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Interview with Edwin Black

Interviewee: 
Black, Edwin
Interviewer: 
Griffin,Ruth Faye
Date of Interview: 
2004-03-26
Identifier: 
OHBL0308
Subjects: 
World War II, U.S.S. Rich, Normandy, radio, U.S.S Chelton Destroyer 79, U.S.S. Nevada, Vietnam
Abstract: 
Edwin Black was a sailor on the U.S.S. Rich which took part in the invasion of Normandy during World War II. He talks about his experience in that invasion. As well, he talks about his experience as a radio announcer and what it was like to live during other wars.
Coverage: 
US, Normandy, 1942-2004
Interview Setting: 
The home of Louise Shirley in Monroe, North Carolina.
Collection: 
WSOC-TV Oral History Project
Collection Description: 
Faye Griffin as part of her internship with New South Voices interviewed Mr. Black to find out more about the Normandy invasion and life as a part of the US Navy.
Transcript:
[background noise of RG checking the recording] [phone rings] RG: I'm going to let it run a few just to make sure.
EB: OK.
RG: I, I apologize.
ED. Well it's alright. Doesn't bother me. [laughter, phone rings]
RG: I can imagine you had your own mistakes trying to learn all those guns and everything, so. [laughter]
EB: When I was in radio I had a lot of problems there.
RG: A lot of learning time. [laughter]
EB: Got a make a recording on a tape and you'd get it made and you'd miss something, you're words or something.
RG: I did that last week. I had copied a tape and had recorded forty five minutes of air. [laughter]-Making sure it's on. Hello. Hello. Yeah, it's on. I can see the little light show now. [referring to lights on equipment]
EB: OK. So you can go back through the questions and bring me back in where you want me.
RG: Oh, I'll go back go through. I'll start back with the introduction again for the poor transcriber. [laughther] Today is Friday March 26th, 2004. And we are at the home of Louise Shirley. My name is Ruth Faye Griffin and I will be the interviewer. I am an intern with the Oral History program through the Special Collections Department at UNC-Charlotte. The interviewee today will be Mr. Edwin Black. Mr. Black served in the US Navy during World War II on the U.S.S. Rich that was sunk during the invasion of Normandy. Sitting in with us will also be Ms. Louise Shirley. Mr. Ed What is your full name?
EB: Edwin Brown Black.
RG: OK. And how do you spell Edwin?
EB: Edwin.
RG: OK. That's good. What is your birthday?
EB: 3-13-24
RG: How old are you now?
EB: 80.
RG: Have you ever been married?
EB: Twice.
RG: Twice.
RG: How old were you when you enlisted?
EB: Eighteen.
RG: What did you do before that?
EB: Well, I worked in grocery stores and I was a radio announcer too at Fatteyville WFMC.
RG: OK. Why did you enlist?
EB: Well, everyone else was going you know. So, so the thing was "Let's go boys, see what it's all about".
RG: Go see the open seas. [laughter]
EB: I didn't want to be left behind and be a rejectee. I wanted to get in there and see what I could do too, you know. [laughther from both]
RG: Why, why did you choose the Navy?
EB: Well, I chose the Navy. I thought we'd probably see more country and it just appealed to me more than the than other services did.
RG: OK. How did you get placed on the U.S.S. Rich?
EB: Well, we went down to Norfolk from Bambridge [Bambridge, Maryland] and they selected the crews there for, for all of the "D" training schools. And crews going everywhere for DE's all over the country you know.
RG: [laughter] So your name just got kinda put on a list.
EB: Got put on a list. I might tell you this. I had a cousin. And we were in school together. We the played guitars together, we dated together, we worked in the stores together. We joined the Navy together, we trained together, we went on the same ship together, and we both did radio on the ship.
RG: Oh wow. So you were more than just cousins. Ya'll were best friends.
EB: Yeah, and of course we were sunk and that split us up. And he went to one hospital and I went to another. But later we got back in the same hospital in Charleston. And by that time I had a private room off the ward. So the day I was discharged, he took my room. [laughter from both] And then a week later he came home. So that's an unbelievable story isn't it.
RG: Oh gosh. What was your job on the Rich?
EB: Radio operator and technician.
RG: What did that entail? What did you do during the day?
EB: Well, worked on equipment and then copied the code from NSS radio in Washington D.C. And I was chosen to deliver the messages to all officers on board.
RG: Yeah.
EB: We had twelve officers and I had to make sure the officers signed, signed each message that came in. So consequently I got to know each man on the ship. You know, going all over the ship you know. "Hey Black." I'd say "Hey Jones or whoever I meet, run into."
RG: And you actually got the names right most times?
EB: Yeah, I knew them all. I had a pretty good memory and I could remember if they were from Georgia or Tennessee or ( ).
RG: How many were on the ship?
EB: 215. 12 officers, rest were enlisted men.
RG: OK. Wow.
EB: Youngest. Well, we had a young officer. Gunnery officer. Lieut. JD [J.D. Cunningham] 22 years old. 22 years old.
RG: Wow.
EB: He stayed in the Navy. He later became a commander with the U.S.S Chelton Destroyer 79. He's still living but in bad shape with cancer, out in Missouri.
RG: OK.
EB: But we try-I call him, I call a bunch of them this week on the phone.
RG: You check up on him?
EB: Yeah. Since a, since all this happened. I don't how I worked into being the chairman for the U.S.S. Rich and coordinator and historian.
RG: Oh wow.
EB: Planning reunions and keeping history and staying in touch with them all. It's been quite a job. But being single and-
RG: And you know all their names anyhow. [laughter]
EB: Yeah, I had more time and you know a lot of them were still married. And financially too some of them couldn't make it. Course I've been very lucky. I, I gave up the chairmanship last year but I think I'm going to be reappointed at the next meeting. [laughter from both] We will have our survivors meeting in Litchburg, Virginia. But I am probably going to Europe instead, and I'll tell you about that later. How that came about.
