On Dec. 7, 1941, when Pearl Harbor was attacked, I was 15 years of age. During the summer of 1944, I turned 18 and received a letter from President Harry S. Truman that said “Greetings.”

It instructed me to report for a pre-induction physical — which I failed to pass. I was known as a “4-F,” and my ego was at its lowest.

I went to high school in Chino, California, at the California Junior Republic, a school for boys. I’d gotten in trouble when I was young, and I was a ward of the court, so I got sent there. Steve McQueen went to the same school years later.

After high school, I took a job at RKO Studios, a film production and distribution company, for 59 cents an hour. And around the following spring, the government wanted me to return to the Pacific Electric Building in downtown Los Angeles for another physical. This time they found me “1-A” and fit for service.

On April 21, 1945, I was inducted into the U.S. Army at Fort MacArthur in California after being processed and then bussed to Camp Roberts for basic infantry training for 15 weeks. After a short delay en route, I reported to Fort Ord.

After being outfitted, I was sent to Camp Stoneman at Pittsburg, California prior to boarding the Gen. Blackwell troop ship.

After 10 days of a miserable voyage — we caught the tail end of a typhoon — we arrived in Japan for what was planned to be an occupation, which lasted one year for me.

Our first billeting was at Camp Zama in Japan in the newly named Fourth Replacement Depot.

When I had the opportunity to venture off the base, as I was walking one morning, I came upon some peasants who were working in a field. As I approached, they bowed toward me and all were saying “Oh hio, oh hio,” and I yelled back, “No, California.” I later found out “Oh hio” in Japanese, means “good morning.”

After returning to the U.S. and being discharged, I spent nine years in the Army Reserves.

I married a native girl from the Phillipines who I met through a guy who had run an ad in a Hong Kong newspaper. I got all of these different women writing to me, and I finally went over there to Hong Kong, where I met my wife. The second time I went back, I married her right there.

Some time later, we came to Douglas County and looked around, and we liked it here. So we moved to Myrtle Creek for four years before moving to Roseburg.

I went to college on the G.I. Bill and took business classes, but didn’t like it. So I got into music and eventually got proficient enough to where I began working music jobs. For two years I was working construction during the week and music jobs on the weekend.

There was one error on my discharge. It states that I was in the 53rd Quartermaster Dry Cleaning Detachment. This was not true. I never did any dry cleaning, or knew of any personnel in this bogus unit, although I had been assigned to a Quartermaster Laundry Company when I was at Shinagawa, but this was only temporary, as the unit was soon dissolved.

If it had not been for the atom bombs ending the war, I and thousands of other G.I.s would have been taking part in the invasion of the mainland Japan.

Fred Nelson of Roseburg is a 92-year-old World War II veteran who served in Japan in the U.S. Army at the end of the war in 1945.

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Dan Bain is the health reporter for The News-Review. He previously worked at KPIC and 541 Radio.

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