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Dinner for the Servicemen

Women of Issaquah in WWI

Dinner for the Servicemen

Dinner for the Servicemen, circa 1943-45. From left to right are: Mildred Paulson, Lulu Smart, Bonnie Castagno, Barbara Sellers, Avis Yourglich, Joanne Boni Karvia, Mabel Miles, and Ethel Inger. (IHM 2000.18.7)

By Erica Maniez, Museum Director / Summer 2003

After the United States entered World War II on December 7, 1941, many of Issaquah’s young men left town to serve in the military. Women stayed behind to tend victory gardens, run family businesses, volunteer as airplane spotters at the Issaquah Volunteer Fire Department Hall – and to serve in roles traditionally reserved for men. Women’s roles during World War II were significant and diverse.

Many women played an important role in the war effort by taking the jobs vacated by men who went overseas. More than six million women worked in defense plants and offices. Many from Issaquah and the surrounding area found wartime employment at the Boeing Company. Among them were Jo Garner, Helen Hailstone and Betty Brault. Betty worked as a riveter on airplane wings. Viola White Petersen remembers, “After graduation from high school, I got a job as a mechanic at Boeing Aircraft. There were lots of women working in war plants but, considering my mechanical skills and for the good of the country, that fall I left to go to school at the University of Washington.”

Daughters as well as sons joined the military and died in service to their country. During World War II, more than 350,000 women served in women’s divisions of the military, among them several of Issaquah’s young women.

Juanita Risdon joined the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service), the women’s division of the Navy. WAVES worked stateside so that Navy men were free to fight overseas. In addition to traditionally female secretarial and clerical jobs, WAVES were also assigned to other duties including aviation, intelligence, and communications.

Agda Peltola, daughter of Herman Peltola, joined the SPARS. This women’s reserve of the Coast Guard took its name from the Coast Guard’s motto, Semper Paratus (“always ready”). Lynnette McDonald joined the Women’s Army Corps, and her progress through basic training was recorded in several issues of the 1944 Issaquah Press.

Elizabeth Erickson joined the Woman Air Force Service Pilots (WASP). These women received extensive flight training and relieved men of their non-combat duties. Among other things, they ferried new fighter planes to Europe so that fighting men would not have to leave the front lines to do so. This proved to be an appealing vocation for young women whose early years were filled with news coverage of Amelia Earhart’s daring flights – and eventual disappearance.

Erickson, a graduate of Issaquah High School and the University of Washington, reported for duty at Sweetwater, Texas in January of 1944. Tragically, four months later she was killed in a mid-air collision over Texas. Thirty-seven other women died in service to their country, but never received military recognition. Because they are still considered civilians, the U.S. Army did not even provide military burial. Erickson’s name is inscribed on the monument to Issaquah’s war dead that stands in Memorial Field.

World War II brought around changes in the typical roles of women. Issaquah’s women, like their sisters across the nation, took the opportunity to serve their country in new ways.

This information came from research done in preparation for the newest IHS exhibit, Issaquah in Wartime. The exhibit opeed at the Gilman Town Hall on July 4 and closed November 11, 2003. The article was published in the the Summer 2003 edition of Past Times

Evans-2C-2BBill2

Hearing History: Bill Evans

 


Evans-2C-2BBill2Maria McLeod:
  …Tell me a story about you and Walt Seil.  I know you guys ran around together, and I’m sure there’s a lot of stories.  Some you could probably tell, some you can’t.  [laughter]  But what’s a memorable moment with your friend Walt? 

 

Bill Evans:  Well, of course, we graduated in the same class.  On graduation night, we – big stuff – I was president of my senior class – so we tried to arrange a party.  But we graduated on June 3, 1941.  It was a Tuesday night.  It was raining to beat heck.  Usually, the first part of June, I always remember the rain.  We didn’t get good weather constantly until July.

 

 …So I had a class meeting the day before we graduated, and I said, “It’s our last time together as a group.  How are we going to celebrate?” 

 

Well, a lot of them had family parties on graduation night.  I had a graduation party, too, with my family.  But we all decided well, after the party is over – and it’ll probably be over about ten o’clock – we’ll meet back at the high school and go to a party in Seattle.  We’ll find something that’s really good to do. So Walt and I and another fellow, I don’t remember who the other fellow was, but we had our dates, and we met back at the school at ten o’clock.  And we went to Seattle.  We thought, “This’ll be great!  We six will do something that nobody else does.” 

 

So we went down to Boeing Field.  We were going to rent an airplane and take our first flight over the city.  Well, we got down to Boeing Field and, of course, Tuesday night, ten o’clock, everything was pitch dark!  There was nobody there. 

 

“So what do we do now?”
“Well, let’s be daring.” 

 

And there happened to be a bottle club on First Avenue in Seattle, with entertainment and so forth.  But it wasn’t a club like you think of nowadays.  But still, you had to be 21 to get in.  Of course, we looked like we were eighteen.  [chuckles]  So we got stopped at the door!  And that took care of that. 

 

“What do we do now?  It’s midnight!” 

 

“Well, there’s all-night shows.” 

 

“Big deal.” 

 

So we went to an all-night show.  We parked Walt’s car up on somebody’s rooftop parking downtown.  We went to the nearest all-night show.  We enjoyed the show.  And our dates were kind of worried, because they’d never been out this late before. 

 

MM:  No, that’s probably about two in the morning by that point. 

 

BE:  By the time we got out of the show, it was almost dawn.  The girls were hungry, naturally – like my wife – and so we went to breakfast.  My girl lived in Upper Preston.  There’s a Lower Preston we all know, but in those days … and still, people live up there.  It’s further up toward Echo Glen, fairly close to that.  And it’s a little Swedish flicka that I went with.  Her mother was at the door when I brought her home, and the sun was shining bright.  And she was a sweet little lady. 