RG: OK. How many survivors are there?
EB: Left now?
RG: Left now.
EB: I don't have any idea. There's only about probably 12 or 15 who are able to get to one of the survivor meetings.
RG: OK.
EB: Old age, and bad health, and distance doesn't permit them to show up.
RG: Life just happens.
EB: Yeah. I get out a newsletter to all of them each two months. Tell them who's dead and who's living and what we going to do. All, all the publicity I get, I put it in the newsletter for them. Right now I think I got a 165 newsletters going out. But it's going to parents and brothers and sisters of boys.
RG: As well.
EB: Yeah, uh-huh.
RG: What was basic training like?
EB: Well, it was pretty rough.
RG: Pretty rough?
EB: Yeah, pretty rough.
RG: What did they put you through, like during training?
EB: Well, you had to do the manual of arms. You had to march. And learn all the different things about the Navy. You didn't say floor, you said deck. And you didn't say bathroom, you said head. [laughter] And chow. So we, we were pretty-
RG: Different lingo.
EB: Yeah, that's what I was about to say. The lingo became very different.
RG: Oh gosh. Had you, had you ever held a gun before or anything like this?
EB: No. I never was a hunter. I never did like to kill. And I-
RG: What was that like having to learn how to use different weapons?
EB: I had no choice.
RG: You're in the navy.
EB: I mean they say you're going to be, to be the trainer on the guns. So that was it. I was scared to death on that gun.
RG: Really?
EB: Just before we got sunk I had a foot pedal that shot. It's four barrels. It shot four, four barrels at one time. And I, I'd mash that pedal to fire the gun and my foot would just shake on top of that pedal. You know, what if I was supposed to shoot or wait or what. I was scared to death of that, and--
RG: Yeah.
EB: A boy who is now deceased. He and I were the only survivors. And he said that we fired that gun till the barrels were red hot. And I can't remember that.
RG: You can't remember any that?
EB: Don't remember that.
RG: Wow. Now you were a trainer?
EB: Yeah, I was the trainer and he was the pointer.
RG: Now what does a trainer do and what does a pointer do?
EB: Well, I was the one who made the gun go up and down. And he was the one that swung it around like- [show motion of with hands]
RG: Swung it side to side. OK.
EB: Uh-huh. Yeah. And the other boys were shell men. Hot shell men, sticking the shells in the gun.
RG: So you had to keep two jobs going for-Communications when you weren't in battle and then your battle station was then the gun?
EB: Well, normal cruising I was radio operator but during battle conditions my battle station was on the gun. Yeah.
RG: OK. Did most everyone have two jobs like that I guess?
EB: Yeah. 'Bout everybody had a different battle station.
RG: OK. That way everything got done.
EB: Yeah.
RG: The morning of the invasion. What time did it begin?
EB: We left Plymouth England escorting the U.S.S. Nevada, battleship over. Left on the fifth. Supposed to invade on the fifth. Due to the weather, we messed around out there in the channel till the morning of the sixth. And we had big barrage balloons up over all the ships for aircraft. We got in there about two o'clock in the morning. And they were bombing, the air force was bombing that coast. And see gas dumps going up. I said, "That's going to be a cake walk here, ain't nobody going to be left over there." [laughter] And so we opened fire at twenty minuets till six. Twenty minuets till seven. And that's when all hell broke lose.
RG: Oh gosh.
EB: Battleships, cruisers, destroyers firing on the beach over there.
RG: What was that like being in the channel? Because I've heard stories about how, how it was still pretty rough that morning.
EB: It was rough then. It was terribly rough on the fifth.
RG: Yeah.
EB: And Eisenhower had already written a speech that we had lost.
RG: Really.
EB: Yeah, he was going to deliver the speech that we didn't make the grade. But we did. The only thing that kept- The only way we won that, getting in there was replacements. Send ten men, seven would get killed. And then send ten more in. [laughter] So replacements was what-
RG: Sending in more people. How close were ya'll to shore?
EB: Oh, our ship was sunk the closest to the beach of any warship. And, at one time we were about four miles off and then we worked onto the beach, and. The night of the sixth we laid a smoke screen from Omaha Beach to Utah Beach. And we were right at the beach with that smoke screen going off the back of the ship.
RG: Wow.
EB: And I was frightened then. Because I figured all they had to do was shot in front on that smokescreen and get the ship you know.
RG: Yeah.
EB: We made it alright. But, that was real fearsome doing that.
RG: What was the actually job of the Rich? Did ya'll protect other ships? Or were you just a destroyer ship?
EB: Well, we were protecting the Nevada. But normally we were a convoy crew. We'd leave New York and take convoys to Londonderry, Ireland. Live in Ireland for three or four days. Go to shore, then get back and. Come back across, back to the states and pick up another convoy. Get that North Atlantic was a real, rough to go through. Yeah.
RG: [laughter] Was rough-- So if you didn't have sea legs before-
EB: Lot of, lot of submarines. And that's primarily what destroyer escorts were built for was for fighting submarines.
RG: Yeah.
EB: We had several contacts. But as far as ever sinking one, I heard we did and I'm not sure whether it's true or not. But I heard we sank one. But, I, I don't have any proof of it.
RG: Don't know? What was it like over in Ireland when ya'll go to shore?
EB: Very nice. Good looking Irish girls [RG laughter] over there and you know. We'd all get us a date and go to the movies or go out and eat. Most of the time I, I'd go out and eat somewhere.
RG: Yeah.
EB: Eat a steak or something like that.
