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Interview with Roy Hendrickson [5/18/2005]

Thomas Swope:

This is the oral history of World War II Veteran Roy Hendrickson. Mr. Hendrickson served in the U.S. Navy on board LCT-1111 and LST-588. He served in the Atlantic and Pacific theaters, and his highest rank was electrician's mate first class. I'm Tom Swope and this is interview was recorded at Mr. Hendrickson's home in Kirkland, Ohio, on March 18th, 2005. Roy was 78 at the time of this recording.

Thomas Swope:

Where were you living in 1941?

Roy Hendrickson:

In Homer City, Pennsylvania.

Thomas Swope:

How old were you?

Roy Hendrickson:

At the time I was 16 when I went in.

Thomas Swope:

You were 16 when you went in?

Roy Hendrickson:

Yes.

Thomas Swope:

So in 1941 you were certainly still in school, right?

Roy Hendrickson:

Yeah, in 1941.

Thomas Swope:

Well, when were you born?

Roy Hendrickson:

May the 15th --

Thomas Swope:

Go ahead.

Roy Hendrickson:

May the 15th, 1926.

Thomas Swope:

1926. So you were 15 years old when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

Roy Hendrickson:

That's correct.

Thomas Swope:

Do you have specific memories of that day?

Roy Hendrickson:

Other than I heard dad was kind of shook up. And, of course, at that time I didn't know that Pearl Harbor even existed. I didn't know that. I didn't know where it was. I didn't know anything about it. But I don't remember too much. But the whole entire part of that -- that country was -- or that state was really shook up. I mean, they were -- and...

Thomas Swope:

So when did you get the idea that you were -- you were still in school at the time, right?

Roy Hendrickson:

Yeah, uh-huh.

Thomas Swope:

When did you get the idea that you would drop out of school and enlist then?

Roy Hendrickson:

Well, they started to enter the older fellows. I had two brothers that went in; they both went in. And one brother was in underwater demolition and the other brother was in the army. And the brother in demolition took his training in Fort Pierce, Florida. And there I am at home, and I was working at the time for my dad. My father was general superintendent of the Rochester and Pittsburgh coal company. And I worked for him, you know, for a time, school breaks or after school or whatnot, and I worked for him. And it was at that time when I was working for him. I had his owner's card for his truck that I drove at age 16. And I went to the Navy in Indiana, Pennsylvania. I went to the Navy people and I wanted submarine. And they -- they give me these papers and there was 13 of them, when I got to them. Some places it was -- the name is to be signed on the front three times, flop it over on the back, maybe once and the next paper was once on the front, once on the back. And the third paper would be twice on the front, twice on the back, this type thing. Well, I knew at that time my dad had told me if I want in the service -- "If you want in the service, you get in the best way you know how." So I set in a _____ joint all the way in the back. And I copied his name, my dad's name, every place where they wanted it, and I copied it. I signed my name. Now, you've got to get it notarized. So there was a fellow by the name of Efner Walback (ph); he was a notary. So I went to him, and he says "What's this?" I says, "Navy papers to get in the Navy". Well, he says, "You know I gotta be a witness to your dad's signature." I said, "Well, you know how busy dad is." I says, "I'm lucky to get him to sign once, much less all these times." And he signed his name everywhere. Below my name and my dad's, he signed his name everywhere and put his seal on there. And three days later I'm setting up in boot camp.

Thomas Swope:

Was your dad or were your parents angry that you had done this?

Roy Hendrickson:

No. I think they were -- they were amazed. I'll tell you what happened: That night my dad walks up town and who does he run into but this Efner Walback, the guy that put the seal on. He says, "Congratulations, Harry." Dad says, "For what?" He says, "Well, you got three boys in the service". Dad says, "Nope. Only got two, Bud and Wally. "Well, what about Roy?" And dad says, "Well, what about Roy?" "Well, he come in here with all the papers that you signed." Dad says, "I didn't sign any papers, but I told Roy, I says, 'You get in the best way you know how.' And if that's the best way he knows how, don't you say a word, let him go." That's how I got in.

Thomas Swope:

So this would be sometime in 1942, right?

