Interview with Francis J. Vail, WWII veteran. CCSU Veterans History Project.

Transcriber: Erika Gunther, RPR – 2/15/11
EILEEN HURST: Today is September 4, 2004. I’m interviewing Francis James Vail. He goes by
Jim, though. We’re at Francis James’ house in Stafford Springs, Connecticut. Interviewer is Eileen Hurst Downey from Central Connecticut State University. Jim, will you state your full name, your birth date and your current address. FRANCIS JAMES VAIL: My name is Francis James Vail. I was born July 25, 1921, and that’s
it. HURST: And your current address? VAIL: My current address is 212 Upper Road, Stafford Springs, Connecticut. HURST: Which war did you serve in and what branch of the service? VAIL: I was in World War II, and I was in
the Army Air Corps, which was the — the Air Corps
was part of the army at that time. HURST: What was your rank? VAIL: When I — when I got discharged, it
was Buck Sergeant, or — I guess they call them
Buck Sergeant. HURST: Jim, were you drafted or did you enlist? VAIL: I enlisted. HURST: Where were you living at the time? VAIL: Stafford, Connecticut. HURST: Why did you enlist? VAIL: Well, I wanted to get in as a pilot,
and I flunked my eye test, so I was getting drafted
anyway, so I applied for the Air Force. HURST: Why did you pick the Air Force? VAIL: Well, it seemed more exciting, I guess, than being in the infantry. HURST: Do you recall your first days in service? VAIL: Somewhat, yeah. HURST: What did it feel like, and where did
you go? VAIL: Well, I went to Hartford to get started. From Hartford, Connecticut, we — they — I went there early in the morning and stayed
there until afternoon before we left for Fort Devens,
and I think there was about a hundred of us, most of them
draftees, and we went to Fort Devens, and we got our
uniforms or our clothing, and we got our VD lectures and
movies and all our shots, and it was about 3:00 in the
morning before we got to bed, and the next day they
woke us up, fed us, and it was Sunday, and then we didn’t
do anything that day to speak of, a few drills,
and at night they said — they — they asked me to
— I’d have to be ready at 7:00 in the morning to ship
out the next day, and we didn’t know where we were going,
except we were on a train, I don’t know, two or three
hours or something like that, and we wound up in Atlantic
City, and that’s where I took my basic training. HURST: Do you remember the date when you enlisted? VAIL: Yeah, well, it’s — it was September 17th. Is that on there? HURST: We can check your records. VAIL: Yeah. HURST: What was the year? September of… VAIL: ’42. HURST: 1942. Then you ended up in Atlantic City, New Jersey? VAIL: Yeah. HURST: How long did you stay there for basic training? VAIL: I don’t quite remember. We stayed longer than most people. I think it was 16 weeks
— well, maybe it was only eight weeks. It seemed like
16 weeks. HURST: What was basic training like? VAIL: Long. We — we got up — they woke us
up in the middle of the night for fire drills
usually, and we stayed in — I stayed in the Dennis Hotel,
which I’ve been to Atlantic City lately, and I tried
to find out something about it, and I finally found out
that it was torn down, and I think that’s where Bally’s
Casino is now, because it was right next to the Steel
Pier, and they had — while we there, they had — 1942,
where all the girls parade, you know. HURST: Boardwalk? VAIL: Yeah, it was down the boardwalk. It
was right down the boardwalk, and the Steel Pier.
It was where the movie — I mean beauty pageant was
held in ’42. HURST: Oh, Miss America? VAIL: Miss America Pageant was held. HURST: While you were there? VAIL: Yeah, we went there. It was right within a hundred yards of where we were stationed,
and we saw it from the boardwalk when they came out,
and they don’t look then like they look today, because they
wore one-piece bathing suits, so that’s what started. HURST: Do you remember any of your instructors from basic training? VAIL: No. They were all infantrymen from Jefferson Barracks, Missouri that trained. HURST: Where did you go after basic training? VAIL: Well, because they — they told us we were leaving, and I had called my mother up
and told her we — and scuttlebutt — we were going to
Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, and I couldn’t figure
out why we were going to an infantry camp, and I called
my mother up and said I was going someplace and didn’t
tell her where. I didn’t know where. We were on the train about an hour, and we pulled into Grand Central Station,
and we — we met some people there, and what — it was — it
was on a Thursday, I think, and they had this apartment
— brand-new apartment house we were going to
stay in, but there was 16 — there was 15 classes in there,
and we were the 16th one, so they had no place to
put us, so they sent us home, so instead of going out
west, I went home. HURST: To Connecticut? VAIL: To Connecticut. HURST: And you never went to Jefferson Barracks? VAIL: No, and — because they told us when
we were there we were going to — what the heck
was it? The Long Island Institute of Technology was
a — was a mechanic school for — airplane mechanic school. HURST: At that point, did they assign you
to be a mechanic? Is that when you knew you were
going to specialize? VAIL: Yeah, that’s when I knew what we were going to do, except we had to go home, because
they had no room to put us up until Monday. HURST: What was it, the Long Island school? VAIL: Institute of Technology. It was in Flushing, Long Island. HURST: How long did you stay home? VAIL: Until that Monday. I went back Sunday night and got there Monday and then we started
school. We — we stayed in the new apartment house. The other class had graduated, so we
got in in turn, and we were there, I think, 16 weeks. HURST: You went to the institute for 16 weeks — VAIL: Yeah — HURST: — to learn mechanic skills? VAIL: — mechanic school. That’s what we studied, mechanics. HURST: And what — VAIL: And I don’t know how many were in the class. I think there was about 30 in the class. HURST: Did they teach you the mechanics on
all the different aircraft that were being used
at that time — VAIL: Yeah. HURST: — or just general? VAIL: Yeah, it was more or less general. They even taught us about Piper Cubs and how to
do stuff on it, and it was just general information that
they usually did, I guess. HURST: Did you have prior experience as a mechanic? VAIL: No, I was a draftsman. I — I drew up plans for houses and stuff, so… HURST: Where did you go after your 16 weeks
at the Long Island Institute? VAIL: Well, we graduated there, and while
we were there, we stayed in this hotel, and I
think they just went up to 50 dollars a month for pay,
you know, and — because there we stayed in this — this
brand-new apartment house, I guess you’d call it, because
it was more than one floor, and there was a lot of
guys — well, there was 16 classes there, or 15, and
we went to school on the subway. We ate in the restaurant downtown, a big restaurant that was near the
school. HURST: You didn’t have regular mess halls? VAIL: No, we ate in a regular restaurant,
big restaurant, and that was one of them kind
of buffet type stuff. And when we got paid, our first — my first pay in the service was — they had about
ten tables, and the first one, you had to pay
for cleaning your clothes. They came and they cleaned our
clothes, and you had to pay, and we got more money
than 50 dollars, but — I thought I was rich at the
first table, but they kept taking it away. There was a
PX thing, if you used it, and clothes and all, yeah. Then they talked me into buying a bond, which was 18.50, I think, at the time, for
a 25 dollar bond, and then when I got to the last table,
they — they — the guy mentioned that I could get
money for — to send home to my mother, but it cost me
22 dollars. I said, Well, I’m not going have enough money
left after buying that bond and all this other stuff,
so I went — he said, Well, go back and cancel the bond,
and I went back and cancelled it, but then when I got
my second month’s pay, they never cancelled the bond,
and for two months they didn’t cancel it, so I really
didn’t have any money and — leftover, you know, or — I
even owed a little bit, and I never did get the bond.
