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Interview with Charles Kenneth Adams [11/10/2004]

Larry Ordner:

This recording is made November 10th, 2004 with Charles Kenneth Adams. Charlie resides at 500 Hillcrest Drive in Fort Branch, Indiana. He's a native of Fort Branch in Gibson County, served in the United States Marines. His highest rank obtained was that of Corporal from August 7, 1951 through August 7, 1953. Entered the Marines at the age of 21. This recording is made of Larry Ordner, Regional Director for US Senator Dick Lugar.

Larry Ordner:

Charlie, thanks for being part of the Veteran's History Project. Appreciate you doing this. So, you were a native of Gibson County, Fort Branch area?

Charles Kenneth Adams:

That's correct. I sure was.

Larry Ordner:

What did your family do, Charlie?

Charles Kenneth Adams:

Father was a coal miner and mother was just a housewife.

Larry Ordner:

Now, this area in those days was heavy in coal mining, wasn't it?

Charles Kenneth Adams:

Oh, yeah. Dad worked 55 years in coal mining at King Station, being the last one which was four and a half miles north of here, Elderfeld, Francisco, several different mines in Pike County which were just very small.

Larry Ordner:

Were those underground mines or surface?

Charles Kenneth Adams:

Most all of them were underground.

Larry Ordner:

Really?

Charles Kenneth Adams:

Deep vein. Some of the earlier ones was -- the small ones was in Pike County and they was not much, you know, as far as deep vein but the last one they worked in for 35 years. Teens was probably 200, 300 feet and --

Larry Ordner:

So, when you were growing up you went to school in this area?

Charles Kenneth Adams:

Went to Fort Branch grade school -- Marlette grade school -- and graduated from Fort Branch high school.

Larry Ordner:

What year did you graduate?

Charles Kenneth Adams:

1950.

Larry Ordner:

That is about the time that things were really starting to heat up in Korea.

Charles Kenneth Adams:

Right.

Larry Ordner:

And really, this community, like many others, you were still coming off the World War II era, too and certainly patriotic fervor was still quite high at that time, wasn't it?

Charles Kenneth Adams:

Absolutely, it was part of life.

Larry Ordner:

What was it like for you, Charlie, growing up during World War II years? What do you remember most about those years?

Charles Kenneth Adams:

Just the difficulty on some of the rationing things and we still got by. Of course I had a brother and several other family members that was in service. It was a lot of time of prayer and thinking about what they was going through at that time.

Larry Ordner:

What do you remember? You mentioned the rationing, give me some examples of that.

Charles Kenneth Adams:

I don't remember specifically what, but I remember the sugar. We had whatever the allotment was. I remember the gasoline that -- the A, B, and C cards that you had in your windshield and course you remember a lot of the workers in Edmondsfield was actually working on war products. They always had a Class C so they could get more gasoline and we who had A was just a certain -- I don't remember the gallons per week, but it was a small quantity of gas per week that we were allotted there. We had sugar stamps. I remember stamps for the sugar and perfusing of it.

Larry Ordner:

Well, Charlie, were you drafted or did you enlist?

Charles Kenneth Adams:

I was drafted.

Larry Ordner:

I suppose lots of guys your age were getting draft notices. Were you expecting it?

Charles Kenneth Adams:

Uh, yeah. I knew it was coming even to the point of what day it was coming.

Larry Ordner:

Is that right?

Charles Kenneth Adams:

I considered enlistment and that option and just decided to wait. But at that particular time I think there was about 60 fellows that went to Indianapolis for induction center from Gibson County and Pike County.

Larry Ordner:

And they all received a letter probably starting out, "greetings."

Charles Kenneth Adams:

"Greetings, to whom it may concern. Your friends and neighbors have selected you." Yep.

Larry Ordner:

So, you went probably by bus?

Charles Kenneth Adams:

We went by bus. Local guys from here and then picked up, I don't remember how many, but a smaller group in Pike county in Petersburg and then went onto Indianapolis to the induction center.

Larry Ordner:

What was at the induction center then? Did they do a physical?

