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Interview with Frank Thomas Oravecz [09/11/2003]

Thomas A. Swope:

This is the oral history of World War II veteran Frank Thomas Oravecz. Mr. Oravecz served with the US Army in Battery E of the 64th Coast Artillery Antiaircraft. He served in the Pacific Theater, and Frank is a survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor. His highest rank was sergeant. I'm Tom Swope. This reporting was made at Mr. Oravecz's home in Curtland, Ohio, on September 11, 2003. Frank was 88 at the time of this recording. Where were you living in 1941?

Frank Thomas Oravecz:

I was -- I enlisted in the Army in 1939.

Thomas A. Swope:

Oh, you enlisted in 1939? All right. Why did you decide to enlist in '39?

Frank Thomas Oravecz:

Well, I just -- I was 24 at the time, and I never left home anywhere at that time, and there was really nothing around. There wasn't very much work except the coal mines, and I worked the coal mines about seven years; and the last time I worked there, our place caved in, and I almost got caught in a cave-in, and I quit right there; and I got out, and I start thinking about getting in the service. So I did, and I enlisted on September 5, 1939.

Thomas A. Swope:

Where was this coal mine? Where were you living then?

Frank Thomas Oravecz:

It was a place called Sonman, Pennsylvania, near Johnstown.

Thomas A. Swope:

So you enlisted September 5, 1939?

Frank Thomas Oravecz:

Right.

Thomas A. Swope:

Right. What can you tell me about your basic training?

Frank Thomas Oravecz:

Well, right off the bat we went to -- there was five of us. We were sworn in, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, together, and then we went to Fort Slocum, New York, way up east, New Rochelle, beautiful up there. Fort Slocum is an island. We had to take a ferry to get there. Now I understand it's a millionaire's complex. They took all their guns and everything -- they had these shore guns there at the time, you know, from World War II; and I understand they took all that away, and they put up the big high-rise buildings and so forth. I never did go back there. I wanted to. But I spent a lot of time in New York City on leave for the two months before we left, and we left -- we didn't have any training there at all. It was just a waiting period until they got enough to get a boatload and take us into where we were going, and there were two -- two categories there. There was -- half us was going to the Philippine Islands, and the other half was going to Hawaii; and actually when I enlisted and I went in and told them I wanted to enlist in the Army, he asked me where I wanted to go. Well, there was only three -- we only had three places that we could go in foreign service. They wouldn't let you stay in the States, which I wanted. I didn't want to go anywhere else. But they said either go to Hawaii or Philippine Islands or Panama. Otherwise you can't get in. So I told them I'll go to the Philippines. I couldn't make up my mind between Hawaii or the Philippines. So he signed me up for it and signed the papers, and he told me to come back in about a week -- I think it was for a physical -- and then I would be on my way; and when I got out of there, I come out the door, and there was a kid setting on the curb, and he was kind of an overweight kid. He was sitting there, and he said, Did you join the Army? And I said, Yes. He said, Where are you going? Well, at first he said, I'm trying to get in. He said, I tried twice, and I'm 30 pounds overweight. They told me to lose 30 pounds and I could make it. He said, Where are you going? I said, Philippines. He says, Oh. Don't go to the Philippines. Why don't you go to Hawaii? I said, Well, I couldn't make up my mind, so I talked to a guy who was in the Philippines, and he told me how nice it was down there. They had a lot of sports, which I was -- I really liked baseball especially. And he said, You know what? If I were you, I would go back there and tell him you want to go to Hawaii. I said, Oh, he won't do it now because I'm signed up. He said, Yes, he will. He said, He is a good guy. I know he'll do it. And I don't know. Something told me just to go back and try it really just to see. So I went back, and I figured that he wouldn't do it. I told him -- I said, How about changing that to Hawaii? He said, Oh, yeah. Okay. That's good enough for me. He tore up the paper and made out the paper for Hawaii and -- the Hawaiian Islands, otherwise I would have went to the Philippines with the other half of the guys that were with me at Fort Slocum, and I got to know a lot of them guys in two months, and all I know is there's one in Pennsylvania made it back and one in Ohio here from the Philippines, and that's all I know about. They never made it because when the war broke out down there, they were trapped. There was no help for them. We couldn't help them, and Japanese took over the Philippines, and they had that death march and everything. If it wasn't for that kid, I would have been there. I looked for him in Hawaii and -- because he told me he was going to lose 30 pounds, and I looked and looked, and I saw thousands of them down there. I never did see -- I did meet one kid from 2 miles from my hometown. That was the only one. But I'll never forget him. I think about him all the time.

Thomas A. Swope:

So then you shipped -- you didn't actually train in the States?

Frank Thomas Oravecz:

No.

Thomas A. Swope:

What was the crossing then? I assume you took a train to the West Coast?

Frank Thomas Oravecz:

Yeah. We got in the boat and went around -- first we went to Brooklyn for about a week, Brooklyn Navy Yard. That's where the boat was docked. We stayed there, and then we got on the boat, and then sometime in November we left and went around down the East Coast and all the way down south and around into Panama and up through Panama. We got -- we were there a night. Let's see -- we got there in the evening, and we were there that night, and we were there the next day; and the following day we left, and they gave us a couple hours' leave to see Panama, and we got in there, and we went, walked all through Panama, and I saw most of Panama, and then we got in the boat; and the next day we went on up the coast up to San Francisco, up to Angel Island -- that's past Alcatraz -- and we -- I know we were there -- oh, we were there a couple -- about three weeks before we finally boarded the boat to get to Hawaii, and every time you wanted to go to San Francisco, you would get on a boat, of course, and you would come back and stop at -- there was only three trips a day -- morning, noon, and evening -- and they always stopped at Alcatraz because there was, like, supplies and stuff and whatever, and I got a good look at Alcatraz right from the door. I could see the guards walking around with their guns, their machine guns, and I eventually -- well, I may as well tell you this about Alcatraz. This was later after I had come home on a furlough but -- almost four years later. I never got back home until four years after it started, and I met a guard that was waiting to be transported to Alcatraz, and I got talking to him, and he was telling me -- he said, Well, I have been here two years. He said, I'm trying to get out. I said, What's the problem? He said, This is a tough place. He said, It's going to explode. He said, I know they're going to riot. And, you know, he said, I can't get out. I had to sign up for five years, and he said, It's hard, but I'm trying to. And I didn't pay much attention to it. Then later when I was working at Tomer (ph) they had this riot at Alcatraz. I just forgot what year it was, but it was maybe about eight years after what he told me, you know, and then it happened just like he told me. He said, There's going to be a big riot here. And I just wonder -- no, if he was there five years, he wouldn't be in it because it was a little later. So that's -- from San Francisco we went all around San Francisco as much as we could for that couple of weeks we were there.

