Memorial Day 2014 Thank You to My Dad and all veterans, particularly WWII Veterans of the Pacific Theater
My Dad, Clement Straatmann, was in the Pacific Theater during WWII. He was the 7th in a family of 12, 8 boys and 4 girls. His older brothers were married with children at the time of the draft and his younger brothers were too young. So my dad was the one who got the call. (His youngest brother was in the KoreanWar.)
I didn’t know his 2 older sisters but we hung out quite a bit with his 2 younger sisters and their families. His sisters confided in me that my dad was their favorite brother and he was favored by his mother too. My dad played the fiddle. He knew his mother loved music so he saved his money to buy a fiddle and then taught himself some of her favorite songs. He would play for her while she was doing her final chores of the day and he had completed his.
His mother died when he was in the Pacific. She was sick and asking for him to be there with her. He finally got the orders, was packed and on his way to catch the plane when the message came that she had died. He was called back from the plane and not allowed to go home for her funeral. Yes, I have tears in my eyes as I write this.
My aunts and many of his family friends would shake their heads as they told us that he was a changed man upon his return.
His letters home were censored but I understand they were chronicled in the local newspaper. His stories as we were growing up were about the funny things that happened and only occasionally about the horrors. One of these snippets to me was telling me that his best friend (whose family we visited once a year) was killed running across a field right next to my dad. He stepped on a land mine. My dad told me “I couldn’t even stop. I had to keep running for my own life.”
Clem Straatmann was in the 6th Infantry Division of World War II. He often told us that he spent over a year sleeping in the jungle with a rifle at his side. I always thought he was exaggerating until I found this article written by Thomas E Price for the National Association of the 6th Infantry Division, Inc.
I WISH I HAD KNOWN THIS BEFORE HE DIED
Words from the article:
The 6th Infantry Division of World War II holds the unchallenged record for consecutive days of continuous combat in the Pacific Theater, 219 days of continuous combat, set by the Division on the Island of Luzon, the Philippines. At the end of World War II, the Division’s men were the most heavily engaged troops in the United States Army still fighting Yamashita’s men in the Cagayan Valley of Northern Luzon. During the War, the men of the 6th Division fought a total of 306 days of combat. Casualties for the 6th Division totaled 1,174 dead, 3,876 wounded and 9 missing. Japanese casualties fighting the Division totaled 23,000 dead and 1,700 captured.
Before the long battle for Luzon, the Division’s baptism of fire came in a battle at Maffin Bay, New Guinea, known as the battle for “Lone Tree Hill.” It was to prove to be “the bloodiest ten days in the entire New Guinea campaign to take a stubbornly defended hill from a determined and well-entrenched enemy.” The battle took place in a larger campaign better known as the Wakde-Sarmi Operation West of Hollandia, in then, Dutch New Guinea, now Iryan Jaya. The Battle for Lone Tree Hill, which the Division Spear-Headed, included the type of merciless fighting, against an elite and heavily entrenched Japanese Infantry, only encountered elsewhere in New Guinea by the 32nd Infantry Division at Buna and the 41st Infantry Division on the Island of Biak.
From the bottom of my heart I say THANK YOU to my dad, Clement A Straatmann and to the men and women who have served. Happy Memorial Day 2014