RG: Anything besides ship food? [laughter]
EB: Yeah, I ate a steak in one place over there in Ireland, yeah. We played baseball. Course, the ship. We would, when we went into port we secured all the radio. And it was being copied up on a hill up in Londonderry. And my job was to go up to the radio station and pick up the stuff for the ship. So I went up one afternoon, and they handed me a priority piece of mail. Priority, confidential. [RG nervous laughter] And I brought it make to the telecommunications officer. And I knew it was-
RG: I was about to say. Were you a little worried looking at that?
EB: Yeah. It is bad news. I gave it to Lt.Enquist and he took it into the code room and came back out boy his face was white as it could be.
RG: Oh gosh.
EB: And I didn't say a thing to him, and he didn't say a thing to me.
RG: But you just knew.
EB: And he went on up to captain. And a lot of the boys were on liberty. Half the crew was on liberty.
RG: Yeah.
EB: And they started rounding them up, all the boys that were in town they got them, the SP's [shore patrol] got them all back aboard ship. And we pulled out. Went down and loaded, put so much ammunition on there that you couldn't even walk through, through the ship for the shells in there.
RG: Now I know I read at some point that the men that were installing the guns. Something about the crew of the ship was separated from those who were installing the guns for some reason.
EB: Yeah, yeah we were down in, in Plymouth. And they told us all to go to the starboard side. And they came on to put the guns on our ship. And we couldn't talk to them, have any conversation, nothing. There was no interchange.
RG: How come? Just didn't want to leak out information?
EB: Well, it was such a secretive thing that they didn't--
RG: They didn't want to -
EB: They figured that some of us might talk or they might talk. And so we didn't even get to speak to them.
RG: So did the- I know you, you knew what was going on and the guy who decoded, and the captain. Was the entire crew informed of what was happening?
EB: Oh, Lord yeah. Yeah, he came on [captain] and he said we had been chosen to go into the invasion. He was a tough skipper. And he said "We'd been chosen to go to the invasion. God bless you, done a good job." And he was wounded and an executive officer was killed. The mass fell on him. And he had two little boys. They tried to get him off. I wasn't able to help get anybody off you because I was hurt so bad.
RG: Yeah.
EB: And he said "Leave me alone", he said "Get, get the others off. They're worse than I am." He went down with the ship.
RG: Oh wow.
EB: And then a TT boat [rescue boat] saw a boy in the water. And they came in to pick him up and they said "Wait a minute sailor we'll throw you a line."
RG: Yeah.
EB: He said, "No use throwing me a line I don't have any arms." And he went under before they got to him. He drowned.
RG: Oh goodness.
EB: So how we doing? [laughter]
RG: We're doing good. So being that close to the shore. Oh first of all I guess, there were some mines that hit the ship.
EB: Oh the waters full of mines. These were antimagnetic mines which they had dropped from planes the night before. And antimagnetic mine goes up to the strong to your ship you see. And it goes off and it hits the ship. Each, each mine-
RG: OK. Where you pretty close when it went off or?
EB: Do what?
RG: Were you close when it went off, one of the mines? Were you working the gun?
EB: Yeah. Well, one went off completely under the ship. And another one, it blew it in three pieces you see. Each one had 16 hundred pounds of TNT, so we had forty-eight hundred pounds of TNT blowing that little ship up. [laughter]
RG: Poor ship.
EB: Yeah.
RG: What went through your mind as the mines were going off and I'm sure there's still gun fire going on? What went through your minds?
EB: Well, well I knew we were in a bad situation. But, I didn't see anybody crying or anybody hollering. I mean everybody doing their job you know.
RG: Doing what ya'll were trained to do.
EB: Yeah, but they later said. I talked to a chief whose a close friend of mine out in Oklahoma. And he was a hero, he was helping give morphine and all that. And he said they were laying there calling their mothers, and please help me, and all that you know. And I never, I didn't see any of that. And I didn't see the ship go down either.
RG: Yeah.
EB: And we tried to kick the raft away because we were afraid it'd suck us down with it when it went out.
RG: Yeah. You were close enough. Could you see the soldiers as they were going on to the beach?
EB: Yeah. We were very close to the beach. The ship only drew ten foot of water. And we could see them over on the beach you know. We had the glasses to look through to see what was going on.
RG: Yeah.
EB: But I couldn't tell what was going on. There were a lot of pill boxes firing at us, and Navy was putting a lot of shells in there too.
RG: Yeah. I know you said at one point in your account that, that at some point there were just dead all, all around you.
EB: Just like tadpoles all in the water. You couldn't. You couldn't pick them up. And there was no use. They were dead.
RG: No use to try.
EB: And a lot of them drowned you know. Jumped off, and went under with all that pack on their back and so forth. And, I felt for them because. I mean I imagine it's pretty bad going into enemy beach on a boat and going to have to jump off when they let the front down and be ready to fire you know.
RG: Yeah. I know, I forget where I read it. But it said that at one point that a lot of the dead in the water had jumped off the ship and had put their life preservers on wrong?
EB: Yeah, yeah.
RG: Did they never show ya'll how to use them? Or in haste of it?
EB: I guess in the haste of it. I, I had on a lifejacket. I guess that kinda helped, I wasn't a good swimmer to start. [laughter] I think that helped me. I was worried that I would drown. So when I got to the raft I just wrapped the lines around my arms like that two or three times--
RG: To stay intact?
EB: Yeah to stay intact. And, incidental this feller I met at Omaha Beach. "I got you out of the water." And he got a let-a book out and it had my name in there. And I said "Well, tell me about it."
RG: Oh.
EB: And he said, "I can't tell you anything about it. Don't even want to talk about it."
RG: Really?
EB: I said, "Where you from." He said, "Connecticut" And I said "Give me your address and I'll call you when we get back to the states." So consequentially, I drove up to Connecticut to see him.
