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Milton J. Silverman oral history interview, August 27, 1996

Date: Aug. 27 1996 | Identifier: OH0154
In this interview, Commander Silverman reviews his background, describes his experience at Pearl Harbor aboard the USS MONTGOMERY during the Japanese attack, and comments on subsequent minelaying duties. He also describes putting the USS ROSS in commission as its executive officer and participating in shore bombardments throughout the South Pacific. Other comments concern his ship hitting two mines at Leyte Gulf, efforts to repair the ROSS in a floating drydock, and a kamikaze attack upon the drydock. He also reports on the repairs to the ROSS, its action at Iwo Jima, going ashore at Tokyo, and showing the flag in China as commander of the USS VAMMEN. Interviewer: Donald R. Lennon. more...



EAST CAROLINA MANUSCRIPT COLLECTION
ORAL HISTORY INTERVIEW
ORAL HISTORY INTERVIEW
Commander Milton J. Silverman
Interview Conducted in San Diego, California
August 27, 1996
Interview #1

Milton J. Silverman:

I was born in Denver, Colorado back in 1917. I lived there until I graduated from South Denver High School. How did I become interested in the Naval Academy? Well, up the street, doors away there was a young fellow, Paul Combs. He was a stepson of, well I guess he was a son, anyway he was somebody's son that lived there. I never quite did get the connection.

One day I guess I was in the middle of my high school years, and I saw him walking down the street. He was wearing this nice looking uniform, and I said, “Paul, what is that?” In fact, I think he is still around somewhere. I see him in Shipmate every once in awhile. He would have been about four or five years ahead of me.

So he told me that day on the street that he was in the Naval Academy. I had never heard of the Naval Academy, and so I asked him a little bit about it. He told me where it was, what they did, and everything. I said, “How do you get in?”



He said, “Well you get an appointment, or you can even enlist in the Navy and take exams. If you pass the exams, then you probably will get to go.” I thought, that that sounded great. So when I got through high school, I joined the Navy in Denver, came out to San Diego here, and went through boot camp.

They sent me to the Fire Control School at the base after I got through boot camp; I was an honor man there. I was really a sharp cookie in those days. Then they sent me to USS NEW MEXICO battleship, and it was a fairly new battleship for those days. I was put into something called an X division, and I thought that I didn't really want to learn about how to swab decks. I wanted to go down to the F division to the plotting room, preferably. It was the only air-conditioned room on the ship. It was available until midnight, which meant that I could turn on the nice lights and study.

So I got into the F division and spent some nights until midnight studying my books. I had three young tutors, ensigns (jgs). They'd give me projects to write about or to do some things. They sort of guided me and let me know what was going on. Later I then took the exam aboard ship knowing I would have been too old to go to the prep school. If I was a one shot deal, I'd either pass there and go straight from the Fleet, or I would not. Meanwhile I made third class petty officer, which was pretty good in those days.

Donald R. Lennon:

Promotions were few and far between.

Milton J. Silverman:

Yes, we had to ship over to get a badge. Admiral Buchanan--who just died--was my Division Officer, when he was a Lieutenant. Anyway, gosh, they put the word out to come to the wardroom and take the exam. Around seventy people showed up. I think they were sort of curious to see what was going on, and I think at the end of the morning



session they were about five of us left. We wound up with about five, as I recall. Bob Dart and I both passed and went to the Naval Academy. Bob died just a few years ago. He lived up in Oregon. I never ran across him in the Naval Academy much. He was in a different battalion. He wasn't in the same platoon, so I never really saw him. I lost track of him in the Navy. He was a really nice guy, but I didn't see him at the 45th reunion. It was a nice reunion, which we had here in San Diego. It was a beautiful affair.

I don't remember particular stories there in the Naval Academy. It was hard work though. I wanted to make sure I passed everything. Also, I was not particularly athletic, but I really enjoyed it and looked forward to it.

Donald R. Lennon:

What did you think of the means of instruction?

Milton J. Silverman:

Well it was different from anything I ever envisioned, but somehow we taught ourselves. That is what it amounted to. I can remember a few lectures and some civilian professors. Alan Blow Cook is a name I remember. Like in my high school I probably remember only two names: Mrs. Arenson and Miss Gardner; real teachers.

Alan Blow Cook was a civilian, and he knew his stuff. However, I don't really recall anything except going to the boards, doing our chalk work, and working problems. Then we did our drafting stuff. We were taught orthographic projections and then we were just expected to do them. So, it was very adequate. I got an engineering degree, and I feel that I've got a good engineering background. I understand everything there is to know about physics. But, I don't know a damn thing about chemistry, although we were taught chemistry. I guess it's what you really relate to that you remember. I always have enjoyed physics, structures, things and forces--things of that nature.



