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Philip R. Marsilius '43

Sullivan Museum and History Center, Norwich University


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Philip Marsilius, NU '43, Oral History Interview

May 20, 2015

Sullivan Museum and History Center

Interviewed by Sarah Yahm

SY: So let's start out with, where were you born? And when you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

PM: Well, I was born in Woodstock, Illinois in 1921. My father was running a company there. And my family consisted of a brother four years older, and a sister two years older. The sister and I were born in Woodstock. My father had been in World War I, and an ordinance making French 75 guns. And after that, was hired by this Woodstock typewriter company, which is older than the old typewriters, who was owned by the Sears family. And they made in addition, calculators and typewriters. And so I grew up there for two years. And then my father took an opportunity in Bridgeport to run a machine tool company, hence we moved here and lived in the north end of Bridgeport. Grew up there, went to public schools. Went to Harding High school, and from Harding, then to Norwich.

SY: And did your father talk about his experiences in World War I?

PM: Yes. He was a Norwegian immigrant. Came over from Southern Norway when he was 14, and learned his English in Boston at the YMCA. And then was hired by a company that made shoe machinery -- big, big company. And then they recommended he go to MIT, and he went and graduated as a mechanical engineer. And went immediately into the Army, and came out as a captain. And he was in machine tools all his life. He came here, and through the younger years -- then -- and when I was at Norwich, my folks moved to Trumbull, built a house there. And I spent a little time there, but we were accelerated in our senior year at Norwich. We went out early because they wanted us in the service. And we couldn't go to summer camp in our junior year, which was the standard routine. We were horse cavalry in those days. And we would take a trip through the back roads of Vermont up to Burlington area to the fort. And they had too many trainees at that time, so they ended up saying, we can't take you. You're gonna have to go to OCS. After four years at Norwich, we still had to go to OCS.

SY: So, were you mad?

PM: No, because we got out early. We got out end of February.

SY: And I've heard stories of everybody on campus marching down and enlisting, was that what happened? Or?

PM: Well, everybody -- a lot of them left early and joined -- volunteered for the Air Force. And some went to Canada to get in the Canadian Air Force when, like, might not be able to go in the US. And then a lot who had not finished Norwich, left and enlisted.

SY: So were you eager to sort of get overseas? Were you eager to kind of get into the war?

PM: Very much so. Would've left early after December 7th when Pearl Harbor hit. We went -- several of us went and volunteered. They said, you're not 21, you can't go without parental approval. And my folks said, finish your college, and then you can -- you're on your own.

SY: So there was no part of you that was sort of frightened to go?

PM: No. I was anxious to go.

SY: And why? What was your -- why --

PM: Because I'd had good military background. The war was a devastating war. And in my mind, if we didn't stop what was going on and prevail, life would not be the same -- not be. So it just made sense to go in, and I volunteered for armored. Went to Fort Knox, and there were three others from Norwich. They had room in that class -- 110 candidates.

SY: And how -- let me rewind a little bit. How did you adjust to being at Norwich? How did you adjust to being a rook? Did you take to the military lifestyle or was it difficult for you?

PM: It did -- wasn't difficult. I had more -- I had more fun as a rook. And we had to come out in our pajamas. I had bought fancy pair of pajamas because I had heard about -- so I just said -- you know, they did a lot of nonsense. Bracing and all that stuff.

SY: But it didn't faze you?

PM: Didn't faze me. And second year, I was president of the class, and I stayed president of the class for all three years.

SY: So, you did well there?

PM: And I was valedictorian in addition.

SY: In addition. OK, so how was the decision made that in February -- oh, tell me what you remember about Pearl Harbor. How did you hear about Pearl Harbor?

PM: Oh, it was basically on the radio, and I just finished a book -- and it's in my car right now -- returning it. A Day of Deceit. FDR, and not letting Hawaii know he knew it was -- he wanted the Japanese to attack so he could declare war. And I've been through that whole book. But we knew it right away, obviously, from the radio news. Everybody knew it pretty fast.

SY: Did you have radios in your room in Norwich?

PM: Not in our room, no -- not. I can't -- I don't think we had radios. Today, they have everything.

SY: Today, they everything. Exactly. OK, so then February, were you all called together into the Amory and told that you were gonna go to war? How as the decision made?

PM: Oh, we were -- what we were told to do was, we had -- we actually had a graduation, and then we had a week off. And then we were told to return to Rutland for induction. And they made us corporals, of all good things, when we were supposed to be second lieutenants. And then we departed by train to Massachusetts, and then they went through the induction shots and all that -- get you prepared. And then they scheduled wherever you were gonna go. Some went to Riley in Kansas. Some went to chemical warfare, some went to electrical. So it was -- but four of us, I was able to get a car, and so I had a car. And the four of us drove from Florida, Massachusetts -- I can't think of the name. But that's where we were told to meet, and went through five days of basic nonsense. KP duty and all that kind of stuff. And then we drove from there, I picked up the other officers. They weren't officers then, they were corporals. And we drove all the way to Camp Polk, Louisiana, where we were entered into -- well, back up. We were at Fort Knox for three months, and then battle training for a month in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. And then we were assigned -- the four of us from Norwich were assigned to the 11th Armored Division. That's when I got my car, and we drove from there down through Alabama over to Louisiana, and we arrived. And the next day, we were ordered to come to the commanding general's office. And low and behold, he was a Norwich grad, General Brooks, and a very decent individual. He came out as lieutenant general. And we went from -- they were ready to move the whole 11th Armored to the desert training in California. But we had to go to an interim location, temporary post in Texas -- Abilene, Texas. And at that point, we had six weeks wait until the other armored division that was in training had completed. And then we moved out there. What happened when we were out there, typical of -- they have -- each company has a normal staff of say, five officers. But when they're in training, they had maybe two extra lieutenants, so you all get involved. And then about every couple of months, they go by and say, boom, boom, boom, boom. You're out, you're going to overseas, or you're going someplace.

