had a few shows and sing-alongs and on the radio, the Jack Benny Show, probably Bob Hope and Bing Crosby.

Steve Estes:

Was it hard to adjust to life on the base in Italy?

Harry L. Harkness:

No, it wasn't. It was just a brand new experience. We swept in there and got to the field. Of course, we didn't go right to war. We were in Conerta, which was just a few miles from Naples. I think an interesting thing was that it was a dark and rainy night and it was Halloween. [He laughs.] There's that phrase again. It was afternoon, but it was raining and we had gone through Naples that day. We were in the back of a truck and we looked out and saw this funeral procession with six or eight black horses pulling a black carriage. It was spooky, right out of a storybook or something. We went to a little tent city. It was raining, and we got blankets. There was already tents set up. It was just a little place set up before we got over to Foggia. Foggia is right across Italy from Naples. When we went over there, we went over on a troop train that was just like a cattle car with slats of boards. It was about an hour or two-hour ride. Two trucks picked us up and took us the rest of the way to the Foggia Air Base. We were issued tents. The officers were also We had six cots and sleeping blankets. We set up our camp, and decided that we didn't like our dirt floors. So I was in charge of getting us wood floors. We were treated fairly nice, and we got to go all over southern Italy. We had a few days before we had to fly our first mission. We were brand new greenhorns. We didn't know about shooting and all that. Well, we knew about shooting, but we didn't know how dangerous it was. We went and got a load of bricks, the kind you see on a brick house, and we set up a stove, using lOO-octane gasoline. We used airplane gasoline to fire that stove. We had some exciting times when little explosions would happen. But everybody did it. So we were getting along real fine. What kinds of stuff did you do in the tent just to bide the time between missions?

Harry L. Harkness:

Sleeping, writing letters, and further on in the winter when we had snow, we would have snowball fights.

Steve Estes:

Do you remember your first mission?

Harry L. Harkness:

Oh, absolutely.

Steve Estes:

Can you tell me a little bit about it?

Harry L. Harkness:

Well, yeah. The day came. It was the eighth day of November, and I didn't have all of my bags. They had lost them. Somebody said that they fell in the ocean. You know they haul these things out in a great big net. Somebody said that they saw two bags fall off, and he thought mine might have been one of those. But I eventually found it at another bomber group. So my co-pilot and I got ajeep and we rode all over looking for it. But that day of my first mission, I didn't have all of the stuff! needed. We got out there and we were flying a B-17. [He holds up a model of one and points to his position beneath the plane.] This is where I flew down here in the ball turret. We had to pull the props around. We had to pull them around nine times, and that was a lot of work. That was just to get oil worked into 'em. I have a list of my missions. Vienna was the first one. And you'll see on that list there, you'll see a plane number-the last three digits of the airplane number that we flew. And it also has the date.

Steve Estes:

Now, your job in the plane. Could you just describe that a bit? You said where you were but ...

Harry L. Harkness:

I guess it just reminded me of being in a carnival, when you get on the rollercoaster and all of the rides. I thought, "The rest of these guys have boring jobs." Once we got into the plane, we took off from the field. We got up to ten thousand feet and then we had to get on oxygen. I forgot to mention that we had to have special equipment. We'd have to get the parachute even before we climbed aboard the airplane. We also wore a heated flight suit. In the earlier days of the war we didn't have the heated suit. They'd just rely on heavy wool and things like that. We would get up to 10,000 feet and the pilot would say, "Everybody get in position now and put on your oxygen." Ifwe didn't put on our oxygen we would die in a few minutes as we climbed higher and higher. Our missions generally would average about 25,000 feet, but we did go as high as 32,000 feet one time. Then I'd get in the ball turret, open the hatch, and drop down there. I'd hook up all of this crap: the oxygen, the electric heated suit, and the microphone, so we could talk on the intercom. That was always important. I had a parachute, but I couldn't put it on, because I had a brand new sight. It was a Sperry K-4 computing sight. The Sperry company put those out, and it was very . That way, when I was working in the turret, spinning around and down. I couldn't go up obviously. I was looking at everything below. But there was no room for the parachute, so I had to keep that out of the turret. If we had to bailout, I probably would never have made it. Most ball turret gunners didn't because I knew a lot of them who didn't when their crews had to bailout. Did that answer your question?

Steve Estes:

Sure. Did you have to fire at any planes while you were on that mission?

