Q:What's your name?
Mr. Barnes: Robert T. Barnes
Q: What was your age in 1941?
Mr. Barnes: 19.
Q: What was your place of birth and where were you raised?
Mr. Barnes: Syracuse, NY; I grew up there till I went to college.
Q: Where did you go to college?
Mr. Barnes: Rensselaer.
Q: To what extent were you aware of the happenings in Japan, Italy, and Germany in the 1930's?
Mr. Barnes: Quite aware.
Q: How did you first become aware of all the dangers with Hitler and Hirohito?
Mr. Barnes: That was in the newsreels all the time. I mean even though we only had radio vs. TV, we had a lot of, you might say, hard news all the time and the newspapers, Iôm trying to think, but I think, yes, wire photos existed then. So we used to get photographs in many places in the country radio was the real communicator.
Q: What was your reaction to the war in Europe, like the invasion of Poland and the Battle of Britain?
Mr. Barnes: Now are you talking before or after we went into the war or after?
-Before the war
Mr. Barnes: I do not remember too much about it. I don't think it got that much publicity in this country because they were trying to discourage us from getting into the war. I mean, there were two factions, there was some that wanted to help Britain right away and others that didn't. So, I don't remember that being a big news item, it might have been.
Q: What are your remembrances of the attack on Pearl Harbor?
Mr. Barnes: Do I remember it? I sure do.
Q: Do you know where you were when it happened?
Mr. Barnes: I sure do.
Mr. Barnes: I was doing my homework in my room at Rensselaer, my friend down the hall used to always get the New York Symphony. He came from New Jersey. They were listening to the symphony and yelled down the hall to me what had happened. Needless to say, no more homework was done that day.
Q: What were your feelings when America declared war?
Mr. Barnes: What do you mean by feelings?
Q: Did you think they should have gone to war or should they have stayed out of it?
Mr. Barnes: Let me back up, okay? Most of us were conditioned to the possibility we were going to go to war back when the Japanese started invading China. I was in high school at the time, yes, I think I was maybe just in high school and two or three of us that hung around together. We were making toy soldiers, you took lead you had the mold and you poured in the lead and you created toy soldiers. It came over the radio that something big had happened in China, I just can't remember what the event was. This friend of mine was so mad he put his fist through the window. He put his fist right through it. Most of the young people were conditioned to the fact we were gonna go to war sometime, plus the fact in those days we were brought up in the notion that if you picked on an American someplace, the Marines were gonna be there, that was considered standard procedure, not the way we fritz around today. When Japan invaded China most of the younger generation said "Let's get them". That was separate from the anti-war groups at that time. And a lot different than is discussed these days. It was just a given.
Q: Did your feelings change at all in the duration of the war of after the war was over?
Mr. Barnes: No way, there were things that filtered out with what was going on. And I had friends killed down on the islands. So, it is entirely different today than it was then, now I don't know whether it's due to TV or what. We were all familiar with World War One, because a lot of us had parents in World War One. My father was in World War One and was wounded so I understood World War One. Probably most of us felt that after knowing about World War One, the last place we wanted to be was in the Army Ground Troops, just by natural reaction. In the meantime, airplanes were coming about; we were all into model airplanes and everything. So, the natural instinct was I got to go to war, I want to fly. Let me say one more thing, it bothers all of us, vets of that time, all this analysis of everything and going back and reconstructing and how did you feel, why did you do this, there was none of that questioning going on. As I said, we go back to that philosophy of if America gets involved, the Marines are next. We had people volunteer to go to Canada and go into their Air Force, we had volunteers that wanted to go. So, what you are exposed today and thinking about war, more or less analyzing it, those days there wasn't all this analysis, Monday Morning Quarterbacking and everything else.
Q: So to you, it was more of an instinctive gut reaction to go ahead and do it?
Mr. Barnes: It was somebody is beating up on somebody so we are gonna stop it.
