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Interview with Roman Joseph Peisinger [11/12/2011]

Susan Kilgore:

Good morning.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Good morning.

Susan Kilgore:

Today is November 12, 2011. My name is Susan Kilgore. I am conducting an Oral History Interview in San Antonio, Texas, at The Towers, One Towers Park Lane in San Antonio, Texas. The Court Reporter today is Barbara Durand-Hollis and she is with Federal Court Reporters of San Antonio, Inc. , our Veteran this morning is Joe Peisinger, Jr. His date of birth is February 21, 1932 and he served in the United States Army from June 4 of 1954 until July 31 of 1974. Now, I get to stop talking so much and I get to ask Colonel Peisinger some questions. So, Colonel Peisinger, please state your name and address for us.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Roman J. Peisinger, Jr., One Towers Park Lane, Apartment 915, San? Antonio, Texas, zip 78209-6435.

Susan Kilgore:

And I am going to ask a little bit of a question about this location, The Towers Park Lane. Who did you come to live here in this beautiful building?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Well, I used to work for USAA after I retired and so I was aware of this building. As a matter of fact, I had even applied to maybe be one of the Assistant Resident Engineers here, but I didn't get accepted. So I knew about this building being built and I tried to convince my dad to move here, but he had other plans after my mother died and stayed out in California. But, number one, I didn't think I would ever be able to qualify to get in here money-wise but as it turned out, this was one of the best buys in town and it's not that expensive.

Susan Kilgore:

So when you say that you were interested in working for USAA, I've heard this is called the USAA Towers?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

It was initially, yes, when it was originally built it was USAA Towers. USAA tended to get involved in a lot of different things. They thought it would be good. And if they found out that that wasn't their marketing area, they would change things. I worked for USAA for 11 years in the life insurance company. And I remember we started some group insurance. And we were just selling group life but the only way you could really sell group life insurance was to marry it up with group health insurance, so after about three years they just dropped it. And then they were going to run a -- which I thought was a great idea -- they were going to run a limousine service which they were going to do down in Florida. And it was a deal where somebody would maybe pay $50 a month and they could have a limousine take them anywhere they needed to go during the month. And I think they tried that for a year and that didn't work. Then they thought, well, they should maybe do something like the Air? Force Villages. And so they thought The Towers would be a good thing. And this is a fantastic building but after about three years, they found this is not where they do the best. And so they offered to the residents at that time for them to take over and set it up as a co-op. And they were very generous in the fact that in the course of doing this, they give us about $6 million to set up reserve funds to take care of any kind of repairs that had to be done. And very frankly, that was one of the things that really appealed to me because a lot of apartment buildings where you are an owner, if something goes wrong, the next month you may have an assessment of $1,000 or so to cover the repairs. We don't have to deal with that here because we have our reserve funds. So after about three or four years, USAA formed a co-op, but they still ran a board of directors until we got a certain number of apartments sold. And then our board of directors runs the building.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

And you serve on the co-op?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yes, I have been on -- let's see. I'm going on to my twelfth year living here, and I've been on the board for five years and I participate in various committees such as the Facilities Committee.

Susan Kilgore:

Okay. Well, now that we have talked about where you are right now, let's start at the very beginning. Where were you born?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

I was born in Pasadena, California.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

And please tell us your parents' names.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

My father was Roman J. Peisinger. And my mother was Bobbie Thurman Peisinger. She claimed she was named after Robert E Lee. She was originally from Texas.

Susan Kilgore:

Oh, now how did she spell Bobbie?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

B-O-B-B-I-E.

Susan Kilgore:

And what was her middle name again?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Thurman.

Susan Kilgore:

Would you spell that for me.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

T-H-U-R-M-A-N.

Susan Kilgore:

That was her maiden name?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yes.

Susan Kilgore:

What was her -- did she have a middle name?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

No, she didn't.

Susan Kilgore:

I know the answer to this question but I'm going to ask it anyway for this record. Do you have any siblings?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

No.

Susan Kilgore:

And I know that this is going to not be a short answer. Where did you grow up? And we are, of course, assuming that you're grown up now.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

I considered myself a Southern Californian until right after World War II. We were some of the first dependents to join our sponsors in Hawaii. So, at the age of 13 I got to take a ship. It was a converted commercial carrier which had been used as troop ship during World War II, but five-day cruise going from San Francisco to Oahu, Hawaii. And there I lived at Fort Shafter for one year and went to a school named Punahou. Something I happen to share with our President Obama.

Susan Kilgore:

Let me stop you there and ask you to spell Fort Shafter.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Okay. Shafter is S-H-A-F-T-E-R.

Susan Kilgore:

And would you spell the name of your school.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yeah. Punahou was P-U-N-A-H-O-U.

Susan Kilgore:

And that's the name of a high school?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Actually it was a private school. It was founded about 1866 and it was set up for children of Presbyterian ministers. And it got such a reputation, people from California with a lot of money would send their children to this private school. And they took children from like kindergarten all the way up through high school.

Susan Kilgore:

So it was --

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

It was a private school.

Susan Kilgore:

It was a preparatory school until children would go on to college?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Uh-huh.

Susan Kilgore:

How interesting. And I know you have more to say about where else you grew up but now I have another question. You said something about going with your -- joining your sponsor in Hawaii.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yeah. My dad.

Susan Kilgore:

Oh, as a dependent?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

As a dependent, yes.

Susan Kilgore:

As a military dependent, you were dependent on your family, the head of your family?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Right.

Susan Kilgore:

Your father. And so your father was stationed in Hawaii?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yes, he was. He was there the entire War.

Susan Kilgore:

So how much of the time were you and your mother in California without your father?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

We lived in a place called Highland, California which was right out of San Bernardino, California. I loved it because, number one, we were about an hour from the beach, an hour from the desert about 45 minutes from the mountains. It was a great place to live. We lived among a lot of orange groves.

Susan Kilgore:

So how long were you there without your father?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

We lived -- well, let me give a little background there. My dad had been in the National Guard for many years. In about 1941, the National Guards were activated to federal service. So during the year of 1941 I went to a lot of different schools. We lived in a motel and it was mostly around Southern California. And about every month I was in a different school. I guess I was about, at that time I would be about eight years, so I guess about the third grade. And I remember we finally moved into a house on the 1st of December 1941. And my grandmother had come to live with me. And we lived in San Luis Obispo which is right on the coast there in California. And we learned the next day? -- we went out to dinner on Sunday. And at dinner time we heard about the attack in Hawaii. And my grandmother on my mother's side had come to live with us. And as soon as she heard about the attack, she immediately left. She was going to live with us, and she immediately left. And we ended up leaving there by the end of the month and we moved to Highland, California. So, that would be from December '41 to about February of '46 in Highland, California while my dad was overseas. We did have one break because he came back to Fort Leavenworth to command a general staff which we were able to join him there for about nine months, and then he went back to Hawaii.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

So, really for the entirety of World War II you were at home in -- well, you were just with your mother?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yeah. With my mother in California.

Susan Kilgore:

And Forth Leavenworth is in Kansas?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yes.

Susan Kilgore:

My goodness.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Then from there, we only spent a year in California. And when my dad was assigned back to Washington, D.C., I pointed out to him, I said, "Dad, this is a boarding school. And since I started high school, I think you should let me finish my high school here in Hawaii while you go back to Washington, D.C.," but he didn't buy it.

Susan Kilgore:

He didn't buy it. That's a real shame. Then you were used to being on your own.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yes. But anyway, we made a nice long tour coming back from Hawaii. We picked up a new Chevrolet in 1947 and drove it all the way from California through Texas. En route, that's where I learned to drive. My dad would pull out the throttle and I would slide under the seat because my mother did not want to be driving that car. And the only problem is, it was a gear shift and I wasn't very good at shifting gears. And these are wide open roads. Nobody is on them going through Arizona, New? Mexico, but if we ever came to a town and I had to stop the car at a stop sign, I had a hard time and I would always wake her up with my shifting.

Susan Kilgore:

So you were about 15 years old?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Fourteen.

Susan Kilgore:

You were 14. And you're a pretty tall fellow. So I imagine even at age 14 you were pretty tall.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

I remember in Hawaii I grew five inches in that one year in Hawaii. Fortunately, over there all we needed was a swimming suit and a pair of khaki trousers and a little white shirt. So my parents lucked out for those five years. They didn't have to change my clothes that bad.

Susan Kilgore:

Budgetary concerns. Well, I'm just thinking about being tall enough to reach pedals and see over the dashboard when you were practicing your driving across country.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

I was probably about five, ten. Yeah.

Susan Kilgore:

Yeah, I'm sure you were tall enough. My goodness. Now, I'm a little confused about something you said. You said your father would pull out the gearbox?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

No, what he would do is pull out the -- they used to have a throttle .

Susan Kilgore:

Pull out the throttle.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yeah. Have a throttle and that would leave the engine running at a certain speed. And then I would slide under the seat under there behind the steering wheel when he slid over to the right seat.

Susan Kilgore:

So this throttle was --

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

It was on the dashboard and you would just pull it out and just keep? -- it was like depressing the pedal when you pull out the throttle. It was a real old car.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Oh, my goodness. Well, this isn't my story. I drove a 1956 car. I'm not sure why my parents thought that that was what they should put their only daughter in as her first car, and it had a choke and a push button start.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yeah. It also had a choke too.

Susan Kilgore:

But I don't think I had a throttle.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

At that time it probably wouldn't because it think in about '50 the throttles went away.

Susan Kilgore:

So this was effectively a gas pedal but a hand-held gas pedal that you would just keep it at a constant but if you pulled it out, it would keep it?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

If you pulled it out, yeah.

Susan Kilgore:

So all you had to do was steer while you were maneuvering who was going to sit in the driver's seat?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Right.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Well, you know, for your purposes that served.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

It worked.

Susan Kilgore:

Well, let's talk a little bit about your father. We know now that he was in the military. What branch of the service was he in?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

He was in the infantry. He lied about his age when he was 16. He joined the National Guard which would have put it at about 1922 or so. And he had a pretty distinguished career. While he was in the National Guard, he went to the National Matches at Camp Perry and placed second in the National Rifles. And as a result, I think the top three people each was presented a rifle, Springfield rifle, which is what they were shooting. And it was a match rifle which meant it was a very precise weapon.

Susan Kilgore:

And do you still have that rifle?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

My dad changed it into a sporting weapon when I finally got around to selling it because I didn't have any place to store weapons when we moved into The Towers, and so I sold them at that time. The guy said, "Too bad your dad changed it to a sporting rifle because it would have been worth a heck of a lot more."

Susan Kilgore:

So you said your dad was 16 in 1922. And I think I remember that that's when you were born.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

No, I was born in '32.

Susan Kilgore:

Oh, I'm sorry. It does say 1932.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

That's all right. Yeah. He was born in '07. And as I say, he lied about his age. And after World War II, he had an opportunity to go to the regular Army. And so at that time, he tried to correct his records and point out that he had lied about his age. And they said, "Well, we'll accept the fact that you lied about one year." so I learned about this when I went into the insurance business. I was reviewing insurance rates and they said, "They got your age down here wrong." and so that's when I learn the story but, anyway, he had a good career .

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

And so what was his rank when he retired?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

He was a full Colonel.

Susan Kilgore:

He was a full Colonel?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yeah. He had in excess of 30 years service when you consider their time.

Susan Kilgore:

Good heavens.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

And I damaged my hearing a bit because I used to go out in the ranges with him when they would go out. And I would get a chance to fire rifles, pistols and machine guns. In those days, we didn't do much to protect our ears. I just barley got into West Point because of the hearing loss.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Well, let me ask you, how old was your father when he retired?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Oh, let's see, I think he retired about '60. I think he was about 53, 54, somewhere in that age.

