California Council for the Humanities
California Stories Initiative
Years of Valor, Years of Hope
Tulare County and the Years 1941-1946
Tulare County Library
The Friends of the Tulare County Library
And the Tulare County Historical Society
Interviews in 2003-2004
Report No: 40
Place of Interview: Visalia, CA
Marvin Haggard in 2003 with his Visalia Jr. College yearbook, 1942.
LIFE IN TULARE COUNTY; JUNIOR COLLEGE; RODEO IN VISALIA;
NAVY AIR FORCE
DURING WAR; STATIONED IN
SHOOTING SUBMARINES; RETURN TO TULARE COUNTY;
BUYING A NEW CAR IN 1946.
TM: I am Tania Martell and today is February 13, 2004. I am here to interview Mr. Marvin Haggard as part of the Oral History Project entitled Years of Valor, Years of Hope, Tulare County and the years 1941 to 1946.
We are in Mr. Haggard’s house in Visalia, somewhere between the kitchen and the dining room.
So, Mr. Haggard, what is your full name and when were you born?
MH: Marvin F. Haggard, born in 1922, in a little farm house about two miles north of Ivanhoe.
TM: And who were your parents?
MH: My father’s name was Cheslie Haggard, and my mother’s name was Marie (Higdon) Haggard.
TM: Did you grow up here then, in this area?
MH: I have been in Visalia all my life.
TM: How old were you when World War II started?
MH: I was about 19.
TM: Um hum, and were you married?
TM: Okay. How did you hear the
news of the war, of the
MH: My parents always went to church every Sunday, at a little Presbyterian church in Ivanhoe. We had gone to church. We went home, had our Sunday lunch and I was sitting on the couch reading the Fresno Bee. Roosevelt came on the radio and said we had been attacked at Pearl Harbor by the Japanese.
TM: And how did your family react to that?
MH: Well, I really don’t remember; it was a shock. We had a few Japanese farmers in the area and it was kind of a shock to us that the Japanese would have attacked us.
TM: What was your life like before we got into the war and everything? What was life like in Visalia? Do you know what the population was, for example?
MH: I don’t recall the population, but I can tell you the size of the town when I went to high school. First I started grammar school in Ivanhoe in 1928. It was first grade through eighth grade. In 1936 I attended Visalia Union High School. There were two elementary schools in Visalia at the time. One on the north side of town called Webster. One on the south side of town called Jefferson. Those kids from those two schools, they kind of controlled the high school activities. We, from Ivanhoe and Goshen and Farmersville, were all considered country bums and the kids that came from local schools, they were the class officers all through high school.
TM: And Visalia itself was just a little, regular valley town?
MH: Visalia was . . . of course, Main Street . . .the south border was Tulare Avenue and the north was Houston Avenue. Giddings, which ran right next to the Visalia Union High School, was the west side of town and Ben Maddox was the east side of town. Recreation Park was used for all kinds of sports activities, including they used to hold the rodeos there. Every year, the first weekend of June was a big rodeo in Visalia. We would ride our old farm horses in to Visalia, all the way from Ivanhoe. Ride in the parade and then, if you rode in what they called the grand entry, you didn’t have to pay the 50 cents to get into the rodeo. So, we didn’t have 50 cents, so we rode our horses all the way to Visalia and participated in the grand entry.
TM: Okay. You were one of the men who was in the service. Did you enlist or did you get drafted?
MH: When I was going to Visalia Junior College, they had a program, government sponsored, called Civilian Pilot Training. So I decided I’d like to learn to fly an airplane.
TM: Was this before you heard about the war?
MH: No, this was before, actually, when I was a freshman at college.
TM: So you were already in pilot training?
MH: I took pilot training before ’41 and then we were flying out of Visalia Airport, taking our lessons and learning to fly. Then when Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941, well, they restricted all the flying here in the San Joaquin Valley. So we had to take our class, our instructors and everything and they sent us over to Owens Valley, to Bishop, California. So all of us in this flight class moved over to Bishop and finished our training over there. Then we used a correspondence course back to the college and in ’42, when I graduated from Visalia Junior College, I wasn’t even here, I was over at Bishop. I got my diploma and everything, because I completed all the requirements. That’s where I took my final training. After I finished, over there, in September ’42, I came back to Visalia and started to work in different jobs.
