Seventy-five years ago, the 33rd President of the United States, Harry Truman, announced the end of World War II as Japan surrendered a month after atomic bombs leveled Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Men from various parts of Grant County, from doctors to principals and more, began returning to the community after serving their country. Many of their stories of heroism, awards and experiences were reported by the Blue Mountain Eagle in 1945 as life after the war began to settle.
Aug. 17, 1945
Japanese Surrender Ends War!
“The war is over!” states an article from the Eagle. “At 7 p.m. Tuesday, President Truman announced Japanese acceptance of surrender terms and read the formal message relayed from Emperor Hirohito through the Swiss government...”
To rejoice in victory, Grant County towns joined for a Gala Celebration of the landmark occasion, according to the Aug. 17 edition of The Eagle.
“Announcement of the Japanese capitulation set off joyful and noisy celebrations in all Grant County towns,” The Eagle reported. “In John Day and Canyon City streets were jammed shortly following the radio announcement of the war’s end. The touting of the car horns, the ringing of the church bells and the shriek of the fire sirens told the glad story.”
The energy was the same in Prairie City and they had street dances followed by a free dance at the Grange Hall which filled the building to capacity. Mt. Vernon also celebrated with a big dance that night.
This edition of the Eagle also began reporting the stories of various men in service from Grant County during the war.
USS Lexington Survivor Home from South Pacific
Robert E. Wright, Motor Machinist 2/c, is home on a 30-day leave after active duty in the South Pacific.
He is visiting in Seneca with his wife Bette, son Jack, 20 months, and Mr. and Mrs. C.J. Wright.
Wright has been in the Navy for four years, during which time he has served on the Atlantic, and recently has seen action in the Leyte, Luzon and Okinawa invasions. He is a survivor of the USS Lexington sinking during the early part of this war. Upon completion of his leave, Wright will report to San Francisco, California, for further assignment.
Aug. 24, 1945
Overseas veterans headed for home
A group of overseas veterans flown from Europe into Miami Army Air Field by the Air Transport Command were heading for their homes in California and Oregon Tuesday hoping it was the last day of the war. Some were slated for separation from the service, but many others were destined for further action in the Pacific after furloughs. Included in the group was a Prairie City Man: S/Sgt. Tom F. Edmunson, 27, 3rd Infantry Division, 32 months service overseas terminated in Germany, eight battle stars, invasion arrowhead shared distinguished unit citation.
Dayville man aboard Mighty A: which raided Japanese mainland twice
Clarence O. Salsbery, seaman, first class, USNR, is serving aboard this battleship which in one month’s time raided the Japanese mainland twice, bombarded a Japanese-held island north of Okinawa and rode unscathed through a violent typhoon.
One of the raids against the Japanese homeland was uneventful, but during the other operation the “Mighty A,” as the man-o’-war is known to her crewmen, ran into a hornet’s nest of suicide pilots. Scores of the Kamikaze planes were shot down outside the task force formation, but at least four came in close enough to be splashed by the guns of this and other ships. Alabama gunners claim credit for downing two of these planes and the assisting in destroying another.
One Kamikaze, a “Zeke”-type fighter, flew through clouds of ack-ack (anti aircraft gunfire) before singling out this ship as his target, but as he turned to make his death run, his plane was hit and crashed a scant 300 yards away.
During her bombardment assignment the Alabama turned loose her 5- and 16-inch guns to pulverize Japanese shore installations. The typhoon the battleship experienced pounded the 35,000-ton vessel for hours, causing her to pitch and toss heavily, but she came through undamaged.
Aug. 31, 1945
Mt. Vernon soldier awarded bronze star
The Bronze Star Medal was presented in a recent ceremony to Corporal Henry T. Negus, 29, of the 910th Anti Aircraft Battalion. The citation with the award said Negus’s service was from Feb. 21, 1945, to May 8, 1945, in France and Germany, adding that “the manner in which he maintained the equipment in his charge and led his section during adverse conditions show a credit to the military service.”
CPL. D. K. Bradley en route home from Europe with “Sant Fe” Division
Cpl. Denver K. Badley is en route home from Europe with the 5-star “Santa Fe” Division, which in ten months battled across the Elbe River to within 42 miles from Berlin.
The 35th ended its occupational duties in Germany during the second week of July and moved to Camp Norfolk, one of the Assembly Area Command’s 17 redeployment camps near Reims. Elements of the Division served as honor guard for President Truman when arrived at Antwerp. Hitting Omaha Beach, July 7, 1944, the 35th fought the Germans from St. Lo, broke the counter-offensive at Moerain, swept across France, cracked into Germany’s Saar Valley on Dec. 12, and then whipped into Belgium and Luxembourg to wither von Rundstedt’s Ardennes bulge.
Badley is the brother of Mrs. Frank Keller, John Day, Oregon.
Monument Soldier wins good conduct medal
Private First Class Ned D. Sweek, 21, son of Mr. and Mrs. Rex L. Sweek of Monument, has been awarded the Good Conduct Medal.
