Date of Interview
Alois (Al) Kopp was born on 3 May 1918 on a 640 acre farm near Raleigh, North Dakota. The fourth oldest of ten children of ethnic German immigrants from Russia, Al attended local schools, graduating from Raleigh High School in 1936. Al spent a year in a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp, but he dreamed of becoming a doctor; without the means to pursue this goal, in September 1937 he enlisted in the US Navy. Al went to a number of Navy technical schools after Basic Training, including medical tech, dental tech, and pharmacology. In 1939, now a dental technician, he was stationed on the cruiser USS Houston (CA-30), then in the Philippines. Al was on Houston when war broke out in December 1941, and he remained on the ship until she was sunk by Japanese aircraft off Indonesia on 1 March 1942. For Al, the next forty-two months were spent as a POW of the Japanese, in camps in the Dutch Indies (Serang, Bicycle Camp, Changi jail), Burma (in the jungle, on railroad construction crews), and Vietnam (Saigon). Like all POWs, Al endured malnutrition, mistreatment, and disease; he calls his survival "a matter of luck." Following liberation in September 1945, Al spent several months in the hospital and on convalescent leave, got married (1946, wife Helen Jones), and served at duty stations in Minneapolis (1946) and Chicago (1946-47). He was discharged in December 1947 with the rank of warrant officer. In civilian life, Al had a career in auto and farm equipment sales; after brief sojourns to Aberdeen, South Dakota, and Bismarck, North Dakota, Al and Helen made their home in Minnetonka, Minnesota, where they remained after retirement.
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Saylor, Thomas, "Oral History Project World War II Years, 1941-1946 - Al Kopp" (2002). Oral History Project: World War II Years, 1941-1946. 35.