John Hawkins
John Hawkins

Service Record

Drafted • Army • 36th Infantry Division • European Theater • Sergeant Major

Transcript

Thomas J. Healy II:
You’ll be invited we’re going to have a little thing downtown.

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Oh.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Two o’clock in the afternoon on the 20th of October — which you’ll get an invitation for, I’ll also get ahold of you for that — which will be sort of a preliminary — small maybe, 30,40 minute showing of this of what we’re going to put togher and what we’re going to try to do. The Leiutenant Governor will be there and probably about 30 or 40 vets will be there.

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Do you remember the Memorial Bridge ceremony?

Thomas J. Healy II:
Yes.

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
He was there, I got to talk to him for a few minutes.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Yeah, I’ve gone to those pretty much every year. Were you there last year?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Yes.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Not — but the year before last?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
I’ve been every year since they started it.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Ok, well my father-in-law gave the speech on Korea.

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Oh, right I remember that.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Dave Gillen is his name.

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Mm hmm.

Thomas J. Healy II:
He’s a young buck, Korean War.

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Yeah, that’s pretty old now. Korean, yeah.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Do you draw?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Mm hmm.

Thomas J. Healy II:
You do?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Yeah. I like art, yeah. Draw and paint, different mediums, you know. Water colors.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Which do you like the best of those?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Which medium do I like the best?

Thomas J. Healy II:
Yes.

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Well, water color is the most difficult. I admire it the most. Oils I guess, probably the best.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Oils never — for me I always hated oils as a kid because it wasn’t fast drying enough.

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Yeah, and you could always change it sure. Well there’s a company in West Germany that puts out a pigment you can mix with water and looks exactly like oil, works like oil. It’s called Swan. Swan colors.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Mm Hmm.

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Do you paint still?

Thomas J. Healy II:
Not as much as I want to. I switched mainly over to photography more than anything.

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Mm hmm.

Thomas J. Healy II:
But I still — every now and then get it out and start doing stuff. I’m doing so much with digital photography right now.

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Oh yeah.

Thomas J. Healy II:
I can take my photo, turn it into a water color.

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Don’t you think water color is the most difficult though?

Thomas J. Healy II:
Yeah, they’re my favorites though. You start wet on wet, wet on dry, dry on wet and this sort of thing — takes a lot of talent.

Thomas J. Healy II:
That’s interesting though, I never thought about it that way.

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Mm hmm, it is.

Thomas J. Healy II:
For some reason I feel I have more control with water color than I did with oils.

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Did you?

Thomas J. Healy II:
Yeah, I don’t know why, I just — I have.

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
That must be natural for you then because —

Thomas J. Healy II:
Well it’s not as natural as —

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Well it’s like when you’re making a cloud, you get a wet background, put a dab of a color, and it spreads out.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Oh I’ve thrown a number away, too. I’ve stopped in the middle of stuff, too. I like big — I like big, almost knife — pallet knife canvas stuff with oil.

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Yeah, that’s good, too.

Thomas J. Healy II:
I did a big floral one — the last one I did, I did a big huge black with bird of paradise right in the middle of it.

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Oh bird, yeah.

Thomas J. Healy II:
But it was more of a — it was real loose.

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
How big was it? A big piece, huh.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Yeah.

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
On canvas.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Yes. But it wasn’t anything to write home about; but I enjoyed it.

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Yeah, well that’s a part of it. [abrupt, short break]

Thomas J. Healy II:
I thought it was like some cult.

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Yeah, a lot of people say a lot of things, you know. I’ve had people afraid to come in the house, because they think some kind of weirdo is there, you know —

Thomas J. Healy II:
Well, if you see —

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
— a werewolf or something. I mean, really. People are funny.

Thomas J. Healy II:
I expected a guy on a magic carpet in there, with a big turban.

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Well it’s I pylon, you ever try to describe a pylon, you know, to a builder that doesn’t know what you’re talking about? Unless they’re an architect or something. Anyway I drew the plans and did most of it myself.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Is Jack down there fixing it for you?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
This man is bringing it up to date because after forty years a lot of things happen, you know painting — and I have a building in front of the pylon building that squirrels got into you, know what squirrels can do to —

Thomas J. Healy II:
Oh yeah.

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Well, I have a secretary and a few other things for the Oral Way Reserve Officers, and the Military Order, and I had a lot of records in there, and they got into everything — and including — it was a terrible mess. Well this gentlemen came along, he’s an old friend — was able to paint, clean and tear out old stuff. It was dirt, after awhile the good things become trash, so I had to get rid of it.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Yes. And he’s doing a great job — been there about a month. So instead of doing any art work, I’ve been staying with him and correcting and fixing things.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Interesting.

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Mm hmm.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Now I know the person that has — everyday I learn something new.

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Well you get all kinds of questions: Is this a church? Is — like you say, is it a cult? No it’s not a cult, it’s just my home.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Why did you do it that way?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Because I like Egyptian art, and I was a Rosicrucian a long time ago, are you familiar with the Rosicrucian organization?

Thomas J. Healy II:
No.

