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Interview with Ivan Arnold Harris [8/10/2005]

Carl Raymond Cox:

Hello, and welcome to the Veterans History Project. My name is Carl Cox and we are here with the Voluntary Resource Management Service of the VA San Diego Healthcare System at the VA Medical Center in San Diego, California. I am a volunteer at this facility. I am the producer, and I will be the cameraman and your host conducting today's interview. Today's date is August the 10th, 2005, and today's guest is a veteran of World War II. Please welcome Mr. Ivan Harris.

Carl Raymond Cox:

Please state your full name.

Ivan Arnold Harris:

Ivan Arnold Harris.

Carl Raymond Cox:

Please state your date of birth.

Ivan Arnold Harris:

May 30th, 1920.

Carl Raymond Cox:

Please state your current address.

Ivan Arnold Harris:

434 F Street, as in Frank, Apartment 114, Chula Vista, California.

Carl Raymond Cox:

Which war did you serve in?

Ivan Arnold Harris:

World War II.

Carl Raymond Cox:

Which branch of the military did you serve in?

Ivan Arnold Harris:

I was proud to serve in the Navy.

Carl Raymond Cox:

What was the highest rank that you achieved?

Ivan Arnold Harris:

Boswain's Mate, First Class.

Carl Raymond Cox:

Where you drafted or did you enlist?

Ivan Arnold Harris:

I enlisted. I found job hunting kind of tough.

Carl Raymond Cox:

Where were you living at that time?

Ivan Arnold Harris:

I was living in Colorado Springs, 107 South Seventh Street.

Carl Raymond Cox:

What made you decide to join the Navy?

Ivan Arnold Harris:

I think the romance of the Navy, you know, see the world, you know, and all the girls and all that sort of thing, you know. It sounded good to me. Sounded better than working behind a tank or something.

Carl Raymond Cox:

Do you recall your boot-camp training experience?

Ivan Arnold Harris:

Oh, yes, I enjoyed it very much. I'm a little odd, I think, because the average guy says, 'oh, I hated boot-camp' and all that, but I liked it. To me it was a great adventure.

Carl Raymond Cox:

Do you remember your instructors?

Ivan Arnold Harris:

I don't remember their names, there were two Chiefs, one was a nice guy and was a no-good guy. In our opinion, he was just tough, that was all. This is a photo of our Company at Boot Camp in San Diego. I went aboard the U.S.S. Nevada after Boot Camp, which was just a week later at Long Beach.

Carl Raymond Cox:

So your first duty assignment after boot-camp was the U.S.S. Nevada?

Ivan Arnold Harris:

Yes, a little scary. A big ship like that.

Carl Raymond Cox:

Where were you on the morning of December 7th, 1941?

Ivan Arnold Harris:

Well I was in a motor launch, I was Coxwain of a motor launch at Pearl Harbor and I was about to go ashore for liberty. In order to do that, I had to shower and I wanted to, in order to shower, I had to shower on the, on the dock at Aiea. Some enterprising sailors had rigged a, a temporary, I suppose, a shower there at the dock, and I was going to use it and then go ashore. We were on detached duty from the U.S.S. Nevada on motor launch, it was a forty-footer, and we had a canvas canopy over it and I had a crew of a Bowhook, and a Midshipman, and a, a Sternfast plus my Motor Machinist's Mate, and a Gunner's Mate, Third Class. The reason there was a Gunner's Mate on board was because we each had a Springfield rifle and we had hard hats, like the Army hats, you know. And we had our own mosquito netting and we had our cots. Everything independent, and we were on detached duty from the Nevada. Evidently it was the Nevada's turn to supply a launch and a crew for inspecting the fishing craft that was there in the harbor. Not the harbor where the ships are, but the harbor adjoining that harbor. And so we would, our duty was all-night duty. Do you want me to tell you something about that?

Carl Raymond Cox:

Yes, would you, you were just getting off duty?

Ivan Arnold Harris:

Yea, I was just getting off duty, all night we'd stop boats and check on them and looking for saboteurs, I think, because that was the, the thought that the Japanese were going to sabotage us in some way. Well, we were just about, just about time for Colors, and I was putting on these tight latex trunks, the latest thing, and I had them about half way up and my Bowhook hollered, 'hey, we're under attack, we're under attack, the Japanese,' and I hobbled up to him and I said, 'what did you say?' He said, 'we're under attack, the Japanese are attacking us.' Aw, naw, it's those danged Marines. Now a few weeks before we were out at sea and the Marines were diving on us making believe we were the enemy ship, going through their routine. So I wanted to believe that it was the Marines. He said, 'no, look the rising sun on the fuselage on the wings.' And sure enough a plane banked right in front of me with a, I think, probab, probably a torpedo bomber, he had just dropped a load and I could see the black goggles and the oriental face, that's all. I didn't know he was Chinese or what he was. Oriental face with big black goggles looking at me as he swung around. And I said, 'by God, we are under attack.' So I got those trunks up in a hurry, I guess, I grabbed that tiller because I'm in-charge and we head for the dock as fast as we could go, about a mile away. And we ran for cover under the trees, and then, oh, there under the trees, also, was the Admiral's Barge crew. A beautiful maroon job sitting at the, in the dock. And I heard the Chief say to his men, 'come on, we got to get back, the old man may need us.' And that made me realize that I'm in-charge of these guys, we don't belong here under these trees and bushes, we belong at our battle station, like your trained. So, I, come on guys, we ran down to the launch and I had them take the canvas off the, off the ribs of the launch and dump it on the dock and then on the way out to the ship I had them dump their bedding and water and bring it back on board, mattresses and everything, in case we caught fire, we could put out the fire better. So, I got out to the ship, do you want me to go on about it, sir?