Q: What service did you enter in the Armed Forces? Did you volunteer for it or were you drafted?
Mr. Barnes: I volunteered, you had to volunteer. I volunteered for the Army Air Corps.
Q: That's the branch you were in, the Air Corps?
Mr. Barnes: I volunteered in the spring of '42. I was sworn in as an Aviation Cadet on July 4, 1942. I gave up my independence on July 4, on Independence Day. I went back to school, and then I got called into the service. I officially entered the service on January 3, 1943.
Q: What was it like saying goodbye to your loved ones when you left for war?
Mr. Barnes: This is all new; my parents didn't want to see me go. My father didn't, but the attitude was this is an obligation, you've got to go. None of the parents were happy. They were like "OK, you got to go, keep in touch, I hope you return." In the meantime, in '42, the Marines had been in action, and there were people in town who had been killed, and standard procedure was a Gold Star hung in the window and sympathy was expressed but it was very local and we went on. Now, that is probably because it was only almost thirty years since World War One. So, it wasn't a big shock, it wasn't something new. We were just going back and doing what we did in World War One, that is the way we approached it. The other thing you had to keep in mind, before all the psychologists got loose since the end of World War Two, was we all had the attitude it wasn't us that was gonna be killed, it was gonna be the next guy. If we hadn't that attitude we would never have gotten guys to climb aboard the bombers from England to France when they knew that ten percent, maybe more weren't gonna come back. And many of them weren't even able to get their 25 missions because they got killed. The philosophy was "It isn't gonna be me," and the military wanted the younger people because of that attitude. It is like you people today when we tell you that you better drive carefully and everything else. "Oh yeah Dad, but it won't be me, it might be my friend, but it won't be me." You think about how many someone said don't do this. This was the attitude of the people of the guys going into service.
Q: What special skills were you taught in the Armed Forces?
Mr. Barnes: I'll have to back up; I went into service, the Aviation Cadets. I don't know if you're familiar with that or not. That is Officer Training in the Air Force. You went into Pilot School, the officer level. Now, I started out in Nashville, Tennessee where it doesn't snow, but it snowed that year. We were all in these tar paper shacks burning soft coal. Talk about pollution, you could cut it with a knife. We had these little pot belly stoves, two for a barracks, maybe only one depending on the length of the barrack. The only place there was heat was the first foot and a half, if nobody was blocking the foot and a half. So, there we took all kinds of tests that they had developed to see what type of field that you should go into, Bombardier, Navigator or Pilot. Then you had a psychological test and I'll tell you how that works. I'm in Engineering School and I'm saying "I'm working on airplanes," I wanted to be a pilot because I wanted to see what requirements a pilot needed, so when I was building airplanes later on, would be able to take advantage of that experience. They had decided that anybody who had had engineer training would make great navigators(laugh) So we all compared all notes after we found out what training we were selected for, and a fellow from Brooklyn, I said to him, "You gonna be a pilot?" "Oh yeah" I said "What did you tell the psychologist?" He (other guy) said "I'm sitting in my seat, I've got my machine guns blasting and I get them and I watch them go down." Now you got to remember that as we were growing up we were all drawing World War One airplanes and doing dogfights. That was probably the biggest art going on in the classroom when we had a little time. So, for him to turn around and say "That's all I want to do," then I thought about it a minute and I said "You are pretty smart, aren't you?(laugh)" So, then I went to Navigation School, but we started out in what was called pre-flight Navigation School, and that was at Ellington Field in Texas. It's where NASA down there started, but NASA Johnson Complex is down the road a bit. Now, interesting sidelight, we had the best food in the world we ever had. I wrote home to my father, and my father said "Where do I enlist?" Because they had rationing back home and everything else. The Aviation Cadets got $75 dollars a month; the Privates were only getting $21 dollars a month. Part of that money had to go towards the Mess, I can't remember how it actually worked out. We were spending more money, therefore, we should have had better food, but that doesn't hold true. At Arlington Field it did, and I said to the Master Sergeant who was in charge of the Mess Hall, "Boy, you got some great cooks here." He said "Want to know what they did before they came here, they were welders on the flight line." They didn't have enough work for them. He said "I brought them aboard and I got rid of the army cooks that I had because he ran a restaurant and he said I could train them the way I want to, I didn't have to worry about un-training them the way the Army had taught them, so he says that's why I got such a great place." And he did. Then we went from there to San Marcos, Texas. In the meantime, coming out of Nashville a whole bunch of us essentially got pneumonia. So we ended up in the base hospital. The nurses said "These boys have had a hard time," keep in mind we have only been in the army three weeks, "they need two weeks leave." Head doctor said "no way; I'll give them a week." So there I had gone into service, I'm back home in a week, spending all my time explaining why I'm home.