I've always been sort of inventive too. I received a couple of U.S. patents, as a matter-of-fact, when I went to my first ship the MONTGOMERY; there was a light mine layer, an old four piper in Pearl Harbor, and we had depth charges like everybody else. I figured, “God if I ever sunk a submarine...” So I invented what they call an automatic mooring board, which was really a director for submarines. It was incorporated in some of the devices of the Mark One Computers, all electromechanical. I didn't even know about electronics, because that hadn't come along. So I drew up plans for it and a description of it. It made sense to me. I then sent it back to Washington and received a nice letter from the Chief of Naval Operations thanking me for it. A couple of years after that, by the end of the war, they had the electronics pretty well in hand. This made that much more of a practical thing than an electromechanical thing. So at any rate, a mooring board--I don't know if you know what they are but, you use them in navigation to get to a certain spot where other things are moving. This just did it for us. We got inputs automatically from the speed of the ship, and we got to set the depth that we wanted the depth charge to go off near the sinking time. The mooring board also tracked the speed of the ship, speed of the submarine, and estimated the course of the submarine.

At any rate, I was at Pearl Harbor aboard the MONTGOMERY the morning that the Japanese attacked. I was there with Bill Shifflett. I was the youngest officer on the ship, a junior officer and probably the youngest. Bill was a couple of years ahead of me. I was sleeping in, and it was about eight o'clock in the morning. I woke up hearing this bang, bang, bang over at Ford Island. I looked over there and saw these puffs of smoke. I thought, “gee, they have ammunition over there.” I thought that probably one of them got set off, and it just started setting off the others. Then the general alarm signal was



sounding, and the young sailor up there on watch was sort of frantic. “General Quarters! General Quarters!” I could tell from the voice that it was something very unusual, so I ran out topside. First, I strapped on my sidearm, which we were supposed to do in those days and ran out topside. I looked up. There comes a Zero right over us, or not a Zero; it was some kind of a plane with big meatballs. It looked like we could touch it. The officers were ashore, and they straggled back. We got up steam and were ready to go out.

I can remember one incident, one very unusual sort of thing. We knocked down between us and other ships. I think we really did knock down one of them, at least we contributed with our fifty millimeters. There was a two man plane that landed in the water very close to us. One of the Japanese went down with the plane apparently, but they were still swimming around. So I told the coxswain, I think a First Class boatsman made to get a couple of guys to go over and pick him up. He said, “Can I borrow your sidearm?” I hadn't thought of that. So he took my pistol, strapped it on, and he went over there. A while later, I saw him coming back. No Japanese were there, but he had on top of his head one of these little leather helmets that was too small. He said, “Well the guy reached inside of his coat, and I thought he was going to get a gun and shoot me; so I shot him.” That wasn't a very smart thing to do, but I think I probably would have done the same thing. Who knows?

The guy of course was lost. He would have maybe been a good source of information. There was a little bit of investigation, and the skipper asked me about it. I said, "Well frankly I think if I had been him, I would have probably done the same thing. So sue me."



So then we went to do a little work off Pearl Harbor in a submarine patrol. In fact one night I was sleeping and I heard someone scream, “General quarters! General quarters!” I got up there and they had just seen a Japanese antisubmarine, which had gone down. It just dived. We were too late; we were just going right by him. So with the antiquated equipment we had, we never did pick him back up. But we did sort of rig the after gun, so that it was pointed down at them. We figured we'd just throw a shell in there and shoot if we ever saw anything like that. Maybe we would hit it as she's going down.

Anyway, we went down to the Solomons and laid some mines off Kolombangara. Then the Japs were either pulling out or resupplying. But at any rate, we laid some mines. As we were laying them, we didn't know what happened up in the bridge. We were in a line of abreast. We were really close in, and we did not have much of a radar in those days. It was pitch black. The first ship was supposed to finish first and pull off. Then the next ship would finish second and pull off. Then, we were the next one. We hadn't finished yet, so we couldn't pull off to the left. However, the BREEZE, which was inboard of us, finished and turned right into us. The Skipper backed the ship as best as he could. We knocked the bow wake alley whoompas (?). We doubled it back. We were left there to limp into Tulagi, some little port there. Luckily there was no Jap air power, or we would have been sitting ducks. But any rate, one P-40 came out and sort of hovered around us, but we got back and did not see anything.

