Interview of Howard Josias
Transcript Number 359
ZARBOCK: Good morning, my name is Paul Zarbock. I'm a Staff person with the University of North Carolina at Wilmington... Wilmington's Randall Library, in their Special Collections. Today is the 28th of October in the year 2003. We're at St. James Plantation, at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Zimmerman. This activity is taking place as a combination effort of the DAR and the UNCW's Veterans' Reminiscence Project. Today we are interviewing Howard Jos...
ZARBOCK: Josias... (loud clock chimes heard in the background) I'm going to wait until the bong stops and then ask the usual and traditional question.
JOSIAS: It's a long bonging...
ZARBOCK: It's a nice introduction to you, Sir.
JOSIAS: I don't know how many bells that would be in the Navy, you know.
ZARBOCK: Well, as usual, I'm going to start off by asking you, how did you get into the military, where did you get into the military and why did you get into the military?
JOSIAS: Ok. Uh... I went to the University of Virginia and uh... in order to... because of the fact that I was in Medical School... I was in Pre-Med, excuse me, and because of the need for medical personnel we were given a uh... a Reserve Commission to keep us from being drafted.
ZARBOCK: And the year was what, Sir?
JOSIAS: Nineteen... forty...four, I would say. Forty-two, when we started. But, was the Commission forty-two? (asked to someone offscreen) I don't know... the Commission was... in those years. It was in the years that I was at the University of Virginia...uh... upon graduation...
ZARBOCK: In what year, by the way?
JOSIAS: I graduated in 1942.
ZARBOCK: This is with a...
JOSIAS: Oh... I'm getting...
ZARBOCK: ...a Bachelor's Degree?
JOSIAS: Bachelor's Degree, yes.
JOSIAS: '42. It was '42, I'm sorry...
JOSIAS: ...I'm getting my...
ZARBOCK: ...your Forties mixed-up?
JOSIAS: ...Stuff mixed-up... Ok, '42 uh... we got the Reserve Commission and I graduated in '42 and had applied to three or four Medical Schools and one Dental School. I was accepted in a Dental School so... I went into dental school and retained that Reserve Commission so that I could continue my Dental Education.
ZARBOCK: Where did you do your Dental Training?
JOSIAS: At the University of Pennsylvania. Ok, uh... in the middle of my Dental School... matriculation, we were offered an Army Student Training Program whereby the Government would pay for our education. This was uh... about 1943... I have the records of the dates. Uh, so that's when I got into Active Duty. Started as a PFC. Was a PFC for one... rather a Private, a Buck Private, was a Private for one month and then became a PFC.
ZARBOCK: You're on the road up, aren't you?
JOSIAS: Yep. On the road up... Right! Uh... remained a PFC until '44 at which time they found that they had enough Army dentists and they offered... They actually de-commissioned me. I was... rather... discharged me... with the convenience of the Government discharge. Ok. Finished Dental School and I had a choice... the War was still on... I had a choice of joining the Army or the Navy, as an Officer, as a Dental Officer. And, I choice the Navy. Uh... I went into the Navy, I believe the 18th of June, 1945.
ZARBOCK: At the Rank of what?
JOSIAS: At the rank of Lieutenant Junior Grade which is the equivalent of a First Lieutenant in the Army. Uh... I was stationed first at Sampson Naval Base as a... which doesn't exist anymore. Sampson Naval Base was a Boot Camp and we were charged with taking care of the dental needs of the Boots, the recruits.
ZARBOCK: Where was Sampson located?
JOSIAS: In Geneva, New York, on Lake Seneca. Very nice location. Nice duty. (laughter in the background) You know, we had sailboats that we could take out and as a Naval Off... I'll tell you the Navy was great! Um... we worked in the dispensaries. Had a lot of friends there. We had good times, belonged to the Officer's Club and all that. In the middle of that situation, Sampson Naval Base was de-commissioned which meant that we were going to be transferred to another Naval Base. That was Bainbridge Naval Base, which was in Port Deposit, Maryland.
ZARBOCK: (laughs) And what year was this?
JOSIAS: This was nineteen forty... let's see, the end of '45, the beginning of '46. Around then.
ZARBOCK: So, it was a pleasant interlude at uh... at Sampson.
JOSIAS: Yes, it was.
ZARBOCK: But all things come to an end.
JOSIAS: Yeah, then we went to Bainbridge which was a... nice place, also. Had a good Officer's Club. We lived in a... I was married...and uh... we had a nice apartment on the Base. And a friend of mine, from my hometown, was a Supply Officer there and I would get kind of good stuff from him. I had a footlocker made by him which he presented me with. I was building model airplanes, at the time, and uh... he would get the parts cut out for me so that I didn't have to do all of that stuff. Those are some of the pleasant things that happened. Uh... we had the same duties. We were charged with doing dentistry. We were required to do so much per day, in the range of 32 to 35 "surfaces" of filling, per day. And, uh... we also did extractions and...
