Chuck Olmstead interviews Patriot’s Landing resident Captain Marvin Reiner, a retired radio tech 2nd class, U.S. Navy. A native of Aberdeen, Washington, he was born in 1923 and grew up during the Depression.
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*The following is the output of transcribing from an audio recording. Although the transcription is largely accurate, in some cases it is incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors.
This special answers for elders podcast honoring military veterans is sponsored by carriage. For more information about carriage, the website is sear EA gecom. This is answers for elders. I’m chuckle instead, and with me today is Marvin Reiner, and Marvin was a radiotech second class US Navy, retired now and Marvin, I want to welcome you today to answers for elders radio and have you tell your story. Okay, we’re ready to go. We are ready to go. Well, we you and I just met, so I get a chance to hear your story for the first time. And you and I were just chatting before we started recording about radio stations here in Olympia and Aberdeen. So I’m assuming you grow up in this area. I’m a native of Aberdeen, Washington, Uh Huh, and I graduated from weatherwax high school and Aberdeen in one thousand nine hundred and forty one, and at that time the boys were joining the National Guard and the Naval Reserve and the the service is in general. Yeah, so of course I was like all young people. I was interested in the air and flying, Uh Huh. But they disc qualified may because of depth perception at that time. Interesting. But so anyhow, Aberdeen, I was a boy scout and the sea scout and I was more interested in the navy than in anything else. The big ships grew out of Aberdeen and we were had the World War One skipper’s barge was our boat for the sea scouts and Aberdeen. Interesting. So you would have been born nineteen twenty three. Twenty three, so you went through the depression. Oh yes, I grew up in the depression. And what was Aberdeen like during those depression years? Aberdeen and well, I can give you stories, starting back earlier than that. My parents at a store in Aberdeen, one man store, and they prospered well. My mother and father made the choice of graves harbor after World War One because Aberdeen and Klamouth Falls Oregon where the roaring ports after World War One, and so they prospered in Aberdeen and the roaring s Hmm. And my father, I can remember the fancy car that he bought in nineteen twenty nine, which was green oldsmobile with wire wheels and to wire wheels on the front fenders and an add on trunk on the back end. Then the depression came and he couldn’t keep that car. Is Not good. Still he was back to the model tea and a boards and all of the economical vehicles. Yeah, so it’s a store on or back in during the depression time and in Aberdeen. So were they struck hard by the depression? Very hard, because the lumber trade was totally shot down. Aberdeen had, during the eight day of the s and the earliers, the greater area I had forty tide water saw mills operating three shifts a day and the population of Aberdeen was the largest in southwest Washington and the biggest shopping district. Wow, and Aberdeen at that time was about twenty five Tho Hoquim and Cosmopolis. Hokuim was ten and Cosmopolis was just a few thousand. Hmm, but the county was Fiftyzero. Now later we moved to Olympia and the comparison is that during the depression or the s years, Aberdeen was twice the size of Olympia. Olympia was twelve thousand, Aberdeen was twenty five thousand. Interesting. Interesting. So you finished up your high school, though, still in Aberteen and Aberdeen, and then I wanted to start the University of Washington. I wanted naval ROTC and because first I didn’t get into the program so I opted out. Intended Grays Harbor College that first year. So now, if I remember your dates, you said you graduated in one thousand nine hundred and forty one. So that would have been about mayor June of forty one. June of forty one, and so Pearl Harbor happened just two months later, ember. Well, I’m sorry, December. So about them? Five months later? Yes, indeed so. But you were so you were planning to go to college at that time. So you were eighteen, yes, and and getting ready to go to Cadi. So you didn’t join the service right away. Well, no, I attempted to join naval ROTC, MMM, and so, because I didn’t get in and at the so I took my first freshman year at the university, at Grays Harbor College, because there was no reason for me to go to the university. It’s expense my family. Sure Aberdeen was still depressed. HMM, suffering the contingency. Yeah. So what happened after that first year? Well, actually, I think four quarters. I transferred to the University of Washington and began my career night with naval rotc courses and changed from a business major that I started in to what the Navy wanted, an engineering major. And