[HOME][SPL Catalog][CSUS Catalog][California State Library Catalog][UC Melvyl].


U.S.S. Chicago

Interview of Cecil Cran by James Scott,
September 29, 2000; 10:10 am to 11:14 am

SCOTT:…Oral history, an interview with Cecil Cran who is the interviewee, and I’m James Scott, the interviewer. The place of the interview is in Sacramento, California, and Mr. Cran’s residence in Sacramento. The current time is 10:10 and the date is September 29th. Now, we have gone through the process of signing the release, we have discussed Mr. Cran’s choice to…not…or to decline contribution of certain bits of information if he doesn’t feel comfortable in doing so. He has signed the release of information to the public under the Freedom Of Information Act and I think we are basically all set to go. I’m also giving Mr. Cran a transcript and facsimile of the core questions that we are going to ask him so that he can review them as we go along. The interview should not take more than an hour, maybe a little bit longer, so let’s get going right here. Again, this is an interview of Cecil Cran and I am James Scott….

SCOTT: Here we go…all right…Mr. Cran we’re going to start from the very beginning--basically, the prelude to the War--if you could tell me something about your background, um, basically, everything prior to entering active duty in World War II-tell me about your life.

CRAN: Uh, okay, I was primarily raised in…just on a ranch, just outside of Grass Valley, California. We moved from that area to Oroville so I could finish high school. And uh, from Oroville I had to quit high school in the third and to go to work…I went to work for the Western Pacific Railroad and uh to support my mother…I was working there and the railroads got so busy and they’re working me seven days a week, seventeen hours a day, and being just a young person, and I had a girlfriend, and she got complaining because we just never had any dates, and so it went on to about, over a year, that I wasn’t having any time off you know, so I decided to call in sick one time and my best friend…my buddy I was going to high school with, Joe Grey, he took off at the same time, but he was sick and I wasn’t. And I went back to work the next day, and the superintendent just climbed all over me…called me into the office… called in the labor union…just chewed me out something fierce.

SCOTT: Let you have it. What year was this approximately?

CRAN: This was 1942.

SCOTT: Okay...okay.

CRAN: Okay? So, anyway, he just really ripped me up and he said “well now you can quit if you want to. I don’t care what you do. You just don’t play this game anymore.” I says “If this is the way it’s gonna be…if I can’t have any time off…I’m gonna join the Navy so I can at least have some liberty and 30 day leave a year…at least.

SCOTT: How old were you at this time?

CRAN: Think I was 18.

SCOTT: 18. Okay, all right.

CRAN: Okay? And uh, so that’s exactly what I did. Another fella there workin’ with me, we decided both to go join the Navy. And we joined together. Uh…his name was.. .uh…Smith. I forgot his first name. But, anyway, we joined together here is Sacramento.

SCOTT: Okay. Now, why the Navy?

CRAN: Well, (laugh) this goes back to when I was a child. The nurse that helped deliver me, when I entered into this world, she always kept in contact with me. And, uh…I guess the reason she kept in contact with me…and my, my mother and her were great friends, and she was changing me one day, and she gave me a bath, and was kissing my belly and everything, and I, you know what happened, uh, she got a face, a face full of you know what? (laughing). So, anyway (laughing), uh, we were real, real great buddies. And, every year, she would, every birthday, or Christmas she always sent me money or come and got me and during the summer months she would take me on trips. And this time she took me to San Francisco for the first time, and I had never slept, had never been in a hotel. We stayed in the Marc Hopkins Hotel way up, up in the upper stories. And the next day she took to Montgomery Ward’s, bought me a bunch of news clothes, and then took me out on the…uh…on the…on the aircraft carrier..uh…oh shoot…what the heck’s the name of that…?

SCOTT: The Yorktown?

CRAN: No, no. It was the…oh shoot…it’s right here (Cran presents photo). Maybe it says right on the bottom there? Oh, I know it as well as I know…

SCOTT: Oh, the Saratoga!

CRAN: The Saratoga! Ya. Well, when I went aboard…well…she immediately went up to the admiral’s quarters ‘cus she was a great friend of him and the sailors took me over and (laugh), and they just uh, they just spoiled me all the gee-dunks, and gee-dunks you know is candy and ice cream and I, I had chow with ‘em and the chow line and the whole thing, and well I was gung-ho Navy from then on you know, and was gonna be, Navy nothin’, nothin’ could touch me but the Navy.

SCOTT: That was a heck of a recruiting job on their part and they didn’t even know it.

CRAN: Oh they did! (laugh). But that was a fantastic experience. I never thought that I would grow up to patrol with the Saratoga, you know. That’s why I joined the Navy.

SCOTT: So, uh, prior to joining the Navy did you have any military training or experience? Were you a boy scout? Um, were you in any other sort of group?

CRAN: No…no. I was strictly a farm boy and I knew how to work.

SCOTT: Okay, all right, all right. Good enough. So, when you entered the Navy were you married, engaged, did you have any children?

