Major General Paul J. Fontana
Wednesday, January 22, 1976
East Carolina University
[This text is machine generated and may contain errors.]
Don Lennon Part 1 (00:02)
East Carolina manuscript collection oral history interview conducted January the 22nd 1976 with Major General Paul J. Fontana, US Marine Corps retired. This interview is conducted by Don Lennon and Carl Robbin. This is cassette number one of a two cassette interview
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 1 (00:47)
my military career really started when I started college and University of Nevada land grant university. And this was a 9030 BLM land grant university ROTC was compulsory for the first two years. So I took ROTC and, and I rather enjoy it. So I went to it for the full four years of ROTC. And when I graduated in 1934, I received a commission as a reserve, Second Lieutenant, United States Army infantry. But having graduated as a, as an engineer, I requested and got my commission change to the Corps of Engineers. And I was a reserve officer for approximately two years, at which time the services were beginning to expand, increase their strength. And I was offered the Ranger commission by the Marine Corps first in July of 1936, and shortly after accepting that I received one from the army also. But the Marine Corps was first and that's why I became a marine on one July 93, six. I tend to base school in Philadelphia for nine months as these requirements in the Marine Corps, the B School now being in Quantico, Virginia, and then I had normal blown assignments. I went to sea duty, served on the USS Salt Lake City for over a year, got a lot of traveling, went to Alaska for the first time away for the first time. And then we were on probation for two years. I did some shore duty, and at the end of two years, two and a half years I went to Pensacola for flight training. In January 1940. I was designated as a naval naval aviator. And from that time, my career in the Marine Corps up to the rank of Major General to my retirement was principally with marine aviation, except the times that I served on combined or joint staff like the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington and attended school like the year university at Maxwell, Air Force Base, Montgomery, Alabama, and the National War College. Fort McNair, Washington DC Would you care for have more details,
Don Lennon Part 1 (03:09)
if you would go into a bit about your assignments and bringing them on up through the 60s and
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 1 (03:21)
fall fishing flight training, which was in 1940s. I mentioned I was assigned to a West Coast Squadron and served there for some time and aviation was really expanding. So we're the only armed forces at that time. So about a year later, I was ordered back to Pensacola as an instructor. And it was at the time that I was in Pensacola and stretching. That recruiters came around recruiting for the Flying Tiger volunteers where they should not Air Force. In fact, there was a Marine first lieutenant, very good friend of mine blade it turned out to be quite a nice because most of those boys came back into their service. Known as Pappy Boyington went with him it was at that time that he was recruited. In the summer 41 I was transferred to Quantico, Virginia and became a squadron pilot in a fighter squadron and that's where my fighter pilot career really began. We participated in the Louisiana maneuvers in the Carolina maneuvers. And in the summer of 1941. And Cherry Point, the largest Marine Corps Air Station was under construction at that time. We were expanding to the rate where clinical can no longer hold all marine aviation on the East Coast, because that's the only base they had up until then. So we moved on to New Bern. And we established a camp at Newbern awaiting the completion of The first runway to Cherry Point. We never made it. On seven December the the Japanese attacked. And we departed New Bern via New York and then to the West Coast Now you may wonder why New York. And that's a interesting story in itself. Through LendLease, United States government had promised so many Roman Wildcats for the British Navy. And the demand exceeded the production. And the they had more pleased to have propellers. So we went to, to Floyd Bennett, which at that time was a Naval Air Station since been closed. Next was now out of Wilder, JFK Airport, JFK airport. And they took off our 10 foot diameter props off on airplanes and gave to the British and gave us nine feet six. Of course, we were going to war too, but we weren't really in battle yet. And you may think that a six inch Alpha propeller doesn't do too much. But we lost about 20 to 30 knots of speed on airplanes respectively on small propeller. But we went to the west coast in a
Don Lennon Part 1 (06:18)
replace the propellers as soon as they were able to get some more content. Yes, later on. Later on. Before we went into combat, we did get a regular sized propeller but had the heavy deployed right away that time. We'd have to go into combat as a result that just some of the things that happened
were in Newbern washis camp.
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 1 (06:45)
What is now the Municipal Airport at that time was nothing but a cow pasture. And we set up our tent camp and the cluster of woods that is now adjacent to the general aviation parking area. Cherry Point was being constructed and as was the captain gern. The Marine Corps complex for the east coast was under construction at that time, but neither was occupied because the Japanese the the war occurred sooner, and the planners had estimated that would occur. Of course, we all know it was a sneak attack. Want to continue with what occurred to me and my squadron. We went to the West Coast. And in December and stayed there we patrolled the California coastline. We invited pilots we do auto mode was known was still known, especially in the movies, the dawn patrol does patrol. We slept by our airplanes right there in San Diego. every other night, a certain number that had the watch would sleep by the aircraft take off before daylight in the morning and we'd patrol up to see especially off the coast of the Mexican Mexico Mexican border. At that time, it was fearful that the Japanese having been so successful at Pearl Harbor that they might try and attack on the West Coast coming in from the south. Because we had flying boats patrolling the area very well between from Alaska all the way to the Mexican border, and on how to see, well we did that for a period of about six months. The reason the real reason we went to the West Coast immediately was to get on a carrier and go to reinforce the the the units that have been so badly reduced as a result of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. We found out that my squadron was really destined to go either midway or the wake. We encountered bad weather in Texas on the way across that time. Flying propeller airplanes, you had to contend with the weather whereas now with jet flying, you fly above 90% of the weather. Sometimes even higher than that. But the Saratoga, the USS Saratoga, the carrier was supposed to embark on could not could not wait for us. So they departed for for the Hawaiian Islands. And incidentally, that and several other carriers or I don't recall that to be exactly this might be researched. The one that took told me But General Patton that's quite an when that time so we stayed on the west coast. In March, it was determined that to a vigorous force would go to one and small again. The military's fearful that would be possible striking place for the Japanese. They had started their south, but their movement south. They were had gone through the Southeast Asia, into French Indochina, and Taiwan for most of that time. And of course, we're at the hip awake and had taken away. They were attacking the Philippines, the Philippines was on the verge of collapsing. So it was estimated that we might get some more. My squadron was earmarked along with several others to go to someone. But fortunately for me, I was one of those that was left behind the form and other squadron. Very much against my will, because we all want to go we were quite positive, that was going to be the next action. And I and three other pilots were left behind to form another fighter squadron, new fighter squadron. I was the number two man in the squadron. We received our personnel, young marines and just coming out of the technical training schools, we received pilots that were coming out of flight training with very few flight hours. And it was a stroke of good fortune to me that my commanding officer was transferred and I received command of the squadron as a captain is this the 112 This is 112. But this was in July, I was promoted to Major or support now in 1942.
I was promoted to receive commander squad in July, I was promoted to Major in August, and we started loading up for the South Pacific, the end of September. I hit 22 pilots, and about 150 men and no aircraft. Because the aircraft that we use we left behind to for additional squadrons that were being formed. Because at that time, hardware, it was really in short supply. And many people, many of my friends and naval service probably wouldn't want me to say this, but I heard a very senior officer at one time say that. Perhaps one of the reasons the Marines survived on Guadalcanal is because the Japanese sang quite a few Navy carriers. And we were and when the airplanes were airborne, they always come to Guadalcanal. And that's what we got our planes because we went without any aircraft, a sister fighter squadron to deploy at the same time without an aircraft and to die bombing squadrons. So we went as four squadrons for reinforcement for Guadalcanal without an airplane. So this
Don Lennon Part 1 (12:57)
is what I was wondering how they got the planes to you. Once you are already out there, and they've been in such short supply on
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 1 (13:07)
the airplanes, those that did those that were sent to us with natural wind by freighter and they were offloaded in New Caledonia assemble there and made ready for flight and then ferry crews would fly them up to the Solomon Island via Espirito Santo group of islands about 300 miles north and then additional 300 miles. So the way we get received new aircraft, but during the year that I was there, but not quite a year, really about 10 months. I don't believe I ever saw a new airplane come from the States. I'm sure we had some. But during the time I was there two aircraft carriers were sunk and sentries. And one was the Ranger. And I believe that the other was a wasp and we received a beautiful airplane because the Navy operating from carrier were able to maintain their aircraft in much better condition that we did and definitely look cleaner than flying out of the mud flats. It
Don Lennon Part 1 (14:12)
was on the same airplane that it was the same aircraft.
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 1 (14:16)
Yes made by Grumman, the aircraft that I flew. The dive bombers were made by Douglas. The torpedo bombers were also made by the by Grumman. Basically, those are three type of airplanes that we flew. So I mentioned that we deployed the start loading out late September. And another perhaps amusing anecdote is that the ship that we went on 5000 Marines was the USS larly. But for this crossing, it was not called the Lurleen. It was called the mu. And it was not the Lurleen that I wrote that I had the pleasure of cruising on this site. and 30 years later, all of the carpeting and all of the paint had been chipped off, the carpeting had been stripped, all of the fancy upholstery had been taken down. And it's practically bare metal. And that was to make it as fireproof as possible. We had both drill after drill, the ship was loaded to capacity. I felt very sorry for our troopers that were down below decks, especially after we got near the equator and in writing just south of the equator. And in this state room, which normally a honeymoon couple would have had before, and would have later why we had eight lieutenant, eight majors going to war with our gear stack in the middle and we they'd welded metal bunks to the pockets, and we slept too deep on each wall. But the ship went on to score it, because it could keep up speed faster and the submarines could could make. So we never saw land from the day that we left San Diego till we arrived in New Caledonia some 20 days later. And from there, we're up offloaded. And we've just gotten into our camp. We're setting up our tents, but I got a call that the major Brigadier General woods with that time was commanding the First Marine Aircraft that when you were wanted to see me and also want to see the other fighter squadron commander, we went down to his team and he informed us that they'd had heavy losses in Guadalcanal the day before. And they needed 10 fighter pilots to go up at night. And after some discussion, I was able to talk myself into being the one and we went back to our to our respective squadrons assembled as pilots never seen such a bunch of eager beavers, those young boys were they, they all wanted to go. But after much discussion, and an argument I should say, the 10 was selected. I never seen second lieutenants that came out of flight training probably the same day tried to pull rank on each other. But they weren't they were eager, eager Tiger tigers. We went by truck. I in that night of my pilot's went by truck to an airfield on New Caledonia and we boarded the old DC three year old workhorse World War Two to be especially at the beginning. And we flew into a spirit of Santo and we got there they like Guadalcanal the field was under attack by the Japanese so it was decided that we would stay in the spirit of Santo that day and fly to wall canal that night, arriving there daylight because we might be intercepted by Japanese fighters that we did that day a very good friend of mine was go flying south be evacuated and he gave me all this paraphernalia, like a box to keep your matches waterproof. And another little container that kept your atabrine waterproof and I said why you get all this all you're gonna get shot down water. So when you're in the water, you have to have these things so that you won't lose your matches and you won't lose your best and so so he gave me directions and said I mean he gave me all the that your experience that he had. And finally sit down the Japanese are going the zeros faster than our airplanes but don't worry about it because ours is built better. Since if you can shake him just put your airplane to dive and when you get to terminal speed just do an aileron roll to the left and pull out it says he can't do it because he pulls out he'll shed his wings
and that was a tactic that we used because we've been not apply zero. Well, we went in that night, flew at night got in daylight in the morning and sure enough shells are popping here and they're not a real Martins was more of a nuisance than anything else because the Japanese are not that well equipped and and supplied but they live in shells. That was our introduction to the combat. That afternoon we were out flying patrols and flew two or three patrols every day for the next two months till my squad was evacuated for right Just back to a spirit of Santo, which was a rare area, the day before Christmas, we'd been up there just about two months, 60 days. And it was during this time that I was fortunate to destroy a few Japanese airplanes
Don Lennon Part 1 (20:14)
yet, but five and four days and
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 1 (20:17)
five and four days, and my squadron had shut down 52 Japanese airplanes in that period of time, and we had lost two pilots, two pilots missing, we'd had quite a few shutdown at sea but or behind enemy lines. And the natives and the cross watchers and Navy ships will pick them up out of the water, they will come back, we actually have more shutdown to I'd say we have about 10 of the 22 people 21 and myself were shut down and all are able to return except for two on that tour. Then we lost more subsequently, subsequent to so we went back to experience Santa where they there one day we had Christmas dinner and received a very pleasant surprise. I was told that we can go to Australia for a week. We were the first squadron to go to Australia on what they called r&r, rest and recreation. And it was wonderful. We just took over the city of Sydney. out of 22 people, only four of us were married. So you can imagine those young lieutenants having a real horrible time. And yes, it's an anecdote to Australian girls. And we're very happy to see them because their men had been at war for for two years now. And they were all in the Libyan desert as per the the Australians were doing most of the fighting. And we were so well received by families that just they just couldn't do enough for real, real wonderful people. Then we came back. And while I had lost only two pilots to combat, I lost about six other pilots for various reasons, one strain of combat. I had one boy had to be evacuated in a straitjacket just couldn't take it to shelling and the fighting that went on. Some of them of course, were victims of malaria, which was vicious at that time. We hadn't learned or devised or manufactured or learn how to prescribe the right amount of medicine being honest. We had to confine ourselves to take what was known as Adam rather than if you're not flying, there's a stronger medicine than that. Which name escapes me right now. So we got additional pilots 10 pilots came from some more, some more group last journey but the boys went down there and nothing happened. They used to patrol after patrol. And as we laughingly called it boring holes in the sky. But the Japanese never got too similar. They came down the Solomons and down through New Guinea, the adventure that Far East. So I received 10 Very experienced pilots not combat experience, but the flying experience. And they were a real asset to my squadron. And we went back for a second tour. And again, we had exceptionally fine luck. Because there is a lot of luck connected with this game. And we shot down another 40 or 50 airplanes. And it was during this time that I was relieved of the squadron because is one of the guys that I was too valuable. I was getting too senior. And I was used as a briefing officer as an operations officer in in briefing young pilots that were coming in inexperienced pilots and occasionally I would go on a combat mission. But I could not go regularly to a day or something like that. And maybe I'd go every other day or every third day and I missed it.
