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"Everyone seemed to have a quart of whiskey [to toast the end of the war]." (Video interview, 31:20)

   Merle Korte
Collection image
Merle Korte [detail from video interview]
War: World War, 1939-1945
Branch: Navy
Unit: USS Rutilicus (AK 113)
Service Location: San Diego, California; Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; Tarawa Atoll, Makin Atoll and Abemama (Gilbert Islands); Majuro, Roi Island, Kwajalein Island and Enewetak Atoll (Marshall Islands); Baker Island; Tinian (Northern Mariana Islands); Manus Island (Bismarck Archipelago); Funafuti Island (Tuvalu); Hollandia (New Guinea); Samar and Leyte Gulf (Philippines); Guam (Mariana Islands); Noumea, New Caledonia; Espiritu Santo Island (New Hebrides Islands); Ulithi (Carolina Islands); Okinawa Island (Ryukyu Islands); Nagasaki, Japan; Panama Canal Zone; Norfolk, Virginia
Rank: Boatswain's Mate Second Class
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Though he hailed from the land-locked state of Iowa, Boatswain’s Mate Second Class Merle Korte was drawn to serve in the Navy, and enlisted in 1943. In his oral history interview, he recounts some of his most memorable times aboard the USS Rutilicus, a cargo ship that provided support for the island invasions of the Pacific Theater—including the day the war ended, and the entire ship celebrated (many with forbidden caches of alcohol!). His return to his tiny hometown on Christmas Day, 1945, was also cause for jubilation: after he was delivered home by train and snowplow, his entire town rejoiced. The photographs in his collection provide a visual narrative of what he experienced during his service--from the camaraderie of life aboard ship to the destruction of Nagasaki.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (6 clips)
» Part 1 
Download: video (75 min.)
»Photo Album  (132 photos)
 Official Documents
»Travel Log of the U.S.S. Rutilicus AK-113
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»End of WWII: 70th Anniversary
 Video (Interview Excerpts) (6 items)
Observing McArthur’s return to the Philippines; attitudes toward McArthur; learning about atrocities of Bataan Death March. (02:16) Crossing the equator ceremony. (01:54) Hearing about the atomic bomb; learning of the end of the war; celebrations; hard to believe the war was over. (02:55)
Going into Nagasaki; seeing effects of atomic bomb; unbelievable devastation. (02:60) Arriving home on Christmas morning; two feet of snow on the ground; whole town celebrates. (01:34) Seeing the memorial at Pearl Harbor; mourning a classmate killed there; so many friends who didn’t make it home. (01:41)

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  October 26, 2011
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