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Interview with John L. Stensby, Sr. [3/16/2002]

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Today is the 16th of March, 2002, and we're at the veterans memorial museum at Huntsville, Alabama. My name is John L. Stensby, Sr., and I was born in Hales Corners, Wisconsin, in 1920. I served in World War II, first in Fort Sheridan, Illinois, and thence I was transferred over to the Philippine Islands at a gun battery, Battery Way in the Philippines. At that time I was a sergeant, and the highest rank there was tech sergeant. I'm being interviewed at this time by a Becky Davis [veteran identifies interviewer Rebeka Adams as Becky Davis] and Steve Poniatowski.

Rebeka Adams:

Yes. Thank you. Now, could you tell us, where were you living at the time that the war broke out?

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

When the war broke out, I was in Bataan -- in Bataan in the Philippines. The -- you know, I was right off -- Corregidor was right off-shore from Bataan. Bataan was the last point in the -- in Luzon. The peninsula Luzon stretched out, and there was Bataan on the bottom. That's where I was stationed at.

Rebeka Adams:

And how were you in the Philippines at that time?

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Well, I just got shipped. I got -- in those days, when a soldier finished his time in the Philippines, he went home on a one-for-one basis. If there was two guys going out, two guys would be shipped out to the Philippines to replace him. And that's how I got there.

Rebeka Adams:

I see. So you were in the military already.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Yes. I was in the military prior to the war. I got in the military in 1939. November 1939 is when I entered the military at Fort Sheridan, Illinois.

Rebeka Adams:

Okay. And what branch of service did you serve in?

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

I was in -- at that time I was Antiaircraft, 60th -- 60th Antiaircraft.

Rebeka Adams:

Okay. And that would have been in the U.S. Army?

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Yeah. Uh-huh.

Rebeka Adams:

All right.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Yeah. That's right. Okay.

Rebeka Adams:

And how did you decide to join?

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

That's a kind of a sticky story. I decided to join basically because I needed to help support my family, my mother and the children, see.

Rebeka Adams:

Okay.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

I went down to get a job, and there was just no -- in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, at the time there just wasn't any openings. Regardless what I tried and everything, we couldn't get a job. So I says, well, the only thing that was left, I better get in the service so I could get a little money to help out. So that's why I got in.

Rebeka Adams:

Really? Great. Now, how did you decide to join the Army?

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Well, that was it. Yeah. Uh-huh.

Rebeka Adams:

And what were your early days of service like?

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Well, they wasn't too bad, the early days of service. It was -- before I got shipped overseas, it was rather nice. We had good food, good entertainment, and good fellowship, and I learned a lot. And no complaint there.

Rebeka Adams:

Okay. Now, tell me about your training experiences.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Well, that's another thing. The Army in those days -- they gave you a rifle, took you out to the firing line, showed you how to load it, lock it, and fire it. End of training.

Rebeka Adams:

Oh.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

That's all there was.

Rebeka Adams:

That's it? Okay. All right. This was very early days. You served in World War II. Where exactly were you stationed?

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

I was stationed, when I went overseas, on Corregidor, which is actually Fort Mills in the Philippine Islands. Fort Mills was on Corregidor. I was assigned to the 60th, the Coast Artillery Antiaircraft.

Rebeka Adams:

Okay. And so what was your initial assignment? Was the --

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

My initial assignment -- I was in electronics at that time. And I was responsible for the -- all the power equipment, search lights, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, having to do with communications.

Rebeka Adams:

Okay.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

I had the communications, as well as the other electrical stuff.

Rebeka Adams:

Okay. And did you see any combat? Better yet, describe your experiences, I guess, when the war broke out.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Well, when the war broke out, we was in Bataan at that time. We got shipped over. Like I said, I spent just about two weeks on Corregidor, and then we were shipped off to Bataan. And I was down there for a while, and it wasn't but a week, two weeks or so we got word that Pearl Harbor had been bombed, that we were at war with the Japanese. Well, I thought that was the end of my peacetime enjoyment of the scenery over there. {Laughter.}

Rebeka Adams:

{Laughter.}

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

So we -- I had to go ahead and keep in communication lines. As fast as we'd put them in, somebody would tear them out. I don't know who. There was a lot of infiltration in Bataan, and I kept the communication lines in the best we could. So that took care of that part of my career there, and that went on until we got kind of pushed back further and further and further, back into the lower part of Bataan. And the troops on Bataan fell on April the 9th, 1932. And when it fell, I didn't know about it at the time. I knew they were getting mighty close, and I was told by our CO, Captain Macello [phonetic] at the time, to head up for the line until we met our troops and try to get them out of there as fast as they can, which I did. I hit two key positions and got them out, but we couldn't get back because the roads were so crowded until the next morning. We got back there and we found out that the battery had already left for Corregidor, and all other outfits left for Corregidor the night before. So here we were, sort of stranded.

Rebeka Adams:

Uh-huh.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

So I gathered them up, we headed for the coast, and we found a small craft, believe it or not. I don't know how they left it there, but we found a small craft there, and we got across to Corregidor. When I got over to Corregidor, we were assigned to the Battery Way. Battery Way was a 12-inch mortar gun battery. Captain Macello was in command. And we'd take turns firing that thing. And when I say take turns, when we fired that thing, the concussion of firing it would sort of knock you backwards, so different people fired. And the reason it was we did it that way, because the electrical firing mechanism had already been blown up. We'd fire one shot at them, and they'd fire 10 back at us, so it was pretty hefty. We lost a lot of people. In fact, the CO was hit in one of the initial times. He fired, he got hit, and he laid down there, back against the wall, and directed gunfire with a belly wound on the ground.

Rebeka Adams:

Geez.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

So we was there until eventually Corregidor fell. So when it fell, we was on Corregidor. We had no place to go except to swim through a couple thousand miles back to Australia, which we couldn't do. {Laughter.}

Rebeka Adams:

{Laughter.} No.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

So we were captured then.

Rebeka Adams:

Oh.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

And that was about the end of my career as a soldier.

Rebeka Adams:

So what was it like when you were captured?

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Huh?

Rebeka Adams:

You described -- what was it like when you were captured? Can you describe your -- you were on the Bataan Death March?

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

No. I wasn't on the Bataan Death -- we were not on the Bataan Death March. There was a couple of marches. The first one was those that they captured in Bataan.