the as a student at the University of Washington, concentrating only on going to school, I went from a B plus student to straight a student M and I was able to do well and that that point in time I joined the V one navy program, which was the Cadet Program at the University of Washington. Be One MeV one, v One, the V one program, which was the estate and union. No, you stayed as a civilian with a deferral, and then they change a year later. They change that to the V twelve program. If you were surface navy, if you were aerial navy, it was V seven. I believe there was v Vfi, v Seven and V twelve. Well, that was the same program in uniform at the university Washington. And so they came to us who had eye problems, which I did, and they said we have too many cadets and you were no longer eligible for the program. You can have the seebs or you can have a discharge. So I thought of about it. Two years of college, as much as I wanted to join the navy. I wasn’t about to become a pick and shovecle an engineer visits. I was interesting in so I took the discharge and remained at the University of Washington and then waited for the draft because I was younger. I was a younger student. I was seventeen when I graduated. Not on things so, but at that time I started with people like her bridge, who became the commanding admiral of the thirteen naval district, just retired a year to goal, and another boy from Aberdeen that I graduated that was my friend in high school. HMM, in Aberdeen. The after the war moved to Portland. He became commanding general of the Oregon National Guard. Wow. And when I called up Herb Bridge and I congratulated him on his career is he says, will Marv, you should have stayed in the navy too, or the name reserved. You could have done the same thing. Now he became the commanding admiral. Wow, I would love to have done that, but I didn’t have the connections. Uh Huh. So did you go on then to finish college? Well, okay, so then I went out. HMM, and I was out for period of time and and I watched the bulletin boards at the University of Washington and the they were advertising for radio technicians. I would much rather be in the navy than in the army. So I boned up, I thought communications and I took the examinations and was accepted into the program. But at that moment of time you didn’t enlist anymore. You waited until you were drafted. I see. So I had my navy papers with me and I went through the draft and I went to the right and my friends from Aberdeen who went in them and time went left to the army. MMM, and that’s a story that I want to tell too. Yeah, so, anyhow, what a radio technician was just an euphemism or just a special name for the radar which was super secret at that time, and they took really a literally one year to train us and as a radio technician before we came out. So from Aberdeen were indoctrinated for it. Well, let me stop and think. The Induction Center, I believe, was Fort Lewis. We went there and to Seattle and from Seattle we got on a train those who were selected for this program and they were gathered from all over the country, from the universities at Great Lakes naval training station, and so we had three weeks, but every time you have a three weeks it’s four weeks with the changes in the so great lakes and then we were in Chicago and what was the program called pre radio for three weeks, which again is really four weeks. That was a hurtzel junior college. And then I got for the next courses, which was the three months of elementary electricity and radio material. And I got which was on the schools were about for schools all over the country and most of more on college campuses. But I got golf port, Mississippi, which was the worst of the basic yeah, and so that was three months in golf port. A little bit warmer there than Aberdeen or ICUT. Well, Chicago can get war we went to this was the summertime. We were in quants at huts, arms about this size, but the around buildings with the families, and this was in tense studying on the thing and the paperwork. We had those arm chairs and we were so sweaty and lift our arm the papers come up. But Luckily I got for the six months for the next session. I got Goln port, miss got to treasure island as San Francisco Bay, and that was one of the best n ones, although they’re now the East Coast in Chicago for the same programs. Now, when they were using radar at that time, like you said, I just kind of gotten developed. Was that? What do they have read are on ship or wasn’t mostly land? We were the technicians. Radar was something that they got from England. And you learned all of this forty years later and you put it together. Well, when President Roosevelt supported Britain in the exchange of the fifty old age destroyers and loaded to the hill with whatever equipment they could give them. In exchange, they got back radar which was being developed in England. And the conventional radar was