Share Your Story

 

As part of constructing the South Dakota World War II Memorial, we want to preserve the stories of South Dakotans during that period. Please share with us a story of your experience during that time.

 

Harry George Armstrong

Harry George Armstrong was born on February 17, 1899 near De Smet, South Dakota. After graduating from De Smet High School and spending a year at the University of Minnesota, he enlisted as a private in the U.S. Marines during World War One. In 1919, Armstrong returned to the pre-med program at the University of Minnesota for another two years before he entered the University of South Dakota's medical school, earning his Bachelor of Science in 1923. He received his medical doctorate from the University of Louisville in 1925.

After spending several years in private practice, Dr. Armstrong re-enlisted and was commissioned a First Lieutenant in the Army Medical Reserve Corps. He was sent to the School of Aviation Medicine at Brooks Field, Texas, where he was assigned to the Flight Surgeon Training Program dealing with medicine and the flight environment in military aviation.

In 1931 he received an appointment as flight surgeon to the First Pursuit group at Selfridge Field, Michigan. In 1934, in a letter to the Air Surgeon in Washington, he urged the department to give higher priority to improvement of protective flying equipment. As a result, he was assigned to the Air Corps Research and Development Division at Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio to serve as an advisor to help solve these problems. He proposed a separate medical research laboratory to serve this purpose. In May of 1935, the Physiological Research Unit, later renamed the Aeromedical Research Laboratory, was established, with Dr. Armstrong as its director. Its mission was to discover ways to provide aircrew protection from temperature extremes and the lack of oxygen at high altitude and to simplify airplane operation.

Over the course of the next six years, Dr. Armstrong did just that. He and a co-worker, Dr. Heim, designed the first centrifuge in America to allow scientists to investigate the physiological effects of G-forces on humans. Dr. Armstrong was solely responsible for developing the medical criteria used in the design of both the XC-35 pressurized military airplane and the pressurized stratocruiser developed by TWA for commercial aviation. The pressurized aircraft we so commonly accept today is a direct result of the work of Armstrong and co-workers at Wright Field in that era. Among the many items of equipment Dr. Armstrong developed at Wright Field were crash helmets, shoulder-type safety belts and a horizontal altitude chamber. A number of the research experiments and investigations Dr. Armstrong performed were the first of their kind to be conducted anywhere. He regularly participated as a test subject, often in experiments involving great personal risk. He discovered that blood boils at 63,000 feet, an altitude limit know known as "Armstrong's Line." Also while at Wright Field, he published 45 original research reports and 31 medical journal articles.

In 1937, President Roosevelt presented the Collier Trophy to Armstrong and co-inventors for their development of high-altitude protection equipment. In 1939, Armstrong published Principles and Practices of Aviation Medicine, a standard in the field of aviation for over two decades.

During World War II, Dr. Armstrong was the Command Flight Surgeon of the Mighty Eighth Air Force in England. His efforts were responsible for greatly reducing the physiological incidents and mortality among combat aircrews. His improved techniques for rescue at sea, protection from hypoxia and other efforts are credited with saving the lives of over two thousand aviators.

After the war, Dr. Armstrong became the Director of Research in the Office of the Air Surgeon in Washington to plan a research program for the School of Aviation Medicine. While there he established a Department of Space Medicine.

In December 1949, Dr. Armstrong became the Surgeon General of the Air Force. During his five-year tour, twenty-five new medical treatment facilities were completed and fifty-two were under construction. At the end of his assignment he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal. In 1954, he was assigned as Surgeon of the U.S. Air Forces in Europe where he assisted other countries in establishing aviation medicine programs. Dr. Armstrong retired from the Air Force in 1957, after a long and dedicated career. He passed away in 1983 after fighting a long battle against heart disease.

During his lifetime, Dr. Armstrong published 105 scientific papers in the field of aviation medicine and aerospace medicine. In 1985, the Aerospace Medical Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base was renamed in Dr. Armstrong's honor. In December 1990, when the Air Force consolidated their research laboratories into four super labs, one of those named was the Armstrong Laboratory.

