The Library of Congress Veterans History Project Home 
Experiencing War: Stories from the Veterans History Project
Home » Text Transcript

Interview with Frank Hosendove [September 2, 2002]

Larry Ordner:

This recording is made September 2, 2002 with Frank Hosendove. Mr. Hosendove resides at 433 South Kentucky in Evansville, Indiana. He is a native of Hopkinsville in Christian County, Kentucky and served in the United States Navy as a carpenters mate second class from February 1944 through January 1946. He was drafted at age 32. He saw service in World War II in these primary locations, but not exclusive to; Great Lakes, Hampton Institute in Virginia; Honolulu, Hawaii, and then on a _ ship throughout the Pacific theatre including Okinawa. He is a winner of the Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal, American Campaign, World War II Victory Medal, and an Honorable Service Lapel Medal all of which yet to be received. This recording was made with Larry Ordner, Regional Director for US Senator Richard Lugar. Frank, it is an honor to meet you and we look forward to hearing your talking and hearing about your time in the military. Now, you were 32 years old when you were drafted?

Frank Hosendove:

Yes.

Larry Ordner:

Where were you living at the time; what were you doing?

Frank Hosendove:

I was living here in Evansville, but I was registered in West Virginia where I was living at the time.

Larry Ordner:

And I see now you were a native of Hopkinsville just down the road?

Frank Hosendove:

I was born in Hopkinsville.

Larry Ordner:

And your family then moved to Evansville?

Frank Hosendove:

I moved to Evansville in 1919.

Larry Ordner:

What made-- what prompted the move to Evansville?

Frank Hosendove:

My grandmother died and my mother moved from Evansville -- I mean from Hopkinsville to Evansville, and all of my schooling was here in the State of Indiana.

Larry Ordner:

What were you doing at age 32?

Frank Hosendove:

Age 32 I was working in a defense plant. They promised to give me --

Larry Ordner:

Where at?

Frank Hosendove:

Here in Evansville. They were making ammunition and I worked in the paint department.

Larry Ordner:

Where was that plant located, Frank?

Frank Hosendove:

On Highway 41 North here in Evansville.

Larry Ordner:

Okay.

Frank Hosendove:

And I was working in the paint department, and we were making ammunition, and then the area I was in they were making the boxes to pack the ammunition and to be shipped.

Larry Ordner:

And at that time lots and lots of people were manufacturing products in Evansville for the war; correct?

Frank Hosendove:

Yes, that is true. You see, at one time they had a ship building business here in Evansville, and I worked in this plant. They promised me a deferment, but when it came time to give it to me, they said they couldn't do it.

Larry Ordner:

Did you have a family of your own at that time?

Frank Hosendove:

Yes; I had a wife and one child.

Larry Ordner:

One child. Boy or girl?

Frank Hosendove:

Girl.

Larry Ordner:

Well, can I ask you what the reaction was at home when the draft notice came?

Frank Hosendove:

Well, they knew that people were being drafted, and of course their inner feelings I had no idea of, but their outward expression, they took it in stride.

Larry Ordner:

How old was your child at the time?

Frank Hosendove:

Let's see. She was around 12 years old.

Larry Ordner:

Oh my goodness. So how did she handle that?

Frank Hosendove:

She handled it real well, and -- she might not have been that old. She was born in 1956 I believe.

Larry Ordner:

That had to be --

Frank Hosendove:

No, wait a minute. I take that all back. She was born in 1936, and this was '42 so she couldn't have been more than seven or eight years old.

Larry Ordner:

Okay, so that threw your family life in quite a turmoil?

Frank Hosendove:

It did to an extent, yes.

Larry Ordner:

You were going to be going off --

Frank Hosendove:

I would be gone and --

Larry Ordner:

What about your wife and child; what were they going to be living on during that time?

Frank Hosendove:

Of course they sent an allotment to her, and back then living expenses were very low and --

Larry Ordner:

Was it enough to live on?

Frank Hosendove:

She got by on what was sent to her. As far as I know, she didn't work while I was gone because I am a person who don't believing in women working. If you have a family, there is a child at home, taking care of a child in the home is enough for any woman to handle. I always felt that way. Nowadays with living expenses the way they are now, it takes more than one salary to actually --

Larry Ordner:

Yeah. Well, Frank, where did you go for induction?

Frank Hosendove:

Great Lakes.

Larry Ordner:

You went straight to Great Lakes?

Frank Hosendove:

Great Lakes.

Larry Ordner:

Well, how was it that you ended up in the Navy as opposed to the Army?

Frank Hosendove:

Well, that is a funny thing. They give you a choice.

Larry Ordner:

When you went for induction?

Frank Hosendove:

When I went for induction; what branch do you want to be in. I said "I would like to be in the Army". They said "Why?". I said "Well, I have some relatives, you know my uncle _". They said now you are in the Navy. That was it.

Larry Ordner:

No discussion?

Frank Hosendove:

No discussion.

Larry Ordner:

So, you were then sent for boot --

Frank Hosendove:

No, not right away. I had a couple of weeks or so before I went to Great Lakes.

Larry Ordner:

Okay.

