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Interview with Billy Barry Kilpatrick [4/8/2006]

Ivy Barrows:

It is Saturday, April 8th and I am in the home of Mr. Bill Kilpatrick in Mapleton, Oregon. Mr. Kilpatrick was born on_in 1919. I am conducting this interview for a project for my Naval Science class at the University of Washington. Mr. Kilpatrick, will you please just state for the record the war and the branch of service that you served in, what your rank was and where you served?

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

I served in the Aegean and Pacific area and my rating was Chief Gunner's Mate.

Ivy Barrows:

War and branch of service that you served in?

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

Yeah, US Navy, I was in the United States Navy, Uncles navy. And everything went fine as far.as I was concerned.

Ivy Barrows:

And you served during Wurld War II, correct?

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

Yes.

Ivy Barrows:

Just real quick, you enlisted, right?

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

Right.

Ivy Barrows:

And do you remember where you were living at the time?

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

Yes, I do, I was living in Barnhart, Texas. I had to catch a ride to Abilene Texas to sign in, to enlist. Now there's quite a story there but it doesn't have to do with anything.

Ivy Barrows:

Oh, but we'd love to hear it.

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

Okay, thank you. After I left Abilene, after I signed up and left Abilene, went back home, and they said they'd caIl me in a month or two if I was accepted. So about ten days they did call me and told me to report back to Abilene - which I did - and by that time there was about 15 of us and they shipped us from Abilene to Dallas, T~xas. And by that time there was about 30 of us, all waiting to get into the Navy, you know? And I was just a little guy: I think I weighed 138 pounds and skinny as a rail, and I thought, "Gee wiz, I'll never make it." But anyhow, they (I didn't know he was a chief) the Chief PO, he all got us into one room and said, "Now as I call your name, you get up and walk through that door and there's some chairs in there and you just sit down." And so he started calling names and pretty quick there was only five of us left. I was pretty worried because all those guys I figured had gotten into the Navy and we hadn't but (excuse me) the problem, the deal was the guys that went in there had failed, they couldn't, didn't get in and the five that was left in there did get in.

Ivy Barrows:

Wow.

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

And I don't know--they shipped us into San Diego, California where we took our basic training. That boot training is something else. That's the hardest part of the war: that boot training. At that time, they were real strict on everything. At any time, every time, you moved somebody would yell at you, you were doing something wrong. And we--a guy walked out in front of--we were, (that's when we formed the company 4029). Anyway, he walked out in front of us, he was chief and reached out and kicked the wall of one of the buildings and left a black mark and he turned around to us and balled us all out about it he says, "Don't do that because if you do, you'll scrub it offl" And I was on the, before they sent us to ship or where we were gonna go, I was on the garbage detail there on the unit. I was taking a load of garbage out to the dump one time and there were these two fellas out there digging a hole! It was six feet deep, three feet wide and six feet long--like a grave. And I said, "What are you guys doing?" He said, "Oh one of us acted real smart and threw a cigarette butt down on the grinder (the grinder is where you walk around) and said we've got to come out here and bury it" - and they did! They were actually burying that cig in a six by six by three grave to teach them not to do it anymore and it did the business, no doubt. Then a fella came in the area one time and didn't, he forgot to salute the flag as he came through the gate so they gave him three, two three-gallon buckets of water and to fill 'em up is a couple hundred yards away. He filled those buckets up and carried them down and poured them on the flagpole to water the flag so he'd remember to salute it next time. Such foolishness is that! But it all had a purpose. It taught you in later combat to obey orders quickly and get 'em over with: do what you're supposed to do and get it done; that was the main object of this growlin' and screamin' at each other. Okay I'll shut up and you can talk.

Ivy Barrows:

Oh, just another quick question: Why did you join?

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

Why did Ijoin?

Ivy Barrows:

Yes, why and when did you join?

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

Well I joined in May 8, 1940, mainly because we were shipping a lot of metal to Japan and I had a idea that they were gonna do something with that besides build boats out of it--which they did, they built guns out of it! But I just thought, well if I'm in for a while before war starts I might have a little bit of training that could possibly save my life, you know? Or make a better sailor out of me or whatever. But anyhow, that's why I joined.

Ivy Barrows:

Okay. Why did you pick the Navy?

