Friday, May 25, 2012

Green River History


Early Navigation Projects on Green River, 1828-1842

(from: The Falls City Engineers: A history of the Louisville District, Corps of Engineers United States Army)


The first American pioneers to settle in the Green River Valley used the river and its tributaries to send produce in flatboats to New Orleans, but Evansville, Indiana on the Ohio just below the mouth of the Green, eventually became the marketing center for Green River commerce. During much of the nineteenth and for several decades in the twentieth century, the Green River Valley supplied Evansville saw mills and wood-working plants with timber; Evansville claimed in 1898 to be the largest hardwood manufacturing center in the world. Logs cut on the Green River or its tributaries in July were allowed to dry until winter, then pinned together with wooden pegs in rafts and floated down to Evansville.



The steamboat McLean was the first to reach Bowling Green in 1828, and it was followed by other boats each high water. In 1828 also, Kentucky established a Board of Internal Improvements, which requested the loan of United States Army Engineers for surveys of streams in Kentucky. Lieutenant William Turnvull and Lieutenant Campbell Graham, Topographical Engineers, surveyed the Green River in 1828 and turned the results over to the state Board. As part of its state-wide internal improvements program, Kentucky authorized development of a slackwater project to improve navigation up the Green and Barren rivers to Bowling Green in 1833, and employed an experienced civil engineer, General Abner Lacock, former Congressman and Senator of Pennsylvania and engineer on the Pennsylvania canal system, to locate the locks and dams. The Green-Barren River project was the first improvement of its kind in the United States, and canal engineers were the men with the most closely related experience. (As previously mentioned, construction of a slackwater project became known as a "canalization" project; this is, to make like a canal.)

William B. Foster, also a Pennsylvania canal engineer, was first resident engineer in charge of construction, but because of ill-health he resigned in early 1835 and the project was completed under the direction of Alonzo Livermore, another Pennsylvania canal engineer recommended by General Abner Lacock. Construction of Locks and Dams Nos. 1 and 2 was underway when Livermore took over; however, Livermore modified their designs to increase lock chamber dimensions to 160 feet long by 36 feet wide. He selected sites of two more locks and dams on the Green (Nos. 3 and 4) and one on the Barren (No. 1) to establish 175 miles of six-foot slackwater navigation from the mouth of the Green up to Bowling Green on the Barren. The locks were constructed, under contract, of sandstone masonry laid in Louisville hydraulic cement (except No. 2 which was laid in common lime). To overcome a gradient of 78 feet in 175 miles, the locks averaged fifteen and a half feet of lift. The dams were timbercrib, rock-filled structures with masonry abutments.

Several contactors failed on the project, and other problems were experienced -- chiefly resulting from poor foundation conditions and damages to completed work by floods. A flood in 1840, for example, breached an abutment of Lock and Dam No. 3 and carried away the lower lock-gates. Exclusive of the costs of snag-removal and general channel clearance, initial construction costs aggregated $780,000 -- about $10,000 per foot of lock-lift. This cost was about triple the original cost estimates; however, the fist estimates were for smaller locks and lesser-quality materials and did not provide for such contingencies as the costs of repairing flood damages.

Though the project was not entirely completed in 1841, the steamboat Sandusky locked through to Bowling Green late in the year, thereby clearly demonstrating, one contemporary observer said, that "the removal of the obstructions to the navigation of all the great rivers of the West is practicable." Over $2,000 in tolls were collected during the first year of operation and fears that the project would form a health hazard and would be a waste of money were dissipated. Residents of the Green Valley readily acknowledged the "advantages derived from a perpetual line of the finest water navigation in the world." Regular steamboat trade between Evansville and Bowling Green was inaugurated; citizens of Bowling Green constructed a six-story warehouse at the river and a mule-powered railroad to connect the landing with the business section; and the project provided a substantial economic boost to the commercial development of the region.

Free Navigation on the Barren and Green, 1865-1890

The navigation structures on the Green and Barren rivers were damaged and their maintenance was neglected during the Civil War, and in 1868, rather than expend the funds necessary to repair the project, the state legislature leased the works to the Green and Barren River Navigation Company, an organization of bankers, attorneys, and steamboatmen led by W.S. Vanmeter, the steamboat captain who had obstructed Lock No. 3 for the Confederacy in 1862. The company operated the project, opened mines and entered other business, and ran its own steamboats, the Evansville and the Bowling Green. Since company-owned vessels paid no tolls, the company soon drove competition from the river and established a de facto
monopoly.

Opposition to the monopoly soon developed, and it had very influential leadership in the person of General Don Carlos Buell, former Union General who settle in the Green Valley (at Airdrie, Muhlenberg County) after the war, opened coal mines, and began shipping coal down river to Memphis in late 1865. His business grew until 1868, when the navigation company took over the project and, with its toll-free privileges, undersold him and drove him from the market. General Buell lead a campaign to end the company monopoly and free the river of tolls. When his efforts failed in the state legislature, he took the case to Congress contending:

If the claim of Green River to the care of the Government as a public avenue rested on nothing but the expressive fact that at one period in our civil war the slackwater navigation served as a valuable channel of supplies for a Union army at a critical moment when all other lines failed, the question might properly be dismissed. But the ordinary trade of the Green River country has been relatively large from the earliest settlement, and the magnitude of its undeveloped resources especially in minerals, demands for it the facilities of an extended interstate commerce.

General Buell's complaint that the company rested "like an incubus on the destinies of the Green River Valley" brought Congressional action in 1879. An investigation ordered, and the Corps of Engineers reported that tolls on the Green and Barren rivers were excessive and that a monopoly did exist. Congress directed the Corps to ascertain the steps necessary for federal purchase and toll-free operation of the project, and a special Board of Engineers convened at Bowling Green in 1886. The Board conferred with directors of the company, inspected the project, reported that an injurious monopoly did exist, and recommended "in justice to the country tributary to the Green and Barren rivers, the present obstructive tax on its commerce should be removed." The Kentucky legislature ceded its rights to the project to the United States in 1886, and Congress purchased the company franchise for $135,000 in 1888.

Lock No. 3, the one most heavily damaged during the war, collapsed in 1887; other locks were in poor condition; the channel was littered with snags; and through navigation on the river had been suspended when the United States took over the project. Lieutenant William "Goliath" Sibert, Corps of Engineers, was assigned the duty of reopening the river to navigation. Sibert, a physically large man, had roomed at the Point with diminutive David Gaillard --hence Sibert's nickname "Goliath." His work on the Green and Barren river project was his first civil works experience and it launched him on a distinguished engineering career which took him around the world, but he was to call the Green River Country home ever afterwards. Sibert established an Engineer office at Bowling Green, arranged construction of the snag-boat William Preston Dixon to clear the Green River of snags, and initiated an emergency reconstruction of Lock No. 3 to reopen the river.

Difficulties were experienced in pumping water out of the cofferdam at Lock No. 3 in 1889, and in 1890 Lieutenant Sibert called in a waterways engineering expert, Benjamin F. Thomas, U.S. Assistant Engineer on the Big Sandy River, who got the cofferdam pumped out in ten days, put in the new masonry, and opened the lock to navigation on 10 November 1890. Residents of the Green Valley were "jubilant" and hundreds gathered at the river to see the first boat pass through toll-free. General Buell reopened his coal mines, the timber-rafting business increased, and, because the boats could transport commodities at about half the prevailing rail rates, railroads reduced rates to meet the competition. Commerce on the river quadrupled -- as many as sixteen steamboats soon plied the waterway regularly. The editor of the Calhoun, Kentucky, Constitution wrote in 1890:

It is very observable that since Green river has been made free to all who desire to run any kind of craft upon its waters, commercial affairs are assuming larger proportions; new farms are being opened, and various kinds of manufacturing establishments are springing up along its course.

Rough 
River Lock & Dam #1 and 'Steamer City of Hartford'

In 1899, three steamboats and a number of small vessels were plying the Rough River to Hartford; they transported 10,883 tons of freight in that year. But 1899 was just about the peak for traffic on the Rough River. The project, except for its precedent-setting construction method, was a signal failure. No extensive traffic ever developed on the Rough River, though it is possible, because of how construction and operation costs, that during its many years of operation the public investment in the project was adequately reimbursed in the form of lower transportation costs, if reductions in rail rates are included.

When R.H. Fitzhugh, assistant to Colonel William E. Merrill, examined the Green River in 1879, he reported it would be feasible to construct eight locks and dams above Lock and Dam No. 4 (at Woodbury, Kentucky) on the Green River to extend slackwater navigation to such communities as Brownsville, Munfordsville, and Greensburg. Fitzhugh explored Mammoth Cave, reported that the water in the cave was the same level as the river, and concluded that a slackwater project would have no more effect on the famous cave than an ordinary rise in the river.

