DATE: March 5, 1980
INTERVIEWER: Neil Leighton
INTERVIEWEE: Martin Japinga, in Venice, Florida
LEIGHTON: This is an interview with Mr. Japinga, Venice, Florida. You mentioned... Did you grow up in Holland?
JAPINGA: Born and raised in Holland. Lived there up until now (I'm going to be 81), except for six years during the war. I was at the U of M in the First World War.
LEIGHTON: Oh, you were?
JAPINGA: We were camped out in Waterman Gym. Two floors, one floor. Is that place there yet? Do you know about it?
JAPINGA: Well, there was this track around in it, and they built a floor right at the level of that track, and made a two-story building out of it, so they had a lot of troops cordoned. I would judge about five hundred, more or less.
LEIGHTON: So you were in the Army in the First World War, then?
JAPINGA: I was in the Army in both of 'em.
LEIGHTON: Did you go overseas at all?
JAPINGA: No. Yes, in the Second.
LEIGHTON: But not in the First.
JAPINGA: No. I was one of the next to the last group to be drafted, in October. And we were all set. The orders had been written. Our schooling was over. The orders had been written to sending either us to school or overseas. We were trained for the Signal Corps, special training. Used the U of M faculty for training. And they had all branches of Signal Corps. I happened to be a lineman, but they trained cable men, and instrument people, switchboard people. In those days it was old dot-and-dash signal thing. You can see in the old-time movies about the West once in a while we would train. But then the war ended, of course, so they canceled the orders and held us there 'til they got around to discharging us. I liked it. And in the summer of 1920, a fellow started organizing a National Guard unit in Holland. So I joined that. That's how I got into the Second World War. We were called into active duty in Flint for seven weeks, and in October, 1940, we were called into active duty for a year's training. But most of the officers knew that something was brewing, but they didn't know just what. Course the situation in Europe was going on at that time. So, of course, when I was in there for my years of training, that I got home on the 3rd, I was relieved on the 3rd. The Japs hit on the 7th. I said to my wife, "Well, here I go." And the 12th of February I was called back into active duty. And this was in '42. And I come back into duty in December of '46.
LEIGHTON: You almost made the military a career without ever doing it.
JAPINGA: Well, yeah. I spent two years of that in Europe. First two years, after I was called back, I was on the west coast, with the 4th Air Force. They had the defensive mission of the west coast. We had a bomber command, a fighter command, and a lot of other auxiliary troops. But when they kicked the Japs out far enough so there was little safer on the west coast, they put them on standby. See, I couldn't see myself hanging around, waiting for something to happen, so I applied for overseas duty, hoping to go to my old outfit. At that time, they were out somewhere between Australia and the Philippines. But I didn't have that much luck. I went East instead.
LEIGHTON: So you ended up in England?
JAPINGA: We landed in England, but I ended up in France. And then about four or five months in Germany, and then I went back to Paris again. I wound up as Chief of Training and Transportation, the inspection end of it, a pretty good size unit. We had truck companies and other transportation people all over France, and a few in Belgium and the Netherlands. And my job was training and inspection. I had about five young fellows working with me. My policy at that time, I found worked pretty well for me, was I'd send these guys out and inspect the units. If they sent in a bad report, rather than let it go any further, because there were a lot of young lieutenants in charge of these companies, and these guys would get some battlefield commissions, and, as far as handling, doing the administrative work was concerned, they never had any training. They were trained as riflemen or something like that. So if I got a bad report about one of them, why, I'd hide myself over there and see what I could do with them. Usually it took some work to straighten them around, show 'em a few things that I had learned in my time. But it worked out pretty good. But it helped me to see all of France, because I used to put it this way. If I wanted to see something in France, I'd order myself over to that neighborhood and go see it.
LEIGHTON: I want to ask you. Back in 1920, when did you start to work in the post office then? Or were you working somewhere else when you first went into the Guard?
JAPINGA: To make a short story long, knowing in 1940 that this thing was coming up, at least I was 75 percent sure it was, I worked in a shoe factory, the Holland Shoe Company, for seven and a half hours a day. I got that last half-hour off, so that I could go to another place and work for another eight hours. But I was diggin' after seniority in two places. So then we were called up and when I got, neither one of those places were doin' very well. Well, I suggested I'd try something different. She'd saved a little money, so we could do that. This is in 1947. So then I took the postal examination. I just read in the paper that it was in, and I thought, well, I thought that mail carriers would be a nice job to wind up with. I took the examination, got into the post office in about '50. Because I'd changed horses, or jobs, in the middle of the stream, in the middle of life, I didn't have any seniority built up anywhere toward retirement. So I went to 70, so I could build up enough seniority to get some decent retirement and that, plus the military retirement, which during the time I was in Europe, Congress passed a law retiring emergency officers. So I had had enough time. It was 20 years' service, plus whatever time you had in a war. You must have been in a war if there was one. Well, I was in one. But the minute that ink got dry on that bill, I had it made. I had all the qualifications. So then, when I got back, I thought, well, I'll stay in reserve and build this thing up. So I stayed in reserve 'til I was 55 and got a couple of promotions in the meantime, so I was lucky enough to retire as a lieutenant colonel. And that retirement, above what I earned at the post office, is enough to pay for this trip without any need to dig into capital.
