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Interview with Elmer Jesse Sowder, April 29, 2004


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Narrator affiliation: Test Director, Los Alamos National Laboratory

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Sowder, Elmer Jesse. Interview, 2004 April 29. MS-00818. [Transcript]. Oral History Research Center, Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.


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Nevada Test Site Oral History Project University of Nevada, Las Vegas Interview with Elmer Sowder April 29, 2004 Las Vegas, Nevada Interview Conducted By Mary Palevsky © 2007 by UNLV Libraries Oral history is a method of collecting historical information through recorded interviews conducted by an interviewer/ researcher with an interviewee/ narrator who possesses firsthand knowledge of historically significant events. The goal is to create an archive which adds relevant material to the existing historical record. Oral history recordings and transcripts are primary source material and do not represent the final, verified, or complete narrative of the events under discussion. Rather, oral history is a spoken remembrance or dialogue, reflecting the interviewee’s memories, points of view and personal opinions about events in response to the interviewer’s specific questions. Oral history interviews document each interviewee’s personal engagement with the history in question. They are unique records, reflecting the particular meaning the interviewee draws from her/ his individual life experience. Produced by: The Nevada Test Site Oral History Project Departments of History and Sociology University of Nevada, Las Vegas, 89154- 5020 Director and Editor Mary Palevsky Principal Investigators Robert Futrell, Dept. of Sociology Andrew Kirk, Dept. of History The material in the Nevada Test Site Oral History Project archive is based upon work supported by the U. S. Dept. of Energy under award number DEFG52- 03NV99203 and the U. S. Dept. of Education under award number P116Z040093. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in these recordings and transcripts are those of project participants— oral history interviewees and/ or oral history interviewers— and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U. S. Department of Energy or the U. S. Department of Education. UNLV Nevada Test Site Oral History Project 1 Interview with Elmer Sowder April 29, 2004 Conducted by Mary Palevsky Table of Contents Mr. Sowder discusses his childhood, family history, and college education. 1 Mr. Sowder enlists in the United States Marine Corps and completes boot camp. 3 Near the end of World War II, Mr. Sowder is stationed in Okinawa and receives a Purple Heart for wounds sustained in combat. 7 Decades later, Mr. Sowder continues to cope with difficult memories of his combat experience during World War II. 12 In August 1945, Mr. Sowder is stationed in China and ordered to prepare for a possible invasion of Japan. 17 After the war, Mr. Sowder returns to the Unites States and completes his college education. He works briefly for the Pantex Ordnance Plant before starting work at the Nevada Test Site in 1951. 21 Mr. Sowder discusses his reactions to witnessing atmospheric nuclear tests, his opinions regarding the use of nuclear weapons, and the Nevada Test Site’s role in winning the Cold War. 24 Los Alamos National Laboratory hires Mr. Sowder as a member of the J- 6 engineering and construction group at the Nevada Test Site. The group begins work on reactor experiments and the Rover project in Area 25. 31 Mr. Sowder describes an accident which may have exposed him to radiation. He also discusses radiological safety procedures at the test site. 34 The shift to underground nuclear testing creates new challenges for test site scientists and managers. 36 Budgetary issues create tension among various test site groups. Government agencies, military interests, civilian contractors, and the National Laboratories compete for power and resources. 38 Mr. Sowder describes the use of photography in documenting accidents and mishaps at the Nevada Test Site. 45 Mr. Sowder explains some of the scientific and engineering aspects of underground nuclear testing while narrating a series of test site photographs. 