No action was taken on the Fitzhugh report, but concurrent with successful reopening of the old state project on the lower river, another examination of the Upper Green was authorized in 1890. Lieutenant William L. Sibert reported the construction of two additional locks and dams (Nos. 5 and 6) on the Green could open mineral and timber resources of such tributaries as Bear Creek and Nolin River to development and establish waterways transportation to the popular resort area at Mammoth Cave. Congress approved construction of Locks and Dams Nos. 5 and 6; William M. Hall moved Engineering equipment from Rough River and commenced construction; and in 1906 the steamboat Chaperon made the first run from Evansville to Mammoth Cave. A regular tourist and excursion traffic developed to and from the Cave region and commerce on the Green River system increased, but the public investment in Locks and Dams Nos. 5 and 6 was probably never reimbursed. Timber and asphalt resources on the Upper Green were developed to a limited extent, but general commerce was also served by the Louisville and Nashville Railroad and the turnpike between Bowling Green and Louisville.
_____________________________________________________________________


Green River

There are some interesting and beautiful photographs of the Green River and Lock No. 3, which is located near Rochester, KY (the intersection of Ohio, Butler, and Muhlenberg Counties), on the web site owned by KORBO Communications, 433 N. Main St., Beaver Dam, Kentucky 42320. Their web site’s address is (click to go there):


A quote from the above site is: Early steamboats were known as "packet boats" or simply "packets"; they were owned and operated by packet companies, which were the freight handlers near the turn of the century (from 1800s to 1900s).  Keep in mind that there were few good roads in those days, and movement for commercial and personal purposes over land was relatively expensive and dangerous .. not to mention slow.  Although the Green River system probably has wanted for maintenance since construction was first completed, by 1847 five steamboats were making daily trips, for example, between Bowling Green and Evansville, and the years between 1890 and 1910 were "the most glamorous and romantic period".  In 1905 there were nine packets on the Green River, and twenty-eight pleasure boats operated on the river and its tributaries.  It is likely that the Green River system provided the only readily available means of transportation and pleasure during the period.  Around 1906 it was possible to leave Calhoun at five in the evening and arrive in Evansville around daylight.

Thanks to Terry Knight for taking these photographs and for sharing his site with us.



Ohio County, Kentucky Coal Camps


Ohio County, Kentucky Coal Camps

COMPANY

COMMUNITY

COUNTY
YEARS OF OPERATION

EMPLOYEES

Deanefield Coal Company

Aetnaville

Ohio
1903-1906

120

Beaver Dam Coal Company

Beaver Dam

Ohio

1916-1937

250

Taylor Coal Company

Beaver Dam

Ohio

1903-1907

225

Taylor Coal Company of Kentucky

Beaver Dam

Ohio

1911-1915

350

Hawley-McIsaac Company, Inc. Mine

Centertown

Ohio

1926-1928

75

Rockport Coal Company

Centertown

Ohio

1924-1928

200

Green River Coal Mining Company

Coffman

Ohio

1907-1907

25

Green River M M & T Company

Coffman

Ohio

1905-1906

35

Cummings & Day Mine

Deanefield

Ohio

1921-1923

31

Central Coal & Iron Company

Echols

Ohio

1914-1917

180

Kentucky Coke Company

Echols

Ohio

1919-1928

170

Louisville Gas & Electric Company

Echols

Ohio

1931-1941

150

McHenry Coal Company

Echols

Ohio

1912-1921

115

Beaver Dam Coal Company

McHenry

Ohio

1916-1937

250

Central Coal & Iron Company

McHenry

Ohio

1914-1917

125

Holt Brothers Mining Company

McHenry

Ohio

1921-1938

250

McHenry Coal Company

McHenry

Ohio

1905-1921

135

Render Coal Company

McHenry

Ohio

1917-1923

50

Williams Coal Company

McHenry

Ohio

1904-1915

300

High View Mining Company

Prentiss

Ohio

1931-1941

68

Central Coal Company

Render

Ohio

1948-1952

75

Central Coal & Iron Company

Render

Ohio

1903-1909

180

Peacock Coal Company

Reynolds

Ohio

1907-1908

20

Rockport Coal Company

Rockport

Ohio

1912-1923

200

Broadway Coal Mining Company

Simmons

Ohio

1907-1934

250

Taylor Coal Company

Taylor Mines

Ohio

1903-1903

200

C.W. Wells Coal Company

Whitesville

Ohio

1923-1924

31

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Obituary of Weaver H. Barnard


Obituary from unnamed newspaper:
Weaver H. Barnard
Weaver H., son of John and Elizabeth Barnard, was born in Ohio County, Kentucky, December 29 1851; died March 7, 1938; age 86 years, 2 months and 7 days. He came to Illinois in 1876, where he was married to Alice Ann Daisy in June 1890; eight children were born to this union, three of whom died in infancy.
At an early age he professed his faith in Christ and united with the M.E. Church at Bailey, where he has always been a faithful and devoted member.  He was a kind and indulgent parent, an affectionate companion, a good neighbor and a true friend.  He was pleasant in his manner and made friends with all who know him.  His companion preceded him in death, March 8, 1934.  Since that time he has made his home with his children and he passed away at the home of his daughter, Mrs. Fannie Reed, who with her husband had tenderly cared for him during his last illness.
He is survived by two sons, Henry of Chenoa and Earl of Sims; three daughters, Irene Lamb of Palestine and Fanny Reed and Gertie Jones of near Fairfield; two brothers, John and Eli Barnard both of near Sims; thirteen grandchildren, one great-grandson, many other relatives and a host of friends who will mourn his passing.
Funeral services were conducted from the Bailey Church, Wednesday morning, by Rev. John Rush, assisted by Rev. H.C. Mendenhall.  Interment was in the Bailey cemetery.
  from a newspaper clipping found in the Bible of Henry Barnard
                                   IN MEMORIAM
In loving memory of our beloved Father, Weaver H. Barnard who died March 7, 1938.
Today we call sad memories
Of the loved ones gone to rest
And those who think of him today
Are those who love him best.
From Memorial card
In Memory of
Weaver H. Barnard
Born
December 29, 1851
Died
March 7, 1938
Services Held at
Bailey Church
Wednesday, March 9, 1938
11:00 o'clock a.m.
Conducted by
Rev. John Rush
Rev. H.C. Mendenhall
Interment
Bailey Cemetery
Casket Bearers:
Arthur Barnard
Lewis Barnard
Ralph Barnard
Elmer Barnard
Vess Barnard
Roy Barnard
Crossing The Bar
Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be
No moaning of the Bar
When I put out to sea,
For tho' from out our bourne
Of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot-face to face,
When I have crost the Bar
Tennyson

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Fallen Kentucky Soldiers in WWI - Ohio County


Three volume set; Compiled by: W.M. Haulsee, F.G. Howe, and  A.C. Doyle.

Soldiers Record Publishing Association

Washington, D.C., 1920 

Status:
D.W.= Died of WoundsD.A.= Died of Accident
D.D.= Died of DiseaseK.A.= Killed in Action
                                         W.A.= Wounded in Action


RankSurnameGiven NameTownCountyStatusIndex PagePicture Page
Pvt.Benton,Malan A.,HartfordOhio CountyK.A.403
Cpl.Brown,Lee,EcholsOhio CountyD.W.406
Pvt.Crow,John,FordsvilleOhio CountyD.W.
379
Pvt.Crow,John,FordvilleOhio CountyD.W.407
Pvt.Crowe,Jesse V.,HartfordOhio CountyD.D. 380
Pvt.Davis,Robert A.,HartfordOhio CountyK.A.403
Pvt.Durall,James O.,RockportOhio CountyK.A.404382
Pvt.Gabbard,Clarence Arthur,SunnydaleOhio CountyK.A.404
Pvt.Goff,Ira B.,Horse BranchOhio CountyD.W.407
Cpl.Higgs,Methias,FordvilleOhio CountyK.A.403
Pvt.Lake,Corbett,HartfordOhio CountyK.A.404
Sgt.Lee,Eddie,HartfordOhio CountyK.A.
388
Sgt.Lee,Eddie,NarrowsOhio CountyK.A.403
Pvt.Long,Jestus Walter,Sulphur SpringsOhio CountyD.W.407
Sgt.Main,Charles C.,Beaver DamOhio CountyD.D.405
Capt.Mitchell,Clarence,FordsvilleOhio CountyW.A.
390
Pvt.Reed,Chester,Manda*Ohio CountyK.A.404
Pvt.Stone,James E.,HartfordOhio CountyK.A.404396
Pvt.Taylor,Douglas,NarrowsOhio CountyD.W.407
Pvt.Williams,Walter A.,RosineOhio CountyD.D.406
Pvt.Willoughby,Beachem W.,HorsebranchOhio CountyK.A.405

