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Interview with Kermit Bushur [8/27/2005]

Carrie Schneider:

My name is Carrie Schneider. I'm with the Veterans History Project and I am here in Washington, D.C. with Tony Busher, who is with Merrill's Marauders. Today is August 27th, 2005, and we're here at a Merrill's Marauders reunion and Mr. Busher is going to talk to us about his experiences in the jungle.

Kermit Bushur:

Okay. Start with the first question.

Carrie Schneider:

Okay. So, if you would just start by telling us your name, your birthday, what war you served in and what unit you were in.

Kermit Bushur:

Okay. My mother was intrigued by the name Kermit from Teddy Roosevelt's son, who was Kermit. It was a heck of a name for me because I could not pronounce it. Whenever I'd go into town, the boys would ask me what's your name? I'd say, Joe, John, Mike, anything but Kermit because I couldn't even pronounce it. But eventually I grew to liking my own name.

But in college then whenever you're playing football and you're going for a touchdown, you can't hardly say go Kermit, go. So I used my middle name, which was Anthony, and Tony. I became Tony and I've stayed Tony most all of my life since then.

Now my service career started in, Pearl Harbor happened the first year I was a freshman in college. I remember coming back to the frat house and everybody was glued to the radio and they were being bombed at Pearl Harbor. It was a devastating blow and I remember the look on many of the boys' faces. They couldn't believe it and some of them just wandered around in a cloud for a while and some even went down and they volunteered immediately to go into service.

I completed the year of schooling and then that summer wanting something to do and trying to sort out what I was going to do, the government made available schooling, which was called NYA schools and they were teaching machine shop, sheet metal work and welding. I chose machine shop and I took their training and I then went to work in Chicago in a plant and that's where I was really then getting ready to go in the service.

I thought, well, I want to go in the service. I lived about 200 miles from Chicago and on the way home one time I went to the Draft Board to see why I wasn't being drafted. Everybody my age was being drafted. Well, to my surprise, the factory had made my work very, very much needed, so they got me a deferment. Well, I went back up and I quit that job immediately, came back home, and I thought surely I would be called back up. Well, I was not.

Weeks went by and I was not being called up by the draft, so I went back to the Draft Board and they said well, now you're the only son left on the farm. Your brother has been drafted and he's in service so you have to stay home and farm. I said, I am not a farmer. You have drafted the farmer. I said, I'm going to go in the service. They said well, I'm sorry. You're going to have to stay home and farm. So I went home and I left the farm to go to visit a sister in another area and I thought well, surely they'd see I'm not farming. They'll still call me. But they didn't.

I went to the Draft Board again and they said well, the only way you can get into service is by writing us a voluntary letter of induction, which I did. I wrote them a voluntary letter of induction and lo and behold the next week I was on the train going to the Draft Board or to the examination area, which is in Chicago. Now in basic training I went to Little Rock, Arkansas and it was B-I-R-T-C, which is Branch Immaterial Replacement Training Center or Company or whatever it might be, but we were being prepared to enter almost any one of the branches of the service. It Might have been Quarter Master. It might have been engineers. It might have been many different things, but that's why they called it Branch Immaterial. So at the conclusion of the training we were put on the train and we ended up at Sharon, Pennsylvania at the place, they call it Shinangle.

I got word that my brother was getting married and he asked me to be his best man. So I went to the company Commander and asked to be on a leave to go home for the wedding. He says, I'm sorry. He says, we can't give you no leave because you're on orders. You're going to have to be going overseas. So I just politely turned around and walked out, but I picked up a pad of passes, three-day passes on the way out and I went back to the barracks and I started ironing clothes like mad.

I was charging a dollar a whack for a pair of trousers and a dollar for a shirt. And if they wanted the military crease in it, I'd charge another dollar. So when I had enough money, I went to Youngstown and I bought me a round trip to go to Illinois and back. Now here's where those three-day passes came in. The passes would get me 300 miles. And that was the limit of the extent that you could travel on a three-day pass.

