Interview with William E. Baun, interview
Place of Interview: The house of William E. Baun; Indianapolis, Indiana
Interviewer: Nicholas Han
Begin Tape 1, Side A
NH: What wars did you serve in? 
WB: World War two.
NH: What branch of service did you serve in? 
WB: U.S. Navy.
NH: What was your rank?
WB: Machinist mate, second class.
NH: Where did you serve? 
WB: I served in the Pacific.
NH: Were you drafted or did you join?
WB: I was drafted.
NH: Where did you live at the time when you were drafted?
WB: In Brightwood. 2734 North Station Street.
NH: What made you serve in the specific branch that you served?
WB: They just told me to go there.
NH: Do you remember the first day in service?
WB: Yeah, I went from Indianapolis by train to Great Lakes Illinois to the naval station up there and the first thing we had for breakfast was baked beans.
NH: What was training like? 
WB: It was good, and I took basic engineering, higher mathematics, and after I graduated from Great Lakes I was sent to Wilmington, Delaware aboard a new battle cruiser U.S.S. Guam.
NH: Do you remember how long your training took?
WB: We was six weeks at Great Lakes.
NH: Where exactly did you serve in the Pacific? 
WB: We left Philadelphia and went down through the Panama Canal and it was down in Ulithi and ended up in Okinawa and from Okinawa to Korea and from Korea to China and from China back to the United States.
NH: Were there many casualties in your unit?
WB: Not aboard our ship, no.
NH: What could you tell me about some of your most memorable experiences.
WB: Well, I don’t really know. It was all good. I served aboard a ship and worked in a machine shop and we was all over the Pacific and I guess the most memorable time was when I went to Shanghai with the captain to get his promotion to admiral and also when we came back to Korea. We anchored in the bay in Korea and the ship-the tide went out and the ship rested on the bottom and we kind of tipped over side ways, but we righted up when the tide came back in.
NH: Did you meet any specific people who made a large impact on your life?
WB: Not really, no.
NH: Did you ever go to combat? 
WB: Yeah, we went to Okinawa and we was at sea for 65 days and never saw the sight of land, and we was with Task Force 58 under Bull Halsey which is admiral in the 58th Task Force. The first day that we got in combat our gunners that we had on the ship shot down five of our own airplanes.
NH: What was it like to go to combat? Was it scary or was it exciting?
WB: Yeah, it was kind of scary. We were on a third deck down and we could hear the machine guns and the firing and everything, but we weren’t allowed up where we could see it.
NH: How long were you in combat? 
WB: Two years.
NH: What was it like to live during combat, was it hard to sleep?
WB: Well, aboard the ship we didn’t have guns and weren’t allowed to carry guns and we didn’t attack the navy and attack the people. It was just that we had to protect the aircraft carriers from the Japanese kamikazes that flew over, and they were suicide bombers and they’d just crash right into whatever ship was available.
NH: What was it like to leave combat? 
WB: Well, I don’t know we just, I can’t tell you that.