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

I don't really know. I guess because there would be less walking in it than there was in the Army. The Army walked all the time and the Marine Corps did a lot of walking because when I got into the service the Marine Corps barracks were here and the Naval barracks were here and every once in a while we'd swap places. We went over to the Marine barracks to learn how to fight, with bayonets and whatever, and they carne over to our barracks to learn how to ride on a ship! It was a mixed up affair but they did an awful lot of walking, really, and we didn't do quite that much but we did enough: I'll tell you, we wore out shoes drilling! Grinder can prove that.

Ivy Barrows:

And you've already told me a little about your boot camp and training experiences, but do you remember any of your instructors?

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

Instructors? No, I don't. Not in training; not in boot camp.

Ivy Barrows:

From what you were telling me, your boot camp experience sounded pretty intense. How did you get through it? Was there any particular--how was it that you survived boot camp?

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

Oh. I don't know, I guess the fact that the rest of 'em got through so I did too. There's no particular reason. We were there to train to just go aboard ship or to school (whichever we preferred or had marks enough to get, you know). But I chose to go aboard a ship and that when I went on board the USS Crane. Our clothing, hammock and mattress, and bedding altogether weighed 104 pounds and we picked it up and carried it on our shoulders, while they played "Anchors Aweigh" when we were going aboard ship. After getting aboard, three months later, I found out I didn't even belong there, that I belonged on the Brazos. So the captian, the commanding officer, said, "That's alright. We're going into a harbor here," and he says, "I think your ship is in here." And it was, so I got transferred.

Ivy Barrows:

And just where exactly did you go? Where exactly did you travel to during your service?

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

Oh.

Ivy Barrows:

Like, during the war.

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

Whichever, what places I went, eh? Ok, the first place I remember was Pearl Harbor, I was there, several times, and that's before it blew up, you know? And then the Aleutian Islands, I was there. Alaska, I was there. China, Japan, I was there--both places. And the place in Japan I went, one place where they had used the A-bomb, you know? But anyway, it was still all tom up and everything. We anchored one time in the Yangtze River in China: that was an unusual set up because a body was floating down the river and these two guys in a boat just took their oars and pushed it away so they wouldn't have to fool with it! They were Chinese people. Anyways, that was one of the things I remembered about it. And another I remember is if we would give them our garbage they would paint and (indiscernible) the whole ship--which they did! Just for the garbage we threw away.

Ivy Barrows:

Did you see any combat during the war?

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

Any what?

Ivy Barrows:

Any combat?

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

Oh yeah.

Ivy Barrows:

Would you like to tell us a little about it? KILLPATRICK: You're in six years; you're bound to run across somebody that don't like you, you know? Yeah. It's hard for me to remember just where but (what's the name of the two islands?) anyway, we were cruising; we didn't figure anyone was on the smaller island but on the big one we figured there might have been. So we were kinda raking it a little bit with 40 millimeters and all the time the smaller island had a gun emplacement that we didn't even know was there and they tracked us all morning and about noon they decided to shoot--they blew our boat deck clear om I don't remember how many guys got hurt or killed but it was quite a surprise. Now, I'm still trying to think of the name of the islands--huh. It's terrible how your memory fails you, especially something that was kinda important.

Ivy Barrows:

Were there any casualties in your unit? You mentioned a few injuries.

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

Well, not too many. We weren't actually sent out as a unit. When we left boot camp, we went aboard ship, or to school, depending on where we wanted to go. And the schools, they only had about three schools at that time: one of them was signaling and I learned that anyhow, and then some kind of electronic school, and I wasn't even interested in that. They were, we were sent out singly not as a unit so I don't know how, in our company 4029 how many casualties there actually were because we were just scattered all over and not as just one company going out together. Now aboard ship there were several casualties: well aboard the, well the Brazos and the Charles Carroll was the other ship, one of the other ones, there were casualties on both of those but as far as how many, I have no idea and I hoped 1'd get by.

Ivy Barrows:

Could you tell me a little about your experience on the Charles Carroll and the Brazos?

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

Well, yeah. When we got the boat deck blown off, that was the Charles Carroll. I had a group or bunch of letters that I had received over the years and I tried to figure where I could put them just in case we ran into someone we didn't like, but I bundled them up all water tight and put them into one of the life boats. Well when they blew the boat deck off, there went my letters. (Excuse me.) So I didn't get to keep them. But it's okay. Then we went out to Wake Island on this tanker, the Brazos, went out there to deliver oil and they didn't have any dock for us to tie up to so we anchored out in the bay and floated hose over to their tank so we could pump the oil. No sooner- and that was quite ajob! To tie those big heavy six inch hoses to the floats to get 'em across there- and no sooner had we got 'em across there that we got word that there was a hurricane coming so we had to drag them back and put them all away and there wasn't any hurricane anyhow! But anyhow, that was--and the beaches there on Wake, and also on Midway (we were at both places) there just abound with little creatures that had beautiful shells on them and I gathered up a whole bunch of them; I kept 'em for years but I guess they're all gone now, I don't know. Just beautiful little shells about that big, you know? They called some of them cat's eyes and I don't know, they were just all over the beaches! But I know that you're not interested in that so we'll forget that.

