California Council for the Humanities
California Stories Initiative
Years of Valor, Years of Hope
Tulare County and the Years 1941-1946
Tulare County Library
The Friends of the Tulare County Library
And the Tulare County Historical Society
Interviews in 2003-2004
Tape No: 52
Place of Interview: Visalia, CA at Clarence Ritchie’s Farm.
OUTSTANDING POINTS IN THE INTERVIEW:
NAVY COXSWAIN OPERATOR IN THE PACIFIC
INVASION OF OKINAWA
RATIONING IN TULARE COUNTY
COLLEGE ON GI BILL
CD: I just want to start with some background like where you were born and what your parents did.
CR: Well, I was born in Oklahoma, my parents, Floyd and Virgie (Yuantz) Ritchie, came out here when I was about six years old, and came into this area, and dad started farming northwest of Visalia.
CD: Where did you go to school?
CR: I went to grammar school there and then went to Redwood. Back then it was Visalia Union High School, there was no such thing as Redwood. I went to Visalia Union High School, graduated from there.
CD: And where were you when the war started.
CR: We was just northwest of Visalia.
CD: I mean like when Pearl Harbor was bombed.
CR: Oh my gosh, I forgot, I don’t recall. I’m trying to think. We all talk about that sometimes, you know where we were at that particular moment, but I have forgotten where we were.
CD: And what was so once you were aware when the war started, not Pearl Harbor, but the war had started and what was life like in Tulare County when the war started?
CR: Well, everybody, you never saw people pull together like they did then, I’ll say that, you know, it was amazing, you know, that everybody pulled together, women and kids and the whole smear.
CD: What do you mean by pulling together?
CR: Well, you know the women folks, the men went to war, and they just harnessed up and went to work and ran the thing, so to speak, and did what ever they had to do.
CD: Is that what happened in your family?
CR: Yes, uh hum, you know they sure did. You know, you look at all
your ladies that went to work, like Rosie the Riveter and that sort of thing. They just did what they had to do and keep the thing going.
CD: And the women here, what did you see the women doing here?
CR: Everything and there was not a lot of field work in the farming industry, you know, that women did, harvesting some crops, that men used to do, they were gone.
CD: And when did the men start leaving, was it mostly after Pearl Harbor? Some were signing up before Pearl Harbor, right?
CR: Yeah, but the bulk of ‘em was after Pearl Harbor, you know, but there was some signing up before. Yes.
CD: Yeah. And when did you sign up? Did you get drafted?
CR: No, I enlisted. I was still in school and I enlisted.
CD: What year were you?
CR: I was graduated in 44’ and I enlisted before school was out. Several of us went to Fresno, I think Bruce Jensen was one of them and Lawrence Smith; four or five of us went up there and Tom Rivers. I enlisted then in the Navy and they let me stay until I graduated and the minute I graduated, I think I had about four or five days, then I went into the service.
CD: And were you married, did you have a girlfriend?
CD: So four or five days after that. Did they let people go on to college and defer?
CR: You know, I’m sure they would have, some of them, but basically, most everybody wanted to go, you know, they went, and then worried about that later, or else they got into it when they went into that end of the service end of it. I went to Coronado for amphibian training.
CD: Hum, what’s amphibian training?
CR: Well, amphibian, maybe, is where you take the little amphibian boats and take the guys ashore and you dump em.
CD: So what was your role in it?
CR: I was a coxswain in the Navy and I ran the boat.
CD: Hum, a coxswain? Hum.
CR: Um hum, and I ran the boat, but we trained there at Coronado and we were there and after I got out of boot camp, we went to Coronado and then trained for a little while and went to Astoria, Oregon and then picked up a ship and went to San Francisco and then picked up troops and went to the South Pacific. I spent the rest of the time there until the war was over.
CD: Before we talk about your military experience, what changes did . . . ?
CR: Well, so Pearl Harbor has been bombed and the war started.
CD: What changes did you see? You were in high school; did you notice what was going on?
CR: No, not really, we were just big dumb kids, waking up every morning to a new world, you know, so just going.
CD: So you didn’t notice many changes.
CR: No, not really, you knew, you could see that everybody was bucking down to gas rationing and all that sort of thing. They were trying to conserve everything they could.
CD: You didn’t notice things like eating differently or not.
CR: No, no, I don’t think so.
CD: What did you notice about the gas; you couldn’t go as far or as long.?
CR: Yeah, you used to get the little gas tags and tickets. Yes, it was, we curtailed a lot of things. But everybody pulled together. It was great. I didn’t think I would ever see that again until this happened.
CR: This little war that we got going now. These people here come together too.
CD: And you feel like it’s the same feeling now?
