This is Jonathan Greenleaf. I'm here with my partner Joe Downer and we are interviewing Mr. Ames in the conference room at Wayland High School. The date is May 9.
Q: What is your name?
Mr. Ames: Harvey Ames
Q: What was your age in 1941?
Mr. Ames: I was 17.
Q: What is your place of birth and where were you raised?
Mr. Ames: Born in Waltham, raised in Watertown.
Q: To what extent were you are of the happenings in Japan, Italy, and Germany during the 1930s?
Mr. Ames: During the thirties, I was aware but not too much. Because I was pretty young, I was born in '24, so '34 I would have been 10. And then from there up to 1938 was during the depression years. I was aware of what happened when the war started over in Germany when we got into it.
Q: What are you memories on the attack on Pearl Harbor?
Mr. Ames: Well I remember when it did happen, yeah. I cannot tell you where I was at the time, but I was definitely aware on the attack on it, everybody was. It was a shock, a big shock, and from there on in, you know, FDR got us into it because there was no question about what was going to happen then.
Q: Did you feel declaring war was the right direction to go?
Mr. Ames: Sitting here now I would say yes. There were no other directions to go once that happened. You probably are aware that the Japs, the Japanese vendetta was to take over the United States.
Q: Were you drafted or did you feel you wanted to join the war?
Mr. Ames: Well, when I got out of High School I worked at the Fall river shipyard for about 6 months and all of a sudden in the mail box one day came a draft notice to go and see doctor so and so and get your physical. I said 'I am not going into the Army.' And I like the water anyway because I spent a lot of time on Maine on family vacations on the water. So I went to the shipyard office and I said 'what is the story on draft deferments?' because at that point they didn't want to let people out of the Ship building industry because they were building as fast as they could. And the word was out that if you were in defense projects then you would be deferred from going into the service. So I went and saw the shipyard officer and I said 'whats the story? The Army's sending me a physical notice.' I said 'I don't want to go into the Army.' I said 'I want to go down and join the Navy.' He said 'go ahead,' so I did, and that started things off.
Q: So did you think about joining the services after Pearl Harbor or had you thought about it beforehand or was it receiving that letter that kind of did it for you?
Mr. Ames: I don't remember thinking about it before I got the notice from the army. Once I got that that just set everything off, and there was no question about going you know, in the Vietnam War and times like that people were trying to dodge it because of the type of war it was. But I had no questions about going into the Navy, and I liked the water anyway, and I did not want to be running around in a foxhole.
Q: What was it like saying goodbye to your loved ones?
Mr. Ames: Well, my wife was a fairly new girlfriend at that point, and I didn't have any trouble saying goodbye to her. But I was able to do it and I was just glad I was able to live to come back to her. And my folks, you know, I don't recall them having too much objection to me going because we were all in the same World War two situation that we had just gotten into, and because of that everybody was, what we call now a days patriotic, and everybody had to get into it, you know thats when the women started working in 1941, Rosy the Riveter, that sort of set things off.
Q: So before you left to go to the Pacific Theatre were you on active duty or waiting to go somewhere?
Mr. Ames: Well, let me start from the beginning. After I enlisted in the Navy, I went to the federal building in Boston to enlist, and from there I was given a day top report to Newport, Rhode Island, and I went down there and started in boot camp, and that was in 1943. '41 was when the war started, '43 was when I went into it in Janurary.
Q: So how old were you at this point, 19?
Mr. Ames: I was 18 at that point in Janurary 1943, and I got out in 1946.
Q: What are your memories of boot camp?
Mr. Ames: Well, it was tough. It was concentrated though because they were trying to get people through as rapidly as they could. But at that point I think I did a three-month stint in it and at some point shortly after that. While I was doing three months there were the enlistees they were taking in were only doing six weeks of training because they were trying them men into the service and send them overseas. So I was sent to boot camp, boot camp was pretty concentrated, it was rough and I had always said that every kid that gets out of high school ought to do a year in the service. There's no faster way to grow a young fellow up. You get in there you know, and mommy and daddy aren't around anymore (chuckles) and there's no question as to whether you do what you're told or not if you don't, you pay for it.