Roy Hendrickson:

This is 1943. This is April --

Thomas Swope:

April of 1943?

Roy Hendrickson:

1943, yes.

Thomas Swope:

So what was your first day of boot camp like?

Roy Hendrickson:

Well, I wanted the Navy because I didn't want to do any marching. Number one, I did not want to be drafted into the army and have to march, okay, so let's think Navy. Well, the first day in boot camp, after we got all of our shots, tetanus shots and all of this bit -- anyway, I set in there. We go to hit the sack that night, and a bunch of guys clear in the back are screaming and hollering and yelling. This is in the middle of the night -- still talking, and we're supposed to be sleeping. Well, the lights come on, and the first thing you know everybody hit the deck. We're out on a -- what you call a grinder, a racetrack type thing. We're out there marching. We would march around once and then run around. And then march and then run around. We did that for hours, I think. But anyway, that didn't set too well with me. I might as well have joined the army. But when I got through with boot camp, I wanted submarine. That's what I went in for and this is what they promised. And that was a thorn in my side because they told me -- in OGU (ph) they had told me, "Hey, the quarter is filled." I just didn't believe them because I had passed all of the tests for submarines. "Well, what's the next worst thing?" They said, "Underwater demolition." Well, my brother was already in it. I says, "Okay. I'll take that." They said, "Nope." I says, "What's the best -- next best thing?" He says, "Underwater demolition is filled up; you'll have to take something else." "What's the next?" "Amphibious." Well, anyhow, I got training on an LCT, and then I got on board a LST. That wasn't too bad, but I didn't -- I didn't appreciate not being in submarine. But anyway, kind of looking back on it, there's a whole bunch of submarines that never surfaced, and I feel that my luck was with me, really.

Thomas Swope:

What was your job on the LST?

Roy Hendrickson:

I was electrician.

Thomas Swope:

Uh-huh.

Roy Hendrickson:

I was electrician.

Thomas Swope:

How big was the crew on an LST?

Roy Hendrickson:

Well, when they started out there was some of them that was only twenty -- I do believe there was only 28. But we was guide ship for the flotilla, and I think there was 50 something on board at that time. But then, you know, we hauled Marines and all of that.

Thomas Swope:

When did you go overseas?

Roy Hendrickson:

May.

Thomas Swope:

May of '43 or '44?

Roy Hendrickson:

'43.

Thomas Swope:

'43?

Roy Hendrickson:

'43.

Thomas Swope:

What are your memories of that crossing?

Roy Hendrickson:

May -- I'm sorry. No, no, no. That was much later than May. Had to be about August.

Thomas Swope:

Uh-huh.

Roy Hendrickson:

And, well, the ship, they might have called that submarine because that T was under water more than it was on top.

Thomas Swope:

So you got your wish.

Roy Hendrickson:

Yes. But no, it had a good crew, and I liked everybody on board. We had one fellow that he had chronic sea sickness, and that poor fellow laid out on the tank deck, which, at one time, was empty. He was laying out on the deck, the tank deck, and he was praying that that thing sunk, yeah. And I used to be a jokester. I would tuck the old guy in bed. Now, this guy is an old man. He's real old; he's 25 years old. Yeah, 25 years old, and I figured that that poor fellow had one foot on a banana peel and the other -- he's ready to topple over. But anyway, he -- I used to tell him bedtime stories, tuck him in -- and this is all joking. Tuck him in at night, tell him bedtime stories, which, by the way, wasn't fit to print. I had a bunch of them around who could hear me laughing and whatnot. But the fellow, when he come home -- he got off the T. And he come to me and he thanked me for being what I was and keeping him going. He had a family at home, a wife and three kids. And the kids didn't have enough milk, you know, and he was worried about everything. So I took some of this worry off of him, and he did thank me. But he said that he wasn't going to come back to the States. He says, "Until they build a bridge across..." You know, this chronic sea sickness that he had. Well, some jerk told him that an airplane ride was worse, which wasn't. But he was going to stay there until they built a bridge and then he would walk home.

Thomas Swope:

What was your first stop when you went overseas?