They never sent them to me. I never found out what happened
to them, so anyway, that was the end. And we went to the school on the subway, and the only time we saw any army personnel
while I was in school was from, I think, 8:00 until 9:00
in the morning. They had a big group in the area,
and we had cali — an army guy, a lieutenant used to
come around and give us calisthenics for an hour. HURST: All the instructors at the institute
were civilians? VAIL: Yeah, everything was civilian. We didn’t see Army, only that hour a day, and we were off every night. We went
to New York City every night, but we — it was — it was
the eight-hour — eight-hour school day, you know,
and I think I finished third in the class of about
30, maybe. HURST: Where did you go after that? VAIL: We went on a train, didn’t know where
we were going again. We went to Albuquerque,
New Mexico, and I stayed there, eventually, about nine
months. HURST: What did you do there? VAIL: Worked — at the beginning, because
the air — it was Kirtland Air Base, and it was
just starting up, and as I said, they were making
a movie there at the time. Bombardier was the name
of the movie, with Pat O’Brien and, I guess, Anne
Sheridan and a few others, so we used to see them come
on the air base every morning, and they came by bus most
of the time, and they — you’d wave at them. That’s
the only time we saw them. HURST: Did you get to see the movie when it
was finished? VAIL: Well, they had the premier down there
in Albuquerque, and we got to get in to see it,
and I don’t know if I should say this, Pat O’Brien didn’t
make the premier. He was there, but he didn’t make
the stage. He wasn’t feeling good, I guess, but anyway,
it was an experience. No, we worked on planes. We worked in the hangar, and after we were there about
two months, I guess, I applied for — for gunner on a plane
again or it was — it was something else. It was — it
was waist gunner or something on the airplane, something
to do with flying, and the guy looked at my test
and — when we were in Atlantic City, we took tests to
see where — what you could do, and I had, I guess, a pretty
high mark on my exam, because my CO asked me if
I wanted to go to this training program, and I think the
name of it was ASTTM, or something like that, and it
was an engineering program where you went to a university. From there, anyway, you went to the University
of Oklahoma for two years, and they got a whole
bunch of colonels together, and they give me an interview,
and I passed everything, but just when I was waiting
to go up there, we got alerted to go overseas, and
they cancelled everything. Everything — anything anybody
was doing, they cancelled it, so then we started overseas
training, and we’d work eight hours a day, and then
from 6:00 till 9:00 we’d have overseas training, six — six
days a week, and they cancelled everything after
that. HURST: Then you went — after your overseas training, you shipped right out to go overseas? VAIL: Well, it took a long time. It was four or five months anyway. I think I was in Albuquerque about — and we went on detached service.
We went to different airfields in Texas at the time,
Rhome (ph), Magado (ph), and we didn’t do — you were
only there for a week or something, so you didn’t do much
work, but they’d travel around in convoys, so we went
to about three or four different — but then we got
alerted. And we used to pack all our supplies. You know, every night we did a little packing
and — to send overseas, kitchen equipment and all that
kind of stuff, which, come to find out later, never
got there. HURST: When did you actually ship out? Did
you ship out or fly out? VAIL: No, we took a train to Camp Kilmer in
New Jersey and of course it took quite awhile,
because the trains in them days — in fact, we woke up
in the middle of the night, and we were in Canada, so, I
mean, you knew it took a long time to get there. They
used to zigzag or take different routes or something
because it was loaded with soldiers or, you know, servicemen,
and we got there, and we went up the plank, and
we were assigned a bed in the hull of a ship, and
because there was people — it was a big ship, and I — I
don’t remember the — it was an English ship, because
it was English Navy that was running it, and it was
supposedly the biggest convoy that ever went over at
the time. You know, there was a lot of ships in this convoy. HURST: Do you remember how many? VAIL: I don’t know how many ships, but they were talking something like a hundred thousand
soldiers. HURST: Wow. VAIL: And I don’t know if that’s, you know
— that was just scuttlebutt, so I don’t know
if it was true, but it was big, because it was a lot
of ships and — and because down in the hull there,
everybody — not everybody, but most people got sick down
there, and they were sick, some of them, for the whole
trip, which was 28 days. HURST: 28 days? VAIL: Yeah, it took about — HURST: Did you get sick? VAIL: No, because I went down there and you
— you were — they had them beds, cots with
the — string cots, you know, and because if there was a
tall — a heavy guy above you, you couldn’t turn around
because he was in your way, so I never went back down
there. We stayed up on deck the whole trip, some of
us, very few of us, because it was sickening down below. HURST: What was the date, at least month and year? VAIL: I don’t know. I’d have to check — HURST: You’d check. VAIL: — somehow. HURST: It was probably, if you enlisted in September of ’42 — VAIL: It was — HURST: — ’43? VAIL: It was almost a year I was in the States, I think, almost. It’s one of them papers.
I think it might be — HURST: All right. VAIL: — on my discharge paper. HURST: I’ll check it. Where did you land when you finally got overseas? VAIL: Well, we circled, because you don’t
know what’s cooking when you’re — you know, we
got to the island of Gibraltar, but for some reason we
didn’t go in the Strait of Gibraltar. We circled for days
and days. Anyway, it took us 28 days, and the boat — the ship with our equipment on it,
that had all our cooking stuff and stuff like that, went
to Casablanca, and we went — there was only,
I think, one troop ship that kept going and a few destroyers
that went to Tunis or Bizerte — Bizerte, Africa,
and all our equipment went to — HURST: So you went to Bizerte, Africa? VAIL: Yeah. HURST: How do you spell that? VAIL: B-I — I don’t know if it’s Z-R-T-A
or something like that. I can find out. HURST: I will look it up later. Bizerte, Africa. You didn’t know where you were going until you got there? VAIL: No, we had no idea where we were going and nobody else did. Our officers didn’t know
where we were going, and we stayed on the ship, and
we got there in the a.m., and you look at the city of Bizerte,
which supposedly was the most heavily fortified
city in the world at the time, because the harbor was
— they were fighting in Sicily at the time, I think, or
just got to Italy, and everything came into Bizerte, all
the ships, so — and they bombed Bizerte quite a bit.