CRAN: No. I had a girlfriend. I wasn’t engaged. We were just boyfriend, girlfriend.

SCOTT: Okay. And, were you living with your parents at the time?

CRAN: I was living with my mother.

SCOTT: With your mom?

CRAN: Ya.

SCOTT: Okay. All right. So, let’s move on to the second question. Um, now tell me about your experiences and feelings during induction and the initial military training experienced during the Navy. Boot camp? Um, just the early on sort of experience.

CRAN: Well, my first experience was when we left Sacramento here, and we got on a train and went to San Francisco. And that’s where we were sworn in, and then we got on another train from San Francisco and went to San Diego, to uh, to boot camp there. And when we got there, uh, we were still in our civilian clothes and the chief that was going to train us got up in front and on this stand, and we’re all standing out there in the field and, on the concrete, and he got up there and he looked at us, and shook his head and he says, “What a sorry bunch of plow junkies you are!” (laughing). And he says “I’m gonna tell ya something…he says you’re gonna hate my guts in the next two weeks. If you don’t you wish you had have.” (laughing). But, he says “I wanna tell you something. I want you to listen to me because I’m gonna train you to save your life.”

SCOTT: Words you’ll always remember.

CRAN: I’ll never forget. (laughing). And he was a high school coach and he was tough…he was…very tough.

SCOTT: So, do you think of him as the person you remember most from boot camp?

CRAN: Ya, I would say…

SCOTT: Did you make any buddies? Do you remember any?

CRAN: Oh, I had lots of buddies…ya, I, I…

SCOTT: Are there any, in particular, that you’d like to talk about?

CRAN: Oh, I had one…it was aboard the Chicago…he was 36-years-old. He was, uh, he sort of took me under his wing. He was a metal smith, by trade, and uh, he sort of took me under his wing and I called him “Pop” Crawford. His name was Joe Crawford. And he taught me the ropes on, on metal smithing, and that’s where I got training in metal smithing.

SCOTT: Okay, so the drill, the drill master back at camp and then, and then “Pop” Crawford…those are the two. Okay, all right.

SCOTT: Now, um, back to, um, your induction, and being sworn in and going to boot camp. What was your feeling like at this time? I mean, emotionally. I mean, Pearl Harbor had happened, you know, my guess is seven, eight, maybe nine months prior to that. Um, how did you feel in terms of your sense of nationalism and patriotism?

CRAN: I was raised to be very patriotic anyway. Uh, it uh, when I first went into, into boot camp, the first few days I wished that I’d never joined. The shots, the, in both arms. You couldn’t raise your arms. They made you get out there and do all those exercises…about killed ya and, and a…

SCOTT: What was the toughest, what was the toughest uh exercise, or, or ah, drill that they made ya do?

CRAN: Well, when you had that tetanus shot, you know, I was very allergic to it, and, and, also uh, uh mesquito disease. Uh, that do you call that now?

SCOTT: Oh, malaria?

CRAN: Malaria. I was allergic to that. And, uh, I couldn’t raise my arms, but they forced you to raise your arms, you know, you had to raise them over your head…do all these exercises. It was tough, and uh, and then one night uh we did our laundry and we had to do our own laundry and we had to do our caps and that and everything had to come out just perfectly white. If they turned out yellow or something, well they’d give you XP duty. You’d have to get out in the middle of the night and, and do guard duty, just walk back-and-forth, back-and-forth. Here, I had this real high fever, and out there walkin’ back-and-forth, back-and-forth. I thought “how stupid this is.” You know…here I’m sick as a….almost as, as the old saying “sick as a dog,” and here this dude’s got me out here in this fog and cold (laughing). And uh, I just couldn’t, I just couldn’t see no sense in it, but, uh, it taught me, I knew my endurance. That taught me how much endurance I had. But, uh…

SCOTT: So, how long did, did, uh, camp last?

CRAN: I think it was six weeks. Think that’s what it was.

SCOTT: Um, so was there anything that you saw, um, as unusual when you were in boot camp? Were any people removed? Were any people seen unfit for duty during or after boot camp?

CRAN: I don’t remember if anyone was unfit for duty, but, uh, one person was, uh, ahead of me, in a line, and he was not directly in front of me, but he collapsed…and…everybody wanted to help him and the instructor he just really got on ‘em, he says “Whenever anyone falls, you step up and take his place,” you know. Forget him!

SCOTT: And how did you feel about that?

CRAN: Oh, we thought that was very cruel. We thought that was just uncalled for. That was, uh…

SCOTT: Even now, do you feel that way?

CRAN: Pardon?

SCOTT: Even now, do you feel that way?

CRAN: Yes I do. I…think we should, you know, someone should help ‘em. I still feel that way.

SCOTT: All right. Well let’s move onto the next question. Now, what skill were you initially trained to do, and then what skill did you actually end up acquiring and practicing in the Navy?

CRAN: Well, in the Navy, as I said, “Pop” Crawford got me into metal smithin’ and then the, my division officer seen was, uh, that I progressing well in it, so he sent me to San Diego advanced welding school for six-months and, uh, and that was from the U.S.S. San Francisco.

