James Reeves and Amy Spiker

Recorded July 31, 2009 Archived July 31, 2009 41:28 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: DDB000562


Amy Spiker (43) interviews her father, James Reeves (87) about his time serving as a Marine during WWII. He also talks about his 70-year career as an auto garage owner and his 64-year marriage.

Subject Log / Time Code

- James joined the Marines at age 20 and became a paratrooper.
- He talks about spending time training in Hawaii.
- James landed at Iwojima, describes the fighting there.
- James was injured in combat and sent back to Japan when the war was over as part of the occupational troops.
- James hitchhiked to see FDR’s inauguration.
- Meeting and marrying his wife of 64 years.
- Took over the car garage and repair shop his father started-- never misses a day of work.


  • James Reeves
  • Amy Spiker

Venue / Recording Kit

Partnership Type

Fee for Service


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00:04 My name is Amy Spiker. I'm 43 years old today is July 31st 2009 and we're at the Akron library in Akron, Ohio and my relationship to the person I'm speaking with us. He's my father and we're looking forward to talking together today.

00:25 The dad up if you could state your name and your age.

00:29 James Reeves 87 years old

00:35 Okay, Dad. If you just want to tell me about when you were younger kind of what do you remember what was happening in the world at the time when you were when you were a little boy growing up?

00:53 It was was a depression years you remember some of them about the Depression years.

00:58 LOL, what do you remember?

01:06 I don't hardly know what to say there, you know, okay. I was real young it real young then I remembered, but I don't remember a whole lot of things just happen. So you you are when you were around 17 or so you decided to join the Marines right Dad and you did some training. I know you talked about going to California and Hawaii. Can you tell me about that well went to play or so and that's where you take your boot camp and tell her show North South Carolina, then after after you get out of boot camp, they send me to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina applied to get into a paratrooper Marine Corps paratrooper.

01:59 And I got a new pair of troops and got my made my sex jokes to get parachute wings and that's that's where I got my parachute wings at tell me about that jumping out of an airplane. Was that scary or how did that work? Never been up in an airplane in the first time was up in an airplane. That's when I made the first joke about if they take you out and you hook up Marine Corps Dives out head first. Army goes out feet first so we can we went out headfirst. It's it's scary. But you do it in your parachute. You're hooked up to a strap it opens itself. You don't have to pull anything. That's the way it'll you have it.

02:42 Actually on the front in case that back, when when do you have to pull ring to open the front one, which I never had to do that.

02:51 And then where did you go after that? Well after that shipped us to California Camp Pendleton, California only and make they form the 5th Marine Division out there and that's what we trained are in, California.

03:09 For a for a good while and then they sent us to Hawaii to train more in Hawaii. Where where overseas in what do you remember about being a California? Well, I remember a whole lot we got Camp panels is probably I don't know exactly probably 70 mile from Los Angeles. So every two weeks we get a long weekend from Friday had to be back to Camp Sunday for some Monday morning and we get to go to Los Angeles. So I got to do Los Angeles pretty good.

03:46 And aaor I remember you told the story about did you spell Myrrh. Is that how you are there you could ride with him. They had a bus to take you up there you'd get that they take you up and bring you back get you back by Sunday Morning by Sunday evening and got up there and back but

04:13 One time I was up there and if you want me to tell you about the friend that was downtown San Diego. I was up there in a friend of mine from back home real good friend named Paul McGreevy. He was in the hospital in San Diego. He was he was in the service, but he's in the hospital. So I contact you had a room in Los Angeles I contacted him.

04:37 And told him I would come down and it made him would go back to Los Angeles, you know for just one night. So I'll thumb from Los Angeles to San Diego and went to the hospital. I never been to San Diego before but I found the hospital and he could he could get out. He didn't see what in bed. So we thumb back to Los Angeles the same day stay there that night that would have been a Saturday night and the next day then I left Los Angeles come back to the camp and he had to I don't really don't know how I got back where they found her where they got a bus or something back to San Diego had to get back to the hospital.

05:23 And then you went to Hawaii after that trade-in trained in that lost in the California. Then they sent us to Hawaii tune on the owl the island of Hawaii. That's so big out. What year was that about?