Thomas A. Swope:

What did you do for fun in San Francisco?

Frank Thomas Oravecz:

Oh, movies. I went to the ball games. They had -- at that time it was in -- baseball was still -- no, no, this was -- wait. I'm getting ahead of myself. That was after I had the furlough but during -- that was during the winter months. There wasn't much to do except go to the movies and go to the bars. That was about that.

Thomas A. Swope:

And then you made the crossing to Hawaii?

Frank Thomas Oravecz:

Yeah, yeah. We were -- it took about six days, and we hit a huge storm, whether it was a hurricane or something, but it was really a doozy. I was seasick almost all the way, and so were most of the guys. Sometimes the ship would go all the way down. You would look up, and there the waves were like a mountain coming at you. All of a sudden we were on top of it on down and oh, boy. It was really something. I always swore I would never do this again.

Thomas A. Swope:

So then you got to Hawaii. Was it still 1939 when you got to Hawaii?

Frank Thomas Oravecz:

Yes. It was December 13, and we docked there, and we were getting off. We were saying goodbye to the guys that stayed on. They were going to the Philippines, and last I seen of them was when we got off the boat. They were saying, Well, we'll see you in two years. We'll pick you up on the boat coming back. And that's the way it was supposed to be, but it didn't turn out that way.

Thomas A. Swope:

That was the plan? It would have been a two-year hitch in Hawaii?

Frank Thomas Oravecz:

Yeah. Actually my time was up in Hawaii. I was supposed to get on a boat December 15 and come back to the States, and then they would give you a 30-day furlough and after that, that assignment to a post to finish out your three years in the States. Then you had the option of either leaving for good or re-enlisting in the States. That's the way it was done then. You know, it was a skeleton Army really. There was nothing. All they had was what they had in the States here and Philippines and Hawaii. They didn't have anything in Europe, from what I understand. It was a skeleton Army, and I don't know about the Navy. I suppose the Navy was the same way, and we had -- we had about nine World War II veterans or World War I veterans in our battery, and we had, like, eight batteries at Fort Shafter, and each outfit had -- I don't know, half a dozen, maybe more; and there were quite a few World War I veterans yet at that time with us because they -- I think it was 40 years. They had a 40-year limit. You can't get in after you were 40 years of age, and a lot of these guys weren't quite 40, and they could reenlist, and that's why they were in with us at the time. They were all 40, and a year later they were over, but they could stay until they had the 30 years in, and there were quite a few 30-year men there in the Army at that time. They just stayed there, and they didn't want to leave when their time was up. They had heaven down there. It was really nice, and you couldn't beat it.

Thomas A. Swope:

What was your outfit?

Frank Thomas Oravecz:

Battery E 64th Coast Artillery Antiaircraft. We were in the searchlight outfit, and it was searchlight and horns. Our job was to -- we were hooked up with guns, antiaircraft gun battery. They had long-tonged (ph) 90-millimeter guns that would fire on a high-flying bomber, if they were bombers, whatever they were, up anywhere from 15 to 20,000 feet they could reach them; and our job was to illuminate them at night; and these horns that they had, well, they had, like, two guys operating it. It was a clumsy-looking thing, and it wasn't worth much because you could track them almost better --- almost as good with your naked ear. You had like a helmet, and you had a sound device on your ears, and you had to manipulate -- one guy had the ___ and one guy had the elevation, and then they put in corrections, and they had a control station that controlled the searchlight. It worked to some extent, but the trouble was it worked practically only when the target was almost overhead, and that didn't do any good. Then after that, there was something you can pick up targets 40 and 50 miles out to sea, and we got one of them, and this Lockhart (ph) -- you read about him -- he picked up these planes coming in. They had the other one on the other side of the island, and we were -- it was about three weeks before -- three weeks before the attack. They told me that I was to go with the radar unit up on a hill above Pearl City and that's ___ Pearl City, and they called that Aiea Heights, and I was to go up there with a radar group for training purposes, and I was in charge of the guard group, eight men to guard that radar. We were the only guys that had rifles and ammunition. They had 28 rounds of ammunition a piece I think is what we had, and so that's the way I got up there, and the way -- it was maybe about less than a mile above Pearl City, and it was a wide-open field with -- like, it was farmland there, and I don't know how many acres it was, but they let us set the radar right in the center where we had all that clear space to work on, and we lived in tents. Our food -- they called it chow in the Army -- was transported to us from Fort Shafter which was -- go around Pearl Harbor, and about a mile or two beyond that was Fort Shafter, and our truck would come with our breakfast and lunch and dinner three times a day, and that's the way we lived. We had these big Army tents, like six Army tents. They were big enough to house about six Army cots at least, and there were 28 of us, and that's the way we lived, and we got a portable outhouse, and of course we could get down into Pearl City on a couple of hours leave after evening hours. There was a movie house down there and bar or store that sold sake, and the guys would like to go down and get a bottle of sake, but it wasn't -- you didn't have to have a pass only to get down there and back in a couple of hours, and that's the way it was up there before.

Thomas A. Swope:

Was Hawaii pretty much overrun by servicemen, Army and Navy people, at that time and right before the war started?

Frank Thomas Oravecz:

What?

Thomas A. Swope:

Was Hawaii -- what was it like basically in those years before the war started?

Frank Thomas Oravecz:

Well, it was -- it wasn't bad. It was just like in the States. You know, I thought I would see something primitive, but they have buses, and they had sports. They had wrestling. They had arenas, and they had Honolulu Stadium where we would go down and watch kids play high school football. They were good, as good as anybody here. Their baseball teams were good, and they had professional football down there. A lot of American guys ended up playing professional football down there, and it was like almost any city back here, and the only thing was like they gave us orders to leave the civilians alone. Don't get in any trouble with them and whatever, and it was all right.

Thomas A. Swope:

Why were they ordering you to stay away from civilians?

Frank Thomas Oravecz:

Well, you know, the guys would get drunk, and then they would get after the women, and civilians would complain, and that's about all it amounted to, you know; if you -- if you minded your own business and didn't bother them too much, they were nice to you as they could be as anybody. But a lot of guys would get in trouble, you know. I wouldn't say a lot, but there was some that just couldn't stay out of trouble, and they had guard houses and a lot of kids in there for six months that had been out of line.

Thomas A. Swope:

Was it tough for you to adjust to being with guys from all over the country when you were over in Hawaii after living in one little area in the States?

Frank Thomas Oravecz:

No, no.

Thomas A. Swope:

The adjustment wasn't very hard?

Frank Thomas Oravecz:

Not at all. We were like one big family, no problem at all.