You couldn’t see that from the ship. We were a little ways
out. You couldn’t see it. It looked like a beautiful
city, except we stayed there all day and nobody
knew when we were going to get off. We finally get off and we had to — we walked and we were carrying all our equipment
with us, bags, you know, and we walked — we must have
walked four or five miles, I guess, up in the thing,
and there were — it got dark by the time we got up
there, so nobody knew where we were. There were no lights,
and we finally — they said come to the side of the
road, because the roads were just dirt roads, and
we went on the side, and we — when we woke up the next
morning, they had all these — and because Rommel and
the Germans had just got out of there a little while before
that, and they left everything on the ground, you
know, when they left. They left all this ammunition,
and there was ammunition all over the place, and they had
these red devil hand grenades. They used to call them
red devils, and they had — somebody had put tripod sticks
over them so you weren’t, you know, getting into them,
but we were in the middle of that. We stayed there — nobody
knew where we were supposed to — the officers
didn’t know, and there must have been, just guessing, hundred thousand soldiers there, and they weren’t
assigned to anything. We used to — well, the next day
we went swimming, and we were right in the Mediterranean
there, right on the shore, and we went swimming and
— and nobody knew what to do. We were there about
a week or maybe two weeks even before anybody — we
finally went to an air — airport in Tunis. HURST: Actually, you didn’t do any training
in Africa, you just went — VAIL: Well, not there. HURST: Then you went to Tunis? VAIL: We went to Tunis, and we — we didn’t have our tents with us, and we didn’t — I
got deathly sick, along with a lot of other people, from
the C-Rations which — all we had were C-Rations,
a little can of hash and three cans a day, I guess,
and everybody got sick so — everybody got dysentery, and
I had it real bad, and after a week they sent me to
some hospital, and I don’t know where it was, but
it was a field hospital. HURST: In Africa? VAIL: In Africa. It probably — it seemed like 300 miles. It probably was 50 miles at the most, and
— and I — I was sick, and I couldn’t even — you couldn’t
— there was nothing else to eat except these C-Rations,
because all our equipment was in Bizerte — in Casablanca,
and they wouldn’t give you B-Rations unless you
had stoves and stuff to cook them, and so anyway, I went
to this — and I got better there and because that’s
where all the — all the wounded were coming in, to
this hospital, and because they really didn’t care about
me too much, because I got better on the way, because I
threw up, in other words, and I felt better, and because
I looked healthy enough and there was nothing physically
wrong with me from the outside, so I didn’t get
— and people were coming in that were really wounded, you
know. There were a lot of people coming in, so — and
then when I went back, my outfit had moved, and
I couldn’t find — I couldn’t find them for a whole day.
I said, Geez, they must have shipped out without me,
you know, but they had just moved but nobody knew. Very
few people knew what they were doing at the time.
There was so many people there and — coming in all
at once and — so anyway. There was airplanes at this field, and because they used — they used to bomb it.
Not necessarily bomb. They weren’t dropping bombs.
They were dropping, supposedly, paratroopers, and
they would be dressed as Arabs, these Germans, and they’d
mill around, because the Arabs were walking — all
night long they’d be walking around, you know, and you
didn’t know who the heck — who anything was. Then I got a job with the English. I got a job. They put me down on the airfield. What
the heck? Oh, I was parking planes down there
when they came in. There was an airfield there, the
strip, but I was working for the English. I had an English
guy, and when a plane would come in, I would go out
with a jeep and tell them where to park, and that’s all
I did for, I don’t know, another week or two I worked for
him, and then one day they called us in, and until
this day I don’t understand it, and they said we were
going to Italy. They picked four of us. I was the mechanic, and I don’t know why they picked
me as a mechanic, because I really did all right in
school, but I didn’t have a background of being a mechanic
or anything, which a lot of guys did before they
went in. Anyway, they picked me and they picked one
guy that was just — did odd jobs and stuff around the
orderly room, and they picked this Captain Schmidt, who
was in charge of us, and — and a control guy, you know,
to work the control towers, so they loaded up a C — we
were — the C-47 they called them, a cargo plane, and
we put ?pyramidal? tents in there, which were heavy
things, and they loaded this plane up, and there was only
four of us plus — HURST: Out of all those thousands of guys,
they only took you four? VAIL: Yeah. HURST: How did you get so lucky? VAIL: I don’t know. Well, I don’t know if
it was lucky or not. Well, I guess it was, because,
until this day, I don’t — and the thing that happened
after that, after reading this book was kind of
strange, but we — we flew over there, and because the
plane was loaded with this stuff and one engine — it’s
a two-engine plane, C-17 — no, C-47, I guess,
and it was a cargo plane. Anyway, we were going over
the — over the Mediterranean and one engine conks out,
so, of course, they could go on one engine. These
were more — the most reliable plane they had, because
they didn’t even give you a parachute in this plane. That’s
how safe it was supposed to be. In all the others,
you had to wear them, so we threw out the — the pilot
said, You got to throw out the equipment in the back,
so we threw out all the tents and stuff in the ocean,
and he said, We won’t have any problem. And he knew where he was going, but we didn’t know, so we went to Bari, Italy, which
was the other side from Africa. You had to go over
land to get there, to the — it was on the Adriatic side,
and we landed at this airport there, and there is
nobody there, and, of course, the Germans had just moved
out, I guess, because I think the English went up that side.
I guess that’s the east coast, I don’t know, on the
Adriatic, and they went up there because the Germans
and Mussolini had surrendered or something. And there was nobody there that we knew. There was no GIs around. They were on the
other coast. There was no GIs around there, so, evidently,
we were sent over there to start this airfield up
and — and why? Because we weren’t that smart, and in
the — the officer in charge, Captain Schmidt, who really
was my officer the rest of the trips, he could talk
German, so anyway, we went up to where the control tower
was in the building, and there is nobody in the building,
so we stayed there, I don’t know, a week or so,
and once in awhile there was a plane that would come in.