LEIGHTON: But back in 1920, now, when you came out of the Guard in World War I, where did you start working then?
JAPINGA: I had seniority in the shoe factory before I went into the army. I went right back to the Holland Shoe Company.
LEIGHTON: I see. And you were married when, before?
JAPINGA: No, I was married in about '23. I had a girlfriend at that time. That's one reason that kept me in Holland, because... The telephone training at that time did a lot of fellows some good. Fellows that felt footloose and fancy-free went out and looked for a telephone job, because we had been well trained for our specialty.
LEIGHTON: And of course they were expanding the telephone network.
JAPINGA: Some of the fellows went right into the telephone company. But I didn't. I went back into the shoe factory, and I stayed there until I was called into the service in '40.
LEIGHTON: I see. Okay. So in 1936, it's the middle of the Depression. You managed to hold onto the job during the Depression?
JAPINGA: I was never out of a job, but there were a lot of weeks we didn't work. If there were any shoes being manufactured in that place, I was in on it, the job that I was doin'. And I got a little bit more, because, most of the time, from about '20 to '40, I was called "floor man," or assistant, or something like that. If somebody turned up sick, why, I took his job for a day, with one or two exceptions. I didn't do much on the more important jobs; that took a lot of skill, plus a lot of practice, and being all over the place, you know, I didn't get enough practice to become very skillful at it. But most of the time I did. Teach new people, and then there were things like if something went wrong with the manufacturing of a shoe, it went to a cobbler, a very skillful cobbler. And he repaired it. In the meantime, the rest of those 24 pairs went on through the line, like the assembly line, like they have now. And then my job was to get that shoe back to catch up again, so I'd hand-carry it from one job to another, so it'd get caught up with its mates. Then it would go on from there.
LEIGHTON: Now, at this time, by 1936, was there any union in the shoe company?
JAPINGA: Well, not by '36. This place was organized in the middle of 1940. I remember I paid one...the dues weren't due, but I gave another fellow, the president of the company, I gave him money for my first month's dues, because I wanted again seniority thing. If I was gonna be called up, I wanted to belong to the union when I got back, see, 'cause it would help a little bit to get a job. But the union never got strong, because the company went haywire about that time. So it never did much good.
LEIGHTON: So, by the time you get called up in '36, you really hadn't had much experience with labor unions yourself.
JAPINGA: No, no.
LEIGHTON: The reason I'm getting to that, of course, is your thrown into a situation which is a major confrontation. Now, you get called up and you were with the 126th?
JAPINGA: 126th Infantry. There were two infantry regiments in Michigan at that time. The 126th was on the west coast and 125th on the east coast. To get to the 126th, there was in Adrian, Coldwater, Kalamazoo, Holland, Grand Haven, Muskegon, Big Rapids, and Grand Rapids had several units, about six or seven units. There was a battalion in Grand Rapids at that time and a couple headquarter units. The rest of those towns had one company apiece.
LEIGHTON: In addition to this, was the Guard structured then like it is now? You went, let's say, once a week to a meeting and got paid for it?
JAPINGA: Well, at that time, we drilled once a week. Now, they don't. Now they put in a weekend a month. It's a little bit different. They go out Friday night or Saturday morning and come back Sunday night. My personal opinion is it's not so good, but that's the way they choose to do it.
LEIGHTON: And you used to get paid for that.
JAPINGA: You'd get a day's pay and regular...whatever your rank or grade was, you got a day's pay for that drill. We drilled, well, officially an hour and a half a night. But those of us that other responsibilities----I had seven jobs on paper at one time, just for a short while; I was a second in command, I was an executive officer, I was an administrative officer, I commanded my platoon, I was a summary court officer, I was enlistment officer. It's big a job that I didn't do anything at some nights, but some nights I spent my whole evening doing all these administrative things.
LEIGHTON: So you were a lieutenant then.
JAPINGA: Nine years as a sergeant and about nine years as a lieutenant.
LEIGHTON: So, by the time of '36, though, you were what?