Roy Hendrickson:

Well, we went down through the canal. I had four months in the Atlantic and 27 months in the Pacific. And our four months was in the north Atlantic, and we went down through the canal and come up. We stopped at San Diego and then we went to Pearl Harbor.

Thomas Swope:

When you were in the Atlantic, were you involved in any landings there?

Roy Hendrickson:

No. Oh, no, no. That was all shakedown.

Thomas Swope:

Okay.

Roy Hendrickson:

That was all shakedown. Then from Pearl Harbor, why, we went to just about every island in the Pacific, I would think. That's north Pacific.

Thomas Swope:

Yeah.

Roy Hendrickson:

Guam to Saipan, Truk, Rota, Kwajalein, Majora, Anawital (ph), the whole nine yards. One thing I remember is Rota, a little island. It was bypassed during the war, so was a lot of other islands. And the planes that flew back, if they had bombs on board, they would just drop them on this island. Well, anyway, we went in and the rock, the passageway into the beach, was narrow. Well, we come in too much of an angle and had to back off. And that second team went in and up on the beach -- when we got in there up on the beach, it was like they had a -- they only had a half hour to get in there. It's like they took months making a humongous sign that the 23rd Seabees welcome the Marines to Rota. Yeah, I thought this had to be funny, but we had to -- we had the Marines on board. But the second that hit the beach they had the 23rd Seabees in there. And what it was, it was just a clean up and get them people off that island or whatnot.

Thomas Swope:

As far as the landings were concerned, how soon after the first wave would you go in with the LST?

Roy Hendrickson:

First.

Thomas Swope:

You would go in first?

Roy Hendrickson:

First, yeah.

Thomas Swope:

So what can you tell me about the --

Roy Hendrickson:

Most of the --

Thomas Swope:

-- the landings?

Roy Hendrickson:

Yeah, most of the Marines -- the Marines and weapons carriers. But we never had any problem, never, you know, blown out of the water or anything like that.

Thomas Swope:

Did LSTs transport things, like, amtracks and things like that?

Roy Hendrickson:

Everything. Sherman tanks, troops, anything -- all of anything. As a matter of fact, one time there was boxes that had to be dropped out of an airplane and land on a steel deck or something, but they were all busted open. And in there was watches, there was all kinds of medals, purple heart medals. Everything landed, just scattered. Never could figure that one out. But no, we really didn't do that awful much as far as being any type heroes or anything of that nature, no.

Thomas Swope:

Did you get any rough-it scenes where you had any attacks from enemy aircraft or anything like that?

Roy Hendrickson:

No. Never shot at. Now, we went in Saipan and -- yeah. They had -- the Marines had went in and they were clear back. We look out and on the beach is a whole bunch of our guys riding bicycles. Now, this is the closest I had come to being ended. They're riding bicycles. So our radioman and I, our Tommy, we decided we want to get off this tub. We were going to go up into a cave that's setting up on a hillside. As we were walking up -- we were going to look for bicycles. That's what we were looking for. As we went up, we looked down over and in the drink was a -- another ship. I'll think of it.

Thomas Swope:

Okay.

Roy Hendrickson:

But there was two guys off of that ship that was out on a dinghy. And wouldn't you know it, they come up on shore, and they went up on an angle towards us and beat us to that cave. Okay. Just as they stepped inside, a hand grenade dropped belly high. It killed the one guy right out. And the other guy, it flipped him up in the air, turned him around, set him down, and he landed on his feet, and he had nothing for a stomach, and he died probably 200 feet, 150 feet from us. He had like nothing for eyes, nothing but -- he was running like a chicken towards us with his head cut off. Now, that's the closest I had come to being shot at or anything. But no, I -- I think I would do it all over again if I had to.

Thomas Swope:

Was there much souvenior collecting?

Roy Hendrickson:

Oh, yeah. Yeah, I -- I had a -- what is it there, our equivalent to a .22, a Japanese rifle. I still got the bayonet. But that rifle, it was in my seabag, and it kept punching me. No matter how I turned it, it kept punching me on the shoulder. So I took that thing out and deep-sixed the rifle, like a nut, and I did -- I kept the bayonet, which fit on that rifle.

