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Interview with Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr. and Fred Allison [July 24 (year not given)]

Peter Bartis:

Hi. This is Peter Bartis, and we are in the Library of Congress Building, Thomas Jefferson recording labs, recording studio. It's Tuesday July 24, and I am here with two guests for an interview. Fred, will you introduce yourself.

Fred Allison:

Yeah, my name is Fred Allison. I am from the History museum's division of headquarters, Marine Corps.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

And I am Amo Houghton, and I am a former marine from World War II, and I represent the 31st District of New York. I am a Republican congressman.

Peter Bartis:

Thank you. Now, congressman, I thought -- let me start by-- I looked at the date you joined the military and I thought we'd start off by asking you where you were and what you were thinking when World War II broke out.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Well, I was at a place called St. Paul School in Concord, New Hampshire, and I had just come there. I had been a variety of different places. I came from Corning, New York. And this was a church school and I was playing touch football on the chapel lawn, and I heard what had happened. And of course, the next day we all went into the study hall. There was about 450 of us and we listened to President Roosevelt. So, I will never forget that. And John Kennedy's death, I guess, is the two things I always remember.

Peter Bartis:

And that was during high school?

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Yeah, right, right.

Peter Bartis:

And you did join in the '40s? What years did you serve?

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Well, actually I signed up in May of 1944, but I went -- they allowed me to finish school. So, I went into the service in January of 1945. And I started right here in the Union Station and went down those terrible train --the -- you know - Embassy --

Peter Bartis:

Embassy, South Carolina?

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Yeah.

Peter Bartis:

A notorious place.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Yeah. Yeah. I know it's very fancy now, isn't it?

Peter Bartis:

I haven't been there lately.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Yeah, and then we went to Parris Island and we were there for approximately three months. Then came back out of the Parris Islands. And while I was on leave -- I think we had a ten-day leave - V-E Day took place, and that was in May of 1945. And then I did a variety of different things. I went to the tent camp and Camp Lejeune and I didn't know if we were going to go to sea school. We went out to sea school -- or the group that's going to go to Okinawa -- but ultimately I went out to San Diego to sea school. Then coming back on the troop train in -- I guess it was August -- on the troop train, we heard an announcement about V-E Day. So, that was extent of my military - well, then I stayed in another year.

Peter Bartis:

What was training like? Do you recall your training experience?

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Well, yeah, I remember being at Parris Island and it being tough. I think everyone remembers that, but the high point of the time down there was the rifle range, and I got to be an expert. I was very proud of myself that I was an expert rifleman.

Peter Bartis:

That's the highest ranking?

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

I know it was. It was absolutely great. And then I remember at one point we are on the ship later on down at Culebra on the cruiser. I was stationed, and they wanted a couple of marines to get up with an M1 to protect the swimmers from the sharks. So, I got up there with a rifle. Well, I can't think of an idea dumber, because first of all I would probably have missed a shark and hit somebody.

Peter Bartis:

Mm-hmm.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

But even if I were to hit a shark, the blood in the water would have been perfectly horrible, so that was another little incident with my rifle training.

Peter Bartis:

Right. I imagine it was quite change going from a pretty nice prep school.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Prep school, right. Well, actually it really wasn't that bad, and I tell you why, because when you go to a prep school - well, you know, there is a certain discipline regimen you follow and, you know, you're in athletics, your in bed on time, you get up and eat at the same time, and all that sort of stuff. So, I think I was a little more attuned to this. And furthermore, my parents had the foresight to get my wisdom teeth out before I went down there and some poor guy who got down there and he had inflammation of his gums, and had to get his wisdom teeth out, and had to continue his training.

Peter Bartis:

Wow.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

That was really bad. So I was in pretty good shape when I went down there.

Peter Bartis:

When you left your training camp, what places did you go to?

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Well, so I left Parris Island, came back to Washington, spent a little time with my grandmother. I went back to the school I was in. Went home to Corning, New York, and then from there came back to Washington and went to Camp Lejeune where we went to tent camp.

Peter Bartis:

What is tent camp?

