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Interview on experiences in World War II

View at Kansas Memory

Creator: Wygle, Ralph William, Jr.

Date: February 15, 2006

Level of Description: Item

Material Type: Manuscripts

Call Number: World War II Oral Histories Project

Unit ID: 211504

Biographical sketch: Ralph Wygle's father worked in the oil fields and he attended several different schools, including Russell High School, where he knew Bob Dole well. They lived in a house provided by the oil company out in a wheat field and he remembers the dust storms in 1935-36, how it would look just like blowing snow over the fences. His father transferred back to Chase, Kansas in the middle of Ralph's junior year in high school. When he went to the principal's office to enroll, he hollered to the basketball coach to come and look at him because he was 6 feet 5 inches tall and weighed 251 pounds. They had a good basketball team that year and went to state but got defeated. When he graduated from high school he joined the Army Reserve Program and went to Fort Collins, Colorado for three months training, then went to the University of Kansas to play football in 1944. He was drafted on December 13, 1944, inducted at Fort Leavenworth, and sent to Camp Hood, Texas for basic training. There he had three months training as an infantry rifleman and learned to fire pistols, rifles, the bazooka and flame throwers, as well as machine guns. He also remembers how they would dig big foxholes and run tanks over you to give the experience of being invaded by tanks. The first Christmas away from home he was pretty homesick but said that having KP duty helped a lot. From Camp Hood they went to Fort Meade, Maryland in preparation for going overseas. At that time a law was passed that eighteen year olds could not be sent overseas and his nineteenth birthday didn't come up until November of 1945. He had to stay there until he was given orders for more training and sent to Camp Howze, Texas. Ralph was in a replacement company that was to replace people that had been killed in the Battle of the Bulge and about half of his company was killed during that time. He was disappointed that he didn't get to go overseas as an eighteen year old. When President Roosevelt died he really didn't have an opinion as he wasn't much involved in politics. On August 19, 1945 he finally shipped out but by the time they got to Eniwetok (an island in the Marshall Islands), the Japanese had already surrendered. When he first heard of the atomic bomb being dropped he thought it was a terrible thing, but when he realized that we would probably have lost half a million of our forces if we had invaded Japan, he changed his mind. Nine days after the Japanese surrendered they landed at Leyte Island in the Philippines. He was assigned to the 489th Amphibious DUKW Company, and drove an amphibious truck unloading ships and bringing supplies back. Some of the things that he remembers about the Japanese prisoners was how they would point to him and laugh because he was so much bigger than them. They were not hostile and seemed glad the war was over, too. After six months on Leyte they were sent to Guam and transferred into the 20th Air Force. He spent another six months driving a sixteen-wheeler gasoline truck refueling Air Force planes. One incident that he felt bad about was he had been visiting with a pilot while refueling his plane and when he took off it crashed and killed him. He went TDY to Japan and got to see General MacArthur's quarters, and visit Tokyo and visited all around Japan. When he was in Manila he got to attend some of the trial of General Homma who was charged in the Bataan Death March, and said that he claimed that he didn't know it was going on. In October of 1946 he returned to Oakland, California and was discharged at Camp Beale. He returned to Kansas University and was again on the football team and said they had a good year. In August of 1947 he married Peggy, who he met through his cousin in Hamilton, Kansas, and they lived in "Vet City," in Emporia. He played five years of college football, two at KU and three at Emporia State. He used the GI Bill to help get through college and his dad gave him $35 a month, too. Her folks helped her pay for college and Ralph worked 40 hours a week unloading railroad cars at the Santa Fe docks. In January 1950 he graduated and took a job as high school principal and coach at Climax, Kansas. This was the start of an administrative career where he also became a school superintendent, and then became head of the Education Department at Emporia State. He got his doctorate from the University of Arkansas in 1966 and became the president of Northwestern Oklahoma State University in Alva, Oklahoma. Then he got into the insurance business and was there for 27 years before he retired. Ralph talked about the present Iraq situation and his feelings on President Bush and the nation's debt. He felt like World War II was worth it, because something had to be done, and he was glad that he was a part of it.

Summary: Corporal/Specialist Wygle was drafted into the Army in 1944 and served until 1946 in the 489th Amphibious Truck Company . Interviewed by Loren Pennington on Feb 15, 2006, Wygle 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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019-14-04-14  Cassette Audio Tape (2) 

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