 

She said, “Now, Bill, you know that Francesis younger than you are.” 

 

“Yes, I know.” 

 

She said, “And we live in a community where everybody sees everything that goes on.” 

 

I said, “Well, nothing went on.  Things didn’t work out, and we ended up at an all-night show and went to breakfast.” 

 

She said, “Well, please don’t bring her home in the daylight anymore.”  [laughter] 

 

“I promise.”  [laughing] 

 

MM:  Did the other guys get in trouble, or the other girls?  Do you remember? 

 

BE:  I don’t remember, because I was sweating enough!  [laughter]

 

William C. Evans Jr. was born in 1923 to William G. Evans Sr. and Ella Willig Evans. Bill was interviewed in 2006 by Maria McLeod as part of IHM’s oral history project. Bill talks about his grandfather’s work with Issaquah Water Department, growing up in Issaquah, and WWII. His interview is extensive and he provides a lot of information that’s impossible to summarize. See the Full Record for a complete list of people and subjects discussed.
Bill has been written about a few times on this blog before – check out previous blog entries:

 

Waler Seil

Hearing History: Walt Seil

 

Walt Seil
Senior Yearbook Photo
ca 1941


 
Maria McLeod: Well, OK, so tell me the story about shooting off your hand.

Walt Seil: Well, this was in the fall of the year. And Tony Campbell, who was neighbors to us, him and I decided to go hunting for deer. We walked up to the railroad track and went a mile or so up the railroad track.

And we was hunting and hunting and didn’t find nothing, so we come back across the trestle and stopped. And Tony says, “Let’s hit that snag over there that’s sticking out on that tree.” And I says, “OK.”

So he tried and he missed, and tried and I missed. And he said, “Well, let me try with your gun.” 

And I’d already injected a shell into the chamber and I had the safety on. And he says, “Here’s my gun,” and I reached over and took his gun.

And I thought he had mine and I let mine go. The safety hit the rail, broke the safety off. And the hammer hit the tied. And it was falling back towards me and I had my hand like this.
MM: Your hand was sort of in front of your body.
WS: It went right through my hand, here, and it nicked my ear, here.
MM: Oh, I can see where it nicked your ear! Ohmygoodness!
WS: And so I took my belt off. Of course, [inaudible] clear across the track. And I cinched it up real tight and held it like this.
And Tommy says, “What should I do with the gun?”
I says, “I don’t give a damn what you do with the gun. Throw it away if you want to!”
Walt Seil was born in Issaquah in 1920 to Edward Seil and Josephine Wood Seil. He had seven brothers and sisters, many with family remaining in the area. Walt was interviewed in 2006 by Maria McLeod as part of IHM’s oral history project. Walt talks about growing up in Issaquah on a ranch and in Snoqualmie where his father was a logger. He also talks about accidents he had, Alpine Dairy Football Team, and his role in WWII. He was a great story teller, as you can see in the video below (Walt begins at 1:19.)

 

2010-11-68

Hearing History: Vernon “Babe” Anderson

 

Vernon “Babe” Anderson
ca 1945
Full Record

 

Maria McLeod: …So what land are you giving to the city?
Vernon Anderson: The whole thing.
MM: The old farmhouse, too? And this place?
VA: Yeah, everything.
MM: So what is this going to become?
VA: A park.
[…]
MM: You seem to really enjoy history. You’ve kept a lot of old files. Is there some sense in you that you’d like to preserve this?
VA: Well it’ll be preserved as a park, you know. Otherwise, what are they going to do? It’ll be a bunch of damn condominiums or something. And you don’t need that. It’s all a park anyway around here. Why ruin this piece in the middle?
Vernon “Babe” Anderson was born in 1927 in Renton, WA to Albert A. Anderson and Ruth Johns Anderson. Babe was interviewed in 2008 by Maria McLeod as part of IHM’s oral history project. His extensive oral history covers his grandparent’s immigration to the United States and Issaquah, through his life growing up and remaining in Issaquah. Subjects covered include working at Issaquah Creamery, being drafted for both WWII and the Korean War, and his father’s various building projects including two houses that still remain as part of Gilman Village. The City of Issaquah acquired Vernon’s family’s land and buildings for part of the Confluence Park Project. Vernon requested recognition of his grandfather, Tolle Anderson, in the park project.
Ruth and Albert Anderson
August, 1923
Full Record

 

In addition to buildings, land, and this oral history, both Vernon and his brother Rodney wrote letters home during their time in service, and these letters were generously donated to Issaquah History Museum’s by Rodney’s daughter. Some of these letters are available in our Digital Collections as well as other documents and pictures. Check out the full extent of the Anderson Collection.

 

Vern Anderson’s Navy Class
April 11, 1946
Full Record
Bill Evans

Looking for Local History: Bill Evans Tries to Enlist

May is local history month! All month long, we’ll be sharing bits and pieces of Issaquah’s collection, as well as tutorials to help you find local history on your own. Enjoy!


Bill Evans was born in Issaquah in 1923 and lived here for most of his life. Both of his parents were from coal-mining families. After serving in World War II, Bill lived in Seattle and went to college at the UW. Bill proved to be a sound and enterprising young businessman, and by the 1950s, he was living in Issaquah and operating his own business. Well-spoken, civic-minded, and forward-thinking, Bill was active in Issaquah’s Chamber of Commerce and helped shape the town we know today. Bill died in 2008. This excerpt from Bill’s 2006 oral history describes how Bill tried desperately to avoid serving in the Army during WWII.

Although he looks pretty cheerful in this picture, Evans was determined to serve in ANY branch but the Army.

Bill Evans:  I tried to enlist.  In those days, in [19]41, Walt [Seil] probably told you that he went to Pearl Harbor right after Pearl Harbor happened.  We saw him off on the train to San Francisco because he went down there to catch a ship.   …I didn’t want to get in the infantry.  At the time, there was the Army Air Force and the Navy Air Force.  I tried the Army Air Force first.

