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Interview with Joseph Milton Hand [1/29/2003]

Michael Willie:

January 29th, 2003. And this is the beginning of an interview with Joseph Milton Hand at the Erlanger HealthLink Plus office, 975 East Third Street, Chattanooga, Tennessee. Mr. Hand was born on January 31st, 1921 and is now 81 years old. My name is Michael Willie, and I will conduct this interview. Mr. Hand, could you state for the recording your name and spelling it, please.

Joseph Milton Hand:

My name is Joseph Hand. H-A-N-D.

Michael Willie:

And during which wars did you serve, sir?

Joseph Milton Hand:

I served during World War II and the Korean War.

Michael Willie:

Okay. And which branch of service?

Joseph Milton Hand:

In the United States Army.

Michael Willie:

Okay. And what was your highest rank attained?

Joseph Milton Hand:

My highest rank was lieutenant colonel.

Michael Willie:

Okay. And where were you born, Mr. Hand?

Joseph Milton Hand:

I was born in Atlanta, Georgia.

Michael Willie:

All right. Tell me about your family. Did you have any brothers or sisters?

Joseph Milton Hand:

I had two brothers and two sisters.

Michael Willie:

Okay. What were their ages relative to yours?

Joseph Milton Hand:

I'm in the middle.

Michael Willie:

Okay. Older brothers, younger brothers?

Joseph Milton Hand:

I had one older brother, and both my sisters were older, and I have one brother younger.

Michael Willie:

Okay. All right. And now, did you spend all of your formative years in Atlanta, or were you raised there through school?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Yes.

Michael Willie:

All right. And tell me about your education. Did you finish high school in Atlanta?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Yes, Boys High School.

Michael Willie:

Okay. And let's see. So you graduated from high school, and what do you do?

Joseph Milton Hand:

After I graduated from high school I worked for Dortch Baking Company for a short time, part time. I was going to school at night.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And then in the daytime I worked for them.

Michael Willie:

Okay. And where were you going to school?

Joseph Milton Hand:

I was -- I was going to Commercial High, which was a commercial school. I was taking business courses.

Michael Willie:

Okay. All right.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And then also I went to school at the University of Georgia, evening college.

Michael Willie:

Okay. All right. So did you know what you wanted to do with your life at that time?

Joseph Milton Hand:

No. No, I didn't.

Michael Willie:

No idea? All right. So let's see. This would be probably around, what, '39, '40?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Yeah, up -- I went in the Army in '42, so --

Michael Willie:

Okay. All right. So all the way --

Joseph Milton Hand:

Yeah, it took up that period, yeah.

Michael Willie:

Did you graduate from -- did you get a degree before you went off to war?

Joseph Milton Hand:

I did not get a degree.

Michael Willie:

Okay. All right. So you joined the service in '42. Did you join or were you drafted?

Joseph Milton Hand:

I was drafted.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

I was invited by my friends and neighbors, according to the thing I received. So I decided to go along with it.

Michael Willie:

Well, you know, you don't want to let them down.

Joseph Milton Hand:

No.

Michael Willie:

Okay. So you're drafted.

Joseph Milton Hand:

Right.

Michael Willie:

Now, your brother, was he of age at that time to be drafted also?

Joseph Milton Hand:

He went in before, you know, before the war started on that one-year deal.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And then so he was, you know, in also. And then my younger brother, he was in too.

Michael Willie:

Oh, really?

Joseph Milton Hand:

So all three of us were in at the same time.

Michael Willie:

How much younger was you than he?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Six years.

Michael Willie:

How did you feel about going in the service, being drafted?

Joseph Milton Hand:

It was -- I didn't know what to expect. I knew that my country needed me.

Michael Willie:

You were invited.

Joseph Milton Hand:

Yes. So I felt that I should go. But I was just waiting until them to tell me when, so --

Michael Willie:

Gotcha. Okay. So you're drafted in 19 -- around what time of year was it that you were drafted?

Joseph Milton Hand:

July the 14th --

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

-- 1942.

Michael Willie:

Okay. So you were right there in the middle of --

Joseph Milton Hand:

Right.

Michael Willie:

Okay. All right. So you're drafted. And where do you report, first of all, for induction?

Joseph Milton Hand:

To Fort McPherson in Atlanta.

Michael Willie:

Okay. Well, that's not too bad. Was that induction?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Yes.

Michael Willie:

Okay. And what goes -- what went on at Fort McPherson? What were you doing there?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Well, at Fort McPherson it was processing and issuing of clothing and so forth. And they -- you go down to the supply, and you -- and they start giving you all of your clothing.

Michael Willie:

Um-hum.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And then at the end of the row they gave you a big overcoat, which we called a dog blanket. And by that time my arms were so full, I almost hit the floor when that big overcoat hit me.

Michael Willie:

All right. And then from that point where are you sent? Are you sent to --

Joseph Milton Hand:

Well, they gave me two weeks then to clear out my business. I didn't have any business, but -- but I appreciated the two weeks.

Michael Willie:

Right. So you get to go home? Do you have all your equipment and everything with you then?

Joseph Milton Hand:

No, no. I left it there.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And then they sent me to Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Michael Willie:

Cheyenne?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Fort Francis E. Warren.

Michael Willie:

Fort Francis E. Warren?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Yeah. That is now -- that was an old calvary post then which they made a quarter master post. So I was assigned to the quarter master. But now it's an Air Force base.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

It's a missile command headquarters.

Michael Willie:

Okay. Now, explain what the difference is between quarter master in the Army is a quarter master -- well, what is a quarter master for in the --

Joseph Milton Hand:

The quarter master takes care of all the clothing and the food of the troops.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

Of all branches of the service. That is the branch. The quarter master is a branch.

Michael Willie:

Okay. Now, how -- how are you assigned here? Is there like testing or things at the induction center or they just pick names and forth?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Well, as -- what they went by was your skill level. So, like I said, I had been working in a bakery part time.

Michael Willie:

Gotcha.

Joseph Milton Hand:

So they gave me a test on bakery, and ended up it was a skilled profession.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

So that is part of the quarter master.

Michael Willie:

Gotcha. Gotcha. Okay. So when you go up to Wyoming, explain what you're doing up here in Fort Francis E. Warren.

Joseph Milton Hand:

Okay. Fort Francis E. Warren, we had been on the train for about five days.

Michael Willie:

Um-hum.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And we got off of the train, and they immediately sent us out to the drill field to drill. And as you know, the -- the air is thinner in Wyoming than it is in Atlanta, Georgia. So I lasted about 30 minutes and passed out. So I spent the next three days in the hospital. They were trying to find out what was wrong with me, but -- and then I started the basic training.

Michael Willie:

Okay. So nobody else had that trouble?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Not that I know of.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

I don't know. I wasn't asking around about it, so --

Michael Willie:

Okay. So that's how you started the basic training.

Joseph Milton Hand:

Right.

Michael Willie:

Okay. And what was basic training like for you?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Basic training was close order drill. In other words, hut two, three, four, right face, left face, and to the rear march and all this stuff. And that lasted for two or three weeks. And then they started training us, indoctrinating us on what the Army was all about.

Michael Willie:

Okay. So did you take to it pretty well?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Oh, yeah. Yeah, I made fine.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

In fact, they had me drilling the troops before I left there.

Michael Willie:

Really? Really?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Yes.

