Interviewee: Calvin J. Warne
Interviewer: Kristal Nowatchik
Place of Birth: Clarendon, New York
Date of Interview: June 15, 2004
Date of Birth: January 4, 1926
Place of Residence: Winter Haven, Florida
War(s) in which Interviewee Served: World War II
Branch of Service or Wartime Activity: Navy
Battalion, Regiment, Division, Unit, Ship, etc.: LST (Landing Ship Tank) 285
Method of Induction: Enlisted
Service Dates: January 04, 1943 to January 1947
Location of Military or civilian service: Sampson, European Theater, Pacific Theater, D-Day
Other information: Highest Rank – Quartermaster First Class; received two stars in the European Theater, one star in the Pacific Theater
Warne: Calvin Warne
Norma Warne: Norma Warne
Nowatchik: …on June 15th, 2004, and it’s 9:07 at the Albion Middle School. Okay, can I just ask you some questions?
Nowatchik: What did you do before you joined the service?
Warne: Went to school. High school.
Nowatchik: Where were you living?
Warne: Where was I living? In Batavia, New York.
Nowatchik: Why did you choose your branch of service?
Warne: Because I loved the navy.
Nowatchik: Tell me about your first days in the service, or how did you get your civilian job?
Warne: I didn’t have a civilian job; I went right on my 17th birthday. And, so, what was the question, now?
Nowatchik: Your first days in the service?
Warne: My first days in the service?
Nowatchik: What were they like?
Warne: Boot camp [Laughs]
Norma Warne: Tell them about when you got there. You left Buffalo and it took you…
Warne: Oh, yeah.
Norma Warne: You had to catch a bus in Batavia to Buffalo and then from Buffalo to Sampson. It took you all…how many hours?
Warne: We got there…we left at six o’clock in the morning out of Buffalo and got to Sampson at midnight.
Norma Warne: Tell them what the weather was like.
Warne: Cold. That Sampson Naval Training Station was when we started in 194—October of’’42 and we got…when we got there, we were in new barracks that had just been built, no heat, no nothing, and cold in the winter. With the wind blowing off Seneca Lake.
Nowatchik: Why did you join?
Warne: Because I wanted to…patriotic, I guess you’d call that.
Nowatchik: Where were you on December 7th, 1941...the attack on Pearl Harbor?
Warne: Where was I? In school, I guess.
Nowatchik: What was your reaction to it, like, that day?
Warne: My reaction? I wanted to get right in there. I wanted to get right in to the navy and get going.
Norma Warne: You were only 15.
Warne: Yeah, I know, but I still wanted to get in the navy.
Nowatchik: Do you remember what the reactions of other people around you were like?
Warne: Well, I think everybody was gung ho upon the war, you know.
Nowatchik: Where were you when the war ended?
Warne: In the Pacific Theater. I think I was in Honolulu.
Nowatchik: You said you served in D-Day?
Warne: Yeah, two of them. D-Day in Normandy and then the invasion of southern France. And then the invasion of Okinawa out in the Pacific.
Nowatchik: What was your most memorable experience?
Warne: I think my whole experience in the navy was my…was memorable, but I guess, probably Normandy, because that was the first time I was in combat.
Nowatchik: Were you ever fearful?
Warne: Scared stiff. [Laughs]
Nowatchik: What about the food and provisions where you were…were they….?
Warne: Well, being in the navy, we got…we had all our meals. There was no problem like the army may have C-Rations and all that, you know. In the navy, we had regular meals every day.
Nowatchik: How did you pass the time?
Warne: Looking for Liberty.
Nowatchik: How did you stay in touch with people at home?
Warne: By mail, telephone. When I was in the States, telephone, but overseas by mail.
Nowatchik: Did you see combat?
Nowatchik: What was your duty on those days?
Warne: I was a First Class Quartermaster on a ship, which meant I did navigation and also in charge of the wheelhouse, which is steering of the ship and position where we were.
Nowatchik: How did you celebrate holidays?
Warne: How do I celebrate holidays?
Nowatchik: How did you celebrate them?
Warne: How did I…? Well, we always had, on holidays on board ship, there was always a special meal, you know. And that’s about it.
Nowatchik: What skills or lessons did you learn?
Norma Warne: Skills or lessons did you learn while you were in the navy?
Warne: Oh, oh, well, I learned how to give orders and take orders and also skill would be the navigation.
Nowatchik: Do you have one particular thing that you remember the most about your time?
Warne: I think the invasion of Normandy would be the most memorable.
