War on Their Minds
1942   Dr. William Ward
Age in 1941: 17

Interview Team: Chang Zhang and Jason Xenakis

Q: What is your name?

Dr. Ward: William W. Ward

Q: What was your age in 1941?

Dr. Ward: You'll have to ask which part of 1941. If you're talking about February 19th, 1941, I turned 17.

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

Dr. Ward: Dallas, Texas for both.

Q: When you were growing up, how well informed were you about the dangers in Europe and Asia?

Dr. Ward: Not all that well about Asia. Certainly one had some notion from reading the "Dallas Morning News" fairly religiously, that things were going on in Europe. I think I knew nothing whatsoever about concentration camps in Germany, for example, but it was an insular time. There was still a substantial isolationist feeling in this country. The thought was that the oceans were great vast moats that would forever protect us against invasion. That was the basis for things. Don't get into treaties. Stay out of things. Let the rest of the world go its way. It worked for a while, but it doesn't work now.

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

Dr. Ward: Well, that's part of what's laid out in my military career summary. I went to Texas A & M, an ROTC school because I could get a good education at rock bottom prices. It's a land grant college in the state of Texas. I was studying electrical engineering as long as I could there. I went in September of 1941 and then in December of 1941 the roof fell in, and then it was inevitable that I was going to go into the service. So, I stayed in school as long as I could by going into something called the Enlisted Reserve Corps in December of 1942, in hopes of eking out a little more school time. It worked and I didn't have to go on active duty until June of 1943.

Q: You were in your first year of college when Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese. What are your remembrances of that day?

Dr. Ward: Oh, very sharp. As you get older, you find that you can remember the events of long ago rather well, but if you ask me what I had for breakfast, I have to think. I know exactly what happened. Not much went on at College Station, Texas. It was a quiet little place on the banks of Brazos River, and how do you keep the students at Texas A & M under control? Well, you give them some entertainment. There were free movies on Sunday afternoons. I remember coming out of the movies and getting the news that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor.

Q: How did you feel about the attack?

Dr. Ward: Well, we were ready to go out and kill Japs. I'm going to use the term of the time. We call them Japanese now, but that was the term we universally used then.

Q: What branch of the armed services did you join?

Dr. Ward: Well, I had been proceeding towards a possible commission in the Army in the ROTC training for the Signal Corps. And by several quirks of fate, I ended up in the Signal Corps as an enlisted man. I did not obtain a commission, but I was a technician working on cryptographic equipment in the Signal Corps.

Q: Was it your choice to join the Army?

Dr. Ward: Oh absolutely. After all, I had started down that route before the war was started for us.

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

Dr. Ward: Well, my parents were living in Houston at the time, and I had orders calling me to report to Fort Sam Houston, Texas, just outside of San Antonio. When the time came, I packed up a little ditty bag because you weren't going to need much. I hitchhiked over to San Antonio. Hitchhiking was the favorite mode of transportation at Texas A & M in those days, and I stayed one night in a hotel and showed up the next morning for induction. There was no great weeping on my part. I don't know about my mother.

Q: In what you sent me, it said that you went to Boot Camp at Camp Roberts in California.

Dr. Ward: Basic training. Boot Camp is a Navy term. You have to get these things right.

Q: What were your remembrances of that?

Dr. Ward: It was infantry basic training that laid firm my conviction that I didn't want to be in the infantry if I possibly could. It's hard work, it's dangerous work, and it calls for more physical bravery than perhaps I can muster. So, I have great respect for those who did it and survived. But it was a necessary stepping-stone along the way to perhaps getting into the educational activity of the Army-the Army Specialized Training Program. I had to have basic training of some sort, so we were told that we had to have infantry basic training. It has been useful. I was fortunate to get into the ASTP, and when it collapsed, I was fortunate enough to get back to the Signal Corps.

Q: What special skills were you taught in the armed forces, and what was your specific role?

