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Examiner
  • Veteran Salute: Raymond Wood, U.S. Army

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  • Raymond was born in Louisburg, Kan., and was drafted into the Army in June of 1944. Raymond and his family lived on a farm, his father passed away when he was 10 years old and this made life very difficult for the family. They kept the farm, Raymond doesn't know how his mother was able to do this, but she did. The only income was what was made from farming.
    Raymond's brother went into the service and this put yet another hardship on his mother. Raymond got married right out of high school and was drafted into the Army shortly after.
    Raymond was sent to Arkansas for boot camp and then went to Fort Ord, Calif., for training. Raymond was then on a ship headed for the Philippines. The trip there was tough; seasickness got the best of Raymond and many others. They were told that this may be a one way trip for many of them and that they were going to replace troops that had been killed.
    Raymond was told he would be an Infantry replacement soldier. When they arrived at Leyte Island he had his M-1 semi-automatic rifle and had to use it to stifle the enemy.
    After a short time, Raymond and his fellow troops were told they would be boarding a ship but didn't know where they were going. Finally they were told they would be going to invade Okinawa Island. They were told the Japanese had been fortifying this island for defense of the mainland for 40 years. The island, they were told, was honeycombed with caves and tunnels and surrounded with a sea wall. Raymond remembers the terrible storm they ran into while headed to Okinawa. The waves were so large they looked like mountains and valleys. The storm lasted for two days. When the soldiers arrived it was dark and the whole convoy was blacked out. When daylight came, they were all prepared to depart their ships. They were loaded with everything they had to have including weapons steel helmets, ammunition and back packs loaded with necessities. They climbed down rope ladders and boarded onto landing crafts known as Alligators. Resistance from the enemy troops was light, but the Japanese had different plans for them.
    The Japanese had the whole island honeycombed with tunnels like mole hills so they could move from one defense to another as our troops forced them out. After they had dug in, one of the first few nights, some of the soldiers noticed a Japanese tank down the field a little ways. A small group of them decided to go check out the tank and look it over, they invited Raymond to be part of that group. He declined the offer.
    The men had no more had arrived at the tank when an artillery shell came screaming down at them and killed all of those men. That was Raymond's first bitter pill of war. They began to figure out what they were in for. Mortars continued to rain down on them and they lost many men.
    Page 2 of 2 - They had progressed to Sawtooth Ridge; they were isolated and there was firing all around them. Raymond began digging a ditch to dive into. He heard someone talking; they identified themselves as part of their group. Raymond waited until dark and then crawled into their ditch. There were four men, three alive and one dead. The dead man was a buddy of Raymond's. They laid in that ditch for four days and three nights. Their commanding officer ordered them to make a break for it while still constantly under attack. They were also told to make sure and bring their dead buddy with them. They went back 10 miles from the front lines and two other companies were brought in to relieve them.
    Everyone celebrated when the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Raymond states that Harry Truman dropping the bomb saved their lives.
    He returned to Paola and worked for 38 years at Panhandle Eastern Pipeline Company at the pumping station. He and his wife had four children. He likes to hunt and fish and learned how to play golf years ago. He can't do those things much anymore.
    Raymond states he was one of the lucky ones; there were many opportunities for him to be killed. He doesn't know why he was spared. Raymond always felt like someone was watching over him.
    He was fortunate enough to go an Honor Flight recently. He said he has never been honored so much and enjoyed the trip immensely.
    Peggy Sowders, a city of Independence staff member, compiles stories from veterans from around the area at the Truman Memorial Building. Contact her at psowders@indepmo.org or 816-325-7979 if you are interested in helping a veteran tell his or her story.
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