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Ralph Crump [Annotators Note: For the first 22:26 of this interview the interviewer and interviewee chat about family history and have a casual conversation. The first 22:30 should be cut out. It has no bearing on World War II or anything related to World War II.]

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Crump was only aware that the Depression was a tragedy. Times were hard. Crump’s dad was unemployed half of the time. His dad scrapped and clawed to make mortgage payments. Roosevelt took everyone off of the gold standard. His grandmother had a hobby of collecting three dollar gold pieces. Crump’s grandma had a bunch of the 3 dollar pieces. Suddenly when gold became 20 to 30 dollars an ounce the value of the gold piece shot way down. It was illegal that time to hoard gold. Crump’s grandmother thought that Roosevelt was a terrible guy. Crump thought that the New Deal plans were unconstitutional and that the plans they enacted were horrible. As bad off as the cities were Crump’s family was not too bad off. Crump had an uncle named Oliver who would help bring food for processing to the Crump’s farm. Crump has fairly successful farmers in his family. Little by little they grew the farm. His nephews and nieces inherited the farm because he was a bachelor. They had good times and bad times. [Annotators Note: The interviewer has a brief conversation with an unknown lady] Crump went to a school called Oak Street School. The family lost the house and they only owed 1300 dollars. Crump went to a school in the west end for two years, 7th grade to 8th grade. Crump was an officer in the ROTC in 1939 and 1940. They moved to California. He was a hardworking student and not the brightest but he did make valedictorian. He had some great teachers. Crump had a wonderful math teacher. His teacher would get their early for an early morning session. She took five or six kids and honed them into algebra. Iowa State University had a program that accepted high school kids. Crump believes that the teachers in that day had a religious calling.

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All of the Catholic school teachers were nuns. They were not married. High school teachers in Iowa were required to be single. For practical purposes the west coast was already at war because of all of the military industry that is tied up in the area. They were called defense plants but they were very much offensive plants. Crump’s dad was a carpenter for Kaiser ship building. The whole idea of preparing for war was pervasive. It took Pearl Harbor to validate and kick off the production. Crump thought on Pearl Harbor day that the Japanese might bomb their area. The Japanese in fact did not bomb the mainland. There was a war defense plant there that the Japanese had attempted to bomb. Anti aircraft guns were placed almost everywhere. There were blackout conditions. If there was an air raid warning you would see lights in the sky searching for planes. Crump’s father was an air raid warden and had a funny looking hat. Crump graduated shortly after Pearl Harbor and it was a depressed ceremony. Crump had been accepted into UCLA but he knew that college was not a good option. Jobs were available at the very least. There was a patriotic zeal to it. People wanted to go work at the shipyard or do something that helped out the war effort. There was a socialistic left wing movement to have a strike at the shipyard. Two of the unions were opposed to the strike. The left wingers had stepped in and it was too late. The strike happened. People showed up who wanted to work. They were organized and agitated to strike. Crump took some pictures of the guys. Crump was not home two hours before someone came to the door and asked them for the pictures. They demanded the camera and the film but they sustained their ignorance about it.

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Crump had enrolled as a draftsman in the local aircraft plant but in the meantime several of the shipyards had posted jobs as well. They needed all levels of help. Crump applied for a job at the Consolidated Steel Shipyards. Within days he got a call for an interview. He got the job in the engineering department but he was the lowest paid clerk. He was a blueprint clerk. Crump made 15 cents an hour. A month or two later everybody got a raise to prevent a strike. There were three guys making 15 cents an hour and their immediate boss was upset that anyone working underneath him was making that little. He helped get Crump 25 cents an hour. Crump would always ask the older guys for advice. Crump sometimes would run errands for the guys. One night Crump went into one one of the departments on his way home and an engineer was adding up the weight of the various assembly parts for the hull that was going to launch soon. It was 5 o’clock at night and he had a huge stack of worksheets. Crump ended up helping him out. 8 o’clock rolled around and he and his three man crew finally decided to go home but they still had a big stack of paper left. Crump told the guys to go on ahead and he finished the job. At about 11:30 or midnight they found out that the ship was way overweight. Crump was so excited to find all of that out that if he had anyone’s phone number he would have called it right away. Crump had a cubby hole where he would manage the incoming and outgoing blue prints at the job. Those catalogs would make their way onto the ship when it was finished so if anyone needed to reference anything when the ship was operational they could find it. The harbor where the ship was being dredged at the time. The main thing was to keep the shipping lane open. They had to make sure the weight of the ship was correct. As a result of his hard work Crump received a promotion to the calculation department. The elite Navy architects were working on that job. Crump ended up making 75 cents an hour.