Don Lennon Part 1 (24:44)
I was getting ready to say that. Mr. Robot preferred the in the air.
Unknown Speaker Part 1 (24:49)
Yes in the office.
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 1 (24:53)
And then my executive officer took over command of the squadron for me And they did a fine job. They were pulled out after another 60 days went back. If arrestor recreation and they got into the trip to Sydney, I did not go back. Because NASA didn't deserve that at the time any longer. And they came back for the third time and did a wonderful job again, finally ended up at the squadron total with about 120 Airplanes destroyed before they were returned as a group to the United States. But when they returned as a group, they'd had replacements to increments of replacements. So of the original group that went out of the 22, we had lost five in combat. And many, as I mentioned, were evacuated either for for medical or other reasons. So the original group, they're only about 12. PI's came back. And they all went to what was known as a fighter Training Unit. Operating that Marine Corps station Del Toro, California, and when I came back, my good fortune was to be assigned the commanding officer that squadron, which was a replacement training squadron. And I was rejoined with my squadron mates and many other combat pilots, all the instructors were combat pilots, some of the finest boys you could ever see. But unfortunately, Job didn't last very long. For me again, I was promoted Lieutenant Colonel in November 1943. And as a result of that, I got a desk job for as an assistant Operations Officer, for all replacement squadrons that were in the California area and this was known as Marine Air west coast. Included squadrons in San Diego, Santa Barbara and l central Mojave throughout that area. And I stayed there until I went back overseas. I was returned back because I'd had three severe attack malaria is and at that time, you had to go back to a non tropical climate for a period of about a year. But the soon as my year was up, I went back and I went to Hawaii and went to Schofield Barracks, where we formed the Tactical Air Force 10th army. And that was the 10th army that landed and took Okinawa. It was an Army Corps and the Marine Corps to army divisions to Marine divisions and then some reserve divisions army and we flew up to the Philippines and barked on ships in the Philippines and landed on on Okinawa on Easter Sunday. See, April 1 1945. That was my second tour combat. And I stayed there till the war ended. I flew some combat missions, mostly in closer supportive when troops. By that time, the Japanese air had been put pretty well reduced in what they had, I think they were holding back for the defense of the home island. Which was inevitable if the war had continued. So we did much more in supporting ground troops that we had done previously in the South and Central Pacific. And the war ended Of course, in August of 1945, or so thankful. I've seen many aerial displays, firework displays, particularly in Washington DC every fourth of July, but not nothing will ever compare. Well, what happened that night that war ended? I think that every gun that can be fired on the island of Okinawa was fired that night. And I think every incendiary that was in possession of the US forces, whether it was a cannon or whether it was a 38 was fired. It was dangerous to be out because projectiles and shrapnel was falling everyplace but it was a terrific celebration. And then I stayed on AutoCAD hours as part of the occupation forces. We had youths in Okinawa and in Japan and I was then a system wing Operations Officer until we I came back at the end of my tour in 1946. That in great detail more than I thought I would give covers any questions I'll be very happy
Don Lennon Part 1 (29:58)
to hear save the distinguished class. I am Cross for has it faster route. Rip. hours.
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 1 (30:07)
Right you go. Right. Right. You go islands? Yes. This was in, in 1945. Right while in the open on camping. Yes.
Unknown Speaker Part 1 (30:19)
What was the nature of that award generals that award for supporting ground forces?
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 1 (30:26)
No. At that time, they have a strange way of awarding Air Medals and Distinguished Flying crosses you could earn there were two ways you could earn one was by heroic act could earn either one. And depending on the on the the action itself, it would determine whether it'd be there and metal or whether it be Distinguished Flying Cross, or after 20 combat missions if you had not performed if you had not had the opportunity to put it that way to do something, which singularly call for for an award, you would get an Air Medal for having completed 20 combat missions. And then at the end of five of those, you will get a Distinguished Flying Cross. Which really the representative 100 combat sorties if you need not do. For example, I received the Navy Cross for shooting down for airplanes enough for having flown so many missions for having done. So I've done five airplanes in four days.
Unknown Speaker Part 1 (31:36)
So that was what a meritorious service connection with 100 flights.
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 1 (31:42)
Yes, that's correct. Yes, yes. Now later on, I received the Silver Star from the army in Korea, for support of ground troops against very heavy enemy fire and state over the target area, and calling aircraft with ordnance coming in, in support of both Marines and Army
Don Lennon Part 1 (32:18)
soldiers. While we're on World War Two for new zones and later periods. New Caledonia seemed to be a great strategic importance for both the Marine Corps and naval operations. Any comment? Concerning the strategic importance of that base?
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 1 (32:41)
It was for World War Two. A lot of areas in the world have lost their strategic importance because of two things I would say. One is the range of both aircraft and ships, especially nuclear powered ships. They don't need the refueling or in the olden days recalling stations now, later now refueling station. And the same thing with with aircraft. And with the advent of the jet aircraft in the air to air refueling. You can cover great distances. We don't have to go quite that far as New Caledonia. I'll give you an example right here close at home, Bermuda and the Azores. In World War Two, those were two very important bases, because aircraft would take off from here on the East Coast, the United States fly to Bermuda refuel, that take off and go to the Azores, refuel, and then take off and fly to Europe. Right now you can go from from North Carolina to Spain without ever landing, and just with air refueling, and it's it's done routinely. So that's one of the reasons that some of these areas have lost the strategic value. They still have many other values. Of course, New Caledonia is a very rich Island, as far as minerals is concerned. And in rubber plantations, of course.
Don Lennon Part 1 (34:09)
There would have been quite a prize for the Japanese during World War Two.
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 1 (34:13)
Yes, yes, of course. World War Two thought with the Japanese. Having the two prong movement South ended Australia won by the Solomons and spirit to central islands, New Caledonia and then Australia was next. In coming from the Eastern Province. The west of Prague was down through New Caledonia, New Guinea and on down into Australia.
Don Lennon Part 1 (34:42)
Well, there was some fear that they may make it to Australia.
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 1 (34:48)
Yes, there was. I think the turning tide of course for the for the the C word problem was the Salomon campaign. They stopped they were stopped And then of course Douglas MacArthur and his army stopped him through the New Guinea approach and two course initiated from the from the Philippine Islands, that was their strong base came down there. And they had many, many very strong bases in the Pacific that taken over Guam, all of the Marianas been converted to four to five Japanese positions, supply bases, resupply bases, and of course, the the the island chain, the south of that truck, in bulk and Bill and all of those islands
Unknown Speaker Part 1 (35:50)
that are always one of the earliest phases of war or something about the shoot 1000s five Japanese aircraft, what type they were, what problems you encountered. What their advantages were that those particular aircraft, as opposed to you're a wildcat.
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 1 (36:15)
I shot down three types of aircraft a two zeros floatplane, which was really the easiest one and two bombers. The zeros of course, we're in aerial described as an aerial dogfight, usually initiating high altitude and you work down depending on the duration of the encounter is that mentioned the one we were discussing informally earlier, the Japanese zero had maneuverability and speed over the Grumman wildcat, but did not have the durability of the drone bobcat. Also, it would flame a lot easier than the Wildcat. And we were using incendiary bullets. Naturally, the armor plate was not as good as what we had. For the for our aircraft. As I mentioned, because of its structural design, we would if we, if we run out of ammunition, or we had jam guns, or we want to get out of the fight. The surest way to get out alive was to if you had altitude to convert that altitude into speed, and then go into a roll to the left and pull up put as many Jews as you can stay in. We couldn't pull the pull the wings up by airplanes. The pilot pass out first blackout, but I have never seen it. But I've talked to pilots that have seen their Japanese aircraft come apart. Perhaps they'd been hit. And had been the structure had been weakened. The other two were bombers. One was at altitude being escorted by zeros, but I was on the bombers and they were bombing Guadalcanal. And I hit it in a vulnerable spot. And it caught on fire. The other was similar type of bomber Betty. And it was a low level attack that were coming in about 10 to 20 feet above the water carrying torpedoes that were in the sink the ships that were in the bay. And we spotted them about 20 miles away. And they kept on going. They were covered by zeros again that day. That day, I was involved with a zero later on. But I did get it Betty. And I don't know where the airplane was hit the airplane hit the water and disintegrated. I couldn't see the sun or my bullets were affected by bullets were having. But he was under attack. As I was firing where he hit the water. He was about I'd say 10 to 20 feet above the water and I was maybe 100 feet above the water closing in on it. And his tail gunner was shooting just as hard as I was shooting. That's really
Unknown Speaker Part 1 (39:19)
zero, fewer pursued by one and a turn. You could not turn to zero.
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 1 (39:25)
No, but you could turn in turn into him as he went past you. Sometimes he would have he would have the speed he come in so fast and be behind you as he was high and behind you. And you'd see him come and you'd go into turn and you would probably come right through your shooting. Then you could reverse and get on him and get a shot at him enough to do that one time in one time and just able to get it behind them. The thought was there.
Unknown Speaker Part 1 (39:54)
In general, what did you think of the Japanese out haters that you were up I was to at that time,
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 1 (40:01)
when I would say that were very brave. I never saw one run it very tenacious, in fact, where they just go home. Yes, I think they were very skillful and very determined. In those early days, they had had nothing but success. They'd had success in China. And they'd had success against us in, in Pearl Harbor, in the Philippines awake, and, and they were good. I'm not saying they were all good. But they were far superior than they turned out to be late. When the Okinawan campaign and not tempted in any way to degrade the achievements of our wonderful pilots there, we had a lot of kamikaze kids that had just learned to fly the airplane, and they got a one way ticket. You'll get much fighting back when you attack one of those. But that's the difference I'm trying to establish. First of all, not all come with garlic. They had some good fighter pilots right on Okinawa, in right on up to the time that they surrendered. No question about it.
Unknown Speaker Part 1 (41:17)
I believe though, the Wolfpack or VMF 112 was either second or third squatter for shoot downs during the entirety of the war. What what made the man in that unit. So was headset spectacular successes are predicted to require now
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 1 (41:39)
I'd say we were blessed with wonderful talent. I mentioned earlier the enthusiasm, that togetherness of the group. And they, they formed a relationship was still just today with each other. And of course what the reason I want to make sure that this is is in the record. One of the reasons squadron did shoot got so many airplanes, and later on it had a tour aboard a carrier under different commanding officer, different people entirely. The squadron designation was still there, but the squad had been reformed. And at the moment, I can't think of the name of the carrier that had the object. The retired Colonel Hansen was a squadron commander at that time. And the carrier did perform quite a few raids on the Japanese home just before the end of the war, and the squadron 112 112 was a coordinated carrier. So that other reasons why they had good success. Either other squatter that had equally good success, and yet there were some squatter that just for some reason, or they just could not produce maybe their leadership maybe at the right place at the wrong time. We arrived at Guadalcanal at the beginning of a big battle which lasted for about 10 days. During that time we were shelled by Japanese naval gun.
Unknown Speaker Part 1 (43:13)
What would have happened during that time that you arrived, flooded canal. The invasion took place on the eighth of August. So yes, so the American forces there had no air air cover except for what was carried airborne. That's correct.
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 1 (43:33)
Initially, till they went in and captured, captured Henderson feel which the Japanese had built. And then as soon as that was captured, they brought in marine squadrons by Carrier flew off the carriers. Some were unloaded at the spirit of sand hill or in other islands south of Guadalcanal and then they flew in from there.
Unknown Speaker Part 1 (43:57)
About what what time is it first ring air units arrived on
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 1 (44:01)
near the end of August. And near the end of August? Yes, they had. They had two fighter squadrons, both commanded by classmates of mine by the way. And they had to die bomber squadrons and I believe one torpedo squadron that I mentioned that I had a sister squadron going in, we went in to relieve the two squadrons that initially went into our canal. They all went back to the States. They had been fighting at that time for they'd been engaged in daily combat practically, for a period of 90 days or perhaps a few days more, and they'd had suffered tremendous losses
Unknown Speaker Part 1 (44:52)
over the waters.
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 1 (44:55)
I would have to refresh my memory. One squadron was commanded by John Smith, Major John Smith ended up with 19 aircraft. And his exact was Major General Carl Marion Carl. To go all the way up to me, gentlemen are retired living in Virginia, who had I think 16. Then the other squadron was major Gator Bob Gator. Now, you got out of the Marine Corps after 20 years of service. He's a retired brigadier general living in, in Dallas, Texas. Not Forgotten whose exact cause and the third squadron that went in just before we did was VMF 111. And that was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Davis.