Thomas Swope:

Do you have any particularly close buddies on board the LST?

Roy Hendrickson:

Yes. As a matter of fact, we just went to -- this Tommy that I was talking about, we just went to his funeral. He died of -- he had cancer and he lived out in Illinois, southern part of Illinois, Beuford (ph), Illinois. And his last name was Thomason. But I met 23 guys and one girl from this dinky town of Homer City, P

Roy Hendrickson:

Twenty-three guys and one girl while I was just overseas. Yes, sir. And the town was probably somewhere -- maybe the size of Kirkland, 6,000 people, 5,000, 6,000 people, but I met 23 guys and one girl. On Tinian we went to see a guy, who was on a crash crew, way up on top of this mountain and the crash crew had their fire trucks and whatnot, and as the planes come in they were crippled. They would jump in there -- they would jump in there with a fire truck or whatever and come down on the track -- or on the runway right behind the plane, you know, and so on. But I go up there to see this fellow. And the fellow's name was Bill Tomb, T-o-m-b. And I got up there and good Lord those people are out of there minds, these army guys and the Air Force. They're out of their minds. There's a guy laying on the sack. He's got his legs crossed, and he's got a .45 down by his ankle, and he's shooting at a helmet that was on the poster bed, see, and these shells are ricocheting off and up through the ceiling. And over on the other end of this shack, this barracks, there was a guy, and he's inside of a closet. And you hear the whoom, whoom. He's got a .45, and he's in there hunting for roaches. Well, that was one of the guys. Another guy, it was my cousin down in -- I met him down in Colon, Panama. And there was several guys in the town was in the Seabees. And, yeah, I never thought -- well, the girl, she was a nurse in a hospital. I think the number of the hospital on Guam was 103, if I remember. Once you reach a certain age you get old-timers disease, and you can't think of it too much so...

Thomas Swope:

Do you have any other memories of any of those other islands: Kwajalein or what did you say, Saipan, Tinian, Guam? Any other stories that comes to mind about those landings?

Roy Hendrickson:

I remember a -- why I can't think now -- I think it was up on Saipan, way up on top of a mountain. There was two crosses where somebody was buried. I took a picture of that. It was the background, which looked -- not that I'm going to say that these two fellows were buried, but it was odd that they were buried there. But the background was really pretty, real beautiful. Other than being tore up, you know, and all of that, we went in on Truk, all had a bunch of Japanese, got them off of that island, and I got a bunch of pictures. As a matter of fact, you weren't allowed to have a camera on board at that time. And how I snuck these pictures I'll never know. You know, but I do have a bunch of pictures of that nature. I suppose that most of that was immediately after the war. But that T I was on, they -- I was discharged. I left but they went on to -- they went on to Japan. I never got to Japan. But I don't -- I don't remember anything else exciting or...

Thomas Swope:

Do you have memories of mail call?

Roy Hendrickson:

Oh, mail call. Oh, yeah. I was mailman for the flotilla. And that sack was heavier than you can imagine. But every girl in the United States wrote to this Chuck Weber, and he wrote to everyone. And here I am saying, "Chuck Weber, Chuck Weber, Charles Weber, Chuck Weber, Charles Weber," and I'm passing these letters out, see. Now I come to one that says Roy Hendrickson or Norman Thomason. I would throw those away. What's that doing in here? But that didn't -- that didn't last too long. Don't know much of anything.

Thomas Swope:

Did you get many packages or anything from home?

