Veterans Day 2011 is this Friday (Nov. 11), and there will be celebrations and parades going on across this country to honor our veterans for their service, commitment, and ultimate sacrifice to this country!
My father, John Taylor, was drafted at age 18 to serve in the U. S. Eighth Army’s 169 2nd Engineer Battalion in Masiwa, Japan on December 4, 1945. According to the US Army’s website, “[t]he Eighth United States Army was officially activated on June 10, 1944, and ordered to South Korea where … they were to: disarm Japanese military forces; destroy the nation’s war-making potential; conduct the trial of war criminals; guide the defeated nation into peaceful pursuits and the democratic way of life; encourage economic rehabilitation, local autonomy and education and land reform; guard installations; protect supply routes and watch over government operations. After World War II, Korea was divided into North and South. The peace in Japan eventually came to an end June 1950 when North Korea (Communists) invaded South Korea (non-Communists). This invasion was the start of the Korean War. That war lasted for three years until an armistice agreement was signed in July 1953. So why is this war called a “Forgotten War?” Some historians say it was “a police action” that failed to resolve the crime it was called to resolve.
The USAT General A.W. Greeley was the ship that transported my father to Japan right after basic training. This ship, named for the U.S. Army General Adolphus Greely, was eventually transferred to the United States Army as USAT General A. W. Greeley in 1946. In 1950 this ship was transferred to the Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS) as USNS General A. W. Greely (T-AP-141) and later sold and converted to a container ship and operated under several names before being scrapped in 1986.
During his tour in Japan, my father was a Motor Sergeant in the Battalion Motor Pool. He was responsible for the duties of 80 enlisted men and the maintenance of 80 vehicles. His duties included: touring the motor shop daily; inspecting completed and new repair work; suggesting improvements and assisting with all problems requiring more extensive knowledge of repair; assigning drivers to vehicles and checking with office personnel on reports and requisitions; supervising the requisitioning of all parts and equipment.
Dad was Honorably Discharged from the Army at age 20 February 13, 1947, in Camp Beale California. Just as the tour he was involved in would become known as the “Forgotten War,” once stateside, my father’s military experience in America’s segregated Army from 1945-1947 became a “forgotten experience” for him as well! Anyone who spent any time with him would never guess he was a veteran if he didn’t tell them — and he usually didn’t! There were no military mannerisms about him that folks could detect that would lead to any conversations about his Army life either. The only time I can recall him ever taking advantage of benefits available to him as a veteran was when he decided to use his GI Bill to attend and pay for college.
My father died February 7, 2010, and since his death, I’ve learned more about his military life — as I go through his personal effects and research about the war he served in — than I ever heard or learned from him. Among his things, I’ve found:
– military photos of him that my family has never seen before
– Military Payment Certificates and Japanese Yens during his tour in Japan,
– his original Enlisted Record and Report of Separation – Honorable Discharge documents.
I haven’t located the World War II Victory Medal and Army of Occupational Medal that his discharge paper says he received. But I’ll keep looking for them and for much more because the more I learn about this part of my father’s life, the more relevant Veteran’s Day this year and years to come will be for my family and me!