Donald R. Lennon:

So, the BREEZE was not injured. It was not damaged?

Milton J. Silverman:

No, it wasn't. It was just us. They did a little banging. It was a glancing blow.

I then had orders to Gunnery School in Washington, D.C. to become Gunnery Officer of the ROSS, which was being built in Seatech Shipyards in Seattle. So I went



back to Washington, and they almost had round the clock studies for the new electronic equipment that none of us were familiar with. It was being fitted into the new destroyers. I think that lasted two or three months, probably, and then we went out to Seattle.

I had gotten married in 1942, when we were in San Francisco. So my wife and I went to Seattle, and I put the ship in commission. My wife went home and lived with her folks during the rest of the war.

Donald R. Lennon:

Now, which ship was this?

Milton J. Silverman:

The USS ROSS.

Donald R. Lennon:

This was the ROSS?

Milton J. Silverman:

563. We started out in the Marianas Saipan, Tinian, Guam. Then we left the Palau (Islands) and went up to Leyte Gulf, Philippines.

Donald R. Lennon:

Do you have any specifics about any of those engagements?

Milton J. Silverman:

We were the inshore fire support group. We were not with the battle groups. We were supporting the amphibious landings. We were just like the artillery or seaboard artillery. We would get in as close as we could, say 1500 yards, as close as the water would permit and blast away for prelanding. Then it would develop into an on-call mission, where they would give us a grid or give us a spot and we would do indirect firing. You never knew really what the results were. Except one specific thing I remember was that there was a Marine group. You couldn't see them obviously. We already knew they were at such and such coordinate. They were apparently in real, real trouble either from tanks or something. I gathered it was tanks, and we fired and must have hit something good. They said, “God, that solved the problem”. They breathed a



sigh of relief. That fire from the battleships and even from the destroyers was tremendous. It just rooted them up.

Donald R. Lennon:

It softened up the landing?

Milton J. Silverman:

Oh, yes. In fact sometime after the war, I taught Naval Gunfire Support for a while, did a little studying about it, and a little history research. I realized how effective it had really been. It was not nearly as effective as we thought it was going to be like Tarawa, which I did not have anything to do with. Apparently, they thought they had softened the thing up, but they hadn't really done anything except sort of till the fields.

Donald R. Lennon:

The Japanese dug into those.

Milton J. Silverman:

I can remember one time when we were down there in the Marianas again. We were there for several days, even when the Marines were almost in the finishing stages. I can remember the gunnery people; we only had watches then--we did not have to go to General Quarters or anything. They said they had knocked a Japanese out of a tree that was right there on the shoreline. Even though they pushed them back, I guess they'd infiltrate back. We had no particular difficulties.

Donald R. Lennon:

You weren't under fire?

Milton J. Silverman:

No, we were not under fire. By the time we laid down fire, they put the rocket ships in there, and cleared the beaches, and had the destroyers really rake the beaches with their 40 millimeters or 5 inch--everything they had. The battleships, why they were just like big fires that were pushing the people back. There was nothing that could live there. So, we were not under fire at anytime. When we got up to Leyte Gulf was when the trouble started. That was when General MacArthur landed on the Leyte Beaches. The night before we had been inside the harbor--I'm not sure if we had been there on



previous nights--but on that particular night, we were in what was called a swept channel. There were four of us in a column. We were the last ones in the column. The skipper and I would exchange, he always wanted either me, or himself on the bridge during those times. So, I would sleep in his emergency cabin right on the bridge until one o'clock, and he would call me. Then he would go and sleep in the cabin until dawn, and then we could sort of relax. What would we have done if we had hit a mine? Luckily, we didn't hit an ammunition locker or magazine.

It was sort of funny, because I was disorientated. I crawled out of my normal bunk down in my cabin down below on one side, and here I get out on the bunk on the other side. I was clawing the wall. Next morning, I went to see this map of the world from the National Geographic that had been taped to the wall. It was just torn to shreds from me trying to get out of that damn bunk. We told the division commander what had happened, and he called for a tug to tow us out because we had no power. Meanwhile, we hit another mine. Luckily it did not blow up the ship. You might want to do some research and find it; this was the only destroyer that ever hit two mines and did not sink, I think.

Donald R. Lennon:

Where on the ship?