I passed my mental test.  And then, for some reason, they all took the mental test first.  I guess to see whether you were as dumb as you look or what.  And then they give you the [physical] test.  Well, when I was twelve or thirteen, I got scarlet fever.  I woke up in the middle of the night, probably two or three in the morning.  I remember I turned on my light – I had the bedroom next to my folks’ bedroom – and I was covered with blood.  This fever had built up so strong that it broke the blood vessels in my nose. I woke up, and I was soaking wet with blood from the fever.  Scared the devil out of my mother.  …The local doctor up in the bank building, which is now the bicycle shop cauterized the vessels in there with some kind of metal, heated iron, and stopped it.


All it left me with, other than being a little on the puny side, with 20/30 in one eye, and 25/ or 30/ in the other eye.  So later on, when I went to join the Air Force, I couldn’t get in because they demanded 20/20.  So I tried the Navy Air Force.  They gave me my mental test first.  And then I tried to tell them, “You better check my eyes,” “Oh, we’ll get to that.”  And I flunked out there.


Then I went to the Coast Guard, and I flunked out there.  Then I went to the Navy, and I flunked out there.  All about my eyes, 20/30.


Let’s see, in [19]42, I was working at the Alaskan Copper Works still. …I was out in the cold weather in the wintertime and so forth, and it really bothered my ears. I got an infection in my ear… I just had flunked out because I had 20/30 [eyesight].  And the doctor said, “Have you tried vitamins?”



And I said, “What’s a vitamin?”


“Well, it’s a pill.”  They weren’t out like they are today.  And he said, “Vitamin A will get your eyes in good shape.  It’ll take about two weeks if you take vitamin A.” 


I said, “How do I get this vitamin A?”  Because I’d tried bananas, I’d tried orange juice, I’d tried cabbage juice.  I’d tried everything I was told, and nothing worked.  So he gave me a prescription to go to the pharmacy and get vitamin A.  He was right.  In two weeks, I had 20/20 vision. He warned me.  He said, “Now, if you stop taking the vitamins, in two weeks your eyes will go back to normal.”


So I went back to the Navy real quick, and I said, “Here, swear me in!  I’m ready to go.”  By this time, it was about March of [19]42.  They said, “Oh, you come back in four months because we’ll send you to Farragut, Idaho.” Of all places for the Navy to train you, you know. There was no water around in Idaho!  [laughter]


And I said, “Well, OK, I’ll wait.  But swear me in!”


“No, we’ll swear you in when we call you up.”


I knew I was dead because I’d been in the State Guard.  Teenage kids and old men were in State Guard.  The only ones who weren’t drafted, or in the service.  We wore coveralls, and we’d go out in the fields by Puyallup, and lay in the rain with a shotgun.  We’d do close-order drill.   … All they did was teach me close-order drill, which you learn in any camp, you know.


So I knew I was dead.  I thought, well, I’d try the Merchant Marines.  So I went down to the Merchant Marines and they said, “OK, but we have to have your parents’ OK that you can get in the Merchant Marines.”


I was going into the Merchant Marine because there used to be a butcher shop about two doors down from Fischer’s Meats. The father of this guy was in the Merchant Marine during the [19]30s.  His son, who was a year younger than me, Don Finney, got in because of his father. He went from here, to Alaska, to Vladivostok, Russia and then back again. He was home every three months.  I didn’t know when I’d see home if I got into the Army or something.  So I thought, well, hey, that’s a possibility. I can be home. And I’d get double pay in Alaskan waters because the Japs had already infiltrated Attu, Alaska and so forth, way up north.


Interviewer:  How come you’d get double pay?


BE:  By carrying weapons and munitions and so forth.  Dynamite.  Anything that could blow up your ship.


INT:  Oh, so it was extra-dangerous.


BE:  Yeah, right.  So I was all set for that.  I had to talk to my mother until four o’clock before she finally gave in.  So my dad said, “OK, if that’s what you’re going to do.”  So I went down with my paperwork all signed.  He said, “Well, you have to have lifeboat training if you’re going to be in the Merchant Marine.  So we’ll have it out at Pier 92.” So I said, “OK.”


Well, I got home that night and I had a call from the draft board.  So I knew I was dead.  So they said, “Well, they won’t release you.” So I went back the next day, crying the blues to the Merchant Marine.  “We called them, and they won’t release you because you’re draft material.”
I was defeated. I went to Tacoma to the sixth floor of a building where they had the draft board located.  There was a guy sitting at the desk where you first came in. He said, “What do you want, Army or Navy?”


I said, “Do I have a choice?”


“Oh, yeah.  If you qualify, Army or Navy, either one.”


I said, “The Navy!”  I thought, Boy, there’s life yet!


So I went into a back examining room, went through the physical – most of the physical.  And the mental, again.  And I got to the eye exam.  The room had been a classroom, and the charts that you’d close your one eye and look at were at the front of the classroom, hanging over a blackboard.  Then you had to go down to the back of the room, turn around and take the eye test. I knew what was going to happen.  So, I flunked. 


I went out and there was a chief petty officer, about a thirty-year man.  He had hash marks all over his arm. And I said, “I couldn’t see all the letters” because of some reason, there was a shadow or something.  I lied my head off then. And I said, “Let me take it again because,” I said, “I know I can see those letters.  Something is wrong here.  I don’t know what it is.”


He said, “You stupid jerk.  Why do want to get in the Navy?”  He’d been in the Navy for so long, he couldn’t understand that.


“Let me go back and take it again,” I said.


