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The Veteran’s Project Matthew Joplin Interviews

Charles Jackson Segment 1: Jogging Memory: Were you drafted or did you enlist? 
 Drafted, I was angry, because I had to leave my fiancé behind, I was 20 at the time, and wanted to continue with my job, but getting drafted got in the way. That feeling changed over time though. Drafted in June, and by August I could hardly remember otherwise. Where were you living at the time? 
 Signal Mountain. Why did you pick the service branch you joined? I didn’t pick it; I was assigned to the Army. I reported at the Hamilton County Court house. We

were taken to Fort Oglethorpe in Georgia to be process and then we were shipped overseas Do you recall your first days in service? 
 Fort Oglethorpe boot camp, plain and simple. The food was rotten and the drill sergeants were worse they would always call me “recruit” and everyone was just miserable. The only good things about boot camp were the friends you made. I knew every man in that company. And every one of them was a good man; I don’t know whether they’re alive anymore.

had, but it toughened me. Prepared me for war and life after the war. Taught me responsibility and how to be a citizen.How did you get through it? Biting my tongue. I sat down and I shut up. I didn’t stand out in any way, good or bad because the instructors would single you out if you did. Segment 2: Experiences:

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Which war(s) did you serve in (WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf)?
 WWII Where exactly did you go? 


After boot camp, I was posted in Africa and was involved in the invasion in Italy in July of 1943. We lost 6,000 men – killed, wounded or captured. What did it feel like? Somebody took a rope across the river and tied it 
Like hell. It wasn’t to the trunk of a tree for us to cross. My sergeant the best experience I came up to me and asked if I was going to use my


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shovel. I gave it to him, and that was the last time I saw either him or the shovel. Eventually we invaded France in 1944. I was in that battle as well.

The Veteran’s Project

"remind me of my faith" when I go out to the real world. Let me tell you you can’t get more real than a war. I just got it out and kissed it every now and then.

Segment 3: Life: Did you keep a personal diary? Ask questions about life in the service and/or at the front or under fire. There was this time where all our officers had been killed, so I, being a sergeant, took command. I called back to my battalion headquarters and asked, “What do we do?” They said to dig in and defend the position. For four days, we holed up, just trying to hold the position. Eventually the attack was thrown back, and when my men and me were ordered to withdraw, I defended my men until they were all out. How did you stay in touch with your family? 
 Letters. That was the only way to communicate. If there was some way to get to a pay phone, nearly everyone was lined up to use it. Did you feel pressure or stress? 


I did for the first few weeks overseas, but I lost it in the middle of France. And didn’t bother to start again

Segment 4: Later Years and Closing:

Did your military experience influence your thinking about war or about the military in general?
 I see men fighting for what they believe in. I always had been taught to stand up for what I believe in. Then men I killed had families a friends, just like I did. The only difference was where we came from and whom we believed in. ButI felt my cause was greater. The military taught me that men do what have to, and some people will

Not so much stress as frustration. Was there something special you did for "good luck"? 
 It was a cross necklace. My pastor gave it to me the day I turned 18. He said it would

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do anything to stay alive. Would you do it all over? If I had a choice, no. I belong working in the shop, helping the great community of Jackson. I feel like I can help this country better without a gun in my hands, but rather saw or hammer. I feel like war is necessary, but there are better men than me. Men who will put their heart into it. What’s your legacy? I went. I fought. I came back a hero to our country. But I hope how I think is a testament to those who would run into war. It’s not worth it most of the time. Losing so y good friends just doesn’t make it worth it for me. What would you tell the world if you had the chance? Stand up for what you believe in, your voice is valid and important. And if you believe than you’ll find that people are following you.


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My Reaction to Charles Jackson CHARLES JACKSON Army Based in Italy Marched on Rome Mr. Jackson was the strangest of all the veterans that I interviewed. He seemed to have a chip on his shoulder left over from the war. Almost like he was opposed to wars altogether. But he recognized at the same time that his country had called on him in its time of need. I respect him immensely for seeing that and carrying on his duty rather than complaining and cheating the Army out of his full potential. I suppose the reason why he did that is because he also understood that he should do his best in all that he does. I hope that I can grow to find that in myself someday. I hope that I have the ability to do my best in everything that’s presented before me, even if it’s against what I believe. Because sometimes there are things that are bigger than an individual: the freedom of all, and duty to country and community. That’s what Mr. Jackson had to teach. And I think it’s one of the most important lessons of all.


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The Veteran’s Project

Ed Biga Ed Biga Segment 1: Jogging Memory: Were you drafted or did you enlist? 
 Drafted Where were you living at the time? 
 Wisconsin, Stevens Point Why did you pick the service branch you joined? I didn’t choose it, but I did choose to be in the Air Corps when they called for volunteers. Do you recall your first days in service? 
 Not really, but it was boot camp You know what that’s like. What did it feel like?
 It was miserable. Never join the Army; boot camp is miserable. How did you get through it? Clenching. Really just enduring it was how I got through it. You look forward to every night, and every meal and you dread every morning and every PT.

