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May 3, 2011     The Ortonville Independent
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May 3, 2011

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Bill Swihart A furlough was hard to come by. Bill Swihart was the first of three Clinton Swiharts to enter the armed service. His brothers Wesley and Mar- vin also served, Wesley in the Navy, and Marvin in the Air Corps. On Aug. 29, 1942, Bill reported to Ft. Snelling where he passed the phys- ical test, filled out forms and was in- ducted into the Army on that same day. Four days later, he found himself in ~Ft. Robinson, AR, "... not knowing just what was in store for me." What was in store was what was in store for every soldier that reported to Ft. Robinson-basic training. Bill marched, learned the manual of arms, learned close order drill, and did early morning calisthenics. There was also schooling in the different types of weapons. As Bill put it, "They threw so dam much at us that you could only remember about half of it." The Army was in a hurry. America needed men at the battlefield front. Bill and the others at Camp Robinson would be among the first to get there. Everything had to be speeded up - the training time would be reduced to a minimum. Bill got one pass while he was at Robinson and he spent his free time in Little Rock, which he described as a "good-sized town (that) had some nice girls - but not as nice as the gals from back home." The leave was short, but Bill had enough fun to keep him going for the remainder of basic training. A month later, he was on a train headed for Ft. Burner, NC, arriving them at 4 a.m. on Nov. 12. At Butner, Bill and the rest did ad- vanced training which included pla- toon and company maneuvers, where they learned such things as how to ad- vance under enemy f'tre. "Worst of all were the darn 15-and 20-mile hikes. It was rainy all the time and there was a sea of mud to march in. I did not like Camp Burner at all. I would find out later that those hikes were doing me no good." "Christmas and New Year came and went. One thing that helped to keep my spirits up was that I got some nice things from home for Christmas." As it turned out, it would be three years before Bill spent another Christmas on U.S. soil. "I left Camp Butner on Jan. 26, 1943, and it was none too soon for me. I didn't know what the destination was, and I didn't care,just as long as I was getting out of there." Bill guessed they were headed to California-the train was headed west. His guess proved to be correct. "We arrived at Ft. Ord on Feb. 1, and when I first saw the place, I knew I would like it there." "I no sooner got there, when they started us with those dam hikes again. We also took some more training in platoon and company problems. Around the middle of March, we took amphibious training at Monterey Bay. I also visited the town of Monterey, which is a small town and smells fishy because of the cannery there. Later, I was able to get to Salinas, which is much larger and prettier town than Monterey." , "Towards the end of March, we went on a boat maneuver down to San Diego, which, in my opinion, was pretty much of a flop. When we got back to Ord, we had inspections every day, and, after that, we went on a long hike. My legs were bothering me, and on April 9, they sent me over to the hospital. It turned out I had varicose veins, so they operated on me. Ten days later, they discharged me from the hospital and sent me back to my com- pany. I had no sooner gotten there, when they told us to turn in our O.D. (olive drab) blouse and destroy every- thing that had our address on it. Then they told us to send all our personal items home. I knew then that this was it." On April 23, 1943, Bill and his Company were loaded on a train at Ord. It was 11 a.m. when the train pulled out and headed north to San Francisco. They unloaded from the train at 4 o'clock in the afternoon and were sent down to the pier from which extreme. Some landing craft snagged they would embark. They sat there on outcroppings of rock, sank, and and waited until 10 o'clock that dragged their crews to the bottom. A evening before they were ordered to few landing craft collided with each march up the loading ramp onto the other in the fog. U.S.S. Franklin Bell, a WWI attack- The beaches were quickly jammed class transport, up with Supplies and bogged-down ve- "After we went aboard and found hicles. The regiment soon realized they. our cots, we dumped our gear and wouldn't be able to get their artillery or went back out to the pier where we tracked vehicles across the muskeg. It were given sleeping bags, an Alaskan was apparent the battle would have to field jacket, heavy socks, and those be fought by the foot soldiers them- nice shiny boots, which, we found out selves. Troops in the front lines began later, were the cause of many frozen to suffer greatly from the effects of the feet." bitter cold. Hundreds of GIs would "The next morning, we left San eventually have their feet amputated as Francisco and put out to sea. We a result of frostbite and trench foot watched the Golden Gate Bridge fade (roughly a quarter of all casualties off in the distance as we sailed out. I, would be traced to frostbite). Ameri- for one, hated to see the land fade can troops, lost in the fog, walked into away. We weren't told where we were enemy crossfires and were pinned going, but from the