05:43 Beginning of the wind service in 1943. That would be about 2.

05:51 44 we want to go to Hawaii made a camp there and we trained are we didn't know where we're going but we we left there. We went to Iwo Jima when you're on Hawaii you talked about. I remember you telling stories about how people were really nice to me because you were service man, and it would take you home. Can you tell me about a couple of those times about the people about the people in Hawaii?

06:27 About every other weekend you get off on Friday evening, and then you have to be back camp on Sunday. So from where are camp Camp was there just a little town their butt bigger What's called the Kona Coast you got a they called it a bus, but it was just a van with open sides, you know that curtains on the side and you get that day and that's what you're paid to pay the ride up there. So I would go up to what's called the Kona Coast the stay there but I stayed there though. I found a place are they had a restaurant a Chinese woman had it.

07:06 And all they had a screen porch would had about 15 kacchan. There. They charge you $0.50 a night. You stayed to slap everything you could eat there at the restaurant then.

07:19 But you had we had oh, maybe a dozen small rooms. Just knowing they cost a dollar and a half over hard to get cuz she only had I don't remember how many they probably had eight or 10 of them once in awhile. I can get a room there it cost $2. But otherwise you had to stay on the car that only cost you half a dollar fifty cents.

07:44 And I remember you talked about one time. You got a room and the officer there was somebody you knew who was an officer and he didn't get a room was that at the same place or you didn't get a room my Officer William Miller back at the camp what it is when you mail. I sent them a letter of forget the room. Well, he they read your mail is censored your mail.

08:20 Show the next time I went up to him and three other officers ever just Lieutenant Lieutenant second. Lieutenant said they were sitting there eating. You know, they was kind of funny I went in and they're sitting there eating and I came in the Jeep just got a Jeep from the camping and wrote up there in that. So but I was going to tell you about that same way you Miller he was second Lieutenant then but later on after the war was over in later on he became the commandant of the Marine Corps Lieutenant three-star General, but he's damn now. He got he so he had been to college and I'll let you guys got made him second lieutenants when it went into service. That's the way that was. Okay. I remember you said he he spoke highly of you.

09:20 Otherwise, he wouldn't he was my opportunity and I was in it. He told another another officer told me that he said Reeves was a good man. You told me a story about there was a couple in their eighties and they took you have just that we can leave out I go to Cal Cooley Hawaii. That's right where I went and I go to church on Sunday morning at church, but there they had a little grass Shack of calc Ocoee Hawaii. They got that song and it was all right beside the church where they went to church at morning by myself then an older gent cuz she wasn't as old as I am now, but they he was retired from telephone company over there. So they they can't they see me there by myself. They asked me he said

10:20 Would you like to come home with us and eat dead or you do it just to older older people retired? So I should be okay. So they took me home and I went to go there several times after that to their house and I went there and had dinner, but another thing went after a dinner the thing that I was going to ride back to camp on. They called him the bus, but it was just playing with open van. So when I was little I just run out front I was going to get the van out front so he had banana trees in his yard. So he said you want to take a whole stalk of bananas. You know, what they were green Yonder tree. He cut me a stalk of bananas a whole thing and I took it back to Camp when I got on that van. I just loaded them on there and carry them back to tell that taste good when you got to eat them.

11:20 And how am I feeling warm and didn't take him long to get to get right to get yellow. They were green what is talcum but great big ones and he called them cooking bananas. That's okay. Okay still taste like the regular ones you get now, okay, and then you talked about going to Pearl Harbor was that at the same time you were there? You got to get the only time that one time they if you want to go to her Pearl Harbor they took you you had to get on a boat and go from there to Tomorrowland.

12:01 II to Pearl Harbor, so I went to Pearl Harbor one time but

12:07 Before I went my cousin from westernport, Maryland, he was in the Navy and so I had his phone number they gave me his phone number center from home. So when I got there then I called him on the phone and then we met at a place. You know, I said I told him he he knew I was coming it so he came and and we met at a place a tater daily replacing I got to talk to him real good.