JAPINGA: I was a lieutenant. But I had a strange experience there. At that time, in the 126th, there were a lot of good men in. They were all interested in it, and they stuck around too long, as it turned out. That's another story. So there was no changes in the officer personnel in the whole nine years we was there. Then we had a big shakeup. They transferred the captain out, and the fellow that was the first lieutenant got command, but he didn't do too well. So they finally let him out, and the fellow that was second lieutenant worked for the machine shop, and he cut a hunk off the end of his finger during that period, sometime. And they didn't say much about it at his annual physical. But when he had to take a physical for a promotion, doctor wouldn't let him pass. So he had to get out. So they sent the captain back, the commanding officer back, that commanded, and about five or six of us took the examination. It sounds funny. It took an examination to take the examination. There was three of us that wanted to take the examination for two jobs, the first and second lieutenants. And I was lucky enough to win out, so I was to take the examination for first lieutenant. Well, we got to Grand Rapids, and the regular army instructor (there had been instructor with the regiments in the regular army), he said, "Yeah, but you got to become a second lieutenant first." So he handed me the second lieutenant examination and the other fellow. So I completed that examination and turned it in to him. He says, "Good." He says, "While I look this over, you take the one for first lieutenant." So he come in a few minutes later and said, "Now you're a second lieutenant." So I had passed that one. Then I completed the other one and turned it in to him, and he says, "I'll look this over in the morning." I says, "Well, that's fine, but there are fifteen or eighteen men in Holland waiting to see who pays for the lunch." We had always...The whole gang of us (the non-commissioned officers and the officers) went out for coffee after drill, and we discussed a lot of administrative matters over a cup of coffee, and I maintain that's a good way to do it. "Well, " he says, "I understand that gang." He'd had coffee with us several times. He says, "I know that gang." He said, "Wait a minute." So he went into his office and come back in a few minutes, and he said, "You pay for the coffee." Well, that's the way I was told. So I went from a buck sergeant to a first lieutenant overnight.
LEIGHTON: Well, in '36, you mentioned before that you'd been following the strike in the paper.
JAPINGA: I had read about it in the paper, not very much. My opinion...I didn't have any good opinions about what was going on.
LEIGHTON: What I'm getting at is that it was pretty widely covered in Michigan, and so...
JAPINGA: This Reuther was quite a man at that time.
LEIGHTON: At the time of the strike, you know, the Reuthers that were more prominent were Victor and Roy Reuther. They were his brothers. Walter comes along later on the gang. So when did you get notice of the call-up? Was that after the Battle of Bulls Run or Running Bulls?
JAPINGA: I don't know about that battle, but we got the call on----I don't recall the date----I got the call about ten thirty in the morning at the factory.
LEIGHTON: It would have been January 12th.
JAPINGA: Could be. And the reason I got the call is because they couldn't find the captain, the guy that was in command. Sent a new guy in command later. So he called me and said, "You better get the boys together. We got to go to Flint." So we had everything arranged in the army. We had addresses, home addresses, occupation address, and business that they were with or what factory they were in and what they were doing. So I walked around the factory. There were seven men out of the shoe factory. I instructed----one didn't have a car----so I instructed one of 'em to go home and get his uniform on, and I asked him to pick me up on the way there, which he did. So I arrived there about eleven o'clock, I guess. And, as people came in, why, we assigned them a different job, mostly telephone. We needed to know about each man, because it had to be done almost individually. As I remember, we had somewhere between 68 and 72 men at that time. And, oh, along about twelve o'clock, they started trickling in.
LEIGHTON: Who was the person who called you, or what office called you? Was that come from Lansing, or was it...?
JAPINGA: No. No. Well, he had received a call from Lansing. To start with, the governor had to do this. The governor may call out the National Guard for state duty. So the governor probably went to whatever military man he had on his staff and instructed him to go.
LEIGHTON: Okay. I just wondered how the thing worked.
JAPINGA: The person that got to me put the call to command a battalion. The First Battalion called me as an individual.
LEIGHTON: So you got the guys together in the armory.
JAPINGA: We got the guys together in the armory, and we started getting machine guns and all the equipment up on the drill floor. We were ready to go at four o'clock. And I remember I telephoned in about that time. The captain came at that time; he asked me to call in. So about four o'clock we was ready to go. So they trucked us to Grand Rapids and put us on the train there. We went into Flint with baggage cars interspersed with passenger cars in that train, and we didn't know what we were gonna meet.
LEIGHTON: Was it a special military train, then, that you came in on?
JAPINGA: [Nods affirmatively].
LEIGHTON: So it was all the Guard units from all around that whole area.
JAPINGA: It was all from that area, most of those towns that I named, not all of them. Coldwater and Adrian, for instance, are quite far in the southeastern part of the state, but they came with another unit. But generally it was a bunch that I knew.
LEIGHTON: So you got to Flint in the middle of the night?
