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Navy Chief Photographers Mate, Joe Renteria turned 102 years old in July and is still photographing the world today. Joe was a Navy PHC and retired after 20 years. Joe began his service in 1936 in the US Army for 3 years with a heavy machine gun unit. He talks about taking care of the mule that helped draw the cart of equipment and ammunition. He was not happy with the Army so at the end of service he walked down the hall and joined the Navy. Joe served in Aviation at Pearl Harbor flying with a PBY unit watching for the Japanize ships before transferring to Pensacola for Photographers A school to become a Photographers Mate. Joe served as Fleet Admiral William Halsey Jr.'s photographer throughout WW2. They hopped from island to island where Joe, because of his flight skins, flew aerial photo missions with his favorite KS 20 Navy aerial camera documenting the atomic bomb tests. Joe still lives in his San Diego home he and his son Michael built by hand as they acquired supplies. Joe continues to travel all over the US with the help of his daughter-in-law Susan. After the Navy Joe was the Department Head of the Photo department at San Diego State University for another 33 years. The Chief is still actively involved with quality of life and education for Indian affairs.
Signalman First-Class Petty Officer Clarance J. Gerwien "C.J." served in the Navy from 1940-1946. C.J. was born July 29, 1920, making him 99 years old today. He began in the Naval Reserve prior to WW2. During drill weekends he practiced and learned semaphore and morse code. C.J. was the third family member on active duty during WW2. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, most of his unit was activated. His first assignment was onboard a Gate Vessel that opens or closes the boom and nets at the entrance of Long Beach Naval facilities. Reassigned to amphibious training base Coronado Ca. his unit trained for the attacks on Japan. Transported to support the attack on Iwa-Jima they arriving Feb 19, 1945. C.J. landed on the 5th day of operations to coordinate landing craft and remembered before going ashore watching the Marines climb Mount Suribachi and raise the flag when they secured the mountain. The ships all blowing the horns, ringing bells and everyone was hooting and hollering. He was on Iwa-Jima for another 2 months before returning to Hawaii to prepare for the invasion of Japan's mainland. Aug 15th at an outdoor movie theater the movie was stopped and the announcement was made of the surrender the whole island erupted in celebration.
Ralph Griffey was born on Jan 12, 1927, and served in the US Navy, from Dec 1944 to July 1946 as a Radarman and rose to the rank of Petty Officer 3rd class or RDM3. Ralph was enlisted for the duration of the war plus 6 months but was released in 1946 at the end of the war. Ralph served with the US Merchant Marines as a member of the Navy gun crew with the Armed Guard Service, stationed on US merchant ships as support crew for the USMMC. The Navy contingency was made up of Officers, gunners, marines, and his radarmen.
His first ship was the SS Enos A. Mills a cargo ship part of a 3 ship group out of Seattle, that was tasked to take Navy construction battalion "Seabees" up to Alaska. They had the new SO8 radar units installed on the ships and were assigned to test out this new technology to help protect these under defended ships. The war was over during the ships' return to Seattle.
Petty Officer Griffey was then assigned back to San Francisco, Treasure Island, Home of the Armed Guard Pacific Fleet, where he was reassigned to the SS Lurline, an ocean liner reassigned during the war, to the Merchant Marines as a troop transport. Onboard, his new ship they were assigned to transit occupation troops to Japan and return Wartime service members home. After only one of these trips, they were reassigned to the task of transiting US war brides back to America from both New Zealand and Australia. They brought hundreds of service members, brides, back on this 2-month trip, and even had a birth during transit with a service-members newest dependent.