Unknown Speaker Part 1 (45:56)
You'd have been in in 111. Before you
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 1 (46:00)
Yes, I had. And then that squadron, that squadron I think that 121 111 went to Samoa and stayed there writing for the duration of the war. The cruise changed, but the unit designation remains in place. Replacement in personnel but not in in hardware unless they needed it. And in in squadron
Don Lennon Part 1 (46:25)
issue, you mentioned problem of battle fatigue. Actually, occasionally pilot have been unable to take the stress and the strangest what was the strain like the mental strain involved in Guadalcanal and these other major campaigns?
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 1 (46:49)
Well, the strangeness of the fact that we were living on the battlefield is the best way I can describe. That was the battlefield. The ground Marines were all around the airfield. The Japanese would come in with the Navy, navy, our naval naval ships, could not intercept them for that they come in and they show us at night. The what we called washing machine Charlie's that would bomb us at night. Now not in the rates that the classic rates like the B 50 twos are doing now, but it was there were loosens rates
[Beginning of Part 2]
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 2 (00:03)
And you'd have to get up your your rest would be interrupted. The mosquitoes were horrendous. We slept under nettings. And we used to spray around inside. The tents were not word screened. And rain I've never seen so much rain in my life is during the rainy season under those conditions, and then on top of that, you get an airplane. And maybe it wasn't the best airplane you've flown, but you'd have to use it. And the maintenance personnel just they worked around the clock also, sometimes so while the while the Japanese airplanes were up. I may tell you a strange. Well, it may be interesting, do we really want to get a washing machine? And the attempt had been made before I got there to getting is was unsuccessful. So a young Navy lieutenant intelligence type later turned out to be the mayor of Philadelphia came to me and said, Would you like to try it? I think we got our radar working pretty good. And we'd like to set you up at night. At that time, I was the I was not the senior one. But I was with the best one. So I said yes. So my crews worked on an aeroplane and they washed it and they polished it up, they cleaned it up. And this one night, about 11 o'clock, I took off. The airfield was not lit up. Of course we didn't have much light to start with. But I took off and I no sooner got off the end of the runway. I was taken under fire by our Marines, they almost shot me. No one had notified them. And they thought it was a washing machine Charlie coming into stream. And tracer bullets were practically heavy bracketed. Fortunately, with the airstrip, Henderson field is right on the water and I just turn hard left and by 50 feet off the water that wouldn't have to see it. But I'd arranged the corner. I went up and I sat on oxygen. It's 24,000 feet. And we had this radar. And we hadn't, which was very, very poor, one of the first ones we had in service. And we had Coast swatches. Mostly they were people that had managed plantations for either the French or the Australians. And they remained with their faithful natives in the bush. And they were our best source of information. They were equipped with radios, they would call us. And they're the ones that would save our pilots. When our pilots went down because they had made these it knew those islands just like you and I know the area where we live. I went up and charged machine Charlie came but never closed. He stayed about the state about 15 to 20 miles and he kept informed me he's now circling over this place, let's say side while he's now circling over Florida. little islands about 10 to 15 miles. And he stayed out there while I stayed up about two hours and a half. And my oxygen supply was running low and I decided to come down. And they had close watches also who could monitor our frequencies. And they had radios that they could talk to their pilots see. And I came down and I landed as I'm taxing it again. Oh God, as I'm taxing in he lays a string of bonds right down the runway I'd used very lousy miss me missed all the airplanes, but again, it was a nuisance raid. Well, I tried again, we want to do this in the Dark of the Moon. I tried to get into nice later and we couldn't do it. Later on. However we got some potent search lights. And an Army Air Corps now United States Air Force buoyed up p 39. Got up there, and the radar. The radar pinpointed him and they got him in the crossbeam to search light and this young young Air Force pilot shot him down. One of course there were quite a few of them. They keep coming. They didn't have very far to come get down there 350 100 miles away. But nuisance rate these things and beside the food was lousy. The food was horrible. can spam Okay? and spam and, and powdered milk, powdered potatoes, sometimes powdered eggs, and eat those. All right now, the average serviceman in the field eats is like, like a king really, you can write down, we've done tremendous, tremendous development, our diets and the way we can preserve our food, the way we can pre prepare it, to where very little has to be done to it in the field, so to speak, all of these things, a little bit of malaria, a little bit of fever, so to speak. And your buddies got shot down today. All of these things contribute to the mental attitude. And a lot of the units some suffered more than others, if they didn't have that together to that spirit. We'll get we're not done yet. We'll get a source who's going to come back and and the biggest thrill was not shooting down an airplane. The biggest thrill was one of your parents was brought back in.
Don Lennon Part 2 (06:23)
from World War Two at this point, any time comments on the Okinawa campaign in particular nothing other than then the the war had changed.
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 2 (06:51)
Now, we were on the offensive. We had mess now. We had the ships that came to stay. They could not shell Okinawa. They didn't dare with their naval gunfire. Derek how many words near there, because they've been some. We had more airplanes in the head, we had better airplanes. But now we're flying the Corsair. The Corsair was superior to zero than to the airplane that we're putting out. Now we were just being a Marine, of course, the the Air Force youngsters they had, they had the P 38. And they had the P 51. And well, the P 40. sevens. But the P 51 was a real beautiful thing. And it could take on a zero. Without even
Don Lennon Part 2 (07:39)
have drawn the United States had managed to improve their equipment and their technology while Japanese really had not
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 2 (07:46)
done well. We had we had destroyed their their war making potential with practice destroyed their aircraft industry. They still had an underground but they no longer had the freedom to manufacture in great numbers and test and develop the way they had done before. When they when they went to war, up until the time they went to war and up until the time that we took the war to their homeland. Once we took the war that only we started bombing with carrier aviation to beat 20 nines and start burning up Japan. I never realized that we had done so much destruction till I went there after the war ended just blocks upon block just completely burned and wiped out. Let's bring up the industrial area in Yokohama and other cities for that matter Colby where they had their major shipbuilding industry. So the balance that changed the food is better, the medication is better. The tents are not screened, and they have a deck wouldn't deck and even liquor was was available in our wall canal every now and then I would find some Japanese beer. And that was great. And for the doctors had medicinal brand, little too hot spots. And if you'd had a hard combat mission and five surgeons give you a bottle that evening where you would put it in. You can drink it anywhere you want to but the preferred way was to put it in some water and then squeeze lime in it. Lives were plentiful. In fact, our camp had about half a dozen that was a favorite. We go to the ships and we buy ice cream. We always had someone that was off the flight schedule for for rest. And his job was to get go down the beach, get in the boat and go out to another chips and buy some ice cream price was no issue
Don Lennon Part 2 (10:03)
did they make those cream up aboard the ship?
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 2 (10:05)
Yes baby chips that can make ice cream.
Don Lennon Part 2 (10:08)
I know. Speaking of the powdered milk remember someone commenting that before the war was over they had come up with a milk making machine
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 2 (10:23)
that it was a mixer Yes, a milk mixer. Also the powdered product was improved considerably to where now you could get this new improved powdered milk and put it in your in a blender was was bringing us something that is right and have an additive or two, and you get a pretty good pretty good result. Yes, be very palatable and be very tasty be very close. So that was the main difference between the fighting was still just as vicious as it could be. For the Marines on the ground and the Army soldiers on the ground. It was no worse because the Japanese were still just as fanatic about fighting and as well trained and well discipline as they had been at the beginning of the war. That never changed the same thing with their pilots. Except instead of sending a for airplane we'd set up 12 or 16 or 24. The odds were now in our favor. We had good radars, good. Air ground communications. Good coverage. With picket ships way out. Pick up the airplanes coming in. For many miles, you could position your fighters
Don Lennon Part 2 (11:44)
didn't have to worry as much about submarines disposing of the biggest ships.
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 2 (11:49)
Not like Norwegian though the Kamikaze collect the bigger ships. For one funny story that I'll tell you, just to amuse you to is pick and ship destroyer called up and said I need air cover. I'm under attack. And this the captain is urgent. It's urgent. be attacked by about 20 kamikazes I need some air cover. Oh nevermind we've been hit so much we're sinking just send some boats they use a Pikachu destroyers.
Don Lennon Part 2 (12:33)
What organization were you with while flying over Okinawa
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 2 (12:39)
was with the Tactical Air Force 10th army which consisted primarily for the for the headquarters of the Second Marine Aircraft Wing headquarters. In addition there to we add air force pilots at that time still Army Air Corps. In fact, the Chief of Staff was an Air Force Colonel. And we had Navy pilots on the staff also because we control the Tactical Air Force 10th army consistent Marine Air, air force air and and navy air. It was all commanded from the central headquarter what,
Don Lennon Part 2 (13:22)
what was your position in that organization?
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 2 (13:24)
I was the assistant operations officer. I was number two in planning the operations for the day, we would schedule the raids on Japan for example from organelle. But
Don Lennon Part 2 (13:34)
with with be your position as assistant ops officer and having near 100 missions, and fairly senior where these operations over open all voluntarily under
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 2 (13:48)
Yes, yes. I had authority to do it. I could not go I could not go anyplace where I was subject to capture because I've had access to classified information. But over water and and over the in support of ground forces, as I mentioned a little bit earlier. I was authorized to do that.
Don Lennon Part 2 (14:08)
Yes. How many operations that you do?
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 2 (14:14)
Oh, gosh, I don't know. I was there an awful long time from April until August. 4050 Maybe maybe more.
Don Lennon Part 2 (14:27)
Being a married man accountable for excuse me a major that time Lieutenant Colonel lieutenant colonel was much easier just to stay at the desk and jockey the desk instead of voluntarily undertaking hazardous combat operations over over now.
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 2 (14:48)
It hasn't been easier but it wouldn't have been as much fun. And besides that you have friends going out every day. And the reason now and no not because I'd had my chance. There are people that were a little bit Junior needed. We're still playing bullets, because they they've been deskbound in the United States at the beginning of the war and this was their first opportunity. And and I felt especially in close air support missions, I felt it was often important job for the Marine on the ground. No, I was not fearful, never never crossed my mind. Married to children enjoying the money behind the desk did Yes. Well, I think I think if you participate in combat operations you are you really get more respect from the people that you're briefing that are about to go on a mission than it is also told me this is the way to do it.
Don Lennon Part 2 (15:55)
Interest in the squad the rivalry is definitely the boiling guns in the sweets.
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 2 (16:02)
Yes. Yes. Yes. This was made some of these one race one buxom squatter present,
Don Lennon Part 2 (16:11)
that's 214 to 14 that that is a lot or inner squatter rivalry or esprit de corps that that have something to do with your flying over Okinawa, isn't it? Yes.
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 2 (16:29)
I got invitations from squadron commanders to fly with the fly with their lieutenants. And I consider that quite an honor. And the youngsters they enjoy the cloud with the old man. So
Don Lennon Part 2 (16:50)
34 at that time
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 2 (16:53)
3433 Mind my combat find and stop there. The group commanded Korea for the NASA missions. And
Don Lennon Part 2 (17:03)
I said Shall we move on into the post world war two period.
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 2 (17:06)
I like a good tween prop line and and jet fly. I just mentioned jet line requires more precision and more professional. Because your one year fuel consumption is so critical compared to prop line. In a jet, you wouldn't be able to see the coastline of California and you might be some fog in their lair. Fog is normal.
Quite a few months out of the year. I'm just saying that is difference. Also what you're gonna call funny story. We used to get roadmaps to fly in the early days when I started flying. And if you found the main railroad, and you could climb on that you knew that was railroad going the direction leading in the direction you want to go, you use it. We have quite a famous pilot on the West Coast years ago, many years ago. In fact, he'd been World War One pilot text Rogers was name. And he was the railroad technique quite effectively. Then he got orders to San Juan. And I mean St. Thomas, Latin just north of Puerto Rico. So they had a big party going with by for him when he got ready to leave, they presented a set of goggles with two railroad tracks painted on the lens
Don Lennon Part 2 (18:41)
should pick up at the end of World War Two.
