War on Their Minds
1943   Mr. John Hayes
Age in 1941: 21

Interview Team: Geoff Buckle and Eric Kaufman
  2002



Q: Hello, my name is Geoff Buckle and this is Eric Kaufman. We are interviewing Mr. Hayes at Traditions in Wayland, MA. The date is May 15, 2002. For the record, could you please state your name?

Mr. Hayes: John Hayes. As introduction to the interview, I would like to say that this World War II was the biggest, most gigantic effort the world has ever seen. We fortunately had a big advantage over Germany where our production wasn't affected by bombings, and the Germans were. We bombed the holy hell out of them. We had a wonderful commander in chief, Dwight Eisenhower, who was commander over all of the armed forces in Europe. Other countries had their generals, but they all had to answer to Eisenhower who planned the invasion of the allied forces into France. The English Channel was filled with ships and boats of all sizes and shapes for the allies to land on the shore and climb the vast cliffs.They soon found that the Germans hadn't been asleep, and they were there to pick us off. I can't help but feel very horrible about them. These were 18-year-old kids and they didn't stand a chance. They were unprotected, they were landed on the beach by landing crafts, and some of them were hardly in the water for a couple seconds before they were picked off.

Q: What was your age in 1941?

Mr. Hayes: 21 years old. I was older. My profession at that time was a machinist's job, and because of that and the nature of my work, I was also a sample maker. I had been deferred twice and I didn't feel right continuing my deferrment. So, I don't regret going to the draft board and saying, "I'm yours."

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

Mr. Hayes: Springfield, MA.

Q: And you were also raised there?

Mr. Hayes: Yes, and schooled.

Q: To what extent were you aware of the happenings in Japan, Italy, and Germany in the 1930's?

Mr. Hayes: Oh, yes. My repair ship had facilities of all sorts. We were actually a mother ship to the PT-boat cruisers and had a wonderful dining hall, hospital- known as the sick bay in the Navy-and we had a newspaper, so we were kept up on the news at all times. We were just young enough not to pay hardly any attention to what was going on over in Europe, because we weren't there and it wasn't affecting us. And of course it wasn't until the end of World War II that Japan had the atomic bomb dropped on them. There was a lot of debate about President Truman and his decision to drop the bomb, but it saved thousands, hundreds of thousands of men unlike if we had invaded Japan.

Q: Could you please explain how you first became aware of the dangers in Europe and Asia with Hitler, Emperor Hirohito, and War Minister Tojo?

Mr. Hayes: Well, again, we were young and we didn't pay any attention to what was going on in the rest of the world. But, my knowledge on World War II has multiplied so many times through the books in the public libraries, and Mike's father seems to be a, I wouldn't say a fan, but he likes to read about history. In Europe as they (the books) say, we didn't know much about it except when the campaigns between the two forces were big. By then, we heard it was a big operation. The American armed forces had such wonderful plans for battles, and we had the best equipment. And might I say, although I might be jumping ahead a little bit, I didn't mention our production of the war machines- of the ships. The United States pre-fabricated ships, war ships, destroyers, and so on. The fabricated parts were done at some distance from the shipyard and then they were brought to the shipyard and welded together. I have forgotten what the record was, but we were putting out over one ship a day, and that was something. The same thing with airplanes. You will see this in the library books, and you will see on television and in the World War II operations. The sky was just blotted out by our bombers. We had the superior of the skies. We could bomb the holy devil out of Germany and they couldn''t do a thing about it. We bombed railroad tracks, we bombed factories, all bearing parts, all necessary parts for tanks, airplanes, and so forth. Unless you see pictures in the library books, you will be amazed to see these pictures of the sky blotted out by the airplanes and the invasion that took place across the English channel. As I mentioned, there were so many ships and boats and bombs that we had warships that were firing the big rifles-actually, the big guns,the 14-inch guns-past the shoreline into France to kill the Germans. But again, if it wasn't for our location in the United States-figure it as an island-they wouldn't have invaded us. We had the freedom to build all the war machines including ammunition and so forth, and everyone was involved in this. They had Rosy the riveter working in the shipyards. Her job was to hold the rivet gun and hammer rivets so that the steel plates would be welded together.