Dedicated to making flying safer in all areas, Doctor Harry Armstrong gave a legacy to the present and the future that continues today. For these achievements and many others, Major General Doctor Harry George Armstrong is proudly enshrined with honor into the National Aviation Hall of Fame.

Copyright © 1997 by NAHF. All Rights Reserved

Submitted by,  3/29/01


United States Armed Guard World War II

The United State Navy Armed Guard was first organized during World War I when Allied and American shipping was being attacked by the enemy from surface ships and a new type of craft to warfare, the submarine.  It was necessary for guns to be placed on ships and gun crews to man them for protection.  The U.S. Navy was called on to supply the crew, and they were called, "Armed Guard."

Their main purpose was to maintain the guns and ammunition, protect the ship, its crew and precious cargo from the enemy with orders to fire the guns as long as the ship was afloat.  This was to keep the enemy from crippling the ship, then boarding it for provisions they needed to stay on patrol longer.  In previous engagements, the enemy had been known to kill the crew before sinking the ship.

The World War I Armed Guard was deactivated following the end of the war, after the guns were removed.  They had served on 384 ships.

The Armed Guard crew consisted of the Officers, Gunners, Radiomen, Signalmen and later on, Medics and Radarmen.  They were assisted by the Army and Merchant marine volunteers on many occasions, for their lives were at stake, too.  The radiomen and signalmen were in charge of all codes and messages sent to and received aboard the ship.  The Ship's Company Personnel at the Receiving Stations were almost as important as the gunners for without them there would not have been any "mail calls," clothing or "good chow."

In April, 1941, with the war in Europe spreading over the boundaries of neighboring countries and another world conflict possible for the United States, measures were being taken to man the cargo ships again since the Allies had lost many ships since 1939.  The MS City of Rayville was the first US Flag merchant ship lost during World War II.  It struck an enemy mine, November 9, 1940, about six miles off Cape Otway, Australia.  The SS Robin Moore, May 21, 1941, SS Steel Seafarer, September 7, 1941, SS Lehigh, October 19, 1941, SS Astral, December 2, 1941, and the SS Sagadahoc were all victims just days before Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.  The SS Cynthia Olsen was sunk December 7, 1941, about 1830 GCT with thirty-three Merchant crew members and two soldier passengers.  There were no survivors.

Even though the Allies were having many ships sunk during the 1940-41 era, Congress could not authorize placing guns aboard cargo ships due to the 1939 Neutrality Act, Section 6.  This act prohibited the arming of US Merchant vessels during the existence of the proclamation of a state of war between foreign states or countries.  It was not until the Act of November 17, 1941 (55-STAT.764), Section 2 for the Neutrality Act, that repealed Section 6, before steps were enacted to arm the Merchant ships.  Training, however, was already in progress.

On April 15, 1941, men from several Naval Reserve units received gunnery training and were then sent home.  Some 100 Reserve Officers also received special gun training during the summer at the Naval Academy for possible duty on board Merchant ships.  On September 17, 1941, men arrived at Little Creek, Virginia, to begin gun crew training.  It was a section Navy base in the swamps on U.S. Route 60, with only a mess hall, administration building and one barrack where guns were placed out back.  From this the Armed Guard grew to 144,970 personnel before the war was to end.  This was more than the entire fleet in 1935.  These men were the first to man the few guns that were available at that time, and it was not before October 15, 1941, that the Little Creek base officially opened.

The first gun crews were numbered 1-E-upwards. On November 18, most of the gun crews there were mustered out and sent to Brooklyn, New York, and were trained on 30 and 50 caliber guns until war was declared and on December 12, gun crew 7-E was assigned to the SS President Monroe.  However, gun crew 1-E was the first to be assigned to a ship, the SS Dunboyne, December 2.  The crew boarded December 5, for the first time to find that someone had flooded her magazine.  The attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, caused another delay since the planes on deck had to be removed for different assignment.  This gave the crew of the SS Larranga the distinction of being the first gunners to sail on an armed Merchant vessel and fire at an enemy submarine.