ZARBOCK: I need a unit of analysis. If you say 35...
ZARBOCK: Surfaces. How does that number compare to... what would be the... quote, average , un-quote, clinical practice of dentistry?
JOSIAS: That would very much depend... on the dentist... uh... depending on the type of work you were doing whether you were doing inlays or amalgams etc., etc. It would be, if the dentist were doing mostly amalgams, I says... I would say a day's work would be around that much in the way of surfaces. Surfaces are a way of measuring fillings. If a... if a tooth has three sides being done it would be three surfaces. That's the way all dentistry is... is...
ZARBOCK: Measured. Productivity is measured in that...
JOSIAS: ...I beg your pardon?
ZARBOCK: Productivity is measured in that way?
JOSIAS: Right. Right.
ZARBOCK: So this was not... this was not a Herculean effort but it wasn't a...
JOSIAS: No, it was...
ZARBOCK: ...lazy day, either?
ZARBOCK: Kind of the average of what would be expected.
JOSIAS: Right. I found that in the Navy I... this was really my internship, I learned an awful lot of dentistry. My goal was to become a good dentist, you know, I really wanted to do fine Dental work. And uh, I think I accomplished that. I... really enjoyed doing dentistry and uh... it was... it worked out fine.
ZARBOCK: What about the command structure. To whom did you report and who was the end of the command chain for medical...?
JOSIAS: We had Lieutenant Commanders who were dentists. And, uh... they did the... they were out of the production range, they did the... Uh...
JOSIAS: Administrative work. Right. I had one guy, Lieutenant Commander Fellows [ph?], I remember him as being a crotchety... (laughs)... he wasn't particularly well-liked. I do get confused with World War II and the Korean experience because it was a similar set-up, you know. But I do remember Commander Fellows as being a pain in the rear-end.
ZARBOCK: Am I correct... I was taught the phrase, by a man I admire very much, I think he called it "dry finger dentistry"?
JOSIAS: "Dry finger dentistry". Yeah, yeah, we did "wet finger dentistry."
JOSIAS: He did "dry finger dentistry" and we did "wet finger dentistry," that's right.
ZARBOCK: Ok, so... You're in the Navy... how long did you serve and when did you get out of the Navy? When were you released?
JOSIAS: I got my Commission in 1945. I was on active duty from '45 to '46, during World War II, just eleven months altogether. Then I was put on inactive duty... went back to my hometown... went into practice... practiced for approximately eight years... was called back during the Korean War.
ZARBOCK: Now what was your hometown?
JOSIAS: Hometown was Poughkeepsie, New York. And, uh... since the Navy did not release their Reserve Officers, as the Army did, we had to stay in the Navy so that I remained a Reserve Officer and during the Korean War the Army ran out of dentists. And they tapped the Navy and so I went into the... back into the Service on Active Duty in 1952-53, the end of '52, December of '52.
ZARBOCK: But, the Army short on dentists, called for help from the Navy?
JOSIAS: Right. So, my military career, in the Korean War, was a Navy dentist working for the Army. I was... which was a great deal, too. (muffled laughter in background)
ZARBOCK: You wore a Navy uniform, is that correct?
JOSIAS: I wore a Navy uniform.
ZARBOCK: And, you're on an Army Base?
JOSIAS: The German kids used to follow me up the street and say, "Wo ist der U-Boot?" (laughter) And, I was one of two Naval Officers, at that particular... I was stationed at Augsburg, Germany. And, I was one of two Naval Officers there. And, one of them uh... got out, so I became the only one there. And, I had a lot of interesting experiences.
ZARBOCK: For example.
JOSIAS: At the Officer's Club, with my Captain's Bars which was... I became Lieutenant Senior
Grade, Captain's Bars... some of the inexperienced Army Officers would address me as "Captain"... Captain in the Navy is equivalent to a Colonel, and they'd say "After you, sir... After you.". We went on a Maneuver, evacuating civilian personnel, that was an activity which, it was designed to... in case... something broke out in Germany. And, we were headed for Bordeaux with ____ automobiles and we'd go to these camps, along the way, and uh... they would really roll-out the "red carpet" for the Naval Officer. "We see oh, the Navy's observing us... yes, Sir..." It was quite a lot of fun. So, I can't give you as much as Dr. Hatchfield but uh... if you have any questions?
ZARBOCK: What was your experience with the German civilians?
ZARBOCK: Attitude and uh...
JOSIAS: They were... I got along very well with them, as a matter of fact... My "BOQ" roommate...
ZARBOCK: That "BOQ" stands for...
JOSIAS: ...Bachelor's Officers' Quarter. Uh... he had a staff of German people working for him... interpreters, and he was a Transportation Officer. And, uh... I, you know, I had a girlfriend, a German girlfriend there... That's a ticklish situation... I was in the middle of a divorce situation. Anyhow, I got along well with the Germans. There didn't seem to be any... at that time, any animosity whatsoever. They liked the Service people. And, one of the experiences we had... was uh... a uh... we had "script" for money and the Germans were accumulating "script," which they weren't supposed to be doing.
