James M. McMonagle, US Navy

Interview with James M. McMonagle, US Navy

Name: James M. McMonagle

Military Branch & Rank: US Navy, Lieutenant

Dates of Service: June 3, 1963 – June 1969

Date of Interview: June 12, 2019

Interviewer: Michael D. Brown

Audio Producer: Laura Bang

Length of Interview: 1 hour 19 minutes

Transcribed by: Nicholas Coscarelli

Edited and annotated by: Meg Piorko

Audio URL: https://veteransvoices.library.villanova.edu/james-m-mcmonagle-us-navy/


MICHAEL BROWN (INTRO): Thank you for joining us today. My name is Michael Brown, and we are here today at Villanova University, recording another installment of the Voices of Villanova’s Veterans.

BROWN: Welcome to the next segment of Voices of Villanova’s Veterans today is the 12th of June 2019. We are here at Villanova University inside Falvey Library, and today I am joined by Jim McMonagle, who was a basketball player here at Villanova, and also chose to join the United States Navy and serve for a time. And we’re going to talk about his story before the Navy, before Villanova, a little bit about those times here on campus, and then what he’s done post-military. So, Jim, welcome, and it’s great to have you here today.

JAMES MCMONAGLE: Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here. Actually, it’s a privilege to be here.

BROWN: Oh, well, great. And so, you know, talk to me a little bit about growing up. Where were you born? When were you born?

MCMONAGLE: I’m a Philly kid from the beginning. I grew up in an area called Richmond, lived there until the first grade, and then we moved to the Northeast, which was a big move. Northeast was just developing a section called Mayfair, St. Matthew’s Parish. So, spent my childhood there, and it was a nice neighborhood. You were six blocks away from the basketball court at the public school, and that became part of that. But it was sports, it was family, it was stuff. We didn’t have a car. It was interesting. My father got a ride to work. He worked in the SKF Industries manufacturing ball bearings. So, growing up from there, my big idol in basketball, because my father was an actual basketball star in Philadelphia back in the ‘30s and ‘40s. He played in North Catholic, and then we played in the old industrial league. So, he just knew everybody in basketball in the Philadelphia area, and we had a lot of contacts. So, I was exposed to basketball very, very young. I also played soccer, football, and baseball, but kept on coming towards basketball. So, in high school, I became – actually before high school – I became enamored with Tom Gola, who played at LaSalle College, and he was one of the best all-time college players, and I think his rebounding record still stands. And he played for the Philadelphia Warriors as well. You know, in fact, a friend of mine, just loaned me his book about his life. It’s just interesting to see that, and I know that. So, he was at LaSalle High School, and that was then $300 a year, which was a lot of money for some family without of car. Well, we had gotten a car. I got my driver’s license, and we bought a family car. I used to drive at the school, and when I, the guys that I picked up, I charged in 10 cents each, which was the cost of a coupon to get on a bus coupon. A school student coupon. So, I would get enough money, by end of the week, I’d have, you know, three dollars and 50 cents or something, and I’d have enough to fill the car up with gas. So, from that beginning, but I was just enamored with LaSalle, and my father knew the coach, because again, this basketball back in the late ‘30s and early ‘40s, this guy named Oby O’Brien was quite a famous player and a famous coach at LaSalle High School. And he wanted me to come there. I wanted to go, and I was not a star. I was rather small. I was average size, not as tall as I am now for sure. And I decided to go out there, and I can remember meeting the principal, this interview kind of thing. And he said, “You’re not expecting a scholarship, are you?” And my mother and father and I looked at each other like, well, he said, “Well, what we’re going to do is we’re going to give you the last year’s rate, which is 240, because your cousin who played football, he’s paying 240, we’re going to give you the family 240 rate.” So, we accepted it and came to LaSalle. And I still have my bank book. And it shows when I would take out $120 in September to pay the tuition, and maybe in January for the second semester. So, I think I have three years of that where that shows that I paid that.

BROWN: Impressive.

MCMONAGLE: Yeah, it was interesting. So, my junior year, I sort of sprouted up and grew, all of a sudden, you know, 6’3”, 6’4”. And the team was good, but wasn’t great. And, but, I got offers from Delaware, University of Michigan, and LaSalle, and Villanova. And the LaSalle one was the most interesting because out there again, to meet with them, again, the principal, vice principal ranges to come out there and the guy comes over from LaSalle College and says, “You know, Jim, we’re proud to give you a scholarship.” And I said, “I don’t want it because I’m going to Villanova.” “Ah!” They were shocked. So, off to Villanova.

BROWN: And what was the driving force for Villanova? What made you choose? Were you 100% Villanova all the time? Or were you wavering at all?

MCMONAGLE: No, I pull hours in play for Villanova. And, you know, I would watch the games, not that they were on TV very much or get down there. And every once in a while, the guy who owned the Philadelphia Warriors, Eddie Gottlieb, he would have some sort of event where he would invite the old time players from the Philadelphia area to come. And he anyway, so I just kind of got adapted to Villanova. And that cousin was at LaSalle, he was at Villanova too. So, I was going to follow in his footsteps. Yeah, yeah. My confirmation name is Charles, which is my cousin Chuck, Charles. So, anyway, that was, I think the attraction. It was just something that just grew gradually. And it wasn’t much conflict. You know, I kind of see what happened. And actually, there’s a fellow from, a Villanova guy named, I can’t think of his name, it’ll come back to me. But he was during the Second World War, he was at Villanova, he left and became, during the army, he was in the body bag division, which was really Major McDonald, that’s his name, Major McDonald. So, Major was a baseball player here and a basketball player. And he was actually the freshman basketball coach before I came here. And he helped pushing my dad a little bit to come to Villanova. And Al Servens was the coach and he had been around since like 1939. So, he had, you know, 20 some years. And he taught here at Villanova. And he was also in the justice of the peace or something in Radnor. He was really connected to the community here. So, the most interesting day was the first day when I got to Villanova to register. I remember being in the, now the Nevin, it was the old field house. And you filled it with all the paperwork. So, I was very happy. And I thought, you know, they had a table there. They said, you know, about the Navy and ROTC. Now, I had applied for an NROTC scholarship, or what they call a regular. There was a regular in there was the reserves. And I got an alternate A. Okay, I got a basketball scholarship. Doesn’t make any difference. I mean, I couldn’t afford Villanova. I don’t think without the scholarship. So, I kind of put that in the background and forgot about it. So, I decided to go over, I thought I’m going to check out this Navy program. So, I walked across campus to Bartley Hall, go in there, and guy asked me for my name. He says, “Oh, you’ve got a scholarship.” I said, what? He said, “yeah, yeah.” I said I’m an alternate A. “No, no, you’ve been upgraded from an alternate A to a full scholarship.” Wow. So, I said, “Do I have to decide now?” I said, “No, you have a couple of days.” So, I go home and then call my then girlfriend, Mary. We’ve been dating for two or three years. But I said to her, explained to her, I said, if I take the Navy scholarship, I’m going to have to be in the Navy for four years. And I’m going to have to go away for six weeks every summer, for three summers. And, “What do you think?” And she says, “You’re asking me?” That was her sense of humor. So, I said, “Well, I’m just telling you.” So, I made up my mind to take it. Now what that did was it gave me a five-year program. I don’t know if you’re aware of that, but the NROTC then in engineering was five years because of all the extra courses. So, I was into the five-year program and the Navy paid tuition for four years. So, Villanova saved some money. Villanova paid for the fifth year, and they paid for the five years of room and board. And I can’t remember who paid for the books and whatever, but somebody did. So, I’m here for five years. So, I have freshman year, we have a good group of guys and then sophomore year, like three or four of them aren’t going to come back.

BROWN: From the basketball team.

MCMONAGLE: Yeah, yeah, I’m sorry. Yes, for the freshman team back in those days, as you know, you had freshmen and the three years of varsity. So, I had freshmen over with now I have four years of school and only three of them I could play. So, I played that sophomore year, and I was a substitute on the bench. And I’ll come back to the Navy in a minute. But the challenge was, you know, when did I want to sit out? So, I decided to sit out the next year. So, I’m going to take this through the basketball thing. And then I’ll go back to the –

BROWN: Yeah, yeah, please. This is great.

