Interview with Fred King    (back to WWII Project)

FK: Frederick Arthur King.

JW: And when were you born?


JW: And where were you born?

FK: In Evansville, Indiana, Vanderburgh County.

JW: And who were your parents?

FK: My mother was Louise King and my dad was Fred King.

JW: And what was your mother's maiden name?

FK: Klein.

JW: Did you have sisters and brothers?

FK: I had three sisters and two brothers.

JW: What kind of business was your father in?

FK: Well, during the Depression, he actually had worked for a brewery in Evansville; but then Prohibition came and he was out of work all through Prohibition, and of course the Depression was on so he got jobs whatever he possibly could.

JW: Did you all live in town?

FK: No, we lived out in the country, about five miles out of town from the main part of town.

JW: Does that mean that y'all had the opportunity to raise a little garden?

FK: Oh, yes. We had a little over an acre and a half of ground and my dad put out a garden and I worked in the garden doing different things and he also raised chickens on the side. Back then if you had two thousand to three thousand chickens in a house, that was pretty big; but nowadays, it's forty thousand, but we raised chickens and rabbits for food.

JW: So you were like a lot of people in Arkansas at the time, you probably had plenty to eat but no money?

FK: That's true no money that's true.

JW: Pretty common. So while you were growing up and going to school, you were working in the garden and the chicken house and that sort of thing?

FK: In the summertime, I did. When I went to school in the first and second grade, we had a ride into school when my dad went to whatever job he could find during the day, but we walked home five miles from school every afternoon. And then later on, from the third grade on through the eighth grade, we moved and lived about three miles from school and had to walk home every day from that.

JW: What was the names of the schools that you attended?

FK: Well, the first one was St. Joseph Catholic School in Evansville 2 and the other one was St. Benedict Catholic School.

JW: And did you graduate from high school?

FK: No, I did not go to high school. In those days, when I turned fifteen, I had to stay home and take care of the chickens and the rabbits and work in the garden in the summertime, so I didn't go to high school.

JW: That was more common at the time, too.

FK: Yes, very, very common.

JW: Well, you would have been fifteen or sixteen when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor?

FK: In '41, I would have been seventeen, but during this time I didn't go to high school because I had to get a job. The first year I was in the eighth grade, I stayed home and took care of the chickens and the rabbits and the garden. And then at the age of fifteen, I got a job working at the neighborhood grocery store delivering groceries on a bicycle. I also learned to cut meat and different things, and there was a gas station with a grocery store I pumped gas. Back then, gas was nine, ten and eleven cents a gallon. And I delivered groceries maybe a mile or a mile and a half away from the store.

JW: So you were delivering groceries?

FK: Yes, I delivered groceries, worked in this grocery store. I worked for a dollar a day, ten hours a day. I made six dollars a week working six days a week, and I worked there until I was seventeen and a half.  And by then, Pearl Harbor had started, the war. And at seventeen and a half, people go to work in factories. So I went to work at Servel, who was building wings for P-47s for Republic Aviation, P-47 was a fighter plane.

JW: Okay, let me back up a moment. Do you remember Sunday, December 7th, 1941?

FK: Yes, sir, very much.

JW: How did that go at your house?

FK: There was a forty acre field down the street with no houses on it. And we all, every Sunday, we would go down and play football, a group of the neighborhood boys and maybe a team from one of the other neighborhoods would come and play. And we were playing football this afternoon when across the street, a man come out of the house and informed us all that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor.

JW: Did you know where Pearl Harbor was?

FK: Well, yes, I did.

JW: Lot of people didn't, I understand.

FK: No, that's true.

JW: Okay. We can go back to where you were building airplane wings. Now, Servel made water heaters, right, before the war? 3

FK: Servel made gas operated refrigerators and they also invented the ice-maker that's in refrigerators today. They made gas refrigerators all through the late '20s and '30s. It was a gas operated, all weld, steel unit and their claim was that there was no moving parts. Of course they didn't have a fan for defrosting, but they were gas operated and lasted for years and years.

JW: But they had switched over to making airplane parts?

FK: Yes, they made airplane parts soon as the war started.

JW: So you were working there and did you get drafted or decide to join?

FK: No, I got drafted. I turned eighteen on Christmas Day of 1942 and April of '43, I was drafted.

JW: And you were drafted into the Army?

FK: Yes, I tried to get in the Air Force because of my experience at building and repairing airplane wings, but we were sent to Indianapolis, Fort Benjamin Harrison. And they decided that they needed infantrymen more than they needed airplane repairmen, so I was sent to Fort McClellan, Alabama, for thirteen weeks of infantry training.

JW: And is that what we've seen on TV, obstacle courses and running and jumping and crouching behind things and shooting?

FK: Learn how to shoot machine guns and rifles.

JW: Okay.

FK: Throw hand grenades.

JW: So after you completed that training, what did they do with you?

FK: After thirteen weeks of training, we came home on a two week's furlough and then immediately went back. And we were sent to Newport News, Virginia, that's where the Navy yards is, and we were put on a ship, probably five thousand troops of us.

JW: Do you recall the name of the ship?

FK: USS GENERAL MEIGS, yeah, I remember the name of that one.

JW: And they shipped you across the Atlantic?

FK: Yeah, took us about ten days to go to-- We ended up in Casablanca, we had no idea where we were going, we were just replacement troops, and we ended up in Casablanca.

JW: Let me ask you, what regiment, what was the name of your outfit?

FK: Well, at that time, I wasn't assigned yet.

JW: Oh, I see.

FK: They were fighting, there was still some fighting going on at that time in North Africa, but Rommel had pretty well been defeated, and then the fighting moved to the island of Sicily. And I was eventually assigned to a division who was doing the fighting, one of 4 the divisions, the 34th Division, which was made up of National Guards from Iowa and Minnesota and South Dakota. The 34th Infantry Division was the first allied force into combat. They were the first division to land to fight Rommel and the infantry, the Germans, at Oran in North Africa. And not knowing where I was going yet, we were put on box cars on a train and it took us about ten days to go across North Africa in this train because every so often they would stop and be alarmed that the Germans were coming to strafe the train and we'd all jump out of the box cars and run as far away as we could. And in the meantime, the fighting was over in Africa, they were fighting in Sicily. That's where General Patton became famous for the fighting he done in Sicily. Then after Sicily was captured, then the troops went to Salerno to invade Italy.

JW: But you went to Sicily?

FK: No. I by-passed, I did not go to Sicily.

JW: All right. I thought I'd missed something. So you were in North Africa?

FK: I was still in North Africa when the fighting was going on in Sicily and was not assigned to any company or outfit yet. We were just replacements.

JW: Did you continue to train there or just cool your heels?

