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Interview with John Stavinoha [11/12/2011]

John Stavinoha:

Roll 'em, danno.

Paul Gonzalez:

Good morning. We're here today, it's November the 12th, 2011. My name is Paul Gonzalez, and I am conducting an oral history interview at the Towers on Park Lane, and that's in San Antonio, Texas. We have a court reporter with us this morning, and her name is Delcine Benavides. And our veteran this morning is Mr. John Stavinoha. And I'm going to spell your last name for the record. It's S-t-a-v-i-n-o-h-a --

John Stavinoha:

Correct.

Paul Gonzalez:

-- is that correct? Okay.

John Stavinoha:

Correct.

Paul Gonzalez:

All right, sir. And can you please tell us your date of birth, Mr. Stavinoha?

John Stavinoha:

September the 26th, 1917.

Paul Gonzalez:

All right. And obviously we're here today because of the military service that you gave our country, and we do thank you for that very much. What branch of service were you in, Mr. Stavinoha?

John Stavinoha:

At first it was the Army. Then it switched to the Army Air Force and then the Air Force.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. All right. And, I guess, obviously people know that the Army Air Force or Air Corps transitioned into the modern day Air Force; is that correct?

John Stavinoha:

Right.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. So you were in the ground roots of that --

John Stavinoha:

Very much.

Paul Gonzalez:

-- transition, okay. And tell us your dates of service from -- from the military. It doesn't have to be necessarily the Army, then the Army but --

John Stavinoha:

I was in from May '41 to December '47.

Paul Gonzalez:

All right. Okay. Now, we went over your name already, but did you happen to have a middle name that you use?

John Stavinoha:

Lamar.

Paul Gonzalez:

Lamar, okay. So your full name would be John Lamar Stavinoha; is that correct?

John Stavinoha:

Correct.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. Now, where were you born, Mr. Stavinoha?

John Stavinoha:

Hallettsville, Texas.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. And whereabouts is that in the great State of Texas? What part of Texas; south, east?

John Stavinoha:

It's a hundred miles east of here -- no, west of here.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay.

John Stavinoha:

No, east of here.

Paul Gonzalez:

So going towards --

John Stavinoha:

It's --

Paul Gonzalez:

-- Houston?

John Stavinoha:

-- between here and San -- and Houston.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. All right. And I think I've driven through there so I just didn't remember where that was actually.

John Stavinoha:

If you blinked, you've missed it.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. All right. Now, can you please tell us the -- the name of your -- of your father, full name?

John Stavinoha:

Cyril Ladislav Stavinoha, L-a-d-i-s-l-a-v.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay.

John Stavinoha:

L-a-d-s-l-a-v -- i-s-l-a-v, yeah.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. All right. And what about your mom, what was -- what's her name?

John Stavinoha:

Mary Jansky Stavinoha.

Paul Gonzalez:

And was Jansky her maiden name?

John Stavinoha:

Maiden name.

Paul Gonzalez:

All right. And siblings, any siblings that you had growing up?

John Stavinoha:

I had four.

Paul Gonzalez:

Four. Okay. Can you give us their ages? Were they older than you, younger than you?

John Stavinoha:

Yes. I just -- Mary Elisa. She's '62 -- no, '52.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay.

John Stavinoha:

John, Jr., '51. Suzanne Catherine. She's about '49.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay.

John Stavinoha:

And Jane Ellen. She's about '42.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay.

John Stavinoha:

She's the last one, caboose.

Paul Gonzalez:

And those numbers you were giving us are -- are those the dates that they were born -- the years they were born?

John Stavinoha:

Yes.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. All right. Now, you mentioned that basically you were from Hallettsville. Is that where you grew up or did you have --

John Stavinoha:

Well, I was there till I was 17.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay.

John Stavinoha:

Then I went into Houston, the big town.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay.

John Stavinoha:

Went to business school and stayed there for -- and when I got out of that -- stayed till, oh, what year was that? Huh. Anyhow.

Paul Gonzalez:

Did you -- did you go in school, like through your --

John Stavinoha:

Yeah, I went to business school there, and then I went back to the University of Texas.

Paul Gonzalez:

In Austin?

John Stavinoha:

Yeah, 1939.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay.

John Stavinoha:

No.

Paul Gonzalez:

All right. Now --

John Stavinoha:

'49.

Paul Gonzalez:

-- were either of your parents in the military? Did they serve?