Milton J. Silverman:

It knocked out both engines. I'm going to say it knocked out the two engine rooms and one fire room. More likely, it knocked out the two fire rooms and one engine room. I'm not sure. Anyway, there was only one thing still working, I mean, that still hadn't been hit. It was, of course, useless whether it was a fire room or an engine room. The ship was dead in the water. We were just about to sink. The stern was almost over washed.



Donald R. Lennon:

So, you were taking on water all that time?

Milton J. Silverman:

Yes, and I'm sure the skipper was thinking, “God we don't want to roll over here.” We held off, and the thing felt sort of tender. It didn't feel like it was very stable, because we had three huge spaces filled with water. But, the ship floated.

We were then towed over toward a cove, and they put us in and sent for a floating drydock, which came up from Hollandia. It took quite a while to tow that up.

Then the Kamikazes had started. We had quite a show there. Dick Bong was an ace fighter pilot in the P-38s. When they had knocked down a Jap plane, he did a victory roll. It really looked like a movie. It was really fun to see that. However, there was an occasion when a bomber came over this little hill right near us and dropped a couple of bombs. Luckily they hit short of us and sort of sprayed the ship with a little shrapnel, but no one was seriously hurt. I got cut and a few other people got cut, but that was about it. But then while we were in the drydock one morning I saw three of them coming to hit a cargo ship or a tanker. All three of them hit short in the water. They never even hit the ship. Is this human nature saying, “I don't want to hit a ship? I want to die, but I don't want to die...” I don't know. I can't picture anybody being such a bad pilot.

Donald R. Lennon:

Some of what I've read was that these kamikaze pilots were young people who were very poorly trained, if trained at all. And they really weren't pilots.

Milton J. Silverman:

Very little damage was done. This one guy who was coming toward us had 40 millimeters and 20 millimeters. We had done a little trading with the Army and gotten an auxiliary diesel generator and rigged it up topside, so that we could power either the guns or the galley; we could either eat or shoot.

Donald R. Lennon:

But not both at the same time.



Milton J. Silverman:

The pilot was coming closer, closer, closer and closer, and we hit him with either 20s or 40s. It was very obvious that he was coming toward the bridge and then he veered off. I wouldn't be sitting here if he hit the bridge. He veered off, and he just cleared the nearside of the floating drydock and clipped the open sight of the number five mount, which is a little sighting device. He didn't hit anything significant; he just crashed into the far side of the drydock and landed down in the drydock. The guys went down and got some souvenirs. We got the map, which was a little gory since some of his guts were all over it. It did kill a couple of people in the drydock and burned some of our people that were on the 20 millimeters near there.

Incidentally, twenty-seven people were killed on our ship during that mining. First, we buried some at sea because there were no grave registrations. Then when they got the grave registration going, we pulled them out as best as we could and tried to identify them. We really did a lot of guessing.

Donald R. Lennon:

They were kind of entombed down in the ship.

Milton J. Silverman:

Yes. I can remember the oldest man on the ship was a ship fitter. There is always one that is a hero on a ship. He put on his diving outfit; the old fashioned crap that was used. He went down and pulled up bones and stuff, and he would say that he didn't know how to identify them. I said, “Well if you find a belt that sort of looks like a belt we'll say it's that fellow or that fellow, because parents want to know. You bury little bits and pieces, and you can write and tell them he's in grave number so and so.” We would have a Chaplain from the base do this thing. So, we lost twenty-seven people that way.

There are funny stories too that come out of the war and those are the ones that I remember. I can remember this business about whether or not we could eat or shoot.



What I did was I'd have a guy near the galley door--it was a big double pole, double switch there that we could throw if it was on the guns. It was fine if they were cooking on the galley. So they'd mostly be on the galley. So I said to this young fellow, “Well you might as well be on the look-out also, you know, wear headphones. If you see anything, tell us.” Well, I thought that I'd do this the right way. I was not going to have them say that they see an airplane over there. I'd say that we had to do it by points like broad on the starboard bow and broad on the starboard beam. Well, this was too much for some of these Oklahoma kids.

I was up the bridge, and I saw the plane. I was talking about how it was far away. He said he saw a plane over there on the right side, and I told the talker to now do it the way we have been training them--how many points, so forth and so on at elevation angle. He could not get it. I said, “Well keep trying.” We'd been trying to train him to see if we could get him to say the right thing.

Finally, he said “I don't know how many points, and I don't know what the position angle is; but, I know its getting awfully damn close to this galley door.”

