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Breaking the tension

Transcription

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(interviewer) Why don’t we just start with you talking
about your earliest impressions of—in Berlin—in
Nazi Germany, when your father had to leave.
What was life like for you, first of
all, before we get to that moment?
Describe life as a ten-year-old.
(Diana Belliard) Life in Germany, for me, was wonderful.
Children had a very free kind of
upbringing—lots of playing in the park.
It was—it was very arranged, and so on, but
it was an easy life for a child, and my
life, particularly.
I was homeschooled for a long time, and my
life just went from lessons to then playing
in the park—and the park was great.
It was the Tiergarten, the biggest park in
Berlin, and they had everything the kids could
watch—paved sidewalks—and sandboxes, and
places to play Marbles—Marbles were big
in Berlin in those days—the old kind, where
you kept lots and lots and lots in bags, and
kids collected.
Anyway, life in the playground is where kids
really connected, and that really changed
when Hitler came to power.
In fact, it started changing about a year and
a half before Hitler came to power, when
the big fights—political fights were going
on in Berlin between the parties, and the
ones that Hitler was waging very, very
strongly in order to get elected.
They started the Hitler Jugend, and all this kind of stuff.
So, at the playgrounds, as soon as Hitler was
elected, everything really, really changed
drastically in an extraordinary way.
In about two or three months, everything was different.
Before that, we’d have—we’d had some
discrimination issues—in other words, children
were refusing to play with each other because
of their—one of them might be Jewish, or
one of them might be a social democrat.
And children would be crying in corners because
they weren’t being played with, and they
were being ostracized.
It was—from a joyful kind of—kind of playground,
it became a difficult playground, not to say
a fraught-with-tension kind of playground.
It was very sad.
It was very sad to see that happening,
and—I was totally bewildered.
I would go home and ask my mother, “What’s this?
What’s that? What’s Jewish?
What’s a social democrat?
What’s going on?” and she would try to explain it to me.
I don’t know how much I understood, but it
was clear that something really awful had happened.
And then, my father, at that point, was working
so hard on these whole issues of the rise
of Hitler, and what he was perceiving to be
an immense danger for not just Germany, but
the world—and that the world should really
start listening and doing something about
this man, because he was no longer a joke,
which he’d been earlier, in the early days
of his campaign.
This was really getting very, very dangerous.
So, his phone was ringing all the time from
people who were trying to either give him
tidbits of information, or ask him for help,
and it would even ring in the night, when
people would call and say, “The Nazis
have come and taken my husband.
Oh, God, please help.
What am I going to do?”
It was dreadful—dreadful calls, and Berlin was
really experiencing this in enormous ways.
As soon as Hitler came to power, it was—just changed.
Everything changed.
(interviewer) Could you tell us—I should have asked you
this first, but—tell us your father’s name,
and your mother’s name, and then—and
then, also, say what they both were doing.
(Diana) Okay, yes.
My father was Edgar Mowrer—Edgar Ansel Mowrer,
who was a foreign correspondent for the Chicago
Daily News, in—in Berlin, and he’d been
there for—since 1924—the early part of 1924.
So, he’d really been able to watch the change in Berlin.
Berlin was quite different when he first got
there, but—getting close to the thirties—1930,
’31, ’32, we’re heading up this whole
Hitler—the rise of Hitler was already taking
place at that time.
My mother was a—also a writer,
but she wrote theatre criticism.
She was passionate about the theatre and German
theatre in the twenties was extraordinary.
Everybody in Europe recognized the German
theatre was extraordinary then, and because
there’s so many theatres all subsidized by
the government, the Germans could put on
thousands and thousands of plays during the year.
Each theatre, in every city, it was—it was amazing.
So, she was having a field day and was not
being so desperately affected by the political
events of the time.
I had an interesting home life, whether it’s discussions.
I never got to say a word.
There was so much talk going on all the time
about—either—mostly about politics—always politics.
“What are we doing next?
What are they doing next?”
(interviewer) Did you have a sense
of fear in the family about ’32?
(Diana) For the—fear for the country, fear for the world.
I don’t think there was any sense of personal fear,
even though my father knew he was vulnerable
after Hitler came to power, that he probably
would be targeted for expulsion if that was,
because he had been writing about Hitler ever
since Hitler was fighting to come to power.
And so, for his—he did get a Pulitzer Prize
for his writing just before the war, and for
his book, Germany Pushed the Clock Back,
which was predicting what Hitler would do.
It was published before Hitler came to power.
(interviewer) Did he feel threats on his life at all?
(Diana) I’m sorry, what?
(interviewer) Did he feel that
there were any threats on his life?
(Diana) I really don’t know, and I forgot to check
in my father’s autobiography.
I don’t think he did until after Hitler came to power.
