Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Buddies


Just a couple of kids from a small town in New Hampshire. My mother knew the fellow on the left, Douglass Rush. She was only nine years old when he went off to join the Army with his friend, Dexter Woodman. She told me a story of how she and a friend of hers would walk around with their doll carriages and pass by where Mr. Rush worked. He always had a big smile and would greet the two young girls as if they were all grown up.

My mother remembered that when the local paper printed the notice of Private Rush's mortal remains being interred at the local cemetery, my mom saved the article. That was in 1948. I happened to see that old yellowed clipping when I was back home for Mothers Day, she keeps the old newspaper clipping in the family Bible with all the other obituaries of family members since passed on.

Much is made of the "Greatest Generation," a term coined by Tom Brokaw in his book of that name. What most people don't really understand is that those men and women weren't much different from folks these days. Well, I suppose they were more like the folks in what the elite like to call "fly over country," but I like to call the real America. Said folks exist all over the country by the way, not just in the middle.

The two men enlisted in 1940, long before the United States was involved in the conflagration sweeping through Europe and Asia. War was on the horizon, but small town New England was so far untouched. All that changed for the United States and for the two young men from Henniker when the Empire of Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.

By then the two buddies were stationed with the U.S. Army Air Forces in the Philippine Islands, though only PFC Woodman's station was mentioned, Nichols Field, outside Manila, I think it's safe to assume that PVT Rush was at the same field. They grew up together and they enlisted together, it stands to reason that they were stationed together.

From the write-up here, I have this for PFC Woodman -
PFC Dexter C Woodman

Born 24 Jun 1920 in Massachusetts, killed in action 13 Dec 1941 (aged 21) in the Philippines.

Dexter served as a Private First Class, 27th Material Squadron, U.S. Army Air Force during World War II. He resided in Merrimack County, New Hampshire prior to the war. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps on September 30, 1940, prior to the war, in Manchester, New Hampshire. He was noted, at the time of his enlistment, as being Single, without dependents and also as a High School Grad.

Dexter was "Killed In Action" at Nichols Army Air Force field in the Philippines during the war. He was awarded the Purple Heart.

Pvt. Dexter C. Woodman, 11014680, 27th Material Squadron, Far East Air Force. Killed in Action on 13 December 1941 during a Japanese air raid on Nichols Field, Luzon, Philippine Islands. Born on 24 June 1920, he entered the service on 30 September 1940 from Henniker, New Hampshire with two other friends.

Pvt. Woodman was one of the first casualties of World War II for the United States, being killed less then a week after Pearl Harbor during the Japanese invasion of the Philippine Islands. He shipped out to the Philippines aboard the USAT "U.S. Grant" around February 1941 as he spent a week on sick call during the journey as did many soldiers sailing across the world's ocean. He was killed during a Japanese air raid on Nichols Field on 13 December 1941. The chaotic time surrounding the first weeks of the war, especially in the Philippines, led to several issues arising about Pvt. Woodman's death such as establishing his correct name and date of death, which did not happen until 1946.

His body was returned home and buried on 21 October 1948. He was buried along with his high school friend Douglass Rush, who joined the Army Air Corps at the same time as Pvt. Woodman, served with him in the Philippines, died as a prisoner of war of the Japanese, and returned home at the same time to be buried.

The town of Henniker honored Pvt. Woodman in 7 November 1942 by naming a small park in front of town hall Woodman Park.
From the write-up here, I have this for PVT Rush -
Pvt Douglass B Rush

Born 22 Aug 1920 in Henniker, Merrimack County, New Hampshire, USA. Died 15 Jun 1942 (aged 21) in the Philippines.

Douglas served as a Private, Group Regiment Command, U.S. Army Air Force during World War II.He resided in Merrimack County, New Hampshire prior to the war. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps on September 30, 1940, prior to the war, in Manchester, New Hampshire. He was noted, at the time of his enlistment, as being Single, without dependents.

Douglas "Died While A POW" of the Japanese Army at Camp 1, Cabanatuan, Nueva Province, Luzon, Philippines during the war. He was awarded the Purple Heart.
What that brief write-up doesn't mention is that PVT Rush survived the Bataan Death March, only to die later in the POW camp.

Just a couple of regular guys from small town America, who gave the last full measure of devotion for their country.

Buddies. Still remembered by an old great-grandmother from the same hometown, seventy-eight years later. A kind word and a ready smile, remembered for all those years by my mom.

Regular guys, perhaps forgotten by all save a few. Fellow airmen who entered into the service in the same town in New Hampshire as myself. I think of them as long lost brothers-in-arms. Lost no more, remembered now and always in these spaces.

Rest in peace PFC Woodman and PVT Rush. I honor your memories.

I pray that you who read these words do so as well.

(Source)


34 comments:

  1. With Memorial Day approaching it is fitting to remember those who gave all. God bless and rest in peace PFC Woodman and PVT Rush, you are not forgotten.

