Thursday, July 11, 2002

They gave more than a couple of years in the 1940's

I just returned to California from the Northeast this evening. Spending some time learning about family history with some of my older realtives was definitely one of the highlights of the trip.

I hadn't really thought about the significance of the fact that my father (who died in 1975) and all three of my currently living uncles served in World War II, in some significant action. My uncle Angelo worked on B-29 bombers from a support base in the South Pacific, My uncle John worked with supply and transport in North Africa and Italy, and my uncle Frank came ashore with the D-Day landing at Normandy, which I never even knew before (and feel a little ashamed that I didn't). My father saw a great deal of tough action in the South Pacific Islands, as part of the 43rd Infantry Division. I knew the basics of my Father's service, but confronting some of the specifics has given me more realization of what he (and my uncles, and many, many other vets) went through. Following is a excerpt from the History of the 43rd Infantry Division, detailing the action that my father faced during his tour of duty:

From Ft. Ord the Division embarked on ships for the South Pacific. They closed in on New Zealand in October, 1942. The 172d Infantry Combat Team met with disaster at Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides on October 26, 1942. The liner President Coolidge on which it was embarked struck two US planted mines in the harbor. The only military casualty was Captain Elwood Euart, 103d Field Artillery, who died while rescuing some of his troops.

This event delayed the Division's entrance into combat in the South Pacific area. In November the Division, minus the 172d Regimental Combat Team, went on to New Caledonia. After a concentrated training period, the Division deployed to Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands in February 1943. This served as the staging area for the next move - to the Russell Islands, also in the Solomons. The Russells proved to be unoccupied by Japanese. Further jungle and realistic combat training took place. In June and early July 1943 the Division landed on Rendova and New Georgia Islands. The objective here was to take the Munda Airfield on which the Japanese had started construction. The Division augmented by elements of the 37th and 25th Infantry Divisions secured the air strip in early August 1943.

New Zealand - 1944
In December 1943/January 1944 the Division returned to New Zealand. Vigorous and intensive training took place for several months. In July 1944 the Division became a part of the force driving the Japanese from New Guinea. Landing at Aitape the 43d prevented the Japanese from reinforcing their troops along the Drinimour River. This successful campaign evolved into preparation for the invasion of the Philippine Islands.

Munda, New Georgia - 1943
On January 9, 1945, the 43d Infantry Division participated in the amphibious landing at Lingayen Gulf, Luzon. After several months of almost continuous combat, the Division welcomed the explosion of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki A-bombs. In September 1945 the 43d became one of the first Divisions to occupy Japan.


I think about the sacrifice our soldiers made and feel a great debt to them. Speaking to my uncles, I think about how these men gave a piece of their whole lives for their country. One of my uncles mentioned a time when it was a real and significant possibility that we might lose the war. I think about that for just a minute, and realize that I've taken the victory, and the price of that victory for granted.


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