Tuesday is Veterans Day. KSMU's Jennifer Moore sat down with one local veteran who, 64 years ago today, was on the other side of the world fighting under General Douglas MacArthur.
Under the command of General Douglas MacArthur, Staff Sergeant Glen Scott landed in Lingayen Gulf, the Philippines, in October of 1944. It was the United States’ second attempt to defeat the Japanese forces occupying the Philippines. The first attempt two years earlier had failed.
“Well, we landed in Lingayen Gulf unopposed. We went inland to the small town of San Manuel, where we ran into very stiff Japanese opposition,” Scott recalls.
Staff Sergeant Scott was 20 years old. He was a machine gunner in the infantry.
“We fought there, I think, for four days. And then the Japanese launched a Banzai charge with tanks and whatever they had. And we of course won the battle, and our infantry company was awarded a presidential citation,” he says.
And that was only the first battle. From there, they fought their way across the Luzon plain and into the mountains, where the terrain and the opposition were fierce. All of his officers were either killed or wounded. By that time, Scott had earned one Purple Heart. That injury was “nothing serious,” he says. But before long, he would be on the receiving end of friendly fire.
“They fired these 4.2 mortars, and some of them didn’t go where they were supposed to. And one of them landed about 10 yards from where I was. And as soon as it landed, I was flat on the ground. And then one landed right beside me,” he said.
Scott had shrapnel through the back of his neck, and his right arm, and his back. It nearly killed him. He was flown to a hospital, where he spent two months recovering.
“As I was recovering there, several fellow casualties were in the same ward. Some had arms and legs off, really very serious injuries. And it was sort of depressing for me to be in there. And I told the doctors that I would like to get out of there,” he remembers.
So, he returned to duty. Scott lost a good part of his hearing in that mortar explosion, and he still struggles to hear today. That earned him his second Purple Heart. In addition to that, he earned two Bronze Stars and a host of other honorable mentions.
I asked him when he was most afraid.
“The Japanese had a one-man machine gun that was very effective,” he recalls. “Seemed to me that he could fire forever without reloading. But when he started shooting like that, you were gonna hit the ground. And that was deciding what you were going to do: try to take him out, or find out where he was shooting from.
“That is somewhat frightening. But it is not close to what you experience when you’re sitting in a foxhole, and they have shells coming in and exploding right behind you and all around you. And you’re just scared to death there,” he says.
Moore: I see you have a box here, and old, tin box…can you open this up and show me what’s inside?
Scott: Well, my brother-in-law, who was an industrial arts teacher, made this box…
He kept all the letters he received from home in this box, and to my surprise, when he opened it in front of me, many of them were still there. He opened one and read it for me: it was a letter from his buddy in California, telling him who was dating whom back home, and asking him if he’d had anything decent to drink in awhile.
After the war was over, Staff Sergeant Glen Scott was with the US troops that entered Japan, and witnessed the devastation the war had on Japanese civilians. He returned to the United States after the war and became a chiropractor in Springfield, Missouri.
Now 84 years old, Dr. Glen Scott is one of the nation’s precious remaining World War Two veterans. To this day, he tears up when he thinks of the friends he lost in war, and still asks himself why he survived and they didn’t.
Of all his Purple Hearts, Bronze Stars and medals, Scott says the only one he’s proud of is his Good Conduct Medal.
For KSMU News, I’m Jennifer Moore.