David Morrison, Mario Lopez Kirker, and Jacob Miller

Recorded March 10, 2020 Archived March 19, 2020 41:43 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: ddf000511


Mario Lopez Kirker (94) and Jacob Miller (98) speak with their friend David Morrison (61) to share stories of their experiences as service members in the Army and Navy during World War II.

Subject Log / Time Code

DM shares some WWII history about New Mexico, and asks ML and JM to introduce themselves. ML speaks about joining the Navy at age 17, while taking care of his family; he recalls his parents' reactions, and taking the physical exam.
JM remembers being drafted into the Army at age 20 as a radio operator, and joining the Air Force before being sent back to the Army.
ML shares details of his time as a diesel mechanic, barber, and gunner onboard ships. ML remembers shooting down a plane, earning stars in Guam and the Philippines, and finding a friend on a beach who had survived an attack.
JM remembers being a medic in Scotland, the UK, and France as part of a MASH unit.
ML shares more memories of his time onboard ships, the friends he made among all the diesel mechanics, giving a captain a haircut, and going back home to start a family.
JM speaks about opening a refugee hospital in Germany to help Polish refugees. JM recalls going skiing in Switzerland before returning back home. ML remembers coming back from the war and struggling to find work due to discrimination before becoming a blacksmith, school counselor, and police officer.
JM talks about moving back to Iowa and becoming an Atomic Bomb Inspector. ML and JM speak about meeting. DM shares closing thoughts, and they all express gratitude to one another. ML speaks about his great grandfather briefly.


  • David Morrison
  • Mario Lopez Kirker
  • Jacob Miller

Recording Location

Milton Hall

Venue / Recording Kit



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00:02 Mario Lopez Kirker. My name is Mario Lopez Kirker.

00:09 Action 94 years old

00:12 Today date March 10th 2020

00:17 Location in Las Cruces name of the of the interview partner Mitchell Miller

00:28 Relationship as a friend

00:33 My name is my name is David Morrison. I'm 61 years old today's date is March 10th 2020 and I'm the interview door for Mario and Randy and I are both my friends World War 2 veterans.

00:53 Jacob R Miller

00:56 98 years old

01:02 Today's date. Today's date is March 10th 2020.

01:11 Where in Las Cruces Las Cruces?

01:16 And who is your interview Partners who you're with that partner? Is Mario cooker?

01:28 All right.

01:30 So I'm here with my two friends Mario Parker and Randy Jacob Miller and we are both World War II veterans and I wanted to represent their stories for them to present their stories to their families and to these archives. So we will begin with a little bit of introduction about World War II briefly there were in and Randy and I had the opportunity to go to the Honor Flight back in October of last year and it honored Our World War 2 veterans. It's a Southwest to Mexico honor flight and I honors the World War II and the Korean war vets that served our country in the take some to the capital and The Monuments that are in Washington DC and it's a marvelous.

02:29 To give show them our respect and honor and and for them to make closure for the service that they did and I had the privilege of being able to be there Guardians along with the 33 others who went and in relation to New Mexico, New Mexico play a big part of volunteer matter fact, New Mexico had more Volunteers in World War II than any other state and more died in World War II than any other state there were approximately 261000 that died in World War II there were 104 World War 2 veterans that were from Grant County where we're from who didn't make it back.

03:19 Out of those 104/58 of them were Bataan Death March Patrick's 47 of those baton veterans returned by 58 different. So today there are very few World War II veterans still living and there are however still 25 or 26 in Grant County. I am friends with four or five of them. Here are two of my best friends and I wanted to honor them and give them opportunity to tell their stories so that they can share with her family. And so that we can have an archive to share these things that they know in person. So the beginning with will will do a timeline from their entrance into the service until they're experienced overseas. And then what they did when they came back

04:14 I'll ask about 8 or 10 questions of the first of which I will dress to Mario. So Mario tell us about how you entered the service were you drafted or did you volunteer and what was it? What happens when you when you when you entered the service when you went to basic training tell us about it? Okay, I was I was 17 years old and I was taking of a family of 7 and I was working at a lumber yard for $14 a week and I just couldn't make it. I was lifting the cement and working pretty hard. So I decide to join the Navy when I was 17.

