CB: Mr. Flanders, if you would please, give us your parents'
DF: H. Jack Flanders and Mae Hargis Flanders.
CB: What was your birth date?
CB: And where were you born, please.
DF: In Memphis, Tennessee, in Shelby County.
CB: And did you have brothers and sisters?
DF: I had one older brother who had been born in Malvern,
Arkansas, and he just passed away week before last.
CB: What was his name?
DF: It was H. Jack Flanders, Jr.
CB: And where did you go to school?
DF: Went all the way through school in Little Rock. My parents
moved to Little Rock when I was six months old and I went
completely through the school system there. I graduated from
Little Rock High School. In May 1941, I went to Baylor
University on a music scholarship playing the trumpet. I started
in September 1941. December the 7th, 1941, is when the Japanese
bombed Pearl Harbor. And therefore, I had to accelerate all my
studies that I was taking. We had to decide what branch of
service we wanted to go into. I had been active in Scouting and
in Sea Scouting when I was in high school so I had an affinity
for the Navy. I joined the officer training program of the Navy,
it was called V-12. The Navy said they hoped to leave us in
college at least for two years before they called us out to go
to Midshipman's School. But it didn't last that long, it lasted
one year. In July '43, they ordered me to Texas Christian
University to the V-12 program there as an Apprentice Seaman. I
stayed there until the following December. The Navy shipped me
to Asbury Park, New Jersey, to a Pre-Midshipman's School at
Asbury Park. The first of April, I was sent to Columbia
University in New York City for Midshipman's School there. I
graduated August the 10th, 1944. I was Company Commander of the
7th Company in the 19th class at Columbia. From Columbia, after
I was commissioned, the Navy sent me to Sub Chaser Training
Center in Miami, and trained on antisubmarine warfare. In
October, I was stationed aboard the USS Gantner, which is a
Destroyer Escort 60 (DE-60). It was operating out of Casco Bay,
Maine. We made the convoy run between Casco Bay, Maine, to
Londonderry, Ireland; this is at the very northern part of
Ireland. We acted as convoy protection.
CB: How long did you do that?
DF: From December to April, the worst five months of the year!
The seas were sometimes taller than the masts of the ship!
CB: And you were on a destroyer?
DF: Destroyer Escort. We were a little bit smaller than a
destroyer (306 ft. long). The water was so cold that if one fell
overboard, the 2 ship could not turn back. You'd be frozen by
the time the ship could go back to get you. So if you fell
overboard, you were gone! We had to wear face masks, and we had
a little flap over our mouth that you could open up. If you
smoked a cigarette, you could take a puff and then go back and
snap it shut. The ship rolled 30-40 degrees all the time.
Although we were supposed to eat at a wardroom table in the
wardroom, the officers were never able to do that after we left
the sea buoy. We were rolling 30-40 degrees. We had to sit on
the deck of the passage-way with our feet on a bulkhead on the
other side. They'd pass sandwiches and half-cups of coffee up to
us. That's the way we would eat. We had to put our pillows on
either side of us in our beds because we were rolling back and
forth. Moving through the seas, the ship would sometimes leave
the water. When it was hanging out in the air, some ships would
hog and go down by the bow, and others would sag and go down by
the beam. We would go down by the bows. This would take the
slack out of the cable from the whistle in the wheelhouse to the
stack, and it would crack the whistle. When you heard "oooh,
oooh, oooh, oooh", you knew you were in mid-air. Then the ship
would come down and crash and hit the bottom. So you had to
sleep, or try to sleep, through all that and still serve watches
and do other work. That was the worst five months of my life. We
were making submarine attack runs. We were never confirmed
having sunk a sub. We did get oil slicks a couple of times, but
we never could be certain that we had sunk it. I was gunnery
officer, so I was in charge when the ship was on the sub attack.
