Monday, December 5, 2011

Amanuensis Monday - Lloyd Robertson

My grandfather's brother, Lloyd F. Robertson, served his country during World War II.  He wrote a short memoir of sorts regarding his life and military service.  In honor of December 7, here is an excerpt from his memoir.  Reading it, you'll get a sense of the sacrifices our military make for us every day.  My Uncle Lloyd is still alive, living a quiet life in northern Missouri with the love of his life, Norma.  Thanks to my Uncles Lloyd, Don, and Cloyd, for keeping us safe and sacrificing so much.

After high school, I worked with Dad on the farm until enlisting in the Army Reserve Corps in September, 1942 at the age of 21.  My brother-in-law was teaching Radio classes to Army recruits in Omaha and advised me to join the Signal Corps.  I went to Kansas City where I went to school for three months of theory and three months of hands-on radio repair training.

There were 256 in our Signal Corps Company.  We were sent to Bougainville Island, New Guinea, where we lost several Corps members during the rough fighting.  We were trained in Japanese code on Bougainville Island by experienced Signal Corps members.  Two Signal Corps companies, the 111nd and the 112th, cracked the Japanese code which was a great breakthrough and saved many American lives as we could more easily deter the Japanese plans.

We worked eight-hour shifts with 30 guys listening to radios on each shift.  Listening to static and interference for eight hours was nerve-racking, but we would hear messages periodically and decode them.  A trick chief made the rounds of radio sites, picking up our messages.  By putting all of them together, officers did a good job of guessing the enemy's next move.

I had a close call at Luzon while on guard duty on the ship's bow.   We changed shifts at 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.  My relief came early and I went below.  My replacement was injured during a Japanese attack soon after I left.  The plane that hit him was shot down.  Our ship required repairs after this battle.  The Japanese were attacking all the time.  We had to watch for swimmers going toward the ships.  They wore explosives on their backs to blow up or damage our ships. 

We set up a permanent camp further inland.  Six of us slept on cots in a tent.  After the island was secured, the motor pool picked up lumber brought in by ships.  We used some of this lumber to put floors under our tents.  We had to take antibiotic pills and sleep under mosquito nets to ward off malaria.  I did contract "jungle rot," a fungus, in my ears.  There was daily rain.  We could set our clocks by the 2:30 p.m. downpours.  It was hot and humid and miserable some days.  One night I woke to find my cot rocking back and forth.  I shrugged out of my net, jumped out of bed, and could not stand up!  I finally realized that we were having an earthquake.  It probably only lasted a minute or two, but it seemed to go on forever.

The food was edible, but very basic.  While in battle mode, we lived on Army rations.  We couldn't determine was was actually in the cans!   In permanent camps, we had better food.  Our cook on Luzon was excellent.  At stateside bases, they received good grades of meat, but some cooks ruined it or put it into stew.  Ship food was decent and on U.S. ships we ate three meals a day.  We transferred between islands on one British ship; they only served two meals a day.  They did have a PX on board where we could purchase all kinds of food.  

Mail call was a major highlight for us all.  It was disappointing if we didn't receive a letter or a package from home.  Those who wrote to me regularly were my mother; my brother, Donald, who was with the Infantry in Europe, part of the D-Day invasion; my brother, Cloyd, in Mindanao, Phillipines, working with Medics; and "Kad" Harrison, a friend of my parents from the Gilman area, who wrote faithfully, keeping me up-to-date on happenings in my hometown..

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