November 13, 2003
Arbela Veteran Made Return Home From World War II 58 Years Ago This Week
Fifty-eight years ago this week, Okie Boyer came home to Arbela. He returned the same way in which he left more than three years earlier, side by side with his twin brother Orville.
Unfortunately not all 22 friends and acquaintances that Okie left Scotland County with on August 18, 1942 ever returned home. The men traveled to Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis to join the United States Army to serve in World War II.
“There were 22 of us that left to go into the service at that time,” Okie said. “There was Weldon Tague, Wayne Newman, myself and my brother plus a whole bunch of other guys from here.”
Little did Okie know that the travel to St. Louis was just the beginning of his travels that would take him more than half way around the world where he would give his country more than two years of service in the Pacific Theater of World War II.
From St. Louis Okie went by train to Texas and then on to California where he arrived at Camp Roberts at 4:00 a.m. October 23.
After receiving his training Boyer shipped out from under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, CA, bound for Australia with the famous 32nd Division. The troops landed at Brisbane, Australia on March 2, 1943.
After arriving in Australia, Boyer was attached to the 126 Infantry Cannon Company and spent the next six months receiving training, such as beach landing techniques, which was taught at New Castle. New arrivals like himself were replacements for soldiers lost in the first stages of the conflicts in the Philippines as elements of the 32nd Division returned to Australia following the initial fighting with the Japanese.
The special training was put to use as Boyer and his comrades made their first hostile beach landing November 18 at Melony Bay in New Guinea.
In the down time between the fighting, the training continued. It was during one of these sessions that Boyer’s army career change was put in motion. During a series of hand-to-hand training sessions, Boyer injured his back.
“I broke my back during the training and then we had to make a move and I was stuck driving a jeep all day long so it put me in a considerably foul mood by the end of the day,” Boyer said. To make a long story short, Boyer said that he ended up in an argument with an officer that landed him on KP duty.
All of the old cartoons from WW II showed the solider stuck in a room piled high with potatoes as he peeled away. Well KP duty wasn’t far from that, as Boyer was assigned to kitchen duty for a week.
But after Boyer stepped in for one of the cooks and did such a good job, his punishment quickly turned into a permanent job switch.
“I’d been handling heavy weapons, mortars and machine guns as well as serving in the motor pool, driving jeeps and moving the equipment, but they said I did such a good job that they made me a cook,” Boyer said.
On days, Boyer probably would have rather been at the top of the hill facing the Japanese than slaving away in the kitchen preparing food for hungry soldiers.
He received a commendation for his work preparing Thanksgiving dinner.
“Malaria had hit really bad and I was the only one left standing in the kitchen. I cooked seven turkeys and kept everyone happy and for that I received a T-4, 1st Cook advancement.”
Of course the job change didn’t keep Okie off the front lines. In December his unit moved on to Saidore for another beach landing. The fighting was so intense that for two weeks the troops were unable to set up a kitchen and were forced to eat K-rations.
“How many of you set up on guard in enemy territory all night long,” Boyer said. “It was so weird as you would be awakened by the air raid siren, or shots being fired and then you would hear the coffee grinder or some other every day sound all with Charlie still within hearing distance.”
By July, Boyer’s unit had made its way to Aitape and then on to Maraitai by the end of October.
They started 1945 off in the Phillipines at Leyte and then on to Luzan.
“There were points that we were on guard at all times,” Boyer said. “We called it ‘Hard Times’. Basically it meant no sleep. There were 22” guns firing all night long.”
This became the hardest part of the Boyer’s more than two years of active duty as in the next few months he was part of four moves that placed him on the infamous Villa Verde Trail.
They attacked, captured and guarded such places as Razor Back Mountain, the Gold Mining House and Hill 502.
Even during the heaviest fighting, Boyer kept up his duties, keeping the men fed.
“There was 17 of us on this hill and we were told to hold it at all costs,” Boyer said. “One of the guys had a little camp stove and I knew the company had just received fresh supplies so I sneaked back to camp and got 18 pork chops and cooked them up for the boys,” Boyer said. “We stood guard night and day and watched the Japanese moving all around at the foot of the hill but they never mustered up the courage to attack us.”
It was on Razor Back Mountain where Boyer again was in close contact with the enemy. Again the troops were relegated to rations, meaning no kitchen, meaning Okie was on guard duty.
“We were guarding the outpost when a ‘Nippie’ landed a grenade right into a fellows jaw,” Boyer said. “His buddy was quick enough to grab it and throw it back over the bank before it exploded preventing any more casualties, as the night before they had gotten one of the guards.”
Boyer’s unit continued its work in the region moving on to Santa Fae in August of 1945 as the fight was winding down. It was in Santa Fae where Boyer was among eight cooks that set up an enormous kitchen that fed more than 2,000 soldiers twice a day.
As elements of the 32nd Division began mobilizing to move on to Japan, Boyer received notification that he was going home. On September 13, 1945 he shipped out from Luzan and was ultimately bound for the U.S.A. on September 26 from an Australian port. He spent the next 36 days on a ship before landing in Los Angeles on November 1.
Boyer got his official discharge on November 7 ending three years and 29 days in the service, of which two years, eight months and 21 days was given to foreign service.
On November 10, the day before Veteran’s Day, Okie Boyer and his brother, Orville, got off the bus at the Arbela Junction and got a ride from a local couple to the Arbela Church.