Shooks Men in the Military - P. John
Uncle Sam didn't wait long after my 18th
birthday on June 8th,
1942 before he
sent me greetings. But my dad appealed to the draft board, because
three of his
sons had already been called, and he needed help with the store,
through summer and fall. So they postponed my call-up until April 1943.
I was in charge of a group of draftees
taking the train
from Bellaire (Michigan)
for induction. Marvin
Wynsma, my brother-in-law’s nephew, and Lou Essenberg were in the group.
Upon our arrival at Ft.
Custer, we were inducted and had the usual medical shots, then
uniforms and lots of clothes and gear that none of us knew what to do
After three days of orientation, in the early evening I boarded a troop
not knowing where I was going. I fell asleep in my bunk and woke up
in the Kentucky hills.
It was a
frosty morning, and as we traveled through the valleys, smoke from
homes was going straight up. I started a diary, but I never could find
On the third morning when I awoke I knew I
was in Florida,
because I saw palm trees outside the train window. I was feeling pretty
the scenery, but I still didn’t know where the end of the line was. The
stopped outside of St. Petersburg, Florida,
at a place called “TentCity.”
We disembarked, and I was assigned a tent with three young men from Chicago.
They were nice fellows.
On the way to our first mess, some soldiers
who were in basic training alerted us not to eat the food at the mess
tent. They said there
had been an outbreak of spinal meningitis. I wondered if this was some
Army ruse. But it turned out to be true, as a Grand
soldier and one of the founders of Amway, Jay Vanandel, was stricken,
many others. TentCity
was on a golf course, and with all the basic training and marching
and dust were everywhere. Instead of eating at the mess tent, I and
others bought wrapped sandwiches, milk, and pop from the PX.
After two days of sandwiches, our group was
downtown St. Petersburg,
ten-storey Princess Martha hotel, where I was placed on the 10th
floor. There were four of us in a room. Basic training was taken in the
baseball park down by the harbor, where the New York Yankees had just
spring training. Like every soldier, we learned close order drill, took
every kind, and went on bivouac in the Florida
back country. We had big parades with other trainees, who were housed
and apartment complexes all over the city.
After six weeks of training, I was put on a
for Virginia Polytechnic Institute (VPI), in Blacksburg,
VA, alone. There I was housed
in a campus
building used for the cadet program, and I attended college classes in
morning and had lots of recreation in the afternoon. I discovered I was
ASTP, the Army Special Training Program. I didn’t know what the result
be, but I knew I wasn’t ready for a year of chemistry in three months,
didn’t have it in high school. In class I sat with a solider who’d had
years of it at MIT. After a month, I requested and was granted a
to the Air Force.
I shipped out in June of 1943 to Mitchell
Air Force Base in Hempstead, Long
Island, New York
for reassignment. I was at First Air Force headquarters, which controls
space over the east coast. Eventually I was transferred to Hillsboro
AFB in Providence,
RI, where I was part of a small detachment running a message center of
radios, teletypes, and cryptography work. We were part of a retraining
for pilots coming back from Europe to learn the
intricate aspects of the P-47 fighter plane. It was well-armed and had
fire power and range. The Germans hated the plane, because it was
shoot down. I enjoyed my time in the east from July 1943 to September
Early in October of 1944 I and others in our
shipped out to Seymour AFB in Goldsboro,
to form a P-47 fighter wing. I was assigned to the 1st
Squadron of the 413th Fighter Group to train for overseas
lack of facilities and room, we were transferred to Bluethenthal AFB in
on November 9, 1944.
other squadrons in the 413th were the 21st and
We remained at Bluethenthal AFB until April 7, 1945. During that period we received
readying us for overseas duty. We worked 14-16 hours a day on ground
and orientation in combat activities. On orders from higher
three squadrons departed Bluethenthal Field on April 7, 1945 and arrived at Ft.Lawton, Seattle,
WA, on April 12, 1945 for processing. I enjoyed
the six days
required to cross the country and seeing the South, Midwest,
the plains and mountains. Considering the distance to be covered, we
comparative comfort. 35 men were assigned to each car, which gave us
leg room and comfortable sleeping arrangements. We stopped frequently
way to get some fresh air and exercise our tired muscles.
Our equipment was checked, and then several
completed our processing at Ft.Lawton.
On April 17th our helmets were marked with chalk to indicate
numbers of the ships’ directories. We embarked on the “USAT Kata
Dutch ship converted to a troop ship, with a crew of men from Dutch
We departed at 1800 hours ()
into Puget Sound and then the Pacific
Some of the troops were seasick before we left Puget Sound.
Little did they know they were going to be on this ship for 31 days. I
first meal aboard a troop ship. It was terrible. Everything was
When my Sergeant told me they wanted volunteers for the officer’s mess,
volunteered and spent the rest of the trip eating and drinking well.
I ever had on K-P.
On the 25th of April we arrived
We had newspapers to read, for a change, and dancing girls came to the
perform for us, but we had no shore time. Our pilots had been to Hawaii
three weeks earlier on the aircraft carrier, “Kwajalian,” with our
aboard. They were being assembled for delivery to Guam,
where they would be flown to our destination, which was still unknown.