World War II brought a different type of war than World War I.  Even though the submarine had been used in World War I, they were greatly improved in range and firepower.  They could stay under water longer and stalk their prey until all was in their favor.  The casualty rates were high among the Armed Guard crew and Merchant Seamen due to the fact that the enemy ruled below sea with subs, on the sea with their superior ships and raiders, and above the sea with their fighters, bombers, and torpedo planes.  The subs began from our shorelines to the ship's destination.  The raiders stayed, for the most part, in protective territory.  The planes did their damage to the shipping whenever they came within flight range to ports whose destination was 

within this range, such as, from the English Channel to Russia's ports of Murmansk and Archangel.  The enemy planes were a great menace for some time in the Mediterranean Sea until the U.S. gained control.

In 1944-45, the Armed Guard were introduced to "Jet Propulsion" with the "buzz bombs" aimed at the coast on both sides of the English Channel.  Still, the crew was to come in contact with an even deadlier foe, the Kamikaze Pilot.

The Merchant Marine Chairman was quoted as saying, "If it was not for the Merchant shipping and seaman, the war would have been lost by the Allies."  It could also be said, "If it were not for the United States Navy Armed Guard crews and the protection they provided, the ship, cargo and merchant crew lives would have been lost, and so would the war.  You can be assured that it took the cooperation of all personnel of the peace loving countries, both civilian and military, doing their duty for mankind, to bring about peace and stability."

At the beginning of World War II, many Merchant ships were sunk within the lights of our shorelines since the light from the cities along the coast made a silhouette of our ships as they passed between the submarines and the glow from the shore.  The coast of the Carolinas soon became called "Torpedo Alley" by the crews, since the ships looked like sitting ducks in a gallery.  The owners of the businesses along the Eastern Seaboard were afraid they would lose customers if the lights were cut off, and it was only after official orders were they blacked out.

The requirement to serve in the Armed Guard was to be in good health in every respect for there were no doctors aboard.  Good night vision was essential along with 20-20 vision.  It was hoped that the men on watch could spot the enemy before the enemy spotted them, and that quick action could be taken to avoid contact.

Since many of the Armed Guard had never seen the ocean or even a large ship, they soon found themselves facing the hardship that their forefathers faced -- strong wind, rough sea, bitter cold or extreme heat.  But, their forefathers did not have to face an enemy with such destructive weapons.  An enemy that had been taught to kill, and destroy the ship and cargo at any cost.

Early in the war, some of the ships were caught with no guns aboard.  Many of the ships' crew placed creosote poles to appear as big guns.  Guns were soon installed on ships going to priority destinations.  The "Lewis" machine guns were soon replaced by 20 MM and the creosote poles by modern 3"50 and 5"38 guns.

The U.S. Navy Armed Guard crew were a dedicated crew of men with love for their country and the people of other countries, that wished to be self-governed.  They soon gained respect from the enemy for their ability to perform the jobs as gunners.

Of the 6,236 Merchant ships the Armed Guard served on, 710 were sunk with many damaged.  Of these were 2,710 famous "Liberty Ships," with 216 sunk.  Over 80,000 of the original Armed Guard were transferred into the fleet as the "Battle of the Atlantic" slowed and the need for experienced gun crews were needed in the Pacific Theatre of war.  There was a big demand for experienced gunners on the LSTs and LCIs, for invasions that were to come.  Many were placed aboard the larger ships as relief replacements.

The Armed Guard branch of service was again de-activated as soon as World War II was over and all guns were removed.  Many of the crews shipped over to the regular Navy, making a career of the service until retirement.  Most returned to the place from whence they came; the farms, factories, schools, service stations, to the country, small towns and big cities to be engulfed back into society to soon become the "Forgotten Heroes."  A conflict that had taken men to almost every port in the world and 1,810 to their final resting place.

Submitted by Arthur Lange,  8/25/00


 

Robert E. O'Neill

Robert served in the U.S. Army from 1944 to 1946.  He served 1 ½ years in Europe at the ETO Headquarters.

