WWII Veteran Transcript
Subject: Arnold Honig
Interviewer: Maria Molina
Tape Number: 01 of 01
Interview Date: January 26, 2011
Transcriber: Kevin Lin

Transcription Date: September 15, 2011


Interviewer: January 26, 2011, this is the first interview with Honig.  
Could you tell us when you first entered Queens College?

Honig: I was sixteen.

Interviewer: That was pretty young.

Honig: It was at that time a free college.  In other words there was no 
tuition, but you needed an 89...90 average to get in there.  There were 
3,000 students at the time.  There were about six buildings...all of the 
ones with red roofs.  And the administration office...building and 
there was a cafeteria and that was about it.  And one side, the ABC 
buildings were for people who were getting a BA in English or 
something like that.  And the rest of the campus was for science.  I 
was a Biochem Major.

Interviewer: What were your plans before you went into the service.  
Your plans were to become what?

Honig: A dentist and so I started there and just before my eighteenth 
Birthday I knew I was going to be drafted.  I knew I had to pass the 
physical, because the worst thing in the world was to be 4F.  I would 
have died better than be 4F.

Interviewer: What was so bad about declared 4F which mean being 
declared unfit to serve right?

Honig: Well it was a disgrace.  For me it would have been horrible.  I 
wouldn't be able to face anyone.

Interviewer: Did you have any older relatives who had served in the 

Honig: Yes.

Interviewer: So the family tradition of…

Honig: You know, it was something I had definitely wanted to serve.  
And they came to me and said, 'We're going to give you a test'...at 
Queens College.  And so they gave me this test.  and then they said to 
me.  "You did well on this test so we will give you two choices.  You 
can go to Officer's training school or you can to a new program and 
we'll send you to college."  Which did I pick?  I said, I'll take the 
college bit.  So they said, "Okay, but you have to go into Basic 
Training first.  You know when you go into the Army you'll go into 
Basic Training, then you'll go into college."

Interviewer: Can you identify the rank you had and the branch you 
were in.

Honig: My rank at the end?  Corporal.

Interviewer: And you were in which branch.

Honig: Army and the Air Force was part of the army at the time.  
So they gave me the test and they offered those two choices so I 
took the one with the college.  So when I got drafted they sent me 
to Camp Upton.

Interviewer: Which was where?

Honig: Out in Long Island and I went there by Long Island Rail 
Road.  Kiss my parents good bye.

Interviewer: Did you have a sweetheart at the time?

Honig: No.  So I kissed them good bye and went by Long Island Rail 
Road to Camp Upton.

Interviewer: Before you continue there, how did your parents feel about...

Honig: They knew I was going into the army.  But there was nothing 
they could do about it. you know.

Interviewer: Were they pro you going into the military...Were they 

Honig: They hated the idea, but they accepted it.  So I got to Camp Upton 
and spent three or four days there.  They gave me a uniform and got me 
all equipped with my rifle and all my stuff.

Interviewer: Did you find the equipment was sufficient?

Honig: Yeah, you know it was standard stuff.  Took my picture you know.  
Then we got on a train and they sent me to Fort Benning, Georgia.  Now 
Fort Benning, Georgia is the infantry school.  And we were to take 
thirteen weeks of training.  Along side the paratroopers and alongside 
Patton's tank corps.  Now I said to myself.  That's funny, they're sending 
me to college and I'm down here getting the worst kind of basic you can 
possibly get.

Interviewer: What do you mean by the worst?

Honig: I mean, we got up at 5 in the morning.  The infantry training at 
Fort Benning is murder and the paratroopers got up at 4 and the tank corps
 also got up at 4 too.  It was the worst thirteen weeks of my life, I got to tell 
you.  We had obstacle courses, we had twenty mile hikes, we slept out in 
the middle of the winter in foxholes.  It was horrible.