Q: What was your reaction when you first heard about the Battle of Britain, also called the "Blit"?

Mr. Hayes: Oh Lord, you have to be aware of these facts, and you have to wonder how the British ever took it. Germany was bombing them out. Their English Air Force was doing their best shooting down planes over the English Channel, but the pictures of the ruins in England after they bombed the buildings were of a bunch of rubble: a bunch of rocks, stones, and cement. We, actually, England was wondering why we hadn't gotten in on the war since they needed our help desperately. At that particular time, we were on a program to help them called "lend-lease". We would lend them destroyers and so forth, and that helped them, but when we got into the war, why of course the GI was flooding England. Actually, the English people didn't like the American GI because he had too much money in his pocket and was better dressed.

Q: Were you aware of the concentration camps that Hitler had set up to murder the Jews?

Mr. Hayes: No, but even today there are people who wonder why the Untied States didn't do anything about it, or why any other country, or the powerful Vatican didn't do something. The way they treated the Jews who had been persecuted ever since time began...just horrible. The emancipation of these Jews in the prison camp-it didn't improve. The Germans treated the Jews like, I got to be polite here, like dust. It was one of the worst things ever. Today, I still wonder why the Jews took it. They did however, in a ghetto just prior to these camps, uprise in Poland, in a Polish ghetto. Of course, what weapons did the Jews have? And of course the Germans just went in there crushed them, put them in box cars, and sent them. I think it's up to you, again, to go to the local library, and you should really be interested to learn this bit of history. Even in this country there was a shipload of Jews who came over. At that time our president was FDR who refused the ships admittance to this country. That's just horrible.

Q: What are your remembrances of the attack on Pearl Harbor?

Mr. Hayes: Ah, yes, I remember it well. The girl that I married, Michael's grandmother, Dorothy, comes to mind. I had this beautiful little model A-Ford Victoria coupe, spare tires on either fender front wall, front fenders, Candice top, and it was a classy thing. At that time, our radio in that car was not that much, but I had this little dinky radio on-this is a Sunday afternoon-and I usually like music, but I guess they interrupted the program telling how Pearl Harbor had been bombed. I told Dorothy that this was bad.

Q: Did you feel that the country was now vulnerable and did you fear for your safety when you first learned about the bombing?

Mr. Hayes: I don't think so because the seed of the war operations were over in Europe at this time.

Q: What were your feelings of the American Declaration of War?

Mr. Hayes: I was too young to have any feelings.

Q: After the war carried on, did your feelings change about the war? Did you come to support the decision more as time went on?

Mr. Hayes: Oh yes, I mean some. You will always find selfish individuals who don't want to serve their country, but for me, no hesitation at all. Naturally, I waited for my draft number to come up to get my rating.

Q: Which branch of armed forces did you join?

Mr. Hayes: The Navy. And do you know why? If they were going to shoot at me, I was going to die in clean water, instead of in the muck. I have talked to foot soldiers, one in particular, and he told me that he didn't sleep in a bed for a year. He slept on the ground with a couple of blankets to cover him up.

Q: What was it like saying goodbye to your loved ones?

Mr. Hayes: My family? Well, of course my parents knew that it was my duty, and I had two brothers, so there was a total of three brothers that were in the war. It wasn't until many years afterwards that I realized what worry my own mother had about her three sons.

Q: Where were you when you said goodbye to your family and friends?

Mr. Hayes: At that time I was out in the country. It was the next town over called Palmer, MA. It will never gain fame of any sort. There we were, a bunch of draftees in the upstairs of this town hall, and we were in a line facing him, this civilian, this man, who says, "A lot of you guys aren't coming back", and I thought, "Oh boy, you got class." But, many years later, I realized if he ever pulled that again, I would step out of line and tell him something.

Q: Were you married before you left?

Mr. Hayes: No, Dorothy and I decided to wait until the war was over. Of course a lot of people didn't get married. Mike's other grandmother, Margaret Weiler, and her husband decided to get married. It was difficult for them because to find a rent in any town where the armed forces are concentrated is just about an impossibility.

