By Mildon Yeager
U.S. Naval Reserve
Sea Bee Battalion
LARNED — It all started when I was a senior in high school. A Navy recruiter came to visit with students who were interested in maybe joining the Navy.
I was very interested, because I knew in April, I would be 18 years and would be on the wanted list at our draft board and I was not interested in going into the Army.
So I made a visit with the recruiter as I knew that was where I wanted to go — in the Navy.
So I filled out all the paperwork and when I got home from school I showed my mother what I had done. I handed her the papers to read. The first thing she saw on that paper was enlisting for the Navy, then she came unglued.
She said no way was I signing my name on these papers.
But I told her that I would be drafted into the Army at the end of school and I did not want to go into the Army. I would rather swim in water than crawl in mud.
So she finally came down from the ceiling and more mother-and-son communication was discussed.
When my father arrived home, we discussed the enlistment with him and everything came to a very good understanding and papers were signed. I was told that I would be able to finish and graduate and then be called. But that did not happen. In February 1945 we left Larned for Kansas City for our physicals.
We left Larned for the Great Lake Naval Training Center. From there we went to San Diego for embarkment to the Philippines. At that time, that’s all we knew.
After several days at sea, the ship’s captain welcomed us all aboard and said, ‘I can’t say much about your trip to the Philippines, but you will receive your orders there and you will board your assigned ship and head to Japan for VJ Day.’
That really didn’t mean anything at the time. As time passed, we realized we were recruited just for this. We were not recruited into the regular Navy. We were enlisted into the United States Naval Reserves. That was just for the duration of the war. The right meaning was we were chosen to be in the VJ Suicide Party. That’s what they thought was the only way to win the war with Japan.
But we were the luckiest people in the world, because in August 1945 that B-29 Superfortress made it off the ground and flew to Japan and dropped the most powerful atomic bomb. It was so powerful it shook the world and when the second one dropped, Japan said they had enough and surrendered Aug. 14, 1945.
That made us the Armed Forces, the most luckiest people in the world because we could have been in that million or so that could have lost their lives had the B-29 not made that trip Aug. 6, 1945.
We were assigned to those islands in the South Pacific where they had other Armed Forces stationed. We took their places so they could return to the States for discharge. We were on those islands for about a year, more or less to clean up the island and close down the facilities. I was stationed on Manus Island, one of the Admiralty Islands.
That’s why I have become interested in the B-29 Memorial and that’s why it was a pleasure to have played a part in creating it. The Memorial has so much thoughts, meaning and memories in its structure.
The name it was given, “Honoring the Past, Educating the Future,” says it all.