TM: Oh, so you didn’t enlist right away?
MH: In February of ’42, I went up to San Francisco and enlisted in the Navy Air Corps. ED: See pg 5, this happened February 2, 1943.
TM: But weren’t you still doing your training until June of ’42?
MH: Yeah, in June, June of ’42. A couple of other fellows and myself, we decided we’d stay over in Bishop and we went to work over there. They were building an Army air base at Bishop. So we got a job with different contractors over there and spent the summer over there. The other two guys were outdoorsmen and they decided they would come back to Visalia, walk back, over the Sierra Nevadas. I had a Model A car that was our transportation. So when they decided to come back, I took them up to the end of the road, out of Manzanar over in Owens Valley, said "Adios." They had a fishing pole, sleeping bags and a back pack and they walked around the base of Mt. Whitney; they came out up at Cedar Grove in Kings Canyon.
TM: But you drove back home to Visalia.
MH: I put all their luggage in my Model A and I drove back.
TM: And this is in February of ’42?
MH: No, that was in the fall of ’42.
TM: Fall of ’42. And is that when you joined the service?
MH: No. After I got home, I went up to San Francisco to the Navy Recruiting Office and I took the test, took the physical and was accepted into the Navy Air Corps. They told me to come home and, "When we have a spot, we’ll call you." So, on February 2, 1943, they called and I left and went to St. Mary’s College out of Oakland and that’s where the Navy pre-flight school was. I spent three months there in a pre-flight school, learning all the Navy orders, which was port and which was starboard and how to salute and drill and exercise.
TM: And then was that considered part of your basic training?
MH: Oh that was, yeah, it was just our boot camp.
TM: That was your boot camp.
MH: It was a boot camp for the Air Corps. If you flunked out, they’d send you to San Diego to the regular old Navy boot camp and you became a Seaman Second. But, I fortunately passed all that. Then I went to Pasco, Washington, to a Navy Flight School. I took my primary training up at Pasco, Washington. Well, that was three months more. Then from there, I went to Corpus Christi, Texas and took some more flight training. We advanced to a little higher horsepower, more like a military airplane. I decided I didn’t want to land on a carrier out in the ocean. I thought two or more engines were safer than one single engine.
TM: Is that what the planes were that were on the carriers?
MH: On the carriers, yeah, they were fighter planes, dive bombers and all kinds.
TM: With only one engine?
MH: Oh, yeah, yeah, single engine aircraft.
TM: Okay, but the ones that were land based were two engine planes?
MH: Well, I started out in a twin engine, trained in a twin engine for
about three months. Then I went to Norfolk, Virginia and was assigned to a four engine
plane. Which was actually the Army
version of the B24, but Navy called it PB4F1’s. What we used those planes for was submarine patrol. So, I was stationed at different bases on the
east coast, Chincoteague in Virginia,
Buford in South Carolina, Key West in Florida, all these had different steps of
training. After I got through all the
training, I went back to Norfolk, formed the 10 man crew, three officers
and seven unlisted men that made up the crew of this bomber. We picked up a brand new airplane in Norfolk and we were headed for
TM: You were going to fly to
MH: That’s where we did the submarine patrol, over in the English Channel, looking for German submarines. It was in the fall of the year and the northern
route up through
TM: This is all to get to
MH: Yeah (chuckle), we were on our way to
TM: So, you had to account for refueling, is that why all this mileage out of the way?
MH: Yeah, we could only go a thousand miles at the maximum. So that’s the way the route was planned. The routes were under the Army control.
TM: So, you went all the way to Africa and then from Africa where?
MH: From Africa, you go up the west coast to a town called Dakar. We spent one night there and the next day we flew up to French Morocco,
which is the northern part of Africa. We stayed there
as all of
MH: Oh yeah, we stayed in one place for about two or three weeks until
the fog cleared out in
TM: So did you ever make it then to
MH: Oh yeah.
TM: Oh, how long did it take you? I mean this was already weeks, isn’t it? Many weeks.