Rebeka Adams:

I see.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

They captured them right there down in Mariveles in Bataan. That was the first initial group. They called that the Bataan Death March.

Rebeka Adams:

Oh, I see.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

We were similar, but we took second place, second fiddler on that, any publicity. We stayed -- we stayed stuck, you know, in combat there on Corregidor for 30 days.

Rebeka Adams:

I see.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

After they were captured, we spent 30 days firing at them, and they were firing back at us.

Rebeka Adams:

Uh-huh.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

So finally we were kind of whipped. I mean, beat in every way, shape, or form. So Wainwright, which had commanded the -- General Wainwright had commanded. He got word from Washington to surrender the outfit.

Rebeka Adams:

Yeah.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

So we never surrendered; we were surrendered. {Laughter.}

Rebeka Adams:

{Laughter.}

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

So when we surrendered, that was -- they took us, and they didn't treat us too good. They had -- the first thing they had to let us know who was boss. And they didn't do it like we would do it. They did it the hard way, the easy way for them. They would say, "Pile these rifles from here, pile them up over here." And they said to somebody -- when they wasn't going to do it, it was simple. A CO or a guy in charge, the lieutenant in charge, he pulls out his pistol and he shot two of them. Now he says, "Go pick those up and carry them." "Oh."

Rebeka Adams:

Wow.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

And then the next thing he said -- they told us what we couldn't do -- we never believed in bowing to one of them. That's the second incident there. They -- they -- you were supposed to bow. And, see, when they say "saikede" [phonetic] -- or I think it was "saikede," it means we'd bow. And the guys would not bow. And they set it up when ____+ They'd say "Saikede. No? Well" -- shot them in the head. The next one, "Saikede," the guy started to bow, see? So they taught you that way, see. The same thing when they says, "Count off" in the bongo [phonetic], which is in Japanese "count off." Well, it was really easy. They'd say, "Ichi, ni, san, shi, go, roku, hichi, hachi" [phonetic] and so forth, that was up to 10, see. No strain. They told us -- we knew what number we had, see. But then on the next position, we was in different positions, so we was no longer No. 1. We might have been No. 5. We didn't know what the 5 was. There again, they didn't shoot us that time, they just beat us. They would come over with the rifle and hit him over the head, see, and knock them down, see. So they was really, really tremendously brutal. The idea of letting us know who was running things, who was the boss. Right? And maybe that was the only way they could do it because we were -- we as a -- we wasn't used to that type of brutality. We wasn't used to that type of treatment and so forth, and we felt insulted by that fact that we were captured by the Japanese to start with. And that's the way it was, I guess. They had to do something to corral us into who was going to run things and what we were going to do, and the answer right now was, "When we say do something, you do it now" --

Rebeka Adams:

Uh-huh.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

-- "like robots, see, or else." And they gave us enough lessons on what happens on the "or else."

Rebeka Adams:

Right.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

I don't -- that was about it on that treatment. See, later on we got to -- we got shipped off of Corregidor, like I said, and we made our march up to a place called Cabanatuan. The ones that left us before us went on up to O'Donnell and then up to Cabanatuan. We all ended up in the same spot. Before they -- before we got to there, though, they moved us off Corregidor to -- they moved us off Corregidor across the harbor to Manila, and they paraded us up and down the streets in Manila.

Rebeka Adams:

Paraded?

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Paraded us, you know. And we had no water to drink, we had no -- it was hot. And we didn't have no food, and we were pretty much starving there as they forced up and down and insulted us and hit us and beat us and let the Filipinos see us, you know, that they had taken us. Then we got to Cabanatuan prison camp. And we were placed in barracks -- in the barracks that was there, you know, from the Army outfits that was there before us. And they put everybody in 10-man squads. There was a -- everybody that was in the barracks, they were put in 10-man death squads. If one escaped, they'd shoot the other nine.

Rebeka Adams:

No.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Yeah. So that's the way they held them from getting away, getting around. There was one incident I know -- one instant I know that one guy -- there were two guys ___+ -- they did shoot them, so they wasn't kidding. But they -- again, they weren't -- none of them -- no time in all the time I was a prisoner was our treatment what you might consider humane. We got fed -- we got fed a scoop of ice cream -- a scoop of rice in our mess kit -- an ice scream scoop of rice in our mess kit three times a day.

Rebeka Adams:

Uh-huh.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

That was better, actually, than we were getting when we were in combat. The last month we were getting a scoop of rice twice a day, ten o'clock in the morning and three o'clock in the afternoon. We didn't have any food.

Rebeka Adams:

Oh, no.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Yeah. There was no food that we had, so we had very little. And when we got taken prisoner, we got a scoop of rice three times a day. Things improved. {Laughter.}

Rebeka Adams:

{Laughter.}

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Anyway, that's how we got through that thing. Well, we lived down in Bataan. We worked in the shipyards, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries shipyards. And it was reasonably a little bit better for us because we were -- although things still -- they'd beat us, but we were in charge -- we were in the hands of the honchos or bosses of this shipyard, civilians, you see of Mitsubishi, you see. And we got kicked around. Well, I guess -- I sabotaged two things. I probably got -- I can say -- you can look up in the records. I guess we're -- I'm probably the only GI in the United States Army that sunk a warship single-handedly.

Rebeka Adams:

How?

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

A fact. I was working on the final part of our -- of the destroyer, cruiser, whatever it was, a big ship, you know. A destroyer, I guess it was. And the bow that hits the water first, you weld those two plates up, see. And they were sitting up like this, and I would weld -- welded up the part that hits the water first, you see. And I always tried to screw them up one way or the other. And I welded it but I put this -- cranked the transformer way on down so it wasn't hot enough to really weld. It was more like putting it together. And the slide looked beautiful all the way up through the whole thing. I just prayed that it wouldn't fall apart.

Rebeka Adams:

{Laughter.}

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Anyway, I put that on up and set it in place and welded it into the front there -- or welded it onto the front or whatever they did. They put it onto the front of the ship. And that was it, you see. Next morning, we didn't have to go to work, had a day off. The following morning we did, and that -- there was that ship, sunk in the waves.

