Sunday, May 30, 2010
Love a Veteran, I do!
The only son in his family, Dad entered the U.S. Army on May 29, 1946 after having worked at Martin Bomber Plant working on B-26 aircraft in 1943 and returning to high school in Sioux Falls he was drafted into the service. He served 4 and 1/2 months in the states and 11 months 24 days as a construction foreman serving with Headquarters and Service Company, 3rd Engineer Combat Battalion in Occupied Japan, where he supervised men in construction work. He was part of the foreign presence that marked the first time in its history that the island nation had been occupied by a foreign power.
Dad was inducted at Fort Snelling, St. Paul, MN, before heading to Ft. Lewis in Washington state for his basic training. My Grandmother saved all his letters from Basic Training and it's fun to read through them to get a sense of what Dad's day to day life was like back then.
Heading to Japan, Dad went across the ocean on the Marine Swallow. The boat was jammed with about 2500-3000 soldiers. Most of them were sea sick. One guy even vomited on Dads pants and Dad tells of how he dropped them right there. No one could eat because people were getting sick at the tables all the time and it was hard to listen to that and feel hungry too.
Calvin Theodore Johnson achieved the rank of Technical 4 Corporal and wore 2 stripes over a T on his sleeve. He was in charge of various shops in a camp in Kokura, Japan. It was a Japanese Army Camp rebuilt for the U.S. Army by the Japanese. The shops included Plumbing, Paint, Electric, Carpentry, Machine and Tin.
Many of Dad's army friends called him "Box-Johnson" since he was always sending boxes of items home. Phoebe sent a family photo to Cal in Japan. A Chinese man who worked in one of the army shops Cal was in charge of painted a reproduction of the family photo. Pete Miyazaki got the finished painting to Cal after he came home and it still hangs in our family home.
Once General MacArthur was coming and they had about 5 days to make 65 mess tables - workers worked longer hours to complete them. Four mess halls collected their extra leftover food and gave it to Japanese workers for working overtime on tables. Most of the workers ate way too much, most of them hadn't had the opportunity to eat all they could in ages. (MacArthur never stopped, he just drove in and drove out.) The tables were given to Pete Miyazaki's priest who bowed and bowed and bowed in grateful thanks. Pete Miyazaki served as an interpreter for Dad on the base and became friends, staying in touch until Pete's death decades later. Before Dad went home to the U.S.A., he stopped at the priests house with Pete. Dad had taken his clothes to the laundry and he only had 1 sock to wear. He told Pete of his predicament and when taking his shoes off in the priests home the priest, through motions at Dad, stopped him. Dad asked Pete what was wrong, Pete said "He knows you only have one sock and doesn't want to embarrass you."
Calvin came back on the General John Pope. This ship had a capacity for 11,000 people but only 600 G.I.'s were on board coming home. Warm fresh showers were a rarity on the ship, one night "Hot showers!" was called out and everyone ran for their towels. Dad grabbed his and forgot he had packed glassware in all his towels. Glass went flying, while he caught some others broke. He was discharged October 8th, 1947. On his return home, he helped on the family farm. His parents moved to Sioux Falls in November of 1949. Dad and Uncle Carl Johnson, lived alone until Dad and Mom were married in 1950.
Dad's Army photos are all at home on the farm... I'll scan some someday to share and treasure.