It wasn’t that big a field. You couldn’t — I don’t
think you could land 24s there. They used to land P-38s
and others. Anyway, we stayed there, and we didn’t have — the control guy didn’t have a — we
didn’t have no radios or anything. He had three flare
guns — I mean he had one flare gun, and he had green
flares, yellow flares and red flares, and the green
flare was okay to land, and, evidently, the pilots knew
that, and yellow was that you were supposed to circle
and then land, and the red was you’re not supposed
to land at all, so that’s how we operated for, I don’t
know, a week or two, and then finally the rest of our outfit
came over by boat. They came by boat and — and
jeep across the thing, and we went to this depot that
— where all the supplies came in for — I think for the
Eighth Army, which was English, and the Fifth Army, which
was ours, and the 15th Air Force, which I just read
in that book, they just started up that month we there were. HURST: You were in the 15th Air Force? VAIL: Yeah, but they — when it was in Africa, it was the 12th Air Force — HURST: Oh. VAIL: — and then they made — they just started the 15th somewhere around that time
we got over there. And some of the bigwigs used to fly in to there. They said that Churchill flied in there,
but I never saw him, but they used to have meetings
up in olive orchards up there, so anyway… HURST: So how long did you stay at Bari? Was that your job then, to work on — VAIL: Well, we went to the depot — HURST: Uh-huh. VAIL: — and then we had nothing more to do with the airport, because a lot of people
started coming in and — and we never — I never even went
back out there, and that was, I don’t know, seven or
eight miles from the center of Bari, I think, and then
we went to this depot, which was almost in town, and
I started working as a mechanic, and what we were doing,
like, when — when they had something wrong with
an airplane, like with a 24, most of them were 24s. When
something went wrong, they’d just change them. They
didn’t fix any — you didn’t work on any engines. You
took them off and you put a new one on, so we had new
ones coming in at this thing they got back there, and
we used to pickle – they call it pickle – the old engines.
You had to know how they rotated so you could — when
the piston went down, you squirted oil in there, so they
wouldn’t rust on the way back, and you put them in
these crates. They were all Pratt Whitney engines. You put
them in these crates, and — the new ones you’d take
out, and you’d put the old ones in there, and they’d
send them back on the ships back to the States to look
them over, so we pickled engines for, I don’t know, geez,
about two months I worked on that, and that’s when we
got this raid, when they blew up — I don’t know if
it’s in here (indicating). There was — HURST: We have pictures of — VAIL: I had — that picture is of one of the burning ships. HURST: Well, so Jim, while you were at Bari, there was a raid by the Germans? VAIL: Yeah, and according to this book, and
I never heard about it until last week. HURST: What was the name of the book? The
book just came out that Jim’s reading that’s about
the — VAIL: 15th Air Force, and most of it is about Governor — Senator McGovern. He goes through
this book a lot, because he got over there, I think,
in ’44, and he flew missions over there, and I — I guess
he completed his missions. HURST: The book is called… VAIL: The Wild Blue. HURST: The Wild Blue. It’s about the — VAIL: The Men and Boys Who Flew the B-24s
Over Germany. HURST: By Stephen Ambrose. VAIL: Yeah, and it tells a lot of — well,
they had this raid on this thing and they sunk
— I have it here someplace. It said they destroyed — I
have it here someplace. Is this hesitation? Can you shut it off? HURST: So how many — VAIL: It was December 2, 1943 in Bari, Italy. There was 30 ships being unloaded at the docks
downtown, and at 7:30 the Germans, in 20 minutes they
left 19 transports destroyed and seven severely damaged
and two ammunition ships received direct hits — HURST: Wow. VAIL: — and blew up. When they blew up, the explosion, I can’t even explain it. HURST: The picture you have of the ship that’s burning, is it one of those ammunition ships
that blew up? VAIL: No, I think it was — there was one
tank. That was probably the tanker. It was — it
said a tanker carrying oil causing an immense fire
over — over the thing. HURST: Jim took a picture, because he was
there, of the oil tanker burning. That will be submitted
with this interview. Jim, you were actually stationed there at the time. Did you witness the attack by the Germans? VAIL: Well, yeah — well, we couldn’t see
the actual thing. We were about a mile away, probably. HURST: I’m sure you heard it and felt it. VAIL: They felt — they felt the concussion
— well, it took the — it knocked down a lot
of buildings that weren’t built so good, including our
barracks, which was — the roof caved in. We didn’t
have — well, we slept there that night, but there was rubble
all around, and the next morning is when we went
down and took pictures, and that’s when that picture
was taken, the next morning after the raid, and they
— they were — the ammunition ships they towed out
to sea, the Adriatic, and sunk them. They sunk the ships. HURST: Why? VAIL: Because that was — well, they were
full of mustard gas and all that stuff, and, oh,
the next morning, the road — you know, there were
narrow roads there. All the roads were narrow, and from
Bari up to Foggia, which was one of our bigger air bases
over there. It was the one most north, I guess,
and there must have been, and I’m just guessing, but
line for line it was two-wheel carts, and everybody owned
a donkey over there. That was their pride and joy,
their donkeys or whatever you want to call them, and they
had big two-wheel wagons, and there was thousands
and thousands of people on the road getting out of town,
because they didn’t know what happened either, and we didn’t
know what — what it was, and there was just scuttlebutt,
and that’s when they took pictures down there
that they confiscated on us, so somebody must have them
someplace, if they ever got them developed, plus they
took the camera. HURST: Do you want to tell me for the interview what happened? I know you told me before we
started taping. VAIL: Well, it was, I suppose, a security thing. We took the pictures, you know, not
knowing any better probably. HURST: You and your friend? VAIL: Me and my friend who was — that was
his job, taking pictures with the — with good
cameras, like they showed in newsreels, you know, and the
Provost Marshal put us in this basement, and we stayed
there for, you know, almost one night, probably
two days anyway, and they just left us there, so we
didn’t know what was cooking. HURST: And they confiscated your camera and
the pictures and you never got them back? VAIL: No, no, we never heard from them, so… HURST: Where did you go after Bari, Italy? VAIL: We went to Gioia del Colle. HURST: What did you do there? VAIL: I was a mechanic, and we used to go
on detached service to different place — we
went down — the ship went down or a B-24 got shot up,
and it was — needed a new engine, needed a new wing, and
we were down there, I think four of us in a tent for about
four weeks, and we fixed it all. We worked on it.
