Kristi Mizner: How did you feel about WWII?
Wayne Vancil: I was hyped up about the war, but I didn’t want to go to war. I knew my
number was up so I went to Seattle to sign up for the military. Before I was called to go
anywhere I went to Alaska for a while then I came back to Seattle in October of 1941.
After I came back I was sent to Pain Field Everett.
K: What did you do in the military?
W: It wasn’t decided at the time but when it was I worked mostly in a medical unit.
K: What rank did you hold in the military?
W: I was a PFC (Private First Class) and worked as a pharmacist and as a medic.
K: Were you stationed overseas or stateside? Where and for how long?
W: I was stationed in Merced, California at Castle Air Force Base for 3 years, 9 months,
and 29 days.
K: What type of things did you receive from home?
W: I received a lot of letters and packages from my mom and dad. They told my how
my other two brothers were doing who were also serving in the war at the time. My mom
told me that my younger brother Buddy was lost at Tarawa and never found. I also found
out that my other brother Glen who was a Glider Pilot, he made one trip over in Europe
and crash-landed and lived through it. They sent him to the Medics and pumped him full
of Penicillin but that did not seem to work so they sent him back to the States. When the
doctor checked on Glen they found a S’^-inch piece of wood near his nose. After that it
was total face reconstruction for him.
K: What did you do for fun while you were on leave?
W: I hitchhiked up to the Assembly National Park, hung out with friends on the base,
and watched USO (United Service Organization) shows.
K: What type of changes did you notice in Yelm when you returned?
W: There really was no change in Yelm except everyone I used to know grew up. When
I was walking through town people would come up to me and say “Hello Mr. Vancil” but
I didn’t have a clue who they were until they told me their name.
K: Did you use the GI bill after the war?
W: Yes, for one year and it help get me enough money to farm.
K: How did you feel about the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
W: Militarily, yes, we should have bombed them long before we did bomb them. But I
had sympathy for the civilians. The bombing helped save many American lives because
we did not have to go to Japan and fight on foot.
K: What is something you will always remember from the war?
W: Well, I would volunteer for almost anything. So, I volunteered to go to pressure
school for six weeks. At pressure school you would go inside a pressure chamber to feel
the affects of different altitudes if you were flying. When you would go into the chamber
they would pump the air out to simulate the distance and atmosphere from 10,000 feet to
17,000 feet. My first time I was simulated to 15,000 feet with a mask on and then I had
to take the mask off to breath the air and feel what it’s like at 15,000 feet in the air. After
I was done I got the bends in my knees. I will always remember that.
When working on the Yelm History Project, my partner and I took on the task of
finding more information about Ye 1m World War II Veterans. We wanted to
interview them to learn more about their experiences at the time of World War II. The
planning for the interview consisted of tracking down veterans in old Nisqually
Valley Newspapers, searching the depressing Social Security Death Index online, and
contacting the very few individuals or their relatives who were still alive. It is sad that
these people of history are now dying and their stories are not being recorded, we are
going to try and preserve their lives and experiences through these interviews.
The interviews themselves consisted of a series of questions that varied depending
on the Veterans’ background. Our overall intention of the actual interview was to
leam more about Yelm and their experiences in World War II. We were hoping to
capture their experience and Yelm itself developing from the beginning of World War
II to the end. The two veterans that we have located, made contact, and plan to
interview in their most convenient time are Jack Rice, whose great Granddaughter is
Brittany Minker who happens to be a close friend of my partner and also a student at
Y.H.S. Our other Veteran is Wayne Vancil, who’s daughter is Ms. Jeanie Flowers of
the staff also at the high school. And we also managed to contact the son of Robert
Christensen, Wayne Christensen, who talked with us about his father who was a
Veteran of World War II. After contacting, my partner Kristi led the interviews, as it
was her part in this project. Their interviews were tape recorded and then written onto
paper in order to be formatted to this essay. There are many more questions than what
are discussed in this essay; the ones talked about here are the major questions.
The first question that was asked to all three of the people we interviewed was a
very generic “How did you feel about World War II?” All three of them answered in
different ways. As with Mr. Vancil, he said, “I was hyped up about the war, but I
didn’t want to go.” This was his attitude when he new his number was coming up in
the draft board, so he went to volunteer. Jack Rice replied with, “We did what we had
to do to protect our country and to keep it form being taken over by foreigners…”
Which shows the patriotic sense that many young men of the time felt towards war
and their country. Wayne, the son of Veteran Robert Christensen, said that his father
never told how he felt about the war other than that it was a serious time.
Another question asked to the interviewees was if they remembered getting things
from home. Mr. Wayne Vancil spoke of receiving letters telling of his brother Buddy,
who was lost at Tarawa. He also remembered hearing of his other brother Glen who
crashed his glider in France and was injured. Jack Rice told us of some of his
packages, “My mom sent me a wristwatch and it still works today.” Packages and
letters were a big morale booster when they were away from home. It took away a lot
of the homesickness that many soldiers felt.
The next question we asked all the interviewees was, “How did you feel about the
bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki?” All three men told us basically the same
answer. Wayne Vancil said, “Militarily, Yes… But I had sympathy for the civilians.
The bombing helped save many American lives because we did not have to go to
Japan and fight on foot.” Mr. Rice replied, “Yes, because it saved a lot of American
lives because we didn’t need to fight in Japan.” And also Wayne Christensen
remembers his father agreeing with the bombings in order to end the war. All of them
agreed on the bombings, they wanted an end to the war and it was a sacrifice that had
to be made in order to save even more lives.
When we asked the three men what changes they noticed in Yelm when they
returned home they all replied in the same way. They all said that they noticed
nothing new except that the children had grown up. Mr. Vancil said, “When I was
walking through town people would come up to me and say “Hello Mr. Vancil,” but I
didn’t have a clue who they were until they told me their name.” And they also stated
that the changes to Yelm were nothing like the changes they noticed nowadays.
Like I said before, those are not all the questions, just the major ones I felt needed
to be heard. The rest of the questions can be seen with the transcript of the entire
interview. The interviews were a success. Not only did we leam of their experiences
but we captured a little bit of history. And we also met these wonderful people who
had stories to tell and needed to be heard. My partner Kristi and I are thankful to have
had the opportunity to interview these individuals who represent what great things
Veterans have done for this country.