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BANDA: Today is Thursday, October 27, 2016. This is an interview with George F. Banda interviewing Anthony J. Chavez, who served with the United States Army, 24th Division Hawaiian, and also three months in the Red Arrow Division. Military occupation was infantry, artillery, heavy weapons, and Signal Corps. The interview is being conducted at his residence at 6190 South Creekside, Unit number 5 in Cudahy (Wisconsin). Again, my name is George F. Banda, and recording for the Wisconsin Veteran's Museum Oral History Program. So Tony, let's begin with your story. Where were you born?


CHAVEZ: In Milwaukee.

BANDA: In Milwaukee?


BANDA: And uh, did you grow up then on the south side of Milwaukee, or on the North side of Milwaukee?

CHAVEZ: When we first lived- I lived in Bay View, on Morrel Street. And uh, we had -- in the family there was five boys and three girls. Two of the girls have passed away, and my youngest sister, she's still livin', and she's going to be eighty this Friday, so they're having a little get-together for us at her daughter's place, and we're all planning on attending-

BANDA: Good, good.

CHAVEZ: --and wish her well.

BANDA: Absolutely. Now what schools did you go to, when you were a young man?


CHAVEZ: We were living on Austin Street, in Bay View, and we used to go to St. Augustine's. And was there until I was about sixth grade. Then lo and behold, they must've sold the house. And we moved down to the Third Ward, and from the Third Ward I went to Jackson Street School, but then I transferred to Saint John's Cathedral. And I graduated grade school from Saint John's Cathedral. And from there, ah--

BANDA: High school?

CHAVEZ: Yeah, I went to high school. I tried Boy's Tech, I didn't like Boy's Tech that much. And uh, I went to Lincoln High School, and at that time we lived 00:03:00on Jackson Street, 1602 North Jackson Street. And I stayed there 'til my senior year, and then I got drafted, and went into Army, and they sent me to Fort Sheridan [Illinois]. And from Fort Sheridan they assigned me to Camp Robinson, Arkansas. I took all my basic training at Camp Robinson, and while I was there they had a program, where any of us-- well, a volunteer program, that, if you wanted to go through this particular program, and you passed it, you were awarded fifty dollars extra a month, and they called it the Expert Infantryman's Badge, which I did. And most of this money was going to my mother and my dad. 00:04:00And then from there I came home for leave. And from here I went to, if I can recall, I went to California.

BANDA: And what year was this, Tony? What year was that you went into the service, that you got drafted and went into the service?

CHAVEZ: Yeah--

BANDA: Do you remember what year that was? 19--?

CHAVEZ: 1945. Yeah. But then I went down to a Army camp, in California. And I stayed there for a while, then they shipped me up to Fort Lawton, Washington, for some more training and at that time we were guarding German prisoners.


BANDA: Oh really?

CHAVEZ: Yeah. The German prisoners were doing all the work around the base. You know what I mean. And then from there, they finally got me into a group, and I went overseas, and there's a lot of things that happened while I was in the boats.

BANDA: What happened?


BANDA: So you went over on a ship then.

CHAVEZ: On a ship, yes.

BANDA: And that what? 1945?

CHAVEZ: Yeah. And some accidents happened. A soldier- you know, if you're familiar with the boat itself, it's a liberty ship, and when you go in, there's a door, you gotta step over and land on some kind of a platform or something. 00:06:00And it so happened, this incident, I remember very vividly, because a soldier fell and he fell down two or three steps-- floors. And he got hurt badly. So, they radioed for help to move him out of there, to the stateside for treatment.

BANDA: Yeah.

CHAVEZ: And they the seaplane out there-- I could see all this was going on. And it was so, it was so windy and treacherous, the water, that they couldn't do the transfer from the ship to the plane. So, then another ship came along, and they strung a buoy from our liberty ship to theirs, and they transferred that way.



CHAVEZ: So, that was sort of traumatic experience.

BANDA: Yeah, absolutely.


BANDA: Oh, man.