gear we had been down for hours with no reasonable issued, we were pretty sure it was shelter from the cold. somewhere up north." The 17th was neither properly "The first day on the ship wasn't equipped nor clothed for a northern bad, but after that, we were constantly campaign, for in those days American doing drills of some kind or another generals knew practically nothing during the day and standing guard at about waging extensive winter war- night. We had boat drills, and there we fare. "The first thing we had to do was acquired some knowledge of gongs, climb up a bluff. It was about 2000 bells, and whistles, and what each feet high. We couldn't walk up it; we meant. We also picked up some Navy had to crawl on our hands and knees. terms and expressions from the sailors We soon learned that it was hard walk- on the ship." in.g on tundra. Being soaked from the "To make things worse, they made ram didn't help either. When we got us run around the deck in the wind and to the top, we couldn't see a thing be- then perform what the Army called cause of the fog. That didn't make us calisthenics. We had to do the exer- feel any too good, because we didn't cises on the machine-gun deck, which know what was out in front of us." was so small only one platoon at a time Bill's company, Company B, sent could be on it. As a matter of fact, the out a patrol to find out if the enemy whole ship was crowded the entire trip was in front of them or not. "Our pa- because the whole battalion and at- trol ran into an enemy patrol. They tached units were on the ship. The sea killed two of them, but two got away. got pretty rough, but we, being on a We were looking for them, and they larger ship, fared better than the troops were looking for us." on the destroyers." "We advanced for about two miles "After several days, we were sweat- before we halted. We dug slit trenches ing out where we were going and what to spend the night in at the foot of what we were going to do when we got is now called Ack Ack Hill. Nobody there. 'Sweating out' means you know slept that night." that something is going to happen, but The reasons no one slept that night you don't know how soon or the cir- were several. First, there was the ap- cumstances connected. Besides that, prehension amongst the troops who you realize you have no control over knew the enemy was ahead of them anything." somewhere, but where, exactly, no one The men wouldn't have to sweat it knew. The nervousness of green out for very long. The officers told troops caused them to shoot at any- them their destination was Attu, an is- thing and everything that moved or land in the Aleutian chain off the even made the slightest noise. So far, Alaskan coast. "Right away, we began in the campaign, more American wondering what it was like up there, troops had been killed by friendly fire They had a large-scale map on the than by the enemy. floor in the mess hall-it was made out Finally, there was the weather. On of something like clay. We studied it Attu, rain is the prevailing weather five every day as we were all willing to or six days a week. It soaked the men find out as much about the island as we who had not been issued rain gear. could before we landed." They did have Alaskan jackets, but After 10 days at sea, the Franklin these did not stop the cold rain, which Bell pulled into Cold Harbor, AK, penetrated the men's clothing to the where native Aleutian scouts boarded skin. The water table on tundra is the ship. These scouts would be the close tO the surface because of the un- first ashore and their job was to guide deriying permafrost. The rain simply and assist the troops as they assaulted filled the shallow slit trenches the men enemy positions on the island, had dug, so they slept in water. The Bill celebrated his birthday, May 8, food was cold and soggy from the rain, aboard ship. "By luck, I had ice cream and, on top of all this, the wind, some- and cake for my birthday. The ship's times very high winds, blew across the crew wanted to give us a treat before landscape, slashing at the men as they we landed; so it happened to be on my hunkered down in their wet, sloppy birthday they surprised us with the trenches. cake and ice cream." The next morning, Company A "On the 9th and 10th, everyone was moved out first and was immediately jittery. This may sound foolish to you, brought under machine gun and mortar but if you had been there, you'd know fire. Company C and Bill's Company what I mean. On the night of the 10th, B moved left to push the enemy back that was the night before we landed, a so that Company A could get out of the bunch of us boys went to the mess hall trap the Japanese had set. The few ar- just to talk about the old times before tillery pieces the Americans had man- we joinedtheArmy. We sangabunch aged to move up into position of songs and told all kinds of jokes, promptly sank into the tundra after We didn't want to think about what being fired. Air support from the would happen in the morning, as we nearby carrier Nassau was eliminated knew that some of us wouldn't come bY 90 percent cloud cover over the is- back. We didn't sleep that night-we land. Those fighters, that were able to just stayed in the mess hall and shot find their way to the island, more often the breeze." than not strafed friendly units. At 4 o'clock the next morning, May The rescue mission completed, the 11, 1943, the men ate breakfast and got