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Examiner
  • Retired judge got early lesson in justice in Marines

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  • ack was born in Kansas City, and his family moved to Independence, when he was young. Jack's father owned a bank in Sugar Creek, but the Depression took hold and the bank folded. Jack grew up around politicians and remembers going to Harry Truman's home with his parents for card games.
    Jack's father passed away when he was 9 years old. It was the end of the Depression, but people were still having a hard time. Jack went to work when he was 11 to help pay bills. His sister had several broken hips, which created medical bills.
    Jack sold magazines and then went to work for the pharmacy in Maywood, where he worked through high school. The owner taught him a lot about business.
    When he was 17 he graduated from Northeast High School and tried to join the Marines, but his mother wouldn't sign the consent forms. He attended Kansas City Junior College for one year then joined the Marine Corps with several of his buddies.
    Jack was stationed on Guam and he was found to be fit for the task of guarding prisoners being held for war crimes.
    There were 56 Japanese officers and admirals in the stockades that were being tried for various war crimes.
    They were very isolated. The prisoners lived in Quonset huts that were 14 feet long and an arm's length wide with barbed wire. They would only let the prisoners out of the huts occasionally to exercise.
    The first day, a Japanese prisoner who was an admiral asked Jack where he was from. Jack told him he was from Missouri, and the admiral requested a book on Missouri. A few weeks later, Jack learned that the prisoner had memorized every county seat in Missouri.
    Jack found out the admiral he had given the book to was in charge of the Japanese who were fighting on Wake Island. The admiral told Jack that when he was young, he was tested and told that he would be an admiral. He also told him that the Japanese had spies in every country around the world and they planned on conquering the world.
    The night before he was hung, the admiral told Jack that they held American prisoners. He told Jack that the Japanese soldiers lined all of the prisoners up and shot them. One of the American prisoners got away, but they captured him and beheaded him. The Japanese soldiers threw all of the dead into ditches. The admiral said that the only crime they committed was losing the war.
    The admiral wanted Jack to have his sword. Jack told him he couldn't accept it and that it belonged with his family. Jack put a note with the sword and requested his captain find a way to get the sword to the admiral’s family.
    Page 2 of 3 - Sometimes the Japanese prisoners found ways to get a knife or a razor blade and they would attempt to cut their wrists, stomach and then their throat. This was hari-kari, a ritual suicide by disembowelment with a sword when disgraced or under sentence of death. They never could figure out how they were able to get those tools in. The Americans guarding the prisoners were told they would be court martialled if any Japanese prisoner accomplished that while on their watch.
    One of Jack's buddies escorted a Japanese prisoner to use the restroom; from under the doors of the restroom he saw blood. The Japanese soldier had committed suicide. From that day forward, they removed the doors from the restrooms.
    There were prisoners that were trustees and had been less violent and they assisted with tasks such as laundry. They were paid with cigarettes and candy bars.
    One day while on guard duty, Jack knew something was not right because all of the prisoners were talking to each other all at the same time. They were ordered to stand at attention and be counted. One prisoner wasn't participating and Jack figured out why, he was attempting to hang himself. Jack removed his pistol, in case he was faking. He wasn't and Jack cut the rope which held him and then performed CPR.
    Jack received a medal for that act, but felt odd for receiving a medal for saving the life of a war criminal.
    Jack was given a chance to attend Officer Training School, but he declined and said he wanted to be a lawyer. They offered to send him to Annapolis to study law, but he knew he really wanted to work and try a variety of cases, not just those of his fellow service members.
    Jack attended MU and went to UMKC Law School.
    The dean of the law school took the top students around town and introduced them to the top law firms in Kansas City in order to help them get hired. In the lobby of one of the firms, Jack began talking to one an attorney who worked there and asked how much time he spent in a courtroom and trying cases. The attorney told him he spent a great deal of time in the law library and not much time trying cases and talking to clients.
    Jack declined working at any of those firms and decided to go out on his own and became the Assistant Prosecuting attorney and he loved every minute of it.
    Jack was always interested in politics and served in the Missouri State Senate. He says he never understood just griping about something – do something about it and get it done.
    Jack was appointed as a judge by Gov. Warren Hearnes. Jack believes as a judge you cannot be prejudiced toward anyone.
    Page 3 of 3 - He believes he has lived the American dream and calls himself the luckiest person in the world.
    He married the love of his life, Beverly; they have been married for 62 years. They have five children and he believes that family comes first.
    He is proud to be a Marine and believes it is the greatest fighting machine. He is happy that people are paying proper attention to veterans.
    Jack states that we need to take care of our citizens and that we as a country need to stay strong in the military sense. He worries that other countries are catching up to us. We cannot impose our will on everyone else in the world and we can't judge everyone by our standards.
    Jack knows that we live in the greatest country in the world.
    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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