What Did You Do in WW II, Neil Tucker? (Part 3 of 3)
Note: The following is Part 3 of an oral history of Cooper Neil Tucker during WW II, as told to his wife, Rebecca Tucker. Neil was a lifelong resident of Arlington, Texas, and a descendent of Arlington pioneer James Daniel Cooper. Neil passed away April 21, 2010. This document was part of a history assignment while Rebecca was attending Dallas Baptist University during the mid1990s. The assignment was to obtain an oral history of WWII experiences. Neil was nine years old when America entered the war.
What did you think about Mussolini?
Oh, I hated old Mussolini. Hirohito, Mussolini and Hitler - they were the bad guys.
What did you think about the Germans and the Japanese?
We heard a lot about the atrocities being carried out by the Germans. Stories coming out of the German prison camps. We had a lot of flyers shot down during the bombing raids out of England over France and Germany - wherever the German troops were at that time. I was scared of the Germans and the Japanese; they were the enemy and therefore bad and I hated them too. The Japanese were portrayed as sneaky rotten bastards and I hated them. I didn't know any Japanese people so what I heard was all I knew.
What did you think about the Italians?
They were sort of a joke. They didn't have much of an army; it would be sort of like Mexico putting together an army. The Italians were ineffective; they were part of the Axis. We didn't hear any positive things about the Italian effort in the war.
What did you think of FDR?
He was just a notch below God. I think the whole country felt that way. You just did not say anything bad about FDR. Now I don't know how it was in states where you had Republicans; there weren't any Republicans in Arlington then, at least not that I knew of. Nobody, or at least I never heard anybody, said anything bad about FDR. He was as close to a king as we ever had, I guess. Actually he was re-elected to a fourth term right before he died; he served 12 years and probably could have declared himself king if he had a mind to. I don't think anybody would have cared; not in Arlington anyway. Everybody thought he was about the greatest thing there was.
Why did everybody think he was so wonderful?
Well, the word was that those “rotten old” Republicans caused the Depression, so when FDR became president he started the New Deal, and the CCC camps and the WPA. There are still a lot of things around they built. They built the Union Hall where we meet - the plaque is right by the front door. Arlington State College football field used to have a rock fence all the way around it that was built by the WPA. They were building anything just to put people to work. FDR's programs put America back to work. I am sure there were people who thought his programs were a waste of taxpayers’ money but I didn't know any of them. They were people with jobs and money and didn't need any help. All I heard about his programs was good and as it turned out they were good for the country. Water conservation was born because of the Tennessee Valley program. It was the war effort that made FDR into a Superman; it turned him into the leader of the free world - FDR and Winston Churchill.
What did you think, at the time, about Churchill?
Oh, I thought Churchill was great. He was a very outstanding individual; he always smoked a big cigar. He was, next to FDR, the greatest world leader ever, the champion of democracy.
What did you think, at the time, about Hitler?
I hated Hitler, because he was the one that caused it all. I didn't realize as a kid, but I realized later, when I got grown just how much the movies changed during the war. There was a lot of war propaganda in the movies. The Three Stooges would do skits where one would be Mussolini and one would be Hitler. Curly would always be Mussolini and Moe would always be Hitler. I didn't really know at the time what propaganda was but I enjoyed the movies and skits because I believed we were right and they were wrong—there was no in-between.
What did you think about the dropping of the A-bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
I remember being tickled to death when it happened. You have to look at it from our point of view. My Daddy had been fighting the Japanese for several years, he was wounded, and he could have died. We lost thousands of men taking one island and then the next one, and the next one. We were all tickled to death when they dropped the bomb because that ended the war, and everybody would come home. I know it is terrible to think about it like that, but it was saving our guys lives. However, the decision to kill hundreds of thousands of people had to be a very difficult one. People going to school, going shopping, just going about their everyday activities - they were warned; they dropped leaflets warning them about the bomb. I don't know what they expected the Japanese people to do, run for the hills or what. I doubt if the warnings helped save any lives because I'm not sure anything could be done.
Do you remember where you were when you heard about the death of FDR?
No! I remember people could not accept his death. It went on for years that he was still alive and in the basement of the White House. People just couldn't believe he was dead. I thought—well maybe he might be alive!
Were jobs plentiful after the war?
As far as I know everybody who came home had a job, my friend Nomi's Mother stopped working at Consolidated, I don't really know if she got laid off or quit of if some guy came back from the service and bumped her out of her job or what. I really don't know if they had unions or not, they probably did have but since no one in my family worked there, I wasn't aware of how all that worked.
Did most people stay married after their loved ones came home from the war?
Oh, there were a lot of marriages that fell apart because when a guy is gone 3 or 4 years a lot happens. I am sure there was unfaithfulness on both sides and I am sure there was some trouble adjusting. Uncle Johnny and his wife didn't last a month after he came home. My Mother and Daddy got a divorce by mail while he was in the South Pacific. Why? I'll never know what that was all about. I know Daddy was not faithful - he ended up marrying the nurse that took care of him after he was wounded in the South Pacific. Maybe that was why. He may have written and asked her for a divorce so he could marry his nurse, I don't know. He never came home, he stayed in California. I didn't see him again until he had his heart attack when I was 18, Aunt Beatty and I went out there at that time.
Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven't covered?
There are probably all sorts of tales I could tell you. I remember one of my big heroes was Hopalong Cassidy, and the day he came to town to sell war bonds. You know a lot of the movie stars went around the country selling war bonds during the war. Anyway, they had a big Hopalong Cassidy Day in Arlington and closed Main Street for the occasion. They didn't have big auditoriums back then, so people gathered in front of the movie theater or in front of a flatbed truck or something. When Hoppy came to town, I was so disappointed because he didn't bring his horse with him. He had his redheaded wife, not his horse, and I was furious. I wanted to see the horse, not the wife! That just shows how kids think.
During the war, Arlington had a lot of side shows and medicine shows that came to town, you know, The Biggest Man in the World, The Skinniest Man in the World, that kind of thing. After I went up to North Texas State College (now the University of North Texas), John Wayne and Jeff Chandler came there selling bonds. I was mad because Jeff Chandler was bigger than John Wayne and that really ticked me off; I thought John Wayne was the biggest and toughest man alive. Dale Robertson was another star who came to North Texas, he was an extremely handsome guy and all the girls were crazy about him. He was reciting poetry and when he turned around and looked at the girl that was standing right next to me, she hit the floor - passed out like a light. I got the hysterics, I thought it was the funniest thing I had ever seen; I had never seen anything like it—he just dropped her with a look and I thought "I wonder if I could do that!"
To sum it all up, the years before the war, my childhood years I am talking about, were just so blissful for a kid, the United States was the power of the world I guess; Arlington was the center of the world; and I was the center of Arlington. There I was! It just couldn't have been a happier time for me. After the war I had to grow up.