    ReplyDelete
  2. A bit dusty in here... Thank you for giving a peek into these men's story. May we live lives that honor their sacrifice.

    And you mom's, too. That she remembers little kindnesses is a testament to her character. Gratitude is great!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Too many have been forgotten, I had to share this story.

      Delete
  3. I agree with STxAR. The fact that your mom remembered them speaks volumes and she obviously passed that on to her progeny.
    Rest in Peace gentlemen.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was moved by her remembrance of this man.

      Delete
  4. Remembering the fallen is a sacred duty. As my aunts and uncles of that generation have passed on, I've made a sincere effort to tell my kids about them, to make them "known" to my kids as they were to me. One of my now deceased aunts did this for me with regard to her parents, my grand-parents. It was a joy to listen to her speak about them and tell stories that I could imagine in my head - they stopped being artifacts in scarce black-and-white photos and became real people that I felt I knew, at least a little bit. Once you get that spark of connection you realize how precious it is, and how tragic it is to let that ember of emotional memory fade away. So I tell my kids about them. I tell them *why* I am telling them.


    Your post is beautiful. Thank you for sharing it. It matters.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Krag. If we don't remember them, who will?

      Delete
  5. Regular guys. Indeed, as were they all. Honor their memory. I am reminded of the ending of the movie "Ike" starring Tom Selleck.

    On remembering--I am linking the following story because 1) it is my dad's bomb group and 2) I had a minor role to play after the fact.

    http://www.eat-drink-and-carry-a-gps.com/living-in-budapest/every-day-adventuresyup-its/a-bracelet-in-the-sand/bracelet-story.pdf

    I first stumbled across a link to this story around 1998, at which time it had it's own website. Mr. Collins had posted a request on Heavybombers.com for anyone with additional info. I responded that I live in Chico, CA. He asked if I could take some photos of Ashely Guynn's grave marker and email them to him, which I did. I also printed out a hard copy of the story, which I gave to the folks working at the cemetery. Well, apparently word go around. A few years later I went back (I don't remember why now) and talked to the same folks. They made a point of showing me the hard copy I had given them that was now completely dog-eared from being run through their copy machine for others who wanted a copy.

    Sadly, the original website went away. Happily, I found the above link put up a couple who felt the story needed to kept alive on the web.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This site has the story. (PDFs can be dangerous!)

      Thanks for sharing this RHT447.

      Delete
    2. Good point. Thanks for the assist. I also meant to remark that is was most gratifying to see that dog-eared copy an know that many others cared enough to remember.

      Delete
  6. This reminded me of two other individuals: My father, who was in the USAAF in India and was killed being transported to China; and my uncle, who enlisted in the Navy Reserves in 1939, was activated in 1940, was at the invasion in North Africa, and then, later, at Okinawa.
    Yes, they were similar to us.
    They just had more intense experiences.
    I still hold them in awe today.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thank you for making known to me these two fine Americans.

    Thanks for the post.
    Paul L. Quandt

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome Paul. I felt their story needed a wider audience.

      Delete
  8. I can't even imagine how it felt for those men. Knowing, after December 7th, that they were abandoned, on the farthest end of an ill-supplied supply line, knowing the Juggernaut was coming for them. (And Dugout Doug doing a very credible version of Baghdad Bob, or was Bob doing a credible version of Doug, hmmm, checking the Timeline, oh, wait, looks like Doug was imitating Neville Chamberlain...) And finding out your superior superior in-theater wasn't the superior choice that should have been made.

    To survive the Death March, knowing that what you were going to was going to be equally bad, or worse. Soul crushing. Especially once it became known that the Pacific was playing 2nd Fiddle to the European threats. The early Pacific, the forgotten war. Where we bled ill-equipped and ill-prepared men, fed them into a wood-chipper. (It was really the reality of Tarawa (Bloody Tarawa) that, quite frankly, shocked the leaders and forced them to finally re-evaluate the materials requirements for invasion and sustained combat. (Official US Army history shows a radical uptick in daily supplies required for island-hopping styles of fighting. 'Units' of fire went up by almost double or triple depending on weapon, more spare weapons in sealed containers, many much more first aid supplies, down to spare footgear and uniforms (coral islands eat clothing), all saw huge increases and priorities for immediate landing after the troops, even to landing under fire (so spares of spares were ordered and prepped and landed.)


    These men were truly in a 'Forlorn Hope.'

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good point Beans. Forlorn Hope describes it well.

      Delete
    2. During Operation Galvanic, Tarawa was taken by the US 2nd Marine Division. Makin was the objective assigned to the US Army. The Army wasn't really prepared for the Makin operation as evidenced by how long it took them to capture Makin from 300 plus or so Japanese soldiers. On the other hand, 2nd Marine Division was well trained, equipped and motivated though they weren't properly supported by the USN. If they weren't well trained, equipped and motivated they wouldn't have been able to capture heavily fortified Tarawa.