CR: Yes, very much so and I’m sure you’ve noticed how these people have come together. It was just like that before and I didn’t think I would ever see it again, because they really came together in World War II, but they sure did again.
CD: So, where were you in the South Pacific?
CR: All over out there. We trained and trained and it was only the invasion in Okinawa.
CD: You were part of the invasion in Okinawa. And could you explain what a coxswain is and what a coxswain does?
CR: Well, he run the amphibian navy; you have these little amphibian boats and "P" boats, we called them.
CD: What does "P" stand for?
CR: Well I’ve forgot, that was just the Navy deal for ‘em. But they take the troops ashore in ‘em, see, and we would take like 28 to 30 guys in this boat and it had a ramp in the front and we were trained to hit the beach and there was only three of us on board that stayed with the boat. You’d hit the beach and you’d yell ramp down. At the same time, you’d throw it in reverse and you would just dump those guys and we’d go back.
CD: And you were one that was free to go back.
CR: We didn’t stick around. We were told "Don’t stick around, if one of ‘em falls in the water, leave ‘em alone, they’ll get ‘em and just get back and get out of there."
CD: And then you went back to the . . .
CR: To get more and get back with them. We had a special beach to go to by flags and whatever, depending on what we were taking, but we were hauling troops, so long as different things were waiting, we took stuff ashore for them. If they had some of their gear, we’d take that ashore and put it in a special place and dump it and get back out of there.
CD: And so, did your boat ever get hit?
CR: No, mine didn’t, thank goodness, no, we didn’t. We were never in the midst of it when we were in there and we felt pretty cocky. At one point, the suicide planes were coming in. They didn’t want us. They were after a battle ship over there and they were busy and didn’t see ‘em and we happened to see ‘em and luckily, our ship shot it down.
CD: Your little ship, or . . .
CR: Well, no a ship, big ship. They had a five inch gun on there, so they shot it down and then they ah . . .
CD: And where were you when that happened, on your little ship?
CR: Yeah, I was on the ship when they came, flew over it. There was several of them coming over the hill and after those things, but anyway, our ship shot it down and the battleship blinked "congratulations and thank you.’ We never did see ‘em. We were busy other ways.
CR: Was everybody cheering on your ride?
CR: Oh, yeah, sure that was a big deal for us to do that. But it was an experience. I wouldn’t trade anything for it and I wouldn’t want to go do it again. You know, it’s a learning experience.
CD: Well, how did you feel when you enlisted? How did you feel about the war, compared to when you came home? Did your opinions change about that?
CR: Well, I didn’t get to come home for a while. I enlisted on what they called a "minority cruise" and when you enlist in the Navy, it’s four years.
CD: What’s a "minority cruise?"
CR: Well, the four years is a hitch in the Navy, if you sign up and volunteer. See, it’s four years. But if you weren’t old enough they’d take you till you were 21. They called it a "minority cruise," so I had to stay in till ’47. You see, because I enlisted in the Navy and I was gonna go for a term for four years. But anyway, after the war was over, I came back in to Treasure Island; I was Master-of-Arms there at Treasure Island for quite awhile.
CD: What’s Master-of-Arms?
CR: Master-of-Arms, you’re in charge of a grinder, or what have you, or working details and just kind of keep everything ship shape. Grinder was a strip of blacktop area where sailors would line up in formation and I’d detail them out with chores.
CD: Oh, you stayed there until your term was up? Until the war was over?
CR: Yeah, we come back and I was Master-of-Arms there. I was broke all the time I was there. Cause I’d go out on liberty and spend all my money, heh, heh, there in San Francisco. So I stayed broke.
CD: So the salary, you didn’t have a dependent? So there was no dependent collecting any money?
CR: Twenty one dollars while I was a Seaman.
CR: A month?
CR: Yeah, while I was a Seaman.
CD: I knew you were a pro.
CR: Yeah, we got moved on up into the $30.00 range, I made Coxswain. We didn’t make but $20.00.
CD: So, what was your rank?
CD: Oh, I didn’t know that was a rank.
CR: Yes, it’s a rank. It’s a third class. They’ve changed it today, I think. I’m not sure that they’ve changed it, but they had a first class, second class and third class, and I think they’ve changed it, that’s for the stripes you’d see, when you got two stripes. Like a Coxswain, it was called a Coxswain, but I think they probably changed it to third class today, I’m not sure of that. There may still be a Coxswain, I don’t know.
CD: So, for not losing your boat or your crew, did you guys get any medals or recommendations?
CR: No, we still get together a lot, some of us. There was another guy in town here that was aboard ship with me.
CD: Well, I mean, did the government give you any, like medal of honor, etcetera . . . ?
