5:05 | Bill Garrison was standing in a chow line when a man up the line suddenly dropped, shot dead by a sniper. That was only one hazard at the air fields in China; the others being Japanese air raids and infiltrators. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
Keywords : Bill Garrison China sniper Japanese air raid Chinese Charge of Quarters (CQ) Liangshan Laohokow Kweilin Liuchow Manchuria Communist
He went to school for aircraft mechanics, but when they shipped Georgia boy Bill Garrison up north to work, he couldn't take the cold weather and went back home, even though it meant he would be eligible for the draft. In the Air Corps, they put his job skills to work and his first destination overseas was Oran in North Africa. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
Aircraft mechanic Bill Garrison was astounded at the strangeness of India when he landed there. He made his way up to Burma by way of uncomfortable trains and flew over the Hump to China. There, he was a member of the Chinese American Composite Wing, where his job was to maintain P-40's in the air war against the Japanese. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
Bill Garrison was in China wishing he had some good American food. The aircraft mechanic at least came up with a way to get some whiskey. He worked at a long list of air fields repairing P-40's, moving frequently to stay near the front. The Japanese bombed these fields, but the Chinese had good intelligence and used a traditional method for the warning system. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
Awakened by gunfire and shelling, Bill Garrison was told that the Japanese were going to overrun the base and that there was a plane evacuating personnel. Unfortunately, the plane was overloaded. What was he supposed to do now? Someone pointed down a road and said, "Go that way." (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
Bill Garrison worked out of many air fields in China repairing aircraft, mostly P-40's. When he was based at Liangshan, he flew out all over China, pulling downed planes out of rice paddies and repairing them on the spot. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
He was sleeping on the flight line at a far flung air field in China when he was awakened by a big commotion. The war was over and Bill Garrison was elated. He had been away from home for three years and he'd never had a furlough. Why? The old Army run around. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
When the draft came for Willie Weaver, he went to infantry training and prepared to ship out to Okinawa, but he got sick and missed the boat. All his friends were gone and, when he recovered, he was sent to Fort Benning as part of the training cadre. After the war, he began to question why the Army was segregated at the time.
After his basic training, James Richardson was sent to Trinidad, where there was concern about a possible German refueling station in the Caribbean. That didn't pan out but the word went through his unit that volunteers were being sought for an unspecified "rugged mission." Single men only.
He was having a big time working at his father's business, but Buck Stiles got a telegram from the Army. There was a war on and the reserve officer was needed. His first active duty tour had been in the horse cavalry, but now he was going to be riding tanks.
There was a table size mock up of Iwo Jima onboard ship. David Green saw it, so the geography of the place was no surprise. As the Marines worked their way up the island, the aim was to keep the line solid from shore to shore. He remembers strafing runs on the enemy and the opportunistic naval bombardment from ships that stayed through the battle.
By the time sonarman Corwin Mokler got to the Pacific, the threat from Japanese planes and submarines was just about gone. His destroyer found no opposition as they took part in shore bombardment of Saipan and Peleliu. Later, as kamikazes began to appear, they had a near miss from one of the suicide planes.
Influenced by a friend who had joined the Navy, Jim Starnes decided to do the same and take advantage of the V-7 Navy College Training Program. It was a plan instituted in 1940 to train midshipmen for the expanding fleet of ships. A one month cruise started the training, followed by three months of intense schooling. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
When he was drafted, there was no choice. He went to the infantry, but Ken Rohde applied for the Air Corps at some point. It didn't catch up to him until he was deployed to Fiji, but there he took the tests that got him into the Air Corps and he returned to the states for training.
Jack Fletcher recounts the life of a crew chief on a C-47 in the South Pacific. Flying everything from Bataan Death March survivors to crates of eggs, it was a very busy time. Shortly after the Japanese surrender was achieved, he was flying supplies into Japan itself.
David Greene recalls hearing about the atomic bombs while aboard ship somewhere between Hawaii and Japan. When he was departing for home after his turn at occupation duty, he was asked if he wanted to pick something from a big pile of Japanese rifles.
In postwar Germany, Willie Lindsey was first in a constabulary unit, then in a motorpool, where he was supposed to be a mechanic. He wasn't, really, but he tried hard and did a decent job, something that didn't go unnoticed by the colonel, who became a great friend and backed him up when it was needed.
