My full name is Seborn Walton Jackson, Jr. I was born here in
Fort Smith on
(DELETED CONTENT); and I grew up here, born and
reared here in Fort Smith.
What was your parents' name?
My father's name was Seborn Walton Jackson and my mother's name
was Lucile Lick Jackson.
And did you have brothers and sisters?
I had a sister, Caroline Dixie Jackson, a little older, three
years older than I am.
Your mother was a Lick. Was she Chauncey's daughter?
Yeah. You know Chauncey Lick or know of him?
Yes, I know of Chauncey and Cap and on down. Okay. I just wanted
to make sure we knew where she fit in.
Chauncey had two children, Cap and my mother, Lucile.
Okay. And you went through the schools here?
And did you go to college?
No. I went to trade school for a while, printing school, because
I went to work in my grandfather's printing business. A little
continuing education along the way, but I never formally went to
Okay. So where did you live, what part of Fort Smith?
We lived with my grandfather and grandmother out on North 41st
Street, 41st and N, about four blocks north of Grand Avenue.
And the house is still standing?
House is still there, yeah. It's an old frame Victorian house,
because there were two sets of family, my grandparents, my
parents and my sister and myself, and an uncle that all lived
there. Large house, and an old Victorian frame and eventually
was sold as members of the family died off and was sold to a
couple, the husband worked at Hiram Walker. And they did a nice
job of rehabilitating the place, renovating it. Looks better now
than it ever did, tell you the truth.
JW: It's a beautiful house. What year did you graduate from Fort
Smith High School?
JW: So between '37 and the war years you probably worked at
Weldon, Williams and Lick?
JW: And do you remember the day the Japanese bombed Pearl
SJ: Oh, my goodness, yes. 2
JW: Can you tell us about that date.
SJ: Yes. Let me say that there were five of us in Fort Smith
that were all-- In 1941, there was a military draft of all young
men in the country. You got a number and you waited until your
number came up and then you went in the Army, unless you
enlisted in some other branch of the service previous to that,
which five of us decided to do. We picked the Marine Corps
because we were persuaded by an old World War I ex-Marine who
talked us into joining the Marine Corps. So the five of us did,
and that was in July of 1941 and we were sent out to the marine
base in San Diego where we went through boot camp. After boot
camp we got into a special training school called sea school,
that's s-e-a, where they trained Marines to serve in marine
detachments on battleships, cruisers and aircraft carriers, be
anti-aircraft gunners on large ships. And we were in sea school
for about a month when December 7th came along. And yes, I
remember it very well because we got word there at the marine
base eight or nine o'clock in the morning on December 7th,
Sunday morning. And at first, we didn't know what was going on.
And the word finally came through that Pearl Harbor had been
attacked and all those ships had been sunk and so forth. But a
funny thing happened, how ill prepared the United States was
when that happened and how superior the Japanese forces were to
ours. That night, we were standing barracks at the marine base
there in San Diego. Across the bay, there's a long sand strip,
sort of an island, on which was a big naval air station called
North Island Air Station. They got word that the Japanese fleet
that attacked Pearl Harbor was going to come on and attack the
West Coast, and they figured that North Island Naval Air Station
would be a logical place for them to attack. So there were about
a hundred of us in sea school. And the weapons we had were an
old 1903 vintage thirty caliber rifles, bolt action rifles,
nothing automatic about them. And about one or two o'clock in
the morning, they rousted us out, put us in trucks and took us
across the bay over to North Island and spread us along the
beach. And our job was to repel, about a hundred of us with
antiquated rifles, to repel the Japanese invasion which
fortunately never came. But I think that's a small example of
where we stood versus the Japanese on December 7th.
JW: Good thing they didn't attack?
SJ: Oh, yeah.
JW: Well, did you know that the minute that you understood what
had happened with Pearl Harbor, did you figure that that was
automatically war time and you were fixing to head off?
SJ: Yeah, yeah.
JW: Is that what happened or was it hurry up and wait?