James Forrester born 21 Nov 1920, served as a Fire Controlman during WW2. James enlisted in 1939 and served for 30 years. He is a survivor of the aircraft carrier USS Wasp CV-7 sinking. James served from her commissioning day to the day she was sunk in 1942 by 3 torpedoes from the Japanese submarine I-19, at the battle of Guadalcanal. James an FC1 at the time remembered the Captain declaring abandon ship over the 1MC "Public Address system" about 30 min after the strikes. He donned his Kapok life vest and jumped into the water on the port side. Separated while swimming away from the sinking ship, until late in the night. James recounted, during the night, while praying and making his peace with God, he saw the light of a motor whaleboat. He caused a lot of noise splashing and yelling until the coxswain saw him. The small boat was already full of survivors but James grabbed the trail line with three other men and was towed back to the USS Farenholt DD-491, which saved 143 Wasp Sailors. James returned to San Diego for survivors leave and still gets emotional about the day he pulled back into San Diego realizing he was going to be ok. James served on the USS Lexington CV-16 surviving another torpedo attack that only damaged her rudder. James made Chief and was transferred to the BB-48 USS West Virginia. He got out of the Navy after WW2 in 46 but quickly came back and was commissioned as a Weapons Officer retiring a Commander.
Cal Schaeffer was born in Aug 1925 and served in the US Army Air Corps during World War 2 from Jan 44 to June 46 rising to the rank of Sargent.
Cal was a Radar Technician, servicing the radar and radio system on B-17s Flying Fortress with the 2nd bomb group stationed in Foggia Italy. Cal remembers occasionally getting to fly in the B-17s for maintenance check flights but was not assigned as an aircrew. The 2nd Bomber Squadron was posted at an airstrip in the middle of a field outside of town and the crew lived in tents for the first year until the local town cleared out some buildings for the Americans. Cal and the squadron engaged in missions in the advancement on and eventual attacks into Berlin witch pushed the maximum distance for a B-17's fuel and crew. The 20th received two Distinguished Unit Citations for missions during the campaign at Steyr, Austria, and the following day, on a mission to attack aircraft factories at Regensburg Germany. Cal remembers that most of these missions went well but some crews were forced to land in Northern Italy bases for the longer missions running out of fuel. Cal left the service in 1946 after the war.
Born on July 18th, 1922, Buck Sargent Herbert Barnum served in the US Army with the 3rd Army Motor Pool, mobile division. While in the Mobile Division he served as a mechanic. While touring in Germany, Belgium, and Northern France, he was able to serve under General Patton. After 2 years of service, he was discharged where he started a family with his wife, Ruth, and son, Richard.
Born on September 25th, 1927, Major Bernard ‘Ski” Waskowski served in the United States Marines from 1945 to 1967. He served primarily in-country in Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. He served with the 1st and 2nd Division for the USMC and the 1st, 2nd and 3rd USMC Air-wing. During his time in service, he served as a supply officer. While in Japan, during the occupation, he was stationed in Hansun, Shukakaku, and Itsui. Ski recounted that his favorite memory while being in-country was admiring beautiful samurai swords and riding his motorcycle through the cities.
Born Dec 13th, 1922 Wellington Kwan served with the U.S Army from Jan 1943 - Oct 1947 as an enlisted man rising to the rank of SSGT with the Signal Corps before accepting a commission to 2nd Lt with the 65th Combat Engineer Division. He fondly remembers flying over the Himalayas in a B25 to get to his first duty station with the Signal Corps. He served in Chongqing China the headquarters of the Allied Forces in China during World War II as a switchboard operator and telecommunications specialist. Wellington meets Hellen Hwa and married his GI Bride in Dec 45 before moving to Shanghai. In May of 46, he attended Engineer Officer Candidate School where he was commissioned into the combat engineers with the 65th Division. He reported back to Japan and served in Osaka Japan at the Kanoka Barracks with the occupational forces for over a year.
Estelle Strichartz is 103 years old and served as a Technician Fifth Grade, T/5 in WW2 in the US Army, Women's Army Corps "WAC". She served as a Topographical Draftsman in the Pacific theater of operations. Estelle served for 2 years & 2 months from 28 Sep 43 until 27 Dec 1945. Her service in the Pacific started in Australia mobilizing until her unit got involved in the Liberation of the Philippine Islands. She was working on deciphering enemy maps and the creation of topographical combat map updates for Allied forces. Estelle is sharing a photo of her in Australia with two Koala bears. Estelle was awarded the American Campaign Medal, WW2 Victory Medal, Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal with 1 bronze service star, a Good Conduct Medal and a Philippine Liberation Campaign medal with 2 overseas service bars.
