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Segment 6

Woods' first time at sea

Liverpool, England

Annotation

Woods and the interviewer discuss the format for the interview.Edward Thomas Woods was born in 1927 in Manhattan, New York. At 16 years of age he attended the Maritime School for training in order to obtain his seaman's papers. Within a few weeks he was aboard a ship in a convoy bound for England.On the night before they steamed out of New York Harbor the US Navy officer who was assigned to the ship as the gunnery officer asked for volunteers from the merchant crew to help with the ship's guns because he only had a limited number of gunners. Everyone of the merchant seamen on the ship volunteered.Woods wanted to get on a 20mm [Annotator's Note: Oerlikon 20 milimeter automatic cannon] but ended up as a hot shell catcher on a 5 inch 38 [Annotator's Note: 5 inch 38 caliber duel purpose gun]. On the was back to the United States from England he was assigned to one of the 20mm guns and remained on that gun for the rest of the war. Woods secretly hoped that they would encounter a German plane or submarine but that never happenedAfter returning to New York the ship joined a convoy to Casablanca. Woods was thrilled because he never thought he would get to see all of these places.They headed back toward the US but his ship and two others were rerouted to Curacao in the Dutch West Indies. They loaded up in Balboa and two days later the ship was passing through the canal [Annotator's Note: Panama Canal]. Woods passed through the Canal on Thanksgiving Day.The ship stopped at Lae, New Guinea then returned to Balboa. Over the next year or so Woods made about five trips across the Pacific. He made trips to Manus in the Admiralty Islands, to the Philippines, to Ulithi in the Caroline Islands, and on his last trip, after the war had ended, he went to Okinawa.On Okinawa Woods learned that his two older brothers who were both in the US Marine Corps were on Okinawa at the time. Woods hadn't seen either of them in several years. He went to the post office [Annotator's Note: possibly a US Navy post office] to try to get word to them that he was there but he was forced to return to his ship because of an approaching typhoon. The ship left port to ride out the storm on the open water and when he returned to the islands he saw that the post was gone, the port facilities had been destroyed, and the cargo ships that hadn't been able to take on ballasts like his tanker did were washed up on the beach.Woods had initially tried to enlist in the navy but was told that he had failed his physical because he had scoliosis. He believes that that was not true and that it was actually Maritime Day at the recruiting office because he was sent right away to the Merchant Marine recruiter who accepted him on the same day. Two or three days later he was at the Sheeps Head Bay training school.The training was very military. A schoolmate who had previously attended navy boot camp told him that the Merchant Marine training was tougher than the navy boot camp.Woods thought he was in the service fighting for his country.All of the guys were 16 or 17 years old. They were all kids. They trained aboard the USS Neversail.In training they learned the points of the compass, navigation, and gunnery. They also underwent poison gas training.

Annotation

Woods did well in school. He could have gone on to any of the advanced training schools but he volunteered to go out as a mess boy because it was the fastest way out of boot camp. He chose to do this because he had been told that after he made one trip he could transfer to whichever department he wanted to.Woods worked for the War Emergency Tankers, Inc. on Waters Street in New York. After returning from his first trip he went to the office and asked to be assigned to the engine department. The office asked him to go on one more trip because they were shorthanded. The reason they were shorthanded is because the ship had made an agreement with the unions that supplied the crews for the ships that they would not use African Americans. Other ships had African Americans aboard as stewards but Woods' ship did not. That's why they asked him to make another trip. Woods was promised that when he returned from this trip he would be given a wiper's endorsement and could start in the engine department. Unfortunately, his ship didn't return for 15 months.When Woods first reported aboard his ship it was the first time he had been aboard a ship other than the Staten Island Ferry.Woods liked to stand on the fan tail of the ship.Some of the old timers told him that he shouldn't worry about being hit because if they were they would explode right away.When Woods tried to get his wiper's endorsement he was reassigned to the SS Brandy Station. He spent 13 months aboard the Brandy Station.Because of his duty Woods never missed a call to General Quarters. He was adept at manning a 20mm [Annotator's Note: Oerlikon 20 milimeter automatic cannon].The gunnery officer aboard Woods's first ship [Annotator's Note: the SS Horseshoe] told them that if they were captured they could be shot as spies since they were civilians.Woods had a number of friends and relatives in the service during the war.Woods was 14 years old when Pearl Harbor was attacked. He was at a movie with a friend when the the manager of the theater turned on the lights and announced that Pearl Harbor had been bombed. No one in the theater knew where Pearl Harbor was except Woods' friend who had a brother serving there.When Woods returned home his father had the radio on and everyone was talking about what had happened. Since there were no air raid sirens in Woods' area the fire department would send a truck up and down the street to notify the public of an unidentified plane. A few months later air raid wardens started keeping a look out for planes. When the junior air raid wardens was created Woods joined up.Woods was encouraged not to go to Times Square because of the burlesque clubs. The first time he went to Times Square he saw a number of Italian POWs out walking around.At the end of the war Woods was in Leghorn, Italy.In Italy Woods went to a local PX [Annotator's Note: Post Exchange] to get a shave and a haircut. He was shaved by a German barber who had been in the German Army and was captured in Italy.During the war cigarettes were like currency. In North Africa they bartered with bed sheets.While aboard the SS Brandy Station the Bosun got in trouble for selling bed sheets to the local Arabs.