WB: I was drafted in the U.S. Navy in 1943. I was sent to Great Lakes naval training station where I did my boot camp. I took basic engineering and math courses there. I was one of six fellows that was picked to go to new construction. We were sent to Philadelphia to the navy yard, which was across the river to can’t remember his name’s town and it was the Welsback building and the New York ship company, and was new construction and I was one of 127 fellows that went aboard ship while it was being built. After the ship was launched from there we went to Philadelphia Navy Yard. We were outfitted for sea. We went to Trinidad, South America for shakedown cruise. Coming back were with our sister ship, which was the U.S.S Alaska and we went through a storm a hurricane in the Pacific. We lost five aircrafts that we had, we lost all of our life rafts, caved in two of our gun mounts. We came back to Philadelphia and was refitted in Philadelphia and went back out. Went down through the Panama Canal into the Pacific to Hawaii and then cruised around in Hawaii and went to Ulithi in the South Pacific. That was where the task group 58 was assembled we left there and went as a group of about 700 ships of all kinds. Battle cruisers, battle ships, carriers, little carriers, destroyers, submarines, and we all went up to invade Okinawa. We were at sea for 65 days and never saw land. Then we left from Okinawa and went to Korea, Chenghsien, Korea. We were anchored there. We were there before the army got there. They sent us to shore. They gave me a 45 automatic and I didn’t even know how to use it, and we had to get a group of Japanese soldiers together to take over Korea and that made the Koreans mad, but there wasn’t anything we could do about that. We were there five days before the army got there. We laughed at the soldiers as they were fresh recruits polished boots and they’d come rushing ashore like they were attacking something. We just laughed at them. When we left there we went to Shanghai. I was one of ten guys that went to Shanghai with the captain of our ship to be made admiral. When we left there we came back to Ginseng, Korea and we picked up a bunch soldiers. We went from there to Honolulu, Hawaii and we picked up a group of soldiers to bring back to the United States to be discharged. We came back to San Francisco. We were in San Francisco for five days. We went back down through the canal and back to New York City where the ship was decommissioned. So I was with the ship from the day it was being built to the day it was decommissioned in 1945.
NH: Do you remember how long it took for the ship to be built?
WB: I don’t know how long it did take. Probably a year and a half.
NH: What was the name of the ship? 
WB: U.S.S. Guam CV2 they called it. There were only two ships like it the U.S.S. G.U.A.M and the U.S.S. Alaska and we were battle cruisers. We were bigger than a cruiser, but smaller than a battle ship. We had nine sixteen inch thirty eight cannons on it. It was capable of hitting a target twenty-five miles away dead-on, and fifty miles hit and miss. There were 2,500 men aboard ship plus Marines.
NH: Did you like the ship you were on? Was it nice?
WB: It was a good ship. I was lucky we didn’t have any damage. The only damage we had was when we were in Okinawa every five days we would pull out and go down out of the battle zone to get new supplies and new fuel and our gunners would shoot at targets the planes was pulling and we made one of the pilots mad and he came down over our ship and laid a series of bullet holes right in out deck. The captain thought that was great so he had us cut a section of those out and make some kind of game board out of them so they could be for souvenirs.
NH: Did you have any choice on what ship you went on?
WB: No, I was just assigned to that ship. You went where they told you to go.
NH: Were there any ships that you would have rather gone on?
WB: No, I don’t think so. That was a good ship. It was new and I wouldn’t have wanted to be on anything any bigger or any smaller. We were eighty five feet wide and 810 feet long.
NH: What were the sleeping quarters and the food like? 
WB: We thought the food was terrible, but it’s like the officer I served under said think about the poor soldiers out there in the mud, your eating better than they’re eating so I guess it wasn’t that bad really. He wouldn’t let me write home and tell them what kind of food we were eating because he said that would just upset the people back home.
NH: What were the sleeping quarters like?
WB: There wasn’t a mattress or anything it was just a canvas rope kind of canvas and the mattress was about two inches thick because we had to roll that up and carry that with us whenever we went from one station to another.
NH: How large were the rooms?
WB: We wasn’t in a room. I think there were ten of us in the same area and there was three bunks high and I was on the bottom bunk there’s a middle bunk and a top bunk. When the ship would roll in the heavy sea your bunk would kind of lift up and then pop back down because when you got out of it you had to lift it up and hook it up out of the way.
NH: What was life like for the civilians in some of the places where you served? 
WB: I was on aboard ship all the time so it just the islands that we visited, when we anchored in them. Then they’d just were real primitive and they didn’t have any clothes, they lived in grass huts.
NH: Were the people respectful to you because you were in uniform?
WB: Yeah, they liked us. They liked Americans because we took them-they didn’t have much to eat and we would take candy bars in for the kids, cigarettes in for the adults and we had old rags. We called them rags in the machine shop, but they were really old dresses, shirts and that kind of stuff. We’d pick out the best and take them in and give them to the natives. They thought that was great.