Norma Warne: Tell he what your ship did. You were out in the channel…you didn’t actually, your ship didn’t actually go into the beach…
Warne: Oh, yeah.
Norma Warne: Okay.
Warne: Oh, yeah. We…an LST is what they call a “Landing Ship Tank.” We carried tanks in the deck and all on topside they had weapons carriers. And then we had infantry. It was…that we put on the beach.
Norma Warne: And you picked up the wounded…
Warne: We were designated a hospital ship. And so we had about five doctors and twenty pharmacists’ mates, which are capable of being a nurse, you know. And we carried wounded back from Normandy.
Norma Warne: Prisoners of war?
Warne: Prisoners of war. Few, not many, just a few.
Nowatchik: Were there many casualties in your unit or on your ship?
Warne: One. We had one die. One killed.
Norma Warne: In the invasion of Normandy?
Warne: No, southern France.
Norma Warne: Southern France.
Nowatchik: Do you recall the day you left the service?
Warne: The day I left for service?
Norma Warne: No, the day you left the service.
Warne: Oh. I was in Brooklyn Navy Yard, waiting for my four year enlistment to be up, and that’s where I got discharged from.
Nowatchik: What did you do in the days and weeks after your service?
Warne: Let’s see…I had a job when I got home, and the first job I had was working for the Rochester Telephone Corporation as an installer/repairman.
Nowatchik: Was it hard getting back to life again, at home?
Warne: Not really.
Nowatchik: Did you make any close friendships while on duty?
Warne: Oh, yeah. We’re still friends, we have a reunion every year. It’s got down now so it’s only about 16 of us.
Norma Warne: It varies from year to year, but this year there was like, twelve. Twelve veterans from his…
Norma Warne: …ship. And we go different places…and guys still, they get together and they talk about the big, you know, the big invasion and, you know, their life in the military. And when they were together. There’s three of them that were…still very close and come to all the reunions.
Nowatchik: What was it like, for the invasion of France? Do you remember that day very well, or…?
Warne: Yeah. Well, we left England… You mean, talking about Normandy?
Warne: We left England and went across the channel, which isn’t that…30 miles or something, I guess it is. And we had to set off until…we had…an LST has six small boats, which have ramps on to… And we unloaded the infantry that we had on board, and sent them in. And then we followed up by going in ourself and hitting the beach and unloading the tanks and weapons carriers and the operators of those vehicles.
Norma Warne: Were you in the initial invasion, the initial wave of ships or…?
Warne: Well, we hit the…I think the invasion started at 6 a.m. and we hit the beach about…actually hit the beach was about 9…9 a.m.
Nowatchik: I’m sorry, I’m trying to…
Warne: That’s all right.
Norma Warne: He left….he and a lot of other guys left school in the middle of their senior year.
Norma Warne: And his parents had to sign for him to go into the service.
Warne: Yeah. Seventeen.
Norma Warne: And, so, when he got out of the military, he went back to school and got his high school diploma, and then he went to school under the G.I. Bill. And, just a few years ago---he would have graduated from Batavia High School---and just a few years ago, they conferred upon him and a lot of other veterans from Batavia…they had a special recognition ceremony…and conferred upon him their high school, you know, certificate that they completed high school, Batavia high school. And that was nice, and I think they’ve done it here in Albion, too. And that was really a nice gesture because so many of the guys, or so many of the people that went into the military, left school, they were so anxious to get into the fight…and he was one of them.
Norma Warne: And tell them about how they treated you. When you came home on leave in Batavia. You were talking about one of the guys, who owned a gas station…
Warne: Oh, yeah.
Norma Warne: Of course, they were rationing gas then…
Warne: Oh, yeah, they… I came home from Europe. Was on leave. One station on Main Street said, “Don’t worry about gas. Any time you want gas, just come in and we’ll sell it to you.” My dad was worried about me smashing up the car.
Nowatchik: How did your family react when you told them you were enlisting?
Warne: Well, they were very reluctant, but they couldn’t stop me.
Norma Warne: His sister also served in the navy.
Norma Warne: She was older than he was and she was a pharmacist’s…was she a pharmacist’s mate?
Norma Warne: But she was at the…
Warne: Boston Naval Hospital.
Norma Warne: Yeah. For her service. They got two children and two veterans in the same war.
Warne: We…she worked at Oliver’s Candy Sore in Batavia, which is now something else, but it’s still in operation. And they sent me a box of chocolates every month while I was in.