FK: No, we were just waiting until they invaded Italy at Salerno on the Mediterranean side. And there was some also invaded Italy, British troops, and some on the other side of Italy. And after the troops made a landing at Salerno and held it, which they were almost removed and pushed back in the sea again by the Germans, they finally made a good foothold there and then proceeded to go up to Northern Italy and they finally captured Naples. And shortly after they captured Naples, we were, who were in North Africa, was put on a ship at Bizerti, North Africa, and taken to Naples then because the front- line had now moved farther north. And after we got to Naples, we were taken up to the front- lines and we were picked up by a sergeant one night, and he said X number of men come with him. And now still not knowing what we were doing, we were just young kid recruits, replacements, and first thing we did was he said we got to go across the Volturno River. And rivers over there weren't very wide, maybe two or three hundred feet then; but this one, where we crossed, was up to our necks. And course we had to hold our rifles and machine guns overhead while we walked across this river. And the sergeant said, "Keep quiet when we hit the other bank because there's a highway there and the Germans still patrol up and down on motorcycles on this highway." And sure enough when we got to the other bank, we laid against the bank while a German motorcycle went by and then we jumped up and ran across the highway and into a field, and the sergeant took us up into a mountain. It was almost daybreak then before we finally got to where this company was dug in. 5

JW: And this is in what month and what year?

FK: This was in November.

JW: Of 1943?

FK: 1943. The first day I saw combat, the next day, was November the 11th. And first thing I thought, gosh, World War I ended on November 11th, let's hope this one ends, but it didn't. And the next morning I saw my first combat. I was assigned to a machine gun squad and we were hiding behind a huge rock wall. And all of a sudden, shells started to come in, and beginning to explode around us. And the first thing that happened to me, I was probably knocked unconscious for a little bit because when I first started moving around and looking around, I didn't see anybody. And then all of a sudden, I heard someone yell at me and I looked back there at this big rock wall. And that sergeant had taken us up there the night before, he said, "Come over here, come on, hurry up." So I ran over there and they said, "Well, we thought you were dead because the shell landed right close." I was probably knocked unconscious for awhile; but anyhow, that was my first taste of combat.

JW: Well, almost bought the farm the first go-around?

FK: Yeah, almost, sure did. And I saw that happen to a lot of people. From there, we moved out then after the shelling was over and we went further up into the mountains. Practically all of my combat in Italy was in the mountains.

JW: Did these mountains have a name?

FK: Yeah. Well, the biggest one was Mount Pantano and it was a range of mountains that ran all the way from above Naples, up the center of Italy to Cassino and past.

JW: So this was the edge of it that you were getting in to the first day?

FK: Yeah. Well, we were up in the mountains and we just went further up into the mountains. And every day, we gave support with our machine guns to the rifle squads.

JW: Was November in Italy, like November in Arkansas?

FK: Yes.

JW: Was it cold?

FK: Yes, like it was in Evansville, it was very cold. It rained most of the time, and snow and sleet, and it was very cold. And at that time, we just had field jackets, I never had a combat jacket. And I never had combat boots, we wore leggings, World War I leggings. And what we did, we were wet, cold and lot of men had frozen feet and had to be sent back. It was very miserable all through November, December and January.

JW: Certainly didn't help matters any at all?

FK: No, no, it didn't. We just never hardly ever had dry clothes on. Then as we went into combat and we would capture a little village 6 here and a little village there that was up on a mountain side, lot of them I didn't know the names, San Angelo was one; but most of them were little farming villages and there was no size to them, just small country mountain farmers. And we would go for days without nothing to eat except C-rations and K-rations, which would be delivered to us at night by pack mule. We never had fresh meals, for days and days we never had anything warm.

JW: How did these little villages that you were passing through, chasing the Nazis, how did the local villagers respond to you?

FK: Oh, they were very happy to see us, and they would try to help us all they could. Yeah, they were very thankful and helpful; but they didn't have too much to offer us because the Germans took away from them everything that was valuable, like fruit and chickens or anything like that. The Germans had already been there for a year or two, and they took all the best stuff away from these people. They had very little to live on. Matter of fact, a lot of them didn't have anything to eat until a pack mule got killed by shrapnel sometimes and they would go cut up the mule to get the meat, which I ate some mule meat myself at one time offered by some of these citizens. And they would cook it and boil it, just like we would a beef roast. Wasn't very good tasting, it was kind of stringy and tough, but it was better than K-rations. K-ration was just a little bit of like cheese and crackers in a cardboard wax box. And C-rations were in cans which had hash and stuff like that and stew in them, if you had a way to heat them up; otherwise, you just ate them cold.

JW: Well, it's good that the villagers weren't adding to your misery by shooting at you.

FK: Oh, no, no, they were tickled to death to see us and very helpful anything they could. And about that time, most of the Italian Army had surrendered. Some of them, earlier in the war, the Germans made them fight for them. But they weren't that good of fighters, they didn't like it too well. And whenever they could, they would leave the Germans and not attempt to help them; and finally, they surrendered. I don't know just what time that was, it was probably some time around November or December of '43. And as we would move forward, like I said, the first time I saw combat was November the 11th. And we stayed up in the mountains until about the last week of December before we were ever pulled back and relieved. The units that was with us, and we would overlap and relieve each other, one of them was the 45th Division from Oklahoma and the other one was the 36th Division from Texas, plus the 3rd Division, which is a very popular division even today in Iraq. They were from at that time, I think, from Washington State. And these were the four main divisions who started out in North Africa, Sicily and Italy. Later on, more divisions came over there. And I never did tell you, at the time I was in Company K with the 3rd Battalion of the 168th Regiment of the 34th Infantry Division. And to get back to the part, we didn't get any relief or hot food or dry clothes until 7 the last week of December, 1943. We were relieved by one of these divisions, I think it was the 45th. They took our place and we went back to where the company kitchen was, which was on a truck, some miles behind, back in safety and all. And that was the first time I had a chance to take a shower, which was still in cold water; but to get cleaned up and they had clean underwear and socks and clothes for us for a change. And then it was Christmas Day, and that was my first birthday away from home, and we had turkey and dressing and mashed potatoes and gravy and a canteen pan full of rainwater. It just poured down rain constantly. We were camped in an olive grove, which there are a lot of olive trees in Italy.

JW: Sleeping in tents?

FK: We slept in a tent for several nights; yeah, we were lucky.

JW: Where did you sleep when you were up in the mountains?

FK: Just in foxholes we could dig, if we could, or pile rocks up around us, whatever you could. And we did have a shelter-half, each soldier had what they called a shelter-half, two of those would make a tent put together. But we never made tents up in the front-lines, we just opened up that shelter-half if we could dig a foxhole or put rocks around us and put that over the top of us to try to stay out of the rain as much as possible. But of course, there was no light, you couldn't have a fire, you couldn't try to warm up or heat up your meals because the Germans were right out in front of us. And we just crossed one valley and mountain after another. And not knowing, the day after Christmas Day, had no idea where we were going, course they didn't tell us a whole lot. The platoon leader who was usually a lieutenant knew what was going on and had contact with the company commander. Little did I realize, we were headed for Monte Cassino. All through January then we moved further north. We would take one mountain range and hold it, and maybe the next week or so, we would take another.

JW: And this is traveling by foot, right?

