Prewar to India

Stationed in India

Postwar Thoughts


Joseph Silvia was born in April 1922 in Newport, Rhode Island. He was exposed to the military at age 12, by a soldier his family befriended. He joined the ROTC [Annotator's Note: Reserve Officer Training Corps] in high school. He turned 17 and decided to join the Naval Reserves. He did a couple of cruises with them. The war broke out and he went back to Newport and school. He got notice his division was being activated. He failed his physical due to his vision. He was drafted and wound up at Camp Devens, Massachusetts. He was sent to Miami Beach, Florida and then to Louisiana with a fighter squadron. He also trained in Oklahoma. He then went to California where he ended up in Air Transport Command. He boarded a ship to the Pacific and slept on the outer decks using carboard to shelter from the weather. He ended up in Perth, Australia where he waited ten days to take a ship to Bombay [Annotator's Note: Bombay, India] for another ten days and then to Karachi, India. He spent his roughly two years in Tezpur, India. They used American Airlines planes to fly the Hump [Annotator's Note: name given by Allied pilots to the eastern end of the Himalayan Mountains over which they flew to resupply the Chinese war effort] at the time. After the war, Silvia bought a house. He moved in and met his neighbor, Chuck O'Connor, who had been in charge of the base Silvia was stationed at in Tezpur.


Joseph Silvia was stationed in Tezpur, India as a teletype operator [Annotator's Note: with the 1347th Army Air Force Base Unit]. They were supplying the pilots and airplanes to fly the Hump [Annotator's Note: name given by Allied pilots to the eastern end of the Himalayan Mountains over which they flew to resupply the Chinese war effort]. They had B-24s [Annotator's Note: Consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bomber] later on. They lived in houses with straw roofs. One P-51 [Annotator's Note: North American P-51 Mustang fighter aircraft] pilot buzzed the houses and did not peel off in time and he died. Not every airplane made it back to the base. He would go into town occasionally to get good Chinese food. It was not a good impression for him. The caste system was bad. [Annotator's Note: Silvia references something the interviewer has that describes his time there.] He visited Agra and New Delhi [Annotator's Note: both in India]. They had great meals in New Delhi. He traveled to Rawalpindi and Kashmir [Annotator's Note: both in Pakistan]. In Kashmir, he befriended a British Master Sergeant who made arrangements for them to fly on a British C-47 [Annotator's Note: Douglas C-47 Skytrain cargo aircraft] back to New Delhi and then by train back to Tezpur [Annotator's Note: Tezpur, India].


Joseph Silvia thought the caste system in India was odd. The Americans lived like kings compared to the British there. China and Burma were more relaxed regarding military code. The daily routine was get up and work the teletype and perform administrative work. The end of the day was tough, playing tennis and riding horses. They were in such a bad situation that their weapons were taken away and given to the Chinese. The Japanese came near and then they got guns back. Flights supplying Chiang Kai-Shek [Annotator's Note: leader of the Republic of China] were continuous. Silvia was in headquarters the day the atomic bombs were dropped [Annotator's Note: nuclear weapons dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, 6 and 9 August 1945]. He was in India when the war ended. He returned by troop transport to New York [Annotator's Note: New York, New York] and was discharged at Camp Devens [Annotator's Note: in Ayer and Shirley, Massachusetts]. He went to Oklahoma City [Annotator's Note: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma] to meet a lady friend. She came back and married him in New England. They had eight children. He has been to The National WWII Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana twice and was treated royally. He has been on the Honor Flight [Annotator's Note: conducted by non-profit organizations dedicated to transporting military veterans to visit the war memorials in Washington D.C. at no cost to the veterans] and it was beyond the call of duty. He became an honorary member of the Vietnam Brotherhood. Treat yourself good is a lesson he took from the war. He was fortunate in his service.

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