Then the Navy converted our ship to an Attack Personnel
Destroyer in Yonkers, New York. Same ship, but it was turned
from the DE-60 to the APD-42, Attack Personnel Destroyer. We
carried Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT), the forerunner group
for the Seals in the Navy. The UDTs would go in before the
invasion and blow up the beach obstacles wherever the invasion
was going to take place in order that the boats, the LCPs that
were used in the invasions carrying the troops, could get up on
the bank and not be trapped out in the shallow water. We also
escorted a floating dry dock from New York to the Panama Canal.
From the Panama Canal, we went around to San Diego. Then we
joined some other APDs and went to Hawaii and trained off the
coast of Maui in Hawaii for some time, preparing for the
invasion of Japan. We were in Eniwetok when we got the word that
the atomic bomb had been dropped, and we were ordered to go into
Tokyo Bay. We sailed into Tokyo Bay and were there for the
signing aboard the Missouri. There, in that harbor, were more
ships than I ever knew the Navy could possibly have. There were
thousands and thousands of ships! Before, we might see an
aircraft carrier once every three months. Here, there were
twenty or thirty aircraft carriers, and ten battleships that you
could count out, and destroyers by the hundreds. There was never
a prouder moment than when I looked out and saw what a
magnificent Navy we had. We were in Tokyo Bay for just a few
days. On board our ship, we carried an Admiral who was in charge
of all the Underwater Demolition Teams in the Pacific. 3
CB: Who was that?
DF: McClaughrey, Commodore McClaughrey. We were ordered to go
north to Hokkaido and accept surrender. We then went out of
Tokyo Harbor, up the coast and dodged the mines everywhere
because there were mines everywhere. We sunk a bunch of mines,
we went up north of the top of Honshu, which is the island that
Tokyo is on, north to the southwest corner of Hokkaido, the
island just north of Honshu, to a little port called Otaru. We
accepted the surrender of Hokkaido. As we came into the harbor
and dropped anchor, a little tug came out. It had on board about
ten or twelve Japanese officials with top hats and split tailed
coats, getting off the tug. They brought some swords and
presented them to the Commodore. We weren't sure the Japanese
were sure the war was over up there until that happened. I was
the gunnery officer, so I was put in charge of collecting all
the ammunition and explosives that existed on Hokkaido, and we
dumped them at sea. We went out every day with a tug and two
barges and dumped it. We had done this for weeks. Then one time,
I was watching the second barge. There was a Japanese worker who
had a tray of fuses (like the end of a 20mm shell.) He was
opening the lid and throwing them overboard. I hollered to the
interpreter to tell him "keep the lid closed" so that the fuses
wouldn't hit against each other. I turned back away from it and
that's the last I remember. Explosions started blowing
everything up on top of the barges and everything in the water
that we had already dropped there. The second barge completely
disappeared. Our executive officer, Bill Kendall, from
Nashville, Tennessee, had decided he wanted to go on this
particular trip. He had stepped over on that other barge. I
found him floating in the water. I saw a hand floating and I
wasn't sure whether there was a body attached to it. I jumped in
and sure enough he was there, but he was terribly injured. The
whole right side of his face was torn out, I could see his
teeth. I had to hold his aorta to stop the bleeding. His whole
right side was riddled with injuries. We then signaled, (the
first time in my life to use the semafore I had learned in the
Boy Scouts), I signaled the ship to send the doctor out there
and they did. Bill Kendall survived. He lost his eye and was
terribly injured, but he lived until last year, I went to his
funeral. I got a call from one of his daughters. They were
thanking me for saving Bill's life. If I hadn't done that, they
would never have been born. They wanted to know if I could come
to the funeral, so I did go to Nashville to go to the funeral.
We did the honors to Bill Kendall there. Sometime after the
explosion, I went up to the fly bridge of the ship to relieve
the deck. We were at anchor in Otaru. The wind was up and I went
up to relieve the watch on deck. I looked at the weather report
and there didn't seem to be anything threatening, but then I
checked the bearings of the ship and the bearings had changed. I
then went down on the fo'c's'le to put my foot on the anchor
chain and I could feel the anchor chain shaking, which means
that we were dragging anchor. I went back and told the watch
officer I refused to 4 relieve the deck because I thought we
were dragging anchor. We only had one boiler on line and I
wasn't sure we could stop the dragging. We were in a typhoon. He
called the Captain, and the Captain came up to the bridge. The
Captain called me everything but a nice man, and said you crazy
"--". He tried to get the other boilers on line, but by that
time the storm caught us and took us broadside against the bank.
