Second World War: Blood Work on Tinian

Lab technician during the Second World War remembers doing blood work on Tinian, next to Saipan, in the Pacific Theater.

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During the Second World War, you could buy a pack of cigarettes for 5 cents. I understand they are about $2 a pack now. Since I am a retired farmer, I wonder why the price of corn and beans didn't go up like that. 

I felt fortunate being able to serve in the Army as a lab technician. It was a chance to learn and be able to help save lives, rather than destroy lives. I always felt confident about doing my lab work until Gen. Curtis LeMay walked into the lab one day for some blood work. I think I felt a little shaky drawing blood from a general.

Having Christmas dinner for two years on the Pacific Ocean is not one of my fondest recollections, but I should not complain, for there were many who did not have that good a location.

My longest days of the War were after it was over. After the fighting was over, August 14, 1945, many of my friends started going home. There wasn't much work to do, it was just a matter of waiting five months for enough ships to return us home.

The 374th General Hospital was set up on the island of Tinian to receive the dead, wounded and the ill from the Iwo Jima and Okinawa campaigns, and eventually from anticipated battles in Japan.

The island of Tinian, next door to Saipan in the Western Pacific, is only about eight miles long, and three to four miles wide. The terrain at one end of the island was flat enough to construct four runways, almost from shore to shore, as a B-29 base. The hospital was built on a cliff overlooking the B-29 base. Many evenings we would watch the planes loaded with bombs take off for Japan on their bombing missions. Many times on our days off we would go down to the field to look at those huge B-29s, with bombs and purple hearts painted on the side to indicate the number of missions and the number of hits they took from the enemy.

It was from this island that the Enola Gay, named after the plane's pilot Col. Paul Tibbet's mother, carried the first atomic bomb. It took off to bomb Hiroshima August 9, 1945. Another B¬29, the Great Artist, dropped another atomic bomb over Nagasaki.

A few days after these bombings, my buddy and I walked to the airfield and found both the Enola Gay and the Great Artist parked along the runway. One of my War treasures is snapshots we took of these planes. There was nobody in the area, so we took the liberty of climbing inside the cockpit of the Enola Gay.

I cannot help but think about the futility of wars throughout the world to resolve the disagreements between nations or within a nation.

By Vernon Nixon
Submitted by Connie Ellis
Farmer City, Illinois

Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.