NH: Did the people seem at all scared of you presence?
WB: No, they weren’t scared of us. They was just happy we were there because we were chasing the Japanese away, which invaded the islands and made a lot of them prisoners and made them slaves so to speak. They were happy to see us come and try to free them.
NH: Earlier you said that you were not allowed to go to the top deck at one point because of the kamikazes right.
WB: Well, yeah that and the fact that we weren’t allowed on the top deck when we shot the big guns either because the concussion off of those firing would hurt our ears. So we weren’t allowed up there. The only people who were allowed up there were the guys that were in the gun turrets.
NH: What kind of protection did they wear?
WB: They really didn’t wear any protection other than ear pieces over their ears to keep them so they can hear or so the vibrations wouldn’t hurt their ear drums. They had to wear a hat all the time and had to be sure you had a hard hat on when you were up there on the count of flying shells that flew off the guns when they shoot them.
NH: Where was this most a problem with the kamikazes?
WB: All over in the pacific whatever islands we were closest to. There were always kamikazes, which was Japanese suicide planes that the guys-they were only trained to fly a minimum amount of time and they’d just fly over and drop just run their airplane right into the ship. And blow it up.
NH: Did you get sea sick while you were on the ship? 
WB: I sure did. I got sea sick-we went from Philadelphia on what they call a shakedown cruise to Trinidad, South America and coming back we hit a hurricane and they told us to go through the hurricane to see how the ship would do. And I was so sick all I could do was lay on my bunk and my chief officer came down and said “do you know what you need you need to lay under some palm trees in the sunshine.” That was exactly what I needed. I was sick as a dog. Then one time in the Pacific we went through a typhoon in the Pacific and I got real sick and there is nothing worse than being sea sick. You just what to just practically ready to die when you’re sea sick.
NH: Was there much damage to your ship when you went trough the hurricane or the typhoon? 
WB: Yeah we had two seaplanes on board. We lost both of those, we lost all of our life rafts, lost all of our railing along the sides, all the damage we lost one gun turret it tore it off. We went into Newport [News], Virginia and two days time they had everything repaired and we was back at sea headed back to Philadelphia.
NH: How did you deal with the sea sickness? Was there a special medication you could take? 
WB: Nah, you just rode it out till the sea got calmer and the ship quit swaying and rocking back in forth. Then you just got over it. There wasn’t anything you could take pills for it if you new it was coming’ on, but we didn��t have any pills to take. Modern days now you can take a sea sick pill for that, but back then we didn’t have sea sick pills. If we did we didn’t know about it anyhow.
NH: How often did you get sea sick?
WB: Just twice. Once in the Atlantic and once in the Pacific.
NH: How long did it last?
WB: Oh, about a day and a half. It just, you couldn’t eat you just lay in you bunk and hope the time would pass and try to get a little sleep was about all you could do.
NH: How did this cause a problem for the people around you, like your shipmates? Did any of them get sick?
WB: Not very many of the. I don’t know why, but it was just more me that anyone else. You had to learn how to walk and everything to keep from getting sea sick. I don’t know why I got sea sick the second time out in the Pacific, because I had been at sea for a year and a half and all at once I got sea sick on that. We were over by Okinawa when I got into that one, when we hit that typhoon. That was right towards the very end of the war and we were in what they called Buckner Bay in Okinawa and when the typhoon was when we heard it was coming all the ships left there and went out to sea. We thought we could ride the sea out better than could anchored in there. I don’t know why I got sea sick on that one, but I was sure sea sick.
NH: Did your sea sickness just last as long as the typhoon or did it go longer?
WB: Well, the typhoon only lasted like maybe a couple of hours and it was over with. A typhoon is just like a hurricane only in the Pacific. The typhoon instead of going clockwise it goes counter-clockwise. Yeah, a hurricane it goes clock-wise and just goes in a whirl and when the eye passes over you, you get the back side of it then it’s all over. It doesn’t last very long.