Q: So it was a pretty big transition then?
Mr. Ames: Yes, but it did mature you pretty fast.
Q: Did you meet men who had been drafted and some who had joined as a result of Pearl Harbor?
Mr. Ames: Right, it was pretty mixed there, but unlike today, the whole thing was patriotism then and there was no question about whether you wanted to go into the service or not, an awful lot of guys, 'Hey, I'm joining up, I'm joining up.' That was the way it was, because we had a big thing to do.
Q: Where were you sent after boot camp?
Mr. Ames: From boot camp, well I was at Newport Rhode Island for boot camp and I spent another three months there in gunnery school. When I graduated from gunnery school I was sent to Miami, Florida to put that sub chaser into commission. It was a brand new ship. It was a small ship Navy-wise only 173 feet long. But it was a brand new ship down at Miami, Florida and I did all the shakedown cruise with them and became part of the crew. And from there, well the shakedown cruise was all the way down in the Caribbean, we went all the way to Trinidad I think it was and then we came back to Miami and our orders were to go to the Pacific. So we went down the coast, through the Panama Canal and out the Pacific. See this whole thing was brand new stuff to me, the Panama Canal, you know, I'd never been there.
Q: What special skills were you taught in the armed forces?
Mr. Ames: My rank was Gunners Mate, so that was my special skill, really to maintain gunnery ordinates, learn how to take them apart, put them together, fire them and everything. That's why I've got to thank for these hearing aids when I had these five inch guns going off in my ears.
Q: You had talked before about a Shakedown cruise, what is that?
Mr. Ames: Yeah a shakedown cruise. All ships go through a shakedown cruise. It's if you have a brand new ship, you know it's a new piece of equipment, it's like getting a new computer or something, you have to check it all out, make sure everything works right before you really get going on it.
Q: Was that a good experience to familiarize yourself with the ship and the crew?
Mr. Ames: Oh yeah. Shakedown, the word actually means to get acquainted with. You get acquainted with the ship, the things on it, the officers, and all your buddies.
Q: And those were the people that were with you when you went over to the Pacific?
Mr. Ames: Yes, the crew was full at that point. When you went on shakedown, you had all the personnel that were going to stay on that ship.
Q: Was it also a good experience to bond with the people that you were going to go to battle with?
Mr. Ames: Yes, and to get acquainted with the equipment. Being a gunners mate I was on gun crews, and we had to practice firing.
Q: What did you do once you arrived in the Pacific? Did you meet up with a fleet?
Mr. Ames: No actually, the PC, the patrol craft, basically it was a sub chaser. So our first duty over there, we never got involved in any battle on that ship. But our first duty over there was convoy duty, to convoy supply ships, tankers, things like that to make sure that they didn't get torpedoed, and all the time we did that we didn't lose a ship fortunately, and we might have sunk one sub.
Q: Were you actively trying to find subs and sink them and do depth charges and things like that?
Mr. Ames: Actually that was my battle station, to distribute the depth charges, when we had a sounding on the sound gear a regular pattern was set up to trap this sound that we were picking up, or the sub. And if we thought we were right over them or fairly close to them, it was my job to drop the depth charges, and when those things went off it was like a water spout, the water went up. You've probably seen that on TV.
Q: Did they rattle the boat and everything?
Mr. Ames: Oh, it did, the PC was not a very big ship and it was not a very stable ship, but it was good for what it was assigned for. And when depth charges were dropped and they finally went off, we had a magazine down below deck with a supply of depth charges in it and it had stanchions. In other words steel members that went from top to bottom and they fit into holes in the deck and we'd have to go down there after every depth charge run and we'd have to put all of the depth charges back in their place, and put the stanchions back where they belonged because it would just dump them all out. When those things went off it just lifted the back of the ship right up.
