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KPBS Midday Edition

San Diegans Reflect On The End Of World War II

Jim Fudge, Navy signalman, Southampton, UK
Jim Fudge, Navy signalman, Southampton, UK
San Diegans Reflect On The End Of World War II
San Diegans Reflect On The End Of World War II
GUESTS:Jim Fudge, World War II veteran Iris Engstrand, history professor, University of San Diego

Veterans of World War II are getting fewer every year as age takes its inevitable toll but there are a few left. One of them is my dad. Jim Fudge grew up in New York and was drafted at the age of 18 in 1943. He served on a landing craft and was part of the Normandy invasion. He was preparing for the invasion of Japan when he heard the Japanese had surrendered. He joins me now in the studio to share his own look back at the world -- the end of the war 70 years ago. Thanks for coming in. That's great, Thomas. First, why don't you tell us where you were when you heard about BJ day and that the war had ended? I was home on a 30 day leave. This was after -- After the Germans had surrendered. They called us back and I had a 30 day leave with my mother and brothers. They sent me and two other fellows -- the plan was to send us to Japan in case we had to to invade the home islands because we were amphibious sailors that would slide up on the beach and let our troops off. We knew they dropped the bomb when I was still at home when I was at the dentist, for heaven sake. Were you in San Francisco? Or were you on board a ship when you found that the Japanese surrendered? We were on a train, actually. We were going to San Francisco. The three of us. Tom, I should tell you -- one humorous thing that happened -- I may have told you before -- You may have. We were on a train and we would go back and forth to the dining car when dinner came or a meal. Unbeknownst to us, they hoped another car on the train and it was full of female soldiers. We were going through the car and they were all going to bed. And of course it was the usual thing -- the girls said look at the cute sailors. Just then I saw on a bunk a little girl that had her hair in curlers and her eye on me. I tried to hustle out of there. Before I knew it she took a leap out of her bunk and brought me to the deck of the car. Everyone was howling with laughter. I beat a quick exit. We finally got to San Francisco. Through the bullpen for the keep the sailors who are going to go to the Pacific. Let's go back to the beginning. We started at the end. What did it feel like when you found out you were drafted? I was elated. My mother was working hard to see if she could get me to work on my uncle's farm. I said no, mother, I don't want to go there. She was trying to get you a deferment? Yes. He has to work on the farm. Yes. You didn't want to do that? No. I wanted to to get away from home. I wanted to have some good experiences. What was it like on the LST in the English channel knowing that E both and U both were plowing -- prowling around? When we were there a boat shank -- sank one of our ships. The Germans had broken through. Broken through the lines. It was a scary time. There was a troop ship in front of us. There was a German submarine that sunk the ship. It was a tragic thing because we had to go to [indiscernible] to let off the trucks they were dragging. American bodies were washing up on the beach. It was a very sad Christmas. You're listening to Midday Edition. I'm Tom Fudge talking with my dad. We are looking back on the end of World War II 70 years ago. You were involved in D-Day? Yes. What was it like preparing for that? The preparation was going back and forth and one of the big preparations was operation Tiger. It was a place where we [indiscernible] and came back and waited in the bay. These were 11 LFTs. -- 10 D boats that came over looking for English shipping where they could sink the ship's they saw. This was during operation Tiger and they shot -- saw all the ships? Yes, they could see them but they did know what they were. So they fire. And LST has a flat bottom. They figured it out -- these are American LST's and they sank two of them and damage to to others. We lost about 800 lives because each ship had a lot of Army guys. Also the crew. Since I was growing up I've heard most of your war stories. There are probably one or two you haven't told me. The one I remember is when you were on your LST and a lot of other guys were below deck. Yes. Something rammed into your ship. Tell that story. That was later on. After things -- we were alone in an LST coming back from a beachhead or another place. I was off signal watch and it was about -- shortly after midnight. I went down and hit the sack. We were in the quarters for the crew. We fell asleep. There was a loan German dive bomber out there that we didn't know about. He took a shot at us. If that mom had been live -- if that bomb had been live I would not be here today. You have the -- you would have been killed. But it was a dud. It was a dud. I was thrown out of my bunk and hit the guy next to me. One of the officers on the watch was a guy named Zack from Mississippi. I said old Zack hit a boy or something. -- A buoy or something. We got up in the morning and realized it was a great big dent. If it had gone off it would've blown up the entire crew to hell. You know, as I've said a couple of times, I grew up hearing these stories. I've had to to try to imagine what it would have been like to be a kid going into World War II. You were 18 years old -- I'm 55. You would of been a kid to -- it would've been like a lot of the college students I see around here. On the San Diego campus. What kind of kid were you back in those days? Very naïve. But learning fast. I promised my mother I would never touch from or smoke and Dutch touch rum remorseful -- You never told me that. Sorry, Tom. I have to put you on the radio before I heard this