VETERANS HISTORY PROJECT
By Larry Nelson
The Veterans History Project is an effort to capture the stories of all Veterans. Currently, they come from individuals who were in WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Desert Shield/Storm, and present day service.
Larry Nelson, a retired soldier who served in the U.S. Army and U.S. Army Reserve for 37 years, is a volunteer interviewer for this project. He has conducted over 200 interviews in about 5 years. Many are from the Sidney, Nebraska area, many from the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Cheyenne, WY, and others he has met along the way.
Larry encourages others to become involved in this process! Please go to www.loc.gov/vets. There you’ll find the Interview Kit. It contains four required forms and a six-page guide to help one conduct the interviews. On completing the interviews, the taped copy is sent to the Library of Congress!
Most Veterans have not told their story. They will say a little at a family reunion or perhaps at a location where adult beverages are served – and they might join in conversations as “when I was in ……” Doing these interviews is an important, serious deal!
If readers want to be interviewed or have persons they want interviewed, contact Larry in Sidney, NE. Thanks!
Edward R. Sarell
Private First Class
World War II
Edward (Ed) had graduated from high school in his home state of Minnesota in 1942. He grew up on a farm and as soon as he could, wanted to see more of the world! He must have enjoyed the aspect of “Go west, young man, go west!”
World War II was engaged in both Europe and in the islands in the Pacific Ocean. Fairly quickly, Ed found a way to fund his travels… work! He learned how to operate a torch powerful enough to cut thick metal used in constructing aircraft carriers. At this stage in his life, he knew he would serve in the military forces. He took on the attitude “if they want, come get me”. So…they did.
Fairly soon, Ed was drafted into the US Army. The flow of action took him to Fort Lewis, Washington for induction then on to Camp Roberts, CA. This Army installation situated between San Francisco and Los Angeles off Highway 101 processed and trained over 430,000 individuals in courses of infantry and Artillery. (A sweet silk pillow sham depicting Camp Roberts is on display in Sidney, Nebraska.)
Ed went there by troop train. At age 95, Ed didn’t recall a lot of the things he was involved in. He said they did a lot of long marches, a lot of running, much drill and ceremonies. Ed said that many who trained at Camp Roberts were sent on to fight in the Pacific and that a lot of them did not return. He said that if most of the guys who trained there were going to fight “the Japs”, he would just as soon join the Paratroopers and fight in Europe. Ed signed up for airborne training.
After initial training in Camp Roberts, the next place for a sharp learning curve was Fort Benning, Georgia. Again, another troop train experience, this time, quite a bit longer. Ed looked forward to jumping out of airplanes. He was a willing trainee who made it through a fast six or seven week course. He said they ran everywhere, every day. He couldn’t remember any of the airborne cadence calls but he knew of them! Upon graduation, Ed and other young paratroopers were taken to the shipping docks of New York City and sent by boat to Glasgow, Scotland.
On the boat (the Ile de France, a cruise ship, converted to use as a troop ship) Ed recalled the stacks of sling beds and knew he didn’t have the bottom sling. He didn’t get seasick but most others did! He knew that Bing Crosby, Dorothy Lamoure, and Ed Colona were aboard the ship. He said it was a rough ride across the Atlantic with waves as high as the ship! The ship would climb to the crest of a wave then dive atop the water again and again. Ed was also an airborne soldier… getting seasick was not allowed for these hard-charging men.
When the ship came into the port at Liverpool, the men re-assembled and were sent by train to southern England where they would await transportation across the English Channel. Here Ed joined up with his assigned unit. He was now a member of Company F, 17th Airborne Division, 513th Parachute Infantry Regiment. His Company First Sergeant was 1SG Donavan.
(From Wikipedia: paratroopers of the 513th fought in the latter stages of the Battle of the Bulge in January 1945 and later parachuted into Germany in Operation Varsity in March 1945. This was the largest airborne operation of the war.)
The replacement troops were taken to the area of Luxembourg, Belgium. In January 1945, it was bitter cold and there was about 1 ½ feet of snow on the ground. Ed said that they were trucked there by 6 x 6 vehicles. The closer they got to their destination, the louder and more repetitive noises of artillery and infantry were heard. There were many corpses lying on the ground, frozen. Soldiers were placing the bodies on trucks to deliver them away from their current location. The unit was in a camp set up for them. Their mission was to go from village to village and house by house seeking German soldiers. They captured many.
Ed was a Machine Gun operator. He was part of a three man crew: one carrying the heavy tripod the gun would rest on, one carrying as much ammunition as humanly possible, and the last one carrying the machine gun. Ed knew it wasn’t a Thompson machine gun – it was most likely an M1919 Browning. This named weapon saw a lot of action in WWII, Korea and Vietnam.
