The Joy of Neighbors


As they say, you don’t buy the house.

You buy into the neighborhood.

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I was reminded of how wonderful our little neighborhood is this past Sunday morning.

No words necessary… Smiles on all of them. Brady, Jack, Jacob and Brooke.

I invited our neighbor’s two youngest kids out to have breakfast.  We had such a nice time albeit much too brief.

Although Old Man Jack and Mr. Johnson are no longer with us, the integrity of the neighborhood remains.

It is a neighborhood where I feel safe.  And I feel the kids are safe.

They are safe because our street is filled with good people.  Good parents.  Good neighbors.

They even bring in our trash barrels if they get home first.  It’s swell.

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But I marveled at how ALWAYS nice Jacob and Brady are with my kids…from when Jack and Brooke were born.

Jacob and Brady are growing up so fast.  They are becoming young adults now and very busy.  Yet, they find the time to play with my young kids.

Jacob is a super athlete.  Heckuva sportsman and is heavily sought after by the high schools.  Even now.  His dad is a jock so he’s a chip off the ol’ block.  (Don’t worry, dad.  You’re not THAT old.)

And Brady… She already is a boy-killer…and a heckuva dancer.  Smart one, too!  (Don’t worry, mom.  I won’t tell ANYONE I have taken over at least a hundred of my chocolate truffles.  Funny Jake and Brady rarely tell me if they were good or not… ;))

But most of all, they are great kids.

July 2003
July 2005
September 2006
September 2006
August 2006
August 2006
August 2006
March 2008

Jacob and Brady always take their dishes to the sink when they eat here.  Brady even cleaned off my (DISGUSTING) rangetop when she watched Jack and Brooke so that I could have my “date” with a varsity cheerleader and old friend for my 40th high school reunion last month.  I’m still on a high from that, by the way.  Thanks, Brady!

I had Jacob clear this irritating climbing ivy “someone” planted in my backyard.  It was climbing all over the place…and into my neighbor’s yard.  There wasn’t one branch left after he finished.  He even pulled out the roots.  Problem no more.  Thanks, Jacob!

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One other amazing piece of “togetherness”…  There are eight kids between our two families with an amazing connection…  The kids’ first letters in their names coincide – and in birth order, to boot!  They are:

  1. Robbie and Robyn
  2. Taylor and Takeshi
  3. Jacob and Jack, and lastly,
  4. Brady and Brooke

And one last (and upcoming) connection…  Robbie and Robyn are both getting married next year.

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Soon, Jacob and Brady will be seeking their own niches in life.  While Jack and Brooke will be sad, at the same time, I know their hearts will be filled with happiness and gratefulness for all their love, care and fun afforded them throughout their first years of life.

So many things to be thankful for…and Jacob and Brady are two of them.

A Movie


“Rise of the Guardians”

Being brother and sister, my two littlest ones can never agree on what to see at the movie theater.  Today – on Black Friday of all days – was no exception.

After drawing first blood, my son won out.  We saw “Rise of the Guardians”.

It was a good choice.

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Once and only once, Papa here won out.

Well, the two kids actually had no choice.  We saw “Captain America”.

But the first movie I truly recall seeing – at a drive-in with my folks – was “War of the Worlds”.  I still love it.

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But “back then”, a movie was a movie.

But before “back then”, a movie was truly magical.  The director and cinematographer worked together to bring you into their minds.

You had to use your imagination and senses to enter it.

Plus costume design.  Makeup.  And “special effects”…primitive by today’s CGI mania standards yet so wonderful.

“Wizard of Oz” is likely the best of the best.  Shot in 1938.  Entirely on SETS.  It sits at the top of my (humble) list.

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Rise of the Guardians

Regardless, a movie is to entertain.

Pure and simple.

I don’t look for special subliminal meanings or hidden messages.

(I also don’t appreciate paying seven bucks for a bag of popcorn imported from China.)

While the theater wasn’t crowded (perhaps due to the seven buck bags of crappy popcorn from China…with fake butter) for our showing, there was a very cheerful round of applause at the end of the movie.

From children, parents and grandparents alike.

I guess they were entertained.

We were.

(ps If my oldest daughter were there, she’d be balling her eyes out.)