Ivy Barrows:

I'm interested in anything you want to talk about. You mentioned Midway, were you there for the Battle of Midway?

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

Yes I was, I was there before and during the battle.

Ivy Barrows:

Could you tell me a little about that?

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

We had been to Midway two or three times--twice before the battle of Midwayy- but then when the battle came on we were there again and I was still on that old stinking tanker! And then the Battle of Kodiak, I was there--Kodiak, yeah, that's where I was thinking. The Battle of Wake and Midway was a big mistake in the Japanese part of it because they had all their ships lined up and the US ships were lined up in two places, about two thousand yards apart, and this Japanese bunch started down through the middle and after about five of them got blown up, naturally the rest of them turned around and went the other way. But yeah, I was at Midway and Wake and Kodiak and the gunboat Charleston did a big deal at Kodiak: it peppered those hillsides with shots that blew big holes in the ground. One thing that--there was guys that had been tied down in freezing water for 12-14 hours and they couldn't get up because the guys up on the hillside would shoot 'em if they got up. When the Charleston went in and cleared the hillside, then the guys got up. Some of them had lost their minds, completely, and there were medics herding them along like a bunch of duck, you know? And the treatment they got after that was--to me, it would've killed an ordinary person. They'd lay em down--and it was cold weather up there, icy--and they'd lay down on a blanket, on a table and some knuckle head would run and get 5 gallons of seawater and just throw it all over them and they'd scream and jump up. If they screamed and jumped up they were all right, if they just lay there, they done lost their mind. But anyhow, I actually saw them do that. So they herd these guys m. We took five of them aboard ship and brought them back to the US. There was nothing wrong with them, except that they had peculiar habits: one fella would stand in front of the washroom and brush his teeth for hours and another fella would walk up to and start unbuttoning your shirt! He would unbutton it, and button it back up and unbutton it again.

Ivy Barrows:

Oh, weird.

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

He just did that! That was how he wound up. I don't know how, what ever happened to them. 'Cause when we brought them back they were transported immediately to the hospital so I never saw them again. One of the fellas, aboard ship--his name was, well, there goes another memory loss. But he told me one day, he said, "I don't like this place and I'm gonua get out of it!" and I said, "How in the world are you gonua do that?" and he said, "I'm not gonua tell you but they'll kick me off one of these days" and sure enough, they did! Then after he got back to--he lived in Denver, Colorado--he got back to Denver, he wrote me a letter and he said, "I told you I'd get off." And now, I suppose you're wondering how he got off.

Ivy Barrows:

Exactly.

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

Okay, he wet the bed. Then he'd tum the mattress over and go back to sleep, you know? And he reported it himself to the medical officer. So those medics said, "Well, we know he's lying so we'll just fix him." So the first night, they woke him up every thirty minutes and let him go to the bathroom. And the second night they did the same thing. But the third night, they woke him up till midnight then quit calling him and if he actually had a problem, it would happen between midnight and daylight. And that lucky character woke up himself and he wet his bed and turned it over and went back to sleep and the next day they shipped him off.

Ivy Barrows:

Oh.

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

Oh, some of the characters you run into in This Man's Navy is something else.

Ivy Barrows:

Have you kept in with any of them?

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

Yea, Second Division boatswain's mate came by one day about a year ago-- he had retired from his job and he just came by to say, "hi." And then a fella by the name of Agobee-he lives in, well he has two homes--one in Carolina and the other one in Florida someplace. He came by one time, wanting me to go their reunion and I never did go to their reunions. I don't know why: I just didn't seem to want to go. Anyhow, Agobe is one of them. And a little guy by the name of GG Anderson, he wrote me a letter one time and told me he was doing fine. And then another fella, who was also a gunner, that I knew real well he owned a stock ranch in California and then he had that paralyzing disease, whatever it is--it was prevalent 5 or 6 years ago (what in the world is it?) Anyways, it was paralyzing when you got it, and he couldn't walk at times. Anyway, he had that disease so his daughter wheeled him around in a wheelchair. And he owned this stock ranch and I heard later that he passed away. Then, the little character--eh--anyways, he was a little Irish guy and he carne by, twice. He carne up at that time, before we had the house enlarged, but anyhow, he carne up and had dinner with us and I looked in his car and he had three heaters in his car and I said, "How corne three heaters?" and he said, "It gets cold over in Montana." Denegan was his last name. That's about all I can remember about shipmates.

