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Interview on experiences in World War II

View at Kansas Memory

Creator: Markowitz, Joseph Steffes

Date: February 27, 2006

Level of Description: Item

Material Type: Audiotape, Voice

Call Number: World War II Oral Histories Project

Unit ID: 211412

Biographical sketch: Joseph Markowitz was born and raised in Olpe, Kansas, and attended all twelve years at St. Joseph's Catholic School. His dad was a building contractor, building mostly homes in the beginning, before getting into commercial construction later on. Joseph started working with him at the age of eleven and said his first job was as a carpenter at Cottonwood Falls. During the Depression they had plenty to eat as his mother had a big garden and raised chickens. His family did take an interest in the trouble in Germany as his father's parents came from Prussia and his mother's from Germany. As a boy, he spent a lot of time with his Granddad and remembers conversing with him in both English and German. In May of 1941 he went to Kansas City to enlist and was turned down because he was slightly color blind in a gray-green combination. When he told the recruiter that the next day, the recruiter sent him to Oklahoma City where he got right in, in fact, he went directly from there to San Diego and never returned home until after he had spent a year in the Pacific. As he had come from a strict upbringing, both at home and through the Catholic School, he had no trouble with the Marine discipline. After completing boot camp he attended sea school where you learned what was expected aboard a ship. He was put on a troop ship and sent to Pearl Harbor, transferring to the USS Enterprise in July of 1941 and assigned to the five-inch gun batteries. They didn't get much liberty time to go into Honolulu or other places. In November, under the direction of Admiral Halsey, they went to Wake Island to take a squadron of planes there. When the Japanese attacked Wake Island many of those planes were destroyed. When they came back into Pearl Harbor their planes were launched because the Japanese were already attacking the island. A number of the planes were shot down by American gunners because at night they took them for Japanese.
Coming back into Pearl Harbor they could see the fires and smoke from the planes and buildings and he said "It was a mess." Because they came in the night of December 7th to rearm and refuel and went back out to sea before light the next morning they picked up the name of "The Galloping Ghost." They next headed for the Marshall Islands, where President Roosevelt's son was a leader of some troops and they were very proud of him. Admiral Halsey was in command and the whole ship's crew were a proud outfit and very lucky they didn't get hit December 7th. Joseph didn't feel like the raid on the Marshall Islands was very successful, it was just a show "that we could go down there and attack." In April of 1942 the USS Enterprise was assigned to do escort duty to Jimmy Doolittle's planes aboard the Hornet, which were going to go bomb Tokyo. He said that everyone he was associated with was worried because they were so close to the enemy. His crew was involved with the Battle of Midway, but at the time didn't really know the importance of what was happening. Their biggest concern was watching the bombing of the Yorktown as they didn't have the fighter plane protection that the Enterprise did. It eventually was sunk. Joseph states the the main objective of the Enterprise is that when they say they were in on the attack, it is the planes they were carrying that were in on the attack. In October of 1942 the Enterprise and the Hornet were involved in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands. Some torpedoes came toward the ship but missed them. There were dive bombers coming down and just prior to releasing their bomb they would let go a burst from their 7.7 guns on each of the wings. One of the bombs exploded right behind Joseph's gun battery and one of the pieces of shrapnel hit his helmet dead center in the front, and came out between the liner and his scalp. It split his scalp and he still has a number of pieces of steel in his scalp today. That night their steering gear was also knocked out and they were going in circles, worrying that they would be hit by a submarine. The Hornet went down in that battle so the Enterprise was the only carrier left out there and it headed back to Pearl Harbor for temporary repairs. However, he didn't return with it, but was dropped in the New Hebrides where he was in charge of the flag Marines for a few months. From the New Hebrides he went back to Pearl Harbor, caught a ship to San Francisco, then went back to Hawaii and was assigned to the Essex. On the Essex he was in charge of a 20mm gun battery, however they weren't involved in any battles during his assignment. When he finished his assignment on the Essex he was sent to Camp LeJeune, North Carolina and during this time went to Puerto Rico for several months. He was very much relieved when the bomb ended the war and he feels like it was justified and that something had to be done to stop them. In August of 1947 he was discharged and returned to Olpe, Kansas and went right back to work as a carpenter. The next year, 1948, he married his wife Marie and he says in sixty years of marriage they have moved twenty-six times. The reason for this is wherever he bid jobs they would move and either build or buy a house. They have four children, two boys and two girls. Currently he and his wife have a furniture repair and restoration business and he says that he enjoys working and always has. He is a member of both the VFW and the American Legion. Joseph says he would hate to think there would be a time when we would have to go through what we did then but he doesn't regret his time in the Marines and would do it again if necessary.

Summary: Corporal/Specialist Markowitz enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1941 and served until 1947 in the USS Enterprise and USS Essex. Interviewed by Loren Pennington on Feb 27, 2006, Markowitz talked about military experiences in the Second World War. The 2005 Kansas Legislature passed a bill funding the WWII Veterans Oral History grant program. This transcript is from one of the nine community institutions that received these grants. The transcript from the interview is presented here; the original audio copy of the interview is available through the Emporia State University (Flint Hills) and through the Kansas State Historical Society.

Space Required/Quantity: Audio

Title (Main title): Interview on experiences in World War II

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019-14-04-09  Cassette Audio Tape (2) 

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