Frank Hosendove:

And then when I finished Great Lakes, I think I had a couple of weeks or so liberty, and then I was sent to Hampton Institute.

Larry Ordner:

Now, you had your basic --

Frank Hosendove:

Basic at Great Lakes.

Larry Ordner:

How rigorous was that training, Frank?

Frank Hosendove:

Well --

Larry Ordner:

I am not saying you were an older guy coming in, but compared to some of the guys coming in, you were quite a bit older?

Frank Hosendove:

Yes, I was.

Larry Ordner:

You might have had 10 or 12 years on them?

Frank Hosendove:

Uh-hum.

Larry Ordner:

In some cases?

Frank Hosendove:

Well, at that time physically I was in very, very good condition and it didn't bother me at all. The only thing that bothered me was the cold wind coming off the lake in the winter time. Other than that, it was nice, and while I was there at Great Lakes, they made me Captain over the crew in the barracks where I was.

Larry Ordner:

Now Frank, I need to understand, and I think anybody listening to this tape will need to have to understand that you are an African-American?

Frank Hosendove:

Yes.

Larry Ordner:

And I need to know, and maybe you can put into words, what was it like for an African-American in the Navy at the time?

Frank Hosendove:

At Great Lakes there was no problem. In fact, I never had a problem the whole time I was there, and our instructor and leader of the group, I think he was a Lieutenant, was a Jewish man, and I think that might have had something to do with the way we were treated and because you know black people and the Jews were put on a lower grade than caucasians, but I enjoyed it.

Larry Ordner:

How demanding was the training, the boot camp training?

Frank Hosendove:

It was really strong because they were trying to get you in condition, physical condition, to be fit for service. We had drills, we had to take exercise, and then as a punishment if you did something wrong, they would have us do what is called the Great Lakes shuffle. You put a piece of steel wool under each foot and scrub the scuff marks off of the drill hall. So they had men in line all the way across and you would go the length of that building.

Larry Ordner:

When you think of the time in boot camp -- when you think of that time period, what kind of mental images pop in your mind?

Frank Hosendove:

Well, it was an enjoyable experience. Being my age I felt differently from some of the teenagers. I really enjoyed it. When I took over the leadership of the group in my barracks, it gave me a chance to do a little leading.

Larry Ordner:

Do you think your age had something to do with that?

Frank Hosendove:

It may have. I think the fellows showed me respect and I respected them. Things they weren't supposed to do, I knew they were going to do it so I suggested don't do it when I am here. If I am out of the barracks and you do it, I don't know anything about it, but when I come back, stop, and they gave me a lot of respect because of doing it that way. You are not going to stop anybody from doing what they want to do if they get an opportunity to do it, and by giving them those instructions, they felt free to do what they wanted to do, and they respected me and stopped when I came in. That way I wouldn't have to report anybody because I don't report anything I don't see.

Larry Ordner:

Frank, do you think your training at that time, did it reflect like a gravity, a seriousness of the war kind of?

Frank Hosendove:

I don't think the men felt that way.

Larry Ordner:

No?

Frank Hosendove:

No. To them it was something they didn't really want to do, but they didn't show any resentment by going through the training they were going through. They knew it was something that they -- in a sense they were forced to do it because when you are drafted, and in many cases you may think it is against your grain to be put into something that you don't really want to be in.

Larry Ordner:

The men that you had under you at that time that you were working with, were they drafted from a very, very wide area?

Frank Hosendove:

Yes.

Larry Ordner:

You had more than several states?

Frank Hosendove:

Several states, yeah.

Larry Ordner:

Was there a lot of mid western states, southern states?

Frank Hosendove:

Some southern, some mid western. They would come from mostly I would say southern and mid western. Few, not too many from the northern states.

Larry Ordner:

How did the guys generally feel about being in the military?

Frank Hosendove:

They took it in their stride because they knew it was something they had to do, and they couldn't get out of it so they took it in their stride.

Larry Ordner:

When you think back about that time in boot camp, what do you remember most about it? Were there a couple of instances that you just think of more than others?

Frank Hosendove:

Not so much at Great Lakes. The only thing about it, a lot of drilling was between barracks and the lake is just I would say east of where we were, and the cold air coming off that lake between those barracks was almost unbearable, and the fellows were very miserable. That was a daily thing to get out there and drill, get you physically fit, and then sometimes we would go in the drill hall if it were snowing or raining or something like that we would go in the drill hall and do our drilling and practicing. We would have to do calisthenics and things of that nature.

Larry Ordner:

Frank, there are going to be questions that are going to be difficult for me to ask, and you have to excuse me if I don't even know how to ask them, but there is things that I think need to be heard on the tape from you because you are going to have such a unique perspective that a lot of people need to know, but how did the Navy treat blacks at that time? Was it like a separate black Navy?

Frank Hosendove:

Um--

Larry Ordner:

Did you feel part of the Navy?

Frank Hosendove:

Not at Great Lakes. And after I left Great Lakes, I went to Hampton Institute, and that was an all black school so I couldn't tell the difference there, and then when I left there, I was assigned to the ship so I didn't really get into that and, like I said like I was telling you before, that the Captain of my ship did not believe in segregation and that made a difference in my experiences as far as the Navy on the whole is concerned.

