By Sharna Johnson: Freedom Newspapers
Editor’s note: World War II officially ended Sept. 2, 1945, when the Japanese signed surrender terms. We’re honoring the war’s area veterans over the next several months with these brief profiles.
World War II profiles are compiled by staff writer Sharna Johnson. Contact her at 763-6991 or by e-mail:
Date of birth: Sept. 10, 1924
Dates of Service: June 9, 1943, to Nov. 29, 1946
Lives in: Portales
Theater or location of service: Pacific (Gilbert Islands)
Rank: Petty Officer, 3rd class
Unit and Specialty: Amphibious force — Advance Navy Boat Pool 810
After discharge: Portales
Veteran organizations: Life member, VFW post 9515 (past commander)
Mistakenly MIA: “On TV they show the Japanese bombs whistling, but they don’t. It’s one of the deadliest sounds you’ll ever hear, thing is, as long as you can hear it, you’re OK. But when you don’t hear it anymore, you’re in trouble.”
Johnston was involved in beach invasions throughout the Pacific, calling Macon Island home for more than a year.
Without a penny to his name for more than a year and, he describes with some humor now, he had to find “alternative” and creative ways to meet needs not supplied by the Navy (i.e.: laundry, underclothing and other niceties).
Johnston discovered his records had been mistakenly sent back to Pearl Harbor and a clerical error had resulted in him being listed as missing in action. Thankfully his family was not notified or the error or it might have had a more severe impact than simply depriving him of pay for more than a year.
Date of Birth: Dec. 23, 1924
Dates of Service: 1943-1946
Hometown: Lariat, Texas
Lives in: Clovis
Theater or location of service: South Pacific (New Caledonia)
Branch: Navy-Air Force
Rank: Aviation metalsmith 1st Class
Unit and Specialty: VS57 land-based, Navy-Air Force Aviation Metalsmith
After discharge: Clovis.
Learning a skill: As an Aviation metalsmith in the Navy, Deaton was assigned to an air unit in the South Pacific responsible for flying observation missions over ships passing through the area in an effort to patrol for submarines. Although at war, Deaton soon discovered life at home had continued, even in his absence.
He received word his father had been killed in a plane crash in Lariat. Shocked by the news, Deaton was permitted a furlough to return home for the funeral services.
Aside from tragedy back home, Deaton had many experiences during his enlistment.
The strangest occurred when he and his group had stopped to spend the night on an island. He awoke when he felt a sharp pain in his back and arm, surprised to find he was bleeding. It wasn’t until he reached the sick bay that he was told he had been shot. As it turns out a Marine had accidentally discharged his weapon during a guard change and the bullet had passed through the tent, through his back and lodged in his arm.
Looking back, Deaton believes he was one of the fortunate ones not have been in “rougher” combat like the men on the front lines.
War-time military service gave Deaton more than an experience, it gave him a skill that has served him well.
The metalwork he learned in the Navy carried over into his future as he built a career and a successful business out of auto body repair that he has passed on to his sons.
Joe C. Masters
Date of birth: July 29, 1926
Dates of Service: August 1944 to November 1946
Lives in: Clovis
Theater and location of service: Pacific, Philippine islands
Unit and Specialty: 129th Infantry regiment — rifleman
After discharge: Hagerman
Making friends in war: Masters served in the Philippines for a year and a half during his tour of service, “cleaning up” as he put it, following the invasion.
He found himself and fellow soldiers sympathizing with the Philippine people.
Coming to the Philippines after the Japanese had invaded “wiping them out and leaving them (the Filipinos) with nothing,” he and his fellow soldiers helped them as best they could, sharing supplies and help whenever possible.
The islanders worked closely with the soldiers, performing services for them such as laundry and meals.
Through these interactions, they developed close relationships. He recalls that even his mother developed relationships and corresponded with some of the families for years after the war.
Masters feels the United States had “let the Philippines down,” liberating the people but then leaving them to be overrun by terrorists.