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  • Larry Payne

Memorial Day Memory

My Dad, Carl Payne, served in the US Army during World War 2. I offer a recap of his story in honor of all the veterans who have sacrifice time, blood, and life for their country.

Dad was living in Miami, Oklahoma with my mother, Julie, and my two siblings, Judith and John, when the draft notice came. It was a cold day in December, 1943 when he boarded the bus in Neosho, Missouri on the way to basic training. He was 26 years old, tall and an extrovert. He had been working as a department manager at the local Montgomery Ward store. His parents, Albert and Iona, had raised him in the same town where he boarded the bus to a horrific war.

After six months of training in Illinois, he sailed out of San Francisco. By August, 1944 he was stationed in New Guinea. His managerial skills put him to work in the 738th Engineer Company. In Madang the port was alive with supply ships bringing war material for the Pacific Island campaign. His work was processing the material that would build the supply chain for the long war.

Back in the states, Mom and my sibilings spent many months on her parent’s farm in Decaturville, Missouri. The war months were hard for the separation, the anxiety, and the duties of a single mom. The only letter she kept was mailed from New Guinea in May, 1945. He wrote, “How is my little bride tonight? Feeling good, I hope. Our spirits are pretty high this evening, too. We are all waiting with high hopes that the announcement from Truman, which is scheduled for 11 tonight, will be the peace in Europe we have all waited for so long.” He wrote of the plans he had for after the war, of a dream home, and new career. “I love you sweetheart. More every day. And if everything goes well maybe it won’t be too long before we can be together again.”

His hope found facts a few months later. The Japanese surrendered on September 2, 1945. His Company went to the Philippines and then to Japan, enduring a typhoon that sank 12 ships. The next months went quickly in the occupied nation. After a long voyage home on a crowded ship, he was discharged as a Staff Sergeant on January 13, 1946. By the 16th, he was united with his family in Oklahoma.

The plans unfolded in post-war training under the GI Bill. In 1947 he bought a dairy farm in Newton County, Missouri. A special joy was the birth of –Me—in 1952.

Dad didn’t talk about his wartime experience much at all. He kept his uniform and a Japanese carbine for the rest of his life. His eyes were on the future of the world he had a small part in building through his faithful duty. Many years of business success, family joys, and serving others followed. The flag that was given to his family at his death in 1994 is on the shelf in my house today. Thanks, Dad!

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