JAPINGA: If I recall, it was early in the morning. I don't think they wanted us to go into there in the dark. And----I'm not too sure about this----but it's my opinion that the railroad had instructions to slow that train up enough so we could come in there in daylight, so we could see what we were doin', 'cause I had never been to Flint before that, and I don't think many of the others had.
LEIGHTON: You came into the station, and what did you do? Did they truck you into town from there?
JAPINGA: Well, course when we went into Flint there was no problem. We looked. We were prepared, but we didn't...wouldn't have had to been, 'cause there was no problem. So then from there they trucked us into this big high school, the old-fashioned wooden high school that I mentioned.
LEIGHTON: The one downtown, yeah.
JAPINGA: And as I remember, they had most of the regiment in that high school.
LEIGHTON: So you were really packed in.
JAPINGA: Really packed in. There was about that much room between cots. I remember I was in...another lieutenant and I and half of the sergeants, most of the administrative staff, were in one little bit of a room up on the third floor over there of that building. We had four cots in squares, rather than have room all around the cot. There was room for about four cots. So tight.
LEIGHTON: When did you first get out to Chevrolet? Was that the next day, or?
JAPINGA: No. I mean we were there probably three or four days. Quite a while ago. Then we moved out to this Longfellow School. At that time it was a new school. I don't believe it had been used more than a year, if a year. And that gave us more room. We had a battalion out there, Coldwater, Adrian, Kalamazoo, and Holland.
LEIGHTON: But you didn't get out on site to where the plants were for a few days after you got there?
JAPINGA: No. A few days after we got in there.
LEIGHTON: I see, okay. Were you the first group on Chevrolet, or were there other groups when you got there?
JAPINGA: I believe our company was one of the first groups out there.
LEIGHTON: Was it your company that set up the machine guns? The local people still remember the setting up of the machine guns on Chevrolet Avenue and on Glenwood.
JAPINGA: Yeah, the machine guns in some of the places, yeah. And that Chevrolet plant on Chevrolet Avenue. The best way I can describe it was Fisher Body was on one side. There was a big tunnel across Chevrolet Avenue, and Chevrolet assembly plant was on the other. It would have been the Holland company that set the guns up, if there were machine guns there. They also had a mortar company there, a howitzer company, we called it at the time. Now they had 37 (it's about so big around) and they had four-inch mortars. Now you've never seen these, but you drop a shell in like that, and it had a lot of shot, like a shotgun shell with as much range around it for the distance you want to project it. I remember a fellow from Kalamazoo got to talking to the guy that was running the strike. At that time these fellows were living in the Fisher Body plant. And he told 'em, "You better behave yourself, or I'll have that mortar company drop one the chimney." And this had happened, this fellow knew that the man that told him that had been in the First World War and knew what----he was a rather tough officer, he had to be. He was a good officer, but he was disciplined, well disciplined. They decided right there they wouldn't start any rough stuff. So, after we got there, knowing that we were there and who was there, there wasn't much rough stuff went on after we got there.
LEIGHTON: You got on the scene. Was the street cleared out by then? Was there still a lot of junk around, or?
JAPINGA: Well, I don't know too much about that angle, because after we got into this place on Chevrolet Avenue, at that time one of my jobs was supply officer of the battalion. So the battalion commander assigned me the...billet commander, too. So I spent most of my time in the building, see that the food arrived and whatever supplies were needed, whether it was shoes or parts of uniforms, or repairs to the guns, or whatever, it was my job to get 'em. I spent most of my time in the billet. I went on over there often enough to know what going on, so when he talked about something, I know what he was saying, but most of my time was spent right there on the school. And, of course, we had a pretty good guard around it all the time. And the guard was part of my responsibility.
LEIGHTON: The guard was your responsibility. This is around the school?
JAPINGA: The guard around the school.
LEIGHTON: So you never had any problems, or did you?
JAPINGA: Well, we had a couple of scares, but no real problems. We thought, we were pretty sure that one of the houses, between a half- and a block away, was being used as kind of a headquarters. It was altogether too much traffic going in and out of that house for just some family or something. But they never started anything, and of course we didn't either.
LEIGHTON: You mean a headquarters for the strikers. What was the commanding officer of the whole Guard unit? I mean the whole National Guard on the scene.
JAPINGA: Well, actually it would be the adjutant general for the state, from the governor down to the adjutant general. I don't know who the commanding general there was at that time. Our regiment was commanded by a fellow name of Hayes, William Hayes.
LEIGHTON: You remember the name Colonel Lewis?
LEIGHTON: I think he was the officer in charge on the scene.
JAPINGA: Yeah, under the governor and adjutant general. The man on the scene. That name is familiar.
LEIGHTON: Did you ever spend any time talking to the strikers while you were in Flint?
JAPINGA: As individuals, probably once in a while, but not very much.
LEIGHTON: You never got a chance to talk to them in the plant, at Fisher?
