tv Office of Strategic Services World War II Veteran CSPAN January 1, 2017 9:55am-11:16am EST
's ceremonies.days in june of 1942, president franklin d roosevelt established the office of strategic services , or oss, to coordinate espionage activities behind enemy lines during world war ii. next come a conversation with --or general john single following report to, the general was a founding member of the oss successor, the cia. this program is part of a multi-day conference at the national world war ii museum in new orleans. it is about one hour and 20 minutes. believe that i believe the introduction to our interviewer. it is my pleasure to introduce -- we areleague
delighted and very fortunate to have added rob to our staff back in september. he brings a tremendous and wide-ranging knowledge of world war ii and european history in all its aspects to us. presenceady made his felt by diving headfirst into exhibits, taurus, programs and conferences and many of her -- exhibits, tour s, programs and conferences and -- rob, take it away.
rob: thank you very much. [applause] rob: the diving headfirst was the easy part, it is getting right side of that is difficult. thank you very much. i was hired after the agenda was set, so i have done light lifting and maybe one of the easiest assignments i have had, to interview major general john singlaub, an american hero and a man that has had a very distinguished career. reading the biography -- we also say that somebody like major john singlaub does not have an introduction, but that is unfair, he deserves a nice long introduction so i will attempt to keep it to a medium length. he was commissioned as an infantry officer in 1943. he served in world war ii with the office of strategic studies as a member of the famous -- and we will talk about that in the next hour. he went to china to join oss to train and lead the chinese
against the japanese. he took part in a rescue at a prison camp, which we will be talking about. in his assignments after the war, he was all over the globe. in europe, postings in the u.s., also vietnam, the united nations command in korea, he has been everywhere. i look at his decorations and awards and he will forgive me for listing them, a silver star, two legions of merit, a soldier's medal, two purple hearts, the air medal, the army aviation badge. [applause] rob: the army eventually asked him to leave it so that others could win an award every now and then. [laughter]
rob: he retired after 35 years of active service. his biography, "hazardous duty," which will be on sale at the end of the talk, was published in 1992. i just got my copy and opened it and it is an amazing book. i give you major general john singlaub. [applause] rob: i guess the place to start is the beginning. did you know you would be in the army forever? did you grow up thinking you would be in the army? john: i said in high school i wanted to go to the military academy. things were going well, high school, van nuys high school in the san fernando valley of california. everybody was convinced that i
was all set and the doctors said i was in good shape and my academics were good. then, i received a letter from my congressman, his name is carl henshaw, in case you are writing a list. he said he could not possibly give me an appointment to the military academy because my father was a democrat. [laughter] rob: times have changed. john: i had never heard rob: times have changed. john: i had never heard of a democrat in california in those days. and my father said, do not worry, because i only registered democrat because the union of union i union -- the jobng to in order to get my
required that i register as a democrat. it is a secret ballot. do not worry. so, i had to develop a plan b, and my plan b was to go to ucla and get a reserve commission and hopefully after the war was over, to get a regular commission. i intended to stay in the army, so that works out fine. i was proud to be a bruin and i continue to root for the bruins, although i must say, when the army-navy game comes up, i am on the army side. [laughter] rob: how did you become a paratrooper, sir? john: i spent a lot of time in college reading the infantry journal and other military publications. and the germans, when they invaded poland, they did not use airborne forces. when they invaded france, belgium, and the netherlands,
guys with parachutes, falling out, and use gliders to cross the maginot line. and that sounded like a hell of a good idea. i grew up in the eastern sierra and i was making it a point to climb this 14,000 foot mountain, as often as i could. my son by the way and his son have done it all. they have climbed every 14-er in north america. but, anyway, i thought that being a paratrooper would be great. so when i was going to the infantry school, i volunteered
and was accepted, went through and i was assigned to a paratrooper regiment. it was during that time that general donovan, who was somebody roosevelt had put in charge, had actually started and was the coordinator of coi. -- the coordinator of information, the coi. because roosevelt had great difficulty trying to figure out what was going on in europe. and he would get a report from the, the political part of our representation in berlin, from our embassy there, and he would get reports from the navy and when it all came down, it was a completely different story in the newspapers.