regiment began a forward advance to- their equipment ready. Then they wards their objective, Holtz Bay. A waited. They waited until noon, and thick ground fog persisted to a consid- since nothing had happened, they ate erable altitude that, while preventing dinner on the ship. At 1 p.m., a com- the American invaders from seeing the pany left the ship and started for shore. Japanese defenders, provided protec- They had been gone for almost two tion for the Japanese (invisible in their hours before word came back that they white clothing) who could clearly see had landed on the beach without op- the brown uniforms of American position, troops as they moved forward below At 4 p.m., Bill's outfit, the 17th Reg- them. Bill's words did not tell the dif- iment of the 7th Division, landed on ficulty of this advance. He simply the beach. The 7th Recon Troop had ' said, "On the evening of the 12th, we gone ashore first. Pea-soup fog had moved up to the top of Ack Ack Hill." slowed progress of the landing craft. The battle report describes it a bit dif- Visibility was reduced to zero, causing ferently: Company B scaled a sheer the two-hour time delay in reporting cliff in the face of Japanese gunfire to back to the ship that they had landed, attack entrenched positions which Bill's unit, the 17th, went in under the were holding up an important advance same conditions. To compound the against a ridge between the valleys of difficulty of moving men to shore and Holtz Bay. For this, the men received a forward, there was a shortage of land- unit citation. ing craft. Americans soon found out "The next morning, we could look that the beaches were unsuitable for down and see the Japanese forces in landing craft to unload troops. Equip- Holtz Bay. It wasn't long before all ment failed because it had not been hell broke loose. The Japanese made a properly serviced for winter condi- counter-attack and they threw every- tions. The Southern Force landings at thing they had at us. They used an Massacre Bay proved difficult to the ack-ack (anti-aircraft) gun against us, "/n Tribute to All Area Veterans!" Northside 465 Eastvold Ave. Ortonville, MN 56278 320-839-6157 icai ! Clinton Clinic 324 Main Street Clinton, MN 56225 320-325-5217 J and let me tell you, that was hell. The were a bunch of rookies. I was as- shells would burst above our heads and pany. After we had landed, w~e were signed to the Army Port and Service rained shrapnel (downward) on us. told that there weren't alay Japanese on Command, where I became a file clerk The foxhole was useless for that (be- the island. That was quite a relief! But at the Adjutant General's office. The cause the shrapnel came straight down we weren't quite sure of that. We boys that I worked with there were a from above). That was the time I was thought m~ybe it was some kind of swell bunch of fellows." really scared and I did abit of praying, trick-they were pulling on us. We In October of 1944, Bill was trans- too. Anybody who says they aren't started to haul ammunition to the front, ferred from the file section to the rues- afraid in combat is a darn liar, or else jtist in case anything was going to hap- sage center. "I worked in the secret he's plumb nuts. They also charged us pen, but the rumor was true. There teletype room there. I really liked that with bayonets and hand grenades that were no Japanese on Kiska! How they job-it was more interesting than the file morning. To see a (enemy) man get got off there is still a guess for all of section." He was also promoted to pri- shot didn't bother me much. I fired my us." vate first class. "It took me 25 months rifle at many of them until two mortar "That was one of the best dry runs to get that. I hope I don't have to wait blasts landed right next to me. The that any Army unit ever pulled. On that long for another promotion." medics took me to the field hospital, Aug. 26, we moved over to Gertrude Bill didn't have to wait long: In Feb- where they treated me for body con- Cove, where ! drove caterpillar up to ruary, he was promoted to corporal. cussion and internal injuries, the time we left. I was sure glad to get He had been in the army 29 months "I remained in the hospital for about off that dam rock, as it was worse than now and he was wondering if he'd ever a week and a half. Then I was dis- Attu. It rained every day we were get a furlough. None came, but he and missed and assigned to the beach party there." a good friend got a weekend pass to go to help unload the boats that brought ~'We left the island on Sept.1. We to Hilo. "We got a room at the Nanaloa supplies in. On the 30th of May, I re- were told we were going back to the Hotel-it was a beautiful place to stay." joined my company, which had suc-~ .States: Aft~rthree days at sea, they In April 1945, came the best sur- ceeded in driving the Japanese from told us wew~re going to the Hawaiian prise. Bill had just been transferred Holtz Bay, and were now stationed Islands. We all felt disappointed we back to C. ompany B in the 17th when there as a reserve company. By now, weren't going home. When we were he was told that his brother, Wesley, there were only enough men left in the about half way to Hawaii, we ran into had left a message that he was on the a storm. The waves got really high. island. "I took off right then and went company to make one platoon. We had 22 men killed in our company." Quite a few of the boys got sick, but it