So every time I was at the extent of 300 miles, I'd write myself another pass. So, finally I got to Chicago. And from Chicago to home, you have to go through Rantoul, Illinois, which is an air base that they were teaching weather, I think, and some other Air Force related things. But the train was just loaded with GIs and MPs. Well, I thought, oh, I don't want to get stopped this far from home. I'm real close now. So I spent about 50 miles in the bathroom while everybody was -- when they got off at Rantoul, then I came out of the bathroom.

We had a very, very good wedding and I decided it was time to go back to camp because I was only home I think about eight days. And I was in town at the bus depot. I had to take the bus to a train station. It was right across from that Western Union Station. And while we were sitting there, my brother and I, here came the Western Union messenger. He came over to me and says, what are you doing, Kermit? I said, well, I'm going back to camp. He said, are you sure you're going back to camp? I said, yeah, yeah. So I showed him what I had and my round trip ticket. I said I'm just ready now to get on the train going back to Ohio and Pennsylvania.

He said well, if you're going back I won't take this out to your parents. It was the telegram telling them that I was AWOL and if they knew where I was they were supposed to let the government know and they'd pick me up, you know. Well, he let me go and my brother took the telegram and he tore it up. He says dad will never see this. So I get back to Pennsylvania into the camp where I'd come from and it was empty. The area that I had been in was empty. There wasn't a person around.

So I talked to one of the soldiers that was walking around on the street. He'd said you got to go down to the day-room down about a block. So I went down there and I saluted the lieutenant and I said, Private Busher reporting from AWOL, sir. He looked up at me and he said, oh, you're the son-of-a-gun that went AWOL before I got to see you. So he said, well, your unit has shipped out. So he said, I'll tell you what, he says -- he gave me a quarter number. He says, I'll give you this quarter number and I'll set you up for a summary court marshall tomorrow or the next day, whatever it was within three days.

So, at the summary court marshall -- in fact, it was early in the morning and he hadn't even got out of bed yet when I had knocked on his BOQ, which is Bachelor Officers Quarters. And he just laid there in bed and he turned the light on and picked up my papers and looked them. He looked at me. He says well, you look like a pretty good kid. You weren't going to go -- or desert, were you? I said, no, no, no, no. I'd bought a round trip ticket and I just came back to camp on my own. He says, okay, that's good, in your favor.

So he says, I'll tell you what I'm going to do. I'm just going to fine you fifteen dollars. And he says, you'll be on a shipment to go overseas. He says, we'll send you on out just like you had been originally. So that's how I got to Newport News. And at Newport News we got on the liberty ship, the Betty Zane and we landed at Oran, Africa after 21 days.

On the Betty Zane I befriended a fellow German. I'm of German descent. But his father had been in World War I as an officer for the German Army. And he came to the states after the war and brought his family to the states. His name is Ed Truckenbrote (ph). Ed became a very close and a very good friend. He was a manipulator and there was nothing that he wouldn't try to do. But we had a lot of fun on board ship. In fact, he and I made up a little skit, like he was a German submarine commander and I was the crew. Oh, we sank a lot of convoys. And you know, it was funny that we had the crowd laughing and stuff like that.

But somebody didn't like it. When we landed at Oran, they turned us in as maybe being spies. So we went to the brig. Ed and I spent about a week and a half in the brig and they ran security checks on our parents and everything like that, you know. And finally they decided -- I remember some of the questions they asked me, which was ridiculous, but then it's just like they said, if you were on the battlefield and you had your sights set on a German soldier, would you pull the trigger, you know? I said, well, sure I would, you know.

These are the kind of questions that they would ask you and it would be irritating, but finally they let us go and he went one way and I went another and I did not see Ed on my stay in Oran. On Thanksgiving Day of 1943, I boarded a boat or a ship that was going to join a convoy in the Mediterranean. I had no idea where it was going, but we were just out a short time and we were attacked by a group of German bombers and pursuit planes. They strafed us and things like that.

We made it through that day. But the second day I was on the ship I now know the name of the ship was the Rohna, R-O-H-N-A. At the time I did not know the name of the ship. And I remember seeing this thing coming down from the bomber. It was very large. And my thoughts were, my God, a torpedo. It was so large. It wasn't a conventional bomb. So we were hit and we were sunk in the Mediterranean there. We lost 1,015 men. And I was picked up and found to be fit for duty. So they sent me on in the next convoy and I ended up in Calcutta -- Bombay, then Calcutta. Now Calcutta or the India at that time was in the midst of a famine.