Carl Raymond Cox:

Oh, by all means.

Ivan Arnold Harris:

I got out to the ship and I hailed somebody aboard, some officer, Chief, maybe, and he said, 'no, don't come aboard, pick up survivors.' So, that's what we did. We picked up survivors, that makes sense and I started the, right next door to us was the burning Arizona, all ablaze. And you could feel the heat of it, so I gave it wide berth, went around it, but on the foc'sle of the Arizona was a man standing there, I could tell he was one of the Stewards, Officer Stewards, and he was barefoot. Standing there leaning against the life-line. And I hailed him to, I was going to pick him up, no, he didn't want to come aboard. He, 'no, no, that shark stuff will get me or the burning, the burning oil will burn me or I'll drown, I can't swim, I can't swim.'

But we went in, nosed-in and reached over and grabbed him and pulled him on board our launch, took him anyway. And then we went next door to the West Virginia. Now the West Virginia was ablaze. I nosed into the West Virginia, my Bowhook steps off and snubs the line and then I notice all that burning oil coming towards us, and without asking permission or anything I gave the bells to back her down, full speed.

So we backed down and the line was trailing in the water and the fellow onboard jumps overboard and says, 'wait for me.' And my Mouse, he grabs the line and here we are towing him back and just at that time someone took our picture. We're on the cover of books, and we're on the, we're in history books. I've taught school since and I've seen my picture many times in history text books.

So, we got out of the way there and then I headed for the Oklahoma, but where was the Oklahoma? It was here a minute ago. All of sudden I realized the Oklahoma had capsized. Here all we see is this big hull. Boy, it felt like somebody kicked me in the stomach because that's their sister-ship, the Nevada's sister-ship was the Oklahoma. And here she is capsized. You just don't kill a battleship that way.

Well, we started picking up survivors, they were sliding down off the Oklahoma and so forth. We had so many, we had them hanging on the gunnels of the, of the launch and we, I went about half speed toward Ten-Ten dock where we could deposit them and they'd be taken to a hospital or something there.

So, as we went, as we turned to go toward Ten-Ten dock, the Arizona exploded again. Two rapid explosions. Evidently bombs had hit their, oh gosh, where you keep the magazines, yea, the magazines, and it startled me. We could feel the pressure of the, of the shock of the bomb made our launch move and we could feel more heat, but our heat was at our back now because I was getting out of there in a hurry.

But if I hadn't taken that fellow off, that's what would have happened to him, too. So, I was glad of that, I didn't think of that at the time. Anyway, we headed at Ten-Ten dock and we deposit the men and evidently there were Corpsmen there, all kinds of military doctors and so forth to take the men. Ten-Ten dock was a big dock that carriers would land at, so, it was a strong dock. They pronounced it was T-e-n-n-T-e-n-n or 1010, it was important.

Anyway, I, I later I went back towards the main action, where I thought was the main action, back where my battleship was and I couldn't see my battleship, the Nevada. Gosh, it's underway. Now, my, my Sternfast, I've talked to him since then, he remembers they saying, 'follow us out to sea.' I don't remember that, all I remember is 'I didn't see the ship.' And it's funny how some things you remember, tragic things, and other things just blow over for some reason.

And, anyway, I wasn't aware that the Nevada was, had beached itself. Later I, we came across it and went aboard it, but that was all later, and it didn't seem to be right that the Nevada was a sunken ship, too. My old ship, boy, we're proud of it. Fellows that are in the Navy at that time, I don't know about today, but they were very proud of their own ship. They could get into a fight in a bar if someone said something about the Nevada or the Oklahoma or something. You're liable to get into a fight. So you better watch your tongue, you know.

Anyway, we went back to, oh, I went aboard a cruiser, it must have been a heavy cruiser. And it must have been near Ten-Ten dock because I was hailed as we went by, and I pulled over close to it and they said, 'Come aboard, I want to give you some bread.' It was a big ship's baker. And he would pass down, and I tied up at the boom, boat boom, and he passed down loaves of bread for each of member of my crew and myself.

And I started to, I tore it open and, but the moist, inner stuff on my dirty hands, even though I had wiped them off on my shirt, I don't know, it just didn't appeal to me, it felt like death, you know. So I ripped out the inside and I ate the crust and it was delicious. And I hoped that this baker realizes how grateful I am for his generosity and thinking of us and giving us this bread. That was the only meal I could remember eating between, before Christmas day when we ate aboard the U.S.S. Nevada on Christmas day.

And what did we have for, for dinner? Turkey, no, no, no. We had toasted cheese sandwiches made out of powdered cheese, they told me, it was made with powdered cheese. I had two of them, I know that. And I had, I think, a can of Dole pineapple juice. They were 20 cents a can when you bought them in town at the YMCA. And I had an orange and I don't know if they gave away cigars and cigarettes like they use to at every, every special meal like Thanksgiving, Christmas, you'd have a package of Lucky Strike, a package of Chesterfield, a package of Camels, and a couple of cigars, and matches all there at your plate as you sat down.

Well, I didn't smoke so I gave mine away. I hope they don't do that today. That certainly encourages the sailor to, if it's free, go ahead use it. And I didn't want, I'm glad that I don't think they do that today aboard ship. Have any questions?