Rebeka Adams:

{Laughter.}

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

{Laughter.} But that was early the next morning, and it was sunk and split open, I guess, or whatever happened. They wouldn't let us see it. But it's one of those things. We did a lot of other things. We sabotaged a whole lot of stuff. We must have threw a thousand welding rods and everything in the bay. We'd went back for more like we were using them up. Good workers, you know.

Rebeka Adams:

{Laughter.}

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

And I know there were some other things we did, too. I mean, the guys spent most of the time figuring out a way to mess them up, you know, one way or the other. I have to give them that much credit for that, even though they were -- they would have been a lot better if they had turned us loose or shot us. {Laughter.}

Rebeka Adams:

Oh, wow.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

The stuff that we did to them. So that went on until the war was ended. And we got word that an airplane went over and dropped some stuff. And it says take whatever you need for transportation, commandeer anything, so forth, and head off for Yokohama. And then that's what we did. It was a fun thing in the sense -- you got to remember what we were wearing at that time. Part Japanese clothes, part homemade stuff, part Japanese uniforms, part -- I mean, we looked like you wouldn't know what we are. If somebody asked you what army it was, you would never know. So here we are. We had taken off, heading off for there, for the railroad. It was a rail depot, and we were heading off in that direction, and there were Japanese troops, you know, marking up the road. You know, here we are. This is just -- the war is just ended. We didn't know if they'd found out about it or not. But they looked at us quizzically. I mean, what the hell? Who are they? Our Army, their Army, or somebody else's army? They didn't know, see, because we looked so pitifully dressed, just like a bunch of bums, you know. Well, we got -- we got up to the rail depot, and they found this train. And we got this train engineer. I don't know how we -- looked around at a lot of this stuff here. But we got over to the train and told the guard in the engineer room, "We're going to Yokohama." "No. No. No Yokohama." "We're going to Yokohama." So we all got back and talked it over and got a bunch of rocks. And we went up to him again and says -- we go, "Yokohama, one way, nonstop." And we disbursed ourselves in the cars, you know, and they took us down to Yokohama nonstop. {Laughter.}

Rebeka Adams:

{Laughter.}

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

We didn't have any guns that day, but rocks are powerful intimidating. That look in our eye, we would have killed him. We didn't think nothing of killing him if we had to. It made no difference.

Rebeka Adams:

Uh-huh.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

So we got over to Yokohama, and the first thing we see is a great big fire. And there was some ___ there or some damn thing. It surprised the heck out of us. The first gal we had seen in four years. "Hey, who's that?" {Laughter.}

Rebeka Adams:

{Laughter.}

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

So they made us strip. And, well, you got to consider our clothes -- how would you like to wear what you got on without any underclothes, just the outer clothes? How would you like to wear that outer jacket and so forth and never change for four years?

Rebeka Adams:

Oh, yeah.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

There was the Japanese garb we had --

Rebeka Adams:

Uh-huh.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

-- pants and that they gave us, and we had those for four years --

Rebeka Adams:

Wow.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

-- three and a half years. But we didn't have -- we couldn't change or nothing because we had nothing to change into, and we couldn't wash them anyway because we had nothing to put on, see? Anyway we were dirty, filthy, and all the lining were lined with vermin, all over, the whole thing lined. We got used to that, just lined. So naturally we'd take the stuff off and everybody -- just took it off and threw it on the fires, all our clothes, and the guys with spray guns just spraying the heck out of us, you know, getting the vermin out of our hair and this and that and all that stuff. So we looked pretty horrible. {Laughter.}

Rebeka Adams:

{Laughter.}

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

So we recovered and the only thing that I thought was bad -- the condition that we were in -- I had read after the war about they had taken some of these groups and flew them back to civilization. I don't know who was in charge there with us, but they didn't do it that way. They -- immediately they put us on board the ship -- a ship, which would have taken a lot more longer time to get there. And they start feeding us just what everybody else was eating. And you've got consider, when you went from a diet to a bowel of rice, you know, a couple of times a day and so forth, two, three times a day, to that, you couldn't -- your stomach wouldn't take it. So therefore diarrhea was rampant. Just whatever we ate, we lost, you see. We were awful sick and that shouldn't have been. They should never have done that. Whoever was in charge -- that was one thing I was angry about about getting released. Well, we got back {laughter} we got back to the States, and they had us at the -- oh, something -- it was a hospital -- I forget the name of it now. And they were doing some tests, and we says to them, "Well, we're supposed to go to the port -- the spot nearest our home and be released." "Well, yeah, don't be in such a hurry, blah, blah, blah." And so I got with the guys and said, "Don't say nothing. Let me take care of it." So I went up to the guy -- or found out who was in charge, and I says, "I'm just going to let you know as a matter of courtesy, we ain't going to be here tomorrow morning. We're going out of here. You can give us our clothes" -- you see, they had us in pajamas -- "you give us our clothes or we're going to go in our pajamas, but we ain't going to be here. We were told we're going to be released, and we're not going to sit around for bunch of the tests when our home is up that way, and we've been away for almost four years." I says, "Now, that's enough of that." And -- well, he could see that we were -- so they gave us our clothes and they got us on a train and got us out of there and shipped us to our -- our -- the port nearest our home. And we got to -- in fact, they shipped us to -- I think it was -- they shipped me to someplace up in Wisconsin -- Camp McCoy, Wisconsin, see. And that's where I was up there for just enough to get something to eat and get a little flesh on my bones for a very short time. And then we got discharged and shipped home.

Rebeka Adams:

Great.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Yeah.

Rebeka Adams:

That was a happy day.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Oh, yeah. I tell you what, I had some happy days and some sad days. {Laughter.}

Rebeka Adams:

Yeah.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Yeah. It's one of those things, you know. I've had some things happen in my life that you would not believe. Nobody will. It's hard to believe, except to say that somebody -- if a person says that he has no belief -- no religious belief -- he's the stupidest person in the world. Religion isn't something that happened there back in the days of Christ and that was it, just a history -- reading a history. That's nothing. It's not -- right now in real life is when it's real. Now, I mean, not then. And that was in my case. Too many things happened to me that -- Example, here's something really startling in a way. I was working in the coal mines just the last days of the war, the Japanese coal mines. And I told my buddy Overmeyer -- he's still alive -- I told him that -- "Watch me tonight." I says, "I'm going to let one of those cars run in my leg because I'm not going to live anyways. I'm at the end of my damn rope." And I'd let it run smash right -- and then they'd keep me up on topside. Do you know that -- because we was on night shift. Do you know that night the war ended?