SCOTT: Okay. So that’s after the Chicago…later on?

CRAN: Ya, right.

SCOTT: So, did you enjoy being a metal smith?

CRAN: Yes I did. I enjoyed it very much. I, uh, I was able to work on the, on the very last ship that was hit three days after World War II. The battleship Pennsylvania, three days after the War was over, this Japanese Kamikaze dove into the fantail and killed 22 guys.

SCOTT: The Pennsylvania was at Pearl Harbor as well.

CRAN: Ya, I think it was there, too. Anyway…

SCOTT: So you did the repair job, or helped do the repair job on the Pennsylvania?

CRAN: That’s, uh, when I was stationed on that sectional dry dock. That was the Pennsylvania that was in there at the time.

SCOTT: So, which job were you the most proud of doing? The Pennsylvania? Did that repair job make you the most proud?

CRAN: Ya, I though that was kinda unique. We worked on a number of ships. But, we also worked on the dry dock and maintenance of the dry dock.

SCOTT: Can you remember any other repair jobs that were distinguishing in any way?

CRAN: No, no that was, that was, that was the grave, that was the main one, because of the trauma of all of those 22 guys being killed. And, and gettin’ ‘em out of there. And, and, the smell was terrible.

SCOTT: Ya, the uh…what, what was your feeling um, it was near the end of the War: the, you know, the Kamikazes were used. What was the sentiment of yourself and your shipmates toward…..?

CRAN: During the War?

SCOTT: During the war. I mean, obviously, this practice was never used before. Um, you know, it was an original sort of thing that the Japanese had developed, and, uh, ethically, you know, there were probably some concerns that came up. You didn’t understand why they were doing it probably and I was wondering how you felt.

CRAN: Well, I felt it was such a waste of life, you know, to uh, to do something like that. I, I just, and to take so much life with ‘em you know, that, uh….the San Francisco was hit several times with those planes, you know. Quite a few were killed. To me, I thought it was just absolutely senseless.

SCOTT: And one more quick little question with, uh, metal smithing. Were you good at it? Did you feel like you an ace, an ace behind that blow torch?

CRAN: At least I thought I was. (laughing). I was a journeyman welder. I had a journeyman’s card.

SCOTT: Well, that takes a lot of skill to be able to win such a title.

SCOTT: Okay, um, so um sticking with training a little bit, now the first post you held was on the Chicago. Right? Okay, so when you were on the Chicago was it deployed for training at all? Fleet problems, things like that? I mean, did you have-before you were sent to the South Pacific-was there a period when you thought there was enough time for training? Did you feel it like the training was adequate? And was it long enough, or was it too long?

CRAN: Well, it wasn’t long enough-I didn’t think-because I couldn’t comprehend, you know, I, I couldn’t comprehend the seriousness of it, and the seriousness of the stations that I was put in. First thing I went on the Chicago, of course, they uh, when you first go aboard, you have to serve so much time, in serving food you know. They call that mess cooking. And, my battle station, my very first battle station, was down in the ammunition; there was two of us down in the ammunition hole. And uh, five-inch, five-inch. And we put ‘em on this elevator and send them up, you know, to the gun mount. Well, send them on to the second deck and then they put ‘em on and send ‘em on up. But, uh, the day before the Chicago got hit, I was transferred from that station up to between number one and number two mess hall. And, uh, had I’d been in that station, I wouldn’t be here today.

SCOTT: So, when you say the Chicago that was at Rennell Island?

CRAN: Ya. Rennell Island. Ya. The first torpedo hit us was, in the fantail-knocked out our power, the screws, and knocked us dead in the water. And then, uh, then a plane came over and it was heavily damaged and then hit our radar screen, and threw flames all over the ship and illuminated us, and then we got three more hit, we got one, one hit in the bow, and another one hit in mid-ship. Well, the rest of the night it was, it was, bailin’ water, bucket brigade, bailin’ water to get the ship on an even keel. The U.S.S Louisville towed us all that night. Broke several lines trying to tow us; finally got connected. They towed us all that night, then a see-going tug came out and took on a little after daylight, I guess, something like that. Towed us the rest of the day until 4 o’clock that afternoon, another, I think it was around 4 o’clock, another squadron came in on us. I think it was 22 or something like that 22 torpedo bombers come in on us, and uh, finally did the job on it. They put 5 more…I think there was a total of 8 torpedoes hit us.

SCOTT: And this is, uh, this night fighting, this is at night?