CR: Well, we had a medal, I had a medal, but I forgot what it was, I may even have lost it. It was a battle, a battle medal.
CD: Oh, from Okinawa?
CR: Oh, yeah, it’s here someplace.
CD: So how long were you actually shuttling the men to Okinawa until the time that the island was taken over?
CR: Well, we would take all the gear we had and we’d get back out of there. There was nothing for us to do.
CD: So, you just stayed on the ship while they were fighting?
CR: Yeah, we stayed on the ship and go back to someplace else. Sometimes we had certain areas, we’d have to go pick up some more supplies and bring ‘em back in. It just depends.
CD: So you didn’t see any of the actual fighting going on there?
CR: Yes, we did see it, but we didn’t stay there and look at it, we turned around and got out of there. We did see it. We had to unload them troops. Yeah, but we just got out of there then.
CD: Well, what was the attitude here when the war started? When exactly did the draft start; when people had to start? It was after Pearl Harbor, wasn’t it?
CR: Yeah, I think so, but I’m not sure of that but I think so. I’m not sure of that.
CD: And what was the community view on that?
CR: Well, I think everybody was gung-ho, you know, in favor of doing what they had to do. You never hear too many people screaming about it, you know, everybody got in the harness really and pulled together on the thing, they really did and the rationing, you never heard ‘em cry too much about it; they understood.
CD: And your family, how many, or did anybody else in your family go?
CR: My brother….ah, I had a brother, Doyle, that did, he was in the Army. That would be the brother next to me.
CD: And did he come home?
CR: Yes, he came home after, yeah, he came back. I really don’t know where he went over there, to be honest with you.
CD: So how was the homecoming, when you got home?
CR: Oh, just came home. This and that, tried to get home. We decommissioned our ship and then that was it.
CD: Was it the same ship?
CR: No, I decommissioned. They decommissioned our ship after the war was over. We took it to Norfolk, Virginia and put it in the harbor there, in the fleet, and then I came back and picked up another ship, picked up the General Lee Anderson. I was on it then for quite awhile before I went to Treasure Island.
CD: Where did that one go?
CR: Back and forth, overseas and haul the troops and so on. That when those guys were getting out on the point system.
CD: Oh, what’s the point system?
CR: Well, if you were married, you got so many points per trip for getting out of there, or if you had kids in addition to that, that put more points, so they were taking these people and getting them back. And also then, a lot of the wives would go over, be with their husbands and we’d take the women over there and then bring a troop of them back that was getting out. We made four or five runs back and forth across there to different places.
CD: Where did the wives stay?
CR: When they went there? Well, they’d make a home, I don’t know.
CD: Like in
CR: Wherever we took them to, yeah. Wherever their husband was at. See, all of their husbands were stationed someplace and they’d take them to that area and there was a big group of them and this is where they were all gonna go and be there with their families.
CD: Wow, so ah. So you didn’t have any points.
CR: No, I was single. Just a kid. Yeah, I was just a kid. I wasn’t even 21, see.
CD: So, where were you when the war ended?
CR: We were at sea.
CD: Well, for a while there, the war ended in Europe, you were at sea when that happened? How did they announce it?
CR: Oh yeah, they announced it over the air that the war was over.
CD: And what did you guys do?
CD: And then when the war ended, on the Pacific, when the war ended, they announced it?
CR: Yeah, when they announced it, we were at sea both times.
CD: And how did that change things? I mean, obviously, things started changing.
CR: Well, you just thought they were all good. Just things are gonna be "rosy" now, you know.
CD: And was it?
CR: Oh sure, it was to a degree, you know, it’s a lot of cleaning up to do and that sort of thing and adjusting and adapting and, you know.
CD: Now that it’s all done, what you think at the time about dropping the bomb? And how did you hear about it?
CR; Well, we heard about it just through scuttle butt and stuff on the ship and the news that we got. You know, ‘cause we was always aboard ship; I never was on land until Treasure Island. But, we were apprehensive at the time, you know, it was a bad deal, but it was the only way that they saved lots of lives, saved lots of lives.
CD: And now, do you feel the same way.
CR: Yes, yes, most definitely, I think it saved lots of lives. I think you see that more every day. It saved a lot of lives. We would have really been in trouble, I think, if we hadn’t of done that. I just think it saved a lot of lives.
CD: And were you with any different ethnic groups on your ship?
CR: Yes, to a degree.
CD: What did they have? Did they have like separate Japanese/American groups or African/American or . . . ?
CR: No, no. We was all together, we were a team. Sure, ya know.
CD: Let’s see. Oh, how well did you adapt to military life?
