MCPHERSON, Kan. (KSNW) — At 100 years old, Carl Kasey is as sharp as a tack recalling his role in training hundreds of American soldiers for one of the most dangerous jobs in trying to defeat Japan during World War II.
He was born five miles south of McPherson and went to school in a one-room schoolhouse, eventually pursuing his dream of obtaining a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. But after three years of college, everything changed, and he quickly found himself at a military induction ceremony in Kansas City.
“I had had three years of college. Most of [the recruits] were just out of high school. One of the [military] doctors said, ‘Shine a flashlight in one ear, and if it does not come out the other ear, sign him up,'” Kasey said with a chuckle.
In the summer of 1943, Kasey headed to the College of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. He would participate in the brand new V-12 Navy College Training Program there. The program launched in July 1943 to quickly produce and train commissioned officers to meet increasing demand.
“And that was kind of like boot camp for the Navy,” Kasey said. “I took a course in chemistry and a course in German, which didn’t do me any good because I was later sent to the Pacific and not to Europe.”
After a semester there, he was sent to Columbia University for midshipman’s school, where he became proficient in Morse and semaphore codes.
“In those days, the radios were not as good as today, and the Japanese could intercept their messages, so if [the ships] were close enough, they used all of these different flags, which we were supposed to memorize,” Kasey said.
However, he says the most challenging course he took was aircraft identification.
“To take a test, they flashed [pictures] on a screen, and you had to write the name of the airplane within about three seconds,” Kasey said.
Upon graduation, Kasey would receive orders to San Diego’s Amphibious Operating Base, where he would soon head for the Hawaiian Islands.
“They announced over their radio that the Allies had landed in France, so I could always remember I left the United States on June the 6th, 1944,” Kasey said.
Kasey would primarily serve on the island of Maui, training Army recruits in amphibious warfare.
“We were part of a training group to help train the Army how to come to an island and get out in the island,” Kasey said. “So they built a tall wooden dock there that represented a troop ship. It was about four stories high. Army groups would come there, walk up the ramp to the top, and they’d come down on cargo nets carrying a rifle, a small shovel, all the other gear they needed on that island.”
From there, the recruits would climb aboard what’s known as an LCVP, short for Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel.
“When it was full, the coxswain who drove it would go out about half a mile in the Pacific Ocean, and make a circle, and just keep circling until all eight were out there,” Kasey said. “We’d give a signal, and that circle of boats would straighten out into one line and fastly go to the beach … When the bottom of the landing craft hit sand, the soldiers would jump out into a foot or two of water, get up on the beach and either dig a hole or get behind trees to pretend like we didn’t want the Japanese to shoot at them.”
After his time on Maui, Kasey would receive orders to another amphibious operating base in Bainbridge, Maryland, before retiring as a lieutenant junior grade. He says he’s proud to have been part of the support team for those who would fight in the Pacific theater.
“We were doing our job, they were doing their job, and both were needed. So, I was satisfied with what I was doing and satisfied what they were doing,” he said.
Kasey served 10 years in the Reserves. He would go on to teach ninth-grade science in McPherson for 28 years. He retired at the age of 83. He turned 100 this year.
If you want to nominate a veteran for our Veteran Salute, email KSN reporter Hannah Adamson at email@example.com.