Sunday, April 3, 2016

Lest We Forget

Whitmer home - Fayette, New York

For members of the LDS faith April 6 is remembered as the day in 1830 when Joseph Smith gathered with a few close friends and family members in the tiny log home of Peter Whitmer and officially organized the Church of Christ - later named by revelation as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. We have been to the Whitmer home and seen how humble and isolated it is. Pretty much all of the early church historic sites are like that. Those who claim that Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon by himself, or even with the help of others, have not seen or considered the conditions under which they lived and labored and the time frame involved. The Restoration truly is a marvelous work and a wonder. It is amazing what imperfect people are able to accomplish under very trying conditions with God's help.

Until this past week I didn't realize that April 6 is a historic date for the McNett family for an entirely different reason. My Dad, George McNett (AKA Grandpa George), was in the Philippines 71 years ago this spring. I often think about how different his circumstances were here than ours. He was with the American 129th Infantry whose mission was to reclaim the Philippines from the Japanese during World War II. It is hard to imagine spending night after night in a foreign land (the nights are essentially 12 hours long here all year round) living with constant knowledge that, night or day, there are people within shooting distance trying to kill you.

Like most combat veterans he really didn't like to talk about his wartime experiences, but occasionally we could get him to tell a few war stories. Thankfully we were able to record him telling some of those stories before he passed away. I regret now not asking more questions when he was still with us to answer them.

One of our favorite stories was about 'Whistling Ridge' or Whistling Hill'.
After helping to liberate Manila his unit was part of the drive from Bauang on the coast of the Lingayen Gulf, north of Manila, to Baguio. This is mountainous country and the Japanese were well prepared to defend the area. They had dug into caves and held high ground that was relatively easily defended. On the afternoon of April 6, 1945 Dad's company moved onto a hill about 15 road miles from Baguio in advance of the other companies in the battalion, dug in and prepared to fire in support of the other units. From the 129th Infantry regimental history:
It was called 'Whistling Hill' because of the noise the artillery shells made before they hit, one landing close enough to Dad's fox hole to cover him with dirt and break the stock of his rifle. They were pinned down there for four days isolated from the other units with everything the Japanese had being sent their way. Those four days must have seemed an eternity.

World War II is ancient history to young people today. There are few living WWII veterans left. I hope we can continue to remember what they did to provide and protect that which we enjoy today.
This picture is also from the 129th regimental history. Dad is the third soldier back on the right. He said he could remember when the picture was taken.

One final observation. After all that he had been through during the War and after, living the rest of his life with injuries received during the war, I do not recall that he held any hatred or bitterness toward the Japanese. As far as I could tell he put it behind him and moved on. That is a noble example that we could all emulate.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing such a great story. We do forget, and we take our comforts and freedoms for granted. And we need to appreciate those who paid such a heavy price. Thank you! (by the way, I can see a bit of Grady R in the photo of your dad)