Saturday, November 11, 2017

VETERAN'S DAY aka ARMISTICE DAY

Today is Veteran's Day, and also my birthday. When I was growing up, it was called "Armistice Day". In my younger years, if it fell on a weekday, I thought I got to skip school just because it was my birthday. Holidays were acknowledged on the actual date back then. Boy! my age is showing.

The following post I published on my high school class blog in 2008. Since that time things have changed in my life. I've made two long distance moves, and most importantly, I also lost my Dad in 2015. 

I still remember the day he shared his stories with me on his 90th birthday, as we sat in that Long John Silver cafe. I got to see a side of my Dad he'd never shown me before. And heard stories he never told me before. 

I remember following him around in our back yard when the war was over and he returned home. Not really understanding war, I pestered him with questions. He told me about a little Japanese girl about my age who had to take care of her baby brother. She carried him around in a bag on her back. Curious, and just knowing enough about war and guns, I asked him if he ever shot a Japanese child. I was only about 7 years old at the time, and it frightened me when he got angry at that question, and told me to stop asking questions and leave him alone.

I don't believe Dad ever got over the things he witnessed during the war. Especially the times he spent in Okinawa and Japan.

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J.F.Moragne (2nd from left) May 1952
San Antonio, TX

November 4th ~ Election Day ~ happened to be my dad's 90th birthday. I made the 3-hour drive to Mineral Wells to spend the day with him, and to reminisce about his 90 years on this earth. My daughter wanted me to take him to lunch on her credit card, so I asked where he would like to eat. Of all places, his favorite is Long John Silver in Weatherford. As we got settled into our booth to eat, we chit-chatted a bit. Toward dessert, I made the comment that I don't know how he keeps from being a butterball the way he eats anything he wants -- especially fried foods, and never gains weight. He informed me that he weighed the same now that he did when he was 18 years old and boxing for the Army. 137 pounds!

That started my questions. I knew he had some kind of title, but not what. It seems he was Lightweight Boxing Champ for his Regiment at Ft. Sam Houston. Somewhere in all my boxes of photos and memorabilia are some better pictures than what I have put on the blog this time, but these will suffice. Sorry, Dad. Wish I had planned this sooner. The pictures below were taken during his first tour of duty with the U.S. Army. He joined when he was only 17 years old. I'm not certain what the "uniform" on the left was for, surely it was not regulation! During this time, Dad said he weighed every morning. He couldn't afford to gain a pound. He did not want to be bumped into the Welterweight Division! Those guys were big! 

He finished that three year stint, then married my mother and they had me and my sister before the Big War, WWII.

 
1st Tour of Duty ~ Ft. Sam Houston ~ Regimental Lightweight Boxing Champ

One thing led to another, and I remembered photos like these below from World War II. I think I mentioned in another blog that Dad never really wanted to talk about his war experiences when we were youngI thought this was a good time to ask. I knew he was a paratrooperbut didn't know the whole story. Really funny incidents took place when he was sent to Ft. Meade, Maryland waiting for deployment to the South Pacific. To entertain the soldiers, they held boxing matches. The winner would get a 3-day pass. Well, Dad's experience when he was a young soldier champion boxer served him well. He said he kept winning matches. He would have weekends off, then add on the 3-day pass for five days in a row. When he returned, he boxed for the next couple of days, won again, and again. He said the whole time he was there all he did was box and take leave.

Although Dad's Unit never made a combat jump, after paratrooper training in New Guinea they made a jump onto Okinawa, where they did a cleanup action on the caves in the mountains. Looking for anti-aircraft guns. They were there when the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Japanese surrendered. His Unit was the second one sent into Japan for the Occupation.
  
With Occupation Forces ~ Japan 1945
First Sergeant Jarvis F. Moragne

At this point Dad was naming the villages they covered in the mountains. Good memory for 90 years old! I really wished I had had a tape recorder so I could get this straight. They sent patrols into the villages to destroy all the guns. As Dad was the oldest in his group of men, he was given the noncom rank of First Sergeant.   Dad started grinning as he remembered how the Japanese didn't show any respect at all for the military unless they were officers. Noncoms didn't count. In order to get the cooperation of the villagers, the sergeants like my dad were given lieutenant bars to wear. He said as soon as the Japanese spotted bars on his shoulders, they began to bow and nod in deference to his "rank".

As you can see from the pictures, it was snowing heavily at the time they were there. At one village they met with the villagers at the public school. The village officials adamantly denied they had any guns at all. However, tracks in the snow led Dad and his men to the huge anti-aircraft gun they had just moved to hide from the Americans. He still laughs about that. The Kamikaze glider pilots trained in these same mountains, so another one of Dad's duties there was to destroy any of the gliders still around. They also went into the schools and looked for books on aerodynamics and destroyed them, too.

Suddenly Dad looked at me and said, "You know there were concentration camps there, too." Yes, I knew, because as a young child I had seen lots of photographs in his scrapbook of piles of pitiful looking bodies as well as bones and skulls. There were mass graves being dug in these pictures. Dad said only one of the camps had American POWs, and the first Unit to go into Japan released them and they were already gone when Dad's Unit arrived. There were four more -- all containing Chinese and Koreans in terrible physical condition. (Images of the Holocaust came to mind.) I said that must have been horrible! He looked at me and said, "Yes, but we had a job to do." (They had to release the prisoners and bury bodies.) I said, "What a terrible thing to witness at such a young age".. He proudly said, "I was 26 years old!" At that moment, I knew it was that young 26-year-old man in charge of men in their teens that spoke to me. "But Dad, think about it. Your grandsons are all older than that! You were just a kid!" He lowered his head, and those frail shoulders began to shake. I think for the first time, in that near empty fast food restaurant, my father allowed himself to feel what he really must have gone through at that terrible time. He and I both shed silent tears for that young man, who was strong and courageous for the sake of the younger men under his command at the time.
(Below) Master Sergeant Jarvis F. Moragne ~ 4th Army HQ ~ Ft. Sam Houston, TX
Exercise Long Horn ~ 3 April 1952


Dad was called up to serve his country one more time during the Korean Conflict. A small Army Reserve Unit in Bronte, Texas got him to join them - really against his wishes. Naturally, they were the first to be called up when fighting broke out. This time he spent his tour of duty at 4th Army Headquarters in Ft. Sam Houston, Texas. Although most of his work was Top Secret, I did learn many years later that he was one of only three Master Sergeants that General Eisenhower recruited to be on his staff when SHAPE was formed in Europe in 1951. My mother threw such a fit because we couldn't join Dad for a year (I think it was in Paris), that he turned it down. Of course, it also meant he would have had to sign on for more years of duty. He was anxious by now (at 33) to start his own business.

I know you all could tell stories of your fathers' military service to our country, and many of you have your own stories to relate. Here's a salute to all of them and all of you! We honor you. We love the soldiers, but I think we all can agree, we hate the wars!



HAPPY 90TH BIRTHDAY, DADDY!

I'd like to close this with a quote I stole from my son Craig's blog:

"The United States of America is still run by its citizens. The government works for us. Rank imperialism and warmongering are not American traditions or values. We do not need to dominate the world. We want and need to work with other nations. We want to find solutions other than killing people. Not in our name, not with our money, not with our children's blood." ~ Molly Ivins

Nor our husbands' nor our fathers'..
Marilyn

3 comments:

  1. Great memorial to your dad. And a big HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!!!

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  2. Another great piece, Marilyn! And belated Happy Birthday!!

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  3. Thank you so much, Kevin.
    I'll be thinking of you!

    ReplyDelete