Q: How did your faith impact your thought of the war?
Mr. Barnes: I was an active Christian at the time. So, nothing really changed.
Q: What was your specific role in the armed services?
Mr. Barnes: Well, we go back to Navigation School. They had the lousiest food I ever had in my life. We found out later, the Sergeant was peeling off the food and selling it on the black market. So we didn't have very good food. Now are you familiar at all with Texas?
Mr. Barnes: It's one hot place. Now, up till this time we haven't flown. We climb in these airplanes say at one o'clock in the afternoon. There was a group that went out in the morning and they came back. Then the airplanes sit there for a couple of hours at 90 degrees on this big concrete pad. When we climb in them, they are hot. And inside they are more than whatever the temperature is outside. The only "air conditioning" you had was when the airplane got rolling and flying there was little vents on the side. Otherwise, it was like being in an oven. The army at that time wasn't smart about dehydration. Now, I assume you saw all the water bottles they carried in the Gulf War. We were even told to back off on water, those of us that got airsick, which turns out to be the worst thing in the world we could have done. Not having good food we climbed aboard the airplane in very poor shape as far as well fed. Now, we wore nothing but fatigues and underwear. The fatigues we got aren't like the ones they got now. They were one solid piece; they looked like things garage mechanics used to wear one whole thing. Here we are with a headache because of practically heat prostration by the time we get in the air. Then in Texas in the afternoon there's cumulus clouds and the airplane bounces all over the sky. Add to that you've got a table in front of you and you are supposed to be making calculations. Well, there was procedure we had to go through. There was a drift-meter that you looked down and changed the crosshairs to line up so you know how the airplane was drifting. You took that reading, you looked at a compass that was here(points to spot in front of him), and then as you looked at the air speed indicator that was farther forward and with that and your little computer, it was more like a slide rule. You know what a slide rule is? this is what it was, Then you did some calculations. So you were looking through the drift meter, which right away if you are the least bit queasy, that was about all it took to trigger you off. Then you went through the cycle; you went through it probably every minute. Well, I got air sick, when I look back on it, had they had the philosophy and I hadn't been dehydrated I probably could have gotten through it. But I got so air sick, and some of my friends did too, you see we were up for three hours, so I was almost passed out for three hours. The instructor could come in the next morning, we used to put all our charts up front in a box, and he would look down the aisle and there were six in a row, and three of us were air sick. He would look "Well, I don't have to go over and got those." Keep in mind this is almost 24 hours later, we were a sad bunch and they were desperate for navigators. By the way it didn't take any college education. The kid that sold newspapers on the street corner could add and subtract, and that is what navigation was all about, because you had time and distance and everything else. When I would make a mistake, the first couple of times I would check with my partner across the way, and he would go back and check his and I would check mine. Well after doing this a couple of times, I never questioned him again. Another reason I had such a big problem, because when my kids were born, my younger son was dyslexic. Now I know I was dyslexic at the time. So, it's a good thing I got air sick because I'm not sure I would have been such a good navigator. Now after that, they threw me out of there and I ended up being unlisted. I'm gonna skip some time in between. I became an enlisted man and we were at Esler Field in Louisiana. The group I was with flew Tac Recon. That means you have your fighter pilot go out and do their thing, and you have the bombers go out and do their thing. Then you wait to see how much damage has been done. So the Tac Recon people went out and took pictures, they had cameras aboard and they took them, and then they brought them back. Or in some cases, they just came back and said "Okay; this is what it is." The people that were involved in doing that, interviewing them and devouring all that information was called Intelligence. The army at the time was known as S2, that was the category. So I worked in intelligence, we supported army maneuvers in Louisiana
Q: What were some of the operations or battles that you were involved with?