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 2 (18:45)
When war ended, we stayed on as I mentioned, for the occupation of Japan, in the US. Then I came back and I went to headquarters Marine Corps for two and a half years. And following that I went to the Air War College at Maxwell, Alabama. And it was an outstanding school for nine months. For the first time I was exposed to international thinking international plan, up until then had been very, very parochial for me. There's only one service that was a Marine Corps. There's only one way to do it. That's why we did it. But here we not only studied the Air Force and the Army in the Navy, but we also studied the communist countries what they did, and studied history as to what had happened in the Hitler's Japanese. And we had a tremendous wealth of experience there because everyone there had been to, to war, what had been the European theater, or the Pacific Theater and some immutable follow following that school. I got another very lucky assignment. I got command of the First Marine jet squadron on the West Coast. We're flying at that. Time Air Force F as a shooting star. They were called the Navy had to rename them. And we call them the T O ones later turned out to be the T 33. And the nomenclature became common for all services. The Navy had a squadron at North Island right next to San Diego and we had a squadron at El Toro, and we trained fighter pilots that had been Corsair pilots to become jet pilots, approximately 16 hours of air and 30-40 hours of ground school. We did that for the entire Marine Corps not only for the West Coast units, but also for the East Coast unit. I was relieved that that squadron in June of 1950 and became assistant group commander and I took the group aboard a navy carrier off the coast of California for carry qualifications. I carry coffee at that time consists of six landings and takeoff. And of course at that time I'd made my six landings and takeoffs in the captain said for me, and he said, Paul, we're budding up operation we're gonna fly you off, send you back the Alto. I just got word to return home to return to send you immediately. The sub the North Vietnamese the North Koreans have attacked South Korea. And we'd love to my group off we went back to El Toro. And the next day we started making preparation for going to Korea. Again, I was very fortunate. I was in the first group that went to Korea first marine that went Korea. And I from the first airplane to Kimball airfield after the Marines had recaptured hip appeal, and that was the 15th of September 1950. And that time I was assistant group commander. I did a short while on that. And then I became a group commander myself. And I flew regular missions took my turn with pilots never ran into chemistry aircraft. Unfortunately, our work primarily consisted of plus air support of the ground troops, which by this time, we really had worked it into a great technique. What are the highlights of that tour? Well, there were several. The first and I mentioned that I was fortunate to be in a position one day when some ground units were pinned down by the North Koreans. And I was at Target I was on target. As a coordinator I called in many aircraft, many strikes, we were able to to do sufficient inflict sufficient casualties and damage to the enemy that they withdrew. And our troops advanced. And the next day, gentlemen, present me with the Army SilverStar. The other highlight that I had. We had information that the Chinese were coming into the war. This was in November of 1951 day I took off with a wingman, very close friend of mine until this day, and we flew to the Yellow River. And as we approach the Yellow River, I've never seen so much activity. But before we could really assess what was going on, we were taken under fire by guns on the Chinese side of the river. And so discretion is the better part of valor. We've seen quite a bit we decided to get out of there. And we came back and debrief the mission. The information was passed on to MacArthur's headquarters. The next day general will of you who was MacArthur's Chief of Staff for intelligence, came down and personally interrogated me. At length. I told him what I'd seen you wonder if I was positive that I'd been fired upon by the Chinese rather than North Korean. I told him that I was. He went back and they sent a B 29. Especially equipped to photograph the area and that airplane was shot down. There. We came back. Within a week, Norwich, the Chinese are all what happened. They came down from our forces. We have defeated the armed forces that defeated the North Koreans, and we were up at the Alamo in several places with our troops. And of course, we had to evacuate the fullback and the Marines and some of the army troops. We, we had the the advance in reverse from the Chosun reservoir. In November of 1950, we pulled up and we came in reestablished in these southern part of Korea, and all marine aviation was evacuated and flown into Japan. We found an airfield on the on the west end of Honshu island, which had been a I believe, an Australian Air Field during World War Two during the occupation, the Australian in this part of the Japan and we moved in there and at one time, I commanded every squadron that had engaged in the Korean War. We were all based at this one Squadron at this one field. And we used to fly missions from this place to to Korea, a distance of roughly 300 miles roundtrip which for Prop airplane is a long ways to go for jet it's not bad. It was during the height of the winter where the water was so cold survival in water would have been a matter of just seconds, very few minutes. So we were what we call poopy suits that were called by the suits that would give us a longer duration in the event we went underwater because we have to fly across the Japan streets. Well, we did that for about a month. And I requested permission to go and survey some fields that were in southern Korea. And I selected one which was right next to the First Marine Division at port A. I got permission from the commanding general to to deploy a number of squadrons with my headquarters to that place, which we did. And we built up a tent tent camp. It was cold in February of 1951. And we'd been there about a week we were happy with our new home and now our missions were 25 to 40 miles away. The front lines are 2540 miles. We weren't alone we had flour, water, and where those cumbersome suits. And then the rains came everything melted and we had built our camp in the rice paddy and we just sank right up to our everything became bogged down. Not realizing what hard frozen ground was better. But with tons of gravel truckload after truckload and grow. We did set up fine camp, of course some wreaths moved up north. And the next group came in and they leapfrogged us. I had Mac 33 and Mac 12 And for the North. And so they got most of the close air support mission and we did whatever we were called upon. We had the only jet squadron or the St. Joe is one that I mentioned before and now converted to two Grumman Panthers and they joined us at K 1k, three Pohang, all of the airfields in the Korean War were numbered. No names always. With the letter K, K one, all the way up que tiene que con so when I was I finished my tour there and came back. I came to the west coast and was operations chief deputy chief of staff for operations for the command at El Toro. At that time, it was the first aircraft it's the first one the aircraft one. And after a year there I went to the National War College. Really a super school. We had the rights research papers. And then in the springtime, we took a trip through the area. The the area that we had covered in our research paper, and I taken the Mediterranean so I went with a group that went to Paris and Italy in Greece and Turkey and Morocco and we had 301 A lot of the areas that I saw described so beautifully in my research paper didn't turn out to be as attractive and strategic as all of your previous duty had been in the Pacific. So that's why I'm going to be interested in in some other parts.
Don Lennon Part 2 (30:22)
In Korea, you mentioned that you never encountered enemy aircraft was it that North Korea just did not have an Air Force to speak of the
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 2 (30:37)
the they challenged the challenge? The Americans first days of the war in the Air Force youngsters, Air Force pilots knew that the Air Force pilot mode is clean their clock and the Navy pilots. So then they stayed pretty well on the yellow and got put we got the we got the F 86 that had the legs of the day started running raids, later sweeps rather up to the yellow from airfields around Seoul it was fiddling was the fourth Air Force. I'm not sure the which Air Force it was. And that's where the Air Force got its MIG Asus Genesis. And we had one Marine jaql. Since retired the lawyer now in Florida. On exchange duty for the Air Force got five, five mix. We used to keep one and sometimes two Marines on exchange with him of the Air Force. It was quite lucrative assignment. All the young lieutenants and captains wanted that job. We could not send anyone senior that because it would have interfered with the command structure of the Air Force Squadron and understandably so. So all the pilots that were either no more than Captain and they wanted to first test they get some experience people rather than send a youngster they just started flight training. And this
Don Lennon Part 2 (32:05)
was a bad download opportunity for Marine pilot to become involved in aerial combat
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 2 (32:12)
to Korea, except on very rare occasions. It happened i'll say not more than two or three times some brave Chinese or North Korean potted with sonar on down and and be taken on by Corsair. Because the jets that we had, I mentioned that we had the Panther was were used primarily in in closer support, that did not have the rage to go to the ALU and do combat and then come back and have sufficient fuel to give us a margin of safety in the event of weather. So we didn't send our our we were too far south at Boeing. The air force fields from which the the aircraft conducted the the fighter sweeps against the Chinese and the North Koreans on the out. Were all positioned as far north as as we were safe to put them. And most of them were around the solarium Kimball swan. And right in that within a 50 mile radius,
Don Lennon Part 2 (33:23)
are your old prop planes were completely obsolete? Yes, yes. For
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 2 (33:27)
that kind of work. That was during the transition period. We were going from from prop two jets after we got involved into the into the Korean War. Korean worthless
Don Lennon Part 2 (33:44)
again, at this time you were you were deputy group commander for mag 33. We're an aircraft
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 2 (33:52)
initially Yes, yes. So initially,
Don Lennon Part 2 (33:55)
I take it then you're flying in Korea, again was voluntary.
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 2 (34:01)
The deputy who commanded was supposed to be a flying Commander. The Commander, the senior one was really the administrator had the discipline responsibility, the administration logistics responsibility. The deputy commander as we established at that time, was really the flight leader. And normally was Lieutenant Colonel. Whereas the group commander was a colonel. But I was selected for Colonel that year. And, and I became colonel and then I became commander. But I didn't stop. I didn't have a deputy commander. I didn't want one. Having come from that job I requested from the commanding general that he not assigned the deputy that I didn't need more. Later on. He did anyway because someone wanted that job.
Don Lennon Part 2 (34:56)
Continue to fly despite your position as a commanding officer and Marina?
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 2 (35:01)
Yes, I did. And some of the boys that I described you that were well canal are now scoring commanders and or, or squatting executive officers or squadron operations. They're all majors.
Don Lennon Part 2 (35:16)
Was it that same type of the Spree decor among the marine aviators? Inner squadron rivalry?
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 2 (35:23)
Yes. Well, this group's I said, Stay together pretty well up until this day, at one time I hit five of them under my command in Korea.
Don Lennon Part 2 (35:36)
Was morale a greater problem in career than it was in World War Two?
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 2 (35:41)
Not necessarily not, not for not for for pilots, pilots, especially fighter pilots. It's a strange breed of casts really. And they're just you might say, akin to professional athletes. Looking for that adventure. They want to win. And
Don Lennon Part 2 (36:07)
very professional, regular Army soldier where the morale
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 2 (36:12)
tomorrow is the same as today. And today is the same as was yesterday. Whereas in blind it's a new day every day is a new day.
Don Lennon Part 2 (36:30)
Recall the name of assistant group commander took over Mac 33. Sometime after you returned to the States. He was shot down and subsequently captured by the Chinese Communist
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 2 (36:47)
William gates rash.
Don Lennon Part 2 (36:50)
William gate brass will engage
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 2 (36:52)
rash recharges Lieutenant Joe, no living in California.
Don Lennon Part 2 (36:57)
This the same man who is reported to have made some statements to the Chinese Communist about the war being perpetrated by capitalists within United States. In other words, he made some type of confession to the Chinese Communist.
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 2 (37:17)
No, you're thinking of someone else did not think of his name at the moment? No. But Gen three, he was decorated for his conduct for rallying the American prisoners while he was a prison camp and was decorated with Legion America by the Secretary of the Navy upon his return. The end at that time, he was a lieutenant colonel. He was a deputy group commander. The person that you're referring to was a colonel and was a staff. A staff officer, he was not a good command was a staff officer on the wing organization, and was flying the C 45. And they were out looking. And they got shot down and captured. And I can send you to me, if I don't think before we finish here today, but at the moment that just just come forward. And he was he admitted to germ warfare. After much pressure. He was called Marshall after he got back to United States. It was acquitted. But he requested and was given retirement
Don Lennon Part 2 (38:38)
in in Virginia, it's one of those incidents that are frequently mentioned in various books on the Korean War. It's just mentioned and passed on never know who this individual was what the circumstances of his flying was, are really his attachment. Back then I believe that the volume I remember correctly, it said that he was a deputy group commander. But and I thought that he was actually on a flying billet
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 2 (39:11)
that he was a deputy chief of staff. Yep, the chief of staff is very good friend of mine. Brilliant officer. I like to make an observation on this if I may. My greatest fear in flying over enemy territory was not a beat wasn't being captured. I maintain that everyone has a breaking point. Some have a very high Breaking Point and some have almost indestructible brain. And you've got some of this from the prisoners of war that came back from North Vietnam. Some day after day in solitary confinement, hellhole would admit to anything. Some of the boys could not take their country. And the same thing happened in the Korean War, it's it's a kindness tactic. Of course, the Germans did it too. And the Japanese did it also. I'm proud to say I've never heard that we've done it.
Don Lennon Part 2 (40:32)
As in the Vietnam War, and the onus, it seems to be on the military captive. If he mentioned something that goes against the code of conduct, he is liable to criminal prosecution. Whereas we have movie stars and other celebrities, both in public and private life, to convince her to end enemy capitals and make all types of slanderous statements. And nothing ever happens to them, those people and the instances of World War Two and in Korea and Vietnam, the military people who have made a straight beyond the the format of the Code of Conduct, or the UCMJ Uniform Code of Military Justice, sometimes their careers in fact, most of the time the career ends in complete ruin.
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 2 (41:35)
It's very true. It has happened with this one case, is a case in point. This man, I looked up to this man Sunday probably and one of the senior generals in the record because he just was that gifted. His abilities is raypower He made a mistake. Was a costly mistake. Would you
Don Lennon Part 2 (42:02)
say in general that the that being a prisoner of war, either in World War Two or Korea has been a detriment to the marine service, regardless of his behavior as a POW, thinking specifically of individuals who are taken on Wake Island, and Craig adorn Batan. They say general Putnam, their contemporaries were one or two ranks above them. Whereas they had spent the entirety of the war as prisoners of war. And when they returned, the Marine Corps seemed to have done very little for those people.