That was a big change then, and I think he
felt that they really possibly could do it,
but my father was kind of, like Ralph, a little
bit fearless, and not inclined to worry about
things like that.
He was just going to do what he needed to do,
and that’s why you’ll get to the issue—on
your question, on your tape.
(interviewer) What do you recall about leaving Germany?
How did that all come about for you?
(Diana) For me, it was Germany.
I mean, we were just leaving Germany, and
so, we were packing—and I was just a child,
tagging around, trying to pack up my dolls,
or something—although I didn’t have any dolls.
I didn’t like dolls. My mother’s job was to pack up.
My father had to leave from one day to the next,
so he hadn’t done anything about packing.
It was easy. It was not hard.
We were going to Japan, and so, everything was
packed up and shipped to Japan—the furniture,
and the trunks—everything.
Anyway—no, it was not hard.
It was just life—a new life.
(interviewer) You’ve told me a lot about that period where
your father was getting more and more
evidence of threats against his life.
I think that’s interesting.
(Diana) Well, I think he realized that they really
were serious about threatening him.
I’m not sure I saw real evidence about whether he did.
He was probably being followed—I don’t
remember whether—I’m sorry, I don’t
really remember what you’re referring to, honey.
(interviewer) What you were aware of—he let you know about
feeling a threat.
(Diana) About what?
(interviewer) The threat that was against him.
Obviously, he had—he had moments
with the—the ministers in France.
I mean, in Germany.
(Diana) Yes.
(interviewer) He was warned.
(Diana) He was warned, absolutely.
There were two stages—they got—Goebbels
called him in and said, “We really can’t
go on doing this.
We cannot go on writing like this.”
And the first thing he wanted to do is resign
from being president of the Foreign Press Association,
and my father said—when he
thought about it, he said, “I will resign
on one condition.
That you release—immediately release” this
German journalist, whose name I do not remember.
He was a little bit of an older journalist
with the family, who had been dragged away
in the middle of the night.
And so, my father got them to promise to release
him and his family, and allow them to leave
Germany, and the man did go to live
in Paris for the rest of his life.
He survived, and—and so—but my father went on writing.
He gave in to their request that he—that he
not be president, but he went on writing.
So, Goebbels called him in again, and I think
it was about two months later, and said, “Mr.
Mowrer, you’ve got to stop this, otherwise,
we’re no longer responsible for his life—we
can no longer be responsible for your life.”
And so, that’s when things got really serious,
and he realized he had to make a decision
on what he was going to do.
And Knox, who was the publisher of the paper,
happened to be involved in that decision,
personally, saying he really urged him—urging
him to leave, and assigning him to a new post
in—in Japan.
(interviewer) Did Frank Knox order him to leave?
(Diana) I don’t remember.
Of course, he’d say, “You’ve got to get out, Edgar.
Just get out.
Forget your work here.
Just get out.”
(interviewer) Being a young girl, were you ever—were you
ever concerned for your father’s safety
at any point, or did it just not occur to you?
(Diana) I really don’t remember exactly how I felt.
I felt, at times, very apprehensive about
this whole terrible upheaval on every—every
angle of my life.
And so—but I don’t think—I don’t
remember being terrified to that degree.
I probably didn’t understand the full impact of this at all.
That’s my guess—I don’t really remember.
(interviewer) Did you have any feeling that your mother
was apprehensive, or—
(Diana) I’m sure she was petrified.
But my mother was an actress.
My mother was a very good actress, so she
always had everything under control by acting
out the right thing, so I’m sure she protected
me—was always putting on a good—a good front.
(interviewer) You’d mentioned something earlier—you
said, in school, there were kids that were
being ostracized from the other—from the other kids.
Do you remember any specific incidences where
maybe Jewish kids were singled out, or beaten
up by the teachers, even?
(Diana) Well, I can remember it happening several times.
As I was saying, in the playground, where
I’d find a child I used to play with, or
was going to play with, and she’d
be off in the corner, crying.
I’d say, “What’s wrong?”
And she would say, “They won’t play with me.”
And I’d say, “Why?”
And they’d say—they’d say, “I’m Jewish.”
That happened several times during that
period, and then, also, the “Social democrat”
phrase, I remember distinctly, coming up
several times they wouldn’t play with her.
And then, when the Hitler Jugend had really
taken over, I would find myself talking to
different kids—more boys for this kind of
talk—conversation, because they would start
telling me about what they were doing, and
so on, and they got very lengthy in their
stories about how they were—singled out
somebody, and they were going to get them,
and they were pursuing him—they had it all planned.
I was kind of mesmerized.
I didn’t know what the heck he was talking
about, but I never heard children—I never
heard children talking like this, and it was all
indoctrination from the Hitler Eugen system,
where the kids were taught to be militaristic
about their relationships, and they were taught
to pursue other kids, and they were
taught to tell on their parents.
