War on Their Minds
old   Gerald Halterman
Age in 1941: 20

Interview Team: Matt Heller, Nathalie Kocher, Mike Onoyan

This is Matt Heller. I'm here with my partners Mike Onoyan and Nathalie Kocher. And we are interviewing Mr. Halterman in the conference room at Wayland High School. The date is the 17th of May, 2001.


Q: Mr. Halterman, could you please state your name for the record.

Mr. Halterman: Gerald L. Halterman.


Q: Could you introduce your family members?

Mr. Halterman: My wife Rosalie and my special son Glen. We have two other sons that have businesses here in Massachusetts and like to play golf.


Q: Could you please tell us your age in 1941?

Mr. Halterman: I was twenty years old.


Q: What was your birth place and where were you raised?

Mr. Halterman: My birthplace was Carbondale, Illinois, which is the southern part of Illinois. If you know where Caro is, [where the] Ohio and the Mississippi River come together. It's about 60 miles north of that, so we were about 260 miles south of Chicago.


Q: Were you raised there?

Mr. Halterman: I was raised there. I left there in 1939 at the age of 18 to go into the Navy.


Q: To what extent were you aware of what was happening in Japan and Italy and Germany during the 1930s?

Mr. Halterman: In 1939 in April, I was a senior in Carbondale Community High School. I had been, supposedly, a star left end on their football team. I got all sorts of honors because I had my leg broken in the next to last game. That focused attention on me, whether I deserved it or not. We were called into the assembly to listen to Hitler speak on the radio in April 1939. All you had to do was listen to his speech to know that he was a madman and, sooner or later, he was going to plunge the whole world into war... At that time in Southern Illinois, I had my own newsstand,I'd finish my paper route in the morning, have my lunch on the porch, hop a truck, ride twelve miles to a peach orchard and pick peaches, this kind of thing. Then, at the end of the day, I'd get back and go out to the softball park and play softball on a ball team that I had. So I had a lot of good things going, but there were very few jobs at that time in 1939 and I thought, well, maybe I ought to go for a Navy career. I had no political pull that I know of. I didn't attempt to find any. So I enlisted in the Navy and...it turned out they weren't going to call me until September the 7th, 1939, so I went to the University of Southern Illinois for a summer course there, so when they called me then I went to St. Louis, checked into St. Louis, journeyed out to San Diego. A whole group of sailors out there [said], "You'll be sorry, you'll be sorry!" Because the first thing they do is give you a haircut that you may not want. And then all this drilling that would take place. I got out of a lot of that because the Chaplain was looking for fellows to sing in his choir and I volunteered for that. So while I was singing and practicing, they're all out on the grinder in the hot sand and sun. They'd look over towards North Island, every once in a while, where the planes all came in and the old chief would catch them looking up at that and he'd make them come out of rank and lie down and look up at the sun... But to make it short, they cut our training down to 8 weeks, from what had been 3 months because of the urgency of everything. Then they asked me what I wanted to do. I said I wanted to get into the Naval Academy. Well, I said the right thing because they all got behind to try to help me. I didn't make it that way, but they all tried to help me. They assigned me to the battleship U.S.S. Oklahoma and the reason they assigned me there was because they had aboard ship that turned out to consist of three fellows. None of we three fellows made it into the Naval Academy that way, but we all three got chosen to come back for Navy B-12 training back in May 1943 and we were all assigned to colleges there. So,that is how I got into the Navy. Some detail on why I didn't get in. Well, first time I didn't have enough sea duty in and then they raised the age limit one year and I got to studying again. I still didn't make it. I had a problem with my eye, not a major problem, but just enough to keep me from going that route, but I did make it through the Navy B-12 training program.


Q: How did you react to the Invasion of Poland and the Battle of Britain?

Mr. Halterman: I knew it was a continuation of Hitler. And, like I say, even at that time I seemed to recognize that the world was going to be into war. One thing that didn't hit me at the time, but the earlier you enlist, the more say you have in where you go. Because it's the young recruits that are coming in on an urgent manner that are put in the front lines of war. That's the nature of war and a lot of those young fellows got into the whole thing without even being fully trained.


Q: What were your feelings of the American declaration of war?