Carl Raymond Cox:

Yes, during, after you had dropped the sailors off at dock Ten-Ten, you went back out, did you continue to pick up survivors?

Ivan Arnold Harris:

We did, but it's all kind of hazy. I, I know I, I helped with ammunition on one ship on this cruiser I was mentioning. We moved projectiles. The projectiles weren't as big as the ones on my ship, my ship, so it had to be cruiser projectiles. And we moved them from the, from the hot sun into shady area. And this is something funny. All you had to do was say, 'air raid,' and people started running.

You know they're trigger-happy. And someone mentioned, I wonder if there is going to be an air raid or some...and someone's air raid and they start off and the officer was directing this, moving of these projectiles, hollered, 'hey, men, wait, don't, don't run stay here we've got to move these projectiles out of the sun.' So that's what we did. I am so grateful to him because had we done what the others did, we've lost it, because you panic, once you've panicked, you're out of it for awhile. You can't give good orders, you, you don't think straight. You wished you hadn't done this and you wished you hadn't done that, but we didn't have to worry about that because the officer said, 'Come here, I need you, get to work.' And that's doing what you expect to do, what you were expected to do.

Carl Raymond Cox:

And this was all while the attack was going on?

Ivan Arnold Harris:

You know, bombs and torpedoes and so forth were dropping all around us, but we weren't conscious, we weren't saying, 'oh, look at that bomb.' I heard about this later on, maybe I shouldn't even mention it, but one of the Petty Officers went out of it because he was sitting there on the bit...going ah, ah, ah. They said he was out of it. And the reason was he probably watched a bomb drop and said it's going to get me, it's going to get me, it's going to get me.

He made it become apart of him instead of going about his business. And that's all I was doing. I wasn't being brave, I was just doing what I was told to do, what I had to do. And it was exciting, it was fun. And I don't have any real bad memories except that kick in the stomach when I saw the Oklahoma capsize, because you just don't kill a battleship. Man they're tough. And it, and they are no more now.

Carl Raymond Cox:

So what happened that evening after the attack?

Ivan Arnold Harris:

Oh, that was interesting. I don't know when we did it, but it was about sundown, I suppose, we, we checked into Block Arena. I heard about the name of this arena after the war. I didn't even know it was called Block Arena, but it was about the Sub Base. It was an outdoor theater called Block Arena, B-l-o-c-k. And I checked in there and evidently that's where I turned my boat over.

The day I turned my boat over to the Nevada which wasn't far away from it, because I every day we would go out to the Nevada on a work crew, work detail, by the boat, the same boat I had been Coxwain of. But I didn't get to be Coswain then. Well, anyway, we, they usually, oh, we stayed in the, in the lounge where they had a beautiful Wurlitzer Juke Box and man, that thing was going like sixty. And this place was loaded, I think we had popcorn, and I think we had soda pop, but I don't know, I didn't pay any money. I don't remember drinking it or eating it, but we had to have something with 200 men or so in this big, black-out curtains and all.

And do you know what the most popular song was? 'My Rose of San Antone,' with Bob Wills. My Rose, my rose of San Antone, man, I love that song. I, I can't help it. Probably the next favorite was, 'Sweet Leilani, Heavenly Flower,' you know. But, but I really liked that 'Rose of San Antone.' I, there's certain things that trigger a smile and a deep feeling in me, and that's one of them. If I hear My Rose of San Antone,' man, I like that.

Okay, well, when we, they issued us mattresses and bedding, one blanket, I think it was, and a pillow for sleeping on the concrete tiers of the arena. You start up in the upper left hand corner, way up, top one, you put your bunk down, mattress down, the guy next to you puts his down, next to you, so on, 'til the whole place is filled with mattresses and no one said you had to turn in now, but at a certain time, I guess, there was 'lights out,' probably ten o'clock.

And in the morning, what woke us up was a drone of, of planes taking off, probably. We called it the; 'Dawn Patrol,' from World War I, you know. Because it, excuse me, all these planes were taking off to go look for Japanese. So, by that time we'd gather up our bedding and we'd wend our way down through the lounge, and to a storage room. Now, everything is soaking wet with dew in the morning, and when you go out to the lines. So, what did we do with our bedding, you'd think we'd had our name on it and, you know, it was assigned to us, because it would be kind of damp when you take it in in the morning.

You take it in to store and you can't store bedding in a big room packed one on top of the other without it getting smelly. So, I don't know how we handled that. How they handled it. But I would think that, that they'd have it where we would put it over a line or something and let the sun radiate on it awhile, you know. Because I was...wasn't aware that it was stinky bedding, but it sure would be after the dew and the body perspiration, so forth. Well.

Carl Raymond Cox:

What did you do the following day after the attack?

Ivan Arnold Harris:

Oh, I don't know what we did. I don't remember eating. I do not remember the act of eating. Sitting down at a table or any...except that loaf of bread and our Christmas dinner. But I know we ate because I'm a hungry guy, I'm always eating, you know. I was a regular cowboy for wanting to eat.

Anyway, it was a few days later, I suppose, we, we started going out to the Nevada to clean up. And as the Nevada was raised, evidently pumped it, and as they pumped it, became more water tight. They, they got it up level where we could have dinner onboard. And that's when we all ate aboard the Nevada. And that was a proud moment, I, I liked that very much, having all this. It couldn't have been better.

Christmas dinner was great. It was kind of like poor family saying, 'I remember when daddy was home.' That was the best time we had. Best Christmas we ever had, remember, you know? Certain things you...eat, eat a can of beans and you think you're, you're a king.