Dr. Ward: In basic training, one learned how to maintain firearms, fire the rifle, hit the target most of the time, throw grenades, operate light machine guns, crawl under machine gun fire in the infiltration course, lots of other soldier stuff like that. When I was back in the Signal Corps, again after the educational phase, I first was taught to be a teletype operator, then taught to be an operator of cryptographic equipment when our unit shipped out to the Pacific. Stopped on Oahu the Territory of Hawaii. It wasn't a state yet for a while, and there, another fellow and I got on-the-job training to be repairers and maintainers of cryptographic equipment. We didn't get to go to that lovely school outside of Washington, D.C. where the training is carried out in a leisurely fashion like school. This was an apprenticeship to senior non-coms who knew how the machines worked and showed us how they worked. Between Don Salemka, my partner, and me, we managed to learn enough to do the job when we got on our own in the forward areas.

Q: What is cryptography?

Dr. Ward: Well, suppose you want to communicate something to someone else, but you don't want anyone else to know what it is. You've got to encode or encipher it somehow. If you write in plain text and put it on a piece of paper, and that piece of paper falls into the wrong hands, then you're lost. This is almost as old as organized society to try to have ways of having secret messages from one person to another. And with the passage of time, people have found out a lot of things that work, sort of, and work halfway, and work reasonably well. Things are much more complex nowadays and cryptography is a substantial commercial item now because firms engaged in international commerce have great need for privacy in their dealings. They don't trust anybody because there is money involved. It takes one set of skills to build a code or cipher. It takes another set of skills to try and break the code or cipher, and you don't give up just because that other party has anticipated something. You try to get in there if it's worth your while. Cryptology encompasses both of them. I'll put in a plug or something for readers anywhere. If you get a chance, visit the National Cryptologic Museum. It's between Baltimore and Washington, close to the grounds of the Department of Defense's National Security Agency. The museum is unclassified. You can walk and see remarkable things-it's well worth the visit.

Q: What was the importance of cryptography during WWII?

Dr. Ward: What a terrible question. You know very well what the importance of cryptography was. When you are doing military operations, you want to keep quiet from other people what is going on. If you're getting ready to drop bombs somewhere, or if you're getting ready to insert some special operations forces, which you call them these days, people behind the lines do various things. You want to have ways to do this quietly and unobtrusively to communicate with your forces and to get word back from them as to how things are going.

Q: What were you more involved with, intercepting or the deciphering?

Dr. Ward: Not a bit. Not a bit. Our responsibility was strictly to keep the machines working intercepting. They were very good machines. They were sort of funky things like overgrown teletypes, but they were cryptologically sound. I don't know if those particular units had ever been broken, and they were generally reliable. So Salemka and I were responsible for keeping the things going.

Q: What were some of the things that those machines that you maintained participated in?

Dr. Ward: Well you'll have to hear a story. It started in Honolulu. We were working in Fort Shafter, which was an Army post then, an old post. It had a beautiful parade ground with white palm trees around it. The cryptographic work was in an underground space. The message would come through there because it was the headquarters for Mid-Pacific command work. To begin with, we were just working as message handlers there, but then we had this on-the-job training, and learned how to solve problems when the machines didn't work and helped carry the load. When Don Salemka and I landed on Iwo Jima March 7th, 1945, we had to set the cryptographic stuff from scratch. The Navy's construction battalion or Seabees eventually built us a very nice permanent facility. But originally we had to work in tents with these complex electro-mechanical devices, and Iwo Jima is a sandy, dusty, dirty place. Every now and again things would get jammed up. But mainly we just had to make sure that things would work, check the machines daily, run test messages through them to make sure they showed up with the right answers, and change the coding and keywords. You don't just set up a cipher and use it forever. Somehow, somebody is going to break this, make mistakes and leave something open, or drop something, and something will be captured. So, all codes and ciphers were changed periodically. Fresh sets of inputs so that if you had in your hand last week's code. It wouldn't do you any good this week.

Q: Do you agree with the statement that cryptography significantly shortened the war in the Pacific?

