|WVM ID Number||OH 1077|
|Object Name||Oral History|
|Title||Oral History Interview with Robert Minch|
|Event||World War II|
|Narrator's Name||Robert Minch|
|Interviewer's Name||John Driscoll|
In this oral history interview, Robert "Bob" Minch, a Madison, Wisconsin native, discusses his service in the Army as a truck driver with the 756th Field Artillery Battalion during World War II.
Minch was born on a farm in Paoli (Wisconsin) but grew up in Madison. Before the war, he drove trucks for Ed Philips and Son and became a liquor and tobacco salesman. Minch recalls hearing about the bombing of Pearl Harbor while driving in his car. As the war began, Minch states he took classes on airplane motors in the hopes of getting into the Air Corps. He ended up being drafted into the Army Air Wing [ca. 1943]. Minch mentions a famous sportscaster named Art Bramhall was inducted with him at Fort Sheridan (Illinois). Next, Minch describes his artillery training at Fort Sill (Oklahoma). He portrays the men in his artillery unit as "a little older, in our middle twenties" and discusses at length his training which involved marching, calisthenics, and drills on the 105mm and 155mm field guns. Minch explains his unit, the 756th Field Artillery, was a special forces unit that attached to different divisions as needed.
In 1944, the 756th moved from Oklahoma to Salinas (California) for additional training before ending up in New Orleans (Louisiana). Minch states he bunked in an old cotton warehouse with 2,000 GIs, and he characterizes New Orleans as "pretty wild." He explains the soldiers were happy to be in New Orleans because they took it as a sign they would be sent to Europe instead of the Pacific theater. Minch goes on to describe boarding a troop ship called the Katae Maru. He reveals he returned home over a year later on the very same ship. When they passed Tulagi Island and Guadalcanal (Solomon Islands), Minch realized they were headed for the Pacific front. Minch touches upon hazing rituals onboard to mark the crossing of the equator. He reports he was often sea sick and the ship had engine trouble.
Minch states he landed in New Guinea and did not see much combat at first; he drove a winch at the dock to unload supplies because other units lacked personnel. Minch explains he later drove the 155mm guns on a modified Caterpillar tractor. He discusses in detail seeing combat on New Britain (Papua New Guinea) where his unit had to take out a Japanese base. He tells of firing anti-aircraft guns from the beach. Minch describes arriving at the staging area in Manos Bay (Philippines) and participating in the Battle of Leyte Gulf in late 1944, a heavy battle between the Japanese and American fleets. He remarks that the fleet in the Pacific was bigger than the fleet that invaded Normandy. He illustrates the adrenalin-rush of combat; Minch did not realize he'd been firing a 20mm anti-aircraft gun towards his own ship until a technician came over to adjust the barrel.
On January 9, 1945, Minch's group landed on the island of Luzon (Philippines) with the 1st Cavalry. Minch describes passing through Clark Field, which the Japanese had stripped of supplies. Minch frequently comments on stealing and looting. He mentions the Japanese took anything of value from the Philippines; the Filipinos, stole food, film, and jeeps from the U.S. military; and the American soldiers performed "midnight requisitions," taking jeeps, ketchup, supply trailers, airplane fuel, etc. from other branches of the service and from the Japanese. Minch provides a before-and-after description of Manila which was a "modern city" devastated by the Japanese. He tells how his superior officer allowed his unit some downtime at the San Miguel Brewery outside Manila because they had been advancing through the jungle for weeks and needed rest. Minch compares the door-to-door fighting in Manila to combat in the Iraq War. Minch describes operations in and around Manila including attacking a walled Spanish Fort named Inramuras.
Next, Minch's unit had to go into the mountains and fight the main Japanese Army. He tells of fighting in one area for six months and sleeping in foxholes. His role as a driver was to position the field guns with his tractor and sometimes transport ammunition to other units. Minch discusses how his team manned the guns, put fuses on the shells, and shot five shells per minute. Minch briefly touches upon a few instances of friendly fire. The 756th climbed the mountains, engaging with Japanese soldiers hiding in caves, until they finally reached their observation post (OP). At the OP, Minch reveals he met General Krueger, head of all the armies in the Pacific. Next, Minch tells a story of driving his tractor and 155mm gun through a river, with water coming up to his waist. An officer in charge of a medic unit ordered Minch to pull five of his ambulances across the river, which he did, angering the colonel because "You don't stop a combat unit. Combat units are number one." Minch states his unit was pulled off the front lines in summer 1945 to repair the 155s and prepare for the invasion of Japan. He reveals he had foot problems, asthma, and amoebic dysentery and was transferred to Headquarters, where he unloaded supply ships at the port. While working this job, Minch recalls learning of the atomic bombing of Japan. He states all the ships in the port shot their guns in the air in celebration, causing some shrapnel injuries. Minch discusses military life at the port. He states there were "a lot of rackets" in the Army and explains that cooks would prepare midnight snacks and charge soldiers a dollar for an egg sandwich. He tells of "requisitioning" ketchup for a buddy to take back to the front. Minch also mentions the Filipinos stole film from the Air Force and set up camera shops where they took pictures of GIs with their airplanes or jeeps. Minch explains he was promoted to Staff Sergeant near the end of the war and stayed on a few months in Japan after V-J day.
He addresses his homecoming on the Katae Maru, the same ship that brought him to the Pacific. He addresses the difficulty of adjusting to civilian life. He felt he had missed out on having a family and buying a house like his friends who had deferments. Minch also examines the differences in his group of friends before and after the war. He states all but one were in the service, two came back disabled, and two or three were killed, so his social life was "completely different" after the war.
Finally, Minch tells of an interesting coincidence: while serving in the Philippines, he would always check to see where motors and engines on Filipino farms were made, and at a sugar cane farm there, he found a motor made in Madison, Wisconsin.
|Extent and Medium of Description||
Analog audio recording: 2 audio cassettes (approx. 1 hour, 29 minutes)
Transcript: 25 pgs.
Minch, Robert F.