Interview with Zollie Denton
Recorded on 11/26/2004
[Interview starts at 001 on counter]
Allison Casale: My name is Allison Rose Casale and I���m interviewing Zollie (Bill) Parker Denton Jr. He was born July 29th, 1926 and interviewed November 26th, 2004. His current address is 2523 Lewis Lane, Owensboro, Kentucky, 42301. His current phone number is (270)-926-4775. He enlisted in WWII in 1944 in the US Marines Corp, 4th Division and he was private first class.
AC: Were you drafted or did you enlist? 
ZD: I enlisted. I just had turned eighteen. I lacked one year of high school. I went to the service and stayed those two years. While in service, we took our training on Maui and we were preparing to go to Wake Island and take Wake Island back before the invasion of Japan which was to be sometime in January of 1945 or 46, 44 or 45 one, and anyway, they dropped the bomb right before that and the war was over and we didn’t have to go but it took several months after that, six or eight months, before I got to come home from over there.
AC: Where were you living at the time that you enlisted?
ZD: In Owensboro, Kentucky.
AC: Why did you join?
ZD: I just had turned eighteen and it just seemed like the thing to do at the time. Everybody that was young were going to service and so I enlisted. I thought I’d get something better but I don’t know if I did, but anyways it turned out that way.
AC: Why did you pick the service branch that you joined?
ZD: They were only taking one a day for the Marine Corps and everybody else was going to the Navy or the Army and I asked and they said well they hadn’t picked nobody and so they said that I qualified for you know the height and size and all so they put me in and I was the only one that day that left from Louisville, Kentucky. Everybody else went up to Chicago to the Navy Base and the army, I’m not sure where they went, but I was the only one that day that went to Parris Island, South Carolina.
AC: Do you recall your first days in service? 
ZD: I remember the first night I got on camp there. After they’d blow’d the taps that night, I think it was at ten o’clock that they also blow’d you know for everybody, lights out, and everybody had to go to sleep at a certain time, and I felt a long ways from home at that time.
AC: What else did it feel like?
AC: Tell me about your boot camp or training experience. 
ZD: Oh, at five o’clock in the morning when they blow’d revelry, you had two minutes to get up and put your pants on and a jacket like, a light jacket that you had, and you had to have that on and be standing outside for role call within two minutes. Sixty four men in a platoon and you had to be there. You went immediately from there and you come back and you made up your barracks and then you fell out again and you went to the real heavy sand lots with deep sand and they took calisthenics for one hour of the morning before breakfast and I wondered then if I’d gotten in the right outfit.
AC: How did you get through it?
ZD: Well being eighteen I did pretty good I guess because I was young and active, I sure couldn’t have done it now at seventy eight.
AC: You served in World War II, where exactly did you go?
ZD: From California we boarded ships and I went overseas, I remember, in the 59th draft. The 58th draft and the 60th draft, the ones on both sides of us went to Okinawa, right into combat but 4th Marine Division had had so many casualties in the battle they’d come out of they sent this draft to Hawaii and to replace them on Maui to join them to build up their replacements and all.
AC: Do you remember arriving? 
ZD: Yes, yes I remember all that real well. When I went from United States to Hawaii, of course Hawaii wasn’t a state then and it was overseas you know, so anyway Roosevelt died while we was aboard ship going over there and we didn’t know it till the day we landed there in Pearl Harbor then we heard that President Roosevelt had died. I remember landing there at Pearl Harbor and we went from there over to Maui and we stayed there for about a year or better training and all, and then after the war was over we left Maui and went over to the big island and tore down another marine camp, a tent camp and tore it down then we came back to Honolulu and stayed there and worked in what was like a motor pool. Just did runs there down at the motor pool and all stayed there for four or five months before we was waiting for our time to come home from the service.
AC: What was your job assignment? 
ZD: Well, I was started off as a rifleman but then when I got to Maui I was put in a machine gun outfit and it was like a 30 caliber machine gun and you had a tripod that weighed 51 pounds, I think it was. The first man in line, there was five men in a squad, the first carried the tripod, the second man carried the machine gun, and three more men carried the ammunition plus their own rifles to supply the machine gun and that���s how we trained in that sense of the word, to be in a machine gun outfit. The rifleman, once they was there, you was trained to protect the machine gun you know, you flanked on both sides to fight to protect them because the fire power was in the machine gun.
AC: Did you see any combat?
ZD: No, no I didn’t get to combat.
AC: Where they any casualties or fatal injuries that you saw? 
ZD: Yes, I remember this one man in our outfit that had come back from battle; he had a hundred and thirty some shrapnel holes in him. We’d be out hiking and all and he’d feel something and he’d work a piece of shrapnel out of his leg or something you know, and he was trying to get out of the combat outfit and get into a police, so he’d be military police so he wouldn’t have to go back to battle and eventually he did make it but it was a pretty good while before he was able to do that.
AC: What were some of your most memorable experiences? 