We put a new engine on it, and we had to bring a new
wing down and we worked on it. Either three or four
weeks we were down there and we flew it back there. We had
a test pilot in our outfit. We flew it back, but
he never gained any altitude. It’d go up so high and
for some reason, I don’t know what happened anyway,
and then the front, the nose — the nose turret had gotten
shot up, so we put a piece of metal on there and wrapped
it around and riveted it on, but it came loose
while we were flying and was flapping around, but we
got it back to Gioia del Colle, which was our main base
where a lot more stuff was up there, supplies and tools
you could work with, and it never did fly anyway. They
never got it off the ground, but we had, I’d say, 500
new planes at our field. All the new planes for the 15th
came into Gioia del Colle. Well, I’m sure all of them
or most all of them, because we had loads of them and
because they were all silver colored now because they used
to be painted green and they used to be painted
tan when they were in Africa to match the desert, I guess,
but that slowed the plane — they claim that slowed
the plane, up. The paint on the plane slowed it up about
18 miles an hour or something like that. HURST: Really? VAIL: Yeah, the drag on the plane from the paint. HURST: Wow. VAIL: Because we tried to take the paint off
of one of them, and it was impossible to take
it off. HURST: Did you see combat? VAIL: Not really. Bombs, you know, but not
any combat. Got shot at — HURST: The results of combat. VAIL: No. Got shot at a couple times by mistake but — HURST: By mistake? How did you get shot at
by mistake? VAIL: Well, we were in tight — there was
a 6:00 — because we were in Gioia del Colle
for almost a year, so we knew the town better than I knew
my hometown, and we had softball games. We had
a good softball team. We used to play softball with
the — they had what they call in the States, donkey
softball, where you jumped on a donkey, and because
they were all trained to do that, and the ones we got from
the farmers over there, some were big, some were small,
and they weren’t trained to do anything, so you had
to hit and then jump on the donkey and go to first base
and then do other stuff, you know, go around, but some
of them would run off with you, so it was more — and the
people — we used to pay the people to use their donkeys,
and they were satisfied, you know, and — but they
— it didn’t work out that good anyway, but we had a lot
of fun doing it, so… HURST: Where did you go after Gioia del Colle? You were there for a year. VAIL: I was there — we got alerted to come home, our outfit, the 41st, and that was in
the spring — well, we got alerted around March,
I guess, to come home, and I don’t know why they picked
our outfit out to come home. HURST: The war was not over yet? VAIL: No, but when we got on the boat — we
got on the boat in April, after we — this was
maybe two months preparing to come home and — with
all the things, and the ones that were to come in
and there were different people that had to stay. They got
in trouble or something, but anyway, we got on the boat
in Naples, and we were out — and we started out with escorts and — destroyer escorts and stuff,
and we were only one boat. It was a big boat, and I think
the name of it in the civilian thing was the Wakefield,
and it had burned — it burned up, and it was a troop transport, and there was a lot of people on
there, and we didn’t know why we were going home until
after, and we got out there about an hour, I think, something.
It was in the morning anyway, and about 10:00
in the morning, all the sirens go off, and it was
V-E Day, and it was just by coincidence. HURST: You were actually onboard the Wakefield when you heard about V-E Day? VAIL: Yeah. We were out to sea about maybe
an hour, two hours, whatever, and all these sirens
went off, and the people — it finally came over
a loudspeaker what it was after awhile, because
they didn’t know, and they had surrendered, and
so it must have been, when was that, 6th of June, something
like that, I don’t know, but anyway, we — when
we left the Mediterranean, our escorts left us and we
came home alone. HURST: Just your one ship all by itself? VAIL: Yeah, and — because we zigzagged all
the way home, seriously, because they figured,
you know, there might be somebody, and it was stormy
all the way home. I think they had a new driver on that
boat. HURST: It took you 28 days to get across. How long did it take you to come home? VAIL: It took us exactly eight days to get home. HURST: Really? VAIL: Yeah, and we got into Boston Harbor,
and they’re coming around with planes around the
ship. We were the first ones back, because we had left,
just coincidentally, because we had been planning
this for two or three months, and they wanted us to
wave, but I guess nobody was in — wanted to wave, so
they kept at it, egging us on to wave because we were the
first ones home or we — I think we were the first ones
home, because we left after the — well, anyway,
we went to — got off, went to Fort Devens again, went in
the mess hall because they had German prisoners waiting
on mess. They had as much freedom as we did, I think.
They could — they were going to go to Boston sometimes,
you know, on the train. They wore our uniforms,
but they had PW on the back, but, I don’t know, they
used to get out, and there was no security anymore, as
far as getting out and in, and I guess they were
pretty well satisfied at what they were doing, you know.
They were — they were — all worked in the mess
hall, I think, and we stayed there — I stayed there
about two days, I guess, and then I came home for 30
days, and then I shipped out to Spokane, Washington,
and then I found out why we came home. They were going
to invade Japan, and because they were talking about
losing 500,000 people if they invaded and, of course
Japan was going to lose more, and because the atomic
bomb, I don’t know when the first one went off, but it went
off, so that — anyway, when we went out to Spokane,
the 41st Air Depot Group had 152 men in it, and I knew
them all. We were together, most of us, for three years
— HURST: What it was called, the 41st what? VAIL: Air Depot Group, and it was a headquarters outfit, so it had a lot of rank,
and it had a lot of — HURST: That’s the group you got in when you
were at the depot in Italy? VAIL: Yeah. HURST: You just stayed with them? VAIL: Just stayed with that group. When we got to Spokane, I met a lot of guys, and the younger guys, you know, and
I didn’t know them, and they said they were in the 41st
Depot Group, and I said, Can’t be. Anyway, they had replaced us, and I don’t know if we ever would have went to Japan,
us, or what, but we never did, so anyway, they didn’t know
— nobody told us what to do down there, so I got a
— I went downtown, you know, and I slept a couple nights,
you know, and nobody knew you were there or what.
Nobody seemed to know anything, so I — I slept in
the Davenport Hotel in the lobby for a couple
nights, and I worked — you could get a job unloading apples.
It was at — at the train station, and they’d pay.