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 2 (42:49)
No question that they suffered, that period of time that they were missing from accomplish in being able to accomplish what their contemporaries did. But I think the Marine Corps gave those individual an opportunity to recoup that loss. If you look, of course, not every prisoner of war is going to make four star general. But if you look at the list of people that have come back, I mentioned this 10 General thrash is what I'm using here. The commanding general fleet marine force Pacific right now is a Lieutenant General prisoner of war. The commanding general Marine Corps has at least right now, they have either three or four general officers. Look what's happened to the to the, to the prisoners of war in, in Vietnam. The top people are generals and admirals, today. Those people ability will work its way to the top, whether it's in the prisoner of war camp, or whether it's on the battlefield or whether it's in in in in the Status Island. And not all of them can succeed or not succeed, had they not that would have succeeded, had they not been prisoners of war. But yes, they suffered. They lost out. Well, let's take a look. Generally, there's another Lieutenant General, a prisoner of war off a week in Putman. But it was his commanding officer. You see the point I'm trying to make? No, there's no there's no set standard. Those people came back. And the Marine Corps did all that they knew to do at that time. Right now, they do a lot more, but they send them to schools, so they could catch up on the latest tactics and techniques or developments or what have you. They went to research work if they want to do that. They got they were promoted, immediate promoted to the level of their contemporaries. If they were qualified in every respect, physically and otherwise, and then they went on their own and some of them just kept on going never just got back in step and never missed a stride. Some of them, they wouldn't have had it if they had not been captured. Just just, that's the way it is not every but I'll give an example in micropet base school, there were 130 of us. I think something like 12 of us ended up being Jana. Six of us ended up being Major General. What ended up being the four star general that's it, in one end up being a three star yet
Don Lennon Part 2 (45:50)
general polar, pointed that when he was alive that he thought we had done too much for a POWs and World War Two in Korea, that particularly officers and lost a great deal of command experience, and that to promote them to the same rank as their contemporaries was not only unfair, but it was unwise from a military standpoint to not have to combat experience in there.
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 2 (46:21)
I had a lot of respect have had for general Porter Dopler was my commanding officer that was basically that he was a captain at that time and he was in charge of the lieutenants. But in this particular case, I have to disagree with respect to his ability as a field commander. I don't believe there's an equal doing just by the fact that some of them and I know that history is a three day process but no one is very true. If a man like happening in the Wake Island they'd never fought those people never fought World War Two they Miss World War Two. But they made up later made it up later in the Korean War.
[Beginning of Part 3]
Don Lennon Part 3 (00:03)
East Carolina manuscript collection oral history interview conducted January the 22nd 1976 with Major General Paul J. Fontana, US Marine Corps retired. This is cassette number two of this interview you recall any incidents or stories of a humorous our light nature? You mentioned a couple earlier or warranty period incidents. But about three anything at all?
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 3 (01:08)
No, not offhand. I'm sure that if I had time that I would come up with several good ones, because there's always a humorous side, even to grim war. But none come to mind at the moment. This moment.
Don Lennon Part 3 (01:30)
You are moving on beyond Korea. stop you. Humans. Yes, shall we will be looking to post Korean.
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 3 (01:41)
I'll make that very brief. Because following that, that mentioned I did mention that went to the National War College and that would be for Korean. So I came back from Korea did an assignment on the West Coast, as I mentioned, Deputy Chief of Staff for operations, and then went to the National War College. And I already described that. From there, I went to headquarters Marine Corps where I became head of planning program for marine aviation. I served there for for two years in that capacity, then was transferred to Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point where I commanded the the a&r facility that is there now at that time was on arm for two years. And that's really when I became interested in North Carolina. I had over 2000 civilians working for me and wonderful, wonderful people. And as a result of being associated with the civilian segment, more than the military segment that I've been involved with before, I got to know to meet a lot of people in the outlying areas of Cherry Point. Some of the people in influence developed some friendships. Well, from there, I got another wonderful assignment, I became the commanding officer of Marine Aircraft group in the Hawaiian Islands cardioid assignment for two years, which was outstanding, an outstanding tour duty. I'll just describe for you the highlights. This was the only squadron in the Marine Corps that had at time three jet squadrons. And they were all the same type of aircraft. So we had 72 F j. Fours, that was the North American Super Saver. And during that crew during that tour, I had, I was able to qualify aboard a carrier, make my six landings and take off. And that as a human story connected with the captain the ship was a Navy captain, of course, I was a colonel. And we had our pre qualification conference and he said, Paul, look, let's face it, you're my age. This is we don't want any old men aboard carrier. I have a good record. Please don't come aboard and record says why don't you just we'll have someone come out and fly aboard and you can observe operations. And I said, No. I want to qualify. Well, he said not on my record, not on my ship. And I said, Well, I want to qualify. So I had an aeroplane group commander in those days had airplane called double zero. You get two zeros, all other aircraft and started with 10/11/12 all two digits. So the group went ahead to qualify and I just stayed behind And they sent me a signal to come aboard. So I told this young captain that was with me, I said, Look, you take double zero. And I'll take your airplane number 12. And said, and I said, and you lead us in, and I'll follow you, we won't tell him who we are, because I'm sure that the captain ship may do something. And sure enough, so he went made pass on the blog, bolter medical team behind him, and I made my pass. And then he came in and landed, and they trapped him, got to work. They pushed him up. And I came in and I got trapped. And with that, they sent me to the elevator. And they on the bullhorn, they say strike number 12 below. And I called them up on the radio, I said, Look, I don't want to go below Eason strike number 12. Below, we're not going to have anybody in the air while the group commander qualifies gonna get the whole ship to himself that I have in my head. But I said, I'm the group commander. Strike double zero below. They gave a whole ship. I made six passes, six landings and six take catapults shots in they struck me below and I went up the boardroom and had a cup of coffee this series is use. What are you doing this for? What are you trying to break your neck? So I had a poem that I found the other day when I found this letter that was written that was written when I made this qualification. The year the squadron whose airplane I was flying, had a big celebration after we got back. This was in 19. In 1957, as going to be 46 years old, it wasn't heard of the man 46 years old flyboard. Carrier and qualify it's something that shouldn't be done tool. But as they put my airplane below number 12. I call it that on the damaged part on it. So when I got ready, I got through with my business I wouldn't get the airplane they said colonels, is your airplane been damaged? It'd be a while. I said no, my airplane was not damaged. Captain Gus has my airplane. This is it was his that was damaged. With that I got back in my double zero took off and went back to Connie oil. And the boys wrote quite a poem on that. It's very, very amusing. The other thing that happened the other highlight what happened during that assignment was it we flew for the first time marine group from overseas from one base overseas to another base, with the aid of air refueling. We flew from Hawaii to Japan. And I lead the group, but it wasn't easy. We weren't this up. We had friends in the Air Force and who were in a tanker force. And they said that they were going to deploy on a certain day and would be over awake and over midway at a certain time, because they were going to the Air Force is gonna bring some airplanes back from the Orient. And they're going to be positioned, and they'd be delighted to refuel us if we were there on these certain days. Because they needed the extra they needed the workout also. So I went to see my boss and I sold them the idea bring the cameras. Let's go see my boss who will get a general idea. And I'll never forget he walked in. He said gentlemen V. Paul has some Jedi here's his please don't throw him out until he's finished. And I went through my briefing. I told him to do it. The old man we just completely Stern. For one thing we've gone behind his back. Secondly, we've gone across service without anyone's permission we had done so that was unheard of. But after he looked at me, he said all right. He said you can fly the airplane as far as midway and then he said I'm gonna send my airplane you get in my airplane. And you fly in my FM's a DC for Orange airplane comfortably all the way to Japan? Yes, sir. Well, the morning we took off 24 planes he was down there and he was just enthusiastic. It'd be my wife and four children see me all. We strapped in and off. We went. We went to Midway. And we landed midway. The next day, we took off from Midway and the the the weather was not good. And I had trouble transferring fuel. So I had come back but the next day took off and we refueled over a week with these airport pilots. And we flew to Guam on the airplane that I was supposed to go on it already left the day before. or I was not on it. That's the one that the gentleman said. But in going to in going to in our predeployment exchange of messages, the commanding general the first wing was in Japan, in answer to a query asked, What shall we bring his as was bring everything including the kitchen sink. This was an official message. I went to the dump and I got to serve a kitchen sink. And I put it on this airplane. The airplane this was Joel's airplane, the airplane Dr. Guan. It had trouble so they had to change an agent as I was flying over Guam after having refueled, they call me and they said my number was Apple six or whatever it was and have a message for you. You read a copy? I said yes. So he said Please be advised that aircraft so and so is having engine trouble will be delayed including your gear is aboard including your kitchen sink. Mess for everybody here and I said fine thing here's a colonel going on a deployment even takes a kitchen sink we got to make the long story short, the first step cars Prince we had the opportunity time, I had two Marines bring in bring on this kitchen sink to the commanding general. Every busted up that really brought the kitchen sink. We went to we flew this airplane to Japan, the first time it was done by marine aviation or we refueled over Iwo Jima. Maybe tankers were fueled overweight with the as I said Air Force tank over Iwo Jima was Navy tankers. And we flew into Japan on time and all aircraft. And the the old paper had a writer go along to cover this story. And because it was the first and describe is the old workhorse, the old 56 year old work workhorse workhorse coming down this runway says looking like making like a second lieutenant. Well, I really want to make like a second lieutenant. It was quite a thrill. That was quite an accomplishment. Now it's something that's done routinely every day, every night by Marines, as well as Air Force, Navy and, and all other air forces. Well, I was there for two years in that wonderful job. And I became Chief of Staff the brigade for one year. And I was selected, promoted to Brigadier General in August 1960 was permitted to join staff
Don Lennon Part 3 (12:32)
who was the captain of the carrier. It didn't want you to fly in
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 3 (12:40)
have to research that. I have to research that. But if you if you want those now.
Don Lennon Part 3 (12:55)
Any questions before we
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 3 (13:01)
make dc 60. I started my career as a general officer. And I went to the Joint Staff, which without question was the most interesting and challenging assignment that I've had in the Marine Corps. And you also try to explain why. I was the deputy director for operations, J. Three, the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Pentagon. The director was an Air Force Major General, I was number two as a brigadier general. And then the number three was a army of greater general. We at that time, we had three generals. I understand that but nine generals that seem directorate right now, they've had a proliferation of generals in Washington, so we're here. But I, the director, more or less divided up the world into two areas and gave us that part of the world that we had the most in which we had the most expertise. The Army General had fought World War Two in in Europe. I fought World War Two and the end Korea in the Pacific. So I got the Pacific. It turned out to be a great assignment for me. Southeast Asia difficulty would be beginning to brew at that time, unbeknownst to me when I went there, but it became quite obvious shortly after I got there. And so I became more and more involved with what was going on in Southeast Asia, particularly Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos and Thailand. I became I had to become very familiar with a Seto the southeast Southeast Asia Treaty Organization. I had to become familiar with the Anzac the Australian New Zealand us plan I had to be come familiar with the national security plan. was Japan. And in doing so I became more or less the walking the walking encyclopedia for other people that wanted this information. And I refer particularly to the chairman Joint Chiefs at that time was General limited, sir. And state department at that time headed by Mr. Dean Rusk and the White House. And there we had a president that McGeorge Bundy, and Walter Rostow and all the people that if if you read the helper Stein, the best and the brightest, you get the old array. Who was there? Well, the big break for me came after I've been there about a little over a year. And just about a year in a rather hasty way. President Kennedy was to meet Prime Minister McMillan at Key West Florida. I got called in by Dick bone Steele, who was Secretary the chairman later turned out to be a four star general and shelf and commanded the forces in Europe. And I got into general Minister's office, he told me since I'm going on a trip with the President, you're not supposed to say anything about this. I want you to prepare me papers and position papers on this subject, this subject is subject matter. And I said, Yes, sir. He says, I want him tomorrow morning at seven o'clock. And this was I would say about 10 o'clock in the morning. And I said, Yes, sir. And needless to say, his demands were not small. So I assembled my slaves with me and we started researching. And we worked practically all night to get these position papers. Fun topics are the types of the papers were all in Southeast Asia. They were talking paper on Laos, economic, military, political situation, population problems, what military aid we were providing how many people we had there. Similar paper for Thailand, similar paper for Cambodia, and similar paper for South Vietnam. A brief on the sequel plans Seto had had about five plans for different contingency plan for each contingency. And then the ties that we had with the NS Dec Australia New Zealand acid, the tie we had with Japan, I forgot another very important mission the first time the Philippines. Well, we develop these papers. And the next morning, I'm back in the Pentagon about about seven o'clock and I'm getting my paper in shape. And about 830 or about 850 The chairman says for me, and I go in and he's facing the floor up. Just if you're questioning bone steel busty, let me see the call from Mr. mcgeorge bundy saying that Mr. McMillan had a brigadier with him. And therefore no military officer senior to bring it here could accompany the President on this trip. I was bringing your limits you wanted to go? He wanted to go with the president united states and I can understand why. So you know, for me that I was the one that was to go. I said where he said I don't know. You just be at the airport and you board Air Force. What this is there'll be a helicopter here in the helipad at nine o'clock to pick you up. This is not go with you at the Andrews as far as that but I'll see the President as you just get all your papers. Take a bag he says take warm clothes in case you're going south take cold clothes because you're going on. So you better go home and pack. Be back here at nine o'clock. I did that most days I had telephone in my car. My own personal car. We had to have because we were continuous watch 24 hours a day on on the waveform which is a private