Harry L. Harkness:

We did a few times. At that time during the war, the German Luftwaffe was just about gone. We did see some fighters come in and we fired at 'em, but that was just a quick thing. We did fire the guns each time. We almost had a round robin. The pilot would say, "Ok, I want you guys to fire 'em. Let's start with the right waist gunner. Tail gunner. Ball turret gunner and so on." So that we heard from all of the positions. Actually, the engineer that stood behind the pilots, watching the gauges, he also had a turret on top. The bombardier had in the later models-this was a G-Model; that's the latest model they made. He had a turret. But in the F-model which was like this one right here doesn't have that. We flew in a lot ofF-Models, but then the G-Models started coming over. We never got our own ship.

Steve Estes:

I saw that.

Harry L. Harkness:

We had a different one all the time. The early days, in the early part of the war, they had enough airplanes made, but then Ford (?) couldn't tum out enough, although they turned out one an hour for a long time. So we had our favorites. If it came to the 808, which was like the . We worried about that. But most of the time, we had full confidence in the pilot. He was a good officer.

Steve Estes:

Did you always work with the same pilots?

Harry L. Harkness:

No, that was another thing. When you go over there, you were green, so you go with a crew that's experienced. They lorded it over you. "Do this Harkness. Do that." And so on. Then as you get more and more missions under your belt, you'd have your tail gunner with you and then your bombardier. And then eventually, we got them all together. The pilots had to do the same thing. They had to fly as co-pilots quite a bit until they got experience. Bombardiers too. We always griped about it. So they didn't put us in as a brand new crew not knowing what to do.

Steve Estes:

Now, as the ball turret gunner, you must have had a pretty surreal view of the bombing, because you're right above it. So could you tell me a little bit about that?

Harry L. Harkness:

I sure will. I was responsible for letting the pilot know if we hit the target, if I could see it. Ifit was overcast or what we would call "undercast" and I couldn't see it, thennbut otherwise. And also if a plane went spiraling down, I had to count how many parachutes came out. Even though we'd be miles and miles away, you could still count the white parachutes. I had to take care of everything from the horizontal downward [below the plane]. Now, we had cut off switches on the turret, so that we didn't shoot off the propellers. So as I went around, I had two fifty-caliber machine guns, and the triggers were right on top. It was just like having cork fishing poles, you know. If I turned it that way, I'd go around like this. But I couldn't go up.

Steve Estes:

That would be bad.

Harry L. Harkness:

So anything that was down below, I'd see it, if fighters came up. I'd have a bird's eye view of all the flak that was being shot at us. Sometimes it got so close, you could hear it and smell it.

Steve Estes:

What was the most dangerous mission that you went on?

Harry L. Harkness:

Well, they were all pretty dangerous. I would say out of my 32 missions. At that time, you did 35 missions, but the war ended, so I only had 32. I always say that the scary things that happened was that we had Tokio tanks, or gasoline tanks on the end of the wings. They were way out here. That was in case we were running low, just like in your car, you have the reserve. The pilot realized that we were getting kind oflow, and we still hadn't gotten over the target. The pilot asked the radio man ifhe would tum on the Tokio tanks. The radio man was way back here, and this was his gun. He had to tum on the tanks. There's a story about it in the thing I gave you. He was a kind of a slight guy named Jones, and the handle [for the tanks] was kind of frozen and he couldn't get it. So he called back to the pilot and said, "I'm having trouble." The pilot called on Huntley, a waist gunner, to go back and help him. In the meantime, Jones lost his oxygen. His tube came unplugged. And he was flat on his back. He looked like he was dying. So Huntley, took a three-minute oxygen bottle to get up there. If you have to leave your position, you have to take a walk-around bottle, but they only last three minutes. Huntley finished his oxygen. He did get the Tokio tanks on, but he passed out on Jones. The pilot called up somebody else, another guy on the crew, the other waist gunner. He said, "What's going on in the radio room? Why isn't Jones responding to the calls." He said, "He can't, he's lying flat on his back." The pilot said, "Well, you get up there and help those guys out." So that guy goes up, and he runs out of oxygen. The pilot doesn't know all of this. He's just wondering why communications have broken down. So he said, "Harkness, you get out of that turret and see if you can find out what's going on there!" So I said, "Ok." But here we are right over enemy territory. I turned the turret with the guns turned down. I opened up the hatch and saw three guys laying there. So I got an oxygen hooked up to the first guy. Jones was the worst, because he was the radio guy and he had froth all over his mouth. He looked dead. I got him hooked up to the mainline, to pure oxygen. And I lifted Huntley off of him. I got him on a walk-around bottle. I got the third guy. He was in better shape, but he was laying flat down. Anyway, the upshot of that was that we did get the gas from the Tokio tanks. We got the guys back, and we all survived. When we got back, Huntley said, "Don't say anything to anybody in the interrogation, or it'll be our ass." Because he knew that he should have handled that in three minutes. So I didn't say anything to anybody about it, because he was 23. He was the old man, and I was 18. It was just one of those things I never got any kind of credit for.