FK: Oh, all by foot, yeah. And the only way we got our rations was by mule trains, pack trains, at night. And all through January, we fought in the mountains, in the snow and rain. And finally, we came to a little village, I don't remember the name of it anymore, and we stayed a couple of nights there in some bombed out houses and things. And then later on, the next day or so, we began to move out again and we came to the Rapido River. The Rapido River ran down through the Liri Valley, which was a valley below Monte Cassino, and the town of Cassino was in this valley. And a monastery was up high on the mountain, and the Germans were up there and in Cassino, the town of Cassino. And they had all this area, as far as they could see, zeroed in. They just knew how far it was to shoot an artillery, an .88, to this river and hit it at certain points, or the top of another mountain in the distance, they had us zeroed in, and we were halted for awhile there. And sometime in late January, the 36th Infantry Division were 8 ordered to cross the Rapido River and move into Cassino to the monastery. Well, the Rapido River at this time was running quite heavily with water. And further up in the mountains, there was a lake that pretty much fed this Rapido River. And we were told that the Germans bombed this lake, dynamited it deliberately to pour more water into the Rapido River. And when the 36th Division tried to cross it that day, the water was quite deep, actually, it was over their heads. And it was the biggest disaster in all of Italy because they lost seventeen hundred men in one day, because as they began to cross this river, the Germans opened up with their artillery shells and just practically wiped them out. Hundreds were killed, lot of them, the rest were wounded, and it was a big disaster.

JW: I assume part of that number drowned. Are you saying that just crossing the river, there was people that drowned?

FK: I'm sure there was because they said the water was so deep, and I don't know if they didn't realize this or what, but Mark Clark, General Mark Clark, he was bound and determined that we would capture Monte Cassino. And this was the biggest disaster of all. Later, about three or four days later, we were ordered upstream to where this lake was and to cross. Well, in the meantime, where we crossed, the water wasn't even knee deep. And we were further away from the monastery, probably out of sight and out of range of their artillery pieces. However, we had tanks to walk behind. We crossed the river behind tanks and stayed behind these tanks all the way across the valley until we come to the mountains on the other side. And then we started up into the mountains that were north and west of Monte Cassino. As we went up into the mountains, we saw these tanks. They had some German tanks trapped up in the corner of this valley, and I saw my first tank battle. And it was quite something to see, these tanks shooting at each other, knocking each other out. And also, when we got up to the top of these mountains, which was still the Mount Pantano Range, we were up high enough to see dog- fights with the German fighter planes and the American P-38s. And they would fight and have dog-fights out over this valley. So we proceeded on up into the mountains and headed to where we could see the monastery hill then. I didn't even know at that time that there was a city of Cassino down below there because we didn't come into it. The other regiments of our division fought into the city, and we were ordered up over the back part of the range of mountains to come in from the north and try to take the monastery. And as we did, we become close enough in range to where we were within range of their sight and artillery fire. And as we crossed one mountain, pretty close to Monte Cassino called Snakehead Ridge, it was just wide open, nothing but rock and there was a wall up on top of it. We were crossing that one morning and the Germans opened up a barrage of their .88 field artillery and tanks up on the mountain. And we hurried up and our lieutenant and I gave orders to get behind the rock wall and pile rocks up around you and some of us made it and some of them didn't. I lost two men right there, they had just joined my squad at Christmas. 9

JW: What was your rank at that time?

FK: I was a sergeant at that time. You got promoted pretty fast in the infantry because the sergeants would either get killed, or the ones that I had, or picked us up that time, they had fought all through Africa and Sicily, and all way up into where they were in Italy. And they were trying for some of them to be sent back because they had their time in. And I was a sergeant at that time over a machine gun squad. And after this shelling stopped, what few of us was left, we jumped up and started on into the mountains higher to get under cover of more trees and rocks and things, not be exposed as much. And we went down into a large valley, and course, the rifle companies were ahead of us and they had to fight the rifle fire off and machine gun fire from up on Monte Cassino where the monastery was. And we saw a well down in this valley, way down in the valley, we were just down there. And at night, we went and got water from this well to fill our canteens. So then the next day, we started up this mountain and we were told, I have a tape that this statement was made in there that General Mark Clark told our platoon or our division commander to send troops up to Monte Cassino and capture the monastery or don't come back. And we went up climbing these rock walls one at a time until we finally got to the top wall. And we built, it was about a five foot high wall and we put rocks all around us so we were just sitting in a little rock foxhole like, and we knew the Germans were up there dug in in the backyard. And also the Germans claimed that they never did get into the monastery, but I know different because I saw snipers up in the windows. And one even killed my buddy that was in the foxhole with me when he raised up on his knees to take a drink out of his canteen. A sniper up on about the third floor put a bullet right through his head, so I say either the priests that were in there were shooting at us, or the Germans were up there, and I knew it was the Germans. But the next morning then, the rifle companies tried to go over the wall. At daybreak, we laid down machine gun fire. They tried to go over the wall to get into the backyard of the monastery; and as they did, they were just wiped out. They had machine guns, so many machine gun nests dug in and snipers up in the windows that they never had a chance. Practically most of them were wiped out of this one platoon that we were with. And we stayed there then, I don't remember how many nights, but it seemed like, this was probably February the 10th or 11th, and we stayed there behind this wall and the rifle company didn't try anymore because it was just almost an impossibility for them to do anything. And at night, only thing we had was a few C-rations and K-rations with us. And at night, we would send men down to this well and fill up our canteens and bring them back up the hill to us, so everybody had some water the next day. And this went on, like I said, maybe four or five nights. And then the British demanded that the United States bomb the monastery. Up to this point, we refused to do it. But the British were sent up to relieve us on the night of February the 15th. Only about 10 four troops came up, they were British-Indian troops from some of their colonies, and they took our place. I still didn't know what was going on. But this was before daybreak, it was about probably at three or four o'clock in the morning, and they told us that they was replacing us and we were to pull back down the mountain, back into the valley, which we did. And as we were going down the mountain, here come the Air Force over, and they just literally blew that monastery up and the whole top of the mountain. I can see it today in my eyes, the mountain just turned red, green, blue, orange and all different colors. I never seen so many airplanes at one time, they just kept making one pass after another. I forgot how many tons of bombs they dropped on that monastery.

JW: And this was like an eight-hundred-year-old monastery?

FK: At that time, the last time it had been rebuilt was in the fifth century. And I can still picture it today, dark gray stone, and I saw the snipers up in the windows. At times we could raise our head up just high enough to see what we could see. And yeah, I don't know, I think in the fifth century it had been captured or been in a fight, someone tried to take it back then. And as we went down the mountain and reached the valley, these airplanes flew over for fifteen, twenty minutes or a half-hour, maybe longer, just bombing that, one bomb after another. Course they were bombing the city of Cassino down below at the same time, that I didn't even know was there, I never seen it. But I did see the monastery get bombed, and often wondered if those British troops were pulled out before the planes come over, or if they knew what was going on. But anyway, as we came down, there was only eleven of us left out of this whole platoon.

