Vet recalls honor

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 12, 2007

The Selma Times-Journal

One Black Belt veteran will be remembering his own World War II experiences today with honor and respect.

&8220;Whatever branch you were in, Army, Navy, you were proud. You were proud to be a Marine then,&8221; Earl Parker says.

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Parker was born and raised on the south edge of Perry County.

After graduating from Suttle High School, he joined the Navy in September 1943 at the age of 18.

Parker’s interest in joining the Navy also came partly because he’d &8220;seen enough movies to know not to go into the Army,&8221; considering the intensity of combat and difficult living situations for Army soldiers.

He ended up with the Seabees, a construction outfit for the Marine Corps, traveling all through the Pacific.

After going through Navy boot camp in Camp Perry, Va., Parker was shipped out to Camp Pendleton in California, where he was then attached to the 3rd Marine Division of the Marine Corps.

After completing a second round of boot camp and Marine training, Parker became a part of the 53rd Construction Battalion and was dispatched overseas, into the Pacific.

First stop was Hawaii, then New Caledonia.

At his next assignment, Guadalcanal, Parker helped to build an extension onto Henderson Field, which is now the only international airport in the Solomon Islands.

The United States government used landing craft ships to carry the heavy equipment between the islands.

The ships were bulky and unable to come ashore, so they had ramps, which opened and came closer to the shoreline, but still didn’t touch land.

So the equipment had to go through the water. &8220;You just ran the bulldozer through the water,&8221; Parker said. &8220;They could go through about four feet of water.&8221;

After Guadalcanal, Parker’s Battalion went to Guam in the Mariana Islands, where they were placed on standby.

The Seabees came behind the Marines with bulldozers, Parker said. Guam was turned into a base for the Allied forces. The Seabees built five airfields on the island.

Parker had to fill all the holes in the airstrip on the island. Parker also helped rebuild the North Field, the place from where the plane that bombed Nagasaki took off.

After Guam, Parker came back to the United States. He received an honorable discharge in February 1946 and came back to Selma. He then began working for a pipeline outfit based out of New York. His job would take him through Europe, South America, and the Middle East.

Parker said today is a time to remember what was done. &8220;It always brings back memories…I’m proud of the way most places celebrate Veteran’s Day,&8221; Parker said.