ZD: Oh, the weirdest feeling I had was after the day I was discharged, was down at Camp LeJune, North Carolina and for two years now the Marines knew where you was at all times. They told you where to go, where to be, where to stand, where to walk, what to do. The only freedom you had was when you went on liberty you know, when you got to go, and I didn’t get but in those two years I guess once or twice, maybe twice was all I got, seem like I only got to come home for ten days, I believe it was, before I went overseas and then after I went overseas and all I didn’t get anymore liberty like that and so anyway, the day I got discharged it was such a weird feeling after being told every minute, “You be here at this time, you be here at this time” to all of a sudden when I got my discharge and I was walking back across the parade field going over to the barracks to get my sea bag to get my clothes and all to go home, I just had the oddest feeling there for a few minutes that well I can go anywhere I want to or do anything I want to, I don’t have to be nowhere at a certain time like always before like at chow time you had to be over there to stand in line or in all the activities they did about military stuff well you had to be there at a certain hour, you always had a time to be there and you had to be there and so it was such a weird feeling that day when I did walk across that field and I was free to go anywhere or do anything I wanted to.
AC: Did you marry your wife, Betty, before you left?
ZD: No, see I came back from service and I was twenty and I went back to school, they would allow me to go back to high school, and I finished my one year of high school, played basketball and we dated all the time I was in service and after I got back home and we didn’t get married till two years, I think it was, 1948 in February, the eighth in 1948 we got married.
AC: Were most of the people in your division of the same age? [
ZD: Mostly all young people, there was one fellow who was around forty or something and we thought he was so old and everything. He had been in service before and had re-enlisted and everybody called him “Pop”, naturally what with anybody older they do.
AC: Where a lot of people your age married yet?
ZD: Just very few of them were married, I cant remember right now but I think it just wouldn’t have been any more then three or four of them out of sixty four men that I was with that were actually married.
AC: How did you stay in touch with your family while you were there, or with Betty? ZD: We wrote letters, I’d write her a letter and she’d answer back then I’d write her another one and we’d just corresponded like that. I wrote my folks and my sisters and all, they would write me a lot.
AC: Were any of your brothers or sisters in the service?
ZD: No, I was the only one out of six. Pete was about twelve years older; he come along at a time where he was married and had a family and everything, and he was exempt and didn’t have to go to service. He would have been thirty something when I was eighteen. He never had to go and I guess I was the only one. My dad, he never was in service even at WWI, I guess he come along, well maybe he was married, well I guess he was married during WWI and anyway he didn’t get in service there. So, I guess I was the only one out of my family that did serve.
AC: What was the food like? 
ZD: Food, oh it wasn’t that bad. Sometimes we got awful tired of some things like sea rash, hash, and spam. We just had it over and over and over for maybe months and months at a time. We was there over on Maui, we got our supplies from the army, and I remember we just had sea rash and hash for noon and supper. We had that for six months at a time you know and you just got so tired of the same thing over and over. Now for breakfast they’d have a toast like French toast battered on both sides then they’d have gravy with chopped up beef in it and that was always real good. I enjoyed the breakfast but you sure got tired of the noon and night meal.
AC: Did you have plenty of supplies?
ZD: Yes, we did. Where we were at, you know we didn’t get into combat yet and you know we never was without supplies.
AC: Was there a lot of pressure or stress where you were?
ZD: Not that much at that point. We hadn’t been to combat yet. I remember one time they gave us our supplies for three days you know and we went on maneuvers and field trips and I guess this was to teach you what to do because I had eaten my last days food up before time and we was marching, I don’t know how many miles it was back into camp, and I really got weak before we got there, I remember that.
AC: Was there anything special that you did for good luck or that any of your friends in your division did for good luck?
ZD: I don’t recall anything right off, I don’t know, I can’t remember any I don’t think.
AC: How did people entertain themselves? 
ZD: Oh, a lot of people played cards and different things like that when you had time but when you was going through your basic training and all well you didn’t have a whole lot of free time you know but when they did you just talked and played cards and stuff like that.
AC: Were there any entertainers?
ZD: Yes, Bob Hope came to the camp you know. Linda Darnell, I remember her, Jerry Calona, different ones like that you know that came.
AC: What did you do when you were on leave? 
ZD: We went to Los Angeles when we was in California at Camp Pendleton I think was the name of the camp and we went up to Los Angeles and stayed three days, had a three day leave, and we just walked around and looked at everything all the time and we get on this bus late one evening about eight or nine o’clock, ride back down supposed to get off at about eleven or eleven thirty at the entrance where you go back into the camp which was another three, four, or five miles back to it and there was a fellow there that if you’d knock on his door, for about a dollar a piece or fifty cents a piece or something like that he’d take the group back there, you know he had a little pick up and all. Anyway, it was six of us on this bus at night and we fell asleep and we rode up at twenty miles on past we was supposed to get off and we walked from around midnight till we got back to this place where we was supposed to get him, he wouldn’t take nobody after midnight. So, we had to walk on into camp. We got into camp just about ten minutes or fifteen minutes before revelry and we just had time to change clothes, get our clothes on and fall out to go and that day they went on a long hike up in the mountains.