Another thing that I remember was that we were shooting at this guy that dropped those bombs. I was up in a wing on the bridge, and the skipper, Ben Cole, was right behind me. He was out of the class of 1927, and he died a few years back. So while the gun was training around, we got cut out cans and made sure it didn't hit the bridge. It was training around to shoot up at this guy, and I yelled, “Cease fire.” Well, he still had a round in the thing. He couldn't leave them in there because it could cook off; so we had to kick it out. The damn thing was so close to me that it blasted me, and it knocked the Skipper over. I fell on top of him and my eyelashes were singed and turned inward. So



they led me down to the sickbay; it was a little room there in the main deck. I thought, “God I hope my eyes are alright.” I then heard the door closing, and I pried my eyes open. I said, “My God, I can't see.”

The doctor said “Wait until I turn on the light.” Those were the happiest words. It was pitch black in there. So, he put a little salve in my eyes.

Anyway to get back to Leyte Gulf, we finally got the bottom patched up enough so that it would hold water. The keel was gone. Also, we did not have much strength. We then were towed back to San Francisco. Usually, they send you off to other ships, but the skipper said, “I don't want anybody to leave the ship, let them get a little rest.” It took two months to get back. We had put on enough water in the tanks just to get by. It was a long trip. We stopped at Honolulu for a day and then we went on to San Francisco.

Donald R. Lennon:

That would be awfully boring being towed all over the Pacific Ocean.

Milton J. Silverman:

It was boring as hell, but we were happy to be out of the fray. We needed a little rest. I think the skipper figured they would just send some more ships. There was no trying to patch this ship up; he let us get back. He figured that it wouldn't kill the war for these people to have a couple of months off.

We got back to Mare Island Shipyard. By that time, they had sent an engineering type ship designer, out to look at the ship. He knew exactly what was wrong with it. What they had done was build another mid-section. With a brand new mid-section, they cut the stern off, cut the bow off, and pasted it back together.

Donald R. Lennon:

Well now I've heard them replacing the bow and the stern, but I've never heard of them replacing the mid-section.



Milton J. Silverman:

It took practically no time to get that ship back into working order. I don't know that, that may be another interesting thing. I've never heard of it, but the ship was back like brand new.

Donald R. Lennon:

So, the mine damage was midships?

Milton J. Silverman:

Midship, yes. You have the engine room, the fire room or almost dead amidships.

Donald R. Lennon:

When you said that, I was trying to picture how explosions and fire. . .

Milton J. Silverman:

If it had been on the bow or the stern, it would have blown up our magazines, or would have been awfully close to it. There wasn't much left they could have hit without blowing up the whole ship. Those two mines hit in spaces that were very unfortunate for twenty-seven people, but very fortunate for the other three hundred.

So, then we went back out and we missed Okinawa, or Iwojima? I can remember they were diving off the cliffs. The Japanese. It was Iwojima. We got out for that. I can recall the Japanese women and children were diving off northern cliffs, because they were not believing we had boats out there. I told them not to jump, because we were not going to hurt them. They were sure they were going to be raped or butchered. I still see news reels of that time showing them jumping to their deaths. That makes me realize that the war, among other things, made it very real when people saw that sort of thing.

Then we were cruising off of the Japanese shores when one morning I woke to the OOD saying, “What did you think about the bomb?”

I said, “What bomb?” Because I didn't know. The word had gotten around the ship by that time that it was one at Hiroshima. That seemed to be the end of the war, which it effectively was. We were one of the first, second, or third ships into Tokyo Bay.



So that for me was really the end of my naval career, because I never did really relate to the Navy as much as I did during the war.

Donald R. Lennon:

Did you go ashore in Tokyo?

Milton J. Silverman:

Yes I can remember a young officer and I got into the cab of one of the express trains that was going up to Tokyo. I had a pretty good view of everything. Going through Yokohama, we realized there was practically nothing standing. It was just a total burn out. Tokyo was awfully burnt out.

Donald R. Lennon:

Of course, they had been bombing Tokyo for some time hadn't they?]

Milton J. Silverman:

Yes, It was just a firestorm. You see, the way they built those things was practically out of paper. I can recall where they had the elevated railroad or elevated trolley tracks, the people had sort of taken plywood, sort of boarded up. They made little apartments there to live in. I can remember going up into the Yokosuka Navy Yard. Some of the guys went in and picked up various souvenirs, even though there was not much there.

When I went ashore there just to get the feel of the place, there was a lot of bowing and hissing. They hissed to sort of greet. They were very terrified. It was almost pitiful to see them. I'm sure they thought we were going to go do what they did in Nanking. Luckily, there was none of that. Then I did get out there with a Marine General and some other folks back around 1950.

