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Examiner
  • He kept communications open on Saipan

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  • Charles, 89, was born on and lived on a farm in Pleasanton, Kansas. He had one sister. The farmstead had livestock and they planted and grew anything they could that would help make a living. Charles had chores day and night, but he was fortunate enough to be able to attend high school.
    Charles signed up for the draft, but decided to enlist in the Army. He wanted to join the Air Force, but his mother didn't like that idea.
    He was trained to be a radio operator. When they were in the field with those radios, it required two men to carry a field radio, one to carry the generator and one to carry the electrical equipment. He was a member of the Signal Service Battalion, which maintained all of the communications for the troops on the island of Saipan. They landed on Saipan on July 4, 1944, just a few short weeks after D-Day.
    They constructed a base for the B-29's tasked with bombing Japan. Charles witnessed many B-29's attempt to get into the air, but their loads were too heavy and they fell into the ocean and sank.
    They had a bomb shelter underground to house all of the radio equipment, which was the central communication line for the entire island. Once the base was built they had six beds in each tent that were set on platforms.
    Charles' father passed away right after he entered the service and that left his mother in bad shape financially. She had to sell the farm and move into town. Charles tried to get an emergency furlough, but the company commander turned down his request. It was a very tough time for his mother and it has always left Charles with a bad feeling.
    While on Saipan, they were bombed and shelled regularly. Enemy planes would fly overhead to terrorize them during the night. Anti-aircraft couldn't shoot them down due to the high altitude in which they flew. They called these frightening scare tactic planes Midnight Charlie. Later on, P-38 planes with specialized radar, called the Black Widow, were sent up and made sure Midnight Charlie couldn't threaten them anymore. The men were relieved not to have the worry of being terrorized every night. Later on, Charles needed help to deal with the horrible memories, but knew he really had to work it out on his own.
    While on duty, air raids were a regular event. When the sirens went off, they would go hide behind big boulders to avoid being hit by shrapnel. The underground bomb shelter was a relief to have.
    When the war ended, Charles finally got to return to the United States. It was an 18-day trip on the water that was extremely rough. Once he arrived in California, Charles noticed that there were German prisoners working in the PX. They also served chow to the troops arriving back home. Charles thought it was an odd sight to see.
    Page 2 of 2 - Charles returned to Kansas City in time for Christmas and got to meet up with his mom. He stayed in Kansas City and got his first job driving street cars, which he did for three years.
    Charles got married and realized he needed to make more money. He went to work for Phillips Petroleum Refinery in Kansas City, Kansas, where he worked as an electrician for 37 years. He lost his first wife when she was 63 years old and re-married, but lost his second wife after 16 years.
    Charles loves living out in the country and taking care of his 80-acre farm that has its own landing strip. He realizes that it is time to sell it all and move into an assisted living facility. He recently was able to go on an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., and he says that it was such an honor to be part of this historic visit.
    Charles was thankful to return to the United States and realized that at the time fighting the war was necessary. He was proud to serve but doesn't discuss it much; he doesn't want to remember it.
    Charles enjoys a fond memory of shaking hands with Harry Truman at a celebration of Harry's Infantry group. He thanks Harry Truman for dropping the atom bomb. It saved many 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 psowders@indepmo.org or 816-325-7979 if you are interested in helping a veteran tell his or her story.

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