05:05 And I asked my mother I'd say mother. I want to go into the Navy and she says no you are taking care of the family.

05:16 And my father was very sick. He couldn't work anymore. So he says he's my son want to go and fight for his country. I will sign for him tomorrow. I'm very proud of my father. His name was Juan Kirker and he the following days. We went to the recorder. He signed his name done and I was sent to Santa Fe for a 4X emanation.

05:48 They finish the examination and the two doctors were Talkin at to each other and I figured that they were talking about me and Nae come from of the doctor that to doctors and ask him. I know that you're talking about me. I say what's wrong. He said you're lacking 1 lb I said, let me tell you something is nobody's going to deprive me of fighting for my country for just 1 pound and the detrimental motion you're in.

06:27 That's a great story Cent. I was sent to forget Idaho for my training and after I got out of training I will send to Merlin Merlin for training as a landing craft ship LST. So we trained for about 2 months with a coast guard and they were ready and they sent us to Evansville. Indiana has to pick up brand new ship their LST 123.

07:06 It said that's good. I'm going to ask Brandi how have you had joined the service? Okay, so we're going to kind of go back and forth a little bit. Okay, I'll long this road that we're going to travel. Okay, Randy. Would you tell us how how it was with you? And you joined the service truck company in a metallurgical lab when the war broke out and I didn't volunteer to hold his weight when my time comes and then the chief metallurgist said I can get you a deferment for 6 months, but I said no when the time comes I'll take my turn and so that's that's how I went into the service. I was drafted and I went to Fort Knox, Kentucky.

08:00 And there I went to radio School became a radio operator.

08:06 And from there I went to Fort Campbell was Camp Campbell at the time and I was a radio operator in a Sherman tank, which I didn't care Ford Hall. I guess I had a little closer to pay the Army and and field artillery there and he gave me a job is at work or people and that's where I got my first two stripes and

08:47 And say one of the other next bit of training you went to where I was and then I was there most of the summer and part of the fall and then I noticed came up on the bulletin board and headquarters and it said a air force needed Pilots.

09:08 Hair and Bombardier sand and and so on. So I I went to Nashville and I took the test and pass it talk to the lieutenant Colonels are and they said they okay me and so I was in as an aviation Cadet and I went from there to Freeman Field Indiana and on a night shift killing time until there was an opening at at college and finally there was an opening that Neverwinter and I I went to the University of Pittsburgh and I was going through the training there and and was Easter Sunday and they called us out to the parade grounds and they said

09:58 The government has decided they don't need any more pilots than anyone that came here from a different Francis branch of the service will be dismissed will be out. So they took two hundred of us and soon as to Camp Ellis, Illinois in a mudhole Camp nou camp and we grab that wheelbarrow and then was graveling Pathways and you never solved 200 more guys have disgusted. I'm coming from cotton University of Pittsburgh to the Mud Hole in Illinois. And that's where we formed our 61st 63rd field Hospital in the 63rd.

10:48 Okay, Randy. Thank you. And now back to Mario Mario. You mentioned your LST. That's what's on your hat US Navy LST. 123. What what does LSD stand for landing craft ship what that means was how many people were on your ship and tell us about you as I understand you you spent the whole your whole time on the service on this ship 2 + years tell us about tell us about that experience and about about that. Okay, 105 Crowell St. 123

11:33 Also working on a diesel mechanic

11:41 I think that's about it. Of course. I knew you were going to write. Okay, my duty was set to take care of the power on their shift for 2 years and I was a first Gunner aboard the ship on the Bayou 220 fire at the first enemies the first one to fire at the enemy. So we knocked to place down and the last one was a most horrible thing. You could ever seen a torpedo was dropping our ship.

