Segment 4


During World War II it was the Japanese that occupied the Aleutian Islands, part of the United States. The attitude was that the Japanese Americans would be against the U.S. There were a few who were for the Japanese invading the country, but the 442nd Regimental Combat Team put that to an end. The only reason the German Americans were not treated that way was because there were too many of them. But there were a lot of Nazis in the United States who spouted the same philosophy as Hitler.There was no question whether or not they were going to serve in the Armed Forces. Ettlinger does not know any German Jewish young man who did not serve in the American Army. Many Americans thought of the German Jews as enemy aliens. [Annotators Note: here Ettlinger gets side tracked and talks about his trip to America] It turned out that in their hasty departure to get to the United States, his folks decided rather than stay in first class which they could afford, they would stay in third class, just to get out of the Europe quickly. As they left the coast of England, they hit the aftermath of the Hurricane of 1938 where over 100 people died in Connecticut. Ettlinger was very sea sick and it was not until 4 days later that he was able to keep food down; that was the Day of Atonement, where Jews are supposed to fast and that was the only time he did not fast. When he arrived, just looking at a boat made him made him sick. When the time came to join the military, he knew he did not want anything to do with ships.Ettlinger was drafted into the United States Army and got sent down to Camp Wheeler, near Macon, Georgia where he took basic infantry training. He became a typical soldier in view of his squad and made buddies with his group. He relates a story of how one man did everything he could do to get out of the Army. This man used to deliberately urinate in his bed at night. After ten weeks they gave him a discharge; highly unusual for the time.In November of that year Ettlinger was made a U.S. citizen. On the 24th of December he finished basic training. When he completed basic training he flew home. It was the first time anyone in his family had been on an airplane. Ettlinger relates how his family could not understand him anymore when he spoke. He did not speak German any longer and he did not speak like a person from New Jersey. He learned how to speak like an American from his buddies from Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia.


All oral histories featured on this site are available to license. The videos will be delivered via mail as Hi Definition video on DVD/DVDs or via file transfer. You will be purchasing the oral history in its entirety but will be free to use only specific clips. Please contact the Museum at if you are interested in licensing this content. Please allow up to two weeks for file delivery or delivery of the DVD to your postal address. See more information at