CHAVEZ: And then we finally got over in the Japan area, and I found out we were going to Japan, and they were getting ready to make the invasion of Japan. And it never happened, because of the atomic bomb and all that.

BANDA: How did you guys find out about the the atomic bomb, or were, did they let you know, or did they just say, "Oh, we're not going to go--"

CHAVEZ: Yeah, they had a paper, a ship paper, they kept us informed about what was going on. So, we didn't know what was going to happen, ya know, you're not 00:08:00privy to all that stuff. So, well we got there, our ship could not go into Japan and dock, because of the bombing. And we landed in Nagasaki, and then had to go with our fuel pack and everything down the rope ladder, onto the LCIs, and then they took us to shore with the LCIs, and once we got there, they got the trucks for us, and we went from there to a place called Fukiyaka [Fukuoka], Japan. That's on the southern island of Japan. And that's where I got assigned to the 32nd division, and we stayed there for about three months with them.


BANDA: What'd you guys do there?

CHAVEZ: We were in the process of sending Japanese, certain Japanese people that were involved in the war. I'm talking about the high officers and stuff like this, and we were shipping them to Tokyo for the hearings and stuff like that there. So, we did some of that with some the Marines, and then the 32nd after three month or so, they brought back the flag, and the 24th division took over. And that's when I went in the 24th division. With the artillery. So, I was involved in--

BANDA: So how long did you spend in Nagasaki?

CHAVEZ: We didn't, no. There was nothing really there, it was just, demolished. 00:10:00And, uh, we went from there to Fukiyoka [Fukuoka], Japan, where they had a temporary headquarters, and we stayed there. And from there I went into the 32nd Division, the Marines, shipping the prisoners to Tokyo. You know, I mean helping them. And then when that was all over with, the 32nd pulled out of there and we stayed there, and then I went into what they call rehabilitation. And I don't know if you are familiar with that.


CHAVEZ: Rehabilitation was where I was assigned with about three or four other soldiers, and some Japanese police, and we went, whenever ships came in from all 00:11:00over the places, they brought in Japanese prisoners, and we processed them in this camp, and all that. And took away their insignias and guns and whatever they had. And at that place, they also had a contingent of Koreans. Koreans. They were going to be shipped back to Korea, and the Japanese were coming in and being shipped to wherever they were supposed to go. So, I did that for quite a while. So once that ceased then, I was back in my camp, and we just did guard duty and this and that.

BANDA: Okay yeah, so that must've been a lot of Japanese coming in through there from -- that was being processed.


CHAVEZ: Yeah, from all these different islands and stuff like that. In fact, there were still still shots being fired in the mountains, because the Japanese had gone up there to hide, they didn't even know that the war was over. So it was dangerous that way. But, anyways--

BANDA: Yeah.

CHAVEZ: I never got hurt.

BANDA: Well that's good.

CHAVEZ: And uh--

BANDA: So, did they have you then, guarding the prisoners? Or were you actually processing them?

CHAVEZ: No, we didn't do that.

BANDA: Okay.

CHAVEZ: We just shipped them to wherever they were going.

BANDA: Okay, so they came in.

CHAVEZ: They gave them food, and they gave them money, and took away all their insignias and anything else.

BANDA: Right.

CHAVEZ: And uh, it was interesting.

BANDA: Yeah.


BANDA: Well, how long were you there?

CHAVEZ: For two years.




BANDA: That's a long time.


BANDA: Were you there with the 32nd all this time?


BANDA: First I know you were work--

CHAVEZ: When the 32nd, when they brought the colors back, the 24th Division came in and they took over. And then we did a lot of this other stuff that I was telling you.

BANDA: Okay.

CHAVEZ: Until I was discharged. But as a consequence, there was a lot of people that were being sent back home. And there were openings available for different spots. And they put me in as, I was a T-4, and I was message center chief, until I came home.

BANDA: You said a T-4, what uh, what exactly, exactly is

CHAVEZ: Technician Four, Corporal.



BANDA: Okay.



