Wisconsin Veterans Museum

Oral history interview with Harry Whitehorse, WPT Wisconsin World War II Stories

Wisconsin Veterans Museum


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Please Note: Due to the set-up of this video recording, the voice of the interviewer is hard to hear. The transcript reflects the best attempt to represent what is said.


DERKS: So, let's do go all the way back to where you were living when you decided to enlist.

WHITEHORSE: Yeah. Well, I decided to join the Navy because my brother was in the Navy. In 1944, I enlisted as WHITEHORSE Ruben Whitehorse. I was sixteen, and only weighed ninety-eight pounds, so they didn't take me the first time I went there. He said, "You put on a couple of pounds, and we'll take you." [It] didn't take me long to put on a couple of pounds. Then the first-- I had training in 00:01:00Great Lakes, then went to Fort Pierce, Florida, for Amphibian Training. The first ship I was attached to was USS Washburn. It was an AKA, Auxiliary Cargo Attack. What I can remember--it was one of the biggest AKA's in the Navy. It was really big, and it had a good size crew, and I was just attached to it as an amphibian.

DERKS: What is an amphibian?

WHITEHORSE: Usually you operate the small boats, the LCVP's. I was a motor machinist on a small boat to start with. It seemed to me that I would rather be on Ships Company with this big ship rather than be on these little boats all the 00:02:00time. So, I try to make Ship's Company. The only opening was in boiler--Boilermen--or water tenders, they were called. So, I used to go down there in the boiler room, and stand watches with a couple of guys on my own, and I knew how to operate all the valves and do all the things you're supposed to do. The first thing they noticed is I never got seasick. So, when we hit rough weather, they'd always ask for me to relieve a seasick person down on watch. And, I'd go down there, and stand a watch--and [it] wouldn't bother me a bit, you know. [Of] course, the ship is going back and forth, you know. One time I relieved a guy on watch, and was four hours on; and, the next guy that was supposed to relieve me was seasick, so he couldn't come down to relieve me. So, I stood eight hours on there in the boiler room. I think the next ship I was on 00:03:00was the LST. The reason they wanted me on the LST is they had a boiler that wasn't working, and there was no hot water on that. I'm trying to think if it was-- "Did we go through the Panama Canal first with the big ship?" And, then I was attached to the LST [Landing Ship, Tank--a naval vessel created to support amphibious operations]. I fixed the boiler, by the way, and I was a big hero on that ship. We went across the Pacific on that LST. It seemed like it just took months and months to get across. I'd go up on deck, [and] look around; all you could see was the horizon, and the ocean. I'd go down below, and then, a couple [of] weeks later, I'd go back up and look around--still the same thing. Ocean and horizon--that was about it. We got to the Philippine Islands just as they 00:04:00were mopping up there, and they were still chasing some of the Japanese through the mountains and the jungles. We were put in charge of a bunch of small boats there to make sure they were bailed out, and didn't sink--and [do] the maintenance on them. And, they were going to come back and pick us up with this AKA. Well, in the meantime, we got hit by a storm--a big storm; there were a lot of them in the Pacific, and it sunk all the small boats. The water--the waves--were so big, they sunk all the small boats. So, we spent all the rest of the month bailing out those boats--bringing them up on shore and overhauling the motors, the engines on them. Then, we started island-hopping all over--to 00:05:00Saipan; I think we were on our way to Saipan, and the [Battleship USS] Indianapolis got sunk--that big cruiser. Before that time, we were just sailing in a straight line, but after it got sunk, we started zigzagging. Then we went to some islands, I can't remember--on to Peleliu and a bunch of those little islands around there. Island after island--and the names I couldn't remember. And then, finally, at the end was-- I was glad to be on an LST; at this time I was an L-, because Ship's Company was only about forty [to] forty-eight men. And, it only had two officers, [an] Executive Officer and a Captain. [The] Captain was a Lieutenant J.G., and the Exec. [Executive Officer] was an Ensign. 00:06:00And, the next highest rating was a First Class Petty Officer. He was the Quartermaster. A Quartermaster is in charge of keeping all the groceries on the ship, you know. But he was a pretty smart man; in fact, he was the one that ran the ship. The Captain didn't know anything about it, and neither did the Exec. So, he used to do all the navigating--go from one place to another--and he did the navigating. And, I was the highest Engineer on that [ship]; I was a Third Class Petty Officer, and I was in charge of the ballast--the ship, how it got ballast. Whenever we'd re-fuel, I was in charge of filling up all the tanks, and things like that. Towards the end of the war--and I was fortunate to be just on the end, when it was winding down. And, we always got there a couple of days 00:07:00after the initial assaults were over. So, that really made me feel good, you know. And then, this one time, we were supposed to go to Japan; and, we were going--this is before the atom bomb was dropped. We were supposed to go to Japan as a feeler movement. And, they were sure that the Japanese would defend their homeland. We figured this was a suicide mission, because they were going to send only four ships. We were supposed to land on Matsuyama--Matsuyama, yeah. We got ashore after the atomic bomb was dropped. We were the first ones there to set foot on Japan. When that bomb was dropped, you could see the light up the horizon, you know. Everybody used to--"Come on up on deck [and] take a look at 00:08:00this." We'd look at it, and the sky was bright. They told us that what they dropped was an atom bomb, you know. We'd never heard of an atom bomb. We'd say, "What's an atom bomb?" Evidently, the Japanese must have known about it--the higher ones--but they wanted to fight on, in spite of that. So, they dropped another one, you know. There was Hiroshima, and then Nagasaki. They dropped another one to let them know that, "Hey, we got all kinds of them," but they only had two at that time. If they [the Japanese] would have said, "OK, we're going to keep fighting," it would have been really bad. But, I've always said that Harry Truman was my big hero; he was the one that okayed that they drop the bomb, because he saved a lot of lives. He also saved a lot of Japanese lives, too. But, there's a lot of people [who] were saying they should have 00:09:00never used the atomic bomb; but, as far as I was concerned, that was the best thing for everybody. But after--