Norma Warne: That was nice.
Nowatchik: When you came home, coming back to America, how was it seeing the United States again?
Warne: How was it changed?
Norma Warne: Seeing it…
Nowatchik: Seeing it again.
Norma Warne: You know, coming back to American soil…how did you feel?
Warne: Oh, great.
Norma Warne: Did you get down and kiss the earth, like some of them do…?
Warne: No, not really…not really, but I stomped on it to make sure it was solid.
Norma Warne: You were glad to be back.
Nowatchik: Did your wartime career contribute to your career afterwards?
Warne: Did I what?
Norma Warne: Your wartime experiences…contribute to your career, your civilian career?
Warne: No, I don’t…no, it didn’t. Because I had nothing to do with being a telephone installer/repairman. And that was just…they…I got home and I had the…they had the job saved for me before I even got home. And, of course, I went out, right out of school to go in the navy, and so I had no experience at all, but they trained me to do that job.
Nowatchik: How did your experiences contribute to your thinking about war and military service?
Warne: How did it? Oh, I loved the military service. In fact, I would have stayed in. I wanted to be a career man in the navy, but my wife at that time wouldn’t come to Honolulu, where I was stationed.
Nowatchik: Now that there’s the war with Iraq, does your feelings and your experience from serving in the war…do you have any…
Warne: None whatsoever.
Nowatchik: Are you a member of any veterans’ or other organizations related to your service?
Warne: American Legion.
Norma Warne: VFW.
Norma Warne: The Navy Club.
Warne: Navy Club.
Norma Warne: Sampson World War II Veterans Association.
Nowatchik: Do you attend reunions?
Warne: Yes. Yes.
Norma Warne: Seventeen of them.
Norma Warne: They started them, what, in 1988? Nineteen eighty-eight or ’89, and it was the first time in 40 years that they had seen each other.
Nowatchik: What was that like?
Warne: Oh, you mean our reunion…
Norma Warne: Your first reunion, that we had back in New Jersey, there.
Warne: Oh. You speak a little low, you know…
Nowatchik: Oh, sorry.
Norma Warne: What was that like?
Warne: What was it like?
Norma Warne: When you got together for the first time in 40 years? And there was quite a few…
Warne: Oh, yeah, it was tremendous. All we’d do is…shaking hands and telling old war stories…
Norma Warne: Reminiscing.
Warne: But we’ve had it every year since, which is getting smaller in numbers, as you know.
Norma Warne: And then, in 1994, a group of them, and others…
Warne: Oh, yeah.
Norma Warne: …went to…we went to Normandy…
Warne: We went over…
Norma Warne: …for the 50th Anniversary.
Warne: …50th Anniversary of the invasion. We went over to Normandy and visited the land the ship…
Norma Warne: And we were in Lond…in England for just about a week.
Norma Warne: Just a week. We visited Portsmouth and Plymouth and all the places where they had been quartered and trained and everything. And the English treated them…the Englishmen treated them like…like heroes, you know.
Norma Warne: Of course, England had been in the war a lot longer than we were. And then we went across the channel, and we…we were there on D-Day and there was a lot…and the veterans got preferential treatment…the D-Day veterans got preferential treatment. Of course, a lot of world political figures were there…we saw the beaches….
Warne: President of the United States spoke.
Norma Warne: …and saw the cemetery, and that was a really moving experience. And that was, it was really… And some of the French people came up to these guys…
Warne: Oh, yeah.
Norma Warne: …and said, “Thank you. You saved us.” And they were very, you know, very appreciative. And they talk about the French adversity, but the ones that we met in 1994 were very appreciative when they saw that these... And they got a French…some kind of a French medal that was presented to them…to all these guys. And it was, it was really a very, a very good experience. We didn’t go back for the 60th…we could have, but we had decided once, you know, the 50th was the big one.
Nowatchik: Yeah. What was it like to be on the beach of Normandy again?
Warne: What was it like to be in the beach?
Nowatchik: Normandy, when you went back for the reunion.
Warne: Oh, that was…you wouldn’t recognize it, really, because it was all cleaned and everything, you know. When we were there, all it was was troops and everything, originally, but it was…it was a beautiful beach.
Norma Warne: How did you feel, emotionally?
Warne: Just glad, just very happy I had the opportunity to come back and observe it.
Nowatchik: How did you feel when you saw the Frenchmen and how…when they awarded you, how did that make you feel, personally.
Warne: Proud. Wouldn’t you?
Nowatchik: Yeah. That’s great. If you could do it again, would you?