John Stavinoha:

No. My dad -- dad was born in Bohemia. He came over here and got a law degree and was a county judge.

Paul Gonzalez:

That's very good to know. What -- what county was he a judge in?

John Stavinoha:

Lavaca.

Paul Gonzalez:

Lavaca County. Okay.

John Stavinoha:

And he was in the legislature also.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. As a senator, congressman, state senator?

John Stavinoha:

State legislature.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. What about your mom, where did she go to school?

John Stavinoha:

Mossy Grove.

Paul Gonzalez:

Mossy Grove, okay. All righty. Now, did you -- were any of your siblings in the military?

John Stavinoha:

No, they were all too young.

Paul Gonzalez:

And were you drafted into the military or did you enlist?

John Stavinoha:

I enlisted. Just as soon as I got 40 -- 50 hours of college degree.

Paul Gonzalez:

Uh-huh.

John Stavinoha:

I went out and joined up.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. Now, tell us a little bit about your -- just briefly what did you -- did you earn a degree first, a business degree?

John Stavinoha:

No, I didn't. I got that after I went back the third time.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. All right. We'll cover some of that I guess --

John Stavinoha:

Sure.

Paul Gonzalez:

-- in a little bit. Now, where were you living at, at the time you went into the service? You had already moved to Houston?

John Stavinoha:

No, I was in Austin.

Paul Gonzalez:

In Austin.

John Stavinoha:

In college.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. All right. Is there any special reason why you joined?

John Stavinoha:

Well, I looked up, and I saw that walking Army. I said not for me.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay.

John Stavinoha:

So I went and volunteered in the Air Force.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay.

John Stavinoha:

I had the 60 hours, so they took me right away.

Paul Gonzalez:

All right. Now, do you recall the first days in service? What were they like for you? Were they scary? Did you just think it was maybe not a good decision, or did you think that it was just the perfect decision?

John Stavinoha:

We were -- we went by troop train, the cadets that were going to flying school, and we all had a grand time going out there.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay.

John Stavinoha:

In fact -- well, I won't go into that.

Paul Gonzalez:

Well, just tell us a little bit about your first days in service. What -- what was that like for you? What was the impression that you had from that?

John Stavinoha:

Nothing special.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. Was it -- Do you remember if it was in the springtime, the summertime?

John Stavinoha:

The spring.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. And --

John Stavinoha:

I went to San Diego, Ryan Flying School.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay.

John Stavinoha:

In Burghfield.

Paul Gonzalez:

It sounds like you had already been away from home for --

John Stavinoha:

Oh, yes.

Paul Gonzalez:

-- a little bit with school so that was, I would venture to say, was not a big experience for you to --

John Stavinoha:

Uh-huh.

Paul Gonzalez:

-- to go to San Diego and go into flight school. Okay. Now, tell us a little bit about your boot camp training experiences. Did you have anything that was different than you had experienced before then?

John Stavinoha:

No, that was my first flight experience. It was in San Diego. We flew the PT-21 Ryan. And it was six, you know -- six weeks went by (descriptive sound) like that. And then I went to Moffett Field.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. Did you enjoy those six weeks?

John Stavinoha:

Oh, yeah. We enjoyed it. Had a bunch of nice guys. Both from Texas and from Oklahoma.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. And about how old were you at the time that you went into the boot camp; do you remember, more or less?

John Stavinoha:

I was born in '17 and that was in '41.

Paul Gonzalez:

So -- Okay. Early 20s, thereabouts?

John Stavinoha:

Yeah, about 20, 21.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. Now, do you remember any of your instructors there in boot camp?

John Stavinoha:

Pat Finnegan.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. What stands about him? What made you remember him?

John Stavinoha:

Oh, red-headed Irishman with a big temper.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. I guess that's part of his job description, isn't it?

John Stavinoha:

Oh, yeah. He was an excellent instructor.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. All right. Anybody else that stands out?

John Stavinoha:

That was our only -- we were assigned to one instructor.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. Now, what was Pat Finnegan's rank at the time; do you remember? His rank?

John Stavinoha:

I'm Iraq?

Paul Gonzalez:

No, sir. Mr. Finnegan, what was his rank?

John Stavinoha:

I think he was a first lieutenant.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. All right. So he was probably pretty young himself. Was that --

John Stavinoha:

No, he wasn't very young.