LEIGHTON: Did you ever get into Chevrolet after they took over Chevrolet in February?
JAPINGA: Yes, I've been in there, just, as I say, to become acquainted with it so I knew what they were speaking of.
LEIGHTON: You were in it after they took it over?
LEIGHTON: So that would have been after the 2nd of February.
LEIGHTON: Do you remember what your impressions were of it when you went in it? Was it torn up, or did it just look like a factory, maybe not being an autoworker...?
JAPINGA: No, I think my impression would be that they just went on strike and walked out. There was no dam----what you're getting at is damage.
LEIGHTON: Well, damage, or anything. Course there were people sitting in it. The strikers were in it.
JAPINGA: Yeah. The strikers were in the Fisher Body plant. The sit-downs were in the Fisher Body plant, not in the Chevrolet plant.
LEIGHTON: Well, they took over the Chevrolet plant right under your nose, remember, February 2nd. That's when the Guard was in place. And, let me see if I can recreate this. It's difficult for me, not having been there. But on February 1st and 2nd, there was an attempt by the union to take over Chevrolet Plant 9, which was where they made bearings. And that's where the police, plant protection, all converged, and the police started firing tear gas into it. Now this happened at Fisher 2 earlier, which brought the Guard in the first place, but this Chevrolet 9, and Chevrolet 9 is where the women knocked out the windows with their sticks. Now do you remember that at all?
JAPINGA: I didn't know a thing about Chevrolet 9, no.
LEIGHTON: And then what that was was a diversion. They diverted everybody over there, and they took over Plant 4, the engine plant. So while everyone was ganged up on Plant 9, they took over Plant 4, and they sat down. And that's the one that caused a lot of problems for General Motors, because at that time, that's the plant that made all the engines for Chevrolet cars everywhere. So the strikers were in charge then of Chevrolet 4 and really in charge of all of Chevrolet, because without the engines, they were finished. That was on February 2nd. And do you remember any of that?
JAPINGA: No, I don't know anything about it. It would be my educated guess that one of the other battalions went in there later.
LEIGHTON: Did you talk to any of the strikers in Fisher 2?
JAPINGA: No. As individuals that passed the time of day or something like that, but nothing, let's say, business-related.
LEIGHTON: In your duties, did you get into town at all, downtown Flint?
JAPINGA: Oh, we went downtown once in a while to do a little shopping, and so...
LEIGHTON: Did you ever talk to any of the GM supervision or officials?
JAPINGA: No. They kept them out of there, and we kept them out, too.
LEIGHTON: Or did you ever see 'em downtown, to talk to them?
JAPINGA: I would say we saw some downtown, but not talked to 'em.
LEIGHTON: I just wondered what kind of impressions you would have...
JAPINGA: No, I don't have any impressions of that at all.
LEIGHTON: Remember anything about like a vigilante group that you had to be aware of? A group called the Flint Alliance?
JAPINGA: We thought that once in a while they were organizing so.... [pause]
LEIGHTON: There was a back-to-work movement, you know. A lot of the workers who were, their plants had closed down because of the strike, and they were unhappy about it. People from Buick. And of course, some supervisory personnel and some merchants. It was kind of a combination of people. And you don't remember meeting any of them or any threat that they were going to get armed and rush the plants to throw the strikers out? Did you have any orders on that?
JAPINGA: No, orders, no, because my job was at the building. But I never heard of anything like that. They would have had a tough time, where our battalion was, because those in command at that thing, they wouldn't have stood for very much [inaudible].
LEIGHTON: Did you have to post any special guards for city officials or anything like that?
JAPINGA: No. There were people around. We furnished a small detachment that went around town, six or eight fellows that had been pretty tough Marines.
LEIGHTON: And what did they do?
JAPINGA: They put a stop to these goons from yelling. But every time they'd pick one up and take him in, the governor would order him----I think his name was, was it Williams at that time?
LEIGHTON: No, it was Frank Murphy.
JAPINGA: Frank Murphy, you're right. Well, Murphy would let him go. They picked up this Reuther three times in one day.
LEIGHTON: Where did they pick him up? Was he in a sound car?
JAPINGA: In a sound car, yeah.
LEIGHTON: What did he use to do?
JAPINGA: Going around the streets with a sound car, inciting these people to get rough, get a little rough.
LEIGHTON: Do you remember some of the other people they arrested?
JAPINGA: No, I don't know of any, because I didn't have much to do with it, only what I got out of it was mostly discussing with the people after the fact, you might say.
LEIGHTON: This was just a small detachment of men, then, who acted like a small police force.
JAPINGA: It was a small detachment, yeah.
LEIGHTON: Did you ever talk to any judges or local law enforcement?