RG: Yeah.
EB: And went out to dinner and came back. And he had all kind of war stuff in a room. And he says "I got something that belongs to you here." [phone rings in background]
RG: Yeah
EB: "And I said I don't think I had anything left." He said, "Well, I got your knife."
RG: Really?
EB: And I said, "I don't need that knife." And he said, "I got your gas mask."
RG: He'd taken all that off of you when he rescued you?
EB: Yeah. And I said, "I don't need that." And he says, "I got your diary here too." And I had had a diary in my pocket and he'd cut it out of my pants when he'd cut my clothes off. And he took the diary because he thought I was dead you know."
RG: Oh wow.
EB: He was so surprised that he had seen a boy come out. In all those years--
RG: He had never--
EB: I kept wondering. "Some sailor had to of saved me and I wonder who that guy." And I got the chance to meet him.
RG: Oh wow.
EB: Wasn't that something.
RG: That, that is remarkable.
EB: Yeah, yeah. Now National Geographic--
RG: They're doing an article on--
EB: They're doing an article on us. And I just mailed the diary and pictures information to them last Friday.
RG: To them, yeah. Because I know you had been telling me they had done an article but had left out the Rich.
EB: Left us out. And then so we're going to get more publicity out of this then if they had put us in there you know. [laughter]
EB: This week I got a call from Washington said I'd been chosen, also my cousin. They're going to take 100 veterans back to Normandy. The French are flying us over, flying us back. The ambassador will fly with us on the trip.
RG: Yeah.
EB: And each, each person will have an escort, a soldier or somebody to go with us old fellows you know. And they'll pay for all the hotels, all the meals, everything is free.
RG: Yeah.
EB: All I got to do is go to Dallas. And my cousin was chosen too. You know, be two of us off the Rich going over there.
RG: So like, what's going through your mind at the prospect of going back?
EB: Well, I, it doesn't bug me. My cousin, he's all up in the air about it you know. [laughter[ Because he's been all over in Australia and everywhere else, but he's never been back there. He was just, he was just really hip about it. And I, I'm looking forward to it but I'm not up in the air about it. Because I've been back over there.
RG: You been back there before.
EB: Yeah, I've been back so many times.
RG: During the invasion, did you ever think if it was worth it?
EB: Oh yeah, yeah, sure it was.
RG: Well, I know there was such a heavy loss of life and I guess some people would wonder about that.
EB: Well, you know we were probably-- If we hadn't invaded France and gone onto get the Germans in good number. Hitler might have taken us over and we'd been under him you know.
RG: Could have been worse.
EB: Yeah, could have been worse, yeah absolutely. And I was in the hospital in England with three German prisoners.
RG: Really!
EB: Yeah, uh-huh. They were, they were in beds across from me.
RG: What was that like being in the same I guess neutral territory with them?
EB: Didn't bother me. I felt like they were just like me. They were somebody's sons who got called into the military too. They, they'd count the planes going over. And then count the planes coming back, see how many were lost.
RG: See how many of their men made it.
EB: Yeah, uh-huh. But they were scared to death of us Americans. And I never did bother them. I'd do my head like that [nods head] to them. I couldn't speak German you know.
RG: Yeah.
EB: But that was ironic, they had- This- In June- Well, lets see I was in the hospital, yeah. This was up in Wales. In the last hospital I was in.
RG: Yeah.
EB: And, they didn't, they didn't I wasn't afraid they were going to try to kill me at night or jump on me. They were more afraid of us than we were of them.
RG: Yeah. Wow. So how long were you unconscious?
EB: Thirty-one days.
RG: Thirty-one days?
EB: Thirty-one days, thirty-one days.
RG: What was your first sight, your first-
EB: When I woke up?
RG: Yeah when you woke up.
EB: I woke up in the afternoon about three 'o clock. And I looked around there and there was guys really in bad shape you know. And you know, I wondered "Where am I". And then I looked, and well I'm in a hospital. But I didn't know what country I was in.
RG: Oh goodness!
EB: So I made some kind of a noise. And this nurse came over. And she brought a major and all. And I mean I had never seen those overseas army clothes.
RG: Um-hum.
EB: And he says "How are you?" And I said, "I'm in a concentration camp aren't I?" And he said, "No son, you're in a Navy, I mean, Army hospital." And I said, "But I'm in the Navy." And I really went out of it then. And they gave me a shot--
RG: Don't really know where you're at. [laughter]
EB: Didn't wake up till the next day. And then he came back in, the same guy, and he said "I want to ask you a question." And I said, "Yeah." I actually had been in the nut ward, because they had guys tied down you see. And, and I was unconscious, and I, well they didn't think I'd ever recover from being unconscious.
RG: Yeah.
EB: He came in and said "I want to ask you some questions." And I said "Yeah." And he said "How many wheels does a bicycle have?" [laughter] And I said. "Two." He said, "How many does a wagon have?" And I said, "Four". He said, "Who wrote Tom Sawyer?" And I said, "Mark Twain wrote it but his real name was Samuel Longhorns Clemmons." He said, "Get that man out of here." [laughter]
RG: Get him out of here.
EB: Get him out of here, yeah.
RG: Oh goodness.
EB: But they were kind and as good to me as, those army boys. I didn't have postage stamps, I didn't have nothing.
RG: Um-hum.
EB: Man, they just gave me anything I wanted. And then when they brought me into the hospital that night in Shelton, Massachusetts. They sent me down to ward six.
RG: Yeah.
EB: And I couldn't, I was in a cast--
RG: Yeah.
EB: And they put me to bed. And them guys were saying "Where you coming from?" And I said, "Coming from England." Said, "I got sunk in Normandy." And they started throwing money, and shirts, and tee shirt--
RG: Oh my goodness!
