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Interview on experiences in World War II

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Creator: Vincent, Walter P.

Date: May 13, 2006

Level of Description: Item

Material Type: Manuscripts

Call Number: World War II Oral Histories Project

Unit ID: 213578

Biographical sketch: When Walter Vincent was drafted in 1944 he was working in the oil fields, was married and had three children. He was among a group of six from Rice County that thought they were going into the Navy, but a Marine Sergeant at the Kansas City Federal Court House asked for two volunteers and said, "You and you." For boot camp he was sent to San Diego, California and for basic training, to Camp Elliot which was about fifteen miles outside of San Diego. Walter said, "boot camp will put you in top physical condition in the least possible time," and he describes in detail what was involved. They would run from one to five miles, then do calisthenics, all before breakfast; then they would go back to the barracks and clean up and then out to the parade field to march before the noon meal. Rifles had to be clean enough to be inspected with white gloves and they had to have at least 85% on the shooting range. He came out with a 95%. Every place that you went he said you had to go as a group and there was no leave whatsoever. In basic training they learned how to take a hill or town, went out on bivouac "out in the boondocks," and went on 20 mile hikes with full pack, bedroll, rifle, and canteen of water. Walter arrived in Guam in June, 1944 and left in December. He described Guam as mostly jungle and lots of mosquitoes, and also relates a humorous tale about himself. After they had secured Guam they had cleared underbrush in the middle of the jungle and had the place set up with a barbed wire entanglement with cans hanging on it that would rattle if something hit it. He was standing guard one night when he saw an outline but couldn't tell what it was and the cans started rattling. He challenged it, but it didn't move or grunt or anything, so he challenged it again and upon getting no response, he shot it. It turned out to be a 250 pound hog, so he had to help butcher it and they had fresh pork for breakfast. Then they headed for Iwo Jima, where the island had been bombed for 48 straight days before they got there. He never saw a Japanese the whole time he was on the island, they were all underground, shooting mortars and other artillery at them. When they would come to a cave, they didn't go in, that would have been suicide. They used an interpreter and a loud speaker, giving them a certain amount of time to come out and surrender, but of course they didn't, and they would hit it with a flamethrower and dynamite or nitro to seal the cave shut. The 4th and 5th Divisions lost 600 men in the first 24 hours of the campaign and the 3rd Division had to go in on landing barges. The third day, Walter was hit in the arm by a piece of shrapnel, and was sent back to the States to a hospital at Corvallis, Oregon, because the hospitals on Okinawa and the Hawaiian Islands were full. He said that the bottom side of the Golden Gate Bridge was the "prettiest site I ever seen in my life." When he was released from the hospital he got a 30 day leave to go home, then returned to San Diego, California, where he worked in a warehouse until the war was over. He said that the whole city was celebrating, the liquor stores closed and set their liquor out on the sidewalk; people would come by and take the liquor and put the money in a box. Walter said that he thought he was probably the only sober one in town. In October of 1945 he received his discharge at Camp Pendleton, California, and returned home by train. It wasn't until 1995 that he received his Purple Heart, when a young reporter in Hutchinson found out that he had been wounded and got it pushed through, and they had a big celebration at the high school in his honor. He is a member of the American Legion and he and Ed Howell, owner of the Bulletin, hosted the Iwo Jima veteran's dinner and it has continued for the last eleven years. Along with other veterans, he goes to the high school history class and talks to the students every year. In 1981 Walter retired from City Service Oil Company at Sublette, Kansas and in 1990 returned to Sterling to be closer to family.

Summary: Walter P. Vincent was inducted into the Marine Corps in 1944 and served until 1945 in the 3rd Division, 21st Regiment, E Company. Interviewed by Marian Poe on May 13, 2006, Vincent talked about military experiences in the Second World War. He was born in the Sterling, Kansas, Hospital on June 10, 1919, and grew up in Sterling. The 2005 Kansas Legislature passed a bill funding the WWII Veterans Oral History grant program. This transcript is from one of the community institutions receiving grants. The transcript of the interview is presented here; the original video copy of the interview is available through the Rice County Historical Society (Lyons) 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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019-14-04-02   

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