Interviewer: What was your relationship like with your  commanding 

Honig: Well the commanding officer was a West Pointer, a captain.  He didn't know 
for nothing.  When we had a overnight slept in foxholes in the winter and we 
did alright, he got double pneumonia.  *laughs*  So he was not prepared.  
But the sergeants were horrible, really horrible.  I was a Jewish boy from 
NY and this was the Deep South.  They were not the nicest people in the 

Interviewer: I read about the incident you had been invited for a seder 
with the...

Honig: That was later, that was much later.  So I survived basic training 
and they got me on a trained and they sent me like the promised to the 
University of Iowa in Iowa City.  Gorgeous place, it was one of the most 
beautiful colleges you would ever want to know.

Interviewer: So what was that about though?  Could you explain to me 
about the program you signed up for?

Honig: It was called ASTP.

Interviewer: Which stands for?

Honig: Army Specialized Training Program.  So they got me into the 
University, we slept in fraternity houses.  We were not allowed to 
fraternize with the girls.  But you know when we did close order drills 
at 5 o clock in the morning before classes, they were hanging out of the 
windows because all of the men had left.

Interviewer: Left meaning they were at war or somewhere else?

Honig: Correct, women were not in the army in those days.  They gave 
us a questionnaire, what would we like to study?  So I said dentistry, 
pre-dent And other people said medicine, other people said engineering, 
other people said other things.  Everybody went to the same thing.  
They said you were going to be an engineer.  So we started classes, we 
did classes all day and in the evening we went back to the dorm.

Interviewer: What kind of classes were they?

Honig: Engineering; mathematics, physics.  It was basic engineering 
courses which I wasn't interested in but I had no choice.  In the evening 
we had three hours of study after dinner and then we were allowed to go
 to sleep and then up again in the morning at 5 for close order drills.

That lasted five weeks then came the Battle of the Bulge.  They needed 
people in the infantry so that was the end of ASTP and they said which 
branch of service would you like to go.  Everyone said medical corps, 
engineering, air force and we all went to the same place, the 44th 
Infantry Division.  The army is very.. you know you can’t trust them.  
So we realized what we were in the ASTP was a place a where they 
could keep us until they needed us.  And for the Battle of the Bulge 
they needed bodies.  So they put us on a train from the university and 
we wound up not in a Fort or any army post but in the middle of a 
Louisianan swamp.  And they said you better pitch your tent with a 
buddy and we're going to train you in the infantry.  Now we came in 
late.  The rest of the 44th Infantry was ready to go overseas.  So we 
went through that horrible stuff in Louisiana and was the end of forget 
it.  Snakes, bugs, right on the Swannee River.  That's when I went on 

Interviewer: How long would you say you were there in Louisiana?

Honig: I would have to say we were there six weeks.

Interviewer: And during that six week time you were sleeping in the 

Honig: Yes.

Interviewer: So there were no facilities?

Honig: No.  So then Passover happened and I said to the Sergeant it 
was going to be at Fort Polk which was near by.  And the 
Sergeant said forget it, but the captain came and said we were ordered 
to let you.  So I said how am I going to get there, it's about twenty
…twenty five miles.  And he said, we will take you there.  So I said “How 
am I going to get back?”  He said we will pick you up when the thing is 
over.  So I went there and we had a very nice Seder at the big fort, Camp 
Louis.  At the end of the thing at 1 or 2 in the morning, no transportation. 
 So I say how am I going to find my way since I don't even know where 
they are.  So one of the officers said you're going to ahve to find them.  I 
said, well I better start walking and if I didn't get there by Six o Clock in 
the morning I would be considered AWOL.  So I started walking and at 
each place ask where is this division and they told me to go this way or 
that way.  So by 5:30 I got back to the camp.

Interviewer: So there were many others in the swamp?

Honig: Oh yeah, the whole division was out there which was about 
15,000 men.

Interviewer: So a lot of people

Honig: Yes, alot of people out there.  So I walked and by 5:30 I found 
them.  Six o Clock I would have been AWOL and I guess the sergeant 
would have been sorry to see me since I would be in prison.