12:16 And the playing with whale oh, so they asked us to Fire and then cease fire and then again open fire and that plane went down. So that was what's called a torpedo Kamikaze torpedo a free far away, but it was a Navy Japanese Navy plane.

12:47 Greta to repair our ship that torpedo. We had a chance to fire two times and they're right close to us was another small ship and he asked to be able to advance in what he Advanced he got in line of a torpedo and cut it in half cut the other ship in half and save our our chip that we carry 250 Marines with us. Was this a Guadalcanal or was it at Guam? It was before getting in at the one you had before the invention of Guam.

13:28 And that torpedo I said cut the exact shipping have

13:34 And that we were safe.

13:37 Then

13:39 So what other missions did your outfit if you had I understand you had three three Michelin stars for your for your ship. I got three stars Guam and two of the Philippines a lady in Luzon and then a citation for the ship 422 store hours tomorrow for the the the chip. So there was five stars all together.

14:11 So tell me what what else did you do on ship besides your diesel mechanic work and keeping a ship. Well, I was Barbara Bush ships are used to cut the hair off to everybody at once to get a haircut it. That's what I used to do it. Like I used to cut the hair of my captain and elegy the executive officer and some of the officers and the fuel they listed man.

14:40 So when you when you landed when you were on that battle where you shot where you shot that plane. I'll write you also wanted to sneak off and go on lying dead. For some reason. What can you tell me about that when you wanted to sneak out the ship and go on land tell us about that story? Okay, so we need to go out. We started unloading a we were the first to go in on the 1st wave and then wished her done loading and we couldn't finish so we went back the following day. And again we went in and that they told her that that we could have got off the ship and walk for a small place, but don't go in too far because it was very dangerous. So I got off and I decide to go and look for a Japanese wash.

15:37 When I got close to the shore, there was a notice rifles on the beach from east to west as far as you could see they were rifles Soul over the Basin. I believe that it's rifle bill of sale Marine. So I think I wanted to get a small rifle of a small rifle that picked it up and it looks like brand new. You know, it look real nice as I turn it turn it around. It has Subway had a bullet hole right in the chamber.

16:14 And I drop it back and I don't want that rifle. So I dropped back I start walking and there were two tanks are there were two things one of them had a a big run a hold on that and this I got close. I noticed a lot of humans were left. Nothing was left field pieces of human being and then there was another another take right close to it. And there was a buried standing up and he jumped from the tank and thorough anywhere I go it's coming and he will my boyfriend that I got to know aboard ship. Where are used to make the ice cream here and I invited for the lights cramps off and then he came over and hug me.

17:08 NM and said he started crying and then he gave me that back news. He said kircher.

17:16 Auto 150, they kill my friends 105 were killed and we're only 45 left.

17:27 So I tied I knew a lot of the Marines I used to cut their hair and and I I cry to I Cry weather like right at both of a drive is a cracker go back. It's too dangerous here. Go back in and go back to the ship. So as I went back for his name was magana.

17:56 And he got to be a very good friend of mine. It was a sergeant and

18:01 And of course there's

18:06 I want to okay then.

18:10 Thank you Mario. So Randy you were you were you were the 63rd field Hospital trained as a medic and you went across the Atlantic Ocean on a ship and then when you got to Scotland, you did something so tell us about that voyage across the ocean and then what you did before you cross the English Channel into France late than getting into the to the war really boarded your ship in the Boston Harbor and we can call off on Armistice Day 1944 7 Days across the Atlantic when the New Amsterdam, what was the Dutch liner? It was Man by the English and we had mutton stew all the way across the Atlantic. I never wanted mutton stew again. We landed in Scotland.