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Tent camp is a part of Camp Lejeune. They were literally tents. It was for combat training. I did all that. That was tough too, but, of course, I was already in the Marine Corps. I knew a little bit of their routine, so it wasn't quite as bad as Parris Island, but it was rugged. Again, the thing you didn't know is what you were going to do, whether you were going to go on to Fleet Marine Force or out to sea. Actually, when I was in Parris Island, I was offered a chance to go to Japanese language school. There were two or three of us that were given that opportunity and I decided not to. And I was sorry about that. I would have been able to pick up Japanese because there's sort of a phonetic way of teaching Japanese and, you know, life moves along and you grab the next opportunity.

Peter Bartis:

I want to ask you, sir. What influenced to join -- to pick the Marine Corps out of all the service? Why did you pick the Marine Corps? A: Well, I think it was because of my friends. There was nine of us out of a class of about 80 that was going to graduate in January. And three of my friends in that group were going in the Marine Corps. So, I decided to do that. I toyed with going to the Air Force, but I am not sure I could have made it because of my eyes and I had hay fever and things like that. So that's why I did it.

Peter Bartis:

Okay.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

There had been no other members of my family in the Marine Corps.

Peter Bartis:

Okay. Do you remember your first impression? You talked about going down to Embassy. What were your first impressions when you showed up there and you met your first drill instructor?

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

I am not sure. The first impression, the remembrance is of Lou Diamond and Lou Diamond was an old tough gunnery Sergeant.

Peter Bartis:

He sank a submarine with the mortar, I believe, at Guadalcanal. That's the legend any ways.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

He was really something. He took the recruits in. I remember standing there. We had our hair cuts, standing there absolutely naked. I heard Sergeant Diamond say, "What's that?" And it was a great big stout fellow standing there altogether with a money belt on and he said, "What's that?" And he said, "My mother told me never to the lose my money belt." (Laughs) Well, you know -- and the other thing I remember, my name is Amory, and they call me Amo which is not too bad, but two of the other three of my friends, one was called Woody and the other was CG. And Woody was named Wilfred and CG was named Chauncey, so Amory, Chauncey, and Wilfred. Can you imagine three worse names going down to Parris Island?

Peter Bartis:

Bet they had a lot fun with that.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

But we weathered that all right. And it, you know, it was abrupt, but I guess we read a lot about it. There was a lot of books written so we were partially prepared for it.

Peter Bartis:

Do you feel like it was bad as you expected? I mean did if fulfill your expectations?

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Well, it all depends on the drill instructors. Some of the drill instructors were really, you know, cut out to be a set of mean guys.

Peter Bartis:

Mm-hmm.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

And if you got under their control, you know, that was bad.

Peter Bartis:

Were most of them combat veterans?

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

I think so. I wasn't aware of it at the time, but I think most of them were. But again, the people I really related to were the people up in the rifle range, and they were really good. You just identified with them and you had something to focus on rather than all of the other mechanics from just your general training.

Peter Bartis:

Mm-hmm. What was your daily routine like during boot camp? You remember what time you'd get up?

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Well, yeah, you get up at 4:00.

Peter Bartis:

4:00.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Get dressed, go out and stand at attention. They would give you a lot of garbage. You clean up, wash or sweep, do whatever it was necessary, and then you go to mess, and then you would go into daily routine. I think the hardest part that - oh, maybe -- maybe it was at tent camp at Camp Lejeune where we went off on bivouac. Literally, you didn't have any water. We had maybe that amount of water or a half a canteen every day that was to make your coffee, wash.

Peter Bartis:

They were trying to teach water discipline.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

And it was really something. It was really interesting because I was sort of skinny, and I didn't need an awful lot of water. Some of these guys were hefty. It was really brutal on them, but that's the type of training. Obviously they were going to be opposed later on.

Peter Bartis:

Were you anticipating going into combat?

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Oh, sure. Absolutely, because you didn't know. When I got down to Parris Island, half way through, my next door bunk mate got word that his best friend had been killed in Iwo Jima.

Peter Bartis:

Right.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

So you just didn't know. Nobody knew.

Peter Bartis:

Iwo Jima was going on at that time in February?

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Absolutely. You just didn't know at the time.

