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Inside the Dozer...
This edition of The Dozer owes a hip, hip hooray to Robert L. Walker for volunteering to kick-off our new, featured segment. An autobiography of a comrade! Not only will we enjoy reading of the interesting lives of our comrades but copies of all The Dozers become part of the Engineer Memorabilia archives and will be available for those who follow us to learn about our generation and our experiences. - Ed.
ROBERT L. WALKER (353R/353B A/A)
I was born on January 22, 1920 in our home in Clark County, Ohio, the last of eight children. We had no indoor plumbing or electricity. Heat was provided by a coal stove and cooking was done on a wood stove. When I was four years old we moved to Springfield, Ohio to a house with indoor plumbing and electricity. It was heated with a coal stove and we had a gas stove in the kitchen
My sister walked with me on my first day of school; I'm told I grabbed hold and hung on every lamp post and tree on our way to school but when I came home for lunch I couldn't wait to get back. I rode my bike to the junior high school and walked to high school where I graduated in June 1938.
While I was in junior high school my brother brought a beagle pup home in his pocket from Indianapolis for me. Spot and I got up every morning at 5 a.m. He went with me on my bike to the substation to get the morning papers. We delivered 40 newspapers every morning before I went to school. When an important event occurred, we were asked to pick up the EXTRAS and went around the neighborhood calling out EXTRA!!! They were 5 cents a copy. My earnings paid for the bike and the rest I saved.
Our social life while growing up was mostly with my family and we attended a Lutheran Church where I was baptized and confirmed. Our blind pastor was always present at our family dinners. I was a member of the Luther Little League and choir. I was elected to the church council when I was sixteen years old. I took swimming lessons at the Y.
Jobs were scarce when I graduated but I was able to obtain a job painting houses for 25 cents an hour. In December 1939, I obtained a job at Bauer Bros., in maintenance, and walked 18 blocks to and from work every working day. Later I bought a 1931 Model A Ford coupe for $50. I worked there until I was drafted into the army on November 17, 1942.
Martha and her family were attending the same Lutheran church. Her mother had died in 1938 and she and her twin sister, Mary, were housekeepers for their father and two brothers. She was attending Luther Little League and we occasionally saw each other. She had obtained a job at Patterson Field, Fairborn, Ohio before she graduated from high school in 1942. In 1944 she enlisted in the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps and was attending the College of Nursing at the University of Cincinnati.
On November 17, 1942 I left Springfield by bus to go to Fort Hayes in Columbus, Ohio. There were a lot of young men there that day. We boarded a train and went to Camp Attlebury. Indiana where we transferred to another train to Chicago. We connected to another train of new inductees and were on our way to Medford, Oregon and from there we were put on trucks and went to Camp White Oregon for our basic training. Orientation was done by the platoon sergeant on what was expected of us and training was underway. I was given a leave in March to attend my brotherís wifeís funeral. When my father died two weeks later, I was refused a leave. Our church secretary took the service down in shorthand, transcribed and mailed it to me. I still have the copy.
On May the 7th, 1943 we left Camp White by train and arrived at Camp Stoneman, California. Later we left by a ferryboat to San Francisco where we boarded ship on May 22, 1943. We had an escort out for 10 miles in the Pacific and from there our ship zigzagged out all the way to New Caledonia. I still remember the salt water showers on the boat.
We arrived in New Caledonia on June 12, 1943, got off the boat and went by trucks to set up our tents that were along the river. I will never forget the baths we were allowed to take in the river that day. Mess halls, hospitals, bridges were built and roads repaired. A typhoon came through and destroyed our mess halls and a lot of our tents. Debris was disposed of and rebuilding was done. During our stay there we went to Snake Island for a couple of weeks to build fortifications and pillboxes which were made of cement, similar to the Japanese. The ones we built were used by the U.S. Navy to practice blowing up.
We went back to New Caledonia; while we were there, American prisoners guarded by MPís were brought to break up large rocks so they could be placed in the rock crushers.
On May 11, 1944 we left New Caledonia on ship and arrived at our next destination, which was the Russell Islands and arrived there on May 17, 1944. Much the same work was done there.
On October 1, 1944 we left the Russell Islands on ship and arrived at Guadalcanal the same day. Much of the same work was done there.
We left Guadalcanal on November 26, 1944 by ship and went to New Hebrides and arrived there on December 1, 1944. The same projects were accomplished there.