Q: What are your remembrances in boot camp?

Mr. Hayes: Oh boy, I liked boot camp. I went up there, I think it was in November, and it was cold. I liked marching on the parade ground with the band. Our barracks were not heated, and we had to go to bed with clothes on. We had two blankets and we put either our pea-coat or our blue dress jacket over our shoulders. It was cold. I remember in particular how the married men were taken from their families, and on the first night, I could hear crying and sobbing of the married men missing their families.

Q: Where were you sent after boot camp?

Mr. Hayes: My assignment was in a ship repair unit, in the Boston Naval yard. I couldn't get over my good fortune that we would get to be there for a year working alongside the civilians in the further education of ship repair. Even today my specialty is repairing valves. Man, there are a lot of valves in the engine room and so forth, and I am a valve man.

Q: What special skills were you taught in the armed forces?

Mr. Hayes: It was machinist's work.

Q: What does machinist's work entail?

Mr. Hayes: Aboard ship, in the engine room? I was assigned the engine room, and I wasn't particularly crazy about that, for the main simple reason that it was 4 hours down in the engine room, and 2 hours off. During the day you couldn't get in the sack until the day was officially over. It was like being on assignment, and what saved me is that they offered a place on the Master of Arms Force, which is a police force aboard the ship-a total of 5 men- to stand watch. It was a hard duty keeping order among the crew. I liked it. I never put a guy in report, but I did have one incident with this little two-bit kid who worked in the mess line. One night I was coming back to the ship in Norfolk, I guess, and out of the darkness this voice says, "Hayes, I am going to cut you." Then, I realized this kid had too much to drink and I backed away from him thinking you wait until its tomorrow morning in the mess line, but I decided I wasn't going to do anything, but you know?

Q: How did your faith impact your thoughts of the war, did your faith impact you thoughts at all?

Mr. Hayes: Oh I could kill anybody.

Q: What were the conditions like on the ships?

Mr. Hayes: Loved it, loved it, good food. We had barbershop with two barbers, we had mess hall with wonderful meals, and of course the PT boats crews just loved the whole thing because they were living up in weather and were getting athlete feet in the dampness.

Q: Please describe your operations or battles that you were involved in while in the armed forces?

Mr. Hayes: A repair ship is the same as a repair ship. You go there, you anchor in a sheltered place well thought up. You repair the boats, we had big cranes that could lift the PT boats up on the decks and these boats were big. They were made up of plywood and there was two boat yards that were making them, there was the Higgins boat, and there was another boat but I cant think up the name. But they had three engines with big screws, big propellers, and the big V engines were in engine room over the boat in a tripod mount. And those darn engines really could push those boats fast.

Q: Were you ever involved in direct combat?

Mr. Hayes: Only twice, engine room and I was well aware that you have to follow orders and if your ship is hit you don't go up those steel ladders to jump overboard you have to wait for the officers to be charged to get his orders and then say okay boys were out of here. But our ship was firing its guns the captain never though much of our gunners skills in fact one time we had target practice, and he was red, white hot he says well I wont go into detail, but I was scared and I didn't want to die in the engine room with water coming in, and ah actually you think of it yourself, but looking back at it now it was very selfish on my part because now I know so many of these combat troops in Europe really had it bad, really had it bad.

Q: Did you ever experience death in these ships?

Mr. Hayes: Truthfully no, truthfully no although our sister ship which was further up in the Philippine chain. They got involved in the naval battle they were part of it, and they really got hit by more than one plane, and these guys when they went to boot camp, I knew this fellow from Canada and he got blown apart, and I was sorry for him cause I always liked they guy.

Q: Were any of your friends not able to deal with the mental aspects of all the fighting?