We were down at Hiyama. It's beautiful. It's the Emperor's summer palace area. We trained MacArthur's troops for amphibious landings. They were not really familiar with the role of naval gunfire support, and so forth. So, I gave lectures on naval gunfire support and some other allied subjects, which was very well received. It was a pleasant



stay there, because I could stay in the Frank Lloyd Wright's Old Imperial Hotel--the original thing. It was just a treat for me because I love architecture and things of that nature. I really have a feel for it. Then we went down to Hiyama, and I did get to do some shopping. Luckily, the big buildings, the Japanese department stores, and everything were still being operated as Navy Exchanges. We had fun shopping and seeing things we couldn't hardly find now anymore like lacquer ware, and beautiful things for just a song.

After the war, I just couldn't quite see what we were trying to do. All the equipment was old. I thought, "Gee, who's going to fight a war with nuclear bombs?" So we sort of play acted like we were doing the same thing that we would have done with the ships.

Donald R. Lennon:

Now, did you stay in the ROSS for a while?

Milton J. Silverman:

No. At the end of the war, I went to command the AMMOND, a new destroyer escort. We went out to China, Tsingtao, just before the Communists took that over. We then went down to Shanghai, Hong Kong.

Donald R. Lennon:

What was your impression in China, any thoughts about China?

Milton J. Silverman:

No, I didn't give any thoughts to that. My wife and I have been back there twice.

Donald R. Lennon:

But when you were there before the Communist took over there in the 1940's. . .

Milton J. Silverman:

Well, in Tsingtao that was sort of a German town. The people there were pretty scared. They were giving up a lot of their things. For example, I got an Oriental rug that was pretty hard to find. People were selling there stuff, trying to get together a few dollars.

Donald R. Lennon:

What was the AMMOND doing out there, just showing the flag?



Milton J. Silverman:

Just showing the flag, just showing the flag.

Donald R. Lennon:

These didn't seem to be any direct threat from the Communists at that point?

Milton J. Silverman:

No. The only threat, which wasn't much of a threat was when I was on Admiral Felt's staff aboard the PRINCETON aircraft carrier after the war. What are those little islands called--Kemong and Matsu?

Donald R. Lennon:

Matsu.

Milton J. Silverman:

Matsu, I believe. There was some concern whether we might have to have a little fighting there to keep the mainland Chinese from coming over and taking back their territory, which I guess they still considered it to be a part of China. I never felt that there was going to be any war breaking out or even anything like the Desert Storm we have now. So, it was sort of dull for me.

Donald R. Lennon:

What did you think of DE's as opposed to Destroyers?

Milton J. Silverman:

It was a beautiful, brand-new, little ship. We could maneuver it around easily. It was a lot of fun, but they had an entirely different mission, which was just to escort antisubmarine stuff. I had command of a LSD after the war. A little shore duty. I had the Gunfire Support Sports School down in Amphibious Base. What else did I do? I saw craft _____(?) command. I figured I'd give them twenty years, which is what I did. I sent them a telegram saying, "Hey, looking for somebody to go at ten to twenty years. How about me? I know it seems sort of like a civil service job to me. Don't put that in print. Now, I could relate to it. I could look at it evolving. I can see what the Navy is trying to do now. Hopefully, they're moving as fast as they should, toward where they should be. It's just going to be in my estimation what we used to call thirty. forty years ago--an International Police Force. And the nations that have the money and have the power are



not going to use it hopefully to crush other people--but to bring them back into the world structure.

Donald R. Lennon:

Well, you were in the Orient Pacific during the Korean War.

Milton J. Silverman:

Yes. Where was I then? Oh, one thing that happened was that I had to go back to Denver. My wife was dying, and I had a young son. He's a lawyer--probably one of the best respected, best known lawyer in San Diego who is very, very nationally known. I happen to be a lawyer also; I still have my license, but I'm not taking in much business. I help my son a little bit, etc. Anyway, he was about eight years old. She was in Fitzsimmons Army Hospital. So I was there. They put me in charge of recruiting and officer procurement, which is just a shit job. It's the only job in Denver. She died while I was there. Then I came back out and took command of a LSD. So, there wasn't much excitement for me after the big war.

Donald R. Lennon:

So, that second trip to Tokyo before, when you were training MacArthur's forces was really before Korea?

