“Today is October 1, 2008. I am Alyssa Sventeckis and I am interviewing John Sventeckis at 5849 Brose Street in Indianapolis, Indiana. Mr. Sventeckis is my grandfather. Mr. Sventeckis is 78 years old and was born on April 16, 1930. Mr. Sventeckis served in the Korean War. Mr. Sventeckis was in Signal Corps and held the rank of E-5.
Alyssa Sventeckis: Were you drafted or did you enlist?
John Sventeckis: I was drafted.
AS: Where were you living at the time?
JS: I was living in Indianapolis but actually I was working at that time in Dayton, Ohio. I was drafted after I graduated from Purdue.
AS: What branch were you in?
JS: Basically, I was in Signal Corps, the Army.
AS: What did it feel like, those first days?
JS: Just like anything else. A lot of confusion and the sorting out and everything. Initially, it starts with basic training. There was eight weeks of basic training, and that’s when they put you through everything and get you acquainted with the rules of the army, and everything like that.
AS: Was it really tough?
JS: Well, it was physical and mental both.
AS: Did you do the stuff on TV where they climb the walls and stuff?
JS: Oh yeah, absolutely.
AS: You did the courses, you climbed all the rope walls, and you went through the mud on your arms?
JS: Everybody had to go through that. There were no exceptions.
AS: Everybody had to go through that?
JS: Everybody who was drafted. I don’t know, maybe officers were in a different category.
AS: Did they have good food?
JS: Yes, food was excellent.
AS: So it wasn’t like the slop you see on TV?
JS: Oh no, well, we actually had to eat C rations, but in the end they were great. Far as
I’m concerned, food was excellent.
AS: How did you get through it?
JS: Well, just like everybody else. We had break weeks. We graduated and then we were sent off to secondary training.
AS: More training?
JS: Right, and that was specialized training, I mean there were people who were assigned to infantry, Signal Corps schools, or to typing schools and secretary, or to cooks because the army needs all kinds of people. Therefore, everybody was assigned to a certain secondary training. I got assigned to Signal Corps, and then I went to Fort Thomas for about six months of training.
AS: Is it hard there too?
JS: Alright, it was basically electrical engineering work, although I was a mechanical engineer, but probably in the army they don’t care much about that. They assign you to wherever they need you.
AS: Which wars did you serve in?
JS: Well, it was not exactly war, it was the Korean War, but it was after the war.
AS: So, what did you do? What was your job?
JS: Well, actually, I was assigned and sent overseas to Germany and we had to work communications lines. I was assigned, again, to a Mike radio repairman’s school for another six weeks. And after that, we were sent to radio stations and those were strictly for top military communications. We kept the line running. No matter what, the lines had to be in operating condition, so twenty-four hours a day, day and night, so there was always somebody on duty. I was assigned to a rather small station in Augsburg, Germany. That’s where I stayed practically the rest of my service time.
AS: Did they have good food there, too?
JS: Oh yeah. I never had any complaints about food no matter where I was.
AS: What kind of food did they have?
JS: Well, we had a German Navy cook, so German and American food. There was one GI in charge of the mess hall and there was a German cook who was helping things, but, mind you, there were only about twenty people at the station. It was not like a big camp.
AS: So, it wasn’t a big mess hall?
JS: Oh no, it was just a small, tiny kitchen. And since it was located in a remote area, it was not one of the big camps. So, there was somebody- one person was assigned to always bring in food and the cooks prepared it. Actually, we were strictly among Germans and away from the American-large camps. We got to taste German, (well, American food,), but it was prepared by Germans.
AS: Did you have any friends there that you hung out with?
JS: Oh yeah, in the army you always find friends right away because everybody is in the same boat, like it or not, you didn’t have any choice, so you might as well get along with everybody.
AS: Do you remember any of your friends?
JS: Oh yes, I certainly do. Some of them, well, we exchanged cards, well, Christmas cards, but there was nobody from Indianapolis. Actually, there was a guy from Indianapolis, but he was a little older than I am and eventually he moved to the West Coast.
