Gaining a Future
by Raymond Kierce
Seventy-three years ago on May 8th, I was a twenty-year old novice journalist and college freshman, but there was a war going on. I knew that if I was drafted I would not have a choice in which branch of the service I would serve. So I caught a bus from my parents' Jersey City home and went to a military recruiting facility. I passed the physical and enlisted in the Army Air Force.
After training at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, and a golf course in Miami Beach, my fellow recruits and I were shipped to San Francisco where we boarded an ocean liner and sneaked out of port.
Racing across the vast Pacific with only dolphins as our escorts, we celebrated the Crossing the Line with King Neptune when we crossed the equator.
I soon found myself with the Fifth Bomber Command on the other side of the world in New Guinea. The Japanese government gave us an explosive welcome with an air raid by 100 bombers. It was quite a sight as our P38 fighters tore among them.
The Japs owned most of New Guinea at that point. American and Australian soldiers stopped their advance 17 miles from Port Moresby. Port Moresby is only 530 miles from Australia. Australia came very close to being overrun by Japanese forces.
For the next three years, the Allies pushed ever closer to Japan, seizing back territory, island by island.
In August, 1945, to my surprise, I was given a leave home to Jersey and ordered to return to Clark Field, Manila, in thirty days.
I learned many years later that President Harry Truman had ordered plans drawn for Operation Olympic (attacking the southern island of Kyūshū) and set November 1, 1945, for the invasion of Japan.
More than 40% of all servicemen still in uniform in 1945 would have been assigned to two amphibious assaults. At that time, it was estimated that American casualties would have totaled one million during that invasion.
Since I would have been back in the Philippines in September, there is no doubt in my mind that I would have been assigned to the invasion of Japan.
When the two atomic bombs were dropped to end the war, millions of servicemen gained a future, including me.