Dr. Ward: Well, I didn't know much about the cryptography or cryptanalysis, the breaking of codes. Certainly cryptography. Not having it would have made the war unwinable. Cryptography in terms of what we were involved with, getting the messages back and forth reliably and securely. I think you're reaching into the question of how much does it help to know the enemy's intentions. Well, it certainly helped a lot, but it wasn't used as thoroughly as it should have been. I bring into evidence the sad case of the cruiser Indianapolis. In 1945, in about July, the Indianapolis had been used to bring to the Marianas Islands, the ingredients for the first atomic bomb. They were loaded on the US west coast, somewhere under very heavy guard. The nuclear material had come out of Oak Ridge and Los Alamos, Richmond, Washington, places like that, and the Indianapolis steamed steadily to the Marianas and off-loaded its rather important cargo. Then it was supposed to proceed to a duty station on the Philippines. And it was allowed to go unescorted on that stretch. It was a good long stretch from Guam to the Philippines, and it was allowed to go unescorted on that stretch. It was sank by a Japanese sub with great loss of life; a tremendous embarrassment to the Navy. They sort of hushed it up and kept it quiet the best they could. Long after the fact, people looking at cryptography and cryptanalysis had established that the U.S. Intelligence areas had broken Japanese code and knew there was a submarine operating there, but they were not allowed to tell that to the commander of the ship. He was only a four striper-only a Navy Captain, and you had to be several ranks up, an Admiral to find out things like that. There's an example of withholding the information was certainly costly. The case has been made that breaking the Enigma, the German cipher machinery, and the Japanese cipher machines made information available to us that we couldn't have gotten any other way, and in that sense it shortened the war, but it wasn't used as it might have been.

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

Dr. Ward: The only one that I was in was the taking of Iwo Jima. The decision was made that Iwo Jima would have to be taken at any cost. It was the right decision, but it sure had a cost. After it was taken, several benefits ensued. First of all, there was no more harassing of the bomber fleets by fighters from Iwo Jima. Second, the bombers that got in trouble had a safe haven to land in, and many, many of them did, and thousands and thousands and thousands of aircrew lives have been saved by this. Third, Iwo Jima was sufficiently close to the home islands, that you can place fighters there to escort the bombers, that was a rather tricky thing for the fighters to go all the way up here and back again. Cross your fingers that the fuel holds up and nothing seizes up, because a P51 is a one-engine airplane, but they did it. Of course, after a while, there were no Japanese air defenses to speak of, and you didn't really need that anymore. That's the benefit from getting the island, taken by the Marines 3rd, 4th, and 5th Divisions. Remember, I was in the Army. The Marines landed on Iwo Jima thinking they could take it in about four days. It went for far longer than that. It was far bloodier business than expected. Some of the notes that I've got here that we could look at a little later-there were twenty thousand Japanese dead, seven thousand U.S. dead, but about nineteen thousand U.S. wounded who survived. A very costly enterprise for seven square miles of territory. My part in the battle was a very minor one. There were people from our unit who went out on D+2, and underwent Japanese fire. I did not. My partner and I came along in the second wave about D+16, which makes sense. They didn't need to activate the cryptographic stuff the first day or the second day. They had to wait a while for that so we came in and found that the south end of the island was reasonably secure and we were huddled down there close to the mountain while the Marines, and later the Army, pacified the north of the island. There was always noise and gunfire going on. There were occasional rather ineffective air raids by the Japanese. I was lucky my unit did not receive the Japanese death rattle Banzai charge until late March. That was near the end of their organized resistance, and a bunch of them got theirselves ready, charged through several units, killing whomever they could before they were all killed themselves. There's one tradition, a rumor. A story says that the Commanding General of Iwo Jima, the Japanese General Kuribayashi, took part in that charge. His body was never found. It might well be very true. He was sent by the Emperor to the island to defend it, and he sort of knew he wasn't going to come back. He told his wife he wasn't coming back. She's still alive by the way. Is that an adequate account of the battle for your purposes? As I said in my notes, I never fired a shot or dodged a bullet. I was lucky.

Q: Did you ever know anyone who died in battle?

Dr. Ward: Not in my little unit, but a fellow I went to school with (Bobby Beaudoux) joined the Marines, and the Marines had those seven thousand dead, and he was one of them. I also lost some close friends in Europe.