48 UNLV Nevada Test Site Oral History Project 1 Interview with Elmer Sowder April 29, 2004 in Las Vegas, NV Conducted by Mary Palevsky [ 00: 00: 00] Begin Track 2, Disk 1. Elmer Sowder: Where do you want me to start? Mary Palevsky: What I thought we would start so people listen to it in the future will get a sense of who you are, maybe you could start by just telling me a little bit about your background. You could say your name, where you were born and when you were born, and then maybe ten, fifteen minutes of how you ended up being in a position that you would be working— where you first were working connected with the test site. OK, I’ll see what I can do. If I get off track— I promise I’ll get you back on track. — get me back on track. And then every once in a while I might interrupt you to make sure I got a name right or a spelling right, ask for some kind of clarification. OK. All right? Very good. You ready for me to start? I’m ready for you to start. My name is Elmer Sowder. I’m a retired test director from the Los Alamos National Laboratory. I was born and raised in Amarillo, Texas, born January 4, 1923, and I’m not one of those abused kids. I had a wonderful home life. My parents were the greatest. My father worked for the Santa Fe Railroad as a right- of- way agent, so I heard a lot about railroad work. And when I graduated UNLV Nevada Test Site Oral History Project 2 high school in 1940 I immediately enrolled in the Amarillo Junior College, a two- year college there in Amarillo. And I stayed there for about a year and decided that I wanted to go elsewhere. My father had attended Texas A& M College, but he didn’t push me. He said, You just go wherever you want to. But I enrolled in Texas A& M and attended for two years until 1942 and then I got a draft notice. OK, I’m going to stop you right here because I need to understand, what is a right- of- way agent? They go and procure the land that the railroad needs to run their tracks through. Ohhh, OK. And what was your dad’s name? Elmer Sowder. I’m junior. Oh, Elmer Sowder. You’re junior. And your mom’s name was? Dennie Dodd Anderson Sowder. OK. And just before we get— we’ll flip back right up to ‘ 42, but did you have brothers and sisters? No. I’m an only child. And I was spoiled rotten, but I didn’t realize it until later. Yes. So Amarillo was a place where the railroad, the Santa Fe Railroad, had a— That was one of the main offices of the Santa Fe Railroad. They had a big depot there. They had a big office building. In fact, when the Santa Fe office building was built it was the tallest building in Amarillo, Texas. It was only twelve stories tall but it was the tallest one at that time. OK. Now I’ll let you go back to ‘ 42, and you got drafted. Well, I— are we ready to go now? Yes. I made up my mind that I didn’t want to be drafted as a foot soldier because I didn’t relish slogging through the mud. And I wanted [ to be] in the Air Force. I wanted to fly. So right after UNLV Nevada Test Site Oral History Project 3 Pearl Harbor I decided well, I’m going to go apply for the Air Force, which I did. They had a recruiting office there right downtown, and I went in and applied. And they gave me a physical exam and all that stuff, and I thought well, good, maybe I’m going to get to fly. But then they called me back in a couple or three weeks and they said, Young man, this doctor that I was talking to, or the recruiter, he says, Young man, you’re in good physical condition but you have one problem: your depth perception is extremely poor and we don’t want you landing a plane fifty feet in the air. So I got turned down. Wow! You were disappointed, I imagine. [ 00: 05: 00] Well, I was unhappy but I went on and the Marine recruiting office was not too far away, so this buddy of mine that I had known some time, he and I went to the Marine office and in the same office they had the Navy recruiter and the Marine recruiter. Well, I decided I don’t want anything to do with all those white uniforms with all of the buttons that the sailors seemed to have to handle, so I went over to the Marine desk and signed up for the Marines. Three of us, signed up for the Marines, and then the next thing they sent us to El Paso to sign up or to get formally accepted, which we did, and then they told us when we had to report to San Diego to boot camp. OK. All right, so you’re going to go from El Paso over to San Diego? Well, I went back to Amarillo because they gave me some time. I don’t remember how much time but they gave me some time, and they gave me a train ticket to get there. So the next thing I knew, I was on a train heading to San Diego. And we were met in San Diego and they took us out to the Marine base or the boot camp area and signed us up and gave us uniforms and all that good stuff and showed us where we were going to sleep. And under each double bunk was two buckets. And of course I was curious as to what the in the world