Mr. Johnson, USMC – Part IV


Just two months after Old Man Jack passed away, so did the young boy who stood in the US Marine Corps Recruiting Station in Louisiana in 1942.

The man who told me funerals don’t do a damn for him anymore.

Mr. Johnson was gone.

The cremated remains of Mr. Johnson

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The neighborhood was in shock.  I had waved to Mr. Johnson just three days earlier while he and Marge gingerly got out of their car.  I said in a louder than normal voice from across the street: “We’re still on for breakfast on Saturday, right Mr. Johnson?”  We were to go have breakfast and chat about Old Man Jack – and perhaps learn more of Mr. Johnson.  Instead, he died suddenly just three days later.  Three days.

After 66-1/2 years of marriage, Marge was now a widow.  A sudden illness took his last breath away when bombs could not 70 years earlier.  He was 89 years old.

Marge surprised me when she asked if I would video Mr. Johnson’s funeral.  I told her it would be my privilege.  I was elated to be of some service to her.

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After Old Man Jack’s funeral, Mr. Johnson invited me over after I got home from work that night.  That was when he volunteered that story about how “he got suckered into becoming a Marine”.  Lovingly, of course.  You could tell he had esprit de corps in his blood to that day.  He was proud of not having BEEN a Marine, but of BEING a Marine.  He had all the right to be.

He also talked about how he met Marge.  What a wonderful story it was.  I will try to capture the essence of what he told me.

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By early 1944, Mr. Johnson (now a sergeant) had been taken off the front lines to recover from his grave wounds.  He was “pretty messed up,” as he put it.  Didn’t say much more.  He was put in charge of the motor pool at Camp Pendleton during convalescence.

The base commander’s wife, a proper lady, he said, had come to the motor pool to get her car fixed up.  Mr. Johnson said it was a beat up Chevy especially on the inside but it was better than most for those times.

After she commented on the car’s condition, Mr. Johnson said he’ll do his best to make it more presentable.

He had come to know an upholsterer in Oceanside so Mr. Johnson arranged for the interior to get tidied up some.  He also had it painted.  She was elated.

I wish I had jotted down the commander’s name.  Darn.

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Sometime towards the latter part of ’44, he said, there was some scuttlebutt about a big operation that was brewing.

But then, the base commander called Mr. Johnson into his office.

“Johnnie,” he said, looking through his file, “you’re pretty used up.  I’m sending you to rehabilitation.”

So off he went.  While Mr. Johnson used “a hospital out in San Bernardino” as a description, the hospital was likely somewhere near the mountains because he mentioned Lake Arrowhead.

As I write this, there is a good probability it was Naval Hospital, Norco, as it was officially called back then.

Naval Hospital, Corona

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During rehabilitation, he ventured to a USO dance being held at the hospital.  The USO was such a morale booster for these young men.  Mr. Johnson was no exception.

There, against the wall, he said, was this pretty young thing.  It was Marge.  She was studying to become a nurse…which she did.

…and if I understood him correctly, they got married the day after he got discharged from the Corps in 1945.  It sounded like if Marge just didn’t want a husband that would go off to war, let alone as a Marine.  She got her way, of course:

Marge and Mr. Johnson on their wedding day in 1945.

Don’t you think they are a gorgeous couple?  A gift of chance… and war.

(As a historical note, the “scuttlebutt” ended up to be… Iwo Jima.  Part of the 3rd Marine Division, Mr. Johnson said that in a way, he was glad he didn’t go…  Not that he DIDN’T want to go but because of what the Marines horribly found out after the first waves landed ashore.  He learned from the Marines that made it back that all vehicles that went ashore in the first couple of days were sitting ducks for enemy artillery.  This was made worse by all the volcanic ash being spewed up by the artillery rounds, just choking off the engines just minutes later because it would clog up the air filters.  Some of boys were burned alive, he was told, after their vehicles got hit…in the same vehicles he was in charge of at Camp Pendleton.)

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One reason why I was never able to find any military record on Mr. Johnson became obvious on his funeral day; that’s when I – and the other neighbors – found out his name wasn’t Johnnie, but Doreston.

