War on Their Minds
1943   John Turnchinetz
Age in 1941: 17

Helen Turchinetz
Age in 1941: 15

Interview Team: Carlos Sosa, Steve Fragale
  2001



Q: What is your name?

Mr. Turchinetz: John Turchinitz and Helen Turchinitz.



Q: What was your age in 1941?

Mr. Turchinetz: I think I was 16 years old.


Q: Where were you born?

Mr. Turchinetz: Boston, Massachusetts.


Q: Where did you grow up?

Mr. Turchinetz: Boston, Massachusetts. - The old west end.


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


Mr. Turchinetz: All I know is what we heard in the news, reports in the radio of the war on the happenings going on in the 1930s, I literally know that in 1939, I believe WWII started, and I believe in September, if my memory is correct, that Germany invaded Poland. But prior to that I new that there was talking about peace. Chamberlain went to Europe to discuss having peace out there.



Q: Explain how you became aware of the dangers in Europe, Hitler and Asia for example?

Mr. Turchinetz: Again it would be the Media and the films in the theaters that showed me some of the atrocities.


Q: What were some of those movies? If you remember.

Mr. Turchinetz: More the less I believe that in those days they had a news features with major motion pictures that they had in the theaters. We had no television in those days. That was the only version I had up there.


Q: What was your reaction to the war in Europe, you know, the invasion of Poland, the Battle of Britain? How did you react to those?

Mr. Turchinetz: Well I wasn't very happy how things were going on, lets put it that way, It seemed that the world was in danger.


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

Mr. Turchinetz: Well, I felt that it was justified, we were attacked at Pearl Harbor, and I felt that it was our duty to defend our country.


Q: Did these feelings change during or after the war?

Mr. Turchinetz: No they did not. We had all done our duties, and we wanted to have a country where wars no longer existed. We were hoping that WWII would end all wars, and our future generations would have peace. At least this is what we had all hoped for. We hoped that this would never happen again, and that people would learn by this, especially when the Atomic Bomb was dropped. We couldn't afford to have another war were civilizations could be wiped out.



Q: How did you remember the mood of the country during war time?

Mr. Turchinetz: Very, very good moral, people came together; something that I had seen in the play that you had, 'Letters That You Wrote.' This was the type of environment that we were in, and we felt that it was our duty was to help one another. We had a war effort, and we were out there to win, the country had bean unified.


Q: Under what circumstances did you enter the armed Forces?

Mr. Turchinetz: Actually, I received my diploma in June of 1943, but in December of 1942 the Boston trade high school which I was attending, had anyone that was working in the defense work, if there marks were satisfactory, could have a defense job, and they could graduate in June. So I left after Christmas and about 2 to 3 weeks later, I joined the navy voluntarily, because I felt that I would be drafted, and I wanted to be in the navy. I was a former sea scout and I enjoyed the ocean .


Q: So how old were you when you joined the navy?

Mr. Turchinetz: I was 17 years old.


Q: What was the legal age to join the Military Forces?

Mr. Turchinetz: 18, I knew that I would probably be drafted in September. They were known as selected volunteers at that time, you could join before being drafted, and that was the route that I took. I think it was the right road.


Q: Have you two had already met before the war?

Mr. Turchinetz: No, we never had, She had another boyfriend

Mrs Turchinetz: John was a sailor. I had an officer.



Q: What do you remember of boot camp or training?

Mr. Turchinetz: I enjoyed it very much, the number was 376, they sent us out to New Port, Rhode Island and it was on an Island. That was the basic training where, if you saw 'Letters That You Wrote,' how they were doing it as calisthenics and everything, being in shape, doing push-ups, you know we all got in shape and I enjoyed it and at that time I learned a lesson. They where looking for volunteers for someone to clean out a big bay with indoor pools where they were teaching sailors how to swim, they wanted it to be cleaned out, so I said it was my time to move up the line. I volunteered to scrub the place, and I was finished by 6:00 in the evening and I came back to the barracks and they were all writing letters back home, all showered and everything, and here I am all dirty, so I said that was the last time I was going to volunteer. You learn pretty fast.


