Sharna Johnson: CNJ Staff Writer
Date of birth: Sept. 11, 1924
Dates of service: 1944 to 1946
Lives in: Clovis
Theater and location of service: Italy
Unit: 10th Mountain Division, 85th Infantry Regiment.
In his words: Spring thaw had begun and it was then the push began. Marching through the Poe Valley in Italy, Carpenter recalls that it was cold, wet and muddy.
“We didn’t take our shoes off at night because they would freeze and the next morning you couldn’t get them back on. It was pretty rough going.”
Fox holes were the safest place to sleep, he said.
“They were shooting artillery shells at us at night,” according to Carpenter, who said the men would just catch pockets of sleep, never fully relaxing, often taking turns at guard duty.
Carpenter was sent to the front lines as first scout on more than one occasion, replacing men who had been killed.
“I was just a kid and I was scared to death over there.
“I never got a scratch. Somebody up above was looking out for me.”
Date of birth: Dec. 26, 1918
Dates of service: 1941 to 1946
Lives in: Portales
Theater and location of service: Pacific
Branch: Army, National Guard
Rank: Staff sergeant
Unit: 200th Coastal Artillery
In his words: Butler spent 3 1/2 years as a POW under the brutal control of the Japanese.
When the Americans began gaining ground in the Philippines, the prisoners were moved to the mainland.
“It was pretty rough. They put us in the ship and tied us up as much as they could. I’m estimating (the trip took) 40 days. We couldn’t sit down. Your knees and legs — you couldn’t tell which you was bending. We couldn’t walk they were so numb. We didn’t have water. We would throw towels out into the salt water. It helped moisten our skin.
They tried to feed you a little rice. I don’t think they intended for us to stay alive.”
At one point during his detention, Butler thought for sure he was going to be killed when a prisoner escaped.
Butler and nine other men who shared the same sleeping area were rounded up. They knew the drill, Butler said. They were going to be shot — retribution for the escape. Just in time, a radio communication from Tokyo saved their lives. Japanese command had ordered no more prisoners were to be killed.
“I’m not a very religious man, but you felt like somebody was on your side,” Butler said. The man who had escaped was assisting other escapees in the jungles. The medicine he had taken was quinine — treatment for malaria.
“You didn’t think about it. I didn’t expect to get back. We took things as they came and made the best of it.”