I knew what lines I could see. So when I was standing there, getting in line to go back to the back of the room again, I memorized the letters I couldn’t see, because I was up right alongside of them.  So, I took my test and all of a sudden, I became 20/25 or 20/20.  [chuckles]


So he looked at me and he said, “Well, you said you could see them.  I don’t know how the heck you did it,” he said. “OK, you want to get in the Navy, go in that room over here.  There are naval officers to take your paperwork.”


There was a lieutenant commander, and a commander, and a lieutenant JG.  And an ensign on the end.  And the highest-ranking officer looked at my papers and said, “OK.” “OK” right down the line.  They got to the ensign and he said, “Fellow, you were in the State Guard, weren’t you?”


I said, “Well, it’s all close-order drill.  You do close-order drill in the Navy.”


“Yeah, but you look like Army material.”


I said, “Why do I look like Army material?”


And he said, “Well, you’ve had this training.”


I said, “I’m willing to call, at my expense, my commanding officer at the State Guard in Seattle and he can explain it to you.”


“No, we don’t have time for that.  Put this man in the Army.”


So I was shipped from Fort Lewis to Camp Roberts, California, by Paso Robles.  I went right into the infantry.  When I get there, I thought, Ohgod, the worst possible thing that could happen to me now has happened to me. 


What happened then? Peruse the rest of Bill’s oral history to find out. Other stories in his oral history include his early childhood in the coal-mining town, his career as a medic in the Pacific Theatre, and how he fell in love-at-first-sight with his wife on a Seattle bus. 



Rod Visits Hollywood

A generous grant from 4Culture is currently funding the digitization and cataloging of several archival collections, include the letters of Rodney and Vernon Anderson, Issaquah residents. Rod and Vern both served in the Army in the 1940s, and they wrote home to their mother regularly. This post is part of a series of posts about their lives and letters.

I have truly enjoyed reading Rod Anderson’s letters home during WWII. He created a window into his experience in the Army – each letter descriptive and telling of the era. Even when Rod laments that he has nothing to write about he writes anyway, discussing the small things he did during his day which I am certain put his family at ease. While reading his letters I was able to tell when Rod was tired, disappointed, exuberant, and happy even during wartime. One letter in particular stands out to me as Rod at his most excited – his first trip to Hollywood.
In this post I want to follow the adventure that Rod experienced. At the time Rod was stationed at Camp San Luis Obispo, CA. He had previously been stationed in some fairly unexciting places like Oregon, Texas and Iowa. Imagine yourself at 19 – you’ve never really lived anywhere but Issaquah. Prior to the war you probably haven’t been any further than Seattle. And now you’re stationed near, and ready to jump into, the glamorous land of Hollywood, CA.
Rod’s letter begins: “Dear Mom, Well I made it to Hollywood Sat. by 6:15pm and that’s the reason I’m writing. I want to tell you what I did!”

Rod’s first stop was the Hollywood U.S.O where he got a bed for $0.50. After that he “fooled around til 8:30″ at the Hollywood Canteen (pictured at right) – a well-known club for servicemen offering food, dancing and entertainment for free (your entry ticket was your uniform.) Oftentimes celebrities visited to help out and entertain.

After fooling around at the Hollywood Canteen, Rod’s next stop was the Palladium Ballroom where he saw Sonny Dunham (pictured at left) play, a popular tumpet player and bandleader of the time. Rod says he “danced for a couple of hours and then left as it got too crowded. Really had a swell time there though.”

(Palladium Ballroom, circa 1940)

Next, Rod returned to the Hollywood Canteen and continued his night of dancing. The Kay Kyser Orchestra (pictured at right) was playing, but Rod says Kay Kyser himself, bandleader and radio personality, was not. At that point, Rod was probably exhausted and so he “hit the hay.”

Sunday morning Rod got up at 9:30am and without a plan headed out. This part of Rod’s letter makes me smile because it shows to me just what a great time Rod was having:

“…I hopped a trolley and rode the 7 1/2 miles to L.A. There in my wanderings I saw that Jimmy Dorsey and his Orch. was playing at the Orpheum, so naturally, I saw him too.”

(Orpheum pictured at left, Jimmy Dorsey at right)

After the concert, Rod returned to Hollywood around 4:30pm and wandered around. He saw a bunch of different notable landmarks of the time: Earl Carroll’s, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, Sardi’s, NBC studios and CBS studios. He says “There’s just so much to do one isn’t able to begin doing it.” I want to note that in his letter Rod underlined “Sardi’s” which was a restaurant (sister to the original Sardi’s in New York City.) I wonder what the special meaning was for him to underline it. All I could find was that it was frequented by the stars of Hollywood and so perhaps was well-known to folks at home.

(Earl Carroll’s Theatre, circa 1947)

(Grauman’s Chinese Theater, circa early 40’s)

(Sardi’s Restaurant, opened in 1932)

At 10:30pm Rod picked up his ride back to camp at Hollywood and Vine. He says that he picked up a private ride from a guy in another company and only paid $4 round trip which was apparently “darn reasonable.” Rod notes that most fellows charge $10.

He finished his letter by explaining and describing the pictures he had enclosed (which unfortunately are not in our collection.) The pictures, though, were taken on Hollywood Blvd and were “one of those pay while you wait propositions.”

As someone who loves old films and musicals, I couldn’t help but think of movies like On the Town and Anchors Aweigh. You know the ones, the hardworking servicemen get time off to go into the city and gawk at landmarks (and somehow always get into shenanigans and end up falling in love.) While this wasn’t exactly Rod’s story, there is a sense of wonderment in his letter that he just can’t wait to tell somebody at home about.

So there you have it. Rod’s whirlwind tour of Hollywood. He does visit Los Angeles and Hollywood again later, and tells his mother about it in his lettes. But his later descriptions are never any longer than a few sentences that basically detail what he did and who he saw. He never again writes with the enthusiasm he has after his first visit.