were those buckets for. Well, one of the first assignments that I had was to go fill those buckets with water and put them back UNLV Nevada Test Site Oral History Project 4 under the bunks. It was supposedly for fire protection in case something happened. Well, the first morning, the first night, the drilling instructor we had, he told us, he says, Reveille is at five- thirty and you’re expected to be out in formation in front of the barracks at six o’clock, ready to go to breakfast or ready to start the day. Well, they sounded the bugle— they had a speaker system right outside the bunk and that thing went off at five- thirty and I thought, it’s too early to get up, so I didn’t get up. And the next thing I knew I got hit in the face with a bucket of water. I found out what those buckets of water were for. OK. OK. [ laughter] You just got it. That’s hilarious. So from then on, when they told me to do something, most of us were much more willing to do it because they— well, if you’ve never cleaned a tile floor with a toothbrush, you really haven’t lived, because that was one of the punishments. If you got out of line, if your rifle didn’t pass inspection, or if your uniform wasn’t proper, buttoned and all that, one of the punishments was to clean the latrine floor, or the bathroom floor, with a toothbrush. With a toothbrush. That was the ultimate. Otherwise it was just clean it. I got an education right quick. But that six weeks that I spent in boot camp was probably the best six weeks of my life. They turned a boy into a man. When I went in, I weighed a 155 pounds and was about as tall as I am right now, and when I came out of boot camp six weeks later, a 180 pounds. And it was not fat; it was muscle. Because they fed you good, but then they went and worked your tail off during the day. But it was the best experience. In fact, I have told some of my grandsons, I said, If you ever get involved in the draft, go sign up for the Marines. It’s the best you could ever do. UNLV Nevada Test Site Oral History Project 5 [ 00: 10: 00] Now let me ask you about that because one thing, so you go into the Marines, at boot camp everyone’s so hard on you, but somehow you felt that they— when you say they made a man out of a boy, that you, what, came to know yourself in a different way or understand your strength or understand— what is that? I need to understand that. I think you’ve hit on it pretty well. Just recognize what you could do, that you were not a boy anymore that just went out and did fun things or what you thought was fun things. You said you enjoyed other things or you recognized that there were other things in the world besides your own pleasures. OK. So in boot camp, the three of us that had signed up in Amarillo, of course they gave us a choice during boot camp. They gave us a little questionnaire to fill out: What would you like to do when you leave boot camp? What branch of the service would you like to be in? Well, I said I wanted to go in the air corps. The Marines had an air corps at the Air Force at that time. I said, I want to go in the Air Force, knowing that I couldn’t fly but— I mean, couldn’t pilot. And one of my buddies had been a bank teller before he went into the Marines, and he was a little overweight and a little— in not very good shape. In boot camp they worked the heck out of him. They didn’t take any bones about being easy on him or anything like that. And he signed up for guard duty. And this other fellow, the third one, he was a bigger man than I was, but I think he signed up for the foot soldier. Well, when the assignments came out, I was assigned to ordnance training school in Norman, Oklahoma. Then the old bank teller or the ex- bank teller, he got the infantry and was sent overseas immediately. This was ‘ 43. And the other fellow that had signed up for the infantry, I think he got guard duty or something that he didn’t really want. UNLV Nevada Test Site Oral History Project 6 But I went to ordnance school in Norman, Oklahoma. And when I left there they were setting up a training program in Cherry Point, North Carolina, setting to train B- 25 bomber crews. They needed ordnance mechanics, so they sent me to Cherry Point, which I stayed for a year- and- a- half or so, two years. And during that time, due to a stupid accident, because I had my right hand crushed under a ladder and when they pulled the ladder off the finger was bent out this way [ demonstrating], not at the joint or anything, so they took me to the hospital and it took them about, what was it, ten weeks to get that finger. And the doctor told me at the time, he went in there