T. J. LAMIRAND, WORLD WAR 2 TOUR.
My dad was first notified to report for the draft in late 1942. However, on the first visit, dad and 8 others were told that they would not be going at that time. They were sent home to wait until called again.
During the few months between the two notifications, my dad went to work at a place called Harps in Shawnee, Oklahoma. Her is a quote from my dad about an event during that time:
"While working at Harps, I had met several girls, but was too bashful to think that I could possibly date any of them. In fact, I only met one that really made me feel as though I was on Cloud 9. She had the most beautiful dark eyes I had ever seen; but I did not think I had a chance with her, but I could dream and when World War 2 was over, I finally married Deloris Patterson."
On June 2, 1943, dad traveled from a farm near Wanette, Oklahoma to the Army Induction Center in Maud, Oklahoma. The next day, he loaded on a bus to Oklahoma City, had his physical and was sworn into the U.S. Army. He was released that evening to return home to get things in order. He had to leave again in a couple of days.
When he reported back to the Induction Center, he was sent to Fort Sill, Oklahoma. After receiving clothing, shots, many instructions on Army behavior, and being initiated to kitchen police for a few days, he was on his way to Camp Barkley, located at Abilene, Texas. The first week was filled with more processing and close order drill. Also, since he had been assigned to attend Cooks and Bakers School, the first week he got to do KP every day, with the explanation that we would be in the kitchen a large part of his training time. Of course, the cook trainees had to fall out for marching every little while, and were always marching wherever they went.
After 11 weeks of training, including Cooks and Bakers School, they were ready to ship out, destination unknown. They were given 5 day passes to go home for a visit. After the 5 days he traveled back to Abilene, Texas. He arrived late in the day and and was told the would ship out the next day. They shipped the next day via traing and he and the other cooks had to cook on the train for the 2 or 3 day trip. They arrived in Pittsburg, California and were placed in barracks at the Pittsburg replacement depot. In about a week or less, they were sent to Camp Stoneman, which was adjacent to the replacement depot. In just a few days, they were told they were shipping out, but couldn't tell anyone about it; not relatives, or anyone; and of course, they weren't told where they were going.
One morning they were told to pack they clothing and gear in duffel bags, which were very heavy, besides the full field packs which were loaded with the necessities for invasions, weighing about 79 pounds. The duffel bags were left behind, when making invasions, but would be brought in after islands were secure.
At 10:00 AM that morning, they loaded 2 1/2 ton trucks, commonly called duce and a halfs, and were on their way with no idea of their destination. Only the drivers knew, and during that time of the war, secrecy prevailed. Later that afternoon they arrived at Alameda, California, after a nice drive that entailed seeing orange groves, and some large trees that they assumed to be Redwoods, and also a tunnel under the water of the Bay. They unloaded from the trucks, and were told that the ship in front of them at the dock was named the USS George Chaffee and that was to be their home for a few days, which turned out to be 21 days and nights. The ship looked to be enormous, being the first ocean going ship dad had seen. It turned out to be one of the smaller ships he would ride. This ship was called a Liberty Ship, usually used for cargo, but along with three holds laden with cargo, i.e. high octane gas, whiskey and beer, and high explosives (which they didn't know at the time) along with 100 soldiers. They had folding cots to sleep on for the duration of the trip. Also, the cooks had to cook for the soldiers on the entire trip. The kitchen was cramped quarters, adjacent to the cots with some netting wire as a divider. Dad have never been away from home, so he didn't think much about what lay ahead, because everything seemed so exciting, like passing under the Golden Gate Bridge. That all changed the next morning, when arising to cook breakfast, and going topside to look in all directions, They could not see any land. The idea hit him that this tour might be a very long one.
Besides the 100 soldiers, dad said he was surprised that the only sailors aboard were naval personnel to man the aircraft guns and the 3" guns located at each end of the ship. The rest of the personnel manning the ship were merchant marines, whom we were told, enjoyed being shot at, because they drew extra pay for it. But the soldiers, would not get any extra pay, except later, when they drew a small amount for being overseas.
The first day out, a merchant marine began talking to dad as he was from Oklahoma, and began showing him around the ship, which included a tour of a narrow isle below deck, that extended from one end of the ship to the other. They had to use a flashlight to see their way. This isle was slatted on the sides, but you could see through to the barrels of high octane gasoline in the front hold, the whiskey and beer cases (which were plainly labeled) in the center hold, and the back hold had large cases of high explosives. Dad said he immediately wished he had not seen all this, as he began to be scared, knowing the cargo and also that they had no escort ships to protect them. They were by themselves in, it seemed, an endless expanse of water. But they had a little confidence in the fact, that the captain of the ship, said he felt safe alone on the ocean, and had made a lot of voyages, and safely.