so, he decided -- he, roosevelt, decided he needed to do something to get together the information that was coming in, sort it out before it was given to the decision makers, that is where the appointed donovan to be the coordinator of information. well, donovan was sent on a mission to europe to find out if england was going to really resist the invasion that was obviously planned by the germans. he came back and he reported, yes, the british are going to stand and fight. but we ought to do something about these people who have already been overrun. he said, there have been -- they are occupied by the nazis, but they don't like it. and we ought to be able to help
them. so he came back and recommended that the coi the expanded and -- be expanded and include strategic operations. and so the office of strategic services was established and they were given permission to travel around and examine the records of the officers assigned in all of the units. and it came to our regiment, with through the records, and i do not know except for what reason i had on my record that i spoke french and i had studied, i make a distinction, spoke and studied the other language of japanese. well, when they said they wanted
to talk to me and i was assigned a classroom to go and meet these people, they would not tell me where they wanted, why they wanted me, but they wanted to know if i would volunteer for hazardous duty behind the enemy line. rob: where did you get your french training? took it at ucla? john: i took it at ucla. rob: it was on your record. john: it was on my record because i flunked it. [laughter] rob: on your record multiple times. john: i had to start over again. i never told my french partner. i ended up in oss, and it combined with the british ose, soe, the special
operations executive that the british had established. i thought that being a paratroop regiment i was already planning on being in hazardous duty, but the significance of this new organization attracted me and i said i would like to do that. rob: anything else that might have led them to suspect you had the right stuff, besides french? john: of course my french teacher would never agree i spoke french. if we approached german, the last thing he would say was, let me do the talking. [laughter] john: after this happened 2-3 times, jacques, are you trying to tell me that those dirty germans would distinguish that i
am not a frenchman? he says, jack, you speak american english with a slight french accent. [laughter] john: so, that settled that and i remained quiet when we were going through a german checkpoint. rob: were you brought forth for an interview? you are asked if you wanted to volunteer for hazardous duty, so was there an interview process there, face to face? john: we could ask questions, but if we asked where we were going we got, just hazardous duty behind enemy lines. i still realize it was going to be something a little more exciting than being a paratroop infantry platoon leader.
and it was. processing of applications took place in washington and i received orders to report to washington, d.c., report to one of the buildings left over from world war i that had been built on the mall in washington. it was called the munitions building. and there was a major that checked me in. and that did not seem to set a high standard, but he was a general of some sort. rob: who interviewed you? you met general donovan? john: yes.
in my first interview with him, he said, what makes you think that you are suitable for this assignment? i said, i am parachute qualified, a demolition list, i volunteered. he says, i know all that. but what makes you think that you are suitable for this organization? i said, i grew up in the eastern sierra and i have climbed a lot of peaks, and i enjoy that kind of hazardous activity. and i went on, and he said, i know. but then he finally agreed that maybe i might be suitable and he would let me know. rob: i read in your book when you met general donovan, the thing you noted was the energy
he brought into the room. how far did that go toward a successful officer, bringing energy into a room? john: i think that is something about being a born leader that radiates. it is true, the really great leaders, when they come into a room, before they had said anything, people sort of our -- are attracted by that. and i think it is a quality that i do not think you can create, you can't train for it, but you have it. i tell people that asked me that question and especially the young officers that came into my unit, i interviewed them all, and i said the most support
quality i want from you is integrity. no spinning the truth, no exaggerating the truth, you must tell the truth and even if it is not in your favor, it is important for us to know where you are, what you are doing and what your problems are. you have got to adhere to that. and so, integrity is what donovan had and everybody knew it. what he said was right and -- i insist that if an officer feels he does not have that ability, -- i'm losing my --
rob: are you still speaking into the microphone? john: i need to fix this. rob: i can give you a hand here. let's see. [laughter] how's that? john: if it fits. rob: that was national television. [laughter] john: can you hear me? ok. rob: it is interesting to me the notion of qualities a general needs. i think it is easy to think about military genius. you are speaking more about areas of character. john: that is what is so important. rob: you already have been through paratroop training. we are interested in how troops are trained in world war ii. that is quite rigorous. now, you are in a completely separate area of training.
what was harder, becoming a paratrooper or becoming a member of your bird team? how were those trainings different? john: a bird team is a five nation group of officers divided into three man teams. first there is an english speaking officer, either american or british officer. second, there will be an officer of the country that we are going to go into, either a dutchman, a belgian, or frenchman. and the third member of the team is an enlisted man, a sergeant -- rob: i think we're going to need some help. jeremy, are you around? let's have our media man from the back come up. john: i could just start holding it here.
