Interview with Walter L. Gosser
Interviewed by Evan Gosser
Interviewed on May 12, 2003
at 620 E South A St.
Gas City, Indiana
EG: This is Evan Gosser interviewing Walter Gosser, my grandfather, about his service in the army during World War II, particularly the occupation of Japan. We are at his house, which is 620 East South A Street, Gas City, Indiana. Mr. Gosser, what branch of the service were you in?
WG: I was in the army.
EG: What was the highest rank you achieved?
WG: I was technician fourth grade sergeant.
EG: Where were you living at the time you were drafted?
WG: I was living at 401 East South A Street in Gas City, Indiana.
EG: How old were you?
WG: I was eighteen when I was drafted.
EG: What were your thoughts and feelings when you learned about being drafted?
WG: I knew it was my duty along with all other eighteen-year-olds who were drafted. And the war wasn’t over yet, so we knew we would be in service for a while.
EG: Were any of your friends drafted?
WG: There were a few friends that were drafted. Some had even enlisted before they were drafted. I had in particular one friend who didn’t graduate from school. He quit school and joined the service and went to Germany and was killed in combat over in Germany.
EG: How old was he?
WG: He was probably eighteen or nineteen.
EG: How many people from the county would you guess were drafted or enlisted?
WG: Total or just when I went?
EG: Just when you went.
WG: There were probably ten or fifteen.
EG: Where did you go for basic training?
WG: I went to Fort McClellan, Alabama.
EG: What was your time there like?
WG: Our basic training was seventeen weeks long and consisted of firing M-1 rifles, machine guns, mortars, and using the bayonet on the rifle. We had grenade throwing also. We also went through obstacle courses with live ammunition being fired over our heads.
EG: Live ammunition? Explain that for me.
WG: Well we would be crawling on the ground with our bellies as close to the ground as we could get, cradling the rifle in our hands. The machine gun that was stationary was firing over our heads.
EG: Who was firing them?
WG: Probably another enlisted man.
EG: And that taught you not to raise up?
WG: Yes, they told us not to raise up, and to keep our behind down.
EG: Or else you might get shot?
WG: Right. We also went on twenty mile hikes carrying our backpacks and rifles.
EG: How often did you do that?
WG: Two or three times while we were down there. While we were on this hike, there was an army truck that followed us and if anybody got blisters or got sick or fell out, this truck would pick them up then. We slept in small tents when we went on [unclear] and there would be snakes that might sneak into your tent and sleep alongside you.
EG: How many people were in a tent?
WG: I think there were just two of us.
EG: Do you remember who you were with?
WG: No, it’s been a while, Evan.
EG: Do you remember who your instructors were and what they were like?
WG: I don’t really remember the names, but I particularly remember the drill instructor the most. He would try to impress on us that everything they were teaching us was for our benefit and would help us stay alive if we happened to go in combat.
EG: So they were very stern and strict?
EG: Were there any types of training that you remember particularly?
WG: Well we did a lot of drilling—marching drills really.
EG: What were those?
WG: You’d be in line and everyone would have to be in the same step and you would turn left or turn right—marching drills really. Which you have probably never seen.
EG: Did your drill instructor lead that?
WG: Oh, yes.
EG: What were you thinking about at the time of your training?
WG: Well, that I should pay attention and learn as much as I could which would help me out in the future.
EG: Did you think that you would ever go to war?
WG: Well, when we were in training the war was still going on. It ended then after our training. But we thought we might be in the invasion of Japan.
EG: Were you worried about that?
WG: Oh, not really too much.
EG: You never really thought about it?
WG: No, because we did the training and we were trained to do it.
EG: When were the atomic dropped on Japan? Was it during your training?
WG: Towards the latter part of our training. They told us that we would probably be in an invasion of Japan if the bombs hadn’t been dropped. So instead of invasion it was occupation.
EG: After that, when were you shipped to Japan?
WG: Well we left by ship from Fort Ort, Oregon, on October the eighteenth, nineteen-forty-five and we arrived in Japan on October thirty-first. Which was thirteen days onboard the troop ship S.S. Costa Rica Victory on the Pacific Ocean.
