Growing up in Imperial Japan.

While visiting Japan during the last week of October in 2019, I had an extraordinary pleasure to spend an afternoon with Shigeo Kato, whom I grew up watching many of the films he was featured in. Our mutual friend, Brett Homenick, introduced us outside his house in Kamakura, Japan. Kato warmly welcomed me like I was old friend visiting. He was very fond of Brett, so he understood he was with very good company. At 94 years old, he excitedly walked us over a couple blocks to his favorite teahouse where we had soda and biscuits while he told us stories about his childhood and making movies. It was a unique meeting, as a person who has interviewed several American WWII veterans, to sit alongside someone who has, at one time, been a solider for the Imperial Japanese Army. By the kindness of this man you would have never have guessed it. Shigeo shared the story of his youth to Brett during a full interview about his life and career. This contains the portion regarding his experience during the war that Brett translated. The rest of the interview will be linked below for those interested in his film career along with many other wonderful interview's with Japanese actors/actress's that Brett has done. I extend my gratitude and 100% credit to Brett for doing this interview and gave his blessings to share this and setting up the in person meeting for one of the most memorable afternoons. 

Brett Homenick: Please talk about your early life in Kamakura, growing up. What was that like? What hobbies did you have?

SK: I was born in the last year of the Taisho era (1925). During that time, Japan tended to go war with other countries. So there was a military atmosphere in the country. I was educated to believe that Japan was the number-one country. When I was a child, I would play soldier. It was just playing, but I pretended to be a soldier. I had that kind of education.

During Showa 15 (1940), I learned that it had been 2,600 years since Japan was founded as a country. All the children, including me, learned things like that. We were taught that Japan was a great country. It was during the war, so the Japanese government changed our education during that time. By the time I turned 15 years old, I became the perfect student for the Japanese government because I studied a lot, and I obeyed Japanese policies. I was perfect for the Japanese government.

I went to elementary school for eight years. When I graduated from elementary school, I received a special award from the Minister of Education, declaring that I was a good student for the Japanese government. It was very special. I think my school principal recommended me for the award. I still have it. The factory I was working for had a music school for military music. Because I received that award, I was assigned to be the leader of that music school. I sang military songs and taught other school kids. I was in the lead during the marches we did, and all the students followed me. I shouted orders at the students. I think that experience helped my acting. (laughs) It helped me learn how to speak loudly. Every day, I had to march with other kids. Nowadays, you can see the military marches in North Korea. I thus served as the leader for four years.

So receiving that award brought me to the next step. At the factory, I was like a leader. The government ordered factories to train strong soldiers, so they needed military songs. I was educated to be a good soldier along with the others. It was like that until I was 20 years old.

During graduation, all the students used to sing “Hotaru no Hikari.” But that song originally came from England. So they stopped singing that song during the war. Instead, they would sing “Gunkan March” during graduation. It was like that when I was young.

The Japanese school system has changed. Now junior high school lasts three years. But during my time, it was five years. Usually, elementary takes six years. But at that time, kids usually went to junior high school after they graduated from elementary school. But some kids could not go on to junior high school. Those kids stayed at elementary school for two more years. So they would spend a total of eight years at elementary school. After they graduated from elementary school, they would go to a special engineering school to learn a skill for work for four years. This school was called Yokohama Technical Senior High School. I went there for four years. During the day, I worked in a factory. At night, I studied at Yokohama Technical Senior High School. During the day, I worked at a place that manufactured aircraft and Zero fighters. I was in the department that manufactured engines for Zero fighters.

At the workplace, there was a music school where I learned to play the clarinet. The workplace school was specialized for soldiers. So actually, I went to two schools. During the day, I went to this music school, and at night I went to Yokohama Technical Senior High School. At the workplace, the Japanese government wanted to boost soldiers’ morale. That’s why they needed music and military marches, including “Gunkan March.” That’s why I studied the clarinet.

BH: Let’s talk about how World War II changed your life at the time.

SK: Like I said, I was a very military-minded boy. Until I became 20 years old, my main purpose was to become a good soldier. Shortly after I turned 20 years old, I entered the military on August 1. Fifteen days later, the war ended. So my main purpose in life was destroyed. The sense of loss was strong. Everything changed after the war ended, and I lost my purpose. So I didn’t know what to do.

At that time, I knew Mr. Yamamura, and I went to his house. I heard about Kamakura Academia (which was called Kamakura Daigaku at the time) there. There were some teachers there who were against the war. Some of them were arrested. Those teachers gave public speeches, and I was interested in what they had to say. So I went to listen. When World War II ended on August 15, 1945, it was a major turning point for me.

As I said, my main goal was to become a good soldier, but after the war, my dream was destroyed. I was so disappointed, and I didn’t know what do. So Mr. Yamamura suggested that I go to Kamakura Academia. He said it was such a great place because many good people teach there. Also, the location was good for me. If that school had been in Tokyo, maybe I wouldn’t have gone there. But Kamakura Academia was very close. I didn’t even have to take the train there. I just brought a notebook and a pencil; that’s it. So I decided to join Kamakura Academia. In particular, I decided to join the theater (theatrical performance) department. I joined that department because many students there were previously soldiers or had belonged to the military.

Looking back, Japan’s loss in the war changed my life for the better. During the war, some of the members were acting, but their plays were stopped suddenly by the Japanese military, and they were arrested. During the war, the government controlled everything. The government decided what to do. So some actors and producers, who were engaged in anti-war plays, were not able to continue their theatrical work, and they had to go to jail. Those people who went to Kamakura Academia went independent later and became very active.

So they were like shining stars for me because at that time, I had lost my purpose to live. At that school, other people like me came there. They were trained to become good soldiers, but they also lost their purpose after the war. Many other students were like me. So we had sympathy for each other because we were in the same situation at that time. My classmates became successful after they studied at Kamakura Academia.

So because Japan lost the war, my life changed dramatically. Otherwise, I would have done something else. I would not have become an actor. Because we lost World War II, I went to Kamakura Academia, and that’s why I became an actor. I’m still an actor. So it changed a lot.

At that time, the kamikaze were like heroes for Japanese boys, and I was one of them. Every year, the military wanted new applicants, and when I was 18 years old, I wanted to become a kamikaze as soon as possible. Eventually, I would become a soldier at the age of 20, but I wanted to become a soldier sooner than that. So when I was 18, I applied (to become a soldier). Then I went to take the test. I thought I passed the test, but they also had a physical exam. Afterward, they called and told me, “You passed the exam, and there was no problem with your body. The only problem is that you don’t weigh enough to become a good soldier. So go back home, and instead of becoming a soldier, manufacture the engines.” So that’s why I didn’t become a kamikaze.

Before people could join the military, they had to undergo a physical exam. They would evaluate each candidate’s body by placing it in one of several categories, like category 1, category 2, etc. I was placed in a very low category when I was 19. But the war was almost over, and Japan wanted more soldiers. So even though I was placed in a low category, I was accepted. Then I became a soldier. As I said, when I joined the military, it was 15 days before the end of the war.

In 1940, I received a special award from the Ministry of Education. I think that had I not received this award, I wouldn’t have been so determined to join the military. I was more or less a normal boy, but I think that award changed my thinking.

( Brett, Shigeo and I at the 800+ year old Buddha statue in Kamakura. Walking distance from Shigeo’s home)

Kato would later join Toho studios and work as pan actor for many films, including working with famed director, Akira Kurosawa on numerous projects, and had bit roles in 11 Godzilla films, including many others! He passed away on June 14 2020. Full career interview linked below!  

