Interview With Hestel Walker
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  • 1. http://www.ussrasher.org/hester_interview.htm Obviously World War II had a tremendous impact on my Grandfather’s life. His most striking memories of that era revolve around the actual war itself. It was a life-changing experience for him. He joined the war as a young man and grew into adulthood serving on his submarine. He has exceptional pride in the work he performed during the war, of his crew on the U.S.S. Rasher, and of the entire submarine service. His best and worst memories are all one in the same, of fighting for his country and the near escapes he endured. Never will he forget these times or the men he served with. To this day he is still very active in the annual Rasher reunions. Before the war, my Grandfather was still a young teenager and had not yet made specific plans for his future. Because of the war he was forced to plan a future for himself, and although he remained living in the same area after the war, his life had changed significantly. The war afforded him the opportunity to obtain specialized training in a career field that otherwise would not have been available to him. The war had given him a purpose and had set him on a path that affected the rest of his life. World War II affected America in its entirety and considerably changed our nation. The war brought America out of the depression and provided a vast amount of opportunities for society that had not been previously possible. My Grandfather took full advantage of these opportunities, although at that time I’m not certain he realized the significant changes he was establishing for his life. The war is definitely a part of the man he is today. I truly admire his patriotism, the sacrifices he made, and the honor he upholds. Because of this assignment I have learned a great many thins about my Grandfather and his life; things that I might not have otherwise ever learned about, and I am very grateful for the circumstances that allowed him to share these memories with me. It seems that not only did World War II affect our family, but researching the ware fifty-five years later has also made an impact. For this project I interviewed my Grandfather, Hestel Walker, age 74, in his North Richland Hills home on 10/20/2000. LW: “When and where were you born?” HW: “I was born April 28, 1926. I'm 74 years old now. I was born in Pineland, TX, in Sabine County.” LW: “Who are the members of your family, your brothers and sisters?” HW: “I have a brother, Hershel Walker. He's two years younger than me. A half-brother, Thurman Walker who lives in San Antonio. A half-brother J.D., John Delbert. He lives in a VA hospital. And a half-sister, Irene Baker who's deceased.” LW: “What are your parents' names?” HW: “Bertha Cunningham Walker, and Delbert Alonzo Walker.” LW: “What do you remember about the Great Depression, and how did it affect your family?” HW: “Well, the Great Depression was on when I was born. It lasted so long the only thing I remember is that my family worked just to barely put food on the table. I remember one time when we didn't have anything else to eat; you could buy a bunch of turnip greens for five cents, enough to feed the whole family. My momma cooked those turnip greens, and they stunk to me. I didn't want them; I think I was a little sick. But she made me eat them because it was the only thing we had to eat. I've never been able to stand a turnip green since. When I was about six years old my momma and daddy separated and my momma raised me. She worked for $9.00 a week at the Houston Packing Company. She worked in the freezer compartment. It was a meat company. She could get some meat every now and then to put on the table. She paid $4.00 a week out of the $9.00 she made for rent. So it only left $5.00 a week more for us to live on.” LW: “How, when and where did you meet your wife [Nanny]?” 1 of 8 9/15/2010 5:51 PM
  • 2. http://www.ussrasher.org/hester_interview.htm HW: “Well, Linola and I lived in the same area and we just kind of grew [up] together, kind of young. I used to pump her to the movies on my bicycle. During the war we got married when I came home on leave.” LW: “What do you remember about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and what was your immediate reaction?” HW: “When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor it was in 1941, and that would have made me 15 years old. I was in a movie, a Sunday matinee. They stopped the movie and someone came out on the stage and told us that Pearl Harbor had been attacked by the Japanese. That's how I learned of it. My immediate reaction was to join the Navy. But I was too young. I couldn't join. The draft was already going and I registered for the draft. I told them I was 18, because I didn't have a birth certificate. In Pineland they didn't have a hospital. Ali's they had was a doctor in a doctor's office. I was born in a house by the doctor. There was never a birth certificate to even show I was ever born. So I went down and registered for the draft and told them I was 18. It was quite a while later that I got a letter from the draft board to report