Steve Estes:

You did win four medals though, or one medal for times. Could you tell me a little bit about that?

Harry L. Harkness:

Well, after you have 15 missions, you got an air medal. It's an Air Corps medal as well as a ribbon. Then for each five missions after that you got an Oak Leaf cluster. However you add it up it meant that I flew 32 missions. I think after my 20th mission, I got Staff Sergeant. We worked up from Corporal on through Sergeant. We worked up fast because of the kind of job we did. Staff Sergeant was like an officer in the Air Corps.

Steve Estes:

Now, could you tell that Germany was losing based on the missions that you were flying? What was your sense of the larger story of the war as you flew?

Harry L. Harkness:

Well, I think that we knew they were losing, because we didn't have any fighter attacks. They had an ME-21 0, a jet, but they didn't come around very often. So actually there was nobody on our crew that shot anyone down that we know of.

Steve Estes:

But you said that you knew someone who didn't make it home or who died.

Harry L. Harkness:

Ok, that was the "old man". That was Bill Huntley. Bill had a weekend pass into Foggia, and when you get a weekend pass, you're gonna drink. It was just vodka that they had over there or vermouth, maybe some wine. And he got into a fight with another GI. Somehow, he ended up getting stabbed. He was in a coma. He lived for about three or four days, but he never came back to the camp. They took him to a hospital.

Steve Estes:

How did that affect the crew?

Harry L. Harkness:

We sat around and talked about it. But we lost so many friends who never came back. A whole lot wouldn't come back. Even in my diaries. I kept a diary when I was overseas, and I would write something like, "Oh ship 342 went down, and we didn't see any parachutes." Then I would say, "And we had ice cream for dinner." [The audiotape is warbled after this point and difficult to transcribe. For a more accurate version see the video in Library of Congress collection.]

Steve Estes:

Did you yourself ever go on R and R in Foggia?

Harry L. Harkness:

Yes, I had two. The first one was, I think, Easter week. We went to the Isle of Capri. There's a song "Isle of Capri," but it's pronounced Kah-pree. It was just beautiful, and they put us up in the finest hotels-the officer corps in one hotel and the enlisted men in another one. The first time we went to dinner we all wore our ____, and it scared the hell out of the maitre d', but we got served and everything like that at the table. We looked around the island. Peter Falco wrote a book called Caputo (?) and we went up to his home overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. [Pause to remember the scene.] What was the question?

Steve Estes:

It was about R and R, and you answered it.

Harry L. Harkness:

After about ten more missions we got another R and R. We could have gone to Rome. But Rome was just another big city. I never did get to Rome except for when the war ended. We had to wait out our time in Rome. You had to have so many missions, but the war was totally over. We did get on a B-17 and flew over the Coliseum and the rest of Rome.

Steve Estes:

So you were in Italy for VE day.

Harry L. Harkness:

No, that came later, I think. We had come home. After the war ended, we had to go to another base on the Adriatic Sea. In the summer time, it was warm. They had a wonderful watering whole there just like out of Tom Sawyer. Then, when our time came up, the Pentagon finally sent us home. We were assigned to go home on a B-17. There were two different B-17s that we were assigned to go home on .... Lo and behold, I got to stand behind the pilot all of the way across the Atlantic. This pilot, Captain Crumb, said, "If you want to stand there, that's fine."

Steve Estes:

So how did people respond when you came home?

Harry L. Harkness:

Well, we came into Nova Scotia. I think that we had to stop there and spend all night at a great big gymnasium. Then we took a train, and the train went by Yankee Stadium. We were all in our dress uniforms. We went down on this one train running through Cincinnati and Chicago; it went 80 miles an hour. That was exciting. Then we went from Chicago all of the way across the northern United States to Washington. And guys got off along the way. [End of Side A]

Steve Estes:

We can keep going unless you're tired. Are you tired?

