WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – A World War II veteran was in college at Kansas State when he heard details about the bombing of Pearl Harbor on the radio.
When the paratrooper looks back, the ones he served with mean the most.
It was 1942 when Don Herold and his college buddies tried to sign up to be pilots.
Herold and his good buddy former Senator Bob Dole were color blind so they couldn’t fly.
Herold ended up jumping out of planes instead.
“I tried to get in the Navy, and I couldn’t get in the Navy, and I tried to get in the Marines, and thank heaven I couldn’t get in the Marines,” WWII Veteran Don Herold said.
Herold was drafted into the Army the very next week.
“I was 19 on the troop train, going to California,” Herold said.
He scored so high on one test, he was a candidate for officer school.
“I wasn’t interested in being an officer,” Herold said.
Then, he said some interesting recruiters came through to visit with the troops.
“They said you want to join, it is the best of everything,” Herold said. “The paratroops, I thought that will be alright, I’ll try that.”
Herold said it also paid $50 more.
He was sold on that idea and was off to double time in no time.
“You didn’t walk anywhere,” Herold said.
He said training was intense.
“That was to eliminate those who were just there for a short while,” Herold said.
He said they did a lot of tumbling and tons of stretching, and they wore their harnesses everywhere.
Herold said the key was to learn how to stay in a harness, while dangling.
“We learned to pack our parachutes the third week,” Herold said.
The troops jumped in the parachutes they packed.
“I didn’t have any problems jumping,” Herold said. “You are so excited!”
He said before they jumped in war, they had a long journey on a troop train.
“Eventually, we went to Australia,” Herold said.
He said they made stops for soup along the way, and that didn’t fair well for the young recruits, and their digestive systems.
They only had one bathroom on board and windows.
“This sounds horrible, and it was, but we mooned Australia, that night,” Herold said.
One of Herold’s skills came in handy when it came to assignments.
“I was probably the only one in the company who could type, so I made batallion clerk,” Herold said.
He said the skill likely saved his life, he just didn’t realize it, at the time.
He said the jungle was very hot and damp.
“The Pacific, down in the New Guinea jungle,” Herold said. “I remember we all got jungle rot in our feet.”
He said he vividly remembers the Airbornes many drops.
“The jungles are not a good place for a parachute drop,” Herold said.
He said in many places the jungle met the ocean.
“It wasn’t a good place to jump, because there were so many injuries,” Herold said.
He said on one jump, his batallion was slated to go last, but they never jumped.
“There were so many casualties, 20% casualties,” Herold said.
He said those who survived then faced the enemy.
“On these islands, these Japanese were there, they’d fight, until they were whipped,” Herold said.
He said he once got orders to dig a foxhole.
“We dug it so fast and so deep, we had to backfill it,” Herold said. “We couldn’t even see out, it wasn’t operable.”
He said it was a terrifying Christmas Eve.
“They bombed us, they shelled us,” Herold said. “We were the only American troops to be shelled, by an enemy Navy.”
In the end, he said the U.S. Air Force won that fight.
“They sunk a destroyer, a Japanese destroyer there,” Herold said. “We were glad when it was over.”
He also remembers a scary time on a jump at Corregidor, in the Philippines.
“We jumped pretty close to the ground,” Herold said.
They bailed at less than 300 feet.
“I just hit heels, bottom, and the back of my head,” Herold said. ” It kind of knocked me senseless, for a minute or so.”
He said there were 8,000 Japanese troops, hiding in the hills.
“We were putting the pressure on them, and everybody was tired of the war,” Herold said.
When the war ended, they no longer had any problem with the enemy.
“We had them doing all kinds of menial work, shine our shoes and do everything,” Herold said.
Ten years after the war, Herold got a package, and a Bronze star.
“They gave me that medal because I ate Army food for three years,” Herold said.
He mentioned that in a book he wrote for his wife and three daughters.
In the book he stated, “I was simply there, I got shot, I didn’t run and I survived.”
“We did our part, what we were supposed to do,” Herold said.
Herold was not on Corregidor when the Japanese surrendered since he was in the hospital with Hepatitis and Dengue Fever.