Cemeteries of Ohio County


CEMETERIES OF OHIO COUNTY
  • Alexander Cemetery
  • Arnold Ridge Cemetery
  • Ashley Cemetery
  • Axton Cemetery
  • Baizetown Cemetery
  • Bell Cemetery
  • Bellamy Cemetery
  • Carson Cemetery
  • Chapman Cemetery
  • Clark Cemetery
  • Dodson Cemetery
  • Ellis Cemetery
  • Fairview Cemetery
  • Ferguson Cemetery
  • Fisher Cemetery
  • Friendship Cemetery
  • Fulton Cemetery
  • Grant Cemetery
  • Haiti Cemetery
  • Haynes Cemetery
  • Haynes Cemetery
  • Haynes Cemetery
  • Humphrey Cemetery
  • Independence Cemetery
  • Kelly Cemetery
  • Leach Cemetery
  • Linly Cemetery
  • Maddox Cemetery
  • Megan Cemetery
  • McCarty Cemetery 
  • McCord Cemetery
  • Midkiff Cemetery
  • Midkiff Cemetery
  • Midway Cemetery
  • Miller Family Cemetery
  • Mount Pleasant Cemetery
  • Mount Vernon Cemetery
  • Oakwood Cemetery
  • Old Mill Cemetery
  • Patterson Cemetery
  • Patton Cemetery
  • Paxton Cemetery
  • Pleasant Grove Cemetery
  • Ralph Cemetery
  • Reid Cemetery
  • Render Cemetery
  • Rosine Cemetery
  • Shields Cemetery
  • Shown Cemetery
  • Shultztown Cemetery
  • Slaty Creek Cemetery
  • Sunnyside Cemetery
  • Taylor Cemetery
  • Taylor Cemetery
  • Tichnor Cemetery
  • Voyles Cemetery
  • Wade Cemetery
  • Wedding Cemetery
  • Wilson Cemetery
  • Wright Cemetery

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Veterans History Project - Library of Congress


Interview with James Lee Baker [7/19/2002]