AC: What were some memories of traveling while in the service? 
ZD: Well, just those places, I remember going across the United States on a troop train and back then they didn���t have no such thing as air conditioning and the windows was always up on the train and when you’d come across out in the west there, Colorado and all, you’d go through tunnels in there, and some of them would be pretty long and if you started in that tunnel and didn’t have your window down well the smoke from the train would just boil through there and by the time you got through the end of the day, your face was black from the soot and all from the train you know and just traveling like that and then traveling when we was in Hawaii to different places when we would be able to go on leave and all. It was good and interesting. There was one place in Hawaii where they had a waterfall had come off but the air current from the bottom when that waterfall would get about half way down it would start blowing that water back up and they called it an “upside down waterfall” back then. I went back out there in 1979 and I never could find that waterfall I don’t know what had happened to it.
AC: What were all the locations that you went while in service? 
ZD: Parris Island, South Carolina then to Camp LeJune, North Carolina and then went from there across on that troop train to Camp Pendleton out in California and stayed there for I don’t know, several months, then we went from the camp down to San Diego and boarded the ship to go overseas and then we went to Honolulu, got off there then they got us situated and we traveled from there back over to Maui and that’s where we stayed the longest and trained there and then after the war was over we went from there to Hawaii, the big island, tore that camp down and that took a couple of months I guess and then we went from there back to Honolulu and stayed there about five or six months before we got to come home. I can’t remember the trip coming back across the United States, I remember the one in detail going across, going out there but I don’t remember the one coming back. I guess, I guess there wasn’t no big incident happened that made me remember it that well.
AC: You don’t recall any particularly unusual events?
ZD: No, nothing outrageous of any kind.
AC: Did you and your friends play any pranks? 
ZD: You didn’t have that much time to do stuff like that. The best thing I remember they’d do, they’d do what they called “short sheet”. They’d take your top sheet and fold it under so that whoever went and got in that bunk that night they’d only be able to get in halfway. They’d have to get up and tear the bed up and remake their bed before they could get back in. They did stuff like that.
AC: What did you think of officers or fellow soldiers? 
ZD: I thought it was awful when they’d try to make you, like if the platoon did something wrong, if one or two people in the platoon did anything wrong, they’d punish the whole platoon, and their theory was that the everybody else would make them straighten up, wouldn’t let them do anything from then one because we had to take our toothbrush and scrub the barracks floor, clean it with our toothbrush and then you’d just rinse that toothbrush off and brush your teeth with it again.
AC: Did you keep a personal diary?
ZD: No, I didn’t.
AC: You said you don’t recall the day your service ended really?
ZD: Not exactly. I remember the incident but I don’t remember the date of it.
AC: Where were you?
ZD: That was from Camp LeJune, North Carolina that I got discharged that day.
AC: What did you do in the days and the weeks afterwards? 
ZD: Well I went home and then I prepared to go to school and I don’t think it was too long after I got home that I did start in school.
AC: Was your education supported by the G.I. Bill?
ZD: Yes, when I went back to school they supported me and come and interviewed me one time while I was in school, the G.I. people from the, whoever did that I don’t remember who it was.
AC: Did you make any close friendships while in the service?
ZD: Yes we did.
AC: For how long?
ZD: Well, I about forgot most of them now but at the time, I still have those pictures and when I look at those, the memories come back to me and all. There was one boy in West Virginia that wrote for quite a bit after I got home and all, Dean was his name. I soon lost touch over the years with him.
AC: Did you join a veteran’s organization?
ZD: No, not after I got home.
AC: What did you go on to do as a career after the war?
ZD: Well, I took up flying. I got private licenses but I lacked just bout sixty hours or something of having enough time to get my commercial license and I never did go ahead and finish that and I often wish I had of done that but I didn’t do it. I started working for a construction company, the coal mines and all. My brother did that and I followed him I guess.
AC: Did your military experience influence your thinking about war or about the military in general? 
ZD: Well I guess it does effect you in a way so yeah. I have been proud of the Marines.
AC: Do you attend reunions?
ZD: No, I haven’t known about having one. Now, years ago when I was still working they had one but I couldn’t get off to go and so now that I’ve retired and have time and could afford to go they haven’t had one that I know of.
AC: How did you service and experience affect your life?
ZD: Well, I guess being in service you corporate with other men and all, it does give you a sense of appreciation for other people and that might have been something that helped me to be a Christian, to accept Jesus Christ as my savior because it was after I got married that before I did that I was about twenty one or better I guess and I’d say that being in service and seeing how serious life was and how death could come so quick and all. I’m sure that made a big influence on me, to accept Jesus into my heart and life and that’s been the greatest blessing to me over the years and to take God and his word and just to live by it and all has just been great.
AC: Is there anything else you want to add?
ZD: I guess that’s pretty close.
AC: Ok, Thank you.
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