A short story from one of Carlton’s many veterans as written by Carlton Pleasant Hill-Martinez resident, Harriett Burt.
Paul Moser graduated in 1942 from Pittsburg High School (California), a US Steel mill town across the country from the original US Steel mill in Pittsburg, (Pennsylvania). He and his three best friends signed up for the service in 1943, Paul choosing the US Navy’s V-12 program which trained young enlistees to be Naval officers. He took ‘basic training’ at San Mateo Junior College and was accepted to Midshipman School at Northwestern University in Chicago. It was a 90-day training program. When asked if that made him a ’90-day-wonder,’ the sarcastic slang term I grew up hearing? Besides “yes,” he corrected the slang phrase as it was used at the time by enlisted crew members. “90-Day-Blunders’ is what they called us,” he says, which he admits was not completely wrong.
He was sent to New Orleans and assigned to an LST (Landing Ship, Tanks), a ship that was used throughout the Pacific and most famously, for the landing at Normandy. Paul’s friend and table mate at the Carlton Pleasant-Hill Martinez, Jim Tresposkoufes, rode in an LST to Omaha Beach.
In 1944, Paul was transferred from New Orleans to the Philippines where the Japanese had just been “largely” defeated with a few being captured or escaping to home or into the jungles of the various islands of the archipelago, where they died or were eventually captured, some a few decades after the battle.
Equipment was being gathered and training underway for an invasion of Japan when Paul arrived. At the age of 20, he was named “Executive Officer” (second in command) of Ship 741 over four officers and 110 sailors.
“LSTs won the war,” Winston Churchill said later according to Paul. Had they been needed for a fight in the Japanese home islands, Paul and all the others who were being trained not to mention the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, knew it would have been a ‘fight to the last man’ by the Japanese as it had already been on the Pacific islands up to and including Okinawa. Only a literal handful of the American military, a few scientists, and the Soviets as it turned out, knew the Manhattan Project was about to achieve the atom bomb.
Paul and the 741 crew used the time in the Philippines to train. He describes the LST training as “An operation designed by geniuses to be used by idiots.” He describes himself as one of the idiots.
An interesting point Paul makes is that by 1943-44, very few of his high school classmates were joining the service because it was so easy to get well-paying jobs in the war industries locally. Besides US Steel, Dow Chemical had a big plant in Pittsburg. Nearby were oil refineries such as Associated on the Martinez/Concord border and Shell Oil and Shell Chemical in Martinez not to mention C&H Sugar and Union Oil in Crockett and Rodeo. He chose to sign up for the Navy for patriotic reasons.
On August 9, 1945, the Japanese emperor, Hirohito, announced the Japanese army would surrender following the second atom bomb drop on Nagasaki. After a week of internal and external back-and-fourth, Japan officially surrendered on the Allied terms on August 15.
Paul and the crew of 741 brought the ship home to Martinez, anchoring right offshore of what is now Waterfront Park. Since the ship was stocked full of all kinds of supplies, the crew including Paul were allowed to help themselves. Since he lived so close by that his dad could come pick him up in a car, Paul grabbed a pistol, some tools and lots of food which his family enjoyed.
What really stands out in his mind 75 years later? “To me,” he says, “one of the greatest things we (the United States) ever did was the GI Bill of Rights which made it possible for so many veterans to go to college. We got $65 a month to cover tuition and all supplies. ‘The Greatest Generation?’, the GI Bill was part of that.”
Learn more about Paul: Resident Spotlight – Paul Moser
Written by Harriett Burt, Carlton Senior Living Pleasant Hill-Martinez Resident