MCMONAGLE: Okay, so, this is basketball. So, I sat out my third year, which was the class of ‘61 graduate. And I still make fun of those guys when I see them. They talk about how good they were. I said, you guys were 11 and 13. I’m glad I didn’t play. And I wouldn’t have played. There were three guys on that team. One who went to the NBA, who didn’t come back. They were stars as sophomores. I’m a third year. But there’s their sophomores and they’re playing on the varsity. And I’m not playing that year. But the next two years I did play. So, I came back, and those three guys have all flunked out or transferred. One, Tom Hoover, went into the NBA. Okay, he was 6’8” and big. And so, the next year we come back and we’re picked at coming last in the big five. Why? Because we have a new coach where severance retired after that 11 and 13 year. And I think he still continued to teach. So, I got this new coach. They don’t even know who he is. He’s a high school coach. I think it’s South Catholic and then he coached at Melbourne for a year or two. And we all thought it was going to be somebody else. We were all the players are saying, “Who is it going to be?” So, he comes in, we’re picked to come in last in the big five just not able to compete against everybody else. They don’t even know who we are. We know this one player called U.B. White, who was very good and ended up playing in the NBA for three or four years. So, we go, and we win the Big Five. Surprise everybody. We were fifth in a country for a while. We were 12 and 0, fifth in the country. We won the first Quaker City tournament. And that was significant because the day that we won the first Quaker City tournament, our football team was in El Paso, Texas, playing in the Sun Bowl, which they won. And somewhere in my archives, personal archives, I have paper that says, “It’s Villanova,” the whole page, you know, football and basketball, winning these two championships on the same day.

BROWN: Oh, that’s great.

MCMONAGLE: It was great.

BROWN: And what year was this?

MCMONAGLE: This would have been ’61, ‘62. So, yeah, the Quaker City tournament was in December of ‘61, right after Christmas. That’s when they played those tournaments then. And there were several across the country, but that was a new one. That was the first one. So, then we get to the end of the year, we kind of January, February, we ran out of steam a bit. So, we lost at West Virginia when we are 12 and 0 like a beginning of January. And that was a terrible experience because it was an auditorium that was sort of built up rather than out. And the people were like right on you. And we had three African American players. And you could feel the vitriol. You could feel the, oh, this yelling and screaming at us. And we’re playing competitive. I got knocked down, shooting the ball and laying on the court. And they bring a sub in to shoot the fouls because they thought I got hurt. So, I kind of got over to the bench. Well, the first guy, the guy became a lawyer and assistant district attorney, he was a walk-on. And he kind of makes the first one. By the time he’s ready to take the second shot, I’m at the scores table to come back in for him. Well, there was like this dead silence. And then all of a sudden boom, they scream and yell, “You can’t do that!” Well, you could. You’re allowed to do that. You can’t do that now. It was a rule against that. You have to play has to resume before you can come back in. They could play for a second and call timeout or whatever. But so that’s it. So anyway, but we ended up losing there. That was our big streak. And I remember my father, our parish priest, and two of his friends from the parish drove to Morgantown, West Virginia for that game.

BROWN: Big defeat. What was the score? Do you remember the score of the game?

MCMONAGLE: I don’t. But I could show it to you because I have in my archives, I have something. So anyway, we played so/so. We got selected for the NCAA. Now in the NCAA’s those days were either 32 teams or 25. So, getting in was really, really hard, but Villanova got in. And our opening game was against West Virginia.

BROWN: Yeah. Revenge was on your mind.

MCMONAGLE: Yeah. Their star was a guy named Rod Thorne, who was actually the president of the 76ers about five or six years ago before all the changes. And so, we beat them and then went on. The next weekend, we played in College Park, Maryland, which is, you know, University of Maryland. And we played Friday, Saturday night, which is really, really tough. So, we went on Friday night and beat NYU with a guy named Happy Harrison, and a guy who became a lawyer. I forget his name, but he was a really good shooter, but we beat them. And the irony of it, that was the second game. The first game was St. Joe’s was in there too, playing against Wake Forest. Wake Forest was this guy, Len Chappell 6’8”, 260. And their other, he’s the center. The forward is 6’10”. And the other forward was like 6’8”. So, they’re so much bigger than we are that it’s just amazing. So, we’re watching it out of the locker room, looking at the score and you can’t really see much the court, you can say, went on. And St. Joe’s is winning by like four points with a minute to go. And they lost. And I thought, all I’m thinking of is if they win and we win, one of the Philadelphia Big Five is going to the NCAAs to the Final Four.

BROWN Right.

MCMONAGLE: So, they lost. So, we have to come back. We won. Our game was the second that night. And we had to come back, you know, at 7:30 the next night. And we were up by one point at halftime against this humongous team. And then, but it was still I think by nine, which was the end of the season. But some, it’s just an aside story. I might have been the next year. But let me go to the next year. The next year,[1] White graduated. So, there’s four of us coming back, which is a good number, and a guy named Jim Washington, who had only played high school in the senior year. But about 6’8” who could jump, who ended up playing eight or 10 years for the Atlanta Hawks. So, we looked good. But one of our guards, one of the two guards got hurt in the car accident. So, there were only three of us coming back, plus Jim Washington, who was good, but he was still a little bit green. Then we had somebody else who was a sophomore and didn’t play. So, we were so/so. We ended up like 19 and 10 that year. And we went to the, what’s the other tournament?

BROWN: The NIT.[2]

MCMONAGLE: The NIT, thank you, in New York. And I think we came in second or third place in that one. But it was quite an experience, quite an experience. But one of the things we got invited myself, Oby O’Brien, who I roomed with. My roommate for this first four years was a football player from Cleveland, Jack Weed.

BROWN: What dorm were you living in?

MCMONAGLE: It was then called Mendel. It’s now called Tolentine, the third floor, it was all athletes. You know, you had situations where they would fill the room with balloons. You go away, you come home, come back on a Sunday night, your room was filled with balloons. Some of them filled with water.

BROWN: [laughs]

MCMONAGLE: Oh, I mean, there were some of those guys next to me in that dorm lived the world’s fastest human. How many people can say that? Now, does the name Frank Bud mean anything to you?

BROWN: Sounds familiar to me.

MCMONAGLE: Well, Frank Bud, and Paul Odey, Otis Drayton, lived next door to me. And they were obviously African Americans. Paul was from Cleveland area and Frank was from Jersey. And over the years, I’ve seen them both. They’ve both that passed away. But they were spinners. Paul Drayton, two Olympic medals, first place and second place. And I think if you go down in the in the pavilion or outside, well, the old pavilion and the walkway over to Nevin, there was a passageway with all kinds of trophies and stuff in that the Olympic medals were there, at least one of them anyway. So, Paul was very generous to Villanova. And Frank, he was the first human to break 9.3 for the 100-yard dash.


MCMONAGLE: So, he ran 9.2. He got drafted. He played for the – you know, we never played, I think he played football in high school, but he was so fast. I think the Cowboys drafted him. He played for a couple of years in the NFL. And then he got a serious disease, might have been muscular dystrophy, because he would come back for events in his wheelchair, his wife would bring him. And I remember they had a memorial mass for him here at the chapel. It was very nice.

BROWN: So, what’s the what’s the big difference between playing for Villanova basketball today compared to playing for Villanova basketball in the ‘50s and ‘60s?

MCMONAGLE: I think the big thing is the size, the venue, and then was the Palestra and a couple of games at the pavilion. You didn’t have this big, you know, national notoriety that you have now. There’s just so much emphasis and so many people looking at Villanova wherever. And it just didn’t, it was just a much more modest program. Not that we still, I mean, you think you were in the top five in the country, you know, you got recognition. And, you know, coming in second or third in the NIT, the Elite 8’s. So, we made a jump, and we were the first Villanova team to win the Big Five. The Big Five started, I think, in 1955. So, in that ‘62 season, seven years, it took Villanova to win, which we did. And the next year, we were tied for first place with Penn. We beat Penn, but we were three and one and they were three and one. So, they said, “Oh, you guys are tied,” which annoys me to this day. We beat you. How could it be tied?

BROWN: [laughs] Right, right. So, when you say these pranksters put balloons and water, did you ever do, were you any up to that?

MCMONAGLE: No, I never did that.

BROWN: Okay.

MCMONAGLE: But I would hear the stories.

BROWN: All right. All right.

MCMONAGLE: See, having lived in Philadelphia, I would go home every weekend. I would catch a ride with a day hop or something. And the other thing I did is I brought friends from Villanova. My roommate, Jack, came. Another guy, Sam Grinnison, from Louisville, football player who played with at San Diego Chargers for a dozen years was a starter. And they both have passed away, unfortunately, but I was really close to those guys. So, you bring them home. Remember my first car accident was coming home from church with them and somebody came through a stop sign and hit us. They were in the car with me. And I remember I was in junior achievement, unrelated to this year. And I got to go to a national conference in Indiana and commit some girl out there from Connecticut. Didn’t tell my girlfriend Mary about it, but I did.

BROWN: [laughs]

MCMONAGLE: So, anyway, she invited me to come up. I said, I’ll bring these guys. So, we drove up to U Conn for some kind of a weekend, and some thought I don’t know where we stayed at her, maybe in her house or something. I can’t even remember. But a lot of stuff. And there was a guy who was Ron Delaney. Remember the name Ron Delaney at Villanova? I saw him that freshman year running on campus in his bare feet. But there was a string of Irish athletes of track stars, including one whose name I can’t remember. But I met him. And so, 25 or 30 years later, we’re planning to trip to Ireland. And I called him. So, I get he’s now the director of publicity for the state of Ireland, for the country of Ireland. And he made arrangements. He got tickets for the concert, or not the concert for the show at the old theater. I forget the name of the theater and told us where we stay. It was really a nice guy. But he remembers coming to my house. Even though he was not in my grade, he was something I just say, you know, you’re home. But I brought a number of guys home over those five years.