EB: Yeah, they give me their clothes you know. I didn't have anything. I'd lost everything.
RG: Yeah.
EB: And they were throwing shirts and dungarees, and money and cigarettes. [laughter]
RG: Anything they had!
EB: Really made you feel good to know that they were that way you know, free hearted.
RG: Wow.
EB: Then I went down to get paid. You'll love this.
RG: Uh-oh. [laughter]
EB: I went down to get paid and they said, "Well, we're only going to give you sixty-five dollars."
RG: What!
EB: I said, "I got more pay then that." Said, "We got to prove you were on the U.S.S. Rich. We got to prove that you were on the U.S.S. Rich." Can you beat that?
RG: Oh goodness!
EB: And then, I told you they laid me on the floor.
RG: Yeah.
EB: The captain of the hospital that was in charge came around and said, "What are you doing here soldier?" I said, "Sir, I'm in the Navy. I got sunk in Normandy and was in an Army hospital." He said, "Well, I'm Mr. White." I said, "Well, I'm Mr. Black." You know [laughter] He said, "Anything I can do for you, come see me when you get ready."
RG: Yeah.
EB: And I went up to see him after I got able to travel. I didn't want to go home with my lift on and teeth out too.
RG: Yeah.
EB: And so I went up to see him and he gave me a thirty day survivors leave without any problem at all. And what was funny was all the sailors out there trying to get a seven day pass or three days, you know.
RG: And there you were with thirty.
EB: And, and I didn't say a word. I just stayed in line. They said, "What are you doing?" I said, "I'm going to try and get a leave." I come back out and they said, "How many days you get?" And I said, "Thirty day survivors leave." They said, "Oh God." [laughter]
EB: Thirty day survivors leave.
RG: Oh goodness. [background noise]
RG: Now I know historically the invasion of Normandy is just amazing. I mean, it's what won World War II. At the time, did, did you think, wow we're in something that's going to make a difference, something that's going to change things?
EB: Well,-
RG: or was it just your duty?
EB: I guess I was too young. But I think it changed the destiny of the world. That we did get the Germans defeated and all that. And I've been back over. I've been to Berlin, and all the countries over there. I watched, went over--
RG: You toured around?
EB: Yeah. I was at Check-Check Point Charlie.
RG: Charlie?
EB: Yeah. I was there. And Vandenberg Gate. And all the places over there. I travel extensively all over Europe, and all over the Scandavian countries and Belgium. Been to the cemetery at Collettsville, which is down at Normandy beach there. And also went to German cemetery which is near there to.
RG: Right.
EB: I felt for them just as I felt for my mates that was buried there. There's fourteen boys off the Rich buried at Collettsville. But I never did go to their graves, I just couldn't do it.
RG: Yeah.
EB: Yeah.
RG: How-Because I know, obviously some of the men who did die in the invasion and then the years later-How have you cope with that? Because as you said, you knew each, each man on that ship by name and their personal history.
EB: I guess I have been lucky. I can talk about it and never had any-
RG: Well, I know a lot of men can't so.
EB: A lot of them can't. And I can talk about it and describe it. And, and I don't know why that way. Because I'm an extrovert anyway. [laughter] You know, talk. And so. A lot of them, of these boys now that. Well, a few survivors, some of them won't mention it at all. They don't even want to talk about it. And I can go up to them and say "Hey you remember?" "No I don't remember that. No I don't remember that, don't talk about it".- And you asked about the food. The food was terrible.[laughter] Powdered eggs, powered milk.
RG: [laughter] Yeah, what did ya'll eat on that ship?
EB: Well, actually what, what we did- We had a heater in the radio shack-
RG: Really?
EB: And we'd steal, steal bread and butter and heat, make toast up in the radio shack. [laughter] And then if we got a chance to steal a can of peaches or something we'd steal something to eat up there.
RG: What kind of meat did ya'll eat?
EB: I had bologna most of the time. Beans and horse meat. But I'd go ashore with what little money I had and I'd buy crackers, cookies, fig newton, and pickles and stuff. [laughter] Take back aboard ship to eat, eat on the ship you know.
RG: Yeah. So ya'll didn't have to deal with the C-rations or that kind of thing?
EB: No, no we didn't have any of that. Yeah, yeah.
RG: Oh wow. I guess horse meat was, was looking pretty good. [laughter]
EB: And then, when I got back to Boston. I was standing in line there waiting to go to chow.
RG: Yeah.
EB: And these two Navy nurses come down and said "Are you Black?" And I said "Yeah, I'm Ed Black." And they said, "Well you're supposed to eat in the soft, soft diet kitchen."
RG: Oh.
EB: And went in there, and man they had all anything you wanted to eat in there you know. [laugher] Didn't have to sit down. Didn't have to wait. Sit down and they brought it to you on a plate.
RG: Oh goodness.
EB: So I ate in the soft diet kitchen most times I was there. [laughter]
RG: That would be nice.
EB: Yes, yes.
RG: So there where were you when the war ended?
EB: I was back in Pinehurst then.
RG: Back in Pinehurst?
EB: Yeah, yeah.
RG: How did you hear about it?
EB: I guess it came over the radio I guess. I bought an Exxon Service station too-I forgot about that. [laughter] And I was running the station, the Exxon station whenever it ended. And then I got rid of it and went on to college. But-
RG: Went to college off the GI Bill?
EB: GI Bill, yeah, uh-huh.
RG: What did you go to college for?
EB: Well, I wanted to be a school teacher or something. And then I went to college and then they came an opening in the post office. And I took the examination and got the job.
RG: Yeah.
EB: So I decided it was paying pretty good so I, I kept it. [laughter]
RG: Did you ever return to announcing?
