I had the opportunity to take my father, the one that just turned 93, to a few appointments last week. At one of those appointments I met an individual named Arthur. As I was informed, my father and Arthur have known each other for almost 14 years. My father used to be a hospital chaplain at the same location that Arthur worked. Arthur would come into my father’s office each day to say the morning prayer over the PA system for the benefit of all those in the hospital. It was just a casual introduction until Arthur asked the question, “What theater were you in?” Quite an unusual question unless you realize that my father always wears his WWII Veteran cap and that does become a common question that I hear when we are together. My father’s immediate response, “Pacific.”
I’ve heard a few stories over the years, but only a few because my father, like most veterans, just didn’t want to share the experiences. Of course, I heard his own account of 5 O’clock Charlie, the Japanese artillery group that fired a cannon daily from various cave entrances and interconnected tunnels designed by the Japanese army in the mountains of Luzon. I also remember his story about almost sleeping through a typhoon after having been on MP duty all night long. Only to awake to his quonset hut being lifted by the typhoon and bouncing his bed back and forth across the room, then putting on his rain poncho, opening the door, and quickly being picked up by the wind and thrown into a trench. Only to look up and see an airplane that had been tied down moments before being tossed about every which way over the trench. All his stories were relating to the lighter side of life on the island. He never spoke of the actual fighting that occurred when he arrived on the island. The focus of his stories reflected on the quieter times after the initial invasion.
I wasn’t surprised when Arthur responded with a, “Thank you for serving.” What surprised me was his next comment, “If it weren’t for those who served in the Pacific, I wouldn’t be here.” You see, Arthur was born in Manila on the island of Luzon. The American forces had always know the importance of the Philippines and had numerous military bases throughout the Philippines. The invasion of the Philippines occurred just ten hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Japan quickly took control of Luzon and later in the war made the Philippines their final line of defense to stop an American advance toward Japan. Arthur went on to talk about how General MacArthur returned to the Philippines with troops to battle the Japanese. Arthur spoke with the highest amount of praise abut MacArthur’s decision to bring infantry to the island to take back the city of Manila. My father was among that group of men that fought the Battle of Luzon. He was a member of 32nd Infantry Division, also known at the Red Arrow Division. What shocked me next was my father’s response to Arthur, “If it weren’t for us, you’d be speaking Japanese.”
My father and Arthur are generations apart, yet they are connected by those events on Luzon. The actions we take in our lives may have a direct correlation to future generations. Some of our journeys we take by choice, others are journeys that are forced upon us, but all our journeys are intertwined.
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