to see him. It sure was good to see him The casualties incurred during the didn't bother me. As a matter of fact, again as it had been 31 months since invasion of Attu were appalling. The I rather enjoyed it. The waves came the last time we had been together back Americans suffered 3,829 casualties, clear over the ship's side." home. He was in the Navy now. We roughly 25 percdnt of the invading "We landed at Oahu on Sept. 19. We both got a pass and went out together." force, second only in proportion to Iwo saw civilization again at the piers in The brothers did what soldiers with Jima. Of these, 549 were killed; 1,148 Honolulu-the women looked pretty a pass do. They went to the Royal injured; 1,200 with severe cold in- darn good to us. After we unloaded, Hawaiian Hotel to visit the grandest j~uries; 614 with disease; and a remain- we went up to Schofield, and, as usual, icon of the Pacific. Its entire exterior lng 318 to miscellaneous causes, we were stuCk way off from the rest, was painted pink. Soldiers and sailors including friendly fire. On the Japan- but we did have barracks there. We called it the Pink Lady. It was a place ese side, 2,351 men were counted by thought it would be a lot nicer sleeping for servicemen to meet and talk about American burial parties, and hundreds in cots than on the ground as we had the war over a few beers. Bill and more were presumed already buried, been on Attu, Adak, and Kiska." Wesley took some pictures to show the Total prisoners taken: 28 (none of "Later, we moved over to an old folks back home when they returned. whom were officers). The Japanese evacuation camp east of Waihiwa. At Wesley left port aboard ship after a few fought to virtually the last man. first, we didn't think much of it, but days. Bill heard later that he was on "On May 31, I went on guard at an after a while we had our own P.X. and. Guam. outpost. I remained there until June theater. Most of all, we liked the hot In August, Bill was promoted again, 3rd. While at the outpost, I policed up showers. At first it was kind of hard to this time to Sgt. With September, (cleaned up debris) the area and buried get a shower taken as everybody was came the official surrender of the dead Japanese soldiers. On June 1, all in them. The hot showers really made Japanese Empire. On Sept. 11, Bill's organized enemy resistance ended on us feel good after going five months notes show that he had been in the Attu. We remained at Holtz Bay for without even a bath. Who wouldn't Army over three years and still hadn't two weeks then moved over to Mas- feel better? We lived in three-room gotten a furlough. He wondered if he sacre Valley, which we later called huts, siX or seven men to a room, sowe ever would, and how much longer he Peaceful Valley. Right after we got felt pretty good." would have to stay in. there, I went down to the beach and "When we started basic training all The next day, he got his answer. He drove caterpillar up to the time we left over again, the hikes began to bother was informed to be ready to leave in 14 Attu on Aug. 11. We thought we were my leg. The operation didn't seem to days. It wasn't a furlough. He would going back to the States, but they told be doing me much good. They gave be going home for good. The war was us the next stop was Adak." me some shots and told me they would over and now Sgt. Bill Swihart would "We arrived at Adak on Aug. 15. We make my leg better, but they didn't, go hometo resume his lifein Big Stone unloaded from the boat and were On the 30th of November, my corn- County. moved way back in the hills, as we pany commander put me in for reclas- ****** usually do. That is the record of our sification, and on Dec. 5, I went to the The Letter of Commendation to the outfit - being stuck off God knows hospital and remained there for 48 men of the 17th Regiment contains the where. We had just settled in when days. On Jan. 19 the rest of my outfit following sentence: "Some men may they sent us on a maneuver to Little went to the Marshall Islands (Tarawa). be singled out because their acts were Sitka. At this time, I was attached to a I was released from the hospital on the witnessed by many, but in every com- provisional company as a snow Jeep 22nd, and I joined the rear echelon of pany, every platoon, every squad, there driver. We didn't find anything on Lit- the 17th Regiment. were deeds of bravery that will be tie Sitka and returned to Adak. We "When the rest of the outfit got back known by only a few." were loaded on the boat again, and, this from the Marshall Islands, I found out Now, we are the many who benefit time, we knew where we were going. I had lost my platoon leader. I rejoined every day from the service and dedica- see thetion Of all those who It was going to be Kiska,and wf'didh't ~ ~ ~x~. ig'Y.adto , served, and today like the thought of that very much. We ~nipu~ ~n tight ::~, in America s armed services. were told there were 10,000 Ja~t~ge ~~'~y ~fc!.