Q: Where were you sent after boot camp?

Mr. Turchinetz: It was really great, they sent me back to commission a ship that was going to be commissioned in June 30th of 1943, that was the U.S.S. Boston, I was assigned to that ship and assigned to a barrack in South Boston. We were waiting for the ship, and people saw me around Boston, and they said, 'what a guy he is; hanging around and not going anywhere.' because I was waiting for an assignment. So it was kind of nice. We didn't get to leave until November, so it was nice because I could spend more time with my family, we were there in the West end of Boston.


Q: What kind of ship was the U.S.S. Boston?

Mr. Turchinetz: Boston was a heavy cruiser, we carried nine 8-inch guns and I believe 5 turrets of twin 5-inch guns. I think it was about 10 twin-quad 40mm guns, and the 20mm guns were occupied and manned by the marines on our ship. We had a complement of approximately 150 marines, and 113 men, as shipmates on the Boston, it was like a small city.


Q: What was you position on-board the ship?

Mr. Turchinetz: I was a fire control man, that was the controlling of the firing of the guns, initially I was assigned to a 40mm gun mount, but then I got into fire control, where you have to take into account a computer gyroscope to level off, because the ship was rolling and moving, and we needed something to stabilize it. To correctly hit the trajectory of a target, all had to be compensated in a computer in those days, so that was my function.


Q: Did you grow any close relationships with other crew members?

Mr. Turchinetz: Oh yes I did. I had a picture of a little bible study that we used to get together for. Ours is right here. And here are all of the men, I don't know if you recognize me. He was a Chaplin on our ship. And here I am. We used to do this once a week. It was kind of Ironic because they believed……


Q: Did you have weekly ceremonies like Church ?

Mr. Turchinetz: Yes we did, we had a Protestant service, a Jewish and a Catholic. And we had a Catholic Chaplain on our ship initially, later we had different Chaplains.


Q: What special skills were you taught in the Armed Forces?

Mr. Turchinetz: The only thing was that Radar was in its infancy, and at time, I was thinking of getting in Radar; I liked electronics. Which I subsequently did when I got discharged from the navy. I went to Northeastern and got my associate in electronics, engineering degree. I pursued that as a career.


Q: Can you describe any operation or Battle in which you were involved?

Mr. Turchinetz: Yes, well I have it all written down; its in a diary. We started out in January of 1944. Our first battle was of the Marshall Islands; taking that over. And then it was a succession of islands going to Japan. The next one was the Carolines, Demirioanads. See these are all different battles; that's why I have all this stars for each engagement. Guam, Wake; then we went to Hawandi and New Guinea, to support the invasion of troops there. And then we went to Iwo Jima, and the biggest thing was we were there one year before the invasion, and we caught them off-guard and it was July 4th, I will always remember that. We really celebrated it. Its in the diary how many planes were destroyed. We just saw planes coming up. I think we hit maybe 12 or 15 planes on a runway. So that was really nice, it was pretty accurate firing. And then in addition to that in Iwo Jima, when we had the invasion, we were there backing our troops up, Marines that were landing. Hitting the firing coming from the enemy. And also we were involved in the Philippines, that's where I got 2 of my stars. We were in the invasion that went on there. I might not have listed all of the battles, but its all in a diary.


Q: Can you describe what a typical battle would be like?

Mr. Turchinetz: Basically our ships, unless it was bombarding the mainland, prime objective was to protect the aircraft carriers. Our orders are, if there is a destroyer escort, and a torpedo is coming towards it, not to let the torpedo get by to hit the carrier. So, if the destroyer can get that torpedo, it would get the torpedo. If it missed is it, and a cruiser is next in command, the cruiser would get the torpedo, because you want to protect the carrier. The carrier is our link, where we use it for bombing missions. That's our prime objective in the operation of a fleet.