On June 7, 1945 we left New Hebrides on a slow boat and arrived in New Guinea the same day. More construction was done.
On June 12, 1945 we left New Guinea and arrived at the Philippine Islands at Cebu on June 14, 1945. We stopped at Batangas, Luzon and arrived at Manila on June 28, 1945.
When we arrived at all of our destinations the hospitals that were built were used for American wounded soldiers, sailors and marines. Quarters had also been built at all of our destinations that housed nurses and physicians and all of the officers. If construction had not been completed, the wounded were left on stretchers and placed on the ground. I remember one young man asking me to shoot him because he had an arm blown off and didnít want to go home.
Upon arrival on a ship to a new destination, we would descend on rope ladders with our backpacks on our backs to a landing craft where we would be taken to land. Our backpacks consisted of K-rations, ammunition, blankets, tents, extra clothing, towels and toilet articles. Tarps draped around poles that had been driven into the ground were our showers; water was piped from a water tank through overhead pipes and water drained from the showers into ditches which were directed down to the river. We slept in tents that were erected at every move; some had electricity, others had lanterns. We got news over the Armed Forces radio. Letters were often sent home on v-mails. All correspondence was censored. Clothing to be laundered was taken weekly to the supply tent. On the ships we slept on bunks that were stacked six bunks per stack.
I donít remember seeing any natives on any of the islands until we arrived at Manila. I remember that Manila was a beautiful city but the Japanese had been there and there was evidence of a lot of destruction due to bombing by the Japanese. We saw a lot of natives there and I remember them coming to our mess halls bringing tin cans, anything, some with their bare hands, to gather food from the garbage containers. The MPís stopped their coming because some of our soldiers would purposely leave food for them. We were not assigned any special duties and I felt that we would be asked to go into Japan and would be part of the American invasion. We heard on the radio that an A-bomb had been dropped over Hiroshima and the war ended. We thought we would get to come home immediately but we were sent on into Japan. There we waited to come home.
Some more of my memories while in the Pacific were: we were up every morning at daylight, had roll call and then went on details. The food consisted mostly of Vienna sausages, hash, powdered milk, eggs, potatoes and coffee. On the special holidays we would have turkey or ham and all the trimmings. We always had a chapel and we could attend services; there was a chaplain assigned to our outfit. If mail had arrived, we would have mail call in the evenings. . . . that was a special time in our lives when our name was called out for letters or a box from home. We always enjoyed any entertainment that came; those I can remember were Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour, Jerry Colona, Les Brown and his band. . . . these events were well attended!! As to my promotions, I donít remember any of the dates of any of my promotions. I always felt they were field promotions. I would be called in to the Orderly Room and questioned as to why my new stripes werenít sewed on but I had not checked the bulletin board every day.
We had a church secretary that during every week gathered information concerning happenings of church members, their relatives, neighbors, special events in the church and city and also bits of information from the letters the service men had sent. All of this information was typed and sent to our men in the service every week and was well received. On D-Day someone from our local radio station called our pastor with the announcement; a lot of phone calling was done that day and a special service was held at the church in the evening.
We arrived in Japan on November 6, 1945 and I remember coming up on deck seeing Mt. Fujiyama. The sky was a beautiful blue, and with the sun shining on that beautiful snow-capped volcano, I thought it was the most beautiful sight I had ever seen.
We got off the ship, boarded trucks and went to our camp which had been a Japanese officersí training school but because we were told the building would need to be fumigated, we slept on the snow-covered ground for three days. I wanted to stay close to the camp for I was anxious to hear about any information as to when we would be returning to the States. I did visit a Japanese airplane factory which had been bombed and the workers there were building zero fighter planes. All the work was being done by hand, there werenít any motorized conveyors or electric hoists; as the planes were assembled the workers would push them down the assembly line.