Michael Willie:

Okay. So how long were you actually there at Fort Warren?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Oh, I was there for the rest of July and August, into September.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And then I -- I didn't feel that I was contributing too much as a baker in the Army. So I was -- so I wanted to get into something a little more challenging. So I asked them -- I was a Seventh Day Adventist, so I asked them to transfer me to the medical corps.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

Because that way then I felt they could work me seven days a week if they wanted to and I would be treating patients and so forth and it wouldn't be a problem.

Michael Willie:

Right.

Joseph Milton Hand:

So commanding officer says, there's a war going on. There's no way you're going to get a transfer. So I said, well, just put the paperwork in for me, sir.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

So he did. And a week later I was on a train heading for Camp Barkeley, Texas in the medical department.

Michael Willie:

Okay. All right. So you were sent to the medical corps. Did you say Camp Barkeley, Texas?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Camp Barkeley, Texas. That's near Abilene.

Michael Willie:

What were you doing at Camp Barkeley, Texas? Did you have any medical background at all or any --

Joseph Milton Hand:

Very little.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

Very little. But -- but I did take some basic medical training there at Camp Barkeley.

Michael Willie:

Okay. All right.

Joseph Milton Hand:

In fact, Lew Ayres was one of my instructors. He taught me how to give shots.

Michael Willie:

I'll be darned.

Joseph Milton Hand:

So that was interesting. But then on the 31st of October they assigned me to Fitzsimons General Hospital, along with several others.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

So we caught a train for it to Denver, Colorado.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And then I took that surgical technician course for two months.

Michael Willie:

Okay. Now, is this -- where is this being conducted? Is this at a university or is this --

Joseph Milton Hand:

No. It's an Army hospital.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

Fitzsimons General Hospital. And at that time the hospital was designated to handle TB cases.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

But we had instructors other than the ones that worked for the hospital. They brought in instructors to instruct us. We had surgical technicians, we had medical technicians, dental technicians, pharmacy, x-ray, lab. And then each one of them had their own classes and instructors.

Michael Willie:

Okay. So coming out of this class, what are you expect -- what kind of -- you're going to have knowledge. What are your capabilities going to be once you get out?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Okay. A surgical technician assists in operations in the operating room.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And then treating all surgical patients. So that's -- so I was assigned then to a station hospital in New Orleans.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

Which was a staging area at the time. And --

Michael Willie:

Staging area for where?

Joseph Milton Hand:

That was for -- you didn't know where you were going.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

But they were forming units.

Michael Willie:

Oh, okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And assigning personnel.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

So we were getting in every day personnel for -- mostly enlisted personnel and doctors and medical service corps officers.

Michael Willie:

Okay. And what were you actually doing?

Joseph Milton Hand:

I was -- more basic training.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And then I was -- they put me in an office because I knew how to type. And they had me bringing all the personnel records up-to-date --

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

-- and processing the individuals as they came in.

Michael Willie:

Gotcha.

Joseph Milton Hand:

So that lasted from January until April.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And then --

Michael Willie:

Now, we're talking January until April of '43?

Joseph Milton Hand:

This was '43, yes.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

1943.

Michael Willie:

Okay. And then where do you go?

Joseph Milton Hand:

And then they -- I had applied for officer's candidate school, and I passed all their tests and exams and so forth. And I was waiting for the next class to start when our unit was alerted to go to Camp Shanks, New York.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

So we took a troop train up to Camp Shanks, New York, which was a new post. Muddy. Mud up to your knees.

Michael Willie:

Right.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And that way -- and then we were assigned more personnel. We were assigned our nurses.

Michael Willie:

Right.

Joseph Milton Hand:

Because we had our enlisted men and we had most of our doctors. So then they brought the nurses in. Most of them came in from the Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin area.

Michael Willie:

Okay. All right. Now, first of all, were you -- how long were you actually at Camp Shanks?

Joseph Milton Hand:

At Camp Shanks? The colonel says -- told me, he says, now, I don't know how long we're going to be there, so we'll just wait, take you with us, and then when your class starts, we will send you out. Two weeks later I was on a ship to North Africa.

Michael Willie:

I was going to say that's a little funny because the boat's leaving.

Joseph Milton Hand:

Yeah, sure.

Michael Willie:

All right. Well, were you able to go into New York at all?

Joseph Milton Hand:

No, no.

Michael Willie:

Did you actually stay there?

Joseph Milton Hand:

We were -- we couldn't get a pass.

Michael Willie:

You're heading out?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Yeah.

Michael Willie:

How did you feel about that?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Well, I thought it was rather adventuresome.

Michael Willie:

Were you looking forward to it, were you anxious?

Joseph Milton Hand:

I was -- I was -- I didn't know what was going to happen.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

But I was always the adventuresome type anyways. So I was kinda looking forward to it and --

Michael Willie:

Now, had you ever been out on the ocean before?

Joseph Milton Hand:

No, no.

Michael Willie:

How did you handle the trip in the boat?

Joseph Milton Hand:

I handled it quite well. It was on the Cristobal, was the name of the ship.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And it was a former banana boat, and they had equipped it to handle about 500 people. And we had over 2,000 on the boat.

Michael Willie:

Man.

Joseph Milton Hand:

So --

Michael Willie:

Including the nurses?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Yeah, that's including all of us. We were all on the ship together.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And then we had -- sleeping arrangements were a little different from what we'd been used to. They had these pull-down canvas cots that pulled down. There's four, you know, tiers of four. So you was assigned a bunk for eight hours. And then you had to -- you had to get up because another guy had it for eight hours.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And then another guy had it for eight hours, and then it was your turn again.

Michael Willie:

Again, so you were sleeping in shifts, basically.

Joseph Milton Hand:

Right, sleeping in shifts.

Michael Willie:

What are you doing the rest of the time when you're not in your bed?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Well, I went up to the -- to the operating room and to ask them if they didn't need some -- a surgical technician or something up there. And they said, yeah, we can. We can use you. So then I got out of that arrangement, and I got sheets and a bed and so forth. I was in the hospital.

Michael Willie:

That's not bad.

Joseph Milton Hand:

So that wasn't bad at all. And then we were in a ship of 101 ships in a convoy.

Michael Willie:

101.

Joseph Milton Hand:

Right. And this was --

Michael Willie:

And was this going over to Africa?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Yeah. This was April of '43. And then we encountered submarines on the way over.

Michael Willie:

Okay. About where were you around this point?

Joseph Milton Hand:

You know, we had been out about a week.

Michael Willie:

Okay. And --

Joseph Milton Hand:

Right out in the middle of the Atlantic.

Michael Willie:

Okay. And again, any idea how many submarines in that?

Joseph Milton Hand:

No, no. And we hoped there was less by the time they passed through, because we were dropping what were called ash cans, which were depth charges, and, of course, it was rocking the ships, and we would pass by areas where they was all coming up through the water.

Michael Willie:

Um-hum.

Joseph Milton Hand:

But we didn't know whether they'd actually hit a submarine, or some of the submarines would release oil to make you think you had hit them.

Michael Willie:

Gotcha.

Joseph Milton Hand:

So we got through that encounter. And then we had a breakout of dysentery on the ship. Now, you can imagine that many people, we didn't have the latrine facilities to take care of it.

Michael Willie:

Right, right.

Joseph Milton Hand:

So we had them using their helmets and everything else on the deck.

Michael Willie:

Um-hum.

Joseph Milton Hand:

It was quite a mess for about three days.

Michael Willie:

Right. Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

But then we got through that.

Michael Willie:

Well, how were you dealing with the dysentery?