CHAVEZ: So, I was happy to get back home.


BANDA: Yeah, right, right. Now when you were there, did you get a leave, or time off or, and if you did where did you go?

CHAVEZ: I did get some time off, and I found out that I had a friend that was in northern Japan, or central Japan, near Yokohama or what. So uh, we made a visit up there, and I hadn't seen him for a long time. He was a friend of ours from the Third Ward, so we spent some time with him and all.

BANDA: So that's kinda nice to see someone.

CHAVEZ: Yeah, that was nice.

CHAVEZ: So, then I came home.

BANDA: So, when you were there, how did you get around? Did you have a vehicle, did you move by train? Or bus? To go from where you were up to north.

CHAVEZ: We went by train.

BANDA: Okay.

CHAVEZ: Up there, and we traveled by Jeeps.


BANDA: Right.

CHAVEZ: And that kind of stuff

BANDA: Right, right. Now were you given a weapon when you were there or?

CHAVEZ: Yeah. Always. Yeah, yeah.

BANDA: What kind of weapons did they have, were they--

CHAVEZ: We had the pistols.

BANDA: Okay.

CHAVEZ: Ya know.

BANDA: It was a, a .45mm.

CHAVEZ: .45, .45 yeah, and all that. And you had to be careful, you didn't want to walk around at night, by yourself.

BANDA: Oh yeah, right.

CHAVEZ: Because there were a lot of incidents, where they were beat up.

BANDA: Right, the Japanese, were, they were still there.

CHAVEZ: Yeah, they were still angry.

BANDA: Yeah, they were very angry I imagine.

CHAVEZ: So you always traveled in pairs or stuff like this.

CHAVEZ: I also had a friend that was with the military police--

BANDA: Mmhm.

CHAVEZ: And he was a friend of mine, he was from Eau Claire, WI, and he asked me 00:16:00to go with them, because they were going to pick up stragglers and stuff like that there. So, we go along the highway and pick them up and take them back to the camp. So, there was a lot of things going on like that.

BANDA: Right, yeah I never, yeah, cause what they did, they try to escape or you know, get out of there, and I'm sure you had to keep an eye on all that.


BANDA: That was going on, that -- so you were there, so you finally get orders that say you're getting discharged, and you're getting out --

CHAVEZ: Yeah, yeah.

BANDA: And uh--

CHAVEZ: I said okay, and then they wanted me to join.

BANDA: [chuckles]

CHAVEZ: Join, re-up, and they wanted me to go into the airborne.


CHAVEZ: And their airborne was in northern Japan. And I figured, I'd had enough. 00:17:00I'm ready to go home. I'm single, you know what I mean, and I wanted to see the family and all that. So, I finally got discharged, and came home, and then went around looking for work.

BANDA: Right. How'd you get back? On a ship, too, again?


BANDA: They used a ship? How long does it take to go from -- you're out, way out there in Japan?

CHAVEZ: It takes a long time.

BANDA: Yeah.


BANDA: So, then you have to come in- where'd you - California?


BANDA: Went from Japan to California?

CHAVEZ: We went to California for discharge. And then we got our papers and we came home, you know. It was interesting experience.

BANDA: Oh I bet it is, you know, because you're processing all these people, you 00:18:00know, and--


BANDA: Did you make any real good friends when you were there, with some of the some of the guys?

CHAVEZ: Uh, yes, we had people that were working in the camp, that would come in and they would leave at night, they uh, do the work around the camp and stuff like that. And uh, but I, no, I made some good friends.

BANDA: Good.

CHAVEZ: And being American, you know, when they bombed Pearl Harbor and all that, you gotta, you kinda were mad about that.

BANDA: Yeah.

CHAVEZ: And you wanted to do something, but I can't see going over there, you get all this training to kill.

BANDA: Right.

CHAVEZ: And then you go over there, you don't want to kill anybody if you don't 00:19:00have to.

BANDA: Right.

CHAVEZ: But, it's something you had to do.