CR: I think fine, I look back, I enjoyed it. I didn’t begrudge it. I wasn’t dying to get out, but I wanted to go on with my life and I decided I didn’t think I was going to make a career of it, so I came on home. But it’s different today than it was back then. We weren’t allowed to get in. I was in uniform and so we couldn’t put our civvies on at that particular time, but now they can come home and get in their civvies and so on, but it was fine. I look back and I think it done me a lot of good, I enjoyed it, and I met a lot of nice people, you know.
CD: Um hum, it sounds like you still keep in contact, like the group that you went to sign up with.
CR: Yeah, with them and there’s some other guys, in other states, that I was close to there.
CD: So who did you write home to?
CR: Oh, I’d write home to my folks and my sisters, and ah, but that’s about it.
CD: And did they write back?
CR: Oh, yes. But sometimes the mail would chase us for six months. They’d send you something, by the time you got there to read it, it wasn’t any good. The mail was always behind us, ‘cause we were going too much, you know.
CD: Right. What would they say; what would they say life was like here?
CR: Aw, they tell you all that and what the family’s doing and that sort of thing.
CD: Would they be up beat or talk . . . ?
CR: Yeah, always up beat, always up beat, never down beat, you know and we’d do the same, but I look back and it was good for me.
CD: Where would you guys take your leaves when you were out on the ship in the pacific?
CR: Well, we didn’t have any. There wasn’t any place to go.
CD: Wow, I guess it was all hostile, huh?
CR: Well, we were at some of those places, but
any port we went into, still we could go. We were in
CD: Hum, how was that?
CR: We went there.
CD: You had liberty there?
CR: Yes, we had liberty there. They had a little beer garden and we’d go
ashore and just look around. There would
be nothing to do, but just look around. And the
CD: Did you guys see any USO Shows?
CR: No, I never did. We never did see any of those.
CD: ‘Cause you were on the ship.
CR: Yeah, we were on the ship. I never did see any of those.
CD: So, by the time you got to Treasure Island, you could take liberty in San Francisco?
CR: Yeah, well, I had liberty there. I was in a position there, I could have liberty every night if I wanted it. At will, so, that was bad. They should have kept me in. That’s where I spent all my money.
CD: So, when they said you were done at Treasure Island, then, when did you get home?
CR: Yeah, I left from there to come home.
CD: Um hum, and was there rationing by the time you got home?
CR: Oh yeah, there was still rationing.
CD: So where did you land?
CR: I got on a bus. Oh yeah, I got on a bus and came in here.
CD: And who met you?
CR: Well, gee, I can’t remember if it was my brother, Clyde, or my dad, one or both of ‘em. That’s when the bus depot was at ’99 and ‘198. Right there.
CD: Yeah, right, the Plaza Garage.
CR: Um hum, used to be the Plaza there, used to the Plaza. That’s where the bus depot was right there. Didn’t they have to get a lot of gas rationing tickets to get out there?
CR: Well, it wasn’t that far, just from here to there, ya see, so they had some and they were in a little better shape, farming.
CD: So did the farmers get extra to run all their equipment?
CR: Yes, they managed to try to keep that going, because they were growing and raising food, crops of food, raising crops of food. Yeah, they managed to keep that going pretty well.
CD: Do you remember your dad talking about it?
CR: Oh yeah, and I could remember him going to a rationing board, you know, some of the guys, a lot of people sat on the board and they would tell them, look, "I need this for this." and this is what I need and they could make it all work pretty good, really.
CD: Oh, so there was a rationing board. How would you get on that and who all was on it?
CR: I imagine they ask somebody for some volunteers. Maybe they ask, "Would you be on the rationing board?" I assume, I don’t know. Like today, volunteers, I think it was all volunteer and they would try to get somebody from the Ag sector and somebody from the city sector, you know, that sort of thing, so they could kind of get an even keel at it.
CD: So, what were the rations for, gas and what else?
CR: Oh, there was sugar, coffee and I don’t really know.
CD: Was it everything?
CR: Not everything, but I remember it was sugar and coffee, but I don’t know if there was anything else. I just remember my mom talking about it. I was never really involved in it because I was in the service.
CD: So when you came home, I guess you didn’t come home and buy a house ‘cause you were broke, but how did you rebuild yourself?
CR: Well, I came home and I figured that I’d left dad. I knew that I’d left dad at a bad time, as far as work was concerned.
CD: And then your brother left too?
CR: Yeah, my brother was gone. And so I thought, well I’ll come home and work for dad for a couple of years and I did and then I rented a piece of ground from Alvin Grant, 40 acres, and started farming in 1950.
CD: So, what did your dad, let’s see, you and your brother were gone and you left your dad at a bad time, of course you had to leave. And what did he do?