If you work two hours, they’d pay you for the two hours,
whatever it was, so we stayed on, and I went back to camp
a little leery about what was happening, and they asked
where I wanted to get stationed in the States, so
I told them West Dover Field, you know. Well, they couldn’t
get there, but they sent us to Wright Field, a
bunch of us. HURST: Where is Wright Field? VAIL: In Ohio, and we were on orders from
— we had bulk orders, but there is about 30 of
us. We all had the same orders, and one guy was carrying
the orders. Well, we had a layover in Chicago,
and they took off without us. Anyway, but — so we
didn’t have any orders that we could show to anybody,
you know, so we had to bum from Chicago to Wright Field,
which is quite a ways. HURST: You mean hitchhike? VAIL: Yeah, because they had our orders. Well, we get to Wright Field, and we can’t find any of these guys, and we know
they’re supposed to be there. One of the guys lived
close by, and there was no time on these orders. There
was no time exactly, so they went to his house, and
they were there, I don’t know, two or three days, so
we couldn’t find them. We couldn’t find them, so we were
getting lost. You know, we didn’t know what to do.
We didn’t want to tell anybody. We weren’t exactly AWOL,
I don’t think, but we weren’t doing anything, so anyway,
I got — I stayed there a few days, and I got
assigned to go to New — Newark Airport. HURST: So you went to Newark? VAIL: Yeah, and they — they had me making charts and graphs again
about how many planes they were sending, and they still were doing this, sending
them over or coming back, and they had all kinds
of stuff, and I used to go in the office there and make
out charts on the wall, you know, just extend them another
day and stuff, but then — then everybody in this
office, there was only two of us that was in the service.
The others were all civil service, mostly women, you
know, so I used to go home on weekends to Stafford, but
I used to bum, and then my boss, who was a woman — woman,
she was the same age as me, I guess. She was my boss
in this job I was doing there, and nobody ever knew
I was overseas, because I — I had got issued new
clothes when I got back, and they had nothing on them,
you know, no stripes. They didn’t have no braid or what,
so they thought — and all these people hadn’t been
overseas that were in my barracks. They were all working
in New York doing something. They hadn’t been overseas,
so anyway I — I saw a couple guys that was overseas,
and this was after the second atomic bomb, so
the war was winding down, and I — it was after — must
have been after Japan surrendered, and I see a couple
guys I was overseas with, and they got discharge things
on their sleeve, and I said, Geez, how did you get
out, you know, because I knew I was in longer then them and
at — overseas at least as long. Well, they said,
I got four more battle stars. Well, that’s the battle
stars. I went to see the guy, what do you call him,
officer. He asked me where I was at a certain time, and
if you were in a battle zone at the time of whatever it
was, you get them four battle stars, and I had enough points
to get out, so then they lose my discharge papers.
They lose my paperwork, so I was down there doing nothing
for about a week, and they didn’t find it, so
he finally says, Well, you might as well go home. I will
give you a call. I get home on Saturday. They call
me Sunday afternoon, they find my papers, so they wanted
me back Monday. Well, I started back Monday, and there
was no bus to Hartford at the time, so I used to
go to Rockville and take the bus. I’d get a ride
to Rockville, and the bus used to go to Rockville,
and make a swing through Hartford, Manchester and come
back. Well, because I was tired, so I fell asleep
on the bus, and because they didn’t really stop when they
get to Hartford, they used to go down where Front
Street was and just make the loop and stop and let passengers
on and off, but they never woke me up, so I wake
up and I look at this mill, and it’s in Vernon where
I started from. HURST: Oh, no. VAIL: I’m back in Vernon, so I got back late for my discharge, so I had to wait another
couple of days, so I finally got discharged anyway. HURST: Oh, my God. Were you awarded any medals or citations? I know you were. Can you tell me
what they were? VAIL: Just the ones I wrote down there. HURST: Well, tell me on tape. Do you remember what you wrote down? I know you got a good conduct. VAIL: Well, I can’t remember unless I read
them off. HURST: You don’t remember your medals? VAIL: No. HURST: And you got battle stars. VAIL: Battle stars for — I can’t remember
them names. HURST: Naples-Foggia? VAIL: Yeah, Foggia. HURST: Rome-Arno. VAIL: Yeah. HURST: Appennines and Po Valley. VAIL: Yeah. HURST: Are those all in Italy? VAIL: Yeah. HURST: And four bronze EAME. VAIL: That was the — HURST: Four — VAIL: That was the East American Mediterranean something. EAME stands for something about
the Mediterranean area or something. I don’t know. HURST: With four bronze stars. VAIL: Yeah, yeah. HURST: Tell me about living conditions while
you were overseas. How did you stay in touch with
your family? VAIL: Via letters. HURST: What was the food like? VAIL: Well, it was terrible the first couple months. I got sick and never got over it for
awhile, but where we got — when we got to Italy,
the food was good. We had B-Rations, and then because we
got to know some of the town people, so they used to — we
got what they call cold storage eggs. I guess we used
to have — this woman used to cook — cook our breakfasts
once in awhile when we had a day off, which wasn’t
very often, but, no, we ate good after — after I got
to Italy, we ate good. Africa was terrible. HURST: Where did you live, in tents or barracks? VAIL: When we first lived in Africa, when
we moved to the airfield, we lived in pup tents,
which are, you know, and my — my companion in the pup
tent was about six foot, two, and he couldn’t even
fit in there, because they’re not even — I couldn’t even
fit in there, and I’m not that tall, and because
it was on the ground and it was sort of up a knoll or a
hill, and they had big, big tents for eating, for mess hall
at the time where they set up, but the ground — it didn’t
rain there all summer, and the ground was black,
the soil. There was no trees or nothing on it, but it
was sort of black, and it was cracked from the constant
heat, I guess, but then they had the rainy season
when we had the pup tents because it just rained and it
rained right through there. You had to just put your bags
and your stuff up in the thing, and you couldn’t really
sleep on the ground, and it rained every — every day
at the same time for, whatever, the rainy season in the
fall sometime, and so we didn’t — then we got
?pyramidal? tents, which are the ones we loaded up on
that plane, and they were, what, eight sided, something
like that. You could sleep six in there anyway, and we
made platforms so the rain went underneath, and
that’s where we lived when we were in Africa, and then
we slept outside the first few nights. HURST: Where did you sleep in Italy? VAIL: Well, we got an old — well, when we first went there, we were at the airport,
this building, until some people arrived, and then we — we
made a barracks at the supply depot we were stationed
at, and because that was a bomb target, the supply
depot, so they used to — they didn’t bomb that much,
but they — you thought they were, because they always
set the bomb alarm off every night, so a lot of people
used to walk and — walk or ride with a jeep up to the
olive orchard, which was maybe seven or eight miles, and
sleep in the foxhole up there and then come back in the
morning, but I never — I was young and, you know, but
anyway. I forgot to tell you about that stint I played in — that was in Gioia del Colle,
when they put me in the infantry for… HURST: What happened? How did you end up in
the infantry? VAIL: Well, I had made crew chief and actually I was — I was assigned to go to Russia, which,
they were our allies, and what was happening, I
think, the Eighth Air Force out of England used to bomb
Germany and then land in Russia, and they had facilities
there at this airfield for them, you know, and they
loaded up with bombs there and bombed on the way back
or they’d bomb Germany and came to Italy, so it was
sort of a (indicating), so they needed some mechanics
over there at the time. Well, that’s when I — they saw
I was a draftsman in civilian life, and I did — I
had charts and graphs I used to do, and I used to draw
plans for houses and stuff, and they made me — this
guy put out a report, this Captain Schmidt. Every month
he had to put out a report on how many planes got shot down,
how many new ones they came down and got, how many
old ones and all that kind of stuff, so they came around,
then, from someplace, I don’t know, these officers around
to the army room, and the first sergeant called me
in and went for an interview, and I wasn’t working as
a mechanic, because he wanted me to keep doing this stuff,
and all he did was sign his name on it, and we had
one guy that did all the typing, and we — I did all the
drawing and stuff and charts and stuff, so he didn’t want
to let me go, because he had it made, and I was assigned
a jeep, so I had a jeep all the time, so I wasn’t
complaining, but then they said if you weren’t working
at what you were trained to do in the army, they’re going
to put you in the infantry, and they did. They swapped
— they put people down. The Japanese-Americans came down,
two of them, and one of them was a typist, and he
had paralyzed fingers on both hands from getting shot up
or something, but he still could type good. Well, he was
going to take my place, you know, or come in our office.