Battle of the Bulge Combat Veteran: Arnold Debrick.

Arnold Edward Debrick, was born at his family farm,  12 miles southeast of Paola, Kansas, on March 31st 1925. He grew up with one older Sister and a younger Brother.





“Being on a farm far from town, we didn’t get information on what was going so quick. So the crash, which happened in 1929, I was 4, but I remember the depression clear.

We had to do without a lot of things. My Parents would go in to Paola once a week and do their shopping. Taking eggs and cream in to sell it, then turn around and buy necessary groceries which was not very much. Mainly sugar and flour.

We did raise and butcher our hogs. We didn’t have much. It embarrassed me as a young kid, going into town we’d wear overalls, patch on patch. So it seemed like people living in town for some reason had more and dressed better. That was a regular occurrence when I was real little.

We visited cousins a lot. One of them, Elmer Flake, lived on the other side of the Marais des Cynge river, which was common talk back then “oh, they live on the other side of the river.” It explained where people were at.  Elmer, I’ll be saying a word about him in a minute during my experiences in the service.

We were at home, and all we had was a radio. My Parents always  listened to this religious program when they broke in to that and said Pearl Harbor had been bombed, and that was quite a shocked.

I was going to school in Paola the time Pearl was hit.  They stopped running the school bus when I was a sophomore, so I had to miss a year since I had no way of getting there. Times were so tough my Parents couldn’t even afford to drive me to school and back twice a day.

So my Dad and a neighbor, a little bit later, they had a ton truck they gotten and built a box on it to make a school bus out of it. I drove that and picked the rest of the kids in our neighborhood to go to school.

Then in 44,  two classmates of mine, got called in the draft. I wanted to go with them. I volunteered for the service. A group of  us, not just us 3, but other guys that got drafted, got on a passenger train in Paola to FT. Leavonworth. Well, the two guys didn’t pass their physicals. But I did!

I went to Camp Hood, now Fort Hood training for US Army basic training. After all that, I was sent to Camp Kilmore in New Jersey to ship out. I ended up on the Queen Mary.  Mary and Elizabeth were pleasure cruise ships that turned into troop ships. 15’000 troops on our ship.

We started out into the Atlantic to Europe. At some point they sighted a submarine. German submarines that were out trying to sink ships. They said “Don’t worry we can out run them”. They were about the only ships that could outrun submarines.

We ended up in Scotland, and they were in a hurry to get us where we needed to go. I didn’t know anything at anytime, I just followed orders. A troop plane took us to England through South Hampton. It was there we got on a LST, which hauled tanks and men. We spent all night on it through the English channel. It was one of the roughest water there is. Everyone was throwing up, seasick. We stood in vomit about nearly an inch thick (laughs).

We arrived in France very early in the morning, and after getting off the LST, there was a railroad with freight cars , they called them 40 and 8’s. France’s freight cars were smaller and they didn’t travel very fast.  A group of us got on one for transportation and we went through the French Timberland.

We were all standing, crowded in there, I said to one fella I talked too “hey, let’s see if we can get on top of this.” which, he agreed with me, so he did. We both got up on top of that freight car, now they didn’t travel fast, maybe 30 miles an hour. We were playing like cowboys and Indians jumping from one car to another. Totally foolish. But we were kids!

He got one or two cars ahead of me, when he took a flip. I knew a wire caught him.  I ducked immediately, and the wire went across the top my helmet. I looked out and thought “This was senseless”.

I assumed he was thrown into the timberland. This bothered me for a long time. 40 years. I told my wife “I’m the only one that knew what happened. We probably introduced our names but I don’t remember his, So I don’t know his family. No one else on the freight really knew him. His Parents probably never knew what happened.”

Then here’s were Elmer Flake comes in. Elmer invited us to lunch one day. We went, and Elmer, he had a friend there he took basic training with, and this guy sat across from me in the living room and said to me “Remember when we got on that freight car in France?”

I rolled out of the couch.”Was that you!?”.  His name was Joe Pierce. He said the wire caught him  across his face, and fell out of sight but he held on to the car and never went back to where I was.He was shaken up then. This I didn’t know. It blew my mind. The reason he associated me with Elmer was he remembered me saying I was from Paola when we meet, and Elmer, whom he took basic with, was from Paola. They were good pals that got back in touch later.

Getting back to the war, we landed in Bastogne, Belgium. That was the center of the Battle of the Bulge.

Many things, terrible things of the war has been erased from my mind, but I’ll tell you some of the unusual things, some which I told you already. More things took place and some of it was my fault.

The Germans tried to take that town up and the 101st Airborne was trapped in there and couldn’t do anything about it just before we got there (the Armored Army Divisions). The Germans offered the 101st Airborne to surrender, and General McAuliffe sent them a note saying “NUTS”. They kept fighting.

I was in the 6th armored divisions. There’s a number of armored divisions, but we were all in the Third Army under General Patton.

This was all part of the Battle  of the Bulge. It was at night when we got there at Bastongne, it was dark, but the town was getting shelled real heavy.

A dozen of us were in a truck.  We jumped out before the truck got out of there fast as he could. A group of us went into this shelled out building . There was one fella in our group that knew what we were suppose to do. When we got in the building, I relived myself. I walked outside for a bit, went back in and there was not a soul there. I didn’t know what to do. I grabbed my rifle and I said “Lord, I’ll do the best I can. The rest is up to you”.

I walked out in the street which was cluttered, it had been bombed so bad.  I saw this truck coming around dodging ruins. Behind this truck was a fella sitting there in the back. He saw me, reached out his arm and pulled me in the truck. Thanks to him.

He asked “Where you going?”. I said “I don’t know. Where are you going?”.  “I’m going out to the edge of town to the Ardennes forest to the 9th Armour division.” I said “Well, That’s where I’m going then”.  I never found out where I really was suppose to go.

It was still the middle of the night when we got to the edge, the Sargent never asked me a question, he just said “hey, you better get in that fox hole quick and don’t even light a cigarette, we are being shelled real heavily. Any light will draw their attention”. That’s what I did.

The next morning, we went to the countryside of Luxembourg, taking some ground. I was the youngest of the group so I depended on any fella older than me. We’d go into houses to see if there was any German’s in the house. Of course Luxemburg and Belgium were on our side, they were just take over by the German’s.

We went in this one house and there was a family in there. They were standing two steps up the stairs, looking at us.  They were very scared. The older fella did the talking and ask if there was any Bosh (German’s) in the basement? “No no!”.

We checked the basement anyway and they were German soldiers there. This made the fella really upset. He said to me “Those people lied to us. We could have had our heads blown off”.

We took the Germans prisoners and went up to the main level and the fella said ” I’m going to shoot them. They lied to us”. I responded “They were scared. Germans are listening  here, they did not know what to do.” He gave in, fortunately.

So we gave the prisoners to the company head and they take them to somewhere.

We went on further. All kind of things happened, some of which I said earlier I erased from my mind.

I recall one situation: Bunch of the time we were in a pine forest. Tall pines. It’s good in one way but bad in another. If you dig a foxhole, you always have a danger if those shells hits those trees, fragments of the shell would always hit you. A lot of our guys got killed that way.

One thing I remember most was the snow was sometime knee deep, and so terribly cold. Below zero. I found out later it was one of the coldest winters on record.