to be examined. I was classed as Al. But my momma, of course received the letter and she immediately went to Pineland. She got a certificate from the Sabine County Courthouse that showed that I had been born and was not old enough to be drafted. It was quite different than the boys in the Viet Nam war who tried to get out of going to war. After the U.S. was attacked by the Japanese, everybody wanted to get in.” LW: “What did you do during WWI~. What was your job?” HW: “During WWII, I was a young teenager. I worked in various jobs; with a blue-printer, I worked making blueprints, which they don't even have anymore. There wasn't people they could hire to do that work. What people there were, could make a lot more money going to work in the Houston Shipyards. When it came up my 17th birthday, I went down and joined the Navy, on April 28, 1943.” LW: “How long did it take before you left for the Navy?” HW: “The next day. They needed people bad! They even graduated me from school in Houston. During that time when you went to high school you made a choice. If you were going to college you had three years of high school. If you weren't going on to college, and I knew that I would never get to go, you only had 11 grades. So when it came up time for me to go in the Navy, and the Navy needed people so badly, they [the high school] went ahead and graduated me a few weeks early.” LW: “What was your unit and where did you serve while you were in the Navy?” HW: “I was in the Navy Submarine Service. I went in as an Apprentice Seaman and finished at Petty Officer Second Class after 32 months.” LW: “You must have been a hard worker!” HW: “Well, in the submarines, you was good, or you got out, one of the two.” LW: “So where did you go?” HW: “I went to a Navy Electrical College to be an electrical engineer. I took a four-year course in three months! Then I went to submarine school in New London, Connecticut. After finishing the submarine school, they sent me by train across to Treasure Island, California, where I was put on a surface ship and sent to New Guinea. I was only in New Guinea for about a week, possibly ten days and they put me on an empty Australian merchant ship to go to Brisbane, Australia. When I got to Brisbane, I was only there for four or five days and they put me on a train that went across Australia to Perth, Australia. My submarine operated out of Perth, Australia. Actually, it was Freemantle, Australia. Freemantle was like a suburb of Perth.” LW: “Did you work on the same submarine the whole time?” HW: “I served the whole time on the same one (The USS Rasher.) I was assigned to that submarine and made 5 war patrols on it. The submarine service was a very limited service during WWII. It was known as the silent service and they never let the public know what we were doing. There was only 2% of the Navy that served in the submarines, approximately 16,000 men. That 2% of the Navy sank 54% of all Japanese ships that were sunk. The submarines sank nine of the Japanese Air Craft Carriers. The ship I was on sank one of those nine.” LW: “Do you know how large the fleet was of submarines?” HW: “During the war with the total number of submarines...they started the war with some 42 submarines, I think it 2 of 8 9/15/2010 5:51 PM
  • 3. http://www.ussrasher.org/hester_interview.htm was. They were mostly submarines that had been built after WWI; they were old submarines. As the war went on and they built new submarines, they took the old submarines out. Including the ones that were there when the war started, up to the newest ones that got into any war patrols at all, there were 250. The one I was on, they started building right after Pearl Harbor. But it takes along time to build them and it was 1943 when it was commissioned in the Navy. It was September of '43. It was brand new when I went aboard it. Of course, they were much, much better submarines than what they had when the war began! There were three of them old submarines that was in Pearl Harbor at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Of course, they (The Japanese) were after battleships and aircraft carriers. To get to the battleships there was three old American destroyers tied up at the piers, but for the planes to come in and drop their bombs or torpedoes on the battleships, they had to pass right across the rear of these three submarines that were tied up. Consequently, those three submarines manned their deck guns and were credited with shooting down the first Japanese plane that was shot down. Five days later, one of the submarines that was in the Philippines sank the first Japanese ship of the war. Just five days after Pearl Harbor. There was none of our aircraft carriers in Pearl Harbor; we only had three in the Pacific at the time and all three of them were at sea. All the Japanese sank was the surface ships. They didn't even try to sink the submarines. They thought the submarines wouldn't do any damage. Turned out submarines did more damage than all other causes to them! But we paid; we lost one out of about every five of us. Twenty two percent of the submarine people did not come back. It was the heaviest casualty rate of any