DERKS: So you actually saw the light?

WHITEHORSE: What's that?

DERKS: You actually saw the light from the bomb?

WHITEHORSE: Oh yeah, we [had] seen the light. It lit up the whole-- It was daylight, and it lit up just like it was an arch welder, you know, that's going on--a big arc welder. But, we never realized what it was, you know, at that time; it was something new to us. Then, I think our ship went back to San Francisco. We had a whole load of people that were being mustered out, you know--a lot of troops that were some of the first ones to get mustered out. And, we hauled a bunch back to San Francisco. Then, I was transferred to a ship in 00:10:00Norfolk; I had to go all the way across the country again; [I] went to Norfolk on the Atlantic side, and I was transferred to the first steam-driven LST. Before that, they were all diesel. It was a beautiful ship. It was 1154. There were two [that were] steam-driven--one 1153, and one 1154. And, the only problem with them was when you beached them, you had to have water continually, because the boilers took water--and, if you used up all the water on a ship, the lights went out--you know, everything was stopped. We beached at, in a couple places, where you used to have to have big water trucks bring the water to us, because the tide would go out, and the ship would be sitting high and dry. So, we'd have 00:11:00to have trucks come and bring us water. Our doors--our big doors on our ramp--dropped down over a highway; I can't remember the highway, but the bus used to stop right in front of the ship so we could go on liberty. We'd walk right on dry land, go on a bus, and go on liberty.

DERKS: And, that was in the States--on the East Coast?

WHITEHORSE: Yeah, it was just on the East Coast. They did the same thing on the West Coast, too. I don't think they ever made any more than those two steam-driven LST's--at least, I never heard of it. They were beautiful ships, though, and they were bigger than the regular LST; you [could] carry more. In fact, they could carry what they call an LCT; it was a pretty good size boat. They would put it on a side-- [one] on each side of the LST, and carry them. And 00:12:00then, when they'd get to the place where they had to drop them off, they'd drop them right into the water--and it would float, you know; they'll end up floating. I often wondered if they would turn over, you know, but they'd land up floating. But, we would take them the long distance; they weren't capable of crossing the ocean. After the war, all the officers that were on our ships, and the ones we had met, they all wanted to stay in--because they all got treated like kings. That's why, you know; and, there was nothing like it in the civilian life--where you would be waited on hand and foot. So, they wanted to stay in--and they were all moaning and bemoaning the fact that they were going to get discharged, you know. And, sure enough, they'd all get discharged; they didn't keep but a very few of them, but they were more selective with the men. They 00:13:00wanted to keep people--the enlisted men--they wanted to keep people that were-- [that] knew something about ships, and things like that, you know--knew how to, like, run the boilers, and things like that. And, they wanted me to re-enlist, and I said, "No, I have had enough." I said, "I'm going to go home." So, when my four years were up, I went home [laughs].

DERKS: And when was that?

WHITEHORSE: I went home in '48 [and] I enlisted in '44. The thing about it is that, I think they were still having a lot of troubles there in the islands, you know--not so much with the Japanese, but with the civilian populations, like in Saipan and Okinawa, and those things that were-- And, they were wanting me to take another trip out that way--you know, on a ship--and I said "No, I just don't want to go back out there. I'd just as soon come back and be a civilian 00:14:00again." But it was quite an adventure, because I was on a big ship to start with that visited a lot of ports. And, in these ports that it would go to, I would go to the museums first of all--look over all the artifacts, and the paintings, and the sculptures--and the rest of the men would all go to the bars [laughs]. Then, when I got to the Philippine Islands, I went to a couple of museums there, and they were starting to bring all their stuff back up again. And, in Japan, I looked at Oriental art, and things like that--and that's where I more or less decided what I was going to do. I was going to be an artist--so, that's what I'll end up being.

DERKS: When you landed in Japan, did you have much interaction with the people there?

