ME: What was your rank, at the time?
“Corporal. I was a corporal when I went in and I was a corporal when I got out. I would never take a promotion. I wore staff-sergeant strips and so forth at different times temporarily, but I wouldn’t take a promotion. They wanted to make me a staff, but they said I had to give up the rackets. And I said to the captain, I said I can’t afford it [laughter].
ME: You had to give up the rackets? What kind of rackets were you in?
I was the scavenger for the outfit. And I was the only soldier they could get aboard any Navy ship. And that story that I read about Trader Storck [trading and gambling with the natives], the thing they left out, what I’d usually get for the natives, from the warships and battleships was the prophylactics. I used to distribute them to the natives.
And as I rowed around to the different positions to supply the positions the natives would be on the shore, they’d come from the different islands in the canoe, they’d be there “You got ‘no make baby’? You got ‘no make baby’?” [laughter] So I would trade them for a price that’s war-clubs and beads and everything else, and they used them until they wore them out. They’d wash em out in the river the next day and they kept using them.
ME: Yes – reduce, reuse and recycle, right?!
Oh, yeah. I went back there in ’76 – I used to be in charge of the scouts, and one of the scouts I was in charge of was now the chief of the village, and he gave me hell for not bringin some “no make babies” back. He said, “You see, I got all these kids runnin around!” [laughter]
ME: So you were the indispensable man, eh?
Yeah. I could get anything they wanted. One time, the biggest challenge I had, the Captain had a general inspection, and this Chinese captain we had, he was praisin me up to a General, that he had a man that could get anything he wanted. So the General got introduced to me and he said “I’m looking for a bottle of Parker 51 ink.” Well I never even heard of it.
But he said “Do you think you can get me a bottle of Parker 51 ink?” I said, “Well, give me a couple of days.” And I tried all of the ships I was getting on and nobody ever heard of Parker 51 ink, you know, for a special fountain pen that he had.
So, anyways, the nearest place I can get it is Brisbane, Australia! So, how am I gonna get to Brisbane, Australia? Well, pilots were flying the wounded out, comin in they were flyin em back to Brisbane, Australia. And I had a pistol that sold for $150 at that time; and this captain on this airplane wanted to buy it from me and I wouldn’t sell it to him. But I said, I’ll tell you what, if you get me a bottle of Parker 51 ink when you go back, when you come back I’ll give you the pistol.
When he came back the next day I was at the airport, and I got the bottle of Parker 51 ink, and I gave him the pistol. So I went to the General, and I said, “Sir,” I said, “Here’s that bottle of Parker 51 ink.” He didn’t ask me where I got it!
He just says “How much do I owe you?” And I said, “Sir, I don’t think you got enough money to pay me for that bottle.” So I gave it to him [laughter].
ME: Oh, what a guy!
That was the challenge. But when the campaign was long enough we was in the foxhole, I was sleeping with a bedroll in the foxhole [laughter]. I wrecked the Colonel’s jeep one time, and for two cases of beer, I got him a brand new one!
I made things on the side, I had a lot of transactions goin’ on on the side, with the infantry outfits and so forth, I supplied ‘em with all the cards so they could play Poker and everything else.
And then when we was up in New Georgia, Captain says, “Storck, if I let you take off, do you think you could get the fellas some cigarettes?” I said “Yeah, I think I still got some contacts with the CBs back in Guadalcanal.”
So I hitchhiked back down to Guadalcanal, which was maybe 500 miles, and I got the cases of cigarettes – 50 cartons to a case – cases of Nestles chocolate bars, 1044 to a case, and I got a brand new ¾ tons weapon carrier to load ’em on. When I got ready to get back, well comin’ out was no problem, but tryin’ to get back with those ¾ tons weapon carrier loaded durin’ the war, that was the problem.
So I got down to where they was loadin’ the LST’s takin’ the supplies back up to New Georgia, and I said to the Landing Officer, “Is there any chance of me getting’ on that.” He says, “No, we’re loaded right to the hilt. The only thing going up is ammunition and food.”
I said, “Well, gee, candy bars are food.” And he said, “Sorry, I can’t do a thing for ya.” And I said, “You know, I got an extra case of cigarettes here and an extra case of chocolate bars and I don’t know what to do with ‘em.” He said, “Look, you just park that ¾ ton weapon carrier over to the side there.”
And after they loaded up the LST, they loaded the carrier top of the deck. So I got back up to New Georgia, and I gave ‘em the cigarettes, I gave ‘em the chocolate bars, and I gave ‘em the ¾ tons weapon carrier free gratis.
I used to get the rotten tobacco from the ration boxes, they used to come in half-and-half packages, and half this end would get moldy and they’d throw it out. Well, I’d get that and give ‘em to the natives and I’d get the pipes from the ships so the natives could have some pipes.
And powdered sugar was another thing they’d throw out – with real powdered sugar, it used to come in cardboard boxes, a pound box; it used to get hard as a brick, and the natives ate it like it was candy.