After 3 days of traveling, many of the soldiers became sea sick. However, the merchant marine that befriended dad, had told him that if he began getting nauseated, to eat an orange just about continuously. He took him at his word, and by the 4th day, dad began to get sea legs, so to speak, and felt pretty good. By then, it was getting very smelly in the hold, and dad and another soldier and I slipped their cots out, which were fairly easy to remove, and at night, they raised the tarps on a barge and hung them across it inside. This started a fad, as the next night, several soldiers moved their cots to the barges. Their reasoning: If a torpedo hit the ship, it would blow to bits, and the only chance they would have would be in the barges. The captain and officers apparently didn't care, as nothing was ever said about it. When the trip began, some soldiers were selected as lookouts (2) to be at each end of the ship. Along about the middle of the trip, these lookouts sounded the alarm that they had seen a torpedo pass in front of the ship. This caused quite a stir, and reminded the soldiers of the danger ahead.
After 21 days of voyage, they arrived at their destination, New Caledonia. It had been a voyage of 6500 miles from Alameda, Califonia. Dad said that as he walked onto land, he thought the island was floating. He had gained sea legs; but said that never again did he feel this way and never did he get sea sick anymore. They stayed just a few days in New Caledonia, then boarded the USS Naos for the voyage to Guadalcanal. They debarked in the afternoon and set under Coconut Palms for a few hours. Coconuts were lying around, and as he loved coconut, he proceeded to peel and break the nuts, then eat them. Dad said he ate so many, that he doesn't care much for coconuts to this day.
They only stayed at Guadalcanal a few hours, and boarded an L.C.I. (Landing Craft Infantry) and departed late in the afternoon; destination was unknown. The L.C.I. had no sleeping quarters, so they had to keep their duffel bags and field packs with them on the deck, which was small. This proved a good arrangement, as they were able to use the field packs as pillows. They arrived the next morning at the island of New Georgia, in the Solomon Islands. Dad was assigned to the 17th Field Hospital replacing soldiers that were casualties in the initial invasion of the island. Arriving at the hospital unit, dad was assigned to Mess Sgt. Vesper Snell where they were assigned as 2nd Cooks. This began a tour that lasted 2 years, plus or minus. They stayed at New Georgia for a few months. They didn't have many incidents, except being initiated to a few bombings by Japanese planes that came at night and especially on the 13th of the month, as this was the date of Tojo's son's death and seemed to be for revenge of his death. While in New Georgia, met Joseph Junell, a small redhead from Amarillo, Texas, and J. W. Johnson, the company barber who was from Talihima, Oklahoma. The haircut cost a dime and the barber cut a part in my dad's hair which has remained to this day. Dad is 85 now and was almost 20 at the time. After completing their time in New Georgia, they were loaded on LCTs and moved to New Zealand. It seems that some of the troops needed some R&R (Rest and Recuperation). Dad said he doesn't remember the name of the ship on that trip, but he thinks he was on 17 different ships during his tour in the Pacific. they were due to be in New Zealand 3 weeks but was only there 8 or 9 days. After that time, they boarded trucks and went to the docks at Aukland and embarked on the USS Tryon. Again they did not know their destination, but in 3 or 4 days they unloaded on Rendova, Russell Islands. They were there for a month or two, where dad received a promotion to P.F.C., as he had been overseas 6 months, and He thinks it was mandatory. He also received a good conduct medal.