12:36 And then I had another friend that was in the Navy that

12:42 This one was in the Navy to but another friend was in the Navy on a boat. The y y m yard Minesweeper number 43. So I only got down in Pearl Harbor found out where this both. You know, I asked had to ask questions and by myself I got down in there and I'm walking by looking they told me about where it was. So I'm walking by that the severing where they had the two young men were up on him up on the up on the server. It was tied there and I asked them I said where do you know where this yard Minesweeper 43 is and they said they should have it shut the road just short piece, but it's out to say it won't be back for a couple days. So they said you ever been on a submarine which I had with they said come on out so that the Gangplank was down and I'll just walked up in there and they were only two of the show me all through the submarine. That's only time.

13:42 Submarine say it, but it was just tied there. So show me all the rooms and where they had the tarp. It is tied up in in on it as hammocks and they slept in hammocks. They had show me where they were at and the officers quarters. I didn't get to go in the rooms. They had them locked but they're all varnished doors, you know, all the woodwork is varnish down in them. So I got a good that's the only time I ever got you a tour on a submarine. I seen him out in the water, but I got to go all through that one. Was that before Pearl Harbor right after Pearl Harbor get out till they figure it out was going to Eva Jima which we didn't know that till we got out and I never heard of that one before so we got out on the water and the night before we got there the head off trevarrow.

14:41 Battalion he called I was at the Via. I don't remember if I was a Corporal or Sergeant him but he called us into his office or into a room and they had a picture of the evil Jima which I never heard of before. I don't think anybody did and he said that's where we're going to go. You know, they're going to hit there tomorrow if that's what that night before we got there. So we're going to land there tomorrow. He said they tell us it'll take us three days to Security on he said don't believe it'll take us at least five years did take about 27 days, but I was 9 days for got wounded in and took me off.

15:22 So you said when you were going to Eva Jima that they was it you were you talked about how they fed you some steak. They got us up at 2 in the morning and they had goes to the where you ate at and they give us that was in the morning. I took but they had steak and all real fancy fixings. You know, they last goodbye Billy is going to get for a while. So that's that's what they fed us at morning and then tell me about when you are on Iwo, Jima.

15:59 Well, of course, they have a certain time that boat the vote wherever on its it. All the votes were out in the wild in the ocean and then they they take off the boat to take the landing craft. Yes, you're going to Gwenda on the front end drops down, you know when you get out the front so they they get they get them to get us out into water. But to have a certain time, you know, we're starting to everybody they all line up and head into the shore. So they're all going in. You know, that's the way that front end goes down sometime Waters over your head. But when I got off of water just about to Annie's that's all got wet. Then you get up on the land, you know your own land then but you get up on the land and they try to try to get your love. You know, what whatever you're going to do when you get up on me when I got up on there then.

16:53 Oh.

16:56 The the protruding out with a bunch. I was worth what they wish start is kind of pill where we landed. So we should start a feeling on Fowler and a tank was right ahead of us. So we get right back in at 10 and what happened that tank ran over they had a bomb set their you know, when it ran over that bone what else at that time for my back I would that take blow it up. So anyway, we had to get away from a tank. So they helped me get up where they had a bunch of Marines and that's where the Japs they pulled their guns to say come out of caves. I want no buildings. They come out and they start Farm orders down into where thousands are Marines resetting, you know, they they killed thousands at first day. So it's like that's what they did a short drop them bombs mortars down in there and like people I know they're you know, they were they are dead, you know the thing.

17:56 They didn't help me doubt that that show I was I felt was real lucky. So that's the way that was when you were there. Was it scary real scary was going to tell you about the first night on there. Then you have to we go Raid Battle pass at Mount suribachi. You read about it all the time. That's worth a big mountain was right on the edge of the so we're going that right up to Shore and we go and Skip getting dark. So we have to stop and to Asia to have to dig a foxhole. You have two people in stays in the Foxhole cuz one can stay awake at night. Then one guy is supposed to stay awake in the other guy and get a little bit of sleep you anyway we get in at Foxhole.