Q: Was your ship ever attacked or involved with any combat with another vessel?
Mr. Ames: Fortunately, no, which I've always been thankful for. You know a lot of us, we were just kids now. Oh boy adventure, adventure! you know? We want to go to sea and get in battle! (Chuckles)
Q: So you were not in any battles or major operations?
Mr. Ames: Not with the PC. With that sub chaser, which is the PC, our duty was to convoy ships and doing this we were supposed to be protecting them from any sub runs that might destroy us.
Q: What about Kamikaze planes, did you have to worry about that or was that later in the war?
Mr. Ames: We'll get to that. Yeah, they were scary.
Q: So how long were you on that PC for?
Mr. Ames: You know actually I've forgotten the exact length of time, because while we were cruising in the Solomon Islands, in the Agaudo canal, I got orders to return to the States, so they flew me back to Honolulu and eventually to San Diego. The orders I had were to go back to San Diego to electric hydraulic school, because electric Hydraulics were the power that powered all the gunnery and machinery on those ships. So I spent three months there, and from there I went cross-country on a troop train, what a miserable ride that was, and to Newport Rhode Island again to put the Amsterdam into commission. So we did a shakedown cruise in that, put it into commission, and I said 'oh good I'm going to Newport maybe I'll get a chance to see the other side of the world.' So we got through the shakedown cruise and it was time to go to war. Right down the East Coast, back through the Panama Canal, and out to the Pacific again.
Q: How long did that journey take?
Mr. Ames: I don't know. The ride through the Canal was interesting. I went through it on the PC, I went through it on the Amsterdam, and actually I went through it again on the way back after the war was over on a destroyer. So I can't tell you exactly how long it took. A lot of my memories, I wish they weren't, but they're dimmed because you know we're talking over fifty years ago.
Q: Do you ever remember missing the States while you were at sea?
Mr. Ames: I think the only time I had a remembrance or nostalgia or whatever you want to call it was at Christmas time. You know most everybody said, 'Oh why do we have to be out here for, we ought to be home to come get our Christmas presents.' No, I always enjoyed it. We'd cruise the Pacific a lot, bad weather, good weather, and I remember about the Pacific cruising was all these gentle ground swells in 90 degree temperature, and it did get a little boring after a while to the point when you were glad when a storm stirred up. It was something different then.
Q: What was the role of the USS Amsterdam in the Pacific?
Mr. Ames: We joined one of the fleets out there and the bottom line is that we were assigned to task force
Q: I think its 38? Was it 38?
Mr. Ames: It could have been. I have a tendency to want to say 57 or 54, but I don't know. If you've done research on it, you know better than I do. That was the largest task force that was ever assembled. There were ships there from all different countries; France, England, not nice to say but we would look at the English cruisers or battleships going past us while we were cruising around out there protecting the task force, and we're all working you know, keeping the ship in good ship shape, (chuckling) and the limeys as we call them were out there laying on the gun mounts, doing nothing, and their ships didn't look exactly as well kept as ours. That's just on the side.
Q: Was the main threat to the battle ships that you were protecting submarines?
Mr. Ames: At that time, no. At that time it was Japanese aircraft.
Q: The kamikazes?
Mr. Ames: Yeah. That's what we were frightened of. I was never really scared until we got into battle quarter going into general quarters for this attack that we were doing on taskforce 38. While we were doing that we had planes taking off from the carriers, another flight was on the way over, another flight was already over there dropping bombs, and another flight was on the way back to re-arm again.
Q: For Tokyo?