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Well it’s basically Egyptian. It goes back to what they call the White Brotherhood.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Sort of like the Klu Klux Klan?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Well, not exactly. Klu — the White Brotherhood is a symbol that sort of runs through history, it’s not exactly an organization. It’s people with definite ideas, you know, about so many things. And then I belong to the York Knights Templar, are you familiar with the Knights Templar?

Thomas J. Healy II:
Oh, yeah.

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
The Knights Templar still exists. Not the Masonic Order, the but the real temple still exists. I belong to that and all of these things blend, the Rosicrucian order in history and the Knights Templar blend in Jerusalem, it’s quite a history.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Mm hmm. Does it carry off into your paintings? Yeah.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Like the big eye?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
For a while I had three shields mounted on poles out front with the symbols of the Knights Templar. Originally the Knights Templar were two month on a horse, and the Piebald — you know the Piebald Standard? The Piebald Standard is the same as a race track, you know the black and white thing you see at the race track for signaling cars?

Thomas J. Healy II:
Right.

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
That’s the Piebald Standard.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Oh, ok.

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
That was also the symbol — the flag of the Knights Templar back in the middle ages. So there’s just a lot you can dig into in these things.

Thomas J. Healy II:
So, were you married?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Yeah.

Thomas J. Healy II:
What did she have to say about the house?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Well, fortunately my wife was Czechoslovakian background, and she went along with my idea. She was very helpful.

Thomas J. Healy II:
You told her a lot of people were doing it around Delaware, it’s a Delaware —

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
A lot of people haven’t done it that’s right. But you stick your neck out when you do something like this, because — it was fun just doing it anyway.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Well, it’s been here forever. As a kid I remember it.

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Oh yeah? You remember that?

Thomas J. Healy II:
I mean I used to go down here all the time. You go down past the se — I was never afraid to go in. Isn’t there something like that on River Road? Or is that a real temple?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
On River — I don’t think so. I think it’s a real temple.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Down from the National Guard, you know, on River Road where they had that rifle range?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Yeah, yeah.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Right down in the back of —

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Oh, yeah, I know — where the general’s place was, yeah.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Oh, I thought that was a temple like looking place back in there.

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Well, that I’ve missed somehow. Down on Route Nine, you mean?

Thomas J. Healy II:
Yes. All right are we ready?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
So you want me to look at you?

Thomas J. Healy II:
Okay, I’m going to ask you if you would repeat some things — I mean, in the documentary you’re not going to hear my questions — nobody’s going to hear my questions, they’re just going to hear your answers.

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Hear my answers, right.

Thomas J. Healy II:
So I try to sort of — “were you at the invasion of D-day”? — yes I was and I did whatever” — or not, “yes I was,” but, “the innovation of D-day I was” — so people know what you’re talking about rather than just answering.

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Right there can I inject something does that throw you off?

Thomas J. Healy II:
Yes.

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
It does? Yeah, we’ll get back to that.

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Because I have a very strong point about the D-day.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Okay. That’s fine. We’ll get into it — okay, first of all, just state your name and then spell your last name for me.

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
I’m John V. Hawkins, Senior, and the last name is spelled H-A-W-K-I-N-S. Sometimes called “Jack,” sometimes called “The Hawk.”

Thomas J. Healy II:
“The Hawk.” That’s what I call my buddy John Hawkins. “Hawk.” Okay, now I’m going to ask you three questions that you can blend into a story.

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Story. Uh huh.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Where did you grow up? Who were your parents, and what did they do? And did you have any other brothers and sisters?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
I grew up in Wilmington — Wilmington, Delaware, of course. My parents were from — are local. My mother came from a farmer background; my father was from a shipbuilding family in Baltimore. I have one brother who is passed away recently.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Okay. Where did you live in town there when you grew up — where were you living?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Oh, in Wilmington for the most part.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Whereabouts? Do you remember?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Do you know where the flats are in Wilmington?

Thomas J. Healy II:
Oh, yeah.

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
I grew up on the flats, right next to little Italy.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Right behind little Italy?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Right behind little Italy.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Okay, so you went to school? Where did you go to school there? I went to school to begin with in elementary school called number 25, at Fourth and Ferris Street, in Wilmington. Then I went to Charles B. Lore, and then finally Wilmington High School. Graduated Wilmington High School. Some time in Goldey-Beacom, some time in University of Delaware.

Thomas J. Healy II:
How long were you at — what year did you get out of Wilmington High?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
1936.

Thomas J. Healy II:
What year were you born?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
1917.

Thomas J. Healy II:
You might have known my mother — my mother graduated from Wilmington High. Her last name was Weichert.

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Oh, yeah.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Margaret Weichert?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Yeah, I knew Margaret Weichert.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Betty Hackett was her best friend and sort of my aunt.

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Is that right?

Thomas J. Healy II:
Hackett. They live, my mom lived down on Washington Street, right by Cozy Corner there.

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Sure, I remember Cozy Corner.

Thomas J. Healy II:
And my aunt lived right up from the Flatiron Building. Which is, you know, between Washington and the Old Wilminton High?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Mm hmm. Yeah, Wilmington High School — lot of memories.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Well the Burgers were in that class in there — Burger Brothers Furniture?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Yeah, Burger Brothers and let’s see, Miller’s son, young Miller. There were several — Stiftel, you hear about Albert Stiftel, used to be the judge of Superior Court. Good friend in that same class.

