Interview with Raymond Jean-Claude
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This is Daniel Chin speaking for the Park Tudor Legacy Initiative on March 11, 2003. This interview will be going for twenty-nine minutes. The interviewer is Daniel Chin. And the person that we are interviewing is Mr. Raymond Jean-Claude.
 Daniel Chin: Were you drafted or did you enlist?
Raymond Jean-Claude: I was drafted, I could not enlist.
DC: Where were you living at the time?
RJC: I was living in Jersey City, New Jersey
DC: What did it feel like when you were enlisted?
RJC: I was scared I did not know what was going on, it was something new, something different. Yes, I had many apprehensions.
DC: Were you excited about it?
RJC: Oh, yes, I was worried, it’s something different, and you never know what you’re getting into.
DC: Did many of your friends enlist?
RJC: I did have any friends at that time that went in with me, I went in by myself, because I was drafted and they told me “You will go”.
 DC: Did you get to pick the service of branch that you joined?
RJC: Well, they ask you and I asked for the Air Force, and they put me in the Air Force.
DC: Was there something about the air force that you liked?
RJC: Well, I would certainly like to be in the planes, fly them and whatever I could do. I thought it was a better deal.
DC: Did you know how to fly planes before you went into the Air Force?
RJC: Oh I didn’t, but I had to learn, when they put me in the service and I had to acquire all of this knowledge, I actually never flew a plane by myself. I was crew chief on a plane, which meant that I was in charge of the plane, but I did not handle the plane itself.
DC: Do you recall the first days in service?
RJC: Well, sure you go into service then you have to go through all of these examinations, physicals and all that sort of stuff. And it’s a different type of life. Then you go into basic training after that.
DC: When you went into service, did you go through any boot camp training experiences?
RJC: I sure did! I was sent down to Miami Beach, FL., and that’s where my boot training was.
DC: Were they tough?
RJC: It was different it was very, Yes, it was very demanding, and there was a lot of physical exercise. A lot of training.
DC: Were you in shape when you went in there?
RJC: Yeah, I was a young boy, I was I guess I was nineteen, eighteen something like that. So I was young. I wasn’t an old man like I am now!
DC: You served in World War II correct?
RJC: Yes, I served in World War II.
DC: Where exactly did you go?
RJC: Well, I went from Miami, to Tampa bay, from Tampa to Dayton, OH, Dayton, OH to Maryland, from Maryland I went to Texas, Texas back to Maryland, from Maryland back over to California, from California I went to the Philippines, from the Philippines I went to Japan, and from Japan I came home, back to Jersey City, New Jersey.
DC: What was it like traveling in the Army?
RJC: Well, it depends on where you were going, when I went from Miami to Tampa Bay, FL, I went home for a period of time, and in that time I got married. And then I went back to Tampa Bay, FL. (this was by train of course). I went from Tampa to Dayton also by train.
DC: So, you were married when you were in the service?
RJC: I was married when I was in service, yes.
DC: Where in the war did you stay the longest?
RJC: I guess the longest time was in the Philippines.
DC: Do you remember arriving to these places, do you remember what it felt like?
RJC: Well, every place was so different, … Everyone was different, every place that you went to was different, and it was a different experience.
DC: When you left the country did you feel the war getting closer to you?
RJC: Oh, certainly when I left California, and went to the Philippines we went across by ship and we were in a hurricane and almost lost the ship in the hurricane. We left Okinawa, then when we got to the Philippines there was another rest camp. Then they built you up again and then sent you out to do whatever chores they wanted you to do, with the outfit that they assigned you to.
 DC: What was your job assignment?
RJC: I was a radio field communication chief with a field unit in the Philippine Islands.
 DC: So did you see a lot of combat.
RJC: Yes I did. There were many Japanese in the area, we had to clean the whole area out of the Japanese. There was a lot of fighting. We used guns we used flame throwers there. We didn’t have any tanks in our outfit, but I was in the Howitzer outfit, which was a 155 millimeter cannon. It was the 32nd Division. 121st Regiment.
DC: Were there many casualties in your unit?
RJC: Yes, there were, many were hurt, I was hurt. One firefight a scrap went into my hand and put my hand out of commission for a while. I wound up in a hospital two times. Besides that we survived. A lot of our men were hurt, were shot; we killed a lot of Japanese.
 DC: Were you close to anybody?
RJC: Yea, I had a lot of friends, every body becomes a buddy-buddy in the Army, because you need them and they need you to survive.
 DC: Were any of them injured?
RJC: Oh sure, some of the guys were hurt. Some of them would be shot, some of them would be hurt by the shells that would go off, and we had hand grenades and whatnot like that. And we had to bomb them…
 DC: So Looking back at the war, were there any most memorable experiences?