We had tank battalions like infantry battalions. We got in an open spot, kind of an uphill. The Tanks was there on the snow. Several of us were ordered to get behind the tanks, heading into another town. The Tank was uphill in an open spot. Me and a couple guys sat behind it, then the Tank started firing back  and forth. They were running zig zag. The Germans were firing back and the fire power got so hard, that they we had to retreat.  They told us to get off the Tank and run back and the only place we could run since the snow was so deep was the Tank tracks. “Run back as hard as you can.”

I was running on the track and I looked over 30 yards from me, a fella like me running on the tracks of the Tank he was behind, he fell down. The Tank couldn’t see him they were backing up behind him so fast. That was an instance where a lot of our own people were killed in accidents or wrong firing.

The way we take a town, we had the artillery behind us, firing ahead of us into the town. We always thought “Hope they don’t mess up and hit us!”

I had my life saved several times. This one house I took was empty, and there was this high legged stove I crawled under looking for some secret floor entrance if there was one. Well the town was being shelled heavily. As I went under the stove, about that time a shell hit the house and took the whole side of that house. If I hadn’t been under that stove I’d been a goner.

I didn’t have much sense. I was a kid. I never even wrote letters back home. Juts because I never really  got any mail. They forget to give it to me, so I never really just did it myslef. A Red Cross man came up to me since my Mom went to to the Red Cross in Paola to see if there was any information about me. So the Red Cross man at the camp I was in was informed to check on me. He asked “Are you writing home?” i said “No I haven’t gotten any mail”?. He said  “That’s not a good excuse”.  I found out I had 112 letters in one bunch. So I wrote home.

After fighting in Belgium and Luxembourg, We were back in France, pushing the Germans back. I was in mortar squad for awhile. I carried the mortar which was very heavy. We walked all night in a mountains area. As we got along, there was dead soldiers everywhere. You’d just get callous to that stuff. Some guys sat on a dead German eating rations. That’s how used you get to it.

Before daylight, we got 500 yards of the “Our River”. River crossings is terrible. German’s can pick you off like ducks. When we got there they said “Pair up and dig fox holes as quick as you can. We are going to get shelled”. I was so tired after carrying that mortar all night, I said to my partner “To heck with that.”He replied ” you have to.” So he dug in and I have to say he saved my life.

When I sat down I was done for. So he got the hole dug and dragged me in it,  before we got shelled real heavy. He saved me and I never got his name. I hate that.

The next morning we had time to dig our own holes. There was still a lot of snow on the ground. The way I dug my foxhole was a small hole to start with and trench down underneath and the hole was the only opening. When I got down in that fox hole I thought “this has to be the Hilton Hotel.” I was in this different world. I couldn’t see anything. you’ve been out in combat so much to escape it like that for a bit was extraordinary.

We waited for the artillery to come and shell the German’s across the river, before we’d cross it. We stood guard that night, me and another fella. After you out there so long you begin to see and imagine things. The other fella said “here comes a German”.  We called artillery, turned out it was stumped riddled with post mortar. That’s the way you get when you are so involved.

We finally got instructions to take a path through the river. Now a fella with me, he was from Alabama, A truck ran over his foot. I helped him back to the first aid was.

Then it came time to cross the river, under fire.  And fortunately, I made it without much of an incident but I don’t know about the rest of them.

Then we immediately came across pill boxes. Concrete pill boxes. They had a narrow slot where they stick out machine guns to mow down anyone approaching.  We had a tough time taking this pill box. It was decided that If we can put enough fire power shooting into those slots, to keep from doing all they could and get our men to put TNT around it. Which they did. They set that off and it killed some. The survivors became so dazed,they’d come out and we take them prisoner.

Then the German fire power got hot on us again. So we took the pill box. We were trapped in there. A half dozen of us. I don’t know how long but it was length of time. One of our Tanks from our Tank Battalion was knocked over 100 yards away. We knew Tanks carried D-bars. Chocolate bars with energy. One guy said ” I’m gonna crawl down and see if I can get something”. Fortunately he made it. Crawled all the way to the tank, brought back D-bars so we had something to eat. Course the rest of our company was able to quite the German’s down and we got out.

At this point we are in Germany, we stopped at this point at this open spot and this Lieutenant said “You dig in here, and you watch. Be on guard, Germans are over the hills so make sure they don’t come surprise us.” I regret this but it happened, I was so tired, I fell asleep. I felt something, I woke up, there was a rifle barrel aiming at my head. I looked up, it was the Lieutenant. Boy, was he upset. He told me right away “If I was German I’d blow you away”.

Now if you sleep on duty while war is on, it’s the death penalty. But he was very thoughtful and knew the problems. But he said “Never do that again.” That was a wake up call.

Now later we come across this barn and I decided to take my boots off and lay in the hay for a bit. This guy comes up, looks at my feet and said my feet were black. They were froze.  I had trenchfoot set in.

I got in an ambulance and I remembered one of our Sargent went back to England since his toe went black and they had to amputate it.

I got into a general hospital in France into an amputation ward. That’s all they do. Amputate feet. They put me in a room with several other guys. Doctor said there was nothing they could do but lye me on the bed, elevate my feet above my heart, to see if we get circulation.  He said “If we can’t get that back, getting green sets in, it goes right up your legs and kill you. So we’ll watch the green and amputate before it gets to you.”

The Doctor came back often to watch me.  I’ll never forgot seeing one of the guys in my room coming back with both feet amputated.

Now track was my favorite spot in school and I love to dance. I couldn’t accept losing my feet. There was one thing I could do, Pray. Believe me, I did. All day, every day. I was in there for a month and the doctor came in one day and said “you gained much of you’re circulation back, but you have lost some of it, permanently. You’ll never get it all back, but you got enough back, so we’ll send you back on the front lines again.”

(Arnold cracks a big smile) I was so glad to hear that. It was a miracle for me.

Eventually, I got on a truck to where my company was at. When I caught up with them they were just going into Buchenwald. A concentration camp near Wiemar,Germany. I went through it with them. Some of the prisoners tried to find strength to lift of the guys in the air in celebration.

The war was nearly over then, and the Germans knew they were whipped. All the SS troops that were there at Buchenwald, they took the civilian clothes off the prisoners, and put them down under their uniform, and what they were going to do, soon they were taken over, They would take their uniform off so they could be take as civilians.  Those SS guys, they were terrible. They were murderers!

We moved out of there, and near Poland when we received orders to wait for the Russians. This upset the ones in our company. “We’ve been through the worst of it, now we have to wait for the Russians!” The SS troops dreaded the Russians.

At some point we got a message that Hitler was dead. A lot of messages/news we got was not to accurate sometimes. I honestly didn’t believe it at all, until I later found out to be true.

Not long after that, the War was over! But there’d still be a few more incidents.

There were snipers in the hill. We were in Poland at this point, and our Sargent got shot in the lungs. The guys became really upset. The war was over and some of them are still shooting.

I can understand what happened with what I’m about to tell you, course I was upset about it as well. So again, me and this older guy in our company: He and I were suppose to gather weapons from civilians, getting back to Poland. They were coming in on foot, wagons, cows pulling wagons, bicycles.

Trusting no one. Fearing another murder.

Now these two boys on their bicycles, 10-12 years old,  had their belongings stored in a box tied to their bicycle. We went through that, found a pistol. Well, our guys being upset over the shooting, the older guy, said “Come on boys. Let’s go over the hill”.

I knew what he was up to. Because they had a pistol, our guy got shot, he was gonna take them over the hill and shoot them.

