OSKALOOSA, Iowa — Homer Ferguson says he can really empathize with the young men and women who are serving their country in the Middle East and Central Asia.
Ferguson, 88, of Cedar, is a World War II veteran who served in the infantry and served in the Southwest Pacific from 1944 to 1946.
“I was in for only two years and it seemed like a long time,” he said. “The Good Lord was good to me — otherwise I wouldn’t be here.”
“We did mop-up on Saipan and the Peleliu group,” he said.
“We had a lot of close call — some our fault and some others,” he said. “It’s too bad we have to have wars.”
“I was on four islands and saw acres of white crosses. Wars are terrible. You have to admire guys who go over there now. If you’ve never been there, you don’t know what they’ve been through,” he added.
Ferguson said that later he was a mechanic in a maintenance unit on Tinian Island. Tinian was a major base for B-29 Superfortress bombers that bombed Japan.
“We were on Tinian when they dropped the atomic bomb,” he said. “I’ve got pictures of both of them (the planes that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki).”
Ferguson said that the Army Air Force sent 250 B-29 bombers at one time over Tokyo on firebomb raids.
“They killed a lot more people than the atomic bomb,” he said. “They practically burnt Tokyo up.”
While he was serving in the Pacific Theater, Ferguson said he did have some good times.
The best thing was when the ice machine arrived. He said the sun was hot enough to brew tea or coffee. He also remembers swimming out to coral reefs to collect sea shells to make into necklaces to sell to the Navy guys. Ferguson also had access to a Jeep on Tinian and he used to collect bananas with it. The barracks had lots of bananas hanging in it. Ferguson also said he and his buddies got to see some USO shows featuring celebrities such as Gene Autry, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby.
“Tinian was a nice island,” he said. “After the war, it was a leper colony.”
Ferguson also brought a souvenir back from the war.
“I’ve got a Japanese rifle,” he said. “I took the firing pin out of it.”
Another fortunate thing for Ferguson was that he never came down with a case of malaria during the war.
“I never got malaria. They sprayed the islands with DDT,” he said.
Ferguson said that he and two of his buddies from school entered the service and one of them ended the war in Korea, the other on Okinawa and he was in the Peleliu group of islands.