Submitted by himself,  3/30/01

 

Harold H. Schuler

In the fall of 1941 I was in my first year of college at Southern Normal, Springfield, S.D.  On December 7, 1941 we were playing cards in an off campus house where I stayed when another student ran into the room and shouted, “The Japs have bombed Pearl Harbor.”  This was stunning news and to a man we expected to be called into the service within a few days, but general mobilization was slow.

In the spring of 1942 I had gone home during spring break and got sick with the mumps.  I stayed home six weeks and by then it was too late to go back to college so I stayed and helped on my parents farm a few miles west of Tripp, S.D.  In the summer of 1942 I was asked to attend Yankton College on a football scholarship.  That fall I did attend and did make the first team.  Many of us joined the Enlisted Reserve Corps because they said we would be able to finish college.  In February 1943, however, they called up the entire group.  I went to Tripp to say goodbye to my parents.  I remember leaving the Tripp train depot and waving goodbye to my parents standing on the platform.  Years later my mother told me they both cried as the train left the station.  I didn’t know that my dad could cry.  The ERC group left Yankton, S.D. on March 3, 1943.  I had just turned 20 years old and looked forward to an exciting but uncertain adventure.

We were sent to Fort Snelling, Minnesota where I was inducted into the service.  Induction was mostly filling in certain forms and taking the oath to serve our country.  I was given two metal dog tags with my serial number 17140436.  I wore them around my neck throughout the war and still have them.  Two black men from Yankton College, both fellow football players who roomed with us in Look Hall at Yankton College, were with our group.  One day the two men were ordered to join an all black unit.  That was the first time I saw segregation, because the military had separate units for black men.  I remember going to the latrine and was shocked to see about a dozen stools with no dividers or doors.  At least on the farm we had a little privacy in an outhouse.  One day we were all lined up in front of the barracks to learn our service assignments.  The men were assigned to different branches of the service at different bases around the country.  It appeared to me that requests had come in for men from bases all around the country.  A couple of us were assigned to the Air Force.

We were sent by train to an Air Force base at Kearns, Utah (near Salt Lake City) for basic training.  We were given typical basic training: drilling, marching on field trips, tossing a grenade and ducking behind a barricade, firing and cleaning the M1 Garand Rifle and crawling under a barbwire fence with a machine gun firing live bullets over us.  We were not bullied but we were expected to respond to commands with enthusiasm.  During drill some men continuously turned right when they should have turned left.  The drill sergeant, to improve a recruit’s memory, placed a rock in the recruit’s left hand and made him march around the field a few times.  I was on KP (Kitchen Police) several times setting tables, washing dishes, pots and pans.  My mother and her sister Elsie stopped to see me on their train trip to Santa Monica, California for their mother’s funeral.  I did visit Salt Lake City and the Mormon Temple.  After completion of a couple months of basic training the men were divided again with some of us ordered to attend an Air Force Administration School.

In early June of 1943, we boarded a train and after a few days traveling arrived at a railroad depot in western Minnesota, not far from Sioux Falls, S.D.  This, of course, was a big secret trip and we didn’t know where we were going.  The conductor told us we might as well go to sleep in our Pullman cars because there would be a departure delay until after midnight.  The next morning when I woke up and looked out the window I was amazed when I read the sign on the train depot, Brookings, S.D.  South Dakota State College had been largely converted to an Air Force Administration School.  I stayed in the former girl’s dormitory on the west side of the campus.  I was at the school about two months taking classes in preparation of Air Force reports pertaining to enlistment records, supply, maintenance, payroll, morning reports etc.  At Brookings I met soldier Floyd Cone who was my close friend throughout the war but after we were discharged I never saw or heard of him again.  While at Brookings I obtained a pass and went home to Tripp several times.  When the course was completed the men were again split up and sent to Air Force bases around the country.  Up to now most of the friends I had made were usually sent somewhere else.