story. I've heard you telling stories about your family and you never told us that, either. We won't get into that. Well, we all forget things that happened and sometimes we remember them in different ways. Back in those days, when you were growing up, dad, you are 90 now. That's right. When you were growing up people were more tough back in those days. You went through the depression. You had less and you expected less and you put up with four. Of course, a lot of people call your generation the greatest generation because you one the war and survive to the depression. What do you think when people talk about your generation and outweigh? Any group of young men or women -- men and women are in the forces. With of the circumstances that we went through in our youth, I think they would've done the same thing. They would've done the same thing. Well, dad, things for coming in. Okay. Jim Fudge is my father. He was a Navy signal man aboard a landing craft serving during World War II. You are listening to Midday Edition. I'm Tom Fudge . Forbore to change the lot in this country economically and socially and the impact on San Diego was especially profound. Joining me to continue this conversation about the end of World War II is Iris Engstrand, a history professor at the University of San Diego and she edits the Journal of San Diego history and she is a native of Southern California who lived during the years of World War II as a young child. I was, thanks for coming. Thank you very much. As a young child we have some experiences that the people who served in the war really can't relate to exactly. If you are five years old you don't know what Pearl Harbor means but you know it changed everything about your family and your neighbors. The very declaration of war was a scary thing for children. We had vocabulary words that I still remember that I didn't know what they meant. One of them was duration. Your parents would say we can't to do that for the duration. None of us knew what it meant for how long it would be or what it was. That was always one of the words. Another one was the war effort. Like one word. We have to do this. We have to conserve and we have rationing stamps. It all goes to the war effort. When they talked about the duration I send they meant to the duration of the war. -- He didn't know how long it was. You knew we were not going anywhere in the car. For the duration because of gas rationing. We were not taking field trips and they were counsel for the duration. The word was important. Things were scarce. As families you realized that coffee was scarce. My mother was unhappy about that. She traded sugar stamps for coffee rationing because we never had sugar on anything. Now that I look back that was a good thing. She was more concerned about Hall -- coffee and hosiery. Those were the things that were rationed. You learned to walk everywhere -- people change churches because you couldn't drive. You tell a story about that. You went from being a Presbyterian to a Methodist. Because the Methodist church was closer. Yes, within walking distance. You couldn't waste gasoline driving across town to a Presbyterian church but it was okay. Said she got into the personal experiences less talk about that further. If you tell one story which is wonderful about being in school and you put up some posters on the wall. Tell us about that. We had posters of Hitler and Mussolini -- big ones. We were instructed it to buy defense stamps. People remember defense stamps -- $.10, $.25, maybe a dollar. They went to war bonds. Every time you bought a stamp you could put a square on your team -- I was on team Hitler. It said help blackout Hitler. We took our money -- we earned money doing more jobs -- I was knitting squares were blankets. My cousins and I formed a worker group and we collected scrap metal and Greece and you could sell it at the butcher for two cents. You saved your money and bought the defense stamps and then you can get your team to help blackout Hitler. You showed me a photo in one of your books that showed a poster or an advertisement in the San Diego Union showing a man reading the newspaper and his wife is in the background and the headline says with a question mark -- should women work in the war effort? Yes, should your wife to give more job? The answer was of course. This was the era where women it really started working. This changed San Diego -- the whole dynamic in the family. Women got jobs at Convair and if they were working in the defense industry they worked for the Red Cross as volunteers. Everyone's family -- this was a war that affected every single person, not like the worst today where you can tune in or two now -- everything in your life seemed to deal with the war. It's interesting -- the women could wear slacks or pants for the first time. The dress code for women change. They had to put their hair up and -- Rosie the riveter -- Convair hired mostly women because the men were either drafted or working in the defense industry. My guest is Iris Engstrand a history professor at the University of San Diego was written about the history of World War II in Southern California. She's a native who lived through the years of World War II as a young child. Let's talk about San Diego. How did a change when it became clear that the war was eminent? Convair was in place. The increased -- when the war broke out in Europe we were hiring more people. Defense workers came. Some of the men joined the couple are AF before they could get in before the US started to draft. -- The Royal Air Force? You could go through Canada and join up. Not a lot but some people who just wanted to get into the war -- it was a patriotic idea. No one tried to avoid going to the war -- your father said the young man wanted to join up. The Navy, Army, Coast Guard -- whatever they could get in. They were not waiting to be drafted. The word my father