I better tell you also that when I left -- when I left Pennsylvania, I did not have an officer. I had no company. I was by myself and I was hand-carrying my orders. I hand-carried my orders. So when we went down, when the boat went down, I lost my orders. I had nothing. I had nothing. So I don't know what sent me off, but I ended up in Calcutta. And when I was in Calcutta, not having any company commander or anything like that, I was getting all the dirty details.

And the dirtiest they had at that time was going into town and picking up the dead. See, the country was in a famine and they were starving people, they were elderly people, but they came to Calcutta so they could bathe in the River Ganges. To their religion they'd have to bathe in the River Ganges to be saved. Well, then they went going into town. They'd unroll their little bamboo roll that they had. They'd lie down there and go to sleep and sometimes they didn't wake up. So every day there had to be a truck go through the entire city and pick up the dead. And then we would take them down to the river, put them on a big pile of wood and burn them.

That became very, very disheartening and very sad to see that happening. And I was catching that detail every day, every day. So that one day the salvation came. On a bulletin board they needed volunteers for a dangerous mission. They didn't promise anything except that you were going to be on a dangerous mission. I think they did imply you might go home or something like that.

So there were three of us that volunteered. There was a Lieutenant Dumpsha (ph), a Lieutenant Hern (ph), and myself volunteered and we went into the hill country or the brush country where the Marauders were training. And I got the last, about two, three weeks of training before we went into Burma. So that's how I get into the combat now. Now in combat I never did anything at all except be just a body count, you know. I did what I had to do. They told you to be a guard here and you're going to be in the right flank, but I was in -- this is what I was in -- I was in --

Carrie Schneider:

Right, the Cackey (ph) Combat Team. I know under each of the combat teams there were specific divisions, like the intelligence platoon and things like that. Which platoon were you --

Kermit Bushur:

Okay. I was in the Fourth Squad, the Fourth Platoon of I-Company of C-Battalion. Now my battalion commander over there was Major Briggs. Some people called him Colonel. I always called him Colonel, but a lot of people, more people called him Major rather than Colonel.

My company commander was Major Lou. And by platoon commander was this lieutenant that I had had volunteered with Lieutenant Dumpsha. And I was in the Fourth Squad of the Fourth Platoon. And I don't know why the Fourth Squad of the Fourth Platoon always gets called out for all the dirty work at the tail end.

And here's an interesting thing. My squad leader was a convicted felon. His name was Tom Larson. He had been convicted of killing a man in Tennessee. It was his wife's lover. Tom was always quick to use a knife. He always kept a very sharp knife. And he killed a man with his knife. He was sentenced to life in prison.

And then that one time in the war -- I think there was more than Tom in our unit that were felons, but there came a time when they would let them go into combat if they wouldn't take any training, just take them right from the prison and go right into combat. Well, Tom took it. He says, that's better than sitting here in the jail. And he was the best man I knew. I would follow him into the hubs of hell. He was really a wonderful fellow.

My platoon leader was a fellow by the name of Rocky Curtain (ph). Now Rocky was a very close friend of a Geshee (ph) by the name of Hank Gosham (ph). The platoon guide was Whitney Dalmus. And that was a set up, more or less, of my unit.

We at that time, we were not the Merrill's Marauders. We were just 5307 Composite Unit Provisional. Merrill's Marauders, everybody knows how that was just a media name, you might say. Some reporter used it and it caught on and it became very famous. In combat, I don't know how to get to it, we had minor scrimmages. Oh, in minor scrimmages I got the idea, you know, a guy could get killed out here. So I said, well, I'm going to be a mule skinner because I've seen these mule skinners bring the load up, deposit it, and they go back to a safe area. So I thought, you know, that's for me. I want to be a mule skinner.

I got the job done. I got permission to go over and be a mule skinner. So the day I went over in that area they gave me a mule and said now, this in your mule and this is your load. You're going to be responsible for this. So you are one of us now. So when morning came, I loaded that mule up. I got the pack all up on top of him. But the mule -- and I think mules and horses do the same thing. They bloat themselves up a little bit with air. And like a horse now, if you put a saddle on them, you have to get that air out of them to get that cinch tight.

