Today I’m honoring a World War II Army medic who was born 94 years ago this week. A friend recommended I talk with him a few years ago and am I glad to have done so! What a story! I wrote this for a military publication I write for. It is commitment to his country like this that makes American soldiers great!
During WWII, John Robert Myers of Berne, Indiana, was offered the unusual opportunity by the United States Army to not serve his country in battle.
“I had been the forward on our basketball team at Wilshire High School in Ohio,” he said. “While training as a nurse after basic training in Stanton, Virginia, Army hospital officials recognized my athletic skills and asked if I would play for the hospital’s basketball team. They said I would not have to go overseas.”
Myers refused the offer. “I knew I’d feel guilty later for not fighting,” he said. “I went into the war to do the best I could for my country.”
Myers was born Dec 24, 1921, in Berne, Indiana. After graduating from high school in 1940, he worked on the family farm with his father.
Like so many young men, Myers’ routine was interrupted at the outbreak of war. Upon being drafted in 1941, Myers completed basic training at Fort Lewis, Washington, then was assigned more specialized training as a nurse.
He worked there until December 1944 when he was shipped to the Philippines. “Our ship was a former luxury liner with everything torn out and bunks added to accommodate soldiers,” he said.
In summer 1945 the emperor of Japan surrendered and the war was over. Most troops headed home but not Staff Sergeant John Myers. “I had not earned the required number of points to be discharged,” he said.
The required number of points was based, among other things, on time in service, battles fought, etc.
Myers remained in the South Pacific, serving six months in Manila on a hospital ship, the USS Yokohama. “We were set up to receive injured American soldiers and POWs,” he said.
Myers also worked at St Luke’s International Medical Center in Tokyo. In addition to scrubbing floors and fixing windows, he volunteered to work on the sixth floor, an area other soldiers shied away from. “It was the contagious disease ward,” he said. “I chose to help there because I wanted to be where I was needed.” St. Luke’s hospital is still in existence today.
Soldiers on the sixth floor were afflicted with, among other things, hepatitis, cancer, meningitis, venereal diseases, and small pox. Unfortunately, working closely with patients caused Myers to contract hepatitis. “I hurt so much I wished someone would hit me over the head and knock me out,” he said. It took Myers a month to recover.
While overseas, Myers wrote letters to a female friend, Chloe, at home. She wrote back. John Myers was discharged and arrived back in Berne in May 1946. He and Chloe married four months later. They became parents to three daughters and later, 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
John returned to farming and attended Bethel Brethren Church in Berne. His story of being a medic in World War II has been recorded by local students.
Of his time in the Army during WWII, Myers said, “Seeing the Golden Gate Bridge on our trip home brought tears to my eyes! To live in a place like America is such a privilege. I was glad to help my country when I could.”
Sadly, Robert “Bob” Myers, 92, Berne, passed away Monday, February 3, 2014. I’m glad to have met him and that he shared his story with me.
Several WWII vets and other vets are among us. Find a vet and tell him/her thanks for the service they provided to our country!