Anyway, my — I was in the infantry about three or
four weeks, and I never went anyplace, but they would
assign me — and it was during the Battle of the Bulge.
I guess you went to France after three or four weeks training,
and anyway, I got out of there. I got out of there. HURST: Did you actually go to France? VAIL: No. HURST: Oh. VAIL: No, we never went or I never went because he got me out of it, and I stayed with — doing drafting. After that, I never was a mechanic,
and I was the crew chief, I think, for two months, and
then when they started — HURST: Where were you stationed when you were doing the drafting, the Gioia del — VAIL: Gioia del Colle, yeah, and then back
in the States I did it before I got out. HURST: While you were in Italy, did you ___? VAIL: Yeah, that was rest — I don’t know, quite awhile and then that was the rest camp
for — because the battle was up above Rome, you
know, that line. I guess, the Po River was the line,
and that was up there, so everybody used to go or everybody
from our — HURST: How long did you get to stay in Rome. VAIL: I think ten days. HURST: So that was just for R and R? VAIL: Yeah. HURST: What did you do while you were there? VAIL: Well, I saw a lot of the sites, went
to St. Peters, went up in that ball up there.
It looks small, but there was 14 of us up there, and
we walked up on that roof somehow. I don’t know. It looks
too steep in that picture, but on the backside — and
because you can look over into the Vatican from up there,
which was a neutral. If you went in there, you stayed
there for the rest of the war. It was like Switzerland,
you know. In fact, that was the quiz on the bus tour I took in Hawaii, what’s the smallest
country in the world, and it’s the Vatican. It’s actually
a country, I guess, or something. I mean, they
might be — but anyway, if you went in there, you
could stay there, but nobody went in there. HURST: While you were stationed in Africa
and Italy, did you have plenty of supplies, the
things you needed? VAIL: Not in Africa, no. We — we used to
— well, I lived on C-Rations for a long time,
and that’s, to me, isn’t nothing, because everybody got
sick on them. We probably lived on them for a month,
over a month, and you didn’t get anything with it.
You were — you know, you didn’t go — I never saw a glass
of milk until I got back. I lived in Italy for over a year. I never saw a cow or a chicken, because the
Germans were there just before us, and they — I’m not
sure they killed the cows, but they all had donkeys,
but they didn’t have nothing else, and they were poor.
When I — when we got — when we flew over to Italy,
they paid us in new — new money, a hundred lira, which
was, to us, a hundred — it was a dollar. That was our,
you know — how — and it was just the size of a dollar.
Well, when we first got over there, the first week, I
went to church, and because they were — nobody worked
over there. I mean, you saw no teenagers, none,
male teenagers. There was none around in southern
Italy. I don’t ever remember seeing a teenager, you
know, say an 18-year-old or something. HURST: Where were they? VAIL: They were all off to war, and they were above the Po River up in the German territory. But anyway, I never saw a chicken or a cow, never had a glass of milk while I was
over there, so it was — you did what — but we ate good
in Germany. I mean, decent we ate. And they had restaurants,
but, you know, they were — they weren’t open.
They had cognac shops that we used to visit. We called
them cognac shops. They were little — and they
were open from 4:00 to 6:00 in the morning and 4:00
to 6:00 in the afternoon, and they were closed the rest of
the day. It’s only four hours they were opened, some
of them. HURST: Yeah? VAIL: Anyway, when I went to church that time, the first time we moved there — because they
had coins that were — were they sentismos or something
like that they called them, and they were worth — I
don’t know if they were worth a penny, but anyway, their
month’s pay wasn’t that much at the time. It was less
than a dollar, or some crazy thing, so anyway, when
I went to church, they didn’t have pews. It was a Catholic church. They didn’t have pews, you know, stationary pews. When you went in, they had kids that
brought you chairs, and they set them up for you, so,
of course, the first time we went in, they didn’t know who
we were. They didn’t know we were American soldiers,
because there was no American soldiers around there
at the time, or there wasn’t any soldiers when we first
got there, and so we gave them a dollar apiece, me and
this guy, you know, which was probably three months
pay or something like that, so, of course, they — I
mean, every time we went in there after that, they
used to sit us in back of the altar, as a matter of fact,
because they knew they were going to get a good — HURST: Preferred seating — VAIL: Yeah. HURST: — because you were big tippers? VAIL: Yeah, and because we thought it was
a dollar, you know, which was — but they — and
anyway, we were there — when we first got there,
you know — and because you couldn’t buy nothing because
there was nothing open to buy and because they rather
— when we went to Rome Rest Camp, we were going to give
them money. We were going to stay in a hotel up
there, you know, buy a room. You couldn’t buy a room
no how, unless you had — say if you had a few cakes
of soap or cigarettes, you could get a room for that
instead of money, because they — they had nothing to
buy, but then we were there four or five months, and when
all the people came in, all the soldiers from all
over, and, of course, the prices changed. They had a price
for — if you went into a store that sold, I don’t know,
anything, they had a price for civilians, their own
civilians; they had a price for soldiers; and then they
had a price for American soldiers, because we got paid
more than anybody else. You know, they didn’t — the
other services didn’t get as much, so they had three
prices in most all them stores. HURST: Did you stay in touch with any of your fellow soldiers after the war? VAIL: No, just one. His name was — geez,
what was his name? I can’t think of it. He’s in
that picture there. He was the radio operator. HURST: Where did he live? VAIL: He lived in Newton, Mass. He came down to see me, and I went up there one weekend,
but I haven’t seen him since. HURST: What did you do right after you got
out of the service, when you finally were able
to get discharged? VAIL: Yeah, I collected, 20 — what do they call it, 20 — is it 20-a-week club or 20-a-month
club? I was a draftsman, and I studied drafting,
and I had — idea is I wanted to be a draftsman, and they
offered you jobs. Every week you went down to sign up,
and they offered you jobs, different jobs, and they
offered me a job as an airplane mechanic at Bradley Field,
and I didn’t want to take it, and I kind of been
sorry ever since that I didn’t take it, because, you
know, you never know what would have happened, but anyway,
I didn’t take it, so I didn’t work for quite
awhile. Then I went to work as a draftsman for an architect, and I worked for him about a year,
and then he got slow, and I went to work for another
architect, and I went to drawing schools. We did all
schools. I think we did — I was there 11 years, and
then we did 23 of them, I think, and then I went to work
in Manchester for another couple young architects, and we
did country clubs mostly, and then I went to work for
— in Hartford for another architect and worked there until
we got slow, and we did all Pratt Whitney’s work.