The Browning is a belt-fed weapon. Each belt of about 100 rounds of 30 caliber ammunition were used by placing the first round in the chamber, then the next few rounds on the receiving tray, then the rest of the belt would feed into the mechanism. The Browning weighed 32.4 pounds while the tri-pod weighed almost 15 lbs. The tri-pod carrier also carried extra tools and barrels. The machine gunner was expected to carry and be ready to deploy the weapon with or without the tripod.
Ed related that their Captain had been a leader of an Army unit fighting in the Pacific. He was re-assigned to the European Theater of Operations and Commander of F Company. Since they had an experienced leader, F Company seemed to be closest to the point of the spear most of the time.
As they worked the villages, they moved north toward Bastogne, a group of German soldiers were in a tree line off the road. The Germans opened fire but no soldiers were hit. US troops took the fight to the Germans, killing many. Ed said that the machine gun barrel got so hot that one couldn’t hold it. He had to hold back the number of rounds fired by limiting the number of rounds to thirty. He carried it that way when he had to fire it quickly. Maintaining the gun wasn’t done very often. He said that if anything, they would add some oil and change the barrel.
He said they ate C rations and Chocolate bars. There wasn’t a lot of down time. Their leather boots were not adequate for the weather and ground conditions. Many men suffered frostbite. Ed had to cut the boot off an injured compadre. His foot was black in color from the cold.
One morning, his unit was on the move, a powerful German tank approached their position. Ed’s group was in a crater left by a bomb’s blast. The men were totally covered in snow. Ed told the men “don’t move, don’t move”!
Ed recalled looking at the edge of the crater they were in when he saw “a misty image of Jesus Christ. Jesus was full figured and had robes on.” Ed said “as far as I was concerned, that was Christ; in my mind, I visualized Him; I had been continually praying. You know what… that’s why I wasn’t scared of anything there… I knew that if I got killed I was going to heaven.”
The tank moved on unaware. When safe, Ed’s small group moved out only to see that the machine guns on that same tank had caught sight of a large group of men. The guns mowed the men down. The KIA personnel were of Ed’s unit. There were 194 soldiers assigned. After the attack, 17 remained alive. Obviously this was a devastating action. There was nothing the rest could do. Luckily, the Company Commander, 1SG and a few others survived.
Ed’s crew fled to a nearby tree line and set up the machine gun ready to fire. They waited there for a quite some time. They were approached by soldiers who took the three in custody. They were taken to a local headquarters building and questioned as if they were German spies. After not much time, the men were returned to their Company.
After re-grouping what was left of the Unit, they went back to the battle. Slowly, the defeat of the German army happened as it retreated back from the bulge. Finally the soldiers from F Company found homage and a place to warm up, dry out and rest.
In March of 1945, the largest airborne operation of WWII took place. In Operation Varsity, paratroopers from the 513th Parachute Infantry Regiment loaded onto C-47 airplanes and “jumped” into Germany. Ed’s parachute took him into some trees positioned near the actual landing zone. He said he was suspended there for quite a while, knowing he was quite a target for opposing forces. Finally he and others were cut down so they could re-assemble and get on with the mission.
American soldiers and British forces worked together clearing German soldiers out of houses and villages. Ed’s group came to a particularly large city that had a motel. As they moved to the motel to search, a room by room action took place. Ed knocked at a door. He re-knocked and the door opened when he found a man almost dressed as a civilian. It was clear this was a German soldier. The questionable person seemed to ask Ed to not shoot. Ed said he slowly closed the door and kept walking.
The “search and destroy” program continued until the entire force reached a point in northern Germany. They action stopped because the Russian army was nearby and was going to take over the work.
As this effort dissipated, Ed’s group was trucked to the west side of France where they began preparations to go to the Philippines to fight the Japanese army. The unit was moved to southern France and was set to be flown to the Pacific when word came in that the second atomic bomb had been dropped in Japan. Plans were canceled for the 513th.
Eventually, F Company was to move to Marseilles, France and was loaded onto a US Navy troop ship and sent back to the United States of America. They went back to their primary place of assignment, Fort Benning, Georgia. In just a little over a week, Ed processed out of the Army. He hitch hiked his was back to Minnesota.
A social function was going on where Ed met a man who was going to California the very next morning. He asked Ed if he was interested in going along. A new life began!
This courageous paratrooper earned the Combat Infantry Badge, Parachutist Wings, and several medals. He surmised he was just lucky to come home.
Private First Class Edward Sarell, thank you for your selfless service.