low frequency with a great gigantic bedspring and antennas, and the newest thing at that time was called the black box, which was the magnetron for the old alter high frequency radars. Well, okayt pick that up again in a minute. So radar was super secret and the war and the first form, and we’ve figured this all out forty years later. What they were doing is because this was super secret, they were breaking this into these segments so that you could be washed out at any time for any reason. And if you had a week background and you might leak some of them, you could have been dropped from the program even though academically you were selected out of the universities you had with your grades to take this course. This is called Commander Eddies Program and radar was just being put in onto the ships and nobody in the fleet new and thing about radar interesting. So the other this was the program for the technicians who were to keep this equipment operating and going. MM. We were not operators, we were texts. I see on the day. Yeah, so they would use radar for with it be for navigation? Or was it for enemy detection? Or for both? All, all of it, and plus fire control? MMM, plus iff, I deification, friend or full? I see, because that was the problem with the first radar and Pearl Harbor. They Japanese fleet was detected, but there was a fleet of bombers coming in from the states and they credited that. I just saw Pearl Harbor Lay and they did detect the Japanese coming in and they disregarded it as a formation coming from the United States. I see. Yeah, yeah, well, anyhow. So it was broken into these segments. So they did any time they could drop you out if your background might have been, MMM not up to snuff. MMM. So where did you end up serving a majority of the war? Okay, all right, now. So after almost a year of training, and Oh, by the way, be because this was a select program, we went in as seamen first class and we came out with the two stripes on the arm, which on think. So there were in our group and they were graduating these groups weekly. There were about ninety and we were the college kids, and they said, well, you can ask for the ship, type of ship duty that you want. You won’t get it, but you’re a good ask. Well, you tell a bunch of college kids is a Sig Nass. So we’ll ask. Sure. So there were two fleet boys. See, we came onto this program from the universities, but the fleet boys were able to apply for it from their service. Whether we’re two boys there. So I cornered these two guys and I says, what kind of ship duty do we want? And their story to me was battleships are too big, destroyers, I mean the carriers are like a city, destroyers and destroyer escorts. Are Two small cruiser duty is which you want. Well, the only two out of our group of ninety five that got assigned to anything was those two fleet boys who were UUs in, and we were all USNR. Some people will know the difference, and that I mean we were draft, he’s to speak, and they were enlist hes. MM. So, at any rate, they got the Indianapolis. The Indianapolis took the bomb out and was the last American Ship Sunken. Right, were too, and so asked to be on that ship. I didn’t make. You didn’t make. Wow, and I’m sure now you’re glad you didn’t. Well, okay. So to continue the story, then we were assigned to Pearl Harbor, and at Pearl Harbor the makeup was for the next invasion, hopping on this thing, and so we were transferred to the Amphibious Navy, which was the landing craft of the ramps. And then this all done, and that called for the new radar. So another month of radar with the magic box, the magnetron tube and the small diameter radars. They more advanced systems. MMM. And so, with rumor was and I was, the amphibious base at White Peo point and it was rumored that our group was going to be the invasion of the main island of Japan and the groups that went out ahead of us had their whites issued taken back and got the Marine Greens issues with a car bean wow on the thing and they were moving on out. But would the bomb went off, very happy because we had heard how tenaciously they had fought, hm the Japanese were fighting and for their homeland. They would even more severity. Having interviewed some other vets that were actually in navy and part of the landing craft, they said the same thing, that that, you know, they were kind of anxious to be part of the amphibious forced to go in. But after they after the drop Bob bomb was dropped and they went in and saw what kind of armaments and military and, you know, guns that were on the hills and stuff, they recognize that they would have not made it. If you know. Well, let’s backtrack to my to the time that went in. So I went in with this bus load of kids from every kids. We were right seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty to in. The boys who went army got there, their basic training, were shipped to England and were on those invasions