Paul Gonzalez:

No? So he had been around the block a few --

John Stavinoha:

Yeah, he been there. I didn't look into his past.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. All right. Now, you said you went from San Diego to Moffett Field; is that right?

John Stavinoha:

Uh-huh.

Paul Gonzalez:

Where was Moffett Field? I'm not familiar with that one. In California, too?

John Stavinoha:

Oh, yeah. It was -- I don't -- I'd have to look it up. It was right near San Francisco, though.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. All right. During that time, how long were you at Moffett Field training?

John Stavinoha:

Six weeks.

Paul Gonzalez:

Another six weeks. And from there what --

John Stavinoha:

Fort -- Stockton Air Force Base.

Paul Gonzalez:

And I've heard of Stockton Air Force Base, but remind me, where is that? Is that also in California?

John Stavinoha:

Stockton, California.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay, that's what I thought. Now, I want to visit with you a little bit about your experiences. Obviously, you served in World War II?

John Stavinoha:

Correct.

Paul Gonzalez:

Tell us a little bit about that. Where exactly did you go?

John Stavinoha:

I went from Stockton to Paine Field, Washington, near Seattle.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay.

John Stavinoha:

And that's where I checked out in my fighters, P-39.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. And when you got there to Paine Field, do you remember arriving and feeling that you were ready to go to war or tell us what you recall then?

John Stavinoha:

I don't remember a thing about it.

Paul Gonzalez:

You don't, okay.

John Stavinoha:

Then from there I heard that those who wanted to be fighter pilots would go to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and that was near home, so I says I'll volunteer.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. Did that involve some more training to be a fighter pilot?

John Stavinoha:

Oh, yeah.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. Tell us a little bit about that.

John Stavinoha:

First we were training in P-40s. And the first ride I had was in a P-40 that the engine conked.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay.

John Stavinoha:

Above Baton Rouge. And the instructor I -- was quite a bit loud. He said, no, no, not over the town. So I road it down all the way to -- just got up near the wires on Harding Field, and I pulled back and went over and then just bellied in.

Paul Gonzalez:

Is that -- Okay. So it conked out and you couldn't --

John Stavinoha:

That was the first ride in a P-40.

Paul Gonzalez:

So once that P-40 conked out, you couldn't get it back to turning the engine over. Okay. Now, how did that make you feel? Did you -- Did you feel like --

John Stavinoha:

I felt lucky --

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay.

John Stavinoha:

-- to be --

Paul Gonzalez:

Did you think this -- this fighter pilot stuff is going to be pretty exciting; is that what you thought?

John Stavinoha:

Yeah, I thought so.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay.

John Stavinoha:

I already found that out.

Paul Gonzalez:

All right. Now, when did you finish -- Do you remember when you finished the fighter school? How long were you there, more or less, couple of months, six weeks?

John Stavinoha:

From -- Let's see, Baton Rouge. It was -- I forgot how -- we went to Tallahassee from there. So I was already a graduated pilot. So it must have been another six or eight weeks.

Paul Gonzalez:

And after you graduated, where did they send you? Where did you go first; do you recall?

John Stavinoha:

Tallahassee. Tallahassee. Yeah, we went to the Aleutian Islands.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. Now, that sounds exciting. Tell us about that. What was your experience there?

John Stavinoha:

That's very exciting. It was cold and it was windy and it was everything you didn't want to be and then it happened over there. You've got the --

Paul Gonzalez:

Yes. I was just about to get to that. But tell us a little bit about what you experienced when you got to the Aleutian Islands. I guess you've never obviously been --

John Stavinoha:

Well, we went up for the Kiska Invasion. That was the one we went up for. We got there around middle of July, and it was August the 15th. We knew when the invasion was going to be. But so did the Japanese.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay.

John Stavinoha:

And they were all gone by the time we invaded the island.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay.

John Stavinoha:

It was too cloudy and windy and -- to fly that morning so for that I was happy.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. Good. Good to know that.

John Stavinoha:

And then I find nothing but, I think, two birddogs or something on the island. And that was very disheartening.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay.

John Stavinoha:

To be stuck up there then for another year.

Paul Gonzalez:

Tell us a little bit about what the Aleutian Islands were like back then. You mentioned how the weather was, but was it pretty barren and remote?

John Stavinoha:

Remote. Worst place in the world.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay.

John Stavinoha:

It's just snowing and windy and --

Paul Gonzalez:

Did it make you miss the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico a little bit?