On our way in, we had these four LCP boats that were used by our
frogmen. We let them down and used them to pull ourselves off
broadside to the bank. We were the only ship there, so we had to
look after ourselves. We were able to pull ourselves off. We did
damage our propeller, but at least we survived the typhoon. We
stayed up there until the Army came in. In November, we made the
trip back to the States and got back to San Diego in December
'45, just before Christmas. We started carrying dischargees from
San Diego to San Pedro, which is the port for Los Angeles, where
they could go home. We ran back and forth. I didn't have enough
time in service to be discharged until they let me out in July
of 1946. I came back and was separated, I was a Lieutenant JG at
that time when I was separated. The next year in the reserve, I
was made a full Lieutenant, which is equivalent to a Captain in
the Army or the Marines. You asked if I ever were involved in
any battles. We actually were not. We did operate and served
many actions against submarines and a couple of actions against
kamikaze Japanese planes, but we were very fortunate. However,
if the atomic bomb had not been dropped, we were scheduled to
put the first Americans to the mouth of Kyushu. They expected to
lose five ships getting the first ones in there. There was no
question but that we would have been killed, and certainly a
million other Americans would have died, too, had the atomic
bomb not been dropped when it was.
CB: You were in the first ship that would have gone in?
DF: Yes. The Underwater Demolition Team's boats go in to blow up
the beach obstacles, so that the invasion, when it took place,
could get up on the beach. We were going to have that honor. So
there's no question but what President Truman saved my life when
he dropped the bomb.
CB: And probably millions of others.
DF: They claim at least a million Americans and three million
Japanese would have died if he had not dropped it.
CB: What kind of problems did you have with subs? Can you tell
us some detail about it?
DF: When we were on convoy duty, we had a sonar perimeter in
which we would look for the subs. If we got a sub contact, we
would make a run on it. We had three ways to attack the sub. We
had on the bow a group of sixteen "hedgehogs" we called them,
but they were rockets. And we could fire that pattern of rockets
forward and they would go down through the water. If they hit
the sub, they would, of course, detonate. If it didn't hit, then
it didn't detonate, and we would not 5 lose contact with the
sub. Otherwise, we would attack them with K guns, which are the
guns that go out from the side of the ship or the depth charge
racks which go out the stern. When you drop those and they
explode, then you lose all contact with a sub. You have to
reestablish that later, and that's when you can lose it. We did
carry torpedoes as a destroyer escort, but we never did use the
torpedo against an enemy. We also had 5"-38mm deck guns.
CB: Were you attacked by a kamikaze?
DF: Yeah, in Eniwetok. That is hairy.
CB: I imagine. Were you able to shoot it down before it hit the
DF: It did not hit us. We had one miss us a hundred yards maybe,
but we did not get hit by one. There were a lot of ships sunk
that day by the kamikazes.
CB: Did you go into Tokyo?
CB: You landed in Tokyo?
DF: Yeah. Well, we anchored in Tokyo Bay and then took our
ship's boat in and we toured a lot of the Japanese ships that
were there. We walked and saw the Imperial Palace and
MacArthur's headquarters and a lot of the desolation. I got some
pictures that were taken there in Tokyo. We came back to the
ship, and we didn't stay in Tokyo that long, I don't remember
how long, just a few days, when we were ordered to go up to
CB: How were the Japanese people that you saw in Tokyo?
DF: Hungry. Most of them that we saw (particularly the kids)
were real pitiful looking. We took candy bars and cigarettes and
stuff like that with us and we traded them for different things;
but the Japanese people really had suffered. Dropping of the
bomb was as good for the Japanese as it was the Americans.
CB: What was their behavior toward the Americans?
