Segment 1


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.


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