Joseph Milton Hand:

We gave them mostly paregoric bismuth to treat it.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

But it would take them two or three days to -- the bismuth to take care of it. And then we encountered some stormy weather after that.

Michael Willie:

Oh, boy. All right.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And then --

Michael Willie:

How are you dealing with stormy weather if you're sleeping in shifts? Because you have to be off deck; right?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Well, yes. Most of us would come on deck when they would let us, but then we had to make room for all the gun crews because we had them to contend with too. They had the right-of-way everywhere to get to their guns.

Michael Willie:

Right.

Joseph Milton Hand:

But then they got -- they started getting sick, seasick, and I guess about half of the people were seasick there for -- until we got through the storm. And then other than that, it was an uneventful voyage.

Michael Willie:

That's not uneventful. It sounds like you might have had a couple of good days in there. All right. So you end up in North Africa. Where do you land in North Africa?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Well, we went through the Strait of Gibraltar, and then we landed at Oran just in time to be in the middle of an air-raid.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

So it was complete blackout. And then we had to disembark from the ship and had gotten in trucks. And then they took us out about three miles outside Oran to what they call Goat Hill. It was out in the middle of vineyards and told to us pitch our pup tents.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

Pup tents for an enlisted man, you had one shelter half and the other guy had another shelter half. You put your two shelter halves together and you had room to sleep in there. But the officers, they had a pup tent all to themselves.

Michael Willie:

I'll be darned.

Joseph Milton Hand:

So I says, man, I think it would pay to be an officer. So I learned early. So then after we -- they started farming us out to two different units that needed personnel until they decided to ship us out. So they assigned me to a German prison camp.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And --

Michael Willie:

And where was that? Was that in Oran?

Joseph Milton Hand:

It was outside of Oran. St. Cloud.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And this was a German prison camp where they were processing Rommel's troops to send them back to the United States.

Michael Willie:

As prisoners.

Joseph Milton Hand:

As prisoners. And then they -- after they got here, they -- part of them they let them work agricultural thing and prison camps. But I says, there's something wrong here. I'm processing prisoners to send them back where I want to go.

Michael Willie:

Where you want to be.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And I'm staying over here. So anyway, we handled it for about three weeks.

Michael Willie:

About three weeks. About how many prisoners do you think they took of Rommel's troops?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Oh, thousands and thousands. And they had several of these prison camps like we had. But it was tens of thousands that we took. Because they couldn't leave the continent because we had them trapped. But some of them, though, had escaped before that into Sicily. So by the time we started invading Sicily, they had about 300,000 troops in Sicily, the Germans did.

Michael Willie:

Let me ask you this in closing on that. When you're processing the prisoners of war, are you actually in contact with the prisoners at that time?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Oh, yeah.

Michael Willie:

Or is it just --

Joseph Milton Hand:

Well, I'm treating them.

Michael Willie:

Right.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And then helping to process them. Of course, we had to bring them in and de-louse them and give them more clothing and stuff like that. So that's -- and then any of them that had any problems, we treated those.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

We had two doctors. And then we had one German doctor who worked with us. And then we had a couple of German prisoners who were medics who worked with us too.

Michael Willie:

Gotcha. Now, how were -- you know, how were the prisoners being treated or how were they accepting the treatment? Was it very civil, very --

Joseph Milton Hand:

They very arrogant.

Michael Willie:

Were they?

Joseph Milton Hand:

These were Rommel's troops. They thought they were Superman. And they were very arrogant, but they also took -- had to take discipline, which they were treated very good by the American forces.

Michael Willie:

Okay. All right. And so they're shipped over basically on ships; right?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Yeah. They were all shipped out on ships.

Michael Willie:

All right. So you're there processing these guys for a few weeks.

Joseph Milton Hand:

Yes.

Michael Willie:

Then where do you go from there?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Well, and then they brought all of our unit back together on Goat Hill.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And then by that time, we had received our hospital equipment. That's the equipment for a 500-bed hospital.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

So we had a train, a World War I type train that was -- that had cars for eight men and 20 horse, 20 horses.

Michael Willie:

Um-hum.

Joseph Milton Hand:

Excuse me. I got that backwards. Eight horses and 20 men.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

So we loaded all of our equipment into that.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And then our personnel, who we had some -- we had to assign enlisted personnel to guard each car. Because as we went through the towns, the Arabs would try to steal everything they could.

Michael Willie:

Yeah.

Joseph Milton Hand:

So a lot of the enlisted men did that. And then we had some old type coach cars, wooden ones for the nurses and so forth and part of the enlisted men. So I slept up in the luggage rack for about five days going along. But on the way, we were going up through the Atlas Mountains, and our French engineer -- there was a lot of French, you know, in North Africa. French colonials. And we had a French engineer. But he got a little upset about something, stopped the train way up in the mountains and walked off and left us. So there we were, a full train, not knowing when another train would be along. But, fortunately, they got in touch with the railway battalion, which was American, and then they came down and took our train into the next city. But some of those Frenchmen can be very temperamental.

Michael Willie:

Right. Okay. Now, okay. So where do you end up?

Joseph Milton Hand:

That took us five days.

Michael Willie:

Five days.

Joseph Milton Hand:

Five days.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And 900 miles to Bizerte in North Africa. Bizerte was a city that was devastated. Every building was damaged in the whole city. And it was also our port city. So they sent us about three miles out of Bizerte, and they set up what they call hospital row. So they had four hospitals there, each one designated to take care of a certain category of people: One heart, brain surgery, one psychiatric. We were designated as an extremities hospital which took care of all the orthopedic cases.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

So we set the hospital up in tents, but the ground -- this was in the latter part of June. Hadn't rained since April. The ground was so hard that every time we tried to drive a tent peg in the ground, it would break. They were wooden tent pegs. So we had to contact the engineers and get some jackhammers. So we would take the jackhammer, make a hole for the tent peg and then put the tent peg in it and firm it up.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

But we were set up in hospitals that way. We had two or three Quonset hut type buildings. One was for the operating room. These were tin buildings. You know, half a barrel type, you know.

Michael Willie:

Um-hum.

Joseph Milton Hand:

So we had to convert that into an operating facility.

Michael Willie:

Okay. How difficult is that?

Joseph Milton Hand:

That is most difficult. You have to use a lot of Yankee ingenuity.

Michael Willie:

Did you have engineers there with you?

Joseph Milton Hand:

We had some in putting the buildings up.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

But we didn't have any to pitch the tents. So then we had to divide up these Quonset huts, you know, for different operating rooms, scrub rooms, central supply, orthopedic rooms, and et cetera. So then they had to engineer a facility for washing their hands, the surgeons. So they cut barrels in two for sinks. And then they got cans of water and put hoses to them and connected them to a little footpedal so they could scrub up for the cases. So that was the type of engineering that we had to do on our own.

Michael Willie:

Make do with what you had.

Joseph Milton Hand:

Right. Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

Now, in addition to setting up the operating room, we also had to set up an EENT clinic. Had to set up a dental clinic. We had x-ray, lab, pharmacy, all these other things, and supply. We had to set up all those also. And then we had to put all the beds in the tents after we got them up for the patients. And then they would assign the patients and the enlisted men. I was in charge of all the surgical technicians.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

So I had 52 men that I was responsible for, to see that they were in their right places and assign them to take care of the needs of the wards and operating room and clinics and so forth.

Michael Willie:

Okay. Now, how long does it take to put together a hospital on the fly like this?