Mr. Halterman: The American declaration of war was...there was no way that anything could have been declared without the Japanese attacking. The one thing it did which many people don't realize, was that it saved Great Britain. Great Britain had their backs to the wall, and, of course, Churchill was trying to get Roosevelt to help as much as he could. Roosevelt was trying to help as much as he could with the attitude that the US had because World War I was supposed to be the war to end all wars and we didn't want to lose anymore young people. That declaration of war and Roosevelt with his magnificent speeches and his relationship with the people cemented the will of this country to really want to enlist and to help and it took in all of the young people without question. It isn't like the wars that we've had in Korea and Vietnam and all those places. This war, after Pearl Harbor, was a defensive war and it was really a war to save the world, I believe. But I feel so sorry for the ones that had to go to Vietnam and to Korea because I just don't think our national interests were really involved. I don't see how the people in charge can justify sending young people to war unless it's a very defensive war, [where] you're fighting for your life. I just don't see them getting involved in other people's wars to the extent of sacrificing their young people's lives.


Q: How did your faith impact your thoughts of the war?

Mr. Halterman: My faith? Well, my mother was a pillar of Grace Methodist Church back in Carbondale, Illinois. An iron cross was put out on the outside of the church building in her honor.

Mrs. Halterman: On the side of the church.

Mr. Halterman: And dedicated to her.

Mrs. Halterman: She worked so hard on that church.

Mr. Halterman: When I left home, back in September of 1939, I'd never been away from home. I'd never seen the ocean. But she pulled me over into a side room and she said, "Get down on your knees." She prayed for me and I think that's what really got me through the whole thing because nothing could have happened to me any nicer than what it did, other than the sorrow of the war. It seemed like I was one step ahead of everything all the time. A message came into the Oklahoma, which I typed up. I had learned to type in high school, thank god. The message said they wanted the yeoman third class for shore duty inside the Navy Yard in the communications office. I had just worked into playing third base on their championship baseball team and the fellow in charge tried to talk me out of the transfer. Something told me I had better take it because most of the guys in the Navy have to wait 6-10 years or so before they get shore duty. Here I was, I'd been in the Navy less than 2 years and I'm being offered shore duty, so I took. And as a communication yeoman, or as a yeoman, you know you're doing all of the office work for the officers. From that standpoint, you also have a good idea of what things are going on, what's happening. Which is what happened to me December the 7th, when the war broke out. In fact, I typed a message that morning before I went off watch. It was from the U.S.S. Ward. The U.S.S. Ward said they had just fired on what they thought was a Japanese submarine. I typed that up about five minutes of seven that morning and then I was relieved about ten past seven to walk over to the receiving station where I was billeted, so I could have breakfast, a shower and turn in to get some sleep. When the war broke out and the Japs came,I was the only one in the receiving station...That was up on the third floor watching the Japanese torpedo planes come in, going to the back and seeing the U.S.S. Arizona erupt in a complete ball of flame, seeing my old Oklahoma battleship taking the first torpedoes from the 40 Japanese planes that came in that morning. The ship took 9 torpedoes and they just recently discovered a tenth one that didn't hit the ship, but was taken up from all the rubbish in the harbor, so things are still going on, they're still finding out things.


Q: What was the atmosphere like after the Oklahoma was bombed?

Mr. Halterman: The atmosphere after that was one of complete and total...relationships with people, like people couldn't do enough for you. If you were on your way down to the administration building, they'd stop and pick you up. People couldn't do enough for each other on that morning. Of course the thing that I saw later on in the day was the oil soaked sailors that had been brought into the Merry Point landing right near our building, streaming up to our building to shed their oil soaked clothes. You could see the whites of their eyes and the white teeth and that was about it, you couldn't recognize anybody. They'd come into the basement and shed their clothes, shower and get into clean clothes, come upstairs...to the cafeteria. They had signs around the cafeteria with the names of the ships and they would log in at that particular table with their ship and then be reassigned to other duty. That was the one way they had of trying to tell who all got off the ship and who didn't.


Q: Did you have any hatred towards the Japanese or the Germans?

Mr. Halterman: I don't know. I don't think I know what hatred is. I sympathize with people that get put into the position that they get put into. I was asked how I felt about the Japanese. I said, What? This generation? They had nothing to do with it. Their parents? They had very little to do with it. The Emperor and the people in charge, they had a great deal to do with it. I feel the loss of our people. The 2,403 is the number that's most often used for that morning at Pearl Harbor. Of that, there was something like 1,100 of the 1,400 on the Arizona. Many of them were pulverized where the bomb dropped and hit all of the ammunition. They've managed to identify something like 200 off of the Arizona. They've left the others entombed in it because there is no way of telling, but when you go out to Pearl Harbor and the Arizona memorial there you will see their names inscribed there. They just, in the last few years, they've...put the names in bronze of the 429 on the U.S.S. Oklahoma and of the other ships that suffered very much less loss. One thing that I was interested in was they had a plaque for the U.S.S. Enterprise and a lot of people say the U.S.S. Enterprise wasn't even in the harbor that day. The Japs had hoped to catch the aircraft carriers in the harbor, but they were at sea. So, how did the Enterprise lose something like 12 to 15 men? Well, that Sunday night, you didn't dare walk around the Navy Yard because they had a complete blackout and if some young seaman was trigger-happy and yelled for you to halt and you didn't hear him you'd get shot. So I made it a point to get down to the administration office, where my duty station was, and, lo and behold, earlier that evening, but it was still dark...an alert came in that unidentified planes were coming into the harbor. Well, all the guns that could open up then opened up and they shot down...5 of our own planes from the Enterprise. That was called friendly fire. I was interviewed for TV some time ago and I mentioned this to R.D.Saul, who was working for channel 7 at the time, and I said, "I suspect you're not going to mention that in your TV program out of consideration for the sorrow of the relatives to those 12 to 15 that were shot down that night." Those are the kind of things that happened in time of war.