Below you can click to view the full-size images of Rod’s letter.

Rodney Anderson

Rod Meets “Boody” Gilbertson

A generous grant from 4Culture is currently funding the digitization and cataloging of several archival collections, include the letters of Rodney and Vernon Anderson, Issaquah residents. Rod and Vern both served in the Army in the 1940s, and they wrote home to their mother regularly. This post is part of a series of posts about their lives and letters.

In what is a recurring theme across WWII veterans, Rod Anderson got the opportunity to see and do a lot of things he might not have had he remained in Issaquah. My first insight into this came while reading Rod’s April 28, 1944 letter. At this point in time he had left Drake University after the Army cancelled his Air Force training and was stationed at Fort Leonard Wood, MO.

His letter begins with “Had a bad day today…” and goes on to tell his mother about spending the day in the rain. Rod consistently wrote the date and place at the top right of his letters and this one tells us he was stationed in a “Pup Tent, Bivouac Area, By Candlelight.” The troops were roughing it and subsequent letters tell me they were helping with a flood area.

But despite this Rod had good news. He writes:

“Met a kid from Everett today. He’s in my company. He used to play basketball at the W. Names “Boody” Gilbertson, anyone that has followed the W teams would know of him, I did. He was at Sheppard Field the same time that I was, I heard that he was there but didn’t get to see him before he shipped to college.”

This piqued my curiosity and I was excited to learn that Merlin “Boody” Gilbertson was indeed a sort of local celebrity. He was enlisted in the Army National Guard September 16, 1940 with only 2 years of high school under his belt and served four years. His basketball history began on Everett High’s basketball team and with him they easily claimed the state championship during his 1939-40 year. The timing is fuzzy in my research but Boody did play basketball at the University of Washington (either before the war, after or both) and played 2 seasons of pro basketball – one for the Seattle Athletics and the second for the Sheboygan Redskins.

Here is a great Seattle PI article profiling Gilbertson.

Here is the copy of Rod’s letter with his brief description of meeting “Boody” Gilbertson:

Rod Receives AFPMP 6122

A generous grant from 4Culture is currently funding the digitization and cataloging of several archival collections, include the letters of Rodney and Vernon Anderson, Issaquah residents. Rod and Vern both served in the Army in the 1940s, and they wrote home to their mother regularly. This post is part of a series of posts about their lives and letters.

When Rodney Anderson was drafted into World War 2 he was placed in the United States Army Corps of Engineers, and began his training at Camp Abbott in Bend, Oregon. In Rod’s first letter home he says he is surprised that they didn’t put him in the Air Corps.

So Rod took matters into his own hands and, after covertly asking his mother for his birth certificate (he didn’t want to worry her), he applied to the Army Air Forces (previously called the Air Corps.) Rod was accepted into the AAF and moved to Sheppard Field in Wichita Falls, Texas. There he began his training.

Training sent Rod to Drake University in Des Moines, IA. College life seemed to suit him and his letters were happy and excited, talking of classes and coeds. After 1 month at Drake University, Rod received memo AFPMP 6122 titled “Army Ground Forces and Army Services Personnel.” The memo basically said that any men who had not yet fully completed AAF training were to be pulled from their training and placed back into Army Ground Forces due to a shortage in men. Rod wrote a disappointed letter to his parents on April 7, 1944 and included memo AFPMP 6122.

Here is the memo followed by the letter Rod wrote home to his parents:

(click on the pictures to enlarge)

The memo is not a clear indication of why the men are being pulled from training. The memo indicates that there were “accumulated shortages that [had] developed since last July [1943] in Selective Service.”

In Vernon “Babe” Anderson’s (Rod’s brother) oral history, he speculated that it was a result of heavy losses during the Battle of the Bulge. So many troops were lost that they had to pull some out of training and send them back to infantry. But the Battle of the Bulge didn’t really begin until December 1944 – almost 9 months later.

Doing some research into the AAF during WWII indicates that enrollment reached its highest point in March 1944 at 2.4 million men with less than half being overseas. At that point men were sent back to the branch of the Army that they had come from due to a surplus. It is also important to mention that D-Day occurred only a few months later and men may have been pulled in preparation for anticipated loss.

Rod went back to the Engineers and had some good times in training near Los Angeles (stay tuned for a future post on all the wonderful things Rod saw in Hollywood.) He ended up overseas both in Europe and Japan and returned safely home.

The only remaining mystery I haven’t been able to fully decode is what “AFPMP 6122” stands for…any ideas?

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The Anderson Brothers’ Service to their Country

A generous grant from 4Culture is currently funding the digitization and cataloging of several archival collections, include the letters of Rodney and Vernon Anderson, Issaquah residents. Rod and Vern both served in the Army in the 1940s, and they wrote home to their mother regularly. This post is part of a series of posts about their lives and letters.

Recently, a very generous donation was made by Rodney Anderson’s daughter. Included in the donation of pictures and documents was a set of letters written during wartime from Rodney and Vern Anderson. The first batch of letters, beginning in 1944, were written by Rod Anderson to his mother, grandfather, and brother. The second batch of letters are written by Vern “Babe” Anderson, Rod’s younger brother, and were mostly written post-WWII. We are only beginning the process of cataloging these letters into our collection and hope to have more posts regarding their content. For now, here is a brief biography into these two brothers’ service to their country.


Rod Anderson (pictured at right) entered the Army in August 1943, 5 months after he turned 18. He only completed 3 years of high school. He started out in the infantry but ended up taking tests to enter into the Air Corps. He made it in and began his training and education. Soon after the Battle of the Bulge the United States began pulling men from different areas to go back into infantry. Rod was removed from his Air Corps training and was sent overseas. He spent time in Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Germany before the war ended. He was then sent back to the United States and then to Japan after their surrender. He returned home in March – just as his brother Vern was entering the Navy.

