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.)
Sherman Howard tried to enlist in the Marines, but he was too small, they said, so he went to the Navy in 1943. They had him on US coast patrol in a PBY and then put him to work as a mess cook but he wanted to go to sea. He shipped out for the Pacific in a retrofitted supply ship.
B-17 radio operator and waist gunner Marvin O'Neal recalls his first mission, which involved a lot of flak and a lot of praying. He entered the war in Europe near the end and, on his last mission, he saw a German jet fighter streaking through the sky. Could they win the war with that thing?
Fred Lott was first gunner in a machine gun squad, training in England at the end of 1944. Half his battalion was sent to help at the Battle of the Bulge. He was left behind and began trying to get used to the new replacements. Finally, the day came for him and he went down the cargo net like so many before.
In the waters around Okinawa, ships were getting battered by kamikazes. His LSM had landed it's cargo, so Bill Pontow was assigned fire and rescue duty. He recalls an eerie incident aboard a stricken hospital ship as he searched below, unsuccessfully, for survivors.
The Navy V-12 Program had Milton Kassel studying in college. On graduation, he would get a Navy commission, but the Navy had other ideas. They put him on active duty, made a 90 day wonder out of him, and sent him to serve on a patrol craft in the Aleutian Islands.
While in the CCC, Lofton Hill helped build the Fort Benning jump field. Two years later, he was training there as a paratrooper. After training, his unit was sent to the west coast, so he figured he was bound for the Pacific.
En route through the Pacific on a liberty ship, Julius Rainwater heard Tokyo Rose threaten his convoy on her broadcast. It was an empty threat and he made it to Anguar, an island near Peleliu, where he set up a radio communications station. There were still Japanese in the hills, so they had guard duty and, when it was his turn, he was sure he saw something creeping up in the darkness.
There were a couple of times in Germany when Fred Lott thought that he would surely get an award or something. The first time was when he found a picture of what looked like some SS VIP's. The second was when his unit outflanked a German unit and captured many prisoners. Neither one worked out for him.
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.
He was drafted in 1943, but the Army sent Fred Lott to college to study engineering. That abruptly ended and he was sent to the newly activated 69th Infantry Division, which was training in the heat of Mississippi.
When Bill Pontow's ship arrived at Pearl Harbor, there was still wreckage everywhere. Crews were working to clear passage through the capsized ships. After that sobering experience, he headed for the Philippines for the Battle of the Philippine Sea and the landing on Leyte.
Starting at Guadalcanal, the USS Volans distributed supplies to fighting forces and ships in the South Pacific. Sherman Howard was a striker, or assistant, to a carpenter's mate. It was their job to fix nearly anything on the ship that needed repair.
He'd never been up in a plane. Joe Turner was part of the crew at an Air Corps base in the Philippines and a sympathetic pilot offered to take him along on a flight to Japan. It went well until the word came from the cockpit. Put on your Mae West and your parachute.
Joseph Williams was one of the first black Marines, serving in an anti-aircraft unit defending the Marshall Islands. The guns were advanced for the time, with a computer-like fire director that translated weather data into fire control.
After boot camp at Parris Island, Paul Deverick went first to Quantico, where he worked at the Officer Candidates School. His next stop was Cherry Point, where he went to MP school and then served as an MP on base. He had two brothers serving in combat, which kept him out of action in the Pacific.
It was still peacetime when Tom Grissom left Hawaii in a convoy bound for the Philippines. He never got there. Diverted to Australia after the Pearl Harbor attack, he was unsure what his part in the war would be. Then, all the unassigned officers from the ship departed on another ship for the Philippines. They were stopped short at Darwin.
Fred Scheer describes the men in his work gang, who walked every day from the prison camp to the rail yard where they repaired the tracks. Most distinctive were the three paratroopers, who were kind of aloof. The POW's were paid for their work, though there was little they could buy.
Radar officer Howard Dean became a specialist in gun laying radar, a system which linked radar with the fire control on an anti-aircraft battery. The Army wanted his engineering talent at MIT, designing radar units, but he wanted into the shooting war. Eventually he got his orders to ship out for Leyte.
The destination was unknown when Juius Rainwater boarded the liberty ship and headed out into the Pacific. The first stop was Hawaii, where he had a chance meeting on the street with his brother, who was also in the service. When he shipped out again, he asked the captain if he could start a newspaper on board the ship. Good idea.
Shortly after the main landing on Leyte, radar officer Howard Dean came ashore. He had no assignment, yet, so they sent him to a nearby anti-aircraft battery. He began to observe gunners on the ships in the bay, who were undisciplined and shooting up the shore when they fired.
One of the most memorable things for Sherman Howard about his Pacific tour was the initiation ceremony at the crossing of the equator. Just don't ask for details. His supply ship was in Tokyo Bay just weeks after the two atomic bombs ended the war.