18:47 And about 2 in the morning where down in there not staying and you get it to where you can at least sit down. So when I'm there about half sleep and the guy he's shaking me some Cheese Wake-Up. He said somebody's coming, you know, and I'm sitting there in the hole where I got my head up work and look at it. And right there in front of me is is somebody moving, you know, it's a job. So what he did he jumped up all the whole this is a stuck at bayonet net cash back. We didn't know who it was raised it and pull the trigger and kill him. So, what kind of sugar are the rest of the night till I got daylight and we got out it was a little jab guy had a little baseball hat on didn't have no gun, but what he was trying to do is is get back to where his people were, you know somewhere that's what he was trying to crawl.

19:47 He must have kind of got lost there that that's what happened to him.

19:52 So you got hurt then you say about 9 days ago, and he said you have to stay gangrene or something with set in so then I went back they take me back so far and then I could see where the the vote was Where What Where I had to go back to the beach a show me so I have to go back to the beach but walking back to the beach. I told you about I go by they has like about at that day and it had been killed that same day that there's about a hundred dead Marines laying there, you know on the ground side by sides had their uniforms. They are all dead. No head no helmets for nothing on there all the way in their dead. So I go back and the ship they're going to take me to Guam to a hospital in Guam by boat.

20:52 We have to get out to that ship what you get on these little landing craft and go out to eat took us out and other guys were a lot worse shape and I was so we go out to the to the colonists small landing craft what to do. They have a winch it comes down off that shipping. It hooks onto that boat and pulls it up the whole boat out and then they take boating all back. So anyway, the water was rough out there. It's had a hard time hooking up to the boat and I think it comes down. I sprayed it hit me hit you in the head with key but other guys are on there really hurt bad. You don't was on the on a boat and finally got it hooked up and took something and we got on the boat, you know, that was kind of late in the day, but the next morning after I go before I even got up I could hear them talking out on Deck, you know when I'll get out there and right outside of where I was staying.

21:52 They had a priest or a preacher and what they were doing. They were burying some people that had died doing tonight. You know, what hurt real bad so they had two guys that have won a little wooden ramp covered over covered over with a flag that had the flag land on the preacher was saying things that he would save and then that what they did it had the big artillery shells tied to the To The Man Show when he got down in the water. They just dropped him off in the off at shooter was slanted and and drop them off. They slid off their down in the water and that big shell would take them under the water. But that's the way they bury them. If you died on that both going back to their very good see you then to get rid of me. That's what you had to do.

22:41 So you got back and you got a purple heart for to the hospital there and stay there probably a week or ten days. And then why do we get you back to Hawaii wear your Camp was before we went to be with you. So I got back to Pearl Harbor. That's I was that's why I was on what to call the beguiled with so I got back there and in the hospital they kept me there. I didn't stay there may be a week and you got on a smaller boat and go back to to the hour. Like it was a pretty good-sized boat, but not a big ship it take you from there back to the Big Island. That's where our camp was back to it start raining again. You know that whatever we were going to do later.

23:34 Did you get home then after that or atomic bomb dropping at on they dropped the two Atomic will drop one and then they drop the other one and the Japanese gave up then you know, so then

23:57 Is our our whole Battalion our whole bunch of Marines. It was back at that. Can Marine Division where we're going then they just decided where to send us in Japan when Crush war was over and they had to go and all these different, you know, Japanese places. So they sent us we landed in it if they got off the ship sasebo Japan they had a big big Harbor there 7 or the Pearl Harbor you took to vote in it. They had big Concrete where you walk that you got off the boat and walked up here and we were at what's it called? Sasebo Japan. It was a pretty good-sized city and we got to go in their occupation troops. That's what we were. Okay. What was that? Like well, anyway you got in there and I remember going and getting in sasebo going up to the streets. They had bombed it. That's the way they fought in World War II.

24:57 Bomb the cities and they killed the women and children in that were are old people that was there that it went in the service you back there. That's what they killed with smashed all the buildings down. So first night of it and we stayed at a and a torpedo Factory. That's what I went in. They want us to go go in these places so stayed in there and in the inside that and then the next day we got out and like you took different squads are petunias went in different directions when in church history any buildings looking to see what they had, you know, that's what we did that day.

25:40 And did you not go home after that?

25:48 Let's go until you go on there. We we stopped at Saipan and tinian right in the Harvard. We did get off the we didn't get off the boat. But some reason we stopped to the island of Tarawa that was had been to Vegas big battle before we even dream it was available and the work what caused the War was over but that we stayed there. I don't like about a week and we we we we get we got back to head to get back to her.