Mr. Barnes: I can go to the next step now; this is another little interesting sidelight. This group that I joined down there in Louisiana had been flying, covering military maneuvers their whole life. We figured "I guess we'll end up doing that at the end of the war." Let me back up because there was another interesting little sidelight here. About the time of the Battle of the Bulge, they were looking for anybody to tote a gun. And being in S2, Teletype communication between headquarters was there where we were. Hanging around the office was the best place to be, not much activity. So, we kind of gathered around there. This one night, a teletype came through saying they wanted x number of Air Force GI's to be shipped to the Infantry someplace. An interesting thing in there, except ones with serial numbers beginning with one. A-one meant you enlisted. So I said, "good, I'm home free." I had been working on a leave at the same time. So, I went home, enjoyed a leave and came back. My friend says, "You are going off to Camp such and such," I don't remember which one it was. I said, "No, I'm not." I'm not sure whether I made a copy of that or not, but I was able to find something to prove it. I said "If you'll notice my serial number begins with a one." The guy in the orderly room didn't have a one and he didn't want to go, he had three, so he put me in his place. Well, it took about five minutes to clear that up. Then shortly after that we got orders that we were gonna go overseas. Our pilots had been flying P-40's, and so we start preparing to go overseas, so about January '45 we move from Esler Field to Meridian Field in Mississippi. There our pilots all got brand new P-51's, and they did what we call transition, they practiced on the P-51's. Then we shipped overseas. We climbed aboard a Liberty ship; those were those ships that they built on the West Coast. I don't know how many they were putting out a day, they were all welded. It had a production process nobody could believe. So they weren't, you might say, a passenger vessel. We were crammed in them, and I use the word "crammed." They had bunks five high and there was about this much space between them (points about a foot and a half). Well, good old me, I was sea sick from the day I climbed aboard the thing. For eleven days it took us to go across the ocean. I was sick all the way. Then we were in a big storm so we couldn't go up on deck. Then when we arrived in Europe at Le Harve. This is another interesting thing. At night we were on the ship when we first got there, and we look up at the hills. We see a lightbulb here, a lightbulb there, and that is all. In the morning there were people trying to repair their houses. They had no tools, no machines like you see today. The Germans had taken everything they possibly could take. So a guy was up there with a hammer and that is all he had to work with. Then we went from Le Harve to Nancy, France. When we got to Nancy, our Colonel tried to find out where we were going next. Somebody says, "What are you doing here?" A group, two squadrons, what do you mean "What are we doing here?" So, we are put up at a school in Nancy. We were there I guess a week, we slept on the floor, then I think they finally found cots for us. Then we went to Haguenau, which is just north of Strasbourg in France. Strasbourg is right on the Rhine River. That was where a lot went on during the Battle of the Bulge. We set up there in April, and the war was over in May. So, our pilots had no problem, although they did see the Messerschmidt Jets attacking our formations, because they would come back and tell us about that. A P-51 could turn inside of those jets, so they were never really able to get at the P-51's. The way they got at the Bombers is they came down and went right on through. The jets were very short range, they took one pass and they headed for home. The tactic was the P-51's would go where they thought they were gonna land, and as they approached, they would knock them out of the sky. Keeping in mind then, that the Germans didnôt have much of an Air Force. They were all pretty well wiped out.