We received information that we would be leaving Japan on December 11th or 12th. Everyone was in a wonderful happy mood as we boarded ship to come back home to our loved ones. As we neared the West Coast everyone was up on deck watching for a first glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge. At the first glimpse, everyone was cheering and some had tears in their eyes. It was about midnight when we got off the boat and went down into a mess hall where there was lots of delicious American food. We were allowed to select anything we wanted. I asked for strawberries and there weren't any available. We later went to a staging area where we slept. The next morning we were fitted for new uniforms and checks were made available for transportation to Camp Attlebury, Indiana. Train workers were on strike so there were delays. We remained in the staging area and checks were made between 7 and 9 each morning regarding available train transportation and if none was available, we were allowed to go into San Francisco. Wherever we went, theaters, bowling alley, restaurants we learned someone was paying our tabs. I spent only $9 in the 9 days we were there. On Christmas Day, three of us went to the USO. A Philip Blake came in and wanted to take two men home for dinner. We three wouldnít split up so he took the three of us. He and his wife had a tablecloth filled with embroidered signatures of the servicemen they had entertained. We were there until midnight. We sent the Blakes flowers the next day. Martha and I exchanged Christmas cards with them for many years.
We got to leave California on December 31st and arrived at Camp Attlebury on January 4th. We received our pay, a mustering out pay and discharge. I arrived in Springfield the next morning. My brother and family were at the train station to meet me. All of my family were at home to greet me. Christmas had been postponed for my arrival. I went to get Martha. My mother had tried to keep Spot alive by feeding him 40% all bran cereal but he died the day I got into the States.
I went back to work at Bauer Bros.
Martha and I were married at our church on December 22, 1946 by our blind pastor. It would be ten months before Martha finished her training and clinical work. Student nurses were terribly exploited due to the shortage of nurses, but on her one day off each week she would spend it with me. On the afternoon before a day off, she would get off duty at 3:30 p.m., hurry to her room, change clothes, grab her bag and if lucky catch a cab in front of the hospital and arrive at the train station to catch the Ohio State Limited which left at 3:10 out of Cincinnati.
Our first daughter, Mary Lynn was born in June 1949 and I got my wish and got to be a father before Fatherís Day that year. Our second daughter, Susan, came in 1953. Several days after arriving home, Martha developed complications, was taken back to the hospital and during that time was very near death; there were three separate emergency surgeries performed and ten units of blood given before improvement was evident. Our pastor was with Marthaís sister and I most of that day.
Susan was 14 months old when we learned she was born with a congenital dislocated hip and was placed in a leg cast. I designed a scooter with wheels that was plastic coated and would fit her body so she could propel her self around the rooms. There were problems with her eating and sleeping and I have always felt that period of time in my life was worse than my service in uniform. At the age of 14 surgery was performed on her hip and a modified body cast was applied, and 16 years ago a total hip replacement was performed.
Both our daughters graduated from Ohio State, are happily married, and are very devoted to Martha and I and live in the state. We have two very special son-in-laws. We have a very special granddaughter, grandson and step-granddaughter. Our granddaughter has finished college and our grandson has one more year, as does our step-granddaughter. They have done very well scholastically and will make a very desirable contribution to society. They have added a lot of joy and happiness to Martha and my lives.
We have continued to be active at our church. I was chairman of the committee to select a new pastor who remained at our church for 30 years. I was on the building committee when it was decided a larger church was needed. I took a few courses at Wittenburg College after my discharge. I have enjoyed gardening for many years and also have been able to perform needed maintenance in our home. I also enjoy caning chairs and bowling. I have been a member of the Masonic Lodge for 60 years and the Scottish Rite for 55 years. I enjoy pro football and baseball.
Our vacations have been spent with a close boyhood friend and his wife. Bill was in the Air Force in Europe and was a bombardier on a B-29 and during a bombing over Germany he was shot down and became a prisoner of war for 18 months. We have had many good times together and we were both Cleveland Brown fans and the four of us have spent many delightful weekends together in Cleveland and attended the Brownsí games.
I later was employed at International Harvester (Navistar) Co. here and was a skilled tradesman machine repairman. I retired in 1982. I later was employed at a local flower shop and thoroughly enjoyed delivering flowers for 7-1/2 years. Martha also retired from the hospital in 1982 and then worked for a surgeon.
I have always enjoyed excellent health until the past few years. I have had cardiovascular problems. With the services of an excellent cardiologist and the progress in cardiology for which we are extremely thankful, I do very well with the insertion of stents in my coronary arteries and a pacemaker.
Our daughters held a lovely celebration for Martha and I on our 50th wedding anniversary.
We have had many, many blessings for which we are extremely grateful these past 54 years.