If they heard their parents saying anything
that was not pro-Hitler, they were supposed
to tell their teacher, or their—whoever they
happened to be relating to at the time.
It was—it was dreadful, and it was appalling.
It was a total transformation of—of normalcy—total.
(interviewer) What happened when you left?
Where did you go—where did you go after you left?
(Diana) When we left, first to the States.
(interviewer) Chicago?
(Diana) To Chicago, and we were probably there about
a month when they were trying to
figure out what they were going to do.
And then, my father was sent to Paris instead of Tokyo, so—
(interviewer) Did you go to Paris, too?
(Diana) Did I go to Paris?
Oh, yes, I went to Paris for six years.
(interviewer) And how did—did you have impressions that
you—you said you were ten?
Is that right?
(Diana) Yes.
(interviewer) So, ten to sixteen,
did you have impressions
of—of the rise of Hitler and what
was going on in Germany from Paris?
(Diana) From a completely different perspective, yes.
I mean, first of all, when I first there,
we sort of forgot about Hitler, in terms of my life.
It was—my life was just concerned with trying to
learn French, and being in the French school,
and I didn’t speak any French, so I had my own
little set of problems that I was worrying about.
And then, during those years, I remember an awful
lot of concern about Blum, and the communist—the
riots in Paris, and all that kind of thing.
But then, back, of course, as we got through
’36, ’37, and all the—Hitler starting
to take over countries one after the other,
it just seemed kind of overwhelming.
It was like, “I told you so.”
We knew this was going to happen, and yet, here
it is, happening—and that awful Chamberlain,
who did nothing.
It was very bad.
I mean, all the conversations at my dinner
table were focused on this, constantly, and
we had journalists, of course, at dinner,
very often, bringing new stories, and—it
was—my family life at home was pure
politics, in terms of family conversations.
So, it was always filled with latest events.
(interviewer) Do you remember some of the journalists that
came to your house?
(Diana) Do I remember any of them, in particular?
(interviewer) Do you remember some of them in particular?
(Diana) Oh, my goodness.
Well, the Daily News staff—I mean, Binder was the editor.
(s/l Will—Will Shirer), I’m not sure was
actually on the Daily News staff—I don’t
think he was.
Gosh, I should have tried to think of a list.
Hemmingway came once to dinner, I remember that.
Of course, he wasn’t—that’s all I can remember.
(interviewer) When did you leave?
(Diana) We left—I left in 1939, in the summer, for
a family vacation.
My father was supposed to leave, too, but he stayed.
He knew something was brewing, and—September
1, the Germans marched into Poland, so I was
left in the States.
(interviewer) Your mother was with you?
(Diana) My mother was with me, and we lived in Chicago,
in a small apartment.
I went to school, but my mother went
back in Spring to be with my father.
Then, my father went through the whole—the fall
of Paris—refugees, and that whole terrible
story of the fall of France.
(interviewer) And when did he leave?
(Diana) He left two days before the Germans arrived in Paris.
(interviewer) How did he go back?
(Diana) —and they were there the next
day to look for him—very scary.
(interviewer) There, where?
(Diana) At our apartment.
They were there, looking for him, and he
had left just, as I said, two days before.
(interviewer) They knew exactly where he lived.
(Diana) Yes.
That’s easy, it was probably in the phonebook.
(Laughs)
(interviewer) Yeah.
(Diana) It was—how can I describe it?
Letters—letters don’t cut it, but there were
a lot of letters, back and forth, about
all this, describing everything.
Refugees, leaving from—leaving Paris, and
they were clogging the roads, and—my father
worked out a way to get out of Paris using
only farm roads—completely off the beaten track.
He’d figured out a way to worm his way down
to the Spanish frontier, and—and he got
there, and he didn’t have a visa.
It had expired, his visa.
So, he sat there in a long line, with—an
eraser, and a little knife, and he scraped
away the date in his passport very, very
carefully, and wrote in a current date.
But of course, those poor guards—frontier
guards that had been standing there for hours,
they never caught him.
So, he got in.
These little funny details that can mean
life and death—life or death, are amazing.
(interviewer) And then, during the war years, where were
you?
(Diana) I was in the States.
(interviewer) Where?
(Diana) First, I had high school here in
Chicago, and then, I went to Radcliffe.
Actually, 1940 is when I went to Radcliffe.
And I was just thinking about how much
in 19—right after—first—the first year,
I was the only one who seemed to care.
I mean, there really wasn’t much concern among college kids.
They really were very protected, I think.
They were not interested in the European War at all.
It was pretty isolationist.
And—I remember starting a little paper
called The Toxin, to try to alert people.
