Every soldier – a witness to history
No matter where or when they served, each soldier – man or woman – forever carries details of our changing world within their memory, and their lives reflect lessons learned in times of war or peace.
Such is the case of Charles “Googie” Richardson, of Marlinton, a longtime fixture at his family’s store, C.J. Richardson Hardware.
Those who know Googie know he is always ready for conversation – pick a subject, any subject.
But there is one area of his life that Googie is reluctant to discuss, and that is his military service during World War II.
“I hate to talk about it,” he said humbly. “There are so many people who really did a lot. So many saw the worst of it. I didn’t do any deeds of daring or heroic exploits, but there are so many who did.”
Knowing that he was going to be drafted into the service, Googie volunteered in 1945, completing his Basic Training at Fort Knox, Kentucky. From there he went to the Philippines where the Manila Bay was full of sunken Japanese ships.
“Parts of the city were still burning,” Googie said. “There was no more fighting going on in Manila, but it was in absolute shambles. The children were begging for scraps. They were following garbage trucks, begging for food. The war absolutely ruined the area.”
Some fighting was still going on in the mountains with the fortified Japanese positions of the Yamashita Line.
“We went up there, but we didn’t take part in the fighting,” he said. “The war was officially over. They put me on as a railroad guard on the Manila Railroad – to ride the trains from Manila to the Lingayen Gulf.”
A military presence was necessary on these trains, Googie said, because the Huks [communist-led peasants] were raiding the trains to try to get the military equipment that was on board to use in their fight against the government –the Hukbalahap Rebellion.
“The trains were not supposed to stop,” he said. “But every time the engineer would see a stick of wood in a field, he’d stop and go get it – to use to construct a shanty or something, I guess.”
From there, Googie moved on to Guam, where “they forgot to tell some of the Japanese soldiers that they war was over.”
Island sweeps were made to try to eliminate the Japanese that were hiding there.
“The government called it ‘on-the-job training.’” Googie said. “One reason they had these island sweeps was that the natives were losing a lot of livestock. But the worst thing the Japanese were doing then was trying to stay alive.”
Googie was thankful when his commanding officer told him that he was going to be an Air Traffic Controller.
“That was at Harmon Field on Guam, a former B-29 Base,” Googie said. “I didn’t get anyone killed.”
While serving on Guam, Googie had the benefit of frequent visits from his cousin, Eddie Smith –Zed Smith, III.
“On Guam, my cousin Eddie came to see me once every three weeks,” Googie said. “He was on his way to Shanghai or Tokyo. He was a pilot for the Flying Tiger Airlines. Eddie was still in the service, but he got a leave of absence to fly with Tiger Airlines, then he would go back into the service.”
In 1935, the Commonwealth of the Philippines was established with U.S. approval. On July 4, 1946, full independence was granted to the Republic of the Philippines by the United States, and Googie was there.
He was scheduled for R&R, and found himself drawn back to the Philippines on July 4th – the day they got their independence, he said.
Upon discharge, Googie returned to the states, landing in Seattle, Washington.
After working for a few years at the hardware store, he re-enlisted in 1958 and spent four years in Germany, accompanied part of that time by his wife, Sue, and children, Vickie [Ferrell] and Terry.
“We were in Heidelberg,” Googie said. “It was a beautiful town – a university town not touched by war; but Manheim, just five or six miles down the road, was bombed to pieces.”
Googie served in Germany as an Air Traffic Controller.
“The Germans were rebuilding, and there were a lot of troops there then,” he said. “I was there when they built the Berlin Wall. I saw the refugees on the Autobahns trying to get out before it was completely sealed shut.”
Construction on the wall dividing East and West Berlin began in August 1961.
“And I lived to see it come down,” Googie said of the 1990 event.
As for lessons learned from life in the military, Googie contemplated and was silent for a moment.
Then he said, “Discipline. That’s the word I was looking for – discipline.”
His answer echoes the words of General George S. Patton, Jr.:
“…It is a proud privilege to be a soldier – a good soldier … [with] discipline, self-respect, pride in his unit and his country, a high sense of duty and obligation to comrades and to his superiors, and a self-confidence born of demonstrated ability.”
At nearly 87 years of age, Googie’s life is still one of discipline as he continues to work six days a week at C. J. Richardson Hardware.
Jaynell Graham may be contacted at email@example.com