Kenneth McMahan, Charles Wiley

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.

Kenneth McMahan
Date of birth: July 29, 1918
Lives in: Clovis
Hometown: St. Vrain
Dates of service: Jan. 17, 1941 to Sept. 16, 1945
Theater and location of service: South Pacific
Branch and rank: Army, technical sergeant
Unit and specialty: 112th Cavalry Regiment

In his words: A little black book of Catholic scripture served as his companion through the war. Tattered and worn, the gift from a Sunday school teacher in his youth. He still has it today.

“I carried it all through the war with me. I felt like I was a little safer and thinking that the Lord was with me and protecting me even though it was very dangerous.”

Trained as a cavalry soldier and a cook, McMahan was sent to the jungles of the South Pacific.

The Japanese actively attacked their camps, including one when they were bombed nine times. The men often spending the night in fox holes.

“A lot of times you’d lay there and think ‘what if they got us.’”
One night, McMahan went in early to begin preparing food. Standing in the screened in kitchen cutting chickens, he spotted a Japanese soldier poised to throw a hand grenade at him.

Before he could act, the intruder was “cut down” by machine gun fire from a nearby American soldier. McMahan took the bayonet from his dead enemy — “I still have it.” He said the souvenir reminded him of how close he came to death
McMahan received a Bronze Star and five combat medals.

Charles Wiley
Date of birth: Feb. 14, 1922
Dates of service: August 1941 to October, 1945
Hometown: Santa Rosa
Lives in: Portales
Theater and location of service: Pacific
Branch: Navy
Rank: Lieutenant Junior Grade

Unit and specialty: USS Richard M. Rowell DE, gunnery
In his words: Wiley’s ship was one of many responsible for guarding aircraft carriers against submarines and kamikazes during invasions. “We were minor enough that nobody wanted us — what they wanted was the aircraft carrier we surrounded.”

Wiley said his ship sunk one submarine and provided consistent anti-aircraft fire.

“During (the invasion of) Luzon, we had several kamikazes attack our group. We tried firing at them as they came in. It was rather interesting to watch it. They would come in and head straight for the carrier.”

Traveling by sea for the first time, several things stood out to Wiley, a New Mexico native — the absence of twilight buffering the transition from day to night in the South pacific and the size of the ocean.

“You sail for days on end and land is never in sight that made and an impression.”

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