My father died in 2018 at age 92. He lived a good life.
During his last months, my father shared stories with me about his service for his country and putting his life on the line for our America. Recently, I saw a 1943 Newark Valley yearbook. My dad was a junior in high school. In his class photo, there was my dad, sitting next to his best friend in high school, Joe Bates. Not a surprise that my dad and Joe would be next to each other in that photo. But i had never seen that yearbook before.
My dad told me about how he and Joe Bates were both drafted into the U.S. Army after graduating high school in 1944. He told about how Joe was sent to Europe and my dad was sent to the Philippines.
While in the Philippines, my dad came down with a terrible sickness. I never bothered to ask him what the sickness was. I can only speculate, perhaps, that it was malaria. At any rate, my dad was confined to a hospital which I believe was located near Clark Air Base (about 40 miles from Manila).
While secluded in a hospital, his battalion boarded a naval ship to be transported to Japan. My dad recovered before the ship arrived in Japan. He was on his own to find his way to Japan. By means of two different U.S. Army Air Corps planes, he found his way to Japan. First to Okinawa. Second from Okinawa to Japan. He was supposed to hide on the planes. The pilots could have been disciplined for taking a passenger.
My dad tells about arriving in southern Japan before his fellow soldiers arrived. He arrived there for two reasons. (1) A typhoon in the Pacific delayed the ship getting to Japan. (2) The harbor for which the ship was to arrive still had mines and those mines had to be cleared.
My dad arrived at the headquarters of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, located at a Tokyo hotel. He was then transported to the southern area of Japan where his battalion was about to arrive. He was reunited with his battalion.
Part of my dad’s story was about being in the barracks with the other soldiers. They found Japanese helmets and other implements the soldiers wanted as souvenirs. They took them and put them with the bunks in the barracks. Word went around that there was to be an inspection. Most of the men simply threw the implements they had outside. My dad and several others did not remove implements, so they were caught with them. My dad had to serve in some sort of KP duty, as punishment.
My dad also told about being in a convoy heading to northern Japan and the city of Sapporo. My dad never told me about the following. According to William Manchester’s biography of Douglas MacArthur (American Caesar), MacArthur, as Supreme Commander over Japan, had sent troops to northern Japan. Was my dad’s battalion part of that mission? Further research is necessary.
The reason MacArthur sent troops to that area was due to the threat of the Soviet Union, across the waters from that area, invading Japan. As the Soviets did to divide Europe (and later helped in dividing Korea and Vietnam), there were expectations the Soviets might do the same in Japan. MacArthur was proactive in taking on the challenge, should it happen. It never happened, as we know. Perhaps that saved my dad’s life?
In 1972, fifty years ago, we welcomed a Japanese Rotary exchange student into our home. She was from Sapporo. It was interesting that year, because the Winter Olympics were in Sapporo. The young girl was sad that she was away from her hometown during those games. We were all able to watch the events on American television.
It was wonderful that my dad shared those events with me. I think about his activities each year on Veterans Day. Today being Veterans Day, I thought I would share these events. Now. If I could only find the tape recording I made of my father telling this story! Somewhere in my house that tapes still exists!