Peter Bartis:

I am sure it would really cause you to really pay attention. Normally when they were talking about throwing hand grenades or bayonet practice or the rifle range, like you said --

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Sure and we did. We were under live ammunition. We threw hand grenades and did all that stuff, but it was all training.

Peter Bartis:

Mm-hmm.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

But you didn't think about it? You were just there, it was part of the routine, your buddies were there, and I wasn't scared. I suppose I should have been, but I never really got in combat. I was always very proud to be in the Marine Corps, you know, and I still am. It was wonderful, wonderful experience, but I got out alive.

Peter Bartis:

What did your family think about your joining the Marine Corps?

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Well, my father -- well, when I did, my father was in England working for the civilian group under General Summerville who was the head of all the supplies and stuff coming into the United States, and so he wasn't really around at the time. My mother was there because she's the most extraordinary woman. She's just fabulous and she's still alive -- she's a hundred years old-- and she was great. Very supportive. But you never know. I was the only one in the family. There were five kids that were in the service so it was -- you just never know what they thought, but they were also right there.

Peter Bartis:

Did you lose many friends in the war?

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Yeah, I did. I did, and you remember the particular ones.

Peter Bartis:

Some from the school you were in, the prep school?

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Oh, sure, sure, they were great heroes. I mean, I remember -- I don't know if you know a Bishop Paul Moore. Do you know Bishop Paul Moore? Well, he was the bishop. He is retired. He was in New York City. And I can remember seeing him standing there watching this when I was in school. And he just came back from Guadalcanal and --

Peter Bartis:

Oh, really.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Yeah.

Peter Bartis:

Was he the chaplain there?

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

No, no. He wasn't the chaplain, not until afterward. And his heart was going this way rather than that way, and a bullet went through.

Peter Bartis:

Wow.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

And he was really, really lucky and he was like John Shaky and he was a real hero.

Peter Bartis:

Mm-hmm.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

And those are the people that you remember.

Peter Bartis:

Do you think he could have been a motivational factor for you in going in the Marine Corps?

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

I guess so. Yeah, you never know exactly what happens but these little pieces here or piece there piece some place else, but yeah.

Peter Bartis:

I wanted to ask you what the morale was like among the other Marines when you were going through boot camp or later in the Marine Corps. What was the morale of the fellow marines, your mates?

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Well, the morale of the freshman marines like we were was terrific. There was no problem there.

Peter Bartis:

Very motivative?

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Well, when I got to the Camp Lejeune we were mixed with some people that actually come out of Marine Air Corps and Air Wing, they have been there long enough. They hadn't been in combat so they were preparing to go into combat and they joined are unit and these were pretty salty cynical guys. So, it was different because all of us were all gun hoe and very proud to be there and we were going go off and doing something special. These people just sort -- when you mix the two groups you got to be very careful. Ultimately, it worked itself out and that was only time I thought there was a problem with morale.

Peter Bartis:

Was this competition?

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Competition between the two groups I don't think so. I mean they were disillusioned guys they had been they had been in the Marine Corps for three or four years.

Fred Allison:

But they have never been overseas.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

They have been overseas. They hadn't done anything, they had some sort of cushy job, and I don't know where they were. And they came back then. And other than that, it was fine. As we got close to the getting out of the Marine Corps, it was all sorts of the talk that was at the end, but it was good. Then, of course, you got out and you were proud of the whole thing.

Peter Bartis:

I would like to talk a little bit more about life during your service, where you traveled, some of the interesting thing that's happened to you.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Well, I really didn't have a fascinating life. What I did, you know, I went Parris Island and Camp Lejeune, went out then to San Diego and had sea training, got in a troop train came back to Philadelphia. It was the Philadelphia Navy Yard, which, incidentally, I stayed at the Philadelphia Navy Yard this last time at the Republican Convention. I hadn't been back there since 1945.

Peter Bartis:

What was the navy yard like back then?

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

It was bustling, you know, absolutely bustling. And now, of course, it's all gone, but we came back there got on the Macon. It was a brand new ship. We had to put all the supplies in it. The most difficult thing was putting the ammunition in, and of course, I was the 20 millimeter gunner on the ship. And then from there we went to different places. We went to a place called Culebra, which was the place where they used to practice bombing.