MH: Oh, it was about two weeks. Well, two weeks we waited and then we went back. Well, we didn’t have an airplane, so we
couldn’t go on. So we stayed at this
Army base and finally the commander up in
So we went on up to
TM: Exeter. (laughter)
MH: Yeah, I thought that was pretty smart. I don’t think the enemy would have figured anything out anyway. So, we were patrolling the English Channel and the North Sea, looking for German submarines. Well, unfortunately, we never did find one. They were down there. One crew in our squadron did find a submarine and dropped the depth charges on it. The crew I was in, we never did sight a German submarine.
TM: And how long did you do this particular sort of duty?
MH: Well, I got over there in the fall of ’43 and we stayed there until VE Day, which was in May, 1945.
TM: Oh, and this is what you did then during this whole time. You were doing the submarine patrol. Was it always with the same American crew?
MH: Yes, the submarine patrol and we had our same crew, same ten fellows in our crew. We didn’t always have the same airplane. They would assign us to different airplanes.
TM: You all flew together every time?
MH: We had a pilot, co-pilot and a navigator. If you were a pilot and a junior pilot, you had to start out as a navigator. Well, then as you got more time and as other guys graduated or moved on, you could move up to co-pilot. Then you flew as co-pilot for so many months or so many missions, then you got to be first pilot.
TM: And did you go through all those three steps?
MH: Oh, yeah, I made it to first pilot. Fortunately, we didn’t have any
problems. Just one time we got fogged in
to where we couldn’t come back into our base. We had to go out to Bristol on the west coast of
The Eighth Air Force was based on
the east coast of
TM: You mentioned earlier about writing to your family. Did you get to correspond rather regularly?
MH: Oh, yes.
TM: And did you get letters back regularly?
MH: Oh, yeah, the mail came through pretty regularly.
TM: Was it brought by planes?
MH: Well, I’m not sure; it was probably brought by ship.
TM: By ship? That would take longer.
MH: Yeah, sure.
TM: And what did your family think? Were you the only son in the family in the service?
MH: I was the only one in the service at that time.
TM: Uh huh. Did you have any brothers though, at home?
MH: Yeah, I was the oldest in my family. I had a brother four years younger than I am and he went in the Navy after the war was over. He just went in and was aboard a ship. I had another brother six years younger than I and he went into the Air Force later on, after the war.
TM: After the war. So, then was your family one of those families that had a star in the window that somebody else told me about?
MH: Yeah, they had a flag in the window that said we have a man in the service or something like that.
TM: Yeah, uh huh. And did they think that it was good that you were in the service? I mean, what were their feelings about it? For your mother, was it very hard?
MH: I wasn’t drafted, I volunteered. I’m glad I did because I learned to fly. I became a Naval Officer. Even after the war, I stayed in the Reserves for a while. I got to see a lot of country, which I wouldn’t have here. And I was never in danger. There was never a bullet coming at me and I never fired a bullet at somebody else.
MH: No, that was basically on the east coast, London. They had those buzz bombs coming over from plants.
TM: I don’t know what buzz bombs are.
MH: Well, it was kind of like a missile that we have now. But, they would set them off in
TM: During the war itself or after?
MH: Well, it was during the war. But you could see all the buildings all crumbled down where the bombs had hit it.
TM: Yeah, but you, yourself, were you aware, or you did not feel that you were in any danger?
MH: No, I never did.
TM: So when you were doing the submarine patrol, there was actually no way for the Germans to get to you? Unless they had other planes or something?
MH: Their army planes didn’t come out that far. They were busy fighting the army. Army aircraft were flying over their country, but we weren’t flying over their country. We were out in the English Channel looking for submarines.
TM: And what did they expect that those submarines would do?
TM: You were looking for the submarines and you were destroying them when you found them. What did the English think that the submarines were going to do?
MH: Well, what the German submarines were doing: all the
TM: I understand.
MH: That what we were supposed to do is sink the subs before they got out.
TM: I understand. I understand.
While you were in the service, Mr. Haggard, did you feel that it was an okay life? I mean, I know that you said that you didn’t feel like you were in danger, you knew you were not in any danger. But did you think it was an okay life, did you have any idea of how long it might continue? What were your feelings?