By the time I caught up with him and the two boys are kneeling looking at him and he has his gun pointed at them and I said “hey, you can’t do that, that’s murder now. they are kids!” He was totally upset, I mean his mind was not working right, I can’t blame him because of the combat he went through, but that’s the way he was at that time.  He wouldn’t give in, so I took my gun at his chest and said “If you pull that trigger I’ll use my gun.” I was trying to bluff him but I was getting worked up over it myself.  I had him bluffed. He gave in. Then I said after tossing away the pistol “Boy’s, you get out as quick as you can.” I always wished I could find those boys someplace. See how they are.


After awhile I was transferred into the MP’s. One of my first jobs , there was a German camp the US took over that was not far from Frankfurt. This camp they kept German officers to Interrogate them and sent them to the Numberg trials. One of my first duties, was to sit in a room not much bigger then this room we are in, and they told me ” This is a high official German officer who is a criminal.” I had instructions to leave my M-I on my lap and not even talk to him. He just sat across from me like that, keep an eye on him. He didn’t do anything and I didn’t talk to him. That man was Herman Goering. Hitler’s right man at one time. He was across from me for a short time. He committed suicide with a cyanide pill before one of his trials. he did not want to be hanged by the allies. Many speculated that his wife visited him and kissed him and that’s perhaps how he got a hold of the pill.


Herman Goering. The man that Arnold guarded for a short time. Herman would commit suicide via cyanide pill before being sentenced to hang. 

One light story I’ll share, now I go into all sorts of trouble for my orneriness, that’s my spirit (Laughs) Now while combat was on, Officers didn’t want you to salute them not to draw attention, since German’s shoot the officers first. This Colonel, I met him in a narrow path, I walked by, didn’t salute him, War was then, so he said “Soldier, don’t you salute officers?” “Yes sir.” I said. “Why didn’t you salute me”. “I didn’t see ya.” Boy, he stood there and chewed me out! Now generally when you get chewed out, which happened to me a lot, you salute and say “Yes sir.” and go on. Well, then I forgot to salute again. He chewed me out, shook his head and said “He’s a bad one.” “Yes sir!” I said. (Laughs) .”


Arnold served two years from 1944-46 for the US Army. He was awarded the Bronze medal and French Legion of Honor, The highest distinction earned in France. He returned home in Paola in 1946, married his wife Lorrine several years later, raised 4 children, and started his own successful company, Debrick Truck Line.


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.


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 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.”


Waymon Blundell


Waymon Blundell was born January 17 1921 in Winnsboro, Texas at his home.


“I never got over the great depression. It raised me practically.

“The greatest thing about the depression, you got what you deserved, you worked hard for your money, it taught us how to live.

Today if we worked at 5 or 10 years old like we did, it would be illegal, but we had to. Picking cotton was how we survived.

I remember seeing the far sight of the dust bowl but it never came our way.

People seemed more honest then. It really built our character. All the kids younger than I were employees before they were old enough to go to school. Now we used to walk nearly 3 miles to school every day. That’s how important education was to us kids then. After school we’d come home and work until it was time for bed.

I was proud to do my part, but my dad sure worked the hell out of me. We picked cotton for 3 cents a pound. My sister was two years younger and she had to work with us in the fields as the whole family worked! there was no reason for anyone to stay home.

When I became a young man, I went to work for some oil fields and while working there I volunteered for the service after Pearl Harbor. I was still living at home, we didn’t have TV or radio, so we heard about Pearl Harbor from our neighbors.

After training at Ft Bragg, NC, I got married 3 days before I left the war.. many young men did..i was on the boat from Boston for 11 months, we took a long detour due to danger from German u boats.

My job in the US army was telephone lines in the division. It was an extraordinarily dangerous duty. At night, we walk down through the boondocks, put some tape on the telephone line and you were very vulnerable, so no one lit a cigarette.

I became Staff Sargent and at one point was in charge of 90 men… 100% of the men were killed or injured under my duty. 3 men were killed in a fox hole running telephone line when a mortar when into their hole in Belgium. I try and forget the details but that’ll stay with me until my last breath. Their deaths were not in vain. They died in a winning war, defending the world’s future.

Admittedly, the German were remarkable in the amount of troops and weapons they had in a country not even half the size of the US.

I landed hard on my knees in France in the dark, I’ve been sort of a cripple since.

In Bastogne, Belgium, a shell flew over my head, impairing my hearing, The shrapnel missed, I was in a room under a red tile roof, which missed after hitting tile.

I was also 101st Airborne made 2 jumps in the war. D-day, and Operation Market Garden which was the last major allied defeat. I got 3 bronze star because of being an asshole.

After the war I came to my wife and we lived in Texas where I worked in selling installation glass. I don’t get many visitors here at the retirement home, but my friend Brad posted on the internet about me, and I have received so many letters,phones calls and visits from people that I cant even keep track. It’s overwhelming at my age to know you are not forgotten.”

Waymon passed away peacefully 0n April 28th 2016. He received countless letters, phone calls and visits from many new and old friends during his time in the nursing home. He is missed by many.


Waymon Blundell-1921-2016


Harland Smith




“I was born October 11th 1925 in La Belle, Missouri. Close to Kirksville.

I grew up in a dairy farm my Dad and Granddad owned. I had two sisters growing up. I worked milking cows, separating the cream, bottling it up. We drove around in the family Chevy to various homes in the area where i’d go up to the door and deliver the milk and cream.  Whatever money we made, we’d spent it on what we didn’t have, such as sugar, flour, salt and pepper. We made it by ok with what little we had. We never starved. But being a farmer was a benefit. If we were in Kansas or Oklahoma during the depression and dust bowls, we would have been in trouble. They had it the worst out there.

When Pearl Harbor happened, my parents jaws dropped. It was big news because we knew we were going to war. I volunteered for the Navy October 9th when I was 17.. Went to Green bay for boot camp. Shit, it was cold up there.  they would make us stand with minimal clothing during chief inspections.

After boot camp and training in Norfolk, Virginia for operating Landing crafts, I was sent home for a week before being shipped to Louisville Kentucky near the Ohio river. That’s where they would build ships and cruisers, on the Ohio and Mississippi river. Once our convoy was ready, we were shipped out to South Hampton England. This was April 0f 44. We spent the next month in England preparing for Operation Normandy..

There were all kinds of ships, well over a 1’000. There was nothing like this.

Once they announced “Get ready for the Invasion” We hustled. We were behind so we came in during the battle. I was on the ship they called LSt 682..that was my home. there’d be these smaller boats that hold 37 men and take them to the beach. Soldiers came down to cargo net to get in the boat. The water was so rough so we had to have two men hold up the ramp in case it broke. At 18 years old, I was the boss in that landing craft. All 37 men in that boat, as for the others I came back too, relied on me to get them as close to the beach as possible and avoid getting shot at myself!

The Germans had all kinds of stuff in the way..barbwire, barricades.  The  barricades  you see  in the pictures. Once the troops get out of the transport onto Omaha beach, I had to get out in reverse and avoid all the barricades again.

When we got to the beach the first time, the two guys  up front opened up the ramp in the front, and the first few young men that got out of the boat..shot..some others drowned..that happened to a lot of guys… They shot at us all the time.

We did have way more men, and overpowered the Germans. The Army eventually got up and took out the machine guns nest, throwing a hand grenade in.

I had to go back to the ship after the first time to get 37 more men, and go in there a second time. It was seemed  rougher the second time around since they started to direct more aggressive fire closer in my direction. You learn to use your head and faith quick.