with a— of course this you must realize, ‘ 43, he had a fluoroscope and he put the hand under the fluoroscope and he went in there with what looked like a little crochet needle and put the bones back together in like a jigsaw puzzle. And he said, I don’t know whether you’ll ever have use of that finger or not, but at least you’re going to have the finger. Right. Look at that. Perfect. But while I was in the hospital, the unit I was with was set up to ship to the West Coast to go overseas. Well, the doctor on the troop train would not accept me because it was too much— so I didn’t go. Well, as it turns out, it was probably a good thing for me. I think it was an angel looking after me or something, because the people that I was to go with went on the aircraft [ 00: 15: 00] carrier Franklin, which was hit by kamikaze out in the Pacific and was gutted. They got it back to Pearl Harbor, but most of the crew, including the Marine crew, was killed. So I figured well, my finger saved me. Yes, really. That’s amazing. So then after that, the next thing I remember I was on a troop train to the West Coast— and there’s a little story to that one too— to the West Coast to be shipped overseas. Well, on the way we went through the little town of Raton, New Mexico. You obviously know where that is. UNLV Nevada Test Site Oral History Project 7 Yes, I do. Well, they didn’t have any food on the troop train, so what they were doing, they’d stop at a place like Raton or some place and we’d go in and get something to eat. I stepped off the steps at that depot. There was my father standing there. He had no idea that I was on that train. He knew there was a troop train coming through, but he had no idea that I was part of it. So I stepped off the train and there was my dad. So we had a little meeting for a while, ate a sandwich or whatever, and I got back on the train and went to the West Coast and then shipped overseas to Okinawa. Now this was 1945. OK. So you’re close to the end of the war. I ended up on Okinawa, and I never did fly except in the B- 25s, which required a co- pilot. There was sometimes they’d be flying and there wasn’t a co- pilot on board, so I’d go sit up in the co- pilot’s seat. And every once in a while a pilot— we’d be flying along smooth and straight and he’d say, Do you want to try this? I said, Sure. So I’d fly the plane. I never did any turns or any fancy maneuvers and never did land or take off with one, but I did fly the B- 25. Well, when I got over to Okinawa, I ended up in a Corsair fighter squadron. Of course my job was ordnance, to keep the guns and the bombs working. So all I did, we’d deal with the pilots when they came in from a mission. And I always knew when that plane landed, if the guns hadn’t worked, the pilot was shaking his fist. Something in the ordnance had not worked, or something had gone wrong. So you weren’t actually on the plane. You were on the ground, making sure that the ordnance was in shape for each flight. OK. Oh no, I was on the ground, listening to them when they came in and complained that this didn’t work and that didn’t work. That’s a gull wing on that plane [ indicating model]. And I spent an UNLV Nevada Test Site Oral History Project 8 awful lot of time laying in the crease there over that gull wing because that’s how we would get to the ordnance, to the guns, to maintain the guns and to be sure there was plenty of ammunition in there. OK, so because I don’t really understand the mechanics of that, so a gull wing means what exactly? Let me show it to you. I’ve got the model back here. Oh, that’s what I thought you meant. And that’s a little crease there. This little crease [ showing on model] is where I spent a lot of time, laying in there fixing, working on the guns or loading ammunition. Excuse me just a minute. OK. Sure, I’m just going to pause this. [ 00: 19: 28] End Track 2, Disk 1. [ 00: 00: 00] Begin Track 3, Disk 1. Now, where was I? OK, so you were on Okinawa and you were repairing this ordnance on these planes. Yes, taking care— and of course every once in a while the infantry would come through and the guys in the air corps part of it, the infantry would need some help. They’d say, We don’t have enough people today. Well, some of the guys would object. We weren’t trained to be foot soldiers or infantry, and the lieutenant or captain or whatever it was, or the sergeant, he’d say, You got the same training we did, so go along. Well, that’s how I lost my buddy. We were on a patrol one time and they got him, and he could have just as easily got me because I was in plain sight. But anyway, so much for that. And that’s