closed circuit phone. I had one in my bedroom and one of the car they want in the office. I was never be on regional city telephones. On the way home I call my wife and I asked her she had the money. And I said I need $100 So what's happened? You said nothing. I'm just going on a trip and I can't go to the bank. I said help if you don't have enough money to go in next door and see if you can borrow some get as much as you can I need $100. And he was just shocked. He didn't know what to expect. But that's what I would tell her. So I got home and she had gone to the neighbor's to borrow a few dollars. The neighbors believe that was John Glenn. And so I thought I said, All right, I'll tell you this. You can't talk about it. Anybody. You just kind of it's as if I'm going with the president United States. But I don't know where I had no idea. Nothing was set apart. And McMillan was vacationing in Jamaica. And they had arranged this meeting with Key West. So I taught him Don't say anything to anyone. And so she said, and she took me to the Pentagon, the heliport I got on with Gerald minister and went to Andrews. And I got on Air Force One and short time thereafter why they slammed the door shut a lot of reporters all over the place. And another person State Department was represented by Mr. Rusk and Chip Bolin. Chip Bolton had been the ambassador in Moscow had been the Ambassador of France, and now as a Special Assistant to the Secretary of State. And Rostow was with with the President and mcgeorge bundy party had to be kept small because Macmillan has small party. And the protocol sets in at this stage. You can't upstage the other person. So we took off, and I had flown left maneuver going south. And we went to Tampa, we went to Palm Springs, Palm Beach. We got to Palm Beach, of course. But by the time that we became airborne, as soon as we can became airborne, the story broke. The President was going to meet with Mr. McMillan. I'll tell the story of my wife has an anecdote. Unfortunately, she had not turned on the radio going back and she was so excited. He's still getting run over. She never turned on the radio. If you walk up to the house, next door neighbor came up this, isn't it. Great. Did you hear about the President going to Key West to notice is the President going to Key West to meet with Elon is Who told you is that you heard on the radio. Like that's, that's where Paul's going? Especially heard about? So we landed Key West and we all went into town and the President went home his father was living at the time his father was there. And at night. A group of us that I mentioned last, mcgeorge bundy in this steps that his secretary I can think of with was Secretary of State had gone to the president's house. But his chipboard was with us. About six of us. We had dinner on the White House, not going to cafeteria in the next morning. We took off. Well, we had it was a thrill for me to be in a cavalcade going 50 miles an hour, right downtown Palm Beach. One car behind the president united states. Two cars removed the Secret Service. Were right behind him and then our car. And we took off the next morning and we went to Key West. And the President. I ended up the president yet and in talking to you so busy. So he waited. He landed first perfect host and random. Next the game proper honor and honor guard music. These things are not you see, they look simple, but they're running difficult stage course I didn't do this I was just viewed as one of my standards. With with briefcases and we get in the motorcade, and off we go to do the little white house and Harry Truman used to use this religion or Harry Truman used to go on his vacation Key West. And then we went in and the British went on one side of the house and the Americans went on the other side of the house. And President asked for Coke, and I was in the room with him and his advisors and he says By the way, he says, who is here to greet me on the military situation that comes up is always fantastic and the Joint Staff you So in general, we shook hands and said, Alright, tell me about Southeast Asia in about 10 minutes. So I started writing off the highlights of these talking papers I had. Fortunately, I helped write these papers so I didn't have to read them. And see. So this is quite a time we all walked into this conference room, which was across the street from where we were staying. And the President that sat at the table with Mr. Rusk on his right, mcgeorge bundy on his left, and then chip Bolin and I ended other State Department Senate back in the present. We take nationally and McMillan had the same counterparts on his side of the table, and they start discussing the situation. And I started taking notes. And so then came time. They started nationally, Southeast Asia was a subject. And McMillan was voicing all sorts of objections. Why we should objective becoming involved in Southeast Asian planning, the President said, Well, I think we ought to have a briefing on it. I have no issue with me. Obviously, none of this is I have an officer can brief us on the situation. So I had my charts, abrupt those. And I set them up and I started talking about Southeast Asian city, don't interrupt me when I said, Ask a silly question. I finally worked my way through and sat down behind the president. You know, I stayed in charge. Well, they were talking about they were talking, I want to take notes. And I was taking notes on a sheet of paper that written the troop strength of these various countries, and also the troop strength of the communist countries. And I had all this piece of paper. So state notes on this piece of paper. And it got to where I, first president, prime minister, and I was getting too confused. So I changed that jacket back for reference, so I'd have more time to write. And when I want to sit down while I recited these figures, then I want to sit down. And I take some notes on this piece of paper. And we have the president knighted states turn around and he says gentleness is good. I have that piece of paper you had to stretch off. Well, this piece of paper was for Jackson has it that I gave to him, he got it. He looked at it eternal. To the prime minister. Yes, I gotta get that paper back. How do I do it. So bread would follow the paper and they would talk and I wouldn't pay any attention when I was taking notes anymore. I just saw disturb that piece of paper and put this pockets coat pocket and I could see it sticking out there rich for finally elected to onboarding put on the table. And Eric stem from the side picked it up. Kristen, just below where the troop strength word, I tore it up and I followed to string paper and back up there. On my pocket. Few months later, the President was, as we said, this seems to get his tries to unfold the paper that people want. And that's that take the bottom half of the paper. But he was really wonderful. Firstly, again, he looked around at me with a smile on his face and saying, you realize that I wanted my jacket neck dialogue back? Well, they asked me if I had not been to Southeast Asia at that time. I had been to Asia. I've been to China, but I hadn't been further south in the Philippines. So he asked me many questions that I could not answer. And I want to I didn't want to show too much ignorance. Finally he asked me a question. He said, Well, how why is the Mekong river there we're talking about retreating across the meat out if the if the Chinese came in into Laos. And I said, Well, Mr. President about as wide as the Potomac River and I just took a guess. And we go this is how wide is that? I said, Well, there's someplace it's why there's another one. They realize I didn't know the answer, but it was sort of a big question that Ask anyway, someplace that Mekong River is a mile wide or that places on a quarter of a mile wide. So it's sort of this idea of questions we're asking. Well, we worked our way through and, and then we all gathered together and compared notes, and roll up position paper, roll up a press release. McGeorge Bundy. did most of that is brilliant person. And both the Prime Minister and the President approved it, and they made some changes. And so we left the Prime Minister left first. And we left and we went back to the Palm Beach. And on the cruise, we got to the airport and the President called everybody and before we could park, everyone says, He said, that I thought that he did a fine job there and kind of said this word, space. And he says, pour yourself a drink. So I poured myself a strong bourbon. He was almost all bourbon. And we started talking. And he wanted he was asking Bolin, who was a really experienced diplomat. What he thought the conference is the first time that this young president that we had met as chief head of state first one of the few minor ones had come to Washington see. So I'll never forget. Mr. Bolton said, Mr. President, he said he started out a little paternalistic. But I think you kind of showed him your valuable person towards the end of the conference. So sit Alright, first, Key West, Palm Beach is lighten set residential seven or 720 said I'd say well, let's do we said, let's, let's all go in and grab a sweater and grab it. This is a Jackie is at the White House. We'll stay here. But if she gone up to our home in Virginia, I think I better get back. To you, right, dude, just like the rest of the different. Well, we went in, unfortunately, the the mrs. Kennedy, Virginia. Within the first week, George Bush said we're gonna write a report. So we need to go for swim like the president suggested. During the BI D, we all went up into the Jordan suite. And that individual had the ability to dictate to girls he would dictate to run for five minutes, solid input, transcriber notes and dictate to another one, while that was translating notes, and come back with transcribe notes and read copy for each one of us. We all have to read them and correct them make additional changes that need taken notes, and he didn't ask me to contribute. He just wondered if I agreed, concurred with a portion of that. What I had said that the way he had relayed was tremendous ability to do for a situation like that. Well, we wrote our report almost finished when we got a call. The President's calling the President said everybody be playing cards are here. It was cool. Secretary and President made a bid to run for governor of New Jersey was the messages was defeated. Anyway, we all went back. We went back on the airplane and dinner was served on the airplane. We flew back to Washington, Oregon, just two days. So next morning, back in the Pentagon, it's seven o'clock. And Squawk Box comes on about 7:15 is Jeff, I'll go don't have to come in here, please. So I told my boss, he wants to be read. So I want any sit already said I've called the meeting for the Joint Chiefs of Staff at nine o'clock. And I want you to brief for the Joint Chiefs of Staff on what took place, and I hope you meet sufficient notes. So if you're all notes, I did make some notes. I think between now and that apply, they might get some sort of a briefing together. Maybe you have hours. I want to tell you that. Yes, sir. So Well, first, they'll meet to sit up. Have you been called into whatever. So I started telling him about halfway through my spiel, those tokens in general is that neutral. This is what As it says, I just got a call from George button. The general content is not to talk to anyone about that conference. Is not only that he's the president. George Romney said that President knows he took some notes he liked, they liked that it was most. So he said in fact, they said to me, he says you're supposed to go see McGeorge. So I went to see majority funding at the White House. And he said that this was a, this was a meeting between his states and one source of disclosure. And no one else was supposed to, and said You did a fine job. We're very happy to have you. And that was the beginning of my going to the White House sometime two or three times a week. And I made another trip. The Secretary of State took me to Geneva for the conference on Laos. I was there almost a month with Mr. Ruskin. Later April Harriman, replaced in the governor of New York. And from then on, I became minister of Southeast Asia to join Stata. I did go to Southeast Asia, I did go to see how why they had gotten econ was because a lot of them, not just made a good guess. And just rivers are wide. And sometimes they're very wise if they're not there because one of the longest rivers in were like the Mississippi League, what it is, starts up in China and ends up in the Delta, Delta country those are 510 miles wide, especially during the rainy season is 20 of I've seen it later on when I commanded the wing in Japan I sent him he got over 20 miles wide, but where it was if they're in near the NTN Well, I did. I tended to Seto conference in Bangkok, in Bangkok. At that time, it took advantage of being there. And I went into Laos. I went to Vietnam. When I went to long for bone. I miss a lot of former I met for me, I met a gentleman attempted to stage a coup here until it turned communist. At that time, he was a major and now later he was a Major General, head of the Air Force. We've given them 4028 sets all the airplanes that had at that time. And I flew all over South Vietnam, this isn't 61 Laters in the fall of 61. I wanted to get to know that country more than I really want to know much later. And then Cambodia in Pnom pen as that was falling horses. It has a special meaning to me having been there and seeing that beautiful city have not been in a beautiful COA before they were destroyed by new French citadels is really what they looked like they were built by the French were very cheap labor and nothing was spared. Well, I did other things to the joy stats, I don't think that would just the Southeast Asian, I was deeply involved with nuclear warfare. One that I cannot discuss, of course. I spent many nights in the in the command posts, both airborne and other in other areas. And it was very, very interesting assignments. Read the highlight of my career. Because it was different. I never thought that I would have to change views, with statements from the State Department, people in the White House and sometimes fight for, for my view, an attempt to convince them that military use some time is the right one. And that's what I'm doing. I'd get to my inputs from the chiefs. And I would carry it there as their messenger boy. But these were not my ideas. I don't want to create that impression. I had lots of help from the chairman, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the chief of services. And of course, the big staff that we had on the joint staff, all services would put input papers to me, and we'd work with them to consolidate them and then submit the Joint Chiefs for approval. And if they approve them, then that was the position that the joint chiefs would take on this particular setting. When I was in Geneva, I kept feeding back to the Joint Chiefs. What was going on? And of course at that time we're trying to neutralize neutralized Laos. We thought we had We upheld our position but the North Vietnamese never encountered never Viet In the economy in the last, never to get out, they just went underground. So I stayed there until 1962. At which time the positions in the Pentagon on a rotational basis, they rotate them on services. No one service has a position lock every year that change. And also during this change, you go from bottom to top, when I would there be a very the head when I report in the head of the J three directory was a Navy admiral. He was redeemed by an Air Force Major General. So from the top position was at that time, I came in as the bottom. I said to Iranians little while ago that was number two men, I was a number three man. Later, when the when the army general is the time was up, the next army gentleman came in was junior to me. So I became one into number two. And then when I left, the army took over number one and two years later, the Navy took over the number one job again, they rotate out throughout the Joint Staff Directory. But I'm very thankful for the position that I had spent a lot of nights in the National Command Center. I said I was on a 24 hour day for two solid years. But it was challenging kind of a strain on the family wasn't Yes, it was yes. In fact, my wife used to say that I was her favorite guest. Many a time we dinner parties and I have not come home until the guests were by Rachel Lee. That was such a critical period. Right? Yes, it was during the the build up. We had, of course military assistance groups and all those countries that time. But that's really that's all we were. But hostilities were were increased by both the Viet Minh and yet calm in, in all of those countries that communist infiltration, just increase it to a tremendous, tremendous pace and culminated with the unhappy Vietnam War, which was truly a very sad affair.
Don Lennon Part 3 (42:22)
Where were they infiltrating from?
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 3 (42:25)
From the from the North Vietnam north, the North Vietnamese, they have a common border with with South Vietnam and Laos. And of course, they go down through the makan Valley and go into Cambodia. Laos, Cambodia.
Don Lennon Part 3 (42:42)
Was there any evidence at that time? The Chinese were? No, were deeply involved in this. And
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 3 (42:51)
they were involved only in a logistic way. As were the s with the Russians, of course, the North Vietnamese could not have manufactured all those all that war making machinery that they had in the tanks and rifles and machine guns and abandon the shells and bullets. Oh, yes. The Chinese and the Russians were deeply involved in the logistic financial advisory capacity
Don Lennon Part 3 (43:33)
saying that they actually did have Chinese communist troops acting in North Vietnam as advisors. That's one of the things that really hasn't come up. No, it hasn't.