Harry L. Harkness:

No. Are we running now?

Steve Estes:

Yeah.

Harry L. Harkness:

Ok, we got into Seattle. We took a ferryboat over to . Let's see, I had about one week. All of my buddies were coming back too from their various posts. It was a lot of fun. Then I had to take a little bit longer, before I actually got my official discharge. I had to go down to Santa Ana, California to an airbase down there to push paper for a month, I think it was.

Steve Estes:

Now, we're going to skip a whole bunch of your life if that's ok, and get you down to San Francisco. I'm curious why you decided to join or when you decided to join American Legion Post 448?

Harry L. Harkness:

Well, I was really good friends with the commander, Tony. We go back a long time. I knew his previous lover who died earlier on of AIDS. He kind of talked me into it. It took me a couple of years to decide to join, but I said, "I'm not going to be active." I was active a lot in my married years up in Seattle. As I said, I would come from time to time for the potluck dinners and when they have speakers.

Steve Estes:

Now, what do you think about the "don't ask, don't tell" policy?

Harry L. Harkness:

I don't think it's working. It seems that they have begun to discharge people from the various branches of the military, men and women, at an increasing rate. Although, President Clinton tried to get that thing working. It just never seemed to happen. The people that are in the military are usually younger. When they're younger like that you're not going to do anything, except do your job. I just think that it's such a big issue about the gayness.

Steve Estes:

Ok, why do you think it's such a big issue?

Harry L. Harkness:

Well, I think it might be because a few people have been murdered by their shipmates. There are people who have grown up in the wrong kind of family. Whether they're black and they hate whites or whatever. I just don't know what the answer is. I read about it, and I think that there must be some kind of solution. You know, back in the war, we didn't have any black people in the Air Corps except for the Tuskegee Airmen. That was just the thing. We didn't have any blacks. We did have Mexicans. I met a couple of them who were really nice guys when I was in Basic Training in Colorado.

Steve Estes:

Did you know anyone who was gay when you were in the military? [He shakes his head.] So how would you describe the military's policy toward homosexuality during World War II? How was it different from "don't ask, don't tell."

Harry L. Harkness:

Well, I didn't ever think anything about it. I wasn't gay. Like I said, I came out after my marriage broke up, and so on. I thought, "Well, I'll just try it." Thing is, I did the bisexual thing for a number of years. Then, moving to San Francisco, I thought, "Oh my God!" After I moved here, I got into the leather scene and the bike scene. I'm a biker. But I can't say if there's still going to be a problem, I think, with gays in the service.

Steve Estes:

Now, if you had to look back over your time in the service-this is a broad question-how do you think your experiences in the military affected your life? What's the legacy of your service in World War II.

Harry L. Harkness:

Well, I'm neater. [He laughs.] I'm more organized, methodical, and I have appreciation of the greater things in life. Of course, you know, back when we were in the service, the word homosexual wasn't even invented then. It was queer. Many, many years later that term came in. I didn't even think about. Maybe some of the older guys did, or people who were posted way out in the Fiji Islands. We were just so close. It couldn't work on a submarine, say. Maybe it could on a big ship like the Abraham Lincoln, the aircraft carrier. Actually, I had a guy with me in this apartment who was on the Abraham Lincoln, and he may still be. This was many years ago, but he was way down, I don't know how many decks down near the engine room. He hardly saw the light of day. He never had any altercations.

Steve Estes:

What made you want to write your memoirs?

Harry L. Harkness:

Well, I think because I had written day-to-day. Just as I was leaving the United States, the Red Cross gave us a tablet, just an old fashioned writing tablet, and I used that to start writing about my day-to-day experiences. I'm not sure if! started on November 13th, the day we left, but it must have been on board the troop ship. So I did that. That was shelved for many, many years. After I got a computer when my son was visiting and he set me up on this thing. In fact, he did the first 40 or 50 pages. Now, I'm up to 117. But that's with all of my experiences. You know, my married life, my friends, anecdotes, so that's all in there. The war experiences are in there.

Steve Estes:

Now, is there anything that I didn't ask you about your war experiences that you want to talk about?

Steve Estes:

Thank you very much.

Harry L. Harkness:

You're welcome. [End of Interview]

 
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  The Library of Congress  >> American Folklife Center
  October 26, 2011
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