Betty L. Johnsen Kern
Yeoman 2nd Class
US Navy WAVES
Betty L. Johnsen Kern was a twenty year old young woman who got her start in the Cohagen, Montana area. After graduating high school, she obtained further education including stenography, shorthand and typing. The knowledge and skills allowed her to obtain a special teaching certificate so she could teach in western Montana. She was doing just that when in 1945, she decided to enlist in the US Navy.
Coming from a long line of family members who served our Nation, Betty knew it was the right thing to do by enlisting and being of some assistance. She went to the US Navy Recruiter who told her about the Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Services program, or WAVES. She liked what she had heard. After passing the required tests, she returned to her home and in a couple of months, was notified what was to happen next.
On the timeline of WWII, Victory had been won by the capitulation of the Nazi forces. The war continued in the Pacific Theater of Operations for a few months longer.
Her travel orders directed her to meet and board a troop train that was making its way from Seattle, WA to New York City. Other women heading for training classes were already on the train and as it traveled along across the northern part of the United States, the train filled up. The destination was Hunter College, in the Bronx, New York City, New York.
As the new inductees arrived, they were assigned dormitory rooms in the college. They were issued clothing - two sets of everything. The clothes had to fit fairly well. They were provided instructions about making the bed, how to display their clothing, how to clean the rooms, where to eat and getting on in the US Navy.
Once all the preliminaries were taken in, Betty and her peers then reported to the place to learn how to march, customs and courtesies, physical training, and Navy life. This was an unusual time to be new in the military. The women here had to prepare to march in quite a parade and show of personnel a few weeks after they entered boot camp. It was a welcome home parade of sorts for returning Soldiers, Sailors, Army-Air Forces and US Marines. On parade, Betty’s pictures showed formations consisting of a total of about 300 women marching in Company formations doing a precision performance. The uniform for the parade was a white dress having a dark blue tie around their necks. The two parts of the tie joined at the front and were held in place with a pin. The rest of the tie was then flared out. They marched wearing Navy caps like all female sailors.
Betty met most of the women she trained with and made hard-fast friends with several. They would visit, commiserate, and help one another prepare for the next day. Most of the time, the uniform was a seersucker cloth with white and grey stripes.
The initial training lasted about 8 weeks. Prior to graduation, the hard-copy orders that directed each sailor to their next assignment had been issued. Betty was going to the US Navy Hospital in Oakland, California.
Fairly soon after marching on the Parade Field, she and many other women boarded a troop train headed west. Betty noticed that the windows on the train had been blacked out. She later learned that the train had made a leg of the journey into Canada, and for security reasons, the contents of those cars was secret. As the train went into Chicago, the passengers were allowed a day off in the big city.
On re-boarding, the train clipped on to California. After arriving in San Francisco, Betty was taken to the Oakland Navy Hospital. As she was trained, she reported in to the installation and the Officer of the Day. After being acquainted with where she would live and eat, Betty was in her work uniform and being shown to her desk and informed of her responsibilities.
Betty had a map and pictures of the building and lay-out of the Naval Hospital. Although the place has since been closed, it was good to get an idea of how it was to be and where she fit in. Up to this point, she had gone from Cohagen, Montana to New York City, then back to Chicago and to California.
Her co-workers were from all walks of life. It was her first exposure to those in the Jewish Faith. Most co-workers were her age. Betty got some exposure to the patients in the hospital. There were many wards serving sailors, Marines and Soldiers. There was a section cordoned off for the mentally ill. It was likely the actions of war drove them over the edge.
Victory over Japan (VJ Day) had taken place by now. Betty said that she heard about it when she and her friends went to a movie. When they came out of the theater, they looked toward San Francisco, CA. She said it had “exploded” with merriment. Things were definitely looking up.
Betty was an expert in stenography and shorthand. That skill set meant she accompanied Navy Officers to take notes of conversations and events they were involved in.
A US Navy Hospital Ship arrived at the pier in Oakland. It carried prisoners of war. The ship had sailed from the various islands in the Pacific to the Philippines, to Hawaii, then to Oakland. The healthy men and women got to stay in Pearl Harbor where they could eat and get stronger. The ones really struggling came to the Oakland Navy Hospital. Betty remembered that all leave had been cancelled to take care of the arriving people. Responding ambulances had come to the pier to take patients to the hospital. She said there must have been over two dozen vehicles making a circuit to get the patients into the care facility.
These returnees had no records pertaining to who they were and what their medical history was. The patients had to be individually interviewed and records established. Files had to be created and work updated. Betty was present in the interviews and worked tirelessly to build the records of patients up to a current status.