WHITEHORSE: When we first landed, it was raining or misting, and we got on a 00:15:00beach, and there were these Japanese fishermen bringing in their nets--and they were all full of shrimp, little bitty shrimp, and they were bringing them in. And, as they were hauling them in, they'd get a handful of them, and just throw them in their mouths--oh, maybe four or five, maybe half a dozen. [They would] just throw them in their mouth, and they'd bring in more nets, and we'd say, "Jeez, how can you eat those things, they're still alive," you know, but that's what they were doing. And, we walked down this one street, and it was raining. I think the guy that was in charge of our bunch-- We stopped at this one corner, and there was a Japanese man--[an] old man, in this doorway. The guy that was in charge, he asked him, "How do you get to this one place?" you know. And, he could speak broken English, and he had a straw hat and a straw shawl on. That's 00:16:00all he had on, you know. He said we had to go across this one little lagoon, you know, that was there, in order to get to this place we were supposed to watch the Army disarm. They were supposed to bring in their armament and throw it on the ground, and stuff like that. So, we were supposed to meet a bunch of other men--Marines and sailors. They took-- Sailors, you know, used to think that, "Well, at least we'll have a nice dry bed, and good food everyday." They took the ship's company, and made them march in with the Marines, so you weren't safe even of being on a ship's company. They would take you and say, "Okay, here's a gun; go with them," you know, so-- We went to this one little lagoon there. It 00:17:00was about as wide as this room here. We had to get across, and there was a man on the other side with a boat--[a] boat with a pole--and we asked him to take us across, and he wouldn't do it, you know. And, the Officer in Charge--he pulled out a package of cigarettes, and showed him the package of cigarettes. He [would] come rowing across, you know, and [we would] give him this [pack]. He wanted two packs, you know, so we went across on that. We went into this one factory that was there [which] was just [as] clean as a whistle. It made gauges and instruments for submarines, and it was unbelievable how orderly the place was; it was just so clean. And then, we walked further out into the city itself. It was a lot of little huts--little, looked like they were made out of papier-mache, you know. We walked up to this one house, and it had a sliding 00:18:00door--a paper sliding door. We were going to walk in, and a Japanese lady went "like that" and pointed at our feet--and, we had to take our shoes off to walk into her house. In the house, there was--it was an airplane, you know; the house was built around this airplane. It didn't have any wings on it, but it was the fuselage and landing gear. And, there was a guy with a pail--nuts and bolts--and he was screwing things together, screwing things together on there. The war was over; I don't know why he--he probably didn't get the word to stop, you know [laughs]. But, it was kind of an adventure going through the village there. Then we learned, after that, if you walk into one of those houses, you take off your shoes.

DERKS: The people were pretty nice to you?

WHITEHORSE: The people were real nice. I mean, they understood that the war was 00:19:00over, you know, and they more or less knew it better than the officers--[better than] their officers, you know. They wanted to keep fighting; their officers--they were gung-ho. They wanted to keep on shooting, [and we] had a hard time convincing them, you know, the war was over, so-- But, I think they were more afraid of an atomic attack after that, but there was no way that we could launch another one, because they [United States Army Air Forces] didn't have any more. We only had two.

DERKS: Where was that that you landed?

WHITEHORSE: Where we landed? It was Matsuyama, I think that was on the island of Shikoku, I'm not sure. Or Honshu--Honshu, yeah. And then, we landed further up again about two weeks later, at Kyoto. They had all kinds of factories there, 00:20:00you know. That was just a little ways from Tokyo. There's all kinds of factories there, and we were just, more or less, an inspection team, you know. There's a group of people--I mean, myself, I wasn't an inspector, but they had some with; but, we were more or less to have a show of force. It was interesting that, where we went after we landed in those first two little cities, they were not hit by any kind of bombing. But, I guess Tokyo was pretty-well flattened.

DERKS: The first place you landed--you said they were disarming?

WHITEHORSE: Well, yeah. Army, and I think it was-- Military was-- They had the sailors, and the Seabees [Naval construction battalions], and some Marines. 00:21:00There was an officer in charge of each group, and I think that the idea was to show that we were going to come ashore. Everybody had a Thompson sub-machine gun--everybody, and I mean the sailors; and, some of the sailors didn't even know how to use them. And here, you know, they [the officers] say, "You don't have to use 'em--just hold 'em!" [laughs]

DERKS: Did you know how to use one?

WHITEHORSE: Oh yeah, I knew how to use one. When I was in Great Lakes training, I was an expert rifleman. You know, I could-- They were saying that there was a guy there that got ninety-eight out of one hundred with a target rifle, you know. And I-- So, they thought he was pretty good, and I went out there and shot one hundred out of one hundred. My Uncle George used to say, when he would go 00:22:00hunting, "Here's a bullet; that's all you need, because we don't want any more game than you can shoot with this one bullet." [laughs] But then--I was small then-- And, they took us to this 20 mm [twenty-millimeter ground-based anti-aircraft machine gun]; they would strap you in on a 20 mm. And then, you had a big--like a movie screen; it was in a big dark building. These planes would come, and you'd have to shoot them with that. It was really fun; it was like play. I got so I figured it out so the bullets would go like they'd gone in a circle, like that. You had to lead them so far that they'd run into it, you know. And then, they wanted to make a ball turret gunner [on a bomber] out of me, and I said, "No way!" [laughs]. I knew what happened to them--either the one on the bottom, or the one on top; it didn't matter. I didn't want to be a ball 00:23:00[turret gunner], so, so-- I told them I wanted to be an engineer of some sort, you know, because that's what we had been doing before I went in. I was more of a mechanic. Uncle was [an] automotive mechanic. I still knew wrenches, and things like that.

DERKS: I'm surprised they let you do that, if you were such a good marksman.