The friendships that were formed while we were serving our country have been very special and unique. I am grateful for having had the opportunity to serve with many fine men. But we havenít forgotten that there were thousands of our young men who didnít come home. A teacher at one of the schools where Martha volunteers has recently planned two events at the school where WWII veterans were invited and honored for their service during WWII. Several of the veterans, one of whom was at Pearl Harbor, were asked to speak to classes about their service. Students collected $1,700 for the WWII Memorial on Washington, D.C.
Nor can we forget to remember the Japanese Americans who were living in the United States during the war. Martha worked with a lovely Japanese American lady who was a librarian at the nursesí home. She had lived in California and she was one of the many who were uprooted from their homes with only their clothes and placed on trains to internment camps in our country. She attributes her sonís early death at the age of 18 to the lack of medical care in the camps. She later transferred to an OSU library and both of our daughters met her while they were students there. Martha has stayed in touch with her.
We looked forward to the reunions. We wish to thank those you have spent time in planning those get-togethers and for keeping us updated with the newsletters. Our grandson, Ken Miller, who was with us at the Reunion2000, is at the age we were when we served our country. Ken finds it almost incomprehensible as to what was expected of us during the war. He is very appreciative of what we did and he has a great amount of respect for each one of us.Back to Top
GEORGE A. BENNER (353R/353B MD/MD) wrote that Vernon L. Barcafar (353R/353B MD/MD) had Alzheimer's disease, was in a nursing home and passed away in November.
MARCUS A. GARRISS (1305R/1393B/HS) writes that he and Nina's traveling is restricted to short trips to the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee. "Healthwise, we are doing pretty good; health problems consist mainly with arthritis, hypertension and current memory lapses common to old age. I am still playing golf two or three times a week, weather permitting, and also fishing here at the lake. We have many activities available here at the Retirement Home. There are many talented and friendly people living here. We really enjoy it."
LORRAINE McCLUSKEY (TOM McCLUSKEY 353R/353B E/B) "Since Tom passed away in Oct 1996 (he did all the long distance driving) I don't drive to Chicago or any long distance. I still drive locally. I do miss the trip to Binghampton, NY to visit our daughter, Shirley, her husband, Alan, and four grandchildren. I look forward to when they come here in August for 2 or 3 weeks. There are a lot of us widows now and I keep in touch with some of them at Christmas time."
STANLEY S. SANKEY (353R/139B B/B) "My wife, Rita, passed away in the nursing home November 5, 2000. She was going down the last two years. No more suffering for her." [January 30, 1924 - November 5, 2000]
K.O. VEAZEY JR (369R/1393 B C/A) writes that he and Lou Ellen are getting along as well as can be expected at their ages. K.O. also writes that he talked to WALTER RICE (1305R/1393B F/B). Walter is not in the best of health these days fighting off cancer.
CHARLES H. VINCENT (353R/1393B B/B) says he is doing okay after the kidney stone operation that kept he and his family from attending Reunion2000. Charles also notified us of the passing of comrades Carroll and Minton.
From Pat Webster (JAMES DOYLE WEBSTER 353R/353B HS/HS) "Thanks for sending my dad a copy of The Dozer. He and my mother loved the reunions. I'm sorry to tell you that my dad passed away on Sept. 1, 2000, 2 days before his 79th birthday. We lost my Mom on Mother's Day 1997, so it has been hard. My dad was in a nursing home but was doing good until he got pneumonia. They put him on a respirator and when they took him off of it a week later he only lived a few minutes. We really miss him but I have a lot of reunion pictures to enjoy."Back to Top
MARCUS A GARRISS (1305R/1393B/HS) has sent his Service Album to Scott Saewert and it is now in the Engineer Memorabilia Division of The Scott Saewert War Museum.
MARY JANE NORONA (DELF A NORONA 369R/1393B JS/HS) has sent in Delf's uniform jacket and the poncho issued to him on Guadalcanal still in its original packet.
Patrick Ferrell (grandson of ERWIN FERRELL (369R/1393B E/C) found a few more photos from his grandfather's service days, had them enlarged and sent them in for our archives. One is a picture of the Bloemfontein-Holland, one of our troop ships. And another is a picture of our pyramidal tents with the wooden floors, P.I. Luzon, Tarlac Province, Paniqui. Some of us may remember listening to the radio broadcasts of the 1945 World Series between the Cubs and the Tigers while in those tents in during the early morning hours, then standing Reveille just outside those tents with the radio blasting the final moments of the seventh game.Back to Top
Our thanks to all who have contributed towards the operation of The Dozer since the last issue.
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