EB: Yeah, I went back to announcing after-- Well I told you I drove a tractor trailer a couple of years. And then went on back to radio. So I worked about thirty-five radio stations.
RG: Wow.
EB: Went across the country-- Virginia, South Carolina, and North Carolina.
RG: What kind of radio? Music, news?
EB: Well, I played rock 'n roll, I played country and western, gospel--
RG: Really?
EB: I played a little bit of all of it. [laughter]
EB: I worked at WKTC in Charlotte, which later became WHB-- and you may be familiar with WHB and Christian broadcast. And, and I wrote commercials for WBT. And then I was an announcer at WSOC -FM that's all country western there.
RG: Yeah.
EB: And then I ran a station in Dallas, North Carolina, WAK- I ran it for over a year. Over there I was manager of it. Then I left there and went to South Carolina- WKSC and then I went to WIS in ( )
RG: Wow.
EB: I was all over you know. Actually I was running because I'd had a bad marriage.
RG: Trying to get away from it?
EB: Trying to get away from it, yeah. But I enjoyed radio. I really did.
EB: I was a weather man -
RG: You were a weather man?
EB: In news, you know read the weather on the air.
RG: Yeah.
EB: Yeah. The weather man says for Charlotte and surrounding areas, "Possible chance of rain today." [laughter]
RG: You were one of those people I listen to in my car. [laughter]
EB: "Chance of rain today around 77 percent. Current temperature now 69 degrees." [laughter] I'll give you another one ok.
RG: OK.
EB: "It's peach harvest time in North Carolina" [laughter] "It's time to visit your local peach orchard for peaches which are tops in quality and tops in taste. These peaches are good for canning or simply eating out of hand. For free color map showing the location of all peach orchards in North Carolina, write a card to Peaches, Candor, North Carolina. This is WSOC -FM Charlotte, North Carolina."
RG: Wow. You've got a great announcer's voice.
EB: "Stay tuned for the news." [laughter]
RG: I know-
EB: "Ladies, have you tried ( ) [laughter]
RG: I know after World War II there of course came Korea, Vietnam--
EB: Yeah.
RG: Some wars that quite- I know a lot of Americans don't want to remember, but-
EB: Well, I had a son in Vietnam.
RG: You had a son in Vietnam. Yeah. Well, I guess my question was being back in the States-What was that like watching these other wars happen and I guess, specifically your son being in Vietnam?
EB: Well, it, it was tough. And when you, when you had family had a son over there or one was killed or something. And I went to several funerals for boys that were killed in Vietnam.
RG: Yeah.
EB: [cough] And of course I was, everyday on my toes waiting to see about this boy I had in Vietnam.
RG: Yeah.
EB: He got, he got Agent Orange. He was, is in worse shape now then he had been. He had really awful heart trouble and everything.
RG: What was- I mean did you offer him any advice? Because I know you having been a sailor and seeing all that- You were knowing what he was going through too somewhat?
EB: No, I didn't offer him any advice. As a matter of fact, he had a chance to get out of Vietnam.
RG: Really?
EB: Yeah. And he was- my wife was an alcoholic and I'd been badly hurt and had other children and all.
RG: Yeah.
EB: So went down to Fort Bragg. And they said they would term him as sole surviving son. And so I wrote and told him "I can get you out of there if you want to come out." And he said, "I don't want to come out and leave my buddies, but I'd be crazy not to come out."
RG: Exactly.
EB: So they shipped him out. And he went to Okinawa and had bad motorcycle wreck, about got killed on motorcycle. I flew to Okinawa to see him, talked to the officers over there. And a week later they sent him home. I figured out he was home a week after I got here.
RG: Wow.
EB: Yeah. And he finished the rest of his time at Fort Bragg.
RG: Yeah.
EB: But he volunteered to go to Vietnam. He was subject to go to officer's school in Georgia. And he said he was only 18 and he didn't feel like he could lead men into battle at that age. Which I admired him for saying that. And then he volunteered and went to Vietnam. And, and he was, he made sergeant while he was over there.
RG: That's pretty amazing that he was able to get home.
EB: Yeah. Absolutely.
RG: When 9/11 happened, I know- I found it completely amazing. I was walking through school and I, I heard oh my goodness America's been attacked. [background noise] What did you think of that?
EB: Well, actually I had been-
RG: Or did you have any thoughts?
EB: I had been down here.
RG: Really?
EB: And I had a Corvette.
RG: Uh-huh.
EB: And Louise had it down here and I was taking the Corvette back, back home.
RG: Yeah.
EB: And I got outside [cough], outside of Ansonville. And the Corvette caught on fire. And I got down 731 and it was really burning then. And I got out and it blew up. And here come the fire department, highway patrol, and they said, "We've been attacked in New York."
RG: Yeah.
EB: And I didn't know what they were talking about. And so I went on home and turned the TV on and I-I couldn't believe it-
RG: There it all is.
EB: I couldn't believe it that that had happened. I just couldn't believe it. And it's, it was the first time we'd ever been attacked within the States and outside of-
RG: Outside of Pearl Harbor.
EB: Pearl Harbor, yeah. And I've been there too.
RG: Really?
EB: Yeah, I've been to Pearl Harbor.
RG: Travel around.
EB: Yeah.
RG: So what do you do now?
EB: Now? [background noise]
RG: Now, yeah.
EB: Well-
RG: I know you retired when you were forty-two?
EB: Forty-two yeah. Now I read a lot, watch a lot of TV. And-
RG: Speak a lot?
EB: I have been asked to make speeches at various places and ships. Particularly I've run into some more kids that want information. And I made a talk down at the school. And last year. And a little girl sent me a Valentine, homemade.
RG: Oh.
EB: And so I went down and gave her a book and so forth.
RG: Yeah.