Betty also worked with patients. In teaching them skills that would help them once they re-joined civilian life and work force. She taught them typing and shorthand. Those who had lost legs, could still type and file. Her work then was today’s vocational re-hab.
Betty kept in touch with home by writing letters and mainly postcards. There wasn’t a phone in her parents’ home. Actually there wasn’t electricity in Cohagen until after the War.
USO shows came to the facility to help the morale of the patients. Betty attended some of these and recalled how the patients seemed to enjoy them.
In June, 1946, Betty was notified that her time in the active Navy was due to end. She did what she set out to do by serving her Country in time of war. Yeoman Second Class Betty Johnsen Kern, thank you for volunteering and serving America!
Vincent C. Havorka
Aviation Metalsmith 1st Class
“Go west, young man” must have been ringing in the ears of Vincent Havorka (Vince). After graduating from high school in northeastern Nebraska, he made his way to California. It was late in 1940. He looked for jobs and found a good one with Lockheed Aircraft in Burbank, CA.
Vince liked his work there where he worked on assembling the P-38 and 414 Hudson Bombers. He developed some metal-smithing skills. He worked all shifts but preferred the overnight shift. After working there more than a year, things went well. He had a good place to live, found some entertainment, and had a better than average job. He was getting used to the late night shift (.90 cents an hour) and settling in.
Vince’s supervisor at the time told Vince he was going to be moved to the day shift. DANG! He was going to be seeing daylight, making less money, and sleeping more – maybe.
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor changed so many things for so many people. Vince and a buddy knew the draft was coming near and they had to be on someone’s list. Vince didn’t care so much for the kind of life of Soldiers or Marines had to live.
Vince and a buddy decided to go to the Merchant Marine employment office in downtown Los Angeles, CA. When they got near the place of employment, there was quite a long, long line of young men seeking jobs. It seemed like every available guy wanted to work for them. Vince and his buddy went to an office in the basement of the nearby Post Office and found the Navy recruiter.
Vince took the physical exam. His vision was poor. The examiner told him to go sit in a nearby chair and rest his eyes. On re-examination, the rest didn’t help. Vince did tell the man that he had wanted to join the Navy his whole life… The examiner told him that he “would let him pass through, but don’t tell anyone!”
By December 1942, Vince was ordered back to the induction center. When he got there, they told him they couldn’t find his papers. But since he was there, would he mind helping them with the paperwork? After working there for three days, his papers surfaced.
He wanted to be with the guys he signed up with but they were shipped to northern Idaho (Camp Farragut) for training. It’s cold there in the winter – to say the least. Luckily, Vince was sent to San Diego and the Naval Recruit Training Center.
Now the haircut was at hand. Vince had a pretty good Hollywood haircut that he was sporting but that went away. He got a sea bag full of clothes. The men were taken to a barracks, taken to the mess hall, it’s all good. Vince went to a secondary physical exam that was administered to all recruits in case the induction physicals might have missed something.
The optometric specialist checked Vince. He sent Vince on to the physician in charge. The Dr. said “I don’t know how you got this far, but you have to promise me that you’ll keep a spare pair of glasses with you at all times!” He was passed through.
Vince went through the eight weeks of boot camp learning all the essential skills. Vince was already an accomplished swimmer so passing the test in that area was not a problem. The ones who didn’t pass the swim test had to stay on base but the swimmers got weekend liberty!
The next stop in Vince’s training plan was shipping out to NATTC (Navy Air Technical Training Command) Norman, Oklahoma. His assignment was at the Aircraft Metal-smith School. Getting there was by troop train that went from San Diego east then down into Mexico, and back north to Texas. One of the train cars had an oblong livestock tank on its floor. The tank contained an inventory of cold beverages.
The school went for four months. On graduating from the course, Vince was promoted to Aviation Metalsmith 2nd Class. Because of his work at Lockheed earlier in his life, he was promoted faster!
Vince returned to the San Diego area, specifically to Naval Air Station, North Island, CA. Here, Vince applied his training and “know-how” to fix stuff. At NAS North Island, Aircraft carriers returned from duty in the Pacific and the War against the Japanese. Most of the fighter planes on the carriers had sustained damage to wings and/or fuselages. Vince’s section repaired the bullet holes and other damage to make the planes air-worthy again. There was no shortage of work. Each carrier brought more banged up stuff.
When Vince got some liberty to leave his work, he returned to Randolph, NE. On two of his train trips, stops were made at the famous North Platte Canteen. Vince really enjoyed that.