BROWN: You enjoyed your time at Villanova?

MCMONAGLE: I did. It was a positive time. Now, let’s talk about the time of Villanova. When I was in high school, I ran for my class office. And you know, I was running for president, and I lost. They said, “Oh, you can go, you can run for vice president.” And I lost that too. I said, wow. So, I got to Villanova for freshman year, end of the second semester freshman year, they had an election freshman class with like two for the student council. And that would be on for that second semester and for all the sophomore year. And I got to organized and got another guy and we won. So, I got on student council, my freshman year. So, they’re just two of us. Just kind of put you in a little different category.

BROWN: Yeah.

MCMONAGLE: And then then in junior year, I decided to run for class president and a Christian brother from LaSalle High, brother William, whispering Willie, we used to call him. He helped me design. I actually got a couple of design things in that bag over there. He designed coasters. You know, McMonagle and Noel, and I forget the other two guys’ names. Best. B.E.S. stands for “Behind Every Student Thought.”

BROWN: So, some campaign literature?

MCMONAGLE: They were. Yeah. So, then we made a big billboard with our names on it. I mean, you know, a big 8 x 10 billboard.

BROWN: This is fantastic.

MCMONAGLE: Yeah. So, I won that. So then when you win your junior year, you’re then on the student council as well. So, now I’ve got freshman year, sophomore year and my junior year. And I just really love this. Oh, and we started the first Villanova Jazz Festival. And one of the guys in our group that I knew was a jazz buff. And he always should do this and do that. We actually had a jazz competition. We invited jazz groups from various colleges. And Villanova continued that for maybe 10, 12, 15, 20 years, not now. But that was, you know, there were schools from out of the area that would come in here with their five-piece jazz band or 12-piece jazz band. So that was, you know, because I love jazz too. That was one of my favorites. And my senior year, I was elected to the student council again as the alumni rep. I was the class alumni rep. So, I had four years, or at least three and a half years, if you will, on the student council. So, I was really involved. But going back to Navy after that freshman year, you know, in NROTC every Tuesday afternoon, you had to be out there “ten-hut!” etc. And you’re running these courses and you had a big pond in there. You could play with the boats and not play. But anyway, it was good. You learned a lot of different things about the Navy. It was good. And that’s why you had the extra year because you had those courses and you had to push that engineering course back a year, to the next semester and so forth. So, I don’t know how I can’t remember quite frankly, how I got selected as battalion commander. So, now my fourth year.

BROWN: Well, they saw all these billboards up. Who else are they going to pick? [laughs]

MCMONAGLE: I loved it. You know, “battalion!” “Company!” “Platoon!” “Ten-hut!” I loved it. It was great. And at graduation, I have a picture of me getting a sword. I got a presentation of a sword. It was just fascinating. So, the Villanova experience was a mixture: the basketball, the student council, and the class, the engineering, the Navy, and the three Navy cruises were fantastic. The first cruise, the USS Northampton, CLC-1. Take the bus down there to Norfolk, get on. They had an extra deck on that. Now, why would you put an extra deck on a cruiser?

BROWN: You tell me.

MCMONAGLE: Yeah, it was for the president. You know how they have a resort? Or, not a resort. A hidden place for the president to go. They had a ship for the president with a with an extra deck with his quarters there, which are of course, where I empty all the time. I don’t know if anybody ever used it, but that was it.

BROWN: So, you got those quarters? [laughs]

MCMONAGLE: No, I wish I did. No, you know, and we got that. We had the little blue rims on the hats and everything, you have 15 pictures of that. And so, and some of the other hats I have in there, by the way, my bag is I’m going to show you. I have a little beanie, the freshman year beanie. Then I have the one that says, OOC, anyway, there were two white hats in your cold white hats, but one had SC. That was obviously this student council, but there was one before that, when you were sophomores, and you were on that committee that managed those freshmen, don’t know anything. And of course, the beanie had to wear it for like six weeks or something like that. Silly as it was, but I still have it. So, but that’s first that first midshipman cruise, we went to New York City. They were having a big festival up there. They wanted to hit one of, they wanted this cruiser in there and people were calling and Mitzi Gaynor or somebody like that. You know, Mitzi Gaynor? She was a famous Broadway actress, singer, whatever, and it might not have been her or anyway, was somebody of that caliber was there. I have a picture of me standing next to her in the room looking at the, I don’t know, we were looking at something, the compass or whatever. And, but we, and then we experienced it. And the first time I experienced when the ship went out into the deep, the water color changed, you could see the line. I had no idea that that would be the case. So that was, but it was fascinating. So, the next year, you had two, you split, you went to Little Creek, Virginia, and you went to Corpus Christi, Texas. So, at first Little Creek, and you worked out with the Marines and the UDT[3] guys and things like that, I still remember watching the UDT being trained. And there was a sergeant up there, and these guys were swimming lap after lap after lap. And I don’t know whether they were listed at the office. I don’t know. And he’s saying, “Don’t you hurt my froggy!” They each had a frog in their mouth. Can you imagine that? Well, that said, I don’t think I want to be in UDT.

BROWN: [laughs]

MCMONAGLE: Yeah, it was fascinating to see that. But it was a great experience. You know, you went out into a landing craft, and your kind of then you landed on a beach, you had to climb over the barbed wire, and somebody had to lay down and do this. And I can still remember when we were circling around, waiting for everybody to get this, we all came in at the same time. You know, somebody got sick into their helmet, got passed down. But the time it got to the end; it was the helmet was full. Because you’re out there. I mean, really, really rocking. And you think, why? I wish I was the last one out. So that was an end down to Corpus Christi. They flew us down there. And we flew three different kinds of planes. The teeny weenie, I think it was a T-28 or T-24, was a World War II training plane two-seater. And we flew a S2F, which was an anti-submarine plane. And then we flew an F9F, which was a jet. And that was the most exciting thing, especially when you have your cameras sitting there, and you’re in the second seat, you know, behind the pilot. And he goes like this and goes like that. And the camera floats up in the air. Now, you know what gravity is, how to get rid of gravity. That was fascinating. And you only, maybe an hour or two in those, in the S2F an hour, but you had at least four hours in the teeny weenie, the tiny training plane. And the last hour, you flew it yourself. And, you know, I mean, the guy’s right there ready to grab the siren if you had to. So, but anyway, and then you’d be careful of the deer, because the deer would be on the, especially when you went out early in the morning.

BROWN: Out on the runway, you mean. [laughs]

MCMONAGLE: On the runway, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. If you come back and they’re out there looking for something to eat. I remember one guy, Joe, he got sick –

BROWN: On the plane?

MCMONAGLE: On the plane, his plane, not mine. He came back and because we were all going out about the same time group after group, he had to stay there. They made him, you know, he was in mid shipment, but he had to clean that inside that cockpit. So, it was a fascinating experience. So, that got me to the point. My last year, Captain Boyle was our commanding officer here. Really good guy. And I actually used to tend bars for him, even though I wasn’t 21, at parties at his house. I think he would give you like $10, which was a lot of money. A really nice guy. So, come now, I got to pick a billet. What am I going to do? And that was a big, big, big decision, because I decided I wanted to go into business, even though I was an engineering graduate, or would have been an engineering graduate. And he said, “No, you’re going to be on the bridge of a destroyer,” you know, “you can’t do that.” So, he told me no. And I kind of persisted. And he finally said, “Well, you’re a battalion commander. I put you in that. Yeah. Okay, you can go to supply.” So, that’s what I ended up doing to supply core school. So, I got married on June 3rd. Excuse me, graduated June 3rd. June 8th got married.

BROWN: Who did you get married to?

MCMONAGLE: My dearest girlfriend from junior high school, junior year high school. So, we had been dating for seven years. Mary Miltz, M-I-L-T-Z. And she lived a block and a half away, met her, through my second cousin. My second cousin called me at the end of sophomore year and said, “I’d like to get a date with a friend of yours. I’ll get you a date.” I said, okay. So, I got her a date and she got me a date with Mary. And I found out she lived up the next block, one street over. They were all row houses up in Northeast Philly then. I mean, there were some singles, but a couple of twins, but mostly row houses, they were building out then.

BROWN: And you’ve known her for a long time and been with her ever since.

MCMONAGLE: Yeah. Well, unfortunately, I’m going to share with you the bad news. On October 29th in ‘16, she passed away.

BROWN: Well, I’m sorry to hear that.

