PLEASANT HILL, Ill. (AP) — Lynold Puterbaugh remembers his World War II service as if it happened yesterday instead of nearly 70 years ago.
Drafted but put on limited service because of a lazy eye in childhood, Puterbaugh was antsy to be part of the war effort in World War II, like his friends, so he enlisted in the Army in Pittsfield.
"I wanted to be a mechanic or something because I was working at a service station, but it didn't matter. They put you where they wanted," said Puterbaugh, 88. "I had no medical training. I was squeamish about it."
Inducted at Fort Sheridan, he started training as an Army surgical technician at Fort Benjamin Harrison, worked in a hospital at Fort Knox, then went by troop train to Fort Lewis in Seattle, where general hospital units were being formed.
Sent to Camp Crowder in Missouri, he worked in the hospital there, caring for patients injured in the war overseas.
"A lot of the guys being transferred back still needed hospitalization. Some were in body casts," Puterbaugh said.
Puterbaugh then became part of a general hospital unit stationed first in the Philippines, then in Japan at a key turning point of the war. By 1945, American forces were preparing to invade Japan. With its three air bases, Manila, in the Philippines, would be a destination for the wounded.
"That's where we were going to build these general hospitals. There were going to be 10 general hospitals, 1,000 beds each. They were really expecting the casualties," Puterbaugh said. "You train for one thing, and they have you doing everything else. We was bolting metal buildings together."
As soldiers worked on the buildings, hospital supplies continued to arrive in Manila Bay, then were trucked to the hospital sites.
"We'd unload, day and night. We'd be at one end of a building, and down at the far end was all the sheets and that sort of thing," Puterbaugh said. "We'd look down there, and the Filipinos would be stealing sheets, and then about a week or so later, we'd go into town and all the men were wearing white shirts."
Then everything changed.
"When they dropped the atomic bomb, that all ended. We was through putting together buildings," he said. "They began to break up the general hospitals."
Transferred to a different unit, Puterbaugh was sent to Japan to replace other soldiers who had enough points to come home.
Underway from Okinawa to Japan on a hospital ship, "we met the USS Missouri, where they signed the peace treaty," he said. "That was something to see. It was a big ship."
In Japan, his unit took over a three-story, horseshoe-shaped Red Cross hospital in Kyoto.
"We started taking our patients," he said. "Somebody was always getting hurt."
He remembers one incident where gunpowder spread in a dry riverbed ignited and burned two soldiers. "One died that night. The other one, he held on. I was kind of picked as his main man to take care of him," Puterbaugh said. "They were doing skin grafts. He was in quite a while, still there when I left. His name was Sizemore from Arkansas."
It wasn't all work. Kyoto, which wasn't bombed during the war, offered some entertainment for the soldiers. "There was a nightclub out in the hills there. The ambulances would run like a taxi, run you out there and pick you up when it closed," Puterbaugh said.
The soldiers also got to see Corregidor, bombed first by the Japanese and then the Americans, with bodies of Japanese soldiers still in foxholes on the beaches.
"There was this big gun that was supposed to guard the entrance to Manila Bay. A bomb knocked it off its cradle. I've got pictures of me sitting in the end of it. It was a huge thing," he said.
Waiting for a cabin assignment on a ship transport home in 1946, Puterbaugh heard another Calhoun County name, a classmate from high school.
"We were together all the trip back and down to Jefferson Barracks to get discharged. I think we took a bus or train to Louisiana, Mo. My folks came over to pick us up," he said. "I was always running into somebody, or my mom would write and tell me if she'd see an address for maybe the same camp I was in. I'd go and hunt them."
Where he once hoped to live to the age of 75, Puterbaugh now hopes to make 90.
In the meantime, he'll keep telling stories and reliving memories from the war and his life in southern Pike and northern Calhoun counties.
"I just run it back through my mind like it's a movie or something," Puterbaugh said.
After the war, 'it was great to get out and get back to my life'
Born close to the Pike County line, Lynold Puterbaugh spent his childhood in his native Calhoun County and California.
"My dad couldn't decide where he wanted to be, California or here," Puterbaugh said.
By 1940, the family settled for good in Pleasant Hill, where Puterbaugh graduated with the Pleasant Hill High School class of 1943 and worked in his dad's service station before enlisting in the Army.
Although he was in the Army, Puterbaugh remembers spending a lot of his time on transport ships after being assigned to a general hospital unit sent to the Pacific.
"Talking to several guys later in the Navy, I had more time on the water than they did," he said.
Back home in Pleasant Hill after the war, Puterbaugh married his sweetheart, Juanita, and they raised three children while he worked at the Mobil service station.
"I had people ask me why I didn't become a nurse after I became a civilian, but I'd been there, done that," Puterbaugh said, and he'd also had enough of Army life. "It was great to get out and get back to my life."
Source: The Quincy Herald-Whig, http://bit.ly/1oi02PR