I was outside for four years there from the architect’s office, inspecting and stuff, and I worked
there. I got laid off because they went out in the early
’70s. They didn’t have — and then I — then I did — I
went to work for the State for about — I worked for
the State Military, drawing plans and sending out jobs. HURST: You’re covering the mic. VAIL: Oh, and I quit — like a dummy, I quit the State, and then I worked as a building
inspector. I just quit last year in Tolland. I worked in
Tolland, Connecticut. I worked there — well, I was
clerk of the works at the high school originally, you know, inspecting the high school in addition, and
then I went to work as an assistant. They had a full-timer
there, but I worked pretty much three or four days
a week, not full days, though. I worked about 20 hours
a week, and I worked there for 17 years after I retired,
so… HURST: When did you get married? VAIL: 1946. HURST: You had how many children? VAIL: Six. Two of them have passed away. HURST: One of your sons served in Vietnam
or did you say two of your sons? VAIL: No, two served in Vietnam, and the other one was — well, one was — the younger one
enlisted, and my oldest one had just gone to Vietnam,
so because — they can’t send two over to Vietnam
at the same time, so then the middle one got drafted.
He quit college, and about a week later he got drafted,
and he went to Germany, Brian. My oldest one went
to Vietnam. My youngest one went to Korea. I think he
was there 15 months. HURST: You had three sons that were in the military? VAIL: All at the same time. He went to Korea, and he came home, I think 15 months, and when
he got home on furlough, my oldest son got out, because
his year was up over in Vietnam, and they sent
my youngest one to Vietnam, and he was over there I don’t
know how long, so… HURST: Your family certainly has contributed
to our country. VAIL: Um-hmm. HURST: Did you join any veteran’s organizations? VAIL: American Legion is the only one I belong to. I joined that before I even got out of
the service. HURST: You’re still a member? Do you do anything with that group now? VAIL: Yeah, I’m not that active, but I belong. HURST: Did your military experience influence your thinking about war or about the military
in general? VAIL: I don’t know. I don’t think anything influenced me when I was that age. HURST: Do you attend any reunions or have
you attended any reunions? VAIL: No. When we were over, because we were together for three years, most of us, the
older guys said we have to have a reunion every five
years, but I never heard anything from anybody, and I never
got into it, and I — probably most of them are dead
now, because a lot of them were older than I was, you know,
and there was a few that were younger, but only a year
or two younger, and I — I haven’t heard from any
of them in — Oh, George Norcross was that guy’s name from Newton, and I never got in touch with
him again. HURST: How did your service effect your life? VAIL: You know, just took three years, three years plus out of it, I guess. I had — because
I was single and not attached to anybody, so I mean,
it wasn’t — it wasn’t all bad, you know, it
was — I had good times, and I got lucky on a few occasions,
you know, so it wasn’t — it was — they used
to claim that, you know, you had it easy in the Air Force,
but it wasn’t that easy overseas anyway. You know,
the bombing and that stuff didn’t bother me at the time.
Like today, a lot of guys went on CO went berserk
just on account of the pressures and stuff, but as
far as seeing any action, no. HURST: Is there anything else that you would like to add that we haven’t covered in the
interview. VAIL: No. I think that ___ anyway, you know, as I say, I was young, and I didn’t have a
girlfriend or nothing, so I had no — so I could have a
good — when I was going to school in New York, I went to
town every day, every night, because nobody checked on
us and — and because we were treated like royalty in
them days. We used to take the subway to Grand Central,
and they had a USO, I guess they’d call it. The people
there, they would give you tickets to go out and
eat and go see Frank Sinatra, who was just starting out then
as a singer, single, and the Andrews Sisters. Because
we got to know the woman who worked there because
we was there a lot, 16 weeks, and so they used to save
us the best tickets, you know, for the eating places,
and then on Wednesday nights we used to — Guy Lombardo
used to play up on the roof. What is that, The Astor Hotel
or something, and so we used to go down in the
bar, and you couldn’t buy a drink in them days because
some civilian was always buying you something, and we would
go up there and dance all night, and it probably
didn’t cost us anything. You know, of course things weren’t the same in later wars as that, you know. We were
taking a train ride out through North Dakota, oh, when
I went out to Spokane, and the people out there, when
you stopped on a train — we were on a train. The whole
train was one thing going to Spokane, and they had a
layover that night. It was going to layover there all night,
and it wasn’t bad. We had sleeping booths — sleeping
berths on the train, and anyway, this farmer came
down, you know. They used to feed you, bring you sandwiches, pheasant sandwiches out there and all that
stuff. Anyway, they brought us out to the farm and
kept us out there until the following day, and they had
a pool out there. You could swim. You could — they treat
you like royalty, you know. Well, when my kids
were in, you know, a lot of people didn’t care for it.
I don’t know why it was such a bad thing, but, you know,
I had some good times, I would say. I don’t think it
affected me one way or the other. HURST: Jim, I’d like to thank you for the interview. Thank you for sharing your story
with us. VAIL: Well, I enjoyed it. I don’t know if it — but anyway, it’s different.

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