|
|
The Suburbanite
  • Veteran of the Week, Merle Long, U.S. Army

  • When Merle Long realized he would soon be drafted, he decided to marry his high school sweetheart, Hope, before it happened.


     


    They were married in April 1942 and Long was drafted in October. They decided she would not follow him as he trained and Hope remained behind to teach school in Pennsylvania. Merle went south to Camp Rucker in Alabama to train with the 81st Infantry (Wildcats) Division.

    • email print
  • When Merle Long realized he would soon be drafted, he decided to marry his high school sweetheart, Hope, before it happened.
    They were married in April 1942 and Long was drafted in October. They decided she would not follow him as he trained and Hope remained behind to teach school in Pennsylvania. Merle went south to Camp Rucker in Alabama to train with the 81st Infantry (Wildcats) Division.
    “The 81st was a southern unit and I was considered a damn Yankee,” Long said.
    After their initial training at Rucker the division moved west where was some thought they might be used in North Africa, but it was decided to send them to the Pacific. Additional training took place at Camp Luis Obispo in California, with amphibious training taking place around the San Clemente Islands off the coast. The unit then shipped out for the south Pacific from San Francisco via Hawaii and Guadalcanal.
    “My job was to sort the medical supplies that were dropped off on the beach and make sure they got to the units that needed them,” Long said. “I had a truck and several jeeps to do this, and a driver. I was considered expendable and when they asked me to select a driver I refused. MB Williams from Missouri volunteered and we became good friends. Medics would also come up with slips with their needs and I would give them the items they needed.”
    The first action Long participated in was the bloody invasion of Pelelui and Angaur.
    “The most dangerous thing was getting from the transport down to the small boats to take us ashore,” he said. “At Pelelui the Japanese had dug out the island, it was touch and go. They built bunkers under the ridge lines and picked us off like ears of corn. This was the worst one I was in. We were shot at a lot and in combat constantly, but fortunately I had no really close calls. On one occasion while in a convoy going through the Coral Sea our ship developed engine trouble and we were left behind by the rest of the convoy to make it to port as best we could.”
    In total, Long was on 16 different ships during the war.
    After Pelelui the division took part in the invasion of the Philippine Islands at Leyte. After the that the division was rested and prepared for the invasion of Japan, but the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended the war in August of 1945.
    “We were really glad the bomb was dropped as it saved a lot of lives,” he said.
    Long’s unit was then sent to Japan for occupation duty. In Japan one of his jobs was to collect narcotics and take them down to Tokyo.
    Page 2 of 2 - “We had a railroad car all to ourselves,” he said. “MB and I were there along with two MP's. The Japanese tried to get onboard for a ride but the MP's wouldn't allow it. Two American officers also tried to force their way into the car and take it over but even though they were high ranking the MP's had their pistols and that meant more then their rank.”
    Long was discharged in 1946 and left Japan on Christmas Day.
    “We left on this ship that had been used for sightseeing before the war,” he said. “On the way home we hit a typhoon and the ship nearly rolled over, but we finally made it to Seattle.”
    There he was discharged with the rank of T-4 and returned home.
     
    Post-Military Career
    Long returned to Pennsylvania and attended Lock Haven State Teacher College on the GI Bill. He and his wife moved to the Akron area. He took a job at Firestone in 1950. Then in 1953 he was hired by Coventry to teacher Social Studies. Eventually he moved into guidance counseling and worked with his wife at Coventry till he retired in 1978, followed by his wife in 1981.
    After his retirement, Long started refinishing antiques and learned the art of chair caning. He also maintained contact with his friend, MD, who lived in Illinois, until he passed away a few years ago.
    He and his wife, Hope, celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary this year. He is 97 and she is 94. They have two children, a daughter, Hope Ann, and a son Howard, along with four grandchildren and one great-grandchild.