John Stavinoha:

Yeah. We'd go fishing and a big old cod be 20 or 30 pounds. They'd come out wiggling like that.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. Half frozen it seems like I'll bet. Now, understand you gave me an article earlier to look at --

John Stavinoha:

Yeah.

Paul Gonzalez:

-- about an experience you had there in the Aleutian Islands. Tell us a little bit about that, what you went through and what -- what transpired with this event that's -- that's written up here in the Hallettsville paper.

John Stavinoha:

Yeah, well, that was Dr. -- Lieutenant Beahrs who wrote it. I don't know. It was just one of those days, and we were out. I had two wingmen, so we decided we'd go straight for the island. That was supposed to have been -- so we made several passes on Kiska and pretty soon I heard chuck, chuck, chuck. Engine died.

Paul Gonzalez:

Were you --

John Stavinoha:

I looked down and --

Paul Gonzalez:

Were you in a P-40 at the time?

John Stavinoha:

Yeah, P-40.

Paul Gonzalez:

Another P-40.

John Stavinoha:

And we was headed back to the Amchitka where we were stationed. But I didn't make it. About halfway in between I decided I'd have to ditch, and so I ditched.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay.

John Stavinoha:

And then I was in the water, 30-degree water.

Paul Gonzalez:

Uh-huh.

John Stavinoha:

Lifespan, 20 minutes.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay.

John Stavinoha:

So I says what the heck. I don't believe that. So I -- my wingman -- I was too tall and a fighter to have a seat boat.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay.

John Stavinoha:

So I just was floundering in the water. My wingman threw me one of his life rafts.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay.

John Stavinoha:

And I crawled in, but that wind and everything was colder than the water, so I -- then he had radioed PBY in the meantime on the island of Amchitka. And I think it says 19 or 20 minutes after he got the results they came out.

Paul Gonzalez:

Uh-huh.

John Stavinoha:

But after that, the seas were 20 -- waves were 20 feet high. And so -- Birdwell was the pilot. I remember him.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay.

John Stavinoha:

Of the PBY. And he came in and landed. First pass they did, they missed me. The second pass, they picked me up. I had that rope around my arm, and I wasn't going to let go. So they pulled me in and said, make ready for takeoff. That was the scariest one.

Paul Gonzalez:

Uh-huh.

John Stavinoha:

And to those 22-foot waves. So he took off and he bounced a couple of times and then he hit a big one. Went -- the observers that were following us said it looked like we went into the water -- into the -- but it didn't. But it had sprung 400 rivets in the hull and was sipping water by the time we tried again and he got up there and there away we go. He made it.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay.

John Stavinoha:

But 4400 rivets in the hull. Scary.

Paul Gonzalez:

Now, after --

John Stavinoha:

I didn't know nothing about it.

Paul Gonzalez:

I was going to ask you, after this incident, did you --

John Stavinoha:

I was out completely.

Paul Gonzalez:

Yeah. Did you spend time in the infirmary then for a good while after that?

John Stavinoha:

No, not a good while. Couple of days.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. And then were your back up in a P-40 soon after that or --

John Stavinoha:

Yeah. But I'd hear every beat of that engine.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay.

John Stavinoha:

So I -- After a couple of months they said, no, he better go on back, so they sent me back to Miami.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. Now -- Well, once you're there in the -- in the Aleutian Islands, did you ever actually see any actual combat in terms of engaging the enemy or aside from the --

John Stavinoha:

No.

Paul Gonzalez:

-- you know, the strafer you mentioned before?

John Stavinoha:

That was my sole journey into the enemy which wasn't there.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay, right.

John Stavinoha:

And I don't know whether to be thankful for that or not. But I wouldn't -- it wasn't my choice.

Paul Gonzalez:

Right. Right.

John Stavinoha:

But it so happened that I enjoyed it. No, I didn't enjoy the year out there. I was miserable.

Paul Gonzalez:

So once you got sent back to Miami, tell us --

John Stavinoha:

For rest and recreation.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. And about how long were you there?

John Stavinoha:

I had -- I guess we had two weeks there.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay.

John Stavinoha:

And I had a brother-in-law who was at Egland Field.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay.

John Stavinoha:

He was a major general. So we went out there and stayed two months with them.

Paul Gonzalez:

Who was your brother-in-law? What was his name?

John Stavinoha:

Huh?

Paul Gonzalez:

Your brother-in-law's name?

