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Asia Japan New Guinea The Admiralty Islands The Philippines

The Sometimes Perilous, Sometimes Hilarious WWII Adventures of my Grandfather

It’s with a heavy heart that I write this, as my grandfather died yesterday and this weekend my family will say goodbye at a memorial service and burial. He died of pneumonia at UNC Hospital today at the age of 90. Despite our sadness, I can’t think of a better example of a person who deserves to have their life celebrated. He accomplished so much, and yet I never think of him in terms of his accomplishments, only in terms of his flawless sense of humor, cheerful attitude, and killer charisma. Well into his late 80s, he still spoke and joked with such a childish charm. Even when talking about the war, he found a way to focus on the positive and the funny instead of the violence and sadness.

My grandfather joined the war when he was 17. All I did at 17 was apply for college and drive my little blue Mazda around Hillsborough while gossiping with Rachel and Kelly about boys. But there he went, off to join the American troops as a radio operator in the First Cavalry Division, island hopping in the Pacific, always at a close proximity to the legendary General MacArthur.

I grew up hearing these stories from time to time. He’d share a short one over lunch one day, another while driving in the car the next. After he was hospitalized in 2014, I decided to sit down with him for a few hours and record his tales so my family could remember not only his stories, but the charismatic way in which he told them.

I’ve added them below, edited into chapters ranging from 3 minutes to 16 minutes in length. It’s neither my best video footage, audio, or editing, but I believe he makes up in content what I lack in technical and artistic skills:

Chapter One: My grandfather convinces his father to let him join the US in their WWII involvement. He is selected as a radio operator for the First Cavalry Division and trains at Fort Riley, Kansas. Some highlights include him learning how to clean his horse, and shipping out from California on a ship reported sunk.

Chapter Two: My grandfather starts in New Guinea, before moving to the Admiralty Islands, and then invading the Island of Leyte. Some of my favorite highlights include him stealing a gun and riding a sea turtle.

Chapter Three: My grandfather faints on Leyte and wakes up in Manila

Chapter Four: My grandfather takes part in the occupation in Japan. He talks about practicing English with the locals and his uncomfortable patrols of the island.

Other: Additionally, throughout our conversations, my grandfather spoke some about horses in various battles. As these thoughts came to him randomly and out of chronologically order, I added them together as a bit of an afterthought.

I also took the liberty of asking him about his father, a WWI veteran. While I never met my great-grandfather, and though the video is quite short, I thought I could gather some new information on my family history.