DF: They were very subservient type. There were not any
problems. Up in Hokkaido, we had called in all the arms. I was
looking out the window of this little building and saw this
Japanese officer with a sword on and he was supposed to have
turned it in the day before. We went down and I took his sword
away from him and there was no incident involved. So the word
that the war was over was genuinely accepted by the Japanese
CB: Do you think the civilian population was aware of what
atrocities had been done by their Army and their Navy?
DF: I have no way of knowing that. Course we had all been told
never be taken as a prisoner, because you probably won't live if
you are. None of the Japanese ever surrendered or virtually none
of them did. They died to a man at Okinawa and Tarawa and
everywhere else. I think they believed they were ascending to
some part of Heaven if they were 6 killed in combat.
CB: Were you in contact with any of the American POWs that were
DF: No, we had no contact with any of them. We had contact with
Americans after they came back to Arkansas, but I was very
fortunate to have gone through the war and come out unscathed.
The training that I got in the service was outstanding. And I
remember serving as a senior watch on the ship, I was not yet 21
years old, and I was in charge of the ship. We had 12 officers
and 250 crew. I think they said the ship cost seven million
dollars at that time, and I had command of the ship and I
couldn't even vote yet.
CB: That's a pretty good responsibility for a kid 21 years old.
DF: But having that much responsibility, it changes you as a
person. And I think that's the reason most people, when they
came back, were dedicated that they were going to make something
happen with their lives. And I personally felt so blessed that I
had survived this explosion that should have killed me. I felt
that God had spared me for more important things in life than
that, so it turned out to be a blessing.
CB: Well, you have contributed quite a lot. Your work with the
Boy Scouts has been unusual.
DF: Well, we learned something in scouting when you're camping
out, you always want to leave the campsite better than you found
it. And I've always kind of taken that as a mission in life in
that everything I touch, try to leave it better than I found it.
It's kind of been my motto.
CB: When you got out of the Navy, where were you?
DF: I was separated in Memphis, Tennessee, and came back to
Little Rock, where my home was. I went on to Waco, to Baylor, to
finish up my college career. I learned to fly while I was still
in the Navy when we were back in San Diego and couldn't be
brought home that last year. I learned to fly in a Stearman, a
bi-wing plane, for $45 an hour. So I had a pilot's license by
the time I got out of the Navy.
JW: You paid $45 an hour to take lessons?
DF: And it was in a Navy plane that they train their own pilots
on, that bi-wing, crop duster plane is what it was.
CB: Where were you when Pearl Harbor was--
DF: I was at Baylor in my room at Brooks Hall at Baylor. We got
the news on the radio and we knew that our lives were going to
change from that moment on. That's a funny thing, bringing that
up. The day we got the word of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, my
suitemate, (the rooms at Baylor had three students in one room,
a bath and three on the other and they all shared the same
bath), my suitemate was a fellow named John Andrews, and his
brother was Dana Andrews. Dana was just starting out in the
movies and he was there visiting Baylor. John got the word about
going into the service at the same time when 7 Dana Andrews was
visiting him there. His brother, John, and my roommate, were
both killed in World War II, and I lost four of my roommates at
Baylor in World War II.
CB: What was the general reaction there at Baylor to the news?
DF: It was kind of the end of the world. They didn't know what
was going to happen to the school or what we were going to have
to do. And we immediately started debating about whether we
wanted to be in the Army or the Navy. We knew we were going to
have to be in one or the other. Suitemate of mine was killed in
World War II, a few weekends before I joined the Navy, he
decided to go to Dallas with other guys that were going up to
enlist in the Marine Corp. But he wasn't going to enlist, he was
just going to ride along with them. But they talked him into
joining while he was up there, and he joined the Marine Corp.
And then of the three people that were there at that time, he
was the only one that was killed in World War II. He was a
marine pilot, his name was Marion Pearce, from Navasota, Texas.
CB: When you were released from the Navy and went back to
school, where did you go after you got your degree?