WHITEHORSE: Well, they did send me to a turbine school--and I never used it, you know. They sent me to turbine school, and I think what they were doing-- They didn't know what to do with a lot of the recruits, and everything, so they sent them to school. Didn't matter; some went to cooking school, and some went to boiler school. I didn't have any boiler experience, but I knew what they were, and I knew the principle--how the boilers worked, you know--and that's what helped me out later on. Boilers would make the steam for the turbines, but they 00:24:00should have put me on turbines instead of in the boilers. That was all in your record, you know--that "Hey, this guy's got experience in turbines," you know, so-- But, along the way, it got screwed up, and I was put in with the boilers instead of the turbines. Although, it was noisy--the boiler rooms are really noisy. And, those turbines are noisy too, because they sound like a siren; they go right up out of sight. The blowers for the boilers are like big sirens. They're always [running at] a very high pitch; and, the pumps and everything are just banging away all the time.

DERKS: So, what did you do in the boiler room?

WHITEHORSE: I stood what they call a boiler watch. You have a big gauge--water gauge--and the water goes up and down. There's a certain amount where you've got to keep it--keep the water there--and you've got a big valve, and a hole; you 00:25:00open it up, and when the water starts going too high, you kind of close it a little bit. And then, you're in charge of the burners. You got a long burner, about this [long], and its got a burner head on it, you know. You open up the burn-- [and] slam the burner in there--and close up the thing. Then you open up the oil, and it goes in. But the thing about it is, the boiler has got to be working on other burners. Usually, there's about six burners, and usually about four of them are going. You're supposed to have some of those boilers fired up--some of those tips [have] got to be fired up. They throw out a big [flame], like a big torch. And, you got a little peephole; you can peep in there to see if it lights up. Well, once in a while, if you got a fireman helping you, he'll 00:26:00shut off all the burners! So, you look in the peephole, and you don't see any flame, and you say, "What happened?" And the guy says, "I shut all the burners out." And you say, "You can't do that--you need the steam." You're not supposed to light off the walls, you know; the walls in those--they're all that fire brick, but they're glowing red hot. So, you take a chance, and you crack the burner open, it hits the wall and, if it lights, you turn on the rest. If it doesn't light, it'll make that white smoke that's explosive, you know. You turn it off, and then you have to re-light the burner, and then stick it back in, but-- It was the little tricks that you could learn--like, if the Captain wanted a high speed, what they call Flank Speed, you light up all the burners in your boilers. The boilers--they're like this: four burners on this side, four [on the 00:27:00other side] like that. You light up your bank, and turn around and light up the other bank, so you-- The guy that's operating the turbine has got a big throttle, and he opens up that throttle. What he tries to do is suck all the steam out that you're making, you know--and, he does it on purpose, just to make you squirm. So, what we used to do to get more steam-- We'd put the burners in without the burner heads, and stick them in there, and it just poured out a great big flame. Man, would it get hot [laughing]! But boy, it could make all the steam they wanted! The ship was rated at twenty-- I think it was twenty-four knots; that's Flank Speed. We could get twenty-eight knots by not putting burner tips on, you know, because it makes it-- But then, all the auxiliary pumps, you have to overwork those too; they work on steam. As far as learning steam, after 00:28:00you learn it, there's so many little different things you can do with it, you know. You can cool the oil down so you get more BTU's per squirt. See, the-- There's the tanks-- You got the steam coils that heat the oil up. Well, you turn those valves down a little bit, and the oil gets cooler. And, just to the point where you can hardly move it, that's when you get the most power, because it's cold going out the end of the thing, and its got more BTU's for it. So, there's all a lot of little tricks you would do. Another thing we used to do, too, was bring the water level down so it heats the water up real quick, you know. If that water went dry, you'd burn up the boiler [laughs], so you'd have to be careful how you did that.

DERKS: So yeah, tell me about that?


WHITEHORSE: What's that?

DERKS: About the Japanese swords.

WHITEHORSE: Oh. When we were ashore, when we met the other detachments from these other ships, and they were having the Japanese army come in and lay down their arms, so to speak. They had their guns--they'd lay them down, [and] their pistols--they'd lay them down. But, when they were coming toward us, it was about six wide, and as far as you could see; and, there were just thousands of them, you know. And then, some of these officers had these big Samurai swords--big long swords. They didn't want to lay those down, because they said they belonged to the family. But we had an officer that was pretty good, and he would take their names and put them on those swords, so afterwards they got them back. But a lot of the officers took those swords--took them home. That 00:30:00wasn't--that wasn't good for the relationship between the peoples.

DERKS: What did you do with all those weapons--that they lay down?