Q: So by getting torpedo you mean sacrificing a smaller ship?

Mr. Turchinetz: Exactly.



Q: Were submarines a real threat?

Mr. Turchinetz: Not to our ship, but to other ships, yes they were. We were always on lookouts; we had lookouts all the time on our ship; 24 hours a day. All of our light had to be out at night so the enemy would not detect us, that was our objective.


Q: How did you spot the submarines?

Mr. Turchinetz: Well we could pick it up by preliminary sonar, but most of it is visual I would say. We didn't have sophisticated equipment on those days.


Q: Were you ever in a close encounter with a torpedo or submarine?

Mr. Turchinetz: Yeah, we were in a really close encounter, and the funny part of it was that, we were operating a squandering of ships and we got a report back that a plane was a friendly plane, and when we spotted it on a lookout, it was a Japanese betty, that's a bomber. We open fire, we disobey orders, we open fire and shot it down and I think one of those pictures shows it. And we were congratulated for disobeying orders. So we did the right thing. Another encounter was when we got a report of 500 Japanese planes coming towards our fleet. And I'll tell you the truth... the first thing that came to my mind was 'why do I have to be here, couldn't I have stayed home?' And secondly, your whole life flashes in front of you, I know its a funny thing. It just flashes in front of you, my childhood days, and my high school days all flashed in front of me just like that. But then what happened was that the planes never reached our fleet, because every American plane shot down 10 Japanese planes. So that was one of our close encounters.


Q: Did you rely a lot on faith during the war?

Mr. Turchinetz: Yeah, and I had strong religious convictions that people were praying for me, that's why I felt it. I give all the credit to God for protecting us. We were a country that tried to liberate people, and I felt we were doing the rights thing.


Q: Were there any other close encounters during battle?

Mr. Turchinetz: Well the encounter where the ship almost tipped over, that was a close one. And another one was when they dropped the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki right after that, our whole ship was quarantined, and we didn't know what it was. We all had dysentery for a whole week. I think we got some of the fallout from the bomb; we were not to far from Hiroshima. We were all very sick. They didn't know about the atomic bomb in those days.

Mrs Turchinetz: Many of them passed away.


Mr. Turchinetz: We lost many, and I have a picture of a friend of mine. I tried to take care of myself. Right after the war, I went to school nights to get my degree. I had been going to the YMCA to keep up my good health. I tried to live a good life, and made sure that I got the proper rest.


Q: Can you please read off your diary the close encounter when the ship almost tipped over?

Mr. Turchinetz: Yeah sure.

Mr. Turchinetz: December 18th 1944. This morning the weather is really bad, some of the destroyers are low on fuel, and the sea is so bad that they cannot fuel from the tankers. The C.V.E.s are having a lot of probleMrs Turchinetz: Planes are breaking loose in the hanger deck and starting fires. The carrier independence reported two men overboard. The carrier Monterey has a fire in its hanger deck and can only make 5 knots. The sea looks like mountains; no one can walk straight. Quite a few men were hurt by the rolling of the ship. Sandwiches and coffee were served for dinner and super, we make a roll of 46 degrees which is passed the danger point. We lost one of our planes over the side from the force of the wind. (We carried two observation planes.) No one is allowed on the main deck. It's underwater each time we roll. The battle ship Massachusetts is dead in the water. The wind picked up to a gust of 93 knots, some of the destroyers report that they are in danger of tipping over. Besides the loss of one plane, we also have two 20mm gun tub damage, we were pretty lucky; the height of the waves must have been 30 or 40 ft. About 35 men were washed over the side. Most of them from the carriers. We received some bad news, 2 destroyers were lost in the storm, two other destroyers are missing, some survivors were picked up. The wind picked up by late afternoon to over 100 knots. The see is a little calmer, and by 24:00 hours the wind died down. I didn't sleep tonight. I wanted to stay awake just in case the ship rolled over.