Fred Allison:

Like Vegas Camp? It was in Puerto Rico, wasn't it?

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Yeah.

Fred Allison:

Culebra.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Yeah then we went to Guantanamo Bay.

Fred Allison:

Gitmo --

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Yeah.

Fred Allison:

-- they call it.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

And then we went to Haiti.

Peter Bartis:

What did you do?

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Well, we just stopped in. I mean, it was first American ship in there since before the war in Haiti. Guantanamo Bay was the big marine base down there.

Peter Bartis:

Did you get off there?

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Yeah we got off there.

Peter Bartis:

What it was like there?

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Well, it was beautiful. It wasn't as good for the enlisted men as it was for the officers. They had a great club and a golf course and things like that, but it was very nice and, of course, beautiful weather.

Fred Allison:

It was always good to get off the ship.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Oh, yeah, I remember getting a box of 50 HUpman Cigars for my father.

Fred Allison:

Real Cuban cigars.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

For eleven dollars. 50 of these great cigars.

Fred Allison:

Wow.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Yeah. It was very nice. Haiti was pathetic. It was just awful, and I guess it still is. They have never been able to pull them up by the boot straps and the marines didn't have that great of a reputation because, of course, they have down there in the '20s and '30s, and they pulled out before the war.

Fred Allison:

That's an interesting point. Was there any animosity from people?

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

No, not too much because this was a big military ship and they never seen anything like it and it represented force so they weren't. There wasn't anything of the -- what was it -- the Tontons Macoutes or something like that it was the group under Papa Doc. It was -- they were so awful. There wasn't any of that and then, of course, went out in the Atlantic. We were doing other things there and then at that point they decide because the war was over that were going to really strip down, so they took the marine detachments off of most of them. I think all the light cruisers -- all the heavy cruisers on the destroyers anyway and I think they left them on the battle ships and the aircraft carriers and that's when I pealed off, I went to the Newport then I went to (inaudible).

Peter Bartis:

Why did you go to Newport?

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Because in Newport that's where they pealed us off and we just stayed there for while. And then after that --

Fred Allison:

It wasn't really a duty station.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

It just sort of a temporary thing.

Fred Allison:

Mm-hmm.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Then I went to Norfolk. I was there, did guard duty, all that sort of important stuff.

Fred Allison:

Mm-hmm.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

And then I went to Camp Lejeune. I went back to Camp Lejeune and then I ultimately went to Quantico when I got out of the Marine Corps. In Quantico in August of '46, so it was really great timing, because then I only had about a few weeks. Then I went into college after that.

Fred Allison:

Right at end of summer.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Right at the end of summer. Yeah. So it was really perfect timing.

Fred Allison:

So you saw a lot of places in your short career.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Oh, yeah. Yeah. I did.

Fred Allison:

Well it's interesting so the Macon was a destroyer.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Heavy cruiser.

Fred Allison:

Heavy Cruiser.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

A heavy cruiser -- and a guy called Captain Perry.

Fred Allison:

He was the captain of the ship?

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

He was the captain.

Peter Bartis:

How much time did you spend on the ship?

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Let's see, August to -- I must have spent maybe eight months or something like that.

Peter Bartis:

That's quite a tour.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Yeah, yeah.

Fred Allison:

Do you remember any officer any you talked about Lou Diamond, but any other leader that stand out in your mind as impressive or influential.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Not really because I was only PFC.

Fred Allison:

Right beside you DI's.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Oh, no. there was a fellow called lieutenant Elle (PH) who was the lieutenant, head of the detachment. And then there was a wonderful incident and I played trumpet in a band on board the ship. I think the only reason they let me in was because I was only marine in it they wanted to have a little diversity.

Fred Allison:

Token marine.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

I was the closet marine. And the lieutenant commander, I forgot the name he was great guy and there was Captain Perry. I do remember, I remember when we were in San Diego training I went out to Coronado Island at one time.

Fred Allison:

Beautiful place.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Just before we came back on the train and my friend's father had known a guy called Admiral Tower. Ultimately went out to join there Missouri in the signing ceremony with General McArthur so we-- that's had only been the other person I remember.