Susan Kilgore:

And you mentioned that you went to West Point you you've got an appointment to West Point. Where were you living when you received that appointment to West Point?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

At that time we lived in Arlington, Virginia. And I went to high school in Washington, D.C. Which meant we had to pay tuition because the high school that I had gone to in Virginia was not highly rated. And the only thing they were cleared for was going to the University of Virginia. And from the time I was ten years old I wanted to go to West Point. So that was my life-long ambition to be a West Point graduate.

Susan Kilgore:

What was the name of the high school in the District?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

It was called Western High School. And it mostly, it only had about 600 students. And it was mostly children of diplomats. It was located in what's called 35th and R Street which was in northwest Washington. It was right across the river from Arlington, Virginia there. And I remember one of my best friends happened to be a son of a French diplomat. And later it change its name and became the Duke Ellington School of Performing Arts. And it has quite a reputation doing that because it does really specialize now in kids that do that. It was a school which I'd say about four or five graduating students each year would go to the Military Academy and other for our five would go on Annapolis because it had a lot of military families as well as diplomats and fairly well-to-do people lived in that town.

Susan Kilgore:

Do you remember who gave you your appointment?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yes. I don't have his name right with me but he happened to be from Texas. And I had gotten a first alternate position from the State of California where my dad had maintained his registration. And the person that I followed was accepted at West Point, so that meant that I needed another appointment. And I could apply also as son of an officer. So I tried that which was a competitive group. And then my dad, because he was working at the Pentagon, would crawl the halls of Congress trying to find a Congressman who could have an appointment. And we came across the gentleman who was the 13th District up in Dallas, in Texas here. And he said, "Well, I've got an appointment but it would really help if you had somebody that lived in Texas to ask me to appoint your son." well, my mother was from not too far from Fort Hood. And she had some cousins which to this day I've never met but, anyway, they wrote a letter to this Congressman and appointed me. And up at West Point at Christmastime, they insisted that we write our Congressman thanking them for our appointments. So I wrote him a card and thanked him for my appointment. He sent me a card back and says, "You're the first one I've ever had that made it past Christmas." and then ten year later having had an opportunity to go to Texas A and M, I happened to be in Dallas to visit a cousin of mine that was working there at that time. I gave him a call and said, "I just wanted to call and thank you again and let you know that I'm working on a master's degree here at Texas A and M." he invited me to lunch. And I think at that time he had left the halls of Congress and was a judge, federal judge up in Dallas, but I have him written down in my yearbook, his name but, anyway, I really appreciated that appointment.

Susan Kilgore:

We all do. We all appreciate it. Well, tell us about your time at West Point. And you started in what year?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Okay. The Korean War broke out in June of '50 and I already had my appointment. And I reported to West Point on the 5th of July and did our four years there, and then was commissioned from West Point on the 4th of June of 1954. We didn't graduate until the 8th of June, but they had gotten word that the Naval Academy was commissioning their mid shipmen on the 4th of June. So all of a sudden, we were called out and says we are to report to a certain location, and we got sworn in.

Susan Kilgore:

In full dress?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yeah. We were still in cadet uniform. We were sworn in as Officers on the 4th of June, but didn't graduate until the 8th of June. And then I got married on the 10th of June.

Susan Kilgore:

Oh, my goodness. And for what it's worth, I was born on the 9th of June a different year, but that's a nice time period as far as I'm concerned. Well, tell me about your early days at West Point.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Well, I'd like to say my four years at West Point I though were really good years. I mean, it was tough. I graduated and went straight out of high school. One thing that helped me get the appointment because my first-year roommates there, one had had a year at the University of Virginia, my other one had been a math major with three years at Pittsburgh, my other roommate had taken extension courses for college, and I was coming right out of high school. There was a person who used to run a prep school for the military academies and he had just sold out his prep school. And he happened to live right up near where I was going to high school. Well, my dad found out where he was located. And he said, "Why don't you go and knock on his door and ask him if he will take you on as a student." and he said, "Well, if you will get your school but let me have you for one month and you come to see me about every morning until about 3:00 in the afternoon, I'll put you on a prep course," which he did. And I got the authority. Now, in the meantime I was Cadet Company -- Junior ROTC Company Commander and we were having some competitions coming up. I also was on the track team. So I didn't go to school except for the extracurricular activities.

Susan Kilgore:

I think that's the best way to go to school personally.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

And that year we had a competition, a military competition and usually our company always ended up taking first place. Unfortunately, the year I had it as company commander, we only came in second place but I enjoyed my high school years and also my time at West Point. West Point really was very good. I was a cadet captain, which in my final year I was the Regimental Supply Officer. And my roommate was a Regimental Supply Sergeant but also the first string fullback. And he was very smart because during the football season he would come in and immediately go to bed. Well, first of all, they would have a late dinner. And as soon as he got from the dinner meal, he would go to bed, he was beat. And the thing that reminded me of one class, we were going to military art and engineering, it was kind of a military history class. And he said, "Joe, I didn't have a chance to study my lesson. Would you kind of tell me what the reading assignment was?" so as we were walking to class, I'd tell him what everything was in it. He came back and patted me on the shoulder and said, "Man, I maxed the exam." we got graded every day in every subject, so he said, "I maxed the exam." I said, "Darn, I barely passed it."

Susan Kilgore:

So you're a good teacher. So I've been to West Point and I've seen some of those parades grounds. Did you have to march? Did you have to practice drills in the snow?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Not so much in the snow. The worst time was in the spring because I had terrible allergies. And like in June when you're marching on that plain, all that pounding feet, the dust would fly up and my eyes would be streaming, my nose would be running, I would be sneezing, that was the worse time. But I will say our high school marched better than they did at West Point. Really, our guys in high school that do the Manual of Arms and march better than they did at West Point. They were good. And I had the opportunity to, march in two presidential inaugurations, once as a high school cadet and then another one where we came down to inaugurate President Eisenhauer while I was a cadet at West Point, so those were interesting.

Susan Kilgore:

What do you remember feeling or thinking about getting to participate in President Eisenhauer's inauguration, especially since you were a West Pointer and effectively in the Army at that time?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Well, I thought it was a great honor. And I had a lot of admiration for him because I thought he was a fine man and turned out he was a good President in my opinion.

Susan Kilgore:

That's just remarkable.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

And while I was at West Point, the thing was we were a team. It was pointed out to us that the best thing to do is go out and get on an athletic team because they didn't haze you so much at the dinner tables. And you got to eat better because in those days we used to eat square meals when you were on what they called the company table. So I wasn't a great football player. I think I was on the second string in high school and we only had three strings. And while I was at West Point I went out for football, and I was on the sixth string there. And all I really did was hold the blocking dummies, never got to play in a game. And then I thought, well, I had never wrestled but I've got to stay on some kind of a course for an athletic team, so I went out for wrestling. And then spring came along and I had never played la crosse. And so I went out and played la crosse. And I finally stuck with la crosse. And I managed to get my numerals and a letter from la crosse. I dropped the wrestling after the second year because I didn't know anything about wrestling. I was wrestling at the 167 weight and the 127-pounders were pinning me. They knew what they were doing but I stuck with la crosse.

Susan Kilgore:

Now, tell me what happened to this roommate who would ace the exams that you would prep him for every day.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

He was actually drafted by the Cleveland Browns but he never went to play for them, but he got out after about four or five years and became an investment banker. And he just recently donated about several million dollars to a wrestling facility up there. He did very well.

Susan Kilgore:

I guess so. What was his name, or what is his name?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Jerry Lodge.

Susan Kilgore:

L-O-D-J-E?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

L-O-D-G-E, Jerry Lodge. He was very good and he's still very successful. My year at West Point or class at West Point, we had four Rhodes scholar that year. And our brigade commander had actually resigned a captain's commission to come back in as a cadet. And then, of course, they had kind of expedited promotions for those who had been previously commissioned. So where the rest of us didn't get promoted to first lieutenant until we had been in the Army for 18 months, after six months he was promoted to first lieutenant and then went up the chain a little bit faster, but had several classmates who had resigned commissions and came back in as cadets.

Susan Kilgore:

Well, I think that speaks to what a terrific educational experience West Point is. And I'm sure your father was very proud of you. Well, I'm sure both your parents were very proud of you for getting your commission, getting your appointment. Well, let's talk about your graduation and the beginning of your active duty service in the Army in 1954.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Okay. Well, we graduated on the 8th of June of '54. And actually we had about two months of leave before I had to report but I didn't have any money.

Susan Kilgore:

And you were newly married. You were married two days later.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Just got married two days later. Fortunately, my dad at the time I was born had taken out an insurance policy which had some cash value. And when I graduated, he gave me the cash value which was about $1,600 which bought my new car. And I bought my new car in February and my fiancee was able to drive me because we weren't able to drive the car.

Susan Kilgore:

Now, I want to go backwards. I know I asked about -- we're just going to have to come back to that question in a minute about your graduation and starting your active duty. I want to find out about this fiancee. You were at West Point which was at that time an all-male institution.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yes.

Susan Kilgore:

Where did you meet your fiancee?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Well, it was a blind date in the Army/Navy Game when I was a sophomore. And it so turns out my brother-in-law met his wife the same way. The stream was we were all on the same company which was L2.

Susan Kilgore:

So your brother-in-law was your wife's brother?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Brother, right. And his brother-in-law was a class ahead of him. And the connecting thing, we were all in the same company, so we all played la crosse. His brother-in-law happened to finally become Chief of Staff of the Army. And my brother-in-law when they did away with the five percent rule? -- they used to promote ahead of the group five percent. And when he found that wasn't going to do, he left the Army after his minimum time which was about three years. And he became very well known in the public field. I mean, he rose to be the third Vice-president of Continental Can and then was president of several different companies, a tire company, a tractor company, a paper company. He really hadn't retired yet but he was very financially successful.

Susan Kilgore:

My goodness. What's his name?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

His name is Warren Hayford.

Susan Kilgore:

How do you spell Hayford?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

H-A-Y-F-O-R-D.

Susan Kilgore:

So that's also your wife's maiden name?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yes.

Susan Kilgore:

So you met at the Army/Navy Game?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Right.

Susan Kilgore:

And was she in school at the time?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yeah. She was in high school and she was two years younger than I am.

Susan Kilgore:

Was her family from Maryland?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

She was an Army brat, too. Her dad was a Colonel. And at that time, we didn't know each other but she lived in Alexandria, Virginia when I was living in Arlington, but we didn't know each other at that time. So she used to come up from there. And then her dad became the Commander of Military District of Connecticut, so they moved up to Hartford, Connecticut. It was a little closer. So she used to drive up on the weekends there in a carpool with about four other gals who were all dating West Pointers.

Susan Kilgore:

And what's her name?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Her name was Gretchen, Gretchen Hayford. And we're still married after 57 years.

Susan Kilgore:

That's terrific. Okay. Now, let's go back to after June 10th after you got married.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Okay.

Susan Kilgore:

With the car that she had to drive.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yes. Anyway, for two months we kind of sponged off everybody we knew because we didn't have any money but we did a lot of traveling. We traveled out to New Mexico where my parents were and we drove around. And I reported back in August to Fort Benning, Georgia to start my base came infantry officer's course which ran from August to December 1954.

Susan Kilgore:

That was Fort Benning?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

That's at Fort Benning.

Susan Kilgore:

B-E-N-N-I-N-G?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Correct. And following that I went to airborne school and that was January '55.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Let's go back to 1954, your basic officer's course. So you effectively had already been through what I would call boot camp at West Point?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Right.

Susan Kilgore:

So, what was the officer's course about? What did you experience there?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Well, in that, the thing is when you're going to West Point, you are learning about moving corps and divisions and things like that. When we went to the basic officer's course, we learned more about being platoon leaders.