EG: What do remember about your time on the ship?
WG: Well we had to have different duties on there but they didn’t amount to much.
EG: Just scrubbing decks?
WG: Well, cleaning restrooms or maybe working on KP [Kitchen Patrol], but there really wasn’t that much to do. Of course there were a lot of troop son there.
EG: How many troops, would you estimate?
WG: Gee wiz, I don’t know.
EG: A whole bunch—was it a big ship?
WG: It was a big ship yes, in the thousands.
EG: Were they from all over the place or were they from particular regions?
WG: No, they were from all over the place.
EG: When you got to Japan where did you stay at?
WG: Of course, when we got into Japan it was nighttime.
EG: Well, before that, what was it like getting off the ship?
WG: Oh, that’s what I was talking about. When we pulled into port and docked it was nighttime and it was dark and we wondered what we were getting into with all these Japanese people around us.
EG: Were you worried?
WG: Well, just a little. We got used to it, though. Then I was sent to Osaka, Japan, with the ninety-eight signal battalion, which is eleventh corps, and took training in climbing wood poles to string telephone lines.
EG: So did you ever do that?
WG: No, because after a short time I was transferred to the first cavalry division, first signal troop, at Camp Drake, which was near Tokyo.
EG: How close to Tokyo was that?
WG: Oh, you couldn’t walk. You had to go by either truck or train.
EG: So, what was your job there?
WG: Well I started as chief clerk for the signal troop, and my duties were handling incoming and outgoing correspondence; I made entries to service records, prepared payrolls and allotments, and did filing of the correspondence and reports for the troop.
EG: Did you make any friends there?
WG: Yes, I had quite a few friends. I was there for about a year.
EG: Did you have a group of friends?
WG: Well, where we stayed it was a two-story barracks, and it was upstairs where I stayed. And there was a big room with all the different cots. There had to be fifteen or twenty cots around us.
EG: So there were two floors?
WG: Yes, it was a two-floor barracks.
EG: How many people were in each barracks?
WG: Oh, there must have been fifty or sixty people in each barracks. And in this one room there were probably ten or fifteen people.
EG: How many barracks were there?
WG: Oh, there were quite a few barracks.
EG: So there were quite a few people on your base.
WG: Yes. It must have been an old army Japanese base. It was all laid out just like a regular army base.
EG: So it didn’t look it had been constructed in a short amount of time?
WG: No, right.
EG: Did it give you an eerie feeling? Well, if these might have been where the Japanese were before making the missions or what have you.
WG: Yeah, they were probably training there, too.
EG: What was the highest rank you achieved there, again?
WG: Technician fourth-grade sergeant.
EG: And what does that mean?
WG: Well, you started out as private, and then PFC.
EG: And that’s private first class, right?
WG: Right, private first class. Then you go to corporal. Then, they have different technical jobs like I was in the office. And it was a technician job so that’s why I was technician sergeant.
EG: What other kinds of ranks did they have for the other people? What did the other people do?
WG: Well, a lot of them came from different organizations and they already had their ranks. And there were some sergeants and staff sergeants and first sergeants. And then it went to your officers and lieutenants, then. But you had a first sergeant in your office; he was in charge of everything there in that particular signal troop.
EG: Did you receive any medals or citations while you were there?
WG: Well, I receive the Asiatic Campaign medal, the World War II Victory medal, and the Army of Occupation medal—no fighting medals.
EG: No fighting medals, you did not see any combat.
WG: No, that’s right.
EG: Did you get those later on when you returned home?
WG: Yes, right, they were sent to us.
EG: What did you and your friends do for fun there on base?
WG: Well, we had a softball field right nearby, and we had an inside stadium and I was on the basketball team that traveled around to close by bases and played them.
EG: How close?
WG: Oh, probably fifteen, twenty miles.
EG: So there were quite a few bases around?
WG: Yes. And our team was an average team, probably. We won and lost some.
EG: Did you break five hundred?
EG: Did you read or watch movies?