JAPINGA: No, I never had a chance at all. We were a pretty close-knit affair. There were people who contacted us. There were certain people of our unit who were out amongst the strikers, but I never talked to any much about that. It was pretty secretive affair. But we knew just about, our commanding officer knew just about what was going on, because we had a couple plainclothes people intermingling with the strikers. And we had an unlisted telephone number we was using. So they would call in when they got a chance and report what was going on, what to look for. I remember one night, on a Saturday night, that we got word that there were a bunch of goons coming in from Toledo and from Saginaw-Bay City, there. They were really going to start something. But somewhere or other they got word that we knew about it. We had men sitting around, their arms were, one evening for a couple hours or so, but then we got word that they knew we were ready for 'em, so they never started anything.
LEIGHTON: Did they show up at all?
JAPINGA: No, they turned around before they got to Flint.
LEIGHTON: Did the guard patrol around the edges of town at all for things like that, for people coming in?
JAPINGA: Not from our unit. They might have had others from other units, 'cause, you see, there was three...the 100 battalions, but the three battalions of our regiment were there and they were in three different plants. So we didn't know much that was...that is, at my job, I didn't know much that was going on outside of that particular place.
LEIGHTON: You mentioned the plainclothes men. Did you ever discuss with them the fact that they also keep an eye on the General Motors management, or were they...
JAPINGA: No, I don't think that they did. Not that I know of. We didn't see 'em. I knew who they were, because one of 'em was from our company. One was from Adrian. But I knew who they were. I had to know that, because there could be a telephone call.
JAPINGA: I think their main responsibility was to ... themselves, not with their..., because I don't doubt a bit but what there were other people with the responsibility meeting with the higher-ups.
LEIGHTON: So you yourself never ran into any General Motors guys.
LEIGHTON: When the Guard was there, do you remember any other kind of crisis periods, that things really looked like they were gonna come apart, other than when the fellows came in from Toledo and Saginaw?
JAPINGA: No. Far as we were concerned, the angle that the small unit of the hold that I was with, we didn't have anything like that.
LEIGHTON: And then things kind of petered out until the end of it?
JAPINGA: We just went in twenty-four hours on, twenty-four hours off. In the afternoon, the unit would go into the plant and take over from the unit that was in there. And they would take it over for twenty-four hours.
LEIGHTON: So you say "into the plant," you mean around the outside of it.
JAPINGA: Around the outside of the plant and inside, too. They had it well guarded from all angles.
LEIGHTON: Okay, and this was Fisher 2.
JAPINGA: I guess it was Fisher 2, down there on Chevrolet Avenue.
LEIGHTON: Right. You remember anything about the weather?
JAPINGA: Real cold. Very cold. I don't recall too much, but very cold and icy. On that trip you're speaking of, we had a lot of trouble on the road with ice.
LEIGHTON: Did you have any trouble with supplies or anything like that, or that was pretty well...?
JAPINGA: No. You had the usual trouble. Sometimes your requisitions wouldn't come in on time, but, heck, that's normal. It's normal if you don't have some trouble. But nothing to speak of.
LEIGHTON: What about the food that was coming into the plant to feed the strikers?
JAPINGA: Well, they were allowed, their wives were bringin' in food. Again, this is more hearsay than having seen. I saw it a few times. But their wives, but they had beds and all this sort of thing, and they put a stop to that. They didn't make it as comfortable.., let 'em be as comfortable as they were beforehand. But they did allow 'em to bring in food.
LEIGHTON: What about strikers leaving the plant and going back in? Did you have any instructions on that?
JAPINGA: I don't know too much about that, no. My impression would be that they didn't allow much of that. In other words, those guys were livin' the life of Riley when they went in there. And my impression is that the authorities didn't think they should be able to live quite that high on the hog, so that, while they didn't throw 'em out, they didn't make it as easy or comfortable for them to live there as they did, either.
LEIGHTON: Did the Guard have any coordination with local law enforcement?
JAPINGA: Oh, yes. That's the purpose of it. You may not call out the Guard only as aid to civil authorities. In other words, you can't have the Guard working in the plant. You can target and help the police, state police or local police, anything like that.
LEIGHTON: Did your unit have any connection with the local police force, then, any coordination with them?
JAPINGA: I didn't personally, but I think the commanding officer did.
LEIGHTON: What about the state police? Were they ever a factor?
JAPINGA: Oh, they were in there, too. I think three worked together: Flint city police, the state police, and the Guard.
LEIGHTON: Did you have any connection to the state police, or did you ever see any of them?
JAPINGA: No. I saw them walking around, but not any contact with them to speak of.
LEIGHTON: What was your impression of Flint at the time, the population, let's say. Were they very pro-strike, or were they against it, or were they just kind of neutral?