MH: No, I didn’t have any idea of how long it would continue. Of course, while I was over there, fighting
broke out, out in the Pacific. In fact,
when I finished in
I was transferred up to Alameda, California and trained in a different airplane that was still a submarine patrol plane. But it was a different plane. They were getting us ready to go to the Pacific to help out in the battle over there. But before my crew was sent to the Pacific, VJ Day came and so I never did go to the Pacific.
TM: So then what happened to you? Were you still in the Navy or did they say, "Okay, that’s it for you, you can go home?"
MH: I got out of the Navy and was discharged in June, 1946. I came back to Visalia. I enrolled in junior college again and I thought I was gonna be an engineer, but I was only in junior college about six months. Then I went to work for a fruit company out in Ivanhoe, because around this area at that time, there was all the fruit farms. Mainly Ivanhoe, Exeter, and all up and down the valley, were emperor. Now the emperor grapes are gone and it’s all oranges out in that part of the country.
TM: But at that time, they were not so?
MH: Well, there were a few orange growers, but not like it is now. So, I went to work for this fruit packing house as a field man to coordinate crews and harvest the grapes. We had tree fruit like plums and peaches, which we would run through this packing house also. But, the main difference, at that time, different from now, was we didn’t have any Hispanic labor. All the labor out there were people that had come here from the mid-west during the Depression and my crews, to harvest all the fruit, were made up of Missourians and Okies, who came out here.
TB: But during the war, hadn’t there been a law, didn’t they bring in braceros, did you know anything about that?
MH: We didn’t have any in this valley.
TB: Oh, you didn’t, or that you knew about, because I am . . .
MH: That I knew about, because like I say, all my crews were made up of men and women and children from Oklahoma or Missouri.
TB: But this is after the war.
MH: Oh yeah.
TB: Yeah, but during the war, the braceros were here during the war, weren’t they? Or were they all sent home after?
MH: I don’t know. I guess so. But this was ’47 and ’48, and there weren’t any Hispanics in this part of the country. They may have been someplace else.
TB: During the war, when your family corresponded with you, did they tell you about what was going on at home? Did you have a good notion of what life was like here, while you were there, fighting? (Chuckle)
MH: Well, I don’t remember, they probably did. (chuckle) I don’t remember what was said. They probably just talked about brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles, which they thought would be interesting. I don’t remember them telling me anything about the life here.
TM: While you were in the service, did you feel that you were well
informed about what the country was doing politically and about the leadership
here and our involvement with
MH: I didn’t pay that much attention to it. Of course, President Roosevelt was the
president at the time and while I was over in
TM: Did you hear about the Japanese internment camps while you were in
the service in the Navy in
MH: Yeah, because when I went to school . . . remember, I told you that we didn’t have any Hispanics. When I was in high school, there was only two boys who were colored.
TM: Yeah, but I was asking about the Japanese and whether you got news of that right away.
MH: Right, when I was in elementary school out in Ivanhoe, there was about three Japanese families out there that I went to school with. In fact one of them is still out there. They were interned in the concentration camps, yeah.
TM: Yeah, but did you hear about this while you were there or did you learn it after you came back? Was it anywhere in the news?
MH: I don’t think I heard about it over there.
TM: Until afterwards?
MH: Until afterwards. I came home and found out they had those internment camps over in . . .
TM: Owens Valley, actually, where you had gotten some of your training as a pilot, you said earlier.
MH: Yeah, well it was in the same valley, not in the same town.
TM: Oh yeah. How did you hear of the end of the war, and the atom bomb, for example, and the end of the war?
MH: Well actually, I was stationed up at Crows Landing, which is a base out of Alameda. We were flying and training to go to the Pacific. And, then, after the atom bomb and VE Day . . .
TM: No, the atom bomb had to have been after VE Day. VE is Victory in Europe, right?
MH: Oh yes, excuse me, VJ Day. I meant to say VJ, Victory in
TM: Right, that was after the atom bomb, because they surrendered after the atom bomb.
MH: Yeah, that’s right. And for VJ Day, I was stationed up there at Crows Landing and I had a car again. So we decided that we would go up to San Francisco and celebrate.
TM: So, but did you hear it on the news? Did you read it in the paper?
