Interview with Glen O. Black
Interviewed by Deanna L. Elkins
Veterans History Project
Interviewed on May 12, 20003
At Glen O. Black House
DE: My name is Deanna Elkins and this is the Veterans History Project for Mr. Munn’s AP class. We are talking to Glen Black he is a friend. It is May twelve 2003. We are at his house. He was born January twenty third 1925. His address is 304 N. Norton. He was in World War II in the Navy. His rank was machinist mate third class and he served in the Pacific.
DE: First question, where you drafted or enlisted?
GB: I was drafted.
DE: And where were you living here at the time
GB: I was living here in Marion.
DE: Did you want to join?
GB: I didn’t particular want to go, no.
DE: Which branch did you serve in?
GB: The Navy.
DE: Do you think that you made the right decision to go?
GB: I didn’t have no decision… that’s where they put me… I didn’t have a choice.
DE: Do you recall your first days being there?
GB: Yes I do.
DE: What were they like?
GB: You aint goin to believe this we got on a train and went to Great Lakes and there were a bunch of other people there from all over. We slept on a cot, a fold out cot, and when I woke up the next morning there was another guy in bed with me we were both in that cot I’ll never forget that!
DE: How long did it take for you to adapt to your living?
GB: The next morning when we got up I went to the mess hall and all my life there was thirteen of us kids in the family… for breakfast they gave me a little box of corn flakes and I thought I was somebody, I've never had my own private box of corn flakes in my whole life! [Chuckles]
DE: You nut! How long did it take for you to adapt living on a ship?
GB: It didn’t take… I adapt easy it didn’t …the first day, nothing.
DE: Did you go through any boot camp training?
GB: Yes, went through boot camp training at Great Lakes naval base and we were in there about six weeks. We got an over night pass and we went into Milwaukee and believe it or not I was so dumb, the guys I was with said lets have a t-bone steak. I’ve never tasted a t-bone steak I've never had one in my whole life and we got a steak dinner, this is in 1943, and it was thirty-five cents.
DE: Oh my gosh, they're like ten dollars now! What type of things did you have to learn to be on your ship?
GB: You have the same training that you have in the army you have to learn firearm marching and drilling the same…. Then you go to a station where they put out and everything’s done alphabetically order in the navy…and I was in Pearl Harbor. We had to cut sugar cane one day you had to work and the next day my name was on the bulletin board cuz "B", "A", "B" ya know… they put us on this ship the us black hawk…and that’s the way it happened I mean.
DE: Do you remember your instructors?
GB: Yes, I had three petty officers, warren officers is what they was...one of them was Newman and one of them was Tochaski and I cant remember the others name but them two were instructors they were over our machine shop I was in and I didn’t have no more formal training but I’ve always been mechanically and they give you a test on the ship and that’s the reason I got into the machine shop.
DE: Do you remember what your ship looked like?
GB: Yeah, there…[Points to pictures on table]
DE: You got that picture huh can’t forget about that right. When you finally got on your ship where did you go first?
GB: After about 6 weeks we went to Alaska and we were up there for fourteen months.
DE: Do you remember what it was like there?
GB: It was cold...it was cold and we worked on actually up there we worked on mainly submarines that’s what we worked on.
DE: While you were there did you see any combat? Was there any fighting there?
GB: There was no fighting there in Alaska its close to Russia ya know and they were trying to get a base there we were just there for security.
DE: Do you remember anything that happened that would have been funny or interesting while you were there in Alaska on or off the boat?
GB: Plenty of it adak Alaska there’s nothing there and they take you over to the beach and have beer parties and I didn’t drink and when they came back people would be drunk and you had to walk a gang plank to get the motor lock and people would fall into that cold water and the went get in there until there were back up out of there and we had a mile to go and they’d close it and it'd actually freeze on them by the time they got back.
DE: Do you remember staying in touch with your family? Did you receive any mail?
GB: Yes, letters all the time you didn’t know when you were goin to get them now when you were in port like that stayed there we got mail regular. Out there we spent as high as 30 days out at sea before and then you don’t get none til' you get in port.
DE: So do you have any of those letters?
GB: No I don’t.
DE: Do you remember what the food was like aboard your ship?
GB: It was good…good food just we had a galley they cooked just as good had turkey for thanksgiving ya know had good meals.
DE: Do you remember what it was like in your sleepin quarters?
GB: Yes, we slept right in the machine shop on an army cot.
DE: Were there a lot of men in there?
GB: Yep, all the men that was in that picture. [Points to picture in a book]
DE: Was there something special that you or the guys on your crew did for good luck?
GB: No not good luck or anything but I can show ya not many people go this right here that letter right there hun. [Pointing at a letter]
DE: Who's this from?
GB: This is from the commander up there… this is up in Alaska there.