JW: How many would have been--

FK: Well, a rifle platoon has three squads of about twelve men, and then machine gun squad, and there was only eleven of us in my area that came back down. Some of them had gotten sick and was sent down before, but the rest had been killed. And then we walked out, marched down through this Liri Valley, and that's when I saw all this traffic and everything going into the city of Cassino. And finally we were picked up by a truck and taken back to this city, this village of San Angelo. And we spent couple of nights there and then they took us back to a town called Benevento, which had a big house on it that they said at one time belonged to a king. And then they had these big huge horse stables, there was no horses in them at the time. And we slept in these horse stables on straw and our backpacks and so forth for a few nights, and got dry clothes, and then we were taken back to Naples. And we were taken to an Italian armory, where we spent a couple of weeks and had rest and relaxation and were allowed to go out into the town of Naples. And what we were waiting for was more replacements to come up, and then we were going to go to Anzio. Well, meantime, the Anzio beachhead had already happened and their object of that was to go inland and cut off the Highway 6 that 11 went to Cassino, to make the Germans withdraw from the monastery. Well, they didn't go in far enough for this to happen. And they only went in about three miles, then stopped and waited for supplies to back them up. And if they would have went in far enough to capture this highway, the Germans would have had to retreat and we'd had a better chance of overtaking this monastery; or if the Air Force would have bombed the monastery a few days before we got there, we might have had a chance of capturing it. But all this took time, no movement, nothing happened. And when we got to Anzio, there was no fighting right at the beach. The troops were inland about three miles, dug in. And you couldn't dig in very deep at Anzio because at one time, they told us, that it was a swamp and Mussolini dredged the ocean, the sand, and built this up into liveable ground. But the water level was high and you couldn't dig a foxhole much more than ten or twelve inches deep without hitting water in most areas. And I was only on Anzio five days. We went up and replaced troops that had invaded that, which was I think the 3rd Division, we replaced them. And I was in a machine gun hole and my platoon leader, they were in a farmhouse right back of us, we had our machine gun dug in right out in front of this farmhouse. And the Germans were just out in front of us a hundred and fifty, two hundred yards and you couldn't move at all during the day or the snipers would hit you. And one morning, they started throwing shells in there at us again. And one .88 shell landed right in front of my foxhole, and my assistant gunner was in there with me, and shrapnel came into my foxhole and hit me. I've got a piece in my chest that went down through my chest, scraped my lung and lodged against the rib. And my partner hollered back to the lieutenant that Sergeant King had been hit, to send the medics out. And he said, "We can't send no medics out because they would all be killed before they got to him." So I laid there, my partner took my medical pack and poured the powder that we had, sulfa drugs, I think, into the wound. And luckily, I didn't bleed exterior, all my bleeding was inside. Course I passed in and out several times through the day. And my lieutenant couldn't come to get me until after dark, which was about eight o'clock, so I laid there from about eleven o'clock in the morning until eight o'clock that night. And he came and picked me up out of the foxhole and took me around front of the farmhouse. And he said, "Sergeant King, you got a million dollar wound, you're going home." I said, "Well, I hope so." And they loaded me on a carrier and put me on front of the engine of a Jeep and took me down to the beach to the field hospital. And I was in the field hospital about two, or two and a half weeks because they took a syringe about an inch in diameter, about that long, and had a needle about that long, they would put in my back, into my lung and my chest cavity to suck this blood out from the internal bleeding. And course, they gave me fresh blood at the same time. But all my bleeding was inside and they would take this big syringe and suck this blood out and just squirt it into a big old wash pan, and there was a lot of blood in me. And even today, my 12 right lung has dried blood in the bottom of it. It's not as big as my left one, not as deep as my left lung is. But anyhow, they would suck this blood out every day until they got less and less, they wanted to get it out. Then they decided that they would operate on me and remove that shrapnel. So they prepped me and the next morning they was going to operate on me. And I got to the operating room and the doctors looked at the x-rays, they said, well, it would cause more trouble to remove that shrapnel than to leave it in there because it was steel, it wasn't copper or brass, so didn't have to worry about gangrene, plus it was embedded in a rib, so they didn't operate. And then after they couldn't get any more blood out of my chest cavity and lung, they put an X number of people, put them on a hospital ship out in the harbor and took us back to Naples. And I was in the hospital in Naples probably a month or month and a half, I don't remember.

JW: Let me ask you this. When you were at Anzio, was this before or after we had captured those big guns that they had on rail?

FK: They were still there. They had this, I think it was two hundred and forty millimeter or something long barrel gun mounted on a railroad flat car, and it was in a tunnel in a mountain. And this shell it shot was so huge that when it came over us, when we were in the front-lines, they would constantly shoot them down toward the beach to hit a ship or something like that, because that's where all the activity was, ships coming in there loading food and ammunition and Jeeps and trucks. When one of these big shells went off, it just shook the whole land for miles around, they were so huge; and you could hear them go over, it sounded like a freight train going over your head. And they were continually shooting this, even when I was in the field hospital there, they would shoot them. And the field hospital was dug down in sand about four feet deep, nothing but just a large tent over the top of them with a lot of beds. Course it was full of troops, wounded men; but yeah, they were continually at that time still shooting that huge gun. They'd pull it out of this tunnel and shoot four or five rounds, and before the fighter planes could get there, they'd move it back in the tunnel.

JW: I understand that really slowed down our progress for several months.

FK: It did, yeah. And by us not cutting off the Highway 6, the Germans, Hitler, sent more troops to Cassino again. And course with the bombing of the building, they all had places to hide, it just made things worse. That give them more hiding space behind all this rock and concrete.

JW: Would have thought that would have been the end of them when they bombed it.

FK: Well, there wasn't that many up there, but he sent more troops there afterwards, see, lot of them were down in the town of Cassino. But the monastery being an observation point, it just gave them the advantage over everything. 13

JW: That higher ground?

FK: And he sent more, Hitler sent more troops down there and it took four months after that day of the bombing before that was captured. And the British tried to take it and they couldn't, the French tried to take it and they couldn't. And we sent other troops up, I guess, and couldn't take it; and finally, they brought in a Polish regiment and they were the first ones that could capture the monastery. Course by this time after four months, Anzio then began to move out and expand. And they eventually got to this highway, so Hitler had to pull his men out of Cassino altogether, and then it was captured; but it took four months to capture them.

JW: Were you in on that or were you still in the hospital?

FK: Oh, no, I was back in Naples at the hospital at that time. Yeah, I was already in Naples at the Army hospital at that time. I got hit on March 24th, which was my mother's birthday, and that's the day I got hit, March 24th. And I eventually then ended up in the hospital back in Naples. And there again, they continued to suck blood out of my chest cavity and my lung to make sure they got it all out. And again, they were going to operate on me; but when the doctor saw the x-rays, they said it would be more damage than leave it in there, so that's what they decided to do. So I was in the hospital there, probably like I said, I think four or five weeks there in Naples, and then I was released, well enough to get up and be around and was sent to a staging area where there were a lot of soldiers who had put their time in and were disabled like me, were waiting for a ship to take us back to the States. Finally, a ship come in and they loaded us up and took us back to Newport News again. And I don't remember the name of that ship we were on, but it was an ocean liner, these were actually passenger ocean liners made into troopships, they carried almost five thousand troops. And I was sent back to the States in late August, and I was sent home on a two week's furlough, got to see my parents and brothers and sisters. Course my oldest brother, he was the first one to go, he was older than me. He was drafted in April before Pearl Harbor, before we had ever been sent to war, I mean started the war. And he was in four years and eleven months altogether. He was in the Indiana National Guard field artillery, trained at Camp Shelby, Mississippi. And then later on, they went to Luzon in the Philippine Islands; but he was gone four years and eleven months and I was only in twenty months. But anyhow, I got a two week's furlough there and then I was sent to Miami Beach for two weeks of R and R there. And then I was given about ten men and I was in charge of taking them to Camp Wolters, Texas. And I went down to Camp Wolters, Texas, and spent from about the end of September to November the 2nd, and they again had talked about removing that piece of shrapnel. They put me in the hospital and same thing again, they decided not to take it out so--

JW: Had it been giving you trouble? Was it causing you problems? 14

FK: Well, I would spit up blood, I constantly spit up blood. I even spit up blood couple of years after I was home, out of my lungs, I'd cough it up. And it severed some nerves as it went down through, it hit me right here. And as it went down through there, it did sever some nerves in my right arm and I couldn't use my right arm for quite awhile. I could use it, but had no strength in it. And then after I was at Camp Wolters, they decided to discharge me and they sent me home and that was the end of my Army career.

