Oral Histories

Lloyd M. Pierson

Lloyd Pierson

The first couple of years I did nothing but take courses. Then the last summer, 1942, I finally got to go to field school. I’d had one course with Bob Lister in field techniques. Of course I had a lot of anthropology, lots of anthropo-geography off of Donald D. Brand who was a character.

J. What happened with you in ’42? Did you get drafted?

L. I’m coming to that. I’d signed up for the draft. I was 21 years old. They were taking 21 years old then. That summer Paul Reiter took me out to the field school at Chaco Canyon. He picked me up at Thoreau down on highway 66. I was taken to the ends of the earth. I can still visualize – they had a telephone line that ran along the fence posts. A grounded telephone line and about every other fence post there was a damn vulture sitting there. We went bumping along. Must be 60 miles from Thoreau up to Chaco. My job that summer was that the first thing I got to do was to excavate a burial. Nothing with it, just a plain old set of bones. I wound up with an eye infection. We were living in hogans. There was an Indian living with us two or three college kids and pretty soon we all moved outside because no one cleaned up the hogan. My eyes were bothering me. Finally one little old lady in the outfit told Dr. Reiter to get that man down to the hospital. Basically what I started out with was an allergy that got infected. Down at the Indian hospital at Crown Point the old doc fixed me up with sulfanilamide and I came back to Chaco. But Paul wouldn’t let me dig any more so he sent me up chasing the things up on the mesa up behind Pueblo Bonito and Cheto Kettle. Up on the mesas there are a lot of structures. Some of them involved with water. We did a survey of them. Out in the fresh air I never had a reoccurrence, but then I knew what to do. It was an allergy.

While I was there at Chaco, the Albuquerque draft board, for some reason or other sent my papers to Gallup who didn’t know where the hell I was. They were looking for me and about the time I was back in Albuquerque the Gallup draft board figured out where I had been. They sent my papers back to Albuquerque. I was just hanging around seeing some of my friends and I knew that this was my last year in college. I’d worked in the dining hall so I went back and helped them out, saying goodbye. I figured I’d better get back to Illinois because I was running out of money. The day I bought my bus ticket to go back home the Albuquerque draft board called me up and said, “We’re going to draft you.” I told them I just got this bus ticket and they said, “Okay.” So, I went back home.

Got back home and for a month nothing happened. A friend and I tried to get into a flying program. But my eyes were not perfect after the sojourn with the eye infection. So we both enlisted because he didn’t make the flying program either. I wound up in the Headquarters Battery, 494th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, 12th Armored Division in Camp Campbell, Kentucky.

I had bought a series of books from the Smithsonian and had them in my footlocker one day when we had inspection. The captain looked at them and me as if this were some sort of a strange thing. I was chuckling inwardly. I don’t know what he thought except that he had a strange one. I was in the reconnaissance section. We kind of wandered around doing various things. I remember that some of the guys I got to know said, “You better come over here and see this.” They’d built a road and stripped off most of the topsoil and then the rain had taken care of the rest of it. Here were these arrowheads and broken tools pedestalled all over this hillside. So I gathered them up, but I don’t know what I finally did with them – perhaps sent them off to the University of Kentucky. Anyway that was the extent of that part of the archaeology in World War II.

When I got overseas, I wound up in Okinawa. I got to the Philippines just in time for the invasion of Okinawa. While we were there the old tombs intrigued me. They were built in the shape of an “omega” into a hill. They had an entrance way maybe a foot and a half high by a foot wide. They would put the body in there, seal it up, and after about a year, the body would have rotted and they’d go in and get the bones and wash them off. They had these neat pots that looked like a Chinese temple and they would put the bones in there. They were big enough for the whole burial. Then they would put the pot back in the tomb. There would be whole families back in the tombs. There was a platform at the front of the tomb where they would put the bodies. The ceramic pots they would put further back. Of course, we were told to stay out of them but we found out the damned Japanese were using them for machine gun nests.

So there was no love between the Japanese and the Okinawans. The Japanese had no respect for the natives. Some of the GI’s would get into the tombs and use them for a bomb shelter. They’d throw the stuff out if the Japanese hadn’t already done so. I found some skulls that I didn’t know what to do with. I seem to have an affinity for burials. I wanted to send them back to UNM but there was no way to do it, same with the ceramic pots.

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