Vince kept in touch with home by writing letters. He had been promoted in the later months. Following the bombing of the two cities in Japan, the War was over. Vince found out from Navy channels. Vince’s work area had an immediate slow-down. He stayed on duty for a few months after the war. He got several opportunities to see USO shows.
When made available, Vince could out-process at San Pedro, CA. There was a destroyer sailing from NAS North Island to San Diego. Vince and about 150 other men got aboard. All was pretty sweet until the “tin can” destroyer hit some rough seas.
Vince and another sailor stood in the chow line. The other man – who Vince didn’t know – told Vince to just load up on food, as it was really good. In the galley aboard a swaying ship, Vince got his tray and approached the line of food. A server began to put something on his tray, but Vince got the queasy feeling and turned over his tray and left the line.
Vince left the Navy and returned to Randolph, Nebraska. In time, he married. He also bought into a Ford dealership. Vince always liked cars. Owning a dealership meant that he was sometimes the mechanic, sometimes the salesman, sometimes the book-keeper. This investment lasted twenty years. He moved his family to Sidney, NE. Although he didn’t plan to get back into the car business, he did! He and his family have been a significant part of the Sidney community for quite a number of years.
Aviation Metalsmith 1st Class Vince Havorka, your Country needed you at the time and you gave your all. Thanks for your service!
Arthur H. Thurow
World War 1
Arthur H. Thurow was a young man who liked farming. He had gained some experience in that field –no pun intended – in northeastern Nebraska.
In an interview with a family member, he said he worked on a farm near Pilger, NE until the 4th of August, 1917. Then he went to a recruiter’s office in Norfolk, NE where he joined the Army.
Presumably, Arthur must have been in the company of other young men. They were likely taken by a troop train to Camp Cody, New Mexico
(near Deming, NM).
Camp Cody was an Army training camp for the National Guard units from North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Iowa. Soldiers received basic training there before leaving for France to join the war. The different National Guard units together formed the 34th Infantry Division and were nicknamed the "Sandstorm Division," a name based on the camp's desert climate. The camp was named shortly after the death of the famous buffalo hunter and showman, William F. Cody (1846–1917), better known as Buffalo Bill Cody.
In the earlier interview, Arthur was asked what the hardest thing he had to do while at Camp Cody. He responded that making a training walk from Camp Cody to El Paso, Texas and back with a “pack on our backs” was the most difficult. He said it was about 180 miles one direction. There was another such march making the men walk to Silver City, N.M. but this was about 50 fewer miles.
Private Thurow said his time at Camp Cody came to an end on the 26th of August 1918. He and many new soldiers boarded a troop train that would transport them to Camp Dix, New Jersey (now Fort Dix). They stayed at Camp Dix for about two weeks. At midnight on 18 Sep 1918, they were then taken to a pier in New York City.
Private Thurow said he was with others when they boarded a smaller ship that carried them down the Hudson River at 0400 hours. The short jaunt took them to another pier where they boarded a ship, the Cretic, (that was part of a convoy) that would carry the men across the Atlantic Ocean to Liverpool, England. He said the trip lasted 13 days.
From, Liverpool, the next stop was Winchester, England. In the fine mode of “hurry-up-and-wait”, the men remained here for about a week. Boarding another ship, they sailed across the English Channel to Cherbourg, France. (This is on a peninsula of land at the northwest tip of France. In WWII it was the site of a Battle during the Normandy invasion. It is very close to Utah Beach.)
The men then were marched onto a train bound for Mesves-sur-Loire.
From Wikipedia: In 1918, during World War I, a field between the towns of Mesves-sur-Loire and Bulcy was the site of a huge American Army hospital. As many as 140,000 Americans were stationed in the area in 1918 so it had a major American presence.
Private Thurow was part of the 6th Nebraska Infantry. He was transferred to Company F, 109th Engineers, 34th Division. He was in the 13 Squad. He thought it rained or snowed too much of the time while he was in France. Like all soldiers serving in far and away places, he wanted to come home. He said he didn’t interact with the civilian people in the area unless someone from his unit stole one of their chickens or potatoes.
Private Thurow’s Company was inspected by General John J. “Blackjack” Pershing and an accompanying French General. He also saw President Herbert Hoover make a speech at a nearby Cemetery.
As WWI came to a close, Private Thurow and his squad were taken to the French port of Saint Nazaire, where they boarded the Pastores. For the nine day return trip, the Private worked in the kitchen every other day. He did comment on the food saying the men were given about 5 boiled eggs a day. Of the 5, two were found to have fetal matter and one was inedible, leaving two for eating. The bread served was good, however.