Ivy Barrows:

Okay--that's wonderful.

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

Except, did you know Torn Driskell?

Ivy Barrows:

I knew him a little bit, but not very much.

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

Well, he was a shipmate of mine. And on down this way, Kemps, Ernie Kemp, was a shipmate of mine. He was a little short guy. From here up he was pretty muscular but from here down there was nothing. (Excuse me.)

Ivy Barrows:

Now, you mentioned you were a gunner's mate.

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

Yea.

Ivy Barrows:

Could you tell us a little bit about how, what that job entailed?

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

Yea, sure.

Ivy Barrows:

And how you chose to be a gunner's mate?

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

Well, I chose to be a gunner's mate because I knew a little bit about the guns and ammunition, and stuff beforehand. Otherwise, I--to be a gunner's mate, you have to keep one of those--a gun, a machine gun, is just like an automobile: you have to keep it maintained or it's gonna quit. One time especially, the chief gunner's mate, and two or three ofthe other gunner's mates, were trying to fix a machine gun, or .20 mill. It would, when they'd load it and pull the trigger it'd go, "pub, pub, pub" and quit. And they'd done everything imaginable to itincluding the Chief gunner's mate was out there working on it. And a fella by the name of Roy Rhymes (he was up in the gun shack and so was I) and he was kinda grinning and the Chief came in said, "I see you're grinning, I suppose you can fix itT' He said, "Yeah, Pat and 1-" that what they called me at times--he said, "Pat and I can fix it." And I thought, "Well I don't know 'bout that!" But anyhow, when we were walking back he said, "Pat and I will go back and fix it, no body else come around, we'll fix it." As I was walking up he said, "You know what's wrong, don't ya?" I said, "I'll just guess one thing: heavy grease." He said, "You hit it right on the head." We took the gun apart, which takes about two minutes to rip it to nothing, and washed all the parts; put light oil on them and put it back together. And he said, "I want" --this guy that I was helping said, "I want a full ammunition box on it." So I set him one on. Then I called the bridge and got permission to test fire and the Officer of the Deck sounded kind of dubious, but he said to go ahead. And so Rhymes, he got in the shoulders of that gun, it had the shoulder fitting, goes over your shoulders then you could lay back and point up or down or whatever and the trigger's right in the middle. So he mashed the trigger and boy it began to spit out the ammunition and the Officer of the Deck screaming "Cease fire, cease fire!" and he emptied that magazine and I apologized to the OD and said "I'm sorry, sir, I couldn't hear you."

Ivy Barrows:

Were you awarded any medals or citations?

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

I was just like the rest of the guys: when I was firing at somebody, I'd fire, and when I got scared, like the rest of them, I'd run. And aboard though, there's not many places you can run to. You can just run so far and then there's the ocean!

Ivy Barrows:

Did you sustain any injuries?

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

No.

Ivy Barrows:

That's good.

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

Other than one and I could've gotten a Purple Heart for that because when I discharged I had a big scar on the side of my face and the guy in the discharge office said, "What is that from?" and I said, "Well, I slipped down in the gun tub and I hit my head on the side of the gun rack, the ammunition rack." And he says, "You want a Purple Heart for that?" And I said "No," I said it was my own fault. So that's the only thing I ever came near getting. As I say, when everybody was scared, I'd get scared too; just kind of a middle type sort of guy, you know? When they'd run, I'd run; when they'd stop, I'd stop and when somebody's chasing me, getting too close, I'd tum around and pop him one, you know? That was it.

Ivy Barrows:

Just sort of about life in the service, how did you stay in touch with your family?

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

Only by letter. 'Cause they sti11lived in Texas and I was out in the middle of Pacific Ocean some place, at times - most times. That's what that "USS" stands for before a ship, "Underway Saturday and Sunday!"

Ivy Barrows:

I'll remember that. What was the food like on board the ship?

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

What was what?

Ivy Barrows:

The food? What was that like?

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

It was fairly good except for the chicken: that was terrible stuffl I don't know why they even allowed it! I could tell you what it was like if you'd like to hear.

Ivy Barrows:

Yeah, please.

