Bill Yaney was born on March 7, 1925. To honor his date of birth, I’m highlighting his World War II time of service in this post. I’m glad to say this nice man and his wife were friends of my grandparents when they all lived as neighbors in their country homes.
For most soldiers of World War II the declaration of surrender by Japan in August 1945 signaled the end of their time of service. For Bill Yaney of Ossian it was the beginning of his military service.
Yaney graduated from Ossian High School (IN) in 1943. He was immediately drafted, but as he helped his father work the family farm, he received an agricultural deferment. As the war progressed, the need for replacement soldiers increased and in April 1945 Yaney was called to active duty.
By then Yaney was married. When he was sent to Camp Robinson at Little Rock, Arkansas, for basic training, his wife Betty, 18, followed. She and another Army wife rented rooms in a house so they could be close to their husbands who were required to stay at the base.
Assigned to the Infantry, Bill was in a field on bivouac (a military encampment exercise) in August 1945 when his company received word that the Japanese emperor had surrendered. “We were 18 miles from camp with 80-pound packs on our backs,” he said. “I was so excited I walked back to camp to celebrate.”
Yaney received a weekend pass but somehow got stuck with KP (kitchen police) duty. He spent the first weekend of America’s release from the 4-year war in the Army kitchen.
The war was officially over as Allies established occupation forces to ensure the Axis powers did not resume fighting.
In fall 1945, Yaney and hundreds of other American soldiers sailed on a ship for Japan. Yaney traveled to Kobi where he boarded an electric train which sped underwater through Hiroshima. “I could hear radioactive activity from the bomb which had been dropped on the city on August 6,” he said.
At Yokohama Yaney performed the duties of a military policeman for 14 months. “My job was to search for weapons hidden by the Japanese,” he said. Wearing a shoulder holster for his .45 semi-automatic pistol, he scouted for mines, swords, guns. “Thankfully, I never found any,” he said.
He also was instructed to guard former Japanese soldiers who were not allowed to take up arms again on conditions of their surrender. “I never believed they’d do us harm,” he said, “but it was frightening.”
It was a long year for Yaney. He didn’t eat much other than Spam which was served often. When snow fell in the winter he felt sorry for the Japanese people. “They didn’t have warm or sanitary living conditions,” he said.
A year later, Yaney received orders to return home. In November 1946 he was on a ship floating under the Golden Gate Bridge in Oakland, California. By the end of his time of service, he was a Corporal. Souvenirs he brought home included a statue of Buddha, Japanese money, Japanese military knives and a M1 Rifle.
Back in Ossian, Yaney worked at General Electric in Fort Wayne before starting a business, Ossian Ceramic Tile, which he owned for 40 years. He and Betty became parents to four children.
Yaney bore no ill will toward the Japanese. “One of our sons is a missionary near Hiroshima,” he said. “I wish the best for the people of that country.”
Bill Yaney died on February 1, 2016. He and Betty were married for nearly 71 years.