Tag Archives: 1945

A Soul Lost From WWII Comes Home – Part 5


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Masako and my dad in his US Army uniform at Miyajima, Hiroshima. 1947.

“Older men declare war. But it is youth that must fight and die.”

— Herbert Hoover

As we left the Mainit River bridge and our first memorial service behind, a deep somber prevailed.  We had been walking over a solemn graveyard, one without gravestones or markers.  There was no honored archway signaling you are entering a resting place for brave soldiers who were once farm boys, clerks or musicians before clashing with the ghastly violence caused by failed leaders.  Indeed, this graveyard had no boundary but it was timeless.

All these young men – American or Japanese – were forced to fight one another.  Perhaps many fought those in front of them out of bred hatred but I believe all fought for what was behind them: their respective countries and families… some who would never know of their names let alone died.

I was one of them until five years ago.

A bugler played taps in my heart.

We were their funeral procession.

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Day 3 – Afternoon

With the first somber memorial service experience behind us, we headed back to the parked vans.  As we approached the dwelling, we handed the food and cigarettes to the awaiting families.

The drivers were kind enough to have started the engines back up and had turned the air conditioning going.  Being a southern California boy, I had wilted in the heat and humidity.  Even the Wicked Witch of the West would have melted from all the perspiration that had soaked my t-shirt.  Heck, Dorothy would have been spared.

We headed north up towards Carigara Bay but a short distance later, we stopped in front of an elementary school in Tunga.

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Tunga Elementary School

It turns out, the 41st Regiment had set up a field CP here.  And Uncle Suetaro did double-time it past this location on his southward march to Jaro from Carigara to engage the US Army.

Its principal came out to greet us and say hi.  She was a cheerful lady although having survived the typhoon.  She indicated the school had been literally blown away.  Fortunately, a Taiwan church foundation supplied the funds to rebuild most of it.

Before reaching the vast playground, we came across this.

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Fuse end of an unexploded American bomb, possibly a 250 pounder as Akehira looks on while wiping perspiration off his face. The school now uses it as a gong. Man, it was loud.

We got back into our two white Toyota vans; their black limo tint was a necessity but it made for hard picture taking, especially from a moving van.

Soon, we came upon Carigara Bay; its blueness quickly greeted us as we drove in and out of sunlight due to some cloud cover that was developing.  It was a signal as you will read later.

We veered off the main road at some point and into a village of rice farmers.  Living conditions were very basic, down to the dirt and gravel road.

We stopped in front of a dwelling; in my imperfect Japanese, I understood a village elder lived there and that Mr. Ota knew him.  It was then I found out it was the site of our second memorial service…and my time up to the podium.

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We were at Hill 517, part of the savage Breakneck Ridge battle.

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A map provided by Mr. Ota to our pilgrimage group. Also published on his blog here.

As we prepared for the ceremony, some dark clouds had reappeared beyond Breakneck Ridge in our background allowing the hot sun to play hide and seek.  Yet in comparison to 71 years ago, the scene was entirely absent of death and violence – combat that took many lives over two weeks.

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The crest of Hill 517 can be seen, veiled by darkening clouds. Such a beautiful landscape…

As earlier that morning, our group began to set up the memorial table as before, adorned with photographs, food, incense and osake:

c-10-472At the right front, next to the photographs of my Uncle Suetaro are pictures of “Smitty”, the father of blogger gpcox of PacificParatrooper on WordPress.  An established blogger, gpcox and I have a special kinship that began soon after I began to blog myself as her father – a member of the famed 11th Airborne – arrived on Leyte just a couple weeks after my Uncle Suetaro did.  While he first fought his counterpart Japanese paratroopers at Burauen – and while the chances are remote that he and my Uncle faced each other in battle – they were not far from each other on this small island in the sweltering Southwest Pacific had my Uncle survived Jaro.

c-10-485She was gracious enough to write a letter to Smitty for me to read during the memorial service.  Yes, I had the honor to read two letters… both in each soldier’s memory, honor and peace.  I feel it unbelievable that gpcox and I are friends considering Smitty and my Uncle were fighting each other in a most bitter war.¹

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A very warm but moist wind began to swirl about us as our second service began with Hill 517 in front of us but beyond the green rice seedlings.  The photographs of our fallen family seemed to do a joyful ballet in the breeze.  I think they were speaking to us.

