Herman Berkstaller, Tom Carter, Dr. E.O. Stewart, Martha Stewart

Sharna Johnson

Editor’s note: World War II officially ended Sept. 2, 1945, when the Japanese signed surrender terms. We’re honoring the war’s area veterans over the next several months with these brief profiles.

Herman Berkstaller
Born: 1922
Dates of service: Aug. 8, 1942 to Sept. 1945
Hometown: Roswell
Lives in: Elida
Theater or location of service: China, Burma and India, western Pacific
Unit and specialty: 20th Air Force, B-29 flight engineer
After discharge: El Paso, Texas

Veteran organizations: American Legion, VFW Albuquerque
Berkstaller said he was in the same unit as former Alabama governer George C. Wallace, who survived an assassination attempt in 1972. Berkstaller was stationed in Clovis for a few months at the Clovis Army Air Base in 1942 prior to going overseas. He remembers how the native women in India would build runways for the military, toiling in the heat and moving dirt by carrying it in large baskets on their heads. During his military time, he served in 25 combat missions.

Tom Carter
Date of birth: Feb. 24, 1915
Dates of service: 1937-1946
Hometown: Melrose
Lives in: Clovis
Theater or location of service: South Pacific
Military branch: Army
Rank: Staff sergeant
Unit and specialty: 24th Infantry Division, 1st sergeant
After discharge: Melrose

Carter continued active duty for some time after the war and then worked for the civil service, still maintaining a connection to the military. While proud of his veteran status and his service to his country, had only one thing to say about the war itself.

“It stunk.”

Dr. E.O. “Doc” Stewart
Born: Sept. 2, 1924
Dates of Service: December 1940 to January 1946
Home town: Paducah,Texas
Lives in: Clovis
Theater or location of service: Served in the Pacific for 1 1/2 years, stateside for the remainder of tour
Military branch: Navy
Rank: Chief pharmacist
Unit and specialty: PT Squadron 27, motor torpedo boat squadron, trained as a pharmacist
After discharge: Lubbock

During his service in World War II, Stewart met his wife, Martha, who was serving as a Navy nurse in San Diego. Of all that he experienced during his service, the only thing Stewart wants to recall about the war was that it gave him his wife of 62 years, “the best thing that ever happened to me.”

Martha Stewart
Born: July 12, 1920
Dates of Service: 1942-1943
Hometown: Hallock, Minn.
Theater or location of service: Navy pier, Chicago, and Balboa Naval Hospital, San Diego.
Military branch: Navy
Rank: Lieutenant
Unit and specialty: Assigned to a hospital. Specialized in obstetrics but served in surgery.
After discharge: Hallock, Minn.

Stewart cared for the wounded servicemen that came in on ships from the South Pacific and Guadalcanal. She said they were put on cots on the lawn of the hospital until they could be assessed for care. Trained as an obstetric nurse, Stewart found that there was a need for her skills even at a war hospital. The great influx of women who were visiting the wounded, arriving or departing servicemen created a tremendous need for family-related medical services families. Stewart was placed in charge of starting a new hospital unit to handle the services. In the first month of operation the unit handled 22 births and was up to 250 per month by the time Stewart left. The women’s unit that Stewart helped to start is still active at Balboa Naval Hospital. Following her engagement to her husband of 62 years, “Doc,” she was forced to resign her commission with the Navy — at that time married women were prohibited from service. She returned to Minnesota and worked at a civilian hospital until she was reunited with her husband. Stewart said she wouldn’t change her experience for anything. Above all else, she is grateful to the war for introducing her to her husband.

World War II profiles are compiled by CNJ staff writer Sharna Johnson. Contact her at 763-6991 or by e-mail:
sharna_johnson@link.freedom.com