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Military History Institute - Naval ROTC Oral History


AUSTIN, TEXAS – December 7, 2007

World War II veteran Bill Barnhouse displays his 1944 University of Texas Naval ROTC yearbook photo.

World War II veteran Bill Barnhouse displays his 1944 University of Texas Naval ROTC yearbook photo.

A new online resource captures the World War II experiences of University of Texas Naval ROTC alumni, thanks to an oral history project at the Military History Institute, a division of the Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.

The Naval ROTC project site, with biographical sketches, photographs and excerpts from video interviews, launches today. The site represents the first phase of the project, which focuses on University of Texas students who joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps and served in the U.S. Navy during World War II.

"We interviewed 12 men during their annual reunion in Austin," says Dr. Thomas M. Hatfield, senior research fellow and director of the Institute. "They trained together at the university and then were sent to various parts of the world for a variety of responsibilities. Their perspectives help us to create a more complete record of World War II, especially contributions to the war effort by the university and its students."

The project was established by the Naval ROTC World War II alumni group and Capt. Gabe Salazar, Chair of the Department of Naval Science. Salazar approached the Center to serve as the project's home. Fred Moon, president of The University of Texas Naval ROTC Alumni Foundation, facilitated the project and was instrumental in arranging the interviews. The resulting video recordings and transcripts join the military history collections at the Center. Participants include William "Bill" T. Barnhouse, Chandos H. Britton, Arthur K. "Swede" Bergstrom, Hume Cofer, Franklin "Sandy" J. Crow, John R. Doole, Macon "Mac" Freeman, Bernie Hillen, Joe H. Smith, John Wildenthal, J. Sam Winters, and Albert "Bert" M. Wolford.

Barnhouse was a University of Texas sophomore when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. "I was at a girls boarding house," Barnhouse remembers. "It was a Sunday afternoon and we'd gone over there to have lunch and visit the girls that afternoon. Somebody came running in and said the Japanese had attacked." A member of the Naval ROTC since September 1940, he continues, "We knew there'd be a war with Japan. It was just when, not if." Barnhouse, now 84, trained at The University of Texas for three and a half years and served on the USS Kidd in the South Pacific.

The interviews also describe wartime life at The University of Texas. In 1943, Naval ROTC students were placed on active duty and their movements were restricted. John Doole recalls, "We had a curfew. We had to be in the dormitory at Andrews, I think, at 11 o'clock." Doole, who would soon receive his commission and head to the South Pacific, savored his free time. "I could take Mary Helen to her dorm, kiss her goodnight, and run like mad all the way across campus and get just inside Andrews dorm before they shut the door."

"Our society maintains peace by understanding and passing on the lessons of war," Hatfield adds. "With additional funding, we hope to continue and expand the project. There are World War II veterans who are no longer able to travel to Austin, and we would like to visit them and record their stories. There are also many veterans of the Korean, Vietnam, and more recent conflicts who have much to add to our knowledge of military history."

Enter The University of Texas NAVAL ROTC Oral History Collection

As an organized research unit of The University of Texas at Austin, the Center for American History facilitates, sponsors, and supports teaching, research, and public education. In support of its mission, the Center acquires, preserves, and makes available for research archival, artifact, and rare book collections and sponsors exhibitions, conferences, web sites, documentaries, oral history projects, grant-funded research, and publications.

Inquiries about this project may be directed to David Zepeda, program coordinator for the Military History Institute, at (512) 495-4488, or

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