World War II ended 75 years ago today, when leaders of the Empire of Japan signed the Instrument of Surrender aboard the U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Bay.
We recognize the anniversary of the end of the war by talking with some of the Mid-Missouri area's veterans who fought in the war and listening to their memories.
Herb Meyer: 'I just did whatever had to be done'
"There aren't too many of us left," said Herb Meyer, a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Forces. "The old WWII veterans have to be anywhere in their late 90s or a little older."
Training and traveling filled the weeks for the men who prepared for service, Meyer, 95, recalls. He joined up in May 1943.
For six weeks, he underwent training in Lincoln, Nebraska. From there, the Army transferred him to Taunton, Massachusetts. And from there, the young men in his outfit road aboard the "Boston Harbor" to Newfoundland.
"There was a tugboat that was out along with us for mine surfacing. They took us into this harbor," he said. "From there, we went on our own."
The trip to Newfoundland took about eight days, he said.
The "Newfy Train, as we called it," transported the soldiers to the air base, Meyer said.
Meyer served in Newfoundland for more than two years and was part of a crew that maintained the B-17 Flying Fortresses that flew bombing runs over Germany.
"I just did whatever had to be done. I had several different jobs over there," he said.
During a furlough in 1944, Meyer came home to the United States and got married. He returned to Newfoundland for another year.
After the war, he went to work in the International Shoe Company factory in Jefferson City. He worked there until 1970. After retiring there, he worked for the Missouri Department of Revenue for 17 years.
He'd been married for 63 years when his wife died 12 years ago.
"That's a good, long life," he said.
'Smitty' Smith: 'I got into the Seabees'
Charles B. Smith — many may know him as CB or Smitty — was drafted when he was 18. He's 96 now.
Smith said he'd been turned away when he volunteered for the war, but was approved for the draft.
Officials sent Smith and others to Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis to determine what service they fit best.
"They said there is a Seabee outfit. I had never heard of it," Smith said. "Then they said it was a construction battalion. I got into the Seabees."
As a child back home, Smith had helped install small generating plants and windmills people used for electricity in rural communities. He did that for a nickel an hour.
Smith trained in Virginia, then in California. He became a member of a 750-person heavy equipment repair outfit, he said.
The team was stationed on Espiritu Island, a paradise filled with coconut plantations northeast of Australia. Smith was on the island for two years — from Aug. 8, 1943, to Aug. 8, 1945.
"They had a lot of coconut trees. So I ate a lot of coconuts through the years," Smith said.
The outfit had six machine shops and repaired "anything and everything the Navy and Army and everybody else had," he said.
Smith was an electrician and helped run telephones across the island, he said. He learned to climb poles — well, not exactly poles. Instead of telephone poles, the wires were strung through the coconut trees.
When brass came onto the island, they would stay in huts under the coconut trees. Once in a while a coconut would fall on the hut and make a lot of noise. Smith and another guy would then have to climb the trees and saw off the coconuts, he said.
"Another guy and I was in charge of garbage," he said. "That was a good deal."
Smith explained that after breakfast, he and another soldier would take the garbage out to a sorting area. They'd cut the bottoms out of tin cans and mash the cans. Then they'd load the garbage onto a truck and haul it to a scow and dump it.
"For the rest of the day, I didn't have anything else to do," he said. "We had a bomber strip. I'd go up there a lot and take plane rides around the island while we repaired them."
Once in a while, he and a few other Seabees would find some sort of transportation and use it to climb to the top of an extinct volcano, where they'd swim.
"That water was cold," he said, "but it was nice."
Ralph Kalberloh: 'I've had a wonderful life'
Ralph Kalberloh grew up in rural Missouri during the Great Depression. His father was a farm laborer who worked for $1 a day.
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"This is what he got for a salary — 50 chickens, two hogs, a cow that he could milk (he didn't get to keep the cow), all the wood he could saw for heat, and a big garden," Kalberloh said.
Kalberloh turned 18 before his senior year of high school. He decided he should join the U.S. Army Air Corps before he got drafted.