EB: I like to leave some history behind you know that will be-
RG: Impact the younger generation?
EB: Yeah. When you read about the Civil War you know, this will be similar to that when. Somebody will read this. Your children, your grandchildren will probably say "Well, can't believe this, that it was like that." [laughter]
EB: But I'm mystified now by how much progress has gone on in the sixty years since I was there.
RG: Yeah. Technology has really grown.
EB: Yeah.
RG: How has that been adjusting? Because it has been crazy how fast it's growing.
EB: Hadn't, hadn't bothered me.
RG: Hadn't bothered you?
EB: Hadn't bothered me.
RG: So the internet and all that its just use it to your advantage?
EB: Well, well I don't mess with the computer much. Because I just never got into it. I was afraid I'd get to be obsessed with watching it all the time or be on it all the time. [laughter] And I like to get out and move.
RG: Get around?
EB: Yeah. See I've had a stroke and three heart attacks you see.
RG: Yeah.
EB: So I'm not able to do a whole lot.
RG: Yeah.
EB: But I, I have two cats, I pet my cats. And I read, and I watch TV, and I saw Wake Forest lose a game last night you know.
RG: Oh gosh. [laughter]
EB: I keep up with, I stay pretty well up with current events and so forth and what's going on.
RG: Yeah.
EB: And I think I, I have been told by many that I don't act like I'm 80 years old.
RG: You don't, you don't.
EB: And I try to stay in, I belong to all the active American Legion, DAV, and so forth. So there's always a meeting to go or something like that you know.
RG: Yeah. I know the-
EB: And then I visit a lot of the veterans that are bedridden. And were not in the Navy with me, but the boys I knew in the neighborhood.
RG: Yeah.
EB: I just lost a friend there this week that was in the Navy. And we just lost I believe three off of my ship here just recently. And I always send a card. As I'm the chairman I have the cards pendent of the U.S.S. Survivors express their whatever-
RG: Condolences.
EB: Yeah. And I'm pretty good at mailing those out.
RG: What are, what are the reunions like?
EB: Well, it's a, it's a- They have them and they have their beer and their liqueur and a-
RG: Sit around and talk. [laughter]
EB: No, well I'm non-drinker of course. It's just to get together and everybody let, everybody hugs everybody. And maybe two will get together and go eat, and two more will go eat. And Charlie and I usually go eat, my cousin.
RG: Yeah.
EB: And then there's a lieutenant, Bill Cunningham, from down Alabama. He wasn't my officer, but I knew him on the ship. Fine gentleman. So Bill always goes with us. He'll buy a meal one time and we'll buy his meal.
RG: Oh.
EB: And he's 82 years old. 82.
RG: Wow.
EB: And he lost his wife. I went to- They built another U.S.S. Rich destroyer after ours.
RG: Yeah.
EB: And I went to their reunion out in Nashville and guess what they gave me silver cigarette lighter saying U.S.S. Rich DE695.
RG: Oh wow.
EB: And being a non-smoker, I kept it you know. I appreciate it.
RG: Yeah.
EB: Course I did. We had a reunion out in Michigan. And went out there and Bill Cunningham's wife was a chain smoker. [laughter] And so I was standing there and I said "Lib I got something I want to give you." Said "I want to give you this lighter, I don't need it." And I gave her the cigarette lighter. And they went back to Alabama and she died.
RG: Oh no.
EB: And I talked to Bill and he said, "Still got that cigarette lighter he gave Lib". You know that really meant something to him for her to get that cigarette lighter. And I get invited to all these reunions, but I, I just can't go to all of them, that's all there is to it.
RG: You only have so much time in one day.
EB: Yeah. Yeah. And I, I send them all, most of them I send them a check for 25 dollars. [background noise]
RG: To help them out?
EB: Yeah. To help them out. Yeah.
RG: What medals did you get. I guess through the Navy from all this? [background noise]
EB: Well I-
RG: Or, or I-I guess that better way to put it is what tokens did, do you get?
EB: European Theatre, and Good Conduct, Purple Heart, and the French gave me a medal. And I have, I really can't, I really never paid that much attention to it to tell you the truth. [laughter] The Purple Heart is- I don't, I don't get it. A boy gets killed and they send his people a Purple Heart.
RG: Yeah.
EB: And, and someone lives they get a Purple Heart. And I was laying in the bed in England and they come up- START OF TAPE 1: SIDE B
EB: here's something for you. Throw my purple heart up on the bed. And Charlie, my cousin, came back and had a big parade in New York. [laughter]
EB: They gave him his at a parade.
RG: Oh goodness. And they were just like here, here you go.
EB: But-Yeah. Yeah. But-
RG: Course they did now, they did almost thought you were dead.
EB: Oh yeah, yeah. They put me back with the dead. And I remember vaguely waking up and I was dying for water.
RG: Really?
EB: And I remember one of the shipmates come back and wet my lips like that. And course I went unconscious and I never did see him again. And I've tried for years to locate him but I've had no luck in finding out where he is.
RG: Yeah, wow.
EB: I know it's in New Jersey but I--
RG: Can't quite pinpoint it?
EB: But I've been unsuccessful in find-finding out where he is.
RG: Yeah.
EB: And I took my buddy's body home in 1948 as a military escort. Picked the body up at Charlotte. Well, I was in the army hospital. And this little boy came in, wasn't any Southern boys in the ward at all. He came in and said, "Where's a boy find a place around here to sleep?" And I'd been in there a long time and there was a bed beside me. And I said, "Come back here, here's an empty bed." [laughter] And he came on back and I said "Boy where you from?" He said, "Denton, North Carolina."
RG: Oh my goodness!
EB: And I said "Well I'm from Pinehurst." So he rode me around in the wheelchair you know, he was able to navigate.