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

Dr. Ward: Hated their guts. All you have to do is go see a movie of those days like "Bataan". You'd come out of there fired up, and ready to go. Propaganda movies-very effective. That's what you have to do to turn young people, women now as well as men, into killing machines.

Q: Did you maintain contact with anyone in your unit?

Dr. Ward: Not at the time. We came from all different parts of the country-our unit wasn't big enough to have reunions. The Army and Marine Corps units and Navy ships periodically have reunions. If you look at the fine print section of the Globe Calendar, most every week they're announcing a reunion of some group somewhere. But we were not big enough for that.

Q: How many people were in your unit?

Dr. Ward: Oh, maybe a hundred. A hundred and fifty.

Q: And how many were stationed at Iwo Jima, or was it the whole hundred?

Dr. Ward: I'm talking about our little group at Iwo Jima, which ran the Signal Center. There were some Navy people involved, too. There wasn't any Air Force yet. There was the Army and the Army Air Corps. To interject though, something else has happened recently. Massachusetts is unique in the states in having an official Iwo Jima holiday by state law passed by a couple of "gung-ho" state reps several years ago. There shall be an observance on February 19th, which is the anniversary of the first landing. I went in there this past February, and I marched in the parade, and at the ensuing talk and reception and what not, met a young woman whose father was a Seabee on Iwo Jima. I never met him. He's dead now, but she was there carrying on the tradition, and she was about to go on a tour of the Pacific that would include a tour of Iwo Jima. The military tour business is big. You can have this one (brochure). This came in the mail this morning. For some price or other you can go on and see all sorts of things, of things that happened in the Pacific. There are similar tours to go see the battlefields in Europe. Since her father was at Iwo Jima, she wanted to be part of the tour, which went back. While she was on this tour, she met a fellow from my unit, named Everett Purcell. He was not in the cryptographic business, he was a radio maintainer/operator, so we didn't interface as closely as we might have, but he and I are corresponding now. I am urging him to get his memories written. I have a standing offer from a magazine fellow to write my memories of Iwo Jima if I ever get around to it. Im still working part-time and trying to record what I remember from the past fifty years of work at Lincoln Laboratory. So if I get through that sometime this summer, I will have a chance perhaps to return to this other business.

Q: Did you participate in a welcoming home celebration after you came back from Iwo Jima?

Dr. Ward: Well, I think it's fair to say that. I came back in two steps. In the fall of 1945 there was no more war and nothing to do. You got millions of men overseas both in Europe and the Pacific. What are you going to do with them? Can't let them sit around; they'll just get into mischief. So, they already had programs in Europe for soldiers to go to colleges and learn a little something, maybe get some college credit. In the case of the Pacific, there weren't a lot of colleges and universities like there were in Europe. So the Army established a little school of its own at Schofield Barracks on Oahu, and I spent a few weeks there and took a couple of courses. One, in surveying, and one in accounting, and when I went back to A&M, I was able to get some credit from those courses and that helped me to graduate. I flew from Iwo Jima to Oahu in November of 1945. That was my first flight in an airplane. It was very interesting indeed a Marine Corps C-46. After I finished up that session, I was waiting for a troop ship. Eventually, a crew ship loaded up and we came into San Francisco Bay one morning, not long after sunrise, and we got quite a welcome. I'm sure they did this several times a day for months on end. But it was very nice indeed to be taken off of the troop ship at the dock and then be transferred to a ferry for a long ride into an upper arm of San Francisco Bay. I remember going under a bridge, part of the Southern Pacific Railroad, and they had on the bridge in big white letters, "Thanks for a good job well done." I stayed at that little place for a few days until I was ready to go to Texas to be discharged at Fort Sam Houston, the same place where I went in. In April, 1946 there was a gathering of former students at Texas A&M at College Station. We had come back from the war, and there I saw General Eisenhower from a distance from another level in the auditorium. I managed to get together with my old college roommate from before going into active duty, and that fall, that was September of 1946, we resumed housekeeping as it was in a dormitory at A&M. We were both there together for two years, and we both graduated and went on our ways. It was called a "Victory Muster". A&M was big on having this celebration in April-an anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto--one of the ten decisive battles of the world some people say. That is where Sam Houston defeated the forces of the Mexican Santa Ana, and that was the end of Mexican domination of Texas.