Q: Have you sustained contact with any of the friends you made during wartime?

Mr. Halterman: Yes. One fellow that was very instrumental in saving my life, I think, was a fellow by the name of Morris Hair. I met him again about three weeks ago in Scottsdale, Arizona, at our battleship Oklahoma reunion. When I first went aboard the Oklahoma they put me in a deck division, the fourth division. Incidentally, a fellow in Belmont, Steven Young was there. He wrote the agonizing story of some thirty-two of them that were trapped below in a compartment and were rescued out the next day. And I know most of those guys that he mentions there. One in particular was a fellow named Roberts. When I went aboard with my new sea bag and pea coat, just out of boot camp, you're assigned to the bottom locker. You have three lockers. You work your way up. I was unloading my sea bag and in the process this big burly guy with tattoos on his arms, big muscles, reached over my shoulder and he picked up my pea coat and he said, "That is a lovely pea coat. I think I'll take it." Well, something told me not to pay any attention to him, so I went ahead and unloaded my sea bag into the locker and he saw he wasn't really going to get my coat so he handed it back to me. Well, he and I became good friends, but we'd never go ashore together. I chose my company very carefully whenever I went ashore because I liked to play tennis, swim at Waikiki and play baseball... A lot of them like to go to the bars and get in trouble and I managed to stay out of trouble. But this fellow Roberts...was the one guy that was able to survive. You know, the ship capsized. It rolled right out and the mast went right down into the silt of Pearl Harbor, 40 feet deep was the harbor. He had to swim up and down and up to get out of there and he did it, he got out and helped the ship fitters, the workers in the shipyard, locate that and cut them all out the next day at Pearl Harbor. So, in our Battleship reunions they pay particular attention to the ones that are still living from that thirty two that were rescued the next day. The fellows on the West Virginia weren't so lucky. I forget how many days they lived and then died, but they kept a diary and it was some twenty days later that the last entry was made in the diary.


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

Mr. Halterman: You know, I was most fortunate. I had two brothers that went through the war unscathed. I did lose a close friend who substituted with me on the Carbondale Merchants baseball team, Jimmy Morris. He went down on the U.S.S. Houston. He came by at Pearl Harbor to see me on the way out to the Asiatic station. I lost a third cousin who was a good friend of mine. We grew up in the same neighborhood, a Carl Mosley who was on a submarine. He was returning from a liberty in the Philippines during the wartime. He and two other fellows, the way it was told to me, acted on a dare to swim across this stream. Well, they never did find my third cousin Carl Mosley. Then I lost another distant cousin who was a close friend of ours because we grew up in a small town, Carbondale, Illinois, less than 3,000 people, I knew everybody practically in the high school. He was a tail gunner on a B-17 and he was shot up on it. I lost some high school friends. The war was very close to you. You had no idea as to how long it would be, whether or not you'd ever get back to see your parents. Those were the thoughts that went through my mind December the 7th. That morning while this was all going, that, my Lord, I'll never get back to see my parents, it's going to be a long drawn out affair. So, yes, I did lose some close friends and also three buddies that were in the communications office with me onboard the Oklahoma. The communications office was three decks down and the Oklahoma capsized within about 12 minutes and I can see now what happened. The oil ruptured. The decks were red linoleum. The lights went out. With the oil on the linoleum and the lights out and only narrow ladders to get out they could very easily trample each other to death trying to get out and I'm told that's what happened.


Q: What was your most memorable experience in war?

