L.D. Jackson – “We Helped Keep the Planes Flying” (Part 4)

SONY DSCIn the final installment of Mr. Jackson’s interview, he wraps up his stories while making sure that I understand what he has told me. He was, and is still, a great teacher.

“Okay, now remember there were two main generals in the Pacific, now who were they?

Macarthur and ….

“Nimitz.

Oh, right.

“Now, where was Macarthur?

The Philippines.

“Right. In the south.  And where was Nimitz?  In the central.  You following what I’m trying to tell you?  That’s the Army and the Navy.  All politics.

“So, Nimitz — see I was under Nimitz.  I was in the Army [Air Corps], but Nimitz was in the Navy.  But see we were under the Navy.  And so it was Nimitz that decided not to go another route into Japan.  He took this route here.  So that’s when we went down to the Ellice Islands and the invasion was Tarawa.  And we went through Central Pacific.  Alright, so, Japan is over here – I’m gonna show you – [he goes to get a globe].

Fullscreen capture 5152014 21635 PM.bmp“Now instead of going way out here – Truk.  Are you familiar with that?  Truk Island — that’s the Japanese “Pearl Harbor”.  We used to bomb Truk.  We’d just keep it incapacitated. Oh we’d hate to bomb Truk because it was so well fortified that we’d sometimes lose some planes over there, you see. So instead of trying to take ‘em, we just bombed ‘em where they just had to stay right there. it’s Nimitz who decided to do that.

“Okay here’s Saipan and Tinian.  That’s where the B-29’s came from to bomb Japan – from [Tinian to Japan and back] in about 16 hours. Think they were tired when they got back?  Can you imagine doing that?

We don’t think about how far that is.  That distance is like the height of the United States!

“That’s exactly right.  It took some men to do that.

Yes it did.

“Saipan had two airstrips. We had to move to the smaller strip [with the B-24s] to give the B-29s [room] – I saw the first B-29 to land on Saipan. Saipan had B-29s before Tinian.  Saipan was secured a little before Tinian because we used to watch them fight over on Tinian.  We could just see ‘em shooting.  We couldn’t really understand what was going on.  Just a couple of days.  Then everything got peaceful.

“But anyway, they took us off our strip and then we heard there was a B-29 coming in so we all went to see the first B-29 land on Saipan.  And we were all a little disappointed because they were talking about how big they were.  And of course, our simple minds, we thought they were going to cover the sky, you know.  And they were a lot bigger than a B-24.

They were a little over publicized?

“Just with us it was.

“But that’s where I was.  You see, right there. [on Saipan and other islands]

Well good, now I can picture it.

So what about VE Day?  There you are on an island when the war ended in Europe.  Did you even think about it?

Fullscreen capture 5152014 21406 PM.bmp“Not too much.  We knew that we were going home shortly.  But I was on rest leave on Hawaii when the war ended. And man, that’s when they went crazy!

“So I had a good time.  I had a good life out there. But like I said, Tarawa, Makin, Kwajalien, Eniwetok and Saipan – see that’s your Central Pacific – headed to Japan – and it was all done by Nimitz.

So you just moved forward toward Japan.

“Just moved forward.  As soon as they would take an island, and the Seabee’s would go in there and clear off the field and level it off, our planes could land. They’d get enough LST’s to get us there. And then they’d start bombing the next island.  See, we bombed Kwajalien until they took it and then we landed there.  And then we’d bomb the next one, take it and move over there – plus a lot of little islands that the Japs had airstrips on.  We’d bomb them.

“[Our men would be loading bombers and] I’d say, “Where y’all going today?”  And they’d  name [an island] and I’d never heard of it.

And there are SO MANY little islands out there…

“Yeah, little — not even half a mile wide.

Just a little sand.

“That’s all it was. And just about two or three feet above sea level. And we’d pitch a tent.  I never pitched a tent.  We’d get there and all the tents are put up.

So being on the equator like that, were there ever any storms like hurricanes?  I guess it was just hot.

“It was HOT.  Better than being cold though.  I’d rather work where it’s hot than where it’s cold – I mean doing mechanical work with your hands.  I can’t visualize going to Alaska and handling nuts and so forth.  You gotta take your gloves off.  I don’t know how they do it.

“I put nuts on with the left hand, but I’m right handed.  You know why?  Because normally you work on the right side of an engine.  You can’t [reach around to the left side with your right hand]do it this way, so you learn to do it [with the left hand]this way.  And I had to learn.  I dropped many a nut before!  I got good at it.  After a while I could be talking to you and be doing my job, I did it so often – little bitty nuts.

“I had some good experiences.

And you had a good attitude through it all, which is amazing.

“Oh, I loved it.  And I liked my men.

You’ve got some people who fight it the whole time.

“I never did see anybody do that.  I never did see anybody raise their voice to each other.  And we were out there for two years.

That’s amazing.  To be in that close of quarters.

“We made jokes out of everything and I hope I had a little to do with it.  And I’m sure other ones were like me.  I just appreciate it that I didn’t have to go in there with a gun.

Yes!  I can’t imagine.

Fullscreen capture 5152014 21722 PM.bmp“I’d have done it.  You do what you have to — what you’re told to do.

It took everybody.

“That’s right — to do it.

It took somebody to get that part to you that next day!

“That’s right!  That’s the one thing that puzzled me.  I never did ask.  If I needed anything – a generator, a solenoid, a magneto – I had it!  A generator, boy I changed a thousand generators!  And those things weighed fifty-six pounds.  And you should have seen the first one I changed.  I bet it took me over an hour.  Now I bet I can change one in fifteen minutes.  I mean, everything gets routine.

“And changing those nuts with my left hand.  I was a worker.

It sounds like it.

“But I loved it.  What else was I gonna do?  Go sit in my tent?

“And I was keeping the planes flying safe, and so forth.  Oh, it was great.

SONY DSC[Looking at his own portrait]  “I didn’t look too bad, did I?

No, you didn’t!  You were a handsome fella!

“That was Saipan.  I guess I was twenty-two or twenty-three right there. ‘Cause I was twenty-three when I got out.

Well I really appreciate you taking the time to do this.  

“Now remember the difference between Nimitz and Macarthur.  Nimitz is central and northern and he’s the one who really got us over there in Japan.

Macarthur went to Australia for a while.

‘Yeah, he was in the south Pacific.  Now he did his job, don’t get me wrong –

…but the advances were made by Nimitz

“…that got us to Japan – but we couldn’t have done it without Macarthur you know, keeping them busy down there.  And then you can remember Army and Navy. South and Nimitz.  And all these little islands. Keep in mind, [the order,] Makin….Kwajalien….Eniwetok…Saipan.

I will, Mr. Jackson. I really appreciate you taking the time to do this.

“Oh, I enjoyed it, Honey.

I’m going to go home and pour over these little islands and I’m going to learn all about them. Thank you so much!

L.D. Jackson
L.D. Jackson
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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Annette A. Zimmer says:

    Thank you for the posting on L.D. Jackson. My dad, Art Arceneaux, 91, (also a WWII veteran who served in the Pacific) knew L. D. before the war. He met one of his relatives lately and learned only that he was living in Hammond. Dad would like to call or write L.D. I found your article while searching for him. If you could help us get in touch with him, it would be appreciated greatly. Annette

    1. I will pass on your email address to him and his son. I’m glad you were able to locate him through this blog! How exciting!

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