SJ: Well, no. I think the whole country went into kind of a
super high gear to prepare itself for what it had to do, and
that was fight the war on both sides, in Europe and in the
Pacific. No, you could see it, see things change there at the
marine base. Within a day or two after December 7th, the
recruits started flooding in there like they hadn't ever done
before. I mean just masses of them coming in, 3 volunteers. And
we didn't have enough equipment for them, didn't have rifles for
them, we didn't even have enough drill instructors. And so they
took several of us out of sea school and made instructors out of
us. And we didn't know much more than the people we were
teaching, but that's all they could do. They didn't have enough
experienced men that they could take away from what they were
doing to put into teaching and drilling and that sort of thing,
so they had to rely on almost recruits to do it.
JW: So what happened to you next?
SJ: Well, I was a drill instructor there at the marine base, at
the boot camp, until about September. And all five of us that
had come in together were getting restless. And two put in for a
parachute battalion that was forming there, one had already gone
out to the 2nd Marine Division, and two of us put in for sea
duty and we got transferred up to a battleship that was in port
up in Washington, and I stayed on that about a year and a half.
JW: What was the name of that ship?
SJ: Tennessee, USS Tennessee.
JW: Let me go back and ask you, the five people that you signed
up with, they were Fort Smith people?
SJ: Fort Smith, yeah, all friends of mine. Some of us had been
in high school together.
JW: And do you remember their names?
SJ: Oh, yes. They're all dead now. Two of them got killed in the
war, two of the five of us got killed. One of them just died
last year and the fourth one died about fifteen years ago, I
JW: Okay. So you were--
SJ: Excuse me. You asked me if I knew their names. Do you want
JW: That might be interesting.
SJ: Okay. The one that went to the 2nd Marine Division was named
Harold Lacey, he and I were in the same class in school. The two
that got killed were brothers, Roscoe Lamkin and John Lamkin,
were both killed. One was killed in Bougainville down in the
South Pacific and one was killed at Iwo Jima. Then the fourth
one was named Leon Andrews, and he and I were in school
together, and he and I went on sea duty. And then later, he got
transferred into the 1st Marine Division, made several campaigns
with them, and came back, and after the war, survived it, got
out. For a time, tried civilian life, didn't like it, went back
in. He stayed in the Marine Corps until he retired as a Gunnery
Sergeant and lived out in Hawaii. And they were all Fort Smith
products, all grew up here.
JW: Okay. So let's see, you went to the USS Tennessee in
September of 1942? Right. Okay, and take us from there.
SJ: It was in Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton, Washington,
right 4 across the bay from Seattle, right across the sound, I
should say, and it was having some new guns put on it. When all
that fitting-out was done, we took off for the Aleutian Islands
Campaign. The Japanese had come in and occupied some of the
Aleutian Islands that, if you remember your geography about that
part of the world, they jut out, way out into the Bering Sea
from Alaska. And the Japanese had occupied some of them, they
established a submarine base up there. And the thinking was that
they were eventually going to attack Alaska, so we sent a force
up there, an Army division and a small Navy force to stop that.
And the Army landed on two different islands and was successful
in getting rid of the Japanese there. And we had to stay up
there all summer. We got there in the spring, stayed up there
until the next fall on patrol. We were patrolling up in the
Bering Sea and back down in the North Pacific, almost over to
Asia, weren't too far from some Russian and Japanese held
islands, we got so far west. And then when that whole thing was
over and they finally got all the Japanese out of there, we were
sent down in the South Pacific and joined the 2nd Marine
Division way down in a group of islands, not too far from
Australia. And we rendezvoused with 2nd Division and went with
them and a small fleet up to Tarawa. Do you remember hearing
about that battle? It was a principal base in the Gilbert
Islands. And our job was to keep any Japanese surface vessels
from coming in there, furnish anti-aircraft protection and to
bombard the island defenses for the landing, the naval artillery
support is what we were. And it was a very bad one for the
Marine Corps. Fortunately, we didn't have to go ashore because
we had jobs there on the ship. But the 2nd Marine Division
really got shot up terribly bad. They went in, everything went
wrong and they got under heavy mortar and machine gun fire. And
when they jumped out of their landing craft, these guys had, of
course, rifles and ammunition belts packed on, fully clothed.
