World War II Memories - Paul Barnes

At our December 2016 meeting recognizing the 75th anniversary of USA entry into World War II and having invited veterans to attend our meeting, we welcomed Paul Barnes and Marshall Gearhart who shared memories of their time in the service.

Paul, who is ninety two years young, was born in Peters Township near Upton in 1924. He was the son of Clarence and Elva Barnes. He had two brothers and three sisters. His late brothers were also veterans. Glenn, his younger brother, died of polio in Korea. Paul attended school in Upton through grade eight, then went to Lemasters High School, graduating in 1942. He remembers Sunday, December 1941, at 3 PM when the President announced on the radio that Pearl Harbor had been bombed. Rationing and the sale of war bonds began soon after. Also Paul briefly was a plane spotter atop of Springer's Garage in Upton.

Upon graduation Paul, who was seventeen, began working on the family farm. Because he was farming, he was classified 1-B for a time. Later Paul was classified 1-A and thus was drafted into the Army. Paul was trained as an infantry replacement to be sent to invade Japan. Instead the war ended as he was onboard a ship in the Pacific Ocean. Mter that Paul was assigned to the Philippines as an MP with the 797th Military Police Company. He received the following medals: Good Conduct Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Medal, the Philippine Liberation Badge, and the Expert Marksmanship Medal.

His military experience was a good one, and Paul learned first hand about life in a third world country. The troop train ride across our country was a first for Paul as were the ship rides to and from the Philippines. He made friends with soldiers from Texas to Pittsburgh.

After the war, Paul and Jack Hawley, another veteran, worked for Elmer Hawbaker in the electrical trade. They wired farms in the Corner that didn't have electricity until after the war. Through the G.I. Bill, Paul took a four month course in Commercial Refrigeration in Philadelphia. He also took electricity correspondence courses through the International Correspondence School for two years. He continued working for Hawbaker and also in the commercial refrigeration field. When Elmer Hawbaker was approaching retirement, he asked Paul if he was interested in buying the business which he did, and he ran his own electrical business for ten years, employing up to five people.

Paul then became Supervisor of Buildings and Grounds for the Tuscarora School District retiring in 1989. Mter that he continued to do part-time commercial refrigeration jobs until age eighty five when his wife, Beulah, became ill. There were married in June 1950 and were together for sixty four years until her death in February 2015. They had two sons, Geoffrey and James. Paul traveled as far as Alaska after his time in the service, but never went as far from home as he did as a young PFC in the U.S. Army. In fact, Paul and Beulah built their home one mile from where he was born!

The following are Paul's memories of his service from February 15, 1945 to December 1946 as told to his son, Geoffrey.

"I was taken to New Cumberland Induction Center and the very first thing was - take one step backward, raise your right hand and pledge the military oath. We were then taken to a large building full of new army uniforms. Our civilian clothes were sent home. I looked in the mirror, and I was a soldier. I guess I had mixed feelings, I think I was homesick already. It was a big change for a farm boy like me, but thinking back now it was a change that lasted a lifetime. We were there for three days getting prepared like getting shots in both arms. We were put on a train and sent to Camp Gordon Georgia for basic training.

"The first week of basic training was pretty easy, but after that they cracked down on us if we weren't doing something right (the Army way). As training went on, we got a week on the firing range. When I was called up on the line, the first shot with my Ml rifle was a complete miss. But after that I got a feel for it, and my next shot was better. After a week on the range I scored 190 out of 200 and was the best in my company. They rated me an expert on the Ml as well as the 30 caliber machine gun. I couldn't believe it. There are many things in basic training I will never forget. One of them was when we were eating lunch in a noisy mess hall. The Sergeant called attention and said President Roosevelt had died. Everything stopped - complete silence as if what are we going to do? This was our Commander-in-Chief.

"The wars were still going on, and I was leaving to fight in them. I was doing things I thought I would never have to do like crawling under machine gun fire, keeping my rifle from getting sand in it, digging a foxhole and letting a tank run over me. By the end of training we could march thirty miles with an eighty pound backpack and rifle in less than a day.

"Basic training was over, and we went home for a ten day leave and then back to Fort Meade. The war in Europe ended, but I knew that the invasion of Japan was ahead. They estimated there could be more than a million casualties with 400,000 American killed, and I was going overseas. At Fort Meade they censored us and then put us on a train to Seattle and then down to Camp Adair, Oregon. Thousands of troops were moving to the west coast. We were moved to Los Angeles. I got a two day pass and went to Hollywood. Several days later we embarked from Long Beach.

"After a week on the ocean, we were told Japan had surrendered. We knew the U.S. dropped the atomic bomb, but we were still surprised it had surrendered. It was a big relief but no celebration like you had here. We zigzagged across the ocean for the fear of subs until we stopped in Hawaii. At that point I thought we would go back to California, but we didn't. The ship we were on broke down for three to four days before getting fixed.

"We were getting close to the equator and in for another surprise. The first time you cross the equator you get initiated. They cut off a big chunk of my hair, but I got a certificate telling me I was in the Golden Dragon and wouldn't have to do it again (I won't).

"We kept sailing until we got to the Philippines where we were told where we were going. We stayed in a bay surrounded by jungle because of a typhoon. The next morning we went through the islands to the South China Sea to Manila. We had to anchor in the bay for two days until the Navy got us onto landing crafts. There were sunken ships everywhere in the bay. We were on the ship for forty five days so it was good to be on land, but it didn't look much better.

"We were put on a convoy and trucked sixty miles south of Manila to a jungle where we slept on the ground. My first assignment was in a Japanese POW camp inspecting kitchens. After that I was told to go out and check some of the tents they were staying in. First thing I thought was the prisoners are going to kill me, but they seemed happy to be here. It was better than their army. The next day I was sent to the far corner of the compound to watch six POWs digging a ditch. One Japanese solder came up to me and asked where I was from. I told him Pennsylvania. He said he knew of Pennsylvania and said he was a judge in Tokyo. He gave me his address and name which I still have to this day.

"I was then moved to military police detachment where we had one water faucet for thirty soldiers. We had to use our helmets to wash and shave. After four weeks I was moved to the 797th Military Police Company in a small town which was a better area. I was now a MP with very little training whose job was to patrol roads, man check points, protect government property and maintain order among soldiers.

"After six months our unit was disbanded and moved to Manila with the 50th MP battalion. We were on the 2°d floor of a concrete building with windows blown out, shell holes in the walls and potholes in the streets. I was getting close to going home so I didn't get much to do except the transport of a convicted Japanese soldier to the gallows to be hanged. I also escorted fifteen POWs to a new camp they were building with the help of the POWs.

"Our company moved to new barracks which was a lot nicer with ping pong tables and I played a lot. A new soldier came from the states to replace me so I was leaving in a couple of weeks and glad of it. I was in California in fifteen days; sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge was a beautiful sight. We got off the ship in San Francisco, had a real breakfast for the first time in a while and got on a troop train to Fort Meade. I came home for a few days but had to go back to be discharged. I was home for good in October 1946. I had forty days of leave I didn't get so I was officially discharged December 1946. Congress declared WWII over December 31, 1946. One thing I have to say is that using the bomb on Japanese soil was a terrible event, but it saved hundreds of thousands and it could have been mine, too."

We thank Paul Barnes, WWII veteran, for his service.


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