Larry Ordner:

Tell me about your time at Hampton Institute. A very fine institution?

Frank Hosendove:

It was a wonderful school, and we had classes there just like you are in regular school. You had to take tests and things of that nature, and then the carpentry department we had to use all of the equipment there and make some items pertaining to repair of the ship and things of that nature. And we had -- the college furnished food for us, they had a contract with the government, they furnished the food, and we had worship service on Sunday. Periodically we were free to go into town so actually, it was an enjoyable experience as well as learning -- of course, I didn't learn too much because I already knew mostly what I went there for because I had that in high school and also two years in college so it wasn't anything new to me.

Larry Ordner:

And all those skills _ in life?

Frank Hosendove:

Yeah.

Larry Ordner:

I am sure. How long were you at Hampton, Frank?

Frank Hosendove:

16 weeks.

Larry Ordner:

And after Hampton, then what?

Frank Hosendove:

After Hampton I had a leave of absence, and I had to report to San Francisco, California.

Larry Ordner:

During the leave of absence, did you come back to Evansville?

Frank Hosendove:

Came back home, yes; spent time with my family.

Larry Ordner:

Was it hard to go back?

Frank Hosendove:

Yes and no. You see, when I had an obligation, I take it in my stride. And I knew it was something I had to do and I tried to make the best of it. And nobody likes to leave their family not knowing whether they are going to get back or not or something of that nature, but basically I just took it in stride. It was just something I knew I had to do, and I just went about it hoping to get it over with.

Larry Ordner:

Do you remember the day you left to go back?

Frank Hosendove:

I don't remember that. The bad thing about the whole thing situation was when they called me up for the examination, it was on the date of my anniversary, wedding anniversary. I didn't appreciate that, but, of course, but when you are dealing with the government, you do what they say do not what you want to.

Larry Ordner:

So, where did you report after you went back after that initial leave?

Frank Hosendove:

I reported to San Francisco.

Larry Ordner:

San Francisco. And what facility was that?

Frank Hosendove:

It was a base there. I don't remember the name of it, but I went there to wait to go board the ship.

Larry Ordner:

Did you know at that time what your orders were going to be?

Frank Hosendove:

I knew that I was going to be assigned to a ship, and the ship was not in the base there. It was somewhere overseas, and they put us on what was known as Victory Ships. If I remember correctly, I picked it up at Okinawa, my ship.

Larry Ordner:

So, you went from San Francisco to Okinawa?

Frank Hosendove:

On a Victory Ship.

Larry Ordner:

On a Victory Ship.

Frank Hosendove:

Yeah.

Larry Ordner:

Tell me what that was like.

Frank Hosendove:

Ooh, the first few days was horrible.

Larry Ordner:

Were you part of a convoy?

Frank Hosendove:

Yes, the first few days was horrible. I was seasick, and the food was greasy, and you couldn't eat, and it was crowded. Sleeping wasn't as comfortable as it could have been because there were too many men on the ship. We were fine and made it over there and then I went aboard my ship and --

Larry Ordner:

What was the last thing --

Frank Hosendove:

I had boarded my ship in Honolulu. That is where -- they sent me from San Francisco to Honolulu. That is where I boarded my ship.

Larry Ordner:

Pearl Harbor; in that area?

Frank Hosendove:

Not in that area.

Larry Ordner:

Did you see Pearl Harbor?

Frank Hosendove:

I saw part of it.

Larry Ordner:

What did you see? Was there still a lot of --

Frank Hosendove:

There wasn't anything visible that I could see, the area where it happened. I think I did see one mast sticking up out of the water. Other than that --

Larry Ordner:

That had to be quite an experience?

Frank Hosendove:

It was to see that, and it didn't effect me mentally when I saw it. I don't know. I am one person who tries to take everything in stride, and I learned years ago never to worry about anything because worry has never solved a problem, and that's been true all of my life. Even today, I don't worry about things. There have been situations where many people worry and make themselves sick, but I always feel that God is going to make a way for you to get by. He promised he would take care of you so I would leave it up to him and that is the way I live now. I put my faith, and hope, and trust in Him, and whenever a situation arise, I go to Him and ask him to solve it. So far, in my 89 years I am still here and still going on, and according to the doctors, I shouldn't be here, but the doctors don't know it all.

Larry Ordner:

That's right. Well, Frank, then you left Honolulu en route to --

Frank Hosendove:

En route to Okinawa.

Larry Ordner:

Okinawa.

Frank Hosendove:

And we stopped at islands along the way.

Larry Ordner:

What was it like seeing those areas then? It was a completely different culture than anything you had ever experienced.

Frank Hosendove:

Yes. I saw something when we went to Sasebo, Japan after we hit the mine. We were towed -- we were 50 miles from shore when it happened, and I think in one of those papers I showed you it gave the time that this happened, and it took 12 hours for the first ship to get to us for help. And the normal depth on our ship was 24 feet. The ship sank to 22 feet, but because the ship was built and used in World War I, it was more solid than the ships --

Larry Ordner:

Tell me what exactly was it like when that happened when that incident occurred?