I didn't realize that a mule would do that. So here I had this big load on top of the mule and he was all bloated up and I didn't have no idea. So we take off. We go about seven steps and he sucks in his air and that load just reversed from top to bottom. Here it had slid underneath his belly, you know. And he starts bucking and broke away from me. And everybody hollered, loose mule, loose mule. So here came the sergeant on his pony or horse. He goes down the trail after the mule and he gathers him in and brings him back to me and hands me the rein.

And I'll never forget him looking down at me and said, poorest goddam excuse of a mule skinner I've ever seen. So that was my -- at the end of the night on that night, I was the BAR (ph) man -- at the end of that night I said, here, you can have your mule back. I'm going to get my BAR. So I had one day as a mule skinner. It was just part of my life.

And then another thing that happened in combat, in between fights, we would be dropped food and supplies, whatever we needed. And one day they dropped some mail along with the other things. So they were passing out the mail and said, Busher who. So I hollered and they sent it back to me. But it was an official letter. It had the little window in it. You know how they have the window? And it said, Private Kermit A. Busher. So I thought, well, who in the heck could be sending me something, you know? So I opened that letter up and what had happened, when they refolded that letter, they folded it wrong so that the full address did not show up in the window. It was supposed to have gone to the commanding officer of Private Kermit A. Busher.

Well, you know what that letter was? That was to hold my fifteen dollars. That letter is lost over in Burma somewhere. And I don't know if the government is going to come back on me now for my fifteen dollars. Well, that was just among some of the things that happened.

You can look at it now and have a little chuckle out of it. But then in combat itself, we had one pretty heavy engagement called Walawbum. And I was not in the battle itself. I was on the right flank way out about three miles away from where the people were fighting in the community in the town itself. There was a right flank out there and a left flank and I was way up on the right flank. Well, it was quiet where I was. So I thought, well, after I had my foxhole dug and I had my BAR all set up and being quiet, I thought, this is a good time -- there was a river right in front of me -- this is a good time to just get in that river. And it was my birthday. It was March 22nd and I was born March 22, 1924.

I'm 20 years old today and I was in the river bathing and paddling around when all of a sudden right across from me, vroom. The Japanese had artillery right across the bank from me. And I know that they had me under gun sight, but they wouldn't shoot because they didn't want to disclose their position or anything like that. And what they had done, they had a well over there that they had lured their artillery piece down into and had it camouflaged and then they could bring it back up when they needed to and they could shoot.

So they were using the artillery to shoot into the town or where the battle was going on. Well, of course, I broke all records getting back to my foxhole and sat there or laid there for quite some while and then finally -- and the artillery piece itself -- I saw how they got rid of that artillery piece, how they are our Air Force.

Major Briggs, he was my commanding officer, who was with us at the time and I've talked to him since then and he said he happened to have the Air Force liaison man with him in that combat time. And he had them to bring in two fighter pilots. And I saw this one way off to the -- he was high and off to the side so that the gun just kept on shooting because he wasn't in any danger from that plane way off far away. But what he didn't know was that that fellow way off high was giving the coordinates to his buddy who came in at tree-top level and dropped an egg right on him and just blew him right out of there, you know.

But it was just cooperation of the two how they got rid of that. And Major Briggs said, boy, he says, was I ever glad that I had the liaison man with me at that point, you know. Well, the battle was somewhat a success and my company was not the company that did the battle. We were only added as a little added support. So now it was Blue and Green Company of the Second Battalion who were doing the battle. They pulled back and then we guarded their rear.

They were going back and they ended up -- it took us two days to get to Napunga. And at Napunga -- I don't know what you might know about the name or anything like that -- Napunga was one of our major battles. And when the boys pulled through and they occupied the top of this hill or mountain or whatever you want to call it, that was Napunga.

The unit I was with then, we went through them and down into the valley and we were expecting them to come on down the next day, you know. But the Japanese were very angry because of the devastation that had been brought on them at Walawbum. So they were pursuing us.