Larry Ordner:
This tape is made July 19, 2002, with James Lee Baker. Mr. Baker was born May 22, 1926, and resides in Corbin, Kentucky. He is a native of Ohio County, Kentucky, and served in the United States Navy Amphibians as a fireman first class from 1944 to 1945. Went in the Navy at age 17. Saw service, among other locations, at Great Lakes, Norfolk, Fort Bliss, and on LSTs 805 and 853, and also while in Okinawa. Received a commendation from his captain for outstanding duty, and also the awardee of a Bronze Star. This tape is made with Larry Ordner, regional director for Senator Richard Lugar. Well, Mr. Baker, tell me now, you were 17 years old, and then you -- when you went in the Navy. Did you enlist, or were you drafted?
James Lee Baker:
No. I had to -- when I -- my brother was already over in the South Pacific, and I wanted to go. So I kept bringing papers home for my dad to sign. He kept tearing them up.
Larry Ordner:
Really? Did he think you were too young?
James Lee Baker:
Yeah. So -- my brother was already over there, too, see. So the third bunch I brought home, I said, Pap, if you don't sign these, I'm going to sign your name to them. And he said, well, Jim, I'd about as soon see you dead as to sign them. But nothing else for him to do but sign them, so he signed them.
Larry Ordner:
So what was -- the main reaction from home was he didn't want to do it?
James Lee Baker:
He didn't want to do it. Daddy didn't want to sign them.
Larry Ordner:
Yeah.
James Lee Baker:
Oh, I can understand that now, see --
Larry Ordner:
Sure. Sure, yeah.
James Lee Baker:
-- better than I could then.
Larry Ordner:
Where was your brother at?
James Lee Baker:
He was in the South Pacific.
Larry Ordner:
Well, at age 17, though, then where did you go for induction? Do you remember?
James Lee Baker:
Great Lakes to boot camp.
Larry Ordner:
Boot camp? Boot camp at Great Lakes. Did you get there on a train? Did they send you on a train?
James Lee Baker:
Yeah, a train.
Larry Ordner:
And you knew that you were going there, though, didn't you?
James Lee Baker:
Yeah.
Larry Ordner:
Yeah. Well, what was -- what was basic like for you? Was it pretty rigorous physically?
James Lee Baker:
Well, Great Lakes wasn't. But Fort Pierce, Florida, I got in the amphibs, see.
Larry Ordner:
Now, how were you selected for that? Was -- did they evaluate you and decide that you wanted -- that you needed to go into that, or was that --
James Lee Baker:
I don't know exactly how I got in it, but it's -- we had to have a lot of extra training.
Larry Ordner:
Okay.
James Lee Baker:
So we had 16 weeks in Florida. That was rough, because we had to -- see, we had to go in and hit the beach on these LSTs. This training we took down there was for in case we didn't get off from the beach. We were issued a knife and a .45 before we'd go in and hit the beach in case we took -- where we took the Marines in or the infantry or the engineers or whatever we was hauling, they'd issue that to us before we hit the beach in case we didn't get off the beach. ___+. So -- and in case we had to go ashore with whoever we was hauling. That was all we had for protection, you know. Of course, old LST number 30, it got hit about midships, and half of them ended up on the beach, and the rest of them went back out in the water. I don't imagine they survived. ___+.
Larry Ordner:
Yeah. Just for the purposes of this tape, because I know that there might be future listeners who really are unsure of the role of the LSTs, can you describe really what the LSTs were all about and what kinds of duties they were really meant to do?
James Lee Baker:
Well, they was -- they was made for one purpose, to go in and hit that beach. Flat on the bottom and then hot as hell. But they -- they knew that. They were just made to get over there and do a job. They left them in some of these countries and didn't even bring them back.
Larry Ordner:
Really?
James Lee Baker:
So -- I don't know what ever happened to mine, you know.
Larry Ordner:
Well, the LSTs really had quite a history with this area, too, didn't they?
James Lee Baker:
Yeah.
Larry Ordner:
Because they were --
James Lee Baker:
Made over in Evansville.
Larry Ordner:
-- built in Evansville and --
James Lee Baker:
Well, now, how can I find this out? After I got off from that 805 -- it left me in New Orleans in ___+ went to the hospital -- I got on that 853. And where was it made at?
Larry Ordner:
I'm not sure. I don't know.
James Lee Baker:
How can I find out?
Larry Ordner:
I don't know. I'm sure we can probably find out. I'll make a note for you and see what I can do.
James Lee Baker:
Oh, I'd just like to know. It might have been made here in Evansville, or it might have been made up in Jeffersonville. I don't know.
Larry Ordner:
Well, tell me now, after -- after Great Lakes and your training, then what? What was next for you?
James Lee Baker:
Well, we went to Norfolk, and we were training down there for five or six weeks, and then we went to Fort Pierce, Florida.
Larry Ordner:
Uh-huh. And that was for amphibian training?
James Lee Baker:
Yeah, 16 weeks.
Larry Ordner:
Now, what kind of things in the amphibian training was different than what other men would have gotten had they not been in --
James Lee Baker:
Well, we had --
Larry Ordner:
I guess what I'm asking is, what were you training for differently than, say, other men in the Navy would have been training for?
James Lee Baker:
Well, it's like my brother. He went aboard -- he went to boot camp, and then he went aboard a ship and went on overseas. And then I had to have all this extra training because I was going to get on an LST. I was training for that. And like I said, you know, they go in and hit the beach, and sometimes they don't get off the beach. And that training was for if you have to go ashore with whoever you're hauling, then that's all -- that's all you've got. You've got a .45 and a knife to fight the Japs with.
Larry Ordner:
Wow. So from Norfolk, then, you were really -- that's when you went on the LSTs. Right?
James Lee Baker:
No. I went to Fort Pierce, Florida, and had 16 weeks of amphibious training.
Larry Ordner:
Okay. Okay. Now from that point, where did you go?
James Lee Baker:
Well, let's see. We came back to Jeffersonville, picked up that 805.
Larry Ordner:
And then that was in -- and again for the tape, we'll say that was in Jeffersonville, Indiana, what was now Jeffboat. I think it was the Howard Shipyard at that time. And they were making -- also making LSTs?
James Lee Baker:
Uh-huh.
Larry Ordner:
And you picked it up there?
James Lee Baker:
Yeah.
Larry Ordner:
And where did it go from that?
James Lee Baker:
We come down the Ohio here to New Orleans. No, let's see. Yeah, I got off from it in New Orleans, that 805 there, you know. Then I got on the 853 in New Orleans, then went on out on that. We made the invasion of Okinawa in the 53.
Larry Ordner:
All right. How long of a passage was it? Where did you -- you left from New Orleans, and what was your route to Okinawa?
James Lee Baker:
We went to Hawaii, Pearl -- Pearl Harbor.
Larry Ordner:
You had to go through, I guess, the Panama Canal route. Right?
James Lee Baker:
Oh, yeah. Oh, we went through -- you had to go through the Panama Canal, where we had to -- we went on down to -- we went down the Mississippi, you know, the Gulf of Mexico, through the Panama Canal, the coast of Seattle.
Larry Ordner:
That is a long route, isn't it?
James Lee Baker:
We left -- we left going overseas from Seattle --
Larry Ordner:
Uh-huh.
James Lee Baker:
-- and came back to Seattle. I don't know how that worked out ___+.
Larry Ordner:
So you went to -- you say you went to Hawaii, and that was really like when you'd finally gotten -- Hawaii is like your holding base right before you left for Okinawa?
James Lee Baker:
Yeah. Well, we made -- we made a few more islands. See, my brother got in on some of them, you know, before Okinawa come up. We made some of them, but the fighting was mostly over on them, you know, but -- but, now, Okinawa was a -- that was a dandy, boy. So --
Larry Ordner:
Okay. Can you tell me about that, please? What -- what was your role with that on the LSTs? Can you describe that for me?
James Lee Baker:
Well, I was a gunner. You see, they've got these little landing barges on the sides, two on each side, BPs, I think they were. And when they left -- when that one left the ship, I was a gunner on that, had to go with it. They had a .50 caliber -- two .50 caliber machine guns on the steering ___, you know, and I was gunner on one of them. And when they left the ship for any reason, I had to go with them, you know. We -- one time we was lowering this BP over the side, and there was a lot of bodies in the water, just floating, you know. And this one particular fellow that I've thought about a lot, he come floating by face down in the water, and he was a sailor, because he had on dungarees and a T-shirt, a white T-shirt, you know. I could tell he was a sailor by that. But he was face down in the water, and he had a big red rose on his shoulder that said "Mother" on there. And I had to take this long pole with a hook on it like we used to pull up to a ship or something and ease him over out of the way so we wouldn't set there and chop him up, you know. And then he goes on out to sea, you know. But I thought about while I was doing that, about his mama being home waiting for a letter, but she wasn't going to get one. She didn't know that yet, see. So --
Larry Ordner:
And you thought -- you thought it was just somebody's kid?
James Lee Baker:
Somebody's -- yeah. Just like I say, he had "Mother" -- had "Mother" on his shoulder.
Larry Ordner:
And at the age that you were, that had to be a very difficult thing to see. I mean, I imagine you felt like you had grew up pretty fast out there, didn't you?
James Lee Baker:
Oh, yeah. Well, you just did what you had to. You didn't let that bother you, because you've got to watch the Japs. I mean, you had your mind on the Japs. ___+ along the beach. See, we took the infantry in. Now, the 27th Infantry and the 77th Infantry made that landing there, and I'm not sure -- I've been trying to think which one we had. We took one of the infantries in first. The 77th and the 27th, we had one or the other of them, but I can't think which one. But then we unloaded the infantry, and we went back to Sipan, and they -- do you want me to go on with this?
Larry Ordner:
Sure. Sure, please.
James Lee Baker:
So them old LSTs, they -- they're just a big hull, you know, and they're empty inside, just huge inside when they're empty. You just look down through them, you know. And they stacked that LST full of steel drums of airplane gas, as long as they could get one in there, all the way to the front, and then they put a bulldozer in there -- now this was a team of engineers we picked up in Sipan -- had a bulldozer and some other kind of piece of heavy equipment right in the bow. And we was to take that into Okinawa. They was supposed to had a place to ___+ unload it when we got there. But the Japs had done took it back away from them before we got there, so there we was. We -- of course, we went in to hit the beach before we found that out, I guess. So -- Before you go in, about a hundred yards or so, you drop a steering anchor. It's on a winch on the steering of the ship. And that's a winch to help get you back off of the beach, you know, when you get ready to get back off. You drop that going on in. But all that weight on there, we hit the bottom before we got a hundred feet or so from the beach, because the load was so heavy, you know. The main deck was sticking out of the water about two and a half foot --
Larry Ordner:
Wow.
James Lee Baker:
-- because all that tank, that floating steel, the airplane gas. Just thank the Lord that the Japs didn't get into that. That much airplane gas would have had everything in that harbor blowed up and on fire.
Larry Ordner:
I'm sure.
James Lee Baker:
You can imagine one steel drum of airplane gas, what an explosion it would make, and we -- no telling how many we had stacked on top of each other.
Larry Ordner:
It had to be hundreds and hundreds, didn't it?
James Lee Baker:
Oh, yeah. Yeah.
Larry Ordner:
And that was -- that would have just been a primary target had they known. Thank heavens.
James Lee Baker:
Oh, if they had knowed that, they would have sent a plane especially in there to have got us.
Larry Ordner:
Wow.
James Lee Baker:
And the ___ of it is, it shows you, like when you're 18 and when you've had so much hard training, too, to go along with that, we was fixed for it, you know, because they knowed where we was going, see. And when we hit the beach -- well, when we went in to hit the beach and got hung up -- they hooked another LST with a long cable on our steering anchor back here ___+. And they was pushing us, you know, trying to get us off, get us un-hung up. So in the meantime, the Jap -- the suicide planes was all around, you know. We just didn't get one.
Larry Ordner:
Gosh.
James Lee Baker:
They'd have -- they'd have -- like I said, they would have sent one special after us if they'd knowed we had all that airplane gas on there. And we'd have pulled up there ___+, you know.
Larry Ordner:
Wow.
James Lee Baker:
Wouldn't have been no survivors. All, you know, all would have gone up. But -- it's a wonder we didn't get hit. And ___+. Like I say, it was seven days a week.
Larry Ordner:
Okinawa was really the -- that was really like the last major --
James Lee Baker:
That was it.
Larry Ordner:
I mean that was Japan's last stand, really, wasn't it, before what could have been an invasion?
James Lee Baker:
That's it. Well, it wasn't an invasion.
Larry Ordner:
Yeah. But, I mean, I say an invasion on the -- what would have been a full-scale invasion of the Japanese mainland.
James Lee Baker:
Well, that's why they fought so hard there, see. They knowed when they lost that Okinawa, that was it.
Larry Ordner:
Yeah.
James Lee Baker:
The next thing was their homeland. And sure enough, after we finally got there, we went to the Philippines, and we was ready, and we was setting and waiting for orders to invade Japan when they dropped the bomb.
Larry Ordner:
Did you think you were going to go?
James Lee Baker:
Well, yeah. We was waiting to go.
Larry Ordner:
Fully -- fully expected to go?
James Lee Baker:
Yeah. We was waiting to go, waiting for orders.
Larry Ordner:
Then you got the word, then, that the bombing had occurred?
James Lee Baker:
Well, see, Roosevelt died about that time. He wouldn't give the order to drop the bomb. But they had claimed they had two of them is all they had. Now I don't know how many they had. Nobody else don't know, really, I don't think. But when they dropped the first one -- Well, first of all, Roosevelt wouldn't give the order to drop the bomb, then he died, then Truman took over. So Truman said sock it to 'em, you know, and he dropped that first one. And, you know, oh, it killed thousands, you know. But the Japs wouldn't hardly quit, you know. But when they dropped their second one, they just hauled up and quit.
Larry Ordner:
Did people know -- did you guys know, really, what the atomic bomb was capable of?
James Lee Baker:
Well, no, not really. I don't think -- I don't think the people who even made it did.
Larry Ordner:
Yeah.
James Lee Baker:
You know, ___+.
Larry Ordner:
Yeah.
James Lee Baker:
Really, they didn't know what it was going to do.
Larry Ordner:
Yeah. Did you think after the first one, that the war was just -- that they were going to surrender?
James Lee Baker:
Well, ___+. No. We just had to wait and see.
Larry Ordner:
Yeah. So where were you when you got the word that -- you were still in the Philippines when you got word that they had surrendered?
James Lee Baker:
Yeah. We was, like I said, we was waiting for orders to invade Japan.
Larry Ordner:
Well, what was -- what was the reaction to news that the Japanese had surrendered?
James Lee Baker:
Oh, of course, we was thrilled to death, because we would have been the first ones in there, and we would have just been slaughtered. I mean they was just there waiting. We wouldn't be here today, there wouldn't be no doubt about that; there ain't no telling how many thousands of Americans, you know. But that's just -- that's just part of it.
Larry Ordner:
Well, after being in the Philippines then, were you able to come home after that?
James Lee Baker:
Let's see. No. We went to -- we went to Yokohama, Yokosuto, and Tokyo. Now first of all I went to the hospital in the Philippines, and that ship run off and left me. So I got -- they said they called -- like I said, they called it a hospital, but it was an old ___+ with swinging bars ___+ old folding cots. I was there 17 days, and it rained every day, and I got wet every day. I was laying right next against that Seymour. And I kept telling them, I said let me go back aboard ship. I said I'd be better -- I'll be dry at least, you know. ___+. But they finally said they radioed down there to the receiving station. Now they said there was 8,000 men down there, misplaced men, didn't have nothing, didn't have no place to go, didn't have no ship, didn't have no companies, and there was one mess hall for 8,000 men. Well, when they sent me down there, my ship pulled out before we got down there, and I got stuck in a folding -- in a tent with a folding cot, legs stuck down in the mud about so far, still raining, water running under my bunk, in there by myself. And I thought that was it. I didn't think I was going to make it out of there. Finally I went aboard a -- it was an old ___ destroyer before the war, and then the Navy took it over there; the amphibs took it over. And they called it an APV or something. And they changed my orders, and I went aboard that. Then -- anyway, I got off of it. Went to Yokohama, Yokosuto, and Tokyo, and then I got off of it in Tokyo.
Larry Ordner:
What kind of duties did you do when you were at Yokosuto and Yokohama? What kind of duties did you have at that time? Did you go in as part of an occupational force?
James Lee Baker:
Yeah. Let's see. I don't remember just -- I don't remember all of that. See, we was -- we was just like kind of in transit. We didn't have no (CPO).
Larry Ordner:
Oh, I see. I see.
James Lee Baker:
We was just going from one to another, just --
Larry Ordner:
I see.
James Lee Baker:
And then we came back to the States -- I did -- on a little old -- it was a civilian ship before the war. Geodetic survey people had it. It was a nice little ship, had brass rails on it. It was almost like a big yacht.
Larry Ordner:
I'll be darned.
James Lee Baker:
Come back to the States on it.
Larry Ordner:
What kind of -- how did it do in the ocean? Was it --
James Lee Baker:
Pretty good.
Larry Ordner:
Pretty good?
James Lee Baker:
Yeah. Of course, we didn't hit -- we didn't hit no bad storms.
Larry Ordner:
Yeah.
James Lee Baker:
But, Lord, them old LSTs wasn't fit to ride a storm in. We was in Okinawa setting there ___+. After the invasion was about over, we was setting -- just setting there, and one of these typhoons was coming up late one evening just before dark. And they made us -- we was setting there empty. Them old LSTs is flat on the bottom, you know, so they can go in and hit the beach. Just like a tub setting in the water when they're empty. And just before dark, they made us -- the ships -- the winds got so strong, the ships got to dragging anchor on the bottom, and they, of course, started bumping together. So they made us head out to sea into that storm in that old LST. Man, I'm telling you, ___+ made it. Some of them didn't. They guesstimated them swells to be 75 foot high. That's a pretty good-sized wave, ain't it? And them old LSTs, they ain't made like a ship on the bow. They're round, you know, like this. Them doors open. And when they hit one of them big swells, they just -- you'll stand on your head if you don't grab something, you know, if you happen to be standing up. And then they'll stop for a few seconds and then raise up, and then that swell would run out from under it, and then it falls and hits the bottom. Man, I'm telling you, jar your teeth just like ___+ everything busts and flying apart. That's a heck of a --
Larry Ordner:
I'm sure you feel like you're going to break apart.
James Lee Baker:
Oh, yeah. Well, I think some of them did.
Larry Ordner:
Yeah.
James Lee Baker:
And it's just getting dark, winds; you just head into it. I mean, you know, you're just -- just hoping. That's all you're doing. Just -- now, some of those big old ships can handle that stuff, but them LSTs, they're just made to go over there and hit the beach and --
Larry Ordner:
Yeah. Well, how did you get word you were going to finally get to come home?
James Lee Baker:
Let's see. Well, I was in -- I was in Japan then. The war was over at that point. And -- well, I went aboard that little ship I was just telling you about.
Larry Ordner:
Yeah.
James Lee Baker:
U.S. Lassen (ph) was the name of it.
Larry Ordner:
And then where did you -- where did you arrive at? Back in Seattle?
James Lee Baker:
No. Over to Pearl Harbor again.
Larry Ordner:
Oh, Pearl Harbor. Okay.
James Lee Baker:
Refueled and then come home myself.
Larry Ordner:
Okay. And then how did you get from -- did you take a train back to this area?
James Lee Baker:
Well, that's the only way there was to travel then, I guess.
Larry Ordner:
Yeah. Yeah.
James Lee Baker:
Let's see. I got discharged and -- let's see. Where did I get discharged at? I don't even know where I got discharged. I can't tell you.
Larry Ordner:
That was about -- that was 1945 you were discharged.
James Lee Baker:
1945.
Larry Ordner:
And then -- but you got to come home shortly after that. Correct?
James Lee Baker:
Yeah.
Larry Ordner:
When you got back, did you -- after a period of time, did you use your GI Bill benefits in any way?
James Lee Baker:
Uh-huh.
Larry Ordner:
Tell me about that.
James Lee Baker:
Well --
Larry Ordner:
Did you get any training of any kind?
James Lee Baker:
Got sheet metal, sheet metal, on the GI Bill. Worked in Morgan Sheet Metal, Lawrenceburg. ___+. And It helped me, you know. I wasn't expecting it. So --
Larry Ordner:
Well, tell me, looking back after all these years, I know there's -- every time I talk to someone who's served in the Navy, there's always, there seems like, an extreme pride at having been in the Navy. There's like a -- every man that I've ever met that's served in the Navy has always talked with such loyalty to their ship, any vessel they served on. And I'm sure you probably feel the same way, don't you?
James Lee Baker:
Yeah.
Larry Ordner:
What is it about the Navy that makes the Navy a little bit more special, you think, to some -- to those who served in the Navy?
James Lee Baker:
I don't really know. Of course, I wanted to get in the Navy. That why I joined. I wanted to -- I wanted to get in the Navy because my brother was in the Navy, see.
Larry Ordner:
Yeah.
James Lee Baker:
And I'm still glad I got in the Navy. I'd rather -- I'd rather been on one of those LSTs hauling those troops in than take a chance of getting off the beach, instead of going on on the beach --
Larry Ordner:
Yeah.
James Lee Baker:
-- with them, you know. Because I tell you, it's pitiful. You take them soldiers and infantry, Marines in there, and you just dump them off, you know, and there they go up the beach with their rifle and their knife. And every day they dug in waiting, just slaughter them. On the beach there, you could look up that beach just as far as you could see, bodies just rolling up, rolling by, Jap, soldiers, Marines. I don't know how many thousands. Just ___+, you know, whatever you're doing, you know.
Larry Ordner:
Well, it has been a lot of years, but looking back these years now, how do you feel about your service and what the U.S. was able to accomplish and what you were part of during that time? It was such a tremendous effort.
James Lee Baker:
Well, I don't know hardly how to answer that. I just done what I was told to do.
Larry Ordner:
Yeah.
James Lee Baker:
And I got, like I said, I got a commendation from the captain for the invasion of Okinawa for outstanding duty. And I tell you how I think I got -- how I come -- how I got that. Of course, I didn't get in no trouble. I mean I was -- I was strictly business, I mean, doing what I was supposed to be. When -- like there in Okinawa, it was just 24 hours a day, seven days a week, you know, just about. And my bunk was -- aboard ship -- was a top bunk. And there was a hatch right over my head, a round hatch, and it was -- I done took ___+ the hatch where I could just spin it, get it loose. So this LCM -- I think it's a little barge you haul on top of the LST -- going over there. You'd take them over, and they've got a 12-man crew. Well, one of them in that crew was a Phillips, Drexel Phillips, from Fordsville, Kentucky. And he -- anyway, we got over to Okinawa. See, before we went in, we drained the power stanchion on the ship and tilted the ship and busted the turnbuckles loose and let them off. They just slid off in the water sideways, you know. And I talked to him after it was over and he come back to Fordsville. He made it off. And -- where was I going from there?
Larry Ordner:
Well, you just were kind of wrapping up that statement there on Okinawa.
James Lee Baker:
Oh, boy, it was a dandy. I mean, like I said, that -- the Japs knowed that was their last hour. That's why they fought so hard.
Larry Ordner:
Well, I appreciate your sitting down and doing this tape with me, and I think it will be good that it's going to be preserved, and your stories were -- it was very good of you to recall these for me, and I appreciate you doing it very much.
James Lee Baker:
Glad to do it. Anything I can do to help. Oh, that -- supposed to tell you about that hatch. We had that -- it's the L standard ship, medium, I think they called it, a little landing barge with a 12-man crew. Like I said, we had it on our -- I explained that. And when that siren would go off, well, the Japs was coming. We knew that, see. And I slept with my shoes on and my life jacket, and of course I had my helmet laying right there beside me. And when that siren would go off, I'd just reach up and spin that thing, grab my helmet, put it on, and I'd get on my hands and knees and go from the starboard side of the ship to the port side. My gun was on the far side from where I slept. And I'd -- instead of going all the way around, you know, I'd just go clear across underneath that thing on my hands and knees. And I'd be over there in -- And I was a gunner on a 20 millimeter, and you had a loader to load it for you, supposed to. But I'd get over there and load the gun. You had to open your thing up, get that canister out of there, slap it on there. Then I'd strap myself in that thing and put the poles on and (?call in to?) the bridge, and my loader ain't even got there yet. I think that's why I got that commendation. Because in the daytime, see, they could see you from the ridge, looking right down at you. They could see what you was doing. And, I mean, that's the only reason I know of. Of course, like I said, I never had no trouble ___+. I done more than I was asked to do. So -- so I got that commendation.
Larry Ordner:
Well, thanks so much for doing this tape.
James Lee Baker:
Okay.
Larry Ordner:
Pleasure to meet you.
James Lee Baker:
Same here. You look familiar. Where are you from?
Larry Ordner:
I'm from Corbin, Indiana --
James Lee Baker:
Corbin, Indiana.
Larry Ordner:
-- the other Corbin.
James Lee Baker:
The other Corbin. Well, I hope to see you again sometime.
Larry Ordner:
I'm sure you will. Thanks very much for coming in.
[END OF INTERVIEW