Frank Hosendove:

Well, when we hit the mine, the whole ship shook and we could hear it.

Larry Ordner:

Did you immediately know what had happened?

Frank Hosendove:

No, not at that instant. At that moment we did not know, but shortly. It was only a few minutes after that we knew about it. But when it happened, it was such a loud noise we wondered what was wrong.

Larry Ordner:

Now, you were still in that convoy, weren't you?

Frank Hosendove:

No, no, we were on our own. We travelled alone from I think we never were in a convoy.

Larry Ordner:

So, when you left Honolulu, you were on your own?

Frank Hosendove:

Oh yes. Any time _ a load of food and head for Okinawa, we were on our own. This one time we were in a convoy, but then we turned off from it when we got to a certain point.

Larry Ordner:

How would you describe what kind of ship that was?

Frank Hosendove:

Well, the ship was solid built. The bulkheads and the outer -- I won't say walls, but I will use that word walls of the ship was made out of three quarter inch steel, the plates on it. And the bulkheads, the partitions in between, it was all the same type of metal, and the boiler room hatches were very heavily made and all those were kept closed at all times. Any time you go through a hatch, you close it behind you. That's what kept my ship from sinking.

Larry Ordner:

It carried a crew of how many men?

Frank Hosendove:

Oh --

Larry Ordner:

Roughly?

Frank Hosendove:

Roughly, I would say 35, and then there were I think about five or six officers on the ship, and then of course we had a cook who had been on there for years. He had enough time to retire while I was on the ship, but they wouldn't let him retire because he was needed; so they said.

Larry Ordner:

Frank, was this an integrated ship?

Frank Hosendove:

Yes. Like I was saying, when I left Hampton, I found out that I was going to be put on a ship as an experiment of a mixed crew, integrated crews, and there were three ships that they used. I don't remember the name of the other two, but they put blacks on all three ships. On mine I had a carpenters mate, a yeoman, ship fitter, and a deck hand. That's when our Captain said we were as much a part of that crew as anybody else. Any problems, don't try to solve them yourself, come to me and I will solve them.

Larry Ordner:

You were in a very historic time?

Frank Hosendove:

Yes.

Larry Ordner:

Did you realize it at the time?

Frank Hosendove:

No, I didn't.

Larry Ordner:

My gosh, this is an amazing event.

Frank Hosendove:

It is not generally known that these three ships were used for that purpose.

Larry Ordner:

This was, again, back in --

Frank Hosendove:

1944.

Larry Ordner:

1944.

Frank Hosendove:

You see, back then the only position a black could have on a ship was either a cook or a cabin boy. They couldn't even be the crew or a deckhand. It was segregated that much.

Larry Ordner:

What do you think finally prompted this?

Frank Hosendove:

Well, maybe the success that we had with those three ships may have had something to do with progress they had made thus far.

Larry Ordner:

Gosh, you were in a historic moment.

Frank Hosendove:

Yes. I didn't realize it at the time, but the more I think about it -- it never come up, I never talked to anybody about it, and I wasn't interviewed or bothered or anything of that nature. It seemed when you were discharged, you were forgotten. Just like these awards that I should have gotten. 56 years and I still haven't received them. Hopefully I get them before I die. At my age, most people don't live that long, but I was hoping that I could get them.

Larry Ordner:

We are going to work on that.

Frank Hosendove:

I appreciate that. Even the American Legion tried to get some information. Remember the letter I showed you? It took me a year to get that. It shouldn't take that long.

Larry Ordner:

No. We are sure going to work on it.

Frank Hosendove:

Appreciate that.

Larry Ordner:

And when you are in next week, we will talk about that in detail.

Frank Hosendove:

Okay.

Larry Ordner:

So Frank, getting back to that time when you encountered that mine, were there injuries on the ship?

Frank Hosendove:

No, not from the mine.

Larry Ordner:

Very fortunate, weren't you?

Frank Hosendove:

Fortunate, but we lost two members after we got to the dry dock.

Larry Ordner:

What happened?

Frank Hosendove:

Well, the dry dock was in Sasebo, Japan, and they had local workers to put scaffolding around the ship after they drain it. In order to drain the ship, the water off, they put scaffold, boards up to support it, and they had scaffold around so you could clean the side of the ship, and whoever was working in the boiler room started the propellers up. The shaft of the propeller was bent, and it made so much noise that the men on the scaffolding walked back to see what the problem was, and the scaffolding separated and two men fell to the bottom of the dry dock. Those were the only casualties we had.

Larry Ordner:

They were men from your ship?

Frank Hosendove:

Yeah.

Larry Ordner:

Did you know them?

Frank Hosendove:

I knew one of them. One of them was a black fella. The other one was I think -- he was a foreigner. Not really foreign if you want to call it that; Filipino or something like that. Young man, couldn't be more than 20 years old. He was a cabin boy. And it was purely an accident. Too many men went back and the scaffolding separated.

Larry Ordner:

How long was it before the ship was pressed back into service?

Frank Hosendove:

Well, I was discharged before they even started working on it. The ship was no longer in service. It was in dry dock. So they shipped the crew back to The States.