rob: let's see if we can do the get this fixed. i think you can continue. we were talking about your five-man team. john: it is a three-man team. english-speaking officer, officer we're going into, most were french. that was where the resistance was. the third member of the team was a sergeant. he could be british, french, or american. am i on? rob: you are. i think we are fine. we look like rock stars. [laughter] john: i am sorry to be getting so mixed up with the mechanics so that we cannot carry on very well.
the three-man team was sent into occupied europe, into other either france, belgium, for the netherlands. our job was to organize, train, supply, and then lead, if necessary, a resistance movement against the nazi occupation. i, obviously, was going into france. we were teamed together. we spent academic testing and so forth. first, the americans were assembled at the congressional country club outside of washington, d.c. in maryland.
i'll never forget when i asked the driver where we were going, we were loaded in a 2.5 ton truck. after having met in the parking lot of the oss headquarters. are going out, we to the congressional country club." by golly, that is where we went. we were using the country club as a training facility. the general and a nutty psychiatrist had developed a program, called an evaluation. they would give you problems to solve.
this is of course in addition to all of the other psychiatric test, the ink blot, first reaction, that sort of thing. they would give you a team of six guys or more, and tell you to perform some mission. one of those guys was camouflaged as a student, but in fact was one of the nutty psychiatrists that were evaluating us. [laughter] his job was to mess things up, and see how you solved them. that was our first training. when we got over to scotland first, we went farther out into the countryside.
we took over a camp. there had been a boy's camp known since roosevelt and started going there. roosevelt called it his getaway, or something, but shangri-la is what he called it, thank you. rob: shout out, thank you. [laughter] john: my wife is helping out again. [laughter] rob: our wives are actually sitting next to each other. i think it is critical mass. john: the training there was disguised for psychological evaluation. we were surprised when we got to england after, some high testing
in the winter of 1943, we were in northern scotland. when i went to church on christmas eve, i assumed that while the only church available was catholic, that it may be largely in latin, i may be able to get along all right. but it was in gaelic. [laughter] so it was not a very meaningful christmas in church. we did a lot of unusual things in the very cold air. we were given one bullet a piece
and one rifle for every three men. if the first guy missed a stag, you would give up the rifle, and the next guy would have his chance. we did a lot of sneaking around in the bushes, which they considered a part of the training. rob: along with that stealth, there was hand to hand combat? john: we had to fire our weapon at least once a day. we were scheduled to do that during this training. we got really good at instinctive firing. when you are in this business, you want to be able to get the
first round headed toward the enemy, not coming toward you. learning that british system of instinctive firing. rob: as opposed to aimed firing? john: yes, squeezing off a round. some of you in the army may remember time on the range with it being quiet and slow, and you just barely breathe. that is what the british were teaching us, how to respond. it is very important to be able to hit a target to aim out, but -- the target you aim at. but it is more important that you get the first round out so that you through the enemy off. that's throw the enemy off. that is where instinctive firing came to hand.
it was more important to your psyche, to your bravery knowing that you got the drop on the guy trying to ambush you. that just does a tremendous job in your ability to take on difficult targets. rob: you mentioned in your book, british majors that were trained. in your memory, are they 10 feet tall? john: most of these majors in the british army had been assigned to the british concession in shanghai. they had spent a long time there learning not only the chinese equivalent of jujitsu, but were dealing with tough guys.
we learned from them some things that would not be popular in today's easy-going armed forces. [laughter] john: the training continued, we moved down into england, where we were given a great deal of individual training. we developed our skills not only in weapons firing, training in british demolitions, training in all known weapon systems that might be in the mainland of europe. we have good training on submachine guns for example.