Carl Raymond Cox:

So, were you part of a working party that went out?

Ivan Arnold Harris:

Evidently, evidently they used me and all the fellows that they did not send away from the Nevada, some of the men were assigned to other ships. I was not. I hope it was because they wanted me. Yea, they heard what a great guy this Ivan Harris is. Anyway, I was, I stayed aboard and eventually after we raised the ship, we would, as if each day we'd go aboard and we'd use waste, you know this cloth waste and diesel oil, and we'd wipe down the bulkheads, the overhead, the ladders, the deck, and then later on we would take hot water and scrub all those areas. And so, little by little, the ship was becoming shipshape, as they say. And it was so nice to see a ship going out to sea to fight the Japanese, we'd all give them a big 'roar,' you know. And when we went out, the same way, but when we went out, we had a plate over our bow where a torpedo had hit and so that they could pump. I don't know how they did all this, but evidently the shipyards took care of that. And we went back to Bremerton, probably, March, something like that. A couple months later, anyway. And we went back, I was part of the crew, we went back about four or five knots. Now that's not fast, that's really creeping along, and it was freezing, cold. I remember that. And we were arguing, a bunch of guys talking about whether it's better to get 7 into bed naked and then cover up with everything, or go to bed fully clothed and then cover up. I was the latter group, because I was a skinny kid, and I got cold mighty quick. So, and we went back to Bremerton and I got a 30-day leave. How about that? The war going on, but I got to go back to Colorado Springs. Came back and we were in dry dock and the Nevada, I got in my bunk and about, oh, 11 or 12 o'clock at night and all of a sudden water is coming in. The fellow above me had the water, but he got up and moved without telling me. And here's the water, it's just shooting right down on me, soaking wet. No momma to tell me, 'aw, poor boy, give me, let me fix it for you. Won't you have a cup of cocoa? Here's a nice piece of pie grandpa left.' Nothing like that, no one to care if I lived or died. Man, it was miserable. This is a photo of myself when I was Boswain's mate, Second Class. You went from Coxwain to Second Class. This is when I was Second Class.

Carl Raymond Cox:

How long were you in, in Bremerton for repairs?

Ivan Arnold Harris:

Well, let's see, I think it was a couple of months. And then eventually they went to some other place, like Mare Island, where...Where's Mare Island? I don't remember now. But anyway, to get refitted for guns, new guns, excuse me, they didn't do that in Bremerton, they repaired the ship, but getting the new guns and new armament of all kinds, a new kind of aircraft, observation aircraft, incidentally, that was, that was something neat that I saw. I saw a scope from a biplane, we had a biplane onboard ship for observation, then to a single and then to a new single. They're really a sleek job, you know. So, it showed the progress of our, our country as we were building better planes, and better this, and better that. And that's, of course, what won the war. The fact that we could put out this fire arms as fast as we could, and planes as fast as we could. Improve them all the time. Well...

Carl Raymond Cox:

So, what happened after the ship was completely refitted?

Ivan Arnold Harris:

The... jo

Carl Raymond Cox:

Where did you go from there?

Ivan Arnold Harris:

Ah, we went for some reason we were on convoy duty, battleship convoying ships going over to England. I think this might be the reason, though, if the German's knew that we were convoying back and forth, they wouldn't be so suspicious of us going over, a battleship going over to England. We were going to go over there to prepare for Normandy, you know, for the big push, 'Operation Overlord.' But I didn't know at that time that that what was in their mind. But, I think, looking back that that's probably the reason, one reason we were on convoy duty, was because we were going over back and forth, and ah, ha, convoy duty. And then finally they stayed over. And that was a, one of the best kept secrets of the war, you know. The fact that we were going to hit Normandy, they had, they had us, gonna hit various places and, well, it turned out right for us.

Carl Raymond Cox:

So, did you see any combat during these escort missions?

Ivan Arnold Harris:

No, I didn't. I was aware that when planes came around and things like that, that that's what they were looking for, for enemy. But I didn't get involved in anything like that going over. It was just, sometimes the weather was bad. Fact is they built on the Nevada, they built on the foc'sle a fenced area with 20 millimeter guns there, extra armament. By the time we came back to Boston, each time, that fence was just ripped to shreds, you know, the water would come over the bow and tear us apart on the, on the foc'sle. So, it didn't, it lasted for awhile, I don't know if they kept that up or not.

Carl Raymond Cox:

How long was the U.S.S. Nevada on convoy duty?

Ivan Arnold Harris:

I really don't know. I think we went over two or three times. If so, the one time they stayed over and I was off the ship by that time. I had applied for duty, minesweeping sounded romantic, and...

Carl Raymond Cox:

What year, what year were you transferred off of the U.S.S. Nevada.

Ivan Arnold Harris:

The year was, let's see, '40 I went aboard, January of '40 // and I was on about four years. So, '44 I guess it was. I went to Minesweeping School in Norfolk, Virginia. And that was interesting duty. I learned about mines and the horns that protrude from the mines, and how to combat them on the ship. I felt very proud to be apart of, of a team that was getting rid of those bombs, those bombs, those mines. A mine wouldn't destroy a battleship, but it would slow it down. And if you had enough mines, of course, you'd sink. So, you'd had to try to stay out of the way of mines. I don't know if you'd know this or not but when you're on duty, look-out duty, you're way up above and you can see if there is a mine six feet under the water up ahead, you can see that. You're aware of it. The way you're looking down at it. And from the deck you couldn't tell if a mine is there or not, that's the idea. And then as you approach the mine if you hit it, it explodes, that's it. I, I enjoyed minesweeping duty, it made you feel like a real sailor.