WG: Well, we played cards, and we had movies. But we never had any outside entertainment like USO [United Service Organizations] shows or anything like that. We had to, more or less, make our own entertainment.
EG: So, when you played cards there, were there any gamblers?
WG: Well, there were a few, but I was never a gambler.
EG: You were never a gambler?
WG: I didn’t do much gambling.
EG: Did any of your friends gamble?
WG: Yes, they did.
EG: What about money, what did you do about money?
WG: Well, they had money that the United States made to be used in Japan. It was occupation money.
EG: So what did that look like?
WG: Well, it was smaller than our one dollar bill.
EG: Could you use American money there?
WG: I think we were paid in American money, probably. Well, I mean just on the base. If we went off the base we couldn’t use the American money.
EG: When you went off the base, could you convert that?
WG: Yes, we could do that.
EG: Did you ever take any trips in Japan?
WG: Yes, we took a few trips in Japan. We would get weekend passes. One time we went to Tokyo, and we attended the U.S. Armed Forces’ Pacific inter-command track meet at a stadium in Tokyo. There were armed forces teams from Japan, Korea, Hawaii, Marianas Islands, and the Philippines. And then they competed against each other.
EG: So it was a track meet.
WG: Yes, it was a nice track meet. We enjoyed it.
EG: Who won, do you remember? [Chuckles]
WG: No, I don’t. [Both laugh] I had a booklet of it that I kept record of it, but I have it put away someplace. Then, another time, we went to international military tribunal—the Far East trials—at the war ministry building in Tokyo. It was very interesting, but I really didn’t know who was on trial.
EG: [Chuckles] So you were just there? Well, was it in Japanese?
WG: Well, it had translators.
EG: So it was in both.
WG: Yes, right.
EG: Tell me more about Tokyo. Did you like the town? It is a big city.
WG: Oh, yes, it was a big city. We would walk up and down the main streets of Tokyo.
EG: Were there many other soldiers there?
WG: Yes, there were a lot. Of course, going into Tokyo, I remember riding on the train and subway, that when I was standing up I would tower over all the Japanese because they are small people. Once in a while you would find some taller ones, but most of them were just small.
EG: And how tall are you?
WG: I’m six foot tall.
EG: Did the people there, did they respect you? You were there for the occupation, did you sense any hostility?
WG: No, not really. They knew they were a conquered country and they pretty well respected us.
EG: So there were no confrontations or anything?
WG: No, we really didn’t have any. There might have been earlier, but we didn’t have any.
EG: Well, there were so many soldiers there…
WG: Yes, right. Of course we didn’t have them outnumbered. [Chuckles] There were a lot of them. But we had weapons.
EG: Did you buy anything when you were in Japan or in Tokyo?
WG: I bought a camera one time from a Japanese, and I think it was about 3,300 yen. But I don’t remember what the comparison was between yen and American money.
EG: So where did you buy this at, did you go into a store?
WG: I went into his private home. He must have had some of these cameras there at home.
EG: Where did you find him at?
WG: Well, I don’t remember how I got a hold…some of the fellows probably told me. Before going into the house, we had to take off our shoes. Which is their custom—to take off their shoes. And they usually have little slippers that they put on to wear inside their house.
EG: What was the house like? I mean, when I think of Japan, I see the pagoda.
WG: It was a small house. They have a lot of sliding doors and mats. Of course, it’s been how many years ago, fifty? [Chuckles]
EG: Quite a few.
WG: Yes, fifty-some years since I had been there.
EG: Do you have any particular moment that you remember most when you were in Japan?
WG: Well, we were going to climb Mt. Fujiyama one day, and some friends and I, we started going up to the mountain, and it started raining. So we had to turn around and come back. But we could see Mt. Fujiyama from a distance from our camp.
EG: So it was fairly close to where you were staying?
WG: Well, it was quite a distance! [Chuckles]
EG: It’s a big mountain!
WG: It’s a big mountain so we could see it.
EG: So how far did you get up, do you think?
WG: I don’t know, we probably got a fifth of the way up. We didn’t get too far.
EG: How many people were you with?
WG: Oh, probably four or five.