Mr. Ames: Yeah and some of the other cities listed on this sheet (information sheet Joe provided). Tokyo was the biggest one I heard of and also Yokohama. When we got ashore in Yokohama after it was over, I said, 'Boy, we didn't need any A-bomb.' We'd walk down the streets in Yokohama and the only thing standing was chimneys. Everything was demolished. So anyway, those planes were going over and bombing the mainland of Japan regularly on a constant basis. And when we did get word when the war was over, everybody of course was ecstatic. And the Missouri, called the big Mo, went into the Tokyo Bay to sign the surrender terms, and we along with some other ships had to stay outside of Tokyo Bay for any attacks that might come up after that, planes that might try to damage any of the fleet or the Missouri while it was in there, because the Missouri was there when all the surrender stuff took place, so I think we were out there for a couple of weeks before they allowed us to go in. And when we went in we were just anchored there for quite a while. Before we went in, they dropped the A-bomb. This is before the surrender was done. Myself and a couple of other guys were lying on top of a six-inch gun mount on the stern of the ship and we didn't think anything of it until a couple of days later when we heard they had dropped the bomb, and we said 'Whoa, that was what we felt the other day.' At this time we were about a hundred miles off the coast and we felt the concussion from that A-Bomb. We're pretty sure that we did because we couldn't nail it down to anything else. We didn't hear anything, but we felt the concussion from it. We compared noted when news of that came, and we were all pretty sure that that was what we felt because we didn't know what else it would have come from.
Q: How do you feel about the dropping of the A-Bomb? Do you feel it was something that was necessary to end the war?
Mr. Ames: Yeah. I think it would have saved an awful lot of lives, both them and us. But it was devastating as far as they were concerned. And there's no question about it that it did an awful lot of damage to people and things. But I do think it was the right thing to do. In hindsight, listening to all of the speculation of the history on it and everything how if we had launched an attack, a ground attack, a landing force on Japan, the Japanese were about as cunning as could be. They would have been in caves and treetops and every place else and really taken our forces out. So yes I do think it was the right thing to do.
Q: What was your attitude towards the Japanese and Germans during the time of the war? Did it differ when you were actually in the service and after?
Mr. Ames: Well during the war it was, well of course you might say it was a young people way of thinking, but you know we were all 17, 18 on up and most of us were young at that point. There were some veterans, but most of us were young because the call to arms was big and fast. So I would venture to say for most of the people in the service at that time while the war was going on was a 'We got to get 'em,' type of thing. Snipers in the Aguado Canal and the Solomon Islands, they'd sit in the top of the trees and pick off our forces when they were landing on the beachheads. So I would say everybody said, 'Get as many of these guys as you can.' That was the mindset.
Q: During the course of the war, did anyone you know, maybe family or friends, get killed in action?
Mr. Ames: Yeah there were a couple of guys from Watertown in my high school class that were killed I action over in Germany I think it was. One of them was one of the first casualties of the war I think. I had a cousin that got killed down in, I think it was North Carolina, on Army maneuvers. He was a first or second lieutenant in the Army. This gives you an idea of some of the reports you hear now a days of people getting killed by friendly fire. They were on maneuvers down there, you know, practice stuff for the battlefield and he accidentally got shot and that was them end of him.
Q: What was your most memorable experience during the war? Do you have one experience that kind of stands out?
Mr. Ames: Well I would say the whole final task force as a whole. Because that task force that we were in off of Japan was really the last operations of the war, because it was while we were there and the planes were going over bombing, that the war came to an end. Then we went into Tokyo bay and sat there at anchor for a while, and it got to the point where they allowed us to go ashore and see what things were like in Japan. That was really my most memorable thing. I don't think I was ever scared until we got down there (Tokyo Bay) because we had reports of bogies coming out to get us, and bogies are the enemy planes. We were called to general quarters and everybody was like this (tenses up) and all that stood out in my mind was I think I drank twelve cups of coffee in the first hour that we were at general quarters. The wonderful thing about it was that not one of the bogies ever reached the task force because they all got shot down by our planes before they got anywhere near us, which was fortunate.
Q: So you didn't come in any contact with them?
Mr. Ames: Nope. And I have never regretted the fact that I didn't see any live action so to speak. This was live action but we never came under fire. So that may be the only reason I'm here. And at that time the reports on Kamikazes were really big. We didn't know whether any would reach us or not because if they did, they would just come right down on the ship, and there were a lot of ships lost that way before this final attack.