BANDA: Yeah, yeah you're right. Yeah you're right.


BANDA: So, it sounds like you had a lot of training here, in the United States, before you went over.


BANDA: And they moved you here and there.


BANDA: Uh, how was that training? Pretty good?


BANDA: And the uh, at different military bases that you were assigned to.


BANDA: And so at least you had a chance to meet some people here, make some-- so did you make some friends while you were here? I imagine you did.


BANDA: Do you ever see them? After you got out of the service?

CHAVEZ: The only one that I managed to see-- my wife, she had family that was up in Eau Claire, and this John Johnson, his father had a gas station there, and he used to work for him. I made it a point to go up there to see him, and he was 00:20:00happy to see me.

BANDA: Oh, I bet.


BANDA: I bet.


BANDA: It's kinda nice to run into somebody after the service, and uh--

CHAVEZ: So, things started okay, you know, thank god.

BANDA: So, when you get back, when you got back home did everybody know you were coming or was it a surprise for everybody when you showed up?

CHAVEZ: Uh, no, they knew I was coming home.

BANDA: Oh, you let them know, "Hey--".

CHAVEZ: They were waiting for me to come home. And I got home, everybody met me, and everything else, happy.

BANDA: Okay. Now did you have to take a train from California to Milwaukee?

CHAVEZ: Yeah, yes.

BANDA: So that's a long trip too, I think.


BANDA: Yeah. Was there a lot of servicemen on that train when you were coming back?

CHAVEZ: Yeah, they were from all over.

BANDA: Yeah, they were all going home too.

CHAVEZ: A lot of them, a lot of them went to Fort Sheridan and from Fort Sheridan, you got to go home from there.


BANDA: Right. So, you got discharged as soon as you got back you were done--


BANDA: So, you got home.

CHAVEZ: I went through a lot, but my brother Carlos, he really had it.

BANDA: Oh yeah, yeah he did.

CHAVEZ: I'm surprised he came home.

BANDA: Yeah.

CHAVEZ: I was happy.

BANDA: Oh, you betcha. You betcha. When your brother comes home. Especially from a situation like that, where he was, and he saw a lot of combat. So, now you get home, now what happens? You know, you get home, you--

CHAVEZ: Some, now some friends are here, still got together once in a while. I wasn't totally discharged.

BANDA: Okay.

CHAVEZ: Started looking for work, and that first place I went to work was at 00:22:00some upholstery company, making these chrome chairs, and making the seats for them and all that kinda. I stayed with them for a while, and then I didn't want to stay there forever. And one of my friends says, "Tony says, they're hiring at the Internal Revenue Service." I said, "Yeah?" He said, "Why don't you go down there, you'll probably get a job." So, I did got down there, and I got hired, and I was put in the accounting branch.

BANDA: Really?

CHAVEZ: Yeah, and from there I started to work my way up, different stairs, so--

BANDA: Did you stay there then?

CHAVEZ: Yeah, in fact, I retired from the Internal Revenue Service.


BANDA: Really?


BANDA: How many years did you have there? Remember? Quite a few I saw.

CHAVEZ: Yeah, I went in there--must've gone in-- I'm trying to recollect. In '48 I must've gone in there, I was still single.

BANDA: But you retired from there, so that's pretty good.


BANDA: Good for you.


BANDA: Good for you. Now--

CHAVEZ: In fact, in fact I was the only Spanish-speaking employee.

BANDA: Really.

CHAVEZ: In that unit.

BANDA: Right, yeah. Absolutely, absolutely, back then.

CHAVEZ: And I was happy to get in there, and several times I was called to translate written material or translate for them when they're interviewing somebody.


BANDA: Sure.

CHAVEZ: You know, our different office-- we had uh, the criminal investigation, and an audits division, and all this kinda stuff.

BANDA: Okay.


BANDA: Now the IRS building, was it downtown, was it still downtown?

CHAVEZ: Yeah, yeah.

BANDA: So wow, good for you, good for you... Now that is a federal job? Right? Federal?