Q: How did you feel after you met your parents after you came back?

Dr. Ward: I was vastly relieved, to be sure, because I did not enjoy military service all that much. There is a great stress on conformity there and following orders and what not. I have the kind of independent sort of mind so I didnt find that all that enjoyable and I was glad to be free of it. Ill show you that when we get to the rest of the memorabilia. Well I had to do something between mid-March of 1946 and September of 1946 when I had to go back to A&M and pick up my studies as a regular student. A&M had a tremendous number of students to accommodate going to A&M so they were starting classes at 7:00 a.m. So I worked on a clerical job at Houston Lighting and Power Company from April to August and I took a month off to learn to study again, learn to use a slide rule again, things like that. So the clerical job paid me a little bit, but it wasn't all that exciting work and I was glad when that was over and glad to get back in school.

Q: During the time were you aware of the internment of over one hundred thousand Japanese in the detention camps, and what was your reaction at the time if you were aware of it?

Dr. Ward: Oh there was no sense of outrage. It's the profiling if you will. Somehow it passed muster in those days. Earl Warren, later the Chief Justice of the United States. was the California Attorney General. He was the prime mover on that so there were plenty of opportunities to consult constitutional law. An interesting thing: I have a professional friend whom I've known for many years who was interned. Name is Bob Naka, N-A-K-A, lives in Concord. He's an engineer, Harvard Ph.D., so when he started out, he's about my age, maybe a little older, and his camp, I never asked him where it was. As he says, "only in America." In his subsequent career, he rose to a very high position in the Department of Defense including being the number two man in the National Reconnaisance Agency, which is the outfit which runs spy satellites. At the time he had the job, we didn't know that it existed. It was one of those agencies that nobody thinks about or says anything about. Somehow he was accepted and made use of in that highly responsible and extremely sensitive position. It's of interest that we haven't seen any move to intern Muslims after the events of last September 11th. As somebody said we've learned a little something.

Q: At the time were you aware of anyone who found the internment to be intolerable?

Dr. Ward: You might have heard it up here, but you sure didn't hear it in Texas. To put it very frankly, WWII was a sexist war; the Army was sexist, racist, and segregated. The country was largely that way too. If you have the time and inclination, go back and look at some of the magazines of those times. "Life Magazine", which was sort of the counterpart of TV news today. It came out once a week very regularly. See how the Japanese were treated there. See the caricatures of them. They were uniformly drawn as short, skinny people with yellow skin and bad eyesight.

Q: What was your reaction to the German atrocities towards Jewish people in Europe?

Dr. Ward: I didn't know much about it until later. I was not happy about that at all. I can say more than that. We get to the question of nuclear weapons, which we'll come to presently. There's a claim made in some parts that the U.S. held off use of atomic bombs. We used them against Japan but not against Germany, different for white skin than for yellow--well, I don't believe that's so. The thing wasn't working yet. The first trial was in July of '45 and the German war was over in April or so. People of that persuasion say that you wouldn't have done it; you wouldn't have used it against whites. Well that wouldn't have stopped me; I'd have dropped one if it did any good. I am a long and great admirer of the music of Wagner, an anti-Semite, but that doesn't affect my appreciation of his music and I would have laid one right on his festival theatre in Bayreuth if that would have helped to clean things up.

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

Dr. Ward: Well, he'd been president since early 1933, and I didn't remember much about any other presidents. I remember hearing the radio conventions in the summer of 1932 and there was a fellow named Garner from Texas, and he was in the running for the presidency and with true xenophobic vigor at age eight, I hoped that the Texan would be president. He made vice-president and did two terms. But Roosevelt was the one. That's all you thought of. When Truman took over after Roosevelt's death, there was a widespread lack of confidence in him out on the island. Well who was he? He had been elected vice-president, after Henry Wallace had a turn at vice-president. He was a very interesting man, Henry Wallace. Truman turned out to be quite a good president. Maybe not a great one, but a good one.