Mr. Halterman: Well, the most memorable experience had to be Pearl Harbor. I seem to live with that. It just seems to be so appalling that so many young people's lives were cut short and many of them were horribly burned, even those that did escape were burned because the oil caught fire. Of course, the battle wagons were tied up two by two on Ford Island. The Maryland was inboard the Oklahoma so it suffered very few casualties. Several of the fellows got off on the starboard side and swam to the Maryland. It was just another short distance to swim to Ford Island. The others that got off on the starboard side had to hope that they'd get picked up by the motor whale boats that were crisscrossing rescuing fellows and bringing them over to the hospital point and over to our Merry Point where my receiving station was. But that had to be the most memorable, I think. You just don't forget it. I was far enough away that I did not have to view the bodies and the recovery of the bodies. That was all in and around the ships. I can talk about it better than the ones that were involved with picking up the bodies and the burn cases. That afternoon, I went over to the hospital to check on a friend of mine that got involved in a fire fighting party on the U.S.S. Pennsylvania, fellow name of Max Fletcher. He was also one that was in the three man group that was studying for Pearl Harbor. He got in on that fire fighting party, when I managed to stay away from it. What happened was that when they got down to the Pennsylvania they couldn't fight the fire at all. They were being bombed at the time and before he could get below deck the flare from the bomb burned his arm, just singed his arm from his shirt down and his eyebrows and blistered his face. He was in the hospital with the most severely burned cases, guys that didn't have a stitch of clothes on, they just looked almost like a cinder. But they came up with some kind of a spray that they could spray on that would give some relief from burns. I've never researched it to find out what that spray was. I've asked the question, but no one seems to really know. That afternoon our motor torpedo boats crisscrossed the harbor just all afternoon trying to make sure that there were no more two-man Jap submarines in there. They had two torpedoes each, on one of those two-man submarines. One was lost, I guess, at sea. I think that was the one the U.S.S. Ward fired on. They've accounted for the other four. One of them, that they resurrected, was propped up near the submarine base and the seaman that was guarding it was passing around on a shingle a gray hand. He said it was the hand of one of the Jap officers that was aboard that ship. They ended up sending that two-man submarine back to the United States for a war bond drive to help bring on more war bonds and Rosalie was very much involved where she worked with John Hancock at the time. She got an award for selling war bonds. In her own neighborhood, she knew about air raid wardens because they came up with blackouts on the East Coast, which extended on through Wellesley where she grew up. If you had a light on, the air raid warden would come around and let them know about it because they were afraid an enemy plane or ship can spot you, if there's a light involved, they can spot a target real easy.


Q: When did you return home?

Mr. Halterman: Well, before the war, I was able to come back in the summer of 1940. The U.S.S. Oklahoma was in dry dock up at Brimerton, Washington and they were putting on it what they call degaussing cables. These were cables that were supposed to be able to demagnify mines with their radioactive frequencies, so I got to come home for a couple of weeks. During the time I lost my girlfriend because I started going out with another girl, so when I got back to the ship I had this letter waiting. She wanted all of her pictures back so I had my brother take the pictures over to her. She was valedictorian of our senior class at Carbondale Community High School, editor of the yearbook and a very distinguished person and I don't blame her for asking for her pictures back. We remained good friends up until the time she passed away last October. We were back in Carbondale, Illinois, Rosalie, Glen and I, celebrating an anniversary for one of my brothers. She attended it and we all went out to eat and she said, "Jerry, you know this coming March we'll both be 80." She didn't make it. I did. So that was one of the first times I got back. The other time I got back was when I was chosen for officer training in April, 1943. Then I had liberty and I went back to San Diego for further assignment to a college. They sent me all the way back to Davenport, Iowa to go to San Ambrose College for four semesters. I was one of the few of what they called "old salts" because I had been in the Navy. Most of the guys were young fellows that were there were qualifying for Navy training at the time, so I had kind of the run of the place. They had me on television talking about Pearl Harbor. They had me pitching on the baseball team and playing third base. I was battalion commander for two of the four semesters there so I could march them in review. I really enjoyed that and I made a lot of good friends in spite of the fact that I was battalion commander. Then they sent me on from there to Fort {Schieder?} Midshipmen School. The fellow on each side of me in the bunks we were in flunked out, the guy over me flunked out, I said, "When am I going to flunk out?" I managed to get by the whole thing. March the 5th, 1945, they graduated us in St. John's Cathedral in New York City. It's a tremendous cathedral, if you haven't seen it. I think the vaulted ceilings are a mile high, at least they look that way. Then, coming out from that, I was heading home and with my new Ensign's outfit and some sailor saluted me and I had my hands in my pockets and I saluted him back and all my change went all over the place. That was my first salute. Then I had a choice, thank God I made the right choice. I could either go to amphibious training in Florida or go to the Harvard Business School. Now, what the Navy was really interested in at that time was coming out with young officers that would be in command of landing crafts because they'd envisioned that they'd, sooner or later, have to invade Japan. It just so happened that they let me have a choice and I went to the Harvard Business School for Navy Supply Corps training and the war came to an end while I was there and I had met Rosalie on Beacon Street in Boston. Then when the war came to an end as a result of the nuclear bombs, that eliminated the need for our invasion of Japan and a lot of people overlooked that. They say, "You cruel people. You killed so many people at Nagasaki and Hiroshima." You know war is a tradeoff, but in the process we saved, perhaps a million other lives or more. The other thing about dropping that bomb, it was so terrible, it's the only time it's been used in war and the people that are in charge, that declare war will think twice and I think they've done that up to this present time. They'll think twice before they declare a major war because their skin will go up in flame along with everybody else, nobody will be safe and I think that is one of the major things that's come out of that whole thing. One was the uniting of our people as one person and mounting a war effort that could win. No telling where we would be if we hadn't won. We might be goose stepping for Germany. Great Britain would have been in real trouble because they had their backs against the wall.