Warne: Oh, yeah, I would, if there was another war…what do you mean, going back to France, or…?
Warne: Well, we did go back to France…
Norma Warne: No, going back, would you go…would you do it over again? Go into the military?
Warne: Oh, yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.
Norma Warne: He had a son that went into the navy, talked him into going.
Warne: Two. Two of them.
Norma Warne: Was David in the navy, too?
Warne: Mmm-hmm. [yes]
Nowatchik: What is it like hearing other war stories from other veterans?
Warne: Well, we always have a lot to say when we have our reunion. We have all our war stories, we talk about…
Nowatchik: What are some of the things that you’ve heard? What are some of the things that you’ve heard from other veterans that you really remember well? That stick out in your mind?
Warne: Well, I think that you’ve heard that I don’t…I have never talked to any veteran that was not proud that he served, along with me and others. But I have never heard any bad remarks about being in the service.
Nowatchik: While you were in the war, what did you guys do just for recreation, to, like, pass the time?
Warne: Played cards. Shot craps.
Norma Warne: That was a good thing.
Warne: Especially when we had army on, because we like to take that army money, you know?
Warne: No, we had watches all the time, so naturally, a lot of the time was spent being on duty or sleeping, you know. But, other than that, we’d sit around in the dining area or playing cards or something like that.
Nowatchik: Where were you when they announced that the war was over?
Warne: I think I was on Enewetok. It’s an island in the Pacific.
Nowatchik: Was there a celebration, like on the ship, or…?
Warne: No, wait a minute, I wasn’t, I was on…[thinking aloud: “where we invaded from…were going to invade Japan”]…Okinawa. I was in Okinawa when the war ended. And we were lined up right then to leave there and invade Japan, and we were very happy when we heard that the Japanese gave up before we had to invade their native country.
Nowatchik: Wow. Is that where you were when they bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
Nowatchik: What was that like, like the feeling?
Warne: Well, just felt that maybe that might help make the invasion easier, because we had invaded some of the outlying area…islands…and we knew that Japan…we always had scuttlebutt…they had scuttlebutt that the Japanese people would be down there with pitchforks and everything else to ward us off, but it never happened, and I don’t know if it would of happened, you know.
Nowatchik: Were there a lot of…did the Japanese give off a feeling of… Did the Japanese give off any other feelings of hatred towards the troops?
Warne: I have no idea what the Japanese felt.
Nowatchik: Well, did they act any differently?
Warne: I didn’t see Japanese.
Warne: I was off the island Enewetok.
Nowatchik: Is there anything in particular that you remember about, like, the president at that time?
Warne: Our president? Well, Roosevelt was the president, and he died at…didn’t Roosevelt die while we were still at war?
Norma Warne: Truman was the president.
Warne: Truman took his place, yeah.
Norma Warne: Truman was the president when the war ended; Truman was president.
Nowatchik: I think I’ve asked just about everything. I think that’s it.
Warne: You asked me if I…yeah, we…asked me if I attend reunions; I told you every year we have one.
Nowatchik: Yeah, that’s nice.
Warne: Got from about 30 to 40 veterans attending to down to about 13.
Nowatchik: Wow. Is that in Florida?
Warne: No, all over. All over.
Norma Warne: It’s all over. This last one we had was…last week was in Chattanooga, or the week before last, in Chattanooga. We’ve been there four times, we’ve been to Norfolk, Fort Lauderdale, San Antonio, Houston, Cleveland, Ohio, Branson. Next year, it’s going to be in Florida somewhere, and we’re hosting it. So that’s a big undertaking, but there’s two other couples from…one lives on the east coast and one lives on the west coast [of Florida], and between the, you know, the three of us, we’re going to…we’ll get a reunion together someplace in Florida…we don’t know exactly where, yet. But it gets, you know, it’s getting so that there’s more and more of them that are in too ill of health to be able to make it. Financially, it’s getting very expensive to go to these reunions. And, you know, with the…we didn’t lose anybody this last year, did we?
Warne: Mmmm-mmmm. [no]
Norma Warne: But usually, you know, you lose one, maybe two guys. And with the, you know, the World War II veteran dying at the rate of, what, fifteen hundred a day?
Warne: We had a ceremony on board ship and we threw a wreath off into the water for the one that died that year.
Nowatchik: Wow. That’s got to be very emotional just to…
Norma Warne: It is, it is. For the wives, too.
Warne: I think we’ve got one minute left.
Warne: All set.