Interviewer: Of course you didn't tell because who was there to tell...

Honig: No, I said yes I'm here and so we stayed there for another week 
or two and then we went to a place where they were getting us ready to 
go overseas and that was in Kansas, middle of Kansas.  And we got to 
Kansas and they were training us for overseas.

Interviewer: Where there any specific challenges you faced while in basic 

Honig: We had to go under machine gun fire and dig ourselves 
under barbed wire and get to the other side.

Interviewer: I noticed in your memoir, you talked about how while 
you weren't in the battlefield.  There were people who died during 
basic training?

Honig: Yes, machine gun fire...well one of the sergeants dropped a 
machine gun and three privates got killed.  So what did they do, they 
told their parents that they died from a sickness and the sergeant was 
transferred and wasn't punished.  That was the army.

Interviewer: Did this ever come to light?

Honig: No way, this never came to light.  The parents never knew 
what happened and the sergeant were never punished..  So we got to 
Kansas and that was the staging point to go overseas before you went 
to your point of embarkation.  This was the staging place and they put 
us in the middle of the summer outside.  No barracks or anything in 
foxholes in the middle of Kansas in the summertime and it's hot there.  
And we had to dig foxholes, and I dug a foxhole with my partner...you 
always had to have a partner.  And I slept in the foxhole and the next 
morning I got up  and saw a pigeon fall over.  No way I was going sit 
cold, that was a disgrace.  So I spent another day in the hot sun and 
slept another night in fox hole, got up the next morning, my eyes were 
shut and my arms were blistered.  The sergeant said to me I was going 
on sick call and I'm sending you to the hospital.  I got to hospital and 
they said you have third degree burns on your arm and my face was 
swollen, I couldn't even see.

Interviewer: Did they said what had happened.

Honig: Poison Ivy, so they put me in a ward there and they took all 
kinds of tests and put compresses on my eyes so I could open them.  
The doctor came to me and said that you had septicemia and it was 
fatal.  We're going to notify your parents you're in critical condition.  
I said please don't notify them until I'm dead.

Interviewer: Why did you say that?

Honig: Because why should I put them through that.  They would 
come running or whatever and Kansas was a long ways away from 
New York.  There were no airplanes.  The next day he came in and 
said we just got a new drug which only the army could use.  It wasn't 
for civilian use, it's called Penicillin.  We would have to give you shots 
every four hours and it costs 25 dollars a shot for a few days.  I said of 
course, let's give it a shot.  Of course I was only getting 21 dollars a 
month pay.  But they were willing to do it without charge.

Interviewer: Because here it is you're being a guinea pig for an 
experimental treatment.

Honig: Right and it worked, but it took me ten weeks in the hospital 
before I got rid of the scars on my arms and legs.  Anyway they 
were leaving for the port of embarkation and doctors called me in 
and said there is no poison ivy in Europe.  And I said Okay I want to
 go with them.  The reason I said that was because if you went as a 
replacement  you went with people you didn't know.  Your chances 
of survival on the battlefield was zilch.

Interviewer: I wanted to ask you did you feel like you were in a 
brotherhood with the men you trained with?

Honig: Yes.  You know you trained with them, no matter how mean 
they were you were part of the group.  They would take care of you 
and you would take care of them.  But the doctors said no, we can't 
send you you're no in any shape to go yet.  So I staid and they went 
overseas 44th division.  Later on they were wiped out, so the poison 
ivy saved my life.

Interviewer: The whole division was wiped out?

Honig: Yes, pretty much.  One of my buddies send mail back to me 
said that they were wiped out by friendly fire.  It never came out, 
nobody ever knew.  He was badly injured and wrote a letter when he 
got back.  They didn't know what to do with me so they sent me to 
Fort Riley, Kansas.  They had a tank corps over there but that was only 
a temporary move.  Then they decided to move me to Keesler Field, 
Mississippi.  Which was the training for airplane mechanics, which I 
had no interest in but what could I do?  So they sent me to Keesler 
Field and the training was at night from around midnight to eight in 
the morning that was when the class was taught.  This was in Biloxi.

