Vance Meyer

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Interview with Vance Meyer
Interviewed by Natasha Maddox
Interviewed on May 12, 2003
at the home of Vance Meyer
Marion, Indiana

NM: Today is Monday, May 12, 2003, and this is the beginning of an interview with Vance Meyer at his home at 402 East Stephenson Street in Marion, Indiana. Mr. Meyer is 76 years old, having being born on October 25, 1926. My name is Natasha Maddox and I’ll be the interviewer. Vance Meyer is my church acquaintance. Mr. Meyer, could you state for the recording what war and branch of service you served in?

VM: I served in the infantry and World War II.

NM: What was your rank?

VM: I was a staff sergeant.

NM: Where did you serve?

VM: In the Philippines.

NM: What were you doing before joining the Army?

VM: Well, I was a farmer. I was in high school.

NM: Were you married or were you single?

VM: I was single.

NM: Where were you and what were you doing when the war began?

VM: I was ice-skating on the Mississinewa River.

NM: What did you do to prepare to join the military?

VM: Well, I was drafted

NM: If you were drafted, how did you feel about that at the time?

VM: Real good.

NM: And why’s that?

VM: Well I felt like everyone should go to the Army. I think everyone did those days.

NM: How old were you when you were enlisted?

VM: Seventeen years old.

NM: Where were you living at the time that you joined the military?

VM: I was living on a farm in Matthews.

NM: What was the most frightening thing about leaving to go into the service?

VM: I really wasn’t frightened.

NM: Why did you choose to join the Army?

VM: I didn’t join. They assigned me to the Army.

NM: Do you recall your first days of service?

VM: Yes.

NM: What did it feel like?

VM: It was very strange. Something totally different.

NM: Tell me about your boot camp and training experiences.

VM: Well, I went to boot camp in Anniston, Alabama. I had seventeen weeks of infantry training, infantry combat training before [inaudible].

NM: What was the most difficult part of boot camp?

VM: I would say marching.

NM: Why’s that?

VM: You got tired.

NM: Do you remember your instructors?

VM: No, I don’t. It’s been too long.

NM: How did you get through boot camp?

VM: Very good.

NM: How long were you in basic training?

VM: Seventeen weeks.

NM: What was your military graduation like?

VM: We really didn’t have a military graduation. We just served seventeen weeks and boot camp—it wasn’t boot camp, but basic training. Boot camp was the Navy, I believe. Seventeen weeks of training. Came home on a Furlough, went overseas. No graduation in those days.

NM: What was the specific unit you were assigned to?

VM: I was assigned the eighty-sixth division.

NM: What impact did your unit have on the outcome of WWII?

VM: They helped win it. That’s all I know.

NM: What was the hardest part of your training?

VM: Discipline.

NM: Where exactly did you go all throughout?

VM: Well, I went to Siapan, Guam, Layte, Panama Canal, of course, the Philippines in Manila.

NM: What did you do in each of these areas?

VM: When I was in the Philippines, in Manila, I was attached to the 801 military police unit, which was active in mopping up this war.

NM: Do you remember arriving and what was it like?

VM: I guess it was very strange, because I hadn’t ever been out of the country before. And the country was all torn up; people were living along the roadsides, and there were bombed out buildings. That was the strangest part.

NM: So, they were bombed before you came?

VM: Bombed out before I came, yes.

NM: What was your first job or assignment?

VM: My first job assignment after I arrived overseas was training Filipino scouts.

NM: What was your first impression of your first assignment?

VM: I really didn’t have an impression. In them days, you just did what they told you to.

NM: What were your other jobs or assignments?

VM: Well, my other job was I was in an 801 military police unit, and I was a probal sergeant in a Japanese prison. I guess that’s all I can remember.

NM: Did you see combat?

VM: No.

NM: So, there were no casualties in your unit?

VM: Well, there was casualties, but a combat is when you go out and shoot at each other. But I was in a unit, we went out and got the Japs out of the mountains after the war and those guys got shot.

NM: Were there many casualties?

VM: No.

NM: What are a few of your most memorable experiences from being in the military?

VM: I guarded the wife of the general that was in charge of the March of Bataan; General Homa was his name. That was most memorable. They had him up for wartime, wartime trials, and while she was in the Philippines, I guarded her.

NM: Do you have a few frightening experiences that you remember from the military?

VM: Not really.

NM: What were some of the medals, citations, etc. that you received, and what did you have to do to earn each of them?

VM: The Expert Infantry Badge, you get that badge by shooting an M-1 rifle. The Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal was a medal you got because you was in the Pacific Theater at the close of the war. The World War II Victory Medal was when we won the war; they gave us all the Victory Medal—those who were in the Philippines at the time. The Philippine Independence Ribbon was a ribbon that they gave us, and we were there—I was there—when the Philippines got their independence from the United States. The United States won the war in Japan, and then we gave the Philippines their independence, and I was there when that took place. The Honorable Service Lapel Button, which is a button they give if you were in World War II. I have a few others, but I don’t remember what they are. It’s been too long. The Philippine Defense Medal and the Philippine Independence Medal are foreign awards issued by the Republic of the Philippines. The U.S. Department of Army provides only the ribbons for the Philippine Defense and Independence Medals.

NM: Did you sustain any injuries at all while in the military?

VM: No.

NM: How did you feel about World War II?

VM: I felt like we were attacked, and it was every person’s obligation to defend their country?

NM: What did you do as a staff sergeant?

VM: Well, a staff sergeant is a person that directs other troops and duties.

NM: What was your job as a military policeman?