(Laughs) It was pretty funny.
But then, after Pearl Harbor, of course—and
then, in 1942, people really started to do
more than just knitting and collecting silver
paper, and all the stuff that everybody was
trying to do.
So, we started taking classes—yes, I took
a class in Auto-mechanics, and a class in Navigation.
I was going to be a ferry pilot if necessary.
I mean, not a pilot, but a navigator with the pilot.
Isn’t that crazy?
I mean, we really thought we could do this.
We went nights, and after—after classes and things
like that—really goofy, apple-picking—stupid
stuff, but kids tried—everybody was trying to help.
It was the home front, and everybody really
was—it’s totally different from now, so different.
(interviewer) So, you’re in Radcliffe through the whole war?
(Diana) Yes.
We had the Wave cell there in Fort—one of
their training camps, so they were marching
up and down in our quadrangles, and—and
Harvard itself was pretty empty of students,
except for foreign students—quite a few of
those, and 4-Fs, of course, who weren’t
able to go to war.
So, things were very—it’s hard to describe,
because I never went to college in normal
years, so—(Laughs)
(interviewer) And after the war—I mean, you told me you
ended up in Paris, working for the Marshall Plan.
How did that all come about?
(Diana) Yes, I did.
Well, that was three years later.
Yes, I did, just for a year, but it was fascinating work.
It was interesting that we—our work was
focused on trying to persuade the Marshall
Plans that this was not a deep
dark plot to somehow rip them off.
They were sure America was just trying to rip them off.
(interviewer) The French?
(Diana) Yes.
I never talked to anybody who was doing the
Marshall Plan elsewhere to see if it was the
same thing everywhere, but—it certainly was, in France.
Little by little, they saw that it was really
a pretty good plan, and very much to their
advantage—fascinating plan.
It was really one of the good things
America did immediately, I think.
It was quite—quite interesting.
(interviewer) How did you get involved with that?
(Diana) Well, I was—I was hoping to go work in Europe,
and I knew one of the journalists who was
involved, and—and so, she hired me, and
she was going to be there, and—it was—it
was—this was the public relations part of
the Marshall Plan, where we were trying to
sell—as they say, sell the plans to the
French, so that they would cooperate more with
the plan, and really be more enthusiastic about it.
Anyway, it’s—
(interviewer) How are your feelings toward Germany after
the war, and the discovery of the Holocaust?
(Diana) My feelings towards Germany?
Oh, dear.
No, I have never forgiven the Germans.
I don’t think you can.
I mean, if you really lived this close to it.
I didn’t have anybody person—any personal
friend in the Holocaust, but I know so many
people who did, and—the Holocaust
is something unimaginable.
I think that no matter how much you read about
it—no matter how much you hear about it,
I don’t think you can really—really fully grasp it.
(interviewer) Did you go back to Germany?
(Diana) I don’t think so.
(interviewer) Not once?
(Diana) Why bother?
(Laughs) I have been back very briefly in
one of these little tours of Europe kind of
trips, but nothing extensive.
No, I mean, I think that there are wonderful Germans.
God knows we had plenty of German friends,
but it’s—it’s a tragedy when a whole
country’s mentality can be persuaded to
accept what they became persuaded to accept,
and go along with.
So, I think one can be bitter about the country,
as opposed to just being bitter about Hitler, personally.
It’s—it’s a personal decision—
(interviewer) Do you have any sense, or any feelings about
how Germany, today, is looking at their past
as they’re trying to understand World War II?
Have you talked to any Germans about that, or read anything?
(Diana) No, I really don’t—I’m not able to talk
about that because I really haven’t been talking to Germans.
All I read is what we read in the newspapers.
I really don’t—I love their environmental work.
Now, there, I’m really enthusiastic.
I mean, they’re among the leaders, environmentally,
in Europe, and I think that that is wonderful.
They’re really thinking ahead in such a
constructive way, and—but I don’t know
much about anything—any other part—part of them.
And I know the current Germans are not the
same people—all the usual stuff, and I’m
sure I’m—if I went to live there, I’m
sure I’d find plenty of congenial people
to connect to.
(interviewer) Could you see, as a child—I mean, obviously,
you were very young.
You were ten years old when you were
hearing these remarks in school.
(Diana) I’m sorry, I’m not hearing you very well.
(interviewer) When you were in school and you were a child,
you heard these anti-Semitic—different
racial remarks.
Could you see—not as a kid, but now, could you
see how that hatred could turn into something
so dark so easily?
(Diana) Could I see it then?
(interviewer) Could you see it then, and could you see how
it turned into it now?
(Diana) Well, I think any kind of—I think any kind
of really profound prejudice can turn dark
easily because it’s so—seems to be so
little barrier between just an opinion, or
a passion, or a true sort of visceral kind
of inner hatred that some people seem to have.