NH: When you become sick, how did your friends around you help or did they help?
WB: They didn’t help, they just laughed. They thought that was great. They said I ought to go up to chow, which is eating. In the navy, when you eat you go to chow they called it. They said go up to chow and eat a greasy pork chop. Well, that’s the worst thing you can do is eat anything greasy because that makes it even worse.
NH: Why did they call it ‘chow’?
WB: I don’t know. It’s just a navy expression, I guess. I don’t know why they called it ‘chow.’
NH: Earlier you said that at one point at one of the stops you went to the captain invited you and some of your crew mates to come with him on land.
WB: Yeah, we went we were in we were anchored in, in Korea and we boarded a Hubbard which was a destroyer. We called it a destroyer. In navy it’s called a tin can cause it’s a smaller ship. We went on that to Shanghai. We stayed in Shanghai for two days anchored in the wine pooh river while the captain went through all the motions of being made admiral. Then we came back. I don’t know why I was one of the chosen ones to go with the there were 2,500 men onboard the ship.
NH: Did you have a good relationship with the captain?
WB: No, he never spoke to me or I never spoke to him. We were just peons as far as he was concerned. We were the crew and he was the elite. He was the elite which was above us so the only time he saw us was when we was standing in what they call general quarters. When we’d all line up and we’d have inspections and he’d come along and look at us to be sure we was all clean-shaven, our hair was combed, uniforms was all nice and straight.
NH: What were some of the things you did when you went on land with the captain?
WB: we just had freedom to go into Shanghai and just do what ever we wanted to. Once we got there we didn’t see the captain fro the time he got off the Hubbard till he got back on it to go back again. We didn’t really go to the ceremony or anything. I don’t know why they had to have so many men off this ship to go with him because we really wasn’t with him.
NH: Was long was this? Was it just for a day or just for a couple hours?
WB: The ceremony?
NH: What was the ceremony?
WB: For him to be made admiral. I don’t know how long it took because we wasn’t there. We just when the ship anchored he got off and when he came back we left so we didn’t see him in that two day period. We really didn’t see the captain. We weren’t invited to the ceremony. He probably went aboard one of the big carriers airplane carriers that was sitting in there cause that’s where Bull Halsey which was the admiral over the whole fleet in the pacific he that’s probably where the ceremony took place and we didn’t go there.
NH: You said it was like a two day period? Where did you stay? Did you stay on land or did you go back to the ship?
WB: We went back to the ship. We always had to go back to the ship. We just go off and met another fellow, a guy named Ebert. Him and I was old buddies and we just went in and go through town and go to the different parks and stuff that was in Shanghai just sightseeing was all we did.
NH: So you didn’t talk to the captain at all?
WB: No, we wasn’t with the captain at all.
NH: Why do you think that captain chose to take you along or do you not know?
WB: Don’t know.
NH: what was it like to leave the navy? 
WB: It was great. I came home I was married. We lived in an apartment and I came home and got on what they called a practice trolley which you don’t know. It’s like a bus only it’s got wires that go up instead of gasoline it’s run by electricity and that’s what Indianapolis had. I got on a trackless trolley and people were getting off work downtown and they all would cheer me because I was a navy guy coming home. When I came home I got Virginia that was my wife. She didn’t know I was coming home and I rang the doorbell. She came to the door and she was about half undressed because she was cleaning up the apartment, and that was the end of the apartment. When I got home we just-we couldn’t get done loving and kissing one another. She didn’t get the apartment straightened up till the next day.
NH: Do you still now any of you buddies that you were o the ship with like Ebert?
WB: No, as far as I know the ones that I knew have all passed away. See that was sixty years ago. That was in 1942 and ’43. That was over 60 years ago when I was in the Navy.
NH: Okay, thank you.
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