Prewar and Occupation Duty in the Pacific

Occupation and Postwar Life



Robert E. McGovern was born in October 1926 in Flint, Michigan. His parents were from Lebanon, Pennsylvania and his father was a Purple Heart [Annotator's Note: the Purple Heart Medal is award bestowed upon a United States service member who has been wounded as a result of combat actions against an armed enemy] and Silver Star [Annotator's Note: the Silver Star Medal is the third-highest award a United States service member can receive for a heroic or meritorious deed performed in a conflict with an armed enemy] recipient of World War 1. McGovern graduated from St. Michael's Catholic School in Flint, Michigan in 1943 at 16 years old. In September, he enrolled in the General Motors Institute, known today as Kettering University [Annotator's Note: in Flint, Michigan], studying mechanical engineering. In June 1944, McGovern enrolled in the ASTRP or Army Specialized Training Reserve Program. In August, he reported to the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois to begin the necessary courses. Ten days later, his father passed away. McGovern struggled with school after that and worried about his mother and five sisters at home. He left the university in January or February 1945 and was sent to basic infantry training at Fort Hood, Texas [Annotator's Note: then Camp Hood in Killeen, Texas]. After he completed his training, all the others around him received orders to specific outfits, but he did not receive any. He stayed behind for cadre instructor training. McGovern had applied for OCS [Annotator's Note: Officer Candidate School] and scored very high on the test but was too young to be eligible for officer training. In the Spring, McGovern reported to Camp Maxey, Texas for cadre instructor training. While on furlough [Annotator's Note: an authorized absence for a short period of time], the atomic bombs [Annotator's Note: nuclear weapons dropped on Hiroshima, Japan on 6 August 1945 and Nagasaki, Japan on 9 August 1945] were dropped on Japan and the cadre instruction was cancelled. McGovern soon boarded the USS Leonard Wood [Annotator's Note: USS Leonard Wood (APA-12)] for transport to Batangas, Philippines. Many of the sailors became violently seasick in the mess hall. After this, he swore never to return to the mess hall and says he survived the rest of the voyage by eating Almond Roca candy [Annotator's Note: manufactured by the Brown & Haley Company, Tacoma, Washington]. Upon arrival in Batangas, McGovern was assigned to a replacement depot to await his assignment into a unit. After a couple of days of waiting around, McGovern and a few other men went into town to look around. On their return to camp, they passed truckloads of soldiers full of gear. They returned to an empty camp where they survived alone for several days eating C rations [Annotator's Note: prepared and canned wet combat food]. After several days, an officer arrived in a jeep and informed McGovern and the others that they were assigned to the 79th MP Company [Annotator's Note: 79th Military Police Company] and that they were all AWOL [Annotator's Note: absent without leave]. They were taken to the captain and chewed out but managed to escape any other discipline. The 79th MPs later merged with the 225th MP Battalion [Annotator's Note: 225th Military Police Battalion]. McGovern was assigned to duty atop a guard tower watching over United States military prisoners. The camp also had Japanese POWs [Annotator's Note: prisoners of war], but he never guarded any of them. Knowing that he would not be in any combat, he and his friends decided to look for the easiest assignment they could find. They were reassigned to the 79th Postal Unit [Annotator's Note: unable to verify unit] as post office clerks. They each received their own private tent and Japanese assistant. The postal unit had a few jeeps assigned to their station as well. One night, McGovern and some others took one to the movie theater on base only to have it stolen by members of the 225th Battalion [Annotator's Note: the 224th Military Police Battalion]. To get even with them, they shipped all the personal mail to New Guinea. After several days without mail, the jeep was returned, and they never had a problem again. McGovern was transferred to a Quartermaster unit based in Manila [Annotator's Note: Manila, Luzon, Philippines] but does not remember which one. He did guard duty at the Quartermaster depot but does not remember doing much else. He returned to the United States in the summer of 1946 and was stationed at Fort Sheridan, Illinois until his discharge in December [Annotator's Note: December 1946]. While he was at Fort Sheridan, he was given orders to not leave camp. After three or four days of being bored, McGovern and a few friends decided they wanted to go to Chicago [Annotator's Note: Chicago, Illinois]. They all had passes [Annotator's Note: an authorized absence for a short period of time], but they were for Manila. They went to Chicago for the night anyway. When they returned, the guard at the gate stopped them and asked for their passes. When he was given the passes that said Manila, he chewed McGovern and his friends out and told them that he was going to make an issue of it. However, a Corporal decided to let McGovern and his friends go. McGovern was relieved. He received his discharge papers the next day.