EG: Were you really going to climb the whole thing if you could?
WG: [Both laugh] We didn’t know what was…
EG: I mean I’m sure there’s a point where it just gets too steep that you can’t go any further. Any more trips that you remember?
WG: No, not really.
EG: How else did you and your friends entertain yourselves? You said card playing…
WG: Well some of them played cribbage, and poker, like I said before. And I always played euchre. I wasn’t much of a gambler. [Both laugh]
EG: Euchre, that’s a true Indiana game there.
WG: Yes, right, a lot of them didn’t know how to play euchre.
EG: Yes, that’s true. Even I’ve found that as you go to other states—especially outside the Midwest. Did you read?
WG: Oh, I never read too much. I always tried to be doing something else besides reading.
EG: How did you keep in touch with your family while you were there?
WG: Well, by writing. We didn’t have any telephones that we could go to and call. We didn’t have e-mail, no computers. So we just had to write letters.
EG: Good, old-fashioned snail mail. Who did you write to, just your family, or did you write to any friends?
WG: Well, I wrote to one girl in particular, and she never did write me back. [Chuckles]
EG: And who was that?
WG: Well her name was Barbara McKinney at the time. And I happened to marry after I got back, so she’s Barbara Gosser now!
EG: A twist of fate! Did your parents write back?
WG: Oh, yes, mother especially would write back. I had a camera that I could take pictures and send back home.
EG: Now, you have a brother and a sister, what did you say about that—you going to Japan—were they proud of you?
WG: Oh, yes, and my brother, I remember particularly I had a bicycle and he took over my bicycle and I think he eventually sold it. [Both laugh]
EG: Some brother you have there! [Chuckles] What was your most memorable moment in Japan? Was it climbing Fujiyama?
WG: Yes, it probably was.
EG: When it rained did it come down hard?
WG: Yes, it came down pretty hard so we had to turn around.
EG: What was the weather like there in Japan?
WG: I don’t remember—I don’t think it got real cold.
EG: So it was pretty moderate? Sixties or fifties to sixties?
WG: Well, in the summertime it got warmer than that. It froze there in the wintertime. But like I said, it’s so many years ago. It’s hard to remember that long.
EG: Do you remember the day your service ended?
WG: You mean when we found out?
WG: I was working, of course, in the ordering room, and the orders came through the ordering room saying that we would be taken back to the states.
EG: Did another group of soldiers come in then? Did they decrease the number of troops?
WG: Do you mean take our place?
WG: Well, really, I don’t remember if there was anybody else that took our place. Which there probably were, I mean, I didn’t teach anybody my job or anything. Everybody didn’t go back, some of them stayed. So they took over the duties then.
EG: Did some people stay longer than you had?
WG: Oh, yes.
EG: Was some people’s stay shorter?
WG: No, probably I was one of the shortest times. Some of them were in different divisions and then were transferred to Japan and they might have had more service to being with than I had. Their orders really hadn’t come through yet to be discharged and go home. So there were all different lengths of service.
EG: So did you go over to Japan initially knowing that you would only be there for a year?
WG: No. Well, they didn’t tell us how long we would be there really—just occupation.
EG: So, you weren’t worried you would be there for five years or something.
WG: No, no.
EG: You might have to marry yourself a Japanese girl.
WG: Some of them did! They married a Japanese and took them back to them.
EG: Really, did that happen to anyone that you knew?
WG: No, not really, but I had read about it.
EG: Were you excited when you found out you were going home?
WG: We were all happy and probably did some celebration.
EG: What kind of celebration?
WG: [Chuckles] Well I wasn’t much of a gambler or a drinker either, so I might have had a few drinks.
EG: What did they do about that? Were they okay about that on the base?
WG: Oh, yes.
EG: Did you have the…what was the policing action there?
WG: Military police?
EG: You had MP’s there?
WG: Yes. And if you went to town or someplace, there were MP’s milling around there in town. If you got in trouble…
EG: Could you tell who they were?
WG: Oh, yes, they had the MP on their…But we never got in too much trouble.
EG: What about your trip back home? How was that?
WG: You mean back on the boat?