Charles Kenneth Adams:

I can't remember all the things that we did. Yes, we did have a physical but I can't remember much about it other than I know that we were at Indianapolis for several days before we actually -- guys were going to different places and my situation going into the Marine Corps, there was just a small group of us that they kept building on a daily basis and so I was actually in Indianapolis at the induction center for probably six or seven days before we actually loaded two troupe cars that was on a mail train headed for California.

Larry Ordner:

Did they tell you where you were going to go?

Charles Kenneth Adams:

Yeah, yeah, we knew where we was gonna go. San Diego.

Larry Ordner:

Charlie, how was it decided that you were going to be a Marine? How did that come about?

Charles Kenneth Adams:

Okay, my name being A. D. A. was the first one in the entire group of inductees at that particular time so it was selected by number. Number one, which I was, A. D. A. was first so I was in the Marine Corps they went two, three, four, five, six, you guys are in the army. Number seven, you're in the Marine Corps and that carried on that way through the whole --

Larry Ordner:

Well, I have to ask, you were probably certainly aware that the Marines was a pretty tough organization.

Charles Kenneth Adams:

I was aware of that and had a little bit of apprehension to start with and I even had an uncle that said don't go into the Marine Corps.

Larry Ordner:

So, what was your reaction to that?

Charles Kenneth Adams:

Well, I just gonna take whatever comes and so when I selected to go into the Marine Corps, why, it was __+ situation. I was just gonna endure it.

Larry Ordner:

So, you hopped on that train with the other guys and headed west.

Charles Kenneth Adams:

Right. And we stopped at every little town between Indianapolis and California and picked up mail and left mail. Took five-plus days to get out there.

Larry Ordner:

Did you sleep on the train as well?

Charles Kenneth Adams:

Slept on a coach train. It wasn't a sleeper, it was a coach so you just slept sitting up or if you could lean up against something, you slept that way.

Larry Ordner:

Were you able to get off the train?

Charles Kenneth Adams:

There were some points where it took an extended time to get mail and baggage on and yeah, you could get off and move around and some places it might even be twenty minutes or better to get off and walk around and maybe run across over to the drugstore and get a drink or whatever, but there were many stops and some of them were more lengthy than others.

Larry Ordner:

So, you finally arrived at San Diego; is that correct?

Charles Kenneth Adams:

That is correct. San Diego at the train station.

Larry Ordner:

How did San Diego look to a 21-year-old from Fort Branch?

Charles Kenneth Adams:

That had never been out of Gibson county. I think as a kid I went to Biloxi, Mississippi but other than that, well, Indianapolis was about it.

Larry Ordner:

You saw a lot of country on that trip.

Charles Kenneth Adams:

Yeah, we did. We saw a lot of country and at that time there had been some real difficult drought and out in the west. I remember some of the ground just simply cracking open and big cracks in the ground that where the drought had just caused the ground to crack. But arriving in San Diego, we were all taken in a bus and taken to Marine Corps recruit depot which is right inside the city limits of San Diego and right close to the international airport. Also, it was by a blockade building aircraft plant so we had a lot of noise from the planes taking off and landing.

Larry Ordner:

When you got to the base you were probably met by a drill instructor, I would assume.

Charles Kenneth Adams:

That had a good voice, yes.

Larry Ordner:

So, how good was that voice?

Charles Kenneth Adams:

It was quite strong.

Larry Ordner:

Did you arrive in the daylight hours or was this evening?

Charles Kenneth Adams:

Yes, we did arrive at daylight and when we got off the bus we were immediately known as knuckle heads.

Larry Ordner:

But you were bid a hearty welcome.

Charles Kenneth Adams:

That's right. A very hearty welcome but we started right into boot camp.

Larry Ordner:

Charlie, when you think back to boot training what kind of things popped into your mind?

Charles Kenneth Adams:

Food. You never left anything on your plate whether you liked it or not, you ate it. The platoon you were in, you stood until everybody got back from lunch. You were never allowed to sit down or anything like that. 11 weeks with no candy or no sweets other than what went through the mess hall, which was not much sweet and --

Larry Ordner:

I would assume your hair was a little shorter.