Thomas A. Swope:

Now, your job with the outfit was mostly you were working with guards, guarding the installations?

Frank Thomas Oravecz:

No, no. First I started -- we had basic training. I'll start with that.

Thomas A. Swope:

Okay.

Frank Thomas Oravecz:

All it was, as far as we were concerned -- it wasn't the infantry. Infantry was different. Infantry was up in Schofield Barracks which was about 15 miles away, the distance between Fort Shafter where I was and Schofield Barracks; and our outfit was just antiaircraft, and our basic training for three weeks was going out on the parade grounds and marching in formation and going out on a firing range with our rifles and firing at a target, and that's all. I mean, there was no infantry tactics at all as far as we were concerned, and they figured that, well, we were antiaircraft outfit, and we didn't need that training, you know, which we didn't get; and actually, as far as I was concerned, it's better than infantry; and then I had -- I got into baseball, and I loved baseball, and I made the -- what they had down there at the time they called the battery league and the post league, battery season and post season. The battery baseball season started January and lasted until April 15, and I got on a team; and then after the 15th when the season ended with the battery teams, they picked the best for the post, and the post team would play -- the battery teams would play each other on the post, and the post team would be the pick of the crop. They would go to Schofield Barracks. We played the Navy right at Pearl Harbor on Ford Island a couple of items. I was there, and I was even in one of their submarines after the game. They took whoever won inside the submarine to see it, and they would play different teams, Fort Kamehameha and Fort DeRussey which was closer to Honolulu than we were; and there was about, oh, about eight or ten different teams all around that we had like a league that we played each other. Now, that was really a good part of it. To make the post team, you have to be good, and I was good enough to do that, you know, and I enjoyed that very much, and then after -- then you get put on special duty. You don't stand any Army duty, battery formation, or anything after 9:00 o'clock. At that time they would have -- after breakfast you would stand in formation or work detail. There was a lot of work for the guys. It wasn't just simply Army duty. It was a lot of work, go out and cut grass or whatever and trim hedges and whatever had to be done. They would issue a fatigue uniform or something like clothes you've got on now, jacket and the cap, and then it was fatigue detail they called it. Well, I didn't have to stand that because I was a goal breaker. (ph) That's what they called the guys, and right after baseball, boxing came in; and boxing was just about -- it was a number one on island. If you were a good boxer, you really had it made. Well, I was good enough to be a ball player. I was on special duty, and then I went on in boxing, and I was good at that, luckily I can say. I don't like to brag, but I only lost one fight in the two seasons that we fought. But that was the extent of my life in the Army there before Pearl Harbor, and of course at that time I finally made PFC and corporal and then sergeant, and I was sergeant for about a year before it happened; and then after baseball and boxing, then I went back to the duty, you know, and then it was a little different, but it was still enjoyable. You couldn't beat that life before the war started.

Thomas A. Swope:

Was there much tension on the island in those months before the war started? Was there any idea that it was --

Frank Thomas Oravecz:

Very little. It was very little. They -- like, we even talked about it at times. We would say, Well, there's wars all around us. There's the Japanese who were fighting the Chinese, and Hitler invaded Poland actually about the day I enlisted. I think somewhere around September 5, I think.

Thomas A. Swope:

Like the 1st or 2nd, just a few days before?

Frank Thomas Oravecz:

Yeah, yeah, and of course all of that was going on, and the Russians got into it, and we would be talking about it, and I would say, You know, there's wars all around us, and we're not in it. We're lucky, you know. And that's as far as it goes. They would have inspections. They would have a general's inspection that wasn't anything but spit and polish. They looked at how you were dressed and how shiny your shoes were, and that's about it and -- except they were -- they were talking about what they called the fifth column -- I don't know if you're familiar with that -- and they thought for a while there that they were active on the island, but it just -- they talked about it and -- but that's all. That's all. Even when those two boys that were on their way to Washington before the attack, they landed at -- they called it at the time. They were up on that hill, and they -- our command post called us, and they said the plane landed at -- I think Hickam, yeah. They were on their way to Washington, and they stopped over there. They said the plane landed at Hickam with those two envoys on their way to Washington, and it wasn't just a couple of days later when they -- the attack came, but that's the way it was right up to the first bomb.

Thomas A. Swope:

Do you remember what you were doing on the day before the attack?

Frank Thomas Oravecz:

Before? Well, I'll tell you something that happened about three days before the attack and -- it was three days, yeah. It was like 7:15 in the evening, and it was a dark -- it was usually the rainy season there at that time, you know, in December. It's always more rainy around there than it is in the summer, and there was a dark, drizzly night, and we were in our tent. We were playing poker at the time, and we had a guard out there which we had a guard 24 hours a day. We had a -- well, I'd better start at the beginning. We were set up there in this field, and it was a dirt road from Pearl City going up a hill and -- quite a steep hill, and by then our trucks are going and coming, you know, every day; and it was a deep, rutted road, muddy, wet. Of course when the sun would come out it would kind of dry it out, but the ruts were there; and if it would rain, it would get muddy. Well, this one particular night -- and we had a rope stretched across the road right before it comes to the unit, and that's where the guard was, and this road came up to this field where we were, and it ended there. That was a dead end. There was no nothing beyond there but a cliff and a ridge. There was no way -- it ended right there, and I heard the guard yell halt, and I heard voices, and I got up. I said, I wonder what's going on. And I looked. I got to the tent, and I opened it up, and I looked out, and the guard was, oh, maybe about 10, 15 yards distance from where our tent was, and he had the flashlight and was shining it into somebody's eyes. I could see a face illuminated, and I was going out, and it was raining, and I thought, Well, I'd better get back and get my raincoat. And I went back, and I started rummaging around where I thought it was, and I asked the guys, Do you see my raincoat? And nobody said anything, and I keep looking, and one guy said, Sergeant, sit down, and let's finish the hand. Let's play. He said, They'll call you if he needs you. Well, I thought for a minute. I figured, Well, there was no alert. There was nothing to worry about, but, yeah, I suppose you're right. And I regretted that the rest of my life because after about half an hour later he was relieved, and he come in, and I said, What was all that about, Red? (ph) And the kid from Tennessee, Red -- his name was Leopard (ph) -- and he said, Well, he says, This gook -- they called guys they didn't like in Hawaii gooks, you know, that was -- he said, come up here with a bike -- he was pushing his bike -- and he said, I stopped him, and I wanted to know where he was going. And he said, I want to see where this road goes. And the guard said, Well, it don't go anywhere. He said, Turn around and go right back -- because we had orders to that effect. They said if anybody comes up there, civilians, just stop them and tell them to turn around and hit the road, and the guys started laughing, and they said, What's he doing up here with a bike? How can he ride a bike on this road, you know? And everybody laughed and said, Well, some of them are awful dumb, you know. And, well, we passed it off as nothing, you know. Then years later, about ten years later, I picked up a book, and somebody wrote about Pearl Harbor and said that the Japanese spy where his main area of operation was Aiea Heights above Pearl City, and that was where we were, and I started thinking, and I'm thinking he had that bike to throw us off. If he would have come up there without that bike, we would get a little suspicious, but he had that bike, and he's telling us he wanted to know where this road goes, and then I start thinking, Well, I know all of these civilians down there know that that is a dead end. They would have to because if they lived there, they knew it, and the more I thought about it, the more I realized that that was a Japanese spy. He come up to see what we had, and I'll bet you I'm 99 and nine-tenths percent right that that was him and -- but that's the way it was. We could have called the command post and told them about it, but, like I said, they told us -- they just issued orders, don't bother with civilians. Leave them alone. So I didn't bother calling the command post because I know if I did, they probably would have laughed at me, you know, and so that was it. That was December 5. That was Friday, and we were having our usual dinner right -- we had a table there. We done all our eating right outside because it was warm, and if it rained, then we went in the tent, but we were having our dinner, and here comes the carrier down right past us and on toward the channel, and I don't know, not long after that, maybe ten minutes later the other one came by. Somebody mentioned, I wonder where they're going. That was as far as we talked about it because they were coming and going.