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Crumps dad was making 90 cents an hour. A dime was a big difference in those days. Gasoline was 10 cents a gallon and a loaf of bread was 10 cents. The rationing took effect rather quickly. In 1942 Crump’s father bought a house for under 1500 dollars. He sold it for 2500 dollars. He thought he was making a lot of money. Today the house is probably a quarter of a million dollars. No one was really expecting to make money off of their home. The internment camps were in the desert. [Annotators Note: Crumps wife speaks up about her experience with interned Japanese.] The Japanese owned a lot of small stores. They raised all of the fruit and vegetables along the coast. They owned the farms. They were dominant in the fishing industries as well. They had to pay mortgages on their properties and when they lost them it made it hard. Everybody at the shipyard was being overworked. Everyone at every level was being pressed to do more beyond their skill. Crump was just a high school graduate but he was doing low level engineering work. He had three bosses which was confusing and frustrating. One of the guys was an old German. After World War I this guy had worked at a shipyard in Germany but before Hitler came to power he moved to Argentina and eventually ended up in the United States. There was nothing polite about him but he really knew his business. The German coworker really knew his stuff. The German was able to figure out how to launch the ship. Everyone slapped their head and thought how the heck did we not figure that out. He was a tough boss but he really knew what he was talking about. Crump got frustrated with the level of bosses at his work and eventually decided that he wanted to serve.

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Crump stayed in the shipyard for the better part of a year. They had launched about 14 ships. The launching details had been worked out. His foreman got a job on the Columbia River. They were launching big tug boats. Crump decided to follow his foreman. They laid two hulls down. In February of 1943 the shipyard was sabotaged by a Japanese submarine that came close. The largest salmon canning plant in the world was in Astoria. Their shipyard was burned down along with the salmon canning plant. A lumber yard was burned down as well. Crump received an industrial deferment to work in Oregon at in the shipyard. His foreman took two or three other guys with him to set up an engineering department. In February of 1943, all of that came to a halt because of the sabotage. The government contracts stopped coming in. The shipyard was started by a group of wealthy investors from Santa Barbara. The business went into bankruptcy but the government wanted the contract fulfilled. Crump was hired because he knew how to loft the ship. Crump had left a lot of his calculations at home and when the fire started he had maintained most of his calculations. He was making roughly 250 bucks a month. Crump worked hard to make money and he had plenty of incentives to stay. Crump recalls many times where he watched people who were professionals and who were older do a job so he could learn from them. At 18, 19, 20 years old one feels like they know everything but looking back Crump feels as if some of his thoughts were dumb.

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Crump came back after the war to visit some of his buddies. He got there the very day they were floating the ship. They were short an engineer so they grabbed Crump and utilized his skills. There was a lot of work that needed to be done on the ship. They were gone a good 24 hours. Crump got along very well and was making good money. Crump got the urge to go to war in the early days of 1943. They had an anti aircraft battery on their job site most of the time. Crump would buy some bottles of cold beer and share them with the guys who were manning the anti aircraft batteries. Later on he had a career altering meeting. He met a guy who was older then Crump by about five years. Crump was invited to go to lunch. This man was a naval officer and his job was to oversee cargo ships in the Pacific. Most of his experience was in the shipyards in Alaska that were gearing up for the invasion of Japan. Kiska and Attu were dominated by the Japanese for a couple of years. Those that lived on the west coast knew that the Japanese were right around the corner. It irritated them that the Japanese were occupying those islands. In the event that they were attacked the cargo ships were outfitted with anti aircraft machine guns. Crump was able to talk to a naval officer about what life was like. Crump was getting tired with his current job. They had government guys that were breathing down their neck making sure that the contracts were fulfilled correctly. Crump grew tired and applied for a commission in the Navy and barely passed his physical in Seattle. When Crump went in for his physical they said he had enlarged tonsils. Crump had his tonsils removed at his own expense. Crump was told that tonsil surgery was an outpatient surgery. Crump went into an office in downtown Seattle. When he showed up in the doctor’s office the Navy guy was there as well. Crump had to pay cash to get his tonsils taken out. Crump’s teeth are big. To get a commission you have to have 28 serviceable teeth. The dentist told him his teeth would not do because he had a cap issue on one of his teeth.