Thomas J. Healy II:
So you went to Wilmington High, then you got finished — school. Now the next question I’m doing to ask you, and I want you to repeat it, like “on December 7, 1941, I was where,” so just say that.

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
On December 7, 1941, I was attending a badminton tournament at the armory on Dupont Street, when I first heard about the Pearl Harbor incident.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Then what happened after that — I mean what and where — what was going on, then you were out of school right?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
I was out of school, yeah, and when I was out of school I went to work for a brokerage firm called Larrat (ph) and Company in Wilmington. And I stayed with it for fifty years, finally wound up with Merrill Lynch after fifty years; and of course I spent a lot of time with the army reserve too, afterwards — so that gets mixed up in a lot of time.

Thomas J. Healy II:
When did you go away to — when did you decide that you wanted to go in the service and —

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Well that’s — it’s what — it’s funny the things that lead up — at the time my mother was sort of apprehensive about my going into the service, and I had a good friend who’s name was Work, Roy Work who was the head of the draft board, so I said one day, “Roy, when are you going to call me?” He said, “You’ll have it within, a week.” So within the week I was drafted. I went to Fort Dix, took the examination. Was very anxious to get in. I never remember the doctor there he said — I said, “How am I doing,” you know, “Did I pass?” He hit me on the backside and said, “You’re in.” That was it. Then what happened? Where did you go from there?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
From there I went to Fort Dix, spent a lot of time there. And was put on a troop train and went to Blanding, Florida, with a bunch of other young men of my time. And the first thing I saw when I got to Blanding, Florida, was a Texas flag, and I finally found out I was going to join the 36th Division of the Texas National Guard, which is sometimes called the “Texas Army.” And from there on — the story goes on.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Okay. Continue with it then. So you were down in Florida?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Mm hmm.

Thomas J. Healy II:
That would have been year what?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
That was, let’s see — it was 1942.

Thomas J. Healy II:
So, right after Pearl Harbor, you were still in town, working, basically?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
I was still in town working, that’s right.

Thomas J. Healy II:
And then give me the year and sort of the month you went — you were drafted. You finally went into the service in what month and year?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
I was drafted in March of ’42, and from there on it went like I said — you went to — you went to join a bunch of other people who went to Fort Dix for a physical, medical examination, and then assigned to a group in Fort Dix. And from Fort Dix, sent to Camp Blanding with the 36th.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Then where did you go from Camp Blanding?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
From Camp Blanding, I took — the basic training in those days was 13 weeks — quite a time. And I was assigned to field artillery — but I had a clerical background, so that helped with doing some clerical work, and it helped in a lot of ways — and from there the division went on maneuvers. Now the maneuvers went from Florida, clear up through the Carolinas, finally wound up in this state, in fact. Not far from here, where we have the riverfront. The train stopped there, in fact, and from there it went to Camp Edwards — Camp Edwards — we had engineering training, you know, climbing — scaling towers and all that sort of thing. And there’s a little funny incident if you don’t mind my telling you, we had a Motor Sergeant who was from Bonham, Texas, if you ever heard of Bonham, Texas, so we got out of the train that we were in, and he put his hands on his hip and he looked up and he said, “Well here we are in this damn Yankee Country.” So you knew what you were up against — what you were doing there.

Thomas J. Healy II:
So then you went to your training and then where?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
After that training — well that’s another funny story — I was sent to a school called “Combat Intelligence.” And I got — I got the best mark out of the people that attended it, and as a result got a furlough home for one week. Now, you’d have thought that was it — have a furlough and go back to the unit. I went back to the unit, it was nighttime at Edwards and everything was deserted. It was winter time by then, and I had to — well it’s a strange feeling when you go back to your unit and you find nobody, you don’t know what to do. So I went to the MP’s of course, at Camp Edwards, and they said, “this is the first time we’ve ever heard a unit deserting a man, it’s usually the man deserts the unit.” So then I got another week on furlough, staying up there. The friends that were with me went on AP hill by freight car and me I got a ride back in a Pullman back to AP hill, and joined the unit. And then it was a short timee before I was ready to go overseas.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Do you remember the date, the time you went overseas, and how you went overseas?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Yeah, overseas was in the — trying to think of the exact date there. Hmm. I can’t pinpoint the exact time but it was in the next year. Anyway, I went from there — went to — at AP hill was a staging area — you heard of AP hill, I’m sure.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Yeah.

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
And from AP hill we went back up in New York to Staten Island, and loaded on ship to go to North Africa.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Did you know you were going to North Africa?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
What?

Thomas J. Healy II:
Did you know you were going to North Africa?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Well, we had an idea, but not until I was on shipboard did I know I was going to North Africa.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Now, what was the regimen or the company you were with then?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
I was with Headquarters Battery 132nd Field Artillery. The name, or the title of my book, 132nd Field Artillery and from there we — 132nd Field Artillery we were on shipboard for almost a week, something like that — and landed in — I remember going — it was my birthday, we were going through the streets of Gibraltar, and we entered a place called Oran, in North Africa. A port of Oran, why am I telling a little funny story here?