Vern Anderson (pictured at left) was drafted in March 1946 for WWII only 3 months after his 18 birthday. He was drafted again in March 1951 – almost exactly 5 years later – for the Korean war. Here are some excerpts of his oral history in 2008 detailing his time spent in service.

VERN ANDERSON: Well, I … originally, I got drafted in 1946, in March. I ended up in the Navy. I went to boot camp in San Diego, and then they sent me back to Great Lakes Naval Training Center in Waukegan [Illinois].

I spent all summer there going to a service school, which was just right down my alley because it was all about boilers. And hell, I’d been running boilers, you know. [chuckles] I knew all about that stuff.

Then I got discharged because they didn’t want us anymore. I’d only been in there eight months. So I came home. Then in March of 1951, I got drafted again, about five years after. In the same month. Practically the same week. And this time, I ended up in the Army.

I was over at Fort Lewis; and a bunch of the guys in Issaquah had been in the reserves, and they were running a reception center. And one of these guys said, “Hey, where do you want to go?”

I said, “I don’t know. What have you got in the lineup?”

“Well, you can go to Fort Lawton or you can go to Aberdeen Proving Grounds.”

“Oh heck, I think I’ll go to Fort Lawton,” I said. So I went out there.

We went through training there, and there was a port company – unloading ships – and they needed a bunch of guys up in Whittier, Alaska, which is an Army port. So they sent us up there. And because I had been in the service before, they could send me alone. Because you had to have six months in the Army before they could ship you overseas. I’d already had that before.

So we went up there, and we stayed there till right up until the first of December, then we got back here. Then they gave us a month off, you know, a month off here anyway.

When we got back right after New Year’s, they called six of us guys’ names out and they said, “You’re going down to the port of embarkation.”

We didn’t know what the hell we were going to do. We went down there to [unknown] and they made military policemen out of us. It was supposed to have been temporary. And it was such a good deal. Hell, I just fell right into that job. [chuckles] So actually, I spent the rest of my time right there.

MARIA MCLEOD: What was your job?

VERN ANDERSON: I was a military policeman on the main gate. That’s where all the troops went and left Seattle, and then also when they came back.

[…]

MARIA MCLEOD: So when you say it was the “best deal,” when you worked the gate, what did you mean?

VERN ANDERSON: Well, I had an off-duty pass. All I had to do was show up for work down there. I could do what I wanted after. Then, later on, I even got a pass for living at home. They paid you. Then I had to pay for my meals was the only difference.

MARIA MCLEOD: Do you remember how much you got paid doing that job?

VERN ANDERSON: You want to see the actual figures? I’ll show you. Didn’t get a hell of a lot.

MARIA MCLEOD: So you just [found] your tax withholding statement, your W-2 form, from the U.S. Army, and that says that the finance officer, C.F. May, Lt. Col. F.C., Fort Lawton, sent this to you –– and it says that total wages before deductions payroll in 1952 was $1,429.45, and Federal income tax withheld $151.60. So this was for a full-time job. Did you hold it a whole year?

VERN ANDERSON: Yeah. Look what they get now! You can’t believe it. I was getting – because I’d been in before – I was getting a little extra money. Then, also, I was a PFC, because I’d been in before, and got a little extra money for that.

MARIA MCLEOD: Private first class.

VERN ANDERSON: Then a little later on, I got to be a corporal. That upped it a little bit, not a whole lot.

MARIA MCLEOD: So does your job change at all when your status changed? Private first class, corporal …

VERN ANDERSON: No, I did the same thing. Actually, there was supposed to be sergeants on that job but they had put a freeze on – they couldn’t promote anybody for, I don’t know, about a year there or something, or six months.

We were only supposed to be in the Army for twenty-one months. That’s what the deal was. Then they upped it to twenty-four months.

MARIA MCLEOD: So when you worked the gate, did you have weapons on you?

VERN ANDERSON: Oh, yeah. A .45 pistol. I had that Sam Brown belt and all that. Then, when they had the ships come in, you had to put on a fancy outfit – a white kind of a deal, a neckerchief-type deal. Then you had a white rope on one arm. Then you had white leggings. Then you had the hat – they used the helmet liner, actually, was what they were. They were painted fancy. I think it was a white and gold kind of a deal like that.

[…]

MARIA MCLEOD: When you were at that gate, what were you supposed to be watching for, or protecting against?

VERN ANDERSON: Well, we had to let the people go in the cars. That was one job we had. We used to take turns going to do back and forth. Then we to check everybody who came in and out.

MARIA MCLEOD: Did you have to keep a roster of their names?

VERN ANDERSON: No. They always had to have an I.D., or we wouldn’t let them in. They weren’t supposed to be bringing alcohol in, and all that kind of stuff, you know.

MARIA MCLEOD: Did you have to search for alcohol ever, or confiscate alcohol?

VERN ANDERSON: Oh, yeah. We’d take it off of them. They weren’t supposed to take cigarettes neither, you know, from the ship’s store. Golly, they were 20 cents a pack, or a carton, I don’t remember what it was. We used to take it away from them.

I remember that one day, it was on a Sunday, and this black fellow came walking along there. He had a whole carton stuck in his back pocket.

I seen it, you know, and I reached out like that, I hit him in the back. I said, “What the devil do you got in there? Come in here!”

He had steaks wrapped around his body. Tied up in there, you know. Taking them home, see.

So I had to do something then. I couldn’t let him go. So we had to call the officer of the day, and I don’t know what they did. They didn’t do nothing to him. In about two weeks, I seen him back working.

MARIA MCLEOD: Was he stealing steaks? From where?

VERN ANDERSON: Yeah, out of the mess hall, out of the ship. He was one of the cooks that was working in the mess hall.

MARIA MCLEOD: Oh, and he was going to take some home. I guess some people must have gotten mad at you for taking their alcohol and their cigarettes.