Joseph Milton Hand:

We put this up in about three weeks.

Michael Willie:

Three weeks.

Joseph Milton Hand:

Three weeks. But, I mean, everyone was working day and night.

Michael Willie:

Right.

Joseph Milton Hand:

Because we had to get ready for the invasion of Sicily. Now, we were operational by the 1st of July. And then the invasion of Sicily started the 9th. But in the meantime, they had all these ships in the harbor. So every night we would get bombed. And -- but the Germans bombed differently from what we did. We did it in waves. But what they would do, they had these Ju 88 two-engine bombers, and they would go in one at a time. Now, each of those ships was assigned a portion of the sky to control, to put up the flag and so forth. And then others were to fix on the target. So when one would come in on a bomb run, they would get them in the search lights, right in the crossbeams. And then you'd see the tracers coming up, and then in a little bit the tracers would hit him and he would go down. Then they would send another one in. So one night one of them decided he didn't want to do that, I suppose. So the hospital next to us, he dropped his first bomb on the motor pool in that hospital, and the next one was a dud, and the next one hit about a hundred yards from our hospital. And it exploded and flak and all from the bomb perforated a lot of tents, but luckily, no one got hurt.

Michael Willie:

Did it shake you up a little bit?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Yes. I mean, you should -- we had not had time to even dig a foxhole, you know, or any kind of pit. We had some German -- not German. We had Italian prisoners in the compound there, and they didn't have any foxholes either, but they were rather ingenious. They -- we had pit latrines, box latrines, you know, and so forth. And they were down about six feet deep. Well, the German -- Italians utilized those. They lifted the box off. Now, I wouldn't recommend that. But it was -- it was pretty pitiful.

Michael Willie:

Did you have shower facilities?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Oh, yes, yes. We got them cleaned up.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

But the next day there was a lot of digging going on around our hospital unit.

Michael Willie:

I bet. Now, how close were you to what was going on in Sicily?

Joseph Milton Hand:

It was about three miles.

Michael Willie:

About three miles?

Joseph Milton Hand:

And they had all those ships, see, getting ready for the invasion, and they were going to rendezvous at Malta and then go in. And by the time they hit the beaches, they had over 2,000 ships to hit. And then also, they had paratroopers and they had gliders. And on the invasion, you know, things get pretty confused on an invasion. And the Navy shot down 25 of our planes with paratroopers on them, which was really a tragedy. But then we started receiving patients in about two days.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And we were operational. And all the other hospitals were busy too. And we got lots of them. Now, in a medical setup, it starts out with two enlisted men. They're called aid men that go along with an infantry company. And then behind that --

Michael Willie:

Corpsmen, kind of?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Yeah, corpsmen. And they treat them and get them back to the first aid station. There was a battalion aid station, which supported four companies. And then they're supposed to go to a field hospital from there, and then a evacuation hospital, and then back to a station hospital, and then a general hospital, which was a thousand beds. And that was the chain that they went by. But we got some -- we were a station hospital, but we were getting them right off the beach.

Michael Willie:

Right.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And they had trouble getting them out, you know, and so many flies and so forth, and maggots got in them, you know, and we had to clean them out and all this kind of stuff.

Michael Willie:

Were you guys prepared for the triage as far as the --

Joseph Milton Hand:

Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Michael Willie:

Did you have enough staff to do that?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Yes, sir. Yeah, we had about 20 doctors.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And then we also -- we got so busy that we called in a surgical auxiliary team in to help us.

Michael Willie:

Where would the surgical auxiliary team be?

Joseph Milton Hand:

They would be -- they were mobile. They'd be anywhere.

Michael Willie:

Gotcha.

Joseph Milton Hand:

They would assign them wherever they were needed.

Michael Willie:

Okay. But they were actually fairly close?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Right.

Michael Willie:

You're talking probably a sense of urgency?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Within the theater, anyway.

Michael Willie:

Right. Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And they got them there in a hurry.

Michael Willie:

All right. So --

Joseph Milton Hand:

So we did that --

Michael Willie:

When you started getting these people in, you're talking -- you're probably talking 24 hours a day?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Yeah, yeah. Lots of them. And then it got to where -- when it dwindled down, then we had normal days, you know.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

But it's what we would do. We would treat the -- treat the patients. And if they could go back to active duty within a couple of weeks, we would keep them. But if they were going to be in over a month, we would evacuate them back to a general hospital.

Michael Willie:

Right, right.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And they would take care of them.

Michael Willie:

Now, is this -- when you say a general hospital, are all -- you said there were four hospitals in there. Are they all doing the same thing?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Yeah, these were all -- those four were all station hospitals.

Michael Willie:

Right. That's what I'm saying.

Joseph Milton Hand:

These were 500-bed hospitals.

Michael Willie:

Right. But everybody there who's going to be in over a month is sent back?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Evacuated back to general hospitals, back further back.

Michael Willie:

Now, the general hospitals are they standing buildings, are they --

Joseph Milton Hand:

Mostly in buildings. But if the buildings are not available, then they have to pitch tents too.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

But they're a thousand bed instead of 500. And then they -- if they're going to be in there over three months, they evacuate them back to the States by air and hospital ships.

Michael Willie:

Okay. Now, obviously, a very stressful place.

Joseph Milton Hand:

Very.

Michael Willie:

Stressful type of situation.

Joseph Milton Hand:

Um-hum.

Michael Willie:

How do you deal with these stressful situations?

Joseph Milton Hand:

You're so busy, you don't realize it.

Michael Willie:

Really?

Joseph Milton Hand:

You don't know it until it's all over. Because you're goal-oriented. You know what you have to do.

Michael Willie:

Right.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And then you do it with everything that you possibly can.

Michael Willie:

Right. What -- how long are you talking in streaks or in stands would you have to work before you --

Joseph Milton Hand:

Well, it's according to the flow of the combat area.

Michael Willie:

Right, right.

Joseph Milton Hand:

As the combat area moved up, we got less patients. But we were there. We started taking them in July. And then we operated up until about February of the next year.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And then they had invaded Italy by -- in January of '43.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And at Anzio. And we got some patients from there. But then they had moved the combat up far enough to where we would -- into Naples in April.

Michael Willie:

So you had to move everything?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Right. So had to load everything up by ship and do the whole thing over again. And so what we would do, though, we would save our crates and so forth from the last move and we'd utilize them as a desk and what have you. And then we would have the boxes to where we could do it again.

Michael Willie:

Gotcha. So you guys basically were a mobile -- I mean, like MASH?

Joseph Milton Hand:

No. A MASH is much smaller.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

See, MASH can set up in 24 hours.

Michael Willie:

Oh, okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

So they're always in tents.

Michael Willie:

Wow. So they're able to actually follow the front and stay very close by?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Right, right.

Michael Willie:

Okay. So --

Joseph Milton Hand:

So then --

Michael Willie:

-- then where do you go to?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Well, we were operating. We were taking casualties up until then.

Michael Willie:

Gotcha.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And then we started taking down in March, and we moved into Naples then.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

Napoli. We moved these troops by hospital ship.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

We couldn't put equipment all on them, but we could put medical personnel on those hospital ships. So that's what we did.

Michael Willie:

All right. You moved to Naples.

Joseph Milton Hand:

Naples.