Rebeka Adams:

Oh, wow.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

One more day I'd have been dead or wounded for life.

Rebeka Adams:

Right.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

That was just one instance.

Rebeka Adams:

So they didn't let the car go, then?

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Huh?

Rebeka Adams:

They didn't run the car?

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

They didn't -- no. I didn't have to go down there.

Rebeka Adams:

Oh, you didn't go down.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

The war was over.

Rebeka Adams:

Right. I see.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

It was right then and there. It was over. Well, there's a couple of more incidences very similar to that. I can't -- I had them written down --

Rebeka Adams:

There was one you told me where you were marching. You described a march that you were involved in. And do you remember that? You were meeting some people and you stopped. Do you remember that story?

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

No. I don't remember. What was it about?

Rebeka Adams:

You were meeting some people or you were --

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Oh, yeah. Yeah. I can't -- here was another one. It's very strange. You'll have to forgive my memory. I kind of -- I don't have notes to take for it. But what happened is I had a bunch of guys here we were moving forward on the line. And in order to go from lower Bataan on up north, there was a creek and we went through it where the road went through the creek and up onto a road, which used to be -- onto an airport, I should say, which used to be a road. And they were bombed out and everything, so it was now just a plain, wide open space there. So we got down there in our truck. We had about five or six guys and me. We got down into the water -- down the slope into the water, which was about a five- or six-foot slope down. Got down into the water, and it was in the middle of water and about -- like I say, about three, four foot of water here. And a voice was in my head. I mean, this is the truth, so help me God. The voice was so loud, so intense, and just so vibrating, and I yelled to stop the truck. They stopped the truck.

Rebeka Adams:

Wow.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

A second or two went by, and the voices dropped, and down the stuff come. The stuff right there on this side of the slope -- you know, we went on down to -- the storage areas were all blown out. The airstrip right in front of it, some of the bombs went over the top and must have dropped on the other side, a big old hole where they dropped and blew. Stuff comes over the top of us like that. And the only place we could have been alive -- two seconds less or two seconds more one way or the other, we would have been blown to pieces.

Rebeka Adams:

Oh, wow.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Where did these voices come from? It's very strange. How do you explain those things? One other -- I forget -- just as spectacular as that -- I don't remember that. There was a lot of things that happened that you have to say, well, it's coincidence, 50/50. Like for instance, they'd be dropping a shell on us pretty hefty. I says, "Well, here, let's get in the ditch on this side," and the guy says, "No, let's go on this side." So the ditch that they selected finally -- they'd get into the ditch they wanted, it would hit in the area and was okay, and the other side was blown to pieces.

Rebeka Adams:

Wow.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Lucky. That's the flip of a coin. That's nothing magic about that. It's flipping a coin; you could be that or that. Well, how do you explain the other things? No flip of the coin out there.

Rebeka Adams:

No.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

So those are the things that happened in my life, the fantastic, and that's all you can say. The Good Lord was watching over me. The fact that I'm alive -- you see, there was 25,000, I believe -- I've read a lot of different reports -- 25,000 taken prisoner in the Philippines, and they says it's something like there are maybe anywhere from around 5 to 6,000 alive after the war.

Rebeka Adams:

Right.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

And you can read different figures otherwise in that area. So you've got to consider how many lived out of the bunch.

Rebeka Adams:

Uh-huh.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

And that, you know -- that and it's a miracle to be alive.

Rebeka Adams:

To survive that.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Right.

Rebeka Adams:

So you felt like your religion helped you get through this?

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Huh?

Rebeka Adams:

What helped you get through this experience?

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

The Good Lord.

Rebeka Adams:

Right.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

You betcha. There's no doubt in my mind. If this happened to anybody else, there would be no doubt in their mind. And if they go on saying, "No, you can't put a flip of coin to those things that happened. They happened because something made it happen then."

Rebeka Adams:

Right. Exactly.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

So that's all I can say about that.

Rebeka Adams:

That's interesting. And those loud voices, you said you were the only one that heard them?

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

I'm the only one. I was in charge of the -- in charge of the truck.

Rebeka Adams:

Wow. That's a beautiful story. Well, let me -- I think what we'd like to do is take a break. {Break taken.}

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

These are right after we were captured on Corregidor. All the prisoners were herded together on what they call the 29th Replacement area on Corregidor. And that's where they were. And we was -- our tongues were hanging out, we had no water, we had nothing for a couple of days. We weren't eating, no food, there was nothing that was organized naturally. And then all of sudden out of the blue sky, somebody found a spigot or a source of water. There was a source of water there in that area, the 29th. It sort of had big, long lines formed, and the people's canteens or whatever, and we started to get some water. Thank goodness for that. And the conditions there were pretty terrible. I don't know if you can imagine -- imagine the flies. You know, we just had no -- we didn't have clothes. We just had those shorts on and the little thing we had on. And imagine your arm is black -- your arm was black with flies. We would push them off, and the flies would come back. The flies were so heavy in that area, you know, due to the stench and the -- you know, you have to go the bathroom someplace, so you go to the bathroom wherever you're sitting, see. So the stink and everything in that area was horrible. And you didn't have no food. We finally got some water. And it took several -- it took a little while before they get -- to get organized, to get the guys out of there and get them moving where they wanted to send them. But that was normal. I can't blame the Japanese for that. We probably would have done the same thing.

Rebeka Adams:

And do you -- there are pictures on the other side of that.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Oh, that's -- that's -- this is just on the same paper that came out. It showed about them sinking our ships, you know, that they had cleaned out the Pacific pretty well, anything that was of any threat to them, you see. These are very old, old papers so -- at the time of the war, right at the time that -- this was stuff that I smuggled around, took along all that time.

Rebeka Adams:

And there's another picture there besides this about that time, also, I believe, that -- there, that picture.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

This one here?

Rebeka Adams:

Underneath it. There you go.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Oh, this one here was -- there was another fort there. And here is incidentally -- and I'm not sure about this one here. This is really interesting. Here's a -- the 12-inch mortar gun batteries. That was what we had, the 12-inch mortar battery. That was the 12-inch mortar gun battery. There was another fort there, too, besides Corregidor.