And in the rear guard we had a few little battles with them to keep them from following us too close. They were shooting artillery at us. And we had a terrible time trying to hit their artillery, like you try to knock them out also. And we found out later that they had mounted their artillery, their mortar. They had mounted their mortars on an elephant and they would shoot off of his back and then kick it in the butt and he would move on, you know, off to another side or something like that. So we couldn't pinpoint where they were. They kept avoiding being hit. They were very spirited in what they were doing on that and we found this out later that that's what they had done. So at Napunga then, that became a major battle because the Japanese surrounded the boys at Napunga.

Carrie Schneider:

So that was the siege of the Second Battalion, correct?

Kermit Bushur:

Yes. Yes. And they were surrounded there for -- I don't know, I can't recall, a number of days, like 10 days or something like that. And while we were down there in the valley, that's when the decision was made by General Merrill and another fella, Red Acker, that they needed artillery dropped to us.

General Merrill was on his way back to Ashloft (?) for some reason and he says, I'll have that here tomorrow. So they did drop the artillery and Red had his -- he had two crew teams and there were two pieces dropped and they were able to get the boys off of the hill eventually. It took about two more days, but they broke the Japs up and they were able to get them off. I got wounded in that action at that point because before they got the artillery, we had to fight kind of a delay in action and we had gone around to the back side of the hill and we started up towards the summit and gave the Japs the idea that it was a force that they had to reckon with.

So we were trying to draw fighters away from the encirclement and fight us. We lost a few fellows and I got hit. And then it was two days later that the artillery was dropped in and they did get the boys off on Easter Sunday, April the ninth of that year. I got hit on the 4th of April and they sent me back then to 20th General Hospital.

Carrie Schneider:

And you were flown out of the jungle?

Kermit Bushur:

Yes. We didn't have no air field. There was no air field there, but the airplane, it was an L-5, had landed on a sandbar. It was a short sandbar. And what they had done, they tied the tail down to something that would hold it and then they let the engine rev up as much as possible and they chopped the rope holding the tail and had a catapult action, you know. But still, we didn't get to rise that quickly because I remember looking off to the side and there were monkeys looking around before we got above the trees.

Carrie Schneider:

So where were you wounded?

Kermit Bushur:

I was wounded in the right thigh. It was a light machine gun. And I must have got about 15 or 20 bullets in this area. They blew out my leg completely. I lost the bone and it was just hanging there. And -- END OF SIDE ONE, TAPE ONE; BEGIN SIDE TWO, TAPE ONE.

Carrie Schneider:

Okay. Keep on going.

Kermit Bushur:

When they carried me down the hill I weighed about 180 pounds at that time. I was actually heavier there than I was at any other time. I don't know why because --

Carrie Schneider:

Wasn't everybody else losing weight like mad?

Kermit Bushur:

Yeah, and I was gaining weight. And I was a BAR man. I needed all that weight, but when they got me down to the aid station, the doctor was Dr. Hopkins. And he's the fellow that wrote the book Spearhead. And he has documented what my -- I think I'm entry No. 67 or something in his book. And he used that when he disclosed what he knew about everybody.

And he made the remark in there that I was back in the hospital in 33 hours, which was unusual in World War II. Nowadays with a helicopter and everything like that, it's just a matter of almost minutes or hours, you know, that the wounded is taken care of. But I was back in the hospital in 33 hours. And another thing, as I said before, I was hand-carrying my records. I had no records. Tom Piazza and Bob Passinisi (ph), they've all tried to find orders of me joining the Marauders and they cannot find them. I am a nobody. If it hadn't been for me being wounded and Dr. Hopkins including me in the book, that's my proof that I was a Marauder. So it's just one of those things that has happened in my life.

Carrie Schneider:

Well, the government is never going to find you and get that 15 bucks back. You're just a nonentity.

Kermit Bushur:

I was wounded on the fourth. The boys got out on the ninth. Well, the hospital knew there was going to be a lot of wounded and sick people coming off the hill so they had to make room at the 20th General. So they made up a plane load of wounded. Most all of them were walking wounded. I happen to be one of the better patients. There were two patients.