19:11 And was 7,000 on that ship. It was a big one of the biggest liners at the time and so we spent most of the winter in Scotland getting our equipment together and getting names in in while we were there at I was a medical technician, but I had nothing to do so I I volunteered as a truck driver and so I have a man and a friend of mine with truck drivers and we moved all our equipment from from Glasgow Scotland to Liverpool England. And that was when we got the Liverpool the Germans were still sending buds Bombs Over Liverpool and what's a buzz bomb

19:58 I don't know how to explain it but it was it was it was like a like a missile with an engine and a motor on it. And in the Germans were sending those over over Liverpool and in other parts New England and went when you hear these boys bogs. It was just like a buzz when the boys quit you didn't know where that thing was going to land and then you'd hear an explosion somewhere. But anyhow, we got through that. We got our equipment on a ship and at the end of this Channel and we took off and and and in the dark and we were going across the channel and all of a sudden the ship started jumping up and down and we thought we hit a mine, but then the captain came on and said don't be alarmed but we thought we

20:58 Saw something in the channel and we put it in direct reverse and and so but then so we got we landed in France that was already free and

21:11 And from there we were there about a month and then we went from there into Holland's and and then on engine into Germany and the next that's where our outfit finally went into service. And so did you follow the Infantry? And the and the field Army and you were like a backup was called a mash? Yeah, I'll answer. That means watch the mash unit on TV are outfit was it was similar and we followed the fall of the front 1500 yards is closest we got that was close enough. We could hear the art gallery, but there it was our jobs in to take care of the wounded and Joan are at at that time and I think it was already March. It wasn't a lot a lot of casualties by that time really? It's getting pretty close to the end of the war.

22:11 And but we didn't we did have a few I remember want one thing that stuck in my mind still sticks in my mind. We we would set up intense if there were no buildings if they were buildings would take him over and set up our our hospital and this one place we stopped and there was a little out going outside and I was curious and I opened the door to see what was in this out building and I I was

22:39 Eras are at par with human bodies. I never didn't know whether it was Germans or whether it was our soldiers that always stuck in my mind.

22:54 Thank you, Randy. So Mario, yeah, what would be some of your most?

23:04 What things do you remember about your part on the ship besides work? Was there any other stories that you would like to share with your family any other funny story or or a good friend that you had your best friend or tell us a little bit about being on the ship for two years and the friendships that you made and and what you would like to share with maybe your family members from that experience. Well, actually actually the the crew had different different the blitz to work on and I belonged to the mechanics that were called The Black Gang The Black Gang that's what they called the diesel mechanics. So I got to know all of them real well and that they were very good to me that treat me real nice and and we were just like a big family in a little bit.

24:04 Everybody had their own crew and they know each other real. Well, I I got to know all my friends are there were diesel mechanics and we were always together, you know, so I had babe treat me real nice and everything. I can't say anything bad about them. They're wonderful people.

24:28 Hi.

24:29 I got this together with them after the war and we talked about everything and and we were like a big family a different a different feeling on on the men that were we went to war West it was like a brother or maybe it was maybe a little different than a brother but we were very close together and why we got together and Washington DC we went everywhere and the everybody had a wonderful time and we talked about how young can we saw each other? We didn't recognize anybody here was we all are all and it was hard to get back again, but we we came together and we were very happy with him. I I still have one of the relatives call me up at least.

25:29 Once a month or twice a month and talk to me and that's all we got to be a real girlfriend. So your ship LST 123 you were on for over two years and it was a tooth it was the main mission was to get the Marines on land right ride with them and and you are a cunt part of a convoy of about 10 or 11 other ships, right? But you know, they were they were always about 10 shift 2 or 11. I don't remember exactly we were always together the same group which is a v v and then we work together all over the world all the time. We were up there overseas. So you left as a crew.

26:14 On the LSD 123 when it was commissioned and you came back on that ship over two years later on the same ship.

26:26 I was coming out of the Philippines when we learned that lesson gay friend and lady. We were in the middle of the ocean and the the Elitch's were topped, and then the other they were other LSU brand new going across and the executive officer. I was to get command of a brand-new ship and since he know me real, well, he called me off. She said she used to call me by my first name Oreo.