You can imagine how heavy they were. And when they stepped out
of the landing craft and told to disembark, the water was over
their head. They'd go down like a rock, a lot of them drowned
before they could ever get in action. And all this was because
of so little intelligence about the island and the terrain and
the depth of the water and the tides and all that. Was such a
remote place, they didn't have any charts on it, so they'd go in
and take their chances. Anyway, that was over in a matter of a
few days. And then eventually, the ship went back to the coast
briefly and I was transferred off with some other guys and wound
up back in the South Pacific after a short time in the States.
And was put in an anti-aircraft artillery battalion down in
Soloman Islands, and we were in reserve, waiting to be called
up. Another thing that happened along about that time, probably
spared us from having to get into any action, was that in the
Battle for the Philippines and the Battle for the Marianas,
which principally was Guam and Saipan, there were two big air
battles called the Turkey Shoot. And the carrier planes for the
United States Navy so shot up the Japanese planes that it just
decimated the Japanese Air Force, they took away their offensive
power. Well, along about that time when we gained control of the
Philippines, we had control of the sea lanes that went from
Japan down to Indonesia and that's where they got their oil. And
so they 5 couldn't keep their industry going to replenish all
these military losses they had, so they had very poor offensive
power from that time on. That's why they reverted to kamikazes,
that's about all they could do, suicide, fly the plane into the
ship, which they did successfully on many occasions. And that
saved us, as anti-aircraft gunners, from having to get into
anymore action than we did.
JW: Were you an anti-aircraft gunner on a naval vessel or were
you on shore?
SJ: Both, first on that battleship, and then later sent into the
South Pacific and that was land based. And then we eventually
wound up on Guam, where we were all prepared, we had our guns
and equipment down on the beach ready to load up on LSTs when
the atomic bombs were dropped and that ended the war, saved us
from having to go to Japan, on the invasion of Japan. That was a
big relief, I'll tell you. When I think about the pros and cons
of dropping those bombs, I sincerely believe that many more
lives would have been lost on both sides had they not dropped
them and had we literally invaded Japan. And you know that in
the weeks before they dropped the bomb, they fire-bombed twelve
or fifteen Japanese cities. And more civilian lives were lost in
the accumulation of those fire-bombings than in Nagasaki and
Hiroshima. And that's not publicized very much, all you hear
about is the atomic bombs. But as far as civilian damage, more
of it was done in those fire-bombings. Japan was pretty much
knocked out by the time they dropped them, they just wouldn't
give up. But they think that if we'd gone in there, they would
have fought with everything they had, man, woman and child.
JW: And it was a fortified island?
SJ: Yeah. I think those atomic bombs so horrified them, so
frightened them, because of the enormity of the destruction and
everything that happened just with one bomb. But they didn't
know that after the second bomb, we didn't have anymore.
JW: That's good they gave up when they did.
SJ: Yeah, yeah, it sure is.
JW: I've recently seen photographs of the tunnels and the caves
and whole locomotives and airplanes and all that, it was like
Swiss cheese evidently, and they'd hid things in every crevice.
SJ: The Japanese Islands? Yeah.
JW: So it sure makes me think that if we'd had to invade them
with ground troops, that it just would have been millions of
people killed on both sides.
SJ: On both sides, yeah. I think you're right. Well, after the
thing ended, I had enough points to get out. They let you apply
for a discharge on the basis of the number of points you'd
earned through your term of service. I had enough to get out.
And so I had to wait, they put us in a camp, all of us that were
in a like situation there on Guam and we just waited until we
could get transportation, and I came home on a destroyer. And
one of the scariest experiences I had, 6 oddly enough, was
coming home, the destroyer got caught in a typhoon first night
out of Guam. And we were escorting a battleship that had been
badly damaged and patched up, and they wouldn't steam it over
six knots because they were afraid the patching would give way.