WHITEHORSE: They loaded them up on a ship, took them out to sea--and dumped them; not only that, but they were dumping brand new American- made weapons. Everybody got a .45--a .45 automatic [Colt .45 caliber automatic pistol]--and they were full of cosmolene [a rust preventative], you know. And, you'd wipe 'em all off, you know, and you'd put them in your sea bag, you know. Some wanted those Thompson sub-machine guns, you know. What you did--when you got those .45's, you hid them all over the ship, you know--you'd put them above the coils and then it was just like a Easter egg hunt. Officers come in, and [were] feeling all the spots for all those guns that were around. One thing about 00:31:00that--why I liked that LST--is that for mealtime, they had a big blackboard, and you could go there for breakfast--three eggs over lightly, toast--and you'd write it on a blackboard, see. Then the next guy would go up there and you put your initials by it, you see. Then you'd go in a chow hall and get your coffee or milk or whatever, sit down--and they'd bring it to you, the mess cooks [would]. And it was cooked perfect every time. But [when] you're on a big ship, you get what's in those ladles, you know. And I used to always tell my wife, I said, "It was a funny thing, every time I would get the tray and go down the line--mashed potatoes and beans and peas, going down the line. I look way down the line, and I see this ice cream and pie at the end, you know--and, I'd just get to it, and they run out." So I said, "Well they'll put some kind of dessert out." So what they do is one big tray of prunes, and, every time they'd run out, 00:32:00I'd get a big dipper full of prunes. And, anything that happened like that--"Oh, prunes again," you know. That used to be really something when they would run out of the pie or ice cream or something--they'd put out the prunes! When our ship first got this soft ice cream, those machines that made [?]. When you got off a watch, you could have as much as you want, you know. You'd have your little bowl, you go up there, and they'd fill up your bowl, and you'd sit there and eat that, [and] go back and get another bowl. The first time I saw that stuff, did I get sick after about eight bowls of that stuff. I was really sick--but it was good! But, after a while, they start charging for it--a nickel for a [serving]. At that time, cigarettes for a pack--a carton of 00:33:00cigarettes--was fifty cents. You could go right to the PX and get a carton of cigarettes. And then, on Wednesday, every Wednesday, they would give two cans of beer. They were in khaki cans--and, they're Schlitz Brewery. Schlitz. No matter where I went--Australia, or Japan or [the] Philippines--it was always Schlitz beer. I didn't drink at that time, so I'd take my two cans, and there was a guy--a carpenter's mate--that used to buy them for five dollars a can. So, I used to always take them, and I'd give them and sell them to him. He'd go around [to] all the people that didn't drink, and buy up all the beer, you know, from them--and [then] he'd really throw a wing ding! But there was-- On that AKA, one trip, we took [on] beer--cases after cases. They filled up this big hold, with 00:34:00big boxes of beer. Every evening, they would-- People that wanted beer, you know, would go through there--what they call a "coffer dam," [an insulating space between two bulkheads or decks within a ship]. It was a divided-- The hold was here, and on each side of it was a space. And there must have been twenty bolts around this thing. They'd take off those twenty bolts, and go into the next hold, and take off twenty more bolts--and they would be in the hold with the beer, you know. So they'd go through there, you know, and they'd-- What they used to do is, when they got off of watch, they'd head down there, and go into the hold, and they'd kind of hollowed out a place--and they'd play cards and drink beer, as long as they weren't on watch. Well, you got to-- Where did we get with that load of beer? I think we got Hollandia, New Guinea. We stopped to 00:35:00leave off some of the beer, and they had these big cargo nets; they'd lower them down, and they'd put the cases in. Then, they got to this one spot--where they had been drinking beer--and all the cases were empty [laughs]. That was-- New Guinea and Australia? Australia was really bad--was nothing but hot, and red dust--and New Guinea was hot; I mean, it [there] was just no air conditioning on the thing [ship], you know. So, it got really hot, and [with] all that sun shining down on all that metal, and-- The floors, you couldn't walk on them barefoot; you had to have your shoes on all the time. But, it was different conditions for-- No matter where you went, there was always-- Something you had to fight was the conditions especially. Sometimes, they would run out of water for showers, so you could take a salt water shower--but after you dry off, you 00:36:00felt sticky, you know--all over. So, what you'd do is, you'd take a shower in salt water--and then you'd take a washcloth, and take fresh water, and then wipe yourself off with that; that worked pretty good. We had Marines, that-- We used to take the Marines to different islands, and they were more of less in this certain compartment--had to stay there, you know. They weren't allowed to use our showers, but we could sell them--looked like these gallon cans--sell them a gallon can of water, and they'd take a bath out of one of those little gallon cans. We'd sell them for five bucks a can, you know. Then, when you got those cans, they were fruit cocktail--a gallon of fruit cocktail, a gallon of peaches, 00:37:00and a gallon of different other kinds of stuff, you know. And, we'd take a gallon of fruit cocktail, stand on watch watching the boiler, eating the fruit cocktail out of that gallon thing. Boy--would you get the runs after eating a gallon of that [laughs]! We had some-- I liked the peaches the best; I liked that better than the fruit cocktail. And, then there was-- We would trade gallons of that fruit cocktail and peaches to the Marines for their K-rations and C-rations. I liked the C-rations, because they're canned, and usually scrambled eggs or ham, and ham and potatoes, or something like that--but the cans were only like that [demonstrates with hand] about that [two inches] tall. Most of the other guys would want those K-rations because they had a six-pack of cigarettes in them, you know. It mostly was Camel cigarettes, you know, and I 00:38:00didn't smoke, so I didn't care for those at all; but, I used to like the sea biscuits, too. You know, those little round biscuits taste like dog food, but boy are they good, you know--milky dog food--and you'd get about six of them, and I'd stick them in my pocket, and then go on watch, and I'd nibble on those things [chuckles]. I remember one time, we were in rough seas, and a guy down there on watch said he was seasick and wanted me to come and relieve him. So I said, "Well, I suppose." And I had-- I was standing in line to go eat, you know. And, he told me, "You gotta come right now," so I didn't eat; but then, they give me two cans of C-rations, you know--spaghetti and meatballs. So, I got down there on watch, and opened the can, you know--and the guy is supposed to let me know the readings on everything--and I opened up the can, you know, and I was eating the spaghetti and meatballs; he took one look at it, and he had to go 00:39:00throw up [laughs]. It didn't bother me a bit. I liked the ham and potatoes the best; I had my favorites, but it was kind of a surprise when you opened them--you didn't know what was in them. Sometimes it would be scrambled eggs--I didn't like the scrambled eggs, but I'd eat it, you know--things like that. Then, we used to trade; I used to trade cigarettes--that's why I used to always go and buy that pack [carton] when we'd hit land someplace; the cigarettes were just like money--only better, you know. [You could] buy anything you want with a pack of cigarettes. I used to see guys that were selling their cigarettes over the side of the boat--boats would come up to the side of the boat. This happened in Shanghai on the Whangpoo River [a tributary of the Yangtze River, now spelled 00:40:00Huangpu] where we're anchored, and all these sampans would come up to the boat, you know, and wanting to get cigarettes, you know. And they'd have all kinds of embroidery and stuff, and they'd sell these little embroidery pads that you could sew on your cuffs, you know; you fold a cuff up, and they had those little dragons, and stuff like that; and stuff like that, you could get by [in exchange for] a pack of cigarettes--you could get that [Chinese embroidery, etc.]. Well, what these guys would do--I never did it, but-- So, what these guys would do is, they'd take a set of dungarees, and they'd cut them right up the middle--so, you had one pants leg here-- And, they'd wrap [in] them [pack-sized pieces of] two-by-four] in [the denim], you know. And then, they'd hold them over the side, a [Chinese] guy would send up the stuff [embroidery, and other things], and they'd send that [package of fake cigarettes] down. And then, he'd [they'd] go over to the other side of the ship, and sell the other half [of the dungarees, with fake cigarettes in them], you know. They [also] did the same thing with [whole cartons of] cigarettes. They'd take the cartons, take all the cigarettes out, put a [piece of] two-by-four inside, seal it [the carton] back up, and hold it there--send it back down. They were really crooks [laughs]! There used to be 00:41:00different things you used to do on those Chinese. Jeez, there were a lot of them. When they would come up to your boat, you just couldn't believe how many sampans there were. They just came in by the hundreds. One thing I used to always wonder: when they'd eat, you know, they'd have a bowl and heaped up with white rice--all the time, white rice. You'd think they would use the colored rice, or-- You would think it would be more nourishing, wouldn't it? But, they always had white rice. [The] thing about it is that, they'd get through eating their bowl, and they'd dip [it] in the river--and it was yellow; [they would] dip it in the river, and they'd drink the water just like-- They must have been used to that kind of water. The thing about [being] outside of China [was that] 00:42:00you could tell when you were getting close--at least twenty miles from China--out, say, where you can't see it. The water would turn yellow, you know, brown, before you'd get in there. But Japan wasn't that way. You get close to Japan, the water was pure all the way.

