War on Their Minds
mr bloom in india   Bernard J. Bloom
Age in 1941: 21

Interview Team: Richard Langweber and Jessie McCormack
  Mr Bloom 2001



Q: How old were you in 1941?

Mr. Bloom: 21


Q: 21, and where were you born and where were you raised?

Mr. Bloom: I was born in Dorchester, moved out of Dorchester when I was 2 years old, so I went completely through the Brookline school system. Devotion Grammar School, Brookline High. I graduated in '37.


Q: During this time when you were growing up in High School, and even a little bit after, to what extent were you aware of the happenings in Italy, and Japan, and Germany around the 1930's?

Mr. Bloom: Not too much about Italy or Japan, in the 1930's. A little bit about Germany and the Nazi movement.


Q: Was it taught or talked about a lot?

Mr. Bloom: No, it was not talked about in my recollection. It was reading the papers.


Q: Reading the papers. Was it on the news?

Mr. Bloom: Yeah, a little bit on the news, but news there wasn't television. It was radio news. It was reading paper and periodicals.


Q: Now, when was it you first became aware of the major dangers in Europe? Was it through school, or like you said reading the newspapers?

Mr. Bloom: Well, when I went off to college, University of Michigan, graduated in June of 41, at that time, the drafts, there was a year service in the drafts that you could serve a year and take care of your military service. It was a year, I don't know exactly when the congress passed it, probably 36-7, no probably 8 or 9, and you, one year service took care of your training and military service at that time. Then they passed the draft afterwards when we got out of school in June of 41, there was the draft and we knew however your numbers came up, and however your physicals came out, that you were heading into the army sometime after college graduation June, July, August...


Q: So, around after college you realized that this was actually happening?

Mr. Bloom: Yup, and then Franklin Roosevelt, I don't remember when he passed the Lend-Lease bill, I don't know if youve studied that, there was a Lend-Lease Bill passed under Roosevelt's regime that we would, let me back up a minute. There was always an [isolationism]; the country was within itself. Yeah, clashing, you know, they thought the oceans protected us, and we didn't. Let Europe be and everything else. Then Roosevelt passed the Lend-Lease Bill through congress that meant we could lend and lease equipment, destroyers and the like, to the British and the people that were fighting the war basically for us at the time. The country wasn't international, the world wasn't international, there was no world community, we didn't have the communication back then that everybody has. Today, it's instantaneous. Send an email, get it back from Japan in what, 5 seconds? So that's when we began to realize what was going on.


Q: I noticed that you referred to Roosevelt's administration as a "regime." Why is that?

Mr. Bloom: Well, let's put it this way; I use the word "regime." Don't forget, he had what? Four terms? Three? Elected for the fourth and died in what, 45? 44, 45? So, I call that a "regime."


Q: Now, when you first became aware of this, what was your first reaction?

Mr. Bloom: Well, your first reaction at that time: patriotic. I mean, we knew that we were going to go, and everybody was willing to fight for the freedom that we knew was being taken away from everybody in Europe. Hitler had marched into Poland, and France, and Austria, and so we knew eventually, and Britain was getting attacked, so we knew we had to protect the world, so to speak. So there was a certain amount of patriotic feeling. Nobody wanted to go, dont get me wrong.


Q: What do you remember about Pearl Harbor?

Mr. Bloom: Oh, now I get a good story to tell you. My college roommate, who didn't come back for his senior year in college, 'cause he decided to enlist to get that year over with, get it out of his way and then he would finish his education, and go on to graduate school. December 7th, 1941 I was driving down to Camp Edwards, on the Cape, do you know where Camp Edwards is down on the Cape? It's an Army area, because he was being discharged December 7th, 1941 from the 101st artillery, company H, and he was finished with his military training for the year. I was driving down to pick him up since he could come home, if not I was gonna take some of his stuff home, and deliver it to his house. When we turned on the radio in the car and heard of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Then you knew nobody was getting out. Everybody was there, that was it. You knew you were gonna be in, and no one was getting out. They were not going to train them and then get them out.


Q: What did you feel about the bombing?

