From Japan to home for Christmas
Arthur Harryman is a Cimarron County veteran of WWII. He served in
the 136th Inf. Regiment, (The Bearcats of Minnesota) attached to the
33rd Inf. Division, (The Illinois National Guard). He left as a farm
boy from rural Oklahoma; and returned just over three years later, a
combat hardened veteran of three campaigns in the jungles of New Guinea
and the Philippines. When he left, his little sister Norma was six-years
of age. Shed been dead nearly a year, the victim of a fire at
age nine; when he came home.
Well lets see; its been almost 61 years, Harryman
said. I was in the 136th Regiment, the Bearcats of the 33rd Division.
I went in the September draft call of 1942; there were 32 of
us went down from Cimarron County, 29 of us were inducted. We came home
for 10 days and then we went to Ft. Sill.
From Ft Sill, the inductees went to Ft. Lewis Washington where they
took their basic-training. In Feb. of 1943 they were attached to the
33rd and moved to the Mojave Desert. We were training for the
African invasion. But they didnt need us, Harryman remembered.
By June, the troops were dockside in California preparing for deployment
to the Pacific Theater of war. A five-month stop in Hawaii gave the
troopers of the 33rd the time to hone their skills as jungle fighters;
then it was on to Finch Haven, New Guinea.
We had guard duty at Finch Haven; it was a big supply depot for
the Pacific. We had a lots of air strikes on us, Harryman explained.
The division island hopped in the islands of Dutch New Guinea, and
arrived on the Philippine island of Luzon in January, 1945. The division
was engaged in combat for two months as they tried and died to fulfill
Gen. Douglas MacArthurs promise of I shall return
given to the Phillipine citizens in early 1941.
I got to see him (MacArthur) once. We all lined up for review and he rode by in a Jeep, Harryman grinned.
While in combat, during the Philippine campaign, S/Sgt. Harryman received
word that his sister Norma, age nine had died in a house fire at his
aunts home east of Keyes. Also, his father, a farmer, had been
hospitalized for surgery on a severe hernia. That was a rough
time to be in combat, Harryman admitted.
Harryman had also been slightly wounded and refused the Purple Heart.
According to a write-up in The Boise City News, Harryman maneuvered
for a better firing position as the Japanese concentrated fire on the
rest of the patrol. When in position, he sprayed the enemy with fire
from a Tommy gun, (A .45 Cal. Thompson submachine gun) knocking the
pill box out of action.
It, (combat) is rough. We were on the line seven to ten days
and then back for a week. We lived on C-Rations and might not have a
bath or change clothes for a month, Harryman remembered. By late
summer, 1945, the Philippines were once more in Allied hands; but the
Japanese doggedly refused to surrender. The 33rd was reinforced and
put on boats; destination Japan.
The division, bloodied by battle, was picked to spearhead the operation
code-name Olympia, the invasion of the Japanese Islands themselves.
The estimated loss of life for the beach storming troops? Roughly 80
to 90 percent. However, while in transit, two Atomic bombs were dropped
and the war was over. The troops, once slated for invasion were sailed
to Japan as an army of occupation.
We arrived in Otso, Japan the last part of November, 1945,Harryman
said. He was soon on his way back to the U.S. and arrived in Seattle
by December. By December 23, Harryman was in Ft. Levenworth, Kan., nearly
500 miles away from home. A guy beside me had a car and he took
me as far as Wichita. I had missed two buses, they were overloaded and
a guy came in saying he was going to San Diego and would take a rider
for $50. I offered $20 to get to Guymon, he remembered.
By 6 a.m. on December 24, Harryman was in Guymon trying to make it
home by Christmas. His parents some 60 miles away had no telephone.
They knew he was safe in the U.S., but had no idea he was so close.
I had breakfast; and at about 7:30 I stepped into the street and
swung my barracks bag on my shoulder, Harryman recalled. I
hadnt gone a block before I got a ride to Four Corners. When I
got there, a man asked where I was going, I told him Keyes, and he said
Well I aint going to Keyes, but Ill take you there,
Harryman remembered, as he wiped a tear. We hadnt
gone a mile, before he looked at me and said, Arent you
Irve Harrymans boy?
I said yes I was. It was Raymond McCrea, he lived two miles from
my parents. I was home by about 10:30 on Christmas Eve, Harryman
Harryman, still a member of Keyes Foster-Morrow Post 286, recalls
that he was recruited to rejoin the army during the Korean Conflict.
I had some kids, I just couldnt see it. But Im still a veteran and I think Im a good American.
Boise City News