DERKS: What was in China?

WHITEHORSE: What's that?

DERKS: What was in China? Why were you anchored there?

WHITEHORSE: I can't figure out why we were there. I think we went on liberty. I know--one night, I went on liberty, and all these streets had real nice names like Bubbling Well Drive or Butterfly Lane--stuff like that; [on] all the streets, I noticed that right away. I went to a horse race there, too. They had a horse race right in the middle of Shanghai. [They were] mangy looking horses, but they at least they were all the same, so there was nobody-- That was [a] pretty nice horse race they had. All the businesses were run by White Russians; 00:43:00they were all Russian. They all spoke English--all of them. And, our Skipper says, "Don't eat the meat," you know, because you didn't know if you were going to eat donkey, or dog. Everybody ate dog in that area. In fact there were some kennels that just raised dogs for dog meat, and they didn't think nothing of it, you know. And then there was donkey meat, and stuff; but, [they] sure made it look good, though. You know, they'd put batter on it, and those little sticks, you know, and you [would] look at it--jeez, it looks good, and it smells good. Yet, you know it's dog, you know; you can't--you don't want to eat it, you know. It was, all different kind of food they had in those carts, you know, and it really looked good, you know. And, the Captain says, "Whatever you do, don't eat the meat! [laughs]"

DERKS: Was that the first time you'd ever seen Oriental art?


DERKS: Over there--at the museum? The art? Was that the first time you'd seen 00:44:00that kind of art?

WHITEHORSE: That kind of--?