JW: What month in '45 did that happen?

FK: That was in '44.

JW: Oh, in '44?

FK: November the 2nd, 1944, I was discharged.

JW: Because of your disability?

FK: Yeah, uh-huh. And that was pretty much the end of my career.

JW: And I assume you went back to Evansville?

FK: Yeah, I went back to Evansville and went back to work at Servel, they were still building wings. Because the war hadn't ended yet, this was November of '44 and the war didn't end until the middle of June in '45. And I went back to building the wings again, and then when the war ended, Servel would not build-- they didn't require any wings anymore or any government contracts, so they went back to building their gas refrigerators and I was taught how to weld and I became a welder. This was in late '45, and I became a welder on the assembly line and I welded there for fifteen years at Servel. And in 1955, Servel went out of business and I was out of a job for about six months, and I just did odds and end jobs, painting houses and so forth, working at filling stations.

JW: Were you married by then?

FK: At that time, yes, I was married, Arleta Herrenbruck King. I was coming to that. In February of 1945, when I come home, I met a girl that I used to see all the time at the skating rink when I was just sixteen and seventeen-years-old. And we began to go together, so we got married in 1945, February 1945, and I was working then. Well, we got married and we had our first son in '47 and then we had another son in '51, we only had two sons. And one of them was Kenneth Wayne King and my younger son was Gary David King. And one of them lives here yet in Fort Smith and the other one lives in Las Vegas. And to get back to my work, in '56 then, Whirlpool moved into Evansville, they bought a company called Sunbeam that built refrigerators for Coldspot, Sears and Roebuck, and Whirlpool bought them out so I was able to get a job with Whirlpool. And I worked there all through '56 up to '65 out at the plant on the highway. They bought the plant where Republic had built during the war, where they'd built the bodies of these fighter planes. And Servel built the wings and they would truck them out there and put them on these fighter planes and fly them out of there. 15 Well, Whirlpool bought that building to begin to build refrigerators and I got on working there. And then later on, Whirlpool bought the gas refrigerator patent from Servel, and also the ice-maker patent, and they went into making gas refrigerators. So with my welding experience, they took me back to Servel plant and we began to build gas refrigerators like Servel did. Well, they only built them several years and it was just too expensive, they couldn't compete with the electric refrigerator because of the welding and high cost of steel tubing, so they quit building the refrigerator. And I went back out at the plant again in the press shop and made cabinets for their refrigerators. Then Whirlpool decided to build a gas-operated central air conditioner for homes. So with my welding knowledge, they took me back to the Servel plant again and we began to build these models of this central air conditioner they wanted to build. So we built a few by hand there at Servel in 1965, and they were very good operating, they were very efficient. And at that time, there was only about one other company-- actually, that gas unit design was designed by Electrolux Company in Belgium years and years ago. And Servel was the only company in the United States that built a gas refrigerator copied after that Belgium Electrolux. But today, I understand there is a company still building them in Indianapolis, I don't know who it is. But anyway, we built these first models, so then Whirlpool decided they had to have a plant. So they bought Norge down here in Fort Smith, and I was the first employee from Evansville to be transferred down here because of my welding. And I set up a welding school here and brought two men that I worked with, as instructors, with me. And we set up a welding school and that was the first thing that we did out here at this plant before production ever started on the refrigerator lines. And we trained a lot of welders, who some left Whirlpool and went into business of their own here in Fort Smith. And that's why I was sent down here. And I worked there and we built these gas central air conditioners until about 1972. And again, it just got too expensive, it couldn't compete with an electric operated air conditioner because of the expense of welding and steel tubing. So they went out of business on that and I ended up being a supervisor over assembly line in refrigeration. And in 1984, I retired. I had worked fifteen years at Servel and I'd worked twenty-nine years at Whirlpool, and I retired in 1984.

JW: Well, I was wondering how you got down here. And when you started going down that line and said gas central air conditioners, I remembered Whirlpool gas central air--

FK: Oh, you do?

JW: And my father's office had a gas Whirlpool.

FK: Is that right? The first ones we built worked real, real good; but like everything else, these companies, they tell their engineers to take cost out, take cost out, and as they begin to redesign it, they just couldn't get enough cost out of it. And in doing so, they 16 lost their quality; and the first ones worked very good, very well.

JW: Well, as I recall, his worked great when it worked; but it got to where it just wouldn't work, and they gave up.

FK: Yeah. I was in charge of building those, but I knew when they made their first engineering design, that they ran into trouble. And I knew right then that they wasn't going to be able-- the gas refrigerator, I knew people in the '80s and maybe even yet today, that had a gas refrigerator made by Servel back in the '30s that still operates because there's nothing to wear out on them. As long as a well don't develop a leak or a piece of tubing gets plugged up, they'll work.

JW: I personally saw several of them from the '30s still running in the late '70s.

FK: Yeah?

JW: Actually bought and sold them.

FK: Is that right?

JW: There was a rooming house, an old flop house, and every apartment had a Servel gas refrigerator. And so my mother was in the antique business and bought everything in this old house, and we were actually trying to figure out who we could hire to haul these old things off. And somebody came along and said, oh, you don't want to do that, that's the best refrigerator you can buy. And course, they were 1930s model, very small, with a little tiny ice drawer and all that; but as I recall, we sold all of them to somebody who was going to turn around and go sell them to hunters who had deer camps and they said it was just great for deer camp. You put them out there and you turned them off during non-deer season, and then go back out there and turn them on.

FK: They didn't need any electric except for the light.

JW: And they didn't care about that and never wore out.

FK: I went on vacation one time over at the Lake-of-the-Ozarks someplace, I don't know just where the camp was; but we went there and there was, oh, ten or twelve cabins there, the whole family went there on a reunion. And every one of these cabins had a Servel gas refrigerator in them, and they were still working, and this was back in the '70s.

JW: It was the late '70s that we sold, there was five or six of them in this house, in this apartment house. And I hadn't noticed, I assumed they didn't work. And some guy opened it up and he said, look, and it was just cold. It was a very hot summer and it was just cold.

FK: Yeah. The only bad thing about them they weren't frost-free because they didn't have a fan in them.

JW: These were sold, there wasn't any frost-free electric.

FK: Well, wasn't too many, no. Oh, no, back then there wasn't 17 actually.

JW: And I was told they were very efficient, didn't cost anything to run.

