Legacy Created on: September 2008
Legacy on until: January 2012
Legacy availiable via archive until: January 2016
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Why did you enlist in the service?

I was close to 18 years old and I knew they were going to draft me anyway. So I said, “Hell, I might as well get in and get it over with.”  So I joined up.  I took basic training in Louisiana for six weeks and then I was shipped to the 164th Walter HickeyInfantry.  We were then shipped out to New Caledonia to take more basic training.  I remember early in basic training was the most that I ever weighed in the army: 125 pounds.  They assigned me to be a machine gunner, which required me to carry a 30 caliber machine gun. For some reason it seemed like the little guys always got the heavy weapons. I don’t know why but that is how it was in those days. I was a machine gunner until I was discharged from the army. 

We left Louisiana by train. I still remember we thought that the train had square wheels because the ride was so bumpy. It took us almost three days on that train to go from Louisiana to San Francisco. We then took a ship overseas from there. We had to sleep in the hold on the ship and once we got out onto the ocean I had the bottom bunk.  The ship would sway back and forth constantly. I remember at one minute you would be walking and the next you would be running because of the way the ship would sway.  It was the same way with eating.  You would be almost ready to eat and the ship would sway and your plate would slide down the table. 

We saw our first action in Guadalcanal.  The marines had gone in first and we were sent in to support them soon after.  At that time the marines had what was called the O- 3 rifle. It had five shots and then had to be reloaded. When we went in we had the M-1.  The Japs called that the devil weapon. They couldn’t understand why we had three more shots before we had to reload.  From there we went to Bouganville.  A lot of the time we were in the mountains and you couldn’t see more than ten in front of you. I remember we would try to take hills at night. The army would put a small patch in the middle of your back to help you see the man in front of you. That was what you followed.  One of your mates was in front of you and you followed that patch all the way to the top of that mountain. Things like that still stick out in my memory. 

My 7th is my birthday.  On May 8th, 1945 VE day was declared.  At that point we were five miles in the mountains.  And on that May 8th, the day victory was declared in Europe, I was stabbed with a bayonet.  We were taking a hill and I was the machine gun leader. The Japs in that area were dead because of the heavy bombing from earlier that day. Or at least we thought they were dead. There happened to be about six or seven still alive. At the time I had an M-1 and I was going up the hill.  We came across some Japanese and to me they looked like they were dead.  As I turned around to signal the rest of the men to come up the hill this Jap that was lying on the ground grabbed his rifle and jabbed me.  My cartridge belt is what saved my life. After I was stuck with a bayonet they carried me down the hill to the seashore. I was there with five other wounded men who were all waiting to go to the hospital. We were there on the beach waiting to get transported out, and finally down came this little plane, a piper cub. It was a small plane, but it was all we had at the time.  They took the four biggest men and put them inside of the piper cub. The other little guy and I got strapped under the wing of the plane.  I remember the medics back then. It is not at all like today. Do you know what they used back then to take the dead flesh away from your wounds? Maggots. The maggots would only eat the dead flesh and that is one thing that has always stayed with me. 

The bayonet injury is how I got one of my purple hearts. The other was because a sniper got me.  I was in a trench and at that time when the Japs fired their rifles there was no spark or muzzle flash.  I was in the trench and all of a sudden, bam, I felt something like a baseball bat hit my leg. At the time I didn’t even know that I was hit. A buddy of mine said, “Hickey what they hell is the matter with you?” And I said that I wasn’t sure. At the time there wasn’t much blood, but we figured out that I had been shot.  They carried me to the medic and then from there I was shipped out to the hospital.  I was in the hospital for 4 to 5 days and then went right back out to the front line. The bullet, although it hit me in the thigh and caused quite a bit of tissue damage, did go right through, not hitting anything vital.  Back then I was a young fellow and when you are young you really don’t stop to think.  I am very proud of what I did for my country. 

What do you remember about VJ day?

At that point we were in a rest area because the war had started to slow down. They told us that most of us were going to Tokyo. In those days you were able to be discharged when you had accumulated enough points. At that point some of the older guys that had wives and children with enough points were able to be sent home. The rest of us went to Tokyo.

What was the hardest part of the War for you?

It is like I told my preacher the other day.  I told him there is one thing from the war that upsets me and I think about it all of the time.  He said, “What is that Hickey?”  I told him that during the war I killed a lot of Japs, but I also killed a 14 year old boy.  And he said, “You did what?” I told him that I was over there in the Philippines and this boy had a hand grenade in his hand and was coming up the hill.  I told him to stop and to get rid of the grenade. He wouldn’t talk to me or even acknowledge me.  He just kept coming up the hill, and when he got to within about 12 feet of me and I could see that the pin on the grenade was pulled, I killed him. He was a young kid and I killed him. And my preacher said, “Well Hickey, at that point it was either you or him.” And from the whole war that is the only thing that I regret. 


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