CR: He was a farmer.
CD: I mean, did your sisters go out and who covered for you and your brother?
CR: We had another brother, a couple of brothers, but they were younger, and one younger, Floyd Jr., could still do some things. And dad did the best he could with it, you know, we all did. They put in a lot of long hours.
CD: And did your sisters go out there and work too?
CR: Oh yeah, them, Juanita (Balwind) and Ruby (White) and mom too. Mom was always good about going out. She’d take the shovel up and go and help. Oh yeah. Well they all did, everybody did and it wasn’t just them, it was everybody.
CD: And did they talk much about the war, I mean, when you came home?
CR: No, no, not really. You know.
CD: When you got home, was the feeling, "let’s just forget it all and go on with our lives?"
CR: Well, when I’d get to come home on leave, you know, you’re only there for a few days, maybe four or five days.
CD: Oh, did you actually get to come all the way home?
CR: A time or two. If I’d get close, I’d get a leave. You might get three or four days or two days, something like that.
CD: And they wouldn’t talk about the war?
CR: Oh no, you know, I was too busy trying to chase friends, some of them I came in with. But they would talk some and they were just happy to have you home. Naw, they didn’t talk too much about it.
CD: So, this project is about World War II in Tulare County. How do you think World War II affected Tulare County, over all?
CR: Well, I don’t know, I hadn’t thought of it that way too much. It changed some people’s lives, I’m sure, but I don’t know that it affected the county too severely.
CD: I mean, you were here before and then you came home. Like when you came home, did you see anything that struck you?
CR: No, not really, you know, of course Visalia was growing slowly, it isn’t like it is today; when I graduated I think there was 10,000 people here. Ed: Visalia now has over 100,000 people in 2006.
CD: No, that’s not very many people. How do you think that World War II affected you?
CR: Well, it made me wake up to a lot of things, you know, life, the reality of life and it makes you appreciate things that we took for granted and also it taught you that you can do a lot of things that you didn’t think you could do and I remember that we took a shower with a gallon of water and we didn’t think it could be done, but the skipper came and showed us it could be done. And now I look at, nobody waits for the shower, you know. It probably will be okay, you know. But anyway, just things like that and you think back about it and it just makes you stop and think and it made a better person out of me, I think, in the long haul. Didn’t hurt me any, I’ll tell you that.
CD: So you didn’t see any big changes from the time you graduated high school and you took off for war and then you came home. When did you come home, three years later?
CR: Yeah, three years later, three, three and a half.
CD: So, you came home in 1947 in June, July. I can’t think of a good year after the war was done?
CR: Yeah, I think it was up into March or April, or something.
CD: And that was common for a lot of people; as soon as most of the war was done, most people came home.
CR: Yeah, sure, basically, a lot of people stayed there and made a career out of it.
CD: Did your family do anything to support the war, like buy war bonds or did they make victory gardens?
CR: Yeah, they done some of that. Um hum. They worked hard on the farm trying to grow food and that sort of thing.
CD: And did your dad ever talk about any of the black market? Was there any black market going on here?
CR: No, he never mentioned that there was. No.
CD: And if you needed something extra, he could go to the ration board.
CR: Well, if he needed it, that didn’t mean he was gonna get it, but yeah, they would do what they could in an emergency, but most of the time, well, I think they did a pretty good job, but as far as I know, you know. I know I’d come home and have my car and he’d manage to get me enough that I could get a few gallons of gas to run around with a little bit. So I think they did a pretty good job with it.
CD: Right and he just got it through his rations, being a farmer?
CR: Yeah, um hum.
CD: Do you think that your feelings about the war were the same as your friends and acquaintances?
CR: I think the bulk of ‘em, yes, you know, you’d get a "rebel" once in awhile.
CD: What would the "rebel" be:
CR: Oh just somebody say, ah this is just a mess, you know, it shouldn’t be, you know, but I think most everybody stepped into the harness. I really do. Here at home and there too.
CD: So do you think that World War II was a just war?
CR: Yes, I think it had to be.
CD: So, as to your war experiences, what’s one experience that really stands out in your mind?
CR: Oh, I don’t know that I’ve really got one.
CD: Is there one trip that was particularly dangerous or a bomb fell next to you?
CR: No, I was just a big old kid, you know, you’re not afraid of nothing. You look back and you’re scared to death today. That’s why they took kids. I didn’t know why they took ‘em, and now I know. You’re just a big old kid. The thing of it is, as you get older somebody’s gonna state, they trained you that they’d say "hit the deck". You don’t say what for, you hit the deck and today, you’d say what for. You’d look around for it. There you don’t look. So I think that’s why they take the young people and I can see that now.