Michael Willie:

And --

Joseph Milton Hand:

And then we set up hospital again. This time partially in tents, but we took over an agricultural school up on top of the mountain overlooking the harbor of Naples.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And we set up a hospital there. The lab and the operating room and all the other clinics were in the building there. And then the wards, we had wooden buildings for them. Plywood, you know.

Michael Willie:

Okay. That you guys put together?

Joseph Milton Hand:

No. The engineers put those up for us.

Michael Willie:

Gotcha.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And then we started taking patients. We got patients from the Cassino area and up as far as the Arno River, and we started taking patients. And then we had to -- we got so many patients. We were a 500-bed hospital. And we had as many as 1,500 patients at one time. So we had to move all of our personnel out of their quarters and put patients in there and then moved us back out in the tents in olive groves until the patient load went down.

Michael Willie:

Right. Now, when you're getting this many patients at a time, are you staffed for --

Joseph Milton Hand:

No. We -- our doctors were operating, some of them, 36 hours at a time. And then they'd snatch a few hours' sleep and then right back on duty. And that didn't last but a couple of weeks, but that's how you can get bogged down.

Michael Willie:

Right, right. All right. So -- but you say this only lasted for a couple of weeks?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Yeah, that much. But then we started taking the French casualties, Arabs and so forth in addition to our troops.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And we started getting these goums in. G-O-U-M-S. They were real black people, and they were not educated enough to fight with the units. So they put them out on patrol. And they would put scars on their face, streaks, and those scars would turn real shiny. So the more scars you had, the better looking you are. So they would send those guys out on patrol. And the GIs had two dog tags, kind of oval shape.

Michael Willie:

Um-hum.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And they said they would be out on patrol, and they'd feel an arm and a knife up against their throat, and with the other hand they would reach down to check the dog tags. And if you had the right dog tags, they would just release them and disappear into the darkness and they never see them.

Michael Willie:

Oh, man.

Joseph Milton Hand:

So that's in Africa. But the only thing that those people scared was authority.

Michael Willie:

Excuse me?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Was authority.

Michael Willie:

Oh, okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

Anyone in charge of something, it just scared them to death, you know, if you talked to them. But that was the only thing they were afraid of. They weren't afraid of anything else. But it was real interesting. And you could operate on them. Not that we did. But you could operate on them without anesthesia, and they wouldn't say anything. They'd just grit their teeth.

Michael Willie:

Right.

Joseph Milton Hand:

But the Arabs -- I hate to talk about the Arabs. But the Arabs, they were fighting with the French. And if you even come near one of them with a needle, he'd scream to the top of their voice that you were going to kill them, you know. There was such a contrast between the two. If it hadn't been so pitiful, it would have been funny.

Michael Willie:

Now, okay. So how long are you here? How long are you set up in Naples?

Joseph Milton Hand:

We're set up then until September.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And by that time, the troops had moved far enough north. We had the American 5th Army on the left side and the British 8th on the right, and they went up the peninsula.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

So then -- so we had gotten one battle star for the Arno River, and then we moved into Leghorn.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

But before we moved into Leghorn, they had to remove 45,000 mines out of buildings in the area that we were in. Every building, they would have -- they would have bombs set, they would have booby traps set. Like a fountain pen, you know, put it down, and you pick it up, blow an arm off or anything like that, you know. So that was --

Michael Willie:

And where was that?

Joseph Milton Hand:

That was in Leghorn. Livorno. So they got enough of the mines cleared out for us to get into a paratrooper compound. Italians, where they trained their paratroopers. So we set up our hospital in those buildings.

Michael Willie:

Okay. All right. That's a little easier setup when you're in those buildings.

Joseph Milton Hand:

Yeah, that helped a lot.

Michael Willie:

Okay. Now, in Leghorn where -- once again, where are you set up to be taken -- taking your patients?

Joseph Milton Hand:

We're taking our casualties from the Po Valley in the North Apennines. So we also got a battle star for taking patients in the North Apennines. And the 10th Mountain Division went in there. And that's the one that -- oh, his name slips me. He was in the 10th Mountain Division.

Michael Willie:

Are they the ones that would like scale the cliffs and things like that?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Well, they would fight in mountains.

Michael Willie:

Specialized. Right.

Joseph Milton Hand:

Yeah, they would -- they had -- they got a bunch of mules, and so --

Michael Willie:

Hold on to their tails?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Right. And put their equipment on them and take it up in the mountains. And, in fact, they -- it was kind of lucky for the guys, they figured, because at that stage of the game, they didn't need any more equipment. And the mules had to be on deck. So they filled up the hole with beer, cans of beer. So the guys who drank beer, they really appreciated that. But that's where we were then when the war ended. We were taking these casualties. And the war ended in April then of '45.

Michael Willie:

All right. So do you remember when you heard that the war was over?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Oh, yes.

Michael Willie:

Where were you? What were you doing?

Joseph Milton Hand:

I was in my office. And I had a radio, Armed Forces. And it was announced on the Armed Forces Radio.

Michael Willie:

Okay. But at this point you kind of -- you guys kinda knew; right? You knew where it was?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Yeah, we knew it was about over. We just didn't know when. So that's where we were then.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And then after that, after the war ended, we -- and we got rid of our patient load, then we shut down again, ready to move to our hospital. And we found out that we were scheduled to go through the Panama Canal to the Philippines, but it was only -- and the ones who had 85 points -- they had a point system. If you had 85 points, they pulled you out and then on a space-available basis they'd send you back to the States.

Michael Willie:

Right.

Joseph Milton Hand:

But I didn't have 85. I was a single guy. So they'd give you so much, you know, for being married, so much for your kids and all that stuff. So anyway, we were two days out of Gibraltar, and we heard that the war in the Pacific was over.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

We were on the SS Shanks. USS Shanks, which was a liberty ship. That's why we were loaded with all of our equipment. So we almost lifted that ship out of the water when we found out. So instead of going through Panama Canal, we put in at Hampton Roads, Virginia. And the unit then was disbanded about three months later over to -- in Alabama.

Michael Willie:

Okay. So what are you doing during this time then?

Joseph Milton Hand:

During this time?

Michael Willie:

Uh-huh.

Joseph Milton Hand:

I'm living it up for our three-month period. And then I got my discharge the 21st of October. And they disbanded the unit then in November.

Michael Willie:

Okay. All right. So what do you do after you take your discharge?

Joseph Milton Hand:

After that I went to college at the university. Well, it was college then. Out at Southern Missionary College, Collegedale. It's now Southern Adventist University.

Michael Willie:

All right. So --

Joseph Milton Hand:

So I went there for a while.

Michael Willie:

Did you go to -- were you on GI Bill?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Yeah, on the GI Bill.

Michael Willie:

Okay. How did the GI Bill work?

Joseph Milton Hand:

They paid you a stipend and paid for all your tuition, your books.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And then so forth.

Michael Willie:

Okay. So you went to school on the books, but you were making a little?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Not enough to live on. In the meantime, I had married.

Michael Willie:

Oh, you did?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Yeah.

Michael Willie:

Okay. When did you marry?

Joseph Milton Hand:

In Atlanta.

Michael Willie:

Okay. I mean, when, like as far as time goes?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Okay. I got out in October.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And then I got married in April.

Michael Willie:

Okay. Where had you met your wife? Had you known her?

