Mr. John Stewart
Date of Interview: 11/21/04
Begin Tape 1, Side A Interviewer and Transcriber: Daniel Stewart
DS: Today I am interviewing John Arthur Stewart who was born May 5, 1919. He lives in Greensburg, Indiana and was a Lieutenant Senior Grade in the United States Coast Guard.
DS: First I’m going to ask a few things about the war. When were you drafted…were you drafted or did you enlist?
JS: I enlisted. I had two deferments before for working agriculture on the farm and then I enlisted in the service voluntarily
DS: Where were you living at the time?
JS: Greensburg, Indiana.
DS: Why did you join?
JS: Well, my brother had enlisted in the Air Force and a friend of mine suggested that I get into the Navy B7 program to get a commission after four months of training. So I applied, but they would not accept me in the Navy because my mathematics at Purdue University was listed as college algebra and not as college trigonometry. But they told me that the Coast Guard would accept me if I had high school trigonometry, which I later acquired.
DS: Is there any other reason you picked the Coast Guard? 
JS: Yes, because it was similar to the Navy and a good friend of mine, who was in the Navy program, said it had good duty on small ships and I thought that would be nice for me.
DS: Do you remember your first days in the service? 
JS: Oh yes, I rode a train to New London, Connecticut, and went into training at the Coast Guard training station at Groton, Connecticut.
DS: Tell me a little bit about your training experience
JS: Well this training experience was to last four months and the first thirty days was in general seamanship training. At the end of the first month, they picked 72 of us with the highest grades out of about 350 students to transfer to the submarine base for some (at that time) very secret training for anti-submarine warfare on the 83-foot Sub-Chaser
DS: During World War II where exactly were you
JS: My in-state duty in the country was primarily at Escanaba, Michigan, for 18 months. My foreign duty, for approximately one year during 1945, was in the Pacific Theatre ending up going to Japan.
DS: What was your job assignment when you were in Japan?
JS: In Japan I was on a ship that carried repair equipment. We went into Japan after the war had ended and we had on board bulldozers and trucks and road equipment. We landed at Yokohama and unloaded that equipment for the rebuilding process of that country because it had been severely bombed by the United States Air Force.
DS: Did you see any combat?
JS: No, I saw no combat. I was just behind it…just a few days.
DS: What were some of your most memorable experiences?
JS: Well I think that probably the most memorable experience that I had was going to Japan. When we landed at Yokohama, I was assigned as a leader, officer in charge, of a liberty party of about fifty men. Well, you can imagine fifty men in a foreign country would have a hard time staying together but we were told that we had to stay together in one group and come back to the ship sober at five o’clock that afternoon.
DS: Were you awarded any medals or citations? 
JS: Yes, I had received several different recognitions for service during the war and they are listed on a letter that I received from the captain of the ship on the 15th of December, 1945, and it says this: “This letter will certify that you are entitled to the awards or decorations listed and is based on the records in your possession and on the service aboard this vessel. Number one: American Area Ribbon. Number two: Asiatic Pacific Area Ribbon. Number three: Philippine Liberation ribbon. Number four: Coast Guard expert rifleman awarded on December 6, 1944 at the Fort McHenry training station. The fifth is a World War II victory medal, participating in the occupation of Japan from October 14-17, 1945, while serving aboard that ship.”
DS: During the war how did you stay in touch with your family? 
JS: When I was in the States we corresponded by letter. I was married before I went into the service. We had a baby girl when we were in Escanaba, Michigan, for a year and a half. When we were overseas, I corresponded only by letter and I received those letters sometimes in bunches, because being aboard a ship they had a hard time catching up with us.
DS: How was the food? 
JS: Well I ate well, I think, most of the time. Whenever I was in a foreign port in the Philippine area I decided I would not eat any food or drink anything for fear of disease or poison I might get and I ate only things that we had aboard ship.
DS: Was there anything special you did for good luck?
JS: No, I prayed to the lord for his watchful care over me and my family at home. My wife and my parents also were praying for my safety. Of course, one in the military service accepts that responsibility that they might be injured or killed in combat. I did not serve in that combat, but what I did serve it was aboard a ship that was getting ready for the invasion of Japan in the fall of 1945. If they had no dropped the atomic bomb we would have invaded the mainland of Japan and many thousands of people would have been lost on both sides.
DS: What did you do while you were on leave?
JS: Most of the time we would visit with family. That was a desire that we had was to see family whenever we had the chance.
DS: Where all did you travel while you were in the service? 
JS: My service in the US began in Connecticut, then for 18 months in Escanaba, Michigan, which is the northwest corner of Lake Michigan, and then at Fort McHenry, Baltimore, for security training for six weeks. Then I went overseas and traveled among most of the islands in the Pacific area including Hawaii and the Philippines and related islands.
DS: Did you save any photographs from the war?
JS: Yes, we have a few photographs that are kind of precious to us taken during the war, especially when we were in Escanaba, Michigan, when our first child was born, a baby girl. The first child is always a precious one and we had many photographs taken at that time.
DS: What did you think of your fellow officers and soldiers? 
JS: I learned to know them very, very well. I had no problem in associating with fellow officers aboard ship because we shared the same ideas and desires to win the war, not to lose the war, but to win the war.
DS: Did you keep a personal diary?
JS: No, I did not. I did write down a few things and wrote some things home to my wife when I was overseas. When I came back after WWII, that spring we took the letters I had written to her and the letters she wrote to me and since they were personal things we decided to burn them, so we do not have any of those letters.