VERN ANDERSON: No, they didn’t seem to be. They knew they were wrong. What were they going to do about it? If you got a job to do, you do it.

To read Vernon “Babe” Anderson’s full oral history, follow this link.
Evans-2C-2BBill2

Honoring Issaquah’s Veterans

If you haven’t seen it yet, you should take a look at the Issaquah Press’s special Memorial Day section, “Lest We Forget”. This special section profiles the residents of Issaquah who died serving their country. These same people are memorialized on the granite marker outside the Senior Center. The section also features photos and brief biographies for other Issaquah Veterans who have served during peacetime and during war.

The Issaquah Press and the local chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars worked hard to represent as many servicemen and women as they could in the pages of their special section. One name and face not included (and I regret now that I didn’t send the photo and suggestion to them) was Bill Evans, a long-time Issaquah resident and veteran of World War II. I had the opportunity to visit with Bill a few times over the years, and he was a warm, personable fellow and an excellent story teller. When we put up an exhibit called Wartime in Issaquah, he stopped by to contribute his picture and ended up staying for nearly an hour, telling me stories. I was completely captivated, and Bill must have been also, because his wife finally came in to retrieve him — she’d been waiting for him in the car!

We are very fortunate to have Bill’s first-hand account of his time at war, thanks to the oral history project we conducted in 2006. Our oral historian, Maria McLeod, was talented when it came to drawing interesting stories out of subjects. After the interview, Bill suggested that we edit out the World War II stories he’d told, since they weren’t “really about Issaquah.” I responded that although the stories he told were not set in Issaquah, they were vitally important to telling the story of Issaquah during World War II. They tell the story of a generation of young men who left home to travel thousands of miles, and serve alongside hundreds of other young men. I’m not sure that I succeeded in convincing him, but he gracefully agreed. Excerpts appear below, and I think readers will agree that we are lucky to have these stories.

Bill Evans passed away in January of 2008. He is missed and remembered.

[interview has been edited for length]

BILL EVANS: So I was shipped from Fort Lewis to Camp Roberts, California, by Paso Robles. I went right into the infantry. When I get there, I thought, Ohgod, the worst possible thing that could happen to me now has happened to me [Evans had wanted to enter the Navy but had been assigned to the Army instead].

I was on KP the following Sunday morning, and the first sergeant came to get me. I said, “Where are we going?”

He said, “Down to get your gear. You’re going to a different barracks.” So you don’t ask any more questions, you just go. They transferred me because of my scores entering into the Army, the test scores, they sent me to message center and code work training. So I thought, Well, at least I’m not carrying a rifle in a foxhole. So I took my training there for three months. Now, I’m shipping out. I had graduated with a diploma and everything, talking about message center and code work.

Then I got to Hawaii for more training. I was there two weeks, and the commanding officer called me in and he said, “Soldier, we’re over-strength. We’ve got too many men in our outfit.”

I thought, Well, this is strange. “You’re a combat outfit and you’ve got too many men? If you get into combat, you’re going to lose men! You’d think you’d be building up.”

He said, “No, our table organization is too high. You’re one of the last guys in our outfit, so I’m transferring you out.”

I said, “Where am I going?”

He said, “Oh, you’re staying in the same battalion, same regiment. But,” he said, “you’re going to be a medic.”

I said, “A medic? The only thing I’ve ever had in the way of training is high school public health, you know? How does that qualify me?”

He said, “Well, you’ll get training.”

So they sent me out to north central Oahu… Two weeks after I joined this infantry outfit, I got my medical training. When I talked to the first sergeant in this company, out at the Dole Pineapple plantation, I said, “When do I get my training? I was told I was going to get training. I don’t know a darn thing about medicine.”

He said, “Oh, you’ll get it. It starts tomorrow.” He said, “After breakfast tomorrow, you report back to your tent.”

They were wood frameworks, but tent top. And he said, “I’ll have another guy go with you. He’s going to take medical training, too.” So they came and got us the next morning, and we went back to our tents.

The guy said, “Now, you straddle this cot, the Army cot that you’re on. And you face him this way, like you’re sitting and looking at each other. Here’s a needle and a syringe. Now, you stick him in the arm till you can learn to hit the veins. Because you can go right through a vein, you know, if you don’t hit it proper. Then you have to pull it back out and try it again, until you get it.”

And I said, “This is the first training we’re getting?”

“Yeah.”

And the other guy didn’t know any more about it than I did… One would stick the other one until he could hit a vein, or an artery. When you’d get sick to your stomach from the needle and the pain and everything, then it’s your turn to stick the other guy. That was the first medical training I got. I didn’t get much more for a long time.

Then we shipped out to New Guinea. That was our first time in combat. I had four amphibious landings from one end of New Guinea to the top end.

Other than the ones we fought on the landings, further up – we mostly set up crews out on the trails. The jungle trails were just like a tunnel. They’d grow right over you. You’d get just off the trail a little bit, and we’d set up machine guns. When the Japanese troops would come along, we’d just mow them down.

Then we’d have to bury them. Some of the guys said, “Well, the heck with this noise.” An arm would be sticking out, or a foot would be sticking out, or something, which would give away our positions.

The rest of us were on the beach – the Japanese would bomb us every night. We did have army cots there, I’ll say that. But right alongside it, we’d have a foxhole. So we’d get to go around the bed into the foxhole.

MARIA MCLEOD: Did you sleep in your foxhole?

BILL EVANS: I did in a lot of them, on those landings in New Guinea. But not at Sansapor, which is the northern tip, when we were ready to invade the Philippines. Then we took off for the Philippines.

…It was a kamikaze that came over. And again, the 5-inch gunner on the front end, when he spun around, he shot part of his tail assembly away. So the kamikaze knew he couldn’t get away. So he just banked around and come from behind us again. Dropped his bombs. But they went between our ship and the ship behind us and just exploded in the water.

