Veteran Salute: WWII Vet earned Bronze Star

Veteran Salute

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – A WWII veteran said even though he had a farm deferment, he didn’t know if he would be drafted, so he wrote to the draft board.

In no time, Johnie Martin was off to war.

Martin said part of his job during the war was to release American prisoners of war, so he said he kept looking for his brother.

His brother was a B-17 co-pilot and was held a prisoner for 19 months, the brothers both made it home from the war.

“Somewhere in Italy it says,” Johnie Martin read from a letter.

Private Martin wrote the letter home to his parents while serving in WWII.

“Saw a lot of things I never expected to see,” WWII Veteran Johnie Martin said.

The young draftee also saw war first hand.

“Here’s a picture of me, when I first went in,” Martin said.

Martin said he was given quite a welcome.

“Some guy, who got there a day or two before me, when I came in the gate he told me I would be sorry,” Martin said.

He said after a long voyage overseas, the 44th Infantry Division started moving in from the South.

“I got on the front line about five days after the invasion,” Martin said.

He was part of a heavy weapons company.

“I didn’t have to carry a rifle, but we carried the machine gun on the back on the Jeep so when we needed it, we’d get it and set it up wherever we needed to,” Martin said.

He said WWII was brutal, and one mortar alone took many lives.

“We fired over there and they said we killed 1,100 Germans and that’s how I got the Bronze Star,” Martin said.

Martin has that and other memories in this keepsake box, although he says there’s no forgetting the coldest winter he’s ever experienced.

“I went for six months without taking a bath and never slept in a bed for the whole winter,” Martin said.

He remembers well when they saw the Statue of Liberty once again.

“It just made you feel proud, you know, that you were coming home to a country like this,” Martin said.

Old Glory, that once flew over the Nation’s Capital, still graces Martin’s wall, a gift from now Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“He found out I’d been in the service and that kind of thing, so he sent me that,” Martin said.

He said he is proud to have served, and he hopes future generations will realize the sacrifices made by his platoon of young men.

“We ought to be grateful for everything we have and realize what we have done in order to have this freedom and the best country in the world to live in,” Martin said.

He said he made a return to trip to Europe years later and said it was really something to see the places he once stood as a very young soldier.

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