By: Bob Boyer
As I have for a number of years, as Veterans Day (Nov. 11) approaches, I am writing about the local, mainly Greater Green Bay, veterans who died since Nov. 11, 2017. Because the number of veterans passing is a bit higher, and the obituaries are more detailed, I will cover them in two issues. As in the past my main source is the obituaries in “The Green Bay Press Gazette,” supplemented by Google and, primarily, “Wikipedia,” which, I find, continues to improve in quantity of detail and accuracy.
What the veterans did after returning from the Philippines remains mostly a constant. They married local girls, usually after a couple of years. They found or returned to good jobs, enjoyed hunting and fishing, and they had large and appreciative families. Noteworthy differences are that more of them participated in the Honor Flights and more are Navy Veterans, six of the nine.
Robert Harris (March 17 age 97) is the elder of the group. He went from the reserves to active duty in 1941 and served on the USS Pokomoke, first in the Atlantic then the Pacific Theaters. He started out as a Signalman but was honorably discharged as an “Ensign (Flight Instructor).” That surprised me since the Pokomoke was mainly a workhorse supply and troop ship. As it turns out, it was also a Sea Plane Support Ship, which was the precursor of Aircraft Carriers. It could carry and supply two Sea Planes. Robert follows the above profile of Green Bay Area returning veterans to a “T.”
Robert Melchior (March 31 age 92) served in the U.S. Navy, first as a Gunner “on merchant ships in the Atlantic and Pacific.” It’s notable that “he was then transferred to PT boats in the Philippines for three years.” The PT Boats, such as John F. Kennedy’s, were the daredevils of the Navy in the Philippines, essential to maneuvering among the country’s 800 plus inhabited islands. They suffered heavy losses. Bob returned, worked for Wisconsin Bell, raised a family with his wife, and volunteered as a driver for Red Cross Blood Drives.
Edward Orton (April 29 age 95) is an outlier to NE Wisconsin, arriving only after numerous adventures. He was in the Navy, stationed at Pearl Harbor as a Gunner’s Mate on the USS Pennsylvania, on Dec. 7, 1941. He subsequently “participated in nine major engagements, including the world’s largest sea battle,” Leyte Gulf, December, 1944. He stayed in the military for 24 years and finally arrived in Green Bay, where he worked for 13 years at the Wisconsin State Reformatory.
Thomas Elbe (May 9 age 91) enlisted in the Navy in 1943. He was assigned to LST Group 6, which clearly followed in support MacArthur’s Island hopping campaign, “making landings from the tip of New Guinea all along [its] North Coast up until August 1945 at the North end of the Philippines [Luzon].” Japan surrendered on August 14, 1945. Thomas farmed for thirty years and then went into the timber industry with his sons.
To be continued in November. Contact Bob Boyer at Robert.firstname.lastname@example.org or <anamericaninmanila.com>