CHAVEZ: Yes, federal job.

BANDA: That's pretty good for you. Pretty good. So, how did you meet your wife? How did that come about? When you got out of the service, and started working?

CHAVEZ: Well, I knew my wife school, from high school. But I really got to meet her, and go with her, after I got being discharged. And it was a coincidence that we were at a coffee shop that we all went to, and some friends and their 00:25:00girlfriends were there and my wife was there, and I was there, and uh, in a conversation, they were going to go on a hayride.


CHAVEZ: And my wife and I were alone, you know, and they says, asked my wife, "Would you like to go on the hayride?" She's, "Yeah, I would" and she says, "Why don't you ask Tony?" And from that time on, we were together.


CHAVEZ: Yeah, I was married 63 years.

BANDA: That's a long time Tony, that's a long time. Good for you.


BANDA: Good for you. Yeah. You hung in there. That's good. That's good. Here, you know, just on a coincidence, you run into a young lady, and one thing leads 00:26:00to another, and spend most of your life together.


BANDA: Pretty good.

CHAVEZ: I have three lovely--


CHAVEZ: My other son, Darrell. He lives in Madison, with his wife, no children. But he's real handy with the computers and all this kind of stuff.

BANDA: Oh, that's good.

CHAVEZ: And he does stuff up there. And, he never came back to live in Milwaukee. Ya know, he likes Madison.

BANDA: Yeah, Madison's pretty nice.

CHAVEZ: And, in fact, I go to football games or stuff like that, I go up with David. Go by him, go to see the football games. And uh--

BANDA: That's pretty good. Yeah. Sounds like everybody's doing real well, and successful.


BANDA: And uh, so--

CHAVEZ: While I while I was in service, a flier come from Washington, asking for 00:27:00people that might want to volunteer, and go to a foreign country, who can speak Spanish, and are handy in their profession. Well I was a revenue officer at that time, you know, top grade, and I put my name in, so a guy from Washington came to visit me.

BANDA: What year was this? Do you remember? Was this after the service?


BANDA: Okay.


CHAVEZ: This is after I was back, working here, in the district.

BANDA: In the Internal Reven--


BANDA: So, what happened then?

CHAVEZ: Well, he interviewed me, and he was interested so I'm for, so he says I don't know if they'll accept you or not, so we got an offer -- an opening in 00:28:00Colombia. Bogata, Colombia. And you know all about that stuff that's going on in Colombia, and all that stuff. And I says, "Yeah, I'll be interested." He says I'll let you know what happens. They have to accept you and the country would have to accept your family. And at that time, Diane was like two years old and David was in his senior year of high school here, and Darrell was in the sophomore year, I think it is. But anyways, I told the family at dinner that I had been accepted and that I'd be going to Colombia. And they says, "That's okay." And David says, "I don't care where I graduate from. That's a good idea." So David finishes his collegiate school, in a school in [??] Granada, in 00:29:00Colombia, and then came back here, and went for a year at UWM, and then from there he transferred to Madison, and that's his second home.

BANDA: [laughs]

CHAVEZ: Madtown. Yeah [laughs], yeah. So he's up there, and we get up there to see my brother and my son, my other son.

BANDA: Right. So what's your son's name? Again?

CHAVEZ: Darrell.

BANDA: Darrell, and--

CHAVEZ: And David. Yeah, David's the oldest. And Diane, she's the surprise.

BANDA: Oh, really.

CHAVEZ: That's the best one I ever had.

BANDA: [laughs] Cool. Cool.

CHAVEZ: She's got Power of Attorney for me.

BANDA: Oh, that's nice.

CHAVEZ: Because I can rely on her. You know what I mean?

BANDA: You bet, you bet.

CHAVEZ: Even though she's still working. I don't know how many years she's got 00:30:00to go, yet. But, uh...I didn't want to put that workload on her, but I didn't have much of a choice.