JAPINGA: Well, I think, outside of the fact they wanted, especially the women wanted the men to go back to work, and the men wanted to go back to work, my impressions weren't very strong either way on that.
LEIGHTON: The strike winds down, and the settlement. The settlement, the date of it is February 11, 1937. Do you remember the end of the Guard's...?
JAPINGA: No, I have no impression on that at all.
LEIGHTON: Didn't take a local paper, then?
LEIGHTON: How did you get out of town? The same way you came?
JAPINGA: Same, by rail, but outside of that, I don't know.
LEIGHTON: That was your contact with Flint, then, pretty much?
LEIGHTON: Did you ever go back at all, other than a quick visit?
JAPINGA: Not for this purpose. I've gone through Flint, we've gone through Flint, on the way to Port Huron, or something like that. And then we drove around that way just to look the place over. That's all. There's one souvenir I guess that's in that building up there yet. The evening I was telling you about, when we thought the strikers' goons were coming in from Toledo and Saginaw-Bay City, about sixteen officers in a very small room, all armed and ready for whatever might happen.
LEIGHTON: You were where, at Longfellow?
JAPINGA: At Longfellow, yeah. They told us it was a coach's room, coach's office or something. One of these fellows got to monkeying around with a .45----in those days, we carried .45 caliber pistols----and he got to monkeying with that, and somewhere he got a shell in the chamber. How I don't know. He let it fly with that thing, straight up in the air, and a great big cement beam, that I remember, about that size, that he took a hunk off that beam. Well, the last thing that happened after they took the troops out of the place, they left me behind to tour the building with the building manager, probably the chief custodian or something like that, and check up with him on any damage that might have been done, because the State of Michigan would have been accountable for it, see. I pointed this out to him. I says, "You're going to have to have that repaired," or something. "A guy hit that with a .45." "No," he says, "let's leave that up there for a souvenir." So, I don't know.
LEIGHTON: It may still be there.
JAPINGA: I was always going to go back there to see if that beam had a piece knocked out of the corner of it, but it never happened.
LEIGHTON: Well, I'll tell you what. We'll check up on that.
JAPINGA: Yeah, it would be kind of fun to know.
LEIGHTON: I'm sure it has. I don't know how'd you repair it. You might patch it, but that's about all you could do.
JAPINGA: Patch it, but in my opinion, you could just smooth it up and color it up, paint it up and most likely it's been painted up many times since.
LEIGHTON: It's in the coach's room. So these sixteen guys were the what? Kind of a special detachment, in case anything happened?
JAPINGA: No, they were the officers. You had the enlisted men lived in gym room, slept on the gym room cots, and the officers were in the small room.
LEIGHTON: Oh, I see. So you were discussing what to do in case...
JAPINGA: What to do in case this happens.
LEIGHTON: Do you remember anything about what plans you had?
JAPINGA: No, I don't, because I knew my plan. My plans, of course, were to be prepared to feed these men if they'd had to stay out very long. So what would have happened, in my case, is the minute they left the building I would have had the kitchen detachments prepare some kind of food that we could take out there, possibly hot coffee, maybe sandwiches. If it lasted too long, we'd try to get something more, in the form of chili or a soup or a stew, or something like that, something we put into cans and take out to them. That would have been my angle, my job, but it didn't come to that.
LEIGHTON: Did you ever meet any of the strike leaders at all, in any kind of meeting?
JAPINGA: No, no.
LEIGHTON: None of 'em ever came out to Longfellow to complain, or?
JAPINGA: Well, I don't think any leaders were there. I did talk to people that were in the neighborhood, when I was going around visiting the Guard, the sentries around there, but nothing much to speak of.
LEIGHTON: I mention again that you went around to talk to people in the neighborhoods. Did they essentially want the men back? Was that...
JAPINGA: They wanted their men to go to work, but there was no trouble between those people and the military, because our men were, in the first place, the discipline was quite strict, and we didn't let 'em get out and fool around too much. But on their 24 hours' off, they could get out and if they felt like running around the place----winter is kind of a bad time to play any baseball or anything like that, so... The weather was such that they had to stay in. They stayed inside most of the time. I never did it personally, but some of 'em went out and visited the different restaurants and so on. No matter how much you feed the soldier, you know, he wants to go to town once in a while, even if he's eating the same thing. Course he orders something crazy that we don't, that we don't particularly like. There was a small bar in the neighborhood that I knew some of the men visited.
LEIGHTON: Was it Lacher's, Lacher's Café?
JAPINGA: I don't recall. But we had a little trouble, imbibing too freely one night.
LEIGHTON: One of your men?
JAPINGA: One of our people, but nothing to speak of. Lot of that stuff in the military is routine. We were there with a bunch in the neighborhood of 65 or so, give or take five or so, and young men, mostly in high school and college age. And those guys want to get out once in a while and have some fun. Well, they drink an extra can of beer and get to feelin' pretty good. But you look for those things. You know how to handle 'em. They're good, intelligent men, just out for a good time, when they do it.