Susan Kilgore:

Well, going from the general, no pun intended, to the specific.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Right. So we did map reading courses which we had already being done before, things like that. It was just for our grade level to prepare us to be a company infantry officer.

Susan Kilgore:

It was practical, practical training more so than what I would call more theoretical training for your age?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Right.

Susan Kilgore:

So after Fort Benning, I'm sorry, you started to tell me.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Well, at Fort Benning I followed that by going to our airborne school where we became parachute qualified. And that was great because part of our training was they would take us up on these towers and open the parachute and then just let us go.

Susan Kilgore:

I'm going to follow up on two things. You were at this point a first lieutenant?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

No. Second lieutenant.

Susan Kilgore:

Second lieutenant.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yes, still second lieutenant.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

And you went to airborne school, I'm sorry, where?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

In Fort Benning.

Susan Kilgore:

Also in Fort Benning. And you said that's where you were taught to parachute?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Right.

Susan Kilgore:

And you said towers?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yeah. During the World Fair in 1939, they used to have these towers where people would go out and they would get in the harnesses and they would take them up about 250 feet and then they would release the parachute and you'd just come down.

Susan Kilgore:

So, it was an amusement park ride.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Before we did that, we had to jump out of what they called 34-foot towers where you would learn the technique of exiting an aircraft and you would go down the thing, but then we graduated to where they would take us up and just drop these parachutes and we would come straight down.

Susan Kilgore:

So I'm going to focus on the most unimportant part of all of this. I never realized there was a World's Fair in --

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

No. These are towers that they used in the World's Fair is what I'm saying.

Susan Kilgore:

Oh. And they were moved?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Well, they had these kind of towers. They were kind of an entertainment thing.

Susan Kilgore:

Yes, an amusement ride.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

They would let them up and then they would let the parachute go and then come down .

Susan Kilgore:

Right. So you got to experience that. What was it like your very first time?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

You have to remember our instructors were enlisted personnel and they were really tough on these second lieutenants. I mean, they would run us all over the area counting cadence and all this. And your first thought was, I hope I do it right because I don't want them chewing on my tail when I get on the ground. And I do remember on one of the jumps one of my classmates jumped out the opposite side door. And in the process of where our parachutes swung, he swung through my risers. And on the exit, my riser activated his reserve parachute. So, his reserve parachute popped open and he came down with one parachute opening accidentally. As soon as he got on the ground, because we were told if we ever pulled our reserve, we had to keep the handle. And they said, "Where is your handle?" and he says, "Well, I didn't have the handle because I went through the risers."

Susan Kilgore:

Technically he didn't pull it.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

He got all chewed out.

Susan Kilgore:

Goodness. That's interesting. So when did you leave Fort Benning?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Okay. Well, after the airborne school, then I went to the Ranger school which took place --

Susan Kilgore:

Still at Fort Benning?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

It starts at Fort Benning and then we spent a couple of weeks down in Florida going through the swamps for training. Then we went up to Dahlonega, Georgia where we did some training, where we did rappelling and we would go on long-range patrols and things like this.

Susan Kilgore:

I've never heard of Dahlonega, Georgia. Could you spell it?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

It's D-A-H-L-O-N-E-G-A, I believe, Dahlonega.

Susan Kilgore:

And what's it near?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

I don't think it's near anything.

Susan Kilgore:

That's why you were there?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

It back in the boondocks. But the Ranger training was challenging and not everybody would get the Ranger tab if they didn't think you measured up.

Susan Kilgore:

But you earned the Ranger tab?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

I did, I earned the Ranger tab.

Susan Kilgore:

And that means that was something you wore on your sleeve?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

I wore it right on the top.

Susan Kilgore:

At the top of your left shoulder. So, what does the Ranger -- I'll want to know in the future -- what does it look like?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Well, it's just kind of gold on a black background, it just says "Ranger" on it, but we do have Ranger organizations. You have your Special Forces which are small groups. And they go in and they have language training and they're an entirely elite unit onto themselves. And then you have your Ranger Units which might be a Ranger Company battalion or a regimen even. And they were a little bit more higher trained. And then I'd say your next category would be your Airborne Troops. So they all had their little specialties but Rangers were designed to also work behind enemy lines and all, but your Special Forces troops would be those who would -- like when we were in Germany, we would have our Special Forces people would be making troops into Russia and Czechoslovakia. They spoke the language, they looked like they lived in those countries. So, anyway, after finishing the Ranger school, then I reported to my first assignment was to the 11th Airborne Division which was at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. And I was assigned to the 511th Airborne Infantry at our headquarters company where I was a counter-fire platoon leader.

Susan Kilgore:

You know what. I just realized something that I forgot to ask you. What was your degree from West Point?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

It was called a bachelor of science degree in military engineering.

Susan Kilgore:

And you mentioned a few minutes ago that military science and engineering had a lot to do with military history, but tell me a little bit about this degree in military engineering. I suspect it had something to do with engineering engineering.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

When I reported to West Point, in our first semester we were introduced to -- I might mention one thing there. When you went to West Point, you had to show up with $300, and that was to cover all the uniforms that they were going to issue that very first day. And you get half the base pay of a second lieutenant. So we got paid as well as getting our education there, but we had to buy all our uniforms, books, et cetera. We did get good meals in what we called Beast Barracks. That was a period from July to about the first of September was referred to as Beast Barracks. And during that time, I think we probably came in with probably 1,300 people. By the time Beast Barracks and academics began, we were probably down to 1,100.

Susan Kilgore:

Beast Barracks? And how do you spell Beast?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yeah, that's where -- and we were the Beast.

Susan Kilgore:

Oh, Beast?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

The Beasts, B-E-A-S-T?-S.

Susan Kilgore:

Oh. That would be more like the boot camp part of it?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yes, it was.

Susan Kilgore:

You weren't really in academic classes at that point until September?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

No, that was all there. And where general rations were 3,600 calories a day, we were getting about 4,600 calories a day and losing weight, but there they couldn't touch you physically at all. They just chewed you out for everything you did. You couldn't turn a right-face correctly, you couldn't about-face correctly. You couldn't do anything correctly. You had to do it their way. And it was a stressful time during what they called Beast Barracks. And the idea was they really wanted to break you. And anybody that couldn't take that -- and I've got to admit, I really wanted to go there for ten years practically. And I was wondering, do I really want this? But after Beast Barracks that wasn't quite so bad, but go ahead.

Susan Kilgore:

So you graduate with your bachelor of science in military engineering, and now you're in Kentucky at the 11th Airborne Division?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Oh, you were talking about some of the academics. In the first semester we were introduced to a slide rule, which I had never used before, and I think that was like a week or ten-day class. Then, we went through college algebra, trigonometry, spherical trigonometry. This is all in the first semester, so I was real heavy on math at that time. And we all took the same courses, like my three-year math major roommate still had to take all the same courses again. And the only class you could have that you had any choices in was the language you selected. So I said -- I had had a year of Spanish in high school. So I put down Spanish and then I put down German. And I made the mistake of putting down Russian. And I found out anybody that put Russian anywhere got it. So, I studied two years of Russian.

Susan Kilgore:

But were you ever -- I'm going to jump forward. Were you ever stationed in Russia?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

No.

Susan Kilgore:

Isn't that funny. I mean, just an interesting bit of irony there.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

And I think now they're teaching some of the Middle Eastern languages there too, including now I think Chinese and Japanese. It had all kinds. It has changed differently because now they give credit, if you've gone to a previous school because it's not unusual for people to have one, two, maybe even three years of college, they give them credit but before -- and if you failed a course, you got kicked back you had to take all those same courses again. So, anyway, we'll go back to Kentucky.

Susan Kilgore:

We'll go back to Kentucky.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

I was there until December and then I was sent over to Germany as the Advance Party to sign over all the equipment for Headquarters Company. And that's where I learned that I was to sign over for two light aircraft as well.

Susan Kilgore:

So it was December of 1954?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

'55. This would be '55.

Susan Kilgore:

So you had?--

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

I went to Augsburg, Germany.

Susan Kilgore:

-- a little more than a year between Fort Benning and Kentucky?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Well, not quite. I reported to Kentucky in April, the first of April.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Okay. April of 1955. And so you went to Augsburg, Germany?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Augsburg, Germany.

Susan Kilgore:

How do you spell that?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

A-U-G-S-B-U-R-G.

Susan Kilgore:

And where in Germany is that roughly?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Okay. It's about 50 miles west of Munich and it's probably about 60 miles from Garmisch, so it's in Bavaria.

Susan Kilgore:

Beautiful.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

It's really, really a neat place.

Susan Kilgore:

And you picked up two airplanes while you were there you said?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Well, I had to sign for two aircraft. As being in the headquarters company, I was supposed to sign over the regi mental headquarters and my headquarters company. And we had? a lot of -- I had myself and two sergeants.

Susan Kilgore:

Cargo planes or fighter jets?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

These were light aircraft. They were like -- these were observation planes more than anything.

Susan Kilgore:

And these are American?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

American planes, yes.

Susan Kilgore:

So this was a base that was being decommissioned?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Well, this was called Gyroscope Operation. We were going over and replacing another infantry division. So our division was combined with, the majority of it was in Augsburg but we also had some units that were down in Munich as well. So we had several what they called Kasernes, K-A-S-E-R-N-E-S, where we had different units located throughout Augsburg.

Susan Kilgore:

And Headquarters Division sounds very impressive. Was there a specific honor to getting assigned to Headquarters Division?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

No, it was just a headquarters, a headquarters company.

Susan Kilgore:

A headquarters company.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Which was at that time a regimental headquarters. While I was over there, we went through being a regimen, to a battle group, and from the 11th Airborne Division, we became the 24th Infantry Division Airborne. And my last 18 months over there I was assigned to the airborne school where while I was there I was able to, I think, establish the first military sports group in Europe. And we were doing -- we would do this on a weekend and we would go borrow aircraft. We were trying to learn how to skydive but we needed an instructor to teach us how to get the stable body position and all this, but we did go out and make jumps. And we would tie some two-by-sixes through the steps of some of these light aircraft, like a Beaver. And we would stand out on this stick hanging on to a strut and somebody would pull our rip cord for us, but we would jump.

Susan Kilgore:

Because you didn't have any free hands?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yeah.

Susan Kilgore:

Your hands were holding on to the strut of the plane for dear life.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yes. Yeah.

Susan Kilgore:

Well, I'm glad you're still with us.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

And while I was there at the school, I was out in the field. And when I came back, my boss says, "Hey, you're going to go down to Pau, France." that's Pau is P-A-U which was the French Airborne school. It so happened there was this gentleman by the name of Jacque Estelle who was a skydiver. He was a Frenchman who came to America, had been in the Marine Corps, gotten out of the Marine Corps, and he was now a skydiver and he was coming to Sarajevo, Yugoslavia. Don't ask me about how to spell that. Something like S-A-R-A-J-E-V-O or something like that. Anyway, he was visiting our division and he said to our commanding general, "Do you have a skydiving club?" and he said, "No, we don't have anything like that." my boss who is the commander of the airborne school said, "Oh, yes, sir, Lieutenant Peisinger has formed a skydiving club." and that was mostly just the people in our school initially. And he said, "Well, I'm going to be down in Pau, France after this meet." and they were doing an international skydiving thing and he said, "If you meet me down there, I'll teach him how to skydive." so, I said okay. So, I went down there to meet him. And while I was down there, I got to do two free-falls. Now, the French were wondering what the heck I was doing down there. And I said, "Well, I came down to meet this guy," and all this. And they said, "Well, okay," but they were a little standoffish, but then I went up to do my -- First of all, they did me on some just jumping. I was kind of the dummy that jumped before a jump. And I didn't speak any French and they didn't speak much English. And I remember when I was going to be the wind dummy, so to speak, we had just barely taken off and this guy is in the airplane. And he gives me the thumbs up and I thought, hey, we've hardly left the ground. At the time I thought he got ready to pitch me out of the plane, I jumped out of the plane and that was a rip cord jump. So I did a few jumps of those with him. Then I got my first free-fall. Now, their planes are a little bit different from ours. They had a lot of wind. So on my first free-fall, all I remember is seeing sky, ground, sky, ground. I said, you know, I better pull this darn thing. And then I pulled it. And they all came running up when I got on the ground padding me on the back, saying, "Oh, magnifique. We can see you are a professional sky jumper." and I said, "Well, why do you say that?" He said, "Well, we could see sky, ground, sky, ground. You pulled the rip cord at the precise moment. If you pulled at any different time, you would not have -- your chute would not have opened." so, then I got to do a second one.