Mrs. Halterman: They sent a lot of their children over here during the war.

Mr. Halterman: During the war, the English people sent a lot of their children over here for safety. The attempt is made all along now to change history from what it was. Like I said, this movie that is coming out May 25th, out in Scottsdale at our reunion, a TV station came in and asked seven of us to critique the preview. Well, you couldn't tell much from the preview. It was all fire, and bombs and everything blowing up, and all this kind of bit. So it really didn't tell you much about it. I've read since then that what it involves is a romance between two friends over the same nurse, which is something they had to put in to make it attractive, I guess to most audiences. The other thing was that they did not tell about the two American pilots that were the first ones captured by the Japanese and executed. They left that out and different things like that. OK, but maybe it's authentic enough. I said, "I hope what you do, is pinpoint the importance of Pearl Harbor and what came out of Pearl Harbor." The saving of Britain, maybe the saving of our own situation as a free country, it was quite possible it did that because we would have been hard pressed if Great Britain had lost. Getting away from the movie, there's a definite attempt made by some of the authors today. One person, I can't think of his name right now, just wrote a book trying to prove that Franklin Roosevelt planned the whole thing. What he has done is gone into the archives and he has pulled out messages and memos that were written and all that and he claims that a guy on the pentagon developed a seven point plan, the ultimate result of it would be that Japan would attack us. But, a lot of the things he used were some that I was familiar with. A lot of it was radio headings. Each radio message has a radio heading, time factor, and a day factor, and by the direction that messages were coming from, you could gain some intelligence by monitoring just the headlines. But he claimed that the code was broken before Pearl Harbor. I don't believe that. The basis for his claim was these radio headings but they wouldn't tell you enough that you could really break a code and break a message down. So I think he's all wet in that regard. I had a person at church hand me that book, the Trinitarian Congregational Church, where we go to church, and he said, "Well, what do you think about it?" and I said, "I don't believe it." Well, he didn't talk to me anymore about it, and if you heard this man, Franklin Roosevelt, speak and speak to you, and you were at sea, you would believe him. And you would believe him because what he said was things that would happen. The Doolittle Raid on Japan very shortly after the war started, well, I don't recall him mentioning him that, but he said Tokyo will be hit and all this, and Tokyo was hit. So, what he said came true. The other thing was that he was a Navy man. He had a son that lead a marine group out of a submarine. He had another son that was in the navy. Can you believe that a man in that position would sacrifice his own people at Pearl Harbor for the sake of getting the United States involved? But they look at the conditions that were existing at the time, where Churchill naturally came to Roosevelt and asked, "How can you help me here?" But with all of the isolationists attitude in the country and the fact that you just didn't want to lose your young sons and daughters, it was natural for us to resist it as long as we could. The moment Pearl Harbor happened, that cemented the whole bit. I've scanned through the but the one thing that came out of it was he had copied a message that I'd typed up at Pearl Harbor, December the 7th, from the USS Ward saying that they fired on what they thought was a Japanese submarine. Now I got that at five minutes of seven, typed it up, handed it to the duty officer, and was relieved to go back for breakfast, and I didn't know what happened to it after that. But then you had also, some Army personnel operating a radar. Radar was very new at the time and a group of B-26's were supposed to arrive out in Hawaii that day. So, the duty officer out at that base, said, "Oh, that's nothing to be alarmed about." And it turned out that it was the Japanese fleet, coming in some 200 miles away from where they launched their planes. The torpedo planes did a tremendous amount of damage, but of course the lucky bomb that the Jap's dropped on the Arizona was the one that really blazed up the harbor. And they were dipping oil out of that harbor when I left out there in May 1943. Now the other things was that the Smithsonian Institute was almost apologetic to the Japanese in an exhibit that they were going to put in on the Enola Gay which was involved in dropping the bomb. A general piloted the second plane into Nagasaki, this was the second city that was hit. He said he didn't agree to write a book until that dispute arose and then he wrote it in defense for his bombing, he piloted the plane in for Nagasaki and one of the reporters that was over in the group at the library there, asked him the question. He says, "Does that dropping of the bomb bother you?" He said, "No, I've had nine children." And he said something that I had never heard before, he said, "You know, the Japanese were armed tooth and nail, dug in there, even the women had bayonets on their brooms, and knives under their skirts. They were prepared to fight for their lives. I had never heard that before.