Larry Ordner:

What did you do during that time, Frank, that you were over there?

Frank Hosendove:

Well, it was my -- we really didn't have any duties because there was nothing we could do to help repair the ship.

Larry Ordner:

How did you spend your time?

Frank Hosendove:

During the day we would spend time in our work area, and then we would socialize a little bit just talking to each other. Then we were allowed to go into the city, and I saw some things there that I had seen on TV where people, refugees, were carrying their belongings on their back and then wheeled porters and push carts. I actually saw that, and that really touched me because I had seen it in the movies or on the news, but to see it in real life, it touches you a little bit more than it does when you see it in the movies.

Larry Ordner:

Where were you when the announcement came about the bombing?

Frank Hosendove:

I was asleep. It happened oh, about five o'clock in the morning.

Larry Ordner:

How did you hear the news?

Frank Hosendove:

The sound of it woke us up.

Larry Ordner:

Really?

Frank Hosendove:

Oh yeah.

Larry Ordner:

You heard it?

Frank Hosendove:

Oh, yes, definitely. We heard it and we felt it because it rocked us.

Larry Ordner:

This was the first one at Hiroshima; right?

Frank Hosendove:

_.

Larry Ordner:

I am not talking that. I want to know where you were when the bomb --

Frank Hosendove:

When the bomb hit?

Larry Ordner:

In Hiroshima. Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

Frank Hosendove:

I wasn't there.

Larry Ordner:

I know, but where were you when you heard the news of that; that the war was probably going to come to an end?

Frank Hosendove:

Oh, we were at Sasebo, Japan at the dry dock, where our ship was in dry dock. Because what we thought is we would be assigned to another ship, but then when we found out it was over, they shipped us back to The States.

Larry Ordner:

Do you think the people understand, comprehend what had happened, the magnitude?

Frank Hosendove:

You mean the people on the ship?

Larry Ordner:

The people in the Navy, people in general, do you think they understand?

Frank Hosendove:

I think some of them did.

Larry Ordner:

Yeah.

Frank Hosendove:

I think most of them did.

Larry Ordner:

It was awhile before people really understood the magnitude of those bombs.

Frank Hosendove:

Oh, that was true, yes. You see, there is so many -- what happened to the ship. Now, this wasn't a ship that was widely known so the news of that ship hitting a mine wasn't publicized. People back home didn't read about it because they didn't publish that. Only through word of mouth did my family know about it.

Larry Ordner:

Your family did not get a notification?

Frank Hosendove:

As far as I know. They never told me if they did so -- and they -- well, it seemed to me that when the war ended, they were anxious to get as many people out of the service as possible. Had they used any persuasion at all, I probably would have stayed in and made a career out of it, but they were so anxious to get people out, they didn't take the time to give you any instructions or any thought or future in the Navy. Now, I don't know whether it was because I was black that happened because a lot of the -- it wasn't generally known about these three ships that they used for the experiment.

Larry Ordner:

Do you think just because it was viewed as an experiment that it was kept quiet?

Frank Hosendove:

Evidently. And the results of it -- I never heard anything about the results of it. The only thing I knew is what happened on our ship. On the other two ships, we visited one of them, and they had -- the blacks had to sleep in one section, they had to eat in one section. But on our ship, our Captain told us wherever there is a bunk, that is empty bunk, it was ours. Wherever there was an empty seat at the table, sit there and eat. We were just as much a part of this crew as anybody else so we had no problems on our ship.

Larry Ordner:

And how did it work?

Frank Hosendove:

Beautiful; on our ship. The other fellows were segregated on the other two ships although they were on there as part of the experiment.

Larry Ordner:

Do you think part of that experiment on those -- on the other ships was put them on the same ship but keep them segregated? You think that was part of that plan on that other ship?

Frank Hosendove:

I doubt it. I think it was due to the Captain.

Larry Ordner:

Is that right?

Frank Hosendove:

Personally. Our Captain evidently did not believe in segregation. He knew --

Larry Ordner:

What was his name, Frank?

Frank Hosendove:

I don't know.

Larry Ordner:

You don't recall?

Frank Hosendove:

I don't remember his name. They either -- he became ill, and they took him off, and one of the junior officers took over for him. I don't remember any of their names.

Larry Ordner:

Did he share some of the same beliefs?

Frank Hosendove:

The junior officer, he went along with the program that the Captain had in operation.

Larry Ordner:

It would be interesting for that period of time to be researched.

Frank Hosendove:

Well, if you can find out the Captain's name, you can find out the name of the other two ships.

Larry Ordner:

Say the name of your ship again.

Frank Hosendove:

USS Bridge. It was a refrigerator ship that was used in World War I.

Larry Ordner:

Pressed into service again?

Frank Hosendove:

Uh-huh. And I am thankful that it was. If it hadn't been, we would have been on the bottom of the ocean because the modern ships they were making wouldn't stand that kind of kind of a hole big enough to --

Larry Ordner:

For many years the modern ships were very hastily constructed?