FK: Oh, yeah. Just a small flame in there. See, the only charge you had in them was ammonia and water, and they had zinc chromate in them, a yellow substance to try to hold down the rust and that's the only charge you had was just the ammonia and water. And all they had to do was boil that, and as they boiled it, it become a gas vapor and when it went to the top of the unit, then it started to trickle down through the different tubing, falling back to the generator and that's when it got cold and it would freeze.

JW: Well, I thought they were amazing. And all these years later, I thought, well, why didn't I just keep one of those for myself.

FK: To see how long it would last. Like I said if a capillary tube didn't ever get plugged up or a leak develop in the well, they'd last forever.

JW: That "no moving parts" business, that's magic.

FK: That was their big sales thing back in the early '30s. And I don't know just what year they started, maybe the late '20s, I don't really know. But I didn't start there until, like I said, in the war, in '42.

JW: Well, I remember the name Arkla-Servel.

FK: Okay. Arkla, that was a Servel plant. That building was where we built most of the wings. They built a new building just so we could keep building wings during the war. And after the war, that's where Servel, over there in that building, developed the ice-maker. And they developed the first ice-makers to go into a refrigerator. And then as Servel began to go out of business and slow down, they sold that building to Arkla, and also the gaslight, they invented the gas operated light, which I still see some operating here in Fort Smith.

JW: I still got two of my own.

FK: I had one when I lived out on the other end of town. They invented the gaslight, and Arkla then built the ice-makers and the gaslight. I guess I don't know of anything else there for awhile that Arkla built.

JW: Did they do that in Arkansas?

FK: No.

JW: Okay. Well, I guess--

FK: No, that was all up there in Evansville, in the old wing plant.

JW: Somewhere when I was growing up, Arkla-Servel was advertised a lot around here.

FK: No kidding?

JW: Yeah, because I thought Arkla, I thought it had to be an Arkansas 18 company.

FK: Well, I don't know where the company come from. Now that, I can't answer. They may have come from Arkansas and Oklahoma.

JW: In Little Rock, Arkla is their gas--

FK: Okay. That's probably their home or their beginning, you're right, now that you mention that.

JW: I just remember hearing Arkla-Servel all the time when I was growing up. Course, that was something that a teenager wouldn't have paid any attention to, but they must have had a lot of commercials on radio and TV. I thought I'd take advantage and ask a Servel man about Arkla-Servel.

FK: Yeah, that became the name of it later on. And Servel engineers, they didn't invent the gas operated refrigerator, it came from Belgium, Electrolux Company.

JW: Is that Electrolux the same people that make vacuum cleaners or different?

FK: Well, that, I don't know. That, I don't know. There was another company in Indianapolis making gas refrigerators then later on. I don't know the name of it, I don't know if they're still in operation or not.

JW: I'm just surprised that Whirlpool was making them in the mid '60s.

FK: Yeah, they got into it and I don't understand really why they got into it, but we built quite a few gas refrigerators. And they redesigned them and they worked, and course they had to put a fan in them to make them frost-free, so they couldn't advertise "no moving parts" like Servel did.

JW: But still, they were probably pretty cheap to operate.

FK: Yeah, they just took a little gas flame. And that central air conditioner had a gas burner under it, about so big around, and it had about an eight inch generator, so tall and that big around, heavy steel. And all it did was took a gas flame to heat that up.

JW: Well, when I was a kid, the concept of lighting a fire to make air conditioning just seemed bizarre to me and no one bothered to explain the process to me then.

FK: And really, it was very simple; but steel tubing was too expensive and welders, they paid welders more money in a plant than they did a lot of assembly jobs, because you had to know what you were doing at welding. And we taught all kinds of welding from acetylene to arc welding, and TIG and MIG, all the welding.

JW: Well, how do you feel about Whirlpool moving to Mexico?

FK: Well, I don't like it, I don't like it a bit.

JW: Since the word first got out a number of years ago, everybody in Fort Smith, it's like losing a best friend or a shoe dropping on your 19 head or something, and I don't think we know yet what kind of impact it's going to have when the doors close forever.

FK: Well, this was the largest plant Whirlpool's got. Evansville has got a larger plant, Whirlpool, but they don't have as many employees. They make the cheaper models up there and they don't have as many employees. We make the top-of-the-lines out here for Whirlpool and Kitchen Aide and Sears, and we had almost five thousand employees here, where Evansville never, I can't remember them ever having over thirty-five hundred. And some of their other plants don't even have that many. But I don't have anything to do with them anymore except they buy my medicine. But I don't like the fact that they're moving. They're not the only company. It's just ruining our middle class and the quality down there, I know, I had some friends that went down there when they first opened their first plant up from out here. And course, those people down there work for, what, dollar, two dollars an hour and people out here were making sixteen and eighteen dollars an hour and a good living. When I first joined Whirlpool, it was a good place to work. The CEO and General Manager, he was a family man, Upton, that started Whirlpool, and he believed in treating people right. But as years go by and the family dies off and they put other men in charge of it, and then all that it is is money, it's a money deal.

JW: Right. And I came to think that I wouldn't move my plant, but if everybody, all my competitors were moving to Mexico and paying a dollar or two dollars an hour and I was still someplace up here paying sixteen or eighteen dollars an hour and my responsibility was to my shareholders and all that, I reckon there'd be nothing to do except pack up and leave, too, because you couldn't compete.

FK: Well, that's true. But on the other hand, you got to look at if Whirlpool would shut down here, what it would do to Fort Smith.

JW: Well, that's what everybody worries about.

FK: And then after a point, after awhile, who's going to buy those refrigerators. When people don't have those eighteen dollar an hour jobs anymore and they have to go someplace to work for six or seven dollars an hour, they can't buy a refrigerator at sixteen to seventeen hundred dollars for a two-door.

JW: Well, somebody said one time back in the, I guess back in the '80s when the auto industry was having such fits and strikes and all that, somebody said that the problem was is that people making twenty-five dollars an hour were building cars to sell to people who were making five dollars an hour. And somewhere in there, you can see, that's just not going to last forever.

FK: Well, that was Henry Ford's theory. He believed in making a car that his employees could own. He didn't pay a lot of money, but course, nobody made money back then.

JW: That was good money for the time.

FK: My first job when I went to Servel, I made fifty-six cents an 20 hour. That was a little better than the dollar a day I was making delivering groceries.

JW: Right. But my first job I think was in 1971 and I was making a dollar-thirty cents an hour and thought I was rich because I was a kid with a paycheck.

FK: Yeah, yeah, that's true, I know. Course everything, it keeps going up, but the way things are going, one of these days, who's going to buy all this stuff.

JW: Right, right. Well, I just think that the thinking is that when that time comes, that the top-dogs will have become so filthy rich that it won't matter.

FK: I don't want to get into no politics, but we told Russia's Gorbachev to tear down that wall because the communist people in Russia were being restricted in Eastern Germany. And today, we are supporting communism in China. Everything you look at is made in China and we're making a communist country filthy rich.

JW: Well, I think there's got to be-- I realize how smart I'm not, but if all the jobs go away, then somewhere in there there's going to be a time where nobody can buy the products.

FK: That's exactly right.

JW: And what's going to happen? And I know there's smarter people than I am, so I don't know if it's a let's live for today and worry about that later, or what's going on; but there's got to be some sort of a mind-set that's not going to be good for me and you some day.