I found out many years later talking to a friend of mine that was in the group, that what happened was they wanted a designation for a new Tac Recon group that they were gonna set up in Europe. Somehow, it got garbled and they shipped the whole group. That is how we ended up there, nobody knew what to do with us. Very ironic, our squadron major had been over in Africa, he had seventeen oak leaf clusters and that meant he had five times seventeen number of missions. His brother had gotten lost and that was why he wanted to go back and see if he could find out more about his brother. Keep in mind, we had only been at this place about a month. And one day, a whole new squadron arrived, it turns out, it was the squadron that he was with in Africa had been transferred. There were quite a few guys who knew each other and everything else. Well, shortly after that the war ended and then they started shipping people home or to Japan. If you had enough points, I don't know if you've heard about points, but you got points for the length of time you were in the service, you got more points if you were overseas, you got points if you had been in different battles and all of that. Well, as soon as that was announced, these guys that had come form North Africa wrote on their trailers and things the number of points they had. They were up over a hundred; they were letting people out with fewer points. We were down; we didn't even discuss the points we had because I don't even think we got to twenty. So they said, "you are on your way to Japan." We were lucky. We got some time in Paris and we got some time in London. This time we came home on the West Point, which used to be the United States, a cruise ship. Still the bunks were five high, but that was an entirely different ride. While I was home on a recuperation referral before going to Japan, we got shipped to Drew Field in Florida. If you've ever been to the Tampa Airport, that's where the field used to be. Then spent four months working on discharging GI's as they came along. But those guys that had over a hundred points ended up doing a year's occupation duty.
Q: When they decided you wouldn't be a Navigator, what did you do with the squadron, what was your job?
Mr. Barnes: Well, that is when I was telling you about Esler Field. I was in the Tactical Recon group and I was in Intelligence.
Q: So did you go fly on the missions with them?
Mr. Barnes: Oh no, we laid out the missions that the pilots were to fly. We had a big map probably twice the size of that (points to about 3 1/2' X 2' rectangle on wall). By communication we knew where the battle lines were. We knew where bomber groups were going to attack. Then out pilots were sent out to do Recon. Then they would come back, we would interview them and gather the information and pass it onto headquarters. Like they saw this, this, and this and this. The pilots with heart weren't just satisfied to do Recon. and come home, but they would look to see if they could find some German airplanes to shoot at. Sorry to say, some of them were shooting up things on the ground like trains. We lost no pilots, of course they had only been at it a month. No, when I went to Drew Field then I eventually got out, I got out on the 10th of December, 1945. So I put in three years.
Q: When you were away, what did you miss most about the United States?
Mr. Barnes: It was your friends you missed most. We resigned ourselves to poor food. Although we had pretty good food except for that spell at San Marcos. But you develop friends when you were in the service. So, I replaced my college friends with friends I had made in the service. You see, we weren't climbing in trenches, we weren't making invasions. So, by the time we got to Europe, the war was practically over, so we weren't being attacked by anybody. There wasn't too much too miss. In fact when they said you are gonna go back to the States we said, "Gee, we had already spent a weekend in Paris, it would be nice if we could go through England." Low and behold we did. We had two weeks in England; we spent a lot of time in London. The thing that amazed us, after seeing photographs of the damage done in London and everything else, the place was almost perfectly cleared of everything. There was damage with the buildings, like St. Paul's, they hadn't got around to repairing that yet, we saw all that damage. There were other places that were wiped out. The interesting thing is, they had cleaned up everything and that compared to Germany when we went "sightseeing" after the war to Germany, rubble was piled high. So when we went to England we figured we would see a lot of the same thing, but it wasn't.
Q: Have you still kept contact with anyone in your unit?