Q: How did you feel about his decision to drop bombs on Japan?

Dr. Ward: Well, I'm sure it was not an easy thing to do. I'm sure that it was not an easy thing for the people running the bomb group to do. General Paul Tibbetts, pilot of the B-29 Enola Gay, he's still alive, I think, but they did it. I think it was an important thing to do. I'm not sure otherwise how the war would have ended. There I was in Iwo Jima about three or four hundred miles south of the home islands of Japan. That battle was pretty much over. There were a few Japanese stragglers here or there and in many cases they weren't really ethnic Japanese. They were Koreans brought in as slave laborers. When all the "gung-ho" Japanese had been killed or committed suicide. After the Marines left and they were notable for taking no prisoners the 147th Army Infantry Regiment was put in to clean things up you began to get Japanese prisoners showing up. I noticed that there were a lot of medical units on the island- I was slow to think. It took me years to realize why there were so many medical units on the island. They were there to receive the casualties from the invasions of the home islands, the first of which to be scheduled for November of 1945. Regarding the invasion of Kyushu, military history research has disclosed that the Japanese thought was that they would mass immense forces on Kyushu and make that invasion so costly that the U.S. would have been discouraged from proceeding further. They were prepared to pay a tremendous price and to exact a terrible price enough to make Iwo Jima seem like a dress rehearsal. But the nuclear weapons blew all that away. It changed the equation of war. Emperor Hirohito was said to have asked three questions: Was this an atomic bomb? Can we do anything about it? Can we make one? He got discouraging answers on all fronts. But there were those in Japan who didn't want this to happen. They wanted to go down in a rain of fire and a blaze of glory. They endeavored to stop the emperor from making a surrender broadcast. So, I thoroughly approved of the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima. The dropping of the bomb on Nagasaki, that people argue about endlessly. Maybe it's overkill. One school of thought says that you have to drop another one to show that you have more than one. As a matter of fact, I am almost sure that we didn't have any more after those two. And it was not the best done operation. I cannot give the Nagasaki crew of Bock's Car (their B-29) ten because they put the weapon out about a mile from where they should have. If they put it where they should have, they probably would have killed a lot more people.

Q: What do you think about the revisionism that we've been reading about over the last quarter of the century or so? Do you think that maybe we shouldn't have done this?

Dr. Ward: When my children were going to school, they're all grown now, they would come home and say, "Teacher says that the Japanese had to strike because their oil supply had been cut off." But I don't know if any of those teachers ever said why the oil supplies were cut off. The reason, I think, is the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. That's how I learned the name of it. Sure, it's something else in Japanese. Throughout the history of society, nations have conquered empires, and the Japanese thought they could roll one up, too. Perhaps you read about or heard about the Japanese attempting to take over China. And the rape of Nanking? When they moved on down the coast of Southeast Asia, in some places they were welcomed as liberators. In Vietnam, for example, because they were chasing out the hated French, British, and Dutch colonial powers. But it wasn't long before the people of Vietnam and those countries found that the Japanese were installing their own colonial system which was a much more drastic one, a much more offensive one, a much less pleasant one. Before long, the Vietnamese, for example, were fighting the Japanese, and there are pictures of military parades being reviewed by Ho Chi Minh and American representatives. So, the Japanese will have to explain themselves and why they thought they could get by with something like that. Admiral Yamamoto is said to have told them ahead of time, "I can do great things for six months. But unless you're prepared to dictate peace in the White House, it's going to be bad news." They did great things for about six months until the Battle of Midway, which apparently came out as it did, in part because of code breaking. Admiral Yamamoto was subsequently shot down while being ferried to a meeting, thanks to our code breaking.

Q: Going back to the dropping of the Atomic bomb, some may argue that instead of dropping the bomb directly onto Hiroshima, there were other things to do. For example, if we were able to drop the bomb and demonstrate the strength of the bomb where there would be less civilian casualties, do you think that would have worked? For example, if we had just dropped the bomb on Tokyo Bay and let them see what the bomb can do, just visually observe what the bomb was capable of, that that may have caused the same effect?

