CENTER FOR U.S. WAR
VETERANS' ORAL HISTORIES
World War II
World War II Oral History Interview
US Navy, USS Eagle
Date: June 3, 2015
Interviewer: Carol Fowler
Summarizer: William Elwell
Joseph Dauber was born in Shamokin, Pennsylvania in May 1925. When he was around “the age of four or five” Dauber’s family moved to Bayonne, New Jersey. On December 7, 1941, the day of the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Dauber was at a New York City theater watching a film with friends. A Navy shore patrolman interrupted the show by appearing on the stage, and Dauber remembered that the sailor “told all the military people they had to go to their home bases.” Although only sixteen, “being Joe Hero,” he subsequently went to Newark, New Jersey to enlist in the Navy. Although Dauber was told he was too young, he could take the physical and was promised, “We’ll be in touch.” Four days after his seventeenth birthday, he was accepted as a recruit by the US Navy and left high school for the war.
After being sworn into service in early May 1942, Dauber was sent to Newport, Rhode Island for boot camp. He was initially surprised by the amount of food served to the trainees and recalled: “I couldn’t believe there was so much food; there was a long food line and of course you helped yourself to a plate and cup and your utensils…everything you wanted was there.” After seven weeks of boot camp, Dauber was sent to Bedford Springs, Pennsylvania, where the Navy conducted radio training at a spa resort in the town. He remembered that: “I wasn’t the best student, but I was good.” His classes at Bedford Springs included radio theory, typing, Morse code, and sending and receiving messages speedily. The lessons in Morse code stayed with him for a lifetime; and, at the age 90, Dauber could still tap out Morse code messages.
After three months of radio training, Dauber graduated. He admitted that he could have gone home on leave, but “was gonna have some fun.” Dauber stayed at the camp, spending weekends in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. When his assignment orders came through, he was assigned to the USS Eagle (PE-55) in Key West, Florida. The Eagle was one of sixty anti-submarines “Eagle Boats” built by Ford Motor Company for the Navy during World War I, and PE-55 was one of eight vessels of the class remaining in service by World War II. The Eagle was used as a training ship for SONAR crews, and schooled “both enlisted and officers in anti-submarine warfare.” Dauber was assigned as a permanent radioman aboard the vessel, but he found the duty “too tame” and so made a deal with a radioman assigned to a ship bound for a more active role in the war. They agreed to swap duty stations, and with the approval of their respective commanding officers, did so. Dauber was then assigned to the submarine chaser PC-464, enroute to Panama.
PC-464 was initially assigned to escort convoys between the Panama Canal and the naval station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as well as other Caribbean and South American ports. Typical duties on radio watch included tuning into different frequencies, listening for messages, and relaying any that arrived to officers on the bridge. As a senior radioman, Dauber would also “be asked to decode coded messages.” PC-464 was soon redeployed to the Pacific. She sailed through the Panama Canal to San Diego, California, where it was outfitted with new equipment and radios, and assigned to convoy escort duty between Pacific islands. Much of Dauber’s received radio messages were routine, referring to the positions of new convoys to escort. He recalled, however, that the most poignant message he received was the April 12, 1945, announcement of the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Dauber remembered, “It was kind of sad. He was the only president many of us really knew.”
Dauber and PC-464 were assigned to support the Invasion of the Philippines at Leyte in October 1944. He recalled that the Army brought equipment aboard his ship which was intended to organize landing craft on their way to shore, but was never used. As the preliminary shore bombardment of Leyte began, Dauber was in the mess hall. He recalled hearing a loud “boom” and thinking: “We haven’t even fired a shot; we’re gonna die!” The sound, however, was the opening salvo from the USS Pennsylvania (BB-38)’s fourteen inch guns. After returning to work at his station, Dauber could feel the vibration from the Pennsylvania’s guns through his radio equipment. PC-464 was hit during the action by Japanese return fire, resulting in three casualties.
PC-464 was later bombed escorting a convoy to New Guinea, adding a little more action to the otherwise normal convoy runs. In May 1945, Dauber was rotated back to the United States, traveling on a commercial freighter. During the voyage, news broke of Germany’s surrender to Allied forces, and he and his comrades cheered and said: “One down, one to go!” Dauber spent the remainder of his service in San Francisco, from where he was discharged from active duty. He enlisted in the Naval Reserve and was called back for duty during the Korean War, serving eighteen months as a radio operator out of New York City, before ending his naval service.
Dauber returned to New Jersey and high school, as he had dropped out at the time of his enlistment. He took night classes for six months, got his diploma and entered Seton Hall University in 1950 on the GI Bill. After attending night classes for seven years, Dauber graduated from Seton Hall with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. He proudly recalled that he was “the second one in [his] entire family to ever go to college.” Joseph Dauber passed away in October of 2015. He loved his time in the Navy, as it gave him opportunities to meet new people, explore the world, and earn a paycheck “as a kid coming out of the [Great] Depression.” Dauber and his family were extremely proud of his service, and he is survived by a large and loving family.