Gordon Tadewaldt was born in June 1926 in Aurora, Illinois. He was one of five children. When his father lost his job as a steamfitter for a railroad company due to the Great Depression, he worked for the WPA [Annotator's Note: Works Progress Administration] and made 48 dollars a month. Tadewaldt recalled feeling very angry when he heard the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor [Annotator's Note: the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on 7 December 1941]. Tadewaldt was a truant growing up; he skipped out of school and took various jobs around the country. At age 17 Tadewaldt became a merchant seaman in the Merchant Marines and volunteered to be part of a convoy up to Nova Scotia in 1944. He turned 18 at sea right after the D-Day invasion [Annotator's Note: Allied invasion of Normandy, France on 6 June 1944]. While on leave [Annotator's Note: an authorized absence for a short period of time], he met his wife at a dance. He was drafted into the Navy, and completed his basic training in Great Lakes, Illinois, and then was selected to attend Gunner's Mate School. He contracted Scarlet fever while in training. He married his wife after he completed Gunner's Mate school. He got orders to go to Shoemaker, California was assigned to the USS PGM-1.
Gordon Tadewaldt recalled that the USS PGM-1 had patrol duty around the Philippines. He recalled the kamikaze attacks during the fight for Okinawa [Annotator's Note: Okinawa, Japan]. He also remembered his ship preparing for the invasion of Japan before the war in the Pacific finally ended. Next, they had mine duty at the mouth of the Yangtze River near Shanghai, China. Tadewaldt spent time in Shanghai taking weapons from the Japanese after the surrender. The USS PGM-1 was ordered to report to the Philippines where it was decommissioned. Tadewaldt returned to the United States and was discharged on 1 April 1946 and volunteered for the Navy Reserve. He was called to active duty during the Korean War, but during his training he received a hardship discharge because he was about to lose his home in Illinois. [Annotator's Note: A doorbell rings in the background and the interviewee gets up to answer the door from 0:26:33.000 to 0:27:14.000.]
Gordon Tadewaldt recalled that he wanted to join the Navy because he wanted to fight like the rest of his friends. He liked the idea of having clean clothes and a bunk rather than being in the Army where troops get dirty. Tadewaldt recalled not knowing too much about the Japanese people. When he was serving on the USS PGM-1, they came across a Japanese troop ship disguised as a hospital ship in the Dutch East Indies [Annotator's Note: present day Indonesia], which the Japanese surrendered to the USS PGM-1. He used the G.I. bill to buy his home. Tadewaldt pursued a career in carpentry and architecture after World War 2.
Gordon Tadewaldt's most memorable experience of World War 2 was when the USS PGM-1 was caught in a typhoon on their way to Okinawa [Annotator's Note: Okinawa, Japan]. He decided to fight in the war because of his personal patriotism. The war changed his life because it gave him a greater perception of life and humanity. He believes America is fading and is saddened for the outlook of his grandchildren and prays for the end of the strife. He sees a lack of patriotism in the country and it is a great worry to him. He believes it's important to have institutions like The National WWII Museum [Annotator's Note: in New Orleans, Louisiana] to continue to teach to future generations. It was an inspirational experience to see the Golden Gate Bridge and Statue of Liberty during his service on the USS PGM-1.
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