Dr. Ward: I can't think that a special effects show would have much of an influence on anything. I've thought of this, what if the bomb had been available and they dropped it on Iwo Jima, and rather than landing on Iwo Jima. Well, Iwo Jima is about seven square miles and a nuclear weapon of that age (this is not an "H" bomb, only an "A" bomb) would not destroy the island. It would kill quite a few, but many would be left, and then you would say this is what it did, but it didn't really wipe it out. It's not that effective a weapon. I think it was instructive and useful to put it where they did. There were civilian casualties, but there is a civilian component to all war efforts, too.

Q: I notice that you have a few references to different books th'at have come out recently including Brokaw's. I read the first one. I havent read the subsequent one. What do you think of the recent wave of WWII scholarship, I guess in particular Brokaw's book, but Ambrose and a number of others that could be listed as well?

Dr. Ward: Well I have particular interest in books chronicling the history of the Army Specialized Training program where I was a member for a while, wearing a patch with the lamp of knowledge and the sword of valor. I found those to be of particular interest to me personally. In regards to Brokaw's book, I brought something with me, a review of his book, "The Greatest Generation" back in 1998, and soon after, a column by Donald Murray who writes for the Globe, said post-Depression actions were born out of necessity. You did what you did because you had to. It wasn't the greatest generation that was so full of virtue and sanctity and what not, you did what you had to do. Here's something that was in last Friday's Globe-an obituary for Alec Campbell. Maybe in those days people went to war thinking that they were going to meet glory, but I never met a glory seeker in WWII. People were disillusioned that read the books and saw the movies "The Big Parade" and "All Quiet on the Western Front," and they knew it wasn't glory at all. It was a dirty, nasty, hateful bit, but it had to be done. I didn't enjoy my military experience all that much. As they used to say in Basic Training, "There's the right way, the wrong way, and the Army way, and you better do it the Army way if you're in the Army." The Army spends a lot of time, the Navy too, on spit and polish. These shoes for example, I went through a lot of trouble, cleaned them with saddle soap, then I put black shoe polish on them, but I couldn't get them as shiny as servicemen and servicewomen do these days. I swear today's military dress shoes are patent leather, but they tell me they're not. An immense amount of effort was wasted on getting a mirror shine on the shoes.

Q: If I can follow up on Brokaw's book, and I know that Jason and Chang have a couple of other questions before they conclude. Have you had a chance to read any of Stephen Ambrose's books such as Citizen Soldier? He has a thesis that it was the fact that the United States Army was made up of; I suppose all of our armed forces, democratic citizens as opposed to men and women in a more dictatorial state. For that reason, at least comparatively, our Army was run more democratically.


Dr. Ward: I think all of our social classes shared the grief of WWII. Remember the late Senator Leverett Saltonstall of Massachusetts? His son Peter was killed on Saipan. Joe Kennedy Jr. died in the explosion of a drone bomber launched from England John F. Kennedy had a near brush with death on his patrol boat PT-109 in the South Pacific. In my own high school (Highland Park, Dallas, Texas) virtually all of the boys in the class of 1941 went to war. Approximately one in twenty didn't come back.

Q: What do you think of todays generation of young Americans? How do you think we are different? How do you think we are the same?

Dr. Ward: I don't know that much about them because we don't have any grandchildren. Our sons are 42 and 46, but we have no grandchildren. But I do see the young ones now and again at the Massachusetts State Science Fair. I go in there once a year to be a judge, and there is something I have for Wayland High School. I wonder if Wayland High School participates in that science fair? I brought this along to encourage you. I got this nice little letter saying thank you for judging, please come next year and judge some more. At the awards ceremony, scholarships, awards, and prizes worth almost three hundred grand were distributed. You can't afford to pass that up. Here's a list of the winners so you see what the competition is. It's a shame not to do; it's a great occasion to meet peers and see all sorts of interesting things going on.

Q: Now what have you learned about the teenagers with whom you come in contact?