CD: Okay, let me see if I missed anything. So nothing stands out about the changes in Tulare County? When you came home, it was just bigger.
CR: Yeah, it just wasn’t that many years, you know, a few years, it doesn’t change that much.
CD: Did the people change much, did their attitude change much?
CR: No, no. I think the sad thing about it is, well one of the sad things about it is that during the war, there was a lot of Japanese people here that were good people and they lost their ranches. They picked them up and put them into concentration camps, if that’s what they called them and a lot of them got their ranches back, but after several years. It’s sad, but by the same token, it’s a good thing they did.
CR: Cause the people would have killed ‘em. Cause some of these hard boys, they go out, "Them dirty little slant eyed Japs," you know and that sort of thing and they would have killed ‘em. That’s why they knew that and they put them in those places and got ‘em where they could take care of ‘em, per say. No, I think I’m a firm believer of that and they would have, a lot of people, you know, just like, to a degree, what we’ve got going on today with some of these outlaws.
CD: How many Japanese farmers did you know or were around?
CR: I didn’t really know, but I went to school with some Japanese kids and I know up by Seville, we got some who farmed up there and some of those families up there I know lost theirs. They had to go but then they came back to their ranch, you know, but that was after a few years.
CD: How many, like when they got back, did it take a couple of years to get their farm back?
CR: No, I don’t remember when they came back, but I don’t think it took ‘em that long. And there’s possibly a few of them that maybe didn’t get ‘em back. I really don’t know. I assume it probably is, but I don’t know.
CD: What was your family’s attitude toward the Japanese?
CR: They didn’t like them because of that, because of the war. They sneaked in there and they was gonna kill us all, you know, and they brought this on us and they shouldn’t have done that, but that was it and they were never crazy or eccentric about it. But some people were; they’d just get fighting mad, you know.
CR: Yeah, that’s right. It was good that they did it, but it was sad, because I know there was probably some bad ones in the barrel. Had to be, but there was sure some good ones too and that’s what makes it so bad but you had to take ‘em all, ‘cause you didn’t know which was the good or the bad. And that’s what made it sad.
CD: And how do you feel about the Japanese now, seeing that you fought in the Pacific?
CR: I got no problem with ‘em, they’ve gotten over that and we’ve gotten over that; it’s like fighting kids in school, you know, you’re not mad at ‘em anymore.
There’s things we’ve got going on over there now that seems like never ending, you know, it’s kinda bad and then, the thing about it is there, you don’t know which one is gonna get ya. It isn’t like it wasn’t news of war, it’s a whole different war. Those kids over there today, they’re so much smarter than we were. The military that we’ve got in there now, they’re not just big over-grown kids, you know, they’re young men and they’re smart.
CD: And you think they’re trained differently?
CR: They’re trained much better, yes, because they had time to do it; it wasn’t brought on them, and a big percentage of your people in there, if not all of them, are volunteers. They said that’s what I want to do. That’s what I want to do and they are extremely smart and the equipment they’ve got and all this, blows my mind.
CD: When you were over there, were most of the people then drafted or half of them volunteers, was it half and half?
CR; Well, I would say that most of them wasn’t volunteers.
CD: Most of them were drafted.
CR: Yes, I’m sure of that. I never really tried to analyze it, but I assure you that it was most of them were drafted. I think that the ones that were volunteers, were volunteered before the war started over there.
CD: Right before Pearl Harbor?
CR: Yes and everyone in there were as a career, and they were there. You know, I think that the people in the Navy before that, they were in there and those are the ones that would be volunteers. You got some volunteers during the war, there’s no doubt of that, but percentage wise, no, they drafted them and then they chose, lots of time they might draft ‘em and then all of a sudden they could say, "I want to go to the Navy", and they might let you go over there.
CD: Were you lucky to be able to get to the Navy or were they just taking a select few?
CR: No, I don’t know that I was. They were pretty more critical on their physicals. I had a sailor that went up with us and he was color blind. They wouldn’t take him, so the Army took him. He didn’t want to go in the Army, but he went in the Army. I’m not so sure that they’re still that way with their physical.
CD: What made you and how old again were you?
CR: I was along 17.
CD: You were 17. Is that old enough to be drafted?
CR: Well, I didn’t get drafted. I enlisted. I was coming 18, as soon as I graduated, I was 18.
CD: Okay, so you enlisted before you could get drafted and the difference is when you get drafted, you don’t have a choice. They just put you somewhere. Why would you enlist? Why wouldn’t you just wait to get drafted?
CR: Well, when you get drafted, the Army’s gonna get ya. The Navy doesn’t draft.