John Stavinoha:

Joe Bleymaier. He was -- developed the Titan III -- IIIC.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay.

John Stavinoha:

The (descriptive sound,) you know.

Paul Gonzalez:

Missile.

John Stavinoha:

Missile, yeah.

Paul Gonzalez:

Right.

John Stavinoha:

And that's about it.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. Was there any other experience that you want to tell us about during your time at the Aleutians, about how you-all ate or who cooked for you-all or anything like that? How were supplies obtained? Do you have any recollection?

John Stavinoha:

Well, I'll tell you one good one was the beer cooler, report for duty.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay.

John Stavinoha:

And they'd fill his wing tank with bottles of beer and he'd go up to 20,000 and get them cold and come back down.

Paul Gonzalez:

I've never heard that.

John Stavinoha:

That's pretty good.

Paul Gonzalez:

That's pretty -- that's pretty ingenious there.

John Stavinoha:

I don't know whether that would go well or not.

Paul Gonzalez:

And what about the other aspects of being there as far as comfort. Was it relatively comfort -- comfortable --

John Stavinoha:

Jamesway huts.

Paul Gonzalez:

Uh-huh.

John Stavinoha:

The snow had piled up in the front of the door, and you'd have to fight your way out.

Paul Gonzalez:

Right.

John Stavinoha:

But it was nice. And a bunch of nice guys.

Paul Gonzalez:

That's what I was going to ask you. How was the comradery? Was it --

John Stavinoha:

Oh, fine, fine.

Paul Gonzalez:

Real good. All right. Now, were you ever awarded any medals or citations for your service?

John Stavinoha:

No citations. I got some campaign medals and -- but that's it.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay.

John Stavinoha:

I'm not a war hero.

Paul Gonzalez:

Now, during the time that you were in service, did you stay in touch with your family back home?

John Stavinoha:

Oh, yeah.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. And how was that done? Obviously nowadays --

John Stavinoha:

Mail.

Paul Gonzalez:

Mail. I guess nowadays they call it snail mail.

John Stavinoha:

E-mail, I guess.

Paul Gonzalez:

All right. During the time that you were basically out of the country, did you feel any stresses or home sick or anything like that or was the comradery that you had with your --

John Stavinoha:

No, not really.

Paul Gonzalez:

The comradery you had was --

John Stavinoha:

You know you had to be there, so there ain't no use bellyaching about it.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. Was there anything that you used as a good luck charm or anything like that that you felt brought you good luck?

John Stavinoha:

No.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. What about any other guys you were with, do you remember them having a good luck charm or anything, like a medal or a piece of grass from home or anything like that?

John Stavinoha:

I don't remember that, no. I remember the poker games every day, though, every night.

Paul Gonzalez:

All right. Were they friendly or --

John Stavinoha:

Well, I would say yeah. My wife would say every time she'd get a letter from me, she'd shake it and get a money order, see.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. Well --

John Stavinoha:

So I was pretty good at that.

Paul Gonzalez:

And, I guess while you -- since you mentioned her, tell us your wife's name?

John Stavinoha:

Elizabeth Ruth --

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay.

John Stavinoha:

-- Mathias, but she died at five, six years ago.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. Very sorry to hear that. Now, aside from playing poker there, did you have occasion to ever see any of those entertainers that would go around like the --

John Stavinoha:

Yes, there were some occasionally.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. Do you remember any at the top of your head that came by to entertain you-all?

John Stavinoha:

I don't remember.

Paul Gonzalez:

Was it through the -- I'm trying to remember what --

John Stavinoha:

U.S.O.

Paul Gonzalez:

Yes, sir, U.S.O. Okay. All right. Did you ever have time to go on leave when you were there? Obviously, you were on an island, but did you -- did they ever let you go anywhere, just take a hop anyway?

John Stavinoha:

(Moving head side to side)

Paul Gonzalez:

No. So once you got there, you were there for the duration; is that right?

John Stavinoha:

Yeah, the duration of -- but they -- they saw me cringe every time that motor popped, so they said we better send him home.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. Well, you had two incidence with a P-40, so I can see why. Did you have any other experiences like that, close experiences with other aircraft?

John Stavinoha:

Except the first day I had the P-40 ride at Baton Rouge.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay.

John Stavinoha:

That should have told me.

Paul Gonzalez:

Did you like that P-40 as an aircraft or did you --

John Stavinoha:

No. Then went to the P-51. Now, that was the airplane.

