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Smither, James (Interviewer)

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Christl, Roland

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Roland Christl was born on October 29, 1924 in Berrien Springs, Michigan, where he graduated high school in 1943. Since several of his friends and brothers were in the service, he decided to enlist into the Army to offer his contribution to the war effort. Enlisting in April of 1945, Christl was sent to Camp Robinson, Arkansas, for Basic Training. Both the war in Europe and the war in the Pacific ended while Christl was in training, and he bounced between camps in the United States awaiting postwar orders. From Fort Lewis, Washington, he was deployed to Japan on a troop ship, dodging several ship mines in the Pacific during the voyage. The ship landed in Osaka before transferring to Yokohama. In Yokohama, Christl was assigned to the 98th Infantry Division and volunteered to be a truck driver, operating supply lines between the port and Tokyo. Later, he volunteered and transferred into the telephone section of the 98th Division alongside the 720th Military Police Battalion. Eventually, Christl accepted a job renovating a prison that held American servicemen from both theaters who were being penalized for insubordination. Since most of his division rotated home shortly thereafter, he was transferred to the 720th Military Police Battalion, working in a detachment at the prison. He, again, became an electrician with the MPs and worked electrical maintenance duties around the prison. Christl also had the opportunity to meet the famed wartime broadcast host Tokyo Rose while fixing her cell’s electrical switches. While talking with her, he managed to get her autograph on a ten yen note. The prison also held several Japanese officials who were being put on trial for war crimes. Overall, Christl thought the Japanese people were wonderfully respectful toward American troops despite the heightened poverty and starvation rates they suffered after the war. He was also briefly transferred to an Engineer Battalion to be trained as a refrigeration technician. He worked as a refrigeration technician until he accrued enough service points to rotate back to the United States in January of 1947. After leaving the service, he moved back onto the family farm and briefly worked for Studebaker Automobile Company before returning to farming. Reflecting upon his time in the service, Christl believed he left the Army as the same man or character that entered it.

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Veterans History Project collection, (RHC-27)