MH: Oh, I don’t recall.
TM: And you never did make it to the Pacific then, to do any submarine patrol?
MH: No, no.
TM: So, you went to San Francisco to celebrate?
MH: Yeah, a couple of other fellows and I went to San Francisco to join in the celebration. We drove in and went across the bridge and down to Mission Street, found a parking place and started to walk down to Market Street. We got down there and those people were just tearing the town up. They were turning over taxi cabs, just doing all kinds of damage. I thought, "Man, I don’t want to get into this mess," so we turned around and went back and got in my Dodge car and came back to Crows Landing. I didn’t want to celebrate with those San Francisco people.
TM: (Laughter) You were a good boy. (Laughter)
MH: I didn’t want to get involved in all that stuff.
TM: (Laughter) Is there anything I haven’t asked you that you would like to tell us?
MH: Well, that’s what I wanted to tell you about the difference. Like I said, there wasn’t any Hispanics here and very few colored people. We had some Japanese families and they owned ranches. And when they sent them to the internment camps, some of the farmers out there would take over their ranch and keep farming it until they came back, which is what happened. Wages for farm labor back at that time, just after the war, was .30 cents an hour and so if you worked nine hours, you made $2.70.
TM: Was that enough to live on?
MH: Oh, I guess so, everybody was doing it and so, it was a difference. Goshen, the country around Goshen wasn’t very good farm land. Well, it still isn’t, it is alkali. You couldn’t grow anything out there. There was a real estate man here in Visalia who decided that he would sell land, which is now the Industrial Park. He was the guy that started putting in industry out in that part of the country and now it’s one of the biggest industrial parks in the state, I guess.
TM: And that was begun during the war?
MH: It was begun after the war. Also, after the war, they started planting cotton around here.
TM: Oh, they had not before?
MH: Before, mostly was fruit, alfalfa and dairies. Mooney Boulevard was a country road and there was all the dairies, hog farms and ranches on both sides of Mooney Boulevard. And then, of course, it started expanding. C.O.S.,when they put in C.O.S. in 1942, it was way out in the country.
TM: Well, so when you attended C.O.S., it was just a brand new school?
MH: Oh, I was in the first class at C.O.S., at Visalia Junior College. I was in the first class and there was only three buildings out there. The main administration building, the gymnasium, which they are still using, I think. And the Industrial Arts building, where classes for Ag, welding, auto shop, architecture and aviation were taught. These three buildings are still there.
TM: And that was all in the boonies then.
MH: Oh yeah, it was way out in the country. And, like I said, Mooney Boulevard from here to Tulare was a long ways. Just a little two lane road. We used to go to Tulare once in a while, because the Fox Theatre was down in Visalia and we’d go to a movie at the Fox Theatre. But if you missed it on one weekend, that same movie would be in Tulare at the Fox Theatre. So you could drive over there and see the movie if you missed it in Visalia.
TM: There’s no Fox Theatre in Tulare now, is there?
MH: There was then. Basically, just like the one in Visalia.
TM: Yes, they were all the same. I’ve seen several in Hanford and in other places in the valley. So you would come to Tulare for the movies. And do you think that those changes, you know, that it’s not farming anymore, do you think that all happened because of the war? Is that one of the ways that Tulare County was affected by the war?
MH: Well no, I think all the change is because of the population growth. All the people and all the industry coming in here; all the people coming into this valley.
TM: But, that was not a result of the war. I mean, that was not what you think.
MH: No, I don’t think so.
TM: Well then, how do you think the World War II years did affect Tulare County?
MH: Well, I think the World War II years affected the whole
TM: And how do you think that the World War II years affected you? You, know, the war here in Tulare, what difference did it make in your life and for you, personally?
MH: Well, when I went in the Navy and when I first got to be an officer, my base pay was $250 a month. But since I was a pilot, you got half your base pay for flight pay. So that made it $375 a month and I was rich. I sent money home every month, because I couldn’t spend that much money.