Mr. Bloom: The bombing at that time? Well, it was cowardly, it was deceitful, it was as Roosevelt said the next day, or the day after when he wanted the declaration of war, "a date born in infamy!" I'm sure you've heard the expression. That's what it was, I mean it was a dastardly thing. They had been negotiating with Japan, Japan's representatives around Washington. As a matter of fact, I think on that day or the day before, I recall, they were coming up the steps to a conference and the bombs started to fall on Pearl Harbor. Well, then we knew we were going in the Army eventually, gonna be drafted, so January, right after the New Year, I went down and enlisted. 21 Years old, no responsibilities, no family, nothing. What the Hell? You go.


Q: Did your feelings about the bombing change during or after the war?

Mr. Bloom: No. To this day, I am angry with the Japanese. I have never bought a Japanese car, and I have never bought a German car. I won't say I've never bought something made in Japan or Germany because too much stuff is made. But, that's my revenge


Q: So, you said that you enlisted in the Army, and that's how you got in. When you joined, was there any branch of the Army or the armed forces that you wanted to be in?

Mr. Bloom: Well, when you enlisted, you had the choice of a branch of the armed forces. If you were drafted, you were sent to the infantry. That was not the glory; so I chose the Ordnance Corps or the Quartermaster Corps. The quartermaster was filled up, so I got sent to Ordnance. Abilene Proving Ground, you might know where that is. The Ordnance Corps took care of the equipment, the guns, the artillery, the trucks, all the supplies, bombs, bullets, anything that supplied the Army in weapons. Weapons, tanks, etc. And the Abilene Proving Ground in Abilene, Maryland was the headquarters of all this command there.


Q: And, you mentioned that you were free of responsibility, you were 21, was there anything that when you first went off and first enlisted, any special emotion that you remember feeling exactly when you joined?

Mr. Bloom: No, not exactly, I mean, you knew the war was going on, there was no point in hiding, there was no point in running away, you had to fight, the World needed protection, a little bit of that, but you know, 21 you're out of college; it's an adventure! It wasn't terrible. You didn't know how terrible it could be, lets put it that way.


Q: You said you were free of responsibility. Did you have loved ones to say goodbye to?

Mr. Bloom: Yeah, you just had a brother, a sister, parents.


Q: What was that like?

Mr. Bloom: It was emotional, from that point of view. But you know, you've been away four years of college; they were older, an older brother and an older sister, you've been away four years of college, you saw them vacations, summer time you worked and everything, so other than your brother and sister, who they are married and moved on to their own life, it was emotional but not tearing, if you know what I mean. You couldn't be that hard, but you've been away. The minute you get off to college and you're home only on vacations, the whole situation changes a little bit.


Q: Do you know how they felt? Were they supportive of you going to war?

Mr. Bloom: Yes, they basically were supportive. My brother was supportive of me. And just from a point of view, when you go into the Army, for the first three months as a private, you got paid $21 a month that was the fee. And then so much was taken out for your insurance, the national service life insurance that you took out, and then anything else that you wanted was taken out of your pay. And as I recall, my brother sent me a check for $5, my father would send me $5 or $10. Well, no one sent a check at that time, they put it in an envelope. So they were concerned that you didn't go into, not into debt, that I couldn't buy a Hershey bar or something.


Q: What do you remember about boot camp?

Mr. Bloom: It was tough. None of us had physically gone through boot camp training like that, or basic training as they called it in the Army. You were hurdled and huddled and thrown around, awaken at 5, 5:30 in the morning, the sergeant screaming at you to get outside and do calisthenics from maybe 5:30 to 6, then you go in and make your bed. And when you made your bed, it wasn't just make a bed, it was, had to be tight with hospital corners. Did you ever have to make hospital corners? And tighten the bed, and if you had a chickenshit drill sergeant, and he wanted to pick on you, which some of them did, hed drop a quarter on your blanket to make sure it jumped, and if it didn't jump, or there were wrinkles he' d rip the whole goddamn bed off. You survived it, you survived it. Then you'd have breakfast, and then you probably had to run a couple of miles, then you went into your classes, training, lunch, training. By the time it got to be 6 or 6:30 at night, after you fooled around for a little while, maybe in the PX, postal exchange, and got what you wanted, movie if you had it, at 8 you were glad to get into bed. Best physical condition I was ever in, or anyone would ever be in after that. We were lean and mean.


