Interviewed by Marie Brainard
Recorded on 10/12/2006 by Marie Brainard
Transcribed on 11/25/2006-11/27/2006 by Marie Brainard
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Marie Brainard: Today is Thursday October 12, 2006. I am Marie Brainard and I am interviewing James Hackl at 8889 Pickwick Drive Indianapolis, Indiana 46260. Mr. James Hackl is 80years old and was born on December 28, 1924. Mr. Hackl served in The Korean war; he was in officer in the United States Navy.
MB: Can you first give me a summary of what you did in the Korean War?
JH: During the Korean War. Well, I was an officer in the United States Navy Reserve and I was called to active duty in 1951 and I was assigned to a destroyer, the USS Miller (DD535) as an assistant engineering officer and our first duty was to take the ship out of mothballs. After WWII, they put a lot of ships in and they just preserved them, they kept them in case they ever needed them again, and they called that mothball. And there’s a big mothball fleet of navy ships and when Korea came along, they activated some of those ships including ours. My job was what they called the main propulsion officer. I was Lutenit Junior Grade at the time Lutenit JG. My primary responsibility was to see that the engine rooms and boiler rooms, which generated the energy to run the ship. The boilers made the steam which drove turbines that propelled the ship. Later, I was promoted to engineering officer which they called chief engineer. My job was to still see that all the engineering aspects of the ship were operated properly. Reporting to me were a couple of assistants and the engineer crew which consisted of firemen, engine room, enlisted men and petty officers and that’s what we did, we ran the ship. And when I say ran, I mean the mechanical parts of running the ship. The deck officers would be responsible for the navigation and gunnery and those kinds of jobs, but mine was to see that the ship ran properly, mechanically and electrically.
MB: Okay, did you enlist by yourself, or when did you enlist?
JH: I enlisted in 1943 out of high school WWII was on and I took the competitive exams which the navy offered to seniors in high school and was selected for a college training program, which was called the navy V-12 program. And from there as an enlisted man they sent me to Georgia Tech and I stayed there until I graduated in 1946. At which time I was commissioned an ensign and assigned to shipboard duty for a short period of time. WWII had just ended so there was no war going on at the time. Shortly thereafter, (see I graduated in February) [I] was commissioned in I believe it was September. I was released from active duty to inactive duty. I was in the navy reserve so I was still part of the reserve so that they could call me up to active duty any time they wanted. So my enlistment and commission and my commitment was still in effect. I was in the Navy reserve but I was not in active duty at that time. Then in 1950, I received orders from the navy that the Korean War had started and was underway, to comeback to active duty. So I really never was out of the navy, I was just inactive, so I was called back to active duty at that time, and I had reported for duty in 1951.
MB: What was your training like?
JH: My training was mostly and engineering education, in Georgia Tech. I graduated as a mechanical engineer; I received the bachelor of mechanical engineering degree from Georgia Tech. The navy training was very little, very little navy training during that period of time. We were in uniform we were apprentice seamen we would go to drills and those kinds of activities and there were some college courses having to do with navy, naval science and other college courses that were offered or were required, there weren’t too many in my case, you know there was very little training I received but when I graduated I was sent to Steam Engineering School which was a school that the navy ran to train engineering officers that lasted, I don’t remember, I believe that was 2 months, so right after I graduated and was commissioned in February they sent me to Newport, Rhode Island to attend the Steam Engineering school, and that was 2 months of training to operate a vessel, so I received that training. I was on a ship for a short length of time and then released.
MB: Where did you go while you were serving in the war?
JH: In Korea?
JH: Our ship first of all we went from Long Beach, California where we brought the ship out, we went around to the East Coast where it was outfitted and brought up to date and we went through underway training out of Guantanamo Bay in Cuba which was part of a program of activating British mothballs to active duty, of course the crew and other people were part of that, we went through some upgrading or modernization in conversion to bring the ship up to then present day standards, and they sent us to what ended up being an around the world trip or cruise, and we went back to the west coast and from there to Hawaii and Okinawa and all into the Korean area as part of the fleet, and I even forget the number of the fleet at the time, and we were part of a fleet of ship that served in Korean orders we visited a number of ports, Japan, and then after our Korean duty which was 3 or 4 months I’m sure its in this book, then after Korean duty they brought us back but instead of coming directly back we circumnavigated the globe and went around the world and we stop at numerous ports, I don’t know if you want a list of those or not but they sent eight of us a squadron of destroyers which I was told was the largest group of ships to make an around the world trip together since the Great White Fleet, our purpose there was just to show the flag, and we stopped at many places, I’m trying to find these, we stopped at Guantanamo, Panama, San Diego, Hawaii, Midway, Sasebo, Japan, Wonsan Harbor, Korea, Atomega, Japan, Yoseesuko, Japan, Buckner Bay in the Philippines, Subic Bay in the Philippines, Singapore, Rangoon, Colombo, Bombay, Rastinora in the Arabian Peninsula, Aden, Suez, Port-Seid, Naples, Villa France, Gibraltar and back to Newport. We started that trip in September 1952 and came back to Newport in April of 1953. The active duty part in war zone was in Korean waters, the navy consisted of ships, and we didn’t have any land duty, so I was never on land in Korea. The duties were as part of the fleet we would do escort work, flight guard work, there was shelling, the instillations on the shore, and that kind of stuff.