After Russell Island, they were shipped back to Guadalcanal and set up camp on the bank of a stream that entered the ocean. They were there for a short time and were told to get prepared for the next move. This time the harbor was full of ships of all kinds. They had no knowledge of their destination but due to the number of ships involved, they knew they were headed for something big. It turns out they were making the invasion of Anguar in the Palua Islands. They were told that the 81st Inf. would land on Anguar, and the marines would land on Pellilau. All of a sudden the battleships, cruisers, and all were shelling both islands and planes were bombing and strafing both islands. When this began, they were waiting orders to load on barges. Suddenly a large battleship came along to they right; the guns looked very large and this gave them confidence seeing we had such ships with us. His unit was told they would go in after the 2nd wave of infantry. With some apprehension the time came to climb down the ropes into waiting barges. Then they were on our way to the beach. His unit was going in to take care of the wounded so they had Red Crosses on the front of our helmets, although they were told that the Japs didn't pay any attention to the rules of the Geneva Convention and the red crosses were targets for them. It was decided that every second man would carry a rifle or carbine. The barges couldn't get all the way in to the beach, so they lined up on each side of the barges and when the front was lowered they started wading to shore. One guy in the back of the barge got trigger happy and fired a shot that hit the water between the front guys. The gun was yanked from the soldiers hand, and he didn't carry a gun on in. The infantry had moved in about 200 yards and they moved up to about 100 yards of them and began to dig in, i.e. foxholes with 2 soldiers being together. Dad said that he and his buddy started digging with small pick and shovels of G.I. issue. Dad said that he believes that coral rock is harder than any concrete, and after digging as deep as they could, they finally stacked coral rock around they foxhole about 2' high. He also said that there was a hard coral rock about 12" in diameter in the center of the hole which proved very uncomfortable the 2 nights they stayed in the foxhole. The first night the infantry had moved ahead about 200 yards. They were told to get into their foxholes and not to get out for any reason. So one would sleep and the other would keep watch. Dad said it was hard to sleep as the Japs were firing mortars that landed in the ocean behind them. Then there were 2 or 3 Jap planes trying to bomb ships in the harbor. Finally fatigue took over and dad said he went to sleep. At about 1:00 AM, his buddy woke him so he could take his turn at guard. Dad said his back was sore from lying on the boulder in the foxhole, but his buddy got as comfortable as he could and very soon he was asleep. Dad said the next morning they had to use their helmets for toilets to keep from getting out of the foxhole. If they stood up someone might shoot you. The following is a quote from my dad about the next incident:
"Right after day break a stirring began and a Sgt. said, "everyone up", as we had some work to do. Everyone got up and as I was stretching, trying to remove the kinks, a bullet just missed my head at which time I returned to the foxhole in a hurry and lay watching through a hole in the rocks around our foxhole. In a few minutes I saw a Jap sniper fall out of a lone tree that was spared from the shelling. An infantry soldier saw him and shot him out of the tree. In a little bit, I figured it was safe to get up and we proceeded to eat K Rations for breakfast. After eating we were called for a meeting and were told that we had to go pick up wounded. We were assigned 3 soldiers to a group; 2 to carry a litter and one to carry a rifle. These groups would leave by a trail by some large boulders and would proceed to where some MPs would direct them farther. When we saw the first group on their way back in by the large boulders, the next group would depart. This went on for some time, when finally time came for my group to go when we saw the previous group arriving. It was getting late in the afternoon and we waited and waited. It kept getting later and later, almost sundown when we saw the group coming and we started to walk off dreading the fact we would be walking in the dark. Our Sgt. said, "wait a moment, there are only 2 guys carrying a patient." When they arrived, they were asked about the other soldier and were told that the Jap snipers had him pinned down in a gully. In a few minutes the third guy appeared around the boulders with no grass growing under his feet. At this point our Sgt. said to forget about going tonight. We were very relieved but figured we would go the next morning. After sleeping in the foxhole all night and arising the next morning, we were told that instead of going to pick up wounded that we had to set up our field hospital. We set up some tents for patients and a tent for surgery, then a kitchen tent. By this time trucks began arriving with supplies. We began stocking cases of food in the kitchen. As I was placing a case on the stack, a piece of red hot metal came down on the edge of the stack of cartons and cut 3 cartons all the way to the ground about 4 or 5 feet. It was determined the hot metal piece came from an explosion that had taken place a little distance away just a few seconds before."
After some days, it was decided that they were needed on Pellilue where fighting was still going on. So they loaded on large enclosed cargo barges that the front would open and trucks could drive out the front. Trucks were driven onto the beach and 3 soldiers were assigned to each truck; 1 to ride in the front with the driver and 2 to ride the top of the load. The driver said, "you guys be sure to be firmly attached to the load ", as they had to go about 2 miles through a large bunch of forest. There were Japs sneaking about, and might try to stop us, and he would drive as fast as the truck would run. Here is another quote from my dad about the next incident:
"It was almost dark when we entered the forest and about halfway through, sure enough some people tried to stop us; 3 to be exact. They were dressed in American uniforms but our driver yelled, "hold on!" and almost ran over one?@ of them. Never knew if they were Japs or Americans. We arrived at an extreme end of the island and unloaded . The next day we set up our hospital and finally our sleeping tents. We were assigned spaces near the beach across from a very small island, which was later used, you guessed it, as an ammo dump. Very good on nerves." After a while on Pellilue, they boarded ships and were sent back to New Caledonia. They set up camp in some mountainous country close to a creek which had very clear water. They were able to swim in the water, which was a welcome event. After being at New Calidonia for awhile, they began waterproofing vehicles and getting resupplied. They were ready for another voyage. This time they were told that they would go to Leyte Island in the Philippines. They landed on the beach near the little town of Tarragona. Dad said they began to prepare to make another invasion. And, it wasn't long before a formation was called and the officer in charge began to detail their next objective. He said that much territory had been taken from the Japanese and they were to prepare for the invasion of Japan. Dad's unit would go in with the first wave of infantry in the invasion of Japan, and they would sustain 100% casualties. They were also told that, ven though many lives would be lost, that the U.S. would have enough ships and men to overrun Japan. They were guessing the invasion woudl take place in September of 1945. Dad said it was somewhat of a shock telling them about this, where before everything was kept secret. Dad also said that much discussion was had and many what ifs were brought up. Dad said that the thing that most entered his mind was the 100% casualty estimate; for he remembered that most of the time the estimates were much too small. After being told, dad said he figured they were all as good as dead. Here is another quote from my dad:
"One night one friend of mine and I walked out to the beach. It was a beautiful night with the moon and stars shining in a very clear sky. Just small ripples on the water, perfect for dreaming and thinking. We said very little except I mentioned the beautiful black-eyed Deloris back in Shawnee, and my folks at home. Then silence as I gazed out over the ocean. I had never been much religious, but I had enough information that I thought of God, and maybe a lost person's prayer doesn't reach God, but after talking to God under my breath, asking him to protect me that I might reach home safely, I really felt much better, and felt I could go on, whatever the circumstances.