I was sent to an Air Force Base at Fort Bliss, Texas.  At last, I was assigned to a Service Group with a specific purpose.  We didn’t know it then, but the Service Group was preparing to support a B-29 Bomb Wing.  We were training for three different purposes: armament, maintenance and supply of B-29 bombers.  I was placed in the 1575th Material Squadron.  The Service Group also contained a maintenance and armament squadron.  As soon as they found out I was a good typist they rushed me to supply headquarters where I typed my way through WW II.  I was with this squadron throughout the war and developed many close friendships.  Of all my soldier friends I only saw two of them since the end of the war.  About 1948 one of them stopped to see me at Tripp and in 1950 I was in Minneapolis and looked up another.  In 1980 another soldier friend from Elgin, Illinois called me on the telephone.

At Fort Bliss I realized that I must prepare for life.  I wasn’t sure of my profession but I knew that I would graduate from college someday.  I figured one thing which would help achieve that goal would be a better understanding of the English language.  I read a lot and quickly discovered that I had a poor vocabulary.  I bought a dictionary and looked up the meanings of hundreds of words throughout the war years.  I carried small cards which I filled with words and their meanings and memorized them.  I continued this practice for awhile after the war because I usually had a shirt pocket full of cards to recite when I was driving the tractor on my dad’s farm.  At Fort Bliss I met a friend from Tripp and he and I and others went across the border into Juarez, Mexico where I had my first experience with Mexican music and Tequila.

After our Service Group, consisting of three squadrons, was organized, trained and equipped we loaded all the equipment on a special train and headed for Camp Campbell, KY, located south of Hopkinsville.  I was assigned guard duty during the trip.  Our train contained many flat cars loaded with jeeps, trucks, etc.  One night my guard duty consisted of riding in the cab of one of those trucks on a flat car.  What an experience to be clickity clackity along during a moonlight night across the state of Texas.  At Camp Campbell we were assigned Air Force duties in connection with maneuvers of infantry and tank divisions.  We were out for weeks practicing “war games” in Kentucky and Tennessee.  I did get a pass once and went to Nashville and met my cousin Clarence Eisenbraun from Tripp who was stationed nearby.  Needless to say we had a good typical “Tripp” time.  Another time I obtained a pass and went to see my two uncles and families in Chicago.

Our next stop, in about May of 1944, was Herbert Smart Air Force Base near Macon, Georgia where we continued our training.  Guard duty was assigned on a rotation basis and my turn came up again at Macon.  This time, however, a group of guards were sent to a nearby fenced prisoner of war camp guarding Germans from Rommel’s Africa Corps.  These hardened troops, a few who talked English, were friendly and many seemed relieved to be within the comfort of this camp.  One of them showed me a picture of his wife and children.  Another one told me that if Eisenhower lands a force in France the Germans would repulse him in a few days.

Our entire 69th Air Service Group, including equipment, left Macon, Georgia and traveled to an Air Force base at Hastings, Nebraska.  At this B-17 bomber base we reformed our group into a support group for a B-29 Bomb Wing.  Support included arming, maintaining and supplying B-29 bombers.  The B-29 was the largest bomber and introduced for use against Japan.  I was still in the 1575th Material Squadron.  Several times I obtained a furlough and took a bus ride home to visit my parents and sisters.  By now I was a private first class.  One day I took a ride in a B-17 bomber not knowing that they were practicing landings, which we repeated a number of times.  It was my first plane ride.

Sometime in October 1944 our Air Force Service Group of about 500 men, consisting of armament, maintenance and material squadrons and all the equipment, traveled to San Francisco to go overseas.  In the vast dock area there were thousands of soldiers in various clusters waiting to board converted merchant ships.  Our group, each man with his M-1 Rifle, helmet and duffel bag, waited for sometime before receiving orders to board the ship.  We walked up a long stairway next to the ship to board.  Before long we left the harbor and headed out to sea.  In time we noticed that about 100 Army and Air Force nurses were quartered in the deck above us.  Naturally they were off limits to the soldiers.  We were quartered in the hold of the ship which had been converted to rows and rows of double deck bunks.