Recipients of the Good Conduct Medal have excellent character, demonstrate fidelity through faithful and exact performance of duty and efficiency through capacity to produce desired results. Before entering service in March 1943, Pfc. Sweek was a clerk with Union Pacific Railroad, Reith. He also attended South Dakota State Teachers college under Army specialist training program before joining his present unit.
Mr. and Mrs. McKinnis hear from three sons
Mr. and Mrs. Ralph McKinnis had interesting letters the past week from their three sons who are in the service. Their oldest son, Myron, received the appointment of sergeant and is in the famous Seventh Division that has seen so much action on Okinawa. He is still stationed on this island. Cpl. Harold McKinnis is on Ei Shima, eight miles south of Okinawa, serving in the medical corps and on July 17th, his birthday, he had the pleasure of surprising Myron by walking into his tent. The two brothers had an overnight visit. Wayne McKinnis graduated from the radio school at the Fleet Training school on Oahu in the Hawaiian Islands on Aug. 26. He is now a seaman second class and is awaiting assignment to either a ship or further training in the United States.
Sept. 7, 1945
Sgt. Haskell Scott returns to states after 114 combat missions
An intricate system of barter soon replaced a highly developed system of thievery among the Okinawans after the expulsion of the Japanese, reports Marine Sergeant Haskell Scott, 22, of John Day, an aerial gunner, who has returned to the Marine Air station here after 114 combat missions in the Pacific.
“The natives had learned their pilfering (stealing) from the Japanese who stole almost anything they had,” Scott said. “At first they started to carry off everything we didn’t have nailed down. They were especially short of food and when they couldn’t steal it, they would beg continually. We decided to swap odds and ends for food, and candy for souvenirs.”
“Business flourished, but we were short of material, and finally had to fall back on the Navy, which had plenty of food and blankets. So we became sort of brokers and handling the trading between the sailors and the natives at our little village of Igi.”
“This cut down the thievings by the natives, although it wasn’t eliminated entirely. In spite of blood ties, the Okinawans hate the Japanese because of their treatments, and it’s a hate which will endure.”
Scott flew with the first Marine squadron to bomb Kyushu, participated and seven strikes against the Japanese homeland, and hit target at Formosa, Ishigaki and Amami O Shima.
He flew as a governor on a navy plane. His side trips included strikes in Korea, Shanghai, and a mission to Vladivostok.
Sept. 14, 1945
Dr. Alden to return to John Day and resume practice
After serving for the past four years in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, Captain W. H. Alden has been released from the military service and word has been received here that he and his wife expect to return to John Day with in the next two or three weeks, Dr. Alden to resume his medical practice here. It is understood that arrangements have been made for him to occupy the former office of Dr. Fate’s on main street.
Dr. Alden saw his overseas service in the Italian campaign. He has been back in the United States for about a year.
Bronze Star awarded to Capt. A. H. Wright Former Grant Hi Head
Captain A. H. Wright, who at the beginning of the war gave up the principalship at Grant Union High School to enlist in the Army, was awarded the Bronze Star Medal by his commanding general for heroic achievement in action on April 22 this year, however, it was only this week that his friends in this community learned that he had received this award of honor and also that had been wounded in battle and received the Purple Heart award.
The citation received by Captain Wright was as follows:
“Albert H. Wright, 01307609, Captain, Infantry, Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 245th Infantry Regiment, for heroic achievement in action on 22 April, 1945, in the vicinity of Unter-Groningen, Germany. During a swift motor march toward the Danube River in pursuit of the enemy, Captain Wright preceded the convoy by several miles for the purpose of organizing civilian groups to remove the numerous road blocks and abatis which would otherwise have delayed the battalion’s advance. When he came upon a section of road which was hastily mined for a distance of one thousand yards, Captain Wright located and removed the mines, enabling the battalion to continue its swift advance. Captain Wright’s outstanding bravery and devotion to duty under hazardous conditions reflect credit upon himself and upon the Armed Forces of the United States. Entered military services from John Day, Oregon.”
T/Sgt. Carl Johns Honorably discharged
It has been announced that T/Sgt. Carl E. Johns, son of Mr. and Mrs. E. P. Johns, Prairie City, has been honorably separated from the Armed Forces of the United States.
Prior to his discharge, Sergeant Johns was assigned to the Mountain Home Air Field, Mountain Home, Idaho, performing the duties of Electrical Specialist.
Sergeant Johns entered the service Oct. 10. He holds three Presidential citations, S.W. Pacific ribbon with three Battle stars, Philippine ribbon with one star, Good Conduct and American Defense ribbons.
Before enlisting in the service, Sergeant Johns was engaged in ranching.
Sept. 21, 1945
Marine Coming Home
Laurence Moore, son of Mr. and Mrs. Earl B. Moore, has been honorably discharged from the Marine Corps and he and his wife are now on their way home from Los Angeles where he has been stationed for the past few months since returning to the states from the South Pacific area where he participated in several major campaigns. His wife is the former Jane Welch.