Q: What was it like walking through Tokyo once you got ashore and just seeing everything? Was it devastating?
Mr. Ames: Yeah. Everything you know was, well they had been under fire for quite a while. There subways were still running, businesses were still going on I believe, and one of my fond memories was that I got into the subway in Tokyo and I never felt tall in my life until I got in there. At that time the Japanese weren't growing as big as they are now they were all pretty small people and I could look right all the way over the heads of all of them in the subway car. But also, things were so bad at that point that I rode one stop and got off. That smell was awful, because, you know, they were separated from all hygiene and everything for quite a time.
Q: Did you feel any hostility from the Japanese people walking around the city?
Mr. Ames: I don't recall anything like that, so what the Japanese population was like I don't know as far as how they felt about being defeated.
Q: On the vessel that you were on when you weren't in any danger of being attacked or there were no rumors of any attack, what was life like there when you were just on duty?
Mr. Ames: Well I'd think what you'd call it would be everyday living. You had certain duties that you had to perform on a daily basis. Everybody had a job to do. That was the way it was. The U.S. Armed forces, and most other armed forces I imagine had to keep themselves ready for action at any time and also keep the equipment up. When we weren't under attack or likelihood to be attacked we had certain jobs to do. In my case I was what they call a gunners mate, which meant that we had to keep the guns in condition. We would break them down, you know it's just like taking a car apart, and clean them up, oil them, whatever had to be done for maintenance of them. Being at sea all the time, you have to go to sea to really understand this; the salt water is a killer. You had to break guns down, break other equipment down.
Q: Were they rusting?
Mr. Ames: Yes. You could paint the side of the ship or the deck one day, and the next day the rust would be showing up again. So you had to keep that under constant care.
Q: By guns do you mean the big guns like the ones shown here? (Joe points to picture of USS Amsterdam)
Mr. Ames: Those are six inch guns, what I was taking care of were the five inch guns. The six inch guns were shore bombardment or surface firing. The five inch guns were anti-aircraft or surface firing. They were either way. You could see by the elevation on that one there, they go up pretty far.
Q: So if a Kamikaze was coming for the boat, those would be the guns you used?
Mr. Ames: They probably would be aiming for the smokestack. They put a bomb down the smoke stack, of the smoke-stack, well I think it was the Arizona. And that blew a lot.
Q: While you were over-seas, were you aware of the internment of Japanese- Americans in the States? Did you know it was happening at the time?
Mr. Ames: I don't know, do you know exactly when that was going on.
Q: ( I think it was around 43.)
Mr. Ames: Well I was probably overseas at that point. And I don't remember whether I was aware of that or not, I do know that I heard about it, when I can't say.
Q: Did you think that it was justified and an appropriate thing to do at the time?
Mr. Ames: I think probably at that time I thought it might have been necessary. Which is why we interned them to begin with. Because you know the whole Pearl Harbor thing kicked this whole thing off and we got a lot of Japanese people in this country. We didn't know if some of them saboteurs or whatever. So they had to take precautions. I don't know if they killed any of them or anything like that but they did like, you know, if you were taken out of your home here and sent to a compound someplace for a while, you wouldn't enjoy that.
Q: On the same note, in your opinion do you think they have interned Germans and Italians as well?
Mr. Ames: I don't know that they didn't. That I can't say. Probably not because those weren't in our country. Any internment over there would have been in other countries.
Q: I mean what do you think about German and Italians living in this country?
Mr. Ames: Those people living in this country. I don't know whether they were interned or not.
Q: I don't believe they were interned but do you feel they should have been?
Mr. Ames: That's not for me to say. Because with the Japanese internment that came with the fact that we were attacked without warning and it was against all the rules of war. I really don't know. I don't think they should have to tell you the truth, if they thought about it. Maybe, they probably did think about internment on some of them. Because you know spying and sabotage have been everywhere forever and even goes on now that is why we have to be prudent about things like this terrorism going on now. And have to try to find things before they happen.