into Europe, is which horse is celebrated. But now, forty years later, we learn how disastrous they were. Right and so they were in on d day. They went in one day and one of my close buddies, it was, I don’t know, twelve weeks, fifteen weeks, badly wounded on that deal and one of these, but one who survived, wow, and made it back to the United States, severely wounded. But out of our class of four hundred there was over fifty casualties. M Nineteen forty, class of nineteen forty one. MMM. Yeah, okay. So getting back now would jump back to Pearl Harbor and White Pio point, and that fortunately, so the bomb drops and immediately the wars over and everything is when no longer needed. So but because I had only been any year and a half, my priority getting out was about seven months. And this was in one thousand nine hundred and forty five. MMM. And so there was nothing to do. So the I’m not young kid, and you know it’s I was a nineteen or twenty at that time, and so absolutely in nothing to do in the bases being shut down and so on. So I’m out on the athletic field hitting a punching bag and bouncing that punching bag against three right getting tough, still doing my jump ups and pushups and all of the physical stuff that he did. And I did do something to internal things. And this was just right after the war, just then, week or two and so suddenly had severe pains in my stomach. So I go to the to our base and try and get some help and they said all they pressed around all the nothing wrong with you. Here’s a handful of APC’s. Everybody in service knows what APC’s are. All purpose capsule. It’ll cure anything. Great. Well, that was in the morning. So at noon I went back again and I guess they did take a blood test at that time and they founded normal. But it kept increasingly getting worse. And so the two hours later I’m back at Sick Bay and they take a reading again in the white blood corpuscles and shot up to a hundred. HMM. Okay, something’s wrong here. So they bust me up to IEI it’s the Navy hospital. MMM. But at that point now, and this by the time I got the hospital, it was evening night and I eight or nine o’clock, but they were still receiving marine casualties, and so they gave me a shot of morphine and shove me aside ices take her, of course. Yeah, but course I had nothing to say. Yeah, they’re gonna do it anyway. Yeah, I’m gonna do what they want to do. So those marines and we all ended up in the same warden. So I became friends of some of those and the boy who prepped me for the operation. They’re on the thing and so that. But the war was over, but the casualties were still coming in. MMM, and so that’s my career. Ended up there. So then, when in the navy at that time, you don’t go back until you’re fully recovered. Oh, what happened was that? You learned afterwards. They operated on me the next day for a Qu dependocitis. Ah, and what happened? That bouncing and ball and so on. But the appendix hid behind the pelvic bone and so when the Corman pressed me, they didn’t find the and determined immediately that it wasn’t depend a shirts shirts, but it would. I blame it. They don’t want to say that and tell me this, but I blame it on bouncing. That heavy punching bag m like a big medicine fault. Well, okay. So then I’m assigned. After three weeks I’m assigned back to the amphibious space. The amphibious space is nothing doing and I’m stuck. Well, we were assigned like officers because we were trained in specific here, and so I go over to the assignments in the base. I ses I’m here three four weeks. Guys are coming in and going out and I’m setting here. What’s going on? And so you learn a little bit about system. So the thing I says I’m just out of the hospital and I’m homesick because it was my ambition to get to the Barras, to get China and the basis, and I still didn’t get as signed out. So then we goes by and I go back over there again and he says you still around, and of course I said, Oh yeah, I’m homesick, I want to go. And knowing that that sort of response, that would get beyond the next ship, I going there other way, ha ha. So I was assigned finally to the AGC one. AGC was the community group command ship am and auxiliary. So it’s the just one. The freighter type things. But what was happening on these invasion flow? Till has the Comma, cause he’s were gunning for the major ships. And so they took the commands off the battleships and off the carriers. They put them onto these and knock, it was freighters and they built twelve of them. HMM. And on any invasion fleet there wasn’t there were three. So, three command admirals, back up, military, backup, back up, back, so at any rate, and that was good duty. That was the ship that was on all of the invasions, of the island invasions, and the Japanese darning never recognized that the command center for an invasion flotilla was on an unarmed freighter. Interesting, Huh. That’s this is my