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Crump was able to get a gold crown in his teeth and was able to join. This was in late 1943. Crump was told then that there was indeed a shortage for gunnery officers. The problem was they lacked billets at the two places on the west coast to teach the guys how to shoot. Crump was wait-listed as a naval gunnery officer. The Navy also needs marine engineers and mates. There was a facility in the Merchant Marine academy to fill those jobs. Crump’s first opportunity opened up at the Merchant Marine academy. Most of Crump’s education he got on the ship. He was assigned to San Mateo. He was there for 90 days. Crump chose marine engineering rather than the deck side of it. Crump got what he wanted. There was a lot of math involved and a lot of physical requirements. One of the interesting things they did was that they were always worried about getting torpedoed. You never knew when you were going to be called on for a drill. Crump recalls that a third of his class washed out. Some guys were washed out because they could not do the physical things. The discipline was pretty tough. Crump remembers a poor Italian kid who washed out because he was not able to put out a fire on the water. Crump went out to sea at the tail end of 1943. The guys talked about what was going on in the Pacific. The newspapers carried most of the stories but looking back a lot of the events were kept secret. Crump took note when there were battles and followed them. There were several ports of embarkation that sent ships to help out in the South Pacific. The Japanese were more interested in sinking capital ships then sinking convoy ships. The ship ahead of Crump was torpedoed while on its way to Bora Bora. The torpedoes they were using were terrible. Crump was a cadet midshipmen in the engineering department. Crump drew another German chief engineer. He was a nice guy with reserved friendliness. There was no nonsense and Crump had to dutifully fulfill his obligations. It was good training. They went around the world in six months. The Americans had a submarine base in the southern part of Tasmania. They dispatched some supplies there. From there they needed engine work and they had a tough time sailing around Australia. They carried cargo on their decks and on their deck they mostly had aircraft parts and components. They ended up taking their cargo into an area near Calcutta. They were in Alexandria for several days long enough to assemble a large convoy. They formed up in the Mediterranean and each ship was a mile apart.

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Crump and the Chief Engineer had done some work when the seas were calm. The Chief Engineer felt that there was a better way to regulate the speed of the propeller than messing with the steam valve. If they were steaming at 80 rotations per minute they could get better control at 81 or 79 rotations per minute. There was a linking system that allowed for the reciprocating engines to reverse themselves by the use of a quadrant. He figured that if he advanced the quadrant a quarter of an inch he could control the rotations per minute at a singular pace jumping from 80 to 79 or 80 to 81. It was tedious work getting the ship to start and stop again. They always kept the captain posted. The captain was impressed with what they were doing. The captain married the daughter of Admiral Sims from the Navy. Crump notes that at night the guys needed to be careful how they controlled the rotations per minute on the ship so they did not run into anyone. Crump and his chief engineer helped prove their point to other captains that they could manipulate the rotations per minute. When they left Alexandria they did not know where they were going. The North African Campaign was essentially over. Their convoy had a bunch of prisoners who were captured during the North African Campaign. It took them 14 days travelling at about 10 knots to get from Alexandria to the tip of Italy. The Germans had whittled them down to 66 ships. One ship never made it out so the convoy started with 99 ships. Crump has enlisted some help regarding piecing together the history of the convoy system in the Mediterranean. Crump took a lot of explosives from a port called Port Tufic in the Red Sea. They took tons of material from there and Alexandria. Most of the stuff they took back was stuff that had been used. They hypothesized that they would be taking this material to the south Pacific. When the convoy Crump was on broke up some of the ships went to Anzio. Others went to Salerno. Crump was supposed to go there but the orders were changed. They were assigned to go to a little island called Panteloria [Annotators Note: Not positive on the spelling.]. It was an abandoned German submarine base. The Americans had air bases in Tunis and Italy.

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Crump got to Panteloria and was alongside the dock. All of the German prisoners of war did the work. They were younger guys but they were battle hardened. Crump got to know a couple of the black guys. They had all been with the Big Red One. One of the older guys was in his 30's. All of the blacks got the worst work. It was all low level maintenance work and cargo handling. Each black guy had a squad of 10 or 12 Germans under him. The first day they came on board they asked if they had a leftover water hose. Each guy wanted a length of water hose about two feet long. They took the water hose and put it around the wooden handle. It created a paddle type thing. Crump remembered one of the old black guys talking about how they had taken shit for two years but he was not going to take shit from any Kraut. They had to hustle the cargo down into the nets. Crump’s wife had a cousin who made his way up the boot [Annotator’s Note: the boot of Italy]. Crump believes that the Italian campaign was a waste by Churchill. Churchill called it the soft underbelly yet if it was soft Crump does not want to see the hard underbelly. Crump’s second trip carried war material to the Persian Gulf for the battle of Stalingrad. 50 years later Crump got a medal from Boris Yeltsin thanking him for his contribution. They left with about 50 ships from Philadelphia. Each ship had a diesel locomotive in the hold. The supplies went to Tehran and from there to Kursk and Stalingrad. 33 of the original 99 ships on Crump’s first convoy did not make it. Crump wants to see if there are any records on that. Crump knows it happened because they used to gamble on which ships would make it or not. They bet 1 dollar per ship and each dollar bet lasted 24 hours. The Germans were very effective at strafing the convoy. They would coordinate the submarines and the planes to attack the convoy. They had to be careful when depth charging the German submarines. The destroyer escorts only would stop to pick up survivors. Some of the destroyer escorts were French and British. In the summer of 1944 Crump headed into the Persian Gulf. Just because the ship went down did not mean that the whole ship was lost. More often than not more than half of the crew would survive. They would hop into lifeboats and put their life vests on.