The map surveyors, or whatever they are called, the higher ups who designed the map for us to land on that beach, well none of them or us have ever been there before, so we didn’t know about these..pot holes or shallow deep ends..I lost some of my people in the army..they went off the ramp and never came up..they carry 60 pound equipment and a rifle..never fired a shot…I went back and forth delivering troops twice, before going back to the ship after the second drop, my officer said “No more.”

It’s after things calm down you think about what happened..I don’t know how some of those combat troops do it.

I’d spend the next 30 days on that ship delivering tanks and troops from England to France for the ongoing battles in Europe.once we gotten enough equipment and supplies, the Air Force kinda took over in bringing additional supplies. I never saw any more combat.

After that, our ship went home. We went all the way to San Diego, to be sent over to the Pacific on a troop transport, I became Quartermaster, I was navigation. The Captain, his watch was just a tick off he would call me up.

By July 1946, I witnessed the Bikini Atoll Atomic Bomb testing..they told us not to look at it and turn our backs to the blast. Even though it was far, we felt the heat on our backs. .I dread all this nuclear catastrophe. You can’t imagine what they made then, for what they can make now..that Bikini test was to see how much damage this bomb would do to this area and ships they were disposing…anyway I stayed as a quartermaster in the Pacific, we went to the Philippines and this was after the war was over, but really a beautiful country.

I was discharged November the 17th 1947, being in since October 43. Married my wife, lived out in Colorado before moving here in Kansas to be closer to our daughter.

The experience at Normandy taught me to appreciate little things, be more laid back, and value time. I hope others learn that before they would ever experience what I did.”


Roy J Davidson

Roy was born on March 12th 1925 by the Oklahoma/Arkansas border, near Fort Smith.


“If you had it, you could go an entire day on 26 cents”

Roy recalls talking about growing up in the depression.

“You could buy a movie ticket for a dime. You could spend all day in the theater watching movies and they wouldn’t kick you out. I loved western’s the best, and I’m talking before John Wayne. Gene Autry and Roy Rogers were the western heroes of the 30’s. Gene joined the service when WWII started, so Roy took over as leading man for westerns in the 40’s!

With the rest of the 16 cents, you could buy a bag of popcorn that was much bigger than you get today for 5 bucks. You could also buy ice cream, soda, and still have say, 2 cents left over. We knew a good time but it was rare to get out like that, there was too much work to be done.

I was 4 when the depression began. I still remember the older men including my Father  talking about as soon as it happened.

It was still dry out there where we lived. We had a lot of timber, so we never had the dust bowl. We’d raise what we can to sell and eat, like popcorn, potatoes, apples, peanuts, make some sorghum molasses. While the older brothers stayed at home to tend the gardens and house work, I’d drive the wagon with Dad to Fort Smith and sell the food we grew. Sometimes we’d hunt squirrels and rabbits, eat squirrel and rabbit gravy.

I went to volunteer for the service, I knew since I was already 18 I was going to be drafted, so I went in anyway. They wanted to know what I did in civilian life, I drove Caterpillar’s and Trucks for a Lumber company in Oregon where I moved from Eastern Oklahoma. I put that down. I ended operating a higgins craft made of plywood! Because of the what I drove for work is what I become qualified to drive. That’s how I ended up driving landing crafts.

I delivered troops during the battles of Tinian, Guam, Saipan, Luzon in the Phillipines, Iwo Jima, & Okinawa.

In the Philippines, while operating my craft, A Japanese fighter plane fired at me and other crafts. A very good friend was killed operating his craft. I only received an extremely minor burn from a shrapnel on my left thigh. One of our battleships got him not after too long.12745661_10153877252322787_1817362756416562582_n

This diagram map I kept in my pocket the whole time I was in Iwo Jima. It would direct me the best places where to deliver the troops, and I’d go back to the ship as soon as the last man was off so I can fetch supplies and return. The tall mountain you see on the map is “HOTROCKS!” which is where they raise the flag in the famous photograph. Another of my good friend was killed in Iwo Jima operating his craft. The Japanese were always shooting at us.

I witnessed a lot in my time in the service. Some I try to not remember, but I remember my two buddies and all the other good troops who did their duty that never came home. They deserve all the up most praise.

I’m proud to have served, serving for a future for my two daughters,grandchildren and great grandchildren.”



Raymond Wood-The Easter Parade

DSCN5850Raymond was born 6 miles south of Louisburg, Kansas in December 1924. His father died 10 years later leaving him, his older brother and his mother. Ray’s brother moved to California when he heard that finding jobs were good there, when he found one he was able to send some money back to Ray and his mother with the two managing well through the great depression era in Louisburg. Ray graduated from LHS in 1943 and shortly afterwards married his classmate, Dorothy.

Raymond was inducted in the army on June 24th 1944 spending 17 weeks at the Infantry Replacement Training Center where his group was told that they would go fight in Europe but changed their minds for unknown reasons and they were sent over to the Pacific. Dorothy, even though 1 month pregnant, went with Ray to California before he was sent over to Leyte, In case it would be the last time they spend time together. He always kept the small Bible she gave him In his heart pocket the whole time he was in service. Ray and his shipmates spent 42 days on the ship before going through several Islands to take supplies Including New Guinea and Leyte. Ray joined the 96th Infantry Division of the 381 Regiment Company G where he made many new friends.

After several days, they were announced to invade the Okinawa Islands, the heaviest defended Japanese Island. Okinawa was the same value to the Japanese as the Hawaiian Islands were to the US. On April 1st Easter Sunday, they arrived in Okinawa. When they first landed on the beach, resistance was light and met few casualties but Japanese defense grew heavier and heavier as they reached closer to the main line of defense. The invasion took place on April 1 Easter Sunday which is why it’s referred sometimes as the Easter Parade.

 (Ray shared a few photograph’s he kept in an album of his time in the war)

 Easter Parade



Sawtooth Ridge

“After taking over Kakazu Ridge, Our group made their way towards Sawtooth Ridge. Before moving on, I was fixing some food from my ration when Clyde Snyder snuck up behind me and shouted “BOO!” despite heavy tension among everyone, Clyde was trying to goof around and lighten the moment. He asked me“Are you ready for this!?” I replied “I might as well be.” It was finally time to move.

Attack on Okinawa

Sawtooth Ridge was a huge rock formation with plenty of hiding places for the enemy; Artillery bombed the area for 2 days to soften it up but did little to affect it. Aside from distant sounds the area was disturbingly quite, once the group came over the top of the hill, Shots fired from all different directions! Many men were immediately killed, some ran and many ducked in for cover, I dived in a shallow washout and laid there for several hours while the strong sounds gun fire and mortar went off above him. An Airplane was sent to help, as it was lowering to the battlefield, the plane’s tail was hit by mortar and it crashed, there was so much noise with blast and gunfire, I didn’t even hear the large plan crash. I noticed a concrete pill box 100 feet from him, somehow without being hit he made it, the fighting soon died down though it continued farther away and there were still snipers in the ridge waiting for men like me to come out of hiding and he knew it.

Still lying in the pill box wondering what to do when I noticed American voices close by, he yelled “Who’s there?” The men answered back and said they were 4 of them who made it to a big rock in the overhang behind the pill box, Because it was still light out, I did not want to come out in the open since they were snipers close, The 4 men Were Clyde Snyder the man who scared me earlier for fun, Jack Sackerman, Bill Riecke and Staff Sargent Clarence Meineka.