Q: How did you hold the two planes on the ship?

Mr. Turchinetz: We had them catapulted. I don't have a picture of it here, but we carried two planes, one in each catapulted. It was just like a canon. They were sea planes, and they were basically used for observation.


Q: Would they land back on the ship?


Mr. Turchinetz: No, they landed on the water and we had a crane bring them back on board.


Q: Did you ever become home sick?

Mr. Turchinetz: Yeah I did, some of the men were married and it affected them. My friend said, 'I would give my right arm if I could get back to my wife and children.' If you don't see them for 16, 17 month that's tragic. I don't know if the navy would do that today, keep the men away for such a long time.

Mrs Turchinetz: They do it on the submarines.

Mr. Turchinetz: Yeah, but I don't think it's for that long. For over a year, I don't think they would. Especially during peaceful times, but maybe war times were different in those days.


Q: Do you think your emotions would have changed if you were married?

Mr. Turchinetz: Yeah, I would think so. I would have had more responsibility to take care of my wife if I could. They would be all alone and in need of help. I didn't have any obligations but my parents. My parents were self supporting and took care of themselves. They were in the war effort. My father was doing defense work. They would call him at 2 o'clock in the morning to come and fix what was broken, so that they could continue making 40mm shells at A.S. Cambel Company, East Boston. That's were I went to work prior to graduation. I had worked there for about a month. But they would always be asking you 'when are you going to join the navy or service?'. Then you'd see all of your friends joining the service and they put you on a guilt trip.


Q: Ms. Turchinitz, where were you during the war?

Mrs Turchinetz: I was a student during the war.


Q: Were you employed during the war?

Mrs Turchinetz: At the end of the war I worked in a beauty salon.


Q: Did you take any part in the war effort, helping out in recycling and so forth?

Mrs Turchinetz: No, but I used to go to the YMCA dances.



Q: Did you know anyone who left for the war, and if so, what was it like saying goodbye?

Mrs Turchinetz: Yes, my brother did, but you see, my father died when I was 8 and I was in foster homes, and more or less I was a lone. I lived in a rooming house, so I had to be very careful and I was by myself most of the time.




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

Mr. Turchinetz: Not really, I was fortunate in that respect.



Q: What was your attitude towards the Japanese and Germans on a personal level?

Mr. Turchinetz: I had hatred, and I think one of the things that caused a lot of the hatred was the movie industry portraying the cruelties of these countries. However when the war ended, we went through many cities in Japan since we had an admiral. We went to all of the major ports. I tried to be very kind to the Children, all the service men did. I brought them candy, I picked them up. I felt, these are human beings, they had nothing to do with the war. I tried to show them that we weren't as bad as maybe their people had portrayed us to be, so I wanted to have an equal relationship. In other words propaganda. I felt that people from other places treated people very badly, for example, the Germans didn't treat American prisoners as well as we treated German prisoners.

Mrs Turchinetz: I just had a reflection. I remember that during war, there were lines for everything. We had to keep books, and everything had to be rationed. There would be lines for sugar or coffee. I cant remember what else, but we had to wait a certain period of time in the line to get those basics needs.


Q: Were times hard during the war?

Mr. Turchinetz: Yes, very hard. In fact, because butter was rationed, I remember you could only have meat once a week, on weekends. We sacrificed because the meats and other foods were going to the troops. So that was a huge sacrifice by the civilians.


Mrs Turchinetz: I would sometimes work 50 hours a week. . . We had to figure out how to make ends meet.


Q: How was the food on the ship?

Mr. Turchinetz: Oh, good, and the army said we were living on the U.S.O. Ship. We had ice cream that the students of Boston donated. They had donated an ice cream machine, and we would make our own milk on the ship, so the kids sacrificed. Compared with the Army, who had be in ditches, it had to be nice. We took a shower every day and sort of rubbed it in. It was a little nicer than the Army.