CD: Oh, I get ya. So if you’re drafted, you go straight to the Army.
CR: Yeah, you gotta enlist in the Marines. They don’t draft, I don’t think. The Army’s the only one that drafts, and I thought, my big deal was, I thought well the people that go in the Navy, at least you got a bed to sleep in most every night.
CD: Was that your rational?
CR: Yeah, you don’t have to dig a hole out there in the dirt and you get a hot meal once in awhile.
CD: Right, that a good rational.
CR: And I was never on the water very much at all before that.
CD: Had you ever been on a ship?
CR: No. I went over to the coast a time or two to go fishing but that was about it,
CD: That was a new experience, that’s one good thing.
CR: And I was sick from the last day out and all the way back to San Francisco, then after that I was okay.
CD: Oh, you got used to it. So all your friends decide to sign up for the Navy or would you guys sit around talking about it, like, oh, well, we’ll get a bed and we’ll get a meal.
CR: Yeah, I don’t know, I was probably the only one had that thought. I don’t know about that.
CD: Why did your friends want to join the Navy?
CR: I don’t know, but you know they was from all
CD: Well, you went up with a couple of guys, up to Fresno, to sign up for the Navy.
CD: When you were there on your ship, was there anybody else there from Tulare County?
CR: Jack Sacks was aboard ship with me for a year.
CD: And that was just a coincidence?
CR: Yeah, just a coincidence. He was there aboard ship and Bruce Jensen left at the same time. And he went on and I finally seen him out in the South Pacific, I think it was and he was the commander of an LST.
CD: What’s an LST?
CR: A landing ship tank, a small ship.
CD: That’s what you did too.
CR: Yeah this was a landing ship, mine was an amphibian boat so it was a little bit different. Yeah, but to a degree the same boat. They hauled but not as many troops and they were a smaller unit and hauled equipment more.
CD; And was there anybody else out there that you ran into from Tulare County?
CR: No, I’m trying to think. I don’t think I remember anybody from around here after that.
CD: And did they all come home about the same time you did, or before?
CR: Some of ‘em came before, but there were some guys aboard ship who were kids from Lemoore, whom I didn’t know.
CD: And did you get to know them?
CR: Oh yeah, I got to know ‘em aboard ship, the kids from Lemoore and one from Los Angeles who was aboard ship that I got to know pretty well, got to know them.
CD: Did you find most of them were married?
CR: No, we were all single.
CD: Did you think that was good or bad?
CR: I never thought about it. We were all just kids really. We was just kids. Just think of your family coming up. We was just all 18, 19 years. We had a guy aboard ship and I think he was 26, a big red-headed guy. We thought he was terribly old, "What in the world is he doing here?" That’s a fact, we thought, "What in the world they bringing that aboard for?"
CD: Why were they?
CR: Oh, he was a good old boy, just a big old country boy, you know, but we thought he was real old. He’s real old today. Twenty six is not very old.
CD: Oh my gosh, that’s funny. Okay, let’s see, I’m going to try to get to the last question. So, did you get to take advantage of the G.I. bill when you got home?
CR: Yes, I did to a degree, as I told you, I had started farming and they had night classes that you could go to and . . .
CD: What do you mean they . . . just veterans, it was just for veterans? Free, or . . . ?
CR: Yes, veterans, and you had to sign up for the G.I. bill and I think I got $20.00 or $30.00 or $40.00 a month toward that, for a certain time. You could go to night school and I took shop and welding in the Ag end of it and I was just starting to farm then and I saw ‘em build cotton trailers.
CD: You saw ‘em build ‘em?
CR: No, I built ‘em. Yeah, we went through shop and welding and so on and you could use their welding rods and their facility and you had something to do. I always happened to be with Ad Clark in there too, he was in there and some other guys that I know and they didn’t have anything to build, so I said, "Help me build these trailers." We built three or four cotton trailers and I’m still dragging ‘em today.
CD: You still have them, wow.
CR: Yeah, but I did things like that, so we took advantage of that degree.
CD: And that was at C.O.S.
CR: Yeah, and it was, yeah. When we first started out it was at the high school there and then it did go on to C.O.S., but it was at the high school there, first. And then Ad was in there and Ad Clark lives over the hill over here.
CD: He was in the class?
CR: Yes, he was there with us.
CD: And what other G.I. programs were there?
CR: That’s all, that’s all I took anyway. You could go for, I don’t know how long, it was good for six months or something like that.
CD: Didn’t you buy a house or something? Or maybe you weren’t interested?
CR: I don’t know, I bought a house, but I didn’t use the G.I. bill to do that. I bought a house then.
CD: And right now, you guys get together, the veterans get together every once in awhile.