RJC: Well, there were a couple that I can remember. The field artillery needed forward observation posts, which means that, they send people out to where the enemy was and you would call there radio or the telephone if you were close enough, but mostly radio. And you would direct the Howitzers where they would shoot, where they would fire their weapons. So in other words, you were the controlling way. Whether they were going to far too the North, too far to the South. You would have to tell them ”Hey your on a tangent go back and recalibrate it, your going to far, your shots are going to close to the enemy, there going to the left or there going to the right.” And you actually directed where the cannons would fire. It’s not like today. Today they have all of these smart bombs set up and can go anywhere they want. Back in those days they couldn’t do that. You had to direct it where it’d go. One time I was out in the forward observation post it was my turn to go back to my camp for a rest, because we had to down there for a couple of weeks. I went back to the camp, and the mosquitoes were atrocious in the Philippines, and I must have gotten bitten 500 times the night I got back because I didn’t have a net to cover my bunk with. So my body swelled up on me and they put in a tractor and took me through the under brush, to get me to a hospital. When I was going to the hospital the Amtrak I was on went through the Country, which is these people who are actually wild. They’re like natives, wild natives and we thought we were going to be killed at that point but they didn’t they let us alone and we got through, but you know I woke up and I saw all of these crazy people with all of these beads around their neck and stuff like that, and ah finally we got out.
 DC: Were you ever a prisoner of war?
DC: Did you know anyone who was?
 DC: Were there a lot of prisoners of war around you?
RJC: Well, the only prisoners of war that were there were the Japanese. We would capture these Japanese. They would be prisoners of war, we would assign them to our group that had a portion of our area that we kept our prisoners in.
 DC: When you got back from the war were you awarded any medals of any sort?
RJC: Yes I have a about four or five medals actually; I have an American Service Medal, I have an Asiatic Pacific Service Medal, I have a Philippine Liberation Medal, a WWII Victory Medal.
DC: How did you get them?
RJC: Well, the service awards them to you and depending on where are and where you served.
 DC: How did you stay in touch with your family?
RJC: Well, I used to write to them, the only way you could do that back in those days was to write letters. We always looked for mail to come in and usually when we were out on a campaign somewhere then you would not have mail call, but you always look forward for your mail from your mail and your wife and your family, and of course you would have to write to them if you had time. There are sometimes where you just didn’t have time when you were in battle, you had no time to write.
DC: How did your wife handle it?
RJC: She had to accept it, I brought an arrangement with her, and before I left I had a map that I had with me and I also gave her a map exactly the same. And I would have to use a code because all of our mail was censored. You could not tell anyone where you were, you couldn’t tell them what you were doing, you couldn’t tell them anything except “How are you?” And I would tell her by a code that I had, on the map I’d say “Oh, I’m at 49-A or whatever the correct coordinates were on the map, and that way she would know where I was.
 DC: When you ate in the army how was the food?
RJC: It wasn’t really great. Of course when you get overseas, when you get out where the battles are going on, there was C-rations which were in packages.
 DC: Did the C-rations taste OK?
RJC: No they taste horrible.
 DC: When you were traveling or in pursuit of the enemy what did you take with you?
RJC: Well, you had your backpack, you had your gun, and you had your canteen, you had your helmet, and whatever you put in your backpack that you needed. You go as light as you can possibly go. But you had to have some of the equipment with you well you had a bucket, at night or if you had to dig a hole you had a little shovel which was for digging foxholes. It was different.
 DC: Did you have enough supplies?
RJC: Oh yea, enough to get by with.
 DC: What did you bring with you?
RJC: Your knapsack, your bedroll, your shovel, your rifle, your canteen, your helmet and, of course, your outfit that you wore.
 DC: When you were out fighting did you feel a lot of pressure?
RJC: Oh naturally. When you have somebody looking to kill you and you’re looking to kill them, it’s a little pressure. If you watch the news at night or afternoon, you’ll see what the guys are going through now.
 DC: Was they’re something that you did for good luck that you brought with you or that you did?
RJC: I brought a little bullet case that my father gave me, that had a little saint inside of it. And I brought that with me throughout the whole war.
DC: When did he give you that?
RJC: Before I left, he had it when he was in service and he was in WWI. Then he gave it to me when I went into WWII.
 DC: When you were at camp, how did people entertain themselves?
RJC: It depends on where you were, okay. If you were by a rest camp there was always something that could go on. You might see a movie or something like that. Not too often. If you were in the field during a battle situation, of course, there was nothing to do you had to just survive. There were times when I went into Japan we took over a Japanese officer’s training camp. At that camp we had horses that we took over so we would go horseback riding and whatnot, but this was after the battles and after the war. And that was when we were in Japan still.
 DC: When you were out of the country, was it-could you find less stress in the U.S.?
RJC: Oh no, there was more stress when you were out of the country, you didn’t know where you were going, you didn’t know what the situation was. It’s a different country, the people were different, their ways were different, and then it’s a different type of life. You didn’t have toilets when you got over seas, you had you had to sit on the john in a shack an “out house.” It’s not the same as being home, it’s not the same as being in camp.
 DC: You were mentioning some of the village people that you met there. What were they like? Did you talk to them?
RJC: Once, you get to know the people, it’s like anywhere else. Once you conquer these people then everything is fine. They treat you nice and you treat them nice. You’re only killing the ones that are trying to kill you. You’re only fighting with the ones that are trying to fight against you. But once you get into, like once we got into the Philippines and those accept you and you accept them. We went into Japan and once you go into Japan, “the war is over”. They accept you and you accept them. There’s always a little resentment there, but it was fine and everybody got along fine.