Frank Hosendove:

Yes, they were. They called them Victory Ships, and if a mine hit one of those, it is gone. It would probably tear it apart. But this just made a hole where the mine hit, but it was big enough you could drive a car in.

Larry Ordner:

Wow. (END OF INTERVIEW FOR THE DAY.) (CONTINUATION OF INTERVIEW.)

Larry Ordner:

All right, we are picking up on another day with Frank Hosendove. Frank, tell me now, you were on your ship which was the Bridge?

Frank Hosendove:

Yes.

Larry Ordner:

Was there ever any interaction between the other two ships?

Frank Hosendove:

Not really, but one time we were in the same area, and we were allowed to go visit some of our classmates, and that's when we discovered that they were segregated to an extent.

Larry Ordner:

Now, your -- the men on your ship, you were aware of this experiment. It became evident to you?

Frank Hosendove:

Yes.

Larry Ordner:

Were you aware of the role of the other ships?

Frank Hosendove:

Not until we visited them the one time.

Larry Ordner:

Tell me about that visit.

Frank Hosendove:

Well, we went over and we had dinner with them, but we had to sit in a certain area. We couldn't sit with the other caucasian crew.

Larry Ordner:

Right. Was that at the request of the Captain of the other ship?

Frank Hosendove:

I wouldn't know about that part, but evidently it was. Otherwise, they would have been able to sit wherever they wanted to and sleep wherever they wanted.

Larry Ordner:

You could on your ship?

Frank Hosendove:

On my ship, yes.

Larry Ordner:

But not on the one --

Frank Hosendove:

On the other one, the fellows told us that they had to sleep in a certain area, they had to eat in a certain area. Then on our ship it wasn't like that.

Larry Ordner:

What was it like going from your ship to that other ship and then having to be back into that kind of situation?

Frank Hosendove:

Well, I am happy that I was where I was rather than being there because I would have been very unhappy even serving. Of course, I would have done my duty, but I wouldn't have been happy inwardly and that's it.

Larry Ordner:

Did it seem odd to you or the frustration that the Navy could be operating in one manner on your ship and in another manner on another ship?

Frank Hosendove:

Not really because it had been going on for so many years that you know what is happening so you just take it in your stride. There is nothing you can do about it.

Larry Ordner:

But now there was a third ship; right?

Frank Hosendove:

Yes, there was a third one. I don't remember the names of them, but there was three ships that they used. I only remember mine because I was attached to it.

Larry Ordner:

Yeah.

Frank Hosendove:

But they had the same problem on the other ship too; so I was told. But basically, I figured our ship was what -- got the results that they hoped they would get by experimenting in that respect. Other than that, I don't know much about what happened.

Larry Ordner:

Do you think, Frank, that project was by -- it was clearly by design?

Frank Hosendove:

Evidently. Because when I finished training at Hampton Institute, I had no idea where I was going or what I was going to do, but later I discovered that these three ships were to be manned by the graduates of that school, and I don't remember now if there was five sets of each one or whatever, what the number was, but I remember I think it was five on our ship. The thing worked well. We only had one altercation and that was between the bosun's mate and one of our men, and they decided to settle it with boxing gloves, but the funny -- the bosun's mate, he was husky and shaped like a boxer, but what he didn't know was that the other fellow had some awards as a boxer.

Larry Ordner:

Really?

Frank Hosendove:

And he was small. He was a light weight, but --

Larry Ordner:

Now, may I ask you, was race an issue?

Frank Hosendove:

I don't know what caused it.

Larry Ordner:

Okay.

Frank Hosendove:

But I guess one of the officers found out and made them stop it.

Larry Ordner:

Officers, right.

Frank Hosendove:

But no damage was done. This fellow _ about his business. He was fast and small, and he jumped in and hit him and jumped back so the other fellow just couldn't get a -- if he would have hit him, he probably would have knocked the wind out of him. He was just built like that; that strong.

Larry Ordner:

Frank, did you ever feel like when you were on your ship and you were performing your duties out there, did you feel that you were being targeted out there on your ship?

Frank Hosendove:

Not really.

Larry Ordner:

Did you ever feel that you could have been have been _ earlier out there?

Frank Hosendove:

No, I never really felt that way. In fact, it was a new experience, and believe it or not, I had never been on the ocean before, but I had no fear. And I think basically the reason I didn't have any fear was because I have trust in God to take care of me. And I believe our Captain was a religious man too. I think I stated that once before, but I firmly believe that he was or he wouldn't have had the attitude towards people when they came aboard the ship, and that was one of the reasons I enjoyed what I was doing because I was treated just like everybody else. I was one of the crowd and that makes a big difference. When you feel you are part of an organization, then you feel comfortable and you do your best to carry out your duties to the best of your ability.

Larry Ordner:

Rather than maybe just performing duties?

Frank Hosendove:

That's right; just enough to get by. But I enjoyed mine, and it was quite interesting. I got to see some of the world I wouldn't have seen.

Larry Ordner:

Frank, could you tell me about some of the places you were able to visit?

Frank Hosendove:

Only two. That was only -- we were able to get off the ship at Okinawa. That was the only beach. We didn't get to go into the town.

Larry Ordner:

What do you remember about that visit?