CRAN: This, well, the first night it was after dark, but the next afternoon it was still daylight. And uh, we all hit the water or tried to hit the water, and as I was swimming off-I have to tell this story-it’s not a story, it’s really, really unique. As I was swimming off, the fantail, the lifeline was under water, and I was swimming off, and as I was swimming off my shoestring was untied, ‘cus they instructed you, never take off any of your clothes-your shoes or nothing-when you hit the water. Keep everything on. Well, I did. And so, but my shoestring was untied for some reason. I had the high shoes on, and it got wrapped around a lifeline. Well, I couldn’t get loose, and it kept dragging me down and I was going under water like crazy. And I thought “Oh boy, this is it…this is the end of it. I’m not gonna get away…” ‘cus I was on the suction side of the ship, and all that suction and everything. And, I was fightin’ to get away, and I didn’t know how far under water I was…seemed like a long ways, but uh, I knew it was over so I just, uh, said a little prayer, asking him to protect my mother, you know, from the shock, you know, of me losin’ my life. Just about that time, just, just as I was givin’ it up. You know, I says, I just give a, I couldn’t fight no more. And just felt…believe it or not, it felt just like a magnetic hand grab me right by the top of the head, and when I came to my senses again I was yards away from the ship. All by myself. And when the waves and swells would come up I’d wave. (laughing). They come over and, the destroyer Sands’ crew was picking us up. That a commando ship, an old World War I commando ship, and they come over, and they says “When did you abandon ship? Day before yesterday?” (laughing). But, actually, it sunk in nineteen-minutes and I, I was I actually had seen it go under-I seen the flag just wave itself right into the water.

SCOTT: You saw that? What a moment that must have been.

CRAN: Ya. I’ll never forget it.

SCOTT: So…during Rennell Island, the sinking of the Chicago, do you you feel, in any way, that you should have been recognized for…citation?

CRAN: Na, just, it was just a job to be done. I didn’t feel anything special…nothing like that. I do know that after the Chicago was sunk, they took us, we went to, Esperito Santo. They…was on the destroyer several days and, uh, very little water: just enough water to wet our lips, wet our mouth. And uh, anyway, we went aboard the…I guess it was a luxury liner; they issued us new clothes, and got showers. Of course, we had this crude oil all over us. Uh, and then we went to Main New Caledonia. And, as soon as we got there…this commander of the camp, Camp 13, he put us right to work. Well, we didn’t think that that was fair, and so Captain Davis came down and told him: he says “Well, I’m still, I’m still in command of these…of the ship. I’m still the captain” and he says “These men are not to work. I’m gonna send them to rest camp.” So, that’s what they did.

SCOTT: I wanna just backtrack a little bit. Prior to your first combat experience, the Chicago had been…at Guadalcanal, it had been at the Battle of Coral Sea, do you remember speaking to some of the fellows who had been on the ship during that time? Can you relay some of their experiences…some of the things that they had gone through?

CRAN: Gosh, it’s been so long. We didn’t talk too much about it. Really…no. See, as the Chicago lost 45 foot of its bow there, in one of the battles, and that what Captain Foley got court marshaled, because he uh, the ship had 45 foot of its bow blown off by torpedo and be refused to enter into the battle…and, uh, he got court marshaled for it and got sent to shore and he on Guadal, uh, on Panama Canal and he committed suicide because of that.

SCOTT: But, not a whole lot of information to relay past that?

CRAN: No.

SCOTT: Okay. Let’s see. Are there any more stories that you’d like to relay about your combat experiences? Were there any after that that you had?

CRAN: The San Francisco. Uh, after we left the Main New Caledonia, they went to Pearl Harbor to get foul weather gear and headed right for the Bering Sea, and we’s in that campaign up there and we’d takin’ the islands back…Attu…And that was humungous duty up there…it was cold and scary because if you got hit you didn’t have a chance at survivin’. You know, you hit that water and it’s over.

SCOTT: It’s terribly cold up there.

CRAN: Ya. You’d never survive.

SCOTT: Do you ever remember…seeing a Japanese sailor or seeing Japanese ships?

CRAN: No…no I never did.

SCOTT: You saw planes?

CRAN: Seen a lot of planes…lots of planes. Lots of planes. (laughing). I always did say I was the biggest coward in the United States Navy.

SCOTT: You you’ve got that written down on your application…(laughing)…which certainly is not true.

CRAN: Well, I’ll tell ya, I might notta had nothin’ up here, but boy my feet was educated. They moved right on.

SCOTT: You know, it’s all about human nature, but the fact is you were a contributor in all sorts of different ways, and you did your part and that’s what’s important…

SCOTT: Well, so anymore experiences you want to relay about combat? Anything you can remember…any stories you remember coming off of Guadalcanal? Anything like that?

CRAN: No.

SCOTT: Whatever happened to “Pop” Crawford?

CRAN: “Pop” Crawford? He stayed on the San Francisco, I think, until it was decommissioned.

SCOTT: Okay, so you both were transferred over there together?

CRAN: Ya. From the Chicago.

SCOTT: So he stayed with the San Francisco?

CRAN: Ya, he stayed on and, and…I know when I left the San Francisco he, he says “Well, I wanna say goodbye a couple a’ days before.” (laughing). He couldn’t stand to say goodbye.

SCOTT: When you’ve gone through experiences like you two went through, I mean, it’s a bond, it’s something that, it’s hard to break, it’s really hard to really put it into words. I’m just guessing, but I can see it in your eyes.