DF: Well, I lacked twenty hours of getting my bachelor,
business administration degree, and I got that-- Baylor was on a
quarter system, it had three quarters. I took twenty hours in
this final quarter and completed my work December the 7th. I got
married December the 15th in Fort Worth to a girl that I had met
while I was in the V-12 program at Fort Worth.
CB: What year was that, '47?
DF: '46, December '46. We honeymooned in Hot Springs and came
back to Little Rock. I worked in Little Rock for six months.
Then got into the furniture manufacturing business with Mr. H.
CB: Where was that?
DF: In Benton, Arkansas, which is about twenty miles southwest
of Little Rock. I worked there until September 1950 and then I
got a chance to come to Fort Smith to go with Garrison Furniture
and Frank Grober. I came to Fort Smith then. And I was with
Garrison for four years. I then decided I wanted to start a
plant of my own. I started from scratch with my wife in the
office and three men in the plant. We built our own samples and
started making living room desks.
CB: Is this 1955?
CB: Flanders Company?
DF: Flanders Manufacturing Company, Inc., uh-huh.
JW: Was that on Wheeler then?
DF: No, it was on North 32nd Street. I bought the Wheeler Ave.
plant in 1970.
CB: What all did you manufacture as you grew? 8
DF: We started out making living room desks and then we got into
bedroom and then into dining room. We were selling our product
with Riverside Furniture. They were making occasional tables. We
used the same representatives and displayed together at the
markets. Then Riverside, in 1968, sold out to Arkansas Best.
Later on, I decided I'd do the same thing rather than continue
on. I left and then bought the plant, Williams Manufacturing, in
1970, and operated it.
CB: When did you become Lloyd/Flanders?
DF: Lloyd/Flanders in 1980, Frank White was elected Governor, he
beat Bill Clinton. He asked me to come to Little Rock and run
the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission. My son, Dudley,
was coming along then, I was anxious to get Dudley out of my
shadow so that people would answer to him and not to me. Also, I
wanted to find out if I had any political ambitions. So I took
this job, went to Little Rock for two years while Frank White
was Governor, until he was defeated. And at that time, the
oldest furniture manufacturing plant in the United States,
Heywood-Wakefield, took bankruptcy. They owned a plant in
Menominee, Michigan, which made a wicker product, a wicker
chair. And I had a representative who had represented Lloyd. I
had been intrigued by this unique product. We went up and bought
the Michigan plant. We wanted to buy the process, the wicker
process, from this bankrupt organization, but they would only
sell the real estate and everything. So we bought the real
estate and everything in 1982. We started manufacturing the
wicker product, and it was called Lloyd Manufacturing. We took
it over and we changed it to Lloyd/ Flanders Manufacturing.
Marshall Lloyd, who started the process, had started the plant
in 1906. That plant now is a hundred years old. He had sold the
plant in 1924 to Heywood-Wakefield. That plant had prospered
down through the years. The plant now has about 500,000 square
CB: Where is that located?
DF: Menominee, Michigan, sixty miles due north of Green Bay,
Wisconsin, in the Upper Peninsula.
CB: That's really interesting. Heywood-Wakefield Furniture now
is highly collectible.
DF: Its plant was in Gardner, Massachusetts.
CB: When did you become active with the Boy Scouts?
DF: Well, I was active in Boy Scouts all my adult life. Growing
up, I was a Cub Scout when it first started and made
Wolf-Bear-Lion with all three ranks. I then went into scouting.
I became an Eagle Scout. I then joined the Sea Scouts and got up
to First Mate in Sea Scouting. I was not active as a volunteer
in the Boy Scouts until I came back after World War II. In
Benton, I worked with a scout troop there when I was with McCoy
Couch. I then became real active in the Boy Scouts in Fort Smith
in 1962. I was District Chairman and then Council President and
then I became Regional President and then went on National Board
for thirteen years. I was National Chairman of Cub Scouting, and
I formed 9 the National Eagle Scout Association for the national
movement in 1972. I was real active in scouting all my life
except for that segment of time when I was in the service and in
CB: Well, in your boating experience, you were active in
training people with the Coast Guard Auxiliary?