Mr. Barnes: I did till they died. The fellows in that picture there (referring to a picture in an album) were my friends. One, he was in Oklahoma, went to college there. Most of us went to college or finished up college on the GI bill. He stayed in the service, he had been several places, but his final position was at Vandenburg Air Force Base in California, in the Missile Area. He took up painting, and he became a fairly well known painter of water colors. When I visited him he gave me a beautiful painting he had done in watercolor of, more or less, a coast scene. The other fellow, I kind of lost track of him. He went back to school, he thought he wanted to be a minister, then he changed his mind, then we kind of lost touch with him. Except I went and visited him once in Indiana, he lived near Notre Dame in Indiana. Another friend, I lost track of him, he decided to go to school at Syracuse University. But I didn't get to see him there because I was some other place. Then there was people, other people you met along the way. I was at one air base and, low and behold, this college buddy, who was the one that had the radio on Pearl Harbor Day, I met him. Another time I was at the same base, this fellow came up to me and said, "I know you," and I looked at him I said, "Well, I don't know you." He said, "We went to High School together." This is how things are somewhat crazy. After the war, many years after, my father-in-law died. Somehow or another he (another friend) was in the law firm that was to settle my father in law's estate, which I don't think was any larger than ten thousand dollars. But somehow or another or on purpose, it had gotten pushed into the file and nothing happened for three years. My sister-in-law was the executor, so I couldn't do anything, I just say, "Norma, how's it going?" "Well, they're working on it," she says. Finally I said, "I'm gonna get to the bottom of this." I walk in the law office and they can't even find it. Then all of a sudden this school friend who I met out in Salt Lake City again walks in, so I say, "Okay, you owe me one." I told him the problem; it was solved by the end of the day, so you never know. One other thing I should point out, and people donôt realize it, is that an awful lot of fellows got killed in training, but not by guns. I'll give you several examples when I was at Ellington Field. It was also advanced flying school, it had more navigating and pre-flight. It was a Pilots' Advanced Flying School. They were flying bi-planes, and the procedure was, after they graduated, the next day they could go up and do free flight, whatever they wanted to do. It had been pointed out that practically every class that had graduated, somebody had gone up and tore the wings off their airplane and gotten killed. Low and behold, the barracks across the street from us, two guys had done exactly that.
In Navigation School, we're flying in a cumulus cloud and thunderstorms were coming. And they come up very fast, and in thunderstorms, you get these downdrafts and updrafts. If you get caught in one, it depends how you get caught, it can take the wings off the airplane or it can just push you right down to the ground. We had one group, a plane of three guys; instructor and pilot, got caught in one of those never came back to class. Another thing that probably bothered me more than anything else, when we were overseas there were small ammunition dumps of rounds, stuff left over by the army and everything else, and we had one near us when we were in Haguenau. Because of the food situation in Europe, young kids would come to the mess tent and gather stuff out of the garbage can. Now, one day, kids being normal, they discovered, on their way to the mess tent, this little ammunition dump. They took 20mm shells and there was a bridge there over the railraod tracks, they took one or two, we don't know how many and hit it with a rock. Well, one let go and hit all four of them. They were younger than you and we took them to the hospital which is down the road about 30 miles. Two had died before we got there, and other two survived. When we were at Esler Field, the pilots, as an excuse to do training would make trips home on the weekends. They would take people with them, well a B-25 didn't hold very many people. This pilot was going to Rochester NY and I was scheduled to go with him. I went down the flight line and he said, "Gee Bob, the only seat available is in the tail gunner." Well, I knew better, I wasn't going to ride all the way to Rochester in a tail gunner's position, believe me. I didn't go, returning to the airport, and this was common in the B-25's, they put them on autopilot and then when they got near the airport they would take them off autopilot. Well, there was some kind of a defect, and they never figured it out far as I know, but the tendency was that the autopilot had either adjusted for fuel balance or hadn't. When they took it off, they go in dive, and that plane went into a dive. So the fact that I was afraid of getting airsick, I walked away, so to speak. So this is what happened, and another thing was, and you have to ask your grandparents about