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

Well, as far as I could tell, where they froze these chickens to give to the Navy, they'd hang them up by the foot and stick a little something into their throat to drain the blood out of 'em and they would die, of course. Then they would put them in a machine that was supposed to pick the feathers off of them, but it didn't, it got most of 'em, not all of them. But then they'd throw them in the deep freeze; all together, just chuck' em in this quick, deep freeze. And freeze 'em and then six or eight, ten months later, we'd get 'em. And when they'd cut those chickens open to take the insides out of 'em, they would smell terrible! And I don't even like to eat chicken yet for that reason! But anyhow, they'd cut them open and you'd smell 'em all over the ship and I'm sure that ifthere was a submarine around, he'd smell it too. So, anyway, there's nothing - other than that. It was awful. The rest of the food--including the beans Saturday morning for breakfast--were good; I liked those. 'Cause they served beans and cornbread.

Ivy Barrows:

Was there a lot a pressure or stress while you were on board the ships?

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

Not too much, no. It was - well, it wasn't a pleasure cruise, but it was kind of relaxing in a way. One thing that happened though, one time--a torpedo, coming towards you underwater, you can see it, you know? 'Cause it leaves a little wake. I was standing on the starboard side of the deck one time, and I thought I saw a torpedo coming our way. When it got close enough that I figured it was gonna hit, I thought, "I'd better get away from here because this side is gonna blow up" and I ran to the other side of the side and then immediately turned around and came back because nothing happened. And when I came back that--I don't know what it was; it couldn't have been a torpedo because it came right up to the ship like that, did a 90 degree and left, right over back of us. I don't know what it was, it must have been some kind of a fish or something.

Ivy Barrows:

Oh, how did you entertain yourself?

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

Well--

Ivy Barrows:

And how did others around you entertain themselves?

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

Well, we had movies at night, we had a jukebox on the mess deck, and then we had a place where we could buy ice cream and stuff like that. Then we had a general store where we could buy whatever else we wanted like cans of beans, cans of sardines, stuff like that. Other than that, that's about the only thing. We had certain hours that we could sunbathe, unless we were under pressure otherwise, which would be enemy pressure: of course, we wouldn't sunbathe then. That's about the only thing we did.Some of the guys would sneak off and gamble a bit, but that was against the rules too, it was against the rules and regulations of the government of the Navy and later when I got to be Chief--well, I'll think of it in a minute. Anyways, I was Chief of Police. I caught several of the guys gambling and the last trip to Japan and China we had 3 or 4 recruits come aboard in Wa--or San Francisco--and of course, they knew each other from boot camp and they didn't none of us and I was the Chief of Police at the time and I was walking around--and I always wandered aimlessly around the ship, you know? And anything that didn't look right, I'd go and check it out: several stories goes with this, but anyhow. Down on the--there's an escape hatch and I looked down--and down three floors, a light was on. So I climbed slowly down the ladder and these three guy, three guys that had just come aboard, were down there and they was over in one comer and I just kinda circled the whole area and on the opposite comer there was a pair of dice laying there. And 1 walked back by those guys and 1 said, "I don't know whose dice those are, but whosever they are, they better get 'em up and get 'em out of here." Then 1 went on up above and kinda aimlessly talked to people and walked slowly clear back to the stem of the ship. And when 1 got back there, there's a gun tub with two .40 millimeters in it, and then down on the poop deck there's the broad-side mounts down there, and 1 got back there--it must've taken me thirty, forty minutes to get from the number one hole clear back to the stem of the ship, but--it was such a pretty day 1 decided I'd climb up in the gun tub and look, you know, look around. 1 climbed up there and looked over: here these three guys were, they were--had their blanket there, stretched out on deck, and they were shooting dice. They didn't even see me and Ijust climbed right on over, walked up and stood right between a couple of 'em. When one guy said, "I'll bet a dollar," he threw his dollar down, 1 reached down and picked up the dollar, wrapped the dice up in it. 1 says, "Okay," --now this is my last trip, 1 was gonna get discharged when 1 got back to the states--and so 1 told them when they hear Prisoners at Large Assemble in the morning, 1 said, "You report to the Master at Arms shack." "Okay." Okay, they said they would. Which they did: they passed the word Prisoners at Large Assemble and they was in, came in the Master at Arms Shack and 1 was sittin' there waiting for them with those dice with that dollar bill around them, around, laying right in front of me on the desk. And 1 explained to the guys, "Now listen, you guys are just now starting out in This Man's Navy," and 1 says, "You don't know one thing from another and if you did, you wouldn't know the difference, but you--I don't want this gambling set up to go on your record. And in order for it to go on the record 1 have to have these dice and this dollar, to prove that you were gambling." And about that time 1 heard a com come on and I got up and left the dollar and the dice laying there, figuring surely they'd have sense enough to pick them up and leave, you know? And I went out and I was gone about five minutes and came back in and there the three still stood with the dollar and the thing on the desk; then I did rake 'em over the coals I told them about how the cow ate the cabbage about that time. And then I said, "I'm gonna walk outta here one more time and if I come back and you characters are still here, I'm gonna throw you so hard against the brig, it'll knock the back out of it." And I walked down the hallway and they bout ran over me getting by me, going. Anyways, I didn't- the reason I did that was because they were young and they were starting in and they were on their first trip, you might say, and I didn't want to mess up their records: I was getting out as soon as we got back to the States so that's the reason I did it.