“Doreston”

I was partially successful in videotaping Mr. Johnson’s funeral.  It wasn’t as smooth as I wanted it to be for Marge’s sake.  There was a bit of disorganization and miscommunication, too.  Many of us following the hearse were just waiting in our cars wondering what to do next…when I saw the Marine burial detail getting ready to escort Mr. Johnson’s urn to a covered area.  Time for a mad dash.

A couple of notes about the video below if you wish to watch…

  1. I’m not much an editor but I managed to insert the “Marine’s Hymm” from my all-time Marine Corps classic, “Sands of Iwo Jima”.  Gives me goose bumps every time.  It starts a bit after the 1:00 mark.
  2. There is some footage at the National Medal of Honor Memorial; Mr. Johnson would be interred just yards away.  Sgt. Hartsock is my friend’s first husband who was posthumously bestowed the Medal of Honor.  You will also see the names of some of the 22 Nisei’s who were also bestowed the Medal of Honor during WWII.
  3. The bugler you see is a long-time friend of Mr. Johnson.  I understand he is also in his 80’s and volunteers his services everyday.  A very fitting and personal tribute.
  4. This was also the first 21-gun salute I was ever able to have the honor to witness in person.  I am glad it was for Mr. Johnson:

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During this time, and now armed with his true first name, I was pretty determined to uncover some of his unspoken valor during the Solomon Islands Campaign and the Battle of Santa Cruz Islands…and I was partially successful.

These are two pages from CINCPAC’s official, confidential after battle report.  They were called “War Diaries” and are daily operational journals created by various naval commands throughout the Navy during WWII (The Marine Corps is an arm of the US Navy).  I was only able to find this single battle report for the Solomon Islands Campaign:

War Diary, Cover Page
Specific page recognizing Mr. Johnson’s valor under fire.

I do NOT know for sure if Mr. Johnson fought on the islands but Old Man Jack never mentioned anything except him serving on the Big E…

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As for Mr. Johnson’s wounds, Old Man Jack muttered once “Johnnie was hit twice.  The last time was pretty bad.”  He didn’t say more.

But Mr. Johnson collapsed at his house in 2011.  Marge called me over to help while waiting for the ambulance.  Mr. Johnson was on his side, left hand gripping the bed sheets and right arm pinned in under his body.  He was too big for me to lift him off the floor by myself.  So I yelled, “C’mon, Marine!  Get your sorry ass off this floor!”  Seriously.  With that, he grunted, grabbed the bed sheets one more time, and together, we got his upper body onto his bed…

But in the process, I saw his chest.

His first fall in the house. Marge’s shadow is the one on the left. My little house can be seen beyond the ambulance’s cab. (Edit)

My god.

The scars.

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Tears of Remembrance and Closing

Two days after the funeral, I had finished putting the video together for Marge.  We watched it together on my laptop as she didn’t have a DVD player that worked.  Dry eyes had to take a back seat.  She was so grateful.

But she called me at work a couple of days later.  She asked if I could stop by after work again…and show her the video one more time.  I was so surprised by her request…but so happy.  She must have liked it.

When I played it for her – and when the “Marine’s Hymm” from the John Wayne iconic classic “Sands of Iwo Jima” began playing, her left hand began to rhythmically and softly beat to the theme song… ever so softly. Then her head bobbed along with the beat. That broke me.

Tears of Remembrance – Marge, now a widow after 66-1/2 years of marriage

She asked me again to explain the page from the Solomon Islands Battle Report which clearly states how he valiantly fought and incurred his wounds… Then when the 21-gun salute played on the screen, that was it…   She broke down.  I cannot imagine how large those floodgates may have been for her emotionally.

She thanked me immensely…

But it was so humbling as it was me who wanted to thank her and her husband… the same young boy in that Louisiana recruiting station who did what he had to do… and had enough humanity left in him to forgive.

The Greatest Generation…  May they go in peace.

Mr. Johnson, USMC – Part III


I figured if Mr. Johnson wanted to tell me more, he would have.

But as with Old Man Jack, I never asked for more.

I believe that’s how these combat vets want it.

They don’t want to be quizzed about what they said or asked to describe more.

They will tell you some things of what they experienced.  Probably to let the devils out that have been eating away at them for 70 years.