Thomas J. Healy II:
No, tell me all the little funny stories you want.

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
On shipboard we were given a pamphlet on what to do when we met Arabian people: Don’t do this don’t, do that; don’t stare at the women; if you’re invited to tea, don’t stop with two cups, you take three cups at mid-tea. There are a lot of Dos and Donts. And besides learning a little Arabic. So When I got off the ship at the port of Oran, the first thing I did, I saw this big man who looked like something out of the Arabian Knights. He had a turban and a cutless, and so I went up to him and I said, “Marhaba,” which was a greeting in Arabic and he said, “Hello Joe.” I thought, “this was a waste of time, I don’t have to speak the language, everybody speaks English.” That’s a little funny story.

Thomas J. Healy II:
So you went ashore and unloaded, right?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Unloaded with A bag, and B bag; a lot of bags, and we stayed in that area maybe about a week. Very confusing — and I got the white North African though, because there were certain — today I think if you went back to North Africa, it’s kind of a hostile place, but then it wasn’t the same. So then we went through a series of training back and forth across North Africa. I helped run a couple of artillery schools where you taught people how to handle artillery, going overhead, what to do; and then we had hand on hand fighting, and we had street fighting run by Mark — do you remember Mark Clark?

Thomas J. Healy II:
Mm hmm?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
It was Mark Clark’s Fifth Army Battle Training School. So we spent a lot of time there in North Africa.

Thomas J. Healy II:
In the field artillery unit, what kind of guns did you have?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
105’s.

Thomas J. Healy II:
105’s? 105’s, called Pea Shooters. The next step of up is 155.

Thomas J. Healy II:
The 155’s are the Howitzers?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Yeah, the 105 Howitzer.

Thomas J. Healy II:
How did you drag those around?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
By Prime Movers. And there was something — I don’t know it always seemed fascinating to me, when I was in North Africa — it leads up to something — we were outside in a place called Mers-El Kebir, which is right on the Sahara Desert — on the fringe of the desert — having a school in our field artillery and the instructors name was — he was a very unusual man and, his name was Major James Titmouse Clark, and he was teaching the school and all of a sudden we heard music in the background — the division band was right next to us practicing, and it was an unusual piece of music. Somebody said, “What is that music?” I recognized it, it was called Franz liszt preludes — Franz liszt wrote a lot of symphonic poems — and I mentioned that, and they said, “never heard of it.” I said, “Well, it’s a nice piece of music.” So with this, something happened then. He said, “Hawkins, I want you to do something.” I said, “what’s that, Major?” He said, “I want you to keep the unit journal.” Have you ever heard of the unit journal? “I want you to keep the unit journal, because I want you to know where the old man is all the time, and what we’re doing.” That wasn’t easy to do, you know, it’s like you’re keeping a diary 24 ho u spend a lot of time asking questions. What did you do; the people you saw the night before; in the daytime; what did you do yesterday — and when the Colonel was there, I’d say, “Colonel where are you going?” He was always polite. He’d say, “Hawkins, I’m going to this. I’m going to do that.” He was hard to follow. I kept scribbled notes because it wasn’t concise, it wasn’t all organized. I did the best I could with all these goofy notes — like 24 hours. Anyway, finally I got my own airplane, my own pilot. Now the reason for that, the end of every month I had to fly back to Division Headquarters, wherever they were, and have people type up the minutes. Those minutes are what I used to write my book.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Interesting. Did — so you were in Africa — North Africa?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Mm hmm.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Now, what — did you get into battle there?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
No the — we didn’t get into battle, we were in reserve. We had officers go into the battle as forward observers, they called them, go into the areas to find out what was taking place with our good German adversary there, and we were not involved in actual battle — not the 36th. We were in training, still in training. We knew somehow we were going to be involved in an invasion for combat but we did not know where. That leads up to another story. At another point in time, we attended an air session where the commanding general got up and made a speech. He said, “well, I can’t tell you where you’re going, but you can expect it’s going to be an invasion, and you can expect fifty percent casualties.” How would you feel if somebody said, “fifty percent casualties?” Where does that leave you? Fifty percent.

Thomas J. Healy II:
How did that make you feel?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
I was scared, because I remember as a kid whenever I got in a battle or something I always wound up getting hit in the face, and I said that’s me, you know.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Did — okay, so after North Africa you were preparing —

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Mm Hmm.

Thomas J. Healy II:
So what was your real — what were you — what ended up being your first real battle?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Well the first real battle — first of all we were loaded on ship at Oran, in North Africa, and I was on a British ship; and there were a lot of details. We went to school for several days while we were going — we were actually going to Italy. Now that was the first invasion of York, not Normandy. With all due respects to Normandy, the first D-day of the continent of Europe was Salerno. So that was our first battle.