EG: Yes, on the boat.
WG: We got on the boat and I think it was about twelve days coming back. So it was about that same as going over.
EG: Same stuff as going over? Did you clean up?
WG: Yes, we either worked in the mess hall or did cleaning up. They gave us a few odd jobs to do.
EG: How did you feel when you got home—well, where did you go when you got home?
WG: We landed at Camp [unclear] in California.
EG: Where is that? Where at in California?
WG: I think it’s close to Los Angeles.
EG: How did you get home from there?
WG: By train.
EG: Was that a long trip on train?
WG: Yes, I don’t remember how many days but it took awhile. Trains were slow then. [Chuckles]
EG: By that point, were you ready to get home?
WG: Oh, yes, because we had been gone long enough and we were ready to get home.
EG: How did you feel when you got home, happy?
WG: Oh, yes, very happy because we had been gone for a couple of years.
EG: How many people were with you when you came home? Was there anyone from Grant County?
WG: I don’t think there was. When we went in there were fellows from Grant County but we had separated to different camps and different services.
EG: So when you were at the camp—basic training—there was nobody from Grant County there with you?
WG: No, I didn’t know anybody—from all over country. Of course we were glad we didn’t have to be in the invasion of Japan. If they hadn’t dropped the atom bomb we probably would have been in the invasion.
EG: Would you have been one of the first?
WG: Probably one of the first, yes.
EG: Had the U.S. changed any since your departure?
WG: No, not really. I had only been gone for two years. A little town of Gas City there’s not too much to change other than people were two years older. [Chuckles]
EG: Could you recognize the war prosperity? Obviously at the time there was an economic growth, did you notice?
WG: No, I didn’t really notice anything in Gas City about that.
EG: Right, there’s only so much you can notice here in Gas City. What did you do when you got back, did you take a little rest and relaxation?
WG: Yes I just took a little rest and relaxation, and then I went to Indiana Business College.
EG: So you went back to school?
EG: What did you study there? What kind of courses did you take?
WG: Well we had business, and probably typing. Anything you would do in business.
EG: So did you get a job after that?
WG: I think I worked in a glass factory first. Then, I got a job at Crosley Motors, where they built small cars, in Marion.
EG: What did you do there?
WG: I was in the receiving department. Then, from there, I got a job as payroll clerk.
EG: Was that a promotion?
WG: Well, it was to another company.
EG: What was that company?
WG: It was Marion Trucking, it was a trucking company.
EG: And where was that it?
WG: That was in Marion. And from there I went to a glass company in Gas City—my wife was working there—and I got a job in the accounting department. I started in the bonus section and later on industrial engineering department. And all together I spent thirty-two years at Owens Illinois until they closed. That’s when I retired, at fifty-five. Which is a young retirement.
EG: And what year was that?
WG: When I retired? Nineteen eighty-two.
EG: Well, you said your wife, when did you get married to Barbara McKinney?
WG: Nineteen forty-nine.
EG: How old were you?
WG: I was twenty-three.
EG: How old was she?
WG: She was twenty-one. We had two children.
EG: Who were they?
WG: My boy was Kent, and he was born in nineteen fifty-four. And Ginger was born in nineteen fifty-seven. And then from then, we had two grandchildren! [Chuckles]
EG: Did you ever keep in touch with any of the friends you met in Japan?
WG: Well, yes, we usually sent Christmas cards to them. There was in particular, his name was Moses Mederas, and he was a true-blooded Hawaiian. He used to send Christmas cards, and then all at once it stopped. I really didn’t know what happened.
EG: How long had it been since…?
WG: Oh, probably about eight or nine years.
EG: What did you miss the most when you were in Japan?
WG: Oh, probably family and friends.
EG: Did you miss your moms cooking?
WG: Yes, and my mom’s cooking.
EG: So did you get big meal when you came home?
WG: Oh yes, yes. She would make me a graham-cracker cream pie which I really liked. That was my favorite dessert.
EG: What was your favorite meal, do you remember?
WG: She made good spaghetti—spaghetti and meatballs.
EG: What did your family say when you got back?