 DC: Were they rooting for you?
RJC: At first they aren’t and then they change. It’s the same as what’s going on in Iraq now. People will fight you until you conquer them, and once you conquer them they accept you to a certain point.
 DC: Did you ever get on leave?
RJC: Oh sure, I got on leave when I was in the States but I never got on leave when I was overseas.
 DC: Did you do anything special or go anywhere special while on leave?
RJC: When I was on leave I went home and got married. When I was on leave I would go out with my wife, when she went to the camps with me. There were not too many leaves.
 DC: Do you recall any particularly humorous or unusual events that occurred?
RJC: Well, I remember several things, okay. One was, when we went into Japan and we took over a munitions factory and what happened was we used a big 55-gallon drum, to build the fire with. We put a smokestack up to the ceiling in this ammunition building, and of course it got so hot that the roof caught on fire. And I went up on the roof to put the fire out with several other people and they had tile roofs over there. And as I got up there the slate started to slide off the roof, and I fell down into a gully, a cement gully and it knocked me out they carried me into the munitions factory again, put me in a cot, and just as I opened my eyes and coming to, our generator which was giving us light, that hung from bulbs from the ceiling, the generator went out and I thought I died, because I saw faces and then it went dead.
The other thing that I remember is when I went into Japan again, I was communication chief, so I was with the Colonel who was riding a horse. We had one of those amphibious boats that we dropped the front down and I had a jeep and a horse. He was a crazy guy, he rode this white horse he thought he was…anyway he rode his white horse off the boat and I rode the jeep. And this was in the city of Sasebo, Japan, and he told me that they wanted to take over the trench that was on top of a mountain and I had to let everybody, all the men talk to their people involved. That was impossible at the time because he radio at this time wouldn’t go that far. But anyway it was very startling to see this man ride off a boat with a horse and a jeep behind him.
 DC: Did you pull any pranks?
RJC: Yea a couple of pranks you may be interested in. Well, some of the people that went into the service were not too clean; they would be dirty and filthy. They never took showers. And every once in awhile you would have to bring one of these guys into the shower and give them a GI Bath, which was when you scrub them down with soap and water and a brush…
 DC: What did you think of your officers and fellow soldiers?
RJC: Some of them were good, and some of them were fair. Some were, like everything else in life you get all types in there.
DC: Did you get any really mean officers?
RJC: When you go to boot camp and you have these drill instructors, they are God. They will march you until your feet fall off. It’s just unbelievable they are God. They will run you ragged.
 DC: Did you keep a personal diary or journal?
 DC: After service, do you recall when the war ended?
RJC: When I got back from Japan I wound up back in Jersey City. Naturally, I had to be mustered out of the service, and with that then I decided to take a couple of weeks and then I went back to work.
DC: When your service ended was that the end of the war?
RJC: Yes, the end of the war was before I came home. The end of the war ended happened when I was over in Japan.
DC: Do you remember listening to the radio when they announced?
RJC: Oh everyday, everyday we would listen to the radio to find out what’s going on, and we kept praying that the war would end and we could come home.
DC: When you first found out that the war was over what were your feelings your emotions?
RJC: I was so happy we could come home. I can’t even tell you how happy we were.
DC: You weren’t sad that you would have to leave all of the people you worked with?
RJC: Oh no, not in the least. I just wanted to come home. I wanted to see my wife, and I wanted to see all my relatives…
 DC: What did you do in the days and weeks afterward?
RJC: That’s what I said. I took 2-3 weeks and those weeks where I didn’t do anything except rest around, And lie around the house and whatnot. Then I finally went back to work.
 DC: Did you make any close friendships while in service.
RJC: I made friends, but I never followed through with them because they were, well most of them that were in my outfit were from Wisconsin. That was so far away that I really never got involved.
DC: Did you join any veteran organizations?
RJC: Yes. I belonged to the VFW for a while. Then I finally got out of that.
 DC: What did you do as a career after the war?
RJC: I was working for the National Broadcasting Company in New York City. I was a studio engineer, which meant I put programs on the air.
 DC: Did your experience influence your thinking about war or the military in general?
RJC: Yes, I can appreciate the Army, I can appreciate the service. I can appreciate what these boys are going through now and I feel that we should stand up for our country and should do what we have to do to make it the place that it is.
 DC: So what do you think about the war that is going on now?
RJC: Very difficult now to decide on what is going on now. I agree with- if all of the things that we hear are true, if they have the bombs that are going to bomb our people, and they have that nuclear substance that they shouldn’t have but we don’t know for sure if we have them or not. But this man has been given twelve years to get rid of his bombs and his biological warfare…he hasn’t so, I think we probably did the right thing.
 DC: So how do you thing the service and experience of the war affected your life?
RJC: It made me realize I can’t have everything, it made me realize that I should appreciate everything I have right now. And I think it made me a better person.
 DC: Is there anything that you would like to add to the interview that we have not covered?
RJC: I don’t think so. I think we have been over everything. There are a lot of things that I can’t tell you about, and there are a lot of things that we could have went in deeper, but basically we cover just about everything.
[end of interview]
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