Carl Raymond Cox:

So, after you're schooling, what was your next duty assignment?

Ivan Arnold Harris:

I went, I put a ship in Commission. I, I didn't do it, I was one of the crew. We were called, what are you called? Let's see.

Carl Raymond Cox:

Plank Owners?

Ivan Arnold Harris:

Plank Owner, yea, I was a Plank Owner and it was very interesting. We, we lived in a department store, empty department store as a crew, U.S.S. Mirth, and we lived there for about a month, I guess, and then finally we went aboard our ship. Once the ship was ready to Commission, we were ready. Incidentally, that was very interesting coming down from Cleveland to Boston. How'd we do it? We went, we took the seaway, the St. Lawrence Seaway, we crossed the, we had to go through locks, and then to, about 50 feet difference in the two lakes. And then eventual...we had to go so fast so that our rudder would, would answer, we'd go down the, we're going down a what they call The Rapids,' not the real Rapids, but the secondary Rapids for ships about our size. We were going so fast that in order to make the curves, the turns, we had to turn our engines on and go full speed. So we were going double fast, we were going let's say 50 knots, something like that. And the, at our stern would be some ducks floating along there having a good time, all of sudden they're /^ tossed 20 feet in the air. Wow, those poor ducks. Our wake would catch them, you know. And they were so surprised I felt for them. You know we had a little mascot onboard if I may mention this little fellow. He was a little dog like, ah, common ones that they use to experiment on, what are those little, anyway, it was a small dog. Little brown and black one. And he broke his leg and the Corpsman fixed his leg up with a splint on it. You know, he slept between the compartments. He, you, have you been on board ship, you, you step over the combing and then over another combing to go on the passage. Well, he slept inside there and, you know, he would get up in the middle of the night, he had to go to the toilet. He'd get up and work his way up over that combing and fall on the other side and walk about six feet away and go to the toilet. And then he'd come back and climb back onboard with that splint on. And every time he had to go to the bathroom, he wouldn't do it there by his bed, he'd do it away, no matter how hard it was.

Carl Raymond Cox:

He'd actually do it in the, in the head?

Ivan Arnold Harris:

In the ship, yea. No, not in the head, I don't remember now, probably in a companion way, some way, but anyway, it wasn't his sleeping quarters. He had too much respect for that. So, and he was washed overboard one time, we, we had, 'man overboard,' we circled the ship, but he couldn't spend too much time looking for him, felt terrible to lose him.

Carl Raymond Cox:

Did you see combat while you were aboard the U.S.S. Mirth?

Ivan Arnold Harris:

I saw no combat, but I did what we were suppose to do. We swept mines, so, as far as that goes. And then eventually, which was not too long we turned our ship over to the Russians. Lend Lease, I guess they called it. And we didn't like doing it. We took off all our secret stuff, like radar, that sort of thing and then we turned it over to the Russians up in Alaska.

Carl Raymond Cox:

Had the war ended at this time?

Ivan Arnold Harris:

This was before the war ended. /3

Carl Raymond Cox:

This was before the war...

Ivan Arnold Harris:

Oh, yea, yea, in other words we were supplying our, see Russia was our enemy at first, and then it became our friend. I thought, what the heck we just bought this ship. We just built it and here we are turning it over to those Russians. It was necessary to turn, when we turned the ship over to the Russians, I wanted to paint it. And we took all the paint we had onboard, put it in five cans instead of one big barrel, I should have done. I put it in five big, five- gallon cans. And it was sort of a gray-brownish, sort of, sort of gray, battleship gray is what they normally use, about the color of these tables. Anyway, I didn't have any dryer, so went to the Marines, I went to the Army, I went everywhere I could to see if they had any dryer they could spare me. Dryer, what's that? You know, they didn't want to give any dryer, this is Alaska, everything is wet with dew and frost and so forth. So I went ahead and painted the ship anyway. So, every time a man put his hand down on a railing, sticky with, every time they'd lean on something, uniform got... I felt so terrible I wanted to hide under my bunk. I didn't go aboard ship, I was not the crew that went out with them, I'm glad of that. Because if they knew who I was they'd probably toss me overboard. But, man I felt terrible about that, I was miserable. That here I am a Boswain mate and I'm painting the ship without dryer, and I know darn well they're going to be messy, and uniforms are going to be ruined. But, you know, the Russians are an interesting, we were in a bar one time with a bunch of Russian boys and in a booth, and one boy took his fingers and moved his teeth back and forth, all of them. And I says, 'what?' And he says, 'Norse, Norse.' So he was telling that up in the North, Alaska, and so forth, you know, is where his teeth got this way. And, evidently it was because of not having lime juice or lemon, that sort of thing, you know. But, they were always onboard ship when we were getting ready to turn, to turn it over to them, they wanted to do things to show how grate they were. They'd take a 50 pound bag of potatoes, they'd try to step between ship and ship. Jump, they could do it. You go ahead and do it. Well, you were a nut if you did it, if you tried it. Because you'd probably end up in the drink. But, anyway, they were always trying to show how mighty they were, how strong they were. I guess they felt they had to. And once in awhile we'd see a ship with a lot of women onboard, they, the women would be wearing these lambskin black, I guess it's lambskin, hats. I'd like to own one. Ever seen one? /f

Carl Raymond Cox:

Mmm.

Ivan Arnold Harris:

It's a...

Carl Raymond Cox:

Yes.