CRAN: Oh, it’s tough. But, I’ll tell you one thing, New Caledonia has the biggest Mosquitoes in the world. (laughing). They should use them for torpedo bombers they’re so big.

SCOTT: So…did any of your comrades catch malaria, catch dysentery?

CRAN: No, I don’t know of any, no, no.

SCOTT: What did you hear about Henderson Field on Guadalcanal? Did you hear anything about what was going on there?

CRAN: Well, not too much, no…there was…we didn’t reveal us too much information. We had the newsletter come out, but they didn’t…give us very much information. One in a while the captain would come on and make some announcements…

SCOTT: So, you were at the retaking of Wake Island?

CRAN: Oh yes, ya, ya…

SCOTT: What sort of…feelings were you going through emotionally knowing that that was the first island to fall, the first U.S. held island to fall to the Japanese. What was the significance in knowing that you were taking it back?

CRAN: Well, my feelings…that we opened fire with 8:45 in the morning and I was…I’d injured my hand and, uh, so my division officer assigned me to where he was stationed to be a…to talk to the main battery; give the ranges and that to the main battery, and uh, this is in the after superstructure. And, like I say, we opened fire at 8:45, I believe it was, and they started shooting back, but they had these big 16-inch shore batteries. And they fired back at us and these things were coming through our stacks, you know, just right over us and landing short of us and they were trying to get our range, you know. And, we were just going straight, real slow, just laying, wallowing in the water you know.

SCOTT: Now, where are you at this time?

CRAN: I was on the after superstructure-way up high. And, uh, and I just started shakin’ so bad-it, it just scared the daylights, ‘cus they sound like freight trains coming through the air. It’s just a horrible noise, and they, and so I told Mr. Quinn-I said Mr. Quinn, I said “Mr. Quinn,” I says, “I’m the biggest coward in the United States Navy.” I said, “I can’t take this!” (laughing). So, he says, “Oh no, you’re not!” He says “The Navy…rather have men like you-they know when they got enough to retreat.” Now, you take this guy down hear, Doug: ah, on the 20mm gun, he wouldn’t leave that position, even if he knew he was gonna get killed. So, there’s a difference. So he says, “You go down below and…and eat a sandwich or something…relax for a while,” so I did. And uh…

SCOTT: Sounds like you had a lot of people watchin’ out for ya.

CRAN: Oh ya…everybody watched out for everybody.

SCOTT: Very fatherly influences throughout your time…

CRAN: Mr. Quinn…he was a…he was a fighter pilot really…

SCOTT: Oh, really?

CRAN: That’s why he was stationed aboard the San Francisco.

SCOTT: So, did he fly a spotter plane?

CRAN: No, he didn’t fly the spotter plane. He was a fighter plane, but I guess he was getting too old and they put him aboard ship…

SCOTT: So, when you were at Wake Island, um, did you, did the, was it the San Francisco you were on at the time?

CRAN: Ya.

SCOTT: Did, did it transport Marines or were you just merely support?

CRAN: Well, we had Marines aboard…no it was just support. And knockin’ out all their gun positions and all that.

SCOTT: Um…so you were at Attu, Wake…Tulagi, Tulagi. What do you remember about Tulagi?

CRAN: I don’t remember much.

SCOTT: What about Midway? Sounds like you were at Midway Island? Later on in the war obviously.

CRAN: Ya.

SCOTT: But, what do you remember about the island, its topography, what was there?

CRAN: There was nothin’, just…

SCOTT: Just birds, and…..

CRAN: There’s goony birds…and just, just sand…that’s all there was there, you know…just a little hump in the ocean-that’s all it was.

SCOTT: In fact, that’s the name of one of the islands…I think they called it Sand Island.

CRAN: Ya, that’s all it was. All you could see was just a…we weren’t that close, but I was more worried about those shore guns from the island more than anything else.

SCOTT: What was the scariest moment you ever had? I suppose it might have been when you had to go overboard on the Chicago…

CRAN: Ya, that was the most serious, ya…

SCOTT: But can you remember a scarier moment than that or another scary moment?

CRAN: Well, it wasn’t so scary ‘cus I was so tired, ‘cus I’d been up for several days. I hadn’t had any sleep…every time you tried to lay down or close your eyes all you could see was these torpedo bombers comin’, you know…you couldn’t relax, you know, so you’re up pretty tight.

SCOTT: Well, um, we’re gonna move into some questions that kinda take you away from combat experience into more, just daily life in the Navy…like I said, you don’t have to answer a question if you don’t feel comfortable, okay?

Now, while you were on active duty, did you ever use alcohol to excess?

CRAN: Uh, well, I had a, I had a bet with one of the (laughs) one of the metalsmiths, uh, that we, I could consume for than him, or him consume more than me…that was it…Ya.

SCOTT: Mano a’ mano…

CRAN: Ya, ya…macho, macho, you know (laughs)…but that was the only time that I really went to excess.

