By Vyto Kapocius, Interviewed on Saturday, January 24, 2015
I did join the Coast Guard. I was 20 and when we went overseas, I found out we were part of the Navy during the war. We wore an emblem on our sleeve. That meant you were a Coast Guard contingent. When the war was over, and when everyone was discharged, the Coast Guard was restored to the Treasury Department.
I was a 2nd class radioman. Went to school in Atlantic City for 26 weeks of training in the Morse Code. The irony was we were trained to read the Morse Code but when we went overseas we were on radio silence.
We always had a mother ship that would send out Morse Code instructions. Our messages were all coded messages and every day it was a different code. The code was preceded by two five letter codes. I would have to hand it to the chief radio man. We were never allowed to decipher. He could, and then would take it to the captain.
When I got overseas there was a big staging area for General MacArthur’s return to the Philippines. We were with MacArthur island hopping. Are you familiar with that strategy? The Red Arrow division from Wisconsin was fighting a land battle in New Guinea. It was nothing but jungle warfare. That was a waste of time. When Mac came back he decided we didn’t need to go island to island. We could skip some of them and isolate them which is what we did.
In Mindanao at end of the war, 600 Japanese soldiers were marooned there. In fact after the war we were the only ship ordered back to Mindanao to pickup 600 Japanese that had been found. They thought the war was still on. That was what we called island hopping.
We went in at Leyte after Halsey beat the hell out of the Japanese at the big sea battle there. That permitted us to go into Leyte which was a toe hold in the Philippines. Then came across straits of Manila. We ended up in Manila liberating them. Then we continued up the coast. That was the setting up point. That’s why we took Iwo Jima and Okinawa to set up for the Japanese invasion.
We were issued gear for a winter invasion. Then of course President Truman dropped the bomb, tow bombs and we were told the war was over and there was no need to go to Japan.
So we came back and they were going to discharge us in the U.S. The LST I was on we were ordered to come back by ourselves. No convoy nothing. I think it took us three weeks to get from Philippines to Pearl Harbor because we could only go about 8-10 knots.
They inspected us when we got to Pearl Harbor. We were suppose to go through the Panama Canal and up to Norfolk for decommissioning. But they looked at us and said this rust bucket is never going to make it. They decommissioned us there. They asked us if we wanted to re-enlist. I said no.
When I came home, mother asked me what I was going to do now. I had a job waiting for me at Allis-Chalmers when I got back. But I said I want to go out east. There’s a girl I want to meet. I took a train. I didn’t fly. Flying was expensive.
Per Vyto: While attending the radio school in Atlantic City, he had weekend liberty and one night went to the steel pier boardwalk. The Sammy Kaye band was playing at a dance hall and his friend asked Hal who he was going to dance with.
Hal said he was going to dance with that “pretty girl” over there and spent the rest of the evening dancing with her. Jeanne was there with her parents and invited him to join them the following night, which he did. They continued their correspondence while he was overseas.
Per Hal: Stayed with her folks and I remember, it was March, St. Patrick’s day and I proposed to her. We set a September date.
I went back to work at A-C til September, then went out east for the wedding. My family went out east and we got married out there.
In the meantime, I decided to go to college. I had the GI bill waiting for me. Didn’t know whether I wanted to go into engineering, law or journalism. While I was in college, WEMP (radio) came to the dean of journalism and said they wanted to start a local news operation.
Per Vyto: Hal expressed an interest and he’d go to the station on Martin Drive for the morning drive time until 7:30 a.m., then head downtown to Marquette for his classes. Then, he’d return at 4:30 to do the evening briefs. In addition, he worked at loading trucks with soda water.
Upon graduation, he was offered a full time job at the radio station. After several years there, he went to work for WTMJ radio in the newsroom. He learned of an opening at the telephone company’s public relations staff so he went down for an interview.
Even though he had some misgivings with some of the interviews he had to go through, he decided to go into public relations. Hal worked at the phone company for three decades before retiring. In his retirement, Prey edited a book on Greendale called “The Little Village That Could…and Did” published by the Reiman Media Group. Until recently, he also provided the crossword puzzles for the Reminisce Magazine.
Hal passed away on Feb. 14, 2015 at the age of 93.