Fred Allison:

Okay. I was wondering if you any particular impression of this was a time of having woman in the military was sort of a novel thing. Of course, it was wide spread at World War II.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Made no impact at all. I know there were women marines, but I never saw them and if I did they were always doing clerical work. It was very segregated.

Fred Allison:

Oh, yeah.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

I saw black troops, but they never assigned white units and as I mentioned, the Philippines, these were wonderful loyal people. My god, they were having the heck beaten out of them by the Japanese and all they did was mess work, so, but there were no women marines at any of the place I went.

Fred Allison:

Yeah.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Other than for secretarial work you got of Parris Island and then they would have these woman platoons. It's great.

Fred Allison:

Yeah.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

They're great.

Fred Allison:

Not totally integrated, but very close to it except for the basic training.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Yeah. Yeah. Right.

Fred Allison:

Right after that you were integrated into it.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Yeah, right.

Fred Allison:

Now you went all the way to San Diego for sea training SCA.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

SCA for sea school.

Fred Allison:

For duty aboard the ship the ships company instead of going to the FMF.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

No, instead of going to the fleet marine force right I could of gone to Japanese language school I could have gone to sea school. I could have gone to FMF or Air Wing, I just didn't know.

Fred Allison:

Was that your decision? Did you have any choice in the matter?

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Not really.

Fred Allison:

Did they give you an option.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

As a matter of fact, they asked me to go to Japanese language school I and I said I would.

Fred Allison:

Mm-hmm.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

And I ultimately ended up in sea school, why not.

Fred Allison:

The realms of the Marine Corps.

Peter Bartis:

I hear that still happens.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

I know, I know.

Fred Allison:

That interesting that they send you all the way cross country for sea school.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

I think that's the only place they did sea training. You know, there was not too many. There were only 40 of us on a cruiser and maybe 80 on a battle ship or on air craft carriers, maybe even less on light cruisers.

Peter Bartis:

How did you pass time on the cruiser?

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Well, you are always occupied shining and scrubbing and drilling and going to classes and particularly it was lot of gunnery training.

Fred Allison:

You were a 20 millimeter gunner.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

And the problem there was we were under these great big guns. And there was no ear plugs. My hearing has never been that good ever since that time. But you never thought about it as painful. That's what you did.

Fred Allison:

People just didn't think much about safety in those days.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Well they thought it was far better than World War I, but you know.

Fred Allison:

Right

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

And I ask myself today what it's going to be like in the 50 years, from now and say, gee, we should have done that.

Fred Allison:

Yeah right.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

And how insensitive we were to people's bodies.

Fred Allison:

Was this first time you were on the west coast, when you went to San Diego?

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Yes. It is.

Fred Allison:

Did it make a much of an impression?

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

No. I went to school in Arizona.

Fred Allison:

You did?

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Before that, and I used to take the train back and forth.

Fred Allison:

Mm-hmm.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

So I was almost to California, but I had never really quite gotten there. I have gone to Tucson, but no I have been in the general area.

Fred Allison:

Of course, that's a big navy town, San Diego.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Yeah. I know San Diego and Norfolk were terrible navy towns. They didn't treat you t0o very well there.

Fred Allison:

I was going to ask about what the relationship with the civilian's community was like in those days.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

It was so callous. I don't know what it was before the war at all, but during it if there was any animosity toward the service men, certainly that was probably over with now because --

Fred Allison:

Yeah, Yeah.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Patriotism, all that sort of stuff, but it was --as a matter of fact, I'll tell the nicest place I went. I was at Camp Lejeune. I used to go to a place, Wilmington.

Fred Allison:

North Carolina?

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Yeah, and I can't remember Wilson --

Peter Bartis:

Wilson, North Carolina?

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Yeah, that must have been it. But anyway we went on leave and my family were very interested in church. I used to go to church on Sunday. I can remember one day these people said, "Hey would you like to come home and have lunch with us," right of the blue.

Fred Allison:

Invited you home after church.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Yeah. Yeah. And that didn't happen. There was really something about the southern hospitality, showed it there. That was really wonderful.