Mrs. Halterman: Now, you get around to the point, now, should Admiral Kimmel or General Short get pardoned? Who was in charge that morning? General Short had responsibility for the islands. Admiral Kimball had responsibility for the Navy. Were they properly notified of all possibilities of attack? The fleet was going out every week in exercises and then coming in usually for the weekend. This kind of thing was going on all the time. It was going on before I left the Oklahoma. You'd be out in formation, a plane would lay a smoke screen around your formation, other planes would come in with dummy torpedoes and launch those dummy torpedoes. Then our ships would try to maneuver to dodge those dummy torpedoes. And you can see the wakes of the dummy torpedoes coming in to you and then you'd be graded on your performance. Now, these kinds of exercises were going on all the time. If you were in charge and you didn't know where a possible enemy fleet was, it seems to me that you would be on the alert and there was practically no patrols that were that were out, on the alert looking for any danger that might come into the islands. I mean if you're in charge of something, you're in charge, you take the good with the bad. Now if that had been a great victory, Admiral Kimmel would have really been excelled, and he should have been. But they were all out dining at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel and things like that. There were two major hotels at that time... I mean, you see the difference now. There was the Royal Hawaiian and the ?Ola Molata?. It shouldn't have hit them completely by surprise. If you're in a responsible position, I think you take all kinds of measures... you look the whole thing through. The thing I resented was that the fellow who headed up the Pearl Harbor Survivors nationally, took it upon himself, without a vote from our members, to pardon Admiral Kimmel and General Short. It was a nice thing to do, for their family, but it just didn't ring a bell as far as military discipline is concerned. You're either responsible or you're not.


Q: Were you aware of the internment of 110,000 Japanese-Americans in the detention camps?

Mr. Halterman: Not so much at that time. Rosalie was probably more aware of it than I was. You know, there was so much uncertainty around that whole thing. Well, Pearl Harbor itself was vulnerable. If you've been there and seen it, you recognize that anyone can go back up into the mountains and look down on it, and take pictures. They would know where the ships are, and that was being done through an office in Honolulu, the Japanese office in Honolulu, and so you just didn't know. So, out in Hawaii they declared martial law right away. They were suspicious of some Japanese, but in the States they even felt that the Japanese might invade them there. So the natural thinking was, they had relatives in Japan, and they might cooperate with those relatives, and so all of a sudden they were put in these camps. Now it turned out that most of them were loyal, I suspect that 98% of them or something like that were loyal, but you know, 2% can change the whole picture on things. You know yourself that a minority in any town is a majority in many cases. Like in boot camp, if some guy committed something in boot camp, if he stole something from somebody, they would put the whole company in quarantine, until that one guy came forth and admitted to it. It would restrict him from liberty. I never did believe in that. If they had more time, I think they would have looked at it and saw that the Japanese, the vast majority of them, were loyal. And Hawaiians and Hawaiian-Japanese and all, they came through with major honors from the war effort that they put in. The Japanese even on the American side. Well you even had the American Indians working the codes for our own military because they had in their own Navajo language, and the Japanese couldn't decode it. Which brings up a point. In the communications office, the 14th Naval district, that I was in as a typist, teletype, communications yeoman, the code was broken in a room I didn't even know about, right underneath our communications office, that's how secret it was. I could see some of the officers coming and going, and talking with each other, but I did not know that that was where the code was broken. Some other interesting things that come out is that Tom Lamviere, that worked at Raytheon, the vice president, was that one that piloted the plane that shot down Yamamoto and the intercept was figured out through the code that was broken there, underneath the room I was in. So many amazing stories that came out of that whole process. Of course, one of the good commercial things, I guess, was well, what it did to families. What did Pearl Harbor do to families? It scattered them all over the United States. We used to be able to sit in our swing, at 417 South Washington St., Carbondale, and converse with most of our relatives, swinging, and as our neighbors came by, waved to them, and they all knew us, and all that, they were on their way downtown. You only had radio to contend with. A radio, you could sit around and listen to Joe Louis, win his boxing matches. You could get on a 3 C, Civilian Conservation Corps truck, that had formed so many of the state parks that are around now, right in the very beginning. You didn't have television to pull you all together and look at the television set and not talk to each other. I miss that. And it's something that you kids are growing up with, and I think it takes away from your interaction with each other because it was so much fun growing up then. You did not have parents involved in Little League, and all that. We did our own Little League. I'd round up my own ball team but I had my own family on it. I run a two day golf tournament down on the Cape, every first weekend in May, we just got through with it. Sixty played in it and I make sure that all my relatives come back. I had two brothers come back from Southern Illinois, and one nephew from Missouri, and a friend from Kentucky, they came from all over to get in this tournament. I think a lot of it has happened because of Glen getting a hole in one two years ago and getting $1,000 in cash and an invitation to Las Vegas to play in the million dollar shoot out. So we all went out to Las Vegas and had a wonderful time but none of us even got onto the green in the tournament.


