5:48 | Mortimer Caplin had deep roots in New York City but when he saw the University of Virginia campus, he decided on that school. After the undergraduate degree and law school, he returned to New York to practice law but before he left the school, Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke at his graduation. This inspired him to apply for a Navy commission.
Keywords : Mortimer Caplin New York City University of Virginia Thomas Jefferson boxing law school Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) Armistead Dobie Wall Street Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI)
As a lawyer in the war effort, Mortimer Caplin was assigned to the Office of Naval Intelligence, but he asked for shipboard duty. Where they sent him was even more exciting, Beach Battalion. This was the unit that commanded the beach during amphibious landings. Intensive training followed for the tight knit group.
Trained as a Beachmaster, Mortimer Caplin shipped out for England on the Queen Mary. His unit had a lot of specialized gear and he had to form a guard detachment to keep other units from walking away with it. After they got it all to the Southern English coast, they participated in the ill-fated Exercise Tiger out of Slapton Sands.
The great invasion of Europe was on and Beachmaster Mortimer Caplin, while delivering a message to a neighboring base, got a sense of the enormity of the enterprise, the many different forces and personnel assembling and loading into ships on the coast of England. Back with his own unit, he found out that his landing craft assignment and attached Army engineer unit had all been changed.
The barrage balloons almost gave the Normandy armada a festive feel. That's what Mortimer Caplin thought as he approached Omaha Beach. It had not yet been cleared so his Beach Battalion had to circle in their landing craft. Once on shore, it was sporadic fire, desperate infantry and bodies all around.
Beachmaster Mortimer Caplin landed a half mile from his intended sector of Omaha Beach. He took care of business where he was and then worked his way down there. His Beach Battalion company had many important jobs, clearing the beach of stuck boats, helping the wounded and communicating with the command structure. It was a well deserved glass of wine when he finally got to a French tavern.
After the unbelievable enormity of D-Day, Beachmaster Mortimer Caplin expected to be shipped back to the United States to train other beach units for the Pacific. But he was told to report to the Commander of Amphibious Bases in the UK. They needed a lawyer and he just happened to be one. This turned out to be a lucky break.
He was a Beachmaster on Omaha Beach and a Legal Officer in post war England and he was back in the United States making a name for himself in corporate and tax law. Mortimer Caplin had both Robert and Ted Kennedy in his classes at the University of Virginia and when their brother was elected President, he became the Commissioner of Internal Revenue.
Looking back on his Navy career, Mortimer Caplin remembers two unusual incidents. The first was during his training when a deputy commander went ballistic over nothing. The second was the striking contrast between the reactions of a British family and a mess table full of Naval officers when the news of Franklin D. Roosevelt's death was released.
When Willie Lindsey got to Leipzig, his unit had to take a huge monument complex where German soldiers had holed up. It was tough but they had help from their artillery. Another building taken in Leipzig contained a large arsenal of German small arms.
Jack Fletcher recounts the life of a crew chief on a C-47 in the South Pacific. Flying everything from Bataan Death March survivors to crates of eggs, it was a very busy time. Shortly after the Japanese surrender was achieved, he was flying supplies into Japan itself.
The company commander was arrogant and rude. Willie Lindsey recalls how he humiliated a soldier needlessly, just one of the many things that made the enlisted men despise him. Three lieutenants decided to cook his goose.
On his first day in Leyte, Jack Fletcher ran into a friend from his hometown. There were still Japanese there, too, about ten miles inland. He was an aircraft mechanic and a crew chief on a C-47, ferrying troops and supplies around the Philippines. It was on one of these missions that a stray bullet hit the cabin and gave him a leg wound.
It was September of 1944 when Willie Lindsey was drafted and sent for infantry training at Camp Blanding. They had good experienced men training the draftees and he felt it helped him greatly when he got into combat. It didn't help him at all, though, when the man next to him on the grenade course dropped a live grenade at his feet
The first operation for the 4th Division was the landing on Roi-Namur. Lawrence Snowden remembers that, though it was an easy victory, valuable combat experience and important lessons were imparted on the Marines.
Willie Lindsey arrived in France just as the Battle of the Bulge was winding down. His unit moved across France towards the action, but the cold was his primary enemy at this time. He could hear the Screaming Mimi's but they all went overhead.
Two engines were out, a third smoking, and they were were losing airspeed and altitude, but they were flying level and pointed home. Then time ran out for the B-17 and Don Scott had to slip down the hatch into the slipstream. Part 2 of 3.