SY: So did you take a ship? I'm sure you took a ship. Obviously, everybody took a ship. But do you remember the name of the ship you took overseas?

PM: No, I don't really. What I did was the second the go-around in December, I went to my colonel and volunteered to go to be one of the select. I wasn't pulled out, but I volunteered, because I didn't think 11th Armory was gonna get over there for the fighting. So I volunteered, and that's a tough decision because then, you're on your own. You go -- you go back to the East, and you go to wherever they direct you. And then you get assigned to a fort, and you go as a replacement officer. And you have hundreds of enlisted men, you don't know anybody.

SY: And you don't have a relationship with them.

PM: You end up having to do duty on the ocean crossing. And I had about 50 men in the lowest deck, most every one of them sick all the way over. Four bunks high -- it was a mess, but you spend 8 hours on duty with them. But anyway, we got to England, and then we went from Liverpool, went on down to Frome, England, somewhat east of London. When the officers went and replaced officers, they enlisted them and went to another post. And then you waited for your assignment. And I with another officer, made a [forayed?] to the Rangers to volunteer to join our Rangers, knowing they needed officers. And both of us were accepted physically, but they made a stipulation, we can't change orders if the time you get back to your camp. If you have orders directing you to another unit, that's it, forget us. And that's what happened. I was already assigned to the 106th Cavalry Group, which was a recon outfit. And it turned out I was -- because I was Cavalry, I was in light tanks. So, I was in tanks the whole war and it was good. You know, and we got over to Normandy in late June. Not D-Day, but mostly, we joined first Army. Patton hadn't already -- his Army hadn't been formed. And we had an interesting time in Normandy. We were right on the east end, right where the water was -- and the channel. The tide would go out a mile, and we had to send a platoon of troops out every night to collect stragglers. People trying to -- were around. And right across --

SY: Who were the stragglers?

PM: Well, people who wanted to get away from the Germans. French people. You didn't know whether it was spies or what they were. Could be anybody. And we had to collect them, and make sure that they were the -- had credentials and know who they were, so that they wouldn't cause trouble. If they were just going home to join friends or family, that was OK. But there were a lot of them. And the Germans were -- got quarter of a mile from where we were, and there was a river in between, flowing out. And we had to send patrols down the beach, and one other patrol across to make sure the Germans were there. And they -- we got fired on, and fortunately got back. But -- so we did all that kind of stuff while they were waiting for the breakthrough. And when we first arrived, we -- the first combat we had was with the 82nd Airborne. And they were cleaning up a couple of villages, good size villages. And that's where they -- we broke in with them, and then they left. And then we moved over to the coast.

SY: So, I've interviewed a lot of Norwich grads who were in combat, and they -- a lot of them have very intense and vivid memories of their first experience with combat. Do you have intense and vivid memories of the first time you were under fire?

PM: We were under fire every day.

SY: Do you remember what it was like the first time?

PM: Oh sure.

SY: What was it like?

PM: Where I mentioned about the beach area, at one point even though we were in tanks, we got out of the tanks and went down on foot with carbines and tommy guns to stop any infiltration by the Germans 50 yards in front of us. And dusk, day, and nighttime -- well, yeah, you do what you have to do.

SY: Were you frightened?

PM: I never was frightened. I was -- tried to be sensible, and you couldn't go into combat and be frightened all the time, because you had to lead 30 men, and I had five or six tanks. So if I was frightened, it'd be -- that wouldn't work.

SY: Some people also talk about everything being very slow, and the colors being very bright, and things sounding different. Do you -- you don't remember that?

PM: No. Guns sounded like guns, and they were noisy. And -- but recon, we were out in front of everything. We were the first contact, and we have to fight then until we developed how strong the enemy is. And then if we can't handle it, we move aside and bring the heavier stuff up -- infantry or armor, who are close by. So that -- that's -- and when it's under heavy fighting, often we as recon would be on the flank. We'd be making contact with the next American unit.

SY: I read the sort of memoir you wrote, briefly. Your short memoir about your time at war.

PM: I tried to stay away from the gruesome stuff.

SY: Yeah, but I think it's important to sort of -- you know, to talk about it. Just sort of talk about what every day was like and what sticks with you. What sticks with you now? What -- do you think about your time at war now and throughout your life, did you?

PM: Not really. No. Just another episode. Once in a while, you can't help but go back. But after the war, there were about eight officers in our unit, and we had a -- the original 106th was Illinois National Guard -- that's where they started. And they had a reunion every year, and we went to the reunions for about three years. And finally decided that it made more sense for us to get a group of the officers together, because half of the enlisted men we didn't even know. And they were having a good time, but we didn't want to invade their fun. So what happened was eight officers, a couple who were in our squadron and a couple that were in the other -- there were two squadrons. And we would meet in California, Texas, Kansas. I had them to my summer home in Maine twice, and usually wives were, are all part of it. So we had a nice good time. They're all dead now.

SY: It sounds like in some ways, the most intense experience was in late September at the Foret de Parroy. Am I pronouncing that right?

PM: Oh yeah, Foret de Parroy. That was a tough one.

SY: Do you want to talk about that?