Charles Kenneth Adams:

Yes. They asked us how we wanted our hair, how we wanted it cut, and it was cut just as close as it could be cut with trimmers. That was okay and, really, it was good because of the training and all that we went through and all that you had messed up hair and you didn't have to worry about washing it or anything.

Larry Ordner:

What do you remember about some of the guys in your platoon?

Charles Kenneth Adams:

A lot of nice guys.

Larry Ordner:

Were there many from Indiana?

Charles Kenneth Adams:

I only got with one fellow from Indiana. He was from Petersburg and then he went to another platoon and hardly even had any contact with him at all, so really in my area, in the group that I was with, I didn't know a person.

Larry Ordner:

But they were probably from all over the country.

Charles Kenneth Adams:

All over the country, yeah, and most of them, with exception of maybe one or two out of a whole platoon, was in the same situation that I was in. Maybe a couple of them had re-enlisted. One I remember in particular had been in the Army and then had joined the Marines and come back and he was going to recruit training just like we did, but all but a couple cases were just come in just like I did. Best thing I remember about every one of them was drafted. There may have been a few that went at the same time but I think most of them, well, I know most of them were draftees.

Larry Ordner:

Charlie, how rigorous was it physically for you?

Charles Kenneth Adams:

Very. It was tough on a lot of fellows because they were not in the physical condition that some of the rest of us was in. I played basketball and baseball continuously. Summer, winter, high school, college, and I was in somewhat good physical condition, I thought, but at least it was better than some of the fellows. Some of the fellows really had tough times with some of the training.

Larry Ordner:

What do you remember, maybe one of the harder things from your training period?

Charles Kenneth Adams:

Probably duck walk on full length of the parade ground. That wasn't much fun but it did get the legs in shape. A lot of running, a lot of running back and forth to different things. From one class to another class, you always ran and didn't do any walking at all. If you were walking, it was in strictly a march.

Larry Ordner:

And did you surprise yourself how good of shape you got in?

Charles Kenneth Adams:

Absolutely. When I left Fort Branch, I was 185 pounds and 34 inches around the waist. 11 weeks later, I weighed 185 and was 30 inches around the waist.

Larry Ordner:

Wow.

Charles Kenneth Adams:

So, it was quite a body change physically and that was what made men somewhat in good shape. But some of the other fellows weren't quite as fortunate as I was, they had some more difficulty.

Larry Ordner:

Charlie, was it -- what was the status of the Korean conflict at that time?

Charles Kenneth Adams:

It was right in its very heavy.

Larry Ordner:

That's what I thought.

Charles Kenneth Adams:

In fact, from our graduation, which was 11 weeks after -- I can't remember the exact date, but it was in October. Most of the fellows that I was with went straight to Camp Pendleton and went through extensive training and then went straight to Korea.

Larry Ordner:

So, you almost would have had to have assumed that you would be going as well.

Charles Kenneth Adams:

Oh, absolutely. I knew I'd be heading for Korea.

Larry Ordner:

How did you feel about that?

Charles Kenneth Adams:

It was pretty scary. It made you think a lot because we knew, at least the word we had, was that at least one out of three of the Marines that was going was not coming back. So, at that particular time in August of '51, it was hot and most of the fellows that I graduated basic training with did do that. They went for extensive training at Camp Pendleton, went to that and then headed for Korea.

Larry Ordner:

So, when you graduated from boot camp, what was your next assignment and how did you find out about it?

Charles Kenneth Adams:

Okay. I was -- (?got my orders?), of course, I had a two weeks -- 14-day leave and come home from that, then I reported back at Oceanside and we went to the inducting area center where each new Marine came in and was taken somewhere from the outfit he was assigned to and picked up and I waited seven days, I think, before anybody claimed me. My speck number was 4011.

Larry Ordner:

What's that mean?