And then, going overboard and acting on it.
So, it’s one of these progressive things, I
think, that’s there, and should be guarded
against because it really is so dangerous—because
the borderline is so fluid, and so easily
manipulated as Hitler did, and Goebbels did.
This manipulation the repetitive lie is so powerful.
It’s extraordinary how quickly—I mean,
they’ve done tests to know about—even
here—college people have done tests about how
quickly people can change their personalities
and so on, under certain circumstances.
So, it’s—the human psyche is so fragile.
It’s frightening in that respect, and it’s
why one has to guard against these changes
that could be made by politicians, or other people.
It’s really hard to anticipate where the
danger’s going to come from exactly, but
one really has to be ready—to be ready about
what truths are told, “Truth,” being one
of the reasons America’s in such turmoil today
is that, we have two truths circulating
among our two political parties—the Democratic
truths, and the Republican truths, and it’s
very hard for people to talk to each other
because they don’t believe the same—what
they call, “Facts,” and this is
sort of what happened in Germany.
The facts were changed for people, into the
most blatant, outright monstrous lies that
people swallowed.
So, truth guardians—guardians of truth are
the most powerful people, and they really
have the biggest job, and the most important
job—to keep—keep people sane, at least.
(interviewer) Were you aware of any changes in your father’s
attitude after the war, toward Germany,
or toward the post-war settlement?
(Diana) I think he felt as he grew older, and he continued
to write about it in the National Affairs,
exclusively—I think he felt that even though
we said we had learned, that the world still
hadn’t learned enough from the lesson—that
we were never quite protected adequately,
and he became—in later life, he sort of
went overboard himself, I think, and became
almost a hawk about protecting ourselves,
and being—don’t you think you used
to have conversations with him?
(interviewer) Yes.
(Diana) Later, when he was getting very old?
(interviewer) You’re right.
(Diana) It’s—I don’t know whether that answers
your question.
He really was very, very focused on the
dangers of extreme political movements.
I mean, he was really worried about the Russians.
He was afraid that communism would have more
of an effect than it eventually did, but it
could have had a bad result.
And any kind of fascism is very
dangerous from his perspective.
(interviewer) How old was he when he died?
(Diana) Sorry.
(interviewer) How old was he when he died?
When did he die?
(Diana) He died in ’75, ’76—somewhere in there.
He was eighty-five.
(interviewer) Eighty-five.
(Diana) Yeah, he was eighty-five.
(interviewer) Was he pessimistic or hopeful about the future
at that point?
(Diana) Sort of a mix.
He saw good things and bad things, depending
on the—what was going on at the time.
He wrote one book called, A great
time—A Good Time to be Alive.
That was one of his more hopeful books.
(interviewer) Do you have any of his papers or letters?
(Diana) Do I what?
(interviewer) Do you have any of his papers or letters?
(Diana) Very little.
We had a robbery in our house, and they took a
whole cabinetful of all his personal stuff.
Isn’t that awful?
I mean, they could have taken—thrown everything
out, but these robbers took the whole darn
thing and didn’t throw anything away.
It was horrible.
It was an Italian sculpture thing that, I
guess, they thought was—had some worth.
So, I lost all that, which was too bad.
I have his book.
He wrote twelve, so that’s a lot of stuff in there.
(interviewer) Okay, good.
(Diana) I think that’s enough, thank you very much.
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Annotation

Marvin Perrett was born in September 1925 in New Orleans, Louisiana. He was on his way home from church with his parents when they heard on the radio about the attack on Pearl Harbor.Sensing an imminent conflict, about a month before the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt took the Coast Guard out from under control of the treasury department and placed it under the control of the navy.There was a lot going on in New Orleans at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack, 7 December 1941. By May 1942 German submarines were prowling the Gulf of Mexico. In time, 116 ships were attacked of which 58 to 60 were sunk by enemy subs.Perrett had a feeling that at some point enemy soldiers would be walking the streets of New Orleans so he decided to enlist. His father was a veteran of the First World War and had been wounded in France by the Germans and refused to sign so that Perrett could enlist at age 17. Therefore Perrett enlisted at age 18 and on 16 September 1943 he went to the navy recruiter. He wanted to serve aboard a battleship or cruiser.Perrett was told by the navy recruiter that they had filled their quota and that he should check with the Coast Guard. He was sworn in that same day and was given orders to be at the L&N railroad for transport to Saint Augustine, Florida for six weeks of boot camp training.Perrett's boot camp training was extensive. During his time there he was warned by some of the chiefs not to mess up or he would be sent to landing barge school. Most of the recruits he was with didn't know what the chiefs were talking about but, being from New Orleans and having seen the landing craft being built by Higgins Industries and going on maneuvers on Lake Pontchartrain, Perrett knew exactly what they meant.After six weeks of boot camp Perrett and 149 others were put aboard a train bound for the Marine amphibious training base at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina for training with landing craft. He then spent the next six weeks training with the Marines.