They have a built in limiter to keep more memories from popping back up…the things they saw or did that they try so hard to suppress to stay sane.  Every minute for the rest of their lives.

They deserve that respect.  Always.  And you feel honored they felt enough confidence in your character that you would accept what they were telling you as is.

I feel they appreciated that.

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I was alone with Old Man Jack during visitation. It was good as I was able to say good-bye in private… The mortuary didn’t invest in good quality Kleenex, though.

Mr. Johnson and I walked together into the little chapel where Old Man Jack’s funeral service was being held.  His flag-draped coffin was proudly presented up front.

It was mostly relatives as all his friends had passed away before him.  I felt distant as I don’t recall ever seeing them visiting with Old Man Jack.  But they were relatives.

Mr. Johnson and I were likely the only ones there outside of family besides a daughter of one of his fellow employees from the old Northrop plant.  We had met once when Old Man Jack was in ICU from a tremendously bad intestinal infection.

His only daughter Karen was busy going over things with the reverend.  You will have to excuse me if I used the wrong term for him; it was a Christian service and I am not.

Mr. Johnson and I sat next to each other in the back row.

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Here is Old Man Jack on our tiny patio deck, in his trademark blue plaid shirt losing another “chat” with his only child, Karen. I’m sure – in spite of his boasts – he lost to his lovely wife in a similar fashion through the years… Hence, “A man ain’t got a chance.

Karen finally approached us.  It was good to see her again.  I hadn’t seen her since she moved Old Man Jack up to their mountain home just five months earlier.

We greeted and it was already tough not to shed a tear.  She then said, “Koji, we have enough young relatives here to be pallbearers but I know you and dad were close.  I think he would like it very much if you would be one of his pallbearers.”

I looked at Mr. Johnson.  I guess I was unknowingly seeking his acceptance knowing they both fought a bitter war together.

Mr. Johnson smiled and nodded his head as if he knew I was asking him if it would be OK.

It was emotional.  My eye plumbing was already leaking a bit before but it broke loose.

After Old Man Jack fought on “those stinkin’ islands” and had nightmares for the remainder of his life, I was now going to help carry this great American on his last journey.

I kept the gloves in memory of Old Man Jack and the honor he allowed me.

It is a mark of the Greatest Generation.  Forgiveness.  Honor to the end.

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Just a short vid of the flag presentation to Jack’s daughter.  (I apologize for the video quality but they only sell the video cameras with the little swing out screen now.  It’s hard to get used to and hard to see the image in bright sun…and impossible to hold still…but towards the end, you can see Mr. Johnson sitting right behind her.)

I wondered what was going through Mr. Johnson’s mind after saying to me earlier “…funerals don’t do a damn thing for me anymore”.

He didn’t get teary-eyed once.  A true Marine, I thought.  I also briefly felt he had his mind on other pressing matters.

I was about to find out.

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After the ceremony, I helped Mr. Johnson back to my car.  He hadn’t said much at all nor showed ANY emotion.

I opened the car door for him; it would be a struggle for him to get back into my low-slung machine with his bad back and unsteady legs.

But he stopped short of getting in.  He towered over the roof of the car as he was standing on the curb next to other graves.  I remember clearly his right arm was on the roof of the car and his left was seeking support from the top of the passenger door glass.

Then he spoke.

“Koji, I’m sorry I was so curt with you in the car…when I said funerals don’t do a damn for me anymore.  I hope you’ll let me explain why.”

I didn’t know what was coming.  He continued but he had that look on his face.  The same glassed-over gaze Old Man Jack had when he was going to talk about something he was trying to forget.

“Koji, the Japs jumped us and they jumped us good.  Real good.  We were caught out in the open.  We had fighter cover but there was just a shit load of them.  Just too many.  They were coming down at us from every which way.”

He mimicked with his right hand that he had elevated towards the sky toy planes – just like we did when we were kids.  But these weren’t toys that day.  He was reliving a battle…but he didn’t say where or when.  Just like Old Man Jack.

“They just kept coming and coming.  We took a bad licking.  A real bad one.  We just kept reloading and firing at them.

We lost a lot of good men.”

He stopped for a moment.  He never once said he was on the Big E.

