U.S. Navy - 1943-1946
Roy was born in Arkansas, but was raised on a farm in Oklahoma. They farmed the land with mules and horses; there were no pieces of farm equipment that made the work easier or faster. They also sold the animals they raised to make money. They had six kids in their family, four boys and two girls and everyone worked on the farm plowing fields; harvesting grain, milking cows and all of the other tasks that were necessary to keep a farm running. Roy never attended high school because he was needed on the farm.
Roy left home when he was 17 years old and traveled to Oregon where he worked on a lumber farm for 65 cents per hour.
Roy was drafted into the Navy and sent to San Diego to attend boot camp. He trained alongside the Marines. He was trained to drive a landing craft and was part of the Naval Amphibious Forces. Eventually, the troops boarded a ship, but were not told where they were going. It took one week to get to the Hawaiian Islands, but they didn't stay there. They picked up Marines and additional fuel and kept going until they arrived in Saipan.
When supplies or troops were needed in a particular area, it was then radioed to what was commonly known as the “Mother Ship.” The beaches and islands were numbered and color coded. When Roy was driving the craft, he would know which island to go to based on the color code for that island and number that he was given. Roy also spent time transporting injured Marines to the hospital ship.
Roy participated in battle while in the Philippines, Okinawa and Iwo Jima. When asked how he dealt with those memories, Roy states that he was told in training to channel his thoughts and he was to focus on nothing else during those trips into the beaches. He didn't allow himself to have any feelings about what he was doing, it was his protection mechanism.
The ship was in dry dock when they heard the Japanese had surrendered and all of the troops were yelling and screaming with excitement. They knew the battles were fierce, but fear told them that it was going to get even worse if the war continued. The Japanese Emperor was made it clear that if we invaded Japan, our troops would be attacking and killing our own troops because American POW's would be placed on the front lines to be killed first.
Eventually Roy was discharged. He went to Oklahoma for a little while but became restless and traveled to Oregon. He worked there for a short time, and then moved on again. He spent time drifting through California, Idaho and Washington. He would do farm work or drive a truck and sometimes worked in lumber mills, just enough to make a little money and then move on to the next place. He traveled like this for two years. Roy believes that the restlessness was PTSD, but didn't know or recognize it then. Roy and three other buddies became very close while in the military; two of those buddies were killed during the war. Roy tried to forget those images, but sometimes still has nightmares.
Roy later married his wife, Thelma, and they had two daughters. He has four grandkids and six great-grandkids.
Roy spends his time walking laps at the old high school and walks around the lake to get exercise regularly.
Roy does not regret his time in the military and knows that Harry Truman saved their lives.
Peggy Sowders, a city of Independence staff member, compiles stories from veterans from around the area at the Truman Memorial Building. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 816-325-7979 if you are interested in helping a veteran tell his or her story.