AS: What were a couple of your most memorable experiences?
JS: Oh gosh, good or bad?
JS: Well, actually a memorable was time when, through a heavy thunderstorm, the lines went down, and we had certainly established a procedure where we had to get the lines running back no matter what. Two of us were working that night and we were sweating it out and we just barely got it back up within the time. That will shake you up, any time. After a certain time we had to report to headquarters if we didn’t get the lines running again. Why we had to report and we couldn’t justify anything, so natural thunderstorm but there is no justification for that. We still had to get the lines running again. It was the one time that probably really shook us up.
AS: Do you have any good experiences?
JS: Oh yeah. We got along with the Germans exceptionally well. A couple miles away, there was a small German village—Waldsfeld it was called, and the Germans had a festival. Needless to say, since some of us kind of mixed better with the Germans than others, we were always invited to their festivals, to their private homes, especially if you like to attend parties and they danced and stuff like that. It was great.
AS: How did you stay in touch with your family?
JS: Well, I wasn’t a too eager a letter writer, but strictly with letters. I don’t think I ever made a telephone call because that would be only in a case of emergencies. Since I didn’t have any emergencies, I only wrote letters.
AS: Did you feel any pressure or stress?
JS: Well, in the army you are always under a certain stress because you have to be on the alert and on the ready to participate in whatever is necessary at a moment’s notice, so it’s not like you can relax. And if you relax, you are still basically on duty unless you are on leave. Otherwise, if you are in the barracks you are always basically on duty. They can call you anytime and you have to be ready to go. So, there’s plenty of stress, but then you get accustomed to it and eventually, I mean “so what? If I have to run at night, I’m ready”.
AS: So, how did people entertain themselves?
JS: Well, since we had to work twenty-four hours a day so we kind of set it up so that we were working in shifts. So, some of us usually mixed with the Germans and went to town, but most of the time we’d play cards. Pinnacle was our most favorite.
AS: How do you play that?
JS: Well, frankly, I have forgotten. You use two decks and then there are certain rules. You can do a lot of planning ahead in a pinnacle game so it was a steady stream of that.
As: So were there entertainers?
JS: One time, since we were out in a remote area, one time the USO sent us a truck well, it was a bus, but anyways, they came out to entertain us. Unfortunately, our area was in such a place that the bus couldn’t make it to the station. So, they got halfway but they finally brought in by trucks. So, we had one case where USO people came out to entertain us.
AS: Were you ever on leave?
JS: Oh yes.
AS: So what did you do while you were on leave?
JS: Well, actually, I traveled all over Europe to take advantage of being out there. You could take all kinds of tours and they were very reasonable, not very expensive, and if you were willing to put up with a few inconveniences, it would really pay to travel all over Europe. I took advantage of that and, since we were in military service, we didn’t need any visas or anything like that, just our regular pass with our documentation.
AS: Do you have a good memory from those travels?
JS: Well, of course, being out in Europe, we had to go to the Vatican, but I didn’t get to see Pope. Unfortunately, it was one of those times when he was not available. Anyways, I was in Rome.
AS: Did you see the coliseum?
JS: Oh yeah. I made a whole lot of pictures except I had a little misfortune with pictures. Before I came back to the United States, I figured there was so much stuff to bring back so I got a box, one of the Germans made a box for me, so I put the pictures, not pictures- they were mostly slides. Anyways, I packed up everything in this box and then shipped it to the United States so I wouldn’t have to carry them. Unfortunately, they never arrived, so I lost them all. I still have a bunch of them, at least the ones I brought with me. Of course, you have to go to Rome, you have to go to Paris, you have to go to Switzerland, and go to German resort areas where they do a lot of skiing, and, of course, Spain is a must also. So, I got a chance to travel and see all of those places. That was really educational and entertaining.
AS: Did anyone pull any pranks?
JS: Well, there’s always some practical jokers around. We did have one guy at the staion who did all kinds of tricks, but I mean they were clean tricks but you had to be kind of careful with that guy. He was very nice and enjoyable, though.
