By: Erin Smith
One Bladen County veteran has a pretty amazing story to share about his time spent serving in the South Pacific during World War II. He received the Good Conduct medal, the Asiatic Pacific medal, and a medal for the liberation of the Philippines during his service.
Leroy Pierson of Elizabethtown, a US Army veteran, said that he had lost his medals once, and Darrell Page and US Congressman mike McIntyre helped to get his medals replaced. They now hang in a place of honor on a wall in his home.
Pierson sat in his living room on Friday morning and recalled how he was stationed first in New Guinea and then slowly moved about the islands of the South Pacific until the US Army took the Philippines back from the Japanese Army in 1945.
He recalled that the worst job he had came while stationed in New Guinea. Pierson said his unit arrived in New Guinea in 1944.
“We had had troops there (New Guinea) since 1941,” said Pierson.
He aid his time spent New Guinea was not too bad. Pierson did recall one job that was somewhat unpleasant.
“The worst job was moving a cemetery. We had to move the cemetery from one island to another,” said Pierson.
Pierson said that after leaving New Guinea his unit worked their way through the islands until they reached Manila in 1945. But, he added the bulk of his military service was on the island of New Guinea.
He said his unit would move from island to island until they reached the Philippines.
Pierson said that while in the Philippines, the Japanese would loot the homes and businesses of those living on the islands. Pierson said as the US Army approached, the Japanese dumped all of their spoils overboard into the canal.
Pierson related that one family he got to know while in the Philippines had a new car. He said the family learned about Japan’s invasion and dug a trench and placed the new car in the trench and covered it with timbers. When the Japanese left, the family went and dug up the car.
Pierson said the liberation of the Philippines was not his unit’s only objective.
“When we got to the Philippines, the next objective was to invade the Japanese homeland,” said Pierson.
He said his unit spent a few months waiting for the orders and enough troops to invade when they learned the United States had dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.
While they did not get to actually invade Japan, his unit did eventually travel to Japan in late September 1945 and stayed until the spring of 1946.
At that time, Pierson said, a soldier could earn points and the soldier could use those points to either go home for 30 days and return to their unit or they could get a discharge and stay home. Pierson said most soldiers chose the latter.
Pierson said when he made is way home, he traveled by ship. He said the ship docked in Seattle, WA in the spring 1946. He chose to take a discharge rather than return to the Army.
“We came from the West Coast back to Fort Bragg,” said Pierson.
Following his discharge from the military, Pierson spent 26 years working at the Board of Education in New York City as an administrative assistant. He also worked for a time as an embalmer.
Pierson, who originally hails from Sumter, SC, said that while he was in high school, he slept in a funeral home. when he got out of the military, the Army paid for him to go to New York where he earned his embalming license.
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