Events that shaped us 

DeGreve Oil Change
1618 38 St
Rock Island, IL 61201

DeGreve Oil change
3560 N Brady St
Davenport, IA

1305 5 Ave
Moline, IL 61265

Pratt's Antiques
125 E Main St
Aledo, IL 61231

Main St Antiques
114 E Main St
Aledo, IL 61231

Conner Co
PO Box 888
East Moline, IL 61244

Kimball Cleaners
308 SW 5th Ave
Aledo, IL 61231

Williams Studio
New Windsor, IL 61465

Andalusia, IL 61232

Hideaway Plastics
1801 17 St
PO Box 379
Viola, IL 61486

Deer & Co Credit Union
3950 38 Ave
Moline, IL 61265

2018 4 Ave
Rock Island, IL 61201

Walcott Trust & Savings Bank
101 W Bryant St
PO Box 108
Walcott, IA 52773

Mississippi Laser
7700 47 St
Milan, IL 61264

Longs Carpet
4200 11 St
Rock Island, IL 61201

Roth Pump
Box 4330
Rock Island, IL 61201

Hughes Telephone
1117 Blackhawk Rd
Rock Island, IL 61201

ASAP Equipment
4730 44 St

Taylor Garages
Airport Rd
Milan, IL 61264

Michael Warner, Attorney
1600 4th Ave, Suite 410
Rock Island, IL 61201

Kansas City Life
5019 34 Ave B
Moline, IL 61265

Dr. Romeo
1705 2nd Ave
Rock Island, IL 61201

Morton Building
Highway 6
Atkinson, IL

Pathway Hospice
500 42
Rock Island, IL 61201

QC Carbide
1510 17 St
East Moline, IL 61244

Lyss Chiropractic
5500 30 Ave
Moline, IL 61201

Metro MRI
550 15 Ave
Moline, IL 61265

Litton Life Support
2734 Hickory Grove Rd
PO Box 4508
Davenport, IA 52808

Spencer Bros. Disposal
New Windsor, IL

Mane Designs
Viola, IL

Quad-Cities Graduate Studies Center
639 38 St
Rock Island, IL 61201

Taylor Freezers 1885 Earhart Dr
Sandwich IL 60548

Veterans recall life in uniform during WW II

By Marcy Norton, Dispatch/Argus Staff writer

Click here for larger view.
Photo by Marcy Norton / staff
Seven members of the Moline VFW post 2195 got together recently to talk about what it was like to leave the area for parts unknown as they entered the military durring World War II. In the back row, from left, are Charlie Jones, Earl Evans, Richard Nelson and Maury Kerckhove; in front, from left are Marion 'Tim' Dorothy, Ed Nicholson and John Bisinger.
MOLINE -- Contrary to popular belief, World War II veterans don't often sit around the Moline VFW hall on 7th Street and tell war stories.

Ask them, though, and they'll oblige.

For most of a group that gathered on a recent snowy day, shipping off to war marked the first time they'd left the Midwest. Their draft notices became their tickets out of the Quad-Cities, like it or not.

Maury Kerckhove, 76, grew up in East Moline and was 18 when he and some buddies decided they would join up before Uncle Sam sent an invitation.

He and four or five guys took a bus to the old Rock Island post office recruiting center and said they wanted to join the Navy. ``It sounds good to a young guy -- see the world through a porthole,'' Mr. Kerckhove said.

They filled out papers, got their physicals and learned the stint would last six years. However, after nagging his reluctant parents into giving their permission -- back then, you weren't an adult until age 21 -- Mr. Kerckhove said the idea's lustre began to tarnish.

``I thought, `Six years...if I don't like it, I'm dead city,'|'' he said. He informed the none-too-pleased recruiter he'd changed his mind, the signed papers still in his pocket. ``Mama didn't raise no dummies,'' he said, laughing.

Two years later, Mr. Kerckhove received his draft notice and decided instead to enlist. He returned to the post office, this time, choosing the Air Forces. He left his $20-a-week job as a truck driver for Bickel's Cleaners and his East Moline home Oct. 13, 1942.

``I remember going out the front gate and waving goodbye, then I turned around and went straight,'' Mr. Kerckhove said, adding that he'll never forget the feeling of leaving his family behind. ``Kind of a hollow feeling. You don't know if you're gonna come back.''