Charles Kenneth Adams:

Okay. That was, and I'm not sure how it's defined, but at that time it took me two, what was called MRI, which was machine records installation, and it was seven days before they found out what that speck number -- where it was supposed to go. And from the induction center there at Pendleton, I went to what was called Marine barracks, which was 24 area, which was the commanding general's area. The commanding general, all of his staff and just a few other things. Headquarters company and our machine records and solution was the only things in that particular area. Finally, after seven or eight days I got to those quarters and that was my permanent quarters till the day I left.

Larry Ordner:

Were you surprised?

Charles Kenneth Adams:

Yeah, very, and as I understood it later, the only thing that qualified me for that and put me in that speck number with that classification was that at Evansville College, now the University of Evansville, of course, I had several business classes and a lot of those were hand calculators and adding machines and that sort of thing and those classes, and from those classes is what determined that I would be given that 4011 speck number and which actually ultimately put me in machine records.

Larry Ordner:

In 1951 a lot of males would not have had those skills.

Charles Kenneth Adams:

Yeah. I'm sure that -- you know a lot of guys been on the farm or they'd been working some place or doing those things but I had gone to college and played basketball and baseball for the one year before I went in.

Larry Ordner:

How did that come up that you had had college? Did they have some aptitude tests?

Charles Kenneth Adams:

Yeah, we had all kinds of tests. Series of tests on different things and, of course, some of it was that sort of thing which I would suspect that I did better than some based on that. But there was a whole battery of things, which I'm sure was to determine what your best capabilities would be in service. Mine was, apparently, was that I would best suited for that type of thing which, at that particular time, as I understood later and got into the machine records installation, it was very hard to find people that could go into that area and what that area consisted of was no computers at that time but all records were kept for that area -- was kept on -- at that time it was IBM cards. Calling cards with holes punched in it and that certain things.

Larry Ordner:

What kind of records were maintained there, Charlie?

Charles Kenneth Adams:

Actually, most of it almost entirely, I guess, was location. When a person come on the base at Camp Pendleton with 90,000 guys there, we had to know where --

Larry Ordner:

There would be that many on base?

Charles Kenneth Adams:

Right.

Larry Ordner:

Really?

Charles Kenneth Adams:

And we would have to know where each person was located. For instance, for emergencies, Red Cross would contact us. Different groups would need to know and we had to know where each man was located, or each female was located in order to get them. Of course, the base being about 100 square miles wide, it was like driving several miles to find out where a person was. So, our locater -- we would call post locater -- and we could tell you where every person was at on that base. Some of the things that would change it would be new recruits coming in. You'd get new cards. They would have to be merged in with the old cards assigned to whatever company they were in, what battalion they was in. What division they was in. If it's attached to a special unit. And all this criteria went into this punch card that we actually had a record of where that person was located.

Larry Ordner:

Wow. That had to be -- I would think that you had to have had to imagined at times, I'm a Marine but this is what they had me doing.

Charles Kenneth Adams:

Yeah, and it was satisfying to know that you were doing your job because very few people could do it. Our whole group consisted of about 70 people, including officers, enlisted men and draftees that only with that amount of men and a couple of WACs that was with us. We did the entire thing and new people -- seldom new people come along and not many people was getting out. There were no transfers. Nobody could get transferred to another --

Larry Ordner:

So, when they got you in there, they kept you.

Charles Kenneth Adams:

They kept us. They treated us well but they kept us.

Larry Ordner:

Was that at Pendleton?

Charles Kenneth Adams:

Yes, that's Camp Pendleton.

Larry Ordner:

And that was just a very busy place at that time.

Charles Kenneth Adams:

It was a very busy place and, like, in our area and the work that we did, they might move out a whole division and you'd have to get every card out of your file. Tray after tray after tray of cards and get those people out and then maybe in a week, two weeks, three weeks later, then new people would come in. A different division would come in from one of the other bases getting trained ready to go out to the --

Larry Ordner:

So, that was very meticulous recordkeeping.

Charles Kenneth Adams:

It had to be accurate and it was every day. It went through and pulled names out or added new names to it, every day we merged cards. Of course, at that time it wasn't computer. It was those cards and they were -- we had merges where you had two groups of cards and you had to merge them in by maybe a serial number, or you merged them by name so, you had -- at least you knew exactly where every person was at any given time.