analysis. Right, right, situation. Yeah, and so the AGEC one was my ship. I was on a thirty days and we’re dispatched back to the United States and the AGC one was to be the communication ship for the atomic mom blasts after the war. MMM, MMM. And so at that point, oh, radio technicians, our group on board that ship was forty. There was that much electronic equipment on board that shifting that there were forty radio technicians. We were actually radar technicians or electronic technicians or whatever they were today, but at that time this was super secret. Sure, sure, and I forgot to mention that. And San Francisco with Pearl in training. If our simplified notebooks were not in the vaults at night, the base was locked up and want those things floating around interesting you out, that would have been top secret. Yeah. So what happens after the war? So the war engine. Then you’re how much under before I finally am assigned to the A GC one. Uh Huh, that’s my ship, and so oh. So then the war is over and so our forty radio technicians are assembled in the officer makes the pitch. He says, if anybody will re enlist, you can get an advance and grade, you get thirty day leave the Incendy of sport and listing on end in the name reserved one Puerson is. But now remembered that these radio technicians, radar technicians, who we were. We’re basically all college kids. Were brighter kids, because you couldn’t get into this stuff unless you had the ability to do it. MM Well, and I will mail add one thing. So one question is pop back are you real listing? Not One of our forty radio text off of the AGC one re enlisted. But the AGC one was the first of its of these command ships, group command ships built on the East Coast and had a lot of this is navy terminology of plank holders, the original crew who were assigned at the ship even before it was in while it was being built. HMM, the thing. Yeah, so what’s it like being out in did you mind being out at sea on the middle of nowhere? Just water? That bother? You enjoined the navy to see the world. And what did they see? Saw The scenes, saw the sea that much else. Well, but really I didn’t see the sea. What a you right hip who was with the fleet with the invasion fleets, and carried admiral. I lost his name. Yeah, Huh, they as one of the admirals. This was his ship and when the flage, when the groups removed each island. Now with the importance of radar during the war, as you couldn’t have maneuvered those ships in those fleets without radar because of the positioning as well and the detection and they on the thing, because with lights out and all signals and anything else so they used for radar was maneuvers as well as detection and identification and jamming, because the Germans and the Japanese captured some of our vehicles and exploited our research. We got this research from England and we exploited it here and and what was so interesting the Magnetron, to the black box, which was so secret during World War II, was a device that a Japanese physicists developed but not used for anything. But the the English decided that they could convert radar from low frequency to high frequency and it’s no longer. Oh, the last lecture we had and treasure island when we graduated. Everything we have taught you for the past year is out of date. The bell laboratories is developed at Germanian diotous solids, which is now solid stay transistor, but vacuum tube technology, which we have taught you, is all out of day. This new technologies come in, but we did so when I got to Pearl and we’ve got assigned to the amphibious navy. Then we went to school for another three weeks and learned the magnetron and the small craft radar. They fire control and aviation and then and small ship ratear because a small ship can’t carry a giganding antenna. Right the gigantic antenna. The waves will search over so they’ll catch lower aircraft where the ultra high frequency radars directed. And it’s just line of site. I see isn’t curve. Well, Marvin, we have about just a couple minutes remaining. So if we fast forward a little bit. So when did what year? Then did you finally were able to come home? Well, I came out in one thousand nine hundred and forty six in June and a and started back at the University of Washington and I took the transcripts of the they have the work that they’d done in the navy. They gave us. Gave me forty five college credit hours. MMM, they was that intense. Hmmm. And so forty six and had two years of college when I went in. But but I was back no longer in the engineering school. I was back to business major, and so I graduated on hours and had a GI bill left. And then I had looked for a graduate sel do an MBA and the University of Washington wanted two years to do a master’s. And remember, the war was over and hard working. So I took the summer session at the University of Wisconsin and that was a fun year for me after the war. So you were in Madison. So I