Paul Gonzalez:

You -- Did you flew P -- P-51s, too?

John Stavinoha:

Oh, yeah.

Paul Gonzalez:

And my understanding is that those were called tank busters and things like that. P-51 was basically an attack type -- kind of airplane; is that correct?

John Stavinoha:

It was an all-around best airplane, yeah.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. How long did you fly P-51s?

John Stavinoha:

About three years.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. And where did you do that kind of flying, the P-51s?

John Stavinoha:

I taught P-51 pilots at Sarasota.

Paul Gonzalez:

Florida. Is that Florida?

John Stavinoha:

Sarasota, Florida.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. So you were a trainer then?

John Stavinoha:

I did a lot of that, yeah.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. And just tell us briefly what was the difference, the main difference between a P-40 and a P-51? Was it just more agile? Was it --

John Stavinoha:

Yeah.

Paul Gonzalez:

-- bigger, faster?

John Stavinoha:

It was more agile. On a P-40 it had -- your left rudder you'd have to stand on it when you take off or it would go (indicating).

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. All right. So the P-51 then was a big improvement?

John Stavinoha:

Oh, yeah, it was the best.

Paul Gonzalez:

All right.

John Stavinoha:

P-39 wasn't bad, but I could just barely fit in it.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. Now, during this time that you were in the service, did you happen to keep a personal diary of any kind?

John Stavinoha:

No.

Paul Gonzalez:

Just everything was kept in your head and -- by talking to your family?

John Stavinoha:

Uh-huh.

Paul Gonzalez:

All right. Is there anything else that you recall about your service that you want to mention during the time that stood out to you now?

John Stavinoha:

I thought about it a lot, but it's nothing sensational at all.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. Would you say that that was an enjoyable time in your life when you were in the service? You were glad to serve or --

John Stavinoha:

I'd say it was a learning experience.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. All right. Now, tell us --

John Stavinoha:

I met a lot of nice guys.

Paul Gonzalez:

That's good to know. That's good to know.

John Stavinoha:

And I still keep in touch with some.

Paul Gonzalez:

I was going to ask you about that in a little bit. And -- but I wanted to ask you first about your experience after you got out of the service. Do you remember when you got out?

John Stavinoha:

Yes. In '47.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. What was that day like when you -- when you got out of the service? Was it -- was it someone basically just come and visit with you about that or did you just --

John Stavinoha:

No. I was in California, and I just got my papers and went home.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. All right.

John Stavinoha:

I went back to school, rather.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. Was that back to the University of Texas?

John Stavinoha:

Yeah.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. Did you graduate from the University of Texas?

John Stavinoha:

Yes.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. What year was that?

John Stavinoha:

'51 or '2, somewhere -- no, about '50, 1950.

Paul Gonzalez:

And what was your degree in?

John Stavinoha:

B.B.A., quickest way out.

Paul Gonzalez:

That's the Bachelor of Business Administration?

John Stavinoha:

Yeah.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. All right. Now, once you went back to the University of Texas, was your education supported by the GI Bill?

John Stavinoha:

Yes.

Paul Gonzalez:

Now, you mentioned earlier about having made some -- basically some close friendships while you were in the service. Tell us a little bit about those, who those folks were or are, who you know that -- who you knew in the service and you stayed friends with, who were those folks?

John Stavinoha:

Well, it was Major Bill Mitchell who, I guess, he was a general.

Paul Gonzalez:

Would that be the same Billy Mitchell who's known around San Antonio for some fame?

John Stavinoha:

(Moving head side to side.) No, he a West Point man.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay.

John Stavinoha:

I just can't name them all.

Paul Gonzalez:

All right. How long did you stay close friends with him? All your life?

John Stavinoha:

Yeah.

Paul Gonzalez:

Did you join a Veteran's organization after you got out?

John Stavinoha:

No.

Paul Gonzalez:

Aside from your degree from the University of Texas, did you go back to doing any other schooling, any kind of master's degree or anything like that?

John Stavinoha:

No.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. Now, tell us a little bit about what you did as a career after your --

John Stavinoha:

All right. I went --

Paul Gonzalez:

-- your schooling?

John Stavinoha:

-- to Houston. And got in sales. I traveled the south part of Texas for a couple of years selling furniture.

Paul Gonzalez:

Uh-huh. For what company was --

John Stavinoha:

It was with Quality Design -- no, let's see, Quality something. Then I went with Furniture Designs.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay.