Larry Ordner:

What are some of the more memorable occurrences that you might have had in that role, Charlie?

Charles Kenneth Adams:

Probably one of the best things we had is we were in headquarters company -- headquarters battalion machine records installation-- but being in headquarters company we had, most of the time, for that entire time we had First Lieutenants, our Captains that were head of our company and most of our company, we were just an attachment to the company because the other company groups and different attachment would be in a different area. So, consequently, we had an Officer Lieutenant Colonel so when we had to report for company inspection, our Colonel would just most of the time say, "Well, my guys are going to be busy Saturday and they won't be able to have the inspection." So, naturally First Lieutenant or the Captain didn't tell the Lieutenant Colonel, "Yeah, your guys are going to be there." So, we had it pretty well made. About, oh, maybe once every six months we'd have company inspection but we really had -- we worked hard and lots of times long hours but still we were treated -- we couldn't expect any better treatment than what we had.

Larry Ordner:

I would assume being stationed where you were you had long hours but you also had some down time too?

Charles Kenneth Adams:

Yeah, most branches of any I've ever heard of had to go through a certain procedure to get a pass. When the weekend come you went Friday evening, you went through a certain procedure to get a pass. We carry our own passes. Any time we weren't working we was at liberty to go any place. That was much different than what many of the fellows had. Of course, being a permanent personnel they knew, you know, we knew when we were going to have to be back to work. Everybody was back. In my entire time I've never known -- I did not know of a single person that ever missed a shift of work.

Larry Ordner:

That was almost like going to a job.

Charles Kenneth Adams:

It was, and there was no -- I've heard about people going AWOL -- there was no such thing as that, that I was even around, that I knew of. As far as the work and the service time, it was great. I learned a lot of things and even what I learned there in that two years all this time I've made a living off of it and able to retire.

Larry Ordner:

After the service, Charlie, did you use your GI benefits?

Charles Kenneth Adams:

No, no I didn't. Come right back and went to work at a couple of different things. I owned a service station with a man and by the __+ there by the Hog Stop there. I owned that and we did well there. It was a 24-hour station, it got to be what I wasn't looking for. So, I got out of it and that's when I went to Whirlpool. Oh, I was in the insurance business for a little bit of time there but then went to Whirlpool in 1963, I guess, or '61 and then stayed within the __+ at that time went in because of my military training and got into identically the same thing as what I did in the military.

Larry Ordner:

Isn't that something. So the military really prepared you for your career.

Charles Kenneth Adams:

It did. It took care of me for life because I enjoyed life after I retired based on what I earned at Whirlpool, and it was because I had the training in service, so I'm thoroughly pleased with what I learned and what I was able to use.

Larry Ordner:

Any final thoughts, Charlie, you want to add about your time in the military?

Charles Kenneth Adams:

Just that I didn't mind any of the time I -- in my opinion, I had it easier than most guys after a year and a half in the service. I had to leave and come back, of course, we planned this, but my wife and I got married and went back to California.

Larry Ordner:

Give your wife's name on the record.

Charles Kenneth Adams:

Okay. My wife, Betty Jane Adams, and I were married on March the 28th of 1953 and then we, both of us, returned to California then until August the 8th in '53 when I was released. But even she -- before she got out there she had a job. This Lieutenant Colonel that I mentioned had transferred to the motor pool portion, and he had told me what to do to get her on and he would take care of her when she got out there. So, she went to Louisville and took her civil service exam and passed it and when I got to California she started the next Monday morning. We enjoyed it there, lived off the base after I was married. Lived in a little apartment -- garage type apartment -- in Oceanside, which was just about a mile and a half from the main gate to Camp Pendleton.

Larry Ordner:

That's very interesting, it really is. So Charlie, thank you very much for doing this. I appreciate your time.

Charles Kenneth Adams:

Well, you're entirely welcome. I enjoy talking about it because once a Marine always a Marine.

 
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