Thomas A. Swope:

Getting back to closer to the day of the attack, do you remember anything that you were doing on December 6?

Frank Thomas Oravecz:

Not -- no, not really. We were just out there in that open field. We had a football we would be playing or a baseball. We were playing during the day, and that evening, we decided about five of us were going to go down to the movie house, Dead End Kids, and what the heck was the name of the movie? Angels With Dirty Faces was on. We wanted to see that. So five of us decided to go down, and we went on down there, and before we went to the movie house, one guy -- his name was Sergeant Wright -- said, Sergeant, I don't want to go to the movies. He said, Me and Kenny here, we decided to get a bottle of sake, and we'll go back to camp; and he said, I don't have enough money for sake. He said, Can I borrow two dollars? I said, Yeah. I gave him two bucks, and he got a bottle, and we went to the movies, and he and the other guy went on back up to camp, and we watched a movie, and we come back. It was about 11:00 o'clock when we got to the tent, and I walked in, and he was there with the other guy that I don't recall what his name was. They were still drinking that sake, and I remember he said, Do you want a drink, Sergeant? And I said no. I didn't drink that stuff. In fact, I didn't drink any of it, whiskey, and I drank very little beer, and anyway, I turned in and then got up. That's what happened the night before. Then I got up at about 7:15, and the chow truck usually came around between 7:30 and 8:00, and I got out, and there were a couple of -- well, do you want to hear this part of it? I mean, it's just a continuation.

Thomas A. Swope:

Yes, yes, all of it.

Frank Thomas Oravecz:

Coming right to it now, and we were waiting around, and there was -- about half us were out there waiting around. The other half were in the tents still asleep. They didn't have to get up if they didn't want to, so we're looking down in the harbor, and where we were, we were on the eastern side of Ford Island. The channel came from the ocean, and then when it hit the Ford Island, it split. It went on around to the left side and went on around the right side. In other words, it went -- from the channel, you went so far from the ocean. It was just a narrow channel, but then when it hit the island, then it split around, and then there was a bigger body of water around both sides and all the way around Ford Island. You know what I mean? It was an island that had water all around it, but where we were, we were about -- we weren't on a channel anymore. I mean, the channel was off to our right, and we were about halfway -- we were looking right at the Ford Island. We were about in the middle of it looking across. You know what I mean? And the water on our side wasn't as wide as it was on the other side because on the other side was where all the battleships were. They had Battleship Row, and then they had the dry docks, and they had a hospital over there called Hospital Point, and they had all the buildings over there, and all the -- it seems that all the traffic was going in and out, would come up the channel and go left and go right by us; and we were close to them, but we weren't close to the battleships, but we were across the Ford Island, and we would see all these boats coming and going, and they was as close to us as they could get. And next morning, I'm standing looking down in there, and I heard an explosion, and there were five ships anchored on our side. There was one -- like, three smaller small ships, and then there was the Raleigh. It was a bigger one. It was a cruiser. It was much bigger than the others, and there was a destroyer there. There was only five ships, and they were moored crossways. They weren't this way like I saw pictures of it where the ships were parallel with the land. They weren't parallel. They were crossways on our side. In fact, they were pointing right at us. The front end of the ships were where we could look right down and look right at the front end of the ship and see what was going on on the deck. We could see the guys down there, and I heard an explosion, and I said, I wonder what that is. And I looked down, and guys were looking, and we saw a boat moving around, and I saw another explosion. Nothing more than that; and some guys said, Well, they must be practicing something, you know. And this was about 7:30, and -- yeah, it was about 7:30, and then I turned around, and I noticed right behind us over the ridge -- this high ridge was there that dead-ends, and the high ridge -- and that was east of us in the direction of Schofield Barracks which was about 8 or 10 miles away. There was a huge black cloud of smoke which was billowing up there, and I looked, and I was -- I'm looking at it, and I said, Boy, look at that. There is a fire at Schofield. And somebody said, Well, they might be burning cane, and -- well, do you know what they do with cane before they harvest? You don't know? I'll tell you. Cane, before they harvest it, they -- cane grows like our corn plant, and when it's time to harvest, the leaves start browning, and what they do is they set it on fire. If you see a cane field burning, it looks like a big forest fire, and the smoke from the cane is a yellowish white, never dark. It's just the same color, yellowish white, and we got used to that, see the cane burning; and besides, Schofield Barracks was on the higher elevation than being down there. Pearl Harbor was down in the valley, and they can't grow cane on the high elevations because they have to irrigate it a lot, and up in Schofield all they planted was pineapple. They had a lot of pineapple fields up there, and I said, That isn't cane. They don't have cane up there. We watched it for a while, and about 15 minutes later, here comes the plane right over the ridge right over our heads. I looked up at it and -- what the hell? I said, That don't look like one of our planes and -- the silvery color where ours weren't the silver color, and then they had the ball of rising sun on it, and then here comes a couple more right over the ridge. They slowed it down where we were in this open field, and to the one side of us was -- the field went down into -- there was a valley there, and these guys came over that ridge, and they just flew right down that valley; and when they went by, they came right close to us, and we didn't have to look up like this, and you're looking at the angle almost just like this, lower than 45, and they're looking down at us, and it just looked like they were just taking their good old time, and the first two of them came and then about four, and then all of a sudden there were more, five, six, seven and just coming down. There must have been about 25 or 30 of them that went by us, and, boy, what a spectacle. Here, you know -- all right. Our planes would come around sometimes and come close to us, maybe one or two or three but never like this. So we're thinking we're having an air show or something, and here I could see the rising sun on these planes, and I'm thinking it -- I didn't know what to think, and here the pilots, they're coming by us looking at us, and they're grinning. Some of our guys waved at them. I didn't wave at them, and I know some of the guys did, and one guy came by, and he had -- they had these helmets on, and they didn't -- their goggles were up on their heads, and he had this -- it looks like a scarf around his head, and it was hanging down in the back, and I found out later he was like the group commander. That's the way they dressed. They had their markings, these guys, and they're going by, and they're grinning, you know, and you could see their teeth flashing, and they were that close. They were just about treetop. There was a couple of trees, and they were just skimming over the top of them, and, boy, it was really something to see, you know. Oh, boy, we couldn't understand, and it was fun, you know, watching; and then somebody said, Look up there. And right above the harbor and way up high there's maybe about 15, 20,000 feet here they come, a wave of planes way up there, and then at the time there comes another squadron way lower, much lower. Then all of a sudden here coming up the channel there was another squadron just maybe 50 feet above the water, and then I'm watching them, and all of a sudden the guy comes almost opposite us where we're watching up the channel, and he was trying to go to the right because the channel came in off the bend. He went into a dive, and he went straight down. I never saw a plane dive like that. None of ours dived like that, and somebody said, He is going to crash -- because it looked like, and all of a sudden he straightened out right above the water, maybe I would say to me it looks like 5 feet, and he dropped the torpedo. This torpedo, it was almost as long as the plane, and then I happened to glance at the other one, and they all had torpedoes, like six of them; and we're watching that torpedo, and it's going right up the channel, I mean right up the well part of the channel. We always called it the channel because that's where the ships went out, and it -- you could see it was going to miss the first four boats, but the Raleigh was a much bigger boat, and it was sticking almost half as far out as the other boats, and somebody said they're dropping dead torpedoes for maneuvers; and I started thinking, Well, if they are, somebody is going to be in trouble because this torpedo is going to hit the Raleigh. You could see it, and it was a long distance from where he dropped it all the way up to it hit the target, and it gave us time to talk and say it's maneuvers, and I even had time to think about what happens when a dud hits it because it is going to cause damage, right? And, well, we found out when it hit there was a huge splash and an explosion, and the Raleigh seemed to rise up like a couple feet and move back down, and then it hit us. We knew that the Japanese attacked. That was the first that I could see. There was no nothing dropped before that one torpedo, and then right after that, then everything broke loose, but that was the first one that hit that target, that torpedo. The Raleigh was the first one to hit. Like I said, the battleships were moored on the other side, and we couldn't see what we could see on this side, but we didn't hear no explosion or nothing before this torpedo hit.