26:58 I want you to go with me. I'm going to be the captain and new captain of the brand new ship and you would have more experience and I want you to go with me. I said well, I like to go with you. I'm not afraid of anything, but I've been told that maybe I might be going home and I rather go home and get married and raise a family and besides what I needed my my stripes the officer that was in charge of The Black Gang and we pass the equator. We had to initiate everybody. I was a barber I had to initiate it but I couldn't get my haircut. So I got up and got a little bit of hair. You got a haircut and it's so that's the only thing that captains were standing right next to me so I can cut his hair. So the captain gave an order I got close to him. I pick up a little bit.

27:58 The air and you touch me and you will never get promoted sure enough. I've done everything I was told but I never got promoted. I was the only one that was not promoted. So when you came back you came back was it San Francisco and then Washington for a little while before you yes, so we are coming back coming back from when we got going to they were we were told that warship would go to Honolulu Pearl Harbor to get repairs. So that's when the officer told me about to go where them I say. Well I came with this ship. I want to go back with it. As soon as we got there and Pearl Harbor I watch that. I was told Mario you're going home.

28:57 Schedule to get your seat back and everything get ready. And you're going to be you going to get off the ship. I got my seat back. I put everything on the deck and then the orders came.

29:13 Kirker we're going to go to the LST 123 is going to San Francisco. I say this is been my home for over two years. I'm going to go with it and I came to San Francisco from there. I went home. I got married and everything and then they told me to go to Merlin actor Seattle. So I went to Seattle and then the worst over they send me back to San Pedro to be discharged and well.

29:53 So many so when you went when you were in Germany and the war was over, what what did you then also do in Germany after the war was over or are our field Hospital open up a Refuge Center and there was a plane there and We examined people most of them are Polish people that have been injured and then I guess work is prisoners in there. We got them on their way back to Poland from that from that are little Air Base.

30:36 And did you drive truck and carried? I drove truck there too. And I would make a run to the to the well and and get drinking water for the hospital and you even got to go skiing tell us about the seven day leave to Switzerland and I got to go up the mountain drunk and go to go skating and in January 1946. Wow, and and then and then it the 1st of February. I had enough points to come home. So you left it took like 7 Days on the trip to across that. How long did it take coming back on the ship?

31:30 It is all coming back. Yeah, we got on a small victory ship in the north of Germany in the North Sea and I was in in the end of January and February and the Seas were very rough and added that is a reference right I ever had in my life and it was so rough. We went all way down to the Azores and then across to Bermuda and then up to New York 17 days to get back with me and the waves were like swelling and everybody was getting seasick or and I are everybody was getting seasick. Didn't bother me at all. I was lucky.

32:15 One to two more things will ask her when you got back Maria. What was your what was what did you do? And what did you what did you want to do? You got that you got married, right? Do you raise a family in what kind of job did you start doing? Well, if an I got back there was a lot of people unemployed board back there came back for the jobs at night. I went to the local minor should all mine company in early and Santa Rita and they gave me a job right away at Labor and then I start working there and I said will what am I doing here so labor? I'm a diesel mechanic and there was a big sign diesel mechanics are needed to apply. So I said to myself I love Elmo to go and apply for their the job is so this will mechanic

33:10 And I went in at the office and the man that was there. I asked him if I could fill out an application and he gave me as soon as he saw me.

33:23 He said we don't have any openings. I said, well, I just got back from the War. I fought in fire at three major battles. We were at type fight time.

33:36 And then he gave me the good answer.

33:40 Hiss and then he said

33:44 Tuff bang bang that you have to go and fight. We don't know your bang bang thing.

33:52 I feel like crying because I saw my friends young kids young man, like myself. I love that were left behind they died and they were being buried I so far. They were being very died so far. They were doing a truck loads of dead Marines were coming in. I saw all that and I saw another thing.