WHITEHORSE: Art? Oh, yeah, I'd heard about it, you know. I never went to any art around here. But after I got in there, I started going. Then, I noticed I'd go to some of the big parks and start sketching some of the statues--like in Marseilles. They had more statues in that town than any other town I've ever seen--nice statues; some were bronze, some were marble, you know--and they're really nice. And, I'd sit down there, and sketched it. I used to sketch the picture of the ship, you know--our ship; I used to use a pencil, you know. The ship really looked nice--a nice picture in it--and I used to sell them for twenty-five bucks. And then, I would do some of those landscapes; when we would go someplace, I would sit on deck, and do a landscape. I had a lot of officers 00:45:00buy some of those pictures from me; they liked it. When I first went on that ship, they had a barbershop; this is a bigger ship, [and] had a barbershop, and there was some guy in there cutting hair. Terrible! He was doing a terrible job, and all the guys would ask me to cut their hair in their compartments. So, I'd cut their hair in a compartment--real nice job, you know. Then, an engineering officer saw me giving a guy a haircut, and he said, "Hey, cut my hair too," you know, so I said, "Okay." He sat down, and I cut his hair, you know--[and] then I got the rest of the officers. There was some--I think he was an Admiral--came in--because he had big wide stripes. He says, "I hear you give a pretty good haircut," and I said, "Yeah." He says, "Well, I need a haircut." And, he says, 00:46:00"But I don't want you doing it here; let's go to the barbershop." So, he kicked the guy out, and put me in there. I cut his hair--and after that, they all came down. One day a week, the barbershop was open, you know. Then everybody would line up, you know. You're not supposed to pay me, you know--pay me to cut hair--but they all did, you know. That's just the way it is--they all did, but the officers. Officers didn't pay nothing [laughs]! [It was] the same thing with the tailor shop; they had a shop there for tailors, and I was pretty good on that, too--especially, this one time [when] a Lieutenant JG got a promotion. He got an extra half a stripe, so he wanted a stripe. And, he wanted them on "right now." So, he came to me and he said, "Can you sew on my extra stripe?" I said, "Sure," [and] sewed it on. And, after that, I would make "tailor-mades" out of 00:47:00the uniforms--because they looked like pajamas, you know. So, I would cut them in, you know, and sew them up real nice--really did a nice job. Then, I'd put--make bell bottoms; most of the trousers were straight up and down, so you just cut them, you know, [and] make bell bottoms. [It] kept me pretty busy when I wasn't on watch [laughs].

DERKS: Were your ships ever under attack?


DERKS: Were they ever under attack--from planes?

WHITEHORSE: We always had warnings, but we never saw any planes. I think what it was, at that time--as soon as they were in the vicinity, the aircraft carriers, and bases around there, would send up their fighters, and they would head them off. So, they never got to us. At least, we weren't there for the first day of an invasion, so that helped too, you know--although we did send plenty of soldiers in on our little "BP" boats, you know. But, it was more or less--[we 00:48:00had] already chased them off the beaches already. So, I had a pretty good tour, because every time we got someplace, it was mop-up time, you know. So, that was nice--especially in Germany, [and] in France, you know. That chased the occupation forces out, you know.

DERKS: So that's when you were in France?


DERKS: Was that after D-Day--after the invasion?

WHITEHORSE: Yeah, yeah--after the invasion was over. But there were still small pockets, you know, of action going on--especially in [the] Japanese islands, you know, because they would clean out the places around the bases, but the hills were still full [of Japanese troops]. But they figured they'd starve them out. I 00:49:00remember when we took Japanese prisoners; they had this guy that operated those booms that were up there, you know. They had this crossbar on this boom--[a] great, big, long crossbar. And, he would put the thing over, and put it down on the deck, and they'd march about ten Japanese prisoners up to it, and they hold their arms like that [raises arms over head, with hands clasped] over that boom, and he would operate the thing [demonstrates how the crane-like boom moved heavy ammunition from one place to another]. Then they'd put them [ammunition, shells] down in the hold, you know. Then, they'd go up, and get another one--but when they [the boom operator] did that, he was really jerky you know [laughing]. He would stop [suddenly]--and those guys would holler--and zoom [the boom moves suddenly], and they would holler again--and zoom, he'd stop real [suddenly]--. Everybody was watching them--they were just laughing. They were doing that to every load that they were going in. He was just trying to shake them off. I 00:50:00remember once I went ashore and this-- They had a working party going on. We were unloading--no, we were loading up ammo. They were taking all the ammo off the island, and we were going take it out to sea and dump it, you know. So they-- We had this big-- And it was on my birthday, and I can remember, because I was standing on top of a pile of shells; they were great big ones--they were about that big around. They were all piled up in row, row, row. So, I went up on top and I was looking around, and the whole thing starts sliding down. I caught my thumb in between one of those and it--oh jeez, it swelled way up. It was on my birthday--that's how I remembered. My thumb got caught in between the shells. They had these Japanese prisoners loading these shells into these little crates. These crates were that shape--it [they] held 3 shells, and these Japanese were 00:51:00supposed to take those shells, and put them in those crates. And then, they'd put them in a car, and send it below, and then-- Well, I went ashore; I was watching--watching them carry those shells--and this one prisoner had a real nice belt buckle. I mean, it was really nice. And I looked at that thing; I says, "Jeez, maybe I can trade him some cigarettes for that." So I took two packs of cigarettes, and I says, "Cigarettes?" and I pointed at it. "No, no, no." And I took another pack: "Three packs, three packs for that?" "No, no, no." And, a Marine came over to me, and he says, "What are you doing?" I said, "Well, I like his belt there; I was going to give him three packs of cigarettes for it." And the Marine walked up to that Japanese prisoner with his gun--Bam!--hit [him] right on the side of the head, knocked him out, pulled the belt out, handed it to me, and took the three packs of cigarettes, and left. I was 00:52:00standing there with that belt, and I said, "Jeez, I didn't want it that bad." And then, another time, this--these-- After these three shells were in those containers, it took two people to lift them up to put them on the cargo nets. So, this one Marine went up to this--some Japanese were standing there--he pointed at one of them, and pointed at the cargo net. "Two of them," he says--"Two grab that!" So, the Japanese thought he was supposed to take two of them, you know--and he was just staggering. He [the marine] meant two guys, but they thought-- We watched that for a while; you had to have entertainment [laughs].