Rebeka Adams:

Okay.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

And this is where they'd pile up all the stuff, you know. The Japanese had them pile up the weapons and everything. We'd pile that up there and so forth.

Rebeka Adams:

And that's what you described and the method that they used to make sure you obeyed. Now, how did you stay in touch with your family, or were you able to stay in touch with your family while you were --

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Well, they let us -- the Japanese let us -- after we were all settled in prison camp and so forth, they gave us a little -- what do you call a -- a post card.

Rebeka Adams:

Oh, right.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

And on the post card it says, "I am," and you filled in the blank. "I am living," and you fill in the blank. "I am very" -- "I am well," "horrible," "mistreated," or whatever you want to put down. You better put one there or it never got out. So you had to put down -- so I really didn't -- they'd send you a little thing of communication, that much. You had to fill out about five words on this, you see.

Rebeka Adams:

Right.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

And when you got cards from home -- here's -- my mother said she sent about a letter a day, and here I've got about, oh, maybe six or seven -- six or seven letters she sent. Of course, if you look at the letter, the letter -- here's the letter. You can only write so many words, and what did they do? They censored it all by -- most of what you put on these things, you see. They censored it by smearing it out. So there was one letter I did get. I don't know if this is it or not. Well, at any rate, we did get some mail. But anything the mail said, they had to take -- they had to really censor 90 percent of it. So each time it would be -- it was always -- your note, say, it's a monitor -- a telephone call, you might say. "Hi. How are you? Are you still alive? Good. Fine. Are they treating you all right? Yeah." That's it. That's all your letters were.

Rebeka Adams:

Right.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Because anything else, either they would censor it or the Japanese would censor it, one of the two. So we didn't get anything out.

Rebeka Adams:

Very little communication.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

No. In fact, I was -- it's amazing the times I was dead. Well, when I got over to our replacement center -- you know, when we come out of prison camp, they shipped us to Alpha Corp 29th Replacement, and they gave us a telephone call. We could make a telephone call from there, which I did. And I found out that I had died. They got word that I had died in prison camp, you see.

Rebeka Adams:

No. They told your family that?

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Yeah.

Rebeka Adams:

Oh, my God.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

I don't know how or who they got it from. And there was a sort of shock one way or the other, you know, so forth. But I told them, no, I'm still here. {Laughter.}

Rebeka Adams:

{Laughter.}

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Okay. Now, here's some of the stuff that you might find interesting. We talked about being in prison. Here's the first indication. Here is a -- this is in the Tribune, Manila Tribune. The day after Corregidor fell, it came out in the paper, Corregidor surrenders, and they made a hullabaloo about that.

Rebeka Adams:

Right.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

And then there's another one right here. This article came out also about that same time or afterwards. It says, "Bataan" -- a lot of people don't realize. They say Bataan and Corregidor -- they didn't attach any great amount of significance to it, most people. Anyway, there was a little article that did come out, that it did make a difference, and they explained what would have happened if Bataan and Corregidor didn't hold out. You've got to consider -- think about it a second. When France was attacked by the Germans, how long did they last before they surrendered? I think it was a matter of weeks, a few weeks.

Rebeka Adams:

Not long.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

When Singapore out there in that area was attacked, they lasted another two or three weeks only, and they took 'em. Here we are in Bataan and Corregidor, we was attacked, we held out for five months.

Rebeka Adams:

Wow.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Five months. No people -- they don't realize that we held out for five months against hardly any food, hardly anything, we ate everything that moved, and they still held out. They were skinny. I was down to just about a hundred pounds.

Rebeka Adams:

Geez.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

And so was everybody else, skeletons, but they still held out so -- for five months.

Rebeka Adams:

Uh-huh. That's incredible.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

While all these other big major forces had all clothes, and then when we watched the generals and colonels and all of that in Singapore that just looked as if they were coming out of the officer's club. And everyone's the same way, you know. All this -- we were a ragged, tagged bunch of bums that held out that long, and that has a lot to say for the Americans.

Rebeka Adams:

Yeah.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

And there's a lot to say for them. Just compare.

Rebeka Adams:

Right. That's wonderful.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Yeah.

Rebeka Adams:

That's very impressive.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

And they did it. Now, also, the Japanese about that time, when there was all talk that they were getting kind of close, America was kind of whipping a little bit, they put out an order. They'd say -- the Japanese order was posted in all the POW camps in 1944. I seen a copy of it that they flashed in front of us, you know, and so forth. And here's the order. The letter was read up on any event that the -- Japan becomes invaded, how -- first, how to kill us, and to kill them all.

Rebeka Adams:

Oh no.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Yeah.

Rebeka Adams:

They were going to kill all of --

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Every prisoner.

Rebeka Adams:

Oh, no.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

So there would be nobody alive to tell the stories, I guess.

Rebeka Adams:

Right.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

But that's it. That's the order.

Rebeka Adams:

Wow.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

The -- I don't know how much of this stuff you want.

Rebeka Adams:

Yes.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

And here is a -- here's one that I wrote, incidentally, just an article on it, "Surviving the Fall of Bataan." I wrote an article here in the paper here, and it came out, and I spelled out the situation on how things were over there and how we survived, how we managed to survive, and what it was all about.

Rebeka Adams:

Uh-huh.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

And here -- last but not least, here's a piece of paper, which I guess you have some ___+ or someone I think is very important. This is the March of Death, and that is the actual -- all about the March of Death, which was two -- it was not only one, like I told you, it was two, one that started 30 days before ours did. The name was -- we left at Mariveles and went on up to Camp O'Donnell and then over to Bataan -- over to Bataan -- over to -- no, I'm sorry, I can't think of it -- over to Cabanatuan prison camp. That's where they went to. We held out for another -- a month --

Rebeka Adams:

Right.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

-- on Corregidor.