Ivan Arnold Harris:

little curly, yea. There would be women onboard, you'd see them all the time. You'd see them on deck, you'd see them up by the officers and so forth. And I don't know what there situation was whether they... mutual quarters or whether they shared quarters or what. That's not my business.

Carl Raymond Cox:

So, what was your next duty assignment after that?

Ivan Arnold Harris:

Well, let's see, I was sent to, I was sent to New York, Pier 92 was a Receiving Station and it was a canvas covered pier. I don't know if you're familiar with the New York piers, but there biggest two- class rooms together, side by side, and then the long, half a mile long, so, and big ships would tie up there at...but in this case it was used for us. Evidently men who were in transit were on the way to some other spot would come there waiting for their troop ship to take them. Our troop ship took me down to the Philippines, where I picked up a mine sweeper there, YMS 365, it was a wooden mine sweeper. Yard Mine Sweeper is what its name actually is, YMS, they didn't even call even call it U.S.S., it's just YMS 365. It was good duty, I enjoyed it very much. I got to be very much of, my own man. Even went bare-footed some of the times. Nobody yelled at you, you know. It was kind of a stupid thing to do, though, because you could damage a toe and put you out of commission, easily. Well, I enjoyed duty, though, on the, on the YMS 365. That was my last duty. Finally, I was able to go back home.

Carl Raymond Cox:

Where were you, where were you, where was the YMS 365 patrolling?

Ivan Arnold Harris:

We swept mines at, out of Puerta Princessa, Puerta Princessa, P-e-u-r-t-a Princessa, and it's, it's at Luzon in the Southern end of Luzon, the big island. And we weren't, we couldn't go ashore, we weren't suppose to go ashore, we did, but we weren't /v5 suppose to.

Carl Raymond Cox:

What was the food like aboard ship?

Ivan Arnold Harris:

I liked it. There again I'm an odd ball. But I appreciated all the food that we had. You couldn't ruin beans, for breakfast we'd have beans with red lead, that's ketchup, and we'd have figs or prunes to go with that. And probably that was to keep you cleaned out, you know. And they knew what they were doing. Once and awhile I heard they put in 'salt peter' in some of the stuff. Suppose to keep your sex drive down or something, I don't know what it was. And I don't know if they actually did that, but these guys that are in on the know tell you all this, you know. Scuttlebutt, you know what scuttlebutt is, don't you?

Carl Raymond Cox:

Yes, sir. Were you able to stay in touch with your family often?

Ivan Arnold Harris:

Yes, by mail, but it wasn't, wasn't regular at all. You know for a couple of years when I was in the Navy, I thought that a 'mail buoy' was an actual mail buoy where you picked up mail. Because it seemed so logical. Then you'd be out at sea a week and they'd have mail call. Now I know why because later on I worked in the Post Office. And I know how we lounged around and then we had a mail call when, area, a few days, you know. Even though we'd had two more bags to go, we didn't do it all at one time. And it was something. But, but it seemed to me that if you-./how come we got mail?' 'Oh, we passed a mail buoy last night.' 'Oh, I didn't know that.' After a couple of years I believed that. Here I was a off...a Petty Officer. Finally, I realized that that was just a gimmick, it wasn't re...the thing. It's like having a stripe paint, 'hey, son, go get me a, one gallon of white stripe paint, black and white. I've heard of that or a left handed monkey wrench.

Carl Raymond Cox:

Or a Padeye wrench.

Ivan Arnold Harris:

Depends upon where you, what your work you're in. If your in a big garage, they might send you for the left-handed Stilson or something. //

Carl Raymond Cox:

Do you remember any unusual or humorous events?

Ivan Arnold Harris:

I remember lots of them. Lots of them. One time when I was on a minesweeper, I determined I was going to go back late. Late, yep, I was going to be late. I didn't care. And I was the type of guy that if you said, 'jump,' I'd jump. And I was a good Petty Officer. But here I was going to go, I was in charge of my Division, so, I sleep over, but I can't seem to sleep so I get up and go down in the hotel and have bacon and eggs and so forth. Then I'd go back to the ship. Here I am approaching the ship and I start getting uneasy because I see all these guys standing at attention. Holy cow, I step on the gangway, I'm going up the gangway, salute the colors, step off, here they're having 'inspection.' Inspection, my, my Unit is right here on my right. And I step off and hurry toward my bunk as fast as I can go toward my locker. And I get a message, the Captain wants to see you. So, I go up to the Captain, 'explain Harris, how come you're, you're AWOL?' And I told him. Probably won't happen again, but I just was determined I was going to be late. And I forgot that there was Inspection day. He says, 'well, don't let it happen again. You're a leading Boswain's Mate, we can't have you doing that.' Another humorous something that happened to me when I was in the Philippines, we needed a new paravane. Now, a paravane is shaped like a cigar, it's long as a couple of tables put together, and its got a flag on the top of it. And you put it at the end of your, of your lines for sweeping. The reason you do that, if its going along smoothly, the flag will be going smoothly, but if suddenly it starts bouncing around, skipping all over the ocean, you know something snagged on your line. You've got to stop and find out what it is, might be a mine. A mine got to be cut loose. So, we went to get this paravane and on the way back as we were towing it, and I said to the, my Motor Machinist's Mate, 'hey, that would be fun riding that thing.' He says, 'I dare you to.' 'What do you mean, you dare me to?' So, I stripped naked and I jump overboard and climb on board the paravane and I am slapping it singing, 'give me a date with a Ford V-8 and rumble seat built for two, and let me wahoo, wahoo, wahoo.' And all of a sudden a searchlight comes down on us. Oh, my God, I didn't even know we were close to a ship. They were all out watching their movie. Everybody ran over to their life-lines looking at us, and laughing at us, and then they turned their searchlight on, off and went on about their movie. When I got back to the ship, I'm climbing up /7 the rope ladder. I get up to the top, who's waiting for me at the top? Skipper. 'Harris, is that the new uniform of the day?' I said, 'no, we were just having a little fun.' He said, 'you better go below and get some clothes on.' Oh, boy, maybe that's one reason I didn't become Chief, because he was the man that would have made me Chief.