Fred Allison:

Did you have an opportunity to have USO dances or anything in the small towns?

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Oh, yeah, absolutely.

Fred Allison:

So that was hospitable in that sense.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Oh, yeah. Particularly, obviously, there was none our there in early training.

Fred Allison:

No.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

None really in the late training, but in the middle particularly at Camp Lejeune and San Diego and places like that, it was fine. It was really good.

Peter Bartis:

As you were traveling, what did you see? The home front was responding to the war. I know it was difficult, wasn't it?

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

And that was also reflected in terms of the little town I grew up in. I grew up in Corning, New York which is a town of about 13, 14 thousand and it was always very patriotic. You know, you had the blinds down and the AA cards for gasoline and I remember my mother going up in the clock tower above the mayor's office and watching out for German airplanes. It was very serious stuff. Absolutely, they were wonderful. And then my family had a farm and I lived on that for a couple of years. That was really nice. One of the nice things about the World War II memorial here, they not only represent the lives of servicemen, but also commemorate the home front. And there was an awful lot of people that who made a lot of sacrifice.

Fred Allison:

They really did.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

And that was no heroism at all.

Peter Bartis:

I would like to ask you about the Veteran's History Project. It's not just studying war time veterans, but those who served and supported them.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Yeah, all.

Peter Bartis:

And I wonder what kind of people you recall who served and supported the veterans.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Everybody was involved in it. I lived in a little town. I told you about it. It was basically a factory town, And I can remember speaking to Doris Goodwin, the famous one, the historian who just wrote and narrated the times of Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt during the war. She talked about when men went off to war and women replaced them. You remember the story, Rosy the Riveter, and things like that. Women came into replace them. And they couldn't understand why production went up and Doris had a very good answer and it was because the woman read the instructions. (Laughs)

Fred Allison:

That's good.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

But anyways, basically there was a lot of wonderful contributions in terms of, you know, money and time mentoring and families that didn't have their father. Oh, here's some funny story. My grandmother and aunt lived here in Washington and, of course, you couldn't vote if you were in Washington, so they kept their registration up in Corning, but in order to vote in 1944 where it was Dewey against Roosevelt, they had to drive to Corning and, of course, they had a limited gas supply. And they had saved up and saved up and saved up and drove and all these

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

tickets, drove up to Corning. My grandmother voted for Dewey and my aunt voted for Roosevelt. And they drove back and they used up half of their gas for their year, both canceling each other out, but by God they were going to do it, it was our country.

Fred Allison:

Terribly important.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Absolutely.

Fred Allison:

Wow, what a story.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Yeah. Yeah.

Fred Allison:

What was your impression on VE day you said you think that was the time you were on the troop train.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

I was here in Washington visiting my grandmother.

Fred Allison:

Was that a tremendous celebration.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Well, it was -- we didn't know that was the first breakthrough when VE day happened. We didn't know that the war could have gone on for years if they hadn't dropped the bomb. So, we didn't know, but we thought it was sort of the beginning of the end, and we didn't realize how close it was not to be the beginning of the end.

Fred Allison:

Mm-hmm.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

But it really didn't sort affect us too much because the marines were really in Europe.

Fred Allison:

Right. We still had the Japanese.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

We still had the Japanese and all that.

Fred Allison:

Everyone was thinking about the tremendous invasion that was going to be required to go into Japan.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Yeah, Yeah. Right, to go into Japan, but if you read, of course, I didn't know anything about it at the time, but if read The Flag of Our Fathers and if you read the failing of the Japanese on Iwo Jima --

Fred Allison:

Mm-hmm.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

I hadn't realized that a third of all the Marines that were killed in World War II were killed on Iwo Jima.

Fred Allison:

Mm-hmm.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

But if they felt that way about that horrible little island out there, think about what they would have felt about their homeland. It would have been a massacre.

Fred Allison:

And Okinawa, I understand, was worse as far as the number of casualties. Not the proportion of Iwo Jima, but as the war was, instead of getting weaker, they were get stronger and that was because you drawing closer to the island.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Closer to the their islands. There were more civilians.