We had freedom to walk about the ship.  At night I loved to stand at the main deck rail and watch the “underwater fire flies” light the water on each side of the ship.  It is an incredible experience to be out at sea during a moonlight night and watch the moon’s reflection on the undulating waves.  Fortunately we did not hit very rough seas, regardless some soldiers were seasick the entire trip.  The helmet was often used for vomit by seasick soldiers who couldn’t make it to the deck rail.  One day I heard firing and rushed up to the main deck and noted they were test firing the deck cannon.  We had three messes a day and stood while eating.  The menu included lots of beans.

After an uneventful voyage we arrived at Pearl Harbor.  We stayed a week in Honolulu, Hawaii and were allowed several passes to tour the island.  I bought my mother a pillow cover and sent it to her.  We saw the sunken ships in Pearl Harbor.  We went swimming on Waikiki beach.

Our next stop was a little Central Pacific island called Eniwetock, which was captured by US Forces in mid 1944.  There were no harbor facilities so our ship anchored nearby.  Traveling with us were several other ships, one of which carried our equipment.  The only reason for stopping was a little rest and relaxation for the shipload of soldiers.  Several 40-foot powerboats were used to haul the soldiers to the island.  I was among the early groups delivered to the island and to my surprise a lot of whiskey and beer was also unloaded.  I certainly joined the party but had been picked for guard duty so had to return to the ship very early.  We stopped next to the ship and climbed a rope ladder to reach the open doors on the side of the ship.  Later that day the order was given for all to return to the ship.  By that time there were a lot of drunken soldiers and nurses.  When a boatload would stop next to the ship there were many too drunk to climb the rope ladder.  So the ship captain ordered that a net be lowered by a deck crane to the boat.  A bunch of humanity was piled into the net and the crane lifted them to the main deck where they were rolled out like a bunch of fish.  Apparently the Eniwetock stop was rest and relaxation because nobody was court marshaled.

After a month at sea we landed at Guam, about 7,000 miles from Tripp.  On our departure we only were told that we were going to the South Pacific.  Because of censorship I couldn’t tell my parents anything.  Before we left the states, however, I looked at a map of the South Pacific and listed the main islands and made up a code word for each of them and gave the list to my parents, Herman and Frieda Schuler.  Guam was on my list so when I wrote home I used the code word in one of my letters and later they told me they figured it out and knew that I was on Guam. 

Guam was about 40 miles long and in places was eight miles wide for a total of 200 square miles.  It was a typical South Pacific Island with coconut and palm trees, sand beaches and jungle.  The island was inhabited by about 50,000 Chamorros but few lived on the north end of the island where we were located.  The Japs had taken it on December 9, 1941 and it was retaken by the US Marines in July, 1944.  We landed one morning in early December 1944.  The island was being rapidly developed into a supply depot, staging area for many Marine and Seabee divisions, Navy units and an Air Force base.  We began to unload the supply ship accompanying our troop ship.  The men in charge made sure that one certain truck was the first to be unloaded.  Before leaving Nebraska we were told we could take along a certain number of pounds of recreational equipment.  Some of the boys decided that a piano should be included, but they removed the insides and filled it with well-wrapped bottles of whiskey and loaded it on that certain truck.  Eventually there was enough trucks to haul all of us to North Field.  We arrived in late afternoon and all that was there was a large bulldozed area with a windrow of downed palm trees in the middle of it.  This was our new home.  We improvised a mess and erected tents for the night.  It turned into a wild moonlight night.  The boys unloaded the whiskey and all proceeded to raise hell.  On that certain truck was also a record player and loud speaker which the boys made operational with a motor powered electric light plant.  For some reason they only had one album of records which were Strauss waltzes.  We spent the first night on Guam drinking whiskey and listening to Strauss waltzes.  It should be understood that we had good strict officers in charge but they didn’t mind if we had a party as long as we didn’t destroy each other or government property.