used was "elated". My father was upset because he was deferred because of health reasons but then he got a job at Lockheed aircraft and it was something that you did for the war. There was nobody that felt like they didn't want to be a part of it. San Diego, I think a, had been a place for the US government wanted to have as a Navy town going back to World War I. But it was different before World War II. Not nearly as many people living here for one thing. World War II has to be the turning point for San Diego history because the number of people who came from the Midwest or from the East -- when they were in the Navy or the Marine Corps we had quite a few places that have been started as early as World War I but they realized the climate in San Diego was so much better. Better than where they came from -- they wanted to go back after the war and get their families and return to San Diego. The population in San Diego don't because of the war first and because of the families returning afterward. Did the population doubled during World War II? More than doubled. I don't have the exact statistics. The housing was scarce. They built a house is in Linda Vista. People downtown were turning large houses into boarding houses. Every possible space for people to live was being occupied in addition to the Navy ships in the harbor. You've got a list in front of you. Are these all the basis that existed here during World War II? Can name them -- Elliott which grew out of Equity, Camp Matthews and UCSD -- Miramar was -- Elliott -- camp -- there was even Linda Vista and the Marine parachute school. Callan in for a price, Camp Pendleton. It was named after Joseph Pendleton Lappin to be here in the 19 for a price, Camp Pendleton. It was named after Joseph Pendleton Lappin to be here in the 19/15 and got the idea we should have a Marine base at that time so they honored him with the name. Even now we have remnants of most of these airbases. There must be 20. At least, yes. One thing about San Diego that is interesting is that after the attack on Pearl Harbor did people here think that San Diego would be next? Yes. In fact, as a child we went along the coast and watched for submarines and knew they were out there. As little kids you had binoculars. You could report -- we also had a book -- called an airplane spotters died. If you saw a Japanese plane -- I don't know what you were supposed to do. We made model planes. We had soldiers. Every child was involved in the war effort. Now, some San Diego's were constructed to bring food to the south Pacific. Yes, the pork chop express. The tuna fishermen and the Portuguese and Italians like to reminisce they were made lieutenants in the Navy in about six weeks and a couple could still barely speak English. They took the tuna boats -- the YP series and delivered food to the South Pacific. There are a number of Portuguese and Italians that remember the days. Why was it that World War II had to chip huge impact on the city? The Korean War and Vietnam are -- Vietnam War didn't have this. Think because we already have the industries in place and we had a pretty good group of people. Korea followed so closely after World War II that it was almost -- in my lifetime it seems like we've been in a war ever since World War II. We grew up in it and then we went to Korea. My brother was in the Korean War. Then the Vietnam War. All of the students in San Diego know that we are in more somewhere in the world constantly. I often think about people are older who live in San Diego think of this city as -- like it should be -- the size of Des Moines. Those are the thoughts that go back to World War II or maybe even before. Have we changed in our mentality since the buildup of World War II? That would be my final question. There were so many newcomers that arrived in San Diego and we also had a larger Hispanic relation and they were able to work in the defense industry. After the depression when people were leaving and being deported from San Diego they were all welcomed back. Then, we had a lot of African-Americans that came although Locket -- we had the Calvary of black soldiers. We suffered some discrimination in those days that we made quite a bit of progress. It was a diverse community. San Diego turned into a different place. Also we can talk about the Japanese internment. They returned it to San Diego and we had a group from Oceanside -- the Mormons came to Utah. They were not put into camps -- it is an unknown story about [indiscernible] That's an interesting story. Unfortunately we will have to leave it for another time. I want to thank Iris for coming in and talking about the history of World War II which ended 70 years ago. She's a history professor at the University of San Diego and she also edits the Journal of San Diego history and she was born and raised in Southern California. She experienced World War II as a child. Thank you very much. Thank you for having me.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. It was a war that dramatically changed the country and San Diego.

Even though the action was thousands of miles away from San Diego, the war changed the region forever. The conflict was a turning point for the county's growth and development, and it transformed San Diego from a sleepy border town to a bustling industrial and military center.

Iris Engstrand, a University of San Diego history professor, has written about San Diego during its war years and recalls experiencing the war firsthand as a small child.

Jim Fudge is a World War II veteran who served in Normandy. He also happens to be the father of KPBS editor Tom Fudge.

On Monday's KPBS Midday Edition, Engstrand and Fudge reflect on the end of the war, its impact on the region and on them.

World War II Veterans

According to the U.S Veterans Association:

16 million Americans served in WWII.

855,070 are still alive.

492 die every day.