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Interview on experiences in World War II

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Creator: Rhea, Darrel D.

Date: October 5, 2006

Level of Description: Item

Material Type: Manuscripts

Call Number: World War II Oral Histories Project

Unit ID: 211445

Biographical sketch: Sixteen year old Darrel Rhea enlisted in the Merchant Marines in Wichita, Kansas, with the reluctant permission of his parents, in September 1944. He was sent to Kansas City, Missouri for his physical examination and then on to Sheep?s Head Bay, New York for training. Being a typical Kansas farm boy from Isabel, Kansas, he was in awe of the skyscrapers and subways of New York City. He adapted well to finding his way around the city and to the rigorous Coast Guard training (swimming, lifesaving, boat handling, and boot camp). His training was completed on October 20, 1944 and he was assigned to the S.S. Susan B. Lukenbauk, of the Lukenbauk steam ship company (agents for the wartime shipping administration). The Lukenbauk was a refrigerated ship that was used to haul perishables (food and supplies) to England for the troops in the European Theatre. Rhea volunteered to work in the mess hall doing kitchen patrol (KP) and serving meals and describes his service aboard as similar to a civilian job in that he got free lodging, meal allowances and, if he worked overtime, he was paid extra. His ship was outbound from New York harbor on thirty day cruises and traveled along the eastern U.S. seaboard twice and then was sent to England in February 1945 while Rhea was aboard. Although, generally, the crew didn?t see much fighting, and was not allowed to go ashore in while in England (they loaded and unloaded cargo while at anchor offshore), Rhea describes his Merchant Marine service as an adventurous time for a young farm kid. Because it was a supply vessel that carried only anti-aircraft guns, not big guns, and because the threat of attacks by U-boats was present in some locations through which they traveled, the S.S. Susan B. Lukenbauk sometimes sailed as part of convoy groups or with destroyer ship escorts. Rhea was back in port at New York City when V-E Day (May 8, 1945) was announced. He decided not to sign up for any more voyages and was discharged from the Merchant Marines later that same month. He returned to home and school in Isabel, Kansas.
Rhea was subsequently drafted into the U.S. Air Force on September 3, 1948, and served as a Staff Sergeant with the 415th Organizational Maintenance Squadron, 93rd Bomb Wing (Strategic Air Command), 15th Air Force at the reopened Milldam Hall Air Force Base in England until his discharge from the service on May 8, 1952

Summary: Seaman Rhea enlisted in the Merchant Marine in 1944 and served until 1945 in the S.S. Susan B. Lukenbauk. Interviewed by David Fasgold on Oct 5, 2006, Rhea 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 video copy of the interview is available through the Greater Barber County Historical Action Assn and through the Kansas State Historical Society.

Space Required/Quantity: Video

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

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019-14-04-01  DVD 

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