service.” LW: “Did your submarine ever get shot at or damaged?” HW: “Oh, yes, yes! Over one period of two weeks, we were assigned to patrol what was known as the Lombox Straights, the straights around Burma; to get through the islands to get up to the Philippines from Australia. In that one two week period, we had 530 depth charges dropped on us. We don't even know how many times they shot at us, because we had to stay submerged all day while we were in the straights. We tried to surface at night to charge our batteries, but them Japanese patrol boats knew we were there and they'd find us every night. We'd have a running battle with them every night shooting at us with their deck guns. The water was too shallow for us to dive when we was up in there, so we had to run for deep water and dive. They weren't worth losing a submarine to sink a patrol boat. We never even tried to sink a patrol boat, even though they were our nemesis. They were the ones that did us the most damage, but one torpedo was worth more that what one of those patrol boats was worth, so we didn't waste any time on it. They had us out-gunned; we couldn't out-gun them with our deck guns. All we could do was run. Another time...the submarine I was on was built not to go deeper than 300 feet. We ran into a Japanese cruiser that was with an old American destroyer, the old USS Stuart. The Stuart was in dry dock when the Japanese took Borneo and the Americans couldn't get it out. So the Japanese used it after they took Borneo, and were using it against us. It still had the American submarine detection gear on it, which was a lot better than what the Japanese had. That old USS Stuart was with that Japanese cruiser that we sank. On our submarine, we had six forward torpedo tubes, and four in the rear. When we sank that cruiser, we fired six torpedoes at it, and hit it with five. We were trying to get into position to shoot at the American destroyer that was Japanese manned. We had to make 180 degree turn to get our stern toward them. We were submerged, but with the American sound gear, they knew exactly where we was. We had gotten turned to shoot at him and he came across us and dropped three depth charges on his first run across us. When the first depth charge went off, we was at 65 feet. That was periscope depth, because we was trying to get lined up to shoot that destroyer. At the same time he was getting lined up to shoot at us. Each depth charge successfully blew us deeper. When the third one went off, we was at 505 feet, and that submarine shouldn't have been taken deeper than 300. The boat leaked all over. They had just fired the six torpedoes in the forward torpedo room and the torpedo tubes each had an outer door and an inner door. The outer doors had hand cranks on them, they weren't hydraulically operated. When that first depth charge went off, it blew an inner seal on a torpedo tube, because all the outer tube doors hadn't got closed yet. There's only room for one person between those tubes to crank those outer doors open or closed. When it blew the inner seal before he could get that outer door closed on that tube, they was calf deep in water. It was flooding in the forward torpedo room. With all that weight of all that (water) we was standing on our end, with the nose down. Our pumps wouldn't work against that 505 feet. We had to get it up to 300 feet before our pumps could work, to pump the water out. All this time that destroyer was still depth charging us, but he wasn't' close, just the first three were close. We had to be very careful what we did. If we came back to the surface, he was up there and had his guns manned, we knew it. There's 3 of 8 9/15/2010 5:51 PM
  • 4. http://www.ussrasher.org/hester_interview.htm no way that submarine was going to have a deck battle with a destroyer! I guess the good Lord was just with us. Somehow, by backing up emergency, which meant if we could get one more amp out of them batteries we would get it. We did everything we could and that submarine stopped going down and it just started easing back up. It reached a point where it came over and the bow went up, the heavy part, and we was standing on our stern now. We was standing on the walls inside that submarine! When the bow came up, it came up to less than 300 feet and we was able to pump that water out and get leveled off. We had a lot of damage, but we were able to get everything working. All the electrical gear was out. So we spent the next week to ten days working on all that electrical equipment. We radioed in when we did get to the surface that we had a lot of damage, but we were operable and we still had 18 torpedoes. We had only fired our first six at that cruiser. We were just off the Philippines. This was just before the Americans landed back in the Philippines. When we radioed in we said we wanted to remain on station. We didn't want to come in with 18 torpedoes. They allowed us to stay out. It turned out two weeks later we got a radio message that there was a large Japanese convoy coming through our area. So we started searching for them and found them in the daylight and got located ahead of them. It was around August 18, 