Fred Allison:

Right what about VJ? I am sure --

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Well, VJ Day was again -- it affected us. But not too much because we were on these troop trains I don't even know if they have troop trains. I don't even think they do anymore.

Fred Allison:

Mm-hmm.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

But we were just going back as fast we could so we could get on the commission of the ship and so we can get in the action some place, so it wasn't as if we stopped off, but along the way you know you can see looking out the window the people.

Fred Allison:

Celebrating.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Celebrating. Waving flags. I didn't think there was any identity of our train being a troop train, but it was interesting to see people.

Fred Allison:

Were you disappointed you never got into combat?

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Well, I was in a way. You know, in retrospect I am really, really lucky that I didn't get shot or killed or anything like that, but when you know, you gear up for something.

Fred Allison:

Mm-hmm.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

It's just like gearing up for hurricanes and, you know, you get everything all done. It's the hurricane doesn't happen and you know it's lucky it didn't happen because it would kill a lot of people but at the same time you're gearing up for it, I think we all felt that way and that we put in a lot of time.

Fred Allison:

Mm-hmm.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

And there was a lot of emotion and people expected certain things of you and it was --

Fred Allison:

But as far as you know, we're going to be the invasion of Japan.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

I didn't know. I absolutely had no idea. We just didn't know at the time.

Fred Allison:

Right.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

I -- even if I would have gone to Japanese language school, I would probably known something.

Fred Allison:

What about the bomb? I am sure that was totally a secret?

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Oh, yeah. We didn't' understand it. Didn't understand it. It was some miraculous detonation and we didn't understand then. Of course, we didn't understand the second one either. And think of the lives that saved what a tragedy it is in itself, but war is a tragedy, but think of the lives that were saved.

Peter Bartis:

And was that the general understanding at the time?

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

No. Not really at the time I don't think people knew about it.

Fred Allison:

It was just another bombing attack.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

It was super bombing attack. It wasn't a war changing event.

Fred Allison:

Right.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

It was bigger detonation of the two.

Peter Bartis:

They do change a lot of things.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Of course, who knows? There's a book called What If. What if Lee's orders didn't get intercepted at Gettysburg or what if the wind didn't change for Washington coming up the East River? Or if the bombs didn't go off, we probably wouldn't be sitting here.

Fred Allison:

That's possible.

Peter Bartis:

So you completed the marines and you were already lined up to go to college.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

I think that was the smartest thing I did was to get out the reserves and went right in. Just then and just as I decided, two days after, the North Koreans invaded South Korea. I was married.

Fred Allison:

Mm-hmm.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

And that would have been really hard to go at that time.

Peter Bartis:

If you were in the reserves you would have been called right back in?

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Yeah. Yeah.

Peter Bartis:

And do you recall some of your friends being called back?

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Most of them got out. The ones that stayed in were really the officers. And they - it's just different being an officer. I was enlisted. I was never an officer. There's different perceptions of things, and I know it was a friend of mine. It was the brother of the fellow that married my sister. It was John Weinberg. He ultimately ended up as the co-partner in Goldman Saks of New York having been an officer in the Marine Corps in World War II. But the Korean War came along and so they pulled him back and he went there and got a letter from Goldman Saks saying they really appreciated his loyalty and that it was wonderful he was so patriotic and they wanted to make up the difference to what he had made at Goldman Saks than what he was making being a first Lieutenant. So he wrote back and told them to forget it and then he made more money than I ever made working at Goldman Saks. I would owe you something. (Laughs) It was different for the officers.

Peter Bartis:

So how has your military experience affected your life shortly after?

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

It's awfully hard to know. I think that in coming down here to Congress, I realized that it might have happened anyway, that in the back drop that this is a very special country. And I had a piece of my skin in this country and having children and working hard and things like that. But really, my association is with the Marine Corps and I think that helped me a lot and still helps in getting over the rough spots. And because of that, one of those things I was going to do today prior to this. I was at CNBC and do a little bit on moderates and conservatives in Congress.

Peter Bartis:

Do you?

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

And one of the questions was going to be do you feel frustration? And don't tell me about frustration, because you learn in the Marines, you learn to swallow and suck it up and move on and I think that helped.