PM: Well, I think I mentioned the minefields.

SY: Yeah, but why don't -- I mean, I've read the description, but people who are going to be reading the oral history won't have. So what happened there?

PM: Well, we as a recon unit, were asked to take the left side of the woods, and 79th Infantry had the rest of it. It was one muddy road and fortunately, the tanks could maneuver in the light wooded area. So we find our own. But it was dense wooded, rainy, mud, and the Germans were shooting into the trees. So the shrapnel was coming down on you from wherever. And the minefields were never laid in any rational form, you just didn't know. And I don't know if I mentioned, but I called one of my tank commanders and asked him to go to headquarters for the recon group. Because we were all -- five or six tanks were all here in a line. And he jumped off the tank and right on a mine, and dead just like that. And the same -- the next day, we called on the radio and said, well, it's a minefield we're in. We need the engineers to come down with the magnetic mine finders, and they came down. And had fire breaks, and they found a way to get in. But they get there and they tripped one of these what they called a Bouncing Betties, and the shrapnel goes out at three feet. I think a dozen of them were down. And I had to go with a knife blade on hands and knees to crawl in there, with a doctor behind me. And I did a lot of the shots while he was cutting off legs and obviously tourniquetting, and Novocain for pain, and then whatever else we could do. We saved them all, but it was -- it was a messy ordeal. Fortunately, we got -- we were able to get them on stretchers, and put them on the back of the tanks and get them out of there. So anyway, we were all alive, but not in good shape.

SY: And it sounds like a bunch of your sergeants asked to be relieved, what was that?

SY: Yeah, two of my National Guard guys. Well, this was toward the end of that month in the woods. And these were big stoic National Guard from Illinois, and I thought one was my sergeant major and the other was a sergeant. Surprisingly to me, they came one day and said, lieutenant, we've had it. We just can't handle it anymore. And I thought these guys would be sturdy and strong, and I was wrong. But I told them there's no -- if you're not up to it, you're -- got the shakes, you're not gonna do me any good.

SY: Did they have the shakes?

PM: Yeah, there was -- kind of think they just couldn't handle it anymore.

SY: And had they been there a long time?

PM: Well, they'd been with us all the way through to that point.

SY: And had they --

PM: But they were in the National Guard for years before. So I thought, you know, these are guys that know it and have been promoted up the ranks. Ones I was not expecting to lose. But I replaced them with corporals and made them -- and they stayed with me the rest of the war.

SY: And did the sergeants get sent home? Was it shell-shock? Was it --

PM: I never knew what they -- I wasn't gonna follow. They weren't shell-shocked, but they were just at the point of no return, I guess, best way of stating it.

SY: I know, you know, it's much more common to talk about the difficulties of combat and the aftermath, but your generation doesn't talk about it that much. It wasn't something that you guys talked about with each other, and it doesn't sound like you really have lasting effects from that difficult time.

PM: I don't think so. I would say that on all of the gatherings we had -- the eight officers, we never refought the war. We never get into that. We talked about things of our present day life, family, and just enjoyed each other's company socially.

SY: OK. So then it sounds like you moved through, then around the Battle of the Bulge, what happened?

PM: They -- by that time, we were -- then our whole corps had moved, the 7th Army. Seventh was the Army that came up from the South. And they had a couple of corps, and they split us off from Patton, and we moved. So 3rd and 7th ran parallel through France and most of Germany, but when the Bulge hit, they were the closest. So two of their armored divisions and the recon -- similar to our recon, they moved north and went, I guess, 40 or 50 miles. We had to fill that gap they left, and we had to spread our troops out, and that's what we did. And I was in touch -- one of the four officers that had gone to Fort Knox from Norwich with me, Hal [Solon?] was in that armored group -- recon group. And I sent him a note, and he was already -- he had lost a leg, and was already on his way home. So I got a note back when it caught up with him, what had happened. So he never got up to the Bulge, he had already gotten -- but I saw him afterwards. He was active with Norwich after the war. He did fine.

SY: And then it sounds like, you know, by spring, the tide has turned, right? And you're having very different experiences, all of these sort of bizarre experiences that make for good stories, right? Like, rescuing the king of Belgium.

PM: Well, that was the end. And that was a happenstance and -- because the town of Strobl was -- we were told to stop here in St. Gilgen, the town of Strobl was eight miles down on the lake. And this was a gorgeous lake, about 10-12 miles long. Across from where we were in St. Gilgen, was six-seven foot high mountains. Gorgeous scenery, and Wolfgangsee was where we were. And Wolfgang town was down here, and Strobl was here, and we were here. And these -- two of the prince in Teylingen, bicycled up to St. Gilgen on an afternoon. And we were staying in this hotel, which obviously, we took over. And they come up on the porch, and we offered them a scotch. And they, sure, that'd be nice. But our mission is we want you to come to Strobl and liberate us. We've got a lousy mayor who's a tough Nazi, and he's made it -- made life miserable in the community. So we said, well, we don't have any orders. But we said, well, maybe it doesn't matter. We'll just get four officers, and we'll take my tank, and we'll just go out it. At dark, got out of the motor pool. And since we're officers, we tell the guards what we're -- where we're going. So we did. Out we went about 10 o'clock, and about 11 or before that, we arrive. And they met us at the entrance of the town. It took us right to the mayor's office, where -- but it was really fun because one of the officers had been translating for the -- some part of the government. Translating German and French, censoring material. So he could speak better German. I could speak German, but not that well. And so Nat hopped out and told the mayor that he was a no-good son of a gun, and he was through. He was our prisoner, and we were liberating the town. But the whole town was out in their pajamas having a real celebration. And then they had a nice -- Teylingen had a lovely party for us. And I think we mentioned it --

SY: Because it was you or the Russians, right? In terms of getting liberated.