1944 and there was a hurricane blowing. It was real, real rough. The storm just poured sheets of rain. We located ourselves where as they came to us, we would be surrounded by them. We were sitting on the surface, we didn't even dive. Then we started running with them and shooting our torpedoes at them. We were picking them out by radar and firing at the biggest targets that our radar showed. We didn't know what they were, except they were Japanese. We fired two torpedoes at the biggest target that was there. Both torpedoes hit it, and when they hit it the whole ship exploded. It lit up the skies. We could see the ships all around us. It went right down, it wasn't on the surface five minutes. All we could see was a long flat deck. We thought we had sunk a very large tanker. Tankers were our primary targets. Our instructions were that if we was to see a battleship and a tanker, to sink the tankers first.” LW: “Why was that?” HW: “To shut off their fuel supplies. Without any fuel, they couldn't operate. So we stayed running with that group of ships and firing torpedoes at them.” We fired ail our torpedoes that was in the tubes; we had 10 of them in tubes. We still had eight, but it was too rough for us to reload. So we had to pull out from the group of ships and dive, where it would be smooth enough to reload the torpedo tubes. Then we had to come back and find those ships again and fire the last eight torpedoes. It turns out that out of that 18 torpedoes, we got 17 hits. We found out after the war that the first target was an aircraft carrier. We was so close to it, that when it exploded, pieces of it hit our decks. We know that it went down along with approximately 50 airplanes, because they couldn't put no airplanes in the air with that storm. Turned out this was reinforcements they were sending in to the Philippines. When the war was over, we was credited with sinking four ships; we know we sunk five. Two of them we know we sunk were Japanese troop ships. The next day we came back through there we found two troop ships that we had hit but hadn't sunk, yet. We was out of torpedoes, so we radioed in that we had two cripples up there that were trying to get up to the beach and get beached. There was another submarine about 100 miles from us. They came in and those other two troop ships finished going to the bottom. When we were up there (on the surface) looking around, there was thousands and thousands of Japanese in the water. All dead. When that aircraft carrier sunk which we thought was a tanker, those other 17 or 16 ships in that group started shooting. There was tracers going everywhere. At least one of them was depth charging, but we was on the surface. They were shooting at each other; they went into a frantic frenzy running full speed through all these people that was out in the water. They killed their own people, from what we didn't kill with the explosions. Of course that first ship, that aircraft carrier, I'm sure that everybody on it was dead before they got in the water, because the whole ship exploded. It just exploded and disappeared. So one of the two torpedoes that hit it, he either hit it in its aviation fuel tanks, or in its magazines, for the whole ship to explode like that. Turned out that going through all them people dead in the water, we only found one Japanese that was alive. There was two divisions of Japanese soldiers out there. There was over 20,000 Japanese killed that one night. That was 20,000 Japanese that wasn't on the Philippines when the Americans landed. Consequently, the submarine I was on, after sinking those ships that night; we became the # 1 submarine in the USA. But that was the last ships we sank. We were damaged so they sent us back to California for repairs. We were able to pull off that one night's operation even though we were already damaged. We stopped at Midway Island on the way back and turned the one prisoner we picked up over to the Marines. Then we came into Pearl Harbor and topped off with fuel and got some fresh food, and then went on to Hunter's Point, 4 of 8 9/15/2010 5:51 PM
  • 5. http://www.ussrasher.org/hester_interview.htm California for repairs. We were there for three months. I got a thirty day leave while we was there, and another promotion. Well, I got the promotion when we came through Pearl Harbor. The practice in the submarine service when you got promoted, you got thrown overboard. The submarine I was on wanted to promote me to second class. I'd already made third class while I was on that submarine. They couldn't promote me because we had all the second-class petty officers we were allowed. So on paper, they transferred me to the Sub-Base at Pear Harbor and the Sub-Base promoted me and then transferred me back the Rasher. I never even moved my toothbrush But they never did throw me overboard. That one night in Pearl Harbor, I went ashore and drank too much. When I came back to the boat and found out I got promoted, I was being helped. The guys that were up on deck were yelling, “Throw him over, throw him over!' and then I heard someone else say, 'He's too damn drunk! If we throw him over, he's going to drown!” LW: “So you went to