Annotation

When Woods would go into Times Square young servicemen would give them trouble about why they weren't in the service.People who didn't stand when the Star Spangled Banner played were called out and accused of being spies or Nazis.When the Japanese [Annotator's Note: Japanese-Americans] were interned on the West Coast Woods thought it was the best thing. Looking back now that was not the right thing to do because they were Americans. Woods also agreed with the dropping of the atomic bombs which occured while he was in the middle of the Pacific. They had heard what the expected casualties would be if Japan were invaded and Woods had two brothers in the US Marine Corps.Woods lived two blocks from the Hudson River. The Hudson was always full of ships.The man who ran the candy store around the corner from Woods' house lost a son who was serving aboard a destroyer that had been sunk.On Woods' first trip his ship was loaded with oil in New Jersey then went up the Hudson River to take on deck cargo. Since they were loaded with oil they weren't allowed to tie up to a dock or pier because of what had happened with the Normandie [Annotator's Note: the SS Normandie, also known as the USS Lafayette, that caught fire and capsized at Pier 88 in New York Harbor during its conversion from a transatlantic ocean liner into a troop transport on 9-10 February 1942] so they anchored midstream. Where they were anchored was only a few blocks from where Woods lived so he was able to take a water taxi to shore and could go home to see his friends and family before he shipped out.The deck cargo they took on was P-51 Mustangs. An army soldier came aboard to escort the aircraft. During this time Woods saw the use of spark proof tools which he had never seen before.When the order was passed down that there would be no more leave Woods got depressed.When they steamed out none of the crew knew where they were going but they made a lot of guesses. They steamed out of the Hudson River and took up a position in New York Harbor to fall in with the convoy they would sail with. Woods watched as the tug boats opened the submarine nets that guarded the entrance to the harbor.They steamed out of the harbor. For the first time Woods heard the sound of klaxon horns on the destroyers that were escorting them. For a short time they had land based air cover and Woods had even heard that a baby aircraft carrier [Annotator's Note: an escort carrier, CVE] was steaming with them but he didn't see it.When they arrived in England they offloaded their fuel cargo using undersea hoses. After unloading the oil they docked in Liverpool, England.Woods went on leave and when he returned to his ship he saw that a Swedish ship, possibly the Gripsholm, had tied up next to his ship. The Swedish ship was transporting former POWs that were being repatriated after a prisoner swap with Germany. The English soldiers were all on stretchers and were missing arms and legs. This was a sad sight for Woods and it made him realize that there was a war on.Liverpool was the first foreign port Woods put into. He was excited to be there because his great grand parents had come from England.

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Of all the ports Woods visited he liked Panama the best because it was like being back at home. There was a good Chinese restaurant on 4th of July Avenue and there was a bar on every corner.They were told that they were not allowed to have cameras and Woods was under the impression that he would be shot if he got caught with one. It turned out that a lot of people had cameras there.When they entered the Panama Canal Zone armed Marines boarded their ship as security.Woods later learned that the Japanese and Germans knew where everything in the canal zone was.The ships Woods served aboard during the war never had radar or sonar.One of Woods' fellow crewmen decided to fish off of the fan tail and caught a shark that was about 12 feet long. A gunners mate shot the shark but it didn't die. Then the chief cook came out and gutted it. Woods was surprised by the things that came out of the shark's stomach.Going through North Atlantic storms was very rough. When the ship rolled it was scary. In those situations someone had to be manning the throttles so they didn't burn up the screws [Annotator's Note: propellers] when they came out of the water. Woods would rather have the ship pitching rather than rolling.During the typhoon he experienced off of Okinawa some oil drums got loose. Woods was able to lash one of them down when it rolled under a life boat. The chief mate patted him on the back for doing that.When they left port the crewmen would gamble for the first two or three days. After that all of the money was in one place.During one convoy run Woods' ship encountered mines. There were whistles going off on all of the ships. The mines looked scary to Woods with those big spikes sticking off of it. A gunner fired on it with a rifle but that did nothing so someone fired at the mines with a 20mm [Annotator's Note: Oerlikon 20 milimeter automatic cannon] but that still did no good. Later an escort blew some of them up.At the end of the war Woods went into Germany on an army transport. He spent about a week there. They left for Southampton with a load of soldiers returning to the US. The ship, the USAT Brandy Station [Annotator's Note: SS Brandy Station] was just getting out of the channel at Bremerhaven when there was an explosion and the ship lifted out of the water. Woods went topside where he stood by a life boat.The army did things differently than the Merchant Marine. They placed a master at arms at each life boat. The master at arms had never seen a life boat before so Woods got the boat ready to be launched.The women nurses aboard, and the sick and wounded, were put aboard life boats and sent to the USAT George Washington. Woods doesn't know whether the explosion occured outside of the ship or inside of it but he suspects that it was internal. He believes that it was caused by former Kriegsmarine, German Navy, sailors. The engine room was flooded but there was no damage on the outside.Steam pumps were used to pump out the water.The army never told the merchant crew what was going on but Woods believes that someone had planted some sort of bomb on the ship.

