I met Kenny Bosworth at an Optimist Club in Portland, Indiana. I had been asked to speak about my project of interviewing 260 World War II veterans.
A notice had been put into the local newspaper and someone told Mr. Bosworth about it. He was accompanied by his daughter who helped me arrange a time to interview Kenny about his service.
It was always a pleasure to interview any World War II veteran, but especially Marines.
First, there were not many of them.
Second, they had mostly been sent to the Pacific where many battles took place.
Third, they were so proud of their branch of service.
Mr. Bosworth died in 2019. I’m so grateful for his service.
Do you know a veteran?
Have you made arrangements to interview him/her about their service?
What branch is your favorite? Why? Leave a comment.
Kenny Bosworth’s story is told in ‘We Defended Freedom: Adventures of WWII Veterans‘ (Bk 4, WWII Legacies).
At the island of Okinawa in April 1945 Kenny Bosworth of Ridgeville, Indiana, was assigned to 1st Division of the Marine Corps. “We followed the front line with a 155-mm howitzer cannon so if our troops were fired on, we could provide protection,” he said. “We took care of that island.”
Prior to the battle, Japanese soldiers dug caves in which they hid. “Our 155-mm Long Toms (rifles that measured 20 feet) shot out their steel doors,” he said. After three months of combat, Okinawa was secure.
Bosworth was one of nine children born to a farmer and his wife in Raleigh, North Dakota. In 1936, when he was 13 years old, the family moved to Portland, Indiana. Kenny, as he was called by family, graduated from Portland High School in 1941.
Bosworth worked at a grain elevator for two years before enlisting in the Army National Guard and then the Marines. “My draft number was close to being drawn and I wanted to choose my branch,” he said.
His father, wanting to keep Kenny on the farm, offered to tell the local draft board his son should be granted a farm deferment. The young man refused. “I wanted to fight,” he said.
After completing basic training at San Diego, Kenny Bosworth was assigned to the Fleet Marine Force of the Marine Corps. He and 1,200 troops sailed to New Zealand and New Caledonia where they unloaded cargo ships and performed artillery training for several weeks.
The battle at the island of Guam in summer 1944 was costly for the Marine Corps. Bosworth, hospitalized with a broken leg for a prior accident, grieved for his friends caught up in the conflict. “Seven guys from our unit went through a valley and got caught in an ambush,” he said. “Only one came out.”
It was not just battles that took lives. One day, while walking on a road near the camp, Bosworth stepped on a board covering a landmine. “The board prevented my weight from detonating the mine,” he said.
Sometimes the soldiers were confronted by sad sights — dead bodies of women and children in the vicinity of a battle. Another time Okinawan natives took their own lives, having been warned by Japanese soldiers to jump from the cliffs, rather than be caught by the Americans who would kill them. “It was terrible to see their bodies floating on the water,” he said.
Living close to the equator was equally challenging for the troops as temperatures reached 100+ degrees and frequent rainfalls caused intense humidity. Allied soldiers placed barrels of water in the sun for warm showers.
The hard-packed ground posed problems for construction. “The only way for us to make new roads to move our ammunition and guns was with bulldozers,” he said.
Off-duty, the soldiers played basketball and swam. “Dolphins rammed the sides of sharks in our area so we could swim safely,” he said.
The soldiers’ diets included food shared from natives’ gardens. Once, Bosworth caught a six-foot eel in a tub. “It was very slippery,” he said, “but tasty.”
Okinawan children dug through garbage cans for food. “They wanted our leftovers,” said Bosworth. “We gave good food, not leftovers, to them each morning.”
In August 1945, Bosworth’s unit loaded a ship with ammunition for the expected invasion at Japan. “We were told to prepare for a possible 75 percent casualty rate,” he said.
Then came a surprising and welcome announcement – the Allies had bombed two Japanese cities. “We didn’t understand what it meant, but we heard 140,000 people had been killed. We hoped the war would end soon.”
When Japan’s emperor finally surrendered in August 1945, the Allied invasion was cancelled. “We saw an American pilot do a victory roll in his P-38,” he said.
Bosworth was discharged in December 1945. He returned to Indiana where he became a farmer and carpenter. He married and he and his wife, Wilma Jean, became parents to two children.
“There is no glory in war,” he said. “But I’m glad I served.”