"If I was drafted, I was going to be a doughboy (infantryman), which I didn't want to be. I wanted to be a fighter pilot," he said. "My mother was violently opposed. Finally, my dad convinced her that this was my choice."
He joined and became a tail-gunner in a B-17 bomber.
But his plane was shot down during a mission to drop bombs on Berlin.
Kalberloh remembers he was on the largest U.S. bombing mission over Germany of WWII, he said. It included 1,003 B-17s, 464 B-24 bombers escorted by 945 fighter planes.
"We had so much protection, (fighter planes) couldn't get in to us," he said. "But the flak was unbelievable. It was the most heavily guarded city in Germany."
There were 12 planes in Kalberloh's squadron, he said. All but five were shot down over Berlin. His four-engine plane made it out of Berlin but lost an engine. Then more flak hit the plane as it was moving away from Berlin and it lost another engine. And then a third.
One engine wasn't enough to fly the plane across the North Sea, which was frigid.
"It was Feb. 3. If you landed in the North Sea, your life expectancy was about 30 minutes," he said.
So the pilot decided to turn the plane around so the crew could bail out over Germany.
The men parachuted to the ground and each was alone. Kalberloh survived the sub-zero weather for about five days before he turned himself in.
A farmer fed him a meal of potatoes and turnips.
His captors took him to a prison camp in Frankfurt, Germany. After three days, he was interrogated. He remained in German hands until the end of April.
"I went from (the interrogation camp) to what they called a disbursement center," he said. "We were liberated by Gen. George Patton and the Third Army."
The Third Army had a large battle with German soldiers nearby. On the second day of the three-day battle, Germans went to prisoners and surrendered to them, Kalberloh said. He was liberated on April 29, 1945.
Being a veteran has served him well, Kalberloh said.
He didn't get to go to college. But he learned discipline.
"I always felt that I was doing the right thing all the time,"" he said. "I've had a wonderful life. I've been very successful. I've worked all my life."
Bill McAnany: 'Life took on a greater meaning to me'
There weren't a lot of career choices for people living through the Great Depression, said 99-year-old Bill McAnany. McAnany said he wasn't the best student and his family couldn't afford college in 1938.
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Out of the blue, he decided to join the U.S. Navy after high school. But he had to wait until he was 17 years and six months old, a few months later.
"I had no intention of anything — making it a career or not making it a career," McAnany said.
Hospital Corps School taught him that he "really wasn't much into patient care," so he decided to try being an X-ray technician.
Assigned to his first ship — the 400-bed hospital ship USS Solace — he became close to his commander and the rest of the crew. But he also began to consider furthering his education.
And he decided to go home, go to college and become a doctor.
On Dec. 7, 1941, the day before his first enlistment ended, Japan attacked the U.S. Naval base in Pearl Harbor, where the Solace was berthed about 150 yards from the USS Arizona, and brought the United States into WWII.
McAnany and some of his colleagues from the ship were touring the island of Oahu early that morning. They were a little confused by the sight, until a man approached and told them Japanese aircraft were attacking Pearl Harbor and servicemen were being called to return to their ships.
He and four others got aboard a small boat to be taken to their ship.
They passed through a maelstrom of smoke, fire and oil. Never reaching the ship, the sailors ended up staying in a hangar overnight and returned to the Solace two days later.
All survived the attack. One died later in the war. McAnany is the only living survivor of the Solace.
The attack helped McAnany decide about his future.
"I extended my enlistment for two years, which you could do," McAnany said. "Because I just knew that 'Man, we could whip the hell out of the Japanese in two years.' And I could still get out and go to school."
After two years, the end was not in sight, so he enlisted for another four years.
He had made chief petty officer, the seventh-highest enlisted rank in the Navy.
Almost 10 years in the Navy, McAnany decided he'd make a career out of the service.
He served on other hospital ships and spent a year in Korea.
"I lived through it. I spent the whole war on two hospital ships in the Pacific Ocean," McAnany said. "Life took on a greater meaning to me, even at the age I was. When I would see these kids — kids — these guys would come aboard ship, and they were struggling for life. They fought every minute to stay alive. I decided there's a hell of a lot to this living."