SCOTT: What was your elixer of choice? Did you drink beer? Was it whiskey?

CRAN: No, this was in Hawaii…Honolulu…forgot what those…it was a great big drink…I think we bet that if we could each drink five…whoever could drink five or something like that…

SCOTT: Was it a Mai Tai?

CRAN: It was a big thing…I’ve forgotten about the name…

SCOTT: It was a big sucker…

CRAN: It was a whopper…

SCOTT: Did you ever use drugs?

CRAN: No (emphatic). I never have in my entire life…

SCOTT: So, for drinking, can you ever remember anyone getting punished for drinking to excess?

CRAN: Ya, we had one, one person who was aboard. He was a boatswain mate and he was, he craved alcohol so bad, if ya get shaving lotion of something, he would take bread and, and squeeze it through bread to get the perfume out of it and just for the alcohol…he was really, he was very bad…

SCOTT: An addict?

CRAN: Ya. He was very much of an addict.

SCOTT: Um, did you ever get into serious military trouble?

CRAN: No (emphatic).

SCOTT: So the MPs weren’t knockin’ at your door at all?

CRAN: No. Nothing. I never…I had a very good conduct, discharge…I didn’t get any medals for it…

SCOTT: Well, unfortunately, no one ever does when it comes down to it…

Did you ever see or experience corporal punishment, on the ship or off?

CRAN: The only time that I remember any real punishment was uh, when we were up in the Bering Sea this young man. He was breaking into our lockers and stealin’ money and he was sending hundreds of dollars to home, to his parents, and uh, they caught him, and, so they, uh, Captain Francis wouldn’t try him, he couldn’t…so he referred him to an admiral, to be tried by an admiral, and uh, so just before he was to go to leave the ship to go to trial they found him underneath one of the ladders on the outside deck, in very bad condition…he had spinal meningitis…he died.

SCOTT: How old was he?

CRAN: ‘bout 19. 18 to 19, he was very young. But uh, they buried him at sea up near the Aleutian Islands. So that’s the only time that I ever knew, you know, of a person he…well I knew some guys that got into problems you know, one individual got involved in sexual problem, you know, and they got caught…they were court marshaled and were sent to prison…both of ‘em. He died a terrible life, a terrible death, very lonely…he was a nice, nice gut, but just got caught up in that, very sad. But, that’s the only ones I ever knew…

SCOTT: Did you ever see a situation where, on the ship, on land, where a sailor, a fellow sailor, instead on being disciplined by the authorities, was disciplined by other sailors. The terms used are “G.I. Showers,” “Blanket Parties”…things like that…

CRAN: Oh ya (laughing)…ya, there was one guy aboard ship, aboard the San Francisco…his feet stunk something terrible, and anyway he put these dirty socks in his locker and it stunk up the whole, the whole compartment so we had a locker inspection and they found all these dirty socks and so, I guess he hadn’t been takin’ any showers either so, anyway, they took him up and give him the kai-kai brush, you the salt water soap in the salt water bath…

SCOTT: Okay, and these were your shipmates?

CRAN: Ya…(laughing)…and that’s very rough treatment, but I don’t think he ever forgot about taking a shower after that…

SCOTT: Ya, changed his life, let’s hope…

SCOTT: Moving on, another question, we just have a few more left, and this is a question, that again, you don’t have to answer it, but basically, were you celebate during World War II service?

CRAN: Uh, no. Honolulu had a line up, and they had prostitution and, and another friend of mine, we decided that we were gonna to experiment with it you know, so we did, but that was the only, though. And there was no other time…

SCOTT: So, were there any consequences for…?

CRAN: No. I felt kinda bad about it, you know, but it was an experience, you know, I never had…

SCOTT: You get caught up in it again…you know…you’re eighteen, nineteen years old and you get caught up with it…

CRAN: I just got up with it…and uh, we just decided well, everybody else was doin’ it…

SCOTT: Well, and it’s from the standpoint that you don’t know if you’re going to live, you know, another day, another month, another year….

CRAN: You don’t know, you know…you want to experience something…

Outside of it, yes, I was never, never again, that was it…

SCOTT: Okay. Thanks for answering that.

Now, moving to the end of the war, can you describe your separation process? Becoming discharged, were the details fair, how was your transition back into civilian life?

CRAN: Well, uh, of course I left the dry dock, and the captain of the dry dock he, he said, he just begged us just to stay in, and he would up our rank, another rank of…I would be chief if I’d stay, because he says, uh, he said “we’re gonna have to fight the Russians.” He just knew we’re gonna have to fight the Russians. He says, “we’re all set up, we might as well just ‘go for it’ [you know], get it over with…” But uh, I says “No, I want to go home, I want a family.” And, of course, my girl friend was waiting for me and everything, so…that uh, that’s what I did.

SCOTT: So, what kind of job was waiting for you when you got back?