Mr. Hayes: No, but being over there while inactivity breeds a condition called "going easy aired, they loose their mind, not bad, but I ah in my head of my question now that were here I will say that we did have one factor aboard the ship that did keep us quite sane, but quite mad. And there was nobody else but Don Rikoles. He was a kid from Brooklyn, and of course he was in college, army, navy, you cant expect to know everybody you has your own clique, we had guys from Brooklyn, and Rikoles was always getting into trouble, and when he got there he was the same rating that we all were in boot camp, Seaman Second Class. He didn't get his first class rating until months after we all got over into the Philippines. My clique hung out in the ice machinery room, the big compressors that would cause the passageway to the ships freezers. Ice left on the army cot out in the passageway, the noise inside the machinery room was loud, but after a while you didn't hear it. Overhead was a public address speaker, and this is before revelry, time to get up on a Sunday morning this voice comes on, and I heard "John Brown eats blood, and barks at the moon. Right away I knew it was Rikoles, and the guy sleeping inside the ice machinery compartment by , they were mad for being wakened up by that message. So it turns out that Rikoles had been a messenger during this cold iron watch, a cold iron watch is when everything is just about shut down you're at anchor, but the basic things continue. He had been a messenger on the port side, and he went over to the starboard side to the switch panel and flipped on switches to give this message, and old Rikoles why he flipped on officers counter, it was less than two minutes this angry voice was on the whole ships PA "Rikoles seaman second class report to the officers sector on the double! so anyway while he go into trouble, I had Rikoles one time doing extra duty for a minor infraction, and the assignment was watering down the decks in the cruise compartments. They were painted under the bunk but the deck itself was steel, and they had to be watered down to keep from rusting, so I said to Rikoles "what are you going to do when you get out of this mans navy? and he says "I'm going into the entertainment Hays" I says "what do you know about entertainment? he says "I was in a couple shows when I was back in Brooklyn I did pretty well" I says "Ya, ya, ya," but you can see what he was involved in, but we saw, we saw his big mouth and were able to tell him to shut up and most of us did. We didn't want anything to do with him, but today Hollywood accepts this behavior because they don't want to be suffered from his bad time, ya know? Enough of that guy. My daughter says "Why don't you write him? And I says "I know what he's going to do, he might write back "Hayes, drop dead!"

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

Mr. Hayes: My girl, who was a pretty good letter writer I mean very often of course. My mother a former school teacher why she really sent letters.

Q: What was your attitude towards the Japanese on a personal level; did you have personal hate towards them?

Mr. Hayes: I myself didn't, but I had talked to marines after the war, and they delighted killing Japanese. Because these Japanese really were cruel, of course everybody's got to be cruel in order to survive the war, and there's an old saying after you've killed your first one "The rest is easy.

Q: Have you maintained contact with other people in your unit?

Mr. Hayes: Just once, I was with a salesman up to Portsmouth, NH, up to the navy yard, and I thought Id look up this Portuguese sailor that was aboard our ship, and I called him up and the whole department it was just like that television program "This is your life." and when Ernie walked in they all clapped and we got a big welcome, but no I did not maintain any contact with our ship or crew as far as I knew. We never had a reunion, of course today a lot of them do, but you're out and that's that.

Q: What was your most memorable experience during the war?

Mr. Hayes: Learning the war was over. I was at a U.S. old entertainment amphitheater ashore in the Philippines, and we had a very professional group of people putting on a program of Oklahoma, but the singing and dancing was wonderful. Well this amphitheater while I was sitting in the upper part of it, and I hear some loud noise that was coming not far from the amphitheater, and guys are wrestling and yelling, and I was wondering what the heck was going on, and pretty soon a guy comes from that group yelling "The war is over! that was the most memorable, and the greatest pleasure was being on the fan tail of my ship the rear of my ship looking at the wake the ship was making through the water. The white foam and it was just telling me I\I am m going home. I'm glad; I'm glad things weren't that bad for me

Q: Did you participate in the welcoming home celebration when you arrived home after the war was over?

Mr. Hayes: Well, of course they were in my honor, but aside from family no. There weren't any celebrations, no

Q: What was it like seeing your family and friends again?