PM: Well, the Russians would've gotten there if we hadn't gotten there.

SY: And so the town was hoping it was the Americans not the Russians.

SY: Oh, they certainly didn't want the Russians. And we did send a couple officers to meet the Russians. I don't know exactly where they did, but they did meet them and got drunk on vodka. But so I can't remember exactly how far they were from. But we then learned about Leopold the next day, and that's how that all --

SY: So then you already had done one thing without orders, and then you did the next thing without orders, right?

PM: Well, we didn't take the tank the next day. We took that Von Ribbentrop's six-wheel Mercedes, the staff car. All full leather seats, a gun rack in the assistant driver. The driver was on the left side, same as our cars. Not like the English. And had a rifle rack right there for the assistant. And then you could have five seats in the back to (inaudible) [00:34:20], and beautiful. And we went to Prince Von Furstenberg's house. First thing he asked about 10:30, can I get you a drink? And we had Bloody Marys, and sat there and talked, and his mother came out. And [Gerhard?] was a real gentleman, and we did see him after the war. We went back again 30 years, and he as in Vienna then, and he came out to have a reunion with us.

SY: This was the Prince of Belgium?

PM: He was the Prince of Austria, the Von Furstenberg family, famous family. He had been fighting on the Russian front, and he'd come back -- by that time, he'd come back.

SY: Fight with?

PM: With German. He had a fight with a German Army against the Russians.

SY: Right. So it's odd that you were --

PM: He was out of the army by then, and back in Vienna. But he had a summer home in Strobl, and that's how he -- I don't know whether he was injured or what, but he had the -- something happened, because he had been in the fight earlier. So --

SY: Was it strange to spend time with somebody who had been on the other side?

PM: Oh no, he was in -- he wouldn't have been -- he wouldn't have been in the Army if he hadn't been force to be. That, he wouldn't. It's when Germany took over Austria.

SY: Yeah, yeah, the Anschluss. And then there are some other things that were really interesting. First of all, you talk about hearing about Dachau.

PM: We sent one our men to go to Dachau.

SY: And then when he came back, did he report to you?

PM: To tell us what he saw, and the horrible scenes that he saw. I have no interest in going, because I knew -- and couple of places we found -- graves with 20-30 people. They hadn't been buried, they just laid in the graves. So we saw enough of that without even -- for me, wanting to go.

SY: So you weren't surprised to hear about the concentration camps?

PM: No, no. We knew about that before. You know, we were well aware of the horribleness of the Holocaust. The genocide, if you will.

SY: Because people back in the US didn't really know yet about the Holocaust.

PM: No, they didn't. I guess they didn't realize it. I -- maybe they didn't publicize it, but of course, I was here and knew about it. And there were more than a few, because they were in Poland and Germany. What was it, six million Jews that they killed?

SY: At least six million. And then there were -- and then, you know, there were other groups that they killed as well. So we don't know the total new number. So I'm wondering if there were any other distinctive memories of your time in Europe that you sort of want to get in the record. Have we talked about the highlights? Are there any other sort of, you know, critically important moments?

PM: Well, there were a lot of them important moments when I got hit -- when my tank got hit with a 75 shell, bounced off, didn't hurt us. But if I'd stayed there any longer, the second shell would've gotten me. You know, we had close calls like that. And mines were really the worst, because we could find the fighting units, the guns, and avoid them if we could. But the mines, you just had to be on the alert, and suspect that this might be a place that -- fortunately, my recon guys were pretty sharp. And we noticed areas and checked them before we just ran over them. And so -- but I lost two tanks to mines, teller mines. And both cases, my guys lost their legs, because the whole plate of armor came -- folded right up, and just cut them off here. But we, again, saved them and -- with plasma and tourniquets. And I went to visit one of them after the war, and he was already outfitted with a brand-new Oldsmobile. You didn't need any feet, you could do everything from the hydra-matic drive. And so he was -- he had been a truck driver, and he was -- but my -- I had one episode when -- I don't know if I mentioned in there, when we were attacking the town, and one trooper cavalry was on the hardpan road. And we had gone up the back woods overlooking the town from another direction. We thought we'd coordinate two troops with -- and they got stopped by a road block that they couldn't penetrate. And they were fighting, and we jumped off from the woods. Turned out, the field was mud, and two of the tanks just went right in the mud. Couldn't go, they got stuck. My tank, I just told my driver, I said, George, take your hands off the laterals. Don't try to control it. Just keep the full speed. And it kept moving, and we did get to the one single road across. Fortunately, I did, because I had a platoon of the recon troops who had taken over some trenches close to the town. But they had kicked the Germans out of it and taken over, but they needed someone there to support them. So I had to stay there for about five hours, and the Germans were shooting at me. And I bet at least I had 200 rounds shot at me, but we kept moving the tank. Didn't keep it in one place. And I was firing up where I knew they were shooting. So they claim I might have gotten one of the guns. I don't know, never would worry about that. But I stayed with them until dark. When they withdrew, I withdrew. So we saved them. They --

SY: What happened to the two tanks that got stuck in the mud?

PM: When I -- I called them on the radio and told them to abandon, but put grenades in the gun and blow the guns. So they were disabled. After the war, they were still there. Still there for -- I don't know where they are now.

SY: Did you go -- did you see them? Did you go back to Europe and see them?