Thomas J. Healy II:
What did you do in that battle?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Well, let me tell you something before I got to the battle: You heard of D-bars, the bars that the army gives you for energy? They’re chocolate, you’re only supposed to eat a little bit. Well, I ate the whole bar because I like chocolate. You can imagine that’s like Exlax, so I was pretty scared when I hit the beach. I had a physical problem, plus being scared anyway. It took me — after I hit the beach, it took me six hours to find my unit, so much stuff going on. For a while I felt like I was on an invasion all by myself, and from there on, it’s — series of battles.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Now, did you — was it an actual landing that you guys did?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Yeah, an actual landing. Started at 3:00 o’clock in the morning, and it went on — there were different beaches: red, green, yellow beaches. Three different beaches. And there were British troops to our left, and to our right, too. But the prime invasion was 36th Division. That was the initial, and of course Sicily had taken place a month before this, with General Patton coming up, you know, through Messina.

Thomas J. Healy II:
So, were you being fired on as you were landing?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Oh yeah.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Tell me a little bit about that.

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Well, you were being — we had artillery firing over you while you were landing, then you had — well, in other words, somebody talked at some time before this invasion, because the high ground was called Outer Villa. High ground, High Village, in Italy. That was a couple of miles inland, but the German people, they had weapons already set up to greet us. So we met three panzer divisions — you’ve heard of panzer divisions — they had been in battle for a long time, it was kind of a tough go. And there was a lot of — it was scary times. At some time we were — I remember being in a trench, too; like trench warfare, for a while. North Africa, we were very close to — with a French Foreign Legion. That was fascinating to me. I was telling him since then I’ve been an honorary member of the French Foreign Legion, which I’ve always treasured, the relationship. Well, back in the battle there are the — that was the ninth of September, 1943. I don’t remember — if you remember this or not — and the Italian Army — and the Italian government had capitulated, so we thought it was going to be easy. You know, the Germans are going to move out, and the Italians have given up, but that wasn’t true. Now, I remember a series of things that happened — finding my unit, like I said — took me six hours to find my unit, and at nighttime it was cold, for some reason there in Italy; and there was — somebody had found some Italian army blankets. I can still see them, they were gray and black and I was laying on the ground. Somebody says, “Hey, Hawkins, I got a blanket, if you come over here.” Just as I got up somebody shot at me just, over my head — a sniper. I said, “I’ll stay where I am, forget the blanket.” So I stayed there for hours, and got up finally. We did have some trench warfare there, and it looked for a while like we were going to be pushed back, and somebody says, “What happens if we’re pushed back into the Mediterranean,” but it didn’t work, so we went on. First town we went to was Naples. Now there’s a story about Naples. There’s an unusual — Naples was in shambles. I don’t know if you ever read about any of this or not, they had scuttled a bunch of ships in the harbor — the German Army had scuttled all these ships. So it created a problem — it was not unusual for — soldiers like kids — unusual to have kids adopt a soldier or a unit — was not — it happened and we adopted one person who became very famous later on: Sophia Loren. We didn’t adopt her, but she stayed with the unit for a while as a kid because food was scarce, and a lot of things were scarce. And it was a certain protective aura being around military.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Now, you stayed with the same unit the whole time?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Oh, I stayed with the same unit throughout the whole thing, yeah.

Thomas J. Healy II:
What was your biggest battle?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Well, Salerno — well, then other battles coming up. Cassino was probably the biggest. Have you heard of Cassino? Cassino was — when you say Cassino, it’s a mountain, and it’s a Benedictine abbey — was built there — around 300 when St. Benedict was controlling all that area. That was a big battle, because you may remember a lot of contention there. The monestary was — it’s a beautiful monestary. Did you ever see pictures of it.?

Thomas J. Healy II:
I probably have, but —

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Yeah. Anyway it was a big debate about whether to bomb the abbey or not, because it’s a historic land mark — a lot of history. But finally they did bomb it en masse and that was a big battle. Now Cassino was a very dangerous place to be because from time to time you had to move out of where you were, by vehicle or any other way, to towns, to Naples, to some other place; and you were always being shot at. It was a valley — a big valley, and the Germans held the high ground over the area there. But you gotta compliment the commander of the German garrison there — was a lay-leader of the benedictine order — the Catholic order, back in Germany. And he saved a lot of the treasures — of St. Benedict’s treasures, and took them to Rome before they were destroyed, which is a commendable thing to remember.

Thomas J. Healy II:
What do you think history books have left out about the war? Well, my bone to contention is there should have been more information about Salerno. Today the average person thinks there was one D-day: Normandy. Now, I say that was no distraction from the importance of Normandy, which came about a year later. Bloody Salerno is sort of neglected, and at times they talk about, “the Italian campaign was a waste.” I don’t think it was a waste, not with all the lives that were involved. Then you’ve got Angio, too. Angio follows in there, another invasion. There were three invasions from my Division Three.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Were you ever hurt?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
I was hit once in the head. It didn’t amount to much, no.

Thomas J. Healy II:
No purple heart?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
I didn’t — it didn’t pay to go back to the aid stations. Forget it, there were men losing their legs and arms getting a purple heart. I felt silly going with a little scratch on my head.

