George: Harless is interviewed by Julie Parnell.(rghs 98)
Julie: Do remember when you heard about when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor?
George: I do very very profoundly. I was working at the Celanese on a three to eleven shift on a Sunday afternoon. Someone came in and told us what had happened. We didn't have a radio at home and of course, there was no television, but we didn't even have a radio, but I remember when I came in after work that night. I had a brother that was in the Philippines when that happened, which he later was taken prisoner (silence,narrator upset). When I came home that night I woke my mother up and told her about Pearl Harbor being bombed. I recall, I mean I, well I had heard, well I had a radio in the car, and I remember you couldn't turn to a station nowhere for two or three days and that's all you heard was Pearl Harbor, Pearl Harbor.
You're in the Marines, Now
Julie: Were you drafted or did you volunteer?
George: No, I volunteered. I would have been drafted but I, my brother,when my brother was captured in the Philippines of course ya know I was gung ho and wanted, maybe, to be a part of someone who relieved him and I joined the Marines thinking that they would be the ones to do that and that is how come for me to go to the Marine Corps.
Julie: Where did you go for basic training?
George: Paris Island, South Carolina
Julie: Do you remember how you got there?
George: On a train, on a old train, the Atlantic Coast Line. It was a chugging engine and it was chugging and blowing the smoke out the smoke stack and when I got there I was as black as a Negro.
Julie: Before you went to basic training or war, had you ever been that far away from home?
George: No, No not very far.
Julie: Do you remember your basic training and drill sergeant?
George: Oh, yes oh yes, seven weeks at Paris Island is like (laugh, laugh) going through a grit mill.
Julie: Were the men that come from big cities different from the country men?
George: Oh yes, It was um well I had never really been anywhere and meeting all these people from different cities and their customs and their talk, the way they talked and so forth and their actions, it was just like night and day.
Julie: What did you think about the Yankees and their ways?
George: Well when I was in the North I was called a Rebel when I was in the south they called me a Yankee. (laugh, laugh) See we are right here in between and of course I consider myself as a southerner, a southerner, but as I said the southerners would call me a Yankee.
Julie: Did you learn about different people by going into the service?
George: Oh yeah!
Julie: Did you make a lot of friends?
George: Made a lot of friends and learned a lot. It's educational, it is educational.
Julie: What were you trained to do in the service?
George: I was in the intelligence, combat intelligence, now that's not what exactly what it sounds like. What it really is, is scouting observer. I was trained in several things, but in warfare, I would scout and observe.
Julie: Did it help you later in life?
George: Yeah, yeah, well yeah the regimen of it, the regimen of it. I don't know if anything gave me an edge on a making a living or anything like that economically but it made a man out of me, and it made me think differently, and it made me. I'm one who learned to-do with what I had to do with
Julie: Do you remember where you went from the basic training?
George: From basic training I went to Undenied?, Maryland and that was a little from the outskirts of Washington, and I did guard duty at a naval powder plant for about 14 months, and then I got ready to go overseas.
Julie: How did you get there?
George: Train, train again in those days that was the most transportation, train.
Julie: Do you remember after you got there, how you traveled around the state?
George: I would travel, when I came home on leave I came on the train and ,and, I can recall getting on the train in Washington,D.C. and I couldn't get a seat. I remember one time coming as far as Lynchburg before I ever got to sit down ,because the trains were so full, and so loaded, and then it go down, and I'd be standing up holding on to something, and it go down the road and at another stop and a bunch of people would get off, and I'd run and go get me a seat, well here some others just get right back on. Now I would have a seat, but now of course when the ladies would get on or an old person ,I would get up and give them my seat, and I have come as far as Lynchburg before I could sit down.
War in the Pacific
Julie: When did you ship out overseas?
George: February of 43, I believe it was (silence), I shipped out from Norfolk, Virginia.
Julie: How did you find out you were going to go?
George: Well, well it was a matter we knew pretty well. That is it was a training program. After I did my guard duty, I went to Camp Lejune,North Carolina, and that was just a basic place to finish me off to get ready to go. I knew it just be a few months when I went there just whenever it was my time to go, I'd be there. So I was there perhaps maybe 4 months or something like that and then it was my time to go.
Julie: Did you prefer to go to Europe or the Pacific?