PM: I didn't go back. We went back 30 years later, but someone who had been there said the tanks were there. But they were no -- well, they were no good, because the guns were ruined.

SY: Right, you disabled them. I wonder how they got rid of those tanks. I wonder how they moved them eventually.

PM: Well, they had to wait until there was solid ground, and they'd have to go in with a crane and pull them out. But -- so they might be in a museum somewhere around.

SY: They might. Who knows? Do you think you were a good leader, and do you think Norwich prepared you well for war?

PM: Oh, I think Norwich -- everything regarding the military and Norwich was fine and appropriate for what we needed as officers going into combat. We had --- even though we were on horseback, we still had a lot of background and realized what was involved in fighting. And so I have no bad feelings at all about anything that I learned at Norwich. I think I could put it to use and --

SY: And do you think you were a good leader and a good officer?

PM: Well, I ended up as a captain, so I didn't -- and I couldn't get promoted. Because at the time when I was a platoon leader -- because we had three platoons, 17 tanks, and each platoon was assigned to one recon troop. So when they were out -- I usually was B Troop because I was 2nd Platoon. But the company commander and the exec officer never fought. My tank company, they were at headquarters all the time. They never were fighting and -- because 1st Platoon was A Troop, 2nd Platoon -- B Troop, and C Troop, and they -- we never fought as a tank company. So they just were -- but there were no promotions either. You couldn't get to be the company commander because -- but in the econ troops, there was movement, because they can move to headquarters. And from -- and a number of them did. They could go from captain to major, and be at headquarters in another role. And then -- and that's what happened in B Troop. Lieutenant Bennett, who was with me -- who I fought with, he got promoted to captain when his company commander moved to headquarters. But there was no movement in the tank.

SY: No, that makes sense. So let's talk about -- because I know, you know, we don't have endless time. So let's talk about you getting home and what it was like. First of all, did you -- what made you decide to leave the Army?

PM: I didn't.

SY: You didn't?

PM: I didn't. I stayed in the Reserve.

SY: Oh, you did. OK. But you didn't want to be career Army?

PM: Oh no. I had no idea of career Army.

SY: What was you thinking about that?

PM: Well, I had no intent, but since I was in the Reserve, I was part of a tank battalion that met in Stanford, Connecticut every two weeks. And I was serving -- well, I was a captain, but I was serving in a major's role. And we did training, and we did -- and I was in until '51, I guess it was. So I was still active. But right in the middle of that the Korean War was just getting going. Two business came to me and asked me to go to Washington on a dollar a year assignment to handle the tool and die industry. They hadn't had a director of the tooling industry in World War II. They'd had machine tools and related, but they never had tool and die. And then they realized that they needed that because there were about 3,000 tool and die shops, and those tools were put on machine tools. So you can't have a machine tool, you got to put the molds and dies in the fixtures. So because I would -- I had finished -- I had gone back to MIT after the war. Because I had advanced degrees -- these businessmen who ran beautiful businesses, you know, had come through apprentice route, didn't have college background. They felt they wanted a -- should have a college person down there. So I ended up doing it for a year, and it that was what I called a graduate degree in government. You learned about Washington. I was there five days a week. Came home Friday night, flew back, and then went to my office all day Saturday and Sunday morning. Got on the Sunday night train out of Bridgeport, got into Washington Monday morning at 7:00, and went right to the office.

SY: That sounds exhausting.

PM: Well, it was so -- it was a busy year.

SY: Did you have a family at that point?

PM: I had one son, and a wife, and a little house here in Fairfield close to water -- and very pleasant. And she had her own car, and we had two cars. And -- but most the time, she drove me to the station, and then she'd pick me up in Newark when I flew back. So bring the youngster down with us. But --

SY: Oh, sorry.

PM: Go ahead.

SY: When you first came back, what was it like to adjust to civilian life again?

PM: Well, it was -- I had 90 days of leave. I got out of -- I had to go back to Massachusetts at the camp -- oh, I forget. And we had to go back there to bust her out. But -- and my sister drove up and picked me up. And I was engaged at the time, and by February, I got married. And we took a week's long honeymoon down south and visited some of the World War II officers I had served with. And then a week later, I was at MIT, and grad work for two years. And my wife and I lived in Boston in Needham, and she went to Boston University and took courses. So -- and then we had our -- we had our first son in the last semester of the second year. And -- but I had the company business where I had agreed to join the business when I was in the war. My brother -- four years older, had come back. He was in ordinance in India, and he was a major, and they sent him back to command school in Leavenworth to become a lieutenant colonel. But while he was back, he took time and took a look at our factory and what was going on. And he wrote me a -- about a 10 page letter describing what's happening, and inviting me to consider joining him as a partner if I was interested.

SY: And was it -- had it been your father's business?

PM: My father was the president of the business, and -- not the major owner, but he had three other owners. And what happened was I got the letter when I was in heavy combat, and I couldn't even read it for a couple of days. But then eventually I got around to answering it, and then right after, I got another letter. And I said, you know, I think two things. I've got to go back and go to MIT, and get up to date on business management and engineering. And then if I do that, I'm willing to join you, but I want equal ownership and I want equal salary, but I don't care about titles. But he was senior, and it worked for 45 years.