Thomas J. Healy II:
That’s what Bill Mcalughlin said, the mayor. The mayor of Wilmington?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Yeah, I knew Bill, sure.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Bill was a gunner over the South Pacific, and they were Japanese fighter planes trying to shoot him down; and I think he said — either — I think maybe it was flack — he wasn’t expecting it, and it blew right out in front of his station, and he jump back and put about nine stitches in his head. But he said, “I didn’t really want to get a purple heart. I could have,” he says, “but I didn’t really want to tell everybody for the rest of my life it was because I got nine stitches in my head. But then I found out later that it was extra points to get out.” He said, “Christ, I would have taken that then.”

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
They call it a “million dollar wound.” Remember that statement.

Thomas J. Healy II:
What was your toughest — what was your toughest time until the — the hardest part of your time in the service?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
The hardest time, well, I picked up — when I was in Africa I picked up malaria — and that would bother you. It still — you can never give blood when you had malaria. That gave me trouble, because I didn’t want to leave the unit. You know why I didn’t want to leave the unit? Because when you left the hospital they send you to a repo-depot — it’s called replacement depot. That was the hardest thing because I liked my unit. I enjoyed being there, if you want to know the truth.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Did you ever — did you ever think you might lose your life?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Yeah. Yeah, I’ve thought about that, but you don’t dwell on it, you know. You could, that’s right, sure. It wasn’t a strong point with me, maybe I’m just oblivious or something. I don’t know, I think more now about losing my life with cars — with traffic, than I did then. [Quiet Discussion with Videographer]

Thomas J. Healy II:
Of course they’re practicing for a musical next door?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Oh yeah.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Just started. Are we okay is he —

Videographer:
As soon as he speaks it’s fine —

Thomas J. Healy II:
Okay that’s what I thought.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Where were you on — where were you on the final day — VE-day?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
On VE-day I was in a place called Slitters, Austria, near the Brenners, and it was quite a surprise to see, suddenly hundreds of German soldiers — hundred of weapons all piled neatly on a corner, in stacks, you know — surrender. I couldn’t believe it for a long time. That was in March.

Thomas J. Healy II:
So were you part of the driving force that drove them to that?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Yeah, I was part of it, yeah. Of course, battle is such a funny thing, you’re in contact with the enemy and sometimes you’re not, you’re back in reserve or something. I remember one time it was General Patton’s group on one side, and the other side, and they used to leave pockets of resistance, you know what I mean? You’d try to deal with what he went through and left. And it was this town — a big battle in this town for a day; and that night was so quiet, and so changed that we had an outdoor movie. Can you believe that? That’s — people think the battle goes on. It doesn’t go on like that. It’s in and out, you know — change.

Thomas J. Healy II:
How — you were here again, the field artillery unit right?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Mm hmm.

Thomas J. Healy II:
What was your day in battle like? Were you part — was infantry men part of that, or they weren’t — or you were just on the guns? Or how does that all work?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Well, you have batteries, like my 132nd field artillery had a headquarters, service battery — service — all sorts of supplies, and three firing batteries. And of course firing batteries had to send forward observers up with the infantry, to observe, so they could direct — are you familiar with any kind of field artillery? And you had to go forward with that and I finally wound up with the office of the Sergeant Major — finally, writing — working on my book. And of course — but everyday — almost every day you have to move, you know, you pack up and leave so it —

Thomas J. Healy II:
So you basically were moving with a headquarter division, or an office?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
With a headquarter. Well it wasn’t exactly an office, it was a moving office.

Thomas J. Healy II:
That’s what I mean. You were setting up all the organization basically to get everything done?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Yeah, that’s right.

Thomas J. Healy II:
So it must have been tough, because you had a lot of extraneous stuff to move with you. Where is the air conditioning? How about the coffee? Who forgot the coffee machine? Did anybody get the candy bars out of the other machine?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
You know who we forgot all the time was the medics. We had a medical detachment, and the Sergeant Major would get on the three-way phone — we had three-way phones then — and tell everybody we were gonna move, and completely forget about the medics and they left the poor medics stranded somewhere. Somebody had to take care of them — which was important to have a medical unit.

Thomas J. Healy II:
In your particular unit, how many guns did you have?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Well, there are four guns in each battery.

Thomas J. Healy II:
And you were in one battery?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
I was with headquarters battery. I was in fire direction to begin with. Right, but how many batteries?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Three Batteries.

Thomas J. Healy II:
So you had fifteen guns?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
A, B, and C batteries.

Thomas J. Healy II:
So, you had fifteen guns?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Yeah. Plus machine guns, of course. For protection, you know.

Thomas J. Healy II:
But when you guys moved, I mean you were moving trucks and gear and stuff?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Thatt’s right. And sometimes part of that unit would move to support another unit alongside of you. They didn’t always move the same way. It’s a constant change, yeah.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Did you go up in the ranks then? Is that — tell me about that.

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Yeah, well, now that goes back to Salerno. What I did in Salerno — they were going to give me the Legion of Merit, but Mark Clark said he couldn’t give the Legion of Merit to an enlisted man, so instead of that I got a promotion. So I kept moving up. So when I left I was a Battalion Sergeant Major. You know, six stripes. And of course, went along with that — that’s another story too. We wound up in a town called — finally when the war was over — called Schwabisch Gmund, and in my capacity as Battalion Sergeant Major, I was running a command post in Schwabisch Gmund; and I became the burger meister for a month. So I was mayor of the town for a month — which is ridiculous because you’re not trained to handle civilian problems. That’s the reason today it’s very important to have civil affairs units, you know.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Were you married at the time? No.

