Carl William Oveson

The following is taken from an interview by Karl Schuettler, an Ordean Middle School student.
Carl relates, “I was one week short of 15 when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.” I lived in Roseau, which was in northwestern Minnesota, and my mother was glad I wasn’t old enough to enter the war.

“Gas, coffee, meat and sugar were rationed so the armed forces could have some. There were drives for war materials such as tires and tin cans. People everywhere were contributing to the war effort, and women were working in factories and flying planes.

When I was 17, in 1944, I joined the Navy. My exams were at Fort Snelling, and a friend of mine was worried he wouldn’t be let in because he had diabetes in his family, but he made it. I was sworn in on my eighteenth birthday and was sent to a nine week boot camp at Great Lakes School. This was eventually cut to seven weeks because men were needed. Here I learned how to run a ship, keep it going, and shoot 50 caliber and 20 millimeter rifles. When I was finished I was sent to a training camp in Norfolk, Virginia where I was trained on air conditioning and refrigeration. Next I was sent to California and got ready to go overseas. While there I could not leave a building, and letters I wrote were not sent for a month. A few soldiers tried to run away. The gangplank onto the ship in San Francisco (where we left from) was guarded to prevent soldiers from fleeing. There were 3,000 people on my ship, and I wondered what would happen if it started to sink. It was in a large convoy of forty ships. The convoy included two aircraft carriers and many destroyer escorts that shot at anything that was floating in case it was a mine. I thought I would be a part of an invasion of Japan. When the ship reached Midway Island, the bombing of Hiroshima was announced. At the time I didn’t know what an A-bomb was and wondered when the B-bomb would be dropped. I was sent to the Philippines for a year after the war ended, where I worked in air conditioning and refrigeration. It was hard to keep food cold there. I never saw any combat, fortunately. I received medals for the Southeast Asia Campaign and Bravery.”

When asked about his time in the Philippines he said, “I was stationed at Samar and the Tak Loban Layte. Tak Loban Layte is where General McArthur said “I shall return,” and I was there when he did. I often swam at the beach he came ashore on to. McArthur was a hero among the Philippinos. There were still Japanese there. Philippinos were offered cases of beer for bringing back Japanese heads.”

“I had to stand guard one night. I sat with my back to a coconut tree so nothing could sneak up on me. The area had battered piles of broken ships and nearby Japanese bunkers shot to pieces. Trees in the area were frondless and the area was completely devastated. Metal makeshift runways were pushed to the side of the area. Graveyards were built, and I had to attend funerals of people I didn’t even know.”

“After Tak Loban Layte I was sent to Luzon in the northern Philippines. During the 1,000 mile trip the ship hit a storm, and the bunk on top of mine broke and fell. I had to hold on to a pipe while the ship tipped at a forty-five degree angle. Luzon was really hot and humid. If it rained you couldn’t see across the street, and afterwards it was always dusty. Tame monkeys in the area always jumped on soldiers’ backs and took whatever they wanted from the camp. I was once working on a water cooler when one jumped on my back.”

“I lived in a Quonset hut, and its showers were outside and could be easily seen by local Philippinos. The Philippinos washed our clothes and ate with us. Although a retired Navy cook did the cooking, one of my friends still wouldn’t eat the food. [The Philippine people] didn’t believe it possible to have freezing temperatures.”

“I couldn’t tell how marines or infantry could carry many things through a place like this. I cut and made a fan out of aluminum – I had access to almost anything there. At one point I wanted to watch a rooster fight and snuck through the jungle. Philippinos were betting on the fights, and it was interesting. Several officers entered the arena at one point and I was worried, but they just sat down and watched the fight.”

“I was sent home and discharged on May 3rd, 1946. On the way back the ship hit a tsunami, and I had to stay under the deck. It was hard to find a place to sit or lay down and I had to hold on a line to walk.”

When asked about his personal feelings about the war he said, “I felt I had to defend myself and my country and was actually eager to fight. I thought I would have to invade Japan and that the Japanese would fight down to the last person. One of my friends was in the Philippines when they attacked in 1943 and stayed there two years as a guerilla. He volunteered to stay on the second year even though he didn’t have to and lived in the jungle. I was surprised that Germany had been in a large war and had started another 18 years later.”

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