26:21 To her, but you should have where it where we were.

26:24 Before we had to go and then they we got on a boat to bring us back to America in a war was over and that was the several months after it. We actually came back from Japan and never send us back to get discharge back in the in the states. And but anyway forward Vaca the captain of the he called me in it and from a hand. If you said you got the Purple Heart if she will send it to you and then give it to you. They're so later on when after I got home I got that they sent it to

27:01 When you're getting ready to go back, I remember you told me you had a sack of seed sack or some kind of you got some guns and things that you before I left to think things are brought from abroad from the evil. Jima had to Japanese rifles and had a German pistol that I have had and had an officer. So Sabre sword and I had to Japanese rifles. Well, I got one before I left Japan you had your big sea bag it stood about 4 feet high, but it didn't have no lock to put on the seat back. It didn't figure it ever. Say it again and I got home and it ain't even about two minutes after I got back to westernport. They called me from the railroad station, and they said that she went and got it.

28:01 They hadn't taken nothing out of all this stuff was headed and I had a also had a American.

28:10 Thompson submachine gun 45 a brand new one. I brought his home back cuz you look so but it was unlocked and had a wire rope tied with holding it together.

28:29 So after you are after you got back then you he's agitated send it to you on a boat back to California. Then when we went over there wind on what's called a troop ship like it when I went back then went back on from there to California on a boat that hold that the front end dropped over when they could drive trucks are tanks up into this thing. And that's the kind of ship. It was it was just a little bit different than the regular troops you that's what it would back to California and then we went back and Ellen that took to California.

29:10 And then did you stay there for a while? Did you go on home? Did you fly back to California took us to the Naval Base? So we stayed there where they they interviewed you in different things. They did then I was going to send me to get discharged and sent me is a Great Lakes, Illinois to their Naval training station in Great Lakes. So they flew me from there to Chicago then I had to get a I got that overhead overhead.

29:42 You know, they have an overhead runs up above the street instead of that champagne. I got airplane to Baltimore and course from Baltimore then I got up.

30:01 A bus back to Cumberland, Maryland and my brother Harold picked me up in coverland then when I got back there. So you talked about going to the inauguration was that after the war was I was probably that time probably 17 years old. Am I have been 18th, but I had no car nothing shall we decide the thumb down? It's probably a hundred 7550 175 mile from where we live to get down there and I'll remember going I had $3 and a half to take will be so me and him he had about the same so we go.

30:57 From where we live it took us about three hours and a half which was fast. One ride from near Keyser West Virginia, which is right close to where we live to Washington and about the $3. I have seemed like now much money but back then and wash it and it had White Tower restaurants where they sold hamburgers and hotdogs cost you $0.05 a piece and a drink cost you a nickel so you can eat pretty good kids $0.15. You could eat all you wanted to know and then answer the $3 a half but going down from

31:34 From where we start so many cars are West Virginia. Go one ride clear to Washington got one ride took his right into Washington and then we decide that we had no we couldn't get in the room when we didn't even think of that shall we decide to find a bus station and act like we're waiting on the bus you don't we could set in there and them chairs. So that's what we did the first night there. We just said in the chairs and wait until the next day and all night and ate something me to leave there and we we

32:14 Just waited for the the find out where the parade was going to be and then we got right when I prayed was over. We were saying right at the White House gate right at the gate where the cars when I still see TV pictures where they still win that same place. We were staying there and open top car came and stopped right in front of us had President Roosevelt in the car with there was three or four other people in it. They all had big Derby hats on and you know, they had two big hassle, but no top won't open top car back today. So we still they stopped right there. I don't know what for they just stopped. Maybe they had to stop at the gate. We were staying right beside it when it went in there. Okay. Well, that's something else getting to see him that close up.

33:06 So then that that that same evening and we started we had to go back to get back home, you know, so we had to walk out of wash week. Then you get Raj Cuevas remember walking 4 miles, but take a ride and we had to get back to where of westernport we had to get about five different rides going back with that one going down took his career towards to it coming back took a little while took a lot longer after that. And then after you got back from the war, that's when you and Mom got married not too long after the war right? I was 12 years old. My mother was dead and I had and my father got married when they call me later after I was in war.