Interviewer: Do you know why the classes went overnight?

Honig: They had three shifts going.  We were in the late shift.  We were 
in Biloxi and in Gulfport which was a few miles down the road and they 
had a beautiful hotel which I remember to this day.  They said you can 
come during the day to swim in the pool and use the facilities.  And that's 
how I spent my days.  

By the time I got to the class I was bleary eyed.  Not much sleep and we 
had these classes in mechanics...airplane mechanics which you know I 
got by.  One night, a sergeant comes in and wakes me up since I was 
half asleep and no one else in the room.  I said I have a feeling they were 
in the in airplane getting some training.  So we headed outside to the 
airplane and everyone else was asleep in the airplane.  By that time it 
was already late in the war.  And they said after I graduated with honors
 we're sending you to Boeing plant to begin training on the B-29.  So 
they sent me to Washington State, and to Seattle where Boeing was.  
At the time Boeing wasn't the company it was today and they were 
making B-29s.  And we were training on the B-29s and then the war 
ended.  I was in Seattle when V-J Day, I saw the celebration they let 
us off for the celebration.  They finally said you finished your training 
but we don't need you anymore.  So we went from there to Denver, 
Colorado to the hospital since they had on record I wanted to be a 
dentist.  So they sent me to the hospital to be a dental assistance.  That 
was how I spent my last six months in service.  In the meantime, my 
father suffered a heart attack and they gave me permission to go home 
for a week or two.  I asked how was I supposed to go home and they 
said they would arrange for an airplane.  So I headed to the airfield 
and told them my father had a heart attack. They said we got a guy 
flying that way in a combat aircraft.  It's not going to be luxury but 
it'll get you there.  But you need to rent a parachute and bring it back.  
I said whatever i had to go home.  The guy didn't go to NY but 
elsewhere.  I had to take a train to NY.  In those days they didn't have a 
way to treat that and he only had bed rest so I help take care of him.

Interviewer: I have to ask you though, had you been trained in using the 

Honig: Yes.

Interviewer: So that was part of basic training.

Honig: Yes,  So I had to carry with me and carry it back.  So I got back 
to Keesler Field and the colonel was very fond of me.  The food at the 
hospital was marvelous not like the food we have in other places.  In 
Keesler Field the general was selling the meat and vegetables and he was 
found out and went to jail.  The meals were terrible and I used buy a 
quart of ice cream for dinner, couldn't eat the food there.  At Keesler Field 
we had marvelous food and nice place to sleep and the Colonel liked me, 
so He wrote me a beautiful letter to become a dentist. Finally I got 
enough points to be discharged 2 and half years later from the army.

Interviewer: What are points?

Honig: You needed points, if you were in combat you got plenty of points.  
Length of time in the military gave you points.  Finally I got enough points 
to be discharged in the state of Washington and I had to go to New York.  
So I got on a coach and I travelled five days until I got to NY but I got 
there with a discharge and everything.  I’ve got the discharge papers I can 
show you.  So I got to NY and I couldn't get rid of my Army clothes quick.

Interviewer: Do you remember what was the first thing you did when 
you got home?

Honig: Well the first thing I did when I got back was find out when I could 
get back to school.  I got back in January and the term already started.  But 
they said they would let me get started at the end of February at the end of 
the semester.

Interviewer: Did you take advantage of the GI Bill?