And this is the God bless for my life, really what happened, because when they sent me back to there, I was the first person that the doctor looked at because I was the worst wounded. And he was a Southern gentleman and he was from Hot Springs, Arkansas. He was an older fellow and he hadn't said, hi, kiss my butt or nothing.

He just smoked a pipe and he took my records. He looked at it and -- hospital records that was -- then he uncovered my leg and he looked at it. Then he read the record again. He looked at my leg and the first words he said to me, they're just crazier than hell. I said, what's this, Doc? He says they have suggested I remove the leg. He said, I can save that leg. He says, if you want to spend some time with me, I can save that leg.

I said, I'll be your brother. I'll be right here. I said, I'll be closer than anybody you ever know. So he worked with me and he did save my leg. He fixed my bone. He fixed my muscles and everything. And it's just today in the past three weeks that I've had to use a cane because I broke my hip now. And I've haven't got to get my strength back.

But I've had no pain, nothing bothered my leg at all in all these years. And the Veterans Administration have checked my leg and everything like that and they said, you're just perfect. You're in good shape. But it was this old, Southern doctor from Hot Springs, Arkansas that saved my leg. They were intending to have it removed.

Of course, the first hospital was at the edge of the jungle, hot, damp, and the flesh wasn't healing good and everything like that. So that was their recommendation. Probably if I would have stayed there, I might have lost a leg. But when they sent me back into Goya (ph), it was almost like a desert, hot, very hot there. I know that in the hospital itself there would be boys, bashy boys would come through with buckets of water and they'd just throw it on the floor. All day long they'd go out one end, come in with another bucket and just throw it on the floor to cool it down, you know. But that was the kind of climate that we were in at this hospital. I told you about the fifteen dollars. And other than that --

Carrie Schneider:

Well, tell me about your friendship with the Nice (ph) interpreter.

Kermit Bushur:

I'm glad you mentioned that. After I got out of the jungle, I wrote to Truck's parents. I had his address. They lived in Chicago. And I did not tell them anything except I had said, I have lost track of Truck. When the ship was going down, lot of chaos, lot of people running around, fire, all kinds of explosions, stuff like that. And it was an old English ship that had wooden planks for a stairway. And they burned out in no time. So there were people down in the hole that were trying to get out.

And people were trying to throw stuff down. And you couldn't throw rope down because it would burn right away. I saw who I thought was Truck down there. And I did grab a hold of the fellow and he slipped out of my grip and he fell down and then I had to jump overboard myself. So in my mind I thought that Truck went down with the ship. And that's what I was more or less asking his parents what they knew about where Truck was or anything like that, not saying anything.

Their answer back to me gave me a little glimmer of hope. They said, they don't know what happened to Truck, but he was badly burned, but he was in India. He was not far from where I was. In fact, if you look at the Merrill's Marauder directory, you will find his name in there. Now see I told you he was a finagler. I don't know how he got listed in our directory, but he is in the directory.

So when I had made membership badges for all the Marauders, and I sent them to everybody that I could find and address for and when I was going through the book, I see Truck's name in there, I thought, Truck was never a Marauder, so I was not going to send him a membership badge or card. I sent him a personal letter. I never heard an answer. So I said, uh-oh, he knows that I know that he was not a Marauder.

So that was in 1995. So then I forgot about trying to get a hold of Truck again until about four years later I wrote another letter again. I get an answer this time. It happened that the first letter came at about the same time his wife had died and he may have seen the letter, he may not have seen the letter, but he was not at New York. He was now living in the Catskills in New York.

So when I found that out, I went to see Ed. He didn't deny to me that he wasn't a Marauder, but he said he was wounded by a stray bullet at Shatazook (ph). Now whether he was or not I don't know, but it was so good to see Truck, you know, after all these years. And he is the only guy that could testify that I was on the Rohna.

Carrie Schneider:

Right, because you had no orders.

Kermit Bushur:

Yeah. I had nothing. So he and I depend on each other. So I'm in contact with him right now. And it was just really, really good to see him and then to find out everything that I did find out about him. Do you have any other questions?

Carrie Schneider:

The Nice interpreter.