DE: It says that they would like to have you attend Saturday night at the finger bay beer hall and have a party on me if you will call our flag lieutenant, lieutenant commander A.C. Robbins Jr. finger 162 a day or so in an advance he will make arrangements for you so your captain was throwing you a party?
GB: No I made this cribbage board. Now cribbage they play is card…ya know and I made if for this guy and he then sent me a letter gonna throw me a party for making it for him.
DE: Oh, I see, that’s awful nice of him. Did you go?
GB: No I didn’t go.
DE: You didn’t go.
GB: Here this is a picture of the original discharge.
DE: You can almost barely read it .
GB: It’s old hun! [Chuckles]
DE: I know yea I have to make copies of this for the thing maybe one day we can get together and go down to the library.
DE: What did people do on your ship to entertain themselves?
GB: Oh we had everything we had ice cream we had you could get… we had boxing and wrestling and an uh show every night.
DE: What kind of shows?
GB: Just first run features.
DE: What did you do when you were on leave or were you ever on leave?
GB: Yea well I one time I came home and uh and another time I never had only ten days all the days I was in there and that was five days I came home and went back and then I went from San Francisco to Oakland when we were getting some repairs done I went to LA and that’s all the leave I ever had we went there a bunch of us guys and toured Hollywood
DE: Did you go anywhere else besides Alaska while you were in the service?
GB: Yep went a lot of places from Alaska down to pearl harbor and stayed there for a while then came back to the states cuz we were in bad need of repair and then went back to Pearl Harbor and we went uh to the south pacific to a lot of the islands down there. And they took us from Pearl Harbor it took us 30 days to get to Oakanawa, and uh we went to Oakanawa and we were there when the war was over and the reason we were there cuz if you look in that book and you’ll see when the war was about over they sent out suicide planes and a pilot would just dive into a ship and blow it up. And we were there fixing them up so they could get back to the states. The war was over then and we went from there to china and went up the Yellow Sea and mind swept …took all the mines away…no actually the Japanese had went into china in 1936 and there were thousands of them there and they captured all the ships American ships that were there at the time so what we done we went in there and repaired a lot to the ships in fact we repaired one and there was a show about Steve La'queen at Marble Head we repaired that ship so it could go back to sea. Every time we’d get a ship repaired we full it with Japanese and send it back to Japan.
DE: Do you remember what it was like at Pearl Harbor some of the things you did or people you saw?
GB: Yes it was nice… I spent one Christmas there and it was want swimming and it was it’s just a nice place the only thing that was it was so crowded hun. I mean you get all the sailors stuff there and a lot of them drink and they ruin everything is what they do is what they do and I never don’t drink I don’t smoke I’m kinda a misfit ya know when it comes to stuff like that. One time…this is the way things happened…one time I been out I walked every place id been out some place there and I don’t remember where it was Waikiki Beach or something. I was walking back towards the ship past this ally believe it or not some guy jumped out of that alley and grabbed me around the neck and hit me in the eye and I had the dandiest black eye you ever seen in fact it swelled up so much it busted open up here. Then he let me go and he said ooppss the wrong guy he thought it was somebody else see and he was probably drunk ya know that why I'm not much for being around drunk people…I was a sight seer I just walked every place seen everything there was to see every thing I thought there was to see interesting place.
DE: Were there any specific people that you remember that made your life easier while you were there or even caused you problems while you were there?
GB: No one caused me problems I was good friends with all the people …and there was one named William who was from Trigilet River Michigan he had been in the service a long time he was a big stout guy. What we’d do… I was the littlest guy in the whole division only weighed 110 lbs. And we had three of four ships lined up along our asides us the all time. Cuz we done repair work for the destroyers. Well they come on the ship they’d come on the ship and were we was they’d play cards all the time down in the …we lived right in the machine shop. We had big hunks of metal there I mean 10 foot long this big around now when that guy said I bet you ten dollars you two guys cant lift that piece of metal there …well he’d go back and tryin lift it weighed three or four hundred pounds. They couldn’t lift it so he’d say ill take this guy here and we can lift it. And what wed do is I would kneel down and id get a hold of it like this and he’d pick up the other end of it. He made money he was always betting what I could do and what I couldn’t do. We were good friends I was friends with everybody I didn’t have any enemies.
DE: Well that’s good!
GB: Is that good?
DE: Yea that is good it keeps you out of trouble. Do you remember where you were at when you were sent home when your service ended?
GB: I was in China when it ended
DE: They just told you you could just go home
GB: Oh no no, uhh they put you out on a point system how long you’ve been in there, How long you been over seas and everything and I didn’t get out until...in got march 1946 I went in July of 43’ and got out march of 46’.
DE: What did you do the last days you were there?
GB: Worked on them ships…worked in the machine shop.
DE: What exactly did you build in the machine shop?