Mr. Kagimoto once again led our chanting and did a marvelous job.

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Ms. Teraoka’s uncle, Lt. Nakamura, is also on the memorial table. He survived for months only to be killed in action towards the end with the tattered regimental flag tied around his waist.
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Cousin Tomiko offers gassho and incense to the fallen soldiers. At the time of the atomic blast, she was inside her home which toppled above her.

It became time for me to read my letters.  I was hoping to not insult any of my Japanese family and friends but I determined just to do what I believed to be proper.

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So peaceful, so beautiful.

I bowed to my group and said in my poor Japanese to please indulge me while I read two letters: one from Smitty’s daughter and one from myself to Uncle Suetaro.  I explained Smitty was a US paratrooper and that he had fought the same Imperial Japanese Army that Uncle was in on this now peaceful island.  However, after hostilities ended, he respected the Japanese and the Nisei and never said a negative word… that in fact, he had praise for my father’s US 8th Army unit comprised of Nisei’s.¹

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A screenshot from a video Masako’s daughter Izumi was kind enough to take. As it cannot be edited, I’ve only shared it with gpcox.

Everyday, you feel anger, happiness, frustration… but they all paled compared to what was being conjured up inside me at that moment.

Reading each letter was tough; I didn’t take Puffs with me to the Philippines although I had considered it.  It took me five minutes to read the two short letters.  My voice trembled and cracked in between the constant sniffling – especially when gpcox wrote in her letter that she wished her father and the rest of the 11th Airborne would receive this letter and spend their next lives in eternal peace.

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Dad sitting in front of MacArthur’s GHQ in Tokyo 1947. Judging by the date, the remnants of the Japanese military had officially just informed his mother in October 1947 that Suetaro would not be coming home.

At the same time, I felt so peculiar reading the letters in English to my uncle, who wrote in his farewell letter to my grandmother that he would fight as a Japanese soldier to free my dad from the US prisons.  I think only Izumi understood part of what I said.

I did open it with a couple of sentences in Japanese, saying how blessed I was to have been able to receive a wonderfully smelling lunch on the plane, knowing he had so very little to eat… that I was embarrassed to have not known of him until 2010.  It was very hard to say to Suetaro that even up to last year my dad would ask me, “… and how is Sue-boh?”, as he fondly nicknamed him.  Each time, I would tell Dad you were still here on Leyte…and his face and especially his eyes would become very sad.  But Dad would then again ask me five minutes later, “How is Sue-boh?”

That was the toughest part of reading my letter to Uncle Suetaro.  Dad’s bond with him was so deep that his mind won’t accept that his favorite brother fought and died on Leyte to free them.

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The Heavens Heard

Soon after my reading was completed, the clouds that had collected over Hill 517 began to thunder…  Low but discernible rumbles.

But there is a deep meaning to that thunder for the Japanese as I was to find out.  As we concluded the ceremony, Izumi asked me in Japanese, “Koji-san, did you hear the thunder?” to which I replied yes.

“That means the heavens had heard you… and that Suetaro did, too.”

I believe her.  Both our eyes watered with happiness.

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A group shot after our ceremony near Hill 517. The clouds that had released the thunder are now also leaving us, another signal the heavens heard us.

Part 6 is HERE.

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Other chapters are listed here for ease of locating earlier posts in this series:

A Soul Lost From WWII Comes Home – Part 1

A Soul Lost From WWII Comes Home – Part 2

A Soul Lost From WWII Comes Home – Part 3

A Soul Lost From WWII Comes Home – Part 4

A Soul Lost From WWII Comes Home – Part 6

A Soul Lost From WWII Comes Home – Part 7

A Soul Lost from WWII Comes Home – Part 8

A Lost Soul From WWII Comes Home – Epilogue

NOTES:

1     Everett “Smitty” Smith survived the combat and was the first unit to go onto the Japanese homeland on August 30, 1945 for the Occupation of Japan.  I believe his unit actually jumped the gun a bit but he was there at the Atsugi Airbase when MacArthur and his corn cob pipe first landed as conquerer a few hours later.  I hope gpcox won’t mind but to show you Smitty’s character, an excerpt from one of her blogs:

“Upon returning home from Japan, my father and several other troopers from the 11th A/B, including two Nisei, went to a saloon to celebrate their return to San Francisco and the good ole U.S. of A. The drinks were put up on the bar, free of charge for returning veterans, and Smitty began to distribute them. He said he stopped laughing and talking just long enough to realize that he was two drinks shy of what he ordered. He knew right off what it was all about, but he tried to control that infamous temper of his, and said something to the effect of “Hey, I think you forgot a couple over here.” The reply came back in a growl, “We don’t serve their kind in here.” Dad said he was not sorry that lost control, he told me, “I began to rant things like, ‘don’t you know what they’ve been through?’ and ‘what the hell’s wrong with you?’”

By this time, the other troopers had heard Smitty yelling and it did not take them long to figure out the scenario between my father and the bartender. No explanation was necessary. In fact, dad said the entire situation blew apart like spontaneous combustion. The drinks hit the floor and all hell broke loose. When there was not much left in the bar to destroy, they quieted down and left the established (such as it was). The men finished their celebration elsewhere. Smitty said he never knew what, if anything ever came out of the incident. He never heard of charges being filed or men reprimanded. (I’ve wondered if Norman Kihuta, who was discharged on the same date as Smitty, was there on the scene.)

For the record, a barber wouldn’t cut my Dad’s hair either – even while wearing his sergeant’s uniform emblazoned with the patch of the US 8th Army.

The Pain of Survival and Aunt Michie – Part 2


Taken in 1945 after a B-29 bombing attack on Tokyo. There is little left of the city and many, many families were without food and homes. Sadly, there were thousands of orphans as well, many of whom would perish.

Human dignity is as crucial to an earnest life as is air, water and food.

Aunt Michie drew upon that dignity inside her to help her family and others survive the day to day ruthlessness of life during war and ultimately, the atomic bombing.

While her dignity was larger than life, Michie would ultimately sacrifice her health and well-being to ensure her family and others would survive…and survive strongly.

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Japanese high school girls being drilled on how to use bamboo spears to ultimately repel “the invaders”. Notice the presence of the Imperial Japanese Army in the background observing.  Tokyo 1944.

By 1945, Japan had already lost the war.  While the Japanese military leaders controlled the country and its path to ultimate destruction, the civilians took the brunt of war.  Many cities had been destroyed by US bombing raids leaving millions of families homeless.  There was not enough food to go around.  Many starved to death, especially orphaned children, if not from neglect as others would shut their eyes to them.

However, Hiroshima was largely spared from aerial attack.  The US did carry out bombing raids in March and April 1945 against military targets in Hiroshima but it was not frequent…but it was frequent enough to require air raid drills  The naval port of Kure though, where the battleship Yamato was built, was essentially destroyed in June 1945 by US Army and Navy bombing attacks.

HiroshimaBombingMap
A hand drawn map showing targets and damage to Hiroshima by US bombing raids including the atomic bombing. For a zoomable map, please copy and paste this link into your search bar: http://www.digital.archives.go.jp/DAS/meta/DGDetail_en_0000000611
Source: National Archives of Japan

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After her marriage in 1933, Michie was tasked to arduous farm labor at the Aramaki farm.  Their primary crop was rice.  She also gave birth to five children before war’s end: Masako (1933), Sadako (1936), Namie (1939), Tomiko (1942) and Masataka (1944).  Kiyoshi would follow in 1947.  She loved them unconditionally.

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A happy Aunt Michie and likely Tomiko. Tomiko would soon be adopted by another family in the actual city of Hiroshima.  Undated but perhaps 1943.

On the farm lived Mikizo, his parents and Michie.  The four of them – and eventually three of her oldest daughters (a total of seven family members) – would work the land from a little before sunrise to sunset.  It was hard, arduous labor.  Back breaking work.  They did not have John Deere tractors or combines to aid them but had an ox to plow the fields with.  This was 24/7.

After all that hard labor, nearly the entire crop was taken by the Japanese military for the war.  They were allowed to retain a small portion of the crop for their own use.  As a result, rice was even further rationed for family consumption.  They had no choice.  On top of that, there was little else to eat.  They lived a meager life per my cousins.