Susan Kilgore:

Oh, remarkable.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

But, anyway, that was fun.

Susan Kilgore:

Well, where was your wife? Did she get to come?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

No, she didn't come to France. Well, she was in Germany with me. She didn't come over there initially. She didn't come later until about March.

Susan Kilgore:

March of 1956?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

That would be '56, yeah.

Susan Kilgore:

And this visit to Pau, France was just a few weeks?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

It was about two weeks. As a matter of fact, when I got down, the funny thing when I did get down there was I got in there real early Sunday morning. So I came down to the French Officers' Club for breakfast, and I went down there. And this very nice-dressed gentleman in civilian clothes, he sees an American and he says, "What are you doing here?" and I tell him, "Why, I'm coming down to see this guy who is going to teach me how to skydive." and he says, "Well, I'm only the Chief of Staff here. I think you better come and see me tomorrow morning." so I come in the office in the morning. And I think they're accepting the fact I'm going to stay and they assign me a Frenchman who speaks very good English. And he's my aid to camp, so to speak, but I immediately get a phone call from the American Embassy. And I get, "What are you doing here? We have no knowledge of your reporting here." well, I wrote my own orders, so I do what I have to .

Susan Kilgore:

I have it on very good authority I'm supposed to be here.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Anyway, they're saying, "You report back to your division." I said, "I'm sorry, you're breaking up. I'm sorry. Bye." so I spent about ten days there. And they said, "Oh, we're going to do a tree jump and a water jump. Why don't you extend your time here." I said, "Well, I have to call and get permission from my division headquarters." so I get up there and I call them and they say, "You get your ass back here. Do not pass go, just come home now." so I didn't get to do the water jump or the tree jump.

Susan Kilgore:

Oh, my. Would you mind if we took a quick break?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Sure. (Break at 10:27 A.M.)

Susan Kilgore:

You ready?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yeah, I'm ready to go. You want me to pick up from Germany?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Let's go back to Germany.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Well, actually, my last assignment there in Germany was with the Airborne School, and I was there roughly about 18 months.

Susan Kilgore:

So what did you do? You taught? What did you do for the Airborne School?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Well, I was just an instructor.

Susan Kilgore:

As a result of having gone to Pau, you now had the expertise to teach?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

No, I was an instructor already there. Pau was just a little sideline.

Susan Kilgore:

So what did you teach?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Well, teaching people just how to jump out of airplanes. We did the same thing that they were teaching people at Fort Benning because we would have people who we referred to as straight legs who had never jumped out of airplanes. So it was a lot of physical training, running, exercises, and then how to jump out of the -- we had 34-foot towers. We didn't have the free tall towers to drop, but then we would go and jump them.

Susan Kilgore:

And you called them straight legs because?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Because they didn't have wings yet, airborne wings.

Susan Kilgore:

And when you jump out of a plane, you have to bend your legs?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Well, no, straight legs just means that's what we referred to as the plane infantry man who did not have his airborne wings yet. So we would give them five jumps which would entitle them to wear their parachute wings.

Susan Kilgore:

So 34 feet is about how many stories high in a typical building?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Three-and-a-half stories, about three stories high. And the big thing was in these 34-foot towers, what you were really teaching them is the body position that they have to have. And we would be checking their position as they exit the smock door. And they would go down on a pulley, it was a big long cable, and they would ride for maybe 50 feet, or maybe I should say about 30 yards down this cable. And then they would disengage and then go back up to the tower and do it again because you did have? a -- One thing is our Airborne School had actually taught some of the Germans. And the Germans exited aircraft entirely different during World War II than we did. They used to go out like Superman. So when they go out, they go out spread-eagle.

Susan Kilgore:

So it's stomach down, stomach forward? Stomach down?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Well, they would just make a leap with their arms out stretched. And when we went out, we would go over in a position that was like this (indicating). And in some of our additional training we would also be where we have these big bags that stood about so high between your legs. And they would be on strap so that when you were about to hit the ground, you would release this bag that would hit the ground before you did.

Susan Kilgore:

So let me get you to describe that position you said that Americans were jumping out of planes. Can you sort of describe it?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Okay. Well, what you do is you would stand in the door. And then when you would go out, you would grab your reserve parachute tucked under your head and leap out from the plane.

Susan Kilgore:

So your reserve parachute was in front of your body?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yes.

Susan Kilgore:

So you're kind of clutching it like a hug almost?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

You're hugging it. And it's good because you don't want a rip cord to catch that handle and pull your reserve accidentally. So that's partially why you clasp it across your reserve to keep that rip cord from going out.

Susan Kilgore:

And what you were just demonstrating is that your legs were kind of bent also, sort of?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yeah, to give you a bent.

Susan Kilgore:

A little bit of a squat position?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

So you could spring out. The idea was to clear that aircraft.

Susan Kilgore:

I can't imagine what it must have been like to see such two different styles of airplane jumping.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Well, somebody had indicated that they had never jumped out of airplanes before but from force of habit even though they had been trained for several days to jump the way we are jumping, we would see the first time they would go out of the tower, they would go this way. They didn't do it a second time because it hurt .

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Some of the Germans you said claimed they had never jumped out of an airplane?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yeah.

Susan Kilgore:

And even after your training, they would still try to jump out the first time face forward?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Spread-eagle.

Susan Kilgore:

Spread-eagle ?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yeah. And with the 34-foot tower, it was not a comfortable jump that way.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

There is not a lot of time to change your position?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

No.

Susan Kilgore:

So if you've jumped in what we would call the wrong position, that's how you're landing after 34 feet. Yeah, I would imagine that would hurt. So you were an instructor and you were still a second lieutenant?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

No. At that time, I had made first lieutenant. En route to Germany I made first lieutenant.

Susan Kilgore:

Okay. So now you are a first lieutenant?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yeah.

Susan Kilgore:

And you were there you said about 18 months?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

With the Airborne School, yeah.

Susan Kilgore:

The Airborne School about 18 months?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yeah, but overall I was three years in Germany.

Susan Kilgore:

And your wife was in Germany about two-and-a-half?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yeah.

Susan Kilgore:

Now, did you-all have any children at thi time?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

We had one child, our son. When we rode over there, my wife had one son and we had lost another one.

Susan Kilgore:

Oh, I'm so sorry. Now, your son was born in what year?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

He was born in May of '55.

Susan Kilgore:

And what's his name?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

He was a III but we call him Joel, J-O-E-L, to keep him a little bit different from me.

Susan Kilgore:

So Roman Joseph or Roman Joel?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Roman Joseph, III.

Susan Kilgore:

Roman Joseph, III, and you called him Joel. Is he still alive?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yes.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Where does he live?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

He lives in Los Angeles.

Susan Kilgore:

Keeping the California tradition alive.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yes.

Susan Kilgore:

And he lived -- you and your wife and Joel lived in? --

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Augsburg.

Susan Kilgore:

-- Augsburg until you were assigned to where?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Then we were assigned to Fort Benning, Georgia. I was assigned to the Infantry School there and was an instructor in the weapons department of the Infantry School.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

What year was that?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

I arrived there in December of '58 and stayed there until January of '61, till January of '61.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Now, tell me about the Korean conflict. When had that started?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

That had started in June of '50.

Susan Kilgore:

So was it finished by the time you got to Germany?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Well, it was never really finished. When Eisenhauer came in, there was kind of a detente but I served in Korea later. And it still, the war really wasn't over. They never did declare the war over. I don't even know if it's really been declared over yet because you still have your North and South Korea. But because I was in the military at that time was where I had a National Defense Service Medal for just being in the service at that time. So as cadets, we were entitled to wear that one little ribbon just for that.

Susan Kilgore:

My goodness. Well, I interrupted you and you were telling us about you going back to Fort Benning now but this time as an instructor, not a student.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Right. And I worked in weapons department. And where I taught was things had to do with technique of rifle fire, and we trained them on pistols and rifles and knife firing. And in our department we had developed a device that would help you aim your weapon at nighttime so you could have an idea of where you were pointing. And then I also taught classes in night vision.

Susan Kilgore:

So did you get this riflery expertise naturally from your father?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Not really. It was just routine military stuff that we were teaching.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Now, and your father was just about to retire at this point?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

He retired in '60.

Susan Kilgore:

So did he come visit you and play around on your shooting ground?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

No, no, not at all. Our paths didn't really cross all that much. I do remember when I went to Germany, he went to Korea.

Susan Kilgore:

My goodness.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Okay. And then after Korea, he went to New Orleans. Funny story on that was he was the Chief Army Advisor to the Louisiana National Guard and they were stationed in New Orleans. When I came back to New Orleans, they said, "Colonel Peisinger is returning to New Orleans." and they had this in the paper. I said, "This is not the same Roman Peisinger." I said, "Number one, I'm only a major and I'm assigned to the Engineer District."

Susan Kilgore:

So your name was in the Times Picayune?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yeah. It was just a little blurb.

Susan Kilgore:

Picayune is P-I-C-A-Y-U-N-E.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

I'm glad you can spell it because I don't think I could.

Susan Kilgore:

It's the name of the newspaper. It was actually probably at that time the Times Picayune States Item.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Probably.

Susan Kilgore:

Well, congratulations, even if they didn't quite have it right. You were famous.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yeah, right. Well, anyway, while I was at Fort Benning I had a classmate that came down. He was wearing engineer castles and I ran into him at a club. And usually somebody that went into the engineers straight out of West Point was probably graduated top hundred of the class, because there were only about maybe 20 slots for engineers and usually the smartest guys went to those. And this one guy was a football player. He wasn't one of the smarter ones but he was a nice guy. And I was having lunch with him, I said, "Gee, I didn't know you were so smart being in the Corps." he says, "Oh, no, I was second from the bottom of the class." and I said, "Well, how did you get into the Corps of Engineers?" He said, "I just walked in their office and said, 'I want to branch fast through the Corps.' They said, 'Would you be willing to go back to school?' And they sent me to Texas A and M." I said, "No kidding?" so, I flew up to Washington, D.C. And went through my infantry branch. I said, "Are you going to send me back to school?" they looked over my records and said, "Probably not." I said, "Well, give me a copy of my transcripts and I want to go see the Corps of Engineers." so I, went to the Corps of Engineers and they said, "Well, would you be willing to go back to school?" I said, "Yeah. I would consider that. Would you send me to MIT?" and they looked over my records and said, "No, but we'll send you to Texas A and M." so, I came back and about four months later my orders came through. I put on my castles and I checked to see if I could get an assignment at Fort Benning and they wouldn't release me from the Airborne Department. I probably shouldn't tell this story, but anyway at one of the classes, I'm addressing the class which are all second lieutenants, ROTC types. And I said, "Now, this is your last class and this covers your technique of rifle fire, night firing, night vision and all that. If you have any questions, now is the time to ask because your test is tomorrow." he said, "I have one question, sir. Why is an engineer officer teaching these infantry courses?" I used to be a wise guy, so I said, "Well, in the infantry school thought they would like to upgrade the training here so they imported some engineer officers to help." and I didn't know my boss was in the back of the class so he got me afterwards and said, "If you ever come up with anything like that again, you're in deep trouble."