SY: And over the course of your career, you witnessed, you know, the decline of American manufacturing. How did that affect your business and --

PM: Well, our business was -- well, I'd been out 25 years now. But the second generation -- my son who died, and my nephew who still runs the business, we didn't just -- we bought another business in Bridgeport and merged the two. And then started a whole new technology business in New Hampshire, which is doing fine. And the -- what's left here in Bridgeport is 20 percent of what it was, but the New Hampshire business has been booming. Mostly Asia and Europe, 25 percent here in America, but 50 percent at least, Asia and 25 here. And we have another third business out in New York State, and that's in small tools, and that's doing fine. And I had a business in Mexico for a while, and I started one in Canada for a while. They both -- I gave one away, and the other one just finishing up after 65 years. Winding it down, so that's gone. But the businesses are fine, and fourth generation is in it. My grand-nephews are now in their late 30s, early 40s, and they're digging in. So things have done very well. I'm out of it completely other than just life insurance -- should be.

SY: So let's talk about Norwich. So when did you start getting -- when did you get on the board of trustees, and why did you want to back in -- you know, involved with Norwich again?

PM: Well, when I was at Norwich, in addition to being president of the class and valedictorian -- as I told you, I was one of the trouble makers. With the fraternities, the old rules were that the freshmen would pay for the orchestra for carnival week, but not be allowed to attend. And I, for one, said that's nonsense. Either you let us in the fraternities before carnival week, or we're not about to pay a couple thousand dollars for a New York orchestra coming up for you guys to have a good time. Well, they didn't think that was -- the class ahead, who became juniors, they -- us -- they agreed to change the fraternity rushing to November. In fact, around Thanksgiving or after Thanksgiving. But they wouldn't rush the class after us, because we screwed it up. So they didn't want us. But -- and one of my father's business partners was SigEp, and he wanted me to go to SigEp. And -- but these guys were, we don't want you guys. Eventually, they invited me to Theta Chi, and I was happy. Then I became president of Theta Chi. And then later, I was president of the inter-fraternity counsel, which was quite a turnaround from screwing them up three years before. Anyway, I enjoyed it, but I -- we had bought land with Theta Chi across from where SigEp -- is where the president lives now. We had -- and Theta Chi is over there -- a new house. We were in an old three story big house on Central Avenue. We had the money and bought the land. And when I came back from the war, I wanted to find out what happened to the funds we had. Well, they had screwed around with it, and we raised hell. And finally they got back on track, and began to put some money aside and build a house. So I stayed with it. And for some reason or another, I stayed in the alumni association, but I was not president of it. I was vice president at the time. When typically, the president was invited to the board as one of the alumni, and Harmon asked me to do it rather than the president. Which was a little embarrassing. So I can came on for a five year stint. And then -- I don't know exactly what day it was, but 1970 was when I took over as chairman. And --

SY: And what was going on at Norwich in 1970?

PM: Well, Harmon was the president. And at that time, we didn't have ladies in the corps, and Vermont College was independent. So a lot of things were -- I think we were 600 or so cadets, and now horses -- tanks were replacing the horses. And Norwich had built several new buildings, it was making good progress. The upper campus was -- I don't --

SY: And then Hart became president.

PM: Well, Harmon -- this was let's see, 70 --

SY: Was is Hamlett after Harmon?

PM: Hamlett came first. Harmon stayed until '65, and then the Vietnam War was a big factor.

SY: And how did that change the climate of campus?

PM: Well, I wouldn't say it -- we had to elect -- Harmon had -- I think had 15 years or whatever, and he wanted out. And we were able to get a four-star general, Hamlett, who was vice chief of staff of the Army, and a wonderful man. And -- but it was Harmon -- oh, and Bill Adams, who was chairman of the board, and Louie Cavat of the Cavat family. They left the board meeting when Bill Adams said, it's my turn to step down. So the three of them became a nominating committee of whatever we had -- 25 member board. They came back and selected me. I don't know why, because there were military officers there. There were others -- guys that --

SY: So what role -- so the Todds say you played a really critical role in kind of keeping Norwich together in hard times. So can you talk about those hard times and --

PM: Well, that was the Vietnam War, for one. And when Barksdale Hamlett had cancer in the back, and he had to leave for health reasons. It was a hell of job finding a replacement. Who in the Vietnam era at '72, wanted to be president of a military college. And we had search committee, a good search committee, and one was lieutenant general. We -- but he wasn't -- he said he's not up to doing that job. He was a good, wonderful person. And we interviewed a number of people, but military people weren't interested. So we came back to Loring Hart, who was head of the English department. And I had a difficult time -- one thing, the chairman and the president have got to have a good rapport. You got to work together, and got to understand each other. And Hamlett and I had had excellent communication, and there was never any problems. And he knew that I wouldn't interfere with his role, and I knew where the limits were. And faculty often would come to me and ask -- I'm not gonna bypass the president. You go there, not to me. And I told him explicitly and a matter of fact, I met the whole -- the staff faculty senate and told them. I'm not interfering with pay scales or tenure or anything, that's not my role. So we made that clear and -- but finding a new president, Loring was the best we could do. Well, you're on your way.

SY: Nice meeting you.

PM: OK. She's out to dinner. So that was an awkward period, and Loring was -- he wasn't good at selecting --

F1: Your car is blocking me.

SY: Oh no. No problem, let me move it.

F1: I should have thought of that sooner.

PM: Anyway --

SY: So yeah, so what happened under Loring Hart?