34:06 Year-and-a-half two years. He got married.

34:12 But he married woman had four kids and one of them is the one I married one of her girls had two girls do voice one of his wife. So it's kind of funny. Technically. I married my sister. That's what amounted to I tell people that Nicki Minaj when she was a little bit younger is 20 and I was 24. I think when I got married to her and you found out that your parents that your dad and her mom got married and then warned you sent her pajamas for when I got to go to Hawaii then before before I have before before the war was over. I got to go there on a short leaving walking by placing they had nice things advertising. There's a kind of what really pajamas you just kind of warm around the house, you know, I never met

35:12 We got to ride each other and

35:15 Course when I got when I got back when we got home and we kind of kind of talk to each other and later and went to Long out that we got married and you got married in 1946.

35:28 Right now 1946's 1946. Yes. She will will be married yet 64 years next month long time.

35:43 And then when you when you are at your dad had a car garage right that he started called Reeves Motor Company with you and your brothers and now 1934 before I worked there before went in the service went school toys 17 or 18 in the butt of work there. He would have went to school and then which war was over course. I that's where I wanted to go and they expect me come back. Then I work there from there till I still do still go. I don't do as much work but still work at the same place. So he started in 1934 and past seven years. I've been there the whole 70 years and

36:35 One day I never been stuck like days out some days. I got off and went to Car Racer something but I never missed a day being sick though. I missed a half a day one half a day. I got there. I had to I had the hay fever.

36:52 You know and N1 to have a bad way home, but that was the only time I never miss like add a whole day or I would like a week. I never we took a few days for vacation gets off like that. But as far as just getting off to be a Sikh it never have no way that one half a day and then all the time go every day during the week and 5 days a week in westernport, Maryland and brother my brother. See your son Jimmy Works Terry's mechanic there.. I've seen a lot of change in all that time. I'm sure.

37:32 Yeah, yeah.

37:35 And I'm with you and Mom all that all the years. You've been married what if you have some of your favorite things to do together, but have been

37:45 Oh, probably our favorite thing the week we start going to the NASCAR auto races. So we went we went up Rocksmith 200 of them. We went to Martinsville and

38:04 Richmond Virginia went to each one of them 60 times a piece and then we went to Dover what didn't go there too many about 15 or 20 went to Bristol about 35 x kid clothes 200. We don't go anymore. We got too old to go and it cost too much money now to go but we really would really enjoy that used to be on TV used to sit in the car in the garage or in the driveway and listen to it on the radio in the car sometime to Richmond we go there and come back as we go on Sunday morning real early and we come back at easy, but then we got to go on week at a motel room to stay on just Saturday night one night natural races over with weird head on back.

39:02 Is a lot of fun going to a really really Joy dad will we got too old to go now it cost back then it didn't cost as much money. And now at last we went to a reserved seat cost $85. So it's about the same now. They got some cheaper seats with some more than that it off with your way to Richmond one time and took chili. That's the boy. And anyway, we didn't get the reserve seat. We just took God that we got

39:40 Just unreserve C.

39:42 It did for him it cost $4 and for us back in with about $8 Acacia. We we we had they had seats without we got there early and we never going in and he was 13 years old, but it up to 12 of that you have before the guy said go ahead and set it for 4 bucks. You know, he was 13, but they give them that 12 12 12 year old. That's what that cost a little more of a figurehead paddles. It was a little bit more not much and always had a garden and you always seem to enjoy the garden and baseball. We went to every time the New York Giants played we would go to

40:37 II Pittsburgh the night game you could you travel over there and back the same night and we can go over and go to the ball game and come back and where I had a good time we see a lot of games that way I don't know how many probably probably probably has been. He's like about 40 maybe if I may be a few more, okay.

40:58 Abdullah. So you and Mom and you had you had a lot of great memories and stories that you've told me and I really appreciate having the opportunity to talk to you today and to record some of the stories that you've told me you throughout throughout my life. So thank you for that Dad.

41:19 No, you want to know about selling them at all now. I just wanted to say thank you.