when you got the rifle and the sword off the— UNLV Nevada Test Site Oral History Project 9 Yes, that’s when I got the rifle and the sword. And then later, in another infantry patrol, I wasn’t paying attention. I was being careless, and I got caught with a Japanese bayonet right across the forehead and right down the side of my face, and I was bleeding like a stuck pig. And this big buddy of mine, who I did not know before but he was in the same squad I was in, he picked me up, threw me over his shoulder, and carried me to the aid station. And on the way, I still remember this, I was bouncing on his shoulder, spreading blood, and I said, Jim, do I still have an eye? Because I wasn’t sure. And he says, Yes, you still got your eye. Now shut up! So he took me to the aid station and they kept me there, and they had nurses and doctors that they had brought over from hospital ships out in the harbor. And of course the nurse cleaned me up and the doctor came in and he said, Well, he said, you’re not too bad. I was completely bandaged, head was completely bandaged, both eyes. And while I was laying there on a cot in the aid station, one day this colonel came in. So I didn’t know he was a colonel. One of the nurses called his name or something. And he said— I was a sergeant at that time, so he says, Sergeant, I’ve got something here for you. He said, I know you can’t see it but, I’m going to lay it by your pillow and when you can see it, you’ll know what I brought you. Well, in the meantime the unit I was with, the commanding officer had volunteered us for duty in China. And there I was. I couldn’t— so I didn’t ever— when they finally took the bandages off of me and I could see, there wasn’t anything laying on my bunk by the pillow. And I thought, well, somebody picked it up, whatever it was. But as it turns out, what they had done is some of my squad or some of my unit, they had packed up my duffel bag and my footlocker for me, and I didn’t know what had gone into it. UNLV Nevada Test Site Oral History Project 10 When I came back home out of the service, the footlocker and the duffel bag ended up at my parents’ house, which is where my wife at that time was living, and they ended up in the [ 00: 05: 00] basement. I never went into it. So then one time I went into the footlocker to try on my old uniform, my green uniform, and it wouldn’t fit. I couldn’t button the pants and I couldn’t button the jacket. But I never did go into the duffel bag. And finally when I moved out here, I moved the stuff from Amarillo to Los Alamos, New Mexico first, and then when I came out here I put it in a U- Haul and came out here with my duffel bag and my footlocker. And one day Jeanie [ Sowder], we had been here for quite a while, and Jeanie says, Aren’t you going to find out what’s in that locker of yours? I said, Well, you think I should? [ And she said] Yes, we ought to know what you got in there. So I went out there and opened it. Well, down in that footlocker was a package wrapped in newspaper and plastic. My mother had gotten into that box and she had wrapped it all up. I unwrapped it and it was my Purple Heart, in its proper container, and a China Service Medal. But my buddies had packed things for me but they hadn’t told me. They hadn’t told you. And this is amazing. So how many years later is this? This is—? Oh, this was years later. Let’s see, must’ve been, oh, forty years later. So you’re telling me you didn’t know that you had a Purple Heart until forty years later? No, I didn’t know. I didn’t know I had a Purple Heart. That’s an amazing story. When I opened that package— Well, what was your reaction? Were you—? Shock. Surprise. Well, then I got to thinking about it, and then I remembered what he had said. He said, You won’t know what it is until you’re able to see and can find it. UNLV Nevada Test Site Oral History Project 11 Well, by that time my buddies had packed it away and I didn’t— nobody told me anything about it. But anyway. Why they didn’t tell you, you think that’s just because that’s the way it was there? You just—? That’s the way it was. They were more interested in packing me up so I could go to China with them, I guess. Right. And they probably figured you knew. I don’t know; they may have. Yes. Yes. I mean, what an amazing story because at any point along the line the colonel could have said to you, I’m giving you a Purple Heart, but he figured you’re going to be nice and surprised when you get your bandages off and see it there, and then they pack it up, probably thinking you knew you got it. Amazing. Yes. But anyway. Jeanie and I both were surprised when I