PM: Loring was a wonderful person, but difficult in selecting subordinance, putting them in the role. And that was true all the way through. And I just don't think he was a good enough administrator. At one point, I told him he had to go to -- back to -- I'm trying to think, the American -- anyway, they have courses for corporate executives. I said, you got to go to one of these for at least a week, and get some background in executive authority. And he did, because I lectured him time and again. You've got to get the right people in the right positions who are qualified to do what needs to be done. And you can't just select people because you like them. You got to know what they're capable of. So he got the message, and he did it, he went to San Francisco to let's see, American Association of whatever. I had been to courses up in New York State for corporate executives, and they were wonderful. They really helped you. And I met some Fortune 500 companies heads there. Made longtime friends with them. Anyway, we got that done, but at the end of eight years, we -- by then we had brought women into the corps. And that meant, you know, we had to clean out our barracks and allow that strictly for women, and we had to integrate them. And then Vermont College got in trouble, they didn't have sufficient endowment. And the president decided he was ready to leave, so there wasn't any conflict. And it made sense to us to merge with them, so we went through that merger during Loring's administration. And again, that was difficult because we had to change key people over there. And two or three times, he made the wrong choices. But finally at the end of eight years, I talked to the executive committee and said I think it's time we begin looking for a new president. Obviously, he and his wife resisted very much.

SY: And were probably hurt.

PM: Oh yeah, yeah. And -- but I said for the good of the university, we got to do -- got to do something. And it took two years to flush it out. And we were in the executive committee meeting in Boston, at the Ritz, and we had a vote. And the vote was that -- I don't know but the executive committee was probably 11 people then, and only one voted for him. And then we decided we needed to get a new president, and we had already had a search committee. And we had identified Russ Todd as the potential. And I can remember at that -- after we had made the decision on Loring, and we already had looked at and settled on five candidates, that Russ Todd was the best. And we went through a very rigorous procedure of criteria -- and of his background. And then also laid out an eight-point plan that he had to agree to as far as running Norwich, and what had to be done.

SY: It seems like you two worked very well together.

PM: We did. Yeah. The same with Barksdale Hamlett.

SY: So what enabled you and Russ Todd to work so well together?

PM: Well, because he knew right from the start that we had laid out what he had had to agree to to become president. And he didn't mince any words, he was very forthright about everything he did. Russ, you could depend on, no BS, he told you right straightforward how he felt and what he would like. And -- but as I said at the outset, you got to have a relationship --

SY: And he said, you know, that he'd call you and you'd talk for an hour -- for hours, and you'd give him advice. So what advice were you giving him? How did you sort of --

PM: Well, I can't tell you that, could I?

SY: You can't tell me that.

PM: Well, I don't know because whatever the issue was --

SY: And then how did -- it seems like Norwich got back on its feet, so what happened? How did it get back on its feet?

PM: Well, one thing we -- when I finished as chairman, we really went after campaign fundraising. We had very little endowment back in the early days. The first job I took as I stepped down as chairman was a 16 million dollar fundraising drive to get us launched, and we did. We raised that 16. And then we had a very strong investment committee with Fred Weintz because of his Goldman Sachs background. He had connections and contacts, and so we were doing a thorough job of investment management. You know, using the right resources, and then continuing. And now -- of course, back then -- it was 40 years ago, we started doing that. A dollar is a little different today. And the new generation of business leaders and Norwich grads are much better off. And --

SY: So, I'm just wondering -- you know, I didn't ask you at the beginning of the interview why you decided to go to Norwich, but that question connects to sort of why does Norwich mean so much to you? You've dedicated a lot of your life and time to the institution. So why? What's special about it?

PM: What's -- two things that started me, my family and my high school principal, Dr. -- Mr. Hedges. His sister was the registrar at Norwich. And I had grown up with horses. Two things. They felt I needed discipline, and I enjoyed the horse life. And I played polo with Norwich and things. So I -- and they had a good chemical program. And one of my dad's partners had suggested that maybe chemistry was a good start, because he had done a lot of work for DuPont. Knew about them, and said, maybe. So I said, well, why don't I take a chemistry course, and Norwich has a good one. And so the combination of all three.

SY: Yeah, sure. But then why did Norwich continue to be meaningful in your life? A lot of people are like, yeah, I went to school there, who cares. But you really dedicated a lot time to it, so what is special about the institution?

PM: Well, I think everything is special. Particularly, to see it prosper and grow, and begin to really have a place in the academic world -- strong place, and one you can be proud of. And comparing to Citadel and VMI and Texas A&M, and not -- nobody -- the officers that I was with in the service were Texas A&M. So they all were cavalry background too. So we had a lot of commonality. But just to -- well, the fraternity was one thing, and when we got rid of the fraternities, Harmon was still there. He called me on the phone and asked me to -- his -- my advice about the fraternities. And since I'd been head of the counsel and head of the Theta Chi, I said, well, sympathize what you're saying -- because they were disregarding the discipline. So I went up to Norwich and went to Theta Chi unannounced, and just observed and talked to few of the cadets. I called Harmon and said, I'm with you, let them go. They're a distraction for the university. And they did, and I'm still on Theta Chi's list because it's the Alpha Chapter. And I had given them some money, but I don't now.

SY: How do you feel about Norwich as it is today? It's very different than it was then. I know some alumni aren't thrilled about there being civilians on campus and things like that. How do you feel about all that?

PM: Well, I helped the merger, so I was there as part of -- and a lot of -- well, first, VC was in trouble. When we merged it, we were not planning to bring it over to the campus. But it became obvious after a few years that us commuting back and forth from classes and all of that, just you better have one campus, because you're not that huge a school. And I was happy at the second civilian dorm was finished -- 285 people, so that's pretty good size. And I also -- you know, this -- our society is not just the military. And I'm happy that we have civilians, but I think because of our military program and honor code and discipline, it rubs off on the rest of them. I think it makes them better than -- better students and better people, and their -- the value system.