Mr. Hayes: They hadn't changed, but at the railroad station while coming down the long flight of stairs to the main floor of the station my parents were there and Dorothy, and I regret I didn't show more demonstration to my mother, and the only one that mattered was Dorothy who I married. Before I forget, to give you an idea of the magnitude of this war, and I just saw a little part of it, I know. Our ship came back to the US I was kept aboard ship longer than usual because of my rating and points. If you were married and your skill was essential for the operation of the ship you could figure you're going to be in there six to eight months longer than the rest of the guys. We transferred to Treasure Island, one night going over San Francisco across the bridge, looked down and a lot of flashes from Alcatraz Ill be dammed if there wasn't a prison break. I don't know if they ever got the guys or not, but the tide is so strong around Treasure Island, but back to what I was going to tell you. We got aboard this train called the "kettle cars" there are two carriers and they look like ships they got nine sides all riveted together, they're high. Bunks would fall down, so there would be five high with the men to sleep in. One day the porter comes to the head of our car, he says "Fellas listen, in a few minutes were going to be approaching a sight you will never forget. The desert and you'll see what's in it." he says "When you first see a plane, note the time on your watches, when the train has covered the route, and there are not planes note the time on your watches" very shortly we looked out and both sides of the track as far as the eye could see were these war planes we had produced so many, and they were keeping these war planes just in case something started up again, and they didn't have to put them in moth balls because of the lack of humidity in the desert. It was an ideal place to store them. Twenty minutes at road speed of about probably fifty miles an hour this sight of parked airplanes on both sides, you just couldn't get over so many planes, again as I said that was is different from any other war, you'll probably fight. I wont go into detail about that, but that really was something, but I remember not always did we have proper dining facilities, usually it was the baggage car that the chow line would line up, and when we got to the baggage car they gave us a utensil, and they had made soup in this big G.I. barrel, this trash barrel. Of course it was all clean, and then they would give you the famous dry balonaga sandwich. We had often wonderful dining cars. Tables, linen, silver and so forth, and this waiter always said "Don't forget the waiter.". Pretty soon somebody comes up with a good reply "No we wont forget the waiter, well write you every day when we get home."

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

Mr. Hayes: Yes, I was aware.

Q: Did you agree at all with the decision to think it was necessary?

Mr. Hayes: Well, actually I wasn't paying that much attention to the issue, but I can see where the government had lost its trust, and in wartime you don't trust anybody really. Even today in your civilian life some best friend will cut your throat when you least expect it. But no as it turned out they were American citizens, bit I can see where the government had reason to confine them, and Uncle Sam, better known as Uncle Sucker greedy with his money, they paid all these people for their inconvenience.

Q: Did Americans whom you knew ever note the irony of the racial segregation at home and in the armed forces while you were fighting?

Mr. Hayes: Oh yes, I had heard a little about it, but the first that I saw of it was when our ship pulled into Norfolk, VA to take in supplies, food supplies, and we all had to turn to and pass boxes, exhausting work, and all of us knew our time was short in this country. We wanted to go ashore, and have a couple beers and the captain has announced at ten o'clock you men who got ashore can go, and then he changed his mind. So the next coastal city we went to was peanut country. I decided to take a bus trip inland just to see the countryside. I saw these restrooms with big signs labeled for whites only, and the blacks would have for colored only. So ya there was all a revelation to me, and being a northerner I didn't think it was fair.

Q: Were you aware of the Japanese treatment of POW's and their treatment of innocent civilians such as the 'Rape' of Nanking?

Mr. Hayes: I'm glad you brought up that subject because my grandson Michael had done a paper, school paper on it. I am frequently over to his house, and in his fathers home office he's got a big library, and I enjoy reading his war books. Horrible, just horrible, and not many people know about it, and they don't pay any attention to it. I will say sometimes you wonder if there is such a thing as god, but why, why a human has to treat another like that.


Q: How did you view President Franklin D. Roosevelt's leadership during the war?
Mr. Hayes: Oh good, he had a previous good start as president of the US the great depression is another subject, but it had your parents and my parents so down, no jobs, no money, and so poor. Today you kids consider yourselves privileged/ lucky to have what you have everyday and of course you don't realize it until its take away from you, but FDR like Adolf Hitler, why he had a message to the people who were down, and that there was hope and without hope a person was nothing. You'll remember these words I think that in your lifetime you're going to have situations that you want hope, so Roosevelt definitely was the answer. I mentioned Hitler, just a couple words about him, Europe had a depression, and its in my notes here where people were starving. A wheel borough of German marks would buy a loaf of bread. Marks, a dollar, a dollar bill and naturally they voted for Hitler because he had trained the German people, he trained everybody, and I cant help but I wont say I'm amused, but I cant help but think all this would be dictator and so forth. Hitler killed himself, his henchmen, Sinai, leave him to the dogs.