MCMONAGLE: Yes. 53 years we were marriage. So, this past January 8th would have been our 56th anniversary. So, after coming back from Bermuda, we’d be playing a little nice trip in Bermuda and came back to Philly, and got in the car and drove to Georgia, and spent six months down there. Now, there’s more basketball because we’re playing all kinds of sports there. You know, we did a little apartment off the base and there was a softball. But I met a guy named Ron Terwilliger who played, he was a good, from Annapolis. And I watched him play ping pong. I said, I couldn’t even begin to, you know, he beat me in two seconds. And he was a good softball player, but he would play the captain Annapolis. So, now it’s January, excuse me, December, you have to pick your bill. And it’s by class rank. So, he tells me, he says, “Jim, I just got a call from Subland. They want us to come down to Norfolk and play basketball for Subland.” I said, “They have a program? What are you talking about?” Well, there’s a team down there. I had no idea that the Navy and the military have all these teams. At the time, maybe they still do for all I know, but it was very, very much a thing of the service then. So, we said, being on the Admiral’s staff, we both said no. They come back the day later and we’re getting a little closer to having to make a selection here. They said, “We’ll put you on the submarine tender in Norfolk and you’ll go there in the morning and do some work and then afternoon night play basketball.” Well, that’s better. But no, then they came back, and they said, now we’re like a day or two away from the final decision, you know, getting into the regular way of picking a thing and the number one guy in class is going to go to Honolulu for sure. And the number three guy is going to – anyway, then we were someplace in the top 10 percent maybe – but they said, “We have a new program in the Navy. We’re going to put supply offices for the first time on nuclear submarines because they’re so big, they got so much complication, we got to make sure we can’t lose,” you know, parts, etc. The two things you learn were food service and supply. So, we said, “Oh my god, you make a hundred dollars a month extra on hazardous duty pay. Sold.” We’re going to go. Well, they said, okay, great. Well, this is December now. They said, “Submarine school doesn’t start till May. “You can come to Norfolk and play basketball January, February, March, and April.” So, Mary and I went home to Philly, packed up our stuff, and back to Norfolk. We found a cute little apartment that had cold dust on the windowsills, which was foreign to me. Well, they heated the apartments with coal in Norfolk. So, it was comfortable enough. And we obviously we they had us doing different things. I can we’re going over to the Newport News Shipyard and this they were building new submarines then. And then we played basketball in the afternoons and at night.

BROWN: Who were you playing? Were they competitive games? Like, who were you playing against?

MCMONAGLE: Some did Marine team from North Carolina, college teams.

BROWN: Interesting.

MCMONAGLE: Yeah. I can remember playing against North Carolina State or North Carolina, Billy Cunningham who played for the 76ers in game. And I’ve met him since then. He was only a freshman then, but I remember, you know, scrimmaging or something against them. But we played this whole thing. So, we ended up being the Atlantic Fleet Champs and Admiral Grenfell. Elton Grenfell was his name. He’s the guy who recruited us. He was elated. You know, “We won the Atlantic Fleet! Yeah!” Because he was subland commander-in-chief, which means he had that all the all the Atlantic and European stuff under him. So, then we’re now we’re we entered into the old Navy championship team and we’re playing different teams from all over the country, maybe across the world. But we ended up in the final game against sub pack. And guess who was the former commander of sub pack? Admiral Grenfell. So, these are guys he recruited. They were all college players. Now we had college players, mostly, but we also had guys from other, you know, they were enlisted even or yeah, I can’t remember the names of some of the schools they went to. Virginia Tech maybe. And anyway, so we had this, you know, battle and actually was a double elimination. And I think we I don’t know whether we lost to them or somebody else, but we ended up beating them. So, we’re the champs. I have a picture of, I don’t I think I brought it with me, of all of us standing there with our jackets and Admiral Grenfell. So, we became and then the team. This is interesting, the team was going to Denver to play in the inner service, Army-Navy-Air Force-Marines. And I would obviously, on the team, I would go, except that Mary was expecting. So, this is 10 months after we got married and she’s expecting. That’s what happens, right? Anyway, so I said, I don’t think I want to go everyone. He said, no, I said, “you stay.” So, I had trouble before, somebody’s wife was expecting, we ought to fly him home. So, I said, okay, so I don’t even know how the Navy team did. I don’t recall. But the interesting thing is the guy, his name is Bruce Hewitt – I can remember strange things – who played behind me on that team. And he was from a team, he played for a team and high college team, a small college. I don’t even remember the name in Virginia. But he got picked for the Olympic trials because that was ‘64. And I saw in my mind, I went to that game, played, got picked for the Olympic trials, and I was on the Olympic team. In my mind. But it didn’t happen. But Bill Bradley was on that team. And there was a guy from Philadelphia, and one of the Philadelphia public high schools who played in Southern Cal, he was on that team. So anyway, I didn’t get out of it. But then so, now we’re finished and off to the submarine school, up to Norfolk, excuse me. We left Norfolk, and went up to New London, Groton. They had quarters on camp on the base for us. They were meager quarter. They had a heating unit right in the middle of the room. You know, we said, “Well, what was that?” That’s how you keep the place warm.

BROWN: How long was that school?

MCMONAGLE: Well, that’s all for six months. So, that really didn’t have to use it much because it was May, May through September, maybe May through November. Yeah, because so, then we have to pick our Billets. And there were about six of us supply guys and 150, or 175, line officers. And we’re going through the same program, you know, to the point when we’re going out for our test dive and test things like that, you know, there’s four or five midship, excuse me, we’re all ensigns. And we rotated through position, you know, you’re going to be the lookout today tomorrow. He’s a lookout for you. And you’re going to be the conning officer and they’re watching us there. But the funniest thing was one day, you know, captain says, you know, “Take her down, dive, dive, dive.” And the guys, there’s two lookouts in the county office up there. And the county officer goes down first. And the second lookout goes up and grabs the thing, closes, the thing starts closing it. And we said, we can still see the fingernails of the guy trying to get in there. Well, there’s, there’s a member of the crew is where they know these, these ensigns are not too smart yet, who was counting, “One two, oh, no! Surface, surface, surface!” So, we, you know, the guy scared him half to death.

BROWN: [laughs]

MCMONAGLE: But I mean, it was really interesting. I mean, we went through drills with great detail, where you had a replica of a submarine. And you were going through different procedures out there. It was an interesting thing. And the one that was most interesting thing was how to get out of a submarine at 100 feet. And so, they have a tank full of water. And they put you in down the bottom. Now, what you’re in is you’re in a pressure compartment. So, you’ve got like you would be in the submarine, you’re under pressure. And then you, you know, you hold your breath. But once you get in the water, what do you have to do? You have to blow that air out. If not, your lungs will explode as you go up. And they have UDT guys along the way, in scuba gear, watching you and they’ll grab you if they don’t see bubbles coming out of your mouth. So that was really exciting. And to experience that and finally get up, no more air. You know, I mean, you knew that from science that you had to do it. But I mean, to do it is just a great experience. But then it came back to the point about picking your billet. So, there’s like six of us and there was a bunch of new construction. But there was one active-duty sub that was available, because it was going to go through overhaul. And I was able to get that. So, I don’t know how I did that. But everybody else went to new construction, the other five guys. And so that send Mary back to us with our second – no, no, not the second baby yet. So, Mary and the baby went back to Philadelphia, and stayed with her parents. I flew over to Glasgow. Somebody picks me up, drives me down to Holy Loch. And they took me out to lunch to friend one of them, it might have been the navigator. He knew some people that lived there and went to lunch at their house and found out they ate dinner at one o’clock. And you know, whatever they later were like lunch at seven o’clock.

BROWN: [laughs]

MCMONAGLE: So anyway, then back, and I had a load at the summary now, when you’ve been through supply school, and you’ve been through summary, excuse me, a sub school, but I had nothing to do it. But I had a load this thing up. And you had to load it, especially the freezer in line with the menu, because you had to eat your way in. Oh, that’s things way in the back there. We got that roast beef back there. Well, and you can’t not get it because there’s about 10 or 20 feet of food.

BROWN: Guess we’re having roast beef on Wednesday. [laughs]

MCMONAGLE: Yeah, that’s right. So, my chief petty officer was chief Jefferson Davis Henry. And the name of the submarine was the USS Robert E Lee, SSB in 601. It was the second nuke after the Washington George. Washington was 598. The 601 was the second one completed. And they were all building a different yard at different times.

BROWN: Sure.