Robert E. McGovern was never in any combat while he was in the Philippines because he arrived soon after World War 2 concluded. He did interact with Japanese POWs [Annotator's Note: prisoners of war] in the postal unit where he was assigned. One day an empty box was mailed to an outfit. McGovern brought in some of the Japanese prisoners and began to question why the box was empty. Once of the Japanese, who was in the Marines, began to interrogate the others until one confessed to stealing a watch out of the box. The Japanese Marine beat the thief for his actions. The Japanese were very honorable people and stealing was a serious infraction. McGovern was hoping to be assigned to Japan, but never made it there. Overall, he had a good experience during his service. His father died while he was at the University of Illinois [Annotator's Note: in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois], which had put a damper on his service at the beginning. He enlisted in the Army at 17 because he did not want to be drafted. McGovern heard from some friends about the attacks on Pearl Harbor [Annotator's Note: the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on 7 December 1941] while on the way home from a movie theater that evening. He arrived home to see his father pacing the floor, anxious to enlist, with his mother struggling to, though ultimately successful in, talking him out of it. He participated in the war efforts at home. McGovern's father was a plumber by trade and was unemployed throughout much of the Great Depression [Annotator's Note: The Great Depression, a global economic depression that lasted from 1929 through 1945]. He says the family lived without electricity or indoor plumbing for many years. The family raised chickens and grew vegetables to survive. Everyone in the neighborhood was in the same situation. There was not governmental assistance like America has today for people. He thinks people on government assistance think it is tough, but it is nothing compared to what he lived through. When the Great Depression [Annotator's Note: the Great Depression was a global economic depression that lasted from 1929 through 1945] began, to ease its burden on the family, McGovern's father went back to work and received a government bonus paid to all World War 1 veterans. This was a godsend to his family. McGovern married a classmate, Fran, from high school in 1949, but she died at age 36. His sister introduced McGovern to a schoolteacher named, Donna. On their first date, they went skiing. McGovern never went skiing before in his life, so he was doing the bunny slopes, while Donna, his sister and brother-in-law were doing the regular slopes. McGovern and Donna married in November 1963. He had two daughters during his first marriage, and three children with his second marriage. McGovern just turned 93, but his health is not all the great today [Annotator's Note: at the time of this interview]. He has a few medical conditions and sees every kind of doctor except an OBGYN [Annotator's Note: obstetrics and gynecology doctor].


Robert E. McGovern's most memorable experience of World War 2 was when his father died. He followed the war as a teenager using maps and reading newspapers. He could not wait to get in and that is why he enlisted at 17 years old. Fortunately, he did not see any combat, but at times he wishes he had. He served in the war because he is a patriot and loves America, as his father and son were as well. His son saw action in Iraq [Annotator's Note: Iraq War, 2003 to 2011] and received a Bronze Star [Annotator's Note: the Bronze Star Medal is the fourth-highest award a United States service member can receive for a heroic or meritorious deed performed in a conflict with an armed enemy], while his father received a Silver Star [Annotator's Note: the Silver Star Medal is the third-highest award a United States service member can receive for a heroic or meritorious deed performed in a conflict with an armed enemy] for his service in World War 1. McGovern believes that his service made him love his country even more, prior to World War 2. He wishes it was different today and wishes that Americans were more patriotic than they are now. He believes most American citizens are in favor of Socialism and this upsets him. He thinks people like Socialism because they can live off other people's wallet. McGovern is glad to have served and wished he could have done more. He is grateful he had the opportunity to serve the country. He believes that there should be institutions like The National WWII Museum [Annotator's Note: in New Orleans, Louisiana], and we should continue to teach to future generations. He thinks the Museum is a wonderful organization and he is happy he was interviewed. McGovern says kids get very little Civics in school today. Teens and college kids have no idea about World War 2. The youth do not give a damn about the subject. McGovern loves The National WWII Museum and wants it to continue to thrive so people can learn more about the experiences of the servicemen and public at the time of World War 2. Once when he came home on furlough [Annotator's Note: an authorized absence for a short period of time], the civilians could not do enough for the servicemen and women. When he was at the University of Illinois [Annotator's Note: University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois], he took a cab ride to the train station and the driver did not charge him. He went to buy a pack of cigarettes at a drug store and was told to skip the line to the counter. The clerk at the counter gave him a whole carton. The public could not do enough for their servicemen. People today are not doing enough for our Veterans. The Vietnam [Annotator's Note: Vietnam War, or Second Indochina War, 1 November 1955 to 30 April 1975] veterans were spit on and treated horribly. He thanks God for people like Gary Sinise [Annotator's Note: Gary Alan Sinise, American actor, director, musician, producer, philanthropist].

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