Thomas A. Swope:

Then what did you do?

Frank Thomas Oravecz:

Well, I knew what happened, and I watched -- I watched for a couple of minutes. I kept looking down there, and my eyes focused on this one ship, the one -- it was supposedly an airplane tender. It was a smaller ship, and before the torpedo hit, all the ships down there, the decks were bare. There wasn't nobody on deck, nobody on either ship, either the five or six ships that were there; and right after that, here everybody starts coming up from below deck, and I happened to be watching that first ship right in front of us, and I saw about five or six of these guys come running up, and they start running towards the front of the ship right toward us. We had a good view of them. I could see what they looked like. They had the leader that was head, he was about 5 yards ahead of everybody. He was the fastest runner. He was a dark, black-haired kid. He had dark hair, black hair, and they were in T-shirts, and they were running toward the front of the ship, and they had these gun turrets up there, the machine guns, and this kid jumped up on the right one, and there were two others jumped up with him, and then the other three jumped up on the left, and they started firing and -- because these dive bombers started coming down. And I seen the one dive bomber come down on that ship, and he burst into flames, one big ball of fire, and then another one come down the same way, same path, and he got hit. He burst into flames. They must have had their bombs or something because they just burst into fire and disappeared and went down, and a third one -- you know, within 20 seconds there was three planes. They got the three Japanese planes that quick, and then I ran into the tent. I start yelling to the guys. I said, The Japs are here. I said, Get your rifle and gas mask, and let's get out of here -- because we were out in the open, open field, and we were dead ducks because all they had to do was have one guy come down with a bomb, and our -- that was it, and I got out there, and we scattered. There were trees around, and there were bushes, and we were able to conceal ourselves as best we could from being out in the open. We were out in the open, but I was just worried about one of them coming down and getting us. I'm still surprised that none of these planes that came over that ridge -- and they even grinned at us. I can't understand why they didn't do anything because they could have got all of us, and I just don't know. Then again, when I think about it, they were more interested in the harbor. That's what saved us. But anyway, we got out there, and then all I can say is there were bombers coming down everywhere, and there was no one thing you could keep your eyes on. You could see everything, the ship from one to another, and I was watching. They jumped on Battleship Row one after another, and they were getting it, and I happened to be watching these. It was about six destroyers off to the left went into action, and they were firing their antiaircraft guns at these planes that weren't going into a dive yet. See, the antiaircraft guns are okay as long as they're firing at the bombers that are flying laterally, you know. Once they go into a dive, you can't do much with it. That's where the machine guns come in, you know, and they were firing at these planes, and they were on a target, I mean. But the other height -- they were way too far below the target. The bursts were, oh, I don't know, maybe 100 feet below the target. They were busting, but, like I said, boy, if they were only 100 feet higher, we could have got them all. And I talked to one of the Navy guys. I was telling him about it, and he said the reason for that is most of our gunners were on pass. They weren't there, and we were doing the best we could with guys that didn't have the experience, and I figured if they had the experienced guys on there, they would have shot these guys down no problem at all because they were on the target. They wasn't high enough. And -- well, that's -- all of that chaos went on for pretty close -- well, I didn't know how long it lasted at the time. But they said it was pretty close to an hour, and all you could see was dive bombers and explosions and fires and over and over and over and wondering when it was going to end. And then finally it ended, and we thought it was over, and then again about maybe a half an hour later they came back and started right back again. I saw, from where I could see, I could see the battleships. A couple of them began to move, and they jumped on anything that moved. They really jumped on it, and I guess it was the Oklahoma. We didn't know one battleship from the other, but -- it was too far away, but later on I found out the Oklahoma started moving out of there trying to get away, and it didn't get far, and they jumped on it; and then finally it started listing, I think to the left side, and it kept going on, and they kept hammering it, and pretty soon it went down, and it went down and over and just bottom side up. It just turned upside down. And then the Arizona, it started sinking down. Of course we didn't know, like I said, it was the Arizona. It was a battleship to us, but it was too far away. We weren't acquainted with them like we were the Raleigh because it was close, and they took a terrific beating, the Arizona did. One bomb hit, and there was a huge explosion there. You could see that it was finished, and eventually every ship in the harbor looked like it was burning, everything; and after the second attack -- it lasted almost as long, and finally all of a sudden -- all of a sudden it was over, and we're all -- finally all got together, and we were standing, looked down in there and just sick; and all of a sudden somebody yelled, What happened? And