Q: Did Americans whom you knew ever recognize the irony of racial segregation at home and in the armed forces, while fighting intolerance abroad?

Mr. Halterman: Did you know that in my hometown of Carbondale, Illinois, the Illinois Central Railroad split it north and south. People who lived on the western side were the more influential. On the left side, is Washington Avenue which was next to and parallel to the Illinois Central Railroad. So we had all the railroad trains come through, tooting at night, the engineers would toot to their girlfriends as they came through. The colored people were all in back of us. But they had their own school, the Crispus Attucks School. Does that ring a bell with you? Crispus Attucks was one of the first colored people killed in the Revolutionary War, right here in Boston. I did not know where that name came from until I came out here and met Rosalie. They had their own place in our theater, in our Barth Theater. They sat up on the balcony, but that's where I wanted to sit, with my girlfriend, with my arm around her. But they had the best seat in the house as far as I was concerned. They were nice, polite, and we had one fellow that was the colored leader, a young fellow. And his nickname was Tom Cat. And I said, "Tom Cat, you get a ball team together. We'll play you guys." OK we'd play them, and they'd win two out of three games. They got hands like that, bucket hands. You'd hit a ball to the outfield, and they'd catch it. You'd play them in basketball, same way. Now, a sportscaster not too long ago got fired for talking about the differences, the physical differences of the colored versus the white. And he was honest, he told what the differences were and it shouldn't have bothered anybody except for the news, you know, to make news out of it. But they had respect for us and we had respect for them. We'd get off the sidewalk for them, and they'd get off the sidewalk for us. Everybody was living in harmony. The one element of segregation that was real strong I guess, was in the south. And you can't blame this colored woman for refusing to go to the back of the bus. You can't. On board ship, the colored fellows were the stewards. When I was in the captain's office, the captain steward was a colored fellow. I would walk across the passage way, and the captain would ask me to come in and move tables around, when we were in port, he was going to have a little party. And the colored steward would wait on him hand and foot and get him all this ice cream and everything. And what was left over he'd bring over to our yeoman's office. After I left Carbondale, the first issue was the swimming beach. Colored people weren't allowed to go to the beach. Now, I don't think that would have happened if I'd stayed home in Carbondale. I would have been one of the first to argue against it. But once they did get permission to go to the beach, they decided not to go to the beach. But it was an issue in the armed services. The colored were pretty much held back, but yet in midshipman's school, at Fort Skylar, New York, there was one colored fellow named Chamberlain. I don't know whatever happened to him, but he was the nicest guy. One of the nicest guys I've ever met. I don't know, but he was one real nice guy. But you can notice, there was only one in our company, and I don't know whether any of the other companies had a colored fellow or not, I didn't see any. But they just weren't given the same opportunity.


Q: How did you react to the news of Roosevelt's death?