Just a while before we were to get ready to board ship, we received the word that Japan (Hiroshima to be exact) had been bombed with a devastating bomb, and thousands had been killed. Then the day came when Nagasaki had been destroyed and that night we went to a movie, again setting on coconut logs. There were Philippine natives also present, and suddenly guns began being fired on the ships in Leyte Gulf. I thought at first the Japanese were retaliating, when suddenly the movie was stopped and a voice came over the P.A. system, saying Japan has just surrendered. That was such a shock to everyone and the Filipinos began yelling and hitting every one in the back. Then a voice on the P. A., said, correction, the Japanese have offered to surrender, which later turned out they did. I did not continue watching the movie. I was rejoicing all the way back to camp, listening to the news that ensued and that General MacArthur accepted the surrender.
As was scheduled, we boarded ships and on the 19th of September, 1945, we landed at Amori, Japan, a completely destroyed town, except for a hospital and about 2 blocks of the city. Hard to think that this had been a fairly large city, and that conventional bombs had completely destroyed so much. We moved into the hospital that was still standing. By this time I acquired the position of Mess Sgt., as the older ones had been sent home, but I didn't have a grade for the position. A friend became 1st Sgt. at this time, and this friend came to the kitchen and told me he would see that I would attain some rank, and in about 2 weeks I was promoted to corporal. About 2 weeks later he walked in and handed me a promotion to Sgt. and stated if I could stay another 2 weeks he would see I was promoted to Sgt. 1st Class. But I had orders to go to Tokyo in 3 days, and I was heading home. I Arrived in Tokyo on a train and rode a bus to Atsugi Japan, to a replacement depot. It had began snowing at Amori and was getting cooler further South. I wanted to get home by Christmas, yet time was getting short, but a guy could hope. Anyway to my surprise, I was scheduled to leave Japan on the 6th of December 1945. Boarding a boat I was thinking that as slow as ships were, I couldn't believe I would get home for Christmas; maybe by New Years. I didn't know that a small aircraft carrier converted to haul troops was that fast. We made the trip to San Pedro California in 13 days and loaded on a train, the 20th of December and having to again do some cooking on the train, we arrived in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas on the 22nd. Processing began right away and by the night of the 23rd of December, I was on a bus to Oklahoma City. At Peoria, Kansas, the roads were too bad and the bus had to stop because of snow and ice.
We went to the train depot and bought a train ticket to Oklahoma City, and about 2 AM, we arrived, then made another change back to a bus, with no assurance that the bus could make it to Shawnee, Oklahoma. But at 6 AM, the driver said we will try to make it as we would meet the bus from Shawnee before we got out of Oklahoma City, which we did. The other driver said we could make it by traveling the back roads. So I arrived at the folks house at about 8:00 AM, Christmas Eve, the 24th of December, 1945. I was very pleased that I had made so many miles since December the 6th. I left out many incidents, but thought the most remarkable ones I would record. I will say that I married the beautiful, black-eyed Deloris Patterson, whom I did not deserve, but we were married on April 26, 1946.
I left home, an inexperienced, green, country boy, and came back somewhat wiser and seemed that I had aged many years in the 26 months I spent in the South Pacific. Was good to be home again.
T. J. LAMIRAND Feb. 3, 1996
I received the Good Conduct Medal; The Pacific Service Ribbon; 3 Campaign Stars, which were for the Solomon Islands, the Palau Islands and the Philippine Islands; and a Service Medal."