DS: Do you remember the day your service ended? 
JS: Do I remember the day that the war ended?
DS: Your service, yes.
JS: That my service ended…well it was a special time when we came back to the States…the United States from overseas and I was then able to call my family.
DS: Where were you at the time?
JS: I was aboard ship in San Francisco and I got aboard ship er…got off of the ship to come back to my home. At that time, we had to wait in order to call home. We had to wait at a phone at a hotel where we were permanently there and the telephone company would place the call and we would have to wait some time in order to get the call placed, maybe three or four hours, from San Francisco back to Indiana.
DS: Did you make any really close relationships while you were in the war? 
JS: Oh yes, I think some of the people that I served with meant very much to me and I have corresponded with some of them since that time.
DS: Did you join a veteran’s organization afterwards?
JS: Yes I am a member of the…a life member of the American Legion and also the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
DS: What did you do as a career after the war?
JS: I came back to the family farm and went into the farming business with my brother and my father.
DS: Did your military experience influence your thinking about war.
JS: Well I think so, because we learned, in our training, things of preparation that life has to be one of continual learning experiences.
DS: How else did your service affect your life?
JS: Well it interrupted my life with my family for that about three and a half years while I was in the military because we were uncertain as to where we would live, where we would go and what the outcome might be because of course we know that during wartime many, many participants never return home to their families.
DS: Is there anything else you would like to add that we haven’t covered?
JS: Well I think that I would like to say that my experience during the war has been a vital part of my life and also a vital part of my family’s life because they shared with me some of the things that I did during that wartime experience.
DS: Were there any interesting experiences you had on the ship? 
JS: Yes, first of all I was assigned to an LST along with another officer and we were trying to find the ship during the early months of 1945 and we were given a priority number four to fly on the Naval Air Transport Service. Now, if your flying on the Naval Air Transport Service if you were flying to try to find a ship, priority number four was the lowest priority you had because they didn’t care if we got our there to replace somebody. Now if you had a very high rank and had priority number one then they would fly you immediately but usually when I would leave Pearl Harbor I would check in at the Naval Air Transport Service at 10 o’clock in the morning and again at 4 in the afternoon to see if my name had come up to fly to find my ship. If it did, I would fly out when they told me, if it didn’t I would wait until the next day and usually we would have to wait a week to 10 days at each location before we could fly to find our ship. Finally, when I found the ship that I was assigned to back in Pearl Harbor and it was not out in the island but the commanding officer told us that we were leaving the next day at noon for Seattle, Washington for a complete overhaul to enter into the invasion of Japan in the Fall of 1940. Since this was April and corn planting time I wrote the folks that the captain had said we would be home to help plant corn. I could not tell them where I was or where I was going but the captain said we would all get thirty days leave to go home before we started out for the invasion of Japan and the next day at noon we were eating and ready to sail at 1 o clock the messenger came into the captain’s desk or table and handed him a message. At that time there were four of us assigned at replacements officers on this ship and the captain turned to us and said to us, “Gentleman, go pack your bags you are not going back to Seattle with us. You are staying here to be further assigned to another ship that needs replacements.
So we packed our bags and we saw our ship sail out of Pearl Harbor at one o’clock that afternoon for Seattle, Washington. I had to write my parents again saying my orders had been changed and I would not been home to help plant corn. And again, I was assigned to fly to try to find my ship, and when I finally found it off the island of Guam the captain told me, “Mr. Stewart, I don’t need you. What I need are 20 enlisted men.” And he said, “I know the replacement depot in Lady Harbor and if we have time when we get there I’m going in to find out if I can get 20 enlisted men and I’m going to trade you for 20 enlisted men.” Now, this was a customary procedure during wartime. Sometimes you had to trade to get what you wanted. He came back and I had served on that ship only about two weeks and I got re- assigned to a small ship. I had been on the LST, a landing ship tank that opened up in front that hauled tanks, trucks, bulldozers, and men, I was assigned to an FS, a freight supply ship that carried freight inter-island in the Philippine Islands. I had gotten onto this ship and reported aboard and the c off told me the next day, he said ‘We are going to sail to Manila and we want you to go in and get 30 days supply of food for our crew because the people up in Manila are short of food and we will share with them when we get up there.”
So I took two enlisted men and went into the army supply depot to get thirty days supply of food. Now, on a small ship we receive meat that was in, beef, that was boxed. It was de-boned and we had three grades: good beef, medium beef, and poor beef, you know, and I went in and the Sgt said that you get so many quarters of beef. I said, “Sergeant, we haven’t got room to have quartered beef on our ship. We need meat that is already de-boned and frozen in boxes.” He said, “Sir, if you want any meat you’ve got to take quartered beef and that beef came from Australia.” I said, “May I see it?” He took me into the big cooler and there lying in this big cooler were quarters of beef, some of them front quarters and some of them hind quarters. Of course, you and I know that the best part of the beef carcass is the hind quarters. I said to the sergeant, “Does it make any difference which quarters I take?” He says, “You get so many quarters and just help yourself.” So I told the men helping men let me pick out those quarters of beef and I picked out all hind quarter beef and took it back to the ship without taking any front quarter beef. When it got aboard the ship the cook thought ‘Oh my, what are we going to do with this beef’. Then when he saw it was all hind quarter beef he was just thrilled because we could eat very good beef for several days.
End of interview.
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