The Pastores landed at a harbor in New York. The men disembarked and were taken to Camp Mills, Long Island, New York. After a few days, Private Thurow was on another troop train, headed west. He got off at Des Moines, Iowa and Camp Dodge.
At Camp Dodge, Iowa, he was issued his discharge papers on 2 July 1919. He was also provided with a $86.00 back pay and bonus amount of money. He began to make his way west.
On the 28th of July 1919, Arthur Thurow was in Sidney, Nebraska and moving into a different life. Several of his children, and grandchildren live in the area and provided the information for this report.
Private Arthur H. Thurow, thank you for your service!
Kenneth C. Bush
US Air Force
1990 - 2013
Kenneth C. Bush (Ken) said that one of his assets was that he was a military brat. That meant that one or both of his parents was serving in the military while he grew up. He moved, literally, about the globe. After graduating from high school, he started college, but found that not to his liking.
In that his father and his brother were both in the US Air Force, he would start there. He went through the Military Enlistment Processing Station in Los Angeles. After taking the important tests that would determine what the Air Force thought he would be doing. His choices were security forces, medic, or food service (becoming a cook). Ken picked security forces.
Soon, Ken was at Lackland Air Force Base, near San Antonio, TX. Here, he would complete both basic training and advanced training (Security Forces School). There was an additional security school at Fort Dix, New Jersey. Mainly because of his ability to adapt, improvise and overcome the issues at all his first training stations were minimal.
For the next eleven years, Ken was a member of the security forces that are seen in the western Nebraska area, He and others would deploy for days at a time going out to their assigned areas, checking on the missile sites.
His first assignment was Malmstrom AFB, near Great Falls, Montana. He was on the patrol force then was an armorer, taking care of and accounting for weapons.
The next work was in South Korea with the 8the Security Forces Squadron. This entity was in charge of ensuring security for the entire base… housing, perimeter, flight line, entry control, weapons, etc. Here there was a lot of real life training and situational events. After a year there, it was time to move on.
The Air Force admin people had news though. He wouldn’t get his preferred station unless he re-enlisted… so Ken accommodated them. He wanted to go to a US coastal setting, preferably California, or Florida. “you’re headed for Offutt AFB in Nebraska”.
Security on this installation was much different with all the activity in the various mobility units of this Strategic Base. Ken fit in quickly and eventually moved into being a Mobility NCO overseeing the loading of the planes with cargo and personnel. Then he took four year assignment in the National Airport Operations Center. Ken served at Offutt AFB about seven years.
Here is a motivated military man. While doing the various jobs and moving up in the chain of command, Ken had also applied to the Officer Training School (OTS). In this piece of advancement, an enlisted person can go from Enlisted ranks to Officer Status by being accepted for and going through OTS. This change was a result of Ken being a coach for his kids’ various activities like T-ball, soccer, baseball etc.. Unbeknownst to Ken, another parent had been quietly observing Ken. The observer told Ken that he had lots of the abilities that the Air Force needed in the Officer Corps. He encouraged Ken to go that route.
Soon Ken was in route to Maxwell AFB to be a part of the next OTS Class. After fourteen weeks of classes, hazing, encouragement, time management, etc. On September 11th 2001, Ken’s group was on a field exercise working out a situation when word came out that the Twin Towers in NYC had been attacked. The group acknowledged the news then went back to their problem. The training staff had to re-contact them to say “THIS IS NOT PART OF THE TRAINING EXERCISE!” Things changed!
Ken became a 2nd Lieutenant in the USAF and was sent to Luke AFB near Tucson, AZ. He was now a part of the management of the Air Forces people and property. Since the attack on our Country, security dynamically changed. Ken was a serious player in that element at Luke AFB.
RAF Lakenheath in the UK (near Cambridge) was the next part of his career. Still in the Security Forces branch, the work was waiting for him. He took on assignments in crew management and administration management. During this piece, Ken was sent to Iraq for six months, continuing to endeavor in keeping our folks and property safe. He was promoted to the rank of Captain. The tour there was good experience for the new Officer. He impressed a COL at RAF Lakenheath who asked for him personally to become the Executive Officer for the Mission Support Group.
Ken completed Squadron Officers training. Now, after serving in the Iraq Theater of War, at RAF Lakenheath, and eleven years as an enlisted man, Ken was becoming a known Officer with some impressive credentials. He was given several choices of relocation. The best offering was F.E. Warren AFB, near Cheyenne, WY.
Ken kept his work there at Warren and became the Squadron Commander of Missile Security Forces at that base. That’s a huge tasking. He was promoted to Major! A part of that command includes the AF units that frequent the Sidney, NE area.