Milton J. Silverman:

Yes. It was just before Korea, right. Actually I had duty here in Amphibious Base. I was sent there on additional duty. I was the only naval officer; the rest were all teaching Marine amphibious stuff. No, well, there were a couple of Navy officers who were experienced in an actual logistics of getting the stuff in. I was in charge of the gunfire part of it. I did go somewhere along the line to guided missile school down in Fort Bliss, Texas. In conjunction with my naval gunfire support, it would be real nice if I lectured a little bit, for a couple of hours, on the coming role of missiles. Which was fine, because I got really great response on that.

Donald R. Lennon:

Did it seem kind of strange to be stationed at an Army base?



Milton J. Silverman:

Yes, it did. We had generals with all the troops there; it wasn't a bunch of (makeelearns?) there.

Donald R. Lennon:

I was stationed at Bliss for awhile myself.

Milton J. Silverman:

Were you really?

Donald R. Lennon:

The Hawk Missile outfit.

Milton J. Silverman:

We were down there for about six to eight months. I got a good understanding of that. Then I retired in 1961. From then on I've been a civilian.

Donald R. Lennon:

Was it at that point that you went to law school, shortly after you retired?

Milton J. Silverman:

No, first I was in command of the Assault Craft unit No. 1. There was another one on the East Coast. This was the one for the West Coast. It was stationed at the Amphibious Base, and containerization of cargo that was coming along. I thought, "Why in the hell couldn't we use that concept to get some of this stuff to shore? Why couldn't we ship it instead of putting it on pallets?" So I had a huge piece of equipment designed, self-powered to lift up these huge LCMs, take them out and get them back in the water when they got broached at the shore. They couldn't get out themselves. It could lift 60 to 80 tons; it was a very powerful thing with huge tires. I had my guys sort of rig up a thing that would hook on conex boxes, standard army containers. We did some experimentation with those things. I wrote a lead article for the National Defense Transportation Journal about the results, and it looked tremendous. It looked like it would cut down the time tremendously. We even came up with the idea of making the boxes watertight so we could just float them if we had to. I wrote the lead article for the National Defense Transportation Journal, which got a little interest from some of the people who were in the defense business.



I went to work for Fruhof to develop this thing. Fruhof was really not the company to do it; they were more involved with the box business. It needed something that had more manufacturing ability to develop all the machinery that went with it. Then I went to work for Douglas Aircraft in Long Beach, and I was director of proposals development there for the research projects we were looking for. Then I went up to Litton Industries in Beverly Hills. This is sort of the life in the defense industry--I went where the programs were. They developed the Fast Deployment Logistics Ship, and they were using my concept of containerization in one concept, and the regular one on the other. We won the research and development contract. The program went down to Pascagoula. I did not want to go to Pascagoula, Mississippi. So I went back to Douglas. Meanwhile, my son had graduated from UCLA Law School. I could tell he was going to be a world leader. He is a tremendous trial lawyer.

I had a little property out there where he lives. Shoot, I was living up at Harvard at the time, and I built a house there. I said, “Look, you could live in the house, pay the payments on it, and get something on the property--about an acre and a half there. You could use it as your "bachelor pad".” Then he got married and two children came along with the marriage; he had to get a bigger place. My wife and I had been living there now since about 1970. Any rate, I came down and Milton, same name as me, Milton, I'd been in his office. He said, “Dad, you ought to go to law school, you've got to go to law school.” I thought he was kidding, you know. So, one day, he said again, “Dad, you ought to go to law school.”

I said, “Yes, I ought to go to law school.” He picked up the phone, and called the dean of the law school.



He said, "My Dad wants to go to your law school."

So, he said, "Send him over. Sounds like he would be a good candidate." So I went over. He said, "You'll do fine, you'll do fine."

Donald R. Lennon:

How old are you, about in your fifties about that time?

Milton J. Silverman:

I graduated when I was sixty. And I just took to it like a duck to water. I sold insurance. I got an insurance agency and I was selling stocks, bonds, and insurance--you know, to have something to do. It was all part time. I'd go at night or Saturdays, and so forth.

Three years later, I graduated and took the bar exam. I passed the bar exam. I have been practicing very, very successfully, up until a few years ago, when I got too old for this. I have a set-up at the house where I could do a lot of stuff. A lot of lawyers never go into the office anyway.

Donald R. Lennon:

Nowadays with all the automation equipment you have. . .