Roy Hendrickson:

Oh, yeah. Yeah, you know, and you would share that there with -- but our -- oh, I do remember something. The Duke of York was a British ship. This Tommy and I, we go on board to eat lunch -- well, they invited us. We sit down at that table. I open the drawer up and the utensils that was in that drawer hadn't been washed for a month. Now, they set us down on one of the fellow's places. They don't wash their stuff? So I moved to another one. Well, that there was lunch -- it was a little bit different, a little more cleaner. Anyway, after that we were invited to look around, we found a locker, a meat locker, frozen locker. So that evening Tommy and I go for it. We put ship's cook hat and apron on. We go down to the meat locker. We're going to steal a pig. We're coming up the stairs and, boy, this thing was hard as a rock coming up the ladder, steel ladder. He drops his end and it sounds like a bomb going off. But anyway, we get up on board, and our bow doors are open to the tank and the ramp is down. We threw this down. It hit that thing and it sounded like a bomb going off. It was all frozen. Anyway, our cook is standing there, and he's looking up at us and he's shaking his fist at us. Well, that ungrateful pot licker, what's the matter with him? We get down there. We didn't steal no pig; it was a half of a lamb. We ate lamb stew, fried lamb. Oh, boy, that stuff was terrible. That stuff was terrible.

Thomas Swope:

Anything else like that that you remember, any other stories?

Roy Hendrickson:

I don't -- I can't remember.

Thomas Swope:

Well, where were you when the war ended?

Roy Hendrickson:

We were in Guam. We were in the Sune (ph) Channel from Guam when the war ended. And on our way back, I boarded a -- it was a luxury-type ship made over into a troop carrier, troop ship. Well, I believe the name of that was the Hermitage. We come back on that. And as we passed -- this would be in April of '46. We passed over, what, a tsunami? Is that --

Thomas Swope:

Yeah, tropical storm or...

Roy Hendrickson:

Yeah, okay. We passed over this, and they had said over the PA system that that was -- but anyway, the closer we got to the States that thing just tore the heck out of the Hawaiian Islands. I mean, walls of water 20, 30, 50 feet high, just tore the livin' heck out of Hawaii. Now, what the date was, it was either March or April.

Thomas Swope:

Of '46?

Roy Hendrickson:

'46, yes. It had to be March, I suppose, of '46. But I don't remember the exact time or date or anything. But I do know that we rode on a -- coming back we rode on a troop train, cattle car. And I'm sitting there minding my own business and three or four officers stopped and they said to me, "What's your rate?" I told them I was an electrician. "You're just the fellow we're looking for. We need a cook." "A cook?" "Yeah." "I don't now how to cook." "You'll learn, come with us." Now, there was a -- I swear -- right alongside the side of the box car doors there was a coal stove, one of them that you may see back in the early 1900s in a house, okay, only this thing was a little bit bigger. On top of this stove was boiling water. That was it. And it's in a GI can. Now, there was five or six other guys that were supposed to help me. How in the world do I prepare for that whole train load of men? You know, I throw them potatoes in that what's called boiling water, and I never washed them, and I never done nothing. I just scooped the scum off of the top of that thing and threw that out of that box car door, and they did have tables lined up. And they were much easier to just skin the skins off the potatoes after they had boiled, and that's what we did, these hot potatoes, skinned the stuff off, washed them off and we give these whole potatoes, and I open them five-gallon cans of peas and corn and all of this type thing. But anyway, them guys took up a collection for me, a collection for me cooking. Yeah, and I didn't know nothing about cooking, absolutely nothing. But all of these other guys, you know, input on there. If it wasn't for them guys I wouldn't even know to throw the potatoes in that GI can.

Thomas Swope:

Backtracking a bit, do you remember hearing the news about the atomic bombs being dropped?

Roy Hendrickson:

Huh-uh.

Thomas Swope:

You don't remember hearing about that?

Roy Hendrickson:

No. I'll tell you what I did remember: The war almost over. A jet -- I never saw a jet, never heard of one. One of them flew by. What in the world was that? We didn't know. We didn't know that that was a jet. But that had to be one of of the first ones.

Thomas Swope:

One of ours?

Roy Hendrickson:

Huh?

Thomas Swope:

Was it American?

Roy Hendrickson:

Yeah.

Thomas Swope:

Because I know the Japanese were developing jets too. I didn't know if they had them ready.

Roy Hendrickson:

No. This was ours, but it flew by.

Thomas Swope:

Backtracking a little more, do you remember hear about F.D.R. dying, when he died in April of '45?

Roy Hendrickson:

Yeah. I think they did, yes. Yes, I remember.

Thomas Swope:

Do you remember any reaction to that news?