Mr. Halterman: Well that's with complete sadness because he was a great leader. And, he took the bull by the horns. In spite of his own physical handicap, you never noticed his physical handicap. John F. Kennedy did because up at Amherst, when they had dedicated the Robert Frost library up there, and he appeared there, just a few weeks before he was assassinated, his rocking chair had come in first, and they'd put it up on the stage. But that was with complete sadness. You think too, the courage of Harry Truman. If you're president, and you know the destructive power of the A-bomb, you give it a lot of thought before you drop it and he made the right decision. I haven't read the story back on Truman, but I read that in World War II, they had a real unruly unit of soldiers, and they gave this unit to Truman. And Truman straightened them out, where they got more honors than any other combat unit in World War I. So I guess you could say that he was a man of his word and a man of principle. You still have to admire him. I think when history is correctly written, that he will be one of the major actors of the last century. He was human, if a reporter criticized Margaret for her piano playing, or something like that, he lit right on that reporter. And his wife was certainly down to earth and preferred her home in Missouri to the White House. One of the things that I think served me well through all of this was the religious aspect of it. My mother and father were both country school teachers, they both took responsibility seriously, they warned you about the dangers of alcohol, and smoking. I was the oldest of seven children. I kind of felt like I had to set an example for the others. My dad was busy working on the railroad most of the time. He didn't have the time to spend with us. He did have the time to ask us, "Well how did you make out in the football game." Whatever you were doing, he wanted to know, so he was interested. Supporting seven children at that time wasn't always easy. We went through the depression. I didn't know we were going through a depression until John F. Kennedy, in one of his speeches said, "and you know, some people in the south had to eat beans during the depression." Well, my dad had a hundred pound bag of Navy beans, and my mother knew about ten to fifteen different ways to fixing them, and we were having so much fun we didn't even know that we were going through the depression. But then scouts, you have the scout laws to look at. You have the Ten Commandments. I mean, it's very plain. If a person chooses, they can choose the right way. But it's got to be with the company that you keep. The company that you keep has a whole lot to do with influencing you. It makes it much easier if you've got company that encourages you to not take part in the things that, you know, that are dangerous to us. The only drug that was ever mentioned, back in my growing up period 1921-1939 before I went to the Navy, you could hear a mention of was opium. But there was no real use of it in this country that I knew of. The only other thing was alcohol and tobacco got it's start, particularly with women back in that time, smoking. We had a class called hygiene in our school, which pointed out the danger of alcohol, like what it would do to your brain. We had a shining example. There at home while I'm sitting in the swing, swinging, this fellow named Charlie Blaine, now he's been dead for a long time. But he worked at the tie plant. That's where they created the railroad ties that you see on the rails. Every Friday he'd get paid, he'd drop by the local bar and he'd come by the house, and there was a depression in our sidewalk. And he'd hit this depression and fall flat on his face. My mother would say, "You don't want to become like good old Charlie Blaine." The scouts were a good influence, and so was the church. My mother would take us all when we were babies and lay us out on those old flat pews and now they're cushioned at Trinitarian.


Q: What are the lessons of World War II?

Mr. Halterman: Well, the lessons of World War II. I think that people who declare war should have to send their own relatives to war first. Because there's a lot of glamour in war to those who survive, but not so to the ones who died and their relatives who had to suffer. And like Kissinger, I heard him say that one time, in one of his speeches, that that's the thing that should be considered before war is declared. Are you willing to go tell the families of these people about the death of their sons, their wives, and their husbands. I think that that's a good criteria to start with, it has to be an over preponderance of evidence to justify it. I lived on pins and needles when Vietnam came along, because our other two sons had numbers. Now, in that war I'll have to admit, that I was prepared that if their numbers got called, I would have taken them off to the side room and I would try to explain both sides of it as best I could. Then I would say to them, "If you decide to go to Canada, I'll back you 100%." That's how I felt about Vietnam. I feel so sorry for those people who had to go to Vietnam, the things they had to put up with in the jungle warfare. They lived in the jungle themselves, and they knew the jungles. One trip over to the Natick Research Labs, at a presentation, they showed me what they were working on. One was a pair of shoes, steel plated, to prevent the poison spikes that they put in the paths from penetrating the shoes. Now that was the kind of warfare that was being conducted over there. And to go in, I mean we did an injustice to the people of South Vietnam because they thought we were going to defend them. Then Nixon got impeached, and so we couldn't have an orderly withdrawal out of the whole bit. So it left the South Vietnamese to the mercy of the North Vietnamese. All of the things we did to their country. The defoliating of so much of their landscape, and a lot of the war materials are still there. Even in Europe, people are getting killed each year from the arsenals, some of the projectiles that have been left around.



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

Mr. Halterman: Stay with good company. Kids that try to mind their parents, you get right down to it. For one thing, if you end up with your very last friend, it would probably be your mother. In spite of all, in spite of what anybody ever says of you, anywhere, your mother will always say something good about you. The other good thing to become involved in is the scouts, which a lot of people do, and other nice organizations, particularly the church. You have a good chance of getting in with good company if you go to youth activities in your church. You've got a lot of support from the parents, and that sort of thing.


Mr. Halterman (USS Oklahoma) tells of what he witnessed at Pearl Harbor 12/7/41. (Quicktime)

Mr. Halterman's Company

Mr. Halterman in the Early 1940's

Navy Patch
Navy Patch

Pearl Harbor Map

Western Union Telegram Home 12/15/41