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As the war dragged on, Japan was descending into the abyss…and it kept getting more and more darker.

In the story “Dear Mama”, Michie’s youngest brother Suetaro (my uncle) hurriedly wrote a somber good bye letter to Grandmother Kono in his war diary.  He was being sent off to war and certain death.

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Farewell sendoff for Suetaro who was heading to certain death. Michie is to his left and holding Masataka; Mikizo to his right. It is only an educated guess but the older man to the right of Mikizo is his father.  May 3, 1944.

I wonder how she really felt, knowing that Suetaro was going to fight to his death against the country in which his two older brothers and sister were imprisoned.  They were her brothers and sister, too.  An ugly internal conflict.

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The area around Tomo was nearly barren of younger, physically capable men.  All the men up to 35 years of age were taken by the army, regardless of their family status.  Mikizo was no exception.

In late 1944, at 35 years of age, he was taken by the Imperial Japanese Army.  Suetaro foresaw that happening in his farewell letter; he warned Mikizo to fully cooperate with the officers and to do exactly as he was ordered.  This was because it was brutal even within the non-commissioned ranks of the Imperial Japanese Army; the training officers routinely beat recruits into submission.  These recruits were largely the men who were ordered to their deaths in “banzai charges” by the thousands.  They greatly outnumbered the “hard core” Japanese officers.

banzai killed
Aftermath of a banzai charge.

Aunt Michie’s family who tended to the back breaking labor on the farm was now lessened by one.  As with her brother Suetaro, she foresaw never seeing Mikizo again.

To make matters worse, her mother (my Grandmother Kono) suffered a cerebral infarction the day she learned Suetaro was being sent off to war.  She became paralyzed on her left side.  To get about the now empty house, she would have to pull herself around with her right arm.

On top of everything else – tending to the crops, the house and the children – Aunt Michie now had to care for her disabled mother.

Michie’s daily life was now further strained with even more stress…  Life must have appeared darker to Aunt Michie.

Michie’s willpower and dignity will now be on trial and severely tested.

But the struggles she will endure will have purpose.

She would not let her family down.

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To be continued in Part 3….

A Father-ly Invasion


Imagine being a Marine. You’re in Afghanistan.  You see your buddies getting blown up by the cowardly enemy’s IED or killed after an ambush. Then, after a bitter, maniacal all-out war, their religious leader capitulates.

Now, suddenly, you are standing out in the desert, outside of Fallujah, waiting to go in as part of the “occupying force”. Your feelings and emotions are going amok – anger coupled with fear of the unknown… You will be surrounded by the enemy who also fought the exact same bitter war against you.

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US 26th Marines marching into Sasebo, Japan – August 1945. Notice the Japanese standing to the left and the general absence of civilians.

Now… imagine you are a young Marine on a troop ship off the Japanese coast. It is August 30, 1945. A few weeks earlier, you became acquainted with the term atomic bomb. The Emperor of Japan just capitulated.

You are to go ashore onto the Japanese homeland.  But in this case, you are not wading ashore to occupy a city. You are wading ashore to occupy an entire country.

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As we now know, the initial “invasion” of Japan by Allied forces ended up being entirely peaceful; no one was killed. Perhaps there was a small incident or two, but I have not read anything to indicate a single shot was fired. How could that be? How could hundreds of thousands of Marines, soldiers and sailors have stormed ashore – under an assault mindset – onto a homeland populated with maniacal military and millions of civilians – and not erupt in combat?

army report 98th

Per a report of the US Army’s 98th Infantry Division dated December 20, 1945:

“The mission assigned the Division was participation in the occupation of Japan; however, due to uncertainty as to the attitude of the people, the real intentions of the Japanese army, and the possibility of treachery or sabotage, the Division was directed to be combat loaded and prepared for any eventuality. Thus planning for the occupation of Japan was based upon an assault landing rather than an administrative movement…”

(Click here to see actual report.)

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There is no single answer. The peaceful invasion was the result of hundreds of contributing influences.

One came from Father Patrick Byrne, a Catholic priest in a country dominated by Buddhism.

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Father Patrick Byrne. He was elevated to Bishop prior to his death.