Joseph Milton Hand:

In Atlanta. No, no. I met her. She came down to visit some friends that I knew, and we -- well, I met her at church. She was -- this friend of ours had a big black Hudson automobile. Brand new. No bumpers on it, but it was new, because they didn't have bumpers then. So I saw her getting out of the back seat, you know. She got out, put her leg out there, you know, and I thought that looks pretty good. So then she got out, and she had a big fur coat on, you know. I said, man, I might get acquainted with her. But in the meantime, she saw me, and she got her friend to introduce us. So that's the way we met.

Michael Willie:

Okay. Just like in the movies.

Joseph Milton Hand:

Yeah. About the same thing. Poor girl. She didn't know what she was getting into. But then I did that. Then I went to work for a food company, and I was working out of Memphis.

Michael Willie:

Okay. Now, is this -- did you finish at Southern?

Joseph Milton Hand:

No, no. I couldn't make it on that.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And so I went to work for a food company. And I joined the reserve as a staff sergeant. And then I went before Board of Officers and took tests and so forth. So they determined that I'd make an officer.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

So they commissioned me a second lieutenant.

Michael Willie:

So it was kind of late, wasn't it?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Yes. Right. Quite a difference.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

So --

Michael Willie:

Okay. Now, how does that work then? You joined the reserves, and then basically you have to go to OCS?

Joseph Milton Hand:

No, no. I got it on the strength of my experience in World War II.

Michael Willie:

Good, good, good.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And I was a first three grader, noncommissioned officer for a period of over two years. So they knew I had the experience, you know, that I could move in. So then that was 1949. Then 1950 the Korean thing started. And then so I volunteered to go on active duty after that, but they didn't call me in until March of '51.

Michael Willie:

Okay. Around what time of year?

Joseph Milton Hand:

March.

Michael Willie:

In March.

Joseph Milton Hand:

March the 11th, 1951.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And then they assigned me to Fort Benning, but they sent me to San Antonio, Texas for an orientation course for a month before that.

Michael Willie:

Okay. Orientation course?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Yeah.

Michael Willie:

What's that?

Joseph Milton Hand:

To indoctrinate us on how they were doing business since we got out of the Army.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

I suppose that's as good a way as I can put it. More basic training, more or less, but it's basic training for officers.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And then also, you know, they taught us a lot about administration.

Michael Willie:

Okay. All right. So you do this for a month. And basically, you're in with officers?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Right, all officers.

Michael Willie:

Now, is this more relaxed than basic training?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Oh, yeah. Oh, no. Much more relaxed.

Michael Willie:

Okay. All right. They probably treat you with some modicum of respect?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Yes.

Michael Willie:

All right. Then after that, after the orientation where do you go?

Joseph Milton Hand:

After the orientation I went to Fort Benning, Georgia.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And --

Michael Willie:

What did you do at Fort Benning?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Well, they assign me to the hospital, Martin Army Hospital.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

There as a -- in charge of property, all the property for the hospital.

Michael Willie:

Okay. And when you say in charge of it, you're talking distribution, buying, keeping it in stock?

Joseph Milton Hand:

I didn't buy, but I had to keep up with it and assign it out to the different areas.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And in order to cover myself, I assigned it out to somebody else.

Michael Willie:

Right.

Joseph Milton Hand:

So each unit, I would assign all the property out to them. And then before they could transfer it out of the unit, they had to clear that property.

Michael Willie:

Okay. Now, are you in charge of like a section or a region or something like that, or are you in charge of -- how big is your --

Joseph Milton Hand:

The whole hospital.

Michael Willie:

The whole hospital?

Joseph Milton Hand:

The whole hospital.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

That's from the operating room on.

Michael Willie:

Gotcha.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And all the clinics.

Michael Willie:

That's why you got all those other people?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Right, right. So there's no way in the world you can keep up with that property. It was in a cantonment area too, which is these continual wards, you know, with a hall down the middle.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

It's called a cantonment area. And you could walk half a mile down these corridors. I did when I was officer of the day. I'd have to walk them all.

Michael Willie:

All right.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And --

Michael Willie:

Okay. So at this point you're at Fort Benning, you're married. And do you have children at this point?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Yes. I had one, a son that was born December the 4th, 1947 in Atlanta. Yes, Atlanta. Emory Hospital.

Michael Willie:

Okay. So at this point how old is he?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Well, he would be -- '47. He'd be about four.

Michael Willie:

About four. And living on the base here at Fort Benning?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Right.

Michael Willie:

Did you want to talk about his birth? Do you want to talk about your daughter?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Well --

Michael Willie:

Okay. How long were you at Fort Benning? Let's do that.

Joseph Milton Hand:

I was at Fort Benning until 1953.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

January '53.

Michael Willie:

Okay. So you were there for -- let's see --

Joseph Milton Hand:

From '51 to first of '53.

Michael Willie:

Okay. From '51 to '53.

Joseph Milton Hand:

Um-hum.

Michael Willie:

How were you doing here at this hospital? Basically, who were you -- what was your hospital -- who was your hospital treating at this point?

Joseph Milton Hand:

All -- everyone in that -- dependents and the soldiers at Fort Benning.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

All of them.

Michael Willie:

Okay. So, I mean, is this a stressful job, is this a good job? I mean --

Joseph Milton Hand:

Oh, it's a good job. I had some good sergeants working for me, and it wasn't bad at all.

Michael Willie:

Okay. Pretty comfortable, though?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Pretty comfortable. But then they needed a supply officer at the 24th evac hospital just across the way from where I was. So they asked me if I would take the supply officer for that.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

So I did. And so I was supply officer for the 24th evacuation hospital there too.

Michael Willie:

Okay. Now, you say right across from where you were. What do you mean by that?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Across the street.

Michael Willie:

Oh, across the street? Okay. All right. So what did this entail?

Joseph Milton Hand:

So then this entails having -- accounting for all the property for an evacuation hospital. That's all the medical property and the whole thing. So I had a unit supply and I also had a medical supply.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

So I had to account for all the property and issue out the unit supplies, supplies and stuff like that. And I had several sergeants there that did that for me.

Michael Willie:

I would hope so.

Joseph Milton Hand:

Yeah.

Michael Willie:

That would seem to be pretty confusing.

Joseph Milton Hand:

Right.

Michael Willie:

All right. Now, talk about when your daughter's born.

Joseph Milton Hand:

Well, my daughter was born June the 12th, 1951 at Fort Benning.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

So my daughter now is a nurse at Park Ridge Hospital.

Michael Willie:

Oh, she is? Okay. All right. So --

Joseph Milton Hand:

And my son, my son's a lawyer down in Kissimmee, Florida.

Michael Willie:

That is right. So now you've got two kids and you're on base.

Joseph Milton Hand:

I have two, and there I am.

Michael Willie:

Now, how comfortable is the base for a family?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Oh, great.

Michael Willie:

Is it good?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Yeah. Very good, especially for officers. Officers have it a little better than enlisted men. They had what they call a WARI (ph) housing project where they had built a bunch of -- a whole village to house officers. So we got one of those duplexes.

Michael Willie:

That's pretty nice.

Joseph Milton Hand:

So that wasn't bad at all.

Michael Willie:

Aside from the fact you were probably on duty when your wife has your baby.

Joseph Milton Hand:

I was.

Michael Willie:

Were you really?

Joseph Milton Hand:

I was. So she was born at Martin Army Hospital.

Michael Willie:

Okay. All right. Now, so how long do you spend here at Martin Army Hospital?

Joseph Milton Hand:

The entire time?

Michael Willie:

Yeah.

Joseph Milton Hand:

In the entire area of Fort Benning?