Carl Raymond Cox:

During your time in the military, was there anything that you did special for good luck?

Ivan Arnold Harris:

For good luck? No, I don't recall, I don't recall, I don't believe in good luck and bad luck, really. My religion doesn't go for that. I, I prefer to call it the way God wanted it, or something like that, you see. The fact is, you know, back in, talking about Pearl Harbor, the days before Pearl Harbor, a couple of weeks before, I was with a friend from church, a, was a motherly type woman and she'd take me on drives and we would practice, we would sing hymns from the hymnal. And we would memorize certain things, citations, you know, from the Bible and so forth. And I was, I was all prayed- up, you might say, when the attack came. And do you know one of the things I was worried about? How to get in touch with her to let her know I wouldn't be able to make our date. We had, she'd planned a date for us, we were going to go on the other side of the island and a nice home where the people had left us, kept... gave her the key, said, 'bring this servicemen, service ladies over there you can spend the whole afternoon fish...swimming right off our beach, right there on the beach, you know, we'll be home. And I was worried how to let her know that I wouldn't be able to make it. As though she had to be told. That was when I first started out toward the ship, I was worrying, 'gee, how can I get in touch with Mrs. Ashley?' Well, I think that sort of thing prepared me, because I was working on the Bible and so forth, and a hymn kept coming to me all the time I was in the battle. This hymn, one that I'd memorized, the words weren't apropos but yet, they kept a calming influence on me. So, I appreciate that.

Carl Raymond Cox:

It's your faith in God?

Ivan Arnold Harris:

Yes, I did have faith in God, I still have it. And you know a funny thing, I, I've met with a lot of my buddies since then, the ones that were on the battleship with me, and they were all drinkers, regular smokers and so forth. Not one of them smoked, not one of them drank as older men. Isn't that something? All of them were good God fearing guys that went to church every week and so forth. And they weren't the ones that you'd expect trouble from. And I've talked to women say...they found the same thing, that a lot of the servicemen, they call it a 'special generation,' you know. Why, war has a certain good effect on you, I think___...brings you together, gives you a purpose and I think it, I don't remember anything bad, bad happening to me. I, World War II being in Pearl Harbor, you'd think that be terrible, if you'd wake screaming sometime, no, it didn't have that effect on me. I'll talk my head off about it, you've noticed, you know. I can talk, talk, talk about it. And I met my wife during the service. We married at her home in, in Maplewood, New Jersey, and then we took the 'tubes' over to New York. Do you know what the 'tubes' are?

Carl Raymond Cox:

No, sir.

Ivan Arnold Harris:

That's because you're not from New York and New Jersey. They're the underground, under the river, by train. Get on the Pennsylvania Railroad and go under the Hudson River, Passaic River, and you get over to New York. And people I can tell right away when I mention the 'tubes', the people don't know what the tubes are, they know. The cars would go by the Holland Tunnel and the Lincoln Tunnel, you've heard of them?

Carl Raymond Cox:

Yes, sir.

Ivan Arnold Harris:

That's, there, they are tubes through which the cars travel, and they travel at 60 or 70 miles an hour, it has a speed limit. You're suppose to keep going at that speed. It's not for dilly-dallying or sightseeing. There's nothing to see.

Carl Raymond Cox:

Did you meet your wife while you were in the military?

Ivan Arnold Harris:

Yes, she was going to a Sunday School of my church in Boston and I heard about this gal and she was introduced to me. So, I stopped going with the other gal and began going with Doris.

Carl Raymond Cox:

Did you marry this woman?

Ivan Arnold Harris:

I sure did. I married her, been married about 60 plus years now.

Carl Raymond Cox:

So you married her during the time you were in the military?

Ivan Arnold Harris:

Yea, when, when I was in the, on the Mirth, I married her, while I was on the Mirth. I bought the rings in Lorraine, Ohio, from a jeweler there.

Carl Raymond Cox:

Do you recall the day your service ended?

Ivan Arnold Harris:

Yes, I recall being at the Station where you no longer become part of the Navy, you're going out of the Navy. They served us, we had a choice of two meals. We could have roast beef or we could have chicken, and it was nice, yea. At, and at the garbage cans they had 'eat all you take, but take all you wait...all you want, but eat all you take.' That was all, the only requirement. And I remember I had steak, and then I had chicken. And I remember the ladies that were there, their shoes were too tight for their feet, there were so many of them, and I think its because they, it was a special occasion they bought these shoes and then they put them on they, they were a size too small, really. They wanted their feet to look good, I think. But they were always complaining about their feet.

Carl Raymond Cox:

Where were you at, at that time?

Ivan Arnold Harris:

I was at Lido Beach, Long Island, New York. I'd never been there before, I'd never heard of it before. And nobody, I don't remember one shaking my hand and asking me to stay in or anything like that. But I suppose that had happened earlier, where they said, 'your, you're sure you don't want to stay in the Navy?' I could have stayed in the Navy, but everybody was going home and it was, it was a go home atmosphere. And, boy, that's a hard thing to buck.