Kermit Bushur:

We were in a pretty heavy engagement. And we had pulled back that night and we dug in. And Hank Gosho was not my friend. He was a friend of Rocky Curtain, who was my platoon sergeant. And Hank came through. I remember him coming through the area. We was all dug in foxholes and he found Rocky. And he says, I'm going to go out and see what I can find out here in front of us. So Rocky says, you know you're not supposed to go out. I know it. I'm going to go out. So Rocky said, okay, you're going out, I'm going out. So the two of them did go out. They were in no-man's land. We had no idea what was out there. And he did find a phone line, which he tapped into. And all of that night while we were digging our foxholes, we were fairly close to that road and we could hear the Japanese trucks, which were Ford trucks, we could hear them coming up and the tailgate would drop down and then these Japanese were jumping off and the troops -- maybe there would be eight or ten in the truck and they were bringing in a bunch of them. So I knew we was going to be in for a big engagement.

Well, through the knowledge that Hank found out, then they were on the move. They were trying to trap us also. They knew we were there, even though it was night. They were trying to trap us. So he told us and got us to go, get out of here. Get out of this area. And what the Japanese had done, they had made kind of a horseshoe like with an opening at the one end. We walked out through that end.

But they knew we was on the move, but they didn't know where we were going, so they turned loose their little dogs on us. Now see, these are dogs that they use for food. Like the American GIs will carry their food. The Japanese, they pull a little dog as he's walking, so they don't have no weight, you know. All they carry is a bag of rice. They have hard-boiled rice, which is just a sling over their shoulder, along with that dog, you know, they could live for months.

So when the dogs got over among our feet, they would yipe. In the jungle you shoot at sounds more than anything else. When they heard a yipe, they would shoot at us. So we killed a bunch of dogs that day. We had to wring their neck, you know, and quit being what you would call -- what name you might have for what the dog was doing. But we were able to leave that area.

So now that's where Hank got me out of what I thought was almost certain death. I had dug my foxhole and being a BAR (ph) man I had a supporting rifle. And after we got that foxhole dug, I know I remember turning around and his name was -- why do I have to even try and think of his name now, but I turned to him, I says, it's been nice knowing you. I'm glad that we had this acquaintance. And I says, I hope we can continue our friendship tomorrow morning. And we really thought this was it. Well, that was the prelude to Napunga. I don't know if I'm missing anything in between there or not, but after I get back to the -- oh, General Merrill sent mail. Now this is almost unbelievable that he sent me home. I have a letter here from him where he sent me home.

Carrie Schneider:

Oh, okay. Your last combat engagement.

Kermit Bushur:

There's the letter that General Merrill sent to me. What I had done -- I'm working in the replacement depot now and there were fellas being sent home. And I had fallen through the cracks. I was still there. So I wrote him a GI griping letter, just a bitching, you know, about things. And he didn't promise me nothing, as you can see in that letter.

He just said that he was sorry. He said your time will come and everything like that. But look at the date of that letter, the fifth of May. Now here's the date on this, the sixth of May. General orders from his headquarters were cut to send me by myself. This is on the ninth of May from my headquarters and I'm on the road home. He gave me also, number three priority. It was a 66-hour trip that I made in 55 hours. Other fellas came home by boat, things like that, you know. They'd fight to be mutts, things like that, by the time they would stop, things like that.

I made the trip in 55 hours. Now I'm back home. I have my 30-day leave. I get this letter that General Merrill wrote. That was my first inkling of why I was being sent home. I had no idea why I was going home. But the letter opened up avenues for me. At Illinois, after my 30 days, I was sent to Miami for another leave of R and R. One day I was eating at the cafeteria, which the army had taken over and lo and behold in the front door came two boys that I had taken basic training with.

Carrie Schneider:

No kidding?

Kermit Bushur:

One of them had the bed next to me. His name was -- it had to be a B because things were alphabetical. But they were my first knowledge and they told me what happened to them after they left -- see I went AWOL from these boys. And it turned out that they had gone to England. And at England -- this is Miami. This is a boy right here that I'm talking about now. Both these boys they hit D-Day. They were on the beaches and they lost 95 percent of their personnel of which I would have been one of.