this, but there used to be Walter on radio. He was like some of the commentators today, finding things that were going wrong and reporting. He reported on Shepherd Field, Texas, and he would say, "Don't worry about your son overseas, worry about your son in Shepherd Field, Texas." Well, I happened to pass through there for a short period of time, and I know what he meant. Number One, they still didn't believe in water for everybody in the middle of the day, and so they would have hikes, you would start out in the morning and you were only allowed one canteen full. The comment was that you have to get prepared for the desert when you don't have water, and people died, they got dehydrated. Then, typical military, practically every weekend they would have a full dress parade, that is everybody on the base gets out and parades. The General might be there he might not, but for him, they put over a canvas shelter, the troops were out there in the sun. It was well known that guys would drop. One night, I went by the medical center and there were four corpses, and we called it the meat wagon, with tags on their toes, and that is what had happened to them during the day. I remember the day because it was bitterly hot. I ought to point this out, all of us that knew how to type, were able lots of times to get jobs in what we call the orderly room, that is where they handle all the paperwork. If you ended up at a base temporarily, like I did sometimes they would say, "is there anybody that can type?" I would say, "Yeah, I can type." So, I didn't get caught in the stuff that happened at Shepherd Field, because I was typing at night on service records. So, the one time in the military it paid to volunteer was when they were looking for typists. The rest of the time, well, that was debatable.
Q: How did you react to the news of FDR's death?
Mr. Barnes: Well, I have an interesting story to tell you, we were there at our base in Haguenau. We had this one fellow who thought that FDR was the greatest person in the world. And we had this other fellow who felt they couldn't get rid of Roosevelt quick enough. They are both in the same tent, I had the radio, because being in intelligence we had a safe, and the safe was just big enough to get my radio in it. So we were one of the few that had a radio overseas, because when we packed up everything, we could put some stuff in it, but it was kind of difficult but I got the radio in there. So, we had a radio in the tent. I'll never forget it, we turned the radio on and they were playing hero music, and they announced that President Roosevelt had died. This guy that hated Roosevelt went over and woke up the other guy, who thought Roosevelt was great and he says, "Rosie's dead! Rosie's dead! Hooray! Hooray!" I can picture that, it was unbelievable! That's how we reacted. A lot of us were Republicans and we weren't that impressed with Roosevelt. It had nothing to do with the war; we didn't like his policies, like the WPA and all of that stuff. So, that's what happened when Roosevelt died.
Q: What did you think of Truman's decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
Mr. Barnes: The best thing he could have ever done. The people who thought the Japanese would not bury into those little caves they built, and fight us to the last inch were crazy. We had gone all through it in the Pacific. You had to practically dig them out of the caves and everything else, and then we were gonna invade the homeland. Oh no, they wouldn't do that. I wouldn't be here talking to you if he hadn't dropped the atomic bombs. Well, I might have, because I was in the Air Force. All the GI's who were headed on ships to the Pacific, and there was a lot of them never would have probably made it home if he hadn't done it. You know he dropped one and that didn't register, he had to drop two before they got the message. So, it is a good thing he did.
Q: What do you think of today's generation of younger Americans?
-In what way?
Q: How do you think we are different? How do you think we are the same?
-In regards to the war?
-In regards to your generation back then.
Mr. Barnes: You have not, this might surprise you, gotten the basic education we all had gotten when we went into the service. Can you picture all the girls going into industry? "Rosie the Riveter" running machines and they took girls who had been in college for two years. Curtis Wright, hardly anybody knows they still exist today, but they were big in the aircraft engine business. They ran a program, they went to eight colleges in the country, they were all engineering schools, and asked them to take a hundred girls each one-year and educate them in aeronautics, and they specialized and structures. Then Curtis Wright immediately hired them when they came out. Now, keep in mind they had two years of college, but they had also had basics in hands on type of education. So I would say that to do what was done in World War Two, utilizing people in different types of occupations and things, you as a group wouldn't have the capability to do what we did. It is not a reflection on you; it is due to the fact that your education is entirely different.