CR: Oh yeah, these guys that I know are just friends. Yeah, we get together. Our biggest deal we get together is our class and all those guys went to the service at the same time. We were all the same age and we all had different experiences, but we’re a pretty close class and we usually get together at least twice a year, a fairly good size group.
CD: Yeah, tell me a little bit about the party, ‘cause that’s how I first, you know, heard that party you had of the reunion of ’41, ’42.
CR: Yeah, well we first had just our class reunion. Then we thought last year it would be nice to take the war years and have ‘em here. At first, I was thinking, oh I don’t know, but it turned out great and I thank the good Lord for "Name Tags." But they put them in the wrong place.
CD: What do you mean, where did they put ‘em?
CR: Well, they put ‘em here on your shoulder, then you gotta walk up to somebody and say, "Put it on your forehead," so you can look up there and you can look ‘em in the eye, till you know ‘em by name, but it was great, but some of those guys sure have changed. I didn’t change, but some of ‘em sure have changed.
CD: How do they change?
CR: Their appearance.
CD: Oh, right.
CR: I didn’t change (laughter).
CD: No, I’m sure, you look the same as you did when you were 18, (laughter).
CR: But it was good and we’re close that way our class is and that way I get to see all those guys. And we always chit-chat about the war days and Dick Hover was in my class and he’s quite a hound for that sort of thing.
CD: Oh, he was in your class. Where did he go? Did he go to the Pacific or to Europe?
CR: I think he went to the Pacific; I’m not sure, I’m pretty sure. He was an officer and ah, I think he was in the Pacific.
CD: Let’s see. Yeah, that sounded like a great party that you guys had. Are you gonna do it again?
CR: Yes, we are.
CD: What, every year or every other year?
CR: We’re getting closer on that. We used to do them every three or four years, but now it’s getting a little closer, so we’re trying to do ‘em every year or so, ha, ha.
CD: A little more urgent, (laughter). Okay, well that’s good. Um, is there anything that I didn’t cover in the interview, anything you’d like to add about those war years, anything that came up during that party, a subject that came up?
CR: No, I can’t think of anything really, ah, it’s just everybody pulled together, like I said, it was amazing, and ah, I didn’t think we’d ever see it again, to be honest with you. In fact, I’ve told a lot of people that before. We’ll never see this again, pull together like that, but it’s when the chips are down, there’s some pretty good people out there.
CD: And when you guys get together and talk at the get together and they’re talking about the war years, what’s the main thing that comes out? (Laughter)
CR: The girls. (Laughter)
CR: Oh, I’m just teasing (laughter). Oh, we just talk about some of our experiences some times and ah, usually we’ll talk about class mates and we lost some friends over there and that sort of thing. And the list gets longer. But that’s basically what we talk about, just reminisce, just reminisce about the good old days.
CD: Yeah, yeah, is that how they see it?
CR: Yeah, most of us do.
CD: Well, thank you for your time.
CR: Well, thank you.
CD: This was great. Okay, this is the end of the tape. Ahumm, one last question that came up. What did you feel about Tom Brokaw’s book, The Greatest Generation, about you being in the greatest generation?
CR: Well, I think, it just seems as though the people back in those days, they had a job to go do and everybody got in the harness and ah, I see our society falling apart with some of these things. If we had it today, you still got an awful lot of good people out there and there are probably plenty, but you got a lot of ‘em that wouldn’t want to do it.
CD: So, do you think if the same thing happened today, they’d be the greatest generation, if World War II would happen now?
CR: Well, you’ve got some guys over there that are awful good, you know, and I’ll tell you what, yeah, they would surpass us pretty fast, I think, that’s one thing. We’ve sure got some awful strong people in that military now. Comparatively, we couldn’t hold a candle to ‘em, really.
CD: Comparatively, how, with equipment?
CR: Well, with equipment and that they’re older, they’re smarter, and, ah, more things to learn from. They’re doing things that, we were more or less the weaker; we had nothing. When World War II came up, you had nothing.
CD: What do you mean you had nothing?
CR: What they didn’t have, you know, they were scrabbling, trying to build stuff for ya. They had nothing to fight with and now they’ve got these things that we don’t even know about. They got things we don’t even know about. We didn’t have that back then. We were just . . . swinging, you know.
CD: So, do you feel you guys are the greatest generation?
CR: Oh, I’m not gonna pat myself on the back like that. I’m gonna pass on that one. (Laughter)
CD: Okay, thank you, this is the second end to the interview.
Catherine Doe/ Transcriber PD/ Editor JW 12/03
Editor’s note: Words in italics were added during a phone interview with Clarence Ritchie on April 25, 2006.