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Well, let me go back a little bit. What is a castle? You said engineer castle.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Well, the engineers have their brass is a little -- it looks like a castle.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Oh, okay. And that's the little pin that goes on the corners of the lapel, the shirt lapel?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Right. Right.

Susan Kilgore:

Engineer castles. So you were talking about wearing your castles teaching what I'm guessing was your last class?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Technique of rifle fire.

Susan Kilgore:

And this was your last class that you were going to be teaching at Fort Benning?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

No, no. They kept me there for another year.

Susan Kilgore:

But you still hadn't gone to A and M yet?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

No.

Susan Kilgore:

You just knew you were technically being transferred but you were sort of in? --

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yeah. The agreement was that after I was there, I would go to the advanced course which was the next assignment but I did stay. After I became the Corps of Engineer and I stayed teaching, they would not release me from the Weapons Department. So I stayed in that department until following January. So I was there a year as an engineer teaching infantry courses, and then I went to Fort Belvoir to the advanced course for engineers officers. I had another classmate who done the same thing. He transferred from infantry to Corps of Engineers. We weren't the smartest guys there but we got the best grades for what they say is the "BS Award" because we could BS very well.

Susan Kilgore:

You know, I think that's important. So was it in 1960 then that you received your transfer to the Corps of Engineers?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yes.

Susan Kilgore:

And then in '61?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

'61 then I went to Fort Belvoir. mS. KILGORE: And you still hadn't gone to Texas A and M?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

No.

Susan Kilgore:

That was going to happen they promised you?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

And they also told me I would have to have an undesirable tour before I go to school. So after I finished advanced course in August I was assigned to Korea, which that was supposed to be a 13-month tour but the day I stepped into Korea, President Kennedy extended it to 16 months.

Susan Kilgore:

Well, let's go backwards to Fort Belvoir was 1961?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yes.

Susan Kilgore:

For how long you said?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Oh, until July of '61.

Susan Kilgore:

And you were a student there?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yeah, I was just a student.

Susan Kilgore:

Taking advanced weaponry?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

No, no. This was just they have different things in there for advancing your military career. You have your basic officer's course, and then a few years later you go to what they call the advanced course for your branch, and then your next step is to go somewhere like Fort Leavenworth or some of the other places. So after the advanced course, then I went over to the 7th Infantry Division which was in -- and I won't say the name it of it? -- I just went into Korea. It was Tongduchon, but I can't spell it. And I had an engineer company.

Susan Kilgore:

And that was in 1962 you were in Korea?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

This would have been August of '61 up to June of '62. I had an engineer company that was about half strength, but we also had ten Korean what we called Katusas, K-A-T-U-S-A-S, assigned to us, so these were Koreans. And by fisticuffs they determined who was their Korean first sergeant, because I remember I had this one guy he could speak English and he kept the other Koreans in line. And one day I came in and I found a new one, and he says, "I'm your new first sergeant, Katusas first sergeant." I said, "Well, what happened to the other one?" He said, "Well, we agreed that I would be in charge." and I found out later that he had beat the other guy up. I went to their captain and I said, "Is this normal procedure?" he said, "Well, if it works for you, it's okay." and then after that assignment while I was still in Korea, they assigned me where I was kind of like an advisor and a property book officer for a Korean construction company. And in this I had to sign for basically all the materials that we gave to this Korean construction battalion. And any time they got an order from higher headquarters to do something, they would always bring it to me and say, "Please read this and tell us what you think it means." I would do that. And one of my jobs was every month I would go out and pay about, oh, 400? -- they formed labor companies. And each month I would go out and pay these laborers, I did this for almost six months. And what they would do is they would hand me a bunch of the local money. They would just give it to me. I mean, I didn't count it, they didn't count it back then. And I had it set up where I had two GIs that worked with me and ten Korean civilians that knew the operation and told me what I was supposed to be doing. They would have one guy come in and he would identify the guys because I couldn't tell one from the other. He would identify who he was. The next one would make him sign the paperwork. Another guy -- and then he would come to me, and I would just have this stack of money. And you're supposed to get how much? (Indicates counting money.) and the next guy there made me count it again to see that he had the right amount, and then they went out. And then if I had any money leftover, I would just put it in the bag and say, "Here it is."

Susan Kilgore:

So did you ever not have enough money?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

No, I always had enough money.

Susan Kilgore:

There was always enough.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

But it's very different from the way we used to pay our troops because when you'd do it, when you'd get your money, you would count every dollar. And then I remember when we used to pay officers in Germany, we would also have to have an extra batch of money to give them German deutschemarks. They were responsible for that.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Well, this seems like something interesting to follow up on because, you know, now? -- I think I'm correct and I hope I am? -- I believe if you are in any branch of the federal government, you are required to have direct deposit and, of course, times have changed.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

But these were just laborers, Korean laborers is what all these were.

Susan Kilgore:

But I want to talk about when you were in active duty, you were paid in cash or in person?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

I'm trying to remember when I was in Korea if I got paid over there. I forgot. Usually when I was on unaccompanied tours, I would have a lot that was going to banks and I would only take so much money, like, maybe $100 a month, something like that.

Susan Kilgore:

When you say unaccompanied tours?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

That means when you don't have your family with you, that's an unaccompanied tour.

Susan Kilgore:

I see. So in Germany were you paid in --

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

I think I had my money all go into the bank direct.

Susan Kilgore:

So even in the 60's and the late 50's that was at least an option, maybe not required?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yeah. I always had my money go straight to the bank. It was easier.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Well, you know, you make me realize. Was your family with you in Korea?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

No.

Susan Kilgore:

You were there for how long?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Sixteen months. And that wasn't as easy to get flights home. I never came home while I was 16 months there .

Susan Kilgore:

You said you were there from August of '61 until June of '62?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Well, that was just as a company commander, and then I spent another six months. So I came back, I left there the end of November of 1962. So I was Property Book Officer for July '62 to November '62.

Susan Kilgore:

So, this is the second time you've been sent overseas and you are required to account for military property?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Well, the property I was doing was mostly materials because the unit had their own equipment which a lot of it we had provided but I wasn't responsible. The property book that I was responsible, we would give them cement and lumber, nails, all kinds of usables. As a matter of fact, I thought it was kind of ridiculous but they made them turn in the empty cement bags to make sure that it wasn't going out on the black market somewhere.

Susan Kilgore:

Now, you said materials. And that's materials with M-A-T?-E-R-I-E-L-S as opposed to? --

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Construction materials, M-A-T-E-R-I-A-L-S.

Susan Kilgore:

Oh, regular materials?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yeah.

Susan Kilgore:

Because I know there's the military spelling that means something different.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

No, this was things like cement and lumber, things that construction battalion would be using in their normal operations. And I received it and then issued it to them and they had to prove to me that it was being used properly. And I basically lived in a little hut all by myself. Sometimes I had an American civilian that occasionally would stay there but he didn't come very often, so I was there by myself.

Susan Kilgore:

That's a great point. You said a hut.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Well, it was a nice little place. It even had a swimming pool. The only thing is it leaked.

Susan Kilgore:

The hut leaked or the swimming pool?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

The swimming pool leaked.

Susan Kilgore:

So what was the hut made of?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Well, this hut was made out of actually stone and cement. It was a nice little hut.

Susan Kilgore:

And, generally, how many square feet?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Oh, I never got to measure it. Probably about 600 square feet.

Susan Kilgore:

So was it just one room or two separate rooms?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

It was comfortable. I think we had about three or four rooms in it. I mean, it was capable where it could handle about three or four people.

Susan Kilgore:

And did you have a kitchen in there?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

No, I just went to the mess halls for meals.

Susan Kilgore:

It was built as part of the base?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

It was just there. I don't know what it was initially. I think at one time it was maybe some officers' quarters. And that's the reason they had the swimming pool built but it just happened to be there.

Susan Kilgore:

So how does that compare to your housing in Germany?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Oh, the housing in Germany we had nice quarters there. They were apartment buildings.

Susan Kilgore:

On base? I'm sorry. On post?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

No, they weren't on base. No, they were in kind of just a civilian community -- not a civilian community but a military community. And they even had maid's quarters up in the attics. And as a first lieutenant there, we had a live-in maid. And part of her pay was the fact that we fed her and we gave her a place to stay.

Susan Kilgore:

How old was she?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

I'd say maybe 25.

Susan Kilgore:

So a young woman?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Young gal.

Susan Kilgore:

And how big was that space, your living area?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

We usually had like two bedrooms in the place we had. Plus, the furniture and everything was issued to us. We went over with very minimal things. The only thing we really bought was a washing machine. And they had big? -- down in the basements they had places. And you were assigned days you could wash and they had indoor lines so you could hang your clothes up. We didn't have dryers.

Susan Kilgore:

So there was a common wash area in the basement?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yeah.

Susan Kilgore:

And you hung your clothes in the basement. And the maid did all this, I assume?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

She was taught eventually to do it, yeah, but you had to be careful with your washing machine because if you -- what I finally did is after about a month there we realized people were using our washing machine. So I went down and cut the cord so you would have to have a cable with like two male things on it. And you would bring your cable down to hook up your washing machine because other people would use your equipment. And a lot of times it was probably the maids doing it.

Susan Kilgore:

You didn't realize you were providing a community washing machine?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yes, right.

Susan Kilgore:

So you didn't have maid service in Korea?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

No, but when I was a company commander we did have a house boy. And I had one other officer in the company with him, and we would pay our house boy each month. And it always amazed us because they always knew when we had an alert. We didn't know when we were having an alert but when we came by with our trucks going out in the field on alert, he would be standing in the place ready to hop on the truck.

Susan Kilgore:

And what is an alert?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Well, that's like something has happened and you would have a place that you would be designated to go outside of the cantonment area.

Susan Kilgore:

Cantonment area?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Well, that's what you would call a base.

Susan Kilgore:

I see. And when were you the -- I'm sorry -- company commander?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

I was a company commander.

Susan Kilgore:

And when was that?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Okay. That was while I was first assigned to the 7th Infantry Division, so that would have been from August of '61 to June of '62.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Got it. Okay.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

And then I was a property book officer at that time.

Susan Kilgore:

Well, what else do you want to tell me about being in Korea?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

There is really not much more to say there. It was just a long tour, especially being unaccompanied.

Susan Kilgore:

How do you communicate with your family?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

I don't think we used tape recorders then, I think we just wrote letters. And occasionally you could get a phone. They had a deal worked with ham radio operators. You could put in a request to get patched through and somebody would get there and you would say, "Hello. Over." and they would say, "Hello. Over." and then you would have a conversation. One person would say what they wanted to say and then you would say, "Over," because the ham radio operator would be switching the thing back and forth to send and receive. But what they would do is through -- I forget what they called it at that time, but you would go through a procedure to get connected, and they would contact the ham radio operator somewhere near where your family was. They'd call them on the phone and explain the procedure to them and say, "Now when we patch you through, you have to use this "over" back and forth to talk because what I'll be doing here is manually switching you from send and receive.

Susan Kilgore:

So, in a conversation with your wife using these ham radio operators there were at least four people involved?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yeah.

Susan Kilgore:

You and your wife and your ham radio operator in your country?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yeah. And one in Korea.

Susan Kilgore:

Isn't that interesting. So a private conversation wasn't private?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

It wasn't too private, no. And I don't think we got through very often, it wasn't very often. There was always a line up for that.