CRAN: Well, I had the railroad job. I had a lifetime there if I wanted to stay. But, uh, I didn’t like the heavy work. I was assigned to diesels…you know, and I was a machinist, mechanic’s helper on the diesels. And those great big, the…was bigger than I was (laugh) and everything was so hard to work on, so I just, my wife then, she didn’t like the smell of the diesel, you know, so I finally quit and, uh, and went into another, another trade…

SCOTT: What was that?

CRAN: uh, let’s see, what did I go into, right after that? I think I went to…I went to work for a contractor, there in Oroville, and my wife and I got a divorce. I was kinda devastated over that, and then I moved to Sacramento and I went to work for Libby’s cannery, and I had a permanent job there, and then I was talking to a friend on mine and he says “wanna go…wanna finish school and wanna get a degree?” And he says, “well, what do you wanna study?” And, I says “well, I wanna learn all about people because I, I was very shy, I didn’t know people you know, I took everybody for granted you know…I though everybody was the same, you know, and everybody was kinda, what I found out they weren’t. You know, some people were very mean, and I wanted to find out what makes humans tick, so he says “you really want to know how people operate?” And I says “I do?” Well, he says “would you take my advice and do something?” And I says, “well, I always have (laughing).” I says “you’ve always given me sound advice.” He says, “I tell you what.” He says “Instead of going to college first.” He says “you go and get your job as a taxi cab driver.” This is 1946/47. So I said…taxi cabs were very in need, you know, they didn’t have very many cars and everybody rode taxi cabs, so I says “OK.” So, I went and got a job at a real good cab company, real clean company and I drove both days and nights and I come in contact with all kinds of people…these…what did they call people who worked in the Assembly? And, uh, hotel managers and chefs…

SCOTT: And that’s in Sacramento?

CRAN: Ya, right in Sacramento…right in downtown Sacramento. We had our cab stand there on 8th and “L.” And uh, uh I just learned a whole bunch. In fact, I didn’t know…I was so naive…I was going down “K” street one night, going west on “K,” and a guy come out and flag me down, and I went, I let him in the cab…and he got in the front seat…he says “cabby,” he says, uh “take me to the nearest fence.” And I had been involved with some people who was kinda “whooky.” So, I says “well, what kind of a fence do you want?” I had no idea what he was talking about. So, I went about three, four blocks, and they threw 10 dollar bill and they says “So long buddy (laughing).”

So, I went back to the cab stand…and told the manager…”I says…Eddie, you talk about a strange one, I just had a real strange one.” I says “he wanted a fence. And I asked him what kind of a fence he wanted.” Well, Eddie bein’ a, bein’ in the world quite a bit, you know, he was an old chief in the Navy, and then he was a pit boss in Las Vegas you know…and he really knew people. So he started laughing, he just laughed and laughed, he says “don’t you know what a fence is?” I’m “sure I know what a fence is!” He says “well, what he was talking about, he had some stolen goods that he wanted to dump, or he was a policeman to see if he could catch you taking him to a fence.” So anyway, I says “well, he gave me 10 bucks.” So, anyway, uh, that was one experience that was quite unique. And then we’re always playing tricks on, on uh, on the other drivers, you know, or some…if we got to know certain people, you know, and we didn’t want to haul them, you know, because of their habits, or whatever, you know, uh, this one young fella, he was a piano player, Buddy…and we all what type of person he was, and so we all got busy…we all knew about the time that he was gonna call..so we all got busy, so the manager, Eddie, he drove once in a while, you know, as back up, so he had to go pick him up, so he took this guy home. And he come back later, and we were all kinda laughin’ and says “well, how was your trip, Eddie?” He shook his head. He says “that guy is the most persistent guy I ever met in my life! (laughing). Oh, he really cracked up over that one…But that’s what we’re always doing, you’re always playing tricks on each other. But, it was a lot of fun, I learned a lot, and I got good pay…

SCOTT: Ya, you got payed instead of paying tuition for college…you learned a lot about people, a lot about the world.

CRAN: And, like he said, what you learned isn’t written in books. You’ll never find it in the books. It’s there…and I dealt with the people down in skid row, and I met a lot of wonderful people…really had a lot of wonderful friends out of it…

Then after that I went into the service station business. The company sold out, the cab company sold out and they wanted me to come with them to Reno, he had a company in Reno and Las Vegas. So, he wanted me to come to Reno and work for him in Reno, so I did. And uh, then I decided, uh, I didn’t want to drive a cab anymore so five of us went in together and bought this service station, a big service station there in Reno, and uh, we did very well there…it almost covered half a block, and parking, and a very, a lot a, we sold a lot of stuff, and uh, so then Harrold’s Club bought the lease underground from the railroad, and it put us out of business, and they put in that big parking garage there so that put us out of business, so and I moved back to Sacramento.

SCOTT: And what did you do then?

CRAN: I, they, the company put me in another service station here in Sacramento and then uh, then they changed us to a one-way street and that put me out of business…

So then I went to work uh, then I had an opportunity to go to work for, in the baking industry and then I became a uh, quality control supervisor. They sent me back to Chicago to the American Institute of Baking…Very interesting, you know, you work with the Pure Food and Drug, the State, and the County and the Federal…it’s very interesting.