GB: We built everything any part that broke on a ship and we repair it. It just like this they’d give you a blue print and say here make this up…
DE: They didn’t teach you how to make them
GB: Well I have a knack for building stuff I could run any machine
DE: Did people get hurt were like were there any uh…?
GB: Yea we had we’ve had had right in this book I could show ya we had gunnery practice they hit something and a stratenal shot one kid. We had someone drowned off here. Stuff happens that’s life for ya no matter where you’re at somebody’s goin to get hurt.
DE: Yea, So that William guy that you talked bout was he was one of your closest friends while you were there?
DE: Did you have any close friends while you were there?
GB: Oh yea I had gobs of them real I mean close friends we were just like family.
GB: Cuz we lived right together
DE: Are there any that you still talk to now?
GB: They’re all dead
DE: Oh geez
GB: I’m the only one still living
DE: Are ya? Do you know anything by the G.I. bill? Was your education supported by that?
GB: I know anything about it but I never took any of it. Ya know I didn’t participate in any of the G.I. bills I didn’t need to really.
DE: While you were in China did you have a hard time communicating with people that were there?
DE: You didn’t have to know how to speak any Chinese.
GB: Yea I learned a little bit I won’t tell you what it was
DE: Where you always really protected did you ever have to fight in combat or were you mainly….
GB: No we were a non-combat ship we had nine destroyers that took care of us if anything come close cuz we were a valuable ship we were their lifeline. They surrounded us all the time.
DE: So you ever had any close to death experiences while you were there?
GB: Not really I don’t know what close experiences are… I'm different from most people nothing scares me.
DE: Well from being around the war did the noises did they bother you like the sound of them could you hear people or the bombs?
GB: Yea oh yea you could I don’t know uh its funny I’m just a guy I’m just a survivor I just figured Id survive. I’m a good swimmer
DE: Is there any other stories or funny memories or that you can remember while there?
GB: There’s a lot of them I can’t just pull them out of the sky it’s been since a long time
DE: After your service ended did you come back here?
GB: Yea we yes we came from china to San Diego and then we went for San Diego on a train trip to the great lakes. That’s where I was at and mustered out at great lakes.
DE: Did they pay you to be in the war? How were you financial supported did you have to pay for your own items while you were there?
GB: No got twenty one dollars a month
DE: That was enough to feed and shelter you?
GB: That was all they paid you twenty one dollars a month
DE: Did you have any money when you came home?
GB: Well, I didn’t have any but I sent a lot of it home because there was no place to spend it. I had two sisters to die, we was a poor family so my mom took the money and buried them and ya know I didn’t have any when I came home but later on I did get 300 dollars muster out pay…down the line. I bought a house…I was married at that time…and I bought a house and made the down payment.
DE: Was your father alive when you came home?
DE: How’s come he didn’t go to the war?
GB: Had 13 kids and he was 40 years old well I suppose I don’t know how old he was. They didn’t draft people with big families.
DE: Really did any of your brothers go with you? GB: Yep I had four brothers…there was four of us in the service at the same time… two in the navy and two in the army.
DE: Did you ever see your other brothers?
GB: Believe it or not in Oakland California I was walking down the street and met him didn’t know he was there met him and Oakland California just met him walking down the street and that happened twice. His ship was coming back to the states… it had been hit it was coming back for repairs. And I was on liberty at Pearl Harbor and I met him there just walking down the streets thousands of sailors and I just ran in to him.
DE: So did you recognize him?
GB: Oh yea we spent the night together.
DE: Was he like happy about being where he was?
GB: Oh Yea, he just died this just this spring.
DE: I’m sorry. When you got home were things different like were people different about the war where they supportive towards you for being there?
GB: No there were so many people in the service at that time you were just another guy you cant expect for people to treat you like a hero. There were too many. And you didn’t want to be treated like that anyway. I never done any thing that nobody else wouldn’t do for there country.
DE: Did you military experiences influence your thinking about the war or the military do you value these people more… the people who are fighting for us now?
GB: Well I don’t understand the war now to tell you the truth because its flukes war. Because if they cant find no weapons of mass destruction. He tore a country up because he didn’t like the ruler and we don’t we have not got the right to tell somebody else how to live, see I cant tell you how to live. That’s what he’s trying to do. We can’t force our way of living on other people. And they don’t find weapons of mass destruction I think he done wrong in going over there and tearing that country up.
DE: Do you think that what you were doing during WWII do you think that you did the right thing; you think that war was ok what we were fighting for.
GB: Yes yes, that was a different war somebody was trying to over take us. The Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor and the next step…the next place they would be would be California.
DE: Why do you think they would go to California?
GB: Because that’s the next up from Pearl Harbor.
DE: Do you remember anything that someone told you as encouragement words anything that you remember that you could carry with you?
GB: No, I’m not superstitious or any thing
DE: If you had the chance to reenter the Navy would you do it again?
GB: Yes, if I had it over again I’d probably stayed in longer because the ship was being decommissioned.