Ivy Barrows:

That's very gracious of you. Was there anything in particular that you liked to do when you had leave off of the ship?

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

Not really, except drink beer--and chase women. Yeah, that was one thing that everybody did, I guess. There were a couple of shows in San Francisco that I can't remember the name of, that I wanted to see real bad: they were stage shows, you know, I wanted to see them, but I didn't get to see either one of them cause they were filled both times and nobody cancelled. And other than that, prowling the beaches and stuff like that, that's all we did.

Ivy Barrows:

Do you recall any particularly humorous or unusual events that happened? We've heard a couple, but if you have anymore that would be wonderful to hear about.

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

Yeah. There was a character. When we were anchored in the Yangtze River, the Chinese were paying about twenty dollars a carton for cigarettes and I know this little character was peddling cigarettes to 'em but I hadn't caught him yet. And I told him, though, I said, "I'm gonua catch you one of these days and when I do, you'll be in real trouble." Oh he said, "Bill, I don't do anything like that." And I says, "Don't start by lying to me because I know you are." Anyway, one night about midnight, I saw this - we call 'em "bumboats"- they come up alongside and try to sell you stuff or try to give you a woman, you know, or something like that. Yeah, you can get women off 'em. Anyway, this bumboat was kinda hanging around that bow of the ship and I just casually walked up there, and here this little guy was, bent over the side of the ship, letting the line down. He said, "I'll let your cigarettes down and you tie the money on and I'll pull it back." Okay. Now it was dark and I walked right up behind him and when he pulled the money up, I just reached right around and took it. See we could buy cigarettes, if at that time we used cigarettes, for about $0.05 a pack, because there was no tax on them - outside the continental embassy of the United States the taxes are all dropped and a carton of cigarettes would cost us probably five dollars and he could sell them for twenty. So that's what that little guy was doing. And I just reached down and took his money and caught him by the collar and raised him up and I says, "I told ya I'd catch you." Anyway, I didn't throw him in the brig and I don't think anything ever happened about it, I hope it didn't anyhow. It seemed those characters were good kids, they just didn't know how to be away from home, you know?

Ivy Barrows:

Yeah.

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

I thought the world of all of 'em, but sometimes you just had to put your foot down and catch one of em, you know.

Ivy Barrows:

What did you think of the officers and your fellow sailors?

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

Fellow sailors were wonderful and most of the officers were wonderful. This one officer, I didn't- for some unknown reason, I didn--we were in Seattle, tied up to pier 94 or something and I rated liberty but I didn't go ashore. And this officer came down and he said, "Bill, you rate liberty, don't you?" and I said, "Yes sir." And he says, "You're not going ashore?" And I said, "No, sir, I don't want to go." "Well," he said, "I got a little chore for you." He says, "I want you to go ashore and bring me back a five pound box of chocolates." And I said, "Alright." He gave me the money. I went over and the first drug store I came to, I bought the chocolates and took 'em back there to him. By the way, when I started to leave he said, "Take your time coming back," he said, "stop and have a few beers or something." And I told him, thanked him and then I came back with his chocolates. He said, "Did you have any beer?" and I said, "No, sir" and he said, "Go back and have some."

Ivy Barrows:

(Are you okay?)