Q: Did anyone else in your family serve during the war?

Mr. Bloom: No, I was the only one. Cousins, but not direct family.


Q: Where were you sent after boot camp?

Mr. Bloom: Well, when you first went in, they sent us to Ft. Devens for assignment and interview and all the things you had to go through. Then I was sent to Ordnance Proving Ground in Abilene Maryland for boot camp. After boot camp, I was assigned to Abilene Proving Ground as a drill instructor, and an instructor in some courses 'cause I fortunately had education beyond what some of the other fellas had and I had scored fairly well on the Army IQ test. So, I was assigned for training at Abilene Proving Ground. That would have had to be in March.


Q: What special skills were you taught in the armed forces when you first joined the war? Were there main things that they emphasized?

Mr. Bloom: Yeah, well they emphasized certain things, you had a couple of training manuals that you used, and they emphasized learning how to march, how to stay in step, how to cooperate, and how to lean each other. Then you got your training with rifles. Then the other equipment that the ordinance gave out, like bullets, bombs, etc. You had regular classroom work. You had to sit there and listen throughout. You had a manual you read on various subjects. They educated you.


Q: When you were going to join the war, or once you were in the war, did your faith have any impact on your thoughts or your actions?

Mr. Bloom: No, didn't affect me. This is the job and you do it. There were people that it did make a difference to, but it didn't to me.


Q: So you became an ordnance guy after boot camp.

Mr. Bloom: Yeah, then I got a PFC, a single stripe, to be an instructor. And then up the line. Then I got a barracks that I was responsible for.


Q: Where were you sent after you were sent to Maryland?

Mr. Bloom: After the ordnance, I went up the line at ordnance, and I got a corporal's stripe, I got a sergeant's stripes, and then in November I was sent to {Rarin Arsenal in Watchuchet?}, New Jersey. There was an arsenal there, I was sent there to supervise ordnance that was being ready for shipment overseas. I was there for a while. Finally, I got the rank of tech sergeant, that's three and two stripes. And I was there until January 1943.


Q: Where were you sent then?

Mr. Bloom: Well, this'll sound funny to you. I got annoyed because a guy got promoted to master sergeant ahead of me that I felt I should've been promoted ahead of him, so I went and applied for OCS, officer's candidate school, and was accepted and on January 1st, 1943, I went back to Abilene for officer's candidate school, we were there for three months. I don't know if you've ever heard of the expression "the 90 day wonders," that was those of us that went to officer's candidate school for 3 months, and I got out April 3rd, 1943.


Q: Where did you go form there?

Mr. Bloom: Where'd they send me? Miami Beach! In Miami Beach, the army had taken over the hotels at Miami Beach for the training of Air Force cadets. I became the rifle range officer there and trained the Air Force cadets in the use of firearms. Colt .45, Springfield rifle, that was the standard, the single shot Springfield, and then the Carbine came into existence, the M-16 carbine, but I'm not exactly sure when, sometime right after that. You trained with a Springfield rifle, a single shot Springfield rifle, but out in combat a single shot isn't going to do much, you're going to be a clay pigeon. So they developed this carbine, the M-16 carbine that had a magazine that you clicked in.


Q: Please describe operations or battles in which you were involved.

Mr. Bloom: Well, after a while I became a part of the 342-airdrome squad of the 2nd air commando group, which trained in North Carolina. We went overseas in March or April of 1944 to the India-China border. There we had a 317-troop carrier squadron, 342-glider squadron and the P-51 squadron which made up the 2nd Air Commando Group. I wasn't a pilot, I was an engineer, so my staff mates and I were the groups housekeepers, we moved them around, we took care of them. The pilots here flew the hump over India into China over the mountains to supply our people there. But the planes that we had were so heavy and fully loaded that they couldn't fly over the tops of the mountains, they had to fly through them. We also drove the Burma Road several times. So, these were the main operations that I was involved in.


Q: Were you ever involved in any direct combat?

Mr. Bloom: Well in India I was the automotive maintenance officer and weapons officer because that was my training, so I never saw the field too much. No one where I was stationed really saw direct combat. But we were close to it. There wasn't much fighting in India but we were close to the fighting that was taking place in Burma. So no, I was never involved in any direct combat.