LEIGHTON: Did you have any serious incident at any time?
LEIGHTON: Nobody got into a fight with somebody else, other than each other, I mean?
JAPINGA: Oh, they had some differences of opinion, but, outside of that, not much.
LEIGHTON: But no incidents in the neighborhoods or anything like that.
JAPINGA: No. Far as I know, nothing like that happened.
LEIGHTON: I know it was a safe occupation. I know that from reading the, you know, ....
JAPINGA: This could have happened in some of the other places, but as far as ours was concerned, if anything like that happened, they kept it pretty close, because...
LEIGHTON: As far as the record shows, there were no...no one was roughed up or shot or anything by the Guard. The Guard was fairly highly regarded by most people.
JAPINGA: At that time, the Guard was pretty well disciplined.
LEIGHTON: Most of the enlisted guys, though, had not had any experience in World War I?
JAPINGA: No, the enlisted people, no. Oh, there could have been a rare few, some of the top-grade sergeants. In fact, thinking back, I could think of two or three that had some World War I experience.
LEIGHTON: It was almost nineteen years from the end of the war.
JAPINGA: Lot of the officers did.
LEIGHTON: 'Cause this was sometime after.
JAPINGA: Well, the Guard was organized in '20, reorganized, I should say, in '20. A lot of these fellows were still in in '37, when we were there.
LEIGHTON: You must have found out that the strike was settled, eventually.
JAPINGA: Oh, yes, we had.
LEIGHTON: What was your reaction? Do you remember?
JAPINGA: I don't recall anything, outside of the fact that we had to get people home and all that sort of thing. I don't think I had much reaction to it, because up to that time, I personally had never had anything to do with unions or strikes, because it was almost an unthought-of thing in a small town that I lived in.
LEIGHTON: Would you characterize most of the people in the Guard as kind of neutral, or they didn't really care for unions?
JAPINGA: I would say from our local unit, I would say they didn't care much for unions, as a whole, because a lot of 'em were from Grand Rapids. And so they probably knew more about unions and I would say that some of 'em were in favor of 'em. But as far as being down there to do their job, that didn't interferer with their doing the job.
LEIGHTON: You remember anything about literature being passed out? Did you ever end up with any of that, or have to look it over?
JAPINGA: Yes, there was some literature being passed out, because the men came home with it. And I know I had instructions to burn up a bunch of it one time. It was just too one-sided, and it didn't look good to me. There's some kind of a pamphlet of some kind, as I remember, and it was brought in while the unit was away. I picked up one of 'em and took a look at it, and I didn't like it, so, without passing it around, I showed it to the boss, to the commanding officer when he came in. He looked it over and picked up the telephone, did a little talking and instructed me to burn it up.
LEIGHTON: Somebody had brought it in for the unit to distribute around among itself.
JAPINGA: Well, I think it was printed by the union officials and brought in, trying to persuade these fellows to do something or other.
LEIGHTON: Was it called the Flint Auto Worker? Do you remember that?
JAPINGA: I don't remember.
LEIGHTON: Did the individual enlisted men ever come back with literature that they had picked up, that somebody had given to them while they were out on duty, or?
JAPINGA: I don't know. I didn't see any of it. Usually when they came in, the first thing that happened is we had an inspection to see what they brought out. Just once in a while one of 'em would come out with a pencil or something that belonged on the desk that they had set in, and we didn't let anything like that get too far along. We were pretty strict in what they brought back into the place from the plant. But there again you had young fellows, and if they saw a nice-lookin' pen, it's pretty tough to let it lay.
LEIGHTON: Well, I can't think of anything else....Were you ever called out in that period from '20 to 1940 for any other labor strikes?
LEIGHTON: That was the only time.
JAPINGA: That was the only time I know of that the Guard was called out between '20 and '40. See, they were called out once more big time in Detroit. When was that? The big riot in Detroit after the Second World War. As far as I know, they might have called out smaller units for snowstorms or something, but that was the only time that large groups were called out.
LEIGHTON: What was your impression of Frank Murphy at the time as a chief executive?
JAPINGA: Well, my main impression was his actions with the strike we didn't like that at all. If he'd have kept this Reuther nailed down somewhere, I don't think they'd have had as much trouble as they did. My impression of him was he was more of a troublemaker than a leader.
LEIGHTON: You ever remember a guy named Bob Travis?
JAPINGA: The name is familiar, but I don't know anything about him.
LEIGHTON: So Murphy was not seen by your other officers, in terms of his policies...
JAPINGA: I think the senior officers discussed policy with him, but not as far as I was concerned. I didn't know anything.