the other types of equipment we might run into. the demolitions are quite different, too. we ended up having to go through british psychological assessment. it was a little different. each man was given a cover story. he was to live that cover story from the time he left our small mansion we were living in, taken over by the british soe. some people could not resist the fact that when it appeared the test was all over, and we assembled in the bar, some of the guys were easily persuaded
to give their real name, or what they were really doing. by the next day, they were gone. these guys had gone through an awful lot of training. the americans went back to the 101st to 82nd airborne division's. those of us that were selected or not selected out to continued the training, which got deeply into surreptitious entry, how to get into a house without a lock -- lock picking. rob: would you like to share your old cover story with the assembled group? john: i don't even think i remember it. [laughter]
i did not reveal anything that i shouldn't have. again, i was selected for the next phase. the brits were very good at developing schemes. they would give you a mission, travel out through the countryside without being picked up by the bobbies. they of course had told the bobbies, there are some escaped germans wearing british and american uniforms, be on the alert for them. so you could just walk between villages. you had to figure a way from getting one place to another without being seen or observed. rob: in much of your book, you
talk about your team. who were your partners? what do you remember most about them? john: my french man was a terrific guy. he was a descendent of the royalty of france. when he would go to london, we were on leave, he would ask to be with one of his friends, who was well-known in windsor palace, and we went to the railroad station, and they wanted to go to windsor castle. and the taxidriver said okay, well, where do you really want to go? rob: no, windsor castle. john: of course the taxidriver was dumbfounded when jacques got
out and the gate guard saluted him and they went on inside. but that royal connection did not do us any good when we got inside france. [laughter] one of the schools that we went to was a british jump school. the british got some c47's, which is a military version of the bc3 air transport. the ones that the brits had to use, especially for these missions going deep into france or other parts of europe, they had to use bombers. we had to learn to jump out of the bomb bay of a bomber.
the parachutes were sufficiently different that the british called our method of jumping, or landing, parachute landing fall. their system was better than ours. our system caused me to break my right ankle the first time. and that delayed to me a bit getting through jump school. the brits tought this, you don't land with your feet apart, you land with your feet together, knee bent, and you role on the ground.
if your feet are together, you can land on uneven ground, but if you are lending on uneven ground with your legs apart, you will land on on eleg. that is precisely why i broke my leg the first time jumping out of an airplane. the british system was better. it had a better system of opening after you get on the ground, getting rid of your parachute. we in the oss ended up adopting that system. rob: where were you on june 6, 1944? one of the most famous days in the history of the united states. john: we had gone to london and placed on alert a man. before we were on our way there, we were to do another scheme, during which time i developed a
pain in my side, which the british determined was appendicitis. it was an emergency, so i ended up being informed that my mission to brittany was canceled. rob: so the first mission was to go into brittany? john: that was my first target. i was delayed. fortunately the doctor that had operated on me was an american doctor from atlanta, who had a new system of extracting the appendix without cutting me all up.
he and the flight surgeon carried on a battle of words for several days before they finally agreed on compromise. instead of waiting three months, i waited six weeks. i could jump. rob: so you have appendicitis on d-day, and are recovering from your surgery. and the mission becomes what? john: we were to go into a department in the central highlands of france. it was to prepare for the landing to take place in august in southern france. you may remember it had its own cold name. rob: this is operation anvil dragoon?
john: no, anvil was-- rob: southwest of france? john: dragoon is the name of the landing on the south. our job was to find people who had had a military training, bring them in with the proper leadership, and then when directed, we were to attack german garrisons in the area, which we did. we were to block the germans from going south to meet the new landing.
of course, the breakout from the normandy landing was in process. but we had an additional mission of venting germans from going north for going south. then the landing in the south was about to have a meeting with an eastward movement of patton's third army. we were changed to stop many germans from getting out of that area and blocking them. that made it possible for us to track all germans that were moving. it was a pleasure to be on the offensive finally. we did a great job of training these young kids on a farm and
had not known very much about war. we did some good training and got some great results from that. we were able to block the movement and eventually made it so unpleasant for the german occupying force that they left voluntarily. rob: the drop went smoothly into france? john: our drop into france did go smoothly. it was a long trip. we were in a formation headed
for germany, and our particular plane had an alert to execute any given place a false breakout, a breakdown of something. they would declare an emergency. they would then drop out of the formation, headed back toward england, and at a given point, they would turn south and go at a lower altitude below the german radar so that we would be unreported in our area when we got there. that is the way that it worked out. rob: you made contact easily with the resistance forces when you landed? john: we had an interesting situation where the young farmers' sons were out on the field and helped take our
equipment, and took us to a barn of a farmer nearby. it was a nice, fairly clean barn. when i went back 50 years later to a reunion, everything was exactly the same, except the farmer's daughter. she has aged, and was not nearly as attractive as i thought she was when we first got there. she served me my first mushroom omelette with real eggs that i had had since i left from the states. the british didn't allow eggs to be distributed as eggs. they would dehydrate them some way, and it was all powdered eggs you would get in the restaurants.