Q: What did you miss most about the United States?

Mr. Bloom: Cleanliness. It was a big problem. India was a sophisticated and educated society but only in the upper levels. There was unbelievable treatment of the lower classes and the untouchables. It was sad. We saw part of the world that we normally wouldn't see. The British maintained the caste system for their own benefit. Remember it was an imperial nation.


Q: What was you attitude toward the Japanese and Germans on a personal level? Why?

Mr. Bloom: I disliked and hated them. They were cruel and merciless people. The Germans killed the Jewish people, and I'm Jewish. The Japanese were sneaky, terrible people. I have never bought a German or Japanese car and try not to buy their products. And it has all carried over with me. I have forgiven them, but I definitely have not forgotten. You have to forgive. The world is different today. They are our allies today and probably will be when we have trouble with China eventually.


Q: Have you maintained contacts or friendships with any of the people you met during your time in the war?

Mr. Bloom: Yeah. In the war, everyone is your buddy and then you go off and get married and have children and everyone is all around the country. But you exchange Christmas cards and post cards for a while. Then people get busy with their own lives and people start to die off. Some groups in the Navy had reunions, but ours never did. We just didn't get around to it.


Q: Did you lose any family or friends during the war?

Mr. Bloom: I didn't lose any family in the war but I did lose some friends. We lost some pilots that were part of the 317 Troop Carrier Squadron that flew the hump over India and in to China. Like I said, the planes we had, fully loaded couldn't make it over the mountains so they had to fly in clearer weather between them. Some pilots flew through clouds and landed on the top of the mountain instead of getting into China. It was sad.


Q: What was one of your most memorable experiences of the war?

Mr. Bloom: One of them was flying the hump. I was never I pilot but I flew in the back a couple of times. And when you are speeding along and the mountains are out the window and you are sideways it was pretty amazing. But then again, you are 22 or 23 and like I said, you have no sense and no feeling.


Q: What was the relationship between British and American soldiers in India where you were stationed? And with the native people?

Mr. Bloom: Well the natives were a group out of their own. They didn't really mix with us, except the bureaucrats or upper levels of society and they were a tough group. They weren't kind to the untouchables and wanted to stick rigidly to the caste system. The British were fine. They got a ration a month of a bottle of scotch. We got a ration a month of 4 beers that's like water and a ration of chocolate milk as well. We would go over to the British with a truck loaded up with beer and chocolate milk and trade them some of it for a bottle of scotch. So we bartered a good deal and it was a nice relationship.


Q: What was it like to see your family and friends again when you returned home?

Mr. Bloom: Well it was wonderful. By that time I was married, I got married before I went overseas, so it was good to see my wife again. That was emotional because we didn't know what was going on at home and everyone at home was complaining about the rationing going on. We came back and had to find jobs and housing. By that time I was 26 and thought of being a lawyer, but decided I should probably go to work, make some money and raise a family. So I gave up the rest of my education and went into my fathers business, which was in the garment industry in Boston.


Q: How aware were you of events going on inside the United States, such as the internment of Japanese-Americans in detention camps? What was your reaction to this? Did you feel it was justified?

Mr. Bloom: Well we had the Stars and Stripes newspaper that gave us some information but not much at the time and the radio we had, you didn't get too much from that either. Our only real sources of news were letters from home. They gave us most of the information concerning the affairs inside the United States. But all the mail was censored because there could be nothing in it that the enemy could use if they intercepted it. But I was not aware of the detention camps until I got out of the war and read about it. I did think it was justified when I first read about it but as things progressed I learned that a lot of loyal Americans were retained in these camps. But there was no way of sorting it out. Remember that we were at war and people were scared. I did feel that reparations were due after the war.


Q: Why do you feel we fought World War II?

Mr. Bloom: We had no choice. Hitler was conquering Europe. He had a chance to go across the Channel to capture Britain. He made the mistake of going after Russia into a cold barren land and got wiped out at Leningrad. That was a mistake because he lost lots of soldiers and made almost no ground when he could have gone across the channel and taken England. And don't forget that he was shooting the buzz bombs into London setting it on fire constantly. We really had no choice.


Q: Did any Americans whom you knew note the irony of racial segregation at home and in the armed forces and the internment of Japanese while fighting intolerance abroad?