AS: Were all of the photographs lost?
JS: The ones I shipped in the mail got lost but the ones I brought with me when I came back, so I have quite a few.
AS: What are the pictures of?
JS: Well, most pictures were from Paris, from Rome and places like that. We even have some from Zugspitzen, and that is a place in Germany, a very famous ski resort and I did a lot of skiing there.
AS: Did you keep a personal diary?
JS: No. Strictly relied on my memory.
AS: What did you think of the other people there?
JS: All in all, they were all nice. Very cooperative. Very helpful. We always help each other. Since we were away from town or away from the PX, where you could buy stuff, so if one guy goes to the town to the PX, well he gets what everybody else needs and stuff like that. Of course, we could travel around too, especially people who had cars, but I didn’t have a car. Finally, a friend of mine bought a car so he would let me use it every once in a while. I didn’t have money, so…
AS: Do you recall the day your service ended?
JS: Oh yeah. How could I forget it? When I got out of the service, I was sent to Fort Sheridan in Illinois. I got out of the service and then I didn’t have any way to get back to Indianapolis. So, finally, a guy at the station, I located a guy who was driving to Indianapolis so he gave me a lift from Fort Sheridan to Indianapolis. He dropped me off at a place where I could pick up a bus and I got home by bus. It was lucky in a way because, well, to be stuck and lost immediately after you get out of the army, you don’t want to spend any more time at the camps, so you’d just like to get back home as soon as possible.
AS: What did you do in the days and weeks afterwards?
JS: After I got out of the Army, actually, I had a job at Wright-Patterson that I could go back at Dayton, Ohio, but, since I had been away from my folks, my mom and dad, and, of course, they were all by themselves and they were fairly old, I selected to stay in Indianapolis. I was looking for a job, first thing. All though I was lucky because if I couldn’t find a job in Indianapolis I could always go back to the one in Dayton because they wanted me back and they had an obligation to take me back.
AS: Did you make any close friendships in the service?
JS: Oh yes. You always get along with other people and, as far as that goes, there were a few people where I exchanged Christmas cards and stuff like that. But they all lived somewhere else, not in Indianapolis, except for one guy who used to live in Indianapolis and he moved away.
AS: Did you join a veteran’s organization?
JS: No, I did not.
AS: What did you go on to do after the war as a career?
JS: Well, I just went to work. Like I said, the war was over before I was drafted, so actually, I didn’t get in a fighting war. But it was still considered the Korean War for a certain amount of time later. They still needed people in Korea and I was lucky in one respect when I finished the training at Fort Monmouth, in New Jersey. In secondary training, three of us out of that school had a choice: we could go to the far east or Europe and I initially wanted to go to Japan. Because Japan needed some of the people with my training. However, I found out that they would not guarantee if you selected Far East you could go to Korea, and I had no intention of going to Korea, so I picked Europe. I was lucky because I was one of the three who had a choice.
AS: Have you seen any of the people you worked with since?
JS: Not lately. I saw someone at least three or four years ago. He was visiting someone and we just accidentally ran into each other.
AS: How did your service and experience affect your life?
JS: Well, most people didn’t like the service and, actually, I think the service does a lot of good, especially for a young person, but I was fairly old when I was drafted because I got a work deferment, because I had good grades at Purdue. I had a deferment I had until I finished the school. But, especially for a young person, the service does a lot of good because in the service they train you to respect authority, to carry out orders, even if you don’t agree exactly with the orders, but, like they say, you carry out orders and then you question them afterwards. So, they teach you to respect authority yet at the same time they provide excellent physical training, too, because first basic training, after eight weeks, you are in darn good shape. So, it does a lot of good, mentally and physically, both.
AS: Is there anything else you would like to add?
JS: Well, I don’t know. There’s not a lot, like I said, for young people, and for older people, but military service does a whole lot of good because you get to learn a lot, meet people, and they provide a good training, physically and mentally. You get to meet a lot of people and you get to travel and, of course, there are some restrictions that you are put with, like it or not. But, for a young person, it does a lot of good in my book.
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