Honig: Tuition was free at the time so I saved the money for dental school.  
But they had no tuition at the time so I didn't need to worry about that.  The 
head of the bio department and chem department were wonderful to me 
and they gave me all the classes and wrote letters for me.  They said you 
can apply to dental school at the end of your third year if you finished all 
of your required courses.  Now the required courses were unbelievable at 
the time.  You had to have five years of a language you had to have  two 
years of written English and five semesters of poetry, drama, 
English...everything.  It was almost six years of English alone.  You had to 
have history, four semesters of that.  You had to have five semesters of 
language, I already had three in high school so I needed two more.  You 
also had to finish a comprehensive exam to get your degree.  And they said 
if you get into Dental school you already pass all of your requirements.  So 
at the end of your first year of dental school, you would get your bachelor's 
of science.  So I went to an interview at NYU at the end of the time.  They 
wrote me beautiful letters, I had the letter from the captain of the airbase 
and they were very nice to me and I answered all the questions.  At the 
time they only took one out of seven applicants.  The class was a hundred 
and forty five.

[End of Side A]

[Start of Side B]

Interviewer: Okay you were there were a hundred and forty five students?

Honig: Yes and to get in there were seven rejections for every one that got 
in.  The head of the Bio department at the time, he liked me very much and
 he said when you got to the interview you look them straight in the eye and 
if you don't know the answer say I don't know.  You don't make up any 
stories, you just look them in the eye and say I don't know.  And the 
interview went well and a few weeks later I got a letter that I got accepted. 
 So I went to dental school at NYU and the GI Bill paid for it.  Certainly my 
parents couldn't pay for it.

Interviewer: And were you there in a private institution.

Honig: Yes, but at the time the dental school was 800 dollars per semester 
plus equipment.  You had to buy equipment and my parents helped me out 
with that.  The GI Bill made the tuition and part of the expense for the 
equipment and they gave me 75 dollars a month for spending money.

Interviewer: It must have gone a long way

Honig: Of course, otherwise I couldn't have survived without it.  And I lived 
in Queens at the time, Richmond Hill and I had to get to NYU.  And the 
classes start in 8 o clock in the morning.

Interviewer: They didn't have the J train did they?

Honig: No they didn't have anything at that time.  So one of the guys who 
was accepted with me lived somewhere in the island and he said you know 
to made my way if we get a garage, each of you...I'll get six people into 
the car and six of you will pay part of the price for the garage.  But we'll 
pick you up at certain spot in Forest Hills and take you to the garage and 
it is only a few blocks from the school.  So he picked up us at six in the 
morning we got to school by eight, finished by five.  Saturday included.  
We worked like dogs, but any way we got through it and I became a 
dentist.  I got my BS at Queens College and that's my story.

Interviewer: Let me ask you a couple of questions

Honig: And then I’ll show you some documents

Interviewer: Good.  Are there any people that you were in the service with 
that you are friends today?

Honig: Today?  No.  Not only that most people I knew about 145 people 
in the class I think there are twenty who are still alive.  

Interviewer: And you don't keep in touch with them either?

Honig: We have no more reunions because there's nobody to go.

Interviewer: I was going to ask you if you participate in any veterans 

Honig: Yeah, I really didn’t want to but I belonged to the American 
Veteran's whatever.

Interviewer: Do you go to any of the meetings?

Honig: No, I don't want to have anything to do with the army anymore.

Interviewer: Why is that?

Honig: Well they didn’t treat me too good.

Interviewer: I wanted to ask you how much did you know about Japan 
and Europe before the war?

Honig: Very little, in fact I didn't even know about the Holocaust until 
after it came out.  I know alot of Holocaust victims,

Interviewer: Do you have any memorabilia from the service?

Honig: Just the documents.

Interviewer: So you did become a Dentist and that's what you did after 
you graduated from Queens College and NYU.  How long did you practice?

Honig: About Fifty years.  In Queens at first in Kew Gardens and then in 
Little Neck.

Interviewer: What kind of feelings do you have when think about the war?

Honig: I resented the fact that I was from NY and the fact I was Jewish 
was a big detriment to me.  I was proud to be both but down South they
 treated me..you know.. I was like a pariah especially the New York 
part.  Especially in the Army, the Army people hated New Yorkers.

Interviewer: Why did they hate New Yorkers?

