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Marvin Metzger video interview on experiences in World War II

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Creator: Metzger, Marvin

Date: June 27, 2007

Level of Description: Item

Material Type: Manuscripts

Call Number: World War II Oral Histories Project

Unit ID: 214321

Biographical sketch: Because he wasn't doing very well in high school, after three years Marvin Metzger quit school and went to work. His father ran heavy equipment, doing dirt work, and he worked for him, as well as working in a grocery store and running a dumpy at a rock quarry at Lecompton. That paid him sixty dollars a week, which was "fabulous pay," at that time, he said. At the age of twenty, he enlisted in the Marine Corps and went to San Diego for his basic training, where he learned how to march, walk, hike, and take care of yourself. At Camp Pendleton he spent time on the rifle range and armor training, then got a thirty day furlough, and returned to Mare Island in San Francisco Bay. For several months he was on guard duty at the submarine base there. From Mare Island he zigzagged across the South Pacific on the troopship called the "George Washington." His whole company went as a replacement company and then were split up into different companies so a lot of his friends he never saw again. On board the ship he and a guy they called "Pop" became the champions at playing hearts, because playing cards was about all they had to do for entertainment. They were put on another ship at Noumea and went to Guadalcanal for more training and would practice landings on the various islands. On Bougainville Island, they swam in the Piva River a lot and he told about how they had a rope tied to a tree that was about eighty feet above the water. He said you would get hold of the rope and swing out and "then try to talk yourself into turning it loose." While on Guadalcanal he said they had a lot of mutton to eat and it would smell up the whole neighborhood when they cooked it. Most of the guys dumped their mess kit in the garbage barrel and he said you couldn't get within ten feet of that barrel. When they landed at Rabaul (near Bougainville) the first thing that happened to him was he fell in a hole when they were unloading from the ship and he got hit in the head. He thought for sure he had been shot before he even got off the boat but he had been hit in the head with the big cable when they unhooked it but his helmet protected him from getting hurt. Marvin describes the first night on the island after they had been told to dig foxholes, and had to be on watch all night. They dug their foxhole and used a machete to cut some trees down and build a top on it so they could look out. One of the three guys in the foxhole thought there was a "Jap" in the coconut tree and the more they looked the more they all thought so, too. After while they concluded there wasn't anybody in the tree but about midnight they thought somebody was crawling outside their foxhole. He said, "Oh, God, what a time. The jungle is something. It's so thick, it's hard to discern anything. There's always animals and monkeys fooling around out there, so you don't know whether it's a monkey or something else." They had to stay on the move so every night they had to dig a new foxhole and he said the living conditions were "insufferable, it's hard to see and it's hot and muggy." When they moved he said you always stay three or four yards behind the guy in front of you so if something drops it won't kill all of you. The guy in front of him got hit in the back of his legs and blood was running out both of them. On Christmas Day, 1943 they got orders to go back to Guadalcanal. He said that was a "pretty good Christmas present" just to get away from the jungle and back on board the ship. Another incident he tells of was he and another guy, named Gandy, were on a trail, (he thinks it was called the Piva Road, but he isn't sure) cutting their way along with a machete when a "Jap" walked out onto the trail. "I had a bead on him and asked the lieutenant, Shall I let him have it?" The lieutenant told him not to because if he shot they would know they were there. The guy was carrying a machine gun and seemed to sense something was wrong and disappeared. When they were ordered to "move out," they hadn't gone ten yards when Gandy was hit in the middle of his forehead, through his helmet, and his brains ran down the back on his neck. Marvin said he was close enough that he saw the flame come out right by his arm but he didn't get hit. This was just one of many close calls that he tells about in this interview. On Guadalcanal he was sent to combat and intelligence school for thirty days and passed the test. He learned how to orient himself by finding the North Star and how to keep track of how far you've gone, because he said you could travel all day in the jungle and have only traveled a mile or less. His group of Marines went in on the second wave on Guam using amphibious tractors. He and the captain were out patrolling to find out where they really were when "all of a sudden the world exploded" and he said "it was just like somebody took all the air out of you," and the captain was dead. When he got back to the outfit they gave him a shot of morphine and he had to go back to show them where the captain was. Shortly after that he came down with dengue fever and was sent to Hawaii on a military plane and spent thirty days in the hospital before being sent home to Idaho. On his furlough he got married and then had to report back to Fallbrook Naval Ammunition Depot (at Camp Pendleton) for six or seven months before he was discharged.

Summary: Marvin Metzger enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1942 and served in Fox Company, Third Marine Division. Interviewed by Brian Grubbs on Jun 27, 2007, Metzger talked about military experiences in the Second World War. He did his Marine training at San Diego and Camp Pendleton in California. He was stationed several places in the Pacific including Bougainville and Guadacanal. He provides good descriptions of his experiences. He was born in Ozawkie in 1922 but attended school primarily in Oskaloosa.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 Watkins Community Museum of History (Lawrence) and through the Kansas State Historical Society.

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Title (Main title): Marvin Metzger video interview on experiences in World War II

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019-14-05-04  Mini DV Tape 

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