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   James Woolsey
Image of James Woolsey
[Detail from video] James Woolsey at 102 years old.
War: World War, 1914-1918; World War, 1939-1945
Branch: Army; Navy
Unit: USS Alpine
Service Location: France; Germany; England; Hawaii; United States; also:
Rank: Sergeant; Boatswain's Mate
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At the tender age of seventeen, James Woolsey joined the Army to fight in the "Great War," World War I. As Woolsey recalled in an interview conducted when he was 102 years old, "When you joined the Army, you weren't handed a gun; you were thrown a gun. And if you couldn't catch it, you were out." In his narrative Woolsey relates the fascination with automatic weaponry and the gruesome results of the use of gas. After the war, he began playing the piano and became a musician at the urging of his family. In December 1941 he was on vacation in Hawaii, where he witnessed the attack on Pearl Harbor. At the age of forty-one he reenlisted in the US Navy and became a radar decoder. During his service in the Pacific Theater, Woolsey was wounded during the battle to take Okinawa. He also performed with the USO and helped to compose the song "USO Boogie" for Glenn Miller and his band.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (4 clips)
» Part 1 |  Part 2   (58 min.)
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»Photo Album (1 photo)
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 Video (Interview Excerpts) (4 items)
A World War I battle in a thickly wooded forest; mud bogging everything down; General Pershing using donkeys to pull equipment out of the muck; missing a gas attack which killed many of his comrades. (06:43) Exposure to gas led to damage to his throat; concentrating on survival; crowded conditions aboard the troop ships. (02:31) Basic fear of death for any soldier in combat. (00:55)
How he happened to be in Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941; enlisting and insisting that he join the Navy this time around. (05:25)  
  
 
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  The Library of Congress  >> American Folklife Center
  October 26, 2011
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