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Within hours any ship passing the destroyer escorts loaded with prisoners would receive prisoners from those destroyer escorts. Crump’s ship had a man who was picked up after his ship was torpedoed. Some of the guys in the early days of the war would have rainbow tattoos. Crump was ordered by law to report to the Merchant Marine Academy in Philadelphia at the end of the war. Crump was supposed to help load the ship up. His academy boss told him that within 24 hours of landing in an American port he had to go to the local post office to find a local Merchant Marine officer and report to him. Crump always had the feeling that he was going absent without leave but he was ordered to be off of the ship when they reached an American port. Somebody had to run the boilers on the ship for safety reasons. [Annotators Note: Crump’s wife makes a comment on how people today think the Merchant Marine was an easy going service.] Some of the guys who worked in the boiler rooms had problems later on in life. The shipbuilders had problems because of asbestos. Some of the guys went deaf because of the pounding in the boiler room. Crump made 65 dollars a month on the John Davey. He had been making 265 dollars a month. Two days before Crump was ready to leave Philadelphia. Crump got the 3rd Mate's job. The steward stayed on and one or two of the cooks stayed on. The naval gunnery officer left.

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One of Crump’s friends was on watch on a ship that was torpedoed. Crump’s convoy had about 35 percent casualties. The military knew at the time but it was kept in the dark from the populace. At the beginning of 1944 end of 1943 Germans were sinking ships faster than they could build them. Plastic had just been invented and the guys used to swim out to a wreck to eat a sandwich. The plastic would come in play because they could wrap their lunch in it. The chances of getting out of a ship that has been torpedoed if you are in the hold is very slim. Crump went through a tremendous amount of maturation. There was a ton of growing up. Crump also had to deal with casualties. It was the first time in his life he had seen casualties. Crump makes note that in the United States we value our youth. It was our youth that fought and won the war. These kids were flying planes that were worth up to a million dollars. The soldiers and young GIs were making decisions that affected people’s lives. Their physical shape was different from today. The kids back then were undernourished and in a lot of cases poorly educated. Crump is amazed that their generation did as well as it did. For many people Army life was the best life that they had up to that point. For many kids in the country today that would still be the case. A lot of the youngsters that are volunteering are learning skills that are useful. Crump believes it was a mistake to stop the draft. Crump believes that we are making two big social mistakes in the United States. One is that we have too much money tied up in representation both in the military and in politics. Crump believes that it is a mistake that up to 50 percent of people do not pay taxes. Everybody had skin in the game during World War II.

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Crump was lucky making the transition from military to civilian life. He had worked in the shipyards prior to military life so that readied him for the military. Leaving the military he had picked up valuable skills so the transition was not that bad. Crump understood the inner workings of the ship. He also understood how much oil was consumed during a trip. The war was over when Crump got home but he stayed in the service for awhile. Crump was in the Naval Reserve at this time at well. They were fitting ships to carry leftover war material to China. They were carrying back to Asia a lot of the diplomats that had been in exile during the war. They were also carrying varying ambassadorial details. Crump had the American ambassador to China on his ship. They had the Chilean ambassador. He was the world’s expert on nitrates. His wife was a concert pianist. He was picked up in San Francisco and taken to China. The ambassador to French Indochina was in exile as well. Crump went to Shanghai. One of the ladies on the ship requested Crump’s escort in Shanghai. She turned out to be a daughter of Chiang Kai Shek. She had requested various basic pharmaceuticals. Crump did what he had to do and was able to buy 500 dollars of what she requested. Crump did not want to carry the stuff off of the ship. There was anarchy in Shanghai because of lack of government. Crump did not want to have his stuff confiscated. There was a contingent of Marines in China that met the Merchant Marines to provide safety. There was a huge prisoner of war camp 50 miles upriver from Shanghai. They liberated little by little the prisoner of war camp. They brought back people with them that were essentially Caucasians. Crump had met an American prisoner from the camp who was the son of a wealthy sugar owner. Crump wishes that he had kept in contact with him. This man’s family still produces massive amounts of sugar and are a big name in Hawaii.
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