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

His name was Wickem; he was from the East Coast. He was also the Gunnery Officer when I took the three tests for gunner's mate. He was a fine fellow, I thought. A lot of people didn't like him, but--he was kinda one way. I got a deck court martial one time. No, it was a summary court martial. And he came to my aid then, he said, "You didn't deliberately try to bring that liquor aboard ship, did you?" and I said, "No, sir." He said, "Well, we're gonna have to figure out some way to get you an excuse." And he sat down with me and he said, "The fella gave you the liquor and he put it in your pea coat pocket while you were eating." And I says, "Right." He says, "Then you forgot about it when you put your pea coat back on to come aboard ship" and I says, "Right." Well, he says, "You didn't knowingly bring liquor aboard ship" and I says, "No, sir, I didn't." Well, he says, "That's one way; we'll go another way." Then he mentioned two or three different ways. Anyway, I didn't get punished for it, so-

Ivy Barrows:

--That's good.

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

Not really, it should've whacked me a good one!

Ivy Barrows:

You mentioned that you took three tests for your--

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

--Took what?

Ivy Barrows:

You mentioned that you took three exams to become a gunner's mate?

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

Yea.

Ivy Barrows:

How's that?

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

Well Ijust took them because they were there: I didn't have to take 'em. There was a boilermaker--was there, giving him, they were giving the guy a boiler's test, a boilermaker's test. Then a boatswain's mate test; then a gunner's mate. And I finished mine up right away and I asked the boat officer, the officer, if! could take the boatswain's test and, "Sure!" he said and he handed me one. I took it and I got through it and I asked him if! could take the boilermaker's test, "Sure," he said and he handed me one. So I took all three of 'em. And then, later he called me up and said, "What do you wanna be? A boilermaker, a boatswain's mate or a gunner's mate?" I said I wanted to be the gunner. "Okay," he says, "you got it." And that was for first class gunner, too: pretty good rating. (Excuse me.) Anyway, that's when I turned and started to walk out of his office, or his room, he asked me about that, "How do you moor an anchored mine?" Of course, I'd memorized that, so I still remembered it; he just said, "Oh, go on, you can be a gunner's mate." There's a lot of stuff there that you run across at times that sounds foolish but other times it sounds pretty reasonable. Like one of the questions they gave me on the A and N manual, that's the - you have to take a test on it on every test you take, you take part of an A and N - one of 'em was: If you were standing on the North Pole, if you went east for half mile, what kind of bear would you find? Now that is a trick question and there's no answer to it all except that you can't go east standing on the North Pole; the only way you can go is South, regardless of which way you start you go South. That was just one of the questions.

Ivy Barrows:

That's funny. Just after the service, do you recall where you were and what day your service ended?

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

May 23rd, I believe, in Norman, Oklahoma. They were gonna discharge me out here in California; then the guy got to checking over my papers, says "Gee wiz, says he's from Texas--let's send him to Norman, Oklahoma." And they did. And that was quite, quite an experience in itself. The fella who took charge of us when we got there, he must've been from South Alabama from way back, 'cause he talked real slow, and he says, "Now fellas," he said, "I want you to stay together," he says, "don't be straggling off one or two at a time." He says, "We have some people who did that here a while back," and says, "we haven't found them yet!" And the way he'd talk would just tickle the life out of ya just listening to him, you know? And then, that's the one who asked me in wanted a Purple Heart for falling down in the gun tub--my ears were bad then, and I don't know why I didn't report it to 'em, but they're slowly getting worse. Anyway--they assembled us all in a big building there, in the center, and there was a character, standing by the doorway, with a Captain's uniform on and we'd walk by and we were supposed to salute him and he said, "That's alright fellas, don't salute anymore," he says, "You guys are civilians now!" He says, "You can fire up a cigarette if you want to, you can throw it down on the floor and step on it or you can throw it outside; just don't bum the building down," he said. And that was unusual because we, generally when there's a Captain around, we kinda "snap to," you know? But we had received our discharge papers so we were civilians; we didn't have to pay any attention to him anymore. But it was hard to get to pay attention to the rest of the world once you got out: under strict rule for so long, that when you got out, it was unusual that you didn't have to listen to people that you didn't want to, you know. But it wore off in time. I like the way those shoes work, you got them laced on to your feet.

Ivy Barrows:

Well thank you. Back to after being discharged, do you remember what you did in the days and the weeks afterward? How was that-

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

Yes, I remember: I went back home, went out to the ranch I worked on before, I went in and told him, "I'm back." And he said, "Okay, your saddle's still in the bam" and I went to work.

Ivy Barrows:

That's convenient! Did you go to school at all afterwards?

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

Yes I went to--started school for Petroleum Engineering and I think I went two semesters--then I ran out of money and couldn't go anymore so I--at that time, nobody would give you money to go on, you know?

Ivy Barrows:

Oh, really?

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

Nowadays, you can get money several different places to go.

Ivy Barrows:

Yea, did you--

Ivy Barrows:

Did you not get any money from the GI Bill?