Thomas J. Healy II:
So you could have taken care of all the town women?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Yeah, there were a lot of contacts, yeah.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Did — so after VE-day, what went on then? Did you — how soon after that did you come back to the states or —

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Well, let’s see. That was in May and everybody was talking.

Thomas J. Healy II:
May of ’45?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Yeah, May of ’45. Right on.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Yes, May of ’45?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
No, that’s not when I was —

Thomas J. Healy II:
May of ’45 was VE-day?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
That’s right.

Thomas J. Healy II:
And VJ didn’t come till August, or the actual signing didn’t come till September 2nd or something?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
In the meantime we were left with — the men with 85 points — now I didn’t have 85 points — were being sent home. I went home in October.

Thomas J. Healy II:
October of ’45?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
October of ’45.

Thomas J. Healy II:
And you came back to the —

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Back to the same place, back to Fort Dix.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Okay, and then what?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
And then I was discharged and came home.

Thomas J. Healy II:
And did you stay in the reserves after that?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Yeah, a year later I thought I wanted to get back into it because I liked the army, and I liked the routine. I was working back to my old office at the brokerage firm. I said — I hated the brokerage business, you want to know the truth about it; and I hated being in an office, so I joined the Army Reserve — was on Kings Street — was called the something else something Fort Acne or something, like the name of the story — it was just a joke but I stayed with that and I finally got 21 years in, and I’m still with it, I’m still secretary, I’m still chaplain in the —

Thomas J. Healy II:
Did —

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
That sort of thing.

Thomas J. Healy II:
So when you came back basically — you basically went right back to work? Tell me —

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
No, within a week I went back to work. My brother was working at Dravo (ph). And this went on — it wasn’t any fault of his but as soon as I got back home to Richardson Park, where my mother lived, he lost his job, or he quit, I’m not sure, so I was back where I started from, you know.

Thomas J. Healy II:
And then what happened? Did you — where was the Laird (ph) office, was it in the DuPont building?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
The Laird office was in the DuPont building on the fourth floor, and it went from there to Nemours building, and it went to one Rodney Square, and now it’s in another place which is now Merrill Lynch.

Thomas J. Healy II:
So, you came back — tell me how — did you meet your wife when you came back, or how did that happen?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Yeah, short while afterwards. Had a lot of dates before that in 1951, something like that, I met my wife. She was from Milford, farm girl, and like I said she went — like we talked earlier about the Egyptian house she went along with my ideas. She had a sense of history, too. Do you have any children?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Two. We lost one, we had a boy and a girl, and my son is still living. He’s fifty now, he drives for the New York Shuttle. Are you familiar with the New York Shuttle?

Thomas J. Healy II:
Yes. What do you want the generations to come to know and remember about World War II?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Well, I want — just basically — I keep hearing that history is not being taught. So I think there should be as much detail taught about World War II as anything else today. Very important. In fact, that’s what I hear the senators talking about and I’m sure the Lieutenant Governor want same thing. I know Joe Biden harps on this all the time.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Well we’re eventually trying to get this program which is just oral history program and basically the history of World War II especially about the Delaware participation — just like University of Delaware, you have to have one credit hour of Delaware history to graduate — to try to get this in the system to graduate, in seventh or eighth — or even through high school of the course level, for a number of reasons. And then — have I’m trying to get participation from the schools to continue this —

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Mm hmm.

Thomas J. Healy II:
You know to go out and interview. We’re going to get a Korean program going after we finish this, and then a Vietnam program after this; because we should have been doing this twenty years ago.

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Well, somebody has to tell the generations why it happened; who was our adversary; what was the threat; and like the books have been written is the greatest generation, you know, did the greatest generation make it better or worse? You know.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Well, you are the greatest generation. Why are you the greatest generation? Why do you think your guys are the greatest generation?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Well, it seems like we took on a lot after Pearl Harbor without question, and just went forward with it. There was a lot of patriotic fervor in those times. Now you get all kind of mixed up situations.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Well, I was saying earlier — I was born in 1945, so I wasn’t around during Pearl Harbor and I was too young to remember right directly after the war, but from the readings and the shows about the war and the real documentaries about the war, it doesn’t seem like there was anything even close to World War II until September 11.

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Mm hmm, yeah. Like you were suddenly awakened to what happened, yeah.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Now we, don’t understand the sacrifice. You know, we all went through the gas shortage, most of us did — well my kids didn’t go through the gas shortage — other than dad sneaking around on service station getting filled up after hours, but they don’t understand any of that, and it’s tough — and I kid around about what is this generation going to give up? Their cappuccinos for just regular coffee? I mean I don’t think we really know — we don’t really understand it.

