|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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
© 1997 by NAHF. All Rights Reserved
States Armed Guard World War II
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."
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.
World War I Armed Guard was deactivated following the end of the
war, after the guns were removed.
They had served on 384 ships.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
planes did their damage to the shipping whenever they came
within flight range to ports whose destination was
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
by Arthur Lange, 8/25/00
Robert E. O'Neill
served in the U.S. Army from 1944 to 1946.
He served 1 ½ years in Europe at the ETO Headquarters.
by himself, 3/30/01
Harold H. Schuler
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
was sent to an Air Force Base at Fort Bliss, Texas. At last, I was assigned to a Service Group with a specific
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
time our equipment was unloaded and the Seabees began building
asphalt runways, warehouses and maintenance sheds for the B-29
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Harold H. Schuler, composed December 7, 1991
Allen L. Slagle
served as a Seaman First Class in the U.S. Navy
by his wife, 44/01
was a member of the 237th Combat Engineering Battalion.
They were the first to land on Utah Beach.
by himself, 4/4/01
William “Bill” Daly
was a Captain in the 147th FA Battalion from 1940-46.
Robert D. Palmer
was killed in Europe during World War II.
Charles Ivan Langland
was killed in action during the Battle of the Bulge
spent several years in a German concentration camp.
Allen L. Merrill
was taken a prison of war during the Battle of the Bulge.
He died in a German Prison Camp.
by his sister, 4/3/01
Verne Elwood Flanagan
served in WWII as an enlisted Seabee.
He transferred to the Navy and
De Shima as a land based Navy Communications Specialist.
by his wife, 4/3/01