opened it. Of course, she had heard the story about the rifle, but she hadn’t heard the story about— I wanted to ask you something else about that too because— you’re on patrol? Yes. And you’re sort of ambushed. Or are you seeing that they’re Japanese soldiers, or were you surprised? Oh, this was just a lone sniper up in a tree, up in front of us. He could’ve picked off any one of a dozen men. He happened to get my buddy who was right in front of me, [ a] fellow named Philip Lester Flowers. He was a good shot. He got him right in the heart. And Les was dead before he hit the ground. But could’ve just as easily been me or one of another eight or ten. UNLV Nevada Test Site Oral History Project 12 Yes. I hope you don’t mind me asking you this question, but when something like that happens and you’re a young man and this is your buddy, I mean, what kind of feelings— do you just feel? I would imagine that you would just feel overwhelming rage. Devastated. Devastation. Devastated. Yes. But does that then turn into anger, or do you just—? Oh yes, it does. And then the other night I made a mistake. I saw firsthand some of the atrocities on Okinawa, not that they’d done necessarily to Americans but to Okinawans. And then I got a Smithsonian book the other day that went back and retraced the route of the Bataan Death March, and that didn’t help my feelings about Japanese at all. That was terrible. But some of the [ 00: 10: 00] things they did on Okinawa were horrendous. Of course, the Americans did their share of some things, but nothing like that. So it took me an awful long time to even soften up a little bit. There’s a restaurant down here which you may or may not know about. It’s called the Redwood Bar and Grill in the California Club. It became a favorite eating place of ours, you know, once a month or once every two or three months. But it was a hangout for Orientals. Every time we’d go in there to have dinner, there was one particular table which would hold ten or twelve people off on the side, and we had a booth kind of out in the middle, and it would be loaded with Japanese. And there was one time— this is trivia, but it was one time we were sitting there eating, and they had good food and it was a good place to eat. But I’d say, Jeanie, see that fellow sitting at the end of that long table over there? She said, Yes, I see him. UNLV Nevada Test Site Oral History Project 13 I said, I killed him forty years ago. He looked so much— of course they all look pretty much alike to me. But I’ve mellowed some. I’ve mellowed some. I take my unhappiness now out with the mayor. Yes. But that’s why I asked you about it and as I said, I hope you didn’t mind, because I’m just trying to imagine myself in a similar situation where you see someone that you’re close to and then the person that’s killed him and could kill you is there, and all that must, you know, go on, but it happened so quickly at the same time, right? Well, I had a guilt complex for some time because at the time this happened I had a thirty caliber carbine in my hand, and when I first saw the sniper up in the tree I put it to my shoulder to fire and it jammed. I mean, there was a shell jammed in there. So I had to clear it before I could use it, and by that time he had killed my friend. So I felt guilty. If I had of taken better care of my weapon, I could’ve probably saved his life. But so be it. Yes. I think that— and this is easy for me to say because I’m standing way outside of the situation, but I think that in situations like that in war, you know, you’re in a war so you’re put in this terrible position of having to act really quickly to save someone’s life. So yes, you’re right at some level, but at another level it’s just you’re in a horrible situation that you didn’t create that puts you in a position where a split second is going to make a difference. You know what I’m saying? Yes, I understand. Yes. And as I said, it’s easy for me to say. I would feel probably, you know, similar feelings but— It took me a long time to get to the point I am now, which is essentially, I haven’t forgotten it but it’s way back in the background now. I used to drive Jeanie nuts. Every once in a while at night, UNLV Nevada Test Site Oral History Project 14 she’d reach over and shake me: Elmer, wake up. You’re having a nightmare. And that would be part of it. And the day I got cut, I would dream about that once in a while. Yes. How much more traumatic can human experience get than something like that? I don’t know. But she commented, oh, it’s been a couple of years or so ago, she commented, she says, You know, you haven’t