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 3 (43:54)
We have we have evidence that
Don Lennon Part 3 (43:58)
my brother killed two. Back then I got a ring for August 30 1966 killed two Chinese advisors dressed in NBA uniforms directly above the DMZ. He was in a reconnaissance unit and they took the watches and effects and the letters they were actually Chinese advisors very I haven't seen anything public in the public American press about that.
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 3 (44:30)
It hasn't been the right size to watch wrestling reasons we can have a bit of knowledge of the source because they're not a society like we are. We know for sure. Interviewer will say we should all work with them. We've done
Don Lennon Part 3 (45:02)
all the lesson, the very nature of those Magath fish maturity systems inside
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 3 (45:14)
I knew all gentlemen
Don Lennon Part 3 (45:22)
so your next after leaving the Pentagon, your next duty was,
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 3 (45:26)
I came to Cherry Point as the commanding general first of the base and then command the Second Marine Aircraft commanded that I was there for two years. And just it was a normal normal assignment, except that South Vietnam was increasing. And we were reinforcing the First Marine Aircraft Wing. And again, it was my unfortunate timing. I went out and took command of the first meeting I graduated in June of 1964. And it was during this time that the Tonkin incident occurred, the topic and resolutions passed. The night took over the first three weeks, we had a helicopter unit in South Vietnam. The codename for Oh Shoo fly operation, it's been decoded I mean unclassified. And the My First Act was, we had trained Vietnamese Helicopter Squadron maintenance and pilot personnel in my first job was to go down there and turn over, participate in the turnover of these 20 some odd helicopters to the South Vietnamese. And we brought in another Marine Squadron and the marine personnel whose helicopters were turned over to the South Vietnamese rotated back to the United States. And we gave them full effective squadron helicopters and within a period of six months, it was pretty hard to find anymore because each field is cheap and taking one for himself to move around a lot better than moving around on the ground and they just dispersed their resources, where they really became
[Beginning of Part 4]
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 4 (00:14)
Vietnam. Welcome, continue. Yeah, now of course, the pocket resolution, which came in the spring of 65 resulted in US troops being deployed first and which was the nice green and Fitness Brigade, which landed today. And I was directed to deploy squadrons, we started flying. And I moved my headquarters from Japan to get in, in May 1965. And that was completely bombed in Greece, in South Vietnam. And then, after that, of course, the whole division, the entire Third Marine Division came in that first week division came in the third grade is force was born. And on top of mediation all the way in one way, unified, you always had to have communication committed to get on board covered so adequately, that I don't feel like any make any meaningful contribution rehashing what he said.
Don Lennon Part 4 (01:37)
Unless you have some anecdotes, or
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 4 (01:43))
we were talking a little while ago here what you were answering with this request that you receive. It's most unfortunate that this has been one of the longest wars that we've had, we've lost 50,000 casualties. And yet we have no heroes of the Vietnam War. That is a tragedy, that real American tragedy. Almost 20,000 Young Americans are given the right for the country, to people to die, it was not an indifferent war in World War Two World War One World War Two agreed. And the only heroes that we've acknowledged really are the prisoners of war, which I acknowledges here will also have no without question. But we had other healers, we had young boys that gave their life some word, their deeper recognize and decorated. Somewhat unnoticed. Somebody said some batteries made a tremendous sacrifice when we when we back into the story, instead of instead of going in and saying
Don Lennon Part 4 (03:01))
more than everyone wants. Yeah,
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 4 (03:05))
that's right, you can find a lot more. And it's exactly. And it really started developing this way from the very beginning. And I'll go to this. The Security Council had a meeting at the White House one night, and I was called on to breed one of the Southeast Asia plans. And security constantly prep the entire cabinet and the majority of minority leaders in Congress said the president vice president. And and so I briefly define it as it was written not by me, but it was written by the South Atlantic Treaty Organization. And then I forgotten which Senator it was, or who it was. Said, I think there are too many white faces in that planning. Meeting not enough for you. So the President address a question Lisa's generally chill, you get about 30,000, more Orientals in there so we can reduce the number directly participate. I said, I'll take this back to the president. He separately Chairman of Joint Chiefs is sitting right there. And the Secretary of Defense made appropriate comments was not in a position to answer that question or comment on that question. When the two top bosses are sitting at the table, they have seats at the table. So you have Mr. McNamara and John Lennon's. But you see, this this attitude not only continued but group. We have no business being in Southeast Asia and the American public as evidenced by the disturbances we've had through other nations I became convinced after the visit In Congress, not all of them, fortunately, not all, but some of the other people that could express their views publicly. The detriment to this I cannot let the media get away scot free, not because they tended to do what they did. It was just the way this war was fought. I maintained some of the speeches that I made during the Vietnam War. And criticizing the press as it was, unfortunately, we didn't have night television, the Vietnam War was not bought at a date in the daytime home. In fact, in many cases, it was bought more at night than the daytime, but you couldn't take a picture at night. So you couldn't show it we get it not only showed what was sensational during the day. And the accumulation year after year of this attitude in this, in this time, knows that we had the American public. It was a no win war, the troops became this heart. No one wanted to go out there to fight this. The only one was people were in great numbers deserve it, rather than serve the country. And now you're probably tired of this question. But before could we have learned in four years? I think the North Vietnamese would be beaten at the end of the Tet Offensive in 67. Had we done in 1967? What President Nixon erected to be done? When we went in and started bombing an oil and mining the harbor? Hi, Paul. I think the North Vietnamese would have done exactly what the Japanese did. They said, Okay, we'll come to the conference date on your terms, starts three or four years too late, three or four years too late, they finally got to the position the American public was on their side. But majority Americans are a large segment of the American public. I put it that way. Because I really am not in a position to know how much of let's say what, but I know that a large segment the American public is on their side. We're all getting tired of that we're not winning in this graph, the best way is honorably as we can. And we settle for what we consider to be a tie. And there are no ties to the communists, you either liquor, or they like you. They're just that simple. And we thought that we can negotiate it on equal terms where neither side would win, he decided, well,
Don Lennon Part 4 (07:55))
I'm sure that the Joint Chiefs realized that the opportune time was in the Tet Offensive. Who has to bear the responsibility for not doing that press the American people the president, or
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 4 (08:16)
I don't believe there's any one individual that you've laid out only when President knighted states because the president knighted states has to get the American people behind it. I've heard President knighted states say what I'm going to what am I going to tell Mike Mansfield despite that, concern about what either the majority of the minority speaker will or not only speakers, but for those that represent and the Congress was too many people didn't want to get involved. I'm not saying that we should. But once I say we shouldn't count. I've never said that. But once we gave involved, there was nothing else to do. But to win that award as fast as we could with the minimum loss.
Don Lennon Part 4 (08:29)
meant when you said a few moments ago that, quote, We have no business in Southeast Asia. Do you did not mean that from a strategic bone up there? at all, so you are not working hard this time in opposition to the political military conduct of the American undertaking in Vietnam sanctuary policy, the telegraphing what our moods are going to be regards to not bombing certain areas in the north such as you know, anti fog the military economy I think
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 4 (10:01)
I think everyone was in a position to really evaluate this war is the court that knowledge expressed and I've always been of that
Don Lennon Part 4 (10:15)
US banks that in this war, the Americans have laid too much emphasis on technological warfare, as opposed to a man to man struggle for the country. So I'm thinking that as our losses grew, we seem to placate the pockets of the people at home, we seem to have gone to greater emphasis on aircraft strikes and this sort of thing. We think that we could have realistically fought the war. Hope we have even won in the way we did go about pursuing the conflict.
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 4 (10:57)
I don't think we took advantage of our technical logical security sufficiently, I think we should have done more. I think we should use the weapon with that we have in greater numbers and more effectively, I think we attempted to keep the war from escalating. That was a phrase that was sacrificed grace, keep the war from escalating? Well, we didn't control the escalation, the enemy control the escalation. And we would respond. This was a war on our part of war of reaction, rather than action. We would respond to the enemy. We should have acted in response to our
Don Lennon Part 4 (11:44)
complaint, the whole tenor of or do think the whole pattern of American post world war two foreign military policy has been a reaction to Communist initiated policy, thinking like the Berlin Blockade in 1948 49, Korean June and 50. Hungary, Czechoslovakia deal here in 68, Vietnam, it seems that America is reacting to Congress, in the colonies, initiated policy.
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 4 (12:18)
Well, we have reacted as far as taking action is concerned, but we've had eternal reaction. We went to Lebanon and stopped a civil war there. We didn't do it this time. I read or heard the neighbor 10,000 people killed. And the President Kennedy faced up appreciate it on the missiles in Cuba. What's the replacement they've got? Because they are the Trump list here in the United States?
Don Lennon Part 4 (12:50)
You know, either while serving the Joint Chiefs of Staff later, do you know of any confirmed reports or suspicions or anything along that nature that pointed to Communist either Soviet or Chinese communist intervention, whatever the realistic fear that these people are going to become involved if we did escalate the war? Our own terms?
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 4 (13:21)
Yes, I think there was a great fear as a result of the Great War with the Chinese did cross the yellow. Yes, it was great fear that the Chinese might come across the southern there any lawsuit?
Don Lennon Part 4 (13:40)
Was there any material indications that the Chinese Soviets may take?
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 4 (13:46)
I don't know. I haven't had access to such information. The advisory capacities we were talking about, but not a massive military formations.
Don Lennon Part 4 (14:09)
Looking back over 37 years of service, I'm sure you've seen a tremendous change in marine aviation was the Marine Corps in general, any thoughts or comments about the tremendous changes taking place in those few years?
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 4 (14:36)
We've made such progress in technology that it would take hours to describe it all. And we've made such progress, acknowledge that we've really reshaped the geography of the world. In a way we're talking earlier today where the some of these islands or countries were strategically important, or conduct of war, or to maintain our forces in a posture or position of readiness, that the aircraft are flying at speeds that they fly ships to be able to cruise and excessive putting us nuclear powered ships without refueling for years, right. And of course, we have this was brought out openly, we have to call the smart bombs that were used in the in North Vietnam, where you aim it, you trigger it and forget it, the bottle be there. That's a tremendous technology, especially if your rubrics are registered for communication, it's essential to resupply suppliers and weapons systems. Command and control procedures have become so much greater. The Mayaguez action was controlled for the White House, not the commander on the spot. From the War Room in the White House, they said what to do next? And they could do it. They could do it.
Don Lennon Part 4 (16:31)
Is the Corps attractive? today? Yeah. You feel as it was prior to World War Two, the first one and our as a military become so tech, illogical. And so I've computerized and everything else has lost a certain degree of its appeal?
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 4 (16:57)
Well, I think it still appeals to a large segment of our youth, particularly women now they just seem to be flocking to my station stations. But it's hard for me equated because when I came into service, I came during the depression of the 30s. And despite the fact that my initial pay was $125 a month as compared to the internet today, which is not true for the private makes it much more than twice that of course, we have to consider the purchasing power of those dollars to you. It's not always it's not that easy to to equate, but the service is still very attractive, especially with a paid weekend. Now, I think we're paying too much every day. I'd hate to think that we're gonna have a mercenary Defense Department. The people are in the Army, the Navy, the Marine Corps and the Coast Guard, because the pay is equivalent to doing something on the outside. I really do. I'm very concerned about that. Some of these senators and congressmen that are now taking slashes benefits of the service. In a way, I can see why I no longer feel that we need the US OS we did years ago when this young boy the Dean was drafted. When he hadn't planned at all to do that to pursue that career. He and his family had certain plans for him, but he was drafted and shipped off. So so far, we know that he was homesick and needed a paternal assistance for qualified in general. Now here the basic concerns because they didn't pay me this well. And I go for years and I use the GI Bill arise I go to college that's the other thing. So I've received reservation funds continuing the GI Bill and those go by good for by the youngsters it's also do a lot of good for about a small schools that are betting
Don Lennon Part 4 (19:25)
that the salaries are such that these Yes.
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 4 (19:30)
What about this? This is ridiculous in an overt way but this young, stupid Fox gas that was this gas station, they've just bought as much as the private but he has a US you get a college education you both get that sort of things that we get as a result of the pay scale now on the surface, I hope that we do To get a better educated person with a certain authentication period, that the trend is that way. At one time, I was concerned, and fearful that we may bring the low level type of individual that can't find a job on the outside or Canada doesn't have the great power to go to college, and learn a profession, or go to a technical school and go to trade. So we can come into service where the pay is equivalent. And just to not really have to work. Initially, eventually will Yes, the demands on him, you'll be out in the bed, you'll receive medical attention, it'll be close. And so what could happen besides
Don Lennon Part 4 (20:54)
one thing I was thinking about in the change in these years, when I asked you that your first plane here, prior to World War Two, was asked to imagine very uncomplicated, you are much more on your own than you are today with the jets with all of their paraphernalia that goes with them. And I would think that it would not be quite as romantic is that would that be a suitable word? Notice sporty
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 4 (21:32)
scoring. That is for yes, the the flying has become much more complicated. The product today is more professional than the product of my days when I started out. Yes, the year were simple playing, playing that I had in combat. Just give you some examples, since you took off, you had to crank the wheels off my head. And you had set the throttle friction to hold the throttle setting work what you change has been from the stick to crank it up with his head ilustrado flew back on us power. And so you you had built by hand, you control your propeller pitch by hand and ask him to the automatic the wheels you push the switch he has the fuel pump. To ensure that you have proper fuel pressure, you can switch these eyes big enough to grab it as long as the wobble pump and pump like man keep that pressure up, especially if but I'll do the pump enough to do that to pressure the two guns jammed up to my hand, you work the booth back and forth by hand. Now that the switch works to clear the room. And of course many of the control aircraft it's really what has developed when you consider the body of airplanes that we have in the air in in the centers like like Chicago, Chicago O'Hare and JFK. And planes going high speed ever directions. And people up here quite a bit about near misses and intercalation I think this controller will do a tremendous job. Soon we'll be reaching the places that need more saturation on the public, the public will have to accept the fact that they can no longer land down. You may have land 50 miles away and might have rapid transit system into the city. Maybe the city will have four airports, as your Chicago as far as 100 miles away. So it'd be not interfering traveling
Don Lennon Part 4 (24:00)
or any other questions involved in general what would you rather have done is an alternative Marine Corps career. You are a professional electrical engineer.