we turned around to the tent behind us. You know, the tents were back there, and the guy that bought the sake, his head was sticking out of the tent, and he slept through the whole thing. I asked him later -- I said, Didn't you hear anything? He said, I never heard a thing. He just had too much sake, I guess, and then almost like an anecdote, you know. You start thinking -- you wanted to laugh, but you couldn't, and then we got word from CP that, Well, you got to come back into the post and they'll send transportation out, and we had to wait for the trucks to come out, and we finally got back to our post at Fort Shafter, and we got there. I went to the barracks, and our barracks was hit. What happened there was when it started about 8:00 o'clock, little after, we had what they call charge of quarters in the office. We had one there 24 hours a day, more like guard, but he just charged the quarters. That's all, and his first duty is in case of an emergency he's got to go out there into the barracks, and there's like two rows of bunks. We had long barracks. The bunks there must have been about -- I don't know -- 35, 40 bunks on one side and on the other, you know, and all our rifles to each man was in what we call the rifle rack. It was a circular thing, and it was about -- might have been about five of them, maybe six of those rifles, so 20, 25 something rifle in each one, and those racks were always locked. There was a lock on them, and we couldn't get to them because of the lock, and he was opening up the racks, and he got down to the last one, and he hears a shell came through into the barracks and exploded right in the aisle and near him where he was opening up the racks, and he got hit. He got hit in his lower -- right below the belt, and he was hit hard, and they -- of course they tended to him right away, and the ambulance came, and they took him to the hospital. He died that night at the hospital, and he just wasn't -- he was mangled too bad; and what happened there when I got there, I looked, and the guys were saying, Well, the Jap bomb hit the barracks; and the more I looked at it the more I realized it wasn't a bomb. It was a shell because Pearl Harbor wasn't very far away from our barracks. And what I figured -- I could see what happened. When they probably fired a shell from one of those destroyers, I would think, those 3-inch guns at a plane and -- it didn't go up. It aimed at an angle just over tree level, and when it hit our barracks, it hit the porch, and it hit the bottom of the porch where the floorboards were. You know you had like 2-by-8s under there with the floorboard. It hit the 2-by-8, and it sliced right through and cut a swath just about 2 feet wide just like you would with a chainsaw, and it went through the wall, and the hole wasn't very big there. It wasn't only maybe about 2 feet around, and when it went inside, then it exploded. See, that's what those shells do. I guess they're timed for that, and it exploded, and one charge went toward -- down the aisle toward where -- Arthur Favor (ph) was his name -- was opening the rack, and it hit him, and the other charge went the other way. Well, the other way was -- at the end of the barracks was the sergeant's room, and that's where I was with five other guys, and our room was crossways with the barracks. In other words, the porch came down, and the door was there. You open the door and walk in, and my bunk was facing the door, and then parallel way, that is with the wall, and the other bunks were parallel with the wall the other way, you know, and the guy -- there was only one guy in there at the time, and he was next to my bunk. His name was Robinson. He said, I heard all this noise. And he figured he wasn't going to get up for breakfast. He got up and went over to the locker, and he got his pants, and he was pulling on his pants, and he said something came through the wall, big explosion, blew a big hole in the wall, and it hit his bed, and the bed and wall and everything went up in one big heap outside. There was a big hole in the wall where his bed was. He could walk right through it and the hole that came through from the main barracks, the explosion, and he just missed that by, what, how many seconds? He said he got up and threw on his pants about 10 seconds and never got a scratch, and I looked at my bunk, and my bunk was only about 3 feet from his, and there was a mirror by the door, a big mirror, that was hanging there. There was nothing wrong with it. There wasn't a scratch on it or anything. So that's what happened there, and I tried to get a picture of that. I had a camera and -- one of these 50 cent cameras. It was a good one. I took a lot of pictures with it, but I had no film, but I got film later on, and the only thing I was -- the only thing I was able to get was after they repaired it. It showed where they put new board in and everything, but I wanted to get a picture of that mess that was out there, and I wasn't able to, and he was -- oh, the shrapnel from that that went through that wall, the kitchen was right next to our room there, and the shrapnel went in the kitchen and got two of the cooks in their leg. One got it in the leg down his ankle, and one got it up here in the upper leg. And that was the only casualties there, but they -- everybody was saying it was a bomb, and even our captain when he sent the letter to his family said that the Japanese bomb hit the barracks, and finally I noticed that -- I even read about it. They more or less had an investigation. They determined that it was one of our own shells, and they said it was our own shell that hit the barracks, and I myself truthfully could see what it was. I knew it wasn't a bomb.

Thomas A. Swope:

Well, what happened the rest of the day?

Frank Thomas Oravecz:

Well, that was something too, you know. Our commander come out. It was just about lunchtime, 1:00 o'clock. Well, he had a nice dinner all ready for us, pork chops, mashed potatoes, and everything, and he said get your plates and go outside. Get your food and go out. Scatter around, everybody. Don't stay in the barracks because if they come back, they might bomb the barracks again. So we did, and I got my food, and I'm standing there outside, and kids ___ standing beside me, and I took a bite, and I couldn't swallow. I just couldn't swallow it. I wanted to, but I couldn't. I looked at him. I said, Do you feel like I do? He said, I can't eat. And I looked around, and hardly anybody was eating, and so then I talked -- later on I brought this up in a dispensary one time. I was telling about how I felt. He said, Well, your stomach was so upset there was no way it would accept anything. It wouldn't take it. It would reject, which it did, because of all the excitement and turmoil that we went through. It just upset us. There was no way we could eat. And so then Commander Commody (ph) said, Well, you guys are going to have to get your searchlight and not the radar, just the searchlight, he said, and you've got to set up right down right close to the cane field at Pearl Harbor, just a stone's throw away from the water's edge down in the cane field; and then he said, We have reports that the Japanese landed on three parts of the island around Schofield Barracks, and he said they're reported to have a uniform with a rising sun on the back, and then they reported that they have the rising run on their right chest, and then they said that they're dressed -- they're also dressed in uniforms like our fatigue clothes, and then he said that be on the lookout for the fifth column; and the fifth column, every one of them is wearing fu manchu moustache. Hey, it sounds crazy, but that's -- it was rumors, you know. It ended up that it was false, but the rumors were flying thick and fast, and you didn't know what to believe, and so we went out there with the idea of watching for people dressed like this, you know, and we got to our position, set up; and Pearl Harbor was just -- I don't know -- like I said, a stone's throw away, and all the ships were burning there, and we set up. Nightfall came, and every -- all of a sudden as soon as it got dark there was gunfire everywhere. You could hear it here and there and everywhere, and people were shooting at everything; and, see, down there, one big problem was at night there was a lot of mongoose down there. Do you know what a mongoose is? They're like a squirrel, but they're down there. They're prolific there. They live in the cane. When they go through the cane field, it sounds like somebody is running through there, and well, the guys would hear that and start firing, and then somebody down the road would hear us firing, and then they would start firing at us, and we had an irrigation ditch there, and at one time there they opened up down the road, and, boy, those bullets, I felt them go right by my face. And we dove into the ditch, you know. We had to because bullets were flying everywhere. We -- through the night we had to do that about five different times because it was that way, and then about 11:00 o'clock, the telephone operator called me over and said, I got a report that there's two planes, two B-17s are coming in for a landing at Hickam, and he said, They're our own planes. And no sooner had he said that, one of the ships in the harbor began to explode, and huge balls of flame were going up, and here -- just then the planes came by, and everybody starts shooting at them, and they turned. They turned, and they came right over the top of our position where we were, and I looked up, and I could tell from the lights of the plane from the explosions from the harbor you could get a good view of the planes like a silhouette. They were black, but there was enough light to tell -- I could see they were B-17s, and their lights were flashing, and the reason they turned around and was coming over our position, they were going out to sea because everybody over there was firing at them thinking they were bombers, you know, the Japanese, and here our guys start shooting. I'm yelling, Don't fire. They're our planes. And we had a guy with a BAR there. He was just a short distance from me, and he pulled up, and he started firing, and I saw them just missing the tail, and he didn't hit him. He didn't hit them, the lead plane, and I was happy about that, and I'm listening for a crash from these planes, and it didn't happen, so I don't know whether they made it or not, you know; but, like I said, they were firing at everything and -- until daylight, and before -- right after that happened here, we were hungry. Everybody said, When do we get something to eat? And here I called CP. I said, The guys are hungry. Well, there will be a Jeep down there with food. Pretty soon they came in, and they had bread, loaves of it, one loaf to each guy; and they gave us that bread, and we started eating. You know what? That was the best tasting bread I ever ate. Boy, it didn't taste like bread. It tasted like cake, and it was the same bread that we always ate because we hadn't eaten anything since 5:00 o'clock the day before, and by the time all that dissipated, the rejection in our stomach, we were really hungry. All we had was water in the canteens, and like I said, anytime you want to really enjoy food, just stay away from food for about hours. Well, then daylight came, and that was it. That was about the extent of it. All the firing and everything stopped, and, like I said, the fifth -- oh, getting back to that pack, they -- I heard people say -- and I heard about it, and they had it on the TV where the Japanese dropped bombs on the harbor before they hit the harbor first. They didn't. They hit Schofield Barracks first. They hit the airfield. They knocked out eight planes, and they had a field day there because what they said -- they were afraid of the fifth column, and they lined up all of their planes in nice, neat columns where it was easy for the guard. They didn't need so many guards to keep guard on them, and the Japanese couldn't ask for more, and they chopped them up so bad. There were -- there weren't more than maybe five planes, and -- oh, yeah. I did see one of our planes in a dogfight with a Jap, but that was going on in the harbor, way above the harbor, and our plane was stalling, and it looks like the Jap was -- there was smoke coming out of his tail, but then I couldn't watch him because I lost sight of them due to the smoke and everything. He probably shot that one down. But all we had I think was five planes up from all of that. They just -- if those planes were scattered the way they should have been, they would have got half of them up, and if -- oh, another thing I want to mention is our gun batteries were good because we used to go out. We had a practice with them like three nights a week for about three weeks straight, and then we would get a break for about a month, and then we would go out again and practice again. We had to illuminate the target, what to do with -- get a plane with a long rope, and they had a sleeve on it. The sleeve was about the length of a plane and the length of a bomber, and he would get way up there about 20,000 feet, and we would have to pick him up and get on a target and illuminate the sleeve, and the gun batteries would go into action, and, boy, they were right on them all the time. Our gun batteries were good, but there was nothing they could do because all their ammunition was in a crate, and it would take four hours before they got the ammunition out to the gun, and our gun batteries couldn't get into action. Some of them did get in on the second wave, but there were very few of them. Like I said, the gun batteries, if we were on alert, if we were on alert, say, five hours for the gun batteries to have their ammunition ready, I'll tell you, the Japs would have been in trouble. They would have shot a lot of them down. The Japanese would have never had the success they had because -- nothing we could do, but we weren't on alert.

Thomas A. Swope:

In the days after the attack was there much suspicion of the Japanese that were living in Hawaii?

Frank Thomas Oravecz:

There were. They were rounding them -- in the first couple of days they rounded up a lot of them, you know, and whatever they done with them, I don't know. I guess they took them and whatever. They must have taken them back to the States and interred them with the rest of them, but they were rounding them up there for at least a couple of weeks. I understand very few of them were really suspicious. They were almost as good as anybody else. I mean, you know, but, you know, well, what else could you think? You know, you just can't say, Well, they're as good as anybody else. How could they be when they attacked us like they did, you know? But in this case the innocent had to suffer with the bad.

Thomas A. Swope:

What happened next for you? Did you stay in Hawaii, or were you eventually shipped out?

Frank Thomas Oravecz:

No. I stayed. I stayed there. I had a crew there for a while, and then they were getting -- draftees were coming in, and -- a lot of them, and they were breaking up our outfit and giving us new men, and then they completely broke up our outfit completely. Our guys had to go to other places because they had the experienced men to teach the other guys, and I was with the -- I was still in the category of searchlight sergeant and -- with another bunch of guys, and that went on for about six months. And then finally they called me in, and they said I was selected to go to a training course for jungle warfare. It was one -- from what I know, it was supposed to be one guy from each battery had to go, so I went. It was one part of the island where they had it set up just like a jungle. They had like you would have to go into a jungle and you're fighting Japanese. There were boxes, and there were dugouts and everything, and we had to go through that with a lot of live ammunition. You were crawling under barbed wire, and this lasted about -- it lasted about two months, and, I mean, it was rigorous. We had to really go through that. So when I came back, before I left there, they said, Well, it isn't mandatory, but you can go -- if you want, you can volunteer to go to training. You will be shipped to -- in the States to Georgia. I think it was Georgia where they had this training for the infantry, combat training for jungle warfare, and you go through that, and then they'll make you -- give you a commission to first lieutenant, and you will be shipped who knows where. And they wanted volunteers, so I didn't volunteer, and some of the guys did and came back, and then they picked another guy. He had to take my place. His name was Thomas from California. He was a staff sergeant, and he was our catcher on the baseball. He was good. Anyway, he went to training, and he volunteered. They made him a lieutenant, and they sent him into the jungles, and he contracted the jungle fever, and we corresponded after the war there for quite a while, kind of got away from it, but he told me his experiences. He said, I got in that jungle, and I got sick. And they had to ship him back, and he said, Well, that's the way it was. He said, I volunteered for it, and then of course every time one guy came back, then they sent another one. That's the way they done it, but anyway, I always remember when I first got in I was talking to a World War II veteran at the barracks, and he told me one thing. He said, Look -- he said, Whatever you do, he said, Don't volunteer. He said, No matter how good it looks, he says, Don't volunteer for anything. And I remember that, so, well, I didn't volunteer for nothing. Whatever they told me, it was perfectly all right. I would carry out their orders, but I would not volunteer, and then finally -- well, that was more or less my life there until three years, and what the heck year was it? Anyway, they said, You're going home on a furlough. First you're going to go to San Francisco. And then there were a bunch of guys that went with me. We had all our time in double over there, and we were shipped back to San Francisco, and they gave us furlough from 'Frisco for 30 days. I got back there and -- from my outfit, and about a year later then they said, Well, you're going back to the States. And of course the war was progressing, you know, on and on and on, and they shipped us back, and I ended up in -- up in Seattle, near Seattle -- what was it? Bellingham, Washington, way up on the coast next -- right on Puget Sound, actually. That's where it was, yeah; and we were just biding our time, and I was up there about six months, and finally they called me in, and they said, Do you want a discharge? I said, Yeah. Who wouldn't? I said, How do I get it? He said, Well, we see that there's five of you in this war. I had three brothers. One, he went through -- he landed in North Africa. He was -- second one on the mission landing on a beach in North Africa, and the other one was in France, and the other one was -- he finally went through the whole thing all the way into Germany, and the fourth one was in the air corps, and -- oh. I'll tell you about the fourth one. Before I came back, I knew he was in the air corps, and it was a couple of months before they shipped me out. A guy yelled out, Oravecz. He says, Do you want to see your brother? And I start laughing. I said, Yeah. Who wouldn't? He said, Well, here he is. And there was my brother Mike. I looked. I couldn't believe it, and, well, he come over, and he told me -- he said he was on this big new huge plane they came out with. What the heck was it?

Thomas A. Swope:

B-29 maybe?

Frank Thomas Oravecz:

Yeah. I think that's what it was, big one, and they were going down to the South Pacific, and he was one of the crew, and they landed in Hawaii, and he told his commander -- he said, I have a brother. I would like to see him. So they gave him a pass, and we spent the day together, you know, and -- it's really something -- and talking about that, my three brothers were in Europe. One of them got wounded in the Kasserine Pass, got shot through the shoulder and went to the hospital and rehabilitated. They put him back on duty, and he ended up being an MP in England, and another one of my brothers was drafted, and he got into battle in France, and he got wounded, and he volunteered -- his outfit was pinned down by German machine guns, and they couldn't get around it, and they asked for volunteers, and he volunteered, and he went over there, and he threw in some hand grenades, and they blew him out of there, and they gave him the Bronze Star, whatever it was, medal for that, and he was wounded in both thighs. And then when he recuperated, they put him right back to duty, and his outfit was going through England back to the front somewhere, and my brother Martin, the one who was wounded first, he found out, you know, that Joe was coming through there, so he talked to his commander. He said, Would there be any chance of getting him transferred into our outfit? The commander said, Well, let's see what we can do. So they went down there, and they got him, so they transferred him into Martin's outfit, and they spent the rest of the war together as MPs, and that's when Hitler was sending over those buzz bombs, and they were -- he was telling me how they were -- come overhead, and all of a sudden you wouldn't hear nothing. Then you would have to really dive for cover. That was really something where the two of them met over there and the two of us met in the other part of it, you know. So it was an oddity, and anyway, getting back to my discharge, he said, There's five of you guys in it, and he said, They can -- you can get out on a dependency. That's what they called it. I said, Sure. Why not? So all the other guys were waiting for discharge, and they're saying, What kind of strings are you pulling anyway? So I got my discharge in Seattle -- well, I didn't get it there. I had to wait until I got to New York -- yeah. I think it was New York. I can't recall where it was, but -- what post it was, anyway, I traveled clean across country, all the way into New York, and then from New York I was home, and that was it. That was the end of my Army career.

Thomas A. Swope:

Anything else? I think you have given me plenty. Is there anything else that you wanted to record?

Frank Thomas Oravecz:

Well, I don't have any notes.

Thomas A. Swope:

I think you have done great.

Frank Thomas Oravecz:

The thing after the bombing of the harbor -- and we were standing there, just standing looking down in there, and I never forget this part of it: They had a hospital ship there. It had a big red cross on the deck and one big cross on each side, and it was practically right in the center of the harbor and -- after all of that bombing and everything, and it was sitting right there just like nothing happened. They never touched it, and, you know, we just couldn't get over that, you know. Well, I guess they observed the international laws, you know. They stayed away from the hospital ship which was really fortunate, you know. That hospital ship was there all the time. We would notice it because they had the hospital there right close, and they called it Hospital Point, but that's -- I'll never forget that part of it. We thought sure that what they done to the rest of the boats, that they might have done the same thing to her, but they didn't.

Thomas A. Swope:

Well, it's pretty amazing that an errant bomb or shell didn't hit it.

Frank Thomas Oravecz:

Yeah, yeah. That's what we were saying, that after all of that, not a scratch. I don't recall the name of that ship.

Thomas A. Swope:

There was a lot of -- has been a lot of speculation since the attack that Roosevelt knew in advance that it was going to happen. What did you think?

Frank Thomas Oravecz:

I didn't think so, no. I don't think so. Roosevelt, I don't think he wanted a war, and they -- you know, they were negotiating. They thought that they -- there was a chance of staying out of it, and I really don't believe it.

Thomas A. Swope:

Do you think there was some way to keep us out of Japan?

Frank Thomas Oravecz:

He didn't want a war with Japan.

Thomas A. Swope:

He thought there would eventually be a war with a Germany?

Frank Thomas Oravecz:

Well, he actually didn't want a war with anybody. We were helping Britain, sending supplies and ships over there, but Roosevelt didn't want a war. I know he didn't. I'm almost positive of that. (End of recorded interview.) !

 
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  October 26, 2011
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