Mrs Turchinetz: The Gas was something like 10 cents a Gallon, and you could buy a new car for a couple of hundred dollars, a brand new car.


Q: Did you have any family fighting in war?

Mr. Turchinetz: No, I was the only child in the family. I didn't had any relatives.


Q: Do you have one memory that sticks out the most from war?

Mr. Turchinetz: I think it was friendships that I developed with some of my friends in the service. We still correspond at Christmas and send each other cards. And its a long-term relationship, which I enjoyed. Something that I don't see today. I retired from Raytheon in 1992, working on a patriot missile, from its inception to its deployment. I enjoyed it very much. The reason that I brought that up is because I don't see the relationship of that nature, once you retire, everyone forgets you. But I continue to have very close relationships with my friends from the service. In addition to that, we have yearly reunions, in fact we have meetings where crew members from the U.S.S. ships get together. We have yearly conventions.... Its sort of like a brotherhood that we had or a close union, but its a close relationship.


Q: What were some of those activities that took place with your friends?

Mr. Turchinetz: We went to liberty. I think that there were some who would go out. There would also be rationed beer to drink, but I didn't drink in those days, I gave my beer away. They would give each of us two cans of beer. I felt that I didn't need it; some others may have needed it more. We would go out, just to take some time away from the ship. We really enjoyed it when we got to the states. When we were in California, we were stationed at Long Beech. We took the train out to L.A. and went to the Palladium, that was quite a big dance place. We also went to Hollywood, and many other places. The slogan of the Navy was 'Join the Navy and See the World.' That didn't always work out for people because sometimes they got stationed in their home towns.


Q: What were some of the activities that you did to pass time on the ship?

Mr. Turchinetz: Mostly religious ceremonies, and the bible study group. We used to read a lot and write letters back home. And then we had four hours on duty and eight off and four hours to be battle ready. We didn't have television, but we did have the radio.


Q: Did you received any letters?

Mr. Turchinetz: Oh, yes, quite a few from my father and friends. I also had a girlfriend in California who would write to me. The mail really built up our moral.


Q: What was the thing you missed the most about the US.?

Mr. Turchinetz: What I missed the most was not being home with my family and friends, that's what I missed most.


Q: What was like to see your friends and family when you got back?

Mr. Turchinetz: I just enjoyed seeing them. Just sharing some of the things that we had been through.


Q: Ms. Turchinitz, did you participate in any welcoming events?

Mrs Turchinetz: No, the only thing that I can recall is that when the war ended everyone went to the center of town to celebrate, they were hugging and kissing, and dancing, and things like that. And the bells were ringing.

Mr. Turchinetz: One point of significance, when I was in High school during the war, was that our school was next to Went Worth Institute in Boston, and they had a fire station there. When they had a victory, the sirens would go off and everyone would celebrate. That was one of the highlights we had. We had a lot of respect for the women in those days. A lot of women in those days were medics in the service, and a lot of them sacrificed their lives for us. We really had a lot of respect for them.


Q: When did you two meet?

Mr. Turchinetz: Quite a ways after the war. I never knew her during the war.

Mrs Turchinetz: Around 1949/1950.

Mr. Turchinetz: We were married in 1951 on a Saturday.



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

Mr. Turchinetz: I thought he was a great president. I think every serviceman felt the same way.


Q: How did you feet about his death?

Mr. Turchinetz: I was kind of saddened. I felt that probably, we wouldn't have the leadership that he had, you know, I felt he was going to do a lot of things for the veterans, which he did. The G.I. bill was one of the things.

Mrs Turchinetz: He was the one who changed the election because he ran for four terms and after that decided, for the future, you could no longer stay for four terms but now only two terms.


Q: What was you Opinion of President Truman's wartime leadership?

Mr. Turchinetz: Well I though he took over at a difficult situation, and I don't think that he could be compared with Roosevelt's statue. However, I thought he called the shots the way they were, he was not a real politician. That phrase, 'The buck stops here.'