Frank Hosendove:

One thing vividly in my mind, and I will never forget it. There was a little tree, couldn't have been more than eight inches in diameter, and there was a human body leaning against that tree with no head, and of course as long as you stay up wind you are all right. Downwind wasn't very pleasant. That was there. And the other one was in Sasebo, Japan. We were able to get off the ship, and we went into town _ and I think --

Larry Ordner:

Roughly this would have been what; maybe late '45 early '46?

Frank Hosendove:

Probably '45. Now when I first boarded the ship, of course we were supposed to have boarded in San Francisco, but it had left. So I got on another ship and went to Honolulu, and that is where I boarded the ship. That was our base of operations. From there to Okinawa. Other than that, everything was pretty normal. Like I said, I enjoyed it. We did have to fight a couple of times.

Larry Ordner:

Tell me about the circumstances of those necessary times when you did fight.

Frank Hosendove:

The one I remember most was at Okinawa when the Japanese were making air raids and it was in the evening. They didn't do it too much in the day time. They would come in the evening, and of course I didn't have to fire a gun because I was on a repair crew, and my station was below deck where tools and things were where we had to use them, and we did fire on some of the aircraft that were coming in. One dived into one of the ships close to us and several people were killed. They hit a gun turret.

Larry Ordner:

On your ship?

Frank Hosendove:

Not mine; another ship next to us.

Larry Ordner:

Okay.

Frank Hosendove:

And you see, when they anchored the ships, they leave enough space so if they swing completely around they can't touch. That was the rule of anchoring. Otherwise, you would have a lot of damage to the ships. This was just far away that it didn't hurt us, but I understand that the force of the explosion was so great that it went down the smoke stack and burned some people in the lower part of the ship. Other than that, the other time we fired at a submarine and, if I remember it correctly, that was about all the firing activity we had.

Larry Ordner:

And you were always alone out there?

Frank Hosendove:

Yes, we travelled alone. As I stated earlier, I guess they classified us somewhat as a fighting ship because we had 13 guns on it, but we didn't have a large crew. I said 25. It might have been a few more than that; somewhere between 25 and 50 people, the crew, but I don't recall exactly. I know they had about five officers on there.

Larry Ordner:

Frank, after -- immediately -- now, you were discharged soon after the end of the war. The war ended I guess it was probably in about August '45, wasn't it, or thereabouts?

Frank Hosendove:

I don't remember when it was --

Larry Ordner:

You were discharged the first of '46?

Frank Hosendove:

Yes.

Larry Ordner:

How soon after the end of the war was it that you could return home?

Frank Hosendove:

Well, if the war ended in August, as you said, it was in January.

Larry Ordner:

What did you do during that period?

Frank Hosendove:

We still _.

Larry Ordner:

Okay. Was there still -- was there an occupational force being put into Japan at that time?

Frank Hosendove:

That I couldn't answer it. We weren't aware of what was going on. We didn't get very much news pertaining to what things -- the way things were going.

Larry Ordner:

When you did, were you aware you were going to be discharged?

Frank Hosendove:

No.

Larry Ordner:

How did you get word that was going to happen?

Frank Hosendove:

After our ship hit the mine that's when _. Otherwise, we might have made some more trips. I don't know. It seems to me that the Captain told us that would be our last trip when we went just before we hit that mine. It would be our last trip, and we were going to take a scenic route back to The States, and that is when we hit the mine.

Larry Ordner:

I'll be darned.

Frank Hosendove:

And we were 50 miles out from land when we hit it.

Larry Ordner:

Roughly, where were you?

Frank Hosendove:

We were 50 miles from Sasebo, Japan.

Larry Ordner:

Wow.

Frank Hosendove:

That is where the dry dock was. Like I said, I am glad nobody was hurt when that happened. I stated earlier that we did lose two men who fell to the bottom of the dry dock. Other than that, everything went well.

Larry Ordner:

Tell me about the return home.

Frank Hosendove:

Well, we returned home on a Victory Ship and one of the worst experiences of my life. As we learned later, the stabilizer on the Victory Ship on one side was missing so it had a tendency to list to one side and we were caught in a storm. The ship just rocked and after the storm, though we had survived the storm, we had learned that if the ship had listed 10 degrees more we would have turned over and sunk in the ocean. So, once again, I said God was with us and nobody was hurt or anything.

Larry Ordner:

Where did you arrive back on US soil?

Frank Hosendove:

San Francisco.

Larry Ordner:

San Francisco. What was your reaction just getting back on US soil?

Frank Hosendove:

Well, I was glad it was over and looking forward to going home, but after I got home, and I didn't think much about it at the time, I regretted that I didn't stay in, and the reason I didn't stay in was because they did not encourage anybody to stay in. I think they wanted to get as many people out of the service as possible, and I would have made a career out of it, but I waited too late to do anything about it.

Larry Ordner:

You have some -- not that people necessary carry regrets with them, but you sometimes wish that you had explored that possibility?

Frank Hosendove:

I have thought on it, but I didn't dwell on it.

Larry Ordner:

Uh-huh.

Frank Hosendove:

I knew that I was going to make it. I had enough faith in God that I was going to make it.