There were no jobs to be found in 1940, so David Mealor followed his brother into the National Guard. Just as his year was up, the country mobilized to fight a new war and he was in for the duration. He was sure his unit was destined for Europe, but when the ship was just getting out into the Atlantic, it turned right.
After being pinned down by artillery in an open field, Willie Lindsey was sent by his platoon leader to try and connect with a sister company. He found them alright, under fire by a German machine gun on the edge of a mine field. After he took care of that, he was in a gazebo near a German house when he spotted a German soldier coming out of the house and heading straight for him. Part 2 of 3.
Bill McCarthy has a Presidential Unit Citation on his sleeve, thanks to FDR, who gave the award to his unit shortly before his death. But that wasn't the highlight of his service in Italy. That would be what happened when he visited the Vatican. (This interview is audio only.)
It was April of 1945 and thousands of American POW's were on the march as their German captors made them move in advance of the approaching front. The guards began deserting and Harold Ford was free on the road, but he went into the camp in Munich because there was food in there. Then, one day, came the sound of American machine guns.
After being drafted in 1942, Bob Spooner went to basic training at Fort McClellan in Alabama. The men from up north were having a tough time of it in that hot Alabama sun, he recalls. After a queasy voyage with terrible food, he underwent a long period of training in England, preparing for the big invasion.
After two years in a forced labor camp in his native Poland, Norbert Friedman was sent to a series of different camps, most in Germany. On the transport to the second one, the Jewish prisoners were crammed into cattle cars and given no food or water on the four day journey. At the camp, they were forced to strip and went into showers.
He didn't hear or see the source, but a piece of shrapnel hit James Richardson in the shoulder. He begged a reluctant buddy to dig it out with a knife, then got it dressed by a medic. He was told he could be evacuated, but that wasn't the way the way men thought in this particular unit.
He could hear the buzz bomb. Ray Hutchins was billeted with an English family and on his first night there, he heard the closest one he'd ever heard. It actually was a good thing if you could hear it coming.
There were so many Germans trying to surrender at the end of the war that it became an annoyance to Bill McCarthy while in North Italy. He narrowly avoided being shipped to China, but a slow boat there may have been preferable to his ride home in a Liberty Ship. (This interview is audio only.)
(From Interview #2 Jan. 9, 2011 Video #22) After weeks of battle beginning when he parachuted into Normandy, Jake McNiece was rewarded with a seven day pass back in England. True to form, he overstayed his leave for seven more days.
The recruiter tried to put him in the Navy, but Bob Titus said he didn't care for the Navy, so the recruiter said OK, wise guy, you're going to the infantry. That was what he wanted. He became a paratrooper and joined the 82nd Airborne but the war ended before he saw combat.
The company commander was arrogant and rude. Willie Lindsey recalls how he humiliated a soldier needlessly, just one of the many things that made the enlisted men despise him. Three lieutenants decided to cook his goose.
Bill Pontow was a boatswain's mate on an LSM, responsible for all topside duties. At general quarters, he became a gunner on a 20 mm gun. A frequent target of that gun was the Japanese kamikazes that swarmed the American ships, beginning in the Philippines and increasing at Okinawa.
As Bob Spooner's unit began moving from the beach into the French countryside, they accepted the surprise surrender of some unenthusiastic Germans. He was tasked with reporting battle casualties and he had a lot of work after the battles of Saint-Lo and Brest.
He came ashore on D plus three and set up just in from the Normandy beach. Service company commander Buck Stiles had some tense moments when the Germans began shelling, but soon they were pushed back and he could get on with his task of supplying his regiment with everything they needed.
He was ordered back to the States and he didn't know why, but soon Jim Starnes found out. Apparently, he was such a good navigator that the Navy wanted him running the navigator school in Newport. So many ships were being commissioned that crews had to be swiftly prepared to man them. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
B-24 navigator Jim Fleming describes the shell burst that caused his hearing loss. They gave him a Purple Heart for that, but he suffers more from the rough landing he took when he bailed out at 300 feet. He was told to just go back to work after that one.
Bill Pontow knew how men could get spooked fighting in the Pacific, especially from kamikazes. He made it through the war without losing his cool, but he had a tough time adjusting when he returned home. Eventually, reunions with his Navy brothers proved to be a big help.