I had quite an interesting time, really. A lot of things I would not really want to tell you about, but …” [Maurice then proceeded to tell me a story he shouldn’t have told me about, and I won’t re-tell]
The natives and I, we got along real good. I was in charge of the scouts. I used to sleep right next to ‘em in the foxhole, because they could practically smell a Jap at about 50 yards.
One time we was goin’ up the river, and I took my rifle on up. Off about as far as you could see was this great big Beanie [sp?] bird, almost like an eagle – you know, the natives eat ‘em – and, I pulled out my rifle and aimed at the bird and hit it; in fact, I took its head off.
And they thought I was aimin’ at his head – it was only a little small piece – and they said, “Ohh – you a great shot! You a great shot! You no ruin the meat!” They just went and stuck a pole through its wings and carried it back to the village. I never fired a gun again such as that.
I was shipwrecked one time, on a LCM [Landing Craft Machine]. I was going from one end of the island at Guadalcanal from Cape Esperance down to Honiara, and a typhoon come up. I was on an LCM with about four other fellas, and it flipped us around in the ocean like you wouldn’t believe. We couldn’t get the thing goin’ again, and it crashed us on a coral reef just off the island of Savo, which is a little island in between Guadalcanal and Florida.
And when we waded ashore … the water was just about up to our neck. And all we salvaged was the Jap bayonet that I had. And, if the Japanese had still been there I would have been executed just because I had that Japanese bayonet on me.
But they had evacuated two days before. So the natives there took us by canoe to another island where there was a coastwatcher. Well he called out to Tanaghai where the PT boats were stationed, and they sent a PT boat up for us.
ME: You seem like you lead a charmed life.
Another time, I was comin’ from Cape Esperance with the First Sergeant and five or six of the other fellas, and we was comin’ back to Honiara – this was on June 15, 1943 – and 100 Japanese planes came over on a suicide mission! They only had gas for one way. We counted for 96 of the planes shot down; the other four, they just figured they crashed in the ocean someplace.
But, we was out in the middle of the straits, and if any one of those planes come down and start strafin, we was just sittin’ ducks. But they wasn’t after our little boat, they was after the bigger boats that was unloading supplies and stuff down at Honiara. That was a real, real lucky one.
Another time, in New Georgia, I was attached to the 27th Infantry. Lieutenant Landalot, who was a new lieutenant, a second Lieutenant who’d just come over, they needed an officer up there with the 27th. So the Captain said to me, “Storck, you go up and look after the new lieutenant.”
So we went up there, was attached to ‘em. As we was goin’ on patrol, Lieutenant Ruble was leading the patrol with a Fijian scout. We had the Japs on the run, and just as he rounded the bend a sniper opened up and practically blew his right leg off – a dumdum bullet hit em that explodes after it hits.
And the Fijian scout dragged him back and I bandaged him up til they evacuated him. And then we went up and dug in, cause it was getting late – 3:30 – you had to be dug in by 4. So we went up just so far and formed a position.
And lieutenant said to me, “Where are you gonna sleep.” I said, “I’m gonna sleep right next to that Fiji scout. I hear he can smell a Jap at 50 yards.” And I was sleepin’ right next to him and the Australian sergeant that was in charge of that scout. So we slept there, no problem that night.
But the next mornin’ the Australian sergeant went out with the Fiji scout up to where you could see that Lieutenant Rubles helmet was layin’, and as he rose his head up to look to see what was out there, a sniper shot him right through the head. The Fijian scout dragged him back, and I buried him right in this foxhole that he dug the night before.
And what had happened the Japanese had had maneuvers back there in ‘36 or ‘37, and built all these fortifications, and the shrubbery had grown up over it and so forth, so we was goin along, and you got the Japs on the run, you’re goin right after em, and Jesus, they come up from a fortified position.
Nothin’ more happened for about an hour. The captain wanted 15 volunteers to flank the pillbox – we just thought it was a pillbox. So being attached to ‘em, I volunteered. And I was the first pick because I was supernumeral – if I got lost in the company, it wouldn’t be that bad. I went down with Lieutenant Cutler and the other 14 men. They had me as the advance scout because I was expendable! [laughter].
Well, I wasn’t scared of any God-damned thing, really. So I went out, but the Japs let me go through, but then they ambushed the patrol and killed five of the guys and wounded four of ‘em. And the DAR guy got it first; and the guy right next to him, a bullet hit him right smack in the middle of his helmet and parted it just like you’d part a soft hat, and went back out right through the side as he went down, and that’s all that happened to that particular guy. I shot my way back out.
We went back and formed a line, cause we thought we couldn’t get the wounded back any further, and we thought the Japs were gonna come for us, but the Japs didn’t know how many we were, and they didn’t come out. So we was there, and Lieutenant Cutler sent a runner back to the CD, and told ‘em what was goin’ on. And next thing you know, in about an hour, a whole battalion, about 600 men, came down to relieve the five of us that had rifles that was holdin’ the perimeter. Cause they didn’t know what the hell was out there, and they took several days to knock ‘em out with artillery barrages and everything else, out of those pill-boxes.