See there's again the lady luck. They was taken prisoner and he spent all of his time in a German prison camp. He was taken prisoner and he was in an Italian prison. So all of World War II in Germany, these two boys that I had trained with had spent it in the prison camp. And they were the only ones that ever were able to tell me what had happened to my unit. So I was mighty glad.

Now see if General Merrill hadn't sent me home when he did, I would have never -- the time would not have gotten me to meet these fellas. Also, by General Merrill sending me home when he did, I ended up in Camp Shelby, Mississippi. And I met a WAC and I hated WACs. I hated WACs because we'd heard so many stories about, you know at that time, well, it said all the prostitutes in Pittsburgh enlisted en masse.

So we just assumed that they were all prostitutes. So I hated WACs. But this one WAC changed my mind. We had a courtship, got married and had a very good life. Now if it hadn't been for General Merrill send me when he did, I would never have met my wife and then had the family that I did have. So there's the two men, Hank Gosho (ph) and General Merrill.

Carrie Schneider:

So I just have one more question. So what does a farm boy from Illinois think about the jungles in Burma?

Kermit Bushur:

Well, one thing I really thought that I would see was snakes. I did not see a snake. Now I was amazed at the elephants. We would see an elephant herd ahead of us. And they would -- you know how big an elephant is -- and this is jungle that we could not go through ourself unless we used a machete. That group of elephants can disappear into the jungle. It's streamline, their trunk and everything like that, how they just slide everything over their back and everything like that and they're gone. But they're gone. You don't see them. And it was just -- I was so -- I was glad that I went into that area.

First of all, when I was in Africa, I was afraid I'd be sent to Africa, I mean, to Germany. And at time they were having a lot of cold weather. The hedgerows, people were losing their fingers and toes and things like that, frostbite. And I thought, well, if I'm going to die, I want to be comfortable when I'm dying. So when I got into a warm climate, if you could be happy about it, I was comfortable with it, you know. What it taught us or taught me, when we had Vietnam then, I could see -- I could sympathize with the American troops that were in Vietnam because they were fighting guerillas.

And we were guerillas. I could see what we could do. We could hit a base. We could shoot them up and we don't have to hold ground. We can disappear into the jungle. We'd be gone. That was the same situation in Vietnam. Those poor American boys, they had to stay there and hold the base. And the Viet Cong could attack at their discretion when they wanted to, fight as long as they want to and disappear. It was just reverse what they were doing from what we had done. We were doing the same thing to the Japs that the Viet Cong was doing to the Americans. So I could fully sympathize with the American troops that were in Vietnam. That's one thing that it did teach me on, on that.

Carrie Schneider:

Well, any parting thoughts that you have or last words, if you will?

Kermit Bushur:

I try to save those for birthday cards. I try to think up something wise and something that they'll remember you by. But no, I'm just about out of last words and things like that. But it's been a pleasure and again I'd say I was not a hero. What is a hero? What's your definition of a -- I don't know what a hero is. I think a hero might be someone -- he's a normal person who saw a need and did it.

I remember one time laying on the hillside. We were pinned down and we couldn't move. And all of a sudden I heard the darndest -- I call it a roar. And I don't know why I called it a roar, but I turned around just momentarily and a guy by the name of Boshart (ph) rushed passed me and I got to see his eyes. And I swear they were glazed. But whether he his temperament had broke or what it was, he went up and he wiped out a machine gun right in front of us.

What caused him to do that, see? He might have been a farm boy. He might have been a city boy. He might have been anybody, but all of sudden there for a moment he was acting on an impulse and he did something wonderful. So what is a hero? I don't know. I know I was not a hero because I never had to go into a position where I had to make daily decisions like that, you know. If you want to add a body count, you knew we needed 10 men here, we needed a 100 men here. I was part of that body count. And I was just following orders, something like that.

Carrie Schneider:

Well, that's a hell of a story, hero or no hero. Well, thank you very much, Tony. It's been a pleasure talking with you and I hope you have a great weekend here in D.C.

Kermit Bushur:

I will.

Carrie Schneider:

Good. I'm going to stop the tape.

[CONCLUSION OF THE INTERVIEW]

 
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  October 26, 2011
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