BANDA: Now, you know when you think back, Tony, about your military career, what sticks out in your mind about that, about that time? Do you have anything, that when you look back, and you--

CHAVEZ: Well, I was only eighteen years old. Eighteen, nineteen. And when you're that age and not married, it's that you could conquer the world, ya know?

BANDA: Oh yeah, oh yeah.

CHAVEZ: And for me it was like a new experience, which, I thought, in a positive way, see?


CHAVEZ: So, I figured, I could take advantage of that.

BANDA: Yeah.

CHAVEZ: Now, it's two years in Bogota, Colombia with my family, and they got a good training there, and so far everything's been going fine.



CHAVEZ: Except for, you know, health-wise.

BANDA: And how old are you now?


BANDA: 89.

CHAVEZ: I'll be 90 in February.

BANDA: Yeah.


BANDA: Well, you're looking good. You're looking good.

CHAVEZ: That's what everybody tells me [laughs], you know? But why am I visiting all these doctors and the nurses and all that kinda stuff? But, I guess it's part of life.

BANDA: Right.


BANDA: Now, did you, you know, bring back any souvenirs from Japan, or in your travels?


BANDA: Especially in the military.


BANDA: You know, that's--

CHAVEZ: I brought back quite a few. And then, uh--

BANDA: What kind of items did you bring back, from your military-- and uh--


CHAVEZ: Flags, uh, samurai swords.


CHAVEZ: A pistol, a holster, and all this kind of stuff. And I brought 'em all back as souvenirs, you know, and then later on, I wanted to give them to my sons, you know, so that they could keep. But they weren't interested in that, you know. Now they look back and they said "Yeah."

BANDA: Yeah.

CHAVEZ: So, and then I noticed, the Japanese had advertising in the newspaper 00:33:00here, that anybody that had brought back relics as souvenirs, they would like to see them, and buy them back, and take them back to Japan. So, out of the bunch, of-- I've had them for several years, and nobody seems to be interested in it, and I have memories of stuff like this, and I says, "What good are they?" So, I might as well have them look at it, look at it, and buy them, and I got them, and I made over three thousand dollars.

BANDA: So, they did come-- they came to your house?

CHAVEZ: Well they had, they had an opening, at one of the, uh...what do you call...


BANDA: Was it a hall or a--

CHAVEZ: It was a hotel, you know.

BANDA: Sure, right.

CHAVEZ: And they rented the place, and the people that were interested, would bring the stuff over there, and they would look at it, and then tell us what they would give us for that. So, I says, "Okay," and wound up, I got rid of most of the stuff, probably all the stuff.

BANDA: Right. The samurai and the flags.

CHAVEZ: Yeah, yeah.

BANDA: And the pistol? Did you, did you give away the pistol too, or I mean, sell it?


BANDA: I mean they took it back and gave you money.

CHAVEZ: Yeah. Yeah, the pistol that they used, the holster.

BANDA: Wow, I never heard that. I never knew that. That's--


BANDA: Interesting.

CHAVEZ: And I was able to ship those back from where I was, without any interference. I shipped them to my mother.


BANDA: Yeah.

CHAVEZ: Two cases.

BANDA: [laughs]


BANDA: That's a lot of stuff. Good for you.


BANDA: Good for you. Yeah, that's pretty interesting, yeah, I didn't know Japan did that but that's... I would imagine, yeah, they'd want their items back, you know, their flags, their pistols, swords, whatever.

CHAVEZ: To this day, I see that type of advertising in the paper.

BANDA: Yeah, yeah.

CHAVEZ: There's probably a lot of people that uh--

BANDA: Now, yes.

CHAVEZ: That want to get rid of the stuff.

BANDA: Online, people are selling them all the time.


BANDA: So, well Tony, thank you very much for your, for the interview, it's quite interesting. And there's some stuff I didn't know about--

CHAVEZ: Well, I'm glad you--

BANDA: About your service.

CHAVEZ: Glad you were able.

BANDA: And I'm glad I came.

CHAVEZ: I'm glad you were able.

BANDA: Well, we'll talk again, you know, you know, when we see each other in November.