Michael Willie:

Well, how long are you actually here? I mean --

Joseph Milton Hand:

At Fort Benning?

Michael Willie:

Yeah.

Joseph Milton Hand:

I was there until January of '53.

Michael Willie:

January of '53.

Joseph Milton Hand:

Um-hum. And at that time then I volunteered for overseas duty, and they sent me to Korea.

Michael Willie:

Okay. And how did your wife feel about that?

Joseph Milton Hand:

She wasn't too happy, but she could adjust real well.

Michael Willie:

Right.

Joseph Milton Hand:

She always has.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

So it wasn't a big problem. She went back to Dyersburg, which was her hometown, and got her an apartment there because her parents were in the same town. So she was there while -- all the time I was in Korea.

Michael Willie:

Okay. Now, when you volunteer Korea, do you volunteer for a certain assignment?

Joseph Milton Hand:

No, I didn't volunteer for Korea. I just volunteered for overseas duty. I was hoping they'd send me to Germany. But instead, they sent me -- they send you wherever you're needed.

Michael Willie:

Right.

Joseph Milton Hand:

So they sent me to Korea. So when I found out I was coming to Korea, I knew a major that I worked with at Fort Benning, and I told him to prepare for me a place. I was on the way.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

So when I got there, I just went to work in the 6th Army Medical Depot as the adjutant and troop commander.

Michael Willie:

Okay. And what responsibilities were those?

Joseph Milton Hand:

That is taking care of all of the administration of the depot and all the paperwork and so forth.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And then as troop commander, I was in charge of all the enlisted men in the area, in the unit.

Michael Willie:

Okay. You say you were in charge of them?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Right.

Michael Willie:

In what respect?

Joseph Milton Hand:

I was their commander.

Michael Willie:

You were their commander?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Detachment commander.

Michael Willie:

What was duty like here in Korea? Well, first of all, where are you? Where are you stationed?

Joseph Milton Hand:

At -- just outside of Seoul, Yong Dong Po.

Michael Willie:

Okay. All right.

Joseph Milton Hand:

Yong Dong Po. And we're situated in a school building.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

Large school building. Then we also set up tents to put supplies in.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And we had several other buildings.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

Because we were furnishing all the medical supply support for the 8th Army area, which included the -- everything on the peninsula.

Michael Willie:

All right. Now, when you volunteer for overseas duty, do you volunteer for like a time period or --

Joseph Milton Hand:

No, no.

Michael Willie:

Do you volunteer just for --

Joseph Milton Hand:

You go, and they keep you as long as they want to.

Michael Willie:

Okay, okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

There's no period of time.

Michael Willie:

Okay. All right. So as far as you knew, you were here in Korea until -- until it was all over?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Well, and it was.

Michael Willie:

Okay. Now, how easily could you correspond with your wife --

Joseph Milton Hand:

Oh, it was --

Michael Willie:

-- back at home?

Joseph Milton Hand:

-- very easy.

Michael Willie:

Mail was pretty quick?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Within -- well, I sent it airmail. Within a week.

Michael Willie:

Okay. Well, that's not bad.

Joseph Milton Hand:

It wasn't bad at all.

Michael Willie:

Okay. All right. So you stayed here in Seoul?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Well, they -- stayed there in Seoul, and I did that until the commander of the 3rd Platoon messed up. And the colonel sent me up there to take over and straighten it out.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

Because the former commander was court-martialed by General Ridgway for mistreating civilians that he caught stealing.

Michael Willie:

Oh, really? We won't get into that.

Joseph Milton Hand:

No.

Michael Willie:

You take over for the commander?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Yeah.

Michael Willie:

And what are his responsibilities?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Well, I'm in charge of all the medical supply support for the 3rd Rock Corps and the American supporting units.

Michael Willie:

Okay. All right. Now, how many people in the Third Republic of Korea Corps? I mean, how many people are you talking about?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Well, there's -- a corps is three or four battalions, and each battalion is about 2,000 people.

Michael Willie:

Okay. All right.

Joseph Milton Hand:

So that's what it was.

Michael Willie:

That's quite a few people you're responsible for.

Joseph Milton Hand:

Quite a few.

Michael Willie:

Did you have to move for this?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Yeah.

Michael Willie:

Where did you go?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Chun Chon. C-H-U-N, C-H-O-N.

Michael Willie:

Okay. And where is this in the country?

Joseph Milton Hand:

That is situated about 20 miles below the 38th parallel.

Michael Willie:

Okay. Okay. Now, what is life like here in which Chun Chon?

Joseph Milton Hand:

In Chun Chon?

Michael Willie:

Yeah.

Joseph Milton Hand:

Well, it wasn't too bad. We were within artillery, hearing the artillery and so forth. We didn't get any shells in. But the main thing was protecting your supplies. In fact, after I left, I found out that some civilians had gotten in and killed two of the soldiers on the base. One night -- well, I had 25 civilians working -- who lived in the compound, and I had some dogs. I had three dogs, just -- just dogs.

Michael Willie:

Um-hum.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And so one night the dogs were barking. I heard people running. I'd graveled the thing, you know. So I got up and went out. And there was -- one of the guards, one of the civilian guards was poking a case of serum albumin in a hole under the gate. And I says, well, what are you doing? He said, well, there's somebody came in and they had this. So I'm poking it in a hole to where they can't get back in. So I called -- I called all 25 of them out. This is 2 o'clock in the morning.

Michael Willie:

Um-hum.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And I told them that I knew what was going on. I says, if I so much as miss a Band-Aid out of this outfit, I'll march every one of you out this gate and you'll be out of a job. So I didn't miss a Band-Aid from then on. But I built up the unit. They had a lot of shacks up there when I took the thing over. So I tore them all down, put up buildings. And built a mess hall for the -- and made a cafe style for the enlisted men and hired civilians to do the cooking, and then they served the enlisted men. And then also I hired some laundry people to do the laundry.

Michael Willie:

Wow.

Joseph Milton Hand:

I built a building for the motor pool and a laundry house. And the only problem I had there was the first sergeant fell in love with the laundry lady. So he wanted to get married. So I told him, I said -- he had already been extended three times to stay in Korea. He lived in Detroit. I says, Sergeant, I'm going to send you back home and let you see what it's like in the States. I says, you've forgotten. I says, so I'm not going to sign for you to get married until you do that.

Michael Willie:

So you have to sign for them to get married?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Yeah. They had to get permission from the commanding officer before they could get married. The enlisted men did.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

So in the meantime, while he was gone, I came back to the States, but I found out that he came back and married her.

Michael Willie:

Really?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Yeah.

Michael Willie:

I'll be darned.

Joseph Milton Hand:

So that was an unusual situation there.

Michael Willie:

Okay. So you end up coming back to the States then.

Joseph Milton Hand:

Um-hum. Yeah, I came back on the Marine Serpent, which was a troop ship.

Michael Willie:

Okay. When was this when you finally end up coming back?

Joseph Milton Hand:

That was in August of -- let's see. The war was over the 27th of July. So this is the latter part of August.

Michael Willie:

Okay. And --

Joseph Milton Hand:

Of '53.

Michael Willie:

Okay. I mean, when -- talk about when you come back. How long does it take you to get processed, be able to get back home?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Well, it took us about 13 days on the ship. And we came in to Seattle, Washington. And then I caught a train back to Dyersburg, Tennessee. And I had to report to Fort Jackson the next week.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And it took me about a week to process.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

To get relieved from active duty.