went to Madison for summer session and there the universe. They wanted two years too. So I went over to northwestern university in Chicago and they wanted two years. And one of my relatives, my father’s relatives, my father grew up in the streets a said had graduated in the University of Chicago and they said they’ve got a smaller business school and and they go over and talk to them. So I went over and talk them and they outlined a program that I could do in one year and that’s the amount of Gi Bill I had left. There you go. So I did masters at the University of Chicago in one year. HMM. Out of that, what what did you do with your career after that? Well, this was one thousand nine hundred and forty nine and that was a law year in business. But I had the University of Washington degree and the univers trago three. I was one of four or five in my class, again, of about a hundred ninety students who he even had a job offer, and I at that moment in time. I wanted to be a CPA and the advice of the the professor at the University of Chicago was go for the big independence, don’t go for the big national firms. And so they gave me a job for two hundred dollars a month for a year. But I had my folks. My mother got me, my father to buy me a car for graduation, Maha. So I picked it up in Detroit and drove it home to say thank you and my dad was ailing and I never got out of everbody in my career didn’t utilize my college. Interesting. Yeah, I was back to a one man operation. Hus We build up. Yeah, yeah, well, what an interesting life. Okay, so I did mention her bridge and MMM, Fred Rosenbaum, we’re my buddies. Lay back and made it to the top. Yeah, but I only do you ever get to connect with any of those guys? Oh, yeah, from from Aberdeen, I did. One thing. Yeah, well, tell me, we’ve got but we got two minutes left here. Tell me about your moved up to patriots landing. How did you how did you come here to live here at page twelve? That’s interesting. I have four children, three girls and a boy and my way and we well that getting here is interesting. We moved from Aberdeen. I became an original, one of the first Honda motorcycle dealers, and so my wife, I’d always promised her and I married are, took her to Raymond, Washington. Uh Huh. And then my father died and it moved back. That was a little satellite store that I took out on my father’s place and we were in the sporting goods business. So when my father died the Aberdeen operation was much bigger than the Raymond. So I gave up on that. Move to Aberdeen, took it over, raised my children, bought my homes and lived there twenty five years. But I had always promised my wife that I take her back to Seattle or her fast big socially prominent family and Seattle. Uh Huh. And so at that point I didn’t want to go back Seattle. Seattle was exploding, Aberdeen was getting smaller, but I said I would go to Olympia. She says, all right, hit that took her ten years looking at homes before she broke me down. Yeah, and so we bought a home, very nice home at Holiday Hills. UHHA. On Ward Lake and Olympia by Olympia High School, because my son was just high school age and wanted him in to transplant. So we moved him in his junior year and then I just my drove back to Aberdeen for ten, fifteen years. HMM. Then after Jeff Graduated High School in College, he came back and took over the store and the Honda thing was going much better than and so he and this was one thousand nine hundred and eighty five, and I was going to do what I did to my father. Didn’t want him to do the same thing to me, as moving in on a one man operation wasn’t so good. That’s why I satellited the store. Sure, Amen. So anyhow, I said, all right, Jeff, you’re taking over, your new ideas, your new doings. Retire, and so I did. One thousand nine hundred and eighty five, I gave him. Let him run the whole business. He says, the Honda business now is grown up, it’s big enough to be on its own and we don’t need the complications of a sporting good store along with it. So he closed that out. And then it was five more riors. We had an opportunity to move the Aberdeen operation to Olympia. UH, meanwhile, Aberdeen is going down from twenty five thousand to twelve fifteen thousand. Olympia is expanding that. There’s some county is now two hundred thousand, Grays Harbor is still fifteen thou and the only growth there is basically is ocean shores westport. The beach is right, right. So the best thing we did was moved and finally moved the shop to Olympia. Yeah, well, listen. I want to thank you for your service and I want to thank you for sharing your story, because these stories are valuable and we appreciate your time telling. This has been a special honoring Veterans Presentation of answers for elders brought to you by carriage. For more information about carriage, the website is cear angecom.
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Originally published July 14, 2018