And the job of this destroyer, in addition to carrying us, which
was just incidental, had room for about thirty or forty of us,
was to go alongside as an escort. And in case the repair work
did give way, we'd take the skeleton crew off and let the ship
sink out there. So that night when that typhoon hit us, a
destroyer normally has enough speed and their configuration with
the ship is such that it can cut through waves, cut through
heavy seas. But we couldn't do that because we couldn't go over
six knots, we had to stay with this old battleship. And I'm
telling you, that was some kind of a night. I stood up all night
holding on to stanchions because the ship was going like this.
JW: Do you remember the name of the destroyer?
SJ: No, I don't.
JW: Do you remember the name of the battleship?
SJ: Oh, yeah. The battleship, oh, yeah, it was the Pennsylvania.
JW: When was this, what date was this more or less?
SJ: This was October, early October.
JW: October of 1945?
SJ: Yeah, that's right, some time in October. I got out and the
destroyer took us to Seattle, and then they subsequently put us
on a train and sent us down to Camp Pendleton in California,
where we were discharged. But all that took a matter of two or
three weeks, and so it was the middle of November before I
finally got out. And I think one of the questions here was what
did you do the first day you got out. And I looked for a way to
get home, I mean they didn't give me a ride, didn't tell me how
to get there. They gave me three hundred dollars, that was the
ruptured duck pay, they called it, and I got a ride up to L.A.
and then looked for transportation. I took a bus overnight to
Phoenix, yeah, to Phoenix, and then managed to get on an
airliner, American Airlines to Dallas. And then I took a train
from Dallas to Muskogee, and then took another bus from Muskogee
to Fort Smith, but I got here.
JW: So you came into town. Was anybody there to meet you at the
bus station, did they know you were coming?
SJ: They didn't know when I was coming, they didn't know I was
coming at that hour. No, no, there was nobody there. I didn't
want to wake them up because I got into Fort Smith at about four
or five o'clock in the morning, so I just went on home.
JW: Did you get a taxi?
SJ: As I recall, that was the only way to get around, was a
JW: I thought of something and forgot. You were an artillery
SJ: Anti-aircraft machine guns and heavier anti-aircraft, like
JW: And did you have any stories connected with that?
SJ: No, not really. When I was in the anti-aircraft artillery
battalion, we never got called up. We were down in the Pacific
Islands waiting. We'd go on stand-by and be ready, but because
it existed where the Japanese Air Force was so decimated, they
didn't need anti-aircraft as much. But onboard ship, our biggest
threat from the Japanese, in my experience on the Tennessee, was
submarines up in the Bering Sea and that area up there. The
Japanese had, on one of the islands, a submarine base on an
island called Kiska and they were out all around. We had to have
destroyers with us all the time to keep the submarines off of
us. Occasionally, we'd be stalked by them and when we went
south, Japanese had a lot of submarines out in the Pacific. Not
giant ones like we have in our Navy today, were smaller ones,
but they had a lot of them, and they could spit out "fish", you
know. One of the sad tales was not in my personal experience,
but I've read a lot about it, was the cruiser Indianapolis,
which was the cruiser that took the first atomic bomb to Iwo, I
guess it was, where they flew out of there. But it was on a
mission just a very few days before the war was over. It was
ordered to go from Guam to the Philippines. But it was a heavy
cruiser and heavy cruisers don't have any submarine protection;
neither do battleships, destroyers are there for that purpose
and are supposed to escort these ships, keep the submarines away
from them. But they didn't send destroyers with the
Indianapolis. Somewhere out there between Guam and the
Philippines, a stray Japanese submarine had had quite a bit of
experience out there and was really stalking for another kill,
saw the Indianapolis and put two or three "fish" in it and sunk
it. And I think there were eight or nine hundred men on it, and
only about a hundred and fifty, two hundred of them survived.