Father Byrne had been sent to Kyoto in 1935 to set up a mission. As he was respectful of the peoples, he was put under house arrest (confinement) when war broke out. Of course, it was very harsh. His only companions were a cat and a parrot. Food was poor and scarce, just like it was for the unfortunate civilians.

Per “Escape from Manchuria” by Paul K. Maruyama (USAF, Ret.), he emphasizes the importance of the role fulfilled by Father Byrne immediately after the Emperor broadcast his surrender. Although in very poor health, Father Byrne with the aid of a newspaper reporter and a Father Furuya, hurriedly put together a radio broadcast intended for TWO audiences: (1) one for the Japanese homeland and (2) one for the “invading” Allied forces.

As hordes of civilians were escaping to the countryside, getting from Kyoto to Tokyo in the few available trains was hard but after 15 hours, he made it being escorted by police. He then recorded his speech on or about August 20, 1945, which was re-broadcast many times via radio and shortwave…to the Japanese people and to the countless number of Allied occupying forces staging off-shore.

His radio broadcast:

“The war is over. What can I say first of all to the Japanese people whom I have loved and who love me as a brother for more than 10 years? I share their grief when the Emperor spoke to them and told them that they had fought a good fight but now he wanted them to give up the war and turn to peace. I, an American, speak to you Japanese in the name of those soldiers about to enter your land to assure you that you need to have no fear. They are not coming to the shores as invaders, with tanks, bayonets and bullets, but merely as representatives of their country, taking occupation of Japan to help you once more to reconstruct and build on the new foundation of democracy. The eyes of the world are on this occupying army. You may rest assured they come peaceably.

What can I say to you, the soldiers of my native land, regarding these people? Their feelings will naturally be mixed with emotions as you look up on the victors entering their land, where the homes have been destroyed or burned, their sons and fathers of families killed or maimed and wounded. It is only natural that you look with anger, fear, mistrust, and frustration at your arrival. Should you add to their present feelings by any any ruthless attacks upon the women and young people in this land, I am afraid of what the consequences might be. So I urge you to cooperate with me as I assure the Japanese people that you will commit no degradations, that you would have goodwill and charity in trying to realize what these people, the real victims of the war, have suffered and will not do anything to add to the pain they endure.

You are on trial before the eyes of the world. Any violence or immorality, any unjust or criminal act on your part will not only be a stain on your character but on that the nation you represent.

I believe I may assure you people of Japan that the army chaplains would do everything they can to remind our soldiers of their moral responsibility. The Military Police, too, will carefully protect your interests and will arrest anyone found violating the law. If there seems to be any violation of this protection which is your due, I have been assured by the Archbishop of Tokyo that he will appeal to the Holy Father in Rome who in turn will make known to the whole world by radio and the press any form of injustice. Freedom of the press in the United States will cooperate so that such news will not be suppressed.

I am not afraid because I know these Americans and trust them, but I can understand the fears of the Japanese people. Soldiers coming into Japan, I strongly urge you to come with kind hearts and be good friends of these people. You have fought hard and want a victory. I know you want to enjoy it and want to be proud of it, but please try to understand the distress of the Japanese and make your behavior calm and warm as representatives of a great nation. Perhaps after two or three months, they will begin to understand you better, and then I think there will come an intimate friendship between you and them.”

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The Allied Forces – with the words of Father Bryne questioned in many soldiers’ minds as to intent – stormed ashore on August 30, 1945 on many beaches all around Japan. Once ashore, they were largely astonished to learn over the next few hours the truth in Father Byrne’s words.

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A Marine walks past young Japanese women on a routine patrol.  Thousands of vials of poison were distributed to thousands of young girls in preparation for the “invasion”. (USMC Photo)

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According to “Escape from Manchuria”, Father Byrne made a recovery back in the United States after the war and was elevated to Bishop when he was sent to Korea in 1947. In 1950, he was captured by the North Koreans and once again was subjected to horrifying treatment and captivity before being put on the Korean War equivalent of the Bataan Death March.

He fell ill during the march in freezing conditions and when he could not continue, he was taken to a shack. There, on a frozen floor and without any warmth, he passed away on November 20, 1950 at a place called Ha Chang Ri, North Korea.

(Note: Edited Feb. 2, 2014.  For some reason, the photo of Father Patrick Bryne had been removed.)

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.