Susan Kilgore:

Well, of course.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

You had to schedule it up in advance. Okay. Then after coming back from Korea, that's when instead of assigning me to a military post, they just sent me straight to Texas A and M where I became a part of the ROTC department. And when I signed in I said, "Well, I'm going to take a couple weeks leave." and they said, "No, that's crazy, don't waste your leave. Come in next Monday morning." they had clocked according to PMS and T, that's the Professor of Military Science and Tactics. He was a colonel. "and we don't have anything for you to do, just come in and man a desk." okay. So, I came in that Monday morning at 8:00 and they said, "Glad to have you with us. By the way, go down with Major So-and-So and listen to his class that starts at 8:30 because you're going to teach that same class at 9:30." apparently, the person that I replaced was a master sergeant but he had become seriously ill and they needed somebody to take his class. So, that was my introduction to being an ROTC instructor.

Susan Kilgore:

And what month was that?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

That was in December.

Susan Kilgore:

Of '62?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

That would have been '62.

Susan Kilgore:

Goodness.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

And so I remained in the ROTC department May 3rd up until May of that following year. And the nice thing was I could take courses being on the A and M staff. And not having been to school for ten years, I thought I might take some courses again, courses I had even taken just to remember how to study and use a slide rule again. And then my course started in May and then we went through the summer. My courses for the master's degree started and went through the summer, two summer semesters and then fall and spring, and I got my master's degree the following May.

Susan Kilgore:

May of '64?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

That would have been May of '64, right.

Susan Kilgore:

Well, let me go backwards a little bit. Well, first is a question. In December of '62 when you observed an engineering class?--

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Well, this wasn't engineering class, this was just military. This was ROTC class and it was like military history or something like that.

Susan Kilgore:

Was this your first time to teach an academic class?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

No, not really.

Susan Kilgore:

Because I know you had been a teacher, an instructor in these other, especially at Fort Benning.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Well, while I was a cadet -- I'm regressing here. I forgot to mention this.

Susan Kilgore:

Good.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

But I was assigned then to some place, I can't think of the name right now in South Carolina, and I was down there for almost two months. And it was kind of considered an assignment because we were assigned like third lieutenants to a basic training unit. And we would show up in the morning at the place like 7:00 in the morning after having breakfast. And they'd say, "Okay, you have a PT class in such and such a place, or you're teaching this section of map reading at this building." we didn't know the night before what we were teaching but we would teach all these courses. And I think the one thing I really felt proud of is we were basic training, they're taking their final exams. And I remember setting up what we call like a country fair type thing for training them before they go and get examined. And we were training them, reminding them all the things they had taught about first aid and map reading and all the things that they needed to know to pass the exams, and they did very well.

Susan Kilgore:

Could this have been at the Citadel?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

No, no, this would have been at a military base.

Susan Kilgore:

Fort Sumter?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

No, I can't even think of the name, just not off the top of my head. If I heard it I would know it right away, but it was just a basic training but it was just a basic infantry training is what it was.

Susan Kilgore:

So teaching in the academic environment was not --

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

So I had, we had -- and we learned how to be instructors at West Point because we would have to give classes on various things. I remember one guy his class was on the M1A1 whistle, but we would have to prepare classes like that.

Susan Kilgore:

What's the M1A1 whistle?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Oh, it's just a regular whistle that you blow. I mean, you could come up with any kind of topic you wanted to, but you had to have charts and demonstrations.

Susan Kilgore:

So here's something that's I'm a little confused about. I get the impression that the Army was going to be paying for your education at A and M?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

At A and M.

Susan Kilgore:

They weren't going to pay for it?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

They did.

Susan Kilgore:

They did. So why was it important to get payment from A and M as an instructor?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Oh, I didn't get payment from them. I just got my regular military pay.

Susan Kilgore:

Actually, no, I'm sorry. I misspoke.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

But what I was entitled to do was I could take courses and I would get the same rates as instructors and their families would receive, which was very reduced because you just paid strictly for the class.

Susan Kilgore:

But you were already taking courses through -- the military was already paying for your education?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

No, no, I was an instructor initially for six months. And while I was an instructor, I took some refresher courses just to get back in the habit of studying again.

Susan Kilgore:

Thank you. That makes sense to me now.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

And then in May of '63, that's when my sole job was just to go to school.

Susan Kilgore:

And you received your master's degree in?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

'64.

Susan Kilgore:

May of '64. And that was a master's of?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Civil engineering.

Susan Kilgore:

Civil engineering. So you're a CV. My father-in-law is a civil engineer.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Is he?

Susan Kilgore:

Yes.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Well, mine was primarily in soils and water treatment.

Susan Kilgore:

You know what? I'm looking at the years. Actually it's about the same time. He probably got his master's a year or it was the early 60's, but he went to that other school in Texas.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

UT? Well, I tried a semester at UT later on after I was working at USAA, but I didn't pursue it any further. I was going to go for a master's of business administration. And after a semester, I decided this is more than I need.

Susan Kilgore:

I think it's remarkable that you were willing to return to school after a ten-year break. That's pretty impressive. Well, so let's talk about did you have any military duties during the time that you were a student?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

No.

Susan Kilgore:

And where did you live? In the Bryan/College Station area?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yeah, we lived in College Station.

Susan Kilgore:

You and your wife?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Just across from the campus, yeah. We just rented a house. By then, we had our fifth child while we were there.

Susan Kilgore:

Well, I've overlook asking you about that then.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Well, we used to keep track of our duty stations by where our children were born, but our son was born at Fort Campbell.

Susan Kilgore:

Well, let's go back to Joel. Joel was --

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Joe was born on May 2nd, 1955.

Susan Kilgore:

And he was born in Germany?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

No, he was born in Fort Campbell.

Susan Kilgore:

I don't remember Fort Campbell.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yeah. That was my first duty, that was with the 11th Airborne.

Susan Kilgore:

And where was Fort Campbell? Kentucky.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yeah, that was in Kentucky, Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

Susan Kilgore:

You know, I may not have asked the location. Okay. So Joel was born in Kentucky?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

And then I have a daughter who was born in Germany, in Augsburg. And it took us a few years before we got her really naturalized. When I went to Fort Belvoir, we went down to the State Department and got her squared away because she was still considered a German citizen for all intents and purposes.

Susan Kilgore:

What's her name?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Her name is Ruth Ann, R-U-T-H A-N-N.

Susan Kilgore:

Ruth Ann. And what year was she born?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

She was born May 31st of '57.

Susan Kilgore:

And that's Augsburg?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Augsburg. And then our next daughter was born in Fort Benning, Georgia on November 18th of 1959. And my next daughter?--

Susan Kilgore:

What's her name?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Her name was Suzanne, S-U-Z-A-N-N-E. And our next daughter was born at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

Susan Kilgore:

What's her name?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Her name is Eve, E-V-E, second name is Marie, M-A-R-I-E, and her birthday was April 5th, 1961. And my last daughter, Elizabeth was born at Bryan, Texas on May 13th of '64.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Now, I'm going to go back and spell it. I don't think we ever spelled Fort Belvoir.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Belvoir is B-E-L-V-O-I-R.

Susan Kilgore:

And you mentioned a child who? --

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Well, my wife had a premature child and we lost him. He was born premature in February of '56. And as a matter of fact, they sent me home on emergency leave that time. I remember they called me into the headquarters and said, "We want you out of here by 5 p.m." I said, "I've just signed over all this property. I've got to do some things." he said, "You will be gone by tonight." I said, "Okay." so, I spent about a month home and then brought my whole family over back with me.

Susan Kilgore:

Now, where was your wife?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

She was living with her parents in Arkansas, Sulphur Springs, Arkansas.

Susan Kilgore:

You said she was from Texas but her folks had moved to Arkansas at that point?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

No, no, she was an Army brat but her parents had retired to Sulphur Springs, Arkansas. She was actually born in Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

Susan Kilgore:

I'm thinking where I got Texas from. Oh, I'm sorry, your mother.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

My mother is from Texas, she lived up around Killeen. As a matter of fact, they had a house there that was on the National Registry. I had a picture of that. It was one of these Sears houses.

Susan Kilgore:

Yes, Craftsman houses, meaning it was a kit house.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yes, and you built it yourself.

Susan Kilgore:

You bought it by mail -- what is the word I'm looking for -- you ordered it.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yeah. And I can't remember. I've got it on a backboard that says -- anyway, up in that part of Texas.

Susan Kilgore:

So Elizabeth was born in 1964 in Bryan?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

In Bryan, Texas, yeah.

Susan Kilgore:

And, goodness, that was the same month that you -- I'm sorry -- that was the month before you graduated with your civil engineering master's degree?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yeah.

Susan Kilgore:

And what happened next?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

From there, I had requested two months leave so I could practice what I had learned at school because one of our instructor there retired, a brigadier general, ran some soils testing things. And he really liked to have his graduate students work for him if they could to so. So, I had put in for that. He said, "No, no, we're going to send you to Sigonella Naval Air Station in Sicily."

Susan Kilgore:

Sigonella.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yeah. I never went there but this is just to kind of give you the idea.

Susan Kilgore:

Oh.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

"you're going to go to Sigonella Air Force Base. And so go on leave and we'll send you the orders." we went to Sulphur Springs and waited. They called me up and said Sigonella -- it was a naval air station. They said, "The Navy is not going to do any construction there this year, so we're not going to send you."

Susan Kilgore:

It was a U.S. Naval Air Station?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

And Sigonella is right outside of -- I can't think of the town now but it's on the east coast of Sicily. And my wife had been taking -- knowing we were supposed to be going there when I graduated, she had started taking some Sicilian lessons from a Catholic priest. And then that cancelled. They said, "Okay. You're going to go to Athens, Greece." and I said, "Well, all right." they said, "Just wait for the orders." about a week later they said, "No, no, something has changed in Athens, Greece and we're now sending you to Ankara, Turkey." and so that's where I went. And I worked for an Army security agency called Site 23, which really Site 23 was 23 miles outside Ankara. And I was going to be the post engineer there.

Susan Kilgore:

Can you spell Ankara for us?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yeah. Ankara is A-N-K-A-R-A.

Susan Kilgore:

And Site 23 is?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Just a name. They had had another name to it but I won't bother you with that.

Susan Kilgore:

But it's S-I-T-E?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yeah, S-I-T-E. Site 23.

Susan Kilgore:

Well, do you know the other name?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

It was a place where they eavesdrop on all kinds of Russian communications.

Susan Kilgore:

Do you know the other name of Site 23?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Oh, yeah. It's called Manzarelli Station, M-A-N-Z-A-R-E-L-L-I, Manzarelli Station.

Susan Kilgore:

Manzarelli Station. Okay.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

And the post engineer, my engineer staff was really contract work, so I really supervised the contract. And fortunately they knew what the heck they were doing because I knew nothing about being a post engineer.

Susan Kilgore:

When did you actually get to Ankara?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

We got there in July of '64. And I was supposed to really have quarters on the base but they weren't available, so we lived on the economy in Ankara. So every morning at about 5:30 in the morning I would leave on a bus to go out there and I'd have my breakfast and do my work. And after work was over at the end of the time, I would take the bus home.

Susan Kilgore:

So your whole family, all seven of you including a few-month old daughter?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yeah. She was the best traveler of all.

Susan Kilgore:

Moved to Turkey. And is this, do you think you were assigned there because you had studied Russian?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

No, no, I had nothing to do with that. As a matter of fact, they wouldn't even let me in the building where they were doing their business, but they wanted to get their building painted. And they said they just had it painted three years ago, it's not ready. And I said, "Well, I'm not going to approve anything until I get the building." so they got my security clearance, I put in and they said, "No, you can't do it."

Susan Kilgore:

What was your security clearance?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Well, at that time I was not cleared. They hadn't cleared me for? -- they have different kind of clearance levels. I mean, I had clearances up to Confidential. And they had to have stuff like you had to be cleared for Top Secret, they did a little bit more background checks and stuff like that.