The men stayed put at the overhang till it they thought it would likely be safe, Clyde decided to peek over the top to see what was out there, as he looked a machine gunner got him 3 times in the head. after a long time passed while it was dark when I finally said “I was coming” and wasted no time and ran as fast as he could, I heard voices echoed in the ridge they may have seen him, But I made it rolling under the rock and there stood the men, and laying nearby with a poncho was the body of Clyde Snyder.

Though I wasn’t alone anymore, we were very well trapped on the cliff, the rest of their company was the left of them in an area they can retreat back down but the wide open ridge separating our group and there company was an ideal open shot from a Japanese sniper, The company was able to get close enough to toss food, water and ammunition to our group and also managed a telephone wire for communication. After communications set up their leaders asked to not do anything stupid or run as it was still too risky to escape out in the open and to remain where there at and guard the company below so the enemy wouldn’t make an immediate attack but they would continue getting close and throwing ammunition and food for them. The enemy didn’t know how many were in our group, if they knew there were only 4, they could have wiped them out but Me and Jack both had BAR (Brown Automatic Rifles) and Clarence and Bill had M1’s. The weapons they can cause some real heavy action. Whenever the enemy came close they would fire their guns and scare them back making them think there were many guys keeping watch.

Battle of Okinawa

W were stuck up on the cliff for 3 nights and 4 days, During that time a platoon of the enemy would try to attempt to go down and kill the company below but we were able to successfully scare them off with their BAR’S and MI’s, on the second day while they were standing guard artillery rounds came shooting behind the rock ledge they were at, The second artillery shot knocked them down to ground, just seconds later a third shot right above them and barely missed the top of the rock, that third blast shot down into the valley and exploded, and that was it. The enemy must have thought they had gotten rid of us. The enemy came out at night ready to attack the company below, but we were alive and started throwing hand grenades when they were close enough and shot them with the BARs, They managed to hold them back once more, the next day the Americans sent a tank to the pill box the enemy was hiding, the tank managed to blast it.


We still waited for order’s to leave their position and take Clyde’s body to safety, they heard on the phone line from F Company Commander that he only had 20 men left out of 200, their leader’s knew we were too weak to stay and hold the enemy back any longer, so before daylight we would make a break for it along with our fallen brother, and before sunrise along with Clyde’s body made it back to their company unharmed but exhausted. A new Infantry and Marine Division came to relieve them and brought them away safely from the front lines.

Once while watching a screening at the camp, the air raid warnings went off and all the lights had to be shut off so they won’t be spotted by enemy plane. Once an enemy plane was in sight the naval ships by the beach would open fire and the whole sky would light up red, some got away, others were blasted by the naval bomb shells. I remember seeing one plane head straight for the top of the ship and it somehow missed and dived right in the ocean, these were “Kamikaze pilots or suicide pilots.

More new troops came and since I was already trained and had experience I was made squad leader which is the same ranking as a staff sergeant and remained that way the rest of the war.”

Ray would later participate in the battle of Shuri and would secure the island of Okinawa, though most men thought they would have to invade the Japanese mainland, this never happened as a result of the Atom Bomb. When his service was over after the surrender of Japan, Ray returned home to his wife Dorothy and a new baby girl, who had been born while he was away. Ray worked for the Panhandle Eastern Pipeline company, while raising 4 children. He passed away on September 2 2016 from natural causes.

Raymond today

Waldo Werft-200 days of combat

Waldo Earl Werft was born January 3, 1923 in Corbin, Ky.


I was the youngest of 8 children, 3 who died infancy. We never went hungry during the depression. My father was an excellent Baker, and owned Bakeries, large and small most of his working career and always provided for his family, even during the great Depression. My two brothers and two sisters all worked in his businesses till they were teenagers. Being the youngest, I seldom worked in the bakery as a kid, as did the rest of my family. I did work in his Bakery and later in his used tire factory as a teenager while in High school. I do remember a rough spot in 1938 when I went to High School when I wore shoes with holes in the soles, but that was a mild discomfort compared the hunger and poverty of so many less fortunate. Bottom line, thanks to my Dad, we came thru the Depression fairly well!

I was sitting in my living room in Louisville, Ky when I first heard of the attack on Pearl Harbor on the radio. I was a senior in Male High School at age 18 and graduated one month later in Jan 1942. I wasn’t too surprised by the attack, as I was a real war buff as a teenager, and well aware of the chaotic and momentous happenings going on in our very dangerous world in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s by the German and Japanese exploits of aggression.

I enrolled in the University of Louisville as a Pre-Med student shortly after High School in late Jan. 1942. I attended the University most of 1942, but couldn’t stay focused on my studies as all my friends were joining the military, and so around Thanksgiving Day, I told my Mother and Dad that I was going to drop out of school, and volunteer in the Army, which I did on Dec 1, 1942. My Parents supported my decision. In hindsight, I have never regretted my decision. I would undoubtedly have been drafted. My brother, Paul not to be outdone, and 10 yrs older volunteered with me the same day, even tho he was married, and had a wife and baby son. I laughed, thinking they would never take him, and surprised when they did. He was a highly skilled Baker, and I am convinced that’s why he was accepted We were both enlisted in Louisville, Ky on Dec 1, 1942 and put on a train to Fort Harrison, Ind. about 100 miles North of Louisville. We were undergoing various aptitude tests, and in a few days Paul was shipped to Camp Adair Oregon and assigned as a Baker in the 104th Inf Div. which later joined the fighting in Europe .Paul was reassigned to another outfit, and never went overseas Shortly thereafter, I was shipped to Camp Wheeler, Ga for13 weeks infantry basic training. After basic training, I was sent to Shenago Repl. Depot for about a month. I did receive a 3 day pass to go home and see my family in Louisville. Shortly thereafter, I was sent to Camp Henry close to Newport News Va. We boarded a troop ship in a hugh Convoy, a three later days at sea, we were handed a booklet “So you’re going to North Africa”

The convoy left Newport News, VA on May 10, 1943 and arrived in Oran, Algeria on May 25, 1943, after 15 days at sea. A few days out to sea, I was on deck one day and observed our Destroyers speeding up and down on the port side of our convoy dropping depth charges for prowling U-boats in the vicinity.How this turned out, I don’t know, but we safely proceeded through Gibraltar to Oran N. Africa. I was shipped to nearby Arzew, where I was assigned as an infantry replacement to the 16th inf Regt., 1st Inf Div .A little later, Officers were asking for volunteers to be Medics, so I volunteered, and was assigned to Medical Detachment, 1st Battalion, 16th inf Regt, 1st Inf Div. I immediately began training in first Aid. The whole outfit also began practice training invasions along the North African coast. 6 weeks later, we invaded Sicily on July 10, 1943!


The 1st day in Sicily was a piece of cake for me. I landed in the 1st wave at dawn, cold and soaking wet. We landed in a watermelon patch, and the guys were breaking watermelons left and right, looking for ripe ones. The 2nd day was vastly different, as the Germans launched a fierce counterattack as 20 enemy tiger tanks got behind our lines, and played havoc in an supreme effort to drive us back into the sea. This was really my first combat, and I was terrified under a frightening artillery barrage with shrapnel flying everywhere, killing and wounding. I remember being strafed by an enemy aircraft flying so low, I could actually see the pilot! Later, enemy tanks came down a road we were on, strafing every thing in sight. Fortunately we escaped by taking cover in a ditch by the roadside. Getting back to the fierce German Tank counterattack. Our great Navy helped us by lobbying 16 inch shells at the German tanks to break up the counterattack, and probably saved our foothold, and a potential disaster!

