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Dale Starr video interview on experiences in World War II (transcript)

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Creator: Starr, Dale

Date: Date Unknown

Level of Description: Item

Material Type: Manuscripts

Call Number: World War II Oral Histories Project

Unit ID: 218618

Biographical sketch: Dale Starr grew up on a farm near Soldier, KS and after graduating from high school he attended Kansas State University for a year and a half. Knowing that he would soon be drafted, he quit college and went to work in an ordnance plant at Parsons, KS where he worked in the hospital. At the age of 20 he was drafted and sent to Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis, Missouri for his basic training. They gave the soldiers aptitude tests and he was picked to go to aircraft school in Kansas City, Missouri where he learned to be an aircraft engine mechanic. After seventeen weeks of training he was then sent to San Antonio, Texas and was stationed there when he and his wife got married. They corresponded a lot when he was in the service and his wife says they have a suitcase full of letters, a lot of it V-mail. V-mail was regular size mail that had been copied and reduced to about the size of a postcard. Starr was sent to the west coast to board a ship called the HERMITAGE, and said that about ten of them had to help load the ship with food crates. There were about 8,000 men on board the ship and he said that they got fed breakfast about 9 o'clock and then another meal about 4 P.M. It was so hot down below where he was to bunk that he sneaked up on deck and found him a spot to sleep where he could get a little cool air. A stop was made at Bora Bora, and then they went clear to Australia, then finally docked at Bombay, India where they got on a troop train and took a five day ride to Calcutta. Here he worked in a big air depot and overhauled airplane engines from the C46, the C47, B29s, and P38s. The engines had been taken off the planes, put in crates and shipped to the air depot where they tore them down, cleaned and washed them and put new parts on them. He was supervising 10 to 12 native workers to make sure they did their work right. Calcutta was a huge city, the temperature most of the time was 120 degrees, day and night. Some of the men rigged up a little fan to put at the foot of their beds to be able to sleep at night. There were many poor and dying people and they had a big cement wall where they would bring bodies and they would burn them and then scoop up the ashes and take them to the Ganges River. You could go to downtown Calcutta and see the natives sitting along the street playing a tune and the cobras dancing around. For about a year they stayed in barracks made out of bamboo and plaster with a thatched roof, then the English built them a new brick two story building with no windows, just holes in it. That was just because it was so hot they didn't use glass. He got acquainted with a native man that knew Calcutta real well and he would take Starr to the jewelry stores where they had opals and star sapphires real cheap. They have a star sapphire ring that he paid $30 for that a jewelry store in the states offered him $130 for, but he kept it and didn't sell it. He had lots of rings, necklaces and earrings made and sent back home. After he had been there for eighteen months they got sent up to the mountains to a rest camp for a week. It was much cooler there and they had fresh milk and fresh meat to eat. When the engines were repaired and ready to ship out they would put three or four of them on an open coal car and send two guards with them. He and his buddy Charlie wanted to go to southern India so they requested to go on one of those runs. They bought a stalk of bananas for 60 cents and hung it up, and he said that Charlie ate about 10 of them that night! The town, Madras, was a resort town and they spent 10 or 12 days there going to movies and looking through the shops. It was also a lot cooler as it was up in the mountains. Back in camp it rained every day at 3 o'clock, and when it quit you could see the steam rise from the sandy soil. In February 1946 he received his discharge and returned to Soldier, Kansas where he attended the farm school sponsored by the GI Bill and bought 80 acres with a GI loan.

Summary: Dale Starr was drafted into the Army (Air Force) in October 1942 and served until 1946 in the 9th Engine Overhaul Squadron. He was trained at the National School of Aeronautics in Kansas City, Missouri, as an aircraft engine mechanic. He was then sent to Lackland and Stinson Air Force Bases in Texas. He was sent to Calcutta, India to work in a large air depot and supervised a number of Indian employees. He described his working and living experiences. He married his high school girlfriend during the war and she was with him part of the time he was in Texas. He returned to Soldier Kansas after the war and farmed. He used the G. I. Bill for some mechanical training at Soldier and for a loan to purchase 80 acres of land. He was interviewed by Suzette McCord-Rogers. 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 Doniphan County Historical Society (Troy) and through the Kansas State Historical Society.

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Title (Main title): Dale Starr video interview on experiences in World War II (transcript)

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019-14-04-01  DVD (2) 
019-14-04-13  Cassette Audio Tape 

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