      From his book Coral and Brass, Maj. Gen. Howlin' Mad Smith tells us that Tarawa should have been left to wither on the vine like Truk and other Japanese held islands. It was an unnecessary bloody victory. It was also an objective foisted upon the USMC by the higher-ups in the USN and in Washington.

      The modern form of amphibious warfare that we take for granted today originated from the USMC and they were the ones who trained the first amphibious capable US Army units.

      Coral and Brass is a good read!

      - Victor

      Delete
    3. Even though the Marines were well prepared for Tarawa, afterwards they significantly increased their materials needs. The change between Tarawa and Roi-Namur materially was quite significant. It was not my intent to make it sound like the Army did it all. They (the Army) thought they knew everything until Makin/Betio, and the after action basically told them to go get Marine help. They listened and worked out with the Marines what worked and what didn't and what changes both forces needed to change (MORE AMTRACKS!!!!!) Future Army forces spent much time training on various Hawaiian islands with Marine instructors and graders.

      The emphasis on much better fire support (to the extent of getting remarkably close to the perimeter reefs) and the need to take outlying islands for use as fire bases for the upcoming attack on the primary target were both driven by the Marines, and the Army was very glad to follow their lead.

      The after-action report on Roi-Namur was quite favorable regarding the excellent fire support given by all Navy ships (having seen some of the bunkers with 14" entrance holes, very amazing fire control. Sucks to be the ones inside the bunker, though.) The only real negative about R-N was pointing out that one should not target or use a satchel charge on a torpedo storehouse (the image of a huge mushroom cloud over the island is a spectacular example of what conventional things can do: https://www.worldwarphotos.info/gallery/usa/pacific/kwajalein/23rd-marines-on-roi-watch-giant-explosion-on-namur/

      Central Pacific Theater was a very different war than any other theater.

      Delete
    4. That must have made quite a loud boom.

      Delete
    5. Greatest single incident of casualties amongst the Marines that day.

      Never ever ever toss a satchel charge into a fully loaded Japanese torpedo warhead magazine. Or anyone else's fully loaded torpedo warhead magazine. Mr. Fully Loaded Torpedo Warhead Magazine is not your friend, is no friend of your direct fellows, and is not very nice to the guys in the boats in the lagoon half a mile away...

      To tell you how big it was, the Japanese used coral for their concrete, which increased the structural strength of the concrete by a very significant amount (see aforementioned comment about 14" AP battleship rounds punching holes in bunkers.) and all that was chunks splattered all over the place. Chunks unfortunately including some Marines.

      I think that qualified as a 'bad day.'

      Delete
    6. 'All that WAS left...'

      Stupid me typing slower than my thoughts are flowing. Sometimes trouble occurs.

      Delete
    7. Damn, yeah, torpedoes are "delicate" things.

      Delete
    8. Don't sweat the typos, I always think faster than I can type. Of course, I type really, really slow.

      Delete
    9. This is late but what the heck! :)

      The excellent fire support provided by the USN at Roi-Namur was provided by units under Rear Admiral Richard "Close-In" Conolly. He believed that strong fortifications can only be neutralized by a direct hit which can only be achieved from the shortest range possible. Because of this belief Conolly brought in his battle-wagons as close as 2,000 yards from Roi Namur. Literally point-blank range. Marines really loved "Close-In" Conolly! :)

      - Victor

      Delete
    10. Good comment, don't worry about the lateness Victor, you brought your A-Game!

      Delete
  9. Chinquapin Cemetery in East Texas. Many relative buried there since the 1800's. One gravestone in particular of a local boy from when the county only had a population of 12,000 or so. His family and mine have intermarried over the decades so he is a distant relation...

    In Memory Of
    CPL. John D. Lewis
    Co "C", 23rd Armored Engineers
    Killed In Belgium, Sept. 6, 1944
    In The Service Of Our Country
    Donated By His "Buddies"

    I make it a point to visit whenever I'm in that area....

    -Barry

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's good that you remember him Barry.

      It's important.

      Delete
  10. John Lewis was killed in action around Namur, Belgium. On the 6th of September, the 23rd was involved in constructing a 525 foot treadway bridge across the Meuse River, acting as infantry in the bridgehead on the enemy side of the Meuse, and construction of a 110 foot treadway bridge across the Sambre Canal at Namur. It is lost to history where he was killed....

    -Barry

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Engineers had a tough job, building bridges under fire.

      I salute his memory.

      Delete
  11. "Said folks exist all over the country by the way, not just in the middle." You're right about that, and those greatest generation folks could be written about every single day here at The Chant, Pvt Rush and PFC Woodman are not alone in their great-American-ness.

    ReplyDelete

Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)