Q: Did you see any connection or feel any connection between Pearl Harbor and September 11. Where there any memories of Pearl Harbor? Was it the same sort of thing?
Mr. Ames: No there's not much similarity, because we were bombed at Pearl Harbor and that's the kind of attack that it was and affected everyone the way it did at the time. But September 11, there's a connection there because what happened then it was so devastating, right out the clear blue, two air-liners being flown right into two skyscrapers and all the people that they took down with it. I don't know as anyone who could condone that other than the terrorists.
Q: In total how long were you in Japan and when did you return?
Mr. Ames: I returned, I was discharged in Febuary of 46 and what happened with me, was this destroyer that I was on which was the 6-68, this is the crew of it ( points to picture). That was anchored in Tokyo Bay. I was on my cruiser at the time, so the destroyer I know no war-time service on till well after the war was over. The gunnery officer came up to me one day and said 'Ames how would you like to volunteer for destroyer duty?' I said 'no way this cruisers going back to the states in two weeks.' So he said 'think about it, you'll be head of the gun crew over there and blah-blah-blah.' I said 'no,' so three o'clock that afternoon he arrived on deck and said 'Guess what you just volunteered for destroyer duty.' That was the way it worked in the service, you didn't have to volunteer. They would volunteer you. So I was on that for a couple of more months in Tokyo Bay just sitting there. Finally I came back to the states and went through the canal again and up the east coast to Brooklyn Navy yard at which point they decommissioned the destroyer. They took it out of service, and I went from the Brooklyn Navy yard to the Fargo building in South Boston and was discharged. As I went out the entrance of the building they had a guy right there who wanted to enlist you for the US Navy Reserve. I said, 'I had three years and two weeks thats enough. I want to be free.' So I never regretted the time that I was in there, because it did a lot for me, as far as growing me up and giving me experience that I never would have otherwise. I've just always been thankful that I never came under attack.
Q: Were you involved in other combat, possibly the Philippines or any other Indonesian Islands?
Mr. Ames: No, when we first went out on the sub-chaser, we were patrolling in around the Solomon Islands. We got up to some of the primary Islands and about that time I was sent back to the states. And when I went back out on a cruiser, I think we went directly into this Task Force. Cause that took a while to form and decisions had to be made as to how the attack was gonna be made. So we got into that Task Force and that was going on for a little while before the they dropped the A-bomb and the war was over.
Q: When you came home did you not have a welcoming- home celebration?
Mr. Ames: Well I know I had a welcoming-home celebration, not as far as the public was concerned, family wise.
Q: What did you think of FDR's leadership during the war. At sea were you aware of the policies he was making?
Mr. Ames: I think he did what he had to do. I don't think there was any question about it. you've all heard or probably be seen it, the re-run on TV about the speech where he says 'This day shall live in infamy' and that's about what boils down to it. Cause if we hadn't done something, if we had just fallen victim to all this and not retaliated, then you wouldn't be sitting where you are now. It had to be done and the fact that we were able to put us all together and the country together and manufacture equipment as fast as we did, to build ships as fast as we did was amazing. Before I went in and I was working in the shipyard, I was working on Bunker-Hill aircraft carrier down at Four River ship yard in Quincy. While I was working on that, thats when I got my draft notice from the army and then I enlisted in the Navy. The next time I saw the Bunker-Hill was out in the Pacific and fighting in the War.
Q: How did you react to the news of FDRs death?
Mr. Ames: Well I think it was a foregone conclusion because he was going down hill and he had been under polio for quite a while. But, to be able to conduct the war the way he did, he deserved a lot of credit for. And I wasn't a democrat, which FDR was.
Q: What did you think when Truman filled his shoes?
Mr. Ames: I considered Truman a hot ticket. He was fire and brimstone, you know he was like the admiral who said 'torpedoes, full speed ahead' and that's the way Truman carried on the war after FDR left.