“I got put in charge of the Burial Detail.  There weren’t too many of us left that could get around.”  He was, I assume, talking about his fellow Marines.  He was a Private at that time and at the Battle of Santa Cruz; you will find out later how I discovered that.  But it’s not good when a young Marine private who was in boot camp just months earlier gets put in charge of a burial detail on board the greatest lady of the sea.

“I don’t know who the son-of-a-bitches were.  They were wrapped up in canvas and a shell would be put inside at their feet to weight them down.  Then we’d dump them over the side.  We’d salute.  Then we’d do it again…and again…and again.  I don’t remember how many times I saluted.  I didn’t keep count.  But that’s why funerals don’t do much for me anymore.  I had been in enough of them.”

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I was left humbled and voiceless.  Too late I realized Mr. Johnson WAS having sickening thoughts running through his mind – from the time when I asked him to help hold ME together.

And I was ignorant to even think he had his mind on other pressing matters during the funeral.

With that selfish request, I instead helped unleash some vile memories within him.

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Mr. Johnson himself would pass away shortly thereafter.

More to come in Part IV.  I hope you’ll stay tuned.

Mr. Johnson, USMC – Part II


Yes, Mr. Johnson was in for it.

The carnage he was to experience would be absent even from the worst possible nightmare a nineteen year old boy can possibly have dreamed.

Violence no young boy of 19 should have to endure.

He would have two lives after he stepped into that Marine Corps recruiting station: one of reality during the day and of a nightmare he would never awaken from at night.

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I took them to breakfast for a belated 66th wedding anniversary and 88th birthdays. It’s softened as that’s how Marge wanted it.  Seal Beach, CA. August 14, 2011.

I was not close to Mr. Johnson as I was to Old Man Jack; perhaps it was because for the first five years after I moved into this patriotic Naval neighborhood, he and his good wife Marge traveled about the US in their motorhome.  They were gone for perhaps six to eight months out of the year.  Man, did they enjoy seeing the US of A.  After all, he fought for her.

He stayed indoors most of the time when at home while Marge would walkabout during the warm summer nights with her wine and chat with neighbors and me.  She enjoyed her Chablis very much.  Slowly, her legs would give way to age.  Mr. Johnson’s, too.

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In the early part of 1942, Mr. Johnson found himself on a little boat out in the middle of the Pacific – the Big E.

The USS Enterprise.

CV-6.

She was one of only three operational carriers in the Pacific.  The Enterprise, Hornet and Yorktown.

The Battle for Midway

He was on his way to the Battle of Midway (Mr. Johnson did not tell me that.  Old Man Jack did.).  June of 1942.

A tremendous gamble of scarce naval assets and young men by Admiral Nimitz.

PFC Doreston “Johnnie” Johnson manned her anti-aircraft batteries as a US Marine.

Thousands of young lives were lost during the most critical sea battle – on both sides.  But the critical gamble paid off for the US.  The Japanese Imperial Navy lost four carriers.  They would never recover.

But we lost the Yorktown.  A tremendous loss for the United States…but the tide of war changed.

The USS Yorktown on fire at the crucial Battle of Midway. She would later be sunk.

Miraculously, the Enterprise escaped damage.

And as far as I understand, so did the young boy from Basile, Louisiana, Mr. Johnson.

At least physically.

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Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands Campaign

His next trial would be Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands campaign.

It would be an insult to to all the brave men that were there if I were to even try and express in writing what brutal sea combat was like.

I was not there.  But every young man there thought – every second – that there was a bomb coming at him.  Constantly.

Like hearing shrapnel from near bomb misses ricocheting off the batteries – or striking flesh.  The deafening, unending thundering of “whump-whump-whump” from AA batteries.  The yelling.  The sound of a mortally wounded enemy plane crashing into the water nearby with a likewise young pilot.  The screams of wounded or dying boys.

This is taken from a naval summary: “After a month of rest and overhaul, Enterprise sailed on 15 July for the South Pacific where she joined TF 61 to support the amphibious landings in the Solomon Islands on 8 August. For the next 2 weeks, the carrier and her planes guarded seaborne communication lines southwest of the Solomons. On 24 August a strong Japanese force was sighted some 200 miles north of Guadalcanal and TF 61 sent planes to the attack. An enemy light carrier was sent to the bottom and the Japanese troops intended for Guadalcanal were forced back. Enterprise suffered most heavily of the United States ships, 3 direct hits and 4 near misses killed 74, wounded 95, and inflicted serious damage on the carrier. But well-trained damage control parties, and quick, hard work patched her up so that she was able to return to Hawaii under her own power.”