and here i was eating fresh eggs with fresh mushrooms. i thought, this is going to be a piece of cake. rob: behind enemy lines. john: talking of the drop zone, i should mention one of the french officers was teamed up with the british commando named tommy mcpherson, who as you might expect, was a scotsman. he, to celebrate the occasion, jumped in his kilt. [laughter] we have gotten used to that. rob: do you really ever get used to it? [laughter]
john: it turns out, and i didn't get it from tommy, but for the frenchman, who said when michel took his parachute off, he ran over to tommy mcpherson. and tommy, with his kilt, was mistaken as a girl. so the farmer's son ran to the guy running the drop and said, i just talked to a french officer, then he brought his wife! [laughter] rob: making the world safe for democracy. john: i should point out this tommy mcpherson was
participating in the raid into north africa to take out rommel. they landed in the mediterranean in rubber boats. it was not until they were very close to the rommel headquarters that they learned that he had just been called back to berlin. tommy mcpherson then concluded that the mission was canceled, and tried to work his way back to execute the emergency withdrawal. he and his team were captured. they were taken to germany, but
tommy mcpherson is a fantastic guy. he had organized his team, that when he gave a certain name or word, they would make a great for it. -- make a break for it. it is in a railroad station in germany with guards on the entrances, he gave the signal, and his team broke, ran into the crowd, and keeping low, ran down the tracks and off. he went down a street in german territory and somehow he said,
that house. and they went and woke up the guy, and the guy just happened to be anti-hit with. -- to be anti-hitler. there were ever few to admit that. but he hid them that night and then made contact with somebody that could escort them up to the north german coast. a fisherman took them over to sweden. we had a system where we had escapes plans. in my position in the center of france, i had two of these plans to memorize. one would be going due east to switzerland. then there is a series of things you have to memorize, getting officials to take you to someone
else, and the other, if i did not go to switzerland, i should go south and cross the pyrenees into spain. and the spanish anti-franco resistance were pretty far to the left. they had enough organization that they would take us to portugal. portugal was neutral, and we could catch a flight back to london. tommy mcpherson got out through sweden. rob: tell me what brought you to the pacific. you tended your -- you ended your world war ii experience in the pacific. john: when we were declared the first apartment -- first department to be liberated
exclusively by action of the french resistance, we were asked if we would like to go on another mission. we did a short mission into brittany to set up an organization. we went inside by motorboat. we went ashore and that the resistance -- and met the resistance there. if the germans tried to make a run into the nearby villages to get more supplies, because the british were preventing any resupply of the germans through the french ports. we set up this warning system.
then we came back to england. while i was setting up our escape route, in the center of france, my intelligence officer, who was an austrian by birth and citizenship, he was fluent in german. he was put in charge of intelligence. he decided he would make sure that we have this escape route set up. he crossed over into austria and set this up. he said the austria are anxious to get involved in this, and they know where hitler's bunker is.
not his berlin bunker, but one way up in the mountains of the various. -- mountains of bavaria. they would like to have a team to come there. i said i would like to volunteer to take my team in to train these austrians and do the same thing there. the british were not too friendly with that idea, and i guess the bureaucrats were involved. we were turned down on that. they said, we would be interested in you going out to china. we are building resistance in
china, and that his detachment 202. i said okay, i'll volunteer, since we couldn't do the austria mission. it was pretty embarrassing at the time, but the day that i left scotland and route the states with the 30 days leave in my orders, i was at sea heading away from the continent when the battle of the bulge started. i thought that was a bad signal. in any case, that turned out all right. i went back to the states, married my fiance, who was in navy intelligence breaking the japanese code.