MB: While you were sailing on the ship were you awarded any medals?
JH: No, everybody that went received area recognition, there was just a standard medal for Asiatic duty in various areas, but I didn’t receive any decorations.
MB: Then earlier you said you were on the destroyer, what exactly is a destroyer?
JH: A destroyer is a warship it’s the smallest ship of the line. It is equipped from the battle standpoint with five inch guns, it would lay mines, anti-submarine patrol was an active thing a destroyer would do, looking for submarines. They were equipped with death charges, too, which would be dropped if an enemy submarine was encountered. In our case, the Koreans did not have submarines but still anti-sub patrol because no one knew when that could happen. We had torpedoes also they were equipped to fire at other ships, fire at the land, do anti-aircraft, we had anti-armaments to shoot at any enemy airplanes, and so they were one of the war ships, they were the smallest of the recognized war ships the larger ships would be cruisers, battle ships, aircraft carriers, and on up the line and of course many many support vessels, but that’s what a destroyer does.
MB: Were you able to stay in touch with your family while on the ship?
JH: Yes, yes mail, we’d get mail delivered to us from time to time, the service was very good about that, and we could write letters, and they would be sent through the navy used the term, “fleet post office.” They would all go to a particular location, because the navy knew where you were and they would get mail and packages from home, but the whole extent would be mail. Then when the ship was in a port, we were permitted to go ashore, sometimes could telephone. The technology wasn’t in good in those days as it is now, but still you could make telephone contact. Nothing was prohibited from that standpoint.
MB: What was the food like on the ship?
JH: The food was fine, the Navy in my opinion had is much easier than the army, we had good sleeping quarters, we had good plumbing, we had good food, and regular food, regular meals, regular food like anybody eats, and the ship was very self-sufficient. It would be supplied with food, fuel, ammunition, and alike from supply ships that were regularly in touch and available, and when it would make stops in ports, it would be re-supplied.
MB: How did people entertain themselves?
JH: Well you had duties was the main thing you did, on shipboard you would have what they called, “watches.” You’d stand a watch, and depending on the zone you’re in whether it’s on port or war zone, you would serve a watch. It typically would be four hour duty four off, that would be fairly intense, and more often when you were not in those zones that required that you may have four hours on eight hours off. So the main thing you did was stood your watch, ours was a small ship and the officers really did not play cards, a lot of time you think of playing poker, Gin Rummy, but wee didn’t do that, we’d read, you’d stand watches and there would be training exercises that would be part of that, and that’s about it, I don’t remember do too much else. [laughter] Ashore when you’re in port you’d have ashore leave, and when you go off duty and visit the port but those weren’t extensive. Then when we were in port for a long time, ‘cause my active duty was for almost two years, but this Korean part was what eight or nine months. A lot of the time here in port while the ship was in the shipyard, my wife joined me, we’d get an apartment and we’d live as much as we could a normal life, except for duty.
MB: Do you recall any particularly humorous or unusual events in the ports or on the ships?
JH: You realize you’re going back sixty years, [laughter] I recall that the shipmates were real good guys, we got along well, there would be the usual give and take among guys, one incident was crossing the equator, there was quite a ceremony when you cross the equator for the first time, more or less an a initiation, where they called you “pollywogs’, “land lovers”, “lounge lizards”, ect. That’s what you are before you cross the equator then once you do you are a shell back, so it was a kind of initiation where people dress up and submit you to as much humiliation as possible, not a lot unlike what fraternities sometimes do. That was certainly a humorous thing. Just various things that would happen to any bunch of men that are put together to go to shore and have a good time and just do what ever what was available to do, but I don’t remember any particular incidents of that time, I’m sure there were some.