RG: Yeah.
EB: And came time to leave. He said, "Black don't leave me, wait and go when I go." And I said, "Man, I ain't been home in a long time, I'm going."
RG: Oh yeah.
EB: And I said, "We're going to be separated anyway." He'd be going to an army hospital.
RG: Yeah.
EB: So I came in and went up there four years later to this boy's home to take this boy's body home. His mother came out in the kitchen. Said, "Ed somebody in the kitchen wants to see you." And I said, "I don't know anybody up here Ms. Black." She said, "Well, It's Joel Henderson. He said ya'll were in the hospital in England together.
RG: Oh my goodness!
EB: Stepped in there and it was that same guy. And I remember he used to say "It's a snap." And first, I said "It's a snap." [snaps fingers] [laughter] And he grabbed me and hugged me. And I said, "What are you doing here?" I said "What are doing in Taylorsville?" He said, "I live next door. I married a preacher's widow."
RG: Yeah.
EB: And we found each other after all that time.
RG: Wow.
EB: Isn't that something.
RG: Wow. God is funny like that.
EB: And then I went back up there many years later and he had died of cancer. So I didn't get to see him.
RG: Really. Well, I guess. Is there anything else you'd like to add? Any other stories?
EB: I guess I've overdone it now. [laughter]
EB: Say I've overdone it now I guess.
RG: No, you haven't overdone it.
EB: My, my mother. She had a terrible time. She got three telegrams.
RG: Really?
EB: One I was missing. And then later one I was not wounded, had gone back to active duty. And then the next one she got I was seriously wounded. But I, I see I couldn't write for a month. And so she really went through it you know trying to decide if I was dead or living. And they- But actually they had thought I had died because they hadn't heard from me.
RG: Yeah.
EB: And I came in and got off the train in Southern Pines. And I walked, just walked right by the car. Didn't turn head or anything. And I had nine year old brother and he called me "Dear".
RG: Yeah.
EB: And he said, "There goes Dear now." He recognized me when I got off the train you know. And went up to my aunt's and uncle, they lived up in Southern Pines. And they were so glad to see me you know. All of a sudden my aunt and uncle left, and my mother left. And I started to go into the living room and they were all in the hallway crying. And I said, "Cut this out." I said, "I'm back, we won't do any of this." You know.
RG: Be happy I'm home. Yeah.
EB: Yeah. But I, I- people have treated me extremely well considering that I have been a veteran, 100 percent disabled you see. I was declared, I let them cut my disability when I went to work at the post office.
RG: Really?
EB: Yeah, they cut it to 70 percent. But consequently, when I retired they raised it back to 100 percent and made it permanent you see. So I was able to pick up the postal retirement.
RG: Plus that.
EB: Plus that and Social Security for radio you see.
RG: So they really treated you well.
EB: Oh I've been treated well. I have no kicks. The VA has really- I get all my medicines free, my glasses free, my dental work free.
RG: Wow.
EB: They gave me a scooter you know to ride into a store on account of my heart. And I don't ask for anything I don't get. So I don't have any, any kicks at all for the treatment I've had out here.
RG: That is really good-
EB: Yeah.
RG: That they honor you and rest of the men so.
EB: They should. And if it was somebody else I think they should.
RG: Exactly.
EB: Yeah.
EB: And I think that any veteran that went through what we did, he deserves anything that he can get.
RG: Yeah.
EB: One little boy, he was a country boy from down here in Taper City.
RG: Yeah.
EB: And he was badly hurt. Got out, didn't put in for a pension. He's dead now. And I said, "Stacy, you ought to put in for a pension." I said, "We'll write letters." So we finally got him-
RG: Got him help?
EB: Got him dis-And he got 35 hundred dollars at one time. And went out and bought him a new Buick. [laughter] Drove that Buick down to the reunion. Then he took cancer in the throat and died. But he got-
RG: But to think he almost wasn't going put in for it.
EB: Yeah. Yeah. Wasn't going to put in for it. A lot of them were in to big of a hurry to get out you know and didn't wait to sign any papers or anything.
RG: Just get out really fast and get home.
EB: Yeah. Get home and get out of the service. Yeah. Well, now have we about reached what you want?
RG: I-I think we have. If there's not anything else you'd like to add.
EB: I can't think of anything else. [laughter]
EB: I-I hope that I'll meet you here ten years from here and we'll go back through this again.
RG: I hope so too. I would love it.
EB: You'll probably have a little son, little daughter and all- [laughter]
EB: All that-And they'll be like "What he saying mom?" [laughter]
RG: Oh gosh.
EB: But it's been a pleasure. I, I really appreciate you selecting me to come and do this and I hope it'll be of help to you.
RG: Well, I thank you for-
EB: If there's any further questions you have my phone number.
RG: Yeah. I, I'm praying that this recorded. [laughter]
EB: I'll be glad to help you in any way that I can. And I'll get your address and when the other book come out, they're going to be hard-hard back copies.
RG: OK.
EB: This-The first copy was hard back and this one [book on table] is soft back. And I will see that you get one.
RG: Thank you so much.
EB: File it away or put it in school. These are all over the United States.
RG: Yeah.
EB: And I spent a lot of money having these books printed and giving them away. Now this book here [book on table] sales for fifteen dollars you see.
RG: I'd believe it because of the history involved.
EB: And, and the hardback covers go for about twenty nine. But I figure the Navy pays me and I can afford to-
RG: You can help them out.
EB: Leave historical thing behind you see. I put them in libraries, and sent them here, and people written and wanting them. And some of the boys that were on the ship-
RG: Want a copy?
EB: Want a copy and I'll just put complementary and send it in to them you know.
RG: Yeah. Yeah. Well, I'll go ahead and end this.
EB: Alright.
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