In time our equipment was unloaded and the Seabees began building asphalt runways, warehouses and maintenance sheds for the B-29 bombers.  Organizationally we were under the 20th Air Force commanded by General Curtis LeMay.  His headquarters was on Guam near the bombed capital city of Agana.  He commanded Bomb Wings on Guam, Saipan and Tinian.  Our Service Group was under the 314th Bomb Wing, commanded by Brigadier General Power, located at North Field.  Each bomb wing had about five squadrons of about ten B-29’s each.  Each plane was stored in an earthen revetment near the runway.

The B-29, 69th Air Service Group was located on the southerly end of the mile or more long runway.  When taking off the heavily loaded bombers headed north on the runway and became airborne just before the edge of a cliff.  The planes then dipped a bit toward the ocean as they slowly picked up speed and began climbing.  A helicopter was always flying in the ocean area during take off.  Our 1575 Material Squadron had charge of 17 warehouses storing spare parts, plane parts, clothing, equipment etc.  I was in supply headquarters with my little typewriter.  A captain and lieutenant were in charge.  I was promoted to corporal sometime in 1945.  The maintenance squadron repaired the planes and their engines.  Their equipment included large cranes which could lift an engine out of the plane.  They also had several large maintenance buildings containing all kinds of machines for repairing the ships and their engines.  The planes had four engines and a crew of about eight.  There were 50 caliber machine guns in the nose, tail, roof and underneath.  The pilot was usually a Lt. Colonel.  The armament squadron obtained bombs and ammunition from a well-protected storage area and delivered and loaded them on the planes.

Entertainment ad services were sparse on the island.  We had a movie every night in a large tent with plank board seats.  I loved movies and attended almost every night.  There was a PX where we could buy cold pop, beer (sometimes green beer which means it was brewed in a hurry somewhere), tomato juice, candy etc.  Cigarettes were free but I didn’t smoke.  There was a large tent which served as a recreational hall with a music room at one end.  The music room contained a record player with many good records including my favorite symphonic music.  At times a bunch of us filled a GI garbage can with canned beer and ice and headed for the beach where we swam and sunbathed.  There were a few women around, mostly nurses and a few WACS.  The Navy had some 40-foot powerboats which they used to give free rides around the Island.  On one of those trips I saw rusted hulks of ships in a bay area.  The climate was idyllic and it seemed as if every cloud rained.  The food at the mess hall was generally good but some dishes like eggplant and mutton were not eaten.  We had our own outdoor laundry where we washed clothes.  We played volleyball on a nice sandy court.  There was no drill or rifle practice; however, we were all subject to military discipline and procedures.  We answered roll call each morning and policed the area before we went to breakfast.  All privates, private’s first class and corporals were subject to KP (Kitchen Police).  I thought when I had become a Corporal that I would be excused from that duty but we had few privates in the Air Force so they had to use the next couple ranks in order to get the job done.  We were assigned KP duty in the mess hall on a rotation system.  We had frame covered latrines (outhouses) about 200 feet west of the barracks area.  Occasionally a Japanese soldier, who had been hiding in the jungle, would walk in and surrender.  On some of our jungle hikes we found spots where disbanded Japanese soldiers erected a thatched shelter.  Surrounding the shelter was empty coconut shells which they had used for food.  After the war I read that some of these Japanese soldiers on Guam stayed hiding until the 1960’s.  We had a chaplain in charge of non-denominational services.

Many times I stood and watched the bombers roar down the runway on their way to bomb Japan 1600 miles away.  At first General LeMay had them bomb from high altitudes but later he switched to low level bombing with firebombs.  It was more dangerous but they literally burned up Tokyo and other cities.  A round trip took over 12 hours.  After Okinawa was taken by US forces our bombers refueled on that island.  Often we watched the bombers land after their long journey.  Some of the ships were badly damaged from anti aircraft fire.  One bomber crashed on the runway and burned.  Unfortunately some of the men were trapped in the front part of the ship.