Segment 2: Experiences: Which war(s) did you serve in (WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf)?
 WWII Where exactly did you go? 
 I was stationed in Italy, but I flew mis-

sions all over Europe. From Germany, Romania, Italy, France as well, I don’t remember every one. I flew 40 missions in all in my first term of service.

Segment 3: Life: Ask questions about life in the service and/or at the front or under fire. There was this one time where we went up in the airplane and they were all out of the leather pilot’s helmets, so I had to wear a metal doughboy one. This thing was steel and it was old. But while we were flying a piece of metal flew through the window and knocked me out. When the bombardier got me up after he landed the plane, we saw the metal had punched a hole in the metal outer layer and the leather inner layer was scratched. I was lucky that on that day I was wearing that helmet, because if I hadn’t I wouldn’t be here. How did you stay in touch with your family? Mail. There really wasn’t any other way. But I was one of the officers who read all the outbound mail.

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Did you keep a personal diary? No.

Segment 4: Later Years and Closing: Did your military experience influence your thinking about war or about the military in general?

Did you feel pressure or stress? 
 Yes, especially after my unit was shot down. Luckily I was grounded that day because I had an orthodontist appointment because my tooth was bothering me. And I had to get it pulled. That was the day that they didn’t come back. Was there something special you did for "good luck"? 
 I kept a picture of my sweetheart in my jacket as well as a Bible over my heart. Other guys did different things like wearing a necklace or praying or they had their own rituals. I knew one man who wouldn’t fly if he didn’t write a note to his sweetheart in case he didn’t come back. I suppose it worked for him.

The military is a necessary and upstanding outlet of the government. It helped me to become a man, and it’s really incredible what it can do. I feel like more people should be in the military. It’s a good way up in the world. It’s secure, and it’ll get you where you want to go. How did your service and experiences affect your life? 
 It affected my life in a big way. I spent a lot of time in the military. After my original time in the service, I stayed in it for another couple years until I came home for leave in 1945 and the War ended. I never went back. I worked in the insurance industry for a long time in Wisconsin. I was making forty thousand dollars a year in 1950. I strongly believe it’s because I was in the military.


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Is there anything you would like to add that we have not covered in this interview? I want my legacy to be one that success is connected to your attitude. And that a successful and healthy man is one that takes care of himself and his family; I believe the military was a strong Caption describing picture or graphic. factor in my becoming a successful man.

My Reaction to Ed Biga ED BIGA Army Air Corps Based in Italy Flew in Germany, Romania, and the Atlantic Mr. Biga is one of the strongest men I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. He’s smart, driven, and successful. If I lived to be as successful as he is, then I would be satisfied that I did a good job with my life. The most striking thing about him, however is that he was saved on coincidence twice. Then again, perhaps they weren’t coincidences. The odds of being saved on a single chance TWICE are incredibly small. Maybe that’s why he was so successful. Because he knew how lucky he was to be alive. And he knew how amazingly precious yet fragile life is. He makes me think that God is really up there, watching us.


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The Veteran’s Project

Jack Spittler Segment 1: Jogging Memory: Were you drafted or did you enlist? 
 Enlist. Where were you living at the time? 
 Western Nebraska, University of Nebraska Why did you pick the service branch you joined? At first he chose the Air force to learn how to fly, enlisted with the Royal Canadian Air Force, then changed to the Navy because the Navy prided itself on being a sort of a step up from the other service branches.

Felt like it was just worth it. At first it was terrifying to fly, but then the instructor flew with you, so it wasn’t as bad, and when it turned to solo flying, it wasn’t so bad. How did you get through it? Just sort of muscled your way through it. Took it like a man. Segment 2: Experiences: Which war(s) did you serve in (WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf)?
 WII Where exactly did you go? 
 Pacific based. Philippines, Carigador, Batan, Guadacanal

Do you recall your first days in service?


Segment 3: Life:

Piloting. Pass or flunk type deal, there were stages to the flight training. Double Wing, Single wing, Advanced flying.

Ask questions about life in the service and/or at the front or under fire.

When he switched services, he was an officer. And the highest rank he held was lieutenant and he was a recognition officer. Which is a person who trains scouts to be able to identify aircraft at night by make by enemy or friendly at a glance and silhouette. What did it feel like?