Major Ken Bush served 23 years in the Air Force! He earned a chest full of ribbons and awards for his work in defending America! You served well, Major, thank you for that!
Vernon W. Hermann
Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class
1943 - 1946
The Selective Service System reached out to a number of young men around the country. This activity affected lots and lots of young Nebraska men as well. A group was contacted and assembled in the Seward area. Their number was enough that they traveled from Seward to the military induction station in Omaha by bus.
Usually draftees were sent to the Army. When the bus arrived at the Omaha site, Vernon Hermann was given a choice. There were two slots available in the Navy, some available in the Marine Corps, and the rest…Army/Army Air Force. Vernon and a buddy from Seward chose the Navy.
At the physical examination, Vernon weighed 113 pounds. Vernon and his buddy were kept in Omaha for a couple of days. Vernon was too lean and the buddy had eyesight that should have kept him from joining. The solution to these problems: Vernon was told to eat as much as he could and the other young man was told to get the biggest can of carrot juice he could find. He was then told to drink it just before they come back here. They both passed the second try!
When they left from Omaha, the mode of transportation was a troop train. The destination for boot camp was at the Navy Training Facility in Farragut, Idaho. Along the way, the train stopped at various places, including the famous one at North Platte. Camp Farragut was the third site of the Navy’s training activities. It was little known. Many sailors graduated from of this Northern Idaho base. There is little doubt it was a political selection for the name of this location. But there is a large, deep lake there, Lake Pend Oreille.
On arrival, the greeting committee met the bus that brought the men to the actual training base. The recruits were presented a lot of information real fast. Where you’ll live; where you’ll eat; what we’re going to do tomorrow. We’ll organize you into what is called a formation. Then you’ll be marched to a place where you’ll get some clothes.
Vernon said some of the clothes fit. Some were too big or too small. Vernon didn’t fuss about it too much. But he did have a condition with his feet. It was “hammer toes”. Many shoes have a seam where the toe part is connected to the rest of the shoe. With “hammer toes”, his toes rubbed that seam … fairly painful for about 8 weeks.
The trainees got into the routine of becoming what they weren’t before. They learned the new terms only available in the Navy: head, bulkhead, galley, blues, whites, and dungarees.
They found out what and where the grinder is. This is a flat, asphalt-surfaced area (parking lot). On this place, new people learned to conduct physical exercises, worked on drill and ceremonies, played sports, and had to share it with many others who were in the same situation as them. Vernon had much difficulty with performing more than five pushups. (This is Exercise four, Conditioning drill one in Field Manual 22-5.) Although this very exercise is part of the physical fitness test, Vernon learned of mercy and some grace when they pulled him out of the formation. Although remedial training was in order, it didn’t seem to help.
Vernon was picked for the medical field just before graduating from boot camp. He remained at Camp Farragut for advanced training. He learned the basics and focused on becoming a dental assistant. He was also selected to go on a multi-state recruiting effort with a woman who was in the WAVES, a doctor, and a Petty Officer First Class.
Some of Vernon’s service days were spent at the Bremerton (Washington) Navy Base. The remainder was at the Seattle Naval Air Station. He was a sailor the medical section could depend on to do jobs correctly and capable of doing many tasks. He became a Pharmacist's Mate 3rd class.
Every few weeks, he would take the proper equipment and travel from the base to subordinate units. He carried along the equipment to produce identification tags – dog tags. Having the correct information on the small rust-proof rectangles was essential. He obtained the information in person from incoming sailors and made the tags then and there.
On August 15th, 1945, big news came across the wires that the Japanese had surrendered. Vernon remembered that all the 12 dentists on this base received small bottles of brandy from the commander. In that there were 13 bottles, Vernon and a buddy got to split a bottle.
Vernon would leave the U.S. Navy seven months later. Boatswain’s Mate Vernon Hermann, you responded when the Nation needed you! Thanks for your service!
Arthur V. Phillips
United States Marine Corps
1942 - 1945
Preface: In doing interviews for the Veterans History Project, each Veteran telling his story is unique. There isn't one size that fits all; there are no stories that are alike.
Those veterans serving in World War Two and in the Korean War have to go back in their memories over seventy years. Some events/situations are easier to remember than others.
Arthur V. Phillips, Art, grew up in the Burlington, Iowa area. His father had come over to the United States from England at age 12. His father met all the requirements of citizenship, worked hard, had a family and seemed to be in complete control of things around him. One thing he insisted on was his son joining the Army so that his son could fight the Germans. At age twenty, Arthur had different plans. He wanted to be a Marine.
In being tested for various assignments and skill sets, Art "aced" the math test and did above average in the other fields.
