WWII Vet: Paul Green

(Bob Holeman conducted this series of interviews with local World War II in 2011-12.  Most of those 34 American heroes have passed away in the decade since).

Many veterans maintain souvenirs and reminders of their service…photos, memorabilia, scrapbooks.  Paul Green carries his with him in the form of a portable oxygen tank and the entry scars of enemy shrapnel that remains in his body today.

That came from Korea.  Green also served in the end of World War II, the “Big War,” and came out without a scratch.  The war in Korea, though never declared, was certainly fought.  “I don’t regret anything for serving,” he stated.  “When I see people going freely through the streets and everything, I see the results of my service.”

Paul Green, son of Mr. and Mrs. James M. Green Sr. of Cypress Creek, was born August 21, 1927, and his twin sister, Pauline, followed shortly thereafter.  Their father, like so many in those days, was a farmer trying to scratch a living from the ground by producing cotton, corn and peanuts while raising some cows and hogs.

“I learned the farm and everything,” Green said as he looked back on his youth.  “They taught Agriculture in school.  It was one of four mandatory subjects.  For my first year of schooling, I attended Cypress Creek school but didn’t get to go enough days to get a report card, what with the weather, rain, snow, then whooping cough, measles, mumps.” 

He got off on a better foot the next year when he started at Dodson.  “I stayed with it until I graduated in 1945.  I had average grades but I enjoyed all of the sports.  I played four years of basketball.  They’d dropped football the year before I started so if we played, it wasn’t competitive.  I was the catcher for both baseball and softball.  And I was on the boxing team.  We competed all over Louisiana and in Texas, Arkansas and Mississippi.”

Green was 17 when he got out of DHS.  The national draft had been lowered to 18 as the war in the Pacific was making grim progress towards Japan.  “I didn’t want the Army so just quick as I graduated, I went to Alexandria to volunteer for the Navy.  He was processed and sworn into service July 17, 1945.  Japan would surrender a month later but there was still much work to do.

Boot camp at San Diego was supposed to be eight weeks but he’d only been there six when they were sent to San Jose for a night.  Then to Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay where they boarded a ship that sailed to Pearl Harbor.  Nearly four years after the deadly Japanese attack, the devastation of the bombing to buildings, piers and sunken ships all over the bay was terrible, he said.

Next stop was Samar in the northern Philippines where an LST at Subic Bay transported the men to the USS Auman, an attack personnel destroyer heading to Manila Bay.  “I had some training with Navy SEALS in demolition…defusing dud mines that had been left behind.  They were caught in nets before they could float into ports.  We also handled prisoners.  We had to take prisoners from islands to Jap transport ships, then our job was done.”

In the spring of 1946, Green was assigned to the USS Wildcat, an auxiliary ship that desalinated saltwater.  “We sailed to the Atoll Islands.  On the way, we passed some of the most beautiful islands you’ve ever seen.  Palm trees, beaches, mountains, birds flying everywhere, deep blue water.  We couldn’t stop but the captain slowed down the ship and told us about what we were seeing.”

What else he would be seeing over the next few months was the dawning of America’s nuclear testing program.  At Bikini Atoll, 23 nuclear devices were detonated between 1946 and 1958. Green was part of the team that prepared for the first test.  One cruiser, two destroyers and two attack transports were anchored around the atoll.  Placed aboard was equipment connected by wires to monitoring devices.  “I put out wires and buoys, diving from one ship to another.  They were monitoring the area but we couldn’t see the results.  The morning they did the first test (July 1, 1946), they loaded us all up on a troop transport and shipped us out.  It was fast because we’d been gone just two hours when they dropped the bomb.  We were barely out of danger.  We heard it but didn’t see anything.  It was over the horizon.”

That was the final assignment for this Naval Reserve unit.  They returned to the states and Green was discharged in New Orleans on July 10, 1946.

He figured he’d seen the last of his service days.  He returned home and went to work in the log woods and enjoyed the work he did.  But the conflict in Korea broke out.  On Feb. 9, 1951, the Naval Reserve called Green back into service.  He was transferred to the Army and sent to Fort Rucker, AL, where he was trained in regimental combat. 

“By May of 1951, I was in Korea, above Pusan where I was picked up by Battery C, 99th Artillery Battalion.  They took me to the front but we lost our jeep before we got there.  It was hit by mortar fire.  We jumped out and let it roll into a ditch.  Fortunately, we weren’t hit.  I was a map reader, a forward observer.  You had to be good in math.  At that time, all the guns were manual and the F.O. had to tell them how to adjust to hit the target.”

On Oct. 9 Green was hit by incoming shells and was dragged back to safety by another member of the P.O. team, Daniel O. Mestas, of Colorado Springs.  Unconscious for 12 days, he awoke in a Nagoya, Japan, air base hospital, totally deaf initially.  He was transferred to Yokohama for another five and a half months of treatment, improving slightly.

“When they turned me loose from that hospital, I was tagged EVAC-21.”  They were going to send me home.  I pulled that off and threw it away.  I was going back to my outfit.”  He succeeded but the cost was high.  Nearly the entire First Cavalry Division was lost in hand-to-hand combat.

“They finally pulled us back off that line, we’d lost so many men.  They sent us to Hokkaido, the most northern island in Japan.  Replacements arrived to strengthen our manpower and equipment.  On Oct. 15, 1952, we made our final invasion in Korea, landing in Wonsan, on the northeast coast above the 38th Parallel.  We stayed up there until Christmas Eve night 1952.  It was cold, colder than you’d believe.  We left the front line at 9:30 and loaded onto a ship Christmas Day.”

Processed through Japan, the soldiers began their journey home.  That journey for Green took him through Fort Sam Houston TX for discharge.  “The Army wanted me to go to the hospital there but I’d had enough of that.  I ran away from them.”

The disabled veteran found himself a job at the paper mill in Hodge but he said the people in his own Cypress Creek community got together in August and wanted him to take over the school bus route for Wayne Taylor.  For the next 18 months, he did both, working the graveyard shift at the mill but he finally dropped the mill work.

“I drove the bus until 1961,” he said.  “Then I went back to cutting logs.  I really enjoyed being outside.  Then I got an offer to cut virgin hardwood in Concordia Parish at twice the price of cutting Southern pine.  I spent 4-1/2 years there.  I cut logs until 1989 when my breathing problems showed up.  Shrapnel in my body started breaking loose and messing up my lungs.  I was hit three times over there.”

In his early life, Green had known Betty Durbin.  She was just in third grade the year he graduated.  “She tells me I picked at her, saying I’d marry her one day.  I saw her between the wars but she was still a schoolgirl.  I had one date with her in 1951.  We stayed in contact while I was gone.  I went to see her three days after I returned in 1953.  I had bought a new pickup truck.  I dated her every time I had a chance.  She graduated that year…she was 17 at the time.    But we waited until July 26 to get married so she’d be 18.  Her birthday is July 21.”

The couple had two sons, Tommy and Danny, as well as five grandsons and three great grandchildren.

For his services, Green received the Purple Heart, commendations for bravery and good conduct and numerous ribbons and citations including 4 bronze stars for major battles.