Rebeka Adams:

Uh-huh.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

And let me tell you something about that. You can't hardly believe it. We were surrounded and they had guns. There was the gunfire -- believe this or not, it's pretty hard to describe. The gunfire that they fired at us was like a machine gun. They were firing 105s, 155s, 240-millimeter guns, and so forth and it would go {simulating gunfire}. That's how fast they would fire that stuff. They were firing hours upon hours of that stuff, firing at that rate. And they still held out against it sitting in foxholes. I sat in a foxhole. It's pretty hard to say what -- "Oh, you're crazy, you never did." I said, "Well," ___+. You might say the nearest crater that they hit would be sitting over at the end of the corner there, and I would be over here, you know, in a hole near a crater. And if I hadn't gone someplace -- I was trying to keep some wires together, you know, and I could fix those wires, but they'd get knocked out, and I'd crawl to another place and do the same thing. And the one in the back would blow it out because they were firing so heavy on us. And I had no place to go. I had to do it, you see. And like I say, I wasn't brave at that time. I was, you might say, shellshocked or something because I did it -- it was like a movie to me. I was just doing a job, and there was people dying all around, you see. And you wouldn't believe how your mind can just go ahead and do a job. You're doing your job and you get out, and you never even think that they're trying to kill you, see. Strange, but that's the way it was.

Rebeka Adams:

Wow. So how did it affect you when people around you were getting killed so rapidly?

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Well, it's pretty hard. What can you do? You get immune to it. You get immune to it.

Rebeka Adams:

Uh-huh.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

The first one I seen dead, a young guy, he was -- nice uniform on him, handsome-looking fellow, and well-built, handsome guy, and I noticed on his ring -- a gold wedding ring. I seen him laying there. That's what scared me --

Rebeka Adams:

Right.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

-- seeing the first one. And after that I seen so many that -- it's -- you wouldn't believe it. I could tell you a few things, but I don't want to tell you. They would make you nauseated. But it's -- you never -- you see so many and you think nothing of it. In prison camp you've got to consider 25,000 -- about 20,000 died in prison camp out of 25,000. They were dying every day or would be killed.

Rebeka Adams:

Oh.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

And, well, you see that all the time, you see.

Rebeka Adams:

Uh-huh.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

And it -- you get immune to it, to people dying.

Rebeka Adams:

Wow.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

This is like the guy that works in a mortuary. He sees the dead every day, so it's just like a piece of beef to him. So I guess --

Rebeka Adams:

Wow.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

-- it's one of those strange things.

Rebeka Adams:

Tell me about some of the things that you did -- let me ask, were there any humorous or unusual events? You described a lot of unusual events. Were there any humorous events, or did people somehow come up with a way to entertain themselves in the middle of all this?

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Not us. I seen pictures after the war, certain camps, certain places where they had music and a few other things. In our camp, I guess we were on the low end of the totem pole. I don't remember anything that -- I know one funny thing. I'll never forget it. We were marching off to work at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries from our camp. We'd go to work at Mitsubishi, which was about a mile or two miles away. And here I'm talking to this one fellow. I've never been able to reach him again since. His name was -- oh, I can't think of his name. Anyway, we were marching along this -- marching along to work, and I says -- we were just chitchatting, you know, about his life and my life. His dad was in the oil industry, kind of a wealthy guy, and he had a pretty good life. And I says, "Charlie" -- Charles was his name -- "Charlie," I said, "the thing is you just don't know what it is to be -- to have a rough time." I says, "We had a rough time our whole life." I said, "You've just been living high. You don't know what it is to have a rough time." {Laughter.} And we burst out laughing. We were both staggering along half dead, you know, and I told him he never had a rough time in his life.

Rebeka Adams:

{Laughter.}

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

We laughed after that because we had lost ourselves in our communication, you see. And it was kind of funny that way. There was -- oh, there was a few other things that was comical. Not comical, but it made us laugh.

Rebeka Adams:

All right.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

While we was in prison camp working down there alongside of the ship, one of the Japanese up on top seen us, you see. So he opened his pants and urinated on us from up there. Well, this Japanese that was with us here, he seen it. And he took the welding torch, and he scratched it along the ship like that and held it up into the stream.

Rebeka Adams:

Really?

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

And oh, oh, oh. About 110 volts and so forth hit him there.

Rebeka Adams:

{Laughter.} Oh, no.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

He never did that again.

Rebeka Adams:

{Laughter.}

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

{Laughter.} He really gave him a dose of return.

Rebeka Adams:

Wow. Yeah. So he used that and hit the guy back?

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Huh?

Rebeka Adams:

He used the welding torch against the man who urinated on you?

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Rebeka Adams:

Yeah.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

So there was some nice guys once in a while. We ran across them. We had one guy that we liked in the whole damn Japanese as prisoners out there. He was a little feller. We called him Junior, and he was a welder just like the rest of us. He was a Japanese. And that's the sad part about it. It was hard to believe, but they had these kids from eight years old, seven years old, nine years old. They'd get them out of their schools, and they looked worse than we did. Nobody bothered with them. They were slave labor. Ears dirty, black, face scummed, hair scummed. They were more scummed up than we were. And these kids would be sitting trying to get around the fire where the welding stuff was, and the Japanese would come and beat them up. And they were Japanese, you see. And they had to go to work, you know, and they didn't like them around, see. So they treated them worse then we did -- worse than we were treated, and they were little children.

Rebeka Adams:

I don't understand that. Do you know who they were, who the kids were?

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

They were Japanese kids. I don't know who they were. They worked for -- they was in a camp -- they was in another camp where they kept them, a camp where they'd march out like we did.

Rebeka Adams:

Uh-huh.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

I don't know why -- I never understood why they did it, beat them up and so forth. I guess -- oh, I know one reason. This I cannot verify, but I was told it several times, though. The Japanese could not afford to take care of the children, so they sold them -- they sold the children to Mitsubishi -- that's where they came from -- they sold them to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. They sold them to them.

Rebeka Adams:

Oh, how sad.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

And that's where they came from.

Rebeka Adams:

Wow.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

And they kept them in the these camps here, and they put them to work in shipyards and coal mines and everything.

Rebeka Adams:

Wow. Oh, man.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Yeah. Nice people.

Rebeka Adams:

{Laughter.} Boys and girls both is what you're describing?

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Boys -- I don't know. I didn't see any little girls. I seen just the boys.