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 4 (24:18)
I have never regretted coming into the Marine Corps. Of course if I had been if I had gone into my professional engineering right away, I probably would have known what it was like. And, again, probably made the wise decision because we did go to war. And I had reserved I didn't call whether I would have had a successful enjoyable career as an Army engineer as opposed to pilot I don't know that I doubt I doubt it. There's Additional, but I don't think I've stated before when they're permitted to change your font, this is a big one. I've never had second thoughts on it. It was a it was a biggest. The biggest effect it had on me was the fact that I had to leave all my school friends from grade school through high school through college, and then go back. Except on visits, but every time I look back, I have fewer and fewer friends. But that can happen in any profession. But the military definitely. Unless it's a big military installation, where you were raised, chances are you'll never go back. I'm very happy with having pursued a military career I consider myself was fortunate having survived.
Don Lennon Part 4 (26:08)
combat experience, it seems a great deal that wasn't expected, for example, for participation in combat operations over open. dissipation in 1951, Korea, group commander, given these additional risks, you look back on your career, would you have done the same thing?
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 4 (26:31)
Yes, I would add because I don't think I would, I didn't look at it. In real life, I was taking additional risks I was taking as an act of leadership. I wasn't telling I've never asked anyone to do something that I could do myself.
Don Lennon Part 4 (26:49)
To add up one person to meet or to breathe, to see again, aside from members or family, who would you most like to see again?
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 4 (27:08)
Don't believe there's one individual that stands that far in all of our different years perhaps a little strange? I've never thought of that.
Don Lennon Part 4 (27:26)
One final question. Why did you return here a second, second or third award? Merit? Why did you return that award to the Secretary of the Navy? Is there some reference to it in your personal papers?
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 4 (27:48)
I asked you a question. I returned it, I had a discussion with a common enemy. Joe Fishman very good friend of mine for 39 years. There, he said. I told him that I had to Legion America that I've gotten in combat. And I felt this last award. I didn't want an award for what I had to Cherry Point. I had enough aging parents, I didn't even know that unless I could receive what I consider to be adequate recognition for 37 years to record an appropriate award for I did not care.
Don Lennon Part 4 (28:44)
What did you consider appropriate award and Distinguished Service Medal.
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 4 (28:49)
I told him the things that many things that I had done that had not been done for you. So now that we've covered most. And he agreed with me, and he said, Alrighty, so I know that you have a board here are the wards and they just automatically say, okay, Joe Doc is retiring. He gets it because of his rank. And, and all that, you know, he called me back. And he said that he had a policy that he had established that Distinguished Service Medals went to lieutenant generals and above. And major generals and brigadier generals. And so stated that in my letter to Secretary of the Navy and I thought secondly, I don't agree with that you don't give awards according to length you give according to performance, and therefore I respectfully request that you and withdrawal obviously, should America be the secretary
Don Lennon Part 4 (30:03)
who did not mention at all this thing with service medal and correspondence.
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 4 (30:10)
That was the only the only higher award there is for services rendered out in combat.
Don Lennon Part 4 (30:18)
Now with, with General Wilson as a common, are you disappointed at all to see that General Anderson was not given that position?
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 4 (30:28)
rather happy despite the fact general Ellison is this lady, Darrell Wilson is also good friend of mine. My tour a tour that we did not cover subsequent to the Vietnam War when I was deputy director of the move for specific second in command for the Pacific Command, General Wilson Witchita. Staff right under the third general, Brigadier General time, we we've developed a very, we've known each other for many years, but we've developed a very close friendship, family wise along as well as individually. And I have seen since Gen. Wilson came to Cherry Point to two biggest versions to the requested contacts, which I did. Carol Anderson, I'm no longer and better than I know, General Wilson, but there were some things we did some of which were hit the press
Don Lennon Part 4 (31:29)
and referring to the comment letters. Yeah,
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 4 (31:33)
yes, that's right. And the fact that also, many senior generals were asked to retire before the new pay retirement restrictions went into effect. That was the media ploy to get people out of the way to the Deputy Speaker. Joe Wilson said he would not retire.
Don Lennon Part 4 (31:58)
Would you have any? Would you be opposed to having a flyer as a commandant of the Marine Corps?
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 4 (32:04)
I'd like to see it as a parting shot if I made a little bit of what I was told that was a universal to like clash with
Don Lennon Part 4 (32:20)
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 4 (32:25)
The Union did not go into that class. No, I think it's personal. I don't think it would contribute anything. And this occurred many years ago. It just so happened it turned out to be common at the time that I came up with restore. So like selection and very friendly way. So we could spread the word. The best I don't think it's certainly surprising to go beyond that. But this is something that happened years ago in three in the Marine Corps. Nothing personal. He was artillery and Our Lady and we did not see eye to eye you will see here to me that the conservative, it doesn't yet. That wasn't for aviation. You told me virtual bull supporting forces, both aviation or to support the management. It was just the case of dividing america.com That resolution was resolved in my favorite I won the battle that lost the war.
Don Lennon Part 4 (33:57)
Any analysis repeats question that Carl had for you. But are there any individuals or personalities that made a particular impression? Or any particular incidents or stories about individuals you serve with that?
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 4 (34:18)
Oh, yes, during the time of service, I met many of them the first one week we mentioned in general core, who was a captain in Philadelphia when I came into the Marine Corps. He used to hold a spell bow stories about chasing the same needle in his Nicaraguan stories. He was just admired and respected by every member of that class. I would say he was the first one that really impressed me being considered to be real The true rate of individualized life for Marines. And then they're there. I mentioned that I was I went to Washington, after my assignment in Korea, as a system to inhibit plans and programs department, isn't it? No, I take it back. I went to Washington. And when I came back from Okinawa in 1946, I went to work for colonel who was, in my judgment, one of the most outstanding staff men I have ever seen. Another big George been wearing the marine uniform. And he taught me more about staff procedures, what to do what not to do it I've had any success in that field, I have to credit crisis as having been my mentor has or raised the unfortunately, very strong willed person and very strong headed and unfortunately, he did not succeed and disappointing for he did not go to the top. It didn't make Brigadier General but that's as far as he got. He was so brilliant. I guess I've always admired people that do many things. He could talk to you and say time turn of conversation on the telephone, something that agitated many people. But once you get used to it, I'd never had any staff with you at all. Isn't that what they called an airplane job. I'd been in the cockpit. Bit the school wasn't in the cockpit. And he sat me down with two desks. But it to each other and we sat facing each other. And I'd write a letter. And English was my core subject in college. We didn't that's why I became an engineer. So we'd have to like too much. And he would get this letter and say no. Brito it this way, throw right back at me with blood and tears, but I really do learn. If I ever did become proficient step off, it was because of that. Then there, there are many others. The years to a lesser degree, those two people stepped down. We had an elderly I mean, scaly, Southern gentleman to Paris. For some reason you took a liking to it. And that resulted in in good assignments. For instance, if I'm not keeping you off, that dropped out of me, maximal Air War College, and I heard this jet squadron on the West Coast and it's going to be up for grabs that summer. I jumped into the beach prep C 45 As the air force called the National Anthem at Cherry Point. Cherry Point, which is sucked in minimum GCA weather. I came in under minimum condition that landed I call the general tone overseer. And I went up to his house was on a Saturday because we went school five days a week, as I said, and he asked me what I was doing there and I said don't understand that. You're going to the west coast to be a demanding job. The first aircraft said Yes, that's right. I said I also understand that the MF 311 suggests what it's like to have a job. This is you flown all the way from Montgomery Alabama in the Beechcraft in this kind of whether to ask for this job. I said yesterday I did this as you can have it be careful going back. And I fought as a result of that. I want to commit to that squadron. And then I mentioned when I was deputy commander of mag 33 in the Korean War that became his operatives. It will be just like a son. Just so proud of me. I flew every place you want to go to I said Mrs. Potter that we fly and everything from DC throughs to, to light observation airplanes. And except what they were taking off at home in and it was a crossword League, we're flying light observation over the aircraft observation aircraft out of the street and I'm there, the artillery knocked down practically all the buildings. And so he was in back and out in front, fly the airplane just one day we had a terrific crosswind, I see about 30 knots. And as long as I was done on the street going down the street, with building on both sides, I was protected from the wind. But when I got down to the end of the street, the buildings had been demolished on the windward side. So the wind came across and started pushing me across, so that by the time we taking off, we're almost flying in this position. I'm rolling my wheels off the buildings on this side, we got back that bassist Paul this good as a helicopter, I think there's better ways to travel. I think that's the only time that that gentleman he lost his son in the Chosun reservoir. The only boy or two children or ever lost his son, even though I was much older, this is kind of held a feeling that he could see something is in me he he came back when that tragedy occurred. I flew back as far as California, then I would hope to read off to see my family. And he went to Kentucky. And then we met again. And on the way back, which kicked out in North Vietnam. One said, on the way back, he said I got surprised. And I was probably surprised to be commanded make 33 So the day after we got back he had a stack conference and he had all these curves. This was a kernel job. I've been selected for kernel, but I had not and he said alright, he said the first order of business is to is to find a new commander for the night. The commanding officer had been evacuated back states ulcers. So these colonels all started looking. He said Alright, before anyone makes any moves, he says I have a nomination. I nominate Papa. Without all these criminals turn around and shake my hand. If I can't have the job. I'd rather see you have it for anyone else. And so he said, Alright, polish. Now let's give this week back in combat. I said Yes, sir. And that's when I set up that we were Itami inactive, not a marine airplane was fine in the war. Next, I believe we're waiting for the next day that the adjuvant airplane that was surveyed for an airfield in southern Honshu, by far more than the next day we started moving in. And I remember this had been an Air Force base has been vacated. And when I'm New Zealand base, the New Zealand been vacated, and just a short time and they let the small detachment and they had an exchange. So I've gotten some special services money, which you get when you deploy for welfare, the troops. And I got in there and they had a small exchange and had cigarettes, toothpaste and soap. Covered it was very, very small. I asked this, this New Zealander whether he wanted to sell the exchange said yes. I said How much do you want? He told me and I said to my chief of staff, but to my Exec. I said, Pam, is why you can get it out of the Special Services Fund we've not paid in the NASA would give this to the troops. So I said no, we'll charge the troops will have price. So we get some money back and maybe we can buy something else but probably general came down to see this lady said he was going to Kentucky never lost his southern accent. Very mild mannered man. When he says I was showing him everything. I had the mess hall the dispensary and everyone buys. What is that cubby hole, but 1/4 the size of this. I said that's my exchange. He says exchange. He says you don't have authority to set up a group to change. I said yes sir. I know I bought this from the New Zealanders and as he said would use for money. personal money. I said no. So I didn't I use special survey. He says Paul that's JAYLEE you don't hear that expression that Lord. I said all right, sir. Are you We did something. Oh, he sent money to change it set it up as a branch exchange. But he was right. I was illegal. But I have chance using toothpaste and soap Well, I could tell you the Air Force in the career that spans a number of years.
Don Lennon Part 4 (45:31)
You mentioned a few names. Have you just briefly respond to what comes in your mind when I say start off the course with Gregory boy.
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 4 (45:43)
He was really sweet. Sweat, sweat, sweat. I didn't know him very well. He was afternoon in the southern city. Very funny pilot.
Don Lennon Part 4 (45:57)
JJ de Blanc.
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 4 (45:59)
JJ block was in my squadron. He was a reckless individual. And in fact, I call it the task go by the time you guys picked airplanes, last five airplanes of ours and I told him that I was classified into Japanese ace. If you just start bringing art ways back. You would want to boy teaching at the Naval College in Belgium
Don Lennon Part 4 (46:27)
won the Medal of Honor
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 4 (46:29)
for shooting down five their Japanese airplanes and one on top. But he also lost the American plane. It was reached at six
Don Lennon Part 4 (46:36)
so he's lost. He lost five American planes to drive yesterday's plane
Major General Paul J. Fontana Part 4 (46:41)
but he shot more down with it shut down five and one time he got paid for which he got the the Medal of Honor. But during the course of his combat he got
[End of recording]
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Paul J. Fontana is my husband’s mother’s (Mary Fontana) uncle. His brother, Joseph, is her father. This was interesting to read, as we have had few details of his life, by comparison.
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