Then the pilot tried to drive his plane down the stack because then we’d have gone up, the whole ship would have blown up. But he missed it by about 25 feet. But he got the whole deck on fire, gasoline and everything. And twenty-three sailors were killed, right at their gun mounts.

Two days later, we made our landing on Luzon. I was in the fourth wave hitting the beach. I almost drowned because the medics have something like a jacket without sleeves. Their bags on either side had all their medical supplies in there.

MARIA MCLEOD: How much did it weigh?

BILL EVANS: Well, it didn’t weigh a lot in itself, but when I got into my first combat, where I came close to getting it. We even took our Red Cross armbands off our arms because they’d pick the medic first. The snipers would aim at the armband and get you in the chest someplace, went through your body, anyhow and killed an awful lot of medics that way. Then they’d go after the troops. So I didn’t wear an armband. I wasn’t going to give them any more chances than possible. But I went down after my first combat, I went down to the supply office, and I insisted in getting a carbine.

MARIA MCLEOD: What’s a carbine?

BILL EVANS: A carbine is a small rifle. Holds 15 shells in a bracket on the gun itself. I think it’s a .32 caliber.

And then you always have a case on the gun, too, holding other brackets. You’ve got them on your belt. So you’ve got about a hundred-and-some cartridges on it. Semi-automatic.

MARIA MCLEOD: Were medics usually not carrying guns?

BILL EVANS: No. They weren’t supposed to. By, I guess, a Geneva law or something from World War I.

MARIA MCLEOD: People weren’t supposed to kill medics. You weren’t supposed to shoot at another’s army’s medics, were you?

BILL EVANS: No. You had rules to play by, but the Japanese didn’t honor that. And so I carried it through the whole war. But when I landed in Lingayen Gulf in the fourth wave, we almost drowned. In my outfit, we lost about 28 men. Because there was a sandbar that nobody knew about. The coxswain didn’t know any more about it than we did, running the landing craft. A lot of them came in and hit that sandbar, thought it was the beach, and lowered the ramp. Guys went out with all their equipment on, and drowned.

But our coxswain, we were lucky because he came to the same sandbar, but he didn’t lower the ramp. He might have seen something, or else somebody else radioed him or something. He gunned it when he hit it and went over the sandbar. And hell, we went another probably 100, 200 yards before we finally did hit the beach.

We were still up to our waists in water. But I was so loaded down with my medical equipment, and my ammo, and my gun and other stuff that if we didn’t have the beach under us, we’d have been in real trouble. Might not have got ashore.

MARIA MCLEOD: Tell me about the first time you were in combat, and you were dealing with actual wounds, what that was like.

BILL EVANS: Well, I wasn’t much more educated than I told you about. I got to New Guinea and I appealed to my commanding officer, who was a medic, a doctor. I said, “You know, I haven’t had any training at all yet, except this episode with my arms.” I said, “Can’t I get some training if I’m going into combat?”

He said, “Yeah, that makes sense. I’ll send you down the beach about 20 miles.”

There was a station hospital, and down there they had a series of big squad tents. That’s a station hospital. They’re all tents.

He said, “We’ll get you some training at the hospital.”

So I said, “Fine. Great.”

And he said, “You’ll be down there about two months.”

I said, “OK.”

So I packed the gear I needed to go down there. Still took my rifle with me. And got down there to the station hospital.

But they had so many wounded. Broken bones caused by gunshot. These guys are coming back from the Marshall Islands and those places that were invaded before we got to the Philippines – not by our outfit, by other outfits.

You get wounded and shot with rifle shot or shrapnel and so forth. A lot of times, you get broken bones as well as the wound itself. So they were having a lot of them coming in by the boatload to the station hospital down there – Navy men, Army men, everybody.

And so what did they do? They sent me into cast surgery.

MARIA MCLEOD: What’s cast surgery?

BILL EVANS: Well, I thought I was going to learn something about surgery that would help me. But no, what they had me doing was making casts out of plaster of Paris on people who had back wounds – their backs were broken, or some part of it. We had them on ropes – lines. Their feet were down, and their back and shoulders were down, but their body was up in the air, like making an arch.

So all I was doing was wrapping plaster of Paris, learning how to make a cast for a broken back, but who’s going to do that in combat? In combat, you get somebody who you’ve talked to a half an hour before, and thirty minutes later, he’s laying on a litter, covered with blood, or lost an arm, or ribs are all shot up or whatever.

You couldn’t put a cast on. You would do what you could to bandage him up, stop the bleeding, give him a transfusion or whatever, and put him on the back of a Jeep and send him out of the jungle. So I learned the hard way.

MARIA MCLEOD: You said something interesting. You said when you came back to Seattle, you were afraid of people. Is that true?

BILL EVANS: See, my folks, as I told you, still lived on Beacon Hill. They could see out in the bay. It was right across from the Veterans Hospital on Beacon Hill, on Beacon Avenue. My folks bought it. Had the home built in [19]42. And so when I got in the bay, I could see my house from there.

I got out of the service right before Christmas. So I was downtown, buying my folks a Christmas present … And the signal lights … I’d been three years in the jungle [chuckles] and I was just afraid of people. I’d stop at the intersection and I was afraid to cross the street. I thought, You’ve got to get a hold of yourself!

MARIA MCLEOD: When you were in the jungle, did you think of home? And when you thought of home, did you think of Seattle, or did you think of Issaquah? What were some of the things that kept you going?
BILL EVANS: I’d only lived, all my life, in Issaquah and then Seattle, so yeah. But, you know, when you’re in combat – and seeing death all around you, and being a medic – I was involved with it every day, hour by hour – you didn’t dare think about going home. You thought about making it through another day.