SCOTT: Wow. You’ve done it all. You’ve done it all, Mr. Cran.

CRAN: Ya, ya, learned all about, all 800,000 insects…how they live and how they multiply and that whole thing…

SCOTT: My grandfather was a butcher and um, in Portland, and um, he had to do the same thing. I guess when you’re cutting meat, you need to be aware of certain diseases, that, that you know these animals can catch, and so you need to be able to look at the meat and know how it’s been affected by all sorts of different conditions…

So, when you came back to the United States, or the states, Sacramento, Reno, Oroville, how were you received by folks had been here? Were you looked at as a hero?

CRAN: Oh!

SCOTT: So, it was a very good welcoming back.

CRAN: Oh, definitely, definitely. They uh, they did several write-ups about me in the paper…There’s one there, the story of the, the last story told about the Chicago.

SCOTT: Wanna take a look at this real quick (taking article in hand)…

“Chicago’s Last Battle is Told”

“Cecil J. Cran, Metalsmith of the U.S. Navy and veteran of seven engagements in the Pacific was too scared to be scared at his baptism under fire off Guadalcanal. Survivor the ill-fated cruiser Chicago, Cran, the son of Mrs. Margaret Brown of Oroville and former Western Pacific employee…got his first experience in battle when Jap planes attacked the Chicago. “We cruising along, screening for the transports,” Cran said. “And it was about 7:45 p.m. and it was dark. Suddenly, we were being attacked by Jap torpedo bombers. The ship was crippled almost as soon as the attack started.”

And on and on…

CRAN: Ya, well, I couldn’t reveal very much. I couldn’t even tell what ship I had just come off…

SCOTT: Wow. These are some amazing photos, amazing photos…

CRAN: I thought I’d put that together, you know, and let my grandchildren…(Pointing to scrapbook).

SCOTT: Ya, let your family see it. Absolutely.

CRAN: That was the crew on the dry dock…

SCOTT: Ya, and that’s you right there, as a welder, or two buddies?

CRAN: No. That’s Joe Crawford and Mike…

SCOTT: So, I’ll bet that’s “Pop” right there.

SCOTT: So, when you were considering college, was it the G.I. Bill that you were going to utilize?

CRAN: Yes, ya, I was gonna try to get on the G.I. Bill. But, then after driving cab for so long, I thought I was so smart, and getting the service station business…

SCOTT: You were, you were smart…you knew a lot after that…

CRAN: I thought I was pretty smart…I sure got a lot to learn.

SCOTT: Hey, we all did and do as far as I’m concerned.

SCOTT: I’ve got a few other questions for you…

I was wondering…Here we are 55-years after the War, do you harbor any resentment toward Japan?

CRAN: I did at first, but I don’t now.

SCOTT: Why is that? What things have you gone through? Is it just time?

CRAN: Well, I think at the time I was very resentful towards the Japanese. I felt they cut a lot of my life out. You know, I could have been more productive, done more or something…But, after realizing that I felt we all had to go through it. Scripture says “Rumors of war…” It’s gonna happen, it’s happened even in heaven and gonna keep happenin’ a it’s something we have to live with…

SCOTT: So, you’ve basically buried the hatchet…

CRAN: Oh ya, I admire…I have some very close Japanese friends…

SCOTT: That says a lot about you…it really does, to be able to have that sort of feeling.

SCOTT: Okay, so I guess, um, I should now ask you if there’s anything you’d like to add for the record…

CRAN: Golly. I don’t know. I think I’ve had a pretty exciting life…

SCOTT: I would agree…it’s a lot for an 18, 19, 20-year-old young man to go through.

CRAN: A lot of trauma…I’m so happy I was able to save some of those artifacts, you know…

SCOTT: Ya, and so you were going to donate these to…to who?

CRAN: To the museum, they said that they would take care of them…

SCOTT: In Sacramento?

CRAN: Yes. Okay, excellent.

SCOTT: Okay, so this essentially concludes our interview, now, and I quote “If at some later, we would like to have another interview tape would you agree to doing as much?”

CRAN: Sure! Sure. If it helps future generations in any way, fine.

SCOTT: Now, if we had more time to talk, are there other things you’d like to talk about?

CRAN: Golly, I don’t know, I’ve talk so much now…(laughing).

SCOTT: And, that’s greatly appreciated too.

SCOTT: Well, it’s been an honor talking with Mr. Cecil Cran about his experiences, and his great contributions to America and the Free World during the Second World War…this interview is over. It is September 29, year 2000, and the time is 11:14, and this interview is concluded.

Top of Page



[HOME][SPL Catalog][CSUS Catalog][California State Library Catalog][UC Melvyl].





Last updated November 18, 2002. Please send comments, questions, and reports of problems to jcscott@saclink.csus.edu. Composed by: James Christian Scott, CSUS Reference Librarian. Copyright ©: 2001.