George: Well , I made my choice when I volunteered, because that is where the Marine Corps operated was in the Pacific. It didn't operate in Europe. I went to the Marine Corps specifically to go to the Pacific because of my brother.
Julie: What unit were you in and who was your commanding officer?
George: I was in the, well I was in different units, but in my fighting units I was in the 22nd Marine, 22nd regiment. I was the 6th division and the commander of that was General Shepherd, he was commander of that division.
Julie: Do you remember what he was like?
George: Well I remember one time he almost got me killed. I was on a observation post watching for a enemy and I had my binoculars and he comes up to my, he comes up to my, up to me well of course we would be laying down. We's in fox hole we'd be watching, but we'd be watching discreetly. We'd be camouflaged and undercover. Well here he came in his jeep and with these photographers and he comes up and borrows my glasses and he looks around and he gets a picture taken to go in the newspaper and then he leaves and about ten minutes after that the artillery came in and almost killed me, because, see, he gave away my position.
Julie: Were you involved in any fighting?
George: Yes, in two places, in Guam and Okinawa.
Julie: Were you ever wounded?
George: Never wounded.
Julie: Were any of your friends wounded or killed?
George: Oh yeah, well, yes, my friends, I had lots of friends. Most of them were either wounded or got killed, yeah.
Julie: What was battle like?
George: (Silence) Well, you can imagine, two operations , now I'm talking. See, well we hit islands (silence). The Marine Corps is amphibious,what we did we would , I can remember going to Guam and Okinawa both, two different times. We were on a ship about 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning. We had had breakfast of steak and eggs but we wouldn't have them any other time. Cause we couldn't get nothing like that, but they give us steak and egg,s and then we got off of that ship and we got on a boat, the LST. We get on an amphibious,they called it an Alligator, tank that swam and we'd be and thats the way we'd go on shore. But then when, it had doors that opened on the front. and that thing would go out(silence) out ramp and get in the water, and then we'd all line up just thousands of thousands down a line and then we'd go ashore. So you can imagine, your question was, how did it feel, it felt pretty bad when your're going, you're in the water, you've got battle ships(silence,narrator upset) firing over your head and all this whole line moving toward the beach (silence, narrator upset) and just a minute, I've gotta .(silence, narrator upset) It would move toward the beach and and you and the enemies out there, and don't see him, and he's firing at you, and you, and you don't know what you're going to run into. And then that thing goes and it climbs up on the beach up to certain point, and you jump out, and you don't even know what is out there and its sorta, it's not funny (silence).
Julie: Where you involved in fighting at sea?
George: Well, see, yeah, I was in the sea too, of course. There would be ships firing at us and so forth, but we were amphibious. That means that you went from the water to the land we done most of the fighting on the land, but we started in the water.
Julie: Did you see any kamikaze attacks or were you attacked by any Japanese aircraft?
George: Oh yeah they attacked us the they come over and the submarines attacked on the sea. They would attack us on the sea. Now of course on land, on the land, on us, they didn't, most of the attacks that we got was not from the air, because our air force was so much superior to theirs. Theirs didn't get to do much. Our aircraft would attack them right in front of us, and of course, we'd have to push them. We were just too superior for the Japanese, for their era.
Julie: Did you ever see any of the Japanese prisoners?
George: Oh, I've taken Japanese prisoners. I took a Japanese prisoner one time and in fact, well let me say this, Japanese wouldn't surrender until the war was about over. They wouldn't. We just didn't hardly get any prisoners, until the war was about over. Last two weeks in the war, that is at Okinawa. (silence) we had some prisoners. I had a prisoner to come in one morning, when I got out of my fox hole one morning. I had one (silence) who was pretty close to me and he raised up and he wanted to be captured, and he had, he had been wounded. His leg, he had a great big bandage on his leg, and of course, we took him and when the medical men looked at him, he had maggots on him and of course what they did, they didn't do anything. They just put it right back on there because, they said them maggots was good as anything we could do. Of course we took him to the hospital, some of them we did. But another thing, point, now I took a prisoner one time. I had to take a prisoner, and I had taken them to the stockade all day. They were surrendered now, because the war was about over, they were surrendered and and I had taken, different ones of us would take a prisoner, and we'd take him to the stockade, which was 2 or 3 miles away, and I had done that all day long, and I was tired and about four o'clock in the evening I came up to CP and they was interrogating another one, and I didn't want to have to take him nowhere and I ducked down behind a bush because I didn't want them to see me. But the lieutenant did see me and said come on here and take this one, so I took him and I said well, I'll take him, and but I'm not going, I said, I'll start with him, he grinned and he knew what I meant. What I really intended to do, I was going to take him out in the woods and kill him (silence, narrator upset) but, but I took him out to the road and it had been raining, and he wanted water, he said , he pointed to a (narrator upset) mud hole and he said meza, and I let him drink out of that mud hole and he tried to pat me on the back and he said American good and (narrator upset) I didn't kill him, I took him on.