TM: Oh really. (chuckle)
MH: And so I sent money home; put it in the bank. In 1947 I took my money out of the bank and wanted to buy a new car. Well, at that time there was a shortage of cars and they wouldn’t sell you a new car unless you had a trade-in. There was a ceiling, they had a ceiling on the price they could charge for a new car. Well, they could only charge so much, so they wouldn’t sell to anyone unless you had a trade-in. So, if you had a trade-in, there was no ceiling on the used cars, so that’s the way all these dealers worked. So, I decided I wanted to buy a new car and I went to the Visalia Chevrolet dealer and, "No, no, no, we can’t sell you a car." I went to the Fresno dealer and, "No, we don’t have any cars for sale." So I went to the San Jose dealer and, "No." I ended up in San Francisco, up on Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco at a car dealer. So they had a used car there that they were trying to sell me, a ’41 model. So I said, "How much would you give me for my trade-in?" And they said, "Oh, you have a trade-in, huh?" And I said, "Yeah." "Well, so let me see it." So they appraised the 1939 Buick convertible that I had bought in 1946 from someone in Visalia and everything. And so I paid $1,700 for this brand new 1947 Chevrolet coupe.
TM: Well, actually, wasn’t that quite a bit of money?
MH: Well, it wasn’t too much then, $1,700.
TM: Wasn’t that a lot of money at that time?
MH: Well, yeah, it was like new cars.
TM: Proportionately speaking, you think about the same?
MH: I don’t know. So anyway, I had me a brand new car.
TM: So, that was one of the ways the war affected you? (chuckle) You had saved enough money.
MH: Yup. So, I came home and I was still working for the fruit packing company and taking care of all the growers and supervising the harvesting of their crops.
TM: Was there any kind of…you know, even though you said you had not been in any danger, still you had been exposed and you had been in the war. How were you treated as a veteran?
MH: We were treated very good, or I was.
TM: I mean society, how did society react to you?
MH: They were appreciative of all the service men.
TM: And how did you realize that they were appreciative of the service men?
MH: Well, you could just see it by the way they treated you and of course, the little flags in the windows.
TM: Oh, they remained. They remained in the windows? For how long?
MH: Oh gosh, I don’t know. I
have no idea. But, as far as my life in
the Navy, I saw a lot of the world that I would have never seen otherwise. I saw South America, or I can say I was in South America, Africa, French Morocco,
TM: So, actually the war did that for you. You were a cosmopolitan person.
MH: The war was an education for me. Because, like I said, I never had a bullet come at me and I never pulled a trigger on somebody else. So, it was…I wasn’t in the Army and down in the mud like some of the guys were. I always had a nice clean bed to sleep in and good food.
TM: Well, you were fortunate, weren’t you.
MH: Yeah, just kind of a holiday for me.
TM: You were fortunate, you were fortunate. Did you know people who died or suffered injuries and wounds in the war?
MH: Oh yeah, I had some friends that died in the war. They weren’t as fortunate as I was.
TM: Well, you were lucky. (chuckle)
I think we’re coming near the end of the tape, and so I want to thank you officially on the tape.
Is there anything you’d like to add, you know, that we didn’t get to? We may have a minute or two left.
MH: I think we’ve covered most everything. Of course when I was gone, the Army had a training center out here at Sequoia Field. So all these Army fellows would come in and they’d train out there. And on weekends, they’d come into town and the Elks Club had a building down there on the corner of Main and Locust Street. That’s where the Elks Club was at that time. Up on the second floor they had a dance floor and a bar, so that’s kind of where all these Army boys would come in and have a good time.
TM: And did you go there too?
MH: No, not at that time, I wasn’t here. And of course, they would pick all the local girls and get a date with them. I had a girl that I was with (chuckle) about a year, when I was in junior college. I left and the Army boys came in and one of them married my girl friend.
TM: Oh, (laughter) that was an affect the war had on you. (laughter) You lost your girlfriend.
MH: It wasn’t that big of a deal, but that’s what happened.
TM: That was (chuckle) one of the things, yeah.
Well okay then, if you feel that you have said everything that you really wanted to say and I’ve given you the opportunity, we will stop the tape and thank you, thank you very much.
MH: Thank you.
T.Martell/pd 3-26-2004/Edited by JW 9-06-04
Editor’s note: all words in italics are as a result of a phone interview with Marvin Haggard on September 6, 2004 or other editorial clarifications in this interview.