MB: What did you think of the officers and fellow soldiers?
JH: I thought they were all very outstanding capable people, and I liked them and respected them and same with the enlisted men. Some were better than others but they were all doing their job, and good to be with.
MB: Do you recall the day your services ended and what you did?
JH: We were on our way back to the United States, having completed this duty. The ship had docked in Naples, Italy and we were going to be there a few days, another officer and I went to Rome and we took the train, but as I left I received orders by dispatch that I would be released from active duty, I think it was May 15 or something like that when we returned to Newport and I don’t remember what day it was, but I remember the day. I was happy, because I was not making the Navy my career, I was a reserve officer and getting back to normal life, and the job, and my wife, and by then we had a baby so that was something that was very good news. We were told when we were called to duty, (someplace along the line), that it was a two year assignment that wasn’t binding but that was what the program seemed to be, two years active duty then back to inactive duty. I was released a little early, I think maybe a month or two early, but they just didn’t need us, by then the war was winding down and they didn’t need us. So I was released to inactive duty at the time and still in the Navy reserve.
MB: What did you do in the days and weeks after you were released?
JH: Well, first thing I did was call my wife, she came up to Newport with our baby and then I was released or discharged, or whatever they call it as they process you to release you. Then I came back to what had been home contacted my previous employer and went back to work for them just as soon as possible, we probably took a few weeks off to just play, we went to the beach in Florida for a week or several days, but I went to work as soon as I could.
MB: Did you make any close friendships while in the service?
JH: Yes I did, some friends that I still stay in touch with after all these years; we had several very very close friends.
MB: Did you join a Veterans organization?
JH: No, no I didn’t, no I didn’t, I know what you mean, no I have not joined any of the organizations.
MB: What did you go on to do as a career after the war?
JH: I was a sales engineer. I progressed through various assignments with an international manufacturer of air conditioning equipment and both a sales engineer, then sales manager, then different management jobs. I was in the air conditioning industry in a variety of management positions.
MB: Did your military experience influence your thinking about war or about the military in general?
JH: No, I don’t think so, in our day everyone was very positive about the military. When I was called to active duty I had been working and it was already actively engaged and committed to a business career so I wasn’t particularly happy about it, but I felt that I owed the navy something in return for the education, because the sent me to college! So that was a very positive experience that I respected the military then and very much now, more all the time, so there’s never any negative thinking that was changed or positive that was changed to negative my attitudes always been very positive, I think that everyone, every male particularly, should serve in the military I think it’d be a very fine growing experience for them to serve there country.
MB: How did your service and experiences in the Navy affect your life?
JH: Nothing particular, except I felt good that I had done it. And it probably was a growing experience just as much as anything else I did. So it was an important part of my life that I value very greatly and I am grateful that I did and happy that I did.
MB: Is there anything that you would like to add that I haven’t covered?
JH: I think I probably did in that next to last comment, that I just think military experience is just something that people should want very much, and I would be proud if any of my 31 grandchildren that go into it. It’s a very short period at that time in your life; you may feel like it is a long period, 2 years seemed like a long time but when you put it as a part of the overall scheme its not a long time, it’s a very short period and one that would be something that I would be very proud for people to do and I think its certainly is a maturing experience. I’ve hired a lot of people in my career; I’ve been blessed with a successful business career. And in the process I have hired many many people and I know that anytime I see on a résumé that someone has had a military career or military period that has been served for I period of time, I hold that as a plus factor in evaluating that individual, so I just think it’d be something that’d be good for everyone.
MB: Thank you, I think that’s about it if there’s nothing else you’d like to add?
JH: I think not I see on this you might need any materials, I don’t have many materials, I’ve got that picture and this cruise book, but I value this so I’m not going to give it to them, they don’t need it they know all about this, and I think your school is a fine thing, oh here’s a picture of my ship, there very sleek and very pretty things and fast, and it was an honor to be on it, and there’s our captain, and each of these departments are shown here. There I am and there’s the engineering department. Our ship has an annual reunion, they didn’t start it for many many years but they did, and I went to 2 of them but I don’t go every year too often, but I did go to an annual reunion and it was nice to see people, but I didn’t recognize many of them (laughter) except our friends. No I don’t Marie, I think your school is to be commended for participating in this and you so I hope you get a good mark!
MB: Thank you for you time, I enjoyed learning about your experiences in the Navy.
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