Rebeka Adams:

Oh. Did you -- how did you feel about your fellow prisoners, your fellow Americans? Was there certain --

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Well -- oh, yeah. That's very interesting. I was proud of them, of the Americans, but I -- if I told you why I was proud of them, because we took a licking many a time before giving in to the Japanese. The British, on the other hand, and Japanese -- or the British especially and the Canadians, they kow towed to them just to get -- in other words, that they -- the Japanese -- this is fact -- the Japanese would say, "Now, if you work so many hours, blah, blah, blah, we'll give you a little extra this or you'll do this if you work a little longer," and so forth. And they never did make out, but they used to do it. So we got the camp and -- we got to the camp there, and we mixed with them there, and we says, "Enough of that stuff."

Rebeka Adams:

Uh-huh.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

So we didn't go along with the Japanese, and we got -- a lot of us got beaten up because we wouldn't, but we took the beating, rather than go along with them. Now, this is fact. Now, of course, the Canadians, if they ever hear about it, now they would say, "Oh, come on, propaganda." But that's a fact. Anybody that knew us knows what happened there, so -- but I didn't have much respect for the Canadians after that for a long time.

Rebeka Adams:

Uh-huh.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

But that's what they did.

Rebeka Adams:

Interesting. Now, tell me, is there any other stories you want to tell about your war experience? Because we're about ready to go to after the war. Is there anything else you want to recall you'd like to --

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Oh, I don't know. I can probably think of something after I get home.

Rebeka Adams:

That's okay. Now, do you recall -- you talked a little bit about this, but do you recall the day your military service ended? The day your military service ended?

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Yeah.

Rebeka Adams:

Do you want to say -- I know you talked a little bit about it. Do you want to describe it again?

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Well, I was shipped -- like I say, when I came out of prison camp, they shipped me to Camp McCoy, Wisconsin.

Rebeka Adams:

Right.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

That's where I was discharged.

Rebeka Adams:

Right.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

And then I reenlisted.

Rebeka Adams:

You reenlisted?

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Yeah. I was too sick to get a -- to stay out.

Rebeka Adams:

Oh.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

I had to go to the hospital and stay in, but -- you know, all that sort of stuff. You know, get some flesh on my bones.

Rebeka Adams:

I see.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

I was just in pretty sad shape, you see.

Rebeka Adams:

I see.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

So they went ahead and they -- I stayed at Camp McCoy, and then they sent me down to Great Lakes Naval Training Station -- the Great Lakes Naval Training Station -- although I was -- because my outfit at Fort Sheridan, they were on maneuvers, you see.

Rebeka Adams:

Okay.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

And, therefore, they sent me to the Navy station. And they fed us there and so forth.

Rebeka Adams:

Okay.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

And then I got shipped from there -- because I had reenlisted, they shipped me out to the West Coast.

Rebeka Adams:

Okay.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

And I got back into service there and so forth, you see.

Rebeka Adams:

Okay. And did you ever go back to school?

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

No, I didn't go to school.

Rebeka Adams:

Okay. Okay.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

I couldn't. I had a disability that's pretty hard, see. I was living ahead -- on my left side of my head, the butt of rifles and so forth many times to get me to move or do something and scarred it. And my short-term memory from that time on was nil. Now, I said, "Gee, I wish I could have" -- I went to the -- I went to school. I'd go to school with one of their courses they had, and I'd understand everything they said. It was A-B-C. And when I got back to the cotton-picking barracks, I don't remember a thing they said.

Rebeka Adams:

Wow.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

So my memory is shot. I have trouble today. Six months from now -- I know everything that takes place a long time ago --

Rebeka Adams:

Yes.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

-- you see.

Rebeka Adams:

Right.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

I could tell you everything from when I was a small kid. But I have -- my short-term memory is zoom, zoom. It's just not there. I can't explain why, but it isn't there.

Rebeka Adams:

Wow. Well, that is too -- that is sad. We have one minute.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

All right.

Rebeka Adams:

But did you make any close friendships while in the service?

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Oh, yeah. We got a routine, yeah, you know.

Rebeka Adams:

Okay. And do you keep any contact with them?

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

In the service?

Rebeka Adams:

Or now.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

With a few of them, yeah, I made. I have friends now that I knew then, a few of them, but most of them died.

Rebeka Adams:

Okay.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

You know.

Rebeka Adams:

Okay.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

You've got to consider, I'm 82 years old --

Rebeka Adams:

Right.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

-- and they're all 82 to 85, and they -- I don't know how many they said, a thousand a day is dying or something. I don't know. It's some big, fantastic figure. So the statistics -- most of them I knew then are gone.

Rebeka Adams:

Yeah.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

So they ___+

Rebeka Adams:

Oh, okay. {Break taken.}

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Hello again. This is Mr. Stensby. And I wanted to bring out a couple of things that I thought was a tremendous injustice inflicted upon the prisoners of war and on me. I got back and when I got back I went to get paid for my four years. And you think, you know, four years, you got a pile of money coming. Not so. I found out that the Red Cross came to my family's home, to my mother, and said, "If you can say you're a dependent of your son, we'll give you X number of dollars of his fee," which was considerable. She did. She was not a dependent. In fact, she was going with some other fellow all this time. And they got married the next year. It didn't make any difference. So I went ahead and reiterated to the cotton-picking government that I didn't think that was right. They said, "Well, go collect it from him." And that was like a -- I found out later that something similar happened with a guy and a guy's money. You know, his wife used it and was going around with another guy and raising hell with his money, and the government made their ruling during the Korean war that the government is responsible for this GI's pay while he's a prisoner of war. Well, that wasn't in my case. So, in other words, my money went that way. So that was Step No. 1. Step No. 2, in four years inflation had gone during the wartime period, from 1940 all the way up to '45 -- the inflation -- a dollar was only worth peanuts compared to the thing. So what did they pay me at? When I got out of prison camp after four years -- three-and-a-half years, they didn't pay me at the rate of what a sergeant was getting. They paid me what the sergeant was getting back in 1939 or 1940 or whatever it was. And then the next year there was a little raise, they gave me that raise, and then they gave me the next raise and paid me at that rate. So the money that I got for three-and-a-half years did not even equate to what the GI had got during that same period after he got out in one year. So they messed me and gave me the pay that was useless money after all that time. Now, I don't know what -- with this presidential contender, whatever his name was there that was a prisoner for seven years, how they paid him, the same way or they paid him as a colonel for the whole time. Besides that, being in the Army I didn't get promoted all that time. If I was in the Navy, they went and promoted people that were swore up when they get a promotion, I understand, but especially the officers, see. But that's neither here nor there. The fact is that the money I got when I got out was a pittance compared to what I should have been getting --

Rebeka Adams:

Wow.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

-- and nobody seemed to give a damn about it when I brought it up to my congressman and so forth.