California after that and had your thirty days leave?” HW: “Well when I got my thirty days leave, I came home [Houston], and Linola met me at the train. The next day we got married.” LW: “What day was that?” HW' “October the 19th. Yesterday would have been our anniversary, 56 years. October 19, 1944.” LW: “Was she working during the war?” HW: “She worked for a doctor that was right across the street from the courthouse in Houston. I went in to work with her when she went in the next morning. Told the doctor we was wanting to get married, and I needed to be checked out, but I had to go buy some rings. In the Submarine Service, we got paid well. We got 10% for being on sea duty and an extra 50% for being in the submarines. So we got paid real well and got the best food the Navy could offer. So I had some money after being overseas that long and I went down and bought her rings. I went back to the doctor's office about 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon and told him I needed to get examined, because they wanted an examination before they married us. He said, q3on't worry about it.' And he filled out the papers. We called up to the courthouse and got Judge Reagan. He said q3e here at 5:00pm and H1 get the wedding done.' Judge Reagan, he stayed late. It was right at 5:00pm when we got to the courthouse, and he stayed late and married us. It cost me $20.00. I took Linola back out to California with me when I went out there. We'd been married about three weeks when we went out to California. It was December 20th when the Rasher left to go back overseas. I remember we had already loaded all of our torpedoes; we had loaded all of our supplies and food. We had filled up with fuel and we were ready to go, and then come a Navy truck down on the pier. He started unloading fur-lined aviation jackets, one for every man on the Rasher crew. And I thought 'My God, they going to send us to Alaskal' Those islands out there were being occupied, off the coast of Alaska, by the Japanese. They [Americans] always had some submarines up there, but I was never there. We always operated on the equator, or very close to it. Where it was hot. The Rasher didn't have any heaters on it. Instead they sent us to the northern islands of Formosa, which is now Taiwan. The water we was in was 30 degree water, just over 30. So that's the reason why they unloaded all them fur-lined jackets, We'd been use to running around at sea with cut-off dungarees on, a pair of sandals, and no shirt. Now you stayed dressed as full dressed; you were double dressed. The only time it was warm was when you would first dive and had been running the diesel engines. Those hot diesel engines would warm it up for just a little while. We stayed out there and never did find--well we did too, we found some ships, but we had a bad captain when we went back overseas. We got a captain who had never been a captain before. He had been on two other submarines and both the submarines he had been on had been sunk after he was transferred off of them. He just knew this trip was going to be his last one; the third time was going to be the charm and they [Japanese] was going to get him. We didn't find ships to shoot at, but one time and when we did he made sure we didn't hit any of them. He fired torpedoes at destroyers to run at 15 feet. It was too deep and they ran under the destroyers. It was close enough to land that when the torpedoes hit land, they exploded so the Japanese knew we were there. One of them tried to ram us. He almost got us too. He had been between the stern and the conning tower when he went over us. If he'd had been 20 feet further forward, he'd have hit the conning tower. He was going full speed, and I’ll never forget the sound of those propellers. They made the derndest whining sound; I'll never forget it! But he missed us. Consequently when we came back off that patrol, if we hadn't have had that captain, web have still been # 1. But we got beat out tight at the end of the war. So we were the second leading submarine. We was only 500 tons ahead 5 of 8 9/15/2010 5:51 PM
  • 6. http://www.ussrasher.org/hester_interview.htm of the//2 submarine. Right at the end of the war that #2 submarine found an 850-ton ship and sank it. The Japanese didn't have any ships, they was hard to find. But he found an 850-ton ship and sank it so he wound up 350 tons ahead of my submarine.” LW: “Were you out at sea when the war was officially over?” HW: “When the war was over, we was in the Bay of Siam at battle station surface where we were proceeding to sink a bunch of 'sampans' with our deck guns. There was about a hundred out there. The submarines had wiped out the Japanese, where the Japanese didn't hardly have any ships left. What they had left they wouldn't put out on the open ocean because Japan was tinged by submarines and if they sent a ship out in the waters, it got sunk. They were doing all of their shipping of supplies for the last year of the war by sailboats, so we had started sinking the sailboats to keep the supplies from getting to them. Before we got to fire at the first one [that day], we received a radio message to 'cease all hostile activities.' So that hundred 'sampans' was very lucky. We had to remain on station for a couple of days and then they told us to come back to the Philippines. When we got to the Philippines they said ‘Go on home! Your home this time will be New York, New York.’ The ten leading American submarines were in New York for Navy Day of '45.” LW: “You went straight from there to New, York?” HW: “Came back through the Panama Canal up to New York. And immediately got another 30 day leave. That's when I found out my wife had a son. I had over four months of mail coming to me. Because we'd moved around so much, the mail would get sent someplace we'd been and we'd already be gone. When we got to New York, I collected all my mail and caught a train to come back to Houston. I read my mail while I was on the train. I read that Topper, my son had been born on July l0th. It was now early in September, I don't remember exactly when. It was a pretty good haul, about a three-week run, from where we were to New York harbor.” LW: “I know you've told me a lot of things, but what was your most vivid memory?” HW: “The change in our lives. Things was always better after the war. The war had brought us out of the Great Depression. During the war it was mostly by producing equipment, machines and building ships and aircraft planes. Fort Worth started building fighter planes and bombers. In Houston they were building concrete ships. They were ships with no engines, they had to be towed, but they looked like ships. They were used to make breakwaters so the regular ships would have a safe harbor.” LW: “How did the war affect you personally and how did it affect your family?” HW: “Well, you can only say the effect was better. We were better off after the war was over.” LW: “What did you do for entertainment during the war?” HW: “What'd I do for entertainment?” LW: “Yes, what movies did you watch, who was your favorite film star? What was your favorite song and favorite band?” HW: “Well, there wasn't much entertainment for us out in the Pacific. It wasn't' like at home. I had a two-week leave on Midway Island. It was a military island. There was absolutely nothing to do but drink. No movies. I had two-week leave, a rest and recuperation. When we came in off of patrol, we'd always been out for two months. When we came in off of patrol, they'd put another crew of people on our boat who did al! the repairs, and we were given two weeks rest and recuperation. Then we would go back to the submarine and get ready to take it back out on patrol again. So one of my two weeks was spent on Midway Island, another one was spent on Guam. And there was still fighting on Guam, but they had a protected area for the submariners to come in and recuperate. Our area was guarded by Marine guards. The Japanese were still there, up in the hills and they would come down at night and cut your throat, or whatever• They were trying to find something to eat more than anything else. While I was in Guam, they did have a USO show--one time. So I got to see a USO show, once. While I was at the Philippines--we had a two-week stay on the Philippines, too. There was a little town across the bay from where we were anchored. You could get some of the natives there, they had outrigger canoes, and if you gave them a can of tuna fish or sardines, they'd row you across the bay over to the town. It was a long, long ways if you tried to walk around, and we always had tuna fish and sardines on that submarine!” 6 of 8 9/15/2010 5:51 PM
  • 7. http://www.ussrasher.org/hester_interview.htm LW: “So what would you do in town?” HW: “Drink. There wasn't nothing else, that was all.” LW: “After the war, you moved back to the same location where you had lived before?” HW: “Yes, Houston.” LW: “What about your plans, how did your life change after the war?” HW: “By the time I got out of the Navy, so were several million others. All the war plants were shut down. There was no work. So it took quite a while to find a job. Since I was an electrician, I went to the electrical unions in Houston. They had two unions there. I went to the one that works construction--house building and stuff like that. But they wouldn't even take any applications. They were six months ahead on applications and said there wasn't any need to take more. I went over to the other union, which was a shop union, electrical shops worked through that union. They sent me out to Southern Pacific Rail Yards. Which was a mistake, I should have took it I went out and talked to the shop foreman there. He told me I could have a job and he'd start me at 74 cents an hour. It'd be two years before I'd be eligible for a raise, and then it would go to 76 cents an hour. Some of our guys did that. They went to work for the railroad and they're doing very well now. I did not, because when I got home I had Topper to feed and I didn't see where I could feed him on 74 cents an hour. But it turned out the diesel engines they used in those trains was exactly the same engines we had on the submarine. I'd have had it snapped. I could have really done it, but I didn't know it, because I didn't know what engines they had in them. I just knew they