Roy Hendrickson:

Yeah, people were -- they were saddened, saddened. But as far as pictures or anything like that, at that time, no. There was nothing that we didn't -- and then on board that troop carrier coming back it was so crowded that -- man, there was thousands. But I don't -- I don't remember much of...

Thomas Swope:

You don't recall these celebrations when the war finally ended on D-Day, do you?

Roy Hendrickson:

Yeah, everybody was -- everybody was happy. We did the -- what's called the ____+ Day. When it ended, why, we kind of figured, well, okay, now, everybody there is going to come here and help. But I'll tell you -- I'll tell you one thing: When they dropped those bombs, that saved a whole bunch of lives, whole bunch of American and Japanese lives. I don't suppose 50 percent of the fellows that are still living today wouldn't be living had they not dropped them bombs. I know we would have been in there, but I don't know.

Thomas Swope:

Any other vivid memories comes to mind when you think about that time?

Roy Hendrickson:

I remember one time I got a leave that I was in the states. I got a leave. I got dropped off in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and I had full gear. I mean, full gear, our hammock, and then in the sack, I had a mattress and the bag, plus a ditty bag, and another fellow from my hometown was dropped off at the same time. Now, we tried to hitchhike a ride to this Homer City, which was 27 miles away. And we're talking and walking and talking and walking -- no ride. We walked that entire distance with that whole full gear up on our shoulders. And we would set it down and that tar on the road would get all over everything and put it back up -- now I got whites and tar all over me, and I remember that. But we never -- never got a ride. Went to sleep on a store porch, woke up the next morning and walked the rest of the way.

Thomas Swope:

Did you get to any USO shows when you were overseas, anything like that?

Roy Hendrickson:

Yeah, one, Bob Hope; we saw him. I think it was Guam, yeah. I think it was Guam. We saw him on -- there. We were off the ship, you know.

Thomas Swope:

Right.

Roy Hendrickson:

Don't know much of anything. Can't remember.

Thomas Swope:

You think that covers it?

Roy Hendrickson:

Pretty much so. I think.

Thomas Swope:

Pretty much?

Roy Hendrickson:

Well, they pulled -- they pulled me out of the bilge, and I don't know where they got that electrician for dropping the anchor, okay. You know, you drop the anchor that helps to pull you back off the beach.

Thomas Swope:

Right.

Roy Hendrickson:

And as you're going in. But anyway, I dropped that anchor. We were going in, dropped the anchor. Now to get back off the beach, pulling up, and wouldn't you know it, that anchor got stuck in the coral rock.

Thomas Swope:

Oh, boy.

Roy Hendrickson:

And it's straight down in there, and it's starting to lift the bow of the T up in the air, and it's rocking. I'd drop it and raise it, drop it and raise it trying to get that thing. So the only thing to do is cut it. And they have a chisel-type thing you lay over like on the deck, a sledgehammer. Just when I got ready to swing that sledgehammer and the skipper is leaning over the stern, and he's looking straight down at that. Now, he's giving me the signal. Well, just at that same time a PT boat -- shoooo, and the ship lurched forward. Man, I'm going to tell you something: That was just like a whip. And that -- the other end, the loose end of that, flipping up in the air and come down and hit that skipper's peak of his hat. And if he had been that much more, that thing was liable to cut him in half. Yes, sir. But I never could figure out why they pulled an electrician out of the bilge and stick him on this. Another thing I used to do is, I used to climb real high like a monkey -- on a strand and I would take a rubber ball and push that string into a rubber ball. Now, I would tie the other end way up there where nobody could get at it, only me. Now, what you have is a side motion of the ship and your head's going the opposite direction following that ball, so here you're going this way. After a while you would hear somebody hollering, "Hendrickson, you SOB, get that ball out of there." It would make you sick. You know, if you was seasick, this thing up here and you can't keep your eyes off of it; you can't. Just watching this ball go back and forth. But I used to play with all them guys like that. You know, I had nothing at the time. Nothing to worry about, no wife, no nothing. And nothing bothered me, nothing bothered me. (Conclusion of Interview.)

 
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