Susan Kilgore:

Top Secret is a higher level than Confidential?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yeah. You would have Confidential, and then you had Secret, and then Top Secret. And then they have Eyes Only and things like that, Burn Before Reading.

Susan Kilgore:

There really is one called Burn Before Reading?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

No. Those were the ones we used.

Susan Kilgore:

Just a good joke.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

It's kind of a carry on. Anyway --

Susan Kilgore:

So you said you lived in the economy which means living not on post?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yeah. So we had to go out and find a place to live.

Susan Kilgore:

Just on -- and how?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

It was just?--

Susan Kilgore:

What language did everyone else speak in Turkey?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

In Turkey, they spoke Turkish but my job though was supervising this contractor. The name was the Tumpane Company. And the Tumpane Company, T-U-M-P-A-N-E, they ran the commissary, the dining halls, the maintenance and all the things, but our post was a beautiful little post because we had about 25 set of quarters and they were building another 20 sets while I was there. We had our own water supply but it was limited. We had our own power generation. We had our own sewage treatment plant, but then I found out I had an additional duty which required me to travel to like Tehran where we had a little unit there, a place called Meshad, Tehran which was right up near the Russian border. And then we had another place in Peshawar, Pakistan. And then we had in Turkey itself we had another site up right on the Black Sea called Sinop, S-I-N-O-P, where we had a station.

Susan Kilgore:

Do you mind spelling Tehran.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

I think T-E-H-R-A-N.

Susan Kilgore:

And how about Meshad and Peshawar?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Meshad was M-E-S-H-A-D and then Peshawar is P-E-S-H-A-W-A-R.

Susan Kilgore:

And that's Pakistan?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

And it's just on the other end of the Khyber Pass.

Susan Kilgore:

Khyber?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Khyber Pass is K-H-Y-B-E-R.

Susan Kilgore:

And then Peshawar you said was Pakistan?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yeah, that was in Pakistan. And then we had another base down in southern Turkey that I on occasion would go down to, but I can't remember the name of the base but it was a place that Gary Powers flew into and flew out of over fly Russia.

Susan Kilgore:

So what was your rank then at this point in 1964?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

I was promoted to major while I was there.

Susan Kilgore:

So you were a major?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

I was a captain when I reported in. In about a few months I was promoted to major.

Susan Kilgore:

And your title or your job duty was -- can you please tell me the name of your job duty again, your official post?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

My official title was post engineer.

Susan Kilgore:

Post engineer.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

But I found out as I was leaving, I found out when I had all these other jobs I was doing, I replaced three majors who were all working under what we call the S4. S4 stands for supply and maintenance. And the post engineer came under them. And basically what I did is I reported my feelings about our contractor, that they were doing their job, cutting the grass right, if they were keeping the maintenance up to par, things like that.

Susan Kilgore:

So was this your first experience on a post or a base with contractors rather than active duty personnel running the place?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yeah. Well, thank good ness they knew what they were doing because one of my right-hand man was a retired colonel Corps of Engineers. And then I had another guy that also kept me straight but they would came in and they would have all these requests that I had to sign off on.

Susan Kilgore:

So one of your right-hand people who was with the Tumpane Company?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Right. He was a retired colonel and I was initially just a captain.

Susan Kilgore:

So was this the rise of contractors or the beginning of contractors servicing the military?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Well, they were doing these kind of things, I think, in Korea already. And we definitely did it big time in Vietnam, but anyway I was there for two years. And one of my main achievements there was because we were overpumping our water and when we did that, we'd get gravel in the sinks and everything else. And so using what I had learned at Texas A and M, I said, let's start using our treated water to water our grass, because we had a lot of grass, and then people had yards. And I said, water the garden. We should treat it just like we have to do downtown. All our vegetables we had to run through a chlorine bath. So, I just suggest you do that, but our water when it came out of our treatment plant was drinkable really. It was a good process. And then they told me that, well, they wouldn't approve my doing this but they had a sanitation engineer that was making a trip through the area, they would run it by him. And when the sanitation engineer came by and we were chatting about things. It turned out he was a very good friend of my instructor that taught me sanitation engineering at Texas A and M. And he said, "Well, why aren't you telling them also to use the sewage sludge for the gardens?" I said, "Please just tell them they should approve the water, that's all I need. I understand, I agree with you a hundred percent but that's too big a sale."

Susan Kilgore:

Baby steps.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

So we did get that. But I'm taking too much of your time.

Susan Kilgore:

No, no. I may not be asking the questions the right way but your story, this is wonderful. Thank you.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Well, I'll tell you one funny story. The only time I really had a chance for a boondoggle was I had to go out because we had a unit, they had three 30KW generators and they were up in a shed in Iran, and they all went down. And we found out later the Lieutenant that was in charge thought, well, he had run this generator for a month, that generator for a month, a third generator for a month, and so they were all evenly worn. What you are supposed to do is he would test the others for 24 hours and then get back to the one generator and wear it out completely so it could be rebuilt while he still had two generators. Well, he evenly had been distributing the load and so all three generators were out at the same time. And I found out the Air? Force had a civilian and he was a real hands-on guy. So I asked them if they would let us pay his way in accompanying me out there and see if he could get him back in business, which is what we did, but we were supposed to fly to Teran, make a visit there and then go to Mashed and prepare the generators there. Because it was more cost effective, we were going to fly from Mashed to Kabul, Afghanistan, go to the Khyber Pass, go to Peshawar, fly to New Delhi, and then fly back through Lebanon and then back to Ankara. The day before we leave, a war breaks out between Pakistan and India and I can't fly any further east to Teran, so there goes my trip to Peshawar and the Khyber Pass. Anyway, that happened the day before I left that war broke out. So we should go on from there.

Susan Kilgore:

Can I ask you, just ask you a little bit. So you were there for two years?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Two years. Supposed to have been two and a half years.

Susan Kilgore:

And what did your family do? How did they live?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Well, they had some schools, they had schools in Ankara.

Susan Kilgore:

Was there an American school?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

They were run by the Department of Defense. And actually, they sent kids from people who had families in Peshawar and Ethiopia, and all around came to Ankara and they boarded there. And at that time, my oldest child was only in third grade, I think.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

That's right. By my notes, he would have been nine years old.

Susan Kilgore:

Anyway, they went to the military schools. That was one of our other additional duties. Periodically keyboarder on the bus, we would be assigned where we had to ride the school buses and then go to work but, anyway, that was supposed to be a two-and-a-half year tour. And then while I was there, that's what the Vietnam War had broken out. And I had just been promoted to Major. And the Army Times came out and said they wanted engineer field grade officers to volunteer to go to Vietnam, no requests would be denied. And I look at it from a selfish point of view because I knew in about seven months I would be going there anyway. And with me going to two-and-a-half years, that gets you in a cycle because you usually have like two-year tours normally, maybe three-year tours. And I would have my kids always going to school leaving in December. So I discussed it briefly with my wife. She thought I was crazy but I said, "I'm going to put in my name." . I called up my branch and happened that one of my classmates was Assignments Officer Major. So I said, "I'll put in my paperwork but they won't approve it." he says, "They don't have to approve it but they have to forward it. And when it's forwarded, you will go." so I put in the paperwork and I was -- they were very unhappy with me.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Now, when was this that you put in this paperwork?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

This would have been -- I put in my paperwork on May of '66, and I was out of there in June of '66.

Susan Kilgore:

So the goal was to get your family back on the academic year schedule so your children when they moved, at least, it wouldn't be in the summertime?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Right. Right.

Susan Kilgore:

So you were out of Ankara in June of '66?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yeah. And I reported then to Vietnam. I was supposed to be an Operations Officer for an engineer combat battalion but when I reported in to Vietnam, they sent me up to a place called An Khe, spelled A-N, next word is K-H-E, An Khe, which was a base camp for the First Cavalry Division. And we had a combat engineer battalion and I was assigned as the Executive Officer. I had no clue, no valorous thing there. I spent the entire year essentially inside the base camp except when I had to go get treatments for my miserable allergies.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Well, I want to comment on something here. You've got aircraft experience, you've got parachute experience, you're trained as an engineer, and you're assigned to a cavalry division?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

No, combat. Well, no, this was a base camp for the First Cavalry Division but our combat engineer battalion was building their base camp for them. And our battalion had gotten there the previous year and everybody was rotating out. And it was a great assignment.

Susan Kilgore:

And it called on your civil engineering expertise because you were building?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

I didn't get called in for my engineering experience so much because I was pretty much wrangling, but we were a reinforced combat engineer battalion. A combat engineer battalion has about 735 men. We had 1,600 troops assigned to us. We had combat engineer battalion, a construction company, a panel bridge company because we wanted their dump trucks. We had a concrete placement platoon, we were in three quarries, we provided water for the base camp. We built them a hospital, we built them warehouses, we built 60,000 barrel POL font. That's for gasoline and fuels.

Susan Kilgore:

POL?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

That's petroleum type things. And 60-ton ice plant. And we were doing this with kids that were history majors.

Susan Kilgore:

What would an ice plant be for?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Well, they need it for the hospital and for the mess halls. And another thing we also did there with our reinforcing, we were not only building the first concrete air strip in a combat zone but we were also maintaining another air strip that had started off as a dirt build, and then they put down pierced steel planking, and then they came out with some kind of a plastic cover. And then we eventually placed -- and this was the thing, we just kept wearing out this Air Force. So, we kept upgrading the different stuff. We had this aluminum planking they were putting down between planes running off the runways and screwing things up, having to tow them out. We would have to replace the mortar shells that would land on the air strip occasionally.

Susan Kilgore:

Why would it go -- you said pier steel or pure steel planking?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Pierced steel. You've probably seen them around. It is a steel planking with big holes in it.

Susan Kilgore:

And that was a runway base at one point?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yes. So it started from dirt, went to pierced steel planking, and then we went to it had a plastic. By the time I got there, we were already at the plastic and were changing out from having worn out the plastic cover. It was real thick stuff. We were putting down these panels which interlocked. They were big, heavy aluminum panels and they interlocked with each other. And so we were keeping that while we were trying to build this air strip and building quarries. And there was another place called Pleiku, P-L-E-I-K-U, which was about 30 to 40 miles away from us over hideous roads. And they needed rock like crazy. And one of my additional duties was maintenance officer for the battalion and to make these trucks so they could carry more. They were five-ton dump trucks but we put sidings on them so they could carry about another ton of rock, crushed rock up to Pleiku because they needed it really badly up there. And we would load them up, they would drive them up. They would load them up the night before, they would drive them back down. We would service them the best we could but our trucks were wearing out. They said, "Why is your maintenance thing so bad? You're the maintenance responsibility down there." . "we're doing the best we can."

Susan Kilgore:

So you said you had artillery striking? --

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

No, it wasn't artillery. It was more we had an Assistant Division Commander who was very smart. He would not let any Vietnamese nationals inside our base because we found many times the barbers in the bases, we would find them hung up in the fences and black clothes at nighttime. So we didn't have that on our base but we did get attacked. And they would have more -- because I remember about my second night there I came running out because we heard all this stuff going on. It looked like the 4th of July because you would see all kind of air bursts and things coming off. And then after we stared at it for about four or five minutes, they said, "You know, maybe we better put our helmets on."

Susan Kilgore:

So was this your first assignment?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

In Vietnam.

Susan Kilgore:

And your first assignment where your base or your post was attacked?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

It was attacked, yeah.

Susan Kilgore:

Good heavens.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

But we were in a fairly safe place. We weren't their target.

Susan Kilgore:

So what, you were a Major at this point?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yeah.