were diesels. It was probably 15years later before I found out they had the same engines as the submarine. We had three or four of the guys that went to work for different railroads, stayed with them and retired. They’re doing very, very good, because they advanced much quicker, which I probably would have too if I would have gone there. I knew all about them engines and the electrical systems that go with them. They were identical to what we had on the submarines. I finally found a job at a little automobile electric place rebuilding starters and generators. It took me about three months to find that. So I went to work and that's how I got in the automobile business. They paid me 50 cents a piece to rebuild a starter or generator. If I hit it lucky, I could do two of them in an hour, which gave me a dollar an hour instead of 74 cents an hour.” LW: “Before the war, did you know what you wanted to do for your profession?” HW: “No. I'd been operating blue-printers. I knew them, but it wasn't something I felt like I wanted to go back into. They had what they called photocopies at that time; it was before we copy machines. I operated them. But neither job was...I didn't feel like I wanted anymore of that, I'd had all of that I wanted. Since I had gotten trained as an electrician, I wanted to be an electrician.” LW: “How did you choose to be an electrician in the Navy; was that something you were interested in?” HW: “No, I wasn't really interested in it. I wanted to be a gunner's mate. When I finished boot camp in the Navy, which was in Corpus Christi, it was a temporary boot camp--three weeks, they had a number of things that you could go into. You could be a gunner's mate, or a frogman, they call them Seals nowadays, go to electrical school, engineer school, or engine mechanic. They had so many ships under construction all over, that they needed crews for them ships. I signed up to be a gunner's mate, because I wanted where the action was. Turned out I got more damn action than I wanted But they already had all the gunner's mates positions filled. So I had to pick something else, so I said ‘What the heck I’ll just take electrical.’ They sent me up to Morehead, Kentucky. The Navy had taken over a college, Morehead State Teachers College. The Navy had taken over the whole college and was training electricians there. Everybody there was taking an electrical engineers course. We lived in the dormitories. They crammed a four-year electrical engineering course down to us in 90 days. When I got through there, they had some choices of different things to go into. They had submarine people there interviewing us and telling us that if we went into submarines, how much greater the pay was and if we would go into submarines they'd give me a two week leave. After 90 days of that school room activity and beating my brain I said Well, I need two weeks off—I’ll sign up for submarine service.' But you had to volunteer for submarine service. The Navy would not just put anybody into submarines.” LW: “I'm sure it was a tough job. I bet a lot of people can’t do it.” HW: “Well just being in one...it took 80.people to operate it, so having 80 people inside that cigar shaped tube; 7 of 8 9/15/2010 5:51 PM
  • 8. http://www.ussrasher.org/hester_interview.htm there's no room for all 80 people to be up at the same time on a submarine. You had to have at least 1/3 of the people in the bunks ail the time. So we were set up in three duty sections. So 1/3 of the crew would be asleep, 1/3 of the crew was on duty, and 1/3 of the crew doing various jobs. I stood a four-hour watch, but when I was off that watch, I either had to work on the electrical equipment that needed to be worked on, or go to sleep--one of the two. So you had four hours on watch, four hours of repair and four hours sleep, and then four hours on watch; you'd start over again. If you didn't have anything to repair, you could hang around in the mess hall. We had four tables in it that would seat six people at a table. You go into the crew's mess and you sit there and you could play cribbage or pinochle or something, if you didn't have something to repair--but something always needed to be worked on. And sometimes when you was running on the surface you could pick up radio, usually Tokyo Rose. We had the radio going when I was running on the surface one time and Tokyo Rose come on and said ‘we have music here for the Flasher and the Rasher. We know where you are so listen to this music; because it's about the last time you're going to hear music. You're on your last patrol.' The Japanese knew the names of the US Submarines.” LW: “So did you leave that area really fast?” HW: “No, we weren't worried about her.” LW: “One last question: What were the depth charges that you were talking about, what is that?” HW: “Well, that's an anti-submarine explosive. We had them on our ships and of course the Japanese used them. It's a big bomb that is usually in a container like an oil drum. Usually they're rolled off the back end of a ship. During the war, they devised a way to mount them up on explosives and blow them off on the sides.” © Laurie Williams 2000 8 of 8 9/15/2010 5:51 PM