You probably heard that story.
JW: I've heard that story and the sharks.
SJ: Sharks got there, they were in the water for several days
before the Navy ever found them. They didn't even know where
they were. Kind of a sad ending to their experience.
JW: Sure is. When did you learn of V-J Day?
SJ: We learned when they dropped-- well, what was V-J Day? Was
that the day that the Japanese surrendered?
JW: Surrendered, uh-huh.
SJ: Okay. As soon as it happened because we had a radio man in
our battery and he was listening to his short wave newscast out
of Pearl Harbor about the first bomb and then the second bomb
and so forth. And then a day or two later, they finally
capitulated and that's when we heard about it.
JW: They announced it over the speaker?
SJ: Matter of fact, nothing much went on after that first atomic
8 bomb. The reports about it were so unbelievable, the enormity
of the destruction it did, that everything kind of stopped
because we thought the battle ended. But it didn't, so they had
to drop another one. So there were several days there where
things were kind of put on hold and didn't do anything but wait
for reports from Pearl Harbor. Soon as V-J Day was over, in just
a few days they started demobilizing. Had a good plan worked out
to do it, put it in affect almost right away.
JW: Well, you had been in since July or August of 1941 and got
out in November of 1945?
SJ: Right, yes.
JW: That's a long time.
SJ: Yeah, long enough for me.
JW: I think that's long enough for anybody, and that's pretty
remarkable. So you came home at four or five o'clock in the
morning and probably snuck in the house?
SJ: Yeah. I had to ring the doorbell because the door was
JW: And so I don't suppose you got up and went to work the next
SJ: No, no, I didn't. It was awhile before I got my head screwed
on right and started to work. I went back to work at the same
JW: But you took X number of weeks to kick up your heels?
SJ: Yeah, yeah, I think so, yeah.
JW: And you weren't married at this time?
SJ: No, no.
JW: You were single?
SJ: I didn't get married until two or three years later, 1948 is
when I got married.
JW: When you got back after that long time being away, did Fort
Smith seem the same or had the war changed it, had the war years
SJ: No, it hadn't changed that much. Things couldn't change much
during the war except those towns that were flooded with
servicemen like San Diego, I mean in the Marine Corps out there.
And course we had the camp here, but I don't think it altered
the town much. It looked about the same because you couldn't
build much, civilian building almost came to a halt, and so the
town looked the same.
JW: And when you got back, it just felt like home?
SJ: Yeah, yeah, that's right. They quit manufacturing civilian
automobiles, and an awful lot of civilian products were taken
out of production because everything was focused on what was
needed for the war effort. And that even got down to, like, you
couldn't get real whiskey, good whiskey. You got something mixed
with grain alcohol, something people wouldn't have anything to
do with in this day and time; but that's the way they had to
make it then. 9
JW: What affect did the war have on Weldon, Williams and Lick?
What did they do?
SJ: I think they kept busy during the war.
JW: Did they convert to some sort of war work?
SJ: Well, not much, they weren't able to. It was a printing
company and particularly specializing like they did. They did
some ticket work for Army and Air Force motion picture service,
where they had theaters in camps around, but it didn't amount to
much. They couldn't make munitions or anything like that, they
just didn't have the right kind of plant.
JW: They didn't make ration booklets or things like that?
SJ: No, I think the Government made those.
JW: Those four years, did they lose money or did they just
pretty much stay the same?
SJ: I don't think so. I think they made money.
JW: I guess theaters did good business during the war.
SJ: Oh, yeah, very good, yeah.
JW: That's interesting.
SJ: Some parts of the business dropped off, far as enterprises
didn't draw the people that they would in peace time; but they
managed to do all right. Were able to keep-- I think there were
times they had some trouble getting enough people.
JW: Right. That was going to be my next question, because there
had to be a lot of--
SJ: Had so many young men on the draft, and even some that
weren't drafted, and women, too, went to work in defense plants.