~!8s!ficati0n came We, the many, will remember them. soldiers on Kiska. With that many through. When ~t did come through, I This story was written from notes enemy there, we knew we were going left the 17th and went to the replace- Bill Swihart had written during the to be in a tough fight." ment depot to await further orders. On war. Our thanks to Bill's son, Galen, "We landed on Kiska the 16th. I was May -13, I left the replacement depot, who made the notes available to us. with almost the last wave to 1, as I was and was I ever glad. I didn't like it still attached to the provisional corn- there at all. They treated us as if we By Dan Meyer Big Stone Co. dogs. rightfully, over what they've accom- Veteran Service Officer A pending House bill would test the plished with the dogs. They see they The office hours for the Big Stone effectiveness of dog training as therapy can make a difference." County Veterans Service Office are for veterans with PTSD. If approved, In other news. I am looking for vet- 7:30 a.m.-4 H.R. 198-The Veterans Dog Training erans to walk with me during the Or- p.m. Monday Therapy Act-directs that dogs trained tonville Corn Fest Parade. As part of through Friday. by PTSD veterans would be given to our Veteran's Outreach Program, my My office phone disabled veterans, truck will be adorned in a patriotic number is (320) The Humane Society of Washing- theme and I will be walking behind the 839-6398. ton, DC, iaunched a similar program in vehicle with veterans and some of our Please keep 2008 called "Dog Tags." It consists of local area young folks in honor of our in mind that I 18 soldiers from the Walter Reed Army veterans, in particular, our Vietnam vet- will be out of Medical Center training shelter dogs erans. my office due to twice a week for several weeks. As of In addition, the younger folks will our Annual late January, 50 dogs and two cats had be carrying a banner that will be wel- Meyer fishing been trained and adopted, coming our Vietnam veterans home. expedition to Another program created in 2008-Please keep in mind that any and all Ontario, Canada from May 18 to May Operation Heroes and Hounds, based in veterans are welcome to join us, 27, 2011. The County's Veterans Serv- California-is offered to woundedwhether you served our Nation in Viet- ice Office will be open for business on Marines at Camp Pendleton. nam or any other time. Please call my Saturday, May 14 and Sunday, May 15. "The veterans learn new ways to ap- office if you are interested in walking Straight from the pages of the VFW proach things," said Tamar Geller, who with us! Magazine. Post Traumatic Stress Dis- started the Operation Heroes andUntil next week, take care and "Fair order (PTSD) veterans could train Hounds Program. "They feel pride, Winds and FollowingSeas!" Farm Management Minute Thinking Back, By Chad Benda, teChnology, but in one aspect, might Farm Business Management In- surpass changes seen :in the area of seed structor,Minnesota West College genetics. I would contend, for the most Looking at the current issues in agri- part, prior to 1996, manure as a source culture, I wonder if many people re- of fertilizer was mostly scoffed at by member the issues farmers faced a most crop-only farmers. Manure was mere fifteen years ago. Some of the viewed as a waste product that live- items that I think about for crop farmers stock farmers wanted to "get rid off in- revolve around the major input cate- stead of "manage". Were manure gories; seed, fertilizer, chemicals, and samples taken from manure pits and crop insurance, analyzed to determine the nutrient con- People involved in production agri- tent like they are in 2011 ? No! Was culture know that vast improvements manure sold to crop farmers to be used have been made in seed genetics to as fertilizer? Not like it is today! The allow farmers to be much more pro- area of manure and manure manage- ductive and efficient. Fifteen years ment has become a very important part ago, Roundup Ready soybeans became of today's agricultural economy. commercially available,, followed by Very few inputs have impacted pro- corn in 1998. In 2011, some livestock duction agriculture as much as crop producers are trying to find varieties protection technology. It is likely that that do not contain the Roundup Ready walking or riding soybeans willbe for- and corn borer resistant gene. It has gotten by today's farm kids much like been somewhat of a challenge because picking corn or shelling corn was:for- many seed companies have trans- gotten by the generation or two before formed their varieties to have these them. traits, at a minimum, and root worm Crop insurance might have the control as well. largest impact in terms of revenue gen- Fertilizer changes from 1996 until erated by today's farms compared to today might not be as obvious as seed those in 1996. Prior to 1996, crop in- surance was mostly used to guarantee bushels of production. The old saying many farmers had was, "I'm not selling any grain until it is in the bin." When the first CRC (Crop Revenue Cover- age) policies were issued, many farm- ers had a steep learning curve to fully understand how to use this tool to as- sist them in marketing their crops be- fore it was harvested. In 2011, I would estimate that most farmers understand how to use their crop insurance revenue products as a vital tool in their market- ing plans. It is fun to think back to certain times of production agriculture and re- member the challenges we faced, and how we overcame those obstacles. I wonder what obstacles we will face in the years ahead. EPA guidelines, source verified products, and land use issues might be some new challenges we face. A Farm Business Manage- ment Instructor can assist you in tack- ling the next round of challenges you will face in production agriculture. In- structors can be found at Page 4b INDEPENDENT Tuesday, May 3, 2011