VM: We went after the Japanese, who were still in the mountains and didn’t know the war was over. We controlled the traffic in Manila. We were the police that were over0 American troops, Filipino troops. We were the main police force in the Philippines at the time.

NM: What was occurring in the Philippines while you were in the military at this time?

VM: We mopped up after the close of the war.

NM: Did you stay in touch with any family while away?

VM: Very little.

NM: How did you stay in touch with them?

VM: By letter.

NM: What was the food like while in the military?

VM: I was always lucky enough to get real good food.

NM: Describe your sleeping and eating facilities.

VM: Well, when we were where we could get food, we had a tent, and the mess sergeant would supply the food there in the mess tent. When we were out in the field, we would eat out of canteens and stand in a long line. Then, when we were in a place where we couldn’t get food, we ate K rations out of a tin can.

NM: Did you have plenty of supplies?

VM: Yes.

NM: Did you feel pressure or stress while in the military?

VM: No, I didn’t.

NM: Was there anything special that you did for good luck?

VM: No.

NM: How did people entertain themselves?

VM: There wasn’t a lot of entertainment. We didn’t have the time for it.

NM: What did you do while on leave?

VM: I was on leave twice. Just came home, visited with the people I knew, things that a nineteen, twenty-year-old kid would do.

NM: Where all did you travel while in the service?

VM: Well, I traveled a lot. All these islands, like I said, Siapan, Bagio.

NM: Where was you favorite place you traveled to while in the service?

VM: Bagio.

NM: Why’s that?

VM: Well, it was a resort. It was a rich man’s resort. It was converted into a camp to give the soldiers a rest. It was clear up in the mountains. It was real nice.

NM: Do you recall any particularly humorous or unusual events?

VM: In the service? There was a lot of them, but I couldn’t really name them. I’d be here all night.

NM: Were there any pranks that you or other troops pulled?

VM: We put shaving cream in cereal [inaudible]. Once in a while, we put a snake in a bed, things like that.

NM: What did you think of officers or fellow soldiers?

VM: I really loved all of them. We got along good.

NM: Did you keep a personal diary while in the military?

VM: No, I didn’t.

NM: Describe a typical day in the military.

VM: You get up in the morning, five o’clock, and you go to bed at eight or nine o’clock. Go out and do your duties, guard duties, fighting. What ever they told you to do next. Everyday was different.

NM: Did you ever doubt that the Allies would win the war?

VM: No.

NM: Why’s that?

VM: I had a lot of confidence in the service, and I just felt we were the best in the world at that time, and it was a matter of time before we did.

NM: Do you think that the war could have been prevented.

VM: No.

NM: Why’s that?

VM: Because we were attacked. We didn’t have a chance to negotiate, talk about it, or anything.

NM: What was your biggest accomplishment while in service?

VM: Getting out.

NM: Do you recall the day your service ended?

VM: Yes.

NM: What was it like and where were you when it ended?

VM: My service ended twice. I was discharged in the Philippines, and then I really missed it. I spent another couple of years in it, and was honorable discharged again.

NM: How did you feel when you returned home?

VM: Joyful.

NM: What did you do the days and weeks after you returned?

VM: I was unemployed for a while, and that was about it. Then, I got a job [inaudible].

NM: What was your homecoming like?

VM: There wasn’t much of a homecoming. I didn’t have a family.

NM: How did you find a house or a place to stay?

VM: I went out on a farm and stayed with my uncle for a year, then got married, and my wife furnished me a place.

NM: How were things different when you returned home?

VM: People were happier. When I left, everybody was worried.

NM: Did you work or go back to school?

VM: I worked.

NM: Did you make any close friendships while in the service?

VM: Yes.

NM: Did you continue any of these relationships?

VM: No.

NM: Did you ever join a veterans’ organization?

VM: Yes.

NM: Are you still with the organization?

VM: Yes.

NM: What kind of activities does the organization have?

VM: Well, it’s the American Legion. They do things for the soldiers, help them get their veterans’ benefits. The American Legion is a place where you go, eat, fellowship.

NM: So, you have received veterans’ benefits?

VM: Yes.

NM: Such as?

VM: Medicine.

NM: What did you go on to do as a career after the war?

VM: After the work, I went to work in a factory [inaudible].

NM: Did your military experiences influence your thinking about war or military, in general?

VM: Not negative. It didn’t affect me negatively. I felt positive about the service.

NM: Do you attend reunions?

VM: No.

NM: How did your service and experiences affect your life?

VM: It helped me become disciplined. In other words, if I had a duty to performed, I went out and performed it and came right back.

NM: What would you want people to know about this time in history, the time that you were in the war?

VM: Well, I think they should know a lot of fellows sacrificed a great deal, for sure. They shouldn’t forget it.

NM: Do you think that the war was the moral thing to do?

VM: Yes.

NM: Why’s that?

VM: Because we were attacked, and they were going to take our country away from us, tried to.

NM: What do think is the biggest misconception people have about World War II?

VM: You know, I don’t believe people have misconceptions about World War II. They knew we were attacked, and they had to defend our country.

NM: Is there anything else that you would like to add that we have not covered in this interview?

VM: I’m going to explain my being drafted into the service at seventeen years of age. I had been raised in a foster home, and didn’t have a birth certificate. I registered as an eighteen-year-old, thinking that was correct. The Army finally discovered the error, and since I was so close to my eighteen-years-old, they left me in the service. Remember, this was wartime. The Army obtained my correct birth certificate for their records. Also, I didn’t mention that before being shipped to the Philippines, I had paratroop training.