WG: Of course, they were glad that I was out of service and didn’t have to get in any combat.
EG: Were they ever scared that you…
WG: Oh, yes, I think any parent would be that way.
EG: But they were more scared than you were?
WG: Probably. Right.
EG: Well, you said you went on to work at Owens-Illinois. Tell me about that career, how long did you work there?
WG: I spent thirty-two years there. I started in nineteen fifty and retired in nineteen eighty-two.
EG: And was your job the same throughout those years?
WG: I started in the accounting department, which was the bonus department, in which we figured the bonus for the people out in the plant. On top of their pay, depending on how much effort they put out, they would get a bonus on top of that. From there, I went to industrial engineering.
EG: You mentioned your wife, what did she do there?
WG: She worked in personnel. She worked for the personnel director; she more or less worked for him.
EG: Did you ever see her when you were at work?
WG: Oh, yes, we crossed paths all the time. Because I was in and out of the office and she was too.
EG: What was the first important event after your arrival home from Japan?
WG: It was probably getting married to a wonderful person who I have been married with for fifty-four years and blessed with two children and two grandchildren.
EG: What was the date of your marriage again? Did you say nineteen forty-nine?
WG: Yes, February the twelfth.
EG: How has your service in the military affected your life?
WG: Well, it really paid for the additional education that I had. It taught me discipline, and made me appreciate home cooking. [Both laugh]
EG: You missed home cooking then?
WG: Oh, yes, right. Because it’s different when you go in service. I didn’t have any fast food like the do now.
EG: What kind of food did you eat over there?
WG: Well, they had one thing they called shit-on-the-shingles. Which was sausage gravy over biscuits.
EG: So it was like biscuits and gravy? Was the food okay?
WG: Oh, yes, I never complained about food.
EG: Did you get a variety?
WG: Oh, yes, we had in the morning probably bacon and eggs and pancakes—probably the same thing you can at a restaurant.
EG: Did you ever eat anywhere else in Japan?
WG: No, we never ate at any Japanese restaurants. We were a little afraid to eat there stuff—food that is.
EG: I would be too, you never know. Food if you can call it food.
WG: They ate a lot of fish, I think, raw fish.
EG: Sushi? Did they eat squid and stuff like that?
WG: Right. Which some Americans will eat now.
EG: When you were there did you ever see the shipyards?
WG: No, you mean when they cut fish? No, I never was close to it. Of course, I did drink a little saki over there, which is a wine.
EG: It’s a rice wine, isn’t it? They drink it warm, do they not?
WG: I don’t remember if it was warm or not. But we did drink that and we drank their beer also.
EG: Was the beer okay?
WG: Yes, it passed. [Both laugh]
EG: It didn’t make you sick or anything?
WG: No, I don’t think so. The only time I got sick was onboard ship. It was a bad day at sea and the ship would go up and down; the ship would go up and shutter as it came down.
EG: I’m sure a lot of you got sick.
WG: Yes, you’d lose your cookies! [Both laugh]
EG: Did you lean your head over the side?
WG: Yes, we probably did that, and just upchucked.
EG: Did you get used to that?
WG: Oh, yes. I think I only did it once. And then after that I got used to it.
EG: Did you join a veteran’s organization when you came back?
WG: Yes, at first I joined the VFW [Veterans of Foreign Wars], which is in Gas City.
EG: When did you join that?
WG: Probably the year that I got out of service. I was commander in nineteen fifty-five. It was enjoyable.
EG: What did you do?
WG: As commander? You had different projects for the VFW, to help the city out on different projects. And then you’d have your meetings, so you had to be in charge of the meetings every week I think it was.
EG: How long were you commander?
WG: Just for one year.
EG: Did they get a new commander every year?
WG: Unless the old commander wanted to stay for another year, and it happened before. But it was enjoyable being around other fellows like that.
EG: So you did participate a lot in that?
WG: Yes, I did. Of course we played basketball, too. We had a pretty good basketball team. Oh, I wanted to say, too, that while I was in Japan, somebody had wrote to me and said that some of my friends were there in Japan. So there were three other fellows; we got a hold of each other—probably called—and we decided to meet in Tokyo.
