CENTER FOR U.S. WAR
VETERANS' ORAL HISTORIES
World War II
World War II Oral History Interview
US Navy, Radioman
Date: June 4, 2018
Interviewer: Carol Fowler, William Elwell
Summarizer: Vinny Colacchio
Walter Frattin served in World War II in the US Navy. He was born in Union City, New Jersey in July 1924 and spent most of his life, both before and after the war, in Long Branch. Before the war, Frattin was a high school student who enjoyed hanging out with his friends and playing sports. In high school, he ran track and was on the swim team. Frattin enlisted in the Navy the day after he graduated from high school.
When asked about his time in boot camp, Frattin recalled his time there as “real funny” overall. He remembered that many of his civilian friends were classic “wise guys” and figured he would be better off in the Navy, because he was always near the water and got three meals a day. As Frattin progressed through boot camp, he complained about a plethora of things, but his biggest grievance was how bad the food was. He also recalled the time he needed to get a tooth pulled, and how the procedure took three men and many hours to complete. Frattin was left in immense pain and could not open his mouth for several days.
Boot camp ended in six weeks, and Frattin went off to radio school in Boston, Massachusetts. Interviewers Carol Fowler and William Ewell were particularly impressed with the fact that he still remembered Morse Code, as well as other skills he learned in that school. After completing his course, Frattin was sent to Norfolk for destroyer crew school. In Naval terminology, a destroyer is a fast, maneuverable, long-endurance Warship intended to escort larger vessels in fleet, convoy and battle group work, as well as defend them against powerful short range attackers.
Frattin eventually joined a destroyer crew in New York after completing his time in what he described as a “disgustingly hot” destroyer school. His ship escorted a convoy to Algeria, in support of the invasion of North Africa. He got his first real taste of combat when he and his crew had to shoot down a German plane.
Frattin was later transferred to the USS Franklin, an aircraft carrier in the Pacific. The crew would get up and prepare at 4:00 AM every day in anticipation for Kamikaze attacks. One day, a bomb hit the Franklin. Frattin saw people flying through the air, and others running around on fire. He himself was in good enough condition to try to help his shipmates; he instinctively jumped in the ocean, en route to helping roughly 60 men to safety. The captain of the Franklin considered charging those who jumped overboard with abandoning ship, but never followed through with his threat.
Frattin also said he spent a lot of time off Okinawa. There, he recalled, his biggest challenge was fighting off Kamikazes. One day, a huge typhoon hit the fleet and almost wiped out the whole ship, which was guided to safety by the captain. The interviewers, Fowler and Elwell, showed pictures of the typhoon that Frattin went through, as well as pictures of Frattin as a young Navy lad. This brought a smile to his face as he laughed about his “ridiculous outfit.”
Although Frattin experienced some traumatizing moments, he remembered many good times during his service. For instance, he got to see Bob Hope when he was working on the SS Louisville in Pearl Harbor. During free time, Frattin and his shipmates would play baseball with sticks and stones. He was also given shore leave early in his career, and got to hang out at Huntington Beach, California, for some time.
Returning to New Jersey after the war, Frattin worked for his father and a contractor. He continued to work small jobs until he was 63. Not too long ago, Frattin went to a ship reunion to see his old shipmates. Although he said he did not recognize anybody and nobody recognized him, Frattin said he still had a really good time chatting with everyone. And to put the cherry on top of his colorful and decorated career in his war service and his home life, he helped open the first beach for surfing in Long Branch.
Frattin was involved in an interesting postwar incident in Long Branch. In 1960 he, his 13-year-old son and several of his son’s friends went surfing off Matilda Terrace. At the time, surfing was illegal in Long Branch. When the police arrived, the adolescents fled, but Frattin remained, was arrested and held briefly. That incident resulted in the opening of much of Long Branch’s waters to surfing.