I operated in fear most of the time. Some of the guys were better able to mask their fear than others, and exhibit greater acts of courage. My greatest fear was shrapnel from artillery fire. As a Medic, I dressed horrible shrapnel wounds, and quite often, I had to abandoned my foxhole under fire to rescue and treat the wounded. My first patient in combat was a Tanker from the fierce tank battle in the enemy’s counterattack. I dressed his wounds as best I could, and gave. him a shot of morphine. I had to move on, and hope someone got him to a Doctor in an aid station, or field hospital, if there was one. War is sheer hell, and I was a raw, green 20 yr old trying to cope with seeming impossible situations that defy human logic! The next 30 days, the enemy fought a gradual slow withdrawal toward the boot of Italy with sporadic fierce skirmishes. My outfit was relieved, after a huge battle that captured Troina, close to Mt Etna. Many allied divisions drove the Germans on to the boot of Italy, which became known as bloody Italy which endured terrible casualties till the end of the war.   herald  

We were relieved following the battle of Troina, and told we were finished fighting in Sicily These were very sweet words, as we had been on the line continuously for 38 days, and fought ever day. The Regiment departed from Randazzo and traveled 165 miles to a bivouac area two miles east of DiPalma. The first week at DiPalma was devoted to cleaning of clothing and equipment. After the week of reorganization, an intensive training program started carried out in the mornings only. The afternoons were devoted to athletics and recreation. In late October, the entire Regiment moved by motor convoy to Augusta Harbor and embarked on the HMS Maloja. Aboard the ship with our Regiment were wives and children of British servicemen on the. lower deck. Our Regiment of 3000 men were on the upper deck. The food was awful, but we bought canned peaches from the PX and made that our diet. We then knew England was our destination. We arrived in Liverpool about 15 days later after navigating through a very rough North Atlantic in early Nov 1943. We docked in Liverpool,England on Nov 5, 1943 and left the ship and boarded trains. My part of the Regiment moved to Beaminster, where we stayed until May 1944 when we moved to a Marshalling area in the vicinity of Martins, Dorset England, where the camp was “sealed in” No one was allowed to enter or leave. We were briefed and told what was going to happen.(The largest Invasion in World History) We left the Marshalling area on June 1, 1944 and moved by motor convoy to Weymouth, England where I embarked on the USS Samuel P.Chase as a part of a huge convoy. We moved out of Weymouth Harbor at 0415 hrs on June 5, 1944 and the convoy arrived at a position 9 miles off the coast of France in the vicinity of Colleville-Sur-Mer.

We left the USS Chase at 0600 hrs , June 6, 1944, descending nets into an LCM. The sea was rough and the craft rolled and moved violently. Within a short period of time, many were getting very seasick and throwing up their breakfast on others as we were packed so closely together. I don’t remember being vomited on, as I was thinking about how bad things might be when we hit the beach. I hoped it wouldn’t be too tough, but was sure it was going to be worse than Sicily. In the meantime, we were getting soaked from the icy cold salt , water spraying in the craft, as we headed toward shore about 4 miles away. I probably weighed about 130 lbs, and was carrying about 50-60 lbs on my back which included extra medical supplies. I remember, we wore chemically impregnated wool uniforms in case the Germans used gas. They never did use it in the war against us because we had such air superiority and would have wiped them out! Many men were so seasick, they just wanted to get out of that boat, and get on the beach, no matter what lay ahead. As we approached the beach, machine gun bullets started rattling against the boat and over our heads, as we sunk to the floor. Finally, the boat stopped, the ramp was dropped, and I jumped into chest deep ice cold water, with machine bullets, and I later learned sniper fire flying all around. The German machine guns were firing 1500 rounds per minute, which means 25 bullets were headed our way every second! In addition, I later read that there were about 200 enemy snipers firing from the top of the hill. As I hit the water, i struggled from the downward pull and somehow managed to move toward an obstacle that was probably mined, but fortunately I didn’t set it off and kept moving toward the shore with great difficulty even as the water depth diminished. I couldn’t swim, but a lot of guys who couldn’t, drowned anyway. As I hit the beach, the enemy firepower covering the beach was murderous from artillery, mortars, machine guns and snipers. As far as I could see, everybody was bunched together, living,wounded and dead behind the only cover on the beach which was a little ridge. It was a frantic situation. At the water’s edge, which was muddy pink, untold numbers were dead and face down. The casualties were appalling. Our regiment lost 30% in about 8 hrs. As I headed for the cover of the ledge, I was hearing frantic calls for “Medic” and I was busy treating many wounded, as were all my fellow medics under the awesome firepower of the enemy who had that beach really zeroed in. I was probably on the beach from 0815 hrs till around noon, when the engineers cleared a single file path of mines.

After D-Day, we continued fighting another 11 months in many battles through Normandy, Northern France, Ardennes, Belgium, Germany and into Czechoslavakia where we met the Russians at war’s end.Those stories are so long, I ought to end it here! I was in Army of occupation in Bamberg Germany for four months, until I was sent home in Sept 1945 and was discharged in Oct 1945 in Camp Atterbury, Ind, after 2 1/2 years overseas!

We were in Franzenbad, Czechoslavakia when the war was announced over, and we were all extremely overjoyed, though some of our guys that joined our outfit: 16th. Inf Regt, 1st Inf Div. who didn’t have many points in the point system, were worried about being shipped to the Pacific for a possible invasion to finish off Japan.The. A -Bombs saved their bacon. I had so many points, I knew I was coming home in the near future. I probably spent 200 days in combat always within 1-2 miles of the front I earned 2 Bronze Stars and no purple hearts. Incidentally, my application papers are in for the French Foreign Legion for my part in the Liberation of France. Many have been awarded to our servicemen who fought on D-Day in Normandy or any part of France. The highest Medal given by France, and started by Napoleon in the 1800’s
 I came home, reentered the University of Louisville to resume my pre-med courses, dropped out later in 1946, moved to Altadena,CA and worked with my Dad in a small bakery he started. His health was failing, so we sold the bakery. I enrolled in Woodbury College and received a Degree in Accounting. Got married. Took my wife and 2 yr old son to Tucson, Az in 1954 for her Asthma. Worked as an accountant for 30 yrs for Hughes Aircraft Co and retired in 1984 as Head of the Cost Accounting Dept. When I got home from the war, I put it behind me and didn’t talk about it or think about ( even my family) until it started to get interest as so many of us were dying off. I started to tell my story about 8 yrs ago for the sake of history and still comment about it on Facebook!”

Ernest E. Andrus: From war to coast to coast


Ernest E. Andrus was born August 19, 1923, Wolf River Township, Donaphin County, Kansas and moved to Los Angeles, California at age 14.


 Ernest is currently getting nationwide recognition for running the Pacific Ocean near San Diego, CA, on October 7th, 2013 and will touch the Atlantic Ocean near Brunswick, GA two to four years time. The purpose of this run, is to raise money for the LST 325 Ship Memorial, Inc. ” I was one of the crew that brought the LST 325 back from the Isle of Crete, Greece to the US in 2000-2001 as aired on the History Channel as “The Return of LST 325.” Ernest said.

 One thousand Fifty-One LST’s were built during World War II. The 325 is the only one left that has been restored and is still operational. Plans were being made to return the ship to Normandy for the D day memorial service (D day plus 70, 2014) and beach it at the same location where it was on Omaha beach 70 years before. The cost of taking this ship across the Atlantic and back is tremendous. Shortage of finances caused the 2014 trip to be canceled. Ernest hopes he can raise enough money for the 75th D Day anniversary in 2019.