MCMONAGLE: And they were doing over when I went over to Newport News, they were doing like the 627. Don’t remember the name, but so there I am in charge. And thank God that Jefferson Davis Henry took care of the menu and putting the food away and all that. So, now all of a sudden, I got, we’re heading out to sea. I got 15 people reporting to me and only two supply guys to supply clerks, and then the rest are in the food area. But he took care of all that, except one of his cooks was a first-class petty officer named Frenchie Benet, and they called him Frenchie, first class. And I because I was the like the 13th or 14th officer, I was the last officer, there was no room in the wardrobe for me. So where do they put me with the chief petty officers? They don’t want me. No way. I’m in hanging gardens. Hanging garden is a section of the submarine above the torpedo roll. So, you think how it’s shaped in the front of a submarine, and you have to climb up a ladder. And there were like eight bunks up there. So, and there, you know, top and bottom. So, I’m in the bottom and looking across at Frenchie at three o’clock in the morning, when he had to do the get the mess ready, get the breakfast ready, they came up to wake him up. And how they would do that, because I found that he was an alcoholic, not that he was drinking then, he couldn’t get up. They would put a cup of hot coffee on his stomach. And they would get his hands and put it there. And they said, “Frenchie, here’s your coffee.” And he would wake up because he knew if he didn’t wake up, he would get scalded.

BROWN: [laughs]

MCMONAGLE: So really, really interesting. So, that thing was just a good now. Two things. One, a couple of maybe things there. One was that I was the Catholic chaplain and the Jewish chaplain. So, there was one Jewish guy on the submarine, and he didn’t want to have any services. I said, “Okay, your permission. It’s okay. It’s up to you.” And then for Catholic mass, I had a 16 millimeter film, which they had. And I had the readings for that Sunday. So, we played the film of the mass and stop it and do the readings for that Sunday. And it was really nice. So, we would do that in the mess hall, like on Sunday morning at 10 o’clock. And there were different watch things. There was six on and six off for sometimes. And sometimes even did 12 on and 12 off, but I was on a six on six off, I think, most of the time. And then sometimes they even got to six on and 18 off, which was more reasonable because I had, you know, got to go back and check to see what we’re doing on the supply side and make sure the menu, everything’s all working out. And if I picked out, if on the menu was something the crew didn’t like, they would blame me.

BROWN: [laughs]

MCMONAGLE: There was some something that the captain put on there, which was from was Indian food. It has some spice in it that the crew did not like. And they would have all these condiments that were crushed bacon and this and that. I forget what it’s called. And you see it once in a while on a menu now, not often, but when they when they did that, I said, “Well, how the crew hates that.” Not Frenchie, but he was a petty officer. And he said, “I’m just going to make bacon for them.” They would just take they would take it two or three or four things that they’d like to give them to the crew.

BROWN: There you go.

MCMONAGLE: So, you’d learn how to accommodate the crew. But it was very interesting. The other thing is we came up one time on the edge of the Russian fishing fleet. How do we know? We could hear the chatter. I don’t know if you know how the submarines are, how do you hear chatter? Well, if it’s coming through the water, you got your sonar, but you also had an antenna. So, we could listen to the radio or music. And the antenna would be loaded up and float up to the surface. I’m sure they’d probably still do that now. But anyway, however, we found it. Yeah, come up there. And I remember looking at the periscope and you see from the horizon, just ship it their ship at their ship. And they were mostly small fishing vessels. And then you saw the big mothership and then the hospital ship and then the two refrigeration ships. So, they’re out there making so much noise, we could have probably surfaced. They wouldn’t have heard us or seen us. But close enough, that was fascinating. Now, our next step was going to California. Now we’re in the North Atlantic, someplace. I never looked at the maps, at the charts, because I didn’t want if they to capture me, I could never tell them where our sub was. But you knew the range of the Polaris missile,[4] these are the first Polaris missiles. And if you took a compass and you put Moscow and you went like that, you knew that you were within that thing, you’re not going to be out there, you’re going to be there where you could be effective at your launches. So, and of course, every time you ran a drill, you know, battle station drill, you didn’t know whether it was real or not.

BROWN: Sure.

MCMONAGLE: And you know, if it was real, then you knew the East Coast United States was being bombed. And your wife and family were probably maybe destroyed. So that is real exciting to get those drills.

BROWN: [laughs]

MCMONAGLE: And because I was a supply guy, I didn’t have much to do other than always like maybe security or safety or something like that at a certain spot. But that was fascinating. But the other thing was that we were coming into the East Coast on our way to the West Coast. So, the second fleet is the East Coast. They knew we were coming. And the neat thing is we wanted to get through them without them catching us. So, all these destroyers out there and whatever. And you could tell sometimes the class of destroyer by the frequency of the sonar. So, you could say, that’s a such and such class. It reminds me of one of the stories that was unrelated to the Navy, but it was. We had 50 rats on board in a cage, 50 rats. We had a doctor full-time doctor. And he had a purpose for that. But what people used to go by, and we wore these blue one-piece suits called poopy suits. You ever heard of that term for those? Yeah, they still do it. And the Velcro here, you walk up to the cage, and you go like this, and the rats would jump up and scream and run all over the cages. So, the purpose was when we got to California, which was a month later, whatever. The purpose was that when he got in, he had operated on 25 of them. And it’s sown up. He cut open the stomach and then sewed them up. And the other 25 he didn’t. So now we’ve got 25 that didn’t, the operation, and 25 that had been surgically healed. Looked fine. It was healed and everything else. Someplace along the crew, we didn’t see him do it, obviously. What he did when he got to California, he took that abdominal area from those rats, 25 here, 25 that had been operated on, and did the tensile strength[5] on them. He wanted to find out, the Navy wanted to find out, the healing ability in that environment.

BROWN: Interesting.

MCMONAGLE: Yeah, very interesting. So, the things that you learned, I mean, whatever, just fascinating. So anyway, we pop up 12 miles outside of Charleston, right next to a Russian controller. And we scared the living they’d ask because they didn’t know we were coming. They were keeping track of the subs going in and out, maybe other ships too. And they were all out there in their skivvies and those shirts on. And also, they’re looking at us and we’re looking at them and waving at them. “We surprised you!” So, in Charleston, and then we loaded up and everything. And I decided to take, go out early to California and take some leave on the way. So, I got leave when back to Philly. And my wife and I made all these arrangements to drive to Mayor Island shipyard, Vallejo, California. The problem was the baby got sick. That was unforeseen. And the days were like, you know, seven days, six days, five days, we can’t drive, there’s four days, oh, we can’t. So, I don’t even know how I did it, make calls. And I took my car, my father and my wife followed me up in his car, up to North Jersey, into a Navy Yard, and gave them the keys. And they shipped it around, they do things like that. So back, I got a Navy flight out of LaGuardia maybe, flew to Alameda.

BROWN: California?

MCMONAGLE: California. Yeah. And my wife came out, you know, three or four weeks later, flew out. But so, I didn’t go through the canal. I just went right out and got myself set up. I’ve actually got a picture I took of my submarine coming through the Golden Gate Bridge, not not through underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. So, I borrowed one of those old fancy old big box cameras where you put the slide the thing in.

BROWN: Yeah, yeah.

MCMONAGLE: So, we had about 20 months out there. What they did was cut the submarine in half and put in a new missile compartment, bigger missiles. So, now my concern been that they weld everything back together and all the pipes connected.

BROWN: Right.

MCMONAGLE: Because that first deep dive, what happens is when you your submarine compresses.

BROWN: Yeah, right, pressure.

MCMONAGLE: Pressure. And when it compresses, some things buckle and break, you know, and the crew is always ribbing me about this: “You guys are unfair, you guys have extra rations in the in the wardrobe.” And I said, “What do you mean?” “Well, you got a fish tank and they’re full of goldfish.” I mean, it was a great camaraderie. I mean, because I was a junior officer, they could do that. They could get away with that. And I didn’t care.

BROWN: Yeah, sure.

MCMONAGLE: That was good. So, 20 months, give or take, and got to be JG out there. And it was just fascinating. I mean, you know, I had an office off to the side in this big warehouse and we had to keep track of stuff and we’re going to put this and we’re going to put that, and it was interesting. It was very interesting, you know, in terms of leadership, went to into the Hungry I comedy club in San Francisco and saw Bill Cosby. Actually, it was a guy on the base who was dating the Admiral on the base’s daughter and the daughter went to college with Bill Cosby’s wife. So, we’ve got backstage to see him.


MCMONAGLE: Now, of course, I’m not so proud of that because Bill Cosby is –

BROWN: Right. Sure.

MCMONAGLE: He’s not done some good things with his treatment of women. So, it was a great experience. Had one earthquake out there. And I can remember being in this building with the columns holding up this warehouse. We’re like, you know, six feet, eight feet in diameter. They were big. It was an older warehouse. And you could see them shaking. And like, what do you do? And, you know, it was over. It wasn’t anything. Nothing fell down. Nobody got hurt. But the other thing happened on the tender. You know, the guys would take scraps and throw it up in the air and the seagulls would catch it.

BROWN: [laughs]

MCMONAGLE: And they would be feeding the seagulls. Then they would put some hot sauce in there and they would throw it up. And then see what we’ll catch it like, “What’s going on?” And we’ll dive down into the water.

BROWN: [laughs]

MCMONAGLE: That was the crew members. The officers didn’t do things like that. But there was just a great experience. And our second child, Jeanie, was born out there. And that was a good experience. I remember being on the tender waiting for, we had a meeting, and all of a sudden somebody comes in, “Mr. McMonagle, your wife is in labor.” And I said to the captain, “My wife is in labor.” He said, “I guess you got to go fly.” I mean, he just made a wisecrack.