ZARBOCK: Would you take a minute and explain what you mean by "script"?
JOSIAS: Script is substitute legal tender. In other words, uh... if we went into the PX to buy things we would use... we would not use dollars, we would use this military currency. And, uh...
you could get things at a bargain with that... so that the Germans were getting a hold of it and using it. And suddenly one day they changed it, entirely... and knocked out the ability of the Germans to use this script.
ZARBOCK: So the German money was Deutschmark?
JOSIAS: Deutschmarks and there were four marks to the buck.
ZARBOCK: Ok. But the Americans were paid in script which was a kind of, a "Monopoly"-type money.
ZARBOCK: "Monopoly" game-type money.
JOSIAS: Right. Right.
ZARBOCK: And, you could use that for internal purchases but you could also, am I correct, use the script to buy marks?
ZARBOCK: If you wanted to go on the general civilian market?
JOSIAS: Exactly. Exactly.
ZARBOCK: But, one of the concerns... and I saw this in my military experience, too... you're right, that non-designated people would get a hold of this military currency... In order to prevent that, suddenly at midnight, all the money was withdrawn and new currency issued...
ZARBOCK: ... and only to designated people.
JOSIAS: And, there're a lot of guys crying... German guys.
JOSIAS: Crying the blues. Trying to figure-out a way of getting around it, you know.
ZARBOCK: Would you go back in ... I'm sorry, when you went into the military, the second time, was it for a designated period of time or was it for the, quote: "the convenience of the Government"?
JOSIAS: Convenience of the Government.
ZARBOCK: And how long was it convenient to the Government?
JOSIAS: I was in twenty-two months, second time.
ZARBOCK: Most of that in Germany?
JOSIAS: Yes. Right. And, uh... I... I really enjoyed it so much that when I got my Orders to go home, by airplane, I told them that I had fear of flying, and I got post... I got it postponed for a couple of months... (laughs)... to go on a ship. I went back on ship. By ship.
ZARBOCK: Would you recommend the military for this current generation of young men and women?
JOSIAS: It depends on the individual, I would say... yes, I would certainly with certain types. Uh... I enjoyed my Navy experience, actually. Uh... but, I was glad to get out and get back into my Practice. And, it was... you know, that was... to go back in, after eight years of Dental Practice. I wasn't too happy about that. I tried to fight it. I went down to the Pentagon and they sent me over to the Navy Building. And, uh... we went through a whole rigmarole and they said, "No subs, so, you're going." And I went.
ZARBOCK: I've asked all other Interviewees... I'm going to ask you... looking back over your shoulder, metaphorically, and the life experiences that you've had plus your military experience, what would you tell future generations, what did you learn from all of this... life that you've lead?
JOSIAS: That's a tough question.
ZARBOCK: Look at the enormous salary we're paying you... that's why I ask tough questions. (laughs) We should add, parenthetically, that you are not being paid for this...
ZARBOCK: I want to make sure that you end up an heroic figure in this (laughter)...
JOSIAS: What would I say to who... to whom? To anybody that who would ask me about the...
ZARBOCK: Do you have children?
JOSIAS: Yes I do.
ZARBOCK: Do you have grandchildren?
JOSIAS: I'll tell you what I thought when my son uh... I tried to persuade my son to get into the military when he was getting into all kinds of trouble. He was cracking up cars and getting drunk and uh... I had very little hope for him. And, I thought the Military would be good but he would... and I said, "You ought to join the Army or Navy." And, he wasn't particularly interested in that. He straightened-out. He went AA. He's become a model citizen. He's a successful businessman. Uh... he turned around completely which was a great thing for me... you know.
JOSIAS: But uh... that's why I say it depends on the individuals, as to whether I would recommend the Service, whether or not.
ZARBOCK: Does anyone ever win a war?
JOSIAS: I wouldn't say so. Look what's happening now. We supposedly won the War several months ago. Its still going on.
ZARBOCK: For the record, this is October, in the year 2003.
ZARBOCK: It seems rather shadowy to believe that a war is ever won. Well... Do you have anything else you'd like to say?
JOSIAS: Not anything that I can think of... I'm sure that when I leave here I'll think of a lot of things that I should have said (laughs)... uh...
ZARBOCK: Then I'll come back.
ZARBOCK: Then I'll come back.
JOSIAS: Oh, yeah. Well...
ZARBOCK: I thank you very much. For the record, I have... unfortunately and erroneously failed to add on the introduction, that this is a joint Project between the DAR and UNCW Wilmington's Randall Library. Thank you for your time, sir.
JOSIAS: Oh, you're welcome.
ZARBOCK: Its a pleasure to have met you.
JOSIAS: Its a pleasure to have met you!