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

Mr. Hayes: Well, I was sorry, I was sorry naturally, but I had seen picture of him in the altar, and he looked like death himself, and Joe Stalin looked pretty damn healthy. Don't tell anyone about this World War II, don't forget it. If it wasn't for Russia who knows? You might be talking Russian today because Hitler double crossed Stalin and they were think thieves. They were in together. Hitler decided he knew more than his generals who had warned him don't spread out our armed forces too thin, disregarded the advice he dated Russia these television movies, they're movies of the real thing. You'll see the Russians and the Germans to just frozen in the bitter cold, and the Russian people knew how to handle those Germans. Of course again Germany had a long supply line to get the material to them. The Germans pushed their invasion up to Stalingrad, which was the original name of the mammoth city in Russia. The Russian people threw everybody in to push the Germans back, and for years the male Russian was a rare thing to see. So many of them had been killed in the war, and of course the women were fighting right along side of them.

Q: What was your reaction to Truman's decision to drop the A- bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

Mr. Hayes: I really didn't know, but as it turned out it was good decision because I think I mentioned that if we hadn't we had to invade Japan, we would have lost so many eighteen year old kids. I shouldn't say eighteen year old kids because although they went in as eighteen years old, very soon they will become very much more mature because of their experiences.

Q: At the end of the war, did you anticipate future wars, or did it seem to you that it was the war to end all wars?

Mr. Hayes: Ah, no from what I read by Stalin who is not to be trusted, that guy killed millions of his own in their own country. You got to go to the library to realize how lucky you are. When our present president decided to after terrorists he had the guts, the backbone to go after them. Nobody wants to be killed, nobody wants the young people dead, but you got to fight for freedom. His freedom in this country right over in Concord this is very historical. These men dropped their reigns grabbed their rifle, and went up to the University of Massachusetts there's a group that thought the logo of the school was wrong because it showed a minute man with his rife, just like the statue at the bridge in Concord. Same way with the Massachusetts Turnpike it was the school children and the authorities listened to them. The school children are responsible for the cost of eliminating the arrow through the Pilgrims hat, and two cases. Again war is costly manpower wise, and to loose our freedom is the most horrible thing.

Q: What do you think of todays generation of younger Americans?

Mr. Hayes: I'm glad that you asked that because my mind has changed for the better, of course you and this "privileged people" who have excellent schools and so forth. Why you're values are better than uneducated people, man there's a lot of them out there, and really I was for years wondering is this generation of young people willing to lay down their lives for the country? I didn't think they were, but I think they are. I am very pleased with the surge of patriotism that occurred after this world tower episode, and very well pleased that the display of the American flag has been a real strong one and the people are mad which a good thing is, but we've had people who haven't shared in this way of thinking of fighting for their country. They're more interested in poles, which is infuriating. These poles can be fixed, again take my word for it you don't trust anybody, now that sounds like a careless thing to say, but I mean it.

Q: What was your reaction when you heard about the World Trade Center attacks, did you see a parallel between it and the Pearl Harbor attacks?

Mr. Hayes: I never thought of it that way, but there is a parallel naturally.

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

Mr. Hayes: Well, things have changed over the years, but I hope I am right when I say that todays young person is better educated and can think for themselves, never mind what the newspaper says cause things are rigged, and its horrible.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Mr. Hayes: Yes, don't join the Navy to see the world. You can better see it through a National Geographic.

 


Mr. Hayes describes combat in the engine room (Quicktime)

boot camp
Boot Camp Lake Geneva, NY

certificate
Mr. Hayes' certificate

Truman certificate
Certificate from President Truman

USS Cyrene
Mr. Hayes' ship, the USS Cyrene

Cyrene Crew
USS Cyrene Crew