i did not know that at the time. it took me years to find out. [laughter] i went on to some special training and orientation on catalina island off the coast of california. from there, took a ship, zigzagging across the pacific to australia. the first stop was australia. we were not allowed to get off of the ship, just the crew. and we went to calcutta, india, where we were reported into the oss station chief. they put me in charge of the whole oss group, which meant i did not have much time to do anything pleasant while i was in
california because i had to process all of these oss people. oss had, unlike all the units being processed, from the same service. i had army, navy, and marine enlisted men. i had army and navy officers. and i had civilians, male and female in the group i was processing. it was incredible. every service. the civilians had different forms that had to be filled out
to certify to do certain things. it was a full-time job. rob: the army has overcome that problem. today there is no longer a paperwork issue. [laughter] maybe worse than it was. john: the oss group landed in calcutta, india, then they put me in charge of taking all of the oss people over the hump, which i thought was a great idea. that they said, in the meantime, you are going to have to wait in this little village in burma. oss had a detachment 101 in burma working with the hill tribes of north burma. i was afraid that my very serious minded sergeants and
lieutenants -- but this time i was a captain, by the way. i was afraid they would get into trouble if they did not have anything to do. so i volunteered to help the oss supply station in the northern part of india, moving them down to burma, then bringing the team back to india before flying over into china. that was a good way of keeping them busy, and it was very educational. rob: and morale plummeted 45%. [laughter]
the parts of your book i found most fascinating was this episode at the end of the war. i wonder if you could tell our audience about this. this story deserves to be told. what took to this island off the south coast of china? john: i had this team i was training to jump into the north of what we call vietnam. it was indochina at that time. the mission was to cut the railroad and the road that went from hanoi up into china. the landings that were scheduled to take place on the the main islands of japan were going to have a significant landing of u.s. troops in southern china to
hold the japanese there while the main force went on to the japanese islands. it was important that i cut railroad, so i was able to fly over for the future missions in a c47. i was able to select the places i was going to put my charges to cut the railroad. i saw where they had stacked up curved rails. curved rail could not be done on the spot in those days. they had stacks of them. well, if you cut a curved rail, it does much more damage to the train then just plain cutting a straight rail. the plan was that i would jump in and move to those areas where
there were curved rails, cut those. you just had to cut a foot off the end of it, and the rail is of no value. i have selected the drop zone. i found a village guy in the resistance will that could tell me that they will be friendly and -- that village will be friendly and will carry explosives to the drop zone. when the first atomic bomb was dropped on hiroshima, that mission was not canceled, but it
was postponed. while sitting around waiting for that to be resolved a second bomb was dropped on nagasaki. my team expected that i would know what atomic bomb was, because after all i was attending the ucla courses in physics and so on. i didn't have a clue. they just kept saying, it is a big bomb. been pretty soon they were using atomic bomb.
when the second bomb was dropped on the ninth of august, i received word from china that my mission had been canceled and they were sending an airplane to pick me up. i was to report to the colonel commander in china. so i went there and got in front of the colonel. he said, i have had or from general donovan that we are to make a rescue mission to every pow camp that we know of in southeast asia. would you volunteer to take your team to a rescue? i said, if can select the team members, yes.
because whoever the nut was that was forming the teams for these other missions were trying to insist that i take a frenchman with me when i would jump into indochina. well, the chinese hated the french worse than they hated the japanese. you know, your mercy -- know, bureaucracy in its extreme. he said okay, select your team member. i selected 8 other guys, including a chinese that was already parachute qualified. i selected a nisei,
japanese-american raised in hawaii, and he had already been on a mission in burma. he was my interpreter for that missing -- without mission. i selected intelligence specialists, and my radio operator in france that had been with me all this time. i took my same radio operator and made a team of nine guys. what we could not imagine is the deadline that macarthur had placed on the japanese to answer his demand to unconditional surrender.
it had to be in by the 15th of august. the mission i had been given in indochina was canceled about that time, and in fact we found out that the japanese have had a coup in their headquarters in tokyo, where the guard of the palace was based. and this coup was headed by a lieutenant colonel and some majors. they had a plan for that night to go in and capture the emperor and take him out so that he could not sign that surrender document. in fact, they invited the lieutenant general who was in
charge of the palace guard to go with them on this. and he said no, that is not the right thing, i am loyal to the emperor. have a shot this lieutenant -- and they shot this lieutenant general. this was going on the night before i went into rescue these prisoners. the result was that none of the prison camps had received word that there was to be a surrender of japanese. these guys had been winning battles all over the south pacific. my team of bright eyed americans ended up in a drop zone near a pow camp.
i selected upon seeing it from area photos. i insisted on dropping in so that pow's would see my team coming. rob: that is what you wrote in your book. john: we wanted to be in view of the chinese village that was nearby. i was assured of that. i could not select in advance where we were going to jump, so i had to do that by standing behind the pilot in the cockpit. rob: how many prisoners did you rescue? these were australian and dutch prisoners?