Peter Bartis:

Mm-hmm.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

I also think when to be free and one to be disciplined.

Peter Bartis:

Mm-hmm.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

I think it helped with the children. I think the entire a family is discipline and love and then they exert discipline.

Fred Allison:

There's a balance in there.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Yeah. Not that the Marines were a lot of love, but it was a strict place and that meant a lot to me and in a lot of different ways to all of us.

Peter Bartis:

Are you a member of any veteran's organizations.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Yeah. I am member of the Marine Corps League, Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion. And then periodically I participate. I don't hoist a beer up all the time, but I am there and I believe in them and we try to invite the recruiting general and crew back up to one of our veteran events. And it was not just the Korean, but particularly in Vietnam I am trying to get the present academy to do the same thing.

Peter Bartis:

Mm-hmm.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

People are very proud and as a result, if you just are fed little incidents like this into the daily lives of people. And then a lot of things happen and one of the things that happens -- and I don't know if it was a direct result of this or not -- is we have probably as good a recruiting mechanism for getting people in the service academies. I think we probably rate two or three or four in the nation in terms of the quality and the number and consistency.

Peter Bartis:

Mm-hmm.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

And people are proud of that.

Peter Bartis:

Mm-hmm.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

And also you can't go to an event -- I went to one the other day, to a little place called Groton, New York. It's a small little town, 2,000 people, and they commemorated a marine who got a Congressional Medal of Honor. I forget some details here, but the whole town was decked out and a second band from Camp Lejeune came up there and one of the generals from the Pentagon came up and it was really the whole town got caught up in this thing.

Peter Bartis:

It's still there.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

You know the Congressional Medal of Honor is really special, but that was long time ago and there was something about living in a rural community where you don't have the all the temptation and sinicism than the larger metropolitan area and predates the country and that's the background I come from.

Peter Bartis:

Any other question you would like to ask?

Fred Allison:

I sure don't.

Peter Bartis:

I have a question you've notice today and in recent time has been a lot of interest in World War II interest in our veteran, the Veterans History Project, for example, the tremendous support that you and other congress has given to veterans. People ask me why I think there's so much interest in this today. I have my answer, but I wonder what you think about that.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Veterans.

Peter Bartis:

Veterans of World War II.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

I don't know. I suppose it could be television, Saving Private Ryan, or things like that. I don't know if you know the book by Tom Brocaw? Every so often little things pique the interest of people and they sort of expand naturally. I think another thing people are beginning to realize that there's something like a thousand or so of us is dying everyday and they figured by 2008, we're all going to be gone, so let's pay a little heed to these people while they're still alive.

Fred Allison:

People are waking up to that.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Yeah, so that there -- maybe there's a whole series of these things and then all those marines killed in the Middle East incident that like to pique the interest.

Fred Allison:

Mm-hmm.

Peter Bartis:

Mm-hmm.

Fred Allison:

Mm-hmm.

Peter Bartis:

Is there anything you would like to add to this interview.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

No. I don't think this has been a help to you at all as far as my interview, but, you know, I am interested in it and if there is anything I can do, please let me know. I am a big fan of capturing events and moments, histories and people's feelings and so I think this is wonderful. Think if we had this in the Civil War

Fred Allison:

I know.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

And now technology -- and if we don't use it, we are absolutely stupid. And I think what you're doing is just great. And I really appreciate it.

Peter Bartis:

Well, your interview is actually very helpful. When we had our meeting here at the library to talk about our project, many of the historians here recommended that we not just look for the combat veteran, and that we try to get the full picture --

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Yeah.

Peter Bartis:

-- of the experience that our veterans had --

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Sure.

Peter Bartis:

-- including the home front. And we asked questions about that.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Sure.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

And because the heroes will always be interviewed?

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Yeah, right.

Peter Bartis:

But for the full picture, for the full story, we need the full composition of the experiences our veterans had.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Sure.

Peter Bartis:

So I thank you very much and --

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

And in honor it was great treat.

Peter Bartis:

-- it was a treat for us too. Thank you so much.

Rep. Amory Houghton, Jr.:

Thank you.

Fred Allison:

Thank you. It was good to meet you.

 
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  October 26, 2011
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