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Perrett was sent on a truck to Little Creek, Virginia. When Mr. Higgins [Annotator’s Note: Andrew Higgins] finished building the landing craft in New Orleans, he would put them on rail cars and send them to Little Creek, Virgina. Perrett and his group took possession of 28 to 30 of the landing craft, most of which were LCVPs [Annotator's Note: Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel]. They then motored the boats out into the harbor in Norfolk, Virginia and met up with a Coast Guard-manned amphibious assault troop transport called the USS Bayfield (APA-33). When they went aboard they became part of the ship's crew.The Bayfield was designed to transport 28 to 30 of the landing craft. The Bayfield steamed to New York and by February [Annotator's Note: February 1944] they found themselves loading troops bound for Glasgow, Scotland.The Coast Guard and navy had identical pay scales and uniforms. The only difference between them was a white shield on the sleeve of the Coast Guard uniforms. When some of Perrett's group went ashore on liberty in Glasgow they came back hanging their heads because the ladies wouldn't have anything to do with them. Their navy brothers had informed the ladies ahead of time that the white shield on the sleeve signified that the man had some sort of disease. They soon cleared that up.Plymouth, England was to be their home port abroad. They knew that they were bound for France but didn't know where.US Navy admiral Don Pardee Moon went aboard the Bayfield with his staff of about 100 men, making the Bayfield a flagship.Closer to D-Day [Annotator's Note: 6 June 1944] General Barton, the commanding the 4th Infantry Division which was to go ashore on Utah Beach, went aboard followed by Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.A storm caused the invasion to be postponed from the 5th to the 6th. When they pulled out of port they followed the English coastline. Each time they passed a coastal town more ships would join the armada, eventually totaling 5000 ships.It was thought that the landings would be made at Calais. To fortify the belief in Berlin that Calais was the target, General Patton was sent to Dover. That was not to be, the invasion was in Normandy.Perrett's ship pulled out of port at 9:00 o'clock on the morning of 5 June and arrived off the invasion beaches at 2:00 o'clock on the morning of 6 June. Twelve miles offshore the armada split in two with 2500 ships heading for Utah Beach and 2500 heading for Omaha.At 2:30 on the morning of 6 June the order "away all boats" was given.

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After going over the side, the boats would then form up waves of ten or twelve boats which rode around in circles until being called to the ship to take on troops. 36 troops were loaded onto each boat. Then they headed for the beach [Annotator’s Note: during the invasion of Normandy in June 1944].The boats couldn't head straight to the beach. A couple thousand yards offshore they would encounter a Coast Guard sub-chaser acting as a control boat. The control boats would give the landing craft the signal to head for the beach.When the control boat got the word from the beach master they would send in the boats. On Perrett's first trip in to the beach carrying 36 troops of the 4th Infantry Division, one soldier was staring him down. The soldier told Perrett that he had landed at Sicily and Salerno and told him not to land them too far from the beach. Due to arriving at low tide and with all of the trash on the beach, Perrett was forced to drop his load off about two city blocks from the beach. On his first trip in, an army 1st Lieutenant Chaplain got seasick and vomited over the side which all blew up into Perrett’s face; he was blinded by the mess. When his Motor-Mac [Annotator's Note: US Coast Guard and Navy slang for a Motor Machinist] saw what had happened, he got a bucket full of sea water and threw it into Perrett's face. The soldiers in the boat all laughed and it broke the tension of the moment.Perrett took his time getting his troops to the beach. He knew that the faster he got the men to shore and returned to his ship the sooner he would have to go back in with another load.When Perrett got back to the ship, a weasel was put aboard his boat with an army sergeant. He then pulled around to pick up a single soldier, Major General R.O. Barton. Perrett took General Barton ashore in his boat [Annotator’s Note: his LCVP], PA 33-21.Prior to the invasion, on 28 April 1944, Perrett's group pulled out of Plymouth, England for a training exercise in an area known a Limey Bay. Unknown to them, 9 German E-Boats [Annotator's Note: German navy torpedo boats] were patrolling the same area they were to train in. The E-Boats slipped undetected into the convoy and sank two of the troop-laden LSTs [Annotator’s Note: Landing Ship, Tanks] and damaged another, killing 750 soldiers and sailors. The incident was kept from the public for the next twenty to thirty years [Annotator’s Note: Perrett is referring to Exercise Tiger].

