Jesse Charles Walje

 

“I was born in Pleasanton, KS on January 20 of 1924. This (Silver Dollar) around my neck was made the  same year I was. I had only one sister who was two years older then me.

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No memory to speak of when the market crashed in 29, but I do the Dust Bowl. It was terrible. Everything, it was hot and dry, no rainfall, the crops burned up. Everyone had a terrible time on the farm. I know we did. Folks did everything in the world we can from going to the food bank.

We had neighbors that got commodities, some free grocery’s, handouts, but my folks never did anything like that. They had to much pride I guess…we did everything to make  a living and a dollar. We raised turkeys, hogs, chickens, cows, about everything. We had 150-200 turkeys a year. My Mom would dress & clean them for 50 cents a piece to others.

I graduated in 1941 from Pleasanton high when I was 17. I got my draft notice when I turned 18. I was classified 1-A. I knew I was going to go out sometime, so I jumped on the bus from Pleasanton to Kansas City to Leavenworth to enlist.  I knew I wanted to enlist since if I was drafted I would have ended up in infantry. I joined the Army Signal Corp.

They sent me to Sacramento for basic signal corp training at Camp Kohler. At the beginning of the war, they moved the Japanese people inland to Kohler, where they had tarp paper covered shacks. They moved them to a more permanent location inland and  turned Kohler into signal corp training base. They moved them inland because they were afraid they would communicate with the Imperial Japanese.

Kind of odd how things work out..my Sister went to Japan working for the Government, and she met this Japanese girl who was in high school at the time and she was born in California, being a offcial American citizen. Her family visited Japan right as things went bad and got stuck there. Her and my Sister struck a friendship, so she helped her come to the United States and ended up living with my parents until she finished high school in Pleasanton. I was against it to begin with but she ended up being one of the best friends I ever had. She lives out by Las Vegas and we still communicate.

The Pleasanston community accepted her but was not real friendly to her. I can understand that for the tense times since I would not have been either to be honest but she became part of the family. A sweet lady.

I was stationed in Honolulu at Fort Shaffner after training.I worked at an American intercept station where we intercepted Japanese messages and sent them in to be decoded.

In 1944, they sent my outfit out overseas, to Saipan. I’d stayed there at a permanent base for communications station for almost two years. I arrived on the 4th of July. More than I bargained for as far as Fireworks and mortar go. The Battle of Saipan ended 5 days after I arrived.

Saipan was a volcanic mountainous Island, and a lot of caves. Not long after the war was over, we found some Japanese who were still in a cave not far where I was based in. There was 5 of them in that  cave. They sent an interpreter to talk to them…they surrendered and came down. They wouldn’t surrender until they had a bath and change of uniform, so they came down in full dressed uniform. I still remember that.

A bunch of others guys including me went to the cave to escort them out. It’s funny how this cave was camouflaged,it had a lot of trees outside. There was a ledge in there and they have that rope over that ledge, and that’s how they sneaked in and out.

I started out as a radio operator but then ended up as a switchboard operator, of course it was all involved in communications.

Where I worked was an underground bomb shelter. It was protected where the phone and switchboard was. Pretty high security.

Someone always had to man the switchboard 24/7. All the communications on that Island was through that one switchboard.

There was still some fighting activity when I arrived but I worked in a secure area. I did do guard duty. It was scary since you didn’t know what was out in the dark.

It was almost hard to believe when they announced the war was over. We heard the announcement over that switchboard. Everyone got drunk.

Enlisting men can only get beer. Only Officers can get whisky and hard stuff. Some of them would sell it to the GI’s and make lots of money (laughs).

I got married as soon as I got home to start a family with two kids. Moved to Kansas city for better job opportunities.Worked on a transportation bus before making a career working at the General Motors Fairfax Assembly plant in Kansas City. We also had a large farm for a while down in Fontana, before officially retiring here in Olathe.

It’s funny how easy things seem after the war and depression. I feel spoiled, but blessed.”

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