BROWN: Yeah.

MCMONAGLE: And then we met Admiral Rickover.[6] And everybody knows who Admiral Rickover is. Do you? Yeah? Obviously. He came in, and he did that. He would inspect any sub before we’re now to see again, new construction or in this case, we’re the first one to be under overhaul of these nuclear subs. And you had to have certain clothes for him. You had a certain food for him. He only stayed today. But so, I mean, if I met him, I said, “hello,” that was it.

BROWN: Sure, a very particular guy though.

MCMONAGLE: Oh, yeah. And you think of what he accomplished for our Navy, for our country.

BROWN: Absolutely.

MCMONAGLE: Yeah, very grateful for what he’s done, what he gave. He gave his life to that. So, finally got to the end out through the to the big canal. And when you’re out there, you had a weekend, you know, you weren’t working or doing any watches or anything. You’re going up to Vallejo or up to Napa, seeing the grapes and all that stuff. So, we did some of that travel. Did one trip down to San Diego, I had to go to a nuclear weapons school for a week. And Mary and I and the baby, the baby gets sick on the way down. Same one, first one. And we had to stop in LA and go to a naval hospital. But by the time they went from the naval hospital in LA to San Diego, which is not that far, she was better. So, and station out there was the Navy Chief Warren officer who was the basketball coach back in Norfolk. He was from San Diego. So, I saw him and his family. It was very good. So anyway, going back to the point, we left the deep dives over. We didn’t drown, obviously, up to Bremerton, Puget Sound for torpedo trials, sound trials. They have these lagoons. You can’t believe this place. All of a sudden, it’s like deserted. And you’ve got lagoons going back and forth. And they have all kinds of sonar gear there. And they turn on this particular piece of equipment and get the get the signature of that. “What’s that? Okay, that’s got to be a place of bearing on that,” or whatever. They did torpedo trials, not that you expect a nuclear missile sub to fire torpedoes, but you had to do that. And we actually rented an airplane, me and three other ensigns – we were JGs by then. We rented a plane and flew up to Vancouver for a weekend. The only problem is, we go to the local airport, and they say, “OK, can you drive?” “Yeah, I got this one guy with his pilot’s license.” And, by this time, my wife, of course, is back in Philadelphia with the two kids at her parents’ house. And we said, “Yeah, he can fly.” They said, “Okay, well, you got to get permission from the owner.” And the owner of this plane is in, that’s over in Seattle. And we’re in a little suburb, a little, you know, country airport. So, the guy who owned the place owned the thing here, he gets in the plane, the other three guys. I volunteered to wait. I said, “I’ll wait here to come back.” So, they flew over, got permissioning for insurance, and they flew back and took about an hour. And then I get into the place, you have to go to the front next to the pilot. I said, “Why?” “Because you’re the tallest guy. It’s the only place you’re going to fit.” So, we flew up there, we got up there, there were no rooms, none of the hotels or hotels had rooms. Now I’m not kidding. It was during the time there was a gigantic airline strike, pilots, or stewardesses. Nobody was flying across the country. So, it was flying to Canada, flying Air Canada to Toronto or Montreal, and then flying down the small, regional airplanes. And we were driving around, and we finally got a penthouse at this resort hotel. And there were big yachts in the yard and three pools. And oh, we were in this, it had a music room and a dining room. There were telephones in the bathroom. I never saw telephones in the bathroom. And we went to some nightclub out there and saw some famous star. The most exciting part was on the way back. On the way up, we tried to file a flight plan. And we couldn’t because they didn’t pick up the call. And now we’re coming back to this, you know, so we do it on the way back. We said we want to file a flight plan. They said, “Do you have anything to declare?” Well, we’ve got one bottle of whiskey. Somebody bought a bottle of whiskey. You have to stop at SeaTac. Wait a second. We’re going to this little ranking thing there. So, we fly in, the guy comes out, looks at it, he writes it down. So, we wasted like two hours. We get up in the air and we’re going over towards where we think the airport is.

BROWN: [laughs]

MCMONAGLE: We can’t find it. And I kid you not. We couldn’t, the pilot couldn’t find it. And we finally, we were buzzing the thing. We said, well, it’s along the river. It’s got to be right there. We finally buzzed. The guy, now it’s dark, not pitch dark, but it’s dark. Because then he gets his truck out, pulls it to the end of the runway, turns his high beams on. So, then you can see where the land and we landed.

BROWN: Landing strip’s lit. Indeed.

MCMONAGLE: So then down, we left, and we hit it south. Stop in San Diego. My Villanova classmate friend, Sam …[7] was playing for the Chargers and got football tickets and went to the game and then down to the Panama Canal. Fascinating. There was eight, 10, 12 ships ahead of us. And they all get out of the way. Military ships go to the front of the line. And there we go through there. And I remember I’ve got pictures. I haven’t looked at them for years of white gunk on my face. I got whatever. I was afraid I was going to fry them. You know, my fair skin, Irish skin, even though my mother’s German, but I, and this weird face. And there, and I couldn’t believe how small it was when you’re going through the canal. But you think about the ships are shaped if you will, in the V-shape. And this submarine’s around. And there’s like a foot and a half or two feet on this side. And the same thing on that side. I’m thinking, “How are we going to get through it?” But, we did, obviously, very slowly. And then you’re, and then we’ve got into Cape Canaveral – now Cape Kennedy – Cape Canaveral loaded out a missile and we went out and fired a missile. So, I can say that I fired a missile.

BROWN: There you go.

MCMONAGLE: That was cool.

BROWN: Yeah, absolutely. What year was this year?

MCMONAGLE: So, this was 1965.

BROWN: Okay.

MCMONAGLE: And I’m sure every submarine that came out tested those missiles like that. But there were two crews, the blue crew and the gold crew. And I was in the blue crew and the first, they changed the names and when I was in the gold, didn’t make a difference. One morning, we heard this noise and next door I look, and it turns out the crew took a hammerhead shark about five or six feet long and leaned it against the weapons officer’s door, banged on his door. His name is Sam Adams, believe it or not, same as that as a drink. And really, he was an older guy. He wasn’t like, you know, he wasn’t like two years older than us. He was like 10 years older, it seemed like he was old. So, he was a door to flop.

BROWN: Life is full of pranks; it looks like to me.

MCMONAGLE: Yeah, it really was. So, a hammerhead shark. And there was a big, you know, head goes out like that. So, that was a great experience. So then from there up to Charleston, and had a load out, and my wife and her parents and the babies came down. And it took a weekend and showed them around. I think I’m pretty sure I took them on to the boat. And then we took off on another patrol. So, we’re heading out and going back someplace up there where our missiles would, which were further now, I didn’t have to get that close and spend a patrol out there. So, my second patrol, after which we came back into Holy Loch. Now my tour is up. So, I picked New London. I became the control division officer of the Groton, New London base there. And I can’t tell you what I did because it wasn’t very important. I don’t think whatever the captain told me to do. So that was like in the fall, not the fall, was in the spring of my last year. This was the spring of ‘67. So, I had like five, six, seven months to go. I told the Navy that I wanted to go to graduate school. They said, “Oh, we’ll send you to graduate school.” “Really?” Yeah, you have to wait two or four years, or something like that. I said, “no, my brain, not going to wait that long.” So, that’s why I decided to get out and just go into the reserves. But there’s one story that I forgot. It’s interesting. On the first patrol, which we left like in November, you were allowed to get family grams. Do you remember what family grams are? A 15-word message from your family. You were allowed to get three of them during your patrol. So, I got my first one. And of course, the radio man gets it, and he takes it to the radio officer, takes it to the communications officer, takes it to the XO,[8] who takes it to the captain. And then he says, “Okay, you can release that.” So, Mary sent me: “Wonderful Christmas. Terry,” our little girl, “had a great time. Thanks for the mink coat.” Well, the crew knew about it before I did. “How can you afford a big coat, Mr. McMonagle?”

BROWN: [laughs]

MCMONAGLE: I got rid of that. That was my blessed wife’s sense of humor. She really entertained the whole crew.

BROWN: At your expense.

MCMONAGLE: At my expense. So back there, six months or so, I remember there was a Canadian officer at the base, too, just getting to feel a Canadian officer, assigned to the Navy base. He was part of our crew there. So, my time was up, and I had made arrangements to come back to Philly. And I wanted to buy a house. On weekends, I came home, and we found a house. And I wanted to be in our parish, in our neighborhood. So, they have my parents, Mary’s parents, to be able to babysit. And we had our third baby there, my son. And didn’t have to rush to the hospital that one. That was a little easier. So, but the funny thing about the mortgage, when we got to the, you know, the point we got the house, we agreed on the price and the realtor took us, “I’ll get you a mortgage.” I mean, I knew nothing about that. Never bought a house in my life. So, says, “where do you work? He’s filling it out. I said, “I’m not working.” He says, “What do you mean you’re not working?” I said, “I don’t have a job.” “But you can’t have a mortgage.” I said, “Well, I’m going to graduate school.” “You have to have a job to get a mortgage.” I said, “Why?” “Well, that’s the way it is. You have to have a job.” So, finally, and this was my idea, I gave him 24 withdrawal slips from my savings account. 24 withdrawal slips.