EG: What did you do, cruise the town?
WG: Just talked, and ate someplace there.
EG: Did they have any stories to tell you?
WG: No, but one fellow that was there was Joe McKinney, that’s the brother of the girl that I had wrote home to and didn’t write back to me and eventually married. So that was my brother-in-law.
EG: Did you have any idea then?
WG: No, no, not at all.
EG: How many people were in the VFW, at its peak I should say?
WG: At the peak we probably had seven or eight hundred that belonged to the VFW. Of course you don’t get everyone to participate.
EG: How many active participants, would you say?
WG: Oh, you might have had fifty to seventy-five active. And then you could to call on others.
EG: Did you have to do that, or was that somebody else’s job?
WG: To get new members? Well, we had a committee that would work on getting new members by sending out cards.
EG: How often did you get new members?
WG: Well, at that time, we did. It was right after the war had ended.
EG: But I’m sure as time went on…
WG: Right, it was hard to get them. And I also joined the American Legion. I think that was to play basketball with them. So, we had an American Legion basketball team. So I played on the Legion and the VFW’s basketball team.
EG: So you enjoyed your experiences with the VFW?
WG: Oh, yes, very much so. Of course, right now, I don’t go down there very often and there are probably not too many of them that I know.
EG: Do you ever go down there?
WG: I’ve been down there probably once this year.
EG: What do you do when you go down there?
WG: Just see if you can see anybody that you know. Because usually there’s just different people there that you don’t know.
EG: Do you meet people when you’re down there? What kind of people do you meet down there, veterans from all kinds of wars?
WG: Yes, right. Younger fellows, too, because they’ve been in Korean and Vietnam War.
EG: So you’ve passed it on to a new generation?
WG: Right, right. And with the Gulf War, they’ve picked more veterans, too.
EG: How has your service in the military affected your life, in other ways other than that?
WG: Other than it paid for some of my education—it didn’t hurt because it teached you discipline and how to take orders and get along with people. I was proud to serve in the service and I think every young man should serve in some part of the service. It would help them out a lot.
EG: Would it straighten a few of them out?
WG: It would straighten a few out, too. [Chuckles]
EG: Did it straighten you out?
WG: I don’t think I needed straightened out! [Both laugh]
EG: It did just in case.
WG: Well I don’t think I told you about this one fellow about when we were out on training, probably hand grenade throwing. There were MP’s that came into our [unclear] huts, and they went to him and opened his foot locker and found some hand grenades in there. So they got a hold of him and his hand grenades and they took him out. So we just came from the hand grenade throwing course.
EG: And so he…
WG: He took some back with him.
EG: And where was this at?
WG: This was at basic training. And I don’t really know what he was going to do with those hand grenades.
EG: Were you a little worried?
WG: Yes, right. Especially when they came in looking for a particular person.
EG: Did they know that the hand grenades were missing?
WG: They must have found out somehow, unless somebody squealed on them.
EG: How many hand grenades did he take?
WG: I just think he had a couple.
EG: That’s a scary thought.
WG: And I think they called him a fluorescent…when they threw them there was fire that would come out of these hand grenades.
EG: Oh, like a flash-bang grenade?
WG: Yes, yes, and I think that is what he had taken.
EG: So he didn’t take the toss-them, explode, make big crater type grenades?
WG: Incendiary, that’s the word, incendiary—I couldn’t think of it.
EG: I’m sure those could do some damage though. Has your service affected how you think of war or the military in general?
WG: Well, like I told you, I think everybody should serve a little time in the service. And I think we should, as a nation, try to help other countries like we did in Afghanistan and Iraq. I’m all for it.
EG: So you think that’s our duty as the most powerful nation on the planet?
WG: Yes, because we don’t stay there and take over their country like some of the bigger countries do.
EG: What were your thoughts on the later wars to come after your time in Japan? Like Korea, Vietnam…
WG: Yes, I backed them all the time.
EG: Well, what about the Red Scare during the Cold War, what were your thoughts about that on communism?