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After the invasion they left Southern France [Annotator's Note: Perrett means Northern France, in June 1944] and returned to Norfolk, Virginia, the men were given a fifteen day leave. When Perrett returned from leave he was ordered to report back aboard the Bayfield [Annotator's Note: USS Bayfield (APA-33)].The Bayfield went through the Panama Canal bound for Pearl Harbor to prepare for the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa.At Iwo Jima, Perrett lost his boat on the first wave.For the invasion of Iwo Jima, the Bayfield was transporting elements of the 4th Marine Division and had aboard Major General Clifton B. Cates, commanding general of the 4th Marine Division.After Perrett hit the beach and offloaded all but two of the marines, he noticed a marine at the bow of the boat wrestling with the tripod for a .30 caliber machine gun. Realizing that the boat surging forward from the waves could crush the marine, Perrett reversed off of the beach. He hadn't fully closed the front ramp of his boat though and when he put the boat in neutral, water poured in through the open bow ramp and sank the boat.Perrett and his crew armed with Springfield rifles and the two Marines left in the boat, made their way to another landing craft which dropped them on shore. They were now on the front lines.It was around midnight before Perrett was able to get back to the Bayfield.Prior to the landing on Okinawa, Perrett's ship was used as a diversion. On 1 April [Annotator's Note: 1 April 1945] Perrett was promoted to Bosun's Mate 2nd Class [Annotator’s Note: also Boatswain’s Mate]. It was also the day of the invasion of Okinawa.Perrett saw a kamikaze strike a transport. The transport began to list and had to be towed out of the area.In September [Annotator's Note: September 1945] Perrett was back home in Little Woods. When he entered his house he saw that his uncle, a Merchant Marine captain, and his mentor, a navy ship captain named Flood Beyer, were at the house. When Beyer saw Perrett's campaign ribbon he asked where Perrett had served in the Pacific and Perrett replied that he had been at Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Beyer then stated that his had been the first ship hit by a kamikaze at Okinawa. Perrett told him that he had seen it from the USS Bayfield.

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They hung around in the area [Annotator's Note: the crew of the USS Bayfield, near Okinawa] for about twelve days waiting to see if the troops they were carrying would be needed ashore. When it was clear that they would not, they headed for Saipan and dropped the troops off there. From there they went to Guam and offloaded their provisions then returned to the States where Perrett left the Bayfield.After being discharged, Perrett went to a military orientated high school to finish his high school studies. He graduated from Warren Easton High School in 1946. He was later inducted into the Warren Easton Hall of Fame.Perrett returned to Normandy for the 50th anniversary and for the 60th when he was awarded the French Légion d'honneur [Annotator’s Note: National Order of the Legion of Honour].In 2005 they went to Iwo Jima for the 60th anniversary of the invasion where they joined up with Japanese dignitaries.Perrett trained at the Ponce de Leon Hotel. They would be taken to the rifl range and then would be taken into a dark room in which silhouettes would be illuminated on the wall. There they learned to tell the shapes of various ships.For use in the landing craft they were issued army .30 caliber Springfield rifles [Annotator's Note: M1903 rifles]. They were also issued .45 caliber pistols [Annotator's Note: M1911 pistols].When on the beach on Iwo Jima, Perrett was fired on a number of times but could never see where it was coming from because he was concentrating on getting himself and his crew off the beach.After the other boats coming in dropped their troops off, Perrett and his crew would then help load wounded onto them. Perrett didn't have the heart to take the place of a wounded guy. Eventually a boat came in that took him off shore. There was so much firing going on that it was like several 4th of July's in New York wrapped up in one.

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There was some rivalry between the Coast Guard and the Navy but they got along fine. There was also a time when a number of African-American troops were on aboard and they never had any racial problems.At Normandy, Perrett loved the sight of the 8th Air Force overhead.When the Marines raised the second flag on Iwo Jima they were given the pole and flag by a Coast Guard quartermaster from an LST [Annotator's Note: LST-758] named Bob Resnick.Perrett and Resnick were interviewed for a television program but Resnick died the Sunday before the show aired.At Normandy, particularly after the first landings, Perrett backed off of the beach went back empty. After bringing General Barton [Annotator's Note: US Army General Raymond E. Barton, at the time Commanding General of the 4th Infantry Division] ashore wounded were being loaded aboard for him to bring to an LST [Annotator’s Note: Landing Ship, Tank] that functioned as a hospital ship.Since they were a flagship, they were off the beaches until D+19 [Annotator's Note: 19 days after the initial landings; 25 June 1944 in Normandy] delivering fresh troops and cargo in, bringing wounded out, and transferring them to the hospital ships. It was also not uncommon after three or four days into the operation for Perrett to bring fresh troops or cargo in and bring ten or fifteen German prisoners of war (POWs) out to one of the LSTs being used as a POW vessel. The LST would then deliver the POWs to a POW camp back in England. For the German POWs the war was over, for Perrett the war was just beginning. He still had to finish Normandy then took part in the invasions of Southern France, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. Perrett hauled POWs in both theaters.When transporting POWs, soldiers would deliver them to the boat. The prisoners were unarmed and Perrett never had a problem with any of them.During the first few days of invasions, Perrett and his crew lived in their boats with no chance to take a bath or eat in many cases. When they would pull up next to their ship to refuel, a bucket would be lowered with frankfurters, sardines, and crackers in it for Perrett and his crew to eat. The canned sardines could be stored in the boat and eaten later. 