john: they were australian and dutch. at the time it was the netherlands east indies. it is now called indonesia. they were there for some time. they called for help, and a battalion of australians went to help them when the japanese invaded, but they were all captured. there were a little over 400 men in that camp. it had been reduced, because they were dying at 1 or 2 a day from now nutrition, and in many cases they would beat them. the japanese would be up these
dutch and australian prisoners as entertainment. they went get drunk and just beat up these prisoners. so these prisoners had broken arms that had never been set. my dying guys stumbled upon me in the middle of a field, and i japanese truck loaded with japanese soldiers, and incidentally the japanese had 10,000 armed men on the island. rob: 9 americans. it is about even. [laughter] john: it wasn't at the time. i had a little trouble. i had to pretend as lieutenant came out to capture us.
no no, i won't talk to him, take me to your commander. i found out that his commander was a captain. before we left, the intelligence officer who was briefing us on the japanese behavior said you know captain, i think you should be a major. the japanese think it would make a big difference between field grade major or company grade captain. i said oh no. my executive officer who was the captain also, when i increase the probability of our success, i vote for you to be a major. on the airplane, i took off my captain's bars and put on the major gold leaf.
it was a tough go for a while. i just kept bluffing. i won't talk to you captain, you are too junior. this is to internationally important, and i want to talk to your colonel. finally they said, we were taken from the drop zone to the guard detachment headquarters, headed by this captain. and when i would not talk to him, i said you have to let your colonel in here. they would not believe that japan was going to lose the war. they had been winning all of their battles.
i finally was informed -- we heard the guy on the telephone screaming. but, colonel, he won't talk to me! he wants to see you. apparently he made some calls and things were not going well in tokyo. the colonel sent where he was coming, and he came the next day. it was a miracle or divine intervention that we had survived that. they have been killing caucasians for entertainment.
eventually the colonel came in. by the time he got there, he had gotten the word from tokyo, we are meeting with general macarthur to sign this treaty. rob: if anyone wants to read a fine memoir of wrong with you, i recommend this one. i think we have a two -- a few questions from the floor? i that i can get it in early. lower your mic. >> general, what was the difference in physical training between the paratrooper pathfinders, and the paratrooper
oss? i don't need the equipment, but the physical training. john: the pathfinders are the ones that have special training in communications. and generally speaking, they have their own communications, which will enable them to speak to in army unit on the ground and with the air. that is the basic thing. most of the officers who are required to take pathfinder training as well as jump master training. that is essentially the difference. rob: any others?
john: i think they are either hungry, or-- [laughter] >> sir, how did the pow camp resolve itself? what happened after the colonel came in? john: that is a great question. i lay down some rules to the colonel, and i told him i was going to bring in some airplanes. i had been requesting a hospital ship to pick them up. i was informed there was no
hospital ship available for such a small group. 400 people, that is small compared to some battle areas that have been subjected to fighting. i arranged for them to send some ships of any kind. i took the prisoners on a series of destroyers, and destroyer escorts. there was a mixture. several of these destroyers were from australia. of course they were delighted. then move these prisoners on ships to hong kong, or they had hospital facilities until their old government arranged to get them back.
it was really a great gesture on the part of those sailors from australia and others. they gave up their bunks, and put themselves out in the hallway on improvised stretchers. they gave these former prisoners who had just been liberated their bunks on the ship. i was proud. they were very appreciative. there were almost 400 that we got out. some were dying as we were invading, jumping back in. and before the ships came in, we
lost some dead that were just too far gone. needless to say, their countries have got their men back. very appreciative. the treatment they received both on the ship and in hong kong was just great. >> thank you, general. thank you, rob. [applause] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2017] >> thinks to the general and
thanks to rob for bringing us this fascinating conversation. are watching american history tv, 48 hours of programming on american history everything -- every weekend. latest up with the industry news. >> tonight, on q&a -- >> he was having this fancy party in the white house people were starving. harrison was the candidate for the poor man, the poor people, and here was this rich man in washington sneering at the poor people. , but he waslthy man portrayed as the champion of the poor. speeches. some of them wrote pamphlets. it was very shocking. they were criticized by the
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