Dr. Ward: They have a lot of bright ideas. Enough so that this year the fair included, on Saturday morning, a session with a patent attorney. Some of these folks are coming up with ideas that have patent potential and income potential. And you want to let them try to protect that intellectual property before it gets away from them. So it's always nice to go in there. Some of the students require more preparation shall we say, but it's nice to rub up against them all. I do five or six in the afternoon and go home invigorated for another year. Part of the theme of Murray's article here, is that he says that, "The next generation will do what it has to do when it has to do it."

Q: As the War on Terrorism has directly impacted our future, do you have any parting advice for the youth today?

Dr. Ward: The War on Terrorism had a direct effect on me. On September 10th I flew to Birmingham, Alabama to give a lecture, and I had to talk to a professional group. It went fine. The next day I was supposed to be at the University of Alabama, Birmingham to give a lecture to students. I got up Tuesday morning and learned that the roof had fallen in, what to do? The country's coming to a stop, all the airlines shut down. Well, I decided that I ought to go and give the lecture anyhow and the university stayed open, the meeting was all set up, and so I did, and the lecture was well received. I had something to tell these folks and they wouldn't have another chance to hear it. There's plenty of time to grieve and mourn later on. I'm going to leave you a copy of something written by a former director of military history at the Air Force Academy named Tony Kern. This was forwarded to me over the Internet by a friend, so I think it's legitimate, and he goes on for several pages here, but the crucial thing is highlighted. It says, "The many parallels that have been made with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor are apropos not only because it was a brilliant sneak attack against a complacent America, but also because we may well be pulling our new adversaries out of caves thirty years after we think this war is over just like my father's generation had to deal with the formidable Japanese in the years following WWII." It is not going to be short. It's going to be messy. In the paper this morning, it said that Vice-President Cheney is saying that another attack is inevitable. I can't speculate what it will be, but I don't doubt it's going to be something. It's necessary to maintain resolve. Kern ends up by saying, "Everybody I talked to over the past few days shares a common frustration saying in one form or another, I just wish I could do something." He's writing this about three days after September 11th. He says, "You are already doing it." He says, "Just keep faith in America and continue to support your president and military, and the outcome is certain. If we fail to do so, the outcome is equally certain."

Q: What was your reaction in the immediate aftermath of September 11th, say in the first two to three weeks? Did it strike you that it was similar to the first three weeks after December 7, 1941? Was there the same outrage and the same general reaction and solidarity expressed by fellow Americans?

Dr. Ward: Well, I think that's absolutely true. Incidentally, I didn't get home until Saturday night, and I cooled my heels in a hotel in Birmingham over the next few days, which is not a bad place to be if you have to cool your heels. Hard not to be home. My first thought was one of emotional shock that this happened and that these sons of bitches put themselves beyond our justice by killing themselves. Their immmolation moved them into another dimension, they could not be held to account. I didn't appreciate that. I haven't got my travel log transcript, I need to go back and revisit all that stuff. In regard to our going into Afghanistan, my thought at the time was, I don't mind doing a lot of killing provided it's going to do some good. I don't know whether it's going to solve the problem or not. I like to think that the people in our government who make these decisions have better information than I do. Maybe some of them are smarter than I am in these areas. I can't pretend to say that I know what to do, or what I would do if I were in their position.

Q: We've had some veterans reflect back, especially in the last year's crop of interviewees who talked about the lines outside of recruitment offices after December 7th, and to me there was that expectation that some of this would take place after September 11th. They had an additional number of hits on their website, but the actual number of recruitment levels remained pretty stable. Did that surprise you in any way?

Dr. Ward: No, because there's no need to raise large armies. What would you do with them if you had them? This is sort of like a thing that has come up recently on the Army's Crusader weapon system which is a motorized heavy artillery of some sort and very heavy, sixty tons or eighty tons like that. People were firing one projectile a long distance with great accuracy, but you don't need that. We're not going to have a war with the Soviet Union/Russia now, we're not. Yet, people want to keep building these things after all. That means jobs at home. I don't know what you'd do with sixteen million men and women under arms as there were in WWII. It's a totally different type of war now.


Dr. Ward recalls Pearl Harbor (Quicktime)

camp crowder
Sad Sack Ward at Camp Crowder, Missouri 1944

Dr Ward (middle) and pals on Iwo Jima