FK: I agree. Fort Smith has been lucky with Rheem and Whirlpool, we're not hurting too bad.

JW: But don't you figure Rheem's going to follow Whirlpool to Mexico?

FK: I'm sure they will eventually, everybody else has.

JW: If all your competitors are paying two dollars an hour and you're paying ten or fifteen--

FK: Plus insurance and all.

JW: Right, you're not going to make it.

FK: I know it. But then the day's coming when who's going to buy it, buy your product. Those Mexicans aren't buying nine hundred dollar refrigerators down there. And it's the same way, what really scares me is we have been told in the past and they don't pay any attention to it, that China was a sleeping giant. And all we're doing is making them bigger and bigger and more powerful. Now they've got middle class money over there now, they got probably the biggest army in the world, they got an Air Force and some Navy, and that worries me.

JW: Right. Well, I figure ten, fifteen years down the road, that China is going to be the biggest problem.

FK: It definitely will be. 21

JW: And I don't know. You've got Wal-Mart sending more money than they can probably haul because how many products are in Wal-Mart that are made in China?

FK: You can't hardly buy anything that's not made in China nowadays and we're just we're ruining our middle class and making theirs bigger and more powerful.

JW: There's two or three billion of them and there's three hundred million of us.

FK: They have a large army.

JW: If they just drop people on us, that would be the end of us.

FK: That's true. I don't know, I didn't get to show you my Army stuff there on the wall, my discharge, Purple Heart and my Combat Infantry Badge. And I've got a letter there from the Mayor of Anzio thanking the troops for what they did. In 1998, I took my youngest son, me and him went over on a trip that some Italian veterans in New York got together, it was about forty of us, including their wives and I took my son, my wife passed away twelve years ago. But we went on this tour and we went to England and then we went to Italy and it was really great. I always wanted to go back to Italy and my son, my youngest son was real interested in what happened over there and what I did. And we went and visited the U.S. cemetery, Nettuno, there's still seventy-two hundred bodies over there. Course that's just one of many cemeteries, but this was just in Italy. And it's beautiful, it's run by the United States service people, very well kept, beautiful. And the highlight of my visit on that trip was we got to go to that cemetery, and there were all, all the men that was on there were ex-Army in Italy, they all had been in Italy, lot of them were in Air Corps or field artillery or MPs or whatever. There was only one or two that was actually in infantry, one man was in my same division. But we got to the cemetery and we got to place a wreath on one of the graves there and I got to call the troops to order and place that wreath, and that highlighted my trip over there.

JW: I bet that was wonderful. Did I hear you say at the gathering we had last month, that they had rebuilt the cathedral at Monte Cassino?

FK: Oh, yeah. We went through it, that was part of the trip that I wanted to see. But they wouldn't let me go into the backyard to see where I was, they wouldn't allow us into the backyard. I don't know why. I even asked my tour director, I said I would like to go back down there just in the backyard a hundred yards or so out and see that last wall where I was at and see what's there, but they wouldn't let me do it. But yeah, we rebuilt that in 1954, our United States rebuilt it. And the difference now, I remembered it when I seen it as a gray stone building. And now, it's a real light sandstone but on the same foundation and same size and architect but it's just real light sandstone now, clean instead of dirty.

JW: Give it ten centuries and it will probably have that gray look that you remember. 22

FK: Oh, it will, yeah. Yeah, it will, but it was pretty. We got to go inside and went through the basement of it. And course I'm Catholic, and St. Benedict and his sister was St. Scholastica, that they named this school here after, and their bodies are both interred over there in the basement of the monastery. And we got to attend the mass there and it's very beautiful place, beautiful courtyard.

JW: Well, I've had friends that have gone to Italy in the last five or ten years and they just come back raving about how wonderful Italy is and how fabulous the food is.

FK: Yeah, it's pretty to see, very pretty country. We went down to Sorento, I didn't know at the time that down in the lower part, around Sorento, it's like Florida. They have orange trees and orange groves, and it's that warm down there. I didn't know that. When I was waiting to come home, after we were waiting there for our ship to come home, they would take us on some of the tours. We went to Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius and saw some of that, and this was back in '44. And I went back in '98, and my gosh, they have uncovered a whole lot more of Pompeii.

JW: Yeah, I remember when all that work was going on in the '60s.

FK: See all the streets where the chariots ran and the grooves in them where the steel metal wheels that the chariots made.

JW: Fascinating.

FK: It was very interesting. Getting to go back one more time was really something to see.

JW: Does your division still have reunions?

FK: Yes.

JW: And do you go?

FK: I never go. My regiment was located near Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I'm a lifetime member of it and I get monthly mail from them, but I've never been to any of the reunions.

JW: Well, I know other veterans, some don't want to go, you couldn't make them go, and others go or have gone and said, oh, it was okay, and then some veterans go year after year, maybe not every year, but they go often and just think it's the grandest thing. So I guess it just depends on how you're built.

FK: You know, lot of people don't want to talk about the war. I'm not ashamed of it and I will talk about any of it. I seen a lot of men get killed, it was terrible. And reason I probably won't go to the reunions because, like I said, we were replacements, we didn't know a lot of guys for a long time. I mean some of the men, just like we got a lieutenant one time on our platoon one morning, and the first thing he did, he just had come out of officer's candidate school and first thing he did was get up there on this ridge and give us a speech the first morning he was there. We kept telling him to "get down, get down", and a sniper got him; he hadn't been with our company an hour and the sniper hit him because he got up there and exposed hisself. 23 I mean you have to learn how to live. And I always thought and we always lived by "one live soldier is worth a whole lot more than ten dead ones." We tried to keep them all alive as possible the longest we could. But like I said now, my brother, his division, the men in his company were together for four years and eleven months. They had a reunion every year, the same group of guys that he was with, they were just like brothers to him. And they come from all over the country and did this at a certain person's place every year, they'd change it around, but they knew each other.

JW: So you were never in one group for very long?

FK: One guy that I was with the longest over there, he and I exchanged Christmas cards for fifty years. And in 19, back in about '99 or 2000, somewhere back in there, he used to live in Pennsylvania. When he come home, he was a firefighter in some town in Pennsylvania, I can't think of the name of it. And in the meantime, since he's retired, he moved down to Sarasota, Florida. And my younger son, who lives in Vegas now, he drives an eighteen wheeler and he used to be stationed in Jacksonville. And my oldest son took me down there one time, and we went over, I called him and went over to see him, first time I'd seen him in over fifty-five years. And we got to see each other and exchange things and look at things and talk about things. He never did have any problems other than he stayed with them all the way up past Anzio, through Rome, and up into Northern Italy and finally got sent home. He was just with them so long, he had fatigue. And course the war was almost over, but he's the only one that I ever kept contact with.

JW: Well, can you think of anything else we need to cover?

FK: No, that pretty well gets me up to date. I'm eighty-two years old and I've been living here by myself now since my wife passed away in '94, she had cancer. We were married forty-nine and a half years.

JW: That's a long time, but not long enough, I imagine.

FK: Yeah. Other than that, I see one of my sons that lives here yet quite often. But the one that lives out in Las Vegas, I don't get to see him but once every six months or so.

