Five Waldo County veterans take part in 'honor flight' to Washington, D.C.
The Republican Journal met with World War II veterans Albert Jackson of Morrill and Roy Ward, Freedom's oldest resident, at the Belfast Municipal Airport Monday, Aug. 25. They were preparing to take a small plane to Portland, where they would join 23 other WWII veterans on a flight sponsored by Honor Flight Maine, a nonprofit organization, to visit the national war memorials in Washington, D.C. Friends, family and honor guards met the group at the Portland International Jetport to see them off.
On Tuesday, in Washington, D.C., the group was treated to a buffet breakfast, a tour of the war memorials, including the World War II memorial, to be followed by dinner and a social evening at the Hilton BWI Airport Hotel. The group will return to Maine on Wednesday.
Jackson's grandson Ryan Jackson of Morrill, who served in Iraq, is accompanying his grandfather on the trip.
Two more veterans participating in the honor flight, Madeline and Clarence Littlefield of Searsport, joined the party after the interview. Madeline Littlefield was a clerk typist at the 5th Army Headquarters in Chicago during the Korean War, and Clarence Littlefield was in the Army Motor Pool in the Philippines in World War II.
TRJ: Where did you serve in WWII?
Albert Jackson: I was in the 43rd Division in the Pacific.
Ward: I was in the Navy and did convoy duty in the Atlantic.
TRJ: And when did you serve in Iraq?
Ryan Jackson: I served in 2011.
TRJ: What have you done for work since you got out of the Army?
Albert Jackson: I was in the occupation force for seven or eight months in Japan. Then I got out. I farmed for a while; I had a dairy farm in Morrill. Then I went to work at Thomaston State Prison for 20 years.
Ward: I got out in '47. Then I worked as a mechanic in a garage in Freedom. After I left the garage, when I retired, I went to work in a stove shop in Thorndike.
Ryan Jackson: Right now I work at Waldo County Hospital doing security and I'm going to Beal College in Bangor. I'm studying conservation law enforcement there. I want to be a warden or state trooper.
Alfred "Sandy" Reynolds, chief pilot and pilot examiner, at Belfast Municipal Airport, mentioned that he served in the Army from 1966 to '68, and said he used the G.I. Bill to get his pilot credentials.
Ryan Jackson: That's what I'm using right now. I'm using the G.I. Bill for school. It's quite a big help. It is tremendous.
TRJ: Have you ever been to Washington, D.C., before?
Albert Jackson: I have, a long time ago.
Ward: I've been there, in the '40s. There's been some change I would imagine. You could walk right into the Capitol Building then.
Albert Jackson: You can't now.
Ward: No, you can't get within 100 yards of it now.
Ryan Jackson: I've only been to Washington, D.C., once, and haven't seen the monuments.
TRJ: Do you have any particularly memorable stories of your time in the war?
Albert Jackson: There's a lot of stories!
Ward: We lost a rack of depth charges off Halifax, Nova Scotia, in a storm. It started us leaking pretty bad. We went into Halifax for temporary repairs. Then we went to Hoboken, N.J., to the dry dock. That was a little exciting.
Albert Jackson: Did they all go off?
Ward: Yeah they did. I was in the engine room. They were set for 50 feet. They blew the stern into the air, and put the lights out and everything else.
Albert Jackson: It's a wonder it hadn't sunk you right there.
Ward: The electrician on watch in the engine room got the lights back on.
Albert Jackson: We got in a typhoon on our way to the Philippines. We tried to go around it. That was quite exciting for a while.
TRJ: Was there damage to your ship?
Albert Jackson: There wasn't any damage that I know of, but it was impossible to even eat. The ship would be up in the stars and then go as if it was going right down to the bottom.
Ward: You couldn't sit down to eat, right? I know all about that.
TRJ: Did you get seasick?
Albert Jackson: Oh, everybody was sick. It was a mess. It almost seemed better to get on land. [Combat] would have been less threatening then the typhoon.
Ward: It would be better on "terra firma:" more firmer, less terror.
You know how you bunk four high, in compartments? I was thinking in my bunk one night, the guy below me was from Seattle, Wash., and I was from Maine. That was about as far apart as you could get, you know?
When we were in dry dock, we were on an old ship, which had riveted plates, not welded. They took plates off to fix leaks and stuff. Guys who didn't have liberty would go right down through the decks and into the dry dock and onto shore. Where there's a will there's a way!
TRJ: What was your most hazardous experience in the war?
Albert Jackson: I was a radio operator on a forward observer team, and they used to nickname the radio operator "sniper bait." That was a joke among us on the team. I mean, you knock out the radio and there's no more communications. So you felt kind of "good" being sniper bait. The other guys didn't worry too much, because they knew the first guy to go didn't get hit.
When they dropped the [atomic] bomb, I was on Luzon Island in the Philippines. Then they dropped the next one, and Japan surrendered. That was probably the biggest thrill we had, because they were planning to invade.
TRJ: How would you say warfare has changed since you were serving?
Albert Jackson: Well, in WWII, you were in it to win, no restrictions.
Ward: We were fighting for our life back then. It was a different world.
Ryan Jackson: Back in WWII you were fighting a completely different army, you were actually fighting an opposing army, as opposed to the battle in the Middle East — it's guerrilla warfare, like in Vietnam, and it's just a totally different battle. You have a totally different way of approaching that.
Now, I know personally, they have so many rules of engagement that you have to follow. I think politics is more involved in war now than it was back then. The rules of engagement were more lenient than they are now. Now you have an R.O.E. to follow. Back then, if you get shot at, you shoot back, no matter what. Now, if they go into a mosque or something, they have all these different rules.... But ISIS doesn't care about the rules. If we fought like them, we wouldn't care about anything I guess.
Ward: I think there were more opportunities for jobs after WWII. The country was trying to build up and get back. Because they stopped manufacturing cars during WWII, for one thing, right? And all the automobile factories started up. There was plenty of work if you wanted to work.
TRJ: Are you excited about this trip? Are you going see anyone you know?
Albert Jackson: Yes. I know Roy.
Ward: We've known each other for a number of years.
Albert Jackson: I don't know, we might be lucky enough to see somebody we served with, you know?
Ryan: It will be quite an honor just to see the WWII monument.
TRJ: Well, thank you for your service and have a great trip!
Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified Madeline Littefield as a WWII veteran, but she is a Korean War veteran.
Update: Honor Flight Maine flies World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War veterans to visit memorials in Washington, D.C. Anyone who would like to apply for a flight or donate to the organization can visit www.honorflightmaine.org.