In August 1945 the B-29 Enola Gray, departing from a 20th Air Force base in Saipan, dropped the A bomb on Hiroshima.  Later that month an A Bomb was dropped on Nagasaki.  On August 14, 1945 the Japs announced their surrender.  I will never forget that day.  We heard about the surrender around suppertime.  This set off the wildest demonstration and of course the whiskey and beer began to flow.  Enlisted men could only buy beer but the officers could buy whiskey at the officer’s club.  I never knew how the enlisted men obtained whiskey but apparently some of the high-ranking non commissioned officers arranged deliveries from the officer’s clubs.  In any event in our barracks area, which consisted of many long tents with wood floors, the soldiers went wild drinking, shouting and firing their guns.  The captain in charge crawled into the area, for fear of being hit by a stray bullet, to restore order.  I was in the midst of the melee but I never felt like I was endangered from gunfire.  This might surprise you but even at that time I was a cautious conservative fellow.

Japan signed the surrender on Sept. 2, 1945.  We presumed we would be loading on the next ship for the United States, but we were wrong.  We were told there would be a gradual demobilization and especially at Guam because we couldn’t leave such a large war machine on a Pacific Island.  A point system was worked out for the gradual release of the men.  It was our job to help close out the base and the supplies located on the island.  Equipment was standing everywhere and the warehouses were bulging with supplies and food.  A part of the supply included a fantastic supply foul-up by the Navy.  They ordered fighter wing fuel tanks which were placed on back order by the supplier.  They ordered them again and again and each time was advised they were on back order.  Somehow the supplier in the United States interpreted each order as a new order and one day the wing tanks were delivered.  The stack of wing tanks was about a block square and at least fifteen feet high.  Enough wing tanks for several wars.  In time we used wing tanks for wash basins, sail boats, storage containers and whatever.  Certainly all supplies on the island weren’t due to foul ups because Guam turned into the main supply depot for the final land war against Japan.  The A Bomb changed all that, of course.  At the time we understood that it was illegal to return many of the supplies to the United States because of shipping problems as well as flooding the markets in the country.  But they couldn’t leave it all in the South Pacific for fear it may eventually turn up in the wrong hands.  Someone decided that some of it must be destroyed.  I well remember that many vehicles were hauled out on a long causeway and dumped into the ocean.  Before hauling out a used truck they saved part of the wheel with the tires on it.  They simply used a blowtorch to cut off that portion of the wheel.  This procedure went on for days.  The excess trucks and some other equipment were loaded upon trucks that were driven out to the end of that long causeway and the loads were dumped into the ocean.

Eventually the supplies were brought under control but I never knew their final disposition because in early February 1946 my number came up to go home.  We boarded a ship and headed for Fort Lewis, Washington where we debarked.  From there I took a train to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas where I was discharged on March 6, 1946—exactly three years from the time I was inducted.  I had grown two inches to 5’9” compared to 5’7” when I was inducted.  I was given about $100 and boarded a bus for Tripp, S.D.  I used my GI bill to help me finish college.  I attended the University of South Dakota and obtained a B.A. Degree in 1950 and a M.Ed. Degree in 1951.

Corporal Harold H. Schuler,  composed December 7, 1991

 

Allen L. Slagle

Allen served as a Seaman First Class in the U.S. Navy

Submitted by his wife, 44/01

 

Henry Zakrzewski

Henry was a member of the 237th Combat Engineering Battalion.  They were the first to land on Utah Beach.

Submitted by himself, 4/4/01

 

William “Bill” Daly

Bill was a Captain in the 147th FA Battalion from 1940-46.

Submitted on 4/4/01

 

Robert D. Palmer

Roberts was killed in Europe during World War II.

Submitted 4/3/01

 

Charles Ivan Langland

Charles was killed in action during the Battle of the Bulge

Submitted 4/3/01

 

Oliver King

Oliver spent several years in a German concentration camp.

Submitted 4/3/01

 

Allen L. Merrill

Allen was taken a prison of war during the Battle of the Bulge.  He died in a German Prison Camp.

Submitted by his sister, 4/3/01

 

Verne Elwood Flanagan

Verne served in WWII as an enlisted Seabee.  He transferred to the Navy and  De Shima as a land based Navy Communications Specialist.

Submitted by his wife, 4/3/01