Michael Willie:

Okay. Now, is there any thought at this point of staying on active duty?

Joseph Milton Hand:

I would have, except my wife wasn't in favor of it then. So I was a first lieutenant at that time. So I stayed in the reserve.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And then I got transferred by this food company to Tampa, Florida.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

So then I was troop commander of a station hospital, 829th Station Hospital in St. Petersburg.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And they made me captain. And then I did that until I got transferred back to Atlanta. And then I was the executive officer of a general hospital in Atlanta.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And then I decided -- my kids by then were old enough to -- one in college, one in the academy, and one in the elementary school. So we decided to move from Atlanta.

Michael Willie:

Okay. Now, we missed the third child. When was the third child born?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Oh. The third child was born in '57.

Michael Willie:

'57.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And that was in Atlanta too.

Michael Willie:

Okay. So that was after you got back?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Right.

Michael Willie:

So you're in Atlanta --

Joseph Milton Hand:

Um-hum.

Michael Willie:

-- at that time?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Right.

Michael Willie:

And you say your kids are now --

Joseph Milton Hand:

They were ready for college, one of them is, and one for the academy, and one in the elementary. And we had one in Atlanta, and we had one down in GCA at Calhoun, and one up here, one in Collegedale. So we decided to -- I was a southeastern sales manager, so I could live anywhere I wanted to in the southeast. So we decided to sell our place in Atlanta and move up to Collegedale and put them all in school in the same town. So that's what we did, and that's how we got to Collegetown.

Michael Willie:

Gotcha. I was wondering how you ended up here.

Joseph Milton Hand:

Yeah.

Michael Willie:

Where is Dyersburg, anyway?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Dyersburg is about 70 miles northwest of -- up close to the Kentucky line, up there in the corner.

Michael Willie:

Okay. All right. Okay. So you end up moving to Collegedale.

Joseph Milton Hand:

Um-hum.

Michael Willie:

And from that time -- how long did you work as the regional sales --

Joseph Milton Hand:

Well, I retired in 1985.

Michael Willie:

Okay. Now, what did you do after retirement?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Played golf, traveled, bought a motor home. We've been in every state in the union.

Michael Willie:

Really?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Most of the provinces in Canada. And Mexico.

Michael Willie:

Wow. You have traveled.

Joseph Milton Hand:

So we traveled a lot.

Michael Willie:

Did you --

Joseph Milton Hand:

We drove up to Alaska.

Michael Willie:

You did?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Yeah. We went up through Alberta, up through British Columbia and the Yukon territory and then into there. Now, when we travel, see, being retired military, we stayed on the military post most of the time.

Michael Willie:

Oh, really?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Yes. In Alaska we stayed at three different locations on the military post. And they have these -- what they call family camps.

Michael Willie:

Um-hum.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And the facilities are very good.

Michael Willie:

That's pretty good.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And we did the same thing all over the United States. In fact, even now when we travel, if we're near a military base, we'll stay on a military base because we get a suite then without any problem.

Michael Willie:

All right. Now, did you join any veterans' organizations?

Joseph Milton Hand:

I joined the VFW.

Michael Willie:

The VFW?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Yeah. I'm lifetime member of the VFW. I'm also a lifetime member of the Retired Officers Association, which is now the Military Officers Association of America.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

MOAA, they call it now. They just changed the name in January. M.

Michael Willie:

I think we're doing a presentation there in a few weeks. Maybe February.

Joseph Milton Hand:

Okay.

Michael Willie:

Or in March.

Joseph Milton Hand:

Good.

Michael Willie:

All right. Did you ever go back? Did you ever go back and visit anywhere that you served, either in Europe or Korea?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Not overseas. I haven't been overseas again.

Michael Willie:

You haven't?

Joseph Milton Hand:

No.

Michael Willie:

Never had any interest?

Joseph Milton Hand:

There's no interest in it. I've seen both sides of the world. There's no place like this one.

Michael Willie:

I got to agree. And there are places in this country --

Joseph Milton Hand:

Right. In our lifetime, you can't see them all.

Michael Willie:

Right.

Joseph Milton Hand:

And I've been on just about every military base in the United States.

Michael Willie:

Okay. Now, is there anything you'd like to talk about we didn't cover in the interview?

Joseph Milton Hand:

That we didn't cover? Well, there was one thing we didn't cover.

Michael Willie:

Oh, that's right. Okay. What are you most proud of? That's what I was going to ask you. Because I want you to talk about that.

Joseph Milton Hand:

Okay. Well, I think the most outstanding thing that I was associated with was with the 81st Station Hospital when we had over 35,000 admissions into the hospital. Some of them we'd gotten off the beaches, some of them we'd gotten from all kinds of situations. And our mortality rate was .04 percent.

Michael Willie:

That's incredible. Absolutely phenomenal.

Joseph Milton Hand:

It's almost unheard of in the medical channels too.

Michael Willie:

I was going to say, I wouldn't even venture a guess at what the average would be.

Joseph Milton Hand:

Um-hum.

Michael Willie:

But this would be -- I mean, this would be a small percentage of even that, wouldn't it?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Yeah.

Michael Willie:

I mean, that's absolutely phenomenal from all that was going on and the way you were having to deal with it.

Joseph Milton Hand:

Yeah. But most of our doctors, they came from Pennsylvania Hospital and -- the University of Pennsylvania Hospital. And our orthopedic surgeon came from Chicago. And he was -- he's quite famous. He was Joseph T. Coile, C-O-I-L-E. And his son teaches at Harvard now.

Michael Willie:

Oh, really?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Outstanding doctor also.

Michael Willie:

Do you keep up with anybody that you served with?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Yes. I've been in touch for several years with -- especially the nurses. But all of them have died now except maybe three or four. All of the medical officers have died, all the medical service corps except one. And I only know of about a half a dozen enlisted men that are still living. So, you know, these World War II veterans here are dying out at 1,800 a day. So -- and, of course, that will accelerate as we get older.

Michael Willie:

That's why the sense of urgency for this project.

Joseph Milton Hand:

Good.

Michael Willie:

Okay. Anything else you'd like to talk about?

Joseph Milton Hand:

No. That's about it. I always count it a privilege to having served in the Army. You could see I can still get in my uniform.

Michael Willie:

And how long did you actually spend in the service, in the reserve, counting the reserve?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Well, the reserve, I actually had 21 good years, they call it. But then I was in some years that I didn't make the number of points that I was supposed to make. So I didn't actually retire until '81. 1981. And I went in in '42.

Michael Willie:

So we're talking --

Joseph Milton Hand:

So that's the period of time that I was in.

Michael Willie:

That's phenomenal. That's a great service.

Joseph Milton Hand:

I've enjoyed every bit of it.

Michael Willie:

Anything else you'd like to talk about?

Joseph Milton Hand:

Well, I would highly recommend it to anyone that -- in fact, I would like to see, when they get out of high school, spend two years in the military and then determine what they want to do. I recommended that to my grandson. So he did that, and he went to Korea too.

Michael Willie:

Oh, really?

Joseph Milton Hand:

So he spent a year in Korea.

Michael Willie:

Wow.

Joseph Milton Hand:

So he's now taking an engineering course at Chattanooga State.

Michael Willie:

Okay. Anything else?

Joseph Milton Hand:

That's about it.

Michael Willie:

Okay.

Joseph Milton Hand:

Thank you very much.

Michael Willie:

Thank you. (Numerous framed medals were shown.)

 
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  October 26, 2011
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