Mrs Turchinetz: He wasn't an elected president. He was just vice-president, and he came in very quick after Roosevelt's death .

Mr. Turchinetz: As I said, I think on the atomic bomb, I wish he hadn't dropped the bomb. It would of been better of him to drop it on an isolated area. A lot of innocent people were killed, and I felt it wasn't the policy of the U.S. to do that. We were trying to hit military establishments, and not the civilian population. It shortened the war. That's what my thoughts were, even in those days.


Q: What was the bombing site like after we bombed it?

Mr. Turchinetz: We took pictures of it. The central area was just twisted steel. We interviewed one of the people, and he said it was like a bright sun in the middle of the day, and a big wind storm, that's how they described it. They called it silent bomb. It was just complete devastation. I could see the look of a women as we were walking around, she looked at us and I could see her disgust and hatred towards us for dropping the bomb. Those are the effects of the war, innocent people are killed too.


Q: At the time, were you proud that the U.S. dropped the bomb?

Mr. Turchinetz: No as I said, I felt they should have shown the world in an isolated area, where people and children who had nothing to do with the war would not have been killed. That's why I felt that way. Others said it shortened the war. These Japanese in caves, in fact right after the war they were still ready to fight. They didn't believe the war was over. They kept the best of their Japanese troops to defend their country, so it would have been a long, long war. And if you look at the other aspect of the atomic bomb it ended the war quickly, and lots of the American lives were saved.


Q: At the end of the war, did you anticipate any future wars?

Mr. Turchinetz: NO! WWII was supposed to end all wars, this was it. We never wanted to go to war again. We hoped that people would have learned. Power corrupts once people finally get power. Nations take over, and they are not satisfied, and they want to take more nations, they practically want to put people in prison, where they have no freedom.


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


Mr. Turchinetz: Wayland High School, I'm very proud of, they are the best! I feel very secure. I wrote a letter to Richard Weingartner, thanking him. What I tired to say was that he really helped us veterans to receive the respect that you showed us. We really feel grateful; In gratitude to you we feel that we are leaving the torch in good hands. I'm very proud of you all, I'm even proud of you for taking you time to interview us, that's a sacrifice. I hope that we've conveyed something of our appreciation to you. I never thought the world would be in the condition it is today. I felt after the war, you and your future generation would be enjoying peace and prosperity and good times. There has only been a few exceptions that haven't worked out that way.

Mrs Turchinetz: My feeling is that through past years everything has been easy, easy going, free spending, everything has come easy, and plenty of money. I worry that if there are hard times ahead, like we had gone through for many years. I wonder how people are able to handle it. After a certain age you become accustomed to what you have had, and then all of a sudden what you have has been taken away. It kind of hurts. I can't really explain it.

Mr. Turchinetz: I don't know if you have read the book 'The Greatest Generation' by Tom Brokaw. It really echoes what the conditions were. We came from poor families; we never had a telephone in our house. In fact, when I had to record a message to my parents, they had to go to play it on someone's telephone. They didn't have one of their own. We were in a poor area, and we had nothing. We were proud of this country. My parents who came from Europe, didn't want to learn their language, we wanted to identify ourselves as Americans, and we proved that, and I think that times were hard and today things are easy. I think it would be good if they had a military draft. It would help a lot of the youngest ones who don't know what they want do. It would make them a better person in some kind of way, and they would have more respect for the country. But you people show the opposite. You really show respect. I think we are in very good hands, and we have nothing to worry about. People like you.

 


Mr. Turchinetz discusses the role and operations of the USS Boston. (Quicktime)

ship
Cruiser USS Boston

cert
Honorable Discharge Certificate

journal
Excerpt from Mr. Turchinetz's war journal

bars
Mr. Turchinetz's Bars

book
Ration Book

coupons
Ration Coupons

sake cups
Sake Cups from Hiroshima and Nagasaki

sake cups
Sake Cups from Hiroshima and Nagasaki

postcard
Postcard of the USS Boston