Annotation

Woods was a wiper in the engine room. There were 15 wipers aboard large ships. The wipers reported to the 1st Mate.After the war Woods went back to Sheeps Head Bay. He tried to go back out to sea but ran into problems. Every time he tried to go to a ship none would be available. There were too many men looking to go to sea but not enough ships for them to man.Woods went to the NMU Union Hall to get his ticket to go aboard a Black Diamond Line ship as a fireman and water tender. The ship went to Rotterdam and Antwerp. He got along well with the crew and was voted into the union. When he returned to New York a real nasty thug told him to get off the ship because he wasn't a union man. Woods left the ship and went to the National Maritime Union Hall and tried to get in but he was refused entry.Later Woods learned that men were needed in Korea to train Koreans. Woods and a friend volunteered and flew to Korea as turbine operators.Woods landed at Kimpo Airport in Korea. When he arrived the country was very primative. He saw a woman giving birth out on the street. This was in 1948.Woods did have some fun in Korea. When Sigmund Rhee was elected president, Woods was given a ride on a former Japanese destroyer that had been given to Korea.Woods felt that he was doing something for his country and his family. He was very disappointed when he got home. He felt like a leper. Columnists like Walter Winchell and Westbrook Pegler carried a lot of weight at that time. Winchell wrote a story that stated that the merchant mariners had gone on strike during the war in the Philippines and that they were just a bunch of drunks. Woods wasn't old enough to be served a drink. There may have been some drinking but he didn't see it.Woods' first port of call when he returned to the US was Houston. He called his mother and when he got home she had cooked a big dinner for him. A few weeks after he got home his two brothers got there. They had a great Thanksgiving.Woods got into an argument with a man from the VFW who accused him of joining the Merchant Marine to avoid the draft. Woods was only 16 years old and couldn't have been drafted anyway. Woods served with others who weren't physically fit enough to be drafted but went to sea to do their part.At the end of the war the merchant seamen were given a Certificate of Continuous Service. This certificate stated that they were exempt from the draft.A few years later Woods learned that he had to register for the draft. He was called in and informed that he was exempt from the draft act of 1940. This was a new draft act and he wasn't exempt from it. At the time his wife was expecting. He passed his physical but was able to avoid being drafted since he was married with a child on the way.Woods didn't want to go back to Korea. He would have gone back to Germany. He had stayed in Germany for about eight months after the war. The Germans amazed him with how clean they kept thing even when their cities had been bombed into rubble. Korea wasn't clean.

Annotation

Woods was upset after the war because he wasn't given the benefits of the G.I. Bill. A friend of his his who had been in the service but never left the US was able to go to college on the G.I. Bill but Woods couldn't even though he had been awarded the combat ribbon for coming under fire during the retaking of the Philippines.Woods' ship steamed into Manila Bay. They saw aircraft flying overhead and shells started hitting the water around them. The following morning a small boat came alongside and told them to leave the area since they were loaded with fuel. They returned to Subic Bay where they learned that they had been sent to Manila by mistake.Two weeks later Woods' ship returned to Manila. When he went ashore there was money everywhere. Japanese printed pesos were covering the ground. Woods picked up a lot of the currency and mailed some of it home.In the 1930s about half of the classes Woods attended in school were Jewish refugees. Woods got along well with them. Woods learned of the atrocities that were being committed overseas.A classmate of Woods' told him that his father had served in the German Army in World War I but that didn't make a difference when the Nazis came to power.The Jews that Woods met in Washington Heights had money and had been able to buy their way out of Germany.Woods had many German-Jewish friends.Woods feels that having institutions like The National WWII Museum are necessary because young people don't appreciate what happened during the war.

