I don’t want to get bogged-down in the negative. There are optimistic old people out there, and I met one who was briefly my FIL’s roommate – his name is Norman.
Norman was at Wheeler Field in Hawaii as a part of the 3rd Engineers when Japan attacked, he was a Sergeant already at the time, so he’d been in the Army a while.
He said they liked going to the Air Corps area where they could play tennis – not a bad gig for a kid from Nebraska, living the life of Riley in Paradise.
Being somewhat distant from Pearl Harbor itself, they saw less of the attack, but two planes aroused them while in Mess and dropped bombs and shot up the couple planes that were on the ground. One bomb went clear through one building and didn’t explode – and since they were an Engineers unit they were sent to de-fuse it. Afterwards they dragged it out to a beach and were taking pot-shots at it with their rifles when Sargent who “owned” that bit of beach came hustling up in a big heat and told them to get the hell out of there and get rid of it elsewhere, so they had to throw a chain around it and move on.
Norman went to Ranger School and was sent down to New Guinea where he said he spent a lot of time running up and down the hills there. He liked the M1 and qualified Expert – not too much of a stretch for a kid from Nebraska who had hunted and learned to shoot while growing-up. Where he grew-up isn’t too far from where my Mom’s family comes from, and we both new the names of small towns around that area. Cozad, Broken Bow, and other places where my Uncle Oscar worked and Hobo’d and where my Grandpa grew-up on the ranch.
He didn’t care much for the M1 Carbine and said. “It wasn’t worth the powder it took to push the bullet down the barrel.” He was injured in New Guinea and was sent down to Australia to recuperate, then went back in, and from New Guinea went up through Sumatra and Java. He says his rifle is on display in a museum in Oahu and repeated the serial number – a five-digit number – that’s low and an early issue rifle.
I need to know more. I’d like to get a recorder and do his oral-history, meantime I want to go to an Army Surplus store and get him a “Ranger” t-shirt. He doesn’t have much in the way of clothing in the convalescent hospital where he’s at, but his demeanor is calm and un-ruffled. His shoulders are broad but he’s shrunk a bit as age has taken its toll. Cool old dude.
Correction: It was Malaria that got him sent down to Australia to recover, not an injury.