Anyways, after we went back with the wounded, I see my captain come up from my company, and I try to get by him – I picked up a 5-gallon water-can and stuck it up on my shoulder tryin’ to get by him, cause I wanted to stick with the outfit and get the loot as they pushed on through. And the captain, he reached out and grabbed me, and he says, “Storck, they got enough doughboys here now.” That was it. That was a close call. Just by bein the point man, they let me go through. I had a lot of close calls.
When we landed in Guadalcanal, and I moseyed down the beach, there was a service down on the beach, and I don’t know whether it was a minister, rabbi, or priest or who it was, when I heard him say, “As you are about to go into combat, a man who is a-scared to die will die a thousand deaths; but a man who is not a-scared to die can die but once.” And I just winked my eyes and looked up and said, “Lord, I’ll settle for that! I’ll settle for fifty! – I was 20 then. So I’m about 61 years overdue …
ME: Well, God bless you! My Lord! Now, where did you go after Pearl Harbor?
We was goin’ to New Zealand. We originally left Hawaii we was headed for New Zealand. The 43rd Division was supposed to come in from Maine, in New England … was supposed to go on in to Guadalcanal. But they was too far away, and things was goin’ bad for the Marines, so they shot us in at Fiji and got us into Guadalcanal.
And the 43rd went on down to New Zealand instead. We went in to relieve the Marines and finish the things up at Guadalcanal as they evacuated the Marines. We went up about July – about 9 months.
I can tell you a good story though, when we landed in Guadalcanal, we had a Chinese captain. He was a Lieutenant when he first come in December the 8th, the day after Pearl Harbor. We get to shore, and after the fella got shot in the head, he says to me, Storck I’ll swap you my pistol for your rifle.
Well Jees, a .45 … you could get a rifle anyplace ya know, cause soldiers getting killed, you have to leave all your weapons when you leave – I thought that was a good deal. So I had that .45 on me for all the years in a foxhole. It was always nice to have a .45 in your belt so if you see a bandit come through …
But anyways, I visited him in ’53, and he came out as a full Colonel, in fact he was an engineer and he went around and bought all the surplus material up in the islands and had it shipped back to Hawaii, made millions. And he had this mansion up at the Pali I said to him, I said, somethin’s always got me bugged. I said, at Guadalcanal, why did you swap me your pistol for my rifle? He said, “I wanted to look just like one of the other boys.” Really, that was his exact words.
Then we went up to New Georgia, which is Munda – Munda, New Georgia. Goin’ into New Georgia, I was on an LST, which is a little – we went into an island called Sasa Carassa or something like that – we went into this little island in this LST. And we went in so fast the front that goes down to let anybody out, it got jammed in the coral; and as we was waitin’ there I was up on the deck watchin’ a dogfight goin’ on with the planes.
It was right overhead, practically, you know? And next thing ya know, a Japanese plane skips around the island, just at about ship level, and as he sees us, he creee – peels right off just as fast as he can peel, and he drops a bomb. Well that bomb landed maybe 15 or 20 feet from me.
When it hit the water, the coral, it practically dumped the whole ocean on top of me. I thought I’d had it then. I put my hand on my back, around my back, I was layin’ face down. I thought when it come out it was going to be covered with blood. But anyways, in the meantime, the LST backs off from the island and got the ramp down and that ship got cleared pretty God-damned fast!
Anyways, we went by smaller boats over to New Georgia, we went up there and relieved a Buckeye Division, the 37th Division from Ohio. Boy, they got hell, cause, practically every grave I went by would be somebody from Dayton, Ohio or Cincinnati, Ohio – all the dogtags, you know. It was a National Guard outfit from Ohio – Buckeyes. Then we finished that island up [laughter].
One time I almost got it in a barrage down there, in the river with my shoes off. A plane came by strafin’ while I was in the river, and ouh! [laughter]. I had my shoes off … I wasn’t runnin, nobody else was runnin back towards our lines – we was runnin from the Japs!
Because they was walkin the shells over, when we hear the shells come over, we would fall down. When they’d go off, we’d get up runnin again. That’s the way it was. There wasn’t a scratch on my feet when I stopped, runnin over that coral barefooted with the roots and all, but walkin back to get my shoes, I cut my feet all to hell.
ME: What’s it like to be shot at like that and not be able to do anything about it?
I never really had any emotion. Too busy, I was an old Army man by then, 4 ½ years in the Army. I never had any reaction. They took it away in training. I could understand why some of the draftees that came in would cry, and this and that and everything else and so forth.
We had one fella, name of Sergeant Hulk, in New Caledonia, he’s getting ready to go back up to the Philippines, he was in Guadalcanal and New Georgia, and we’s havin Reveille one morning, he said to the fellas, he’s seen the light. He went back, got in a khaki uniform, come outside, took his carbine out & shot his head off. For no reason whatsoever. Just, you know …
ME: How long were you in New Georgia?
“July, August, September, ‘cause we landed in New Zealand in November. I met my wife, my future wife the first day. I went into an ice-cream parlor, and she was the one workin’ at the bar.