Art went to San Diego, CA with a bunch of other Iowans on a troop train. The train stopped at places where communities welcomed the young men by serving cakes, pies, and fried chicken.
At boot camp, Marine Corps Recruit Depot, MCRD, Art recalled his first haircut. He also remembered getting the vaccinations in one arm then the other arm.
After the shots, the Drill Instructor wanted to be sure the fluids injected in his new recruits was well dissolved and circulated in their bodies. Art said they were marched until they passed out. Art couldn't recall the Drill Instructor's name but he could picture the man.
He did remember that during the live-fire exercise while the recruits were low-crawling in mud, under barbed wire fencing, with their unarmed rifles by their sides, the guy ahead of him was bitten by a snake! The exercise had to stop…
Art did everything he was supposed to do. He advanced on to Camp Pendleton, California for further training on various weapons and how to be a Marine Rifleman. He liked it and looked forward to the next challenge.
Art's entry scores resulted in his being assigned to the Aircraft Mechanics School near Norman, Oklahoma. The training was very hard there in that there was so much to learn. He said he studied day and night so he would really know something about the Chance Vought F4U Corsair aircraft.
After a six month training block was completed, orders directed him to the west coast. It was time to "ship out". At Mare Island, he and others boarded the USS Wharton. This was a passenger-cargo ship that carried troops and supplies to various destinations. This trip went to Guadalcanal.
In the hold of the ship, Marines were kept in hammock type beds stacked six high. Unless you were in the top hammock, there wasn't any space to move about to find a comfortable place to sleep. If the guys above you got seasick, one had to cover up to keep the stuff off.
Ship staff asked for volunteers and Art raised his hand. At this point, anything would be better than the hammock-like beds. The volunteers had to patrol the decks to keep various personnel from wandering off the edge of the ship.
When the ship landed at Guadalcanal, the Marines immediately re-organized and made their way to create a forward operating base. Once settled down and going about the business of Island warfare, the Marines fought on. They built a place to maintain equipment including the Corsair aircraft.
Once their work was done at Guadalcanal, the next stop was the little-known Russell Islands. These are small atolls but had to be cleansed of the Japanese fighters who still inhabited the place. Art was one of the men selected for a night patrol.
In order that they maintain radio and weapon silence, the men were warned to be ready to fight with their bayonets. Sure enough, Art was attacked by an enemy who struck Art on the leading edge of his chin with the blade of a knife. Art parried the blade then engaged the fight. The enemy did not survive. The Marines fought until the battle was over.
Art kept materiel on his chin to stop the bleeding then at a medic tent, was sewn up and went back to duty. No record of the injury was made.
The Marines went on to Bougainville. The objective here was to capture and defend a strategic airfield. This was a difficult task for them because of the vegetation, a determined, dug-in enemy, the jungle and the swamps. Perseverance and persistence won the day.
Art worked on the propellers and governors of the Corsairs. They didn't have a lot of equipment so they had to "appropriate" items to keep the planes in the air.
Art became a supervisor of several men later on in his service. He also had to listen to Tokyo Rose broadcast her anti-American messages nearly around-the-clock.
The Marines moved on to the Island called Peleliu. Again, the mission was to secure the airfield and the Island. This fight was against a well-entrenched enemy. The fighting here was fierce and many Marines did not survive.
At British New Hebrides, Art was charged with taking custody of a Marine that had assaulted a Marine Officer. He also was tasked with getting a failing ship to be able to stabilize in the water by repairing several valves that had failed. And as time progressed Art was promoted to Tech Sergeant.
The Marines knew that they had too many men at this location. After serving eighteen months, Art and others were given the opportunity to go back to the States.
Art boarded a ship to the States. It was a refrigerator ship. On this twenty-two day return trip, Art became very sick. He could hold down no food. Every time he ate, more vomit and bile resulted. Art changed his diet to soda crackers for the remaining twenty days of the voyage.
Back on U.S. soil, Art went to various schools and posts to continue serving. He served in the Marine Reserve for a time after the war was over.
Art departed from the service. He used the GI Bill to get his education furthered and completed. He went to Fremont, Nebraska and enrolled in Midland College. While there, during the first winter, the coldest weather on record struck the area as he lived in a trailer house.
He obtained a Teacher's Certificate and went about educating kids. He found and married a fine young lady. The marriage has lasted sixty-eight years.
Art coached state championship football teams and state championship wrestling teams in his career.
A sad part of his service is that without having a medical notation in his files or the statement of peers serving with him, no Purple Heart could be issued. DANG!
Tech Sergeant Arthur V. Phillips, you volunteered to serve with the United States Marines! Thank you for your service!!