John Stavinoha:

I bought in with that.

Paul Gonzalez:

All right.

John Stavinoha:

I bought half of it. And stayed there several long years. We made -- come to sort of a disagreement.

Paul Gonzalez:

Uh-huh.

John Stavinoha:

So I says, if you don't buy me out, I'm going to sell to the first person that walks down the street.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay.

John Stavinoha:

He says, wait a minute. We'll come to some agreement.

Paul Gonzalez:

All right. Did you leave the furniture business --

John Stavinoha:

No. I went with another firm.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. All right. Was the furniture business more or less what you stayed in --

John Stavinoha:

Oh, yeah.

Paul Gonzalez:

-- after you --

John Stavinoha:

I had -- my superintendent was a young black when I first went. He suddenly became a millionaire about 10 years later.

Paul Gonzalez:

And what was his name?

John Stavinoha:

Esaw Peavy.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay.

John Stavinoha:

E-s-a-w, P-e-a-v-y. And we've remained friends ever since. He came to my 90th birthday party here at The Towers, he and his wife.

Paul Gonzalez:

Did Mr. Peavy make his money in the furniture business?

John Stavinoha:

Yes. He was -- went with the two fellows that I sold to. And they had this just nice area of land right there near the heart of the town.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay.

John Stavinoha:

It was -- it was called Southwest Furniture Industries.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay.

John Stavinoha:

And after I was gone a long time, they sold the land and everything and he took a million out of it.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. So they all did pretty good from that?

John Stavinoha:

Yeah.

Paul Gonzalez:

I guess you did, too? I mean, it sounds like --

John Stavinoha:

Oh, yeah. No quibbles about that.

Paul Gonzalez:

All right. Now, you mentioned how, I guess, Mr. Peavy had come to your birthday celebration and do -- did you ever go to anybody else's celebrations or have any kind of reunions or anything like that?

John Stavinoha:

Not in the service, no.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. So once you left the service, basically you stayed in contact with some folks but didn't --

John Stavinoha:

Yeah.

Paul Gonzalez:

-- didn't, I guess, go to reunions and things like that. All right. Now, is there anything else that you would like to add that we have not covered in this interview at all?

John Stavinoha:

Not that I remember.

Paul Gonzalez:

I do have a question here that's kind of interesting but it asks basically -- basically whether your service -- if you feel your service in the military affected your life any certain way, I guess, positive or negative or just -- you mentioned earlier it was a good experience for a young man but --

John Stavinoha:

No, it's just something we had to go through.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay.

John Stavinoha:

Take the good with the bad.

Paul Gonzalez:

And based on what you're indicating, obviously, you're proud to have served in the service?

John Stavinoha:

Sure.

Paul Gonzalez:

And having it to do -- if you had -- have -- excuse me, if you had to do over again, would you -- is that something you would jump into, especially with those incidence with the P-40 and everything else; is that something you would still want to do?

John Stavinoha:

I really -- I know in the guys that I use to run with and they were better pilots than I was, so I'm not -- I just did it because it was convenient.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. And as far as the pilots that you served with, are those some of the folks that you stayed in contact with?

John Stavinoha:

Yes. But I can't name the right names right now.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. All right. Mr. Stavinoha, is there anything else that you want to visit about here with this interview?

John Stavinoha:

Not that -- no, uh-uh. That -- this will cover the main --

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay.

John Stavinoha:

-- thing that you're interested in, I believe.

Paul Gonzalez:

All right, sir. Okay then, I guess we'll --

John Stavinoha:

I think it's out at Elmendorf in Anchorage. It's in their archives.

Paul Gonzalez:

Okay. And that's Elmendorf Air Force Base in --

John Stavinoha:

Yeah.

Paul Gonzalez:

-- Archorage, Alaska. Okay. All right then. Okay. I guess we'll go ahead --

John Stavinoha:

But I don't know what happened to the end of this. Make up your own ending, will you.

Paul Gonzalez:

I noticed that the -- yeah, the ending was missing but --

John Stavinoha:

I don't know what happened.

Paul Gonzalez:

Maybe they'll have that record there in Anchorage and that will be part of the record but -- all right. I guess we'll go ahead and end the interview. Again, thank you very much for -- for your service.

John Stavinoha:

It's a pleasure.

Paul Gonzalez:

And thank you to Ms. Benavides for coming in today and serving as the transcriber/court reporter.

 
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  October 26, 2011
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