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Perrett's contact with the German prisoner of war (POWs) he transported was very brief. The POWs were usually quite and respectful and there were no problems with them.At Iwo Jima, four or five Japanese POWs were brought aboard so they could be interviewed by the staff of the general and admiral for intelligence purposes.Very few prisoners were taken at Iwo Jima because they preferred to die. Many jumped off of cliffs to commit hari kari [Annotator’s Note: Japanese ritual suicide]. Perrett saw the Japanese POWs but never spoke to them. They were treated well and fed three times a day like everyone else.The landing boats had three .30 caliber machine guns mounted on the stern for protection. The boats were made of marine mahogany and could accommodate 36 fully armed combat troops. The ramp on the boat would be dropped and the troops could exit the boat quickly. The ramp was then pulled back up. The boats could travel with the bow ramp down but Perrett wouldn't recommend it.Orders were passed by signal flags using semaphore code and blinker lights using Morse code.The boat crews were well trained at Camp Lejeune to operate the boats, but Perrett claims that they were a little slow learning semaphore.Perrett never had a logistical problem. They always had sufficient fuel and supplies.During air raids they would stand off of the ships to act as lifeboats if necessary so it was important to keep the boats fully fueled.Perrett thinks he saw a USO show on Saipan but doesn't recall who the performers were.When Perrett made the invasions of Normandy and Southern France he was still a Seaman 1st Class. Although he was a coxswain, he wasn't promoted until after the invasion of Southern France. When he left the service he was a Bosun's Mate 2nd Class.To pass the time Perrett made a lanyard for his bosun's pipe which was used to signal different orders. Still to this day when admirals and generals board ships they are piped aboard by a bosun's mate.Perrett has sold a number of bosun's pipe lanyards.The modern bosun's pipes don't sound as good as the sterling ones issued when Perrett was in the service.

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Perrett was awarded the European Campaign Ribbon [Annotator's Note: Europe/Africa/Middle East Theater Ribbon] with two battle stars for Normandy and Southern France, and the Pacific Campaign Ribbon [Annotator's Note: Asiatic/Pacific Theater Ribbon] with two battle stars for Iwo Jima and Okinawa. He also received the World War II Victory Medal as well as the Meritorious Coast Guard Service Medal and the French Knight of the Legion of Honor, which he is the most proud of.Perrett reported aboard the USS Bayfield in Norfolk, Virginia and remained aboard until the end of the war. After the war the Bayfield was mothballed until the Korean War when she was returned to service with a navy crew and earned four more battle stars. After the Korean War she was again mothballed but was called back to active service for the Vietnam War to be used for evacuations.While standing in front of the replica landing craft at the D-Day Museum [Annotator's Note: Perrett is referring to The National World War II Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana] Perrett was approached by a man who stated that he had been aboard the Bayfield. Perrett learned from the man that he had been in the US Marine Corps and had been sent to Kingston, Jamaica to stage for the invasion of Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis. After the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Bayfield was cut up for scrap. Perrett feels that she should still be around today.Perrett was asked to speak at the Coast Guard Base in Alameda. When he went to Fisherman's Wharf he saw the SS Jeremiah O'Brien which is a World War II liberty ship that has been restored as a museum. The SS Jeremiah O'Brien had been at Utah Beach during the Normandy invasion during which time Perrett helped to unload it. When Perrett informed the ticket takers of this, he was ushered aboard the ship to meet with some of the volunteers who worked on the ship. Perrett was invited to take a trip aboard the ship. He showed up at the boat at the scheduled departure time wearing his World War II uniform. Perrett was even allowed to take the helm at one point while they were underway.In 1989 or 1990 Dr. Ambrose [Annotator's Note: Stephen E. Ambrose] called upon Perrett to help find a landing craft for the D-Day Museum that was to be built on the lakefront. The museum was built in the Central Business District [Annotator’s Note: of New Orleans, Louisiana]. If it had been out at Pontchartrain Beach it may have had trouble from the last hurricane [Annotator's Note: referring to Hurricane Katrina]. Perrett is proud of being associated with the D-Day Museum and wishes that Ambrose was still alive to see what his dream had become.

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