SY: Interesting. I don't know if I have any other questions for you. Anything you want to add?

PM: Oh, I had not planned -- when I took the job, I -- usually, it's a five year term. And I had another board member whose father had been to Norwich, and White Chapel was -- that's the father that -- a name for him. And Bill White was a year behind me, and he was on the board then -- replaced his father. And I think we all agreed that Bill would be the next one to follow me. And I -- because I think because of his father's background and all of that, he thought maybe he would be the selected one, and he wasn't when Harmon and the others asked me to do it. But I said to him, five years is fine. He came down with cancer with four years later, and was out of it within a couple years -- he died. So then I was in deep trouble with Loring and getting into that part. Then we were into the school mergers and the women combat. Things were just ramping up, but we managed. But again, I say it's a relationship, and we had some wonderful people on the board that -- Walter Juckett who was vice chair with me. And I was a member of his foundation, and we ended with -- he had some stock in foreign companies that he'd gotten almost gratis -- Finland, Sweden, Norway, Canada, in the wood industry. And when either Goldman Sachs or someone went over and evaluated the value of all of what they all had, they came up to many millions. And when they were bought out, that went into the foundation. And when I was having lunch with Walter in Boston one day, I said, what do you think the foundation -- a portion was coming to Norwich. Oh, he said, probably a million. It ended up to be four or five million, because he had no idea what they were gonna pay. What they'd appraised it for and what it was sold for. So I stayed on his board, and he was in foundry and machine building for the paper industry. And I had a commonality of interest, and -- but Walter and I were just very good, good friends. And he was just a wonderful person, and I could go on with anecdotes about Walter. But we did a lot of things together, including lunch at the Waldorf. And when he went to Waldorf, the waiter came in, said, oh, Mr. Juckett, you want this kind of bread? And he didn't come there every day, he -- but he was very specific about what he wanted to eat. I can remember that. But anyway, those were little anecdotes of life with -- and John Charles Daly, who was on the board -- he was "What's My Line?" He was on TV. You remember that name? Goes back, you know --

SY: I think it's before my time.

PM: -- 35 years. How old are you now?

SY: Thirty-six.

PM: Yeah, see that goes back. He was television "What's My Line?", and he was on the board of Norwich by virtue of one of the trustees. He was chairman of the -- of a boys' school in New Hampshire, and that person recommended him to come on the board, and we became close friends. And I played golf with him down in Washington where he lived. And his wife was the daughter of the former chief of Supreme Court justice, but that was his daughter. But he was -- you know, his English language was perfect for (inaudible) [01:23:19]. And he just -- he was very serious about important things, but he was just full of fun when you got through all the heavy business. He just had a good time. So --

SY: So you had a good time on the board?

PM: Yeah. Those were the kind of -- but we had a 30 member board. We brought six from VC onto the board, and they were good people. Then we had -- well, we had a lovely group of women on the board, who -- one was a lawyer in Washington, who -- topnotch person. We had --

SY: Were you involved in the decision to sell VC eventually?

PM: Oh, that was over -- past my time. With -- once we moved over here, there was no reason not to sell it, and it was sold to good people. So there was no question about -- it was great property. And if someone who -- from Cincinnati --

SY: Well, they actually sold it just, you know, 10 years later -- less than 10 years later. But it's doing fine now, because it's now independent, Vermont College of Fine Arts.

PM: Yeah, I don't know what it is now.

SY: Yes, Vermont College of Fine Arts, it's actually doing very well. But Union Institute, that was short lived and not actually great, but --

PM: We also took part of the Marshfield College --

SY: Goddard.

PM: Goddard. We took the graduate program from Goddard, and they were unionized. And we got rid of the union, brought those professors over, and they were excellent professors. They were topnotch people.

SY: And they were at VC.

PM: At VC?

SY: Yeah.

PM: Yeah, but they wanted out of Goddard too.

SY: They did, because it was so unstable.

PM: Well, it was a commune.

SY: Well, actually, because I've interviewed a bunch of them, they didn't -- they -- a lot of them believed in Goddard's educational vision, but it wasn't economically sustainable for them and their families.

PM: But they lived out in the woods with a -- I went to the campus, and I agreed that they wanted to keep their undergrad program. Yeah, that's fine. And it fitted for a certain type of people, so I was happy with that.

SY: Sounds like a lot of really important decisions were made during your tenure on the board.

PM: Well, I think it eventually stabilized. And in perspective looking back at it, it's hard to know how we would have done it differently in light of the circumstances. Vermont's a little different state than some others, you know? Not an easy state to do things in. So you have to put that in reasonable relationship to everything else that happened. But it -- you know, it's a changing society. It's a changing technology, which I used to be involved with. When I think back when I finished work, and where the technology is today, and then when you think of the social media that all you guys fool around with -- iPhones and oh, whatcha -- Twitter and Facebook and -- you know, I say fine, that's -- social media's great. It's done a lot of business and advertising and all that. I personally prefer person-to-person discussion, either a small group or big group. I don't want to be texting -- driving along, texting. That's not -- you know, I'm not gonna do that. Period. I have a cellphone, and I don't use it much, but I have it for safety if I need it. But when you're 93, you don't --

SY: You're certainly not gonna text and drive when you're 93.

PM: I still drive, but I wonder whether I should sometimes when you get on the road. The way people cut you off and zoom, zoom.

SY: Yeah, it's a fast part of world too. All right, well speaking of person-to-person contact, let's let you get to your dinner with your neighbor.

PM: Well, yeah.