JW: Looks like somebody has provided you with grandchildren and maybe great-grandchildren.

FK: Oh, yeah. I have five grandchildren, my oldest son had three and my youngest son had two, and I've got four great-grandchildren. And just last week or week ago, two weeks ago, my youngest granddaughter, my oldest son's youngest daughter, she got married down at IC Church. And my son and his daughter from Vegas and San Diego, they came. And then my sister's still living, I got three sisters still living, both my brothers have passed away, and they were all down here for the wedding. And we had a big reception down at the Civic Center after the wedding. And then we spent a week over at Lake Tenkiller fishing last week, and the fishing was bad, terrible. Crappie weren't biting at all. 24

JW: But still, a week at Tenkiller, I used to do that, sounds good.

FK: Yeah, we used to go over there every year. My son's still got a big place over there and we go over, but other than that--

JW: It looks like you've done pretty good for a farm boy with an eighth grade education.

FK: Yeah, well, yeah. After I got married, I went to night school in Evansville for four years. I got half the credits I needed for high school in Indiana. And then before Whirlpool would make me in the supervision, I had to take a GED test, which I did and passed, and I've had all that. I have hobbies, I did a lot of woodwork. I built, out in my garage, for a hobby after I retired, I build cedar chests for all my granddaughters. And I just finished one last week and delivered it yesterday to my friend and gave it to her. And then I built gun cabinets for my son and my oldest grand-son-in-law, who is a detective in the police department here. My oldest son, he was President and CEO of K-Mac Enterprises, all the Kentucky Fried Chickens and Taco Bells. He built that from two local Kentucky Fried Chickens, to over a hundred and eighty stores throughout Arkansas and Missouri and Oklahoma.

JW: That's been a monster success.

FK: Yeah, he done real well.

JW: Is he building a new house? My wife has Entertainment Fort Smith magazine, and every month they try to have a house, and I think either she's contacted him or she's stalking him.

FK: Up here on the top of Moody Road, big place.

JW: Yeah, she told me it was just out of this world.

FK: It won't be done until after about the end of the year. It's beautiful, just blows my mind. I like to woodwork, but boy, the woodwork that's going in there just blows my mind, it's beautiful.

JW: Well, he made it.

FK: He worked hard.

JW: Yeah, has as nice a life as you can get.

FK: He only had one year of college, and we moved down here. And then he served two years over in Germany, he was still drafted. He's sixty years old now, my oldest son, and he worked hard for thirty years to build that into what he did. They had over two thousand employees altogether.

JW: I just always thought the food business, that's a hard business. That's hard, I'd much rather be out there stuffing insulation in a refrigerator than try to make a go and the people. Lot of the employees that they've had to put up with through the years, that's not a picnic.

FK: No, but it's still got a lot of the general managers and so forth, they've been with them for years and years. But yeah, you have 25 a big turn-over of help just like McDonald's and everybody else does.

JW: Well, it's one of those businesses that I don't think-- there's some businesses, after you've been at it for ten or twenty years, it gets easier. But in the food business, there's no getting easier, it's the same problems.

FK: No, it don't change hardly.

JW: It's the same problems twenty years, thirty years, forty years.

FK: Same problems, yeah. And you talked about stuffing insulation in whatever, those first Servel gas refrigerators, they didn't have insulation in those days, they were insulated with wood.

JW: With wood?

FK: They had wood about, oh, probably an inch, inch and a quarter thick.

JW: I was going to guess cord.

FK: And they have their own lumber mill and everything, right there in the center of their complex. And they would buy this rough lumber and then saw it, and that's what they put between the liner and the cabinet was wood, and they were heavy, they were really heavy.

JW: I remember loading these, these little old Servel refrigerators weren't five feet tall.

FK: Well, they had wood in them.

JW: But it took two men straining to get them, the upstairs apartments, we had to take them down those steps.

FK: Well, all that steel, steel tubing, and then being insulated with wood.

JW: It was like five-foot-tall piece of lead, as I remember it.

FK: Yeah. They had their own wood mill there in the center where they cut their lumber and dry kilned and everything.

JW: Well, they just don't do anything like they did in the old days

FK: No, not anymore.

JW: And I don't know how much what's made today is still going to be around fifty years from now, much less still working in fifty years.

FK: Well, things just change so fast nowadays. We've got so smart with TV and technology, everything changes so fast.

JW: Well, does that fix you up?

FK: Yeah, I think that pretty well covers me.

JW: Well, I sure thank you for letting us interview you.

FK: Well, I appreciate it.

JW: And I sure thank you for taking some of the best years of being young and spending it over there getting shot at. 26

FK: Well, back then, it was for a reason.

JW: But people are finally figuring out that that was a big deal. Maybe you didn't make a big deal out of it for fifty years, but finally figured out it was a big deal, and we need to make a big deal out of it.

FK: Yeah. Couple years ago, my oldest son took me to Washington to see the World War II Memorial and it's really nice.

JW: I've heard that.

FK: And I enjoyed that. They had one stone there with Anzio on it and one with Monte Cassino, so they recognized those two. They're not like D-Day was, but--

JW: But those were tough battles.

FK: They were, yeah. See, we were still using, some of our rifle squads were, were still using World War I 1906 rifles. The bolt action rifle. We didn't even have M-1s yet over there.

JW: I tell you something interesting: A man from Fort Smith named Henry Loewy, do you know Henry Loewy? He ran T.J. Smith Box Company.

FK: No.

JW: Or headed that up. He's ninety-six-years-old now, he doesn't know it, but he is. Runs round all over town, hard to catch him at home. His job in World War II was to ship back captured enemy weaponry. And they would ship it back to Aberdeen Proving Grounds, where our experts would look it all over. And the biggest job that he ever had was shipping one of those guns from Anzio that ran on the track.

FK: Oh, is that right?

JW: He shipped it to Aberdeen, Maryland, and it's still, I did some checking, and it's still at Aberdeen, Maryland. You can go look at it today.

FK: I'll be darned. I saw pictures of it.

JW: Yeah. He said that that was his responsibility to make sure that it was packed up and shipped and got here. And I haven't even told him that it's still up there. The other thing he said that he shipped back is the Germans built this--somebody had a crazy idea. They built like the biggest tank in the world. It was, from pictures I've seen, looked like it was about the size of this house. And it really was not practical at all, they didn't build very many of them. And about the worst thing was seeing it coming over the hill at you, it'd just scare you to death. And they captured one of those, and it was his job to ship that back to Aberdeen, and he said that and the big gun at Anzio was the biggest headache that he had. But the fact that he's still here at ninety-six and those things are still on display at Aberdeen, and I hope someday before I die, I'll manage to get up there and look at these things.

FK: I didn't know anything about a big tank, I saw the regular tanks. 27 And at first, in Italy, there were regular tanks and I forget the name of them, they were far superior to what we had until the General Sherman come along. And then after they got General Sherman, which they used mostly in Europe, they were faster and more capable of doing what had to be done than the Germans did.

JW: I think this big tank is about like a German jet, I think it came late and they didn't make many of them.

FK: Yeah, they came out with a jet first; and boy, really, and those rockets that hit England, yeah, they had some pretty smart people. 1