Rebeka Adams:

Wow.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

They passed the buck up, passed the buck up, till it got to some civilian on the boards of records and so forth, and he just -- he just as much as said, "Drop dead, we don't want to be bothered with you."

Rebeka Adams:

That's terrible.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

So that's what I'm just saying. I felt that that is something that -- if you look at the records, my payment -- what I got paid for four years, four-and-a-half-years as a prisoner of war, I think it's a grave insult.

Rebeka Adams:

Yeah. Uh-huh. That does sound bad. But you have a picture that you wanted to describe to us.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Oh. This is something here that they -- just as afterthought. I just received this here. I just brought this out of my file some time ago to try to figure out what it was.

Rebeka Adams:

I think it's upside down. Hold it so we can see it.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Yeah. Here.

Rebeka Adams:

Here we go.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

This is a reproduction of it. I made a nice copy out of it. It was kind of ragged, you know. I carried it with me for all the time I was a prisoner of war. And I carried it in my hand. They never checked my hands when they went up and searched me. And what it is I had them -- it's all in Japanese on the back and so forth. I had somebody interpret what this is all about, and they told me -- they said that was a Japanese -- I picked this up during about 1942 or '43 or something like that, in that period, and carried it with me. And that was some information on where -- what areas and where they were going to attack and so forth, all the big industries here, there, and so forth along here. That's what they told me that this is.

Rebeka Adams:

And this is California.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

That's California -- a map of California on the places that they were -- considered potential targets.

Rebeka Adams:

Wow. Interesting.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

So I thought, "Well, I'll get one souvenir from Japan."

Rebeka Adams:

{Laughter.}

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

{Laughter.}

Rebeka Adams:

That's great. That's great.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

And I'd like to say -- just add one thing on here. I appreciate the fact that you people are taking the time to run this thing, and I've given you the answers as I remember them, the best of my knowledge, and I didn't add anything other than what I thought was for real. And some of the stuff I told you might seem to be really way out, but it was way out. So just pass it on the best of know and the best I could give you. I have no reason not to tell you exactly what it -- what I know to be true.

Rebeka Adams:

Thank you. Well, we appreciate it. We have just a few more questions.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Yeah.

Rebeka Adams:

What was your career after the war?

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

After the war? I came back and I got into an outfit called the Department of Subway Mining. I went from there to -- they folded up. I had to turn it over to the Navy. It was too good a job for me, so they turned it over to the Navy.

Rebeka Adams:

{Laughter.}

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

And then I went to -- from there I went to school in communications and got on some other work for the Army.

Rebeka Adams:

So you were career military, then?

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

I was career military, yeah.

Rebeka Adams:

Great. Great.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

And I stayed around -- well, I did a lot of overseas traveling, teaching electronics --

Rebeka Adams:

Oh.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

-- and stuff like that in general.

Rebeka Adams:

Okay. In the military?

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

In the military, yeah.

Rebeka Adams:

Okay. And did your military experience influence your thinking about war, the military in general?

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Well, just like I tell a GI, you know, I took it as it came. And I have no -- the only thing I say to a lot of the people -- I says to the GIs that worked for me -- I told them -- I says, "Just do your best. That's all you can do." I says, "When you ask what you should do in the service" -- the only thing is, they didn't expect you to be a general the first day. Just do the best that you know how and let it go at that. I says, "That's all you can do. That's all any of us can do, so don't be worried about it. At least when you finally get out, if you get out in two or three years, you can look back on your career and say I did what I could."

Rebeka Adams:

That's good. That's excellent advice. Now, how did your service experiences affect your life?

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Well, it didn't affect -- I mean, it was a job for me, see. It was a job and I -- I just did the best I knew how, see. Let it go at that. I didn't dwell on the fact. I do know this: I thought if I had to live it all over again, if that would make any sense -- and I tell it to everybody that I could think of, young people. I says, "Get as much education as you can." After the war was over, instead of staying with the service, I should have went off to college. I had a chance to go to college and that, but I was doing a job, and I thought that was very important. I should have went off and got a -- go and get as much as education as you can. The higher the education -- get your doctor's degree -- get your master's and then your doctorate. I says the moment you open your mouth and say something, people listen. If you don't, you open your mouth, they don't listen anymore, see. And as a result, I put that in my children. My two children went and got their doctorates. One of them is in engineering and one is a medical doctor.

Rebeka Adams:

Wonderful.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

And my daughter is working on her mast er's. So they're -- I told them, I says, "Get your education, education, education." And they got good jobs.

Rebeka Adams:

Uh-huh.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

They got good jobs. One of them is a professor at UAH, and the other is a doctor in Winchester. So they're doing very well.

Rebeka Adams:

Excellent. That's great.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Education, I informed them from a baby on. I told them -- I didn't say when you get through high school. I said when you get through with your degrees out at college.

Rebeka Adams:

Right. Excellent. Now, this is our last question. Is there anything else you would like to include on this tape for -- as part of this process?

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Well, I don't know if you want anything personal like the fact that I'm married --- -

Rebeka Adams:

Oh, you --

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

-- and have a couple of children, who are, what -- I don't know.

Rebeka Adams:

Yes. Whatever you want to.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Well, it doesn't matter. It just might personally interest you. I married a young lady. She's French and very, very nice. She's not my first wife. My first wife died. I have three children.

Rebeka Adams:

Okay.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

I have two boys. Like I say, one of them is a medical doctor up in Winchester, Tennessee, and the other one has his doctorate here in engineering at the University of Alabama here, UAH. And they both do well. I'm very proud of both of them.

Rebeka Adams:

And you have a daughter, also?

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

I have a daughter, yes, and she is in North Carolina, and she is working with some big medical outfit. I don't really know.

Rebeka Adams:

That's great.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

But she's doing very well.

Rebeka Adams:

Good. Great. Well, thank you very much, Mr. Stensby. It's been a pleasure to interview you, and we appreciate your time and your sharing your experiences with us. Thank you.

John L. Stensby, Sr.:

Uh-huh.

 
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  October 26, 2011
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