He took a bus to the Rock Island Depot and boarded a Chicago-bound train at 7 a.m. with a large group of enlistees and recruits. Everyone was wondering where they'd end up. Some hoped they'd be rejected.

``Some guys stuck a bar of soap under their arm, trying to raise their temperature,'' Mr. Kerckhove said, laughing. Others rehearsed fake limps. He was scared, but ready. ``It was a new experience. You had that, `Go to hell' attitude.''

The Air Forces, apparently, was not the young Mr. Kerckhove's destiny. He spent some time stateside with the cavalry, then shipped out to England with a reconnaissance unit decoding messages. Ultimately, he ended up in Germany, driving a tank in Gen. George Patton's Third Army.

He remembers hiding out in a building during a brutal bombing raid south of London. ``It made me stop and think of East Moline. I was a hell of a long way from home.'' He returned to East Moline in 1946.

Richard Nelson of Moline did end up in the Air Forces, as an aircraft mechanic in New Guinea and Okinawa. He was drafted at age 18.

``I waited until President Roosevelt said come, and I did,'' he said. ``I thought it was terrible. The first damn thing they wanted to do was take blood out of me'' for the required physical.

His brother and other relatives saw him off when he left on the milk train from Moline in April 1943.

Mr. Nelson had a sweetheart, but did not want to marry before he left. ``It wouldn't be worth it,'' he said, adding that it would not be fair to his lady if he had returned maimed. She later sent him a Dear John letter, which Mr. Nelson said he took in stride. ``I was in the Philippines. I couldn't do anything about it.''

There was pressure to enlist even if you weren't drafted. ``If you were in that age bracket, people would point you out and say, `How come he's not gone yet?'|'' Mr. Kerckhove said.

Moline native Ed Nicholson received a draft deferment because he worked for the government as a machinists' apprentice at the Rock Island Arsenal. However, he entered the Marine Corps on June 2, 1944, and served until Aug. 12, 1946.

``A short-timer, they called me, but I seen a lot of the world,'' said Mr. Nicholson, who still lives in Moline. ``The only thing you wanted was to stay alive, once you got into it.''

While he was in Japan and China, Mr. Nicholson held onto memories of home by carefully saving newspaper clippings, photos and greeting cards his wife sent. Added to it were snapshots he took along the way, of himself and his service buddies with Japanese children and tavern owners, beer labels, foreign currency, maps and military patches.

He carefully sealed the precious cargo in his sea bag, and, miraculously, it survived through long nights sleeping in dugouts and battles dodging sniper fire.

While he waited for his old job, as the Arsenal implemented a reduction in force (RIF) to make way for returning GIs, Mr. Nicolson painstakingly pasted the keepsakes into two, priceless scrap books he proudly displays to this day.

Earl Evans of Moline, who grew up in Monona, Iowa, was drafted at 18. No one saw him off at the bus depot on the way to Des Moines on Jan. 7, 1943. ``People were hard up. There was gas rationing,'' he said.

During Army training in California, he volunteered as a paratrooper because it paid an extra $50 a month, pushing his monthly earnings towards $100. ``That was pretty big money to me,'' said Mr. Evans, who took the job, even though it was dangerous. ``I just didn't give a damn, I guess. I was ready to go anyway.''

He was wounded during a stint in the Pacific and came home after 18 months.

Marion ``Tim'' Dorothy of Moline was in the Navy, stationed at Pearl Harbor. He left his western-Iowa hometown to seek his fortune in San Diego, Calif. However, with a $20-a-week job and a $19 a week apartment, money was tight. ``Mine was a matter of economics,'' he said.

He joined the Navy and spent six years as a mechanic on carrier-based airplanes, beginning in 1940.

He was in a land-based barracks when the Japanese attack began. ``I was right in the middle of it,'' Mr. Dorothy said. Close to 50 years went by before he felt comfortable talking about that day.

``I felt ashamed,'' the VFW commander said, explaining that back then, the U.S. Navy seemed invincible, and he felt somehow responsible for the carnage.

A post-war job with Deere & Co. brought him to the Quad-Cities.

None of the men returned as the same youngsters who shipped out.

``You do grow up,'' Mr. Kerckhove said. ``You have to.''

Copyright 1999, Moline Dispatch Publishing Co.