Ernest, despite his busy schedule, was kind enough to give me an interview on his service during WWII:


 “I was in my senior year of high school when Pearl Harbor was bombed.


 I was cruising the streets of Los Angeles with my best friend in my model A roadster on December 7, 1941 when the news came over my portable radio.  “Pearl harbor was bombed”  I asked my buddy “Where’s Pearl Harbor?”.  He replied “I don’t know but I think were at war.  Let’s go join the navy.”.  A friend had been bugging us to join the navy and see the world.  We told him to wait till we got our diplomas then we’d consider.  We drove to his house and said “let’s go join the navy”.  He said “not me, I’ll get killed.  Wait till the war’s over.”  We said “either come with us or we’ll go without you.” so he went with us.  Much to our regret he was right, he was killed.  The navy turned me down because of a lazy eye.  I drove back and forth between Los Angeles and Wilmington Beach trying to enlist.  On my sixth try the line was so long I had time to memorize the eye chart.  I joined the navy in June, 1942.


 I was taken by bus from Los Angeles to San Diego for five weeks of boot camp.  Then five weeks Hospital Corps School then two months at Corona Naval Hospital.  Took a train to the bay area and boarded a ship at a dry dock in Oakland, California.  Spent the first half of the war taking troops to the South Pacific and bringing back the wounded.  I took a merchant marine ship to New Caledonia and was assigned to the LST 124.  Spent the rest of the war island hopping (Retaking the island back from the Japanese).


My battle station on the transport AP 63 (USS Rochambeau) was on the 3 inch gun.  I just passed the ammunition.  They wanted a Corpsman on every gun.  My battle station on the LST was sick bay.  My job was to keep the wounded marines alive until we could get them to a Hospital or Hospital Ship. God was good to me, I never lost a patient during the whole war.  I brought one aboard at Cheracanoa Saipan  on a stretcher who appeared to be dead, but he moved his head when I set the stretcher down.  The doctor said “he’s dead let’s take care of the others”.  I said no he was not.  I never was much good at taking orders so I poured blood plasma into him for half the night and brought him back.


I couldn’t see much of the action being in the sick bay, but there was a port hole in the overhead and I could stick my head out once in a while and see all the fireworks.


 I was rotated back to the US and was lounging by the swimming pool in San Diego waiting for my transfer to Long Beach Naval Hospital when I heard the news “The war was over”  The best news the world has ever heard.


After the war it was just advance my education,  find a good job,  own a home, raise a family. and make sure my kids never had to go through what we went through.  It seems that may not have been too good because we started the spoil the kids process and it keeps snowballing generation to generation so when hardship comes it’s more than some can handle.  I think the great depression was what made our generation the so called “Greatest Generation”.


 I decided to run coast to coast because I had heard of others doing it and it just seemed like an adventure I’d like to tackle.  When I did my first two hundred mile relay I was 88 years old and I got so much attention I thought what if I a 90 year old man ran coast to coast,  maybe I could raise some money for the LST Ship Memorial.  The LST means a lot to me because not only did I serve on one identical to it but I was one of the crew that brought it back to the US. Also I was married to my third wife on board. Wedding performed by Captain Jornlin.  The greatest captain I served with.


We refer to our ships as ladies and this lady needs to be remembered as a hero because it was the LST that won the war.  Everyone in our generation was somehow involved in the war effort.  Every ship of every kind and every piece of equipment  was necessary but they couldn’t have done it without the LST.


It does my heart good when I run through towns and see the school children by the hundreds cheering me, waving flags and chanting USA USA.  These are the kids were depending on to keep this country free.

The thousand who’ve said I’ve inspired them to get out and get more exercise.  That’s got to be a good feeling.


My message to the people is “You’re living in the greatest country in the world.  Let’s keep it that way.”

Elmer Flake- Living through

Elmer Flake was born February 3rd, 1924 in a farmhouse built by his grandfather southeast of Paola, KS.


“It was very bad”.  Elmer said of the Great Depression.

“How we ever, the bunch of us made it, I’ll never know guy..I’ll never know.

When it came to summer time, now we have air conditioner, fridge with ice, but in those days you’d have to come to town to get ice at the ice houses. They store them in the winter time. Our cold water was down in the well about 30 feet. We put it in the water bucket, a special glass jug to keep it cold.

Heat wise, our home, we had outside weather boards and sheet rocks, no installation. You better believe the home was hot. We would sleep outside on a hay rack in the summer to keep cool at night..It’d get that hot most summers during the depression.

We butchered our own chickens and hogs..made our own meat. We’d raise an extra head of everything and haul it to Kansas city to sell at a stockyard for some extra money. We didn’t waste a thing. We’d eat the intestines after washing them with salt water. We wouldn’t dare waste even just a grain of salt.

I was in my last grade of high school when Pearl Harbor happened.I enlisted in the Reserve Core to show I was ready to go to service. I had 9 months outside the military for training of what I chose to do, and I chose electricity. I spent 3 months in  Laramie, Wyoming learning the basics, then Colorado learning the same stuff but more advanced. Then studied telephones in Wisconsin before getting more training with my outfit. My original unit was sent over to Germany but I didn’t have to go ,I was sent to Texas.

I went to Japan once the war was announced over with the 91st signal operation battalion on USS Sea Birch, shipping from San Francisco. As soon I got on the boat I started feeding fish (sea sickness). We traveled to Tokyo Bay where they signed the official peace agreement but all those ships there, including us, were all there in case the leaders change their minds, so we were ready to go if anything happened which didn’t fortunately. I was in Japan for three months but didn’t see any action at all. The long fight was over. Korea was a lot different..

I was called back to service in the fall of 1950 for just one year. I was in the 23rd infantry regiment headquarters of the 2nd division during Korea, They were short a guy in the electric department, so I won that job.

We were cut off several times, our whole 3 battalions regiment from anybody else. They’d have airplanes airdrop supplies to keep us fed and artillery. They drop one supply with oreo like cookies, that box would not open I swear, but those were a real treat for us. Last time we were cut off It took a Tank Battalion to get us out during some fighting.

I’ll never know how those Koreans kept going..they never had tanks or armor..just what little the Soviets supplied them with.

In the spring of 51, we were told the Koreans were coming in, so we dug foxholes. Me and one guy shared one by the side of the hill, then by that night here comes the artillery shells, bouncy down the sides of the valley. Things got closer and me and my comrade went into our foxhole, an artillery shell hit exactly where our foxhole was. Rock was flying everywhere but by God’s grace we survived and that’s how we earned our purple hearts. My first sane reaction after I realized we been hit was “I can’t move. this is it” and I started to think about my family and friends back home. But nothing else ever hit us. It was minor burns and a lot of bloody wounds.. it couldn’t been a lot worse like others but it sure seemed like the end of us. We may have been grown men in our late 20’s but we were in tears of fright. It’s not as easy to tough it out as they make it seem in the movies and documentaries.

WWII was pretty simple for me, I was lucky to never have anybody to shoot at me or be shot at, but Korea, i’ll never forget that..war is hell..especially Korea..all you is do is get sent over to kill one another. It’s stupid!

But it’s all over now, and I lived a good life.”

After serving, Elmer married, had two children and continued working with his electricity experience for several companies, mainly KC Power & Light where he retired from.