BROWN: So, for two years.

MCMONAGLE: Two years. I’m going to be in grad school. And he said, “Okay.”

BROWN: And so, you went to Wharton, right?

MCMONAGLE: To Wharton, got my MBA. Yes.

BROWN: And where did you finally start working?

MCMONAGLE: Well, it’s interesting. The first job I got was over in Jersey with a company that was in technology, a bunch of XRCA officers. And they actually had been part of putting communication device on the moon, you know, things like that. So, it was pretty technical. And I decided to stick with that for a while. But somebody was going to buy them. And we did satellite navigation systems. We actually had developed a system whereby you can navigate your submarine, your ship. And it could be commercials or things like that. It was during the time, if you think about ‘69 and ‘70, there was a gasoline fuel shortage in the United States. And they couldn’t get through the Suez Canal. They’d go around South Africa. And of course, like $12,000 a day then to operate the ship. So, if you could save a couple of days, find navigation with the satellite system. And it was a stationary satellite over like Peru, or some location like that, that they used as their point. And they were able to navigate and, you know, save a quarter of a day here, save a third of a day here, save two hours here. But that was interesting. I was in the marketing side, had decided to go into that, and decided to leave that. And I actually decided to go back to Wharton. So, I went back there to the placement office, and they said, “There’s a guy looking for you.” I said, “What do you mean?” “A guy named Don Remy.” I said, “I remember that name.” Well, back at Wharton, along with two other guys, we formed a consulting firm that offered free consulting to black entrepreneurs. It was during the era of President Nixon’s black capitalism. During that time, a professor had connections in the brewing industry. And he was somehow connected to the community and took guys, so they wanted to start at a palate company, breweries brought a lot of pallets that shipped their beer. This was up in North Jersey. So, I decided, even though I was the vice president of this organization, I wanted to do something. So, I got into that big time. And in that process, I took these two guys, I lived way up in Northeast Philly. They got on to the L from West Philly and came into Northeast Philly, into Frankfurt station. I picked them up, drove them to Southampton, because I started calling people in the yellow pages, pallets, pallets. And one guy said, try this guy, Don Remy in Southampton, called them, he said, “Oh, yeah, bring the guys up.” So, I drove up there. And all of a sudden, all these big pieces of equipment. I thought it was going to be hammers and nails. I had no idea how you made pallets, you know, there’s wood and there’s nails.

BROWN: Yeah, sure.

MCMONAGLE: But it was a very sophisticated thing. I mean, it was, you know, big equipment. So, we took them through there and came back and they actually got stuff started. I got my father who worked for SKF Industries, who was the basketball coach. He was a basketball player for SKF and then the coach, he had new connections upstairs. So, we got stuff donated, equipment. My father-in-law who worked for Pico, Philadelphia Electric then, he was in insurance, but he got stuff donated, a truck, they needed a truck to deliver the stuff. And by the time we got this whole thing together, I graduated and left. I have no idea what happened to them. But Dr. Russ Acoff, I remember his Russell Acoff, was the professor who put this whole, you know, put this idea of these guys to start the power company. So now, three years later, after that, or something like that. So, four years later, I’m looking back at Penn looking for the job and I got a job offer to be the assistant in the medical, to the vice president of the healthcare system for Penn, which was a big job. And I thought I’m going to be, you know, talking to all these hunches. I don’t know if I want to be a assistant to that guy. And then he says, “There’s a guy named Don Remy looking for you.” I was also in Time Magazine. Believe it or not, they had an edition that was featured the all-American team of business students. And I have no idea to this day, at that time either, how I was selected from Wharton. But there’s my picture, a little clip, you know, and I remember they even, how much I was going to make, $15,000 working for this technical company. And, you know, we went to Villanova. I had all the things. It was about a dozen people might be one woman, because there weren’t very many women in graduate programs. And so anyway, I go out to visit this guy and he had hired Spencer Stewart, which is a New York stock. A New York search firm. They’re still around on the top level. So, the guy comes down from New York, interview and on his desk, by the way, is a pile of resumes because they had advertised – and I didn’t see it. I didn’t look at the paper about that. But the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Bulletin was still around then. So anyway, he had all these things. So, the guy comes down interviews me and he’s looking through all I guess he’s looking at other resumes too. And then he says to me, “I want you and Don Remy to come up to New York.” So, we drive up to New York and we’re staying at a little boutique hotel off Broadway, someplace and we’re having dinner on a Friday night. And there’s, do you know who Ozzy and Harriet are? They were sitting at a couple of tables away. Wow. So anyway, he said to me at the dinner, “Jim, you go up to your room, we’re going to call you.” So, I got there 15 minutes ago, I came down and Don goes, and we did that like two or three times. And a week later, I get the job offer. I accept it. And then two weeks later, I have to get a bill from this guy. I have to write a $15,000 check to this company because they hired me. I said, “You didn’t do anything. Don Remy found me, you haven’t found me.” Anyway, that’s the way search firms work as you know. I mean, you can cut a deal ahead of time, but you can cut it afterwards. So, that was for 10 years I ran that company. And it was management as opposed to selling marketing technology. And we have made three acquisitions, three company companies. And then I developed an estimating system. One of the key things time consuming things was you get this job for this particular size palette. It’s unique. It’s 27 and a half inches long, not 30. It’s got this this much wood and this much wood gets cut out of this piece, not that piece. So, you have all those things in the labor. And we also had an issue with the union right before I got there, they unionized. After that was there for six months, the one-year contract was up, and it was with the teamsters. I knew the unions had been nothing much. So, a little bit of argument. And they didn’t want it. They didn’t like the piece work system. They were getting paid like $3.35 an hour. But with the piece work, they were making six, seven, eight dollars an hour. But they were in between where they were only making $3.35. So, we settled for three years. But three years later, they went out on strike. And the most interesting thing to go to the, what’s the federal government that would be there? Business, whatever the name is. So, we went down to 6th and Chestnut and federal government for mediation.

BROWN: Small business administration?

MCMONAGLE: It wasn’t the SBA. No, there was something bigger than that. And I can remember going back and forth with these union guys and a couple of guys from there, plus the guy from the union itself. I can have before that, I remember meeting with the, with the union people at the union hall. We actually went to their hall to meet with them. And the guy started cursing at me and I got up and started walking away. And he said, “Yeah, sit down here. Who do you think you are?” I don’t use language like that. But anyway, so now we’re down. And we did like three Fridays in a row. And every week, I took something off the table. Now, the union, the guys who worked for me, who were, you know, obviously the union laborers, you can’t do that. I said, well, and I said to the guy in charge, I said, “When you reject an offer, you start over again, don’t you?” And they said, “yeah.” “So, I can just make the offer different.” He said, “yeah.” So, and I wanted to get them into the same health plan that we had, the office staff had a health plan. So, they eventually never settled, but the guys came back to work. So, and there were like four or five who didn’t come back.

BROWN: Sure.

MCMONAGLE: They just, whatever, they just, and I never saw them again. But the guy who started the, who called the teams, there was a truck driver, he came back, Henry Horseman, I remember him. So, you know, good years, I said, made these acquisitions. But after 10 years, I was training the son of the owner. He had flunked out of a couple of colleges, and he now controls the company, still around. So, this is from ‘73 to ‘83. I trained him in different things. And now he’s got a 40-million-dollar company, moved it upstate. So, I guess he learned, and somehow did a good job. But he was, he flunked out of school, and I took him through sales, and took him through the office work, and then in production, and then he stuck, went into sales. So, he’s done very, very well.

BROWN: So, fast forward to today. You still make it to some Villanova basketball games on occasion?

MCMONAGLE: I have. I have season tickets. I have had them, I didn’t have them in the old Nevin, but when they had the new fieldhouse, or they built the fieldhouse, I guess it was ‘86. Soon thereafter, I got season tickets, and I moved them three times from mid-court upstairs, to behind the, the visitors bench, and then to the other side, across from the scores table, and not in the midsection, but on the aisle. So, I had them for maybe 25 years or so.

BROWN: Well, great.

MCMONAGLE: Yeah. So, that was really good. So, yeah, just going back to the work thing, if I may just briefly.

BROWN: Yes, sir.