Born on June 25th, 1924 (94) Tech Sargent and Combat Medic Andrew Martin served with the U.S Army from 1943 to April 1946. When he started his military service he learned how to ski in in Georgia as part of the forces heading to the Alps. His unit was reassigned to serve in the Pacific campaign. Unexpectedly, at the age of 19 with no formal training, he volunteered as the combat medic for his unit. His unit was assigned to service in Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands and on the island of Cebu Philippines where he was injured in a Japanese Type 10 Light Grenade Projector (aka Knee Mortar) attack where he lost a leg and was awarded the Purple Heart. After his discharged from service, he went to university in Arizona and then to insurance school.
Howard Katz, born September 7, 1927, was drafted in 1945 and served in the US Army as a Trumpet player, in the Jazz and big bands and sometimes he served as the Conductor until he was released from service under the sole survivor program after his older brothers combat death. Howard served with the band at Percy Jones Hospital in Battle Creek, Michigan, a 1,500-bed military hospital for treating wounded soldiers. His band was responsible for playing to the troops who were recovering providing moral and support. The band played almost every evening for the troops. Howard loved playing with the USO dance bands, and the joy they brought to the troops. After the war, Howard was married to Arlette and had 3 children. They spend many years together while he continued his life as a professional musician. Howard traveled all over the world playing with many many big bands and orchestras including the Ken Rhodes Big Band.
Born on November 24th, 1928 Private First Class Wes Price served in the US Army from 1946 to 1947. Wes served for 11 months in the occupation forces of Japan on the island of Sasebo. After graduating High school Wes was told that if he joined the Army and served for a short time the soldiers that had been serving in combat during the war could come home. He rose to the rank of Private First Class and was assigned originally as a Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) light machine gun operator or rifleman and second as a photographer for the 34th regimen of the 24th division. Wes worked with the Military Police that worked alongside the Japan Self Defense forces - Military police. He also worked at the base photo lab as a laboratory assistant where he developed film and printing photos. These were done individually by hand in a sink process. Wes remembers working with his favorite argus C3 camera commonly referred to as "The Brick".
LeRoy Eckels was born on July 11th, 1926, and served as a Specialist. LeRoy Eckels served in the US Army from 1945 to 1946. He eventually worked in the Adjutant General Department in linguistics where he went to Army Language School. LeRoy served in the Philippines Islands as a rifleman during the end of the war but was taken off to Tokyo to become a Linguistics Adjutant because he already spoke Japanese. He worked as a translator for the General's staff during negotiations. He spent countless hours reading and translating text and also served as a translator during conversations.
After he was discharged he went back to school and received a Chemistry degree and then a teaching degree. He eventually returned to Japan where he originally worked as a copywriter translator before creating a school where he was the principal for 23 years. He is still active in playing volleyball, tennis and he leads the exercise class at Cal Vet.
Corporal Seki "Don" served in the US Army with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, L company, a segregated unit comprised of Japanese American service members. While Don served with the 442nd they served in the European theater of Italy and France with the 100th Battalion. The 442nd made landfall in Italy at Civitavecchia, north of Rome. They fought with the 100th battalion all the way to Florence Italy. Don remembers taking a break from combat at a farmhouse in Arno. Tired of Army rations they made fresh chicken soup from foraging. While resting at the farmhouse they all missed fish, and having no poll, they used grenades and made the best fish soup he can remember. Moving North they advanced from Marseille France to the Vosges Mountains. Arriving in the cold rain and slush of October his unit was assigned to take the town of Bruyères, France. The Germans had the high ground and surrounded the 36th division from Texas. They took heavy casualties fighting uphill but got the 36th out. 4 days later in Bifffontain France, Don lost his arm during a heavy machine-gun attack. He was taken to a field hospital where they save his life but his arm was too far gone. He recuperated stateside at Brigham Young hospital, un Salt Lake city, for 9 months learning to use his new prosthesis.