Aug. 15–Outside of their tents set up on the Japanese island of Okinawa, Donald Licklider of the . was assigned to guard duty on Aug. 14, 1945, when he started to hear “all kinds of noise.”
“We thought we were being invaded,” said Licklider, now 92. “Everybody’s shooting and banging.”
police came over and told him what had happened: the United States announced its victory over Japan. World War II was over.
Seventy years later, Licklider — wearing a red Aircraft Group 33 hat and holding a red cane that read “” — sat on a metal folding chair next to his wife of 67 years, Ethelyn, in York. Songs from the 1940s, such as “This Land is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie, played over a public address system.
Before a crowd of more than 60 people, the York County Veterans Outreach on Friday commemorated the 70th anniversary of Victory over Japan Day, or V-J Day. The ceremony was put on at the Veterans Memorial Gold Star Healing and Peace Garden, near Penn State-York’s campus.
“Don’t let the stories of the valor of this generation fade away,” said U.S. Reserve Col. Craig T. Trebilcock, the keynote speaker of the commemoration and a judge on the York County Court of Common Pleas. “They gave everything for us.”
At the ceremony, Licklider and one other World War II veteran from nearby reflected back on how they — close to 5,900 miles apart — came to learn of Japan’s surrender that day.
‘We lived in the foxholes’
In announcing the United States’ victory over Japan, President Harry Truman said that arrangements were being made “for the signing of the surrender terms at the earliest possible moment.” Japan’s formal surrender, aboard the USS Missouri in the Tokyo Bay, did not happen until Sept. 2.
Licklider joined to . in 1943. A 1942 graduate of York Catholic High School, he was working at Read Machinery at the time.
In Okinawa, he was a crew chief, making sure airplanes including F4U Corsair were in perfect shape before they left and returned from the carriers. The Battle of Okinawa was the first action he saw in the war, as Licklider mostly trained at several places, such as Hawaii.
“We lived in the foxholes, more than anything,” he said.
Licklider was called back into the service during the Korean War. Later, he continued working for York-Shipley.
Retired after working for 41 years there, he now lives in Manchester.
‘Everybody else wanted to go home’
Harry Miller was listening to the radio in Lindberg, Germany, when news of the United States’ victory came over it.
“The word went around pretty fast. Because everybody wanted to go home,” he said, “except me.”
Miller said he was planning on staying in the service. Plus, he was enjoying himself.
Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Millers’ parents had died at a young age, and he was living with his sister. But she was married and had her own life.
He enlisted in the U.S. and was part of the 740th Tank Battalion, going onto fight in the Battle of the Bulge.
After World War II, he continued serving in communications, for Gen. Douglas MacArthur. Later on, he joined the U.S. , and was at the Strategic Air Command in Omaha, Neb.
Ninety days after he retired in 1966, Miller got a call telling him to register for the draft. He never did originally, as he lied about his age, enlisting at 16.
“So they caught up with me, and I thought it was like of stupid,” said Miller, now 87 and living in the Retirement Home in Washington, D.C. “Because there I am, carrying a retiree card, a reserve card and a draft card.”
While in Neufchâteau, Belgium, last year — following a winding career that took him everywhere from Albuquerque, N.M., to Seattle — to rededicate a monument with his outfit, he met Linda Smith, of Red Lion. Miller never knew her late husband, though he recognized his name.
Every few weeks, Miller comes up from Washington, D.C., to visit her.
Now, they’re “good friends.”
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