The Atomic Bomb Ends the War
Julie: Where were you when you heard about Hiroshima?
George: I was at Guam, (silence) that was the atomic bomb.
Julie: Did you think you were going to have to invade Japan?
George: I had already been to Okinawa, we had taken Okinawa, that battle was over in fact, that was the last battle, and then I was back at Guam, getting ready to go to Japan (narrator upset) thats when that happened.
Julie: Do you think dropping the atomic bomb saved your life and others?
George: I do, I do cause I learned later on, you see there are six divisions in the Marine Corps and we went three at a time, (silence)three of them took , well they had just had taken Iwo Jima, that's an island you hear a lot about, I wasn't in that, the other three was in that operation, we had just , they had just taken Iwo Jima and then we had just taken Okinawa. Now we had gone back to Guam, to get ready to go to another, I didn't know at the time where we'd go, but we learned later on that within , the bomb was dropped in August (cough, upset)" I'm having more trouble than I ever had", the bomb was dropped in August and the other three part of the Marine Corps was to hit Japan in September. I believe in October and then which then would have been, we would have hit the, they was going to hit Kushoo, which would have the north part of Japan and then we would have Honshu, that is, where Tokyo is, and November (silence, narrator upset), so I figured that saved my life (silence), Already, I had already made two beach heads and I figured the law of average would of got me on another.
Julie: Did you write and receive letters while you were over seas?
George: Oh yeah, Oh yeah.
Julie: Do you remember who you wrote and who wrote you?
George: Oh yeah, I wrote , I'd hear from mother and my family, and then I had friends that I'd write to.
Julie: Did they make you feel home sick?
George: Oh, oh we, well getting a letter was the greatest thing that ever happened to us, we wanted mail that's, any connection with home.
Julie: Do you remember when you came back and how you got home?
George: I came back home on the, I was in China and came back home, I came back home on the US AT Sea Fitaler, that was a army ship, it came into San Francisco, Treasure Island (narrator upset) and I kissed the ground. (silence)
Julie: How did the people treat you when you came back?
George: Oh wonderful, wonderful you could get a ride, its different now, you see people can't get a ride now, soldiers, soldiers military men aren't that much of now, now we were just like little kings or gods, why could go out and get a ride anywhere, I didn't have to have car.
Julie: Was it hard for you to adjust to civilian life again?
George: Well, yeah, yeah it was a little hard, we had gotten to the point, I can recall that we was, we were just with soldiers and other Marines all the time. We's never around women any, much on the South Pacific. We'd say anything, or do anything. Our conversation had gotten pretty rough and I remember I kinda had to learn all over again, when I got in civilization, I had to be careful of how I talked.
Julie: Do you feel that WWII was justified?
George: Nowheres justified, no, nowheres justified.
Julie: How do think it compares to later wars that the U.S has been involved in?
George:: Well, WWII, well, as I said, Archie Bunker used to say "That's the big one", it was the one. Now people I'll tell ya how people think in general, people in general think, I guess I don't, people in general thinks that the war was justified simply because what the Japs did to us and what the Germans did to the Jews, and it was terrible what they did, but then I started to say that it's really nowheres justified in my book, nowheres justified.
Julie:: Do you think that the United States should return to a volunteer army and reinstate the draft?
George: Well no, I don't. I'm not going to no comments on that, because that's political stuff and, as I said the war is , I wouldn't fight another. Of course, I wouldn't be called on now, but if I could I wouldn't, and so, I won't comment on that.
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