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WAR HEROES members are ‘Greatest Generation’

big bombers taking off heavily loaded every morning. He would go outside and count them, then count them again on their way back in to determine how many had been lost. One evening in August 1945, Shaw, Fite and several other guys from the unit attended a makeshift outdoor concert sponsored by a local Guamanian town. A Marine offi cer suddenly appeared halfway through the program and spoke briefl y to the Master of Ceremonies, who promptly got everyone’s attention. “We have just received word that Japan has offered to accept the Potsdam Treaty.”

Atomic bombs had been dropped on Japan within a span of three days. The war was over. Soldiers, sailors and airmen all over the island went “hog wild” with joy and relief.

Shaw returned to Oklahoma where he married his high school sweetheart. Mildred, now deceased, and he have two children. Sharon Moore lives with her father in Buffalo Valley; Russell “Rusty” Shaw lives nearby. Dale has been on the board of the Kiamichi Electric Co-op for nearly 40 years.

Like his friend Dale Shaw, Robert Williams is a longtime member of the

Kiamichi Electric Co-op, having served on its board for more than 30 years. He is also a World War II veteran who fought in the South Pacifi c. Today, he lives on 250 acres in the “boondocks” of McIntosh County south of Blanco, at the end of a rough dirt road along which signs mark various points of interest: Rustlers’ Graveyard; Hangman’s Tree; Devil’s Backbone; Rattlesnake Ravine. His daughter Kay Davidson and granddaughter Amanda Burchfi eld live “down the hill” and check on him. Sons Benjamin Williams and Larry Williams reside in Pryor. His wife, Gussie, is deceased.

Williams was 14 years old when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. A fresh- man in a class of over one hundred at Blanco High School, he graduated with 12 remaining classmates in 1944. During that short period of time, the coal mines were closing down and people were abandoning what was previously the most thriving community in the region. Williams joined the exodus by enlisting in

the U.S. Navy. He was 17 years old.

It was pouring down rain in April 1945 when the new boatswain’s mate striker met his ship in Astoria, Ore. and set sail for Pearl Harbor after a short shake- down cruise. The USS Clermont (APA-143), an attack transport built to haul troops and war cargo to and from combat zones, had been commissioned into the fl eet the previous January.

Escorted by destroyers, Clermont and other transports en route to Hawaii soon encountered evidence of the war that had raged in the Pacifi c for the past three years. A Japanese torpedo fl oated across the line of sail – probably a ‘dud’ fi red by an enemy submarine. One of the destroyers disintegrated it with ma- chine gun fi re.

The crews turned their radios to Japanese propagandist Tokyo Rose as the convoy approached Pearl Harbor.

“Well, boys, wonder who’s with your wife tonight?” in perfect English. A Japanese reconnaissance plane fl ew over. Manning Clermont’s Number 2 antiaircraft gun, Williams was ordered to hold his fi re while destroyers fi lled the sky with tracers. Tail properly singed, the enemy fi ghter fl oorboarded it back toward Japan.

At Pearl, the Clermont unloaded supplies and the 126th Construction Bat- talion (Seabees) and set sail for Eniwetok and Okinawa. By now, the war was winding down in Europe. Adolf Hitler would commit suicide in Berlin within a matter of weeks. Men and material were being assembled in the Pacifi c to invade Japan. Williams learned his Attack Transport (APA) would be part of the invasion force.

For the next several months, Clermont sailed milk runs up and down the island chains of the Pacifi c, delivering troops and supplies. One night, off the coast of Okinawa, Japanese soldiers still hiding on the island opened fi re on the boat as she lay offshore at anchor. Bullets ricocheted off the superstructure but otherwise caused little damage. Clermont was returning to Pearl Harbor from San Francisco in August 1945 with more assault troops when the on-board PA system announced that the U.S. had dropped the fi rst atomic bomb on the Japanese homeland, followed by a second bomb three days later. World War II was almost over. Japan surrendered the following week.

Continued on page 18

Enola Gay prior to takeoff from Tinian to deliver the atomic bomb “Little Boy” over Japan.

Robert Williams sailed the South Pacifi c during the days of World War II. Today, Robert at his home in the “boondocks.” He has served at the Kiamichi Electric Co-op board for nearly 30 years.

NOVEMBER 2011 17

Recent photos by Charles Sasser Original photos courtesy of veterans

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