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

Five-hundred dollars.

Ivy Barrows:

That's not very much.

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

No. and they'd pay 100 dollars a month for my schooling, but you couldn't live on that!

Ivy Barrows:

Oh, that's sad. So, you mentioned that you went to school for a couple of semesters, what did you go on to do as a career after that?

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

I went to work in the oil fields, worked there some time and then went back to cowboy (that's about all I knew).

Ivy Barrows:

Yeah? Okay. In general how do you think your military experience has influenced your opinion about the military?

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

Well, I don't think it--it's influenced my opinion, of course, but I'm for the military. I like the military; in fact, I believe if! could go in right now, I'd go back--even though I know I'd be sent to terrible places. But I like the military, I think it's a good, good--but comparing the military with the war: I wouldn't take 15 thousand dollars for the experience I've had during wartime, but I wouldn't give ya 15 cents for any more of it.

Ivy Barrows:

How would you say that your service and your experiences have affected your life?

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

Oh, well, my experiences in the service affected my life, even yet at times, to try to get things done and done right, you know? Other times, I'd rather just forget it. But it, the service, has an affect on you to try to maintain a normal situation when, at times it's not really normal. It's okay, that's fine. It makes you appreciate people more, it really does, the service does, 'cause I don't know--without the friends that I've gained since I've been out, I don't think I could make it without them, cause they're wonderful people. They're honest people--most of 'em, at times you run across one that isn't, but you learn to love 'em, just like one big family, you know?

Ivy Barrows:

Is there anything else that you would like to add to this interview, like any stories, just random things?

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

Yeah, there's one little story I'd like to add to it.

Ivy Barrows:

You can add as many stories as you like.

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

Do you like seafood?

Ivy Barrows:

Yes.

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

Like lobster and stuff like that?

Ivy Barrows:

Yes.

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

Okay. We were tied up to an old rotten dock in the Aleutian Islands one time, right close to Alaska. There was a kid out there climbing around underneath that dock and he came back with a lobster about that long. He had a string tied to it and was leading it around the deck, you know? And this fella from south Louisiana looked at it and he said, "Randall," he says, "What are you gonna do with that lobster?" He says, "I don't know." And he says, "Let me have it." and "Okay," Randall gave it to him and he turned him in and he says, "Patrick, come by the galley in one hour," he says, "I'll show you the best food you've ever ate in your life." I said, "You mean that thing?" "Yeah," he said. At that time I wouldn't have eaten a lobster if! supposed I was starving. Anyway, about an hour I came back and he had that lobster all laid out on the table, cracking it up and eating it, you know. And I didn't even taste it, but I learned to like it later: I have a peculiar way of learning to like things-- I think, "Well, it must be good or so many people wouldn't eat it." And then, one day I'll try it and it is good, you know? It just works that way.

Ivy Barrows:

Is there anything else?

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

I think I've told you about all that I can. I don't know.

Ivy Barrows:

Did you, did you marry while you were in the service?

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

No, no, I was discharged and moved up here in 1948 and I got married. We've been married 57 years now. Yick. That's a long-

Ivy Barrows:

And your wife's name is?

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

Carol.

Ivy Barrows:

57 years.

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

It's a long time, honey, don't ever hook up with it!

Ivy Barrows:

And you mentioned that you never did join a veteran's organization or go to any of the reunions, correct?

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

No, I never did and ol', this fella I told you about, Agobe, he insisted that I go and I don't know I think I was just afraid of a big city or something like that, is one of the reasons I didn't go. But I never did--they had six or seven of 'em and I never went to any of them. One of them was in San Antonio, Texas and I should've gone to that one, but I didn't. I just--I don't know, just such and such doesn't appeal to me other than the fact that they had real good food and stuff like that, you know? The one they had in Seattle, I guess they had as much smoked fish as you could eat! And I love smoked fish. I used to smoke a lot of it, myself. But, I just didn't go. Mainly because I thought I'd be lost two thirds of the time--which I would be. But I know 8th and Union St. in Seattle used to have the best Mexican restaurant I'd found in that town, that was 50 years ago, hon.

Ivy Barrows:

Yea. Well, so nothing else? (Sorry)

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

No, I don't think so.1 think my voice is about shot anyhow.

Ivy Barrows:

Well, thank you so much for participating in this interview!

Billy Barry Kilpatrick:

Well, thank you for asking me. Now, this other guy down in that church down there probably got a wilder story than I had.

 
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  October 26, 2011
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