WG: Well, you didn’t know what was going to happen so we had to build up our defenses.
EG: Were you ever worried about an attack from…
WG: No, I really didn’t worry. I never did worry about that.
EG: What were your thoughts about the Korean War? Did you feel that the United States had the right to impose upon communism in other parts of the war?
WG: Oh, yes, I think so. We’re trying to help these other countries—you don’t want one country going in there and taking over another country. And, of course, you got all these civilians in there and it’s a hardship on them.
EG: But it’s for the betterment of them. Probably most of them don’t really understand that.
EG: Vietnam was probably one of the most controversial wars that America had ever fought, what were your thoughts? Did you still back them?
WG: Yes, but we didn’t go in an all-out war there.
EG: You think more steps could have been taken.
WG: Right, and we could have probably won that war, but we backed off a lot.
EG: So you think if we would have came on hard and came on strong we might have done better strategically and gained more support from the United States?
WG: They had a different type of war in the jungles and all these caves and tunnels that they had built. It was hard to find them.
EG: They were well-prepared, weren’t they?
EG: I’m sure they needed all the support they could get, but do you think there was a lack of proper strategic planning from our side?
WG: Yes, I think there was. We did destroy a lot of the forests that they had. They were just wiping out the whole area.
EG: What about the whole baby killing thing?
WG: It’s too bad things like that happen—civilians and young kids are killed.
EG: I’m sure the war has such a psychological effect—you never saw combat—but did your time in Japan drain you emotionally?
WG: Well, not really. You always think how it could have been. If we would have been in the invasion of Japan there would have been an awful lot of us and them getting killed. By the atom bomb being drop it saved a lot of lives both ways.
EG: So you think was best that could have came out of that?
WG: Yes, it saved a lot of lives, even though a lot of lives were killed when the two bombs were dropped.
EG: So in the end, more were saved. Because there would have probably been a Normandy-style invasion of Japan, probably from the United States and the Soviet Union. Were those ever in part of the plans when you were there?
WG: No I never heard anything. We were just stuck back in this camp and did what we were told. [Chuckles]
EG: In recent years, what have your thoughts been on the Middle East conflict and Iraq and the Gulf War.
WG: Well, I was all for them going over there and trying to get rid of Saddam Hussein, which they did. But, of course, they don’t know where he is. [Chuckles] But no, I backed them.
EG: So do you feel that it is our duty to not so much impose democracy but to give a helping hand and protect our own interests, really?
WG: Right, yes, I do. Of course, we got the United Nations but it seems like they’re always at a standstill and it takes them a long time to do anything.
EG: And there’s so many other organizations. NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization], that are there just in case the United Nations may not do something.
EG: What overall feelings do you have about the time you served in the military?
WG: Well, I was proud to serve in the armed forces, like I told you before. I never regretted going in there and serving in Japan. But of course, in going to Japan, it was a trip for me that I probably never would have done before.
EG: It was an interesting time.
WG: Yes, it was. I might tell you that while I was in Japan there was a ten year old Japanese orphan boy that was in our signal troop when I got there. He was adopted by the troop and then he was outfitted by army outfits which they made to his size. He was enjoyable to have around and he was very cute.
EG: Could he speak English?
WG: A little bit of English. He learned a little bit.
EG: So he was your mascot?
WG: Right, he was our mascot of the first signal troop.
EG: That’s neat. Any other feelings about the time you served? You said that if more young people today joined some part of the armed forces, you think you that would have an effect on…
WG: …how their life was lived and what they did, and…
EG: This is obviously not a perfect society. Crimes do happen.
WG: There is a lot of things that happen that shouldn’t happen. [Chuckles]
EG: Do you think that if you went into the military that that would have a direct effect on that?
WG: Well, it could. Of course there are some of these young kids you could beat on for years at a time and nothing would happen to change their way.
EG: Well, thank you for this interview. Do you have anything else I haven’t covered that you would like to cover?
WG: No, I think you are a good interviewer, Evan. [Chuckles] I enjoyed it!
EG: Well, thank you for your time, Mr. Gosser.
WG: You’re welcome.