Q: As you know Truman was the one who decided to drop the A-bomb. What are your thoughts on that?
Mr. Ames: I think he probably had sleepless nights about that too.
Q: Although it was a horrible thing possibly five times as many people would have died do to a land invasion of Japan.
Mr. Ames: It was a weapon we did not have during the whole war. It gradually came in development and it came to the time when I think they figured well, let's see if its gonna work. And it did. And they had perfected it, and they test fired it and everything like that. But it was something that had to be done I believe.
Q: Were you aware of any of the atrocities committed by Japanese soldiers on civilians in places like Nanking China and the death march of Bataan?
Mr. Ames: I did hear about those, and I think I heard about those before I went into the service. Because I remember hearing about the death march in the Philippines and what was the other one you mentioned.
Q: Nanking, China.
Mr. Ames: Well I never knew any of the history of what the Japanese were doing before World War II and before they attacked us at Pearl Harbor. But, you know they were going through a lot of the Asian territory over there and they inflicted a lot of harm on China. China, I don't think has probably ever forgiven them.
Q: I think in Nanking alone they killed over a hundred thousand civilians and raped around twenty thousand women.
Mr. Ames: Well that sounds probably right. But those things I never had any awareness of. I was never the greatest student in school and I liked history to a certain degree. But now history to me is wonderful, to be able to read some of these things and with the advent of television, you see a lot and get to learn a lot of things that you never would have got to learn about. The only way you would have gotten them would be to listen on the radio or read newspaper reports.
Q: At the end of the War did you anticipate future wars or did you think that countries would find other means of settling conflicts?
Mr. Ames: Well that was the big hope. We certainly hope that there would be no more. Of course World War I was supposed to be the war to end all wars. And World War II was definitely to be the war to end all wars cause World War one was so different .( tape break)
Q: So the break of the tape I believe we were talking about at the end of the war did you anticipate future wars such as Korea or did it seem to you countries would find other means of settling conflicts?
Mr. Ames: I did not. This would be all history to me also. I remember when the Korean War came into the scene. And the thing, which I remember, which has been brought back to mind recently was the ship that they captured over there. And I've forgotten how that worked out whether they turned that back over or whether they still have the ship. I don't remember. But the Korean War came fairly close on the heels of World War II. That was a Vietnam War of sorts, not exactly the same but at least you had a bigger objective, or a main objective in the Korean War. You got up to this parallel and you stopped. Any damage you inflicted on this side of the parallel meant that was part of the war. But the Vietnam War was a war that we figured we could never win. And that's why so many guys objected to it and that's why the amount of celebrity wasn't given to, it I believe. After we got out of there, there was a lot of this you know and that is why we hear the Vietnam veterans talking about 'we go back here and they didn't like us and didn't do this and they didn't do that,' which is legitimate thinking.
Q: What are you feelings about the draft today?
Mr. Ames: I really haven't really formed an opinion on it. I mentioned earlier I think, that I thought it would be a good idea for everybody, when they graduated from High School to do a year in the service. Then go on from there to college or wherever, whatever they were going to do, go into the workforce or whatever. Because if they had a year in the service it would give them a much better picture, a mature picture of the world and they would be thinking differently than if they had been at the time. I don't know as its necessary, the only thing that would make it necessary would be if they could not staff the armed forces to the degree that they needed to be staffed. Because once your drafted you have no choice, you're in the army now. You're not behind the plow was the way the song went.
Q: Do you think the generation of today would react differently by anything that you've noticed, to the events of Pearl Harbor than the generation when you grew up? Do you think there would have been the same response, the same eagerness to go out and enlist, get out to battle?