DERKS: Yeah--the Marines didn't care much for the Japanese.

WHITEHORSE: No--they didn't like those Japanese. They used to say that those Marines would take a working party out into the jungle, and they would shoot 00:53:00them--shoot the Japanese, you know; and, this is what I heard when I was in the Philippine Islands--that they would take a working party of six guys to go work, and they would come back, and the guy would say, "Where's the working party?" "Oh they tried to get away," you know; "They tried to escape," you know--and mowed them down. But boy, they hated-- Marines--they hated those Japanese; I mean they HATED them. You just couldn't explain to them that the war was over--that these were prisoners, you know. They just wouldn't take it. Well, after Guadalcanal, you know, they really hated them. But, it always seemed to me that the propaganda the United States put out made out like the Japanese weren't capable of really being good soldiers--and they were excellent soldiers; I mean excellent. The propaganda was so against [them that] even the average 00:54:00[American]--like a sailor or something--would believe, "Hey we could take on six Japanese soldiers," you know. No way; those Japanese were really good--and they would always say how bad they were--and they weren't that bad. But I remember the first day that I got back to Norfolk, Virginia; I was going to get mustered out. And I had a whole handful of paper. There was a whole bunch more of us, [and] we were walking up to this one administration building--and we're sitting on the steps, waiting for us to be called in--with a whole handful of paper. It was right at the airport at Norfolk. And this one airplane came in, and it was going to land; instead of pulling out, it run right into the ground--just blew up, you know. Everybody started running over there, except us. We just sat there 00:55:00with our papers. We weren't going to lose our spot [laughs].

DERKS: You were ready to get out.

WHITEHORSE: Yeah, I was ready to get out, and I wasn't going to go and watch a bunch of pieces laying on the runway. That was pretty nice, though; we got out, and we got that G.I. Bill, you know. That really worked out great.

DERKS: Did you go to school?

WHITEHORSE: Oh, yeah. I went to two schools at the time. I went to MATC [Madison Area Technical College] to learn welding--you know, welding--all metals, aluminum, and everything; it really came in handy. And, I went to Colt School of Art [a private art institute in Madison, created by Arthur Colt for those interested in learning to paint in oils and acrylics]. I was getting [my tuition] paid for both of them, you know, so it must have been a loophole, or something, because I got paid for going to that school [MATC]--and, I got paid for going to the art school. I went to the University [of Wisconsin] at first, but they weren't teaching what I wanted to know; they were teaching abstract art. In abstract art, you can never tell if you're getting any better. How do 00:56:00you know you're getting any better?

DERKS: Now, were you influenced by what you had seen in the Pacific, and in Europe? Did that influence your art?

WHITEHORSE: Oh yeah, that's what more or less aimed me that way--towards art, you know--because I used to always think when I would see all that, "I can do that, I can do that," you know. I had enough confidence to know I could do it, you know. But, like I say, the University was a real let-down. You know--you figure, "Well, that's the highest school you can go to, you know. No way; I had to go to a fine arts school to learn anatomy, and oil painting, and regular art. That way, you could tell if you're getting better. Then, my welding classes made me so I could make a living, you know--because you don't jump right out of the 00:57:00Navy, and go to art school, and get out of that and make a living doing art work. I took up auto body work, you know; it was easy for me.

DERKS: Was that when you were in Madison?


DERKS: Where did you live?

WHITEHORSE: I was out on the four-lane highway [at] Chief Auto Body. I worked with my brother; he started it, you know, and I worked with him. [It] didn't take long to adapt myself to body shop. Then the first few statues I made were out of metal, you know, because I could--I knew anatomy, and I could weld the pieces together as I went up. [The] first piece I made, I made for an auto show--not an auto show, an art show in Chicago--[a] great big seven-foot statue. My brother says, "What are you going to do with that?" I said, "Well, I'm going 00:58:00to sell it." And he says, "Oh, you can't sell that," you know; it [the statue] was a big man. So, they had an art show here in town, you know--[a] University art show. I said, "Well, maybe I'll enter this first--and then I'll take it to Chicago." I got the statue, and they had it in a big auditorium; a guy came up to me, and he said, "I want to buy your statue; how much [do you] you want for it?" And I [had] never thought about a price, you know, and I said [to myself], "Let's see, $5,000? $10,000?" I said, "Well, what will this guy go for?" you know. And I said, "I'll take $8,000." So, he said, "OK. I'll write you out a check." I said, "No check; cash." And he said, "Oh, okay; well, don't sell it--I'll be right back with the cash." So, he left and came back, and put out that money--and, those twenties started piling up. I said, "Wow, I should have got into this a long time ago." It was Dr. Davis [of the] Davis-Duehr eye 00:59:00clinic? He bought it, you know--[the] first piece I ever made.

[End of Interview]