The worst part was going through storms. There was a typhoon in December of 1944 that destroyed all but 15 ships in the area and over 700 airplanes were lost off their decks. There was an instance where the USS Fletcher had to attack an island and the Japanese had been using mining carts and mounted cannons on them, when the guns fired, they recoiled into the

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caves, and out of sight so there was only a little time to fire at them before they disappeared back into the cave. Eventually they wound up retreating. That’s the most interesting battle I remember. How did you stay in touch with your family?
 There was this thing called Vmail. Short for Victory mail. You would write your letter, give it to your commanding officer who would give it to the mail for sweeping. They would read it and cut out anything they didn’t want going out because they didn’t want to give away their position in the war. So there are endless letters that had holes in them. Other than that, when a sailor got onto friendly soil, he headed for the nearest payphone and called his mom and his sweetheart.


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Did you feel pressure or stress? 
 Of course. We were in a war. There were times when you wouldn’t sleep, but there were more times when you would because you were so tired and focused on what you were oing: winning the war. Was there something special you did for "good luck"? 
 No. Did you keep a personal diary? There were guys who did, but they were against the rules and would get you severely punished if they found you with it. Because they had this saying: “Loose lips sink ships.” Segment 4: Later Years and Closing: Did your military experience influence your thinking about war or about the military in general?


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-ing dishonestly. We’re neglecting defense. There’s a loss of patriotism and we’re gradually losing ground. This is the point where we should be getting bigger and growing now that there are other countries catching up to us. We need to keep the United States on top.

Strong believer in the saying “Speak softly, and carry a big stick.” We’re living in a dangerous period right now because of the size of our military and what we’re doing to it. We’re reducing our arms when our enemies are increasing them behind our back and act-

My Reaction to Jack Spittler JACK SPITTLER Navy USS Fletcher Based in Pacific Mr. Spittler was a great example of what a veteran should be. He is proud of what he is and what he represents. He’s involved even though he’s 94 years old and he looks to become involved in current events as much as he can rather than staying caught up in the past, which is really amazing to me. He’s not just some old man who’s a member of the Veteran’s of Foreign Wars Association; He’s the president of national associations that have a voice. Associations like the Navy League, and the aforementioned VFW. He showed me that it’s important to voice your opinions in the best way that you can. Never give up the ability to do that.


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Newsletter Title

Vernon Smith Segment 1: Jogging Memory:

WWII

Were you drafted or did you enlist? 


Where exactly did you go? 


Enlist Where were you living at the time? 


First I went out to Manila, just garrison duty. That's when I was in the Army. When I got in the Marines we went to the Pacific, starting with Guadacanal. Segment 3: Life:

Raritan New Jersey What service branch did you join? Army to start, then the Marines Do you recall your first days in service?
 Not too much of it, I remember more of scamming the other guys to see who could win at cards or reassembling our m60's the fastest, that was all after boot camp of course. What did it feel like?
 It was really nothing I couldn't do physically it was just more of a mental reshaping, made me do everything a certain way, and you just stuck to it How did you get through it?

Segment 2: Experiences: Which war(s) did you serve in (WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf)?


Ask questions about life in the service and/or at the front or under fire. Well, being in the jungles or swamps was terrible. The Japanese were always keeping us on our toes, but for the longer strides, it was more of us digging in and they just kept running. They hated us Marines, called us the devil. Of course I lost friends, but it wasn't the same as losing a friend, it was more of losing a brother. Like losing a part of yourself, but we still had to go forward. When we weren’t under fire, we would play cards, smoke, swat bugs, pretty much did whatever we could to pass the time or unwind, we always had to be ready, though. Most vivid memory was when we had a particular raid, the Japanese tried to ambush us. We were ready, but not as ready as we should've been lost 3 brothers that night.

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How did you stay in touch with your family?
 Letters, that was the only real effective way. Did you feel pressure or stress? 
 The stress was one thing, but you never wasted time to think about it or realize it. We didn’t have that luxury. Was there something special you did for "good luck"? Good luck, we heard two things that I remember the most, carry a Bible over your heart because apparently that stops bullets. And the other is the mortar round you don't hear, is the one with your name on it. So be sure to keep your head up, always alert.


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Segment 4: Later Years and Closing: Did your military experience influence your thinking about war or about the military in general? It does, I see how much more people aren't aware of what the world is really like, but war is as it ever was: a bloody battle. My whole family has been involved with wars from the beginning, so I knew from my father, my grandfather, my uncle.

What would you tell the world if you had the chance?

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I would tell them to stop talking, we can only work together if we actually work; we can't just argue all your problems away.

Reaction to Vernon Smith VERNON SMITH Marine, Pacific Theatre Mr. Smith was definitely the saltiest of all the veterans I interviewed. He was terse as well, but he had his reasons. He had seen worse things than I can imagine and he took those things to heart. He understands war and understands its implication. He was straight shooting and realistic. Yet he made sense. He showed that it takes toughness to make it through an experience like a ground war and come away with a shred of humanity. It’s really quite amazing that under his rough shell he had a lesson to teach me. He had a lesson to teach us.



Veterans Project