Annotation

Woods did well in school. He could have gone on to any of the advanced training schools but he volunteered to go out as a mess boy because it was the fastest way out of boot camp. He chose to do this because he had been told that after he made one trip he could transfer to whichever department he wanted to.Woods worked for the War Emergency Tankers, Inc. on Waters Street in New York. After returning from his first trip he went to the office and asked to be assigned to the engine department. The office asked him to go on one more trip because they were shorthanded. The reason they were shorthanded is because the ship had made an agreement with the unions that supplied the crews for the ships that they would not use African Americans. Other ships had African Americans aboard as stewards but Woods' ship did not. That's why they asked him to make another trip. Woods was promised that when he returned from this trip he would be given a wiper's endorsement and could start in the engine department. Unfortunately, his ship didn't return for 15 months.When Woods first reported aboard his ship it was the first time he had been aboard a ship other than the Staten Island Ferry.Woods liked to stand on the fan tail of the ship.Some of the old timers told him that he shouldn't worry about being hit because if they were they would explode right away.When Woods tried to get his wiper's endorsement he was reassigned to the SS Brandy Station. He spent 13 months aboard the Brandy Station.Because of his duty Woods never missed a call to General Quarters. He was adept at manning a 20mm [Annotator's Note: Oerlikon 20 milimeter automatic cannon].The gunnery officer aboard Woods's first ship [Annotator's Note: the SS Horseshoe] told them that if they were captured they could be shot as spies since they were civilians.Woods had a number of friends and relatives in the service during the war.Woods was 14 years old when Pearl Harbor was attacked. He was at a movie with a friend when the the manager of the theater turned on the lights and announced that Pearl Harbor had been bombed. No one in the theater knew where Pearl Harbor was except Woods' friend who had a brother serving there.When Woods returned home his father had the radio on and everyone was talking about what had happened. Since there were no air raid sirens in Woods' area the fire department would send a truck up and down the street to notify the public of an unidentified plane. A few months later air raid wardens started keeping a look out for planes. When the junior air raid wardens was created Woods joined up.Woods was encouraged not to go to Times Square because of the burlesque clubs. The first time he went to Times Square he saw a number of Italian POWs out walking around.At the end of the war Woods was in Leghorn, Italy.In Italy Woods went to a local PX [Annotator's Note: Post Exchange] to get a shave and a haircut. He was shaved by a German barber who had been in the German Army and was captured in Italy.During the war cigarettes were like currency. In North Africa they bartered with bed sheets.While aboard the SS Brandy Station the Bosun got in trouble for selling bed sheets to the local Arabs.

Annotation

When Woods would go into Times Square young servicemen would give them trouble about why they weren't in the service.People who didn't stand when the Star Spangled Banner played were called out and accused of being spies or Nazis.When the Japanese [Annotator's Note: Japanese-Americans] were interned on the West Coast Woods thought it was the best thing. Looking back now that was not the right thing to do because they were Americans. Woods also agreed with the dropping of the atomic bombs which occured while he was in the middle of the Pacific. They had heard what the expected casualties would be if Japan were invaded and Woods had two brothers in the US Marine Corps.Woods lived two blocks from the Hudson River. The Hudson was always full of ships.The man who ran the candy store around the corner from Woods' house lost a son who was serving aboard a destroyer that had been sunk.On Woods' first trip his ship was loaded with oil in New Jersey then went up the Hudson River to take on deck cargo. Since they were loaded with oil they weren't allowed to tie up to a dock or pier because of what had happened with the Normandie [Annotator's Note: the SS Normandie, also known as the USS Lafayette, that caught fire and capsized at Pier 88 in New York Harbor during its conversion from a transatlantic ocean liner into a troop transport on 9-10 February 1942] so they anchored midstream. Where they were anchored was only a few blocks from where Woods lived so he was able to take a water taxi to shore and could go home to see his friends and family before he shipped out.The deck cargo they took on was P-51 Mustangs. An army soldier came aboard to escort the aircraft. During this time Woods saw the use of spark proof tools which he had never seen before.When the order was passed down that there would be no more leave Woods got depressed.When they steamed out none of the crew knew where they were going but they made a lot of guesses. They steamed out of the Hudson River and took up a position in New York Harbor to fall in with the convoy they would sail with. Woods watched as the tug boats opened the submarine nets that guarded the entrance to the harbor.They steamed out of the harbor. For the first time Woods heard the sound of klaxon horns on the destroyers that were escorting them. For a short time they had land based air cover and Woods had even heard that a baby aircraft carrier [Annotator's Note: an escort carrier, CVE] was steaming with them but he didn't see it.When they arrived in England they offloaded their fuel cargo using undersea hoses. After unloading the oil they docked in Liverpool, England.Woods went on leave and when he returned to his ship he saw that a Swedish ship, possibly the Gripsholm, had tied up next to his ship. The Swedish ship was transporting former POWs that were being repatriated after a prisoner swap with Germany. The English soldiers were all on stretchers and were missing arms and legs. This was a sad sight for Woods and it made him realize that there was a war on.Liverpool was the first foreign port Woods put into. He was excited to be there because his great grand parents had come from England.

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