Susan Kilgore:

And you said you were there until 196?0 --

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yeah, I went to July of '67.

Susan Kilgore:

Now, you have this folder here. Do you have picture of any of these things?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

No, I don't. I wasn't aware that you really wanted me to bring any pictures up at the time.

Susan Kilgore:

I just want to make sure if you've got something, I want to make sure we looked at it.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

The only thing that I have is I have an extra copy of what's my DD 214. And, basically, this is a very critical thing that people need to have. And this tells you a lot of your education and it tells you all the awards you are entitled to and so you can have that, it's an extra copy.

Susan Kilgore:

Thank you. And I just want to -- it will be a physical document but I just want to put on the record that when Colonel Peisinger says, "an extra copy," it's a carbon copy and maybe photocopied as well document?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yeah. I don't know if this is -- This is a reproduction. It's not an original

Susan Kilgore:

It wasn't just run through the copy machine this morning?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

No, it wasn't. And the other thing was as a little add into my hat because I wanted to -- I thought my Social Security would go up if I reported my cadet pay. I found out it increased my Social Security by a dollar a month.

Susan Kilgore:

And that's where you put down in Section 17 under "Remarks"?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

No, no, this one.

Susan Kilgore:

Oh, the little carbon, the carbon copy here.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

This one.

Susan Kilgore:

Addendum, ADD: USMA West Point. That's terrific. So I digressed but, yes, we will absolutely include this.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Anyway, from there, then that's when I was assigned directly -- I was really supposed to go to Charleston, South Carolina, but the person there, his wife had a bad accident. So I ended up going to New Orleans and I was the Deputy District Engineer for two years. And while I was there, I was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. And I know we're really taking a long time here.

Susan Kilgore:

Is it safe to say you didn't see any combat in New Orleans?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

No, well, no, it was all political. It was a very political thing. When I was there, we had two officers, the District Engineer, and myself and we had a thousand civilians. And I thought it was a rewarding time there.

Susan Kilgore:

And that was -- what was the time period?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

That was from -- actually, I reported there in August. So it would be August of '67 to June of '69 and then I was sent to Germany and assigned to the Engineer Brigade in Frankfurt, Germany. Frankfurt is F-R-A-N-K-F-U-R-T.

Susan Kilgore:

But before we go to Germany, were you at all involved in building the levies in New Orleans?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

We worked on levies. And my boss had been there as a captain and had actually built one of the -- was a resident engineering on building one of the locks. And when I reported in, he says, "Your primary duty is to go to all the luncheons, the cocktail parties and the dinners."

Susan Kilgore:

Oh, my goodness. So when you're talking about locks, you're talking about a lock in the ship channel?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yes. Well, what they would have in going from the various parts, yes, one of the locks where they --

Susan Kilgore:

Going from the Gulf perhaps to the river or going? --

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Well, these were from the river, yeah, along the river. They had had different locks because of different water locks.

Susan Kilgore:

Oh, locks in the river, just in the Mississippi River?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

No, not in the Mississippi, this would be -- well, they had some on the Mississippi but around there they had other locks.

Susan Kilgore:

I'm thinking of some locks in St. Bernard Parish and that's what I'm thinking of as linking the Mississippi to the Gulf.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yeah, that's right. They did reroute the river to go down to the Gulf. It used to go through the Atchafalaya because that was the normal Mississippi River outlay.

Susan Kilgore:

We better spell Atchafalaya.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Oh, man, I couldn't begin to.

Susan Kilgore:

It's A-T-C-H-A-F-A-L-A-Y-A.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

It's been a long time since I thought of that one.

Susan Kilgore:

Now, so you had the hard duty of having to go to cocktail parties and social events?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

And in two months I put on about 35 pounds.

Susan Kilgore:

And I don't remember if this was something we discussed on the record before or not, but you mentioned that your father had also been stationed in New Orleans.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

In New Orleans.

Susan Kilgore:

And that there was -- yes, I guess we did because we mentioned how to spell it. There was a newspaper article heralding your return.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

My return, yeah. I thought it was really funny because I called up the paper but they never retracted it.

Susan Kilgore:

The truth isn't that important. So back to Germany.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Okay. Well, from there, then I was assigned to the Engineer Brigade where I was the Chief of the Military Construction, which our job primarily was to find jobs for our different engineer units in Germany.

Susan Kilgore:

And where were you stationed in Germany?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

I was in Frankfurt for this.

Susan Kilgore:

You know, let me just quickly go backwards. I'm assuming your family was not with you in Vietnam?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

No, no, they weren't in Vietnam, no.

Susan Kilgore:

But in New Orleans your family was with you?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

They were in New Orleans and they were with me in Germany.

Susan Kilgore:

And Frankfurt, that's right. You've already spelled that for us. I'm sorry. So, please go ahead.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Well, anyway, what we did there was we tried to make sure that troops had good projects that were needed and keep them busy. And then a year later, I was assigned to take over a battalion in Karlsruhe, Germany, which was the 565th.

Susan Kilgore:

Karlsruhe?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Karlsruhe is spelled K-A-R-L-S-R-U-H-E, Karlsruhe.

Susan Kilgore:

Now, when did you first get to Frankfurt? '69?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

We got to Frankfurt -- we went over on the last, just about the last voyage of the United States. When I was supposed to go to Germany, I told them I wanted to go on a commercial ship and I called up and told them my desires. They said, "Well, the Navy is in charge here and you're going to go find -- you'll probably go military air." I said, "Well, thanks a lot." I told my secretary, "Will you call up this warrant officer in New York and see if he can help us out." they called back and said, "You leave like on the 10th of June and you'll go on the United States." I think it was one of their last round trips to be commissioned. So we went over to first-class on the United States, which was a great trip.

Susan Kilgore:

And the United States is the name of a ship?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

The name of USS United States.

Susan Kilgore:

So a military vessel?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Well, no, it was really a commercial vessel but what they would do, they had -- this is how they kind of subsidized the maritime industry. They would have spaces allocated for military and civilians that worked for the military. And you just had to know to ask.

Susan Kilgore:

So I've just gotten the high sign that I am taking too much of your time. So give of me the year that you left Frankfurt?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

And then went to Karlsruhe, I was there two years. I had a battalion for 18 months because that was about what they figured was a fair tour. And I asked for possibility to remain where I was. I knew I was going to Vietnam. I said, "I'm not trying to get out of Vietnam but I have a son who is a senior, he's applying for a merit scholarship. If we leave, I think it blows his chance off." so they assigned me as the Assistant Community Leader until he graduated.

Susan Kilgore:

And what year was that?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

And that would have been, let's see, in '72. So that would have been till May of '72 I was Assistant Community Leader.

Susan Kilgore:

So from '68 to '72 you were in Germany?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yeah, from '69 to '72 I was in Germany.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

'69, okay.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

And my son did get -- what happened, turned out to be the last merit scholarship they awarded to people for military because they thought the only people who are getting these are master sergeants and field grade officers and up. I don't think they had too many privates, you know, that would have kids that would be getting merit scholarship. But anyway, unfortunately, they discontinued it. They did have a carve out for military applicants.

Susan Kilgore:

And where did he go to school?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

He started in North Texas. He thought he wanted to be a musician, and then he went to -- ended up after a year at North Texas, he went down to Pan American and lived there.

Susan Kilgore:

So in 1972 you went back to Vietnam?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yeah.

Susan Kilgore:

And where were you?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

And in that case, I was assigned to the MACV Headquarters, that's M-A-C-V Headquarters in Saigon.

Susan Kilgore:

And your family went back?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

My wife used to return -- she had another name for it, but anyway she went to a deactivated military? -- it wasn't really deactivated but it was an air base that was turned over for taking care of military dependents whose husband were overseas and that was up in Kansas .

Susan Kilgore:

So she went to Kansas with four children?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Five. Well, my son went off to college, yeah, basically four children. My son went off the college. And anyway, I was assigned as the Executive Officer for the Chief -- Vietnamese Chief of Engineers Office. Anyway, it was a very good assignment until they had the Peace Talks in which I thought we really betrayed the Vietnamese. I didn't really get scared in Saigon until they said, we're pulling out. So for our unit, we got all our people sent home, we got things all closed up. I had a friend that knew an airline stewardess and I knew they had some Pan American flights that went through Hong Kong. I said, I'd really like -- because when they went to Hong Kong, they stayed overnight. So I said, "I'm going to be leaving. Would you tell me when any of those flights to Hong Kong are going?" and I got a call one day said, "Hey, we've got a flight tomorrow morning. You want to try for it?" . So I called and my boss says, "Everything is taken care of." all I've got to do is turn off the light switch and I can go, so I caught the flight.

Susan Kilgore:

What year was that?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

That would have been March of '73.

Susan Kilgore:

So you were knowledgable, at least, of the air lifts leaving Saigon?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Oh, that came later what you're thinking of. You're thinking of -- this was before that. That took place in '75.

Susan Kilgore:

I see.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

We left in March of '73. But that was -- I really felt we sold them down the river on that.

Susan Kilgore:

It's a tough position to be in.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yeah. They had a new Chief of Engineers. He had just come in about the time that I arrived. And the previous one they suspected was doing stuff on the black market with supplies and stuff.

Susan Kilgore:

Sorry to hear that.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

This guy was really a straight arrow. I won't take all your time with it. He had an interesting thing in his cell because he was with the French Foreign Legion before he came back into the Vietnamese thing.

Susan Kilgore:

So you left in '73 via Hong Kong?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Yeah.

Susan Kilgore:

And where did that land?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

And then I came back and I was supposed to be the Post Engineer for a military air base up here in Texas, and I don't remember the name. And so I said, "If I'm going to be a Post Engineer, I want to go to the Post Engineer school to find out what I'm supposed to know." He said, "Okay, can do it. Six week course. Fine." so they assigned my a school. The first day I replied, I look at Army Times that said this base is closing. So I call up the Career Branch and say, "What about this?" He says, "Oh, rumors, rumors. Don't worry about it. Take your course." So I took the course. And the day I'm graduating I call up and they say, "Well, we've got to assign you somewhere else." Well, I think we'll assign you to Dallas being an advisor to a Reserve Army unit there." I said, "Okay, Dallas." then they called me back and said, "They downgraded up and moved in a Lieutenant Colonel to Major. How would you feel about San? Antonio?" I said, "San? Antonio is great." So, that's how I got down to San? Antonio. And I was Chief of the Engineer Team assigned to the Army Readiness Group here at Fort Sam Houston. And what we did is we were responsible for working with the National Guard and Reserves Engineer units for Louisiana and Texas. So, I got go back to Louisiana again, New Orleans.

Susan Kilgore:

And what year were you assigned to San? Antonio?

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Okay. That would have been -- I reported down here, I think I got here in May of '73. And I intended to retire down here. And I retired a year later in 31st of July of '74 and been here.

Susan Kilgore:

That's remarkable.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Listen, I was very fortunate. I think I had a lot people praying for me. I never had to shoot anybody or even aim at anybody in anger. I was just very lucky.

Susan Kilgore:

That is fortunate. I hate to say this but I think we have to stop. I know I've exceed our two hours but I couldn't help myself in asking.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Well, I probably told you more war stories than I should have.

Susan Kilgore:

That's not possible.

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

Barbara and Susan, I enjoyed working with both of you.

Susan Kilgore:

And, Colonel Joe Peisinger, thank you very much. And to our court reporter, Barbara Durand-Hollis, thank you very much. MS. DURAND?-HOLLIS: Thank you.

Susan Kilgore:

This has been a remarkable experience. Do I have to do anything to officially? --

Roman Joseph Peisinger:

I know I didn't fill all those blocks in but they really didn't have enough space to write a lot of that stuff in. (Interview Concluded at 12:00 noon)

 
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  October 26, 2011
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