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. She’d been dead nearly a year, the victim of a fire at age nine; when he came home.

“Well let’s see; it’s 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 didn’t 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 MacArthur’s promise of “I shall return” given to the Phillipine citizen’s 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 aunt’s 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.
Asked why he didn’t attempt a hardship discharge, Harryman shrugged. “I guess I could have done that; but back then you stayed where you were, or else...”

Harryman had also been slightly wounded and refused the Purple Heart.
“Well, I don’t know if you could call it a wound. I got a scratch under my arm; there was some blood; from a piece of schrapnel.” Harryman said modestly. “But I didn’t want the Purple Heart, because I didn’t want my parents to get a telegram right then saying that I’d been wounded,” he explained. During this campaign Harryman and others in a patrol found themselves pinned down and separated, receiving fire from a Japanese pill box, a scant three meters to their front.

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 hadn’t 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 ain’t going to Keyes, but I’ll take you there,’ ” Harryman remembered, as he wiped a tear. “We hadn’t gone a mile, before he looked at me and said, ‘Aren’t you Irve Harryman’s 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 smiled.

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 couldn’t see it. But I’m still a veteran and I think I’m a good American.”

Boise City News
P.O. Box 278
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Boise City, Oklahoma 73933-0278
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