Q: Do you have any parting advice for the youth of today?
Mr. Barnes: I think that when you graduate from high school, you should have some idea of what you want to do. Now I know this goes against the grain of modern thinking, but the reason I say this if you know what you want to do, then youôve got a goal in front of you that Iôm gonna get there. You go to college and you flunk a course or you have problems and everything else, your first reaction is I'll switch over to here. But that isn't what you planned to do, you wanted to do that. So having that goal helps you overcome adversity and keep going. Well, let me give you a little example, in my class at Rensselaer, we were all engineers. I went back and reconstructed our class. At that time, if you failed one class as freshman, the registrar automatically puts you in the next class. Now, I'm not sure how it all came out in the end. When I was doing this homework for putting my class back together, I found out that out of four hundred, a hundred of us had failed a course along the way. Now today that might mean you are thrown out of school, but then it was "Okay, so we have to take the course over, do something." We want to be engineers; we'll put up with it and keep going. That's why I say it's important if you can, know what you want to do, then you can have the fortitude to keep going. Otherwise, if you say "Gee, maybe this isn't what I want to do," the first thing you're gonna do is you óre gonna flip over to something else. It happened to my younger son, he wanted to be geologist, that is all he wanted to do was be a Geologist. He went out to St. Lawrence and because he is dyslexic, and they weren't recognizing it much in those days he had one horrible freshman year. He came home and he said, "Dad, I don't want Geology, I'm going to take Economics," because his friends had told him, "Economics, you can handle that." I said; "You said you wanted to be a Geologist, you'll keep going, no switching courses." Well, he grumbled naturally, but he did, he kept going. If I hadn't put that in front of him he would have switched over to Economics, and he would have had trouble with Economics, and he would have switched over to something else and he wouldn't have graduated. Now the irony of all that is, after he insisted he wanted to be a Geologist, and I kept his nose to the grindstone, he takes a junior trip to the Badlands of South Dakota, comes home and announces I am not going to do Geology. In the meantime, he's working doing tree work, and he fell in love with tree work. He came out of college, he went over to Lincoln, convinced them they needed a conservation land manager and that's what he did. He said, good thing I have that piece of paper, even though he never used Geology since. Now, he's got his own business.
Q: What did you think of building the internment camps for the Japanese?
Mr. Barnes: We probably didn't have to do it, but you got to put yourself in the mindset that we never thought they would attack Pearl Harbor either. We didn't know what their capability was, therefore, the natural reaction is you can't trust them. There was even some of that feeling about the Germans, and they had been there much longer, but that's an entirely different situation. When you look back on it, you say, "Well, they probably didn't have to do it." But you will never know. In some respects, their living conditions were no worse than we had as GI's, living in tar paper shacks and all of that. And the fact that they were pulled out of their homes and shipped off, but we were pulled out of our homes and shipped off too. I guess what I'm saying, to go back and rethink it and discuss it Monday Morning Quarterbacking, probably isn't valid. Now, there will be people who will disagree with me. I don't think this is their main objective, but you got to keep in mind everybody is making a fuss these days that they were discriminated against, in fact, in those days I donôt even think the word even existed. Therefore, the legal profession, wanting to make a living, was coming up with these big lawsuits, and of course who can argue with the fact that, "Oh yeah, we really should do something for them." It wasn't good but I don't think it was that bad. It's conceivable those people living in the San Francisco area and moving onto these camps, if the Japanese had been lucky with the balloons they were floating over this country and had landed in the city and killed people, the local people might have looked upon the Japanese entirely differently, and they might have had a much rougher life, we don't know. That is what disturbs me, trying to analyze things without having a good handle on what existed at the time.
Bruce Cassidy KIA on D-Day
Swearing In Ceremony at Syracuse