If you’ve spent any time looking through Fold3’s WWII War Diaries, you probably know it as a huge collection of action reports and day-to-day activity records submitted by Navy and Marine Corps units. But if you dig a little deeper into the collection, you’ll find that it also has more than 800 pages of personal interviews with Navy officers—many of them submarine commanders—as well as a few Marines about their experiences in World War II. Each interview has an introductory page that gives a short summary of the narrative’s highlights, helping you more easily determine if the content would interest you or not.
All the interviews are worth a read, but listed below are some that stand out for the quality of their information and for their readability or humor:
• An interview with Lt. Commander Landon L. Davis, Jr., of the USS Pampanito (submarine) about rescuing Allied prisoners of war from the water after the Japanese ship they were on was sunk.
• An interview with Captain Arthur Lawrence Maher, gunnery officer on the USS Houston (heavy cruiser), about the sinking of the Houston in the Battle of Sunda Strait, his subsequent capture by the Japanese, and life in prison camps.
• An interview with Commander Chester C. Smith of the USS Swordfish (submarine) about evacuating Philippine dignitaries and other occurrences on the sub’s patrols.
• An interview with A. H. Stegall, chief radioman on the USS Silversides (submarine), about an emergency appendectomy performed (with no experience) on board, as well as an account of the sub getting bombed by a plane.
• An interview with Captain E. C. Stephan, commander of the USS Grayback (submarine), about another emergency appendectomy (also performed with no experience) and some of the highlights of the Grayback’s fifth war patrol, including a “lighthouse” mission and the rescue of downed airmen.
• An interview with Commander Kemp Tolley of the USS Lanikai (yacht) about the Japanese air raid on Cavite Navy Yard in the Philippines and the schooner’s escape to Australia via the Dutch East Indies.
Interested in reading more? Find additional personal interviews from the WWII War Diaries here.