Honig: I don't know.  and a group of people,. By the way there was no 
African American in the army where I was.  But there was lot of hicks 
from South Carolina and the for amusement they would go out at night 
and shoot some animals or something.  This was a different environment 
from what I was brought out.  In the army, I resented the fact hat they 
lied to me.  They did what was best for them of course, but they didn't 
give a damn for us.  They gave us the questionnaires and paid no 
attention and said this is what you're going to do.  So I didn't enjoy it 
but I survived it and when I got out the army by the way the doctor gave 
me an injection against poison ivy so it wouldn't get it again.

Interviewer: Do you have any photographs or anything?

Honig: I should have them, they're iin the vault.

Interviewer: So what would you like people to know about that particular 
piece of history?

Honig: At the end of my report I made a statement.  Tom Brokaw said 
that ours was the greatest generation.  My parents were the greatest 
generations they came to this country as kids 11 12 and when I was born, 
my brother was born only English was spoken in house.  They went to 
school to learn English and they applied for citizenship as soon as they
 could.  They loved this country, they made sure we loved this country.

Interviewer: Where did your parents come from?

Honig: My father was from Austria and my mother was from Warsaw, 
Poland.  They had to learn a new language they had to start all over 
again.  They had to work in factories and stuff until they were adults.  
They were the greatest generation, they sacrificed their lives so we 
would have it better. And went to school and spoke only English.  They 
made sure we had a better life and I think they are the greatest
 generation.  They had it much more difficult than we ever did.

Interviewer: What do you think the biggest misconception of World War 
II is?

Honig: Well I think it's a war had to be fought.  If the Nazis had won, 
forget about all of us.  That Roosevelt was a great president and the fact 
they mobilized this country with weapons and stuff so fast you know 
was able to win this war was a miracle.  It really was and I think Harry 
Truman did the right thing even though when I went to Japan I wouldn't 
go to Hiroshima.

Interviewer: Do you think dropping the bombs on Japan was right?

Honig: Yes, I think it saved an awful lot of lives. Even though it killed a 
lot of people, that's why I wouldn't go to Hiroshima.  What else I could I 
say about it?

Interviewer: So fighting was the moral thing to do?

Honig: Absolutely.

Interviewer: Do you think the military made mistakes during the war, if 
so what ewer they?

Honig: Made mistakes, yeah I think a lot of the killing by our 
own....friendly fire.  That's one of the mistakes, lots of innocent people 
were killed.  What else could I say, they did a great job on the invasion, 
Lots of people were killed but they did it and conquered German which 
I never thought could happen.  I thought they did a fabulous job and all 
the people who gave up their lives and died I give them all the credit 
and respect when i can.

Interviewer: What changed for you when you got home?

Honig: Well I had a mission, I wanted to finish college and make a 
profession for myself and I did. As soon as I got out of the army, I went 
back to school . Thank god tuition was free my parents could have never
 afforded it.  And the GI paid for my dental tuition.  Now it's 50,000 but 
in those days it was 800.  The GI bill paid for it.

Interviewer: So you became more ambitious and determined to make good 
on your promises and complete school and have a great life.

Honig: That's right

Interviewer: Is there anything we over looked during this interview that 
you want to add?

Honig: I'm active in a great number of organizations.  Some are Jewish 
organizations.  I went into war with another guy because I thought in 
case something happened we had all kinds of people of all kinds of 
ethnicities moving into Queens Chinese, Korean..  I said to this guy let's 
make this organization so we can meet with these people and get to 
know each other incase trouble arises we'll know who to speak to.  
We’ll speak to the leaders and speak to them to smooth things over.

Interviewer: What was the name of the organization?

Honig: The Queens Health Coalition and it worked out well.  You know 
Queens is the largest ethnically diverse community except Toronto.  I 
visited my cousin and that's even more diverse.  But I wanted to get 
involved and I did.  I was involved in a lot of Jewish organizations and 
the Queens Borough President Claire Schulman I knew very well.

Interviewer: Thank you very much for doing this oral history interview.

[End of Tape]