The West Coast attracted a lot of people from this part of the
country because of higher pay scales and employment was
plentiful out there.
JW: Was the Depression hard on Weldon, Williams and Lick?
SJ: They had some lay-offs at times, they had down years; but
everything considered, I think they got through it pretty well.
I'm not saying unscarred, but nobody did in those days.
JW: Well, after four years of being away, and a question that's
just recently occurred to me to ask, there's a lot of young guys
come back from three or four years of high adventure and foreign
sights and that sort of thing, and then just settle down and
work the same job for four years without a peep. That seems to
me like that would be difficult.
SJ: Yeah, I think it was. Some got out and tried civilian life
awhile and just didn't adjust to it and went back in the service
and stayed. But for the most part, guys managed to make the
transition. Most of us were civilian soldiers, we didn't want to
be professional soldiers, we didn't want to stay in the military
the rest of our 10 lives.
JW: But I guess being glad to be home was such a big feeling
that that might outweigh the boredom of being home after high
seas and jungles and that sort of thing.
SJ: Yeah. But I didn't get bored at home, I didn't look at it
that way. I didn't want anymore excitement.
JW: Enough to last you?
SJ: I was tired of the sort of living conditions you had and
that sort of thing. I thought it was mighty nice to sleep in a
house and so forth.
JW: Right, right. Imagine so.
SJ: Now, I don't think that was a great problem with ninety-five
percent of the guys. And the ones that didn't like it, went back
JW: And also I was thinking the other day, when you look at the
Viet Nam War veterans and what they're saying, they're saying
that thirty some percent of the returning Iraqi War veterans are
having emotional problems, mental problems, that sort of thing.
I feel fairly safe in saying that the twenty-four people that
I've interviewed were not the ones who came home from World War
II with major mental problems. Those people are probably not
alive today, you know what I'm talking about. So I have to keep
in mind that I'm interviewing the well adjusted.
SJ: Yeah, yeah. I think you're probably right there because
we're still here.
JW: I'm sure that Viet Nam wasn't the only war that had veterans
return home that were scarred, terribly scarred by their
experience; but not much is mentioned of World War II vets.
SJ: I would think that there were a lot more problems of a
neurotic nature, emotional nature, with the men coming out of
Viet Nam and the Iraqi war because of the difference in those
wars, there's so many. In World War II, the whole country was
focused, these were wars that we had to fight, you know, we
didn't have any choice. We had all this pressure on us from both
sides, going on in Europe and threatening to come over here and
then throughout the Pacific. My gosh, the Japanese controlled
the Pacific Ocean except right up next to our shores in 1942.
And I just think that that made a difference in the men that
were in the service. They knew it had to be done, they knew
everybody was behind them, they knew they weren't being sent out
like they felt in Viet Nam. And a lot of these guys, I'm sure,
feel in Iraq, is why are we here, why are they making us do
this, doesn't make any sense, we're not getting anywhere. I
think that must have left emotional scars on those guys, just my
JW: Well, it seems to me like, you know, it's like you said
earlier, World War II was the last good war, but that's kind of
a troubling statement to make. I think better is: World War II
was the last clear-cut war that it was easy to figure out why
people were fighting 11 because we haven't had a war like that
SJ: That's right. I would say it was a justifiable war; where
these other two are extremely doubtful. Well, I'm putting
pressure on you here to make up questions. I've about run out of
JW: Well, it's up to you how long or short you want.
SJ: I was waiting on you to terminate it, but I can't think of
anything else, really.
JW: Okay, all right. Well, that's--
SJ: I appreciate the opportunity to do this.
JW: Well, we're certainly thankful that you allowed us to do
SJ: I'm glad you gave me a chance to mention the names of those
four guys that I went in with. They're all dead now, but just
feel like I'm speaking for them, too.
JW: We don't know all the uses that this videotape will have
over the next fifty years, but that may be very important
information to somebody fifty years from now. Never can tell.
JW: Well, I thank you.
SJ: You bet you. 1