Larry Ordner:

Frank, were you able to use any of your GI benefits?

Frank Hosendove:

Yes, I got home, and I had my eligibility slip in with my discharge. I wanted to bring it and show it to you, but it wasn't where I thought I put it so I have to find it. But other than that, I didn't use any of it, schooling or anything of that nature. I had a family to take care of, and back then the Depression hadn't completely subsided. Salaries were very low so I couldn't even go back to college and finish my education which was back in the early '30s when I went to college. But other than that, I lived a normal life. I have survived, and I am still surviving; thanks to God for that. Otherwise, I have no regrets. I look back upon that experience as something that if they hadn't passed -- if they had passed the law sooner than they did I never would have experienced it. As I said, I was drafted at age 32, and about three months later they passed the law nobody over 30, but I appreciate the experience and I look back on it.

Larry Ordner:

Tell me about when you consider what the US pulled together to do in World War II? How does that make you feel that you were part of that effort?

Frank Hosendove:

Because of the success of it. And I was a part of it. I felt good about it, and I was thankful I didn't have to kill...I was thankful that I didn't have to shoot to kill anybody because that would have remained on my mind the rest of my life. I don't believe in... (END OF SIDE A OF TAPE ONE.) (BEGINNING OF SIDE B OF TAPE ONE.)

Frank Hosendove:

I appreciate the experience. It took me away from my family for almost two years, but I did have some leave in between and that way it didn't seem too bad.

Larry Ordner:

Can I ask you about your family at that time? What was it like for a family, your family, to cope with a husband and father being away?

Frank Hosendove:

Well, my wife seemed to have done real well. Her mother lived next door to us so that helped a lot; mother and stepfather, and that helped a lot. My daughter was in school and so they did fairly well. Of course, living was a little cheaper back then than it was -- than it is now, but the allotment that she got and I sent her some of what I had.

Larry Ordner:

Frank, was it hard at all to become a civilian again after being in the Navy?

Frank Hosendove:

My transition was easy. I adjust easy to any situation; been that way all my life. And so there was no problem as far as me adjusting, readjusting, to civilian life. My biggest problem was getting a job that paid enough to support my family.

Larry Ordner:

Were jobs hard to come by at that time?

Frank Hosendove:

Yep, they were. The Depression hadn't completely cleared up even in the '60s _. I know when I came back I worked at a job for two years because I couldn't find anything else. I earned a dollar a day working from seven in the evening to seven the next morning. That's 12 hours a day which come out to a little over eight cents an hour, but we got by. Later after I left there, then each job that I got paid a little bit more, and finally I was getting a halfway decent salary.

Larry Ordner:

Frank, can I ask you at the time you came back to Evansville, what was Evansville's attitude? How were blacks -- what was it like being a black man in Evansville at that time?

Frank Hosendove:

At that time there was always discrimination back then even after the war. There was still places that blacks weren't allowed to go. In the theatres you had to sit in the balcony. Some of the smaller theatres only had room for eight or 10 people, and if they were filled up, you had to wait until the next movie before you could get in. And you couldn't go into restaurants, certain restaurants, and sit down and eat. Of course, the streetcars you could sit in where there was a seat. There was no segregation on the streetcars. But in restaurants, yes. Some of the restaurants wouldn't accommodate us, but being black we were accustomed to being segregated, and it didn't hurt as much as it did the younger people coming along who weren't used to it. So we just adjusted to the conditions under which we had to live. And right now things are not what they ought to be, but they are getting better. There are still a lot of improvements that can be made, and eventually everything is going to be the same. As I said, I believe what the Bible said that God made man. He didn't say color. When he made him, he didn't put any particular color on him. So in that respect, I feel I am just as good as anybody on the face of this earth regardless of what color they might be. I may not have as much, but I feel I am just as good as anybody.

Larry Ordner:

Frank, I appreciate your telling the story and being part of The Veterans History Project. You had a very unique story that I don't think has ever been told on tape before, and I hope that some day maybe that can be researched further because you were a real part of a very unique experience.

Frank Hosendove:

I realize that. Let me ask you this. I know you are not going to use everything that is on this tape, but whatever you take out from your report that goes into the archives --

Larry Ordner:

Actually, the tape will go.

Frank Hosendove:

The whole tape?

Larry Ordner:

Yep. It won't be edited.

Frank Hosendove:

Oh.

Larry Ordner:

No. It is unedited and it goes in just like this.

Frank Hosendove:

Okay, I am glad to hear that. You will have to mark that tape and make sure it doesn't get mixed up with anything else.

Larry Ordner:

Frank, it is a pleasure to meet you.

Frank Hosendove:

Nice meeting you.

Larry Ordner:

And I look forward to working with you on that separate matter, on the medals. Thanks so much for doing this.

Frank Hosendove:

I have to get that paper to you so you have the information. When I go home, I will look for them, and the address on the...(END OF SIDE B OF TAPE ONE.)

[END OF INTERVIEW]

 
Home » Text Transcript
  The Library of Congress  >> American Folklife Center
  October 26, 2011
  Legal | External Link Disclaimer Need Help?   
Contact Us