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Well, you know something? I’ve been a consultant of a Fort Delaware Society, you’ve heard of the Fort Delaware? I was a director of that for years, or was, and I find this out there is always among — you take a group of young people there’s always one or two that are interested or fascinated by it and they’ll do their own thinking — the kids can think for themselves, they’re not sort of adrift, you know.

Thomas J. Healy II:
No, I think you’re right and I think — I was my father was very strong willed person and our family — his side of the family is very outspoken about issues and aren’t afraid to talk about issues, but we’re all sort of — have are your own little —

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Opinions.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Well myself that has my opinion, my cousin has another opinion, my brother has another opinion —

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Sure.

Thomas J. Healy II:
So we weren’t all beaten into the same mold and we all were thinking for ourselves. My youngest son is 17 and he’s very opinionated and enjoys stuff. We had a kid in here the other day Alisons friend — who’s a 12 year old and just can’t wait to meet World War II veterans, at 12, and understands that.

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Right.

Thomas J. Healy II:
So, I don’t know, now here’s the — here’s sort of the final questions: What major message would you leave for the generation to come?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
The generation to come — well I would — I love history and I would say: Dig into history. Absorb it and spend a lot of time with history. You know what bothered me when the thing in Iraq first started? I started thinking about the treasures of Northern Iraq, the things they had and going to be destroyed because I read a lot about it, there’s a book out called “The Genesis of the Grail Kings.” Which goes back to the Tigris, Euphrates rivers in the time when Abraham was there and the Israelites and Egyptians. They were like brother and sisters. And all that stuff — before Egyptian treasures were found, a lot of these treasures were there, and you know some of them were stolen or whatever happened to them, I don’t know what happened to them, I never heard the story, but that was a concern. So to me, if you have a concern depth for history, that’s important. So if you’re headed in that direction you’re going to find out things. Now, I don’t find out things about Iraq in history unless I go read it. You gotta spend time reading.

Thomas J. Healy II:
That’s why I think some of this new generation — and this is my kids, my children, and maybe even their older children right now — is that it’s more of a me me me me me?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Oh, yeah.

Thomas J. Healy II:
That don’t understand a lot about it or won’t go back and read about it, or really could care less about it. It’s where are we going to go tomorrow? How much money are we going to make? And where are we going to spend it and have fun? I think the T.V. has a lot to do with it.

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Well, and the computers. I love — computers are great, but it doesn’t give you the whole story. In school you have a subject and you want to go beyond what the instructor — the teacher has given you, you know, find out another part like we were just talking about Iraq — don’t take one book, one story, go beyond that in some other source. That’s important. I think that’s what we should pass on to them. Well they’ve gotta do it. If you’re going to depend on computers you’re going to have everybody do it for you, you’ve gotta do a little bit of thinking for yourself.

Thomas J. Healy II:
And that’s why I think this program is important — this oral history 00:55:19:15ject, because it’s from what you’re going to hear the stories.

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
Well, I asked you about the Knights Templar. You’d be surprised how many people that I talk to never heard of the Knights Templar. I said, “the Knights Templar,” and somebody says, “well they went to Jerusalem to protect the pilgrims.” I said, “that’s not true, because it was only like, 36 very wealthy men to formed to go there.” What they were really after was the treasures — some of the treasures in Solomon’s temple, places like that — gets a little more involved. I’ll tell you another thing, people today — sometime I mention offhand you get carried away when you start talking about your subject matter and people get bored sometimes, but you can’t help talking about — if somebody mentions Tiberius, the emperor who was an emperor when Jesus was here, and Pontias Pilat — there are stories about those people in history that you don’t get out of the Bible, you gotta go beyond, and that’s what it’s all about.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Okay, I think that — for right now — anything else you want to tell me?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
No, not right off.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Any final word of the day?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
No, I appreciate your asking me because — well the old story — you get together sometimes and the wives will say, “when are you going to start talking about war stories?” You know, well there’s more to it than war stories. There’s funny side — there’s a good side, a funny side. There’s one other thing I want to mention when we were in north Africa, was somebody said, “were you ever scared?” There was one time I was very frightened, and it had nothing to do with combat. We were training at the edge of the Sahara, and it was grass — real high, growing — it’s a desert, but there’s grass growing in one particular area; and you’ve heard certain places in the Earth where there’s supposed to be bottomless pits? Stone places? Well I was running down hill — the project was over and I was running downhill through this grass — you know, the grass — and all of a sudden something said “stop,” I don’t know why. I stopped, and right in front of me was this huge — looked like a well. I thought, “oh boy,” if I had gone down there good-bye Hawkins, you know. And we threw rocks and things down there and never did hear anything hit the bottom; so it was one hell of a depth down there, you know, that scared me.

Thomas J. Healy II:
What do you think that was from?

John Victor Hawkins, Sr.:
I don’t know. I guess it was always there, as far as I know, but I said — you’ve heard where there are places in the Earth that have bottomless pits? That was one of them, and I almost went into it.

Thomas J. Healy II:
Okay, are we all right? We going to do a side way?

Videographer:
What I want you to do is get you to turn around this way, we’re going to get a beautiful profile of you. Mr. Hawkins: All right. Do you want me to look at that light?

Videographer:
Well, yeah look forward.

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