DF: Yeah. I have a pilot's license and I also have a captain's
license with the Coast Guard and the Merchant Marine. I'm
qualified for command of a vessel 200 tons and 200 miles
CB: Well now, how did that happen?
DF: Well, along the way, since my Navy days, my Navy time
counted, and then all my time on the water since then was added
into it. And I took several training courses. I'm a qualified
diver, also. I have two sons and we all got qualified at the
same time. I had a sailboat in Florida since 1986 and sailed it
for several years.
CB: Really? What kind of sailboat is it?
DF: It was a fifty-five foot motor sailor.
CB: Fifty-five foot?
CB: How many masts would it have?
DF: Two, a ketch rig.
CB: What fun. And you still have that?
DF: No, I got rid of it few years ago. Got a motor cruiser, what
I call a "stink-pot" motor boat. It's a forty-five foot. It got
wrecked in Hurricane "Charlie." Our home in Florida was in Punta
Gorda, and that was hit two years ago (2004). They clocked 186
mile an hour winds in the cove right behind my house. It wiped
out the whole top side of that ship. It took me a year and a
half to get it repaired. Three weeks after I got it repaired,
this man came up, says, "I want to buy your boat." And I said,
"Well, okay, if we can arrive at a price." He said, "What do you
want for it?" And I told him, and he said, "I'll take it." He
was from Pascagoula, Mississippi, he was wiped out in the storm,
his business, his boat and his house. He and his wife were going
to live aboard it until they could get reestablished. So right
now, this is the first time in fifty years I don't have a boat.
I don't have one right now.
CB: And this guy's got a house now?
DF: Yeah. He got his house built.
CB: That's neat. How many children do you have?
DF: I have three children. Have Don, Jr., lives in Arizona. And
Dudley, who lives here and in Michigan. And then a daughter,
Kathy, Kathy Cotten, in Van Buren.
CB: Is that Kathy with a C or K?
DF: With a K. That's a different Cotten. 10
CB: Who's she married to?
DF: Larry Cotten.
CB: They live here?
DF: In Van Buren.
CB: And Don, Jr., lives in--
DF: In Phoenix, Arizona.
CB: Are any of them in the furniture business?
DF: Dudley is with me. He runs the company now. I just look over
his shoulder. Then I have five grandchildren. And as of this
morning, I have my first great-grandson.
CB: Well, congratulations.
DF: He was born at two o'clock this morning in Denver. I have a
great granddaughter and--
CB: So this makes two great-grandchildren?
DF: Well, it actually makes three. But two actually, one by
marriage. My grandson married a girl who had a daughter and we
have adopted her.
CB: Right, that's great.
DF: But this is the first grandson.
CB: You've had just a really good life.
DF: You bet.
CB: You think serving in World War II served you well?
DF: Yes. The fact I came out of it unscathed was one of the
greatest experiences that I had. I'm not opposed to everyone
having military service, I believe it's good, it's great
CB: Good discipline.
DF: You learn the discipline and you learn how to lead and
motivate. When your life depends on it, you learn how important
training is. And being a gunnery officer, that was my job. You
either defend yourself or you die, so that's a good motivator.
CB: What's your advice to young people growing up today?
DF: Learn as much as you can in typical courses, but learn as
much as you can also from everyone with whom you come in
contact. Everyone that you meet along the way is going to play a
part in your life, maybe significant or insignificant, but
they're going to play a part. You need to profit from their
experience. Don't be afraid to pay a price for achievement. I
think sometimes the young people want things to come too easily
for them. But once you've paid the price for it, the earning of
it is a lot more dear than if it is handed to you on a platter.
CB: Good advice.
JW: I have one question, I guess you answered it. You were in
Tokyo Bay the day the war ended?
DF: Yes, the flag flying on the ship is upstairs in a frame.
JW: So that takes care of that question that I always ask.
CB: Well, we thank you so much for such a great interview.
DF: You're welcome. I'll show you this stuff in here, and if you
want to go upstairs and see that stuff there, you're welcome to
do it. 1