Mr. Bloom: Well that all came out afterwards. The whole mindset of wartime is to get it over quickly, fight, and get a victory. It was unfortunate that it happened and was not right, but right doesn't mean anything during war. You're gonna survive.


Q: What was your reaction to the atrocities committed by both the Germans and the Japanese?

Mr. Bloom: Well it was a horror, you couldn't quite believe the atrocities that man could commit against man.


Q: What did you think of General MacArthur?

Mr. Bloom: I didn't like him. He may have been a good general, but he was inhumane to his own people and he came against President Truman who was a common man, uneducated so to speak, but he had a lot of common sense.


Q: How did you view President Franklin D. Roosevelt's leadership during the war?

Mr. Bloom: I loved it. Everyone did. Remember that we were an isolationist country so I don't think he had an easy job with Senator Borrer from Idaho and Senator Vandeburg from Michigan. These were all isolationists inside his own country that he had to fight. That's why he put out the lend-lease bill. He got around the isolationists by lending and leasing things to other countries. He made mistakes but what person doesn't. He was well thought of and revolutionary. Don't forget he passed social security in 1936. That was radical. So he was well thought of and respected. We liked him.


Q: How did you react to FDR's death?

Mr. Bloom: That was very emotional. It was losing a great person. It was very sad. And don't forget all the handicaps he had. That was a very sad time. The country literally cried. And I didn't really recall any other president. Most of my adult life he was the president. So, it was a very sad day.


Q: What was your opinion of President Truman's wartime leadership?

Mr. Bloom: I thought Truman was a good man. He was a simpler man than most, but a very good one. He had good common sense and he was honest. And those are some admirable qualities. Remember that he had to make the decision of whether or not to drop the atomic bombs on Japan. He was a simple man so this was not an easy decision. He had good common sense and was a good leader.


Q: What was your reaction to Truman's decision to drop the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Was the decision to drop them justified?

Mr. Bloom: My reaction to this incident was that it had to be done. We had to conquer Japan. To get half a million American soldiers killed by invading an army camp wasn't worth that many lives in my opinion. They were the enemy and if they got hurt, well I felt badly, but there was no choice for Truman, he had to do it. He could do it two ways, one he lost a million people and the other he lost hardly any. He had no choice. One million Americans did not have to be killed.


Q: At the end of the war, did you anticipate future wars, or did it seem to you that countries would find other means of settling conflicts?

Mr. Bloom: I felt that the way the world was developing there wouldn't be any more world wars but there would be little spots around the world that would crop up. The world is always fighting.


Q: What are the lessons of World War Two?

Mr. Bloom: Well, I'll use a phrase I heard one time, "America will survive despite its people and its politicians." If we can get by the politics and realize everybody is a human being and we can talk things over then people can come to a solution. It doesn't have to end up in fighting. There must be communication. There's no solution so that the world is going to be peaceful forever.


Q: What do you think of today's generation of younger Americans? How are we different? How are we the same?

Mr. Bloom: I think you have greater advantages than we had, I think you have a little more freedom than we had and I think you have more wealth than we had. You have technology that can bring you wherever you want to go. I think you are good kids. You've got some bad ones but you are basically good kids. "All speed and no control," is what its like nowadays. I think that you are only at the beginning of the greatest era of the world. Technology is in its infancy and you've got everything going for you. You're basically good kids.


Q: Do you have any parting advice for the youth of today?

Mr. Bloom: If you can do something, be smart and do it. Pay attention, get your education, and use good common sense. You know the difference between right and wrong, so do the right thing. Use common sense. Use your head, study and do it, but have fun.

 


Hear Mr. Blooms memories of Pearl Harbor. (Quicktime)

Mr. Blooms Bars
Mr. Blooms Bars

Good Conduct Medal
Good Conduct Medal

Efficiency, Honor, Fidelity
Efficiency, Honor, Fidelity

Rich Langweber, Mr. Bloom, Jessie McCormack
Rich Langweber, Mr. Bloom, Jessie McCormack

Dog Tags
Dog Tags

Mr. Bloom in India, 1945
Mr. Bloom in India, 1945

ruptured duck
Ruptured Duck

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US Pin