MCMONAGLE: What I did was I changed jobs. After I left the palette company, I went back into print and mail technology, and became CFO of a company that was going public. And that Villanova football player was working on Wall Street. He bought the last 80,000 shares. My old roommate, Morgan Guarantee, yeah. And so, and then, you know, I was there for like seven or eight years, and then I went over, became the president of the company in the same industry, but smaller, and then a guy from my neighborhood who I met in the industry, he wanted to sell his company, and I went to work for him, and sold to a friend of his. He didn’t know if his friend would buy it. Got a nice, you know, $50,000 piece for that.

BROWN: Yeah, sure.

MCMONAGLE: Enough to pay for the college tuition for the kids. So, my point being is I had these various positions, all small companies. You know, I had interviewed when I was in Wharton with one of the big six accounting firms, and they wanted me to come on board, and I said, “I don’t want to be with them.” You know, they’re going to put me any place in the country. I want to stay in Philly. I want to go to the Villanova games, and I saw the small company, and in a lot of connections, and I enjoyed that. You know, people ask me, “Where can I go?” Can I introduce them to somebody? And I love connecting people. That’s part of who I am.

BROWN: Sure.

MCMONAGLE: So, but going back to your thing about Villanova, yeah, being part of that Villanova team, and I had started, and I believe in ‘79, the first Villanova alumni game, and it was out of modesty. Got the alumni office to mail out invitations to all the people that have played, and the calls came to me because they, and sometimes they would write me, but there was no – fax was very rare, and there was no, obviously, email. So, I had to get these lists, and there would be like, you know, 55, 65 guys coming back, and “I want eight tickets.” Well, no, you’re only getting four tickets for the game. So, then I would say, “Are you going to play?” “No, I’m going to just attend with my wife and the kids,” or whatever, “my friends.” And then I had to divide them up into the blue and the white, and I wanted to, you know, so there was guys from the ‘40s. This is ‘79. They’ve been out 30 some years, and some of them could, you know, waddle up and down the court. Some could run, but you wanted to get them matched up, and then you had the older groups, and then you had another group, the guys from the late ‘50s, ‘60s, my group, and you had the guys from the, you know, the late ‘60s, ‘70s. So, we would have maybe, the first couple of games, we would get 25, 30 players, maybe eight on the side or 10 on the side, and that ran on until Jay came, and it got sophisticated. You know, Roly helped out a little bit, but the old alumni did a lot of the work, and then eventually somebody from the athletic department got me to help me and made it a lot easier, and of course, by then we were starting to get into faxes, obviously, and e-mails started to suddenly grow in the late ‘90s, early 2000s, but when Roly came, he asked me for lunch. Not Roly, excuse me, when Jay came, he knew that I had started this thing, and they actually had, I don’t know if they gave me an award, they called me the “godfather of the alumni game,” and I have a plaque that the school gave me. So, that was, but Roly said, “I understand you did this,” and I explained to him, not really, Jay, how I did this, and what, how long, and whatever, and he said, “I’d like to take it over.” I said, “be my guest.” So, he’s moved it a couple of times, he moved it to the summers, where we do it now in the summer, used to be the last Monday in July, or last Monday in August, now it’s the last Monday in July, and it’s really nice. I mean, there’s no Varsity game afterwards, but what they did this last year, the alumni played against the Varsity. We never did anything like that. We just played amongst ourselves. I mean, you got a guy like Josh Hart playing against the other guys that he played with this last year, it was really cool. So, then they have a nice reception afterwards. It was nice. I mean, and I’ve got some great photographs that when we took the old-fashioned cameras from those original games. And guys like Paul Oursen would come back, and he wouldn’t play, you know, NBA All-American, All-Star rather, he would come back, and you’d see these guys, and some guys came back for 20, 30 years. Now, the danger is, I’m getting near, when they usually start with the old guys, where they introduce us, at the get near the front of the line, very near the front of the line. That’s scary, because I don’t need to say, “Oh, look at those old guys up there from the ‘40s.”

BROWN: Right, and now they’re one of those old guys.

MCMONAGLE: I know, which is really the thing. So, yeah, the Villanova basketball has obviously been part of my thing, and I have a list of guys that I invite to go with me, especially since my wife is not with me anymore. So, and, you know, I alternate them and get them, we go to a lot of games.

BROWN: Yeah, that’s great.

MCMONAGLE: And there’s usually 15 games at home, and they made a mistake one year. I’d asked for extra tickets for the game down to Wells Fargo, and I bought them. You know, in addition to the two tickets that I normally. I have my packages for four tickets, which I split with a friend who was in my wedding, and a Villanova guy, and I was in his wedding, et cetera. So, we’ve done that for years. In fact, he has other tickets that he gives to his friends. So, so anyway, also most of my train of thought—

BROWN: They made a mistake, you said.

MCMONAGLE: Yeah, oh, yeah. So, the next year when I got my ticket package, it had my four tickets, and four extra tickets. So, we decided to keep them because it’s only five games. So, we have then eight tickets for those games. So, we then I could bring four people, two or three people rather than just one person. So, the games at Wells Fargo would have really been great to have the extra people there because it can bring my brother and my two brothers-in-law. We have the brother’s game; we call it the brothers’ Villanova game.

BROWN: Well, we’re going to have a veteran’s game in February of this coming year. So, hopefully, we’ll see you there and you can come to the court and do some things.

MCMONAGLE: We’d love to do that.


MCMONAGLE: Yeah, they’ve done that. I mean, that’s just great. That reminds me, I think I even have a picture in there. They did the 50th anniversary of the of the Pulustra, or maybe it was the 60th. Had to be in ‘15. So, that had to be 60. Or whatever, whatever the year was. And they invited players from each school for a period. So, I was representing Villanova for the ‘60s. And as a picture of Frank Corus, who was a LaSalle star and then the guy from Temple, and Penn, and St. Joe’s. So, there’s a picture of the five of us. But it was really nice. We all got to come down at half time and got introduced and waved everybody, just like we do when Whitey Rigsby invites us down and does that. Well, I’m glad you’re going to do a veteran’s thing. That is really good.

BROWN: Oh, yeah. And I thank you for coming today. Thank you for being a part of this. So, your story is going to live forever so that your grandkids can click this button and they’ll be able to hear this story.


BROWN: Forever. So, I think it’s important and hopefully it adds value to your experience and to your family. And I’m glad you were able to come here today.

MCMONAGLE: Yeah. It really means a lot to me. I’m telling you from the depths of my heart and soul, to be part of the Villanova family going onward. And Jay enhances that. But still, you know, it’s Father Peter. It’s just being here. And I know some of the engineering professors. I’ve been on the Engineering Alumni Board for about five or six years. So, you know, and I was a chairman of our 50th reunion, they told me. I said, “How many people do I put on my committee?” So, you know, 10 or 12, I got 39 people. And we were the biggest 50th union that Villanova had. And do I take credit for that? Well, you know, me and the other guys, yeah.

BROWN: Sure.

MCMONAGLE: Yeah. And we had more, not necessarily in dollars, but we had more donors that year than ever before And the number they were looking for was 27. And we got to 43 or something, percent. So, yeah, Villanova means so much to me. So, to be able to tell my kids and grandkids that they can access this story and they can do it in piece by piece. They don’t listen.

BROWN: That’s right.

MCMONAGLE: Then they fall asleep.

BROWN: At their leisure.

MCMONAGLE: At their leisure.

BROWN: That’s right.

MCMONAGLE: Well, it’s good. Well, thank you guys for organizing this. I was just so thrilled and excited when you invited me, and not knowing that you even existed.

BROWN: Well, we exist and we’re happy to know you and we’re happy to welcome you to this project. I’m so happy that Villanova means so much to you. And we definitely heard that in this story.

MCMONAGLE: Yeah. And if there’s anything that I can do to give back, I’d be glad to do that to help you.

BROWN: Well, I appreciate that, sir.

MCMONAGLE: Thank you.

BROWN: Well, thank you very much.

MCMONAGLE: God bless you.

BROWN (OUTRO): That concludes this installment of the Voices of Villanova’s Veterans. A joint project of the Villanova University Office of Veterans and Military Service Members and Falvey Memorial Libraries’ Distinctive Collections and Digital Engagement departments. Thank you for listening. For more information and to listen to more interviews, please visit us online at veteransvoices.library.villanova.edu.


[1] … Inaudible phrase.

[2] The National Invitation Tournament is a men’s college basketball tournament operated by the National Collegiate Athletic Association. The tournament is played at regional sites with its Final Four traditionally played at Madison Square Garden in New York City each March and April.

[3] UDT: Underwater demolition teams.

[4] The UGM-27 Polaris missile was a two-stage solid-fueled nuclear-armed submarine-launched ballistic missile. As the United States Navy’s first SLBM, it served from 1961 to 1980.

[5] Ultimate tensile strength is the maximum stress that a material can withstand while being stretched or pulled before breaking.

[6] Hyman G. Rickover was an admiral in the United States Navy. He directed the original development of naval nuclear propulsion and controlled its operations for three decades as director of the U.S. Naval Reactors office.

[7] Inaudible phrase.

[8] XO: Executive Officer.

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