A Young Soldier Meets His Hero

My brother, Keith, wrote the story below after reading the story published yesterday. If you haven’t seen it, please read it first.

I don’t imagine anyone would be interested in a similar emotional experience I had 40 years ago when I was serving with the 25th Infantry Division in the occupation of Japan.

I had been there nearly a year and had seen how much General McArthur’s program had helped the nation and the people after the near complete devastation of a nation.  The incendiary bombing over all strategic areas had left a whole nation as damaged as that done in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and I was impressed with the progress, as it was becoming a truly free democratic country.  When you add to McArthur’s leadership that won a great war, some may have been as impressed as I was.

True he was a show-off and had received a biting criticism from Ike, who when asked if he ever served with Mac said that he had studied dramatics under him for six months.   But he was a fearless fighter in previous combat situations and asked none less than his men and I was really proud to serve under him.  I was an infantry riflemen and we were doing guard duty and advanced infantry combat training and I was transferred to headquarters company for some reason and sent to the 8th Army Signal Corps school in Yokohama.  It is a port city and Tokyo is inland and not far north so we were able to go to Tokyo and I was able to hook up with LeRoy Thomas, with whom I had enlisted, and he was sent to an airbase north of Tokyo.

The first time we over-celebrated and LeRoy left a big deposit on the floor of the lobby of the Ernie Pyle theater.  The second time was much saner and we decided to tour the city.  There were rickshaw drivers and they were cheap but gave a good tour.  We got to go to the Ginza which is now an elite shopping area, and saw Emperor Hirohito’s castle (he was opposed to the war but couldn’t stop it) and then the driver took us to a beautiful white building, stopped, pointed to his watch (if which he was very proud) and kept tapping it and pointing to the building and finally said “Dai Ichi building!”  Dai Ichi  — number one  —  it was Mac Arthur’ headquarters and it was quitting time and he had timed the tour for this, and he was done so we paid him and waited.  Pretty soon a number of civilians came out and went their way and then an always impressive honor guard came out and lined each side of the walkway and stood at parade rest.

Soon a number of officers exited the building, pretty much by rank I think and then some senior officers and following them all was General McArthur.  LeRoy and I were standing on the left side and on the curb not 15 feet from me was Mac’s limo.  He walked down the sidewalk and got into the back seat by the curb and rolled down the window.  On an absolute sudden impulse I decided I wanted to salute may leader, so I walked over to the limo, peaked in at him and said “Sir” and saluted him.  He looked up and returned the salute and I waited for him to finish but he waited  —  I realized he was waiting for me so I completed the salute and he did the same and then he motioned to the driver with the same hand to go.

Douglas-MacArthur-LF1

I know it meant nothing to anyone but me but at that moment I could not have been prouder to be an American soldier serving under that man —  proud to be an American  —  proud to be from Plainview, Nebraska  –  proud to have been able to salute the man I admired so much.  LeRoy, of course, thought I was nuts but I didn’t care.  It was an incredibly emotional moment for me and I feel much the same just sitting reminding myself of it.  I couldn’t get over the fact that he out-waited me to complete the salute and I am sure is was intentional and his way of thanking one of his men.

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