34:18 When we went in I didn't see any American planes drop a bomb on the beach. There were thousands or hundreds of Marines that were killed or say, why didn't they drop bombs on the and there was that

34:34 So are you I felt pretty bad. I quit the job there and I got I went and got another job as a blacksmith. I learn how to be a blacksmith the kind of wrap it up here Mario. So after that you went on ahead and did you were a counselor for the school you worry? I got a job. I what's a police officer for 35 years. They needed another accruing officer at the Cobra school and I apply for EDD and they gave me the job, but Cobra didn't have enough funds to a Furniture car.

35:17 So and then the city of bear head up police car sitting out in the front of that of the city hall. Did he have enough money for a to a higher off Fulton police officer that super antenna that school went and talked to the mayor I said, we're in a tight spot. We got to a police officer and let you know after and we don't have anybody no money to buy a car or say you have a police car here. We have a officer that has a lot of experience of Polina. Why don't you hire him? He said well, I can't we can't afford to pay the full salary. Is there a well make a deal I said, well the bear came out and said we'll pay him $200.

36:05 And then Friday we furnish the police car to it. So he'll be a police car and a truant officer.

36:14 And a Randy, what did you do when you when you came back? I I know you and it ended up working with the atomic emission. But when I came back to my old job in New Jersey and I work there for two and a half years and then I had married by that time and my wife wanted to move back to Iowa or where she came from and so we move back there and December 1948 and there was an Ordnance plant there and they were manufacturing atomic bombs. And so I got a job on and on the line as an inspector with the contractor and I worked a couple years for the contractor and then I transfer it over to a AC and I was in a city inspector to see that the atomic bomb was put together properly all the parts the necessary parts were there and and I put my big star stamp on the nose of the volume when it was all complete and ice.

37:14 Guam was ready to drop and now it's snowing and I work there until 1974 and October a close the line and they move Consolidated with the one in Texas and phanteks and I chose not to go there. I cook involuntary retirement and I retired in October 1974 after 25 years on that line when I was so young. So I've been retired for 45 years about the atomic bomb and so forth. We know that it was tested here and Mario and when Mario on Randy met when we went to the Honor Flight, they had a little discussion and they talked about that and Mario said, what did you say about? What did New Mexico do

38:02 How do you say mushroom Miller SAU where you had something to do with a atomic bomb? I am so proud to know you I said, you know, what war did they drop the atomic bomb was made in New Mexico?

38:23 I say where did they drop the bomb first? They drop any white San Jose and the third time where did they drop the bum they but they drop it in Japan and two places I said there for mr. Miller. I think New Mexico on the war. Well, it's been a pleasure and it being able to have a interview for Randy and and for Mario and to learn about their stories and I hope that'll be a blessing to anybody listens and to their family and thank you both for your service to our country and that your contribution to our civilian life as well. And also if you want to know more about the New Mexico veterans in Grant County Mary Alice Murphy wrote This Book.

39:23 She spent 10 years putting it together. It's all of the veteran World War II veterans from Grant County and there are 78 of them 26 of them are still living and Mario has a few pieces of memorabilia there from his newspaper that did it articles for him. And so thank you both for coming and thank you for allowing us to have this in interview and and the storycorps and and NPR in krwg sponsoring this and it's been a blessing not to want to say something. I want to say. Thank you. Mr. Miller at thank you Dave for being here and your Seltzer that you have allow us to come here and an explaining until about what we knew and what we went through.

40:17 And I'm very proud to know. Mr. Miller and Dave because I've been wonderful to me. Can't say anything. I'm very grateful myself. They have made me very happy to have known them in. Your great-great-grandfather was a p o w in the War of 1812 and he was an Irishman. My great-grandfather was Irish. He was born in Belfast Ireland and and then he came to neistat at 16 16 years old and he went into the Navy tulle and he was captured by the British and and they change him British prisoner for the for him and he he was discharged but he wants an Indian fighter.

41:15 Very have a story about him. He done a lot for New Mexico, so I'm not going to say something else because I think you're both very much. Thank you.