A new online resource captures the World War II experiences of University of Texas at Austin Naval ROTC alumni, thanks to an oral history project at the Institute for Studies in American Military History, a division of the Center for American History.
The Naval ROTC project site, with biographical sketches, photographs and excerpts from video interviews, represents the first phase of the project, which focuses on University of Texas at Austin students who joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps and served in the U.S. Navy during World War II.
“We interviewed 12 men during their annual reunion in Austin,” said Thomas M. Hatfield, senior research fellow and director of the Institute. “They trained together at the university and then were sent to various parts of the world for a variety of responsibilities. Their perspectives help us to create a more complete record of World War II, especially contributions to the war effort by the university and its students.”
The project was established by the Naval ROTC World War II alumni group and Capt. Gabe Salazar, chairperson of the Department of Naval Science.
Fred Moon, president of The University of Texas at Austin Naval ROTC Alumni Foundation, aided the project and was instrumental in arranging the interviews. The resulting video recordings and transcripts join the military history collections at the center. Participants include William ‘Bill’ T. Barnhouse, Chandos H. Britton, Arthur K. ‘Swede’ Bergstrom, Hume Cofer, Franklin ‘Sandy’ J. Crow, John R. Doole, Macon ‘Mac’ Freeman, Bernie Hillen, Joe H. Smith, John Wildenthal, J. Sam Winters and Albert ‘Bert’ M. Wolford.
Barnhouse was a university sophomore when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
“I was at a girls boarding house,” Barnhouse said. “It was a Sunday afternoon and we’d gone over there to have lunch and visit the girls that afternoon. Somebody came running in and said the Japanese had attacked. We knew there’d be a war with Japan. It was just when, not if.”
Barnhouse, now 84, trained at university for three and a half years and served on the USS Kidd in the South Pacific.
The interviews also describe wartime life at the university. In 1943, Naval ROTC students were placed on active duty and their movements were restricted.
“We had a curfew. We had to be in the dormitory at Andrews, I think, at 11 o’clock,” Doole recalled.
“Our society maintains peace by understanding and passing on the lessons of war,” Hatfield said. ‘With additional funding, we hope to continue and expand the project. There are World War II veterans who are no longer able to travel to Austin, and we would like to visit them and record their stories. There are also many veterans of the Korean, Vietnam and more recent conflicts who have much to add to our knowledge of military history.”
For more information on the project contact Echo Uribe, the Institute for Studies in American Military History, 512-495-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org.