Mr. Ames: That's a little difficult to say, times are so different now. It's not that if we went along at the same level of doing the same things with no advancement of things technologically. It might be the same, but there's been so many technology advancements now and we have so many things that we never had then. When World War II got over, the guys had been away from home, three, four, five years some of them and they were all anxious to get back home once it got over. And we got back home, its whole different picture now. They started manufacturing things for the civilian life and people now could have new cars, washer machines, dryers and all kind of goodies. New things to make life better, which was the way it should have been. But it got bent out shape a little bit in my opinion, we got so enamored in all these new material things they got a little to far out of whack. Not to say that the advancements arent good, they are. But people, they don't think quite the same knowledge they did then. They haven't had a Pearl Harbor to do that for them and that was the devastation that came like a bolt of lighting. Nobody expected it, didn't know it was going to happen. And you hear all kinds of theories now about how they should have known it was going to happen and thats the way it goes. But hindsights are only good at looking at it, it doesn't do you any good. What has happened has happened and you have to pull yourself up by the boots and go on.
Q: In your opinion, what do you think the lessons of WW II are?
Mr. Ames: For the government, I think they learned quite a lot about staying on top of their game. So as to speak, so that things like that cant happen. You know, you're hearing about it right now, about all this stuff about how they could have stopped this stuff with terrorism and September 11. Well who knows if they could, sometimes things have to happen before awareness is being brought to the forefront. You know that nobody liked that and it was a terrible thing to happen and hopefully it can catch up with these people who are a terrorist. Will they ever go away? I don't know. I don't know how on a worldwide scale you could get all of them. There's always going to be to the people who have a different mindset and think their way is the right way or whatever. If somebody wants to take over the world, it's not a very practical way of looking at things because I don't think it could ever happen. The world is too big, it's getting smaller but it's still too big for one government to control the whole thing.
Q: Do you have any last memories of the war or being overseas?
Mr. Ames: It was an adventure and it was an experience. My biggest thing and a lot guys that went into the navy, 'oh we want to go to sea, we want to go to sea, give us sea duty.' Because there were a lot guys that enlisted and got anchored stuck with shore duty and maybe these same guys wanted to go to sea but they never got the opportunity. But they never got killed either.
Q: Do you consider yourself fortunate that you did get into the navy and not into the army, and maybe possibly ending up at D-Day or someplace else in Europe?
Mr. Ames: Well that's a nice way to think about it. But my idea of the whole thing was, that I always liked the water. I went to Maine with the family as a kid, down to Tenants Harbor Maine and relatives down there with cottages and small boats. I think that is where I got my love for the water. And having that love I said, 'well in the Navy I got three square meals a day, a place to sleep at night that and the only thing that can happen is the ship can go down. In the Army, I could be running in fox-holes, digging fox-holes and sleeping in trenches and things like.' So therefore I made the comparison and said 'I want to go in the Navy.' The marines, I never considered them. I don't know how many of them were killed in WWII, but they were the ones who were ultimately trained. They were trained a lot more than the Army personnel and the Navy also, because the Navy didn't have to do the ground warfare. But the marines they earned their title justifiably.
Q: When you woke up in the morning, was it always in the back of your mind that you might see action or your ship might get sunken?
Mr. Ames: Well that was always a possibility that was there, but you didn't dwell on it. It was one of those things, if it happens it happens. We had one guy, I think he was on the PC. He went down with the Yorktown and survived. That was in Midway or Coral Sea, I think he was in the Coral Sea battle at that time. And we always figured he was a little nutty (laughter), he was funny. When people figured you were a little nutty over there, you were called Asiatic. That was the nick-name for it.
Q: Was faith something that helped you to get through the war?
Mr. Ames: Certainly was, because I knew that if my ship were to go down I would be going to a better place. To this day I still know when I pass away I'm going to a better place. I don't think in Europe, you would find a single atheist in a foxhole anywhere either. Religion or faith was something that did help a lot of guys get through the war, it just made the idea of dying a little easier for a lot of guys.
Mr. Ames' crew
Mr. Ames' Gunner's Mate 2nd Class card
Mr. Ames' Gunner's mate 2nd class card (reverse)
Mr. Ames' church in Watertown, MA
Mr. Ames' ship