“Repaired at Pearl Harbor from 10 September to 16 October, Enterprise departed once more for the South Pacific where with Hornet, she formed TF 61. On 26 October, Enterprise scout planes located a Japanese carrier force and the Battle of the Santa Cruz Island was underway. Enterprise aircraft struck carriers, battleships, and cruisers during the struggle, while the “Big E” herself underwent intensive attack. Hit twice by bombs, Enterprise lost 44 killed and had 75 wounded. Despite serious damage, she continued in action and took on board a large number of planes from Hornet when that carrier had to be abandoned. Though the American losses of a carrier and a destroyer were more severe than the Japanese loss of one light cruiser, the battle gained priceless time to reinforce Guadalcanal against the next enemy onslaught.

Regardless of who is correct – and we’ll never know for obvious reasons – Enterprise gunners shot down more planes at Eastern Solomons in 15 minutes and at Santa Cruz in 25 minutes than did the vast majority of all battleships, carriers, cruisers and destroyers throughout the entire war.

She was the last operating carrier in the Pacific.”

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the violence of World War II, perhaps these photos will give you an idea.

Try – just try – to imagine you are on that ship…  Nineteen years old.  The Japanese planes are shooting at you and dropping bombs on you.  Dead and wounded boys are everywhere.  Fires are raging…  The ship is listing…and through all this, you must continue to man your anti-aircraft guns…  Protecting the ship and the lives of your fellow Americans.

A Japanese bomb explodes on the USS Enterprise
One of the direct bomb hits.  All the young men in this area (Gun Group 3) were killed. Many could not be found.
The USS Enterprise under attack. A near miss but men were killed or wounded by the shrapnel.
The USS Enterprise on fire. August 24, 1942. Mr. Johnson was on her.
A Val bomber on fire goes past the radar mast on the USS Enterprise. Perhaps one of Mr. Johnson’s rounds hit it.
Damaged hull from one of the near misses.
More hull damage from bomb shrapnel.
The USS Enterprise listing from battle damage.
Burning Japanese planes seen from the deck of the Enterprise. That’s how close they were. Up close and very personal.  Aug. 24, 1942.
Burial service at sea for 44 of the men after the battle at Santa Cruz. Oct 27 1942

Remember these young boys.  I always will.

Mr. Johnson was one of them.

Mr. Johnson was one of those wounded.

Twice.

And I have proof of his valor and guts on board as a US Marine.

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More to come in Part III.

Mr. Johnson, USMC – Part I


“Koji, funerals don’t do a damn thing for me anymore.”

That was Mr. Johnson’s reply while I was driving us to Old Man Jack’s funeral.  I had asked him to help hold me together as I knew I would fall apart.

“Oh-oh,” I thought to myself when I heard that curt reply.  “I guess I hit a nerve…”

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Old man Jack on the left, Mr. Johnson on the right. Taken June 30, 2005.

Mr. Johnson was Old Man Jack’s next door neighbor.

Since 1953.

Nearly SIXTY years.  Hell, I ain’t that old yet.  Well, I’m close.

They got along real well for those 60 years… except Jack was a sailor… and Mr. Johnson was a Marine.  They reminded each other of it often.

Lovingly, of course.

Old Man Jack happily reminisced that “…us white caps would also tussle with them Marines ‘cuz they thought they were better than us”.  But Jack would have gotten the short end of the stick if he took on Mr. Johnson.  He towered over Jack and me…

And Mr. Johnson was a decorated WWII Marine.

Decorated twice…that I know of.

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The neighborhood called him “Johnnie”.  I always addressed him as Mr. Johnson…He used to say, “Damn it, Koji.  I wish you’d stop calling me that.”

I never did call him Johnnie.

But in the end, we found out his real name was Doreston.  Doreston Johnson.

Born August 1, 1923 in Basile, Louisiana.  A tiny town, he said, and everyone was dirt broke.