Interview with David R. Grant [4/15/2002]

Bernard K. Donham:
This tape is made April 15, 2002, with David R. Grant. Mr. Grant resides at 2416 Springtown Road in Evansville, Indiana. Mr. Grant served in the United States Army Air Force, the 353rd Fighter Group, 352nd Squadron, B Flight. His highest rank attained was that of a tech sergeant. His serial number was 35039097, and Mr. Grant served from February 1942 through October 1945. This tape is made with Larry Ordner, Regional Director for Senator Lugar. Mr. Grant, tell us how it happened that you were drafted. You got your letter, and then where did you go for processing?
David R. Grant:
Okay. I was working at Charlestown, Indiana, in a smokeless powder plant. So I had been a dinky driver on ?merit tracks? up there because I had graduated from diesel engineering school in Memphis, Tennessee, an official school. And that got me that job there. And later on, when they started the operation real good and everything, I was mechanic. And so I worked the year and had a vacation. And just about that same time I got the letter that your friends and neighbors have selected you. So I came down to Hartford, Kentucky, and enlisted and everything. And I went back and told the company there, the Dupont Company, and they were kind of disappointed because I didn't tell them about it so I, you know, wouldn't have to go. But all my friends had gone and everything, and I figured it was my duty to go, too. So I did. I didn't want to stay back and let them go. So we came from Hartford to Evansville, Indiana. And we got our examinations and everything. We got on a bus and went to Indianapolis. And from there we went to Keesler Field, Mississippi. You want me to go ahead with that?
Bernard K. Donham:
Sure. Go ahead.
David R. Grant:
Okay. We went to Keesler Field, Mississippi. And that was the philosophy for school in aircraft, and we crowded about a year of schooling into less than six months. And then we got on a train, went on the back roads and everything for two or three days and nights to Buffalo, New York, to the Allison Engine factory. And they had a school there for us. We learned all about the engine and how it applied to the airplane and everything like that. And we came back down through Philadelphia. And we were there just a few days until they got ready for us down in Baltimore. And as I was saying, I think I'm the luckiest man that was in that World War II because all this time -- at least three times a day we'd lined up for roll call. The guy in front of me was Graft and then Grant and then Grief (ph). And this day we lined up as usual, and the guy said, "Graft." He said, "Here." I opened my mouth, stood there a while and nothing _____. He said, "Okay." He said, "You guys pull out and come with me." Later on I found out they went to the Ninth Air Force. They went up through Italy and through Africa, all through the desert and everything like that. They came back as war weary after we were in England, and they told us all about it. All that time they never slept in a real bed or anything. Pup tents and everything like that in the mud. No mess halls or anything. Like eat outside. So where I went -- we went to -- well, you want me to go back? Well, I told you --
Bernard K. Donham:
Sure. Go ahead.
David R. Grant:
Okay. We went to Richmond, Virginia, and formed the 352nd Squadron. And by the way, I was the seventh enlisted man in that group. And we were there for a few days and then went to Keesler Field -- I mean to Langley Field. Langley Field in Norfolk, Virginia. And we still had the old B-40's. We were supposed to get the first group of the B-47's, but we scheduled to go to Millville, New Jersey, and our runway wasn't ready. So we had to wait, and another group got the first B-47's, the ones they built here in Evansville. And so we finally got them. And we had to sleep in tents up there because the only three barracks -- or buildings there was the officers, the PX, and the mess hall. And we slept in tents in the winter months. And then we came back down to Richmond for some stagings to get everything to ship overseas and everything like that. We'd take all of our equipment with us. And then we moved up to camp, Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, and we stayed up there, waiting for transportation. And then one day we all got on the train and went to New York and got on the Queen Mary, and we sailed unescorted because there was nothing fast enough to keep up with us. We went through all the submarine-infested areas. And we had one close shave, so the captain told us, but we got by okay. Went up between Ireland --
Bernard K. Donham:
Tell me a little bit what was it like being on the Queen Mary.
David R. Grant:
The Queen Mary. Well, it was so loaded, it wasn't even normal. We had 27,000 people, according to General Doolittle. This came out in the Stars and Stripes after we got over there. Most men has ever float, 27,000 men. And we had good weather all the way. It wasn't bad. And only just one night the captain told us that we almost got hit by a submarine, you know. And that thing almost turned over. He just laid it over on a side. And, man, that thing was shaking like he's in a tornado or something until we got away. And we went on. I think it was three nights and two days, and we were at Greenup, Scotland. That's the northernmost tip of Scotland on the west side. Got off of that onto a train. Came down to Ducks Hill, England. That's on the northeast place of England. It's right where the -- well, between Hull and Grimsby, two big towns. They were the two cities that were being hit hardest right then by the bombers. And the first night it looked like a Fourth of July. We was out -- the next Saturday we went to Grimsby. They had a big air raid there. And I went down after it was over, and I helped 27 people at a bus station laying out on their blankets. And I realized then it wasn't Fourth of July. And so we stayed there doing some high-altitude flying for a month or so. And then we moved on to -- I keep thinking it's ?Flat Field. Mat Field.? It was ?Mat Field.? And we were using B-47's and got into high-altitude combat then. And later on we moved down to Rayden, where we spent the rest of our time. Now, we got into combat, and we escorted the bombers on the low side, and another group escorted them on the top side for protection. But it got to where we couldn't go any farther in. We'd have to turn the bombers loose. And that's when the Germans really got after them. And that's when we got our P-51's because we could get about four or five hundred miles deeper with that with the same fire power and less fuel. And the same thing -- I have a book here that you should get. It's The Sly Birds. I don't know how they selected them, but they selected possibly 30 pilots, one from each squadron. That was about two weeks before V-Day. And they put them in -- they had a lot of German little -- like a little fastener and stuff like that. They had them German and Italian planes over there, and they got them everywhere, and they put these pilots in there, and they flew over France and Germany and everywhere, taking pictures all the way they went. And the Germans didn't bother them because they fought with their own planes, you know. I think maybe they lost one or two pilots. My pilot that was in that was Fogerty (ph). He's a banker's son over in Illinois. I can't think of the name of the town right now. But he got back okay. And we escorted the fighters all the way in, even to Berlin. I mean I escorted the bombers. And when we come back, we would drop the bombs that we'd have on the wings or the fuel tanks. We'd have hand grenades in them so, when they hit the ground, they would explode and be a fire hazard, you know. And we had a lot of -- we lost a lot of planes, but we didn't lose a whole lot of pilots. I've got every one that's lost in this book here and every one that came back and the amount of damage they did to railroads and bridges and factories and everything like that.
Bernard K. Donham:
I suppose, compared to a lot of people who served during that time, really the war was so different from you because you could fly in and out of it.
David R. Grant:
Oh, yes, yes. Uh-huh. Every night. That's why I say I'm the luckiest guy because there we were and people that spoke our language. We could understand each other real good. Some accent and everything. And our food was real good. We had good places to sleep and could go at night, you know, to different places, things they had going. And it was almost like being home.
Bernard K. Donham:
I bet you flew some very dangerous missions, though.
David R. Grant:
Now, see, I was a crew chief.
Bernard K. Donham:
Uh-huh.
David R. Grant:
There was --
Bernard K. Donham:
Let's just, for the purposes of the tape, explain what that is.
David R. Grant:
Okay. Each squadron had three flights, and each flight -- I mean -- yeah. I mean each group had three squadrons. Each squadron had three flights, A, B, and C. And then I was a flight chief of C Flight. I was supposed to have nine planes to take care of, but I had as high as 20 'cause, you know, they're bringing more and more pilots and everything, and they're loading us up. We finally had to make a D Flight. And my job was to see that each crew chief and assistant crew chief was there on time and they do the work on the planes. I had two or three armors and two or three radio men, an electrician, and several other people's duties. And I had to report to my chief, who was Guntella (ph), one of the Swedish pilots we had. Finn, Finnish. So each time the planes would come in, they would log what they did in their logbook. I would check that logbook and everything to see if there's anything they thought was wrong or anything like that. They'd either red line it or red cross it. If it's red line, it could be flown. But on a red cross, you couldn't fly. And then I'd have to make my report to my chief officer. And it was just a -- just a routine. After you got on to it, it was simple. We worked sometimes -- we didn't fly at night. We did all hours in the daytime. But a lot of times a plane would get up -- bombers would start going up maybe four hours before our pilots would get out of bed. It took them a long time circling over England to get up to 30,000 feet. And then we could take off and _____ right on up and meet them at the Channel and go over with them.
Bernard K. Donham:
How did you get word of what your assignments were going to be?
David R. Grant:
Well, all through schooling we had that.
Bernard K. Donham:
Okay.
David R. Grant:
They pounded that in us.
Bernard K. Donham:
No. I mean in terms of, like, what your missions were going to be.
David R. Grant:
Oh.
Bernard K. Donham:
How did you get word of what your missions would be?
David R. Grant:
The flight officer -- they had a flight ____ where all that special work was done and everything. And they would have the meeting. You'd tell them. He had got his from the Eighth Air Force headquartered somewhere where they was going and everything. And then we had field phones. I had a field phone out there and one out on the runway, and they could call me. And then I'd get my men out and, you know, get the planes ready. The planes were all ready -- were ready before we left them, but we'd go back and check the -- we'd preflight them, run through all the preflight things, checking the engine and the _____ and everything like that. Then the refueling people would come along and top the tanks off so they'd be full. But after -- you know, every man, every man knows what he's going to have to do, and he's right there. I only had trouble with one fellow, and I didn't really have trouble with him. He couldn't help the bottle, and he went AWOL too many times. They kept bringing him back. And they asked me if I wanted him back, and I said, "No, it don't make any difference to me." I said, "The pilot's the one that should make the decision." 'Cause if you're a pilot, you don't want -- you want somebody you can trust. That's anything. We were all just buddy-buddy because they want -- these pilots were not going to be overpowering on a crewman that was going to work on his airplane. You wanted him to be a goodie. And they were.
Bernard K. Donham:
Tell me about some of the missions.
David R. Grant:
Well, now, you know, like I say, we went off in fighter groups. After the -- after V-Day, one of the bomber pilots took about seven of us on a flight all over France and Germany. We flew it about 5,000 feet. You could real good on everything. And, oh, it was amazing what you could see down there. Where they had the tank battles and where they use their fire ____, you know, to get them out of timber and stuff like that. And also plane crashes. And there's cities as big as Indianapolis, only maybe two or three buildings left standing. And it's -- it was almost nothing. It just looked like there was nothing left. I don't see how they could have rebuilt it back like they have.
Bernard K. Donham:
When you were in England, were you there during the German Blitz at all?
David R. Grant:
Well, yeah. In fact, I was in London when one of the big bombs, a V-2, hit about two blocks from me. And I lost my hat, and it ripped the buttons off of my Eisenhower jacket, but it didn't hurt me a bit. Just kind of stunned me for a little while. And then I went back around, and it just tore out a whole block. And then we just had these unmanned bombers coming over, you know. They're jets, and you could always tell 'em. What they did, they put so much fuel in, and they knew to air speed and the wind and everything like that. And the Germans could set them to go wherever they wanted, you know, in any city, in England or anything like that. And they had a timer on there that, when it's in the right place, it would trip the cord surveillor on, and they could dive bomb right into the place. I've seen hundreds of them fly over our barracks at night ______+ at Rayden. And one hit in our _____ one night. We knew it hit close. We didn't know where. And the next morning we found out about it. It was a dud. It didn't go off. We were lucky there. I don't know what would have happened.
Bernard K. Donham:
Tell me about some of your best friends that you had.
David R. Grant:
Oh, I've got friends -- I've still got some. There's very few. There's very few of us left. Most of them are gone. There's a best buddy. In the Air Force back then and everything, it didn't make any difference. You could leave your money on the bed. When you come back, it'd be there. They -- nobody took anything that didn't belong to them at all. I even had money in a foot locker, and the guys would say, "I want to go into town. I don't have any money." And I'd be _____. "Well, my money's in the foot locker. Go get it. Whatever you want. When it's pay day, you pay me back." It was just all that way.
Bernard K. Donham:
I'm sure there was a sense that you really relied on each other and everybody would have just done anything for anyone else.
David R. Grant:
Yeah, yeah. That's right. And it was amazing over there how the -- I don't know how the English kept the electric going and the water and everything. But we never want for anything. It was always there for us.
Bernard K. Donham:
What was your -- how were you perceived being in England? How were you regarded? How were the Americans regarded while you were stationed down there?
David R. Grant:
Well, it -- I'd say if anybody wants to go on a foreign trip or anything, they're losing out if they don't go to England, Scotland, Ireland. Some of the most beautiful areas that I ever saw. And it's so old. It's so built up and everything. Things that -- you know, they built things to last thousands of years. And they're still there. They go -- castles and -- especially in Scotland. You could get all over Scotland through canals. I guess they get high water somewhere to help them, you know, because it was the water flow and everything. But that's what nearly all the trades -- they didn't have the good roads or anything. Most of the trades went on rail or on the barges. They crisscross all over the place. And their trains are -- you could go sit down on a train, and the first thing you know, you look out, you're moving. You probably never rode a train, did you?
Bernard K. Donham:
Yeah.
David R. Grant:
You know, they jerk and bang and everything. Over there they had bumpers, oh, about a foot long and had springs on these cars so, when the cars hit, it was on the spring bumpers. You didn't feel that. And on the tow connection, it would spring a little bit the other way. So when they start out, first it stretches those springs and gets it creeping along. No jerking there. It's just a smooth ride all the way. And that's another thing in England. You could go anywhere you wanted, England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, I guess -- I didn't go to Wales -- on the train very reasonable.
Bernard K. Donham:
How were you informed about the progress of the war? How did you really understand --
David R. Grant:
Okay.
Bernard K. Donham:
-- what your missions fit into?
David R. Grant:
Well, BBC announced it all the time. But our best information was from Access Sally and George. We listened to them. They had all the latest American music all the time, and in England they had the more sophisticated music on their music. And we'd get all the new music, and they'd tell us about the things that happened in the United States and things like that. And they'd say, "Hello. How about you boys there at Rayden How'd you like that last night?" when they dropped the bombs _____+ you know. And they knew our pilots' names. You know, they spoke to them, you know. Of course, they didn't talk back, you know. Yeah, we were well informed. But one thing, we could listen to BBC _____. Like they might say, "We had so many sorties today -- sorties' a raid -- "and we lost maybe three planes," or something like that. And our group alone was only maybe not even 10 percent of that. It's probably about five planes. And they'd tell it like it was.
Bernard K. Donham:
Tell me about some of your commanding officers.
David R. Grant:
Well, to start it off, General Doolittle had the AVG, the American Voluntary Group, over in China and Burma, around in there. And he was the one that started our Air Force going. And I believe about six of his men were in my squadron. Like they had a truck driver over there with our engineering sergeant. And he picked -- he picked a lot of guys. And, of course, later on he was head of the Eighth Air Force, you know. And we had -- well, my first C.O. was Bill Bailey. And he was a swell guy. He made it through okay. Got back. And we had Colonel Duncan. Colonel Duncan then _____ dive bombing with the P-47 airplane. He made about a 25-foot circle out in the middle of the field, and he went up to 20,000 feet and passed over the target. And then when he come up and be in the right place, he'd drop the bag of flour, and he hit that target. And from then on, that's when he got them to let him dive bomb. And we would bomb tunnels and bridges, buildings, just about -- trains. Just about anything. They'd get up there and dive bomb 'em and knock them right off. And it was real active. And, oh, we had so many. Beckham (ph) was a major general -- well, major. And my flight leader from the start, Jim Hilla (ph), he finally made colonel, I think, before it was over and got in a higher rank, and he wasn't flying in our outfit anymore. He was flying in the company group. But, oh, yeah. It's been a long time now, but I can picture it all. I watch this a lot on the history on television now.
Bernard K. Donham:
What do you think some of your greatest achievements were, looking back?
David R. Grant:
I don't know. The destruction was more than the achievements. I don't know. It was terrible. And it's terrible what the man was doing, Hitler was doing. Did you know that his name was not Hitler? Oh, I wish I could think of it right now. He came in like our Senate or something, you know, here, and he tried to put his new wave through, and then nobody would listen to him or anything. He left Germany for 10 years. Changed his face and look, you know, his mustache and hat and everything like that. Schickelhoover was his real name. ?Schickelhoover.? Changed his name to Adolf Hitler and started bringing up these things he had, you know, and _____ with him right away this time. And that's the way he got his job. And so I don't know. The whole bunch over there was -- they was like behind him just they are behind over in, you know, the Mid East now, people fighting. They think they can't do anything wrong. Everything they do is right. And that's the way he and his gang were. They believed, strongly believed, in what they were doing, and it's a good thing we got it stopped. We were -- my outfit was slated to come home for a month's vacation furlough and go to Los Angeles as a group and go to Japan. But they dropped the "big one" over there and stopped that.
Bernard K. Donham:
Did you have any inkling that such a bomb existed?
David R. Grant:
Well, yes. I'll tell you -- to start this off saying "yes" -- I had a principal in high school, and he had a special class for some of us boys, and he said -- one morning he come in, and he said, "Well, boys, I don't know if I'm going to do any good today." He said, "I was up all night long last night." He said, "We're working on a atom." He said, "If we can ever find a way to split the atom, a lump of coal as big as my fist will take a steamer across the ocean." And that got me interested. And then a boy that graduated two years ahead of me was working at Owensburg, Kentucky, at a radio tube factory. And he'd come to the ball games, and I'd talk with him a lot. And he told me, he said, "I'm with a special group of scientists there at _____. We're working on something called 'radar.'" And he said, "We're getting close to it. And if we can, why," he said, "that's really going to be a help to us in fighting and everything." And one thing led to the other that way. And I had an inkling, you know, it was going to happen.