Bill Garrison was standing in a chow line when a man up the line suddenly dropped, shot dead by a sniper. That was only one hazard at the air fields in China; the others being Japanese air raids and infiltrators. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
After his friend and platoon sergeant Charlie Altmans was wounded, Willie Lindsey got a new sergeant who was from the Panama coastal artillery. This man knew nothing about infantry tactics and was bound to get get someone killed as the GI's pushed deeper into Germany.
It was their third mission over Berlin and they were heading home. Four German fighters pounced on the B-24 and it was engulfed in flame and going down. Clyde Burnette fought for consciousness as the other crew in the back of the plane bailed out. He woke in free fall with no idea how he had made it out, and soon he was in German custody. Everyone made it out of the plane except George "Danny" Daneau, the nose turret gunner, who went down with the aircraft.
After a nerve-wracking mission to bomb Tokyo and a typhoon, B.E. Vaughan and the destroyer O'Brien suffered a second kamikaze attack which killed all three of his hometown pals who served with him on board. Then, began the grim task of collecting the personal belongings of the dead and preparing them for burial at sea.
Willie Lindsey was lead scout as the company was on the move. He got to an open field and stopped to plan going around the edges because you don't cross an open field. Incredibly, the young company commander decided to do just that. Bad idea. Part 1 of 3.
When the draft came for Willie Weaver, he went to infantry training and prepared to ship out to Okinawa, but he got sick and missed the boat. All his friends were gone and, when he recovered, he was sent to Fort Benning as part of the training cadre. After the war, he began to question why the Army was segregated at the time.
After a short Christmas leave, Willie Lindsey shipped out for Europe. His unit was being rushed into place because the Battle of the Bulge had the Allied commanders worried. Even before they got ashore, they lost a man to the cold waters of the English Channel.
Rather than walking on the ground, when the draft came around in 1943, Jack Fletcher opted for the Army Air Corps. Pilot training was closed, so he was set to become a mechanic. He'd only begun training and had never worked on an engine when he was shipped to the Pacific, where the on the job training was superb.
They could have reached Berlin easily, but the 69th Infantry Division was stopped at the Elbe River so the Russians could take the German capitol. That was OK with Willie Lindsey. It meant that they wouldn't lose any more men. After the first meeting with the Russians, patrols were started to keep tabs on the tenuous allies.
There were plenty of interesting sights when Jack Fletcher landed in Japan. The C-47 crew chief was part of the supply effort for the occupation shortly after the war's end. He had no trouble there, but when he got back to Okinawa, he had to spend a long night during a typhoon trying to keep his aircraft safe.
The roads were full of German soldiers returning to Germany. Willie Lindsey's unit had pushed all the way to the Rhine, which they crossed on some improbable landing craft. When they were on the move, he was often lead scout, which was a rough life.
As he was recuperating in a hospital in the Philippines, Jack Fletcher befriended a nurse who made the rounds among the wounded troops. When he found out she was getting married, he made a beautiful gesture that only an aviator could make.
Willie Lindsey was on a troop train bound for Italy where he was going to ship out to the Pacific. When the atomic bombs were dropped, it was a train full of happy GI's. He had low points, so he stayed on in Germany, trying to learn his new job, mechanic.
In a war, there always seems to be some humorous things that happen, though they can't always be enjoyed at the time. C-47 crew chief Jack Fletcher recalls some of those including some purloined steaks and a power struggle with a pilot.
Willie Lindsey found a map while going through an abandoned German airfield. This came in handy at a crossroads where he determined that the retreating Germans had switched the road signs. Incredibly, the inept company commander insisted on following the signs.
After being pinned down by artillery in an open field, Willie Lindsey was sent by his platoon leader to try and connect with a sister company. He found them alright, under fire by a German machine gun on the edge of a mine field. After he took care of that, he was in a gazebo near a German house when he spotted a German soldier coming out of the house and heading straight for him. Part 2 of 3.
Jack Fletcher recalls some of the odd and unexpected things that happened during the war in the Pacific. Before he deployed, he designed a coded map for his mother to keep track of his whereabouts, then he ran into his brother in the Philippines, who also had the map. We also hear about a search for Japanese gold teeth and some larcenous sailors.
After capturing a German soldier under unusual circumstances, Willie Lindsey took him and two civilians back to his unit's position. It had been an eventful day between nearly getting killed by artillery fire and single-handedly taking out a German machine gun crew. Part 3 of 3.
Jack Fletcher's troop carrier squadron moved from New Guinea to Leyte, where there was still fighting. He just missed some Japanese paratroopers who landed on the other side of the air strip. While temporarily withdrawn to the beach during that battle, some Red Cross coffee was denied them, at least on a free basis. When it came time to transport those folks, it was payback time.