had any nightmares lately. I said, No. It must be fading away, must be getting in the back of mind where it’s going away.” She said, Well, you used to scare the heck out of me because you’d be yelling. But anyway, that’s beside the point. It’s trivia. Well, I don’t think it’s trivia because I think, you know, World War II was a part of so many people’s lives and in a very immediate way that my generation— I was born in ‘ 49— I had [ 00: 15: 00] someone, a Manhattan Project scientist say to me, people who weren’t of the thinking age during World War II do not understand what World War II was about. They just cannot possibly understand how terrible a time it was, basically, he said. So…. It was even— yes. But I have felt since then that it was even worse in Vietnam and Korea. At least on Okinawa we knew who the enemy was. We could recognize the enemy. In Vietnam and— this good friend of mine who is the president of this homeowner’s association, he’s a retired Marine major, and he got wounded twice in Vietnam, and he agreed with me. He said, You know, we never knew who the enemy was. Men might be going through a village but you didn’t know whether those people were civilian or whether they were part of the enemy. And I said, Well, at least in World War II we could recognize the enemy. UNLV Nevada Test Site Oral History Project 15 Yes. Yes. Now when you said the— we won’t— I just wanted to ask you this, and again tell me if this— I just— it seems so amazing. When you were bayoneted, was that also a surprise or were you actually engaged in some kind of struggle originally? We were out on patrol, and I should’ve been paying closer attention. I didn’t. How can anybody pay close attention enough to— you know, it’s war…. He slipped in on my right side and he caught me with the side of his bayonet, and I still have a hairline scar up here, and I’ve got a scar down here but you can’t see it. Well, I went to a dermatologist some years ago and I asked him, I said, Do you see any scars down on the side of my face? And he put me under some kind of an instrument. He’s says, You don’t have any external scars but, there are scars in the inner skin tissue. He said, There is a scar inside but, it doesn’t show on the exterior. He said, You had a good doctor. I said, Well, to my knowledge, he never used any staples, he never used any stitches. Well, what this dermatologist told me, he says, Well, probably what he did was ahead of his time. He probably used glue of some sort to glue it together. So they’ve got now what they call new skin or— Correct. Yes. I know the manicurist that Jeanie went to, she uses glue to patch up— That’s right. Patch up the nails and stuff. So this dermatologist told me, he said, Well, he must’ve been ahead of his time, because he sure got you back together without any scarring. And I don’t even know his name. I don’t even have his name. Don’t know the nurses’ names. I don’t remember. And these are people that basically saved your life. Oh, they sure did a whole lot toward that, yes. UNLV Nevada Test Site Oral History Project 16 And when you were bandaged up, did you know whether you were going to be able to see again or not or—? No. I didn’t. No, they had me completely covered up. I guess maybe that’s one reason that Jeanie and I got along so well as we did. She was willing to listen. My first wife would not listen to anything. She didn’t want to hear anything about any experiences outside of the front yard of the house. Now my son, he’s become very interested in some of the things. But Jeanie was interested, and then of course her first husband, Bob Bowman, he served in Korea. And she used to tell me, she says, when she’d wake me up, you know, Wake up, you’re having a dream, or a nightmare or something, she’d say, I didn’t dare do that to Bo when he came back home. He would come up fighting if I even disturbed his sleep. But I can understand that. But anyway, so much for the war stories. [ 00: 20: 00] OK, but just one detail, and this isn’t a war detail. So you’re married at some point before you go overseas, to your first wife? Nineteen forty- three, I got married. On January the twenty- fourth, the day after my first wife’s birthday, January 23. OK. And just to remind me, this was before you go into basic training or—? Yes. Yes. I was still in school. All right. But the war had started and— Yes. Yes. Well, the war was well underway. Yes. I just don’t think that, you know, speaking of your experiences, I said it and I mean it, I can’t imagine, you know, in human experience what could be more traumatic than the kinds of things that go on in the battlefiel