We left Pearl Harbor on April 28th in a convoy
of six merchant
ships and three destroyer escorts. It was hot, and we were traveling in
waters. We had standby alerts frequently.
At night we had boxing events on the poop
deck. We also had
Sunday services on deck, at which I played an Army-issue pump organ. We
slept on the deck because of the heat.
On May 6th we stopped at Eniwetok,
a small atoll in the Marshall Islands.
Then, on May 12th, we stopped at Ulithi, a large atoll
could hold more than 350 ships. While there we dove off the rails into
water for a
swim, until we noticed toilet paper floating by. That ended our
swimming. I saw
part of the 5th Naval fleet come into the lagoon with
damage to their decks and gun turrets from the Japanese kamikaze planes
coast of Okinawa. Little did I know we were
going to go
to the same area.
We came into Ie Shima, a 3-by-5 mile island
off the west
coast of mid-Okinawa on May 19th, right on the heels of the
forces that took the island. We gathered our gear and went over the
an L.S.M (Landing Ship Medium), which took us to the beach and onto
after thirty-one days at sea.
The difficult job of unloading the equipment
then began and
continued for the next five days. It was made difficult by the constant
lack of transportation, and frequent air raids. Although we were
constant bombing attacks, no large-scale force capable of doing
damage reached the island. However, conditions were bad and getting
continued raining for the next ten days and made our living area
worked, slept, and ate in the mud. Through it all, we set up our
area, uncrated and sorted the equipment, and established our various
departments. My message center was located by operational headquarters.
limited spare time we played softball until a quick, tropical shower
us off the field.
Our fighter group flew 1,037 sorties, 54
destroying 12 planes in the air and 5 on the ground. Along with damage
airfields, we hit shipping and manufacturing centers. Our P-47s were
aircrafts equipped with wing tanks to fly over the main Japanese island
of Honshu. One of our
shot down over Shanghai
up in the harbor by the Chinese, who took him to a submarine. He showed
and sound a month later wearing a coolie hat and Chinese clothes.
In the fall we were ordered to pack our gear
for an invasion
of the Japanese mainland. That was not good news. However, the Lord had
ideas. The atomic bomb came into the picture in August, 1945, and on
the Japanese accepted the terms of unconditional surrender. The terms
for a contingent of Japanese to fly down to the Philippines
to General MacArthur’s headquarters. The group flew into our airfield
Shima, in a plane painted white with a green cross on the fuselage.
then transferred to a C-48 Constellation for the meeting in the Philippines.
The Japanese accepted the surrender terms on August 15, 1945.
When the war ended, everyone was adding up
the points needed
to go home. Meanwhile, I and four others got a pass to go to Tokyo.
We hitchhiked on C-46 planes and rode first to KyushuIsland, where we were
stuck for two
days, because of the weather. Then we went on to Tokyo
for four days. The people were exceedingly friendly, considering that
I looked, fire bombing had caused complete destruction for miles. We
the Maranouchi Hotel, across from the ImperialPalace, which remained
We ate seven-course meals and drank good sake beer. The street cars
working. We saw MacArthur and his big entourage come out of his
the Dia Achi building. The Japanese all bowed when he passed by. It was
experience for a kid from Ellsworth, Michigan.
We hitchhiked our way back to Ie Shima, and
then we were
transferred over to central Okinawa, to Kadena
AFB, to a
Seabee encampment. Boy, did those guys have it good! I got on K-P and
cream every time I could. They must have hauled that machine all the
Before our discharge, we toured the island
to the south,
where the heavy fighting had occurred. Our troops’ casualties were very
You could see all the cemeteries built into the hillsides, where they
protected. One of our generals, General Bruckner, was killed at the
very end of
the war. For me, as a young, un-traveled kid, this whole experience was
educational. Being young, it seemed we never completely recognized the
danger that was always
around us. We had over 70 bombing runs at night against our little
always hit something, because the island was loaded with aircraft. I
dug an air
shelter trench, but when I was told the snakes liked to live in them, I
up. When an air raid came, I jumped out of my cot, hit the deck, and
hoped for the best.
I climbed the ropes up into a troopship for the trip home. No
bombers to worry about. I arrived in the port o fSan Pedro, which
serves Los Angeles, on January 13, 1946, Upon
landing, we were served a wonderful steak dinner
with all the trimmings and ice cream by German prisoners of war. They
smiled and were friendly to us. I guess they were also glad that the
over. Obviously, they were treated far better than the Japanese had
After a night’s sleep—in a bed for a change—we boarded a
troop train for the trip to Ft. Sheridan,
for discharge. We stopped in Albuquerque,
and at the train station many Indian folk displayed their good on
Navajo blankets. No money, no buy.
I was discharged at Ft.
Sheridan, IL, on February 14, 1946. I
received $19.35 travel pay, $100.00
mustering out pay, and a few dollars of back pay. I declined a strong
stay in the service.
It was quite an experience. I thank the Lord
for my safe
return. God bless the United States.
I was proud to serve.