But I wish I knew why he wanted to go by “Johnnie” but later, I discovered Doreston was his father’s name.

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After Jack passed away, I visited with him.  He opened up a bit.

The Depression made it tough on everybody but then war…

When war broke out, he was gung ho like many young boys at that time.

It was expected.  You were branded a coward if you didn’t enlist or eluded the draft.  You were at the bottom of the heap if you got classified 4F.

He said went to the Army recruiting station.  They said they met their quota, couldn’t take him right away and to try again next week.

He then went to the Navy recruiter.  They also said pretty much the same thing but that there was an outfit “over there that’ll take ya”.

It was the United States Marine Corps.

Notice the 1903 Springfield in this 1942 recruiting poster.

The Marines “took him”…right then and there, he said.

Mr. Johnson said, “I was a dumb, stupid kid at that time”  – slowly shaking his head…but with a boyish little grin.

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It was 1941…  When the United States Navy had their backs against the beaches…  MacArthur blundered after Pearl Harbor and thousands of soldiers were taken prisoner in the Philippines.

The country’s military was poorly equipped and poorly trained.  With outdated equipment like the 1903 Springfield and the Brewster Buffalo.  And most gravely, the US Navy was outgunned.

Mr. Johnson was in for it.

To be continued.  Mr. Johnson, USMC – Part II here

Ike, a German-American Soldier


General Dwight D. Eisenhower

Ike.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force.

Thirty-forth President of the United States of America.

An American soldier.

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An “American soldier”.

Plain.  Straight forward.  No descriptive.

But as a simple question… Was he ever referred to as a “German-American” soldier?  After all, he is of German descent.

Or as a “Kraut”?  No insult intended whatsoever.

I don’t know.

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How about General Charles Willoughby?

Major General Willoughby

Never heard of him?

He was General Douglas MacArthur’s right-hand man.  Chief of Intelligence during and after World War II.  G-2.  My dad’s boss’ boss.

An American soldier.

Did you know Willoughby was born in the town of Heidelberg, Germany, the son of Baron T. von Tscheppe-Weidenbach from Baden, Germany?  A royal German family.  His real name was Adolf Karl Tscheppe-Weidenbach.

He spoke German fluently.  And spoke English with a heavy accent.

Was he referred to as a “German-American” soldier?

Or as a “Kraut”?

I don’t know.

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How about my two uncles who received the Congressional Gold Medal?  Or even my dad?

An American soldier.

Unlike Willoughby, dad was born here.  In Seattle.

He spoke both English and Japanese without an accent.  And Ike didn’t speak German.

Is there any difference in Dad’s summer uniform in comparison to Ike’s?

Well, I guess there is a difference.  Ike’s has five stars; Dad’s doesn’t… Oh, and Dad’s is wrinkled.

But unlike Ike and General Willoughby, soldiers like Dad were referred to as “Japanese-American” soldiers.  Even today.  Or just plain “Jap” back then…even when in uniform.

Even in newspapers.  Here is one on my Uncle Paul who was bestowed the Congressional Gold Medal two years ago.

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Don’t get me wrong.  There is no intent to ruffle feathers.  Or to be accusatory or express anger.  And I certainly am not calling our 34th President a “Kraut”.

This is just history…  Albeit, perhaps, from an odd vantage point.

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But why is there a distinction made?

Are we – Americans in a broad stroke of the keyboard – bringing attention to minorities in too great a lawyer-driven focus?  But considering the popular vote, my friends, the minorities are no longer minorities.  Let’s face the facts.

From history, we need to learn.  Yes.  And we need to look at ourselves as of today… but with a helluva lot fewer lawyers.  (Did I write that?)

And people need to be “working” to the best of their ability… to live on their own ability instead of an expectation of assistance.  As a fellow blogger so eloquently wrote in “The Value of Ability“, we need to tighten up this ship and boost a person’s confidence that they do have potential and to live up to those expectations.

It’s time to move on from minority recognition…in whatever shape or form.  Hiring requirements.  College enrollment requirements.  Special program requirements. Especially within governments – local, state or federal…  Especially in our schools.  How about hiring a conservative to be a teacher once in a while..?  In my humble opinion, of course.

Time to promote “American-ism”.

Ike would have liked that, I’m sure.