World War II veterans remain proud of service
FARMINGTON — On Dec. 7, 1941, Martin Johnson and his friend headed out to cut down white fir trees. They planned on selling Christmas trees to Raton residents.
When they returned to Raton with the trees, a child on a bicycle informed them that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor.
Johnson said he didn't believe the child at first.
"He was kind of a loud mouth kid," Johnson recalled.
When his family turned on the radio that day, a broadcaster confirmed the child's story.
Before the attack, on April 30,1941, Stanley Graham, who moved to Bloomfield in 1975, had enlisted in military. He was stationed at Fort Lewis, Wash. when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.
Both Graham and Johnson served in the Pacific theater during the war and both of the men were at Okinawa at one point in their careers. Graham served as wire chief and as telephone and telegraph supervisor on Okinawa with the U.S. Army's 3181st Signal Service Battalion.
Graham served in the military until Jan. 13, 1946. During his time in service, he reached the rank of staff sergeant.
While he is now 100 years old, he remains proud of his service and has often said, “I marched with the most formidable fighting force the world has even known.”
Because of his age and health, Graham was unable to meet with The Daily Times for an interview. His daughter, Zadeea Harris, described him as a young cowboy who enlisted before the war began with the knowledge that the country could soon be entering the conflict.
He would later tell his family that he and his brother saw the war coming and knew they had to do something about it.
Graham became the seventh man from Sweetwater, Wyo., to enlist under the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940. His brother also enlisted under the act, which required all men between the ages of 21 and 36 to register with the local draft board. Graham was 24 years old at the time. He joined the 115th Cavalry Regiment, which was a Wyoming National Guard unit.
"The whole family's just very proud of him," she said.
While Graham enlisted in the military before World War II began, Johnson was drafted into the U.S. Navy the week after he graduated from Del Norte High School in Colorado in June 1943.
While serving in the South Pacific, mines exploded near Johnson's ship and a suicide bomber plane crashed into the ocean about 50 feet away from the ship's stern.
Johnson, 92, recalled seeing the plane diving toward the ship and knowing that pilots tended to aim for the bridge, which is where he was at the time.
While in the U.S. Navy, he saw men who went to college serving as officers, inspiring him to pursue an education.
“I wanted to set my sights a little higher,” he said.
In March 1945, Johnson was discharged from the U.S. Navy. Within a week, he was enrolled at a junior college in Trinidad, Colo. He later graduated from the Los Angeles College of Optometry with a PhD.
Johnson said his time in the military encouraged him to improve his life.
"My dad was in the grocery business," he said. "I probably would have ended up tin the grocery business."
Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.