Carl Raymond Cox:

What year, what year were you discharged?

Ivan Arnold Harris:

1945, December 10th, 1945, yea. And it was just about Christmastime and I went to work in Department Store, Bamburger's Department Store, selling ties and wrapping packages.

Carl Raymond Cox:

This was immediately after you got out?

Ivan Arnold Harris:

Yea. Just to earn a little money.

Carl Raymond Cox:

Did you go back to school?

Ivan Arnold Harris:

Yes, I wanted to, but I didn't go back immediately. It was only when I heard that the G.I. Bill was going to stop, and you'd better get it in in a hurry if you're going. So then I applied for the G.I. Bill. And I'm glad I did. It was the best thing that the government did. I think when they do things like this, they're really great, because it helps the country, helps the individual. Oh, just the blessings have been enormous. Yea.

Carl Raymond Cox:

What did you, what did you learn in school?

Ivan Arnold Harris:

I earned my B.A. at the University of Denver, and I went to Denver because Lowell Thomas was an alumnus of the University of Denver, and I admired him. And you know who he was...

Carl Raymond Cox:

No, sir.

Ivan Arnold Harris:

a commentator, well, like, like Dan Rather and that sort of thing, you know. The greatest, yea, and so I admired him and so that's why I went to University at Denver. And I wanted to be a High School English teacher because I admired my High School English teacher. She taught me a lot. And I ended up teaching Elementary, because I flunked the English exam that the pre...the exam they give you at the beginning. I said, 'you can't be true...it can't be true, 1,1, that's what I'm going to be teaching, English.' 'Well, I'm sorry, Mr. Harris, but according to this you blah, blah, blah, you know.' Oh, my gosh, but don't worry, you, we can put you in classes and before you know it you'll be right back up. You've just forgotten how to act in school, you know, how to give the right answers. Yea, you'd think that when you write a sentence you got to have three or four commas, but you don't. <2J

Carl Raymond Cox:

How long were you a teacher?

Ivan Arnold Harris:

Thirty years, actually, it was 28 plus other assignments, though. So I taught 30 years as a teacher. My last years were in Santee, California.

Carl Raymond Cox:

So did you, you and your wife have children?

Ivan Arnold Harris:

We have five of the greatest. And I mean that sincerely. They are all grown, but I had two girls, then a son, and then two more girls, to make it a five Basketball team. And my son was born on Labor Day. And at the time he was born I was up expounding the virtues of a space station. It was in a Collier's magazine, the cover of it was brand new idea. Willy Lay had all kinds of, of drawing, sketches. Werhner, Dr. Werhner von Braun had an article in there and I was telling them how important it was for America to have this space station before the Russian do, because you can fire from that space station right down, you can photograph anything on the earth. So you've got to be there, its got to be the good guys that win. And about that time one of the lights goes on. We have pink light for girls with g-i-r-l-s, and boys, b-o-y-s, and if the 'boy' light blinked you'd know that a boy is born. If a girl light blinked you'd know that a girl was born. Here comes a 'boy's light. And they says, 'one of us is a dad, got a son.' And I just kept going. One of us got a son, here. Here comes the doctor, my doctor. 'So, Mr. Harris, you're the father of a fine loud-mouthed boy.' Yea, it was great, thank you. That was Labor Day, well named, huh.

Carl Raymond Cox:

What year was that?

Ivan Arnold Harris:

Oh, it was Denver, Colorado, so it was about, while I was still going to school, I guess, '45, no, no it wasn't. About '48, I guess, something like that.

Carl Raymond Cox:

Do you belong to any Veterans Organizations?

Ivan Arnold Harris:

Yes, I belong to the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, Carnation Chapter, which is located here in San Diego. And that's all. I've been in charge of the docents there, come to the Museum to look over the different things we have from the various wars. And ^O^^- proud to be apart of it.

Carl Raymond Cox:

Is there anything you would like to add that we have not covered in this interview?

Carl Raymond Cox:

Well, I said how great my kids are, they really are wonderful kids. And I've known so many good servicemen that have gone on and done good things, become Commissioner of this, or head of that. I'm so glad the, that the war has seasoned them, I think has helped them. I don't say that we have to have a war, but I think that good can come from a war, just like good can come from anything that happens to you. You could have an automobile accident, I suppose, I hate to think of this, but, and something good come of it. It doesn't have to be all sour grapes.

Carl Raymond Cox:

Personal growth.

Ivan Arnold Harris:

I'm grateful for the reL.my religions helped me. I'm not saying what it is because it taints what a person's saying sometimes when you hear such and such religion. But I am proud to have been associated with my religion all my life and my wife about half of her life. And our kids have benefited from it. Our, none, none of our kids have had the trouble of drugs, none have, have smoked, smoked. None of them drank. Now they may drink today, I don't know if they, what they do as adults in their home, it's up to them, but I know that when they were growing up we had no problem with, with sex or anything like that. And I'm so grateful for that. And I think it was because of the ground work they were getting in Sunday School and in Church. What else? Other, other people around them have had trouble, but not my kids. And I'm grateful.

Carl Raymond Cox:

Mr. Harris, I would like to thank you for participating in the Veterans History Project, and I would like to thank you for your dedicated service to our country.

Ivan Arnold Harris:

Well, I thank you so much for even accepting me. It's very good. Thank you.

 
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  October 26, 2011
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