Bernard K. Donham:
Where were you when you heard the news about the bombing in Japan?
David R. Grant:
I was at Rayden Air Base in England.
Bernard K. Donham:
Did you think that maybe that was going to end the war?
David R. Grant:
Yeah. Yeah.
Bernard K. Donham:
Did you have any idea of the amount of destruction that that bomb rendered?
David R. Grant:
Well, we got the news pretty well.
Bernard K. Donham:
I see.
David R. Grant:
And I've even heard the pilot of that plane that did that bombing. He said, "It's bad, but it's good." He said, "We killed over a million people, but if we'd had gone in there, it probably would be five million people killed." He said, "It was a good thing in a way. Terrible but good." But I worry about it now. I don't know. If you have read the Bible and everything, it says in there the world will be destroyed by fire and brimstone. And, man, I'll tell you, that thing coming down, if it isn't fire and brimstone, I don't know what is. So I don't know. It just seems like it's coming closer all the time. I don't have to worry about it, though. I've spent my 83 years already.
Bernard K. Donham:
Tell me how do you look back all these years later after World War II? How do you view what the U.S. contributed in the war? What do you feel that the U.S. did for the long term?
David R. Grant:
Well, I might have saved some pilots' lives; I might have saved some -- I might have caused others to get killed by furnishing the plane and everything. But it was my duty. And to save the old U.S.A., I'd do it again. I was just the man in between.
Bernard K. Donham:
Tell me about your discharge. How did you get the word that you were going to be discharged?
David R. Grant:
Okay. Like I say, they took me to Indianapolis, and that's where they brought me back.
Bernard K. Donham:
Did your family know that you were on the way home?
David R. Grant:
They probably did 'cause mail service was good. Mail service was real good. So I got in there, and they had to -- first they give us an excellent physical, and then we had a lot of paperwork to sign and everything like that and got the discharge and got the bus ticket back to Hartford, where I first was inducted. I had to go there. And they put it on record and sent it to Frankfort.
Bernard K. Donham:
What was it like coming home?
David R. Grant:
Oh, well, I do remember. My folks lived on a farm. I came in and seen by dad and my uncle were down in the barn stripping tobacco. I called. And I had a '36 Chevrolet that they'd kept for me, and I had my sister to come down to Portsville to meet the bus. And I got to drive it back home. And as I came along the road, I saw them open the barn door and start coming up. They come up to the house, you know. So that was a good feeling for all of us.
Bernard K. Donham:
Were you able to use your G.I. Bill in any way after the war?
David R. Grant:
Yes. Well, no, I guess I didn't, either. I got a -- I got a $500 bonus check but -- that helped me in getting started here. After I got back, I didn't know anyone. All the guys had either gone to the service or they'd gone to some other towns on jobs. All the girls had gotten married. I didn't know -- didn't know who they had married. You couldn't find out anything.
Bernard K. Donham:
This was back when you were --
David R. Grant:
After I got home, yeah.
Bernard K. Donham:
Okay.
David R. Grant:
And so I had met a girl that's up in Millville, New Jersey. I didn't date her or anything like that. But there's only one place to go on Saturday night, and she and two of her cousins was always at the table eating supper. They'd work and come there. And so three of us guys went there together. "There's three girls." "Mind if we sit down?" "Yeah." So we ate and had a few little drinks and stuff like that. None of us drank hardly any, just sip on something. And so we left. "Well, we'll see you again next Saturday." Sure enough they were. For about, I guess, maybe two or three months, nearly every Saturday night those girls were there. They worked right close, and they'd come over, and we'd talk and everything. So I wrote her a few letters. She wrote me some. And when we were getting ready to go overseas, they had us scared to death. They told us, "Don't take anything. If you've got anything, a marking in underwear or anything like that that could identify you. Nothing but your dog tags. Don't you take anybody's addresses or anything." And so we was scared to death. But I sent a bunch of stuff home, and after I got back and I was laying around there for a while, I got my job back at Dupont for about two months. And so I was looking through the stuff, and I found one of these letters she had written me. So I wanted to see ____ up there, and I wrote. About a week later a got a letter back from Hazelton, Pennsylvania. She'd lost her job when the war was over, too, and everything. She was making Eisenhower jackets and so on, you know. Sewing stuff up in New Jersey. And so I found this letter, and I wrote her. We wrote back and forth for maybe a month or two. And my brother was stationed at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. And I wrote her a letter and told her, "Don't write me again until I get back. I'm going to my brother's, but I don't know if I'll stay two weeks or a month or what. I'll write you as soon as I get back." Well, about four or five days I got a letter from her. She said, "I've got a brother in Baltimore, and that's just about an hour drive from Proving Ground. I'll give you my phone number -- his phone number. He's going on to Florida for two weeks, and I'm babysitting for him." Okay. And I went up there, and sure enough I called, and she was there. So after her brother got back, she come down to the house -- the duplex that my brother was in. And the people next to the other side of us had an extra bedroom and said she could sleep there. She came down and stayed for a week or two. And she said, "Well, I got to get back home." And I said, "Well, I haven't gone anything to do. I'll just take you up there," back to Hazelton, Pennsylvania. So I took her up there and stayed around there. They had extra beds. And stayed around there for two or three weeks. And I said, "Well, gee, I can't stay here forever. I've got to do something." I said, "Well, what would you think about marrying a ex-GI?" She said, "I'd love to." I says, "Okay." So on April 22, '46, we got married and went to Florida by way of Nashville, Mammoth Cave, and so forth and back. And I ended up here in Evansville.
Bernard K. Donham:
What brought you to Evansville?
David R. Grant:
Well, my brother was here to start with, and the Republic factory, where they made the B-47's, had been bought by G.E. and Whirlpool. They were making refrigerators. No, they hadn't started making refrigerators then. They was making milk coolers for dairy stuff, international ______. And then later on they went in to refrigerators and one thing or the other. So I got a job out there. And then we got to looking around, and I bought this house and this _____+. The fellow was still in it. So that's the way we got here. Feels like home. It needs a _____ because I haven't been able to walk and do anything for about 10 years. My leg is -- I had slight diabetes. It was not enough I needed to take any insulin or anything like that. But I had it so long and I was eating so good and everything, and it hit my leg. And neuropathy. And I can walk around here a little bit but not much.
Bernard K. Donham:
Well, Mr. Grant, thanks so much for talking with me. I appreciate it very much.
David R. Grant:
Okay.
Bernard K. Donham:
And I'll send _____+.
David R. Grant:
Tell Lugar to keep up his good work. I voted for him every chance I could. We had a little plane. It was a -- I think it's a Canadian plane. This little plane that the English -- we called it six and seven-eighths because it was so small, but it was a two-seater. One the pilot rode behind and the passenger in front. And this Lieutenant Elliot, who wanted to take me for a ride in that. And we did. And I was sitting out there where I could see -- I didn't think we was going to get off the runway, and we did. And we went down, and we went -- there's two trees, oh, probably 30 feet apart and a high line right above. And that tip of the wing was just almost on the ground -- that's after we got up -- on the ground, and the other one's up toward that high line between them two trees, and I thought we was going to crash for sure. Ane he pulled it out and on up and messed around and everything. And he flew me all around the area there for maybe 30 minutes and then came back. And I got up. It said, a notice on there, it said "Total gross limit 300 pounds." I weighed two sixty, and he weighed about two sixty. That's the reason we didn't get off the ground. And we had another plane. It was a Canadian plane, and it was two wings and seven passengers. And when our pilots get war weary, they go down to the Isle of Man for a week or two, you know, until they get straightened up again. And nobody liked to fly that plane. And so the pilot wanted me to go as co-pilot on the plane, you know. And my two buddies, James Cody and Collins, were with us. And one of the pilots took my place as co-pilot. And we just started back, and that London fog closed in. I was looking out. I couldn't see anything. And it was about, I guess, three or four hours. And I could hear them talking, "Do you think we're at so-and-so? How far do you think the wind has moved us?" They're talking to each other, you know. "How far do you think it's moved us and which direction?" And on like that. And boy, I was scared. And finally they kind of edged up, you know. And he said, "We're over the field." And I finally saw light down there. But they had a better view than I did and rode right in that fog. Okay. A month or two later the enlisted men all got on the Queen Mary first, and the pilots came on right at the last time. And he looked me up, and he said, "Boy," he said, "we were lucky." He said, "You know, two days later somebody went back down and picked this other guy up and said on the way back to _______+ and they're flying us out to 6,000 feet, and the engine blew up." And he said, "They flied us down into a wheat field." Neither of them hurt. And the starter was internal in that, and it broke and locked the engine up. And he said, "We were really lucky." I had a lot of luck. A lot of luck