Milton J. Silverman:

Yes, you don't even need the books. Books are old. You do it with Lexis or whatever. You get where you tap a button and you got the case right in front of you. Well, when that was coming in; Milton's totally automated now. He bought a beautiful . . . I'd like to think I found the place for him. It just turned a hundred years old; a nice hundred year anniversary of the building. In those days the young folks were all looking for something Victorian. So I said, “Well, you guys find a Victorian place; there aren't too many.” Well, they picked the best one in the whole city. It used to be the mayor's house up on 24th and Broadway and it is just a show place. He has other lawyers working with him now. He is one of the best lawyers in America. He's got every honor known to man.



Donald R. Lennon:

Well, you have quite a varied career yourself.

Milton J. Silverman:

Yes. The one that has been must fulfilling is having gone to the Naval Academy. I feel honored to have gone, and I think it is a tremendous thing. I've got a couple of godchildren now that are seven and nine now. Their parents are very fine parents. I told Steve, I said, “Steve," . . . you know he is a struggling young lawyer. It's a tough business these days. I said, “Yes, it's got to cost you half a million dollars by the time those kids go to college. So start thinking about it, because they're both good athletes, they're wholesome all-American kids.” Even the oldest, the girl, I could see her fitting in beautifully with her athletic ability and her bright mind. Both are bright. The younger kid is more of a cut-up than she is. She is a very sophisticated nine, ten year old. So, I think it is a wonderful thing, and I'm very proud to have gone to the Academy. Some wonderful people graduated from there.

All my careers have been very satisfying to me. The Navy and the law are the two main careers I cherish. The others you know, defense industry; you can get anybody to do that. But, I don't think you can get anybody to become a good old-fashioned Naval officer; or anybody to be a good top-flight trial lawyer.

I don't really have any war stories. I told Cliff Lenz when he called me, I said, "Well I'll make up a few good ones." But that's about the size of the war for me. The war is the way I look at my Navy. The rest of it, it's just sort of a blur, you know. Teaching Naval gunfire support is not hard--anybody can teach it. However, to be out on a destroyer and to be second in command is demanding. For example, my brother, who died a couple of years ago, was in the Army on a railway battalion during the war. He still had a great feeling for the camaraderie that he had, and he still met with the good old



gang in all the years after. I really enjoy getting together with the people. We have a luncheon meeting every month, and I try to get there every time I can. Also, we have a Christmas party, a Mid-Year's dinner, and so forth.

Donald R. Lennon:

At Pearl Harbor, the Japanese did not attack the MONTGOMERY at all, did they? They were going for the larger ships?

Milton J. Silverman:

Yes. They came and hit the battleships. We could see the flaming smoke. Then they came over Ford Island, and they were just leaving. As they were leaving, they were strafing. Luckily, we didn't get anybody hurt, but they were not going in for us. No, no. They were just going for the heavy stuff.

Donald R. Lennon:

The other one that I know of that really got hit intentionally, was the SHAW. It was on drydock, and they put a bomb in it.

Milton J. Silverman:

I'm sure they probably weren't aiming for it, but you know they had to hit something. I guess hitting us in Leyte Gulf, was why they hit us in drydock. I can remember that because that ship was totally destroyed I think, wasn't it?

Donald R. Lennon:

No, they repaired it.

Milton J. Silverman:

They did?

Donald R. Lennon:

They repaired the SHAW, they really did.

Milton J. Silverman:

We had a young ensign who had an identical twin brother on the SHAW or one of those. So, that's were I knew about that. I think there was another one that got hit also.

Donald R. Lennon:

I have a good friend who was on the SHAW, in fact he was standing beneath it in the drydock when it got hit.

Milton J. Silverman:

Did he get hurt?

Donald R. Lennon:

No.



Milton J. Silverman:

Well, we had quite a few people killed. You know some of my classmates like Ronald Leavey and Jack Bennett; those people had caught hell down there in the Solomons. I was lucky I was on the MONTGOMERY. I swear some of those things are crazy. I hate to critique, but when I hear how they got slaughtered down there, I thought, "My God, what were they thinking about? What were those admirals thinking about?" It's like sending an NFL team against San Diego State. I was talking to Bill Jones, was it Jones? One of those guys on one of those ships. They had the brand new radar that you could pinpoint, it was almost as good as the stuff they got now. He was telling me, he said, “Well, I can see why we went in shooting at them three hundred yards away when we had this radar.” They did not have radar. The Japanese didn't have it. Some how or another there must have been a total lack of communication or something between the admirals, captains and so forth. I don't claim to be a Fleet Admiral, but I can't see why all of them didn't stand off about sixteen thousand yards and use that particular device. They could all use the same information and just lob it from them. They would have never seen it. I told my son that instead of using a smart bomb you're using a battle-ax.

[End of Interview]

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